Thursday, July 31, 2014

July 2014 End Of The Month Report!

| | |
This month, we had a lot of upheaval in our life, which drastically affected the output on W.L. Swarts Reviews The Universe. That said, I’m in an awesome place to review some big things for August. Between being shocked after the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision, changing jobs and the sudden (pleasant) burst of business for my small business, I lost a lot of time this month. We were bolstered by Hallmark ornament reviews, additional food reviews, and the new episodes of the True Blood!

This month at W.L. Swarts Reviews The Universe, there we had no new additions to the Top Ten Of All Time. This month, we put special emphasis on food, new indie cinema, the musical works of Bjork, new episodes of True Blood and brand new Hallmark ornaments! Thanks for all the "likes" for those posts, as well as all of the new hits on older reviews!

This month, we picked up no new subscribers, which is not surprising given how little we were able to produce. We are always trying to get people to become regular readers and subscribe, so if you enjoy what you're reading, please subscribe by clicking on the right side of the blog to get updates with each posting. As well, if you read a review that really affects you, be sure to "share" it! PLEASE share a link to the blog, not the content of the article; this keeps people coming to the site and, hopefully, liking what they find once they are here! We're hoping to continue to grow our readership this year, so sharing and subscribing to the blog is an important way you can help! If you’re subscribing, please tell your friends about the blog!

In July, the index pages were very regularly! The primary Index Page, which we try to update daily, lets you know what the featured review is and has an up-to-the-day tally of how many reviews have been reviewed in each category! Check it out!

If you enjoy the reviews, please consider clicking on the links in the reviews and purchasing items. We really appreciate all the purchases made through the blog as that keeps us going. Thank you so much! Thanks so much to all of the shoppers who have been spending during the summer and going through the blog to do so!

At the end of July 2014, I have reviewed the following:
503 - Book Reviews
with specialized index pages for:
Star Trek Books
Graphic Novels
871 - Music (Album and Singles) Reviews
with specialized index pages for:
Music Reviews By Rating (Best To Worst)
Music Reviews In Alphabetical Order
2580 - Movie and Television Reviews
with specialized index pages for:
Movies By Rating (Best Movie to Worst)
Movies In Alphabetical Order
Best Picture Oscar Winner Film Reviews
Television Reviews
The Star Trek Review Index Page (All Star Trek Reviews In Order)!
The Star Trek Review Index Page (All Star Trek Reviews From The Best Of The Franchise To The Worst!)!
The Doctor Who Review Index Page (All Star Trek Reviews In Order)!
The Doctor Who Review Index Page (All Star Trek Reviews From The Best Of The Franchise To The Worst!)!
205 - Trading and Gaming Card Reviews
Gaming Cards Reviews
Star Trek Gaming Cards Reviews
Star Wars Gaming Cards Reviews
The Lord Of The Rings Trading Card Game Reviews
Other Gaming Cards Reviews
Trading Cards Reviews
737 - Toy and Christmas Ornament Reviews
with specialized pages for:
Ornament Reviews
Star Trek Toys
Star Wars Toys
Lord Of The Rings Toys
Buffy The Vampire Slayer/Angel Toys
Comic Book, Movie, Television Toys
Plush and Other Toys
790 - Food, Drink, And Restaurant Reviews
with specialized index pages for:
Cheese and Meats
Ice Cream
Other Food
214 - Pet Product Reviews
Cat Product Reviews
Dog Product Reviews
Rabbit Product Reviews
107 - Travel Reviews
Destinations Reviews
Hotels Reviews
167 - Health And Beauty Product Reviews
177 - Home, Garden, Appliance and Tool Reviews
93 - Electronics, Computers, Computer Games and Software Reviews
38 - Other Product Reviews

The Featured Review For The Month of July is my response to the Hobby Lobby ruling, a proposed constitutional amendment: The Corporate Powers Limitation Amendment.
Check it out!

The month of July had a lot of movement within the month and was dominated by reviews that have been holding on! For July, the Top Ten Reviews of the month were:
10. ”Lost Cause” - True Blood
9. ”The End Of The World” - Doctor Who
8. Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes
7. The Worst Ten Episodes Of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
6. ”Death Is Not The End” - True Blood
5. Happy Christmas
4. Behaving Badly
3. The Top Ten Episodes Of Frasier
2. The Top Ten Episodes Of Star Trek: Voyager
1. Bad Neighbors

I pride myself on being an exceptionally fair reviewer, but one who is very discriminating. I believe that most reviewers are far too biased toward both what is current and toward unduly praising things. I tend to believe most things actually are average and they ought to follows something around a Bell Curve. Mine is a little lopsided, but not as lopsided as most reviewers I know (who would probably have peak numbers between ten and seven)!

For my reviews, the current count is:
10s - 292 reviews
9s - 420 reviews
8s - 814 reviews
7s - 914 reviews
6s - 834 reviews
5s - 1087 reviews
4s - 791 reviews
3s - 630 reviews
2s - 286 reviews
1s - 197 reviews
0s - 89 reviews
No rating - 71 articles/postings

There was a decent amount of movement this month, but there were no new entries into the Top Ten. At the end of July 2014, the most popular reviews/articles I have written are:
10. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
9. Safe Haven
8. Oz The Great And Powerful
7. The Mortal Instruments: City Of Bone
6. Warm Bodies
5. Iron Man 3
4. Now You See Me
3. Tyler Perry's Temptation
2. The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug
1. Man Of Steel

Thank you again, so much, for reading! Please share links to the blog with friends and spread the word!

© 2014 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
| | |

Rittenhouse Archives And Juan Ortiz Create A Surprise Success With Star Trek The Original Series Portfolio Prints Trading Cards!

The Good: Surprisingly cool common set, Many of the sketches, Cool chase sets, Some of the autographs, Decent writing
The Bad: Insanely expensive to assemble, A number of terrible sketch cards, Blasé autograph signers
The Basics: Star Trek The Original Series Portfolio Prints trading cards provide a surprising success for artist Juan Ortiz and Rittenhouse Archives.

The strength of an idea can often be judged by how the idea is followed-up upon or how it is executed. Almost a decade ago, Rittenhouse Archives released the Art & Images Of Star Trek trading cards (reviewed here!) and in that set, artists produced sketch cards of each of the first season episodes to Star Trek. At the time, I was wary of the set because outside those sketch cards, the set was very much a risk; art cards and concept cards for the autograph cards and chase sets had the potential to be a difficult sell to fans and collectors. My wariness was spot-on with how the market reacted to the set. Like the Star Trek art card sets produced by SkyBox, the Art & Images Of Star Trek cards produced by Rittenhouse largely collapsed in value. Even the SketchaFEX cards have not held the value in the price guides. So, it is not really a surprise that it has taken Rittenhouse Archives almost a decade to complete the SketchaFEX card set begun in the Art & Images Of Star Trek set. Rittenhouse blew out the final two seasons worth of individual art cards in the new Star Trek The Original Series Portfolio Prints trading cards.

