Baked Flavors: A Ben & Jerry’s Review and a CVS saving spree

It’s 8 p.m. on a Wednesday night. I just finished a rather strange Chinese take-out meal after a long work week and a hearty work-out with Andrew, my strength and fitness coach at Apex Training.

Hit another PR I believe, a 35 lb dumbbell RDL.

My performance at work has been stronger (by my calculations Sunday was about 104%, Monday 98% I think, 100% yesterday and 99% today). I finally replaced the company-issued box that Gayle doodled for me with a stadium backpack with my supplies divided by department. My box has gotten super messy and it was ripping.

Amidst all that, I still find myself dwelling on the fact that Friday, September 30, is my dad’s birthday.

It makes me so sad. It’s the first one without him here. He missed the teen’s high school graduation, her 18th birthday, her first car accident, buying her first car.

He missed the flood in my house, my dead car battery, and all the other things that happen day to day.

So now is the perfect time to review ice cream.

Last week I had $5 in Extra Bucks at CVS about to expire, and they were having an ice cream sale— so I got 3 pints of Ben & Jerry’s, a bottle of unsweetened flavored sparkling water and an 8 ounce bag of pistachios and almonds for $12.78. It was $30 before my deals.

I picked all “bakery”/cookie flavors.

Over time I made these conclusions:

  • Half Baked (chocolate and vanilla ice cream with gobs of chocolate chip cookie dough and brownies) was a disappointment. The chocolate ice cream overpowered the vanilla. There weren’t enough cookies and brownies and the ones we did find tasted dry.
  • Thé Tonight Dough (caramel and chocolate ice cream with chocolate cookie chip cookie dough, chocolate cookie swirls and peanut butter cookie dough) came recommended by Andrew. The cookie chunks were significantly better than the Half Baked, and the Teen and I both wished there was more caramel ice cream.
  • Netflix and Chill’d (peanut butter ice cream with salty pretzel bits, salted caramel and brownie chunks) might have been our favorite. The peanut butter ice cream complimented the pretzel and brownie accents perfectly.

And finally, in closing, walking home from the gym tonight with the pink & blue swirls of sunset before me, I noticed some changes in our neighborhood. On one hand, the neighbor boy who spray painted his name on their front walk is a senior in high school and his graffiti has faded.

And at another house, designs in sidewalk chalk suggest that the babies born to the kids who were the Teenager’s neighborhood playmates are old enough to stake their claim to playing outside and repopulating our block with youth.

I look forward to it.

Finally a visit to Mythic Beasts and Brews: Turns out they are passing out homemade chocolate chip cookies

The Teenager is working on her college application and wanted to find a coffee shop to force her out of the house so she would have less distractions. Originally, she wanted to go to Three Birds in downtown Easton, one of our favorite spots, but by the time she got out of work, they would be closed.

I know of places on the other end of the Lehigh Valley open in the evening, but couldn’t think of anything close to home. So, I googled.

Monsieur Google suggested several local Starbucks.

Sigh.

Not that I don’t enjoy a flat white every once in a while, but we wanted something a little more unique and potentially eclectic.

A little more poking around the internet and I remembered Mythic Beasts and Brews, a ten minute walk from our house. Or, as the teenager says, “Mom, it’s closer to the house than the high school.”

The atmosphere is coffee shop meets role-players’ game den, which is exactly what it aims to be. There are four of five large tables for gamers and a few little spots for those of us who have retired our game master and PC gear.

Yes, the teenager’s father and I played White Wolf back in the day.

The Teenager ordered chai, which will make our blind friend Nancy very happy to hear that we have found yet another source of chai. I decided to take the 20-sided die challenge. Whatever you roll is your drink, $4, and it’s 50 cents to reroll.

I rolled a 12, which is a large Irish cream macchiato. That is a good selection for me.

We enjoyed our visit, and we especially enjoyed the free homemade chocolate chip cookies.

Karaoke adventures

Both the Teenager and my blind friend Nan are musically-inclined. My daughter turned 18 in June and Nan turned significantly older than that in July.

I promised to take them to karaoke. It took a couple months to find an environment suitable for an eighteen-year-old that was also scheduled early enough for Nan and I.

