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Okay, so now that I am feeling better, I am going to tell you about our Road Trip! It was truly a wonderful experience, except right there at the end. I do wish I could back in time and urge my family to WEAR MASKS even though we would be the only! people! doing so! but I cannot. 

We drove through so much beautiful landscape.

The best thing about the trip, by far, was spending so much time with my husband. He was so relaxed and cheerful and fun – all the things I love about him. All the things that the stress of his work chips away at on a normal basis. 

Madison, WI. Such a charming city. It’s very walkable with lots of cute restaurants and shops.

We had planned to take turns driving – we had six consecutive days of five- to seven-hour drives there, and five consecutive days of pretty-close-to-seven-hour drives on the way back. That’s a lot of driving for one person. And I DID drive. But my husband admitted that he spent the entire two hours I was in the driver’s seat staring at the speedometer, willing it to rise to the level HE is comfortable going. And we had multiple tense conversations where I expressed fear at passing someone and he would say that I should only pass when I was comfortable! and neither of us enjoyed that. So! From then on, he did nearly all of the remainder of the driving. 

Yes, we stopped to take a photo with the Jolly Green Giant in Blue Earth, MN

We used pretty much every single thing I told you I bought in this post, and a few of the things that I was considering at the time and ended up buying. PLUS we also bought a fidget snake that mbmom11 recommended. Used and LOVED, I should say. The only thing that went unopened was the game of Loaded Questions, which my husband put into his backpack and then wouldn’t allow us to remove. So none of us even knows if we would have liked it. 

The one thing that I wished we had but didn’t was a travel laundry bag. We kept stuffing our dirty clothes into random shopping bags or those dry-cleaning bags that hotels clip to the hangers in the closet, and the bags filled up more quickly than I would have thought and the handles kept breaking and it would have been very nice to have a dedicated bag for it. (I am really weird about NOT mixing dirty clothes with clean clothes, so I recognize this wouldn’t be at the top of everyone’s list.) We were able to wash laundry at my parents’ house, for which I am VERY grateful.

The Badlands National Park in South Dakota was spectacular, although we didn’t see any wild animals. We did see a lot of idiot tourists going off the well-maintained paths and climbing onto precarious perches to take photos for the ‘Gram, though.

Carla loved the road trip journal and the travel atlas. I’d say that she loved the atlas a little more than the journal – it seemed to have more easy breezy activities and fewer essay assignments. If I were a better planner, I would have allowed Carla to open the journal a day or so in advance of our trip, and talk it through with her. But oh well. 

The Dignity statue on the Crow Creek Reservation was breathtaking.

Even though we didn’t play Loaded Questions, we did try to find license plates from all 50 states. My husband made the rule early on that semi-trucks do NOT count, which made it really tough. (One of the last states we got was Maine, and SO MANY trucks seemed to be from Maine!) In the end, the only two states we didn’t get were Delaware and Hawaii.

We DID get a cooler and we did USE the cooler, but only because we had it, not because we really needed it. In fact, for the first few days we didn’t use it at all and I kept asking my husband WHY we’d bought it. On the way home, though, we stopped at a little bakery and got some cute little cakes and put those in the cooler for two days before we had a chance to eat them, so it did come in handy in the end. 

Deadwood was fun to see. We spent about an hour there, and caught one of the free re-enactments they offer. It was exactly the right amount of time to spend there.

Speaking of food: I didn’t try to stick to the keto diet. Not even a little. (Note: It would have been fairly easy to do so if I had wanted to, I think. Most of the gas stations had Quest products and Whisps and little packages of meat-and-cheese and sometimes even Keto cookies. The reason I didn’t try was that I didn’t WANT to.) (Also, I weighed myself when I got home and I weighed EXACTLY THE SAME as I had when we left, which was highly disheartening.) I found that I often opted for the little veggie snacks when we stopped at gas stations – I ate carrots and ranch as well as a little tray of carrots, celery, and spinach dip with great gusto. But I also ate lots of chips. I unintentionally went on a Ruffles kick and tried several of their new (or new-to-me) flavors: Spicy Dill Pickle, Lime & Jalapeno, Flamin’ Hot BBQ. I don’t know that I LIKED any of them, but nary a chip crumb was left in any of the bags, so… I didn’t NOT like them. I drank a LOT of Diet Mountain Dew. One day, on a whim, I got a bottle of regular, full-sugar Squirt which was MUCH too sugary and only tasted of childhood for the first few sips. Yuck. I ate at my all-time favorite fast food place THREE times (I get a large potato oles with a side of nacho cheese, and I ask for a second little empty nacho-cheese cup to fill with hot sauce, and then I dip the oles into the hot sauce and then the nacho cheese. HEAVEN.) and ate fries from multiple McDonald’ses and Arby’ses. I would be okay if I never see a Subway Spicy Italian sandwich again. My husband found THREE Super Mega Candy Stores on our route, and he and my daughter had so much fun ogling all the candy and choosing what they wanted to buy. I forced Carla to eat some lettuce one night and tried to get tomatoes and fruit into her at least a few times, but mostly she subsisted on chicken nuggets and fries for two straight weeks. Her favorite gas station food stuff (besides morrrrrrrre candddyyyyyyy) was Babybel cheese. Oh! The Trader Joe’s popcorn I got before our trip was… not my favorite. No one really loved it, sadly. And I had bought a second bag in a fit of panic about not having enough if it turned out to be the best thing ever. Oh well. Fun to try.

Devil’s Tower in Wyoming was nothing short of a geological marvel. Stunning and bizarre and totally cool. The little walk around its perimeter was a great way to stretch our legs, too.

We also ate at a LOT of restaurants. More than we have eaten in over the past two-ish years combined, I think. Part of my husband’s in-depth planning for this trip involved researching fun places to eat, and it paid off. We went to a lot of breweries. I really grew accustomed to my nightly pint of local craft beer, to be honest. By the end of our trip, I was DESPERATE for something other than brewery food. I love burgers and fish and chips and salad with grilled salmon and whatever else you get at every brewery across the country, but I started craving enchiladas smothered in hot sauce or chicken vindaloo with a side of chana masala or red curry with shrimp or Brazilian braised pork with avocado crema. FLAVOR that is not Grilled or Fried. We went out for a LOT of breakfasts. I don’t LIKE breakfast, so I got tired of that in about the time it takes to scramble an egg. The last place we went to was not my kind of place – cramped, order at the counter, bus your own table. The silverware was in big canisters in the little cramped space between the tables and kitchen, and several of the forks I pulled out had crusted food baked into them. The mug they served my husband’s coffee in had multiple chips around the rim. My husband thought it was CHARMING and had CHARACTER but I hated it and I hated my artisan avocado toast and I was kind of a brat. But it was just the one bratty morning, and I think I pulled myself out of it okay, so I am going to give myself an overall rating of Good Breakfast Sport.

These were the ONLY wildlife we saw, and they weren’t even “wild,” because they were hanging out behind a fence with some longhorn cattle. Well, I did see a mountain goat on the side of the road, chewing some grass. But I didn’t get a photo and no one else saw it so it doesn’t really count. Oh, and we saw a ton of antelope, so many that the novelty wore off and they seemed as unexciting as cows.

We listened to two books on the drive. When Carla was watching her iPad or listening to her own collection of audiobooks (I think she was re-listening to Socks and to the Gooney Bird Greene series, both downloaded from our local library), my husband and I listened to There, There by Tommy Orange. It was, overall, a compelling and eye-opening read/listen. The audiobook was well done, with a multi-reader cast to help differentiate between the multiple narrators. But the subject matter was so very dark and sad. And there was SO MUCH cursing, which I don’t love but don’t normally mind too much – but it made me uncomfortable with Carla right there. Not that she doesn’t know most of the curse words. Not that a few overheard curse words can hurt her in any way. We FINISHED the entire book, which felt like quite an accomplishment. When Carla was taking an iPad break, we listened to the fifth Harry Potter. I wish we had listened to more of it; I don’t think we even made it halfway through. We listened to a lot less music than I thought we would. Mainly, I think, because we were so often in areas with no cell service, so our music choices were limited to a downloaded playlist on my husband’s phone. It’s a good playlist, but he’s heard it a million times, and honestly there’s only so much Drake I can deal with. Next time, I will suggest making a playlist in advance of the trip.

Ah, the prairie. Makes my heart sing, but I am only posting one photo of sagebrush and endless plains for your viewing pleasure. If you want more, I have MANY.

And there WILL be a next time. It went so well that we all agreed we want to do it again. We may not go on the road for two weeks straight again (just taking the time off is tricky for my husband), but we definitely are no longer fearful of lengthy, multi-day car trips. Maybe we’ll go to Canada, next time. 

The best days – even those that included the most time in the car – were those where we woke up early and were on the road between 7:00 and 8:00 am. That way, we could get to our day’s destination before dinner, even if we ended up stopping a couple of times along the way. I also found it most useful when we could walk around for a bit before or after dinner. Despite being in the car for up to seven hours a day, I still managed to get in 10,000+ steps most days. 

