Cerebration: June 18, 2021

June 18, 2021

40 Years and Counting…

First dance

Today is my 40th wedding anniversary. There was a time when I thought I would never get to say that, not because we weren’t getting along or anything, but because of my husband’s heart issues. So I am beyond grateful to have had all these years with the best man I know.

I thought I would challenge myself to come up with 40 reasons why my marriage has lasted. In no particular order…

Leaving Epcot, hand in hand
Enjoying a glass of wine
We love Broadway
My family
Our newest family member!

1. We love one another
2. We say “I love you” pretty much every day
3. We always kiss hello and goodbye
4. We communicate regularly throughout the day
5. We treat each other with respect
6. He has made me laugh pretty much every day since we’ve been together – over 46 years!
7. We share similar values & morals
8. We often hold hands
9. Our world revolves around one another and our children
10. He is a wonderful son (how a man treats his mother is a good yardstick)
11 He was an amazing son-in-law; my step-dad was his best friend
12. His thoughtfulness continues to amaze me and he is always considerate of my feelings
13. He is a wonderful father, which I can now see reflected in how our son is with his son
14. We have separate interests; he rarely reads a book anymore and I read a book a day; he loves hiking in the Everglades. I went once, it rained and the tent leaked. That was it for me
15. We both like car camping!
16. We both love the beach
17. We both love his Jeep, especially taking the top off and driving down A1A (next to the beach)
18. My mom used to say that we complement each other, and she was right
19. He has been incredibly supportive of whatever I want to do. I was a stay-at-home mom for 12 years, then I got a job at Borders with crazy hours, got a job at the library, went back to college then library school. He has supported me – financially, emotionally – through all of it
20. We like some of the same TV shows and movies, but I love rom-coms and he rarely watches those. He loves sci-fi and I rarely watch those. Doesn’t matter
21. We both watch a lot of MSNBC & read lots of news and discuss
22 We have similar political beliefs
23. I am a spender and he is a saver; it works for us
24. He’s calm and laidback; I am not
25. He is really good at helping me rein in my crazy and often does
26. When I’m upset, he can calm me down; I try to do the same for him
27. While we are not the same religion, he has always been incredibly supportive, even though it’s not what he believes
28. He can fix pretty much anything, and I am most appreciative of that
29. He eats whatever I cook and is always kind about it. If he doesn’t like something, he won’t criticize or say anything. I’ve learned to ask, “Do you want me to make that again?” if I want to know the truth
30. We both love good wine and finding new ones to enjoy
31. I used to joke that he married me so he wouldn’t have to answer the phone. Now that we have cell phones, that ship has sailed.
32. He used to joke that he married me because I talk enough for the both of us. He still doesn’t talk as much as I do, but he speaks up when it counts
33. We both love Disneyworld
34. We both dream of going back to Italy* (we went for our 3rd anniversary)
35. He carries around my first passport photo, circa 1987ish, in his wallet and swears I still look like that (I do not!)
36. We try very hard not to take each other for granted
37. He never forgets a birthday or anniversary (because I put them on his calendar!)
38. When we met I was 17 and he was 19 – we grew up together
39. He makes me feel cherished every single day
40. He is the love of my life!

*We had planned to spend two weeks in Sicily for our 40th anniversary, but the pandemic put the kibosh on that. Now we have our first grandchild who lives in Brooklyn, so I think all of our vacations are going to be visiting NY to see the baby!

Cerebration: June 1, 2021

June 1, 2021

Missing the Coronavirus Diary?

I liked having a place to talk about whatever was on my mind. Just because I decided to end the pandemic rambliings, there’s no reason I can’t just ramble. It’s my blog! So: Cerebration. I really like how it almost sounds like Celebration, and this feels somewhat celebratory to me so there you have it. A new word for me, and maybe you as well.

Cerebration: noun. The act of thinking; consideration; thought

Dictionary.com. (n.d.) Cerebration. In Dictionary.com dictionary. Retrieved May 10, 2021 from https://www.dictionary.com/browse/cerebration

Things I’ve done since I completed my Covid vaccination regimen and waited the requisite two weeks:

  • Haircut and color
  • Manicure and pedicure
  • Dinner (outside) at a restaurant with friends
  • Sometimes I take my mask off at work when I’m in my office and drink coffee!
  • Went to Publix (supermarket) after work
  • Went to V&S Deli and picked up sandwiches
  • Ate inside a restaurant with family I hadn’t seen in well over a year!

I haven’t gone crazy, but I feel like I am taking baby steps. It’s not always comfortable to do these things but I’m working on it. The biggest thing I’m doing is coming up – flying to New York in June to see my grandson. I can’t wait! Everything else I’m taking one day at a time. A friend recently flew from Dallas to Charlotte (hi Beth!) and said the airport was packed and there wasn’t an empty seat on the flight. Which makes me nervous but I am determined.

