What I Learned This Week(s): #172

Monday November 23 – Sunday, December 6

The Week in Skipping: I skipped a week. So here’s two week’s of minutiae.

The Week in Folding: A couple years ago, my Mom got a new bed. Once it was delivered, I didn’t give that bed another thought. A few weeks ago, I bought a new bed and mentioned to my Mom how I needed new sheets. Boy, did she perk up. She walked me back to her bedroom and pulled up the coverlet to reveal very poorly fitting sheets. Turns out, her new mattress was thicker than her old one, so of course the old sheets didn’t fit. My Mom didn’t know there were special sheets for her mattress and she was resigned to waking up each morning wrapped in sheets “like a taco,” her quote.

This week I brought her new sheets, and because I”m going for Daughter of the Year, I washed them first. When I handed them to her all she could talk about was how well I folded the fitted sheet. She said she just bunches hers up. Well, glad to be appreciated!

The Week in Zoom: My Mom had her first Zoom call this week, a cross country gathering of our very small family. We haven’t gotten together in person for years, so Covid actually did our family tree a favor. Once Mom had a glass of wine, she really got into the call. It’s actually fun to watch someone experience technology with awe. It really is magical, especially if you grew up in a totally pre-computer world.

The Week in Science and Comfort Food: Speaking of experiencing the awe of science, I had a coupon on my childhood favorite Kraft Mac and Cheese and it was just the push I needed to relive the food of my youth. If you don’t think the Kraft powder cheese packet and the ensuing mouthfeel isn’t one of the greatest scientific achievements of the 20th century, you haven’t thought things through. I ate the entire box and not one thing about that meal was disappointing except I wish I could have eaten another box.

Everything felt exactly the same despite the modern upgrade to spirals and a pretend health checklist.

The Week in Love and Comfort Food: One of the standard recipes in rotation at my house when I came back (temporarily) as an adult was what we called Wet Chicken Dijon. We called it “wet” because we had two very different Chicken Dijon meals. One was cutlets, “dry” Chicken Dijon which we ate with green beans and rice. Wet Chicken Dijon was cooked in a mushroom sauce and we ate it with mashed potatoes or noodles. The difference was important to say out loud so we had the right expectation when we sat down for dinner.

To make Wet C.D., season some boneless chicken cutlets and saute them til lightly browned (you can dredge them in seasoned flour if a thicker sauce at the end). Remove the chicken and add finely chopped shallots and sliced mushrooms to the pan. Add a little salt and pepper. Cook on high heat until the mushrooms release their water and the pan dries up. Add a cup or so of chicken broth. Scrape up those brown bits. Stir in a little dried thyme. Put the chicken back in the pan, reduce heat and simmer till the chicken is cooked through, 7-10 minutes. Eat it! The sauce is great on almost any carb your heart desires.

Nestled in sauce…1/2 way through the cooking process.

The Week in Covid Black Friday: The holiday shopping season officially kicked off though many shoppers at TJ Maxx have told us all through November they were buying early because they were mailing gifts and needed more lead time. Black Friday, non-Covid, is my absolute favorite day to work in retail. Shoppers know what the day is about and they are happy and enthusiastic to be a part of it. There’s a point in the season where shopper’s and the shopping experience takes a turn, but Black Friday is a delight. This season had some of that charm, but very scaled back. People are just doing their best.

The Week in Covid Small Business Saturday: After working big box retail, I love walking through the little shops of downtown and picking up unique pieces and Small Business Saturday is a fun city event. This year people were out, but the mood was not quite as festive. I walked right past several stores, or stopped in for just a moment before being over whelmed with the number of shoppers. On one hand, I was super glad to see the support, on the other, there’s still a pandemic. I did my Small Business “Saturday” over the next week. Geesh!

The Week in Danger: I did stick with my shopping plan for Artichoke cookware, an independent store in OTR. There were only 4 people in the store when I walked in, but at least 10 when I walked out. Dammit. Small places just don’t have the personnel to have someone stand at the door. I was already involved with the owner talking about my purchase and it would have been awkward to high-tail it outta there. I stayed and did what I came to do.

