Monday, April 22, 2024

Sometimes I feel like one, but I’m not a ghost just yet

A couple days ago (Saturday, to be exact) my face woke me around 6am, with it’s customary “post covid” pinching, soreness & burning.  I jumped out of bed to use the bathroom and splash some cold water on it, saw my reflection in the bathroom mirror and felt angry, afraid, defeated.

My damn face looked just like it did in mid-February at the height of this long covid affliction, swollen and ugly.  This has officially become a long-term condition.

I spent the morning doing the customary things I’ve been doing—applying hot and cold compresses, making coffee, making my bed, turning on the news, turning off the news, watching people on the street below my livingroom window.

I have every intention of joining those people outside again.  I just wish I knew when.

This past week, I was folding my laundry and my head & face were pretty hot (any type of exertion gets the flames going), but I just got so fed up with living like a shut-in that I decided I’d walk up to the Senior Center.  I haven’t been there since February 21, I missed everyone.  So I shaved and got dressed and left my building (it’s a little over a half-mile walk) and when I got about halfway there, knew this was a bad idea but hey, too late now. 

When I arrived, I was almost relieved to see Dennis (the three-pack-a-day smoker) in the same spot outside I’d seen him last, smoking a cigarette.  I asked how he was, he whispered “Do you remember me losing my voice a couple months back?”  I said yes.  He said “I still haven’t found it.  Now my prostate isn’t looking good.  How are you?”  I said I’ve been better, was sorry for his problems but happy to see him.  Then I went inside.

Right away I heard “There’s Doug!” and “Doug’s back!”  and I can’t tell you how much I wanted everything to be normal again; but I was dizzy from the walk and the inflammation was so severe I only stayed 15 minutes.  I’m still glad I went though, it was wonderful seeing friends Mary, Debbie, Evvie, Geri, Bridget and Courtney. 

Geri, a petite 80 year old Italian woman who can easily outwalk me, said “We thought you divorced us!”  She is so dear and too funny.  I said I loved them and hoped to see everyone again real soon.

Later that night, I reached out to a couple of people I’ve met in an online Reddit group called “Covid Long Haulers” with symptoms similar to mine.  I said I was at my wit’s end, every time I think I’m starting to get better, I go to bed and wake up the next morning back to square one. 

Miss Lightfoot (one of the members who recovered but still visits to give moral support) said the same happened with her.  There’s no getting better and staying better, it just repeats the same cycle until it finally goes away for good.  Hers took a year.  You know what?  At least I’m getting some good hours here and there. 

On a more upbeat note, I wanted to give a shout-out and thank you to my friend David Hofstede over at the blog Comfort TV.  You really should check his site out sometime, it’s a wonderful tribute to classic television.  Not only does David write a blog, he’s published several books on television as well.

He reached out to me last week and said he’s been following my ongoing ailment, and asked if I’d like one of his books.  He told me not to feel obligated to say yes. 

I said yes I would, thanks very much and this is what he sent.

The book covers many, many tv shows from the 1950s-1970s (and I like how he gives plot synopses of the best episodes from every series). 

But what I’ve enjoyed so far is his look back at “appointment television” (if you’re 60 or older, you probably remember The Carol Burnett Show aired Saturday nights on CBS). 

And then we had those annual shows like the Miss America Pageant or the MDA Telethons hosted by Jerry Lewis for 45 years.

Reading David’s take on those telethons, with the cuts to local tv stations, “big stars” like Norm Crosby or Charo and some of Jerry’s hammier moments really made me laugh.  I’d forgotten so much of that!

It’s a warm, nostalgic read and David delivers so much more than what you’ll find on Wikipedia, trust me.  Thanks again David.

And thanks to everyone out there who continues reading my humdrum posts.  Your feedback has meant a lot, and I cannot wait for the day I can get on here and say I’ve fully recovered and I’m my old self again.  Take care.


Tuesday, April 16, 2024

There’s a sucker born every minute—and I wish more than anything I was one of ‘em

Can I climb on my soapbox for a few minutes?  I saw something on Sunday television this weekend that threw my usual tranquil Sunday-state-of-mind into a bit of upheaval.  More on that in a minute.

When my Grandpap Morris died in 1982, I felt sad for my Grandma Morris and my dad and my aunts & uncles but that was the extent of it.  Pap and I were never close.  He left Grandma in the early 1960s, and when they got back together around 1974, made no real effort to know his grandkids.  When I cried at his funeral, my dad was both touched and surprised.  Dad, I was crying for your loss—not mine.

When my Grandma Barnhart (my mom’s mother) died in 1988, I felt bad her last years were difficult ones, but little else.  She was an unkind person who never liked me and was abusive to my mom when she was a child.  I felt sad for my mom though, who maintained a loud, funny love/hate relationship with her mother for as long as I could remember. 

(I didn’t know my maternal grandfather, he died when Mom was only 5 years old.  Her only possession of him, a 5x7 framed photo now sits on my bedroom dresser.)

When Grandma Morris (my dad’s mom) died in 1997, I was 35 years old and felt the loss of a loved one for the first time in my life.  We were very close and the best of buddies from the time I was 4-5.  She was the best grandma, ever.

Grandma Morris & me, October 1996—my 35th birthday.  Sadly she’d be gone 6 months later

When Dad passed in 2001, I cried pretty hard at his funeral, and then never wept again.  I always wanted us to be closer, and now I knew we never would be.

When my mom died in 2004, I was devastated.  Her passing wrecked me, it was a struggle to get out of bed in the mornings for a good year.  My sister Shawn’s daughter, my niece Sophia kept me going though.  She was a newborn, only 2 months old and with no grandparents on either side to call her own, she would need all the family she could get.  I know I sure did.

Right after Mom died, I was almost desperate to know if there was the smallest chance she was still “out there” in some way, and would we see her again.  I’d scour the internet for articles from so called experts on the afterlife and interviews with mediums who assured us they were in constant contact with the dead.

And then I read Harry Houdini’s story, which saddened me greatly but was the wakeup call I needed.  When his own mother died, he was inconsolable; he often laid on her grave and wept.  But he was a world famous celebrity, and used his wealth to search the globe for one medium—JUST ONE—who could help him contact his mother.  He was unsuccessful. 

Houdini spent the rest of his days giving sold-out lectures on the fraudulent practice of speaking to the dead, that it was all a hoax and every medium was a fake, a charlatan.

I’m sharing all of this now because earlier today, on a respected news program, they did a report on Tyler Henry, a 28 year old “Hollywood medium”. 

