Thursday, May 28, 2009

CPAs and Chocolate

Now you probably don't immediately think of chocolate when you think of CPAs. But you might want to change that.

Remember I told you I was thrilled to be the NC CPA Association's Speaker of the Year? Well, look at what they served at the awards banquet:

This Chocolate Pyramid is filled with an awesome creamy chocolate mousse:

My pictures don't do it justice, but it was AWESOME!! I really wanted to lick the plate, but I was a guest of honor, after all. I think licking the plate would really be a compliment to the chef and should be more socially acceptable. This was the best chocolate dessert I have ever had - no kidding! Lots of chocolate desserts are too rich, but this was perfect! I wish I had one right now.

And remember last week after Chicago, I went to Birmingham to speak at a women's conference for the Alabama CPA Association?
Well - look at what they gave me after I spoke:

Taking the chocolate top off, you get this:

And look at how cool these are:

Even the "paper" cups are chocolate!

I ate one of the turtles tonight and it was delicious. Turtles are really growing on me. (Although I'm still partial to Mama Laura's, these were damn good. They were covered in dark chocolate (rather than milk) with white drizzle. YUM!!!

Do I have the greatest job EVER or what?

And are CPAs WAY cooler than you thought?

Things are still good on the dating front - but it is hurting my blogging! Sorry readers! There are only so many hours in the day! This week he and I went to one of those Get Motivated seminars where the big names speak. (His idea - pretty impressive, huh?) I was thrilled to see Rudy Giuliani, Colin Powell, and Zig Ziglar.

Rudy and Colin were masters - not taking themselves too seriously and making excellent points on leadership (and who better?). But I was sad to see Zig Ziglar. He suffered a fall not too long ago and now his daughter takes the stage and interviews him. Having seen him speak about 10 years ago, this was heart breaking.

It was great to see some of the world's best speakers - who better to learn from?

I learned from Zig yet again - this time it was that no one is at their best forever. There really is a time to walk away. I was reminded by Rudy of what 9/11 was like although I thought I would never forget. And Colin Powell reminds me of our best military leaders - those who put their lives on the line for us and expect nothing in return. Colin has given his life in service of the American people - how lucky are we?

So - CPAs have cool taste in chocolate and I've managed to keep dating the same guy for two months. The world is a wonderful and mysterious place.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Candy Expo and Snickers

I love Snickers - it really is one of my favorite candy bars. And at Candy Expo the newest Snickers was unveiled - Snickers Fudge. But while I'm going there, I also thought I'd throw in some other Snickers variations: almond, Transformers Snickers with yellow nougat, and Snickers Dark.

And of course, the autopsy:

Okay - the random weird yellow nougat one is new also. It tastes like a regular Snickers but the nougat is yellow as you can see. I guess if kids are really into Transformers this may seem cool and sell Snickers. I was intrigued but am unimpressed. Snickers Almond is good, can't complain here, but I like the regular Snickers better. Dark was my least favorite. I know dark chocolate is hot right now, but I prefer the milk chocolate on the Snickers Bar. After all, back in the day a special blend of flavors was created for the Snickers chocolate coating. I like it. I think it works best. Now, I realize I may be biased because I grew up with that flavor and am used to it BUT, here's the big news......

Snickers Fudge is fabulous!!!

(Isn't that beautiful?) Now this is a lot different than the regular Snickers. No caramel - instead fudge. And the nougat is peanut butter flavored. You've got to try this - it's really different and really good. It's also a limited edition so I don't know how long it will be around.

So what can we learn from Snickers?

Just because something is new or different doesn't mean it's better. But sometimes new and different IS better! So you have to keep an open mind and try new things AND AT THE SAME TIME, don't throw out something that has worked in the past just because it's been around for a while.

I think most of us tend to one of the two extremes. We think the newest is always the best or we only hang on to the tried and true. The challenge is to recognize your tendency and adjust for it. Again we're reminded how important it is to keep an open mind (and how hard it is to do!).

Did you ever think you'd learn a life lesson from Snickers?

Embrace change - try the Snickers Fudge!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Candy Expo Continued (Pieces v M & Ms)

Hi Gang! Sorry for the delay - when I left Chicago I had to head to Birmingham to give my Leadership Lessons from the Kings of Chocolate seminar and then get back to Raleigh and deal with the pile up. I'm still digging out. No rest for the gluttonous.

This is SOME of the candy I came home with covering my dining room table. Amazing, huh? When will I have time to review all this? How much weight can I avoid gaining? lucky am I????

You should have seen me lugging all this through the airport - I already had one bag checked (at $15 each way that was a cool $45 for nothing). This bag of candy had to weigh over 50 lbs - it's a damn good thing I work out! As it was I lost the feeling in my fingers three times. Oh - I also had a bag with my laptop. I am clearly demented. (And stubborn as hell).

