Mrs. Sell's Blog of Household Management

Fall roundup 2015: Pillsbury Ready-to-Bake Pumpkin Cookies

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I have to start this by saying that I am not generally a fan of pre-made chilled cookie dough, or cookies, or whatever “cookie” products they have in the refrigerator section. To be honest, I usually don’t make cookies from boxed mixes, either. Cakes and brownies yes, cookies no. Why do that when cookies are so much better made from scratch?

But these were not too bad. I was definitely skeptical initially:

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“Food product” was not what leapt immediately to mind when I opened them.

And the preparation process, um, wasn’t a process.

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They turned out okay, though.

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I baked them for the longest recommended amount, because I’m not used to making this kind of cookie, so they came out pretty crunchy. I don’t know if that’s just the way they are, or if I just baked them too long.

But the flavor was actually pretty good. Well-balanced pumpkin spice flavor, not too chemically. Spicy in a good way.

So if you want to bake cookies, but you don’t want to bake cookies, you could buy these and put them in your oven and then there would be cookies…

Fall roundup 2015: Pumpkin Spice Waffles

pumpkin spice waffles

I got these last year, and they were really good! Of course, it had been years since I’d had frozen waffles of any kind, but I was still very happy with these. Nice light pumpkin spice flavor in a tasty waffle! (At least, as tasty as frozen waffles get.) Like the Pop-Tarts, I don’t normally buy these products, but I will make an exception for the pumpkin spice version.

Boston in the fall

Destination: Boston, October 24, 2015

Kenji starts off his book with the declaration, “I am a nerd, and I’m proud of it.” So I’m going to start this post off the same way:

I am a book nerd.

I can take or leave sports, most dramatic productions, musicians, politicians, and various other celebrities. But tell me that one of my favorite writers is going to be within a two-hour radius, and I will start hyperventilating.

And so it was that on Saturday morning, I blithely threw my schedule to the wind, and headed for Boston.

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(For the record, I had never been to Boston before, despite its proximity, mainly because I HATE driving in big cities and will go to some lengths to avoid it.)

I took the I-95 up, and it took about two hours. I had been that direction before, as far as T.F. Green airport just south of Providence, but from there north it was all new to me. I was soon reminded of driving in San Diego, so I bravely risked death to take a picture:

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I followed the Google maps directions, and it turned out surprisingly well; including taking an exit in a tunnel, which I had never done before. I was able to easily find the Old South Church, where Kenji’s event was being held, and just as easily find a convenient parking place.

This was probably the nicest parking garage I've ever been in.

The Boston Book Festival was held in and around Copley Square, and this wonderful parking garage was just a few blocks away. It was convenient and not scary and the stairwell was the cleanest I’ve ever seen in a public space. They didn’t have rates posted, but I hate parking in big cities and didn’t care what they charged me, so long as it was convenient.

The Boston Public Library is right across the street from Copley Square and the Old South Church.

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And the whole area is replete with beautiful historic buildings:

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(Which, admittedly, are probably shown to better advantage when there’s not a small tent city in the middle of them.)

The Roxy’s Grilled Cheese food truck was there; Kenji is having an event at their brick/mortar location tonight.

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And then it was time to see Kenji!

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The panel was called “The Science of Food,” and included a moderator, a nice lady who had written a book about the military influence on processed food, and Kenji. The nice lady made a very nice speech, which went on and on while the whole audience wished that she would finish and sit down so that we could listen to Kenji. Also, we were afraid that she was going to make some egregious food science error and Kenji was going to have to contradict her, which would have been embarrassing. But she finally wrapped it up, and it was Kenji’s turn!

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He talked for a few minutes, about the book and steaks and science and showed us where on the cow a steak comes from (a la Julia Child):

IMG_2221And there was something about a trim saw? Perhaps we should be scared…

And afterwards, I got to meet him and have him sign my book!

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I only wish that I could have made it to one of his events that lasted longer. I was so mad last year when we moved from San Diego to Connecticut at the same time he was moving from New York to San Francisco! But at least I got this chance! And hopefully when the second volume of The Food Lab is released, he’ll come through again.

———-

The rest of my trip to Boston:

While I was there, I took advantage of a couple of things that I don’t have in Boondocks, Connecticut:

The Vibram Store

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I’ve been wanting to visit this place ever since it opened, when I lived in SoCal and thought that I would never, ever in a million years get to. It’s the only Vibram store in the US, and they occasionally have things that are hard to find (like the limited-edition Classics for the Olympics). I didn’t buy anything (because I’ve maxed out my toed-shoe budget for the year), but it was wonderful to make a contact with the company that has allowed me to walk pain-free for the last several years.

Also,

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I got spoiled in SoCal; there were Cheesecake Factories in several of the malls, so going there for the occasional slice of cheesecake was no problem. Now, it’s a major ordeal, so I picked up several slices to make up for the deprivation. (I finally tried the Pumpkin Pecan Cheesecake! It is exactly how you think it would be.)

And then I went home!

