Monthly Archives: July 2009

His newest hobby

It appears my son has a new hobby: screaming each night for up to an hour when we try to put him to bed.

It started almost a week ago. My husband was off playing cards with his buddies, so it was just me putting the little guy to sleep. We went through our usual routine. I read him several of his favorite stories (his choices), sang him a song, talked about his day, said good night to all the things in his room and then sang him another song before blowing him kisses at the door. All was fine, until the door closed. Then the crying started. It wasn’t the cry of pain. It was basically a mini tantrum full of “Mommy, I want you! Mommy come back!” And when I didn’t, he wasn’t happy. He cried for about 20 minutes off and on, but then went to sleep.

The next night my husband was home and we again went through our routine, this time starting with a bath. Low and behold, the same thing happened. He was fine until the door shut and then the crying started. To make matters worse, around 11:00 when I went to check on him, he woke up, saw a bit of light and freaked out again. This time it took him about 10 minutes to calm and go back to sleep.

Friday, however, was the worst night we’ve had since the night we brought him home from the hospital—before we knew he wasn’t getting enough to eat and that he was really hungry. We’d driven up to my parents’ house for a family shindig the next day. Due to some rotten traffic, we didn’t get there until almost 7:30. My son was more than a little hungry, but was so excited to see my folks (or more likely my dad’s train sets) that he wanted to play. We finally started dinner around 8, which is his normal bed time. He ate well and seemed in a good mood, but by the time he finished dinner, it was 8:30 and I knew I needed to get him to bed. I gave him 10 more minutes to play and then we went through our routine.

I wasn’t exactly surprised when I heard him crying five minutes after I walked out of the room. I sighed, but kept working on the computer. In the 2 years or so he’s been sleeping through the night, I’ve learned that unless he is crying for more than 30 minutes, I’ve gotta leave him alone and let him wind down. So, 30 minutes later when he was still crying, I decided to check on him.

He stopped crying the moment I walked in. I decided to lay down on the bed next to his toddler bed (the one I was going to be sleeping in) to calm him down. Usually when I do this, he falls asleep within 15 minutes. Not this time though. I fell asleep and woke up nearly 30 minutes later to hear him talking. Since it was now 10:30, I gave up, and went to put my pjs on. I was tired anyway. I crawled in to bed, told my son good night and figured we’d both drift off. Boy was I wrong.

First my son wanted to crawl in bed with me. When I told him no, he got upset and started telling me “yes.” I finally gave in and helped him get up on the bed. But, he didn’t want to sleep. No, he wanted to talk to me. When I wouldn’t talk, he decided to start messing with my hair. When I told him to stop, he did, for about a minute. I threatened to put him back down on his bed, so he stopped, but then he wanted to put pillows on me. I threw it off the bed. So he grabbed the stuffed animals.

Finally I walked out of the room, nearly in tears. It was a little after 11. I was tired and could not believe he was still awake. My father went in to try to calm him down. He was in there for a long time, so I thought I should check on him. My father said he was almost asleep, but I didn’t buy it. Still, I crawled in to bed, hoping he’d go to sleep.

No luck! He was right back up to his old tricks. He was up trying to climb on my bed. Then when I told him to get down, he’d laugh, tell me he was sorry and get down. I tried letting him back up on my bed, but it didn’t help. Pillows came flying! I was so very, very angry! I once again got up and left the room. Not that it helped. When I calmed down and went back in, he was awake and waiting for me.

This time I tried some warm milk and songs. Not that they worked, but I tried. I put him back on his toddler bed and figured one of us had to sleep. Finally, around 2 am, I no longer heard him. Of course, he woke up at 7. When I told him it was too early to be awake, he did crawl into bed with me and go back to sleep until 8:30. I guess that’s something.

I thought once we got home it might be better, but I was wrong. Saturday night was awful! He cried for over an hour, even though both my husband and I went in there several times to check on him. He didn’t need anything, except one of us.

Sunday was the same thing, only the crying died down after 30 minutes or so. Then he woke up around midnight and cried–this time only for two minutes or so.

