Sunday, July 13, 2014

Savory Sweets Chocolatey Chunk Cookie

I grabbed this cookie at our newly opened Little Caesar's. Just as I've learned that Little Caesar's is not the paragon of pizza (ugh, the excessive tomato sauce on my leftovers was almost enough to make me cry), neither are their cookies the paragon of cookies. This cookie, which does not appear to be branded by Little Caesar's at all, but just something they sell on the side, was mostly a disappointment.

As soon as I opened it, it failed the Crumble Test in a spectacular way, spraying crumbs all over my desk.

My first bite was equally misadventurous—a crumb lodged in my throat, making for an uncomfortable minute or two.

Not to be daunted, I continued eating the cookie, washing down the errant crumb and learning that as you approach its center, the cookie becomes less prone to disintegration. I concluded that, while the texture is not one that I'll ever actively seek out, I've had worse.

The flavor was that of institutional mass-produced chocolate chip cookie. I imagine this coming out of an industrial-sized vat of bargain-priced refrigerated dough. It was good enough for its genre, just nothing to go down in the record books.

I paid $1.50 for this 85g cookie, setting it at a pretty average price of 1.76¢ per g.

The Bottom Line:

Taste:3 out of 5 stars
Texture:2 out of 5 stars
Price:3 out of 5 stars

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Little Dress Lost: A new kind of fashion goodbye

You might have noticed I tend to wear beloved pants into the ground, and you might have read the mournful eulogy to my favorite shirt, but even on the sad occasions when I have to let go of a worn-out item of apparel, at least I get to say goodbye. It's completely different – a veritable tragedy – when a well-liked garment just up and disappears.

Such is the case of my pink party dress.

Now, losing track of my possessions is not an unfamiliar experience to me; socks, umbrellas, and gloves disappear with astounding regularity, but they are pretty small. I have never before misplaced a whole dress! I also sell my way through a lot of clothes, frequently after only one wear, and I never miss them—but I don't have any recollection of selling this dress. And I'm pretty sure I never wanted to, because that dress was fantastic—after the first use, I might have put it away for a few months to give it time to "breathe" and bring the novelty factor back up, but I wasn't ready to give it up for good! 

I even found a
picture of it!
This dress was a keeper. I really loved it. It was hot pink and gradated and pleated and spectacular. In fact, I liked it so much that after the first time I wore it, I bought another dress in almost the same style in blue. I considered wearing it for New Year's until a more formal dress landed in my closet, and I only seriously started thinking it about it once spring rolled around.

After I traded out my winter wardrobe last spring, I got to wondering where it was. I hadn't noticed it when I was making the switch. I went through my hanging bag of off-season and rarely worn clothing, but came up empty-handed.

I began to wonder if I had abandoned it by accident. The last time I remember seeing it was the last time I wore it. That was at a wedding in Baltimore last summer. When the party was over, we stayed the night in a hotel room. I remember lots of things about that weekend vividly—the floral arrangement I took home, the chocolates I stashed everywhere, my boyfriend's state of intoxication, what I ate for breakfast the next day—but I don't remember what I did with the dress. The next day, we had the valets store our belongings in the car while we biked around the city—but I don't think I would have stuffed the dress in a suitcase to get wrinkled, and I don't remember hanging it in the car. It is quite possible that I hung it up in the room and never thought of it again.

After suddenly remembering the dress a good 9 months after its disappearance, I wrote this story to help deal with my grief...and forgot about it again. Until this week, when I ran across the unfinished draft.