Okay - I just randomly took pictures on Wednesday - I figured they could come and get me if they wanted to, so here are some to give you a tiny idea of how cool these booths were:

How cool is all that???? I wish I had that Lindt bunny for my front yard. And not just for Easter.

The booths were all gorgeous, colorful and huge - with samples! Candy Expo is as close to Willie Wonka and the Oompa Loompas you can get.
Let's do some quick reviews:

I'd never tried these before, but now I have. And these are my thoughts - did Nestle Crunch really need to be any crispier? I don't think this adds anything to the original. (The original isn't one of my favs to start with, but this makes it less flavorful.) Same goes for Butterfinger - I mean it's already great and crispy as hell - it doesn't need any wafers. I prefer the originals of both of these bars.
But THIS is another matter entirely:

I like the Baby Ruth, but I LOVE the Baby Ruth Crisp. I think the Baby Ruth needed a little lighter touch. These are well worth trying. I actually went back to the booth to get more samples. WAY good.
Look at this great idea:

They already had Reese's Pieces, now Hershey's has added York Peppermint Patty Pieces, Almond Joy Pieces, and Special Dark Pieces. The York Pieces are fabulous (and I'm not even a huge mint fan), the Almond Joy Pieces are way better than the Coconut M & M's below, but I would rather just have an Almond Joy. And the Hershey's Special Dark Pieces are good. I don't have any Dark M & M's to compare them with, but they are a solid entry. Great ideas from Hershey.

Grab the York Pieces when they come out - I think you'll like them.

Mars isn't taking this innovation lying down! (Well, maybe lounging on a beach...)

Okay - these don't taste much like coconut at all. The Almond Joy Pieces were much better - they had some coconut texture - although they were too small to autopsy. And they tasted kind of like coconut. These taste like M & Ms. Maybe someone walked through the factory wearing a Hawaiian shirt. No coconut is listed in the ingredient list - the Almond Joy Pieces list both coconut and almonds.

Maybe Mars thinks if they SAY the M & M's taste like coconut, we'll BELIEVE they taste like coconut.....

I was so excited about these - strawberry and peanut butter M & Ms - YAY!!! What a great idea! How exciting! But they disappointed me. I found the strawberry gave them a weird aftertaste. Peanut Butter M & Ms are better (and I think Reese's Pieces are better than those!).

Candy Expo really was a blast!! As I review more of the candy I'll tell you more about some of the people. The candy was cool, but it was the people that really made it a great experience.

I'd also like to express my admiration and appreciation to anyone who has served in the military. My friends Katie and Wally come to mind - I am so proud of them and don't tell them nearly enough. Memorial Day is a great day to think of all those who serve, who have served, and who gave their lives for our country. Thank you!!!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Live from Chicago - It's Candy Expo!!

Oh my God.

I am overwhelmed. I have never seen so much candy in one place in my life. My head is spinning and I have ingested enough chocolate for 10 people.

To give you an idea of how big Candy Expo is, the NCA (National Confectioners Association) press release says the Expo "encompasses nearly 10 football fields." Ten. Think how big ONE football field is. This is ten. Holy God.

Believe me, that is a lot of booths. I realized early on I was going to have to focus only on chocolate to have any chance of making it through. (Jonny and Matty I have failed you - but I do have all the scoop for next year. And Haribo had a tasting bar - like a Haribo buffet. I wept that you weren't there. We'll have to talk.)

I don't have pictures for you - they are weird about that, but I might try to take some tomorrow. Some of the booths are pretty amazing. All are colorful and gorgeous. And look how much candy I have:

Do you see that? It's amazing and disturbing all at the same time. How will I ever blog about it all? How will I make good on all the promises I made to get the samples? What if some of the nicest people have the worst candy? I do think I might have sold my soul to get candy today. Well at least part of my soul. Or maybe I just prostituted myself.

It's not that there weren't plenty of samples everywhere. It was that sometimes I really wanted the good stuff. And it's not like I'm a buyer. These people are there to make money, not deal with random motivational speakers who blog. What the hell is that about anyway? So sometimes I had to make promises. Basically I was charming people into giving me the good stuff. (Yep - I'm a chocolate 'ho.)

But let me tell you - overall - this was one great group. Master Chef Michael Antonorsi fixed me a cup of fabulous hot cocoa and sat down and talked with me about his philosophy of chocolate making! He was gracious and wonderful and brilliant and kind. The Mars representative for Seeds of Change - I will have to get her name tomorrow - gave me one of all of their full sized bars! That would be seven different flavors! We discussed distribution and positioning - it was cool! Erik Hemp and Kathleen Wells of Nestle hooked me up with their new product - Baby Ruth Crisp - which totally rocks!! You'll have to get your hands on one of these when they come out. I might have to go by and get more tomorrow. I am a sick, sick woman.

