Category: reviews



my sweet virginia…

last night, BS and i saw a concert. there was a time in our lives that this wasn’t so noteworthy — pre-kids — but since becoming parents, we don’t get to see concerts a whole lot. and now that we are picky fogies, we won’t go to big stadium shows anymore, either. the biggest we go it the verizon center in DC, which certainly isn’t insignificant in size, but it’s more manageable… and we have a place to park.

anyway, with BS’s birthday coming up, i was grateful and happy when BS did the presale for the Foo Fighters, even though the seats at the start of the presale were still up with G-d. BS loveloveloves the Foos, so while I like them, for him, I knew this was a big deal. And since he is the Hardest Man on Earth to Shop For (TM), it was almost like instant birthday present. (well, that plus last weekend, when he went to play in some poker tournament in PA. or was it DE? who knows.) i found a sitter, and we were set.

i won’t go into the dinner, which was forgettable, food-wise.  i won’t go into the opener for the opener, the joy formidable, who kept us on the edge of our seats waiting to see which rock cliché they were going to embrace (were they going to smash their instruments? set them on fire? no, they just created a ton of noise and feedback and just left the stage with the feedback still haranguing the audience.)

and i won’t even go into the opener, social distortion. yeah yeah, i know that social D is an institution. i get that. i just don’t like them, okay? mike ness’s voice always sounds to me like someone let monotone uncle marvin loose in a karaoke bar. it grates. but i have loads of friends who like them, and that’s cool. i’m sure they put on a sufficiently good show, making the crowd scream every time ness said motherf***er. yeah, that’s a thrill.  (you know what else would be a thrill? writing a song that uses more than three chords.)

but i digress.

anyway, the foos exploded onto the stage around 8:30. dave grohl, my secret boyfriend #3, ran all over the stage, down a runway past the soundboard, and then onto a mini-riser, which made it easier for people like us in the cheap seats to see him. i’m not sure what tiny dave eats besides wheaties, but that man, along with taylor hawkins, the drummer with 0% body fat, are unbelievably energetic. he was absolutely pumped because, he said, this was the first time he had sold out the big-ass arena in my hometown. he talked about growing up in springfield and the girl who broke his heart when he was 12.

the night she broke his heart, he had a dream, he said. he dreamt he was in a rock band, playing in a huge arena. and he looked out among the sea of faces, and there she was. and then, he shared that there she was, in the audience, tonight.

(talk about the one that got away.)

the Foos went through plenty of material from their current album as well as plenty of their hits. (they played for three and a half hours for the hometown crowd because he was so pumped to be there.) local bob mould came onstage during the encore to play dear rosemary with the band, which he does on the LP.  but my favorite moment was an unspoken one.

while singing arlandria, there was this glimmer i saw. arlandria, for those who don’t actually know, is a section of alexandria just below the arlington border. it’s along four mile run, above del ray. the song is loaded with double entendres (for example, Virginia is also grohl’s mom’s name.) anyway, it must have been a little trippy to sing arlandria in front of a crowd who knows exactly where and what arlandria is (at least, we folks in arlington and alexandria, anyway.) and when dave sang my sweet virginia, i could swear this genuine smile came over his face. it wasn’t his usual toothy, forced concert grin. it was absolutely warm.

dave has come home.

what i did on my summer vacation: part 1

what i did on my summer vacation: part 1

i know, i know. i’ve been scarce.

it’s been a crazy year. but no matter what the gods threw at us, we were buoyed by the idea that at the end of june, we were going to spend 8 whole days at club med sandpiper in florida, followed by some time in south florida capped off by a visit with my old friends plus a phillies game versus the hopeless hapless helpless florida marlins. sun, beach, fun — what could be better?

to be sure, we have been to club med sandpiper before. 3 or 4 times, to be exact. (sort of.) we loved the fact that the kids loved having fun in the kids clubs while mom and dad did anything from flying trapeze time (no lie) to water skiing, to rollerblading to golf (okay, well, BS is the golfer; i find golf snoozeworthy.) there was a man as old as methuselah who taught the yoga classes, there was an adult pool and a restaurant for adults only as well as endless, delicious food.

and the bread…

club med sandpiper has undergone a pretty big renovation. where there once was a patio where the kids ran and ran, there’s now another pool, a lovely one with chaises all around. but if you want to sit in one of those chairs, you’d better put your stuff down on one to reserve it by about 8am or you’ll be sorely disappointed, as we often were.  at times, we escaped to the adult pool, only to find other adults bringing their children to it. (!) one day, one lady removed her bikini top (a no-no on the beach, despite the number of people who were not from the US of A) while two clearly-under 18 boys ogled. (only adults have the clear wristband.) one actually stood up and stared at her freed boobage. i walked over to beavis while his butthead friend looked on. you do know this beach is for adults, right?