I still miss that dress. As evidenced by my frequent forgetting about it, I could probably let it go. But it's the principle of the thing! Never before have I lost a dress! I'll keep looking for it. One day, we will be together again. Even if I have to pay more than 13 dollars for a replacement!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

My Dream Phone

Since my phone disappeared into the shadowy depths of the Bali airport, I've been giving a lot of thought to phones. Specifically, what I want in one if I'm going to have to fork over the dollars to replace my old one. So far, none of the phones currently on the market are doing it for me. I've even considered harking back to a simpler era and purchasing a throwback...but I don't like any of them either. So, in the hopes that the Law of Attraction will work in my favor, here's what I'm looking for in a phone. Manufacturers, take note. I'm willing to pay good money (but not as good as you seem to think your new phones are worth these days) for a phone with the following attributes:

Pocket-sized. When I say pocket-sized, I mean girl pocket. Skinny jean pocket. Barely there pocket. None of those hand-dwarfing handsets that you're churning out these days. The phones that are being marketed as "mini" are still bigger than my last phone, which was too big. I am currently using an iPhone 3GS, and that's about as big as I ever want to go. If it's taller than 5 inches, it's off my radar for sure.

Foldable. As I recently proclaimed to a friend, I still believe flip phones were the pinnacle of invention. What modern phone comes with its own built-in protective case? None. But not only does a flippable phone protect the screen from damage (without having to bother with stupid and expensive plastic decals that get scratched and hideous after 2 days), but it also makes the phone fit in a smaller space! See above. Double win.

Customizable. One of the main reasons I can't go old-school on my phone is that I have grown dependent on downloadable apps. If I want to be able to do something on my phone, I like being able to grab an app and be done with it. Similarly, I want to be able to disable just about every feature at any time. There's nothing more frustrating than being stuck with a worthless feature because the manufacturer thinks they know your needs better than you do.

Reasonably fast. I have minimal use for 4G Internet, but I do expect sites to load quickly when I'm connected to wi-fi. If I start an app, I expect it it to be ready to go in 3 seconds or less. I think it is safe to sacrifice luxury features like high-def screens, dual cameras, huge amounts of internal storage, and augmented audio for this simple functionality boost. The only reason I mention this, which should go without saying, is that the iPhone 3G I was using before the HTC phone was soooooooo sloooooooooow I could never accomplish anything on it. I would have been better off without a smartphone at all.

Indefatigable. Yes, I used a big word. What I'm trying to say is, I want my phone to have the battery life phones had in the old times, when you could leave them off the charger for days and still be able to to use them. My last phone (an HTC One X, in case you were curious) died consistently after a single day, even when I didn't use it and turned off every background service I could find. That was unacceptable. The 3GS I'm currently using is delighting me by being able to hold a charge for three days. Hmm, a good size? A good battery life? Maybe I won't bother to look for a new phone at all... Except...

Compatible with my computer. My biggest gripe with iPhones is that they refuse to play nice with my Windows computer. I cannot access my pictures or music collection without having to go through iTunes, a very clunky intermediary. My Android phone gave me complete access to the internal storage with nothing more than a USB connection, but I still couldn't preview the pictures without transferring them. Surely there's a better way.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Montana Gold Bread Co. Peanut Butter Cookie

I picked this cookie up at a Farmers' Market in Richmond, VA.

I gave it points from the outset for aesthetics, because it looked delicious, and the extra-large cross hatching on its top surface was unique.

When I first unwrapped it, I caught a delicious whiff of peanut butter—no small consideration when you have a typically non-functioning nose as I do.

Once I bit into it, I concluded the flavor was a little sweeter than I like, but still good and peanut-buttery. Although a bit crumbly, this cookie still had an element of chewiness to give it appeal. However, it kept dropping crumbs on my lap as I was eating eat, so I'll have to downvote it for its textural failings.

At 1.30¢ per gram, it was a good price, and it's a genuine product of a small business.

The Bottom Line:
Taste:4 out of 5 stars
Texture:2 out of 5 stars
Price:4 out of 5 stars

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Better Packing

First, an announcement. I have finally finished blogging about my vacation to Indonesia, but if you haven't had enough of it yet, you can also view my complete photo album on Google+. Be sure to read the captions for valuable information! And if you're still hankering for some travel blog goodness, well, you're in luck, because I can't stop talking about travel!

