Monthly Archives: May 2010

I am certainly no Betty Crocker, part 2

When I went off to college, I took with me several boxes of my most prized stuff, a desire to become a hard hitting journalist and the ability to make Ramen noodles about 50% of the time without soiling the microwave with overflow. I felt prepared to live on my own (well, with my best friend from high school), as long as that included a meal card with three full meals a day on it. If I had not had dinning service, I probably would have gotten scurvy or rickets or something.

Not that living in the dorm really encourages a culinary atmosphere. We did have a kitchenette on our floor, and unlike the one on the guys’ floor, no one had peed in our oven, so it was usable. And I did use it. Once. My roommate and I wanted to make a special dinner for the guys we were dating at the time. I was very excited because I felt quite worldly cooking dinner for “my man” in my own little “apartment.”* Since this was such an important endeavor, I had to make my specialty: spaghetti.

We rode the shuttle bus out the football stadium to get my car. We went to the nearest store and bought our supplies: boxed noodles, jarred sauce and pre-packaged garlic bread. She convinced a friend of ours to get us a bottle of Boone’s Farm strawberry wine and we had quite the feast. Neither of the boys complained at all, even though the stir fry they were serving at the dinning hall was no doubt tastier.

A few months later, well after I’d broken up with that guy and found the one who would become my first husband, I decided that the dorm was too cramped and I wanted to move in to a love nest with the man of my dreams. Well, him and my roommate and her boyfriend. We were still broke college kids afterall and couldn’t afford a place for just the two of us. While I was blissfully excited and feeling quite grown up at the prospect of living with my boyfriend, there was a real downside (and not just the fact that my roommate’s boyfriend was a total douche): no more meals cooked by nice grandmotherly types and cleaned up by other poor college kids. Now, the burden of feeding myself would be all on me.

When we moved in, my folks sent me off with quite the spread: lots of boxed and canned items. I had hamburger helper (sans hamburger), mac n’ cheese, canned beans and corn, cereal, spaghetti and sauce and of course, a stock pile of Ramen. I’d even grabbed some of my favorite spices from the pantry before I left home: garlic salt, oregano and basil (from the dollar store). My boyfriend hadn’t brought anything with him, so we went to the store for some refrigerated basics.

Our first shopping trip was fun, but consisted of things like fish sticks, chicken nuggets, tomato soup, pot pies, bread, American cheese and boxed cheesy potatoes. I don’t think we bought an actual vegetable that didn’t have to be rehydrated or plop out from a can.

We took great pride in alternating cooking. I remember cutting things short with friends because it was my night to cook dinner. I actually used those words: cook dinner. In reality, I turned the oven on, poured some fish sticks and french fries on a cookie sheet, stuck it in and checked it every few minutes. I didn’t even have the good sense to preheat the oven, so my sticks would be scalding and my fries limp and pasty. When it was pot pie night, I figured they had veggies in them, so I didn’t even bother subsidizing like I did with the fries (yes, I thought potato= veggie). Once again, since I didn’t preheat, the crust of the pie would burn my mouth and the carrots would still be partially frozen.

And don’t even talk about the poor grilled cheese. No one ever really told me the fine art of making anything on the stove, so I just turned it up on high and threw the sandwich on. I spent every grilled cheese night scrapping burned spots off my bread. It was so thin in places the cheese had nothing to cling to.

In hindsight, I feel really bad for  my EX. Not that he ever complained. See, he came from a family of actual good cooks. His mom took the time to teach him how to cook (in part b/c she had to work really, really hard to support them, so he often cooked for five). And he was one of those sort of natural cooks who never followed anything resembling a recipe. He just sort of threw ingredients in the pot. Usually it worked really, really well (his chili was AMAZING). Every no and then he’d create something I couldn’t stomach (I still shudder when I think of the fish stew), but at least he tried. He was creative…inventive even. I, well, I fed him fish sticks once a week.

During our first year of marriage, I think the only non pre-packaged food I made were potato wedges, and all I did was cut up potatoes, dip them in butter, pour some season salt on them and bake until they browned. I did get a bit fancy and melt some more butter (rather than plain ol’ ketchup) to dip them in. I’m not really sure how he survived!

