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Chocolate - Need I Say More?

Never satisfied with a simple Hershey's Special Dark or a Snickers bar, one day while I was gliding through the sweets aisle in the grocery (because don't you just glide through the store when you are doing your shopping?), the packaging on the Chuao Chocolatier bars caught my eye.  I'm not sure whether it was the bacon on the Maple Bacon bar or the marshmallow on the Ravishing Rocky Road, but I think I stood there for at least a minute just looking at the pictures.  Then I bought one of all of them, announcing, "We will do a taste test.  What a wonderful way to finally do a blog post again."  Justification 101. are the results.

Ravishing Rocky Road - I do not like nuts in chocolate.  I know that you either are in one camp or another on this one, and I'm clearly in the no nuts camp, and so is everyone else in the family.  I had no expectations for this one, so we tried it first.  Another strike against it, milk chocolate as most of us are the darker the better in our chocolate tastes.  This has caramelized almonds, so it was a step up from just plain nuts.  The marshmallow bits are really good though.

Pop Corn Pop - A had had this before she admitted when we opened it.  In reading the description on the bar, I took it literally that the pop was the popcorn, but no, there are Pop Rocks mixed in the bar.  It's a flavor combination of corn chips, fruity Pop Rocks, milk chocolate, and salty puffed rice that sounds completely gross but is actually quite appealing.  Especially good if you like salty sweet, this one is a little more sweet because of the fruity flavor.

Potato Chip - I had tasted this one before and remember being disappointed with it at the time.  All of the Chuao bars are rather thin, and when I had this the first time, I only had one thin square and remember thinking it was rather unsubstantial for a chocolate bar.  Maybe it was being able to have a second square, but this time I quite liked the salty, crunchy milk chocolate.  At this point though, I was still searching for The ONE.

Honeycomb - Finally dark chocolate, and I had high expectations for this one because honeycomb has been my favorite candy since I was a kid.  The honeycomb pieces are so fine that you get the flavor but none of the hard chewiness that I love so much about chunks of honeycomb.  I think I expected too much from this one.

Maple Bacon - This bar had a great flavor, but to me at least, the bacon was not crisp but rather soggy.  Maybe it was just the piece I had.  The bar has a salty, sweet maple flavor that everyone liked.

Our favorite is not pictured and our grocery store doesn't carry it.  About two days after doing the taste test, I was in CostPlus and saw that they carry the bars too, but there they have the Orange-A-Go-Go bar.  It is a dark chocolate bar, which besides the Honeycomb bar, is severely limited in Chuao's options, so I picked it up.  This was by far everyone's favorite.  The orange is little pieces of candied orange suspended in the dark chocolate.  Maybe it's because it's the simplest flavor combination or it is just the old-faithful combination of orange and chocolate, or maybe it's just because it was a dark bar in a sea of milk, but we all loved this one.  On our next trip to CostPlus, they didn't carry them anymore, making us wonder if it's been discontinued.  It's probably a good thing because this bar could be dangerous.


Office Supplies

A few weeks ago, I lamented the fact that I had not been taking full advantage of my time, and I vowed to get out my agenda and start scheduling my tasks to get things accomplished.  I pulled out my beautiful Whitney English Day Designer and started pulling myself together.

The very first thing I worked on was finally actually creating an editorial calendar for the blogs.  My biggest accomplishment for getting this together was actually taking the time to think about the tasks for each type of blog post.  I had to say to myself, "Plan each post like a small project.  What are the dependencies and milestones?"  I know, Project Manager nerd I am.

I am a huge list maker, and although the Whitney English planner has one column for appointments and one for To-Dos each day, it actually didn't have bough lines for me to break down all of my tasks for three blogs, a YouTube channel, our real estate to-dos, A's schedule, and my normal household stuff, not to mention keeping my recent upsurge in interviews and recruiter calls (yay) organized.  I decided to keep the Whitney English just for blog and YouTube  and to try to find something that I could use for jobs, A, and life in general.  A quick trip to Staples came up with this Daily/Monthly planner, which is working out great.

The rest is just fun stuff I've pulled together to keep me organized and on track with my planning but to have it be fun and cute at the same time.


Date Night

Maybe I'm just getting old, but more and more often lately my favorite date night with my husband is one where we stay in, open a bottle of wine with some cheese, and watch whatever we have been DVRing  Some of our favorites are Elementary, Sherlock (notice a trend there), Person of Interest, and Game of Thrones.


