Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year

2013 went by so quickly, it seems like it was just barely the holiday season last year!  I know I haven't been the best at blogging; I may even add that to my list of New Year resolutions... or maybe not.

Here's a re-cap of another good year:

I kicked off the year in North Carolina--sometimes I still kind of miss that place.  My Grandpa Tick passed away early this year--it is always sad to lose someone so good.  He was a great man and is definitely missed. We all headed to Las Vegas for the funeral and I got to spend some time with the family. Later that month, we returned to Vegas again for a much happier reason: my younger sister Vanessa Joy got married to Chris.

Work kept me busy all spring but I still managed to squeeze in a trip to Cancun Mexico with Megan, Val, & Melanee. It was great to get away from the snow and cold and swim in the ocean.  I tried scuba diving for the first time and vowed I would eventually get officially certified. I think I need more ocean in my life in 2014.

In addition to several Jolly Rancher work trips over the sumer, I was also able to get a few personal trips in like exploring Philadelphia with Jason or visiting Jaimie & Wolfgang in DC (it was fun having them close for a little while!).

Over the 4th of July, I headed out to Utah and saw my sister & brother-in-law as well as my dad before heading up to Jackson Hole with Holli for some much-needed hiking and river time.  Cousin Jessie made a surprise visit, which made the trip even better. We even visited Yellowstone and I tried to rock red cowboy boots like a legit cowgirl.

This summer also marked a bunch of repairs on my house.  I had to have my water/sewage pipes all replaced and get a new roof over a two-week period.  My place was all mud and noise and caution tape for a while.  It was one of those times I was grateful to just be the tenant vs. the owner.

In September I was promoted at work and left the Jolly Rancher team to do Global Chocolate Innovation.  I was surprised as how quickly I adjusted to the "dark side" at work (chocolate vs. sweets), and I still think my business cards are funny.  I am loving the new role and the variety that comes with it.  My work travel stepped up a couple notches and even included a trip to China where I got to visit the Great Wall as well as a chance to sneak in a visit with Noel, Audrey, & the kids in Denver.

This fall I also had visits from friends Ginger and Megan.  I secretly love playing host/tour guide and taking people to do all the cheesy chocolate-related things in Hershey.  It was so cute how excited Bassie was to see her ex-roommate, Megan, again.  Girly visits also resulted in being able to check out the Chocolate Spa here in Hershey.  Good times!

At work, I was also asked to serve on a couple committees (funny, right?)--the social chair for the marketing department as well as the team putting together a new recognition/incentive program. As  the chair for the social committee I worked with another friend in marketing to throw big Halloween and Holiday parties.  It was fun, but a lot of work-- now, I think I could host an event for 150+ people in my sleep.  The second committee is a little nostalgic because it is almost exactly the kind of stuff I worked with in my OC Tanner days prior to b-school.  I also helped with our summer interns this year, which is always interesting...

I have been continuing my work with the Cub Scouts.  Although I still don't have a love for  naughty children, (if anything it has decreased) I really enjoy the adults that I serve with and am learning a great deal of patience.  I have yet to embrace wearing a leader shirt with beads and patches on it...but maybe one day I'll get there.

For Thanksgiving, my parents came to visit from Alaska and we did all things Hershey as well as some sightseeing in DC.  It was nice to have the parents visit and show them around.  After a little convincing, they agreed not to try to move here.  :)  The Brunners also joined us for Thanksgiving dinner and we even made Brenda's famous blue cheese garlic dip.  Over the break I also went through the LDS Temple for the first time, which was a pretty cool experience.

The year wrapped up with a trip to Anna Maria Island to spend Christmas with the Dudley clan.  They were nice enough to let me crash their family trip and play in the sun with them.  We saw gators and dolphins and  Marsha Santa even had one of his Elf-on-the-shelf guys causing mischief during the trip.  After Christmas, Holli came to visit to ring in the new year.  We got in a quick trip to NYC and DC and made it back to Hershey in time to watch the giant Kiss drop.

Overall, it has been a good year.  Although life gets stressful and travel schedules can get hectic sometimes, life is pretty sweet here in Hershey.  I am fortunate to have good friends and colleagues at work as well as friends and family that keep in touch from so far away.  If you read my blog, you are probably one of the aforementioned thanks!  I am also lucky that I have the best dog in the world that is always up for a hike/walk/Netflix-binge/hug.

Thanks for a good year 2013.

Thursday, November 14, 2013


This weekend something terrible happened.  The weather decided to from crisp and lovely to cold.  Like see your breath, zip your coat, turn the heat on type of cold.  Oh well, so long fall.  

