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Happy New Year!

This year I hope to accomplish a lot. Food-wise, there are a few restaurants that I really want to make the effort to try, as I know I tend to stick to old favorites.

In Schenectady, NY:
Tara Kitchen
More Perreca’s

In Latham, NY:Philly Bar & Grill

In Saratoga Springs, NY:
Comfort Kitchen (I went for their media event, but haven’t made it back up)

Au Pied Du Cochon, Montreal, QC  – I have been trying to eat at APDC for years now, and I always managed to go up when they were closed. But this might be my year. Maybe. June might be a good time to check them out. Possibly with a small group of friends, because I want to try most of that menu.
There are a bunch of other restaurants on this list, but these are my top picks to try out the next time I go out.

I predict 2014 will also be a big year of Latham dining, trying out the various joints in my new hamlet.

Do you have any restaurants or dishes you want to try this year? What are they?

P1000061

I’ve had this KitchenAid Digital Probe thermometer for years. It’s great for grilling/smoking because it’s tolerant of high temperatures and has a temperature alarm in addition to a normal timer. But then one year my probe broke. Bummer. I kind of figured it was a loss, but then after ordering another one from Amazon, I saw there was an 800 number on the back and decided to see if they sold just the probe.

They don’t sell the probe, BUT the probe is evidently guaranteed for life as a gizmo/gadget associated with the themometer/timer. So they sent a new entire unit for free! I was really surprised by that customer service, so now I have another thermometer/timer. I’ll probably give it to my brother in law the next time I see him, since he also loves to grill.

Any way, if you have a griller in your life, this thing is awesome. I love it, and I’m sharing it because I love the customer service even more.

YehYeh

我爱你, 爺爺.

I love you, Yeh-Yeh.

YehYeh passed away this past Thursday.

This guy – he was always up for an adventure. I still can’t really process that he’s gone, although my dad’s been making funeral arrangements. It was fairly quick, so most of my family is glad that he didn’t suffer for too long. I don’t quite know what I feel, other than that I miss him. We’re all glad we got to celebrate his 80th birthday as a big bash two years ago. There pictures are from that party. The one above really captures his spirit – smiling and always looking to have a good time.

But the one below is my favorite:

YehYeh Face

Now I know where I got my facial expressions from. I know I’ve made this one a bunch. Excitement, emotion = exaggerated face. I’m hoping inside that it will kind of be a big joke and he’ll be all better and be like “Ah ha! Got you!!” when everyone gets there for his funeral next weekend.

YehYeh & Me

I miss you, Yeh-Yeh.

CLA

Conjugated Linoleic Acid is one of the few mainstay supplements in my diet. I affectionately call it my fatty pill, partially because it is all oil, and partially because it helps reduce fat.

I stumbled upon this supplement last year when I was researching something that might help me shed some pesky belly fat and tone up a bit more at the gym. I didn’t want to take anything with caffeine in it, so that eliminated a lot of options. I also wanted something simple that didn’t have 9,000 ingredients on the label.
Enter: CLA

There are mixed reviews and studies out on CLA and its benefits for weight loss and muscle growth. I have personally had a positive experience with it, specifically this brand:  Nature’s Way CLA 1300 mg softgel.
I get them from Amazon because the subscribe-and-save price is great, and I don’t have to actually go to a store and buy anything (or forget to buy anything). One bottle will last me about a month.

The CLA comes from safflower seed oil, which contains about 70-80% CLA. Since all 1300 mg is the safflower oil and not the CLA, the CLA from each pill is approximately 1000 mg. Many CLA bottles will list the mg of oil in them, and frustratingly, not the actual CLA mg content. This is important, because CLA only becomes effective at certain amounts, but from what I’ve read, it seems that for CLA to be effective, a person needs to take at least 3,000 mg per day (So, MRM brand might not be a bad pill to try either, when looking at the CLA per pill and cost per pill, I’ve just been using the Nature’s Way brand for a while and like my results on it. Hmm, maybe I will try this MRM brand, now…). At any rate, you can find studies for and against CLA, like pretty much any supplement out there.