By the time we were ready to graduate college, I was a bit better. I’d picked up a few habits from him, and even learned to use a few more spices. I owned two or three cookbooks and actually cracked them about once a month to make something interesting. But, my versions never turned out like the pictures in the books, so I got a bit discouraged and really stuck to the half dozen or so dishes (all chicken) I had managed to make pretty well. Granted, each time I made one, I grabbed the recipe book and followed it to a T.

Now I should be clear: I LOVED looking at cookbooks. My step-mom, who NEVER cooks, owns dozens of cookbooks. Most of them are the tiny kind found in grocery store checkout lines, bought on a whim because the picture on the front cover looked tasty. They’d be skimmed through, the dishes determined too hard and then thrown in a drawer. I too would consider making them, only to realize I didn’t have any of the ingredients I needed. My EX and I were poor back then. We did all of our shopping at Aldi, so the idea of having capers to put in a chicken dish was foreign to me. I mean, who just has capers in their pantry?**My impetus to cook came out of necessity, not any sort of true desire, so it was far easier to take something out of a box and throw it in the oven rather than actually going shopping for special ingredients I might use part of and then never use again.

In college, and right after, cooking seemed more wasteful than anything else. Heck, I’m talking about the days my EX and I would eat a late breakfast, go to Old Country Buffet at like 3 (so we’d still pay the lunch price), stuff ourselves to bulging and then just have a snack for dinner. I’m also talking about the days when if my EX was out and it was just me, I was totally cool taking a box of frozen spinach out, thawing it in the microwave, putting some butter and salt on it and calling it dinner. For under $1, I had a meal. I was also known to have lunches of just a sleeve of Saltine crackers or half a bag of cheap corn chips and cheaper salsa.

Is it any wonder the idea of 40 clove chicken or duck a la orange scarred me to death?

*Read 200 square foot (at most) room which we had to move all our furniture to one side of to fit a borrowed card table and chairs at.

**That’d be me now…I bought them for a recipe and didn’t end up making it. I wonder how long capers stay good for. Huh…maybe I should check on that.

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Chocolate Monday: Deceptively Delicious

A few months ago I was comparing toddler stories with a friend of mine. Our boys are about 20 months apart, so she often asks about stages her little guy is going through so she can brace for what’s coming. Her son was a little shy of two at the time and she was struggling to get him to eat. He’s kind of small for his age and often eats a bite or two at each meal, but then wants to graze all day. The worst part for her, is that though he was a champion veggie eater when they were all coming in puree form, now that he could see them and taste their textures, he wasn’t a huge fan.

When she was working at a book store to pick up some extra holiday cash a few years ago, she grabbed a copy of Jessica Seinfeld’s Deceptively Delicious cookbook. Although her son wasn’t even a real thought yet, she and her husband also aren’t big veggie eaters, so she was hoping the cookbook might force her to get all the good stuff veggies provide without the actual need to eat veggies.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the cookbook (which came out back in 2007), the concept is simple: hide vegetable and fruit purees in foods kids love and “trick” them in to eating their veggies. There was quite a to do when the book first hit shelves since several people blasted Seinfeld for intellectual plagiarism of sorts. Seinfeld fired back, making it very clear she never claimed she invented the concept of hiding veggies in other foods, but rather just tasted some recipes she thought other mother’s would like.

My friend had only tried the pita pizzas, but she was impressed. She admitted she was very hesitant about putting spinach in her blender and then spreading it underneat pizza sauce. She figured she’d have to take one for the team and gag it down in front of her son so that he would get a healthy dose of veggies. Turns out, she and her husband both really liked them. When I expressed interest in the book, she brought it in for me to look over.

After thumbing through it, the concept was simple. I’d actually heard of it before, but had never bothered to try it. My son, is not in Seinfeld’s target audience. The only two vegetables he’s ever refused to eat are brussel sprouts (which he told my dad were “dirty”) and spinach (which sadly happen to be my favorite vegetable of all time). And I get it. I sure as heck didn’t like brussel sprouts when I was a kid. It wasn’t until my mid-twenties I even thought of trying one and only then when it was doused in butter and salt. Spinach I think I always loved, but I know it is the nemisis to many a child, so as long as he tried a bite, I let it slide. So these two veggies aside, put a plate with broccoli or carrots or corn or green beans or peas in front of my son and they were usually gone with minimal coaxing.

