Tag Archives: food

When Big Companies Do Good Things

I make a concerted effort to shop locally. I love the little yarn store located in far south Seattle and just up the road from me. (Jessie knits, I’m not that interesting.) I try and buy my greeting cards and various sick remedies at the local drug store here in town. I make it a point to try the various local restaurants on a semi-regular basis…when Budge is sleeping or not paying attention.

I try to shop locally…I try hard. Sometimes it’s a little too difficult to pass by a national company for a local place when the big guy is trying earnestly to do good things. I understand the need to keep as much money local as possible, I really do, but I like giving money to companies which are trying to do the right thing.

Panera Bread is a company I have enjoyed visiting (I love some of their bakery items, I know, shocking) and I’m starting to really respect them for what they are trying to do now. Panera started under the name Au Bon Pain and, through acquisitions, has grown to over 1600 restaurants/bakeries in 44 states and one foreign country; if you consider Canada a foreign country.

While living near Portland, Oregon last year, Janet and I went to one of their ‘Panera Cares Community Café Experiment’ because we had read about it in our little local paper. What a great idea: here was a restaurant where you could pay whatever you could afford. If you are short on funds, you don’t have to pay anything. If you have extra money, you can give more to help offset the free meals.

I loved it. What a great way for people to eat with dignity. I read, somewhere at some point, that sixty percent of patrons pay the suggested amount and the rest are split evenly between paying more and paying less for the food. This is something I want to see succeed: a company who understands the concept of making money but also wants to help in the fight against hunger. No one should go hungry, especially not here in the states.

We only went the one time, I’m sorry to say, because we seemed to be in a ‘Hey! Let’s move again!’ phase in our lives. Now we don’t live near a Panera Cares Café but I do want to go to a regular Panera just to give my support to a company I’m starting to admire. That and I really like their flower cookie.

I like them even more since I read a story about Panera Cafes in the St. Louis area. Instead of the whole restaurant being in the pay-what-you-can mode, these cafes introduced the ‘Meal of Shared Responsibilities Program’. The meal is a turkey chili bowl and you pay however much you would like for that meal.

I like the idea so much I’m willing to fly to St. Louis to show my support. Hmmm…what was that noise? It was either the budget crying or Janet laughing hysterically at me. They both do that a lot when I’m around. I would do it, though, just to show Panera how much I like what they are trying to do. I’ve never been to St. Louis either: two birds, Janet, just the one stone!

I also am starting to realize that not all big companies are horrible and to be avoided at all costs. They still provide jobs to locals, they pay taxes (I hope) to our community and, sometimes, they try and make our little world a much better place. I’m not saying Panera is perfect, I don’t know how they treat their employees, but I can say I like what Panera is trying to accomplish. I want to give money to companies who are trying to do good things.  I know exactly how they feel.


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Places to Eat in Seattle

I’ve been spending some time in the Seattle Center area, lately, and I try to be good with our self imposed budgetary limitations, but I’ve checked out a few restaurants on the sly. I enjoy walking around the Center; Roxy does too if it’s not raining or cold (she hates those two together). Luckily for Rox, it’s rarely wet and cold in the great Pacific Northwest during the winter!

The Seattle Center is much more interesting and diverse than I remember from my youth. There’s a lot to see and do there such as the impressive Space Needle (I do remember that part), KeyArena (where the Seattle Storm shoot hoops), Pacific Science Center, numerous museums and stages and the Experience Music Project. I’m not sure what the EMP building is supposed to represent but it kinda looks like Godzilla spit his gum out in the parking lot. I hope there weren’t any innocent bystanders when he hocked that up.


Also on the 74 acre grounds of the Center is a place called the Armory. It’s a food court now with a number of local eating establishments. There’s a Subway and Starbucks, too, in case you missed the other ten located within a two mile radius. My favorite spot in the Armory is a place called Pie. It creates sweet and savory varieties of small, portable, tasty pies. Janet and I went to Pie one Friday night and had a Cauliflower and Cheddar pie with a baby Key Lime pie for dessert. I will definitely go back and try some of their other choices as I love meat pies and most things with ‘key lime’ in the title.

Pho Viet Anh

I’ve been meaning to try a Vietnamese sandwich for ages and finally got around to it a couple of Fridays ago. I didn’t know what to expect, I’m not a very adventurous eater, but I enjoyed the food and ambiance. No frills and tiny, the restaurant envelops you when you first walk in and gave me a warm and homey feeling.  We ordered a pork sandwich and I fell in love with the vegetables and bread. The pork was almost an afterthought, on my part, and next time I think I’ll order the vegetarian option. I’m not sure what they did to make the veggies taste so darn good but Janet and I have been thinking about them for days. I know, right! That never happens with veggies.

