Sunday, December 30, 2012

Review: Microwave Chip Maker from Pampered Chef

My sister-in-law had a Pampered Chef event awhile back, so I decided to buy their Microwave Chip Maker.  The claim: you can make delicious, crispy potato chips at home in just 2 minutes without ANY fat or oil.  Sounds too good to be true, but the results were surprisingly good!

I've said this before when I review something here on the blog, but it bears repeating: I do not get any sort of compensation of ANY kind from the manufacturers of the products I review. I've been contacted in the past after posting a positive review, with offers of coupons and such, and I never take them up on it. I don't include links or ads or any of that, because I want whoever is reading these reviews to know that I don't have any reason to be anything other than brutally honest when it comes to whether or not this stuff is worth spending your hard-earned money on.

In the case of the Microwave Chip Maker, I have to say--it was a good purchase. I also bought the Simple Slicer, because I don't have a mandolin slicer, and that made a big difference, too. There's no way I would have been able to get such nice, evenly thin slices using my usual old metal grater. I suppose I could have used my food processor with the slicer attachment, but that's a huge pain in the neck to haul out every time you want a quick snack. It's essential that the potatoes be sliced really thin (1mm--setting number 1 on the Pampered Chef Slicer), and that you lay them out on paper towels so that you can blot away the excess moisture.  I salted the slices, waited a few minutes, then dabbed at them with another paper towel to get the rest of the moisture that came through.   They only took about 2 minutes in the microwave, and were every bit as crispy as the ones you buy at the store.

I didn't blot the first batch as well as I did subsequent batches, and two minutes wasn't quite long enough in terms of cooking time.  I also noticed that some batches cooked darker than others, so it's a good idea to keep an eye on the chips and check them as they're cooking.

The instructions say that you can also make sweet potato chips or apple chips, which is something I'll try next time.

Note: I have included links to a similar microwave chip maker that is available on 

Wise Words from Ralph Waldo Emerson

Write it on your heart
that every day is the best day in the year.
He is rich who owns the day, and no one owns the day
who allows it to be invaded with fret and anxiety.
Finish every day and be done with it.
You have done what you could.
Some blunders and absurdities, no doubt crept in.
Forget them as soon as you can, tomorrow is a new day;
begin it well and serenely, with too high a spirit
to be cumbered with your old nonsense.
This new day is too dear,
with its hopes and invitations,
to waste a moment on the yesterdays.
ralph waldo emerson

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Review: Yonanas Healthy Dessert Maker

My favorite Christmas gift this year: a Yonanas Healthy Dessert Maker. I'd seen it for sale at Bed, Bath & Beyond, but figured it was just another gimmicky, "As Seen On TV" gadget.  Nevertheless, my curiosity got the best of me, so I put it on my "wish list" for Christmas. Sure enough, Santa was kind enough to bring me one. The machine itself is pretty unimpressive right out of the box, made of black and silver plastic, and decidedly "no frills".  It doesn't even come with a bowl to catch the dessert in.  The recipe book that's included has some basic recipes, some that use bananas and some that don't. Alas, the recipe book I put on my wish list was on back order, so I had to search the internet to find additional variations. 

The concept is pretty simple: take those overripe bananas, peel them and pop them in the freezer, and within 24 hours you can enjoy a frozen dessert that is similar to soft serve ice cream without all of the fat and calories. Considering the fact that I am always looking for ways to eat healthier, and I usually end up turning overripe bananas into decadent banana bread, this seemed like a good alternative.

I've only used it a couple of times, but so far, so good!

The basic recipe uses two frozen bananas, but you can also mix in other types of fruit.  For my first try, I used bananas with a few frozen strawberries and raspberries mixed in. It's important that the fruit be frozen solid, but also that you wait just a few minutes after taking it out of the freezer, so that it's not rock hard when you put it in the machine--otherwise, it takes forever for it to come out. I was a little impatient for the first batch, and some of the fruit came out a little icy, but it was still delicious.