I was on a mission to purchase a Mandoline slicer. I used to own a mandoline, but while it was sharp, it was difficult to use and I like my fingertips more than thin cut potatoes. Because I’m cooking more, I decided it was time to buy a better mandoline slicer, so I did. It’s funny that knives aren’t called “Knife Slicers” but you know that’s what they do. Mandoline slicers are just upfront about the damage they can cause. Still, my first batch of shaved Brussels sprouts was worth it.

No fingertips were harmed in the taking of this picture.

The Week in Spending It Like I Got It: I’m not much of a shopper for the sake of shopping, but I am trying to do my part in keeping small businesses afloat. To that end, I will probably come out of the Covid era with about 2 dozen more t-shirts than I need. I’m just buying things to be buying them. I’m a bleeding heart shopper.

So, I own a book about Bockfest Posters, and I like it.

Case and point, I stopped into Urban Eden, an Art Store of local artists and retailer of local goods, a place so small, they not only don’t have a website, they don’t even have a Facebook page. Small business, indeed!

As I was looking around and chatting with the owner Julie (we were the only people in the shop), a man came in with a box of books. Turns out, he is the artist for the Bockfest posters. Bockfest is a big deal in my neighborhood so I bought the book. It’s a very pretty, very thin, and somewhat expensive book. Turns out, due to the author’s preference, all the printing was done locally instead of sending it to China, thus, it was more expensive…and I’d like to think, better quality. Glad to see my Sensitive Purchasing supported so many things I believe in.

The Week in Adult Purchases: My first “elder” purchase was a foot massager. If I’m going to be home so damn much, I have time for foot massages now. That is a win in the Covid era.

But I do have to go out every now and then and when I do, I often face one of my arch nemeses, my car tires. I don’t know what it is, but I usually find one or two nails a year, and then every now and then, a tire will randomly lose air. I’m pretty inept at putting air in my tires at those gas station machines, but it’s the 21st century, and there’s a solution. My portable air compressor got it’s first use today. Very exciting, grown up stuff.

That adorable little device brought me from 27 psi to 35 psi. And it brought tears of joy to my eyes.

What I Learned This Week: #171

Monday, November 16 – Sunday, November 22

The Week in Technology: I thought I was looking at my sent email this week because my Mom’s email address was listed. But lo and behold, after 5 years of incubation and cajoling, she replied to one of my emails via email and not, as usual, with a phone call. Granted, she definitely used Google auto fill because my Mom has never said, “Awesome, thanks,” in her life. But it is a start. It brought tears to my eyes!

The Week in Friday Night During a Covid Spike Induced Curfew. During my post dinner walk a woman asked me for money for bus fare or a Milwaukee’s Best beer. I gave her 2 bucks for the bus but decided I wanted to buy her beer, too. We were in front of the mini grocery so why not? No M-beast in the cooler but I bought a 6 of Hudy and took one for myself as a night cap. Sadly, she didn’t know Hudy beer. Her quote was “What is this?” She probably thought I bought her some high end craft beer. If all you drink is beer from the Milwaukee’s best price range, craft beer sucks. No worries for her, though. Hudy is a fine beer in the Milwaukee’s best wheelhouse. Maybe my real good deed for the night is introducing her to a local classic.

The Week in Keepin’ it Simple: I wanted a no fuss dinner on Friday night, something fun like I would get if I was going out. (If I could…sigh). Not sure how I got to Cheeseburger PIzza recipes, but that’s where I landed and that’s what I did. I seasoned up some ground beef and cooked it in a skillet. When it was cooked, I drained it and stirred in some mustard. The oven was heating to 450 as I tore open a Boboli pizza crust. I don’t love these crusts, but they’ll do. The ground beef went on the crust (no sauce), followed by onions, tomatoes, and pickles. Then, I covered it all with American cheese. Into the oven it went. When it came out I drizzled ketchup over it. It looked ridiculous, and it was delicious. And fun. And fuss-less. Perfect Friday night dinner.

The Week in Comfort Food: Kroger got me this week by putting all the Chex cereal on sale and putting in on a big display telling me to make a batch of Chex Mix. My family used to make Chex Mix by the tub full. Back in the day, you had to make it yourself because it wasn’t available pre-packaged. Now that you can buy it, none of us have made it in over 20 years. There is nothing wrong with the packaged version, but the homemade version is an addictive delight.