Pagliacci Pizza

No food list of mine would be complete without a pizza entry. This is one food type all three of us agree on (and if we let Roxy eat pizza, four). At Pagliacci’s you can buy pizza by the slice, a budget friendly way for everyone to eat pizza at the same time without having to buy three entire pies. I must admit, I really like Pagliacci for their freshly tossed Caesar salad. I can think of no better way of eating lettuce than to smother it in Caesar dressing and throw in large chunks of bread disguised as croutons. The tri-nivore in me loves a slice of pepperoni pizza with a side of salad. Tri-nivore: a person who eats meat, fruits and veggies and, my favorite, carbs.

If you ever find yourself in the Seattle area, check out these restaurants and definitely stroll around the Seattle Center to collect your ten thousand steps per day. On most Wednesdays, Roxy and I can be found walking around the area. Unless it’s raining and cold then forget it.


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Picky Eaters, HerGameLife, and Book Two

My daughter, Jessie (almost 12), has always been a picky eater.  Her dad and I used to joke how Jessie only ate 5 things, growing up, and one of them was ketchup.  I’m pretty sure she would have starved if it weren’t for chicken nuggets and apples.  When she decided she didn’t like chicken nuggets anymore, at about age 7, we scrambled to find something to replace her source of protein.

For a while there, I thought Jessie was becoming a vegetarian: she just wouldn’t eat anything resembling meat.  It’s not the worst thing in the world, for a child to become a vegetarian, but since Jessie didn’t like beans, eggs, or most dairy products, I was a little concerned about her protein intake.  How much milk can one little person drink?

Once again, Janet came to the rescue.  She ran across a recipe, in Rachael Ray’s magazine, she thought Jessie might like.  It’s the recipe for Turkey Pucks made with ground turkey, corn flakes, evaporated milk, cheese and spices.  Janet said, “Maybe if we have Jessie help us make dinner, she’ll become emotionally invested in the food and like it before she even tries it.”  Brilliant.

Jessie had a great time mixing the meat and cheese, forming little patties, and dipping them in the milk and corn flakes.  She even helped Janet fry them on the stove (I was allowed to break up the corn flakes with my mallet) and pat the excess oil off.  Jessie loved every minute of it and ate two whole pucks that first night.  Our new meal was a success!  This success led to another experiment, also thought of by Janet (the brains of this operation): Destination Dinners.

“What if,” Janet surmised, “we pick a country, found their national dish, and made it for dinner.  That way, it will be new and interesting for all of us.”  When I asked Jessie how she felt about destination dinners she said, “Great!  I pick Italy and pizza!”  I was momentarily stunned and Jessie laughed hysterically and said, “Just kidding, Mom!”  I’m so glad she’s developing a sense of humor; she was a very serious child for a while there.

So, Jessie picked Morocco and we researched their national dish.  The Moroccan national dish is tajine, a lamb or poultry stew, served over couscous.  The only thing I did was cut up the chicken; Jessie did everything else.  It turned out to be delicious and Jessie realized, not only that she liked tajine, but she also really liked chickpeas.  We will definitely make this dish again in the near future.

Janet and I stumbled upon another great way for Jessie to try new food: CostCo.  We love going to CostCo to try new and interesting things and if we don’t get filled up on freebies, we head over to the deli for a hotdog and soda meal for $1.50.  You gotta love CostCo!

We went to CostCo last month, probably for cheese and 5 hour energies, and Jessie wanted to try a meatball a kind woman offered her.  She absolutely loved it and mentioned it several times while we dragged her around the store.  She convinced us to go back for another try and then asked us if we would buy her a package for home.  Jessie wants to buy food with protein in it?  You betcha!

We asked the woman where we could find the meatballs and she replied, “You can find these delicious Chicken Pineapple Teriyaki Meatballs just to my right in the freezer on the end.”  You should have seen the look on Jessie’s face: it was the ‘What did she say was in them?’ look.  Jessie scrutinized the packaging, looked over at me, shrugged, handed Janet the package and said, “Oh well, I still like them.”

Now, if I would have asked her, “Jessie, honey, would you like to try a teriyaki meatball made with chicken and pineapple?”  She would’ve not just said no, but given me the look: the ‘are you just meeting me for the first time?’ look or, as I like to call it, the ‘what? Are you new here?’ look.  I can’t blame her: I know I give her weird looks, too.  I mean, she is a pre-teen.


I started writing blogs, this week, on a website for women who like sports and like to talk about them.  There are quite a few of us out there.  I wrote my first blog, titled ‘Thank You, Seahawks, for Giving Me Hope’ and posted it on Tuesday.

I wasn’t sure how easy it was to find my blog posting so I went to the website, www.hergamelife.com and tried to find it myself.  I couldn’t find a spot to search so I was scrolling through the front page when I saw a blog titled, ‘Thank You, Seahawks…’.  I thought, “Hold on!  You thief! That’s my title…Wait a minute!  That’s my blog!  Holy Crap, I’m on the front!”

