Wednesday, February 03, 2010


A Spoonful of Chocolate Hope with Michelle Pulis

Look at this--you could have your very own Twilight purse! I'm sure there are a few million teenage girls who would love to open that up as a gift; and that's what Michelle Pulis, owner of A Spoonful of Chocolate Hope, hopes, too. At her online store, she sells these super-cute handmade book handbags, bookshelves, book passport holders, and chocolate stirring spoons. And she started her company to help her family! So, we're interviewing Michelle today to get the full story on the cutest purses around and the reason for starting her business.

WOW: Welcome, Michelle, to The Muffin. We are thrilled to have you with us today. Why don't you start out by telling us a little about your business, A Spoonful of Chocolate Hope. What types of products do you make and sell?

Michelle: Everything you see in my shop is made by hand! I originally started my shop making chocolate stirring spoons for your coffee. However, that idea backfired in the sweltering Arizona heat, and I ended up changing my product completely to making and selling handbags created from used books. Initially, I would just donate the pages to a local refugee placement committee here in Arizona; however, I noticed many of my customers also wanted the pages. So, I started giving the buyer's the option of re-binding the book with the matching fabric used for the handbag to make a unique gift set! Another product I offer is passport holders/wallets disguised as books to keep the pick-pocketers away while traveling. And my newest product is making a bookshelf out of used books. It makes a great addition to any home library.

WOW: So, you create handbags made out of books? What an awesome idea! They are super cute and great for book lovers, but how sturdy are these?

Michelle: Very sturdy actually! I have tested the purses for sturdiness and quality. Each book is made from a good quality recycled book. I put finish on it to prevent any rips and tears. I have been carrying around my book handbag for about a year now and have had no problems whatsoever!

WOW: That's great to hear that the products are cute and sturdy! Why did you start your company?

Michelle: Spoonful of Chocolate Hope was created to help my father save his house. It's a long story, so I'll try to make it as short as possible. My father is a simple man who immigrated from what is formally known as Czechoslovakia in 1969, searching for a better life. Growing up, I watched him build our house with his own two hands, constantly adding things that reminded him of Czechoslovakia. A couple of years ago, my mother's brother (Frank) asked for my father to co-sign a loan for a business he was starting. My father wanted nothing to do with it; he had worked hard to get out of debt and didn't want anything in his name. My mother and uncle constantly asked about the loan, until my father finally gave in.

Uncle Frank is now basically homeless; his business has gone into bankruptcy and is now unable to pay off the loan. My parents are now forced to pay $3,000 a month with a combined income of $27,000 a year. So I created this site to give my pare
nts 100% of the profits. Wanting to give my father back some of the life he worked so hard on achieving.

WOW: What a great reason to start your business. Not only do you offer a unique product, but it's also for a fantastic reason. So, you have to be an awesome time manager because you work a full-time job, and you come home and make all your products for customers by hand! Give us some tips. How do you do it?

Michelle: Well, I manage to do my book and fabric shopping during my lunch breaks or immediately after work. I go to the post office in the morning on my way to work. I typically spend a few days a week and my weekends, sitting in front of my TV with fabric and books spread all over the fl
oor. I actually really like making them. It relaxes me. And sometimes in between, I manage to spend some time with my very supportive boyfriend. (Even though he refuses to help. . .) (smiles)

WOW: It's easy to see that you are very dedicated to your cause and your business. It reminds me of the saying, "Where there's a will, there's a way." I think some of us, as writers, can learn from your time management skills! That's for sure. Why do your book handbags and other products make perfect gifts for family and friends?

Michelle: Because they're so personalized! You don't even have to like to read. Just think of a hobby your loved one has, and I can find a book related to it. I have made cookbook handbags for the chefs of the house, Van Gogh book handbags for the artists, Atlas briefcases for the World travelers. . .and the list goes on!

WOW: Those are great examples! What are your future plans for us to look forward to?

Michelle: I'm actually hoping to start making table lamps out of books, and maybe even branch out to furniture and start making side tables out of books. I always have something brewing in my head!

WOW: Thanks, Michelle, for talking with us today! Okay, women writers, we know you love books, so if you want to check out all that A Spoonful of Chocolate Hope has in store, visit here!

interview conducted by Margo L. Dill,

Labels: , , , ,

Thursday, December 11, 2008


Essentials for Cold Weather Writing

"Oh the weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful...and since we have no place to go, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow..."

When the weather gets cold, I become somewhat of a bear. All I want to do is hibernate! Admittedly, it’s not very cold where I live in California, so I shouldn’t be complaining, but it still gets down to 40 degrees at night, which is cold for me. All I want to do is snuggle under the covers in bed with some hot cocoa and watch the tube. This would be okay if I had a laptop, but I don’t, so I have to trudge downstairs to my office and try to get motivated.

