I spent much of the day watching the second day of the District 101 Toastmasters Conference. Two members of my home club, Silver Tongued Cats, earned special recognition – Gordon Mattingly placed third in the International Speech Contest and Sherman Zell was recognized for earning his Distinguished Toastmaster award (after not quite 37 years in Toastmasters).
We took our evening walk a bit early tonight to be sure we’d be home before the citywide curfew went into effect in San Jose; on the way home, we passed by neighbors who have had a Little Free Library for a couple of years. They’ve just branched out and added a Little Free Nursery – we took home a seedling of Siam Queen Basil and planted it.
On a day like today, it’s good to see people taking concrete action to make things better.
It’s been a busy day. Yesterday, our neighbor dropped off some basil and kale for us to plant in our raised beds. So Diane rose early this morning to work on the garden – she pruned the tomatoes we’d planted six weeks ago, which had grown far more than I expected (and which already have fruit, though it’s still weeks from being ready) and did other cleanup work so that we’d have a place for the new plants. Then she went to Shabbat Morning services.
In the meantime, I went to the annual Toastmasters District 101 Conference. Even before the lockdown, they’d lost their original venue and had had to find a replacement – and then they had to move it onto Zoom. Patricia Fripp was the keynote speaker (and had good advice and suggestions, as always); after that, we held the Tall Tales Contest. By then, services were finished, so we had lunch and then finished our planting.
This evening, we did the Daily Kos “Flip the Senate” pub quiz. Some of the teams were pre-assembled groups of friends or colleagues; ours wasn’t – we called it “Strangers on a Team”, but we did pretty well, finishing 7th out of 30 teams. It was a lot of fun – Diane and I tried to guess which questions Jeff had created (we figured out one for sure).
Tonight was also the Shir Hadash 40th Anniversary Gala – we didn’t have to dress up this year. We didn’t even have to attend at the right time because everything was recorded in advance to avoid technical issues. There are other events scheduled to celebrate the 40th anniversary – I hope some of them can take place in the real world instead of on a screen.
Today was a big day – the Wahl Peanut that Bill Nye recommended arrived and Diane wielded it on me. It was her first haircut, and she did a great job! I feel like there’s a lot less weighing on my mind now.
We drove up to Menlo Park to pick up our spice order from Penzey’s. It was the farthest we’ve driven for at least seventy-four days – traffic was light, as expected, even on the way home during rush hour (the metering lights were solid green). I called the store when we got to the parking lot; they put my bag of spices outside; I picked it up. I probably didn’t even need to put on my mask, but I did.
The weather has changed radically today – on Wednesday, it got up to 100 degrees here; today, it might have hit 70, and it’s been really windy all afternoon – I had to put on a jacket for our evening walk!
Tonight is Shavuot, which is considered to be the day when the Jewish people received the Torah. It is traditional to engage in group study until late at night (until dawn, if you’re able) – this year, Shir Hadash is doing it via Zoom.
We’re taking advantage of being on Zoom; after a short study session led by Rabbi Aron, we watched The Redeeming Angel, a film made by three Israeli brothers about their mother – she was a young Dutch Jew during World War II who was sheltered by a Christian family and survived. After the war, she made aliyah to Israel; in 2017, she and her sons went back to Holland to participate in the installation of Stolpersteine (stumbling stones) in front of her family’s house to commemorate their murder. And one of the brothers joined us from his home in Tel Aviv after his all-night study session.
After that, Gillian Perry, founder of the Anne Frank Trust, spoke to us from her home in London about “Anne Frank’s Life and Surprising Legacy” – her life story is familiar, but how the story has affected people all over the world was, as advertised, surprising, including, among others, Nelson Mandela and young children in Kazakhstan, Northern Ireland, and Brazil.
Yesterday was shopping day, so today was cooking day. Lunch was an old friend (spiced chicken breast on the Traeger, this time mostly using Penzey’s “Tsardust Memories” seasoning, which is largely sweet paprika).
For dinner, we experimented with yet another recipe from the New York Times’ “At Home” section, this time Glazed Cod with Bok Choy, Ginger, and Oyster Sauce. Of course, we didn’t use oyster sauce – we substituted a hoisin/soy mixture. It came out pretty good – it probably would have been better had we had real garlic instead of chopped garlic from the jar, but I’d definitely have it again.
