Category Archives: my son

Chocolate Monday: Sweetie Pie

SP cookies

Cookies featured in photo: (top row): chocolate malt, peanut butter shallot, maple pecan
(middle row): oatmeal raisin and sweet and savory
(bottom row): pumpkin, chocolate chip and ginger turmeric

One of the best parts about visiting my best friend in Athens, Georgia is that it is a town full of amazing food. And I do love food.

Since I visit her for at least two weeks out of every year, I’ve had a chance to discover some favorite places that are must eats every trip. Despite having some tried and true favorites, she always manages to introduce me to some amazing new places.

On my very first trip to Athens four years ago, as I prepared to turn into her neighborhood for the very first time, I noticed that directly across from the entrance was a tiny shack-like building that appeared to be a restaurant. It was a smokehouse called Rooters. Since I love barbecue, I asked my BFF about it, but she said they hadn’t tried it since they didn’t have a single vegetarian option (a rarity in Athens). Her husband later told me that it was decent, but that their hours were so strange that he pretty much gave up trying to eat there.

About two years ago, right as I was preparing for our bi-annual trip to see her, I got an excited text from my BFF telling me that the BBQ joint was no more. In it’s place was an amazing little bakery she could not wait for me to try out.

And try it out I did.

Like its predecessor, Sweetie Pie has some annoying hours. It is closed on Sundays and Mondays and only open from 7:30-3:30 Tues-Sat. I also learned on that first trip if you are not one of the early birds, you completely miss out on one of their absolutely best treats: chocolate croissants. Now, I am a pretty huge fan of the chocolate croissant, no matter who makes it, but I have to say Sweetie Pie takes it to a whole other level. Wow…just wow!

But like I said, you have to get up pretty early in the morning to get them. The owner, Savie, only makes a limited amount and when they are gone, they are gone. Luckily she makes several other flavors of croissants that while not as good in this chocoholic’s opinion, are still completely worth it if you want to sleep in a little.

Much to my severe annoyance, my kids are pretty early risers. My daughter feels that 6 am is the perfect time to wake up, even on vacation. Now that she’s 7, I have made it very clear that unless the clock says 7:00 am, she is not allowed to get out of bed. And, if it doesn’t say at least 8:00, she is not allowed to wake me up. My son does like to sleep in a bit longer, but when he has to share a room with her on vacation, he tends to rise when she rises. The only time I have every been thankful for their insistence on rising before the sun even has the decency to start shining is when I get those chocolate croissants from Sweetie Pie.

Although my heart clearly belongs to those chocolate croissants, on this trip I decided to try something a bit different. This time I took a look at all the different cookies Savie had available in her case. Despite faithfully stopping in at least twice every visit, I’d only ever had croissants, scones, breads or cinnamon rolls before. I’d never actually tried any of her cookies and I thought this was the perfect chance to remedy this.

SP logoWhile Sweetie Pie features typical baked goods you’ll find in a lot of cafes like blueberry scones or pumpkin bread or almond croissants, Savie utilizes a lot of flavor combinations found in Asian desserts. She has taro root muffins, red bean croissants, Thai tea scones and green tea cupcakes. Although I have not tried them all,  the Thai tea scones and green tea cupcakes are excellent.

When I gazed at her cookie offerings, I found several rows of cookies both of the the very traditional variety: chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin, pecan and the more exotic: sweet and salty, ginger turmeric and peanut butter and shallot. Yeah, you read that last one correctly, she offers a peanut butter and shallot cookie. And yes, I tried it.

I decided to order one of each cookie. While I knew there was no way I would be able to eat them all, since there were 5 of us in the house, I knew they wouldn’t go to waste. I also knew that I wouldn’t feel too guilty about trying just a couple of bites from each cookie. At least not over the course of a day or two.

And so later that afternoon, I embarked on an epic cookie tasting adventure. Eight cookies to try and eight cookies to write about.

