Sunday, November 27, 2016

Poinsettias - Please Treat Your Mom

We are visiting Omaha, Nebraska for a week to celebrate Thanksgiving, birthdays, and an upcoming wedding with my family.  Part of my visits to Nebraska always involve visiting my mom's grave.  I wrote about this once last year, explaining how I find it sad to go visit her, yet also very necessary, and the act of bringing flowers to the grave is somehow comforting. 

This is my mom's handwriting.  I find it so comforting to see it.
I recommend that you save a card or letter from your parents - it
is lovely to have their writing after they are gone. 
Last year I stopped into the Trader Joe's at One Pacific Place in Omaha and bought a very pretty bouquet to take to the cemetery and the woman in the demo area was super sweet and helpful (that piece can be found here:  floral bouquet review ).  So this week when I wanted flowers to put on Mom's grave, I headed out to TJ's to see what they had. 

There are a lot of flowers and plants to choose from at TJ's
As you may have noticed if you have shopped recently, TJ's is now filled with holiday flowers.  They have lots of lovely flowers and potted plants to choose from.  I settled on a medium sized red poinsettia (I guess it would be considered "small" in other stores, but TJ's has some adorable teeny tiny poinsettias so I will call this 4.5" one "medium").

So pretty, and so reasonably priced, too
The red flowers are so bright and just right for this time of year.  The sun was shining when we visited my mom and I was glad to have a gift to bring, even though she isn't really there to receive it.

My mom - I think this photo was taken in the 70s.
My point in telling you this story is this:  if your mother is still alive, please visit her now while you can.  Go see her when you can still hug her, still have a conversation with her.  And bring her FLOWERS.  You don't have to spend a ton of money on them, just bring her SOMETHING pretty.  Give them to her NOW, while you can hand them to her and see the smile on her face.  Please. 
As pretty as these flowers look here, they will be a million times more
beautiful on your mother's coffee table.  Bring her some, please. If she asks
why you are bringing flowers, just tell her I sent you, and that you love her.

Price - $2.99
Rating- 5

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Ultra Moisturizing Hand Cream Trio

Guys - it is THAT time of year.  The special time when all of the "secret" fancy stuff arrives quietly at Trader Joe's.  The stuff that is in super limited quantities and is priced amazingly well.  The time that YOU NEED TO GO SHOPPING both for yourself and for holiday gifts!

I was reminded of this yesterday when I popped into the Bethesda, Maryland Trader Joe's to see if they had any more Valhrona Advent Calendars (which are the bomb and you can and should totally get one if you can still find it - reviewed here:  Valhrona Advent Calendar ).  My local Trader Joe's was already OUT of the fancy advent calendars and said that they were not getting any more in, so I was desperate.  I mean, I HAD to be desperate to be willing to shop at the Bethesda store - that place is NUTS right now.  The parking lot has been under construction for over a year and is a m-e-s-s.  The elevator from the parking lot is turned off (with no "out of order" sign on it so morons like me (and the family who was there at the same time as me) stand there waiting for a "lift" that will never come...).  And the store itself is pretty darn messy and so crowded that you can't even navigate around with a cart.  Let's just say - this is NOT a relaxing TJ's right now...  But I neeeeeded a couple more Valhrona calendars, so I braved the mess and went, and boy was I glad I did!  They had calendars left (some people on my shopping list are lucky!!).

Cuz guys, guess what else they had???  ULTRA MOISTURIZING HAND CREAM TRIO!  And it was such a top secret item that they had just hid it amongst the regular toiletries instead of putting it in the "New Products" display.  And they hadn't even put up a price sign for it!  Nope, there were just a few boxes quietly hidden on a hard to see shelf!  But see them I did!!!  As should you!  Go get yourself a box, and a box or two for friends.  They are super nice and oh so cheap - same low price of $7.99 as last year!

The hand cream feels exactly like something you would get at L'Occitane, which is a fancy ass toiletries store.  Only, at L'Occitane you would pay double the price.  This hand cream smells fantastic and feels amazing.

You.  Need.  Some.

Here is the complete review from last year.    Ultra Moisturizing Hand Cream Trio

Read that review quickly, then change out of your pajamas and into street clothes and rush out to Trader Joe's and get some.  If you do not see it, ask, cuz maybe your store is keeping it on the down-low, too and has it squirreled away somewhere!