The Star Trek The Original Series Portfolio Prints trading cards are based upon retro art poster prints made by artist Juan Ortiz over the past few years. The poster prints were created for the store at and when I first heard about the Star Trek The Original Series Portfolio Prints trading cards, it seemed to me like the set was just going to be an advertisement for the larger prints. The thing is, the Star Trek The Original Series Portfolio Prints are executed in a way that feels far less self-promotional than (objectively) the set may be. While the set has some inherent weaknesses (the autograph signers in this set are relegated to extreme background characters from Star Trek and a general subject matter – episodes of the original Star Trek - that have been done to death), the Star Trek The Original Series Portfolio Prints are actually pretty cool. Juan Ortiz’s artwork is awesome and some of the bonus cards are imaginative and well-executed.

Basics/Set Composition

Properly assembled, the Star Trek The Original Series Portfolio Prints trading card set consists of three hundred seventy-two trading cards: three hundred sixty-two available in the boxes and packs of cards and only ten found elsewhere. For a current series of cards, that there are only ten cards that cannot be found in the boxes is actually wonderful. With the excitement surrounding many of the basic chase sets, the boxes have the potential to retain their value . . . even with some of the erratic issues with those chase sets.

The concept behind Star Trek The Original Series Portfolio Prints is that each episode of Star Trek (The Original Series) could have been promoted by a promotional poster. Artist Juan Ortiz produced full-sized one-sheet retro posters, which were miniaturized for the trading card set. One of the chase sets duplicated the artwork of Juan Ortiz, with his artwork promoting Star Trek The Animated Series. Rittenhouse followed a more traditional model with the bonus cards, which made for strong character-based bonus cards for the Star Trek The Original Series Portfolio Prints. The Star Trek The Original Series Portfolio Prints trading cards were initially sold in boxes of twenty-four packs with five cards per pack.

Common Cards

With only eighty of the cards in the set being common cards, this is an exceptionally rich bonus card set for collectors. The eighty cards in the common set of Star Trek The Original Series Portfolio Prints are very simple and straightforward: there is a single card per episode for each of the eighty episodes of the original Star Trek. There are no checklist cards with this trading card set, but unlike most Star Trek sets, “The Menagerie” gets two cards, one for each part. Despite fans of Star Trek and card collectors knowing the source material backward and forward, Rittenhouse Archives includes a plot synopsis of each episode on each card. The plot synopsis’s are well-written and this set is delightfully devoid of typos (which cannot be said of the latest Marvel comics set!). All of the cards in this set were oriented the same way, a portrait orientation that made it very easy to look through the cards when in one's binder. . . at least until the bonus cards.

This common set for Star Trek The Original Series Portfolio Prints did an astonishingly good job of reinventing the wheel. Because there have been so many original Star Trek trading card series, there is virtually nothing left to mine as far as images go. Rittenhouse Archives has done an amazing job of finding new, obscure, images from Star Trek; continuing to plumb those depths is somewhat pointless. That makes the artwork in the Star Trek The Original Series Portfolio Prints pop. Juan Ortiz’s vision of how to represent each episode of the original Star Trek in a single art deco-style poster is fresh and different. Juan Ortiz has some creative ideas; “Spectre Of The Gun”’s poster has the Enterprise with pistols replacing the nacelles and the shadowy version of Ruk looming over the android Andrea for the “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” poster card stand out as distinctive representations of the episodes they were created for. I thought the concept of this set was wonky until I actually saw the trading cards in person! This is an actually wonderful set that stands out from all of the other Rittenhouse Archives Star Trek card sets.

Chase Cards

The bonus sets for the Star Trek The Original Series Portfolio Prints trading cards are split between being very much for collectors and others that are clearly designed by a broader Star Trek fan base. With two parallel sets, card collectors are bound to be thrilled. Fans of Star Trek are likely to be much more excited by the other bonus sets which focus on the characters and the episodes, as opposed to replicating the common set in new and imaginative ways. The Star Trek The Original Series Portfolio Prints set has two hundred eighty-two bonus (insert) cards in the set, of which all but ten are found in the boxes and packs of cards. The bonus cards found in packs are broken down into the following sets: gold signature parallel cards (80 cards), Juan Ortiz autographed parallel cards (80 cards), Animated Series Poster cards (22 cards), Bridge Crew Abstracts (9), Bridge Crew Portraits, Bridge Crew Portrait Alternate Gold (7), SketchaFex (57), and Autographed cards (20).

The two parallel card sets replicate the common card set and were very much designed for trading card collectors. The first eighty card set is printed on thicker cardstock and features embossed gold signatures by Juan Ortiz printed on each card. The glossy backs are foil-stamped with an individual collector’s number. Each card is given a number from one to one hundred fifty, so there are only one hundred fifty complete gold signature parallel sets. The faux-signature set cards were found one per pack. This is a really cool parallel set because the gold signatures beautifully offset most of the artwork and the contrast is distinctive and cool.

Found one in every other box were the Juan Ortiz actual autograph cards. Each of the poster cards were replicated and then signed by Juan Ortiz in blue ink. The Juan Ortiz autograph cards were re-numbered and the backs have Juan Ortiz’s statement on what Star Trek means to him. This parallel set is an interesting one and, like the gold faux-signatures, the blue autographs have good contrast with most of the cream-colored artwork on the poster cards. This bonus set might have been a little more interesting if Juan Ortiz had commented on each episode and/or his process with making the posters, but the rarity and signatures make for a cool set. Theoretically, there are only seventy-five of each of the JOA cards, which makes for a serious investment by fans and collectors (I opened eighteen cases of twelve boxes and did not manage to pull all eighty of these cards!).

The original bonus cards unique to the Star Trek The Original Series Portfolio Prints appealed more to fans of Star Trek than to general trading card collectors. Two per box were the twenty-two Star Trek The Animated Series poster cards by Juan Ortiz. There are no parallel versions of the bright colored, glossy bonus cards that each feature a plot description of the episodes of the animated Star Trek, so this is the most natural expansion of the common card set.

The Star Trek The Original Series Portfolio Prints has a conceptual set with the Bridge Crew Abstract cards. The nine Bridge Crew Abstract cards were featured one per box and are art deco versions of the nine main Star Trek characters (this set includes Rand and Nurse Chapel). This set is mediocre, but continues the theme of the portrait posters and a consistent sense of artwork. The nine art cards come together on the back as a single mural of Kirk and Spock in an action pose, which is consistent with the fronts of the cards, but is not truly incredible. That said, this easy-to-collect bonus card set looked good and fits the overall set of Star Trek The Original Series Portfolio Prints well. The consumer response to this group of chase cards was lukewarm; it was arguably the least popular bonus card set, though it looked good.