I noted the recipe on the boxes I was purchasing, but knew I had another “original” version in my recipe collection. Sure enough, I’d cut a recipe off a box in the 1980’s. Chex Mix was created in the 1950’s and the original original recipe is quite simple, so simple in fact, that people started screwing around with it immediately, adding all kinds of flavors and textures. By the time I’d cut out a version, even the cooking method had been updated from baking to microwaving.

My family always went for the baked version and even though it’s not noted on the card, we always added pretzels and cayenne pepper. The reason that the home version is superior to the store version is because of the butter. Baking the mixture in the seasoned butter adds that rich cooked butter taste and mouth feel that the bagged stuff cannot duplicate. Having made the first batch in a long while and distributing it to my snacking family, I decided I better hurry back to Kroger and buy some more cereal while it’s still on sale. We are once again addicted!

The Week in Don’t Mention The War: On part of my walk into work one day this week I was at a pace with a woman walking her pure breed German Shepard. German Shepards are a breed that will look you directly in the eye and hold your gaze, which she did each time we came to a stop at crosswalk. As a single person who is getting zero personal feedback during Covid, it’s nice to get a very direct message, even if it’s from another species: “Lady, I am taking none of your shit today.” #Iwillbehavemyself

The Week in Covid Confinement Part Deux: I’m giving in to the drama. Here are two peanuts performing Waiting for Godot. #pandemicwin

What I Learned This Week: #170

Monday, November 9 – Sunday, November 15

…Including a Friday the 13th where I experienced no bad luck!!!

The Week in Locating Happiness in Life’s Minutiae: This week Covid took quite a leap in case numbers, which led to a steady uptick in the number of deaths. The President will not concede that he lost the election (he has, legitimately). It’s heavy.

This week I didn’t do a thing. I didn’t go anywhere. The week was very reminiscent of the heart of the spring Covid shutdown. Still, some beautiful, warm and sunny fall weather forced its way into my consciousness as did a bunch of little stuff that put together made for a fairly peaceable week, all things considered.

The Week in Food Wins – Part 1: The “house cookie” here in my apartment is Peanut Butter, and back pre-Covid, where there was a possibility people would drop over to my place, I always had some in the freezer. I considered it practice for my old, crazy aunt years, which I hope to live long enough to see. Anyway, it’s been a while since I made a batch, and this week I was in the mood. Maybe me being prepared for guests will help speed this Covid thing along. That’s how it works, right?!?! Plus, there’s a reason these are the house cookies…delicious!

The Week in Food Wins – Part 2: I really worked the comfort angle of food this week and headed over to Court Street Lobster bar to get a cup of their Lobster Mac and Cheese. My childhood was steeped in Kraft Macaroni n’ Cheese in the blue box. I still love that, but upscale Mac n’ Cheese speaks to my food snob heart. Court Street’s take sinks small pieces of lobster into the gooey, beautiful pasta which is an appropriate thing to do with seafood in the Midwest where the nearest ocean is hundreds of miles away. Still good though. The mac n cheese made for a small, upscale, yet simple dinner. That hint of seafood even allowed me to dream of maybe going to the beach for real seafood sometime soon. Plus, carbs are good when I’m nesting.

The Week in Dog Therapy: Three times this week, three different dogs on walks with three different owners slowed down as we passed each other on the sidewalk. Each dog seemed to make it a point to walk toward me and “ask” to be petted. They got right up to me and were all like, “I’m a dog. Wanna pat my head? You should pat my head. I’m a dog.” I got it. Those dogs were right. I did want to I pat their goofy dog heads. Who’s a good dog?

The Week in Jail Messages: I walk by the jail to get to work, and am always taken by the messages people leave on the sidewalk for the men in the cells above to read. There are messages of love, and hate, and domestic business that needs to be handled. This week, one of the messages was about how put out the writer was that they had to spend $5 on chalk to communicate. That’s a fight when the dude gets out.

You owe me, Man!