Cozy Mysteries - Turkey Day Murder

They are my guilty pleasure.  My beach read.  My no-brainers.  And I'm not ashamed to admit it.  I love cozy mysteries.  Give me a whodunnit set in a bed and breakfast/ English country house/ museum/ university/ small town/ bakery/ tea shop/ book store/ library with an amateur sleuth who has no skills or training but always figures out the bad guy before the police, and I'll choose it every time.


Express Yourself with Kleenex Style

Recently when I was walking down the aisle of my grocery store, this box of Kleenex caught my eye.  The first thing that attracted me, frankly, is that it's not a box.  Now I know it is a container and what else are you going to call it but a box, but it's not square.  Somehow I feel like that needs to be capitalized…IT'S NOT SQUARE.  It's not a cube.  What the heck?  Of course the next thing I realized was that it's really pretty as in wow look at that cool thing on my dresser.  What is it?  Why, it's a box of Kleenex.  

These are the shelves of my grocery store right now.  Frankly these are not your mother's Kleenex boxes.  When did this start happening?  Little did I know but to celebrate Kleenex’s 90th anniversary, they’re bringing you The Kleenex® Style Studio. It’s a way to discover more of the Kleenex® Brand designs and products you love. And maybe even a few that’ll take you by surprise.  Just click on the link, and you'll be able to see all of the great box designs that are available now and how you can weave them into your room decor.  There's also a fun quiz to test you on how well you know fashion vs box designs.  I have to admit that one of the questions tricked me.

Kleenex actually was invented as a facial tissue to remove makeup, and honestly I use them the most at my vanity.  When I spritz my brushes with cleanser every day, it's a Kleenex that I'm using to wipe off the residue.  So the fact that I can now have a really beautiful box sitting with my playthings on my vanity only makes it better.  The oval box is really handy too because it doesn't add bulk and clutter things up.  

To let you join in the celebration, Kleenex is hosting a sweepstakes.  If you click on the link and go to the landing page, just click on "Sweeps" in the upper right hand corner.  Then just click on "Play to Enter," and you could win a trip to NYC and $5000.  Kleenex would also love to hear your feedback in a short survey.   Just follow this link to take the survey.  I would love it if one of you were to win the trip, so please let me know if you join the sweeps and especially if you win.

This post has been sponsored by Kleenex, but I love the brand and have been using it my entire life.


It's the Little Things

Somedays I feel like I'm so busy doing busy work that I never have time to just look around me and see what is there in front of me.  I check my Instagram and envy the people who find beauty in their midday cup of coffee.  Do you ever feel that way?  Like you are rushing out of the house in the morning before light, dropping off the kids at school, getting caught in traffic, working in a cubicle all day, then doing the reverse until you are home?  When I vowed to take advantage of my time before getting back into the rat race, I started looking around me.  I've noticed clouds and trees, and then out of the blue, there was this little guy just sitting on the lawn one morning.  I hate to admit it, but I think I might have missed him a few weeks ago in the rush to get from the car to the house.  It's the little things like this butterfly that make me hope I remember to keep looking wherever I end up in the next few weeks.


Happy Valentine's Day - Last Minute Gift Guide

5 Pillow Talk Hepburn Paris Pillow

Valentine's Day is generally pretty low key in our house.  I gift my husband with a hoard of any Reese's Peanut Buttercup candy I find at Target, he usually buys me roses, I pick up some treats to show the girls we are thinking of them, and we never dare to go to a restaurant to avoid the craziness.  This year we had planned on going to Ruth's Chris for an early dinner a few days before the big event, but my husband wasn't feeling well, so I canceled our reservations, and we stayed in and picked up Lebanese food.  It was delicious, and we ate in front of the TV in our most comfortable clothes.  I hope to do a repeat tonight.  I love this round up of gifts because there is something for everyone in your life.



Are you reading Sweet Paul Magazine?  I am mildly obsessed to say the least.  If you are just starting to cook or craft, this is your resource to make you feel confident that you can conquer the world.  These chocolate and cinnamon meringues are so easy to make but the addition of the cocoa and cinnamon makes them so much more than plain old meringues (which I love anyway).

