Saturday, January 28, 2023

Breakfast in 2023: It’s not gourmet dining yet, but we’re getting there

Three days a week—typically Monday, Wednesday & Saturday—this is what I have for breakfast.  Tropicana Homestyle orange juice with pulp, toast from Mancini’s Bakery (pricey but the best bread I’ve eaten since my grandma’s), one strip of Kuhn’s Own Applewood bacon chopped in half, and a handful of grape tomatoes sauteed with the bacon.

And one egg—one very expensive “Jumbo” egg.  A dozen of which cost $4.85 from my local market yesterday.  (A year ago they were $1.79.)  Anyway, I know they cost even more elsewhere, they’ll set you back $9.95 in Hawaii—which doesn’t make sense to me, as chickens roam wild in the streets there. 

Anyway, I’d have this breakfast everyday if I could.  But orange juice really isn’t that good for you, let alone bacon.

I cook the egg last, just the way I saw Gordon Ramsay do it a couple years ago.  Break the egg into a bowl, slide the egg into a heated saute pan with a dob of butter.  Sprinkle a little salt & pepper on top, and a few good shakes of red pepper flakes

Boy do those flakes look mean on that egg—but they add a sweet heat that makes all the difference!  I used to scramble or poach on occasion, but no more.  Gordon’s way is now my only way.

Last, drizzle one teaspoon of water around the egg—you’ll see the egg’s white hop n’ flop, and you won’t have to flip it over and risk breaking or overcooking the yolk.  It will also slide right out of the pan.

I carry my tray into the livingroom, find something newsworthy on tv, enjoy my food and count my blessings.  I mean it, I try not take too much for granted and am thankful I have the time and resources to enjoy a hot breakfast.  

When I was working, I lived on Nutri-Grain bars or Lilttle Debbie oatmeal pies during the work-week, then cold cereal on the weekends.

Eggs were so much cheaper then…  I should’ve eaten more eggs.  Be right back


Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Wait, was that all it took? When it pays to speak up, 3 times over

We’re all familiar with the proverb about bad luck coming in threes, but good things do likewise, right?  Here are 3 recent good things, 3 days in a row.

1. They made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.  If you recall my numbers blog on Jan 13, I wrote that my landlord had done their customary yearly rent increase.

But instead of a $20 rent increase this year, it was $30.

I don’t know why I did this (I suppose I’m always looking for a way to save a buck), but the day I received my lease, I sent Steiner Realty this email below:

Steiner, I received my new lease and will be returning it (signed) this week.  I wasn’t happy about the $30 increase, but I know it’s fair. 

I would like to say though, that since moving here April 2017, my rent has increased $110.00.  The increases have been reasonable, I’m aware of the rate hikes for water, gas & trash pickup that are included in our rent.

At the same time, I’m retired on a fixed income.  I was wondering if next year we could begin alternating the rent increases?  Allow me to sign a 2 year lease instead of 1?   

This place is more than just an apartment—it’s my home.  I want to keep it that way.  Thanks for your attention, you guys are good people.  

Steiner texted me and said “Douglas we appreciated your letter and agree to your terms, starting now if you’d like.  We’re sending a new lease.”

That’s it at the top, a two year lease keeping my rent the same until Apr 2025.  Nerd smile

2.  I feel the need…. for speed!    

For the last year or so, I’ve been noticing a decline in my broadband internet.  Xfinity, what the heck am I paying you $75.00 a month for?

Still, it wasn’t a terrible inconvenience.  I just ran into problems if I had multiple devices connected to the internet at the same time, so if I was streaming something on tv I’d pause it if I wanted to get on my tablet or laptop. 

But this past Saturday I noticed things had gone too far downhill.  The movie I was streaming kept freezing, and getting on the internet was a no-go. 

I was fed up and contacted Xfinity Customer Support. 

They asked if I checked my connections were secure, I wearily said “Of course they are, and please don’t ask me to restart my router and other devices, I’ve done all that a couple times over.” 

They said they’d attempt a “remote restart”, but came back and said the connection was too weak, they’d have to send a service technician.  Was Tuesday morning okay?  Yes, dammit!  I mean, yes please!  Finally!

I went to dust off the router (it sits on the floor beside my bedroom dresser) and tugged the coaxial cable to ensure it was connected.  It was, but I noticed the tiniest jiggle as it has a push-in connector, not a screw-in. 

I had a spare cable with a screw-in connector, would that make a difference?  I swapped out the cable and my broadband sprang to life. 

My download speed shot up from 3.79mps to 85.90?!  My internet is blazing fast now, and I can stream HBO Max while on my phone, laptop and tablet all at the same time--crazy!  Tighten your broadband connector—you just might be surprised. 

