Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Last Halloween Review

I'm so sad to see Halloween go! I'll be giving out candy tomorrow for those few young souls still brave enough to go door-to-door. Then - poof - it will be over. But not yet!!!

Here's my last Halloween find:

I think Peeps are a riot - I love them! Soft and sweet!! Freshness is key - they are so good stale. (To me - I know some people who prefer them stale!). And I was so excited to find these Cocoa Cats - they are pretty darn good! Low calorie, chocolate flavor, and look at those little eyes and whiskers!! How can you not be entertained by these??

And here's the really cool thing!!!! My good buddy Karen has Just Born (the company that makes Peeps) as a client. I'm going to get to see the factory!! It's not open to the public, so this is pretty damn exciting!! I am so hoping I'll get to see them squeeze out the marshmallow, paint on the eyes - yay!! And I really want to eat a Peep hot off the line! Woowee!!!!

Next weekend I head up to NY for the Chocolate Show and then on the way back, I'm stopping in PA to tour the factory. I'll have some great stories to share with you when I get back!!

Here are some thoughts for Halloween:

Give out candy!!! Even if just a few kids come by - it will make their night. And it really is fun - most of them as so cute!

Eat some candy! My friend Leann at Lake Champlain Chocolates says that Halloween candy eaten on Halloween has no calories. (And she should know - she's a professional!)

Watch a scary movie! There are several on TV Halloween night - make some popcorn and have some fun.

Do something to celebrate the day - life is short!! Have some fun along the way!!

Happy Halloween!!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Halloween and Love

Thanks so much for all the comments and e-mails! You all are terrific!! Every cloud does have a silver lining - now I know how many people out there care about me. It means more than you all know.

But enough of that - this is the best candy week going! I thought in the spirit of the holiday, I would share some childhood memories with you. I bet if you read this blog, Halloween was one of your favorite holidays as a kid too! I hope this brings back some fond memories.

Halloween - to this day, my childhood memories of Halloween are my favorites. I have a little brother and we would always go Trick or Treating together. One year we went as Lady and the Tramp (I being the tramp and he being the lady - he was about 10 and it was hilarious). Seeing him walk in my Mom’s high heels was something else! Equally funny was the year I made my own robot costume - a giant box covered with tin foil. I could neither see nor run.

But Halloween was never about the costumes or the nice people at their doors, it was all about the candy for me. Beautiful, delicious, forbidden, FREE candy. The one day a year when you could go out and get everything your parents wouldn’t let you have in quantities that were unimaginable. When I was a kid, EVERYBODY gave out candy. And everybody gave something different. It was like a beautiful dream. I’m getting teary eyed just thinking about it.

My favorite part was when we got home (I always had an orange plastic jack-o-lantern to carry my candy) and sat in the middle of the living room floor and dumped out all the candy. There it was - all shapes and sizes and colors - candy you loved, candy you never tried before, and so much candy! I felt like the king of the world!!!

Of course, there can never be enough candy, so I would immediately start pressuring my brother to give me some of his candy. The wheeling and dealing would begin! He liked Pixy sticks, I liked chocolate. But I’d have to give up multiple Pixy Sticks for one miniature bar. My Dad was totally egging this entire thing on while trying to snag a piece or two for himself. I think this was the closest my family was all year - united by our fascination with and love of candy.

For days afterward I would again look at my entire haul and mourn its slow passing. I would think about my candy all day at school and couldn’t wait to get home to it. (I think I actually worshipped my Halloween candy.) Now that I look back on it, my relationship with my Halloween candy might have been the greatest love affair of my life.

Happy Halloween!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

How to Motivate Yourself or Something Scary This Way Comes

Since I'm a motivational speaker (and am usually truly in a good mood) people ask, "Do you EVER have a bad day?" Of course I do. Today was a bad day. You're going to get to watch me motivate myself out of it.

It didn't start out as a bad day - it started out as a fine day. Even driving over to the hospital I admired the gorgeous fall leaves and the fact that it was finally getting cool. I LOVE fall weather.

I was going to the hospital for a nerve conduction test - I've been having some pain in my neck and this weird tingle that radiates down the nerves of my right arm. I also have some numbness in my right thumb. I thought it might be carpal tunnel (my Mom had it and I spend a ton of time at the computer.)

They started wearing me down at outpatient registration. They always ask for an emergency contact number. Well you know what? I don't have one. My Mom passed away, my Dad isn't coming, and I've asked a friend or two and they declined. I never really need this anyway. In most emergencies, I'll just have to dial 911. And if something happens to me at THE HOSPITAL, I hope they can handle it. They have no compassion when I say I don't have one. They just look at me like I'm an idiot, a freak. I feel a little blue. I try being nicer to the lady "helping" me. I cheer her up. She says are you self employed? (Like it's a bad thing.) I say yes. She says, "Then you got this insurance on your own?" (Like My Blue Cross policy is bad because I pay for it out of my own pocket.) She asks if I have met my deductible. I say not yet. I'm starting to feel like a criminal. I say I can pay whatever you want. She says - "They want us to get $100." (What the hell? Are we negotiating? What do other people pay?) I say fine and give her the money. She seems happy because I've been so nice - I feel diminished.

A nerve conduction test is not fun, by the way. They zap several areas (in this case my hand and arm) with electric current. It's like getting a lot of shocks along already tingly nerves. Not horrible, but nothing I want to do again if I can avoid it. But I'm cheerful and joking. The technician and I talk about how decrepit we are (she's only 35), she says she's going to paint flames on her wheelchair when she gets one. After the test, the technician tells me it's not carpal tunnel - I think this is good news and am happy.

Then the neurologist comes in. He is not festive at all. He doesn't return my smile. He mispronounces my name, calling me Denischia or something weird like that. I try to joke with him about the brain embroidered on his white coat. He doesn't even crack a smile. I get nothing. After a while I just quit joking. This part of the test involves sticking long thin needles into your muscles along the nerves. It hurts, especially in your hands. I have to get needles in both sides of my hand, my forearm, my triceps, my bicep, my deltoid, and three places in my neck. I still want to joke about Halloween and him being a voodoo doctor, but I don't have it in me anymore.

The results break my heart. I already have arthritis in my hip (which on the bad days is so painful it hurts to walk, sometimes I can't sleep), the Doctor says it's arthritis in my neck. The arthritis is wearing away the cartilage cushioning the disks and they are pressing on a nerve. I am 43 years old. What do you think this means for my future?

I'm scared now. I say to the Doctor - that's horrible news, can't it be carpal tunnel? He still doesn't laugh. He just agrees - and says there's nothing you can do about arthritis. (Something I already know.) He tells me to have my Doctor schedule an MRI so he can see if they might need to do some physical therapy or maybe operate if it's a bone spur. He says do it soon. Then he's gone.

I sit there thinking about the ramifications of this diagnosis. My entire life is built around my independence and I need a freakin' spine for that! I take a deep breath and race home to call my Doctor.

