A photo & too many words, for every day of the wildest month of the year.
The December Diaries, day one: I don’t feel the crush, just yet. This worries me. JJMFP tells me sales are fine; it’s because we doubled almost tripled our workforce between this year and last that maybe I feel bodily better. This was the goal of course but being a boss is so much rougher for me that I know I’m just pining for the bodily oblivion that comes with the onslaught: no energy for prissy feelings, save your strength for pulled sugar. Which didn’t come out so well yesterday. Making candy canes when the crush is coming at me is silly. I should be being more productive in more cost-effective ways but I love the way my arms ache at the end of the night too much and I love how much more I need to learn about sugar. I wish we could make ribbon candy. Tough without a machine to ribbon it nicely.
My best times of year: December, February, April. Robot times.
25 days until a day off.
The December Diaries, day two: I was miserable and bone-tired when I put on a food podcast and heard Chef of the Universe René Redzepi say “If you’re not failing you’re not pushing yourself hard enough.”
We have new equipment now tell you why later & new equipment means new techniques which means new failures (like that beautiful huge slab of Hazelnut Sugar Plum Caramel Bars right there? Took me all day to make made of super pricey organic Oregon hazelnuts and one million other damn treasures wrenched from the earth? Got all squished misshapen lumpy not wasted of course but sure a headache) until it’s more successful than before but man I’m just real tired. You’ve always got to be figuring everything out that’s the rule & I know it but still. Failing forward, the DIY way. Today I’m gonna figure it out, man.
The December Diaries, day three: I’d pretty much literally take a bullet for everyone who works with me at this here shopfactory but loving people with a grateful wild love doesn’t mean you become a people person sadly and thusly Mondays are the day I get to put my head back together. Shop closed!!! So many !!! Puttering thinking scheming using alllllll the counter space: Mondays! They give the head space to breathe. Just Reesey in the other room doing the same listening to food podcasts and brat pack movies I go next door to get a fresh parchment paper and she knows, five or six years now she knows my head like I know hers: on Mondays I’m generally Bad At Talking so I just walk past, she makes me eat a new macaron flavor it’s that perfect sonnet it always goddamn is and the day just goes. JJMFP is there & that’s fine too, 16 years practically 17 he knows how to be quiet with my solitary-seeking head just right. He ships out orders, the whole place is covered with a duvet, whisper-cozy. I’m Humpty Dumpty & Monday Monday my Monday you’re all those king’s horses and men–& for once it works.
The December Diaries, day four: I ask Kate if she wants to reread Orlando with me while we’re on our respective winter breaks. We could Snapchat back and forth about it, I figured—for surely Snapchat was invented for the sole purpose of facilitating aging Women’s Studies weirdos’ monographs on unpopular Woolf novels. She said nah—too many books in the world she hadn’t read to reread. I get it. I like rereading though. I like the comfort, and I like finding the hidden corners. Same thing at work: I love it when the seasonal chocolates come back around. Feeling my way through them, cracking their chummy spines again, remembering but not quite. We’ve been making the Walk in the Woods two years, & apparently I never bothered to write a recipe for it. I guess it’s always just been my thing, then. (It’s odd these days that there’s something no one else has ever made. What used to always be is almost never, now.) You take ganache, mix it with a syrup you make from fresh apple cider simmered with juniper, mix that with cranberries. Taste taste taste. Easy, but I’m never happy with it until it really tastes like upstate in wintertime: ginned up, apple-crispy, cranberry-briny. By then it’s too soft to work right. All that syrup. I’ve got all these ideas for how to really perfect it. I want to keep rereading it. It would really be better more professional if we had recipes that just were and mostly we do but I like Orlando & like him & like her I want the option of endless revision.
The December Diaries, Day 5. I always start my morning off right: chamomile tea and a Furious Vulva. Ready to face the day, the vulva diet way / entering the fray / all squared away / 20 days till Christmas Day…man I’m just real tired. Tomorrow! Onward. Vulvas for strength.
The December Diaries, day 8. Markets. Up early & on the road. It’s always too hot or more often too cold. One kills the product the other well I grew up in Arizona. The door is open in this place. Yesterday I had company here but today, Kateless, I’ve got five hours to go until JJMFP’s beautiful scruffiness swoops in for load out. Long johns and four more layers. Chitchat and making change. The pull of the shop is strong. Five people working today maybe it’s six actually. Marenamaresaerinbrendansamanthalucy. Wonder what they’re gossiping about hope it’s a nuanced overview of the various ways well-intentioned radfem politix has failed modern femmes. Gotta sell all this stuff, make those hazelnut caramel bars tonight. Tomorrow’s a big day, tell ya about that soon.
