Category Archives: motherhood

Trials, tribulations and WTF of parenting

Chocolate Monday: Condor Chocolate brownie

Condor brownie fullOne of my favorite parts of traveling is trying beloved local eateries. Of course, when my forays into new food gems include chocolate shops, I get even happier.

Recently my travels took me to Athens, Georgia, which is not only the home of my best friend in the universe, but also a ton of amazingly tasty places to eat. In fact, in 2013, Zagat named Athens one of the 7 up and coming food cities. In 2014, it was named the Best Foodie City for Groups by ConventionSouth Magazine. In 2016, Fortune Magazine named it one of America’s 10 New Best Craft Beer Cities. These accolades come in addition to all kinds of ones for just being a totally cool place to vacation, live and go to college. Oh, and it’s also host to some pretty cool musicians like The Indigo Girls, The B52’s and REM. My best friend told me that pretty much everyone she knows has seen Michael Stipe shopping at Earth Fare. Somehow she keeps missing him.

Not only did we spend the week eating at some totally amazing restaurants like Cali N Tito’s, The Grit, Kelly’s and Jittery Joe’s, but we also got a chance to stop by Condor Chocolates.

We originally tried to visit them on Monday, but like half the places in Athens, it seems Mondays are verboten. Seriously, pretty much every place in Athens is closed on Mondays and it is more than a bit annoying. Although our initial attempt was thwarted by a closed sign, since we never give up on chocolate, we went back on Thursday.

Condor chocolate sells chocolate bars, chocolate truffles, cloud boulders (chocolate covered marshmallows), toffee, bon bons, macarons, brownies, gelato and chocolate drinks. Since they have a variety of deserts, shakes, and sipping chocolates, they actually have a dine in cafe. Check out their menu here.

We’d already been out for quite some time and the kids were longing to return to my best friend’s house to play with her dog, so we got our treats to go. Of course I bought one of each of their truffles (which I will review at a later date). My best friend and son got cloud boulders, which they both loved. My son described his as a bit of fluffy chocolate heaven. My daughter got a passion fruit macaron and she was delighted. In the last year she has become obsessed with macarons. I think this is largely due to some macaron shaped erasers she got from the summer reading program.

In addition to my box of truffles, I also snagged one of their brownies. Since Condor chocolate is a bean-to-bar chocolate shop (and cafe) and the owners are brothers whose mother was from Ecuador, all of their chocolate is from Ecuador and most of it is fairly dark chocolate.

Any regular readers of this blog know that I am not exactly on the dark chocolate fan bus. It’s only been in the last 10 years I’ve even been able to tolerate it and even then I get really picky about it. But, because chocolate is a passion, I am trying my hardest to learn to truly appreciate it in all of its forms.

Plus, who doesn’t love a brownie?

My best friend, as it turns out.

That’s ok, more brownie for me. My first bite was not the best. While completely moist (ugh, I hate that word) and chewy, it wasn’t the velvety milk chocolate brownie I was hoping for. Granted, since it is advertised as a dark chocolate brownie, it was totally unreasonable for me to have that expectation, but a lifetime of eating brownies has prepared me for velvety, milky happiness.

My second bite was better. And so was the third. I got used the the slightly bitter bite of the chocolate. The more bites I took also meant more bits of sea salt to balance out the very heavy, very dark chocolate of the brownie. Despite it’s darkness, thanks to the small chunks of dark chocolate in the brownie, it actually had a fairly creamy, if slightly bitter taste.

It was insanely rich and there was no way I could eat it all in one sitting. While not gigantic, it is a large brownie and both its denseness and richness make it a treat I think most people would find hard to eat on their own–at least in one sitting. I actually divided it into four servings, which was about all I could handle at a time.

Sure, I’ll admit that I ate one of those servings for breakfast, but that’s one of the glorious bits about being an adult. As long as my kids don’t see me, I can totally eat a brownie for breakfast!

Although this brownie is definitely a treat I had to portion up and could not eat large quantities of, I’m glad I tried it. It was tasty and really started to grow on me. On my next visit to Athens, I might even try it again. Of course I might also have to get some of their toffee because I LOVE me some toffee!

Overall:

Appearance: 8/10
Taste: 7/10
Value: 8/10 (at $5 a pop, it seems pricey, but since I got four servings from it, I think it’s a pretty good value).

