• Elle's World
  • Aftermath

    Oh hai!  Remember me?  The lady that writes this blog.  Yep, that’s the one.  I finished.  A day early.  Did you hear me?


    That’s right.  I said it, I finished the largest project I’ve ever done in my life, short of adopting a child from Russia.  And I did it A DAY EARLY.  Really, it bears repeating.  Granted, I still have to sit here and wait for the postman to show up and make a few deliveries, but I don’t have to do anything else.

    So you want to know some numbers?  I bet you do.  If not, you get them anyway.

    Our gross sales plus donations were $7646.  Our profit is $6023.  We are still only sending $3000 to Mirnoe.  I know that may seem disappointing, but there is a reason.  1) that is what the board approved and 2) we have some large upcoming expenses in 2011 that we will need the money for.  Things like the 501c3 and filing our articles of incorporation.  We also would like to put on another non candy related event in 2011 and need the seed money for that.  Basically, we are becoming a real business with operating expenses.

    Here are some more numbers.

    I made 4790 truffles and 2684 caramels.  I did it with the help of 18 volunteers.  We boxed 740 individual boxes of candy to make up 140 individual orders.  78 boxes are getting mailed.  The rest were picked up or will be delivered.

    Even more numbers:

    14 pounds of butter

    7 gallons of heavy cream

    3 large bottles of corn syrup

    1+ gallon of sweetened condensed milk

    12 pounds of brown sugar

    4 boxes of candy canes and

    157 pounds of chocolate

    has passed through this kitchen.

    Most everyone stayed healthy.  The first day of candy making I had an allergy attack and the boy came down with a cold yesterday.  Otherwise it was fairly flawless.  There was the great Madras Curry Truffle incident of week #2 and the supposed we thought we made too many honey truffle scandal of Sunday #1, but nothing we couldn’t handle.  Or I should say, nothing a little booze couldn’t fix.

    What worked?  The countless volunteers.  I couldn’t have done it without them.  A very well thought out schedule of events.  The use of a very large kitchen for one day.

    What didn’t work?  Not enough curry powder and the curry powder supplier being in Seattle.  Trying to do truffles and caramels on the very large kitchen day.  It worked, but I’m not sure I’ll do that again.  Me working 2 jobs.

    How did the brood of animals do?  Wonderful.  Busy was annoying as always, but she got to go to doggy daycare once a week.  The kittens…  They like tissue paper, and boxes, and bags.  For the most part they stayed out of the way, but trying to do any computer work with them around is nearly impossible.

    In the end, I’m done.  A DAY EARLY.

  • Bitch & Moan
  • Why does it have to be difficult?

    As I laid in bed exhausted from the day I asked that question to Derek.  Why does it have to be so difficult?  All I want to do is give away money.  To children.  Who have no parents and live in an institution.  You would think that I was trying to save the world or something.  Which I’m totally not.  Just a few kids, who might someday go on to save the world.  Wouldn’t that be awesome?  And then I could say, I did that.

    While you would think that having to make this much candy would be the biggest hurdle you would be wrong.  In order to complete the candy making by the 13th I have a very tight schedule.  I am counting on a particular kitchen to use on Sunday which would allow me and the army of volunteers I have ready to go to complete about 5 days worth of work.  Without that kitchen I will not be shipping your orders on time.  Yesterday afternoon I received an email indicating that my usage of the kitchen might be cut short because of another event that would be happening that evening in the facility.  I would get an hour and a half before I would have to share the kitchen.  I complained and then I was generously given from 1-5.  Last year we worked from 10-5.  We started searching for a Plan B facility.  I complained some more and to higher ups and this morning that I thankfully have as much time as I need after 1:00 on Sunday.  The evening event was being moved to another day.  However, I still had to spend the whole day yesterday and night and this morning fretting about it.  I shouldn’t have had to in the first place.

