What I Learned This Week: #226

Monday, January 10 – Sunday, January 16, 2022

The Week in Food, Drink, and Neighborhood Regulars: On Thursday, I had an unintended weeknight, downtown walkabout, working in a couple stops on my way home from work. First I popped into Mid-City for a Gin and Tonic and their tempura battered brussels sprouts. Mid-City’s menu is very small and it’s made up of small plates. Everything they make is delicious, but they are getting a reputation for their tempura batter, of all things. The batter is shatteringly crunchy and light and loud and they serve a tempura battered vegetable of the day. The small plate of brussels, with the aioli drizzle, made for an easy, relatively healthy light snack. Most nights, just that, and maybe a second cocktail, would qualify as a light dinner But Omicron made me not want to linger and I decided to head home. Taking the long way, something made me stop into Nicola’s before I called it a night.

I had planned to get a salad, but their eggplant parmesan roulade was too good to pass up. It’s a small serving, designed to go with other offerings on the menu, but it worked for me as a stand alone without making me feel like a stuffed pig after my surprise progressive dinner.

But just as good was running into one of the neighborhood bartenders I’d lost track of. Thomas is a good dude, last seen slinging beer at Braxton. I would pass him often on my nightly walks while he was out on his smoke breaks. I’ve got a book he recommended in my “to read” pile. As I finished my eggplant, he offered me an after dinner Orange-Chocolate-Cello liquor, a liquor he makes for the restaurant. The creamy drink served as my dessert for a more filling night of food than I’d planned. Lovely.

The Week in Bangs: I don’t care a lot about my hair. I can’t even see more than half of it. But what I do care about is my bangs. I see them, and I want them cut right. I had a stylist downtown for a few years who did the best job, but he moved to the suburbs. Since I try not to drive if I don’t have to, I decided I could find a decent haircut at a walkable salon. That might be true, but that was not the case at the salon I chose.

I’m no hairstylist (I don’t even own any hair products), but I do know the basics of what a hair stylist should do to properly cut bangs. Suffice to say, there’s just a little more to it than running a pair of scissors across my eyebrow line. After three haircuts in the new, nearby salon, I knew I would have to get into my car to go to the burbs. My bangs were killing me.

When I walked into the suburban salon, me and Kyle reunited with a big hug. And when he got to the bang part of the haircut, I could tell I was home.

The Week in Football!: My Bengals, oh my Bengals. Their last Superbowl appearance was Superbowl 16 in 1982. I don’t need to call too much attention to this, but I would like to note that the half-time show was Up With People presents a Salute to Motown. A totally different era!

And since that pinnacle, and a one-and-done playoff appearance in 1991, the Bengals have been breaking hearts in Cincinnati. The 31 one year playoff drought, the so-called curse of Bo Jackson, was on every local sports fan’s mind at the Bengals faced off against the Las Vegas Raiders in Cincinnati Saturday night.

All day at work on Friday, everyone was talking about where they would be watching the game. One of my co-workers was going to the game…as a Raiders fan. That caused a sensation! I, however, could only mumble my game plans, as on gameday, I was going to one of my previously bought symphony concerts (see below).

Are you effing kidding me?!?! I cannot remember a Bengals game interfering with January plans. I stayed at home watching until the last minute before I had to head to Music all, the end of the third quarter, with the Bengals up by 10. On my walk over I got a game update from a guy in a Joe Mixon jersey who’d stepped out onto the sidewalk for a smoke. I passed that info to the police officers directing traffic at Music Hall. They were pleased with the update.

I went straight to my seat and as I was pulling out my phone to get updates until the house lights dimmed, I realized the guy in the row behind me was watching the game on his phone. And as I looked around, I could tell there was a strong contingent of Bengal fans in the hall.

As soon as the first piece ended, phones went up and the murmur of relief when through the sports fans, Bengals win 26-19.

The Week in Music: With just a few minutes left in the big game, the house lights dimmed and associate conductor François López-Ferrer, along with violinist Nicola Benedetti, walked onto the stage. Her commanding presence and the opening notes of Mark Simpson’s Violin Concerto were immediately captivating.

The performance of the 40 minute piece, co-commissioned by the CSO, marked its U.S. Premiere. Simpson wrote it during COVID and it is a sprawling, emotional piece, befitting of the times. Benedetti is a charismatic and physical performer. From the quiet, reflective moments, to the frantic battles with the percussionist, and even a bit of humor, she embodied the heart and soul of the music. A real WOW!

