Category Archives: my friends

Best friend blues

20180913_205537Six years ago my best friend broke my heart by moving nearly 10 hours away to Athens, Georgia. Sure, she moved there because after nearly a decade of insanely hard work, she got her Ph.D. and was offered basically her dream job teaching at UGA. But this job came with a price: she left me behind.

And yeah, I’m amazingly proud of her and make sure that everyone I meet knows how much of a genius she is, but it doesn’t stop me from missing her like crazy pretty much every day. How can I not? She’s been my best friend for over two decades now and is the one human being who pretty much knows every single thought and emotion I’ve ever had. I adore my husband, but on the rare times my bestie is in town, he knows he and the kids take a backseat.

I know that sounds harsh, but remember, I did say rare times. Sadly, my bestie and I are both educators and ain’t neither of us gettin’ rich from our career choices. Because I stopped at my master’s degree, she has way more crippling debt than I do, so it’s not like we are jetting across the country to see each other every weekend. Still, we always make time for each other.

Usually I pack the kids up and spend a week with her during fall break and another one during spring break. She generally comes to see us during the summer and we do spend our days tooling around town with my kids. When my husband gets home from work is when we say goodnight and have time just for us. And, once a year we go on an extended weekend with our three other best friends from college, which is always one of the highlights of the year.

This year we switched things up a bit because my mom wanted my kids to come visit her, so we got to spend a week running around Athens with just the two of us (and her husband who occasionally tagged along). And, since one of our good friends just had surgery, she came down for my fall break to hang out with both of us.

She only got to stay for 3.5 days, but we had a whirlwind of fun while she was here. We spent quite a bit of time tending to our sick friend, who was just barely starting to get out of bed. But we also got to to our favorite coffee shop, a place we spent at least two days a week at when she lived near me, four times. My kids were kind and sat at a separate table so that we could catch up and gab away for an hour or so each morning. We went shopping at her favorite stores (Anthropologie, Homespun, and Silver in the City).

divvy desserts.jpgWe ate at some of our favorite places like India Garden and Public Greens. I got to introduce her to one of my favorite places, Divvy, where we shared delicious small plates and got to try a dessert flight (the Black Forrest Chocolate is the most amazing thing on the entire menu. I want to drown in it). We even got to try some place completely new to both of us: Just Pop In! Popcorn Cafe. Not only did we get some super yummy sandwiches, but we also had popcorn and wine flights. Sure, we really only got it for the popcorn flight, but the wine was fun too!

Just Pop In flight

The reason I have the blues is because once again our visit has come to an end. I had to say goodbye to her on Sunday morning and before she was even out of the neighborhood, I already missed her like crazy. Even though I know I’ll get to see her again in March, March is so far away! The idea of making it another five months until we see each other is rather soul crushing. I keep trying to remind myself that in just five months, not only will I get to take an amazing trip to Disney World with my family, but my kids and I will also get to spend a week visiting our favorite places in Athens (and we have a bunch).

Right now the hardest part of being a grown up isn’t having to work 60+ hours a week, or pay bills, or be responsible for small humans who still act like they need me to do everything for them. Right now, the hardest part is knowing that the best friend anyone could ever have is so far away and I can’t just plop down on the couch next to her, fire up an old episode of Project Runway and talk about whose outfits we like and whose attitudes we hate.

me and Nancee.jpg

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Throwback Thursday: Creepy dolls

all the dollsOne of my favorite things about going to visit my nana was her collection of porcelain dolls. I was obsessed with them. They decorated just about every room of her house. Every summer when I went to visit my grandparents, I found myself hanging out in the formal living room with the dolls. Not that I was really allowed to touch most of them. They were antiques after all. I was, however, allowed to sit in the room with them and make up names and elaborate stories for them.

terrifying dollsHave you figured out that there wasn’t much to do at my grandparents’ house? My grandparents were older than pretty much everyone else’s. Although my parents had had me in their very early 20’s (my mom was 20 when I was born), my grandparents didn’t adopt my mom until they were in their late 30’s. Even when my mom was a kid, toys had not been a priority for them. My mom was allowed to play with dolls, although “play” might not be the correct word as many of her dolls were very delicate and appeared to be there more for display than play. She did have a collection of Barbies that my nana kept for me to play with, but aside from a very out of tune tiny toy piano, and three baby dolls made of plastic (including the one on the left, which was known as “Kissie” because you could squeeze her cheeks to make her kiss you–just imagine this heading toward your face), the Barbies were the only toys I was really able to enjoy. Sure, I could bring my own toys, but as I was only at their house because I was visiting my dad for the summer, I didn’t even have tons of toys from his house I could bring with me.

intense stare dollThankfully what I did have was a very active imagination and a penchant for making up stories. Even with my own toys, I much preferred the elaborate back stories and plays I made up for them than I did having to play along with other kids. My Barbies, Cabbage Patch Kids and baby dolls all had intricate family relationships (with my other toys), jobs, hobbies, talents, etc. The hours I spent at home with my own toys helped me during those times I had no choice but to play on my own and truly create hours of entertainment for myself. A less creative child in that environment would have gone crazy.

