First Book from Parisian Phoenix Launching Soon

Anyway else feel the universe going haywire?

The full moon is a few minutes away but its pull has been evident for a couple days. My recent health struggles, my employer giving us random time off, and today the dog ate my latest set of AirPods that I bought less than a month ago and emptied my favorite Coach leather wallet I bought in 2010 for my first excursion with my beloved M.

It took about 30 minutes to locate my money, shopping club cards, credit cards and various ID. Not to mention she destroyed my AmEx.

The teenager got a toll violation in the mail for her Cape May road trip. The toll officer yelled at her for stopping to pay the toll because the equipment read my old transponder from the Altima. I had meant to return the damn thing but never got around to it.

She also broke her phone charger.

I also had the misfortune of having to cut off someone who left room for me to merge and then changed his mind. The situation had me worried he was going road rage-y.

But let’s celebrate all the good news.

It was an amazing day. I went to Grocery Outlet and bought my favorite Cabot cottage cheese. I got a free soda at Wawa.

I had dinner with my favorite nurse from Stitch Fix who left the company to “do” hospice. It was so nice to see her.

I came home and registered my first two ISBN numbers to Manipulations (print and ebook). This is the first novel in the Fashion and Fiends series.

I edited some bios, created at Ingram Sparks account, updated my ISBN info at Bowker, downloaded a bunch of user guides and wanted to vomit.

I approved the cover concept. The proofreader signed off.

I assigned prices.

And I pledged that I will donate $1 to Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab for every print version of the book sold. One of the minor (but very key characters) in the novel is Zut the tabby, modeled after Zoot, my tabby of 16 years. Zoot was my familiar as it would be called in witchcraft terms.

The official publication date is September 11, which is my husband’s birthday. Even though we’ve been separated two years, he had always been my most loyal supporter when it comes to my fiction.

I have received encouragement from published authors Jonathan Maberry and Kathryn Craft, but no one encouraged me like Darrell did.

So thank you. There are so many good aspects to the 20-plus year relationship I had with you and that is only one.

And the goal is to get the next one out on my partner Gayle’s birthday.

Meeting my fitness trainer, let the work begin

Today I woke up at 8:30 a.m., before my alarm, ready to start the laundry, unload the dishwasher and check on my split pea soup. I had my initial meet-and-greet, evaluation session with my new local, small business fitness trainer at 11 a.m.

At 10:30, I went down to the basement to get the linen wash and hang it on the line.

Oz, the big, scared and stupid cat bolted through my legs and out the door. In his mind, he was going to go eat some grass and relax in the sun.

Except the dog saw him escape. So he ran around the house and into our neighbors yard where our other neighbors were breaking up cement manually.

I was focused on catching the dog and they were very keen to tell me there was also a cat. I knew that cat would be sitting and waiting at my neighbor’s back door.

I catch the dog and clip her to the neighbor’s tie and turn my attention toward retrieving my daughter’s cat.

Grab the cat while the dog yowls in confusion. Toss him in the house, grab the dog’s leash, walk the dog across our small yard, and then watch her corner Oz and jump through the open window to chase him around the house while still wearing her leash.

By the time I crated her, I was already dripping with sweat.

And I barely had time to eat (after all, the wet laundry is in the basket in the yard) so I spoon some of my current favorite Cabot cottage cheese into my mouth and grab a pack of salt and vinegar almonds (both from the Grocery Outlet, of course) and an unopened bottle of plain seltzer.

I walk the five blocks to the trainer’s gym.

He’s practicing his golf swing when I arrive. He knows my name. We chat. My seltzer explodes all over but I manage to minimize the disaster. His name is Dan. He has an infant. And dogs. Both trainers have kids and dogs.

He has similar problem areas in his hips and back from an accident. He gives me the usual rundown— we’ll start slow so we can build a foundation, results take time. We talk more. I tell him my most recent experiences with strength training/weight loss/anemia. I show him pictures of ripped, underweight me five years ago.

“So you know what you’re doing,” he says.

“I do, but I need someone to watch my form so I don’t hurt myself and motivate me as I’m still struggling with the emotional repercussions of a really bad work experience.”

“I can give you some guidance and a kick in the butt,” he says.

That is what I need,” I reply.

I tell him my hopes: I want to start with light workouts to develop the habit and rebuild my energy as I recover from anemia-related fatigue. Then, we focus on full body weight training at so I can be as strong as the woman in the picture, but I don’t care what the scale says. And maybe we’ll work toward running a 5K. And if the relationship works out, I might pursue my dream of a bodybuilding hobby. Not competitive. Just for myself.

I think I saw him visibly relax. He liked that I understood what realistic expectations are and that I want to put in the work long term.

He gives me weights. He increases them after the first set of shoulder presses. He mentions that we’ll be able to capitalize on my muscle memory and that I have pretty good form.

I explained my lower body issues, and we did some body weight squats. He seemed pleased with my form and my concentration.

