Posted on Nov 25th, 2010 by Allison (Reviews/Recommendations)

As a card-carrying member of the Godiva Chocolate Rewards Club, I am morally obligated to stop into my local Godiva shop each month for my free piece of chocolate. It’s a burden, but how can I refuse? I love chocolate, and it’s even better when it’s free. I also get a monthly catalog which attempts to entice me into purchasing more chocolate… which I rarely do.

Last month the catalog featured their new “Baked Dessert” truffles – along with a $15 coupon. I ripped it out and headed straight to Godiva. Some of the flavors sounded better than others to me, so I was hoping to purchase individual truffles. But they only had them in a 6 truffle, boxed box collection that day – for, as luck would have it, $15.

Tiramisu: meh
Strawberry Tart: meh
Cheesecake: OK, but nothing special.
Carrot Cake: Pretty good, didn’t love it.
Chocolate Lava Cake: Now you’re talking. This was delicious.
Red Velvet Cake: MMMMMMM. I’ve been back for another.

A couple of weeks later I stopped by my local Hallmark store where they happen to sell individual Hazelnut Lindor Truffles (most stores don’t carry that variety, which is my favorite). I bought two – and enjoyed them both before I even made it home.

These little chocolate balls just melt into creamy chocolaty goodness in my mouth – and I am forced to wonder if the $2.50+ Godiva truffles are really that much better than the .45 Lindt truffles…

Certainly the Godiva truffles are more artistic. But do I enjoy them more???

I think not. I’ll enjoy my monthly free piece of Godiva, and save my money for Lindt. Or Boehem or Seattle Chocolate’s Mint Truffles.

What’s your take on Godiva vs. Lindt (or other)?

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Each year, for the past several years, Kristin has hosted/put on an interactive murder mystery for her kids and their friends.

This weekend was the 2010 Murder Mystery – Til Death Do Us Part…set at a Medieval wedding event.

Something you should know about Kristin is when she puts on an event, she goes all the way. It’s not just a party – it’s a production!

And these are no murder mysteries you can buy in a box – no, those don’t meet her standards. Instead, she writes them from scratch.

I am a “creative consultant” on the projects, suggesting ideas for plot lines, characters, twists and turns, etc. I help with some editing/proof-reading and occasionally assist with a bit of writing.

But Kristin does all the heavy lifting – writing each character’s story, organizing, making sure each character has enough to do and have all the items they need to accomplish their goals – and that all the different plot lines fit together.


I don’t know how many spreadsheets and other documents she has to create to keep track of it all. I’m a bit in awe of all that goes into putting one of these things together. I think Kristin has a special gift for it.

It’s a huge job. HUGE.

And takes a particularly creative and organized mind to pull it off – not to mention a bit of a budget. I think she said she printed over 506 index cards for this particular mystery (the biggest one she’s done yet) in addition to other documents and necessary items.

She’s very clever. I was particularly fond of the Bible (a main theme of this mystery – lots of bibles with things hidden inside) which contained scripture from the Book of Armaments. Lots of clever bits like that.

“…And Saint Attila raised the hand grenade up on high, saying, “O Lord, bless this Thy hand grenade that with it Thou mayest blow Thine enemies to tiny bits, in Thy mercy.” And the Lord did grin and the people did feast upon the lambs and sloths and carp and anchovies and orangutans and breakfast cereals, and fruit bats…”

She has spent the last 8+ weeks on the most recent murder mystery – literally, a full time (unpaid) job.

Although I have helped in the development of previous mysteries, this is the first event I have actually been able to attend (since she now lives only 90 minutes away). And even though I know she goes full out on anything she does, I was not prepared for what I discovered upon my arrival.

I was completely blown away.
.

  • All major main-floor furniture was being moved out of the house and into the garage. This includes all the tables, office desks, giant big screen tv, etc. With 28 kids in the house, every square foot was needed.
  • Her house was transformed into a castle! The white walls now appeared to be made of stone, doorways became staircases, torches and stained glass windows on the walls. The backyard was now a graveyard.
  • All 28 characters (plus two ‘oracles’ – Kristin and I) each had their own professional packets of information – including their character sheets, abilities, goals, secrets, trivia, and items in their possession.
  • Craig spent an entire day cooking to create a delicious feast for the Medieval wedding, and the entire night serving it.

Friday and Saturday were spent in these preparations, and the kids began arriving Saturday evening. And what an awesome group they were. Most took their costuming very seriously – they looked fabulous.

Even though most of them had never attended an interactive murder mystery (and were, therefore, completely confused for the first hour) – got into their characters and had a great time. They are not scripted – each character can do what they want with their part, so we never know how the evening will end. Makes for great fun.

Jousting while riding the stick ponies was a big hit, there were several attempted murders, three deaths, two coronations and five weddings!

