Saturday, August 30, 2008

Of Bears and Fish

So many people (okay, two) asked about where to find the Chocolate Goldfish, that I must reveal my source - Target! I actually went there today to double check. While there, I decided to get some Chocolate Teddy Grahams to compare them. The Chocolate Goldfish are still on top! They are a bit sweeter AND you can have 50 Goldfish for 140 calories and only 24 Teddies for 130 calories. (And there's something about that Goldfish smile I just can't get enough of!) There are a whole bunch of games on the Teddy Grahams website, but the bear is no motivational speaker. Again, go with the Goldfish.

Not only does Target have the Chocolate Goldfish, they also have the Honey Goldfish (remember they are actually called Goldfish Grahams, but that ain't working for me). These are good too! Pepperidge Farms - you rock!!

While I was trolling Target for more new chocolate treats to review, I recalled that one of my seminar attendees was raving about a new chocolate Chex Mix. There are several - Chocolate Turtle, Chocolate Peanut Butter (I have GOT to find that!), and Dark Chocolate. There are also some 100 calorie packs - Chocolate Caramel (I found these). I also found some Chocolate Chunk Chex Mix bars.

I'm holding out hope for the regular Chex mixes - low cal Chocolate Caramel was good. Did it blow me away? No. I'd rather have Chocolate Goldfish. But if you like Chex Mix, I think you'll like this. The bars, however, are horrible. They have some kind of weird plasticy aftertaste. Yuck. There are some great cereal bars out there - Cheerios has an awesome one - but this one is very, very bad. Definitely goes in the "just because you can do it doesn't mean you should" category.

The best lesson of this blog for me has been the fun of having a new hobby. I give a training session on stress reduction and one of the things we discuss is how important is it for adults to have fun and to have a hobby or interest outside of work they enjoy. I love searching for new chocolate treats and writing about them! What activities do you have in your life that you think are fun? Do you make time to engage in them? Do you need to find some new ones? Sometimes the things that were fun get boring - we get used to them. Maybe you need something new to make you smile. Life is short - and how fun yours is is up to you! And that's not just Fishful Thinking! ; )

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Oceans of Chocolate Optimism

I just tried Chocolate Animal Crackers by Kraft. These are the animal crackers most of us grew up with - they come in the cool package that looks like the circus train. I got them for the sole purpose of comparing them to the Chocolate Goldfish. I secretly thought they might be better. (I don't know why I seem to be so skeptical of the Chocolate Goldfish - I have eaten them and they are good!) The animal crackers were not as good - less sweet - more crackery. But better shapes! But not smiley faces. Get the Goldfish.

On the ChocoTour I got some Stauffer's Chocolate Animal Crackers - they rank somewhere between the Chocolate Goldfish and Barnum's Animals Choco Crackers (the official name for the Kraft crackers). Stauffer's base is in York, PA but you can't tour their factory, so I didn't go there. (I want to see stuff being made! I'd love to see dough being pressed out of little animal molds! Whee!!) They claim to have started making animal crackers back in 1871. Now, they are just a division of the Meiji Company of Japan. Wah - that makes me sad. Anyway, Pepperidge Farms is kicking their butt in the chocolate-cracker-in-an-animal-shape department. Go Team USA!

Stauffer's does, however, have some exciting stuff on their website including this important information:

What is the difference between a cookie and a cracker?

Stauffer's Animal Crackers have less sugar and shortening than cookies. Animal Cookies, another Stauffer's product line, have slightly less flour than animal crackers. Animal crackers have a layered dough, which gives the crackers a crunchy and delicate texture. Break an animal cracker in half and you will see layers.

Holy cow-shaped cracker! This is like cookie geology! I bet Animal Cookies are really good.(Here's the deal though - they have WAY more calories than animal crackers - it's all that sugar and lard.) Again, get the Goldfish.

Now here's something truly amazing! There's a whole special Goldfish website (the chocolate ones aren't even on there yet - we are soooo cutting edge!). And they have a special program called Fishful Thinking (I kid you not) and this is what they say about it:

The Fishful Thinking program provides the tools parents need to teach their kids how to think optimistically about themselves and how to use their Optimism to overcome life's obstacles, persist in the face of adversity, and transform setbacks into manageable challenges. By teaching kids Optimism today, we are equipping them with the skills and strategies they can rely on to shine in the face of adversity for the rest of their lives.