But I LOVED those dolls. All of them.

As I grew older, and my nana did too, her ability to care for her precious antiques began to wane. The dolls, which had once been meticulously cared for, including regular cleaning and rotation so they didn’t get sun damaged, were neglected. It’s not that my nana no longer cared about her collections, but more that she was unable to really care for them. In her last decade of life, I’m not actually sure how often she even made it back to the formal living room where the majority of her dolls resided. Not that her house was huge, but her mobility was so limited that she rarely did more than go from bed to the the living room, with occasional stops in the bathroom or kitchen when really needed. And since she never made it back to the living room, I don’t think any of her many, many cleaning ladies did either. Why bother if the boss won’t see it?

creepy lighting dollAs a result, over the last decade I’ve watched the dolls I grew up loving and sort of playing with slowly morph into creatures from horror films.  I think the first time I saw the transition was when I introduced my husband to my nana. Although she wasn’t really up for it, I gave him the “grand tour” of the house, spending extra time in the living room and telling him how much time I used to spend playing with the dolls. He gave me a dubious look.

“Really?” he asked. “You played in here? Why? These things are awful.”


At first I figured it was a rather typical reaction by a guy who’d never known the joy of playing with dolls. But, as I looked a bit closer, I started to see that it wasn’t my husband who had a warped sense of childhood imagination. It was my beloved dolls that were warping.

The damage wasn’t quite enough to change my love for them though. After all, I had spent so many hours of my childhood with them that I could ignore a few flaws. As my children came along and got old enough to listen to me and keep their hands off, I showed them the dolls as well. My son thought they were strange, but much like me, my daughter liked them. She wanted to play with them, but I reminded her they were delicate and she was not allowed to. To my great surprise, my nana actually gave her one of the dolls that was still in pretty good shape. It was dressed in a blue crocheted sweater that was not exactly clean, but the doll itself was lacking any major damage. My daughter cleverly named him Blue Baby. He now resides on a high shelf in her room, but I do take him down and let her play with him from time to time.

doll with cracked faceThe rest the dolls, however, were starting to develop serious damage from years of neglect and exposure to the sun. I’m sure the fact that some of them were already over 100 years old probably didn’t help. But many of them were literally cracking up. I mentioned this fact to two of my friends, who happen to be sisters, as we were out to dinner one night. We were all talking about aging parents and grandparents. She replied that she’d always found antique dolls creepy. I was surprised considering how much I’d loved them and even collected porcelain dolls myself as a kid (although they were not antique or of any real value–we got them at swap meets).

The next time I was at my nana’s house, I snapped a few pictures of some of her more degraded dolls and texted them to my friends. One of my friends loved how creepy they were and begged for more pictures. Her sister, however, sent me emojis with horrified expressions and begged me to stop giving her nightmares.

doll with receeding hairAfter that, it became a kind of game. I’d look for the creepiest of my nana’s dolls and text them to all of my friends. The creepier the doll, the better the responses. One friend told me if my nana was ever looking to get rid of them (which I knew she would never do as she still saw them as valuable), she’d like them to put out in her yard for Halloween. Another wondered if my nana’s house might have a secret opening into the gates of hell–I told her it would explain the constant smell of sulfur (her house is supplied with water from an old well). My doll texts and posts on FB became a source of great amusement and horror to my friends and family.

When I sent one of the texts to my friend who finds the dolls the most horrifying, she was appalled as it looked like the doll’s brains were coming out. It was actually just a wig separating badly from the doll, but when I looked at the picture again, I too saw something straight out of a zombie movie.

wind up crawling babyIt’s sad to see beloved memories of my childhood disintegrating. With my nana’s recent passing, the fate of the dolls gets even sadder. While I did love them in my childhood, I have no place for them in my life. Even if they were in good shape, my house just isn’t one where antiques fit in. Even her antique furniture, some of which my husband really likes, would look odd in our house. And we are definitely not a display kind of house, so even her few dolls that are in decent shape, can’t find a space here. Much to my daughter’s dismay, we’ll have to make due with just hosting Blue Baby.