So fun to see the creative ways the kids played their characters and created alliances and plotted against each other.

My character was Mirela the gypsy. I had a fabulous costume and spoke with a convincing Romanian accent.

My job was to help Kristin manage things, share my “visions” – and photograph the event… “capture their images with my magical contraption, provided to me the wizard”.

Anyway, it was an impressive and exciting evening…. and exhausting. We all slept til nearly noon today!

And then started brainstorming on the plot for the 2011 mystery – it’s going to be good! :)

If you ever get an opportunity to attend one of Kristin’s murder mysteries – BE THERE!

It’s an experience you’ll not forget.

I really think she should sell these… or perhaps even put them on as a paid organizer/hostess. So hire her for your next party! (and offer her a lot of money)

All hail Kristin – the Mistress of Murder!

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Posted on Aug 16th, 2010 by Allison (Reviews/Recommendations)

My mom recently spent a week visiting here in Seattle. It was all the excuse I needed for another Savor Seattle tour.

Since taking the Pikes Place Market food tour in 2008, Angela and company at Savor Seattle have introduced a Chocolate Indulgence Tour. Apparently, along with coffee and fresh seafood, Seattle has developed a reputation for great Chocolate.  It’s no secret that the sweet tooth runs in our family, so choosing this 2 hour walking tour was a no brainer.

We invited my siblings and their spouses to join us. We met up with our spunky guide, Amy, and the 8 other guests, put on our cool wireless headsets and were on our way.

We started off at Oliver’s Lounge at the Mayflower Hotel, where the bartender created a chocolate cocktail for everyone… except us.

Since we’re non-drinkers, we opted in advance for hot cocoa.  But after hearing him talk about what goes into the cocktail and watching him create it, I really wish I’d tried it (even with the likelihood that I wouldn’t like it).

Next time I take the tour – and believe me, there will be a next time – no substitutions for me.

Next stop was The Dahlia bakery – owned by renown Seattle chef Tom Douglas.

There we sampled his famous Triple Coconut Cream Pie and a completely decadent chocolate truffle cookie – which  Seattle Magazine named as one of Seattle’s best desserts.   So moist, so delicious! Mmmmm…

I want one right now.

And we’re walking….. we’re walking….

We made our way to The Chocolate Box to sample gelato, sweet mini cupcakes and absolutely TO DIE FOR Chocolate Enrobed Brownies.

Enrobed.

Doesn’t that sound decadent? Moist brownies enrobed in chocolate.  So moist they were almost like fudge (but better).  I think that was my favorite taste of the day.  And we came back here after dinner (at Machiavelli’s, of course) to pick up more brownies (and tried both the Walnut and Rocky Road varieties – both delicious).

After that we wandered on over to Pikes Place Market for a stop at The Confectional.

There we enjoyed delicious, rich Colombian Sipping Chocolate so thick you could use it as a topping. It had a bit of spice added, and tasted a lot like I imagine Juliette Binoche’s character, Vianne, served in the wonderful movie Chocolat, also starring Johnny Depp. One of my favorite movies – you should really see it if you haven’t.

But I digress…

An even bigger hit was the White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake. This shop is another ‘must visit’ stop if you’re ever in Seattle.

All of their cheesecakes are made in individual serving sizes – so perfect for on the go. And lots of delicious flavors to choose from.

From there we walked to Kukuruza Gourmet Popcorn where not only did we get to sample yummy chocolate coated popcorn, but we were entertained by a dancing employee. Awesome. Some of us also tried the cheddar and caramel popcorn mix, as well as a lavender lemonade variety (which smelled like lavender, but tasted like lemonade, imo).  All quite delicious.

Our last stop was Fran’s Chocolates. Three luscious treats awaited us:

  • a dark chocolate truffle (my favorite)
  • a raspberry truffle (Kristin’s favorite?)
  • a salted caramel (President Obama’s favorite – as well as many of the people on the tour)

And then our tour of deliciousness was at an end, sweet tooth satisfied.

All along the way we learned fascinating information about the history of chocolate, where it comes from, how it is made, as well as chocolate’s unique place in Seattle culture. 

If you like chocolate, I recommend this tour highly – and suggest that if you take it while visiting Seattle, do so near the beginning of your stay so you can take advantage of the merchant discount card you’ll receive at the end of the tour. It’s good for 10 days at ALL of the businesses where Savor Seattle tours – not just those on the chocolate tour.

So, who’s going to come visit me next so we can take this tour together?? :)

Now, where’s my chocolate…

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Posted on May 28th, 2010 by Allison (Reviews/Recommendations)

When I purchased my Dell Inspiron 1520 Notebook over two years ago, I did something rather atypical – bought an extended warranty.

I usually don’t ‘waste’ my money, since rarely have I ever had to use one. But for some reason (maybe because my livelihood depends on my functioning computer), I bit the bullet and added a 3 year warranty to the order.

