What I Learned This Week: #164

Monday, September 28 – Sunday, October 4

The Week in Dining In, Dinner Edition: Eating inside is, today, as safe as we know how to be while in the middle of a global pandemic. (I’m not making predictions for the weeks ahead.) This week I ate inside, with another person, at a full service restaurant. On a Thursday night, they were Covid full, meaning the only empty tables were the designated social distancing empties.

While I felt safe, I did not pore over the wine menu like I would have liked, reading the descriptions and making a slow and considered decision. I just went for a the flight the waiter recommended. We didn’t rush through dinner, but we didn’t linger like we might have. Of course, we couldn’t eavesdrop on other tables which is one of the joys of dining in a busy restaurant.

One way to make dining out, or honestly life itself, more enjoyable in the Covid Era is to appreciate it for what it is. Sadly, I can’t stop thinking about how eating out used to be. And sure, it used to be better, but there’s a great possibility everything is going to good again, probably different, but good. That’s what I”m trying to hang on to. Some days, and some hours, are easier than others. Pandemics are hard!!!

The Week in Stop/Go: In addition to eating dinner out, I grabbed lunch inside the Kroger Food Courtyard, a cavernous place that isn’t very busy since many downtown workers are not back in the office. I sat down with my tray of food and noticed a green piece of paper on the table. I thought it was a sticker and I picked it up. It was red on the other side. Turns out, it was a Covid Era caution – green side up meant the table had been sanitized, red side up meant the table was teaming with filth and Covid (I might be exaggerating). As a good citizen, when you leave the table, your job is to turn the paper to red. For the life of me, I kept thinking about the last time I was in a Brazilian Steakhouse and my green chip meant “more meat please” and my red chip meant “No mas!” I waited patiently for more dumplings to be delivered to my table, but my lunch hour ended and I had to go with not one extra dumpling. Damn. Pandemics are hard!!!

The Week in Covid Can’t Stop Dreams: For months I’ve been watching a young couple as they rehabbed a building down the street. At first I thought they were moving in, but as spring approached and they left the front door open while they were working, I could see the were making some kind of bar. I popped my head in one day to verify, and at that time the owner said they were going to open a coffee and cocktail bar. Standing in the doorway, masked, in the Covid world, I was impressed with her (and her husband’s) chutzpah! I’ve been watching the progress ever since. One night on my post dinner walk I passed the two of them across the street from their building gazing lovingly upon it like it was a child. Adorable.

Anyway, Saeso bar (not so much coffee) opened this week. It’s small but they squeezed two bar areas into the space, and plan to have a patio out back when the permits go through. It’s very pretty inside. The cocktails are higher end; it’s definitely aiming to be on the sophisticated, but friendly side. I love the energy of new businesses, and I since I feel like I’ve been their biggest fan for months, I want to keep rooting for them.

The Week in Puzzles: This week in puzzle news, I started a puzzle that looks challenging, which I both love and hate. I like a little challenge, but I also like to feel that I’m making progress. After all, this is a big part of my Covid Era entertainment plan. Puzzle should not be stressing me out!

My first sign that things were not going to be smooth on the puzzle front, was the issue of having two extra end pieces, even after counting pieces around the frame for equality. The second issue was when I realized I was working the puzzle upside down and it seems like more trouble than it’s worth to flip it. Based on these issues and that the actual picture that mirrors itself so images repeat, I’ve projected a 1.5 year completion time. [That number is based on the idea that if I finish this thing in 8 or 10 weeks, I will have given myself a ego boost!]

The frame is supposed to be the easy part!

What I Learned This Week: #163

Monday, September 21 – Sunday, September 27

The Week in Covid Era Dentistry: I had a cavity filled this week, an unpleasant experience in the best of times, and just about dreadful in in the Covid era. I should note that poor dental hygiene as a kid has left me with a mouth full of old silver fillings. I’m a pro at opening wide and thinking beautiful thoughts while a drill is working it’s way into my tooth. Part of my ease comes from one of the first times I got Novocaine injected. I don’t know if I was even 10 years old, but dentist did this thing where he kept the needle behind his back and then quickly moved it into my mouth before I could protest. My memory of the first time he did that what that the need was HUGE, like comically huge. It freaked me out. The next time I had a filling I was waiting for this implement with great anxiety and when I caught a glimpse of it, well, it was just a normal sized. And ever since then, since I’ve already had the biggest needle in the world in my mouth, every other filling has started off well.