But what also struck me, is how much she was enjoying herself. There was a lovely moment toward the end of the piece, just after a prolonged solo, where she and the conductor looked at each other and a big smile swept across her face. It was wonderful.

And speaking of that conductor and joy, López-Ferrer, he was a delight to watch. Stepping in for Maestro Louis Langrée, Lopez-Ferrer conducted Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier Suite as if he was going to jump right off the podium. The restraint he showed conducting the Violin Concerto was replaced by pure, unabashed joy. There was a moment, just as the piece was winding toward the conclusion, where he literally leaned back on the back bar of podium stand and just listened for a few seconds, like he was caught up in the music! His enthusiasm was palpable.

Full recording is not yet available. This is a taste.

What I Learned This Week: #225

Monday, January 3 – Sunday, January 9, 2022

The Week in COVID Part 1 – Communication: In a weird week where COVID cases spiked across the country, in my office, we had an doozy of a Monday afternoon. A new employee on her very first day in the office, chose to wait until after lunch to mention she had COVID. That’s how the few us who had come into contact with her heard the story. Wow. We had a tense, curse-filled hour or so because she took it upon herself to go home. Once we tracked her down, the truth came out. Turns out she HAD had COVID relatively and was around someone the previous week who was continuing to test positive for weeks after he had symptoms. (It’s confusing, yes.) As Emily Lutella from 70’s era SNL would say, “Nevermind.”

Where's Gilda Ratner When We Need Her? — Kate [NEWLIN CONSULTING]

The Week in COVID Part 2 – Cancelled!: The spike in Omicron is cancelling and disrupting things right and left. I was set to see the musical Hairspray at the Aronoff but the cast is infected and they postponed till May. Also, the diner I walk past on my way to work had to close two days this week due to the COVID’s impact on staffing. It’s not that I missed their food (which is great), but I did miss the Oldies music they pipe onto the sidewalk. Usually it’s a tune I know that I can hum and pretend I know the words to for the last two blocks of my commute. The last song of the week was on Tuesday, “One Fine Day” by the Chiffons. At least it was a jam!

The Week in COVID Part 3 – Hope: Finally, this week I bought tickets for the three day music festival, Forcastle, in Louisville. It is scheduled for Memorial Day Weekend and I’m hoping one, that it happens, and two, that after a two year hiatus from 3-day music festivals, I still have the stamina to do it. I might need a training program.

The Week in Found Money: One day this week I found a $5 bill on the ground on my walk to work. I thought that was great. The same day, on my walk back to work from lunch, I found another $5 dollar bill. I looked around a lot longer, expecting I was part of test. Seemed legit and I pocketed that, too.

Later in the week, a guy hustled me for money. I said I didn’t have any but he persisted. In some way, a street hustler’s persistence annoys me, but in other ways, I find it impressive that they continue in the face of adversity. Anyway, he asked if I could buy him something from the store. I thought about the ten bucks of found money in my pocket. I thought he was going to ask for chips or beer, but he asked for Newports, two packs. Not one pack, two. Hilarious. Well, I actually walked up the the store, bought ONE pack of Newports, $9.87!!!, and walked back and handed it over to him. That squared me in the hood for the week!

The Week in Shopping: My Mom’s brand of peanut butter is Reese, like from the Reese’s Cup peanut butter. It is hard to find, but Walmart carries it. I’ve been having it shipped to her for a couple years for no reason other than I don’t like to shop in Walmart. This week though, I went to the Ft. Wright Walmart.

It was just as I remember it and, honestly, there’s nothing wrong with Walmart at all. It serves a large swath of the country and though a lot of the goods are cheaper in quality, many are great and simply sold at a cheaper price. The politics of shoppers was as apparent there as in any store I normally shop at, just leaning right instead of left. They carry a lot of products for people who make things and do things. And weirdly, for all the conservative, right wing, home-based merchandise, the music in the store was an indie playlist that would have been right at home in any hipster bar I would hang at.

I walked around for a bit with 4 jars of Reese peanut butter in my cart. A couple of people stopped me to ask what I had. Maybe there will be a run on Reese and it will become available at my more regular stores. Maybe!

The Week in the Demise of Dry January: I tried Dry January this year. It was a mess from the get-go. On 1/1, I was at my friend’s house, the house with one of the best beer fridges in the city. I started on 1/2, and was raring to go. Then, Omicron spiked, an old friend passed away, and even one of my best friend’s dogs died. I mean, I don’t want to live a country song, but if I have to live a country song, I best enjoy some booze. Eight days of pandemic dry = 30 days of regular dry. Cheers!

