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: kid in a candy store

Look at that. Look at all that beautiful, beautiful fudge. It stretches beyond the eye can see (trust me, this photo shows only a quarter of the actual size of the display case).  This is what I was faced with on Saturday in Banff at my beloved The Fudgery .*  Can you imagine the dilemma? With so many fudges to choose from, how can a sugar addict (i.e. me) reasonably be expected to narrow her choice to just one option? It can only be described as cruel.

It’s easy to eliminate the obviously disgusting choices–hello, vanilla maraschino cherry–but beyond that the selection process becomes significantly more challenging. Do you stick with the old classic standbys like chocolate? Do you seek out some texture with chocolate walnut or Turtle? Do you throw caution to the chocolate fudge wind and go for peanut butter or maple fudge? Do you cave in to the trends and try out the salted caramel chocolate? Do you go with your old favourite, the one that you’d buy at embarrassing frequencies when you lived in Banff–the Reese’s Pieces peanut butter fudge? Ugh. Can you see my point? There are simply too many options to consider.

In the end, and after lengthy deliberation, I opted for the vanilla oreo. That classic cookies and creme was calling my name. I’ve had it before and couldn’t resist its saccharine charm.

This is what it’s like to be me. I am the actual kid in a candy store. I am still a child at heart, in awe of the sheer multitude of candy options laid out before me, simultaneously stressed and excited by the pressure of making the ‘right’ choice because who knows when I will find myself back in the candy store again?  Also like the kid in a candy store, I have yet to learn that you do not, in fact, have to eat the entire half pound block of fudge in one fell swoop. Multiple stomach aches and near-vomiting experiences have failed to teach me that lesson in the past, and I certainly didn’t learn it this weekend as I lay in agony after downing a half pounds’ worth of sugar and butter.  This is the price I must pay for being the 38-year-old kid in a candy store. And it is worth every penny.

 

*Seriously, if you are in Banff do not buy fudge anywhere other than The Fudgery. This is not a paid sponsorship. I have no affiliation with them (though I wish I did). Just trust me when I say I have sampled all the fudge to be found in Banff and theirs is the best.

Mid-Week Tangent: sitting on a year’s worth of chocolate

If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you will know that I am a certified sugar addict. I know that’s not an actual certification, but it should be. If it were, I would be the most qualified for the certification than I’ve ever been for any other designation in my entire life.  I’m now imagining a world in which there was actually cachet for no other reason than love for sugar. What a wonderful world that would be…for me at least.

Sorry, I digress. My point is that I am a sugar addict. My love for sugar is widely known in my family, as well, which ensures that I receive several pounds of chocolate each year for Christmas. I’m not kidding.  I normally burn through it at a rapid pace. For once I’m not speaking metaphorically when I say that I’m usually like a kid in a candy store after the Christmas holiday, only the ‘candy store’ is the kitchen cupboard in which I store my personal chocolate stash.  My chocolate stash usually doesn’t know what hit it. I’m just in its face, every night, creating a customized (and large) chocolate sampler uniquely designed to soothe that day’s chocolate cravings.  Needless to say, chocolate typically doesn’t last long amidst these blitz attacks. The chocolate carnage is real.

This year, though, I find myself in a very different predicament. In efforts to,  you know, not give myself early diabetes and also to generally not feel like an exhausted sack of crap on the daily, I have given up sugar six days per week. Now I have just one day during which I can attack my chocolate stash like the sugar predator that I am. For the first time in my life, what used to seem like a short-term chocolate stash is starting to feel like my chocolate Everest.  Based on my new average weekly chocolate consumption, what was once weeks’ or maybe a month’s worth of chocolate at best now feels like a solid year’s worth of chocolate–maybe even longer!

I suddenly find myself facing all sorts of new problems*. Where will I store all this chocolate? How will I keep it fresh?  Should I make an inventory and prioritize consumption based on code or expiration dates? Does chocolate really even expire?  How much chocolate can a human actually consume in one day before making herself ill? Maybe most importantly: can I somehow break my problematic pattern of selfishly keeping all the chocolate to myself, something that I have struggled with since childhood, and instead learn to actually give and share?

I’m with you on this one, Joey.

The questions are never ending as my brain tries to wrap itself around the magnitude of the challenge that lies ahead for me. But I’m game to find a solution and confident that I will somehow eat my way through my impressive inventory.

