Mid-Week Tangent: Things I Learned this Holiday Season

Happy holidays, and here’s hoping you all enjoyed your version of a fabulous Christmas Day. Can one still say happy holidays post-Christmas? I sort of assume that the holiday season carries us safely through the new year, so I say yes. Regardless, as you bask in the remainder of the holiday glow, I hope to entertain you with tales of what I learned in during the 2018 holiday season. Rest assured, the list is not long. My goal is to get you back to either more holiday festivities, online Boxing Day shopping, or whatever you’re doing on this fine Wednesday, as soon as possible.

My Not-so-big List of 2018 Holiday Discoveries

1. Peppermint Bark Oreos are a thing, and they are delicious: Most flavoured Oreos, to me at least, sound like both ill-conceived ideas and utterly repulsive. On a whim, we picked up some peppermint bark Oreos expecting them to have minimal peppermint flavour but figuring that, at two bucks a pack, it was worth the risk. Colour me surprised. Not only do they have more peppermint flavour than I’d imagined (not a ton mind you, but more), but they have the extra bonus of the crunchy bits characteristic of actual peppermint bark. If you’re like me, you’re probably already over holiday sweets and overindulgences, but I urge you to buy a pack of these before they’re gone for the season. Oreos freeze well. Just sayin’.

2. Christmas novels are a genre of fiction, and they are horrifyingly bad: I suppose this is a blatantly bold over-generalization given that I have bought and read precisely one Christmas novel in my entire life, but if the one book that I bought was any indication of the overall genre, I can safely say that I have no desire to read another. I naively assumed that the books had to be better than the made-for-television movies based on the books, but I am no longer convinced this is true.

3. You can watch too many made-for-television Christmas movies: We really doubled down on the holiday movies this year, filling our entire PVR with upwards of 40 holiday “gems”. At first, and even though they were awful, we powered through them like champs and I genuinely thought that there would be no stopping us. But somewhere around the third week of heavy viewing it became harder, and then by the fourth week viewing dropped substantially and by the time Christmas rolled around, well, let’s just say there are about 25 movies still left on our PVR that we will surely never watch.

4. Hanson has TWO christmas albums…and both are better than you think: Look, I spent years being too cool for Hanson, but let’s all be honest, I couldn’t have written ‘MmmBop’ as a child and you probably couldn’t have either. And now that it’s not on the radio 24/7, I can actually admit that it was pretty damn catchy. Well, somewhere along the way this holiday season I discovered not one but two Hanson holiday album and I’m here to tell you that aside from a couple dud tracks (which virtually all albums have) they are pretty freakin’ festively fun.  The 1997 album is by far the better of the two, but even the one made just a couple years ago is better than most modern Christmas albums I’ve heard. Don’t let the season pass you by without streaming it.

With that, I leave you for the evening. May my discoveries spark your own, perhaps adding a little extra sparkle to what’s left of the holiday season.


Mid-Week Tangent: Halloween Candy Hierarchy

Happy Halloween from someone who celebrates Halloween in one way and one way only: by eating leftover Halloween candy. I have no interest in dressing up anymore, and can’t remember the last time I engaged in any other Halloween festivities. I’m not anti-Halloween, I’m just Halloween agnostic. Except when it comes to candy.

I can vividly recall sorting my loot bag as a child, being beyond joyful when I stumbled across any of my favourites, and crushed to depths of my soul when I had to discard what I deemed too sizeable a percentage of my stash because it was unacceptable candy. What’s unacceptable? I’m glad you asked. I have a fairly definite hierarchy of Halloween candy, one honed over years of extensive trick or treating and candy eating. It ranges from the insultingly unacceptable to the major score and is as follows:

Insultingly Unacceptable
–Tootsie Rolls
–Anything home-made (which probably doesn’t happen anymore, but used to in the 80s)
–Sweet-Tarts or any other coloured sugar chunks masquerading as candy
–Peanut Glosettes
–Lunch time snacks (granola bars, chewy fruit snacks, etc.). It is super uncool to repurpose your kid’s recess treats as Halloween treats.
–Super off-brand candy made to look like brand name candy
–Jolly Ranchers
–Fruit (This probably also doesn’t happen anymore, but I used to get apples, and they were always the mushy Red Delicious variety. Sigh.)