Other than that, things have been good around these parts.  I haven't travelled for work in 3 weeks, which means I should be caught up on house things and laundry but I'm not.  I mean, I did buy a new weed-whacker/trimmer to replace the one that caught on fire.  Speaking of which, I need to replace my iron...which also caught on fire...and the pants it ruined.  I'm sensing a pattern here--probably something to do with the ancient electrical system in my house.  Sort of freaky. (mom-please unread that last sentence).  

Anyway, you'd think I'd be caught up on everything, but really I am just caught up on the important things:  work, trying new recipes, sleep, and playing with Bassie.

Speaking of which, this has been my favorite recipe the past couple weeks. It is easy and 110% comfort food, for when you are cold and your appliances keep catching on fire.  Mini chicken pot pies.

And just for good measure, here is Bassie learning how to use the slide at a nearby park yesterday (and the real reason I even wrote a blog post if we are being honest here).  I was impressed she could climb back up! My voice is annoying, but the last 5 seconds make up for it. Also, notice how it is pitch black outside when I walk my dog...yeah, thanks daylight savings for that, thanks a lot.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Goodbye, favorite month

-the last of the fall colors on Mt. Gretna

October has been and will probably always be my favorite month.  It is the pinnacle of fall, pumpkin sneaks into everything, and dressing up, of course.  I also think that it just sort of smells good this time of year too.  Some mixture of grass, leaves, and burning chimneys. I like it.

Anyway, with trips to Denver, Dallas, Chicago, and Los Angeles this month has just flown by.  Work continues to be a whirlwind, there are long days and then there are days that I sit and think that I really must have the best job in the world.  Sometimes those are the same days.  Innovation has a lot of research and this last week some of the research has been on new flavors.  I started 3 out of 5 days last week with an elaborate tasting session where we critiqued different combinations of flavors and ingredients and talked about things like how something finishes on the palate and exactly how much vanilla was really necessary.  This was followed up, of course, by statistical reports from consumers showing us how to maximize acceptance reach and how to optimize ingredient ratios.  

The next time you hear a lazy high school student complain about math and ask "when am I ever going to use this again?", tell them about this girl you know who has pretty much the very best job in the world and that she uses it every day.  Tell them they will also need math if they work at McDonalds (so they know how many chicken nuggets to throw in the fryer) so they might as well be good at it so they can have a job that is much more fun and doesn't require a cheesy visor or slip proof sneakers.

Other highlights of the month: 
  • I got to see Noel, Audrey, and the kids in Denver.  They made a tasty dinner and I fed their kids candy and then read them some books with this sassy pig character.  
  • I am also the co-chair over social events/parties for the marketing department at work. We had our big Halloween party last week--complete with a lunch costume party for the adults and an afternoon of stuff for the kids--that I got to plan and run.  Those kids of my co-workers are super lucky.  One women even said her kids got so much candy at our party that they didn't even want to go trick or treating. Craziness!  
  • I didn't realize it was hunting season the other weekend and took Bassie out hiking...It felt like I was in the Hunger Games! I kept trying to hike away from the gun shots until we  found a trail that was off-limit for hunters and more heavily populated.  Although I try to avoid the super-busy trails, I made the executive decision that people on mountain bikes were less dangerous than drunk people with weapons wearing camouflage. 
  • I also made Bassie dress up for real Halloween and doubled down on my candy this year so I wouldn't run out again.  
  • I forgot that this week was a fasting Sunday at church and even brought leftover candy in my purse to share/tempt others....oops. I guess it isn't as bad as the time I ended up with rum in purse at church on the day I was giving a talk.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

continent #5

One of the fun things about my new job is that it is a global role... meaning I occasionally get to travel outside of the US.  Basically, my job before was trying to get people in the US to buy Jolly Ranchers and now it is trying to create chocolate treats for the whole world!  So, like, I'm Willy Wonka now (minus that Wonka is a brand who we "compete" against, so they are not my friend.)

A week into the job I hopped a plane to China for some consumer research.  We visited both Beijing & Shanghai and my boss and I even went out a day early so we could see the Great Wall of China. Holla back yo!  I learned a few things:

  1. I prefer flying business class.  Who knew that 14 hour flights didn't have to be miserable?  It was quite fancy and it made me feel like a fancy person for bit.
  2. China=dirty.  Don't get me wrong, it's a very cool place, but the extreme pollution/lack of soap/contaminated water/questionable hygiene made me a little nervous.  I normally pride myself in maintaining a certain level of reckless abandon when I travel, but this time I decided to just go ahead and not eat street food or brush my teeth with tap water.  I think it was a wise choice.  Maybe this means I am getting old.
  3. You can ride a luge off the Great Wall of China.  For real.  Unfortunately the locals are very, very scared of going fast on the luge.  So, in order to pick up any speed at all you have to convince the worker at the top to let you hold up the ride for 5 minutes so you can actually go fast for a while until you run into the slow pokes riding their breaks half way down. 
  4. Americans are the worst about knowing other languages.  Have you ever noticed how any foreigner you meet speaks like 5 different languages?  Seriously, in every other country people learn multiple languages and in America most people can barely speak english properly.  Myself included! It makes me feel a little bit dumb when I travel.  I guess I am lucky that English is the primary business language.  Being reminded of how much I don't know, I was inspired to purchase bootleg versions of Rosetta Stone :)
  5. Speaking of bootleg things, I learned that I am a pretty good haggler.  In Shanghai (my favorite of the two cities) we went to a few insane little markets with all sorts of treasures.  I dusted off my negotiation skills and even impressed my coworkers who were China-market-negotiating veterans.
  6. People assume that if you are American, you only want to eat American food.  It wasn't until my third day in China that we actually had Chinese food!  We had to keep reassuring people that we actually wanted to each authentic Chinese food. One night we ran into other Hershey people in Shanghai and went to a yummy dumpling dinner.  We got caught in a downpour on the way back to the hotel (and couldn't get a cab) and got totally soaked, but the dumplings were well worth it! We also had hot pot in Shanghai--we went to a local spot where no one spoke English.  We brought a paper from one of our Chinese colleagues with what we should order on it.  We handed over the paper and ate whatever they brought us. Minus the one dish of grey, rubbery things... it was pretty dang good.
Okay, enough lessons. Here are some pictures.

looking up the huge stair climb and looking back down

view from the top

in the towers
Olympic village

Tiananmen Square

Forbidden City

Forbidden City Gardens

After the downpour and the spicy hot pot

Saturday, September 14, 2013

ch' ch' changes

Today it is beautiful out--it is cloudy, but bright and in the 60's.  I'm not a lover of the heat+humidity that has been sticking around lately so this is a nice change of pace. I have the a/c off and even have my slippers on.

The past week has been a flurry since I started in my new position on Monday.  Although I still love Jolly Ranchers--can you really ever get over your first love/brand?  Oh wait...I guess my first brand was Summer's Eve... anyway, I love me some bold fruity flavors.  That said, I'm excited to be working on Global Chocolate Innovation now.  Unlike before, where I just supported one brand, I'm now going to be working on developing packaging and product innovations for several of the global chocolate brands. Fun stuff.  I'm excited for the change of pace and for the new challenge--and for an excuse to eat more chocolate!

On my last official day on Jolly Ranchers, I celebrated my talking my coworkers into getting milkshakes from Cookout.  A few of us were down in North Carolina for the day for a customer meeting.  On our way to their office, we passed a Cookout.  Now, if you have spent time in NC or have been to a Cookout, you know that they are amazing--cheap, good, and have shakes to die for.  I got excited and started talking it up.  Another coworker had been before, and chimed in too.  On the way back to the airport, I had almost forgotten about going until the guy who was driving brought it up.  Yes!  I never thought I would see a car full of middle aged+ business people so excited to get tasty milkshakes.  It was quiet as we tried to hurry and suck them down before turning our rental car back in.  Only Hershey people....

Banana Pudding Shake...all the way

On Monday I officially moved to sit with the rest of the innovation teams down in the basement, which is also lovingly called The Bunker.  The bunker has it's perks--giant desks/offices, keurig machines galore, and fancy team meeting spaces.  But, when you move into the bunker your desk automatically comes with a giant air filter machine.  Alarming, no?  I also had to give away my awesome window and house plants (because there is no natural light...), but oh well.  Bring on the candy inventing!

This thing nearly comes up to my waist!

Other happenings this past week, I went with Bassie, Jess, and Wally to the city pool last weekend.  The Palmyra city pool opens its doors to dogs for a couple days after the pool closes for the season.  A dog organization coordinates the event and people hop in the pool to play with their puppies.  Bassie loves swimming second only to tennis balls, so she was pumped.

chasing balls with her buddy Wally

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Labor Day Visitor

Last weekend, Megan came out to visit for Labor Day.  If nothing else, I sure do love playing tour guide.  We did all the cheesy touristy things, ate a lot of chocolate, visited amish country, shopped the farmers/craft markets, got facials and chocolate pedicures at the chocolate spa, and tried a few new fun restaurants.  It was so much fun to see Megan and catch up on everything--thanks for coming!


look who we ran into at Hotel Hershey on
our way to the spa!

One thing that was so cute, was how excited Bassie was to see her old roommate.  She flipped out when she showed up and I kept finding her sneaking in to cuddle with Megan on the air mattress--like this. Traitor.