Monday, May 29, 2006
What is Candy Blog?
For the most part Candy Blog is a compilation of reviews of candies. There?s other content, sometimes news stories and sometimes profiles of candy shops and companies and the occasional tour but you can pretty much rely on a new candy review every weekday. I will also try to focus on some other long-form projects, such as histories and nostalgia pieces.
When did Candy Blog start?
I started the blog in April of 2005. I?d already been blogging since late 2001 but hadn?t quite struck the right note with the type of narrow-focused, sustainable content that would appeal to other people. At a wedding I was talking with my table-mates about candy and someone suggested that I had such a broad range of knowledge about candy that I should start blogging about it.
It seemed like a natural idea to use the blog as a way to expand my horizons by trying new things and experience other cultures. Therefore I made sure that I feature foreign candies quite often.
Who runs Candy Blog?
Right now, it?s just me. Cybele May ? writer and candy lover. I haven?t done it all on my own though, the design and blog installation was done by HopStudios.com and I often get tech help from my husband. All the photos and text are by me unless an exception is noted in a post.
Is there any editorial oversight for Candy Blog?
I am my own writer, photographer, editor and publisher. Any mistakes or inaccuracies are purely of my own creation. If I have made an error, please let me know and I will correct it as soon as possible.
What is Typetive?
It?s a word I coined, it?s basically the writing equivalent of being talkative. I registered the domain (www.typetive.com) to host all my blogs and other writing content.
Why isn?t Candy Blog at Candy Blog.net when I type in the address?
You can access Candy Blog by typing in CandyBlog.net into your address bar, it forwards you to the candyblog.net/blog location. It makes it easy to tell others about Candy Blog without having to remember a long URL. When I started Candy Blog I didn?t expect so many people to like to it so quickly, so I figured I was kind of stuck with the current candyblog.net/blog address.
Why is it .net and not .com?
Someone bought the .com address a few weeks after I started Candy Blog (but before I tried to register the domain). They?re not using it, but are offering it for sale. The .net address denotes a community, whereas a .com address denotes a business. So .net is probably more appropriate anyway.
When did you start writing about candy?
I posted recently with an early short story piece I wrote for a contest at the library when I was 10. It seems that candy has been a constant topic for me. A major research report I did in my senior year of high school was on chocolate. (I got an A, thankyouverymuch). My master?s thesis for my MFA in Playwriting was a project was called Hershey and was based on the history of the town of Hershey and its founder, Milton S. Hershey. It wasn?t really about chocolate, but the research did involve a lot of candy.
Basically, candy has been a pretty constant topic in my life.
Do you ever make candy?
Yes. Not so much recently. The earliest candy experiment I can recall was when I was 5 and in kindergarten. We were doing a kitchen project, making candied apples, and one of us suggested using Grape Tang to flavor the candy. Our teacher (I think a parent-volunteer ) was not one to dissuade us from our folly. It was, um, interesting. I wouldn?t really call the result Candied Apples, more like Tar Apples. But it was a learning experience!
As a teen I experimented quite a bit with hard candies (lollies), caramels (my grandmother?s recipe which sometimes turned into toffee) and my own signature chocolate cocoa-dusted truffles.
Later when I was in college I got a job at a bakery/candy shop called Chocoholics in Eureka, CA. Besides washing dishes and working behind the counter I also learned to dip truffles and make some other more sophisticated chocolates. Since that time I have made thousands and thousands of chocolate truffles (usually as my annual Christmas gift to family and friends). I?ve not made them in the past four years though.
Do you plan on adding candy recipes and/or tutorials to Candy Blog?
Yes, someday, if folks are interested in it.
How have things changed with your relationship to candy since you?ve been blogging about it?
It?s odd, because I?m using my discretionary calories to consume the things I?m reviewing, I don?t get to eat the things I know and love as often. But it?s also allowed me to find some incredible new favorites I might not have tried because I was so complacent with the things I already had in my candy repertoire.
The blog has also helped me to rationalize any consumption. ?You know, it?s for the blog.?
How long is this FAQ?
When I typed it up in Word, it was nine pages long and about 4,000 words. Scroll on! Scroll on!