Price:  still only $7.99
Rating:  still a bright shiny 4.5 star rating

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Fall Zucchette Pasta

Sometimes Trader Joe’s comes out with products that are PRETTY.  But pretty doesn’t always equate to YUMMY.  Well, this Autumnal Butternut Squash Pasta was pretty in the bag, so I decided to cook some up and see if it was also delicious.  

Here's the bag 
Here is what we thought:

David: “It’s not bad.  It has an interesting, playful shape.  The taste is pretty good.  There is a lot of pasta in each pasta “nodule”, so it could do with a lot of sauce on it.  Yeah.  Ummm.  It’s, ummm…  It won’t hurt you to mix up your pasta routine and give this one a shot.  I give it a 3.75”

Looks like David liked it better on the PLATE than he did in the BAG.  
Susan:  Confession time; to me, really, all shapes of pasta normally taste the same.  I mean, a shape is a shape, but pasta is pasta.  I guess it is the same concept as TACO BELL – everything on their menu is made out of the same ingredients and it all tastes that same, it is just in different SHAPES.  The Taco Bell prices vary a bit per item, but basically, all of their crap is the same, right?  That’s how I feel about pasta shapes. 

Anyway, this Trader Joe’s Autumnal Butternut Squash Pasta has an adorable little shape.  I personally think it looks more like PUMPKINs than squash.  If you have ever shopped at Marshall’s or TJ Maxx, this pasta looks like something they would have in their food sections.  And to be honest, their food sections always make me hesitant…  I check expiration dates there, because I get the feeling like their gourmet food items have been sitting on another store’s shelves and didn’t get sold, so they got shipped to Marshalls/TJ Maxx.  That is what this pasta LOOKS like – the gourmet section at Marshalls/TJ Maxx. 

As for TASTE – this pasta has a nice taste.  And it does not taste ultra SQUASH-Y, either, which is good.   

It has an interesting TEXTURE.  It has a good “bite” to it.  I think this is the largest size pasta I have ever had, except for rigatoni maybe.  We had to cook it longer than the package said because when the timer went off it was SUPER underdone.   While I was in line at Trader Joe’s one evening I had a conversation with a woman and noticed she was picking this pasta up.  She hadn’t had it before either and she guessed it was one you needed to be careful not to overcook.  Turns out you need to be careful of the opposite problem J .  One note:  draining this pasta is bizarre because each little butternut shape is essentially a tiny pumpkin shaped “bucket” holding water. 

Some of the lil pumpkins got a bit busted the first time we cooked this.
Sorry, not as pretty on the plate as the second time.
I was a tad concerned about sauce and worried which one to pair dish this with.  We ended up serving it with Trader Joe’s Creamy Tomato Basil Pasta Sauce and that was a good compliment.  I also served it with baby portabella mushrooms cooked in pumpkin seed oil, with a side of fresh broccoli and a lovely beet/blue cheese salad.  

After our experience with TJ’s Black Bean Rotini (which got a horrible review here:  Black Bean Rotini Review ), I was a little nervous to get back on the horse and try another bizarre pasta.  I worried this one might taste freaky, but it doesn’t. 

Overall, this is a cute pasta and is good to have once or twice during the crisp Autumn season.  It looks and tastes very fall-like. 

I give this product a rating of 4. 

Price:  $1.99 (cheap for a fancy shape pasta)

Rating:  4  

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Return of the Pomegranate (Body Butter)

Look, I do not want to get all political in this forum, that is not what this space is for.  This is for TRADER JOE’S, for heaven’s sake, not for politics.  But I feel that I must put it out there, at least acknowledge the fact, that I am not feeling up to snapping funny photos of David and I chowing down on mini pies and the like right now.  It is a somber, confusing time for me. 

And yet – we all must eat.  And in our case, that means we must make a trip to Trader Joe’s. 

And lucky for me, it meant that I found POMEGRANATE BODY BUTTER is back in stock.  Yes, a holiday favorite has returned.  If you follow this blog you might know that I am not a huge fan (at all…) of TJ’s PUMPKIN Body Butter (bleck!), but the Pomegranate is good!! 

Here it is folks!  It is back!
They have changed the packaging this year- funked it up a bit and it looks nice.  They did NOT change the price tag – it is still the low, low price of $5.49.  Sadly, they didn’t take my advice to change the LID to the cool lid they give to the yucky Pumpkin scent, the one where you can snap the lid up off instead of having to twist it off.  Not having the advanced lid is the only reason this product got a 4.75 instead of a 5 star rating last year!  You would THINK they would want to up their game, man!  But if they are not changing the lid, I am not changing the rating.

