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. 

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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.

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.