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.

Things that make me happy… I must be old

So someone I know, who shall remain nameless unless she outs herself, tagged me in this Facebook post:

She invited me to consider it, which I would if it weren’t two hours every Friday for six weeks.

Speaking of falls, the teenager asked for some bathroom toiletry storage devices so I bought these:

The wall-mounted shelf is ridiculously sturdy. All came from Target.com.

I “treated” myself to some grip-circles to reduce the likelihood of falling. And they are pretty.

The sight of everything organized made me happy. As did dinner.

Dinner was Banza chickpea rotini with Hungryroot Alfredo sauce, fresh spinach, my homemade roasted tomatoes from the farm and chicken bruschetta burgers broken into “meatballs.”

My body feels wonderful… and other ridiculous tales

This week has been a roller coaster— but isn’t that just the way? People have been telling me I look like I’m loosing weight but I don’t know if that’s true.

The teenager took the dog for a rainy walk at Lafayette College the other day. She sent several very lovely photos.

I have many odds and ends making life out of the ordinary from little foster kitten Jean-Paul Sartre to my dear friend Nan moving from my neighborhood to a senior community.

Nancy in her new place

I ordered a kitchen scale off Target.com to measure Jean-Paul’s growth. He’s up to 1 lb 5 ounces. That was after a big breakfast of pate and kitten milk. He has a hearty appetite and screams for food like any baby does every 4 hours.

He is super inquisitive and smart. He carries tiny toys around in his mouth and plays with our dog, Bean. (Here’s a video.)

Meanwhile, guest fosters Coffee Bean & Pinto Bean are having fun in my room. Khloe and Louise do not like having babies around, but the cockatoo Nala sure does.

For some humor, let’s mention that the Teenager recently discovered that the Morningstar Farms breakfast Pattie’s I have been feeding her for almost two decades are vegetarian. She called her dad to find out if he had been in on this secret.

We never hid that they weren’t real sausages from her and she’s been able to read for a long time. The shock was real, and she’s still talking about it days later.

She didn’t have a chance to go grocery shopping for her nights in the kitchen. I suggested using my Hungryroot ancient grain gluten free pancake mix and the Morningstar sausages. It was a lovely, hearty breakfast-for-dinner. And like she had accused me of when she first discovered my fake breakfast meat, “It was all a lie.”

The teen also got her first fix from Stitch Fix and it came from the warehouse where I work, the Bizzy Hizzy. Click the photo to see her unbox.

Click to see what’s in the box

Speaking of work, I took voluntary time off on Monday and my stats were 100%, 88% and 98%. Andrew at Apex Training has been working be hard with exercises like split leg squats. My quads feel it. My balance is improving, my aches and pains feel like muscle fatigue and not deeper pain or joint issues. I have caught myself almost falling several times, and can sometimes feel my leg scissoring or even notice my left foot dragging behind before it trips me.

Even my chiropractor, Nicole Jensen of Back in Line Chiropractic and Wellness Center has made comments about how well my body is moving and how things are improving. Today she said my right side was locked up, when it’s usually my left, and that everything went back where it belonged easily.

When I hopped off the table, she told me to look at myself. “I have never seen you stand up with your feet so firmly planted and your poster straight,” she said.

And I felt it, I felt really solid.

So I don’t know if this is where I confess I tried the new Wingstop chicken sandwich. Most of my diet lately has been vegan. But last night I hadn’t had dinner, it was 8 pm and my body was devastated (in that good way). I could barely move after my shower. I considered skipping dinner.

But then I thought about my food intake for the day:

  • 4:30 am: Supercoffee dark roast with half and half
  • 5:30 am: Wawa coffee con lèche (it was a bribe to make myself go get gas)
  • 6:30 to 8:30 am: 20 oz water
  • 9 am: Kind Peanut Butter Breakfast bar and about 3 oz cranberry juice cocktail
  • 9:30 to 11:30 am: 20 oz water
  • 12:15 pm: quinoa with roast zucchini, white beans and my home canned roasted tomatoes, 6 oz Diet Pepsi
  • 2 to 5 pm: 20 oz water
  • 5:30 pm: sunflower seeds
  • 6 pm: 12 oz cucumber water

I thought a chicken sandwich would be good for protein and I saw the commercial for Wingstop’s new chicken sandwich on Hulu. It was good, not as big as I thought a sandwich from a chicken joint would be— but to be able to slather any sauce from their menu on our was really cool. I had a mango habanero sandwich and a side order of the honey hot rub boneless wings. It hit the spot.