He has a waiting list of 600,000 people willing to travel far & wide to meet with him, but when Jim Parsons (Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory) requests to speak to his real-life mee-maw, Tyler Henry will make house calls. 

Tyler Henry; yes this young man is smiling, all the way to the bank!

On CBS Sunday Morning, we see him on the stage in front of a large group of people, asking if anyone knows this random name and does it connect to this random month; yes, yes shouts someone from the audience!

C’mon people, his act is so old school it’s straight out of vaudeville!  Are you that desperate to believe?  It’s okay, I get it.  For a long time, I wanted to believe too.

But Tyler insists he’s real, and tells CBS that he believes half of the so-called mediums out there are phony.  Really Tyler?  Half?  THEY ALL ARE, TYLER.  JUST ASK HARRY HOUDINI.  

You can contact him, can’t you? 

Anyway, if you made it this far—thanks for listening and I’d be very curious to know what others think.  Apparently Tyler has a show on Netflix, but I don’t subscribe to that service so I’ve never seen it.  Am I being too harsh?  Have you seen it?  Does he seem legitimate to you?

I asked my friend Diana (who happens to be a pretty devout Christian) what she thought about contacting the dead.  She said she very much believed in an afterlife, but there was no bridge between their world and ours.  That made good sense to me.

Friday, April 12, 2024

Sometimes, not often enough… we reflect upon the good things

While waiting to recover fully from this long-covid affliction and return to a more normal life, I thought I’d share this video I made almost 16 years ago for my sisters and nieces.

My 19 year old niece Sophia, and my 20 year old Kodak EasyShare camera

I made this in November 2008, as a wistful look back at the nice summer we had, and time spent together.  These are my sisters Shawn & Donda-Lin, and nieces Sophia & Drew. 

Shawn’s daughter Sophia was close to 4 here, now she’s 19 and completing her first year at college.  Donda’s daughter Drew was 15, now she’s almost 31.  Where does the time go??

Anyway—I made this at the time using my trusty Kodak Digital camera (seen here) to share on my blog in the fall of ‘08, but changed my mind at the last minute.  I think I worried it might look a little too corny or something.  

I guess that’s one nice thing about growing older… you don’t worry about those types of things so much.

Sunday, April 7, 2024

From Blog-O-Vision City in the Teepee… it’s the Waiting Game!

Before I say another word… feel free to roll your eyes and close my blog.  I wouldn’t blame you.  I promised myself I wouldn’t keep writing about this godawful long-covid thing, but I can’t help it.  April 16 will mark the start of my fourth month dealing with this, but for some reason it feels longer.

I got covid the first week of December, it lasted one week, and precisely one month later on January 16 I began getting an intense pressure in my skull and sparkles of pain in my face and lips, and worried something bad was developing.  One month later on February 21 I told my friends at the senior center I’d be taking a leave of absence until this was over.

If you look back thru my posts, I thought it was my TMJ returning from a few years back; a month later, my PCP misdiagnosed it as chronic sinusitis.  I pretty much determined it was long covid, thanks to a couple of excellent PBS documentaries on Youtube and people with eerily similar symptoms on Reddit. 

In fact, these other people’s stories have been downright uncanny.  Ignoring the symptoms for a month, seeing their PCPs, getting misdiagnosed with sinus infections, eventually going to the ER and getting MRIs or CT-scans, being put on nerve drugs like amtriptyline or gabapentin.  (I’m on the latter.)  And then waiting.  That’s all you can do.

Friday morning I got my ER bill for March 22 and the two CT scans. $494.21.  It could’ve been a lot worse. 

I think that luck is on my side, though.  The pain and pressure in my head is 70% gone.  The facial pain is still here, from a dull burn to a heavier one as the day progresses, but Ben-Gay on my neck & face helps a lot come bedtime.

I’m dealing with pretty severe fatigue too, can’t explain it.  I feel okay unless I do something like walk to the store.  When I get home, I feel like I’ve been working in heavy construction all day.  I lay across my bed and pass out for 1-2 hours.

Also when I get up during the night to use the bathroom or get a drink of water, big dizzy spells.  And in the mornings… how do I say this.  Something that most men always wake up with.  I don’t anymore.  Not since February, anyway.

(And all of that is long before I started taking gabapentin.)

But I know I’m getting better, I can feel it in my bones.  Half of the people I’ve read about took anywhere from 4-6 months to recover enough to resume normal living; the other half took 1-3 years.  I will be in the first group, if you please.  Thanks God.

Here’s one good thing from all of this; for as long as I can remember, I’ve kept 2 tubs of ice cream in my freezer.  I’d have a bowl on Friday night, a BIG bowl of ice cream on Saturday night and a smaller bowl on Sundays.  Probably for the last 30 years.

I was all set to get a couple tubs of ice cream the Saturday I woke up with covid in early December.  I didn’t go out that day to buy any, but lost the taste for it after recovering a week later and haven’t touched it since. 

I haven’t been downstairs to my building’s exercise room in 3 months, but still managed to lose 12-13 pounds and keep it off.  So… thanks covid?

And thank YOU for reading.  My next post is going to be a funny (and true) story, about my neighbor I think.  Stay tuned!

Monday, April 1, 2024

What a 62 year old bachelor makes for Sunday Easter dinner, and a big setback

This is what I had for dinner Easter Sunday:  2 deviled eggs with smoked paprika, some “Tavern Ham” from my local deli (it’s fatty, in a good way), cheesy scalloped potatoes and oven roasted broccoli.

By the way, I used a box mix to make those potatoes; but if you want to make them taste homemade, add 1 whole cup of milk (the directions say to use 2/3) and toss in half a chopped onion.  If you cook them a little extra slow, the chopped onion will ‘meld’ and thicken the sauce in a really delicious way. 

My sister Shawn said I was welcome to tag along with her & Jim to his son Michael and daughter-in-law Jessica’s for Easter dinner, and I love Jessica.  But the facial pain makes things too uncomfortable to do much smiling, let alone socializing. 

But believe me, I would’ve loved to go—since February 21, I’ve only been out of my apartment 5-6 times to go to the grocery store.  And that trip on March 22 to Mercy Hospital.

Like I wrote in my previous post (with that big smiling photo of myself which was a little premature) much of the weird “long covid cranial pressure” has been reduced in my head, which initially gave me some real hope.  But it seems to have traveled down into my face and neck, they’re in bad shape.  I’m trying to reduce the pain and inflammation with hot and cold compresses, and avoiding more pills unless it’s absolutely necessary. 

