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.


Mid-Week Tangent: my sugar addiction knows no bounds

Alternatively, this post could be titled: “what you do in New York when you are travelling alone for a conference,  you don’t like to dine out alone and you are over the party scene” or, perhaps more aptly, “the day I walked 17 km for baked goods.”

I’m in New York for a conference the better part of this week. This is my fifth trip to the city, but notably different in that I’m travelling alone and am also, let’s face it, an old lady on the inside. I have no interest in the night life. The only night life I want is a full night’s uninterrupted sleep. I have no interest in shopping. I want no mortgage more than I want new clothes and shoes. I still refuse to dine alone in a legit, sit down restaurant. Call me insecure. You would be right.

And so, yesterday I did the next best thing to living the NYC wild life: I walked 150 city blocks in search of New York’s finest treats and baking. I walked twenty blocks in one direction for a cookie, then walked twenty blocks back to my hotel. Then, as if that weren’t lunacy enough, I walked FIFTY  FIVE city blocks to check out some fancy cupcakes. The sane thing at that point would have been to take the subway back to my hotel, but I’ve never been one to do the sane thing. So of course I walked.

This walking spree doesn’t even take into account the 10 blocks I walked at lunch in search of a bakery I never found and the other 10 blocks I walked to get dinner. That’s a lot of walking, 17 km to be exact. For a cookie. And some cupcakes. I kid you not.*

So yes you got that right. I came to NYC and didn’t buy a single item of clothing, didn’t sip a single cocktail (!!!) and didn’t dine at any of its hottest spots. But I did walk 17km in one day solely for baked goods, and I think that’s a pretty fine accomplishment.

*If you’re wondering and/or a sugar addict like me, yes I will be writing a whole post about the assortment of treats I’ve tracked down and consumed on this trip.

Mid-Week Tangent: An Ode to the Cadbury Creme Egg

I am essentially five years old when it comes to holidays and special events. I expect stockings at Christmas. I want a whole birthday week, not just one lone birthday. I want to eat my weight in bite-sized candy bars at Halloween. And damn it, when Easter rolls around, I want my Easter candy hunt. It’s not quite the same if the candy is just handed to me in a basket (though, of course, I’ll still gladly accept it).

Easter is truly one of my favourite candy holidays. I have many, many Easter candies that I love with all my heart, but there is one Easter treat that surpasses all others, that holds a special, nostalgic place in my heart, without which the Easter season is simply not complete: the Cadbury Creme Egg.  Today I pay homage to this saccharine wonder with a love letter. You may think it too much to write a love letter to a creme egg, but I am certain by its end you will see just how sizeable a portion of my heart it has seized.

Dear Cadbury Creme Egg,

You were my first Easter love and now, at the ripe, old age of 38, I continue to be hypnotized by your sugary goodness. Others tell me that you are too sweet for the adult palate, but their (unjust) criticisms fall only on deaf ears. For me, you are confectionary perfection.

One of my most excited moments occurred when, as a university student with a Costco membership, I discovered your 12-packs: a dozen creme eggs lovingly nestled in a plastic egg carton (this was prior to environmentalism being a primary product concern). Never had I seen an egg carton so alluring. I am not ashamed to admit that I purchased the 12-pack, consuming each and every one of them by myself and in far too short a time frame. In fact, I refuse to publicly admit how quickly.

I show greater restraint now. Despite the fact that Easter candy appears in stores before the Valentine’s Day candy flame has even been fully extinguished, and despite the addition of the Cadbury “Screme Egg” (such a clever moniker) at Halloween, I reserve any creme egg purchases and consumption to the days surrounding Easter itself. I am a purist and respect the sanctity of the Easter egg in all its forms.

Can I express what I love about you in words? As many other confections continue to whittle away at the thickness of their chocolate coating, I presume in efforts to charge more for less product, you have refused to pull the wool over consumer’s eyes. Your chocolate shell remains stubbornly think and impenetrable. There is no accidental crushing of your chocolate shell; it holds up to substantial pressure. I know, because I have dropped many on hard surfaces, and thrown them into the bottom of my purse, which can only be described as a black hole of crap, and from which few food items survive without being smashed beyond recognition.

Many criticize your interior for being nothing but liquid sugar.  To them I say: what more do you expect from a candy confection?  Though substantially thicker than a real egg, your filling is a wonder of chemistry. It is viscous enough to almost hold it’s form once the chocolate shell is broken, making you a feasible snack for people on the go. I believe your filling even has a distinct flavour and that flavour is “magic”.