All in all, it was a great trip; there were no major snafus, and I got to walk around a big city (which I like doing almost as much as I hate driving in them). The weather was chilly and overcast, so it was great walking weather, but not so cold that it was miserable and you had to huddle inside various shops to thaw out.

I would definitely go to Boston again, and probably park in the same place. I didn’t do any of the historical things, which are definitely on my list before we get transferred, but this was a great trip to scope out the streets and parking. And next time I’ll do some research and try to find some good restaurants before I go! (RIP, Serious Eats Talk…)

Fall roundup 2015: Pumpkin Spice bagels

thomas pumpkin spice bagels

These are good. Like the Swirl Bread, they have chunks of pumpkin in them, and there’s a good amount of pumpkin spice flavor. I like these, but don’t always get them because I have a hard time eating through that many gigantic bagels in pumpkin season.

The one thing that I will always get when I can, is, of course, Einstein Bros. Pumpkin Bagel, only available in the fall. It is pure, delicious, bagel goodness, combining Einstein’s perfect bagel crumb and crust with a light pumpkin spice flavor. Oh, now I’m craving one of those… Excuse me, I have to go see if there’s an Einstein Bros. within driving distance.

Fall roundup 2015: Ben and Jerry’s Pumpkin Cheesecake ice cream

ben and jerry's pumpkin cheesecake

This is a winner! Tangy, spicy pumpkin cheesecake ice cream with a buttery graham cracker crumb swirl… This is a pumpkin item that I get every fall, and look forward to it the whole rest of the year! If you’ve had the Strawberry Cheesecake, it’s basically the same thing with pumpkin instead of strawberry. So… good…

Fall roundup 2015: The Cheesecake Factory Pumpkin Cheesecake

cheesecake factory pumpkin cheesecake

Oh, my gosh, yes. This is when I’m going to miss living near multiple Cheesecake Factories… Heck, I don’t even have a Barnes & Noble to get my fix!

This is one of the highlights of my year: the annual trip to the Cheesecake Factory for the sole purpose of getting a slice of Pumpkin Cheesecake. Like all cheesecake (and everything else) at The Cheesecake Factory, it is utterly amazing.

They make another one, too, that I haven’t tried yet: The Pumpkin Pecan Cheesecake:

cheesecake factory pumpkin pecan cheesecake

It looks like basically a layer of pumpkin cheesecake on top of a layer of pecan pie filling… If I can get to Cheesecake Factory this year, I’ll try it and report back! The things I suffer to keep this blog up-to-date… 😉

Fall roundup 2015: Pumpkin Spice English muffins

pumpkin spice english muffins

These are solid: a great English muffin, with enough pumpkin and spices that you don’t need any toppings! I think I tried one with some cream cheese once, and it didn’t really need it. Maybe a little salted butter, melted down into the nooks and crannies… But otherwise, toast one of these up and you’re good to go!

UPDATE: It looks like Thomas is only doing the Apple Spice version of the English muffins and bagels this year… *sadness*

UPDATE TO THE UPDATE: Nope, they’re totally available this year! The Apple Spice version just came out WEEKS before the pumpkin ones, for some reason. So eat up!

Repost: I am 1 in 4

pregnancy-infant-loss-remembrance-day

I am combining a couple of my old posts in honor of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. In 1988, October was designated Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, and special emphasis has been assigned to October 15.

1 in 4 women will experience a miscarriage or stillbirth.

For more information and support for your own or a loved one’s loss, please visit:

My story:

When I was pregnant with my first child, I waited until 12 weeks to tell almost everyone (my husband knew, of course, and I think we told my parents). This is fairly standard procedure, since around 1 in 5 pregnancies is lost to miscarriage, most in the first trimester. So, the logic goes, if you don’t tell anybody that you’re pregnant, then you don’t have to go around announcing the miscarriage to everyone if the baby is lost. Pregnancy books are replete with horror stories about the woman who immediately told everyone she was pregnant, then suffered a miscarriage, and for months had people asking after the baby, not having heard that it was lost.

In May 2013, we lost our second baby at about 8 weeks. Just like the first time, we had told no one about it. Even my close family didn’t know I was pregnant until we told them that the baby was lost. After that experience, my thoughts about announcing early pregnancy have really changed.

What, really, are the benefits to keeping early pregnancies and miscarriages secret?

1) Some people prefer to grieve in private. Having announced a pregnancy, a subsequent loss must also be announced. Grieving parents often don’t want to talk about it, and having to remember everyone who knows and who must now be informed is too much to deal with.

2) Some people don’t want to cause other people grief. Common or not, pregnancy loss is a sad thing. Some parents don’t want to spread around the grief of losing the baby to everyone they know, especially to other pregnant women. Speaking of which…

3) Pregnant women are almost superstitiously opposed to hearing about miscarriages and other pregnancy loss. Pregnancy forums have many stories from pregnant women who were emotionally traumatized by hearing stories of other women’s pregnancy losses. There is almost the belief that merely hearing about a baby’s death could harm the pregnant woman’s baby, and some people are very emotional about it.

