Sunday, November 4, 2018

Vote Smart

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Proof Positive That My Stonewashed Jeans Are Legit

This was a first for me: while putting on a new pair of stonewashed jeans (KUT From The Kloth brand) I actually found a stone in one of the pockets.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Review: Mickey Mouse Oreo Cookies

 On November 18, 2018, Walt Disney's iconic character, Mickey Mouse, turns 90 years old!  As the average life expectancy for a domestic mouse is only 1 to 2 years, this is truly a momentous occasion, and one that the folks at Nabisco decided to commemorate with yet another Limited Edition flavor. 

These are fairly straightforward: party-themed chocolate sandwich cookies with white Birthday Cake creme filling that includes rainbow flecks, reminiscent of sprinkles.  I found these today at my local Foodtown, for under $5 a package.

So, how are they?

Well, on the plus side, they're exactly as described: the filling tastes just like the vanilla frosting you'd find on a store-bought birthday cake, and the chocolate sandwich cookie is the typical Oreo flavor and texture that you've come to know and love.

The flip side to that, of course, is that you can easily re-create the flavor profile for this cookie on your own, simply by buying a box of chocolate cookies and a tub of white or vanilla frosting (Funfetti or Rainbow Chip, if you'd like to duplicate the rainbow flecks) and dipping them yourself.

Overall, I'll give these an A-.   They get high marks for keeping it simple and living up to exactly what they promise in terms of flavor, but I'm dinging them with a minus because they're a little TOO simple/one-note. Let's face it, this wasn't a very difficult thing to re-create, flavor-wise, and the price is a bit steep just to see Mickey's face on a cookie.

If you're a "dunker", I would highly recommend dipping these in milk, because that would elevate these to an A+.

If you're a big Disney fan, you should definitely seek these out and give them a try.

To read my other Oreo cookies reviews, follow THIS LINK for a full list.

And, because I'm a proud "grandma" to a sweet little guy named Remy, here's a gratuitous photo of my "grandmouse". 

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Review: Good Humor Strawberry Shortcake Oreos -- a rare A+ rating!

 For those of you who follow the blog regularly, you know that taste-testing the latest "Limited Edition" Oreo flavors have become a thing for me. I don't even have that big of a sweet tooth, but somehow, I got hooked on trying out these new combos and reporting back to my friends about them. 

Today, I tried the latest flavor: Good Humor Strawberry Shortcake Oreos.  I was looking forward to tasting these, because the Good Humor Strawberry Shortcake Ice Cream Bar, upon which these are based, is one of my all-time favorites.  These cookies had a high bar set for them, and I didn't think they'd quite be able to measure up.

I was wrong.  These cookies are AMAZING.

As far as the flavor profile goes, they absolutely NAILED it--these taste just like the crunchy coating on the much-beloved Strawberry Shortcake ice cream bars.  And, the little strawberry-flavored bits embedded in the sandwich cookies themselves add a satisfying pop of flavor and texture that ties it all together.  This shouldn't be surprising, since the ice cream bars are made with artificial flavoring, which is easy to duplicate. Normally I care about that kind of thing, and find the fake-sugar flavors cloying and overly-sweet.

Not this time, though. One bite of these cookies, and it's just like you're eating the crunchy strawberry and cookie coating off of the Good Humor ice cream bar.  Decadent but delicious!

If I had to find something to criticize, it would be the color of the creme center: it is a disturbingly bright pink--we're talking the EXACT shade of Pepto-Bismol, the "upset stomach and diarrhea" medicine.  Nevertheless, the flavors more than make up for the unfortunately color comparison.

These cookies are dangerously good. From a nutrition standpoint, they're actually worse than the ice cream itself: two cookies are 150 calories, with 13g of sugar, while the Good Humor ice cream bar is also 150 calories, contains only 10g of sugar, and is more satisfying from a snack perspective.  However, you can't keep an ice cream bar in your purse or pack it in your child's lunchbox, so these cookies do provide an acceptable stand-in.

I give Good Humor Strawberry Shortcake Oreos the super-rare, coveted rating of an A+.

Buy them while you can.  Yes, they're THAT good.

I found them at my local supermarket (Wegman's), but here's a link to Amazon if you want to order them online. 

**If you're looking for my other Oreo Cookie reviews, I've compiled links in one handy post, which you'll find here: https://yaktalk.blogspot.com/2018/05/oreo-cookie-reviews-handy-reference.html

Sunday, August 26, 2018

RECIPE: Homemade Lemon Sorbet

Last week, I got a jump on my annual batch of Homemade Limoncello, a favorite libation (and a great gift to share with friends) for the holiday season.

The only drawback: the Limoncello recipe I use (CLICK HERE TO READ MY PREVIOUS POST ON HOW TO MAKE IT) calls of the zest of 20 lemons, which ends up leaving you with several cups of lemon juice.

Unfortunately, unless you're making lemonade, most lemon-infused recipes don't use more than a few tablespoons of fresh juice.  Yes, you can freeze the juice in ice cube trays, but it would probably take me years to get through it all if I only use it a cube-sized portion at a time.

The solution: Lemon Sorbet! I found a recipe that uses 2 full cups of juice per batch.  It also calls for a tablespoon or two of lemon zest, so I did end up using one extra lemon in order to get some zest for the sorbet. (Honestly--I think you can skip the zest if you want to.)

