Friday, February 27, 2009

Old Time Religion

Okay, as if my mere mention of the dreaded Chick-O-Stick was not enough, look at this great review from my friend Jonny of Candy Gurus:

He's in Hawaii right now on vacation, lounging around and blogging about candy. The Recession isn't raining on his parade either! Go Jonny!!

It makes me want to actually eat one of Dem Chicken Bones.

So, what do we learn by this trip to Mast General Store?

Candy is the drug of choice during the recession. Hey, you don't have to believe me! In Tuesday's edition of USA TODAY, the Sr. VP of Marketing at Ghirardelli said, "In hard times, chocolate is comforting and affordable." Uh - actually chocolate is always comforting and affordable. That's the best he's got?

Ghirardelli's 2009 sales are projected to surpass those of 2008. Hershey's also reported strong sales. (Clearly this is a direct result of this blog. And of all the chocolate I give out in my seminars. See, I TOLD you I was bailing out the chocolate makers!!! Who else would buy a $50 5 lb. Hershey bar?)

But I digress.

The bottom line is that we love our candy. It makes us feel better, it's fun, and it's relatively inexpensive. Candy is great.

Another possible lesson is that we might actually return to some simpler pleasures. I don't know about this for sure - we've gone pretty far down the path away from this. Just today I saw people out walking their dogs and all of them were on their cell phones. The dogs interacted way more than the humans did.

But nostalgic candy does remind us of our childhoods - of Halloween, of family holidays, of summer fun. I remember my Dad coming home from work and bringing me Now and Laters. I loved them because I loved my Dad. Well, maybe I loved my Dad because I loved Now and Laters.....but you get the point. Love was some way. Life was simpler and not so scary then - or so we like to remember.

I just know that candy makes me happy - it did then and it does now. And I am clearly not alone.

Some of these crazy candies show us that if something is really good to four or five people, chances are it's good to many others. You don't have to sell as many Cherry Mash bars (are they really bars? More like Cherry Mash balls) as Snickers bars to still turn a profit. And with the Internet, small candy companies can get the word out and reach a larger market. They have a much tougher time getting into the grocery stores where Hershey and Mars have distribution locked up.

Some of them, however, might want to consider upgrading. I don't have access to their sales figures, but Kits are really sub par. And the process to make all those crappy little squares and wrap them all individually surely can't be completely cheap. Unless they are making a fortune, maybe they could try to get better?

I overheard a teenager in Mast commenting "These are all the candies that have gone out of business!" Obviously this teen was not the sharpest tool in the shed. After all, if the companies had gone out of business who did she think was making the candy? And I don't think that candies go out of business, the companies that make the candies go out of business, but you can appreciate what she was thinking. Maybe if she had texted her thought it would have been more literate.

Just because something has been around a long time doesn't mean it's good. But just because something is new doesn't mean it's good either. If the only competitive advantage you have is that you've been around a long time, you better reconsider. For example - Squirrel Nut Zippers are bad - they look greasy and creepy in their wrappers and don't taste much better. But that's a kicking name and I bet they could do some research, improve the product, and laugh all the way to the bank! That French Taffy was awesome!! But the packaging needs a serious redo. If it looked better and more people tried it, I swear they'd be hooked. The stuff is good! Work what you've got!!

These candies are all a lot like us - not everyone of us can be a Snickers (a Brad Pitt if you will), hogging all the shelf space, making millions, getting all the press. But we can all be great enough to have good friends and a great life. We can still draw a crowd at Mast General Store! Make the most of what makes you unique and special and keep developing those traits or growing in new directions. You'll have your fans - even if you are a Chicken Bone.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

More of the Candy Undead

Dating update - last night's date confessed to me that his ex-wife took a restraining order out on him. Now before you think I'm dredging these guys up from the depths of Hell, this guy seemed respectable! He's a doctor for God's sake! But needless to say, I'll be passing on any more dates with him. Let's go back to Mast General Store - it's much safer there.

I just finished devouring Doscher's famous (I think "famous" is a bit of a reach here) French Chew Taffy bar. This one was chocolate and it was pretty darn good! Softer than I expected and fun to chew - I liked it! Only 160 calories too!

This is from their web site and I completely agree:

We think you will find that Doscher's possesses a great taste, texture and shape. Doscher's Candies, founded in 1871, have been making the taffy for over a century. Doscher's is a small, independent candy company making taffy by hand in Cincinnati, in copper kettles dating back to 1893. It is made five days a week at a rate of about 75 bars per minute.

Although vanilla is the best selling flavor! Not chocolate. That just seems wrong.

Mast also has mini Heath and Clark bars as well as Kits and B-B-Bats. Heath and Clark bars will be reviewed elsewhere - I just liked getting these baby ones. Kits and B-B- Bars are just heinous. Too hard, crummy flavor - disappointing. One of the Kits flavors I got was peanut butter - I was so excited. Not so good. These are bought by people who just don't know any better. Get a French Chew Taffy bar! Get a Tootsie Roll! Just unwrapping these things is too much trouble.