This week I got past the needle phase, no problem. But in Covid, the object of the game is to reduce aerosols. To that end, they inserted a “Dry Shield” into my mouth that essentially prevented my tongue and new spit from going forward into my mouth where the work was being done. It was like wearing a sports mouth piece for a play that never ended. Luckily things when relatively quick. I have a brand new modern filling and I got more human contact in 20 minutes than I have had in months

DryShield – Autoclavable All-in-One Isolation System
This is not something I want in my mouth!

The Week in Covid Era Flu Shots: I mean, I don’t know I am possibly going to get the flu or any other communicable illness/disease with all the Covid precautions I’m living through. But, I’m all in on this public health thing so I got my regular flu shot. I got it done at work where people walking fearfully into rooms full of co-workers is normal.

The Week in Piecing Out Oktoberfest: Still nursing my bitter, bitter feelings about Oktoberfest being cancelled, I got take out from Arnold’s, a big part of how the city celebrates. I grabbed a seat at a picnic table, ordered up Rhinegeist’s Oktoberfest beer Franz, and waited for my schnitzel. Maybe not the raucous celebration I wanted, but a touch of Oktoberfest will have to do.

Quick Oktoberfest celebrations!

The Week in Moutarde: A friend was heading up to Jungle Jim’s International Market and asked if I needed anything. I haven’t been there since well before Covid, and I could think of tons of stuff I wanted, but I settled on asking for one thing that would be fun and easy to find, and something that my guest shopper could not get wrong…stone ground mustard. He found some and I immediately went to the butcher and bought a pork roast, as you do when good mustard is in your possession. The mustard was delicious. The cooked roast as about the best one I ever made. And, I got to say moutarde for a couple days!

The Week in Puzzles: TJ Maxx doesn’t have a lot puzzles, but of that small bit of inventory, they have a high percentage of weird puzzles. This week I got to spend part of an evening with Rick of Rick and Morty Fame.

Council of Ricks

What I Learned This Week: #162

Monday, September 14 – Sunday, September 20

The Week in Covid vs. Everything Else Medical: While the Federal Government screws around politicizing Covid, real world examples of the lack of leadership trickle down through hospitals and doctor’s offices as people try to navigate the unknown. I’ve heard a few stories about what a hassle it is to get routine out-patient procedures during the Covid Era. This week my Mom had an appointement for a re-scheduled a laparoscopic probe originally scheduled right as Covid descended back in March and she got a Covid test as required. Then the scope doctor called and said her test would be two days out of date by the time of surgery (even though my Mom does not leave the house) and she had to get another one. Then it was a race to see if the second test results would come back on time. Luckily they did and the results were negative.

At the med center, only the patient is allowed inside. They call the driver when it’s over and while waiting to pick up my Mom I just saw zombie-fied people being led out to waiting cars. The staff is doing their best, but the type of care they are required to give just isn’t as warm as what I would normally see. It’s sad.

The Week in Over-Selling, but in a Charming Way: On the opposite side of the emotion spectrum, I grabbed a to-go noodle salad from Coffee Emporium which the counter guy described as exhilarating!!! I mean, that is quite a sales pitch. And, it was pretty good. Maybe not exhilarating, but maybe I wasn’t feeling it because I ate it at my desk at work, the least exhilarating place to eat, ever.

The Week in Gastropoda and the Universe: My coworker decided to bring a crystal from her garden to work (don’t ask) and mid-morning she realized a live snail was attached to it. She was quite enamored, and why not? A living snail is a cool desk accessory. Mid-afternoon though, the snail detached from the crystal and was lying lifeless on her desk. Tragedy! Also, Snail Killer! She put it in an envelope to take home and I suggested the little guy needed some moisture, so she moistened the envelopeand when she went home the snail had recovered completely! Whew!

Not Gary the Snail, but a fully recovered snail!

To keep the theme of the day going, when I went out after work I had a drink a Low Spark. Their Covid deal is that you scan a QRL code and that links to their cocktail menu. The second drink on the list was Gary the Snail. Of course that’s what I ordered. I didn’t see snail appreciation day coming, but I took full advantage of it.

The Week in the Clink of Glassware: I ate at Pep & Delores one of the restaurants that opened as soon as the Governor gave the okay, and has been getting rave reviews for their handling of the situation. They have outdoor seating in a “good” tent, the kind you would rent for a fancy wedding. Their service hasn’t missed a beat transitioning into the new world, and they are a fully (Covid-reduced) capacity. And it was nice to eat on real plates with real silverware and glassware. Many, many restaurants are bring to-go boxes to your table, which I understand, but I don’t have to love.

