Project Food Budget: Week 9!

Project Food Budget 2015

Week 8 Recap
I don’t know what it was about last week, but my motivation for meal-planning just vanished. It just … well … things didn’t come together and nobody liked any of my on-the-spot ideas for dinner and by Wednesday I was all screw THIS and wound up picking up hoagies and burgers from Sheetz and I ate fries and tater tots for dinner (yep, JUST fries and tater tots, as if I’m three years old) AND I LOVED EVERY FREAKIN’ BITE OF IT.

Oh, and Friday I packed my lunch and brought it to work … and promptly forgot to put it in the office fridge. And I succumbed to a veggie wrap and a chocolate chip cookie, both of which I knew were not gluten-free. (Same with the fries and tater tots.) And I paid for it over the weekend with a nagging headache.

I still wasn’t feeling the meal-planning mojo over the weekend so I decided to take some control of the situation.

“I need a total of six ideas that everyone in this house can agree on and will eat for dinner,” I declared on Saturday morning. “And I will make those. For real.”

Blank stares and groans of Moooooooommmmm, you’re making us do maaaaatttttthhhhhhhh during summer vacation followed

“SIX dinners,” I said, tapping my pen. “One, two, three, four, five, six. This isn’t difficult, people.”

(The seventh dinner is our traditional Friday pizza night.)

It took a good twenty minutes – maybe more – until my kids were able to agree on:

  • macaroni and cheese
  • pasta with cheese sauce
  • chicken and mashed potatoes
  • boneless pork chops
  • taco night (which we already do on average of once a week)
  • vegetarian fried rice

Slight problem with #3 and #4, of course, since The Husband and I are vegetarian, but I can work with this. I’m not saying this is going to be our weekly menu (although I probably could make macaroni and cheese every single night and no one would complain) but this helps. Kinda.

This Week

Still having trouble getting myself back on track, evidenced by this being a terrible week in the food budgeting department. Not good, my PFB friends. Went way over budget because I didn’t bother to do any meal planning before hitting Trader Joe’s on Saturday, despite asking the kids for dinner ideas.  (The Girl and I saw “Paper Towns” and we decided to stop by TJs since it was right there.)

So, speaking of doing math, let’s do some:

No meal planning + Grocery Shopping = Spending Way Over the $150 Weekly Budget

Trader Joe’s = $143.12
Giant Eagle = $79.08
TOTAL: $222.20  (!!!!)


I guess I should be grateful that everyone ate and seemed to enjoy the two dinners I made from those groceries (mandarian orange “chicken” and rice; vegetarian hot dogs, potato salad and strawberries). That’s something.

I’m not beating myself up about it. We all have weeks like these ’cause we’re human, not superhuman, and next week is another chance to try again.

Let’s see how the other Project: Food Budget participants did:

Have you taken my blog survey yet? If not, I’d love your thoughts.
Thanks so much!

Penny for Your Thoughts

Delaware State Fair 2010 (31)

I’m thinking about you.

Yes, you, dear blog reader.

I’ve been wondering about this thing we have going on here.

I mean, next month we will have been together for 7 years.

Hard to believe, isn’t it?

You were here when this blog was known as The Betty and Boo Chronicles. Or … maybe you weren’t. You’re here now and that’s what matters.

So, here’s what I’m trying to say to you.

I like this thing we have going on.  When you get right down to it, you have to admit it’s pretty cool that we’re both here. And whether you’ve been here for one day or since Day One of this blog, I’m grateful … and curious.

About you.  About what time of the day you read this blog. What posts you like best. Whether you’re hanging out with me on Facebook. Speaking of Facebook, I’m interested in how we met – you know, like one of those ubiquitous status updates asking you to tell the world that your BFF and you met when you were in the 4th grade and you both liked Robert W. which was a problem because Robert W. liked Anne Marie M. and you became all Harriet-the-Spy-like to try and catch —

— oh, sorry, that’s me I’m talking about. And my BFF. And my 4th grade crush. And hers.