Thankfully after my nana died, my mom had a company come in to take everything we didn’t want out of the house–separating into a junk pile headed for the garbage and a sale pile heading for an auction. This meant that I was saved from having to actually deny my daughter the ability to bring any of the dolls home. This was definitely important to me as one of her most coveted items was what I can only describe as baby weeping angels. I’m actually not sure which I am more terrified by, the grown up ones in the Whoniverse or baby ones I found sitting on my nana’s back patio.

I’ll let you be the judge.

weeping angels

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Chocolate Monday: Godiva Wonderful City of Dreams

godiva NYCWhen my best friend was visiting, we made our traditional sojourner to our favorite mall. It’s kind of a fru-fru mall with all sorts of high end shops. Not that we shop at most of them. We just aren’t Armani, or Burberry or Coach girls. We are Anthropologie girls (at least I like to shop their discount rack) and we are definitely Lush, Body Shop, David’s Teas and Godiva girls.

We can never hit this mall without a stop at Godiva. In fact, one of our favorite traditions is to stop in at Godiva and get a couple of delicious chocolate treats to take in to the arts theater at the mall. Instead of spending $10 on a tiny popcorn and a drink, we spend that money on truffles to nibble.

This time we skipped the movie, but did not skip the trip to Godiva. I was thrilled to see they had some new chocolates to try. While both my BFF and I like Godiva quite a bit, our biggest complaint is that we’ve gotten a bit bored with their offerings. I know it’s because their case hasn’t changed much in the nearly two decades we’ve been visiting our local boutique. So, whenever they have anything new, it is my vow to try it.

That’s how I found myself selecting all three of the Wonderful City of Dreams chocolates they offered in the case. For some reason, they did not have the Shanghai Lychee for sale as a single piece. I’m sure this is probably a ploy to get people to buy the box, but since the box was $20 for 9 pieces (2 of each new piece and one standard hazelnut heart), I resigned myself to forgoing the lychee treat and being satisfied with the other three.

Inspired by my most recent trip to NYC, I started with the New York Cheesecake. I really enjoyed the fact that the creamy cheesecake filling in this treat has bits of cookie in it, which definitely reminded me of the delicious graham cracker crust of a real cheesecake. The choice to cover this in a blond chocolate was an interesting one. I was worried it might make it overly sweet, but surprisingly it didn’t. It added to the creamy taste of the cheesecake without leaving a film in my mouth that white chocolate often does. I also really liked the imprint of the Statue of Liberty’s famous crown on the top of the piece. It was cute and the second I saw it, even without knowing the flavor, I immediately thought of cheesecake.

Godiva TokyoNext up was the Tokyo Yuzu Orange. I’m not entirely sure what the building on the top of the chocolate is. It looks a bit like the Empire State Building, but I am assuming it is a famous building from Tokyo. I do like the little orange branches that surround it though. I’m not sure I’ve ever had yuzu before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. While the milk chocolate shell was creamy, the inside had a distinctive bitter taste that I was not fond of. It was far more grapefruit than orange. To be honest, I couldn’t really taste the orange at all. All I got was the bitter aftertaste of grapefruit….and maybe yuzu. It was really hard to finish this chocolate. And I know this will sound odd, but it left an odd taste in the back of my throat that reminded me of espresso.

Godiva LondonI decided to finish my tasting with the London Fraise Violette. This one have an image of the iconic double decker bus on it (even if it is more pink than red), and since I am leaving for the UK in four days, I was the most excited about this one. I was worried that the hints of violet might be overpowering. I’ve eaten several different types of floral chocolates and if the balance is not good, it ends up tasting perfumey, which is simply awful. I really wanted the strawberry to balance it out. At first, the violet hints were just that. I got a slightly floral taste at the back of my throat, which did remind me a tad of baby shampoo, but for the most part it was slightly sweet strawberry. It is not as good as the strawberry filling in their strawberry and cream truffle. I’m not really what about this piece screamed London, as so much of what I’ve eaten in London seems to be centered on lemon curd, toffee and black currants, but for the most part I liked it. It did leave me with a slight perfume taste afterwards and I found myself needing a drink to wash my mouth clean.

For the most part, these pieces were definitely better to look at than eat. As much as I love some of Godiva’s standards, lately their new pieces have not been impressing me much.


