Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Alaska is Purple

My darling little 5 year old has started the much anticipated age of "why?" Yep, every stinking thing that comes out of my mouth is followed closely by "Why?"

It doesn't even matter what I say. I could say, "Joshua let's go outside" or "Joshua your shirt's on backwards." and still..."Why?"

After weeks of trying to answer each question logically, I finally had a moment of desperation in which I truly just needed him to shut the heck up. So, one night when Joshua asked if he could have apple cider, I said "NO. IT's all gone."


"Because you drank it all."


"I guess because you really liked it, and now we need to get more from the store."


Seriously? Are you kidding me? I could not take it any more. So my answer to his last "Why?" was "Because Alaska is Purple!"

And he said, "OH. Okay."

If only all conflicts could be resolved that easily.

Monday, October 20, 2008

History Lesson: Turtle & English Toffee

After discovering how good the lemon crunch tasted on my Lemon Meringue Pie pretzel, I very quickly followed it up with some more traditional tastes. Everyone loves a turtle, with caramel, pecans and chocolate, so of course I had to try rolling a pretzel rod in pecans. It was a no brainer, and tasted fantastic. At first I used whatever pecans I could find at the grocery store, but quickly found out how expensive, and inconsistent in taste they were.

Fortunately I was able to to get connected with a company in Georgia selling some amazing pecans. But buying them individually was a bit expensive. As time passed, and the Turtle pretzel became by far the number one selling pretzel, I was able to justify the expense of purchasing a large box of pecan pieces, which ultimately saved me money in the long run.

My next traditional flavor had to be toffee. Who doesn't love a Heath Toffee bar? But this was going to be so much better with the addition of caramel. I started out doing things the hard way as usual, and bought Heath bars and crunched them up.

Eventually I realized they sold pre-crunched Heath toffee bits at the store, and have since moved up to using bulk Heath toffee bits from my wholesale supplier.

These two simple pretzels have become the number one and two top sellers consistently, year after year.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Busy bees

As fall has made its appearance, so has lots of work for me. It seems like the weather got a bit cooler and all of a sudden everyone remembered to eat chocolate!

I've had lots of orders lately, for the pretzels, but also for the marshmallows and apples. Those caramel apples are a big hit, and I've created two new flavors for fall: Harvest, and Trick or Treat.

They aren't necessarily new flavors, because I've used them on pretzels for a while now, but they are new to the apples. They look great and taste awesome too. I'll try to get photos up eventually, but that is not my forte. I like taking pictures...I don't like taking the time to upload and prep for web. I'll get to it eventually, I promise.

In the meantime, the boys are keeping me busy as usual. Joshua has become a huge fan of kindergarten, which makes my day start much easier. No more fighting me on the issue, and he usually loves doing homework too. (the picture above is of us at the beach house in NC doing homework. He actually liked doing it on this day.) He's starting to sound out words and read books, which is simply inspiring. As a parent there is something magical when your child starts to grasp such huge concepts like reading. It's a little frightening at the same time, because that means prom is just around the corner, but I'm trying to take one milestone at a time...

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

History Lesson: Lemon Meringue Pie

First of all, HOLY CRAP these pictures look bad. I seriously have to get on that. For one thing, it's just a really bad angle, but mostly the thing that bothers me is how much bigger the pretzels are now than they were when I first started making them. This one looks so skinny!

Anyway, back to the point of this post. When I first decided to make these pretzels as a business, I knew I had to think of other flavors besides my original, Plain Jane, pretzel. Who can make a business on just one candy flavor, or cookie flavor? So, I got busy thinking of flavor combinations.

My favorite dessert, as you already know, is Lemon Meringue Pie. So, my first pretzel flavor attempt involved a lemon flavored candy crunch, and white chocolate to imitate the meringue. I looked at the pretzel as being like a "crust" for the pie, which then led to several more pie flavors, such as Pecan Pie, Pumpkin Pie, and Banana Cream Pie, but more on those later.

The tart lemon candy mixed very well with the sweet chocolate and caramel, and the pretzel provided just the right salty crunch. With this flavor being a winner, the possibilities were endless. From here I just started throwing all kinds of combinations together.