My bad, Xfinity. Embarrassed smile

3.  And finally… “please sir, may I have some more?”     

For a couple years now, I’ve been going to the market after Meet The Press on Sunday for my Sunday Dinner.  I buy potatoes, a couple veggies and usually a slice of ham or couple pieces of fried chicken from Kuhn’s Hot Deli.

When I went there this past Sunday, I noticed they raised the prices of the fried chicken thighs from $1.25 each to $1.50.

I asked the deli worker (Charlene, who’s in charge) for 2 thighs and she put two into a clear bag.

I said “Hmph, they may cost 20% more, but they sure aren’t 20% bigger.”   I figured she’d just smirk and tell me to have a nice day, but she took her tongs and placed a third smaller thigh in the bag.  I said “Hey I only wanted 2.”

Charlene said “And that’s all you’re paying for.  Have a good one.”

Charlene, will you marry me?


Thursday, January 19, 2023

I have a short, unpleasant one and I don’t mean my temper… yet

DISCLAIMER: There is nothing to be gained by reading this; I just needed to vent.

Earlier yesterday I was returning home from running errands up the street and was back in my apartment building, standing downstairs at the elevator, hoping to make it upstairs in time to watch Emergency! on Cozi TV.

So I’m just standing there, and this man sidles up beside me.  Do you remember Pat Paulsen from The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour?  The salt & pepper haired comedian who ran for president? 

This guy is his clone.

Well, sort of.  According to Google, Pat Paulsen was 5’8” but the man beside me can’t be any taller than 5’4”—and he can’t weigh more than 95 lbs.

I consider myself a pretty average person, but compared to this fella I’m positively hulky.  Anyway, I don’t know his name so I’ll just call him Pat.  Pat is wearing baggy shorts, a t-shirt that must be sized 4XL as it hangs down to his hairy knees, white ankle socks and leather sandals.  He looks around 70 years old.

He says “Do you live here?” I say “Um… yes.”  There’s no hellos or good mornings or introductions or how are yous… just this.  We ride up in silence.

We both get off on the 4th floor, and he says “I am not happy here!  I had the nicest apartment in Maryland, with a den and access to the roof.  I gave it up to be closer to my daughter who lives up the street in Bellevue, and I’m not satisfied at all, and the landlord won’t let me move to the vacant apartment on the quiet side of the building because it’s the same rent and I’ve only been here 5 weeks and I have to be here six months to even request a change!”

I’m confused and look to the left & right of me.  No one else is around, is he wearing one of those Bluetooth phone gizmos in his ear?  Nope, he must be talking to me.

He says “I told them they must not care too much about their tenants and I told my daughter I’d be surprised if I met anyone here who’s lived at this address longer than 1-2 years.  How long have you lived here?” 

I tell him five years… cough.

He says “I’m on the other end, 412.  There’s a hundred things wrong with it and I won’t even get into the layout.  It has this… WINDOW in the livingroom that fills the room with so much sun I tan while watching my tv!  I’ve got this little kitchen that is no bigger than the walk-in closet I had in my apartment in Maryland.  And there are NO curtain rods in the dining room or bedroom windows—only mini blinds!  I’ll have to install them myself!”

He proceeds telling me a dozen other things wrong with his place. 

I don’t say a word, but 412 is an exact copy of my apartment—only his unit has brand new carpeting and a new glazed tub and mine doesn’t.    

He says “Does your shower have a window?  I asked them to install a privacy-shutter on mine and they never answered my request.  My daughter likes my shower because she only has a tub at her place, but she’s got a chest like her mother, and my ex is a Swede if you get my meaning.“

Anita Ekberg suddenly comes to mind.  There is NO WAY this man was married to a woman like Anita Ekberg!  I say “That window is pebbled glass, you can’t see thru it.” 

He says “She showers with it open!”  How does he know?  I don’t ask, but tell him his side of the building is next to the church, his bathroom faces a stone wall.  He doesn’t say anything.

I look at my watch.  I’ve now missed the first half of Emergency!

Just then I see my friend Opal (who lives down the hall) step out of her apartment.  She sees the two of us at the elevator and hurries the opposite way towards the stairwell. 

When has Opal ever hurried anywhere, or taken the stairs?  I have a feeling she’s met this man before.

Pat says “Our property manager, what’s his name?  Nick?  Takes forever to return my calls.  Have you ever met this clown?  He sounds like one of these macho types over the phone.  I’m up to HERE with those types!”  

I said “There’s no Nick.  You must mean Nicole.”  He says “I bet you’re sorry you asked me anything!”

I NEVER ASKED HIM A DAMN THING!!  I furrowed my brow and tried to look like I was coming down with rabies or something, but he didn’t even notice.  Pat was now spinning in place, once, twice.   He thumped his sides with his fists and said “This place is the pits!”

I said “Well, good luck finding something out there that suits you” and began walking as quickly as I could towards my apartment. 