Walking, workouts and waffles

I did not work a full ten hour day any day this week. But you know what? That’s okay.

My stats on Sunday were 105%, then 98 Monday, 88 yesterday and 94 today. What happened?

I don’t know. I was in pain Monday, stiff and uncomfortable yesterday and almost fell today but caught my balance.

And then Andrew at Apex put me through legs. We did split leg squats and he got to watch my hip do the funky angles it does. And I got to feel every fiber in my knees, quads and hamstrings.

Plus, I walked more than 8,000 steps today while my legs were stiff. Well after that workout they are not stiff but jelly.

The Teenager showed one of her dog walking clients some of the neighborhood dogs and their tricks— here is the video.

And then for the final event of the day we went to Waffle House as earlier this month we had heard that August 24 was National Waffle Day.

I had a scrumptious hash brown bowl with egg, cheese and jalapeños.

We split a peanut butter blueberry waffle.

These are the moments to treasure.

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.

Updates, announcements and anecdotes

It’s just about to turn 5 a.m. on Tuesday morning. The last 48 hours have been emotionally difficult, and those are internal challenges I have resolved within myself but now I need to “make right” in the world.

My good friend Joan (the talented photographer) had quipped that the moon is in “Frustrato” phase and perhaps that is accurate.

Sometimes it’s nice to blame the universe instead of accepting our part in the mayhem. Because even good intentions spark fires.

I heard a podcast yesterday; I believe it was an economic one, that asked if one host was “a glass half empty or a glass half full kind of guy.” He replied, “it’s just half.”

That’s too much enigma and philosophy for pre-dawn hours. Blame the fact that my trusty espresso machine only filled half my mug.

Mug from Purr Haus in Emmaus

The teenager and I had 14 kittens in the house Saturday, Sunday and Monday offering temporary lodging for these babies whose official Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab foster families have gone on summer vacation.

They were so much fun to have around, but 11 went home last night. This led the Teenager’s officially adopted foster fail Mars of the Roman Pride distraught that his friends had gone. He screamed until the Teenager released him into “gen pop” where he plopped himself down in front of the remaining visitors.

On Friday, I had a rather grueling session at Apex Training with my coach Andrew. We did some intense work on balance and single leg muscle stability. On Saturday, the communication between my brain and my lower body felt rickety (for lack of a better description) and it was challenging to move. By Sunday, the movement felt smoother but my phone was registering spikes in walking asymmetry. But something very interesting happened Monday— I could not only stand on one leg, but I could also hold my leg in a few seconds of a quad stretch.

Yesterday, I visited the Stitch Fix employee store, which resulted in a good news/bad news scenario. I bought myself jewelry on an impulse and discovered my second holes could still accept earrings. As someone who really grew up in the 80s and graduated high schools in the 1990s, I have three sets of holes in my ears.

I bought the Teenager some new things, including some warm hiking style boots for fall and her dog walks. I bought myself an adorable pair of shorts, and I picked one size up from my pre-existing Stitch Fix clothes and they were too small.

Obviously my efforts to reduce my recent (as in pandemic era) weight gain have been not sincere enough. Sigh. I’m trying to eat better and move more without falling into a strict/restrictive mindset.

But I did eat an entire medium pizza from Domino’s the other night. It was a medium hand-tossed crust, light on the cheese, light on the garlic Alfredo sauce with red peppers and pineapple.

On the way home from work last night, I noticed that the furniture store looked abandoned— and that the sign merely said urn.

In the background of all of this, the ‘cat book’ from Parisian Phoenix has hit some unexpected difficulties prompting a delay in its production. But my quick thinking, after a few hours of pondering, have inspired an interim release of a mini cat book featuring advice and stories about the care of cats. The larger book will come later, perhaps in early 2023.

In the meantime, I am very puzzled why my sweet tripod foster Louise has decided to crate herself.

And the most surprising item of the day was receiving my first catalog for Parisian Phoenix Publishing— Uline junk mail!