Last night though…well, last night was bad. He cried for about 30 minutes, which was better than it could have been, but he woke up twice, both times crying. The first time he stopped in under five minutes, but the second time, well, he just kept going. My husband went in, changed his diaper and told him to go to sleep, but it didn’t help. He just cried, “Mommy! Daddy!” It had to go on for 20 minutes. Just as I was about to give up, get up and go in, he stopped.

This morning I had to wake him up at 9:15, which kind of threw our day off. I don’t know what’s going on, but I’ve got to find a solution. We can’t spend an hour putting him to bed (like last night) or an hour up in the middle of the night getting him calmed back down.

Any suggestions?

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Canada, basically like America, only quainter


Going to Canada is not really like going to another country. Sure, there are slight difference. They measure speed in kilometers (and after some serious calculating and recalculating, I figured out 10 km = about 6.5 mph), they say “mum” and their houses hang out flags with maple leaves on them, but aside from that, it might as well be the same country. Especially considering the highway didn’t even change once I’d entered Canada. In fact, aside from the stop at customs (which took 5 minutes going in and about 45 coming back), I’m not sure I would have noticed I’d crossed into a completely different country.

Not that I was really expecting it to be different. I’d been once before (pre-pasport days) as a chaperone on a school trip. I noticed the differences even less that time, but that was no doubt due to the fact we went to nothing but touristy places and aside from the people working there, I’m not even sure anyone else there was Canadian.

Now granted, I was in Ontario both times, and this time only about 90 minutes from the American border. And once again, I was in a town which thrives on tourism. Stratford, Ontario is home to the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, which according to the programs is North America’s Leading Classical Theatre.

Since we had four days and only three shows to see, we got to do a lot of exploring. Our hotel, The Mercer Hall Inn* was right in the heart of Stratford. Sure, downtown Stratford is only a couple of blocks each way, but our hotel was in the thick of it. And most of the “thick” was stores. Now, I’m not exactly the most enthusiastic shopper. I have a few tried and true stores I like to visit, but so much of what is out there seems a waste of my time, so the idea of spending four days shopping, was foreign to me. And yet, that’s just what we did.

Stratford’s shops were pretty one of a kind, which made them fun to comb through. While I can’t remember all of their names, there were some great shops there, like  The Rabbit Hole, a funky boutique with kind of gothy clothes, artistic jewelry, vintage toys and the most personable store owner I’ve ever met. Jessica was so friendly. Not only did we end up talking to her for about half an hour (and buying some cute things, including an awesome wodden necklace), but she hand wrapped everything and even invited us to an 80’s retro party at a local bar. Unfortunately, after our long day of driving and a tedious showing of Macbeth, all we wanted was food and bed, so we skipped out on the club (it was 11:30 when the play let out).

There was an amazing toy store called Family and Company that we almost didn’t go in. We’d been in one earlier, but it wasn’t too exciting, plus my kid has a zillion toys. I’m glad I didn’t skip it though, not only is it a maze of neat toys that are reasonable priced, but they even had a magic show going on to entertain kids!

Bradshaw’s was almost across the street from our hotel, so we stopped in one day. It was this HUGE kitchen store/home store with things way out of our price range, but still really fun to look at. I really wanted to buy a ceramic gnome (I think it was a cookie jar) for a friend’s birthday, but it was like $60. I did, however, get some scandalous pictures of Eee posing with banana keepers.

Although I don’t remember the name, there was a great hippy store right next door to our hotel. While I’m not usually a fan of hippy stores, this one actually had really adorable clothing. I got a great shirt and Eee got a cute sundress. And across from our hotel was a super cool toy/hobby store with stuffed microbes. Yes, that’s right. I got my husband stuffed algae and Eee got her boyfriend a sore throat. CUTE!

Aside from the shopping, we found some great places to eat. Once again, so many things were Shakespeare themed, and my favorite place was Othello’s. We didn’t actually try their regular dinner items, we got three appetizers and split them. We had some sort of cream cheese filled tortilla pinwheels that were great. And there was a roasted red pepper dip that I gobbled down in disgusting proportions. Fellini’s, which was right across from our horganic foodotel had amazing bruschetta. We also found a great organic cafe by complete accident. We were walking down the street and a girl handed us a flier. Since there were tons of veggie options on the menu (and Eee is a veggie), we thought it would be perfect for lunch. They had a bar with nothing but side dishes and that’s what we filled our plates with. I don’t remember everything, but I had some vinegary potato salad, a great chick pea, tomato, onion salad, some tasty quiona with cranberries and scallions and some honey cake for dessert. Tasty!