Me on the other hand, I was having trouble. It’s not that I don’t like veggies. I do. In fact, I really like most of the “troublesome” ones. I adore spinach, asparagus, artichokes and brussel sprouts. About the only veggie I won’t eat is a lima bean and to quote my son, that’s cuz they are “dirty.” My problem, however, is that I was drowning them in butter and spices. I’m not so sure it was the veggies I loved so much as the fatty goodness I sauted them in.

So, I figured I too would snag a copy of Seinfeld’s book and get cracking. Since this is supposed to be a chocolate blog, I’ll save my adventures into breakfasts and meals for another blog*. One of the things I LOVED about this book was the last section: Desserts. Now, I was skeptical. Afterall, how could brownies with spinach in them or oatmeal cookies with zucchini in them possibly be good? The thought of putting avocado in my chocolate cupcakes wierded me out a bit.

But, in a rather new found spirit of kitchen adventure, I threw caution to the wind and said, “what the heck!” I pureed me some avocadoes and started mixing. The cake batter itself was easy to make. There were hardly any more steps than making them from a box mix and I’ll admit, I felt pretty good about myself making cake batter from scratch. I’d never done that before. Even when I went through my super fancy cake decorating phase, I’d always used boxed mixes.

The batter was nice and thick and when I took a little lick off the beater, I think my eyes must have raised in shock. It was good…really good. I called my son over and let him lick a beater too. His eyes got wide and all he said was, “YUM!” Then, for the next 20 minutes while they baked, he kept asking me if they were done yet. He was disappointed when he had to wait even longer for them to cool so I could spread the cream cheese based frosting (with cauliflower puree) on them.

After they’d cooled and dinner was eaten, I handed out the cupcakes. Here was the moment of truth. The frosting, which still seemed a bit runny was ok. I wasn’t a huge fan. It was just a bit too sweet for me. I think if I make it again, I might cut down on the amount of powdered sugar I use. The cake, however, was AMAZING! It was super chocolatey and extremely moist. The cake was rather dense and after eating one I felt very full, which thrilled me since each one only has about 225 calories.

I was in a bit of a shock. Here was a cake, every bit as good as any I’d had at fancy cupcake shops, that completely satisfied the chocolate monster within, took just about the same amount of time to make as it would have to drive and go get one, and it had far fewer calories and a partial serving of vegetables to boot? I wasn’t sure how it was possible, but I double checked my math…only 5 grams of fat and 2.3 grams of fiber.

I know, I know, it sounds odd to put avocado in anything chocolate. Several of my relatives refuse to believe it’s true and have mocked me for the effort. They figure it’s some sort of “silly health kick” I’m on. But let me be clear here. I do try to eat healthy, but my downfall is chocolate and I am pretty darn picky about my chocolate. I can’t pick up subtle hints of raspberry, oak and lavender in wine. I can’t even tell you what hops taste like, much less identify where they come from in beers. Unless I’m being overwhelmed by spice, I cannot usually pick out the individual ones used in a dish. And if you blindfold me, I’m not sure I could tell Coke and Pepsi apart, but do the same taste tests with chocolate, and I am your girl. I can pick out subtle hints of orange peel and corriandar. I can tell Godiva from Lindt from Ghyslain without being able to see or touch the truffles. And, I can say with 100% honesty, that these are darn good cupcakes. I made 8 and ended up eating 4 1/2. I was thrilled each time my son picked a yogurt pop and left me a cupcake. They may have veggies in them, but they are the real chocolatey deal.

Overal:

Taste: 9/10

Appearance: 4/10

Value: 9/10

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I am certainly no Betty Crocker, part 1

This morning I made oatmeal for breakfast. And not the stuff out of the little microwave packages either. I made real, honest to goodness oatmeal, using oats and everything. I know some people are already rolling their eyes thinking, “big deal,” but for me, it is. See, it wasn’t until I was in my early twenties that I realized there was any other way than adding really hot water to oatmeal with dehydrated bits of apples in it, to make the stuff. I mean, I understood people could buy containers of rolled oats, but as far as I knew their only purpose was for making oatmeal raisin cookies, or, on really bad days, to be added to meatloaf.

This is not entirely my fault. I don’t exactly come from a line of celebrated cooks. My mom isn’t a bad cook exactly, she’s just not a very interesting one. When I was growing up, her repertiore consisted of spaghetti (with sauce from a jar), fried seafood products (from a box), soups (from a can), meatloaf (actually from scratch) and getting my step-dad to take us out for dinner. Breakfasts usually consisted of several cereal boxes lined up for me to pick from. Desserts came from boxes with labels by Jello, Betty Crocker and Pillsbury.

