The Kit and Kaboodle Update

So, as a former journalist, I could easily write a summary of every day like a nice newspaper column and post it. I could probably even manage to maintain my sense of humor, style, and tendency to find joy in the ridiculously ordinary.

But this week, every word I wrote felt repetitious. Or perhaps every word I wanted to write felt like it had been done before.

And maybe it has. Because so much of life goes that way. The same struggles, the same events, and often the same answers. And we repeat the cycle over and over probably for two reasons.

  1. It’s hard to break a habit.
  2. And growth, the kind of change that comes from embracing a lesson, presents its own difficulties.

In today’s blog, I’m going to do a generic update, and I’m honestly not sure if any of this is repeating myself. But do you know what? Repeating myself is okay. This is a small droplet in the vast waters of the internet and there’s always the possibility someone hasn’t heard it before and may need to hear it today.

Are you listening?

Fosters: Touch of Grey, Mars and Minerva. Information on how to adopt them at http://www.felineurbanrescueandrehab.org.

All eyes on me.

Topics to come in this entry: Update on my cerebral palsy and quest to end my chronic back pain, weight training with the teenager with Dan at Apex, emotional eating, review of Purple Carrot’s vegan Thanksgiving dinner box, and the requisite animal photos.

This week’s personal training at Apex:

I know I frequently mention how amazing the trainers at Apex are. One of their strengths (weight training pun there) is to recognize the needs of each client and to match the client with the right trainer. I’m obviously not in the whiny white women who primarily want to lose weight category, and that’s how I ended up with Dan. As Dan has the unofficial knowledge of a physical therapist (because he’s had enough accidents to know the patient side of it) and he has the curiosity to read, research and think. With my cerebral palsy this is important. Dan has the observational skill to read my knees and lower body to know if it’s a bodyweight/calisthenics kind of day or a weight training day. And this is important so you can build range of motion and flexibility and not get hurt.

Anyway, Dan has been kind enough to let the teenager join my training sessions. I love throwing weights around but lack the personal discipline to do it on my own this time around. And the teenager has a natural muscle tone and build that makes her perfect for powerlifting. But she hates dumbbells and she hates routine and discipline. So as long as we tell her to go throw around that heavy object she’s fine.

And today she deadlifted 135 lbs as if it weren’t even a challenge. I honestly think she could have done 150 lbs easily.

I think I kept up with her through 115. I only did three at 115 because I was really afraid I would blow out my knees. A deadlift when executed correctly utilizes the lower body, and the weight actually (once I get warmed up) helps me lower my butt in the squatting portion, but since my knees tend to point sharply inward, I have to adjust my stance to compensate. While the main gist of the lift is to pull the weight along the shin and lift into the hips and use the legs to support the weight as the hips straighten and thrust outward with the tightening of the glutes, in my case, I have to force my knees to stay in the proper position facing my toes and not each other.

As I start to lift heavier, the dull ache in my spine is a reminder to lift the weight with my legs and not my back. I place my feet in position, point my toes slightly out and stretch my knees in line with them. And, for lack of a better description, I lock them in place and while lifting the barbell I have to concentrate on keeping my knees from turning inward. Because if they would suddenly snap where they want to be, I could not only blow out a knee but also potentially lose balance.

So I did three.

In related news, physical therapy update:

Yesterday I finally had my physical therapy appointment with the proper physical therapist now that neurology has confirmed that my balance and brain are fine. Much to my pleasant surprise, I had the same physical therapist that treated my initial bouts with back pain three years ago. He was at a different physical therapy office, then, and came recommended by my doctor as the guy who really knew back issues. What makes this a funny but pleasant coincidence is the fact that I chose this physical therapy branch because my blind friend Nancy is going there and I thought we could combine appointments and I could help her with rides.

What did my physical therapist Jeff say? Basically, that I need to do yoga. He has me doing “press-ups” 5 times a day for 10 reps. At least to start this week. Last time I had physical therapy with him, he started me super light and then made the exercises ten times harder when I returned in a week. “Press-ups” are cobra pose in yoga. I used to do yoga daily. It always seems like physical therapists are always telling me to do more of what I already or what I used to do.