For the second go-round, I followed a recipe I found on the Yonanas website for Berry Chocolate Zin.  It's a combo of frozen bananas, dark chocolate, mixed berries, and frozen cubes of red wine. (Note: My refrigerator/freezer has a built-in ice maker, so I didn't have any ice cube trays in the house. Instead, I improvised and used an empty plastic egg carton container to freeze some leftover wine.  Worked like a charm!).  The bananas weren't quite as frozen as the ones I used in batch #1, so the consistency of this recipe was a lot softer, but still delicious.  

According to the Yonanas website, you can skip the bananas entirely and just use frozen fruit to make sorbet.  I'll give that a try tomorrow and see how it turns out. 

The basic machine costs about $50, although there are "deluxe" versions that come with some accessories.  The machine is very easy-to-clean (the chute disassembles and is dishwasher-safe, but honestly--it only takes a couple of seconds to rinse everything off) and so far, I haven't found anything about it that I don't like.   

UPDATE: I've used this machine a few more times, and still love it. You can make sorbet by using fruit without bananas, but adding the bananas give you that creamy texture that mimics ice cream and makes the dessert more satisfying. I've also tried adding a little Truvia sweetener at the end, and it makes the dessert even better. 

Here are some photos from tonight's dessert, made with Bananas, Blueberries & Strawberries. The first photo shows the fruit just before I put it in the machine. It's important to be a little patient and wait until the fruit is just starting to thaw--if you put it in the machine while it's still frozen solid, the dessert won't turn out as well, and will have chunks of frozen, icy fruit in it.  

The second photo is what it looks like right out of the machine.  You need to stir it all up to blend the flavors, which is the result you see in the last photo.  Delicious!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The True Meaning Of Christmas

My favorite moment from my Christmas special of all time.

Charles M. Schulz had to fight to keep this scene in the TV special. He said, "If we don't tell the true meaning of Christmas, who will?"  Thank you, Mr. Schulz.

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Look for the Helpers

The school shooting in Connecticut is every parent's worst nightmare made reality.  The deaths of those 20 children and 6 adults have deeply affected us all. The situation is horrific. There are no words to describe the depths of the pain and fear that are evoked when something this awful happens.

There was one thing I read this morning that I felt was worth sharing: words from the late Fred Rogers (better known as "Mr. Rogers" of public television show fame), as quoted by Connecticut meteorologist Matt Scott:

"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping." To this day, especially in times of "disaster," I remember my mother's words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world."

Of all the posts I've read so far about this awful tragedy, this is the one that brought me comfort.

When we're assaulted by the realization that there can be such evil in this world, it helps to focus on the good people who are always there to help you. The teachers who risked themselves to save their students' lives, the cops who rushed in to make the school safe again, the emergency service workers who helped restore order to chaos, and the doctors and nurses who treated the injured.

We can't stop evil from existing.  But evil can't wipe out good, either.  Innocent lives were lost yesterday, and for that, we all grieve. Amidst this shared mourning over an act of unimaginable evil, we must also recognize the powerful forces of good that exist in one another.

Do your best to tap into that goodness, and show it more.  Hug your children and show them how much they are loved and cherished. Remind your close friends and family how much you care about them. Do a kindness for a stranger without expecting anything in return. All any of us can do in the face of something like this is to be one of those caring people in the world that helps to heal the pain of others. And that's what we need most right now.

Monday, November 12, 2012

As Seen On TV Review: Perfect Tortilla Pan Set

I love infomercials, and I love trying out the "As Seen On TV" products that promise to revolutionize the way we cook/live/relax/groom.

The most recent product I tested was the Perfect Tortilla Pan Set.  It promises a healthier alternative to fried tortilla bowls that you typically see at Mexican restaurants or fast-food chains, allowing you to cook up a healthier, baked version in just 5 minutes at home.  I paid $10.99 for my set at CVS. Inside the box was four stackable, dishwasher-safe pans that store away easily and allow you to bake tortilla bowls in just 5 minutes at home.

On first glance, I was a little disappointed with the contents of the box: just 4 simple metal pans, and a slip of paper with basic cooking instructions. "Basic" is an understatement: across the board, you cook the tortilla bowls at 400 degrees, the only variable is for how many minutes.  I used medium-sized whole grain tortillas, and found the recommended "5 to 7 minutes" left them too flexible, so I put them back in for 10 minutes, as per the "extra crispy" directions.  