This is a white chocolate Toberone bar (which I'll review elsewhere) and some Chocolate Cream Drops. Mast also sells several bags of candy like this - chocolate covered pretzels, chocolate malt balls, Jordan almonds, etc. These are nothing to write home about - they are just adequate. The chocolate is average and the cream is very sugary. But if you buy some, you might find them hard to stop eating. I have no explanation for this.

Now look at this baby:

I've been wanting to try one of these since I read about them in Candy Freak.

The Chase Candy Company is another small American candy maker based in St. Louis. They've been making the Cherry Mash since 1918. From the company's web site:

Around 1918 Chase formulated what was to become the best selling cherry candy bar in the country, Cherry Mash. The candy consisted of a quarter pound mound of chopped roasted peanuts blended with chocolate coating over a smooth cherry fondant center. Interestingly the candy was called Cherry Chase then Cherry Chaser before becoming the Cherry Mash we know today.

Here it is naked:

And you know how I like to perform chocolate autopsies:

Wow - look at that cherry! Chase says this is the "best selling cherry candy bar in the country." I ask you - are there any other cherry candy bars in the country? But, hey, I'm all for bold marketing.

Now I'm a little conflicted about this bizarre concoction. I'm not a big cherry fan as you all know. And look at all that cherry!! But somehow the abundance of peanuts offsets some of the cloying sweetness of the cherry. It wasn't bad! If you like cherry, you should really try one of these. But it is VERY filling (it's about the size of a small fist) and has almost 300 calories. I can't really recommend this, but I can't really dis it either. I'm glad the Cherry Mash is out there and I'm glad I tried it.

I love this crazy candy adventure!!

As for the dating far, not so much.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Them Bones, Them Bones, Them Chicken Bones

Thanks to Carl Weaver of the NCA we now know where Chick-O-Stick came from. (Thanks, Carl - you were way more persistent that I was. Atkinson's needs to consider revising that "fun" page design!)

This is from the Atkinson's web site


How did the Chick-O-Stick get its name? The real answer has probably been lost in our corporate history, but here’s one account by Eric Atkinson, President of the company. Generally, when we began making Chick-O-Sticks in the late 1930’s, that kind of candy was traditionally known as “Chicken Bones”. Back in those days, Atkinson candy was distributed only inside the State of Texas. In the 1950’s, Atkinson Candy Company began distributing their candy nationally and discovered that another company already owned the rights to the name “Chicken Bones” (and that’s probably a good thing). Our then Vice President of Sales, J. Powell Ware, working with Joe Atkinson and an artist for the box company, somehow came up with the name Chick-O-Stick..…and it stuck! Why “Chicken Bones” in the first place? Well, one thing is certain about that – there is no chicken in a Chick-O-Stick! Our best guess is that the toasted coconut on the outside of the candy gives the appearance of a piece of fried chicken.

Can you say - "GROSS!" Chicken Bones? Not even "Chicken Legs" - Chicken BONES. Maybe these guys were drinking some Texas Moonshine when they came up with that. What peanut butter and chicken bones possibly have in common is beyond me. But candy history is infinitely fascinating!!

And I do think that to stay engaged with life - you have to have something that captures your interest. It doesn't have to be candy, but there has to be something. If you lose interest, you lose the fire.

So keep burning! (And long live the Chicken Bone! AKA the Chick-o-Stick)

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Candy from Beyond the Grave

Can I just tell you - dating is so unbelievably time consuming! Talking on the phone, planning the date, getting ready for the date, going to the date, enduring the date. It is totally taking me away from my blogging, and I actually find blogging more rewarding. I think my relationship with chocolate, candy and you, my dear readers, may be better than what I can hope for with any mere man. The three of you have yet to cancel on me, give me an unwanted kiss, or talk so much about yourself that I considered slitting my own wrists. I'd say I am going to dating hell, but I think I am already there.

But enough about me - let's talk about chocolate!!

Thanks to Russell Duncan for reminding me about Mast General Store and their selection of nostalgic candy! When I was in Asheville, I stopped in. The place was crowded, with almost everyone jammed in the candy section. Maybe people did coke in the 80s, but they are mainlining sugar in 2009. Rock on, I say!! Desperate times call for desperate measures.
Mast has one of those set-ups where you pick up a big basket and walk around all these barrels of candy and put what you want in the basket. Well - you know what happens - you get a couple of these and a few of those and pretty soon, you have an ungodly amount of candy. Nature abhors a vacuum and you fill that basket right on up.
To check out, they weigh it (some of the specialty items are priced individually) and you walk out having had a blast and paying way too much for a very customized and bizarre assortment of candy.

Here are some of the things I got:

Let's have a heart-to-to heart about these. See the hot Cinnamon Bear? That's a Sweet's Cinnamon Bear without the chocolate. MUCH better. Still a little too cinnamony for me. But very chewy and good. As hard as it is to believe, not everything is enhanced by adding chocolate.

