Our Festive Chocolates have been so well received at Harvey Nichols that they needed to place another order this week. It’s meant all hands to the deck and frantic rescheduling of workloads but the one thing I’ve learned about the run up to Christmas is expect the unexpected! We’ve had two events this week. The first was on Wednesday evening at the Reigate Grammar School Christmas Fair. My niece is currently at the school, so it gave me an opportunity to catch up with my sister and her family as well. As a bonus, both my sister and I won raffle prizes. Of course, a trip to Surrey meant we’d had to give the van a good clean after the previous weekend’s mudslide! The second event was the Marks Tey Hotel Christmas Fair on Sunday. The event was really well organised and well advertised, so we had a busy event and sold out of several of our lines. That’s always a plus because, even though it means we have to restock the following week, it makes packing up at the end a heck of a lot easier and quicker! With no events on Saturday we managed to take a couple of hours out to go over to Wheeler’s Wine and choose our Christmas tipples, which was a pleasant interlude before getting back to packing and wrapping. I even managed a run on Saturday morning, which was definitely needed after all the quality control I’ve been doing this week!
We’ve been busy making Festive truffles all week. I spent most of Friday decorating 500 Christmas Pudding truffles, which required a good number of tea breaks to give my eyes an opportunity to adjust from the close work! This weekend we’ve been exhibiting at the Cressing Temple Chistmas Fair. Cressing Temple Barns is a stunning setting, but boy it was cold this weekend! The sleet on Saturday made setting up a little challenging, and the grass car park became a slalom. With front wheel drive I was a little nervous about us getting out in the evening, but we managed to find a reasonable spot and escaped with nothing more than extensive mud spatters. Sunday was dry but very, very cold so it was time to break out the thermals and thick layers, as the barns offered us very little warmth. We were grateful for the mulled wine on offer at a couple of the stalls! Our Festive collections continue to go down well, and we were pleased we’d restocked on the Advent Calendars as these are selling very well at the moment. So it’s more of the same next week. In some ways I’m glad I’m too busy to go out on my regular morning runs, as it’s a good excuse not to go out in the cold first thing!
Our Festive packaging arrived this week and we’re really pleased with the finished boxes. It meant we had a few late nights packing and wrapping to get our Harvey Nichols order ready to ship as these are only going to retail in the Harvey Nichols stores and direct from us. Over the weekend we’ve been at the Wherstead Park Christmas Show. It was the first time we’d exhibited at this show and had heard great things about the event in terms of sales and footfall. Unfortunately the weather was against us this year, with torrential rain on Saturday leaving people reluctant to leave home, and I can’t say I blamed them when I saw how bad the weather was! As we were indoors all day with no external view we’d had no idea. However, our Festive collections were well received by everyone there and our Advent Calendars have proved extremely popular. Earlier in the week we were invited to the launch of a new hotel in Colchester. The Blue Ivy on North Hill is a beautiful boutique hotel and restaurant with a mouthwatering menu. Some midweek bubbles and delicious canapes were well received by the team in the middle of a very busy work week. So now it’s back to the kitchen. Christmas is definitely looming as our work days get longer and longer whilst the order book doesn’t seem to be getting any smaller. We wouldn’t have it any other way!
The van got through its MOT this week, although it did need the brake pipes replacing in the process. This was a bit of a fiddly job and was only completed at 6pm on Friday evening. Given that I was heading to Olympia first thing on Saturday I was a little jumpy until it was back at Choctails central. This weekend was the Speciality & Fine Food Fair. The weekend was a reasonable success for us, with a good haul of leads to follow up on over the next few weeks. The logistics of unloading and packing up were the usual chaos and nightmare, taking us an hour to leave the car park on Tuesday evening once we’d finally got everything loaded up. It doesn’t put you in the best frame of mind after a long weekend of talking with buyers, when all you want to do is get home! We had a great spot just down from the Speciality Chocolate Live stand, so I got to see a number of chocolatiers in action, including Matthieu de Gottal and his fabulous whisky chocolates. I’ve also been tweeting Tony Rodd, runner up in this year’s MasterChef, and he popped by the stand for a chat after his demo on the main stage. It was great to spend some time talking with him. He’s a really lovely guy, and a fantastic chef (and yes, I shamelessly asked for a selfie with him).