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Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Change is good!!!

I think an apology is in order....the entire month of April slipped by without one single blog entry. Part of this is due to technical  difficulties....part of it was due to distraction.

I have been spending all of my "free" time brainstorming and problem solving. It's not that I didn't have anything to write about....it's just that I don't think I should fill this space with my "problems"!!

We are fast approaching our 20th anniversary mark. For all of you who have been with us from the beginning....and there are many (actually....you all should have some kind of name....like a "club"...any thoughts???) ...you know how many changes have taken place in those 20 years!! Looking back (because it's ALWAYS a clearer picture that way!!) I would say that every, single, change has been for the better....some even better than others!!!

For a lot of people...change is uncomfortable. I, however, think change is good. I change my wall colors, my furniture arrangements, my Holiday collectible placement....I even change recipes (frequently....) we change the menu (all of them) every week...but keep the "favorites" on to keep our customers happy!! I change the selections in the bakery case, the gourmet foods and candy selection and the merchandise in the gift shops. All good.

We are currently in the process of changing the front garden...yes, it is because someone decided to drive through it and took out half of the existing garden...but, never the less, it will be wonderful when we are done with it..."Better"!!! (just a little teaser...look for something similar to the arbor pictured here!)

Better....that's what we strive for...especially when you own a small business. Twenty years is a long time. I think we have established ourselves...proven ourselves. We passed the "newbie" mark a long, long time ago...we have figured out who we are. After this long...the only "competition" I feel I have...is myself! I want to be the best "me" that I can be...and I want the business that I dreamed up....way more than 20 years ago...to be the best that it can be!!

It would be really easy...and, after this long, maybe we should take the "easy" road...to keep things just the way they are. It would be even easier to look at what everyone else is doing...and do it, too! But...that's the road that others can (and do...) take!! It's not for me. We have always...(and will continue to do so)...marched to our own drum. I prefer tradition to trends.

So...you are probably wondering what all of this means! Well....I have big plans for the gift shops. Some of the changes have, already, started....many others are on the way! It was the primary focus of my distraction. I needed to revitalize them...and me. I can't choose, buy, display and sell merchandise that I am not excited about. So....I decided to make some changes...and choose, buy, display and sell merchandise that I am excited about!! You should come in and check out the steps we have taken...and then come often to see what's new!! It's going to be awesome! I have, also, been adding all kinds of "newness" to the restaurant and bakery end of things. Lots of new menu ideas...fun and interesting stuff!

The bottom line...they say "if it ain't broke...don't fix it" but there is absolutely no reason in the world why you can't give it a makeover!! Check back...I will be telling you all about some of the "makeovers"....soon!! I promise!!

Monday, March 30, 2015

A very important "public announcement"....please read!!

Good Monday Morning!!

I know...Monday is not usually a favorite...but it is our only day off!! We had one very, very busy week...and I need a little break to gear up for the week ahead!!

Don't misunderstand...I have projects to do today...they just don't involve butter and sugar! Hahaha....

I am, officially, booked for my Easter orders. I would like to explain what that means. I am the only one who bakes...I have help...but, I am the one who does the baking. I know, especially after doing this for 27 years, what my limitations are! In addition to the responsibility of having all of the orders done on time...I have the responsibility of keeping the bakery case nice and full for any walk-in purchases as well as the restaurant patrons. A responsibility that I take very seriously....because our customers take their goodies very seriously (teeheehee...)

In addition to this being Easter week...it, also, contains April Fool's Day...which, around Sweet Memories anyway, is a fun "cupcake Holiday"!!! So, while I am totally ready to bake those adorable Easter treats...I need to take a short side trip and get those "not what they seem" cupcakes ready for you, too!!

There is a reason that I am explaining all of this...basically...we are not like everyone else!! And that is the way we like it! I am sure "other" bakeries have no problem taking as many orders as possible...because "other" bakeries have methods in place to accomplish that. We are a small-batch "boutique" bakery (I saw that phrase somewhere, one time, and thought it was a great way to describe us!!) and I bake just like I would if I were baking at home. (I am pretty sure that's one of the reasons that we are SO busy...which makes me very happy!!)

Now...the reason for this explanation...

We have had a ton...and I mean a TON...of new customers "discover" us, recently. And, as you all know, "new" tends to mean you are "learning" the way things are done!! So....I thought a little "refresher course" (or brand new lesson...depending on your "newness" level haha...) would be a good idea!!

