Monthly Archives: January 2008

Most third world countries make less than my chocolates cost

Sometimes even I am surprised about what I’m willing to spend money on. For instance, I would never dream of spending more than $25 on jeans, even really cute ones. I check out the clearance and sale racks, and if I can’t find them there, I figure I wasn’t really meant to have new jeans to begin with.

Shoes are the same way. The thought of paying more than $20 for a pair of footwear seems outrageous to me. The one time I’ve actually broken this rule, it came back to bite me. Despite fitting ok in the store, once I got home and actually tried wearing them around, I could barely walk. They squeezed my feet. In hindsight, I’m sure they were pinchy in the store as well, but I was blinded by the adorableness of them. I thought I could still get into a size 8, at least in Chucks* since they tend to run a bit big. It turns out my stomach isn’t the only thing that expanded a bit during pregnancy. Which, I might add, still freaks me out. What is it about having a baby that makes feet grow exactly? Freaky.

At the grocery store, I am much more likely to pick up a generic version unless there is a  real discrepency with taste (or no generic version). Even my birth control pills are the generic brand since they run me a sweet $5 less every month.

Despite this frugality which often gets me mocked by both friends and family, I am willing to drop what I know are insane amounts on really comfortable bras and really delicious chocolates.

The bra issue probably makes sense to a lot of women. After all, I believe anything I spend a good 12-16 hours in each day should be so comfortable I don’t even really notice it’s there. I’ve done my time in cheap bras. As soon as I got a real job I vowed never again to be poked by an ill-placed underwire or itched by stupid decorative lace. Instead, whenever I need a new bra I head right to Victoria’s Secret for an unbelievably comfy Body by Victoria bra. My latest one (which is actually about a year old), is so comfy that I would wear it every day if I could. In all honesty, I wear it way more often than I should. I probably need to head back to see Miss Vicky for a few spares.

The chocolate issue is the one that really brings on the jeers from my loved ones. Yes, I admit it, I have been known to spend what equivocates to dinner for two, complete with dessert at The Melting Pot, on one box of chocolates. That box, in case you were wondering, only had 18 pieces of chocolate in it.

My latest indulgence arrived yesterday in the mail. As soon as I saw the box, my eyes lit up and I couldn’t wait to get in, open it up and just look at them. I’ve been wanting to try the new G Collection American Pie chocolates ever since I first saw them in the catalog. Before my alignment decided to betray me, I was planning to spend my portion of the Christmas check from my grandma on a box. Instead of creamy chocolate goodness though, I got four new tires. You know what I can’t eat? Tires.

I know I shouldn’t spend so much money on something so useless as chocolates, but I just can’t help it. I save and save and then splurge once every year on something like the G Collection. If Godiva would just stop making their chocolates so tasty, I might be able to stop buying them. That’s probably a big might though. I’m sure Fannie May or some other tasty confectionary would rise up to take its place.

*If anyone who knows me happens to wear a size 8 and wants an adorable pair of lemon yellow low top Chucks with absolutely adorable white daisies and little red lady bugs on them, just let me know. As much as I HATE to part with them, I can’t wear them for more than an hour without pain (less if I’m walking in them) and I hate for them to go to waste. They are cute to look at, but they remind me of my incredible over indulgence. At least the chocolates disappear in a few weeks.

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Liquid Tootsie pop anyone?

I have once again fallen victim to an evil genius with an advertising degree. Usually it’s restaurants that sucker me in with their promises of three course meals for under $12 or a pile of chili cheese nachos glistening with drippy fatty goodness. It doesn’t matter that I know my food will never look (or taste) half as good as those no doubt corn chip colored bits of styrofoam with perfectly molded plastic ooze pretending to be cheese promise. I see them and I want the taste sensation they present to me.

I took advertising classes as part of my journalism degree. I know that what looks like creamy, melty mint chocolate chip ice cream is actually lard, died mint green with bits of chocolate chunks stuck in for effect. I know that perfect bowl of Cheerios only looks perfect because that is a gluey substance, not milk, keeping each O in place. I know special lighting and dyes are used to make food look more appealing. The thinking, logical part of my brain knows all of this, and yet the part of my brain attached to my salvatory glands merely sees mounds of nacho cheese and cries out for it in a way the cogent part of my brain can’t defend against.

This time it was not a dish at the local fern bar. It wasn’t even a new flavor or ice cream or a scrumptious new chocolate bar. For the first time, it was a drink. Even stranger, it was a new flavor of soda: Diet Cherry Chocolate Dr. Pepper. I’m not usually very picky about my sodas. Since I gave up both caffeine and regular soda, there isn’t really much for me to pick from. I’m pretty much a Diet Rite or Diet Caffeine Free Coke girl. The only time I grab any other type of soda is when it’s the only choice and the water tastes funky.

