What I Learned This Week: #156

Monday, August 3 – Sunday, August 9

The Week in Covid-Era Travel – The Rationale: Last week I posted about the days leading up to a house boat trip (The Week in Killing My Mother’s Joy). Since the beginning of the Covid Era, I have tried to behave the best, most socially-responsible, and civically-minded way I can. I wear masks and  don’t go places I don’t have to go. Social-distance is my middle name. Clearly, going on a vacation was firmly in the official “no” category of things to be doing right now. The trip loomed large on the calendar and as it got closer I could see that my model behavior was about to get lax.

I made a list of objective reasons for going and not going. After seriously thinking about the pros and cons, my head said not to go.  That wasn’t the final answer. My lizard brain missed hanging out with my friends and said to go. And then my head chimed in again to say not to go. But…my heart said that if my friends were going, I should to go too. That rationale, as any adult knows, is the worst reason to do something. But there you have it.

I went and had a blast. As soon as the boat pulled out of the marina, we were in our own world, for better or worse. We couldn’t quite forget the world and the pandemic side, but nothing was going to stop us from ‘gettin’ our vacation on.’

Now I am sitting back at home and starting my 14-day Covid Symptom Incubation countdown, hoping I don’t get sick (knowing I probably won’t). Good idea or not, what’s done is done and I have to focus on the positive and that everything will be fine. 

I’m also feeling a bout of land sickness, whereby my brain is still compensating my balance as if I’m still on the boat. Wheeee, I’m swaying at the computer desk! Land sickness should fulfill my quota for sickness I can get from the boat trip, right?!?

The Week in Covid-Era Travel – The People With Whom I Will Never See Eye-to-Eye With on Mask Wearing: We drove through Kentucky on our way into Tennessee, making just one-stop on the 4 1/2 hour drive each way. The gas station/mini mart hybrids we stopped at had very low mask wearing compliance, including a maskless law enforcement officer. At the fairly busy marina on our way out Friday, the only mask wearers were the people in my group.  As a leisure traveler I’m in no position to tell people how to behave in a pandemic, but the willful lack of concern about a real, life-threatening virus infuriates me. If everyone would do the three things, mask/socially distance/wash those hands, we’d all be a better place.

The Week in Covid-Era Travel (Actually, Any Era of Travel) – Sketchy Bathrooms: I love stopping at highway interchange gas stations. They know you’re there to pee, but why not leave with a bag of high sodium food and colorful drinks to get you to your next stop? The Shell station in wherever the hell we were in Kentucky met a lot of my expectations. The bathroom was on the sketchy side, the kind of room that is not quite clean, with doors that don’t quite close, and sinks/soap dispensers that have seen better days.  Bathroom bonus: the doors to the restrooms were tucked in just behind the fried chicken counter, a surprising layout, for sure. Mask use here was for Libtards, obvs. Just behold the maskless man who carried the chicken from the kitchen in back to the counter, while touching his runny nose. He’s probably been serving chicken like that for years and nothing has ever happened. The people in that place don’t see anything out of the ordinary except a bunch of mask-wearing out of towners who just don’t get it.

 

The Week in Covid-Era Travel (Actually, Any Era of Travel)- The Postcards: Postcards for out of the way, little places, are tough to come by. When I travel, I bring a stack of random postcards and send them off and I almost always get the cards out with the local mail on my way back home. I missed this time. I mailed the stack from home and I will talk to each in every recipient well before the receive their card. Oh well. I tried!

Not Moscow
Some random cards…I went to Tennessee, not Russia but any card’ll do.

 

 

What I Learned This Week: #155

Monday, July 27 – Sunday, August 2

The Week in Finding My Joy #1: I bought some new clothes this week. If I did not have a longtime, part-time job at TJ Maxx, I would need a very, very good reason to be out shopping for clothes during a global pandemic. Like, maybe if my high school called and asked my if I wanted a re-do on my senior picture, I would make an attempt at getting my fashion act together. Maybe.

Shopping really isn’t my thing Covid or not, but I do have a new full time job and I do have to go to a place that sells clothes, so I might as well take advantage. This is a long introduction that hints at the idea that I don’t really NEED new clothes. I have plenty of clothes. I just like to keep my wardrobe fresh. Also, my commitment problem with men is not that dissimilar from my commitment problem with clothing. After a time, certain favorites don’t seem to fit right or feel right any more and they absolutely must go.