*Relax, I understand that this is not, in fact, a real problem. This is what I like call dramatic effect, or artistic license, if you will. The reality is that I couldn’t be more thrilled to be loaded to the gills with chocolate options every time Saturday rolls around.  In fact, it might be one of my life dreams…

Mid-Week Tangent: busting through the bad economics of advent calendars

I bet you thought the holidays were over, didn’t you? Well, I’m always one to extend the holidays beyond what’s considered normal. Not only is our tree still up and lit, but we also watched a holiday movie last night, and a really bad Hallmark holiday movie at that! But that’s not what I’m here to write about today. What I’m actually here to write about today are advent calendars.

I know what you’re thinking. I’ve written about advent calendars before. I lamented the fact that I couldn’t find any, and then the universe delivered not one but five!!!! But throughout all of this, neither me nor my boyfriend could shake the bad economics of advent calendars. Regular retail price for a Lindt advent calendar ranges from $11.99-13.99 CDN. For 128 g. Even steeply discounted at end of season they’re around $7 CDN. If you do the math, that’s anywhere from $6.24 to $10.92 per 100g. No one in her right mind would pay that much for chocolate. Sure there’s festive packaging, but let’s not pretend that’s worth the extra coin.

We knew something needed to change, but our challenge was that we love the idea of advent calendars. We love daily surprises during the holiday season. I also have a deep and passionate love for chocolate. Given all of this, what were we to do?

Boom. We got ourselves a fillable advent calendar. No more paying exorbitant fees for chocolate. No more putting up with whatever assortment the calendar comes with (I’m looking at you, Lindt calendar, wasting my time with your boring milk chocolate squares and seemingly eliminated my beloved white chocolate Lindors!). No more dealing with the threat of advent calendars selling out. No more worrying about retail pricing whims getting in the way of a “good” deal.

Next year, the power falls squarely back in our hands. Next year, we will fill this calendar with any brand of chocolate we so desire, at prices that don’t carry a hefty sticker shock. Hell, we may even go crazy and stuff those slots with small ornaments or other festive surprises. The sky is the limit now. Sorry, Lindt, while I have enjoyed your advent calendars for the last few years, the economics of them are simply ridiculous. We’ve found a more cost effective way to indulge in a month’s worth of holiday spirit. If only I didn’t have to wait 332 days to give our new calendar a try…

Monday Musings: ask and you shall receive

As you are reading this, I’m likely having dinner with a bunch of executives in Minnesota. I still don’t understand how this trip came to be, but I can tell you one thing: I’ve never had a desire to visit Minneapolis, particularly in the dead of winter. This has nothing to do with today’s post, but rather it is a total aside. I simply felt the need to complain about being in Minnesota. In December.

What’s really important is that my Christmas advent calendar wish came true this weekend! If you recall, last week I lamented  the lack of advent calendars all around me. By the time the weekend rolled around, I had given up hope of ever finding my beloved Lindt calendar. They seemed to have vanished into thin air. In fact, just yesterday as we were driving home from some errands and yet another day of seeing nary an advent calendar, my boyfriend said to me “I guess we have to give up for this year.”  It was a sad holiday moment for me.

Well, all I have to say is that you should never underestimate the power of the universe to deliver on your wishes. Last night, when we arrived at my friend’s son’s first birthday party she excitedly told me she had something for me and not to leave without seeing her. I do love a good surprise, but I admit I thought it was maybe a Christmas card.  As it turned out it was so much better (which is saying a lot because I love a good Christmas card!).

As we were getting ready to head out from the party, I went to say goodbye and my friend excitedly told me to come with her. She looked way too happy for this to just be a card. As I followed her into the kitchen, I was wracking my brain for what it might be but it never occurred to me it would be so grand: my Lindt Christmas advent calendar! I am sure my face looked like a child opening the best gift ever on Christmas morning. Others who were there to witness looked confused by my level of excitement. They clearly didn’t understand that I had looked everywhere. Moreover, I had actually given up.

Isn’t she a beauty?

There are few things as wonderful as the unexpected surprise of finding yourself holding something you didn’t believe would be yours. I understand that an advent calendar is rather trivial in the grand scheme of things, but sometimes the little things are everything. Great joy can be found in small moments of total surprise and excitement. In fact, it is the stuff that Christmas magic is made of.  As we near Christmas (two weeks away to be exact!), I’d like to remind you to keep dreaming and making wishes, both big and small.  Though this is a small example, it goes to show that sometimes what you ask for, you will receive.