Friday, February 26, 2010

Hockey Friday: More Olympics

Yes, I know we're a candy company, not a hockey company. Forgive me fore being a little over the top about the Olympics this week. They're almost over.

This is a reminder that the US will be playing Finland at noon PST/3 pm EST and Canada will play Slovakia at 6:30 pm PST/9:30 pm EST. May I recommend that you root for the US and Canada in these games? Though I've a soft spot for both Finland and Slovakia. Finland: those awesome names! And the team is relatively old and this will probably be their last chance for a medal for awhile. Slovakia: the unexpected underdog. I love an unexpected underdog.

My preferred medal status would be:
Gold - Canada
Silver - US
Bronze - please don't make me choose.

Go Canada! Go USA!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Importance of Shipping

My first job out of school was at Amazon. The company culture there (at the time, I left in 2002) was relentlessly about giving the best customer service they could. One big part of that was shipping whatever the customer ordered as fast as possible. Amazon was keenly aware that one big advantage the bricks and mortar stores had was that you had the book/music/toy/whatever in your hands as soon as you paid. Unless Amazon invented teleportation, that wasn't going to happen with anything you bought from them. So they needed to ship your item as soon as they could and make sure that you know where it is.

To say that I absorbed this lesson might be understating things. I sometimes sell my old books on Amazon, and I get all antsy if I can't get to the post office *that day* or at least the next morning after they sell.

It's definitely carried over to This Charming Candy. Candy is often an impulse buy and you can't walk out of our Etsy shop with the candy in your hands (at least not until someone figures out that teleportation problem). Our policy is that we will ship all items within 2 business days, but internally we aim for the next morning. Susan and I both get jumpy if that can't happen.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Lollipop Art

This popped up in our Google Alerts the other day and it’s too cool not to share. A Brooklyn-based artist uses ring-shaped lollipops in many bright colors as her medium. She nails them to a vertical surface in a particular shape – usually spelling out a phrase, from what I can tell – and their melting drippings leave trails down to the floor.

I’m unclear on how she triggers them to melt, exactly. Are they partially pre-sucked before being nailed to the wall? Does she spray them with a mist of water?

Anyway, PRETTY. Check it out!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Hockey, uh, Tuesday

We normally save our hockey-themed posts for Friday when it's time to blow off a little steam, but OMG that US-Canada hockey game! And Susan was live and in-person at the Sweden-Finland game!

First, the US-Canada game. The US was clearly outplayed - Ryan Miller deserves so much credit for his goaltending. If it weren't for someone of his caliber having a good day, the US would have been toast. On the other side of the coin, Brodeur? He's been amazing and has some seriously good goaltending history, but a 0.818 save percentage for that game? I'll be shocked if Luongo isn't in net for Canada from now on. Updated: In fact, Luongo will be starting for Canada from now on.

(Susan here)

Second, the Sweden-Finland game. We were early to the game - I think we were in our seats by 8:20 for the 9:00 start, so we got to watch warmups. I went down to the third row to watch warmups and was struck by how freaking STACKED the Olympic teams are with talent. I mean, obviously they should be, but seeing it in person really made it clear. The quality of the passes, the saves... everything was just fantastic.

The atmosphere of the game was as enjoyable as the high level of play. There were lots of Swedish and Finnish fans in attendance, with their faces painted and their flags on display and their enthusiasm at fever pitch. We were seated next to a pair of fun Swedes who'd been at the arena all day -- and who'd had probably had 1-2 beers during each period of each game. I highly recommend the experience :-)

Her jersey has Forsberg on the back, but her friend was the one shouting, "Marry me, Forsberg" at random intervals:

K-I-S-S-I-N-G by U.S.E

Pretty much my favorite song right now. When it comes up on the CD in my car, I usually have to listen to it three times before moving on to the next track :-)

Monday, February 22, 2010

So, What's Selling?