Also, in addition to my commitment problems, I live in a small space that I’d rather fill with books and cookware than clothes. For years I’ve lived by one in and one out rule. Any item I bring in has to replace an item I am getting rid of. It can be rough. T-shirts are the worst. Work clothes are the easiest, but Saturday I still spent a good hour choosing the six shirts that would have to go to make room for my six new shirts. It was rough. Afterwards, I took a nap.

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Six shirts on the left out…Six shirts on the right are IN!

The Week in Finding My Joy #2: You know you’re settling into work when you’ve used all the bathrooms on your floor. So yeah, things are going well at the new gig!

The Week in Killing My Mother’s Joy: This week I’m preparing for next weekend’s annual Houseboat trip. It is one of the greatest weekends of the year. And this year, it is literally the only social weekend of the year. I cannot wait, but man, is my Mom mad. She hasn’t given me unsolicited advice in years, but on our weekly grocery outing she told me repeatedly I shouldn’t go and that none of us should go. She’s convinced I’m going to die and she doesn’t want me or my friends to get sick if we can help it.

So much to unpack. First, yes. It is absolutely a terribly idea to travel to a state with a Covid R value higher than 1, traveling through the essentially closed state of Kentucky to get there. Second, yes. It is absolutely a great idea to get ourselves isolated on a houseboat, a trip we have taken before, and recharge our collective mental state.

True, there are so many risks. What if one of us is pre-symptomatically ill as we get on the boat.  Or, will one of us pick it up  in the days between when we got tested and we get on the boat. Will one of us pick it up when we make a rest stop or at the grocery or the marina? If we do get sick, will it be severe? Covid’s transmission and how individuals react to the infection are still mostly unknown. What if…what if…what if? In the end, on this day, 5 days before we head out, the rewards are greater than the risks. Fingers crossed!

The Week in I Don’t Know Shit: As I semi-confidently weigh the risks of traveling during the pandemic, I’ve been thinking about how much I don’t know. Specifically, on one of my walks this week I saw a carabiner laying in the street, like an omen to remind me of the one time a four-year old taught me something.

Me a couple friends were sitting at restaurant when a little boy from the next table walked up to us to show us his Dad’s keys. Super cute. He handed the full ring of keys to me without a word, so I asked him, “what is is this?,” all peppy the way you talk to kids. I was expecting him to say “keys.” Instead, he said carabiner. I don’t recall ever hearing that word before and didn’t know what to make of this kid’s answer, which I assumed was just a nonsense grouping of syllables. I looked up at my friends, “What did he say?” “Carabiner,” they both said. In a split second I knew I was about to be schooled. “What’s a carabiner?” Of course, it was what was holding all the keys together. If some people have a spirit animal, I have a spirit object, the carabiner of humility.

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Carabiner, obviously.

 

The Week in Ramen: The guy at Saigon Market is happy to report the supply of Ramen is starting to get better. Also, I cannot wait to try Chapagetti.

 

The Week in Waffles: Mid-Covid confinement my waffle maker died. I spent a bit of time over the next several weeks picking a well-reviewed waffle maker that stored easily. What was throwing me was that, unbeknownst to me until I started shopping, I have a strong preference for square waffles. Who knew? Squares are not the most popular shape and after literally hours of shopping, I had to settle for a circular waffle maker. The horror! Still, I was glad to have finally made up my mind. Sadly I immediately become low-level furious when I discovered the model I picked was out of stock. The agony.

Welp, this week I finally got my waffle maker, received it like a long lost relative, and set out to make me some waffles. Yes, I love eating waffles, but I love that my favorite recipe has me fold egg whites into the batter. Using a fancy cooking technique makes anything taste better.

The Week in Foot Pedals: I’d seen videos from Asia for foot door handles (officially called a foot door handle opener…which is not great for the branding team). The first place I saw one in person was in the restroom of TJ Maxx. Granted I don’t go a lot of places anymore to see who else has installed these, but I expect to see more of them when I do finally get going. My first use of it was a little clumsy, but, like mastering the mask, it’s another covid skill.

