Does the pandemic have a fun side?

Sometimes I am reminded of my age— when I think of those summers of my girlhood circa the 1980s, when Pennsylvania experienced temperatures that averaged in the high seventies/low eighties and for about 2 weeks every August a heat wave of around 85 degrees.

It also snowed a lot more, and I can’t say I miss that.

Now I won’t be naive enough to suggest this pandemic has been fun. Some people have gotten seriously ill, others have died. Luckily in my circle, those who contracted Covid-19 survived and none ended up in the hospital.

But as I said in the beginning of the pandemic, the Coronavirus has forced us to look at our health system, our purchasing habits, our supply chains, what we need and what we don’t. I have found a more relaxed pace of life, and while I have lost my job, I have found some inner truths that bring me hope. Perhaps that is where my naïveté lies.

Yesterday, I had a business meeting with my first client as a partner in Thrive Public Relations. Thrive is the brainchild of a friend— who has been searching for someone with media, print and editorial experience to complement his digital marketing, strategy and networking expertise. I have agreed to help him, and hopefully this will lead to some paying work that could help keep me afloat and allow me to rebuild my career portfolio.

I spent much of the last year as a grant writer, and would love to highlight some current public relations work to augment my grant writing potential.

So I was asked to attend a business lunch at Sogo Asian Fusion yesterday in one of my favorite environs, downtown Easton. I thoroughly enjoyed, despite the 95 degree heat, dining on the patio. It felt lovely to build an outfit, put on make up and head into the world.

Then later that evening, my propensity for stress-related binge-eating led to me eating most of a jar of “trail mix” — I put that in quotes because it had walnuts and almonds but was mostly butterscotch and white chocolate chips— that my blind friend Nancy gave me for Christmas. I had it on my desk at work and it was one of my possessions that Mr. Accordion drove to my house.

The teenager doesn’t like almonds. So she gave them all to me.

And then my daughter cornered me. She started reciting old bits from Brian Regan, one of my favorite comedians (from the golden age of the early 1990s, before I graduated high school and Nirvana changed the world).

Finally she got tired of her delivery falling flat and we spent an hour watching Brian Regan clips from YouTube on my phone. I grabbed a Diet Coke and finished the rest of the vanilla vodka from County Seat Spirits.

The teenager’s father, my husband of 20-years whom I separated from last summer, does not like stand-up comedy. But a good stand-up comic (like Regan, or Trevor Noah, or for those who have thicker skin and/or less sensitivities Denis Leary and George Carlin), can lift my darkest spirits. So I love the fact that our daughter inherited my taste in comedy.

And when I got up this morning, as mundane life started to overwhelm me with chores and commitments, Nan called.

The Mighty.com had published her piece on our summer picnic and shared it with Yahoo News. It features me, and the teenager, so I got to enjoy reading about my life.

You can read it here: Nan’s summer picnic article on Yahoo News

So maybe life doesn’t look the same as always, but the simple joys don’t really change.

Casual Update

There’s so much good activity in my life right now — I’ve been too busy to catch everyone up.

  • My last day at work is tomorrow and my colleague, Mr. Accordion, is coming over tonight.
  • I have been working hard publicizing Aspire to Autonomy’s upcoming events, and they have given me the title of Communications Director. I am working with a fantastic intern on public relations and I think, I hope, she is having fun.
  • Gayle, the teenager and I, went for a nice walk in Easton Cemetery last night. Every time I go up there I find more cool things!
  • Gayle, the teenager and I went to Porter’s Pub last night after the walk and they let me eat all the “stinky cheese.” Gayle bought me a very delicious salted caramel chocolate porter from Saucony Creek. To celebrate new beginnings!
  • I cashed in my free medium 2-topping pizza from Dominos.
  • I’ve been making Nala puzzles every morning to try and keep her busy.
  • We found someone that can get Mama cat spayed for free. (Did I mention we were out on a walk and our kittens’ mama came to us and we brought her home. She’s pregnant. Again.) We thought the organization would let us foster her and her kittens until they found homes… but now we’re being told they might keep her. So we are a tad sad.
  • And for multiple days in a row I have made 10,000 or more steps a day!

