Errands and decadence

Today started from the get-go with an air that everything would be harder than it needed to be. I’ll spare you my editorializing and stick to my main message.

The other night, the teenager turned to me and asked what happened with our recent cat litter order. Now with four cats in the house I have 30-lbs of cat litter on auto ship from Petco every three weeks. I actually had this order ship early and I upped it to 60 lbs.

Petco Customer Service

Fog

It shipped on July 24. Well yesterday I tracked it, as our five litter boxes are getting low.

The UPS tracking system said “receiver has moved.” Ummm…. I haven’t moved in 17 years and I have been getting this order for more than a year.

I call customer service. I had a very sweet, very friendly representative named “Jean” who didn’t sound American. She informed me she would file the appropriate claim about the missing package.

I quietly said, “and in the mean time, what about my cat litter?”

She placed a new order, free to me, that should arrive in 5 to 7 business days.

Three 30-lb containers of cat litter arrived at noon today. Kudos to Petco.

Errands and paperwork

I finally wrote the letters freezing my Planet Fitness membership. I don’t have a printer, but the teenager does, even though it is running out of ink. I shared the letter with her on Google docs and asked her to print two copies.

Why two copies?

Because even though my home gym is in Easton, some of my paperwork says it is Mount Pocono even though I have never even seen the Mount Pocono Planet Fitness. The letters need to be certified, according to the contract, so I spent $4.10 each to send two. It’s easier than finding out I sent it to the wrong gym.

I had $33 cash and 15 cents in coins when I arrived at the post office. I told him to give me a few stamps and if he could get the total to an even number I would pay cash. At 55 cents each, the math on making that work… well he gave me 14 and it came to $15.90.

He’s probably now thinking the same thing I am— that 2 more stamps would have been the number we wanted, $17.

Ah, well. I’m still not convinced this federal coin shortage isn’t a political move to force Americans into accepting a cashless society. I’m still pissed that we moved our currency away from the gold standard.

Review: McDonald’s Iced Coffee

On the way home from the post office, I stopped at McDonald’s again for a medium iced coffee and to get my free fries Friday medium fries. I had mentioned yesterday that the caramel iced coffee tasted like a milkshake more than coffee.

So today I ordered a medium iced coffee for $1.29 (and my free French fries with a side of spicy buffalo sauce). The standard iced coffee comes with cream and liquid sugar, which confuses me because I think it is also made with whole milk.

Well I ordered mine with no sugar. I don’t like liquid sugar and I don’t put sugar in my coffee.

When I took a sip, it was awful. My Nescafé is better. But once I started eating the French fries and the buffalo sauce, my searing tonsils didn’t have any problem with the coffee any more.

Perhaps I will have to drink all of my iced coffee plain and compare them all. Get one from Dunkin, one from Starbucks and one from McDonald’s.

This is how I think they would rank:

  1. Dunkin’ Donuts
  2. Starbucks
  3. McDonald’s

So, I want McDonald’s to knock Starbucks down a peg as Starbucks coffee is bitter. But McDonald’s struck me as weird. We shall see.

CVS magic

I am not an “extreme couponer” and I hate the whole concept of “extreme couponing.” Life experience has taught me to be frugal, but *living* life has taught me that reading 5 newspapers to get a few extra bottles of Tide raises the question of how much is my time and my happiness worth?

When stores first starting using loyalty cards, I hated the concept. I still hate cards. But customer loyalty apps are different. I already have my phone. These apps also allow me to shop and plan my shopping trips. Target Circle, like many others, combines their coupons, payment options (even when in the store), circulars, and stock all in one place. I can scan items to see if there’s a deal while in the store and, of course, they customize offers to cater to my shopping habits.

The Lidl app allows me to make a shopping list (as does Target but I like Lidl’s list organization system better) and rewards me based on how much money I spend. Last month I earned a 30% off sliced cheese coupon! So I bought extra cheese. We might be living on toasted cheese sandwiches with my upcoming job loss.

I sign up for the emails and while a lot of them get annoying, some of them alert me to major deals on my household staples.

And that is what happened with CVS. They sent me a coupon for the gallon bottle of Arizona iced tea for $1.66 cents. The teenager has a weakness for Arizona iced tea so I let her buy some as an occasional treat.

I texted her the offer, and asked her if she wanted to walk to CVS to redeem it. She declined.