Random photo of Nala the Goffin with foster cat Touch of Grey

Confession time, emotional eating:

My weight is 160lbs. This upsets me greatly. When I had gestational diabetes at six months pregnant I was 169. I was 142 on the day I brought the teenager home from the hospital and 142 for most of her toddler years. When I finally decided I needed to get my weight under control and regain strength after breaking my right hand while working at Target, I lost 30 lbs in 6 weeks. I lost too much weight too quickly and then gained weight while strength training and got ripped. Over the years, I found a set point at 135, where I could maintain muscle but be more relaxed about eating.

But then, my marriage ended. My boss at the job that allowed me to separate from my husband and support myself turned out to be a sociopath. I mean that in the kindest way possible. She was very sweet, and driven, and perfection-oriented but she had no empathy, no flexibility and no patience for any way other than hers. No views allowed other than her beliefs. This led to high blood pressure and I honestly had no energy left to take care of myself. When she fired me, it took six months for unemployment benefits to determine she was in the wrong. The pandemic was underway by then (Summer 2019). I lived on my savings, a total of $4,500, and foodstamps that kicked in three months after I lost my job.

And this was also when I ended up in the hospital for an infected cat bite and took in a second teenager who lived with us for nine months without her parents contributing to her care.

I mention this only because it is why I lost my discipline. Why I stopped caring for myself like I used to. It was easy and fun to go to McDonalds for a $1 Diet Coke and a $1 McChicken. Cheap dinner.

I thought I would turn this around when I started “picking” at the Stitch Fix Bizzy Hizzy. I walked 17,000 steps a night in the warehouse, grabbing clothes. But then I caught Covid-19. And my stamina never bounced back. So now I fold clothes. Which killed my back.

Even though I had a delightful Thanksgiving, with vegan recipes I prepared from Purple Carrot and leftover pie and wine from my in-law’s meal, I “ruined” it by drinking a big glass of wine yesterday with about 1200 calories of Trolli gummy worms. And then I tell myself, “Well, at least they had protein, iron and calcium.”

And finally, the Purple Carrot Box:

I’ve only made about half the box. The rest is still in the fridge.

I made the Purple Carrot “sausage” stuffing, vegan thyme gravy and cranberry sauce. The thyme gravy was better than I expected as I am not a gravy person. I added local granny smith apples and herbs de provence to the stuffing. The stuffing began life as caibatta rolls, root vegetables, and Fieldstone vegetarian sausage. Let me say again, if you haven’t heard it before, that the Fieldstone vegetarian sausages are amazing. The fact that they come wrapped tight in plastic “skin” casings annoys me, but they are very tasty.

Searching for the weird and the yummy

Dunkin’s new pancake minis

The teenager loves pancakes so when Dunkin announced their new pancake minis, I had to buy her a set and get her professional opinion— as a diner waitress (at least for a few more days).

I thought they had a good flavor, though a dry texture. The teenager was not impressed. I think the awkward texture comes from the fact that the tiny pancakes are fortified with protein.

For $2.99, that works out to fifty cents a pancake. I think Dunkin has tastier and more satisfying options at that price point.

Kitu Supercoffee Dark Roast K-cups

I think I have a new favorite coffee. I only paid $1 for my recent prescription at CVS, so I treated myself to a pack of Kitu Supercoffee in dark roast. It was on sale for $6.99 for 10 cups. I love that the flavor and the extra caffeine and vitamins don’t hurt.

Finally, I had to review Hungryroot’s Thanksgiving Bowl featuring their seasoned turkey meatballs that the teenager and I already know we love.

The Sauces N Love cranberry sauce was the right blend of smooth and tangy. The Right Rice medley was quick to prepare and had all the familiar flavor of traditional stuffing. The grains were softer, fluffier and almost had a cakey mouth feel.

I liked both so much I ordered more.