Chocolate Goldfish are motivational speakers!!! Who knew?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

As Close to Seafood as Chocolate Should Ever Come

Just when you think you have it all figured out, you realize you know nothing.

I was prepared for Chocolate Goldfish to be horrible. I like the little Goldfish crackers, but after all, they are a cheese thing or a cracker thing. I guess it's somewhat hard to figure out exactly what Goldfish do well. They really aren't the greatest cheese item ever or the best cracker ever.

Regardless, I was ready to write a scathing blog about how Pepperidge Farm should stick to what makes Goldfish great - cheese. I was ready to relive my former erudite comments about Pez and gum not venturing into chocolate, about staying true to what made them good and not trying to be chocolate. I was ready to rock and roll!

Then I ate a Chocolate Goldfish. It was good. I ate more Chocolate Goldfish. They too were good.

I was wrong about the Chocolate Goldfish.

Actually these are Goldfish Grahams and the ones I tried just happened to be the chocolate ones. (They also come in honey and cinnamon, but when there's chocolate, why bother?) And, dear reader, I bought them with you in mind. I can now rationalize any chocolate purchase I make - it's research for the millions reading this blog everyday. I'm boldly tasting chocolate so you don't have to! (Hopefully I saved you from Weight Watchers Boston Cream Pie yogurt.)

The Chocolate Goldfish (I like that name better than Goldfish Grahams - it gives chocolate the attention it deserves) are actually good. And 50 (yes fifty!) of them only have 140 calories! And they are made with whole grain! And they have a little smiley fish face on every one. In fact, the whole experience has caused me to re-evaluate what makes Goldfish great. It's not the cheese or the cracker - it's the size and shape! That's what makes them fun to eat! And that's what makes the Chocolate Goldfish good. They are not the greatest little chocolate cookie/cracker things ever, but they are good. And they are a fun shape. And you can eat lots of them! Whee!!!

I also think these would be great sprinkled over ice cream, sprinkled in a peanut butter sandwich, mixed in with vanilla yogurt, stuck in raw cookie dough - oh, the epicurean delights!

So try not to be as judgemental as I am - a product may indeed hold qualities you didn't even appreciate until you experienced it in a different format. Something you don't like may be good in another recipe. A person may have qualities you don't appreciate until you see him or her in a different setting.

And if you still don't like something or someone, there are plenty of other fish in the sea! Bwah, ha, ha!!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Do This One Thing

If you watch nothing else on television this year, watch the Mad Men Marathon, Sunday August 31st on AMC starting at 5:00 p.m. EST. You can catch the entire first season in one night!

I've blogged about Mad Men before, and I can't help myself from doing it again. I think it is one of the most well done, thought provoking shows I've ever seen. It's set in the 60s and they pay serious attention to detail - the costumes, the furnishings, the personal habits - fascinating! Plus advertising is an exciting world and this is set in an ad agency. You have the thrill of going after a big account, the struggle of creative genius, and all the drama of a workplace where you now have women.

I also like the struggles of the characters - they just unfold and you're really not sure what's going on in the character's head. Peggy, one of the only women to rise out of the secretarial pool, was impregnated by a co-worker. She never told him and "went away" to have the child. He is now struggling with his wife to have children. Peggy seems to have no emotional connection whatsoever to the child which is being raised by her sister. Our star Don Draper is a notorious womanizer who struggles to be a family man. You want to hate him, but he's so human (and yet inhuman - you have to watch the show to know what I mean) you can't.

What does this have to do with motivation? Everything. The show is about how all of us hide, defend, pretend - do anything to hide our deep need for love and connection. The characters joke, lie, drink, have sex - do just about anything to either hide or fulfill their needs. They try to fit into roles prescribed by society that don't always fit them. And they don't know how to be outside of those roles. It's a terrific show - and it makes you realize how needy and mysterious all of us can be.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Ice Cream Heaven and Hell

Yes, dear readers, I am keeping you on the cutting edge of America's cravings. Yesterday I talked about the expanding and exciting candy aisle. Today USA Today devoted an entire FOUR pages to dessert! One of the headlines reads "Despite diets or budgets, America will always make room for dessert." Yay!

Some of the desserts are wacky and exotic (just like some of the new chocolate bars), some are just down home delicious (also like some of the chocolate bars). USA Today highlighted the South, Chicago and New York City. I'm proud to say the South has what looks best to me - peanut butter pie, cream cheese pound cake, giant chocolate cake. Chicago has some desserts that scare me - one involves pop rocks, another lots of lavender (ugh). New York, of course, has it all.