What I Learned This Week: #224

Monday, December 20, 2021 – Sunday, January 2, 2022

In a year where time was impossible to latch onto, the week leading up to Christmas and the time between Christmas and New Years were all Fridays. Every day. Except for my co-worker Joe, who kept having Wednesdays. Weird. Anyway, here’s a two week bridge of minutae.

The Week in Holiday Work Gifts: Knowing who to gift, and when, is absolutely one of the most difficult work activities. (Also, on that list, for workplaces with multiple bathrooms, finding the one where you can do number two…but that’s for another day.) The process is complicated and varies from place to place and from year to year. Should you get a gift for your boss, or go in with others to buy a group gift? Does everyone on the team get a gift? What about the co-worker who has nothing to do with your job, but is your work buddy? How much should you spend?

I have solved this problem in my head by referring to the practice of holiday gift giving as sharing tokens of my appreciation. So, my very immediate people got small tokens reflecting that I was paying attention to them all year – tea for one of my bosses, local honey for the other, and a soup mix for my closest associate – small but, I think, appropriate. I have a small team, and for them, I made and brought in a breakfast casserole. And just like that, I was over the gifts at work dilemma. Until next year!

The Week in Cats: My next door neighbor left town for Christmas and I was in charge of medicating, not feeding but medicating, one of them. Their food gets distributed on a timer but the medicine has to be administered live. Only one of the little guys gets medicine, a couple drops of some long-named med mixed into a little bit of wet food twice a day. The other non-medicated cat gets the same amount of food (med free) as a solidarity meal with the medicated cat.

The first day I mixed up the bowls, but not which cat gets medicated and the owner, who could see what was happening on her camera, texted me in a panic. She wanted to make sure I knew the skinny cat got no medicine and the fat boy did. I got it. I also wondered why she didn’t refer to them as the grey cat and the brown cat instead of the skinny and fat one!

The Week in Not Cooking: My Mom has not used her oven in about 7 years, so this year when we decided to do take out for Christmas dinner, I was a little concerned. I emailed her to tell her the take out would require us to re-warm the meal in her oven. She called me (which is how she responds to email) to say she wasn’t sure how to turn the oven on, but she wasn’t using it for storage. Kind of a mixed message. When I got to her house on Christmas Eve, we tried out the oven. It fired right up. It smelled like the heater the first time it kicks on for the season, and that’s how we discovered her kitchen window was broken. LOL! Anyway, the oven worked and dinner was great.

The Week in Patience, and Other Life Lessons: This week’s lesson started about 4 years ago when my friends’ (at the time) 12 year old got a new winter coat that I liked a lot. I asked her to trade me for my coat. Obviously that was a non-starter, but each winter I would ask reminding her that one day she would outgrow the coat and I would still be standing at 5 foot tall and waiting.

Well, this year, the last present to be unwrapped at Christmas was left for me. And as I pulled back the paper I immediately recognized my prize for 4 years of patience, and keeping my eyes on the prize. Christmas gifts usually inspire humility, but this one inspired VICTORY!!!

This coat just works for me!!

The Week in Covid (Booster, Urgent Care, Home Test): This week I saw I kinds of Covid collateral without actually experiencing Covid. First up, I was able to schedule both me and my Mom for Moderna boosters via one of the local hospital systems. Very smooth. She had a typical reaction. I had the rare-ish but known swelling of my armpit lymph nodes. I had to Google it because in nearly two years of Covid coverage I hadn’t come across armpit pain.

But a few days later, the Sunday after Christmas, my Mom need to go to Urgent Care of a non-Covid related ear infections. Because so many people were there to get Covid testing, mostly for travel clearance as far as I could tell, the clinic was overrun. We waited for 3 hours in the waiting room and were there for about 3 1/2 hours total. No biggie, just hanging out with strangers in a medical center during a pandemic. We both had N-95 masks on, and I honestly wasn’t worried about contracting Covid, but the conditions were ripe.

I wore a mask at work for 3 days explaining my potential exposure. On the third day I took a test and was negative. My Mom had no symptoms either. Luckily, the only thing Covid did to me over the holidays was waste my time.