I suppose the last update is that the people at Susquehanna Service Dogs have cashed my check for the application fee. I’m anxiously awaiting contact.

To say life has been hectic feels like an understatement.

Today I canned Amish tomatoes

So, I got a text the other day— it was probably Thursday but who knows— from my friend and talented photographer Joan.

“The farm has Amish tomatoes, want some? $25/bushel.”

We agreed to split some if they had some left when she went to pick up her regular CSA share.

She dropped them off yesterday. Now, I have always wanted to home-can tomatoes. I decided to make seasoned roasted tomatoes.

I started at 7:30, they came out of the water bath at 11:30. I think my yield was 1 pint jar, 2 half pints, the tiny quarter pint jar and a mouthful.

Cracker Barrel & Vitamin D: Blending the Mundane, Building Friendship

I started my day by leaving the house at 7:15 a.m. to visit my friends the phlebotomists at Quest Diagnostics. With my history of anemia and fluctuating iron & vitamin D levels, I tend to get iron & vitamin D checks with my annual bloodwork.

My vitamin D was low during my January 2021 physical (22) so I started adding vitamin D + calcium supplements to my diet. With my multi & my slow release iron.

By June, that had jumped to 32. I stayed that level for the next six months. Today’s test would see if I had gained more— 30 is considered normal.

I started laundry before I left so I could wear my new cat t-shirt. I had a much anticipated meeting with social activist-journalist Dawn Heinbach scheduled for the afternoon at Cracker Barrel, a location I thought would be convenient as she lives several counties away. She submitted some material for the Not an Able-Bodied White Man with Money anthology. I had some books she wanted. I know she’s a cat person so I knew she would love my French pun cat shirt.

When I got home from Quest, I made an egg sandwich and took a photo to my artist friend Maryann whose mixed media postcards appeared in Not an Able-Bodied White Man with Money. She thinks all my food photographs are well-played and pleasingly styled. I told her she’ll have to come for dinner.

I put the laundry in the dryer and eventually changed into my cat shirt. I did some paperwork before I picked up my good friend Nancy to provide a ride to the doctor. Nancy is my poetry editor at Parisian Phoenix Publishing and she’s blind. She keeps me in line both with my writing and my business and occasionally has to make sure I’m facing my disability in an intelligent fashion.

While at the doctor’s office a very senior citizen’s phone went off. The ring tone was the opening notes of Usher’s “Yeah.” I had to bite my tongue to keep from laughing. He looked mortified. Did a grandchild prank him?

I finished Tylia Flores’ Handi-Capable while in the waiting room. I posted a review on Amazon.

We did a couple other Nancy errands and I pointed out I needed gas in the car, and asked if she’d mind a detour to Wawa. I think Nan made out on that one as she went home sign a turkey sandwich, some sour cream and onion potato chips and some half-and-half iced tea/lemonade.

Somehow the two of us can do absolutely nothing but laugh while doing it.

I spent the afternoon blogging and catching up on some work for the business before it was time to go to Fogelsville for my early dinner.

The sky opened, as they say.

I told Dawn I would hang out in those amazing Cracker Barrel rocking chairs. I didn’t know it would be in a deluge.

Luckily I had my umbrella in my car.

The servers came out and danced in the rain. An old man complimented my Eiffel Tower umbrella and said he and his wife were going there next.

Ever the grammar nerd, I said, “really? From Cracker Barrel right to Paris? I hope you love it.”

Dawn and I had a superb conversation about what journalism should be, and she lives in the geographic region served by my protege at Berks-Mont newspapers. We talked cats— and she did like the cat shirt. And my turkey dinner was disappointing but Dawn and I chatted for two hours. We shared a cup of coffee after dinner before going our separate ways.

I bought the teen a Scooby Doo mug and myself a coconut peanut butter candy that tasted like toffee both in flavor and mouth feel.

On the way home, my 2015 jetta played a horrible prank on me. The gas gauge and miles per gallon/miles until empty screens didn’t display any information. Luckily I got gas with Nan so I knew I had plenty. On the highway. 26 miles away from home.

Upon reaching home, I took care of some correspondence and received an update from my doctor. My vitamin D is now 37!