Check Out Politifact Website

I heard the Politifact site mentioned on NPR news today. It has a "truth-o-meter" to evaluate statements made by political candidates and their supporters. It doesn't appear to be partisan, and I've found it useful. Because you know politicians say things that might be technically true, but you know they're not telling the whole story. This site lists the statement, its rating, and if you click through to read more details, you'll get the whole story.

Gossip Girl - Season 2 Episode 1: Summer, Kind of Wonderful

I'm a little disappointed that summer was pretty much completely skipped, but if the show is supposed to be centered around high school life, I guess I can forgive that. We've got this one summer episode, at least.

It's set in the Hamptons instead of NYC, mostly in what I gather is Serena's grandmother's enormous estate. Serena spent the summer moping, Nate's been banging a cougar while her husband was out of town, Chuck and Dan have been hound dogs. Blair picked up a dull boyfriend in France after Chuck blew her off. This episode is when everybody meets up again.

I think it's idiotic of Chuck to not tell Blair he loves her, because he does. He's only not saying that because he knows the advice his father gave at the end of last season is right; once he has a real girlfriend he'll settle down a little bit and start to grow up. But like Peter Pan, Chuck desperately wants to avoid growing up, so he avoids the relationship that will hasten his maturity.

I'm hardly surprised he's made this choice, he's only 17 or 18. I stand by the observation I made at age 19, that most men are absolutely useless in relationships until they are at least 27 years old. But he and Blair are so perfect for each other, really, he should get over his fear of commitment and just tell her he loves her and be done with it. It's not like he's got much to fear, anyway. Blair is too self-absorbed to make a real commitment to anyone but herself anyway, it's just lip-service.

It looks like Serena and Dan will be back together. I think they're an okay couple, but Dan's got to get over his problem with Serena getting into complicated situations. If he doesn't like that, he should just date a dull Brooklyn girl.

I have to agree with Jenny's boss that the dress she designed is hideous. She looks like an American Girl doll come to life. But I'm glad her and Eric will be friends, even if I think Eric is a little creepy despite his puppy-dog cuteness.

I can tell already that Blair is going to be excruciating with her "Lord" boyfriend. And Nate should drop the cougar now that summer's over, but of course he won't. I'm not sure I like that more older characters (Lord Boyfriend and Cougar) will be more involved this season. I liked the focus on just the kids and parents. But it's not like high school girls don't date college-age men, and high school boys don't occasionally get hooked up with an older woman.

Old Navy / Gap / Banana Republic / Piperline Site Is Convenient

I needed to get some basic clothes for around the house and running errands. I didn't feel like stopping in the Old Navy yesterday when I was in town, and the errand was not worth a separate 30 minute one-way drive to me, so I checked out the website.

How convenient! I hadn't ordered from any of these stores except in person before, so I was pleasantly surprised to see that they are all connected online. So you can order from any or all stores for one flat $7 shipping rate. And if you have a credit card from any of the stores, there are free shipping options available.

Although I ordered most of my clothes from Old Navy, I wound up ordering a pair of jeans from the GAP that I wouldn't have gotten if I had to drive out to the store, since it's not convenient to the Old Navy location. And I got free shipping by using Terry's Banana Republic card. Although the Banana Republic IS convenient to the Old Navy here, it's useless for me since I've gained enough weight to look awful in their clothes. But it's one of the few places where the clothes are cut slim enough to look sharp on Terry.

Since I got free shipping, it actually saved me $4 plus 1 hour of free time over real shopping. I figure the amount of time I spent browsing online is roughly equivalent to the amount of time I would have spent in the store trying a few things on, yet I saved the travel time to and from the store, plus the $4 in gas I use each trip into Cville.

Bottom Line: They've done a good job merging their websites, and the $7 flat fee for shipping is very reasonable yet still easily avoided if you have one of their store credit cards.

Duncan Hines Moist Deluxe Devil's Food Cake Has No Flavor

In general, I like Duncan Hines Moist Deluxe cake mixes, so I wasn't expecting to be so disappointed with their Devil's Food. The front of the box has a gold emblem that says "America's Favorite Devil's Food Cake" so I thought I'd give it a try.