I’ve been taking these steadily since about May/June of 2012. Albany John started taking them some time in the fall after we started noticing my results, and wow, his body really took to using CLA. He has a real mesomorph body type, though, and tends to react very quickly to exercise, diet changes, and supplements like this. Sadly, my body type leans more toward that of an endomorph and it takes me quite a while to see even minor changes in my body. Oh, and Albany John tends to take all of them at once instead of spacing them out during the day, and that hasn’t affected his progress. So I’m not so sure how much timing comes in to play with these supplements as opposed to, say, caffeine.

Ladies, CLA may have mixed results for you, so here are my experiences with CLA (in no particular order):

  • Take it for a month before you expect to see results. This isn’t a fast-acting supplement, but it helps curb appetite a bit and my muscles seem a bit more defined after using it. That said, if you forget a day or are too sick to take any supplements for a day or two during a month, that won’t set you back.  Just don’t take less than 3 g/day and don’t take them only a few times per week.
  • My first month or two I took 4 g of CLA per day (4 pills, usually 2 with/after lunch & 2 with/after dinner), but now I have cut down to 3 g of CLA per day (usually 1 with lunch & 2 after dinner).
  • My belly fat has been reduced a bit, and the definition in my muscles seems a bit clearer. I mainly started taking CLA after getting definition in my arms and legs, yet being frustrated with not being able to change the belly fat despite much gym-going and diet-changing. I still have some lower abdominal fat, but I’ve got a bit of definition up top, which I’m pretty happy with and wasn’t something I had really even considered within my realm of possibility before this. Now I want to see how much more I can define my abs.
  • CLA has helped me lose weight and belly fat. I want to stress that it is a supplement that has helped, but certainly has not been the sole cause of my weight/size loss. Diet and exercise to play a huge role in this, but it certainly helped me move from a plateau.
  • Do not take it at the same time you take echinacea/goldenseal. Oh my gosh, this will give you such horrible, burning burps.

Any way, I hope this may help you in your quest for looking and feeling great in the new year, and giving you a bit more insight on this supplement and my experiences with it. Other than the horrible burps I get when I take it at the same time as echinacea/goldenseal I have experience no negative effects when taking this supplement.

Have you tried any supplements that have made a difference in your life? Raspberry ketones? Green tea extract? African mango? I think whey protein has also helped my body, so that might be another later post.

I like candy. I like desserts. I love sweets. I like being able to chose the sweets I eat, and when I eat a massive amount of sugar.

I don’t like all of the sugar in so many of the foods on our shelves now. Albany John already has me reading ingredient labels for high-fructose corn syrup (a no-no in our household on his request). I have some foods I don’t consider “sweet” (nut butters, yogurt, cottage cheese…), so I’ve been checking the labels for their sugar content lately, too. I’ve found I don’t really like to eat too much sugar at night (at least not regularly) because I process it way quickly, get a ton of unnecessary energy (the “sugar high”) and have trouble getting to sleep when I want to. Well, scratch that. I like to eat that much sugar, especially at night, but the after effects lately have made me not want to deal with it. Is this what aging is like?
I generally have trouble sleeping/staying asleep, and the nights I sleep entirely through the night without waking or getting up are few and far between (like, maybe 10 days a year, tops). The past few months I’ve been fairly decent about not snacking at night, and not eating foods that are quickly processed. I’ve noticed that when I do eat highly-processed and/or sugary foods at night, ugh, it is just not that great for me.

So, in the desire to eat a bit healthier, while nodding to my after-dinner snacking tendencies, I try to eat foods that digest slowly overnight instead of foods that the body processes quickly. Think: sweet potatoes, yogurt, cottage cheese. The diary is great for casein, which will feed your muscles slowly overnight and potentially help curb massive hunger cravings in the morning. Sweet potatoes are also great for slowly feeding the body, and have a fantastic amount of potassium to help keep muscle cramps at bay.

This brings me to yogurt. I was at Hannaford one night (thank goodness they are open 24/7, ’cause it’s great for my anti-crowd self), perusing their store-brand greek yogurt section. I like greek yogurt at night because it feels fairly substantial, but also really creamy, so I can barely eat a pot of greek yogurt at a time. I usually opt for plain yogurt, but on this night I was thinking “Hey, why not get one of the flavors. Go a little crazy.” (har har)

Well, crazy is the sugar content of the flavored yogurts. Hannaford’s plain greek yogurt has a sugar content of 4 grams. That’s respectable. Dairy does have some sugar in it, after all. Hmm, maybe Raspberry would be good. Not with 19 grams of sugar, it’s not. Peach? 20 grams. Honey came in with a respectable 15 grams of sugar. For some reason I thought honey would have topped the sugar content.

