Out With the Old? Not so fast…2018 version.

Yes, it’s a new year, so in with the new…but not without another shout out to some “old” that’s coming with me into 2019.

Big Island Candies
Oh. My. God. Crack in cellophane wrappers. If you are EVER purchasing a lovely giftMika Mints basket to send, or in the mood to treat yourself and your family, look nowhere else. Not a huge sweets person, I can usually sample and leave alone. Not with Big Island Candies. My introduction began with the Mika Chocolates: These soft nibbles feature a dark-chocolate coating on the outside, and on the inside, a smooth, lightly whipped blend of dark and milk chocolate, cream and butter, and finally, a cooling touch of mint flavor. They are all that and more. You won’t find a better chocolate mint.  I next became enslaved by the Milk Chocolate Macadamia Nut Toffee, followed by the Milk and Dark Chocolate Covered Macadamia Nuts.  But no need to stop there…Big Island Candies also has Signature Shortbread cookies,  brownies, and a number of other treats. Don’t take my word for it…experience these treats for yourself. https://www.bigislandcandies.com/

Bissell Powertrak Compact Vacuum
One might imagine I’m a cleaning nut with this addition, but the reverse is true. I like a clean space, but just about anything else can pull my attention away from cleaning.  This little vacuum encourages me back to the task because it’s powerful enough to be effective, so light I don’t mind going up and down stairs with it, and super easy to use and maintain. I bought it for around $60, and it boasts cheery lime green accents! A winner from Bissell.  The Bissell says this little number is no longer available, but it is at Bed, Bath, and Beyond. Snatch it up… Bissell Powertrak

Louise Penny
If you have not been introduced to award-winning bestselling author Louise Penny, here are the basics: A Canadian author of mystery novels set in the Canadian province of Quebec centred on the work of francophone Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec.
If there’s one thing I have done my entire life, reading is it. After spending my entire childhood focused on reading, I majored in it in college. Reading remains my biggest joy and Louise Penny is my favorite author. Interesting, because I’m only a sometime mystery reader, but Louise is so much more than a mystery writer. Her revelations regarding character, relationships, philosophy, and psychology set against the haunting backdrop of  snow-covered Canadian woods make her a literary treasure as well as a popular one. She belonged on this list last year; I’m sure she’ll belong on this list next year. https://www.louisepenny.com/

Knorr’s
Yes, those little packets of seasonings and ingredients for tasty food fast. Roast turkey is a top favorite meal in my family, particularly in November and December.  My home-made gravy is considered part of the tradition, but what my family didn’t know was that I was relying on a natural seasoning packet that isn’t available anymore. In steps Knorr’s Turkey Gravy packet to save the day, and we’re back in business. In 2019, I plan to increase my supply of Knorr’s helpers to have on hand for a last-minute meal.  https://www.knorr.com/us/en/home.html

Blanket Scarves
Days are cold in winter in New England, and increasing years can bring increasing sensitivity to temperature. A dear friend introduced me to the luxury of blanket scarves when she returned from a trip to Ireland and gave me a royal blue wool scarf/shawl. Perhaps the term blanket scarf wasn’t in use then, and perhaps I’m using the term a bit loosely, as a true blanket scarf is probably more of a square or rectangle that can be used like a small throw, or folded to be used as a scarf.  Whatever the exact dimensions, anyone who gets chilly in winter, or in air conditioning, would benefit from these cozy additions to be worn around the neck, the shoulders, or wrapped around legs and feet. I have three at this point, and decided my mother-in-law needed one for her birthday this year. A MUST for plane travel…

Take good care of yourself in the new year!

 

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Why Are Restaurants Trying To Kill Us?

salmonI met my mother and sister for lunch recently. They live about an hour away, but there’s a large shopping area between us. We have a choice of several restaurants, but I like one in particular because their food seems healthier. And you can ask for nutrition data, which they’ll gladly bring you. On one sheet, in teeny tiny type, but at least it’s available. Like all restaurants, you have to be careful not to overeat the bread or sop up half a cup of olive oil with it. This time they had a new menu item, Sesame Hoisin Salmon salad. Spinach, snap peas, mango, Napa cabbage, pickled ginger, and shaved carrots. Wow! Cabbage and carrots, spinach and snap peas! Just reading it made me feel healthy. Then there was the salmon, “grilled and lacquered with a sesame hoisin glaze.” Lacquered brought up images of shiny furniture, but hey, grilled fish is good! Omegas! And finally, “orange-sesame dressing.” No mention of oil there, or cheese, so that also sounded light. Sign me up! I ordered that salad and ate every bit of it. It was delicious. It didn’t come with any bread — because I’d already had a third of what they brought to the table to begin with — so I really felt like I’d done myself a favor with my choice.