The recipe turned out great--very lemony, but not too tart, and not too sugary.  I used my trusty old (and when I say old, I mean it--the instruction manual is dated 1994) ice cream maker, and after 30 minutes, I had soft sorbet, ready to go into containers.  It takes several hours to freeze to sorbet consistency, but if you want to treat yourself to some Frozen Lemonade, you can get a big straw and drink it right out of the ice cream machine (or better yet--pour a shot of limoncello over it for a frosty adult beverage).

I ended up making 2 full batches of Lemon Sorbet, with about a cup or so of juice leftover that I will freeze for later use.  (I'm thinking the frozen lemon juice cubes will be perfect to add to hot tea with honey on cold winter days.)

Here's a link to Kitchn, the site where I found the recipe, which I've also printed below:

Ingredients
  • 1 3/4 cups water
  • cups sugar
  • cups freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons freshly grated lemon zest

In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the water and sugar, and boil until the sugar dissolves, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Stir in the lemon juice and lemon zest, then pour into the bowl of an ice cream maker. Churn according to manufacturer instructions (mine took about 30 minutes). Transfer to a storage container, cover tightly and freeze until ready to serve.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Love Never Ends


Bittersweet day today--it's College Move-In Day for my youngest daughter. Letting go is never easy, but I'm so excited for this new chapter in her life.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Friday, August 3, 2018

In Search of: State Fair Oreos

State Fair Oreos...I must find these! 


They're available exclusively at Walmart, but thus far, I haven't had any luck in finding them. As soon as I do, I'll try them out and post a review

Read more about this new flavor on People.com.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Review: Rocky Road Trip Oreos

Once again, I was caught off-guard at the supermarket when I came across a new Limited Edition Oreo flavor that I wasn't even aware was coming: Rocky Road Trip Oreos.

I immediately got a good feeling about this one. (Spoiler: Yup. They're really good!)

Since my daughter is coming home for a visit this weekend, I went ahead and bought two packages, and it's a good thing I did: the first one is almost completely empty already!  

Confession time: I still have multiple packages of Limited Edition Oreos in the house from past taste tests, because I'm not actually big on sweets when it comes to snacking. I rarely eat more than 2 of them per taste test. If I do indulge in junk food, it's usually of the salty variety, so for these cookies to disappear this quickly, you know they're something special.

Right from the start, I could see that this cookie, in particular, has a lot going on: there are marshmallow flecks embedded into the chocolate Oreo sandwich cookies, and the chocolate rocky road flavored filling is infused with "Soy Nut Inclusions."

I have no clue what that is, but I tell you what--they're dang tasty.

As soon as you open the package, you get the aroma of marshmallow--oooh, that's a nice start.

The flavor profile is, not surprisingly, very chocolate-forward, but there's a great balance between the fudgy chocolate center and the chocolate cookie itself.  The soy nuts give the filling a nice crunch, and every so often, you get a a little extra chewy bit from the marshmallows embedded in the cookie.   

So much to pay attention to as you're eating them, that you need to have at least 3 to fully experience all of the components.  I'm not even that big of a chocolate cookie fan, and I'm calling this one a home run.

Final grade: A

Seriously, go out and get yourself a couple of packages of these. Here's an Amazon link, but as usual, you're going to pay a premium there, so if you can find them in your supermarket, that's the way to go.

To see ALL of my Oreo Cookie reviews, click HERE to see my Handy Reference Guide with links to all of them.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Fruit Fly Invasion: This is war! (a.k.a. Getting Rid of Fruit Flies FAST)

Ah, summertime!  Sunny skies, warm breezes, and plenty of fresh fruit in season!!

But with all of this wonderful fresh fruit comes that annual dreaded nemesis: fruit flies.

Fruit looks so pretty set out in a basket on the counter
--unfortunately, fruit flies think so, too. Don't do it!
It doesn't take long for these nasty little buggers to move in and take over--they hitchhike along with the fruit you buy at the store, and once they start breeding, they reproduce at an incredible rate.  I've read that fruit flies can lay up to 500 eggs, which mature and hatch in about a week, and less than a week after that, they're buzzing around your house, landing in your wine glass, and being generally annoying as heck. Adult fruit flies can live for up to 50 days, so once you start seeing them, you've got to take action, and keep it up for awhile to fully eradicate them.

This is a familiar scenario for us at this point--even if we're careful to wash our fruit, it's inevitably the darn bananas that bring them in. (Sometimes, it's those fresh basil plants or succulents, too.)

I've seen others post "humane" traps that allow you to trap the flies and set them free, but I'm telling you right now--you'll never be able to catch and release them all, so unless you can figure out a way to make the little pests pay rent, I would advise the tried-and-true method we use: Apple Cider Vinegar Traps-of-Doom.

After only 7 hours--ugh!
They way they work is simple: pour some apple cider vinegar into a wine glass, mason jar, or even a small plastic cup, add a couple of drops of dishwashing liquid to break up the surface tension on the vinegar so that the flies can't just skim the surface, and set the glass out wherever you've spotted fruit flies.  The flies are attracted to the scent of the cider vinegar, fly down into the glass, get too close to the surface of the liquid, and drown.  The deeper the glass, the better--fruit flies may be excellent hitchhikers and prolific breeders, but they're not exactly Mensa candidates. Once they fly into a tall glass (I find that wine glasses work the best) they have trouble figuring out which way is up and which way is down, and get stuck inside, eventually finding their way to a vinegary demise.