Also at one per box, there was one of seven Bridge Crew Portrait cards. The Bridge Crew Portrait cards were foil cards featuring bust shots of Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Scotty, Sulu, Uhura, and Chekov. The backs have full-body shots of all of the main characters. These cards were beautiful and one has to imagine they look amazing autographed by fans.

The Gold Bridge Crew Portrait cards were the exact opposite of their more common bonus card; these two-per-case chase cards feature a full-body shot of the seven mail characters of Star Trek on their fronts over a gold background. The backs have the same bust shots that are featured on the front of the Bridge Crew Portraits and the backgrounds are gold as well, though not foil like the front. Each of these rarer bonus cards is foil stamped with a collector’s number out of 250 and, interestingly, the archive boxes that Rittenhouse Archives produced did not have matching numbers on the cards. This set is one of the rarer bonus card sets, but because they are common enough to be assembled with only four cases, it is not cost-prohibitive to assemble the way some of the other parallel sets are.

Arguably one of the key selling points of the Star Trek The Original Series Portfolio Prints are the fifty-seven SketchaFex cards. These hand-drawn sketch cards - each card is a pencil-drawn sketch and therefore, technically unique! - were commissioned with various artists doing a popular character or scene from an episode from the second and third seasons of Star Trek. So, for example, Sean Pence did depictions of Mara, a Vian, and Marta from “Day Of The Dove,” “The Empath” and “Whom Gods Destroy,” respectively. Steven Miller captured iconic images like Vaal from “The Apple,” Kirk as a Romulan from “The Enterprise Incident,” Elaan Of Troius, and Abraham Lincoln (somewhat surprising is that he did not do Yarnek) from “The Savage Curtain.” Rittenhouse Archives standards for the Star Trek sketch cards – Warren Martinek, Czop, and Dan Day each did several cards and they play to their strengths. Warren Martinek, for example, focuses on starships. Unfortunately, these sketch cards are highly variable in quality based upon the artist. For example, Chuck Zsolnai’s sketch for “All Our Yesterdays” is lazy and Brian Kong’s “Is There No Truth In Beauty?” sketch is just sloppy. Sadly, several of the sketch cards of the fifty SketchaFEX cards found in the packs (one per box) do not capture distinctive moments from the episodes they depict. “The Deadly Years”’s sketch by Dan Day is just the Enterprise cruising through space. Almost entirely exclusive to the archive boxes are seven variant sketch cards and they are generally cool, though there is little difference between the John Huan and John Czop sketches for “Plato’s Stepchildren.” After not completing these sketch sets in the Season Two and Season Three sets that Rittenhouse Archives produced, blowing all fifty (plus the seven variants) out in one set makes them feel a bit more common than they actually are. The Star Trek The Original Series Portfolio Prints cards feature SketchaFEX cards one per box.

In most modern trading card sets, the autograph cards are what sell collectors. With the Star Trek The Original Series Portfolio Prints, Rittenhouse Archives is hoisted on its own petard. While the entire surviving bridge crew autographed cards for the Star Trek The Original Series Portfolio Prints set, the standard Star Trek autograph cards which continue the cards begun in Star Trek Season One have hit a rut. Yvonne Craig signed less than two hundred cards for the Star Trek The Original Series Portfolio Prints set (in eighteen cases of cards, I only pulled one of this autograph!) and the thirteen other autograph cards in the set were of background characters of an unfortunately obscure nature. Given that most of the signers for the set were red shirt Enterprise officers who were killed off in their respective episodes, the autograph cards in the Star Trek The Original Series Portfolio Prints cards were not at all strong enough to retain their value. Having made so many autograph cards and managing to track down every major living celebrity from Star Trek long before this set, they are left with an unfortunately underwhelming assemblage of signers for the majority of the twenty autographs in the Star Trek The Original Series Portfolio Prints set.

Non-Box/Pack Cards

As is customary from Rittenhouse Archives, there are a few cards not available in the boxes, no matter how many one buys. These range from the ultra-common P1 promotional card (easily available in the secondary market) to the two six-case incentive cards that dealers were given for buying in volume. There are three other promotional cards in the Star Trek The Original Series Portfolio Prints set: the P2, P3 album exclusive set, and the P4 convention-exclusive promo. The P2 Non-Sports Update promotional card and the Convention Exclusive promotional cards are harder to track down than the other two. The P2 is available easily enough by purchasing the current issue of the relevant Non-Sports Update magazine. The convention exclusive promotional card is a little harder to track down, now that the conventions at which they were distributed have ended, and they tend to be in the $10 range on the secondary market. The convention exclusive promo does not follow the same orientation as the rest of the promos and that is weird.

This set also had one of two casetoppers. The two casetoppers were foil-enhanced art cards of the Enterprise and a Romulan Bird Of Prey, each individually numbered to 400.

The real grail of the bonus cards was the incentive card for buying six cases of the Star Trek The Original Series Portfolio Prints trading cards. For that, every dealer was given a hand drawn, painted sketch card by either Charles Hall or the Glebe Brothers. Charles Hall painted starships (incredibly well) and the brothers Mick and Matt Glebe painted scenes and characters from “The Cage.” The Glebe Brothers paintings are the grails of the set, though Charles Hall did incredible work on his starships.

For every nine cases of Star Trek The Original Series Portfolio Prints trading cards a dealer ordered, they were granted a DA32 Dual autograph, in this case featuring William Shatner as Mirror James T. Kirk and Leonard Nimoy as Mirror Spock. Interestingly, this incentive card has not held value against the six-case incentive card.

Also not in the packs and boxes of trading cards is the Rittenhouse Rewards U10 card. Commissioned to continue the 9-card Bridge Crew Abstracts set, the U10 features Khan and was only available by sending wrappers to Rittenhouse Archives and redeeming them for the prize card. Khan is rendered in the same style as the other nine cards and features Khan on the front in the red outfit and on the back features him in the classic yellow outfit in which he went to dinner in.


The Star Trek The Original Series Portfolio Prints set is an unlikely winner. While the set might be virtually impossible to collect, the set is worth collecting because the concept is executed remarkably well for the common and most of the bonus sets. Given that Juan Ortiz’s artwork posters have sold-out through Star Trek’s official website, these cards and the bonus cards represent the best chance most fans have to collect the intriguing artwork he produced.

This set culled images from Star Trek, which is reviewed here!

This is a set of cards which I sell in my online store.  Be sure to visit and shop from our extensive inventory of them at the Star Trek The Original Series Portfolio Prints Trading Card Inventory!