I get her nurse and explain the situation and ask if they will schedule the MRI for me. The nurse is irritated by the request - she unloads on me. I don't know why these Doctors always tell patients to have US call to set these tests up! Why don't they just call? She raves on. I say, "Are you saying I need to call the Doctor?" She says, "Yes!" I say, "But he's not my Doctor, I don't have his contact information, I just went over there because you all sent me to get the test. Can you give me his information?" She raves again - I don't have it, I don't understand why he couldn't just make a phone call! I say in a wavering voice - "Please tell me what to do - this is my SPINE - this is serious." (I'm scared, I want to tell her. It's my spine - it's everything!!!) She says she'll check with the Doctor and will call me back. Like it's an inconvenience. Like I'm doing this on purpose. Like I should know better. We hang up. For the first time, I burst into tears.

I am scared and I'm alone. It sucks. (Here's where you get to watch me motivate myself out of it.)

At first I don't want to be motivated out of it, I want to have a pity party. I want to feel sorry for myself. Then I want to beat myself up and tell myself how if I hadn't left my husband, been so picky about friends, about dates, that I would have someone and I wouldn't have to worry about dealing with this by myself. Then I want to feel sorry for myself again. Then I do what works.

1.) Accept it. It is what it is. I have that damn arthritis in my damn neck - I'll get the MRI and we'll do what we can. It is what it is. If it doesn't kill me, I'm going to be one strong woman before it's over. Damn it all - I'm one strong woman NOW.

2.) Reach out. I told my friend Kristina, who's a nurse, who's already calling a neurologist friend of hers. I feel better just because she cares. And I love her take action style - it inspires me. I'm also telling you - that makes me feel better.

3.) Learn about it. I already Goggled arthritis of the neck. Okay so I'm about 25 years younger than the average arthritis sufferer, but at least I'm not alone. Information is power. Information takes away fear.

4.) Get busy. I wanted to up upstairs and have a good cry. That would have been no help at all. I decided to get the mail, write this blog, and do some work instead. It is what it is, working myself into a deeper state of misery won't change a damn thing.

5.) Eat chocolate. I had two pieces of Dove Dark chocolate (can't those damn antioxidants kill that bastard arthritis?). I swear, if I develop a chocolate allergy, that's it, I'm ending it. But until then, chocolate tastes great and is a simple pleasure I deeply enjoy. This could be music, petting your cat, looking at your garden - it really is the simple things that bring us pleasure and ground us..

6.) Be grateful. It could be worse - MS, lupus, cancer. Do enough research of symptoms on the Internet and you'll be convinced you're dying. Arthritis is funny - it comes and goes. It might get worse, it might not. Right now, it's not so bad. I have a great life that I am very thankful for.

7.) Refuse fear and self-flagellation. I do not want to be with someone just because I'm worried about facing something scary alone. And I don't want anyone to be with me because they feel sorry for me. I have always said I would rather be alone than with the wrong people and I know in my heart that is the right path for me. Does it take great courage to walk that path sometimes? Hell yes! I will NEVER settle and if it's scary sometimes, so be it. An extraordinary life was never lived because someone was avoiding fear. Extraordinary lives are all about passing through the fear to get to the other side. The side where you can really be who you are, with the people you really want to be with, in the place you really want to be. Not the place you were too scared to leave or with the people you clung to for fear of being alone.

I feel soooo much better!!!! Sometimes I lose myself and I have to take a few minutes to find myself again. You can do the same thing when you have a bad day. It just means you lost yourself for a minute. Use the tips above to recall who you really are. Carpe diem! (And to hell with arthritis!)

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Great Pumpkin Cometh

I've been having so much fun trying all the new Halloween chocolates that I have lost track of time - I mean Halloween is almost here!! I'll have to wait another year for the Halloween adventure to continue! (But Christmas is coming up, then Valentine's Day, then Easter - oh, life is good!!!)

But Halloween isn't over yet! Let me introduce you to Cocoa Dolce Artisan Chocolates and their Cranky Jack-o-Lantern Assortment:

I ordered these from Dean & Deluca, I didn't see them on the Cocoa Dolce website Love the box - nice wax stamp - cool & elegant, nice fall colors. But check out the crankies! I adore these guys!

Look at that face - very cranky! These guys are very well done - little stem, great face, pumpkin ridges - fabulous aesthetics. And now for the great news - they taste delicious! And they are the perfect size - about the size of a 50 cent piece. There are 16 crankies in a box. They are handmade with organic chocolate and they are to die for.

The dark one is orange and Cassia cinnamon-infused dark chocolate ganache. The light one is gianduja filled. (I, neophyte that I am, had no clue what gianguja was, but I liked it!). So I checked it out on Wikipeidia: Gianduja (or, more commonly, gianduia) is a sweet chocolate containing about 50% hazelnut paste. It takes its name from Gianduja, a Carnival and marionette character who represents the archetypal Piedmontese, the Italian region where hazelnut confectionery is common. Don't say I never taught you anything.

Let me tell you, these chocolates are fabulous! I checked out the Cocoa Dolce website and I am so going to order more of their great stuff!! But pace yourself - these are made of all natural ingredients, so the shelf life is not long. (I actually knew what all the words in the ingredient list were! No chemicals!)

The fillings are light and fluffy, the outer shells, firm enough to hold the design, but still luscious. I could taste all the flavors - the orange and cinnamon and the hazel nut. And I love the name! (Cranky Jack-O-Lanterns). I may have found what I've been seeking - gourmet chocolates for the non-gourmet! Delicious chocolates that don't take themselves too seriously and can be appreciated by the common woman (or man). The Great Pumpkin really does exist! Linus, you were right!

Trying new things is fun! Try something new every day this week - even if it's just taking a different way home. WAKE UP - if you do what you have always done, you may very well fall asleep and miss your life.

This week is off to a great start!! Come back for more Halloween fun!

Saturday, October 25, 2008


I went to Choctoberfest today. This was a great idea - held by a store named Ten Thousand Villages which describes itself as a Fair Trade Retailer. Their website says "Your fair trade purchase of handmade jewelry, home decor and gifts helps improve the lives of thousands of artisans in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East." Now that is a very PC idea. And hey, it sounds like capitalism to me and I'm all for capitalism.

I'll be honest, it's not really my kind of stuff. I buy things like they sell if I actually travel to the places they are made. I don't normally shop there. But I'll go anywhere for something called "Choctoberfest!" It was held to promote one of their fair trade companies - chocolatier Divine Chocolate. It was a great marketing idea. You went in and they handed you a little quiz about Divine Chocolate which could easily be answered if you walked throughout the store to find the answers. If you filled it out correctly, you got a tiny free sample.

Hey - free is good! The square was about one inch long and one half inch tall, and wrapped just like a big bar. Nice. The 70% dark was nice and smooth, but maybe a little boring? Very mild for a 70% dark. But very healthy!! And if you don't normally like dark chocolate, this may be the one for you!

They also were going to have a drawing for a cookbook, but when I tasted samples of some of the recipes, I had to buy one (I believe no chances should be taken where chocolate is concerned). These samples were my favorite thing - they were chocolate pumpkin spice cake (you know I was all over that!), No-Bake Chocolate Treats (these were like chocolate and oat balls), and I'm not exactly sure what the other two were. (I was hovering too much and I think the staff was on to me.) I think one was a zucchini chocolate cake and the other was another no-bake recipe. All were delish.