But it’s becoming too much for me.  I think as soon as I hit publish on this thing, I’m going to get some aspirin or something.

I’m sorry for continuing to share all this, I’m just in disbelief I’ve been dealing with this for the last 3 months.  It’s creepy how much it reminds me of TMJ, maybe it’s becoming that.   

I only ate a portion of the meal I made above, then gave up and wrapped some ice in a towel to put on my face and laid back down the rest of the day.

Again, I’m sorry for sharing all of this and I hope everyone reading this had a nice Easter.  I’m just angry, depressed, worried how long this is going to continue.

A few days ago my sister Shawn wrote and said she’s hoping by May, things will be better on both our ends and I can come down and just hang out.  It was such a nice letter on her part, I miss seeing her and her husband Jim.  I sure hope things are better by May and I can visit with them and be my old self again.

And get back to the senior center and back to blogging about happier things. 

Thanks for reading, you guys have been great.

Thursday, March 28, 2024

It’s getting better all the time… also, a sad goodbye to an old friend

Are you getting tired of my selfies?  I’m sorry, but I couldn’t let that hospital bed mugshot in my last post be the last pic you see of me. 

So, I’ve been taking 800mg gabapentin for one week now and it’s making a difference.  Well, in my skull at least.  It’s easing the cranial pressure, but does nothing for my orofacial pain.  I contacted Dr. Batal (who prescribed the Neurontin) and asked if I could take something like Tylenol too.  He said “Yes to Tylenol, no to Advil, Aleve, Naoproxen.”

I said thanks, maybe I’ll try to hold off on the Tylenol.  When he asked why, I said I was already taking 10 pills a day as it was. 

He said “10 pills?  You’re only supposed to be taking 8 of the Neurontin (gabapentin) daily.”  I reminded him I’m also taking two amlodipine a day for my high blood pressure.  This is crazy!

Anyway, I didn’t retouch this photo or anything (haha) but I DID take it in my bedroom under a soft light.  I know I’m no George Clooney, but I think I look a heck of a lot better than I did 2 weeks ago.  (But outside, it looks like I have 2 black eyes.)  I’m anxious to get the facial pain under control, but I’m nervous about leaving my apartment and going anywhere.  I feel very drugged from all the gabapentin.  I couldn’t walk a straight line if you paid me to.

I’m getting there though.  And right now I feel pretty fortunate.

This past Sunday, my sister Shawn texted me and said “Did you know Mike Pikula died?”  No I didn’t, and it shocked me greatly.  Back in 1980, a year after high school, I landed a full-time job at Murphy’s Mart (a new discount retail store like Wal-Mart in our hometown).  I quickly became friends with several people my age—Brenda, Rita, Kim, Rob, Mark, Mike.  Most of us hung out at Brenda’s house on Saturday nights, ate snacks and played board games and watched television together.

Mike & Brenda fell in love and got married in 1986, but we remained close until I moved to Pittsburgh a year later.  We pretty much lost contact for 30 years, until 2017 when my sister talked me into moving back to Waynesburg.  That didn’t work out, but before I moved back to the city I had a reunion with Mike & Brenda and we went out to dinner at Burgatory (an upscale hamburger joint) and then to La-Z-Boy Furniture where they helped me pick out a new couch.  The same one I’m sitting on right now.

I made Mike do a test sit, recline & lie-down on every sofa we looked at and give it a comfort rating—he happily obliged and it was just like the old days. 

It hardly seemed like 30 years had passed, we laughed so much that night and had such a great time.

Mike died of cancer a week ago, surrounded by his wife, children and grandchildren.  My heart hurts for Brenny Lou, I can’t believe he’s gone.  Rest in peace, Mike.

Friday, March 22, 2024

And so it goes… feeling foggy but hopeful

So a couple days ago (Wednesday) I got fed up with being bedridden for the most part, decided I’d confront this chronic head inflammation head-on (no pun intended) and walk to the store.

I got outside, down the steps in front of my building, about half a block up the street and took a tumble.  The pressure in my head just got too much.  An elderly couple walking their poodles across the street dashed over and helped me up.  Um, I love older people—the older I get the more I notice how they look out for one another.  They insisted on walking me back to my building, on the elevator and back up to my apartment.  I didn’t resist, was just too grateful.

I immediately filled my bathtub with Eucalyptus bubble bath and steaming hot water (it seems to calm things down, I’ve been doing this 2-3 times daily) and called my doctor’s office.

They asked what was going on, I told them about my fall and how I’ve been in a steady decline since my last appointment on February 28.  I’ve pretty much been bedridden this past month.  The attending physician there asked if I’d followed the prescribed treatment (antibiotics, daily Flucosan and neti-pot rinses, sinus sprays) and I said yes, but my sinuses were swollen, ragged and burned constantly, and I never had any congestion in the first place.  Just persistent, crushing pressure in my face.  She said “Stop using those products effective immediately.  I’m having everything sent over to the ER, get yourself admitted as soon as you can.”  

So I went to Mercy Hospital, along with my friend Erin (who stayed with me the entire night).  When it comes to friends, she’s as special as they come.

The doctor who talked to me was pretty special too.  Seriously, I felt like I was in excellent hands.  He said “Douglas, we have you here—let’s find out what’s really going on!  We’ll do bloodwork, CT scans of your brain and sinuses, set you up with an IV and a migraine cocktail.”  

Soon my head was swimming, but in a good way.  They did the bloodwork (to check for infections) and the two CT scans.  While waiting for the results, the doctor said “I see on your file that you think you know what this is.  I  want you to spell it all out.  I got plenty of time, so take your time.”   Jesus I almost busted out crying!

I told him about recovering from covid a week before Christmas, and this all starting a month later.  I spent my nights reading up on “long covid symptoms”, and read multiple accounts of people dealing with chronic inflammation and intense cranial pressure, and how it affected some people’s sinuses.  Many were getting misdiagnosed with sinusitis, and their headaches were ignored.  I thought that’s what happened to me.

He was writing a lot of stuff down (I figured it was something like “this patient is cuckoo”) but returned later with the CT results and said “Ok, your sinuses are in rough shape but only in a superficial way.  You have no sinusitis, probably never did.  Your bloodwork is fine and your brain shows no lesions or tumors.  But there is frontal lobe inflammation.”