It baked right up, fluffy and moist like the white cake I usually make. But when I bit into the dark cake I did not get the the lush chocolate flavor I expected, but rather it tasted like. . .nothing.

Upon subsequent bites I could detect a faint taste of chocolate, but it was more like a faint echo of chocolate than actual chocolate flavor. Both Terry and his mother seemed to like the cupcakes just fine, but I couldn't get over how bland they tasted.

Bottom Line: Don't use this mix if you want a chocolate-y cake. Only use this if you just want dark brown cake as a vehicle for some kind of fancy icing or filling, since the cake moisture and texture is good, but it has very little flavor on its own.

I'll Go Back to Pesto Mediterranean Grill

Terry and I were going to get lunch at Otto's today, but when I saw that Pesto Mediterranean Grill was now open on the other side of the parking lot, Terry agreed to try it out.

At first we ordered the Gyros, but their machine hadn't arrived yet. Grr. So Terry ordered the souvlaki platter and I got a falafel sandwich. They've got a huge menu, mainly Greek and Italian foods. There are plenty of tables and chairs, but it's counter service.

I thought the prices were awfully high for counter-service in Crozet. Like New York high. Sandwiches with fries were around $8 and the platters were in the $13 range. I think those prices would be fine for a table-service restaurant, but it just seems off to me for counter service. I suspect they'll be packed since they just opened, but will probably lower their prices within six months.

Terry didn't pick up our food when it was ready since he didn't understand the lady's accent when she called his name for pick-up. That irritated me since I thought she said, "Terry," but when I told him to go get the food, he said she didn't call his name. But he found out later, once my french fries were already cold, that she in fact did call his name when I heard it. I was surprised that she didn't just bring the food to our table when Terry didn't get up to pick it up right away. If they see you sitting there at Otto's, they'll bring your order out to you at your table if you're not standing right at the counter. So I'm not thrilled with the service. But let this be a helpful tip-- if you're not good with accents (Terry can't understand any accents other than NY) then pick a name for them to call that won't be mispronounced (really, just pronounced with an accent, it sure sounded to ME that she was calling Terry). For example, in addition to the rolled "r's" and weird syllable-stress in "Terry", a woman named "Theresa" also didn't immediately recognize her name when it was called. Although "Matt" was completely recognizable. No matter your real name, I recommend you tell them your name is "Matt" when you order, it will save confusion later.

But once I started eating, I was hooked. The falafel sandwich was delicious. I didn't try Terry's souvlaki, but it looked good. The rosemary baked potato he got with the platter was just average. The fries were good. The salad that came with the platter was enormous, we wound up just taking that home, we'll share it as our dinner salad. Since the food was so good, it kind of made up for the high prices. I think it's certainly worth what they charged for it, but Terry and I are used to dropping big cash at restaurants. I just don't know how many people in this area will pay that. I think they'd do better by reducing their portion size and lowering their prices. While the falafel sandwich was delicious, it was after all, falafel, and I can get a good falafel in downtown Manhattan for closer to $6. But I suppose I can't get a falafel anywhere else in Crozet at any price, so there's market forces at work. Is Pesto Mediterranean Grill charging high prices since they have a local monopoly on mediterranean prepared food?

One thing I'm glad the woman at the counter mentioned, is that they deliver! She was showing everyone who ordered their delivery map so they could see if they lived within the delivery zone. Fortunately, we do. After three years with no deliveries to the farm at all, once the Dominos Pizza started delivering our lives changed for the better. After years of living in NYC and getting ANYTHING delivered at pretty much any hour, it was rough having to either plan ahead, get in the car, or cook when we were in VA. Dominos gets the call from us at least once a month, sometimes more, when we just don't feel like cooking or leaving the house. But now we can order all kinds of Greek and Italian food for delivery, too! It's starting to feel downright urban out here! I love it!

The one glaring omission to the Crozet restaurant scene is a Chinese place. The first Chinese family that moves here and can cook could make a fortune, especially if they deliver. Everyone likes Chinese take-out.

So the bottom line on Pesto Mediterranean Grill, based on our one lunch there, is that the food is delicious. I recommend it highly if you're not on too tight a budget.

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