Thursday, September 26, 2013

A Rainbow of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups

Did you know that you can get Reese's Peanut Butter Cups in both dark and white chocolate, as well as the original milk chocolate flavor?

Of course, we needed to try all of these together in order to compare and contrast them.

First of all, I hadn't paid attention to the nutrition information in a long time, and, really, just over 100 calories per cup isn't bad, as far as I'm concerned. There were some other interesting things the labels told me, too...

1) The Dark cups have the highest iron, the highest fat, the lowest protein, the lowest sodium, the lowest calcium, and the most dietary fiber.
2) The original cups have everything right down the middle.
3) The White cups have peanuts as the first ingredient, since its coating is not technically "chocolate," so the individual ingredients that go into the coating, although they might cumulatively be greater in volume than the peanut butter, do not constitute a majority separately. They have 5 calories more per cup than the other two cups. They have the lowest sugar (surprisingly, to me), the highest sodium, and the highest calcium by a long shot.. It *does* include cocoa butter (among other oils, but as the first one listed) so it does qualify as actual white "chocolate" and not just confectionery coating.
4) The biggest difference in the semi-sweet chocolate (used for the Dark cups) and the milk chocolate is that, after sugar, the next ingredient in the milk chocolate is cocoa butter and the next ingredient in the semi-sweet is chocolate. Then those are reversed for the third ingredient. Also, the milk chocolate has both nonfat milk and milk fat, whereas the semi-sweet only has milk fat.

Furthermore, I'd never noticed this before, but I do know the story behind it:
"Orange background color is a registered trademark."
Back in 1991, when Peanut Butter M&Ms came out, they made their packaging *this* color of orange, and wrote "M&Ms" in the same color as the Reese's yellow logo. Reese's took them to court and won. I don't know if the color was a trademark at the time, but a court found that it was proprietary to them, anyway, and that Mars could not use it for their candy. If you compare them in the store, you'll see that the Peanut Butter M&Ms bags are a bit redder than their Reese's Pieces counterparts.

Now, on to the fun part:

Although it is fall, it is still roughly 78 degrees in the house, and all of the chocolate was deliciously soft, which made it difficult to photograph and move. The semi-sweet chocolate seemed to fare the worst for the heat.

The peanut butter appeared to be the same in all three of the cups. The chocolate (including the white, for purposes of this discussion) was all of equal smoothness.

What was most surprising to me was that the white chocolate cups were not treacly. I felt like the white chocolate was very mellow and allowed the peanut butter flavor to come through. James, who prefers white to other chocolates in general, thought that it wasn't balanced because he couldn't really taste the white chocolate.

The milk chocolate had the balance we were used to, and it tasted the most "natural" to our well-trained nostalgic palates. It was the sweetest of the three.

The semi-sweet chocolate was sharper and stood up more to the peanut butter as equally strong in the flavor profiles. It made the cups taste more like a prepared dessert than a candy bar, and maybe a little more earthy.

I recommend that you try them all (maybe all at once, for breakfast, like we did!) and see what you think.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The LBJ Presidential Library Gets Personal, A Confession

Today, Team Dave's walked to the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library, and I should be telling you about what an educational experience it was, which I will tell you. It was just educational in a way that I hadn't anticipated.

First of all, please allow me to set the stage: It's fall! Thank God! Yesterday was the first day we've been able to open the doors and windows for a good portion of the morning, and last night, James and I got out to take a walk and to enjoy the tailgating craziness of the UT home game.

When I had suggested that we take a walk, I was thinking of the houses around here, and a little later at night. But James wanted to check out the action near campus, and I was game. I hadn't prepared to go down there, and I wasn't dressed for a party. I had on a pair of old capris and a sleeveless sweater.

Go... um... cow thingies?

There is a uniform for the games. It, of course, includes UT orange, either as a T-shirt or jersey, or just the color itself. Most girls wore either a fitted UT shirt with short jean shorts or short orange dresses. And, God help me, as I walked behind those strikingly-similarly-dressed young women: mid-back length razor-cuts, orange dresses, orange fake tan, cowboy boots, radiating youth and vitality and a self-possessed nonchalance about their own attractiveness, I felt... well, lots of things. Frumpy. Old. Drab. Invisible.

And you wouldn't like me when I'm invisible.

Let me make this clear: My husband is amazing to me. He lets me know that he loves me and desires me, and he is better to me than I have a right to be treated, much better than any way I could ever have dreamed being cherished by a man ever. I'm sorry to tell you that; I know he resents my ruining his reputation this way. But I want everyone to understand that this is all inside of my head.