CVS sent a 40% off one item coupon. I loaded it to my card because you never know when you’ll end up in CVS for a health emergency.

The teenager also loves Cinnamon Toast Crunch and had a craving for Honey Nut Cheerios. Now I view cereal as an occasional emergency snack, not as breakfast. But the teen is a convert to the cereal-to-start-the-day camp.

Now I know CVS regularly has regular cereal sales.

Yesterday they sent me a coupon. “One day only! General Mills Cereal! $1.99!”

And the photo featured Cinnamon Toast Crunch and Honey Nut Cheerios.

I texted the teenager.

She came downstairs. When I told her that I would buy both cereals, she volunteered to walk to CVS. I handed her my debit card. She refused it. “Mom, it’s $4.”

I asked her if there was anything else she needed. She said no, but she might buy iced tea. I thought, “drats. We missed that iced tea offer.” I told her she could use the 40% off coupon if the iced tea was full price.

She came home with the gallon of iced tea, the two boxes of cereal, and a bag of Doritos. I asked her how much she spent.

“$7,” she said, “but that doesn’t make sense. This is $14 worth of stuff. At least.”

Apparently I also had a snacks/drink coupon I forgot about that also saved us 85 cents.

So we talked about it, and I asked her if she was starting to get my system. She said no. Not at all.

As far as she understood, she merely said she wanted to go to CVS, I looked at the app and put coupons on, she randomly grabbed what she wanted, and told the clerk at the register to use all the coupons.

Magic.

The mundane realities: some fitness babble and praise for the Grocery Outlet

So, after such an action packed four days yesterday seemed no only boring but exhausting. This post will be on the rather ordinary side but I think it may set the tone for adventures to come.

The teenager and I have been pretty consistent with our attempts to join the spiritual walks and reflections championed by our friends celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary.

Tonight we took a 5,000 step walk in the gentle but steady summer rain, walking the neighbor’s dog.

I loved the colors on this

The teenager and I discussed fitness goals as she needs to lose weight and I need to reclaim my previous fitness levels so I stop falling down. The two goals compliment each other well as we both need exercise, good food and hopefully some weight training. I love a good weight training session. If I had more discipline I would be a body builder.

I typically handle public relations and social media for the non-profit agency where I work and today one of my favorite grocery stores gave us a donation— Grocery Outlet! I love Grocery Outlet so much they have their own tag here on my blog. Check it out!!!

So I know I’m jumping all over the place but before I tell you about the donation I need to tell you what we had for supper because some of it coincidentally came from the Grocery Outlet.

Tonight’s meal featured:

  • Thin pork chops from the Grocery Outlet topped with my homemade sweet apple glaze
  • Canned peaches (cooked in the sauce with the pork)
  • Riced broccoli, cauliflower and carrots from the freezer section at Grocery Outlet
  • Unsalted cashews
  • Sesame sticks (from the Carmelcorn Shop in downtown Easton)

So delicious.

This morning— I put on my pandemic finest and headed to The Grocery Outlet for the donation.

There I met owner Josh Bartholomew and met up with the rest of our team who were loading the truck.

It has been about 13 hours since I made the Facebook post and it’s been viewed more than 2500 times— it was fun to see that number climb all day.

Finally, in case you don’t care about food like I do; here is a cat photo of our Oz.

Fun food review of items from Grocery Outlet

My neighbor and I went to the Grocery Outlet last night, which is normally one of my favorite grocery stores for three reasons.

  1. You can find the strangest items there and try them because of the reasonable prices.
  2. The good prices on food, some of which is very high quality stuff that would cost a kidney at another store.
  3. The owner of our local store is super involved in the community, promotes the success of local kids and supports the food pantry at the non-profit where I serve as development manager.

Last night I purchased $63 worth of food which ranged from organic strawberries to spaghetti squash, fancy chicken to fish nuggets.

It took all my self-control not to try it all last night as soon as we got home.

Then this morning I ended up on a two hour phone call with my traveling companion M catching up and discussing many of the topics I have touched on recently in this blog.

The teenager woke to the discussion of social unrest and the Coronavirus.

So at 11, I made a scrumptious brunch. And I think I purchased all of it at the Grocery Outlet:

  • Fresh pineapple cored and cut by the teenager
  • Cranberry cheddar
  • Sea Hale Maple Pecan mix
  • Kii crackers
  • Betsy’s Best nut butter

Thoughts from both of us (the teen and I) on each item:

Great Midwest Cranberry Cheddar— the teen said if you had the cheese by itself it had a yummy sweetness. I couldn’t taste the cranberries but it was a really nice, creamy cheddar.

