Hello & Happy New Year 2018! January 12 2018
What a year 2017 was. I must admit I’ve enjoyed the downtime SNOBX2018 forced upon the inhabitants of our little sandbar. I had to laugh though after readingan article a friend shared -- East Glacier Park received over 49 inches of snow during their last storm. Our 4 inches slowed down life and now it’s time to get back to planning for 2018. I found myself saying “We have the best customers” many times last year and want to thank a few “people” that helped make 2017 a sweet year for Sweater Box Confections. First, our wholesale accounts for helping spread Sweater Box Love and providing locations from Manteo to Duck and beyond for sweet treat pickupsNext, I would like to thank the other business owners I've interacted with -- from fellow vendors at the Market and special events to those we've collaborated with on special projects. It really DOES take a village to raise a small business! Anda big thanks to the local publications that gave us love on their pages.
But the Sweater Box “Cookie of the Year” award goes to YOU, the individual! Last year was one of transition for us. We moved from a shared commercial space back to a home kitchen. My worries were for naught. You continued to call, email, text, private message, order online, and come by the Market and Pop-Ups for your cookies, pies, and pennies! We shipped directly to you or a special someone, delivered to your home or office, even met you in parking lots and the occasional beach walkover...we even left your treats at other businesses to make it easier for you to get your goodies. Somehow we made it work -- and I am filled with gratitude for your support and the stories you have shared with us.
And because #wehavethebestcustomers we are adding a rewards program that we're calling “Sweet Rewards!” It’s our way to say THANK YOU in 2018 and beyond. Simply sign on so you can begin collecting rewards that will be redeemable on future purchases made online and in person (no matter where that might be!)
Now enjoying their winter hours, Waveriders in Nags Head is a great place to relax, chat, drink a beer or glass of wine, grab a hot drink or get a little light fare (and yes, that includes some Sweater Box treats!) If you've not ever been or it's been a little while...allow us to introduce you to one of the OBX's favorite haunts...
We look forward to hearing more cookie and baking stories from you in 2018 and creating our own to share with you.
Sweet regards, Chris & the Sweater Box Team
Looking at the World with Lavender-Colored Glasses June 24 2017
The Birds & Well, You Know... April 21 2017
Hello Cookie Fans! It’s always exciting to begin a new journey, I think. You have an idea what to expect but don’t always know how the journey will unfold. This is how I feel as we settle into our new space -- our new home is called -- home. We are here learning the new flow and tweaking where needed. This is what spring is all about, a new beginning, a different journey. Our chickadees have returned to their house at the top of our stairs for the 7th year! They will soon begin flying back and forth with small bugs to feed their new hatchlings. I also see, and hear, robins, wrens, towhees, cardinals and a woodpecker on a daily basis to name only a few. So that's the birds, now for the bees. Or, more precisely, the birds and the bees of the plant world. Yes, I'm going to talk to you about plant sex. We are going to get down with the dirty--side of spring. It starts with the courting, you know the dressing up, putting your best petal on, applying just the right fragrance. It's like going to the bar on a Friday night, wanting to connect with that dandy daffodil in the next flower bed. The flowers put on a beautiful show until the pollen lands on the stigma and the “birds and the bees” of plant life begins. Before you know it you are committed to raising another seed. Lucky for us the plants are not shy and put their display on for all to see and smell and cough and sneeze and have headaches and COVER EVERYTHING IN YELLOW! Dang, pine pollen is messy. Around here it means everything turns a pale shade of yellow, I mean everything. We get yellow footprints in the house! It feels, a bit, like preparing for a hurricane. Instead of securing things and bringing them up off the floor it means bringing things in that can’t be easily cleaned by spraying with a hose. Or, keeping the house closed up on a beautiful day, not because you boarded the windows but just so the inside does not become yellow. You look out the window and realized the “smoke” is only a cloud of pine