So many brands have tried to replicate your deliciousness but none even come close. At times in my childhood, my parents misunderstood your uniqueness and fell prey to the lure of other cream eggs. I cannot describe the level of disappointment I would experience when my well-meaning parents would present me with Purdy’s creme eggs, as though they were a perfectly suitable replacement. My heart would sink. I’d eat them, of course, but the guilt I’d experience, knowing I was cheating on you, would render the experience decidedly less pleasurable.

Thank you, Cadbury Creme Egg, for being a steady constant in my life, and for creating a product that can only be loved by the ultimate sweet tooth (i.e. me). Never change. Ignore the haters. I cannot wait to be reunited with you again so very, very soon.*

*I am in no way affiliated with Cadbury’s nor is this post sponsored by them, though I’d be lying if I said I would turn down free Creme Eggs in exchange for my love letter.  I feel no shame at the thought of selling out for Cadbury Creme Eggs.



Mid-Week Tangent: Disney Treat Fail

As you may know from Monday’s post, I spent a few days in Disney World (aka the dark side) last week. Normally, one of my favourite things about Disney parks is the opportunity to jam countless treats into my face. There are so many deliciously different ways to dramatically exceed your daily recommended caloric intake. Despite this, I completely failed to take advantage of the multitude of sinful options at my fingertips and I am already deeply regretful. I managed only one Mickey Mouse pretzel and about eight white chocolate chip cookies. That may sound like a big accomplishment, but it is such a minuscule representation of what was available. Sigh. What was I thinking?

And so, in honour of my failure and perhaps to serve as a motivator for you to take full advantage of any of your future Disney adventures, I present to you a list of all the things that I did not eat but sorely wish that I had:

1. About five more Mickey Mouse pretzels: Let’s face it, one pretzel is not enough, particularly when accompanied by the completely-wrong-yet-somehow-oh-so-right artificial cheese dip. I am the person who uses the entire container of cheese dip and wishes she had more (as opposed to my boyfriend, who barely makes a dent in his, a feat that I cannot at all comprehend but which greatly benefits me as I get his extras). Though the Mickey Mouse pretzels are nowhere near as good as most soft pretzels I’ve consumed virtually anywhere else, they do somehow taste more magical. I fully regret not consuming them daily.

2. Mickey Mouse Ice Cream Sandwiches: These are just Oreo ice cream cookie sandwiches, something that I can buy on any given day in my local grocery store. Still, they somehow taste better and more magical in the parks. It has been years since I’ve had one. You’re probably wondering why I didn’t have one. If you read Monday’s post, you know that it was what can only be described as f’ing cold the entire time we were in the parks. I wish that I were the person who could put aside being cold for long enough to eat ice cream, but I’m usually not. I was uncomfortably cold and made the (foolish and wrong, in hindsight) decision to forego ice cream in favour of warmth. Rookie mistake.

3. Churros: Unlike ice cream, churros are warm and comforting on a cold day. I have no idea why I did not consume a single churro, except that I was under some misguided notion that I should be hungry in order to snack. I have no idea why I sometimes stick to such ridiculous principles. I am ashamed of myself.

4. Dole Whip: Who doesn’t love a good Dole Whip? The answer to that question can only be someone whose soul is dead. It is a miraculous feat of food engineering. How else can you explain a product that is largely the result of food thickeners and a slew of artificial ingredients that is, surprisingly, low in actual pineapple? Still, it is delicious. Similar to my Mickey Mouse ice cream cookie sandwich rationale, it was simply too cold for me to contemplate such a treat. Now that I am back in Vancouver, where it is not only cold but also rainy and grey, I can truly see the error of my ways. At least in Florida it was sunny and there was the illusion of warmth. I can barely forgive myself for this oversight.

5. Frozen Banana: I know, I know, no one really likes the frozen banana. It’s frozen fruit on a stick. It has a paper-thin simulated chocolate shellac that gives you the false impression you’re indulging when you are actually not. They are quite repugnant. I wanted to eat one only to pay homage to Arrested Development (“there’s always money in the banana stand”). Also, see rationale for numbers 2 and 4 (i.e. it was freaking cold).