Taste: 6/10
Appearance: 10/10
Value: 6/10




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Wild card Wednesday: Wicked

WickedFor as long as I can remember, I have been a Broadway baby. Musicals are, without a doubt, one of my favorite forms of entertainment. I think it started with the Muppet Movie, which came out when I was an itty bitty child and it has grown from there. I don’t care if it started on the stage or as a movie, if it’s a musical, there is a good chance I love it.

My true love of musicals really hit when I was getting ready to enter 2nd grade and the movie Annie came out. I was enthralled. I had everything Annie–the soundtrack, the sticker books, the dolls…I even had an Annie outfit (which we scrapped together at Goodwill) because when I was in second grade, I was in an elementary musical pageant where we mostly did group numbers, but I was chosen as one of four girls to play orphans in a bit which consisted of four songs from Annie. We all sang and did a choreographed number to “It’s the Hard Knock Life.” One of the Tiffany’s (yes, there were two chosen) sang “Tomorrow,” Melissa got to sing “Maybe” and I got to sing “You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile.” The fourth girl (and second Tiffany) did not get a solo. It was during this moment that my true passion for musicals was developed and I’ve never looked back.

I’d read the book Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire in early 2000. I actually read Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister first. My best friend had gotten a copy from the Half Price Books where she worked and I’d liked it, so I checked out Wicked shortly after. While I wouldn’t call it great literature by any stretch, I thought the retelling to make with witch a sympathetic character was quite entertaining.

When Wicked premiered on Broadway, I heard about it, but the closest the first national tour got to me was Chicago and at that point I’d just moved back to Indiana and didn’t have the time or money to go. I did, however, get a copy of the original Broadway recording and by the time I actually saw my first production of the show in 2009, I knew every song by heart.

Wicked 2I saw the second national tour of the show in Indianapolis at the Murat. Although I’d purchased tickets up in the nose bleed section with two of my co-workers, my best friend heard about the Wicked Lottery and  we’d figure we’d give it a try. At worst, it meant we’d get to hang out downtown for a few hours and have a fun lunch together. At best, not only would we get to hang out and have lunch, but we’d have really close seats for only $25 each. It must have been my lucky day, because mine was the second name drawn and within the hour my best friend and I were sitting in the second row, so close we could actually see the actors spitting as they sang. I’ll admit this was a bit gross, but it also gave me a rather spectacular view of Fiyero, who was played by Colin Donnell. I had no idea who he was at that point, but I knew he was super handsome.

When my co-workers and I saw the play the next week from the far balcony, at first I couldn’t convince them just how cute Donnell was. However, on our way back to our car after getting a late lunch/early dinner after the show, we ran into Donnell and Tom McGowan (of Frasier fame) who played the Wizard enjoying some food at an outdoor table at a local pizza joint. I had a total fan girl moment, but luckily one of my friends kept her cool and asked if she could get a picture with us. They kindly obliged (and signed my program). It was awesome!

Imagine my surprise when a few years later I saw Donnell turn up not only on the briefly lived Pan Am but also as Tommy Merlin on Arrow. Interestingly enough, I met John Barrowman at Comic Con one year and so I have pictures of myself with both Tommy and Malcolm Merlin…but that’s another story.

I went to see Wicked a few years later when it returned to Indy. This time I saw it with a former student who was also obsessed with the show. My son, who was 5 at the time really wanted to go see it with us. Due to my obsession with the soundtrack, when he was three, he too fell in love with it. It was so adorable to sing a duet of “Defying Gravity” with my young son. At one point, he said to me, “Momma, this song is about gravity.” When I confirmed it was, he replied, “I like gravity songs!” I chuckled and asked him if he knew what gravity was. “It’s what holds us on the earth.” I was amazed at my brilliant boy and we sang even louder. Even though my son wanted to see the show, I thought he was a bit young, so I told him I’d take him when he was 8.

Unfortunately, it was not until this year that the show made another stop in Indianapolis. But, it meant that since both my kids were a bit older, I got to take them both. We actually got to see the very last show of the run, on Mother’s Day. It was absolutely glorious. Not only were my kids very well-behaved despite the late hour (they are usually in bed by 8:30 and we didn’t get home until an hour later), they both loved it. My son actually said it was better than two full weeks at Disney World (not that he’d know). They both loved seeing all the bits of plot that connect the songs. They knew all the words by heart, but they hadn’t understood why those songs existed and how the characters were really connected.

They left the theater with a renewed love for the show and for about three weeks, all we listened to in the car was the Wicked soundtrack. Each time my kids would recount details from the show to me, which I loved. I love seeing them as excited about live theater as I am. I’d taken them to a few of the shows my high school put on (Beauty and the Beast, Seussical the Musical and Cinderella), but this was their first real exposure to Broadway theater and they were enthralled.