One of the best culinary experiences though, was during the intermission of Julius Caesar. As wefrench fry truck stepped out to get some fresh air, we noticed a truck across the street. Now this wasn’t just any truck. This, was a roaming fry truck. We hurried over and ordered a small fry with malt vinegar and salt. Though they were hot as can be and burned the roof of my mouth, they were AMAZING! Fresh cut, fried right there and full of mouth puckering saltiness. My only regret is that we didn’t get to eat the entire bag. Despite stealing the town’s name (and river and about a dozen other things) from the Brits, there is no food or drink allowed in theaters. Sigh.

In addition to the great food and fun shops, we also found a nice little pretty pink treepark at one end of downtown. This was in addition to the quaint Avon river that ran behind our hotel and had great walking paths straight to the theater. And the cute little square that was loaded with flowers just a few doors down from us. The park reminded me of something straight out of England. I’m not exactly sure what these trees were, but they were gorgeous. The park wasn’t huge, but it was a nice walk, with a gazebo in the middle, and a picturesque tool shed (in the Tudor style). Yes, Eee and I both took pictures in front of the tool shed.

In addition to all of this, Stratford is also home to some really pretty (although no doubt mean) swans. They take good care of their swans, housing them in the winter and then having a parade for them every spring. They also have a video store (we got discounted rentals thanks to our hotel) with a Canadian movie section. Since we felt our Canadian experience was lacking, we rented Anne of Green Gables and nearly fell asleep watching it. Eee also made sure to drink plenty of Canada Dry.

To finish off our trip, we took a different route out of town and visited the miniscule town of Shakespeare. As far as we  could tell, it was one road, which we drove down in about two minutes, then turned around and headed back toward the highway. We did make one stop though, at Shakespeare’s Pies. They boasted a menu full of meat and fruit pies. Much to Eee’s dismay, they did not have any veggie pot pies, but we each picked up a small fruit pie. I wish I could tell you they were amazing. But, somehow they got left in and then smashed) in my car. Luckily they were in plastic bags, so there was no mess to clean up. But it had been 6 days since we bought them and although my rhubarb custard was still in one piece, I figured that was too long in a car to be edible. Sorry Eee…I thought you had them!

If you’ve got some time, a passport and like the theater, I highly recommend Stratford, Ontario.

*This was our actual room

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Chocolate Monday: Godiva’s Ice Cream Parlor Truffles

DSCI0097I feel I have neglected these truffles. Originally these were going to be the focus of my first Chocolate Monday post, but then I started traveling and finding interesting chocolates on the road, so these got pushed to the side. However, since they are a special release for the summer (and only available until the beginning of September), I thought I’d review them so that anyone who hasn’t tried them yet still has time.

To start this post, I feel I should come clean about something: I kind of have a problem with Godiva chocolate. Problem might not be the right word…addiction might be a better one. Godiva is the chocoltier who taught me to like dark chocolate and actually appreciate hazelnut in all its various (and I do mean various) forms. I have a frequent buyer card, and even though I just started using it, I’ve already more than earned my rewords. There are very few companies I’d be willing to shill for, but Godiva would be one of them. I’ve actually been offered jobs at two different stores by managers because I was helping out prospective customers better than their staff members. It would have been pointless though…I would have eaten my profits.

Now, will this love for Godiva bias my opinion, I hope not. Even though I love what they produce, it’s not so much brand loyalty as it is a real love of the product they produce. At the heart of it, my addiction is to good chocolate. I just happen to think theirs is some of the best I’ve tried.

So, what about the actual collection?

There are six truffles in this new collection. Like all Godiva’s collections, they are sold by individual pieces or in cute little 5 packs. Now, it does seem odd to sell only 5 pieces when the collection has 6, but the mint chocolate chip truffles are so minty that if included in a box with anything else, they sort of over power the other truffles, so they sell the mint ones in their own 5 piece box or separately.

