Spider-Man and Matcha Pie

I have a lot of little things to say that problem don’t belong together but today is the Lehigh Valley Book Festival at Bethlehem Area Public Library and I’m excited, a tad nervous and a bit super-focused and scatter-brained at the same time.

Parisian Phoenix Publishing has participated in events before but we have scaled up with our efforts and this event today.

So this post will cover:

  • Spider-Man: No Way Home
  • Health and Fitness
  • Pie
  • Cats

I think that’s about right.

So the teenager and I finally came to the current end of the Marvel Comics Universe movies with Spider-Man: No Way Home. Watching them sequentially, and for me, many for the first time, actually made a lot more sense than when I saw some of them the first time.

I got a strange déjà vu that I had seen some of these villains before, but at the same time I was confused because the memory was vague and distant.

So let’s just say, trying not to spoil it for others like me that are woefully behind in their pip culture, that this film incorporates some older films that will be familiar to Generation X.

The primary theme of this movie, in my opinion, is time travel. The actual plot is a tad weak and melodramatic but the homage made to the previous generation of Marvel movies, and the humor employed in this movie, make it worth it.

My favorite Spider-Man is Toby Maguire. I got to see him again. And that made my heart happy. (Toby is also the Spider-Man adored and referenced by supermodel Adelaide Pitney in my chick lit/horror fiction novel, Manipulations, the first in the Fashion and Fiends series.

I had a very good visit with my chiropractor Nicole Jensen of Back in Line. She’s impressed with my progress and got things to pop and move (my right ankle that I broke more than five years ago) that haven’t popped and moved in a long time.

My Later, Andrew at Apex Training worked out every muscle he didn’t the day before (okay that’s an exaggeration) and the teenager set a new personal record in deadlifting: 225 lbs.

Finally, I get to the part I’ve been waiting for: PIE! If only I weren’t trying to be so health conscious… Because I have been visiting the amazing pie ladies Anne and Lisa at Pie+Tart for three(?) years now and their pies (and flat white coffees) have nurtured my soul through some difficult times— and a very very toxically difficult boss.

I receive their weekly email and saw their “freezer section” of leftover discounted pies included a steak and Guinness pie and a matcha custard pie. A meal inspired by two of my favorite drinks.

I was so beyond excited to eat these pies I was vibrating at “the pie hole” which is what they call their window/doorway. It has allowed them to stay in business safely during Covid because how would we survive sans pie.

I can improvise plenty of solutions for lack of toilet paper but I can’t make pie like this— not even with my Pennsylvania Dutch family connections.

I couldn’t even wait for the matcha custard to thaw. I sawed at it with a knife, broke it in pieces with my hands and microwaved a slice for 30 seconds. It was delectable.

And the steak and Guinness pie? So rich and full of meaty goodness I didn’t even have a chance to take a photo.

Oh how I love my pie friends.

And finally the updates regarding some of the cats we are fostering through Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab, Mars has taught Khloe to play and Minerva is becoming much more social. As is Louise.

Our Ostara Celebration

For the last 24 hours, the teenager and I celebrated the arrival of spring with my college roommate, Curly, so nicknamed by my now deceased father.

The visit allowed us to be something akin to a spiritual family unit— as the teenager has a godmother type relationship with Curly that has fallen to the wayside for the last decade plus, but if grief and death can have a good side, it allowed Curly and I to reconnect.

The three of us are not quite a coven, as we are too informal and not the Wiccan type, but our pagan witchy souls share beliefs, energy and a history with tarot cards.

Compounding this holiday celebration (as the teenager called it) was the fact that the teenager had a robotic baby for the weekend as part of her childcare and development class.

Upon Curly’s arrival, we chatted and got as organized as we ever do and then went for a walk at the Karl Stirner Arts Trail with the baby and F. Bean Barker.

We, or shall I say the teenager and Curly, then consumed a ridiculous amount of sushi and related products at Jasmine Sushi Hibachi and Thai.

And then fighting a fish-induced coma and a crying plastic baby, we parted ways for the evening to meet again in the morning. Curly baked blueberry muffins while the teenager and I met up with Andrew at Apex Training so I could challenge my lower body and do some bench press. The teenager maintained her 95-pound bench press, while I, the old and feeble, peaked somewhere at 80 or 85.