When Susan and I started This Charming Candy, we decided to concentrate on themed collections of lollipops, like Spice Rack or Fruit Basket. We did this for various reasons, mainly that we thought people liked buying more than one flavor at once and we enjoy pairing flavors that go well together. Four months in, were we right?

The chart shows % of revenue from non-craft show sales. You can see that our flavor collections make up just slightly less than half of our revenue, followed by sales of our single-flavor packs (salted caramel dominates those single-flavor sales). Charm School Dropouts (CSDs), custom orders, and a sliver of single lollipop sales round out the last 15%.

To answer the question: largely, yes, I think bundling similar flavors together was the right call, though once people try salted caramel, all bets are off.

Friday, February 19, 2010

This Charming Cat: Take Two

Laser Jet, the official art director of This Charming Candy, looks like he belongs on the cover of a Morrissey album…

ThisCharmingCat black cat


Photo by Kevin Keeker

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Seven Times?!

I’m glad we discovered the CraftMBA blog recently. Her recent recap of the New York Gift Show had lots of good content, but I really zeroed in on a little nugget that was good to be reminded of:

Often, these shows are about having a consistent presence. (What’s that saying? Someone needs to see your product seven times before they purchase it.) While that seven times rule doesn’t always hold true, I think there are buyers who need to see you a few times before they write an order.

I can’t speak to the truth of the magic number being seven, but I’ve certainly heard this sentiment before. And while we haven’t been in business long enough to have participated in seven shows of this type, I’ve seen this phenomenon on a smaller scale.

Most recently at Mourning Market but also at other craft fairs, sometimes a customer will stroll past our table and eyeball it a few times before approaching and making a purchase. And while some serial-strollers don’t come to the table in the end, CraftMBA reminds us of the importance of consistent participation: there’s always the next craft fair they attend.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Mystery Photo

Any guesses as to the story behind this picture?

threads of orange and green hard candy

Photo by Kevin Keeker

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Event Lollipops: Little Shop of Horrors

We’re beginning to build our custom-orders business – it’s not very formal right now, basically if you want something custom you can shoot us an email to and we’ll go from there :-)

Which is exactly what one of the folks at the Caribbean Community Theater in the U.S. Virgin Islands did.

This month, they’re putting on Little Shop of Horrors, a rock musical in which one 'character' is a giant Venus fly trap that consumes human blood. Lisa thought our Bloodsucker lollipops would be a perfect “break-a-leg” treat for cast and crew on opening night, and asked us to make them in our flower shape instead of the heart we usually use. She made these adorable origami Venus fly traps in flower pots to display them:

red lollipops in a flowerpot with origami Venus Fly Trap for Little Shop of Horors red lollipops in three flowerpots with origami Venus Fly Trap for Little Shop of Horors

As a former high school theater participant (hey, me too! - k8) and a theater season subscriber here in Seattle, I’m particularly thrilled to have had the honor and opportunity to do something for this production.

I don’t know if any of our readers will be in Christiansted, V.I. this month, but if you will be, please go see the show for us!

photos by Lisa from the Caribbean Community Theater – thank you!

Monday, February 15, 2010

One Light Source? Or Two?

A while ago we showed you guys our setup for the lollipop solo photos. One thing we didn’t mention is that sometimes, we put a flashlight above the lollipop and aim it down for additional lighting.

Sometimes it makes a huge improvement – check out the Salted Caramel with one light source. YAWN:

salted caramel lollipop with one light source

versus two light sources:

salted caramel lollipop with two light sources

The second one is a lot more “noir” than our usual photos, yeah? And sooooo pretty!

That said, sometimes the effect of the second light source is the exact opposite. Check out how sickly-looking the Vanilla-Cardamom lollipop becomes when the second light source is turned on. First: here it is with just one light source:

vanilla cardamom lollipop with one light source

And here’s its counterpart. Scary, huh!

vanilla cardamom lollipop with two light sources

Photos by Kevin Keeker

Friday, February 12, 2010

Hockey Friday: Olympic Hockey!!!