Barely Acceptable
–Raisin Glosettes (mildly more tolerable than their peanut counterparts)
–Tiny off-brand bags of chips (still better than no chips)
–Twizzlers (excluding Pull n’ Peel)
–Peanut m&m’s
–O Henry (seriously, who likes these?)
–Chewy Candies (fuzzy peach slices, swedish berries, etc.)
–Starburst (only because the red ones are good)

–m&m’s (excluding peanut m&m’s)
–Three Muskateers
–Impossibly tiny sacks of brand name chips
–Crispy Crunch

Major Score
–Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups
–Twizzlers Pull n’ Peel (I have a bizarre and almost obsessive love for this stuff)
–Full-Size chocolate bars of any kind (even if you don’t like the type of chocolate bar it’s still FULL SIZED!)
–Kit Kat
–Coffee Crisp

Happy Halloween! Hope you are left with all the best leftovers. I, for one, have already removed the Kit Kat and Coffee Crisps from our Halloween assortment…Don’t judge. They’re not good for the children anyway.

Mid-Week Tangent: return to The Fudgery

As you know, last week I was in Banff, and when one is in Banff, one must visit the Fudgery. I’m not one to break the rules, and so I visited. Not once, but twice.

I have written about the Fudgery before. It is a magical place full not only of fudge but of all sorts of other chocolate confections. I told myself I was going to show restraint this year. After all, we had four days in Banff and given my usual tendencies of eating a full half pound of fudge all at once and still wanting more the next day, I feared our four-day stay could result in my eating a whopping two pounds of fudge. Even daily hiking wouldn’t undo the damage of that kind of sugar binge.   Anyway, I’m extraordinarily proud of myself for only purchasing two half pounds of fudge, and one chocolate snail this time around. Most impressively, though, it took me almost an entire week to eat it all. That is growth.

Alas, today I am here to review not one, not two, but three candy confections from The Fudgery. Hold onto your hats, there’s a sugar rush coming your way!

First up, the Oreo Fudge: This is a classic I’ve had many times. Many will turn up their noses at vanilla fudge, but it’s a brilliant base for Oreos.  Putting Oreos in chocolate fudge would overpower them. The vanilla fudge base, on the other hand, lets the Oreos shine, and there are a lot of Oreos jammed in that fudge.  Sure, it’s ridiculously sweet, but I learned on this trip that if you eat only small portions at a time, it avoids crossing the line into the nauseatingly saccharine range and stays firmly planted in heavenly delicious range. Try it and you won’t regret it.

Next up:  the Milk Chocolate Snail: This was a new revelation in confection for me. Imagine a base of toasted pecans held together by an ultra thick layer of caramel, then heavy-handedly smothered in milk chocolate. I suppose it is similar to a Turtle in concept, but I assure you it tasted a million times better, particularly after walking close to 20 km.  Get it.

Last but not least: the Maple Caramel Fudge: I am 95% certain this is a brand new flavour (or at least new since my last visit), and also 100% certain that I am forever grateful to my partner’s keen eye for spotting it amongst the masses of other flavours. This fudge will change your life. It combines two flavours that you might assume are too bold to be together, but it works. Big time. The fudge itself is maple fudge, which on its own is one of my personal faves, but then turns it up a notch with insanely large pockets of soft yet chewy caramel. It’s like two desserts in one, which is pretty much the gold standard of desserts. By my calculations, this fudge is worth a five hour drive in and of itself (I say that because I would hands down drive the five hours from my house to The Fudgery right this very second). It’s that good.

Ugh, now I’m missing Banff even more.

Monday Musings: always turn the light on

Easter 2018 won’t go down in history as my first in Vernon or even as the year that, as a 38 year old no less, I insisted that my partner plan an Easter hunt for me because my parents (who usually stage me a hunt) declined our invitation to join us.  It won’t even be known as the year that my partner knocked the Easter hunt out of the park by leaving a trail of chocolate eggs from our bedroom door, all the way down the hallway, and down the stairs into our living room. It should be, but it is not.

Instead, Easter 2018 will go down in history as the year I broke my toe. Because I was too lazy to flip on a light switch.