My response to all of this is very competitive. So this morning, when I got up, I dressed for church knowing that we would be walking to the LBJ Library. And I included in my wardrobe choice some beautiful black heels I've had for years. They're very comfortable. I knew that my feet might be a bit tender on the walk home, but it would be worth it. I felt cute. I felt put together. I felt like I could hold my own against those up-and-comers for my husband's attention.

So we walked. A good mile. And my feet were already tender.

But, dang, I looked cute.

Today is Austin Museum Day, when there are dozens of museums offering free admission. Maybe next year, we'll go to the Central Fire Station, which is only open on San Jacincto day in April and today. I've wanted to visit the Presidential Library ever since we moved to the Nuthaus in April, so this was an opportune day. Absolutely gorgeous.

One item detailed in Johnson's "Legacy of Liberty" was "Gun Control." The museum gave the impression that LBJ was a very compassionate, caring man. However, there were many items he enacted as part of the "Great Society" that the Libertarian in me cringed against. I loved how committed he was to racial equality. I loved how seriously he took ending the Vietnam war, seriously enough not to run for President for a second full term. 

Daphne wanted us to see the electronic table on the 4th floor, in which we could interact with many of the programs Johnson had started or strengthened. One of the entries was about the Arts. There was a question we could answer that asked, paraphrasing, "Government funds scientific projects at a rate of 3-to-1 compared to its funding of the arts. Do you think that this is an acceptable ratio?" In the study of logic, this is what we call a "loaded question." 

But I digress.

The Library is interesting and beautiful in a cool, stark manner. "Unadorned" is how the library's website describes the angular building with no real decoration. It is massive in size, inside and out.

The most interesting thing I noticed and subsequently learned was about the Oval Office.

It is difficult to see in this picture, but above the taller door, there is what looks like bunch of sticks bundled together. I knew that wasn't a random addition, so I came home and researched it. That's called "fasces," which, in Latin, means "bundle." Originating in early Rome, it was a bundle of bound wooden rods, sometimes with an ax-head protruding from it, symbolizing a magistrate's power and jurisdiction. The many rods symbolize strength through unity: one rod might be easily broken.These do not contain an ax blade, perhaps because in Roman times, the ax was removed when a fasces entered a city, symbolizing the rights of citizens against arbitrary government power. Now you know.

The video and artifacts on family life in the White House was interesting, especially to someone as entrenched in domesticity as I am. 

Lady Bird's office; much more cheery than her husband's.

Check out the view from her office window!

The LBJ Library is opened from 9-5 every day except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year, and they used not to charge admission, but realized that to keep things shiny, they needed to. 12 and under, active military, UT students and staff, and Friends of LBJ Library are free; adults are $8; seniors $5; and students $3.

Might I suggest the $45 family membership? It includes admission to all thirteen Presidential libraries (before you get too excited, Richard Nixon has two; and Gerald Ford's library is located in a different town than his museum... that's free info, people)! For us Texans, we have three!

Then, it was time to walk back home.

Notice that I'm carrying my shows? I was in a great deal of owie at this point.
We got down past the stadium before I started feeling a tendon in my right foot telling me to stop. I looked and had blistered and opened both my big toe and the ball of my right foot, and raised a blister on the pad of my left foot. More than sore or tender, I was damaging my foot.

So James, who was already running late to an event, walked nearly a mile back home, got the car, and came back for me and Daphne, who was keeping me company. Not only this, he'd brought me cushiony shoes and had brought Daphne a jug of cold water.

I was humbled to the point of humiliation. I was so worried about looking pretty -- not my personal best, but better than anyone else in this town, which is something I really can't hope to accomplish -- so my husband's eye would stay on me, but I already have this man who is willing to love and serve me graciously, even when I'm being a complete idiot.

On the ride home, I apologized to Daphne and to James. I would have loved to walk across campus together. It's really pretty this time of year. 

See? I got to enjoy this beautiful view for 20 minutes or so while James walked home to retrieve my chariot.

"Next time, young lady, wear some sensible shoes!!"

Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Sincerest Form of Nutter Buttery

The other day, James and I were over at the 7-Eleven picking up beverages, when I saw something that made me do a double-take.