If you have a spare $25,000 you can go to Serendipity3 in NYC and get a sundae - a blend of 28 cocoas, covered in 23K edible gold-infused whipped cream, topped with the most expensive chocolate in the world (La Madeline au Truffle) served in a goblet lined with chocolate. An 18K gold and 1K white diamond bracelet decorates the base of the goblet - and you get to keep that, as well as an 18K gold spoon encrusted with black, white and chocolate diamonds. Whoa - girls, this creates a whole new potential for the words "Sugar Daddy."

I guess I'm just not sophisticated - some of the wild new flavors just don't to it for me - especially when they start messing with ice cream. USA Today asks a question I'm sure I will use again - "Just because you can do it, does it mean that you should?" These ice cream flavors make me say not just no, but hell no!:

14 vegetable (including zucchini)
squid ink
roasted garlic sorbet
malted barley
Thai chili
smoked pine nuts
mashed potato (did they just serve them really cold?)
Memphis barbecue
tomato basil

I'm sorry - those are just wrong. If there's an ice cream hell, the creators of those flavors are going. If there's an ice cream heaven, it costs $25,000. Can I get an "Amen"?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

These are the Best of (Chocolate) Times

Have you been in the candy aisle lately? In Target or your local drug store? Even the grocery store? Every week I go in, I swear it's gotten bigger. And not just bigger - better! You can get chocolate from all over the world at Walgreen's! How amazing is that?

In Target last week I got a Chocolat Frey (a great Swiss chocolate maker) bar. This was a Japonais bar, described as "extra fine milk chocolate with hazelnut and crunchy meringue biscuit filling." I have one word for it - YUM! It melts in your mouth and has this cool crunchy crumbles of biscuit in it. Fantastic! I also bought a Pear & Caramel bar, described as "fine milk chocolate with a fruity touch of pear and caramel flavor." I also say "YUM!" And my taste buds are not dead! I can taste the pear!!!! It's perfect - not too much, just right. A very cool bar. And Swiss chocolate is sinfully good. So smooth.

These are fantastic chocolate times! We have everything at our fingertips! Wild gourmet flavors (some of which are horrible - I had some chipotle caramel yesterday that I had to spit out - it was so awful! But sea salt caramel ROCKS!!!), dark chocolate and milk chocolate of all cacao counts, chocolates from single origins all over the world, and on and on. It's really like Wille Wonka everywhere you go. My childhood dreams have come true!!! (Now if I could just get an Oompa Loompa....)

And there are fun options everywhere - Papa John's just released Chocolate Pastry Delights described as four light and flaky pastries, filled with rich chocolate made with NestlĂ©® Toll House® Chocolate Morsels, then fresh-baked and drizzled with white icing. * Wow - I just really want to try one!

There's chocolate cereal, chocolate yogurt, chocolate rice cakes, chocolate pasta (I'm not saying it's all a good idea, I'm just saying it's out there. And I'm damn happy about it!).

We are living in great chocolate times!! So get out there! Try one of these new crazy bars! You can test new flavors and see what you like. Try crazy combinations - some of which have never been tried before - discover what you really like. Have a tasting party with your friends. There is much fun to be had for a relatively small outlay of cash. Maybe it's because we are seeking comfort in these uncertain times and are turning to chocolate for comfort. Or maybe chocolate is just hip right now. But really, who cares why? Just enjoy it! Celebrate life, have fun, eat chocolate! Viva la chocolat!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Don't Mess with Snickers

There seems to be an increasingly fine line between marketing and just plain lying. Last night I experienced the marketing genius of saying that yogurt tastes like baked goods. Tonight it was the "new flavor kick" of the Snickers Adventure Bar. Released to go with the latest Indiana Jones movie, the description on the wrapper reads "Satisfy your taste for adventure! Rich chocolate. Crunchy nuts. And a cliffhanger kick of exotic spice and a hint of sweet coconut flavor."


I took my first bite and it tasted like...well, like a Snickers. Maybe a little blander? I think it smelled a little like coconut, but that might have been the power of suggestion. Kick of exotic spice? Huh? I tried another bite, tried to concentrate. I got nothing. Either my taste buds were destroyed by yesterday's "Boston Cream Pie" or this is BS. Or maybe the "hint" of coconut was just too subtle. But Mars claimed a KICK of exotic spice - shouldn't I taste a "kick"?

