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.

What I Learned This Week: #219

Monday, November 15 – Sunday, November 20, 2021

This is my shortest post ever. My schedule is crammed with all kinds of social events, plus pre-Thanksgiving, plus work. I love it, but I’m left with very little writing time. I’ll try again next week.

The Week in Status Quo: I love the avalanche of recipes and cooking tips that the media provides the week before Thanksgiving, and I admire the chutzpah in the articles telling cooks to “spice up” or ” re-invigorate” the Thanksgiving table. ARE YOU KIDDING ,ME?!!?! Once a year we gather to eat the same 8-10 things, most of which we don’t get the rest of the year. The stuffing isn’t *just* stuffing, it’s grandma’s stuffing. And I get there have to be minor “adjustments” from year to year, but the core is the core. Family gatherings are tough enough these days, leave my corn and green bean casseroles alone!

The Week in Bread: Wednesday was National Bake Bread at Home Day (or something like that), a day that my focaccia baking co-worker was not going to let pass. So he took the savory path and I took the sweet path, making my first ever twist bread.

Let’s Twist Again

I was a little nervous because while I can bake, I am not a pretty baker. Meaning, I personally look fine, but my baked goods are brown: Coffee Cakes, Banana Bread, simple cookies. I don’t use a lot of icing or use molds to create shapes. I get the batter in the bowl and bake (usually at 350) till brown.

For bread day, with sweet bread as my category, I wanted to up my baking game. I put myself in the capable hands of King Arthur Flour and made their Cinnamon-Apple Twist Bread. It worked!

The Week in Roast:

The Week in Touristing: I took some of my old buddies on a Downtown tour this week. It was a low-key, low-stress trip, was short and sweet. I have a lot more stamina than a lot of my friends, but I know how to plan accordingly. We rode the street car instead of walking, shopped instead of drank, and ended the day very early. It is still a blast to take people around the hood, no matter the pace. I am such a homer!!

The Week in Breakfast: Hathaway’s Diner has been a Downtown Cincinnati staple since the 1950’s, tucked into a little nook inside the Carew Tower. A few months ago, they moved to a street facing space in the Tower, and they took the opportunity to shine up their surroundings and step into a modern designed space. I went on a busy Saturday morning with a big group (10!) and we were evenly split on preferring the old vs. new. I like that it’s street facing because I like to see what’s happening. Their food is still great, and, in my opinion, the view of my town is a plus. Did I mention I’m such a homer!

What I Learned This Week: #218

Monday, November 8 – Sunday, November 14, 2021

The Week in the Night Plays Tricks: In the middle of the night I was awoken by my neighbor screaming “ouch…ouch, ouch…ouch” etc. I’m going to assume it was a charlie horse painful enough for the two of us. Unrelated, I woke up later that morning to what appeared to be a teenage boy in bed next to me. Um, what? Turns out it was just the way the sweatshirt was laying on the pillow. What a beautiful way to start the day!

The Week in Being Earnest: My co-worker is a professional actor in his spare time, which, interestingly, makes him very good at old musical and movie trivia. Mostly, his actual talents are only required when we need someone to re-record the work voicemail message. But this week I got to see him in real acting action. He played the Lady Bracknell in Oscar Wilde’s 1895 play, The Importance of Being Earnest with the Beechmont Players. He was great. The play is part of the theatre repertoire and read by high schoolers even today. Full of quips – “The truth is rarely pure and never simple”…”Girls never marry the men they flirt with”…etc. It’s a drawing room comedy of manners that still plays well, if a very predictable and trite. A nice throwback evening.

Also, what a hoot to see a co-worker in drag.

The Week in Backflips and Bar Culture: The next day, I went out for lunch and sat at the bar at Brew Dog where 3 guys were well into an afternoon drinking session. One was was very quiet, on his phone the whole time, one was just plain friendly and the other was VERY talkative, not particular annoying, just someone who who “demanded” attention – he did a (literal) back flip while I was there. In bar culture, I would refer to them the dopey guys at the end of the bar. Turns out, the guy on the phone had just been bailed out of jail by the other two after getting into a fight at the Friday night soccer match.

Ah yes. The soccer match.

