Tuesday, February 23, 2010

File Under: WTF?

I've talked here before about how my sleeping habits (namely, the habit of not sleeping) lead to viewing a crazy amount of late-night television.  Lately, there has been one product advertisement that I just can't get out of my head.  No, it's not an exciting product.  No, I don't want it.  No, it's not even a great commercial.  The reason I can't stop thinking about it is because I am firmly convinced that it will be the cause of an inevitable zombie epidemic.

I'm talking about Chantix.

Much has been said already about this supposedly magical drug that serves as a stop-smoking aid.  According to the testimonials in the commercials, people are just wild about it.  Lifelong smokers are finally kicking the habit thanks to the wonder of Chantix.  Nevermind that an entire minute of this commercial is spent outlining the potential side effects of the drug.  Side effects, might I add, that are sure to ultimately result in an army of undead ex-smokers.  They will be trading nicotine for brains.

I don't know about you, but I'm going to stock up on ammo and canned goods, just in case.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Ready, Set, Etsy!

After much noodling around with clay, I finally got my act together and posted my first items for sale on Etsy.  I've been slowed down quite a bit by a nasty cold, but if all goes well I'm going to do some more crafting today and post a few more items tomorrow.  I know I'm not going to make a living selling clay jewelry online, but I must admit that the time spent making each piece has been critical to maintaining my sanity during this frustrating job search.

So, if you or anyone you know is looking to pick up a quirky piece of loveliness please think of me and see what's happening over at my shop.  I'm also more than happy to make custom pieces if you have something in mind.  You can request items to be made on my Etsy page, or just email me and let me know what you're thinking.  I'm particularly pleased with this jazzy astronaut and am able to replicate it in pretty much any color you could think of.

Having a creative outlet is a wonderful thing, and I think the world would be a more serene place if everyone embraced a silly whim once and a while.  It seems a bit childish, but opening up that box of clay makes me sublimely happy.  I love the feeling of the clay between my fingers as I am kneading it to the right texture.  There are no worries, no crappy job market, no unreturned phone calls, no lonely hours.  It's sheer bliss.

Stop by my shop and see if anything strikes your fancy!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Olympic Consumerism

With any big world event comes the inevitable big budget commercials.  Like the Superbowl (but perhaps with significantly less hype) the Olympics provide an opportunity to reach a wide-ranging audience that is already hyper with sports fever.  From lighthearted to heart wrenching, I've seen quite a few stellar spots in this first week of Olympic coverage.  I saved my favorite for last, which is another comical spot from the Maryland Lottery.  They always know how to make me chuckle.

Coca Cola: Snowball Fight

P&G: To their moms, they'll always be kids

Nike: The Human Chain

Visa: Dan Jansen

Maryland Lottery: Medal Madness

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Happiness is a warm bun

In this case it's actually a warm cake, but it didn't sound quite as snappy.  I realize that I'm very quickly turning this space into a cooking blog, although I get the feeling that most people don't mind at all.  Considering the four feet of snow and the crankiness and the general hibernating instinct to stuff my face with all manner of deliciousness, cooking is a simple (if not fabulously literal) way to get my spoonful of sugar.

 Since it involves both fruit and yogurt, I actually made this cake a few weeks ago for my regular Thursday night romp with Laura and Ryan as way to pretend we were eating a healthy dessert.  I found this recipe for grapefruit yogurt cake at the Smitten Kitchen, which is one of my absolutely favorite cooking websites.  Their food photography alone is luscious enough to cause spontaneous weight gain.  Per usual, I used half sugar and half Splenda and I added lime zest and lime juice because I had some ultra-ripe limes that were practically begging to be juiced.

My favorite element of this cake is the sugar-juice cocktail that you pour over the finished loaf as it cools.  The cake soaks up every last drop of the sweet elixir, resulting in an incredibly moist slice of citrus magic when it is served.  There is an optional glaze, which I'm sure would also be delightful, but since I was pretending to be good it seemed like sugar overkill.  The end result was so tasty, I almost put the leftovers back in my bag to take home.  Of course I didn't actually do it, because I'm a very polite house guest, but that should tell you just how amazing this cake is.

Check out the original recipe at the Smitten Kitchen, and see for yourself just how scrumptious winter fruit can be!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Snowbound Ad Roundup

Since I've been basically confined to my house for almost a solid week now (thanks, El Nino/Snowpocalypse/Snowmageddon) I've had a lot of time to watch television.  Daytime programming around here mainly consists of various CSI reruns and judge shows, so the real highlight has been the quality (and not so quality) commercials.  I've assembled a few here that amuse me, some for their sharp wit and others for their sheer absurdity.  Enjoy!

Good: Old Spice

I dare you not to laugh at this commercial.  "Where are you?  You're on a boat with the man your man could smell like."  I'm so amused that I'm willing to forgive their sloppy use of preposition.  Why?  Because he has an oyster full of tickets to that thing I love.

So Bad It's Good: Value City Furniture

Value City never ceases to amuse me with its cutting edge use of modern music and interpretive dance.  I'm pretty sure they know how ridiculous they are, since they continue to produce commercial after commercial in the same style.  My true favorite is their President's Day Sale ad but it's not available to embed, so you'll just have to click through the link to fully experience the wonder.

Bad Idea/Good Laugh: International Auto Show

Looking for an affordable way to spend Valentine's Day?  Why don't you take your lady to meet Spiderman AND Ironman at the Baltimore Convention Center?  'Nuff said.

With another foot of snow on the way tonight, I'm pretty sure I'll have plenty more to share in the near future...