When I asked my daughter, who is already adores Annie after only seeing the movie if she wanted to see the stage show at a local dinner theater, I got a very enthusiastic (and loud) YES! Even my son, who I was worried might be too old for it, also nodded his head frantically.

I love that I have a set of Broadway babies!

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Wildcard Wednesday: Missing my BFF

Saturday was my best friend’s birthday. Despite talking to her, texting her and posting notes for a happy birthday on her Facebook wall, I didn’t actually get to spend her birthday with her.

Not that I didn’t want to. I wanted more than anything to spend the entire day with her. Ideally we would have started the morning at our favorite coffee place where we’d split a scone. We wouldn’t want to eat any more than that since we’d have lunch plans, but as neither of us would have eaten breakfast and caffeine on an empty stomach is not something we deals well with, the scone would be a must.

Next, we would have headed over to the mall so we could hit all of our favorite stores. Since it was her birthday, I would have happily spent the extra hour walking around Athropologie, long after I’d exhausted all the things I wanted to try on, so she could make sure she looked at everything in the store. We definitely would have stopped at Godiva to at least get our free May piece of chocolate. Knowing me, I would have grabbed a couple extras as well.

By this time we’d be actually hungry, so we’d head out to either her favorite Indian buffet or maybe to our favorite brunch place where we’d probably split some of their delicious cinnamon toast (what can I say, we are carb girls) and continue to gab away the day.

We’d round out the afternoon with manicures and pedicures before heading over to her house to hang out until her husband was ready to go grab some dinner.

We’d probably end the night watching a movie, possibly at a theater, but more likely at her house where it would be easy to analyze it afterwards.

Finally, I’d make it home, exhausted, but happy to have spent a perfect day celebrating the most important person who is not related to me.

But alas, four years ago she got her dream job in Athens, Georgia and as much as I wanted to spend this perfect day with her, driving nine hours there and nine more back this weekend wasn’t in the cards. Especially not since I had a ton of grading to do.

Instead, I had to make do with my phone and Facebook, two very poor substitutes for the real thing. Instead of spending the day with my person, I spent it doing chores, grading papers and running my daughter to a birthday party for her classmate.

I love my best friend. I hate that she is so far away.

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Travel Thursday: The Big Apple

Statue of LibertyI was 24 or 25 the first time I visited NYC. One of my nearest and dearest friends worked for a company that had an office in Indianapolis but was based out of New York. Actually, at some point in their lives, almost everyone I hold closest to my heart (including my husband and myself) worked for this company. My friend was in charge of the mail room at the Indy office and while that may not seem very glamorous, he did such an excellent job running the place that the powers that be asked him to help them restructure everything in their New York office.

So, he packed a bag and spent the next seven months commuting back and forth between Indy and the Big Apple. He’d be there for a few weeks and then come home for a few long weekends every month. It was pretty cool for him as he got to live in a nice hotel and kick around one of the best cities in the world whenever he wasn’t on the clock. He also got a pretty hefty per diem, which meant he spent an awful lot of time getting to know the bartender at both his hotel and a few of the local haunts.

Since Labor Day weekend was coming up, a few of us decided to make an extra long weekend of it. Five of us loaded into my car and drove straight through the night to get there. We arrived in Manhattan (in a truly gigantic car–thankfully lanes are basically non-existent there) at the crack of dawn, exhausted but excited. We found his hotel, stowed our car and set about having one of the best weekends of our lives.

If it’s touristy, we visited it.

We went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. We strolled through Central Park. We drank at Coyote Ugly (this was not long after the movie came out before there were chains all over the country). We had slices of pizza almost as big as our heads in Greenwich Village. We ate the best bagels I’ve ever had in my life. We rode the subway to the end of the line and then back again. We cruised by the Statue of Liberty.

Notice I didn’t say we cruised to the Statue of Liberty. The tickets for the official ferry to see Lady Liberty were a bit too steep for us, so instead we jumped on the Staten Island Ferry and cruised near her for free. It was fun and wonderful, not only because we got to see the statue kind of up close, but also because I got to see it with four of the most important people in my life (I liked the fifth person quite a bit as well, but we haven’t stayed close).

This past weekend I got to take another long weekend to Manhattan. It was a bit different this time. Although I was still traveling as part of a group, it was initially a group of strangers. While I was sure I’d have a great time in the city, I wasn’t there to hang out. I was there as part of a design team the College Board put together to work on AP courses. My days were not spent leisurely exploring a chaotic city, but rather inside a really cool office building working with fellow educators to put together materials to help other educators and ultimately students.