Meringues seem to be popping up everywhere I look these days.  Maybe they are the new macaron?


Valentine Decorations

C Wonder Monogram Geo Plate

Another one of those weird quirks I have is that I'm just not into Christmas decorations.  I don't know if it's because of the overkill of the holiday with everyone decorating for it or just the backlash of blowup Frosty on people's lawns, but I never really want to pull out the boxes, untangle the lights, and then take it all down again.  Every other holiday, I'm all over it.



These are from scratch, but I always have a bag of Southern Buttermilk Biscuit Mix in the cabinet

Since I recently came to realize that the only way I feel I can be successful in losing this 20 pounds is to cut back dramatically on my carb intake, these are the kinds of things I dream about at night.  I'm definitely an evening eater, which is probably part of my problem.  The day is full with lots to do, so it's easy for me to never have time to think about snacking.  But about 2 hours after dinner is over, I'm thinking about what comes next.  I've been staving off the cravings by having a cup of coffee or tea, and most of the time that works.  But sometimes, just sometimes, the thought of biscuits enters my mind and simply will not leave.


I've Just Got to Finish It

I've been working on it and working on it, but I'm only 106 pages into it.  That's about 1/4 of the way.  Any sane person would just give up and throw it into the "cannot finish" pile, but I simply can't do that.  Maybe it's a byproduct of being an English major in college.  Great life, right?  I got to read novels for my college education.  Oh, but I also had to write essays about everything I read, and when you are in graduate school, you generally have four novels that have to be finished in two weeks.  And I focused on Victorian literature.  Just carrying The Way We Live Now, Bleak House, Middlemarch, and Daniel Deronda to classes at the same time made it unnecessary to even worry about exercise.


Don't Worry, Be Happy

This is something we've had way too little of this year in Southern California: winter weather.  While the rest of the country has been suffering with massive snowstorms, we are in a drought.  Locally, we just made it through a large wildfire, which usually doesn't happen in January, and without rain, we will certainly have more in the foothills that are hidden in clouds in these pictures.

The more personal side of this weather pattern is how it's impacting me.  I'm one of those weird people who is actually more energized when it's cold.  I find the heat just draining, and I can't focus even when it's in the 80s.  I'm much more productive when there is a chill in the air.  But lately I've had to take responsibility for the lack of productivity in my life that has nothing to do with the weather.  This is going to be a long one folks, so settle in with the warm beverage of your choice.



If you have been watching my YouTube channel (which will soon be undergoing a change), you may have noticed when I mentioned that last year for Christmas my present to my husband was a subscription to Bespoke Post.  That went over so well, this year I decided to gift him with a subscription to NatureBox.


Whipping Cream or Whipped Cream

Do you have any weird eating things?  You know what I mean.  I'm not a picky eater at all, but there are some things I just can't do.  Snails, no problem.  Sweetbread, I'm all over it.  Most vegetables that other people turn up their noses at, beets, Brussels sprouts, and kale come to mind, I'll take an extra helping.  But whipped cream?  Get it away from me.  I don't know what it is, but I just can't handle it.

So here I am, eating around the whipped cream.  Now I love whipping cream.  I put it in my coffee every morning, but there is something about adding the air to it that I just don't like.  But if you put some chocolate in there and tell me it's mousse, I'll scarf it right down.

Weird I know.  Can't explain it at all.


Melting Crayons

A little bit bored in the days after Christmas, Ariana and I spotted this very old Crayola Crayon Maker on a shelf while I was putting away wrapping supplies.  We got very nostalgic over it and decided to take it down and play with it.  We wanted to do something a little bit different though and just use it to melt the wax then cut them with cookie cutters into shapes.

Now, we haven't had any reason to buy crayons for years, so the first snag we hit was that we couldn't find any crayons!  We finally found an old coffee mug full of bits and pieces at the back of a cupboard.

In addition to shapes, we though it would be fun to press images into the soft wax using these shortbread cookie stamps.

Peeling the wrappers off had to be the worst part.

Until we realized that because of the very good safety features, the wax was too firm to pour by the time we could open the lid of the machine.

So we went the old fashioned way and put the crayon bits into my Silicups baking cups and directly into the oven.


The finished product.  We do prefer the stamped wax to the cutouts.  I have no idea what we'll do with them now, but we did have fun playing for a few hours.