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.

My green breakfast, beer bribes, and not so good food choices.

I am sipping a matcha latte (a Tazo concentrate and it’s very sweet) and about to enjoy a pistachio muffin.

The last thing I need right now is a 400+ calorie muffin but I went to Weis yesterday because they have beer. And wine. And I like to have beer on hand to “pay” my neighbor when he automatically cuts my front lawn when he cuts his.

When my husband and I bought this house— almost 20 years ago—we intentionally picked one with a small yard. If you’ve read some of my earlier posts, you may have seen my backyard and never even realized how small it is. Just enough for a small garden and a clothesline.

That’s more than half my yard and my huge detached garage—split level

This is the post that photo comes from: Perfect Day from the Home Office

My husband used to cut the grass with a weed wacker. But it died. I used an old 100-year-old manual push mover. The one with the rotating blades. A gift from a friend who once lived in a similar neighborhood.

But my neighbors usually do my front yard. Our front yards are small and I think they figure if you have the lawn mower out might as well keep going.

My neighbor who currently cuts my grass has a habit of opening a cold beer when he’s done. So if I see him cutting grass, I bring him a cold beer. If he does it while I’m not around, I leave a beer on his porch.

So, if I want to continue to foster this good neighbor behavior, I need beer.

At Weis, they have this display right inside the door with preboxed muffins. I go to Weis for three things: pistachio muffins (why are they the only local store with the sense to back them????), their store made fried chicken (which they don’t appear to be making right now), and craft beer mix and match six packs. (The damn store is in a trifecta triangle with my gym, my bank and Dunkin’ Donuts.)

I walk into the store and there it sits— two very troubling decisions. There are two four-packs of muffins that include pistachio.

  1. Do I buy muffins? Oh, so nutritionally void. But delicious.
  2. Do I buy the four pack of pistachio or do I buy the four pack that includes three pistachio and one corn? How did that one corn muffin get in there? Why corn?

I had to buy the one with the corn. Who else would buy such a bizarre combo of muffins? And do the pistachio muffins bully the corn muffin?

I also bought a six pack of Yuengling and a six pack of Brooklyn Brand Sour Raspberry Ale. And a strawberry parfait.

The parfait was amazing. It was a strawberry shortcake with pudding and mountains of whipped cream. I thought it might have yogurt in it but no, it was pudding. I can’t even pretend that was healthy.

Weis Strawberry (Shortcake) Parfait

Throughout the day, I ate an entire bag of Sweettart jelly beans. I’m not disappointed in myself for eating 1300 calories of jelly beans. I’m disappointed in myself for binge eating jelly beans I didn’t even really like.

Yes, jelly beans and a diet A-treat

And then finally for supper, I made spinach feta sausage patties from our local small grocery, butcher and best deli ever Park Avenue Market. More on my shopping trip yesterday here: The Uplifting Side of Pandemic Days. The teenager was mmmmming and smacking her lips.

Meat courtesy Park Avenue Market

The sausage tasted fabulous on the day-old deeply discounted bakery rolls I picked up at Weis.

And the ale was good. The fruity sour taste was a tad off putting at first because I wasn’t quite prepared for it. But it was refreshing and smooth overall.

I have to do better with my eating today.

Sidewards glance you the huge, nutritionally void pistachio muffin next to my latte.

Pandemic Observations #14B

We went to the Grocery Outlet for a few household necessities — and the food is definitely getting more picked over. Fruit is getting harder to come by.

It felt strange to come home feeling like a quart of half and half was a major score and some chocolate milk classified as a treat. We bought mostly beverages which was fine because we needed toiletries.

The teenager enjoyed rooting through the reject cans of Coke products— we came home with some orange soda, diet ginger ale, diet root beer, vanilla orange Coke Zero and diet caffeine free coke (which the teen didn’t realize was caffeine free so now she’s excited she can drink soda late at night and not deal with the insomnia she inherited from her father). 25 cents a can.

We realized upon leaving the store that the Dunkin’ across the street was open (drive thru only) so to reward my teenager for getting up so early I bought her coffee and munchkins.

I then expounded on my mixed feelings about this whole situation— that franchise owners of Dominoes and Dunkin and large corporations are making a killing offering services on the backs of essential employees exploited and underpaid. I’m happy they aren’t having disrupted income but—and I spent 10 years in this category as a Target employee—they are being put at risk for people who want coffee and doughnuts.