In all fairness to her, it’s not like her mom was much of a cook. Not that Mom talked a lot about what she ate growing up, but the only meal I ever remember my grandmother making when I would visit her was pan friend hamburgers, which she served on some kind of funky bread accompanied by a salad (of iceburg lettuce). Except for breakfast, which was always rye toast, we ate every other meal out.

Things weren’t much better when I moved in with my dad. Now, his mother actually could cook, and quite well, but it was not a skill she passed down to her sons. There is a story about how my dad and uncle tried to make a cake one morning as a surprise and ended up breaking all the eggs on the floor and spilling the oil as well. They ended up playing in the mess they made, which was far more entertaining to them then actually making a cake. To this day, my dad only prepares two meals: pizza (either from the freezer or from this horrid boxed mix he loved in his childhood–with dough so thin you can see through it in places) or meat on the grill. And, if it’s meat on the grill, 99% of the time it’s hot dogs and hamburgers.

My step-mom isn’t much better. She also had a mom who could cook, but I guess she never really picked up on the skill. Her idea of making dinner was ordering out a pizza or bringing McDonald’s home. Every now and then when we couldn’t decide where to go for dinner, she would threaten to prepare the gigantic can of Chef Boyarde Ravioli she kept in the pantry (known to us all as the “killer ravioli”). I do remember a few meals of tacos (made from packet spices) and spaghetti (made from an even more horrible box mix by Kraft–the sauce tasted like ketchup), but those are really the only ones that come to mind.

And vegetables? Until I was in college, the only veggies I’d ever had came from either a can or the freezer section and were generally boiled or microwaved to death. I ate them, but only because I was told I wouldn’t leave the table unless I did.

For some this may seem shocking, but I was born in the mid 70’s and there was a recession going on. It was (and still is) far cheaper to buy veggies frozen or in a can than it is to get the fresh stuff. And the veggies we had weren’t the organic ones they sell in stores now that tout labels of no additives. Ours had preservatives to keep them from rotting.

You know how fridges have those two crisper drawers? In my house, despite the little white etching on the drawers, they weren’t used for fruits and veggies. At my dad’s, one drawer was reserved exclusively for cheese. There were block of cheese, cheeseballs, cups of cheese, string cheese and slices of cheese, most in some sort of cheddar variety (port wine, sharp, extra sharp, white Wisconsin, etc). The other drawer, and believe me, I loved this as a kid, was for candy bars. Yup, that’s right, there was a drawer devoted to chocolate (huh, might explain my chocolate fixation and blog). Any day of the week, any time of the day, I could go in and snatch a Snickers or Reese’s or Milky Way. That drawer and I were good friends.

My mom’s fridge wasn’t much better. They were used for fruits and veggies, but the only fruits we really ever had were red apples and oranges. I’m pretty sure the only veggies that ever entered that second drawer were iceburg lettuce and tomatoes for the ocassional salad, which I drowned in Thousand Island dressing.

As a result, nobody taught me how to cook. The closest I came was baking with my mom, and like I said, even that was all pre-packaged. I remember once when I was in Girl Scouts, our troop had an international food fair. Each girl was supposed to bring something exotic. My mom made Gateau au Chocolat. I thought she was so cool. Every time someone asked what I brought, I’d get this huge smile and let the words roll off of my tongue: Gateau au Chocolat. Guess what I learned years later? She made chocolate cake…from a box. She added a bit of cocoa powder to the mix to make it seem like a darker chocolate. But really, our contribution to the international event was by Betty Crocker. How much more American can one get?

Heck, when I was in high school, I was hanging out at my house with a guy I was kind of dating. It was lunch time and we were both hungry, so I figured I should make something to eat. We had frozen hamburger patties, so I took two out, got out a pan and thought I should cook them up. Never having done this, I was sort of at a loss as to what to do. I put them in the pan, but had no idea what to set the stove at. We were hungry, so I just put them on high to cook them faster. Ever minute or so, I kept asking him if I was doing it right. I was petrified I was going to give him food poisoning. I’m not sure what I was thinking. They were pre-cooked frozen patties. There was really nothing bad I could do to them other than burn them. Which, I almost did since I was scared I’d undercook them.