Happy Opening Ceremonies day to everyone! The 2010 Winter Olympics are about to get underway and we wanted to share this great Vanity Fair article we discovered the other day via the NHL’s Twitter feed : The Five Biggest Olympic Hockey Moments. The videos are awesome and the whole thing is chock full of the charm of the greatest game on ice.

Kate IM’ed me: “It warmed my heart to watch the fans sing ‘Oh Canada’ in the closing minutes of the gold medal game in 2002.”

For my part, I could barely contain my glee upon learning that the Czechs have named an asteroid after Dominik Hasek and have written an opera about their triumph in Nagano in ‘98.

Seattle is close enough to Vancouver that my husband and I are going to attend a couple of events over Feb 20-21, including Sweden vs. Finland men’s hockey. I can’t wait!

Candy Thermometer

An important tool in candy making is an accurate thermometer that can measure temperatures up to at least 300-310 degrees F, which is the “hard crack” stage for syrup.

digital thermometer immersed in purple candy syrup and reading 304.3 degrees F

At home when I’m making super small batches for flavor and color research, I use an old-fashioned glass tube thermometer that clips on to the side of the saucepan. It’s accurate, but it’s slow for taking readings if it hasn’t been submerged in the syrup the whole time.

When I’m in the commercial kitchen making the candy we sell, I use a fancier digital thermometer that takes temperature readings pretty quickly, although my hand still gets hot from the gas burner. Hey, it looks like this batch of Sweethearts is ready!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Indie Banditas on Saturday

This Saturday, February 13th, you can find us selling lollipops at the Indie Banditas Bazaar on Bainbridge Island. Hop on a ferry and enjoy the island after you shop indie crafts! Admission is $1 or free if you donate a canned good. Not that enticements are needed, but there are giveaways every hour of the day. I don’t really know what they consist of but I’m sure they’ll be cool :-) Hope to see you there!


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Love Triangle: Black vs White Sucker Sticks

We giggled ourselves silly posing the Love Triangle lollipops as stand-ins for Twilight’s Edward, Bella and Jacob. You’ve probably seen the main picture we use on Etsy:

red, purple and brown lollipops with black sticks

What you might not know is that during the “prototyping” phase of developing the Love Triangle flavors and colors, we experimented with using our usual white paper sticks but rejected them almost right away when we fell in love with the darker and moodier appearance that the black plastic sticks gave to the trio.

Check out this photo from the vault, which shows what the Love Triangle characters lollipops would look like with white sticks:

red, purple and brown lollipops with black sticks

It’s funny how *terrible* these look to me, when normally I love the white sticks for every other flavor.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Handmade Olympics

Our lovely, wonderful Pomegranate lollipops are finalists in the Favorite Handmade or Vintage Item That's Fun category in the rikrak studio's Handmade Olympics!

The Handmade Olympics is a series of competitions for handmade items. They've got all sorts of categories, like innovative design, goodies for kids, and blog with a handmaking focus. We're up against some stiff competition -- that elephant, in particular, is adorable -- so please go vote for us now!

Voting is open until Feb 17th; you can only vote once.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Sweetheart: Outtake

We never use the flash when taking product photos. Well, more accurately, we never intentionally use the flash! When taking photos of the heart-shaped Sweetheart (honey-jasmine) flavor for the Sweet Valentine collection, the flash went off on the first picture:

photo of honey-jasmine flavored purple lollipop, taken with flash

On the one hand, the purple looks bright and lovely and you can easily see how shimmery it is. But with our solo photos we’re generally trying to capture both the lollipop and its colorful shadow:

photo of honey-jasmine flavored purple lollipop, taken without flash

The white-balance is also better in this second photo, in our opinion. The lollipop stick isn’t glowing too crazily white and the brick wall looks less stark and clinical. What do you think, did we make the right choice? Or should we have embraced the flash and used the top picture?