The tortilla bowls looked good when they came out of the oven (make sure you wait 5 minutes before you remove them from the bowls, otherwise they tend to crack), but they didn't have the same golden brown, bubbly crispness that you see on the box. Next time, I'm going to try spraying the tortillas on one side with a little butter-flavored Pam to see if that makes any difference, although it doesn't say anything about doing that in the instructions. 

I used the bowls for "Taco Night" at my house, substituting the bowls for the usual hard shell corn tacos. The kids had fun building their own taco bowls, although it was a little tricky to eat. My husband opted for a knife and fork, one daughter ate the ingredients and left the bowl untouched, and my youngest daughter broke it up into pieces, like nachos, making a big ole mess in her plate. I confess, that's what I ended up doing as well. Ultimately, the product worked pretty much as described, although I don't think 5 minutes is enough time to get a sturdy enough bowl to hold your favorite ingredients. It was definitely nice to have a healthier alternative to greasy taco shells, but I found them to be a little chewy once you got the to bottom part of the bowl.  I'm going to experiment with different brands of tortilla as well, to see if that allows for a crispier, thinner bowl.  

When it comes to tacos, if you're looking for neatness, you might want to go the traditional shell route.  I've read online that some outlets sell this set at a higher price point, but include a recipe book or two.  Honestly, you don't need a recipe book.  It isn't exactly rocket science to figure out how to use these bowls--use them the way you would any other bowl, except this one is edible. I would recommend this product as a fun way to serve chili dip, guacamole or salsa at a party. On the cover of the box, they show the bowl being used to hold ice cream. I have seen ready-made crepes at the grocery store, and I could see that working as a sweet alternative, so I'll have to give that a try, too.


Friday, July 20, 2012

Fortune cookie wisdom

Last night's fortune cookie advice:

Hard work without talent is a shame,
but talent without hard work is a tragedy

Hmm...I've been thinking about ramping up my freelance writing again. Think the Universe is giving me the green light?

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Historic Antique or Modern Reproduction?

Did Paul Revere make this?
A friend found this in a brook that runs through my backyard, and we're trying to figure out if it is authentic or a reproduction.  It's a three-pronged fork, weighs about an ounce and a half, and has a swirled handle. It's covered in black tarnish, but you can see some silvery glints shining through here and there.

Our property used to be farmland, and this area is known to have been traveled by Revolutionary War soliders, and Native American Indians before that.  The spot where the brook is located is amidst protected wetlands, so it hasn't been disturbed, and it's possible this was dropped here during Colonial times as the soldiers passed through the area.

I took the fork to a local historian, and he was convinced of two things: that it's very old, and that it is handmade. He also believes the fork is solid silver.  He showed it to a colleague, and they both agreed it could have significant historic value, since it is appears to be the work of a master silversmith, and one such master known during that time period was none other than Paul Revere.

These modern-day utensils have the same handle.
This is all very exciting, but here's the problem: I found a photo online of a hand-forged wrought iron and stainless utensil set that has an identical handle pattern as this fork.   I tried to contact the company that sells it, but all they could tell me is that it is manufactured for them by a company in Canada. I asked for more information, so that I can find out what design the Canadian company is working off of (an original design, or a historic one) and they haven't gotten back to me, so now I'm turning to the internet.

Have you ever seen a pattern like this before?  Do you know of a way to determine whether or not this fork is truly an antique, or merely a reproduction.  Please offer any suggestions in the comments section. Thanks!

And, at the urging of the historians I contacted, I will be getting a metal detector and exploring out there further to see what else I can find.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Thinking of Celebrating Administrative Assistants Day? Not so fast.

Actually, for most "Administrative Assistants" this is "Oh my god you think I'm a secretary?!? I hate my life" Day.

I remember many years ago, my first job right out of college, I worked as an Editorial Assistant at a magazine. I shared an office with another college grad about the same age as me, and we were the two hardest working, lowest paid people on staff.  What made it worth it for me was holding onto the promise of bigger things to come: a promotion, job growth, the hope of moving up and actually making the most of my college education, which I knew I would spend the next 10 years paying off.