He called out after me “Who said I was looking??” 


Friday, January 13, 2023

A head filled with numbers, what’s not to love

It’s been awhile since I’ve done a numbers blog (where I write about numbers).  In the past when I wrote one, my friend Danielle would always email me one word:  “Boring!” 

But I couldn’t help it, I like numbers and how they rattle around in my brain.  So at the risk of boring your socks off, I just need to get these recent digits out of my head if that’s okay.

1.  My monthly healthcare premium dropped in price in 2023, from $185.65 a month to $151.77.  That’s a savings of $34.00, woo-hoo!

2.  What’s that old saying, ‘The Lord giveth, the Lord taketh away’?  I just got my lease from Steiner Realty yesterday and my rent is increasing $30 this April, from $810.00 to $840.   

Oh well, I can’t really complain… they included a letter explaining precisely why it’s increasing, and unlike my last apartment in the city, my heat/AC and water/sewage is included in my rent here.  

3.  On January 5, the day of my colonoscopy, my blood pressure was taken twice (before and after the procedure).  127 over 73 before, 123 over 70 after. 

4.  Two of my favorite people on this planet turned 60 on January 10, my mailman Jim C and my long-time friend Kimberly H.  Another favorite, my sister Shawn will turn 60 later this year. 

(This is a photo of Shawn from Christmas, we’re less than 2 years apart in age so why isn’t she aging like I am?)


5.  As of January 12, 2023 my retirement portfolio is down $122,677 from this date in 2022.  Ouch!  But that loss is in my stocks value, I still have the same number of shares.

It will most likely rebound.  In a couple years, I hope. Crying face

6.  On a happier note, my Federal Reserve Money Market account (where I keep 3 years of living expenses) only earned 43.00 a month in 2022, but is now earning $221.00 per month.  And that is real cash.

7.  Speaking of cash, in 290 days I will be eligible to collect social security.  I don’t plan on signing up just yet (hoping to hold out a couple more years) but just the fact I can… it’s difficult to fathom.  If anything says you’re getting old, this sure does.

8.  And finally, speaking of days—in 75 days Pittsburgh will be saying goodbye to plastic bags for good.  I use Kuhn’s supermarket bags for my small kitchen & bathroom wastecans.  I’ve been hoarding them for years, and know precisely how many I have without having to count them.

Each Kuhn’s bag holds 30 scrunched up bags.  I’ve got 33 ‘bags of 30’ stuffed into a large leaf trashbag in my apartment’s storage locker. Since I change my kitchen trash 5 days a week and my bathroom trash once a week, each saved bag lasts a month.  I’ll have enough to last me 3 years. 

When Opal asked me around Christmas if I’d heard about the upcoming bag-ban, I said yes and I’ve been hoarding them in anticipation of it.  She laughed and said “I bet I’ve got 100 under my sink, you’re talking to a REAL hoarder here!”

Opal… you have no idea.  Nerd smile

Monday, January 9, 2023

It’s not easy being green (on the inside, I mean)

Here it is, Monday morning as I write this and I am nursing a cup of coffee and waiting for the spin cycle to finish on my weekly laundry so I can enjoy some breakfast.

I’m hoping for some toast, I’ve been doing a lot of slurping on lime & lemon jello since last week.  First for my colonoscopy on Thursday, after that for my TMJD which returned a couple days ago.  Saturday morning (2 days after my colonoscopy) I awoke at 4am with the roof of my mouth on fire.  By noon, my right jaw was clamped down hard and my right eye scrunched up. 

I’m not kidding, stick a corncob pipe in the corner of my mouth and I look like Popeye. 

I’m not in the least bit surprised, just hoping it doesn’t last longer than a week or so.

I’m guessing it has something to do with my recent medical procedure.  When I came to, one of the nurses asked if my neck was okay.  She explained she had to reposition my head when I was sedated, as I tried to lie it flat and not on the side.  (When I sleep on my side, it puts a lot of pressure on my jaw so I try not to do that.)  I’m sure it will improve soon.

I’m still a little surprised at everything that went down with that colonoscopy, before, during & after.  I’m so green when it comes to medical procedures, when it was recommended I get one I thought they ran a tube down your throat into your stomach.  (They do—for an endoscopy.)  It never occurred to me there was two types of “scopy”.

I was also surprised how professional but kind the nursing staff was.  When I first arrived to the GI Dept at the hospital Thursday morning, I had a team of nurses who was helping me get into my hospital gown, explaining who would be doing what, covering me with heated blankets, taking my blood pressure, inserting an IV.. seemingly all at the same time, yet I never felt rushed. 

After the procedure, when I awoke (back in the main area behind privacy curtain No.6) a nurse was sitting in a chair at the foot of my bed holding a pack of cookies, a container of juice and a small can of ginger ale.  I said “Wait… didn’t I just go in there a minute ago?”  She said it had been 75 minutes and showed me her watch.  Amazing.

