Recycle your cardboard

Our vanilla supplier, Nielsen-Massey, just switched to using all recycled corrugated containers for their shipping. Does that really matter?

Here’s a quick factoid:

For every ton of corrugated cardboard that is recycled, this preserves 17 trees, 463 gallons of oil, and 3 cubic yards of landfill space.

If a ton sounds like a big number – remember – you have to start somewhere. So instead of tossing that box in the regular trash next time, drop it in your recycle bin. Little pieces eventually add up to a big pile!

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No, we don’t offer fried cookies

If it can be fried – you’ll find it at the NC State Fair.

I have not been to state fairs other than North Carolina and Kentucky, so I can’t speak for what their vendors offer in terms of food variety. If you are from North Carolina and have been to the State Fair, you have probably walked past a vendor selling fried items that are just not found on any restaurant menu.

This year’s NC State Fair (October 16-26) was no exception. While I did not sample the fried Oreo cookies this year (yes, I have tried them in the past), I was amazed to see that yet again there was another item that someone felt people might buy if it were dipped in batter and deep fried – peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Okay, I was shocked a few years ago when they started selling fried Twinkies, and the Oreo cookies were a stretch, but ‘understandable’. But I just can’t get my head around taking a perfectly good PB&J, dipping it in batter, and tossing it in the deep fryer. Sort of like setting up a slow drip of 10w-40 direct into your veins. I guess I shouldn’t be that surprised. I did catch a few episodes of Anthony Bourdain’s ‘A Cooks Tour’ and it is true that some people will eat most anything.

The NC State Fair was this year, as it is every year for us, a great time. Anna’s Gourmet Goodies is a proud member of Goodness Grows in NC and we always have our cookies on display in their NC Foods Tent.

We love seeing new things (like the fried foods), but also find it refreshing that many of the same vendors return year after year. Our company logo, the silhouette of Anna, was actually created by a scissor artist in the Village of Yesteryear. It was hanging on the wall long before the company was started and seemed like the perfect image for our logo.

We bought peanuts and drinks from the FFA (Future Farmers of America) stand, judged which church group does the best job of hawking their ham biscuits and capped the evening off with some homemade ice cream that was turned by John Deer tractor motors. Sitting there by the lake watching the fireworks display their dazzling splendor with a cup of real ice cream was just about the perfect way to end a day. Despite what you hear on the news and from the candidates, we do live in a great country.

If there are those of you that are intrigued by the idea of fried cookies, I invite you to next year’s NC State Fair. I’m sure that someone will be there dipping and frying cookies and anything else that might get folks to part with a few dollars to sample something out of the ordinary. But no, we won’t have any of our gourmet cookies on any of these menus. We’ll keep baking them just as they are – incredibly delicious, without the extra 10w-40.

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How to save 86,000 barrels of oil

In my post about going green, I mentioned that we switched to dishwashing soap from Seventh Generation. It is plant based and contains no dyes or petro chemicals. Here is a statistic from their label:

    “If every household in the U.S. Replaced just one 25 oz. bottle of petroleum based dishwashing liquid with our plant-derived product, we could save 86,000 barrels of oil a year. That’s enough to heat and cool 4,900 homes for a YEAR!”

I must admit that my wife buys most of our household products and I really don’t know what a bottle of dishwashing liquid costs. But even in these times, I’m happy to purchase this product and do what I can to save a little oil. We shop at Target, so it should be available in your area.

The price of oil has fallen recently (approaching 50%), and now OPEC is talking about cutting production to get the price back up again. My purchase of one bottle of soap may not give them cause for worry, but collectively, if we all start looking for ways to reduce our oil consumption, it can have an impact. So the next time you are out shopping, pick up a bottle. If enough of us do, it will make a difference.

And at the prices they’ve been charging us for oil recently, I’m not too concerned that our neighbors overseas will be standing in line at their local homeless shelter any time soon.

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Really outside the oven

Earlier this summer, Anna and I decided to get outside and float down the Neuse River. We had the opportunity to test drive a kayak on Falls Lake during a festival earlier in the spring and a trip down the river seemed like a fun way to spend a Saturday together. It was a great afternoon, even considering the surprise appearance by a slithering guest.

River Ducks

Our swimming friends – not our slithering guest.

We headed out to Paddle Creek Outfitters, located just off Falls of the Neuse Road in Raleigh. They set us up with a tandem kayak, paddles, and life jackets. Debbie helped prepare a cooler with some lunch and, of course, packages of our gourmet cookies for this 4-hour tour. We loaded the kayak on top of our Honda Element and headed down to the entry point.

It was a perfect day on the water. Not yet sweltering heat, but warm enough to make you feel good about being outside. Anna quickly learned how to use the paddles and we drifted slowly away from the dock, waving and looking forward to a nice afternoon together.

We drifted for a couple of hours and then decided it might be time for a little lunch. I spotted what looked to be an abandoned picnic shelter just off the river and pulled the kayak onto the sand bar nearby. Having spent much of my youth around lakes and woods, I decided to hike up the bank and scout out the terrain first, just to make sure it was safe.

I walked cautiously through the weeds to the picnic area. It was a bit dusty, but it was shady and seemed like it might make a nice place to rest and enjoy the lunch Debbie packed for us. As I turned to go back down to get Anna, I looked down at the path just before stepping on a snake that had made its way into the narrow clearing. I was close enough to get as good a look as I cared for at the time and am pretty certain it was a water moccasin, heading back down for a swim.

The snake was directly between myself and Anna. The cell phone was in the boat. Fathers are not supposed to panic – right? I yelled at Anna and told her not to move from the shore while I looked for something to encourage this local resident to move along. I found a stick that was way too short and a chunk of wood. I eased into position behind the snake and carefully tossed the chunk of wood just to the right of the snake, hoping he would opt for an exit, stage left, and not force me to use the stick. As luck would have it he complied and I sprinted down to the boat quick enough to make an Olympic coach proud.

Anna and I agreed that lunch in the boat seemed like a good idea, so we quickly hopped in and shoved off back into the water. The ‘Master Dad’ avoided an incident and managed to use this experience to offer up a few lessons for Anna – don’t panic (or at least don’t let anyone know), stay calm, and watch what is going on around you.

Anna’s Gourmet Goodies affords us the luxury of having my daughter around most of the day while we work – thanks to our wonderful customers. It has truly been a blessing to be able to watch her grow up. But finding time to talk does not come easy when you run a business. There’s always something to do, emails to answer, phone calls to return, website updates, or whatever. Being out on the water, in the boat, was just about the perfect way to spend time talking, listening, and re-connecting. It was a reminder just how important it is for us to ‘disconnect’ from the frantic pace of our everyday life and spend a little time outdoors with the folks who matter the most.

Hopefully you have found time to get outside your ‘work zone’ this summer. If you haven’t, there’s still time before we get too busy with school, holidays and work. I highly recommend kayaking, just watch where you step should you venture off into the weeds.

Here are some sites to visit in case you are interested in learning more about kayaks:
Kayak Paddling Basics
Canoe & Kayak

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