 

 

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Filed under addictions, chocolate, cool links, cool places, entertainment, food, good days, motherhood, my daughter, my friends, my son, products, ramblings, travel, what makes me me

Throwback Thursday: Another friendcation

As much as I want to write a full blog, I will hopefully be on the road before this blog even publishes, hurtling down the highway at a speed just fast enough to shave some time off of my trip, but not fast enough to get me pulled over, on my way to visit my best friend.

Due to an unforeseen incident with my husband’s job, our fall break plans had to be put on indefinite hold. Since my kids and I have two weeks off, and I definitely need a break from this town, we are going to visit my best friend in Georgia.

I’ll have plenty of great pictures and no doubt some travel stories to share when we return. For now I am just super excited about my fourth friendcation this year. Even if my kids have to tag along on this one, I get 6 full days (and two partial days) with my best friend and that is one of my greatest joys.

So, TTFN. Look for me when I return!

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Chocolate Monday: Hershey’s Cookie Layer Crunch

Hershey's Cookie Layer CrunchI was rushing through Kroger with my kids the other day, trying to pick up my daughter’s prescription when we happened to pass one of those stand up displays that divides the central walkway in half. You know the displays, the ones that guarantee that if you come around a corner and get stuck behind someone pushing their cart at a snail’s pace, you’ll be stuck in the store forever. They are the concrete dividing walls of the grocery world.

Thankfully this trip we were sans cart and we could zip around the horde of shoppers all trying to grab those final ingredients for dinner.

As I started to pass on the left, a glint of orange caught my eye. I’d seen the Hershey’s cookie bars before, but only the mint chocolate and vanilla creme ones. Not that I’m too good for either mint chocolate or vanilla creme, but at first glance they hadn’t stood out and screamed, “TRY ME!”

I’d picked up the mint bar before as mint chocolate chip is one of my favorite taste combinations, but it’s dark chocolate. I’m not a fan of really good, high end dark chocolate and I am REALLY not a fan of cheap dark chocolate. To be honest, aside from Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, I’ve never been a huge Hershey girl, and I have never liked those little Hershey’s dark miniatures. While vanilla creme is admittedly more up my alley, I just got the impression it would be like a cookies and cream bar and I’ve never been a huge fan of that flavor combination either.

So I’ve passed by many a Cookie Crunch display.

This time though, I saw the orange sparkle that almost always announces caramel. I paused in front of the display, staring at the package. Should I? Caramel and chocolate is a must have on any sweet list I make. Surprisingly it was not the caramel that sold me. It was the bits of shortbread cookie. One of my favorite candy bars of all time, Twix, mixes delicious caramel, chocolate and shortbread, so this one had to be a winner too, right?

Hershey's cookie midshotThe chocolate is exactly what I’ve come to expect from Hershey’s: inoffensive, nondescript chocolate. I know many people love Hershey’s chocolate. One of my grandmother’s absolute joys in life was a simple Hershey bar. She didn’t even want almonds mucking up her bliss. For me, the only truly good use for a Hershey bar is in a s’more. Other than that, I have little use for them. The chocolate is fine, but it’s just that: fine.

And that’s what this chocolate was, fine. I was a bit disappointed that the shortbread was just in small bits throughout the bar. I wanted a little more cookie in my cookie crunch bar. I wanted it to have that distinct Twix-like crunch and this bar is kind of lacking on the crunch element. The shortbread is fine, but it seems to provide more texture than flavor. And it’s placement is spotty so some bites didn’t even have that much shortbread in them, which was a disappointment.

Hershey's cookie close upI wasn’t quite sure from the picture on the front what to expect as far as caramel consistency goes. One thing I love about caramel is the way that different companies change up both the flavor and the texture. I love ooey-gooey caramel. I love rich buttery caramel. I love thick, chewy caramel. Pretty much any form caramel comes in, I love. The caramel in this bar was a bit uneven. In the first bite it was almost completely absent. I got a slight hint of it, but not enough to even figure out what type of caramel I was dealing with. The second bite was better. It had more caramel flavor and I was able to tell that the texture was thicker than a Caramello, but more liquidy than a Turtle. The consistency of it was good, but apparently in the piece I was eating most of it had somehow managed to pool at one end. When I got to that end, there was a ton of caramel and it was by far the most enjoyable bite.

The flavors meshed ok, but I felt over all the entire bar, which I had high hopes for was just ok. There’s nothing really negative about it, but also nothing really positive. It just sort of is. It’s better than a Hershey bar, but if I really want this flavor combination, I’ll save the $2 extra dollars (and change) and just get a Twix.