I learned a lot about travel over my 3-week voyage (including: flying frequently in an airplane makes your ears start popping all the time, even after you've been home a week!), but the most important lessons were on traveling light. Here are some of them.

I deliberately packed a lot of clothes I had been planning on getting rid of anyway, so I could just throw/give them away by the end of the trip, to make more room for souvenirs. Consequently, what I had with me was a mishmash of clothes that didn't fit, didn't look presentable, or didn't match with anything. While it was nice to liberate myself of this burden at the end of the vacation, I don't know if it was worth feeling like a fashion reject for the entirety of the trip. If I were to do it again, I think I'd rather just pack fewer, more serviceable, articles at the outset, and keep them. Wearing the same outfit twice is a minor sin compared to wearing an outfit that makes you miserable.

The next time I vacation, I'm either bringing a small backpack OR an oversized purse, but not both. And I'm going to make sure the straps on the purse aren't so long next time.

Big-brimmed sun hats, despite their usefulness, are not worth the trouble it takes to pack around their bizarre shape. Heck, half the time, the wind is blowing them off your head anyway, so just do yourself a favor and leave them home. In the end, it's probably easier to just wear some extra sunscreen or carry an umbrella.

Platform wedges, though nice for that one day you decide to go out clubbing, are just about the most bulky and heavy shoe possible for packing, and completely not worth it if you're only going to wear them once. If you do feel the need to have dress shoes with you, just in case, at least choose the kind with a stiletto heel and a single sole, so they don't take up your entire baggage allowance.

I brought along a laptop computer as well as an iPad. The laptop was mainly because 1) I wanted to work on an InDesign project, which I proceeded to leave at home anyway and 2) I needed an SD card reader or USB interface in order to get the photos off my camera onto the Internet. Those 2 benefits were definitely not worth the 8 extra pounds of baggage. Next time, I'm going to admit that 1) the chances of me working on anything while on vacation are too slim to bother and 2) it's definitely worth the expense to get an iPad camera connection kit (especially if I can get my employer to pay for it). Problem solved in 1 oz or less.

I recently purchased a new camera, which I love for its easy access to manual controls and its powerful zoom lens. But, as I learned on this trip, I don't love how heavy it is. I frequently found myself leaving it behind when I went places just so I wouldn't have to deal with the weight. The lesson is, bring a smaller camera (or don't lose your phone). What you might sacrifice in picture quality, you'll make up for in actually having pictures.

The biggest packing revelation I had on my trip was, by far, related to toiletries.

My large bag full of toiletry products proved to be impractical. It was overly padded, it sported an unnecessary and space-hogging carry strap, and overall it was an awkward shape for packing. Next time I'm going with wide and flat so I can fit it in on top of all my other stuff, since the toiletries are usually the last things I pack when I'm leaving a place. Furthermore, the things it carried could have been heavily pared down (for example: pills in a compartmentalized box, or even little baggies, rather than oversized individual prescription bottles).

However, there was one product I brought that, I realized, could have replaced almost all of the other toiletries in the bag. And that product was baking soda. No, it's not even a traditional toiletry, but it's good for so many things!
  • It makes a passable substitute for shampoo when washing your hair, and an equally passable powder to absorb grease in between showers.
  • It can be used for brushing your teeth.
  • It is excellent for relieving the swelling of insect stings, ingrown hairs, and zits.
  • It can be used as a gargle when you feel a cold coming on.
  • It makes a very effective laxative when you consume enough of it (I learned this once by accident).
  • It is also an antacid.
  • It can be used as an underarm deodorant. 
Baking soda does does the deodorant job better when mixed with coconut oil, which, incidentally, can be used to replace the following products:
  • Hair conditioner
  • Lotion
  • Lip balm
  • Soap
So there you have it: 11 of your travel hygiene needs solved by just two products! The only other things I kept in that bag were a few other medicines, sunblock, and bug repellent. Which reminds me: because of its odor-absorbing properties, you probably shouldn't store your baking soda in close proximity to your insect-repellent wristbands. I learned that the hard way.