The commercial changed all that though. A luscious, fudge frosted cake, filled with what looked like cherry pie filling flashed onto the screen. It rotated so I could see it from every angle. And while I realize a cake doesn’t change much when viewed from different angles, the prolonged exposure of the image to my eye made my mouth start to water. I could almost taste it melting in my mouth. I had to have it.

I thought about it all week. I’d already been to the store and since the temperature are unreasonably cold and I hate exposing the baby to the cold, I couldn’t bring myself to make an extra trip out to get it. Instead, it flooded my every soda thought. Each time I reached for a glas of water, all I could think about was how it should be liquid chocolate running down my throat.

Finally, grocery day came again. As I made my way down the snack aisle, there it was, complete with the limited edition stamp on the front. My little cup of heaven. I rushed home to try it. Well, really I went the normal pace to get home and put it in the fridge because I wanted to try it unspoiled by ice and the threat of watering down.

So today, I took my first drink, thrilled at the prospect of something with 0 calories tasting like a chocolate cherry masterpiece.

The first whiff of the drink let me know disappointment was soon to follow. It smelled like a cherry Tootsie pop. You know the ones Mr. Owl used to peddle. And just like when I was a kid and I went from the sweet cherry taste to that mixture of Tootsie roll mingled in, I paused and debated whether or not to keep eating (drinking in this case). The first sip was exactly what the scent set me up for. Liquid Tootsie pop, not diet chocolate nirvana.

I guess I’m not really surprised, just saddened that I have once again been prey for someone with a strange ide about what tastes good and a goal to market it. I also am not quite sure what to do with the remainder of the two liter sitting in my fridge. Throwing it out seems wasteful, especially since I kind of like cherry Tootsie pops, but drinking it, well, I just don’t have any desire to do it. I should have stuck with the plastic cheese.

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Everything with a side of gravy

I think the people who work at Texas Roadhouse are out to get me. I am not quite sure what I have done to incur their wrath, but there is definitely some sort of plot to destroy my Epicurean happiness. Maybe I tipped less than my usual 20% one day. Maybe my request for extra rolls and cinnamon butter came at a bad time. Maybe my changing the standard side dishes to ones that I actually enjoy made extra work for them. I don’t know what I have done to wrong them, but it seems wrong them I have.

Not that I’m really a fan of Texas Roadhouse. When I was in college there was definitely a draw. We could get a huge meal, including all of the yummy rolls and scrumptious cinnamon butter we could eat for a really reasonable price. It was steak, granted cheap steak, which was quite the luxury in those days. It was fancy dining to us and it didn’t break our budget. As I’ve gotten older and can afford actual food that is tasty, I have come to realize it is adequate at best. Unfortunately, there is one less than 10 minutes from my house. Even worse for me, my husband really likes their ribs. They also have a pretty quick carry-out and with a small baby who is in bed by 7:30, we often have to miss our weekly trip out to eat and settle on a to go order.

I first became suspicious that the Roadhouse was out to get me during an actual dine in experience. I wasn’t having the best of days, so I was actually excited about dinner there because a giant margarita was promised to me if I went. Before I’d even had the chance to order it though, the Roadhouse launched a sneak attack. As I unrolled my silverware to slather up a roll with that ooey-gooey melty  butter, two bugs jumped out and skittered across our table. I was very proud of myself for not screaming. Our waitress, however, let out a rather high pitched yelp. She apologized profusely and took off to get a manager.

Now, I realize that anywhere there are large quantities of food, especially uneaten food that gets thrown into wastebaskets or down disposals, there are going to be bugs. I was grossed out, yes, but not really annoyed. I didn’t actually get annoyed until the manager came over, looked at us expectantly and asked us what the problem was. I felt stupid telling him about the bugs. Our waitress witnessed the event, and I wasn’t sure why she didn’t just tell him. Once I told the story, he also apologized and offered to comp our meal. Although I was a little more wary of eating there, my husband was thrilled at the prospect of ordering whatever he wanted on the house. We did not take advantage of it (although he did get a full slab of ribs) and ate a rather uneventful, and thankfully insect free meal.

This incident on its own would not have been enough for me to call conspiracy on them. It wasn’t until last week’s dinner that I started to smell a rat.