hey, he replied earnestly, i’m almost 17.

there was a lot of this sort of entitled attitude i experienced here on my visit, a surprise, maybe because this time, there was a predominance of americans?

there were some pretty major changes in the dining, and not just that my beloved chocolate bread was only served at lunch and dinner. firstly, the adult-only restaurant was gone, replaced by a lunch/dinner/post dinner snack type restaurant with an unchanging menu. one time, the girl and i went to have a snack. she ordered a cheese quesadilla with guac. i ordered the crudities, which were tiny, itsy-bitsy pieces of vegetables. (the carrot portion of the dish probably consisted in total of 1/2 of a baby carrot.) good thing i wasn’t hungry.

the main restaurant is buffet-style. in the past, there were simply massive tables where waiters would seat you and others together, travelers as well as the employees (or G.O.’s, as they are called). this was actually wonderful, as you ended up meeting other people easily and felt part of a community of sorts. not so anymore. now, people sit wherever they want, and there is a serious predominance of reserved tables. sure, if you have taken your family of 18 on vacation together, you probably want to sit together. but there were tables of 4 which bore the little Reserved For signs and which we found rather obnoxious. (of course, one day, one of the tables had a sign that said Reserved for Korn. sweet! my BS exclaimed. there are rock stars eating here!) we only sat with another couple once, by our invitation. we never sat with a G.O. (of course, we sat with plenty of flies, which aboundeth.)

anyway, you care about the food, and i do, too. gone is the freshly squeezed orange juice; i’m sure some stupid americans complained that it was too difficult for them to squeeze their own o.j. and why should i have to squeeze my own juice — i’m on vacation! (spoilsport.)  the omelette guy is the best thing about breakfast; every day, i had my egg white omelette and my oatmeal and was happy as a clam. (note to self: are clams really happy? how would anyone know?) especially important, considering there was no chocolate or white chocolate bread at breakfast. (have i mentioned how much i love this stuff?) curiously, the skim milk went M.I.A. most mornings. i’m not sure who you have to sleep with to get skim milk instead of whole or 2%, but it was annoying.

i’ll combine lunch and dinner. it’s easy to combine them now, as they are pretty much interchangeable. in the past, there were theme nights, and it was fun, albeit scary, for an american palate to encounter some euro foods. not any more. usually, there was some asian (read: fried rice or something indian-like/curryish) sort of food which was heavy on the salt and limited on the actual spice or flavor. in fact, BC thought that they must have a basic asian flavor that they use for all their asian food, and it isn’t even good. there are often pieces of fish or fowl and sometimes beef. crab legs one night. but nothing stood out.  and the desserts were completely lackluster and repeated. in the past, there were different desserts cranked out by the bakers. now? it’s the same few sorts, rotated, plus cookies at lunch. so dull, the kids and i decided to eat our beloved chocolate bread for dessert.

waterskiing and rollerskating are no longer part of the program. (well, you can waterski, but it costs extra now.) i tried taking a golf lesson to attempt to catch up to my BS and try to play on the pitch and putt. the lesson: how to grip a club. the instructor spent 10 minutes berating me because i have a lefty grip. then, he told me to stand behind him and watch. oh, and whenever he said left, i should substitute right. thanks. after not being able to see him, i waited until the question and answer time. only, too bad for me — he had a cellphone call to take. i waited patiently for him to finish, then i approached him. only once again, too bad for me — i encountered a french-canadian golf gang hell-bent on monopolizing the teacher’s time. literally every time there was a break, i tried to get his attention. sadly, i am not cute and don’t speak with a french accent, so he continued to pay attention to these amazons from montreal. finally, fed up, i left the course.  i had stood in 90+ degree heat and wasted my time for an hour. thanks, dude.

(the husband had a similar experience in the teacher’s intermediate class. so it wasn’t just a beginner neeb like myself.)

i spent some time in the weight room, which is nice but small. people hog the ellipticals and the one treadmill. and people also don’t wipe down the equipment. (the husband was stunned as i brazenly told a man next to me not to forget to wipe down his machine that he had drenched. yes, i am that lady.) once again, another situation where you have to fight to get to do something you should be able to do on vacation. another hassle. and as in most cases, the G.O.s are not paying attention and don’t want to get into any sort of situation with patrons.

the girl is old enough for the teen club; she was allowed to basically wander the place at will, which she loved. but the boy was not so entranced by his group, the manatees. and frankly, i had the feeling that the G.O.s who ended up with his group probably had somehow felt like they had gotten the short end of the stick. i didn’t sense that any of them particularly liked kids, which is such a vastly different experience than what i had had when my kids were younger.  back in the old days, G.O.’s tried to create a fun pride in the group with cheers and songs. i didn’t see any of that happening here.