I absolutely LOVE, LOVE, LOVE those brown striped peanut butter bars! I could eat them until I exploded. They are made by Atkinson's, another old American Candy Company. Around since 1932 and located in Lufkin, Texas:

They also make Chick-O-Stick which has always creeped me out because of the chick reference. I mean what the hell is that? The web site should say where the name came from. It's peanut butter, but why chick? I don't like the name and want no chicks to have touched any candy bar I eat and no chick parts to be in any candy bar I eat.

They also make the Long Boys you can see below the Peanut Butter Bar. These are crappy versions of the Tootsie Roll. Very crappy versions. Coconut tastes nothing like coconut, maybe like a weird caramel. It has a gross coconut texture at the end of chewing it. Not sure what it tastes like, but it's really not of this earth. Don't get these.

Yuck - don't get the Slo Poke either. Bleech!!! Billed as "delicious caramel" it is pretty yucky. It is not delicious and is only vaguely caramel like. It's like a horrible Kraft caramel. And after some of the absolutely earth stopping caramels we've reviewed here, you should not waste your time with this.

Under the Slo Poke is the Squirrel Nut Zipper - the best thing about these is the name. Way cool. There is a great swing band called the Squirrel Nut Zippers. The candy is made by Necco and I can't see how Necco can sell all these really bad candies and still be solvent. When all the people who buy them for the sake of nostalgia die, Necco is going down. Note to Necco - invest in R & D before it's too late!!!

I tried one Squirrel Nut Zipper, considered spitting it out, and threw the rest away. Walnetto's are much better. And you know how I feel about them.

The last two candies here deserve a close-up:

These are by Goetze's. They have a cool website:

The website says:

A favorite of many generations, Goetze’s treats have always been made the same old-fashioned way with a low fat, low sodium, no cholesterol recipe. You’ll enjoy the same great taste that’s been loved for years. Made with wheat flour, milk and real cream, Caramel Creams® have a clean simple taste that doesn’t give you that sour stomach that many really sugary sweets give you.

AAIIEE!!! These are HORRIBLE!!!! I never was a big fan of the caramel creams - I'd get them at Halloween and never liked them. But when I saw strawberry and chocolate versions at Mast, I thought, "Cool - I can't wait to try these!" Maybe it is the wheat flour, but these have a weird mouth feel and a vile after taste. I've never gotten a "sour stomach" from sugary sweets but these......these are evil. They must be designed to give children a lifelong fear of candy. Goetze's backwards is Sezteog, surely the name of a lesser demon. And the chocolate ones are called Bull's Eyes to go with another of their candies, Cow Tales. Bovine parts. EVIL, EVIL, EVIL!

Maybe there is a reason these candies are no longer popular. Maybe it is because they are awful. We have such amazing candy makers working today, these relics can no longer compete. I love capitalism.

We're not done yet! Well, I'm done - after a coconut Long Boy, a Slo Poke and that god-awful devil's wheat flour strawberry cream, I'm feeling a little ill. We'll talk more about the past tomorrow. If I live that long.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Let's Bail Out the Girl Scouts!

I usually avoid them - those people selling things near the entrance or exit of a store. I try not to make eye contact and move like I am on an important mission.

I give to charities. But I don't like to be solicited on the street. I don't like the perfume sprayers in Belk either. Or those weird kiosk people in the mall. No you can't ask me anything and no I don't want any lotion. What are you people? Carneys? Gypsies? The Undead?

But yesterday I read that Girl Scout Cookie sales are down 16% because of the recession. I usually don't buy Girl Scout Cookies - not because I have anything against the Girl Scouts - I used to be a Brownie. (Hey - maybe that's when my love affair with chocolate began! I actually WAS chocolate!!) I don't buy the cookies because I cannot stop eating the damn things.

But today I went to Lowe's, and there they were. I saw them. I remembered the story. I thought, "Recession be damned!" and bought four boxes (at $14.00). I mean, are we going to let the Recession take Girl Scout Cookies from us????

I have already eaten an entire sleeve of peanut butter sandwiches and 6 peanut butter patties, and 4 Thanks-A-Lot which were WAY better than I expected. I didn't dare open the Carmel deLites. (Didn't these used to be Samoas? Is that not politically correct? Are Samoans offended? Did the Rock pull a Naked Cowboy and sue?) The cookies are better than I remembered, although we can see why I don't buy them. Those little Girl Scouts selling me peanut butter cookies is like a dealer giving a junkie crack.

But I'll take that risk to help bail out the Girl Scouts.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

No Chocolate Today - Chocolate Tomorrow

Ah - Asheville, North Carolina really is one of my favorite cities. I'm at the Grove Park Inn (one of my all time favorite places) for the Arts and Crafts conference. No we are not making things - think Mission style, think Frank Lloyd Wright. I adore this style and the philosophy behind it.

I saw a quote today (Arts & Crafts designers are big on quotes - they integrate them into the design of furniture and even buildings. The Grove Park Inn has quotes etched into the giant stones of its glorious fireplaces.) The quote I saw today was by Henry Ford and read:

"Chop your own wood, it will warm you twice."

YES!!! See why I like this stuff?

Another Arts & Crafts quote I have framed in the entryway of my home:

"Give me success or its eternal pursuit and I'll take the later."

