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Yikes! We’ve been so busy (thankfully) that I’ve been a bit remise about posting a blog. Huge apologies! Tis the season to be busy and I’m certainly not complaining. Hopefully, you’re busy at your work as well (unless you’re an undertaker, then I hope you’re not terribly busy, no offense.)

During this time of the year, one of the things I do is put in corporate orders. So, if a company wants to send chocolates to their client list, they simply send their list over along with what items they’d like to send and their message. Then I take it, get it all pretty and neat and put it in for shipping. Easy peasy! But the busier that is, the less time I have to post on the blog. But you gotta take the good with the bad, as they say. (If you still haven't sent gifts to your office gift list, give me a yell!)

In doing these orders, I can tell you there are a couple hundred people in the Arizona area that should be receiving 18pc holiday boxes of  Chocolates of Vermont. I won’t say who they are or who they’re coming from as I don’t want to spoil the surprise. But if you are one of the recipients, trust me when I tell you to try the dark chocolate Honey Caramel with a cup of coffee in the morning. It’s so awesome!

OK, gotta get back to work but before I do, remember to post your comments to the December blog entries for your chance to win free chocolate and a t-shirt. That’s 6 chocolate placesetting snowmen, the Winter tin of Hot Chocolate and a LCC t-shirt. And I promise to ship it to you in time for the holidays! To quote Sally Brown from the Peanuts’ “Merry Christmas Charlie Brown” – “I just want my fair share. I just want what I have coming to me.”

OK, we’ll talk soon! Enjoy your December. It’s the only one you’re getting this year. Ha!

PS – I just saw someone decided to put the Nuts and Raisin’ Star box on sale. Nice! Not sure how long it’ll be on sale so don’t miss out.

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It’s Saturday and we’re working over here at the Chocolate Factory. Thankfully, the phones are ringing and people are starting to shake off the recession gloom and get in the holiday spirit. They just seem a little more upbeat and positive and that always makes for good vibes when we all feed off each others emotions. And with that, I’m going to wax poetic for a moment about an item I’ve really come to love this holiday season. It’s a new item that I first started to notice in the Fall when we introduced the autumn version. Then, it was a pumpkin shape which was nice but for the holidays, it’s a beautiful indigo star with bright yellow, green and white designs on it. But that’s just the outside. It’s what’s inside that I love.

Being that it’s call the Nuts and Raisin Star, you can totally guess what’s inside. Yup, nuts and raisins. Almonds to be exact and Franny’s raisins, for those that are raisin aficionados (if there is such a thing and I’m certain there is.)

First, let me tell you about the almonds. They started out as simply lovely roasted almonds but they’re panned (covered) in rich, dark chocolate – Lake Champlain Chocolates rich, dark chocolate. And they’re just delicious. Not waxy. Not tasteless. Delicious.

Then there are the raisins. You can tell me you don’t like chocolate covered raisins and I believe you because based on what I’ve had for chocolate covered raisins growing up, I didn’t like them much either. But honestly, it wasn’t the idea of the chocolate covered raisin I disliked. It was what I had access to. They always seemed dry, hard and like a rubber eraser with chocolatey goop that balled up in your mouth when you ate them. I haven’t led you astray yet and I’m not about to now. These are nothing like that.

For starters, Franny’s Raisins are touted as the largest raisins going (along with being organic). They’re huge. In fact, you could almost mistake them for the almonds as most of them are the same size as the almonds once they’re covered in chocolate. The difference is these are panned in Lake Champlain Chocolates milk chocolate so while they look just like the almonds, they’re lighter in color making them easy to pick out. Combine this big, plump raisin with fresh, gourmet milk chocolate and you will most likely change your mind about chocolate covered raisins forever. Seriously, you’ve got to trust me on this.

Now, to get back to the Nuts and Raisin Star, the almonds and raisins are packed into this beautiful star shaped box that has a clear window on the front so you can see it’s yummy contents and it’s finished off with a green bow. The design makes it festive but not specific to any particular holiday and it’s Star D Kosher. And at $12, it’s the perfect gift no matter what holiday you celebrate.

OK. I’m done. Thank you for indulging me. Considering I just ate an entire one, I felt it deserved a few kind words. Happy Saturday!

PS - Don't forget your chance to Win Free Chocolate!

