Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Peanut Butter can Glue Your Heart Back Together

Ah - guess what, my beloved readers? Yours truly is back on the market. Yes, I somehow managed to pick yet another man who wants to "keep his options open". Now mind you, he still wants to see me - just wants to see other women too. Um - no.

Yoowee! I sure can pick 'em!! Well - let's just thank goodness I didn't make him famous by putting pics of him on this blog! And at least this didn't waste as much of my time as the Afghanistan Affair. The truth is, it never felt right. That had to be obvious to you all. If things were great, my guy would want pictures of us plastered all over the 'Net. He would be thrilled to be seen with me. I just never felt sure enough to do it. The ol' gut never lies, even when we don't listen to it.

You know what this is going to mean, dear readers? Drum roll please!!!!

More horrifying dating stories!!!!

And if any of you know any solid single guys, just let me know. ; )

Don't worry about me - I'm actually okay with this. Things never felt right, and I'm pretty sure he's been less than honest with me about a lot of things, so it's okay. I think karma gets those people in the end. At least I didn't send him a bunch of care packages! (Although I did book a weekend stay at the beach this weekend for his b-day.) But I'll have a blast without him. I might even meet someone there - who knows? Oh - he did say he knew this was a bad time with my hip and all, but.....

Hey, a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do!

Okay, well that was something in a great exterior that turned out to be a nightmare on the interior. Here's something that has a terrible exterior, but turns out to be pretty damn good!

Hee, hee - thank goodness someone put that yellow price sticker on there - we might have no idea how much this was!

I saw this and thought - "Oh boy - this is going to be horrible!! I so can't wait to blog about it!"

When I opened it, I thought:

Oh yeah - look at that - flooring! That looks pretty industrial doesn't it?

I'm thinking - "Ew - oh man - this is gonna be so bad it will be so fun to write about!!!"

You know what? It was pretty good!! I know - I'm scaring myself. It's made by Palmer, and you know I usually despise Palmer Chocolate. I'm sure the bottom layer is mockolate, but peanut butter is ingredient number four - and this tastes pretty good! It's no Reese's, but it's a real surprise. For two bucks it's one helluva big bar and I like it!

(Chocolate snobs are gasping in horror at this, but who cares.)

When will I learn not to judge a book by its cover? At the end of the day, it's the inside that counts.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Chocolate Salt Water Taffy and Dreams

I totally got beach fever last week and took off Friday and drove to the Outer Banks like someone was chasing me. Hey, it's the summer - what can I say? And I'm sooo lucky to live in such a gorgeous state!!

I got to spend a few hours on the beach until a thunderstorm rolled in. When that happened I did the obvious - went shopping. And, of course, for me, shopping means checking out the candy. And what candy represents the beach more than salt water taffy?

Now the store I stopped in was packed and this stuff was flying off the shelves. Yahoo! This taffy is made by http://www.forbescandies.com/ another small candy maker based in Virginia Beach, VA. They say this taffy is full of "sea breeze and sunshine." Yeah and glucose, sugar and hydrogenated vegetable oil. But what the hell.

I also got some salt water taffy at Candy Expo from Sweet's. Sweet's makes those chocolate covered cinnamon gummy bears I didn't love. But hey, they are in the Salt Water Taffy game:

Apparently the sail boat as candy window is vital in the packaging of salt water taffy.

I am going on an assortment rant. I have done this before and I feel certain I will do this again. In the store there were bins of the different flavors. Two of the flavors were peanut butter and cherry chocolate (yum!). Did I get any of those in my assortment? Oh no. I got 12 orange, 12 vanilla, 13 of a flavor I cannot for the life of me identify - some fruit thing, 8 licorice, 6 grape, 6 chocolate, 2 lime, 3 blue raspberry (glaack), 2 banana, 3 peppermint, 1 cinnamon. Next time I'm just going to buy two pieces of taffy - peanut butter and cherry chocolate. The rest of these suck.

Okay, I'm being too hard on them, but I think a Tootsie Roll is 10,000 times better than these chocolate taffy blobs.

Why can't assortments be more assorted? Why do you get 12 orange and no peanut butter? The Sweet's assortment was no better. I got 1 juicy pear and 12 chocolate (although I was okay with that). They also have Neapolitan - good, and peach - horrifying.

And look at these from Forbes:

I thought maybe one was just a poorly colored grape taffy. Oh no - that truly ugly color is licorice. And apparently one flavor is just shoved in after another - I saw many weird combos like the mutant in the upper right. Taffy scares me.

Except for Sweetime's Valentine's Day assortment, which I could eat that until my teeth fell out, I can live without taffy. The Tootsie Roll still reigns in the low-fat-not-chocolate-chew department.

But I didn't go to the Outer Banks for the candy. Every time I go, I have to stop by the Wright Brother's Memorial in Kitty Hawk:

I LOVE this monument. It is absolutely gorgeous, is art deco, and rests on a base in the shape of a star. But best of all is the quote carved on the base of the wing:

"Conceived by genius, achieved by dauntless resolution and unconquerable faith."

What audacity the Wright Brothers had - how brilliant they were. And how they changed the world as we know it. This is sacred ground in my book and it always takes my breath away to stand on it.

What could the rest of us achieve if we had dauntless resolution and unconquerable faith? To what heights could we fly?

This summer - if you go to the beach - eat some taffy and dream some big dreams. That's what summer's for.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

I Hate the Naked Cowboy

He's baaaaa-ck! Last time he was suing Mars for using his esteemed likeness as a blue M & M. Now he's running for the Mayor of New York. I think we have enough politicians who can't keep their pants on. Stop being a street freak and get a real job. Or just be a street freak and embrace your freakness. Stop trying to cross over, it's annoying.