Packaging THIS year

Packaging LAST year
Anyway, you should for sure grab yourself a tub during this holiday season.  And actually, you might want to grab an extra tub to squirrel away for later, cuz when the first tub runs out, you might miss it and they won’t have it anymore.  And if you have someone on your holiday shopping list who likes lotion, this might be a good gift!  Now don’t say I didn’t help you with your shopping.

Here is the full review from last year (which has more fun photos, cuz it was before the 2016 Presidential American election…): 2015 Pomegranate Body Butter Review

And you know what?  If you are reading this, and want to try this product but don't have a Trader Joe's in your area, check on E-Bay and other sites.  If you can't find anyone selling it for at or near the REAL PRICE ($5.49) comment here and we can work together.  You can send me money and I will get you some at TJ's and mail it to you (sorry, you will have to pay for shipping, but it will be better than getting ripped off by some online retailer!).  Just consider it my early holiday gift to you.

Here is to a winter with no dry skin.

Price: $5.49
Rating: 4.75

Friday, November 4, 2016

French Onion Soup AND Reston, Virginia Trader Joe's

GUYS!  We visited ANOTHER TRADER JOE’S!  I think this was our 27th store to visit since January 1, 2015 (in 14 different states, well, 13 states and one District). 

The newest store (new to us) was on Killingsworth Avenue in Reston, VA.  The night before Halloween I surprised David by driving us out to a house I had found online that was all lit up for Halloween and had the lights danced to music!  Anyway, when we were done enjoying that, we Googled and saw that there was actually a TJ’s nearby that we had never visited, so off we went!

Here is the Halloween house!  See those jack-o-lantern lights?  THEY SANG!  It was cute.
The Reston, Virginia Trader Joe's is very nice!  It is big, well stocked, well lit, clean, and has wide aisles.  They also have something that I have not noticed in any other Trader Joe’s around the country:  a little play kitchen for kids!  We got there shortly before closing time, but this little girl was enjoying the play area!  Isn’t it adorable??  I bet kids love it (parents, too).  I talked to a super friendly, really nice employee named Kimberly who didn’t know that her store was SPECIAL by having the play kitchen J.  I was like, “Kimberleeeeeey, no, not all stores have those!  It is amazing!”

LOOK!  A little kitchen to play in!!!
Another really cool thing this location has is MULTIPLE STUFFED ANIMALS TO HIDE…  Do you know about the TJ’s stuffed animals?  Each store has one (at least I thought they only had one!) and they hide it on the shelves.  Kids that are shopping hunt for the animal, and if they find it they report it to the customer service area and get a treat.  But Kimberly explained to me that she feels like it shouldn’t be too hard for kids to be successful in this adventure, and that is why she deploys MULTIPLE ANIMALS!  Isn’t that kind (and smart)??  I love it!  Lucky Reston kids.

Shhhh, one of the animals in hiding in the coffee department in Reston!
Oh, and get this…  The store captain is named SUNSHINE HAVEN!  With someone named SUNSHINE running the place, how could it NOT be glowing and lovely??  I hope to go back sometime and meet Sunshine.  And hey – Sunshine – Kimberly is a great representative of your store and the TJ’s brand.  I don’t know if it is within your realm of power, but if it is, give that lady a raise, she is great. 

The Reston, Virginia store has a very nice feel
We picked up several items while we were at this location, one of which was the luxurious advent calendar I wrote about recently Super Amazing Fancy Advent Calendar Review .  the item I am actually reviewing today did not come from this particular store, but I am sure they carry it. 

French Onion Soup.  David, who lived in Paris for a few years, has eaten some French Onion Soup in his day.  Here is what he thought of this version from Trader Joe’s:

“Very, very good.  I have had me some French Onion Soup, and I love it, but it is often a disappointment.  This one is FULL of flavor, very rich, although we should point out that we ended up cooking it 15 – 20 minutes longer than the insructions said to, so I think it reduced a little bit.  But still, the balance of the onions, the soup, and the cheese (which is not overdone but which is very flavorful) is, I would say, perfection.  The only downside is that you have to think about cooking it about 40 – 45 minutes before you are actually going to EAT, and that is usually outside our zone.  But, IF you can remember to do that, and go do something else for half an hour while this cooks in the oven, I think this is a winner.  I give it a 5…  Well, I have to give it a 4.75 because of the TIME it took.”