Sea Hale Maple Pecan Mix—I love the Sea Hale mango trail mix. A lot. These were little bags, great price at 50 cents each. I only bought one because they didn’t have much protein so I assumed that meant not many nuts inside. Turns out, it included dried fruit, apples and cherries. It was delightful. The teenager thought it was really good, super sweet and loved the dried fruit. We definitely want more of those.

Kii Naturals Fig, Black Sesame and Golden Flax Crackers— at first I thought man these things are chewy but then I realized I was eating the dried fig in the cracker. I loved the mix of super crispy and chewy. And the blend of sweet and savory. Teen labels them strange. “Not a bad strange, just strange.” I thought they were magnificent with the cashew butter. The teen thinks they are best with mild cheese. A tad expensive even at $2.99 for the small box.

Betsy’s Best Cashew Butter with coconut and chia— incredible. Creamy, coconut flavor a thick mouth feel due to the chia. The teen refused to try it. Delicious and I think the price was very reasonable.

The generic weekly update in the midst of (much needed) George Floyd inspired social unrest and dialogue

It is 8:30 a.m.

Saturday morning.

The house remains still and peaceful except for the whir of fans and the occasional vocalization of a kitten, probably Misty (Mistofelees) looking for his brother, Fog. He’s distraught because I almost closed his tail in the door.

Several times today I have paused and interrupted my normal routine— to text a friend, have a Twitter conversation, drink coffee on the couch instead of in my bedroom with Nala, my Goffin’s cockatoo.

One voice in the back of my head says, “You slept in, so now you’re an hour behind. You need to start that laundry and get it on the line, and that includes stripping your bed, and probably the cover on your weighted blanket. Just about every floor in the house needs to be washed with Pine Sol too. And the teenager never cleaned the cat boxes yesterday like you asked her to.”

Man, it’s exhausting just listening to that voice.

And already this morning I managed to stab myself.

I have this very basic practical set of Chicago Cutlery knives that for the first 20 years I never put in the dishwasher. Somehow, in the last day or two since I did my traditional hand wash dishes, every knife from that set is dirty. Six steak knives, the mini cleaver, the paring knife, the tomato knife, the kitchen scissors, all of them.

And last night, after a long work week where I never quite knew if I would ever receive the respect I deserve in the midst of some major ordeals, I just threw every knife in the silverware basket. Point up. The way every home ec and kitchen safety teacher tells you never to do.

I even looked in the dishwasher and chastised myself and said I should stop being super lazy and reload the top shelf so I could at least use that plastic flap that holds the knives.

But I didn’t.

Because this week brought me to new places. Another grant came back with with the largest award we ever received from that funder. Our Pennsylvania county finally went yellow. The primary happened.

But just like at work where I often feel like my voice is not heard and my experience and work style is not respected nor appreciated for what I can contribute, everything seems to stay the same.

George Floyd is still dead.

The two party system defends only the elite and anyone outside of that elite will always be marginalized.

So I slammed my dishwasher door and ran it not only with my “good” knives inside but also with them point side up.

And somehow, when reaching for a clean coffee mug that I never put on the bottom shelf but I did this time, I gave myself a superficial stab wound in the middle of my palm.

Probably because I was distracted by a long list of housework and not staying present in the moment.

This is not how people should live.

I gaze out the front window (oh, damn, I need to trim the roses too). The birds chatter and chirp outside oblivious to how humans destroy each other and our shared habitat.

But Space X Dragon launched successfully. So we have reached phase 1 of our transition into the society we glimpsed in Wall*e.

Which coincidentally was the first movie the teenager ever saw in a theater. I believe she was 4, and I recollect that it was somewhere around this time (must google). She wore a cute dress. We saw the movie at Bethlehem’s Boyd Theater. I didn’t want her first movie to be in a modern boring theater.

She was transfixed.

So now it’s 9 a.m. and I think back to my transformative experiences this week.