The Week in Dog Sitting Dog and Pozole/Posole: I spent a few days dog sitting in Anderson Twp. where, with a nod to Bengals QB Joe Burrow, there isn’t much to do. So, I gave myself a cooking project. I spent two days making my version of Mexican red pork pozole. Red Pozole is a Mexican soup/stew made with pork, a particular type of large kernel corn, and chili peppers. Pozole in the southern region of the U.S. is often spelled with an ‘s’ – posole, and that’s how I refer to the dish I make. I loosely follow a couple recipes I’ve found, and then just do what works based on the ingredients I can find in Cincinnati, a decidedly not southwest town.

During the two days of kitchen activity, the dogs by-and-large left me alone. They weren’t around when I made broth, rehydrated corn, or whizzed up a chili pepper slurry. But then, OMG THEN, I got to the shredding of the pork. Hello doggos!

Dogs sensing the presence of meat.

The YEAR in Books:

This year I read 31 books and a total of 13,241 pages (that’s 1,129/362,447 since I’ve been keeping track). This year’s author’s were a less-diverse group than I like. I try to read more world authors, but this year only Japan and Canada broke through. (It’s a weak year for international authors when Canada is one of the standard bearers…sorry Canada.) Twenty of the 31 books on this year’s list were written by women. Twelve were non-fiction.

My fiction book of the year is the last book I read in 2021, Circe by Helen Miller. Miller takes the familiar stories of Greek Gods and focusses on the retelling of the life of the Witch Circe. She is one of the most richly drawn and compelling characters I have read in years and though pieces of the overall story are familiar (Zeus, Daedalus, Odysseus, Athena and more are all here) Circe’s struggles made for a real page-turner. There’s a reason we’re still telling the stories of the origin of our world from the ancient Greek point of view. The stories are still great and Miller is a very skilled story teller.

I also very much enjoyed Deacon King Kong, a surprisingly gentle, funny, somewhat spiritual and touching novel that takes place in a Brooklyn housing project in 1969. I also liked the very funny novel Less, which kicks off when the lead character Arthur Less decides he needs to be out of town when he ex-lover gets married, and he sets off on a comic odyssey. I also liked The Vanishing Half, about two light skinned black twins born in the segregated south from which one leaves and starts a life passing as a white woman in California. Joy Luck Club is a considered a modern must read and its depiction of the relationship between mothers and daughters is very touching. A Prayer for Owen Meany is uneven, like most John Irving books (in my opinion), but when it is working, it’s sensational. And, very, very unusual for me, I really enjoyed the psychological horror novel Mexican Gothic, a richly described nightmare that is creepy from start to finish.

I read two wildly uneven fiction books this year meaning parts were pretty great while the rest of book flailed. The promise of a great book was there for both but the overall book doesn’t cut it, so I recommend with reservation. The way the Crow Flies, by Anne-Marie MacDaniel is a long book, but I could not stop reading the first 600 pages. MacDaniel created a slow, tense burn focused on the murder of a little girl near an Airbase in Canada, but the last 200 pages of the book, taking place 20 years after the murder, were mostly a bust. Weight of Ink, by Rachel Kadish tells the story of two modern historians translating and deciphering texts from the 1600s and the story of the young woman who wrote the texts in her role as a scribe for a blind rabbi. The historical chapters of the book were absolutely terrific. The modern part of the book was a real mess.

Far and away my favorite nonfiction book of the year was These Truths: A History of America, a 700 plus page examination of how race has impacted America from its inception. It is thoughtful and quiet book that is easy to read and digest. Children of Ash and Elm: A History of the Vikings was densely packed with information, but very interesting stuff. And, Surely You’re Joking Mr. Feynman, a memoir by physicist Richard Feynman was a hoot, even though there were many paragraphs of math and science I couldn’t make heads or tails out of. (P.S. The Feynman Method for learning new, complex things, is pretty neat. Google that in your spare time!)

What I Learned This Week: #223

Monday, December 13 – Sunday, December 19, 2021

The Week in Collecting Crap: As noted in many previous posts here, I collect miniatures. I have been collecting since I was a kid and I have plenty of them. I don’t NEED more, but every now and then I feel the pull to check out Ebay just to see what’s happening in the world of miniature crap that no one needs. My preference is to look for pre-owned lots (collections) of miniature figurines. Most times I look around for a bit but I don’t bid or buy anything. Just looking at the stuff somehow dampens my urge to add to the collection.