This is a pathetic story, but 100% true. Before I could drive, if my folks were both working at dinner time(which happened about twice a week), I ate Lunchables. Or a bologna sandwich. If I was feeling really inventive, I’d put some Prego in a bowl and microwave it. Then, I’d get out a bagel, butter it, put some garlic salt on it and microwave it as well. I’d dip the bagel in the sauce and call that dinner. Or, if we had the fixins’ I’d make a Reuben sandwhich. I’d toast the bread, put some corned beef on it, a piece of cheese and some saurkraut, and then I’d microwave it for like 30 seconds. When it was done I’d add the Thousand Island, and poof: dinner in under three minutes. If I felt like cooking, I’d pull out the big guns: full on spaghetti. Of course, that meant pouring that Prego into a pan and heating it while I boiled some noodles. Then I’d just mix them together, using the left over sauce for my garlic bagels. Or I’d make Ramen noodles. I practically lived on those things.

When I left for college, it was a good think I had a dinning service meal plan because I might have eaten nothing but Ramen noodles. Or starved.

***This is going to be a series of cooking related blogs.

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Chocolate Monday: Ghyslain at the Sanctuary

No, I haven’t made chocolate my religion yet, although that’s probably coming before too long. The Sanctuary is actually the name of an old church turned art gallery which happens to house the cafe where Ghyslain Maurais sell his chocolates and pastries. Of course, I didn’t know any of this when I first heard of Ghyslain.

A friend of mine does some freelance work for a magazine. As some sort of corporate gift, his boss got a box of Ghyslain chocolates. Knowing of my love for all things cocoa, he asked if I’d ever heard of them. When I expressed my ignorance of a chocolatier practically in my backyard, he told me to check them out online, which I did.

From the moment I clicked on the chocolate link, I was intrigued. The candies themselves are beautiful. Unlike most of the art which hangs in the Sanctuary, these little bundles of sugar are works of art. Just going in to the gallery, I was mesmerized. I was so excited about the individual chocolates that I almost forgot the true purpose of our visit: the pastries!

My BFF and I have birthdays about a week apart. So every year, as part of our celebration, we have at least one big day out. This year I was not only celebrating my birthday, but also my first real girls’ day out since my daughter was born. Well, not just my first girls’ day out, really it was my first time out without a child in nearly two months. I definitely needed some adult time.

We started off with brunch at a fancy cafe we both just discovered and love. Next, we got manicures and pedicures. Since we had some time to kill, we headed over to the mall to pamper ourselves with some treats from the Body Shop. Then, to round off our day, we made our way to the Sanctuary for dessert.

After purusing the menu, I was a bit sad we hadn’t chosen to make the cafe our lunch spot. The sounded wonderful and the plates I saw on neighboring tables looked tasty. We vowed to come back again to try out the real food, but we knew never took our eyes off the prize: dessert.

We had a rather late reservation, so the dessert case, which usually stocks about three dozen different pastries, was fairly empty. Still, it wasn’t easy to decide. I had it narrowed to two: Sacher, which is “a decadent combination of fresh raspberry puree and dark chocolate mousse layered on raspberry infused chocolate genoise” and one that had a slightly mythological sounding name I can’t quite remember which was a sweet, buttery tart shell filled with key lime custard and topped with a berry mousse dome, centered with an almondy coulis. Glazed with a berry mirror. Finished with dark chocolate decorations.* I hemmed and hawed about it, but finally gave in and went for the one with the glazed berry mirror:

Now, I realize the actual dessert had very little chocolate in it, but it was so pretty to look at, and the berries were calling me. The little “disk and straw” on top of the dessert are made entirely from white chocolate, which just amazes me. The dessert is a work of art, right down to the decorations on top of it. And, the disk and straw were rich and creamy, just like good white chocolate should be.

As for the actual dessert, I can say without a doubt, it is one of the top 5 desserts I’ve ever eaten. Every bite was a little bit of heaven! The key lime custard was light and perfectly tart. It reminded me a bit of the center of the Godiva key lime truffles, but it was even lighter and airier. The berry mousse in the middle was sweet, but not overly so. It reminded me of fluff. It was whipped perfectly and practically melted on my tongue. The almondy center was not very noticeable and only added a slight crunch, which despite what it may seem at first, was not an odd texture at all. It blended. The top glaze didn’t actually have much of a flavor, but it looked so pretty I could hardly fault it. Each bite was so good that for once, I actually managed to finish a “meal” after my BFF, who generally takes bird sized bites, which make me feel like a pig.