I will  spare you a picture because no one needs to see pictures of feet on the internet and also, if I’m being honest, it’s not even the horribly bruised and impossibly crooked kind of broken toe. It’s just slightly swollen and with the faintest of purple hues developing around its tip. In other words, it’s not even an impressive broken toe.

Although, as my partner pointed out, it is sort of impressive that I managed to break the toe next to my pinky toe without at all harming the actual pinky toe. It’s somewhat implausible, and yet there it is. But that’s a bit of an aside, my point was that it’s really an unimpressive break. I can still walk* pretty much normally.  I don’t have to suffer the humiliation of some sort of weird air cast. I don’t even have to hide my foot in shame. Totally unimpressive.

Still, it is my broken toe and I’m presenting it to you as a cautionary tale. Next time you ask yourself “should I turn on the light before walking down the staircase?”, do not respond to yourself with a slightly offended “um, NO, I can walk down the stairs in the dark without hurting myself, thankyouverymuch.” You cannot. I cannot. I have the broken toe to prove it. Turn on the light. Just do it. If you turn on the light, you will not ram your foot into the corner of the staircase wall with roughly the same force as a professional football player winding up to kick a field goal.

So turn on the damn light. Save your toes. It is almost flip flop season, after all.


*I cannot, however, run, which, to once again be honest, I’m not at all upset about. 

Mid-Week Tangent: in which we visit the roadside fudgery

North American highways are a treasure trove of the random and wonderful.  Washington State, for instance, is the land of the roadside, drive-thru coffee stand. Maybe this is something all of America has latched on to, but I can safely say it’s not something that Canadians have adopted and, therefore, it feels wonderfully odd to me.

But the oddities don’t stop at coffee kiosks, not even the one that’s a mini replica of a windmill.  On our most recent trip to Leavenworth we also encountered the reptile zoo, which boasts not only an albino alligator but a two-headed turtle (!!!) and “the most extensive collection of reptiles in the pacific northwest.” I’d like to say we checked it out,  but I scoffed at the entrance fee so I cannot confirm if it is, in fact, a gold mine of reptilian life forms.

Then there was the knife sharpening shop mid-way between Monroe, Washington and Leavenworth, tucked cozily into a brief break in the rock faces lining Highway 2.  I wonder who its patrons are, who might desperately need to sharpen a knife as they are barreling down the highway towards or away from a Bavarian mountain village. There is no other civilization around this shop and it occurs to me the proprietor may have just thought “I sharpen knives and I suppose this is as good a place  as any to do it.”

But clearly the biggest treasure we found on our highway journey, the reason for this very post, was the roadside fudgery.  Similar to the knife sharpener, this little fudgery’s location defies the norms of society, which would imply that one is not likely to go for a drive down the highway nor to pull off the highway just for fudge.  It is tucked into a highway pullout far enough outside of Leavenworth that its faint Bavarian stylings don’t quite make sense unless you’re familiar with the area. Its exterior and locale, however, are not the only perplexing elements of this roadside stop.

Inside, one discovers that fudge is just one of this shop’s offerings. There is a surprisingly robust assortment of hot sauces, horseradishes and mustards, many of which you can sample, because who doesn’t want to try before they buy when it comes to condiments?  Never mind that the mix of products is overwhelming and illogical. Hot sauce and mustard, chocolate, taffy, dressings, sauces, salsas, and, yes, even my beloved fudge. This is the joy of the roadside fudge stand. It doesn’t have to make sense. You pull over expecting fudge and you get so much more.

And let’s talk fudge, because that is obviously the reason for my pulling over.  I have no time for hot sauces and horseradish, although my boyfriend and my friend’s husband were excited enough to purchase some. I wanted the good stuff. I was promised fudge and there would be fudge. I was impressed with the selection of fudges, the number of which rivaled those  found in my number one favourite fudgery in Banff.  With so many to choose from, naturally it took me a solid five minutes to make my choices (butterfinger and vanilla praline chew*, if you must know).

And here is where my love for this little roadside fudgery grows even stronger. Because in making my selections and attempting to order, I encountered classic roadside point of interest service: a carefully crafted mix of indifference, mild disdain or perhaps merely an utter disinterest in those stopping by. The two clerks carried on their own conversation for a full two minutes before pausing to serve me fudge, the kind of conversation that has deep undertones of annoyance and bitterness about whomever they were discussing. Clearly someone had done them wrong.