My favorite state to drive through was Wyoming. I’d only ever been to Jackson Hole before, and that was in the winter. Well, wait – I did go to Yellowstone some years ago; but I can’t remember if that was the Wyoming part or the Montana part. I think Montana. Anyway: the geology of Wyoming is stunning, and so changeable. We would be driving through plains, and then suddenly mountains would loom up around us. And then we were in a canyon surrounded by jagged rocks. And then rolling badlands. And then plains again. The Wind River Canyon was spectacular – everywhere a breathtaking view. Plus, the highways were fast and crowd-free.

We went to the Cody Nite Rodeo, which was a lot of fun.
None of our photos of Wind River Canyon do its staggering beauty justice. We kept pulling off the road to take photos, it was so gorgeous.

We went to a rodeo. We saw Mount Rushmore. We bathed in hot springs. We fished. We spent a LOT of quality time together. I got to see my best-friend-since-sixth-grade and my brother and my niece and BOTH sisters-in-law and my parents. 

We stopped in Des Moines for lunch. It was cute.

We covered nearly 4,900 miles. My poor car announced that it was due for maintenance somewhere along our journey home, and I understand exactly how it feels. But it was truly a wonderful, beautiful experience. 

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I woke up at 4:00 am with a splitting headache and then couldn’t fall back to sleep. So I am feeling a bit fretful and complainy this morning. 

I don’t want Carla to get Covid. I have been doing my very best at isolating, but it is slightly tricky with my husband being back at work and me, you know, having to feed and care for my child. I wear a mask any time I venture out of my bedroom. I spend as little time in the “main house” as possible. Carla cries at bedtime because I can’t hug and kiss her goodnight. We have a little stash of rapid tests and have been making good use of them, and Carla and I went to the pharmacy the other day to get PCR tests. (That was nerve-wracking – we both wore masks AND I kept all the car windows wide open the whole time.) (My husband calmly reminds me that we were all just in a car/hotel room together, windows closed and maskless, for fifteen days.) Carla’s PCR test was negative, mine was not. I don’t know how I could manage to be the only one to get Covid, but if that’s how it works out, I will be very glad. Carla did just get her booster before we left, so I’m hoping she was at Peak Immunity when she was exposed to me and my germs. 

Here’s what I want to know about isolating in a home you share with others. How does it WORK? My bedroom is not magically on some alternate air circulation system. Every time I open the door, surely germs are escaping into the rest of the house. My mask isn’t trapping 100% of all the little Covid particles. HOW can we avoid getting Carla sick? It seems impossible. And yet, some people manage? I think? 

The next two bullets are Deeply Boring and yet I cannot bring myself to delete them.

I have been trying to do a little work from my bedroom. This means phone calls, my least favorite task of all. Do you recall the bank that charges us an annual “inactive” fee for an account whose sole purpose is sit there as collateral until we pay off a loan? (All the mind-numbing details are here.) After three years of arguing with people who cannot grasp simple concepts who work there, we sailed through 2020 AND 2021 without a late fee, and I was so delighted! They’d finally made a note on my account that there was no reason for me to make a deposit in an account that I cannot access, and had stopped charging me! You can sense what’s coming next, right? My husband alerted me this past May that we had now been charged a total of $12.00 in inactive fees. (Which means they DID charge us in 2021; we just didn’t notice.) Perhaps the bank had waived the fee in 2020 because of The State of Things. And apparently we simply did not notice when we began to lose $2.00 a month from the account. Whoops. As I have mentioned a billion times, normally I HATE making phone calls. But this one particular issue makes me practically giddy with wanting to tell someone how ASININE and RIDICULOUS it is. I was Let Me Talk to a Manager level irritated, after FIVE YEARS (minus the 2020 exception) of this nonsense. So back in May I called the bank and gave the lucky person who answered my spiel about how we should not be charged an inactive fee because the purpose of the account is to remain inactive. Unlike all the other brainless fools everyone else I’ve spoken to at the bank, she IMMEDIATELY understood that it was ridiculous to expect me to add even a single dollar to an account that I cannot touch. Not just ridiculous, but virtually impossible, considering that I don’t have checks or a debit card for that account, nor do I have digital access to the account, nor do I live within a 20 minutes’ drive of the bank. The account is under the control of the bank until we pay off the loan. The woman I spoke to Got It. Like, without my having to do anything but sketch out the basic issue, she said incredulously, “Well that’s ridiculous. Of course you wouldn’t want to add funds to an account you can’t touch! There’s no reason you should be paying an inactive fee on an account that’s meant to be inactive!” It took the bluster out of my Let Me Talk to a Manager sails, but it was SO mollifying to be understood. She said that she would talk with the bank supervisor and get the charge reversed AND she would have them make a note on our file. I was very pleased with the interaction. (Usually, the person I speak to says that ALL we have to do is deposit something in the account! It can be as little as a dollar! Once a year! And there are branches in X and Y and Z cities! Which, yes, I get that this sounds like a small amount of time and money and a very minimal hassle, but THE PRINCIPLE.) You know, perhaps, where this is heading. We came home to another statement which, alongside the credit of the $12, included a debit of $2 for a new inactive fee. ENDLESS SCREAMING.

Yes, I have a second bullet point about the banking thing. This morning, I called the bank and asked specifically to speak to the person I’d spoken to in May. Her name was similar to a fairly common name, but one syllable was different – like “Carlotte” instead of “Charlotte” or “Car-ree” instead of “Carrie” or “Samintha” instead of “Samantha.” I love her with my whole heart. She made things happen AND fully grasped why this situation is so stupid/frustrating. The person I spoke to put me on hold and then said that Samintha was not available but he would connect me to customer service. Sad, but okay. Customer Service means, as I discovered, the customer service line for the entire national banking system, when really I wanted to talk to someone (Samintha, sob!) in my local branch. Oh well. The customer service agent was very nice. His name was Tryin’ with a B. I explained to him that this is an annual problem, and gave him the quick and dirty details, and then he explained to me what was happening. “Oh, I think what the issue is, is that you have a LOAN, and this is a CHECKING ACCOUNT (it’s not, actually – it’s a money market account that we cannot access), and since you haven’t made any deposits or withdrawals, they are charging you an inactive fee.” Yes, thank you for repeating the exact same thing I just told you. And, nice as Tryin’ was, he couldn’t DO anything about it because the only person who can DO anything about it is the manager of my local branch. Tryin’ promised me he would call me back but I’m not holding my breath. I think I will see if I can get a hold of Samintha tomorrow.

I get canker sores about once a month and they are GOING WILD right now. I think this is a hormonal thing, but maybe it is a Covid thing? Who knows. Seems like EVERYTHING could be a Covid thing. And yes, canker sores are different from cold sores. They are basically little ulcers that occur inside the mouth, usually on the cheeks or under the tongue. Sometimes I get them on my gums, too. They are AWFUL. I have a massive one under my tongue and one on the very back part of my tongue right where my tongue brushes up against my bottom molars. 

The news is so enduringly turbulent. I just typed and erased a 634 word diatribe about one of the various Hot Button Issues that is driving me mad/making me worry that I have made a terrible mistake bringing a child into this fraught world. But I don’t like to write about Hot Button Issues on this blog, so I deleted it. (If I want to torment myself gnash my teeth and rend my garments over The State of Things catch up on world events, I will look at the news or go on Twitter.) Not that I have anything new or groundbreaking or interesting to say anyway; just vents/frets/threats of walking into the sea. There are SO MANY things going on and I have Feelings about many of them and yet I feel like it is utterly pointless to talk about them. The people I might discuss them with either disagree with me strenuously, which means voicing my own thoughts would lead to the type of confrontational encounter I HATE, and not to mention there’s no way I can convince anyone to feel differently from how they do; I don’t know enough of the background and facts, nor am I well-spoken enough to craft a convincing argument… or they already agree with me, and discussing things will just drive us each deeper into the pits of despair/rage we are already existing in.

I have eaten the last of the Reese’s peanut butter eggs.