and then, there was the slapping incident.

jools tells me that he wasn’t allowed to eat dessert. i asked him why. he tells me that he said: ew, gross! when this one boy stepped on a grape. and then, the boy slapped him. now, two things should be evident here to any of you who are parents: 1) the story makes no sense, and 2) WTF? a kid slapped my kid? so, like any concerned parent, i went to talk to the G.O. well, yes, she said, jools lost dessert because he didn’t listen and went to get dessert before she said he could get dessert. (which, for reasons i don’t understand, they were only allowed to get the ice cream and not the cookies, which is absurd. oh, and they wouldn’t let them have soda. hello? this is VACATION. i paid for all this food. let my kid eat whatever he wants, thanks very much.) this had happened the day before, so she wanted to teach him a lesson.

okay, i replied. so tell me about the slapping part.

well, she continued, a boy did slap julian. i asked her what happened to that boy.

he lost dessert as well.

hold the phone. are you telling me that not listening and getting dessert is on the same level as slapping another person?

of course not, she said. i talked to his dad. (i don’t think there was any time for her to actually have spoken to the father, and there was never any apology. i doubt this ever happened.) so the next day, i had a kid who didn’t want to go back to group, and i frankly didn’t want to send him there because i wasn’t certain he was being treated fairly and kindly. considering the kids camp is the number one selling point of this entire operation, this is a serious dealbreaker.  while i adore spending time with my kids, we have always adored club med sandpiper because the kids have fun and the parents get a break. and now? no breaks for mom and dad.

so basically, we have here uninspiring food, G.O.s who don’t seem to care a lot about the kids in their care, pushy people, an inability to participate in most activities because they are crowded, adult-only places where the adult-only place is never enforced by anyone, and just not a lot of fun to be had at a not-so-cheap cost. we used to hold all other vacations up to club med sandpiper — we didn’t care that it wasn’t the fanciest place. we l0ved the feel of the place. we loved the community. we loved the energy. and now? there’s none of that. sure, the physical plant is probably somewhat improved, but in general? a serious, serious disappointment.

and this was our big vacation for a few years. thanks for nothing, club med.



sometimes, a coffee is not something to lose your antlers over.

i was delighted once again when my friends at coffee for less kindly gave me some Caribou Coffee Signature Blend Decaffeinated K-Cups to try and review. as i’ve said many times, i love me some K-cups which i dutifully use in my Keurig machine that BS gave me as a present awhile back. and how much easier is it to pop a k-cup in your Keurig instead of schlepping out in your jammies and bunny slippers (oops, is that too much information?) to a coffee shop? so of course, i broke out my ever-popular mom cup and had me a cuppa.

coffee 2

am i a bad person for saying that the coffee is okay but not something i would actually order again? well, in the words of popeye, i yam what i yam. and i just didn’t get too jazzed about this coffee. i like flavorful, dark roasts. this one? meh. it wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t something i would look forward to drinking on a daily basis. caribou coffee doesn’t have an outpost too close to me, so i guess if i really liked their coffee, i would be overjoyed at having it in my own home. but the times i have stopped at caribou, i have not only been a little annoyed to pay a little extra for decaf coffee (what’s up with that?) but i have been underwhelmed by the brew.

to each his own, i suppose.  but with all the coffee choices at coffeeforless — and with free shipping at a $50 order — there are plenty of other really terrific k-cups to select.  (this is my current fave!)

definitely try one of them instead.

a big thank you to the folks at coffee for less, who kindly supplied me with the coffee to review. the opinions are all mine. the love is all genuine. read more about coffee (and the people who love it!) on their coffee blog.

black coffee

black coffee

…because classics are classic for a reason.

i was delighted once again when my friends at coffee for less kindly gave me some Tully’s French Roast Decaffeinated K-Cups to try and review. as i’ve said many times, i love me some K-cups which i dutifully use in my Keurig machine that BS gave me as a present awhile back. this k-cup promises to be rich…smoky…grand…dark on the package, so of course, i broke out my ever-popular mom cup and had me a cuppa.

coffee 2

eureka! i loveloveLOVE this blend, almost as much as i love my coffee people favorite blend.  and as my coffee people fave is sometimes unavailable, i now have a new go-to cup! (which is a good thing; i’m just about out of coffee!)  it holds up black, it holds up with the coffee mate, it holds up to anything! it’s hard to believe it’s decaf, it has such a bold, assertive flavor. ok, so it probably also would not go over well with my mom and dad, who like a more mellow brew.

but for me, it’s destined to be a classic in my morning routine.

a big thank you to the folks at coffee for less, who kindly supplied me with the coffee to review. the opinions are all mine. the love is all genuine. read more about coffee (and the people who love it!) on their coffee blog.