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Get the Grinch Out - Even if You're at Work!

Posted on December 4, 2008 12:19 PM by Leann
OK. Picture it. You’re at work, you’re tired and you have a mountain of things to do. Not feeling the holiday spirit, right? I know the suggestions in the last post are not a possibility right now so here is a short list of fun websites to visit to help get the Grinch out! They’re quick little hits that provide just the right amount of distraction to leave you feeling festive and ready to tackle that next project. Just because you’re at work doesn’t mean you can’t revel in the fun of the season.

Track Santa – Each year, NORAD helps families track Santa’s progress. It’s fun to do for all ages. http://www.noradsanta.org/en/home.html

Office Max, the office supply people, came out with this a few years ago and I still find it funny today. Make an elf of yourself (and your family) and send it to friends to make them laugh. http://www.elfyourself.com/

Making a gingerbread house takes talent and patience, both of which I have in random, varying quantities. But to make on online, no problem. http://www.billybear4kids.com/holidays/christmas/ginger/IEStickers.html

Star in your own little Christmas story. Fill in the blanks and let the adventure begin. http://www.blackdog.net/cgi-bin/story/xmas.cgi

This one I think is my favorite. Wander around the North Pole. You never know what or who you’ll run across. More fun for all ages and fun to keep coming back to. http://www.northpole.com/

SO, have a little fun, be a little silly and share these kooky sites with your friends so the can get the Grinch out to. And if you’re boss catches you, don’t blame it on us! Alright, ‘nuff said. Now, get back to work! I’m off to go eat a truffle.

PS – don’t forget – any and all comments on any December posts through December 16 enter you to win. Scroll down for the Blog Contest Post.

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How to Get in the Holiday Spirit (For Free)!!!

Posted on December 2, 2008 3:06 PM by Leann

Have you spent all your money on your holiday shopping and now you’re too broke to do anything else? Well, there are lots of FREE (or nearly free) ways to get in the holiday spirit, no matter what holiday you celebrate.

1) Visit the Free Tours in your own backyard - I don’t know exactly what businesses are in your area but I bet if you look around, there are some cool things to check out. Just speaking from my area, I can go tour a chocolate factory (sure, it's where I work but you don’t have to work here to get a tour), a Teddy Bear factory, an Ice Cream Factory and even some breweries – all offering free factory tours and even samples. Just take a moment to view your neighborhood through the eyes of a tourist. Pick up some tourist brochures at your local Chamber of Commerce and begin your adventure. And since most businesses are dressed for the holidays, you’ll get right in the spirit in no time while becoming your areas best tour guide!

2) Volunteer during the holidays – Local community programs are always looking for holiday volunteers to help wrap gifts, drop off meals, spend time with animals at shelters over long weekends, tons of stuff. And the folks you meet along the way will remind you of all the often forgotten joys of the holiday season. For me, those joys are helping my community and spending time in the presence of people at their best.

3) Take a drive and look at the lights – You don’t need to celebrate Christmas to appreciate how beautiful the holiday lights are. They’re just pretty. Grab some cups of hot chocolate, pack some cookies and take a cruise (in the car or on foot) around the various neighborhoods in your area. And if it’s snowing, why not strap on your snowshoes or cross-country skis and take a tour. You’ll get a fun workout in while enjoying the show!

4) Visit a ski area – You don’t have to ski to enjoy being at a ski area. If you’re lucky enough to live within driving distance, it’s a fun way to spend an afternoon, sitting snuggle in the lodge with some warm cider while watching skiers and boards zoom down the hill in front of you. Most ski areas have a lounge or restaurant and many even have little “downtowns” created to feel like some European winter village. Spending time on the slopes is only part of the experience, not all of it. And maybe someday, you’ll even be tempted to try getting out on the slopes.

5) Enjoy in-store demos – This time of year, many businesses (especially crafts and kitchen shops) offer free in-store demos, classes and samples. Learn to bead, watch a cake decorating demo, samples freshly crafted chocolates, whatever you find. Just check your locals stores’ events calendar.

OK, if that’s not enough stuff to get you started, I don’t know what is. This year, don’t let the current economy (yours or the country’s) keep you from making the most of the holidays. There’s lots to do for the whole family out there. You just have to know where to look. If we can make this December the best ever, just imagine what it’ll be like for all of us when the economy makes it’s way back!