So, skip the flavors, go for plain. And top it with some pecans from Hannaford’s bulk/Organic aisle which retail for $7.99/lb, one of the lowest prices in the area (if not the lowest).

Happy new year, you incredibly awesome individuals! I hope your prospects for this new year are fabulous, and you recognize your own positive qualities.

I haven’t made resolutions in a while, but this year I’ve decided to make a few:

  • Eat less sugar than I usually do, especially the more refined and processed sugars.
  • Do more exercises that I find less-than-fun; like abdominals and high interval intensity cardio (~2 times per nights
  • Make more cured meats

I was just randomly thinking about food and flavors my friends and I liked as a kid.

When I think of my Sistah, I will always think of Sunny D & Fruit Punch, and microwave popcorn sprayed with I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter.


I was also a late 80s/early 90s kid who grew to love I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter. Shrimpfests with Dad, Zucchini Bread made by Sarah’s mom that I’d trade for something out of my lunch box (for some reason my mom hated me trading stuff from my lunch box).
Cream cheese & jelly sandwiches almost every day for lunch in kindergarten.
Capri Sun, S’sips, or a juice box with every lunch (man, no wonder I was a tubby kid).
Pasta & butter.
Grilling Sabrett (natural casing) or Hebrew National hot dogs on the grill over the summer.
My mom grilling/cooking chicken wings before they became popular.
Binaca bread/baby jesus bread (It’s basically just braided bread stuffed with sweet ricotta filling).

If you had a pizza party for your birthday or a Carvel ice cream cake, that was an awesome birthday.

What are some of your childhood highlight foods?





Happy Valentine’s Day. I couldn’t help but think of happy times of the past when I opened my cupboard and reached for the last little bit of Sweetheart Red Rooibos from the much missed The Good Leaf.
I tend to keep things, often for too long and letting them age past their prime just so I still have it. Thankfully, rooibos keeps forever, and this pot of Sweetheart Red was warm and comforting on a chilly day. I love that rooibos teas can be left in a pot forever, without worrying about steeping too long.

All I have left is a rusty can. Miss ya, Good Leaf. I haven’t found a comparably flavorful rooibos yet.

It all started with one little tweet.

Price Chopper sent me a tweet inviting me to a baking class.

Daniel B got the pot a stirring with his tweety thread which was filled with some entertaining theories as to why I don’t shop at one of our local grocery chains.

My reply and their following response was here. Basically, a thanks but no thanks since I don’t shop at Price Chopper stores (I don’t know what it is, but I hate not responding to direct invitations). Their response was along the lines of “Bummer, sorry about that! How can we do better?”

I feel like I owe you all more of an explanation on why I don’t shop at Price Chopper, since there was so much interest in the subject. It’s actually pretty simple.

I don’t shop at Price Chopper any more because of multiple poor experiences in-store, followed up by rude customer service responses. I know that sometimes retail folk can have their off days, and that’s when having a solid customer service team can really help repair a situation.
Unfortunately, every time I’d called/emailed/passenger pigeoned Price Chopper, the response from their customer service reps were always the same. Essentially a “Well, you did XYZ. It’s your fault it happened and we fully support the decisions/actions made by the store members.” kind of response. Somehow, it seems that taking customer complaints personally isn’t something new with Price Chopper.

I’d probably still be a Chopper Shopper if their initial customer service responses had been something along the lines of “We’re sorry about XYZ, please know that we value your business and will try to make your next experience better.” Maybe even a coupon if you really wanted to get crazy with things.
Cheap, cheap words to make a customer feel valued. Who cares if you don’t actually care with what the customer said? As long as you see in their records that they don’t call up eight times a week screaming that they were possessed by a succubus you put in your products, maybe your first steps should be a little bit of chillin on the hubris and trying to ameliorate any problems.