For other original Star Trek trading card sets reviewed by me, please check out:
Star Trek - Season 1 Episode Collection trading cards
Star Trek - Season 2 Episode Collection trading cards
Star Trek - Season 3 Episode Collection trading cards
Star Trek In Motion
35th Anniversary HoloFEX Holofoil cards
Legends Of Captain James T. Kirk
Legends Of Spock
"Quotable" Star Trek
Legends Of Dr. Leonard McCoy
Legends Of Scotty, Sulu And Uhura
Legends Of Chekov, Chapel And Rand
Star Trek 40th Anniversary Season 1
Star Trek 40th Anniversary Season 2
Star Trek (2009 movie) cards
Star Trek Heroes & Villains


For other card reviews, please visit my Card Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2014 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
| | |

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Fruity, Not Milky Or Nutty, Blue Diamond Strawberry Almonds (Mostly) Satisfy!

The Good: Good flavor, Fairly nutritious.
The Bad: Not really that fruity, Environmental impact of the packaging
The Basics: The Strawberry Over Roasted Almonds from Blue Diamond might not be the most realistic flavored, but they are enjoyable.

Now that I am no longer stuck at a horrible night job where I get most all of my food in bar form, I am discovering that I enjoy exploring other foods once again. In the case of some snack foods, it is exciting to me that some of them are actually enjoyable to me, as opposed to a form of simple sustenance. That has led me back to a lifelong love affair with nuts. Tonight, that finds the form of Blue Diamond Strawberry Oven Roasted Almonds.

Despite suddenly being reminded how much I love nuts of various types, as a reviewer, I found myself in a more neutral than impressed place when it came to Blue Diamond’s Strawberry Almonds. They are tasty, for sure, but they are not overly accurate for replicating the flavor of strawberries.


Blue Diamond Strawberry flavor Oven Roasted Almonds are a ready-to-eat snack that combines fruit and nut flavors and the result is a sweet snack, not a nutty one. Packaged in a 1.5 oz. plastic tube which is a single serving, the Oven Roasted Almonds are well protected. After pulling apart the top seal, consumers have access to the almonds that are dusted with a powder that gives them their Strawberry flavor. Each tube represents a single serving.

Outside their light pink frosted appearance, the Strawberry Oven Roasted Almonds look just like ordinary almonds.

Ease Of Preparation

These are roasted nuts, so preparing them is as easy as opening the bag/tube they come in and consuming them. There is no trick or work needed to eat Strawberry flavor Oven Roasted Almonds.


The Strawberry Oven Roasted Almonds smell very nutty without truly hinting at the strawberry flavoring that is powdered onto it. There is only the most vague fruit scent to some of these almonds; otherwise the buttery, nutty scent to the almonds dominates the aroma that comes out of the bags of these almonds.

On the tongue, the sweetness of the strawberry almonds overcomes the nutty, buttery, or dry flavor that many almonds have. Instead, there is a light fruity flavor that is sublimated to the sugary flavor of the almond’s coating. While the strawberry flavor might not be the most exceptional, it effectively breaks up the flavor of almonds and allows consumers to forget they are eating something healthy.

There is no dry or buttery aftertaste to these almonds. Instead, they leave the mouth with a sweet aftertaste that is nice. The aftertaste lasts only about five minutes after one has finished consuming them.


Blue Diamond Strawberry Oven Roasted Almonds are fairly healthy, despite the sugary coating! A serving is considered 43 grams which is an ounce and a half. With the standard recommended serving size, the nuts have 18 grams of fat! That's 28% of the RDA of fat, with 7% of the RDA coming from the one and a half grams of saturated fat! While there is 10% of the RDA of calcium and eight grams of protein, these do not have an incredible range of nutrients in them. In addition to potassium (260mg) and a surprisingly low amount of salt (only 35 mg sodium!), these nuts have iron, Vitamin E, and Magnesium, but no other vitamins and minerals.

The ingredients list for these Strawberry flavor Oven Roasted Almonds is fairly short as well. Blue Diamond Strawberry almonds are made primarily of almonds, sugar and natural strawberry flavor. There is nothing unpronounceable in these nuts.


Just as with the preparation, Blue Diamond Strawberry flavor Oven Roasted Almonds are low stress when it comes to storage and cleanup. Storage is simple when the nuts are kept in their tubes at room temperature or cooler. Kept sealed in their bags, these nuts would not expire until May 2015, though I doubt mine will last that long as I have been enjoying them.

Blue Diamond Oven Roasted Almonds are easy to clean up after as well. Simply wash your hands after eating to get any stray flavor dust off. There should be no other residue, but if there is, it may easily be wiped away with a damp cloth.


Blue Diamond Strawberry flavor Oven Roasted Almonds are enjoyable, but more generic in their sweetness and fruit flavor than truly embodying the flavor of strawberries. Even so, they are enjoyable and worth trying, especially for those looking for something that does not taste much like nuts and is healthier than Jordan almonds.

For other nut reviews, please visit my takes on:
Everybody’s Nuts Sweet Chili Pistachios
Planters Flavor Grove Jalapeno Pistachios
Planters Flavor Grove Vanilla And Caramel Almonds


For other food and drink reviews, please visit my Food And Drink Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2014 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
| | |

Everyone Cheats, Inevitable Carnage, True Blood Makes Significant Moves Without Being A “Lost Cause!”

The Good: Decent character development, Good acting
The Bad: A-plot is very soap operatic and limited
The Basics: When the characters of True Blood are not doing somewhat ridiculous things, “Lost Cause” has a bland party offset by an awesome action sequence featuring Eric and Pam!

The seventh and final season of True Blood has been off to a rocky start, but as it reached its midpoint, the writers seemed like they might have had an inkling of how erratic the season was. The fifth episode of the season was called “Lost Cause” and, fortunately, the episodes had gotten good enough that the season did not feel like it would be a genuine lost cause. “Lost Cause” continues the action of the seventh season as a generally tight narrative; up until this point, the season’s episodes have added up to less than a week and “Lost Cause” occurs over the course of only a few hours.

As one might expect of the very serialized True Blood, “Lost Cause” follows on the heels of “Death Is Not The End” (reviewed here!) and cannot truly be evaluated without referencing significant elements from prior episodes, though (ironically) not much from the previous episode. “Lost Cause” is intriguing in that it has two very focused plots, which consolidate the sprawling cast of True Blood remarkably well. Despite the elements that might remind viewers that True Blood is essentially a high-class, supernatural soap opera, “Lost Cause” does a lot to remind viewers why they loved the show from the beginning!

After Willa reveals to Eric and Pam that Sarah Newlin has a vampire sister, Eric abandons his progeny and Ginger and heads out to kill Sarah before he meets the true death. Sookie arrives home, where LaFayette and James offer protection long enough for her to get some rest. She awakens to Jackson bringing food to help her mourn Alcide’s death. As Sookie’s friends prepare a party to celebrate Alcide’s life, Eric and Pam find Amber Mills, Sarah’s sister and the current whereabouts of Sarah Newlin. Amber is receptive to helping them kill Sarah.