My father (a physician for 40+ years) (I don’t know why I feel like I have to make sure you know he’s qualified to give advice) suggested that I make sure Carla is getting enough calcium. This is an ongoing concern, but one I haven’t properly fretted about recently, so I’m in Full Fret Mode right now. Apparently, she needs 1,300 mg of calcium per day – or four servings. She doesn’t get enough calcium. She refuses to drink milk – yes, even chocolate milk. She eats a bunch of cheese, and there is 200 mg of calcium per ounce of block cheddar or per 1/4 cup of shredded cheddar, so that helps, but it’s not enough. She only eats yogurt occasionally. She doesn’t even really like ice cream (and has never liked milkshakes) (she IS related to both me and my ice cream loving husband, I assure you). She eats cream cheese – it’s one of her non-pork camp foods this summer – but, despite having both “cream” and “cheese” right there in the name, there is only 26 mg of calcium per two tablespoons of cream cheese. (And NONE in the whipped cream cheese!) My mom and I walked through a whole list of foods that contain calcium and of that list Carla eats two things with moderate consistency: chickpeas and cheese. And sometimes yogurt. Very rarely, almonds. My mom was being really creative, too. What about calcium fortified orange juice? What about almond milk and almond butter? Carla does not drink juice and she will not touch almond milk with a ten-foot pole. I have no idea if I could get her to eat almond butter but my confidence level is low. Some people have suggested Ensure, but my guess is that if she refuses milk/juice/milkshakes, she will refuse Ensure as well. My current plan is try to coax her into drinking a smoothie every day. I can pack it with yogurt, almond milk, AND calcium fortified orange juice. She likes smoothies. We used to drink a mango smoothie together every week on the drive to ballet practice. But I am not sure if I can get her drink one every single day. My father thinks we should start giving her Tums. (We cannot do the Viactiv chocolate calcium chews.) Probably we will have to use a multi-pronged approach, with smoothies on one prong and roasted chickpeas and plenty of cheese on another prong and Tums on another prong. If you have any magical calcium ideas, I will prong them right up. 

Our refrigerator is unplugged and empty right now. This is something we’ve been planning to do, for awhile, and it’s not like I’m making big elaborate dinners at the moment, so it seems like a good time. We bought the fridge in 2011. It has some real advantages, like that it is beautiful and also it holds a TON of food. But it’s been plagued with issues almost from the beginning. To name a few: the door closing mechanism fails on a regular basis (I have learned how to source the replacement part and repair it myself), the ice maker broke and had to be repaired, the water dispenser pressure dropped off precipitously for no discernible (or fixable) reason, the bottom of the fridge fills with water that then turns to ice, the ice maker and dispenser chute are often coated with a slick black mold, the electronic panel frequently disconnects from the temperature readout and makes an incessant tinkling noise. ET CETERA. The most recent repairman I had in the house informed me that the ice problem was A Known Issue with this brand of fridge (GE/Samsung) and that it is unfixable. (He also said that if he’d known in advance this was the fridge we had, he wouldn’t have come out because he knows it is unfixable and wouldn’t want me to have to pay the service fee his company charges for sending someone to our house; he declined to charge me the service fee.) He suggested that best thing we can do is unplug it for three days, wait for the internal mechanisms to thaw, and then plug it back in and hope it works for about six months before we have to do it again. So that is what we are doing: we are thawing out the fridge in hopes that it will magically reset. We are lucky enough to have a second (though much smaller) fridge in the basement, so I have relocated the foods we cannot live without/cannot bear to toss. It is a jumbled mess down there, but at least it functions. However, now I have to run downstairs for every little thing and it’s a pain. (My husband keeps asking me, “Are you breathing heavily because you just went down two flights of stairs to the basement to get a plum and then walked back up two flights of stairs to the bedroom or because you have Covid?”) My father thinks, in a non-pressurey way, that we should just replace the damn fridge already. But I am one of those people who wants a key appliance to LOOK a certain way, and I have grown accustomed to how spacious it is. And have you SEEN how expensive refrigerators are?!?! I am not in the mood to spend one-, two- or three-THOUSAND dollars when a refrigerator should be a ONE-TIME purchase. Of course maybe we will plug the fridge back in and it will refuse to work and we will have to buy one anyway. Fun times! 

Speaking of fun times, summer feels like its coming to a close. I feel like there was so much anticipation about the summer, and our Road Trip!, and now the Road Trip! is over and Carla only has two weeks left of camp and then school will start before we know it and then it’s practically Thanksgiving, which might as well be Christmas and then a WHOLE YEAR will have passed.

A final Covid fret (for today, at least): My husband and Carla are following all the Covid protocols set forth by the CDC, my husband’s workplace, and Carla’s camp… but I am still fretting. I am being Very Strident about Carla wearing her mask, and her camp is mainly outdoors, and they only admitted children who were fully vaccinated, but ACK. I am fretting that Carla (despite having no symptoms and still testing negative on a rapid test) will somehow spread this stupid disease to others. (Also, I am very grateful for my little stockpile of rapid tests.) I hate being contagious. It is STUPID and I HATE IT. Well. As of tomorrow, according to the CDC, I am okay to leave isolation and rejoin the public, as long as I wear a mask. I haven’t taken a rapid test since the one that read positive, so I don’t know that I am negative yet, and that seems Kind Of Important, even though no one else (CDC, I am glaring in your direction) seems to agree. Anyway: I don’t have anywhere I plan to go, but the reasons that I COULD are positive: I have no fever (I don’t think I ever did) and my symptoms are improving. Except for the crankiness. That has, if anything, increased.

What are you fretting about? What’s making you cranky? Any complaints to share?

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Well, we are back from our Road Trip!, which was fabulous. Ten days of driving that paused for a five-day stopover with my parents in the middle. My husband planned the trip in such a way that we didn’t get tired of being in the car until the very end. And then we arrived home, and it was wonderful to be back in our own beds, with a weekend to recover before getting back to normal.

And then I woke up with cold symptoms and rapid tests confirmed that I have Covid. The worst souvenir. 

So far, I am feeling crummy. But mainly CRANKY. 

Cranky at myself. I always anticipated getting Covid at some point; it’s long seemed inevitable. I thought that when I finally got it, I would feel resignation mixed with relief. But I don’t. I am MAD. I got Covid because I took unnecessary risks, and that’s just a fact. Did I expect that * I * was somehow invincible? That Covid would look at the fact that I’ve been pretty measured and cautious over the past two-ish years and say, “Let’s skip her”? That residents of the rural western United States are all roaming around unmasked because Covid doesn’t exist in those areas? Apparently I did expect those things because we relaxed our typical restrictions on our trip and I got Covid. We ate out in restaurants A LOT. We went into museums and gas stations and gift shops and sometimes we just left our masks in the car. We attended events with lots of other people and pretended that the outdoor venues would protect us. I was uncareful and I KNEW I wasn’t being careful and I got Covid. So I feel cranky and mad and a little ashamed and my head feels like a stress ball that’s being squeezed so intensely you can see the little beads inside it through the membrane. PLUS I somehow forgot to do the Wordle yesterday and it RESET my winning streak.

For posterity’s sake, my symptoms: It started with a scratchy throat. So lightly scratchy that it was easy enough to write it off as irritation from staying in so many hotels (I was getting irritated with being on the road, those last couple of days; why not my throat, too?), or the change in atmosphere/climate as we drove eastward toward home. Then a day of an even sorer throat, with an irresistible tickle that could only be soothed by chain-lozenging menthol cough drops. Then a day where the throat felt better and the cough was less persistent. Now, Day 4, I am in the Head in a Vise stage. I am isolating in my bedroom, which fortunately has its own bathroom, but I am resentful and grumpy and have to get up to staunch my runny nose every few minutes. 

Covid. Ugh.

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I am sad and my foot hurts and I have too many things to do but instead I keep bouncing back and forth between reading awful news articles and researching gun control legislation, so I am going to distract myself by blogging for a few minutes. 

Today as I was putting away the groceries (this is the THIRD trip to the grocery store I have made this week, which is a testament to how important it is to MEAL PLAN in advance because I did not do that this week and now here we are), I came across a giant five-pound bag of sugar that I bought in 2020 during the height of the sugar/flour shortage. I remember spotting it at Costco, alongside enormous industrial sized bags of flour and snapping it up with glee and relief. It has remained in my basement lo these many years. 

Well, my sugar container is looking a bit wan, so I will use the five-pound bag to refill it. My sugar container does not hold five pounds of sugar, though, so… I’m not really sure what to do with the remainder. That’s what gallon-size Ziploc storage bags are for, I suppose.

(The reason I need to refill the sugar container is because I am making cupcakes. They were supposed to do double duty: 1. They were to be dessert for an evening with friends, who were scheduled to come for dinner this weekend. 2. They were to be a special birthday surprise for our neighbor, who has become one of Carla’s favorite people on the planet; when Carla found out it was the neighbor’s birthday, she insisted that we make cupcakes. Anyway, the friends are no longer coming but the neighbor is still having a birthday, so I am still making cupcakes.) 

Pulling out the five-pound bag of sugar did jolt me back, a bit, into those dark days of the early pandemic. Not that the days have gotten a whole lot brighter, in many senses, pandemic and otherwise. But things are different. We no longer buy two jars of pickles a week, for one thing. I still note that we are getting low on paper towels or toilet paper, but I don’t fret. I raised my eyebrows when I saw that cream cheese was in very low supply (and zero of the Philadelphia brand was available), but I didn’t grab more boxes than I need for the cupcake recipe. The peanut butter shelves were near-empty, but that’s because of the Jif recall, not because peanut butter is no longer available. (Our giant two-pack of Jif was in the affected batch; we’d already eaten one entire jar but the other was unopened.) I have been gradually and purposefully whittling down our supply of frozen meat, rather than rushing out to refill it. 

