CORONAVIRUS DIARY: May 1, 2021

May 1, 2021

The End.

I wish it really were the end, but it is the end of my Coronavirus Diary. Fourteen months of fear and sickness and political shenanigans. I’m vaccinated, and I’m done.

Remember when it was impossible to buy toilet paper? Paper towels? Hand sanitizer? Disinfectant wipes? When the frozen food aisle was decimated? When bread was a treasure to be found? I do.

Remember when the (previous) president told us to drink bleach? To inject disinfectant? That it would be gone by Easter 2020? That the flu killed more people? Several news organizations put together the biggest lies about the pandemic, directly from the president’s mouth/Twitter account. These are a few that really pissed me off:

“It’s going to disappear. One day it’s like a miracle – it will disappear” (not so much)

“Anyone who wants a test can get one” (again, not so much until lately)

“I don’t think it’s hoarding, I think it’s maybe worse than hoarding.” (on hospitals needing PPE and respirators)

“The US was the ‘most prepared country in the world'” (maybe if you were living under a rock for the past year you would agree with this)

If I sound angry, it’s only because I am. Over half a million Americans are dead, over 3 million dead worldwide. Millions more Americans refuse to get the vaccine, ensuring that herd immunity will not happen. I personally only know one person who said they were not getting the vaccine, and I am very happy that she recently changed her mind. On the other hand, seeing Darwinism in action should be interesting. The anti-vaxxers and the people who refuse to wear masks? I hope they survive.

During the pandemic, I baked. A lot. I gained a ton of weight from all the baking and cooking and not moving. I still have my sourdough starter even though I decided I don’t like sourdough bread anymore, but I just can’t bring myself to kill it. Privileged white lady that I am, I was able to use my stimulus money to buy new kitchen appliances, and I donated some money as well. It was my greatest pleasure to massively over tip my delivery people, from Instacart to GrubHub.

I was basically a hermit for the pandemic. I rarely shopped in person. I only left my house for work two mornings a week, and for the most important doctor and dentist appointments. I cooked all our meals until fairly recently, when we started getting takeout on occasion. I’ve been masked anytime I left my house or when I had a delivery. I utilized curbside pickup whenever possible – thanks, Target! I haven’t set foot in a Target for well over a year. Remarkable to think about.

My son and daughter-in-law bought their first home and had a baby. They’ve only been married two years this June, but being cooped up 24/7 for over a year is like marriage on steroids. It either exacerbates any issues, or in their case, brought them even closer.

Interestingly, at the beginning of the pandemic there was an uptick in divorces: “By April, the interest in divorce had already increased by 34% in the US, with newer couples being the most likely to file for divorce. In fact, a full 20% of couples who had been married for five months or less sought divorce during this time period” (The National Law Review.)

The NY Times reports, “Some divorce lawyers and relationship experts said that the uncertainty of the pandemic and financial concerns are two reasons couples are staying together.” Yes, the divorce rate is now lower. According to the Institute for Family Studies, “the U.S. divorce rate has hit a 50-year low” and that was in 2019. The IFS is a conservative think tank whose goal is to strengthen family and marriage, so this statistic makes them look like they are reaching their goal. While I am no expert on statistics, there is an old expression that I learned in college – statistics don’t lie, but statisticians do. So while I am sure that all the news reports of the lowering divorce rate are probably true, I’m not really buying the 50 year low.

My husband and I qualified for the Moderna vaccine given by Publix because we paid our doctor to fill out the form stating we are medically vulnerable, which we both are. The first vaccine went off without a hitch. We both had sore arms for a few days but that was it. The second vaccine was a bit more difficult. My husband was just super tired for a day or so. He napped, and was fine. On the other hand, the next morning I went to work thinking I was fine, just a bit tired. By 10:00 I was feeling like crap. My body ached everywhere, and I started getting the chills. My boss offered to come in early so I could go home, but I stuck it out for the last hour. I drove home with the heat blasting in my car and shivered the whole way. I got home, put on my warmest pajamas and crawled into bed. My husband got me a couple of blankets, which helped, and I fell asleep. I slept off and on for 24 hours. The chills went away after the first day, and the exhaustion took another day. I started feeling somewhat normal two days after the vaccine, so I decided to take a shower and change the bedding. But by the time I got out of the shower, I was exhausted and had to lay down again. Crazy tired. I sort of dragged my butt for another day but then I was fine. And you know what? WORTH IT! I am finally starting to feel like life is going to get somewhat back to normal.

Two weeks after my vaccine, I made a hair appointment and a manicure/pedicure appointment. I hadn’t been to either shop since February, 2020. I was nervous about it, but double masked and hoped for the best. I’ve been coloring my hair myself because I can’t stand the gray, but it was a real pleasure to get it done professionally again. And to get it cut! And styled! My hands have been a mess. I loved the Color Street stick on polish, it was easy for me to do, but I hate having short nails. A pedicure seems like pure luxury at this point.

I am so happy to look like me again! It’s the little things in life that tend to make me the happiest. Meeting my vaccinated friends that I haven’t seen for over a year for coffee in the park. For dinner outside (I’m not ready to eat inside a restaurant yet.) I would love to have friends over for dinner, maybe on the patio?

Two and a half weeks after our 2nd vaccine, my husband and I went to Jeep Beach in Daytona Beach. We’ve gone every year for the last 6-7 years, except of course, last year. I must admit I was expecting to see most people at the event not wearing masks. But we only saw a few people anywhere in Daytona wearing masks. That was sort of shocking to me. I complain about how some people don’t wear masks where I live, but this was like there was no pandemic. Some old lady even pointed at us and told her husband, look, they are wearing masks. We were the freaks for sure.

We had a reservation at a beautiful hotel on the beach. The Jeep Beach event is held at the Daytona Speedway, so it’s all outdoors. There are lots of restaurants with outdoor seating, especially on the beach, but we didn’t have any luck getting in to one. We ended up getting take out and eating all our meals on our balcony. The view was spectacular! It was our first vacation in over a year, and all two and a half days were perfect.

This past year taught me a few things. My husband is the best man I know. My children are smart and thoughtful and compassionate. Depression runs in my family, and while I don’t think I was depressed, I definitely suffered from what I was calling ennui. Then the NY Times told me it is actually called languishing.