This is a trap that I left
out overnight--horrifying!

If you do some searching on these types of DIY traps, you'll see others who recommend putting plastic wrap on top with holes punched in it for the flies to crawl through, or methods that involve sticking a paper coffee filter into the jar.  These steps are unnecessary--just set out the trap I've described above, and you're all set.

In addition to setting the traps, you'll want to do the following to avoid the flies from coming back:

-- Remove all fruit from your kitchen for a couple of weeks--wash any fruit you bring home immediately, and put it in the refrigerator.

-- For bananas or other items you'd rather not refrigerate, like tomatoes or onions, put them in labeled paper bags to keep the fruit flies from laying eggs on them.

-- Empty your garbage out every night--given the absence of overripe fruit, they'll go for anything with a strong odor.

-- If you have a food waste disposal system hooked up to your sink, make sure you grind up everything right away and rinse the drain the thoroughly to avoid any residue that will attract flies. If you spot flies coming and going from your drains, you can pour a couple of quarts of boiling water down there to help flush them out (I've heard boiling white vinegar works well, but that sounds like it would stink up your kitchen.  If you decide to go that route, sprinkle a little baking soda down the drain first--it will react with the vinegar and bubble up, helping to clear your drain of any debris.) 

-- Keep surfaces dry and clean, including sponges, dish towels, and the drainage tray in your kitchen. Fruit flies will seek out any damp surface they can find, so once you've taken away their fruit, they'll look to lay their eggs elsewhere. Which reminds me of one last tip....

-- Set traps in other rooms, especially high-moisture areas like bathrooms and laundry rooms. Fruit flies aren't going to respect room boundaries, and will migrate to other areas in your home, especially areas where you have sinks or water.  Even damp towels left in a hamper can spell trouble.

Follow these steps and you should notice a big improvement within a couple of days. Within 2 days, after following all of the tips above, we didn't see anymore fruit flies and were able to ditch all of the vinegar traps. (I honestly thought it would take at least a week, but was pleasantly surprised.)  If you've succeeded in cleaning all of the surfaces where the eggs were laid, and you don't keep fruit out for a few days, you should be in the clear.

Once you've kicked the fruit flies to the curb, treat yourself to a nice, fly-free glass of wine--just be sure to rinse it out before you go to bed, or you could end up having to start the whole process over again.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Trying StitchFix for the first time: so far, so good!

My eldest daughter text me some photos last week from what appeared to be a recent shopping excursion.  She was standing in front of a full length mirror, modeling a few different outfits. Every single one of them was trendy, stylish, and fit her perfectly.   I complimented her about it, and that's she told me: everything had been selected for her and mailed to her via StitchFix.

Back before I started using Adblocker on my browser, I used to see ads for that company on Facebook, but disregarded them because I didn't think they were worth it. I don't like the idea of getting stuck with automatic monthly shipments, and being "height challenged", shopping for clothes is usually not easy--I'm just barely too tall for petite-length clothes, and regular length is usually a bit too long.

Still...when she clued me in on the process, I was intrigued enough to give it a try.

You start by filling out a thorough profile on yourself, your likes and dislikes when it comes to clothing, style preferences (Dressy, Business Casual, Casual, etc.), and what types of items you'd like to receive (shoes, tops, jeans) and how often.  I was pleasantly surprised to see that you can schedule shipments at varying intervals: monthly for a regular "Fix," once every two months or once every three months to space them out more, or every 2-3 weeks if you want to build a wardrobe quickly.

My daughter sent me her referral code (so that she gets $25 if I place an order, and so will I, on a future order), and then my husband found an AmEx offer that will give me $25 back onto my credit card if I spend, $50 or more.  Okay...let's give it a go!

I downloaded the app and visited the website, where I filled out the questionnaire.  For once, I was completely honest about my height and weight, and didn't hold back when answering the questions about what parts of my body I'd like to highlight vs. what I'd like to de-emphasize.  I also took advantage of the opportunity to provide "additional comments" and told the stylist what types of necklines I prefer, what typically looks and feels right in terms of color and fit, and then hit "Send" and hoped for the best.

The website also has a "thumbs up, thumbs down" gallery that you scroll through, not unlike a dating app, and indicate which items you like or dislike.  Supposedly, this helps the stylist assigned to you to figure out what type of pieces to send.

After a few days of obsessively checking back on the website to give more ratings--I think that's my favorite part--I was informed that my stylist had chosen some items for me, and I would receive it within a week.  My credit card was charged a $20 styling fee, which would be credited towards my order if I decided to keep any of the items.  The shipment will include a pre-paid envelope so that I can return any items that I don't want.

*Note: if you do keep ALL 5 of the items, you're rewarded with a 25% discount on the entire order.  This makes a significant difference in the price, and if you're on the fence about one item, it could be less expensive to just keep it and donate it to a friend.