I’ll start with the more traditional flavors. The chocolate chip cookie, which I worried might be a bit hard as it seemed a little on the thin side, was amazingly soft, buttery and just the perfect amount of chewiness. It was actually fairly light on the chocolate chips, which despite my love of chocolate, is what I prefer. It was very good, but might not be the best choice for someone with a true hankering for chocolate. My best friend, who loves her chocolate chip cookies filled to the brim with chocolate chips, thought it could use more.

The oatmeal raisin was exactly what I expected out of an oatmeal raisin cookie. It was sweet and buttery, with the perfect amount of raisins adding that burst of fruit with each bite. Oatmeal raisin cookies are always a favorite of mine and this one was great. I ended up eating most of this cookie during our epic Settlers of Catan battle the next night.

The pecan cookie, which was pretty big, was soft and chewy and very pecany. If you like nuts, this would be a great cookie for you. I’m actually not a huge fan of nuts in cookies, so while it was good, it would not be one I’d get again.

The pumpkin cookie, which actually had more to its official title which I could not remember once I got back to my BFF’s house (I think there might have been caramel in it too), was delightful. I know pumpkin spice gets a really bad rap, especially in the fall where it is pretty much in everything. Hell, I get annoyed by it myself. I think pumpkin spice Cheerios and Twinkies are pushing the envelope (and not in a good way). And don’t even get me started on the pumpkin spice dog breath freshener chewy things we saw at the pet store. However, as pumpkin pie is also an absolute favorite of mine, this cookie was nearly perfect.

SP choc malt cookieNow, onto some of the more unique flavors. My favorite of the all Sweetie Pie’s cookie offerings were ones I’d never tried in any other bakery before. My absolute favorite was probably the chocolate malt cookie. I’ve never actually  had a chocolate malt before. The closest I’ve come is like Whoppers malted milk balls–that’s similar, right? But this cookie was incredible. Once again, I was initially concerned about this one since it was so thin. I was positive it was going to be the type of cookie my BFF complains about Jittery Joe’s having. However, it was amazingly soft and chewy. It was also very, very chocolatey. I loved the light sprinkling of powdered sugar on the top of it (which amazingly did NOT come off all over my hands). It was light and buttery and reminded me a bit of chocolate fudge. However, it didn’t have that cloyingly sweet taste fudge often gets.

My second favorite cookie was the ginger turmeric. This cookie was the epitome of Fall to me. If I had to assign one taste to the season, it would not be pumpkin spice. It would be this cookie. It was chewy and had just the right amount of spicy ginger. It reminded me a bit of a molasses cookie, but it wasn’t as heavy or syrupy. If only the weather in Georgia would have dipped below 85 degrees, eating this cookie would have made me feel like Fall had finally arrived.

The sweet and savory cookie was not as savory as I worried it would be. The little tag with the cookie mentioned teriyaki as part of the flavor combination, so I was worried it would be too salty. However, it was mostly just very oatmealy. It actually reminded me way more of butterscotch than teriyaki. It probably didn’t hurt that it has the same slightly orange tint oatmeal scotchies have. It was a good cookie, but I liked the raisin version better.

Finally, I attempted the most intriguing, and admittedly potentially upsetting cookie: peanut butter and shallot. It definitely smelled like onions. It was an odd combo to say the least. The cookie itself didn’t taste like onions. It had an oniony after taste, but even that was fairly subtle. The peanut butter was also not overly pronounced. It was definitely a sweet cookie with slightly oniony hints. While I would probably never buy it again as it didn’t wow me, it actually wasn’t bad. Neither of my children were brave enough to try it (my daughter hates onions and she knows shallots are really just fancy onions), but my BFF and her husband did and they agreed it was not what they expected.

I am very depressed that my next visit to Athens will not be for another 5 months. Not just because I miss my BFF so terribly, but also because I won’t get any of Sweetie Pie’s amazing baked goods for a long time.