Now, since this is a chocolate blog, I should mention that I did try one of the chocolate desserts as well. My BFF got the Sicilian, which was loaded with chocolatey goodness. This is a bit of a role reversal for us. While she does like chocolate, she’s usually far more likely to grab something fruity while I devour the cocoa goodies, especially when there is dark chocolate involved. Hers was, “moist chocolate moelleux cake topped with hazelnut custard, praline hazelnut, orange marmalade, pistachio mousse, and covered with dark chocolate ganache. Decorated on the sides with hand painted chocolate squares and finished with chocolate decorations and gold flakes.” I only had one taste of it, but the dark chocolate ganache was rich. It reminded me a bit of brownie batter, which was a real plus since dark chocolate is notorious for being bitter and ganache can often be too thick for my taste. The pistachio mousse was the real star here. Just like it’s berry counterpart, it was light, airy and creamy. I didn’t really taste the orange marmalade or hazelnut, which is for the best since I’m not a huge fan of either. My guess is that the pistachio and ganache just overpowered those flavors in my small bite. Just like my piece though, it was a work of art. The squares on the side of the dessert are hand painted chocolate, which is both tasty and gorgeous!

Before we even left the cafe, we’d decided we had to come back. Next time we plan to be there earlier so we have more pastries to choose from. In the week since we went, I’ve already told half a dozen people about the cafe and urged them to go. I know I don’t want to wait much longer before my next visit. We did get some chocolates on our way out, but that review will have to wait for another post.

Overall:

Taste: 10/10

Appearance: 10/10

Price: 9/10 (each one was $7, which is a bit pricey, but considering the taste, worth every penny. And they are big enough they could be shared…if you are willing to part with the amazingness. I say get your own!)

*not in quotes, b/c I couldn’t find the actual description online

**We did go back and have lunch today. It was GREAT! I had the chicken salad, which was really tasty, as well as a side of southwest sweet potato salad. I also went ahead and got the Sacher, which was amazing. The chocolate was very rich and blended perfectly with the slightly tart raspberry. The raspberry wasn’t overly tart like I usually like, but the chocolate mousse also wasn’t dark, so it blended perfectly. If I hadn’t been so full I could burst, I would have eaten two!

This one is the Carribean, which one of my friends tried. It had the lightest, fluffiest custard filling I’ve ever tasted!

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Library Nonsense

Yesterday my BFF reminded me that the library was having it’s semi-annual used book sale. Not too far from the heart of town is a book repository of sorts where all the libraries in the county take their “extra” books.

I’m not entirely sure how a book makes it to these space. I’ve been going to this sale for years and while every now and then I get a book that has a ripped page (taped back together) or a cover starting to fall off, for the most part the books have slight wear and tear. I actually have a copy of The Ladies of Grace Adieu sitting right in front of me which I bought at last year’s sale, and aside from an old library card holder in the back and some library bar codes, I can’t find a single reason this book was withdrawn. It is in great condition. My only real guess is that at one point it had a dust jacket and someone damaged it, so they replaced this copy. Or maybe they had multiple copies and after the thrill of it wore off, they needed to make room for newer, shinier books. Who knows.

My point, is that aside from the children’s books I’ve gotten there, the ones I’ve bought have been in good shape and totally worth the $1-$2 price tag. Because the prices are so cheap and the books are so good, I usually come home with a back jammed full of fun finds, some for me, some for my son and some for my classroom.

This time around though, my bag was a bit emptier than usual. In part because I already have a stack of books I need to read and in part because I’m currently so honked off about the pay freeze and HUGE insurance hike we are going to be forced to take next year (which will actually mean I’m making less than I did this year), I sort of have a “screw anything extra for school attitude.”

But as usual, I digress.

See, despite the fact that all the shelves are bursting with books, the room that is lined with those shelves is not all that big. And, since the sale is open to the public, even arriving five minutes after the doors open means you have to elbow your way through a sea of bodies.