I would like to think my post is on the front because it’s pretty good and not because they rotate posts, or because the Seahawks are hot, or they always put your first one on the front.  If you want to go and read it, just click on the link above and scroll down to the Hot Topics section and it should still be there.  Hot Topics…I know, right?!

Book Two

I originally started this blog to talk about my writing and in particular the book I was working on at the moment (but it’s evolved into a blog about things I find interesting, or funny, or scary.  That way in case I ever have fans they’ll know a little bit about me, if they so desire.) There’s a lot of blogs on the hows and whys of writing and I didn’t want to get into all that…I just wanted to write about my work and what I’m doing at the moment.  Then I realized how boring that would be after a little while.

“So, today I sat down to write and was stymied by my imagination for a while.  I decided to play a game of spider solitaire to get the juices flowing. (Scratch that, Janet reads these.) I wrote several paragraphs, read them over, and deleted them as they were crap.  I think I’ll write an essay on the joys and sorrows of Sudoku.  I’ll call it Sudoku: The Bane of Erasers Everywhere or Sudoku: Can There Really Be 3 Sixes in This Box? How about: Sudoku and The Pivotal Moment Where You Realized ‘Oh Crap, I Screwed Up Somewhere’.”

Now, some of you might find this interesting (please, get help) but I’m pretty sure, after I sent it to Janet, she would reply back with just the one word: Really?  Followed closely by: This is what you do all day?  Luckily, my ego can handle harsh criticism.  Oh, you didn’t know that?  What?  Are you new here?


p.s. There I go forgetting about the book again.  I finished the first draft of book two, Alex’s Story, before we moved back to Washington and just started the second draft this week.  It’s coming along really well, although I am biased, and I should hit my target of somewhere between Feb 1 and Feb 10 for a release date.  I’ll let you know the closer I get to being finished!  Book one, Devan’s Story, is out there if you want to read it before book two.

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Hangovers, Home Cooked Meals and Staying Put

Janet and I have the worst case of mover’s hangover I’ve seen in a long time.  We are never moving again.  We mean it this time.  We have moved four times in the last 18 months (I’m not counting going to Sacramento because we just drove down and left all our things in Vancouver).

Of course, you realize this means we’ll find the perfect house in about six months.  We’ll pretend to be interested in the property as a rental, start fixing it up, getting the house just right, and then fall in love and want to move in right away.  That’s just the way we roll; not always the smoothest ride, but never a dull moment in this household.

Janet and I have been spending a lot of time in big box stores, not something we intended to do, but we just can’t seem to help ourselves.  We are being greeted as friends in several Lowes and Home Depots now and we recently went to IKEA to try and figure out creative ways to store all our stuff.  I enjoy spending time in IKEA: not only are those Europeans clever but my pedometer gained quite a few steps on our trips.

Our storage problem is twofold:  (1) we have too much stuff (or crap, depending on my mood), and (2) we moved from a 2000 square foot house with a garage to 1280 square foot condo with a 4 foot by 6 foot back patio and two assigned parking spots.  I only see one solution.  Janet has to get rid of some of her stuff.  Clearly, it’s the easiest and best solution.

After spending two months in California, eating out almost every meal, I can honestly say I am tired of the severe shortage of home cooked meals.  I never thought I would see the day where I couldn’t decide what to eat and I just wanted someone to put food in front of me because the thought of making one more decision on food made me a little queasy.

I’ve always enjoyed eating out but I’ve finally come around to the obvious conclusion that it’s expensive and not very healthy.  I decided this past Sunday, while sitting around watching football, to start planning meals for the upcoming week.  I’m pretty sure Janet thought I was kidding when I mentioned my devious plan on Sunday because when she asked what I’d had for dinner when she called on Wednesday, she was shocked I didn’t say cereal.

I told her I’d made spicy rubbed chicken with a cucumber salad on the side.  She paused so long I thought we’d lost our connection.  She then said, “who are you and what have you done with my girlfriend?”  I told her my decision to eat healthier and save money by cooking more at home and she said, “no, seriously, who are you?”

She won’t be looking for the pod (from the Body Snatchers) because she realized she liked this new Jenn and doesn’t want scare away the version who cooks and cleans up after myself.  I’ve never been a big fan of cooking, but I’ve always loved eating and it works out great when you put those two things together.  So I’ve heard.

I don’t even know where to start talking about our budget (Curse you, Budge!), but I hope cooking more at home, and eating out less, will help with the devastation Budge had to endure during the endless month of November.  Isn’t this financial disaster of a month over with yet?  Buying a condo, moving and having to buy new appliances, not to mention startup fees with our friendly neighborhood utilities, has been an expensive endeavor.