I will never forget the look on my co-worker's face when her boss walked in with a bright pink coffee mug filled with flowers, a garish mylar balloon attached to the handle. (Ironically, this was commonly marketed as a "Pick Me Up" bouquet.)

My co-worker had attended one of the top Journalism programs on the East Coast, graduating with honors and several writing credits under her belt.  Instead of feeling appreciated for a job well done, the well-intentioned flowers presented to her on "Administrative Assistants Day" made her realize just how low on the totem pole she was, and that her chances of staying on staff long-term and getting promoted were slim. Instead of an "up and coming" young colleague, she was seen as "support staff" for the rest of the editors.  She started updating her resume that very evening.

We both moved on not long after that, to higher paying jobs where we made it clear from the beginning that we were looking to move up the ladder. Yes, receptionists and secretaries and administrative assistants play an important supportive role in business, and deserve to be appreciated...but before you buy those flowers, think about whether or not your recipient truly sees themselves that way.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Spotting a Fake PayPal Email -- Don't be fooled!

I received an email today that was structured to look as though it came from PayPal.

Here's a screen shot (click on the photo to see it larger):

Fortunately, I've heard enough warnings about "phishing" emails to be on the lookout for messages like this one,  that try to trick recipients into clicking on bogus links that will harm your computer and/or attempt to trick you into giving a 3rd party website your PayPal password and account info.

A few tip offs that this one was a fake:

-- It wasn't sent just to me, but to "undisclosed recipients"

-- They did not address me by my first and last name anywhere in the email

-- The return address appears to be from "", but if you click "Show More" for the Sender, the full email address is revealed as

-- If you hover over the links embedded in the email, you'll see that they won't take you to a secure page on the PayPal website. Instead, they direct you to another website entirely--one that will likely harm your computer the minute you click the link.

What really annoys me about this email is that they have the nerve to include "helpful" information on how to avoid fraud--and the link they provide to show you their Security Tips takes you right to the same bogus website as all of the other links.

If you receive an email like this, and you aren't sure whether or not it is from the real PayPal site, follow these simple steps:


2.  Forward the email to   Don't send the email as an attachment, and don't change the Subject line....just forward it to PayPal and they will contact you as to whether or not the email is legit or a spoof/scam.

3. Delete the email

You can read more about how to avoid Phishing scams at the real PayPal site HERE

Saturday, April 7, 2012

R.I.P. Thomas Kinkade

Thomas Kinkade, the self-proclaimed "Painter of Light", died yesterday at the age of 54. His tranquil scenes of country cottages and quaint victorian homes evoked a feeling of warmth and peace. I loved his work. He was a very religious man, and although his death appears to have been unexpected, it seems almost apropos that he died on Good Friday.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Luca Comrie

I couldn't resist blogging this photo of Hilary Duff and Mike Comrie's new baby boy, Luca. It seems like most celebrities these days either end up selling their "first photos" to the tabloids or hiding their baby under a massive blanket everywhere they go.   It's refreshing to see a proud new mom showing off her baby for no other reason than the little stinker is just too darn adorable to keep covered up. What a sweet face!  

Welcome baby Luca!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

iPhone 5: Pipe Dream or Coming Soon?

So, is there a new iPhone on the horizon, or is it just a baseless internet rumor?

It depends on who you ask.

According to this report from International Business Times, we could see a new the iPhone 5 during the latter half of this year, with new features such as expanded memory, a better camera, and larger screen.

I'm currently using an old Blackberry, and while I do like having a keyboard, there are several features my phone doesn't have that I wish it did.  So, I've been thinking about getting the iPhone, but I don't want to buy it now and pay too much if a new and improved version is to be released within a few months.

I happened to be near an Apple store this afternoon, and asked one of the salespeople if there was any official word on when the iPhone5 would be released.

To say that he was a bit "testy" about it is an understatement.

"iPhone5?  There IS no iPhone5. There's no "five" anything. It's just a rumor. There are people out there that make their living spreading rumors like that. If you want an iPhone5, I've got a bridge over in Brooklyn I can sell you real cheap, too, if you've got the cash."  