    Then, I went to the bank this morning to open our business checking account.  I didn’t do that last year because I didn’t have Derek with me and just needed to get it done.  So when I went into the bank and asked to set up the checking account (we only have a savings acct. for Sweet Hope) the teller lady said we should have put Derek on the account last year because his name is on the business license.  In truth, his name shouldn’t be on the business license to begin with because the license is currently a sole proprietorship (so we could open the bank account) and the sole proprietor is me.  She also informed me that because the business is a sole proprietor we couldn’t add our board treasurer (who is not Derek) onto the account.  We can’t do that until we change the account from SP to a corporation.  To get the corporation license we have to file the articles of incorporation with the Secretary of State and get our EIN.  I can’t do that right now because I’m knee deep in chocolate.  The good news here is that I was able to open the checking account (but Derek has to go to the bank next week to sign the paperwork), I was able to deposit the checks (but I can’t withdraw any money because I don’t have the debit card yet) and I have more paperwork to do.

    The moral of this story is, if you want to start a non-profit foundation please consider doing otherwise.  I think adopting from Russia is much easier than this.

  • Sweet Hope
  • 19 days

    Between November 28th and December 17th I have 19 days available to make candy.  December 10th doesn’t count because that is designated as our Christmas Tree Day.  If anyone gives us a dog that day I will hunt you down and shoot your shins clean off.  There are a few other days that are not really conducive to candy making since I have to, well… work.  However, I make Derek help and we still make candy.

    We did a little bit of math tonight and figured out that the average number of truffles I need to complete each day is about 263.  Here are some numbers for you.

    I need to make 4410 truffles.  I’ve made 919 so far.  I need to make 2528 caramels.  I’ve made 0 so far.  We reached $7407 in candy sales and with donations we made $7620.  I’m not done buying supplies and we won’t have the final numbers until after the 17th, but I’d say we did pretty darn good.

    Thank you to everyone who purchased candy.  We ended up with over 130 individual orders.  If you missed your chance to order I’m sorry.  Ordering truly is closed now.  You had 3 weeks to order and if you missed it, you’ll have to wait until next year.

  • Sweet Hope
  • Last Day for Sweet Hope Sales

    If you haven’t placed your order for Sweet Hope candy, today is your last day.  In keeping with the list thing here are some reasons why you should buy the candy.

    1) We are only $43 away from our (new) $6580 goal.  You wouldn’t have us come up short would you?

    2) The truffles are made BY HAND in my tiny little kitchen.  That means they are made with lurve.

    3) If you order truffles my friend Raissa will personally hand scoop your truffle which means she gets to come over to my house and we get to drink coffee and take an occasional dance break which is fun and keeps me sane.  You don’t want me going crazy do you?

    4) The money we make goes to an orphanage.  What don’t you like orphans?

    5) The kittehs demand that you do it or they will give you stink eye.

  • Sweet Hope
  • Administrative Assistant

    Here at the Sweet Hope chocolate factory your order is important to us.  Since we only sell and make truffles once a year it takes a large number of volunteers to put on such a production.  We normally have quite a few people in and out of the house while we are making the truffles, but rarely do we get an administrative volunteer.  Since we have gotten so many orders we have had a little volunteer step up to do some computer work for us.

    Hammond has stepped up to be my administrative assistant.  He takes his job very seriously and makes sure each and every order is entered into the computer correctly.

    However with the lack of opposable thumbs he his having a difficult time working a pencil.  Instead he’s marking everything 4 so if you get more or less than you anticipated it is not my fault.

    If you haven’t ordered yet, you only have 1 more week to do so.

  • Elle's World
  • Saturday Update

    I realize that people get tired of me talking about chocolates all of the time, but too bad, this is my blog and we’re not just talking chocolate here.  We’re talking helping children.  What don’t you like orphans?