Sneaking away from her boyfriend, Lettie Mae joins the celebration of Alcide’s life. After Andy forgives Jessica for the carnage she caused in his family, he gets Grandma Stackhouse’s ring from Jason and Sookie and proposes to Holly. Holly’s acceptance makes James want to leave the party, but Jessica wants to be social. James and LaFayette have a quiet conversation on the porch and make out while Pam and Eric prepare to invade the Republican event in Dallas. Pam realizes Eric has stage 2 Hep-V, but the two commit to finding Sarah. As Jessica reels from James cheating on her at the party (which pushes her into the arms of Jason),

Peppered throughout “Lost Cause,” as if to remind viewers he still matters and to make the last shot of the episode have any emotional resonance at all, are flashbacks to the personal history of Bill Compton. In those flashbacks, Compton heroically stands up against the Confederates in Louisiana as they argue to secede from the Union. Compton, who had a decent set-up in the prior season’s finale, has been a virtual non-entity in the seventh season. Seeing more of his history, where he stands up for new freemen in Confederate territory gives him more backstory character than he has in the show’s “present.”

After a Sookie-heavy episode, “Lost Cause” moves Sookie largely to the back burner, despite the funeral party happening at her house. Even though the bulk of the cast is stuck in Sookie’s house, there is remarkably little character development for Sookie. She both mourns Alcide’s death and pines for Bill over the course of the same hour-long episode and the compressed mourning period seems somewhat ridiculous. Anna Paquin is not given much to do in “Lost Cause,” but what she does, she does adequately. At the very least, Paquin’s character is written with more consistency than in the prior episode.

Chris Bauer plays Sheriff Andy Bellefleur well in “Lost Cause.” For sure, it is unclear why Andy and Holly are actually together, but in “Lost Cause,” Bauer sells the viability of their characters’ relationship. Bauer get the chance to play Bellefleur with a wonderful sense of seriousness in a scene opposite Deborah Ann Woll’s Jessica and then with pure joy as his character proposes. “Lost Cause” is one of the few episodes where Bauer is allowed to smile unabashedly and he is wonderful in his range. When Bauer smiles (in character) it is a genuine and beautiful thing and following on the heels of a serious moment with Jessica, Andy’s joy is palpable and well-delivered.

At the other end of the spectrum, Alexander Skarsgard and Kristin Bauer van Straten play their parts of Eric and Pam as classic action movie heroes. Skarsgard is serious and plays Eric as violent and powerful, Bauer van Straten uses comic relief and banter to remind viewers why they love Pam. Director Howard Deutch might not have the most compelling script to work from, but he gets decent performances and makes the episode look good.

“Lost Cause” turns the final season of True Blood around in the nick of time and is the first episode that leaves fans of the show with the desire to see the next episode.

For other works directed by Howard Deutch, please check out my reviews of:
”I Found You” - True Blood
”Don’t You Feel Me” - True Blood
”You’re No Good” - True Blood
The Whole Ten Yards

[Knowing that single episodes are an inefficient way to get episodes, it's worth looking into True Blood - The Complete Sevent Season on DVD or Blu-Ray, which is also a better economical choice than buying individual episodes. Read my review of the final season of the supernatural show here!


For other television reviews, please check out my Television Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2014 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
| | |

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Cute And Kicking Butt, The 2014 Lego Boba Fett Hallmark Ornament Rocks!

The Good: Looks like it is supposed to, Good balance, Great detailing.
The Bad: No moving parts!
The Basics:Hallmark’s 2014 Lego Star Wars Boba Fett ornament pretty much justifies the existence of the line of weird Hallmark ornaments released over the last few years!

Despite my love of Star Wars and Hallmark ornaments, there are actually remarkably few Star Wars ornaments I have in my personal collection. As one who loves the Star Wars bounty hunters, the ones that tend to tempt me the most are the various Hallmark ornaments that feature the bounty hunters. The line that I’ve never considered investing in is the new collection of Star Wars ornaments that embody Lego Star Wars ornaments. So, it says something significant that the 2014 Lego Star Wars ornament actually won me over. This year, Hallmark went with the Lego Boba Fett and it rocks the Star Wars Hallmark ornaments in an uncommon way.

The Lego Boba Fett ornament is the fourth in the series of character ornaments from Lego Star Wars. Fans of the Star Wars Legos and, perhaps as important, the Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga video game (reviewed here!), will easily recognize the Lego variation on the classic Boba Fett. Hallmark captures the bounty hunter Boba Fett, in Lego form, with his giant Lego blaster in his hand, standing on a Lego-style base! He has his trademark helmet (with the antenna!) and cape molded to look like it is flowing behind him. This is an instantly recognizable version of Boba Fett, believe it or not!


The Lego Boba Fett ornament recreates the Lego bounty hunter in solid plastic on a black and gray plastic Lego block base. The ornament, released in 2014, is the inscrutable bounty hunter Boba Fett holding his giant black blaster in his right hand, or socket, given how rounded the hands on Lego characters are. Hallmark managed to get $14.95 originally for this ornament and it is arguably the most vigorous-selling Lego Star Wars ornament I’ve seen. It is unlikely this ornament will be sold-out at clearance prices this year. This character ornament is 3 3/4" tall, 2 5/8” wide and 1 3/4” deep. That makes the ornament much larger than Lego toys, so fans of Lego building blocks might actually have more against the ornament than Star Wars fans. Then again, both fan bases might be equally keen on this ornament!

The Hallmark Lego Boba Fett ornament is made of a durable plastic and has him holding a solid black blaster in his right hand. His feet are arranged in a walking pose, though because they are attached to a Lego block base, the ornament does not have any sort of balance issues or issues with his stance. This is a simple sculpt of the Lego Boba Fett, with all of the essential parts that make the character instantly recognizable. Boba Fett has his helmet, cape, and Lego blockish feet and the Lego-style open hands. The little jet pack on the back of the Lego Boba Fett completes the character perfectly!

The Lego Boba Fett ornament is incredibly detailed with the coloring to back up the sculpt. The front panel is made to look like a classic Lego toy sticker, but it is painted on, which is a nice touch. Similarly, the Lego Boba Fett has his costume silk-screened on to match what looks like the stickers on the actual Lego Boba Fett. This character is accented on every part of the front of the ornament. As a result, the ornament has realistic (as much as a Lego character is realistic) detailing for the belt, breastplate, pockets and knee pads. In fact, it is only on the back of the ornament with the jet pack and cape that the character ornament is under-detailed on the coloring front.

Sadly, the ornament does not have any articulation to it, so fans who want to turn the head or move the arms will be disappointed.