Sheesh. Sorry I asked.

I told him that I was trying to avoid what happened with my iPad: I purchased it at the end of December, and by early March, the iPad2 came out, and I felt like I'd gotten screwed out of all of the new features. He said that if I'd purchased a first generation iPad within a month of the new iPad2's release, I might have been able to convince a store manager to do an exchange for me, but that since it was more like 3 months, that's just too bad.  "Technology is constantly being updated and upgraded," he said. "Three months is a long time when it comes to technology."

No, no it isn't. Not when you're paying hundreds of dollars. He shrugged his shoulders and smirked. "Well, that's just how it is. If you want to know when something new is coming out, look for announcement on  Anything other than that is just a rumor."

I still haven't decided whether or not I should wait a few months to see if a new iPhone is announced, or if I should go ahead and get one now.  The one thing I have decided, though: I won't be buying it from that guy.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Massacres in Syria

American-born journalist Marie Colvin was killed last night in Syria, not long after she filed a report about the horrific killings that have been taking place at the hands of government military forces. CNN showed some highly-disturbing video of a two-year-old boy who was hit by shrapnel and badly wounded. Medical care is non-existent in the war zone, and Colvin had to stand by and watch helplessly as the boy died from his injuries.

The video was proof positive that the Syrian government has been lying about the areas they are targeting. Innocent men, women and children are being gunned down every day. With the death of Colvin, we have lost a valuable window into the atrocities thwre, but perhaps now the world will start paying attention and DO something to stop these killings.

You can read more about Colvin's tragic death here:

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

1-800-FLOWERS Buyer Beware!

At left is a picture of the gorgeous floral arrangement my husband gave me for Valentine's Day.  He ordered it more than a week in advance from 1-800-FLOWERS, and had them sent to me at the office.

What's that you say?  You don't SEE a picture of flowers here?

Ah, yes. That's because THEY NEVER ARRIVED.

Of course, things happen, especially today, the busiest floral delivery day of the year. The problem is, the customer service at 1-800-FLOWERS is non-existent, especially on Valentine's Day.  They are "so super busy right now!" and tell you to email them before disconnecting you.  A cheery recording also advises you that they are "up to their elbows in floral deliveries, and may not be able to check the status of your order until tomorrow!"

Seriously?  They have ONE JOB--to deliver flowers.

Of course it's the thought that counts, and I love that he wanted to surprise me, but Valentine's Day is the absolute worst day of the year to try and send flowers.  And, if you ever do want to send a floral arrangement, it's best to avoid the big chains like 1-800-FLOWERS or Telefora. 

It's worth it to take the extra minute or two to Google a local florist that is nearby to where your delivery is going.  I always do that--for birthdays, sympathy arrangements, anything--because it helps support local business owners, and you always get top-notch service because they want your recipient to be happy.  Most local businesses count on word-of-mouth referrals, and they take extra special care of recipients in their own delivery area. You also get more for your money because you avoid the fees associated with the referrals from a national chain.

Happy Valentine's Day to you....and to 1-800-FLOWERS: you stink!

UPDATE: The specific florist that was handling the order and failed to deliver was New City Florist in New City, NY.  They have lousy reviews online, including the one I just posted.  They are almost 10 miles away from the delivery address--a 20 minute drive. Not the closest floral shop by a long shot. Lesson learned!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Lion King on Broadway

We took the kids to see The Lion King on Broadway this afternoon at the Minskoff Theater in New York City. It was a great show. The theater is small, and the actors often come out into the audience throughout the performance, so there was not a bad seat in the house. They have booster seats available for kids, but the seats are offset from row to row, so sightlines are excellent.

Having seen the movie more times than I can count, I know the story very well, and thought that I would be a little bored.  Was I wrong!  Yes, the plot was very familiar, but I was in awe of the ingenious costumes.  Designed by the brilliant Julie Taymor, the costumes more than met the challenge of making African animals come to life on stage. The entire production was so well done.