Of course some ended up better than others. Some flavors you just knew were going to be great, and they ended up being the worst. Other flavor combinations seemed weird, but ended up being my favorite. I think I'll do a post on some of those odd ones too.
I have 50 flavors, but I'm sure I could come up with 50 more!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

History Lesson: Plain Jane

This is the one that started it all! My mom and I would make these every year around Christmas time. We actually purchased pretzel rods, and Hershey's Classic individually wrapped caramels. I would unwrap each caramel by hand and put them in the microwave to soften them a bit. Then, I would wrap each caramel around a pretzel like a rope, dip it in different kinds of chocolate, and if I felt really adventurous, I would sprinkle edible confetti on them.

For a two year old's birthday party once, I colored them purple and orange and sprinkled them with neon colored mini dinosaur shapes. They were the hit of the party, and it got my brain thinking.

After asking around if people would buy these, I decided to pursue the idea of turning these delicious treats into a business. But, there were so many changes to come, and the fun was just beginning...

Friday, October 10, 2008

History Lesson: Harvest

I thought it would be fun to go back and look at how some of my flavors were created. I've been making these for so long that I have a tendency to forget exactly how fun and unusual it was to create some of them.

For example, I was making caramel apples the other day using my mix called "Harvest" which is comprised of red hots, candy corn, and cocktail peanuts.

To most people, that combination may not sound appetizing. It certainly didn't to me when I was kid. But, nevertheless, bowls of this combination were found all over my house around this time of year. Even relatives had it. I always picked out the candy corn by itself, or occasionally I picked out a peanut or two, but never ventured as far as eating them all at once.

Then, a few years back I got adventurous and decided that there HAD to be a logical reason why these three very specific food items were always found mingling together. So, I took a deep breath, grabbed one of each thing, and popped them in my mouth. Holy crap! That was good.

Years later, when trying to think of a seasonal pretzel for the fall, I immediately thought of this combination. After dipping it in milk chocolate and then sprinkling it with fall colored edible leaf confetti, the new "Harvest" pretzel was complete. It should be great on an apple too.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Stop touching me, and other fun stuff.

My kids have reached that age. I'm assuming it's a stage, perhaps one that lasts forever, but still, not something that is my fault, ok?! Sorry, I'm a little on edge...

What I mean is. My two wonderful boys have decided that it was time in their young life to start complaining about each other. It started a few months ago with Joshua getting upset if Jacob took something of his. That I can understand. I mean, if someone takes something of yours you have the right to be peeved.

But now it has morphed/escalated into a situation where not only does Joshua HATE everything that Jacob does, but Jacob is aware of this, and does it ten times more often.

Example: I walk to pick Joshua up from school every day. I have a double stroller in which Jacob sits behind Joshua. The very second Joshua sits down, Jacob is in his face. Usually it's to say "hi Joshua" but lately it's to make some annoying noise or to "spit" at him. no, he's not actually spitting, it's just a raspberry kind of sound, but it is annoying.

So the rest of my formerly enjoyable walk home has turned into bickering and whining between them. "Stop touching me!" "bbbzzbzzzbbzz" "Stop spitting at me!" "Bzzbbbbzzzzzzzzz" "Stop it!"

I can't even blare my headphones loud enough to drown out the sound. I'm trying to decide if I should give up the walking and kill the environment a little more with my gas guzzling SUV, in exchange for saving my ever loving mind. Not sure which is more hopeless at this point.

And in other topics, I've gotten a fairly large order recently for the mini pretzels (about 600 of them) and OMG it's so not a fun time. It is taking forever to do them for some reason and I've run into multiple issues. My wholesaler has been out of the required sprinkles, the pretzels have been too big for the desired packages, resulting in me needing to go a size up, the type of cereal wasn't right at first, so we had to change to a different one.

I'm not totally complaining, because I like the company I'm doing these for, but at some time when you own a business you wonder if time involved is worth more than actual money paid.

Lots going on in the coming weeks...gearing up for the holidays. I can't believe it's Fall already. I love the cold temps for candy making, but I do miss the sunny warm days.