Thursday was the night. After all, under my current schedule, Thursday is my Saturday night.

And it turned out there were two options in the same town. I found about one rather late in a new restaurant but hosted by someone I know. The other was at a more familiar location, one my family has visited since the Teenager was a baby. Literally, car-seat-on-the-table.

I picked SoMa Downtown Grill, formerly sports pub Delahanty’s on the Square. It will always have a soft spot in my heart because I remember when the building was a wreck and the owners received press coverage from my newspaper for their efforts to rehab it.

My favorite items on the menu were discontinued during their rebrand to SoMa but that has forced me to find new favorites on my visits. I knew this would be a family-friendly location for The Teenager to make her karaoke debut and one familiar enough for me to navigate with Nancy.

I even put a little effort into my outfit and wore my Stitch Fix jewelry. And my new “ultra flare” jeans from Target that I cut off at the bottom because they were regular and not “short.”

Meanwhile, Nan was practicing Leann Rimes in her new suite in her new independent living situation.

And I had no intention of singing.

The only time I ever sang karaoke it was with my friend Ken, who hosted the event (and DJed my wedding). I waited years to try and ended up singing Crystal Gayle’s “Don’t it make my brown eyes blue.”

The Teenager and I busted Nan out from her place and headed to New Jersey, where we arrived early and settled in for some dinner for The Teen and I, and an Angry Orchard for Nan. I joined her with a Yuengling draft. We ordered a goat cheese crostini appetizer for the table, which was a delight.

Nan was the second singer of the evening, with Leann Rimes’ “Blue.”

It took a while for the Teenager to commit, but she and I did a duet of Barenaked Ladies’ “If I had a million dollars,” of course, as Murphy would have it, her microphone was off and she asked me to take the part I don’t normally do in our car duets. So she tried again and drug me up there for “1985” by Bowling for Soup.

Khloe

And now that’s stuck in my head.

We spent exactly what I had in cash in my wallet without even trying and Yuengling was on special and I didn’t even know it. We were home by 9:30.

And of course, my cat Fog came running to chastise me for being out later than usual and Khloe leapt onto my chest as soon as she got the opportunity.

My new obsession: Dax Shepard

I believe I’ve mentioned (way too often) that 2022 has brought with it a lot of household-related stress. We are still trying to get the ceiling fixed with a contractor recommended by our insurance company. The project manager stopped by to try and match the material. They are literally giving me half a ceiling, just the portion destroyed by the flood.

I had my local franchise of Mr. Handyman replace some duct work under my downstairs bathroom. And The Teenager and I are trying to prioritize other household issues that come when you own a house and haven’t performed enough maintenance over 20 years: everything breaking at once.

So, as a attempt at escapism (between the house issues, my medical issues and my volunteer work and side hustle publishing company), I decided to view some of Dax Shepard’s work.

A friend had recommended his podcast, Armchair Expert, when I started listening to podcasts in the Stitch Fix Bizzy Hizzy warehouse. I immediately developed a mental picture of him that turned out to look nothing like him in real life. I imagined him as much shorter and less lean and blond.

And I wasn’t prepared for his big blue eyes.

Since I love Kristen Bell, and it saddened me to learn that she made one of her biggest splashes in Frozen as I am not a Disney fan (but I am a huge The Good Place fan), I figured it was about time I checked Dax out.

And I heard so many of Dax’s guests comment that he is such a talented comedic actor, so I wanted to see.

In my head, I still can’t reconcile how this super observant, intelligent man can portray such goofballs.

As a strong Gen Xer, I can remember sitting in my grandfather’s trailer watching ChiPs. I was hardly more than five or six, and I had a huge crush on John. My mother teased me relentlessly.

The contemporary retelling of this old television series beautifully crafted adult and sophomoric humor and tackled some larger issues in bite-sized moments. I loved it.

And now I’ve started Parenthood. I am ten episodes in. I love the family dynamics, even if the characters are very stereotypical in their basic concepts: the golden first-born son, the high-strung super competitive career woman daughter, the single mom daughter who has to move home in her mid-thirties, and the carefree jovial irresponsible son (played by Dax). But the plot lines and scripts are much richer and convey the major social and economic issues of the day.

