Another day at the Bizzy Hizzy

It’s approaching 1 a.m. and I am amazed at how quickly I am adapting to going to bed around 1:15 a.m. and waking up around 8:45 a.m.

An hour ago I was placing my laptop into the cupboard, taking my last cart of fixes to the “garage” area and heading to the time clock.

I only walked 16,000 steps in the warehouse tonight but I hit the pre-direct pick picking goal of 128 fixes.

I am sitting in my bed with a gin-and-cucumber-positive-beverage-B12 cocktail. I have kittens surrounding me (the Norse Pride domestic long hairs) and Nala chattering and falling asleep on my knee—and I know my bird should be asleep right now but she wakes up when she hears me come home and she’ll be super angry with me tomorrow if I don’t give her a bedtime cuddle.

She just fell asleep — on my knee.

The scene looks something like this:

The swarming Norse Pride

Poor Fog is whimpering outside my door as he used to be the cat that slept with me until the teenager moved the Norse Pride (some of our foster kittens through Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab) into my room. He wants no part of those pesky furball kittens.

But he misses me now that I am working, and he pursues every opportunity he can to be with me.

Fog

Today involved some meetings, including the Lehigh Valley Regional Homelessness Advisory Board. I organized some paperwork and paid some bills as this week’s unemployment payment came.

I received EBT/SNAP (food stamps) for September, October and November so I’ve been combing every store possible for the best deals. Grocery Outlet and Lidl remain my standbys, but I find some good coupons at CVS. Today they sent me a coupon for a Starbucks Frappuccino from their ready-to-drink cooler for $1.49. I had $1 in Extra Bucks expiring today so I got the coffee beverage for 49 cents in food stamps.

Why does SNAP pay for candy and bottles of Frappuccino but there is no program to pay for bath soap, laundry supplies or toilet paper? One friend remarked that poor people must not be allowed to be clean.

So, now that I’m employed again these are issues I shouldn’t have to contemplate much longer.

And I suppose eventually StitchFix might ask me to stop blogging about them but I hope not— I’m a wholesome blogger with a long history in the public relations and journalism field.

But I’m so excited about hitting the 128 number and we had Thanksgiving dinner at work!

Tasting everything

If you’ve read this blog at all you already know several things.

  1. I love to try new grocery items.
  2. I love to save money while shopping.
  3. I love The Grocery Outlet.
  4. I make a lot of ridiculous videos that combine all of these things.

So today, I hope to enjoy some “brain off” time by tasting things and making silly videos. Here is the first one: Birds Eye Cauliflower Buffalo wings vs. Morningstar Popcorn Chicken

Later in the day I did a taste test of doughnuts — Giant Bakery vs. Maple Doughnots at Grocery Outlet. Fog crashed this video so you can get the cat’s opinion, too.

The Doughnut Debate on YouTube

And of course the teenager wanted to try something so she tried the ranch flavored Pirate Booty.

Review of ranch Pirate Booty: YouTube

And now as I mentioned in an earlier blog entry, I am mixing the Positive Beverage Cucumber into a gin cocktail and chatting with one of my Sarahs.

Mixing a cocktail: recipe here

Positive Energy (drink)

I bought this drink at Grocery Outlet and decided to try it today since I wanted something different, something refreshing but something without caffeine.

At first I thought Positive Beverage sparkling zero calorie crisp cucumber healthy electrolyte beverage tasted like a syrup, similar to those syrups used to flavor Italian sodas. But the more I drank it, the more it tasted like a fancy cucumber cocktail.

And it was fortified with calcium and B vitamins.

I would definitely love to buy some more.

Silly, sweet Saturday

So, I have come to the conclusion that all I have to do is call Nan and ask, “Are you busy?” and she will grab her white cane and meet me by the door.

Unless NASA has something going on— like a hatch opening or a spacewalk or a launch or a capture.

Today the teenager got up early, at 8 a.m., which in teen time is somewhere between “I had no idea the sun came up this early” and “wow, I can eat breakfast at actual breakfast time.”

Speaking of breakfast, the foster kittens have learned the word “breakfast” and their little ears perk up when you say it.

The teen wanted to go to Petco and Dollar Tree, while Nan and I had our eye on a brief trip to Grocery Outlet to look for smoothies and lentil pasta. Their circular advertised Bird’s Eye steam-in-bag lentil pasta, which Nan and I both like, for 99 cents.

It normally runs $3-4 per bag.