He went on to say that he thought my long-covid diagnosis was correct, and that when the body is infected with covid, some areas (like the lungs, heart or brain) can go into ‘chronic overdrive’ and continue fighting the virus even after it’s gone.  He was going to prescribe gabapentin, an anticonvulsant that ‘tamps down’ an overexcited brain.

He asked if I was experiencing any brain fog, I said no.  He said “Well… you will.  You’re going to be taking 8 pills a day for the first 30 days, we’ll reduce the dosage if things improve and stay there.”

And so it’s been a couple days, and I’m sitting here in my living room on a quiet Friday morning.  I haven’t been up this early in over a month.  When I got up today and went into the kitchen to get a cup of coffee, I began to feel the familiar pressure bearing down in the front of my head, like a cinder-block.

But instead of feeling it’s jagged corners in my temples or the roughness of the concrete, it feels like the block has been wrapped in an angora sweater.  My face still feels pulled taut on one side and pretty sore still, but I almost like this drug’s dizziness.  I feel a bit ‘dumbed down’ and I don’t mind.

I’m very sorry I haven’t been keeping up on others blogs and such, but I’m convinced things will be normal again soon.  Thanks very much for letting me share.

Friday, March 15, 2024

Anxious for things to return to normal, but right now I’m in it for the (covid) long haul

Isn’t this a strange photo?  This is me sitting on the floor of my bedroom, wearing a Moist Heat Sinus Relief Mask from Amazon.

It’s a very soft, plush fabric that wraps around your head and comes with 3 heat settings and an auto-shutoff timer after 15/30/60 minutes.  It’s comfortable to wear and the heat can be soothing; I only wish it came with eye-holes!  Debbi from the blog ‘Life’s Funny Like That’ reached out to me with a link to this device and after reading most of the customer reviews, I went ahead and ordered one.

The instruction book says “Even though this comes with a shutoff timer, please do NOT wear it in bed or to bed, it can get hot enough to burn.”  So, unable to sleep or read or look at TV, you’ve got plenty of time to sit there and think.

It’s pointless to look back and wish you could have a do-over, but I can easily see how events played out that led me to this.  The Tuesday after Thanksgiving I stopped at Rite-Aid on my way to the Senior Center to see about getting my covid vaccine shot and a prescription refilled. 

There was a line, so I thought I’d come back the next day.  On my way out the door I said to the manager “You guys aren’t on the bankruptcy closure list are you?” and she said “Not yet!”  I didn’t return the following day, and when I finally went back on Friday—sure enough, the doors were locked with a sign on the front saying goodbye and prescription pickups were sent to the Giant Eagle on Mt. Nebo Road.

(That’s when I asked my friend Susie if I could ride along the next time she went there as she did her grocery shopping there.  I went with her the following Monday, she called me the very next morning and said she was sick and tested positive for covid; 2-3 days later I wound up positive too.)

She recovered from covid with no issues, I wasn’t so fortunate.  So if I hadn’t gone with Susie, would things be any different right now?  This is entirely my fault of course, but I bet my IRA I’d be pain-free and blogging about something else.

I haven’t been to the center since February 21.  We had a nice lunch that day of broccoli stuffed chicken and orzo, and they asked if I wanted seconds as there’d been several cancellations.  I said yes, thank you… but also admitted I was dealing with a buildup of orofacial pain for the last couple weeks and it was becoming too much to bear.  Little did I know what was coming…

I have to admit the persistent pressure in my forehead and temples is making me a bit mental.  Earlier today (I’m writing this on a Friday night) I decided to shave and walk to the store for some ham sandwich spread and a can of Resolve Carpet Cleaner.  Maybe do a little ‘early spring cleaning’ and freshen my bedroom carpet.

So I’m standing in line at the deli counter, and because it’s Lent there’s a lot of people in line for fish sandwiches and stuff.  The woman behind the counter says “Next!” and it’s the tall guy in front of me, but he’s turned sideways, talking to a woman not in line.  The deli woman says again “Next!  Next!”  and I lost it and poked the man’s shoulder and said “SHE’S TALKING TO YOU!”

The man jumped and said “Dude!  I was talking to my Mom!”   I said “I DON’T CARE YOU GOT A LINE OF PEOPLE BEHIND YOU!”   He said to his mother  “Can you believe this?  I’ll call you tonight!”

Now see.. normally I wouldn’t have said a word.  But it was my head doing that, not me.

I forgot where I was going with this… I guess I just wanted to put something new out there.  I know I’m going to fully recover from whatever this is.  (Lots of pressure in the front of my head with jabs of pain, sore sinuses and mouth.)  I no longer think it’s sinusitis, there’s no congestion, no (forgive me for being gross) colored discharge.  Just lots and lots of chronic inflammation.  At night I can sleep for the most part, and that’s a good thing.

As long as I’m thanking Debbi for sending me the link to that face mask, I also wanted to thank blogger Joanne for the Neilmed Sinus Rinse suggestion.  I’ve become quite the pro at using it, and the saline wash has been soothing to my dry, ragged sinuses.  I can’t believe I’m in my sixties and never used one before.

If you made it this far, let me know and I’ll add you to my will.  Thanks for listening.

Thursday, March 7, 2024

That’s my head in the vise and I feel guilty it’s there, but I’m working on it

Last week, the day after my trip to Mercy Hospital to meet with my PCP and an ENT, my sister texted me and asked if I was feeling better now that I started the antibiotics. 

I responded I didn’t feel any better, I’d only taken two pills so far.  She replied “With strep throat two doses of antiobiotics you feel like you’re healed!”  I felt guilty for not having strep.

The next day, my friend Elisa (who works at the Senior Center) emailed and asked what happened at my medical appointment.  I told her my PCP believed this was a long-covid condition and they didn’t have all the answers.  But post-covid inflammation could persist for 3 months or even longer.

My friend said “Sorry, I’m not buying it.”  I felt guilty for sharing such a dire forecast, I should’ve just said I’ll be better soon.  (Still, this is now in it’s second month.)

Three days ago my friend Pat texted me and said “It’s 72F outside!  Go for a walk, I bet you’ll feel like your old self!”   I said okay, but the truth was I just returned from a walk to the market and felt guilty it didn’t make me feel like my old self.

The day before yesterday, I emailed Courtney (the director of the Senior Center I belong to) to inform her I wouldn’t be coming up for the Flatbread Turkey lunch, and could she please express my regrets to my flatbread partner Mary.  She said of course, and asked if I wanted to attend the St. Patty’s Day luncheon next week.  I said I’d better not schedule anything else just yet. 