I know things are still far from pre-pandemic “normal.” The note about “only four packages of baby formula per person” at my Target is a glaring example of that fact. But I do worry less. 

On the illness front: I have given Carla a Covid test before school every day this week. She keeps waking up with a sore throat or sniffles (that do seem to magically disappear by the time we leave for school), and I just don’t want to take a chance. Plus, Covid is rampant in her grade, with four and five cases per class as of last week (except in Carla’s class, so far). We are five days out from the end of the school year, and it would be amazing if she could make it the whole way… but that seems increasingly unlikely. 

My family continues to wear masks in public, indoor spaces. I am accustomed to wearing one that I don’t really notice anymore how many people are or aren’t wearing masks. I haven’t been hassled. My husband thinks that our road trip later this summer will take us through a lot of areas where masking will be non-existent, and I wonder if we’ll be hassled then; we’ll see. Carla’s school went mask-optional a long time ago, and we allowed Carla to make her own choice about whether to wear one or not. She enthusiastically chose NOT. We have been urging her, as cases at school and in her grade have crept up, to reconsider, and I think she IS wearing a mask at least some of the time. But it’s hard to know. When you are eight, it is extremely difficult to understand abstract non-immediate consequences. 

We are in the very, very privileged position of not having any underlying health issues ourselves, and not having any immunocompromised people in our household or classroom/work situation to worry about so we are more relaxed than some. I don’t know much about Long Covid, so that does worry me a little. We are of course willing and happy to take stronger measures if necessary – like I am always happy to throw on a mask if a friend is wearing one, and I don’t insist on going out for coffee when it is perfectly acceptable to have coffee at my house. But I feel like we have reached a level of comfort and regularity with how we protect ourselves. More than ever, it feels like contracting Covid is inevitable. We have been so lucky not to have it (or to have had such mild cases it went through us undetected); that luck is bound to run out.  

We are looking at a nice long weekend ahead of us. I finally got some flowers into the flowerpots in my front and back yard, and that makes me feel much better about things. They were looking so dejected and depressed; now they have little bright spots of color. (Except for the pot that has been designated as Carla’s. She went with me to pick out the flowers, and she fell in love with some black petunias. She would have had all our pots full of black flowers if it were up to her. Instead, I bought her a black petunia and gave her her own pot. And then filled up the other flower pots with purple and yellow and pink.)

I am very disappointed that our friends are no longer coming. We haven’t seen them since February, and they are the kind of people whose social calendars fill up months in advance so the next time they can work us in is August. (In fact, we’d originally been scheduled to have them over for dinner in April, but they accidentally double-booked us and had to back out of that; late May was the first available option way back in March when they realized the issue.) So I am disappointed and cranky about that. Especially because I already bought – literally – ten Roma tomatoes so I can make salsa and five avocados so I can make guacamole. I guess my little family will be feasting on salsa and guacamole all weekend. Perhaps I can coax our neighbor to come over for a little birthday fiesta? 

In my planning for the dinner party, I totally forgot about the long weekend. So this morning I planned out our meals on the fly, mid-produce section. In addition to chips, salsa, guacamole, and strawberry cupcakes, here’s what we will be eating:

  • Ground Beef Tacos: Carla squealed with delight when I told her we will be having tacos. Same, Carla. Same.
  • Spinach Salad with Strawberries, Chicken, and Goat Cheese: I will be using regular strawberries this time, not pineberries. Also, I like to use a mix of spinach and arugula because I dislike spinach. Also also, I am going to make my favorite balsamic dressing instead of the raspberry vinaigrette. 
  • Steak Kebabs: This may end up being steaks and veggies instead because my husband has a very interesting aversion to cooking shish kebabs. Even if I am the one who threads the food onto the skewers AND grills the skewers, he is very… hesitant about it. I am choosing to see this quirk as cute.
  • Crispy Slow Cooker Carnitas: This is what I planned to make for our friends. It’s fairly keto-friendly and always delicious.
  • Greek Chicken Chopped Salad: Unfortunately, I could not find any fresh oregano so I will need to go to the grocery store YET AGAIN. I will use that opportunity to buy more berries; I cannot get enough strawberries right now.

Salads and tacos. Sounds pretty great to me.

What are you up to this weekend? If you live in the U.S., are you doing anything special for Memorial Day?

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Listen, I endured the drab wet drag of April purely because of the promise of May flowers and May has brought NOTHING BUT RAIN so far. Okay, also, I had no choice. But mainly the May flowers thing. Today, in particular, has been miserable. A persistent seething mist that is somehow much more dismal and spirit-breaking than actual rain, and everything is so water-logged and sloppy, and there’s no relief in sight. The weather mirrors, in so many ways, the news. 

So I am in the mood for some good ol’ mental diversionary tactics. Join me for some randomosity, will you?

I went back to the grocery store today. My husband has a work meeting tonight which I am using as a handy excuse to buy some prepared food that I merely have to heat rather than making an actual meal. I don’t love going to the grocery store multiple times in one week, but doing so meant that I could check out the produce situation on a mid-Wednesday rather than first thing Monday. The produce section was fully-stocked (asparagus! broccoli! iceberg lettuce aplenty!), so I feel fairly confident that the bare spots from Monday were a simple matter of timing rather than supply chain issues or shortages. 

Going to the grocery store today also meant that I could collect photographic evidence of the artisan baby iceberg lettuces. What do you think the other customers think, when I pulled out my phone and began taking baby-iceberg glamour shots?

I don’t know if you can see it on that sign, but these are “personal sized iceberg lettuce about the size of a softball!” A softball-sized lettuce is not worth $1.50, even if you claim it is “artisan.” Which… how? Doesn’t “artisan” mean crafted or made by hand??? Man, these marketers are really working hard for their money.

Here is the baby lettuce next to the actual heads of iceberg. There is no way that two baby lettuces equal one regular one. No way.

The tonic aisle was still full of holes, although I was able to get a bottle of diet tonic. My gin will be delighted. 

Speaking of gin: I bought this particular bottle because of a grocery store loophole. The grocery store in question is not my regular place. It’s a bigger, less nice supermarket that has a liquor store tacked onto one side. It’s very close to Carla’s school, so sometimes I pop in there if I need something quickly. The big problem with this grocery store is that it is chronically understaffed. This has always been an issue, and you can imagine that it has become even more significant with the staffing shortages that everyone is facing right now. I don’t think I’ve ever seen more than two cash registers in operation at a time. And there are self-checkouts, but the lines at those are always enormous. This store has a loophole, though. Which is that you can buy groceries (as long as you don’t need any produce to be weighed) in the attached liquor store. Carla and I were there very late, because I’d been busy with the volunteer event I was chairing, and the lines were soooo long, and we only had a few items (including a frozen pizza for me because I can handle a twelve-hour day of volunteering but I cannot handle anything more complicated than heating up a frozen pizza on top of that), so I grabbed a bottle of gin and we paid in twenty seconds. The cashier, bless her, asked for my ID, and I said, “You need my ID? Can’t you see the many decades of exhaustion etched on my face?” and then Carla said to the cashier, “Do you also sell ginantonic?” and perhaps I need to reserve my gin-and-tonic hours for after she goes to bed. 

I had a Very Stressful dream last night. I was supposed to read a poem at a friend’s wedding. When I showed up – wearing the navy dress that all the bridesmaids were wearing – my friend was aghast; I was supposed to be wearing a DIFFERENT navy dress! I wondered if I had time to run home and change into the dress I bought and did not wear for Passover, but in the dream logic, I didn’t make any effort to figure out how much time I did or did not have. Instead, I spent the remainder of the VERY LENGTHY dream trying in vain to find the poem I was supposed to read in my email or online. At some point, I turned the dress I was wearing inside out, so at least it was a different color than the bridesmaids’, but the bride refused to talk to me. What the hell is this dream trying to tell me? What particular stress am I manifesting?

It feels like people all around me are getting Covid. A friend yesterday told me her husband tested positive; her kid tested positive this morning. A second friend’s husband tested positive today. This is not a new phenomenon, but it hasn’t happened in a while. I am not a fan. 

I have a credit card that I don’t use very often, and when I went to use it recently I discovered it had expired. Except that I had never received a replacement. So I went online and checked to make sure no one was running up charges (not yet at least) and then emailed the company, saying, “Hi, my card expired, but I never got a new one.” The response I got was, “Hey! Our records show we sent you a card in December. If you have not received your new card, let us know by calling us!” Um. Did you READ my previous email? In which I said that I never got my new card? Sigh. So much for dealing with this issue quickly and easily via email. Now I have to CALL SOMEONE.  