This time there was little exploration of the city. I didn’t see much outside the four or five block radius of my hotel/temporary office. No Central Park. No museums. No totally outrageous bars (notice I didn’t say no bars at all). I still had some pizza, but this time no bagels. And no free ferry out to see Lady Liberty.

Although I didn’t miss her entirely. It turns out the College Board offices are basically in Battery Park, right near the North Cove Yacht Harbor, so every day I got to look out the window as I ate lunch and see our nation’s greatest symbol. When I finished my lunch, I got to skip downstairs and walk along the harbor for a chance to get a slightly closer look at her.

It wasn’t quite the same, but it was still an amazing, breathtaking experience. I wish my besties could have been there with me, but I did get to meet a new, amazing group of people. And there is talk of another committee meeting in February. As much as I’d love to see NYC again, for the February meeting I’m thinking Miami might be better!



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Wildcard Wednesday: Sushi Go!

sushi go cardsLast year when I took my kids to Athens, Georgia to visit my best friend, we spent a rainy afternoon at the always delightful Rook & Pawn. Not only did we have some super tasty food (I highly suggest the grilled cheese–Rook & Pawn style), but we also played about half a dozen board and card games.

I LOVE board and card games. For as long as I can remember, I have adored gathering around a table with friends and family to play just about any kind of board, card or charade-like game out there. I like ones that require me to come up with complex strategies and be completely cut throat. I like ones that allow me to play cooperative to achieve a common goal. I like those that allow me to make a complete fool of myself with my terrible pantomime or drawing skills. I even loves those games like solitaire that I can play all by myself. Board and card games are my jam.

While we were at the Rook & Pawn, we discovered an adorable new card game called Sushi Go! None of us had ever played it before, but since it is one of the few games that was nearly age appropriate for my daughter (who was 7 at the time) and still looked like something the rest of us wanted to play, we grabbed the deck, laid out the rules and shuffled the cards.

The game is pretty easy to actually play. Depending on the number of players, each player gets dealt a certain number of cards (in the three player game we played tonight, we each got 9). Everyone looks at their hand, picks one card they want to use and sets it down, face down. Once everyone has their card placed face down, everyone reveals this card and then passes their hand clockwise.

Sounds simple enough, right?

There is strategy involved though as different card combinations earn players different points. For example, the sashimi cards pay off big: 10 points–but only if you get three of them. And, when you keep rotating hands, there is a very real chance you won’t be able to collect three. Especially if other players are also trying to collect them.

As a parent, I think this is a great game because it is simple and goes quickly, which gives kids little time to get bored. There are multiple rounds, so even if my kids don’t win the first (or second) round, since their points add up, they hold out hope to win in the end. I also love the cards themselves. And so does my daughter. The adorable anthropomorphic pieces of sushi are not only cute to look at, but they actually make my daughter care less about her score. She doesn’t quite get all the strategy to the game (it is for ages 8+ and she just turned 8 last month), but she thinks the sushi pieces are “so cute,” that she doesn’t even mind losing. And believe me, any game that doesn’t make one of my kids want to toss the board/cards (they might get that competitive streak very honestly from me–I’ve never actually tossed a board though), is pure gold.

Although we love the game and have played it on each subsequent visit to Rook & Pawn, we don’t actually own it. It wasn’t until Monday, while I was desperately looking for a gift to bring home for my kids after a trip to NYC that I saw the game in a cute mall-like kiosk and had to have it. My daughter chortled with absolute glee when she saw it on the dining room table this morning. And sure enough, as soon as we got home from school, she asked if we could play it. I made them wait until after dinner, but then we gathered together, dealt out the cards and had a lot of un.


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Chocolate Monday: Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate Happy Birthday Truffle bar

3 Cs birthday cake bar with confettiI am not generally someone who loves shopping. I know that according to pretty much every movie, TV show or book ever written, that as a woman, I am supposed to simply adore shopping. I am supposed to reach near orgasmic heights at the prospect of finding some amazing discount on designer shoes or purses or some such nonsense. Although I can name some designers, aside from the famous Burberry pattern, I’m not sure I could actually identify anything by a designer. Oh wait, does Vera Bradley count? I can pretty much always recognize her stuff. Not because I like it (I am not a fan), but because just about every teacher in the world has some sort of Vera Bradley bag. I have four different friends with Vera Bradley lunchboxes.

But as usual, I digress.

