Free Chocolate!

Yeah, that’s what I said.  Free chocolate – for the lucky winner of my Tintin / Cost Plus chocolate bar giveaway.  I love Cost Plus and I love chocolate, so when the PR team offered a set of the chocolate bars pictured above for me to give away on this here blog, I didn’t even blink before saying yes.

But then I realized I had to test the chocolate first.  You know, to make sure it’s a worthy product to give to one of you.  I enlisted my family to help me, and here are the results:

First place:  The dark chocolate with sea salt is the hands-down winner

Second place:  Milk chocolate was my husband’s favorite

Third place:  Milk chocolate with hazelnut and almond pieces was a tasty treat

Fourth place:  The dark chocolate with cocoa pieces has a very strong flavor so it wasn’t anyone’s favorite but if you are a dark chocolate lover you will enjoy this

Other treats that Cost Plus is selling are:

  • Tintin Metal Lunch Box, Set of 2 ($25.98) – Make lunch time an adventure with these collectible retro-style lunch boxes featuring Tintin and Snowy!
  • Tintin Travel Pasta ($2.99) – Travel the world at the dinner table with this Tintininspired pasta, shaped like planes, trains and cars.
If you would like a of set of these tasty bars sent to your home, leave a message here.  I will choose a random commenter to win.
  • Leave one comment here and make sure your email address is entered
  • Contest will be open from now until 11:59 PM on Monday, January 23
  • Winner will be chosen from eligible entries
  • Winner will be announced here on Tuesday, January 24
  • Winner must provide US mailing address, and prize will mailed by Cost Plus/Tin Tin representative within 1-2 weeks

MyInfoGuardian Was Probably Created For Idiots Like Me

This is the first line in the FAQ section of

We often hear headline stories of how a predator or stalker has tracked down their target to hurt, rape or kill them.

Isn’t that nice?

It is not news to me that this happens in the world, but that idea has not ever stopped me from using my name and my family’s real names in my blogging escapades over the years.  At first, I figured nobody would even read my blog, let alone hunt me down through it.  And even as my blog got marginally popular, it turned into a lovely reason for people to send me free shit.  Which I have never disliked.  Other bloggers use pseudonyms for their husbands and children and even themselves, but I never bothered.

Turns out I needn’t have ever worried that I was revealing too much information through my blog (or Whrrl, or Twitter, or Facebook, or…ad nauseum) because if someone really wants to find out anything about me, they can simply purchase the information off of any of the various “people search” sites that actually compile personal info from public records.  I’m sure that you can look up anything about me at the right place (not that you need to, since I am the queen of TMI).

Again from

Commonly known as people search sites, these sites allow anyone to buy your personal information including information even your closest friends don’t know.

I just activated my account and saw the list of sites that sell my personal information and got chills.  Thankfully, that info is now being removed.

MyInfoGuardian is a service that will scrub the people search sites of your information, and then keep a lookout to make sure that if your info pops up anywhere new, it is taken right down.  These are things that you can do yourself if you have 87 hours to kill.  Why bother with that then, when you can just purchase a membership – which can also covers everyone in your immediate nuclear family and any names you have used in the past like your maiden name or the alias you used when you committed that crime, ahem).  You can even give a subscription as a gift.

My friend Leah is giving away a subscription to on her website – the contest is open through January.  See for more information, or to purchase if you don’t win the freebie.

I received a complimentary subscription to facilitate this feature, as well as a lovely lunch in the company of 15 power lady SoCal bloggers.  All opinions are my own.  Of course.

Last Minute Gift Guide: Books

For the LEGO enthusiast(s) in your house

Now that you are a parent, your love of LEGO has been rekindled.  You watch your kids play with the little plastic bricks, you marvel at their creations, you curse them each time you step on one with bare feet.  When you were a kid, you probably wondered where they came from and had questions, but did anyone answer you?  Did they even know?  LEGO’s just…were.  Now that you are a grownup, The Cult of LEGO by John Baichtal and Joe Meno (hardcover, $39.95) will delight you and your kids alike with trivia and information about the toy.  It’s a coffee-table book that explains how they were invented and some of the outrageous things people do with them.  But if you want to keep it as a nice coffee-table book, you might want to keep it out of the reach of children.  They are bound to read it a little bit too enthusiastically, if you know what I mean.

A sobering read

Ben Behind His Voices (hardcover, $26.95) is a stirring memoir by Randye Kaye, who was a radio personality in Connecticut when her oldest child started showing symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia as he entered his teens.  Her story is one of maternal sacrifice and heartbreak, and a redefinition of her own family.  I was afraid of this book.  As a mother, I knew it would tear my heart out.  But I am a glutton for punishment, so of course I read it cover to cover.    The book is well-written and Kaye communicates her pain and frustration very effectively.  When you read something like this you think maybe it will help you recognize warning signs and therefore avoid the same problems with your own children.  But with something as complex as schizophrenia and the various challenges the family encountered as Ben grew up, Kaye provides something I suspect is even more valuable to other people dealing with the same thing:  hope.

New Year’s clutter clean-up

I have been a big fan of Peter Walsh since I saw him on Oprah helping the hoarder from Long Island whose house was so full of stuff that her grown children and her grandchildren never visited anymore.  I watched him coach her through a complete turnaround of her home environment and hopefully her whole life.  His latest book Lighten Up:  Love What You Have, Have What You Need, Be Happier With Less (hardcover, trade paperback, digital) is less of a practical guide to removing clutter from your life and more of an emphasis on the psychological reasons that one accumulates too much stuff.  Walsh urges you to examine all aspects of your life:  emotional, financial, relationships, work life – and basically clean out the clutter from all of those areas.  I found the worksheets included a little bit too simplistic – they did not inspire me to get a pencil and do the actual work.  But then again, my life is perfect, so why bother?  This would be a great gift for that friend or relative who always has so much drama about money and housework going on.

For kids

Sarah Sue Smith (paperback, $22.49):  In this first of a planned series of Crooked Wharf Adventures, an orange-haired octopus named Sarah Sue Smith makes meals for her undersea friends.  I give this book the award for Most Comprehensive Use of Fonts Found in Microsoft Word, because every page uses a different one.  Your kids won’t care, however.  The story is engaging and the artwork is bright and cheerful.  Plus, they learn stuff about math without even realizing it.  The book was written by Tara Rebal and designed by Frank Sercia, two former co-workers of my Aunt Kathy.  Kudos to them for doing what they really wanted to do when they grew up.

I received all of the above books as review copies or gifts.  All opinions are my own.  Obviously.