The ingredients list doesn't mention coconut, and I don't think partially hydrogenated soybean oil is an exotic spice. Boo!!! Maybe the Naked Cowboy is right and Mars is just an evil corporation taking advantage of the poor little guy!

Nah - I just think this bar is lame. And why mess with Snickers anyway?

Here's the lesson - sometimes things are good just the way they are. The last thing a Snickers Bar needs is exotic spice. It is trendy? Yeah - go global! We are the world! But why try to be trendy when you are an icon? It just makes you look cheap (or desperate). Be yourself - it's what makes you great. Snickers don't need no stinkin' coconut! (And Almond Joy needs no caramel.) Be yourself and be the best YOU that you can. The world is full of imitators, we need more originals.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Promises, Promises

I should have known it was too good to be true. But that didn't stop me. Hope sucked me in, just like it has done so many times in the past. Hope, stupid, foolish, hope.

It was the Yoplait commercials - the wife on the phone talking about Boston Cream Pie, Apple Turnovers.....while her husband desperately searches the fridge for these delectables. Of course she was talking about new yogurt flavors, not the baked goods themselves. But those sound like really good flavors!! And I really like yogurt! What a great idea! What a beautiful dream! Why hadn't anyone thought of this before?

Yeah, whatever. Go ahead and wake up. I just tried Weight Watchers Boston Cream Pie low fat yogurt. It MIGHT have a weird Boston Cream Pie aftertaste. Maybe. If you really concentrate and look at the picture of Boston Cream Pie on the container and try to remember the last time you allowed yourself to actually have Boston Cream Pie.

The bottom line - this yogurt is NOTHING like Boston Cream Pie! Boston Cream Pie is delicious! There's that layer of thick chocolate frosting, the yellow cake, the cream.....

If you really want Boston Cream Pie - have Boston Cream Pie - savor it, celebrate it - make it worth every bite. But don't waste your time with Weight Watcher's Boston Cream Pie yogurt. It just makes you long for what might have been.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Global Madness & Chocolate Chips

What the heck is going on in the world? Russia has completely lost it and invaded Georgia. Pakistan's President resigned before he could be impeached. And Mrs. Fields Cookies is filing for Chapter 11. When will the madness end?

Apparently we shouldn't be surprised about Mrs. Fields. The chain has been losing money for years. Too much debt. The interest payments were killing them. Of course, those of you who would like to start a franchise apparently can still do so:

Below is an itemized list of costs associated with establishing a franchise with Mrs. Fields Famous Brands:

Initial Franchise Fee:

Ongoing Royalties:
6% of Gross Sales

Advertising Fee:
1-3% of Gross Sales

Initial Training Fee:
No charge for first two individuals

Initial Term of Agreement:
7 years (7 year renewal)

Total Estimated Initial Investment:

*For full service store.**A complete inventory of associated cost is disclosed in item 7 of the Uniform Franchise Offering Circular. These figures do not include real estate lease costs, and may vary with actual circumstances.

Call me crazy, but I think there may be better ways to make dough. (bwah, ha, ha!)

I think this may be a story of a company getting away from what made it successful. Great cookies and amazing service fell by the wayside as empire building took over. The company bought TCBY, a couple of pretzel companies it has since unloaded, and strayed from its core values. I also think there may have been a lack of trend spotting. As a yogurt lover, I know that TCBY has been slipping for years. The ice cream companies jumped on the yogurt bandwagon and scooped (I can't help it) up any advantage TCBY might have had. Hey, if the whole family can get what they want at Baskin Robbins, why go to TCBY? Who was asleep at the TCBY wheel? That dog hasn't been hunting for years.


Need we revisit chocolate Pez? Know what you're good at and make the most of it. Was Mrs. Fields good at making cookies or good at running food stalls in the mall? I think someone got confused.

Bigger isn't always better. I bet the company would now rather have just 50 successful cookie stores than 500 cookie stores, 50 TCBY stores, etc. Little and profitable is better than huge and in debt. You might keep that in mind when manging your own finances.

Final lesson? Don't trust the Russians.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Saving Melting Chocolate

Timing is everything, isn't it? As a nod to the scary economy, I decided not to take a big trip this year (although the year ain't over yet!), and instead, to pay off my townhouse. Last Friday, I sent in a big check and paid off my mortgage. I'm pretty proud of this - I've been in my house less than five years. I hate debt with a passion.

On Friday I also got in a big shipment of Belgian chocolates I'd ordered to use in a marketing campaign for my chocolate seminars:

On Saturday my air conditioner died.