To beat the cold and get more writing done, I employ a few necessary items:

1. Coffee maker with a timer.

Right when I get up I want to be able to enjoy a fresh cup of coffee to get me going. This is especially important in the winter because my kitchen is so cold! I live in a loft with wide open space and concrete you can imagine. Having the coffee ready for me saves a few extra minutes normally spent standing on kitchen tile.

I may be in need of an upgrade though. I’ve had the same coffee maker forever, and it’s starting to lose its punch. Now they have all these super fast brewing digital-techie ones that are very reasonable in price, especially if you use them as much as I do. I found this one by Cuisinart that’s received really good ratings on both Amazon and Consumer Reports.
(Cuisinart DCC-1200 12-Cup Brew Central Coffeemaker - $72.94)

2. Space heater.

Luckily my office is carpeted and fairly small, so having a little digital space heater with controlled temperature settings at my feet keeps my tootsies warm. I have a couple of these in rooms where I can use the extra heat. The ones I have are the older versions of the one I picked out on your left. They’re super quiet and come with a fan if you want the heat blown directly on you. You can set the temperature and it’ll maintain that level for you. I love that this one is energy efficient! You know how costly those electric bills can be in the winter.
(Holmes Energy-Efficient Heater Fan - $29.94)

3. Faux fur blanket.

If it works for the Eskimos...

I love my faux fur blanket! I keep it in my office to cover my legs or wrap it around my chair and shoulders.

You can find these anywhere, but here are some cute ones from Pottery Barn. These are on sale right now for $99, but you can certainly find them for less at many other places, like JC Penny or Target.

4. Knitted scarves.

There is one thing about the cold weather I truly enjoy--being able to wear uber-cute hand-knitted scarves. The bright colors add a dash of style and warmth to your drab winter ensemble. And who says I can’t look cute even if I’m just sitting behind my computer writing?

There are so many great places to find these gems, but if you’re looking for something special, check out etsy. Individual crafters hand-make the products and most of them are one-of-a-kind. The one in the picture is a delicious pumpkin cable twist scarf made by the seller bombshellstudios.

5. Hot teas.

Drinking hot tea throughout the day will help heat your inner core and add a pinch of spice to your writing. You can find great wonderful blends at Special Teas or Adagio Teas. Some interesting teas to consider for the holidays are: candy apple, candy cane, chestnut, cranberry, gingerbread, and pumpkin spice. I personally love traditional teas like earl grey, green tea, jasmine, and oolong tea.

6. Body butter for dry winter skin.

My skin tends to dry up and get itchy during the cold winter months--it’s enough to drive you nuts! So having the right lotion or body balm will help sooth your nerves while writing. One of my very favorite products is Camille Beckman’s line of glycerin lotions. The body butter and hand therapy lotions are my favorite in French vanilla. It seriously smells like fresh baked cookies. It’s so good. It contains glycerin, vitamin E, aloe vera, wheat protein, almond oil and plant extracts. To this day, I still haven’t found a lotion quite as good. It helps sooth and protects my skin against harsh elements and stops the itching so I can concentrate. Visit Camille Beckman Online.

Other necessities include:

Layers! Hoodies, fuzzy slippers, beanies, and gloves with the fingertips cut off for typing.

Exercise. Get out from behind the computer screen and move around. Get your heart pumping and your circulation will follow. If I’m working on a project for the long haul, I make sure I get up at least every hour from the computer and run upstairs, do some quick housework, or take a walk. Good for the body and mind. You’ll come back refreshed and ready to work.

Crock pot cooking. Fill your crock pot with all the yummy ingredients you have to create stews. It’s easy cooking and smells wonderful.

Candles. I love to burn candles in my office to create a soothing atmosphere. They also help warm up those cold fingertips. Pick spicy scents for the winter months and citrus-y scents to get you motivated.

I hope these tips will help you break out from hibernation and get back to writing. They are probably something you’re doing already, but it’s a good reminder, and lets you know you are not alone! Cold weather writing can be dreary and seem like a chore, but it doesn’t have to be. You can make it fun. I’d love to know what motivates you to write during the cold weather, or what products and goodies you use to keep warm.

Do you have some tips you can share? Your comments are welcome ;)

Labels: , , , ,

Thursday, October 23, 2008


Finding a Gift for the Writer

Have you got a writer on your gift list? If you have (even if that writer is YOU), and you don't have a clue as to what gift to buy, Gayle Trent is here to help.

For the third stop on Gayle's blog tour, she visits Beth Morrissey's blog, Hell Or High Water, to chat about gifts for writers. If you are a freelance writer, be sure to check out Gayle's list of submission trackers! I never knew some of these existed. What a great find! There are also great ideas for greeting cards, bookmarks, literary calligraphy, writers' journals, and of course, books about writing. Stop by for a visit!

Labels: , , , ,