pollen blowing from the trees. I always enjoy the rains that come and wash away the yellow monochrome. Here in the Sweater Box kitchen I feel like the chickadee family, we are busy preparing our “nest” and getting ready for the busy feeding season of summer. We are excited to announce a new wholesale family member, Island Perk [ https://www.facebook.com/IslandPerkCoffeeOBX/ ]! They are a new coffee shop in downtown Manteo. Our cookies, biscotti and muffins pair nicely with their coffee. Stop in and say hello. The Manteo Market will be back before you can say April showers bring May flowers. Until then, stay tuned to this bat channel or Facebook or Instagram and we will let you know about special events. If you will be on the Outer Banks for your spring break we are taking orders for Chocolate Chess or Key Lime pies; email us at email@example.com Where to find us… April 15th we will be partnering up with The Tea & Spice Exchange [ http://www.spiceandtea.com/duck/ ] in Duck, 1:00 PM. We will be pairing our cookies and their teas and discussing ways to use one cookie recipe many ways. May 13th the Manteo Farm & Craft Market [ https://www.facebook.com/Manteo-Farmers-Market-354947188237/ ] begins. Each Saturday, through September, you can find us at the George Washington Creef Park from 8-12. It’s a beautiful venue and a great way to purchase locally made/grown products. Plan on enjoying the other shops and attractions Manteo has to offer. May 20th*, for our fifth year, we will be at the Dare County Master Gardeners [ https://www.facebook.com/DareCountyMasterGardeners/ ] festival. It takes place at the Baum Center at 300 Mustain St. in Kill Devil Hills from 9:30-2:30. This is a great opportunity to purchase plants and tour the arboretum the Master Gardeners keep so beautiful. *Yes, we will also be at the Manteo Market. Divide and conquer is our May motto! Cookie Me! (or someone you love.) [http://sweaterboxconfections.com/collections/individual-products]
Daisy & Barbie - Women in History April 21 2017
PS Remember Easter, Mother's Day, Father's Day and graduations will soon be upon us. Let us help you celebrate with a gift made with love.
Avocado Or Harvest Gold? January 07 2017
Hello Cookie Fans!
I really enjoy reading cookbooks, more specifically, baking books. Current books are prepared with amazing photography and stories often accompany most recipes or at least a short description about the inspiration.
But just like fashion and appliance colors, cookbooks change with the times. This realization came Christmas morning as I sat down with a cup of coffee and toast and grabbed a nearby book to thumb through as I ate. The book, Southern Living's "The Cookies and Candy Cookbook," circa 1972. Some of you may remember cookbook series our mothers and grandmothers acquired, you know the cookbook version of the encyclopedias we used for book reports as kids. The Casserole Cookbook edition was resting under the cookie one.
The photographs were definitely a sign of the times and the recipes were that and nothing more, a simple list of ingredients and mixing instructions. Many were followed by the name and location of the contributor. Mrs. George P. from Virginia Beach, Mrs. Andrew T. from Little Rock, Mrs. Patsy W. of Warner Robins, Georgia and Kathryn W. of Beckley, West Virginia.
As much as I love the stories and pictures of the newer cookbooks I was left wondering about the women who's names appeared after these recipes. What is the story of these women? My guess is they were women who loved to bake, entertain and make moments special for their families, friends or the new couple that moved in across the street. They may have recently made holiday cookies with their kids, grand kids or even great grand kids.
The pictures reminded me of the cookies my Grandma Carroll made for us at Christmas or the pictures Facebook friends have been posting of their holiday baking creations. As much as some things change, some things remain the same.
The same is true at Sweater Box Confections, some things may be changing but what will remain the same is our love of baking treats with quality ingredients so you can celebrate life. Here's to a healthy, happy and prosperous new year!
P.S. And of course there was a handwritten recipe tucked inside the back cover.
Disease Tour, Bears and Baking June 16 2016
Living and running a business on a sandbar has its own quirks and challenges. A big one is sourcing my ingredients. Some things are ordered and delivered to the kitchen, but my staples of butter, sugar, eggs and flour require a trip to Virginia every 2-4 weeks.
