Minty M&M Plea

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Every holiday season, I look forward to the limited release of mint M&Ms. Aside from Reese’s peanut butter cups these minty delights are my favorite candy.  Or at least they were until a few years ago.  Initially, the mint variety was the same size as the standard plain chocolate M&M.  When Mars, Inc started to play around with different flavors, they also introduced a new larger size.  I’m usually the first in line for larger chunks of chocolate, but not when it comes to M&Ms. There’s a little something I refer to as the candy shell-flavor-chocolate ratio.  If one element of this equation is off, the whole piece of candy is ruined. Perhaps, I am being too picky and technical, but I take my chocolate pretty seriously.

In the case of mint M&Ms, the new larger size totally throws off the overall aesthetic and taste.  Part of the problem is how each piece of candy is different from the rest.  Some are large and lumpy and others are smaller and round.  This is what screws up the aforementioned ratio.  In a regular bag of M&Ms, every piece is exactly the same size (with exception to a rare anomaly) and I can always count on each one tasting just like the rest.

The small standard size M&M. Every piece is the same size and tastes like all the rest.

In a minty bag, I never know what I’m going to get.  The large, lumpy pieces have too much mint flavoring and a thicker candy shell that detracts from the chocolate.  On top of that, the candy shell sometimes has a weird aftertaste.  The small, round pieces vary between achieving the perfect taste ratio, but more often than not they lack a strong enough sense of mint.

The larger minty M&Ms. No two are exactly alike in size or taste.

I miss the standard size mint M&M.  Every piece was beautifully proportioned to the candy shell-flavor-chocolate ratio.  I can deal with new color introductions and the constant addition of new flavors (i.e. pretzel, coconut, cinnamon*), but please stop messing with the ratio!  I understand that some flavors require a larger size to accommodate flavor fillings, however this does not apply to mint. Mars, Inc., I beg of you please, oh please, return Mint M&Ms to the original size!

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*This was not a good idea.  Yuck.

c.b. 2011

Muse Juice

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A recent post on writenotright got me thinking about what fuels my muse.  Whenever I sit down to write, a number of elements are needed to please my fickle muse. She’s a little more cooperative when the Top Ten List is in play:

1)    A clean computer.  Most of my writing is done on a white MacBook, which gets dirty easily and often.  If there’s even one small smudge of dirt, I’m so consumed by the need to clean it I can’t write a thing.  Before heading out to my favorite coffee shop, I always check to make sure its clean.  Awesome tip: I’ve found Mr. Clean Magic Eraser is the best product to clean a matte finish Mac.  It zaps every stain and makes my Mac look brand new.

2)    My “spot.”  I’ve been going to the same Barnes & Noble café for the last five years.  My novel was born there and so was this blog, along with countless other writing projects.  In particular, I have a favorite table that lets me observe the door, the café, and the book floor.  It’s a great spot for people watching when I need a character in a pinch.  I’ve made some great friends among the employees and the regulars, which makes this place a true second home.  Not to mention, they make great coffee!

3)    A Tall Café Mocha.  The title for this post comes from my favorite cup of coffee. This stuff is truly my muse juice as it has had a place next to my computer from the very beginning.  From outlining to revising the third draft I have relied on my muse juice to keep me focused and relaxed.  Besides that, its chocolate coffee.  What more could I want in life??

4)    Chocolate of some kind.  This really doesn’t need an explanation.  (It’s a food group, you know!)

5)    Spiral Notebook.  This applies to my Big Notebook or a small memo book I use for scribbling notes.  Before I type anything I usually need to work it out on a piece of paper the old-fashioned way.  The Big Notebook keeps me focused when I’m writing sections of a novel, while the memo book is used for rough drafts and lists of words I jot down after scanning through a thesaurus.

6)    iPod. Music is an essential part of my writing process.  Every project has a playlist to put me in “the zone” of the story or the character, (See How Music Helped Me Write A Novel).  If I’m writing a random piece, like a blog post, I select an established playlist to set the mood.  For example, right now I’m listening to Owl City’s All Things Bright and Beautiful album from  my “Feel Good” playlist.

