Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Taste Test

The Fearless Flyer from Trader Joe’s arrived in the mailbox last week, and this time, rather than tossing it into the recycle bin, I read it. The copywriters are quite clever and make each of the entries intriguing enough that I made a decision: buy at least a dozen different items and taste test them.

The first step was reading the flyer, from Triple Ginger Brew through Gingerbread = Joyous Jubilation (which the flyer spelled with an extra I after the L). Along the way I found French Truffle Chevre, which was okay, but the overly strong taste of the cheese over-powered the milder taste of the MultiGrain Pita Bite Crackers that I really loved. I also tried Still the Best Thing Since Sliced Bree, which I featured on a toasted cheese and lunch meat sandwich, but it had far too much rind to deal with when compared with a simple round of bree. The Honey Walnut Fig Cream Cheese was delicious and deserves to be the featured spread on a cinnamon roll, not a spread on a savory cracker.

The tiny roll of Truffle Salami was far too expensive and too small. The delicious taste of the salami led to wanting to eat a lot more of it than was advisable at one sitting, and I suspect I’ll return for another tiny log of this product next time I’m in the neighborhood of a Trader Joe’s. I have yet to eat the Brie En Croute, the Scallops Wrapped in Bacon, and/or the Bite of Wellington. Eight, Actually, which is individual bites, rather than a roast or a slice of Wellington. The Porchetta Pork Roast is scheduled for dinner tonight, a somewhat small roast with a very robust price, so we better like it – a lot. The Petite Fig, Pear and Cranberry Tart is by far the best bite I’ve had, but then my favorite foods come from the bakery.

Jingle Jangle is a tin filled with an assortment of “things” that taste terrific bathed in chocolate, and it only makes an appearance during the holidays. Nestled next to that canister, I placed a 30-ounce tin of Toffee, which I probably could eat in one sitting. My daughter makes the best toffee I’ve ever eaten, but this toffee is almost as delicious as hers. I also bought a box of sea salt topped caramels, a holiday staple for a friend who enjoys getting a box for under her tree. Finally, I bought a snack bar called “This Cranberry Walks Into a Bar… .” It is no better nor worse than any other snack bar, but it’s only available during the holiday season due to the cranberry filling.

The result of my shopping spree and taste testing is that I don’t understand why so many people crowd their way through Trader Joe’s to snap up grocery items they could buy elsewhere at a lower price. Sure, there are organic and vegan and vegetarian items there that may not be readily available at more commercial markets, but are those products worth the Trader’s price? The store was packed with people snapping up the Fearless Flyer items, as well as baskets filled with other holiday goodies, and five lines worked quickly and efficiently to check out each patron with a personal greeting and a smile, which is not often the experience at other, larger markets. It was fun once, but my experience, as well as my taste-testing, will not lead me to drive out of my way to find a Trader Joe’s and make purchases unless it’s really something special, like the pork porchetta, that I want for a special occasion.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Drastic Steps

My body is a foreign creature to which the rest of me is attached. I've mostly been a thin person, but have become a jiggly fat belly hanging over my abdomen all the way to the tops of my legs. It feels awful, it looks awful, and it is awful as I continue to age and become more susceptible to old-timers' diseases and ailments. After realizing that I needed to do something more than just walking the dogs, I started going to the gym with Yucheng and stretching my back, then using the treadmill for a half hour (the limits to my endurance).

Today, I decided I need help with targeting exercises that can address two specific areas: the bloated jelly belly and my lower back. I have absolutely NO flexibility in any movement that I've tried, which will only continue to progress until I'm frozen in a hunched over standing position. I have limited endurance, but I know that will improve once I get a handle on the jelly belly. Last week, I took a exercise class designed for seniors (you know, old people), and was embarassed that I could NOT do most of the movements. Touching my toes used to be easy, but now? It's impossible.

Today, I hired one of the gym trainers to work with me for 10 appointments, an hour each, to develop an individualized program for my body and my low level of fitness. It will progress through the weeks as I learn to do movements correctly (so I don't hurt myself) that are appropriate for specific fitness goals.

Yep, I'm serious about this as I paid as much an hour for a physical fitness trainer as I was paid to teach college classes -- with a Master's degree! I'm not one to spend money foolishly, so I expect to be trained and worked out for the next 10 lessons and then, hopefully, be able to continue with the routine without the aid of the trainer.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Dentist's Drill

I went for my annual dental check-up a couple of months back and was told that my teeth are aging right along with the rest of me. An old bridge was due to collapse, so that became a pricey priority, with $3500 due at the time service was provided. Now, after 4 weeks of various appointments, it's a nice-looking bridge and fits really well, but I had intended to us my annual dispersement from my retirement fund to replace the flooring in my master bedroom, not for a dental device.

Along with the new bridge came extreme sensitivity to both heat and cold, sensitivity to the point of screaming in pain when I took a big gulp of my favorite hot chai tea latte. A trip back into the dental chair determined that I could have a root problem flaring up, so we put some magical medicine on the teeth and gave it a week. It got worse; much worse. I went back again and we tried the magical medicine again, but it didn't work any better than it had the first go-round, so I stopped by the office Monday and waved the white flag of surrender to whatever it would take to make the pain go away.

What it took was a root canal, $900 due at the time of service. Of course. If you're doing Liza Logic, we're now up to spending $4400 on fixing aging teeth, rather than in running amok and having a great time somewhere doing something outrageous. Or replacing the bedroom carpeting with something the dog has not peed on. Yet.

As I sat in the chair today, I thought how much different my teaching experience would have been if I earned $900 an hour and had a full-time assistant right there, doing all the "grunt" work while I was merely the highly paid professional teaching star of the show.

The good news is, at the end of the hour, I was finished and yes, it looks really great; however, the test was hot chai tea latte -- which, I'm happy to say -- went into the mouth, swirled around, and was swallowed with absolutely no pain whatsoever. So, I guess in some ways it is worth whatever it cost to get rid of the pain and have one whole side of my mouth updated with new porcelain fillings. Right? I mean, who needs to go on another cruise? or go visit her children over the holidays? or buy holiday gifts for that matter? And, I still have another 24 or so teeth that probably will require advanced dental care in my future.

Ah, the joys of living longer and having all this discretionary income at my disposal.

Father and Son

The Judge is about a father, who is a judge, and his son, who is an attorney. Both father and son are strong-willed and pig-headed, but somewhere beneath all the public posturing are human beings who care about each other. Neither father nor son will back down from a conflict, but when push comes to shove, they have each other's backs. The movie centers around a trial over which the father presides and the son defends the accused, but the story is so much more than just that simple premise.

In the middle is a family story, three sons who are as completely dissimilar as most of our own families. The eldest son lost a potential professional career in baseball, the middle son is the beligerent lawyer, and the youngest son is developmentally disabled. Their interactions focus on a strong bond between them that isn't fully explained until toward the latter part of the film.

What's the best part of the movie is the ending, which is appropriate and completely right for what's come before. I'm not giving any other details about the film because in a coming of age film, it spoils the story to know too much before participating in the viewing. It's well worth the price of admission and reminds me of the long ago film with Jane Fonda and her father, the irascible Henry Fonda, On Golden Pond (1981).

Friday, October 10, 2014

Gone Girl

I read the book and saw the movie this past week. I enjoyed both treatments of the story, but favor the novel as it develops in a more chilling manner and the last 10 or so chapters provide a better conclusion than the film. If you haven't read the book, the movie works well in gathering you into the story and walking with you through the ending, but then I recommend you read the book for the rest of the story.