The Week in Facing Commitment: I’m a relationship commitment-phobe, but that phobia often drifts into other aspects of my life. For example, I don’t like to do the same things, or go to the same places over and over. I don’t watch a lot of TV, in part because I although I may want to watch every episode of something I tend to lose interest. Same with books. While the trend recently has been to read book series, I am a one-off reader. I even shy away from reading multiple stand-along books from the same author. That’s a personal quirk that someday a therapist can unravel, but it never caused me any social harm until years ago when I read the first Harry Potter novel, and never picked up another other.

Like eating one potato chip, my friends who read and loved the series found this fact about me unfathomable. It’s not like I didn’t like the book, I did. I liked it a lot. So, in this next phase of Covid, I’m gonna read the whole batch. I re-read book one this week and book 2 is downloaded on my Kindle. I can do it! Wish me luck on my commitment endeavor. I’ll probably be so good at commitment that when I’m finished with the last book that I’ll up and get married. (Probably not. My commitment quota should be used up by book 7.)

The Week in Simple Amusement:

This simple, real life example of bike lock failure.

The Week in Simple: Many times on my walks I run into an older, homeless man who makes his base at the Salem United Church of Christ. He is a quiet, peaceable man, who huddles in his dirty overcoat, mostly sticking to breaks in walls, or spaces by stairs where tenant would place their trash cans. He looks as if he’s trying to disappear. Often I see him sitting with his arms raised appearing to be talking to God. And maybe he is. If I catch his eyes as a pass him while he is at rest, he always boughs and head, makes the sign of the cross and then looks up, offering, I’d like to think, a prayer on my behalf. If I pass him walking on the sidewalk, he smiles big and says “Bless you Star.” I’m sure that’s what he says to anyone he speaks to. Simple truth. It’s tough out there. We’re gonna make it.

What I Learned This Week: #169

Monday, November 2 – Sunday, November 8

The Week in Voting: Election Day was on Tuesday in our house divided. We voted. Then we waited.

The Week in a Projected Winner: When the math got to a tipping point, the media called the election for Mr. Biden. That didn’t sit well with the Trumpers who have reason, so many reasons, why the election was rigged. It wasn’t. The decline of America continues.

And honestly, I need a minute here to catch my breath. See ya’ next week.

What I Learned This Week: #168

Monday, October 26 – Sunday, November 1

The Week in Halloween at the Office: Halloween is an easy, and practically controversial-free, holiday to celebrate at work. My office took note and we had ourselves a decorating contest. It was supposed to be a door decorating contest, but some of us don’t have doors. Like me. But I do have this sweet drawer at the top of my legal file cabinet. A trip to the dollar store and a quick grab of some weird stuff around my apartment and I’ve got a winning entry. Really though, I just hope the break room is full of reject candy on Monday morning. Eating the odds and ends from trick or treat bags is my kind of Halloween work celebration.

Secret Drawer

The Week In Quirks: My favorite bagels are Marx Bagels, a Cincinnati tradition for years, and one of the few kosher restaurants in the city. Their bagels are traditional with a significant crust and a soft inside. These are dramatically different than what chain restaurants sell as “bagels.” I (sort of) hate to be a snob, but Panera “bagels” are just big buns. Big buns are fine, but they aren’t bagels. Anyway, Marx bagels are delicious and chewy and satisfying. And, since I bought some this week, this brings me to one of my quirks, something that I rarely do in public, but will almost always do if I am eating a bagel at home…I cut them horizontally in thirds instead of in half. This is a neat trick to prolong the bagel eating experience and maximize the amount of cream cheese I can politely shove down my gullet, and it’s all mine.

The Week in Just a Day: Part of the psychology of living through these trying times, for me, had been moving from thinking about how things used to be to consciously focusing on how things are. This isn’t easy. Every time I do or don’t do something, my brain compares it to pre-covid, or pre-rise of the MAGA anger. I am getting better and on Halloween, I had, well, just a day. I worked at my part-time job, I got a hair cut (with a mask in a nearly empty salon), and I got curbside lo mien for me, and one to drop of for my Mom for her dinner (as a vie for daughter of the year). Speaking of vying for daughter of the year, nearly every Saturday I go to Japp’s and get a take out Manhattan to take to my Mom on Sunday. I usually don’t have a drink myself, because I’m trying not to linger in public spaces. But this week, Japp’s was very empty, so I set myself down and had a drink. I was home by 6:30, ate lo mien, read for a while, and went to bed. It was a just a day, but a pleasant one. I’m at peace with that.