Arts & Crafts is all about work, the joy of work, and self reliance.

Arts & Crafts is not about getting bailed out by someone else.

Apparently a lot of people think the government is going to be sending them a check soon. I am gauging this by the letters to the editor of USA Today where several readers wrote in to ask Congress to hurry up and pass the stimulus plan, that they needed immediate financial help. I'm also judging this by the number of spam e-mails I have gotten offering to help me get my $25,000 stimulus check.

Um...I have some bad news for these folks. None of us is getting any checks. Some people might get their unemployment benefits extended, but that ain't gonna last forever. Instead of writing letters to USA Today, these people need to be out looking for jobs. Start chopping your own damn wood or it's going to be one hell of a long winter.

I'm sorry, but people who are waiting for others to save them are giving all their personal power away. I met a young man today who works at the Grove Park Inn. He started as a part-time cook. But he has turned this into a full time job by being willing to work anywhere, anytime. He volunteered to drive the shuttle today. He also works serving, as a host, and in the resort's floral shop. And he has a great attitude. This young man is worth his weight in gold. He's not sitting around waiting for the government to save him, he's hustling and saving himself. (If I had a job opening, I'd try to hire him!) He also thinks all the experience he's getting in all these different areas will serve him well in the future. There's plenty of wood out here to chop - are you getting an axe? Or are you waiting for the government to plant some trees? Who do you think will be the best keeper of your destiny? You or the people in Washington who have no idea you exist?

I can't help it - my Arts & Crafters have gotten me all fired up!

The greatest security you will have in this life is the security you build for yourself. (Can you say Bernie Madoff?) Even if the government does help some of these folks, the government can't help them forever. We all need to put our hands back in our own pockets.

Your pockets are empty? Grab an axe.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Tradition! Nostalgia! Cracker Barrel!

I swear I have the greatest job in the world!! Today I got to give my "Motivation by Chocolate" seminar for a group of 35 employees of the Town of Holly Springs, NC. We had a great time! It's always a blast to speak for people who genuinely like each other and enjoy their jobs. And, hey, I got to talk about chocolate!! The session is fun because the attendees get to interact with each other, learn great ways to stay motivated AND do a chocolate tasting. Training just doesn't get any better than that.

My good friend (and loyal blog reader) Diane Fain-Worthen (she of the cool red scarf and chocolates from out in the Western part of NC) has struck again! This time she sent me the following pictures:

She took these pictures at a Cracker Barrel. Well, I just thought she had some random cool Cracker Barrel out in her part of the state, but heck, no, my Cracker Barrel had this stuff too! And I cleaned up! They have cute mugs and plates and t-shirts and candles and body treatment stuff - it was SWEET!!!! If you like chocolate enough to decorate your house with it and slather it all over your body, you have to get yourself to a Cracker Barrel! You'll notice in my updated blog photo I am holding the giant Hershey bar. What a great prop!

Cracker Barrel also has a pretty darn good candy selection, especially of that nostalgic, old timey candy you can't find anywhere else. I always find something new I want to try:

I'd never even heard of Walnettos (although I would have totally called them Walnuttos - I mean, come on!). These are caramel loaded with walnuts. If you like walnuts, you'll like these. They were good. Not great, but good. If you really like walnuts, they might move up to great. I actually think these might benefit from a chocolate coating.

But what's really interesting is the history of the rather bizarre Walnetto (from the company website):

Walnettos were introduced to the United States in 1919 by the J. N. Collins Company of Minneapolis, Minnesota. Walnettos were a big hit from the very beginning! They became one of the top candies purchased at movie theaters throughout the United States. People from that era associated the rich, distinctive, walnut caramel taste of Walnettos with classic movies such as “Our Gang Comedies” and the Saturday Matinee Serials featuring Charlie Chaplin and The Three Stooges. Walnettos are back and better than ever. The candies were recently voted the favorite candy by US Soldiers!

(Holy cow - that is reaching back in time!)

Walnettos was one of the top ten best selling candies in the United States through World War II. After which, the company was bought by Peter Paul Inc., the makers of Mounds (trademark) and Almond Joy (trademark). During this time, Walnettos was featured regularly on the hit, comedy program, “Laugh-In”. Arte Johnson’s character used Walnettos to try to pick up Ruth Buzzi’s character on the park bench with the line, “Want a Walnetto?”. This further increased the fame and success of an already popular item.

(OMG - I am totally old - I can remember my parents watching Laugh-In! But we didn't have any Walnettos. I think I was abused as a child.)

In the 1960’s Walnettos was purchased by Cadbury USA. Cadbury, a company dealing with primarily chocolate confections, retired the line in order to focus solely on their chocolate business. It remained dormant until 1984, when an experienced candy marketer and budding entrepreneur, Sandy Licht, decided to bring back this nostalgic favorite.
Now Walnettos are back and better than ever!

Hee, hee - you gotta laugh at the Walnettos company telling us that Cadbury is a company dealing with primarily chocolate confections. Like Walnettos are the big dogs.