  • I lost 4 pounds in the last day. (Amazing what happens when you resume drinking water, eating fruit instead of candy and chips, and stop eating half a pizza every four days.)
  • I started baby steps toward making my body work effectively again.
  • I filled out a self evaluation form at work, which I think fairly depicts my successes and my struggles. I was trying to be honest and transparent but I feel I will be viewed as scathing.
  • I had a good visit with my doctor, noting that my blood pressure is going down.
  • In conjunction with those previous two bullets, I video chatted with my therapist who specializes in work stress and it was an intense appointment. I was drained for the rest of the day and ate nothing but a handful of cashews until 5 p.m. That was my most recent bout of binging half a pizza and Little Caesar’s stuffed crazy bread. Which was a disappointment. Stuffed crazy bread tastes nothing like real crazy bread and the cheese inside was weird. The bread itself was soggy. The outside tasted like a soggy Olive Garden breadstick without the addictive outer coating and the inside was overloaded with a heavy but tasteless mozzarella.
  • I didn’t vote in the primary. I always vote. But I researched all the candidates and in the races where I wanted a voice there was no opposition. It bothers me deeply that I did not vote.

And George Floyd.

And the struggles of every “minority,” every person labeled for their skin color, their body shape or function, their religion, their choice of dress, their economic status, their sexuality, their gender, their resistance to be the status quo, their inability to be the same, the non-conformists, the thinkers, the doers.

George Floyd is dead.

Unwinding (vacation day 4, grilling day 2)

I woke today with no clear idea of what I wanted to achieve today except that I promised my teenager that we could go to Lidl and get supplies to grill again.

I even called my blind friend Nan (who’s now on twitter and just published a NASA poem as a tweet) and got her shopping list.

  • Macaroni salad
  • Peanut butter cookies
  • Riced cauliflower
  • Ice cream

I got up and fed the menagerie. One quietly sad little leftover tidbit of having formerly feral kittens is that sometimes they really do eat anything.

Fog, who was on his own a month longer than his brother Misty (Mistofelees), tends to eat the cockatoo’s kibble.

But I do feed them— as I grind my whole bean espresso blend and feed it into my little espresso machine.

This morning I started laundry, washed the bathroom floor and reassembled it now that it’s been thoroughly scrubbed. I had my last birthday cupcake for breakfast.

I saw a got the last of my anticipated packages, a shirt and necklace from Doll’s Kill. (Unboxing here: My last birthday package.)

I also got two pairs of slacks and a purple tunic from White House Black Market. I thought the necklace would look amazing with the tunic. (Another unboxing here: New Pants)

My Goffin’s cockatoo, Nala, had her morning talking session and woke the teenager up at 11 a.m.

The teenager and I went to Lidl and the Dollar Tree. Our finds at Lidl included super cheap scrapple and super cheap hot dogs and super cheap maple breakfast sausages. We got two bags of instant light charcoal. Dill pickle pita chips. Some varieties of veggie burgers. Provolone because it was on sale and the teenager adores provolone. The teenager even got break and bake chocolate chip cookies to make in her father’s new toaster oven. (His apartment does not have a stove/oven.)

At the Dollar Tree, I got tuna. A vase because for the life of me I can’t find the one I made in college that I use to display my roses. Frozen appetizers. A can of corn so we can make my mother-in-law’s corn bake. A can of Chef Boyardee Beef Ravioli because it might be the second time the teenager ever had it. Some grill utensils. Matches. And Ajax. Because the teenager wanted Comet for cleaning but the Dollar Store only had Ajax. And instant decaf coffee. Because Lidl didn’t have any decaf coffee and I need to detox.

Nala got really hot this afternoon and started swimming in her water bowl.

The teenager started the grill again. This time we were more determined than ever to succeed. Read about last night’s attempt here: Yesterday’s BBQ

We even invited her dad for dinner. And do you know what? Those cheap hot dogs were really good.

And I had a library board meeting at 7 p.m., so I poured a Diet Coke and mango nectar.

I can feel my tension fade away and it feels delightful. I ate well today, though I’m hungry now. I even had a ton of fruit. A serving of cantaloupe. An apple made in the grill like at Girl Scout camp. And probably 8 pieces of watermelon.

“Keep Going” Amulet

This is Me

First of all, let me put out there that I am not as confident as I appear in that photo. I’m almost 45. I have stretch marks, muffin top and I’ve never been stick thin (well, except for that summer I lost 30 pounds) but I’ve always tried to be healthy and strong.

I’ve had a baby. I’ve broken bones. I’ve struggled with anemia, cerebral palsy and on occasion anxiety. I’ve had great jobs I didn’t want to leave (ever) and bad jobs that I didn’t want to go to.