The December Diaries, Day 9, Part 1: the trees didn’t unfreeze all day, solidly encased in their sliding spaces of ice, as The Blow would say. Everything felt monumental today. Wrapping boxes, shipping them out, a quick Planning Board meeting, and then on the road in a big big truck. Excited jittery strange.
In 2003 I made a vow to work for myself. I wanted to own my own life. Work with my hands. Minimal machines, you know? Quiet. Apart from the world whose values give me stomachaches. Audiobooks were a big part of everything for about five years. Then I got good. Sigh. Ten years later I love our wild loud fuckin world more than a misanthrope perhaps properly should. I love the women who work in the shop so much–and even the two dudes! Amazing. But still. Even with our newly expanded team, supply and demand those twinned devils are not in alignment. Even though a part of me wants to stay tiny forever, growth you can control seems like a game maybe we should play.
The truck, the trees, the icy dark.
The December Diaries, Day 9. Part two. So we find ourselves driving to Buffalo in a huge truck to pick up a beautiful sexy Italian robot named Selmi. Soon she will be helping us enrobe maybe half of what you see here in lush waves of choco, allowing us to free our creative wildly human brains from this most tedious task and put them to work coming up with ludicrous new flavors, ideas that will break our hearts so it hurts when you eat something because flavors are fleeting and tie you to the ephemeral nature of existence.
All that. We are confectioners and chocolatiers, not enrobers. Freed from the tyranny of dipping every single treat we sell into a pool of chocolate by hand–it’s going to be the best thing ever so why do I feel weird? Machines, I guess. I like hands, what they do. As usual Reesey said it best: “The thing is–dipping is so boring and tedious. No one likes it. Let’s do more fun stuff!” It’s true. Don’t be a Luddite just cause it seems somehow hardcore, Lagusta. Keep moving, even when it feels weird. 3 hours till Buffalo. We meet our moon goddess enrobing system at 11 am tomorrow. I hope she likes me.
The December Diaries, day 10: I have this ludicrous jumper I wear in the wintertime, layers and layers over it. Impractical. To pee you take off your coat scarf sweater belt & the jumper and for me then there’s nothing not-me left so you find yourself in the women’s room in an industrial office park outside buffalo pretty naked.
This pleases me, the jolt of it: who I am under the great blanket of winter. All this change–but look! My tits! Phew.
Today was like that: who even are we, tits-out? Under the paperwork holiday rush payroll taxes blah blah. Chocolatiers, girl. Yeah! Five hours of training on the new system. Temper-talk. Beta crystals. Formulations. Hold the mold like this. Ease up on the foot petal. This is who I am naked.
The December Diaries, day 11: Marena & Kate ARE SO PSYCHED ABOUT SELMI
The December Diaries, Day 12. I just ate two artichokes at midnight, with chimichurri sauce and the rosemary salt we put on the Rosemary Sea Salt Caramels.
Artichokes! Thistles. Eating big blowsy blown-out flowers—how is this beautiful world even possible. I have this chef friend who posted a photo of an artichoke plant he saw growing in the cracks in the pavement in Santa Monica. nbd just the bestest—gleanable, everywhere. Oh, west coast, you. Here it’s still all icy. Not sure why I expect it to change. I’m terrible with the winter, I know I keep saying it, but really I’ve got it easy. Two minute commute & I’m in the cozyboat that is the shop, enrobed (!) by the best smells people flavors. Winter flavors are so great it almost makes up for the cold. Nuts—those are wintery to me. Warming. Did you know nuts are one of those concepts we make up as we go along? Linguistically, I mean. We sorta call anything hard & shriveled up a nut. Really, nuts are fruits. Everything good is, right? Sometimes we call seeds nuts…Almonds are seeds. Ah well. We get ours from this little farm in California Reesey found on a trip to LA a few months ago. Same with pistachios: seeds, & ours are from that golden state. I started looking harder for better nuts when I realized that a lot of the organic nuts we were getting were coming from China. And sometimes they were rancid. Now we open these great big Priority Mail boxes that smell like California starlight, concentrated by all that sun into a fruit that goes dark in its soul and then we call it a nut. They cost a lot.