What are your favorite candies in addition to the ones that you?ve raved about here?
That?s a tough one. In the consumer chocolate family pretty fond of: Mounds, Heath, Take 5, 100 Grand, York Peppermint Pattie, See?s Scotchmallows & Caramels, After Eight Mints, 5th Avenue, Hershey?s Kisses, Reese?s Miniatures, Baci, M&Ms Almond and Malted Milk Balls.
In the sugar candy genre I like Haribo Gummi Bears, Licorice Pastilles, SweeTarts, Spree, Payday, Tootsie Pops, Chupa Chup?s Coffee Flavors & Lemonheads.
I?m probably leaving some things out.
What won?t you eat?
I don?t eat artificial sweeteners such as aspartame (Equal), sucralose (Splenda), acesulfame potassium (AceK) or saccharin (Sweet n? Low). There are sugar alternatives that I will eat, such as mannitol, sorbitol or xylitol because they are natural compounds that our bodies already know what to do with.
I don?t like hydrogenated oils and I have been making more of an attempt to avoid products that contain enough of them to show up on the ?trans fat? content portion of the nutrition label. This is sometimes difficult with foreign candies that have different labeling standards.
I am allergic to walnuts. Not deathly so, but they do cause a reaction a I choose to avoid.
I?m also allergic to bee stings, but no one is making bee venom chocolate cordials, so I don?t even worry about that.
Can I suggest something for you to review?
Certainly! I?m always open to suggestions. There are so many candies out there, sometimes I miss something. You can check to see if I?ve mentioned it before by using the Search feature over there on the left. If I haven?t mentioned it, there?s a pretty good chance that I haven?t had it. You can email me or just leave a comment in the most recent review.
Can I send you something to review? Can we swap?
I?d love to take candy from anyone and everyone. And I?m very flattered that so many readers want to send me things.
I honestly prefer to buy my own candy. I like the process of finding it and getting the entire experience of seeing it in its natural habitat, making the purchase and then taking it home and photographing it then eating it.
As I?ve started traveling more, I?m finding that there are many places out there to get candy, candy I?ve never seen before, sweets from all over the world.
I?d love to swap and give away more candy, but I?m a terrible procrastinator and would probably disappoint you by being terribly late. I do candy giveaways from time to time, mostly to get rid of the extra candies I have sitting around and share the bounty.
If you want to swap candy, I suggest getting involved in one of the candy swap groups or sites.
Do you accept gifts of candy from manufacturers in exchange for reviews?
Yes, I do. I have a review policy, which I inform companies about at the time I accept their samples (and now everyone can read it). Basically, I?ll accept whatever they send, provided it?s something that I?m likely to appreciate with the additional caveat that I don?t have to like it and don?t even have to review it. If I have accepted a sample, I let the readers know in the specs on the candy in the area that says ?place purchased.?
Most candy makers approach me. Thus far I have only approached one company to request samples (Figamajigs) because they were not for retail sale yet and I was really interested in them.
Have you ever accepted samples and not blogged about them?
Yes, I have accepted some items that I?ve not blogged. They?re usually part of a larger set, so I?ve blogged part of the group of items, but not all. There are different reasons for not blogging about them. Sometimes they contain ingredients on my verboten list, sometimes I just haven?t gotten around to it.
Have you ever turned down samples?
Yes, usually for items that I wouldn?t review because they?re not technically candy.
I?ve looked over your reviews and you?ve pretty much raved about all the free samples you?ve gotten.
This is true. First, I think that anyone who sends me something has a great deal of well-placed confidence in their product. Second, I like a lot of things. Take a look at the number of reviews I?ve done and the number that fall at a rating of 6 or more ? that?s most of them. I just like candy.
How much candy is in your house right now?
At this writing, probably about 40 pounds.
How are your teeth?