coffee & tv

coffee & tv

what’s not to like about paul newman?

paul newman — great actor, humanitarian, and all-around good guy. they don’t seem to make ’em like that anymore, do they… he was one of those people i hoped would live forever. sigh.

his movies certainly live on — i can’t even name just one favorite, he’s so good — but what also lives on, among other efforts of his,  is his food line, newman’s own, which has been donating profit money to charities since 1982.  so i was delighted when my friends at coffee for less kindly gave me some Green Mountain Coffee Decaf Newman’s Own Special K-Cups to try and review. i love me some K-cups which i dutifully use in my Keurig machine that BS gave me as a present awhile back.

so i broke out my mom cup, made by BC, my beloved daughter, plunked in a K-cup, made some coffee, and drank some up.

coffee 2

the coffee is a blend of dark and light roasts, so i was expecting something a little mellow. and that’s exactly what i tasted — a very balanced, flavorful but not assertive drink. it survived the vanilla creamer test, and it survived the drinking it straight test. i tend to favor bold flavors, but this blend was a calm blend, something i could see my parents especially enjoying on a sunday morning. and yes, i liked it, too!

cos like i said — what’s not to like about paul newman?

a big thank you to the folks at coffee for less, who kindly supplied me with the coffee to review. the opinions are all mine. the love is all genuine. read more about coffee (and the people who love it!) on their coffee blog.

yummy, yummy, yummy

yummy, yummy, yummy

i love it when i get to try new stuff. especially coffee!!

recently, i had the great fortune to try some green mountain decaf donut house k-cups courtesy of the cool folks at coffee for less. i volunteered to review the coffee for them because i can say wholeheartedly that i love these folks. i loved them even before i got this offer. i mean, i have been ordering my K-Cups from them now for months.

donut house box

backstory: my beloved spouse (whom regular readers recall is affectionately known around here as BS) doesn’t drink coffee and got sick and tired of my giant stainless steel french press full of coffee, which ended up getting only half-drunk because after a half-carafe of decaf, well… you’d think someone slipped something speedy-funny into my beverage. who knows who gave him the idea, but voila! a year ago during the holiday season known as december (which includes my daughter BC’s birthday, chanukah, and christmas in this house), he bought me one of those neato-gee-whiz keurig coffee makers.

i fell in love.

fresh coffee, every time! squee! no wasted coffee! double squee!! and no coffee grounds all over the sink!!! trifecta squee!!!

of course, k-cup coffee isn’t as inexpensive as regular coffee. after purchasing k-cups at the supermarket for awhile — not exactly the happiest experience for me, as i only am allowed drink decaf or else there are orders to shoot to kill me because caffeine goes quite a long ways in my body — i found coffee for less because they offered more types of decaf flavors for the keurig. yeah, sure, k-cup decaf-land is still a little limited — i’m waiting for green mountain to give me some of that yummy pumpkin spice k-cup love in decaf — but if it’s decaf and a k-cup, coffee for less has it. add in the free shipping over $50 and the fact that they often have coupons available, and hello, why should i go elsewhere for my java?

so, back to the donut house coffee, right?

i certainly like flavored brews, but i’m a huge, and i do mean HUGE fan of darker roasts. hence, i am in loveloveLOVE with coffee people french roast decaf coffee.  and when i say i love it,  i mean  so much in love with it i would marry it if i could. but when i saw that there was the new green mountain donut house in decaf, i jumped at the chance to try it and review it. the verbage said it was extra bold, which, if you pardon the mixing of beverage metaphors, is my cup of tea.

so i was ready to test the coffee in my official mom mug (made by BC.)

coffee 2

i poured the wonder elixir into that mug and tried it, one time with milk and one time with vanilla creamer. (so sue me. i’ve developed a horrible habit of really enjoying that creamer.)

the donut house coffee is definitely less assertive than my french roast fave. i think i expected that to be the case; i mean, how often do you go into a donut house and get really bold coffee? it’s a mellow blend that still can be tasted with the milk. it was, however, no match for the creamer. not that it was bad; but that mixture seemed more like a hot vanilla mocha drink. i guess i like a bit more flavor than this delivers, but it wasn’t bad; just wasn’t the best. that being said, i am still drinking it and enjoying it. go figure!

as an aside, i hate to say anything negative about a decaf coffee flavor. i want to encourage the companies that make k-cups out there — pleasepleasePLEASE make more of the other flavors decaf! what i would do for flavored coffee that went beyond vanilla or hazelnut! there are lots of people out here who would welcome these flavors with open tastebuds.

a big thank you to the folks at coffee for less, who kindly supplied me with the coffee to review. the opinions are all mine. the love is all genuine.

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