Languishing is a sense of stagnation and emptiness. It feels as if you’re muddling through your days, looking at your life through a foggy windshield. And it might be the dominant emotion of 2021.

That about summed it up for me. I have also spent the last 14 months feeling somewhat agoraphobic, and I think that is going to take some time to get over. I’ve been scared of getting Covid. Even worse, scared that my husband would get it or one of my kids. Scared of leaving my house. Scared of all the idiots I see running around without masks. But my family is all vaccinated now, and that feels like the beginning of the end. Thank God.

As always, thanks for reading and stay safe!


CORONAVIRUS DIARY: April 1, 2021

April 1, 2021

No April Fool’s Day here…

Meet Jonah Arlo Alesi, my first grandchild! Today was Jonah’s due date, but as my daughter-in-law put it, “Our April Fools baby played the ultimate prank and arrived a month early!” Yes, Jonah arrived 4 weeks early, all 5 pounds, 5 oz. of him. He hung around the hospital for a bit, but came home in time for his grandparents to visit. He is the first grandchild on both sides, and we are all beyond thrilled!

Needless to say my time and attention has been focused elsewhere these days, but I will be back here posting soon enough. I just looked at my list and I have over 20 books to review! I have definitely been slacking. So for a sneak preview, here are some thoughts on the historical romances I’ve read lately.

I’ll start with Ten Things I Hate About the Duke by Loretta Chase, the second entry in the Difficult Dukes series, which I loved – Chase is always a sure thing for me, as is Lorraine Heath. Heath’s latest, Scoundrel of My Heart, is the first book of a new series, Once Upon a Dukedom, and was a fast, sexy read. I am looking forward to the next book.

The Worst Duke in the World by Lisa Berne, is book 5 of the Penhallow Dynasty and it was a really fun read. How can you not like a book that features a loveable pig named Duchess? I didn’t love the only other book I’d read by this author, but this one will lead me to read more Berne for sure.

Never Kiss a Duke is the first book of a new series, Hazards of Dukes, by Megan Frampton, another must read author for me. She always tells a good story, and I love her sense of humor. Eva Leigh has the third book in her Union of the Rakes series, Waiting for a Scot Like You, and it was terrific! She’s another author that I never miss.

One of my long time favorites, Eloisa James, has a new addition to her Wildes of Lindow Castle series, Wilde Child, that was a total delight, especially if you are a fan of Shakespeare. When she isn’t writing bestselling historical romances (over 7,000,000 in print!), James is a Shakespeare professor at Fordam University, and that knowledge comes into play here, with fascinating results. I am trusting that her explanation of why actors call Macbeth the “Scottish play” and never say the name in the theater is true and not what I’d heard before. Worth the read for that tidbit alone!

A new-to-me author, Amalie Howard, wrote The Rakehell of Roth, the second book of the Regency Rogues series, but I hadn’t read the first book. No matter, this was an enjoyable read – enough that I am going to find the first book to read. Plus I loved the oh-so-purple cover! Another new author for me was Eva Devon, and I loved The Spinster and the Rake, the first book of her Never a Wallflower series, which the publisher describes as “blend of My Fair Lady meets Pride and Prejudice with a twist!” That worked for me!

I am also extremely grateful that my husband and I got our first Covid Vaccines. We are due for the second one next week. It hasn’t been easy in Florida with a governor who is most concerned with his big donors and not at all concerned with keeping everyone or anyone else alive or safe. He gave exclusive vaccine rights to Publix after a quarter of a million donation from Publix. Communities where large donations were made got pushed to the head of the line for vaccines. Fun times in Florida.

Florida officials call for FBI to investigate governor Ron DeSantis ‘for linking vaccines to donations’

The announcement that the state is partnering with Publix on vaccination sites comes a month after the supermarket chain made four $25K donations to governor’s political committee.

Back to my sweet grandson – I miss him and my son and daughter-in-law terribly. Jonah is changing so much day to day! Here are a few of my favorite pictures.

As always, thanks for reading and stay safe!


CORONAVIRUS DIARY: March 1, 2021

March 1, 2021

First Anniversary: Quarantined 3/19/2020

It’s just about a year ago that I woke up with a scratchy throat and thought, I know it’s allergies but what if it’s Covid? I decided to protect my co-workers and stay home. Little did I know I wouldn’t leave my house again for months. And when I did leave, it was very, very scary.

I have been frightened of leaving my house since then, but life goes on and I had no choice. I went back to work for the fall semester. I wasn’t thrilled about it, but I like to eat so money is a necessity, not to mention health insurance. Fortunately, I have the most incredible manager. She understood everyone’s situation and fears and worked with all of us to keep us safe and keep the library open. I was asked to go in two mornings a week, and that felt very doable to me.

Another great perk of my job is that there is a Covid testing site on campus. I can make an appointment and get tested as often as I like. At first, I was going every couple of weeks, but that soon trickled down to once a month and now I haven’t gone since 2020. I keep the hell away from people, double mask, wear gloves when it makes me feel safer, and wash my hands or use hand sanitizer several times a day. And moisturize my poor hands every single time I wash.

I’ve been using Kiehl’s Delux Hand and Body Lotion in Coriander scent for over twenty years. It doesn’t smell like coriander (which is cilantro!) but it has a faint, delicious scent that I love. I started using it when I worked for Borders Books because working with books is very drying to your hands. A co-worker recommended it to me (thanks, Oriana!) and I haven’t stopped using it since. It is remarkable in that I can put it on my hands and I don’t have to wait before going back to work. It doesn’t leave any residual greasiness. Best of all, despite all the handwashing and sanitizing, my hands are soft. I keep a bottle in my desk at work, and by the kitchen and bathroom sinks at home. It is not cheap, but as another brand likes to say, I’m worth it! The first time I bought it I paid $13 for it. It has almost doubled in price since then. I don’t think I’ve seen a sale on it (maybe Macy’s might honor their sales or coupons on it, or it might be one of the brands in the fine print that don’t ever get discounted.) On the bright side, I generally only buy one bottle every 8 months or so, it lasts a long time.