Styling Cards and Note from My Stylist
First bit of good news: the box wasn't expected to arrive until Saturday, but showed up on my doorstep by Wednesday (today).  When I opened the box there were 4 clothing items, and 1 accessory item (a necklace).  Although the necklace was pretty, I immediately regretted indicating that I'd "occasionally" be open to receiving things like jewelry and shoes, because what I really need are some basic wardrobe pieces, so I feel like I cheated myself out of a clothing item. (My daughter told me--after my shipment was already on its way--that she also decided not to receive accessories. Her logic is that you can find low-cost accessories pretty easily just about anywhere, and don't require the expertise of a stylist for those. I agree.)

Each piece came with a Stitch Fix styling card, with a photo of the item I received, along with a bunch of other suggested items you could pair with it (shoes, bags, tops, etc.)   Yet another reason I won't be asking them to include accessories in a future box--I can just pick them up my own, based on the card suggestions. There was also a message from the stylist (Ashley), explaining why she chose each item.

First impressions: the color palette of dark blues and black were definitely my style, and all 3 shirts coordinated well with the dark wash jeans.  But would they fit?

First clothing item:  Dark Wash Boyfriend Jeans, $88
The jeans fit pretty well, although the waistband hit a bit lower than what I'm used to.  I checked off the box that said I like my pants to hit "at the waist" rather than "low rise" or "high rise" but this pair leaned more towards the lower end.  Nevertheless, they zipped right up, with no gapping anywhere. The bottoms of the jeans were cuffed up, though, and hit at a weird length, so I ended up rolling them down and they were just about right (a tiny bit long, but after washing, I think they'll be spot on perfect).  I have never spent this much money on jeans before, and this was the most expensive piece of clothing in the box, but I have to admit--they're probably the nicest jeans I've ever owned.

Second clothing item: Floral V-Neck Top with Short-Sleeves
I loved the look of this right out of the box, and when I tried it on, it looked great.  It flowed nicely without being too billowy, and it consisted of two different fabrics: a cotton jersey for the back that made it feel like a t-shirt, and a more chiffon-like patterned fabric in the front that added ease and movement.  Very nice! It looked great with the jeans, and the fabric accent on the sleeves were an eye-catching touch. Although I had indicated that I don't like to "show off" my arms on the questionnaire, I did say in my note to the stylist that I like 3/4 sleeves or even short sleeves, I just wasn't a big fan of sleeveless shirts. She listened, and I'm glad.

Third clothing item and Jewelry item: Black long-sleeved tunic shirt, $54 and Gold & Silver tone necklace, $28
Another top with mixed fabric materials, in basic black, which I like to wear often. In fact, I didn't think I would want to keep this one because I already have something very similar in my closet, but once I tried it on, it won me over. It fit very well, like the first shirt, with just the right amount of looseness without looking matronly. It was also a nicer quality than the similar shirt I already own, so I'm going to ditch that one and keep this one.  I paired it with the necklace and it looked terrific.  I would not have bought this necklace for $28, but with the discount, and seeing it paired with the clothes, I do have to give credit to the stylist: it was a great choice.

Fourth clothing item: Button Down Blouse
The color on this was my favorite--a smoky dark blue with a cut that was flattering.  Two issues, though: the top button pulled slightly in the front, because of the bra I was wearing, and the fabric was a bit sheer.  I changed into a "lower profile" bra, but it was white instead of beige and showed through more than the first bra, so I also put on a cami underneath, and it was perfect.  Another keeper!


The Cost: $244 for all of the pieces that were sent to me. However, if I keep them all, I get 25% off (-$61). Since I already paid the $20 styling fee when the box shipped, the additional charge to my credit card will $163, but the Grand Total is $183 for the jeans, 3 shirts, and the necklace.

But wait--there's the AmEx offer, too. So, my final cost was actually $158 for 5 items.  That's a good deal, especially when you consider that everything I bought coordinates with one another, and with items I already own. And, since I used my daughter's referral code, we'll both be getting a $25 credit on our next order. Sweet!

Conclusion: my first Stitch Fix was definitely a win.  When I went to finalize my order online, I provided the stylist with detailed feedback (pretty much what I've said above), and changed my preferences on my Style Profile to exclude accessories going forward. I also sent a comment to the stylist that I have a "Date Night" coming up at the end of next month, and requested that she include an outfit that would be appropriate for that.

The website also recommends that you send the stylist links to an online bulletin board or social media account (like Pinterest or Instagram) where you save photos of clothes you like.  If I've learned anything thus far in the process, it's that the more information you provide, the better the experience so I went ahead and started up a private Pinterest board and sent the link to the stylist. I'm curious to see how next month's shipment works out, and if it is as successful as this one.

If you're interested in trying StitchFix and would like to use my referral code, click Here.  Good luck and let me know how it works out for you!

I'll report back on my second shipment at the end of August. From other reviews that I've seen online, the experience can vary greatly from person to person.  (On the StitchFix Facebook page, for example, it's either a 1-star awful review or a 5-star rave, with nothing in between. So far, I would rate it highly, but I'm going to give it a few months before I render a final verdict.)

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Great effort by Croatia in the World Cup

Well, they didn't pull out a win today, but we're proud of them nevertheless.