Our spice supplies are being depleted a lot faster than usual, so I was happy to get an email from Penzey’s offering contactless pickup of spices at their Menlo Park store; I placed an order and we plan to go there on Friday. It’ll be the longest drive we’ve taken since the lockdown, but it won’t make a significant dent in the podcast backlog.
And tonight was the final episode of Pirke Avot study at Shir Hadash; now we’ll have to find something else to let us know that it’s Wednesday.
When I read Trump’s tweet about The Atlantic having to lay off staff, there was only one thing I could do: subscribe immediately. I should have done it a long time ago, but it never got to the top of the stack; now it has.
We’re members of five wine clubs. One, Silvertip Vineyards, held its pickup event over the weekend. They barbecue steak, chicken, salmon, and pork, along with interesting veggies and munchies, and, of course, wine. We always enjoy it, even though the drive there is somewhat challenging (Highway 17 to Bear Creek, then up to Highway 35, then down Upper Zayante, which is about 1.4 lanes wide).
This year, of course, the event was different. People were invited to drive in, open their trunks, get the wine, and leave – somehow, that didn’t feel worth the drive, so we took advantage of their offer to ship the wine to our house. It was supposed to be shipped tomorrow, but this afternoon, we got a note from them saying that they were delaying the shipment because of the hot weather (well over 90 today) and the chance that the wine might be adversely affected in transit.
Last Friday, I’d ordered a few bottles from Tobin James Cellars in Paso Robles – they were supposed to ship tomorrow, but when I got Silvertip’s note, I hurried to call Tobin James and postpone that shipment, probably successfully.
Fortunately, we have enough wine to get us through at least a few more weeks!
A friend is setting up a website and having problems with getting the SSL certificates in the right place – I sent him my configuration to use as a model, and I hope that’s all the help he’s going to need.
And I had to help the Rabbi get the Kindle app properly installed on her Mac – Zoom screen-sharing made that easy (she actually had it installed but since it wasn’t on the dock, she didn’t know where to find it).
We made the chickpea recipe from the NYTimes again – we’re going to have to get more chickpeas on our next shopping trip! Dinner was lingcod from the Farmer’s Market.
And we watched some more of the National Theatre’s Jane Eyre. It’s still interesting – I may have to read the book, though.
Our synagogue, Congregation Shir Hadash, has a lay-led service (Shir Shabbat) on most Shabbat mornings from just after Simchat Torah until just before Shavuot, and Diane and I are regular attendees. And from time to time, we take a role in making the service happen. We’d volunteered to do that for today’s service, the last of the season – I would lead and she would chant Torah.
That, of course, was back in February. Things changed, but this morning, I led the service from home via Zoom and Diane chanted her portion (sadly, not from the Torah scroll, since we don’t have one at home); the Cantorial Soloist sang from her home. I was also projecting the prayer book from my Kindle app, and once or twice I forgot to scroll up because I was too busy listening, and I think I muted the Cantorial Soloist for a couple of seconds at one point, but things mostly went smoothly. I think. At least no lighting bolts descended from heaven!
The final payment for our July trip to Iceland is due this week. We have flights and hotels reserved, including visits to our son and my brother on our way home. There are a couple of days in Reykjavik before we get on a brand new Ponant ship, Le Bellot. And the tour operator says they’re planning to operate the trip. Iceland is even planning to ease restrictions on international travelers by mid-June.
We’re not going. Even if they get permission to sail, the flight from Portland to Reykjavik is currently not operating. It looks like the “eased restrictions” would give us the choice of proving we’re COVID-19-free on arrival or quarantining for 14 days (which is longer than the trip). And neither of us is ready to fly yet.
Luckily, the tour operator offered us the choice of moving our reservations to 2021 (or even 2022) at no penalty (in fact, they’ll give us a $300 credit) – it wasn’t a hard choice. We haven’t quite figured out what to do with the various airline tickets – we might get a refund from Icelandic if they don’t reinstate the flight from Portland before our scheduled departure, but all of our domestic flights are likely to operate, so we’ll have to settle for credits for those segments.
We’re still looking forward to seeing Iceland – just not yet.