What a lovely Saturday morning should be

I slept in today— until 8:15 a.m.—which is both good (I needed the rest) and bad (I made plans to meet a work colleague and fellow cat lover at Easton Farmer’s Market at 10 a.m.

The cockatoo completely ate the rest of my cork board (see Cockatoo Mischief) while we visited our favorite familia yesterday (see Visit with La Familia).

And a mysterious feline decided to deposit a hair ball on the couch on the sun porch. So I tried my best to clean everything up and I took down the cork boards only to also remove great portions of the paint. The teenager assured me we have the paint to touch it up.

Somehow we made it downtown on time— and met our friends. The teenager spent her birthday money on a strawberry plant and some pickles and stuffed olives.

I bought her breakfast at Pie + Tart (apple turnover for her and mini strawberry rhubarb pie for me) and beverages from Fieldstone Coffee Roasters (mango black tea for her and bubble tea for me— which the server gave me a yellow straw to match my yellow pants).

After saying goodbye to our friends, we strolled the downtown so the teenager could visit The Loving Peace. They did not have any supplies she needs.

The teenager then directed my attention to The Carmelcorn Shop. She let me have anything I wanted!

In this video we review our haul from The Carmelcorn Shop. The biggest surprise was, as the clerk recommended, the tootsie roll balls were amazing. I don’t even like tootsie rolls! Review of Candy Haul

Life is certainly sweet!

Highmark Walk for a Healthy Community ProJeCt 2020

On Saturday morning, the teenager and I went down to Easton cemetery to support the Palmer Kiwanis team as they participated in the Highmark Walk for a Healthy Community to support my employer, ProJeCt of Easton.

For more on that adventure, click here: Cruising the Cemetary with the Palmer Kiwanis

Today, I took a slightly elongated lunch break to take my team to the Karl Stirner Arts Trail. We started at the Silk Mill.

Me and My Team
Me, Buddy Eddy (dog of Team Member Sarah), the teenager and my good friend Gayle who writes a blog Fat Girl Walking

We headed down the trail and enjoyed the various art, the breezy trail, and the picturesque creek —all on the way to the dog park.

And then to end the outing, we let Buddy play and we got ice cream at Ow Wow Cow.

To register a team or donate to my team: Highmark Walk

For Gayle’s blog entry visit: Fat Girl Walking

Our previous visit to the arts trail: A walk on the Arts Trail

Kicking off the weekend with hoagies and cocktails

I found out today that my blind friend Nan likes horseradish, would like to try Fireball whiskey and has never had a margarita.

Today, as it is the start of weekend and expected to be the hottest day of the week, Nan and I planned to head to Park Avenue Market to use some hoagie coupons from The Teenager’s marching band fundraiser.

But Nan hadn’t listened to the rest of my message— she was already distracted by thoughts of cucumber salad.

So we’re standing at the deli counter and I order a 10” Lebanon bologna hoagie with bacon lover’s cheese and lettuce, tomato and pickles for the teenager and I to share. And I order Nan’s turkey hoagie with bacon lover’s cheese, mayo, lettuce and onion.

We’re scoping out the salads and I ask her if she planned to take me up on my offer of coming over to eat our sandwiches together and mix up the apple pie cocktail from the ingredients I ordered from County Seat Spirits.

The teenager always likes to get one of the massive deli pickles. So as Nan was realizing we were about to have way more of an adventure than a simple trip to the grocery store, the teenager is pointing out to me that one giant pickle is 99 cents whereas two are $1.69.

Now no one needs two giant pickles.

But I say yes, get two.

She turns 16 Tuesday, I can’t deny her pickles.

So Nan excitedly accepts my offer to stay for dinner and promptly tells me that we need to buy apple juice.

While we wait for our deli orders— summer bean salad and cucumber salad for Nan and slab bacon and liverwurst for me—Nan and I explored the $1 bags of chips.

