Renovations! Before and after photos Part IV: the garden

Let’s take a look at the garden, shall we?

Here’s what came before:

Note the Coke machine in the left corner, and the two car vacuums on the left side. Classy!

Post Coke machine, pre-renovation: early April.

And last week!

The planter now in the Coke machine spot.

Tomatoes, lemon verbena, and masses of pansies. And pineapple sage!

Rosemary for the caramels in front of the door, next to a cigarette butt can I got all spray painty on and planted tomatoes into.

So that’s the entrance area. My contractor pal Aaron is making a bench for the right side of the door (the left side has that pretty blue table), which I can’t wait to show you…

My green-thumbed pal Lauren helped me design and plant the garden by the Rail Trail, on the west side of the property. She’s pretty hardcore awesome.

Rail Trail garden: foxgloves, watermelon, borage!

The borage is much bigger now, and has gorgeous flowers.

I never knew about foxgloves before.

How insanely gorgeous they are.

In addition to the rail trail garden, the planter in the old Coke machine spot, and the rosemary and tomatoes by the door, we’ve got two more planters.

Remember those car vacuums?

We took them out. I know: you’re surprised. Who wouldn’t want a car vacuum at a chocolate shop? I know, I know.

We turned those spots into planters and planted tons of nasturtiums in them. They’re doing great. I eat one a day.

I never knew about fuchsias either, until Lauren persuaded me to get a hanging pot of them.

Heart-stoppingly lovely, I tell you.

More photos to come as the season progresses, my friends!

June 2010 Chocolate of the Month: Almond-Strawberry Creams

For posterity and record keeping, I’m making a blog post with each Chocolate of the Month as the month ends (or, in this case, a year later.).

The very first chocolate of the month, one year ago this month! It’s been wonderful, how did I ever live without this fun challenge?

And now, on this beautiful summer day, how nice to remember that very first chocolate. The June 2010 chocolate was a real beauty: Strawberry-Almond Creams. Glorious rich almond cream with bright, beautiful, local organic strawberries folded in, encased in a thin bittersweet chocolate shell. Literally farm fresh.

My mouth is watering thinking about these little dudes. I came across a few tablespoons of the almond-strawberry filling in the freezer recently and I just ate it straight up with a spoon. Delicious.

Pete Taliaferro grew the strawberries, and oh my, they were perfect.

Oh, the Facebook photo album with glorious photos of the almond-strawberry creams is here, check it out! There are a million photos, and they’re super fun.

This one might have to be a seasonal special every year…

July 2010 Chocolate of the Month: Rosemary Sea Salt Caramels

For posterity and record keeping, I’m making a blog post with each Chocolate of the Month as the month ends (or, in this case, about a year later).

The caramels! What can I say about these, except that I’m so intensely proud of them? They were so well-received that we had to keep selling them year round, and they quickly became one of our best sellers. Now I’m so pleased to be donating half of the sales of each box to Friends of Animals!

Here’s what I wrote about them at the time, and here is the Facebook photo album with glorious photos of the caramels:

This spring, I had a little party at my house. I invited a lovely collection of chefs, farmers, foodies, gadflies, and just generally fascinating people over. In addition to wanting to socialize, I had a sneaky ulterior motive: getting feedback on some of the new chocolates I’ve been working on for the Chocolates of the Month. A lemon thyme and strawberry truffle, we decided, wasn’t amazing, and after an entire overhaul, it became June’s Strawberry Almond Creams.

I was talking about flavor pairings with my pal Erin, who runs a farm just down the road from me and is also a consummate foodie. We were talking about how much we love salty chocolates, and she suggested rosemary as a good pairing with sea salt, chocolate, and caramel. Fireworks went off in my head, and I filed that little gem away until I could spend a few hours in the Lagusta’s Luscious kitchen. A few days later I was caramelizing sugar and measuring fleur de sel salt, and here we are, with what just might be my favorite thing I’ve ever made:

Rosemary sea salt caramels!

Rich and buttery (but entirely vegan) caramel infused with super fancy sea salt and enrobed in dark chocolate, garnished with a touch of seriously fancy sea salt.

Renovations! Before and after photos Part III: the mailbox

Everything at the building was crappy when we bought it. Right down to the mailbox. This battered old dude barely even opened. We probably should have replaced the post, particularly when we noticed the carpenter bees, but I didn’t mind it and it was fairly sturdy, so we didn’t. I wanted to splurge on some crazy modern mailbox, but it wasn’t in the budget.

So we got this off the rack model and turned to my new BFF, outdoor spray paint, to make it ours.

If I’d looked at this photo before starting to spray, I could have easily seen what I now see every day—I really needed to put more paper down. Alas, the parking lot now matches the building a bit more.