Saturday, July 7, 2018

Barry Manilow Sings A "Mandy" Duet..With Barry Manilow

My dear, long-suffering husband indulged my long-standing love for Barry Manilow by taking me to see his concert in Atlantic City tonight.  Barry sounded great, and always puts on a fun, entertaining show. 

I live-streamed a few of the songs, but this one was a stand-out: watch and see about halfway through, they put up video of Barry Manilow singing Mandy back in the 1970s, while modern-day Barry sings with him as a duet.  Loved it!


Thursday, May 31, 2018

Oreo Cookie Reviews: A Handy Reference Guide

My friend, Helen and her husband, Gavin, recently started a podcast, Common Language, where they discuss differences and similarities that exist in her American culture vs. his Scottish culture.


Their first episode tackled that age-old debate: Cookies or Biscuits?  (Definitely worth a listen, especially if you're interested in learning more about the types of cookies (or is it biscuits?) that are popular in Europe. 

During the course of the podcast, they mentioned my reviews of the limited edition Oreo flavors.  Helen subsequently asked me if I had links to the reviews that I've done so far.  Rather than just have her search around the blog, I decided to compile the list of all of the flavors I've tried up to this point.

Whoa: I've test-tasted more than two dozen different flavors since 2014.  I had no idea it was that many! 

Here's the list of flavors I've reviewed thus far, in reverse order.  I'll update the list each time I try out a new one:


LINKS TO LIMITED EDITION OREO COOKIE REVIEWS, as of September 26, 2018
Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie, May 2018

Kettle Korn, Cherry Cola, Piña Colada, April 2018

Peep Marshmallow, February 2018

Hot and Spicy Cinnamon and Chocolate Hazelnut, January, 2018

Peanut Butter & Jelly, November 2017

Hot Cocoa, November 2017

Cookie Butter, Mystery Flavor, October 2017

Apple Pie, August, 2017

Dunkin Donuts Mocha, July 2017

Jelly Donut, June, 2017

Waffles & Syrup, May 2017

Fireworks (with popping candy crème), May 2017

Chocolate Covered Strawberry, December 2016

Blueberry Pie, October 2016

Chocolate Chip, July 2016

Cupcake Filled, February 2016

Cinnamon Bun, January 2016

Toasted Coconut, November 2015

Marshmallow Krispy, July 2015

S'mores, May 2015

Reese's Peanut Butter Cup, March 2015

Red Velvet, February 2015

Root Beer Float, September 2014

Pumpkin Spice, September 2014

Review: Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie Oreos

It's gotten to the point where, the moment a new Limited Edition Oreo flavor is announced, I receive texts and get tagged in posts from friends who want to make sure I'm aware of the new addition, so that I can blog about it once the flavor is released. (Most recently, I was made aware of the upcoming "Mickey Mouse Birthday" Oreos, expected this Fall, featuring chocolate cookies and birthday cake flavored creme center. Sounds promising!)

So, it came as quite the surprise to stumble up on Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie Oreos at my local Acme supermarket this afternoon.  Unlike some of the "what were they thinking?" flavors they've rolled out in the past (I'm looking at you, Cherry Cola Oreos), this one seemed to make a lot of sense. I was excited to give them a try--but not before scolding my alleged "friends" on Facebook for failing to make me aware of them ahead of time. Slackers. ;)

As soon as you open the bag, the aroma of chocolate and peanut butter wafts out--a pleasant, promising start.

The cookie itself is said to be graham flavored, but its so subtle, that note gets lost in the overall cookie.  Sadly, the same can be said for the chocolate creme filling--even though most of the cookies I opened up looked as though there was a larger ratio of chocolate creme to peanut butter creme, the peanut butter flavor completely overwhelms the chocolate.

Overall, the Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie Oreo tastes pretty close to a round Nutter Butter Cookie. Although you can smell the chocolate aroma straight away, and you can certainly taste the chocolate if you eat just that side of the creme filling separately, the chocolate is barely perceptible when you bite into the whole cookie, and the peanut butter creme has that same artificial peanut taste that you get from the creme inside of a Nutter Butter. The difference is that genuine Nutter Butter cookies are made with real peanut butter (probably in the cookie part itself). Both products are made by Nabisco, and I'm betting it's the exact same filling for both.

So, the answer to the question, "Are they any good?" depends upon your threshold for artificial flavors.  If you enjoy the faux peanut creme flavor of Nutter Butters, you're probably going to love this. If you're more of a peanut butter purist, you might find them a little too cloying.

My recommendation to Nabisco/Mondelez would be to try releasing these with chocolate sandwich cookies, rather than graham flavored ones, to help balance out the flavor more...or just discontinue this Limited Edition altogether, and stick with those tried-and-true Nutter Butters.  Nevertheless, I give this effort a solid B--they're not bad, but they're not something I'd buy again.


Tuesday, May 22, 2018

This is Not the Bag You're Looking For - - Printable Luggage Tag!

Several years ago, I started using a homemade luggage tag to keep other travelers from grabbing my bag off of the carousel at baggage claim.  It's a photo of Alec Guinness as Jedi Master Obi-wan Kenobi, using the Force to get people to back off because "This is Not the Bag You're Looking For."

As I loaded up my luggage yesterday in Florida for the trip back home, I snapped a photo of the tag and posted it on Twitter, tagging Mark Hamill a.k.a. Luke Skywalker. 