I should note that I’m not bitter at all that while I was across town watching an old play, USA and Mexico were playing a qualifying match for next year’s world cup. Yep, biggest soccer party of the year. Lady Bracknell owes me a beer!

The Week in the Symphony: I’ve been in Music Hall throughout the pandemic and have even seen shows that are part of this year’s season, but this week, the Haydn/Mahler program was my first official concert of my subscription. That means the Symphony staff puts a card on my seat welcoming me to the the season. And, for the first time, since I decided to gift money to the Symphony, I got my name in the program.

But the best part of the evening was sitting next to the 87 year old woman next to me, who ubered in to see her first concert at Music Hall in over two years. She was emotional. I was emotional. Wow, that’s good stuff.

The Symphony is a delight, but I’m about done with their Covid protocols. Not only do I have to show my vaccine card, they also cross check it with my id. Fine. But the then why do I have to sit inside with a mask? It’s as much of a performance as what’s happening on stage. And also, they are programming without intermissions, so the atmosphere just isn’t as fun. I hope we can move on soon.

The Week in Puzzling: A friend who knows I like jigsaw puzzles brought me a jigsaw puzzle making kit…because even though no one needs a puzzle making kit, someone may *want* some tool and that’s a chance to make money that someone jumped on. So this “kit” is a big piece of felt, some glue to glue your puzzle on a board (not provided) and a set of stacking trays to help sort the pieces. I’m trying to do a puzzle on the felt – the idea is you can roll the pieces up and move the puzzle out of the way…(it doesn’t work )- and I do not like it. What I do like is the trays. Very helpful. So now I have proper puzzle making tools. What a relief.

Puzzle and Puzzle Tools
Freezer Clean OUt

The Week in Thawing and Leftovers Before the Leftovers: Thanksgiving is close and I have cooking responsibilities that start this week. Obviously, Thanksgiving isn’t close enough that can leave stuff out for the next two weeks, so I have to make room in my freezer. I’ve been working on this for the last two weeks (I’m super thrifty saving all kinds of bits of food to eat in the future). Anyway, the last things to get rid of are some old chicken broth (probably too old and heading for the trash), some pasta sauce, a bit of pork roast, and a pound of ground beef. Basically, I’m eating all my leftovers so I can make room for Thanksgiving leftovers. I’ve got plans! and the freezer is ready for…

The broth begins!

The Week in Broth: The first year I was invited to Thanksgiving at my friend’s house, I said I would make and bring the broth needed to make gravy and other side dishes. They were all like, “That’s not necessary.” The second year, they were all like, “You bringing broth?” So, today I bought some turkey parts from the butcher and I’m making a couple quarts of turkey broth. I’ve also got some back up chicken broth. Now I can move on to desserts and such. It’s all very exciting on the culinary front.

What I Learned This Week: #217

Monday, October 25 – Sunday, November 7, 2021 – Two Big Weeks

The Week in Halloween at the Office: I work in a fairly buttoned-up office, it’s not sterile…we laugh, we cry, we argue…but we don’t, ya’ know, cut loose.

Until this Halloween.

When management announced this year’s Halloween decorating contest, I’m very sure they pictured the sleepy office door decorating of years past. I’m also very sure they did not picture the explosion of competitive decorations that took over the entire office. Pandemic fatigue was spectacularly released in a torrent of creativity and dollar store/basement digs. By the time the judges showed up, the office looked like a Spirit Halloween warehouse. It was awesome.

The Week in New Food Development: This week I visited the new bar/food service spot Mid City and the new Cuban restaurant Latin House.

Newly opened, Mid City on Court Street, is from my bar pals at Longfellow. It’s decor is base on the dining car of old time cross continental trains and it’s cozy. The menu right now is very small both in terms of the number of selections (just 9 things on the printed menu) and that those selections are “small plates.” I expect the selection of food to be more varied and substantial when they expand their hours to include lunch. One thing I like about Longfellow that they carried to Mid- City, is that one or two things on the menu will be unusual for a bar. An English Muffin with pickle butter tops the Mid-City menu, but I opted for the off-menu special, grilled skewered chicken hearts and cippolini onions. Delicious. And I guarantee, the chicken hearts (or the pickle butter muffins) are not on any other menu or off menu in the city.