About the only time I actually enjoy shopping is if I am with my best friend. And then, it isn’t for the shopping, but for the company. I love being out and about with my BFF. As long as we are not in Anthropologie, she actually makes trying on clothes kind of fun. A part of each trip to visit her in Athens, Georgia means finding one of her college students to babysit my kiddos so that the two of us can have a few hours to have a semi-fancy lunch and hit downtown to look at the fun shops.

At one of our stops this year, we found a store that carries pretty much everything girly. There were clothes, shoes, purses, jewelry, cards, soaps, lotions…if it seems like it should be in a boutique for women, they have some version of it. I’ve been in this store a lot, so I wasn’t really surprised at the majority of the inventory. However, when I saw a whole display of Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate bars and truffles, I knew I would be making a purchase this year.

3 Cs birthday cake packageMy BFF decided to buy the box of truffles. Each night as we watched something fun on TV, she’d take out two truffles, cut them in half and we’d savor them. I don’t actually remember any of the flavors of them, but I do remember enjoying them. My contribution to our nightly chocolate fest was two of their chocolate bars. I grabbed the Sea Salt Caramel bar (not sure how I’d miss this one so far) and the Happy Birthday truffle bar.

The Happy Birthday bar is really pretty cute. I think the little pieces of candy confetti on the back are a nice touch. While it may not be quite the same as eating the delicious looking cupcake on the front of the package, I love that they did their best to replicate the experience by adding the confetti. Visually I love it. However, I am not a big fan of sprinkles or candy dots like this on actual cake. I don’t like the crunch they give desserts and I don’t like the strange, nondescript sugar taste they add to an otherwise delicious treat. These candy dots are no exception. They detract a bit from my enjoyment because they add a sort of useless extra crunch to the bar.

3 Cs birthday close upThe milk chocolate is smooth and creamy and I think the best part of this bar is the bites of simple solid chocolate. The filling claims to be a buttercream frosting truffle. I’m not quite sure what a buttercream truffle would be as I’ve never had another company claim to make one. The center of the bar definitely reminds me of cake frosting, but once again, not in the way I’d hope for. It is almost too sweet. It reminds me a bit of the poorly made, almost cloyingly sweet frosting that comes on cheap grocery store cakes. My kids loved it, but then again, they both love sprinkles on cupcakes and love those cheap grocery store cupcakes some parent always brings in for classroom celebration days. I find myself scraping the frosting off and then being sad that the cake is too dry.

I had high hopes for this bar as birthday cake is one of my favorite foods in the world. Sadly, this was not a happy celebration.


Taste: 4/10
Appearance: 8/10
Value: 3/10 (since I didn’t like it, it definitely made the $5 bar of chocolate seem way over priced).


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Travel Thursday: State Botanical Gardens of Georgia

botanical garden main.jpgOn my very first trip to Athens, Georgia five and a half years ago, my best friend took my kids and I to the UGA State Botanical Gardens. It was early October and still very warm. Unlike all the gardens in Indiana, this one was teeming with vibrant colors and a plethora of thriving trees, bushes, flowers and herbs. We spent a good portion of the afternoon picnicking near the fountain in front of the greenhouse and then strolling through various gardens, marveling at the beauty of it.

My kids loved walking over the little bridge that led up to the Japanese garden. They laughed as they found tiny lizards running among the flowers in the planters on the bridge. They loved seeing all the butterflies flitting around the gorgeous flowers. They marveled at the giant flowers and leaves in the greenhouse. And, they nearly lost their minds when they found the giant stone ball floating on top of a spout of water that they could make turn with just a push of their hands. I’m not sure how long my best friend and I stood staring out over the gardens while they took turns pushing that ball around.

Although it was quite warm outside, the gardens were so lovely, that I hardly minded. They are, without a doubt, the most lovely spot I visited, not only on that trip but on any of my subsequent trips.

I wasn’t exactly expecting much as the gardens are tucked away behind hay fields and cow pastures. In fact, if not for a rather dull looking sign announcing their presence, I would have had no idea that anythings so beautiful could exist along that stretch of road.