Oh my…  This is embarrassing…  My sweetie and I normally agree on stuff, but on this one, not so much…  I do not think this soup is that good…  It is more like a GRAVY than a soup (that could be because we cooked it too long…).  We ran out while it was in the oven (one of the places we ran was to Trader Joe’s, so that should count for something!).  But this soup is too “beefy” for me. 

Plus, there is not enough cheese.  I like French Onion Soup like in PARIS – you put your spoon into a big ol’ GLOB of cheese…  Then it kinda bloobles on your spoon.  That is what I was HOPING for, but this isn’t it.

You can tell even when it is still frozen that there isn't going to be enough CHEESE on it.  Not enough for me, anyway.
The packaging is sort of weird.  The soup comes in two little frozen “blobs”, which you put in your bowl and then cook in the oven.  I personally don’t think this one was worth the time to cook.  The thing I liked most is that cooking this gave us an excuse to use these delightful little Le Creuset dishes we inherited from David’s mom.  We keep them high up in a cupboard and always forget we have them, but they were perfect for this soup because you need an oven safe bowl to cook them in.

I wouldn’t buy these again for me, but David really love it, so we probably will get them again.  I talked to a woman in TJ’s recently who adores these (she microwaves hers because she doesn’t have an oven).  I don’t think this product is horrible, it just isn’t as good as French Onion Soup should be in my opinion. 

I like that it came in two easy serving sizes, but I don’t like the taste.  I sadly give it a 2.75.

Price – $4.99

Rating (average of 2 raters) – 3.75

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

GET THEE TO A TRADER JOE'S - Important Announcement If You Like Chocolate!

Yes, Halloween was just yesterday.

Yes, Thanksgiving is still weeks away.

And yet, and YET, today I urge you to run to Trader Joe's and get an ADVENT CALENDAR!

David praying to the Valrhona gods, offering thanks for putting out the advent calendars in October.
(We found it in the Reston, VA store - a new store for us!  Details on it soon!)
Crazy early, I know, but don't blame me, I am not the one who already put Valrhona Advent Calendars on the shelves at Trader Joe's!  I didn't put 'em there, I just spotted them!  And of course, I snagged one!!!  AND SO SHOULD YOU!

You need one of these for oh so many reasons.  Let me tout just a few:

1.  Valrhona chocolate is ahhh-mazing.  Seriously delicious, very high quality chocolate.

2.  This is an advent calendar for ADULTS.  Ain't no snowmen.  Ain't no Santas.  Ain't no waxy a** chocolate!  No - each and every day of December until Christmas reveals a delectable, delicious, super good chocolate.

Here is the pretty inside.  It looks just like last year!  So lovely.
3.  It is the SAME PRICE as last year ($9.99), which is crazy cheap for all of the great chocolate you are getting.  

$9.99 in one store in 2015....
$9.99 in another store in 2015

TADA!  STILL $9.99 at the Reston, VA store in 2016!  Thanks Trader Joe's!
4.  On December 24th you get a big candy bar (see photo of inside of the calendar above - check out the 24th!)!  Not one of those little fancy squares, but a genuine full size real life chocolate bar.  (If you want to be kind, you can share it with a friend, but you don't have to.)

5.  It will help you count down the days until Christmas.  "But my family doesn't CELEBRATE Christmas!" I hear some of you saying.  To that I say, DOESN'T MATTER, you still deserve great chocolate!  Here's what you do:  set an appointment for December 25.  It can be to change the filter on your heater.  It can be to polish your shoes.  WHATEVER!!!  Then use this fancy advent calendar to count down to that appointment!  It works for stuff other than Christmas, trust me!!

Attractive photo of us from last year, opening up a day of chocolate in our jammies.
I promise, we have not opened any squares yet this year!
The reason I am posting this so early is because the stores will run out of these.  Soon.  They don't get many of them, and when they are gone, they are gone.  And you deserve one.  Heck, while you are at TJ's pick up a couple of the cheap advent calendars for your kids (I think they are a buck!).  But remember, this fancy Valrhona one is for YOU!!!

Last year this product got 5 well deserved stars (review here:  2015 Valrhona Advent Calendar Review

This year, even before opening a single little window and nibbling a chocolate, I declare it a 5 star winner again!

Price:  STILL $9.99, and well worth every penny
Rating:  STILL a shiny 5 stars