In other mildly unsettling credit card news, my husband recently got an email that he’d been approved for the credit card he’d signed up for! A card that he had NOT signed up for. He was able to cancel the card, but marveled at the fact that the person who had tried to steal his identity for nefarious credit-card obtaining purposes had used his email address. Why? Then yesterday we got the card itself in the mail. It was sent to our actual address. What? What is wrong with this identity thief? Is this some identity theft testing process? A credit card company that tries to get you to accept their card by pretending you signed up for it? Very odd indeed. 

Usually at this time of year, I find myself feeling pre-resentful and grumpy about Mother’s DayThis year I am feeling very at peace with whatever happens. I haven’t made any plans for myself, nor asked for anything, and I am not grumpy one whit. I mean, there’s still time to feel resentful and grumpy, but I’m enjoying the absolute not-caring that I feel at this moment. It’s very freeing. 

Here is a random photo of blue skies and flowering trees which is the OPPOSITE of what it looks like outside right now.

Someone made a Serious Error several years ago that resulted in the Tooth Fairy leaving personalized notes to my daughter each time she loses a tooth. Because of this really thoughtless oversight on someone’s part, my daughter has been corresponding with the Tooth Fairy – asking questions, requesting fairy dust, wanting to know the Tooth Fairy’s name. And then today, I made a Serious Error by saying, before I had fully awakened, that the Muffin Fairy had left an extra blueberry muffin on my daughter’s breakfast plate. She latched onto that wording immediately. I told her that I was the Muffin Fairy and that there was no real Muffin Fairy and she squinted at me and said, “If you are the Muffin Fairy,” – which again I had literally just invented five seconds ago – “then are you the Tooth Fairy, too?” 

I try very hard to never lie to my child. And by that I mean never lie to her face while still trying to preserve the magical fabrications that I remember bringing so much joy to my own childhood. So I adopted an expression of exaggerated skepticism and said, “Why would you think that? Do I look like a fairy?” and her squint deepened and I said, “And what would I do with teeth? And how would I possibly go around to the houses of everyone who lost a tooth?” And she said, “No, silly, you wouldn’t go to everyone’s house. Only your own kid.” And then I went into the pantry and changed the subject. But a few minutes later, she directed me to write something on a piece of paper so she could compare it to the Tooth Fairy’s handwriting. WHO, may I ask, overlooked the fact that she has been keeping her correspondence with the Tooth Fairy?

Did I tell you that Carla bought a jumpsuit? Is that the right word for it? We went to Carter’s the other day and she found this truly adorable one-piece pants outfit and immediately wanted it. I mean, I wanted it also, it was so chic and lovely. I would look terrible in it, especially considering it only came in child sizes. The problem with it was that it had a button at the back of the neck. A child’s jumpsuit. Had a button. At the back of the neck. I have never understood buttons on the back of children’s clothing EVER. But how – HOW, I ask you – does it make any iota of sense to have a button closure on the back of a CHILD’S JUMPSUIT? How is a CHILD supposed to navigate that when addressing normal and not-infrequent necessities of life presumably whilst at school?

She found a different jumpsuit, also cute, with NO BUTTONS ANYWHERE. She tried it on and demonstrated to me how she would remove it for bathroom break purposes. She wore it to school today and looked very adorable indeed. And by “adorable” I mean, of course, “stylish and grown-up” because Carla has reached an age where “cute” is now code for “babyish.” I cannot refer to her as “cute” anymore or she reacts with disgust.

Apparently I am now on a Carla Stories Kick. Yesterday, we had such a lovely time together after school. We have been looking for Jeff the Great Blue Heron every time we drive past his pond and have only seen him ONCE. So Carla asked if we could walk over to his pond after school. The rain stopped just for this purpose. It was so nice. We didn’t see Jeff, but we did see many Canada geese couples and their fluffy yellow babies. We also saw some goldfinches and some killdeer and some mallards, and Carla described at length how killdeer have a very distinctive call and asked me if I was aware that there was such a thing as a GREEN heron, and then talked a bit about an imaginary bird journal that she would like to keep. She held my hand while we crossed the street and then kept holding my hand and I just kept grinning at her and thinking, My God, I am so grateful for this child. It may sound mundane and silly and it was but it is also an afternoon I never, ever want to forget. 

This is not the most flattering angle of Jeff, but it is very difficult to photograph a subject as reluctant as he is. He is much more magnificent and graceful in person.

I may have zero sunshine but I did pick up some more May flowers for myself: a bunch of hot pink Gerber daisies to add to my yellow tulips from Monday.

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I am NOT in the mood to think about dinner, not one bit, but I did go to grocery store and go through all the motions of buying food that could potentially be put together in a variety of combinations on one’s plate. 

The grocery store has, of late, been… well, not worrisome, exactly. But every time I go there, I feel the parallel lines between my eyebrows deepening just a little in watchful pre-concern. Today, the produce section looked like it had been looted by a colony of ravenous hares. (Please note that a group of rabbits is also known as a fluffle, which is just too adorable for words, and which, sadly, does not have the right tone for my current level of grocery store apprehension.)  There was no asparagus at all (I found some later in the prepared foods section), a single bunch of broccoli – even the section of more-expensive broccoli crowns was meager, and the crowns themselves looked like they were old – and the bell peppers were nearly non-existent. The boxed/bagged lettuce seemed plentiful, at least. But there were only TWO heads of iceberg lettuce at all. Except – and please share if your grocery store is doing this same kind of lettuce mind game – there were several two-packs of “artisan miniature iceberg lettuce” or however it is that they are trying to disguise the heads of lettuce that are too small to be sold as regular heads of lettuce. Every time I see these stunted, tiny twin packs I roll my eyes, but I have never taken a photo. I will try to remember to do so next time so we can all scoff at them together. 

The berries were moderately plentiful, but the limes and lemons looked picked through and the only other available fruits were grapefruits, a few oranges, and some pears. I did get some kiwis, I suppose, which is good because Carla is in a kiwi kick. I suppose there was, in reality, an abundance of produce in a wide variety. But it felt like very low-stock, with lots of empty spaces. And perhaps that was due to it being first thing Monday morning, but I just don’t know

The rest of the store seemed… sparse in odd ways. Like… the tonic section looked very picked over, with lots of holes on the shelves (the hole that most affected me personally was the one where the diet tonic should have been grumble grumble), but really there was a lot of tonic to be had. The same with the yogurt: holes and empty shelves, but in and among LOTS of yogurt. I was irritated to find that the peach Two Good yogurt had expired back on April 23, but there were enough other options to get plenty for the week. Cream cheese seemed very lacking – the foil-wrapped rectangles were not in evidence, nor were the tubs of whipped cream cheese Carla likes. I still have a couple of boxes from the false-alarm cream cheese shortage of last fall though (possibly expired), so I merely squinted at the empty cream cheese section and moved on. 

Frozen pancakes were not only available, they were on SALE. I had promised my husband – who is joining me on Keto! – that I would get him some frozen egg bites, but they were missing from the shelves. 

My grocery store has rearranged the meat section so I find it hard to evaluate whether it truly seems bare (there were three pork tenderloins total, and only a few packages of pork chops) or whether it’s just unfamiliar. 

Things seem VERY expensive. I hesitate to admit that I am in a position where I buy things from a list, and rarely make note of the price unless it is wildly shocking (like the 2-for-$7 iceberg lettuce of last fall). But I am pretty sure that pints of raspberries and blackberries would normally, at this time of year, be $2 a package rather than $3.50. And containers of strawberries would typically be going for $2.50 a package rather than $4.99. 

The biggest price escalation I spotted today was goat cheese. I am 99% certain that I could get a 4-ounce log of goat cheese for $3.99 in the past; today it was $5.29, and that was for a brand I’ve never heard of before. The kind I usually get was $5.49. That is a BIG jump. Cheese in general seems to have really gone up in price – unfortunate considering that we eat a LOT of cheese, especially when doing keto. 

I also bought wheat germ for the first time, because I made a loaf of banana chocolate chip bread on Carla’s request; she’d tasted it at a friend’s house, and I got the recipe from the friend’s mother and it calls for equal parts flour, whole wheat flour, and wheat germ. For anyone who has also never before purchased wheat germ, and suddenly finds themselves needing it, it was in the cereal aisle, NOT the baking aisle like I thought it would be. I also scoured the aisle that has all the hemp hearts and chia seeds and whey protein and collagen powder before finally asking an employee. 

Carla has asked me to FREEZE the banana chip bread once it is made, which… I am not going to do until after she has tasted it fresh.

I bought some cheery yellow tulips as well, on sale for $6.99 a bunch; there used to be a section of flowers that were 3 for $15, but several weeks ago that changed to 3 for $18, so I understand that flowers are no exception to inflation. These tulips were one of a handful of bunches that looked remotely acceptable; the others looked like they had already spent several long days preening for the customers and were now haggard and limp. Perhaps it is the persistent rain of this particular spring that is causing the lackluster flowers; perhaps there will be an influx later in the week in time for Mother’s Day.