Hmmmm......the soldier thing seems to be true - at least according to the website. And somehow when compared with Twizzlers and Junior Mints, I can't imagine eating Walnettos at the movies. But it is a pretty cool history and you know how I want all these little candy makers to hang on!! I think the history of our candy is the history of our nation, and I don't want to lose it!! (Can you hear "God Bless America" playing in the background?)

I do have one piece of advice for the Walnetto people. Get a less lame mascot. I mean, come ON! You blew Walnutto, at least get a better mascot. Uh - maybe a squirrel? Maybe even a walnut? But just a square of the candy with some seriously bad shoes? Sandy, Sandy - you can do better.

Here's another little treat I found:

I had heard from several sources that chocolate covered gummies were good. I saw this adorable box and threw it on my Cracker Barrel pile. (Hey, if you all aren't going to start spending and help me I'm going to have to lead the economic recovery alone! Did you at least buy some on sale Valentine's candy?)

Well, low and behold, the Sweet Candy Company is another small US Candy Company. Check this out:

In 1892 Leon Sweet started the Sweet Candy Company in Portland, Oregon. In the beginning, Sweet’s manufactured just a few varieties of candy. However, the candy that Leon offered for sale had two distinguishing characteristics: the candy was mostly made by hand, and folks loved it. They loved it because of the quality.

In 1900 Leon moved the operation from Portland to Salt Lake City, Utah, where he merged several small specialty stores into one general line manufacturing company. Over the years, Sweet’s has become more innovative and more automated. The company has increased the number of products it makes and has expanded its total marketing area. Today, there are more than 250 Sweet’s Quality Candy items distributed internationally in bulk, bags and boxes. Sweet’s is perhaps still best known for its classic favorites: Chocolate Orange Sticks, Salt Water Taffy and Cinnamon Bears.

Well, I'll be. (Hang out in Cracker Barrel long enough and you'll start talking like this.)

The Chocolate Cinnamon Bears were interesting. I have to say I like the cute box more than the candy. The bears were chewy and fresh, but there was something about the cinnamon that WAY over powered the chocolate. I didn't like these much at all - way too cinnamony.

I also have to say that neither of these was cheap. 13 bears were $4.99 22 Walnettos also $4.99. I guess nostalgia is expensive. Probably Cracker Barrel is just making a killing selling candy to all those captive hungry people. I say - "You go, Cracker Barrel! Shake that money maker! Work it!!"

I need to go sit down in one of those rocking chairs for a while. The sugar rush is making me a little wild.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Let the Good Times Roll!!

I don’t know about you, but I’m sick of all the recession doom and gloom. There’s not a damn thing I can do about it and it is totally raining on my parade.

Well, I’ve decided to take my parade elsewhere. In honor of Mardi Gras, I say – Let the Good Times Roll!

Here’s what I’m going to start doing today:

1.) As much as I can, I’m going to stop talking about it. I’ve found myself asking people I meet if the recession is impacting their business and we get all drawn into commiseration. Well, no more!

2.) I’m going to keep living. By this I mean I’m going to do what I would do if there wasn’t a recession. I’m going to buy chocolate, books, and Blu-ray movies. I’m going to an out-of-town, fun, learning conference this weekend. It has nothing to do with work. If we all panic and stop spending, we make it worse. I’m not saying go crazy, but I think you know what I mean. I'm worrying about purchases I shouldn't be worrying about. The reality may be that my retirement funds have tanked, but I wasn’t planning on accessing them for 20 years. I think a lot will happen in 20 years.

3.) I’m going to do a reality check whenever I feel a little panicky. The reality is that I have zero debt (I own my house, my car and everything else I have.) The reality is that I’m doing fine this year. The reality is that I have a healthy emergency fund. But things might get worse!!! AAIIEEE!!! Yeah, but they might get better too. Reality for me is that I’m more than okay. Deep breaths.

4.) I’m going to put the media into perspective. I'm not one of those people who can just stop watching the news. I do want to know what's going on in the world. But we all know they only care about bad news. Murder, mayhem, disaster – that gets the press. I didn’t get any coverage when I paid off my mortgage. But there was plenty of coverage of folks who lost their homes. All my clients who had their best year EVER in 2008 didn’t get a news story. But a ten person doughnut shop closes and there it is on page one of the business section. There are companies that are thriving right now. There are plenty of people who are NOT losing their jobs. There are even new businesses starting AND companies hiring. GASP! Can you believe it?

Think of it this way – I haven’t killed anyone. I don’t know any murderers; I don’t even know any murderees. But far more murderers are covered in the news than average non-murdering citizens. It’s amazing we ever leave our homes; that we aren’t in a panic about all these criminals roaming the streets. Put it in perspective.

5.) I am going to work hard, but I’m also using this time to enjoy life. I have really become a workaholic in the last ten years and I’ve paid the price in my personal life. Now is a fantastic time to change that. Maybe this business slow down will force a lot of us to re-evaluate the role of work in our lives. How much stuff do we really need?

6.) I’m doing the things I never had time for. Putting the finishing touches on my book, revamping my web site, updating my database. This doesn’t have to be work related – it could be personal if your workload has lightened. It may be time to set your clutter free!