When I finally opened Twitter again after a long day's travel, I had a bunch of notifications, because Mark Hamill "liked" the tweet, and a bunch of his followers (of which I am one, of course) ended up re-tweeting it.

The comments have been very positive, and several people said, "I'm going to do that!" so I decided to go ahead and upload a pdf template that you can print out and use.

Note: My tag is printed on plain paper, and laminated with a heat laminator (I used the 5ml thickness laminating sheet for durability--so far so good). My business card is on the flip side of the Obi-wan photo, but for the purposes of the pdf, I added blank lines where folks can write their name and contact info.  You can print it out and cut it horizontally, folding the lines back behind the photo, or trim it vertically if you just want the photo and caption. I used a hole punch after laminating to feed a ribbon through. The tag itself has held up quite nicely, but I do end up switching out the ribbon every few trips, because it starts to fray.

If you'd like to print your own version, here's a LINK to the free pdf file that you can download.  I'll just have to keep using a unique ribbon to tie it to my luggage, in case these start popping up at baggage claim from here on.

May the Force Be With You!

Friday, April 27, 2018

REVIEW: Three New Oreo Flavors: Kettle Korn, Cherry Cola and Piña Colada

Yes, this is actually a photo of
 the cookies in my shopping cart
Earlier this morning, a friend tagged me in a post about three new Oreo flavors that were being released: Kettle Korn, Cherry Cola, and Piña Colada.  Lo and behold, I found them just a few hours later at my local Wegman's supermarket.

It appears that Nabisco is copying the brilliant marketing strategy that Lay's Potato Chips has been employing, turning their Limited Edition flavors into a contest, where consumers vote for their favorite flavor.  (more info can be found on the Mondelez website) Voting begins on April 30th.

I've been on a healthy eating kick lately, avoiding sugar and processed foods, so I actually hesitated for half a second before putting these in my cart.  Who am I kidding? If there's a new flavor, I have to try it and report back. Rest assured, those of you who are thinking that I should be downing a kale smoothie instead of indulging in sandwich cookies, right after I finish posting this review, I'll be hitting the treadmill. So don't pester me--it only makes me want to eat another cookie when I'm done working out.

First up: Kettle Korn

Full disclosure: I love kettle korn popcorn. I wasn't introduced to it until my early 40s (I know! What the heck?) but it's my favorite type of popcorn, right up there with caramel corn. Some types of kettle korn are made with white sugar and salt, but others (the BEST kind, hello) are made with brown sugar, which give it a caramelized goodness that is highly addictive.

Well guess what? Kettle Korn Oreos taste just like brown-sugar coated Kettle Korn.  Which is to say: I think I have a new favorite Oreo flavor!

Yes, folks, they're that good.

LOOK AT THAT FILLING!


What's really interesting about these Oreos is that the crème filling has "puffed millet rice" pieces added to it. Hmmm....that's different! But in the best possible way.  It adds a layer of texture and crunch that is particularly satisfying if you're the type of Oreo lover who twists open the cookie, eats the filling first, and then the cookies. 
I think someone at Nabisco must be reading my reviews at this point, because the ratio of crème filling to cookie was outstanding--well done to whomever made that call. The crème is the star of the show, imparting a caramel flavor, with just a tiny hint of salted butter--just like real Kettle Korn.

I loved these, and give them an A+.  (Note: the link above will take you to Amazon, in case you have trouble finding these at your local store, but do NOT pay more than $4 for them. Some greedy seller had them up there for $17 a bag today--meanwhile, they were less than $3 a package in Wegman's. They're good, but let's not get crazy--they're just cookies.)


Next: Cherry Cola Oreos

I wasn't sure how to feel about these--while the concept is interesting, and I love the idea that they included "exploding candy" in the filling so that you get that "fizz" experience like with real soda--I've noticed that Oreo doesn't have a good track record when it comes to duplicating fruit flavors.

As soon as I opened the package, the smell of cola filled the air--they definitely nailed the scent that you get when you pour out a can of Coke. Okay, so far so good.

Once again, the crème filling to cookie ratio was substantial, and the fact that this is a chocolate sandwich cookie definitely appealed to the "purist" in me. (I have a friend who, every time I do one of these reviews, reminds me that none of these cookies are "Oreos" as far as he's concerned, because he's a traditional Oreo loyalist: white crème filling between two chocolate sandwich cookies are the only Oreos he will officially recognize as such.)

The downside to the filling: the color. oof, but that red is garish and scary looking when you first see it. There's no natural food that I'm aware of that is that particular shade of red. (I suppose I would call it "candy apple red"...and candy apples are made with artificial red dye.)

So, how did it taste?  I took a bite--and honestly, one bite was enough. Ugh.

My first reaction was that it tasted like I was eating a cherry-cola scented crayon. The flavor is just way too artificial and cloying. It's not even trying to mimic real cherry flavor, but rather, the fake cherry flavor you get in a Cherry Cola. I understand that's what they were going for, but there's a big difference between drinking cherry cola and eating a cookie with that same flavor profile. It's just too much--far less subtle and way too heavy-handed.  Blech.  I did sample the filling by itself, and....no.  Don't.