PS - Don't forget to comment for your chance to win free chocolate!

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It’s December. You’ve had all weekend to either sleep off the turkey coma or rest from your 4am shopping jaunt. Hey, whatever makes you happy, right? Well, due to the overwhelming response to last month’s giveaway, we’re having another giveaway for December. The idea is the same – just comment on any December blog entry through December 16. With the help of my trusty sidekicks (ok, my co-workers) we’ll draw a winner 9am December 17 so we’ll have time to get the lucky duck their winnings in time for the holidays. What’s the prize? I’m glad you asked.
                


This month, to help with your shopping (be it Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or even Festivus) the Chocolate Giveaway prize will include a Lake Champlain Chocolates T-shirt (you pick the size), a Winter Tin of Hot Chocolate and a six-pack of chocolate snowmen – your choice of milk chocolate, dark chocolate or combo. But remember, you need to post comments to any December blog entry before the drawing on December 17. Each comment counts as an entry, enter as many times as you’d like. And tell your friends. Or not. It could be their holiday present you’re winning. Ha!  Good luck!

 
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Each year at Christmas, I really look forward to my stocking. It’s always been a favorite part of the day for me when we look in and see what Santa left us. For a few years my parents Santa decided to stop doing stockings at my house and I had to stage my own protest to get the stockings reinstated as an official part of our holiday tradition. I even do them at my house for my family. The funny thing is, each year I get nearly the same things and when I find myself filling stockings, I gravitate towards filling them with those same items. After asking around, I realized there is standard list of stocking stuffers that everyone seems to get.

So this year, I’m going to improve the list with a few suggested replacements. Here are the top items I’ve found nearly everyone gets in their stocking and a way to creatively replace each item. Some are chocolate related and some are Vermont related.

An Orange in the toe
Replace with
Darn Tough Ski Socks – made in Vermont and perfect for keeping your tootsies warm on the mountain. They have a bunch of other socks too. Just role a pair up and stuff in the toe to fill it out like the orange would. (Besides, I like the idea of using socks to fill a stocking. Ha!)

Deodorant
Replace with
For boys - Axe Body Wash “Dark Temptation”. I got some of this as a sample from the folks at Axe and I had one of my co-workers test drive it. Apparently, he’s now a fan and since this guy is known to be pretty hip, I trust his word on it. It’s designed with subtle hints of chocolate aroma intended to impress the ladies. (While I think it smells pretty good, I love the ad even more. Search for it on YouTube. Very funny!)

For girls – Dolce Divina line of chocolate toiletries from La Dolce Diva. With a full line of delicious smelling creams, soaps, lotions and more, this is the perfect way to replace boring old deodorant with a decadent, chocolatey toiletry she’ll love.

Life Savers
Replace with
Chocolate Stocking Stuffer Squares. Sure, we all love Life Savers. We grew up eating them, didn’t we? But how about a sweet little treat they can keep to themselves or share? In assorted milk and dark chocolate, the squares are decorated with holiday images and packed in a slim, vertical pack making them ideal for sticking in a stocking. And since the holiday chocolate squares are individually wrapped, it’s easier to pace yourself. But why would you want to?

Lip Balm
Replace with
Homemade Chocolate Lip Balm. This recipe, from RecipeZaar, looks as easy as can be. And you can make it with your favorite chocolate chips, even white chocolate! Everyone loves getting a homemade gift and since it’s so simple, you can make a bunch at once and give them to everyone. I’d recommend using the Dark Sao Thome Chocolate Chips. At 70% cocoa content, they’ll make your lip balm really chocolatey.

Tooth Brush
Replace with
Nothing! You can always use a new toothbrush. I did see, however, some company in Japan selling chocolate flavored toothpaste. (I’ve never had it so I can’t give it a recommendation but it sounds kind of funky, no?) I would like to try Tom’s of Maine Orange Mango though.

Playing Cards
Replace with
Winter Hot Chocolate Tin. Decorated with cute winter scenes and filled with delicious Traditional Hot Chocolate, they can have a cup while they play with the cards you gave them last year. They’re probably in that junk drawer in the desk with the pens that don’t write and the broken watches they never had fixed.

