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.

How to Deal with a Heat Wave: Ice Cream Dog Walks

“You better put in that application for a service dog.”

We hadn’t even made it half-way down our block and I already stumbled and fell. The teenager, her dog, and I had left our house at 7 p.m. on just another high-90s day. We were headed to CVS for ice cream.

The CVS is a 2,000 step walk— there and back— so we thought it would be good exercise for the whole family.

Plus, I had about $3.75 in Extra Bucks and a 40% off coupon. A pint of ice cream is $6.99 at CVS so I grabbed a whole bunch of singles and a handful of change.

The dog behaved really well on the walk, but my left foot did not— it kept twisting under me. I felt like I had to lift up my feet in exaggerated steps not to fall. Like high knees marching.

I stumbled twice on the way home but did not fall again.

The teenager made her remark about the service dog. I’ve spent a lot of time with her dog this weekend and thought… just imagine if this dog were useful.

I already did 90% of the 54-page application packet. I talked to those people I want to be my support letters (the teenager and my neighbor, as they would be my literal supports) and my references: the teenager’s father, cat foster godmother (who used to be a social worker) and my long-time therapist (whose wife is a physical therapist).

That leaves one thing: the medical evaluation. My own insecurities make it very difficult for me to ask for help. And it’s taken a long time for me to learn to speak up and out and advocate for myself.

I am nervous to ask my doctor— my family doctor of more than a decade— to do it. Part of me wants to wait until my appointment on August 19. But if he says no, that only leaves me two months to find someone else.

I think I need to call the office tomorrow and leave him a message to ask if he’d do it if I bring the paperwork August 19, or sooner if he wishes.

Again, I have doubts. What if I’m not disabled enough? I don’t want to waste anyone’s time. I don’t want to take a spot away from someone who needs a dog more than me.

But I’m struggling and I’m scared and I’m getting older. And I can do so much on my own but a dog would give me that much more.

I spent a lot of time on the application. Pretty much a whole day. What do you want the dog to do? What’s your typical day? Do you work? Do you volunteer? What are your interests and hobbies? Do you own a home? Do you have pets? Who lives with you? Do you drive? Can you handle travel? Can you take care of the dog? Are you able to train the dog?

If I can get ahold of the doctor’s office, as soon as I know someone will fill out the papers— I will tell my letter-writers and references to do their thing.

My therapist and I had a chat about it. His professional association discourages therapists from doing medical evaluations for service dog applications, but since I was asking for a reference, he was okay with that. He had no idea how many things a mobility dog could do.

He mentioned that in our current times, the emotional support animal and assistance dog phenomenon seems to be getting more and more prolific but that in my case, I’d obviously put a lot of thought into it, done my research, and found a program that could really benefit me.

Fingers crossed, I guess.

Oh, and the ice cream… it was $1.86 after my discounts. I had a $5 bill, five singles and 87 cents in my pocket. I paid exact change.

Moldy cabbage & DQ Blizzards: Happy Birthday to Nan

I have been trying to cook a cabbage for weeks. I envisioned fried cabbage and this fancy edamame and rice ramen I had in the cupboard from a past Hungryroot shipment.

The cabbage was bigger than my head and had a bit of mold on it, so the teenager said I couldn’t eat it. I cut a huge chunk out of the side and sautéed it anyway.

“Mom,” the teenager said, “that doesn’t solve the problem.”

I wanted cabbage. I’m the one allergic to penicillin and molds. So if I’m willing to eat it, I’ll live.

But I was not willing to feed it to Nan. I called her up to tell her the story, and I knew I’d either missed her birthday or it was coming up in the next few days and I had to ask.

I’m terrible with birthdays.

It turns out it’s today. Happy 69th, Nan! You’re still my coolest blind friend (and my only blind friend).

The teenager and I hopped in her Nissan Rogue and took Nan out to DQ for blizzards— we offered to take her for fancy ice cream but she wanted Dairy Queen.

It turned out the teenager had Avenue Q in the compact disc player and Nan had never heard it, so we listened a while and now Nan plans to look up the rest on Spotify.

Wait. What? The teenager is using discs and the old lady is using Alexa to stream music on Spotify?

In other news, I’m 85% done with my service dog application. I’m about 85% certain I want to do it. Several people have expressed support whom I did not expect.