But I still felt guilty leaving Mary in the lurch for lunch. 

Yesterday morning I called my doctor to let him know I was on the last of the antibiotics but wasn’t feeling much better yet.  He said “Douglas, the antiobiotics were to ensure we got any bacteria in your respiratory.  What are you doing to manage things?”

I told him I was taking a nightly bath with steam and epsom salts, it really seemed to ease the cranial pressure for an hour or so.  And I was going to bed with Vicks VapoRub streaked on my cheekbones like Indian warpaint.  

I added the Naproxen was a game changer, it reduced the pressure in my head by almost half sometimes and for hours too.

My doctor said “I only prescribed you ten of those pills for worst case scenarios, they weren’t intended for daily use.”  Oops.  He asked how many I’d taken, I said 6.  He said “You abused those, I don’t want you taking anymore.  Have you tried aspirin?”

I said yes, but they only help a tiny fraction of the discomfort.  He said “It’s better than nothing.  Next time follow my instructions.”   Yes sir.  Oh the guilt.

Okay, I just finished proofreading all this and boy this is one big boo-hoo, isn’t it?  If I post this on my blog, I’m going to feel REALLY guilty for sharing it with all of you.

But as long as I’m feeling so guilty already….

Monday, March 4, 2024

From my old comic book and sci-fi days… the unearthed videos of ApacheDug

While I’m waiting for this brain fog & long covid orofacial stuff to go away, I thought I’d share something silly I found (and long forgotten) on the internet Sunday.

Several years after my mom passed and before I retired in 2015, I belonged to an online club called Blammo.

Blammo was a place where we got into some pretty heavy discussions on everything from finances to music—but the focus was on comic books, movies, Doctor Who, classic and contemporary science fiction, Star Trek.

It was mostly guys and we teased each other relentlessly.  Some became like brothers.

I was going to do a series of videos on there after the first one got so much feedback, but I worried the guys would see me as a goof and nothing more.

There’s only 4, and they’re only 1-3 minutes long, but if you’re curious to see me jibber-jabber in person so to speak, lisp & all, here ya go.

1.  I made this first one to celebrate my 9000th post… MY 9000TH POST

2.  That first video got such a positive response….

3.  Third time’s the charm?  (I was on something in this one)

4.  Capped and caffeinated (this is still my favorite ball cap)

Thursday, February 29, 2024

You take the good, you take the bad, you take ‘em both and there you have—chronic sinusitis

I just wanted to give a quick update on things, if that’s okay—the last few days wrestling with all this inflammation and crazy noggin pressure was making me pretty batty.  I spent most of Saturday on the phone with my dear friend Erin, then did a repeat performance Monday night with my friend & former classmate Diana. 

They were both so kind, I owe them both big-time.  Thank you, thank you.

Early Tuesday morning, I called my PCP’s office and a kindly triage nurse let me explain what I’ve been wrestling with since January.  She told me that my PCP was going to be at Mercy Hospital on Wednesday, get there bright and early and he would do an evaluation.  I almost cancelled when I woke up to the biggest rainstorm Pittsburgh’s seen in 30 years, but made it to Mercy Hospital almost an hour early.  I was dripping wet when I walked in there, but they got me a pair of scrubs and those comfy grip-socks to wear.

It turned out (luckily for me) they’d had a number of morning cancellations.  My PCP and his 3rd year medical student saw me almost immediately, and because we were in a hospital and not his private practice, was also examined by an ENT (ear, nose, throat) specialist.

I have to say, that specialist was remarkable.  He said “Here’s what happened.  You had covid in December, you recovered from that.  Then you got sick again with another virus or infection in a 2 week timeframe.”   I said yes I should’ve remembered that.  He said “That’s how your acute sinus infection became chronic.”

He said the good news was, my masseters (jaw muscles) looked untraumatized and the oral pain was from tissue inflammation, not muscle.  So he didn’t see this being a TMJ issue (at least, not yet).  The bad news was, the orofacial pain wasn’t going anywhere and could probably continue another couple months.    

They gave me an antibiotic to be taken twice a day for 10 days, and a 10 day dosage of Naproxen.  Also some prescription FLonase, and a saltwater concoction to irrigate my sinuses regularly. 

I asked about the intense pressure in the front & sides of my head, my PCP asked if I was sure my vision wasn’t blurry.  I said my sight was clear and he said “Good, then we can probably rule out a tumor.”   Er… good to know.

Friday, February 23, 2024

Fearful of going down that rabbit hole again—I hope I won’t have to

I probably shouldn’t be writing anything right now, for all I know a real miracle will occur in the next day or two and everything will be right as rain again.

But the truth of the matter is, this TMJ I’m wrestling with keeps going in the wrong direction.  Every few days it will lighten up enough for me to believe it’s getting better, and I’ll start to do normal things again (like preparing those mini-chicken pizzas in my last post).

I’ll tell a couple friends I’m on the mend, and then the next day it comes roaring back with a vengeance.  Right now my temples and the top of my skull are enflamed, my face aches and my mouth is very, very sore.  Eating is difficult but not impossible (yet).  For some reason, hot creamy coffee soothes things.  Not tea, not broth, hot creamy coffee.

I know I wrote about this a week or so ago, how I was convinced my TMJ was “reactivated” one week after testing positive for covid.  What I didn’t mention is that the TMJ only lasted 2 weeks, then faded completely.  But exactly 2 weeks after that, I got a severe case of food poisoning of all things, and it REALLY woke up the TMJ.  That was in January, but seems longer ago. 

Sometimes blogging can be a real pain in the ass.  I’ve gotten angry emails from people in the past about something political I’d written, or called out for getting my facts wrong, all sorts of things.  But last night I did a search on TMJ in my blog, and was reminded (by many awful posts) how much I struggled with TMJ from December 2018 to December 2020.

Those two years (TWO YEARS!) I remained holed up in my apartment, watching nothing but MSNBC and slurping coffee, Ensure & Metamucil.  I often went to bed at 5:30-6pm, only because the fewer hours I remained awake, the better.

That is the rabbit hole I’m fearful of going down again.  

Last March I went down to my sister’s house and stayed a week while my apartment was getting its furnace repaired and the place ozoned.  I told Shawn I’d been a hermit for far too long, and when I got back to the city I was going to change my life around.  I knew she didn’t believe me but I meant it.