Last week I was on one of my jags and I clicked on “watch” on one of the sales, indicating I was interested. I was, at best, mildly interested. I also didn’t know that “watch” sent a message to the seller (I mean, of course it does, but I wasn’t thinking). I found that out when the seller contacted me with a counter offer, lower then the original asking price. Hmm. I countered with an even lower offer. The seller agreed and this week I got my goods. A couple of the pieces are pretty good, a couple are fine, a couple went into my “second tier” box (minis that are fine, but do not make the cut to the display case), and the rest went into the Goodwill box where they will go back into the universe.

I’ll have to remember that the “watch” option is a trick!

A Lot…of crap

The Week in Shopping and Gifting: I thought I was finished shopping for the holiday, but no. One gift that I ordered over a week ago is still processing. Obviously, not going to make it in time for the holiday. That sent me to TJ Maxx, where I shopped at the store I work at because I know it. I needed a pine scented candle. I honestly hope fir is close enough to pine, ’cause that’s all that was left in tree scents the week before Christmas.

Also, it was fun to see how much of the crap I’d put on the sales floor on my shift the day before had already been purchased. The Saturday before Christmas is the traditionally biggest shopping day of the year for TJs. As an experienced retailer, I knew this. On Saturday I dug through the boxes of merchandise and found a sure-fire winner. I put out 24 coffee mugs decorated with pictures of dogs wearing Christmas hats, and…AND…the mug included a matching pair of socks (for the human) for $7.99. When I returned to the store the very next day, only 4 were left. Christmas shopping is something to behold!

Anyway…

Second, I had bought my bought my boss a nice box of green tea and some local honey to go with some scones that I would bake. Wouldn’t you know it, the day before I was to give my boss my gift, someone else gifted her local honey from the exact same place?!?!?!? BOO! Back to the semi-drawing board. I knew I was going to stick with the tea and scones but I wanted a third item. I could have bought jam, it would have made sense, but then I found bee earrings. I thought bee earrings and an explanation about bees for honey would be better. It was. Whew. Gift-giving Save!

The Week in Whiskey: As both Omicron and Dry January loom large in my very near future, I decided I had to prepare for one tract or the other. I’ve done Dry January, 31 days of not drinking every non-Pandemic year for the last 7 years. This is holistic exercise that I’m kind of into. However, if it’s going to be an Omicron winter and I’m stuck inside, I’m not going to double down on miserableness by depriving myself of alcohol. There will be no such thing as a dry Omicron January.

This week I bought a nice rye whisky for sipping, and a mediocre whisky for mixing. Whether I drink it in January or February remains to be seen. But I’m ready.

The Week in Chex Season: Last week I bought Rice, Wheat, and Corn Chex cereal for what I think will be the lowest price of the season, $1.47 per box (with digital coupon). This week the Chexes were “on sale” for $1.77. Ha, ha, ha, rookie shoppers! Now the boxes sit in my apartment awaiting the sign from my Mom that it’s time to make our yearly batch of spicy Chex Mix. My Mom has a lot of power over family snacks!

What I Learned This Week: #222

Monday, December 6 – Sunday, December 12, 2021

The Week in High Tops: The new shoes I treated myself to on Cyber Monday arrived this week. They are great shoes. But the first time I pulled, and tugged, and grunted, and tugged some more, to get the high tops on, I realized, I’m too old for them. Not the look. They look great. But getting them onto my feet is a chore. I mean, I aged out of stilettoes years ago, but I did not see the demise of high top sneakers.

Once I finally got my feet in, and recovered from the self-induced feeling of vertigo from bending over so long and then rising up too quickly in victory, I knew. This is my last pair of high tops. Oh, and I made a mental note never to fly with them on. I’d never get back out of security.

The Week in Employee of the Year: I worked this Saturday morning at TJ Maxx. Despite the legend of Black Friday, for TJ Maxx, the Saturdays leading up to the Christmas are the real sales booms. Because the volume of sales is so high, the amount of merchandise in the store to meet that demand is, essentially, loaded to the gills. As you would expect, we set up tables and anything else that will hold merchandise, just to get it onto the sales floor. The overflow just goes in cardboard boxes under the display tables.

This Saturday, as I was putting out men’s pajamas, I noticed a woman “shopping” the boxes under the tables. We encourage this, by the way, as long as shoppers push the boxes back. This women, though, was looking in the boxes, taking what she wanted, and then, well, she was stocking our displays. She had a nice box set of Reebok base layers in her hand when I asked her if she wanted a part time job. She laughed, held up the boxes and said, “This stuff is great. There’s none out here. Where do you want them?” Defeated, I pointed her to an empty spot I’d just made. She was having a great time. And, you know, the customer is always right.