Whew - I feel better now. Nothing does a body good like a public rant.

Let me mention my wonderful brother, who has two of the cutest boys in the entire Universe:

They are the spitting image of him - he's a red head. He and his wife, Melissa have done an amazing job with these two. They are the most well mannered kids EVER. There will be no Naked Cowboy activity in these two's future.

But, I digress (as usual). My brother sent me two chocolate links today - one was a study where you have to eat chocolate everyday for a year! I was ready to sign up until I saw you have to have Type Two Diabetes. I'd probably have it after the study. Dang.

The other was about a middle eastern company making chocolate with camel's milk. I dunno, maybe it will be good. I have serious doubts, but who knows. Escazu had a bar with goat's milk at the tasting and I didn't care for it, but maybe I would like camel's milk. Just want to keep you posted. Those of you with milk producing animals might want to get in on this - you might make millions! Or maybe not, I'm kind of creeping myself out right now just thinking about it.

I am still planning to blog about Fritz Knipschildt, but I just had to get the whole Naked Cowboy thing out of my system. And, the more of Fritz's chocolates I eat, the more I think he has a right to the giant ego. Lord, I hope he doesn't run for Mayor of New York.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Chocolate The Exhibition

Chocolate the Exhibition originated at The Field Museum in Chicago and is now right here in Raleigh, NC! I was so excited to see it! Here I am at the entrance with a bagful of purchases - one of which is a sign that says "Will Work for Chocolate."

Here's the entrance:

Well, that's pretty much the highlight of the exhibition. I mean, except for the gift shop.

Okay, I'm jaded. I've been to Hershey's Museum and Chocolate World. I've see the chocolate fountain at the Bellagio. I've toured chocolate factories. I've watched chocolate videos. This just wasn't all that. Maybe my hopes were just too high.

But the NC Museum of Natural Science has some educational events around the exhibition, and I went to one last week. It featured local chocolatier Hallot Parson of Escazu. I'd been into Escazu - it's a tiny shop which seems geared more to catering than to the random walk-in customer. No problem, I'm a die hard capitalist and want these small chocolatiers to make money.

Now you all know how much I love chocolate and how excited I get when I meet cool chocolate people. I loved watching them make the bourbon cherries in Kentucky, had a blast at Just Born in PA, and adored the tour of A Chocolate Fetish in Asheville. (And you know about my crush on Chuao Chocolatier Master Chef Michael Antonorsi.) Hallot Parson is a serious buzz kill.

I was so bummed when I stopped by the shop and tried to get him to talk about his chocolates. Ho. Hum. He was SO serious. I thought maybe I was keeping him from some important task - like saving the free world. I chalked it up to him having a bad day.

Well, Hallot is just like that. His presentation was interesting but he sucked all the joy out of the room. The auditorium was crowded, by the way. Crowded with chocolate lovers just waiting to laugh and have fun and learn. Not with Hallot. He's the most dour chocolate maker I have yet to meet. He didn't smile once - not even in the slides he showed us of him at the cacao plantation. Is this allowed? Shouldn't the fumes alone keep a chocolate maker in a perpetual state of bliss? Apparently not. I don't think Hallot would be fun to hang out with. All the other chocolatiers are the opposite - I would love to be able to pop in their shops and buy what's new and just bask in their coolness. Hallot is more like an Ooompa Loompa than a Willie Wonka. Bummer.

They do have a great logo:

And some lovely chocolates (although I think their bars are really where the action is). They have a sea salt bar that's terrific. But check these out:

I got these on a very hot summer day, so the bloom on the diamond shaped piece was unavoidable. The bad part is that because Hallot was such a grouch, I can't even remember what all these are. He was no fun to pick them out with - and they were not cheap.

The flat disk is a very thin delicious dark chocolate, but whatever is on top left an aftertaste like dirt. Ugh. Not so good.

The diamond was okay - it didn't blow me away, but it was good.

The tiger stripe brown dome was bad - I'm not sure if something happened with the heat. It reminded me of that horrible blue cheese Vosges truffle.

The small yellowish one has cool Aztec-inspired design work and was good, although it's white chocolate. I wish I had more details as I know there were some interesting flavors I couldn't quite identify. I love it when the boxes have identification or the chocolate shop employees fill out a card for you. I wasn't about to ask Hallot to do anything like that.

I really liked the gorgeous Easter egg truffle:

Not only is it visually breathtaking - look at those delicious layers of chocolate - white, milk, ganache. This was a true work of art - both visual and culinary - delicious!!

The personalities of chocolate are fascinating!! Tomorrow we'll meet Fritz Knipschildt - festive but egotistical. WHEEE!!!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Internet Ate My Baby

I wasted an entire day today.

I did not intend to waste an entire day - it just got away from me, like a fish slipping off the hook. Gone - never to return.

I started off strong - did my 5 mile walk with my buddy Kristina who I hardly ever see - multitasking - good! Then I took a shower and had a couple of hours before meeting another buddy for lunch. I posted a blog entry, screwed around on Facebook (no - I was not taking quizzes, just responding to people, etc.). I took pictures of some chocolate I want to blog about. Before I knew it, it was time to go to lunch. After lunch I dropped off some newsletters to a client - boom - it was 3:00 and zip, zero, nothing done.

Instead of bearing down and getting some stuff done, what do I do?

I decide I need some motivation - I need something to look forward to - I need to get my game back - I need to plan a big trip! Screw the recession and the hip! (I've already got a cool $1,500 in medical bills, why stop spending now?) The Internet sucked me in like a black hole. I considered the Caribbean - I love the sun and the water and scuba diving. But I get bored so fast.....