7.) I’m going to celebrate. Life is good!! Heck, life is more than good – life is great! Valentine’s Day candy is half price, Easter candy is already hitting the stores, the sun is shining and I live in a great state in a great country. I have my health and good friends. There is NOTHING to be unhappy about and EVERYTHING to celebrate!

So put on some great jazz, throw on your beads, and join the parade! It’s going to take more than a recession to steal our joy!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Bailing Out the Chocolate Makers

I feel compelled to participate in the upcoming bailout program. If Congress can spend trillions, why can't I do my part? (Of course, I am spending my OWN money, but why split hairs?)

Today I did my part to help bail out the chocolate industry:

Who needs a boyfriend? I can shower myself with gifts! (Well, it was all half price.) I got all this for less than $100! I LOVE America!!!!!!!

If you want to do your part, I recommend hitting the drug stores. Target was pretty much cleaned out, but Walgreen's had TONS of stuff!! Woohoo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I did realize that I'll be giving out Valentine's candy in my seminars all year long, but what the heck! We've already discovered that chocolate lasts forever. (Well at least a year.)

I also got two bags of the mysteriously good Sweet Time taffy. My dentist will be proud.

So I'm encouraging all of you to do your part. Get thee to a Valentine's Day sale!!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Grand Finale!

Happy Valentine's Day!!!

Sorry for my slackness in blogging. I have been doing a lot of dating since my recent relationship fiasco and it is sooooo time consuming! Those of you who are married, give your spouse a big kiss. The grass is definitely NOT greener out here. That's one of the big challenges in relationships - we always think there might be something better...... (we do the same thing with jobs, houses - lots of things). Us crazy humans are never satisfied, and therefore, never happy.

Well, here's something that really satisfies:

I love Snickers. I already showed you one of the terrific Valentine's Day assortments with the miniature Snickers bars, but look at these!! They taste delicious - and I love the design. I think this is one of the best looking Valentine's Day chocolates I've seen. Love it!! A+ for design and A+ for taste.

My first love (and at this rate, perhaps my last) is chocolate. Think of this entry as the grand finale, featuring a wild bombardment of all the Valentine's Day treats I have yet to review. (Feel free to say "Oooh" and "Ahh" just like you would at the fireworks finale on the 4th of July.)

Butterfinger and Crunch have the same packaging:

Notice the Spanish on the packaging. Much of our candy is now made in Mexico. More about that in an upcoming entry.

These are solid offerings if you like Crunch and Butterfinger. You can get the little foil wrapped guys or the larger single hearts. These are designed to compete with the Reese's Heart, I'm sure. (But they are no competition in my book. The Reese's Heart crushes there.) I also think the chocolate is sub par - kind of waxy. Of the two, I prefer the Butterfinger because I'm a sucker for peanut butter. But these are only average.

They aren't finished yet!

I like the Mini Butterfinger bars better. Solid blocks of peanut buttery crispness - yay! This assortment also has Mini Baby Ruth bars. I like the Baby Ruth - love the nuts and the chewy nougat. What about you all? What are your favorites?

Like the colors and the hearts:

Hershey's has another entry I found in the Hallmark store. I have completely given up on Russell Stover - glaack!! No mas!! Although Stover dominates in the boxed chocolate selection and they had some hilarious and gorgeous heart shaped boxes this year, I'm just not buying any more of that yucky chocolate.

If you like marshmallow - this is for you! It is simply a huge slab of marshmallow coated with Hershey's chocolate. Better than Russell Stover, but I really don't want this much marshmallow. Peanut better, yes! Marshmallow, no. I do, however, really like the package design. The touches of turquoise - very classy. I would totally buy this wrapper on a t-shirt.

Now here's a surprise out of left field:

This is Valentine Taffy from some random company called Sweet Time. I found it at Walgreens. It is completely addictive and I'm not even sure what the flavors were. (After eating the ENTIRE bag, I don't know what the flavors were. I know, I scare myself.) One tasted kind of like watermelon. All were REALLY good - I am NOT kidding! Low fat too! If you see these, they are totally cheap - buy them! I'm going to try to get some more. I think my dentist will love Sweet Time. Maybe it is run by dentists.

The clever packaging award goes to Toblerone:

Toblerone Bars are awesome. Great shape, great chocolate. This is the same old bar, but how perfect to make it look like a rose? GREAT job!! My picture doesn't do it justice - it really is a gorgeous looking rose. Oooh! Ahhh!

And my heroes at Vitalicious (of the 100 calorie, vitamin, protein, fiber packed treats) have a fantastic Valentine's Day offering:

Look at that gorgeous box! It contains a dozen, delicious 100 calorie heart-shaped cakes. How cute are these? And can you tell how moist they are? They are thick too - about 2.5 inches. The perfect, decadent but low cal treat. Oooh!!! Aaah!!!