I also attended a blogger luncheon (thanks Carl and Susan) and an official Mars press conference. YAHOO!! At the press conference, they talked about their new chocolate relief act - where they are giving away free chocolate and are making all their products with real chocolate (not fake chocolate which is what's in so many candy bars today). Check out to read more and find out about your free chocolate. It's really sad that we THINK we're getting chocolate, but some candy makers are substituting cheaper ingredients for the cocoa butter. Bastards!

All the M & M's were at the press conference (no Naked Cowboy in sight) and we all got cool give away bags with more candy. And get this!! M & M's are coming out with two new flavors - coconut and strawberry & peanut butter. They are in the bag and I'll be reviewing soon!

Snickers has a fudge bar - I also have and will be reviewing soon.

Nestle has cranberry Raisinets (although can they be Raisinets if they are cranberry?) Who cares - I'll be reviewing them also.

Dove Promises are now available in peanut butter! YUM!

Reese's Dark is coming out. Also York Peppermint Patty Pieces and Almond Joy Pieces and Hershey Special Dark Pieces. Also Hershey's Bliss will be out in white chocolate.

Tootsie Pops are out in banana - limited edition.

How cool is all of this? I also came across many companies I had never heard of. And I skipped over all the gum and snack and sour and all the other crazy candies. I snubbed Russell Stover and Palmer because you know how I feel about them. But I may go by tomorrow for the hell of it. If it wasn't chocolate, I didn't bother. It's just all too big!

I need to go through all the literature and business cards I picked up and try and put everything in some kind of order. I'll be at the Expo all day tomorrow, then I have to fly out to Alabama for a speech on Thursday. Thursday night I'll be flying back to Raleigh. So it may be a few days before I post again, but trust me, it will be worth the wait!


Monday, May 18, 2009

Chicago Architecture and Chocolate

Wow - today started off gorgeous weather wise - clear skies, warm - it was awesome! But by the time I got off the architectural cruise I was freezing my butt off! BRRR! I was thinking about doing an art deco architectural tour tonight, but I don't have the clothes for it. And, no I am not buying a winter coat. I already bought a Hershey sweatshirt I don't need - that's as far as I'm going.

Let me show you some of the shots from the cruise:

I took about a million more, but this is On Motivation and Chocolate not On Motivation and Architecture.

The cruise really was terrific and seeing the city from the river was very cool. If you come to Chicago - do one of these tours.

Also, I think it's a shame how much we miss of life. We really are blinded by ignorance. I had looked at many of these buildings while walking through the city, but I didn't SEE them. When our tour guide pointed out details or things that made the buildings special, I realized how vast my ignorance and how little I really saw. Knowledge really does give you an appreciation - of art, architecture, writing, people.

Let me give you an example. See these buildings?

Yeah, yeah more skyscrapers, whatever, right?

Well look closer:

This one is called Aqua - it's under construction. Look at the amazing balconies that undulate like water. A tribute to the river. It's also one of the tallest buildings in the world designed by a female architect. I would have never seen it. Now, it's all I see when I look at those buildings.

Keep learning - life is way more fascinating that way.

I did manage to visit another chocolate shop on my own (imagine that!). I don't think a chocolate lover can come to Chicago and not stop by:

And check this out from their website:

More than 85 years of Fannie May – The first Fannie May retail store was opened by H. Teller Archibald in 1920 at 11 N. LaSalle St. in Chicago. By 1935, there were nearly four dozen retail stores in Illinois and several neighboring states. During World War II, while other companies chose to change their recipes when ingredients were scarce, Fannie May stuck with its exact recipes, making only what it could which often meant closing shops early because no more candy was available - never was the taste of the candy compromised.

Well - we'll just see about that.

If I spent at least $40 I got a free 1 pound assortment, so of course I spend the $40. Did I mention earlier than I'm kind of cheap? And you already know I have a thing for chocolate.

I also have a thing for almonds:

Okay, I'm not going to lie. I was pretty skeptical about these. They were $16.99 for the one pound bag pictured here. Regular Jordan almonds are nowhere near that much. But these blow regular Jordan almonds out of the water (or maybe I should say out of the river as a tribute). The last bag of Jordan almonds I had were hard as rocks - these were perfect, you could tell the almonds were very fresh. Delicious. Well worth the extra cost. A++

I also bought a few loose pieces:

Two peanut butter buckeyes (one with white chocolate), a butter caramel, a butterscotch caramel, a milk praline, and a milk caramel present. All of these were really, really good. Now these are not crazy gourmet candies. There ain't no salt on these caramels, no weird spices, no talk of saving the Earth or organic sun drenched fields. These are good, solid all-American chocolates. I have to say I think they are better than See's, but not as good as Sarah's. After all - they are mass produced.