6. Daily Cupcake: I have no interest in commercially produced cupcakes, whatsoever. They are always a let-down. The cake is almost always either dry, flavourless, spongey or some combination thereof. Frosting, however, is single-handedly worth the cupcake investment. I am only somewhat ashamed to admit that I have been known to eat just the frosting, sometimes accompanied by a tiny portion of the cupcake if only to stave off social judgements. I saw countless cupcakes crowned with an ice cream scoop sized mound of frosting and yet, somehow, I showed uncharacteristic restraint by never ordering one. Similar to the churro rationale, my cupcake fail was largely due to feeling as though I should be hungry in order to eat one.  As a result of my poor decision making, I have no choice but to delude myself into believing that the frosting was likely wretched shortening-based frosting instead of a true buttercream.  But even I know I am just lying to myself.

7. Ice cream cookie sandwich from Scoops in Hollywood Studios: Ever since I had the dreamiest and most insanely delicious ice cream cookie sandwich at Hello Robin in Seattle, I have been on the hunt for more. When I was forced to stand in a ride line behind a girl eating a Scoops ice cream cookie sandwich for the better part of 45 minutes, my poor boyfriend had to listen to me go on and on about how I was going to get one as soon as humanly possible. And yet I did not. Ever. I have no good excuse for my failure here, and instead offer up two piss-poor ones: I assumed the ice cream wouldn’t be as delicious as the ice cream at Hello Robin (which turned out to be true as I did try Scoops ice cream sans cookie) and I feared my boyfriend would silently judge me for eating an ungodly thick layer of ice cream wedged between two giant cookies as a mid-day snack. He claims he wouldn’t have, but I could see the look of incredulity, or perhaps even mild repulsion, in his eyes when I first suggested it.

Do yourself a favour and do not follow my lead in eating your way through Disney Parks. Instead of returning full of magic and sugar and a few extra pounds, I have returned full only of my own regret. No one should have to live in regret, so please go forth and eat all of the things.

Mid-Week Tangent: Battle of the Peanut Butter Cups

It’s been…a week, friends.  I am staring unemployment in the face for the second time in the last four months (both times by choice, mind you) and it’s stressing me out hard.  When I’m stressed, I turn to my constant friend and comfort, candy. I’ve been eating my weight in peanut butter cups these days, which has inspired me to ponder the very unimportant question: in a battle of the peanut butter cups, who would reign supreme?

Let me present you with the :


At the bottom of the heap, I’d squarely place Justin’s Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups in a dead tie with Theo Peanut Butter Cups.

–Let’s start with Justin’s: People go nuts over these things, I think under the illusion that organic ingredients somehow make them more healthy. Let me tell you, there is no mass-produced peanut butter cup on the planet that is legitimately healthy.  Plus, don’t ruin my peanut butter cup high with your dark chocolate. Don’t you dare. (Sidenote: Perhaps the milk chocolate variety is more delicious, but I have yet to see them readily available in Canada).

–On to Theo we go:  I mean really, these are at the same level as Justin’s. They are candy masquerading as healthier treats. The biggest issue I have with Theo peanut butter cups is the cost, a whopping $3.49.  If I’m going to pay $3.49 for a peanut butter cup it better weigh more than 38 g and it better pack some serious sugar punch. These do not. While I enjoy unsweetened, natural peanut butter on my toast in the morning, I like my peanut butter cups on the sickeningly sweet side of the scale and these are nowhere near that.

One level up from these peanut butter cup travesties, we find my perfectly acceptable range for peanut butter cups: the classic Reese’s peanut butter cup and the PC brand mini peanut butter cups.  Why do these outperform Justin’s and Theo? They are made as peanut butter cups are meant to be, unabashedly artificial and saccharine!

–First, the beloved Reese’s: Let’s be honest, these are pretty fantastic. They don’t really taste like peanut butter, but that’s somehow perfectly acceptable.  What keeps these from the top of my peanut butter cup pyramid are two minor problems: the chocolate layer is too thin and the peanut butter to chocolate ratio is all wrong.

–Next up, President’s Choice mini peanut butter melts: I am as shocked as anyone that these made it above the bottom of the list. I expected them to be repulsive.  However, they are not. They present an appropriately thick chocolate layer and an only vaguely peanut buttery filling that is reminiscent of the great Purdy’s peanut butter finger (a treat only omitted from this list because it does not meet the cup-shaped criteria). You’re probably wondering how something that does not taste exactly like peanut butter made the list. I urge you to try these and then ask me that question.

At the very top of the peanut butter cup hierarchy, however, are two of my most treasured peanut butter treats: the Reese’s Big Cup and the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory (Giant) peanut butter cup. Let’s give these treats the recognition they deserve.