Overall:

Taste: 9/10
Appearance: 9/10
Value: 9/10

Advertisements

Leave a comment

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

Throwback Thursday: Best friend time

Buldog side viewI write about my friends a lot. I can’t help it. They are the most amazing people in the world. They are my family and I cannot imagine my world without them. Unfortunately, the years have scattered us across the country. Of our core group of 5, only one of them still lives near me. One spends a great deal of his time hiking in Colorado, one is trying to uncover the seedy underbelly of cyber security in DC and one is teaching Victorian sci-fi and horror in Georgia.

This summer my best friend and I got to spend four days bumming around DC with our reporter friend. It was amazing since it was the first time I’ve gotten to visit him in his new hometown (and it’s been his hometown for over a decade…yeah, I know, bad friend).

Last month, we all got together for another for another glorious four days in Isle of Palms, South Carolina. We rented a beach house, stayed up late, went on ghost tours and generally had a blast.

Then, just last week I got to spend part of my fall break visiting with my best friend in Georgia. Sure, she still had classes to teach, but in between those classes, we got to hang out at the coffee shop, go shopping, take my kids on adventures, eat a lot of super tasty food AND, most importantly, watch our favorite girly movies and talk, talk, talk.

One of our very first stops was Jittery Joe’s, a local coffee chain that has 16 locations: Nine are in Athens, four are in other towns in Georgia, one is in Tennessee and very unpredictably, one is in Japan. Athens actually has a surprising number of local, sort of chain restaurants, which I think is cool.

Jittery Joe'sWhen my best friend used to live around the corner from me, we spent countless hours at our favorite local coffee shop. Although neither of us are huge coffee fans, if we tried to count up all the spiced chais we drank over long talks about every aspect of our life, we could probably fill a swimming pool..and I’m not talking about a dinky backyard pool either. Because my best friend lived right around the corner and our local coffee shop was just right around another corner, my kids practically grew up there. In fact, they are friends with the owners’ kids, so they always loved going to the coffee shop with us. They’d bring books or electronic devices, share a cookie and let us talk for hours.

At Jittery Joe’s, we all fell right back into our old habits. Well, almost. The barista accidentally made a pumpkin spice latte and offered it to me for free, which replaced my usual chai. I also had to change out my usual cookie for a chocolate croissant. JJ’s has cookies, but they are flat and sort of hard. On my very first trip to Athens, my BFF warned me not to be fooled by the cookies because I would be horribly disappointed. As we share nearly identical sweet teeth, I trusted her. Thankfully JJ’s does have some good brownies, muffins and some passable croissants. The kids were happy playing their devices and I was thrilled to get some major best friend time in.

When my BFF was not teaching and we were not hanging out with my kids, we got more quality time in watching (and partially talking through) some of our favorite shows and movies. After my kids go to bed, we have a habit of putting a show we both love and have seen 100 times like Friends on in the background. We usually start off watching the show, but then start talking. Before we know it, three or four episodes have gone by with us only catching about half of what is going on, but not even remotely caring. We also like to hang out, browse the internet and read fun bits of information to each other. On our last visit together (when she came to see me before DC), we spent several hours reading hilarious book summaries and reviews to each other on Amazon. Yeah, I know, we are total geeks, but we both teach literature for a living, so this is big fun for us.

We also continued our tradition of watching movies our husbands don’t really enjoy. We re-watched Bride and Prejudice for the umpteenth time. We broke out into songs in several places and debated the hotness of William Darcy (played by Martin Henderson) and Balraj (played by Naveen Andrews). It was a hard call, but in most scenes we went for Andrews. Of course, that could be because of our undying love for his character Sayid from Lost. While the movie was playing I found myself looking up the actors to see what else they’d been in. When we found out Henderson had played Brittany Spears boyfriend in her “Toxic” video, we had to watch that as well.

