Roseville’s Cru Chocolate tastes sweets success

Karla McNeil-Rueda and Eddie Houston, founders of Cru Chocolate, at their home, Saturday, Sept. 19, 2020, while roasting cacao for the coloclate they produce at their home based cottage business. The cottage industry allows for entrepreneurs like McNeil-Rueda and Houston to make and sell an approved set of food goods from their home based endeavors. Following traditional methods from her home county, Honduras, paired with modern equipment, McNeil-Rueda says their unique chocolate tells a story of the places they’ve been and the people they’ve met.

Karla McNeil-Rueda and Eddie Houston, founders of Cru Chocolate, at their home, Saturday, Sept. 19, 2020, while roasting cacao for the coloclate they produce at their home based cottage business. The cottage industry allows for entrepreneurs like McNeil-Rueda and Houston to make and sell an approved set of food goods from their home based endeavors. Following traditional methods from her home county, Honduras, paired with modern equipment, McNeil-Rueda says their unique chocolate tells a story of the places they’ve been and the people they’ve met.

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Your first memory of chocolate depends on where you are from. It might be the milk chocolate of a Hershey bar melting on a s’more at Girl Scouts camp. It could be standing on your tiptoes to carefully pour Toll House chocolate chips into a bowl for a batch of grandma’s homemade cookies. Or it could be in the traditional manner that chocolate has been consumed for thousands of years: as a strong, rich, unsweetened (or lightly sweetened) cup of drinking chocolate.

Karla McNeil-Rueda’s exposure to chocolate was the latter. And it’s that sublime experience, very different from most Americans, that is fueling the success of her company, Cru Chocolate.

Unsweetened drinking cups were how chocolate was consumed where she was raised in the village of San Marcos de Colón in Honduras, along the southern border with Nicaragua. On visits to her grandfather’s coffee farm, she would help with milking the cows and be rewarded with a chocolate drink made with milk still warm from the cow’s teat.

Reached at her home/chocolate factory in Roseville, Cru Chocolate co-owner McNeil-Rueda talked about sacred-yet-everyday relationship Mesoamericans have with chocolate, an ingredient they created.

“There are thousands of drinks. Every town has many … when it’s cold you drink it a certain way, and then when it’s hot. You have a specific drink for each season.”

She was surprised to find when she immigrated to California in 2005 that chocolate was viewed as an ultra-sweet indulgence, rather than a nutritious substance that parents urged on to children to help them “get strong.”

A single mother of two, and a trained industrial engineer who broke barriers in Honduras as the first women to score top marks at her university, McNeil-Rueda struggled to find a job in her field in her new country.

She ruefully recounts applying for over 250 engineering jobs, and getting some favorable responses, only to have enthusiasm fade when potential employers heard her melodious accent over the phone. She took on factory work to support her family, but she found herself longing for the flexible schedule of the farming life she knew and missing time with her children.

By 2014 she had met her partner Eddie Houston in a yoga class she was teaching. He’s a computer engineer originally from Chico. They began looking for a business to start. She knew coffee well, but decided the Sacramento coffee market was oversaturated. She made chocolate for friends from cacao her mother brought from Honduras

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Planning a Garden Layout – 9 Steps to Success

Planning your garden layout is no small task and can be quite daunting even for a long time gardener. The ability to visualize color schemes and layouts will come in handy when planning. It does not matter what kind of garden you are planning. It can be a flower garden or rock garden, herb garden or vegetable garden; they are all going to need you to plan the garden layout before you do anything else.

The following are the things you have to consider when planning a garden layout:

  • The first step in planning your garden layout is to measure the dimensions to find out how much space you actually have. You have to decide how much space you want to keep as open lawn and how much you want to devote to your garden.
  • Find out plants of the flowering and non flowering varieties that grow best in your climate. This will mean less hassle in maintaining the garden successfully and also greater success in things actually growing well in your garden.
  • Do some research on the amount of sun and shade that the plants will require; which one thrive in sunlight and which ones in the shade. Then spend time tracking the path of sunlight across your yard.
  • Have you got a budget for your garden? Will the plants and other purchases you are planning fit into the budget? Be firm with yourself about sticking to the budget because it is very easy to get carried away when gardening.
  • Be realistic about how much time you can devote to your garden and then plan accordingly. If you don’t have a lot of time to spare, there really is no sense in setting up a garden that is going to take half a day every day of the week. It is better to start a small garden and slowly extend as you become more adept at maintaining it. No matter how good a gardener you are, there will always be things to learn as you go along.
  • You need to decide whether to choose a standard garden, a raised bed garden or a garden in pots.
  • How are you going to manage weed control? Are you going to use pesticides and herbicides or raise the garden naturally by managing your own compost pile? You have to plan this aspect as well so that you are prepared when the time comes.
  • Do you have pets? Is your dog liable to dig up your newly planted garden? If you have an overactive puppy it is best to fence in your garden till the dog is more mature and hopefully over the playful puppy stage.
  • Make sure you check on the water connection, the faucet locations and the hose pipes available. You should preferably have your garden as near the water supply as possible.

Put your garden layout plans down on paper and include the plants, colors, garden fixtures and anything else you have in mind. This way you will really be …

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