And the cookbook (The BitterSweet World of Chocolate, sumptuous recipes using fair trade chocolate) is cool - it's got great pictures of all the recipes (I HATE cookbooks with no pictures). And there are great articles and pictures about chocolate in between the recipes. (See link to your right - check it out!) Now this cookbook is $6.00 MORE at Ten Thousand Villages that it is on So much for fair trade.

Divine Chocolate had a nice display and I bought three of their bars.

I like the wrapper design - apparently those designs are traditional West African Adinka Symbols each with its own special meaning. (I have no idea what the meanings are mind you.) When you open the wrapper, the whole inside is covered with the Divine Chocolate story - heavenly chocolate with a heart. It's a great idea - growing cacao beans is hard - the trees are fragile and prices can fluctuate and it can be hard to make a living. By forming a cooperative, several Ghanaian cocoa farmers can make a living producing this chocolate and they get to decide how to reinvest the profits in their communities.

That's all good and the chocolate is very affordable compared to some other fancy bars. These were $2.75. Vosges Bacon Bar was closer to $7.00!!

I already told you my thoughts on the Divine dark bar. The silver bar in the picture is milk chocolate with crisped rice. This was my favorite. These bars are way better than say a Nestle Crunch - the chocolate is much better, much smoother, but it doesn't blow you away. The brown wrapper in the picture is Hazelnut Milk Chocolate. Not bad at all, but again, doesn't blow you away. My least favorite was the Fruit and Nut Dark Chocolate. Boring dark with not enough fruit and nuts.

The verdict - perfectly good chocolate bars, but not spectacular. If you want a reasonably priced, decent bar that helps a good cause - go Divine.

More important to me was the event itself. I wasn't there very long, but what a blast! I was introduced to a new chocolate line and learned more about cacao farming and fair trade. I tried four different chocolate treats and got a cookbook. It was fun!! I'm telling you - get a hobby that captivates you and make some time to participate in it - everyday. Pick something that you think is fun and brings you joy. This is YOUR life - when are you going to start living it?

Friday, October 24, 2008

CSI Chocolate

It's Halloween - let's get back to the morgue.

Bwah, ha, ha!!!!!

First I showed you autopsy photos of Lake Champlain Truffles, now.....

These chocolate skulls are made exclusively for Williams-Sonoma by Valerie Confections. I love the description on the box:

The wizards at artisan chocolatier Valerie Confections put the magic in the macabre with this luscious chocolate skull collection. The haunted heads are hand made in small batches from premium Guittard chocolate that is tinted with colored cocoa butter in uncanny shades of midnight, bone and chocolate. When the chocolate reaches the proper temperature, candy makers pour it into custom molds, where it takes on the creepy details of empty eye sockets and sunken cheeks. No kidding! Look at these:

Pretty dang scary, huh? Excellent look! But I have to say, not so great taste. This chocolate is hard as a rock! Probably had to be to get such detail. I mean you can see individual teeth and the lines where the plates of bone connect in the skull!!! Great for effect, but no good to eat.

Once again, don't judge a chocolate by its wrapper. It's hard to stop ourselves though, isn't it? We make our greatest mistakes with people. Give too much power to the attractive and dismiss the unattractive.

Maybe it just goes back to the fact that we can seldom have it all. Something has to be sacrificed in one area to excel in another. We have to give up a little of the taste to achieve excellence in the artistry. We have to give up a little beauty to get more compassion. Know what's most important to you when choosing a chocolate, choosing a mate or making any choice. You can't have it all and have it all now. But you can learn from every choice you make and get better and better at choosing what works for you.

Alas, poor Yorick! Here's to the fact that we're all alive, can eat chocolate, and will live another day to choose again!!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Staying Up When You're Feeling Down

I wrote this article for my newsletter and my great friend Heidi said she loved it and I should reprint it here. I hope you all like it too!

We all have those days, days when we feel blue or stuck or otherwise not so good. Well, here are my best tips to feel better.

If you are tired, get some sleep!!! Many times life is soooo much better when you’re rested.

Focus on what you have to be grateful for. This helps me every time. (Think how lucky we are - hell, if nothing else, we're still breathing! And there is chocolate! and peanut butter and pumpkin!!)

Plan something fun or exciting. I believe we have to have something to look forward to. This does not have to be expensive; it just has to be something you enjoy.

Stop looking for want you want where you know you won’t find it. Keep trying to get someone to give you love who never has before? Go to someone else. Keep going to the job you hate looking for work satisfaction? Go somewhere else.

Have something in your life that NEVER fails to make you smile. This is probably not going to be a specific person—everybody has a bad day. I’m thinking of a movie or television show you love, (for me this is chocolate - writing about it, eating it, learning about it), a snuggly blanket, being outside—I don’t care what it is. Just find it and use it when you feel bad.

Stop trying to control what you can’t. Usually for me this is other people. I am always at my saddest when I’m trying to get someone to love me. Can’t be done. Let go. Do your best with what you can control.

Know thyself. For me, sometimes the best way to feel better is to get busy. Accomplishing something makes me feel better (it also gets my mind off my troubles). Maybe this would work for you too. Or maybe you need quiet time. Know what you need and give it to yourself.

Stop comparing—yourself to others, yourself to where you thought you’d be by now, blah, blah. Comparing never helps and ALWAYS makes you feel worse. You are where you are—focus on where YOU want to be—don’t let where others are concern you.

Remember the KISS Principle - Keep It Simple, Sweetheart. The holidays are coming - do what brings you joy. If you hate to cook, don't do it! There are no Holiday Police (including your Mother-In-Law). The only measure of a successful holiday is how much joy it brought you. When I start feeling overwhelmed, I ask myself what do I REALLY need to do now? Sometimes it's work, sometimes it's exercise, sometimes I need to sleep. KISS, KISS, KISS!!!

Candy Corn Kisses - very good, but awfully sweet! So damn fun & festive!!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

True Confessions

I've always felt better after confessing my sins. If I tell my girlfriends how much I over ate, somehow I feel skinner. I can't explain it. So you, dear readers, get to be my confessors.

I chose pumpkin over chocolate today.

I know - can you believe it? I had two choices today at lunch (well, I guess I had four - no dessert (HA!), chocolate brownie, pumpkin blondie, or both!). I saw the chocolate brownie - it looked good - a nice dusting of powdered sugar, nuts - yummy. But the other "brownie" looked orange. My breath caught - could it be? I said hopefully, "Is that pumpkin?" (I mean, honestly, how often do you get a pumpkin dessert as an option?) "Yes!" Our hostess said immediately with as much excitement as I felt! She said they were great! Her eyes were sparkling.

I went with the pumpkin.

I have no regrets. It was awesome! Like a cakey, pumpkin nut blondie. Yum!!!

But I feel like I cheated on chocolate.

Oh, I can rationalize. The pumpkin is rare, seasonal. Everyone else picked brownies, they did not go uneaten.