As a blind person, Nan likes the fact that she can make lentil pasta without dealing with boiling water as one has to do with traditional pasta and it’s not a mushy mess of preservatives like canned pasta.

We were both disappointed to discover that they only had lentil/zucchini pasta with olive oil, as opposed to the “sauced” varieties.

But I get ahead of myself. As I mentioned yesterday (see Growing Up), the teenager is now driving. This trip with Nan— because of course she said yes she’d come— would be her first trip with the teen behind the wheel.

Yesterday, we not only drove several highways but I took her to Wendy’s to try the drive-through. She aced that.

We set a rendezvous time with Nan for 10 a.m. and head to the car with a sneak peak at the garden. My fancy little imported peppers have started to grow, and the massive pumpkin vine that originated in my compost heap has started to yield pumpkins not on the ground but on my fence.

Petco passed without incident and Grocery Outlet had minimum disruption as well. But the teenager found Maple Doughnuts (as a brand name) in an unlabeled decadent 12 pack that weighed at least four pounds for $1.99.

“Quality you can see since 1946,” I chuckled while reading that to Nan.

The plan quickly morphed into a trip for coffee at Dunkin’ and doughnuts from Grocery Outlet. The teenager helped us load up the car and she headed to the Dollar Tree and we contemplated beverages.

Except McDonald’s was closer and cheaper. By the time the teen returned we were still deciding because I had a coupon for “buy one milkshake and get one for a penny.” But we had doughnuts.

Nan wanted a chocolate shake but protested that she was pretty sure drinking milkshakes before 11 a.m. was frowned upon, in the same manner as day drinking.

I assured her it would be 11 by the time we received the milkshakes.

So I ordered one small chocolate and one medium strawberry milkshake and one large Diet Coke.

One of us had to pretend to be sensible.

10:35 a.m.

The drive thru is ridiculous. But that’s how it is now. The line at the McDonald’s is like a trip to the DMV whereas getting your learner’s permit at the DMV is relatively instantaneous. Another Covid-19 reality.

11 a.m. — to the minute— we receive the shakes. Nan and the teenager split a chocolate doughnut. I eat a cake doughnut with icing and crystallized sugar. And then a glazed donut with chocolate icing and a thick layer of maple icing.

A relaxed and joyful start to a sweet Saturday morning.

More grocery outlet goodies

Goodie Girl Birthday Cake Gluten Free Cookies: These taste like golden Oreos.

Cajun Gator Dill Potato Chips: These were delicious — very dill. Similar to dill pickle potato chips but more interesting.

Naked Pina Colada: I expected this to be very pineapple and very coconut, but the coconut comes from coconut milk. So that was a pleasant surprise. And it had a heavy banana flavor which made it refreshing.

Puffins Protein Berry Burst: This was like plain Kix and Berry Berry Kix but for grown-ups. Very nice indeed.

Discount Cookies

Today’s haul

Sometimes your days don’t go as planned. I thought I’d get up, feed the pets, and head to the Dollar Tree to get our foster kittens some sardines to soften their tender feline hearts.

The thunderstorm scared the cockatoo, and the rain must have slowed me down as I finished feeding the pets and having a coffee on the porch at 10 a.m.

But Sunday is the day of rest, so that’s okay.

I headed to the Dollar Tree and spent $9.

  • Three cans of sardines
  • 1 small box of generic golden crisp cereal or “sugar crisp” as it was called in the 1980s
  • 1 four-pack of individual boxes of cereal
  • 2 packs of Chips Ahoy sandwich cookies
  • 2 bags of Cajun gator dill potato chips
  • 1 jar mayonnaise

Then I went to the Grocery Outlet where for $14.75 I got everything else in the photo. Now, note, this is all processed breakfast foods and various snacks as the teenager starts band camp tomorrow and I know she will need to get something in her system at 7 a.m. and she will come home starved.

So snacks. And cereal. And Pop Tarts.

When I got home the teenager and I decided to try the Doozie cookie bar and the Sour Patch Kid cookies.

The results were exactly as I expected.

The teenager loved the Doozie bar. It was a cookie dough bar— so if you love edible cookie dough this was a nice treat. I thought it was too big for one sitting, that the sweetness got to be too much. I’m sure the teenager disagrees.

Doozie Birthday Cake Edible Cookie Dough Bar

I purchased three of these for 29 cents.