As a Hallmark Keepsake ornament, the Lego Boba Fett could have a function like a sound chip or light effect, but does not. This is just an ornament, an affordable option for those who might not want to shell out for the ship or diorama series' of Star Wars ornaments. This Lego Boba Fett simply hangs.


As with all ornaments, the intent of the Hallmark Keepsake Lego Boba Fett ornament is to be hung on a Christmas Tree. And for those creating the ultimate Star Wars Christmas Tree, the Lego Boba Fett is very much a luxury; this whole concept is more ridiculous than realistic, so this is very much a “luxury” ornament for the serious die-hard fans. The ornament has a steel hook loop embedded into the top center of the character's head. From that hook, the Lego Boba Fett ornament hangs perfectly level. Hallmark managed to prevent the ornament from being frontheavy by counterbalancing the gun in the front right with the sweep of the cape going back and to the left, which is remarkably clever.


Hallmark Keepsake began delving into the collectibles market in 1991 with Star Trek when it introduced the exceptionally limited edition original U.S.S. Enterprise ornament (click here for that review!). Since then, they have branched out into other popular franchises like Star Wars and The Wizard Of Oz. The Lego Boba Fett ornament was a common release, but the popularity of the ornament has made it a surprise sell-out at several of the Hallmark stores I have visited.

That it is selling out already means it is likely to be a good investment ornament so long as Hallmark does not re-release the ornament (as it did with the Lego Darth Vader ornament).


The Lego Boba Fett ornament is easily the highlight of the Lego Star Wars line and is worth collecting.

For other Hallmark ornaments of Lego Star Wars characters, please check out my reviews of:
2013 Lego Yoda
2012 Lego Imperial Stormtrooper
2011/2012 Lego Darth Vader


For other ornament reviews, please be sure to visit my Ornament Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2014 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
| | |

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Ultimate Staple Tea: Twining’s English Breakfast Tea!

The Good: Tastes good, Nothing detrimental in the nutrition department, Caffeinated
The Bad: Nothing at all distinctive from the flavor.
The Basics: Twinings English Breakfast is a flavorful basic tea . . . if flavorful is all about tasting like tea and nothing else.

There are some teas that I am surprised that I have not yet reviewed. A few weeks ago, I was at the discount store and I was absolutely thrilled to see that they had a giant tin of Twinings English Breakfast Tea for only $1.99! Given that these tins are regularly $7.99 and started at the discount store for $4.99, the huge discount on the tin made it an irresistible buy for me.

English Breakfast is a good tea for anyone who has to define what tea tastes like. I found mine as a loose-leaf tea, though it comes in tea bags as well.


English Breakfast Tea is a black tea from Twinings of London. Black tea is made from mature tea leaves that are dried on the tea plant. Twinings has its English Breakfast tea available year round and it is one of the brand's staple teas. English Breakfast is what I call an adjective tea; the flavor is its own, the name does not hold it to any standard other than to represent what is generally accepted as that flavor. Twinings has been making this tea since the early 1700s.

English Breakfast comes in a 7.05 oz. tin that holds something like fifty or more pots worth of tea.

Ease Of Preparation

As a black tea, English Breakfast is ridiculously easy to prepare. A single tablespoon of the loose leaf tea will make a full 32 oz. teapot full of tea. I have found that I can use the same tea leaves three times with no loss of flavor as long as I don’t let the tea brew for more than three minutes the first time. Indeed, this is one of the best teas for those who like to reuse tea. The second cup often comes out about at least as strong as the first (3/4 - 7/8 as strong), provided the first steeping was not over the recommended time. I tend to make my tea using a 32 oz. steeping tea pot and that works well, though in this method, the second brewing is - at worst - about 3/4 strength and a third brewing may be done as long as one leaves the tea leaves steeping for over five minutes.

To prepare English Breakfast tea, bring a pot of water to a boil and pour it over the tea leaves (once they are in the steeping chamber. For English Breakfast, roaring boil is just fine! This tea takes only three to five minutes to steep according to the directions. In my experience, it gets no stronger after five minutes and as a rather strong tea, it does not truly need to be stronger than it naturally is.


English Breakfast tea has a strong black tea aroma to it. This tea smells very much like the tea I’ve had at virtually every Chinese restaurant ever. The scent of the tea is tea, without any embellishments or surprising flavor insinuations in the steam.

On the tongue, the English Breakfast tea tastes just like it smells. This is a tea-flavored tea. That means, it tastes like earthy water, bitter and strong. This is a tea that is not at all watery or overbeating in the flavor. Unfortunately, because this is a tea flavored tea, it is hard to describe in particularly graphic or interesting terms.

English Breakfast has no aftertaste, at least not the Twinings brand of it.

With a teaspoon of sugar, English Breakfast loses the bitterness one expects from a strong, black tea. The tea continues to have no aftertaste, but the primary taste does not get diminished by sugar. Milk overwhelms this tea’s flavor.


The ingredient to this tea is quite simple: Black Tea. There are no other ingredients or flavors, nothing that cannot be pronounced.

In terms of nutrition, this tea is devoid of it. One 8 oz. mug of this tea provides nothing of nutritional value to the drinker. There are no calories (save what one adds from sugar, which I recommend), no fat, sodium, or protein. There is caffeine, but how it relates to other beverages remains a mystery; Twinings does not put a scale on their boxes of tea. This tea is rather caffeinated, though and it will wake the drinker up.


English Breakfast tea is very easy to clean up after, provided one does not get it on fabric. The tea may be disposed of in the garbage, or composted if you have a good garden and/or compost pile. The tea itself will stain a mug a faint brown if it is left there for days on end, but otherwise may be cleaned up easily by rinsing out the vessel.

English Breakfast is a rather dark tea and as a result, it will stain any light fabrics it comes in contact with. As a result, it is highly recommended that one not let it linger on anything they wish to protect and not have stained. It may be cleaned off if the spill is caught quickly, but if it lingers, it is not at all easy to wash out of clothes, linens or other fabrics.


Twinings English Breakfast is a very good, very basic black tea that might not be exciting, but is a baseline for what tea should be.

For other Twinings tea reviews, please check out:
Spiced Apple Chai
Green Jasmine
Herbal Revive Lemon & Ginger


For other tea reviews, please visit my Food And Drink Index Page for a complete list!

© 2014 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
| | |

Dismal Sequel Of The Meh: Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes Bores!

The Good: Moments of concept
The Bad: Terrible editing, Mediocre direction and special effects, Boring story, Terrible character development
The Basics: Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes sucks the life and interest out of viewers, endangering the viability of the franchise.