I wasted no time joining my local library, signing up with a local senior center, reconnecting with an old classmate.  I spent a few weekends in the spring & summer with my sister Shawn and brother-in-law Jim, toured points of interest (like Falling Waters) with my friend Diana, went to museums, restaurants and even a gateway clipper ride with the folks at my center.  I made a lot of friends there too.

I can’t imagine having to go back to the person I was before.  (Trust me, you can only “grin thru the pain” for so long, with so many people.  It’s not sustainable.)

Anyway, I know this wasn’t an entertaining read and I apologize for that.  One good thing about having a blog, you can share & share and there will always be someone out there listening, and it really helps.  Thanks for listening and I hope my next post is a brighter one.

Monday, February 19, 2024

This Keto is for the birds! No, literally—it’s for the birds, you’ll see

A couple weeks ago at the Lutheran Senior Center, they served a lunch we’ve never had before.  Roast turkey sandwiches on artisan flatbread, with some surprising toppings (barbecue sauce, pepper jack cheese & cole slaw). 

It came with a side of potato salad that was soft, creamy & delicious.

I sat with my friend Mary, a tallish slender woman with red hair and ornery personality.  We both agreed the sandwich was awesome and Mary said “I would like to have this sandwich added to the regular menu!”   My friend Elisa (who works there) said “Thank you, Mary—we’ll let the vendor know!”  

In my best Oliver voice, I meekly raised my hand and said “The potato salad?  Please ‘sa, may I have some more?”  Elisa wasted no time shouting “NO MORE!”  Seriously, for government-issued potato salad I thought it was the best I’d ever had.

I decided not to wait for the center to serve this sandwich again, so I did my best to duplicate it at home (the picture at the top).  My local market didn’t have any artisan flatbread though, so I bought these Arnold KETO Round Sandwich Thins.

They look like hamburger buns that were flattened by a steamroller!  But they did the trick, for the most part. 

(I was also able to duplicate the thin, peppery barbecue sauce by adding 3 shakes of Heinz Worchestershire Sauce to 2 tablespoons of Baby Ray Barbecue.)

Here’s a funny story: a few days ago (the day of the Ice Cream Social), the lunch served at the Senior Center was tortellini of which I’m NOT a fan, so I packed one of these sandwiches along.  I showed it to a couple of the ladies at my table.

Swearin’ Connie (who’s forced to carry a swear-cup and deposit a dollar everytime she swears) said “WHERE THE HELL IS MINE!”  When I offered to share, she laughed and patted my hand and said she was joking.  But when Mary came over with her lunch tray and sat down, Connie yelled “LOOK WHAT THIS %!*^$# BROUGHT FOR LUNCH, MARY!  HE’S TOO GOOD TO EAT THE %!*^$# THE REST OF US ARE HAVING!”

My sandwich wound up costing Connie 3 bucks.  I love Connie, I swear!

Anyway, after I used up my turkey at home I still had half a box of these Sandwich Thins and wondered what to do with the rest of them.  Then it hit me—barbecue chicken mini-pizzas.

I made these with a spray of olive oil, a blend of 1/3 cup pizza sauce & 1/4 cup barbecue sauce, shredded rotisserie chicken (white & dark), mozzarella and Monterey Jack cheeses, some crumbled bacon, chopped onions and green peppers.

Put them in an oven preheated to 350 and let bake for 10 minutes.  I know these don’t look very pretty, but these thins were made to be eaten as no-carb mini-pizzas.  The crusts came out of the oven hot and soft, with a mild crisp.  They were absolutely delicious.

This may be the only way I ever eat pizza again.  And I wasn’t even trying to go carb-free!

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Thinking I need a new picture here…and here and here

Good morning.  If you don’t really know me that well, you probably wouldn’t notice anything too weird or different with my face.

(Well, hopefully you wouldn’t!)

But trust me, it’s different this morning.  Got out of bed a couple hours ago and the left side of my face was swollen.  It feels like someone stuffed some bristly nuts in my left cheek while I was sleeping.  (Well, I’ve always been a little squirrely…)  It’s just another day of living with TMJ.

Things are getting better though, this is Day 4 where the right side of my face has remained unswollen.  That’s a good sign.  I can’t believe I’m even dealing with this again after 3 years.  It returned on Saturday December 16, exactly one week after being struck down with Covid.  Did you know there are studies linking the two? 

I’m convinced my bout with covid (with a high fever for 3-4 nights) “woke up” the chronic inflammation that causes TMJ.  Anyway, enough said; I just wanted to share a promising update.  As soon as it ends I plan to eat “sharp foods” like Wheaties and toast for breakfast again.  And bacon.  Boo on oatmeal.

Getting to my next reason for wanting a better picture, does my blog look a little different to you?  When I began blogging back in 2006 I did it on a Microsoft site called “Windows Spaces”.  All went well until 2010 when Microsoft announced they were closing their Spaces platform. 

They offered to help us migrate to WordPress, but I decided to go my own route and came over to Blogger.  I was a software developer at the time, and thought I’d use the move to learn how to code my own blog using HTML (a website coding language).  I figured it would be a good skill to add to my IT resume.

But I only learned just enough, and for the last 15 years I’ve been unable to do much with the look of ApacheDug’s Teepee.  For example, I’ve never been able to change my orange banner which was ‘hard-wired’ into my code.But I’m ready for a change, so a week ago I began looking at Blogger’s ready-made templates, and picked one I could update (without getting into the infernal HTML code).  If you notice anything wonky on here, please let me know!

And finally, I should probably stop worrying about my blog and focus a little more on fixing up my REAL place.  Last year I gave myself a decor-goal for 2023: find three or four artworks for my apartment so I could stop living with empty walls.  One for my large dining room wall, one for my living room and 2 for the bedroom.

What’d I accomplish?  I bought a tiny framed art piece for the bathroom and a medium-sized one for the wall above my clothes hamper (I wrote about here).  You have to be in the bedroom and around the corner to even see it though.

So I’m giving myself a new decor goal for 2024:  find one thing to hang on this wall!  I’m thinking of a 3 x 3’ frame-wrapped canvas art print, maybe Asian-themed or industrial.  I’ll tackle the other rooms next year for sure. ;^) 



Friday, February 9, 2024

Still singin’ praises for the Eggplant Parmigiana

Have you ever made plans to get together with some friends to go out to dinner or see a show, but the day of the event got different “signs” you should maybe cancel?  But you went anyway, and wound up—well, I’m glad I still went.