If I may, I would like to submit some reasons why early pregnancies and pregnancy loss should not be a taboo subject.

1) Private grief is grief without support. Many women who have lost babies say they felt very isolated in their grief, as if they were the only one that this had happened to and that no one else could relate to what they were feeling. Given that pregnancy loss is so common (about 1 in 5 pregnancies, or 20%), it is nearly statistically guaranteed that everyone knows multiple people who have lost babies. But as long as those babies and losses are kept secret (outside of the miscarriage community), public awareness and acceptance of the statistics will never occur.

2) A baby’s loss that is never grieved is a baby’s life that was never celebrated. Yes, it is hard to know what to say when someone you know has lost a baby. If you are a relative, you may mourn yourself for the little grandchild/niece/nephew/cousin you never got to know. After my miscarriage, I was sad that during my baby’s 8 weeks of life, no one knew he was there or was happy that he existed. The fact that he lived was only associated with his death. Next time around, I will be shouting my baby’s existence from the rooftops; even if it dies, it won’t have died unnoticed.

3) I understand that while you’re pregnant, the last thing you want to hear about is babies dying. You are completely invested in your baby’s well-being, and even thinking about miscarriage can seem dangerous. But it’s not. Let’s face it: merely hearing stories can not harm a baby in utero. Ignoring pregnancy loss statistics and shunning women who have miscarried doesn’t help the pregnant woman at all, and it can cause significant harm to the woman who has miscarried. Your pregnancy can not be jinxed by sitting near a woman who has recently lost a baby in the doctor’s waiting room. Helping a friend grieve a lost baby will not hurt the one inside of you. And given the numbers, someday you may be grateful for sympathy in your own grief.

Those who are historically minded will recall that up until a few decades ago, breast cancer was an absolutely taboo subject. Women who had breast cancer certainly did not talk about it, and even treatment and surgery were kept secret. That is, until a few well-known women decided to go public with their experiences with breast cancer. Now, while a breast cancer diagnosis is still a scary thing, no woman needs to feel like she has to go through it alone. She understands that she is one of many, and that there is support if she needs it.

The percentage of women who will be diagnosed with breast cancer is about 12%. The percentage of women who will undergo a pregnancy loss is about 30%. I believe that it is time to stop hiding pregnancy loss. It is not shameful; it doesn’t mean that you are not a woman. If you have lost a pregnancy, you have joined an enormous group of women, and their families, who have undergone the same thing, many whom you probably know.

It is not easy to be open about a miscarriage. In addition to having lost a beloved child, you may also be experiencing guilt, depression and hopelessness. You may not want to talk about the baby, but you may be overwhelmed every time you see a pregnant woman or a new baby. Uninformed people may ask you if you did something wrong to cause the miscarriage, or say other hurtful things.

Despite the pain, the only way for the public to become informed is for informed people to spread knowledge. Be open about your pregnancy loss. You do not have to go into medical details, but inform yourself about the reasons (or lack of) for miscarriage. Be able to tell people what the risk factors are, and the statistics. Celebrate your baby’s short life. Help other women grieve.

Because most miscarriages are due to factors beyond our control, awareness can’t lead to reduced incidences of miscarriage. But what it can do is provide support and acceptance for women and families who have lost babies, letting them know that they are not alone, and reducing the stigma attached to pregnancy loss.

I’ve written this about three weeks after we lost our baby. I don’t know when I’ll publish it. But I do want to mention some pregnancy loss resources, as well as Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness, which occurs in October and specifically on October 15. A website that I found helpful is pregnancyloss.info.

To the mothers and families: You are not alone.

To the babies: You are not forgotten.

Baby Sell, May 2013

baby may 2013

(originally published in a slightly different form in 2013)

Fall roundup 2015: Pumpkin Spice Milano cookies

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After the M&Ms, I was very skeptical of anything that tried to combine chocolate and pumpkin spice. But these. Are. AMAZING! They’ve got the pumpkin spice filling and the butter cookie just like the Pumpkin Spice Oreos, AND a layer of chocolate filling in there too, and it is DELICIOUS! I could eat bags and bags of these things. I think the chocolate and pumpkin spice works the same way that the PSL does: the slight bitterness of the coffee or chocolate is the perfect counterpoint to the sweetness of the pumpkin pie spices.

Get these!

Fall roundup 2015: Pumpkin Spice Latte M&M’s

Apparently I was not the only one who was less-than-thrilled with the Pumpkin Spice M&Ms, because this year there’s a new offering:

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Pumpkin Spice Latte M&M’s are a Target exclusive. They are pretty, coming in nice cream, orange, and chocolate brown colors.

The flavor is okay: the candy shell is normal, and there is regular chocolate inside, flavored primarily like coffee, with a little spice at the end, I think primarily cinnamon? They basically taste like spiced mocha. They’re not bad, but I wouldn’t call them an amazing contribution to the pumpkin-spice world.

Should you by them? Meh. If you were going to buy/eat M&M’s anyway, particularly if you like coffee flavor, you might as well give them a shot. But I’m not sure they’re worth going out of your way to get.

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