Thursday, August 28, 2008
Monday, August 25, 2008
I picked that name because http://www.dipsticks.com/ was taken. It wasn't being used, mind you, just reserved and "For sale", presumably in the hopes that some car parts manufacturer or auto store would want it. When I approached the owner of this site about buying it from them the exact reply I received from a nice man in Shri Lanka was "We'll entertain the sale in the form of a five figure offer." Considering a typical URL costs less than $20 for a year, my exact reply to this nice, but clearly opportunistic man, was "Well, if by five figures you mean $100.57, then we might have a deal." I never heard back from him again. Was it something I said?
So, I moved on and thought long and hard about what other URL I could use for my newly forming business. I thought http://www.dipsticksgourmetpretzels.com/ was too long. I thought http://www.dipsticksllc.com/ was too formal, not to mention boring as hell.
So, I went with http://www.dipstickspretzels.com/ and was content with that until about a year ago. I had a group of students from IPFW's business dept. helping me with some marketing, and one of them brought to my attention a web site called, and pay close attention here, http://www.dipstickpretzels.com/. Did you see that? The "s" is missing after dipsticks. That tiny little spelling change has been the bane of my existence for quite awhile. The site is poorly constructed and the pretzels they offer are much different, with far less variety than my own.
They have changed absolutely NOTHING about this site in the last year that I've noticed, and there are spelling errors and bad grammar all over the main page. Don't even get me started on the graphics.
I emailed the owner of this site back in the fall. I politely mentioned that her similar URL was causing confusion to my customers and would she be interested in changing her name? I offered to pay for any fees that would occur due to this change as well. Her reply: "I have the same problem."
I took that as a no.
Since then, I have had to make sure that when I give someone my email address or URL, that I stress the fact that there is an "S" at the end of dipstick. But, I still get people calling me saying that I hadn't replied to an email, or that they mailed me something and I never got it, or that they couldn't find my pumpkin pie flavor on the site. After a brief moment of confusion, it usually hits me square in the face that, yes, indeed, they have forgotten the "S".
How much business have I lost because of this tiny difference? How much business might she have gained as well? I may never know. I keep secretly hoping that she won't renew her URL this time and I'll snatch it up too.
So, what's a business owner to do? How do I solve this issue, or is there no way to fix it? Maybe I could change it to dippitydodah.com or dipsticksareyummy.com or damngoodpretzels.com.
What do ya think? Should I change my URL, or just play the hand I've been dealt and hope the other party drops out of the game?
Saturday, August 23, 2008
Then, after I realized that I had forgotten the double butter, I had to cut more of that in, and then try to remember how much water I had already added. Since I'm not an expert baker, and since I had heard pie crusts are a bit temperamental, I feared for the worst. It all pulled together fine, and I just decided that it was going to be okay even if the crust was a bit tough. I rolled it out and then cut my strips for the lattice top and criss crossed like a pro. It was very fun actually, and turned out okay for a novice, I think.
Despite the white insides, the pie filling turned out a beautiful bright red. I was very happy to see that, since that was almost the best part of this pie. Besides the sweet tart flavor that took you by surprise, it was that you could get such a beautiful red pie from purple plums that really made the biggest impact.
Everyone loved this pie, and the crust was ridiculously flaky despite my best intentions! I'd say this is definitely going to be a staple around here from now on. It was quite simple, but looked and tasted very impressive. I wish plums were available, in season I should say, all year.
Basic Pie Dough
Transfer dough to a work surface, pat into a ball and flatten into a disk (no need to refrigerate). Lightly flour the surface then flatten the disk with 6-8 gentle taps of the rolling pin. Lift the dough and give it a quarter turn. Lightly dust the top of the dough or the rolling pin with flour as needed, then roll out into a round at least 12 inches in diameter and about 1/8 inch thick. Makes enough for one 9-inch single crust pie or one 10 inch galette.
Deep Dish Plum Pie
Place the plums in a large bowl, sprinkle with the sugar mixture and toss to distribute evenly. Immediately transfer to a deep dish pie plate that has been lined with pie dough. Dot the plum mixture with butter.
Carefully position the dough, however you want it, over the plums. Trim the edge neatly, leaving 1 inch of overhang, then place over the fruit, folding the overhang under and pressing against the sides of the dish to seal. Refrigerate the pie until the dough is firm, 20-30 minutes.
Meanwhile, position a rack in the lower third of an oven, and preheat to 375 degrees F.