Here’s a photo of RSSCs we made with my lover Selmi today. Totes unrelated to this long long long ramble. Sleep tight, cozyboats.
The December Diaries, day 13: out of the blue, Jenny sent me a swimsuit, made with vintage fabric & her typical flair/love/sweetness. Since I’d forgotten to dress cool for school picture day today it was a real lifesaver–I wish I was the kind of person who’d nonchalantly wear a surfing hoodie for our staff photo but there’s too much rad vintage in my closet for that, that closet 2 minutes and a lifetime away, with 500 caramels to be Selmi’d and all the rest oh the rest oh it’s beginning to be that Big Rock Candy Mountain & I felt sort of lightly dizzy with it all day, so–swimsuit! It was perfect. Oh Jenny!
The December Diaries, day 14: Breakfast next to the cupcakes, dinner next to the Selmi.
The December Diaries day 15: ten more days of tight updos. Eight people working today. One foot of snow outside. I miss my hair, myself, the out-of-doors. My goal: 80 Hazelnut Sugarplum Caramel Bars while in the eye of the hurricane. This feminist transcendentalist, she likes the hurricane, long as she’s the eye.
The December Diaries, day 16: SELF AS ARROW. Last night but really this morning I was tapping my foot while I picked out clothes for when I had to wear clothes again because the thing is if you need your gorgeous chocos by Xmas these atheists need to have em made for you by tomorrow like for reals & JJMFP said “look at you, with enough energy to tap your foot.” & he meant it.
I think he shelled 100 molds/enrobed 180 pâté de fruits/fixed 4 machines/who even knows what else yesterday. I follow a bunch of chocolatiers on this social medium, and every one of us is posting the same kind of photos lately: half-blurry crazy messy “LOOK AT ALL THIS SHITTTT!!!” heaps of stuff we did that day. The purity of it always appeals, you know? Yr supposed to lean toward balance but I don’t do yoga & I like singularity. Your life as ONE THING. One thing made up of an ocean a million a mountain a mass a mess a multitude of tiny whiny whiny whiny details. You leave at nightmorning blinky with eyes aching from over-focussing all day. One time a quack doctor in Brooklyn told me I get headaches because I over-focus my eyes. For 5k he’d teach me to see the big picture. But I like it is the thing. How many details did I get wrong today, I always wonder. I don’t want balance I just want it to be perfect okay. How hard can you push I like this game but I can only play it for nine more days okay.
The December Diaries day 17: When we got to work Marena had already spent 2 hours packing up The Wall. Maresa made fillings & helped customers, Lucy did packaging & RSSCs, Brendan made a million Furious Vulva boxes and Yuzu Creams, Jacob packed Drinking Chocolate Mix & shelled molds, again. Kate in her Bart Simpson shirt weighed out all the boxes & organized for tomorrow’s shipping. & & &. So much. Honestly I took it easy. Dishes, expediting, keeping the chaos at bay so everyone else could produce as much as possible. It’s my favorite: making everything calm and flowy–& also riling people up when needed. I like the dishes best. I never do them anymore. Soapy hot chocolate, & the caramel pots in the wild dishwasher, pristine after their 2 minute cycle. Dishes / are an art, like everything else. / I do them exceptionally well. God I’m insufferable right now!!
The December Diaries, Day 18: I mean it’s not like we’re curing cancer over here or something. Keep it light. But my car wouldn’t start the enrober broke the back fridge zoomed up the plow guy didn’t plow we ran out of shipping boxes so hard & it didn’t stop snowing until darkness. Nelly came in and said carefully “Do you take everything out of the shop at the end of the night, or…” because of the whole thing of the shelves being bare naked nude Live Nude Shelves see em right here. Everyone was sick / had finals / couldn’t get out of their house because of a white powdery scary hill.
I was keening in the corner for only like 2 minutes.
