Losing my nerve/the “clutter” post

Last week, I posted to my blog on Thursday, but lost my nerve when it came to letting people know about it via social media or the email list that I usually send it to.

In the post, titled “Too Much Stuff,” I wrote about the pile of notebooks, pictures and paraphernalia that I brought home from The Canadian Jewish News after being downsized – and how it was taking up too much space in my dining room.

Even though I’ve started to tackle the “stuff” more aggressively, it’s a bit daunting to write about it online. I guess it’s like announcing that you’re quitting smoking, or going on a diet. The pressure’s on to follow through!

It’s no big secret to people who know me that I’m not exactly ruthless when it comes to getting rid of things. I do know where things are, and can locate old articles and other items pretty quickly, most of the time.

On occasion, I watch Hoarders or Clean Sweep – reality television shows about people with serious clutter problems – and I’m reassured that my own stuff is manageable, if somewhat unsightly at times.

I mentioned to a few people over the weekend that I couldn’t bring myself to post a link to my blog last Thursday, and they were unanimously encouraging, reminding me how many people deal with the same issue, and telling me they’d be interested in reading what I wrote.

A couple of lessons/reminders for me from this experience:

1. I didn’t feel good about not posting the link to my blog. Even though I’m not accountable to anyone but myself, it’s important to me to follow through when I say I’m going to do something.

2. Sometimes I need to go beyond my comfort zone. Not only do people grow by stretching themselves that way, it can and often does lead to good things.

PS – No posts on Thursday or Friday this week. Will be back on Sunday.

Chocolate Sunday – The Chocolate Trail!

Until this week – in my mind – Stratford, Ontario meant Shakespeare plays and swans gliding on the town’s Avon River. Good restaurants, too. More recently, it’s also become known as the hometown of singer Justin Bieber.

For Torontonians, Stratford is less than two hours away by car – a popular destination when the Stratford Festival is on (May to October).

This past week, my husband and I spent two nights in Stratford. In addition to taking in a couple of shows, touring the Festival’s Costume and Props Warehouse, and renting bicycles, we bought a pass for Stratford’s Chocolate Trail to round out our free time during the day.

truffles pic

Chocolate truffles at Chocolate Barr’s Candies, in Stratford, Ontario

For $25 ($28.25 with tax), we received six tickets, each entitling us to a treat at one of 20 different merchants. Most of them are concentrated within a few blocks of each other in downtown Stratford.

The tickets are good for three days, and we decided to stretch out the experience, using two tickets a day for each day we were there.

What a great excuse to sample chocolate every day of our stay! Plus, it has to be good for Stratford’s economy to introduce visitors to businesses they might otherwise pass by.

We began at Chocolate Barr’s, where one ticket was good for two truffles – probably the ultimate treat for chocoholics. We tried a lavender one, delicately painted gold and blue, and a sea salt truffle finished with lustre dust. Other flavours included balsamic vinegar, milk chocolate marzipan, and chili pepper. The store also sells $10 cooler bags, which include an ice pack, a bonus on hot days.

Our next stop was Small-Mart General Mercantile, tucked away in an alley just off the main street. Known for its eclectic inventory, the store offered two retro candy bars in exchange for one of our tickets. We chose crunchy, chocolate-covered peanut butter bars – Fifth Avenue, and a Clark bar – the kind I would have really appreciated as a 10-year-old.

The following day, we stopped in at Rheo Thompson Candies, a local chocolate-maker known for its soft-centre “Mint Smoothies.” We opted for the dark chocolate version, and I had a chocolate-filled soft-centre chocolate as well. The Chocolate Trail treat consisted of four small chocolates neatly packaged in a box.

As well, we decided to try the Rockslide Brownie at Coffee Culture Café & Eatery, after having a light lunch first. For dessert, we shared a generous serving of the very sweet, very dense chocolate brownie, topped with caramel and pecans.

By the third day, we didn’t crave rich desserts, so we tried some chocolate tea at Tea Leaves Tea Tasting Bar, a 15-20 minute walk from downtown. Chocolate mint (black) tea smelled wonderful even before it was brewed, and the steeped tea was the pick-me-up I needed. The tea bar, run by a certified tea sommelier, boasts at least four chocolate-flavoured teas.

Our last stop was at Bradshaws, an upscale gift and kitchenware store, to pick up a plastic wine glass filled with four small samples of Brix chocolates, each one created to pair with a particular type of wine.

We brought them home, which means that our Chocolate Trail experience isn’t over yet.