Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 124

Even by lockdown standards, today was a quiet and homebound day for us. We took a morning walk before Shabbat Services, but that was the only time we left our property (we did get out of the house itself to cook and tend to the garden). Other than that, it was reading and working on the computer all day.

Speaking of the computer, the computer glasses I’d ordered from Zenni Optical arrived today. They’re going to take some getting used to, but I can see the difference that having single-focal-distance lenses makes already. Now I almost wish I hadn’t bought the cheapest (thickest) frames – I’d forgotten I’d be wearing them for Zoom calls!

This evening, we watched “Much Improv About Nothing” – improvised Shakespeare with improvisers from ComedySportz in San Jose, Portland, Seattle, and Los Angeles. The event was in support of Silicon Valley Shakespeare and was a lot of fun. The play, “A Quarrel of Lovers”, turned out to be a comedy (by audience demand) although Angie Higgins, the Artistic Director of SVS, was trying to influence the vote towards tragedy. I’m pretty sure they plan to put it on their Facebook or YouTube page soon.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 123

We tried a new recipe for lunch today, Melissa Clark’s Pasta with Burst Cherry Tomatoes from the New York Times. I thought it called for too many tomatoes, so I only put in 1-1/2 cups instead of the 2 cups that the scaled recipe called for. It was a tasty meal, but having more tomatoes would have improved it! Sadly, our tomato plants are not being very productive this year (and our cucumber has hardly produced anything), so we’re dependent on what we find at the Farmers’ Market.

After lunch, we drove to Tony & Alba’s to pick up pizza for tomorrow. Al, the owner, has quite the bobblehead collection, and he added a new member very recently – Dr. Anthony Fauci.


I guess if he’s unable to appear on TV, visiting a restaurant is the next best thing!

We made Grilled Rosemary-Lemon Chicken for at least the second time during the lockdown. I’d probably made it previously, too, since I had a printed copy of the recipe (with a 2013 copyright date) from the late, somewhat lamented about.com. But as I was reading the recipe tonight, I noticed a curious omission. The recipe includes “lemon” in the title and lemon juice in the ingredient list – but it doesn’t tell you to do anything with the lemon juice! Clearly, you’re supposed to put it in the marinade, but neither the printed nor the online copy says so.

Perhaps I’m no longer a complete novice at cooking!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 122

We’ve been members of Tobin James Cellar’s wine club for several years. Their wines are tasty, priced well, and don’t need a lot of aging before being ready to drink, which fits our needs well. Their shipments always include a little gift with the Tobin James logo; we’ve gotten serving trays, bottle openers, mats, and, a couple of years ago, a throw pillow which turned out to be almost perfect for Diane to use at night. She’s taken it on many trips; it’s showing its age. We looked for a replacement the last time we were at the winery, but they didn’t have any on display.

On Sunday, we got a call from Tobin James – they weren’t trying to get us to order, just reaching out to members. During the call, I happened to mention the gifts we’d gotten, and Shawna, who’d called us, said that they had some pillows left over. So yesterday, we ordered two pillows (50% off! $13 for the pair!), and to ensure free shipping, we also ordered 14 bottles of wine. :-) It arrived today; that should hold us for a little while.

Dinner tonight was a new recipe, possibly the simplest new recipe we’ve tried recently: Seared Mahi-Mahi with Zesty Basil Butter from the Food Network. The only tricky part of the process was remembering to defrost the frozen mahi-mahi! Frankly, I’m not sure it would have been any better with fresh fish – zesty basil butter covers a lot of sins.

To make the day even better, British Airways came through with the refund for our cancelled trip to Spain and Portugal, much sooner than I’d expected. The only remaining pieces of the trip to deal with are the flights between Spain and Portugal; I’m waiting in hopes that the airlines will cancel them, but if not, at least they were inexpensive.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 121

Tonight was Library Trivia night at the Santa Clara City Library – our team (Bingo Slytherin) finished in second place, 1.5 points behind the Castronauts who only missed perfection by one song title (half a point). We had 13 people from four states on our team – not something that we could have done in the pre-Zoom era!