The Week in Santacon: Santacon proper, is a great fundraiser benefitting cancer research. People pay a fee to dress up as Santa and go to a big party at the casino. Great stuff. Welp, when the casino part of the day is over, a bunch of amateurs, some who paid for the real event, and some looking for a fun bar crawl, are unleashed downtown. Residents of downtown start warning each other days in advance. It is the one day, most of us prefer to be inside. It’s like a weather event. I can see the signs of bad weather and I make sure I have my supplies for the evening so I can hunker down.

I was out Saturday afternoon for lunch and glass of wine, and on my walk home about 5, the Santa participants were whirling around on every street and every social space, unavoidable. I had to get home before I saw some random girl crying, or some random boy puking on Main St. at, like, 8 pm. I made it. Whew!

The Week in Santacon Refuge: It is a game of residents to try to go to a bar that will not attract the worst of the Santacon participants. I did pretty well choosing to have my afternoon wine at 1215 Wine and Coffee, an old pre-pandemic stop of mine that I haven’t gotten back into my regular rotation. Not a Santa in sight, though I’m sure after I left they came through for lattes. I was long gone, but glad to have a peaceful afternoon.

The Week in Sponge Candy: Last week at work, we interviewed a young woman for an open position. I like doing hiring interviews because I like to go off topic a little and see how the candidate responds. For this interview, I noticed that she was from Buffalo, NY and I asked if she still had people up there. She talked a little about Buffalo but that she likes Cincinnati much better. But that’s not what I was getting at. I asked if she had access to sponge candy. The other three people in the room, my coworkers, shot me some weird looks while me and the candidate waxed poetic about sponge candy. They had never heard of it, but I’d had it years ago when another co-worker at another job brought some into the office after one of his trips home to Buffalo.

This week a box of sponge candy hit my desk, not from the candidate (that would have been awkward), but from one my coworkers who sat in on the interview. She wanted to try it. We all tried it and the reviews were good. Although the candy is officially described as a crunchy toffee coated in chocolate, we described it as malted milk balls on steroids. I don’t know if the Buffalo candidate is going to get the job, but she has already done good work in my book.

Sponge Candy!

The Week in Puzzles: For the first time ever, I put a jigsaw puzzle back in the box without finishing it. After finishing the water and building part of the picture, I was ready to tackle the sky. I don’t mind large swaths of sky in puzzles. I do mind when pieces are cut the same, and even the “cheat” of the printed zones on the back of the pieces doesn’t help figure out what pieces actually fit. I was annoyed, repeatedly pulling pieces out. But, I was going to soldier on. Yes I was.

Then, midweek, I got notification of a package on hold for me. I hadn’t ordered anything so I didn’t know what it could be. Turns out, some friends had attempted a 500 piece Taco Puzzle and they couldn’t put it together. They thought I might like to give it a try.

So, the first puzzle is gone, and now I have a more colorful, but difficult in its own way puzzle. I can’t figure out the frame, for example. Anyway, I’ll give it a go, but my next puzzle is going to be easy!

The Week in Pearl Clutching: This week in my building’s parking garage, I noticed a note hanging from a motorcycle, a bike, properly parked in a parking space. I walked up to read the note, in which, a resident who is sure he or she is “speaking for everyone” does not appreciate that the bike has taken such a primo spot. In one of the highlights of my week, I pulled a pen out of my purse, and wrote “not me.” When I saw the sign a few days later, a few more neighbor had chimed in. When I saw the bike a few days after that (in the same spot), the sign was gone. Mayhaps things didn’t turn out like the Resident intended?????

Drama!

What I Learned This Week: #221

Monday, November 29 – Sunday, December 5

The Week in Crypto: Bitcoin! I don’t get it. I do know it’s the new economic frontier, that it’s very complex, and that people are making a fortune on it.

As a long time traditional investor, “investing” in a product that is practically advertised as a beatable slot machine, seems counter intuitive. This week, though, I decided to put a toe in. Literally, I bought .00008976 “shares” of a bitcoin. That previous three sentences are the epitome of an older person talking about buying crypto! LOL! Anyway, I put some money in because I just wanted to watch how the money moved.