Food box blunders, ear infections and a good workout

I’m feeling exceedingly optimistic today.

I “fixed” my roomba, had a therapy session that left me sobbing in my psychologist’s office, had an incredible workout (full body as I will be traveling this weekend, but we did a lot of work on hip mobility), and cooked.

The business cards for Parisian Phoenix came in. Thanks to my trusty business partner Gayle.

Perhaps the chaos of earlier this week is finally settling down.

Seen in downtown Easton

So, last Saturday I got my regular Hungryroot order. And Tuesday was Purple Carrot. I wasn’t going to get a box from them this week but they had West African Peanut Stew on the menu.

And then I got a text that Green Chef was on the way.

I promptly canceled Green Chef so there would be no more surprises as they were my least favorite. But that box was on the way.

It arrived yesterday after I left for work. I received this message today.

I certainly hope there is no more food coming.

Because the teenager came down with an ear infection and has so much phlegm in her throat that she can’t swallow. But don’t worry she took some antibiotics and some DayQuil so she could enjoy a Hungryroot burger.

I prepared a bag of greens and a Green Chef meal for Gayle as I am supposed to go to DC this weekend and I can’t physically prepare it all. And M, my host, said I can’t bring it. The result— I now can say I pay my art director in groceries.

Purple Carrot has a $75 Thanksgiving box available. I ordered one.

And today I cooked:

  • Green Chef Mojito Cauliflower
  • Purple Carrot Buffalo-style tempeh and roasted sweet potatoes and garlic
  • Brussel Sprouts

But much to my chagrin— Purple Carrot swapped out the peanut stew for a grilled tofu meal.

Addendum:

From Gayle, after making her Green Chef meal.

I came home and just put everything in the fridge. Brown bag and all.

Pat looked at the recipe when she headed to the bathroom. She made vomiting noises. Not surprising.

I thought I remembered it saying 30 minutes. About 4:30, I started working on it. I didn’t look at the recipe earlier and didn’t realize it had two sides. I was overwhelmed when I saw all the instructions on the other side. I quickly realized that they were dummy proof and that made them longer.

I got the farro on and started the oven, then cut the squash and picked the tarragon. That was the most tedious part of the whole thing. That all went in the oven and I opened the chard. It was nasty. One leaf was probably okay. Glad you gave me other chard. I’m not a fan of raw chard so I wilted it. The nasty stuff went to the compost pile.

The rest of the prep was easy. By the time the farro and squash were done, the rest was too.

I made two portions. One for another day and one for supper. I did not put the apple on the leftover portion because it was already browning.

I was left with two large piles. One was compost and the other was plastic bags. So many bags. One said to pull off the label and recycle it. The rest had no numbers, no nothing so they went in the trash.

It was nice having all the ingredients and a recipe. It was fantastic having something different to eat.

First Thanksgiving of the season

I have always harbored a certain resentment that holidays are defined as certain days, and since I worked retail for a decade, I adopted the attitude that holidays and celebrations happen when people gather not on a certain date or on the fourth Thursday in November.

My foster cat godmother gave us an 18-pound turkey and as I was a vegetarian for about eight years until my carnivorous daughter was born, I have never cooked a turkey. And it felt like this was the year to try.

I did some internet research and got the bird out of the fridge only to discover that my cheap refrigerator had frozen part of this damn turkey and even after soaking it in hot water we had a terrible time getting the neck from the chest cavity.

But luckily the teenager is stubborn like her mother and got the neck out, which looked and felt disturbingly phallic.

Teenager with a bird neck

I assembled the coleslaw by placing cabbage, radishes and carrots in my Ninja food processor. I made a honey mustard dressing.

I slathered the turkey with butter, purple pepper, smoked paprika, poultry seasoning and sage and placed it in the oven. I “basted” it every thirty minutes by recycling the juices from the drip pan and wiping them across inside the bird with a pastry brush.

Then I whipped up the corn bread and placed it in my neighbor’s oven while I assembled the green beans Caesar and the sweet potato crunch.

