Category Archives: addiction

The Zitner’s are Here, The Zitner’s are Here!

for those of you who do not speak regional philadelphi-eze, that means some of the best candy in the world is now available. Zitner’s

i know, i know, everyone has their regional favorites, but i’m telling you that zitner’s is among the best, and c and i have tasted some mighty fine chocolates from around the world. zitner’s makes chocolate covered eggs that have fillings of cocoanut crème, double cocoanut, peanut butter, butter crème (called butter krak), marshmallow and butter crème and chocolate chip. most of the eggs are covered in a thick coating of rich, dark chocolate, except for the peanut butter egg which is covered with milk chocolate.

google zitner’s and you’ll find a wealth of blog posts, articles, reviews, etc. that name these regional specialties among the very best in the world.

but, there’s a downside. nope, not referring to the calories associated with these treats ‘cuz enjoying them for a few scant months of the year isn’t going to kill you. it’s that they sell out quickly and they’re hard to find. it seems that this year they’ve gotten even harder to find.

i can’t find any truth to this, but it seems as though candy giant russell stover has played some hardball with grocery stores and convenience stores and taken over shelf space, which has pushed zitner’s off the shelves. c and i are pretty skilled at the zitner’s game if only because these eggs have traditionally sold out so quickly that you have to be on your game to find them. but this year even the unusually unusual places to find zitner’s, like the local hardware store, have come up empty.

ah, but the famed local favorite convenience store, wawa, was stocked full of zitner’s and peeps (another local favorite). i snatched up a bunch of cocoanut crème eggs and then came home to find an amazon box with two boxes of zitner’s cocoanut crème eggs inside. honestly, i would rather buy these treats locally, but if the local stores won’t or can’t get them, then amazon it is.

the thing about the philadelphia market is that people here stubbornly cling to their hometown favorites – so much so that some large national/international conglomerates have had a tough time wrangle market share away from the locals. one example of that loyalty is yuengling beer. many are the major beer makers who have tried to oust yuengling from restaurants, bars and stadiums with little success.

like i said, i don’t know if it’s true that russell stover is using a hard-line strategy to drive zitner’s off the shelves, or the fact that they are now being sold on amazon has increased demand. one thing i do know is that philadelphians will not do without zitner’s. and neither should you.

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Filed under addiction, candy, Food, holiday, seasons, spring

Brain Work


i never used to worry about brain cells, but now it seems that if you’re not busy tapping away at puzzles on your phone or tablet you need to be worried about your brain function. like i don’t have enough to worry about already…

i’m not much for games, especially when i have to shell out money to play games and shell out a lot of money to play “brain games”. i tried some of those free on-line games but they just didn’t interest me enough to continue playing. to me, just figuring something out or learning something new is enough of a game. i guess i’m just one of those people who has to have a purpose for play.

as i read more about the concept of “use it or lose it” to improve brain function, i discovered that it wasn’t so much that it has to be math games or even games, it’s just that you have to use your brain to learn something you don’t already know. apparently you can even get benefit from just watching educational videos.

okay, so i could just watch educational videos, but i kind of do that anyway. i was searching for some other way to improve brain function and improve myself. one thing i did was buy spanish language cds to play in the car and attempt to learn spanish. it’s very difficult. funny things is that when i’m asked to respond in spanish, the first thing that comes to mind is german since i studied german for 6 years. but i’m going to keep on going because i figure if i can memorize all the words to some dumb pop song by repetition, i can probably pick up some spanish.

but, i found another activity that enhances my brain function and contributes something to the world and to future generations. it’s working on transcriptions of hard copy documents for the smithsonian institution.

the smithsonian is attempting to transcribe every hard copy document in their archives so that they can be electronically searchable. the word daunting doesn’t even begin to describe this task. so, the smithsonian is asking for volunteers to help with the process.

i hear you… you’re asking how typing can improve anything in your brain. first, take a look at the material listed as projects – it might seem as though you could mindlessly tap that out in a hour but look at the actual written pages and you’ll see how difficult these transcriptions can be. and how fascinating.

the first document i worked on was a field guide of a specific coastal area of maine. the detail that the naturalist included was both tedious and spectacular. consider that when this was written there was no such thing as photography so the naturalist had to account for every sight he saw: plants, water, rock formations, rock composition, etc. – all in painstaking detail.

the second document i worked on was the diary of the daughter from a farming family. i was interested at the word diary, but found that it was less of a personal diary as it was a detailed recording of each day’s activities along with the whereabouts of every individuals associated with the farm. unfortunately, it was less about the mechanics of the dairy farm, which was why i chose the project.

right now i’m working on the log book of negatives for all photos taken of every item or object in the smithsonian, which will likely take some time since there are over 3 million negatives.

here’s the thing about participating in this process: you can devote as little or as much time as you wish. figuring out someone’s handwriting is puzzle solving in and of itself. there are multiple people who participate on a project so you don’t have to complete it all yourself and the home page of the website lists your user id and recent contribution.

you can transcribe from the original written word or you can review and check for accuracy what someone else has transcribed. and, every week or so new projects are uploaded for participation. an exciting one that i missed was a series of letters between prominent contemporary artists, so i’m on the lookout for any more of those.

no matter what subject matter you’re inclined toward, there is probably a project for you. there are scientist’s journals to transcribe, accounting log books for the math hearted, entries in a burpee seed contest, there are projects about anthropology, entomology, botany, history and more. and if you don’t find something you’re interested in, check back in a few days and see what’s new.

who knows, the contribution you make today may serve as the basis for new research decades from now. you’re not just improving your brain, but some else’s too.