My Cousin Rachel was also on our to view list. Neither of us had seen it before, but she’d read the Daphne du Maurier novel it is based on and really liked it. We both really liked the movie and it lead to a great debate about our thoughts on Rachel’s guilt. One thing I desperately miss about my BFF living 10 hours away is our discussions about movies, books and TV shows.

On my last night in Athens, we also kept up a long standing tradition of watching a Mystery Science Theater production. Every Friday her husband makes popcorn and they watch either a Rifftrax or an MST3K. This time it was The Final Sacrifice. Like all movies featured on MST3K, it was horrific, but the jokes of Mike Nelson and his robot pals made it a wonderful, laugh out loud night. I love watching one of these movies the night before I leave because it makes the leaving just a tiny bit easier. Or at least it distracts me from it.

Junkman'sThis trip we did not get to do nearly as much shopping as I’d like. We weren’t able to get a babysitter and since dragging my kids clothing shopping is worse than a root canal (or so I’m told, I’ve never had one, but my BFF assures me, having done both, that this is true), we only got to pop into one store. Usually we get a few hours to shop all our favorite places in downtown Athens and I go home with an outfit (or two) more than I arrived with. My BFF is the best person in the world to go shopping with. She gives me an honest opinion every time and encourages me to indulge, which is something I rarely do. I, on the other hand, keep her desire to spend too recklessly in check. We perfectly balance each other out. Plus, we have a lot of similar taste in clothes. Since there was no way we’d be able to enjoy clothing shopping together, the only store we got to go in is the Junkman’s Daughter’s Brother, a really strange and eclectic Athens institution. My kids love going in there because they have lots of unique items (and TOYS!). I love it for the same reason. The owner seemed really keen on showing us all the anti-Trump merchandise that had come in. I cackled a bit when he said the only good thing about Trump being elected was all the anti-Trump merch he was able to sell. I told him I was glad Trump was making someone happy.

As usual, the visit was over way too soon. It seemed like before I could blink it was time to load my car back up and head back home. My kids and I left at 7:30 in the morning and there were tears all around. My kids were crying because they were going to miss my BFF (and her amazing dog) so much. My BFF and I were sobbing because it will be five more months until we see each other again.

We’d gotten a bit spoiled seeing each other three times in the as many months and this stretch is going to be hard. Even though I know I will see her again on spring break and we will have an amazing time, it was just as hard to leave her on Saturday as it was the first time I pulled away from her house four years ago. She is my family and without her, home just doesn’t seem quite like home.

2 Comments

Filed under bad days, books, clothing, cool links, cool places, entertainment, food, good days, love, movie references, my daughter, my friends, my son, nostalgia, products, ramblings, reading, the arts, travel, TV, what makes me me

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).

 

 

Leave a comment

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

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under bad days, bad drivers, bad people, motherhood, my daughter, pet peeves, problems with society, ramblings, what makes me me

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under cool links, dieting, motherhood, my daughter, my son, products, ramblings, what makes me me

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

Leave a comment

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

Throwback Thursday: The State Fair

poopThe sun is beating down mercilessly. The smell of fried dough and cow manure lingers in the air. The air is filled with the cacophony of thousands of voices and calliope music.

Yes, it is state fair time again!

My dad took me to my first fair when I was about 8 years old. Although we probably had state and even county fairs in Southern California, I’d never heard anyone talk about them and my mom definitely did not take us. Granted, we had two pretty impressive amusement parks practically in our back yard (Disneyland and Knott’s Berry Farm), and we spent a considerable amount of time there instead. I have always been a HUGE fan of rides and games of chance, so finding out that NW Indiana had rides, even on a small scale was amazing to me.

Every year my grandpa would save up all the aluminum cans he could (my family drank a LOT of soda). When my plane touched down for my annual summer visit with my dad, one of our first stops would be to visit my grandparents. We’d pile in my grandpa’s truck and take the cans to the recycling place. I got to keep every penny so I could spend it on games at the fair. My folks always paid for the rides and the food, but the games were all on me. Well, until I ran out of money anyway. Then, just the right smile could usually get me a few extra dollars.