Our neighbor gave us a jump, repairdudes came, JJMFP fixed the enrober, friends came in to wrap bars wash dishes pack boxes. I thought it was gonna be our first ever day of 2-digit people chocolatiering in this shrinking space but alas it was 9. I rolled 635 truffles in 2 hours, not too shabby then we enrobed literally 1000 chocolates and all these Hazelnut bars & PB bars & so much. Reesey made simultaneous batches of Heathen Toffee & PB Toffee Bars which I mean if you’ve seen that recipe we posted online WHAT on earth. We got sushi Lucy Chemexed coffee at 10:30 pm & damn near everyone stayed until midnight. At around 11 the plow guy came, walked in the door,
“What, you guys make all this shit yourselves? Wow. Snow finally stopped, eh?”
The December Diaries, day 19: Last year at this time we were in Oprah magazine but still this year is still busier than last year still. It’s an honor, I’m always surprised, it’s the best thing in my life but anti capitalists gotta think a little about how unquestioned growth should feel weird riiiiight. I have two minutes to think while JJMFP loads more RSSC onto the enrobing belt. Snuggled up next to the rosemary salt. God it smells good. See it’s always felt like a game: let’s try this. Trying to best myself, that’s my thing I know I’ve said it before. When it stops being a game and starts being a factory we gotta have the guts to pull a Mario Savio. Put our bodies on the gears. “Unless we’re free / the machine will be prevented from working at all” (not everything is political Lagusta. Get some sleeps Lagusta.) Someone said today, we gotta stop making so many kinds of stuff, man—& woman that’s when I’m out. Come to work make a thousand PB cups go home no thanks. I can’t imagine us ever getting bigger but when I said that today everyone laughed at me. This dude the new head of the Chamber of Commerce keeps coming to ask me to join. I mean can you even. Like a chamber, like a bedchamber? I’d very much like a bedchamber right now.
The December Diaries, day 20: Today was the turning day & thank god it was because I felt on the knife edge the whole day. Couldn’t modulate my voice right terrible at helping custies couldn’t tell if I was being reasonable or totally insane. But!!!! Mountain of orders out, incoming ones slowed to a trickle. Now to the bare naked nude Live Nude Shop Shelves. The other day a nice woman huff-walked out because we didn’t have turtles. I wanted to take her to the back, show her Lucy measuring out sugar checking the temp pouring the caramel cutting it into strips toasting nuts folding the caramel around six pecans, dipping each in chocolate garnishing with flaky salt putting in a candy cup putting them on trays. You can make about 15 or so per tray, Lucy usually has three trays at a time going—she’s fast. We sell em for $3 each. Everything in em is organic vaygun all that. We had a zillion orders, couldn’t spare any for the shop. One night JJMFP and I dipped 94 needed 97 & Lucy came in early even though she also worked late.
I shouldn’t care she walked out, shouldn’t care about the faces of customers who’d never been to the shop all questiony, don’t even know they’re missing turtles. Shouldn’t care shouldn’t care did ya see the moon tonight? Moon-faced, per usuz. Got a hot date with that one in a five day week. Warm air moony moon stack of books.
The December Diaries, Day 21: by guest editor @teenkate / best stringer-of-words-together I know: “my version of the December diaries isn’t. plainly simply not there nope nowhere, just the speed of getting through. I thought I knew what it would be and I thought I’d totally relish in it but suddenly it’s December 21st and I don’t know it’s even happened. just, speed. no peripherals, no wasted time. when I asked what day of the week it was today, I was not joking. I also don’t remember the answer I was given. I’m not ready for 2014 and whatever it even means. all I can think is that I wish I popped caramels out of their molds for you before I left because now you’ve got to do it yourself and hands get cold, you know? you do. my energy is only in that building and when Maresa and I left it we both just stood still and the cold air felt so alien and incredible, I almost backed out of her ride home so I could walk in it. cold feet cold nose who cares, look at the goddamn moon. I took the ride. it was good, too. I don’t mind any of this, being scooped up in the storm before I realized it was even coming. I don’t feel prepared for any life things but i feel prepared to ship out a bunch of fucking boxes tomorrow. no time to think about anything else, all energy reserves used up in the writing of this email, on my phone, lying in bed, in the dark. drank a tincture cocktail: one to help me sleep & one to help me breathe. can’t hurt to try is what I’m saying. I know you know.