Photos by Kevin Keeker

Friday, February 5, 2010

Red Hot Love: Outtake

The Sweet Valentine lollipops were interesting to photograph because they’re curved on one side (our usual lollipop shape is a flat disc). Let’s take a look at some of the pictures of Red Hot Love, our cinnamon-cherry creation for Valentine’s Day.

We took most of the pictures with the curved side facing forward:

red heart-shaped cinnamon-cherry lollipop photographed from the front

For fun, we flipped it around so the curved side was facing the wall. This changed the way the light passed through to cast the colored shadow. It also created an interesting outline effect on the candy:

red heart-shaped cinnamon-cherry lollipop photographed from the back

In the end we decided this view, while pretty, might be too distracting to use on Etsy. What do you think?

Photos by Kevin Keeker

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Valentine's Day

I'm constantly amazed by how beautiful so many things are on Etsy. In honor of Valentine's Day (and to promote our own Sweet Valentine Lollipops), here are a few of the Valentines I found.

two hearts by annieWHERE

Red Heart Earrings by aleia24:

Love Candy - Lemon by jenniferramos

Vintage Typewriter Key Cufflinks by GwenDelicious

Happy Shopping!

Flavor Rotation

red pomegranate, creamy white coconut-caramel, and mango flavored lollipopsAs we go introduce new collections and flavors this year, we're also going to phase out some collections and flavors. Not because they've been bad, but because it's easier to manage production with fewer flavors.

The first one that's going to take a break will be Fruit Basket. We won't be making any more of it come the end of February - it's going to make room for the Adventurer's Pack (which will have Pistachio-Marshmallow, Teaberry, and another yet-to-be-announced flavor). So we suggest that if you want to order the Fruit Basket and its yummy Pomegranate, Mango, and Coconut-Caramel flavors, you do it sooner rather than later.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Photo Blooper!

During the same outdoor photoshoot when Kevin took the amazing “Aliens Have Come to Study Us” picture, we also tried posing the lollipops by a little stream. Most of those came out way too dark and not very interesting. And one of them came out looking like total crazytown:

blurry and overeposed photo of three lollipops

Overexposed, out of focus, colors totally whacked out. And yet, it’s still strangely attractive in a way. Kevin’s been using it as his desktop background!

Photo by Kevin Keeker

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

May We Suggest: Starry Nights Catering

SNlogo_110x130Is anyone planning an event in the Seattle area? Starry Nights Catering & Events in Kirkland is where we cook our lollipops. It’s a great place, run by great people who make great food and spectacular cakes! Check out their recent work for a Cake Wrecks event. Note: the cake is decidedly not a wreck :-)

Starry Nights having an open house on Saturday Feb 6th where you can check them out. This Charming Candy will be there too, among other vendors.

Here’s the blurb from their site, and link to sign up.

Starry Nights Catering's Winter Open House is February 6th

Are you getting married, organizing a party, or planning a corporate event in the spring or summer? If so, please stop by Starry Nights on Saturday, February 6th from 12-3pm. We'll have food and cake samples, and Chef Matt will be glad to sit down with you and plan that event!

Click here to RSVP now.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Photo: Aliens Have Come To Study Us

Back in the fall, we experimented with taking lollipops outdoors for photoshoots in natural light. One of our all time favorite pictures resulted from this day:

three lollipops with green leaves in the background and a white flower in the foreground

Three lollipops loom in the background, studying with great interest the soft-focused flower in the foreground. Lush green leaves curl in and out of the afternoon shadows.

This photoshoot was totally spur-of-the-moment, and I didn’t have any fresh lollipops ready for it. Not only does this trio of lollipops have a color scheme we don’t use in any of our collections, the pops themselves are old and wrinkly from sitting around in their bags for a long time. You’ll never see this photo in our Etsy store, but we still thought it was quite interesting enough to share here.

Photo by Kevin Keeker