I am reading all sorts of things now. I still love my happily ever afters, but with all the changes in this country since the beginning of 2021, I can handle the darker stuff again. I will be posting more reviews shortly. Hope you caught my review of Kristen Hannah’s latest blockbuster, The Four Winds. If you need a book for your book group, look no further. It was one of the saddest books I’ve read in a while, yet I loved it. I just finished The Vineyard at Painted Moon by Susan Mallery, more women’s fiction than romance and an excellent read. She even offers some wine pairing tips and a recipe at the end of the book. I promise to post a review this week. I also read a sort of natural disaster thriller from Bridget Foley, Just Get Home. It’s not due out until April 13th, but you can preorder if you’re so inclined. Or reserve it at your library. It’s based on the experiences of two women who get caught out when “the big one”, a massive earthquake, hits Los Angeles. It’s one of those books that you just can’t put down.

My husband and I have finally caught up on the Great British Baking Show. We finished the 2020 season last night, and it was a bittersweet moment. That show has been my happy place for an hour or two each night for the past few weeks. I know it’s called the British Bakeoff in the UK, and I understand why (Pillsbury!), but it still amazes me that the openings always have the correct title. Occasionally a participant says something about the Bakeoff, but I guess Pillsbury can’t do anything about that! We also watched the new remake of All Creatures Great and Small, and it was excellent. If you have access to PBS, I highly recommend it. I loved the books when I was a kid and enjoyed the first go round of the BBC television show, but this, I think, is better (at least in my mind it is.) I loved it so much got the audiobook read by the star, Nicholas Ralph. It is his first TV role! He was terrific.

I haven’t had a haircut in over a year, or a manicure or pedicure, which makes me sad. My nails are an abomination. I’ve gained way more weight than I should have, and it is a daily struggle to attempt any sort of diet. My best efforts are to try and skip the junk food and just eat smaller portions. Some days are easier than others. I still love to cook and bake but I have cut back on the baking at least.

As always, thanks for reading and stay safe!


CORONAVIRUS DIARY: February 1, 2021

February 1, 2021

Tomorrow is Groundhog’s Day

At my house, in Florida, we celebrate the movie

Bill Murray, Andie McDowell, and of course, the groundhog. We are having winter-ish weather here this week. It’s 68° right now and going up to the low 70’s. But there is a cold front coming through. It started raining, and tomorrow and Wednesday are going to be in the low 40’s, with wind chill it will feel like the 30’s. On the two days I have to leave my house and go to work! I will be layering up and happy to wear my Ugg boots. I actually have quite a few pairs of boots now. I’ve been collecting them over the past several winters. Why not, it’s nice to switch things up now and then.

I am not complaining, trust me! Not with this big blizzard that is expected to hit New York City today. My mishpocheh (my son’s in-laws) already have had a lot of snow in Chicago: Chicago’s O’Hare Airport Records Largest Snowfall Since 2015.

<> on January 7, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois.

My son and daughter-in-law are in Brooklyn, where they are awaiting this: Mayor de Blasio declares state of emergency for worst blizzard in five years; three waves of snow predicted to dump 24 inches of snow on NYC which, as my friend Lynne who lives in Maine pointed out, they are not really prepared for. I found this little tidbit: The Blizzard of 1888: The biggest snowstorm to ever hit NYC where they got 22 inches (56 cm) in New York City. I am going to hope for the best!

In other news, the pandemic rages on, especially in South Florida. I have no idea when my husband and I will be eligible for the vaccine, but things are a real mess down here. The restaurants are packed with very few masks in sight. Driving around town, you would never know there was a pandemic. Our Republican led city and state means we are in deep trouble. The local hospitals and ICUs are full. I am putting all my faith in President Biden and the new administration to help. The new federal mask laws are definitely helpful, if they are enforced. Apparently our local law enforcement doesn’t enforce mask laws so I’ll be hibernating for a lot longer.

If you are a fan of the Groundhog Day movie, check out Palm Springs on Hulu, with Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti. A similar premise but sorry, not as good. But a fun film nonetheless.

With all this horrible weather, let’s hope the groundhog does what he’s supposed to do and ends this winter early.

I am way behind on posting reviews, so please forgive me. I have been struck with a severe case of ennui. I’m working on it as best as I can.

As always, thanks for reading and stay safe!


CORONAVIRUS DIARY: January 1, 2021

January 1, 2021

Happy New Year!

The day I’ve been waiting for. A fresh start. 2020 in the rearview.

Just a short post today. 2020 has been the longest year I’ve ever lived through. I am done talking about 2020. Today I want to appreciate everything I have and look forward to the new year.

I have it good. I have my health (for the most part), a good marriage, healthy children, a roof over my head, plenty to eat. I have a job that I love. I have health insurance. I have a sweet, loving cat. I have a few good friends. I know I am privileged as fuck and I truly appreciate it. Trust me, it was a long, hard road to get here, and for sure, it hasn’t always been that way. But I have to say, even when we were dead broke, and there were many lean years, I’ve generally been pretty happy. I have a husband who loves me who I adore, beautiful, smart, loving children, and that has always been enough to keep me going.

I want to thank you all, my readers, for coming back, especially those of you who share with me. I love getting your comments and emails and yes, book recommendations! I wish you all a year of good health, joy, peace, and love. And of course, a year of good reading!


CORONAVIRUS DIARY: December 24, 2020

December 24, 2020

Christmas Eve

It finally feels like we may be turning that promised corner soon – not quite yet, but I can see the corner now. It’s called Vaccines Available Now. For some people. In Florida, I am pretty much at the back of the line. We have so many seniors living in nursing facilities and our idiot governor doesn’t seem to think we actually need to do anything about this pandemic and we are not getting anywhere near enough vaccines. And so far he’s just out and out lied about who is getting the vaccines; the vast majority have gone to people under the age of 55.

Despite that moron and the bigger moron in the White House, I am beginning to feel hopeful. The grownups will be back in power in less than a month and I can’t wait. No more conspiracy theories and/or pseudo science coming from the big baby in chief. No more Twitter tantrums. Well, there probably will be more but he won’t be president so I don’t have to hear about it. In my dreams, I don’t have to hear about it. He’ll be under regular person rules on Twitter, no more presidential pardons. In theory. We’ll see.