So I searched chocolate travel and I found some cool options, but not reasonable. One of the Cruise Lines has a chocolate cruise, but it's $4,000 a person. And I usually don't like being trapped on a boat. There's a company that does a cool trip to Belgium, but you have to have a group. I finally decided I might go to San Francisco - there's a lot of chocolate there (Michael Recchiuti, Richart San Francisco, TCHO, Charles Chocolates, and, of course, http://www.ghirardelli.com/) and stay in Monterey. I've never been out that way and hear it's gorgeous.

Oh - add to the complication of my planning that I want to do this around Christmas. I always have to have a plan for Christmas - that is the one holiday I totally run from. Sitting alone looking at the ocean in Monterey I can handle, sitting alone in my townhouse is awful. Plus this is a great time of year to travel because business is dead and few places are crowded. Ho, ho, ho!

That's it! That was my day. I'd like to say I was abducted by aliens, but that would be a lie. I was unfocused and undisciplined. Don't worry, I'll get back on track tomorrow and I know not to beat myself up too much and that it's okay to have an off day once in a while, blah, blah, blah. But, if you are like me, you've had a day like this. And if you're like me, you weren't happy with it either.

Here's the best way I know to get back on track:

1.) I have a list of the things I have to get done tomorrow. I will finish the list before looking at Facebook or anything else.

2.) I don't have much of a routine, but the morning workout thing threw me - usually I just head into the office and start working. This works best for me. Know what works best for you - I need to be working when I'm most focused.

3.) Know what will have the most impact on your goals. I love writing this blog, but it's not as important as getting work done for a potential client - it's just more fun! I need to do keep my eye on the goal.

4.) Repair the damage. I'll feel better if I get a lot done tomorrow. Maybe I should unplug my computer.

Anybody want to go to San Francisco?

On Freedom - Part Two

I promised this entry a while ago and got distracted (so many shiny objects, so little attention span). The first posting about freedom was an introduction and addressed financial freedom.

It also gave these two tips:

1.) You have to believe you are free.

2.) You have to have a source of income. You have to be able initially to provide for yourself, and eventually to have enough money to allow you to do what you want.

This post is moving on to other big tips:

3.) You can’t let others jail you. You hear this all the time, “I’d go with you guys, but my wife won’t let me.” Or, “I’d like to have dessert, but if you all aren’t having any….” How about your mother pressuring you to have children so she can have a grandbaby? Or waiting for someone to call you before you make your own plans? There are a million variations on this. We put our own lives and hopes and dreams on hold for someone else. Now, I’m not saying you have to start being a wild rebel, I’m saying you have to own up to your decisions and choices. Let’s use the “I’d love to go with you guys, but my wife won’t let me” line as an example.

You know what this line is? BS. The deal is that this man is free to do whatever he wants. He just knows going with the guys is going to make his wife angry. He is free to decide if he wants to go with the guys and deal with his wife’s anger or tell the guys no and avoid the wrath of wife. He makes a choice. He is free. His wife is not his jailer; he gets to decide what he wants. He also gets to decide if he wants to stay in the marriage.

Which leads us to another potential jailer – the church. Our guy might say, “I can’t get a divorce, the church won’t let me.” Ah – more BS. If he values his particular faith and that is a tenant of his faith, he can say, “I choose not to divorce because of my religious beliefs.” Or he can reconsider those beliefs. He is free.

If you want dessert, you need to order it – who cares what the other people are doing? They are not the bosses of you. They are not dragging you out of the restaurant. Will they think badly of you? WHO CARES? Part of being free is you have to stop worrying about what other people think. When you are more concerned with what others think than what YOU think, you are allowing them to jail you. The chances are they care way less about what you are doing than you think they do.

Your mother wants a grandbaby? Well, she can adopt her own baby. You need to have a baby because you want one more than life itself. Because if anything is going to alter your freedom, that is it. I believe having a child is the one decision that will have the single greatest impact on your freedom. This is the one relationship you cannot walk away from. You created this person and you are responsible for this person. If you are not 100% sure you want to have a child, maximize your freedom by practicing safe sex. PLEASE.

The key here is to realize that you always have choices and to make them very, very wisely. You chose to be in relationships and you can chose to end relationships. Other people can’t take away your freedom unless you let them.

4.) Deal with your addictions. If you are addicted to anything – drugs, tobacco, alcohol, a person, food – whatever – you aren’t free. I’m not going into detail on dealing with addictions, but if you have one, you know darn well the thing you are addicted to controls you. And that’s about as far from free as you can get. Addictions are some of the hardest things in the world to break and few can go it alone – there are many resources on the Internet to help you. Please use them – you only have one life and none of those things are worth trading it for.

5.) Take good care of your health. We can’t control all aspects of our health, but we can have a big impact on it. And your health definitely impacts your freedom. I’ve had people in my seminars who couldn’t go kayaking because they were too overweight to fit in the boats. If you can’t walk up a flight of stairs without being winded, it will impact what you are free to do. Doing a few things can have a huge impact on your freedom – getting enough sleep, exercising, and maintaining a healthy weight.

I’m going to use myself as an example here. I have arthritis in my hip and it does impact my freedom. I can’t run at all. I can’t walk nearly as fast and as far as I used to. Some nights I can’t sleep. I’m doing everything I can to manage it, but use me as an example of how health issues can impact your freedom. Do everything you can to protect your health – after you lose it, it may be too late.