I’m very much loving the show’s depiction of parents and teen daughters, especially since I have one of those. Dax’s character Crosby is growing with every episode, and that tickles me as well. The cinematography mimics a cross between a documentary and a sit com.

So that’s that.

Coffee dilemmas

Probably a month or more ago, SuperCoffee just ran out of my dark roast Keurig pods, and they haven’t come back in stock and I haven’t seen any official notice that they’ve been discontinued.

My last shipment was in May.

So I have been trying every dark roast I can find. Even when I make them in my espresso machine, they taste weak and watery. I even tried added Nescafé instant coffee into the beans in the espresso machine that made it better. But still disappointing.

On a whim, I went onto Supercoffee’s web site today— and there was my coffee.

Why did they never resume my subscription?

I sent a little email and then ordered the ground coffee.

Hopefully my coffee will be better soon.

Margaritas and cat noses

I might be pushing too hard.

I did (I think) 105% on Sunday at work, 105% yesterday and woke up stiff and with my right quad tight and spasms in my calf. I only did 93% today, but I feel better now. And the dip in numbers had more to do with some chaos in the warehouse versus my cerebral palsy issues.

Regardless, I must admit I was a little relieved yesterday when my fitness coach Andrew from Apex Training postponed my workout.

The teenager proposed going to Applebee’s for dinner, her treat, as she didn’t feel like cooking. She also demanded I order a cocktail as I think she wanted to make sure I drifted off to bed as early as possible. (8 p.m.)

The teenager loves Applebee’s— for a child raised in all sorts of Mom & Pop restaurants where we often knew the owners, she certainly loves her boring old franchise Applebee’s.

I realized that if you took any item with chicken tenders away from the menu, you’d lose more than half the meals available. And if you didn’t want bacon on your hamburger, you had three choices: the quesadilla burger (which we got), the plain old burger and the Beyond veggie burger (which was $14 and came with nothing but lettuce, tomato and pickle).

Boring.

The quesadilla burger was a mish-mash delight (I chose my margarita for the artificial Latin theme) but had to be eaten with a knife and fork.

When I arrived home, Opie and Fog (two of our personal cats) joined Khloe and Louise (foster cats) and Nala (Goffin’s cockatoo) and Yo-yo (parakeet) in my room for the night. Fog tries so hard to be Louise’s friend— and she is slowly (after more than a year) getting braver and more confident.

Louise (left) and Fog (bottom right)

Finally, for those that are wondering… I ruptured my tendon in my ring finger April 15 and had “mallet finger” and a cast for nine weeks. My specialist released me July 25 and expressed his disappointment that my finger was still a little off.

My finger after a ten hour shift August 15 — four full months after my accident.

I use my hands so much at work, so I still splint at night. I must say it feels like and looks like the finger is getting stronger and straighter every day.

Exploring Cerebral Palsy with Tylia Flores

I had the great opportunity to have a FaceTime chat with the kind and personable Tylia Flores yesterday. In embracing the voice of the younger generations, I am learning about myself. Read more at Parisian Phoenix….

If any of you read my personal blog on my website, angelackerman.com, you may know of my quest over the last two years to learn more about cerebral …

Exploring Cerebral Palsy with Tylia Flores

Silk & Sonder one year later

Last year, for my birthday, I bought myself a subscription to Silk & Sonder planners, which are also self care journals of sorts. I loved it, and felt pressured by it, and felt much of the effort and information going into the planner was time and writing that should be invested in my journal.

So, at $20 per month, I decided the expense wasn’t as great as the reward and with my cancellation I encouraged the company to design a yearly binder and send pages for that binder to make the product sturdier and more useful for long-term planning.

For the start of 2022, I ordered myself and the teenager planners. She preferred mine, ended up with them both, and in the end decided she wanted an iPad. So, I gave her my iPad Pro.

This time, as I decided I really could benefit from a paper planner— something about old fashioned paper makes it easier for me not to overextend myself. Dots and colors on my iPhone or Google calendar just don’t have the same weight.

I ordered a prepaid three month subscription— reducing the cost to about $16 per month. Still ridiculously high for a paperback planner.