It was FREEZING in the city today, so we didn't venture too far afield this time. We parked at the garage in Port Authority, and had lunch there at Villa Pizza before venturing out into the frigid, windy weather. The theater wasn't letting patrons in just yet, so we killed some time at Broadway souvenir shop just across the street, where we could watch to see when the theater was allowing the audience to go in. Once inside the theater, there are big windows on the upper level overlooking Times Square--a great place to "people watch".  There was a panhandler down below on the street outside the theater, holding a big cardboard sign that said, "Need Money For Weed. Why Lie?"

I love New York.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Newsweek's Downward Spiral Continues

There was a time when I used to enjoy reading Newsweek.  Then came the rise of 24-hour news channels and internet news sites, all providing stunning visuals and breaking news in real time. Weekly news magazines like Newsweek quickly became outdated dinosaurs   The only way for Newsweek to compete and try to stay relevant was to offer in-depth, thoughtful analysis. But, with the rise of political blogs, they lost even more ground.

Now, the folks at Newsweek are just plain desperate.

Their latest cover poses the question: "Why Are Obama's Critics So Dumb?"  Since when did elitist name-calling become a substitute for well-researched journalism? The editors at Newsweek are not even trying to pretend that they're a legitimate source of news anymore. I can't decide if it's more sad than pathetic.

This cover story is just the latest in a long line of questionable choices made by the Newsweek editorial board.  They've taken heat in the past year for their gleefully unflattering covers of Tea Party favorites Michelle Bachmann and Sarah Palin, but those weren't the worst of it.

For me, the most egregious "jump the shark" moment for Newsweek came when they photoshopped a 14-years-dead-and-gone Princess Diana, digitally aged to appear 50 years old and walking alongside her son's soon-to-be wife, Kate Middleton. A new low that even the sleaziest tabloids have not attempted. Disgusting.

It was a blatant ploy to exploit the late Princess Diana's enduring popularity as a taken-too-soon icon. Almost a decade and a half after her death, Newsweek still couldn't resist going to the well one more time, disregarding the unseemly fact that it was the media's unhealthy obsession with capturing Diana's image that led to her tragic death.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

TV review: I Cloned My Pet

I watched this show last night with my daughter. 

Dear lord. 

I love my pets, I truly do, but these folks were so, so, so far over the top in their obsessions with their dogs.  One man said, "When Wolfie died, everything that was special about me went with her."  

Is this guy serious? EVERYTHING that made him special--all of his unique qualities and attributes and talents--evaporated when his dog died. Really? 

One woman described her dog as her "soulmate." Another woman featured on the show said her deceased dog Trouble "was the love of my life." 

Pets offer unconditional love, and yes, they hold a very special place in our hearts.  But if you think a canine is the one being on Earth who is meant for you as a mate, above all need to get yourself some counseling. 

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Bad Baby Names: Shame on you, Beyonce & Jay-Z

A baby is a miracle that takes 9 months to grow and a lifetime to nurture....and then you go and name her "Blue"??? 
There oughta be a law against that. Truly.

What is this crazy sickness that comes over people--especially celebrities--when they have a baby?  The quest to find a name that is "different" and "unique" and "unlike anything else out there" says far more about the prospective parents than it does the child..

It tells me that the parents are feeling the pressure to have their child carry on the family tradition and become a standout in life. It's as if they don't trust their child enough to achieve any sort of notable achievements on their on--the child isn't given an opportunity to "make a name for themself" because Mom and Dad have already done it for them. And that's sad.

I think celebrities get so caught up in the fact that their child is growing up with the pressure of having a famous parent (or two), they believe it's better to start out with a name that SO outlandish and different, the child can't help but be set apart from everyone else.

Wow. Do they have that little faith in their new bundle of joy? 

Is it so difficult to imagine that if their child were named Michael or Jennifer, it could have any less spectacular a future than, say, a little Romeo or Apple?

Congratulations on your new daughter, Beyonce' and Jay-Z.  I hope she has a wonderful and happy life, despite the unfortunate name you've chosen to saddle her with.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

AS SEEN ON TV: Review of Eggies

I love buying "As Seen On TV" products and trying them out at home. Sometimes, I'm pleasantly surprised at how well the product delivers on its promises.

This was not one of those times.