Back to chocolate next!!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Nabisco is My Dealer

Hi Gang! I hope everybody had a great weekend!! The good news is that the hip seems to be a good bit better. I actually did a seven mile walk yesterday AND could sleep that night (no aches). Whoowee - maybe I can buy some time before the evil surgery. Thanks again for all the well wishes. Still seeing the hot BF, still scared to death I'll jinx it if I plaster pictures all over the Internet. What can I say? I'm a weirdo. I'm sure I'll relax after a year or two.

So many things to blog about, so little time!! I have to say I'm completely astounded by previews I've recently seen for two new televisions series - one is called Toddlers in Tiaras about those kids who do beauty pageants. I'm sorry - that's just so creepy - those sexy outfits, all that makeup and big hair on babies - ew. And if that's not bad enough - there's another one about women who didn't know they were pregnant until the baby came out. Okay - what??? There are enough of these women to make a SERIES? Who will watch this? And is pregnancy something you can really not notice?

Obviously our culture is completely in ruins.

But this blog is a bastion of culture! In fact, let's quote some ancient wisdom (Ecclesiastes 1:9-14 NIV) "What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun." I've quoted this before, I'm sure I'll quote it again. This time it's because:

Yeah, Nabisco's already on the whole peanut butter thing. So much for my great idea. HOWEVER, I do think these would be better if they were all peanut butter - like the Nutter Butter. But don't get me wrong, these are damn good. In fact, they knocked the double chocolate off the top of the list.

Seeing how clueless I am, I decided I should take a more serious look at the cookie aisle. I generally stay of of that aisle - too dangerous. I can resist chocolate, but cookies and cakes own me. Some people have meth, I have Swiss Cake Rolls. And look what I found! I didn't even know these existed!! How have I lived without this knowledge? (I feel like I just delivered a baby and didn't even know I was pregnant!)

It's a boy!!!

Isn't that beautiful? And they are double stuf! (Why double stuf has one f is a mystery to me, by the way.) Now I was skeptical, I really didn't think these would be all that. Well, I was wrong again! These are fantastic!! Dangerously fantastic.

Once again, ancient wisdom - don't assume you won't like something - try it!! Keep an open mind. As soon as you start thinking you have all the answers, the cookie aisle will surprise you. And somewhere, someone is always working on a new cookie. What could be more glorious than that? (Maybe if somewhere, someone would stop working on a new TV series.)

Have a great week!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Let Them Eat Cakesters

First of all - a big thanks to all my buddies who called and told me they would be there if I needed them during the hip surgery - you guys are THE BEST! Seriously, I just can't tell you how very, very much you all mean to me.

Next - got the steroid shot yesterday. Um....can I say - ouch? Ouch not in a shot like way - they give you a numbing shot first, and that just feels like a regular shot - no big deal. It's the next one that's the kicker. Basically the Doc jams a big ol' needle into your hip joint (about 4 inches over from the groin). And my hip was so tight, when the needle got it in there - the Doc couldn't eject the steroid serum. The nurse had to move my leg around. It was the weird sensation in the deep nerves that got to me - ew! But at least it beats drilling all the bone marrow out of my femur. Hey - life is grand! I'll let you know if I can tell any difference later in the week.

Now THIS is fascinating!! I got a call today from USAA! Someone in their corporate communications department read the last blog entry! (And I was using them as a example in a training session just today - guess I'll have to go back to using them as a good example.) They called and thanked me for posting the entry because they had no idea the automated system was doing that to people! (you know, HANGING UP on them!) Wow - the power of the Internet! Isn't that amazing? One little blog entry and a corporate giant makes a change. Pretty cool. Maybe they'll send me some chocolate. : ) USAA usually is really great at customer service, so I was pretty shocked by the whole credit card debacle.
Next I'll fix health care.

We need to talk about some chocolate, don't we??? I need some comfort food, so I'm going with Oreos. But not in the way you think. Check these out:

These are new and they are fun. The whole package has only 90 calories. Are they better than Oreos? No - they are light and fun, but maybe too light. I think I could eat 100 and still be hungry. But they were a big hit at a seminar I did today - they were devoured before all the other goodies on the snack table. These would be great with ice cream or for kids to use as a straw with their milk. Or for those of you who drink milk. Wheeee!

They also have cheesy jokes on the package:

Which holiday does a cow enjoy?

Moo Year's Day (Geez that's bad.)
Way more exciting and something I have SOOOO been wanting to try:

I mean what could be better CAKEsters - Oreo CAKES. I love cake.

Doesn't that look beautiful?
But you know me and comparison. I wanted to try the whole Cakester family:

Okay they are vanilla, not chocolate, but they are Cakesters. And I'll use any excuse I can to eat sweets (especially cake). YUM
Now look at these - double chocolate:

And lastly, the "healthy" version:

Okay, the healthy version is good - you get three little cakes for 100 calories. But do not try the other versions or you'll realize how lame these are in comparison.

The Oreo Cakesters are great - nice soft cakes filled with delicious cream. Very good- addictive. But 250 calories for two cakes. And believe me, you're going to eat two. That's how they're packed. I honestly would rather have a Little Debbie Swiss Cake Roll or a Devil Square. YUM!!!

Nilla Cakesters are okay - if, like me, you like cake and cream, you'll eat these two as well. But, again, I prefer Little Debbie Raisin Creme Pies (same thing, but bigger and with raisins on top).

The chocolate creme Cakesters are my favorite. And I was surprised by this. Usually chocolate and chocolate is too rich for me, but these were good. My heart (and perhaps my soul) still belongs to Little Debbie, but these were pretty darn delish.

You have to give Oreo credit for expanding the cookie line. Now if they would only make the Nutter Butter into a cake..........