 

The Week in the Color Palette: The back of the Sugar and Spice Diner looks like a place where a Barbie doll might take a load off. Side note: For weeks while they were rehabbing the building for the restaurant, I thought the pink exterior was a primer coat. It wasn’t. It’s a beautiful pop of color!

What I Learned This Week: #154

Monday, July 20 – Sunday, July 26

The Week in Love, I think: In front of my office building an anxious, older man stopped me to ask if I knew where he was supposed to go to get a marriage license. I work near the Court House and a lot of government buildings, so he was near to his destination. However, I didn’t know where to send him. Looking around like a Marriage Licenses Sold Here sign was going to magically appear, I told him:  “I don’t know, I’m single,” like being single prevents me from even knowing how the mechanics of getting married work.

Anyway, I looked it up on my phone. He was catty corner from where he needed to be. He nervously and quickly started to head off but I called him back, “Hey, is the license for you?” He said it was. He didn’t seem happy, or mushy, or anything buy in a hurry. “Well, congratulations,” I shouted. “Okay…Thanks.” I hope it is true love for him.

The Week in Comfort: This week’s comfort food was a blueberry coffee cake from King Arthur Flour’s excellent baking site. Because it’s a fruit cake topped with struesel, the cake can be referred to as a “buckle.” I posted the picture below on Facebook and people got sentimental about coffee cakes their Moms and Grandmas used to make (or buy from the local bakery). There is a degree of nostalgia in a coffee cake, like women in house dresses having a nosh and a little neighborhood gossip before the kids come home from school. I often bring coffee cakes when I’m invited to someone’s house for dinner. We eat it for dessert served with ice cream, and the simplicity is very much appreciated. (Plus the hosts get to keep the leftovers for breakfast.)

Also, struesel, in my opinion, is a underutilized in baking. It’s just a perfect topping. More struesel, please.

Blueberry Coffeecake
Blueberry Coffeecake featuring a struesel topping!

 

The Week in Opening Day: I’ve been doing this blog for a couple years, and it’s always fun to pick the most representative Opening Day pictures of the dozens of pictures I take at the parade, and the bars, and the game. This year’s season is as effed up by Covid as everything else. Opening Day for the shortened, no crowd, season was Friday. I have one picture and it’s of the free cookie I got from the bank. Go Reds!

 

Opening Day 2020
Go Reds! Happy Opening Day 2020!

 

The Week in What Covid Can’t Touch: The sexual revolution will not let a pandemic ruin the party. Even if you won’t come inside (that’s a joke for your inner 12 year old boy), you can still get curbside pick-up. Sadly, for clandestine Hustler shoppers, this method of shopping my be a little, uh, too exposed.

Hustler
Hustler is always about customer satisfaction!

The Week in Music Pulls Us Apart: The honeymoon period ended at my job on Friday morning when I realized I was the only one in the office listening to or caring about the new Taylor Swift album. I just don’t know what’s wrong with my new co-workers! 😂🎤🎼

The Week in Music Brings Us Together: I hope the young couple in the garage not only appreciate that I gave a shout out to his Bon Iver tour t-shirt, but also referenced his new duet with Taylor Swift. I also hope they forgive me for mispronouncing Iver’s name. I learned it as “EYE-Vare” then had to be retaught “EEE-Vare.” Totes forgot, my young peeps! As a friend noted, Iver’s name rhymes with Bonnie Bear. Ah, now I got it! #TryingToBridgeGenerations 😉🤓🤷‍♀️

 

 

 

 

 

 

What I Learned This Week: #153

Monday, July 12 – Sunday, July 19

The Week in Not Much: My AC is out and I’m cranky so I don’t have much of a weekly wrap up. As I sweat and drink ice water, I keep picturing Paul Newman in both Cat on a Hot Tin Roof or Cool Hand Luke and I know it’s gonna be all right!

The Week in New Rules: One great thing about the Covid Era is the relaxation of some nanny state rules like open container and other liquor restrictions. One day this week I plotted my post dinner walk to come to an end near Pony OTR so I could walk the final blocks while sipping a beer. The only restriction was that I couldn’t take the opened can; they had to pour it in a cup. I expect bull-shitty things like that to disappear soon, too.