Then to make it more of a dramatic monologue, my daughter asked why I avoid drive thrus so adamantly. I mentioned that I worked my way through college at the drive thru at McDonald’s. I was primarily a “runner” and I think that’s where I discovered panic attacks. It’s a stressful position, that really has no purpose. The employees are timed. All because people want speed and don’t want to get out of their cars.

But anyway. Sigh.

I’m drinking not only fully caffeinated coffee for the first time in weeks but cold brew. I may have a heart attack before the end of this entry.

I mentioned to the child that I hope she is keeping a journal as this is an experience she may never have in her life again. If I were her English teacher I would ask for 100 words a day.

I also proposed that someday her children might be required to do their public school education virtually and she could tell tales of back in the day when she used to walk to school and sit in a classroom with other kids.

That thought gave her pause.

I originally planned to discuss meal planning now that food is becoming sparse but I can do that another day. Or later.

Saturday foraging

I didn’t sleep much last night, wide awake at 5:30 a.m. After tossing and turning for an hour, I got up, fed the cats, reset windows on my newly arrived computer and decided to do my grocery shopping at Lidl when it opened at 8.

There were about 8 of us in the parking lot when it opened and the population of the store doubled in the first ten minutes. I did a lot of shopping in about 20 minutes, with everything from bathroom supplies to Easter Candy, plums to the last of the Brussel sprouts.

Lidl still has toilet paper, hand soap, various wipes, acetaminophen and disinfectant spray.

Many of the shelves are completely empty but others are untouched — so some of my protein choices are unorthodox. I bought some things I prefer not to eat, like frozen black eyed peas, because they are cheap and will keep. I also bought processed foods I avoid for health reasons for the same reasons, namely hot dogs. I also snagged the last carton of liquid egg whites. I’ve never cooked with those but they have a freshness date of June. So it’s a protein I can store.

I bought the teenager a bag of lemons and a bag of plums. I treated myself to a large cantaloupe. I will surprise us both will pre-cut watermelon— a luxury I never indulge in but we can use the extra fruit.

And while everyone else ran to things like meat and toilet paper, I went to the bakery and put on the disposable gloves they offered, grabbed a pastry paper and selected warm croissants— you know before everyone touches them.

I also bought juice, again which I never do preferring the fiber and extra satiating qualities of real fruit, but if we’re not going to the store, we need some vitamin c source.

And one man noticed how quickly and efficiently I shopped. He made robot gestures and called me a machine.

And I got a big old bag of lavender Epsom salts. That was my treat.

Shopping is different now

My teenager wanted junk food and wanted out of the house so she accompanied her father grocery shopping. At Target. Her choice.

I made her a list, downloaded the Target Circle app to her phone, logged her into my account and loaded all my coupon.

We weren’t at the point where we needed groceries, but if things are going to get scarce, I want to be ready. I’m not hoarding but I’m trying to stay ahead of what people want next.

I use a lot of bleach, white vinegar, Borax powder and baking soda when I clean because of all the animals so I asked her to grab them if she saw them.

Flour, cooking oil, tuna fish, peanut butter. Things like that. Well, tuna is getting more scarce so I asked her to get canned chicken. It was that or the expensive tuna. Next time we’ll grab some Spam.

She even nabbed a bottle of acetaminophen— PM. But hey, if I need the acetaminophen I might need sleep, too.

This morning for breakfast we had the last of our homemade crepes, turkey bacon, scrambled egg and smoked Gouda (with pickles).

The teenager and I FaceTimed my parents— which was a riot because I don’t think they ever FaceTimed before so they were struggling with the camera angles and my stepmom was showing me pages from her cookbook while my daughter chased cats around the house.

And then I got a text. My prescription was ready at CVS.

The teen and I had a 30% off coupon expiring today so we walked the half mile to the pharmacy. I got my prescription. We got a bottle of acetaminophen without sleep aid. And she got a gallon of Arizona iced tea. We got some other impulse buys that included a strawberry Twinkie, which resulted in a very silly video of us:

Taste test of the Strawberry Twinkie

Sunday update in the midst of the Pandemic

These are indeed interesting times.

My mom and I went to Grocery Outlet because I wanted some fresh produce. Got blood oranges, spaghetti squash, cabbage, potatoes, radishes, and fresh Brussel sprouts. I was looking for items that would store nicely if something does confine us with COVID-19.

When I got home, the teenager helped me dig a splinter out of my foot and treat it with betadine.

We did two loads of laundry and the teen taught the budgies to hand feed.