Paying off my home and then having a major item break was ironic. What that heat would do to my chocolate was horrific! Chocolate should be stored at 68 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit. When I noticed it was getting warm in my house it was already 79 degrees. Immediately I thought of my children - I have LOTS of chocolate in my house! I couldn't let my babies MELT! (I don't have any actual human children, but I have a deep, emotional connection to my chocolate.)

Luckily my stock of real food isn't that huge. (Why bother with anything besides chocolate really?) You would be surprised at how many boxes you can actually fit in a refrigerator. (Notice all the bars on the the top shelf and in the veggie drawer.) It's a good thing I live alone. No normal human could possibly put up with this.

So the chocolate fit - yay! One problem solved! And thank the powers that run the universe, North Carolina is having the weirdest cool weather EVER right now. It's been in the 80's which is unheard of this time of year. Last year we were in the 100's. I am one lucky girl!!

So the story becomes one of gratitude. Thank goodness the chocolate fit in the frig, thank goodness the weather has been so mild, and thank goodness I still have enough money left to pay for a new AC! Life will crank up the heat on us plenty of times, it's part of living. It's how you react to it that matters. Hey, as long as your chocolate doesn't melt, you will live to fight another day!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Snickers - All American

I have been so consumed with watching the Olympics, I have been derelict in my blogging duties. I spoke at a conference today and at least half of my audience confessed to staying up well past their normal bedtimes to cheer on Team USA. Of course, we were heartbroken for the women's gymnastic team, thrilled for Phelps, and amazed that the women's volleyball uniforms were so tiny. What is up with that? The men aren't playing volleyball in Speedos - what's with the itsy bitsy bikinis?

Every time I watch the Olympics I'm reminded of how proud I am to be an American. I was delighted when our men's relay team won the gold in swimming - especially because of the French swimmer who said "we came to crush the Americans." Yeah, yeah France - whatever. Just how many times do we have to save your country before you lighten up?

And how about the women's gymnastics? I was sooo bummed when our women lost the gold, and you could see the heartbreak and the disappointment on their faces. But not fear - never fear. In the prelims, when one of the girls from China performed poorly, she came off the floor with a look of fear on her face. Remember, the Chinese hand pick these girls and they are raised by the state, not their families. I don't know if they face punishment for performing poorly, but that's what fear would indicate to me. China wants perfection and uniformity. Even to the extreme of having a little girl with a beautiful voice NOT sing the national song at the opening ceremony because she wasn't judged cute enough. They got a cuter girl who lip synced to the not so cute girl's voice. Thus creating a weird hybrid to get "perfection." American wants excellence, but we have always celebrated the individual. I love America!!!

Fear is a good motivator only in the short term. Joy motivates forever. Our athletes are competing out of joy - I can see it in their faces - can't you? I'll take the joy of our silver medal gymnasts over the gold of China's fear-filled robots any day. All I can think of is "heart" - say what you will - Americans have heart. We feel. We aren't perfect. We're a big, melting pot and that has its challenges. But at the end of the day, I'm so proud to be an American it brings tears to my eyes.

I'm glad Snickers is the official Olympic chocolate. It is quintessentially American. It tastes great, it's affordable, it's red, white and blue, it's named after a horse - it's completely non pretentious. Snickers is just darn glad to be there. It even has a song:

And when the going gets tough, of all the candy bars, I'd pick Snickers. (M & M's are too silly, Twix and Kit Kat too light, Reese's too melty). And when the going gets tough, who does the world call? (See what's going on in Georgia?) America. Here's to Team USA, Snickers, and America!

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Power of Chocolate

PRESTON, England, Aug. 8 (UPI) -- An English 3-year-old hungry for candy in the middle of the night set off for the sweet shop, leaving his parents and brother sound asleep at home.
A newspaper delivery driver found Max McGrath outside the supermarket in Somerfield, The Times of London reported. The store was closed, and young Max was looking wistfully through the window.
While the boy's timing was bad, he had come prepared with money and a front-door key to his home, although he left the door open behind him.
"I have a child about the same age and it is terrifying to think what an adventurous youngster can get up to," said James Brown, who found the youngster. "He was fine, but it must have been such a shock for his family."

Go Max!!! This THREE YEAR OLD boy took money and a key and went to the supermarket for candy!!! Now that is one smart and determined kid! Only candy could drive that type of behavior. Candy or, maybe when he's a little older,

Well, sex does influence behavior! Have you seen the new commercial for those fancy premium M & M's? Check it out: (chocolate doesn't get much sexier than this!)