It is a rare thing, especially during Summer Blockbuster Season, that it takes me long to write a review of a current movie I have watched. In fact, going almost twenty-four hours since watching the biggest movie in America at any given time is virtually unheard of by me as a reviewer. And yet . . . that is exactly what has happened for me with Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes. Yesterday as part of a fabulous day out together, my wife and I went to see Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes and perhaps the best commentary on the film was that my wife fell asleep during it, missing the last twenty minutes of the movie. For a film that tries to be an action-adventure film, that is pretty much the death knell of a film.

It is very important to note that Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes is the sequel to the 2011 Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes (reviewed here!), which I loved and my wife did as well. So, if anything, we went into Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes biased in favor of it and both were disappointed. I managed to avoid all previews of the film before we saw Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes and the best I can say of the film is that has an engaging-enough concept and for a sequel, it actually has everything in it needed to hold its own as a film on its own. While understanding the film’s protagonist – the ape Caesar – is aided by having seen his arc in Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes, all of the information needed to truly understand Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes is contained within the film.

Ten years after a disease is unleashed upon the world that wipes out the majority of the world’s human population, the surviving residents of San Francisco have barricaded themselves behind walls where their power source is rapidly dwindling. In fact, human exploration outside their walls is so infrequent that the genetically-modified ape population that broke out of captivity at the lab at which they were experimented upon largely believes that the human population has been wiped out entirely. One day, two ape scouts encounter a human, Carver, who shoots one of the apes. Returning back to the barricades with the scientist, Malcolm, the exploratory team reports to the militant leader of San Francisco, Dreyfus. As the humans buckle down for a potential attack, the ape leader, Caesar, leads his population to San Francisco where he angrily declares peace by warning the humans not to leave San Francisco and enter ape territory.

Malcolm, however, knows that the fate of humanity hinges in part on getting the generator at the dam running again . . . with the wrinkle being that the dam is inside ape territory. Malcolm, Ellie, Alexander, and their team are given three days by Dreyfus to negotiate with the apes before the humans will attack the apes and take the dam by force. Malcolm talks his way into the ape camp and even explains the problem to Caesar and, despite the apes catching Carver violating the conditions of the truce by bringing a weapon into ape territory, the humans work desperately to save themselves while keeping peace with the apes. But the ape Koba tires of Caesar’s tolerant and pacifistic ways. Engineering a coup, Koba deposes Caesar and attacks the human settlement, setting off a war between the humans and apes!

What sounds like might be a fascinating story is bogged down in form and substance issues that absolutely crush Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes. The only characters who were held over from Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes are ape characters and the film’s setting is engaging enough to create a compelling version of a ruined world. While the film is largely about Caesar’s character journey and the conflict between Casesar’s and Koba’s ideologies, Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes devotes an excessive amount of time to putting the human characters front and center. Unfortunately, unlike the prior film in the franchise, none of the human characters in Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes are interesting, much less compelling. In fact, the human characters are so generic that their fate is not at all engaging to watch.

The lack of compelling human characters or a truly compelling human struggle (one which, I am told on good authority, could not have happened as gasoline has an expiration date that would actually prevent people from living off old gasoline for more than three years after the apocalypse) forces viewers to watch the ape characters. That means that most of the movie, viewers are reading subtitles as the apes use sign language to communicate with one another. While this might not be a problem in general – though it is something of a waste to have so many subtitles in a big-budget special effects film - Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes comes across as somewhat ridiculous as most of the apes in the movie actually have the power of speech. When Caesar and Koba speak to human characters and react as if they understand oral communication, the film’s characters seem strange for devoting so much time to signing.

The ape characters follow unfortunately predictable arcs. From the first moment the ape encampment is shown with scrawl of the Ape Commandments (apes not killing apes being the first one), the character journey is – literally – set in stone. Part of the problem is that Caesar seems like a generic protagonist on a troubling hero journey that is assembled. He has a newborn baby and an impressionable son who is able to fall under Koba’s influence. His wife is a generic damsel in distress . . . who is mirrored by the human woman, Ellie, who seems in the film only to suddenly apply her medical knowledge to the wounded apes. Just as Caesar is manipulated by Koba, Malcolm and Dreyfus find themselves in conflict; Caesar and Malcolm are generic heroes with Koba and Dreyfus coming across as almost as generic antagonists. The thing is, all four main characters in Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes are each working with sensible motivations that make them seem like they are working for the best interest of their people. Dreyfus and Koba have tragic flaws – fear and rage – just as the idealism of the protagonists is treated as a blind spot that limits them.

None of the actors give stellar performances in Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes, though the fault does not necessarily lie with the actors. The actors are given such narrow and uninspired parts that performers have little ability to show off serious range.

The writers of Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes have an unfortunate problem, which is that the set-up from Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes leaves the franchise with the need to tell a story that is a building story. For sure, it is easier to make entertaining stories with war and destruction than nation-building and growth, which is probably why Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes degenerates into a war story. The thing is, Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes could have been fine had it remained focused on the ape conflict as they organized their own, new society.

“Could have” is an accurate description of the possibility as the execution of Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes is troubling. In addition to having computer generated apes that have less detail and realism than in Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes, the direction and editing in Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes is disturbingly sloppy. Characters are framed in such a way that scenes begin with what appears to be only two individuals present and then reframed to include others, so characters appear out of nowhere in some of the scenes! Between that and the plodding plot progression, Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes is often agonizingly boring to watch.

Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes is a dismal sequel which reminds viewers just how unimpressive most sequels are.

For other films currently in theaters, please check out my reviews of:
The Best Of Me
The Equalizer
Life Of Crime
The Maze Runner
This Is Where I Leave You
The Giver
The Expendables 3
Guardians Of The Galaxy
Behaving Badly
Some Velvet Morning
Transformers: Age Of Extinction
Happy Christmas
22 Jump Street
How To Train Your Dragon 2


For other movie reviews, please check out my Film Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2014 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
| | |

Friday, July 18, 2014

Vodka Flavoring Without The Alcohol?! Haagen-Dazs Limoncello Gelato Excites!

The Good: Good flavor, Great ingredients
The Bad: More expensive than other Gelatos and ice creams
The Basics: Haagen-Dazs Limoncello Gelato is delightful, though not an essential gelato.

Last summer, my wife and I were somewhat surprised by the commercials we saw on television for Haagen-Dazs Limoncello Gelato. The somewhat surreal and creepy advertisements left us with absolutely no conception of what flavor Haagen-Dazs was trying to sell us. I was surprised last month when I found the pints of Haagen-Dazs Limoncello Gelato marked down 50% at my local grocery store! I was even more surprised when I checked the ingredients list and found that the gelato had vodka . . . but no alcohol warnings. Apparently, the alcohol freeze-fractures out, which I did not know before.

The Haagen-Dazs Limoncello Gelato is a flavorful fruity dessert that essentially is like a diluted ice cream. Even so, it is not one of the worst Haagen-Dazs frozen products!


Haagen-Dazs Gelato comes in a 14 oz. (almost) pint container. The Limoncello Gelato is a smooth Gelato without any additives. Limoncello is entirely smooth without any chunks of fruit or rind. This Gelato is a single, solid flavor.