Your turn, then. I want to hear about you. What you like about this blog and how long you’ve been reading and anything else you want to tell me.

I’ve made it easy. I made us a survey.  It’s really simple and will only take about two minutes. Maybe three.

I would really, really love for you to give me some feedback on this here blog. You can do that at this link:

And if you do?

I promise to be your BFF forever.

And I’ll even let you kiss Robert W.


(and thank you!)

Photo taken by me, Delaware State Fair, July 31, 2010



Readin’at: Divine Nothingness, Poems by Gerald Stern

Divine NothingnessDivine Nothingness: Poems by Gerald Stern
W.W. Norton & Company
112 pages 

One of my very favorite poems is “Lucky Life” by Gerald Stern, born and raised in Pittsburgh and now living in Lambertville, New Jersey.  It is somewhat embarrassing for me to have discovered this well-known poem only two years ago – I mean, it was published in 1977 – but discover it I did while spending some time down at the Jersey shore. It found me at exactly the most perfect time, as if he was writing directly to me. I thought about it during our vacation this year and I’ve thought about it several times during the last few weeks.

It’s one of those poems that describes exactly what fellow treasured Pittsburgh poet Toi Derricote means when she says, “Gerald Stern has made an immense contribution to American poetry. His poems are not only great poems, memorable ones, but ones that get into your heart and stay there. ”

How could they not, with lines like these?

“Dear waves, what will you do for me this year?
Will you drown out my scream?
Will you let me rise through the fog?
Will you fill me with that old salt feeling?
Will you let me take my long steps in the cold sand?
Will you let me lie on the white bedspread and study
the black clouds with the blue holes in them?
Will you let me see the rusty trees and the old monoplanes one more year?
Will you still let me draw my sacred figures
and move the kites and the birds around with my dark mind?

Lucky life is like this. Lucky there is an ocean to come to.
Lucky you can judge yourself in this water.
Lucky you can be purified over and over again.
Lucky there is the same cleanliness for everyone.
Lucky life is like that. Lucky life. Oh lucky life.
Oh lucky lucky life. Lucky life.”
~ from “Lucky Life” by Gerald Stern

Love that. And words like these are what made me pick up Divine Nothingness, Gerald Stern’s latest collection of poetry, published last November.

Divine NothingnessAt 90, this is Gerald Stern’s seventeenth poetry collection and there is a definite sense of the passage of time. Divided into three simple parts (perhaps to symbolize childhood, adulthood, and the final years of life? or a nod to Pittsburgh itself in “Three Stages in My Hometown,” one of the poems contained within?) Divine Nothingness contains the reflections of a life – the places and people and experiences while growing up in Pittsburgh and then, eventually, living in central New Jersey.

This is the third poetry collection of Gerald Stern’s that I have read and I felt he connected more with his reader (at least this one)  much more here in Divine Nothingness than he did in Everything Is Burning (2006) or Save the Last Dance (2008). These poems seem much more accessible.

Although I’m an East Coast girl born and bred (including some time living in central New Jersey for what amounted to the equivalent time it takes to sneeze) it’s no surprise that the visages of a Pittsburgh long gone were the ones that came to life for me in these poems.

“…and who and what we were we couldn’t exactly
tell for we were covered in soot and hopped
away from the heat like hot dancers 
for we were creating flames for those on the mountain 
who drove up the steep sides to see the view 
and took their visitors with them so they could express
their gratitude.” 
(“Hell” Jones & Laughlin)

There are the places of this life (‘so let me take you back to the meadow/ where the sidewalks suddenly become a river …”) and the people (“There was a way I could find out if Ruth/ were still alive but it said nothing about/ her ’46 Mercury nor how the gear shift ruined/ our making love ….”) of particular moments experienced during a time gone by. A segue into an acceptance of life’s finality and the self that is left behind.