I started this entry when I filmed the unboxing video, but am continuing it on August 1. The first official day of my new monthly planner.

Past Silk and Sonder entries may be perused here.

My first Stitch Fix Freestyle order

I have worked for the Stitch Fix Bizzy Hizzy for 19 months. This November will mark my two-year anniversary. I have done some shopping in the employee store, but I have never signed up for the service.

I first learned about Stitch Fix when they were brand new and I had renewed my subscription to Vogue magazine. You see, part of the reason my fiction takes place in the high fashion world is because I fell in love with the ideas of fashion as a teenager.

If I had more resources and hadn’t grown up in a family struggling to look middle class, I 100% would have been a mall-obsessed fashionista with haute couture aspirations. But my frugal nature and my minimalist desires mean I prefer thrift stores to fancy designers and weeding out clothes to buying them.

It’s one of the core dichotomies of my personality— perhaps that Taurus cusp Gemini natal sign— I want the opulence and beauty but am not willing to pay money for the experience. It feels like a waste.

Right now, I’m dressed in a Target basic white tank top, hand-me-down denim shorts, Dollar Tree socks and a brand new pair of Vans. That sums me up.

So I gave my 40% employee discount to my friend Joan, but if you assign your discount to someone else, you can’t change it for six months. And you can’t have more than one person using it at a time.

And I have had a great time watching Joan unbox her seasonal fixes. I am very glad she was the first one to take advantage of my discount.

Now that Stitch Fix has expanded their “Direct Buy” into the whole Freestyle experience (where I typically spend my Sundays packing orders and shipping them out to clients), it has become possible to order the items you want any time you want.

I asked Joan to use the brand navigation menu to order five or six specific pairs of shoes— one of them for the teenager. In the time it took for me to compile and send the list, one pair of shoes sold out in my size.

But Joan did manage to find three pairs of shoes for me—pink Toms, green Vans and a laceless DV by Dolce Vita sneaker— and one pair of old skool Vans high tops with a zipper for the teenager.

We ordered them Friday afternoon. On Saturday I saw Joan and I gave her money. On Sunday, I went to work wondering if I might see my shoes process out or if they had been shipped by the Saturday crew. The person at the table in front of me got a cart of shoes.

I wondered if she might have mine in there.

While I was considering this fantasy of sneaking my own shoes out of the building, I got a text from Joan. “Your shoes have shipped.”

Now I don’t know if clients are alerted when we hit the “complete” button and the mailing label prints out or when the post office gets their hands on them.

They arrived at Joan’s house on Tuesday, which we didn’t think to change the shipping. Despite having worked a ten-hour shift, the teenager and I headed to Joan’s.

Joan had never seen the large Stitch Fix bag and I was more than a little impressed that whoever packed them got them in there. And the postal carrier got it into Joan’s mailbox.

We placed the shoes in the back of the teenager’s new car and she dove right in. Neither of us knew her sneakers had zippers and she didn’t recall the color so those were fun surprises.

I didn’t have the strength to try on all my shoes— it was my bedtime by this point and we weren’t even home! I did however put on my DV by Dolce Vita laceless sneakers and wear them for the tour around Joan’s quaint home.

When we got home I piled my shoes on the table and my cat Fog made himself a bed on the Stitch Fix shoe duster bags.

Then yesterday I wore the laceless sneakers to work because my Vans needed the laces laced through and I just didn’t even want to untie and retie the Tom’s. But maybe I should have as today when I tried the Toms on my left foot was so tight I couldn’t wiggle my toes and my right foot couldn’t even get into the shoe.

To see me try these shoes on, click here for the YouTube video.

Shame as they were pretty. And had some nice cushy stuff in them.

But sadly I threw away the return label. And the garbage was at the curb. So, yes, I went through my own garbage. Digging through cat refuse to open the discarded Stitch Fix bag and grab the label.

But then I realized that I don’t have an envelope.

At this point, I think I’m going to slap it on the shoe duster bag and hand it to my former supervisor on Sunday morning. When we moved to day shift, she went to women’s returns.

I’d love to exchange them— but I don’t know if I need an 8W, an 8.5 or an 8.5W.

Meanwhile, I’m happy with my other shoes.