–I’ll start with the Reese’s Big Cup: This beauty corrects all the issues I have with the original Reese’s. It has a thick chocolate layer, particularly enjoyable when chilled, and a perfect ratio of chocolate to filling. I also swear the filling tastes different, more like actual roasted nuts, but that is likely confirmation bias hard at work. I want to like these more, so I look for all the things that I’d want in a better version of the standard Reese’s cup as evidence of its superiority, and then find it whether it truly exists or not.

–Last but certainly not least, I have my magical RMCF giant peanut butter cup:  This is true love in a peanut butter cup. It is mammoth, as evidenced by its calorie count (which I saw by accident and wish desperately I could unsee)–530 for those who are curious. It has what some would consider too thick a chocolate layer, though chocolate thickness is never something I would personally complain about. It’s peanut butter filling is clearly blended with other delicious things. It lacks a distinctly peanut flavour, but has a sublime creaminess that will make you not care.  I wish I had one of these in my face right now. It would be the perfect antidote to the Wednesday blues.

So there you have it, I have presented you with the thing you never wanted nor cared about: a peanut butter cup hierarchy complete with commentary that is purely subjective. You’re welcome. Happy Wednesday. I’m going to go eat a Big Cup (because I do have one of those in my fridge right now).


Mid-Week Tangent: The Misunderstood Candy

All I have to say is “taffy” and I can picture most of you recoiling in disgust, saying things like ‘ugh, that chewy shit???’ or ‘that’s not even a candy!!!!’. I know, I know, it’s a contentious issue.  But hear me out.

I think taffy is a misunderstood candy.  It deserves a place in your heart, not a big place, mind you, but a little nook that you can visit just once or twice a year.  The reason that most of you claim to hate taffy is both unfair to taffy and probably for the same reason that I used to think I hated taffy: I’d been eating bad taffy.  That’s a lot of times to use the word taffy in a sentence…

Taffy is like pork chops. Pork chops are, assuming you’re not a vegetarian, absolutely delicious but only when they are a perfectly cooked, thick-cut pork chops. I grew up hating pork chops because my grandmother bought crappy, thin pork chops and proceeded to cook them as though it were a crime to leave even the tiniest smidge of moisture inside. I didn’t know a pork chop could be succulent and delicious until I was a grown adult forced against my will to try one in a very nice restaurant. The same is true for taffy: there is a spectrum of quality and a “right” way to consume it.

To discover the magic of taffy, heed this advice:

1.You have to must, must, MUST steer clear of mass-produced, commercial taffy found in 5 lb bags on the bottom shelf at your grocery store. That is a taffy wasteland, where what started as mediocre taffy goes to die a slow death. It has been there for years. Unless you are trying to save money on tooth extraction, you do not want this in your life.

2. You have to go for the small-batch, locally produced taffy. It sounds snobbish, dare I even say hipster-ish, but in this case it’s fully warranted. Locally produced, small batch taffy doesn’t sit around for an eternity. It is made with fewer ingredients and preservatives.  It will still have a chew to it, but not the kind that will pull your teeth out. It will be a softer, pliable and heavenly sugar hit.

3. You gotta limit your intake: Taffy is best in small doses. I’m a raging sugar fiend and even I can handle only a few pieces at a time maybe twice a year.

4.  I cannot emphasize enough that flavour selection is key. I get it, you like pumpkin spice lattes but the place for pumpkin spice latte flavour is in a latte, not in your taffy. The same goes for watermelon, banana or other fruit flavors that are only palatable in actual fruit form.  In fact, I find even typically ‘safe’ fruit flavours like cherry and orange to be utterly repulsive in taffy.  Cookie dough and birthday cake, on the other hand,  and though they sound repulsive, are absolute winners, as are standard caramel, salted caramel, chocolate, and maple. You’re welcome.

At the end of the day, if you don’t trust me, trust Phoebe Buffay. She wasn’t sold at first, either, but in the end she was sold on taffy’s goodness.

p.s. If you’re wondering why I’m writing about taffy, I discovered some outstanding taffy in Leavenworth this weekend. It was so good, in fact, that it reminded my of why I love taffy…but I still won’t be eating any more of it any time soon.


Mid-Week Tangent: Best Holiday Candies!

Ahhh, the holiday season, where my love for the festive can be united with my love for the chocolate.  Christmas is second only to Easter, in my mind, for quality seasonal candy items. Don’t even talk to me about Halloween. All it offers are mini-sized versions of everyday candy bars. Give me the unique seasonal fare!

