The embers of happy

Today I fought my emotions and fought my pain to find some moments of happiness for myself. And in the end, my heart is warm.

My daughter and I often carpool now that she is a waitress at one of our favorite local businesses— Tic Toc Diner.

Before work I took her to the Starbucks in our local Target (#2536) so I could try the new Pistachio Latte.

Our reaction video: Review of our lattes

Once I arrived at the Bizzy Hizzy, I realized I had forgotten to wear red for “red day,” but they gave us all red masks and iced heart sugar cookies. That brought me some joy. As did my lunch, my attempt at Cajun seared scallops.

I started my night in QC, where my performance slipped because despite taking two naproxen sodium my pain level was going from 5 to 7. By 9 pm, I had only QC’ed about 52. But then at 9:15, I got moved to pick direct! It felt amazing to zoom through the warehouse and even though the naproxen sodium had worn off, my pain had dropped to a two or a three.

Teenager #1 texted that she had her uniform and she was waiting tables by herself and she made $28 in tips. I love seeing her in this new role.

And my friend who adopted Fenrir/Fern of the Norse Pride (now Edie) sent me this picture of her:

She looks so majestic. I am assured that she is still naughty.

By the end of the night, I picked 48 fixes and walked about 12,000 steps.

A friend texted to check in when I really needed to hear a familiar voice (thank you, Bill).

Another friend texted me the word “ramfeezled,” to be exhausted from working too much. (Thank you, Joan.)

And then I got home, and found the best surprise ever. Now, every night teenager #1 comes to hang out with Nala. While she is here, she makes my bed.

Tonight I found this…

She bought me clearance Valentine’s chocolate from the Dollar Tree. That’s my girl— frugal impresses me just as much as the thought.

Weekends that are weekends

It has been ages since I had a weekend that felt like a weekend. A weekend without trying to catch up on chores. A weekend without “Sunday scaries.” A weekend without working overtime or getting up early for one thing or another.

As a matter of fact, I slept until 11 this morning, which, when you consider my new bedtime is between 1 and 2 a.m., is not unreasonable.

The teenager made me coffee and brought me a pain au chocolat from Lidl (which is still too soft and not crispy, flaky enough to remind me of real French croissant but far better and cheaper than most American attempts).

I spent some time with my cockatoo, Nala, and many cats and kittens not to mention with my daughter.

Speaking of Nala, she bit my phone screen protector and I’m not sure if she got a shard of glass in the camera or she broke the lens, but my selfies are hazy now.

Teenager #1 wanted to drive today so we ended up at Shoprite, Pet Valu and Starbucks. I haven’t had a Starbucks in ages and I decided to try the Nitro Sweet Cream Cold Brew but ended up a tad distraught that apparently Nitro does not come with ice cubes. It’s room temperature-ness did not appeal to me.

We found lots of goodies at Pet Valu with their going out of business sale— exotic canned cat food, a myriad of treats, lots of parakeet food and a little something for Sobaka for Christmas.

I received an AmEx offer spend $15 at Sonic get $5 back so we went, as Sonic is one of the teenager’s favorite places. The food was kind of awful and they only have the drive thru open so they misheard our order so our total after tax was $15.23. I probably won’t get my special offer.

To hear us talk about our foodie adventures click here: YouTube: Sonic Shenanigans

We ran into one of our favorite couples at ShopRite— We’ll name them C&F. They both have much respect from my daughter and I because they are super intelligent, easy going people who found each other and “overcame” some life obstacles that I pretty much would label as the realities of our American society. I feel like if they were ever two people who earned every success in life it was C&F, and I am so lucky to have met them and have them in my life and so proud of their children and commend them for being great parents. And to think— I have known C since before she got married! They were a little shocked to hear the teenager can drive since we all met when she was six.

Anyway. So after all that and a meal at Sonic, the teenager and I came home. She put the groceries away. We wrapped some holiday gifts. And finished our hair.

Amazing in Lavender

And then while I did laundry— I have surrendered to the idea that laundry will never be “caught up” again in this house— she started construction of the holiday village.

My top 10 videos on YouTube

I started a YouTube channel long ago to record and transmit a video to one of my friends’ writing classes. Six years ago. Somewhere around three or four years ago, I ramped up my production of videos with no real rhyme or reason.

What surprises me is what people watch and what they don’t. I now have about 325 subscribers but they don’t really interact often so I’m not sure if I have a certain type of audience or not.

Because I don’t promote my YouTube videos (they are crude and unedited and not really meant to be a commodity) I think most of my viewers stumble upon me by happenstance.

But I thought it would be fun to share with you the top ten most viewed videos on my YouTube channel.

10. The list begins with author Jordan Sonnenblick doing a reading from his new-at-the-time book at Mary Meuser Memorial Library. 557 views

Jordan Sonnenblick

What puzzles me is that # 11 is my review of a Starbucks Maple Pecan muffin at 554 views. Review of the muffin and at 475 views there is a few second video of a unicorn icee. Unicorn icee

9. This one is the now teenager as elementary school student (six years ago!!) playing variations of Bingo on her 3/4 baritone. 586 views.