What the...? How is that even possible? How has Nabisco not sued them for copyright infringement? I mean, look at this:

The font is similar, the alliterative repetition is obviously intentional. The whole thing just seemed ridiculous. So I decided to try them, of course. But in order to be fair, I needed to compare them to the original, right?

They're both made with real peanut butter!

At the convenience store, the Nutter Butter is priced a $.99 and the Pitter Patter (eye roll) is $1.49. However, the Nutter Butter is four cookies at 1.9 ounces, whereas the Pitter Patter is 8 cookies at 3.9 ounces, more than twice as much. The Nutter Butter works out to $.52 an ounce, and the Pitter Patter is $.38 per ounce.

The ingredients were both enriched flour and sugar at the top. The next ingredient in the Nutter Butter is peanut butter. The next ingredient in the Pitter Patter is soybean and palm oil. Then the fourth ingredient in both is reversed. This is where it breaks off: In the Nutter Butter, the final ingredients are graham flour, high fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated cottonseed oil, salt, leavening, cornstarch, soy lecithin, and vanillin. The final ingredients in the Pitter Patter are whole grain oats, dextrose, invert sugar, and then less than two percent of whey, salt, flavor, baking soda, cornstarch, and soy lecithin.

The calories per serving with the Nutter Butters is 250, and for Pitter Patter, 140... but they're grossly different serving sizes. It breaks down to 4.71 calories per gram with the Nutter Butter; 5 calories per gram with Pitter Patter.

But what about the cookies themselves?

The design on the Nutter Butter is supposed to look like the lines on a peanut. It seems like the Pitter Patter was trying to recall the crisscross pattern of a homemade peanut-butter cookie.

The peanut-butter-made filling on the Pitter Patter was creamier, but similar to a peanut-butter flavored Oreo-filling, wheras the filling in the Nutter Butter was more akin to actual peanut butter.

Go home, Candy Corn Oreos. You're drunk!

The filling in the Nutter Butter is a little thicker, but the Pitter Patter cookies are thicker. The Nutter Butter cookie is like a peanut-butter-flavored Oreo whereas the Pitter Patter cookie is closer to peanut-butter-flavored shortbread.

James and I concurred that if you put the filling from the Nutter Butter into the Pitter Patter, you'd have something really special. As for me, price- and ingredient-wise, I'd choose the Pitter Patter. The cookie is better, instead of just being a cardboardy vehicle for the filling, like Oreos are.

So, I started of skeptical and scoffing, but they actually did the Nutter Butter one better. Have you tried them? What do you think?

Saturday, September 14, 2013

2013 Brony Fan Fair

Daphne and I attended the second annual Brony Fan Fair. It's still going, and will be held tomorrow, too, but I don't think our schedule is going to allow us to attend anything... Although, since D said she wishes it would never end, we might find an hour or two to sneak over in the early afternoon (I did just finish baking a pie I could have made tomorrow just in case we have the time and energy).

If you've never been to a fan fair, or a convention, of a festival, or a con, or whatever you want to call it, you might be tempted to take one look at the rabid fandom, the panels, the cosplay, and the merchandising and think, "Well, now, really... that's just taking things a little bit too far."

Now, it's true that today, I saw literally thousands of people who were all dressed in appropriate costumes, who had shelled out a ton of cash to be here today, who were parking and lining up and hanging out hours before the festivities started, and who are getting ready to scream and cheer and drink too much, and fangirl out to the max. And I'm talking about the UT fans I passed on the way to and from the Brony Fan Fair. The game doesn't start for 40 more minutes, but they've been parking and walking and buying and eating and drinking and hanging out in our neighborhood all day.

So, it really doesn't matter to me if the object of affection is football (which I don't get) or Star Trek or anime or My Little Pony (which you might not get): There is something extremely comforting about gathering with your own people and geeking out over something you love together.

Amelie Belcher, who hosted a couple of panels on the various generations of ponies, said (and I'm paraphrasing), "Where were you people in 1992? Back then, if you liked My Little Ponies, you kept it to yourself." This is how I felt about "Scarecrow and Mrs. King." I didn't know anyone who liked it as much as I did, and absolutely no one who wanted to talk to me about it, to discuss some of the more subtle undercurrents, to theorize or vision cast... I felt like an island.

I absolutely loved seeing teenaged boys walking around wearing ears and wigs or hoodies with pony heads. How can anyone not feel completely heart-warmed by an environment where everyone can be themselves and be understood?