I was immediately captivated. Crypto never sleeps, baby! The money moves all the time. I was immediately enthralled. Even when Bitcoin dropped about 20% (of course it did) in the middle of the night, I was fascinated. Years of stock market investment as taught me about not panicking and having patience. I don’t think I’m going to be a millionaire from Crypto but I’m glad to have it as part of my portfolio. I hope it does better than my hemp stock from a few years ago where I turned my $200 investment into a total value of approximately $13.02. Yea, my future as an investment banker is a non-starter.

Black Friday/Cyber Monday/Giving Tuesday and Shop Small December: The holiday shopping season kicked off on Black Friday, which is, no lie, my very favorite day of the year to work at retail. People who come out shopping on Black Friday are there because they want to be there. They are a jovial, if a bit punchy, bunch of shoppers. At TJ Maxx, they don’t and never do Black Friday, door-busting specials, but when the doors opened at 7 am, a couple of customers, happy as clams by the way, were just there to get the shopping day kicked off. They were a delight. My store, despite the headlines declaring Christmas is ruined because our stuff is on container ships, is packed to the gills with goods.

Black Friday’s brick and mortar gave way to cyber Monday, which is akin to cyber-bullying as my email filled up with very dramatic offers of how to spend my money. It’s a lot. I picked one, though. The place where I get my favorite shoes, a place that never has sales, had a sale. I brought shoes.

On Giving Tuesday, I was hit again with pleas on where to donate my money. At this stage in my life, I’m pretty set on who is getting my money, but I do use giving Tuesday as my “trigger” day to remember to give to my causes. I gave!

And, in case you think I missed it, I am well aware of Small Business Saturday, but I’m working on Small Business December. If I can buy it small, all month long (and beyond), that’s what I’m going to do. There are so many craft fairs lined up in the next 3 1/2 weeks I might turn into a natural fiber wearing, soy candle burning, natural soap using hippie. Kind of looking forward to that.

The Week in Hanukah: Oy! The Jews get no respect in holiday celebrating. Hanukah is just not flashy enough, or celebrated by enough folks, to get the full on holiday treatment. This week, to juice up the holiday, I decided to make some traditional Jewish food for my co-workers: Kugel. Kugel roughly translates to casserole, and the two I make are very eggy, and have almost a custard-like consistency. I like making kugels because they are super easy to throw together, they are dense and they bake for a long time which make the house smell great!

The potato kugel is just potatoes, eggs, onions, butter and a pinch of baking soda and some flour. The noodle kugel (I used the Serious Eats recipe) is noodles, eggs, cottage cheese, sour cream, sugar, cinnamon and raisins. Basically, we had a Festival of Carbs to celebrate the Festival of Lights.

The Week in Cocktails: One of the best outcomes of the Pandemic has been the revision of liquor laws, including that to-go cocktails are now legal. When that law changed, at some point during the darker, lock-down days of the pandemic, I started bringing my Mom, Cookie, Manhattans from Japps. Up to that point, she’d never had a craft cocktail. Her most complex bar drink was a Long Island Ice Tea. Though near by an actual geography, Manhattans and Long Islands are worlds away. Welp, the Manhattans were a hit (as were the occasional margarita from the Mexican restaurant) and I continue to bring her a cocktail almost every week.

This week I went to Japps for a cocktail for my own self (I deserved it!), with the idea that I would get the to-go cup on my way out. Chatting with a couple regulars at the bar, and after a shot of Fernet*, I was about to ask for Mom’s Manhattan, but decided that this would be a good week for a new drink for her. I asked the bartender and bar patrons for input, and John came up with the Boulvardier and that became Cookie’s Cocktail of the week. Plus, John, who has never met my Mom, wrote her a lovely note on the to-go bag. Cookie liked the note as much as the drink. Lovely stuff.

A Cocktail Note

*The Week in Fernet: Fernet is an Italian Liquor that has been growing on me for the past few years. The first time I had it, it was WAY late in the evening. I was drunk-ish and had spent the evening drinking things that tasted good to me, as one does. I didn’t think anything of the Fernet shot being offered until it hit my taste buds. Wow! It tasted like I drank a spice rack. I didn’t think I’d ever drink it again, but every now and then a Fernet shot would appear, and gradually, I’ve grown to appreciate it. The flavor profile is bitter mix of herbs, often served as a shot or after a meal as a digestif. It’s so weird, but bartenders tend to love it and I hang with people who are willing to buy me shots. I like having a weird drink in my repertoire.