Okay. I have dawdled long enough. Now it is time to figure out what to eat this week.

Dinners for the Week of May 2 to May8

What are you eating this week, the FIRST WEEK OF MAY OMG?

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I am in the thick of it right now, and it’s not even very thick – people are in much thicker situations, and dealing just fine, and here I am flailing around. So I am feeling stressed and also irritated with myself for being stressed over so little. It really doesn’t take much. 

Taking a page from Swistle’s book and buying pretty flowers so at least there’s something bright in my day.
  • Obviously, at the top of the frets list is the awfulness going on in Ukraine. The thought of people losing their homes, their loved ones, their lives… the thought of cities being devasted and bombed… the thought of babies and cancer patients huddled in basements and subway tunnels… it is all so awful. And then there is the underlying threat of a giant nuclear-weapon wielding toddler getting bored or angry and throwing a temper tantrum that results in nuclear destruction. Of course, there is other extremely upsetting stuff going on here in the US and around the world at the same time. The media coverage feels absolutely gleeful, there is so much bad stuff to go around. I am avoiding as much of the news as I can, which is, of course, a very privileged option. But it’s all horrible, whether you try to ignore it or not.
  • Did I mention that I stayed home today with a sick kiddo? (It’s not Covid.) I would have stayed home anyway, but being at home hits differently when there is a child at home with you. In totally unrelated news, her school went mask-optional last week. Carla was elated about the option to stop masking, and so she stopped masking. My husband and I supported this for several reasons, but it really came down to the fact that she is nearly nine and we literally cannot force her to wear a mask. Once she’s at school, all bets are off. Anyway, some of those virulent little bugs that have been waiting around for two years to get a crack at some delicious elementary schoolers jumped right on board. Right on in there. It took one week for this to happen. 
  • We are still wearing masks in public, even though cases are very low in my area right now. However, my husband and I did go to a restaurant for my birthday. We did not wear masks in the restaurant. (Although I put mine on to visit the restroom.) It feels a little odd to pick and choose this way. No masks at school, no masks at a restaurant. But I will throw on a mask to go to the grocery store or the post office. I don’t know. It all feels very strange. 
  • Dinners this week? Ha. I have not thought about a single dinner beyond tonight. No one will starve. I have some broccoli and some lettuce and some green beans to make as sides. We are having tacos for dinner tonight, even though the thought of tacos makes me queasy. That’s as far as I’ve gotten. 
  • Speaking of taco queasiness, I am doing Keto again. Sigh. This is Week Six, which seems like a good point at which to share it with you. Leave it to Keto to make my favorite food in all the world unappealing. It’s just that I’ve eaten so very much taco meat in the past six weeks. Piles and piles of it. Turns out I really need shells to enjoy the taco experience. I will try not to talk about it a whole lot, although I have found a few products and a few modifications that have made it better, this time around. If you are interested, maybe I will write a post about them. I mean, I may write a post about it anyway, no promises, but I will put something Keto-related in the headline so you can skip it if you are so inclined. 
  • I made up a big batch of Costco salmon last night, which was DELICIOUS, but then I realized that I may be eating too much salmon, and looked it up and INDEED I am eating like 50 times the recommended salmon amount, so now what? I don’t want to let the salmon go bad. Plus it is delicious. How quickly does mercury poisoning set it, anyway?
  • I did a yoga workout today and Adriene said something about how I needed to clear the desk of my mind. Well. My desk and my mind are pretty aligned, I’d say. (I did not get a lot out of today’s session.)
I have to be honest, it’s looked worse.
  • Things that are stressing me out, on the opposite end of the nuclear-warfare spectrum:
    • We are going on a trip. I have all the usual pre-trip stresses, like making packing lists and checking that the plane schedule is the same, and trying to figure out how to remain clothed in the days leading up to the trip without needing to do extra laundry. Plus, the pandemic-era pre-trip stresses, like wondering whether our flights will be canceled or our rental car will be there when we arrive or whether we will all contract Covid in the airport on the way to or from our destination. 
    • I have a meeting with a new potential client. I am excited but nervous. We are meeting in person, which is adding to the nerves. As is typical of my stress about situations like this, I am hyper-focused on WHAT DO I WEAR. I have nothing to wear, nothing at all. 
    • I volunteered for a school project, because I wanted to be more involved at school. And it is turning out to be MUCH more involved than I ever imagined. I mean, this is a thing that happens yearly. There should be clearly defined policies and procedures that I can follow. And yet it is a situation where I feel like I am in a dark room and I can only shine my flashlight on one thing at a time, and even then I can’t get a really good sense of the layout of the furniture or what things I’m missing. It is also taking A LOT OF TIME. 
    • A friend – who is heading up a different school project – asked me many months ago if I would help with a small aspect of her project. I said yes. But now I am concerned that I will be too busy with my project to devote enough time/attention to hers, but it’s also too late to back out.
    • My in-laws are coming to visit. I am so happy and relieved that my mother-in-law has completed chemotherapy. She and my father-in-law are coming up for some post-chemo doctors’ appointments and tests. It will be great to see them, but it is never un-stressful to have guests. 
    • I am on the docket for jury duty. I only had to report for one day each of the last two times I was called for jury duty. The odds are not in my favor for skipping out on it again, are they. 
    • When am I supposed to WRITE, which is supposedly my main priority? 

  • Something that is not stressing me out, but is still requiring time and energy, and, okay, a little stress, is that Girl Scout Cookies arrived. The part I hate the most, aside from asking people to spend money, is the collecting of the money. What if Carla or I make a mistake? What if we under- or overcharge someone? We already had one incident where a neighbor said that a box of cookies was missing – but in fact she had written on the form that she wanted to donate a box. So we are already on the hook for that box of cookies. It is only $5, and paying $5 is worth more than insisting the neighbor pay it. But I hate stuff like that! 
The floor of my office right now.
  • Carla and I ran some errands today. Her fever was gone (which means she can return to school tomorrow), and we mainly stayed in the car. We did go into the pharmacy, where we encountered a man with a giant bloodhound. Carla, of course, wanted to pet the dog and he, of course, wanted very much to be petted by Carla. Also, he had a very long, twisty Biblical name which I thought was absolutely spectacular for a bloodhound. Why the dog was in the pharmacy is a mystery (he wasn’t wearing a vest that indicated he is a helper dog), but it was a fun encounter nonetheless.
  • Another fun sight: I ran into the post office to drop off a StitchFix return, and on the way in I saw a man carrying a Netflix DVD to return!!!! What a blast from the past! I desperately want to know this man and his life. 
  • I bought a carton of strawberries yesterday. Listen, I KNOW that strawberries are Not Good in March. This is not strawberry season. But they were so lovely and plump and red, and I just couldn’t resist them. I haven’t opened the carton yet, so they are currently Schrödinger’s Strawberries, and could very well be juicy and delicious. 

How are you, Internet? What’s cluttering the desk of YOUR mind?

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Well, you bolstered my spirits SO MUCH after yesterday’s cake talk (please continue to share your cake dreams; it is a delightful distraction) that I felt totally pumped up and ready to make my cake call. I fished out the business card the baker had given me, phone in hand, ready to dial… and noticed that she has a website. 

Listen, I KNEW that she had a website – I’d looked at it before Carla and I went to the event she hosted. My recollection was that the site listed some of the cookies and baked goods she normally offers at the farmer’s market, and that it mentioned cakes on the menu, but that the only thing it said about cakes was that they are custom. 

But I wanted to research as much as possible, without doing SO MUCH research that I would lose my phone call determination, so I quickly visited her site. Turns out I was wrong: she has a page on her site devoted to cakes. Not only did it list the price per cake (THIRTY DOLLARS), it had an ONLINE FORM that I could fill out with all of my details!!! 

You will understand that the clouds parted and the sun shone down on me and the air filled with the gentle chorus of angels singing, “Ahhhh!” in harmonious unison.

I included as much detail as I could (and the form was nice and long), and left my name, phone number, and email address in case I left out critical details, or in case she refuses to work with lemon curd on principle, I don’t know; I will angst about literally anything. And then I paid VIA PAYPAL (the angels’ song crescendos). THIRTY DOLLARS. I thought for sure I was looking at least $75, if not $100-$150. But no. Thirty. Dollars. 

Then, it DID turn out I had left out important information. But I learned this because she emailed me because she is clearly my cake soul mate. (She wanted to know how many people would be eating the cake, if I had a color scheme, and if I wanted any decorations/words.) Then we figured out where to meet to pick it up, and voila! Done! 

I am very pleased. And honestly, even if the cake is so-so, the purchase experience was SUCH a good experience on its own I will definitely patronize her again. 