Because the botanical garden is a great way to get not only myself  but my kids outside and working off some energy (and some calories from all that great food), we try to visit on every trip. Sometimes we do not have stellar luck. On our second visit, which was in March, five years ago, it was unseasonably cold. I’m not sure the temperature got above 60 the entire time we were there and most mornings it was so cold that when my kids and I tried to go on a walk, we could actually see our own breath. Before we got halfway around the circle my best friend lives on, we had to turn back because my ears were frozen. So, when we visited the gardens, even though we’d picked one of the warmer days and the sun was shinning, there were hardly any flowers to look at.

botanical gardensAlthough we did a bit of walking out to the trails, we spent most of our time in the greenhouse. Thankfully it is very lovely, very warm and has a fantastic collection of orchids, which I am fascinated by. Ever since I read The Orchid Thief and then watched Adaptation as part of a wonderful book to movie club my friends had back in our mid-20’s, I’ve found orchids captivating. Because their scent is one thing the book focuses on, I always get as close to orchids as possible, hoping to catch one of the oddly scented ones. I love the variety of orchids the greenhouse has on display.

On this trip, we picked a warmer, sunnier day to visit. While it could have been warmer for my tastes, it was just over 70 and spring was clearly in the air. There were tons of volunteers all around the gardens weeding, planting and generally tending to everything surrounding us. We all had a blast wandering all over the gardens because almost everything was in bloom. There were beautiful trees bursting with lovely purple, pink and white flowers. There were row upon row of tulips in colors ranging from pale yellow all the way to a red so dark I thought it might actually be black. The herbs in the physic garden were blooming and a slight rub of the leaves released wonderful scents.

botanical garden statueWe made it so far down the trails that we found some really awesome statues and art displays that my kids really liked. Not only did I have my camera out snapping pictures like a mad woman, but my best friend had purchased a Polaroid for my kids to use. They had the best time taking pictures of the flowers, the art and each other. My daughter struggled a bit to remember that it was not a digital camera, so she couldn’t take quite as many pictures as she wanted. Nor could she just erase them, but eventually she figured it out. The photo albums my BFF bought my kids are filled with pictures from our trip to the botanical gardens.

My only regret about our visits is that I haven’t gotten to see it in May, when my BFF says it is actually just exploding with color. Maybe one day I’ll get there during true spring. But for now, I’m pretty happy with the time we’ve gotten to spend there and I know that our next trip (which won’t be until October), we’ll be up for another run around the grounds.

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Chocolate Monday: Sweetie Pie’s croissants

Sweetie Pie breakfast.jpgWhenever I am in Athens, Georgia visiting my best friend, stopping by Sweetie Pie’s is an absolute must. And not just once during our visit! Luckily, it is located directly across the street from the entrance to my best friend’s neighborhood.

Since my kids are fairly early risers, well, my daughter is, I am usually up before my BFF and her husband, so a couple of times during our visit, I get up, head over to Sweetie Pie’s and grab breakfast for everyone.

Sweetie Pie’s is fairly small. There is no place to eat inside the bakery and they have a limited number of pastry choices, but I have never been disappointed with anything I’ve tried there. Every day they have a variety of muffins, scones and sweet breads. Some days they have gigantic cinnamon rolls (I never get these b/c they have nuts in them and neither my BFF nor I like nuts in our cinnamon rolls) and some days they have croissants. To be more specific, every Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday they have croissants. Yeah, I love them so much that despite living 10 hours away from the place, I know they days they have croissants on the menu.

My son is a big fan of their savory ham and cheese croissant. Before she became a vegetarian, my daughter also really loved this one. Although it is never my go to croissant, it is tasty. The croissant is flaky and buttery, just like it should be. The cheese is not overpowering, but the slight gooeyness of it pairs perfectly with the melt in your mouth croissant. And Savie doesn’t skimp on the ham either. She doesn’t just dump a few ham cubes in there. She adds some thick, tasty ham slices to it. It’s a great dose of protein and pastry!

Savie also offers some super tasty almond croissants as well as some croissants with her famous Asian-infused flavors like thai coconut, red bean and green tea. However, my absolute favorite offering on her entire menu are her chocolate croissants.

SP close up croissantI LOVE these little pillows of heaven. I’ve had a fair amount of chocolate croissants in my life. While I’ve yet to have an actual croissant in France, I have had them at Les Halles Boulangerie-Patisserie in the France section of Epcot, in various cities in the UK, in places like Starbucks and Panera and even at a few local places, but these are my favorite ones.


How do I love them? Let me count the ways:

  1. The croissant itself is buttery
  2. The croissant is flakey
  3. The croissant is ever so crumbly (but in a super good way)
  4. The chocolate inside is slightly liquidy and gooey (unlike so many other places where the chocolate is pretty much solid like a bit of candy bar)
  5. The chocolate is a tad bitter, so it’s not too sweet

In short, it is perfect. Absolutely perfect.


Taste: 10/10
Appearance: 9/10 (mine looked a little overcooked this time, even though it was super tasty)
Value: 10/10

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