We don’t really celebrate Christmas at my house. I’m Jewish, my children were brought up Jewish, and my husband is an atheist. He was brought up with Christmas but not with religion, if that makes sense. The only time his family went to church was for his baptism. His family all celebrate Christmas but I don’t know if church is involved in any of their celebrations. My sister-in-law in California (Hi Anita! Merry Christmas!) sent us a beautiful card and a Christmas ornament. It is hanging on the menorah for lack of a better place for it. She said she felt like our Aunt Jean, who recently passed away, was telling her to get it for us. I can’t argue with that! It will always be special in my heart.

What we do at my house is eat like we celebrate Christmas. On Christmas Eve, we do the Italian version with seven fishes – although this year I think we are only doing four or five, but who’s counting. On Christmas day, I wanted to make a standing rib roast. We were in Costco, but all they have were really large ones. Whole Foods had them on sale for $10.99 a pound, so I ordered one along with some groceries. The way they had it to order was odd, though. Check this out.

Bone In Beef Standing Rib Roast

4.3 out of 5 stars 49 ratings 


Price:$13.99/pound
Price:$10.99/pound
You Save:$3.00/pound (21%)

The price of the item is based on weight.

About this item

  • The ultimate roast — cut to order and sure to impress with outstanding flavor. Animal Welfare Certified.
  • From cattle raised with no added growth hormones and no antibiotics, ever.
  • Each rib weighs between 1.5-2 lbs. Minimum order is 2 ribs. A whole roast consists of 7 ribs.
  • Reserve by the rib, sold by the lb.

That is what it says on the product page. But this is how you order:

There is no way to order by the rib, you can only order by the pound in two-pound increments. So it looks like I’m ordering two items. And guess what they delivered? I got two beautiful bone-in ribeye steaks. But that wasn’t what I wanted. Who makes steak for Christmas? Well, maybe some people do, what do I know. So I contacted customer support at Amazon/Whole Foods. I told them what happened, I copied and pasted the page just like I did above. I explained exactly what I wanted and they said, no problem, will you accept delivery between 9:00-11:00 pm. I said sure. At 10:50, they dropped off a bag at my front door with, you guessed it, two more two-pound ribeye steaks. Now I had four of these monsters and let me tell you with the upcoming holiday and my fear of food shopping more than twice a month, my refrigerators (I have two!) are packed full. And the freezers are even worse. Talk about first world problems. I know I shouldn’t complain, I am so lucky in a lot of ways, and believe me, I appreciate that. Yet…

I got back on the chat with customer care, and they told me they were sending my complaints up the chain to their fulfillment team or something and offered me a refund. So that was nice, but I still wanted the roast. I now have four enormous steaks that I guess we’ll eat eventually??? There are only three of us, I usually make a one-pound steak and have leftovers so I don’t know what I’m going to do with so much red meat. Not to mention it makes my husband’s blood sugar spike for some reason, so we don’t eat it that often. Hopefully, I’ll figure out a way to get it into the freezer sooner rather than later.

My husband suggested I somehow sew them together but I thought about it and remembered my friend Nora (Hi Nora! Merry Christmas!) had posted something on Facebook about Publix having standing rib roasts on sale. I checked and they were only $5.99 a pound, so about half the price of Whole Foods. Of course, if I had InstaCart deliver it, it would probably end up costing more than Whole Foods. My husband was planning on going to the Publix pharmacy the next day to get his first shingles vaccine, so I went with him and they had beautiful standing rib roasts that they bone, and then tie the bones back on so you get all the flavor from the bones but it is easier to slice. Christmas dinner is on! I’m going to make Ina Garten’s popovers (tip: make the batter in the blender!) and probably some green beans. Maybe a tiramisu for dessert? I’ll see how ambitious I’m feeling, although I can make that a couple of days in advance, like maybe when I’m done writing this blog post.

A couple of nights ago my husband asked if we could have one of those beautiful ribeyes for dinner. We pulled out the sous vide and two hours later, plopped that monster on the grill. It was a fantastic steak, probably one of the best we’ve ever had at home. So maybe worth all the aggravation? Larry thinks so. That’s more red meat than we usually eat in six months though.

Another Christmas tradition we have is my daughter and I make Christmas cookies. Well, usually we make Hanukkah cookies but I couldn’t find the cookie cutters. So Christmas it was. I have to say I missed my daughter-in-law, she was here last December and helped us decorate the cookies so it was a little bit bittersweet. After I’d rolled out the dough twice, I took all the scraps and rolled them into a circle and just cut them into triangles to use up the rest of the dough. Ariel took one look and asked if those were pizza cookies, so yes, that’s what they ended up looking like!

When I say we made the cookies, I mean I make the cookie dough, roll it out and cut it, bake the cookies and make the icing. Ariel helps decorate, and she is an amazing artist. I had tried one giant snowflake but it broke apart as it landed on the cookie sheet. She took that broken snowflake and turned it into this creature!

Covid-19 is still raging here in Florida, and I know lots of people are planning big family Christmases, not to mention all the snowbirds are still flocking here for some reason. I know it’s cold up north and there was just a blizzard, but honestly, I’d rather suffer being stuck inside because of weather than having to go out around here. Restaurants are packed, the tourist areas are mobbed, and judging by the traffic, no one seems to care that there is a pandemic. Our local hospital’s ICU is at capacity, as are many of the hospitals. There is an unsubstantiated rumor (so far) that doctors in my area are somehow putting themselves at the front of the line for the vaccine. These are doctors in private practice, who do not work in the ER or in the ICU or in hospitals; they work in their beautiful offices away from the Covid nightmares. I can’t wait to see which doctors are going to be outed because I have faith in our intrepid local news reporter, Andrew Colton at Boca News Now.

While I don’t celebrate Christmas, the religious holiday, I do enjoy the holiday season. I love Christmas romance books. And Christmas rom-coms; actually, all Christmas movies. Every year I kick off the holiday season by watching Miracle on 34th Street on Thanksgiving. I watch Elf, Home Alone, Love Actually, The Santa Claus (but not this year because of Tim Allen’s fondness for the mass murderer in the White House,) and whatever else I stumble upon. I watch some of the Hallmark/Lifetime movies, but I’ve been losing my patience for them. I even watched the actual Hannukah movie Hallmark did this year, Love, Lights, HanukkahI which was ok, but at least it wasn’t too offensive. I always finish up with It’s a Wonderful Life on Christmas Day. My husband loves A Christmas Carol, and one year I bought him a bunch of DVDs of the different versions, and we usually watch a few of those, too. My favorite is the Bill Murry version, Scrooged, and if you haven’t seen The Man Who Invented Christmas, I highly recommend it. If you guys have favorites or any recommendations, I hope you’ll put them in the comments!