Saturday, February 6, 2010

The Coffee Wars

There is something very polarizing about a cup of coffee; in fact, I know a lot of people who would define themselves by where they buy their brew.  Like any other addictive substance, this caffeine cocktail is a recession-proof way for businesses to get you in the door and hopefully have you spend some money on other foods as well.  Lately I've been noticing an increasing number of coffee-centric commercials on television for various chain restaurant brands.  What interests me the most is how you can draw up a consumer profile for each brand based solely on their sales approach for coffee.

The McDonald's coffee drinker is kind of an asshole, but he's okay with it.  He needs his caffeine fix to function and he's willing to travel a great distance to get the cheapest cup of joe in town.  McDonald's guy will gladly be a jerk to everyone around him because he knows it's not his fault.  Deep down he believes he's a nice guy, but not until he's had his coffee.  He generally doesn't plan on eating breakfast, but once he sees how cheap breakfast is he may spend that extra dollar every now and then to throw a McMuffin in the mix.


Mr. Denny's officially addresses Mr. Chino, but I doubt he's ever actually tried an espresso drink.  He sees coffee as an essential part of a balanced breakfast, but only if it's a bottomless cup of the brewed stuff served straight up.  He sees cappuccino drinkers as snobs, but presents this information in an equally snobbish way.  He thinks drinking black coffee makes him a real man, a working man, a regular dude making a living by the sweat of his brow.  He also loves bacon.  Really loves bacon.

Dunkin Donuts

The Dunkin Donuts coffee customer drinks it because that's what he's always done.  He probably stops there every morning on the way to work and orders the exact same cup of coffee.  For the Dunkin Donuts guy routine is king; it is a sacred ritual that must be replicated exactly or else the day is shot to hell.  If breakfast is part of that ritual he will eat it, but he is unlikely to be persuaded into eating if it's not what he usually does.  When asked why he drinks their coffee he is likely to say it tastes better, but in reality the taste doesn't really matter.

 Starbucks doesn't seem to be advertising so much these days.  Why?  Because a Starbucks customer is too intelligent to be persuaded by an advertisement.  He drinks their coffee because it is obviously superior and it is custom-crafted to his exact specifications.  If you don't share his views on coffee you are uncultured.  That being said, he is also willing to drink instant coffee if it bears the Starbucks logo.  Even if he can't taste the difference he will insist that their coffee is better.

What kind of coffee drinker are you?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


Today I experienced the magic and wonder of gelatin in a completely new way.  After reading an article on homemade gummi candy I couldn't help but try it myself.  I am almost as enamoured with gelatin as the Victorians were (and considering how they treated it as the main event at any dinner party, that's saying a lot.)  It's fun, it's fruity, it has a sensual sway in its hips.  The invention of sugar-free jello basically rocked my world.


You will need:

One 3oz. box flavored gelatin (regular or sugar-free)
Two 1/4oz. packets unflavored gelatin
1/3 cup water
Plastic candy mold

Pour water into a small saucepan.  Sprinkle all the gelatin (both flavored and unflavored) over the water and let it sit for 5-10 minutes.  Then, heat the pan over medium heat until it has liquefied and transfer it to a container that is easy to pour from.  Fill the candy mold and either leave it on the counter to cool for about 20 minutes or place it in the freezer if you're antsy.  Then, just flex the plastic and ease out the gummies!  There is no need to grease or oil the mold, they'll come out easily.


In the recipe I read she seemed to make two full trays from one batch, but mine only made one and a half trays.  Either way, it's delicious, cheap, and (when made with sugar-free jello) a totally guiltless trip to candy town.  I made black cherry stars and lime alligators, both of which are extremely tasty.

For the original recipe, check out the post at Skip to my Lou.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Nutella + Cupcake = Awesome

A few days ago I read a recipe online for Nutella cupcakes, and that's pretty much all I've thought about ever since.  First of all, I live for cupcakes.  I don't think I've ever met a cupcake I didn't love, and that includes the deceptively delicious bacon and dark chocolate cupcake I indulged in with Cara when I visited her in Ohio.  I have eaten cupcakes filled with everything under the sun: fruit, candy corn, ricotta cheese... the list could go on for ages.

Coincidentally (or perhaps it was fate?) Nutella is also among my top ten favorite foods.  I first experienced the heavenly chocolate-hazelnut confection in 1996 when I was on a student exchange in Germany.  My host mother made me an afternoon snack of toasted brown bread slathered in Nutella and I nearly hugged her to death after my first bite.  She was confused at my elation, considering that a jar of Nutella was about as common there as peanut butter is in the states.  When I got home it was all I could talk about to my parents, to the point that I suspect they started to doubt the educational value of my trip.  Unfortunately, the only store in Baltimore at the time that carried Nutella was the seasonal Christmas shop's international section.  I would stock up every year around Christmas, but it would never be enough to last the year.

As a testament to progress, I can now find Nutella in the grocery store right next to the peanut butter (as it should be in any civilized country).  Purchasing a jar with intent to actually cook with it seems to justify all the time I will inevitably spend eating it straight from the jar with a large spoon.  I subbed out half the sugar in this recipe for Splenda, which made me feel slightly better about stuffing two of them into my mouth almost immediately after removing them from the oven.  Yum!

The biggest victory for me is that my cupcakes (see above photos) look just like the example cupcakes in her blog post.  That almost never happens for me!  Check out the recipe at feistycook.com!

FEISTYCOOK [ ..simply delicious home-cooked meals, etc.. ]
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