What we have here is a book, and a cocktail, and some celebratory candy corn. In the bag is a to-go Manhattan. Gettin’ done, Covid style.

The Week in Art: On the last Friday of every month the Pendleton Art Center opens most of the artist studios to the public and, pre-Covid, it was a very busy evening with artists providing wine and snacks as guests perused and purchased. The Center is housed in a great old, eight story building with an elevator that is run by an operator who opens and closes the gate and tries to “land” the elevator car perfectly in line with the floor. The art is mostly paintings and photography with some other mediums mixed in.

In Covid, Final Friday wasn’t busy and I walked through the entire building looking to find a big piece to hang above my bed. The four I picked are very, very different from each other, which suggests to me both that I am very open to artistic styles, and that I am really going to have to be patient in choosing the right art for me. Or, I ‘m going to go broke buying art!

The Week in Spices: When this happens…

It can only mean one thing…

It means I have to lay out all my spices in roughly alphabetical order or by type so I can place a proper order with Penzey’s spices. I do this because I once had a tragic overload of oregano, parsley, and basil. I just kept ordering them thinking I needed them when I really didn’t. Looking at everything helps, though I still have a tragic addiction to Italian seasoning. What led me to tonight’s order was that I’m almost out of cumin and chili powder and it is chili season. The order is placed and I’m ready for winter cooking.

What I Learned This Week: #167

Monday, October 19 – Sunday, October 25

The Week in Trending: I have been long past due to replace my mattress and with the Covid Winter coming, I finally pulled the trigger and bought a new bed. To keep with modern times, I shopped exclusively on line, researched so many products, and, predictably, put up with my social media being flooded by bed and mattress ads. The internet knows what I need.

After the emotional rush of shopping and dread of being tracked by Facebook, I decided, in a very modern way, to ditch the mattress/box spring set up and go for a foam mattress and a platform bed. Platform bed/mattress combos are nothing more than the suped-up cousins of futons, but with better design. The bed comes as a kit that is easy to put together because it is designed to be put together by people who don’t know shit about building things. The bed kit, like so much modern furniture comes with it’s own tools…a wrench that specifically fits the nuts and a screwdriver with a head that specifically fits the screws. I always think about going to garage sales and there would be a table of “Dad’s old tools,” objects that felt substantial in my hands. When this generation passes, we will have boxes of single use, shoddy tools that we couldn’t possibly throw away in case we needed them again. For many, these may be the only tools they have besides, maybe, a steak knife.

The mattress comes compressed in a mattress sized food-saver package but when you cut the seal and it starts to become a full-sized mattress, it is a million times more satisfying than opening any air sealed food product. Putting together the bed and unfurling the mattress are fairly simple tasks. Lugging the packaging to the dumpster was my real calorie burner.

The bed is great. Again, very modern. I quickly learned that simple store bough sheets are generally cheap and shoddily sewn and don’t fit the mattress. Awful. Sheets are supposed to be the east part about a new bed. Oh well. Bad sheets or not, I’m ready to nest.

The Week in Trendy, but Meh: My co-worker and I walked to the store at lunch where she purchased some kombucha and I must have been transparent enough in my disdain for the drink that she called me out and said I had a bad attitude. Given the fact that I’d never tried kombucha, she may have had a point. Plus, she has mad Jewish Mother guilt skills, so I bought a bottle.

I found it to be meh, at best. It tasted about the same as the fizzy peroxide my dentist makes me rinse with. I just think kombucha is over-priced, trendy nonsense. I still think it after trying it, and it cost me $3.50…That’s $3.50 that could have bought me any number of great tasting drinks.

The week in harmony: Exciting Saturday night finishing up a jigsaw puzzle! This was a tough one with repeating images and super sneaky cuts. The “extra” end pieces I put aside on day one, actually do belong. Awww. It’s beautiful when all the prices come together. #strainingforametaphor

More edge than I knew what to do with.
The “ends” come together in the end.