Since I know space is at a premium, I’ve learned to make myself as small as possible. I hug the books I’m carrying to my chest so that I don’t accidently hit people with a bag full of them. I strain my neck almost to the point of injury to see around people so that I don’t have to hover or get in anyone’s way. I go in with a list of author’s to check for and instead of looking at each book on the shelf, if I don’t see what I want, I move on.

My BFF has basically the same philosophy. Apparently though, we are the only ones who do.

The sale is a mad house. It’s not the shear number of bodies that is the problem, but rather the absolute disregard for anyone else most of these bodies seem to possess. I don’t know how many times I was hit by someone’s giant bag today (some of which were not even filled with books, but just large purses). I was bonked on the head when I was crouching to look at books on the bottom shelf. I had two different people turn quickly and swing bags into my back. I was backed into and nearly stepped on.

My personal safety aside, it also amazes me at how many people do not seem to understand the polite use of the words “excuse me.” I said it several times hoping to part bodies who were standing several feet away from the shelves they were perusing, so that I could get through. My tiny BFF was able to squeeze through a couple of the holes left (none of them, of course, budged for her at all), but as I not only just had a baby but am also naturally bigger than she was, I found myself turning around and attempting three other aisles before I could find a break in the bodies that would let me catch up to her in the nature section.

As soon as I reached her and started looking for books, I noticed an exceptionally large woman (with an even bigger bag) coming our way. She had that look of someone trying to find a way through, so I excused myself, sucked in my breath and cuddled up to the bookcase. I guess I read her wrong. Instead of moving through, she stopped, right where I had just been and decided to browse the books I wanted to look at. The worst part was that I was trapped. A small boy, who’d obviously been told to sit on one of the book shelves and not move was on one side of me and a HUGE purple bag filled with books was on the other. The gianormous woman was directly behind me, wedged in between several other people. There was no escaping until she realized they had nothing she wanted and moved on.

I also didn’t find anything in that section, mostly because the books I wanted to look at were right behind the boy sitting on the shelf and he also wasn’t moving. I finally gave up, gave my BFF a look of desperation and we both headed for the check out.

Now, I realize for a lot of people books priced between .25 and $2 are the only real chance they have to get new books to read. And while I do want to encourage everyone to read more, I wish a few of them would pick up some books on manners.

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Pampering Myself

Seven weeks ago I gave birth to my little girl, which means I spent the last 11 months or so either pregnant or recovering from being pregnant. That also means I haven’t done a whole heck of a lot for myself. Now, I’m not saying I didn’t do anything I enjoy during those 11 months, but since some of my favorite foods were off limits (sushi), and I was getting bigger and bigger each day, so shopping wasn’t much fun. Since my favorite drink at the local coffee shop is a short, skinny, spiced chai, I could indulge in all of those I wanted, but that, coupled with some junk food cravings, was my only real indulgence.

Even though I had to add some extra calories to my diet, I couldn’t even make them come from chocolate since I just didn’t want it during my pregnancy. Now, I’m back on the the chocolate train, but to a lesser degree than before I had my darling baby girl.

It makes sense that I didn’t get to do much for myself since I spent the first nearly four months with horrible morning sickness (which I NEVER had with my son), so doing anything other than laying around on the couch wasn’t appealing. I had about a month and a half of feeling decent, but then the last three or so months, my entire body hurt and I was so tired all I wanted to do with my “spare” time was sleep.

Now, I’ve never been a really vain person. I don’t go crazy about my looks. Heck, I can’t even remember the last time I wore makeup. This is probably mostly due to the fact that I have never really been able to do my hair or make up with any degree of skill. I figured why pay for some fancy hair do I wasn’t going to be able to keep up?

When I went to Vegas two years ago, I decided to really splurge and get my hair cut and highlighted. Once I did it though, I couldn’t stop. I liked it so much and was given an easy style, so I kept going back. But, while pregnant the doc gave me the big “no no” for getting my hair colored, so I had to give it up and watch my hair get too long and the color die out.

I also had to give up manicures and pedicures since the fumes from those places can be nearly toxic at times. Again, not that I spent too much time on those either, but my BFF and I love to get together for a girls’ day every few months and get them done.

The last vice I had to give up was massages, which was really bitter since I was in terrible pain AND I had gift cards. Sure, I could have gotten a pre-natal massage, but I did that once during my first pregnancy and it really didn’t do much for me. Since I had to roll from side to side, one side felt good, but then when I moved to do the next one, the first side just hurt again. All the work I had had done, went away. So, I said bye bye to those too.