I love Deviled Eggs and egg salad, and my kids like hard-boiled eggs as a snack. Lately, I've been buying the Eggland's Best Hard-Boiled Eggs, which come already cooked to perfection and ready to eat.  Still, wouldn't it be great to achieve that kind of perfection at a fraction of the cost, along with the satisfaction of making them myself?

Enter "Eggies", plastic containers that are supposed to allow you to make hard-boiled eggs without the shells, so you can skip the messy peeling process altogether. No more cracked shells, no more burnt fingers!  Sounds too good to be true!!

Yeah. Hold that thought.

Here's the "official" photo of the product, and what the finished product is supposed to look like:

Oh, how delectable these egg appetizers look! So perfect, and with no peeling!

I bought the Eggies system for only $9.99 at the Bed, Bath & Beyond store. I had a coupon for 20% off, so the actual cost was closer to $8. What a bargain, right?


I followed the directions exactly.  In the commercial, they make it look super-simple, just crack the raw eggs into the eggie containers and drop them into boiling water. Nope--first you need to grease the inside of each and every Eggie with oil nonstick cooking spray, which is a time-consuming task. There were TWO sets of written instruction specifically warning you not to skip this step. Unfortunately, you can't just spray the cooking oil into the Eggies. According to the directions, "you must coat the insides of top and bottom pieces with cooking oil before each use. If using cooking spray, spray a paper towel and wipe the inside of each piece, do not spray directly into the Eggies." 

The Eggie is actually comprised of four separate pieces: a Lid, Collar, Bottom Half and Top Half.  After you've carefully greased the top and bottom pieces, you put them together and secure them with the collar. Then you crack the egg into the Eggie, screw the lid on, and place it into a pan of warm water. The instructions say, "Ensure that they are floating." They were.
Then you bring the water to a boil and cook them according to the chart enclosed (varies based on size of egg and level of doneness you want. It's 15 min for a large hard-boiled egg).

I did all of that. And here are the mutant Eggies that emerged.

Poor little Eggies. They emerged as "half eggs", looking more like Coneheads from the old Saturday Night Live skit than the perfect ovals shown on the box. Some were difficult to remove from the Eggie container (the instructions say to use a utensil to loosen the egg around the edges if they are not releasing).  They were all rubbery, oddly-shaped, and inconsistent in terms of doneness.

FINAL RECOMMENDATION:  Save your money!  Eggies aren't worth the "bargain" price. Either take the time to hard-boil and peel your eggs the old-fashioned way, or splurge on the pre-cooked, already-peeled version from Eggland's Best. They retail for around $3 for a bag of six eggs.

Monday, January 2, 2012

I'm Not Really A Waitress

I treated myself to a pedicure today, and went with one of my all-time favorite shades: I'm Not Really A Waitress by OPI.  It's the company's biggest selling polish, and for good reason: it's the perfect shade of red with a nice shimmer to it.  Even my husband noticed. Not too shabby!

It's back to school tomorrow for my high schooler and middle schooler, after a long Christmas break. They're less than thrilled, as you might imagine, but I'm looking forward to getting back into our usual routine.

The Suffering of Sahar Gul

I just read a news report about a 15-year-old girl from Afghanistan that was held captive and brutally, systematically tortured for 6 months by her in-laws.  Sahar Gul has finally been freed, and is being sent to India for treatment.  Her husband is in hiding, but her mother-in-law and sister-in-law have been arrested. I'm sure, as women, they will be severely punished. Call me a cynic, but I doubt they'll be searching too hard for her husband. He will probably just end up re-marrying some other poor girl and getting away with his crimes.

It sickens me that this kind of abuse commonly exists in parts of the world. The Taliban may no longer be in control of the government in Afghanistan, but the mindset and lack of respect for women remains. Why hasn't the UN community worked harder to effect change?

The girl was rescued after her uncle reported the torture to local police. I'm glad he finally stepped in to help, but I wonder, what took him so long?  Are women so devalued in that society that a person would hesitate to put a stop to this level of abuse? Six months is an eternity for someone enduring this kind of agony on a daily basis.