By the way, I told Carla when I picked her up from school that I’d ordered my birthday cake! Soothed by everyone’s comments, I was completely unfazed by having done it myself: it is not a big deal, and lo, it was not. But Carla did not get the memo. She was AGHAST. “WHY did you do that, Mommy?” she exclaimed. “You’re NOT supposed to do that!” And I said, “If I don’t do it, who will?” “DADDY!” She was further scandalized when I said she and I were going to pick up the cake after school on my birthday. “You can’t LOOK at it, Mommy!” she said, eyes wide. “DON’T LOOK.” 

On to the grocery store report, which I am adding here simply because I like reading other people’s grocery store reports. 

I went this morning, which is not my usual morning. Also, we are expecting around a foot of snow overnight, so people are panicking. (Is that why I went to the grocery store when I’d already stopped there Monday afternoon? PERHAPS.) So either of those variables could be responsible for the store being much more crowded than usual. 

There was an elderly couple who was on the same route that I follow. I swear I have seen them or their couple-twin before, because they are a) darling and b) incapable of standing in a way that does not occupy 75% of the aisle. I am constantly saying “Excuse me!” “Ope! Sorry! Can I squeeze by?” to these people. They also deliberate long and hard about every item they buy. Seriously. I stood beside them in front of the lettuce and they stared at the romaine for what felt like many minutes. I could NOT get away from them. They were even in the cracker aisle, where I had to replenish our Triscuit supply. Carla is very into Triscuits lately. 

Anyway: As usual, our store was fairly well-stocked, although I felt a little… wary, as I made my way around. 

First, there is yet another reorganization of the produce section happening. It seems to me like they have added black trays/bins to the normal shelves, and for all I know, it’s to enhance cleanliness and make washing/removing/refilling the trays quicker and easier. But what it LOOKED LIKE is that they are finding ways to make less produce look as abundant as ever.

And it is still abundant! I had a rainbow of bell peppers to choose from! When I was a kid, we were lucky to find a single wrinkled green pepper at the grocery store in the middle of winter, let alone a pile of not only green peppers but red and orange and yellow ones.

Lettuce was bountiful.

Berries were back in stock, although the berry section was rather small. That’s probably just the time of year, though. Or they are winnowing the blue-, black-, and raspberries to make room for an influx of Valentine’s Day strawberries. 

The banana and onion sections were full. There was NO CELERY, which was worrying for a moment… but when I circled back around to get more mushrooms (I was adding new items to my meal plan as I went; see yesterday’s post for an updated list), the celery had been restocked. 

The cereal aisle had some worrying holes – no Rice Krispies. But I did snag a box of Wheat Chex – not that we need Wheat Chex. My thought process was something like, “If we run out of power and have to dip into pantry food, we can all eat Wheat Chex” which is nonsensical, but the anxious brain has its own sense of inarguable logic.

Pasta was well stocked, except that rigatoni was missing. This is my husband’s preferred pasta shape (I am penne 4 life), so it was notable. I got him some campanelli; he can be soothed occasionally by the ruffles. 

The freezer section still had pancakes, and I just bought pancakes Monday so I walked right past. I know! I am the epitome of restraint! Still no French toast sticks. 

The chicken nugget section was VERY thin. Probably six or seven bags of various breaded chicken options total. Since we just emptied a bag, leaving me with one bag in the freezer, I picked up another bag. Since the pandemic, I have been fully indoctrinated into the Cult of the Backup. As Nicole said the other day, “I always have backups in the pantry of household staple. If the backup comes into use, then I buy another backup. It gives me an enormous amount of comfort to know that if we run out of an item on the main floor, there is a backup in the pantry downstairs.” YES. This is the one true way. Someday I will convert my husband to our movement. What’s not to like? We always have cookies. 

The ground beef section was VERY low. Once again, the prepared foods counter was closed. But it was open when I popped in Monday afternoon – it must simply have shorter hours these days, probably due to staffing issues. 

Lunchables were available. My daughter’s favorite muffins were not, but her second favorite muffins were, so I grabbed some of those. Bread was plentiful. 

The one thing I regret not grabbing was a package of tulips, on sale for $6.99 a bunch. (That’s… a lot. But I have been eyeing the tulips my past few trips, and I think it was running $8.99 before. Two dollars off is a good savings.)

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Meal planning, grocery store reports, and randomosity. Seems like that’s all I can dredge up for a blog post these days. Thank you for reading anyway.

(Perhaps you could use one of your over-long randomosity bullets as its own blog post! you might suggest. Ah. If only my brain were capable of processing posts in manageable bite sizes instead of epic book-length tomes.) 

  • I finally got my hair cut and colored this week. My original appointment was a month ago. But the day before I was scheduled to see her, my hair stylist canceled because she had Covid. And then the day before I was rescheduled to see her, I thought I had Covid. My hair was very, very grey and now it is very, very brown and I am deeply grateful to my hair stylist. This time, she also dyed my eyebrows. You will have to trust me when I say that I currently look exactly like Uncle Leo. (The dye has temporarily adhered to the skin beneath my brows, and my hair stylist promises it will wash out in a day or so. Until then, I say, “Hello!”)
The resemblance is uncanny.
  • (This is not a new bullet, but WordPress disagrees.) Aside from the absolutely ridiculous name, I love it. It has the base primer, which makes my lashes super long. And then it has the top layer. And it’s waterproof so it never runs or smudges. It is a little difficult to remove, but it stays on so well I don’t mind. Since we are all wearing masks for the next FOREVER, it is my new best friend. I wore it skiing the other day, when it was snowing so heavily that my family and I were human moguls by the time we reached the top of the chair lift. And I made the mistake of putting my goggles on top of my helmet, where they immediately became crusted with snow and ice, which rendered them completely unusable, so I had to spend the rest of the day with snow flying directly into my face. My mascara did not budge.
Yes, that is a sliver of my actual forehead. Titillating.
  • Who was it that recommended I watch Sex EducationMy husband and I just finished Season 2 and I love it. The first season was good. I wasn’t crazy about the premise: Otis, son of beautiful sex therapist Gillian Anderson, starts offering a sex advice clinic of his own at school, with the help of prickly bad girl Maeve. For the entirety of Season 1, I had to suspend a LOT of disbelief, and plus the advice that Otis charged for seemed really basic – like no one could simply google their issues and get the exact same solution? But the characters were interesting, and I became Very Invested in a couple of the side stories, so we went straight into Season 2. And it was GREAT. The cast of characters are so fun and interesting. Everyone is complex and has their own inner struggles. I love how diverse the cast is (although there could be a little more size diversity), and I love how plainly and non-judgmentally a wide variety of sexual preferences are portrayed, and I love the friendship between Otis and his best friend Eric, and I love Gillian Anderson even though her character can be kind of irritating. Anyway: it is a really different, interesting show and I am hoping my husband will be up for jumping right into Season 3. (This may sound like “no, duh” advice, but if you aren’t interested in seeing/hearing about pretty graphic sex acts, I would skip this show.)
  • Has it been cold in your neck of the woods? It’s been cold here, but nowhere near as cold as it COULD be. I grew up in the land of Minus Sixty Degrees, so I am pretty blasé about our current in-the-teens temps. We do have some pretty serious icicle action going on though. These guys are all come at me bro and I want to say, Whoa, whoa, whoa. Chill out, my dude. No need to get so defensive.
  • Where I was originally going with the previous bullet was that my office is quite frigid lately. I used to have a space heater, one that’s so old I can’t remember when or how or why I acquired it. It died last year. Is it still sitting forlornly in the corner of my office, mourning its inability to fulfill its life purpose? Yes. Despite my sympathy for the defunct space heater, I decided to buy a new space heater and I found this little guy. So far, I really like it. I park it in the middleish of my office and direct it toward my desk, and it definitely makes the space warmer. I think it would be perfect for a cubicle or a small office. It has a little handle, and it is very sensitive to being bumped, and I really like it. It’s little, too – about the height of a hard-bound book, and a very cute little fella. Because as we all know, cuteness is a key factor in which space heater to buy.
  • Not that I’ve been in my office a whole lot this week. Even though I am supposed to be doing revisions, I have instead been traipsing all over hither and thither for all sorts of stupid appointments. Annual gyn appointment. Annual mammogram. Routine physical to establish with a new PCP. Hair appointment. Financial advisor appointment. PTA meeting about something I volunteered for. And then I just had to make a bunch of phone calls (UGH) to set up more appointments. Eye appointments for me and Carla. Dental appointment. Car maintenance appointment. Ugh ugh ugh. I hate being on the phone and I feel like my schedule is BOOKED for the rest of the year. 
Actual text between me and my husband. He is very accommodating.
  • May I complain a moment about the central scheduling system my healthcare provider has? I spent a very long time on the phone with a scheduler, trying to set up eye appointments for myself and Carla. And while I am grateful that I could call one number and get appointments for us both, with different doctors, I am… a little concerned. I explained my time/date parameters, and she found a time and a date. So I plugged them into my calendar on my phone. And then she said, “Okay, I have you scheduled on DATE at TIME.” But… that was not the date she and I had agreed on! So I asked her to double check it, and she confirmed the original date and time, in a tone of voice that indicated I should have been paying closer attention. And then when I scheduled Carla’s appointment, she said, “Oh, I have an appointment on the same day as your appointment – DATE.” But the date she said was not the date we’d agreed on, so I had to ask her to double check it again. Also for Carla, I picked a specific location near our house, and a specific time of day (after school, because the doctor will need to dilate her eyes). The scheduler set it all up, and then said, “Oh, I scheduled it for DIFFERENT LOCATION. Is that okay?” I said no, could we please find a date at the nearby office. And she said sure, and then offered several early morning times… when we had just discussed that the appointment needed to be in the afternoon. FINALLY we got it scheduled, and then she told me the date and time, and they were different from what I had just plugged into my calendar! It was a very confusing call, and I really, really hope that Carla and I are scheduled correctly. 