I don’t dread this trip since it gives me a chance to sing or listen to business podcasts. I also notice the passing of the seasons as I drive past the crops in the fields. On my last trip I noticed it was almost time to harvest the wheat. I found it a little ironic that I was on my way to purchase 200 pounds of flour which recalled my days harvesting wheat from research plots during my gradual school days. This is how I fondly refer to my MS degree in Plant Pathology (the study of plant diseases) from the University of Georgia. My thesis was titled “The Effects of Pythium irregulare and Soil Physical Factors on Wheat Growth.” Don’t worry, I will not get into specifics. Just know that harvesting research plots of wheat, in Georgia, is hot and scratchy and requires long pants and sleeves.
Continuing with grad school memories I also remember our Disease Tour. No, I was not in a band. Over spring break my fellow grad students and a willing professor got our geek on, piled into a van and traveled throughout Georgia looking at plant diseases on different crops. We did this willingly. I’m sure it was interesting seeing the diseases I had been learning about in the classroom, but that’s not what I remember. What I remember is a van stuffed with students, a professor and LOTS of watermelons and peaches. Our tour stops were at other research stations and they had a bounty of fruit. They had harvested what they needed for their research and we were allowed to pick what we wanted for ourselves. Remember, we were grad students, not making a lot of money, and this was free food we were being offered! It was awesome.
Over the past weekend I visited the White Oak Lavender Farm again to pick up more lavender we use in our Lavender Cookies and enjoyed camping in the Shenandoah National Park. I did not look for any diseases on their plants. We enjoyed a hike on National Trails Day. I did look for fungus of the edible type, with no luck, but enjoyed seeing black bears with cubs, does with fawns, a turkey, an orange salamander and a red breasted grosbeak.
From wheat and fungus to flour and baking seems like a logical transition to me. Time to open up another 50 pound bag of flour.
Happy trails and sweet regards,
Turkey & Swiss on a Baguette March 04 2016
The Great Bike Ride November 06 2015
A local business owner and friend recently asked me about sponsoring an upcoming event, Ride for Life. It's a charity bike ride with part of the proceeds supporting autism and part supporting her club’s Christmas project to provide bikes for local kids. Growing up I spent a lot of time with bikes. There was my green Schwinn, with the pink flowered banana seat. Next, came the light blue 5-speed from Sears. Then when the cycling bug bit, I went on organized rides with my Aunt Jane and Uncle Bud, rode the countryside of southern Michigan and northern Indiana after dinner, called Greg LeMond one of my heroes (I have now dated myself) and did a lot of riding with the local cycling club in my hometown.
How many times has this happened to you? The voices in our heads try to keep us from doing the things we want? We give up before we even start? I told those voices to go eat a grocery store cookie and decided I at least needed to show up! I was a sponsor! I would meet some new people, I might even have fun.
The morning of the ride arrived cool and sunny. My only goal was to show up for the pre-ride meeting and ride as long (or short) as I felt like. I was giving myself permission to only ride a few blocks, ok, I really wanted to finish the 25 mile ride, but as long as I showed up the rest was considered buttercream on the cake.
What happened? I showed up at 7:15, wearing my padded bike shorts and a bottle of water, I rode to the turn-around point and kept riding. I was feeling good, I was in no hurry, I chose easy gears to keep my cadence up, a girl has knees to protect after all. I rode all by myself, on my terms. I made it to the second rest station and realized there were only a few miles left. Of course they were into a slight head wind but it was flat and the most beautiful fall day at the beach. I kept going. I made it! I met new people, I had fun and I didn’t shave my legs.
Sometimes the most difficult part is showing up and ignoring the voices in our heads. If the voices get too loud shove a grocery store cookie in their mouth, take a deep breath and just show up. You might even have fun!
I don’t remember getting any of my bicycles for Christmas but my friend told me the Outer Banks Womens Club will be buying some for local kids this year. I hope they enjoy the wind in their hair and the freedom I enjoyed. I could not find any pictures of my old bicycles, I always took one when they were shiny and new, but I did come across a clipping of a race for charity I was in with fellow club members. Yep, that’s a perm.
Chris vs. Bear August 11 2015
In early June my boyfriend Scott and I had the opportunity to escape the beach for the weekend before settling into the summer schedule. I picked the Shenandoah National Park. Just the basics were tossed into the car -- tent, pads, sleeping bags and personal items -- and off we went early on a Friday morning!