“…and, like him – like everybody – I scribble words
on the back of envelopes and for that reason
and for two others which I’m too considerate to mention 
I’ll be around when you’re gone.”
(from “I’ll Be Around”) 

Pittsburghese for “and so forth,” “et cetera,” “and so on.”

My occasional blog feature celebrating all things literary as it relates to Pittsburgh and the Western Pennsylvania region. Here, I talk ‘Burgh-focused books (and review them), literary events, upcoming readings, author interviews and profiles, new releases …n’at.

Project Food Budget: Week 8

Project Food Budget 2015

Week 7 Recap
Last week was another successful Project Food Budget week. I brought my lunch to work every day except Tuesday.  A new coworker joined our department so another manager and I treated her to lunch at Union Grill in Oakland. It was my first time eating there; my fish sandwich (sans bun) and waffle fries were both very good, as was the service.

Menu planning sort of fell by the wayside this past week. The Husband had a doctor’s appointment and I had a work event – along with one evening when I was delayed getting home because of a late afternoon meeting – so the best laid plans didn’t quite happen.

I made it to the Oakland Farmers Market on Friday afternoon and bought tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini and plums. Total farmers market spending was $14.

This Week

For now, we’re under the food budget again ($150) with $124.85 spent at Aldi. There will be the usual supplemental trip to Giant Eagle for a few additional items and probably a visit to the farmers market again on Friday.

Menu Planning

Cucumber, Tomato, Black Bean and Feta SaladSunday 7/19:  Grilled cheese and a salad of cucumbers, two kinds of tomatoes (yellow campari and regular red tomatoes), black beans leftover from Thursday’s dinner, and feta cheese. I was the only one who ate this (as I’d suspected) so that means enough for my lunch tomorrow. Yay, me!


Monday 7/20:  Kids had chicken strips, I had a gluten-free Gardein chicken cutlet, and we each had corn on the cob.

Tuesday, 7/21: Probably pasta.

Wed 7/22: not sure … maybe stuffed peppers in the crockpot?

Thurs. 7/23: not sure …

Fri 7/24: Homemade pizza night

Let’s check in to see how everyone else’s week has been going.

sunday salon: heat

The Sunday Salon

It’s a scorcher today, the kind of humidity-laden weather that brings with it heat indexes in the triple-digits.  The Husband tells me that said heat index is 110 in our native Philadelphia today and I’ve heard it is only slightly less than that here in Pittsburgh. This, in the midst of a summer that has been very much the opposite of baked days.

Divine NothingnessCoincidentally or not, I’ve just finished a work-related blog post about Divine Nothingness, Pittsburgh-born and current Lambertville, NJ resident Gerald Stern’s latest poetry collection. Among the excerpts I was trying to work into that particular post was “Hell,” which is about a different kind of heat.

“…and who and what we were we couldn’t exactly
tell for we were covered in soot and hopped
away from the heat like hot dancers
for we were creating flames for those on the mountain 
who drove up the steep sides to see the view
and took their visitors with them so they could express
their gratitude …” 
~ from “Hell: Jones and Laughlin” by Gerald Stern

My strenuous output today has been limited to an early morning trip to ALDI for the week’s grocery shopping; at 9 a.m., it was already sweltering and my heat-induced sinus headache/soon-to-be migraine has been raging all day. I’m grateful for central air-conditioning and a chance to stay indoors piddling around on the computer, catching up on blogs and preparing some posts for the week, and listening to some music.

It hasn’t been a particularly busy weekend. I had to work yesterday morning and even though the event itself wasn’t difficult – it was a very enjoyable celebration, actually – afterwards I was so exhausted that I came home and promptly fell asleep for three hours. My sleep patterns are out of whack; I’ve been waking up at 2 a.m. Sometimes I’m able to get back to sleep immediately and other nights it takes upwards of an hour or more.