Me, the robotic baby, and the real baby and Greg at Apex

What does any of this have to do with Ostara and the vernal equinox? Throughout the evening we had talked about intentions and goals. Today we set them.

For all of us, the themes became clear. Spring is the time to blossom— to take the intentions we had set earlier and make them bear fruit. Our goals involved relationships, health, creativity and balance. Those are all very strong “spring” ideas.

We took the baby for a walk downtown and I had so much fun exploring downtown Easton with an outsider’s eye and celebrating so many of my favorite spots. From the teenager’s favorite shops, to new stores, to old stand-bys like Mercantile Home, Bella’s Dog Cafe, Three Birds Coffee House, Carmelcorn and Easton Public Market.And we dipped deeper into other places like Smartivities and saw art by some of our favorite artists.

With thousands of steps under our belt, we returned to my house for a feast of leftovers (and despite more than 7,000 steps IN HEELS I was still going strong with no pain).

And we settled down for our ritual.

And at one point I asked Curly if the rooster could join our ritual and she said yes. After all, chickens are very symbolic of spring themes.

The energy was powerful in the room, and the ritual allowed me to reset and focus some ideas.

And when it was done— we shared chocolate dipped potato chips from Carmelcorn and macaroons from Cocodiem.

We shared passion fruit, crème brûlée, honey lavender, dark chocolate, pistachio and Earl grey. Very delightful.

A trip “For the Girls”

Today was supposed to be the day I blogged about Black Panther and Doctor Strange, which I will do when I finish this and schedule it for tomorrow. Short version: Black Panther was amazing but made me think about how we represent African cultures, cultural appropriation and stereotypes AND how comic books in general have to start with some sort of basic cliché and try to improve from there. I loved how Doctor Strange blended an action hero with sorcery and in the process led to some great philosophizing about the nature of reality and the definition of good versus the definition of evil.

But I have to interrupt my planned schedule and tell you instead about my visit to FOR THE GIRLS EASTON. Visit their web site here. And I encourage you to digest their mission on their web page here.

The teenager has breasts, and as a teenager she has grown and needed new bras during the pandemic. I have wanted to take her to FOR THE GIRLS for two plus years now, and her boobs keep growing, because every woman needs bras that fit, especially if you have large breasts (like my daughter) or older breasts (like me in my forties over here).

My daughter, having a moment of smarts as she is quite prone to do, asked her father to buy her bras from FOR THE GIRLS for Christmas. He said yes, and she finally had the opportunity to request an appointment for this weekend.

I asked if I could come, in part because I was curious about the shop, and also because I wanted to see what kind of options were available for my ample daughter.

So as she was trying on bras in the backroom fitting area, her dad and I sat in the shop playing with this really sweet dog. And suddenly I realized: I’ve gained 20 pounds and have been wearing bras too small for two years. I keep thinking I’ll lose weight so I don’t want to invest in new bras, because I don’t like my bigger boobs and I certainly don’t want to keep them. But I’m falling out of my bras. Just falling right out.

It’s not nice. It’s not comfortable.

I asked, “Can I be fitted, too?”

And of course the answer was yes.

** I love small businesses. **

And when she saw my boobs spilling out of my bra, that poor proprietor said, “Oh no.”

Traditionally, when I am at a healthy weight, I’m a 34B. Overweight I typically come in at 36C.

My new bras are 32F.

And it feels great to not have them jostling everywhere.

Standard bra sizes really don’t match your torso size and your cup size correctly. It’s just like jeans that never fit right. Bra sizes that are in the big chain stores for cheap are based on sizes most women can wear, and that means if you’re a smaller girl with a large chest, you might be stuck wearing a larger band size and smaller cup size that you really need.

To continue the jeans analogy, think about how a certain size might fit in the waist but not in the thighs even though by the measurements and the size chart, it’s supposed to fit. If manufacturer’s can’t mass produce cheap jeans that fit, why should bras be any different?

I think a lot of women short change themselves because bras are not something we see or show on a regular basis, but the reality is, as demonstrated by the mission at FOR THE GIRLS, women have more confidence in a proper bra. And to me, more importantly, a bad bra fit just makes you uncomfortable all day long. Especially if you have a large chest, or if you move around a lot, or if you are aging and nature doesn’t hold up what it used to.

So thank you, FOR THE GIRLS.