Ha, ha - I love it!!!

Different things motivate different people. What inspires Max and hundreds of others to make 3:00 a.m. supermarket runs, wouldn't get most people out of bed. The key to success is figuring out what motivates you (your faith, your family, your work) so you can design your life around it. And then figuring out what motivates those you need to influence. Give people what they want, and they will follow you anywhere! (Max and I will be at the supermarket if you need us.)

Sunday, August 10, 2008

No Chocolate, but Lots of Motivation

I'm watching the Olympic gymnastic competition as I write this and I just can't begin to imagine how these young women (and in some cases - girls) handle the pressure. Can you imagine? One little slip of the hand, one misstep - and your dreams are over. How 'bout if our performances were critiqued like this? "Well, your e-mail was okay, but you lose 3/10ths of a point for subject/verb disagreement." Yipes!! Oh - and you are representing your country and billions of people are watching you all over the world. Watching all these gymnasts - not just the Americans - brings tears to my eyes. The work it has taken to get there; the joy when they do well and the crushing disappointment when they make a mistake. The courage it takes to be there - how inspiring. How ALIVE they all are. What a celebration of every participant!

Today I have nothing to say about chocolate and everything to say about how amazing these athletes are. Make sure you watch some of the games - it will be four more years until we see such heart again. Go Team USA!!!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Olympic Chocolate

The Mars Family is brilliant. (I stand by my assessment of the Naked Cowboy as an idiot.) Why do I think the Mars family is brilliant? Long ago Forrest Mars crushed his competitor Milton Hershey by thinking globally. (This was way before global thinking was a given.) Milton was focused on selling his chocolate in the US. Forrest was busy building a global empire. And the company is still at it.

I had no idea what the official chocolate of the Olympics was until I Googled it - of course, it's Snickers (one of my personal favorites). But when you go to the official Snickers web site, there's no mention of this. Know why? Mars didn't do this for sales in America, Mars did this for sales in China. The population of the US? about 301,139,947 The population of China? about 1,321,851,888. That's just a BILLION more people. (That's a helluva lot of Snickers Bars.) And great global business strategy.

I love the Olympics - I went when they were in Atlanta (if you didn't, you missed a fantastic opportunity). I love the patriotism, but also the celebration of all the athletes. The energy of the Olympic Games is hard to describe - it's unlike any sporting event I've ever attended. Maybe it's because the whole world is there - celebrating our best athletes. Maybe it's because the whole idea of the Olympics is so inspiring. This is from the official Olympic website:

These three words encourage the athlete to give his or her best during competition.

To better understand the motto, we can compare it with the Olympic creed :

The most important thing in life is not the triumph, but the fight ;
the essential thing is not to have won, but to have fought well.

Together, the Olympic motto and the creed represent an ideal that Coubertin (founder of the modern Olympics)believed in and promoted as an important life lesson that could be gained from participation in sport and the Olympic Games: that giving one’s best and striving for personal excellence was a worthwhile goal. It is a lesson that can still be applied equally today, not just to athletes but to each one of us.

Here's to Mars for excellence in business; to the Olympics for excellence in sport; and to the rest of us to never stop striving. Let the Games begin!!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

NYC Chocolate - Vosges Haut Chocolat

I have to give a big shout out to Julia and Diana at Vosges Haut Chocolat Boutique on Madison Avenue. These two are awesome!! Let's face it, in a very fancy chocolate shop on Madison Avenue - you would expect a bit of snobbery. Not from Julia and Diana! Let me set the scene...

I am with my brother, his lovely wife and their two adorable boys, Henry (4 and a half) and Miles (3). We were just at the Met to see the Superheros Exhibit (very cool, by the way - I saw the original costumes of Superman, Batman (The Dark Knight), Wonder Woman, Cat Woman, and Spider Man as well as some amazing fashion designs). Miles got an accordion at the Met gift shop. Miles was playing this accordion as we approached the fancy chocolate shop. At some boutiques, the mere appearance of two small boys would have resulted in looks of deep disdain.

Not from Julia and Diana! The first thing they did that I loved was really offer free samples. They encourage you to take them! Several of them! (Brilliant, of course when the product is as good as Vosges Chocolate!) You know how it is - in some places you feel guilty about the samples...are they really free? Is it okay? How much should I take? Am I getting "the look"?