There is a lot going on behind the purple door at Sweet Memories (I have been thinking about changing the color, by the way, any thoughts???) we are a restaurant (also small batch, homemade cooking!!!) and reservations are ALWAYS suggested. Okay...I hear all of our "seasoned" (see how I used that cooking term??) patrons saying..."not on a Friday Night"...which is true. Friday Nights we are trying to keep it casual...just come on in!! But...for all of our Lunch, and our Sunday Brunch, services those reservations are a great idea...we TAKE walk-ins...but, if there are no seats left...well, you get the picture!! Now...we are, also, a "walk-in" bakery AND an amazingly wonderful, unique and creative gift shop...(a little horn tooting...) when we say we are OPEN from 10:00 to 5:00...that is the bakery and gift shops. You can come in at 10:00 and shop for whatever your little heart desires...or grab a cup of coffee or tea and a sweet something from the bakery...and those wonderful options apply in the afternoon, as well!! Our first LUNCH seating is at 11:00 and our last LUNCH seating is at 2:30....but we are open all afternoon...so eat (cake, cookies, brownies...) drink (strawberry lemonade, coffee, tea...) and shop til you drop!!!

We stop serving at 2:30 because..well, it's lunch...(as opposed to "Linner")...and it takes a little while to clean the kitchen and prep for the next day, as well as all of the chores that go into running the well oiled machine that is Sweet Memories! Please...by all means...come in at 3:00, make yourself all cozy with a treat and a friend, and enjoy!! Just save time for shopping....because you never know what amazingly awesome goodies you will find in the shops upstairs!!

And...for our last "lesson"...Sunday Night. We serve "Supper" (love that word!!) 2 nights a week. We picked Friday because we wanted something fun and relaxed. We wanted to serve "heartier" food that would appeal to the men folk in our fan club! (Not that you "guys" don't love lunch, too!!) But...Sunday...that's a whole different game. We wanted that old-fashioned, homemade, full of memories food that you enjoyed at your Grandmother's house on Sunday nights...(like the pot roast that we cooked all day, yesterday, that made the whole place smell like my MomMom's house!!) Now....THIS service...I NEED reservations!! I need to know whether we are cooking for 10 or 35. You know yourself how hard it is to judge the amount of food to cook for family gatherings...imagine if you weren't sure WHO (or how many) was coming!!!

Now...to re-cap...and clarify...we LOVE you guys...and we love, LOVE new customers...all we want is to make your experience with us wonderful!! We want to be your "Happy Place"! Your number one destination for treasures for yourself, your home and for that special gift! Your favorite, favorite bakery! And THE restaurant of choice. All we ask, in return, is that you show us some love, too. Call and make that reservation...call and cancel it, in advance, if something comes up...and please, please, please know that the "rules" are in place because we know what we're doing!!(20 years people...20!!!)

There will be a test on all of this later....so study, please!! (I have to say....even some of our regulars may not ace this...fess up...how many of you can't remember that you need a reservation on Sunday night....or think that we "close" at 2:30!!!!) If you have any questions...I am here for you...and would be more than happy to answer them!! Now....pencils ready...start taking notes!! (and, seriously now, any thoughts on changing that front door color??)

Monday, March 16, 2015

Your style...your story!!

Spring arrives this week. Of course...here in our neck of the woods...that usually doesn't guarantee immediate results. I don't expect to wake up on Saturday (the first full day of Spring) and see green grass, budding trees and flowers! That's okay, though, because...at this point...we will take what we can get!!

Our whole house is all decked out and ready to go...at least on the inside...and it makes me really, really happy!! There is nothing better than coming home after a long day and seeing all of the decorations...for whatever the season may be!!

When you look around our house you are looking at a whole lifetime of "gatherings". Big pieces, little pieces. Things that belonged to someone I loved....things that I have found along the way. Old, new...it doesn't really matter! What matters is whether or not it "spoke" to me.

I know that everyone tries to put a label on different decorating styles...urban chic and farmhouse are two of the newest...and that's fine. But, in my opinion, the only "style" in your house should be YOUR style! It shouldn't matter what the magazines are saying...it should only matter what your heart is telling you! If you love it...it will "match" what you already have. You will find a place for it...and not care in the slightest that you may have to "dust" it! If you are really lucky...your "gatherings" will tell a story...and will make you smile!!

I apply this philosophy to my home...but I, also, apply it to the shop. When I buy merchandise to sell in our gift shops...it has to speak to me. I don't care about the latest trends...or what is "in"...just whether or not it makes me smile. I have to believe that if it makes ME smile...it will make YOU smile, too. Hopefully, when you come shopping at Sweet Memories, you leave with new pieces of your story..."gatherings"...that help you make your house...your home!!