Maybe the corporate communications people at Nabisco will read this entry and make Nutter Butter Cakesters!!!

A family portrait. All that's missing is Nutter Butter.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Let This Week END!!!

I know you all have had them - weeks from HELL! That is what this week has been for me. There was the discovery of the database disaster, Afghanistan Man popped back up out of the blue, yesterday I saw a surgeon about my hip (very bad news), and just this morning USAA called to tell me of some unauthorized use of my credit card. I am praying to the great cacao bean in the sky to end this madness!

Can you believe Afghanistan Man called again? Apparently I am much better in retrospect than I am in an actual relationship. He wants a second chance - I was so great, I believed in him, he was so grounded when he was with me, blah, blah, blah. Whatever. Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me. I already feel it's shame on me. The whole thing just brings up some very yucky feelings and still manages to bother me.

Then the surgeon - ah! I got to see the recent x-ray of my arthritic hip. There is zero cartilage left. Zero. The bone is forming all kinds of spurs and cysts - it's a veritable bone party in there. And, I didn't know this, but bones have nerves (like teeth) and every time I walk or move a certain way, those nerves are rubbing together. The surgeon was shocked I was still walking 5 miles a day. (See what a bad ass I am?) Little does he know it's merely so I can continue my chocolate habit and simultaneously fit into my clothes.

They are going to give me a steroid injection in my hip next week, but the only real solution is surgery. After you realize this, they have you watch a little video. Holy God in heaven! That is what pushed me over the edge - seeing how they have to scrape out the leg bone and jam a plastic rod in there to link with the new fake hip. Jesus!! I had no idea - I don't know what I was thinking, but this is no outpatient procedure. Three to four days in the hospital, no driving, I'll need some kind of home care or I can go into a rehab facility (basically a nursing home). Two months of recovery time (and that's on the good side) - and I work for myself - if I don't speak, I don't earn any money. And it ain't like this is going to be cheap.

Actually, the whole database screw up is looking pretty good now, a walk in the park. I'm thinking maybe I should just ask nougat to pay me a visit and put me out of my misery. Where's a good serial killer when you need one?

Then the credit card call. Get this - they called me with an automated message and had me confirm the charges were not made by me. I'm so freaked out, I can't even remember my own zip code. Then they put me on hold to wait on a fraud representative. I was on hold for a while, then a voice came on, said all the representatives were busy assisting other callers (i.e. not me), gave me another number to call, and before I could even write it down, HUNG UP ON ME! Yes, they called me, scared me to death, and then hung up on me. I think I may become nougat myself. The police can take me and my hip out in a blaze of glory after I kill the USAA fraud department operators. That will solve all my problems in one fell swoop.

Luckily they caught this - the high rolling criminals were not able to get their Walmart charge to go through.

So what does one do with a week from hell?

1.) End it with Friday. I've decided this bad week is ending today. That the bad mojo is gone. That the weekend will be great.

2.) Deal with the worst. Okay, we're doing what we can about the database fiasco. I'm getting the hip injection Monday and will see the surgeon again in August. I'm just going to have to suck it up and figure out how to handle it when we decide to operate. I'm also going to try to get in even better shape so I can recover as quickly as possible. I'm trying really hard not to be afraid.

3.) Buy more chocolate. One of my favorite places in all the world is A Southern Season in Chapel Hill. This place is mecca for foodies. They have every coffee, tea, wine, candy, meat, cheese, bread, chip, hot sauce, olive oil - whatever you could ever want. And right now they are having a giant sale https://www.southernseason.com/ppf/id//cat.asp

I bought this cool thing yesterday - it's a faux book filled with chocolate! And it was half price! Whee!!

They are located right down the road from the surgeon. What better way to take your mind off bad news? Look at lots of shiny, tasty treats. I'm still doing my part to help the economy. Looks like I'll be helping the health care system quite a bit. Maybe I can get my own personal bail out...

4.) Reach out. This is going to be the hardest step for me. I know I'm going to have to do it, but it is so hard!! My whole goal of taking care of my health was to remain independent. (So much for those best laid plans.)

5.) Be grateful. Once again this always makes me feel better. At least I'm not the victim of a chocolate vat accident. Thank the Church of Chocolate there IS chocolate (and all those other wonderful things to eat). I'm so lucky I have friends who read this crazy blog - just posting makes me feel less alone in whatever happens. I need to focus on all the good stuff and not the bad stuff.

6.) Find the lesson. There are always lessons in whatever bad things happen to you. I should have checked more to make sure people who signed up for my newsletters were getting them. (Why I would assume technology would work is beyond me!) From now on, I'll try to be more vigilant. The hip - well, I didn't do anything that I'm aware of to cause the arthritis, but I will still do everything I can to maintain my health and to recover quickly from the surgery. And maybe it happened so I'll learn to (GASP) let other people help me. And the credit card - what a gift! It's a great story for my telephone customer service training. Don't scare the crap out of your customers and then hang up on them. Woohoo!

7.) Do not go to the pity party. I had a BIG pity party last night. HUGE. All about how alone I am. The new BF lives two hours away and this is a LOT to deal with. (who really wants a girlfriend who's falling apart?) Probably a great reason to bail. See? This is bad, bad thinking. The pity party does absolutely no good. You feel about a thousand times worse, you're tired and wrung out. Obsessing over all the bad things that could happen or that have happened is like volunteering to keep the flames stoked in hell. Why would you do this? You have to stop this train of thought early on - call a friend, watch TV, go to sleep, blog - do anything but go to the pity party.