And if you didn’t want to hear about my boobs or if I said too much about boobs– tough. I don’t care. It’s important.

Chasing a dream in the autumn chill

Sometimes, as members of the human race, we have days that are full of delights from sun-up to sundown. Those days are rare, but often involve a leisurely day with the family, a vacation or a holiday.

Then there are days that are good despite— or perhaps because of — their imperfections and today was one of those days.

Maybe today was my “bones day” after all. If you don’t get the reference, it’s a prognosticating pug on TikTok (read more here).

I was originally going to blog this on the Parisian Phoenix website, but I thought I could be more honest and personal here. So here I am.

I came home from work in a lot of pain last night. I achieved 90% in my work metrics and came home, once again, in the kind of pain that leaves me crying and nauseous. Part of a marker for bad pain for me is if the pain interferes with my sleep and/or does not dissipate by morning.

I did not sleep well and I woke in pain.

But, I got up, got dressed, combed my hair and put on makeup. Because today was the Easton Book Festival. It might have been cold and rainy, but I was putting my best foot forward, even if the discomfort made it hard to put a shoe on that foot.

Now, here’s the thing.

Easton has been a part of my life for more than 25 years. Even now, I live very close to Easton. I can walk there.

Book and Puppet Company has been a part of our lives for quite some time. The teenager’s father connected with the owners of the independent bookstore. The teenager had a career as a contained character there.

Andy Laties of Book and Puppet founded the Easton Book Festival three years ago. I even appeared in the original “Read a Book” video— and they also featured a Muslim student in hijab outside the literacy center at my last non-profit job in development at ProJeCt of Easton.

My supervisor there quickly forgot the things I did well, like that placement and our involvement in the Easton Downtown Association scarecrow competition, in which they still participate. But I digress.

The teenager’s father now serves on the board of the Easton Book Festival, so when they organized a local author’s event, he invited me.

One month into Parisian Phoenix’s launch and I have a promotional spot. I didn’t sell enough books to pay for the small expenses of the event: parking, coffee, book printing (but hey, I would have needed those anyway), and the copy of the inaugural issue of the Lehigh Valley Literary Magazine I bought. And an overpriced breakfast.

But one person not only bought my book, but also came back specifically to hear me read. So that was touching.

I read a scene from the sequel to MANIPULATIONS, COURTING APPARITIONS where the villain performs a magical ritual in downtown Easton.

It was my first “reading out” in years!

I kept it very brief, because some others had run long and we were all tired.

Until the YouTube video drops— you should be able to view the Facebook live here.

I had intended to join the teenager’s father at one of the last poetry events of the festival, but I was frozen so I came home instead.

My neighbor, aka Sobaka’s mom, has now formally joined the Parisian Phoenix team as a proofread. She says we need to talk about chapters 1 & 2 of COURTING APPARITIONS tomorrow.

The teenager’s father received the copyright for his upcoming poetry chapbook so that could be going to press in a few weeks.

And tomorrow I hope to make applesauce, post some new material from Rachel Thompson on the Parisian Phoenix blog, and start typing Maryann Stephanie Ignatz’s material.

I even got to have dinner at my favorite diner with my neighbor to celebrate Jan’s official status as part of the Parisian Phoenix team.

Of mufflers and magic

The last few days have been emotional, challenging and at times full of mirth… so as expected, it is the full moon.

I attended a few trainings and meetings and will be (or was) on the county council meeting agenda to serve on the drug and alcohol task force. I also sat in on a meeting of the YWCA of Bethlehem’s Empowerment and Justice Committee.

Today was the first Friends of Pete mixer since the pandemic started!

But let me not get ahead of myself.

I did two loads of laundry, tended some pets, had coffee with a neighbor, vacuumed my room, tried to get information on my unemployment claim (tried two different agencies and could get through to neither), went for a walk with another neighbor… and learned some high school physics.

And then Sarah, my lead intern in the communications department at ASPIRE to Autonomy visited! It was our first in person meeting despite working virtually practically side by side since June.

She knows the delightful crazy in my house— the naughty cockatoo, the sibling grey cats, the visiting dogs, the foster kittens, marching band, teenagers 1 & 2, the blind poet friend, etc. She’s seen & heard a lot of silly and strange things via video chat.

And now she drove 90 miles to see the real thing. Maybe a should start my own reality television show… and then run for President.