And...on that note...I am going to go do a little work at my "second home" and do some rearranging, change up a few displays and make room for all of the new merchandise that is on it's way!! Hopefully you can come "gathering" soon...there is nothing that makes me happier than watching fellow storytellers finding new things to take home...and knowing that we are a part of your story!!

Saturday, March 7, 2015

A new garden...like it or not!!

So....I packed up all of my snowmen. I love my snowman collection...it gives me something to look forward to when I know I have to say "goodbye" to all of the beautiful Christmas decorations (and memories!!) I can't wait to get all of my snowflakes and icicles...sleds and iceskates....mittens and snowmen unpacked!!

And then....we have ANOTHER one of these Winters!!! Just because I love to have my snowflakes and icicles hanging in the house doesn't mean I want them outside!!

Aside from the unbearable cold...this Winter has been very, very challenging!! When you own a small business...and count on seeing all of your wonderful customers...brutal weather conditions (which keep everyone from venturing out of their houses...) really hurt. Add to that the poor (really, really poor...) road and parking conditions...and it becomes a real problem. I know a few businesses that didn't survive last Winter...which is heartbreaking!

But there have been many other challenges, as well!! We had a small (but quite expensive!!!) frozen pipe issue. The first time in 20 years THAT ever happened!! I just got my whopping heating bill. And...though completely unrelated to the weather conditions...we had that car "visit" our front porch. I am sure you saw the picture in the paper...if you missed it...my daughter took some great shots on her phone...she will be happy to show you!! I took my time commenting on this particular challenge because...well...I was trying to come to terms with the whole thing...still not sure I have achieved that!!

The reason I brought it up, now???...it's time to take the bull by the horns. It's time to come out of hibernation. Clean the house...decorate for Spring and Easter!! Go out to lunch with the friends you haven't seen since Christmas (and, of course, you know where to meet them...and SHOP for Spring and Easter decorations, too!!) and it's time to start planning your garden.

There are so many things, in life, that we just have no control over....so I choose to focus on the things that I CAN control. I spent a couple days worrying about what damage was done to my gardens (the porch will be taken care of...we have a great contractor...) when the car came "visiting"...I am pretty sure there is quite a bit but, with the snow and frozen ground, it's hard to tell. I ALWAYS need to have a plan...especially when there is a problem...and this situation was totally out of my control!! I know we have to replace the fence, the arbor, a few planters, some furniture...those were the things (or remnants of the things...) I could see! But...the plants, themselves?? So...last week, while I was decorating our house, with a Springtime song in my heart..(actually...it's a lot of work...there were no songs!!) I made a decision. I am not going to worry about what didn't survive the "visit"....instead...I am going to completely redesign and rework the front garden and embrace the changes!! If my clematis, rose bush, thyme, lavender, hydrangea etc....survive...I will find a place for them in my new design!!

One of our customers said that I need to have projects all the time..which is true...but, I prefer to have them on my terms. Now...this "thing" that we had absolutely nothing to do with...IS on my terms...and I am excited to get this project started!! 

The snowmen are packed, the Spring and Easter is out, the sun is shining and the promise of warmER temperatures is in the forecast....and I have a project...let's get this party started!!!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Come On Spring!!!!

25 Days....Spring arrives, officially, in just 25 Days.

We all know that doesn't automatically mean warmth and sunshine, the disappearance of all of this cursed frozen stuff and the magical appearance of green grass and flowers....but it DOES give us something to look forward to...a light at the end of the tunnel!!

There are a few things that puzzle me about the coming of Spring...

Somewhere around the middle of October...definitely before Halloween..."Christmas" starts to show up in our lives. Television commercials, decorations, movies and specials, cards and gift wrap...and the population goes berserk!! It's too early...why do we have to "rush" it...why can't we just enjoy the moment...etc. etc. etc.

BUT....somewhere around the middle of February...if we even make it THAT long...."Spring" starts to creep into our lives...and I don't know one, single person who isn't over the moon to see it happen!!!!

Hmmm....Is there a reasonable explanation for this?? It can't be because Christmas brings a "to-do" list along with it...because so does Spring!! I can't wait (she says sarcastically...) to see all of the damage that will need to be fixed thanks to old man Winter!!! So what is it about the coming of Spring that is met with nothing but applause and enthusiasm??

I decided I had had enough Winter a few weeks ago...and promptly starting turning the gift shops over to Spring and Easter decor...it has been met with much...SHOPPING...clearly I was not the only one who has had enough!! There is more wonderful merchandise on the way...including the Easter candy (by far one of my favorite shipments of the year!!) so if the beautiful taste of Spring weather that we enjoyed, yesterday, has the Spring fever running high...be sure to come in and visit us...soon!!