We had to call for carry-out because I’d gotten home later than expected. I didn’t actually even want to go out. I had tasty homemade soup all ready to be heated up. My husband did not want soup. He wanted ribs and pouted until I gave in (which didn’t take long). I called in the order while my husband gave our son his bottle. I got my usual, the sirloin tips. They are one of the lightest items on the menu and they come with some tasty grilled veggies. As usual, the host asked if I wanted gravy. I told him no, but added I would like both the mushrooms and onions that can be ordered as sides. Since the gravy usually comes as part of the mushroom/onion package, I reminded him that I didn’t want the gravy. He read back my order to me (steak tips, a cup of chili and steamed veggies) and made a point to say no gravy.

When my husband brought our food home, I knew something was amiss. My steak tips weren’t on their usual platter. Instead, they were in a little styrofoam cup with none of the usual grilled peppers, but covered in gravy. I sighed and opened the other four containers. One was my chili, which looked tasty. The next one was a cup full of mushrooms, also covered in gravy. Then there was a cup of onions, once again covered in gravy. The final container was a mixture of both mushrooms and onions (which still baffles me) and guess what it was covered in? That’s right, more gravy. The only item that did not have gravy on it was the bowl of mashed potatoes that I didn’t even ordered. The receipt clearly said they were to have no gravy on them.

I just about cried. I am not a gravy fan and I’m trying to diet. It was already after 8 pm (I go to bed by 10) and going to get another order would take at least 30 minutes and my husband’s food getting cold. I called the Roadhouse to complain (something I rarely do) and after talking to five different people and waiting on hold for close to 10 minutes, I got a manager who pulled up my ticket, saw I wasn’t lying, apologized and promised to put a coupon in the mail for a free dinner.

A week has gone by and although I’ve already gotten replacements for my Netflix movies I sent out on Saturday, I haven’t gotten my Roadhouse voucher yet. I have a sneaking suspicion this is yet another cruel joke it is playing on me.

Tonight when my husband threw out ideas for our usual Thursday night out, the Roadhouse was one of the first. I shot it down quickly. This time I would have probably gotten gravy covered bugs.

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Obesity is a choice for many

I had some time the other day, so I decided to catch up on my blog reading. I found Shae’s blog about The Fattening of America particularly interesting. No doubt in part to the fact that I have had a life long struggle with my weight. The other reason it fascinated me so was that Shae so vehemently disagreed with the author’s point. She brought up some very astute points about poverty being one of the leading causes of obesity in this county. This is, of course, not the first time I have heard this claim made.  

All one has to do is walk down a grocery store aisle to see that the cheapest foods available for mass consumption, also contain some of the most unhealthy ingredients around. I think it is an absolute travesty that it is cheaper to buy a two liter of soda than it is to buy any type of juice. The average cost of juices that actually have 100% fruit juice (even though they are still from concentrate most of the time), is three times that of a bottle of Coke. A great many of the juices on the market can hardly justify calling themselves that. The affordable ones owe their sweet taste not to any sort of fruit, but to that great pretender, high fructose corn syrup. They masquerade as something healthy that the uneducated mistake for a good life style choice, and yet they are just about as bad as their carbonated equivalents. For the shopper on a tight budget, prepackaged foods loaded with fillers, lard and sodium are far more affordable than their healthy, and expensive counterparts, therefore it is easy to conclude poverty is a major contributing factor to the rising obesity rate in this country.  

However, I think the issue goes much deeper than simply having a mixed economy where the haves do have not only easy access to healthier dishes, but also premium health care to make sure they can fight off the dangers of obesity if they let it get to that point. After all, as I’ve mentioned, I’ve struggled with my weight my entire life. Aside from my four year stint in college, I have never been counted among the poor. My income level and that of my parents has always put us in the middle class category. I think this is where the issue of obesity splits from mere economic lines.  

So why do I think there is such an epidemic of obesity sweeping the nation? Well, I think there are three key contributing factors. The first, as I’ve mentioned, is poverty. The second, is far more devious. Being a child of a generation that has never known life with TV and hardly known life without computers, I think advertising is partially to blame. Every day we are inundated with commercials touting products as healthy, even when they are anything but. For example, when Arby’s came out with their Market Fresh sandwiches, I was keen to try them. Although the actual commercials never claim the sandwiches are low fat or low cal, they are marketed as healthy. For starters, fresh is right in the name. The commercials sing the praises of all natural ingredients, the hearty, multi-grain bakery bread. The healthy lettuce and tomato. The naturalness of the sandwich is there for all to see. I admit it; I was fooled. I thought a Market Fresh sandwich was going to be a healthy alternative to my usual fast food fair. For several years, I ate them, thinking I was making a good choice. Then, I went on a strict calorie counting diet and found out that the seemingly good turkey and swiss sandwich has 725 calories and 30 grams of fat. An Arby’s Beef and Cheddar has less than 450 calories and only 21 grams of fat.  Arby’s is not the only place proclaiming their healthy choices. Subway jumped on the bandwagon long ago. While their claim that they have 6 subs under 6 grams of fat is completely true, this is still less than ¼ of their menu that is low fat/low cal, and yet they have an image of being the healthy choice. While I applaud their efforts to actually produce decent tasting healthy choices, their meatball marinara has 560 calories and 24 grams of fat and what they always neglect to mention on their commercials is that for a mere pittance, any customer can double their meat. Double their meat? How is that any better than Burger King or McDonald’s who they are always attacking in their quest to be the smart choice? A double meat meatball sub has 860 calories. Yikes! 