Fernet-Branca | ReserveBar

What I Learned This Week: #220

Monday, November 22 – Sunday, November 28, 2021

The Week in Logistics: I love Thanksgiving, but as a list maker, I really love the run up to the big day. Me and my Mom eat at a Friendsgiving made up of a bunch of little families that come together to make one, large family and one large family dinner. I’m not the host, but I have many tasks, some assigned, and some, like fresh sweet potatoes, I do because I like to. But the number of dishes and the serving capacity is a lot more than I’m used to making. I have to really concentrate. I make a list of what food (side dishes) I’m making and (obviously, in my mind) another list of what I need (ingredients) to make the food I’m making. Then I make a list of what I’m bringing, a totally separate list, by the way. What I bring, not make, is serving dishes, an extra frying pan, my good potato masher, etc. And finally, I make a list of when I’m doing the shopping and the making and the loading of the car.

It’s heaven.

The Week in Side Dishes and Losing My Groove: Despite my lists, skipping a year of traditional T-Day threw my off my groove. Like, my pumpkin log was fine, but could have used another minute in the oven to be bit less moist. And the rolls turned out great, but I bought regular instead of instant yeast which added an hour to my very regimented prep time. I forgot to make the topping for the green bean casserole until the last minute. I forgot that I normally load some items in the car on the night before. There was a lot of forgetting and last minute saves.

By the time I left to go to the host house, I was getting back into the swing. And when I stood at the stove making the green been casserole, from scratch, thank you very much, with everyone standing around me, I was back in the Thanksgiving zone.

As expected, I was a little emotional seeing everyone gathered, I did not expect that emotion to hit me as I was loading freshly mashed potatoes into the crockpot. No tears made it into the final product, but it was close!

The Week in Reaching for Balls: For my second Thanksgiving, a late morning Saturday Friendsgiving that, traditionally, does not include any traditional Thanksgiving food, we settled on a meatball, but not Italian meatball, theme. I’m not sure how we got there, but I remember it being hilarious.

Anyway, I cook meatballs a lot. They are easy to make, and for a single person, they are way more efficient than making burgers. (Meaning, I don’t have to buy buns and condiments and meatballs are easier to snack on than burgers.) So, I was all in to cook simple chicken meatballs with dipping sauce, and also some Hoisin pork meatballs.

On the Friday after Thanksgiving, I walked to Findlay Market. I bought hoisin sauce and panko crumbs, then walked to the place that sells the cheese I needed for the chicken meatballs. They were closed. Also closed, any of the places where I would buy meat. Since I only buy meat from real, local butchers, I sadly realized my plans were falling apart. A logistics fail!

Since I had to work on Saturday morning at 6 am (and had plans Friday night), I’d run out of time to make food for Saturday. I went to Friendsgiving Ball-less, but not empty handed. I did bring a grocery store platter or sushi, which was very welcomed by the two teenage girls in attendance. Something for everyone!

The Week in New Sauce and Balls on my Mind: So yeah, I have meatballs on my mind. I completed my ingredient shopping and my Sunday meal prep will include what would have been Friendsgiving balls.

Just a note, because I had planned to cook hoisin meatballs for friends and not just for myself, I decided to throw away the last third of my last bottle that expired a few months ago. I cannot remember buying the bottle, and the expiration date on my current bottle is three years away. I think I’ve said this before, but whenever I buy fermented sauces at the Asian Store at Findlay I ask the owner how long the product will last. He usually shrugs and says it will last a very long time because “it’s rotten already.” And, believe or not, that’s a sell point.

The Week in Music: On Friday I went to the Southgate House Revival to watch Lionheart play. Lionheart is my friend’s kid, Nick, who I’ve known since he was born. Also on tap was the opening act Anonymous Club, and the headliner Austin Stirling. Lionheart and Anonymous Club are very young acts, with not enough original music for a long set, but they make up for it with great energy and enthusiasm. And, they each brought Thanksgiving weekend fans, i.e.: their parents.

Three things about older people at a show. 1) Southgate House Revival used to be just Southgate House located down the street. Several folks went to the old location. 2) This is crowd that still thinks it’s funny and appropriate to yell out “Freebird” at the band. (It’s not either, you old farts!) 3) They don’t stay out past 11.

Even though many of the folks who I was with for Lionheart really like the 10 pm performer, they were gone by 11. At that point, there were two members from each of the two opening acts, two staff members, and me. I gotta give the guy credit. He and his fiddle player played like the room was full. It was great. I stayed to the end, bought a cd, and was happy to be tired at work the next day.