Teenager #1 proclaimed that Sarah was “even prettier in real life.”

She tried to make friends with Nala, met lots of cats, and then I went to take her on a tour of my neighborhood.

And there was construction blocking on end of the street and no lie a MUFFLER and TAILPIPE at the other. To get out of my street, we had to move part of an exhaust system. To which Sarah merely said, “I am not even surprised.”

View from my garage

I drive her to the teenagers school, show her Easton Area High School (the size of which blew her mind), and (don’t judge) visited two Dunkin’ Donuts out of the six within 2.5 miles of my house. We only got drinks at one. Note: Sarah uses almond milk.

We drop the car off and take a walk around the neighborhood which she enjoys because she can’t go anywhere on foot at her house. And she asked a lot of good questions discovering the history of the Dixie cup along the way.

We return to the house because I told Sarah we were going to light a few candles. Apparently I had never mention to Sarah that I was an animist pagan (or in practical terms a witch).

Oops.

Luckily, she has a history as a Catholic and Catholics light as many candles, burn as much incense and if you consider a prayer a spell, then do as magic as witches do.

So around 4:15, we did a candle burning ritual to coincide with the 5:05 full moon. I gave teenager 1 a white candle to draw the positive light to us and keep our intentions pure. I gave teenager 2 a purple candle as I want her to draw peace, calm, and safety into her life. I gave Sarah a blue candle as her friend had cancer surgery today and we wanted to pray for her healing. My candle was green. I need money, a job or some sort of resources.

After Sarah’s first ritual, we left for the Friends of Pete mixer— the Pandemic Breakout Networking event— in downtown Easton. I also showed her my old office at ProJeCt of Easton and then we drove by the new office for ASPIRE.

I reconnected with some old acquaintances— including Gil Bean of InFlow Advisory and Pete Reinke. I met some new people and got to have drinks with my ASPIRE peers. And forgot to finish explaining to Amber, the co-founder of ASPIRE the difference between a Wiccan, a pagan and a witch.

I had a gin-elderberry-lime-berry cocktail and calamari at Ocean. I’d dined at all the other restaurants on the list so it was nice to finally try Ocean.

But let me back up and explain— Friends of Pete is a Lehigh Valley networking group that has a strong LinkedIn presence, a weekly Zoom check in and used to have monthly mixers.

It is how I met Darnell in August 2019.

And Sarah realized she’d been to Easton before— to visit The Crayola Factory. Which I had written the original press release when Binney & Smith first remodeled the old Orr’s store and launched that attraction more than 20 years ago.

Why I Aspire

It’s been an exciting week for Aspire to Autonomy, Inc., and an even more exciting Friday night!

As early as Monday, the communications team at Aspire will be sending out a press release talking about all of this excitement. If you are reading this, you are getting a taste of what the media will learn Monday.

On Monday, our new team of 6+ social work interns from the graduate programs of Kutztown and Marywood universities started work with Aspire. So it’s great to have new people with new energy and new voices.

In the middle of the week, as Darnell and I were trying to put the finishing touches on the organization’s 2019-2020 Annual Report, Amber let us know that Northampton County had approved Aspire’s grant application for more than $8,000 to provide masks and hand sanitizer to the underserved and unsheltered.

Today, Aspire learned that Just Born has awarded the Community Intervention Service pilot program a $2,500 grant.

On top of all of this, Aspire had the opportunity to host a hot meal distribution of quality vegetarian Indian food from Aman’s Artisanal Indian Cuisine on Northampton Street in downtown Easton.

Aman’s worked with Lehigh Valley Sikhs to pay for and prepare these generous meals that Aspire distributed to the elderly, disabled and other underserved individuals identified as part of the Communities Impacting Communities program, primarily in West Ward, Easton, but also in Wilson borough.

Bulk meal distributions happened at Third Street Alliance for Women and Children and other Lehigh Valley non-profits. I helped distribute some meals at Third Street, with teenager in tow, and delivered others to families in my own neighborhood who I know have been furloughed since the beginning of the pandemic.

As I was leaving, Darnell gave me one of the single person bags to give to my blind, senior citizen friend, Nan.

I hadn’t even thought about her— her fixed income, her disability, her reliance on friends for what she needs, and her age. To me, she’s just my good friend and partner in crime. I was touched that Darnell remembered Nan and wanted the outreach to help her too.