The next thing they did was express amazement over Miles' accordion playing. He was outside by now. As saddened as I am by it, my nephews don't like chocolate, so they were not very interested in Vosges. I told little Henry that he must be an alien, but he denied this. Anyway, Julia and Diana were amazed at how good Miles sounded. (Look out, Naked Cowboy! A new generation of street performers arises!)

So here is an upscale NYC chocolate shop with two terrific employees who are offering samples and appreciating the playing of a plastic accordion by a three year-old! You have to love this!!

Now, Vosges is the home of the infamous Bacon Bar which I was not too crazy about. And at first, I was a little disappointed - all the offerings seemed to be really odd combinations I was sure I wouldn't like. But when given a sample of their Red Fire Bar (chipotle chillies, cinnamon, and dark chocolate) - I consider it a grave sin to refuse free chocolate - I realized how wrong I was. The chillies are subtle, but delicious when combined with the cinnamon and the chocolate - a terrific bar. So, of course, I bought a bar. I also bought Red Fire Chocolate Tortilla Chips. Yum! Very different and good - these would be fantastic for a fiesta. Ole!

Vosges also has the most gorgeous packaging, with stories about the flavors or tips on tasting.
And the founder Katrina Markoff is an amazing success story - she was the 2007 Entrepreneur magazine Woman of the Year. She mixes all these flavors so we can travel the world through chocolate.

Again, I realize how wrong I can be about things. Not all New York boutiques are staffed by snobs. (Thanks, Julia and Diana!) Just because something sounds strange or different, it doesn't mean it's not good. Try it - you might like it! And if you go where your enthusiasm leads you, you will always have fun. As Joseph Campbell says - "Follow your bliss." And you know what? We all love to be around people who are excited - there's just not enough sheer joy these days. So grab your accordion and do something you're excited about! Life is short - live it!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Tighty Whities

The Naked Cowboy is an idiot.

Okay, I know this is a revelation to, well, no one, but I feel compelled to restate the obvious. I had the great thrill of standing in Times Square this week, right across the street from M & M world:

That random medal around my neck is my new CSP (Certified Speaking Professional) award. I was in New York for the National Speakers Association Convention where I received the CSP and my friends felt it would be the perfect attire for my picture in front of M & M World. Hey - at least I'm wearing more than underwear!

Look how giant and cool that screen is behind me! If you were a random street performer who worked the street below and they put an M & M up there dressed like you, would you sue them? I repeat, the Naked Cowboy is an idiot.

I still wish they'd put an M & M up there that looked like me - maybe with short dark hair and a giant grin wearing a cheesy medal? How cool would that be?

Now M & M World was packed, but we did pop in for another picture:

Yes, that is yours truly in front of the Blue M & M dressed like Travolta. Think John's losing a lot of sleep over this? If he even knows about it, I bet he would laugh. Lesson - don't take yourself too seriously. If having an M & M in your image bothers you, you need to consider more comfortable underwear.

They have tons of images of the green M & M dressed up as the Statue of Liberty with the slogan "life, liberty and the pursuit of chocolate!" Think the French will sue? Or maybe the descendants of Thomas Jefferson? I think they all realize that imitation really is the sincerest form of flattery.

Here are the takeaways:

Don't take yourself too seriously and if you do, wear more than underwear.

If people are imitating you, you obviously fascinate them. Enjoy it. Your 15 minutes will be over all too soon.

M & M's are fun. They are round, brightly colored, and made of chocolate. Could anything be more perfect? Embrace your inner M & M - at

And make sure before you pass through this world, you stand in Times Square and celebrate with your friends! Carpe diem! Carpe chocolate!

Saturday, August 2, 2008

On the Rocky Road

If you read yesterday's blog, you know I'm in Oklahoma. I feel compelled whenever I am out of my home state of North Carolina, to try whatever candy bar, cookie, dessert, or baked good that I don't have at home. Today (besides way too many cookies at the conference - if I see cookies, I must eat them - it's a sickness) I had a Rocky Road bar from the Annabelle Candy Company. Annabelle's is one of the few remaining independent candy companies, so I really, really wanted to love this candy bar. This is the third Annabelle's candy bar I have tried, and so far, I am not in love (although I want to be!).