 

Also, if I’d realized how close these numbers were to the color of the paint, maybe I would have left a little square brown so they’d stand out a bit more. Ah well. The mailman, Scott, knows who we are.

 

I love it!

I planted some chile pepper plants under the mailbox, so hopefully they will grow up and prettify the space with multi-colored little peppers.

 

Renovations! Before and after photos part II: mural, ceiling, fridge, and display case

Let’s get into the main room, shall we?

A lot of the challenge of the building is changing parts of it that just look “old” and “rundown” to “vintage” and “cool.” The drop ceiling was a good example of this—who doesn’t hate a drop ceiling with those awful old acoustical tiles? Sheetrocking the ceiling wasn’t in our budget, and raising it to the rafters would only get us 6 inches or so, so we decided to just live with it. One day when poking around at Lowe’s I saw completely flat ceiling tiles—much better looking than those gross holey ones. I got a bunch and decided to paint half with the robin’s egg blue wall paint and maybe make a checkerboard pattern or something.

Ah, Lowe's.

Painting all those tiles was excruciatingly boring, and for some reason it was freakishly cold in the space those few days, so I got a crappy old jacket and scarf all painty. Ah well.

My graphic designer pal Kevin suggested a few less-boring designs than a plain old checkerboard, and I’m really happy with how it all turned out:

Quite Mad Men, eh?

Here’s the ceiling before:

I loved this mural, which came with the laundromat. Its cool blues fit so well with the paint, too! Unfortunately, we couldn’t keep it. Sigh.

Bye bye, my darling!

Here’s that space today:

Speaking of that fridge, can you believe it used to live at my house? Suddenly now I have a dining room! It’s amazing.

Here is it half in and half out of the house.

Let’s talk about the glorious display case. It only cost a couple hundred dollars, but somehow after putting in refrigeration, better lighting, painting it, and getting custom-cut glass shelves, it ended up costing many times that. But who cares, I’m madly in love with this vintage baby, who originally came from the storied Depuy Canal House (R.I.P.):

In the raw space, blurrily:

Jacob putting in cool new LED lights:

We’ll have to wait for photos of it in all its full, filled-up glory for the shop to open, but until then I’ve got all the dishes ready to go (note custom-cut new glass shelves!):

Another view from behind:

And a wee one from the front:

That’s it for tonight, check back soon for more!

Renovations! Before and after photos Part I: the bathroom

Our renovation is coming along nicely! We’re on track to open in a few weeks, so I’m finally getting a chance to relax a little.

Time for a few photos!

This blog format doesn’t allow for great photo viewing, so be sure to click on them for a much bigger photo. This is the first little tiny bit of a whole slew of blog posts about the renovation, so if that’s your kind of thing, check back often in the next few weeks.

Let us begin in the bathroom.

Nothing really interesting here, to be honest, especially since the bathroom isn’t even open to the public. And also because I neglected to take photos of the gross old sink and toilet. Or the new sink and toilet. Well, just imagine a nice new sink and toilet, and you’ve pretty much got it. We also put in a lovely cork floor that I also didn’t photograph, because does a floor really ever turn out well in a photo? Especially a 5’x5′ one?

But the bathroom is all mine, and I love it. Here we go.

Pre-painting:

Mixing paint:

Post-painting! Really it’s hot pink in there, not red like this weird photo app makes it seem.

This one shows the paint, as well as the inspirational postcard from my friend Jay, better:

(I know I seem all nice and sweet on this blog, but I have some definite anger issues, so I adore this sweet reminder to keep calm.)

Here’s my thing. I’ve worked in far too many grungy-ass commercial kitchens where you emerged from your shift with an oily face, chapped hands from the endless handwashing, and general grossness. I decided that in my sparkling, made-from-scratch world that era was going to come to an end. Not only will I be interacting with the public in the shop, but suddenly I’ve entered this phase in my life where I have decided to start experimenting with makeup. This has resulted in some raccoon-eye days,

but overall I’ve been enjoying it. So I stocked the medicine cabinet with all kinds of girly treats: lip gloss, bobby pins, fancy lotion samples.

Why not, it’s my bathroom!

Perhaps unconsciously to balance out the girliness of the makeup, I put up a print of an Adrienne Rich piece that my feminist mentors at Bloodroot gave me. It gives me chills every time I read it while I’m drying my hands. Click to make it bigger:

And that’s the bathroom!

Coming up tomorrow: the fridge, display case, and ceiling.

August 2010 Chocolate of the Month: A Trio of Chocolate Bars

For posterity and record keeping, I’m making a blog post with each Chocolate of the Month as the month ends.

I want to make a page for August, but the chocolate was a trio of Chocolate Bars, and we’re now making them all the time, so you can read about them here, oh, and the Facebook photo album with glorious photos of them is here, too—check it out!