Jake not from State Farm and other fun chores

The last 48 hours have been chaotic and exciting. On Wednesday night, as I hobbled around like a Barbie doll with her leg half popped out, I received my LLC approval via email in a pdf called “Happy Letter.”

I brought this and my fictitious name registration and my EIN to my banker, Jake, who is not from State Farm.

Turns out I’ve gathered more paperwork than I need. And none of it matches. So in the future I may need an EIN for the LLC as the original EIN lists the business as a partnership and the LLC does not.

Jake not from State Farm enjoyed my enthusiasm for setting up my banking business and shared that his wife is working on a book about parenting autistic children. And how much he enjoys poached eggs.

I had had plans to have breakfast with Nancy, but those plans had to be delayed. I was supposed to pick her up at 9:30 but I told the teenager I would drop her off at school at 9 and I thought I would run to the bank and see if I could open business accounts.

I told Nan if I were on time it meant I had bad luck, and if I were late, it meant I had a business bank account.

So when I called her at 10:30, she was happy for me but it also meant we couldn’t get breakfast potatoes at Wendy’s. We opted for egg sandwiches from Dunkin instead and came back to my house to work.

I made Nan chai, we did her work, and I subscribed to Poets & Writers for the business. Then Nan and I went to Grocery Outlet.

We got some goodies for the upcoming ice storm— which for Nan meant cotton candy grapes, Cherry Coke Zero and cheddar quinoa crisps. I got the sea salt version of the crisps, some creamers, hot dog rolls, monster cereal, raspberries, dates, frozen cauliflower and whipped cream cheese.

Somewhere along the afternoon, Nancy and I laughed ridiculously hard about things I don’t remember. We picked up the teenager from school.

We went to pick up Nan’s laundry. The teenager helped her carry it up to her apartment and as Nan washed and started snacking on her grapes, the teenager and I went to the gym, Apex Training

The teenager achieved a new personal best for barbell squats— 175 pounds.

I managed my lower body workout, which wasn’t easy with my right hip and leg not acting as a team. I feel so weak and still feel out of shape, as if I’m wasting my money, but this morning I found it much smoother to move so maybe I am moving forward.

And then the teenager and I showered and met my stepmother for dinner. We ate at Thai Orchid in Stroudsburg and followed with ice cream at Jimmy’s.

I had a delightful, flavorful tofu in yellow curry and canned Bubble Tea that made the teenager get over her distaste of tapioca.

This morning I wrote a blog entry for Parisian Phoenix and spoke with Ludwig about merchant services. My credit card reader will arrive next week.

F. Bean Barker assisted in the “office.”

And now to share Parisian Phoenix’s post:

Two official big announcements from the Parisian Phoenix universe today: 1. Not an Able-Bodied White Man With Money, the nonfiction anthology of …

Jake not from State Farm

Halloween 2021

As I write this, I am mourning the loss of having finished The Night Shift on Netflix. I am imbibing some generic strawberry lemonade energy drinks strongly laced with too much gin. I am craving potato chips, cuddling my cat Fog, and nursing my injuries from the day.

But perhaps I need to back up…

The photos above summarize my Halloween.

At 11 a.m., we had an appointment for Danu and her babies from the Celtic Pride— Aîné, Baile and Brigid and our newest foster, Georgie, to meet our foster cat godmother for shots, flea treatment, dewormer and microchip and OH MY GOODNESS was Georgie dramatic.

Then the teenager had a commitment to walk in the local Halloween parade and she asked me yesterday to walk with her as she paraded in costume. I will do anything my daughter asks.

And half way through the parade, I fell flat on my face to the collective gasp of the crowd. I rise, keep walking, hip and knee in pain. But I keep going.

#f*ckcerebralpalsy.

I finished the parade. Outside the teenager’s high school. Her father and herself know that the fact that I finished the parade did not mean I was okay as I have been known to do things like walk a Chinese buffet with a broken ankle.

My knee is swollen. I tripped over a mirror late in the day that struck me in the tender parts.

My back hurts.

I am craving potato chips as my body adjusts to the Mirena.

My princess, the male cat I jokingly named Fog, is curled up next to me. He is my baby.

The teenager’s dad came over and they carved pumpkins and I typed some of a manuscript for the identity anthology. We handed out candy and even the dog got to enjoy trick-or-treat.