The other new spot, Latin House, takes over a greasy-spoon breakfast/lunch diner that didn’t make it through the Pandemic. Open 7 am – 3, like the previous place, Latin House serves Cuban inspired breakfast and lunch. For my first trip there, I ordered the Cubano, of course. I liked it. I think they got the bread right, which has been a downfall for Cincinnati restaurants offering Cuban sandwiches. It’s a family owned restaurant and you could see they take pride in what they do. Looking forward to eating there often.

The Week at the Movies, Part One – Language Lessons: I finally made it to Cincinnati World Cinema’s “new” home on Race Street. After years of renting screens at various places around town, CWW settled into the old Shakespeare Theater in 2019. Showing a handful of films each month, I hadn’t been able to work them into my schedule until this week…and I went twice!

First up was the 2021 bi-lingual platonic love movie Language Lessons. Starring and produced by Mark Duplas and Natalie Morales (she also directs), the film is a funny and sad story of how a relationship can grow through technology. Clever directing made the zoom-type communication easy to digest. It’s a lovely, small film.

The Week at the Movies, Part Two – Bubba Ho-tep: On Halloween night, I went back to CWW to see the 2002 Halloween buddy movie Bubba Ho-tep. The buddies are an aging Elvis Presley (Bruce Campbell) and JFK (Ossie Davis) who set out to save the residents of their East Texas nursing home from the curse of the mummy. It’s a fast-paced, very low budget, hilarious film.

The Week in Dogs: One of my friends had been trying to get a dog for her son earlier this year, but was not having any luck at the shelters which have been running very thin since Pandemic dog ownership has soared. She was presented with an opportunity to get a Great Dane puppy, not the size dog she had intended on, but a dog she felt she could handle (her Great Dane owning neighbor offered guidance). Raven is now 105 pounds with a little ways left to grow. She’s a sweetheart, who, very unexpectedly also had a growth on her paw that turned out to be cancerous. The vet had to remove a toe, which shouldn’t slow her down that much. Of course, a giant dog requires a giant, satellite dish of a cone of shame. It is really an impressive size, both the dog and the cone.

Satellite of shame

The Week in Planning: As November revved up, my thoughts turned to Thanksgiving prep. I already have my first batch of homemade chicken broth sitting in the freezer. I’m legendary for my “no store bought broth” stance for Thanksgiving Dinner. I’m proud of this!

We do a Friends-giving with about 20 people, and me and the host family have traditionally met a few weeks before to map out who is bringing what. There are lists and grids and instructions, all of which are based on notes we take from the previous year. This sounds very uptight, but really, it’s a roadmap with many stops and starts (and wine) along the way. I’ve got some more broth, desserts, and rolls to make in advance and to make room, I’m eating everything from my freezer for lunch and dinner this week. I love a good plan!

The Week in Soccer: The last game of Cincinnati’s new professional soccer club FCC was Sunday. In their inaugural season as a professional team, they stunk the place up, winning just one home game and finishing last, by a long shot, in their division. I was offered free tickets from a friend who couldn’t make the game and she offered them like this: “Would you like to go see another demoralizing loss from FCC on Sunday?” LOL! Welp, they lost. A lot of Atlanta fans were in the crowd to see their team win. As a long-suffering Bengals fan, I know when the Bengals play at home, the opposing team fans always have a big showing because tickets are readily available, and their team will probably win. I hope that’s not the role FCC will play, gracious but losing hosts for traveling sports fans. Maybe FC will win two home games next year. Maybe.

The Week in Celebration of Life, Part One: Sad to say, I went to two celebration of life this week. The first was for an old family friend, someone I haven’t seen in years, but my Mom is in close contact with. We went to the service, and to the gravesite for this one. Then we went to someone’s house for sandwiches and closure. It was my first Jewish burial and I was unfamiliar with the Kaddish Prayer, a 13th century, Aramic prayer spoken by the mourners to show that despite the loss, they still respect God. Prayers in ancient languages really make me think of the long line of human history.

The Week in Celebration of Life, Part Two: The second celebration of life was for my Aunt who passed away last month. The small event was held at an Italian restaurant which was chosen, in part, to pay homage to yearly pizza parties I used to throw when I owned a house.