P & D also offered their full menu (many places are offering less choices). Since I knew everything on the menu would be great, I shut my eyes, gave the menu a spin and pointed, telling the waitress to make the call on where my finger landed. It was the Limone pasta, the one I perhaps least interested in, and it was outstanding. Also, the waitress hadn’t seen anyone choose a dish like that before, so it was fun to have her play along. Remember random human interactions like that?…sigh!

The Week in Zinzinnati: Oktoberfest is one of Cincinnati’s greatest events, we’ve been told it’s the second largest Oktoberfest in the world, behind Munich, Germany. This year, our Oktoberfest has been reduced to the Chicken Dance done via Zoom, and restaurants offering Oktoberfest menus and beer and calling the dinner Oktoberfest. Fine.

My regular Oktoberfest crew had a socially distanced celebration out in the suburbs, and, based on the sale of brats, metts, sauerkraut, German potato salad, and schnitzel from my butcher shop, a lot of people around town had the same idea. Next year, hopefully, we’ll polka together once again!

Not to brag, but this is the perfect image of Oktoberfest 2020!

The Week in Steel Drum: Arts Wave is dispatching musicians around Downtown and OTR bringing much needed live music to the street. I came upon this steel drum player who, true to stereotypes, was playing Under the Sea, and then, to break the spell he followed up with I Shot the Sheriff. Covid Era music, like everything else is weird…but I’ll take it!

What I Learned This Week: #161

Monday, September 7 – Sunday, September 13

The Week in Eating Alone: I try to get carry out at least once a week even though my inner green-hippie blanches at single use containers, and my outgoing personality blanches at taking food from a place where people are back to my apartment to eat alone. Sigh! Anyway, this week I got carry out from Crown Republic, a restaurant that has functioned as well as can be expected in the Covid Era, in part because the place is run by nice people who serve good food. The Cubano I got was delicious (if slightly underseasoned), but the simple side salad was what made the meal. There is nothing about that salad I couldn’t make myself, but when someone else makes me a salad, it is suddenly the best salad in the world. And the container was eco friendly so I did not have to wallow in climate change angst.

The Week in Rating People: This week at TJ Maxx I got my yearly review, which, unlike many places I’ve worked, they always do on time, and I’m just a part time employee. On this year’s review for the first time in years I got a 5 (out of 5) for customer service. I got fours for everything else so the extra love recognizing my customer service was a nice pat on the back. I really like working with people and that’s why no matter what full-time job I have, I always stay part-time at TJ’s. It balances out my office work where I see just of a few people, and the same ones, every day.

I should note, getting a 5 on any of the criteria on the review is a rarity. Corporate reviews are less about the employee and more about protecting THE MAN’s accounting/HR/legal needs. I’m not better at customer service this year than last year but I feel like I cornered the manager’s into having to give me that score. Very satisfying.

The Week in Sporks: I bought a set of sporks…yes I did. My review: too much ork and not enough sp. I could not get a brothy mouthful of the fish stew I made. I’m considering this the starter set and the quest for the ultimate spork is on!

The Week in Puzzles: Spending so much time at home during the Covid Era, I’ve turned to jigsaw puzzles to help me fill time so I”m not always looking at screen. The internet always knows when you have a new interest and for months various platforms have been showing me ads for high-end puzzles. I resisted for a long time.

I can get a 1000 piece cardboard puzzle for under 20 bucks, so when I saw the price for a 187 piece wooden puzzle at $69.95, I was like, hell no. It wasn’t just the price that made me turn away, sometimes I have trust issues with ordering random things off the internet which often don’t look as good or work as well in real life as they do on the screen.

But this one DID look good and I finally decided to give it a try. I picked “Charming Owl” and, thankfully, it was a great purchase. The pieces feel substantial and they smell nice. The art is very pretty on the front, and very intriguing on the backside. Several of the pieces are shaped like animals which is enchanting. Once my eyes got used to the shapes, the puzzle wasn’t difficult, but because it is not interlocking I did have to use some finesse to get the pieces to stay together. (This means, I took a deep breath, slowed down, and sung some Barry White music to the pieces I was fitting together. Worked like a charm.) I think I’m going to lend out to my friends who want to give it a try. Turns out, I really got a lot for my money.