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Filed under addiction, age, science, technology, work

My Sister’s Coats

it’s finally spring. no, really, i think we can trust it this time. the weather’s been holding at about 45 – 50 degrees at night and we’ve seen this thing called the sun during the day.

it’s time to move the winter clothes out of the closet and put the spring and summer clothes in, not to mention get rid of the winter stuff that hasn’t been worn in a few years or some that’s just looking too ragged to wear at all anymore.

if you live in a climate like we have here in philadelphia, you have to have a couple of sets of clothing to make it through the year and to go along with that you need to have a wardrobe of coats and jackets for the various seasons. you need casual jackets, lightweight for spring and fall, heavier weight for winter and dressy jackets both lightweight and heavier weight, as well as at least one waterproof coat/jacket, maybe with a zip out lining. it can get expensive.

for many years i just put up with what i had and went around cold, wet or shabby. then my sister died. that’s an odd thing to say, but sadly, as we found out after she died, my sister was a hoarder. she had multiples of very many things– clothing, shredders, books, not to mention trash– piled from floor to ceiling in her little carriage house. literally floor to ceiling and wall to wall. as my brother, sister, husband and i culled through the mess, we uncovered a collection of coats and jackets that would rival that in a small store. many of the coats/jackets that we found were donated to charity, some my other sister took and some i shipped home for myself.

don’t think i’m crazy but the first time i put on one of the jackets after getting them home, i felt the distinct sensation of someone tightly hugging me. i wasn’t frightened or nervous, just calm. i think i even said my sister’s name out loud. i choose to believe that she was saying hello or goodbye or something. i never felt it again.

anyway, it turns out that four of the jackets that belonged to my sister were very useful to me and i wore them for many years before i lost weight and they were just too big to wear anymore. but during that period of time, i learned the wisdom of having a proper wardrobe of coats and jackets. i heard someone say recently that she didn’t so much mind the last winter, even though it was a rough one, mainly because she finally had all of the right gear to go out in. i understand.

so, for the past year i have been building a proper wardrobe of coats and jackets that fit correctly, are useful in each season and that i have something appropriate for work, dress and casual wear. as a result, i’m finally divesting myself of the coats/jackets that once belonged to my sister.

but they are still sitting in a trash bag waiting for me to drop them off at goodwill and i can’t seem to get myself to finish this task. i have no more practical use for the coats/jackets, but clearly i have some emotional use for them. some of the most difficult times of my life occurred while i had use of my sister’s coats and jackets and those moments are pinned to those articles of clothing. as long as i have those jackets and coats of hers, i am still pinned to her even though she has been gone for over 11 years. i have other items of hers – jewelry, pottery, photographs she took – but none of them seem as personal as the coats and jackets.

still, i’m sick of looking at the trash bags. and i’m not a person who likes clutter.

purple heart called the other day to say that they are stopping on our street next week. i committed to two bags of clothing – the two bags i have sitting in the downstairs bedroom that contain my sister’s coats/jackets.

somehow it’s easier to passively leave them on the front lawn for pickup than load them in the car and drop them off at goodwill myself.

then, for the first time in many years, i will have a closet full of coats/jackets that are pinned to me.

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Filed under addiction, cleaning, family

You Already Are What You’re Looking For


being judgmental is just so easy. it’s that air of superiority, the dismissal of someone else as though they are a lesser being, a refusal to understand that all of us have warts or sins or failings or simple lapses of clear thinking.

i know when the news of philip seymour hoffman’s death first came out, i thought it was tragic. then the news followed that he had died of a drug overdose and i changed my mind. you know what i was thinking: that his death was no longer tragic, but stupid or self-indulgent or… and then i took a pause.

he was an addict, but his death was still tragic.

no child grows up thinking, “i’m going to be an addict when i grow up.” maybe it’s a momentary choice – that first choice to try something addictive – but not long after that (as c says) you’re just a passenger on that train.

abusing a substance rewires your brain. putting the wiring back again isn’t as easy as just saying you want to, or even going through the steps to fix it. your brain works against you. your body works against you. not just in terms of withdrawal, in the scheme of things that’s the easy part, but in terms of your brain’s new normal. that’s not even mentioning the rest of your life habits, friends, family, etc. that are part of the addiction cycle.

i’m not an addict now, but i was addicted to cigarettes for about 10 years and i would say that for about 8 of those years i really didn’t want to be a smoker. yet, i still smoked. and almost every day i woke up and said “i’m not going to smoke today” and then a few hours later i was smoking again. i contemplated an actual strategy for quitting months before i actually quit “cold turkey”. that final time it stuck and i never picked up a cigarette again, and in spite of being really bothered by cigarette smoke, i can say that there are still times that i think about having a cigarette. it’s 33 years later, but my brain still maintains a memory of the pleasurable aspects of smoking.

i can’t even imagine how difficult it must be to give up the pleasurable feeling someone gets from narcotics or alcohol.

over the years as our children have grown, i’ve been so saddened to hear about the number of kids ours grew up with who have had addiction problems, some whose problems persist and some who are now dead from an overdose. we know of entire families who were wiped out financially by their own kids either from thievery or the cost of repeated stints in rehab. i can only imagine the pain. my thoughts and prayers go out to them, but the words are unsaid. it’s very difficult to know whether the parent of an addict will accept your concern with gratitude or feel insulted.

i remember those kids when they were just little, their innocence, their joy, their spunk. i don’t know them enough to figure out why their journey into drugs began, but i know that they would never have followed that path if they had known the outcome.

so, yeah, most of us don’t dabble in addictive substances that take hold of our lives and turn us into something we never wanted to be. but we all have our vices, our failings and our humanity so rather than judge maybe we can put our resources together to solve.

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Filed under addiction, advice, courage, health, Illness