Overall:

Taste: 5/10
Appearance: 4/10
Value: 4/10

 

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Wildcard Wednesday: Please stop parking on the sidewalk

Today we finally got a dose of fall weather. It’s still not our usual late September sweater weather, but the dip into the 70’s was very welcome after a week spent in the 80’s and 90’s. In honor of the gorgeous breeze ruffling the trees, my daughter and I decided to go on a walk around our neighborhood.

Well, I decided to go for a walk. She wanted to go for a bike ride. Once I got her all suited up in her helmet and pads, we headed off.

Our neighborhood is not very big. It’s basically one main road, which makes a circle (and therefore gets 4 different names depending on which curve of the circle you live on). I mapped it once to figure out how many miles an hour I was walking and found out that one lap around is .8 miles.

My daughter loves riding her bike, but she’s still a bit unsteady on it. She’s 7, but her training wheels just came off in June. Since our circle has sidewalks and the few people who enter our neighborhood tear through it like it’s the Indy 500 Speedway, I make her ride on the sidewalk. I think this is perfectly acceptable, especially since I walk along behind her. She has to stop every so often to let me catch up so I can scan for any hazards like cars backing out of driveways.

For the most part, our neighborhood is pretty great. It’s off a major road, but since it is small and only has one entrance/exit, only people who live in or are visiting come in. There are lots of old growth trees all around it. In fact, the entire neighborhood has an outer ring of trees separating it from various fields and apartments. Things are pretty quiet and there is almost no crime. Unless you happen to be on the main stretch of the road looking out to the busy entrance way, you’d never know we are in the ciy.

My only real complaint about my neighborhood is that people park their cars on the sidewalk.

Now, I don’t mean they jump the curb and park on the sidewalk. They park in their driveways, but instead of parking their cars next to each other (or in their garages), they park bumper to bumper so that the backs of their cars block the sidewalks.

When it’s just me out walking, it’s not really that big of a deal. It can be annoying if the grass is wet and muddy, but I can pretty easily step around their cruddy parking job and still stay out of the street. My daughter, who is still unsteady on her little bike, however, has major navigational problems.

Tonight she wiped out about a dozen times. About half of those times were because she’s also not very good with her hand breaks, so when she needs to stop, she just sort of slows down, lets the bike wobble and then falls. She’s generally good about aiming for the grass so while she may get a few stains, she doesn’t do any real damage.

The other half of her crashes were trying to avoid cars. And she wasn’t always successful.

She crashed into two cars, both of which had their tails sticking out over the sidewalk. The first one was just barely over the sidewalk, but it had a big wheel cover for a spare tire which hovered a foot or so over the sidewalk. She tried to steer herself onto the grass. She almost made it. Her handlebar didn’t quite clear it though and she sort of bounced off the tire cover and landed fairly hard on the sidewalk. I was proud that she didn’t cry. She was hurt and unhappy, but she got right back on that bike to try again.

Three houses later she was met by another car. This one covered the entire sidewalk and was on the bottom part of the driveway. I told her to get off her bike and walk it around, but she thought she could make it.

She didn’t.

This house was a particular nightmare to maneuver because they had those scalloped bricks lining the small grassy area around their mailbox, so when one side of her bike hit the back of the car and started to tilt, she was driven into those damn bricks.

To her credit, she didn’t cry this time either. And she did learn her lesson. Every time I saw a car hanging over the sidewalk I’d call for her to get off her bike and walk it around. She did. In fact, with each car hanging over the sidewalk, she started getting off of her bike just a little sooner to guarantee there was no way she’d run into another car.

I realize that there are situations where blocking the sidewalk might be temporarily necessary, however, when you live in a community, it’s kind of a jerk move. The sidewalk is there for people who want to walk. It’s there for small children on bikes or roller skates. Be kind to your fellow neighbors. Keep your car in your driveway, but not on the sidewalk.

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Wildcard Wednesday: Fitness trackers

fitness bandA few weeks ago I was at Target looking for a fitness band to store my iPod Classic (yeah, I’m old school) in while I work out. The electronics department had them, but they were a bit pricey. Thankfully they guy working the desk mentioned that they might have one in the back to school aisle.

I thought this was kind of an odd place to find them until I ventured over to that part of the store and found what were clearly the back to college aisles. Eight weeks ago when I’d gone back to school shopping for my kiddos, hardly any of the regular school supplies were out and none of the college wares were on display.

Not only did I find a fitness band that works perfectly adequately (I know, that is not a ringing endorsement, but it’s honest, and it was only $5), but I also found an off-brand fitness tracker for $10.