The Week in “I Guess I’m Doing This”: When I got home from the grocery, coming up from the garage Sherpa-ing what should have been two loads of goods, I went straight to the fridge to empty one hand by putting my six-pack of beer inside. As I scooched it in, still laden with bags hanging off my appendages, I pushed over the pitcher of iced tea. My first reflex was to save the package of bacon from the oncoming wave. Second, was to cuss, dramatically. Third, I got right into domestic mode, or, as a friend of mine likes to say, “I guess I’m doing this now.” Nothing like an unexpected chore! Bonus: The fridge is clean!

What I Learned This Week: #160

Monday, August 31 – Sunday, September 6

The Week in in the most Peculiar Puzzle: This week at TJ Maxx I came across a peculiar puzzle that had two titles: Bowie in Outer Space / Where’s Bowie?. Though there are clearly some fanboy elements to be found (like the appearance of Flight of the Concords), not much about this picture makes sense. Bowie is there. He’s on the brown tower to the left-top of the puzzle in his best Ziggy Stardust attire. Also, one thing I’ve learned in the Covid Era is the very controversial way of packing a puzzle back up with one bag just for the edge pieces. Am I a cheater or a hero?

The Week in Emotions: I walk past the county jail on my way to and from work and every day I see a wild and raw display of human emotions. People stand on the sidewalk and look up to the thin, horizontally cut windows communicating love and hate to the men inside. Mostly the messages focused up are of love with people gathering on the sidewalk blowing kisses, holding up signs of encouragement, releasing balloons, and even on a fairly regular basis celebrating a birthday. It’s actually heartbreaking on so many levels. It’s not all love, of course. The guys inside are there for nefarious reasons and their victims and family members they have left behind have a lot to say.

I’ve seen/heard quite a few shouting matches among people coming and going around the Justice Center. One of the classics is a man and a woman arguing loudly to out scream each other, and the man keeps screaming, “Bitch!” for almost every response and the woman just as forcefully responds, “get a job!” I mean, where would a couples therapist start for these two?

The Week in Unnecessary Kitchen Tools: I bought some reusable “food wraps” but they do not do what the picture on the box shows. They do, however, stick to each other and it’s weirdly satisfying to pull them apart. During the covid era I’ll take entertainment wherever I can get it!

I also bought sporks to add to my tableware. This actually seemed inevitable. I believe, maybe a tad too strongly, that spoons are under-utilized in our daily meals. I can’t thing of a single casserole style dish from lasagna to a breakfast casserole, that isn’t more efficiently eaten with a spoon instead of a fork. And since the spork lends some stabbing power, this is the tool we should be reaching for more often. I will gladly lead this very important culinary movement.

The Week in Sprucing Up the Apartment: I added a new door to my apartment. A mini-door that I’ve taken to calling the Portal. f I can get through this door, I hope I can get some answers from that dimension to bring back to our. Having a portal makes my brain work like I’m living in a Sci-fi novel!

The Week in Visions: I asked my co-worker if she saw a horse in the plaster in our stairwell. She said that’s no horse and when I went back to look, I saw her point.

Horse in plaster

What I Learned This Week: #159

Monday, August 24 – Sunday, August 30

The Week in Syntax: At the market buying some chicken the counter guy asked if I needed a bag. I was trying to say “No. I don’t need a bag.” I was trying to say “I have a bag.” And…what came out of my mouth was: “I have need bag” followed quickly by “You know what I mean.” Thankfully, he did. My ability to conjugate is evaporating, truly an unexpected side effect of the Covid Era.

The Week in Condiments, with a Trip to Pronunciation: I found a recipe in the NYT for Coconut-Gochujang Glazed Chicken with Broccoli that used it for inspiration to make dish more suitable for packing and reheating through the week. No big stretch on reinterpretation, but instead of serving the broccoli on the side, I just threw every thing together in one pan. It turned out great and, true to the recipe’s title, I got to use one of my favorite unami condiments Gochujang and it really worked well with the coconut milk in the recipe. Fancy food magazines seem to thing Gochujang has reached nationwide popularity. I think that’s a little of the East Coast Elite Bubble showing. While foodies know of Gochujang and where to get it, I wouldn’t say most people have heard of it, and even fewer have used it. I wish more people would know and talk about because Gochujang is a blast to say.