Over all, this has been a great computer – and no need to use the warranty. I did break one of the USB ports (connector broke off while still inside – my fault, not covered by warranty), and I’ve completely worn the letters E, R, N and M off the keyboard. But aside from that no problems.

But a couple of months ago, the screen started doing something weird. It was pink when I turned it on, though would become white quite quickly. Over time, the pink has gotten darker and lasted longer. And yesterday, the screen just went black.

OK, I figured that warranted a call to Dell Tech support – surely that would be covered by my warranty. Fortunately, I purchased an external monitor I could hook up to, went to the Dell website and started an online chat with tech support.

It was one of the easiest, most satisfying tech support sessions I’d had. He didn’t just want to know about the screen – he also asked me all about the condition of the notebook – did it have all its screws, rubber feet, condition of the keyboard, if I had any concerns at all.

Because I mentioned it sometimes gets hot, he asked if I’d use compressed air to clean out the air vents. I hadn’t. He asked me to that, (which required me buying a can of compressed air), and that he’d call me the next day (today) to see how it worked – and based on that, he’d put in an order for replacement parts. He confirmed that the USB port wasn’t covered by the warranty – but I figure I’ve lived without that 4th port for a year, I can manage.

So today I get a call at the appointed hour. I’m told that not only will my screen be replaced, so will my keyboard, my touchpad – AND my motherboard, so I will have 4 working USB ports (they made a special exception for me). Basically a new computer.

And the best part of all this is that I don’t have to ship my computer off to be fixed – they’ll send a technician TO MY HOUSE to swap out all the parts…. no charge. Well, I guess there was a charge – the warranty. But today I’m thinking it’s worth every penny. So thank you Dell.

I’d buy another Dell in a heartbeat (and an extended warranty).

Do you have any warranty (or lack there of) happy or horror stories to share?

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Posted on Jan 31st, 2010 by Allison (Reviews/Recommendations)

Well, I’m back on my HCG diet, trying to undo the damage inflicted by the holidays. That means my food choices are extremely limited (but I’m getting smaller…)

Creme BruleeSince I can’t eat the food I love, I’ll write about it and make you hungry for it too.

Here is my current list of “bests”
(subject to change at any time):
.

  • Best Burger - Red Robin
  • Best Creme Brule – tie: The Keg & Ruth’s Chris
    and they both serve a fantastic filet mignon
  • Best Tostada Salad - Cafe Rio
  • Best Girl Scout Cookie - Tie: Thin Mints (frozen) or Tagalongs
  • Best Italian food – Machiavelli’s
  • Best Chinese food (esp. Schezwan Beef) – Asian Star
  • chickenpillows-sm

  • Best Comfort food – there are so many, but today I’ll say Chicken Pillows
  • Best Ice CreamHaagendaz Rocky Road
  • Best CheesecakeCraig Cottle’s
  • Best BrownieJudge Cafe
  • Best Chocolate Chip CookiesJ’Neil’s
  • Best Carne AsadaAzul
  • Best Pie – Tie: Soda Cracker or Lemon Meringue
  • Seattle Chocolate Mint Truffle
  • Best Mint Truffle: I’m on a quest here. I’ve tried (and enjoyed) Kara, Boehms, and Seattle Chocolates. All are very good, but I haven’t been able to determine a “best.”
    Any suggestions?

Any “bests” you’d like to challenge or add?

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Posted on Jan 2nd, 2010 by Allison (Reviews/Recommendations, Spiritual / Religion)

Have you ever received a natal report?

To be honest, I have never really been into astrology, other than finding the descriptions of the astrological birth signs interesting. I am definitely a Pisces.

My son and mother both have strong Taurus traits. My ex husband was the epitome of a Gemini. In fact, the only person in my life who’s birth sign does not describe her at all is my daughter Ashley who has nearly NO traits of Scorpio. Her birth sign is “Sunshine” :)

The Sky Within Natal Report
Several years ago I discovered The Sky Within natal report.    And although I don’t follow my horoscope or live my life by the stars,  I found the sample report very interesting so ordered one for myself.  I was really quite shocked at how accurate it was – and how insightful.  It was almost like the person writing it knew me on a deep level.

I found it so intriguing that I ended up giving them as gifts to friends that year for Christmas, and have done so for other friends on their birthdays. And virtually every person (Ashley excepted) has had the same reaction – amazement at the accuracy, and appreciation for the personal insight offered.

Journey to the Sky Within While reorganizing my bookshelf, I just came upon my report again and reread it. Still amazing, and a really good read as I spend the weekend envisioning what I would like to do, be, and become in 2010.

If you have a Sky Within birth chart – pull it out and read it again. If you don’t – I recommend you give yourself (or someone else) the report as a gift for the New Year… .

Get your report here.

When you read it, I’d love to know what you think!