Now, for $10 I knew I wasn’t going to get much. However, since it promised that not only would it track my steps and tell me the time, but also allow me to set alarms using gentle vibrations, just like my Fitbit, I figured I had to give it a go.

For the most part, I love my Fitbit. I’m generally pretty darn happy with it. The only way my Fitbit could be better is if it a) told the time (I have the original Fitbit Flex) and b) held a longer charge (it is nearly two years old and now only holds a charge for 4-5 days).

My intention with this new fitness tracker was not to replace my Fitbit. My intention was to use it when my Fitbit is charging. Since I rely on my Fitbit not just to count my steps, but also to wake me up in the morning (a feature I ADORE), I thought this new tracker could be a real help for me. Normally I have to lose steps in order to plug my Fitbit in long enough to charge so that I can still wear it to bed so my alarm will go off. My plan was to wake up, put this fitness tracker on, then charge my Fitbit while I’m at work, then put my Fitbit back on just before I go to bed.

Sounds pretty great, right?

The first day it was. I loved being able to check the time on my tracker. I also loved that with the touch of a button I could see my steps. The only odd part was that I seemed to be taking a lot fewer steps than usual. And, for some reason, the alarm randomly went off at like 4 am and then again at like 8 am and then again at like 3 pm. Still, I made just over 10,000 and it seemed to be a ok.

I decided to wear it a second day. After all the alarm bug magically fixed itself, the band was a cute mint green, and I really liked that watch feature. However, even after doing a Zumba routine, I did not hit 10K. I have never made it an entire day at school and gone to a Zumba class and not hit my 10K. After all that work, the tracker was only registering like 8K. That made no sense to me.

I tried it a third day, which included a trip to the gym (although it was doing circuit training) and had similar results. That was when I realized that I clearly got what I paid for, a cheap watch with an alarm that counted some of my steps.

Oh well, it just reaffirmed my desire to get a new Fitbit which meets my current needs. Plus, my kids have been wanting Fitbits of their own and since I picked up an extra tracker (in black), I have a feeling mine might find its way into my daughter’s stocking while the black one ends up in my son’s.

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Throwback Thursday: broken bones

gross toeI am 42 years old and I have only ever broken one bone. I’ve had enough sprained ankles for a dozen or so people, but I made it just over 23 years before I broke a bone. And that was only a toe.

I was in my first year of teaching. I was in my bathroom getting ready to chaperone a middle school dance. The upstairs bathroom in my townhouse was rather oddly shaped. There were two doors–one entrance from the master bedroom and one from the hallway right at the top of the stairs. The side closest to the hallway entrance had a single sink. On the other side, just inside the door to the master bedroom was the toilet and the bathtub/shower combination. In between was a linen closet. However, unlike any sensibly built linen closet, this one stuck out just enough from the sink as to make it slightly awkward to maneuver around. I was in a hurry and when I turned to head back to the my bedroom to get dressed, I slammed my second toe right into the wall of the linen closet.

That stream of unexplained profanity you heard in Indiana nearly two decades ago around 6 pm? Yeah, that was me.

In addition to the delightful pain shooting up my entire leg, my toe instantly exploded into a deep purple. I knew it was no good. My ex, who had a bit more experience with broken bones than I did, took one look at it and pronounced it broken.

Seeing as I had a dance to chaperone that there was no way of getting out of, he grabbed the medical tape that my father (a paramedic) had so kindly given us when we’d moved into our new place, and did his best to wrap my toes in a way that, while still excruciatingly painful, at least helped stabilize them. I downed several ibuprofen, got dressed and headed to school.

I spent most of the night sitting in a chair near the door to make sure everyone paid and no one tried to leave before the dance was over. Until that moment I hadn’t realized anything could possibly make a middle school dance more uncomfortable and awkward.

I found myself reflecting on this story Thursday night when I came around the corner in my kitchen and slammed a different toe (my second to pinky) into a metal step stool that one of my kids decided to drag into the kitchen. The stool is just short enough that it was hidden behind the kitchen counter, but one of my children had left it in just the right position so that one of the legs was sticking out just a tiny bit. It was impossible to see and impossible not to run into.

I instantly got a familiar jolt of pain and a horrible shiver that went up my entire leg. This time, since my children were still awake and in the next room, I managed to hold in the curse words. My hope was that I’d just stubbed it, but as the second wave of tingles shot up my leg, I was pretty sure it was broken.