I didn’t have enough pecans so I put some mixed nuts in the Ninja and that made my nuts more like nut butter. That was the only real “fail” of the night. But I liked it.

I heated up some corn and made some butter-sage turkey gravy from scratch. Nan brought some cranberry sauce. And Darnell and Amber were kind enough to stop by and rescue me when it came time to carve my bird.

Teenager #1 made a deliriously good batch of homemade mashed potatoes.

I heated up some corn and the spaghetti squash I grew in my compost heap.

Jan stopped by with her ladyship Sobaka and we had three teenagers in the house. That felt good.

Wrestling with a turkey

I received an almost 18 pound turkey from my foster cat godmother— and Fog has already tried to get into the sink to eat the damn thing.

The neck is frozen inside the turkey because the back of my fridge is so cold. I have three items to bake in the oven— sweet potato casserole, corn bread and green beans Caesar— and they may not exist peacefully with the bird. So I have two neighbors on standby in case I need more oven space.

The theme of the dinner is “as close to a Thanksgiving meal I can make with the items in my kitchen.”

The menu:

  • Turkey and gravy
  • Homemade mashed potatoes
  • Sweet potato casserole or crunch, not sure yet
  • green beans caesar
  • Homemade coleslaw
  • Corn
  • Cornbread
  • Cranberry sauce

Still struggling with the neck of the turkey…

Kittens, craziness and the end of my first two weeks at StitchFix Bizzy Hizzy

So tonight I finished my first two weeks at the Bethlehem warehouse of StitchFix, or the Bizzy Hizzy as they call it. I am still fascinated by the logistics of the warehouse and how well it works.

I reached 128 again tonight in my picking, which considering it looked like I hit 80 before my meal is both good and disappointing. I think I would have hit 140 had I not been stationed in W most of the night. Between the physical distance between that section and the “garage,” about 750 steps, I lost a good four minutes with every cart. That adds up to an hour over the course of the night so yes my math is correct.

This job requires so much walking— about 21,000 steps tonight—that my calves, thighs, feet and butt all burned by the end of the night but it’s the “agony” of muscles that haven’t seen that kind of action in a long time.

I do love seeing what goes in each fix and the fact that I work alone and can compete against my own performance pleases me.

I even got to visit the employee store tonight— where dresses and pants are $10, tops are $5 and you can buy five items. I bought some Christmas presents for the teenager. And a Karl Lagerfeld Paris polka dot sleeveless blouse and 1822 denim ankle skinny jeans in acid-washed camo for myself.

As close to Chanel as I will ever get

The teenager ordered Dominos at midnight so we could all— me, the cockatoo, teenager #1 and teenager #2— could have a pizza party.

That feels like a great start to the weekend.

This afternoon, teenager #1 got a haircut and bleached her hair. While out with her dad, they stopped at our foster godmother’s house to pick up a spare 18-pound turkey she had. Now it looks like I’ll be having some friends over for a turkey meal on Sunday. It will be my first attempt at making a turkey.

Meanwhile, the ringworm which originated with Hermes what feels like months ago has not only spread to both other litters of foster kittens but two of our personal cats.

Speaking of cats… teenager #1 took this video of Jupiter from the Roman Pride and within the first 24 hours on YouTube it had 622 views. YouTube: Hello Jupiter

Another day at the Bizzy Hizzy

It’s approaching 1 a.m. and I am amazed at how quickly I am adapting to going to bed around 1:15 a.m. and waking up around 8:45 a.m.

An hour ago I was placing my laptop into the cupboard, taking my last cart of fixes to the “garage” area and heading to the time clock.

I only walked 16,000 steps in the warehouse tonight but I hit the pre-direct pick picking goal of 128 fixes.

I am sitting in my bed with a gin-and-cucumber-positive-beverage-B12 cocktail. I have kittens surrounding me (the Norse Pride domestic long hairs) and Nala chattering and falling asleep on my knee—and I know my bird should be asleep right now but she wakes up when she hears me come home and she’ll be super angry with me tomorrow if I don’t give her a bedtime cuddle.