I feel I must somehow make it up to chocolate. Maybe I can:

This is Bissinger's Pumpkin Bark and it tastes just like their description:

With real pumpkin swirled through creamy milk chocolate, our Pumpkin Bark is a delicious reminder of such cherished traditions as homemade pie.

It really tastes like pumpkin! And look how pretty it is!!

You might want to try some Bissinger's Chocolate, if you haven't. Not only is it delicious (at least the pumpkin bark is), their history is lofty (at least according to them):

The name "Bissinger" has long been linked to fine confections. The Bissinger family began creating their fine delicacies in 17th-century Paris, and at that time European nobility, heads of state, Ludwig of Bavaria and the Rothschilds were all loyal Bissinger enthusiasts. Bissinger's confections were once enjoyed by King Louis XIV and were used as a gift by Napoleon Bonaparte to his beloved Josephine upon his return from battle. In fact, Karl Frederic Bissinger, the company's namesake, was named the Confiseur Imperial, or "Candy Maker of the Empire," for excellence in the confectionery arts by Emperor Louis Napoleon.

Hey, if it's good enough for Napoleon, it's good enough for me.

It's a seasonal fling with pumpkin, my heart belongs to chocolate. (But sometimes you can have your chocolate and your pumpkin too!) Forgive me, readers, for I have sinned.....

Monday, October 20, 2008

Chocolate and Coincidence

It is said that there are no coincidences. Well, if that's the case, the Universe is telling me to write about Lake Champlain. First I see an article about the Annual Giant Pumpkin Regatta on Lake Champlain. There's a picture with the article. People in a lake sitting in giant pumpkins holding oars. Little American flags jabbed into the rear of the pumpkins. Okay, that's insane, but way festive. It reminds me I need to review those Lake Champlain Chocolates truffles.

Later I pull into my driveway and across the street there's one one of those little trucks you can rent when you decide to move yourself (another act of insanity in my book, but hey, it takes all kinds). But I notice this weird looking snake thing on it - it looks like the Loch Ness Monster. (You know how they have an image for the different states on some of these trucks?) Well, I move closer and read that this is for Vermont and is an image of "Champ" the thing people believe lives in Lake Champlain. The truck says there were over 350 sighting of this creature.

Now I don't know about you, but I REALLY wouldn't want to be in a giant pumpkin in a lake with a creature in it! But if there are no coincidences, I'm listening to the Universe and writing about Lake Champlain truffles. And since I have some of Godiva's fall truffles, I'll throw them in for comparison.

Here they all are:

The LCC truffles are on the right above the cute deer logo (one of the nice paper cups they come in). Godiva is on the left. The Godiva truffles are about 1/3rd smaller than the LCC truffles. Godiva's flavors are Pecan Pie (with the nuts), Cranberry (with the pink), and Maple Walnut (in white). LCC's flavors are French Roast (with the cool little sprinkley squares on top), Legendary Dark (the darkest one), Raspberry (with the white cross), and Hazelnut (with the cute little swirl).

***This portion of the blog contains some images that may be disturbing to some viewers.***

Here they are after the autopsy:

It's hard to tell from the picture, but the LCC truffles all look like they are filled with chocolate mousse - light and fluffy. That line in two of the Godiva truffles is a hole or a trench - it must have something to do with their production process. But it's kind of a gyp if you ask me.

Okay, let's review these bad boys. Godiva's cranberry - you only see half of it here because the chocolate crumbled when I tried to cut it. The cranberry filling is vaguely reminiscent of some berrylike thing, but it does no justice to the cranberry. I wouldn't buy this again. Pecan Pie I liked better, but it's a little salty for Pecan Pie. I'm from Georgia (where we know our pecan pie!). This needs help but shows great promise. I would get it again. Maple Walnut was definitely my favorite, but the white chocolate makes it very sweet. Would love to see it done with dark chocolate or even milk chocolate. Pass on cranberry, try Pecan Pie if you like pecans, definitely get Maple Walnut.

LCC truffles are so smooth and creamy it should be illegal. The Hazelnut is as light as air - it's like hazelnut mousse. And the hazelnut flavor is perfect, definitely there, but not overpowering. Some things made with hazelnut are too strong for me (I find hazelnuts kind of bitter). This is dreamy.

Raspberry is also very good - very subtle on the raspberry. Now this appeals to me - I find most raspberry/chocolate combos much too heavy on the raspberry. Now if you are a raspberry lover, this may be too subtle for you. I find it perfect.

Of course, I see now why I was not too crazy about the spiced pumpkin truffle from LCC. The pumpkin was too subtle for me. I want the pumpkin in my truffles to scream pumpkin, not seductively whisper it.

The French Roast is another subtle combo - if you like coffee, I think you'll really like this truffle. Not overpowering, but very flavorful. And again, all have this fluffy, almost mousse-like filling. You have to try it to really appreciate it.

And the Legendary Dark - WOW!!!! Imagine the smoothest, creamiest chocolate mousse you have ever had, then imagine it made from dark chocolate - so light and flavorful but with no bitter aftertaste at all.

If you like chocolate, stop wasting time with Godiva and order from LCC:

But stay away from the lake.

The message? Sometimes subtle is best. We Americans are not known for our subtlety. I'll be the last person to ever be described as subtle. But sometimes a whisper is so much better than a shout. A squeeze of the hand so much more meaningful than a slap on the back. Is there some area of your life you'd like to try a more subtle approach? Or maybe you've been too subtle and would like to try a stronger approach. Lake Champlain's variance on the strength of flavors creates a different outcome. Is there something you can change in your approach to create a different outcome? If there really aren't any coincidences, maybe there's something in this message especially for you.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Peanut Butter is the New Cocaine

I was going to review those fabulous Lake Champlain Truffles tonight. But my dealer, Mr. Reese, called, and when Mr. Reese calls, I listen.

I love peanut butter even more than I love pumpkin. But the peanut gets a bum rap. The botanical name for chocolate is Theobroma Cacao which means Food of the Gods. What is the botanical name for the peanut? Arachis Hypogea. Eew - that sounds like a spider. Peanut butter needs an agent.

I have yet to find anyone who does peanut butter and chocolate better than Reese's. I've been shopping this year's Halloween candy as you know. I've been eyeing the giant bags designed for Trick or Treaters, but most have some good candy mixed with some crappy candy. When I saw this one, however, I had to have it. Mr. Reese knows I'm powerless to resist him. And all of these are delish - the classic cup and Reese's Pieces need no explanation. The Fast Break is good because of the sheer quantity of peanut butter - imitators have less PB. And I'd rather have a ReeseStick than a KitKat any day. It's the peanut butter that makes the delicious difference.

I know - how common! I'm choosing the mass market candy over gourmet options. I have tried other peanut butter offerings (at much higher price points) but they usually get the mix wrong. Too heavy on the chocolate, too light on the PB. Or the peanut butter is somehow wrong - too bland.

Can peanut butter be motivational? I say yes! Here are some motivational peanut butter thoughts:

1.) Sometimes going back to the basics is best. Think of these two food items - a good old peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a bacon chocolate bar. 'Nuff said. What's our mantra? Just because you can do it doesn't mean you should. And just because something has been around for a long time doesn't mean it's bad. When it comes to candy, it's usually the opposite. Except for the Circus Peanut.