I hope you had a great Valentine's Day and if you have someone in your life you love, you take a few minutes to really appreciate them. It is so easy to take your loved ones for granted. And I hope you all know how much you mean to me!!! This Valentine's Day would have been a lot harder without all your kind words and support! And thanks for taking the time to read this crazy blog!!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Great Chocolate Contest

My friend Carl Weaver (aka Cupid) of the National Confectioner's Association has a great Chocolate Contest going on right now. I really don't want any competition, but because I love you guys so much, I have to tell you about it. He's giving away some fantastic chocolate:

You have the chance to win one of three bags full of amazing chocolates:

Two piece boxes from Jacques Torres Chocolate in New York
Two piece box from Madame Chocolat (Hasty’s store) in Beverly Hills
Three single origin chocolate bars (St. Lucia) from World’s Finest Chocolate
Bite-sized chocolate covered caramels from Zachary Confections
Box of Almond Roca Thins from Brown and Haley
Bag of Ambrosia semi-sweet chocolate chips from ADM Cocoa
Wonka Bar from Nestle
Nocturne bar (91% cacao content) from Guittard Chocolate
Three flavors of Hershey Bliss chocolate squares
Six Ghirardelli chocolate tasting squares (variety of flavors)
One package of chocolate-themed napkins for your next cocktail or chocolate tasting party

How AWESOME is that????? That ain't no junk!

You have to go to the blog and tell about your best Valentine's Day ever to have a chance to win.

You should do it! You might win some chocolate and you'll get to relive a great memory!

And we all need more chocolate and more love!!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

You Go (Away), Hershey

There's good marketing and there's outright theft.

Back in September I reviewed Seattle Chocolate's Chick Chocolates (sent to me by my good friend Toby Page). Now these are damn good chocolates - and the flavors vary according to the "Chick." Nutty Chick has nuts, Survivor Chick has raspberry, etc.

Now look at these:

Shame, Hershey, shame! This is a blatant rip-off of a great idea.

These are called You Go! and they have Sporty Girl, Drama Girl, All-American Girl, Social Girl, Fashion Girl, and Funny Girl. (Just call me Vomit Girl.) I am sick that those are the qualities they chose - what about Smart Girl? or Loyal Girl? or Caring Girl? or Geek Girl? Drama, Social and Fashion Girl - please! At least Seattle Chocolates had Survivor Girl (for breast cancer).

And all that is inside are a few Kisses - nothing exciting - all the same. The descriptions of all the girls are also eerily similar. Teenagers will probably snap these up. But the chocolate inside and the concept is a thousand times better as done by Seattle Chocolate - and those target women, not girls.

I think if you steal an idea and make it better, I can get behind it. Hey, after all, there is nothing new under the sun. But if you make it worse? If you didn't get why it was cool in the first place? That's criminal.

You know, Fashion Girl looks a lot like Posh Spice (Victoria Beckham). Maybe we could get her to pull a Naked Cowboy and sue. Where are flaky "celebrities" when you need them? Maybe we could call Lawyer Girl. Or better yet, Judge Girl.

And maybe even Executioner Girl.

You go, Girls.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Valentine Kisses

I do think that Valentine's Day is the perfect holiday for Hershey's Kisses. I mean, is there a candy better suited? And they definitely pulled out all the stops this year!

I already reviewed these, but they really are hard to stop eating! And they are members of the Kiss family:

This is just a packaging issue, but I like it! I bought some for my clients:

They all deserve a Big Kiss! But in the age of political correctness, I sure can't give them a real one.

And how cute are these little guys? They only come with three kisses in them, but they are adorable! I have all three sitting on the top of my computer monitor right now.

Now, I don't know if these are special for Valentine's Day, but they are DELICIOUS!!!! And you guys know raspberry is not my favorite flavor. But I cannot stop eating them - they are really, really good. I say get yourself some of these in case they are only available around Valentine's Day. You deserve it. Actually let's face it - you deserve a lot more. At least get yourself some damn candy!

They could look a little better - but the taste more than makes up for the appearance. It's possible mine melted a bit and that impacted the finish.

Now I know these are not for Valentine's Day, but I just found them, so here we go:

Okay - I was really surprised when I opened these! I was expecting 5 wrapped Kisses. But no! These were unwrapped and look how big they are! I put a normal Kiss in for comparison:

I was most excited about Cheesecake, but Cherry was much better. Cheesecake needed more cheesecake and less chocolate. Not impressed. Don't bother. But Cherry was pretty darn good! (And you guys know cherry is not my favorite. But these rocked!)

This is some really brilliant expansion of the product line. Different flavors, creative packaging - all paying off the iconic Kiss shape. What is important here is not the quality of the chocolate, it's the marketing (in this case distribution) and the shape - we recognize it and we love it.

What's the lesson? You don't have to be the best at everything, maybe not even what others would tell you is the main thing. (In this case the quality of the chocolate.) Figure out what you can be best at - and go for it! Hershey made streetlights for the town in the shape of Kisses. They were fun and easy, unique and joyful. And look where they are today!

This Valentine's Day - fall in love with your joy and uniqueness - therein lies your real power. Big Kisses to all of you for reading!!!!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

I Want Candy!