This past Wednesday I awoke to my right cheek swollen and a bit painful (I’ve been dealing with a recent TMJ flare up).  I had plans to have lunch with my pals Evvie & Elaine (and some other folks from the Senior Center) at the Bravo Italian Kitchen on McKnight Road, and I wasn’t about to let this stand in the way.  I rubbed some Ben-Gay on it and hoped for the best. 

I showered and shaved and got dressed, then ran out the door (we were expected to be at the center by 10:30am for our road trip).  The entire walk there, I kept noticing a persistent perfume smell around me.  Where was that coming from?  Did one of the ladies from the center hug me the other day when I had my coat on?  I was half tempted to turn around and go home to change my jacket when it hit me—Tide Pods!  I washed my clothes with them on Monday and forgot I only bought them for my pillows and bed sheets.  Now I smelled like a basket of flowers.

I get to the center, say hello to everyone, there’s Evvie and Lady Elaine, thank goodness.  It’s soon announced the first of two shuttles is here, but I’m not on the list for the first one.  By the time the second shuttle arrived and brought us to the restaurant, I was dismayed to see all the tables had been filled except one: the one with Dennis, Paul & Gary.  The guy’s table.

Dennis is a nice guy (though he smokes a lot and reeks of cigarette smoke), and I like Paul (even if he is a sex maniac) but Gary—well, I’ve written about Gary before.  He claims to own 3 hearing aids but refuses to wear them, SO YOU HAVE TO SHOUT WHEN YOU TALK TO HIM.  REALLY LOUD.

I feel bad for him, but I’m also convinced he’s in the early stages of dementia as every time he sees me, asks me my name (over and over and over) then proceeds to tell me his entire life story.  When our server was taking my order, he kept poking me—“What’s your name again?  I weigh 286 but want to get down to 165!  That was my senior high weight, you know!  Guess how much I weigh now??”

Dennis returning from his 15th cigarette; Paul the Ladies Man; Gary

After I finally got my order in, Paul said “Want to see some photos?”  and showed me pictures on his phone.  “This is the first of my four wives, here’s my second wife, my girlfriend last year, my sugar lady who’s taking me to Tahiti next week, the woman I’m dating now who lives in Bobtown, oh here’s Wife No.4….” 

I said his wives were beautiful and his current ladies looked like fun, and Paul let me know what he couldn’t get enough of.  (Cough!)

My friend Elaine was at the next table, leaned over and asked what I was looking at.  When I said Paul’s stable of women, she said “His what??” and Paul turned and said “Oh hi there what’s your name?”    Back off Paul, Elaine is spoken for!

My friend Evvie and the Bravo menu 

When I flagged down our server (a very pretty young woman who seemed to be going out of her way to avoid the guys table) I pleaded for a glass of ginger ale.  She set one down then hurried off, I picked it up and took a big gulp and gagged—it tasted like a tumbler full of liquor. 

When I asked for a replacement, she said “Are you sure it’s alcohol and not just really old pop?  You might get the same thing again.”  I said “Please just bring me some water!”

The Herb Linquini was a little too al dente for me (and I realized when we were leaving I never got my salad), but the eggplant was crispy, hot and delicious.  And a good enough reason to get me out of the house!


Tuesday, February 6, 2024

Here in my abode, there are many potions… and popcorn

Last week I was downstairs talking to my neighbor Andrew, the young man who sings opera in his studio apartment by the elevator, when I saw Karen, another of the Tiffany’s residents, coming up the walkway to the front door, carrying a couple of Kuhn’s Market bags. 

I ran to let her in, she said thank you, I asked if something was wrong.  She said yes, we need a new drugstore.  Kuhn’s didn’t have half the stuff on her personal items list.

When I moved to this neighborhood in September 1993, there were 2 drugstores within walking distance from my apartment.  Revco Drug was two blocks up the street, and Thrift Drug was only 1/2 block farther down.  I shopped at both, depending on sales or convenience.

Revco closed in 1997 and became a pizza parlor, and Thrift became a Rite-Aid in 1999.  It’s been my only place for toiletries & pharmaceuticals for 25 years, until it closed a few weeks ago. 

Karen asked how I was handling not having a drugstore nearby, neither of us own a car.  I said it hadn’t been a problem, other than getting two prescriptions filled.  I told her I pretty much only went to the drugstore for soap & toothpaste anyway.  She said she should’ve known better, guys were low maintenance.  I said “Well… on second thought, Rite-Aid was the only place that sold my favorite popcorn.”

This is the truth, I always hated microwave popcorn for being too salty or too greasy until I discovered Jolly Time Healthy Pop.  Their Kettle Corn is dry but fluffy, with just a hint of salty sweet flavor.  But I’ve never been able to find it anywhere else.

Anyway, after I came upstairs I began to wonder: how much shopping did I REALLY do at Rite-Aid?  I began gathering items only purchased there.

As I loaded my dining table, I felt my anxiety rising.  This seems like a LOT.  Does Kuhn’s even carry my brand of Irish Spring?  It’s called Active Scrub and nope Kuhn’s doesn’t!  They’ve got 25 varieties of body wash, but I’m old school and prefer bars of soap.  And Active Scrub is infused with a bit of grit, not exactly gentle but just right for scrubbing the dead skin cells and other sins from my chubby body.

Will I settle for another soap?  No, but at least I know it’s safe to purchase online.  I just don’t see myself ordering liquids like Natural Dentist Mouthwash or Dr. Teal’s Foaming Bath, I’d probably wind up with some leaky packages. 

(Have you tried Dr.Teal’s?  It’s made of Eucalyptus leaves, spearmint oil and lots of suds, I’ve grown to enjoy soaking in a steamy tub 2-3 nights a week before bed.)   

At least I found my popcorn on  I thought I’d play it safe so I bought a case!

Thursday, February 1, 2024

Makes no difference where I go, you’re still the best hometown I know

The other night I was on Youtube looking for local weather reports from the 1970s (my life is one thrill after another) when I came across a news jingle that surprised me—it was the first time I’d seen it in 45 years.

It was a catchy song from WTAE-TV (our local ABC station) and aired throughout 1977-79, “Hello Pittsburgh, Channel 4 Loves You”. 

I remember seeing it often, but never grew tired of it.  They produced different shorts of the 'Burgh, and I took pride in where I lived.

Anyway, I started to look into it’s backstory but soon discovered it wasn’t Pittsburgh’s own.  (In fact, Milwaukee lays claim to that.)  It turns out in the late 1970s thru the mid 1980’s, news stations everywhere aired their own version of it—and not just in this country!