2.) The invention of peanut butter is inspirational as are all great achievements. Agricultural chemist, George Washington Carver discovered three hundred uses for peanuts and hundreds more uses for soybeans, pecans and sweet potatoes. I like all those things - George Washington Carver was da man! And this was the epitaph on his grave: "He could have added fortune to fame, but caring for neither, he found happiness and honor in being helpful to the world." Tell me that's not motivational!

3.) Peanut butter is fun! PB&J sandwiches, peanut butter cookies, Nutter Butters, the whole Reese's family, and even Mr. Peanut and the Peanut M & M - yahoo!! I'd say the peanut itself is irresistible - what could be more fun than sitting in the stands watching baseball and shelling and eating peanuts? I think the peanut should be our national legume, if we have one. Not that we really need a national legume, but the peanut should be the national something. Again, I say, the peanut needs an agent.

I am powerless over peanut butter. (Isn't that the first of the 12 steps?) In this economy, it makes much more sense to be addicted to peanut butter than cocaine.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Creative Idea for Meetings

I'm so excited! My new friend Carl Weaver at the National Confectioners Association has a great blog and he talked about me! Check it out: Carl posts some great stuff including a neat list of places to visit for candy-loving travelers. Thanks, Carl! (Somehow I think you may hear more about Carl and the NCA.)

I'm also excited because the people at the Metro Atlanta Payroll Association are so dang creative! I spoke for their group Friday and the theme of their meeting was "Constructing a Payroll Team." (Okay, that didn't really grab me either.) But what they did with it! Hardhats filled with candy, Bob the Builder stuff, nail hammering contests, orange cones and vests everywhere to pay homage to Atlanta's eternal road construction, and on and on. Even their vendors did great giveaways based on the theme - stress hammers, ADP gave away measuring tapes - it was terrific! And they had visited my website and knew I had the chocolate seminars. Look at how creative and cool this is:

White and milk chocolate tools and construction trucks - two for every attendee! (That's 200!) I also had some chocolate needle-nose pliers and a bulldozer, but I ate them on the way home. (Hey - it's a long drive from Atlanta to Raleigh!) And they were excellent! Barbara Bozeman (a very loyal association member) and her daughter made them. If you want to order something like this - call them! (Onie's Treats 770-898-6970)

I speak at many conferences and it's rare to see the theme so well done. The attendees had a blast! See how much fun chocolate is? It brings out the kid and the fun in all of us. (And how many people can say they've eaten a pair of pliers?)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Pumpkin Truffle Debacle

I read my new copy of Money magazine today and there is a section asking financial experts where they are putting their money right now. Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist, Standard & Poor's Equity Research says, "...But if I did anything now, I'd be letting my emotions rule my investing decisions. I cope with the stress by eating chocolate." Yay, Sam!!!! See, dear readers, in times of stress and doubt - turn to chocolate!!

I have mentioned several times in this blog how much I love pumpkin. I really do. I love pumpkin so much that I consider canned pumpkin (not the pie mix, just the pumpkin), with a dash of pumpkin pie spice, and several tablespoons of Splenda, a delicious dessert. This is hardcore.

So I have REALLY been looking forward to today's blog. I have a spiced pumpkin truffle from Lake Champlain's fall collection, one from Godiva, and one from Knipschildt Chocolatier for Dean and Deluca.

Let's talk art first. Here are the respective packages:

I have to say I like them all, although all are very different. I love the color on the Lake Champlain box, I like the cute foil wrapped "pumpkins" of Godiva, and I love the description and the cool handmade paper looking box for the Knipschildt truffles (although the box has a closure method that looks great but is horrible in execution).

I'm excited, they all look really good, let's get them out of the boxes:

Everybody is still looking good - see the cute leave and little coil stem of the Godiva pumpkin?

Here they are all naked. The Lake Champlain truffle was the largest - also twice as big as the Knipschildt truffle. I still like them all - cute pumpkin seed on the Knipschildt, nice drizzle on Lake Champlain, cinnamon on Godiva.

Let's see what they look like on the inside:

I can really smell the pumpkin now! Although Lake Champlain doesn't look very pumpkiny. The color actually winds up reflecting the various tastes very well. Knipschildt tasted the most like pumpkin, only lightly spiced as the description on the box says. Godiva started off strong - I really liked more spice (cinnamon, nutmeg) with the pumpkin. But just as I was really enjoying it, I noticed a weird aftertaste, like sour milk. What the heck? I actually ate another one to make sure I wasn't crazy and sure enough - it was there again. What a disappointment!!

But wait, there's still Lake Champlain, the biggest truffle!! Yay! After some palate cleansing, I take a bite and the chocolate coating is definitely the best, and it is very light and fluffy, but wait....pumpkin? Where's the pumpkin? It's so subtle I can't taste the pumpkin. I check the box to make sure I got the right truffle, it says I did. I'm disappointed.

As far as pumpkin truffles go, my favorite was the Knipschildt truffle. But the truth is, I won't buy any of them again. I would buy Godiva if it didn't have that awful aftertaste or Knipschildt if it had a little more spice. Just goes to show you, you can't judge a pumpkin by it's patch!

But here's the good news! (I still have more Lake Champlain chocolate left!) and I discovered a new chocolatier: And who can worry about the stock market when they are sampling pumpkin truffles?? Life is short! Have fun!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Choice Overload by Queen

Here are my promised tips on what to do to avoid CO (CHOICE OVERLOAD):

1. Choose before you go.

Narrow your choices before you get in the DS (DANGEROUS SITUATION). Now, the DS will vary for each of us. My DS is exposure to sweets (candy stores, bakeries, Cheesecake Factory, food festivals, all-you-can-eat's a wonder I can leave the house!) Your DS may be shoe sales or hardware stores or car lots or electronics stores. You know what your DS is. The more you like something, the more likely you are to get drawn into CO.

Let's work through this. If I had decided I would allow myself to buy five candy bars and picked the flavors or the chocolate makers in advance, I would have been okay. I usually do a good job with this - I know what car I want before I get on the lot. I know what computer I want before I go to the store. There's no CO because I've already made my choice.

2. Learn from your past poor choices.

We tend to repeat the same mistakes. We choose the same type of person to have relationships with - even though that type of person has broken our hearts before. We buy clothing because it is on sale but we never wear it. My favorite example of this involves my brother. (Big sisters remember everything.) My father, brother and I were at a restaurant and the waiter had brought out the dessert tray. My brother and I both chose a dessert. After taking a bite, my brother realized he didn't like his. My Dad calls to the waiter, "Bring back the dessert tray!" The waiter does so. And my brother picks the EXACT SAME DESSERT. A family legend was created.

3. Set a deadline for your decision.

At some point the Law of Diminishing Returns kicks in. How many hours can I devote to examining the chocolate bars in A Southern Season? How many vehicles do you need to test drive before you buy one? People can spend HOURS scouring the Internet for a better deal on something, but is it really worth three hours of time to save $15? If CO has kicked in, set a deadline for deciding. Give yourself two more websites or 15 more minutes - save yourself from CO!!