Apparently Nan loves horseradish so we picked up the horseradish cheddar potato chips for us and Jalapeño Popper Herr’s cheese puffs.

The teenager also wanted tuna salad, so I bought some celery and tuna.

And me, being me, I bought a cow tale and a coconut candy watermelon slice. You gotta have dessert.

We unpack the sandwiches and chips on my dining room table, and the chips were just like horseradish, some bites were just right and some the fumes went straight up your nose.

And then, we started mixing.

I get the vanilla vodka, cinnamon vodka, wine glasses, shot glasses, trays of ice and a cocktail shaker.

Nan is impressed that I have a cocktail shaker.

We pass the bottles around so everyone can smell the vodka. I usually hate vodka. This vodka is distilled from cane sugar and impresses me. The cinnamon vodka smells like Christmas.

First go:

  • 2 ounces vanilla vodka
  • 2 ounces cinnamon vodka
  • 4 ounces apple juice

Result: strong

I add two more ounces of apple juice to the cocktail shaker. Nan approves.

I am merely tasting as someone has to drive Nan home.

I slice the candy.

Nan has never had a cow tail before.

The teenager tastes the alcoholic beverages and approves. We have a discussion about her 21st birthday.

Nan and I plot a trip to the liquor store and mixing Fireball with diet ginger ale.

I mix a batch of the cocktail which I put in a quart mason jar with a plastic screw lid so Nan can keep it in her fridge.

I drove Nan home as the rain started to fall. I had slipped a cocktail into the freezer for myself. This is good vodka.

The shifting psychology of chores

As one of the perks of the online writing community, I have had the pleasure to meet Fausta, a life coach and therapist who has a wide range of capacities and wicked sharp writing skills. She has been working on her blog, and her business, Fausta’s Place to Ponder.

People often influence and inspire each other in the most unexpected ways—often without trying—and I’ve admired and respected Fausta for a long time in just that kind of subtle way.

Like most of us, she’s a real and imperfect woman with a quiet vibrancy. She’s touched me with her honesty about life as a woman and the everyday struggles as a mother, building/continuing her career/business, dealing with her own and her family’s health and keeping her heart and emotional state strong and well.

Isn’t that what most of us are trying to do? In a recent blog post (linked below) she talks about our attitudes and how our mental framing of tasks impact how we perform them. I have continued to ponder this.

Mindful Self Compassion Can Help You Get the Dishes Done

I love routine, order and cleanliness. But with 4 cats, 4 birds, 1 teenager, a full-time job, my own physical and emotional issues and a coronavirus pandemic, I can’t always achieve/complete/do everything I want to do.

I have to employ more mindful self compassion, and with the teenager’s help I am growing in this regard. She and I have been discussing the differences in how our brains are wired. This helps me look at my setting from multiple points of view.

My goal, in what used to be Standard American Life, was to workout either at the gym or at home 3-5 times per week and never leave dirty dishes in the sink overnight.

Now, the gyms are closed. I’m eating too much fast food. And my goal is to clean the kitchen every morning— as my energy levels are higher and it reinforces the idea that every day is a clean start.

But I still need to examine my motivations. There’s a flip side to chores.

Today is Sunday. Yesterday, I got up, did a load of laundry and started the dishwasher. I cleaned all the litter boxes— no small chore with four cats, but oh so worth it.

Two kittens and 3-legged Overlord

I did some other odds and ends too but I’ll be darned if I remember them.

And then I attended a business meeting, had coffee with a neighbor, cleaned up after the birds, let the teenager give me a haircut (a rather severe one that doesn’t exactly match the crazy hair I have, but give it two weeks and it will be perfect), split a ginormous, super-sweet cinnamon bun from Cake and Corolla, enjoyed dinner from Dairy Queen, and watched Hell’s Kitchen for the rest of the day.

And I’m not beating myself up over “not doing more.”