We didn’t cook anything new today. On the other hand, our shakers arrived this afternoon from Cocktail Kingdom and we felt compelled to use them before trivia, so I tried making Mai Tais. I’m not sure I’ve ever had a Mai Tai before, so I can’t compare what I made with a professional version, but it was tasty and made typing during trivia harder than usual, so I guess I met minimum requirements!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 120

It was an uneventful day for us (and I’ve been trying not to keep a close eye on the news). We did our week’s shopping, made favorite recipes that we’ve discovered since the lockdown, watched A Late Show with Stephen Colbert now that he’s back from hiatus, and had our weekly Zoom gathering with our trivia group.

After the group chats for a while, we do some trivia practice with slightly-used questions from our host at Khartoum. One question tonight asked us to name the element with a one-letter symbol that would earn the most points in Scrabble. I thought it was Tungsten (W), but that only earns four points; the correct answer is Potassium (K), which earns five. Diane was right, and I was wrong, and the team told me I should admit it publicly, which I am doing now.

Happy Bastille Day! (I’m not sure that’s precisely appropriate, but it’ll do until someone corrects me.)

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 119

It was back to the JCC for outdoor personal training this morning. The JCC was planning to reopen the gym for indoor, socially-distanced training on Wednesday, and our trainer asked us if we’d like to move inside next week. Both of us said “No” with our first available breath, and our trainer said that had been everyone’s reaction so far.

But it became a moot question anyway this afternoon, since the Governor ordered Santa Clara County (and 29 others) to keep gyms (among many other facilities) closed because of the recent upsurge in COVID-19 numbers.

Dinner tonight was another new recipe, Priya Krishna’s Garlic-Ginger Chicken Breasts With Cilantro and Mint from the New York Times. All of the preparation happened last night and the chicken marinated overnight; the actual cooking was pretty straightforward, or it would have been if I hadn’t dropped the chicken the last inch or two into the hot oil, making a splash. And even though I gave the chicken the maximum time called for in the recipe, it was still a little undercooked when I lifted the lid, so I had to finish it in the microwave. I’m willing to try this recipe again, but not for a while.

And I finally finished editing (or at least culling) the photos from my trip to Beijing in April, 2005!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 118

After our usual Sunday quick dash to the Farmers’ Market and walk through Los Gatos, we came home for two interesting sessions.

The first was hosted by Shir Hadash and was a panel discussion (well, three presentations) on “Medical Ethics: Rationing of Limited Resources During COVID-19 Pandemic”. The three panelists were all physician-members of Shir Hadash with well over a century of experience between them. The discussion touched on the history of dialysis (before it was added to Medicare in 1972), HIV/AIDS treatment, and, of course, COVID-19. The discussion was lively but sobering.

The second was much more fun – the Remote Shakespeare Company (two-thirds of the Reduced Shakespeare Company) took us on a quick and reduced tour of their material, including the first scene of “Hamlet’s Big Adventure (a prequel)”, which we were hoping was going to come to the Bay Area this year. Some day….

And speaking of “some day”, I got started on the first small bit of preparation for the High Holy Days. I do the data processing for the honors, but this year, we have a lot of changes to make because of COVID-19 – there will be far fewer honors (services will be online, not in person), but the Rabbi doesn’t want to lose track of what we normally would do (especially since we will have a new interim rabbi next year), so I had to figure out how to tell my programs to ignore honors we’re omitting.

That proved to be surprisingly easy – but what turned out to be hard was updating the master honors sheet to reflect what we did last year (I reworked most of my code last year, so this was the first time I’d needed to do this). I think it’s done, but I’m going to take another look tomorrow before I tell the Rabbi to go ahead.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 117

Betty, one of my college classmates, commented on Facebook about my blog posting of yesterday:

If I were writing a blog, it would be boring. I read, I did puzzles, I exercised, I went to the doctor, I cooked. Next day, ditto. Although I did make empanadas and samosas this week. 🙃

Well, Betty, today’s entry is for you!

The most useful thing I did today was to file our taxes – they were actually finished months ago, but I didn’t get around to filing them until today. I wasn’t in a hurry since we not only weren’t getting a refund but we had to make some hefty payments and I had to free up some cash to make that possible. When the SECURE Act was passed late last year, I realized that it made sense to move money from our traditional IRAs to Roth IRAs – but I hadn’t planned for that during the year, so the last-second move significantly increased our tax liability for 2019.