Now, if I am college educated and rather intelligent despite my occasional typos, and I was fooled by some of these healthy claims, I can only imagine a great many other people in this country also believe they are making healthy choices, but are, in fact, packing on the pounds.  Now on to my last cause of obesity and this is where Shae and I differ. She uses the author’s claim that:             

          “Many individuals are making a conscious decision to engage in a lifestyle that is obesity-promoting.” 

to point out his ignorance. I have to say, I believe he is definitely right. I believe a great many Americans, for whatever reason, make the choice to eat food that is unhealthy for them and not to exercise because they “just don’t feel like it.” I have a good job. I even like to cook and since my husband is a great help with the baby most days, on the weekends at least, I have time to do it. Even on the weekdays, even after working 10-12 hours, I am perfectly capable of making something simple and fairly healthy like spaghetti with a nice salad or reheating some of the big batch of minestrone soup I made and serving it with a slice of sourdough bread. The problem is that every day on the way home from work, I have to pass McDonald’s. It has nothing to do with convenience, or a lack of time, I just love McDonald’s. I love their fries. I love their Quarter Pounders. God help me, I even love those preformed chicken masses they call nuggets. When we go out to eat I know I should choose the salad with the light dressing or the baked chicken. We can afford to go to places that offer a variety of healthy choices. We spend most of our restaurant budget eating at ethnic places where I can get lots of veggies or low fat fish. But what do I want? I want the coconut soup and peanut chicken if we go out for Thai. I want sushi sure, but I want fried shrimp tempura rolls, Louis rolls and soft shell crab. I want the chicken taco salad in that amazingly delicious deep fried shell. I want the giant slice of chocolate cake. Even though I know exactly what they will do to my waistline, I don’t care, they are tasty, and I want them. I think a good portion of America is like me. They don’t make bad eating decisions because they have to, they make bad eating decisions because the old adage is true, “if it tastes good, it must be bad for you.” 

 That’s not, of course, to say that I don’t like a variety of healthy foods. I do. But for a large part of my life I have engaged in a lifestyle that has promoted obesity (although I have thankfully never made it quite there). I really like junk food and really hate to exercise. I choose to eat healthier foods and occasionally exercise because I also like cute clothes and the ability to go shopping at the same stores as some of my very adorable, and rather skinny friends. This is a fairly recent discovery though. For a very large portion of my life, I decided I was happy with myself, even if it meant I weighed 50 pounds more than I should have. I made the decision not to worry about what it might do to my health because I liked the food. I don’t think for a second I am alone.  

I do agree with Shae though. I think the author is over simplifying and no doubt making an arrogant and spurious argument. I haven’t read his book though, nor am I a doctor nor someone who has done extensive research into obesity. I’m just a chubby girl who knows why she eats and watches a great many people around her with the same eating habits. Take my blog with the grain of salt I intend to accompany it. Although that certainly isn’t a healthy choice.

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Life in a Timocracy

One of my secret santa gifts this year was a Word a Day calendar. Being an English teacher and a lover of all things word related, I was thrilled with it. Each day I look forward to tearing off a new sheet to see what new and interesting word I will learn. Today’s featured word was timocracy. Thanks to my calendar, I do know the real definition of the word, however, as soon as I saw it, all I could do was envision my dear friend Tim as the ruler of his own little country. Sort of like Petoria on Family Guy.

So instead of grading papers or sending the much needed “your child is failing” email, I decided to email my dear friend Tim about my vision of life in the Timocracy. It goes a little something like this:*

“My Word a Day calendar features timocracy today. While I know this is not the definition of the word, I can’t help but imagine you as ruler of your own little country. As if DC has been split apart even farther and you reign supreme. I envision you with a little sceptor and sitting on a golden throne which has been cushioned with purple velvet. Since it’s a Timocracy, I assume the court will be filled with a mixture of beautiful scantily clad women as well as several famous basketball players, all just waiting for a chance to go one on one with you. There will be lots of pizza and Twinkies to eat and one entire wall of the thrown room is the biggest big screen TV ever, complete with PS3 and every Grand Theft Auto and basketball game ever made for when you get bored with the ladies and sweating.”