But this morning— I got up, washed the pots and pans, unloaded and reloaded the dishwasher, did two loads of laundry and hung them on the line, fed the menagerie, scrubbed them kitchen counter, took out the compost, emptied the garbage, carried the garbage outside, and vacuumed and washed the kitchen floor.

All before 9:30.

And I feel good about the work I got done. Even if I am still worrying about cutting the grass, working out this week’s budget, and dealing with this week’s groceries and work stress. I dread both. I *don’t* want to do the grocery shopping and I never know what will happen at work on Monday.

So I have a delicate balancing act— what can I do to feel good about myself and my house and what can I do to not exhaust myself?

Because you see, I know I also do chores and scrub the bathtub to avoid facing my fears and emotions in the stillness.

Chores let me use the energy of my angst to achieve something positive, but in the end, that’s not always the best approach to my emotional health and physical self.

PS—

Early on in this pandemic I invested in good old fashioned cleaning products: Pine Sol, Ammonia, Fels Naptha, Borax, etc. I opened up the Pine Sol today. Just felt like my neglected floor needed something extra. I got this at the Grocery Outlet and as you can see it’s not traditional Pine Sol. It’s like super floral. “Fresh Scent” by patooty. Someone just exploded a fake floral bomb in my house.

Two Rivers Brewing Delivery

A Crowler of Lager and a Growlette of Banker’s Brown Ale

I’ve made it a personal goal to try as many creative, innovative small local businesses as I can during this pandemic lockdown.

I’m living on my own and raising a teen daughter with a salary that doesn’t leave much extra — especially when you count in the fact that my dentist quoted me a price for my crown using my husband’s insurance when we’ve been separated for almost a year and I’ve been off his insurance for six months. My insurance has no coverage for such procedures and I owe almost $900. And the tooth isn’t even right.

But I’m veering wildly off topic.

I saw on Facebook— oh, evil, evil Facebook— that Two Rivers Brewing Company less than 2 miles away is offering free delivery. Two Rivers, in that beautiful old building (Mount Vernon) only a few blocks from my office. Two Rivers, home of the magnificent peanut butter/bacon/seasoned cabbage cheeseburger.

I didn’t intend to order beer. I was looking at the menu, selected the Bankers Brown Ale in the Growlette (32 ounce reusable glass bottle) for $11.25 and a $10 lager crowler (32 ounces in a big can). I thought I saw that if you ordered by 8 pm they delivered on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

I hit the button and the web site said it’d be at my house in 30 minutes. They called in 15 and said they were on their way.

Beer? To my door?

The man delivering it had a nice black zipper Two Rivers Sweatshirt, gloves and a mask and he brought me the beer.

Nice and cold.

And I poured a glass of the Bankers Brown Ale which is reminiscent of my all-time favorite beer—Samuel Smith Organic Chocolate Stout.

Now I can order pizza and beer. One should arrive hot, the other cold.

Thank You Tucker Provisions

The teenager wanted to get out of the house yesterday and I knew as a responsible adult we needed some fresh produce.

With the Coronavirus still keeping our state on lockdown, I’ve been trying to explore as many small local businesses as I can that are adapting to the situation.

I’ve never been to Tucker, an Australian Cafe at the Simon Silk Mill in Easton. They hosted an amazingly successful benefit to raise money to fight the Australian brush fires.

So they already have my admiration.

The only friend I know who ate there was not impressed— she felt rushed and a tad snubbed by their waitress.

But I’ve been intrigued by their recent business model… They’ve adapted by becoming “Tucker Provisions” and it’s like a drive up general store.

Tucker web site

They feature a a variety of other local and regional farmers, vendors, and small businesses. The apples in the picture are from Bethlehem’s Scholl Orchard. The golden raisins are super plump and juicy, so good.

And I am so looking forward to trying the potatoes, zucchini, Brussel sprouts, rhubarb and broccoli.

I even splurged on some Mexican soda.

While we were out, the teenager spotted these:

She loves rocks.

“Mom,” she says as the car is stopped. “There are some really nice rocks over there.”

