Category Archives: ramblings

Chocolate Monday: Hershey’s Gold Peanuts & Pretzels

Hershey's gold barWhile dropping off my daughter’s prescription at our local Kroger, I noticed a new candy display. It looked like a Hershey wrapper, but was a strange cream color I am not used to associating with Hershey’s. Low and behold, it was a brand new type: Hershey’s Gold. It claims to be a caramelized creme, which I’ve never really heard of, so I had to try it. Plus, it has peanuts in it, which is a big plus. Peanuts have always been one of my absolute favorite snack foods.

This bar also boasts pretzels and while I am not usually a huge fan of chocolate covered pretzels, when I was in college I worked at a knock off Hallmark store and we sold these amazing white chocolate pretzel candies that were very pointy and “cluster” looking, but that tasted like creamy dreamy heaven. Even though this bar claimed to be caramel and not white chocolate, I thought it might be similar, so I gave in.

Hershey's Gold pieceIf you’re looking for a strong caramel flavor, this isn’t the bar for you. It has caramel hints at best. And really, it just sort of has a milky, creamy, buttery flavor. It’s not really distinctly anything–except salty.

The salty, which comes mostly from the pretzels is not so overwhelming as to make it inedible, but it is strongly there. It kept catching me in the back of my mouth as I finished up each bite. The peanut bits combined with the pretzels add a nice crunch the bar, but not tons of peanuty flavor.

Aside from the pretzel (and again, the salt), none of the flavors really stand out. It’s just sort of a sweet and salty hodge podge. I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised at the back touts that “sweet meets salty, creamy meets crunchy.” And really, that is the best way to describe the bar. A sort of nondescript sweet and salty flavor. It’s not bad, but I find it a bit unsettling that I can’t describe it any better.

Overall:

Taste: 4/10
Appearance: 5/10 (I find the color a bit unsettling too)
Value: 4/10 (it was more expensive than its regular Hershey brethren, which I also find unsettling).

Advertisements

Leave a comment

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

Free Reading Friday: Caraval

CaravalIf I could pick one book I want made into a movie this very second, it would be this book. I simply LOVED it!

Stephanie Garber does a spectacular job of bringing the darkly magical world of Caraval to life. Part mystery, part magic, part love story, this book has something for everyone. Despite the fact that the book is set in a different world during what appears to be the equivalent of our 1800’s, Scarlet is a heroine any modern girl can relate to. The otherwordly setting is just real enough to be believable to anyone who like historical fiction, but just magical enough to appeal to those who love fantasy. I think this is the perfect book to introduce reluctant readers to the fantasy genre because of all the other elements from the genres of mystery, romance and historical fiction that it also incorporates.

Scarlet and her sister Donatella need to escape their abusive father who has spent the last 10 years making their lives hellish. They are both obsessed with Caraval, the magical game that takes place once a year, by magical invite only. Although Scarlet writes to the mysterious Legend, the master of Caraval for years, it is not until the eve of her engagement to a man she’s never met that she finally gets a response. And not just any response…three tickets to Caraval.

As much as Scarlet wants to go, she cannot let childish curiosity for the game outweigh her desire to save herself, and more importantly her daring, but younger sister from their father’s grasp. She believes her impending nuptials are the only escape. However, when Scarlet is kidnapped and taken to Legend’s private island where Caraval is being held, she toys with the idea of staying. It is not until her beloved sister is also kidnapped and held as the game’s prize that she consents to truly play.

From there the book is a glorious mix of mystery, magic and romance that readers are sure to fall in love with. Garber does a wonderful job of setting up the sequel in a way that has left me clamoring for more. This is my pick for Goodreads YA fantasy book of 2017.

Leave a comment

Filed under addictions, books, cool links, entertainment, good days, products, ramblings, reading, the arts, what makes me me

Throwback Thursday: Black Friday shopping

When I was 14, my aunt took me Black Friday shopping for the first time. I had no idea what to expect, but I was excited. Back then, the deals were impressive and most of the stores opened early, but early was 7 am.

I stayed the night at my aunt’s house and we got up at 6 am so that we could be in front of our first store, which was Zayres. My cousin, who was 7 really wanted a Teddy Ruxpin doll for Christmas and Zayres had the best deal on it. Our aunt was bound and determined to get one. We stood outside the store, in the pitch black with about a hundred other people just waiting for the doors to open. Since I was smaller and quicker than a lot of the adults, my aunt told me where the toy aisles were and told me to sprint for one and that she’d catch up.

As we waited for the store to officially, open, I slowly started making my way closer to the front doors.