    To recap, here are a bunch of numbers…

    Our current gross sales are $4612.  This includes the amount one of my sales people updates me on.  With donations we are at $4707.  We received a super big really giant order from an unnamed corporation for 130 boxes of mixed truffles.  That is a $1900 sale.  I would like this to be above and beyond any goal set.  To make the $4680 gross goal without the big order we still need to sell $1922.  We did about $1800 in the last week last year and this year many of our regular customers have not ordered.

    What do we need to make?

    458 boxes of candy.

    That would be over 2800 truffles and over 1300 caramels.  If you want to know last year’s final numbers, here you go.

    The numbers are higher so that means I need as many helpers as possible.  I’ve you’ve ever wanted to see how Sweet Hope gets from our kitchen to your door now is your opportunity.  If you aren’t comfortable being a stranger in my house we have another option.  On December 5th we are taking over a church kitchen and cranking out the candy.  If you live in the Puget Sound area (or Washington state… or anywhere for that matter) and want to help please email me.  Did I mention you get free candy?

  • Sweet Hope
  • Welcome to Mirnoe

    The other day I mentioned that Galina had spoken with the Mirnoe Orphanage director, Natasha, about what she needed for the orphanage.  The reason Galina was in Mirnoe to speak with Natasha was because I asked her to travel there to take photos of the children.

    I will remind you that Galina receives no compensation from Sweet Hope for all that she does for us.  She is in (at least) her 70s and is so faithful to her community she is happy to help us.  Galina has always had a special place in her heart for children, but I truly believe that the Sweet Hope project has opened even her eyes to the plight of these forgotten children.  She and the Slavyanka women now take patronage over this little orphanage and bring their story to the people of the Khabarovsk territory.  She has even sent a report that an American family recently visited Khabarovsk and returned with their 2 adopted children.  The family visited the children’s former orphanage and the family put on a musical show for the children.  The television stations and newspapers covered the story.  Positive things are happening, we just don’t hear about them often enough.

    In October Galina wrote to tell me that she had traveled to Mirnoe, but many of the children were at school so she was unable to take many photos.  I was happy to learn that the children were at school so not having photos wasn’t much of a bother.  Galina said that she would send the photos she did have and was also sending drawings that some of the children had done.  I was expecting rudimentary pictures drawn with crayon on plain white paper.  I wasn’t prepared for the artistry that she had sent.

    This work was done by children.  Despite the lives they lead they still are children.  Vibrant bright children.

    I also got to see some of their faces and the home where they live.

    These are the real children that Sweet Hope helps. These are the faces that are directly impacted by your support. We can’t do this without you.  Come on, buy the candy.  You know you want to.

    If you can’t buy please consider spreading the word about us.  Put a button on your website, put a shout out on facebook or twitter.  Anything helps.

  • Elle's World
  • Of carpets and chairs

    I believe I have told you that I happen to panic the first week of Sweet Hope sales every year.  This year I promised myself that I would not panic.  It would all be fine.  I would leave it up to the ground work I’d laid and the wonderful sales people that were going to help me.  We would reach our goal with no problem and I would be calm for once.

    Isn’t that a nice fantasy?

    The reality… I’ve been panicking more than I’ve ever panicked in the past.  I haven’t gone back to see how many orders we had by this time last year.  I know the dollar amount, but not the number of individual orders.  This year… we only have 14.  While the dollar amount is much more important, that number of orders matters to me.  We had 73 total orders last year.  95 if you consider that 1 of the 73 consisted of about 22 different orders.

    The financial goal we set this year was $4680 in gross sales.  I will admit that we are under $2000 away from hitting that goal.  That is all thanks to a Portland area business that purchased more 1 dozen boxes than we sold in 73 orders last year.  I can’t publicly thank the business, but the size of the order was totally unexpected (we anticipated them purchasing 1/2 dozen boxes).  We also will be making a special order for one local nursery *Gardensphere* who will be giving away a tasty little box of truffles with the first 100 Christmas trees purchased.  We have to make those truffles prior to Thanksgiving, but it all adds to the total.