The Week in Dining: I sat at the bar for dinner at one of my favorite spots, Boomtown Biscuits, and did so with Covid Era pacing. Though I didn’t shove my dinner down my gullet, my time before eating (where I ordered quickly) and after eating (where I ordered my second beer for take out ) was rushed. There were two other people sitting at the bar and we all got a kick out of chatting with one another. Turns out, when you hardly see and talk to new people, when you finally do, they seem extra charming, funny, and smart. I hope I came off the same to them.

What I Learned This Week: #166

Monday, October 12 – Sunday, October, 18

The Week in Waking Up: On Monday I cooked up some link sausages for breakfast. The butcher wrote “Tiny Links” on the package which I found funny. Not “breakfast saus” or “break saus” or some kind of abbreviated identifier, just Tiny Links.

I don’t do a breakfast meat often during the week, and when I do I tend to head to bacon or goetta. For some reason, I associate breakfast links with eating breakfast at a restaurant.

Anyway, as the sausage heated up in the pan, it kept getting louder and louder. Like, I looked over at it from where I was across the kitchen to see if something was wrong. I expected to see sausages trying to jump out of the pan. There was no porcine unrest, but I can’t have that kind of noise first thing in the morning. I’m back to bacon in the house and letting short order cooks take care of my Tiny Link cravings.

Tiny links sizzlin’ and shouting to wake me up in the morning.

The Week in Getting Stones, Not Stoned: Sweet Sistah Splash is a new age/progressive/community centered store that makes the neighborhood more interesting. They have meditation and yoga classes, a “library” where people can sit (on folding chairs) and read from the small selection of books they keep on hand, or you can buy a book for under 5 bucks. They sell tea, and jewelry and spiritual stones, or crystals…I don’t actually know if there is a difference.

What I do know is I was gifted a geode this week and the very next day, for the first time in the dozens and dozens of times I’ve walked past Sweet Sistah Splash, the manager met me on the stoop and beckoned me inside. The weirdness of being gifted a geode must have been on my mind because the first thing my eye traveled to was the table of stones/crystals. She told me some stuff about them that I immediately forgot. But what stuck was this is a neighborhood business that I need to support. In the Covid Era I find myself buying a lot of stuff I don’t need to help businesses out. And that’s why I am now the proud, if somewhat unsure owner of Sodalite (communication, harmony, and trust) and Black Obsidian (self-reflecting, protection, and healing). So far I’m finding their only power is they make me carry them around.

Shiny rocks / Spiritual chunks of the earth

The Week in Prime Day: In addition to supporting the little guys, sometimes I do lean on the ease and efficiency of Amazon. Prime Day happened this week and, though I didn’t buy much (I don’t need much) I used the opportunity to buy some very, very adult items. I do not mean sexy items, I mean adult items. I bought a new soup spoon and a nice kitchen knife. Really thrilling purchases, no? I bought a glass pitcher to replace my ratty, stained plastic one I’ve been using for years. And, if the list wasn’t mundane enough, I picked up a new fangled toilet brush. The cleaning part is made of easily cleanable silicone. Silicone, can you believe it?!? Folks, I mean to tell you, the toilet brush alone made me irrationally happy. If we do have a second lock down in the Covid Era, I will celebrate how much of an adult I am by trying to stay sober enough not to confuse the new spoon with the new toilet brush.

Modern toilet brush! Count me in.

The Week in a Beefeater Martini, with Three Olives, Stirred, Not Shaken: Possibly my favorite cocktail is the aforementioned Beefeater Martini, but it is a drink I very seldom have. At home, I rarely buy gin, and out a lot of bars don’t have Beefeater or inspire confidence that they know how to make a proper martini even if they have the right ingredients. But I know what I like and I know the bartenders at Japp’s can make my gin dreams come true. Oh, and the bit about stirred, not shaken…I really don’t know if I’d know the difference, but the bartenders at Japp’s stir. That’s good enough for me.

Martini

The Week in Getting Paid For Doing My Chores: I haven’t gotten paid for doing chores since I was a kid. Today though, I got a treat. I was drearily cleaning the kitchen and finished up with a trip to the dumpster. Someone else must have been cleaning house too because next to the dumpster was an open box of books. I went through them and came away with Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch. How about that?