Bingo

8. This one has 776 views and all it is is ducks recorded during our road trip to Georgia.

Ducks

7. The teenager’s middle school band playing an Irish Jig. 783 views. The composer/arranger commented on this one.

Irish Jig for Young feet by Travis J. Weller

6. Another marching band video from three years ago, the teenager’s high school victory song. 1,000 views.

Hail to the Warriors

5. (And 4.) The teenager as a middle schooler explaining how to assemble a sousaphone. Part one has 1,600 views whereas part two only has 1,200.

Putting a Sousaphone Together part one

Putting a sousaphone together part two

3. My daughter’s first season in marching band, stand tunes at a football game. 1,600 views

Warpath

2. My daughter as an eighth-grader playing Smoke on the Water on a sousaphone. 1,700 views

Smoke on the water

And #1 — for reasons I don’t understand:

My daughter removing my splinter

This video has 506,000 views. And my chipped nail polish received much criticism. Next time I will be sure to paint my nails before trying to remove a splinter.

So other popular videos include:

Opie the 3-legged cat and I make my bed (327 views)

Sun conure (322 views)

Yet Marzieh Hashemi only received 289 views. Marzieh Hashemi at a rally in DC

Coffee musings: Review of Folgers Black Silk

I love dark roast coffee.

My current favorites are Target’s Archer Farms Mosaica and Wegman’s whole bean espresso roast.

My neighbor prefers Starbucks PPR (Pike’s Peak Roast) to brew at home and I enjoy it when I have my amazing coffee mornings with her, but I don’t believe it is worth the money. But I also don’t begrudge anyone their favorite coffee— I prefer to get my Mosaica when it is on sale or on the Target Circle app, and if that is not available I go to Wegman’s as it is normally $4.99 for the bag. I don’t recall the exact ounces of the bag, but it is the small bag that typically lasts me a month at one cup of coffee a day.

But recently Target had ridiculously low prices on my allergy medicine so I decided to see if my coffee was on sale.

It was not.

So I did what I do— I stared at coffee options and price points for 20 minutes deliberating.

I purchased a massive plastic bin of Folgers Black Silk, their dark roast, for $5.99. Today I opened it.

Perhaps I bought this for the bucket and it came with free coffee inside…

Now, a few basic facts before we continue:

  1. I hate Folgers coffee. This whole experiment rests on the idea that I can remain objective.
  2. I love the buckets Folgers coffee comes in. Household tip: save it. I keep one by the sink for a composting bucket. The lid is easy to open but as the company promises, keeps the freshness (or in this case rottenness). Also a handy small cleaning bucket as the container has a handle. So if you need a small bucket of hot soapy water to carry around the house, this is a great bucket. AND it goes into the dishwasher for easy cleaning. Perhaps I bought this for the bucket and it came with free coffee inside.
  3. I do not brew my coffee in a standard coffee pot or even a snobby French press. I used to make the perfect cup of coffee grinding my Wegman’s beans and putting them in my French press but I have forgotten how.
  4. My husband got the coffee pot in our break-up, and that was by necessity, as he and the coffee pot had an intense relationship whereas I have videos proving that the teenager, at the tender age of four, had to teach me how to use it.
  5. Instead, I consume my caffeine via the espresso machine. My first real boss— my first white collar, grown up job—gave me a $50 Boscov’s gift card when I got married. At the time, I thought that was ridiculously extravagant of him. I did not start drinking coffee regularly until after the teenager was born. To do justice to the generous gift from my boss, who was a coffee drinker, I purchased a tiny espresso machine (with steamer) and coffee grinder. I thought I had arrived in the world. I use this to make my coffee. Yes, I am putting commercial Folgers into my espresso machine.
  6. I do not sweeten my coffee. I use real half and half to lighten it, and *spoiler alert* this coffee did require extra half and half to make it the color I prefer.
  7. Finally, a note on my coffee preferences. I prefer Dunkin to Starbucks, on the taste of the coffee alone. I find Starbucks bitter. Not intolerably bitter but bitter.

And yes— that is a Pyrex measuring cup. The carafe broke. What do you want from an espresso machine more than 20 years old?

And now finally the tasting…

It’s more akin to Starbucks PPR than the coffees I prefer. Bitter, but after the first few sips, the bitterness is forgotten.

I must ask my neighbor to use some the next time we have coffee together. Meanwhile, for the price, this economical option will tide me over until I regain my financial footing and start making money in my “side gigs” or attain a job.

Dunkin’s new matcha latte

I finally tried the new Dunkin’ Matcha Latte.

I have been waiting since the day it debuted but I’ve been waiting for the right combination of circumstances— for a true moment of desire and need for comfort and, perhaps more importantly, enough points to earn a free drink.

I prefer my matcha iced, because hot it dissolved into the milk and the flavor is too mellow.