8.) Laugh. Okay, I won't lie - I'm not finding much of this very funny right now. (Well, maybe the idea of killing the USAA Fraud Department operators.) But don't worry, I will. As they wheel me in for the surgery, I just might start screaming for nougat. Can you imagine? "I've changed my mind!! Bring me nougat!!! It's unpredictable! It's scary! It's weird! Bring me nougat!!" Just let them try to put a lame woman in a straight jacket! Hell, the North Carolina budget for mental health has been cut so much, they probably don't even have any straight jackets!

After the surgery? Hell, I'm going to start telling people I'm bionic.

Next time you have a bad week - apply these tips - maybe they'll help you too.

Enjoy the weekend!!!! And thanks for reading.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

True Death by Chocolate

(CBS/AP) Authorities say a man has died after falling into a vat of melted chocolate in a New Jersey processing plant. A spokesman for the Camden County Prosecutor's Office says the 29-year-old temporary worker at Cocoa Services Inc. plant fell after a blade used to mix raw chocolate hit him. The man's name has not been released.

And I think I have problems? Can you imagine? Only a temp and only 29 years only.

Chocolate is unpredictable. Chocolate is scary. Chocolate is weird. Chocolate can kill you.

And I thought it was just nougat we had to worry about.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

True Motivation by Chocolate

Ever have one of those work disasters that just makes you want to cry? Either cry or poke your own eye out? I had one of those today.

I just discovered that everyone who has signed up for my e-zine through my website over the past FIVE YEARS has gotten nothing. Zero. Oh - they got a message thanking them for signing up and then, nothing. I thought my web folks were capturing the information from the forms and using the addresses to send out my quarterly newsletter. I was wrong. Apparently I've been paying them to send a newsletter out to about 10 people instead of the almost 1,000 people who have signed up.

I had asked them to send me a copy of everyone who singed up so I could know who was signing up and where they were coming from, but for some unknown reason, they thought I was going to re-key in all the e-mail addresses and send them back to them. I'm sorry - WTF???? That makes absolutely no sense to me. To me the whole point was to automate the process. I am so angry and devastated.

I've devastated because I made a promise and it was not fulfilled. I asked people to sign up for a free newsletter which they never received. I work so hard to generate interest in my work - and these are my biggest fans - people who were interested enough to go to my web site, fill out a form and sign up for my newsletter. I just can't tell you how frustrated and upset I am.

The only lucky thing is that I printed out a copy of each sign up (yep, all 1,000 of them). I just shipped them off to my web folks so we can get this fixed. But I'm still a liar and I still missed all those potential leads and all that excitement. Who wants to get a newsletter they signed up for 5 years ago, 4 years ago, 3 years ago, 2 years ago, even 1 year ago?

But what can I do? Absolutely nothing. Be glad I printed the names out, but that's it. My frustration and disappointment and embarrassment are meaningless and are wasted emotions. I have to get back on track. So what do I do? How do I restart the engine and motor on?

1.) Let it go. It is what it is. All I can do is send the names and start 5 years later. I hate it, but it is what it is.

2.) Be grateful. This is hard, but I'm damn lucky I killed all those trees and printed out hard copies of all those sign-ups. Better to have something than nothing. Also, I'm lucky I even caught this - it could have gone on for 5 more years. It was a fluke that I figured it out.

3.) Buy chocolate. This totally resets my mood. I went to Target after shipping off the box of 1,000 names and wandered through the candy aisle. There are some cool new chocolates out. I was thinking about how I could weave them into a blog posting. Once my creative juices started flowing, I felt better. I was refocused on what I could do rather than obsessing over what I couldn't.

Now I'm not saying go buy chocolate if that's not your thing. You just need to have a thing - maybe it's a hobby or a person you can always call to lift your spirits. I like the idea of it being something you enjoy and that makes use of your talents. It helps restore your faith that you're not a total loser.

4.) Realize you are human. This is hard for me - I mean, I KNOW I'm human, but I am so mad at myself right now. I somehow miscommunicated with my web guy - he didn't do this on purpose. I know we all make mistakes, but I seem to think I shouldn't. Heck, I train people how to communicate, how can I screw up? This is where I want to strangle myself - HOW could this happen and for so long? Big sigh....see #1.

It must have been the nougat.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Wanting to be Peanut Butter, But NOT!

I believe I have waxed poetic about what the heck nougat is before, but I'm going to do it again. Because it's weird. And it kind of pisses me off.

Speaking of weird, I HAVE to share with you my favorite quote of the day. This is in reference to that serial killer down in South Carolina. S.C. State Law Enforcement Deputy Director Neil Dolan said:

"We have him. He's our serial killer. He was unpredictable. He was scary. He was weird."

Just like nougat.

Okay this is from Wikipedia:
Nougat (pronounced /ˈnʌɡɨt/ or /ˈnuːɡɑː/ (Commonwealth) or /ˈnuːˌɡət/ (US) is a term used to describe a variety of similar traditional confectioneries made with sugar or honey, roasted nuts (almonds, walnuts, pistachios or hazelnuts are common), and sometimes chopped candied fruit. The consistency of nougat can range from chewy to hard depending on its composition, and it is used in a variety of candy bars and chocolates.

There are two basic kinds of nougat: white and brown. White nougat (which appeared in Montélimar, France, in the 18th century) is made with beaten egg whites and is soft, whereas brown nougat (called nougatine in French) is made with caramelized sugar and has a firmer, often crunchy texture.

Whatever. Like THAT clears anything up.
Check this out:

This is Trader Joe's Lumpy Bumpy bar - see right there on the box where it says peanut nougat? Here's where it gets its name:

And here's the nougat:

Seems to work with the Wikipedia definition. It's white, soft, and basically lame. Boring. It is EGG WHITES after all. Woowee. The caramel is nonexistent and the only peanut taste I can detect is from the peanuts themselves. The dark chocolate seems good, although it overpowered everything else. Save your money. The packaging is more creative than the candy.