We talked about different things we could do, and he evaluated me in several exercises including one compound set I really liked, best described as moving from a sumo squat (with dumbbells) to a bicep curl using the hips instead of the back and finishing with a shoulder press. It loosened all sorts of muscle groups.

I felt invincible.

He explained that he would use this observation and discussion to build my program as he didn’t design anything until he met the client. I chuckled.

“If you did, I wouldn’t trust you,” I said.

I return Monday. I’m very excited.

Review: End of Hello Fresh week two and random junk we tried

My daughter often stops at Grocery Outlet in part because of their “rainbow Coke program” where you can rummage through lose cans of soda and mix and match flavors for 25 cents each. They have weird food, good deals, and allow us to try things on which we wouldn’t usually splurge.

Tonight we made the Cheetos Jalapeño Macaroni and Cheese. Now, hands down, without question, my absolute favorite ultra-processed boxed macaroni and cheese product is Wegmans house brand Spirals and Cheese dinner, which I often used to get on sale for 33 cents a box.

This hard larger than average noodles that once prepared very quickly absorbed all the sauce. It tasted exactly like jalapeño cheetos. Except you didn’t have to chew so much. I ate a bowl, and the spice developed on the roof of my mouth versus my tongue. I added a can of tuna and had another bowl. A two-serving box was 79 cents.

Other Random Products

  • Fried Oreos: finally tried them at Sheetz. Gooey in the middle. Enjoyed them but was disappointed by the end product because I never realized how much of the allure of Oreos was in the crunch factor.
  • Strawberry Ice Cream Cone Hershey Kisses: very smooth strawberry flavor and I didn’t expect the crunchy bits. Honestly, between 20 flavors of Oreos and constantly rotating flavors of Hershey Kisses, my taste buds are getting burnt out. How many different flavors of potato chips and Mountain Dew do Americans really need?
  • Tropical Swedish Fish: like the iconic red flavor of Swedish Fish that vaguely resembles cherry, these tropical Swedish fish vaguely resemble something familiar but the flavors listed on the box aren’t even all flavors (passion fruit, pina colada, beachy punch and tropical island). They are weird and the colors are muted and off-putting.
  • Dunkin’s Peach Lemonade Refresher: possible one of the most over sweetened items I have ever tasted. Even teenager #1 who likes sweet things couldn’t drink it. So I suggested she blend it with some diet ginger ale we had in the house. That she loved.

And as promised— a brief update on Hello Fresh.

Meals, for four servings, cost about $35 each, when including shipping. The meals are amazingly curated and the recipes amazing. This week I tried to pick things my daughter would like but that I wouldn’t normally buy or don’t often take the time to make.

The Turkey meat loaves with mashed potatoes, Brussel sprouts and mushroom sauce were a hit. But the shrimp Thai salad bombed. I don’t care for shrimp, poor teenager #1 struggled to eat it all. And didn’t. And it turned out I didn’t notice when I ordered it that the based of the salad was arugula. And the teen hates arugula. So I ate massive vegetarian salads for dinner for three days. They were scrumptious but I don’t want to eat arugula again for a while.

We downsized our box from three meals to two as it is Sunday, another box ships tomorrow and we still have steak from last week to make.

So while we are eating better, we are spending a whole lot of money, struggling to find time to be in the kitchen and then stressing over getting the meals prepared before they go bad or another box shows up.

Accidents (or the four letter word that starts with S and means ‘poop’) happens.

It’s been a hectic couple of days.

The teenager is pet-sitting for our FURR foster godmother. So she’s in and out of my house several times a day.

I have misplaced Fern’s adoption paperwork, which is totally not like me. Luckily Fern went to a friend of mine so I can asked her to send me a photo.

Nala, my Goffin’s cockatoo, has been upset and stressed and plucked her flight feathers off her one wing.

It’s really sad to see the confusion in her face when she tries to fly and just falls.

Speaking of Nala, I met her a year ago today.

We had a devil of a time containing Boo-boo last night but since we did Wink and Yo-yo seem much more relaxed as parents. I think it was the right call. Video: catching Boo

And here is a video of the parakeet chicks: Budgie babies!

I also finally got a good picture of Loki:

Sir Loki Dokie Puppy Turkey

While three out of my four cats were cuddly and cute.

Back to Front: Opie, Oz, Fog

Then I headed out to work for the first day since Covid. I stopped at Dunkin for a coffee and discovered there were no more good deals. So I didn’t get my coffee.

No one explained the protocol for my return so I don’t have the proper paperwork from my doctor. I’ll try and get that started— already called the doctor— but am waiting on their end of the paperwork.

I’m annoyed— mostly because I was ready to go back but also because I don’t know if this lack of communication will mean I lose income. With it being the holiday week, I probably won’t get rapid cooperation from the medical folks. And part of that is because there are people sicker and needier than I am.

After everything I’ve been through this year, I won’t complain.

It gave me time to do some grocery shopping and cook for the other teenager.

I even helped her make a smoothie.

One more week of 2020.

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