She said “You should know the doctor didn’t find anything, other than some internal hemorrhoids pretty deep in.  But he’ll discuss it all with you if you like.  Just relax and enjoy your snack.  The doctor wants to thank you personally for your excellent colon prep.”

I said “Wow—well, I’m sure he says that to all his patients.”  She laughed and said “Oh no he doesn’t!  He says 50% are good, 25% are poor, and only 10% are excellent.”  When I told her that only added up to 85%, she said he rejected 2-3 a day.  I didn’t ask her why.

When Dr. Chopray came out and shook my hand (his hands were very large and very soft) he told me how much he appreciated me taking this seriously.  Er… doesn’t everybody?  When I expressed surprise that he didn’t find anything, and told him about an ER nurse telling me I had polyps on my colon after a CT scan for kidney stones a couple years ago, he said “Well, there is no way to diagnose polyps thru x-rays or scans, but I’m sure she saw some abnormalities and wanted to give you a heads up.  No harm done, right Douglas?”   

No, Doctor.  It helped get me in here, at least.

Finally when I was dressed, I asked Nicole (one of the 4 nurses on my team) how many of these colonoscopies they do everyday.  She said between the three teams that make up that department, anywhere between 20-25 and handed me another pack of cookies and a thank you card signed by her and the other nurses.  I swear to God, I think most nurses are called to the profession by a higher order.  Not once did I feel like I was just another number.

She also said it was okay my pee was green from all the lime jello I’ve been eating. Who me?

Sunday, January 1, 2023

Starting off the New Year with a clean slate—I mean clean colon (well, hopefully) UPDATE

Happy New Year, everyone.  Well, I actually started things off with some spicy pork, sauerkraut & potatoes earlier tonight, and now little else for the next few days.  That’s not by choice, I’ve got a colonoscopy coming up later this week, my very first one and long overdue.

I don’t expect anyone to remember this, but the day after Halloween (and my 61st birthday), I had gone to the ER with some burning pain under my right breastbone.  Thinking it was my gallbladder, they performed an abdominal ultrasound, which was a soothing, lengthy process but pricey too; it wound up costing me $400.00 out of pocket.   

Still, they were able to study my liver, pancreas & gallbladder up close and detected no immediate problems, other than a fatty liver I already knew about and some scarring on my right lung (probably from my years of smoking).  They said I had a hard mass in my right abdominal wall that couldn’t be diagnosed via the ultrasound, and recommended I get a colonoscopy.  I told them I already had one scheduled for the end of February. 

Two days later, I got a call from the gastrospecialist’s office letting me know mine was being ‘reprioritized’ from routine (low-risk) to something more, and moved to the first week of January.  I’ll be getting it done at 9:00am Thursday, January 5.

I was told by Dr. Chopra’s nurse the following:  The doctor has also authorized a change to your prep.  What that means is, we’re going to double everything. 

Instead of 4 Dulcolax tablets and 2 liters of polyethylene glycol the day before you come in, it will be 8 Dulcolax tablets and 4 liters of the drink.  You’ll be on a clear diet and drinking the prep over two days, not just one. 

She went on to tell me this wasn’t uncommon, but not to be surprised if my pharmacist called and said there was a problem with my prescription.  (She was right, Rite-Aid Pharmacy called me the very next day and asked if I was aware I was getting double everything.  Yep.)

I’m a little nervous what that doctor is going to find (or not find), only because of recurring stomach pains I’ve been dealing with off & on since summer.  I already know I have polyps down there, back in 2016 when I was experiencing my first kidney stone and getting a CT scan, the nurse said “You have polyps in your colon, you know.” 

Good or bad, I didn’t know what it meant.

Is all of this too much information?  Have you ever gotten one of these?  My neighbor Opal is only 10 years older than me, but claims she’s had 3 and that she’s overdue for a fourth.  Excuse me?  Hopefully I can get this all behind me (no pun intended) after this week. 

I’m now around the same age both of my parents were diagnosed with terminal cancers, and while no one is ever ready for that, I just feel like I have all this living to do.

Alright, now I can’t get this song out of my head.  Happy New Year to everyone out there, and I will post a follow-up when I learn more.  Thanks for letting me share!

UPDATE: I went in for my colonoscopy this morning (Jan 5), and things went better than expected.  At the risk of sharing too much information my doctor reported that all looked good, aside from some internal hemorrhoids. 

He said they were small, non-bleeding and would cause more aggravation to remove than they’re worth. 

But there were no polyps, no suspicious tissue and I would not need another colon cancer screening for 10 years.  This doesn’t address the swelling and occasional pain episodes in my abdominal region, but it does give me peace of mind.  Thanks again for letting me share and all the wonderful feedback.