This is why I Aspire—the Lehigh Valley is one of the most populated regions in the state. Its transportation infrastructure makes every other region of the country super accessible. It has proximity to New York City, Philadelphia and the New Jersey shipping ports.

Human trafficking happens here and it may not look like what you expect it to look like.

Human trafficking is modern day slavery.

Aspire to Autonomy wants to find trafficking victims and give them the tools and support they need to rebuild an independent life. But they are forward-thinking and broad-reaching and grassroots in their vision.

They celebrated their second anniversary in July and they are gaining momentum every day.

Their anti-trafficking vision also helps strengthen our communities and forges partnerships and connections that hopefully will improve life for every underserved citizen. Because traffickers prey on the vulnerable, and if we strengthen our bonds in our neighborhoods, traffickers won’t have a place to hide. Or a place to hunt.

This is Why I Aspire. Anti-trafficking may sound like a niche, but helping our neighbors is not.

So, as I wrote this, Nan finished her first meal of the goodies from Aman’s that I brought her. As a blind person, she couldn’t quite recall what everything was but she offered strong reviews of the deliciousness.

She had some of the “cross between vegetable soup and vegetarian chili” (lentil and black bean curry) and loved the “cucumber salad” (cucumber salad with chick peas) and had to dip a spoon in the “fruity pudding” (sweet pudding). She reports that the individual bag is at least two meals, but the cucumber salad probably won’t last the night.

She confirmed that she has never had Indian food before and that she is now a fan.

And she asked me—after making me promise to thank Darnell, “is it okay to have Indian food for breakfast?”

After Christmas

During the last two days I read most of the grant archive at work.

At lunch time, I received a text from my daughter that she shouldn’t be left home alone. She saved a field mouse from our cats and built it an enclosure.

I suggested she find one of the lids. Well, honestly I told her to put the damn thing outside but… she doesn’t listen.

After work, I met my neighbor at Three Birds Coffee House but I was disappointed the birds were on vacation. The lemon verbena tea was delicious.

And I came home to a house still in the throes of the Christmas Bomb, disaster from one end to the other. I picked up a bit, opened a beer and let my new roomba vacuum the kitchen.

Gayle came for supper and we all shared a candy apple.

Our candy apple review

After dessert, the teen and Gayle colored the giant cardboard submarine.

And then the teen discovered the mouse had escaped.

Never a dull moment.

The Christmas Season has launched

So today has been a rather surreal day, culminating in a unexpectedly joyous moment where my daughter is curled up in my bed beside me reading Ted Morgan’s memoir My Battle of Algiers, a favorite of mine, with the neighbor’s dog at her feet.

Today Easton hosted small business Saturday and my daughter had to work at her very part-time gig downtown. Amid various entertainment, a sale at Book and Puppet Company, and horse-drawn carriage rides, I ran into an old friend.

The Grinch and I toured the downtown. A horse snotted on him. Everyone asked for photos–including my old friend Marishka who tells me every time I see her that I keep getting more beautiful.

After our visit to Easton Public Market, Grinch and I met up with my daughter. We had coffee at Dunkin where several people commented on my “G” Alphabooks journal. A very small child even stole it.

Next, my teen and I went to retrieve her euphonium from the car. She had registered to participate in Tuba Christmas. She had heard about the event in school and as a low brass player (with a mom who loves Christmas carols) how could we resist the chance to play in a band of only euphoniums, baritones, tubas and sousaphones?

Tuba Christmas

The group met for the first time about 90 minutes before the performance. They practiced at the Sigal Museum, filling the entire building with bold horn music.

I ran into another old colleague there who couldn’t quite figure out why I was there, especially since I didn’t have an instrument. Apparently he hadn’t seen my daughter since she was a preschooler.

In many ways, returning to professional life has felt like emerging from hibernation. I have lived in the same house the entire time I worked retail, but it is mind-boggling how I feel like I have been more absent from life than I realized.

Now, how do I say what I want to say next? Ummm… let’s just say the act before Tuba Christmas included “Dominic the Donkey” and his ability to impersonate a donkey was amusing but perhaps not in a good way.

After an hour outside in frigid weather, and seeing an elf on stilts:

The teen and I jacked the heat up in the car and stopped at Dunkin, again. This time for hot drinks.

And that is how I say hello to the holiday season!