Now here's my love, Reese's:

You can't read it here, but the wrapper says: light and fluff peanut butter flavored nougat. Now after learning about mockolate, we know that when it says "flavored" it means - tastes like, but isn't. Chocolate flavored, means this ain't real chocolate, but it tastes like it (aka mockolate). So this must be peaNOT butter.

While this is way better than the Lumpy Bumpy bar, it's no good either. Nougat blows. And it all tastes different. This isn't chewy or hard, it's kind of soft like a Three Musketeers bar. But it does taste more like peanut butter. But why bother with it? Have a Reese's! This is scary and weird.

Oh there's more:

This wrapper reads: terrific chewy nougat with peanuts.

This is more like the Wikipedia definition - it is chewy - like break your teeth chewy. I'm not big on the the teeth breaking part and it just doesn't have enough flavor to be worth all the work, much less the calories. BLEECH.

Who invented nougat and what haven't they been killed?

Oh yeah - the French. Figures.

Oh - it gets weirder.

Taffy has almost the same ingredients as nougat and this stuff sure tastes like the white stuff in the Big Hunk:

These are mini Abba-Zaba bars. A nostalgic candy (with creative new packaging) I found in Cracker Barrel. These and the Big Hunk are made by Annabelle's - one of those still standing small American candy makers that I love. But these were no good in my book either. The "taffy" is filled with peanut butter rather than having peanut in it. Either way - too hard, not worth it.

A MUCH better product is Wolfgang's Peanut Butter Kisses (reviewed about a year ago when I visited their factory in PA). Their taffy is soft and chewy and there's a lot more peanut butter - delish!

Nougat - unpredictable, scary, and weird. A candy serial killer. Don't say you haven't been warned.

Friday, July 3, 2009

On Freedom - Part One

Happy Independence Day!!

The holiday has me thinking a lot about freedom, so I'm going to do some blogging on it. Don't worry - I'll intersperse some chocolate, of course!!

I adore my freedom. In fact, I would go so far as to say it is my most important value. I agree with Christopher Morley who said, “There is but one success – to be able to spend your life in your own way.” This, to me, is freedom.

I also think America is a country that allows you to be free. That, in fact, America was founded on the principle of freedom. But too many people here feel they aren’t free. And it seems to me they are turning to the wrong places to be set free. They seem to the think the government will set them free or their spouse will set them free or society will set them free or their parents will set them free or their church will set them free. Here’s the deal, people – only one person can set you free – and that person is you.

Let’s talk about how.

First we have to determine in what ways you feel you are not free. So I’m going to list some things that may be impacting your freedom:

1.) You may feel you are not free because someone else is keeping you from doing what you want (spouse, parents, the law, etc.)

2.) You may feel you are not free because you don’t have the money to do what you want or you have so many debts or other financial obligations you cannot do what you want.

3.) You may feel you are not free because of your race or your gender or your height or your age or your weight or any of another million possibilities based on your appearance or background

4.) You may feel you are not free because of addictions

5.) You may feel you are not free because of health issues

6.) You may feel you are not free because you have to work at a job you hate

7.) You may feel you are not free because you can’t find a job

8.) You may feel you are not free because _____________________ (insert your own reason here)

I’m about to call BS on any reason you give me. I’m pretty sure that if you are reading this article you are not incarcerated. And even if you are, you can STILL use some of these tips to be freer! But if you are not behind bars or locked up in some crazy man’s basement, and you live in the United States of American - you are free. To think otherwise is simply imprisoning yourself.

And that leads us to the first tip:

1.) You have to believe you are free. Do you know that many immigrants to the US do better than some people who are born here? The immigrants believe the US is the land of opportunity. They come here with nothing, only wanting the opportunity to build something – and they work their butts off. Too many people who are born here decide they aren’t free, that someone or something is keeping them down. You know what? If you believe that – you will live that. You are as free as you believe yourself to be.

This doesn’t just happen in the work realm. How about people who stay in abusive relationships believing they have no choice. As long as they believe they are trapped, they are.

Think you are not free? Ask yourself some questions:
Can you leave your house and go down the street?
Can you apply for a job?
Can you make a phone call to a friend?

A big problem now is how many criminals have cell phones in prison. If they have cell phones, I’m finding it pretty hard to believe you can’t do at least one of the above. And if you can any of the above, you are free. You might have other problems, but you are free.

If you believe you cannot be free, there is no need for you to read further.

2.) To be truly free (to be able to spend your life in your own way), you need to have a few things. Let’s start with some source of income. You have to be able initially to provide for yourself, and eventually to have enough money to allow you to do what you want. To be free, you are going to have to get your financial house in order. First you have to get out of debt if you are in it. You aren’t free if you owe money to somebody else. Sorry, gang, it is what it is.