Kroger - Sempio Gochujang Hot Pepper Paste, 17.63 oz

The Week Scenes From an Italian Restaurant While Waiting at the Barbecue Restaurant: I placed my order at the counter of Lucious Q and dropped back to socially distance while they prepped my barbecue dinner. Usually they are very quick, barely giving me enough time to check out some social media on my phone, but I must have hit a dinner rush and I had wait slightly longer than normal. In fact, I waited about 7 minutes. I know, because as I walked away from the counter, the sound system began playing Billy Joel’s Scenes From an Italian Restaurant, a song I hadn’t heard in years. Covid is a sentimental time, so I put down my phone and listened, chuckled to myself when he got to the part about “Brender and Edie”, and was please the finale of the song played as they called my name to get my food. If I’m not going to get live music, I can at least enjoy a personal and random musical moment.

The Week in Being Social: Nights out in the Covid era, involve fewer people, which may not be as raucous, buy it sure makes evenings out easier to plan. I went three nights out this week and hung out with 4 people. The Covid curfew is an artificial, but effective way to end the evening and I was home all three nights before 9. And, bonus, I spent in three nights what I’ve often spent in one. #covidcostsavings. It’s easy to see that these aren’t my wildest times, but seeing my people is beautiful no matter what the limitations are.

What I Learned This Week: #158

Monday, August 17 – Sunday, August 23

The Week in Omens: I woke up Monday morning rarin’ to to. I practically jumped out of bed and got right to an extra long walk and a great start to daily step count. Then I was greeted by a Two Yolk Egg. Per the Google machine, this occurs roughly every 1,000 eggs and could mean I’m pregnant, I’m about to experience great luck, or someone near me is about to die. Of course, I chose option two and enjoyed an extra hearty breakfast to get the week started right.


The Week in Burger Week – Covid Era: Traditionally, Burger Week has been a fun week of visiting familiar and new restaurants trying burger concoctions for 6 bucks each. Restaurants are busy, people are happy, and burgers are flying.

Most of that is true in the Covid Era. The burgers await. Of course, restaurants aren’t as busy and people aren’t quite as happy, generally. Where in years past I might have gone to two or three places, this year, I chose one, Moerlein House at the Banks. I hadn’t been there probably since last fall, and it is one of my favorite spots. The food and service are always good and the outdoor seating is spacious. OMG! Did someone say spacious outdoor seating? During a pandemic? Count me in.

I had their Boursin burger with candied onions with one of my favorite side dishes in the city…the Angry Mac and Cheese. It’s just big spirally noodle mac and cheese with pieces of hot kielbasa stirred in, but I love it. And, I didn’t realize how much I missed it until I teared up a little when the waiter put it in front of me. I was happy to see a full menu including some changes, including a couple new beers. I was again a little emotional because the already have their Oktoberfest beer on tap and I think it’s pretty clear there will be no Oktoberfest this year.

A friend who is in my Covid bubble joined me. Despite my general emotion sensitivity, we ate and drank and chatted like we didn’t have a care in the world.

The Week in Doctor’s Appointments: Two of my Mom’s routine doctors visits from the spring were pushed back to this week, the first time she’s been to a doctor since March. The protocols in the doctor’s office, and in the Hospital Medical Center take a minute to get used to (like everywhere else), but it seems more important here than, say, TJ Maxx. At the hospital, the entire bustling lobby has been reduced to a folding table where everyone checks in. At both offices, each person, including me, was asked the traditional Covid questions (Are you experiencing a fever or cough?) and our our temperatures were taken. We each got a sticker with our temperature on it to wear while we were in the building. It was nice to be included even though I was just an onlooker! Worst part, the hospital lobby removed the cafe. I was really counting on the morning coffee.

The Week in Pandemic Splurge: I got my second haircut of the pandemic era this week and both he and my guy, and the entire salon, seemed way less on edge that my first cut back in May when things had just opened. Pandemic protocol has patrons wait outside until it’s their turn, and I used my waiting time to stop into the gift shop next door. It was cute. The owner was super nice. And…I did not need one thing in that store. But some of the same sentimentality that made me tear up at an order of mac and cheese earlier in the week, made me want to help make this little shop succeed. I’ve been in situations where I feel obligated to make a purchase, even though this time was completely self-conflicted, and I always try to make that purchase count by buying something functional. This week, completely out of character, I went frivolous and bought a small wooden puzzle. I’m glad I did. It’s cool.

Not saying how much I spent, but each piece is worth roughly 33 cents. More wild than wise.