We stripped and made both our beds— which ended up with some Oz antics.

And I made two delicious meals for myself prior to my fasting bloodwork tomorrow: leftover sesame chicken with pan-seared Brussel sprouts seasoned with four color peppercorns and tofu burger on whole grain wheat with avocado, sautéed radish and dill havarti cheese.

Of course, the afternoon led to some discussions among my neighbors of whether or not Coronavirus is worse than the normal flu. Does it matter? Flu outbreaks have killed people at fairly regular intervals. I’m not concerned that I will die from it, but I am concerned that I could help spread it if I’m not careful.

The neighbor we went to dinner last night spent the evening playing Yahtzee with another neighbor whose son just came home from college. The son woke up with a 102 degree fever today coughing. And his lab partner just got home from Germany.

And there’s a presumptive positive case in the next town over where my in-laws live. So it’s coming.

And I’m not an alarmist or panic-stricken but I agree that we all should be limiting our interactions. The more careful we are now, hopefully we can minimize the impact on our community and our economy.

And here’s some animal photos:

A new Target run?

8 a.m. Originally my friend Nancy and I planned to go to the Grocery Outlet. Nancy is blind and likes to shop with me because of my love of food, how frugal I am and my eye for weird stuff.

I start looking at my list, and at my emails, and I realize for much of my list I can shop at Target. I worked at Target up until the middle of last year so I know Super Bowl weekend is a big grocery sale weekend. The things you learn working almost 9 years at the Bullseye.

It also looks like with the switch from Simply Balanced to Good and Gather, corporate strategy has moved into trendier products. Like vegan, Gluten free and other high-end groceries.

Our local Target is very middle of the road. I wonder how many of these products won’t be available because we aren’t a community high enough on the socio-economic scale.

10 a.m. Picking up Nancy. It’s always better to get in and out of Target before noon on weekends.

10:10 a.m. Arrive at Target and start to see old work friends. Wendy, my trainer from cash office, and Courtney, who used to supervise me in the front end, both meet Nan. And Nan almost shakes hands with a box instead of Courtney.

In their defense, Courtney was holding a box and a Frappuccino so she was too slow maneuvering.

We treated ourselves to a drink at Starbucks, made by my soon to be ex-husband’s niece, who is a dental hygienist on weekdays.

10:30 a.m. Shopping begins. I was hoping for some clearance hosiery, no luck. There were some beautiful clearance boots (and I am rapidly running out of shoes) but nothing under a size 11.

Run into several former colleagues who want to say hi and help Nan look for a can opener. There are five to choose from but we still can’t find the right one.

Run into a colleague from my current job.

Ran into the widower of one of my Target colleague whom I worked with very closely in food service. She died of cancer two years ago.

Discover my favorite deodorant is up to $8 and they changed the formula so my rose and vanilla is now rose and black pepper.

11 a.m. We finally hit the “Market” section, which is what Target calls grocery. There’s a lot of hit or miss. Avocados are an amazing value at 79 cents each, but the avocados themselves are lackluster. Most of the produce seems beyond it’s prime.

That’s a big problem with groceries at Target. Fresh produce isn’t culled regularly and the non perishables are often way out of date. I’ve found items on the shelves that the use by date is more than a year out of date. So you really have to check everything.

I know for a fact that the employees try, but the more Target increases wages, the more each employee needs to do. Retail survives by keeping employees at part-time hours so they don’t have to offer benefits and then they schedule at ridiculously low levels so it’s a challenge to keep the store properly manned. This isn’t just a Target problem. It’s the whole corporate/consumerism system.

People want cheap stuff with no concern for quality, its longevity, how it was produced, impact on the environment or the community, or whether or not they need it.

But that’s another tangent entirely.

I didn’t find many new products nor did I find some of the sale items I had wanted.

Noon Nan and I head to the front end.

I bought $100 in groceries and earned a $10 gift card, but I also didn’t appropriately load the $20 in gift cards I already had.