At (locally) $5.99 a pint, the Haagen-Dazs Gelato is an expensive frozen dairy dessert. That I found it on clearance for $2.99 was the primary reason I bought the pint of Gelato!

Ease Of Preparation

The Limoncello Gelato is a simple Gelato with no additives. As a Gelato, preparation is ridiculously simple: one need only open the top of the container, remove the safety seal from the top, scoop out a half cup and consume! There is no trick to preparing or eating the Limoncello Gelato!


Haagen-Dazs Limoncello Gelato has a decently strong lemon aroma to it. The scent gets stronger as the gelato moves closer to its melting point. The scent is distinctive and recognizable.

On the taste front, the Limoncello Gelato tastes precisely like a frozen version of the lemon filling of a donut. The sweetness of this gelato entirely overwhelms the fruit flavor. Even so, the flavor is clearly lemon, as opposed to a generic citrus flavor. The sweetness finishes with the sour of lemon, though the sourness is cut some by the dairy in the gelato. This is not a particularly potent flavor, despite it being good.

This Gelato has a very slight sour aftertaste to it, which endures on the tongue for about two minutes after the gelato is consumed.


The Haagen-Dazs Limoncello Gelato is a comparatively light Gelato on its own. The 14 oz. container represents three and a half half-cup servings. In the half-cup serving, there are 240 calories, 80 of which are from fat. The nine grams of fat represent 14% of the RDA of fat, with 25% of one’s RDA of saturated fat coming in the 5 grams of saturated fat in this Gelato. One serving has 85 mg of cholesterol (that’s 28% of the RDA!) and 40 mg of Sodium (2% RDA). The only other real nutrients are four grams of protein, 8% of the RDA of Calcium and Vitamin A in the Limoncello Gelato.

Haagen-Dazs Gelatos have decent ingredients! Made primarily of Skim milk, cream and sugar, Limoncello Gelato is entirely natural! There is nothing unpronounceable in the ingredients list, though it surprisingly includes vodka. The Limoncello Haagen-Dazs Gelato is neither Kosher, nor marked as gluten free. There are no allergy warnings on the package. It does, however, contain milk and egg ingredients, so it is not at all Vegan compliant.


Haagen-Dazs Gelato is both a frozen and a dairy product, so it is pretty obvious that it must be kept frozen in order to remain viable. Kept frozen it remains fresh for months (though my pint had an expiration date of July 25, 2014, which may be why I was able to find it on clearance).

The Limoncello Gelato is fairly light and is not likely to stain. However, as a dairy product, when the Gelato melts and gets onto fabrics, it will require one to wash it right out. On nonporous surfaces, the Gelato wipes off exceptionally easily.


Haagen-Dazs Limoncello Gelato is flavorful, but not overbearing. It makes sense that the commercials for this gelato traded more on style than substance; there is a somewhat diluted or muted flavor to the gelato.

For other Haagen-Dazs products, be sure to visit my reviews of:
Peanut Butter Pie Limited Edition Ice Cream
Coconut Macaroon ice cream
Blueberry Crumble Ice Cream


For other food reviews, please visit my Food Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2014 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
| | |

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Too Soft To Love: Whisker Lickin’s Cheezy Craze Crunch Treats!

The Good: Gollum and Timber enjoy them, Inexpensive
The Bad: No dental benefits, Cats eat them incredibly fast
The Basics: Whisker Lickin’s Chicken & Cheese flavor treats are good for them, but they lack real dental benefits and my two boys go through them so quickly that they are a tougher sell than many other cat treats.

My cats Gollum and Timber both have amazing teeth. Part of the reason for that is that they tend to get hard cat treats that have undeniable dental benefits. Hard cat treats physically scrape tartar and plaque off their teeth and that helps keep their breath fresh and teeth and gums in good health. The treats that my cats enjoy that I tend not to endorse are the ones that are too soft to have any dental benefits. That is, alas, where the Whisker Lickin’s Chicken & Cheese flavor treats fall. Both Timber and Gollum eat these treats voraciously when I give them to them, but they are like candy for cats; they have no impressive or demonstrable dental benefits.


Whisker Lickin’s Chicken & Cheese flavor cat treats are soft little treats that come in a 3 oz. bag for $1.49 locally. The Chicken & Cheese mix includes three different piece types that are distinctive to this mix. There are small chicken legs that are ½” long by 5/16” wide, just like the cheddar cheese-shaped wedges in the mix. The heart-shaped treats are 1/2" long by 1/2” wide and approximately 1/4” thick. Opening the Whisker Lickin’s bag, which is resealable, there is a strong cheese scent. It’s funny because I did not think the scent was very strong, but both cats come running whenever the bag is opened.

Ease Of Preparation

The Whisker Lickin’s treats are a treat, so preparation is as easy as opening the resealable bag and removing a few of treats. I, occasionally, mix a few of the treats in with Gollum’s food, but otherwise, he gets five to ten of these whenever I feed him them! Timber has been known to steal them away from Gollum, but he usually gets no more than ten himself.

Gollum And Timber’s Reaction

Whisker Lickin’s Chicken & Cheese flavor treats are a treat that Timber and Gollum fight over. They eat the soft treats as fast as I can put them out. They are not supposed to have more than ten treats per day, but both cats eat them like candy. The flavor and scent must be strong enough to attract them because they go for them in a way that they don’t just from opening the bag like other cat treats found in crinkly bags.


The package says that servings should be one treat per pound of cat, up to ten per day. Gollum usually gets his ten per day, but Timber usually only gets five to eight because he does not need to put on any weight. I usually go through about one 3 oz. bag in about a week and a half, so for the price, this treat is not a bad one, save that it is not a great treat for my cat’s health.

Moreover, the Whisker Lickin’s Chicken & Cheese flavor treats seem pretty healthy. With a minimum of 23% crude protein and 8% crude fat, but no more than 3% crude fiber and 30% moisture, these treats have some nutritional benefits for both cats. These treats are made primarily of animal liver flavor, wheat flower, and corn gluten meal! These treats have absolutely no dental cleaning benefits, which is a severe detraction for me.


The Whisker Lickin’s Chicken & Cheese flavor cat treats are a flavorful treat that my cats love, but are not worth stocking up on, as they do not have genuine benefits for cats. As a result, these are a good once-in-a-while treat.

For other cat treats, please check out my reviews of:
Dick Van Patten’s Natural Balance Perfect Bites Salmon Formula cat treats
Cloud Star Buddy Biscuits Savory Turkey & Cheddar Flavor cat treats
Hartz Crunch ‘N Clean Fish & Farm cat treats


For other pet product reviews, please visit my Pet Review Index Page!

© 2014 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
| | |