Since I mentioned the mint, why not start there. Visually they are fun to look at. They are, well, mint green with a chocolate curly running across them. The scent of mint immediately wafts up. The inside is also a slightly darker green (it looks like it’s been mixed with chocolate) and has tiny brown flecks in it. The actual mint flavor is very refreshing and natural tasting. Think more like th mint from an Andes mint, less like one from a peppermint patty. The mint infused with chocolate is very creamy. I’d had Mexican for dinner that night and this truffle not only was delicious, but also freshened my breathe. It was really enjoyable. I’d give it a 9/10.

The next one I tried was the neopolitan truffle. This had the smooth signature chocolate outside with a bright pink curl of decoration on top. Unlike the picture I’d seen in the Godiva brochure (hey, I said I’m a frequent buyer, so yes, I had the brochure with all their upcoming releases and had been drooling over these for about three months before I got to try them), the inside wasn’t really pink and white. More like a brown and white. Since this is a neopolitan truffle, the white was vanilla. I’m a big fan of Godiva’s regular vanilla truffle. The vanilla in this one was not nearly as creamy or tasty as their regular vanilla, so I was a bit disappointed. Same with their strawberry (the brownish-pink colored part). Their usual strawberry truffle is made with a preserve like filling that I adore. This was a solid strawberry, which was slightly fruity, but honestly tasted a little artificial to me. It was fine, but not particularly ice creamy. I’d give it a 7/10.

Next was the espresso gelato truffle. Right here is where my bias is going to show. I HATE coffee. I also generally dislike coffee flavored things. This truffle is dark chocolate (which is my least favorite chocolate, although I do like Godiva’s). It has a creamy espresso center, which is bitter, just like real espresso. On the plus side, the center was creamy, and I think it does fulfill its place in the ice cream truffle line. But it was so very coffee flavored that just like real coffee, I had to choke it down. If you like coffee, you’ll love it. I was not a fan though. I give it a 2/10.

The hazelnut gelato tuffle was very similar in texture to the coffee one, which makes sense. It was the most plain looking of the truffles, just milk chocolate with a milk chocolate swirl on top. It reminded me of a creamier version of about half of Godiva’s collection (they do like hazelnut). Nothing special. Perfectly good, but nothing that wowed me. I’d give it a 6/10.

Next was the oranges & creme truffle. This is probably the most delicate looking truffle in the bunch. It is a pale orange with a white curl on the top. The creme part is certainly true. The center is definitely creamy and since it’s enveloped in white chocolate, which is, in my opinion, the creamiest of chocolates, it really accentuates it. The orange flavor isn’t over powering, but it isn’t really a natural orange taste. It tastes like candy, slightly artificial. I do like the texture and the blending of the white chocolate with the orange though. I’d give this one a 7.5/10.

I’ve saved the best one for last. The final truffle in this collection is the pecan caramel sundae one. It’s not the prettiest to look at. In fact, it has some pecan chunks sort of haphazardly thrown on top. I’m sure the box they come in is littered with pecan pieces as mine seemed to be missing a couple. Don’t let looks fool you. This truffle is AMAZING! It has a drippy liquid caramel center that beats any other caramel center I’ve ever had in any candy. Even though the pecans are few and far between, they blend perfeclty with the caramel, chocolate and the vanilla. Yes, like the neopolitan truffle, this one is split in half. Half of the inside is gooey caramel and the other half is vanilla. It’s not the same vanilla as the neopolitan though. It’s creamier and liquidier and, well, perfect. This truffle may actually rival the spring raspberry as my favorite truffle ever. It is amazing. It’s like sex, in chocolate form. Magnificent! I give it 10/10!

Overall, I think the collection is fun and worth trying. Since I’m a frequent buyer, I got my 5 piece set for $8 (normally they retail for $10). Don’t forget to add the mint chocolate one since it’s not in the box. I think individually they retail for $2.25 each. I wouldn’t buy the box again, but do plan to go back and stockpile the pecan caramel sundae ones. Must have melty caramel!


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War Zone: My classroom

I had to stop by school today to see if one of my textbooks had come in. Considering we have three weeks from today until the start of school, I figured I probably needed to start going through the new book to figure out what I’d be teaching. I decided on the book because I’d glanced through it at a workshop and have great respect for the author, however, I have no idea how I’m going to use it with my students.