Earlier this week, a big-name bestseller was sent to me for a freelance book review and I’ll probably take a crack at this one shortly. It is so far removed from my usual genres of choice that I almost declined this particular assignment but that’s not really an option at the moment. The more paying freelancing opportunities that come my way, the better.

To the LetterDoing so will mean temporarily interrupting my current read, which is To the Letter: A Celebration of the Lost Art of Letter Writing by Simon Garfield. I picked this one up from the library because of my nostalgia for letter-writing. It doesn’t seem all that long ago when, as a teenager, I would spend summer days like this one in my room writing long letters to numerous pen pals near and far. Part of me misses the writing and receiving of those heartfelt letters, very much. Our Souls at Night

Between podcasts, I’ve been listening to Our Souls at Night on audio. (I saw a print version at the library yesterday and snagged it, so I may switch over to that.) It’s bittersweet that this is Kent Haruf’s last book; it’s told such simply and with such feeling and I’m really liking this story of two people who are struggling with the long-term loneliness that can accompany the loss of loved ones.

What are you reading on this steamy Sunday?

Podcasts of the Week: Ep. 7 and 8: You Downloaded How Much Data?!

Apple iPhone 6 - PDI

Photo Credit: Public Domain Images; Apple iPhone 6; click through for source

A weekly (more or less) blog feature where I talk about podcasts and recommend a few shows from my playlist. 

Conversation at the Verizon Wireless store two weeks ago while signing our lives away reviewing my current plan in order to add The Husband’s new phone:

Verizon guy: “You only used about 10 GBs of data in April and May, but your data usage nearly tripled in June. Something happened in June ….”

Me: “Hmm, I’m thinking maybe it was subscribing to 107 podcasts?”

Yes, friends. As of right now, I’m subscribed to 107 podcasts. One hundred and SEVEN. And that’s with deleting some and adding others that sound good, and then deleting some more. I certainly don’t listen to every episode from every podcast I subscribe to, but apparently this has gotten a little out of control.

I’m trying to be more selective. I really am. But, there’s so much damn good stuff out there. And because there is, I’m grateful for unlimited data plans, of which I was grandfathered into a long time ago and am not inclined to give up anytime soon.

My latest listening discovery is On House of Cards, a podcast produced by On the Media. I am a huge HOC fan. Love, love, love that show. I finished Season 3 over the Fourth of July weekend and cannot possibly wait until February when new episodes are released. Until then, I’m going to try and handle my withdrawal through the On House of Cards podcast, mostly for what the guests themselves have to say. I’m going in backwards order; I listened to the May 20 episode, “The End of the Road” with guest Beau Willison.

Speaking of all things Presidential, last week I finally got around to checking out WTF with Marc Maron, who showed up on my PocketCast app as being one of the podcasts I should discover. This was about a week or two before Marc’s interview with President Barack Obama, which you may have heard a little something about. I still haven’t listened to that episode because of some technical issues on my end (it keeps failing to download on my phone). I definitely plan to, though.

Last Thursday, I happened to catch Episode 618: Ed Asner and Adam Goldberg  (7/9/2015) which I enjoyed and not just because I was listening to a podcast practically in real time, on the same day it was … what’s the word? Podcasted? Anyway, I like Marc’s interview style – very casual, just shootin’ the shit.  They talked about the acting that Asner did before Mary Tyler Moore (for me and many other people, Asner will always, always be Lou Grant) and about being shunned by casting directors for his comments on El Salvador. Great interview – very entertaining and funny.

Almost every podcast I downloaded this week focused on Go Set a Watchman, which, unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know as the controversial “new” novel by the legendary Harper Lee. I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to read this; I have a strong appreciation for To Kill a Mockingbird as a literary classic, I don’t consider it one of my “taking with me on a desert island” books. I’m more curious than anything, I suppose. I’m #24 on the library’s e-book holds list for this one, and while I’m waiting, I’ve listened to more than a few podcasts this week about Go Set a Watchman.