She just fell asleep — on my knee.

The scene looks something like this:

The swarming Norse Pride

Poor Fog is whimpering outside my door as he used to be the cat that slept with me until the teenager moved the Norse Pride (some of our foster kittens through Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab) into my room. He wants no part of those pesky furball kittens.

But he misses me now that I am working, and he pursues every opportunity he can to be with me.

Fog

Today involved some meetings, including the Lehigh Valley Regional Homelessness Advisory Board. I organized some paperwork and paid some bills as this week’s unemployment payment came.

I received EBT/SNAP (food stamps) for September, October and November so I’ve been combing every store possible for the best deals. Grocery Outlet and Lidl remain my standbys, but I find some good coupons at CVS. Today they sent me a coupon for a Starbucks Frappuccino from their ready-to-drink cooler for $1.49. I had $1 in Extra Bucks expiring today so I got the coffee beverage for 49 cents in food stamps.

Why does SNAP pay for candy and bottles of Frappuccino but there is no program to pay for bath soap, laundry supplies or toilet paper? One friend remarked that poor people must not be allowed to be clean.

So, now that I’m employed again these are issues I shouldn’t have to contemplate much longer.

And I suppose eventually StitchFix might ask me to stop blogging about them but I hope not— I’m a wholesome blogger with a long history in the public relations and journalism field.

But I’m so excited about hitting the 128 number and we had Thanksgiving dinner at work!

Failure

I want to talk for a minute about failure.

Sometimes I think we, as Americans in the 21st Century, stress too much and obsess too much about failure.

In the last six months, perhaps even the last year, I’ve hedged a lot of bets on new things. Some are simple things, like buying a car. Others are more complex, like accepting a new job and later a promotion into a position where I have no experience, only passion and my wits.

I enjoy new experiences, not everyone does. I love learning. I love challenges. I love some competition.

But with that comes failure. And sometimes we spend so much time on the failure that we don’t see how much progress we made before we failed.

It’s not even 9 a.m. on the last day of a long weekend. Probably my first relaxing long weekend since I started my new job in April. My time off prior to this was filled with parental duties or medical appointments.

Of course, I’ve slept in until 7 a.m. every day so the alarm tomorrow is going to be brutal. I have some very important projects on my desk and some meetings this week that also give me some concern.

The living room is completely dismantled, unpainted, and the furniture will arrive by the end of the week.

The teenager has a holiday concert on the same night I agreed to attend a party with my CEO. (In my defense, I thought she had her interior design class, which she does so she’s double-booked, too.)

Etc.

But this post is about failure.

If you look a few posts back, you’ll see that a good friend inspired me to buy The Whole 30. I read most of it, even did some grocery shopping, but never implemented it. It did force me to think more about what I was eating. I started tracking my macronutrients again and reducing my carbohydrates. Not in a low carb way. In a balanced way.

I am debating canceling my Planet Fitness membership. It’s been seven months and since school started, my teen and I have only gone 2-4 times a month. We both need it, but we’re not going. And I have free weights and the tools I need to get started again here at home. I joined the gym to motivate her and have more options since I’d maxed out at home.

So right now the gym is a failure, but at the same time fitness is very much on my mind and I wish I had it in me to resume my disciplined body building. (I did two or three home workouts this week. My goal is to break my bad habits before considering “New Year’s resolutions.”)

And finally, for the first time since I started making homemade bone broth a decade or so ago, I failed at that. For two days, I’ve had chicken bones from my freezer and the Thanksgiving turkey carcass in my crock pot. Somehow, overnight, ALL the liquid boiled off. ALL of it.

My “waste not, want not” attitude kicked in and mourned this tragedy. Then I remembered: I don’t like poultry broth. My daughter used to love chicken soup. But she doesn’t so much anymore. And I don’t really have room in the freezer. So maybe we didn’t need homemade soup right now.

Failure isn’t always bad. Sometimes it keeps you from expending energy in the wrong direction.