4. You don't need it all and you don't need it now.

I love that commercial where the guy goes to the electronics store to get a new TV, and you hear the song lyrics "I want it all and I want it now!" The guy has the kid-in-a-candy-store look. That was me in A Southern Season. That's me when I'm standing before the dessert section of an all-you-can-eat buffet. That's you in your DS! When you start hearing that song, slap yourself, HARD. Chances are pretty good that you don't NEED any of it, and you sure as hell don't need it all now.

5. Think about the outcome you want.

When I find myself contemplating buying a certain piece of clothing, I'll stop and think about my real life. Not the fantasy life where I go to lots of hip events wearing gorgeous, sexy clothes. The real life that's spent at the gym or giving a speech or sitting around in sweats. It's like throwing cold water over your CO. You might be fantasizing about that cute sports car, but if you have three kids, it ain't happening. Take the choices that won't really work off the table.

6. Don't get drawn into choices that don't matter.

I ordered office supplies online the other day. I got some paper clips. I wound up thinking about paper clip sizes and colors and finishes. It doesn't matter! I should have slapped myself.

Tomorrow we go back to Lake Champlain Chocolates!! I want it all.......

Monday, October 13, 2008

My Brain on Chocolate

Due to my inability to control myself with Lake Champlain's Organic Milk Chocolate with Almonds and Sea Salt, I have to cut back tonight. That's what I get for writing an entry about eating chocolate and not getting fat. Now I have to walk my own talk. What the hell was I thinking?

Luckily I have a great episode to share with you that illustrates how the crazy human brain works (or, in this case, maybe doesn't work). You may have read about the scientific studies done on the impact of too many choices on the human brain. The study usually cited involves the sale of jams (or jellies - I really don't know what the difference is and let's not even talk about preserves or marmalade). Barry Schwartz, in his book The Paradox of Choice, covers this idea like, well, like jelly on white bread. (Bwah, ha, ha!)

Here's how it works - imagine you are at some fancy, schmancy food fair and there is a table selling fancy, schmancy jams (or whatever the hell it is). One table has six different types of jam; one has 24 different types. Which table sells more jam? (No, this is not the SAT).

The one with 6! 30% of people buy there, only 3% buy at the table with 24!! 27% more people buy at the table with fewer choices! This is huge!! Schwartz refers to this section of his book as "Why Choice is Demotivating."

Bah! you may be thinking. Those food fair people are obviously plebs who don't appreciate fruit embalming artistry when they see it! More is always better! America is built on this idea - why else do we have hundreds of types of EVERYTHING? Seriously, think of all the brands of everything from breakfast cereal to toilet paper. Even paper clips come in different sizes, colors, coatings - good grief!

Sure, you feel that way until it happens to you. You celebrate, rejoice, revel in choice until you experience CHOICE OVERLOAD (CO) and your brain literally freaks out. This happened to me, dear readers, AND IT CAN HAPPEN TO YOU!

I was worshipping in A Southern Season, aka Mecca for foodies. This place is gigantic and has huge sections for tea, coffee, wine, a bakery, a deli, an aisle solely devoted to hot sauces - you get the picture. Just about anything you might want from anywhere in the world that is food related is here. My favorite section is the candy section. Now don't be thinkin' these are some puny sections. A Southern Season has a candy section that is easily the size of three or four typical candy shops. They have a wall of jelly bellies, a full service chocolate counter, aisle and aisle and aisle of cookies, caramels, gummies, chocolates, marzipan - it's like Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory - but no Ooompa Loompas, and, uh, no factory. Whatever - it's cool!!!!

I was doing okay - my basket was packed, but I was still sharp. Lots of choices, but no overload. I was buying; I was happy; life was good. Hell, life was GREAT! Then I hit the chocolate bar display.

Bars were displayed up to the ceiling - there were thousands of them. Every brand and flavor I had ever heard of and many I hadn't. We're not talking grocery check-out aisle candy bars - we're talking gourmet candy bars from all over the world. All kinds of flavors and shapes and sizes and colors. Milk, dark, white - in all their variations and percentages. That's when it happened. That's when I went into CHOICE OVERLOAD.

My eye balls bugged, I moved from one end of this fantastic display to the other, picking up bars and putting them down. My heart was racing, I was babbling to my friend Carole Walker - "I can't decide there are so many - what to get - I already have so many at home - but I want to try these - look at this - who would have thought of this - but oh - this sounds great" - all the while pacing like a wild animal up and down the aisle. I don't know if choice was demotivating me - it was more like over motivating me. I was totally overloaded. If I was a cartoon character, smoke would have been coming out of my ears. And you know what the caption would read?

Overmotivated by Chocolate

What to do about CO or in this case, OC? Stay tuned!!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Organic Chocolate Revisited

After my rant about Dagoba (as you may remember I was not only disappointed in their chocolate but also in the preachy save-the-earth messages in their wrappers), I was contacted by Leann VanDerHeyden, the Marketing Director at Lake Champlain Chocolates (LCC). She asked if I would consider giving their organic chocolate a try.

I'm no fool - I didn't miss a beat and told her heck, yes! I would love to! Who turns down the chance to try new chocolates? She sent a box of goodies right out and told me to be honest - they wanted the feedback. goes!!

We'll start with these - they are a great size - about 1.25 inches by 1.25 inches. A perfect tasting square. The problem with a lot of chocolates is you have to buy a whole big bar just to try a new flavor. These are also very elegant, there's a lovely gold embossed wrapper around each one. No preachy messages. And the LCC cool little deer logo is stamped on each one - a nice touch. You could leave these squares on pillows in fancy hotels. Okay - so they have the aesthetics down.

Now, let me tell you how they taste:

Um....they're pretty damn good! There are (were) four flavors in the box. Let's start with my favorite - milk chocolate, sea salt and almonds. Love it!!! I love almonds anyway, but the touch of salt really makes this different than the typical bar. Excellent. I ate all of these first.

The other thing I liked about these was the chocolate was very creamy and smooth. Now those of you who like their chocolate so dark it's like chewing cocoa nibs, this may not be for you. The dark is only 55% cocoa content (but that's dark enough for me!).

My second favorite is the dark chocolate spicy Aztec. These are spicy - but the cayenne pepper is perfectly balanced with the cinnamon, so it's sweet. Some similar bars go too heavy on the pepper. They also have pumpkin seeds in them which I also like

The milk chocolate and dark chocolate square are also delish. The dark has no bitter aftertaste, the milk is smooth and creamy. And hey - they're organic! Forget Dagoba, you want to try organic chocolate, go with Lake Champlain

We'll talk more about Lake Champlain Chocolates tomorrow.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

How to Eat Chocolate and Not Get Fat

Some of my readers have been asking me how I can eat all this chocolate and not gain weight. Usually the question goes something like "How can you eat all this chocolate and not get fat, you bitch?" Okay, not the "you bitch" part - no one ever says that (out loud anyway).

I wish I could say I can eat anything I want and never gain an ounce! HA! I WISH! I would give just about anything for that - I love to eat! There was a time when I actually could do that - about TWENTY years ago! I used to be able to run, now I have arthritis!! ARTHRITIS!! I'm only 43!