I would give these an F, based on flavor alone, but I'm going to up that to a D- because of the one saving grace: the popping candy in the crème filling. It adds a nice element of fun to an otherwise dreadful offering. This is one option that I'm happy to see is a "limited edition."  If you're a fan of the popping candy, just wait a few more months and get the Firework Oreos instead. These are nasty.

Last up: Piña Colada Oreo Thins

Okay, hang on a second--we need to talk about this "Thin" business.  Why? Who thought this was a good idea?  If I want to have a cookie, I'm having a cookie--not some lame wannabe cracker trying to disguise itself as a cookie.  I've never had an Oreo Thin, until now, and I can tell you I won't be buying them again anytime soon, just on principle.  Seriously, it's an abomination to call this thing a "cookie."  Stop it.

Nevertheless, I tried to keep an open mind, but then I opened the package and saw this:


Are you serious?

You practically need a microscope to see the filling. I am so underwhelmed and I haven't even tasted the darn thing yet.  The "sandwich cookies" (aka crackers that sit on a throne of lies) are so delicate, you have to be super-careful twisting them apart.  Who has time for that?

At this point, I promised myself I would have another Kettle Korn Oreo as a palate cleanser after this one--yes, I had to bribe myself to continue.  Sheesh.

Okay, so the only redeeming thing about these is that the filling has a nice, smooth consistency, more like icing than frosting.  They don't smell strongly of pineapple or coconut (BECAUSE THERE'S BARELY ANY FILLING #abomination) but the flavor is spot on Piña Colada--it's a balanced blend of both pineapple and coconut, at least, from what I could tell of the thimble-sized portion that was squashed between the vanilla crackers.

For overall flavor, I would rate this a B+, but from a snack satisfaction standpoint, I must downgrade that to D.

I'm sorry, but if you don't stand for something in this world, you stand for nothing.

This is not a cookie.


Final verdict: Stock up on the Kettle Korn cookies, skip the Cherry Cola ones, and write a strongly-worded letter to Nabisco about the difference between a cookie and a cracker.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Earth Day 2018

Well, this was a nice surprise!  I went to the supermarket to pick up a few things today, and the cashiers were handing out a free tree sapling to every customer at check out, in celebration of Earth Day.  This was especially meaningful this year, because we lost quite a few trees on our property after that last snowstorm a few weeks ago. We'll be planting some larger ones outside to replace the ones that came down, but in the meantime, this little guy is a nice reminder to appreciate the small, unexpected pleasures that come your way.

Monday, April 16, 2018

A Souvenir from a Friend

My political views have always skewed Independent--I firmly believe in voting for the person, not necessarily any particular party--but there will always be a special place in my heart for Al Gore.  I have been following his political career since 1987, during my college days, and my good friends know that I will forever be a fan of his. Meeting him in person remains a quixotic dream, but one that refuses to die, even after more than 30 years.

My friend Helen and her husband have been on a bit of a quest of their own: visiting all of the Presidential libraries around the United States. They've been to quite a few already, and most recently, stopped at the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock, Arkansas.  Helen found this little memento in the gift shop, and sent it to me as a thoughtful surprise.

Thank you, dear Helen, for this wonderful treasure.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

With Friends Like These...

Spotted at my local Hallmark store...I did not read this correctly the first time through, and wondered what the heck the designer was thinking, and why this was on display in a family store. 

Then I read it again.  THERAPISTS, not THE RAPISTS.  Oh.

Yikes.

Friday, April 6, 2018

When A Girl's Insecurities Go Viral

Yesterday morning, a friend posted a link to an article whose title intrigued me: You May Have Worn the Prom Dress, But I Get to Wear the Wedding Dress.  

Of course, I had to click through and read this anticipated train wreck. I was not disappointed.

What struck me most at first is the author's total lack of self-awareness, which resulted in my posting the following tweet:

Followed quickly by this (admittedly snarky) response:



Within a couple of hours, my tweets were included in Twitter Moments, and the notifications just exploded from there.  I thought, wow, so this what it's like to go viral?  Pretty cool.

But as I watched the number of Likes quickly climb into the thousands, racking up replies that were even snarkier and harsher than mine, I found myself feeling badly for the author of the original article. As a writer who has also had personal essays published, I have an appreciation for how scary it can be to put yourself out there and release your innermost thoughts to the world.  I've been a freelance writer for over 30 years, and there are still some things that I'm not ready to publish for public consumption, and probably never will.

I decided to dig a little deeper into what makes this girl tick.

The author, Victoria Higgins, is a young college student who has penned similarly earnest missives in the past, most notably: A Thank You to the Girls Who Didn't Love Him RightA Thank You to My Future In-Laws, For Giving Me My Person, and To Those Who Think I Am Too Young for Marriage (hey, thanks for the shout out).

Even just a cursory scan of Victoria's other essays revealed a painful level of insecurity beneath that "He's MINE MINE MINE and he's in good hands now!" bravado. As a mother of three daughters ranging in age from 17 to 23, I started to feel truly sorry for this girl, who is now experiencing the harsh side of baring your soul on the internet--a public flogging that I contributed to.

I began reading her other essays, searching for an explanation as to the root cause of her insecurities, and I found what I was looking for in this one: Why I Will Tell My Children to Wait Until Marriage.