As we roll into December, it’s time to start stockpiling this stuff and jamming as much into your greedy face as you possibly can. It will be gone soon.  Don’t worry about extra calories. Did you know that your body’s basal metabolic rate increases in the the cold? That means you will burn more calories just by doing nothing! Sure, the additional calories burned are negligible, but every little bit counts. And, as I shared yesterday, the holiday season affords you with all sorts of opportunities to amp up your calorie burn with outdoor activities.  There is no better way to refuel than candy.

Looking for saccharine inspiration? Here’s my top six favourites for the holiday season.  I had to throw in a sixth just so you don’t think I’m biased towards mint-flavours.

#6. Almond Roca: My token non-mint seasonal favourite. My love for this confection is purely nostalgic. I used to get a canister of it every Christmas. Mostly, I sucked the chocolate off the outside then suffered through the cloyingly sweet, sticks-in-your-teeth-forever filling. It’s best in small doses but the iconic pink tin screams Christmas to me, so I had to include it.

For best results, just eat the chocolate off the outside.
For best results, just eat the chocolate off the outside.

#5. Ovation: This is yet another nostalgia bomb for me. Ovation candies were a major part of my childhood. They seemed classy, each coming in its own little monogrammed sleeve, and they had a delightful candy snap lacking from their soft and oozy, yet often-preferred cousin, the After Eight. I don’t even think they sell these in Canada anymore, which is better for my waistline but worse for my heart.

It saddens me that the Ovation people have moved away from their signature, quirky, upright square box. Though it was highly flawed design–when you pulled the lid off, the sticks inside splayed and made it virtually impossible to put the lid back on–it reminded me of my childhood.

#4: Mint M&MsThese addictively delicious little bastards are notoriously hard to find. You see a festively colored bag of M&Ms on the shelf and your heart soars with anticipation until, upon closer examination, you realize that, no, they are just regular M&Ms in holiday colours.  Your heart sinks and you continue in your search for mint M&Ms elsewhere. When I find them, I buy only one bag, because I would eat all of them at once if I were to buy more than one bag. That, my friends, is the hallmark of an excellent candy.

One bag. Promise yourself you will only buy one bag.
One bag. Just promise yourself you will only buy one bag.


#3. Hershey’s Kiss Candy Can Mint CandiesFirst, and most importantly, do NOT confuse these with the Hershey’s peppermint bark bells. Sure, those are fine in a pinch, but they don’t hold a candle to these gems. It’s also important to know that I am a major white chocolate fan (as you’ll see from the next couple items on my list). If you are not, to you I say: great! more for me! Also, you probably won’t like these, although I do find that the peppermint cuts the sweetness a fair bit.

I think the second I finish this post, I may have to go i search of these beauties.
I think the second I finish this post, I may have to go in search of these beauties.

#2: Lindt Lindor Candy Cane: See? More white chocolate and mint. I am obsessed.  I curse those people at Lindt for making such perfectly sinful little chocolate balls. I especially curse the person who said ‘let’s take white chocolate and peppermint and turn it into a Lindor.’ Now I must exercise willpower every time I visit the grocery store, or else I’d buy a whole sleeve of the damn things and eat every last one of them (relax, there’s only 5 in the sleeve).

Forget Lay's potato chips, THIS should be the product with the slogan "Bet you can't eat just one".
Forget Lay’s potato chips, THIS should be the product with the slogan “Bet you can’t eat just one”.

#1. White Chocolate Peppermint M&MsThere is one reason and one reason alone that I lament Target’s failure in Canada: the white chocolate peppermint M&M. It was the only place I could find these bites of perfection in Canada. Yes, I could order them from the States, but one of the small handful of lessons I’ve actually learned is life is that if I order a dozen bags of candy, I will eat all of them single-handedly and in short order. If you can find these, I implore you to indulge as often as your stomach can tolerate during the holiday season. They are sweet. They are minty. They have a slightly thicker candy coating shell that, if bitten properly, can be cracked off leaving the entire orb of pepperminty white chocolate behind to blissfully melt in your mouth. Perfection. Holiday perfection.

I miss you White Chocolate Peppermint M&M, and I adore your snazzy christmas cap.
I miss you White Chocolate Peppermint M&M, and I adore your snazzy christmas cap.

So there you have it. I have given you all manner of ways to start your holiday season off on the wrong foot. Remember, there is always New Years for renewed pledges to your health and wellness.