We arrived at Skyline Drive mid-afternoon, stopped to pick up an Appalachian Trail thru-hiker, China Rock, looking for a ride up the road to meet friends, chose a campsite at Big Meadows campground (while Scott and I put up the tent, China Rock polished off the bag of Peanut Butter Cookies I gave her) and continued up the road to drop China Rock at her meeting place.
Back at camp we looked over the map to make a plan for the next day. We chose a nearby trail that would take us to two waterfalls. The next morning we were up early, enjoyed a big breakfast, donned hiking boots and loaded up a daypack with water and snacks (yes, including cookies from Sweater Box Confections).
Scott and I have different hiking paces so he is often a few minutes ahead of me and out of sight, and I enjoy the solitude of the the woods. We are in the habit of each carrying a whistle in case of trouble. Have I mentioned that we were in bear country and Scott LOVES bears? If fact, he wants a pet bear.
Surely, you sense what’s coming.
It was such a beautiful day! We crossed a horse trail and stopped to drink in the scenery, taking pictures along the way. There was a lot of cool fungi due to recent rains. I’m telling you, it was a truly beautiful day! And then...I see him. No, not Scott. I see HIM...the bear! He’s coming downhill toward us! Well, actually, I don’t know if it’s a male bear but I have a 50/50 chance of being right.
"Ptssss, ptsSSS, PTSSSS!" Scott turns around and looks at me and I start pointing dramatically and mouth the word bear. We both stand still and the bear continues toward us.
Did I mention I have Snickerdoodles in the day pack? Bears love Snickerdoodles (actually, they love food, but I’m sure what’s in my backpack is this particular bear’s favorite).
Oh crap, I need to take a picture or better yet get this on video! I’m not sharing the Snickerdoodles with a bear, nothing to worry about here. I know Scott has spotted the bear, and we’re both standing quietly on the trail. I’m wondering at what point do I blow the whistle to scare him away? I whip my phone out of my pocket and hit record….
Did you see the bear? No? What? You only saw my bare hand? I’m happy to report that I prevailed, without a scratch, and we enjoyed Snickerdoodles during our lunch break!
My story is that I was in total control and scared the bear away with my fierceness. It had absolutely nothing to do with the hiker approaching from the other direction...absolutely nothing, I say.
The moral of the story: We all have different talents that we are good at and enjoy doing. Share your talents and look to others for help with things that are not in your wheelhouse. That's what I did for the above video. By using a professional my 2.5 second clip was transformed into something that was real and silly that anyone could watch!The other moral of the story: Remember to make time to do the things that feed your soul. It helps to keep you healthy and happy. As a business owner I really struggle with this and am working on being better about making ME a priority.
Kayaks killed the pumpkin pie November 15 2014
This is my answer to why I’m making sweet potato pies for Thanksgiving rather than pumpkin pies. I know you are asking how these two things are remotely related? A few weeks ago I told some of you that I was headed off to the North Pole to have my final strategy meeting with Santa and the Elves concerning Christmas cookies and chocolates. I lied. That meeting was in early October; a few weeks ago I went on vacation.
Once the pitching begins, by costumed folks by the way, the collection begins by those in kayaks, rafts or those along the shore. Afterward, when all the chaos and dry clothes are found, numbers are drawn, and if you have the corresponding pumpkin you win a prize! Oh, wait -- did I tell you that these are PIE pumpkins?! Hmmmm, what a great way to get pumpkins for pumpkin pies, I’m thinking.
Are you guessing what happens? Pumpkins are pitched, we start paddling. I’m plucking pumpkins from the river, then, damn, we get hung up on a rock. It seems all the other boaters and pumpkins are passing us by. I need to make pies, I need pumpkins! At last we are free and approaching the falls. We forget the pumpkins for a few seconds...uh oh, I don’t think we picked the right line...the duckie noses into the bottom of the falls…. Well, they say a picture is worth a thousand words, so I’ll let the pictures tell the rest of the story.