I was surprised when, over an hour later, although it still hurt like the Dickens, it was not turning colors. I figured it must just be a really nasty stub, took some ibuprofen and went to bed.

The next morning, I found the deep purple I’d been expecting. Since it was Friday, I had to hobble to school. Thankfully we have a super fantastic athletic trainer who agreed to take a look at it before school started. He poked and prodded at it, did some sort of tuning fork voodoo on it and proclaimed it not broken…YEAH!

I did, however, severely sprain it and pull the ligaments in it, which explains the pain. He taped it for me and sent me on my way with advice to ice it and re-tape it (he even supplied the tape).

Today it is a little less colorful and a little less painful, but my utter lack of grace is still showing.

Hopefully once this disaster heals it’ll be at least another couple of decades before I do this again!

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Chocolate Monday: Vanilla Bean Bakery cake truffles

vanilla bean truffles.jpgWhenever I see a bakery, I am always tempted to stop in just to see what they might have. After passing by Vanilla Bean Bakery many times, I was enticed by their sign advertising cake pops. Being on this diet for the last month has definitely upped my desire for smaller portions of sweets that I can still enjoy, but feel better about eating.

From the first time I had a cake pop–even though they were just called cake bites at the time–I fell in love. My favorite bakery/coffee shop started selling them about 8 years ago. They didn’t have any sticks attached to them. They looked like large truffles and they were sinfully delicious. I was pregnant with my daughter at the time and just about every time I stopped in to have lunch or get tea with my best friend, I either had to have a toffee cookie or a cake bite. When I was in the hospital with my daughter, my best friend actually brought me a box full of cake bites to help me celebrate.

I quickly figured out how to make them and had lots of fun trying them out in my kitchen. One year, instead of making my usual Christmas chocolates and truffles to give out as gifts, I made cake bites. My cake bites were twists on classic Christmas treats. I had a gingerbread cake dipped in milk chocolate with a fun white squiggle, an eggnog cake dipped in white chocolate with cinnamon on top, a white cake with ground up peppermint candies dipped in white chocolate (with chopped up candy pieces on top) and a chocolate fudge cake dipped in milk chocolate. They were a HUGE hit.

As much as I love cake bites and pops, they are pretty labor intensive. It’s just so much easier to make a cake, so that’s what I usually do these days.

However, I was craving something smaller, so on a whim I succumbed to advertising and stopped in Vanilla Bean Bakery. They had over a dozen different flavors of cake truffles, which are basically just bigger cake bites. It was a hard choice because every flavor was pretty darn appealing. For myself I had to go with Heath because my default is always either caramel or toffee. I also grabbed a peanut butter torte truffle. My husband is a die-hard peanut butter man, so I got him one as well and a carrot cake truffle as he likes fruitier flavors with his chocolate. I got my son a chocolate birthday cake truffle and my daughter a vanilla birthday cake truffle. I figured the sprinkles would be all either of them would really care about. I’m pretty sure they’ll eat anything as long as it has sprinkles on top.

Although I’m usually a saved the best for last kind of gal, I wanted the Heath one last night. The cake was good, but really just chocolate cake. It wasn’t quite as moist as I was expecting it to be. It wasn’t dry, not by a long shot, but it wasn’t as moist as my cake bites are and I was a bit disappointed. I did like the little bits of Heath sprinkled on top which gave it the needed toffee crunch. It was pretty tasty and made even better by the fact that I didn’t have to make it myself.

My daughter let me try a bite of her vanilla birthday cake truffle. It looked like Funfetti cake on the inside and the outside. The white chocolate it was dipped in was VERY sweet. I only got a small bite, but the only flavor I could really taste was white chocolate. Granted, it was a small bite, so it’s probably not a fair judgement.

vanilla bean close upTonight I tried my peanut butter torte. I have to say it’s not really torte-y. It’s not so much a cake truffle as it is a giant, slightly grainy buckeye. It has very good peanut butter flavor. It’s not overly sweet, which is nice. Store bought buckeyes can often be cloyingly sweet, but this one is not. I’m not quite sure why it has the grittier texture, but I definitely enjoyed it. It’s definitely not a cake truffle, but if you are just in the market for a peanut butter truffle, it is a solid offering.

Although I only had a small sampling of their cake truffles, I would definitely go back to try some more. I’d also absolutely get the peanut butter one again.

Overall:

Taste: 8/10 (the peanut butter one definitely bumps it up higher)
Appearance: 9/10
Value: 8/10 (they are $1.35 each and HUGE). Cheaper and tastier than Starbuck’s

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