Now, before you think I don’t know what I’m talking about, I am debt free. Yep, I own my own house, I pay off my credit cards every month, my car is paid for. I don’t owe anybody anything. How do you do this?

a.) Get a job. I know, right now unemployment is through the roof. But I also know people who are sitting at home not making a dime waiting until a job like the one they lost opens up. This ain’t Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, people! Any job is better than no job! Sell all your fancy toys on Ebay! Do something! Money needs to be coming in.

b.) Live within your means. When I started my own business ten years ago, I lived in a small apartment. I didn’t eat out. I bought only necessities. I was shocked at how cheaply I could live. Cable is NOT a necessity, people! If you are spending more money that you make, you will NEVER be free.

c.) Increase your value. What can you do to be more valuable? Read some books? Take a class at the community college? Work on your appearance? Revamp your attitude? Meet more people?

d.) Get financially literate. I’m amazed by people who don’t understand basic financial principles. They don’t realize that by only making the $15 minimum payment on their $6,000 credit card balance at 21% interest that they will never pay it off. These people seem to think if they have checks they have money. You need to understand the basics of your finances – ASAP. Parents – teach your kids.

e.) Your number one priority has to be to get out from under credit card debt. Paying those insane interest rates is going to kill you. Think you can’t do it? Go back to tip number one.

f.) Don’t make stupid expensive decisions. If you can’t support yourself, don’t have kids. I know, seems like a no-brainer. People rationalize this madness by saying things like, “Well there’s no perfect time!” Yeah there is - when you have a job that can pay for food and diapers! Don’t buy a new car if you don’t have the money – drive the old one or take the bus. No public transport? Do you have neighbors? Friends? Offer to chip in on gas. Stop spending money you don’t have!

g.) Don’t make lots of stupid cheap decisions. Spend an extra $27.40 a day and you’ve spent $10,000 a year. $10,000!!!! Do you really need to stop at Starbucks? Can you bring lunch? Do you have to by that cute pair of shoes?

h.) Want less. I love my little townhouse. My car is a 2005 with 175,000 miles on it – it’s also a red 350Z and I love it too. I don’t need a big house on a big lot. I don’t have to have a new car, although most people are aghast when they hear the mileage. I would never buy a pair of shoes or a handbag that costs more than $300. I just don’t need all that junk. If you want less, you need less money and you are that much closer to freedom.

I'm going to write more on freedom, but chocolate next!!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Pretzels, Rice and England

You know life is good if we can all come together in pursuit of the best peanut butter and chocolate combinations. And let's thank the founders of this country for breaking away from England! Scones don't exactly rock my world. Although I do love shortbread......and all that pomp and circumstance! And Monty Python!

But I love freedom more! God Bless America!!! And God Save the Peanut!

Let's talk first about some more peanut butter and pretzel combos. The first is berkshire bark's pretzelogical bark described by the company as: Belgian dark and milk chocolate, pretzels, sea salt caramel, natural peanut butter.

This is the top of the bark, the next picture shows the bark flipped over and dissected. (But this was done with love - don't go all PETC on me.) That's People for the Ethical Treatment of Chocolate for those of you who didn't get that joke.

Looks great, right? The description sounds awesome! But something was wrong here - those big blobs - peanut butter? caramel? were as hard as rocks. This was no good. I'm sad about that.

Next up, a very familiar bar, I'm sure:

This is Hershey's Take 5. The wrapper says it's made with chocolate (I guess it's not Mockolate), pretzels, caramel, peanuts, and peanut butter. My girlfriend Missy loves these things. I think there is too much pretzel. It's okay, but why have this when you can have a Reese's? I like the use of the caramel here, so I like this combination the best off all the pretzel/peanut butter offerings reviewed so far. But I don't see that pretzel really brings anything to the party.

Let's move on to crisp rice or rice crisps or whatever the hell this stuff is. Hell, Hershey doesn't even know what it is - thus the name of this bar:

Whatchamacallit? I'm going out on a limb here and I'm going to call it crap. For 230 calories I want more than a squashed rice crispy treat - without the marshmallow. This bar is described as "made with chocolate, peanut flavored crisps and caramel." The caramel is the only thing that gives this any life. I find it bland and disappointing.

It looks as exciting as it tastes. ZZZZZZ........................

I'm not much on the Nestle Crunch bar either. Crisped rice just kind of seems like a cop out. Cheap filler. But I liked it in Jer's stuff. Hmmmm........ I'm sure we'll talk of this again.

If you like crispy and light and want something peanut buttery, a MUCH better choice is:

You can have one pack containing two wafer bars for only 100 calories. These are like Kit Kats with peanut butter but a little lighter. No caramel as in the Crap bar. But more peanut buttery. And I'm all about the peanut butter!!

I saved one of my favorite peanut butter bars for last:

From our friends at Lake Champlain chocolates. This bar is here because it contains: peanuts, peanut butter, CRISP RICE and milk chocolate.

Isn't it beautiful? Doesn't just looking at that make your mouth water? The Five Star bars are all amazing - the are small but really thick. And this one is packed with peanut butter. It's a blander peanut butter than Reese's but is still terrific. And the peanuts inside are delish.

So, dear readers, what have we learned so far in our exploration of this awesome combination of peanut butter and chocolate?

New isn't always best, but just because something has been around for a while doesn't mean it can't be improved on.

Expensive doesn't always mean it's the best, but sometimes it does (the Five Star bar is great and it's not cheap).

When it comes to chocolate, no rules apply.

Chocolate is like life - you have to jump in and taste it! I love Tootsie Rolls (talk about Mockolate), but I also love Guylian chocolate seashells. How do you know what you'll like the best? Try them!! How do you know who you are? Live!

You can learn from others and they can help you along the way, but if anyone tells you they have all the answers for you, run. You'll like things based on the flavors you grew up with and a million other experiences. Obviously a lot of people think the Whatchamacallit is a great candy bar or Hershey's would have quit making it. All you owe it to yourself to do is keep trying new things and keep learning and growing. You'll find the best life (and the best chocolate) for you.

And don't forget to celebrate your freedom this 4th of July by taking a few minutes to think of all the patriots through the years who have given their lives to keep us free.

God bless chocolate, peanut butter, and the United States of America!!!