Now, before you start envisioning me as about 90, here's a recent pic:

Here are my tips:

1.) You gotta pay to play. If you want to eat chocolate (or other sweets, or cheese, bread, nuts, pizza - let's face it, just about anything good!) you are going to have to either cut back elsewhere or exercise. No other options exist.

2.) Keep a food journal. For this to work, you have to know how many calories a day you can eat and not gain weight. The Mayo Clinic has a great calculator: Keep track of everything you eat. Hey, you asked!! Yep, I do this. If I ate everything I wanted, I'd get fat. This helps me make better choices.

3.) I exercise A LOT. I walk 5 miles a day five times a week. I also wear a heart rate monitor to make sure I keep up the pace. This takes about an hour and 20 minutes and burns 500 calories. I also lift weights and do a killer ab workout. Don't have time for this? DON'T EAT SO MUCH. That's it - either or. I like to eat, so I exercise. The benefits? My good cholesterol is almost 100 - my Doctor loves me. And I sleep like the dead. Having trouble sleeping? Exercise!

4.) I weigh myself almost every day. I overeat sometimes - doesn't everybody?? I try not to beat myself and get back on track ASAP. If I get 5 pounds over where I want to be, I tighten up the calories, maybe add a day of exercise. The key is to stop the weight gain before it gets out of control and you get discouraged and overwhelmed.

5.) I taste a lot of these chocolates, but if they're no good, I spit 'em out! (I know - maybe too much information, but...I'm not getting fat for Russell Stover! Now, Reese's......)

6.) There are some great things out there that don't have a lot of calories. Some of my favs are Vitalicious muffin tops and brownies. For only 100 calories, these are a gift from the diet gods!! Hated the bran, loved the chocolate and corn muffins. Also Jello has some sugar free puddings (in the refrigerated section of the grocery store) for only 60 and 70 calories that are great!!

7.) I keep the REALLY tempting stuff out of the house. I can't resist cakes and cookies, donuts, ice cream - I just can't do it. Little Debbie is the Spawn of Satan. If I were to buy a box of Swiss Cake Rolls, I would eat all of them. I can, however, limit my chocolate consumption (most of the time). Know what you can't resist and cast out those demons!

8.) Keep it real. I'm no size two and I never will be. Supermodels and actresses look like skeletons to me. Don't compare yourself to them. Just decide what weight works for you - a weight that allows you to have some chocolate if you want some. Part of the joy of living is eating! Healthy and happy is ALWAYS better than skinny. (Hey, a few extra pounds hides the wrinkles!!)

Follow these tips and you CAN have your chocolate AND fit into your jeans!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Eggs, Radioactivity and Chocolate

The Cadbury's Egg reigns supreme. Even at Halloween.

My "friends" (and I am using that term more and more loosely) at Russell Stover tired to get on the egg bandwagon with the following two offerings:

Buzzard Eggs. Normally I would applaud such creativity. But once you've had a Cadbury Creme Egg, you can't accept second rate imitators. If you're going to shamelessly steal someone else's candy, you should do it better!! Of these two, the vanilla and chocolate is better. But it's a far cry (or should I say, squawk) from the delectable Cadbury Egg. The egg where you can bite off the top and see the yolk and lick out the creamy center. Yum!! (Excuse me, I'm having a Cadbury's moment.)

This egg is coated with that lame RS chocolate and as soon as you bite it, the whole thing breaks. You have gooey buzzard yolk all over your hand. Ugh. The chocolate/vanilla ooze tastes good, but who wants to lick it off their hands? The marshmallow caramel is, well, just creepy. The marshmallow is spongy, and with the caramel oozing around it...let's just say you don't want to eat this.

Now here's where it really gets weird.

Here's a naked Buzzard Egg:

Now it was really hard to get a good shot of this, but do you see those wavy EASTER EGG lines? Who decorates Buzzard Eggs? Was Russell Stover too lazy to make a new mold for Halloween? I say if you're going to try and pull off something as stupid as a Buzzard Egg at least lose the Easter Egg mold! Boo! If you have crappy tasting chocolates, at least get with the aesthetics! And hey, why not vulture eggs? It is Halloween, after all. These eggs suck.

I have another boo (both on the flavor and aesthetics ratings):

I like the bats on the wrapper. And these aren't bad, they just aren't as good as milk chocolate Kit Kats or dark chocolate Kit Kats. I think this coating is too sweet - I really missed the milk chocolate. Also the orange is a bit disturbing - you open it and you're startled - it's kind of radioactive looking. Great to give to the Trick or Treaters, but Kit Kat can do better.

I am so having a blast this Halloween!! All these fun things that only come around once a year! You just have to try them!! I'm also especially delighted this time of year because so many things come out with pumpkin flavors! I LOVE pumpkin!! I also like cinnamon and nutmeg, those flavors get more play in the fall too. And maple and brown sugar! How good is life?

I'll hope you'll join me in savoring the fall and the holidays this year. I'm not going to worry about what I can't control, but I am going to celebrate the changing of the seasons (and of the candy aisle!). Life is good!! But Buzzard Eggs are bad, very bad.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Why the Pumpkin Patch Face-Off was Motivational

I promised I would give you motivation and chocolate, and you may be thinking that all I've delivered in the last two blog entries was chocolate carnage. But there is a method to my madness. Hopefully you laughed at some point or maybe at least cracked a smile. I can promise you I was laughing. And that is the point.

I have come to the scary realization that adults have no idea how to have fun any more. I'm not kidding. I gave my "Motivation by Chocolate" seminar last week, and as one of the exercises asked my attendees to write down several (I gave them 10 blanks, how optimistic of me) things they like to do for fun. I fully expected them to start writing. They all sat looking at me as if I had asked them to jot down the Pythagorean Theorem. In fact, they would have probably preferred that.

I even tried to start their engines, gave them my ten ideas for fun. Not a lot of movement. Maybe some uncomfortable shifting in their seats. What I discovered was that they couldn't give themselves permission to have fun.

Let's face it - there is a world economic crisis, an important election, a war on, the planet is dying!! Have fun? How selfish. Shouldn't we be digging out a landfill somewhere? Who can think of fun??

Here's my response - it better be you and it better be now.

Do what you can about the above and let them go. I plan to vote (if campaigning for your candidate is fun - rock on, add it to the list and do it!), but I don't like politics. I'm voting and letting the outcome go. I always manage my finances wisely, I will continue to do that and I'll let it go. My worrying isn't going do a damn thing for Wall Street. As far as the war goes, I'll send my care packages, hope for the safety of our troops, thank every service member I see, and let it go. As far as the planet, I'll recycle what I can, use water more wisely, but I'm not lying awake at night. Do what you can and let it go. Could I do more? Sure. But going down that road is what's stressing everyone out. We can always do more, work more. It's why a group of adults has no idea how to have fun anymore. They have the entire weight of the world on their shoulders. They've taken on responsibility for the entire planet!! Well, Atlas, it's time to shrug.

Do what you can and then have some fun! Pushing yourself harder and worrying yourself sick won't improve the quality of your life. But easing up a little, building in some fun, will.