By the time they opened, I was one of the first people in the store and as soon as I was actually in the doors, I made a mad dash to the right and headed straight for the toys. I was one of the first people to lay my hands on a Teddy Ruxpin, and after I had it, I quickly moved out of the way, using a side aisle to avoid the chaos. My aunt, who took several minutes to find me, had a cart with her, so I deposited good ol’ Teddy and we went on our merry way, her pointing out items she wanted and me swooping in to get them.

When we finished at Zayres, we headed over to the mall. Our first stop there was L.S. Ayres, where they were giving out boxes of Cracker Jack with special shopping surprises. My aunt got a 25% discount on her entire order in her box. I got a $25 gift card in mine. Seeing as how I had limited funds, that gift card allowed me to buy two different Christmas presents: a stuffed sheep dog for one of my aunt’s (it looked just like the gianormous sheepdog named Muffin she’d had when I was a child) and toy for my cousin.

We spent a few hours at the mall scooping up deals at the big department stores, then we headed over to Burger King to have breakfast. It was about 10:30 am and we were done for the day.

Over the next decade and a half, my aunt and I made Black Friday shopping a tradition. We braved earlier start times, larger crowds, crazier deals and bitter, bitter cold, all for a few hours of togetherness and some pretty sweet deals. I never really bought that much as for the majority of our shopping trips I was either in high school, college, or just starting out as a teacher with a very, very small salary. But it wasn’t really about the shopping. It was about spending time with my aunt and sometimes my cousin or my step-mom. But mostly just me and my aunt.

The year I moved to Florida was the first time in 15 years I did not go Black Friday shopping with my aunt. Since the move only lasted for 6 months, I was right back at it the next year, but it felt like something had changed. The stores were opening on Thanksgiving day. The crowds were more hostile and the stuff on sale was either way too grandiose for me, or absolutely nothing I needed.

The following year I was pregnant with my son and there was no way I was getting up that early, getting jostled by crowds or standing in the cold while 6 months pregnant. I haven’t set foot in a store on Black Friday in 11 years.

I haven’t stopped Black Friday shopping though. I’ve just joined the thousands of people all across this country who have decided that o’dark thirty in 30 degree weather amidst angry hordes is not worth it. Instead, I jumped on my computer at 7 am and started ordering away. I still had a good portion of my shopping done by 10 am, but I got to do it in the comfort of my den while sipping my tea in my jammies.

Since it was never really about the shopping for me, I don’t really miss it. But I do get nostalgic for the talks my aunt and I used to have while standing in check out lines that stretched to the back of the store, during quick car rides between stores and over sausage croissants at Burger King.

Leave a comment

Filed under addictions, cool links, cool places, entertainment, good days, life as a teacher, my childhood, my crazy family, nostalgia, problems with society, products, ramblings, what makes me me

Wildcard Wednesday: A Panera letdown

When I first met my husband, the Panera around the corner from his apartment was one of our favorite places to go. I liked that it was fast-ish food where I could get fresher, healthier options without completely breaking the bank. Although I had a full time teaching job at the time, I was living on my own paying rent at an apartment that was probably a bit more than I should have afforded, but I was already in the complex when my roommate deserted me and I was just thrilled they technically let me break the lease to move to a significantly cheaper one bedroom place right across the hall, so I didn’t complain.

As time has passed, our lives have gotten more stable and we’ve added kids to the mix, I find myself at Panera less and less. Tonight, my daughter had a Girl Scout meeting and although I’d had time to get a quick dinner for her, there was not enough time for me to eat and get her to her meeting on time. Since I had a ton of grading to do, I thought I’d take advantage of Panera’s soup and free wifi.

From the moment I walked in the door it was a series of unfortunate events. First there was quite a long line and only one person behind the counter. Of course, the moment it was actually my turn to order, another cashier came up to take orders.

“Just my luck,” I thought. But, I was in a pretty good mood and had time to kill, so who cared, right?

Then I tried to place my order. My squash soup was no problem, but the flatbread I wanted to accompany it was nixed. Apparently the panini press was broken, so no hot sandwiches were available. I tried not to be snarky when I asked, “so are there any sandwiches you can make?” It was a legit question as the only sandwiches I ever eat at Panera are always warm. I know there was an edge to my voice and I tried to push it down. The manager listed a few off and I picked the chicken salad.

When I went to pick up my order, the next snafu occurred. They were also out of baguettes to go with my soup. One of my favorite things about Panera is the ability to dip bread into my soup. It’s way better than crackers! I sighed and took my chips with a heavy heart. I tried to joke with the woman handing me my food, “it’s not a good day to order at Panera, is it?” She gave me a half-hearted smile and moved on.