Then I went home and looked up the nutrition data for my lovely salmon salad. WHAT? Eight hundred and seventy calories! How is that bleeping possible? Did they inject the salmon with straight-up FAT? And thirty-two grams of sugar? From WHAT? It was a SALAD! Oh, and that bread and oil for the table? Twelve hundred and seventy calories! Divided by three comes out to … TOO MUCH. THIS is what makes me crazy about dining out. I eat what I think are healthy items, and they’re not. I know, if it tastes that good, it’s probably not good for you.  And restaurants load up on fat and sugar because our little lizard brains adore it, and it keeps us coming back. Yes, if I’m ordering fries or a brownie sundae or a big plate of nachos, I know I’m getting a huge number of calories and fat. But a salmon salad should not be a big surprise. We spend a lot of our food dollars at restaurants, and a lot of us eat out several times a week. We’re great customers! So why are restaurants trying to kill us?

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Better Than Chocolate?

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Is there a better candy than chocolate?

Easter may be eleven days away, but I doubt I’m the only one already thinking about Easter candy. If one is looking for a reason to fall off the candy wagon and eat an unfettered amount of candy, I don’t think there is an easier place to slip than Easter. It’s one day when the Easter baskets come out; one and done. And if we just got through winter, we need a reward; time to have some candy fun!

The fun starts with Peeps. I ADORE Peeps. I don’t find them edible, but they are unparalleled as a base for artistic creations. Jelly beans are a magnificent creation, supposedly a marriage of the sweet sticky confection originally named Turkish Delight and the shell coating of a Jordan almond. Flooding my senses with Skittles jellybeans is a real guilty pleasure. And you don’t have to twist my arm too hard to have me eating speckled malted milk eggs, another great invention.

I have yet, however, to figure out chocolate bunnies. I ate them as a kid, but really, with very rare exception, this is not good chocolate. Chocolate bunnies belong in the nostalgic Easter prop department; fun to look at, not to eat.

Then this begs the question: does Easter need to include chocolate? If it’s the best candy, then of course, but is it?  I turned to my panel.

B: Chocolate is one of the best candies, and therefore, earns a place at Easter and every other holiday. Along with Skittles and anything containing caramel or toffee.

D: I don’t think of chocolate so much as a candy, but a food group.  There is not a candy better than chocolate. Really, dark chocolate.  White chocolate is an abomination. Like white is the absence of color, white chocolate is the absence of chocolate. I think white chocolate is my husband’s favorite because he knows it is the one I will never eat. 

P: I am not a chocolate lover. I like Heath Bars more than chocolate bars but more often just go for jelly beans.

R: Yes: jelly beans. I can resist chocolate. I cannot resist jelly beans. When my kids were small, I would always have to go buy more jelly beans to make their baskets. No gourmet jelly beans; no spicy jelly beans. Traditional jelly beans. I toss away the second tier–blacks, greens, and yellows–and eat the reds, whites, pinks, purples, and oranges. 

I am not the only one thinking about Easter candy! Half the panel has reason to cheer for this time of year with its increased availability of jelly beans!!

What’s in your Easter basket?

partypackschicks

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Fortune Cookie Game

Happy Chinese New Year! I am steeped in Chinese culture this year because I am hosting an 18 year old boy, Kim Sun, for the entire school year. When he arrived in September I made a pact with my good friends, Marybeth and Irwin, who are also hosting a Chinese teenager, JZ, that all of us would go out for Chinese food every Thursday night. We have made good on our pact and every Wednesday or Thursday we start the round robin texting/Wechatting about who can come, where we should go and what time works for everyone.

The number of invitees have grown to include my friend Kathy and her boarder, Hao. We also invite Jill, a lovely Chinese woman I met at Kim’s agent’s house, and her six year old son, Hanyuan. So now, there are up to 9 people who join together on Thursday nights to share a Chinese meal and conversation.

Our local restaurant is Asian Gourmet – a fabulous Taiwanese restaurant that we all like. The Chinese among us say that it is “quite good” “almost like home” and we Americans think it is very “authentic” and “delicious”. I make a reservation on Thursday so we can all sit at the big round table with plenty of room for all the food. When we arrive, the two teenagers and the six year each get to choose a dish (Hanyuan orders seafood hotpot every week!) and then the rest of us fill in with a couple more dishes , some vegetables, rice and maybe an appetizer like beef wrapped in scallion pancakes or pan fried dumplings. When the food is served we pass and taste and comment on all the dishes. We order different things (except the seafood hotpot!) every week so there is always a great variety.

At the end of the meal when the waiter puts the nine fortune cookies on the table, everyone comes to life – especially Hanyuan (who is bored at the adult talk but loves the two teenage boys who have taken him under their wings). Hanyuan does the unwrapping of the cookies – opening the paper, breaking the cookies in half and pulling out the fortunes. He then passes the slips of paper to the 4 Americans. The four of us take turns reading the Chinese word printed on the paper and the Chinese folks try to guess what word we are saying. It is uproarious! Our Chinese is so bad that sometimes noone can translate what we are saying. Other times we say the Chinese word correctly, by chance I am afraid, and one of the Chinese yells out “pear” and we are so thrilled that we have said the foreign word correctly that we high five and get excited that perhaps we are learning some Chinese after all. Hanyuan just laughs at us when we make mistakes – he thinks we Americans are quite foolish when we totally mispronounce a simple Chinese word like “cat” or “pig”.

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