And we did another Roth conversion this year – I am pretty sure that tax rates are going to go up in a year or two to help pay for the (very necessary) deficits that the government incurred this year for pandemic aid, and I’d rather pay at today’s relatively low rates and avoid being taxed later. So we had to free up funds to pay 2020 estimated taxes, and again, I wasn’t in any hurry to do so.

But July 15 is looming, so today was the day to actually deal with the taxes instead of just dreading dealing with them. The process was fairly painless – the worst thing was discovering that I couldn’t get into EFTPS for some reason and having to find an alternate way to queue up our estimated tax payments.

But it’s done for another year…well, another 9 months. I suspect next year’s deadline will be back to April 15.

Other than that, it was a quiet day; no new recipes, not much culture (we did watch the first episode of Silicon Valley Shakespeare’s Bard Talk, but that was it), and only a quick trip to Manresa Bread to pick up a loaf of levain that I’d pre-ordered. I have done well at hacking away at my inbox, but I haven’t achieved Inbox Zero, so I have nothing to brag about on that front.

Life goes on!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 116

It is a truth universally acknowledged that an enormous number of things get done on the day before a vacation. Today was not a day before a vacation, but I did a lot of things anyway, very few of which were exceptionally interesting.

We continued to add to our bar, this time with dark rum and oregat syrup so that we can make Mai Tais sometime soon; I also ordered a cocktail shaker from Cocktail Kingdom at the recommendation of The Wirecutter – it should get here next week. And we got rid of a LOT of corks (thank you, BevMo)!

I spent a while working with the new Treasurer of the Silver Tongued Cats, explaining the spreadsheet I’d built to track our income and expenses; it’s a shame that I didn’t document it while I was building it because I’m not quite sure how parts of it work any more!

We tried another new recipe: Lynda Balslev’s Quinoa and Kale Tabbouleh from the Mercury News. It was good and not difficult to make, but it wasn’t sufficient as a main dish. If we make it again, I’d want to add some protein to it (or have it as a side).

And I was in charge of the live stream for Shir Hadash services tonight (taking the Zoom feed and sending it to BoxCast). There were many things I wish I’d known before starting the feed (such as what to do when the Rabbi sent us off to breakout rooms; I suspect the video of those few minutes is far from enthralling). But the service made me feel good, so I’m glad I was able to help make it available to others.

Shabbat Shalom!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 115

It was about 7:10am. I was getting ready for my weekly Silver Tongued Cats meeting – I was the second speaker and was going to talk about my webcam saga, complete with a PowerPoint presentation. Suddenly, the lights flickered and went out!

Our router is on a UPS and most of our computers are laptops, so we didn’t lose connectivity right away, and I reported the problem to PG&E (more than 3000 customers were affected). Then I logged into the Zoom session for the meeting and arranged to trade places with the first speaker.

My speech came off without incident – having only one screen might have actually been helpful, since I was forced to look at the screen with the PowerPoint and therefore was looking directly at the camera. And I stayed connected until just after I received my evaluation – but a few seconds into the second evaluation, my UPS gave up the ghost and I dropped off until I could get back in with my phone. Our power came back just before 9; some people didn’t get their power restored until almost 11.

I decided to ride my lucky streak and finally got around to calling British Airways about the London-Barcelona flight they’d cancelled. It was part of a trip in August which we’d decided not to take, but I hoped that having BA cancel part of the trip would give us a chance at a refund. Originally, I thought I’d have to call BA in London, but digging further into their website led me to believe that I could call the US toll-free number instead. I expected to be on hold forever, or possibly to have to call back during the UK business day – but a nice agent in New Delhi picked up the call on the first ring, and 5 minutes later, she’d cancelled the whole trip and processed a refund. It’ll take 4-6 weeks to show up on my card, but it’s a lot better than having a voucher with a time limit (which will probably be the best I can do for my Iberia and Vueling flights – but I’m going to wait and see if either of them get cancelled).

We tried two new-to-us recipes today: Colu Henry’s Lemony Pasta with Zucchini and Fresh Herbs from the New York Times and Stacie Dong and Simran Sing’s Asian Fish Parcels from the Mercury News. Both are worth making again (I want to get rice wine vinegar before I make the fish again; I had to substitute apple cider vinegar this time – I’m not sure I’d notice the difference but I try to be true to the recipe).

Dinner (Asian Fish Parcels) on the deck