I’ve spent the past two months getting used to functioning on a few hours sleep and trying to recover from having my tummy sliced open and a baby pulled out of it. Although I’ve been cleared by my doc and I feel about 80% back to normal, I still get pains if  I overdue it, so I’ve been trying to pace myself. I’ve been so busy making sure my son doesn’t feel left out or resentful, that I haven’t done anything for me.

That all changes this week. Now, it’s my turn! It started with my birthday. I planned a girls’ day out with my BFF. I left the kids at home and we went to a fancy brunch place to eat. Then we got mani-pedis. I picked a really sparkly color to help usher in spring. Today after my husband gets home from work, I get to go have a deep tissue massage and I am thrilled since I’ve been hauling around 20 extra pounds (baby and carrier, not to mention baby weight I haven’t lost yet). Not to mention that I’ve started working out again, so I’m more than a bit sore.

To add to this, next week I get to go get my hair done again. I’m so excited because my hair will be cute again!

Now that the baby is out and starting to get into a routine, I’m going to do what I’ve been missing and pamper myself a little.

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Filed under motherhood, my daughter, my son, ramblings, what makes me me

Chocolate Monday: Godiva Spring Fruits

It’s no secret I love Godiva chocolate. There are very few items they make that I don’t love, and even those I like just fine. Whenever they introduce a new product, I have to try it, even if it’s almost identical to something they already have that I like. Heck, I bought three different G-Collections simply because they changed two of the chocolates. I’m a sucker that way.

So when my bff and I went in to get our free truffles for April (we are both a part of the Godiva frequent buyer club, so each month we get one free truffle or chocolate), I was thrilled to see there were five new pieces to try. It didn’t matter that I already have a box of their chocolates in my fridge, I had to pick up a small package containing each of the five chocolates.

The chocolates themselves were beautiful. Each slightly rectangular piece is decorated with beautiful flowers. I love these seemingly silk screened pieces. The bouquets on them make them quite intriguing, and immediately attracted my attention.

The first one I tried was the black raspberry piece. Just like the actual fruit, this candy has seeds which does give it a genuine raspberry taste. Since it is black raspberry rather than my favorite red variety, it doesn’t have that amazing tart taste most raspberry pieces at Godiva do. The dark chocolate isn’t bitter like many dark pieces are, so that blends well with the black raspberry filling. It was a pretty good piece, but I did feel like I needed to brush my teeth because of the seeds.

The next one I grabbed was a milk piece. It definitely had a fruit taste to it, but it wasn’t a really distinct flavor, and the box had no flavor info on it, so I’m not entirely sure which fruit it was aiming for. I’m pretty sure it was peach, but it probably could have been any number of fruits. The milk chocolate was creamy and paired well with the slightly generic fruit taste. Even though I couldn’t distinguish the exact flavor, I thought it was tasty and would definitely eat it again.

There was only one white chocolate piece and I clearly remembered it being pina colada. I wasn’t excited about this one. The white chocolate was creamy, and the filling was fairly bland, but I’m just not a pina colada fan, which is odd because I love coconut. I think it’s just the combo of flavors I don’t care for. Even the actual drink is one I don’t care for.

I couldn’t remember the flavor of the second milk chocolate piece either and when I tried it, the flavor was a bit hard to nail down. My best guess is pear. It was definitely sweet and fruity. Milk chocolate was a great pairing for this sweet treat. I really liked this piece.

My favorite though, without a doubt, was the lemon. Godiva makes the best lemon center I’ve ever tasted. It was amazingly tart, which I adore. It tasted like fresh lemon. The dark chocolate is perfect with it because it balances the tart perfectly. It actually even made my mouth pucker a bit, just like a real lemon would. I absolutely love this piece.

Although I liked each of these chocolates, if I was to buy them again, I’d probably just grab the pear and the lemon. Godiva makes a truly fantastic raspberry cordial which the black raspberry piece cannot compete with. I would definitely ditch the pina colada one.

Overall:

Taste: 7.5/10

Appearance: 9.5/10

Price: 6.5/10 ($8.50 for 5, which is on par with their individual truffles)

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Filed under addictions, chocolate, food, products, ramblings, what makes me me