Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Chocolate Taste Test

Some of my most vivid memories of Halloween while growing up revolve around the various treats I ate. I remember I'd get home from a long night of trick-or-treating and dump out the contents of my plastic pumpkin pail in the middle of the living room floor. I would divide the candy into two piles. The good pile consisted of things like gummy bears and Skittles. The bad pile was made up of chocolate bars and Tootsie rolls. This was before I learned to appreciate chocolate. Back then, I called it "last resort candy," the candy I'd eat only once my good stash ran out and when I'd get desperate for something sweet.

I've definitely learned to appreciate chocolate now that I'm older, and on the rare occasion, I even crave it. It was on one of these days that I passed by Powell's Sweet Shoppe and ended up coming home with a bag full of novelty chocolates. In true trick-or-treating fashion, I present you with my piles of the good and the bad.

Chocolate bar #1: Milky Way by Mars Chocolat France. This one proudly promised only 98 calories per bar, but truth be told, its dreamy, galactic wrapper is what really drew me in. The description on the side of the wrapper read "milk chocolate with a light whipped white centre." In addition to being incredibly vague, it also sounds a bit unappetizing. What is a whipped white centre anyway? Why not just call it nougat? Well, it turns out they didn't call it nougat for a reason. The centre (love how it's spelled that way) was not very nougat-like at all and left a strange peanut-like aftertaste. Though not entirely unpleasant, I just didn't know what to make of it and couldn't help but compare it to its better tasting trio of American cousins, the Three Musketeers.

Chocolate bar #2: Curlywurly by Cadbury Portugal. This milk chocolate bar with a caramel centre boasts a fantastic name. I could only imagine what a Curlywurly would taste like, but, with a moniker like that, I was sure it would be delightful. Upon unwrapping it, I was pleased with the candy's fun shape which did in fact curl and wurl. However, I'm sad to report that the team that created this bar spent a disproportionate amount of time naming and designing this candy than they did perfecting the taste. The caramel centre did not wow me, and overall it was just too sweet.
Chocolate bar #3: Flake by Cadbury Ireland. When it comes to satisfying my chocolate cravings, I often think of words like "smooth," "velvety," and "rich." The Flake bar challenged my view of what chocolate should be with words that I normally associate with saw dust. It touts itself as the "crumbliest, flakiest milk chocolate." Now, although I was not a huge fan, I will hand it to Cadbury Ireland for their honest marketing -- the Flake bar was definitely the crumbliest milk chocolate I've ever had. I would say more, but I learned early on that if I don't have anything nice to say, I shouldn't say anything at all. So I will definitely not tell you that it sort of tasted like chalk.

Chocolate bar #4: Dream by Cadbury France. Sometimes when I am out with people I'm trying to impress, I'll order a glass of red wine instead of white, even though I think I would rather have a glass of iced tea. It just seems like the more sophisticated choice for those with refined palates. I have a feeling eating white chocolate instead of dark might be the equivalent of ordering an iced tea while everyone else is drinking pinot grigio, but whatever, I like white chocolate. It's yummy, and it reminds me of eating white chocolate Easter bunnies. Since Easter only comes around once a year, this candy bar makes for a dreamy year-round substitute.
Chocolate bar #5: Kinder Bueno by Ferrero. From the makers of Ferrero Rocher and Nutella comes another wondrous treat. This milk chocolate covered wafer includes a smooth milky and hazelnut filling. I appreciated the adjectives of smooth, milky and hazelnut that described the filling (yeah, that's right, I'm talking to you Milky Way bar with obscure whipped white centre!) The delicate crunch of the wafer offsets the smoothness of the filling and was reminiscent of the bite of Ferrero Rocher chocolates. It was not too sweet and had just the faintest hazelnut taste -- the clear winner of my chocolate taste test!

Monday, September 27, 2010

R&R: 3 Ways to Calm Frazzled Nerves

Even though it was the first official weekend of fall, temperatures in the Bay reached the 90s. I knew my brain was on the verge of overheating when I woke up on Saturday and the first thing I did was start worrying about when I was going to take my car in for its tune-up (among a gazillion--trust me, a gazillion-- other inane things). When I start feeling this level of anxiety creep over me, I try to make it a point to remind myself to relax and that my car is not actually going to blow up if it goes another day or two un-tuned. This weekend I found the best combination of things to do should another worry-wart attack/heat wave pop up again. Here are three of my favorite things to do that are guaranteed to calm even the most frazzled nerves (and keep you cool):

1) Have tea with a friend. Iced tea at Lovejoy's (pictured above) is particularly refreshing on hot days. Their cozy ambiance and scones with Devonshire cream make me want to linger here for hours.

2) Catch up on all your favorite magazines. I love these ones :)

3) Visit the ocean. Wading into the icy cold water one foot at a time was such a thrill--I couldn't stop laughing, it was so cold!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Deer Hollow Farm

There was a time in my life when I could eat an order of curly fries, a bean and cheese burrito and a giant rice krispy treat, all washed down with a smoothie, at 2 in the morning and wake up not feeling or looking like I had held up the local Jack in the Box and taken all of its dollar menu items hostage in my belly. How those were the days! Now I try to mind my servings and squeeze in some extra exercise when I can. In fact, Alan and I have made it a goal to walk at least 10 miles every week. (We're on week 3!) Aside from yoga, walking is one of the last forms of exercise that I can seem to do regularly. I love how you can do it anywhere with just a decent pair of shoes. And it's an excellent way to explore different areas while having long, lingering conversations.