The December Diaries, day 22: Marena the True Amurrrican Hero of this whole she-bang. Girl put in her TIME, I’m telling you. Swooped in & organized the shipping mountains every single day. We need a boss to tell us what has to go out today and to yell at us when we’re too slow in giving it to her & she’s real bossy so it all works perf. Systems, I tell you! What I’ve found on these 35 runs around the sun is that you gotta find out what humans naturally glom to & let em do it. Marena glommed to shipping-bossing & I’m forever thankful because me being a boss makes me feel like I wanna explode into a million pieces, all shattery, half alive. So Marena can do it & I’ll make chocolates & it cleans out my head so great the way making something does. You know. Focus on just this tiny thing, this tray this mold this piece. The big picture is where things get rough, like global warming / animal rights / how we gonna stock those shelves in time for xmas if we’re all working 12 hour days already. Pantpantpant. This tiny thing this tray this mold this piece. Do something pretty while you can. Thanks, Marena.
The December Diaries, day 23: What is horrible / what you can’t help but fall in love with a little: that the body wants what it wants. Bodies. You know? These bags of flesh we haul around. Insistent little fuckers, gotta admire that. The bratty thing I say to pals when they come in to check on us / buy everything in the display case is that the body doesn’t know how soon you’ll be in the rundown little cottage with the geckos & the avocado tree, it only knows that you’ve worked 37 days without a day even a halfsie to yourself.
But!! Made 457 RSSC after the shop closed tonight. It’s about all I’ve got in me, & that’s about all this place needs of me in 2013. ‘Cept the phone sitting next to me, me sitting next to the ocean. & that for only 7 more days. Then: The Big Winter Sleep. I’ll come in tomorrow, make a million Drinking Chocolates, give a bunch of hugs, & there it is. Elation, I think that’s the word my body feels. Elation, or extreme sleep depravation. Same thing, maybe?
The December Diaries, Day 24: Well it was a day, alright. People like chocolate in this town or something. Fears of angry hordes because of Ye Olde Bare Nude Shop Shelves unrealized, everyone was beyond kind / happy to see us so crammed, high like you are before a holiday when you’re buying sugarrrr. & we kept the case bangin’ all day—Xmas miracle for sure. Trippy Thompson came in to pick up one of @maresavolante‘s insane pear frangipane (god I’m so close to frangipani, so soon plumeria my heart) tarts, ate a Peach-Pistachio Bonbon on his way to the car then careened back in: four more of those, please. A famous person came in but he wasn’t any of our regular famous people & we were all so tired no one could exactly place him. Reesey made sauce for family meal, we were so happy we almost plotzed. Everyone left early because they have families or something (some concepts I don’t quite get never have but I have other things, you understand.) & JJMFP & I closed up and spent more than two awake hours in our house for the first time in two months. @widow_jane and Martha Stewart on the couch! all the cats! leaving in an hour, we did good work this year now let’s read and have quiet. Also I hear there is something called nature, not just theobroma cacao / my dark lover / closest I’ve gotten to these pagan roots in a few good months.
The December Diaries, day 31: spent the morning working on the LL 2013 roundup blog post. Went through IG FB all my photos. Everything we did this year rushing at me in huge waves. my heart all pounding remembering how much i wanted to do / how much i did / how much i need to do.
THE NEED TO DO.
all i want is the need to do. i want it to never leave me. i want everything all at once / am not ashamed of any of my desires / any of these loves.
here’s an adrienne rich thing (she & Patti shoulda been pals) i’ve had living in my heart 13 years or so, it’s my Holy Bible, i bow down to it at night, it’s my stars in the sky,
it’s the spaces inbetween, it’s my twenty fourteen.
“Forms, colors, sensuous relationships, rhythms, textures, tones, transmutations of energy, all belong to the natural world. Before humans arrived, their power was there; they were nameless yet not powerless. To touch their power, humans had to name them: whorl, branch, rift, stipple, crust, cone, striation, froth, sponge, flake, fringe, gully, rut, tuft, grain, bunch, slime, scale, spine, streak, globe. Over so many millennia, so many cultures, humans have reached into preexisting nature and made art: to celebrate, to drive off evil, to nourish memory, to conjure the desired visitation. The revolutionary artist, the relayer of possibility, draws on such powers, in opposition to a technocratic society’s hatred of multiformity, hatred of the natural world, hatred of the body, hatred of darkness and women, hatred of disobedience. The revolutionary poet loves people, rivers, other creatures, stones, trees inseparably from art, is not ashamed of any of these loves, and for them conjures a language that is public, intimate, inviting, terrifying, and beloved.”