Um, they?re okay. Not great, but probably not that bad. I was blessed with lovely, straight teeth and good gums, but lousy, soft enamel. So I had a lot of cavities as a child. Most of my adult dental work has simply been the continued maintenance of that old dental work. I still have all my teeth (except for my wisdom teeth), never had a root canal. I do not visit the dentist often enough. I don?t know if the cavities as a kid can be blamed on the candy consumption ? I think it?s more likely that I had poor dental hygiene. I do believe that you can eat candy without any bad repercussions to your mouth as long as you rinse, brush and floss faithfully.
Do you worry about diabetes?
Yes, that?s why I try to watch my diet and weight.
Does your mother know you write about candy?
Yes, she does. My whole family knows and is very supportive and enthusiastic about Candy Blog. You may notice that there are two people who comment from time to time, Crispin and Amy ? they are my brother and sister.
Is this FAQ organized in any sort of way?
No, not really.
What camera do you use? How do you take your photos?
When I started Candy Blog I was using a little 5 megapixel camera ? a Sony Cybershot DSC-V1. That camera bit the dust after taking 26,000 lovely pictures of candy, whales & dolphins and stuff in my back yard. All photos before March 2006 were taken with that camera.
When I started the blog I took all the photos for my posts using that camera and some simple sheets of white poster board. That?s it ? nothing special, just patience and a tripod. Then a little clever post-processing in Photoshop to get the near-white background.
My new camera is a Sony Cybershot DSC-V3. (Basically an upgrade of the previous camera). It?s a 7 megapixel pro-sumer camera that has some nice manual controls that help me to take good shots.
I have a home photo studio now which is a ?shooting table? which is made of a large piece of bent milk-white Plexiglas to form the infinite white background. I have one studio light, an Arriflex 650 watt fresnel with a chimera to give a diffuse light to my subjects.
You can enjoy all my shots, candy and otherwise on my flickr page.
How much candy do you eat a week? How much of that is actually stuff for the blog?
I eat something just about every day, usually whatever will be posted the following day. Most of the candy I eat is for the blog ? I don?t have many discretionary calories in my diet left over for additional candy for pleasure (it sounds so sad, doesn?t it?). I try to balance my candy intake ? I like a good mix of sour, sweet, creamy, nutty and chocolate.
Where does the candy come from?
I buy most of it. I buy it at all the normal places ? the drug store, grocery store, liquor stores, convenience stores, gas stations, candy stores, ethnic grocers and specialty stores. Sometimes I order online for things I can?t find anywhere else. I always say where I got each candy that I blog about, so that you know at least one place it can be found. Other sources include: gifts from friends and readers, samples from manufacturers or internet candy stores.
How does your process work?
Once I get a hold of the candy, I have to take a photo of it. I usually shoot a whole week’s worth of candy at once on the weekends. When I’m done, I’ll usually have a little plate of the pieces of candy that were featured in the photo (unless they can easily be put back into the wrapper). I’ll usually munch on those over the weekend.
The day before the review I’ll have another portion and start compiling the review. At that point you may see it over on the left nav area as an “on deck” item. I’ll upload the photo and type up my initial notes and maybe do a little research.
The day the post goes up I’ll eat a bit more of it and polish up the notes into a more coherent review and add all the links. I usually don’t make my determination for the rating until that day.
Then later in the day I’ll have a snack that will be the next day’s review or maybe one for later in the week.
What sort of candy isn?t so bad for me?
I can?t tell you that, as most candy isn?t ?good? for you. I don?t log all the particular nutrition information about each candy. However, what I do is add info to the post where there are wholesome aspects about a candy, such as high fiber/protein content or other significant nutritive content. I will also add info about other bad things, like hydrogenated oils or other freakishly high fat content.
As a touchstone, I make my best effort to calculate the number of calories per ounce for each candy. This makes it easier to evaluate one candy compared to another without having to look at the whole label. A candy that gets up into the 160s per ounce is going to have a very high fat content, while a candy in the 100s is probably all sugar (carbs). Depending on your personal diet, you may want to opt for the high fat or the high carbs.
So, to answer your question ? in my mind candy with a lot of nuts in it and a minimum of added sugar is pretty wholesome, as it adds nutrition even though there may be a lot of calories. I consider dark chocolate covered almonds to be wholesome food. Some dieticians may want to argue that point with me. Other candies that I consider wholesome were Figamajigs and Chocolate Covered Sunflower Seeds. I think that just about any candy can be incorporated into your diet in moderation.