Regardless of their backstory, I stood there unsupported and desperately wanting my fudge. It occurred to me that this is what the roadside fudgery, or any roadside attraction for that matter, is all about. These clerks know that we are a solid 15 minutes of driving from any other form of fudge. They have us. They also know that someone who stops on the highway for fudge is probably so deeply passionate about fudge that she is the type of person who cannot wait another 15 minutes even if it means putting up with shitty service (and, in my case, they are right).

They are successful because there will always be travelers lured in by the lone roadside attraction that is both strangely out of place yet perfectly positioned all at the same time. They know that within a certain percentage of the population there are some who desperately crave those places that defy all logic, that fulfill our need to find a hidden gem, that satisfy our desire to experience a little bit of the bizarre as we cruise down the highway. Thank you The Alps Candy, for filling that void on a lonely stretch of Highway 2.


*For those actually curious about the fudge itself, is was pretty good.  The vanilla praline chew was the clear winner of the two I tried, but both were fairly tasty, though not quite up to par with my Banff fudgery. I also purchased a small bag of assorted taffy which I wouldn’t recommend unless you are looking to extract some of your molars.




Mid-Week Tangent: when you make the mistake of Googling “best new valentine’s chocolates 2018”

I should know better. I should know that the world is full of products that I will never be able to fully wrap my head around.  But sometimes I just can’t resist the temptation of typing a stream of words into Google, clicking search and falling down the rabbit hole.

This all started when I realized that it is only one week until Valentine’s day and I have yet to check out, purchase or consume any of the plethora of Valentine’s day confections out there in supermarkets these days. Alas, that had to change. I mean, what new confections might I be missing out on because I’d been too lazy to do my homework?

This is how I ended up Googling “best new Valentine’s chocolates 2018”, and that is how I came to view the entire 19 pages of Valentine’s Candy & Treats on Target’s website (sidenote: kudos to Target for so conveniently creating a sub-page exclusively for  Valentine’s treats).  I know, I know, this is mainstream grocery store chocolate, but that’s precisely what I was looking for. I want to know what Reese’s, what Dove, what M&Ms are doing to make Valentine’s special, not what some boutique chocolatier in idyllic New Hampshire countryside has churned out for the ungodly price of $75 per box.

Lucky for you, I’m about to share the most perplexing and odd of the Valentine’s candy assortment in a feature I’d like to call:

Why does this exist? 

First up, we have hot and spicy cinnamon Oreos, which I’ve pre-emptively (i.e. without having tried them) deemed repulsive based on the following:
–Cinnamon hearts are an abomination
–Flavoured Oreos never taste remotely like the flavour they presume to be
–Cinnamon hearts are an abomination (this is not a copy and paste error, it simply bears repeating)
I think we can all also agree (again, without having tried these) that there is no way in hell that they are actually hot and spicy. Moving on.

Not everything should taste like red velvet. In fact, in my opinion nothing should taste like red velvet because red velvet tastes like food coloring and, unless you’re five, that shouldn’t be appealing to you.  The flavour aside, I’m struggling to understand the tie in between kittens, Valentine’s Day, and red velvet. Kit Kat fail.

The only thing worse than cotton candy at an amusement park is cotton candy that has been trapped in a tub on store shelves likely for years because no one buys cotton candy at the grocery store.  Much like the kittens with the Kit Kat, I also don’t understand the connection between cotton candy, unicorns and Valentine’s Day, but my bigger beef is the gall of claiming it’s blue raspberry flavour. We all know that cotton candy has only one flavour: sugar. However, I do applaud the ‘wild about u’ for being gutsy enough to not even spell out the word ‘you’.

I have so many questions about this one. Are these gumballs the size of actual tennis balls? If so, are they appropriately labelled as a choking hazard? When you pop the cap open, will the canister smell like real tennis balls? Would the gumballs taste like that smell? Aside from being a game with two players, and a game which includes the scoring term ‘love’, is there anything else inherently romantic about tennis? What would the person you love think if you brought home “Love, Love Tennis Gumballs” as a representation of your undying commitment to him or her? Sadly, I will never learn the answers to these questions.