    With all of that I’m still panicking.  I wanted to make the goal without the aid of the “very large corporate order.”  I wanted the corporate order to be the icing on the cake.  At the very least, I wanted to send as much money as we sent last year.

    Earlier this year I asked Galina if she would be able to get me photos of the children in Mirnoe.  The only images I have of them is from right after we sent the money last year.  I wanted to see how they’d grown.  Galina and Evelina traveled out to Mirnoe to visit with the director, Natasha, in October.  I had also asked Galina to talk with Natasha about what types of things they needed for the orphanage.  Natasha told her that they had planned to give the children a Christmas party (which is always part of the deal with us sending money), but in addition to that they would like to purchase a new rug for their gathering room along with chairs for the children to sit on.  If you look at the photos of the orphanage you will notice there only a very small rug and old and worn stadium style seats in their gathering room.  The floor is cold and bare and there is nowhere for them to sit.

    Galina also informed me that Natasha would like to purchase vitamins for the children.  Food in Russia isn’t fortified like it is in the US and access to fresh fruits and vegetables is difficult in the winter and especially in such a remote area.  The children desperately need vitamins.

    I think that knowing what the orphanage needs makes it slightly more difficult.  I want to be able to provide what they need.  This tiny orphanage has little opportunity for outside funding.  They get only their government allotted rubles.  There are 60-80 children who subsist on so little how can I break a promise?

    My hope is that I’ve tugged on your heartstrings enough to encourage you to give a Christmas gift with a purpose this year.  You or a loved one gets a delicious box of candy, and a child gets hope.

  • Sweet Hope
  • Sweet Hope is now in session

    You have two options…  You may click HERE and go buy NOW or you can read the following and then go buy.  Either way, you are buying candy.

    Friday night we were driving home from dinner and I looked at Derek and said, “shit, I think the voting was set to close and I wasn’t at home to make sure my flavors made it into the top.”  He paused for a moment and then laughed.  The last few years I haven’t cared much about the flavors that I make.  I was very gung-ho about Key Lime last year and it ended up being my favorite.  This year… this year I cared.

    When we got home the voting had, in fact, closed and I didn’t get my way.  I lamented about what to do since I hate to offend anyone, but the two flavors that I so desperately wanted to make were not in the final 4.  To top it off, one of my best customers and my biggest volunteer didn’t get their picks either (which happen to be my 2).  I needed to make a choice.  Do I offend those who help so so much or those who voted?  I elected to ruffle the feathers of the masses (or one person who has never commented here).

    I do apologize to the person/people who did some major last minute voting.  But trust me, it’s worth it.

    I dropped Mocha and Port in favor of Apricot-Sage and Madras Curry.  If that causes you not to order, I’m sorry to have lost your business.  However, I am the one who makes these and on occasion I do like to eat them.

    So why am I so adamant about these two flavors?  They are nothing short of awesome.  Granted the curry is love it or hate it.  There is no middle ground here.  If you like curry you will love this truffle.  The Apricot-Sage, that one is just a little surprise.  Of all of the taste testers, only one said down right yuck.  The majority of them were surprised about how wonderfully good it is.  There will be tweaks in the final product to bring out the Apricot and tone down the Sage, but I assure you it will be good.

    Here is the run down of the 2010 products:

    1 dozen mixed truffles (2 of each flavor) – $15.00

    1/2 dozen single variety truffles (choose from Plain Chocolate, Candy Cane, Apricot-Sage, Pomegranate, Honey or Madras Curry) – $8.50

    2 dozen plain caramels – $12.00

    1 dozen sea salt caramels – $7.50

    2 caramel sea-salt truffles – $4.50

    All the candies come in a 100% recycled material kraft brown box and closed with a blue ribbon.  All orders will ship on December 17th and ordering is open NOW through November 26th.

    Now you will go buy.