Bake the pie for 15 minutes. Reduce the oven temperate to 350 and continue baking until the crust is golden and the filling is thick and bubbling about 50-60 minutes more. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely. Serve at room temperature or rewarm in a 350 oven for 10-15 minutes just before serving.
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Lucky for me, I had a whole lot of things to do and people to see yesterday, so I barely had a chance to reflect on the monumental occasion. He was very excited to get there that morning, and when I missed the right entrance and had to go around the block he said, "Mommy! Hurry up or school will be closed!"
As I drove away and watched him in my rear view mirror, he jabbered happily away to the nice lady who was walking him to the door. He didn't need me any more. Not an easy thing to accept as a mom, and especially not for a control freak mom who will probably duke it out with any potential girlfriends for most affection. Yep, I'm that mom.
When I picked him up from school he was very happy to see me and said he wanted to play video games. I asked how school was and he said, "Good. But, mom...there are no computers. There are ZERO computers." We celebrated the moment with Dairy Queen, the official first day of school tradition starting now.
Today I had more time to think about him being gone. It was a bit more sad when I watched him walking all by himself this time to the front door. Apparently these 5 year olds don't need coddling much beyond the first day. "Get out there and figure it out kid!" I know they have to grow up, and I'm thrilled that he's reached this milestone, but man it's hard letting go.
I thought about him all day and wondered if today would be better or worse. I was able to walk over to get him this time, and the brightness on his face when he came bursting out of the front doors made all my worrying seem beyond ridiculous. He was so happy and talked about school and Mrs. Ritenour and the kids all the way home.
I suppose the first day of school will get better the older he gets. Or maybe it will get worse. When he's 16 and driving himself to school, and embarrassed that his mom wants to take a picture of him, I will be sad all over again...but this time for a different reason.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
I opened the freezer like 400 times. Not sure what I was looking for, and never actually getting anything out of the freezer, but boy I kept looking anyway.
Nothing sounded good enough to eat. Nothing sounded fun enough to do. I wasn't tired enough to sleep, but I wasn't energetic enough to exercise.
I was too tired to read, though, so I didn't even bother with that. And the kids were occupying the TV, so I didn't get to do that. Basically, my day, an entire ten hours of my life, consisted of me roaming my own home searching for nothing.
I felt guilty, because I'm usually so active and I definitely had things that I could have done. But I couldn't even motivate myself to change out of my PJ's, let alone work on a real project.
Do you have days like that? When everything on the surface seems fine. You're technically happy, but yet for some reason the rest of your body is telling you that something is off.
I was a rambling woman...for a brief moment, but now it's time to get back in the game.
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
But, the good news is that the Chef at the hotel in Columbus Ohio, placed a nice sized order to be shipped soon. Perhaps this client will become as fruitful as our other hotel.
If you're going to get bad news, it's always nice to balance it with a little good...don't ya think?
Sunday, August 10, 2008
Months passed, and sporadically I would see DipSticks on her "on deck" list of soon to be blogged about items, only for my name to disappear again in a few days. With this back and forth of excitement and let down, I was getting tired.
I quit checking the blog so frequently, assuming I'd realize when she had finally blogged about them once I started getting more hits to my site. But, that never happened. So, I checked her blog a few weeks back and noticed a poll on her site asking her visitors to vote on whether chocolate covered pretzels were considered candy. Considering her blog is only about candy...I knew where this was going. I immediately voted "YES!!!" chocolate pretzels are candy, but unfortunately I was in the minority. Apparently most people, or at least the majority of those visiting a candy blog, believe that a pretzel dipped in chocolate is not considered candy. I'm also assuming that this means she won't be reviewing my pretzels after all.
But here is where I take issue. Is a candy bar considered candy? What is a candy bar made of? Nuts, toffee, caramel....uh, yeah. Sounds familiar doesn't it? And, if you look at Hershey's Take 5 candy bar that has pretzels, chocolate, nuts and caramel, you could very well just call my pretzels a candy bar. In fact, many of my customers have described the pretzels as a "candy bar on a stick."
So, what does this mean? Probably nothing. Probably just that I need to find a blog that also discusses nuts and snack items, instead of just candy. I don't know if my persuasive abilities are good enough to convince a renowned candy blogger to discount her many voters and review my product anyway. And, on top of that, she may not give them a positive review. And, even more on top of that, what would her review, good or bad, really do for my business? Sure, a positive review would boost sales for a brief time, but it probably would die off eventually. And a bad review wouldn't effect me at all.