Officials noted that this case was an extreme, one of the worst they've seen.  The fact that any level of abuse is deemed acceptable by a society is disturbing. According to news reports, the government rarely follows up on the abuse cases that are reported to them. I'm grateful that this young girl has finally escaped from the hell she was in, but I can't help but think about the thousands of other Afghan women who are still suffering.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Cooking up some fun - 1/1/12

Like most New Year's Days past, today was a peaceful, quiet day spent at home with Rich and the kids.

If I had to describe what I did today, I'd say it was periods of intense productivity interrupted by periods of total laziness. Washed a bunch of dishes, then sat and surfed the 'net. Cleaned out and rinsed all of the old jars of sauce and expired stuff from the fridge, then took a nap. You get the idea.

I did some cooking, too, which included teaching my daughter Amy how to make one of her favorite meals, Pasta Fagioli. We made it from scratch, which first entailed a quick lesson on the differences between tomato puree, crushed tomatoes, and tomato paste.  I use all three when I make sauce, because they're made with different kinds of tomatoes, which offers layered flavors that enhance the finished product. I also schooled her on the finer points of "why we take the time to rinse the cannellini beans."  (Beans, beans, they're good for your heart; beans, beans...) The pasta fagioli turned out great, and gave her sense of accomplishment knowing that she can make it herself now.

I also made a lobster bisque soup, using the shrimp stock I'd made last week when I was cooking the shrimp cocktail for Christmas Eve.  The fish monger made a mistake and, instead of pre-cleaned shrimp, he gave me the ones with the peels still on. Instead of getting annoyed at all the extra work, I decided to save the shells and boil them up in the cooking water once the shrimp were done and cooling, which yielded about 6 cups of stock. I used Paula Deen's Creamy Shrimp Bisque recipe, but made a few small alterations. I didn't have any leftover shrimp, so I used chopped lobster tail, and I used lowfat half and half because that's what we had in the fridge. It seemed a little thin, so I mixed a few tablespoons of flour with cold water and added that to thicken it up. I also threw in a few sprinkles of paprika and dollop of tomato paste to get a nice, deep pink color.  It was delicious!

And now, I'm relaxing with the kids and watching "Star Trek IV: A New Hope."  I love this movie--saw it in the theater more than a dozen times back in 1977--and can't help but watch it whenever I come across it while channel surfing. I'm not surprised that the basic principles of "The Force" have given rise to an entire religion (The Church of the Jedi).  I didn't recognize it when I first saw the movie 34 years ago--probably too busy gazing at Han Solo--but with time, I've come to appreciate the universal appeal of the movie's more spiritual aspects. The concept of one divine force that connects all of us, one that can be used for good or evil...that's a basic principle that you'll find in every religion.

In case you haven't noticed, I've decided to experiment with using this blog as something of a journal. It goes along with that whole "2012 to-do" list item about wanting to write more. I'm not deluded or conceited enough to believe that the goings-on of my everyday life will be of interest to anyone but me, but this blog seems as good a place as any to jot them down.

Looking ahead in 2012

I've never been a fan of New Year's Resolutions. While it's admirable--and probably advisable--to periodically take stock of one's life and consider those things you'd like to change, I think people put way too much pressure on themselves come January 1st. They start the year full of hope and promise and excitement, and within a week or so when their resolve has left them, they end up disappointed in themselves, and feeling worse than they did before.

Using New Year's Resolutions as a vehicle for total transformation doesn't tend to pan out, in my experience. However, I do think there's value in mapping out goals for the coming year: a "to do" list always seems more manageable, especially when you have an entire year to accomplish it.

Here's my list of things I'm looking forward to this year. Some of them will be a challenge to achieve, others are already planned out and--barring any unforseen glitches--will surely happen, and others may not come to fruition at all. 

I'm ready to embark on the journey that will be 2012, and grateful for each new day that I'm given an opportunity to experience life, regardless of the outcome.

Goals for 2012 -- in no particular order

Work less
Write more
Find a vacation house in Florida
Travel to Alaska for the first time
Organize photos & computer files
Nurture the spiritual
Don't sweat the small stuff--particularly career-related angst
Brush up on my Spanish skills
Try 3 foods I've never had before
Count to 10 before reacting
End each day with a prayer of thanks