But I was very surprised at their quality. I'll report more when I break into the boxes, but right now, I have to say that Fannie May makes a damn fine chocolate and I hope they are around for a long, long time.

They also have a location right by where you board the cruise boats at the corner of Michigan and Wacker. So you can do two great things at once. (You are planning to do SOMETHING new and different after reading this, right?)

Tomorrow - CANDY EXPO!! I feel like a kid on the night before Christmas. WHEEE!!!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Chicago Chocolate Tour continued

Whew! I got up this am and went to Frank Lloyd Wright's Robie House - more on that later. It's another gorgeous day in Chicago - albeit a little chillier than yesterday. But the sun is shining and it is spectacular.

I do have to share with you the key they gave me at check-in:

And this was left in my room today:

Ha, ha, ha! I love Candy Expo already!!

Okay - back to the Chocolate Tour! After More Cupcakes, we went to my favorite place on the tour - Sarah's Pastries and Candies (

Sarah Levy is the second Saint in the Church of Chocolate (that would be my C of C - I can't speak for those other C of Cer's - they'll have to find their own Saints). Sarah is in her 20's and is selling her candies and pastries to Macy's! She has it together - and her stuff ROCKS!!! She also is incredibly nice and amazingly humble. She has great energy and enthusiasm and I know if any of you met her you would like her. I wish I lived in ChiTown so I could eat her chocolate all the time and hang out with her!

I love the quote she has on the back of her business card:

"What you see before you, my friend, is the result of a lifetime of chocolate." Katherine Hepburn

See how cool Sarah is?

She gave us samples of her chocolate delight: A delicious blend of milk chocolate, caramelized almonds, roasted pistachios and crispy rice. Can I just say "YUM!?" And her to die for brownies. The samples were so great, I had to buy a t-shirt, a box of chocolates, two cookies, and several more goodies. I say if you're going to go, go big!

Today I had her peanut butter square:

My only regret is that I didn't buy 4 or 5 hundred. These things are amazing. I don't know what the heck is in them, but there is something light and crunchy. Maybe some of that crispy rice? But they are also very peanut buttery. It's the perfect balance, because they are awesome, but not too heavy like most slabs of peanut butter would be. Ah.....

Then I tried her chocolate-almond toffee:

Also delicious. Sarah told me what she does differently is mix almonds in with the toffee as well as rolling the chocolate coated toffee in almonds. It really is fantastic. See why she is a C of C Saint? Sarah's confections are fantastic!!!!

As I try the rest of her stuff, I'll post more reviews.

From there we went to Lindt:

I love Lindt. I think their chocolate is smooth and creamy and fabulous. I love the way their stores are decorated (no fake flowers, lots of dark wood and shiny wrappers - love it!). Their sales people are nice and helpful. They have a frequent buyers program. I bought several things here which I will review in upcoming blogs. They gave us samples of their awesome white chocolate truffle with dark bits and a dark salted bar. Both delicious. Yay Lindt. (Boo teuscher again. Maybe I can start a Swiss war! Although that's not very C of C of me. But then again, there were all those Holy Wars.....hmmm....)

Crusades, anyone?

From there we went to Frango:

Now Frango used to be Marshall Field's signature candy, but Marshall Field's has been bought by Macy's. Frango is blobbed in with a lot of other chocolate brands here in Macy's candy department. And the Frango employees were completely lame. They gave us samples but acted like it was killing them. Actually one of the girls was okay but the other one was awful. I overheard her ask if she could go on break now. (Hello - how often does a chocolate tour come through, slack girl? Will working 15 more minutes kill you? I guess rolling your eyes and sighing IS pretty tiring.)

They gave us a sample of their famous mint and a new sea salt caramel:

Note the sea side box? Cute. I did buy a box of these because I am a sucker for the salt/caramel combo and these were pretty good. Not Chocolate Fetish good, but better than average. Frango also had some new flavors I would have liked to try - cherry almond, pomegranate pistachio - but I didn't want to buy a whole box. And it wasn't like Break Girl was helping me. Not many options, horrible customer service - look for Frango to disappear into candy history.

Our final stop was Argo Tea. Now, as usual, I was being judgemental and thinking this was a gyp. I didn't want tea, I wanted chocolate. And when we walked past Hershey and Ghirardelli stores to get there, I was even less happy. But, as usual, I was wrong. When will I learn to keep an open mind?

Here we sampled a double chocolate muffin (okay) and chocolate chai tea (fabulous). And doesn't this guy look like someone who should serve you chocolate chai tea?:

Ooops - there goes that judgemental thing!

The tour ended here and I, of course, headed straight to Hershey. The adventure picks up there tomorrow!! Big thanks to Valerie Beck and Heidi Holladay of Chicago Chocolate Tours for a great adventure!