Is the Valentine’s Day chocolate equivalent to the singing Bass? I appreciate the “you’re a keeper” pun immensely, but I am not entirely sure what it says to give the one you love a chocolate fish, especially when we all know that fish is made of some seriously sub-par, off-brand chocolate. Please, I beg of you, do not give your loved one a chocolate fish even if you love puns (I’m including this last note in case my boyfriend actually reads this because he loves puns and I’d be liable to end up with one of these bad boys).

This is either chewbacca or Harry from Harry and the Hendersons. Wearing a bowtie/shirt collar combo that has no shirt attached. With a rose in his teeth. And a furry exterior. Ready to bear his soul and offer you…original beef jerky. I honestly can’t say which of these disparate facts I love the most. Unlike the pseudo-chocolate fish above, I think I’d actually like to receive this for Valentine’s Day, though I surely wouldn’t touch the beef jerky inside it with a ten foot pole. I would, however, keep the box for posterity, proudly displayed in a high traffic area of my home as a surefire conversation starter.

Did you have any clue that such wondrous Valentine’s confections were at your fingertips?  I feel as though I’ve just added so much to your lives. Now get out there, because you only have 7 days to stock up on these goodies before they’re replaced by all that Easter’s candies have to offer.

Mid-Week Tangent: where oh where have the advent calendars gone?

I made a very grave mistake this year, one that I am reminded of each and every morning when I wake up, knowing a new day is upon me and also knowing that I cannot rejoice in the new day arriving by opening a tiny cardboard window. This year I have failed to procure my Christmas advent calendar.  The only excuse I have is my cheapness, and it has haunted me for the last five days.

Let’s backtrack here. Last year, my boyfriend and I made what we thought was an amazing discovery: once December 1st struck, the advent calendars went on sale. And I’m talking about some steep discounts. We got our primo Lindt advent calendars for just 7.99, a good 30% less than the pre-December price. We thought it was the ultimate score.

Flash forward to this year. We’ve been brazenly walking past the advent calendars for weeks, confident in our ability to secure post-December-first calendars at a fraction of the cost. I’d even scoped out the Lindt advent calendar pattern that I really wanted, so supremely certain that it would be there for me this past weekend.  It never even occurred to me that last year’s experience may have been an anomaly.

On Sunday, while running errands, we looked  at our local Save-On Foods. Nothing. I wasn’t too stressed. We had lots of other options. Then we went to No Frills. Then Shoppers Drug Mart.  No calendars.  By this point, I was beginning to get worried. I tried to convince myself that it’s just because No Frills is a bit dodgy. I mean, they probably never had Lindt calendars in the first place. And the Shoppers Drug Mart by our place is rather tiny and has the most pitiful of Christmas sections. Surely those were the issues, and once we visited bigger and better stores we’d be rewarded for our savings mindedness.

Now, two days later, I’m no longer sure that’s the case. Today, we collectively searched six more stores, many of which were large stores in the city centre. There were still no advent calendars to be found!!!!! My boyfriend found some of the crappy advent calendars, you know the ones, the ones with confections that bear only a slight resemblance to actual chocolate. I ain’t got time for those.  My search was even less fruitful, though. I visited stores that didn’t even have the cheap advent calendars. Sure, I would have snubbed them even if they had been there, but it begged the question: where oh where have all the advent calendars gone????

I do not know the answer to this question. I have hypothesized that it’s because we live in the city now, and perhaps the excessive stocking of advent calendars only occurs in the suburbs where there are more families. After all, I’m not sure that the primary market for chocolate advent calendars is childless adults in their late thirties. Or, as an alternative, perhaps the retail machine has finally learned to order appropriate volumes of goods. Maybe last year’s scores were due to retailers over-estimating demand and we just lucked out. Perhaps, though, the reason is a lot simpler. Maybe it’s just the universe’s way of telling me not to be so bloody cheap. After all, can you put a price on tiny balls of Lindt chocolate for 24 consecutive days? The answer to that question is a resounding no.

I have learned my lesson now, although perhaps a little too late. Next year, I promise you I won’t tempt the advent calendar gods. Next year, I will fork over the full price without any hesitation.  Next year I will wake up every morning in December with the excitement that only comes from knowing that chocolate is in your immediate future.* There truly is no greater excitement.

*If you live in Vancouver and know where I can find full price or discounted Lindt advent calendars, please save me from my crippling regret and tell me where to go.