I embrace the ideals of peace and joy. A friend was complaining that there are so many horrible people around, and my husband has been trying to tell me that for years, but I refused to believe it. I told my friend I always felt like Bonasera from The Godfather: “I believe in America.” But these past four years have really tested me. I have to concede there are more evil people in this country than I could ever have imagined. People who would wish me harm or worse because of my religion or my political beliefs or some sense of righteousness. I have experienced evil in my own family, and yet I always hold out hope. It’s just getting so difficult, and frankly exhausting, to keep doing that anymore.

This holiday season, I wish you all joy and good health. For those of you who are struggling, or know someone who is struggling, I wish things would turn around for you, and quickly. I wish you happiness and peace and love. And lots of good reading!

Merry Christmas!


CORONAVIRUS DIARY: December 1, 2020

December 1, 2020

The longest year on record…

…or at least it feels that way.

It’s December, usually one of my favorite months. My birthday, the holidays, all those Christmas movies! This year I’m very nervous about Covid getting completely out of control while simultaneously happy to celebrate the bitter end of 2020.

I also wanted to follow up on the new recipes I tried out this year for Thanksgiving. I am thrilled to report I have found the recipe for the best dinner rolls I’ve ever had! One of the reasons I selected it was that it only made a dozen, and we were only 3 people. They were gone by Black Friday and no one complained about the leftovers. Unfortunately, you need a subscription to access the recipe (they are offering a 2 week free trial) and it’s called Fluffy Dinner Rolls from Cook’s Illustrated. There is a video on YouTube:

There are also people who have posted the recipe online which I feel funny about doing so I’m not, I’m just letting you know it’s out there.

I dry brined the turkey this year and it was way easier and just as good as the wet brine I’ve been doing for years. We’ve been on a Thanksgiving leftover parade for days and enjoying every minute of it. I think the last of the turkey is for dinner tonight. I really love stuffing that is made in the turkey because the flavor is incomparable. But to be safe, I’ve learned to take it out while the turkey is resting. I put it in a casserole dish, dot with butter, and finish cooking in the oven until it reaches the required temperature. The top gets all crispy and really turns this humble dish, a combination of dried sourdough bread, onions, celery, mushrooms, and butter, into something extraordinary.

For dessert, I tried something new – Marbled Pumpkin Gingersnap Tart from Deb Perelman at Smitten Kitchen. It was really good if you like pumpkin pie and cheesecake! My marbling didn’t come out as nice as the pictures on Pinterest, but I used organic pumpkin and the color just isn’t as vibrant. I made the crust with a combination of Trader Joe’s ginger snaps and cinnamon graham crackers, and it was phenomenal. Now I’m trying to think of other pies I could make in that crust. I think if everything is back to “normal” next Thanksgiving, I’ll make my usual pumpkin pie but in this crust. I couldn’t find the recipe on the Smitten Kitchen site, but again it’s all over the internet, including in this article: Marbled Pumpkin Gingersnap Tart, A Perfect Holiday Dessert

Last Thanksgiving pictures, I promise!

I had to take some vacation time or I was going to lose it, so I was off for about ten days. Ten long days. I couldn’t go anywhere or do anything, so I cooked and baked and read. Ten books or so. I should have written some reviews but I also got lazy!

I started Barack Obama’s book, A Promised Land, and I am loving it but it’s slow going. I forgot how beautifully he writes! But at 780 pages he could have used a little editing (I heard that he fought to keep every word.) For example, he starts by writing that he isn’t going to write about his community organizing days because he has already written about it, then proceeds to write about it. I am only about a third of the way through, I’ve been switching off with my usual happy stuff, and I’ll post a full review eventually.

Anyone get a good deal on Black Friday? Small business Saturday? Cyber Monday? My husband went shopping (mostly online) so I’m excited. Hanukkah comes early this year – like most Jewish holidays, it is either early or late, but never on time. Hahaha! I know people went to the mall and Best Buy and Walmart, etc. but not in the numbers they usually do, thank goodness. At least according to what they showed on the local news.

I live in Florida where our governor is a trump sycophant and he acts like he wants us all to die. I just don’t understand it. His latest moronic move was so insane I think he set a new record for Flori-duh! Check out this article:

Meet the Uber-driving, conspiracy theorist blogger who DeSantis just hired.

When Gov. Ron DeSantis needed to hire a data analyst, his staff picked a little-known Ohio sports blogger and Uber driver whose only relevant experience is spreading harmful conspiracy theories about COVID-19 on the Internet.

In his own words, Kyle Lamb has few qualifications for the job at the state’s Office of Policy and Budget, which pays $40,000 per year.

Truth is always stranger than fiction. As always, thanks for reading and stay safe!


CORONAVIRUS DIARY: Thanksgiving Edition, 2020

November 26, 2020

Happy Thanksgiving!

Even though it is only the three of us today – me, my husband, Larry, and my daughter, Ariel, I still have been cooking up a storm. A small storm this year. I cut back on the number of sides and am making smaller amounts of everything. So stuffing, of course, mashed potatoes (I love Ree Drummond’s recipe) roasted Brussels sprouts with a balsamic drizzle. and dinner rolls. This year I am trying a couple of new recipes since why the hell not.

I tried to get a small turkey but wasn’t too successful. I’ve been getting organic turkeys for years but the smallest I could find was about 16 pounds and that was just ridiculous for 3 people. I finally found a 12 pound Butterball after going through a long refrigerated case and settled. I’ve been brining the turkey using an Alton Brown recipe for more years than I care to think about, but even he is dissing his own recipe in favor of dry brining, so I’m trying that this year. Just salt and pepper, I started it Tuesday and left it covered until Wednesday, then uncovered until it was time to go in the oven.

We love turkey around here, and especially leftovers: turkey & cranberry sauce sandwiches, turkey salad with dried apricots and pecans, turkey pot pie, Tex-Mex turkey casserole topped with cornbread, and turkey soup made from the frame. Then no more turkey until next year!