Here's a little about the company - founded in the 50's, named after the owner's daughter (who now runs the show):

Here's what their web site says about the Rocky Road (their signature bar):

ROCKY ROAD: A delightfully light, fluffy marshmallow topped with flavorful roasted cashew nuts, crunchy malt, and covered with rich chocolate. This item was the creation of our founder Mr. Sam Altshuler. Rocky Road is still made the old fashioned way, by hand, layer by layer. We use a unique process that maintains the softness and fluffiness of marshmallow, making this product stand head and shoulders above most marshmallow products on the market today. Combined with fresh roasted cashews and rich chocolate, this bar is truly delicious and literally melts in your mouth. Currently we have three flavors: Milk Chocolate, Dark Chocolate, & Mint Dark Chocolate. Rocky road is predominately distributed from the West Coast to the West of the Mississippi. And can be found in most major Drug Chains, Grocery & C-Stores. Rocky Road is a true corner stone of our company since 1950.

Here's what I say - too few cashews, too much marshmallow - especially for the 240 calories! That's the best thing about the marshmallow - lots of bulk, not many calories!! You can have 8 chocolate Peeps for that!! Eight!! I was very disappointed. Give me a Snickers Bar.

I have also tried the ABBA-ZABA described on the web site as thick rich chewy taffy, with a rich creamy peanut butter filling in the center. And I have to say, Wolfgang's Peanut Butter Kisses blow the ABBA-ZABA out of the water. (I wish I had some of those right now....mmmm...Oh, sorry - I was having a moment.)

But I'm not giving up on the Annabelle Candy Company. I want to support the little guy (or gal in this case). I want as much diversity in candy as possible. I love the idea of traveling the world sampling crazy candy bars! And any company crazy enough to make a Sour Apple ABBA-ZABA bar - yes, sour apple taffy and peanut butter filing - well, I just like knowing they're out there. And yes, I want to try one.

Friday, August 1, 2008

The Chocolate Show!

Short blog tonight - I'm in Talequah, Oklahoma for a speaking engagement. But I am so excited, I wanted to share this with you! I may not be taking a big trip this year, but I am going to the Chocolate Show in NYC! Here's what "The Nibble" said about last year's show (my comments are in bold):

Are you passionate about chocolate? Or do you just really think it’s fun?
(That's us, right?)
If you can answer “yes” to either question, make sure you schedule at least one day in November for the The 10th Annual Chocolate Show. Or, spend all three strolling through 40,000 square feet devoted to chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate, at the Metropolitan Pavilion and Altman Building on 19th Street in New York City.
(Different location this year - see Think how much chocolate that is!! 40,000 square feet! It's a beautiful dream!)
Visitors to the show will have the opportunity to sample prestige American and International chocolates and attend more than 65 demonstrations given by top pastry chefs and chocolatiers. Chefs and authors will be on hand to sign their cookbooks (every year, it seems as if every book every written about chocolate is for sale at the show). To celebrate the 10th anniversary, there will be a week of mini events leading to the kick-off chocolate fashion show that traditionally opens the festivities on Thursday night.
(Sampling chocolate? What could be better than that?)
Among the companies showing their wares, those reviewed by THE NIBBLE include Charles Chocolates, Chocolat Michel Cluizel, Chocolat Moderne, Chocolove, Chuao Chocolatier, Dagoba, Fairytale Brownies, Guittard Chocolate Company, Jer’s Handmade Chocolates, John & Kira’s, Knipschildt Chocolatier, Lillie Belle Farms and Theo Chocolate (plus others, we’re sure). Two extensive new reviews of Dagoba and Lillie Belle Farms appear next month. So, we can guarantee that there will be a lot of GREAT chocolate to be had.
( has some fantastic info about chocolate - well worth your time to check out.)
Last year, in addition to the chocolate itself, highlights of the show included the Chocolate Lounge, a place to relax and chocolate and drink pairings (including Godiva’s Truffletini paired with their platinum series chocolates); the Chocolate Spa, dedicated to chocolate-themed health products and treatments; and the Chocolate Art Walk, featuring paintings and sculpture made entirely from chocolate (the artworks were simply stunning, including an all-chocolate Mona Lisa).
(How awesome does all that sound? How can I blog about motivation and chocolate and NOT go?)
The Chocolate Show is part of a worldwide festival for the public produced by Event International, and event producers Sylvie Douce and François Jeantet. You can “follow the chocolate” all around the world. Other shows include:
(and NYC is much closer than any of those! The dates this year are November 7, 8, and 9 - I'm planning to go for the 8th and 9th - can't wait!)

What are you looking forward to? Plan something fun for yourself - life is short - LIVE it!