candy nuts toffee chocolate mama monacelli gift basket

Candy Is Dandy — Artisan Sweets by Mama Monacelli

candy nuts toffee chocolate mama monacelli gift basket

From sweet candy treats to savory nut snacks, Mama Monacelli says, “Eat caro, cara, eat!”

It’s no secret that most people don’t like to see photos of themselves. (Especially candid ones!)

But most people do not have the unique situation that Nancy Monacelli has. The Walla Walla candy maker, who creates artisan toffees, brittles, chocolates, and snacks, needed an image for her packaging logo, and, in her own words,

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The English Toffee candy that started the flunking of Mama Monacelli’s retirement.

“I couldn’t abide the thought of looking at my own face all day.”

So, she and her graphic designer put their heads together, and went looking for a suitable face.

“I told him I wanted an older, Italian-looking, ‘How you gonna get a wife; you’re so skinny,’ kind of woman,” Monacelli recalls.

“He found a public domain image and said he thought he had just the thing if I didn’t mind being associated with a perfect stranger. I told him, if she was perfect, what more could I want?”

It Started out as Christmas Candy

So Nancy, as she is packaging up her many handcrafted treats for sale, does not have to face her face. And she can focus on what she really gets excited about: making candy using recipes that she has developed over decades.

“Basically, my business started as ‘the Christmas candy,” Monacelli explains.

“For years, I made baskets for family, friends, and co-workers, as well as to take to gatherings to donate to events. My kids told me for decades that I should ‘sell this stuff,’ so I finally listened to them.”

chocolate candy bark flavored sweet snack mama monacelli

Nine flavors and counting: Mama Monacelli works on new candy innovations in the winter

At the time, Monacelli was winding down a 30-plus-year career in general manufacturing, manufacturing software, and consulting, and she thought that candy making would be a pleasant diversion for her upcoming retirement. In 2017, less than four months after she made this decision, she was not only licensed and running, but well beyond the dabbling or hobby stage. She found herself with a business that was taking on a life — and a very robust and growing one — of its own.

“Basically,” Monacelli wryly observes, “I flunked retirement.”

Expanding Offerings

Now, Monacelli spends her days at the Blue Mountain Station in Dayton, where she operates a commercial kitchen in back and retail store in front. Fridays and Saturdays from spring through fall, while husband Richard minds the candy shop, Nancy heads to the Walla Walla and Richland Farmers Markets. In the winter, she focuses on new product development. This is an endeavor that not only stretches creativity, but the waistband as well.

bobpop candy snack popcorn mama monacelli

Bob the family dog was instrumental in the naming — and the research and development — of Monacelli’s candy popcorn treat, BobPop

“I generally do new product development in the first quarter of the year, when things are slower, so I tend to gain weight after the holidays, unlike most folks,” Monacelli says.

“There is a fair amount of trial and error, as you might guess, and my family are my guinea pigs. They really like the batches that I declare to be failures!”

Through the years, Monacelli has developed an array of flavors, building upon the signature English toffee candy that led to her initial flunking of retirement. She has added to that Maple toffee, nine flavors of chocolate barks; two brittles; seven “enhanced” almond snacks, and BobPop, a sweet and salty popcorn treat, “with a zing.”

Bob the Dog and Candy Tasting

“For the popcorn snack, I did the R&D in my home kitchen and our dog, Bob, was the preferred guinea pig — he really likes the stuff. So, around the house, we started referring to it as BobPop.

“When I was satisfied with the recipe and ready to go into production, we tried and tried to come up with another name. Failing, we just left it at BobPop, the only product that is named after a pet!”

With each of her candy and snack products, Monacelli is adamant that the ingredients be “real.”

Keeping that in mind, she seeks out the best she can find, locally when she can. There are no artificial flavorings or ingredients.

“The decision to use real, high quality, fresh ingredients is consistent with our approach to food and life,” Monacelli says. “Our chocolates are dairy and soy free; all of our products are gluten free. We are very careful in our sourcing, and sensitive to dietary issues.”

nancy mama monacelli snack maker dayton wa

Look closely, and you can see what Mama Monacelli really looks like

In addition to selling her artisan candies through her retail site and the Farmers Markets, Monacelli offers her products at specialty shops from Chelan to Glacier National Park. She has participated in the Prosser Balloon Festival and Walla Walla Fairgrounds Enchanted Christmas Market, and looks to keep expanding, just . . . not the waistline.

The Woman Behind the Face

So — what does Nancy, Mama Monacelli, really look like? That’s a mystery that is best solved when you meet her in person. But even if she doesn’t look like the woman on the package, she is, most definitely, Mama.

“The name was my daughter’s idea.

“I have five children, four step-children, a foster daughter, countless ‘spares,’ and now their children (12 and counting). So the ‘Mama’ moniker has been well used.”