But like many of you, I keep going. I have shiny happy days, sleepy days, down days, days I just don’t want to end and days when I cry myself to sleep.

Today I chose this outfit as my warrior’s attire. I got the shirt and the necklace from The Attic in Bethlehem and let me tell you— I never would have bought this shirt if not for the state lockdown/pandemic.

I would have said, ‘hell, no, that’s way too skimpy.’

And left that shirt on the rack. But it looked so damn cute on the mannequin— which I think that mannequin has bigger boobs that me. No, wait. That shirt clearly looks tiny on the mannequin and my boobs are bigger.

Who wore it best?

But I decided to wear that shirt and I consider it a pledge of confidence to myself. NOTHING will intimidate me today. NO ONE will change how I feel about myself.

And I am adorable.

And to make it even more powerful, I wore my circle necklace also from The Attic. I have christened it my “keep going” amulet, because circles are round. They roll. They keep going. And this one is glittery and clear. Clear quartz is the stone used to purify things and recharge them.

Although it’s not quartz, it has a shine like quartz so I will use this necklace to remind me to keep going and keep my thoughts free of negative vibes.

New beginnings

Now bare with me for one more topic, I’m a little superstitious and as you can see I’m almost done with my journal. New chapters always begin at the end of my journal.

I’ve been working with Aspire for Autonomy for work, and I’ve been striking up some personal conversation with Darnell about helping with his organization. I’m impressed with his energy and hope to learn more about their goals.

Bird playland

On Friday we got several packages of pet supplies, as I’ve mentioned on earlier posts, the parakeets have been rough on toys and perches lately so it was time to update everyone’s cages.

The first set of packages arrived early in the morning.

Chewy packages arrive!

Then another package arrived from Petco!

Unboxing of Petco items

But we had to wait until after our Saturday chores of laundry, garage cleaning, dishes and vacuuming.

Then we emptied both the cages and dumped all the toys on my bed.

Old and new toys

Now I often switch perches and toys between Nala, my Goffin’s cockatoo, and my budgies. Keeps everybody from getting bored and I think the budgies are teaching Nala to play. She often seems afraid of toys.

The teenager worked really hard updates the bird corner of my room. It looks great— but one problem… The kittens can easily hop to the top of the cages.

Nothing Just Happens

My daughter and I have developed a fascination with The Attic Clothes in Bethlehem as they have been hosting online sales on Instagram and Facebook.

We’ve been supporting small local business and indulging in one of the great teen girl sports of all time— consignment store shopping.

I’m going to switch up the chronology of this piece since right now the teenager, my blind friend, Nan, and I are among several other cars in the Dunkin Donuts parking lot.

Troublemakers

This experience can be summed up as— as my daughter put it— Nothing Just Happens.

So, Nan, being blind and a little strange, decided to wear her mask over her eyes.

We invited her along to pick up our consignment items. We stopped at the teenager’s grandmother’s to drop off a stepladder we borrowed. And her grandfather bought her the new Cats movie on DVD, like seeing it three times in the theatre wasn’t enough.

We had promised to take Nan for a car ride and stop at Dunkin for coffee and snackin’ bacon. And we all shared a matcha since Nan had never had any.

It was starting to look like the perfect day for the teen.

Until she discovered I messed up her coffee and she didn’t like it. So we went through the drive through a second time. This time we were going to order Munchkins too!

The teen wanted the 50 count bucket that looked like it came out of Kentucky Fried Chicken. But since we’re all gaining weight— the only way we were getting 50 munchkins is if Nan were taking 45 of them home to share with all her neighbors.

But they said they were out of munchkins. And they were paid for. So I told the poor guy to throw anything in the bag. He asked if I would accept a donut or two. I said sure. I think he was uneasy that I made him choose but he gave us a chocolate cake donut, which Nan and I split, and a chocolate iced donut with sprinkles which we gave to the teen.

That and her blue raspberry coolatta will have her high as a kite by the time we get home.

We were cleaning the garage earlier and removed about 150 gallons of garbage— she’ll have the energy to go home and finish the job, hoisting furniture over her head like a she-hulk.

So while the teen is trying on clothes in the backseat (skills learned in marching band), quasi-modeling her purchases, there are people wondering what the hell is up with us.

And Nan says it makes me look like the normal one.

Now that is scary.

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.