I’m also trying a new dinner roll recipe. Every year I try a different one because I haven’t found one that I really love. They’ve all been good, just not good enough to stop looking. This year I am making Fluffy Dinner Rolls from Cooks Illustrated. It uses an interesting technique where you make a flour paste with water, then microwave it for a minute or so before blending into the rest of the recipe.

I got one of the last few 25# bags of King Arthur all purpose flour from Costco last week and I’m putting it to good use! I normally make stuffing from a good white bread, so I ordered a loaf from Whole Foods that I had delivered. Except it came sliced. Thinly sliced. So that was a no go for stuffing. To add insult to injury, I was going to make grilled cheese sandwiches with a big salad for dinner the other night, and the bread had gone moldy! Luckily, my sourdough starter is insanely strong so I made a loaf of that and will use it for the stuffing.

I’m also trying a new dessert. Usually, I make apple pie from Rose Levy Beranbaum’s The Pie & Pastry Bible (Kindle version is only $2.99 today!) It is the most incredible apple pie. The crust is made with cream cheese and butter, which makes it so flaky and tender and gives it great flavor. The apples are thinly sliced so no empty, gaping holes anywhere, and they macerate for a good hour with the spices before even going into the pie shell. Then the juices are cooked down until syrupy before pouring over the apples. It is a long and complicated recipe, and worth every single step. I even did a lattice top once. Only once.

I also usually make pumpkin pie. I never had pumpkin pie until I met my husband, and now I love it. I make a gingersnap crust (I know, not traditional!) and there’s a bit of cream cheese in the pie filling, making it extra creamy. Best of all the recipe makes two 9″ pies. But this year, that’s not especially helpful. So I found a recipe from Smitten Kitchen for Marbled Pumpkin Gingersnap Tart, which I’ll make as a pie. I looked for the recipe on her site and see that she only has Cheesecake-Marbled Pumpkin Slab Pie which leads me to believe that the original recipe is in one of her cookbooks. But no worries, if it appeals to you just Google it, it is all over the web. I’ll just say that slab pie is not a great choice for three people! Then my boss mentioned she is making peanut butter cookies, which reminded me I have a big jar of super chunky peanut butter that really needs to be used up so adding that to the menu. Sugar-free though, I’ll sub erythritol for the sugar so Larry can have some, too.

I love having some appetizers and a cocktail an hour or so before I have to finish everything up. Every year I try a new Thanksgiving-themed cocktail. I’ve made Cranberry Friendsgiving Cocktail, which takes a week of soaking fresh cranberries in vodka (it is gorgeous!), adding a dash of simple syrup, then finishing with prosecco. I also roll a few cranberries in sugar and freeze them, then drop them in. Served in champagne flutes, it’s a beautiful drink. I’ve made a bourbon-apple cider cocktail that was pretty good but my husband, a bourbon purist, found it wasteful of good bourbon. This year I’m making Frozen Apple Pie Margaritas, which I saw on The Kitchen. I checked out the recipe and decided to switch out the cinnamon schnapps which can easily take over for just a pinch of cinnamon instead, or maybe even pie spice. I’ll see. It looks like a fun drink and a nice reward for days of cooking.

My son and daughter-in-law have been quarantining and this past Saturday, jumped in a car with his sister- & brother-in-law for a five hour drive upstate to western New York. His in-laws rented an Airbnb, and are driving in from Chicago so they can all spend the week together. I am so envious! And nervous, even though they’ve all been so careful. The Covid numbers are absolutely horrifying. I haven’t seen Daniel and Miriam since last Thanksgiving. It is the longest I have ever gone without seeing my son and it really hurts my heart. I miss him, and Miriam, and it is my most fervent hope that we can see them sometime in 2021.

As always, thanks for reading and stay safe! Wishing you all a very happy and safe Thanksgiving!


CORONAVIRUS DIARY: November 12, 2020

November 12, 2020

Since my last diary post was basically a rant against the current president and administration, and a plea to vote for Biden and Harris, it seems only fitting that I mention the results. Biden & Harris won after several days of agonizing over the count. Larry broke out the champagne at 11:30 Saturday morning when it was finally announced, and we celebrated!

I just realized that it is only 2 weeks until Thanksgiving. I am very grateful for the election results. I am grateful that my family is all safe and healthy. I am grateful for my job and my boss and my co-workers. I am grateful that my husband got a promotion during this pandemic and finally has a boss who appreciates him.

This is always a difficult holiday for me. It was my mom’s favorite, and I miss her. This year it will just be me, my husband, and daughter – possibly a friend as well. A couple of years ago I started inviting friends, but this year, well, it just doesn’t seem like the safest idea. Maybe one though – I have a largish dining room table and if we spread out, I think it will be okay. Maybe. The latest numbers are so scary though.

Regular readers know I like to cook and bake, but I don’t think I’ve ever shared a recipe here. So here is a Thanksgiving gift from me to you.

Gravy. Everyone loves it but not everyone makes it well. It can send people into a panic despite the fact that there are a million recipes online. Here’s one more, and trust me when I say it is the only gravy recipe you will ever use again. I’ve been making this gravy for over 30 years now!

I’m going to make a bold claim, but I stand by it. This recipe is great because you can make it up to three days in advance. It makes a lot of gravy, at least a quart. You can freeze leftover gravy and just reheat it when needed. Best of all, it is so delicious you will wish you could have it on everything. And did I mention you can make it in advance?!!!

Best Turkey Gravy Ever!

INGREDIENTS

Turkey neck & giblets
6 C. chicken stock
1 C. dry white wine or dry vermouth
2 large onions, sliced
1 C. sliced carrots
1/2 C. celery leaves & stems

6 Tbs. butter
3/4 C. Flour

Up to 2 cups turkey drippings
Salt & pepper to taste

UP TO 3 DAYS AHEAD:

Take butter out and leave on the counter to soften.

Cut neck and heart in half. Put liver in a small covered dish in the refrigerator. Combine neck, heart, gizzard, onions, carrots, celery leaves, stock, and wine in a stockpot and bring to a boil. Simmer uncovered 1 1/2 hours. Add the liver and cook 30 minutes more.