Our school has been under construction for the past year. Aside from some terrible tar fumes, a temperature gage that stopped working (thanks in part to the hole made in my room by the workers) and banging that was so loud I had to stop discussions, I wasn’t too bothered by the construction. At the time it seemed like a lot. It made teaching hard, but not nearly as hard as it was for the teachers who had no classrooms and had to travel around with all their materials on small carts.

I knew that this summer things were going to get kicked into high gear. Construction was scheduled to go into a sort of hyper drive. I had no idea, however, that three weeks before the start of school, the school would barely be recognizable. My classroom, if you can call it that, is a nightmare. Once I had two windows. Now I have one, the other has been bricked up, which looks really odd since my walls are white, off-white, concrete gray and an odd sort of tan from where the chalkboards were ripped off the wall. That’s right, no chalkboards of any kind. I also have no door. I have what appears to be a door frame shored up with some wood. It is surrounded by blank space where I’m assuming wall or windows will eventually be put in to fill it up.

Our desks are all stacked in the hallway, covered in a layer of dust that is about an inch thick. Most of our mini-fridges are stacked by the desks in the hallway, with the same layer of dust on them. I have no idea where any of our actual books or teaching materials are, much less any of my classroom decor. Not that it matters as I don’t think there is anyway in the world the walls can get painted, white boards get added, cabinets and desks get put in, or the carpet get installed before school starts. Heck, I think I’ll be lucky if I have a door and some sort of filler to connect it to the rest of the building.

And my room isn’t the only one. About half of the building is in a similar (or worse predicament). I don’t think we have locker rooms for our gym classes. I think there might only be one working student bathroom. Hallways are packed with various boxes, desks and classroom equipment, all ful of dust. Lights are hanging exposed from the ceilings. Some rooms have no lights (and no longer have any windows). What used to be classrooms are now just big empty spaces filled with bricks, dust and misc. construction odds and ends.

The janitors are trying desperately to get things ready for the start of school, but I have a feeling they are also at a loss as to what to do. Our book room is full of nothing but boxes. Not that it would do much good to open them as there aren’t rooms to put the books in.

Now, I know I have a penchant for exaggeration, but I do not embelish at all here. It looks like a bomb went off in the school and there are only three weeks left to make it semi-inhabitable. I’ve also heard a rumor that we might not have air-conditioning at the start of school (which makes sense as we have big gaping holes where windows are supposed to be and former exits that don’t have doors but just lead outside now) and that there is going to be a real crack down on paper usage–1 box per teacher each semester. This might be fine for me since I only made 1 set of copies all 2nd semester, but without a classroom, I am also without computers, which means I’m going to have to take everything I had on computers and make paper copies.

One of my co-workers pondered whether or not school might have to be delayed. I won’t lie, I wouldn’t mind the extra time to get ready (all my travels have put me way behind), but the thought of going to school until mid to late June without possibility of any real improvement in the building, is also daunting.

I’m just going to pretend the mess isn’t there and hope that maybe, just maybe, I’ll have something that resembles a classroom in three weeks. I’m not getting my hopes up though.

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The Canadian Stage

On Friday I pointed my car north and started driving. It’s not quite as Shakespeareaimless as that. I knew where I wanted my car to go: Stratford, Ontario. My bff was kind enough to join me for my latest Shakespearean endeavor, the Stratford Shakespeare Festival.

Now, for a festival named after the bard, I kind of hoped for more of his actual plays. Of the 14 plays running from April thru November, only 3 are actually Shakespeare’s plays. Now, they are also running West Side Story, which is loosely based on Romeo and Juliet (very loosely). Plus they have Bartholomew Fair by Ben Johnson which does closely examine the London that Johnson and Shakespeare lived in.

Stratford itself is an amazingly charming town. There are lots of little shops with one of a kind items. In the last two days I’ve tried on trendy clothes, eaten at an organic restaurant (which uses locally grown products), visited two chocolate shops and bought a fuzzy microbe for my hubby. I also met and was waited on by several actual store owners whose inventories feature jewelry, clothes, and artwork from local artists.

As for the actual plays, my first one was Macbeth. I’d never seen Macbeth performed before, so I was really excited. The owner at the Rabbit Hole* told us that there had been mixed reviews. As soon as I picked up the program, I realized why, the play was set in a modern day fictional African country. Now, I am not a purist. I don’t demand my Shakespeare be set in the 1500’s. From the wispers before the show, I got the distinct impression many people were not at all happy that it was modernized.