Now the Chips Ahoy cookies, with Sour Patch Kids, were definitely a purchase for me. I bought them at the Dollar Tree.

They tasted like sugar cookies with candy in them.

I liked them. The teenager did not.

Chips Ahoy Special Edition Sour Patch Kids

Whirlwind Tuesday

I ended last night with a delightful (super super delightful) tapas of succulent olives, hummus, blue cheese and pita chips with my neighbor.

Cozy tapas

Tonight I’m ending the night with blisters from going for my evening walk while wearing flip flops and feeling a little guilty for taking advantage of my DQ reward points to get a free chicken strip basket at Dairy Queen.

I have gained 10 pounds since the pandemic started. I am happy to say that my daily steps have tripled, but I haven’t used my dumbbells for anything other than doorstops, and I suppose I should go ahead and cancel my gym membership. Because I’m unemployed and I don’t want to go pay someone for something I can do at home without a mask.

If only I could stop the junk food habit.

But that is not the point of this post. The point of this post is to touch on two topics. I’m going to briefly touch on what I love about the business and non-profit environment here in the Lehigh Valley.

Then I’m going to sing the praises of Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab and report that our adorable pseudo-Russian Blue kittens, now about nine months old got neutered today and are still stoned out of their fuzzy little minds.

Life in the Lehigh Valley

So, I grew up in the Slate Belt and then moved to Bethlehem for my college years at Moravian College. I’ve always loved the diversity of the Lehigh Valley region, the diversity of urban vs. rural, the infrastructure, the businesses, the farms, the corporations.

Today, I attended a meeting with the person in charge of corporate giving for a major corporation that has offices all over the world, and a huge influence historically and currently in the Valley.

I attended that meeting as a representative of Aspire to Autonomy, Inc., and supported one of the founders of the organization in this important private conversation we were having.

And suddenly I was awestruck again.

Periodically, I am annoyed with the Valley for the same reasons that I love the Lehigh Valley. But today I felt enamored.

The Lehigh Valley, in part because of its proximity to the ports of New Jersey and the cities of New York and Philadelphia, and the local highway infrastructure connecting it everywhere, attracts a wide variety of businesses while hosting some economic mainstays—like Air Products, Just Born Candy, Martin Guitar and Crayola.

We have two major hospital networks competing madly locally— St. Luke’s and Lehigh Valley Hospital.

But the region, despite having three cities just about touching (and Allentown, with its population of more than 122,000, is the third largest city in the state), is amazingly small. It’s not that hard to travel from one end to the other and people seem to know everyone, especially in the business world.

Or maybe it just feels that way to me because I spent 15 years as a local journalist.

So, here I am in the meeting, immediately recognized as the former Development Manager for ProJeCt of Easton, helping sell this two-year-old non-profit to a potential major funder.

I even dressed up for the Zoom— and then the person we were meeting dialed in, so I got to put on makeup for my stoned cats.

But because of the “smallness” of the Lehigh Valley, this very busy executive took more time than she had to to meet with us. As a result, we all left with an increased understanding.

We have a better fundraising plan regarding this corporation and this person learned more about how all the anti-trafficking organizations here in the Valley work together.

But what impressed me was the willingness of this individual to work with the “little guy.” That is something that makes me proud to live in the Lehigh Valley.

The rescued kittens have been neutered

I rambled quite a bit on that earlier bit.

Today, the teenager and I left the house at 7:30 to transport the kittens to FURR for a low-cost neutering.

Stephanie, the woman from FURR we have been working with, was even kind enough to place Fog and Misty on the backseat of her car with their cat carriers facing each other instead of in the big cat pile of carriers in the back of the car.

That made me happy. That the brothers could see each other.

On the way home, I stopped at Grocery Outlet as the teenager had announced that cheap instant coffee was garbage and we were going to need more Nescafé.

(For more details on this, see yesterday’s post: Nescafe Capers)

And then the teenager filled out an adoption/foster application with FURR on her phone in the parking lot.

Because we need more menagerie.

Oz enjoyed being my main baby today while the kittens were gone.

And I also did my nails.

Matte silver

And it seemed like it took forever until it was time to retrieve the boys. They are both about 9 3/4 pounds. They are Feline Leukemia negative. They have their shots now, nails trimmed, flea meds and deworming.

And they are ridiculously mellow and stoned right now. I think Fog fell asleep with his head in the water bowl.

And here’s some stoned cat videos:Fog doesn’t want to come out

Misty coming out

The next Sea Hale snack

I do so love Grocery Outlet and Sea Hale snacks.