The first tweet response from Price Chopper I thought was quite nice. It was a tone I’d been hoping for as a response from previous calls to customer service.

Then I noticed another tweet that said they’d have someone else contact me to follow up. Did I want a follow up from customer service I’d previously been unhappy with? No, but I figured I could just ignore the email any way. I mean, I ignore all of the promos I get from Albany PR for Price Chopper.

It turns out, I almost tossed it in my junk mail, but I opened an email from incredibly generically-named sender Consumer Response, and titled CASE ID:263767. I was expecting the usual flattering prose from a lady or gent in Africa in need of transferring millions of dollars to the US with a princely reward, all for the simple request of my bank account number. Or maybe I’d won the Irish Lottery I never knew I entered. These folks are getting creative, I thought.

Instead I was surprised (and yet somehow, not surprised at all) to see a generically worded and addressed:

Dear Price Chopper Customer,

We are sorry that you have experienced a problem with customer service at Price Chopper. As we do not have record of you contacting us previously, please provide us with details regarding your concern, your name, and contact information, and we will certainly look into it.

You can reach our customer service team at 1-800-666-7667 (option 3), 8:30 am to 7:00 pm Monday through Friday, and 10:00 am to 4:00 pm Saturday and Sunday, or on our website at

Wow. Really personal, hunh? Especially since I’m not a Price Chopper shopper. To be honest, this made me less likely to want to shop at Price Chopper again. Not only did they send me an email I never wanted in the first place, but it was an email with a chore. It was also a different tone than their lighter tweeting, way more Corporate Machine.

So here’s the thing – I appreciate that there is some kind of effort being made, but I’d have much preferred interacting with better-trained customer service reps right from the get-go.

Blogger is being fussy about loading my pictures, so you just get to deal with some Albany Jane griping and bitching.

Oh, gardening is not going so well in Albany Janeland.


So Albany John got this black stuff. It’s like a fabric sheet that you put over your plants, and cut holes in for the seedlings. I think we were supposed to cover it with more dirt, which we didn’t do, so most of my hard-grown seedlings died a thirsty and shrivel-y death. Three tomato plants lived. We got some more from our gardening neighbor. She didn’t have any more room for her tomato seedlings. Yay for generous gardening neighbors!!
The remaining seedlings aren’t doing so well though…

My first semester in college I had this bio class that had a plant-growing requirement. Seriously, it was part of the class. Something about life cycles. And photosynthesis. You know. Any way, you had to grow the thing from seed, and then create a whole report on it. Hypothesis, observations, etc. Measurements. You know. And then a mass spec on the stuff at the end. Any way, anyone who’d ever taken the class before (which was everyone on campus) was like “Oh, that is such an annoying study you have to do. It’s way more work if your plant actually lives, so just leave it in the dark and kill it and then just do hypothetical research.”
I figured “No problem, that plant doesn’t stand a chance around me any way.” but the seed I had grew like crazy and it was the only plant I’ve had that didn’t meet some depressing fate, at least for the first semester. I have no idea what happened to it after that, although I wish I could tell you it’s still living in a window of my apartment. I probably threw it out because it wouldn’t die or flower. Any way, yeah… so I’m not very good at growing things.

Out of the 20 or so seeds of romanesca zucchini squash that I planted, a whopping two grew. So Albany John picked up a 4 pack of already grown zucchini seedlings and we planted those in between the growing ones in the zucchini row. I have no idea if my parsnips are growing, but some carrots are popping up. But holy cow, are my weeds doing really well. I’m gonna have one heck of a bumper crop of weeds, that’s for sure. I should have intentionally planted them, ’cause there is no way they’d have grown as much already ;)

Also, I may not have watered them as often as I should have.

I think next year I’m just going to buy all of my seedlings. Or buy a house that has a backyard or more windows I can keep cat bellies out of. Yeah, it was the cat bellies… that’s what it was. Nah, but really I think that the trickiness rumors around heirloom plants is correct, so maybe if you’re a novice gardener like myself, maybe just buy your seedlings. Or at least realize that you might have to supplement half of your garden with purchased seedlings after the seeds turn out to not… grow.

The black thumb of death still rules my garden!

Garden fairies, keep your fingers crossed and send some good vibes my way. Goodness knows my plants need it.


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