The set was great. Not too ostentatious, but it still had great ambiance. Personally, I think that modern day Africa is a good setting for a play about a war torn country where members of the army are plotting the death of the ruler. Considering the strife in modern day Africa, it’s a great setting. Plus, the play started with flash pot explosions. Also really cool. The staging was also well done. Banquo’s haunting of MacBeth was powerful. Somehow they managed to distract me so well with all the action that I didn’t even notice Banquo join the feast. I also didn’t notice him leave. The second time around I paid a bit more attention. This time I saw him come up from the trap door, but I really had to focus because a servant obstructed the view.

Banquo’s death scene was also great. He gets murdered, then all goes dark. More gunshots are heard and seconds later, the lights are back up and there is a dinning room with most of the cast on stage waiting. There was no trace of the former death scene.

Aside from some great set pieces and staging, I was not a fan of the actual play. Granted, I was pretty tired after a 7 hour car ride and a two hour walk around town, but I just thought the show lacked passion. Colm Feore just didn’t move me as Macbeth. Neither did Yanna McIntosh as Lady Macbeth. In fact, the only characters I found powerful were Banquo, Macduff, Lady Macduff and their son. Everyone else was fine, just nothing exciting. I found myself waiting for the show to be over, and I was relieved when it was.

I was also more than a little nervous because Colm Feore was also playing Cyranno in our next pay. I prayed he would make a better lover than a fighter. Turns out he did.

Cyranno was really well done. It was funny, it was a little bawdy and at the same time tragic. Colm Feore was meant to play a character with a sense or humor. Aside from still using a lot of French (which I don’t speak at all), I really enjoyed the play. The costumes were lovely. The setting was simple, but elegant. I particularly loved the scene where Cyranno thinks he’s going to confess his love to Roxane in the bakery. The cast brought out lots of amazing looking treats and really seemed to be enjoying themselves.

I was a little worried about Christian’s performance. It started a little rocky, but his comedic timing picked up and really made the show.

Julius Caesar was pretty good. I thought it got off to a slightly slow start. The beginning was very uproarious. It was a festival setting and everyone was reveling and having fun. The program had me a little worried. Once again I saw what looked like futuristic costuming. I was a bit relieved when most of them showed up in fairly formal (if not period) pieces. Some of the costuming was a little odd. While it was definitely timeless, it was an awkward mix of formal and very casual. Still, it wasn’t too distracting.

The first act was a bit slow, but when Ceasar and Calphurnia discuss him not going to the capitol for fear of her bad dreams, I thought it really picked up. Ceasar’s death was great, exactly as I’d imagined it all those years teaching the play. Antony’s “Friends, Romans and countrymen” speech was also captivating. The staging of it was really well done. Antony was alone on stage speaking from a platform, but the townspeople were spread throughout the audience, including two who happened to be standing up in the balcony right next to us (one on the railing). They commented and reacted to Antony’s (and Brutus’) speech. They let out passionate yells and exclamations. In short, they added life to the show. The murder of Cinna the poet in the next scene was also great. He wandered in the semi-dark as townspeople crept in from behind walls and pillars, surprising him and eventually mobing him. Eerie and effective.

Aside from the costumes, my only real complaint was that it seemed a little silly for them to be fighting (and dying) using “swords” when what the actors actually had were small daggers. I get it in Ceasar’s death scene. They needed to be small and concealed. But when Brutus runs on his own “sword” and it’s a tiny dagger, it does make it a bit laughable.

Overall, I thought the shows were entertaining. It made me a little sad that my favorite show was not one of the bard’s, but it was a great experience. I could definitely see myself returning to Stratfod in years to come.

*The Rabbit Hole is a funky artsy store where Eee got the cutest panda hoody. I got an adorable hand painted wooden necklace. The store is new and if you have time, check it out online. The owner is sweet!


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Chocolate Monday: Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory


Since I’m in yet another new place, one of the first things I decided to scope out was the chocolate scene. Turns out the charming little town of Stratford, Ontario (Canada) has three different chocolate shops, and no shortage of fun and non-American candy bars just ripe for the picking.