The new rules also allow take-out cocktails. Japps OTR is open for both “drink in” or take out. It is the only place I’ve stepped into during the Covid Era that seems like a respite and not an anxiety producer. And their cocktails to-go are even having the same effect.

This week I brought my Mom two Manhattan’s from Japp’s. Mom doesn’t leave the house except once a week to grocery shop. Because of Covid, she doesn’t get to go out for her weekly lunch and obligatory Chardonnay. On grocery day, I take her a variety of foods I’ve cooked or bought at the Findlay Market to giving her variety for her meals through out the week and I thought Manhattans would be fun to bring to her.

I don’t know if my Mom has ever drank a Manhattan. Her idea of a cocktail is a Fuzzy Navel or a Long Island Iced Tea. She may have had a bourbon slush or a Mint Julep but her liquor drink of choice is vodka on the rocks. She was surprised to see the two drinks in her weekly supply bag and thought she was supposed to pour them together, like one huge DIY cocktail. I explained that she was not supposed to pour them together, nor was she supposed to drink them both in one night. I stressed how strong they were. To my surprise, she did patiently take two nights to drink both cocktails. Not to my surprise, she loved drinking them now wants me to bring her one every week. I will. That is a small bit of Covid joy.

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One of two Manhattans. The cherry at the bottom is house-made and soaked in bourbon.

The Week in Hair, Long Beautiful Hair: In the Covid Era I’m going for haircuts every 12 weeks instead of every 8. That means for weeks 8-12 I wake up every morning and look in the mirror to see Barry Gibb’s 1978 hair. To clarify, because there’s a lot of hair to take in in the photo, his 1978 head of hair is my Covid Era bedhead. #NightFever #CovidLife

barry gibb
Hair!

Again, this week’s top story, my AC is out. Have a great week!

What I Learned This Week: #152

Monday, June 6 – Sunday, June 12

The Week in the Only Curve That’s Flattened is My Social Life: I did two live social things this this week. 1) I ate outside at Lucius Q after bravely battling an unexpected rain shower. 2) I went to a friend’s house for dinner and, in the wake of gathering clouds, we just just barely got our patio party moved to the garage where we could remain socially distanced during the rain shower.

Pre-covid, going inside when it rained was not a remarkable action. Now I really have to think about how I want to handle rain while I’m being social. Weird. Since I go out so infrequently I get kind of salty when the weather is working against me.

ooooh. Rain clouds.
A little rain in the Covid era can throw things off!

The Week in Jukebox Tunes: The long awaited second location of Sugar and Spice  opened on Sycamore Street, Covid be damned. The grand opening was Saturday, but they’ve been open “quietly” for over a week. I haven’t eaten there yet (they have carry out and plenty of outdoor seating), but I have heard and enjoyed the 50’s music they pipe out to the street while they are open. The music is great mix of tunes any fan of 50’s music would know, but they mix those songs with deeper bluesy cuts which keeps the playlist from being boring.  This week walking past on my way to work on Monday morning, Little Richard serenaded me to the start of my work week with Tuttti Frutti. I did not expect the soundtrack of my current life to be so Fonz-esque, but there you have it.

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Open from 7 – 3 with 50’s Tunes piped out for passersby.

The Week in Books and Bats!!: The Hamilton County Library still hasn’t opened for browsing the shelves and that is one of my favorite nerd activities. I have spent a lot of time and discovered many great books (and a few other stack-stalking weirdos) as I slowly walked along the shelves.

My new substitute for that activity is to go to the Library website, go to kindle books, and click on books that are available and are new to the system in the last 7 days.  Most of the new available books are kids books, romance novels and new editions of older titles. The selection is very random but that’s what I like. My  pick from this week was Just Bats.

The book was originally released in 1983 and I do not have a theory as to why the Library decided to add this title to the collection this week. But, I decided to give it a try.

I don’t know much about bats and learning about them wasn’t a priority, or even anywhere on my radar however…Covid. I got time.

The scanned pictures in the Kindle edition, much like the low quality of the cover photo,  almost all look like blobs, so I just look at them and nod sagely like I can tell what I’m looking at.

 

 

 

The best part of the book is how enthusiastic the author is. I have read many science based books and none use the exclamation point as liberally as this one. I am maybe more excited about bat behavior and the size of bat penises than I really should be!!