7)    Goals.  If I don’t set some sort of goal, I’ll end up wandering on the internet or staring off into space.  A large project usually means a word count goal, while smaller projects could be something as little as finding one right word.  The idea is to create a reachable goal that matches to scope and size of my current writing project.

8)    A Jolt of Motivation.  To get in the right mindset I check out the literary quote of the day on my iGoogle page, read a few inspiring blogs, or take some time with a photograph or piece of artwork.  Seeing the creative output of others motivates me to join the ranks and create something all my own.

9)    My banged up Thesaurus.  The cover is ragged and held together with packing tape.  A crack in the binding makes the book open automatically to #626 every time.  It’s from 1972 and is by far the best thesaurus I own (never mind how many thesauri populate my shelves).   It has the best index, includes older phrases that I love to use, and its organized in Roget’s original system, which is far more useful than an alphabetical listing.

10)  Pencil Pouch O’ Supplies.  My pencil pouch is loaded with ballpoint pens, highlighters, pencils, USBs, and sticky notes.  If I’m working on the Big Notebook I’ll toss in a pair of scissors and a glue stick.  With this stockpile, I’m prepared for anything.

Luckily, most of this fits in a standard messenger bag with exception to numbers two and three.  With so many variables it’s amazing I get anything done, but somehow the words come and the story unfolds.

What is your muse juice?

c.b. 2011

The Junk Food Tourist

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When I travel, one of my favorite things to do is sample the local junk food.  I’m not talking about fine pastry cafes or bakeries, even though they are worth a visit.  What I’m after is the convenience store, grocery store check-out impulse buy food, i.e. candy bars, chips, snacks, etc.  Pretty much anything in a plastic wrapper!  Granted, this habit does not bode well for my waistline, but my sweet tooth always goes home happy!

During my recent trip to London, I kept with my tradition and sampled everything from candy to teacakes.  Being the dork I am, I saved some of the wrappers as souvenirs to safeguard my fond snacking memories.  Beneath each photograph, I’ll get into the yummy details of each goodie.  Try not to drool.

Mars Bar – A chocolate bar filled with nougat and caramel.  It’s a lot like a Milky Way, but much sweeter.  The caramel is thicker so it doesn’t drip in strings as you eat and the nougat is smooth and creamy.

Galaxy – This chocolate bar is my new favorite.  It’s solid milk chocolate that melts like velvet in your mouth.  It’s thick and creamy, yet strangely light.  Best yet, the sweet factor satisfies the most ardent sweet tooth without causing a sugar rush headache.

Double Decker – This is the ultimate snack bar!  It’s huge at about two inches thick and its packed with all sorts of goodies!  The bottom is lined with biscuit pieces which serve as the anchor for a thick layer of chewy, creamy nougat.  Then a nice layer of chocolate holds it all together.  I won’t admit how many of these I ate . . . let’s just say it was plenty.

Crunchie – The interior texture of this chocolate bar defies my powers description, so I had to research it online to find out just what is inside of this thing.  According to Cadbury, the interior is a “toffee sponge.”  However, don’t let the word “sponge” sway you into thinking its soft.  Crunchie gets its name from the rigid crackle you get every time you take a bite.  Running through the center is a line of honey – not liquid – which gives this candy bar a musty sweetness.  It’s weird, but very tasty.

Dairy Milk – The ultimate solid milk chocolate candy bar.  It’s a lot like a galaxy bar, but not as moist.  The chocolate crumbles as you break it apart, but it melts with sweet decadence once you pop it in your mouth.  I must mention that Dairy Milk in the UK is quite different from what Cadbury produces for the U.S.  While the same brand, the chocolate in the States does not taste the same, nor does it have the same consistency.  So honestly, I have a great excuse for bringing home a stash of these candy bars.

Strawbs – The Haribo brand of gummies is well-known within my family, but I’ve never seen this particular variety.  Each gummie is a little strawberry, but has the flavor of a typical gummie bear.  These were a nice break from all the chocolate I was eating and it was nice that they didn’t melt in my purse.

Click for more goodies . . .

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