So I started with the first one I found, Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory. I know this is a chain and it’s not indigenous to Canada. When I was in college there was one in the outlet mall about 20 minutes from my apartment. We’d always walk in when we went to the mall, but rarely bought anything as the prices were rather high and we were poor college students. Plus, even though I liked chocolate back then, I wasn’t nearly as discerning as I am now.

The smell wafting through the air outside the place was so heavenly. Like that damn toucan, I followed my nose right in the door. On my first trip (yes, I made two) I bought a cherry truffle, a pecan mogul, a maple walnut cream and a vanilla caramel. The chery truffle tasted a bit like the cheap boxed ones I used to get for Christmas presents as a kid. When I was 8, I loved them. They dripped with artificial cherry juice and were so sugary my teeth ached when I ate them. But I loved them. As an adult, I realized they were not really very good.

However, as an adult, I found Rocky Mountain’s non-marischino version a nice change. It was not super cherry flavored. It was more of a hint of cherry mixed into the creamy chocolate. It was subtle and grown up. I liked it.

The pecan mogul was much like a giant turtle, except that it had far too many nuts and not nearly enough caramel. I like turtles a lot and I figured this enormous one would be great. The thin layer of caramel didn’t do it for me. There had to be at least half a dozen pecans in the piece and although I love them, the taste was overpowering.

The maple walnut cream had an actual chunk of walnut in it. I am not a huge walnut fan and I thought it would be mixed into the chocolate, more of a flavor than a nut. Normally I wouldn’t have gotten it, but I figured in Canada, I should try something a bit more native. For some reason it seemed to have a flower essence to it. I’ve eaten several floral chocolates in the last few months, and this one reminded me a bit of one of those. I wasn’t really very fond of it and was glad it was a small piece.

My final chocolate was a rather large vanilla caramel. It didn’t really have much of a vanilla taste to it, but it was a thick caramel covered in chocolate. Chocolate covered caramels are one of my favorite types of candy. Usually I devour them. Once again, I got really excited about this piece because it was so large. The more the merrier, right? As it turns out though, it was a little too big. Even though it was room temperature, it was incredibly chewy. By the time I finished it, my jaw hurt a little. And the caramel wasn’t super flavorful, so I was a bit bored with it.

The one item I definitely wasn’t bored with though, was the caramel apple. One speciality of The Rocy Mountain Chocolate Factory seems to be their apples. They are quite a sight to behold. They have the standard caramel, one with nuts, one with generic m& m’s, a rocky road one  and one with crushed Oreos. They also have designer flavors like s’mores which is full of chocolate, giant marshmallows and chunks of graham crackers all around it.

I stuck with the basic. I knew there wasn’t any way I could eat one of those monster apples. Despite being plain, it was delicious. The apple itself was green and tart. And really, really juicy. The caramel was thick and creamy. Combined it was amazing. Although it had no chocolate, it was the best treat I tasted at the place. Definitely worth going back for.

Overall, if I was to rate the chocolates at Rocky Mountain, I’d give them a 7/10 for taste, a 5/10 for presentation (they just looked like any old chocolate) and a 6/10 for price. I thought they were overpriced for their quality. The apple though, that gets an 9/10!


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Shakespeare in the Nation’s capital

As part of my fellowship, I’m traveling to different spots around the globe (it sounds more cosmopolitan than it actually is) watching performances of some of Shakespeare’s best works. I won’t say great performances of his works, but for the most part, my time spent in the theater has been pretty good.

My latest foray into the theatrical world found me in our nation’s capital: DC. My first stop wasn’t directly related to performance, but rather a trip to the Folger’s Library to view pieces of their collection. For those not in the know, this is sort of like Mecca for geeky Shakespfirst_folioeare academics. They actually have 1/3 of all the surviving first folios in their collection, which is pretty impressive. I actually got a chance to look at one of them, and I’ll be honest, I kind of teared up a little. The book, as you can see, is beautiful and they even have a digital copy on display for all viewers. They have scanned in the introductory material as well as the text of Romeo and Juliet and visitors who want to see the oldest surviving text of the play, can flip through and see what the actors themselves saw, complete with “s’s” that look like “f’s.” It’s beautiful!