For several years, every fall, I would have a pizza party where people made pizzas at their houses and we cooked them at mine. The first party had 8 attendees and 4 pizzas. The last one had over 30 people and over 20 pizzas. My Aunt loved that party and the last time she attended, she proudly brought a Pickle Pizza, a recipe she found on the internet. It was one of the best pizzas of the night.

Hearing that her daughter wanted to honor the fun we had at the pizza parties brought a lot of family tears. And yes, I ordered pizza.

What I Learned This Week: #216

Monday, October 18 – Sunday, October 24, 2021

The Week in Farewell: One of my favorite downtown spots, Court Street Lobster Bar announced that they were closing this week. The cost of flying fish to Cincinnati, plus staffing in our Pandemic world were two deciding factors. I will miss their lobster mac n’ cheese and their BLT salad. I ordered both in one setting this week, even though I knew I couldn’t finish them both. Such decadence. I hope the owners rest up and try something new soon.

The Week in Pretty Woman, the Musical!: My Broadway Across America series began this week with Pretty Woman, the Musical. The show is a big bowl of mediocrity sprinkled with an outdated plot line, and the sound of ch-ching of the creators just cashing in. True to the movie to a fault, once I realized the songs were written by Bryan Adams, I couldn’t unhear him singing in my head. And while many in the audience seemed very pleased by the similarities to the movies – the appearance of Vivian in the iconic red dress brought a smattering of applause – I was more in the camp of the young woman sitting next to us. At intermission, referring to the plot of the rich white guy saving the poor hooker with a heart of gold, she said, “I thought they were going to fix it.” They didn’t.

Broadway Across America is the biggest crap shoot for my entertainment dollar. Most shows aren’t that great, but occasionally one comes through and is incredible. I haven’t bought the subscription package in years and only did so this year as a “gift” to the arts coming out of having no theater due to the pandemic. I often find that performers are phoning it in. It was hit and miss for Pretty Woman, but I could absolutely see the relief on their faces as they sang the finale. Oh well.

Pretty enough

The Week in Disney Meets Real Life: Walking home from lunch I heard a guy talking on the bar patio and as I got closer, I saw he was talking to a squirrel. “Stop playing with my wire. Go away. Go find something useful to do.” I hope the squirrel took the advice.

The Week in Not a Bodega: I grabbed lunch at a Avril’s butcher shop. They will make a sandwich with any of their deli meat in the counter, but the secret is to ask “what’s for lunch today” and 9 times out of 10 they’ll be cooking something up, fish, or corn dogs, or, like this week, Sloppy Joe’s. I got one, with their excellent coleslaw on it, but, alas, Avril’s only offers Utz’s potato chips. If you hand me a bag of Utz’s, I’ll eat them. If I’m choosing and purchasing my own chips, Utz is out.

In Downtown Cincinnati, we have little stores that very vaguely resemble what New Yorkers would call a bodega. The bodegas I see on TV and in movies are packed with all kinds of merchandise and they often seem to function as a neighborhood hub. The stores here, have a smattering of merchandise, very heavy on chips, sodas, single cans of cheap beer, and lottery tickets. They have cigarettes and you can buy two Tylenol, not the whole bottle. Helpful stuff for the neighborhood. These stores, and they are never referred to bodegas here, are all downtrodden, and run by a United Nations of clerks. They serve a purpose. I wish they had a catchier name.

The Week in Nesting: Last fall I looked ahead to a pandemic tinged winter and thought I would be home more than usual, so I bought some items to make the winter more comfortable. I don’t need a lot of stuff, and hate buying just to be buying, but the kitchen tools I bought have all been well used.

This fall, I’m again looking ahead to what I think the winter, still tinged with COVID, will be like socially. I have many shows and events planned, but I’m still not going out as much as I used to. And, I’ve noticed, a lot of things I do tend to now end earlier, so I’m home earlier. The upshot is, this year’s nesting purchase was focused on making the most of my inside time. I’m the proud own of a new cozy sweater, some candles, and some slippers. I picture myself slipping into that sweater and slippers all winter, in my best Mr. Rogers impression. Gloomy winter ain’t gonna bother me.