And...if you have a reasonable explanation...I'd love to hear it!! As for me...I get just as excited when the first commercials for the Christmas specials start to show up as I did when I saw that first robin in my crab apple tree, this morning!!! On second thought...I think the robin was much more exciting than the Grinch...Come on Spring!!!!!!

Monday, February 9, 2015

A little garden magic....

So...there is a new trend in gardening! Have you jumped on this yet? Fairy Gardening is all the rage!

I am thrilled to see it "come into fashion"...because I have had a fairy garden for about 23 years!

For me...it all started with the herb garden. Our home was built in the 1800's and when it came time to do a little landscaping (everyone who knows me (and knows what our gardens look like) will understand how funny the term "a little landscaping" is!!)I wanted whatever we planted to "belong".

Once I started to research herbs...I was hooked. Not only because of the understated beauty of herb plants...and, of course, the usefulness...(fresh basil in that tomato sauce!)but all of the "meanings" of the plants. You have heard "rosemary for remembrance" but many other herbs have meanings as well. Sage...wisdom~~~Thyme...courage~~~Basil...wealth~~~Dill...protection....even Roses...love, of course!!

We planned out the herb garden in a formal pattern...four "L" shaped beds around a center rectangle. But, just because the layout is formal, doesn't mean the garden is...there is nothing stuffy about this herb garden! In fact...it is full of magic!

The first time I unveiled all of the magic was at our youngest daughter's fifth birthday party. We had a "garden party" theme. Each of her friends decorated their own garden hat and we had garden inspired party foods...and then I took them all on a tour of the garden. I showed them where the fairies lived...where they had touched the foxglove (you can see their fingerprints on the flowers..) which petals they used for clothes and where the gnomes lived. I let them touch, and smell, the mint, basil, dill...and the lamb's ear! I must say....they were a captive audience!

With each addition to the landscaping there has been additional magical touches. We don't put any of them out in the open...you have to search. There are fairy houses, doors, mushrooms....even the magical creatures themselves! Many of the original touches we made ourselves. But now....because of this "new" trend....EVERYTHING is available for you to have all of this magic in your garden, too!

And....I have ordered ALL of it for the "magical" shops at Sweet Memories!! Benches, chairs, tables, stepping stones, birdhouses, birdbaths, gates, scooters....the list goes on and on!! It's really easy to get started...just find a spot and create a beautiful place for the fairies to live! Then...sit back and wait for the magic! Is this a great project for the kids? Absolutely!! But...trust me....YOU need a little magic, too!!!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Looking for Spring.....

I don't know about you but I am really, really tired of Winter weather!! I think we need to talk about something else...anything else!!

There are lots of things that make me happy, but my garden...and gardening in general...tops the list!! Usually about the time that Mother Nature has decided to take a break...and turns everything gold and red and orange and the chill is in the air...I am ready for a break, too!

But...to everything there is a season...and, usually around the end of February...thoughts of my garden consume all of my "free time". This year I think the time has come...a little ahead of schedule!!

I feel that some of the "Winter-weariness" is still leftover from last year!! I was really hoping that this winter would be better...but alas!!

When you own a small business...and depend on customers coming in to visit...the weather (unfortunately) is, constantly, on your mind!! And thinking about it, worrying about it...and cleaning up after it...is exhausting!!

Add to that the fact that the stupid groundhog somehow managed to see his shadow (which...considering just how utterly miserable it is here in Pennsylvania today....I find a little suspicious!!!) so we will be "enjoying" 6 more weeks of this...I think it's time to think Spring!!!!!

I found...and ordered...a whole bunch of new, ADORABLE, decorations for fairy gardens (which is one of my many, many passions!!!) and they have been "out" (and selling briskly) for a couple of weeks...but I think it's time to pull out the "big guns"!! So...just to let you know...the Spring merchandise is on it's way to the gift shops at Sweet Memories!! I am going to get my Spring fix one way or the other!!!

Also...just to let you know...my next blog will be about  fairy gardens! There have been a few of you who are, sadly, misguided...and seem to believe that fairy gardening is for children!! While I wholeheartedly encourage planting these wonderful, magical gardens WITH kids...they are by no means "for children"!! Like I said...it is a passion!!

So...bottom line...if you are looking for Spring...(and think the groundhog is, in fact, JUST a rodent!!!) make sure you stop in and visit Sweet Memories soon...and keep an eye on this blog, too!!! I have all kinds of inspiration brewing!!