Their current display also features books, pamplets and letters from Shakespeare’s day, as well as some later versions (mostly Victorian) to show the impact Shakespeare had on the world. This particular piece is actually a surviving piece of writing from Shakespeare’s own hand. shakespeare_writingThe collection also contained books of Shakespeare given as gifts from such prestigious admirers s Queen Victoria, Walt Whitman and Edwin Booth, a famous 19th century Shakespearean actor and brother to presidential assassin John Wilkes Booth.

After we spent a good hour at the exhibit (and another half of one in the tiny gift shop), we grabbed a quick bite, then trucked over to the Sidney Harrman Hall to see the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s production of King Lear. Unlike my three productions in London, this show was set in very modern times. Although no specific place is mentioned in the play (or the notes), it had a definant Eastern European flair to me. Everything was sort of new money, but not in an inheritance way. More of a the country is finally modernizing a little and flourishing. learEverything about the play was modern, from Cordelia wearing jeans in the first act, to the Regan and Cornwall arriving at Glouster’s compound with their entourage in a car.

This particular play also starred Stacy Keach as Lear.

There were some great things about this play. Stacy Keach was pretty convincing as a self-obsessed tyrant of sorts who goes mad when he realizes his world is not at all what he thought (and that it’s his own darn fault). Kent, played by Steve Pickering was great. He was loyal, funny and tough, exactly what I wanted Kent to be. Cornwall and Regan were both dispicable, but in a way that was also a bit fun to watch. The sets were spectacular. As I mentioned earlier, they drove a car on stage, something I always like. The opening scene was set in a club complete with DJ booth and cake to be divided, symbolizing Lear’s land. The second half of the play had some great staging around an obviously war torn country–the set was full of exploded cars and a landscape turned upside down. Edgar/Poor Tom was fairly convincing as a mad man and when he talked about going around in his poor weeds, he didn’t play around. He got 100% naked on stage. Yes, I saw Tom’s dingle. I was not expecting that.

I was also not expecting the other nudity. I saw Stacy Keach’s rear, a completely naked Cordelia and at least another butt or two before the play ended. Now, I’m no prude and I thought for Poor Tom it was really appropriate. Even for Lear it was kind of right. He was, after all, following Poor Tom into madness. The rest seemed a bit gratuitous to me.

As did all the smoking on stage. I’m not a huge fan of actors smoking on stage. It didn’t add anything and I could actually smell it a couple of times. I was also not a fan of the Fool. He was as old, if not older than Lear (he shuffled when he walked) and not at all what I wanted the Fool to be. I love the character. I saw it done a few years ago where the Fool and Cordelia were played by the same actress and I have to admit, I loved it. In this version, Lear calling the Fool boy was ridiculous. Especially since when he first begins doing it, he’s not mad. Not to mention that one thing I like about the Fool is that he has a lively wit and always seemed young to me. In this version he seemed to have one foot in the grave.

I also thought some of the sex was a bit over the top. In the opening act, Lear grabs Regan’s ass. Now, I realize it definetly adds a level of ickyness to their relationship, but it’s one Shakespeare does not imply and one that seems out of place. This production also had two, count them two, scenes with someone simulating oral sex on Goneril. Now I realize Shakespeare is full of bawdy jokes, but I just thought it seemed out of place, especially since one of the performers was her servant Oswald. Sure, it shows what a terrible person she is, but I think Shakespeare’s words do such a great job of it that this was over kill to me.

As was some of the clutter on the stage. At times, it just got too busy for me. Like in the scene where the extras brought all the wrapped dead bodies on to the stage. It was obviously a statement about the horrors of war, but I found it a bit heavy handed and it did drag on a bit. Body, after fake body were carried on and then they had to be dumped.

Overall though, I did like the play. It had it’s flaws, sure, but it also had a great scene where Goneril choked Regan to death. In the scene she begins by comforting her, then strangles her as she’s patting her head and shushing her. GREAT! It also left out Edmund’s small redemption speech, which I’ve always hated. Edmund is such an amazingly dispicable character that I’ve always thought his little “act” of coming clean and letting them know what happened was cheap. I liked it better when he had no real chance to be remorseful in anyway. He’s not a sympathetic character and deserves no sympathy.

So, while not my favorite show (As You Like It), it’s also not my least favorite so far (Romeo and Juliet). I’d put it directly in the center.

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