Highlights of my purchases:

  • The $7 giant tub of peanut butter pretzels. It was on sale and it’s the perfect pre-workout snack. Listen to me, I’m under some delusion that I will be going to the gym.
  • Doritos. The ultimate stress food. I shouldn’t even buy them but $2 a bag.
  • An $8 pork loin for $3. Expiring. But I can toss it in the crockpot for dinner tomorrow.
  • Turkey Perky jerky. On Target Circle for 30 percent off. Going in my desk drawer at work for those days where workload means lunch doesn’t happen until 2 or 3.
  • Waterloo sparkling water. $3 for eight cans. I got it as a treat. I wanted to try the watermelon flavor.
  • A giant bottle of white vinegar for $2.29. I use it instead of fabric softener. Cheaper, less chemical-y and less slimy that traditional fabric softener.
  • I got some canned carrots and peas. I don’t normally do canned veggies but if I want to make a shepherd or cottage pie, they will be perfect.
  • Cafe Mosaica and Traditional Medicinals Nighty Nite Valerian. My favorite coffee and my favorite pre-bedtime tea. Both on sale.
  • Smoked Paprika. $3.39 for the tiny spice bottle. Another splurge. But it’s amazing. It’s Gaz Oakley’s favorite spice and he has me hooked. If you haven’t looked up Avant Garde Vegan on YouTube, do it. His recipes are usually easy and delicious. Regardless of your dietary preferences.
  • Another splurge (which I ate for lunch): Birds Eye shaved Brussel sprouts. $3.19 a bag which is supposed to be two servings. But I sprinkled some imitation bacon bits on top and ate them for lunch with a side of Doritos.

  • Caulipower Pizza was on Target Circle for 20% off. They are normally $7 but with the discount and the sale price it was $5. Nan has wanted to try them so I will make it for her when she comes over for dinner Monday. I love them, but I’m not paying $7.
  • And ice cream. I promised the teenager malted milk shakes this weekend so I bought a pint of vanilla bean ice cream for $1.79. They have some very odd flavors in the full size containers, including my old favorite Unicorn and the new Mermaid. But I had to buy Rainbow because it has strawberry rhubarb swirl. And there is a Breakfast Cereal variety with, no lie, cinnamon toast flavored ice cream.

Nala shenanigans and meal planning

For those who enjoy Nala’s shenanigans… She insisted on trying to steal my coffee. See her here: Coffee thief.

And we do still have the cats. Including big, dumb Oz.

Periodically I put her back in my room, but she kept calling me due to her fear of the budgies. So Nala watched me unload & reload the dishwasher, have breakfast and make extra parfaits, do two loads of wash, hang wash, let the roomba vacuum the kitchen and then I washed the kitchen floor.

As for meals this week, the menu includes:

  • A nice chunk of ham I got at the grocery outlet for $1. Probably with boxed Mac and cheese.
  • Veggie burgers or regular burgers
  • Spaghetti, either that black bean spaghetti I got at Marshall’s or Green Giant lentil rotini I got on sale at Target
  • A prepared salmon and vegetable salad I also got cheap at Grocery Outlet
  • And “Greek night” with a lentil salad and a white bean salad from Lidl and some mighty fine looking mixed olives I got at Grocery Outlet for 77 cents.

And this little naughty cockatoo refuses to vacate the drying rack, probably because it’s heated.

Now my daughter and I are off to bake cookies.

Business feature: Why do people love Wegmans? (2006)

This story ran on the front page of The Bethlehem News in 2006 after Wegmans had made the Forbes list of the 100 best places to work. Again. They always end up on this list. As a fan of Wegmans, I thought I’d do a feature. In ran in all of the Lehigh Valley News Group papers. I wrote the story, took the photos and did the artistic lay out. (Really how artistic can you get with so many columns and rules. I tried.)

In recent days, I’ve noticed lists circulating the internet of why Wegmans is basically a Play Place for grown-ups. I’ve noticed that most of my friends do the bulk of their shopping at Wegmans. People meet at Wegmans. They get coffee at Wegmans. They drool at the cheese at Wegmans. So, why?

For me, it’s a combination of customer service and the goods they carry. When my daughter was two, I tripped and fell in the parking lot of the Wegmans pictured in this story. I’m a clutz. It happens. I got my kid and my groceries into the car. Turned on the car. My arm was killing me. I had fallen on my elbow. The air conditioner whooshed on. I started to black out. At that exact moment, my phone rang.

I couldn’t see. I rummaged through my purse with my hand. Found it. Somehow answered it. It was my friend, Gayle. I told her what had happened and that I thought I was passing out. She called Wegmans. I managed to get out of the car. That’s when a Wegmans “Helping Hands” cart attendant found me, and a manager right behind him. They brought me and my daughter and my groceries back into the store. My in-laws came to get us. They asked if I needed anything. I said no.

My daughter asked for ice cream, but no one heard her. If they had, the staff probably would have given some to her.

wegmans wegmans2