I look forward to the day we can put the move and expenses behind us and look forward.  Sitting here in my new living room, on my giant purple couch, I can see three or four dozen boxes which need to be sorted and unpacked.  That’s the easy part; deciding where to put these things (crap) is another story.  My head hurts.  I am never moving again.


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Discovery Bay, Washington

Yes, we are on vacation yet again.  Our trip to Discovery Bay was, originally, going to be our only true vacation this summer.  We booked it about a year ago.  I don’t include moving to Bend for the summer a vacation, although Budge seems to disagree.  Going to South Dakota was a late addition to our calendar and was time specific or else we probably would have separated the two a little more.

These two vacations, Discovery Bay and South Dakota, couldn’t be more different if I’d tried to write the stories.  Discovery Bay’s temperatures linger around 70 as a high (instead of 100), the views are amazing here (I could sit at the visitor’s center at Hurricane Ridge and breathe in the Cascades for days) and the condo here is large and private.

It’s cold, I’m not going to lie.  I would never leave this place if it was 85 or 90 degrees and sunny, not with the impressive views of the bay and surrounding mountains.  The fact that it’s 65 at noon and the sun has yet to show itself leaves me with a desire to take the ferry over to Seattle to see if it’s any warmer.  I shudder to think what it’s like here in January and February.

The views here are breathtaking.  When we are sitting at the table, eating a meal, and you look out onto the bay, it looks like we’re in the water and not just near it.  The views from the two balconies are unobstructed bay views and I couldn’t be happier with them.  Janet even saw two otters frolicking in the water the other morning.  We keep looking for whales but I don’t think they like coming into the bay much; too much like taking a bath for them.

Jessie’s best friend from Texas, we’ll call her Destiny, came along for this trip and we took them to the Olympic National Forest to check it out.  What a stunning chunk of land.  I think Destiny was impressed with her surroundings since she was born and raised in Texas, a much flatter and sometimes browner place to live.

Janet told me, before we made it to Hurricane Ridge, about the similarities to The Sound of Music I’d notice in the hillsides and I really had the urge to break into song when we stopped at the top.  I actually did break into song at one point until my clearly embarrassed daughter told me to stop.  She said the twirling was too over the top.

Staying in the condo is a much better setup than the hotel room on our first trip.  Not that I didn’t enjoy sharing a room with my mother-in-law and bed with my kicking, hitting, teeth grinder of a daughter, but separate rooms are really nice.  This condo is three floors and the setup is adult friendly.

When you come in through the front door, it’s a split level entrance.  If you go up to the left you come into the main living area: kitchen, dining area and living room with a nice gas fireplace (we use it every day – it’s cold here).  Off the dining area is a patio with a gas grill – Janet’s preferred form of cooking.  We’ve already grilled pork chops, sausage, and chicken; all delicious.

If you keep going up, on the landing between the main floor and the upstairs, the girls’ full bathroom is off to the left.  The girls’ room is up at the top with a beautiful view of the bay and two of the narrowest beds I have ever seen.  Yesterday morning, while Janet and I were up and watching the Olympics, we heard a loud thud followed closely by an ‘owwww’.  Destiny had fallen out of bed and I was surprised that was the only time it had happened.  I would just have to sleep on the floor.

If, after entering the unit, you were to go to the right and down you would find yourself in the master bedroom.  A wonderful, soft, king sized bed (a joy after sleeping on a double futon in Bend), a sitting area with a TV and a VCR (I didn’t know they still had those), a Jacuzzi bathtub, a shower in the bathroom, and our own personal deck.  The condo turned into quite the pleasant surprise, especially after sharing a hotel room for a week.  Not that I didn’t enjoy the perfectly lovely tiny hotel room with my mother-in-law and daughter.

I can’t begin to describe what our budget looks like after two vacation weeks in July.  Well, I could, but I will spare you the gore.  Budge does not look good; she is cowering in the corner, looking weak and anemic.  It helps having a kitchen in this unit, but we still went over (doubled) our budgets for dining out and groceries.  I’m so glad it’s August now and we can try and stop the blood loss.

We flew to the South Dakota trip (expensive) and drove to this one (not quite as expensive with the Prius), but having two weeks of vacation almost back to back:  this will be hard to recover from.  We’d been doing relatively well with Budge up to this point.  We’d been close to our goal amount, and when we did go over it was only by a couple hundred dollars.  But in July we went several hundred dollars over.

It’s a hard thing to justify, spending so much money on travel.  Should we stay at home and deny ourselves one of our true passions: travel?  Or should we ditch our goals (the main one being saving enough money to get Janet off the road) and travel and spend with abandon.  I’m a Libra, so I’m thinking we should try and find a balance somewhere.  That and I should stop getting all those travel deal emails.  Those are killing me.


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