In this essay, the author reveals that she was raised in the Bible Belt, and describes herself as "an avid church goer."  She talks about how abstinence has fallen out of vogue in our society, and the reasons why--now that she's met her one true love--it needs to make a comeback (bold type added by me):

Neither of us waited until marriage, and neither of us thought of each other. We didn't know each other until we started dating, but we didn't think of the one that we would one day marry. I never knew how someone's past could devastate me. I struggle daily with insecurities and comparisons to the girls he has been with. I don't want to, but I can't help it. I know that he feels the same way about my past. It causes distrust in a society where distrust is already easy enough to have. I never wanted to be that girl that compared myself to others, but it's hard not to think about the other girls and if they were better or if he still thinks about them.

Ugh.  I had a feeling we would end up at this place. Repressive attitudes towards sex are so damaging to both men and women, and this is a prime example. Sexual intimacy should not be rushed, and yes, it IS a big step in a relationship. But this girl has been taught that sex is SO special, such a unique and wonderful gift, that if you've squandered it on someone you don't end up spending the rest of your life with, you have done that love a horrible disservice.

Oh, please. Stop.

It reminds me of the Duggar Family, and the issues they've had with their eldest son, Josh. Despite the fact that his parents, Jim Bob and Michelle, held hands, kissed, and did Lord knows what else while they were dating, they decided to raise their 19 children with a bunch of "do as I say, not as I do" courtship rules. Their children have been subjected to chaperoned dates, no hand holding until they're engaged, and saving their first kiss for marriage. Josh Duggar even sang a "loyalty song" to his bride, Anna, on their wedding day in 2008. Just 7 years later, it was discovered that Josh had molested several underage girls when he was 14--including his own siblings--followed quickly by his confessions of infidelity and an addiction to pornography. Don't pass along those kinds of sexual hang-ups to your own children.  No good can come from that.

I'm not saying that sexual intimacy isn't special. Of course it is. But by over-emphasizing the significance of "saving it for that one perfect someone" you are creating the type of massive regret and insecurity that is seeping into nearly every essay this poor girl is writing.  Instead of just enjoying the relationship she and her fiance' have now, living in the present, and looking ahead to their future, she cannot help but think about all of the women that came before her--and she can't help wondering if HE is still thinking about them, too.

Here's the thing I would like to tell her, the advice that I give my own daughters about love and relationships: every single person you have ever met, loved, dated, and eventually left behind, has shaped who you are as a person.  If your fiance' truly loves you, just as you are, then he should be accepting of every ex-boyfriend, every unrequited crush, every guy you've ever had any kind of friendship with before he met you--not because they ended up hurting you or treating you in a way you didn't deserve, but because all of those interactions--the good and the bad--have made you the woman that he loves.

Victoria, you need to get to the same place.  You need to accept the fact that, in the past, there were other women who made "your man" happy--yes, TRULY happy.  It wasn't that they "didn't love him right." They did--and if you allow yourself to admit that, it doesn't make the relationship that you have with him now any less real and right. They made him happy, and now, you make him happy.  It's okay.  You don't need to "thank" them, but you also don't need to indulge in revisionist history, downgrading his past relationships the way a grocer marks down bruised produce.

Life is short, Victoria.  If you truly love someone, you would never begrudge them a single moment of joy, even if that moment came as a result of another woman's love, at a time when the two of you were not together.

Get over it, honey. Live in the present, and let the past go.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Silk-dyed Easter Eggs -- Easy, Impressive Results!


A few weeks ago, I saw a video posted on Facebook that demonstrated a method for dyeing Easter eggs that looked impossibly simple: wrapping eggs in colorful silk square, securing it with a twist tie, covering that with a cotton square, securing it again, and then putting the bundles into a pot of water with 1/4 cup of vinegar.  Bring to a boil, wait 20 minutes, then remove the wrapped-egg bundles to cool.  When you unwrap them, the patterns from the silk will have--allegedly--transferred to the eggs, creating beautiful patterns with minimal effort.


Here's a link to the video: https://ourbestbites.com/silk-dyed-eggs-aka-tie-dyed/



Impossible!  This has all the makings of an epic craft fail--but my daughters and I decided to give it a shot anyway.  The result: a resounding success!!

Although you can certainly track down silk material inexpensively at thrift stores (old ties and other silk clothing), I did a quick search on Etsy and found a store that sold the squares already cut, recycled from old saris. You can find the shop here: https://www.etsy.com/shop/RibbonsAndSilk?ref=l2-shopheader-name

The "how-to" couldn't be simpler: you wrap raw eggs in squares of pure silk fabric, securing them at the top with a twist tie or rubber band. Try to allow the fabric to lay as flat as possible against the egg, to transfer as much of the pattern as possible. Then wrap the silk bundles in plain cotton squares, securing with another rubber band (I cut up an old bed sheet for this purpose).

Once all the bundles are wrapped, immerse them in cold water in a large stockpot, and add 1/4 cup of vinegar.  Bring to a boil, and allow to boil for 20 minutes.  Then, remove from the water to cool and drain, then unwrap the bundles to reveal the patterns.

I cannot believe how great these turned out--super easy, gorgeous eggs with minimal effort. We'll definitely be making these every year!