I shrugged, resolved to still enjoy my meal and get some grading done. I went to fill my cup with diet Pepsi (blast!) and although soda filled my cup, my entire hand got sprayed with water that appeared to be leaking from the front of the diet Pepsi button. Try as I might to maneuver my hand so I could get soda in the cup and not ice water all over my hand, it was no dice. I calmly mentioned it to the manager (who’d heard all of my woes to this point) and he told me he knew of the problem and that he’d called Pepsi to get it fixed.

I tried to joke with him, “it seems like it’s a day where 5 million things go wrong, huh?”

In what I think was an attempt to make something go right, he came over and tinkered with the machine. He got it to stop spraying water, but not before my cup was full and my hand was drenched. He finally joked back, “what was that you said, 5 million problems? Well, I have one less now, so what does that make it?”

We jokingly did the math together, laughed a bit and then he went back behind the counter as I headed to my table.

The soup was good, the sandwich ok. My husband will like the chips. The meal was saved by the Kitchen Sink cookie, which I probably should not have eaten by myself, but I went to Zumba today. And damn…it was good!

Leave a comment

Filed under bad days, chocolate, food, life as a teacher, married life, nostalgia, products, ramblings, teaching, what makes me me

Teaching Tuesday: Fight!

During SRT (student resource time) I heard a shrill noise coming from outside my room. At first I couldn’t quite place it, but when it rang out a second time, I realized it was a whistle. A few years back every teacher in my school was given a whistle and told we should attach it to the lanyards that hold our IDs, which we wear around our necks. Although mine has faithfully been there ever since, I’ve never once blown it. In fact, in the 13 years I’ve been at my current school not only have I never had to blow my whistle, but I’ve never heard anyone else blow theirs either.

That’s not to say we don’t have fights at my school. We do. Sadly, they’ve been occurring with an unnerving frequency lately. However, I cannot actually recall a time there has been a fight upstairs, let alone in my hallway.

My school has two floors, but there are really only three hallways upstairs. Two of the house the science department (and really the second hallway is really only like half a hallway–there are only 4 classrooms in it). The other houses all 12 of the English classrooms,  and four history classrooms. The rest of the school is on the first floor.

Since our hallways are not very wide and they don’t hold any large intersections or gathering places (like the library, gym, cafeteria, auditorium, etc), they aren’t the place to hang out. Those honors all go to downstairs areas, which is why almost every fight that has ever happened, has happened downstairs.

But there I was, standing in my classroom listening to what I now realized was an emergency whistle. Since I knew my newspaper kids would be 100% ok for a minute while I checked out the situation, I told them to stay put and headed into the hallway. Next door, our theater teacher was ushering two boys out of her classroom as carefully as possible. Thankfully her yell, followed by the whistle shocked the boys so much that they stopped thrown punches for a moment. When she started yelling at them to get in the hallway, amazingly, they went.

When they saw not one, not two, but three other English teachers in the hallway as they emerged, they thought better of returning to punches. As she was telling one boy to stay put and one to head to the other side of the hallway, she told us that they’d started a fight in her room. One of the boys was still very upset and started punching the wall. Since there were even more teachers in the hallway now, I told her I’d get the on duty police officer upstairs and ran back into my classroom.

As soon as the call was done, I went back in the hallway and then stood between the two boys, one of whom would not stop pacing, while she went back into her room to call one of the vice principals to make an official report.

Even though there were several other teachers in the hallway, they were all hanging back a bit. I was the only one directly between the boys. I wasn’t worried as they seemed to have calmed down, or at least decided throwing more punches with a cop on the way was the quickest way to get taken out to the squad car rather than just the office.

The officer escorted the first boy, who was obviously more agitated, to the office first. Even he didn’t want to risk them getting back into it. I stayed near the other boy. When he too was removed, our drama teacher told me that she was watching the boys for another teacher who had to go to a meeting. The boys started off joking with each other in a fairly friendly manner and the next thing she knew, they were swinging.

Ironically, a student had just asked her the week before what she’d do if a fight broke out near her. She laughed and said she’d yell for our colleague across the hall who happens to not only be one of the two guys in our department, but also the basketball coach. It was his kids who got in the fight in her room and since he was in a meeting, he couldn’t help at all.

I wonder how many people realize that teachers not only have to know all of our content AND be able to relate it to an children who often wants nothing to do with it, but we also have to put ourselves physically between those children, risking harm to ourselves, to make sure they don’t beat each other bloody.

None of my education classes taught me how to separate a fight.