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Posted on Dec 17th, 2009 by Allison (Reviews/Recommendations)

This is a completely non-Christmasy post. It is about cold sores. Or, rather, a remedy for them.

I am one of the chosen ones. The ones special enough to carry the virus that blesses us with an outbreak of fever blisters or cold sores at least once a year. I’ve enjoyed this blessing since I was a child. Lucky me.

They start as a little tingle or itch…. but they become very itchy, quite painful, and rather embarrassing. A mild case may heal up in less than a week, but a bad one can go on for 2 – 3.

Over the years I’ve tried a multitude of remedies for these obnoxious blisters on my lip with very little success. I have found that ice very temporarily helps reduce the itching. Tea Tree essential oil (which is a staple of my medicine chest) can help with the itching, plus I know that it is anti bacterial, anti viral, etc. Lysine supplements are supposed to help… don’t know if they have.

abrevaBut last year I discovered Abreva. It promised to shorten the healing time – and for the price of that tiny little tube (I paid $15.99 with a coupon – normally $17.99), I thought “it better!”

To my surprise and delight, Abreva actually worked! I felt the tell-tale signs of an outbreak about 5 days ago, and started applying Abreva 4 – 5 times a day.

my coldsore is hardly visibleIt is now nearly completely healed. I had only 2 days of noticeable itching, and the cold sore never swelled up large like it usually does. In fact, if you’d seen me you probably wouldn’t have even noticed the little blister on my lip.

So I’m giving Abreva 4 clams.

I would give it 5, but the tube is quite expensive and very easy to misplace, because it is so tiny.

But if you, like me, suffer from cold sores – Abreva is a must have remedy for your medicine cabinet. But be smarter than I was… buy it at Amazon for less!

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Posted on Nov 26th, 2009 by Allison (Music / Entertainment, Reviews/Recommendations)

Today I went to see the movie The Blindside with Sandra Bullock. Here is my brief review:

It’s very, very good – even if you’re not a fan of football.

Go see it.

The end.

What did you do for Thanksgiving?

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Posted on Oct 24th, 2009 by Allison (Reviews/Recommendations)

Since I’m still living out of a hotel (though, thankfully, at the much more comfortable Hampton Inn now), I’ve been eating out a lot. Here is my exciting recap and review of my meals (possible 5 clams).

My favorite meal at Panera BreadPanera Bread I really like this cafe and have eaten here several times. I usually get the “Pick 2″ special, where I get a bowl of soup or a salad with 1/2 a Panini (and i always get the same Panini… first one I ever tried. It was so good, I’ve never wanted to try another).

Broccoli Cheddar Soup
Creamy Tomato Soup
French Onion Soup
Fuji Apple Chicken Salad
Chicken Bacon Dijon Panini

Claim Jumper – always has something good on the menu.

Organic Spinach Salad
followed by Whiskey Apple Glazed Pork Loin
Leftovers the next night…

Applebees – Ultimate Trio (appetizers). Totally unmemorable. 

Teriyaki restaurants close to my housedIn Utah, it seems like there is a hamburger joint on every corner. Here, it’s Teriyaki joints – with names like Sunny Teriyaki, Yummy Teriyaki, Joy Teriyaki, etc. Sometimes there is more than one on the same corner.

In fact, you can see by this map that there are 12 teriyaki places within a mile of my condo. Some of these little restaurants are better than others – and Yummy Teriyaki never disappoints.

Yummy Teriyaki (“I” on the map)
Beef Teriyaki with rice & salad

I’ve also partaken of a Subway sandwich, a chicken breast from KFC, tacos from Taco Bell, and a burger from Wendys. Nothing to write home (or a review) about.

What are some of your favorite restaurants/meals out?

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Posted on Sep 27th, 2009 by Allison (Reviews/Recommendations, Travel)

YellowstoneI just watched the first episode of a wonderful new PBS series called

National Parks – America’s Best Idea

Did you see it?

If not, I highly recommend catching it as it replays this week – and tuning in for future installments.

The National Parks: America’s Best Idea is a six-episode series filmed over the course of more than six years at some of nature’s most spectacular locales – from Acadia to Yosemite, Yellowstone to the Grand Canyon, the Everglades of Florida to the Gates of the Arctic in Alaska.

It is also a story of people: people from every conceivable background – rich and poor; famous and unknown; soldiers and scientists; natives and newcomers; idealists, artists and entrepreneurs; people who were willing to devote themselves to saving some precious portion of the land they loved, and in doing so reminded their fellow citizens of the full meaning of democracy.Bryce

The scenery is spectacular and will make you want to pack up and visit every single national park in this beautiful country. And the history and stories behind the parks’ creation is inspirational.

What are your favorite national park(s)?

Any great memories from the first time you saw Old Faithful, a giant Sequoia, glacier or waterfall in a national park??

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