What inspired you to blog about candy?
It turns out I?ve been writing about candy my whole life, and my other general blog contained some candy content anyway.
The reason I started at that moment in April 2005 was that I had just become interested in exploring more candies (you can read more about my general life philosphy here). I?d just returned from NYC and then had my first trip to Little Tokyo where I experimented by buying some Japanese candies at the urging of my mother. Then I was at a wedding and mentioned all the cool things to one of my table-mates and someone said that I should blog about it. Later that weekend I started the blog.
For the most part I wanted to create a blog with content that I?d like to read. There were some other candy review sites out there, but they don?t have a comment feature that supported dialogue with the readers or they didn’t have original photos that showed what the candy really looked like.
How do I become a Candy Blogger?
Just start doing it. It?s not hard, there are some very simple blogging systems out there. Post on a regular basis and eventually you’ll find your own voice and audience. If you keep it up, I?ll be happy to add you to the blogroll. I think there?s plenty of room for other candy blogs and I?m happy to have the company that you see over in the candy blogroll.
How do I make money as a Candy Blogger?
I?m not sure about the answer to that one. I?m not making a lot of money. There is advertising on this site, but at the moment Candy Blog is a losing proposition. (The agreements for taking ads on the site usually prohibit being able to be completely transparent about how much I?m making. Email me if you really want to know.) That?s why it?s a labor of love.
If you find out how to make a living at it, please let me know.
Can I just come write for you and Candy Blog?
I might take on additional writers someday, probably people who like things that I don?t like, so that we can cover the full spectrum. But right now I?m not planning on adding anyone. When I do, I?ll be looking for people who are already active bloggers (though you don?t have to be blogging about candy or even food).
What are these categories at the end of each blog post and showing over on the left navigation area?
Categories are a way for me to tag each post into groupings. If you click on the category on the left navigation are or at the end of the post, it will show you more candies that I?ve reviewed that are from the country, contain chocolate or got the same rating.
The tally shown after each category shows how many posts have been tagged so far. Some categories are huge, such as candy made in the United States or those containing Chocolate. Others are niche products that some people may be interested in, like candy from Russia
How come you haven?t given anything a ?1 ? Inedible? review yet?
Because nothing has qualified for it. Don?t worry, I?m I’ll eventually eat something that I’ll immediately spit out.
Why don?t you review more gum?
I don?t really enjoy gum that much. I like Chicklets and I?m very happy with them. It?s hard to find gum that still contains sugar these days.
Then why did you start reviewing gum in the first place?
I felt like it.
What candy are you planning to review?
If you look over on the lower left, under the categories there?s a little section called On Deck where you can see the next five posts I have lined up. Sometimes I post the photos that I?ve shot in my Flickr photostream too, but there?s very little organization to it.
I?ve thought about posting a running list of the stuff I have ?in stock? for review, but then I was worried that I?d spend more time on the management of my lists instead of coming up with really fun new features for Candy Blog.
Do you have a set format for the review or is each post just whatever floats your boat at the moment?
The only set format is the specs that are include with each candy review. The rest is whatever strikes me at the time. I try to answer the questions that I would have if it was the first time I?d ever seen the candy.
The thing is, part of the reason I?d not been very adventurous about my candy consumption in my earlier life was because I didn?t know what stuff was. It?s tough. If the candy doesn?t have a good description or accurate photo on the package, how are you supposed to know what it is? It only gets worse with foreign candies.
I?m trying to demystify things a little bit (especially with the non-American candies) and also broaden my horizons to new flavors and combinations.
How can I get free candy?
If you want free candy from me, just wait for another candy giveaway. I don?t do them very often, mostly because I?m too lazy to go to the post office.
If you want free candy from candy manufacturers, sometimes all you have to do is write to them and ask for samples. Often you can subscribe to newsletters at candy company websites and they?ll send you free samples from time to time.
How do you keep up the drive to post?