  • In my never-ending quest to find ways to use the bananas that eventually soften into mush before anyone (ahem, CARLA) eats them, I attempted a new recipe. It was a MAGICAL recipe, let me tell you. Elisabeth posted it on her blog, and it sounded ideal for my particular child: it contains oats (which she will eat RAW by the bowl), bananas, and chocolate chips. It also used dates, which I had on hand from the sticky toffee pudding we never ate. No liquid though, which I felt was surely a mistake. But no! As soon as I turned on the blender, the banana liquified and the ingredients morphed into a beautiful, uniform batter. I was generous with the chocolate chips. The cupcakes were so easy and seemed so wholesome. And none of my family members liked them. HUGE WEARY SIGH. [CLARIFICATION: They are not dry. They are perfect. If they didn’t have a banana flavor, which I cannot stand, I would have eaten them myself.]
I think they LOOK beautiful, but apparently they are “too DRY, Mommy.”

  • I need some advice about my “mud room,” even though I am pretty sure that my situation is un-fixable. As I have complained about at great length in the past, my “mud room” is a teeny tiny square of space between my garage and kitchen, with a shoe closet on one side. We come in through the garage, remove our shoes, toss them in the general direction of the shoe closet, and then enter the kitchen. It’s not great normally, but currently, with the deep snow we find ourselves in, it’s reached a fever pitch of untenability. Our feet are wet and muddy, so the floor gets wet and muddy. And there’s no easy way to remove one’s shoes and then step into the kitchen, so mud and dirt inevitably get tracked into the kitchen and then all around the house. I am zooping things constantly. I am spraying and wiping the floor constantly. And then, multiple times a day, the floor is a filthy mess again. Plus, the shoe closet is FULL. There is NO ROOM for all the snow boots that have assembled. The other closet, where I store the snow boots in dry weather, is too far away for us to reasonably store the boots in between wearings. And because some people like to wear normal shoes when it’s not actively snowing, I can’t simply stow the regular footwear in the other closet. I guess I could move SOME of the shoes, so that we could put our boots INSIDE the closet, instead of outside. But that still doesn’t resolve the Mud and Dirt issue. I would love to get a boot tray… but the “mud room” is so small that a boot tray would make it impossible to open the door. I don’t think a boot tray would fit inside the shoe closet, either. It’s tiny, plus we already have a shoe shelf in there, taking up most of the real estate. You will have to believe me that there is no In the Garage Solution, either; our garage is tiny, and there is barely enough room to squeeze past our cars to get inside. We cannot remove our shoes outside before we come in. So. Is there some obvious solution I am overlooking? Or is this just a Grit Your Teeth and Keep Zooping situation?
  • This may be really silly question, but if you track your reading, and you also have children, do you track the books you read with/to your children? I track the books I read on Goodreads, and I never used to count the books I read to Carla. (Mostly because my husband is the primary bedtime reader in our household – his accents are MUCH higher quality.) But I have making an effort to read to her more often outside of bedtime, and we just finished Frindle and I tracked it. I mean, I read the entire thing. Out loud. So I want credit. Credit that matters literally only to me. 
  • By the way, have you read Frindle yet? It was seriously such a good book. It’s about a boy named Nick and his teacher Mrs. Granger. As part of an effort to distract Mrs. Granger from teaching/assigning homework, Nick decides to make up his own word for a pen (frindle), and then launches a campaign to make frindle the real word for an ink-filled writing implement. It was a fun book about how words come to be, and how students can make a difference, and how important good teachers are. My voice was wobbling all over the place as I read the last two chapters. It was really such a lovely, fun, moving book. Carla liked it too, but being a child and not a parent/former child, she didn’t fully understand the beauty of the Nick/Mrs. Granger relationship. 

That seems as good a note to end on as any. I need to go gear myself up to make yet another phone call and schedule yet another appointment. And then I have two meetings today. Blech. 

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Ugh ugh ugh – dinner planning, AGAIN? What is this repetitive nonsense? I know exactly how Sisyphus feels, pushing that shopping cart up the hill, full of veggies and enthusiasm, only to find himself, a week later, back at the bottom of the hill, shopping cart once again empty but for a few limpening Brussels sprouts and some wilted Romaine. 

Okay, it has been many hours since I wrote that paragraph. And I haven’t found a SINGLE RECIPE that sounds appealing. Not even tacos. Well, I have been ogling a bunch of focaccia-making videos on Instagram. But that seems like a bit more carbs-and-trouble than I feel up to.

In this case, the best recourse is to fill the shopping cart with all-purpose foods. The khaki trousers of the produce section: zucchini and broccoli. The sensible cardigan of the dairy aisle: yogurt and shredded cheddar. And some sturdy dress-up-or-down-able meats, like pork chops and chicken breasts. Maybe, we can accessorize with some berries, if they look nice. Or a pile of gaudy green beans. The rest we’ll just make up as we go along. 

Okay, many more hours have passed. I enlisted the help of my husband, who is usually good for a meal suggestion or two. He really came through, and now I have some actual meals to prepare. Doesn’t mean they sound good, or I am eager to prepare them. But if they sound good to HIM, then that helps immensely. It’s always easier to prepare something that a family member is enthusiastically anticipating than to think of some random thing that both of us will probably choke down.

Dinners for the Week of January 25-30

  • Crockpot BBQ Pork: My husband likes to eat his pork on little Hawaiian sweet rolls, with coleslaw. I like to eat it alongside a baked potato. 
  • Reverse-Seared Steak: My husband wanted steak, and left the vegetable side up to me. So I got some pre-prepped asparagus with herb butter from my grocery store’s much-reduced prepared foods section.
  • Red Curry: This one is so much work (because I like lots of veggies), but I do love it. 
  • Crockpot Short Ribs with Steamed Broccoli: Again with the short ribs. I am not going to make the mascarpone polenta as a side. 
  • Something else, with the all-purpose ingredients I mentioned above.

Are you stuck in the meal planning doldrums as I am? I feel like I say, “Can we have cheese and crackers?” more nights than not, these days.

Onto the grocery store report.

The produce section seemed fine-ish. All the varieties of onions were back in stock. Lettuce seemed abundant. Broccoli was SIX (6) U.S. dollars per two very small stalks of broccoli, which seemed outrageous. Bananas were back in full force.

The other aisles seemed fairly fine, with just a couple of bare spots here and there that could be attributed to anything. The bread aisle had a couple of holes, but the English muffins my husband likes were back in stock. The freezer section had several boxes of frozen pancakes, though it was by no means FULL of pancakes; waffles are still proving pandemic-proof; still no French toast sticks. Frozen chicken nuggets were readily available. Pastas and beans and taco shells and rice/grains seemed fairly well stocked. The only aisle that was really concerning was the fruit drink aisle, which was nearly empty. I’ve been aware of the Gatorade shortage, but it was startling to see it represented so powerfully. 

I did notice that ALL meat was VERY EXPENSIVE. I bought a package of chicken, a package of pork chops, and a package of ground beef, and each package was very close to $10. And we’re not talking about multiple pounds of meat, here. We’re talking maybe 1.3 to 1.5 pounds. I do not buy the fancy organic meat, either. My eyebrows were very high.

My grocery store typically has a bountiful prepared-foods section, manned by a staff person. The last two times I’ve been in the store, the section has been entirely empty and dark. Perhaps this is because I am there so early; perhaps they have discontinued it. There is still a refrigerated case that has some prepared foods, but I miss the variety and the staff person (who shows me photos of her dog and asks after Carla). 

My store did have a big notice on the front door saying that they are reducing hours due to a staff shortage, which is concerning. (However, the “reduced” hours are the hours that I thought were normal for this store, so… not sure what they are reducing from.) 

I saw a new primary care doctor (I love her), and she was telling me all about this low-carb yogurt that I HAVE to try, so I got the lemon flavor. If it’s good, I will let you know. 

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