It's more than likely just an ego thing. I really dislike when people tell me they make pretzels "just like yours", or have seen store X carry pretzels "just like yours" and then ultimately finding out they are "just like" mine--oh--except that there's no caramel or anything rolled in that caramel. So, you're saying you dip a pretzel rod in chocolate and that is the same thing as what I do? That's like saying you can make a car, except that it has two wheels, and no engine. Exactly the same thing.
I want everyone to know that these pretzels are more than just a stick dipped in chocolate. They are truly a one of a kind experience, that has risen above the usual. A candy bar, with a convenient pretzel handle so that you don't get your hands dirty. What could be better than that?
Thursday, August 7, 2008
I picked up some cd storage bins, that were made of a silver mesh that I thought would go nicely with their contemporary look, but once I got them home and placed some pretzels in them, it was obvious that they wouldn't work. At the Espresso Gallery, our product would most likely be shelved high up on top of the bakery display cases, which meant that you'd never see anything but raffia if we put the pretzels in these cd bins. We needed something that would showcase the pretzels better, and allow people to see what they were immediately.
So, we looked at some other choices of displays from a catalog, ordered a few, and tried them out. The first one was white, and had white plastic hooks. Kind of (a lot!) cheesy, and not exactly the look I was going for. It was a flat unit, and I just couldn't deal with the plastic hooks.
While my other client, The Surface, has the exact display units I want, we couldn't find them anywhere. There's a good chance they were custom made, as they got them from an auction at a clothing store chain. I contacted the owner of The Espresso Gallery and discussed our options. After looking through some catalogs that were on her desk, she actually found something that she liked. We did the measurements, and decided to give them a try.
It's a tall black spinner counter top display unit, and it holds about 40 of the 4" pretzels at a time. It's taller than I had pictured, but it will actually work out well, and allow us to also display bags of pretzel bark, or caramel apples under the pretzels, or we can hang the 8" pretzels and bags of 3 pack marshmallows very nicely.
I'm also not 100% excited about our sign that goes on top of these. We obviously did them ourselves, which is even more apparent when you see them up close. But, we're going to try these out first, and then if they are keepers, we'll invest in some good quality signage.We deliver these this week, so it will be awhile before we know for sure how it works, but hopefully these are a perfect fit.
Trial and error, baby, that's what it's all about...
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
In their last order, they included several Pecan Pie for each store, and it got me thinking. Does anyone eat Pecan Pie during the summer? I'm not even sure why people don't eat pecan pie all year round, but seriously, who does?
And why not? Pecans are certainly available all year long, and corn syrup is a grocery staple. Pie crusts are obviously available or easily made, so what's the big deal?
Maybe because it's a heavy pie, and summer is for light fruit pies. That's probably it, but what the heck, let's eat Pecan Pie all year long. Or, just get your Pecan Pie pretzels at a local Hallmark...even better.
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
This time the focus was on homemade pizzas. We learned a basic, thin crust pizza dough, and a tomato sauce made from scratch. With those two foundation ingredients in place, we created three different pizza style dishes.
The first one was Pizza Quattro Formaggi. With four kinds of cheese, I was in heaven. Fresh Mozzarella, Smoked Mozzarella, Fontina and a fresh Parmigiano Reggiano that I think the Chef wanted to makeout with right there in front of us. No seriously. The dude was really into that cheese.
With prosciutto and basil sprinkled on top, our pizza was complete. Although, even after eating two slices and never getting a single piece of prosciutto, it was a very tasty, light pizza. Our pizza sauce was chunky and seasoned with just the right amount of oregano, thyme and basil, and mingled perfectly with the rest of the toppings. The crust was chewy and crisp, with a nice buttery taste.
Next up on our Italian journey were Pizzettes with Garlic, Mushrooms & Goat Cheese. And when I say garlic, I mean 32 cloves of garlic. Thankfully I didn't have a hot date last night...but wow was I prepared for a major vampire attack.
Actually, the garlic cloves were caramelized in a pan of hot olive oil first, and each pizzette got two cloves, so it wasn't like I ate 32 fresh garlic cloves. In fact, when you bit into one of the cloves, it was surprisingly sweet and mild. But you'd have to ask my husband if my breath was also sweet and mild...
With the addition of caramelized shallots, wild mushrooms and fresh basil, these mini pizzas were a unique taste bud tantalizer, but maybe not my favorite item of the evening. The chef got off track a bit from the recipe, and didn't brush the dough and sprinkle it with salt and pepper, which would've have made it a bit more flavorful. And, he didn't cook the mushrooms first, which would've brought out the flavor more. It didn't help matters for me either that each piece I had barely had any toppings. I didn't hold a grudge that I was given two pieces of pizza with NO prosciutto, and two pieces of pizzette with four times more crust to topping ratio. Nope, not upset at all. Not one bit.