NOTE: If your turkey doesn’t have giblets or is missing the neck, substitute a turkey wing. Don’t cut it off your turkey, just buy one!

NOTE: For celery leaves, cut off the tops of the stalks, celery and all, and chop it all up.

INSTANT POT? You can combine all the ingredients, including the liver, and cook in an Instant Pot for 20 minutes, high pressure, natural release. You can also skip the wine and just use an extra cup of stock or water if you prefer.

Let cool then strain into large measuring cup, pressing out as much liquid as possible. Add water if needed to make 6 cups.

NOTE: When I make this on the stove, I almost always have to add a bit of water. With the Instant Pot, I end up with more than I need. Don’t toss any extra! Add it to the bottom of the pan when you put your turkey in. Or use it to baste the turkey when you run out of butter (I’ve heard that happens to some people.) Or use it to moisten your stuffing and/or dressing. It’s good stuff; you will be happy you have it Thanksgiving day.

Mash softened butter and flour with a fork until well blended to a paste. Divide into 4 chunks. Return strained broth to a 3 qt. saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium. Whisk in the flour mixture one chunk at a time until well blended. Keep stirring with the whisk until thick and boiling for three minutes. Press plastic wrap or parchment paper onto the surface of the hot gravy and refrigerate up to 3 days. Then…

Thanksgiving Day!

Remove plastic wrap and heat on medium-low, whisking occasionally. Whisk in up to 2 cups turkey drippings (skim off the fat if possible). Cook until hot, stirring occasionally. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Enjoy!

Happy Thanksgiving!



CORONAVIRUS DIARY: November 1, 2020

November 1, 2020

Acedia: the lost name for the emotion we’re all feeling right now

My boss sent me this article on Acedia, which I had never heard of but boy, did it hit home. 

Acedia: a strange combination of listlessness, undirected anxiety, and inability to concentrate.

As far as I’m concerned, this is my word for the pandemic. It is exactly how I’m feeling, and I’ve been feeling, for months now. I do have spurts of energy now and then, but for the most part, I feel like I have to force myself to do the most basic things. Laundry. Making the bed. Cleaning.

On the other hand, little things bring me joy. My daughter getting an A in her drawing class. Being able to “polish” my nails – I’m using stick on polish, but hey, it makes me happy. Black kitties for Halloween!

Other small joys – talking to friends on the phone or Facetime. My co-workers and my boss have really been a lifeline for me. And I swear work has kept me sane. It forces me to know what day of the week it is! I’m still working remotely most of the time, but I go into the library three mornings a week. It’s nice to see people! Even if it is behind masks and plexiglass.

I was really nervous about Halloween. I wanted to just put out a table with candy on it, but my husband wanted to answer the door. Masked, of course. I do love seeing the little ones in costume, but isn’t that what our security cameras are for? I have to say this holiday is my husband’s favorite and this was the first time I’ve really seen him down about the pandemic. He went old school on carving the pumpkin, and we did get a few trick-or-treaters, so that made him feel a little better. But then it started to rain, so that put an end to it all.

I still don’t go out much. I have been to Costco a few times with my husband, and a few weeks ago I started going to Trader Joe’s again. There is no TJ’s nearby, but it is not too far from work, so I sometimes go after work on my lunch hour, maybe every 2-3 weeks. They haven’t been that busy in the middle of the day, they are constantly cleaning the carts, everyone wears a mask, and for the most part, people keep their distance. Plus it doesn’t take long to go through the store, it is a small grocery store. And they take Apple pay. Can I tell you how much I love just tapping my Apple watch to pay? Handsfree! Even Publix finally started taking it, and I’ve been there a few times as well. Once at 7:00 am on a Sunday when they opened, a couple of times around 6:00 pm, dinner time, and it was pretty quiet. 

The only other trip that I take somewhat regularly is to visit my mother-in-law. She’s 95 years old and lives in an assisted living facility. With all the horror stories out there about these places, I have to give kudos to Acts Retirement Life Communities. They have done an outstanding job keeping everyone safe, both the residents and the staff. There have been a few Covid cases, but nothing like I keep seeing on the news. For a long time, we couldn’t visit at all, then they started letting us visit through a glass door using Facetime. They also did a questionnaire at the guard gate and took our temperature. Then they let us visit inside, but first, they gave us the 15 minute Covid tests. Once we got negative results, we were able to visit face to face. My mother-in-law has been a real trooper through all of this. 

Covid cases are on the rise in Florida, as they are in most parts of the country. This is usually the time of year when it is finally cool enough to sit outside, but not this year. It’s been raining like crazy for weeks – we’ve been under a flood watch, off and on, for days now. And when it does stop raining, it’s hot and muggy – high 80s, low 90’s hot. I live in Palm Beach County and the county keeps extending the mask mandate, thank goodness. Not that everyone complies. Trump was here to vote the other day at the Main Library in West Palm Beach. He walked through, no mask, of course. And brought his special lighting???

Our sycophant governor has forced open everything so restaurants and bars are packed, people are going to the gym again, the public libraries are now open regular hours, and the kids are back in school. And guess what – Covid numbers are rising!

The election is in a few days. My husband, daughter, and I all did mail-in ballots. We do have early voting, but even at 7:00 in the morning, the lines have been hours long. The supervisor of elections put waiting times at each location on their website, and after checking several times a day we decided to stick with the mail-in ballots. They actually put “ballot vans” at each early voting location, but our intrepid local news reporter followed up on some voters who used the van and it was taking days before the election office received their ballots. So we went directly to the supervisor of election’s office and used their dropbox. It’s like a small mailbox right outside the building. A day later, our votes showed that they had been received and were problem-free. So three votes for Biden-Harris!

I have this platform and as we are mere days away from what is probably the most important election of my lifetime, I’d like to say a few things. Feel free to comment if you like.

I have been horrified on a daily basis since our president took office. It started with his descent down the escalator calling Mexicans rapists, and it still hasn’t ended. Every day is another shit show. Packing the courts with conservative judges so majority rule has become minority rule, with judges and justices weighing in on decisions that they have no business interfering in. Pushing through a new Supreme Court justice days before the election – 38 days after RBG’s death – after Republicans stole the seat from Obama ten months before the election. The hypocrisy is mind-boggling!