Leave a comment

Filed under bad days, education, life as a teacher, products, ramblings, teaching, what makes me me

Chocolate Monday: Dream Dinners Scones

Dream dinners sconesDream Dinners has become an obsession of mine. For those who have not heard of this amazing place, it’s one of those meal prep places. You place an order for at least 12 meals and then schedule a time to come in and prepare all of the meals at once. They have everything chopped and all the measuring tools conveniently placed at each recipe station. Over the course of an hour or two, you follow the very simple step by step instructions, measuring everything into baggies, placing all those baggies into a bigger baggie, pop some cooking directions in and voila…easy to cook weekday meals that taste like you spent hours on them.

Although I was a bit skeptical about how much time going to Dream Dinners would actually save me and about the quality of the recipes, I am a complete convert. My least favorite part of cooking is all the slicing and dicing needed for meal prep, so the fact that this is all done for me is brilliant. I have no food waste and can spend extra time with my family each evening. It’s a complete win and worth the $5 or so a portion.

In addition to being a great time saver, a food waste reducer and a social outlet for me (I go each month with one of my best friends), Dream Dinners also has levels I can unlock, which makes it into a bit of a game for me. The more meals I prepare and review, the more points I earn. The more points I earn, the more freebies and fun stuff I get. As part of their November promo, not only did the meals I ordered earn me double prep points, but I also got a free package of their scones. Of course, in order to get the scones I had to purchase one extra meal,  but I as soon as I saw there were white chocolate raspberry scones, I was sold.

When I went to do my November meal prep, the scones were already in the package waiting for me. There were a dozen triangular pastries just waiting to be baked. I didn’t even have to thaw these bad boys, just preheat the oven, break them apart, put them on a cookie sheet and bake for 25 minutes.

The smelled heavenly.

I am a HUGE fan of scones. I have not only made my own super tasty strawberry scones from scratch, but also tried several different mixes for drop scones that I have really liked. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that the Dream Dinner scones were better than the mix scones and almost as good as my homemade ones. According to my husband, they were even better.

GRRRRR.

Seriously though, these little pastries are fantastic. The raspberry is the perfect blend of sweet and tart and quite clearly a mix of both raspberry jam and real raspberries. There are white chocolate chips throughout to help balance out the tart and add the perfect amount of creaminess. I love how mixing white chocolate with raspberries gives the perfect berries and cream taste. The scones are light and perfectly blended so they do not taste too doughy or too floury, which can be a real problem with scones. Texture wise they remind me of scones I’ve had at tea time in several small English tea shops on visits to London.

Everyone in my family adored them. I know that I will have to buy more of these and I may even branch out and try some of the other flavors. Although this one is so tasty it’ll be hard to convince myself to get a different one.

Overall:

Taste: 10/10
Appearance: 8/10
Value: 10/10–but only b/c they were free. I actually don’t know how much they are (and can’t find a price on the website), so the jury is still out on this one.

Leave a comment

Filed under addictions, chocolate, cool links, cool places, food, good days, products, ramblings, what makes me me

Free Reading Friday: Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda

Simon and the Homo Sapiens AgendaSimon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by  Becky Albertalli is yet another book on the this year’s Rosie list, so I had to read it. Before I picked it up, I had no idea what the book was about. The title was intriguing though and even though I’ve read comments that the cover is keep no of boring, I like the faceless body and the title as a quote bubble.

It only took me about 20 pages to get into Simon’s story. My favorite chapters were definitely the emails between Simon and Blue. I love how cute and genuine their emails feel. I love how vulnerable they are with each other. And even though there was a part of me who wanted Blue to cave and reveal who he was to Simon much sooner, I understand why Albertalli had him wait. Blue’s reluctance to truly reveal himself to Simon (and the world) reflects just how scary first relationships can be. They are terrifying when you are straight and conform to all the expectations of society, so I can only imagine how immensely more terrifying they are for LGBT+ teens. Especially in Georgia…or any area that is intensely conservative.

Since my best friend lives in Athens, Georgia, it was doubly fun for me to read this book which is set outside of Atlanta. It was especially great to see Albertalli mention the Junkman’s Daughter since I’ve been to the original store in Athens. I love when I find places I’ve visited in real life in books as well.

Even though I was not thrilled with the idea of going back to school after the break, I was excited about sharing this book with my students. My school has a growing LGBT+ population and I knew I would have a bunch of students who really wanted to read it. I think it is super important for them to find books which portray romantic relationships they can relate to and see themselves reflected in. Sure enough, the second I book talked it, multiple hands reached out for it.

Leave a comment

Filed under addictions, books, cool links, cool places, education, entertainment, good days, life as a teacher, products, ramblings, reading, teaching, the arts, travel, what makes me me