I ordered Wawa for dinner— the teenager’s favorite ranch Mac and cheese, chicken Caesar salad and pierogie quesadilla and Blizzards from Dairy Queen for dessert.

Tomorrow the teenager is consulting a cleaning woman to take some of the stress off me.

Author chatter: Why did I launch Parisian Phoenix Publishing?

Last night, I was blessed to spend the evening with William Prystauk, author of the Kink Noir series, podcast host and reviewer of all things horror at Crash Palace Productions.

Buy Bill’s books here: William Prystauk on Amazon.

Buy my book here**: Buy Manipulations on Amazon.

Or buy my book at Barnes & Noble

Or even at Target.com

Or if it fits your values better, ask your independent bookseller to order it from Ingram.

But back to last night…

Bill and I got together for dinner and chatter— in part to celebrate the publication of Manipulations and the launch of Parisian Phoenix Publishing (working on the web site ParisianPhoenix.com and social media channels a little every day) and in part because Bill just really really really loves sushi.

Over a wonderful wide selection of sushi (including salmon roe and sea urchin, I did not partake in the urchin as it looked like radioactive cow tongue and I wasn’t sure how I felt about the salmon caviar) at Jasmine (read about our last visit there here), Bill and I started what ended up being an hours and hours long conversation about our hopes and dreams for our lives and our careers.

The conversation continued over cocktails at County Seat Spirits (Easton) and the ice cream at Ow Wow Cow, both at the Silk Mill.

The bar at County Seat Spirits

Bill and I have exchanged writing in the past and encouraged each other so I suppose he wasn’t horribly surprised when he received his copy of the book this week and opened it. But he asked a lot of good questions— why didn’t I go the traditional agent/editor/publisher route. I love that he believes in me and believes in my writing but I have shopped this manuscript.

Every few years I dust it off and send it out and every agent I have queried asks for pages. And every rejection I have gotten features personalized statement of the first 100 pages merits but how it doesn’t fit a proper genre or have the type of structure readers want.

And I know my writing can be dark, and literary from time to time. The fashion aspects are very feminine in a chick lit way but the supernatural elements are more horror than paranormal romance. My writing can be flowery, the emotions intense, but the situations can be very gritty and real.

And I don’t want to sacrifice that.

I don’t want any editor to have control over issues I discuss in my work: marriage/divorce, jealousy, domestic violence, self esteem, body image, self confidence, infertility… and those are just the first book. And I honestly hope you don’t outwardly notice these topics in the story but that they steep into your subconscious and slowly transform you like cold-brewed iced tea.

Meanwhile, as Bill and I are talking about upcoming books ( for those of you who have read Bloodletting, Punishment, and/or Debauchery— I have not only read the fourth book in the series but I also know the title of the fifth!), I am receiving texts and Facebook posts from people who have received their copies. And poor Gayle is left working on the poppet that will adorn the cover of the sequel to Manipulations, Courting Apparitions.

Courting Apparitions is a ghost story that examines the effect grief and depression has on our lives.

** $1 of every print copy of Manipulations sold goes to Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab.

Friday Logistics Fascination and a stop at The Spot

This post is dedicated to my work friend Barb who starts her new job on Monday. I miss her, but I am so grateful to have met her that I can only wish her well and be proud of her.

Today was a pretty great day.

Well, it’s 10 minutes after midnight so I guess yesterday was a great day.

We were supposed to host three dogs this weekend, Buddy the super lovable white dog next door; Sobaka, the “Morkie” or Maltese Yorkie from across the street; and of course, Bean, our own big black mutt.

Sobaka arrived at 9, with the teenager getting her settled and then the teen returned to bed. I woke to a text message that Buddy would not be joining us after all, as his owner decided to bring him to Maine with her at the last minute.

We are very disappointed as Buddy is the dog medium enough to be a good companion for Sobaka.

The teenager has a pet sitting gig starting tomorrow (I mean in a few hours— I keep forgetting it’s the middle of the night). She will be sleeping at the home of another crazy cat lady… I mean fellow FURR foster mom.

The teenager will be watching two dogs, one very elderly; one small parrot, two personal cats and probably a dozen kittens. And a series of gardens.

It was another super flipping hot day, so I was glad I decided to bake the teenager’s “first day of summer” applesauce cake after work last night.

And I went to work today with no pain in my body!