My personal life may be a disaster, but my professional life ROCKS!!! I had a great time in Florida with my friends at Republic Finance. We read all this negative press about corporate executives, but the leaders at this company are fantastic people who really care about their employees. They are energized by what they do and a joy to work with. (And they love me too!! )

After my recent relationship debacle, I can use a little love. Thanks, Republic Finance!

Speaking of love, when I got back from Florida, there was a box on my doorstep from Sweet Services. A big box. A big box containing 5 pounds of candy! Wheee!!! Who needs a relationship with a man when I can have a relationship with candy?

It's hard to show you how much candy 5 lbs. really is:

I put a pen in the upper right to try and give this some scale. The bag was bigger than your head. Much bigger. Almost two heads. It was loaded with cinnamon and butterscotch discs, Smarties, Charms Blow Pops, Andes Mints, lollipops, and these really good toffee chews.

Picture and description from the Sweet Services Website:

Primrose Asst. Toffee Description
Who can resist soft chewy Toffee! These candies are available in 5 YUMMY flavors: Vanilla, Raspberry, Chocolate, Buttered Rum, and Maple. Candies are individually wrapped in bright foil wrappers. These are sold in bulk.

These were like high speed Tootsie Rolls. I REALLY liked the raspberry ones - delicious!! I've never had these toffees before, but they were rally good.

Sweet Services has a TON of candy, but they sell in bulk - so they are the go to people when you need a LOT of candy:

And don't we all really need a LOT of candy?

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

My Peanutty Valentine

I have to give a big Valentine's Day shout out to all of you who gave me some back up with my recent romantic disaster. Your support really means a lot to me. It was great to hear from you all.

I am following my own advice and getting back out there and have managed 1.) to be asked for my number by a drunk electrician who tried to buy a cigarette from me for a quarter (I don't smoke, but what a "hot" line) and 2.) to actually go on a date with a suspected arsonist (apparently his house recently burned down under suspicious circumstances and the insurance company is investigating him). I'm not sure why you would tell someone that on a first date. And no, these two men were not the same guy, although I would assume an electrician could easily become an arsonist. Unless he were drunk. Or maybe because he was drunk.

So you see, things are looking up!

Ahem - on to surer bets. Men might let me down, but Reese's never will!!!!! And have they pulled out all the stops for Valentine's Day! Cupid must know I need some love!

This is the first time I've seen these - they are like the baby to the regular Reese's Heart. 85 calories each and really great. But evilly addictive. Do not keep the bag near you. Lock it down. Lock yourself down. Very peanut buttery. Dreamy.

There are even smaller Reese's hearts and these have more chocolate and hold their shape better. You want aesthetic beauty - go with these. You want sinful peanut butter, go with the blob.

You'll notice this is an assorted bag - with Hershey Milk and Special Dark Chocolate Hearts too. Pretty foil, pretty colors. Again - you want bling, you want shiny, pretty things - here you go. I want shapeless blobs of salty/sweet peanut butter! YAH!!!

You can opt for no assortment and just go for all Reese's.

This assortment has the full size Reese's cup, a baby Kit Kat and a baby Hershey bar. The Kit Kats bars are conversation bars (good God - EVERYBODY stole the Sweethearts one claim to fame. There is no shame!! Rhyming unintentional.) Each Kit Kat bar has a different message molded into it "love ya!" "cutie pie" and "could u b any coolr?" (That's a little scary.)

There was another one, but I ate it and forgot what it said. (I'm a sick, sick woman.) Kit Kats are just too addictive - I'm not strong enough to open more and just read them and trash them. So the remaining phrases will be a mystery until I give these out at a seminar and the attendees read them to me.

Here they are naked.

But Reese's is just getting warmed up! They also have the usual miniature Reese's cups in red and gold foil. And then there are the Big Boys:

Oh baby - these are my favs. I love the Reese's Heart - weighing in at 180 calories. Then there is the Double the Peanut Butter Heart weighing in at 340 calories and 21, yes 21 grams of fat! (No wonder Cupid is so chubby.) And the ginormous Peanut Butter foil wrapped heart which has 680 calories and 40 grams of fat. (This is supposed to be four servings, I'm just all about the dramatic effect of the total.) Cupid doesn't have to shoot you with an arrow - he can just force feed you one of these and your arteries will explode.

But if I gotta go.....Hit me, Cupid!!!

Let's take off every body's clothes:

Now that's my idea of a centerfold!!!! The one at the top is the foil wrapped molded guy. Followed by the blobs - then the Big Daddy! The Big Daddy is molded as well and has details like a lovely bow. I say too much chocolate (remember the Reese's Christmas Snowman? Great detail and a big thick base of chocolate. That's the way this is made.) When it comes to Reese's I'm not in it for the chocolate. I'm in it for the peanut butter.

I do have to tell you that the little tray the Double the Peanut Butter Heart comes on was completely soaked in peanut oil? fat? something very oily. A sane person might be bothered by this. Look at the slick shine on the Double PB Heart. Again, I'm not in this for the aesthetics, I'm in for that decadent, sinful, greasy, salty sweet, peanut buttery taste! YEHAW!!!

Do you think this oil could serve as an accelerant? I'll check with my lunch date.