I wound up finding 25 versions of this song, but I’m only sharing my Top 8 here.  (Apologies to Witchita, Atlanta, Nashville, Rhode Island, Indiana & Syracuse, among others.)   You should watch the ones below, they’re only one minute long—well, except for the last one it’s two minutes—but there’s a good reason.

1.  HELLO PITTSBURGH – The video quality isn’t great, but it’s still my favorite.  The traffic cop at the end was a downtown fixture for many years and made famous in the movie ‘Flashdance’.

2.  HELLO HOUSTON -  Space City USA!

3.  HELLO MILWAUKEE -  Milwaukee aired two versions, one sung by a woman, the other a man.  (Pittsburgh did the same.)  I think the male version here is smoother.

4.  In the Canadian province of Alberta… HELLO CALGARY!  Some great aerial shots here, and this was before drones. 

5.  HELLO SAN DIEGO – I think this one’s the prettiest.

6.  HELLO ACADIANA – Hello Acadiana?  Oh look, Ron Howard!

7.  HELLO MELBOURNE – Yep, Australia!  And looking good too.

8.  HELLO OSMONDS (HELLO UTAH) – My other video roundups contain an Osmonds clip, why make an exception now?

Friday, January 26, 2024

Finally, a senior outing! Livin’ the Vida Loca at the Buca di Beppo

A couple days ago, a few of us from the Senior Center went out to lunch (my first outing since the Narcisi Winery in October) to Buca di Beppo, an Italian restaurant in Robinson Township.  It felt a bit strange as there was only 2 other customers there.

However, we were treated like royalty and our server (Ashley) was wonderful.  When I said my lasagna was probably the best I’d ever eaten, she went back and told the chef, who asked if he could meet me.  His name was Roberto and my gosh, what a humble, kind man.

I didn’t take a lot of photos, but thought I’d share the few I have.  When we left, I said I hoped we made it back this way again soon, and my friend Evvie said “Okay, but we’re only steps away from an Outback Steakhouse!”

Seated in the Cardinals Room, there’s a giant peacock painted on the wall behind my giant headA mural of nuns riding bumper cars—I almost wish I had this hanging in my apartment.While Dennis is outside smoking his 16th cigarette, Paul is about to order a glass of wine so expensive I feel the need to tell him how to drink it.  S L O W L Y.Hot plate!  You can’t tell from this photo, but there must be a quart of lasagna and sauce here. 

I was going to post everyone’s lunch, but we all ordered the same thing!My dear and funny pal Evvie, we discussed places to visit in DC and the going rates for cadavers, among other things.I brought home my leftover lasagna, and our server put a paper sack with a small loaf of warm bread in my doggy bag.  Talk about first class service.

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Man does not live by bread alone; he also lives by potatoes! Lots and lots of mashed potatoes

Some time back when I was at my sister Carrie Shawn’s house for dinner, she said “Taste the potatoes before you season them, I added a lot of salt when I was mashing.”

I said “Speaking of mashed potatoes, Kuhn’s has stopped selling Hungry Jack Potatoes and I am devastated.”   Shawn said “Hungry Jacks what?  I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

I said “HUNGRY JACK INSTANT POTATOES.” She said “Sorry, I don’t buy instant stuff.  My family eats the real thing.”  I said “They ARE the real thing. They’re russet potatoes, flaked & freeze dried.”  Shawn said “Sounds like space food to me!”

I said “For your information, Carrie Nation, astronauts haven’t eaten freeze dried food in decades!”  She said “Well, you still do.  Now pass the REAL butter!”

I considered slamming my fork down and storming out of her dining room, but I was hungry and it’s not everyday single guys like me get the chance to have real mashed potatoes, you know?

For the record, instant mashed potatoes aren’t as simple as you think.  If you don’t add the right combination of water, milk, salt & butter you can wind up with something inedible.  Potatoes too soupy?  Stir in more flakes.  Add too many though, and you get paste—and NO AMOUNT of water or milk is gonna fix that bowl of glue!

When I returned to the city (and Kuhn’s Market), I decided to check out what other potatoes they had in the astronaut aisle:  I saw these and was intrigued, and bought packs of each.

Um… these potatoes are wonderful.  Boil 2 cups of water, empty in a packet, wait a minute or two.  That’s all you have to do.  Here’s a few meals I had with the packs above:

POTATOES:  FOUR CHEESE.  SERVED WITH:  Chicken tenders, buttered corn. 

THOUGHTS:  These potatoes weren’t bad, but there was more tang than cheese.  I don’t think mashed potatoes should be this tangy.  Did I still eat them?  Yes.  Will I buy them again?  I doubt it.POTATOES:  VERMONT WHITE CHEDDAR.  SERVED WITH:  Baked chicken thighs seasoned with Old Bay, green beans.

THOUGHTS:  These potatoes struck the perfect balance of creamy potatoes & mild cheddar.  They were absolutely delicious (and the Old Bay chicken was excellent).  Will I buy them again?  You bet—in fact, I went back the next day and bought a couple more packs.POTATOES:  CLASSIC.  SERVED WITH:  Meatloaf, frozen peas.

THOUGHTS:  These had a mild aftertaste that reminded me they weren’t real.  In fact, they took me back to my high school cafeteria days and the mashed potatoes served with meatloaf or chicken & gravy sandwiches.  You knew they weren’t genuine, but they were hot so you gobbled them down anyway.   

On a tastier note, I make a pretty good meatloaf which you can find here.POTATOES:  BABY REDS.  SERVED WITH:  Ham, roasted broccoli topped with shredded parmesan.

THOUGHTS:  We have a winner, these potatoes were delicious and tasted homemade.  They even have lumps in them, I love that.  They just became my new go-to. 

Also, this is the only way I’ll cook broccoli again.  Take 1 bag of frozen florets, add in 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, 1/2 tsp kosher salt, 1/2 tsp sugar, pinch of white pepper, shake of red pepper flakes.  Shake bag well, spread on a baking sheet and bake at 450F for 20 minutes.Finally, I wanted to mention that I enjoyed the ‘Roasted Garlic Parmesan Baby Reds’ with a nice piece of baked flounder and brussel sprouts, and they were my third favorite, behind the White Cheddar.  The reason I don’t have a photo is because it was my first potato mix and what inspired me to blog the rest of these. 

Also, Kuhn’s has just added 5-6 more flavors to the Idahoan Mashed lineup (Applewood Bacon, Herbed, Country Style, etc.) so I will be doing a Part Two.