Although neither my dad nor my step-mom usually rode the rides with me, they never complained when they spent hours waiting at the bottom of rides for me to get off the ride and get right back in line. The Gravitron was a personal favorite, but it made my step-mom absolutely sick. I also really liked The Flying Bobs and the fun houses. If there was a ride, I pretty much went on it. And the games…don’t even get me started with the games.

I cannot even count the number of completely worthless “prizes” I won playing carnival games. Aside from the countless low quality, knock-off stuffed animals that were never comfortable to actually snuggle with, I won several goldfish, plastic blow up toys, small square mirrors with band names and unicorns on them and so many really cool hair clips. Or at least I thought they were hair clips. I could not understand why my mom threw such a fit when I came home with these absolutely beautiful feathered hair clips. While she didn’t make me throw them away, she refused to let me wear them to school and I was ANGRY! It wasn’t until I was a grown adult going to the fair with my friends that someone told me my elegant “hair clips” were really roach clips…which I still didn’t understand as I had no idea that the tiny bit of a joint that was hard to hold by hand was called a roach. In hindsight, I get why my mom was not thrilled with her 10-year-old bringing them home.

This past weekend, my husband and I decided to take our kids to the state fair. We hadn’t taken them since my daughter was still in a stroller, mostly due to the outrageous cost of everything at the fair and the unbearable temperatures in early August. This year, however, we had an absolutely lovely Saturday and I fooled myself into believing that it probably wouldn’t be that expensive.

Boy was I wrong!

This year we managed to snag some free parking, so I was pretty proud of us. And, on our way to buy tickets at the gate, two different groups of people gave us free tickets, so we only had to pay for our kids. Unfortunately, anyone over the age of 5 is $12 a ticket, which meant we dropped $24 before we even entered the fair.

Although I still love rides at amusement parks, there is something about the temporary nature of fair rides and my growing understanding of my own mortality, that makes me steer clear of the rides now. I haven’t been on a ride at a fair since I was a teenager. I also stay away from the games now as I have no need for the chinzy prizes. I prefer to spend my time at the fair looking at the exhibits in the buildings, petting cute animals and tasting yummy, although horribly unhealthy food.

I tried to steer my kids away from the midway, which was not easy. While neither of them were really excited about the rides (my son is kind of chicken), they both really wanted to play the games. My husband and I managed to persuade them that most of the games were rigged and it was next to impossible to win. We almost succeeded, until they saw the duck game in the special kiddie section of the fair and heard the barker cry out “everyone wins!” I forked over $10, my kids reached in, pulled up 3 ducks and *surprise*–each one a prize. I figured my daughter would go for one of the knock off big-eyed Beanie Babies. I don’t know why I was such a fool. My daughter could not possibly want a practical toy like another stuffed animal for her bed. No, both she and my son wanted giant, blow up poop emojis. Yes, that’s right, just like their mother, they won totally useless, rather disgusting prizes. Not only did they carry them around the rest of the fair (which got us all kinds of looks), but they ate their dinners holding on to them AND they made so many poop jokes that I thought I might lose their minds.

One our drive home they even started squabbling about their poops. They’d gotten tossed into the back of the SUV and my son was very worried that my daughter might get his poop instead of her own. This meant that when we got home, he convinced my daughter to let him draw glasses and teeth on her piece of poop so there would be no question about whose poop was whose.

Even though we had a pretty good time at the fair, as a grown up, I now have a very different view of the fair. We ended up spending over $100 for about 3 hours–and considering I only had part of a bison burger, part of a slushie, part of a fried cheese stick and two bites of a grilled cheese sandwich, I feel I might have gotten cheated (although I did stay on my diet).

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under cool places, entertainment, food, married life, motherhood, my childhood, my crazy family, my daughter, my son, nostalgia, ramblings, what makes me me