Maybe, just maybe, Mama didn’t flunk retirement after all.

Wenaha GalleryMama Monacelli’s Candy is the featured  Art Event from January 27 through February 22 at Wenaha Gallery. A large selection of chocolates, toffees, and BobPop, will be at the gallery. Samples will be available.

Contact the gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 or e-mail art@wenaha.com. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at www.wenaha.com.

cats felines animals box braldt bralds

Give Differently, and Conquer the January Blues

cats felines animals box braldt bralds

When it comes to giving, why box ourselves to a certain way of thinking? Six Pack, art print by Braldt Bralds

After the hustle and bustle and giving of the holidays, January can seem like a bleak month.

The presents are all unwrapped, some already exchanged. New Year’s Resolutions have been dutifully made with subsequent feelings of failure to come. April 15 is closer than it was last month, and the credit card bills will soon arrive.

Yep. It’s bleak.

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Every season, every month, has its moment of beauty and goodness — even January. Sleigh Ride at Apple Creek, fine art edition print by William Phillips

But it doesn’t have to be. The same feelings of joy that stem from giving and that we experienced short weeks ago, don’t have to end because the holiday hype has. And money isn’t a factor: we can give five incredible gifts year round without having to spend a cent. As an added bonus, these gifts don’t even require time. Just effort.

And because gifts are never obligatory, we don’t HAVE to do these five acts of grace. In the spirit of experimentation, however, it’s worth considering giving them a try. So . . . let’s brighten up January (and February, and beyond) by giving five things we can’t tuck inside a box:

Graceful Giving

1) Give the benefit of the doubt. We all know someone who’s chronically late, or never pays their portion of the bill, or makes promises they don’t keep. And they are irritating. But the next time irritating happens, instead of thinking,  “They did it again! I’m so TIRED of them,” we have the option to gently muse, “Hmm. Maybe there’s something going on that I don’t know about. Maybe there are hidden circumstances in their life or their background (of course there are!) that are a factor in why they do this.”

indian stories storyteller listening gift grandpa family morgan weistling

Listening is a skill that is a valuable as speaking. Indian Stories, fine art edition print by Morgan Weistling

Obviously, we don’t want to be walked over (in our society, that’s as bad as looking uncool), but we also don’t want to box people in. It’s always worth remembering that, if we have nine pieces of information out of 10 (and we usually don’t have that many), we’re missing the whole story.

2) Give it a miss. The next time we’re in a conversation, and we think up something incredibly witty that plays upon what someone just said, let’s skip saying it. Just this once, we can opt to not to be funny or amusing or witty. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with being funny or amusing or witty, but — more times than we like to think — humor is at the expense of someone else. It’s not that we’ll never ever ever in our whole life make a joke again. Just this one time.

Listening Is a Gift

3) Give an ear. Genuinely listening to another person is incredibly difficult. We frequently want to add our own thoughts, give advice, or persuade them to our way of thinking. The first element is part of making conversation, the second is worth providing only when asked for, the third can easily be dispensed with. Cultivating the ability to listen is a skill that requires daily practice.

woman giving time beauty thinking search within steve hanks art

Our heart speaks all the time, but if we don’t take time to listen, we won’t hear. To Search Within, fine art edition print by Steve Hanks.

4) Pass it on. (Yes, this is a deliberate decision to not start the sentence with “Give.” Why be predictable all the time?) All of us have items in our home that we have received good use from, but no longer need. It’s tempting to think, “This is in great shape: I could sell it for half the new price and make a little fun money.” Who can’t use a little more fun money? But then again, there are people who could really use the item we no longer need, but don’t have the money — fun or not — to buy it. Try this: ask God (or, if you’re not on speaking terms with Him, the general universe), “Do you know anyone who could use this?” and see what happens.

When We Give, We Receive Beauty

5) Give it a try. We are well trained to put ourselves, and our efforts, down. Our feet are too big, our dreams outlandish, our finances meager, our skills insufficient, our personality the wrong type, to make a difference. Bosh. If you’re used to analyzing your way through everything, ensuring that it is sensible, scientific, reasonable, or profitable enough to work, let your heart speak over your brain now and then and see what it says.

Yes, one small act of kindness makes a difference: one smile, one word of encouragement, one can of soup to the food bank, one biting back a retort, one package of toilet paper to the homeless shelter, one dollar, one letter, one hour, one idea.

The best thing about any one of these five gifts of grace is that, not only do they make a difference in the world around us, the make a change in us ourselves. And that’s a gift worth treasuring.

Wenaha GalleryThe Annual Canned Food Drive is the Art Event through January 31, 2020 at Wenaha Gallery. For every canned food item brought into the gallery through January 31, the giver receives $2 off their next custom framing order, up to 20% off total. All proceeds benefit the Dayton Community Food Bank.

Contact the gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 or e-mail art@wenaha.com. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at www.wenaha.com.