These are just some idea starters. This year, let's try to be creative and do something a little different with our stocking stuffers. With the economy in question, it's important to make everything count. Pick your gifts wisely and maybe buy less but make it up in quality. A couple really enjoyable, quality items can really make up for a bunch of stuff. Happy Shopping!


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Happy Thanksgiving!

Posted on November 26, 2008 9:40 AM by Leann
One of the best Thanksgiving movies I know isn’t really a movie but everyone knows it - A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. When this show comes on, all ages stop to watch, myself included. One of my favorite parts (besides Snoopy sparring with the folding chair and the ping pong table) is Linus’ speech at the table just before  Snoopy serves popcorn, toast, pretzels and jelly beans. In case you missed it on tv this year, here is his speech.

"In the year 1621, the Pilgrims held their first Thanksgiving feast. They invited the great Indian chief Massasoit, who brought ninety of his brave Indians and a great abundance of food. Governor William Bradford and Captain Miles Standish were honored guests.

Elder William Brewster, who was a minister, said a prayer that went something like this: 'We thank God for our homes and our food and our safety in a new land. We thank God for the opportunity to create a new world for freedom and justice.'"

To which Peppermint Patty adds, "Amen."

If you’re at a loss for the right words at the table this Thanksgiving, just channel your inner Linus. Happy Thanksgiving!
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Today in the Chocolate Factory...

Posted on November 21, 2008 2:15 PM by Leann

I apologize but today, I am a woman of few words. Phones are ringing, chocolate is flowing and holiday music is beginning to play in my head. I find myself singing carols at my desk, much to the dismay of my co-workers (not sure if it's the carols or my singing making them grown, probably the latter). So, I decided to take a quick trip through the factory to see what they've got going on, snap a few pics and share them with you. So, without further delay, here is Today in the Chocolate Factory.

 

Getting ready for caramel-filled bars, caramel is cooking down in the copper fire kettle. Hard to resist the smell of caramel as it cooks.

Just-made chocolate covered pretzels await their fate.

 

These photos don't do this justice but the wall of beautiful colored foils we use on our foil wrapped chocolates is one of my favorite things. All the shiny colors look like something out of Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory.

Here, chocolate truffle ganache marches it's way down to be enrobed.

After being enrobed, chocolate truffles are hand decorated so not only do they look beautiful, you can tell which is which.

I hope you enjoyed this little glimpse into the goings on in the chocolate factory today. I'll take another trip through soon and share the pics with you again. Have a great weekend!

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So, the first ever Chocolate Blog Giveaway is complete and winners have been drawn. Thanks so much to everyone for your comments. I wish I had enough cookbooks and stuff to give to everyone but since you all seemed to be really into it, I’ll do another giveaway in December. Watch for it!

Each comment went into a “hat” (more like a paper bag but we’ve got theater we’re creating here) and two of my co-workers – Erin who is our E-Commerce Marketing Coordinator and Jason our Customer Service Manager – each picked a name. Congrats to Julie and Tim! Prizes will be going out this week so winners will have them in time to help with their Thanksgiving baking.

Now, don’t worry. Like I said, I’ll be doing another giveaway in December which will include holiday chocolates (of course!) and a Lake Champlain Chocolates T-shirt. Look for it to start right after Thanksgiving. Hey, it’s the season to give and that’s what we’re gonna do. Thanks again to everyone for participating!

PS - The snowy pic was taken about 10 minutes ago right outside our factory. Thought it might get you in the holiday spirit.


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LCC's Chocolate Version of the Gingerbread House

Posted on November 17, 2008 12:57 PM by Leann
 

We hosted a chocolate sculpting demo this past weekend and the feature was how to make a gingerbread house out of chocolate. And as expected, resident artist and chocolate sculptor Emily Walton Jones continued to amaze and impress attendees with her ability to make amazing things out of chocolate. At her demos, she usually has a finished piece on hand to show what the sculpture will look like when it's all done. Then she goes through the various stages of making each piece and assembling.


While she normally doesn't incorporate anything other than chocolate, she broke from tradition and added some candies to give it a real Santa's Northpole Home Gingerbread House feel. These pieces will be on display in the LCC Factory Store and Cafe in Burlington, VT through the holidays (unless they get broken) so if you're in the area, stop in and take a peek.

 

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