Speaking of the Bizzy Hizzy, Stitch Fix offered us voluntary time off tonight if we reached our weekly shipping goal. We would be allowed to work a half day. So we got the job done in 3.5 hours and did a little extra.

Conveyor to OB1

I was style carding tonight— I still haven’t asked my supervisors how I’m doing. I’ve been enjoying it and it’s probably the least physically abusive work center I’ve learned.

I’ve been at Stitch Fix nine months, and my fascination with our warehouse logistics grows more with every new station I learn.

It’s hard to believe I’ll get another raise in three months.

But here’s my philosophical thought: Nothing creates a sense of deep teamwork better than people who all understand each other’s jobs and work together to achieve a mutually beneficial goal. It’s not enough to agree to a corporate goal or non profit mission. We may all have low-skill light-warehousing jobs but we all wanted to get the heck out of that hot building.

I compare my experience here with a previous (or several previous) employer(s):

  • At Stitch Fix, my bosses don’t punish, guilt trip or manipulate me regarding time off.
  • At Stitch Fix (and also at Target), they provide the training and the safety guidelines and trust us to work autonomously.
  • At Stitch Fix, I bring home the same amount in my paycheck as when I worked higher stress jobs.

I feel like on nights like this, our understanding of how the numbers work and also how we all normally perform allow us to know how attainable these goals are. And that’s exciting in a “we can do this” way.

Is the job perfect? No. I’m perfectly aware that I am a cog in a very big wheel and sweating my ass off folding clothes or putting papers in envelopes.

But I have had some awful bosses. It’s sad how bad managers can be not only blind to their own flaws but assume weaknesses in others where they don’t exist.

This is a topic I could write a book about.

ANYWAY.

Through most of this literally painless half-day, I listened to the Marc Blucas interview on the podcast Meeting Tom Cruise. He was Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s boyfriend Riley Finn. I hope to do a full review of it.

And the we finally stopped at The Spot for ice cream. The teenager drove me to work so I bought her a banana milkshake and I had a root beer float. Next time I want salted caramel soft serve with Reese’s peanut butter cups. The soft serve was delightful, the menu varied, and the prices cheap. Only downfall was the multitude of styrofoam.

Upon arriving home (after stopping to get my business cards from Gayle and I had to give her an A6 envelope box I commissioned her to doodle), we walked the dogs, ate some leftovers and watched an episode of Buffy (Doomed if you are curious).

I was cracking up on the walk because Sobaka liked to lead the pack. Well, Bean would speed up to join her because she didn’t want to be left behind. She wanted to walk side by side with Baktilda. (Yes, these are all nicknames for Sobaka.)

So then Sobaka would walk faster, but Baki has tiny legs. Bean would just keep matching her pace without breaking her stride. Baki was like the horse trainer who guides the horse around the ring and sets the pace.

Finally, the real miracle of the night— Louise is sharing her space with the dog. My bed no less! Is she making progress or can she not figure out what kind of animal Sobaka is?

Public relations and mini adventures

The last two days I have been hectic busy. But, yesterday, despite my activities and the sporadic heavy rain, I still walked about 9,400 steps.

Go, me!

Oz the Regal (random cat photo)

I started my day with a video chat with my fellow volunteers at Aspire to Autonomy, Inc. This anti-human trafficking organization helps connect underserved populations with services, while educating about human trafficking and looking for trafficking victims. It then helps victims rebuild their lives and get whatever help they need to reach autonomy.

They are also currently hosting monthly “Feed Northampton County” pandemic response food distributions at the Hispanic Center of the Lehigh Valley and in the West Ward of Easton. Using a pop-up food pantry model, Aspire and their network of ambassadors distribute food, masks and hand sanitizer.

The organization works with interns from Kutztown University’s Master’s of Social Work program. Currently I am working closely with Sarah, who has embraced the idea of learning more about public relations and how it can benefit her in promoting her future activities in her career.

Sarah and I were scheduled to have a video chat to strategize pitching the press release she had written the day before on a training session she and two other interns—Kayla and Sam—are facilitating next week on Pennsylvania’s Act 197. (More on that in a few paragraphs.)

Kayla and organization co-founder Darnell (and my supervisor) joined us to catch up on the list of activities we have going on right now.

I left the meeting energized and started pitching to my end of the media list, while Sarah handled the others. This morning, we noticed that The Valley Ledger had already posted our material. Thank you to them!