The ReadersThe most enjoyable episode was from The Readers, a (new-to-me) podcast that I knew I would love because Simon Savidge ISavidge Reads) and Thomas Otto (Hogglestock) are two of my favorite book bloggers.  In “Ep. 131: Go Set a Headline and Ten Classic Books You May Not Have Read But Should” (7/13/2015), they discuss the spoilers that several major news outlets have shared and how that has influenced whether they will be reading the book. I will admit I was also more than a little annoyed by the spoilers, so hearing Thomas’ take on this was validating.

In addition to the various book podcasts I’ve been listening to, I’ve found that short stories work great in this medium and are usually perfectly timed for my commute to work. The Moth offers some of the best storytelling and Episode 1202: Blue Men, Psychopaths and a Bad Date (6/30/2015) was fantastic. John Grady, formerly of the Blue Men Group, tells us about a particularly memorable performance; Neuroscientist James Fallon shares a personal discovery from the lab and former SNL cast member Rachel Dratch recounts a bad date.

My final recommendation from the past two weeks comes from WNYC’s Death, Sex and Money with Anna Sale. Siblinghood (7/1/2015) looked at the relationships we have with our brothers and sisters and the impact that this bond has on ourselves and our lives.

’til next week …


Hidden Behind the Headline

PG - Autistic Adults Housing

Someone writing headlines at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette must think that people with autism belong in a zoo.

I mean, there’s no other way to interpret what is truly an egregious and insensitive headline in the July 13, 2015 edition of our local newspaper.

I’ll give the Post-Gazette the benefit of the doubt by saying that I don’t think that the phrasing was deliberately intended to malign people with autism.  I mean, I certainly hope not, but who can tell? Given the vitriol in a hateful column recently penned by an associate editor of the Post-Gazette, the paper has demonstrated that they have no qualms with discarding a person’s feelings and dignity in exchange for the clicks garnered by a sensationalistic screed.

Let’s put it another way: would the Post-Gazette have written (and gotten away with) the same headline about people who have cancer? Who have brain tumors? Who are gay? Who are a certain race or ethnicity?

I doubt it.

Motive aside, this headline is more than an unfortunate choice of words. By using the phrase “with the general population” in addition to “house adults with autism” (as found within the accompanying article) the Post-Gazette is perpetuating decades of misunderstanding, stigma and shame while conjuring up a time in our country’s not-so-distant past when people with disabilities were, in fact, sent away to live in horrific institutions. Often subjected to abuse and inhumane conditions, the atrocities they suffered never saw the light of day because they were hidden away from the world.

We like to think that we’re more evolved now, thanks to greater awareness and advocacy efforts and legal strides. But we’re really not. Even today, people with disabilities still are treated as lesser individuals in every sense. The unemployment rate for people with disabilities is abyssmal; last month, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that “in 2014, 17.1 percent of persons with a disability were employed…in contrast, the employment-population ratio for those without a disability was 64.6 percent. Bullying and all forms of abuse are higher among this constituency.  Supportive services vary significantly from state to state and at 21, all of those supports vanish.

Which is, ironically, exactly why a housing complex like the Dave Wright Apartments is so desperately needed. With 1 in 68 children identified with autism spectrum disorder, the need for living arrangements like this one will only increase as these children become adults. Developer Roy Diamond, Elliot Frank, president of the Autism Housing Development Corp. of Pittsburgh, ACTION-Housing Inc., NHS Human Services, and Goodwill are to be commended for their vision and efforts in seeing this exciting concept become a reality. Their work is giving people with autism an opportunity to live fulfilling, independent lives while providing their families with a modicum of peace of mind as they plan for a time when they are no longer here to serve as advocates and caregivers for their loved ones.

People with autism deserve this chance.

And they sure as hell deserve a lot more respect from the Post-Gazette than they received in Monday’s paper.