The Week in Chains: I tend not to eat at chain restaurants if I can help it. Nothing against chains, I just prefer to support more local endeavors. In the neighborhood I grew up in, and where my Mom still lives, there is a Fricker’s Sports Bar that’s been there 35 years. It’s no surprise that I haven’t been there, buy neither has my Mom. Today she suggested it for our weekly lunch. We went. It looks and smells like a sports bar, and I mean that in the best way. We ate fried food. I had their default 20 oz beer (usually a pint is the default size). Mom got her chardonnay. We got to see the start of the Bengals game and all the customers in their Bengals regalia. It was fun and the food was good. I guess we’ll be going back.

Fricker’s!

The Week in Really Cooking: A few weeks ago I joined Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street Food and recipe site. (Quick review: great recipes, terrible interface.) Tonight I “made” their Pork and Chorizo Stew, and that’s in quotes because at some point, I just started cooking and stopped looking that the directions. My meats don’t match. No where does Milk Street call for paprika. I really have no idea what I made, but it’s a porky, saucy delight. Sometimes you have to listen to the recipe, and sometimes you have to listen to the pork.

I did some of their steps. The chunks of pork in the first pic are coated with a paste of chorizo, garlic, and spices. Then I just kept adding pork, chorizo, as the recipe called for, and a smoked pork chop cause I felt like it. The final product was, surprisingly a little sweet, so I hit it with some pepper and paprika. It turned out great…whatever the hell it is.

What I Learned This Week: #215

Monday, October 11 – Sunday, October 17, 2021

The Week In No Soup for Me: After an October of 80 degree days, I was happy that the first fall-like day was my usual day for romping about town. I set my sights on Quan Hapa and sitting down to eat a bowl of their Ramen. In my normal happy, loping across town gait, my face dropped as I got close to the restaurant and saw the brown paper on all the windows. My heart sunk. Even though closed restaurants are practically normal as we work through the final throes of the pandemic, when I’m at places I love, a closed sign is like a slap in the face. With great trepidation I walked up to the sign on the door, hoping it was a labor shortage or some other temporary issue. Luckily, they are closed temporarily for renovation. Whew! I mean, they could have sent me a note. I thought we were closer. LOL! But at least the news was good.

The Week in Hot?: On my way to meet a friend, I passed a store front that I hadn’t noticed before. It was decked out with a couple big copper colored balloons and a sign that said everything was 50% off. I wasn’t planning to stop even when a lady came out of the doorway to personally tell me everything was 50% off. I peeked in. Meh. I don’t need clothes, but would be interested in something colorful. There was one yellow shirt on a rack of brown, beige, and black clothes. It was my size. It looked fine. She said it was 50% off. I was starting to get the feeling this store was in a hurry to get going. I bought the shirt. $15, cash. Whole transaction from in the door to out took 3 minutes. Weird. Nice shirt though.

The Week in a Puzzling Start: “get to know you” phase of my next jigsaw puzzle. It’s the part where I separate out the end pieces and separate the rest of the pieces, roughly, by color. It takes me a couple days. I’ll do the frame and then, big decision for a puzzle nerd, do I do the sky (the hard part) first or last. Lots of drama on the dining room table right now!

Everything in its place, sort of

The Week in What’s Going On: Saturday night was a beautiful, cool night to sleep with the windows open. I slept soundly, right through a car fire in front of my apartment building which I found out about this morning. You know what I didn’t sleep through? I’ll tell ya. Two young women exiting the bars at 2 am-ish singing loudly, screaming really, the lines:

And I say, hey-ey-ey……Hey-ey-ey…I said “Hey, a-what’s going on?” …And I say, hey-ey-ey…Hey-ey-ey…I said “Hey, a-what’s going on?”

Over and over and over, and complete with other neighbors yelling out their window “Shut the fuck up.” I’m curious how a song from 1992 got stuck in their heads on a Saturday night out in hipster land in 2021. Ah, sweet mystery of the ear worm.

The Week in Wild Milk: On my way out of work one day this week, I saw a 1 gallon carton of milk just hanging around in the parking lot. Weird. The next morning, it had moved, in tact, to the side walk. Later that day, it was capless and crumpled, but still holding it’s milk. By the end of the second day, though, it was gone. I think I found it’s skeleton in the trash. I didn’t want to poke around too much to make sure it was the right carton. Anyway, kind of a wholesome, mid-week, downtown drama, I mean, wholesome for 1%!