 

The Week In Cooking: My co-worker brought me a bunch of chard from her CSA produce box because the box had so many leafy greens she thought her family would revolt if they had to eat so many salads. I took the greens, perhaps a bit too enthusiastically. She asked what I was going to do with them. I told her I make a chard and sausage gratin (really a frittata, but I’ve taken to calling this recipe a gratin). She’s a vegetarian, but the recipe would work easily without the sausage. On one hand, I got to eat a very fresh chard gratin this week. On the other hand, now that my co-worker knows how to use chard, I probably won’t see anymore freebies!

The Week in Flour where Flowers Should be: Found on my morning walk, a random, empty bag of flour in a place pretty far away from the nearest place an empty flour bag would logically be. Maybe I should find out the street value of flour.

Flour
Random Flour

The Week in Dish Management: 

Dishwash Rack Stack
Domestic Jenga

 

What I Learned This Week: #151

Monday, June 29 – Sunday, July 5

The Week in Confinement Returns: This week felt very similar to how I felt during the height of the Confinement, but a little sadder. This time people are actually out socializing and I’m often not. I’m not hiding out, but I’m not taking every opportunity to mingle with the potential of Covid. I think it’s the right choice, but it doesn’t bring me a lot of joy.

As cases spiked across the country (and in zip codes near me) and accurate information and guidance remained sparse, it seemed (based on my highly subjective shift at TJ Maxx and my weekly Kroger outing) that more people got on the mask wearing band wagon. That’s good news because it slows down transmission. Also, the death rate is down, predictably, because more young people are contracting Covid and they are the ones it hits least hard. That’s good news. Still, we don’t know why some situations lead to higher transmissions or why some people are more susceptible than others. We don’t know a lot, and the unknowns are keeping me in as much as possible.

Businesses that opened a few weeks ago have closed back down, some because an employee tested positive, some because they don’t want to take a chance. Social outings are back but they are stressful. Besides the unnatural concentration of keeping distance, the logistics of bringing all my own stuff is too much. I live in a little apartment and don’t have the equipment (coolers/chairs/etc) to go sit in a park for two hours to drink beer and eat snacks with friends. Until this summer, I never needed that stuff. We used to be able to share. Now, there’s a risk in me putting my beer in someone else’s cooler because we are both touching the handle. Seems absurd…and it might be. But until we know, I can wait.

I had an easier time in the thick of confinement when nothing was open and everyone was home. Now, there are optional activities available if I so choose. What I’m choosing is how much risk I’m willing to take, not how much fun I could be having. Once this spike is over, I will rethink my social options. Right now, I’m essentially back to confinement mode.

The Week in Lazy Alcoholism: I haven’t been drinking nearly as much as I thought I would staying at home, but I do drink. The grocery has a liquor store, but the selection isn’t as great as a snob like me needs. I need choices! I very much enjoy and very much miss perusing the shelves of a large liquor store. With the help of my phone and Google and chatting with other drinkers I often discover new brands and concoctions to try. But, Covid. So, if I must, I can live with on line ordering and getting curbside service. I picked up an order on Friday and it made my heart beat double time to see the Party Source staff member emerge from the store and make a beeline directly to my car with my cocktail supplies…Brought tears of joy to my eyes!

The Week in Patience + Social Distancing: Since I’m keeping my visits to everywhere few and far between, my summer iced coffee habit from my neighborhood coffee shops was starting to suffer. It was time to DIY.

Iced coffee is more than drinking the rest of the morning coffee over ice sometime later in the day, although there is nothing wrong with that. But there is a proper way to make iced coffee and it really makes the end product much tastier than repurposed breakfast coffee.

The process starts with the freakily large amount of coffee (12 oz) and 7 oz. of water. Purists will have that be distilled/fancy water. I’m a tap water woman. The coffee soaks for 24 hours or so. After that, strain the grounds out (I do a couple passes through a coffee filter). What you have created is a very strong coffee concentrate. Mix 1/2 cup concentrate, 1/2 cup of water (again, purists = water from a crystal clear lake on an organic farm, gathered by virgins and strained through hand woven cheese cloth). Add a splash of milk and/or sugar to taste. Serve over ice. Enjoy the flavor, the savings, and the lack of a visit to the coffee shop.