And an iced matcha latte is a few scoops of matcha powder in milk with some ice.

And I don’t pay $5 for flavored milk.

Just like I don’t buy $5 cups of coffee.

Today I stopped for a large iced matcha latte at my neighborhood Dunkin, the one we always prefer because they are usually empty so they have a better selection of donuts, but they are empty because even with “order on the go” where you type your exact order, they get the drink wrong.

So I order on the go on the way back to the office from CVS, thinking I’ll use the drink to take my new medicine.

Large iced matcha latte, less ice, skim milk, no whipped cream.

Easy, right?

Apparently not.

When I arrived, they haven’t pulled the slip from the machine. Three employees banter over “who wants to make this.” I’m thinking: step 1, ice. Step 2, powder. Step 3, milk. Give it a swish, swish and done.

One girl obviously loses and must prepare my drink. She starts with a medium cup. I look to confirm that my name is on the cup. It is, but she’s already put the matcha in. So I ask:

Are the sizes for matcha different than coffee? Because that looks like a medium.

Me

It takes two of them to review the sticker, confirm I got a large, and the original person grabs a large cup and starts over.

As I’m thinking it, the other employee beside her points out that she could have poured the old drink into the larger cup and added more matcha and milk.

But now we have a medium iced matcha latte and a large half filled cup of ice and milk.

So the employee gets another large cup, and pours the medium drink into it and adds matcha.

The other employee reminds her to stir it well and I tell her it’s not necessary for me because I like the matcha sludge.

At which point, a supervisor chastises her for doing it wrong.

He insists that he will do it and he starts another one in the blender. I beg the girl to let me have the lumpy one.

The supervisor looks at me like I’m nuts.

Please, I plead, I appreciate your effort to make it nice and smooth but I like the lumps. I don’t like it in the blender.

I got my lumpy latte.

And do you know what—

It tasted just like the Starbucks Matcha!

My delicious lumpy matcha latte

These are a few of my favorite teas

(You have to ‘hear’ that as a line from The Sound of Music’s “My Favorite Things.)

I started this post at 5 p.m. as I drank a 21-ounce mug of 2-parts Simply Balanced* Unwind Tea and 1-part Traditional Medicinals Nettle tea.

It’s 8 p.m. and I’m trying again.

Some favorite teas

When I was in Djibouti the first time, I ordered a cup of tea. The waitress said, “Le Lipton?” and I thought, “Really, I’ve flown half way around the world to the Horn of Africa and the best you can do is Lipton?”

If you have no idea where Djibouti is and want to learn more about my African travels, this is a good start: Sunday in Djibouti

So I thought I might tell you about some of my favorite teas. First off, know I do not add milk, sugar or honey to my tea. Black. I don’t even enjoy sweetened iced tea.

When we were on our road trip to Georgia, we stopped at Charleston Tea Plantation in South Carolina where I got some first flush. So good! I make it in the French press. That has a robust kick.

Staples in my home include some form of strong black tea. Currently my favorite is Tazo vanilla macaroon. I have a box of Tazo organic earl grey in my desk at work. I keep chai on hand for my friend Nancy and the teenager. The Tazo Caramel Vanilla Chai is my favorite, but the Bigelow Vanilla Chai is almost as good but much cheaper.

I love, love, love herbal teas. But I hate chamomile. Yogi has a lavender honey stress relief tea that is a favorite. Tazo has a juniper mint honey that might be my new afternoon go to.

Simply Balanced Voice Tamer is a great one for when you want something that is fairly strong but decaffeinated. It is actually a rooibos tea, which, according to our friends at the Charleston Tea Plantation isn’t a tea at all but a random plant from South Africa.

If you want to read my post about South Carolina, check this out: Memories of South Carolina

The teenager likes orange tea, Tazo Sweet Orange. I don’t do fruity tea often, and when I do I prefer Simply Balanced Raspberry Hibiscus. Tazo’s Glazed Lemon Loaf is a delightful treat.

Nettle tea is supposed to be high in iron, but the Traditional Medicinals one does not discuss that on the box so I wonder if they process it out. Good to fight anemia.

And lastly, I want to touch on matcha. I got into matcha before it was cool. Before it hit the Starbucks menu. I love Starbucks iced matcha latte with skim milk, but I won’t pay their prices. I also discovered why theirs tastes so good. They sweeten the matcha blend.

I really like the Tazo Matcha Mate Grapefruit. It has just the right amount of puckery, clean grapefruit flavor to make it an awesome breakfast tea.

But I’m not conniving to taste Dunkin Donuts new matcha.

But for bedtime, nothing relaxes the body like a strong glass of Traditional Medicinal Nighty Night Valerian.

And to store my teas, I use pencil trays from the dollar store: one for herbal, one for caffeinated, and one for medicinal.

* Target has recently rebranded what was their Simply Balanced line as Good & Gather. Some of these teas may have been relaunched in the new line, but some may have been discontinued.