I used to think the $2.99 bags of the larger Sea Hale snacks was a fantastic deal. I believe it’s the Tango Mango I love…

But now…

Grocery Outlet had the individual bags on sale for 69 cents so the teenager and I are slowly sampling all the flavors.

Past reviews:

Sea Hale Macaroon

Sea Hale Maple Pecans

Today we tried

As the teenager says, they are amazing and the best nuts ever. They are sweet enough to be yum and not so sweet that they are gross.

I really enjoyed them and Nala wanted all the macadamia nuts.

Treats discovered at The Grocery Outlet

Last week the Grocery Outlet had the single serve packages of Sea Hale nut blends on sale for 69 cents.

I bought some of every flavor.

I love these snacks. This was the first time I tried the berry macaroon— very berry and very full of large pieces of coconut.

But I also love candy. And Haribo candies are some of my absolute favorite.

So these were 50 cents.

The fruity flavors is far superior than other gummy candies. They taste like a burst of sunshine.

And the shapes are very fun.

Vegan food experiments

There are several reasons why I love vegan cooking, but there are also several reasons why I won’t go vegan.

Why I love vegan cooking:

  1. It’s simple.
  2. When done correctly, it usually features fresh, whole foods.
  3. Gaz Oakley, the avant garde vegan. Look him up on YouTube.
  4. It’s a great way to empty the fridge.
  5. It’s healthy.
  6. It reduces the impact of seasonal allergies by lowering the body’s production of phlegm.

Why I won’t go vegan:

  1. I have a high metabolism and I require an unusual blend of macros higher in fat and protein and lower in carbohydrates than a lot of my peers. To reach those macro goals via veganism requires a large amount of food.
  2. I can’t drink my coffee black.

I was vegetarian for eight years, which ended when I was diagnosed was gestational diabetes at the beginning of my second trimester of pregnancy. I remained primarily vegetarian until my daughter was about 18 months old. At that point, I started craving bacon cheeseburgers even though I hadn’t eaten red meat in a decade and I hated bacon.

Why I went vegetarian:

  1. I hate touching meat.
  2. I hate modern factory farming practices (luckily I live in the middle of some great family farms and can buy milk, eggs, yogurt, cheese, honey and meat from them if I want to be ethical).
  3. It’s so healthy, when you’re not living on refined white carbohydrates— which I was.

Why I stopped being vegetarian:

  1. The teenager is a huge carnivore. As a preschooler she told my mom she had to go shoot a bear so she could eat the ham out of him.
  2. A French cookbook. A friend brought me a cookbook in French, from France. I had to cook the recipes.
  3. The onset of anemia, which is when I started craving bacon cheeseburgers.

Today I experimented with some vegan cooking. Do not try this at home until you read this whole post.

Pumpkin Tacos

A few weeks ago, I made vegan tacos with sweet potato in the filling. They were so good! (Recipe here) So I wondered if pumpkin tacos would be similar. The answer is NO!

I heated some corn tortillas— 3 — because you know what’s worse than a vegan pumpkin taco, three vegan pumpkin tacos. It reminded me of the vegan hot dog recipe that recommended steaming and sautéing a whole carrot and placing it in a bun and eating it like a hot dog.

Don’t do it.

Then I filled each tortilla with some canned pumpkin, organic black beans from the Grocery Outlet, and lots of lettuce that I got on clearance for 50 cents at Lidl, 10 days ago.

And I sprinkled each with fresh lime juice.

I ate them. But never again.

My second vegan experiment today involved making my own creamy, tangy hot sauce.

Now this, my lovelies, I encourage you to try.

Vegan black bean hot sauce—
upper left, 11 o’clock

Vegan Black Bean Citrus Hot Sauce

In the Nutri Ninja (or high powered blender or smoothie mixer) combine:

  • Hot peppers to taste— mine were from my mother’s garden and may have included habanero. I used about the equivalent of one cup.
  • 1/2 can organic black beans, rinsed—mine came from the Grocery Outlet
  • About 1/2 clove diced garlic
  • Juice of one small lemon
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • A few tablespoons water
  • Two tablespoons extra virgin olive oil—I like the cold-pressed imported from Lebanon that I buy at Forks Mediterranean Deli

If you try it, let me know what you think.

Nala approved, she kept sticking her head in the dirty Ninja cup.

Flecks of hot sauce on the bird