Charlottesville. The president calling white supremacists “very fine people” as they were shouting “Jews will not replace us.” I’m Jewish, by the way. The horrific practice of separating children, even nursing babies, from their parents and putting them in cages. And now, four years later over 500 children whose parents the government can’t find.

Black Lives Matter! The president has fueled the systemic racism in this country and sought to divide us. He throws gasoline on every fire while proclaiming himself to have done more for the Black community than any president since Lincoln. (Actually, Johnson holds the honor of having done the most for the Black community.) The president compares himself to Lincoln, yet ignores one of the most important things Lincoln ever said: “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” It breaks my heart to know that Black parents have to teach their children to be so careful when they leave the house, while they are outside, while driving, while living. It’s wrong on so many levels and this president derides the protestors. He had peaceful protestors tear gassed so he could take a picture in front of a church, holding a bible. A church that he never attends. I was surprised that the bible didn’t just spontaneously burst into flames in his hands.

Family values from a man three times married, who cheated on all his wives, lusts after daughter, has been accused of sexual harassment and rape, not just by one or two women, but more than a dozen. Caught on tape bragging about sexually assaulting women. These “values” voters really need to re-examine their values.

The impeachment. Russian collusion. He’s trying it again now with that bullshit story Rudy Giuliani fed the NY Post, a tabloid, not a newspaper. The writer of the article refused to put his name on it. The president’s minions would not turn over the supposedly egregious emails to newspapers to fact check them. Even the news people on Fox News are not talking about it – only the talking heads, the commentators are talking about it. Night after night. And I’m happy to add, to little or no avail.

Suburban women are not the stupid followers our president thinks they are. I love this commercial from “Red, Wine & Blue Ohio,” a group of suburban moms. At his rallies he “threatens” that if Biden gets into office, he will send Cory Booker to the suburbs, trying to incite fear of low-income housing and race-baiting, circa the 1970’s and “All in the Family.” Instead, these women fought back and showed how they really feel.

There’s so much more. I read the New York Times, the Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal daily and I get news alerts on my phone. Literally every day, there is some story about something this administration is doing or has done that enrages me. Every. Single. Day.

Our standing in the world as a superpower is teetering on the brink. We are a global laughingstock due to this president and his temper and his lack of any kind of self-control. His Twitter account!

Can we talk about his taxes? THE PRESIDENT’S TAXES: Trump Records Shed New Light on Chinese Business Pursuits How he paid more taxes in China than he does here? He’s not that smart, he’s that crooked. And thanks to the New York Times, now we know. He and his family have taken the office of the president and turned it into a cash machine. Also the Washington Post: Ballrooms, candles and luxury cottages: During Trump’s term, millions of government and GOP dollars have flowed to his properties

Foreign governments know they just have to spend a bit at one of his hotels to get anything they want. He brags about how dictators like Vladimir Putin of Russia, Xi Jinping of China, and Kim Jong Un of North Korea all want him to win reelection. That is NOT a good thing! They want him to win because they know he will do anything they want, and that, more than almost anything else, frightens me.

I love the billboard the Lincoln Project put up in Times Square, using the picture Ivanka had posted with a can of beans in her hand after Goya kicked in some serious money to the president. Because that’s what this administration does, free advertising for anyone who makes a sizeable donation.

The environmental laws he’s had rescinded. He’s ignored science all the way through his administration, from global warming to the pandemic. I cannot and will not overlook the elephant in the room: Covid-19.

It’s time to talk about the Coronavirus. The very reason for this series of essays I’ve been writing. The president knew how deadly it was in JANUARY and chose not to tell the American people. He’s still playing it down, calls it “boring”. Chose not to have American factories gear up to produce PPE or masks or any other supplies needed to protect our front line and essential workers. Used the provisions in the law already in place, renamed it Project Warp Speed or whatever and takes credit for rushing a vaccination through. He tried to get at least one manufacturer to say they would have it ready before Election Day, but no one would promise that. Meanwhile, almost 225.000 Americans dead. As far as I’m concerned, this president is a mass murderer.

Life as we know it has changed. So many small businesses gone while many of the small business loans Congress approved went to big companies who weren’t entitled to the money. Companies that received loans that were designed to cover payroll and instead, took the money and laid off their employees. So much abuse. So little oversight.

Now the administration admits it has given up. White House chief of staff Mark Meadows went on CNN and said “We are not going to control the pandemic.” The president is taking advice on a deadly pandemic from a radiologist with some crazy ideas about killing another 200,000 people to achieve “herd immunity,” while doctors who specialize in infectious disease want us to wear masks – the very doctors our president called idiots. Governor Cuomo in New York proved that the virus could be contained with leadership. “It is what it is” is what the president has said and that is not leadership. We need a leader, more than ever, not someone who gives up and is fine with more Americans dying.

The Washington Post has a three-part documentary on how this administration has failed America on the pandemic. I highly recommend it, even though it is totally depressing:

America’s failed response: A Post documentary analyzes how Trump politicized the pandemic and ignored decades of preparation. This three-part series explores the failed response to the coronavirus pandemic that has left 225,000 Americans dead. It also examines the role of past U.S. presidents and the steps they took to prevent such an event from debilitating the nation’s economy and health-care system.

Finally, the lies. OMG, the lies he tells over and over. Telling a lie multiple times doesn’t make it true, but it convinces some people there must be truth to it. Those people are morons. Trump is averaging more than 50 false or misleading claims a day according to the Washington Post, who has been fact-checking and tracking his lies since he took office. There have been so many that they are eight weeks behind! “As of Aug. 27, the tally in our database that tracks every errant claim by the president stood at 22,247 claims in 1,316 days.” That is INSANE! Oh, and while I’m talking about reporters doing their job, the only “fake news” is what the talking heads on Fox are spouting. The media is NOT the enemy of the people; freedom of the press is one of the founding principles of this country. I wish all those people who are so fervent about the 2nd amendment would hold the rest of the amendments so dearly.

Please vote. We need normalcy again. I’ve had enough hysteria and drama and insanity from this president. We need an administration that won’t end up with so many staff in prison. Someone in that oval office who cares more about Americans than lining his own pockets. Someone who wants to bring us together instead of tearing us apart. Someone who will surround himself with smart people and listen to them – what a concept!

We need Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.

As always, thanks for reading and stay safe!