The final dish of the evening, and the one that helped the class to run an hour over scheduled time, was the Sausage and Artichoke Calzone. Using the same exact dough and sauce, the chef added a jar of grilled marinated artichoke hearts, more of that temptress Parmigiano Reggiano, fontina and basil. Technically he wasn't supposed to put the sauce inside the calzone, and so he did one with and two without. I had a piece of each, and preferred the one without the sauce inside. I'm not sure if it's because I was overloaded on the sauce already, or if it was just better without it. While I was initially excited about the grilled artichoke hearts, they actually tasted just like regular old marinated artichoke hearts.
Overall, this class was fun, but honestly I expected a bit more. I had really hoped we'd play around with the crust, maybe do more than one kind, or add herbs, cheese, or anything at all to the dough to make it creative. I'm sure as a time saver, the chef opted to do just the one, but still.
And, the sauce was good, but a bit overpowering to have on each item. It wasn't a smooth sauce, because, yet again, the chef went off track and used fresh tomatoes and onions. This resulted in a nice chunky sauce, but if it would've been pureed, or had he used the called for canned tomatoes, it would've blended in better without adding so much texture.
I'm very glad to have taken this class. I did learn a lot about pizza dough, and how to form it, and even why it's good to toss the dough in the air. Something technical about the centrifugal force...only Alton Brown knows for sure, but whatever the reason, I'm tossing that baby when I make my own.
Monday, August 4, 2008
This time, I added half fresh squeezed lemon juice and half bottled lemon because I chickened out. On my recipe I have in bold, underlined words. "REAL LEMON!!" And, by real lemon I did not mean actual real lemons from the tree, I meant the fake bottled kind called Real Lemon. So, I was a bit scared to do 100% fresh juice, even though I knew better.
It turned out great, but next time I will without a doubt use a full amount of the freshly squeezed lemon juice.
I love watching how the egg whites start as nothing, and just because you whip some air into them, they start to take form. With the addition of some sugar and cream of tartar, Viola! you've got meringue beautiness. Yes that's a word.
In this mini form, it is much easier to share anyway.
mix the above well, and then add
1/2 cup oil
Form into a ball and press into pie pan. Bake at 475 for 10 minutes, or until edges are just turning brown. Be sure to press sides of dough up the edge of pie pan.
Lemon Meringue Pie
In a saucepan, mix sugar, cornstarch, flour and salt. Gradually blend in the water. Bring to boil over high heat, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to medium. Cook and stir for 8 minutes more. Remove from heat. Stir a small amount of the hot mixture into the egg yolks to temper. Return this to remaining hot mixture. Bring to boil over high heat, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to low. Cook and stir 4 minutes longer. Remove from heat. Add butter. Gradually add the lemon juice. Cover entire mixture with plastic wrap, being sure to press the wrap directly onto the surface of the custard. Cool for 10-15 minutes. Pour into cooled pie shell, and allow to come to room temperature.
Spread meringue over pie, being sure to seal the edges to the pastry. Bake at 350 for 12-15 minutes until golden. Cool thoroughly before serving.
Friday, August 1, 2008
At some point he's bound to be called a bad name. There could be kissing involved. He might suck at kick ball...given his genetic pool, there's actually a pretty good chance of that.
But, regardless of my emotional pleas to stay a kid, he has gone and grown up, and will be entering Kindergarten in less than 30 days. I signed him up for registration today, and the administrator showed me the sheet of supplies to get. It just didn't feel right. I can still vividly remember loving the pre-school shopping excursions to get just the right pencils, and the perfect binders and adorable folders with kitties or hearts, or most likely unicorns. Some books I wrapped with cut up shopping bags and decorated them with glee, anticipating the start of what could be the best year ever.
So, this is just wrong. I can't possibly be the parent of a child who is ready to embark on that journey, can I? How will I deal with it? How can I drop him off in the morning and not see him again until 3:30? How will he survive without me?
My first year in Kindergarten was so different than Kindergarten is today. It was only a half day with no homework, and we actually took a nap. I remember playing with blocks and helping to hammer in nails for the "jail" that would be used in the school carnival. I remember my first boyfriend, Jerry Barnes...Holy crap, I had a boyfriend in Kindergarten. That means Joshua could end up with a girlfriend. Oh I'm not ready for this. Maybe we should home school.