Any blog malaise I?ve suffered thus far has only lasted a couple of days (the longest period was about two weeks when my camera died). Most of the time, because I take a week?s worth of photos at one time, I?m able to at least sketch in my basic reviews in advance, so I usually have a few pre-written posts ready to go in case of emergencies. This was very useful when I got sick back in late February but didn’t miss my daily review.
I know there may come a time when I won?t be able to post every day. But I?ll cross that bridge when I come to it.
Sometimes I have technology gaffes - by setting up the posts ahead of time, sometimes I forget that they’re set to “launch” but themselves before I’ve finished writing them. So if you’re reading and find that there’s just a photo and no text, I’m probably traveling or just not paying attention.
Who hosts your site?
Candy Blog is hosted at Nexcess.net, which is a lovely company with great customer service. They?ve been very flexible in designing a custom hosting plan for me and responsive whenever I?ve had an issue or question.
If you?re interested in hosting with them, please click this link for a referral to help me out with my hosting costs. In return, I think you’ll be very happy with the service.
Is Candy Blog a super ?back stage pass?? Have you been able to get in anywhere because of your fame as the Candy Blogger?
Well, saying that I have fame as the Candy Blogger is overstating it a bit. I did qualify for my All Candy Expo press pass because of the consistent work I?ve been doing. I was also able to get my super-personalized tour of the Jelly Belly factory.
I have also been approached more regularly by candy companies and marketing people to review their products. (But at the same time I?ve been getting equally uninteresting spam type emails about wholesale wicker products from China, packaging solutions from Korea and high-temperature, low-viscosity machine lubricants.)
I?ve also met some great folks like those at CandyWarehouse.com
and CandyFavorites.com through this blog (just the access to look at shelf after shelf of candy is perk).
There are a lot of things I?d like to see, especially when it comes to the manufacture of candy and chocolate and I hope that my serious devotion to the candy sphere will help me to get that access. I also hope never to abuse that ?celebrity? simply for my own pleasure. It?s all for the blog, right?
How did you get on the radio/get featured in that newspaper?
On both occasions for the radio interviews I?ve done, I was approached by the producers, who found me through their research. I?ve actually done quite a few other interviews that have never made it to press. I?ve made little or no attempt to promote Candy Blog in the media, so whatever I?ve gotten thus far has probably been because of my devoted readers saying nice things to the right people.
Are you surprised by the success of the blog?
Yes, even though I knew deep down that there were other people out there like me, and I knew that eventually they?d find the blog. I?m not sure how to qualify when the blog became successful. I guess it was when posts started garnering multiple comments from people I didn?t know, I really felt like I was connecting with other people.
It?s funny how happy, truly happy, writing about candy has made me.
The number of readers is, of course, quite heartening, because it makes at least part of the blog pay for itself and that?s quite a relief.
How often do you eat candy? Do you eat a balanced diet?
I eat a very balanced diet. Or at least I think so. A sample day goes like this:
For the most part my diet is all about lean protein, fresh vegetables/fruit and whole grains. You can read more about Why I?m Not Fat.
Where did you learn about tasting notes?
My husband enjoys fine wines and we often visit wineries in California while on vacation. A lot of the flavors and notes I refer to are ones I?ve learned from wine tastings. There are also a couple of chocolate review sites that I read regularly that use the same language. By paying careful attention when tasting you too can detect these more ethereal notes.
What are your future plans for Candy Blog
I am hoping to do more factory tours and more nostalgia/history postings.
I would like to start a candy bookshelf and share my reviews of books on the topic of candy.
I would like to develop a candy wiki and if there is a kind and talented programmer out there who would like to help me out with that, I?d be grateful and motivated enough to send you some candy.
I am planning on adding some community forums as well, so that conversations about candy can go on outside of the particular postings. (If that?s something of interest to the readers.) I?ve been hesitant to add them as I know that an empty forum can be pretty sad and desolate.
I have some other fun things that I?d love to do as well, like adding polls and maybe some quizzes. I have an interactive timeline in the works as well.
Are you planning to write a book?
Yes. Would you buy it?
Do you have more questions? The Frequently Asked Questions will be continually updated, so feel free to ask more.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.