Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 259

I was in the shower this morning when I heard loud noises coming from the bedroom. It was an Emergency Alert on my phone. I kept showering.

A few minutes later, Diane came in and told me that it was letting us know about the new Covid-19 restrictions that had gone into effect today, which is what I thought it was going to be.

And so it goes.

We tried yet another new recipe today, Quinoa With Roasted Winter Vegetables and Pesto from the Times, using up the extra pesto I’d made yesterday. It was OK but needed something else to make it complete – and I was a little hungry afterwards, so I broke out this year’s first box of Trader Joe’s Peppermint Bark. We forgot to take a photo, but here’s the one Diane took one of our very colorful lunch (Sheet-Pan Cilantro Chicken and Kale and salad) instead!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 258

In the Before Times, we could usually put a meal on the table in about half-an-hour: Diane would make a salad and rice or potatoes, and I’d make a chunk of protein with some spices, usually on the Traeger. Simple, quick, and tasty, without a lot to clean up afterwards; if we wanted something more elaborate, there were restaurants all around, and our next cruise was rarely more than a couple of months away.

Our next cruise is…well, we don’t know – we’re booked for a Chesapeake Bay cruise in April, but it seems very unlikely to happen (the cruise line still has it on their schedule, but we can cancel before New Year’s without significant penalty). And reheating meals from restaurants is just not a fine dining experience.

So we’ve been experimenting with lots more recipes and cooking techniques. It’s been educational, fun, and tasty – but it usually takes a lot more than half-an-hour in the kitchen.

Today was no exception. We tried a new recipe from the New York Times: Broccoli-Walnut Pesto Pasta. The claimed cooking time was 25 minutes, but it took us quite a bit longer, mostly because I didn’t plan out the process well.

For example, I used a mini food processor to chop the nuts – great idea, but if I’d actually planned, I would have realized that I’d need the big food processor to make the pesto and used it to chop, too. So we had to clean two food processors instead of one. Similarly, I could have boiled the water while we were chopping – instead, I didn’t start heating it until everything was ready to go.

Once we actually started cooking, things went smoothly and the results were quite good; we have pesto left over for a meal tomorrow, too (so I won’t need to clean any food processors then!).

Every day is a learning experience!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 257

At the Fortress of Palamidi, overlooking Napfilo

Diane has been working on a Forever photo book about our trip to Greece in 2018, and she asked me to give her my photos. I could have given her all of my photos and been done with it, but That Would Have Been Wrong. Instead, I’ve been culling, geotagging, and labelling the photos from that trip – I started at the end of September and finished just before dinner tonight. I started with 757 photos and ended with 374 – it’s a step in the right direction.

Local progress on keeping COVID-19 under control has been going in the wrong direction; the county just announced a revision to the health orders to further limit capacities for indoor facilities (like stores) and to stop all contact sports and close all cardrooms. The only part of the order that will directly affect us is the capacity limitation on stores, and that only if we happen to go at busy times (the only stores we’re going to are grocery stores and pharmacies!).

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 256

One of these Shabbats, I’m going to make challah, but this week, I made pretzels yet again in the hopes of getting the process under better control.

This time, I used 90°F water and dissolved the yeast in it before adding it to the flour; I also mixed the flour and salt before adding the yeast and water. The dough still climbed up the outer hook during the initial mixing; when I stopped the mixer to clean things up, I only put the inner hook back in, and the dough stayed in the bowl thereafter. It was a little sticky when I first let it rise, but by the time I was ready to shape it into pretzels, it wasn’t sticky at all. And when I was boiling the pretzels, I didn’t have to stop the process to keep the alkali water from overflowing the pot. Progress!

We finished Ted Lasso last night and have started The Queen’s Gambit. I haven’t felt so connected to current TV for years!

Shabbat Shalom!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 255 (X’FF’)

On the Fourth Day of Black Friday
My true love gave to me
An All-Clad Skillet – D3

Well, not precisely – we ordered it on Amazon.

Many years ago, soon after we got married, we bought cookware to supplement what we’d been given as wedding presents. One of the purchases was a set of “copper bottom” stainless steel fry pans and saucepans from Sears – it served us well, but over the years, we’ve replaced all but one piece, a ten-inch frypan.

I tried to use it a few days ago and discovered that its bottom wasn’t even close to flat – in fact, it was easy to spin it on our glass cooktop (it’s possible that the last time we used it, we had a cooktop with coils!). It was clearly time for a replacement.

I checked the Wirecutter and Cooks’ Illustrated and they agreed that All-Clad makes a very good skillet; the 12-inch version (with a lid) was on sale at several places, but only Amazon claimed to have it in stock, so I ordered it today.

If I like it, I might buy their 10-inch pan, too, since that’s the size I’m replacing – but we’ll see.

I’m also thinking of adding a portable induction burner to our arsenal (the All-Clad pan would work with that; so, in theory, would the Sears pan, but our Anolon pans that we use every day wouldn’t) – if anyone has any experience to share, please feel free!

Because it was only the two of us for Thanksgiving this year, we decided to get a takeout turkey dinner from a local restaurant, Holy Cannoli (as recommended by our favorite pizza place, Tony and Alba’s). It was good, but I’m looking forward to having a real Thanksgiving dinner next year.