“Go get them,” I tell her.

Maybe she’ll be a geology major.

For supper last night I decided I wanted homemade cream of broccoli soup. We have some heavy whipping cream in the fridge that’s past its date, more than a week past, and I hate to waste.

And Tucker had broccoli.

I based my soup on this recipe

Now I never follow a recipe, never exactly. Either I never have all the ingredients or I just don’t want to. This was a little of both. While I prepped the soup, I roasted some of the Brussels and our last radishes and the smallest of our fingerling potatoes.

I made mini bread bowls out of the heavily discounted fresh baked but day old dinner rolls I bought at Weis last weekend and tossed in the fridge. I even toasted the removed guts of the bread bowl to make croutons on top.

Good stuff. Looking forward to enjoying it for lunch if the rain keeps up.

Happy Friday!

I think I might have said two or three hundred times that this week was hard.

But there was some goodness between all the hard.

  • Our CEO got my department a mentor. Someone we all love and trust, though I am the only person in the group who doesn’t have a pre-existing relationship with this man.
  • My coworkers are all so super nice. My former office mate makes the Folgers in the kitchen palatable and I normally hate Folgers. He makes the coffee so strong it tastes like chocolate.
  • My new development partner and I are getting along great and I love her energy.
  • My other colleague invited me out for a drink after work. She was meeting some friends and wanted someone to keep her company so I had a lovely oatmeal stout at Pearly Baker’s.

At home, I watched the episode of Kitchen Nightmares that was filmed in Forks Township, “Bella Luna,” and saw some nice shots of Easton:

And tomorrow our favorite little dog, Sobaka, is coming to visit so for the next week we will have…

  1. One Yorky Maltese
  2. One kitten
  3. One cockatoo
  4. Two nine-year-old cats (with seven legs)
  5. Three parakeets

And for your viewing pleasure, here are Nala and Opie: Nala and Opie check each other out

Daily journalism: Brush with celebrity, Mitchel Musso (2007)

 

 

 

 

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The holiday season, 2007. My daughter was a week shy of three-and-a-half years old. I recall having plans this night. Grown-up plans. My editor from the Morning Call telephoned and asked me to do this quick assignment. Famous last words.

I am not a fan of Disney. I like the classic Disney films like Mary Poppins, Pete’s Dragon and maybe a Bambi or Lady and the Tramp. (Okay, maybe not Lady because I get really upset when Lady gets thrown out of the house.) Blame Hunchback of Notre Dame. I went to go see it with the man I later married. I did a “May term” in college where I traveled to Paris for three-plus weeks to study the influence of politics on the art and architecture of various periods and Hunchback/the cathedral Notre Dame de Paris were on the list. When we returned to the States, we read the various literary works in the original French. Except for Hunchback because we had worn our poor professor thin and he asked us to please read it in English over the weekend. His plan was to meet with us Monday and be done with us so he could continue with his summer.

And it would have taken us too long to read the book in French. This is my back story. It frames my anticipation for the Disney film.

I arrive in the theater. I am watching. The cathedral is on fire. Esmerelda crawls into her cot where in the book she dies. I am crying. In the book, everyone dies. Tragedy is a French necessity.

She wakes up and lives happily-ever-after.

I was very angry.

Flash forward about ten years and I’m sitting in the Crayola Factory in downtown Easton with a thousand other people waiting for a star of the Hannah Montana TV series who, like everyone else in the Lehigh Valley, got caught in traffic on our infamous highway Route 22.

And I’m waiting for a much needed date night after I file. I barely met my deadline this night, and instead of date night I treated myself to an album of French Christmas carols I downloaded from iTunes. And, to further frame the way my life often works, the album turned out to be instrumental with some children singing “La la la” where the words should be.

My husband claimed they were French “la’s.”

I have been teased mercilessly about this album.

To return to the story for one last moment, I tried to inflect some humor into it. And Mitchel Musso was a really nice guy. Not that I know/knew who he is. I barely knew the name Hannah Montana.