What I Learned This Week: #150

Monday, June 22 – Sunday, June 28

The Week in Eating in the Street: The last time I sat down inside a restaurant was brunch on March 15, the afternoon of the day Ohio closed down. It already felt dangerous to be in a packed restaurant. Of course I had no idea what was coming.

Even before this week’s spike in Covid cases, I was not feeling comfortable about eating inside a restaurant. I don’t think it’s particularly dangerous if the spacing protocols are being followed and you don’t have a long, leisurely dinner. My thing about not wanting to eat out is that going out to eat is supposed to be a fun and social experience. In the Covid era eating out is chore.

Me and a friend got hungry during our socially distanced walk and, spontaneously (like in the old days), we decided to sit down at an outside table at Revolution Chicken for dinner.  Revolution is one of my go-to restaurants. The food is simple and good and the service is friendly. All of that was true this week, too, but it was soooo different and I didn’t love the experience. I mean, I loved it as much as I could, but I’m still comparing it to what it was.

The outside seating is a “bump-out” into the street  in front of the restaurant barricaded with water-filled traffic barriers. It’s enough space for three picnic tables. My friend and I had our own table. At first we were sitting as far away from the other guests and the from the sidewalk as possible, but we quickly found people at the stoplight with their windows down wanted to chat. That felt strange so we moved in a little and avoided eye contact with cars, a new eating-out skill!

Like a lot of places, Revolution is offering a limited menu and they are serving everything in disposable containers with disposable cups and utensils. I’m trying to be positive about eating out like this and I am so appreciative of the efforts being made by the hospitality people, but I don’t have to love it. I just have to hang with it until we call all do it the way we’re used to.

The Week in Messages: I pass this “Long Live T-Bone” graffiti on my morning walk and I always feel a pang in my heart for the artist who seems to be an emotional wreck. Starting low to the ground, like they are just standing there with some spray paint and no real plan, the spray the “l” in lowercase no less. It looks like they immediately try to erase it. Ooops! Too late. So they just kept going.

They painted around the official plaque of the wall’s official artwork (very polite) and sprayed a passable, but poorly formed heart (this is a nervous, conflicted artist after all). As the letters got closer to the City’s parking sign the sprayer realized space was short. Still, their conscience won’t let them paint onto the sign. So, they improvised. It ain’t pretty but T-bone must be a heck of a human to get this tribute.

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The Week in Lessons: I will jaywalk any chance I get, except one. When I am on the corner with a parent and child and the parent is teaching the kid about crossing the street, I will always wait for the light to change. It’s an unwritten duty and a small thing. Lots of smalls make a big difference.

By the way, I am really am quite the jaywalker. As a friend of mine says, jaywalking means reading the traffic like baseball legend Joe Morgan read the signs to see if he could steal second. It’s a skill.  Since I moved downtown, jaywalking has moved way up on the list of things I think could be a probable cause of my death. (It’s a fluid list. When I owned a house I was convinced my recycling bin would tip over on me.) But traffic lights and crosswalks be damned. I got places to go!

The Week in Keeping Time: I walk home for lunch everyday right around noon and have developed a habit of time checking the church bells. I literally count out all twelve “dongs” like it’s my job to make sure the church keeps accurate time. I don’t know what to do if I “catch” them messing up. Call the Pope? Maybe put in some prayers to St. Expeditus? Does Father Time have an email account? This is the stuff I have time to think about in the Covid era.

The Week in Books: I sensed signs of life from the Public Library via email. Up until now they’ve only been emailing news about capital improvements and internal projects. Blah, Blah, Blah. But what about the books? Last week they sent an email noting some branches would be offering limited services, like computer access and they announced that they would begin taking books back, something they have not allowed since mid-March. This was a great sign. Books are allowed back in. They are also allowing you to order books and pick them up. Some books are allowed out. However, I cannot (yet) browse the stacks which is one of my cherished, most favorite, nerdgasmic activities. It’s coming!

This week, just like normal, they sent me a lovely reminder that couple of books I had checked out in early March are finally due! And, because none of the titles are on a wait list they were all auto-renewed. Thanks library. What I really need is more time with these books.

I should note, I will be sad to see the Mediterranean cookbook go. That book was the perfect thickness to hold my computer during Zoom meeting so my best angle was featured. Oh well.