I’m still reading a lot. Books have always been my salvation, ever since I was a small child. I never needed much sleep, usually 4 hours a night for most of my life. When I was a child, my mother would put me to bed at 8:00. I would wake up around midnight and go downstairs and watch TV (back in the days when there was just one TV in the house!) I watched Johnny Carson and a lot of old movies. When the movies were over, they played the Star Spangled Banner and the TV went off. Then I would read. I read whatever I could get my hands on. Magazines, newspapers, and even some books. Early in the morning, the TV came back on and I watched some agricultural farmer show. Basically it was weather and crop reports back when Long Island still had a lot of farms. Then it was almost time to get ready for school.

I didn’t have many books back then. Neither of my parents were readers. We had some antique Shakespeare in the living room which I wasn’t allowed to touch, and a couple of Modern Classics, which I read but didn’t understand for the most part. I remember struggling for weeks with the Canterbury Tales. We also had a World Book Encyclopedia, which I pored over.

As I got a little older, my teachers gave me books, I borrowed books from the school library (which I read in its entirety by fifth grade,) and finally my mother took me to the public library. She would pull up front and say hurry up, and she meant it. I would go to the Agatha Christie or Ian Fleming shelf, check out my allotted 5 books, and run back out to the car. It’s where I got my habit of reading all of an author’s books, and also rereading books. I was always a very fast reader and 5 books would only last me a couple of days but my mom wouldn’t take me to the library more than once a week at best. Unlike all my friends, my parents were divorced and my mother worked. For my birthday or Chanukah, I always asked for books and eventually had all the Nancy Drews, some Cherry Ames, and some of my favorites, Anne of Green Gables, The Phantom Tollbooth, the All-of-a-Kind Family books, Harriet the Spy. I read those books over and over and over again. My mother gave away all my childhood books to a friend with a daughter a several years younger than I was. I still haven’t gotten over that.

A couple of Saturdays ago I wasn’t feeling well. I had gotten bad chills that Thursday, freaked out myself and my husband, and we ran for a Covid test on Friday. It was negative. Yes, I’m vaccinated but apparently so was Bill Maher and several of the Yankees and they got Covid anyway. But I didn’t – yay! But I didn’t feel like doing much besides reading and watching TV (which I often do at the same time.) While poking around for a movie to watch, I stumbled on a documentary called Naughty Books. Need I say my interest was piqued? It is streaming on Hulu, otherwise you have to pay.

It’s a documentary about erotic fiction. Not the best documentary I’ve ever seen but certainly interesting. There were several authors featured, primarily CJ Roberts and Kristen Proby – at least they are the ones that stuck in my head. After watching, I searched my Kindle for Proby because I know I’ve read some of her books. Sure enough, I had about a dozen of them, but I’d only read a few. So I started reading. I had read the first book in the Romancing Manhattan series, so I read the other two and really enjoyed them. Then I started the first book in the Big Sky series (trilogy,) Charming Hannah, and liked that a lot too.

So here’s my question, and I’m pretty sure I’ve written about this before. What is the difference between erotica and romance? Where do you draw that line? There are sexy romances, which I read often and love. And after reading several of Proby’s books, to me they fall squarely into the sexy romance category. There is a lot of sex and it is explicit, but the book is all about the romance and the relationship, the will they or won’t they. There are many chapters without any sex. When I think of erotica, I just think of sex and not romance. Books without a plot to speak of. Or a minimal plot, like porn. After watching that documentary, apparently I am in the minority on this and that’s okay.

I have so many of Proby’s books because of BookBub. It’s a service that compiles ebook bargains. You sign up for daily email, telling them the kinds of books you like to read, and they will send you a curated list. Usually there are at least half a dozen books ranging in price from $3.99 down to free. Yep, there are always at least a couple of freebies, a few that are $.99 and so on. Authors range from NY Times bestsellers to self published, always a wide variety, so it’s a great way to try new authors. I even get cookbooks through BookBub. If you just don’t want to sign up for one more email, you can check out the website: https://www.bookbub.com/welcome. Click on browse and have fun! And if you’re an author, poke around to learn how to get your book featured.

As always, thanks for reading and stay safe!


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!


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!


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 

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!

Cover Reveal! SO WE MEET AGAIN by Suzanne Parks

December 2, 2020

When up-and-coming investment banker Jess Kim is passed over for a promotion, laid off in a virtual meeting, and then overhears why (“she’s already being overpaid anyway for a woman” and “Asians are worker bees, not someone who can drum up new deals”) she delivers an “eff you guys” speech and storms out of the building. Not sure what’s next, she moves back home to Tennessee with her domineering Korean mom, who tries to set her up with her pastor’s son Daniel Choi, an M&A lawyer by day and a successful video game streamer by night. Turns out he’s swoony and smart, not the awkward preacher’s kid she remembers. With his help, Jess launches a Korean cooking YouTube channel focused on easy meal prep for busy professionals. All is going well until her mom walks on the show mid-live recording and argues about cooking technique. While she hates being berated by her mother in front of the world, it actually works in their favor—they go viral!

Soon her cooking channel becomes an actual media company and brand. When a client is suddenly interested in buying Jess out, she finds herself sitting across the table from the very investment firm she quit not so long ago. But there’s just one other problem: Daniel, the guy whose been helping her and that she’s been falling for, is the firm’s new general counsel.


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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!