What do you think is fun? Here are my ten - you better come up with your own ten. NOW! What? Are you going to wait until you're dead to have fun? Seriously, if you wait until the economy is perfect, there's world peace, and the government gets its act together, you'll be long dead before you have a bit of fun. Stop waiting and start living.

1. candy - I think eating, finding and blogging about candy is fun. How fun is this?

2. reading - I love to read, especially mysteries. I download books on my IPod and listen as I do the third thing.
3. walking - I love to be outside and I like to move.
4. shopping - I don't have to buy anything - I just like to look.
5. travel - I don't have to go far, but I like to see new things.
6. television - I won't lie - I love to watch Mad Men, The Closer, and Law and Order. I usually do this while I'm shopping on the Internet. Wheeee!!!!!!!!!!
7. yard art - I don't have any, but looking at it makes me laugh. I saw a chicken in a yard that was taller than a man! THAT is funny! All you have to do is see yard art - it is too much fun.
8. talking to or emailing my friends - I need to make more time for this. My friends are fun. Those that aren't are no longer my friends. Hanging out with those who bring you down is not fun.
9. taunting small children - really, I do like playing with kids - they crack me up. Of course, I get them all riled up and then leave. Wheeee!!!
10. magazines - I know, this is like reading, but not really. I like looking at the pictures and seeing what's current. It's not as in-depth as reading. It's more fluff.

You don't have to agree with or even approve of my list - it's just a random list of things I like, that are fun to me. I'm telling you - make your list and then ALLOW YOURSELF to do some of the things on it. Every day. If you don't have at least 5 minutes for sheer fun everyday, you need to step back. Why are you running so hard? What destination are you trying to get to? Life is short and it passes so quickly. What you'll remember most is all the fun you had. Or didn't have.

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Great Pumpkin Face-Off Part Two

We're back to the Pumpkin Patch, dear readers, and we have the real heavy weights in this face-off! In the far right corner, we have one of my favorites, The Reese's Pumpkin:

The crowd here in the Pumpkin Patch is going wild!! Do you see who has joined the Reese's Pumpkin? The KING SIZE Reese's Pumpkin!!!! And for those of you who love and worship peanut butter as I do, this is as close to heaven on earth as you may get. One bite of the King Size and I didn't want to stop! Now here's the danger - 340 calories, this, my friends, is a heavy weight. But (Heidi, I love you, so stop reading here!) well worth 10 of those wretched Russell Stover pumpkins! SMACK DOWN!

Now in the far left corner, we have another entrant to the Pumpkin Wars, another big-time favorite:

The Snickers Pumpkin!!! And the crowd goes crazy!! Peanuts, caramel, creamy nougat - and so fresh!! These pumpkins are all right out of the patch and melt in your mouth. It makes you realize what a difference freshness makes - WOW! Both these pumpkins are fantastic, but this is a no holds barred match, and when the bout begins, Snickers gets naked!

The crowd goes crazy and starts chanting, "Take it off!" "Take it off!" Reese's feels compelled to follow Snickers' lead, and in a show of support, is joined by KING SIZE in the baring of chocolate:

As you can see, this was an ill conceived move on the part of the Reese's Pumpkin. The Snickers Pumpkin has a clearly defined, cool jack-o-lantern face, ridges, a stem, and the poor Reese's pumpkin is, well, a blob. With a stem. Maybe.

Look how big KING SIZE is, by the way. YUM! That, my friends, is a whole lotta peanut butter.

It's still a close match - Snickers has crushed Reese's on aesthetics, but Reese's is soooo good! And who cares about aesthetics? This ain't no stinkin' art museum! At the end of the day, when it comes to chocolate - it's all about the taste.

But, as KING SIZE, is about to cheat and dive onto the Snicker's Pumpkin from the ring ropes, the Mars Marketing Machine pulls up and mentions the website listed on the Snickers Pumpkin wrapper

Uh-oh - marketing is in the Patch! And this is a way cool site - loads of great looking recipes, fun activities made out of candy, even M & M e-cards. It's a marketing SMACK DOWN!! KING SIZE falls too slow, melts to the mat, and the Snickers Pumpkin wins!!!

But Reese's isn't dead yet! Check out the Boo Crew!

That's a Frankenstein, a vampire, and a witch (more chocolate than the Reese's Pumpkins, but still good. And underneath the foil, also blobs.) I think we'll have to call this match a draw. After all, there's room in the Patch for more than one pumpkin.

I'll tell you why this is motivating in the next blog. (Besides the fact that I am now on a sugar high.)

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Great Pumpkin Face-Off

I want to like Russell Stover chocolate. It's an American company that bought Whitman's in 1993. I remember my Mom getting a Whitman's sampler at just about every major holiday. My brother and I usually raided it, even smashing some of the chocolates to see what was in them before committing to one. (We hated the creams.) I look back at my behavior in horror. My poor Mom!! No wonder I have no children - I don't want their grubby little fingers in my chocolate. But I wildly digress.

I do want to like Russell Stover's. They are the nation's largest manufacturer of boxed chocolates. I want to support American chocolate makers. Earlier this week I was in my local Hallmark store and saw their festive Halloween offerings. (I am always distracted by colorful, shiny candy wrappers.) I was told by the sales clerk that a customer had said the Russell Stover Peanut Butter Ghost "blew away" Reese's Peanut Butter Pumpkin. What? Them thar's fightin' words!!

Well, Pilgrim, we'll just see about that:

I have been wrong many, many times in this blog. My preconceived notions have often been blow away when confronted with reality. But not this time!!! I'm sticking with the Great Pumpkin. It's just loaded with Peanut Butter - I love it! The Ghost peanut butter may have been a little smoother, but I prefer the Reese's. The Pumpkin says PEANUT BUTTER! The Ghost says peanut butter. Go with what works for you.

But I'm not done with Russell Stover yet. They had to try and jump into the pumpkin patch with the following:

A Caramel Pumpkin, a Marshmallow Pumpkin, and a Caramel Marshmallow Pumpkin. Someone else we know also has a Marshmallow Pumpkin:

Now just look at those wrappers! Look how cute and innocent Russell Stover's Pumpkin looks. Hershey's Pumpkin looks like it just might kick some butt. It's Cage Match time!!!

Sorry, Russell Stover - you lose. Russell Stover's chocolate cracks and crumbles the minute you take a bite. It's no good. Hershey's pumpkin is just way better. Of the three Russell Stover Pumpkins, Marshmallow Caramel is the best. The Caramel alone is a little too hard and the chocolate crumbles off. So far, Russell Stover has yet to offer anything I think is really great. I'll keep trying, but so far, unimpressive.

They are going to be in real trouble when all the people who buy Whitman's Samplers die off. Get with it, RS or you're going to get gobbled up in the candy wars. (You read it here first!)

Now let's not kid ourselves, marshmallow doesn't have a whole lot of flavor. If you want something really good, get thee a Reese's Pumpkin and don't even waste your time with marshmallow.

Stay Tuned for MORE from the Halloween Pumpkin Patch!! There are two more contenders for the heavy weight title!!