There were six year old girls, and there were sixty-year-old men. The most beautifully-dressed lady I saw was probably in her 70s (I didn't get a lot of pictures because there were picture-free zones and I was trying to be respectful): She had her long blonde hair braided into a crown using her hair as one strand, and then a gold and a blue long run of fabric for the other strands (a lot like this, only more queenly), then she had on beautiful turquoise and gold robes.

About 50% of people were in cosplay on Friday, and more today. Of the rest, some had on fan shirts, and others, like me, were just boring. I love cosplay, though. It's so much fun. Dressing up as Tonks for HPDH2 was amazing, even though it ruined my hair for two years... AND if I'd taken the class on mane styling that they had yesterday, I would have known not to bleach my hair. So even though I'm not necessarily a Bronie, I did enjoy the Fair and learned quite a bit.

There is no shortage of hate for Bronies in the "real" world, just like people thought (think?) that Star Trek fans were geeks who needed to get a life. For some reason, it's socially acceptable to fawn over sports, they even have bars for that kind of thing! And it is a completely inconsistent mindset, to assume that organized sports deserves a rabid following more than any other pastime. That's one reason I'm really glad that there are cons like this one: EVERYONE is a "freak." And when everyone is a freak, then no one is a freak. Attendees are accepting, gracious, and appreciative of each other. (I know there are moments of extreme stress, too, - like when schedules are off or room is limited and the line is long - but this is overwhelmingly the atmosphere.)

As for me, I feel like these are my people, Bronies or any other fandom. I like people who dress up. I like people who are comfortable enough with who they are not to care very much about someone else thinking they're weird or immature or interested in something that is not gender-appropriate.

So maybe trying to get back there tomorrow isn't so much a favor for Daphne...

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Texas Governor's Mansion Tour

This morning, Daphne and I walked 11 blocks from The Nuthaus to The Governor's Mansion. They're practically clones, wouldn't you say?

No? Well, no. Not exactly. The Texas Governor's Mansion has been home to 40 of Texas' governors, and apparently was not gated until an arsonist set fire to the mansion a couple of years ago. It is right across the street from the Capitol, and the upper floor is where the private residence is for the first family of Texas. Thus, the tour only includes what the docent called "the grounds" (the front lawn) and the bottom floor.

6 Ionic columns and deep wrap-around porches. The home has been continually occupied since 1856, after it had been built for the princely sum of $14,500, and designed in the Greek Revival style by Abner Cook.

As was the style for most bigger homes of that day, the bottom floor was 4 rooms separated by a long hall down the middle.

The first room to the left of the entry is the library.

Umm. Books? Oh well. I guess you bring your own. Anyhoo... The couch is one of the very few items in the house that are original to the governor's mansion. For the longest time, the house itself was unfurnished, and governors had to bring their own furniture, silverware, and plates.

After the Friends of the Governor's Mansion was developed in the late 70s, 19th-Century furniture was permanently added and stays with the home regardless of the occupants. At some point, also, one of the First Ladies of Texas brought and left fancy place settings and silverware, so that has become a tradition. Each governor's family has engraved silverware and china that they leave with the house.

Don't know whether this is an old mirror or just a replica, but I liked it.

The parlor, the first room to the right of the entry. At one point in the home's history, the plaster molding was added to the ceiling to make it more impressive-looking.

The front windows and writing desk in the parlor. The morning sun was unadulterated.

A pair of these mirrors flank the front door.

I don't remember what this room is called, but I'll call it a sitting room, since there are so many places to sit. I believe that the docent indicated that permanent, adequate air conditioning wasn't added until fairly recently, and maybe even since the fire a couple of years ago.

One cannot simply walk upstairs in the Texas Governor's Mansion. Like, seriously. There was a State Trooper standing at the bottom of the stairwell just to make sure no one tried to dart up there. I don't think anyone was home, anyway. Daphne said she wouldn't like living on the top floor of a home where people were constantly downstairs during the day. I think it'd be cool to mess with tours and get tourists in trouble. Just a little bit of trouble.

This is the formal dining room. The table is out for cleaning. I'm thinking, in the meantime, roller disco.

The rug in the back hallway.

This is the family's dining room. It's supposed to be informal. I covet the writing desk here, too, but can't imagine where I'd put it in my own home.

This rug is very cool. It's on the floor of the conservatory, to which I just referred to as the informal family dining room because that's what the docent called it, but that's not what it says online. Speaking of which, if you ask about this sweet six flags rug, the docent will not be able to tell you anything about it. It's not even in the guidebook to which they can refer in a bind (it's actually a binder, so I kind of just made a pun, but you'd have had to be there to get that; trust me when I say that I'm dead clever).