To read more about our upcoming training (please come!), click here: Act 197 training .

I hopped from there to a meeting for the fundraising committee of Mary Meuser Memorial Library. We had to cancel our annual book fair, due to Covid-19, and met to discuss future possibilities for fundraising. I floated what I felt was a good idea to use key space in the library (and facing a major thoroughfare) to promote local businesses. The committee like the idea and I am to prepare a proposal.

And the teenager made arrangements with Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab (FURR) to get our kittens fixed next week.

Fog, my office companion

The rest of the afternoon is a blur. But I know I helped with some correspondence for Aspire and pursued some networking opportunities on behalf of the group. I also asked my peers at the organization about an idea I had to promote the enforcement of Act 197 via a social media campaign.

Last night, I visited with my neighbors, watched Golden Girls with the teenager, went for a walk with “my other half,” Buddy’s mom who lives in the other side of my house, cuddled with my cockatoo and watched Indian Matchmaking on Netflix.

This morning somehow I slept until 8:30. And my email alerted me that it was National Drive Thru Day. I wrote a corporate sponsorship letter for Aspire and submitted it to the founders for review. Then, the teenager borrowed Buddy and we went to gather up cheap eats at the drive thru.

First I stopped at Dunkin as I still have more than $30 on my Dunkin gift card. They were offering 100 points on any purchase. I cashed in the free beverage I had on my card and bought the teenager hash browns. Then we stopped at McDonald’s as they were offering a free medium fry with any $1 purchase.

I bought her a $1 large Diet Coke and they kept offering me a $1 McChicken. The teenager told me to get it, so I did, but I had them make one without mayo and with lots of pickles.

There is still much work to be done in coming days as Aspire has several major happenings next week, but it’s exciting that between Aspire and the library board I have the opportunity to freely share my ideas and work to move both agencies forward.

Urban Landscape Wooded Escape

Today, the teenager took Gayle and I to the lower end of her special creek. It’s the next journey as part of our virtual El Camino pilgrimage meant to foster spiritual growth and motivate our out-of-shape butts toward better fitness.

The teenager “slopped” in the creek (I think that’s the official Pennsylvania Dutch term for it) and mined for spiritual rocks.

The water was crystal clear even though the setting was marred with litter and debris. Birds sang gleefully as the highway noise competed for attention.

When we returned to my house, about 7,000 steps later, Gayle—the agnostic in our group— lamented that she’s never had a spiritual experience while walking, no breakthrough movements or epiphanies. I suggested that life didn’t work that way, at least not for me. My own personal truth comes in increments.

Then we turned the discussion to fitness and trying to stay motivated to be more active. We both said we’re bad at doing anything on our own.

And then we heard the ice cream truck. The teenager raced for the door as Gayle and I raced for our wallets.

That sure motivated us.

The Tony’s ice cream truck in pink and white has multiple things I need to try.

Somehow, the ice cream truck made me feel alive. Laughing with my daughter over the crazy flavors in the sour patch kid ice cream. Standing in the street, fully enjoying the urban summer experience.

Laughter abounding.

Drumstick Blizzard

This is a review of the new drumstick blizzard.

But at the end of the post, there will be a bit of bad news explaining why I had said blizzard. But let’s focus on the good. Because that’s how I roll.

The teenager and I skipped breakfast and went to Dairy Queen for lunch with Nala, the Goffin’s Cockatoo.

The Drumstick Blizzard

The latest blizzard creation from Dairy Queen is the drumstick blizzard with chunks of deep fried chicken in ice cream. Just kidding.

In reality…

They crushed up bits of Drumstick ice cream cones and peanuts! So good. Very similar to a Snickers Blizzard but not as chewy. The ice cream cone pieces were crunchy and tasty.

And Nala enjoyed her French fries.

So now I have 503 reward points at DQ which is enough for a free 4 piece chicken strip basket.

What I struggle to understand is what is this super bendy straw for?

So, now the bad news… I was informed today that my last day with the non-profit agency where I work will be July 10. That’s why I had a Blizzard.

Here’s to the next chapter. I had a great time learning a lot of new skills in a field that was brand new to me. I had a lot of good experiences and made a lot of new friends and new connections. I look forward to finishing out next week with the team, and I wish the agency the best in the future.