We did maintain one Thanksgiving tradition, though – I made my Chocolate Peppermint Pecan Pie just for the two of us. It may take a week to finish it!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 254

Both of our kitchen thermometers bit the dust during the early days of the lockdown. I replaced the instant-read thermometer right away with a Thermoworks ThermoPop, but I didn’t have an urgent need to replace the leave-in thermometer, so I didn’t bother.

The last few days, my Facebook feed has been filled with ads from Thermoworks offering an 18% site-wide discount. I was torn between the ChefAlarm (which is much like the one that died), the Dot (a simpler unit without a timer), or something crazy like the Smoke (so I could monitor my Traeger remotely). I’d finally decided on the Dot, but when I went to place my order this morning, the discount had ended.

I was disappointed, but wondered if there might be another discount for Black Friday. As I was researching the links for this very post, I noticed that they’d cut the price of the Dot by 20% for Black Friday – I’ve ordered it.

Sometimes delay pays off.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 253

This year, the Silicon Valley Turkey Trot went virtual. That meant that we could walk it any time this week, starting from anywhere we wanted. So we downloaded the RaceJoy app and walked the event this morning – our times weren’t as good as they were last year, but we didn’t have to stop for traffic lights last year, either. Doing the event from home was a lot more convenient than going to downtown San Jose, but it was much less of an event this way.

Tonight’s adventure in e-commerce was a forced march; just after I finished making dinner (Sesame Crusted Seared Ahi Tuna), one of the lamp covers on our range hood came crashing down on the cooktop. Fortunately, it’s plastic and only weighs an ounce or two, so no damage was done to the cooktop, but it certainly startled me. After dinner, I tried to fix it and quickly discovered that a piece had broken off; I was surprised to be able to find that the manufacturer (Broan-Nutone) had the part in stock, even though the hood is 22 years old. I ordered two so I could replace both sides at once.

Tonight was also the Los Gatos Interfaith Thanksgiving Service. We’ve gone a few times in the past and enjoyed it; like so much else, it had a different vibe online than in person, but I’m glad we went.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 252

Black Friday continues apace – today, I picked up the Mac version of Paprika, my menu-planning app, since it was 50% off. I’m not sure that I’ll use that version in preference to the iPad version, but having it on the Mac gives me direct access to the app’s database – I’ve already started writing code to build a weekly shopping list based on the week’s recipes (without cluttering it up with pantry items; I really don’t need to be reminded to buy salt every week!).

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 251

We were in Trader Joe’s a few weeks ago and picked up some beer – a six-pack of Fat Tire, and an experimental bottle of Coffee Peanut Butter Porter. The six-pack is well on its way to needing replacement, but we hadn’t found a suitable occasion for the Porter until this evening on a Zoom Happy Hour at Shir Hadash. There will be other Zoom Happy Hours, but this will be the Porter’s one and only visit to our house. I guess I should have read the smaller print on the label that said “peanut butter powder and lactose“!

When Apple announced the new M1-based Macs a couple of weeks ago, I was intrigued, but unsure about what to get when the time came. In particular, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to replace the MacBook Pro in my office with another one or a Mac Mini. I don’t need the portability (that machine hasn’t left the office in well over a year), but having a second screen has been very useful. And I wanted to wait until I could see some reviews and get a discount from a friend at Apple.

My friend at Apple pinged me yesterday and said that the new M1-based machines were available at friends-and-family discount, so it was time to make some decisions. I was still torn about what to get – so we’re getting an Air and a Mini. The Air will replace Diane’s 6-year-old MacBook Pro (it is very unlikely that she’ll ever run a workload that would cause the Air to throttle down, so there was no need to buy a Pro), and the Mini will go into my office. And if I find I really want a second screen in the office, I’ve got two weeks to swap the Mini for an Air (or use Sidecar to drive an iPad, or buy another monitor).

The TV I’ve been ogling came down another $100 in today’s paper, but I think I may have spent enough on electronics for this week already!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 250

Diane read Torah and I led Shir Shabbat services this morning – it was a nice way to spend the morning, but next time, I may take advantage of the offer to have someone else run the Zoom meeting and the screen sharing.

The weather was nice this afternoon so we took a walk a little earlier than we usually would – as we were crossing the footbridge over Ross Creek, I heard a voice calling “David!”. It was Jeff Ringgold, who had been my improv teacher a few years ago; he was walking his dog. He’d moved into the neighborhood a couple of months ago, but this was the first time we’d crossed paths.

He told me that his theatre, American Improv Theatre was taking a different approach to performing during Covid. Instead of doing the typical Zoom show, they were going audio-only, calling it the “Golden Radio Hour”, and that they had a show this evening on Facebook.

We tuned in and enjoyed it – doing improv via audio-only offers some opportunities that a Zoom show (or an actual in-person show) wouldn’t. It also puts a bit more of the burden on the audience, because there aren’t any visual cues to help keep the characters and locations fresh in our minds.

The show (and their previous shows) are on their Facebook page; tune in!