Unfortunately, there's no cool history to the rug. Apparently, according to page 3 of this newsletter, it was just added after the fire. I'd still like to know who made it. I might want a little one for our own dining room, if we ever decide to spend what we'd spend on a used car for a rug.

Here's a wide shot of the family dining room/conservatory. The rug's detail all but disappears at a distance.

Methinks they have a pool, but we weren't allowed to go back there. There were dogs, too. They wanted to come inside.

The Texas flag on the other side of the porch, as we were kindly escorted from the premises.

Would you get a load of this great tree? It's huge! Look at the tiny people waiting for the next tour.

I'm guessing that they release the hounds to the front yard after visiting hours.

On the way home, we again passed the Capitol, which I cannot do without snapping a picture.

1) You have to sign up at least a week in advance so they can run a background check. Go here for information about dates, times, and whom to e-mail a reservation request.
2) The paperwork you will get says that you are to be there for check-in fifteen minutes before your tour. It's five minutes. If you get there 15 minutes early, they will act like you're getting on their nerves, and turn you away.
3) The paperwork tells you this, but I'll ultra-tell you: You can't take a bag. Not a purse. Nothing. I kind of tested this by toting a passport wallet thing, but I didn't have a pocket, and you have to present your ID, plus I needed my keys. Be aware that if you do this, the security guys will eye you suspiciously. Just look at them and dare them to give you any guff about it. Yes, I said "guff."
4) As long as you're in the area, you might as well visit Texas Chili Parlor (and stop in to Lone Star Legacies to giggle at how much money people will pay for stuff that has "Texas" on it).

Review: eSalon, Part the Second

Yesterday, I did color my hair with the eSalon personalized color system reviewed in the previous post. I posted a couple of pictures as best I could, considering that it was an overcast morning and our bathroom light has been out for over a month because we have 12-foot ceilings and no ladder. Yep, folks, this isn't one of those blogs with photography light boxes or every picture painstakingly taken just to the left of a full-sunlight window, complete with a custom-selected tablecloth and perfectly-placed crumbs. Nope. This is real life. Welcome to it.

The first thing I did was to part my hair and section it into fourths, as the instructions dictated.

Something weird I've noticed in the past week or so is that, as my brown roots have grown in, the new growth since my last coloring is actually LIGHTER than the overall color of my hair. How is that possible? Any ideas?

Anyhoo. Next, I slathered the stain prevention (petroleum jelly, and not included in other hair color) around my hairline. I typically don't use jelly unless I'm coloring with Splat because most more true-to-nature hair colorants wash out of the skin fairly easily. But since they included it, I did it.

I was glad that I did! I wish I'd put it all down the back of my neck! The root dye was super runny. It did say that one might prefer to put the dye in a bowl and apply it with a brush, which I suppose I would do if I ever used this dye again. The jury's still out on that one. It was a MESS. I tried to wipe the drips up as I went, and I still ended up with this:

Fortunately, I have a specially-tie-die-skirt-stained sports bra I wear for coloring my hair. But good gravy, it looks like I was trying to recreate a zombie movie. Speaking of which...


So... I don't know. The color's fine. It's more of the Dr. Pepper can magenta than real-life red, but that will all change in a week or so when I've shampooed it a few times and it's back to "normal." I could post a picture, but it would look just like every other picture of me, so just imagine me. Without looking post-bludgeoning.

Pros: Made just for me! The color was spot on and I didn't have to pick it. My name was on errythang! It came with two pair of gloves, which is nice if you need to apply color to roots, wait a while, and come back for the ends. It had two bottles of dye, which works for longer hair. It also came with a brush, which is awesome for really getting the roots done. It rinsed out easily.

Cons: It was drippy. Also, I don't have counterspace, which is not the dye's fault. It's just that it came with so much stuff, I wish I'd had a vanity. If I'd paid $20 instead of $10, I'd have been frustrated that it was so expensive, because swag aside, it's pretty normal home hair color. Another con is that it had two bottles of dye... Which, yes, was a pro as well. The amount of stuff was nice. But it's just another step and more stuff to do. Plus, I had a LOT of root color left over so it felt like I was wasting product. As you can see, though, I'd gotten it EVERYWHERE and didn't feel like applying even more.

By all means, order it once and see what you think. It's a fun experience. I'd love to hear your take on it!