Scott manages to keep the ducky and his paddle, I assume river rescue position and start floating down river, on my back, feet first, clutching my paddle. I indicate to those around me I’m ok. Then, wait, there’s a pumpkin! I reach out--SCORE! I make it to shore with my paddle and two pumpkins, Scott swings by to pick me up and we continue down river to the take out. We nab six pumpkins total but sadly not enough for all my pie orders.
We haul them back to the beach from the mountains and I bake them. I will have a few Nantahala River Pumpkin Pies available, and I won’t even charge extra. I can’t let that pumpkin go to waste.
|But, what’s the real reason I’m making sweet potato pies? North Carolina is the top producing state for sweet potatoes, it’s our state vegetable and they are yummy. I roast them and puree them until smooth. I follow my pumpkin pie recipe but cut back on the sugar to balance with the sweet potatoe’s natural sweetness. The custard goes into a handmade, spice crust. Serve them with a little whipped cream and your picky eaters probably will not even know it’s not pumpkin. But you can still tell the story like it is.|
Donkeys, Dirty Socks and Change June 04 2014
That's me on the donkey. Behind me are Grandma Carroll and my mom, pregnant with my little brother. Looks like a pretty idyllic family photo, right?
If you said, "Yes," you'd be correct. But you'd never guess that my wonderful father had just recently been killed in a car accident at the ripe old age of 26.
That's right, in spite of losing a father, husband, and a son, here we Carroll women are dealing with the radical change we've just had thrust into our lives, TOGETHER.
That's my dad in high school kicking back with the dirtiest socks Grandma had ever seen. She was mortified that he would wear such filthy things, but you can tell he couldn't care less. It's a shame he was taken from us so early, but we grew together and supported each other through the transition, like we always have when faced with big life changes. That's how my family is, and it's helped me tremendously in growing my business.
In order to grow, you have to experience change. In can be intentional, or it can be accidental, but change will always happen. I've found the best way to deal with change positively is having family, friends, or a team around you to support you.
They are people who love you and believe in you. They are the ones who lend a hand when they see you stumble. They pick you up and remind you of the greatness that lies ahead if you can muster the strength to keep moving forward and don't quit. They are the ones who make change bearable, and even welcome, because it means you're becoming a better, stronger, kinder person.
So rather than fear change, gather a supportive group of people around you and invite change. It can be scary as hell, fun, challenging, rewarding, hard as shit, and scary as hell (yes, I listed it twice because it can be THAT scary!). But ask any great person what made them that way, and they'll tell you of the big changes in their lives, not the times when everything was steady and safe.
Now, I have a really big, scary (at least for me) announcement to make: my website is LIVE! I finally did it, with a lot of help from my team. It's www.SweaterBoxConfections.com, and you can now order your favorite treats online. Ain't technology great?! Go check it out, place an order, and get deliciousness in the mail.
(Whew! Ok, that wasn't so bad. I think I'll live. Now, on to the next change...)
Father's Day Special!
Hope you didn't forget Father's Day coming up soon! Even though my dad isn't with us anymore, I always remember him at this time of year. His birthday was June 17th, which will be two days after Father's Day.
I talked earlier about change and having your team of supporters with you. Well, if your dad is one of your biggest supporters, then I encourage you to show him how much you appreciate him with an order of Sweater Box Confections! It might just be the best Father's Day gift he's ever received.
If you go to www.SweaterBoxConfections.com and place an order of $30 or more (before shipping), I'll include two free coconut macaroons, one plain and one key lime with your order. Live locally? You can save on shipping by picking up your order at our Secret Kitchen Lair (not so secretly located with Zen Pops at MP 4.5 on the big road or as the post office would call it, 3712 N. Croatan Hwy., Kitty Hawk, NC)!
Because we should not limit celebrating our dads, moms, aunts, uncles, ourselves, grasshoppers, trees, you get the idea, to just one day I'm offering this special for all of June!
(WARNING: Giving your dad Sweater Box Confections may cause you to be envied and called a brown-noser by siblings, smothered in love by your father, and scorned by your mom for not being as thoughtful in May. BEWARE!)