He was a little worried that the super amazing professional athletes might be too good for him. To which I replied:

“Well, you do rule the Timocracy. They aren’t dumb. They know where their bread is buttered. Because, of course, it is a Timocracy after all and you do have the power to say “off with their heads.” And since you are The Tim, you could decide what exactly that meant. Plus, you’d have super special ankle braces made so you did not risk the gingerbread effect being a factor.”

*I realize this is only potentially amusing to those who know Tim, but, well, it’s my blog and it’s what I wanted to write about today.

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To bake or not to bake, that is the question

Not so much a post as a question: Is making cookies for your boss’s birthday sucking up? I really do like my vice principal. He’s a good guy. Whenever I have a problem, he finds a way to fix it. We joke around in the hallway. He’s a funny guy and not only do I respect him as a boss, I like him as a person.

My department (sans our chair and one other older teacher) is planning to sneak into his office tomorrow after school and fill it with balloons. We like to play little pranks like this and think he’ll get a kick out of it. Knowing he has a real sweet tooth, I offered to bake some cookies. I’m not really going to any trouble as the cookies are straight from a mix one of my students gave me for Christmas. They are double chocolate mint, so between my diet and my husband’s abhorrence of anything mint, I know they won’t get eaten around here. I figured I’d make the package, give him half a dozen or so and then take the rest to the teachers I eat lunch with.

So, what do you think, sucking up or practical cookie dispersal?

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Gone with the wind…my toffee that is

My husband is not much of a cook. Not that he can’t cook, he just generally chooses not to. Which is rather surprising considering how long he was a bachelor, but my husband is definitely a member of the fast food generation. He’d much rather order it through a drive-thru or pop it in the microwave than actually have to mix ingredients, saute or wait a good hour for a meal to be prepared. When we first started dating, I found his fridge nearly empty, as were his cupboards, but his freezer, well, that was full of things to be quickly nuked and eaten on the run. I think he also ate a lot of chili dogs.

I don’t generally mind this because although I used to be the same way, I have come to actually enjoy cooking. While the prep time does get on my nerves occasionally, I like the satisfaction making something new brings, especially when it is tasty to boot. Like tonight’s frittata. The recipe sounded a bit fruity at first (and not just because it has tons of apples in it), but since I had some extra apples, that weren’t good for just eating, sitting around the house, I decided to try it. I’m glad I did, because it’s basically a big omlette and although the onion, apple and cheese combo may sound wierd, it tastes phenominal.

While I would without a doubt be thrilled if my husband ducked out of work early one night to make me something tasty after a hard day at work, I get by just fine by defrosting one of my extra casseroles on those extra rough days. It’s still healthy, still yummy and I actually had the satisfaction of making it, even if it was a month ago. Generally our arrangement works out well (the me cooking and him eating and praising).

He does, however, make some kick-ass chocolate covered toffee. Toffee, I should point out, is quite possibly my favorite candy ever. The stuff he makes blows a regular old Heath bar away. It’s better than Skor bars as well. It’s even better than the super gourmet stuff places like Fannie May and Godiva try to sell me. It is hands down the best toffee I’ve ever had. The problem is that he only makes it once a year, usually around Christmas.

This year he didn’t make it at Christmas, despite my (and several of our friends) constant pleading. He waited until last night, after I smiled sweetly, batted my eyes and asked him for the umpteenth time. It was, as I knew it would be, really, really good. I got to enjoy a few pieces of it, but didn’t want to completely ruin my diet (as I was sampling lots of tasty soups), so I refrained from eating the entire container. I watched as he doled some out to each of our friends, secretely thrilled he was keeping the lion’s share back for us.

When I came home today I wanted to nibble on a piece before dinner. I couldn’t find it. He took the entire container to work and his greedy co-workers had devoured all of my toffee. I knew he said he was going to take some to work, I just didn’t realize he meant all of it. The toffee I’d been waiting for for over an entire year blinked out of my life in less than 12 hours. I got maybe five small pieces and then…nothing.

He claims he’ll make more, but I know the truth. It took me nearly a month of begging and pleading to get this batch. As much as he puts on a show about hating to make it, I doubt I’ll see another speck until the holidays approach and he once again feels group pressured (and a need for his ego to be stroked) to make it.

So, for any of you who got some of this delicious concoction…I hate you! Give me my toffee back!

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