We recently discovered a park which is super close to our place and which has tons of trails. My favorite part of the park is the working farm. You can buy fresh farm eggs and sample the grapes that seem to grow just about everywhere. It's quite the place for a relaxing fall jaunt through the woods.

The farm animals eat with an intense fervor which I deeply respect.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Favorite Fall Treat: Pumpkin Cookies

Secrets may not make friends, but cookies definitely do. When I sat down at my desk yesterday morning, I was greeted by the sweetest present: these soft, cinnamon-y pumpkin cookies. They were from my new friend at work whom I've already decided to ask to be my best friend, so long as we can eat seasonal cookies together every three months. Because pumpkin cookies on the first day of fall could not be more perfect. Especially these particular ones with their delightful pumpkin flavor, light sweetness and wonderful cake-like texture. She shared the recipe with me, and I can't wait to make more.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Fall is here!

Even if it is officially fall, it looks like it's going to be a little while before we can really start layering up in the Bay Area. This weekend is supposed to be in the high 80s! (A trip to the pool may be in order). But when it finally does cool down, I can't wait to wear:

1. these slouchy pleated trousers all the time (finally found a perfect pair!)
2. tall socks
3. scarves

What are you excited to wear this fall?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Montara Beach House

As I mentioned in my last post, the beach house where Jennifer and Mike got married was stunning. Jennifer gave us a tour and told us that the owner was an artist. I really liked the simplicity of the decor and how you could tell everything had been placed so purposefully. From the outside, the house looked very modern and kind of cold.

Once inside, it was a different story. While still modern, the rooms were full of oversized, plush couches and chairs just begging for some cuddle time. It felt quite cozy indeed. The rustic coffee tables caught my eye, as did the carefully arranged magazines in the corner of the room.

My favorite part of the entire house was "the bridge." (I half hoped there would also be a holodeck somewhere in the house, too, but no luck). This section of the house juts out over the water and is filled with windows. I would bet that a lot of really good soul searching has been done here.

The beach-themed decor was a nice touch (what with the house being nearly on top of the ocean and all), but I appreciated that it wasn't overly done or cheesy. There were definitely no puka shell curtains to be found.

The entryway.

An area for slumber.

Another view so I can show you the arty structure next to the bed.

A lounging area where I suspect the owners regularly sit and ponder their good fortune for having such a gorgeous house overlooking the ocean. Alan chatted with them for a bit and found out that all sorts of things have been shot here, including a Lexus commercial!

And here we have an alert cat atop a polar bear. I don't think I will ever have the chance to write that phrase again, so I will do so once more. An alert cat atop a polar bear!

Crazy ocean views.

Best seats in the house.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Jennifer + Mike Say I Do!

This morning, before I'd had breakfast, I cried. Later this afternoon, before my first bite of lunch, I cried some more. In fact, I don't think I've ever cried so much on such a happy day--my good friends Jennifer and Mike tied the knot! Their wedding was so sweet and seeing all of Jennifer's planning unfold was such a treat. I loved all of the day's little details (aside from the smeared eye makeup ;)

Isn't she beautiful? Her vintage dress suits her perfectly.

She wore a birdcage veil she fashioned herself. So crafty she is!

She is the first (and only) person I knew in college who made her own homemade whipped cream (for topping slices of pie with while watching the Gilmore Girls). Can you see why I love her?

Her man Mike loves her too. I am so, so happy for them.

Her mom Ivy is such a talented florist--she created all the beautiful floral pieces. I would like to have this flower wrapped umbrella in my cube for always.

Pretty spreads.

This was my first time having cake pops. I was surprised at how moist the red velvet cake inside was.

I thought their photo guest book was a fun twist on the traditional idea. The polaroids were a big hit!

Hand-crafted programs.

The house they got married at overlooked the ocean and was absolutely ridiculous. There were tons of awesome places to take fun pictures. I'll share more pics of the house tomorrow.

Congratulations, lovebirds! Thanks for letting me share in your special day. xoxo

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Rainbow Cupcakes

I'm not sure if it's because I don't see them often or if it's because they're just really beautiful, but there is something about rainbows that can instantly brighten my mood. My cousin Denise made these cute rainbow cupcakes with homemade cream cheese frosting. Aren't they a perfect way to celebrate the last weekend of summer?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Be Brave, Wear Beige

Even though IKEA urges us to "be brave, not beige," I can't help buy enjoy dressing in monochromatic beige outfits now and again. Wearing beige is a great way to work in brighter accessories, like this green necklace that jingles and jangles when I walk (thanks, Jennifer!) Beige is simple and calm, like this stately brick entry way that I have always wanted to walk through. And we could all use more simple and calm (and brick!) in our lives, if you ask me.

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