What I Learned This Week: #214

Monday, October 4 – Sunday, October 10, 2021

The Week in Speed Lecturing: I got gifted tickets to see historian and author Doris Kearns Goodwin speak about great qualities of leadership. She has written books on Lincoln (her hero), FDR, and LBJ. I thought the show started at 7:30, so when I got to my seat at 7:20 (and despite her starting late), she was already zipping through her prepared remarks. And I do mean zipping. She spoke very fast, as if she was being timed. She spoke right over obvious laugh and applause lines. At the brief question and answer session at the end, the moderator read 5 questions and Doris plowed through those. Show was over, she got her paycheck, and the nearly full house of older liberals got to see a kindred spirit. Welp, that’s gettin’ it done.

The Week in the Surprisingly Tough Puzzle: I finish most 1000 piece puzzles in a couple weeks, doing the puzzle casually as I walk past the table. Annoyingly, it took me over a month to finish this 500 piece puzzle. The good news is that the picture is cool. It’s actual art, Gustav Klimt’s early 20th century work, Expectations. I had expectations…that this puzzle would be challenging but not ridiculous. Thus, the bad news: It turned out to be quite a challenge. The left side got put together in a day or two, and then that lady taunted me for weeks because I just couldn’t “see” the pieces. So judgy!

This women was not impressed by my puzzle skills.

The Week in a New Coffee Maker, Finally: Coffee pots in my house do not have long lives. I wear them out after about three years. But I’m so cheap, I hold on to each machine until the last , possible minute. The one I just replaced kept brewing louder and louder, near vacuum cleaner levels of sound emanating from my kitchen counter. Then the clock ran fast, just speeding through time, making auto-start for my morning coffee impossible. Then, the final straw: when I poured water into the reservoir, about a half cup would pour right through to the warming plate, like it had a weak bladder.

I had already bought a new coffee maker a few weeks ago on a really good sale. For weeks the new machine had been staring down the old one. Today I put the old one out to pasture, or the modern alternative, I put it in the electronic recycling pile. The first batch of coffee in the new pot, after what I thought was proper cleaning, tasted vaguely like the factory where machines are made. Hmmmm. But the second pot and beyond fulfilled my coffee needs. Now it’s time to start wearing this new pot out.

The Week in Fingernails and Habits: A couple weeks ago on the internet, I randomly came across a product that claimed it could break the fingernail biting habit. First, there is no such thing as coming across anything random on the internet. And, second as if to prove point one, I had always thought I’d grow out of gnawing on my nails, but mostly gave up that intention after I turned 50. Still, the product looked promising and I gave it a go.

It’s a pen-like thing with a brush to apply a bitter, clear, substance to the nails. My Mom tried this with hot sauce when I was a teen, and I think that failed deterrent contributed to my love of spicy food. But this stuff is different. It is all natural and really gross tasting. It’s not even like taste. It’s like licking aversion. From the second I put it on my fingers, that taste got on my lips and it was very unpleasant. Now, a few weeks in, I do have recognizable, not as gnawed on fingernails. I don’t know if I’ve quit for good though, because, as my nails are recovering, I CAN FEEL THEM, and I think they are calling for my attention. I bought a nail file and and file and clean under the nails. I’m wondering if I’ve traded biting for filing. Time will tell.

So far, so good…gross, but good. (Picture from nailquail.com)

The Week in Everything in Kitchen: Meal prep got totally out of hand on Sunday. I mean, it’s not normally a good night of food prep until I’ve used 75-80% of the tools I have in the kitchen, but tonight I outdid myself. My two main meals are the NY Times Thai Inspired Meatball Soup (Soup Pot, sheet pan to cook the meatballs), and Green Chili Verde from Serious Eats (Instant Pot, Immersion Blender). I used the salad spinner to wash and dry both spinach and cilantro and used the rice cooker, too. And while I was being industrious, I even made peanut butter cookies (sheet pans again, and cooling rack, and cookie scooper. Best news, the kitchen doesn’t look like a disaster, and everything tastes great.

Usual suspects of Sunday Cooking.