A few things: October 2020

I don’t know about you, but I had some plans for 2020.

For one, I planned to get my 2015 on and add video content to these monthly round-ups, finally taking the advice my (much younger) friend Emily offered about expanding the array of content to include some tutorials or other little clips that would, you know, liven things up a bit.

I bought a few gadgets, wrote an editorial calendar (for real), and put a little thought into how video could enhance but not replace the written posts. And I had fun doing all of that, back in December and January, before, you know….

Well, here, I’ll just tell you:

That’s right: The year’s not over, and I’m not giving up, because I’m not a quitter, and because I think my friend Emily had a good suggestion that’s taken me a while to figure out. There are a few things that are easier to show (or tell) through video than to describe in writing, but to me the two things go best together, not as an either/or proposition.

So next month (November, because this month is October, I think…), look for a little segment like the one above, only probably not like it at all (I mean, except that I’ll be in it, and it will be recorded in my messy house that I’m just not going to Pinterest-up, not even for you). It will be super short. It will be about writing, only not the way you might think. We’ll see how that goes. Deal? Great.

What prompted me to pull out the (dusty, after 10 months) Pivo? My work. More on that later. First things first…


Reading: It’s good for your top-notch brain. The more you read (and especially the more you read across a wide range of genres, authors, perspectives, etc.), the more exercise your brain gets, and exercising your brain is good for critical thinking, which is good for every single thing in life and democracy.

This month our book group read The Memory Police, which was written in 1994 but not translated into English until 2019 (a fact we were all surprised to learn because the story is hauntingly 2020). That it stood this test of time so well, we agreed, was reason enough to give it a thumbs-up.

A few months ago we read Deacon King Kong, by James McBride, which we also enjoyed. After I listened to Sam Sanders’s interview with McBride, I wanted to read more of McBride’s work, starting with The Good Lord Bird, which I started right before the new Showtime series aired. The Good Lord Bird is funny and touching and fast-paced. Is it better than the TV series? Probably – almost certainly, but I can’t speak to that, because I don’t watch much TV and haven’t seen the series.

Other things I’ve been reading that might be worth your time:

Do you still follow Humans of New York? If not, then you missed the story of Tanqueray, and you’ll want to get caught up. Here’s the NYT story about the story, but reading it on HONY, one post at a time is really the way to go. If anything, Brandon’s project has gotten better, stronger, deeper since I first recommended it to you, years ago. Have a look; here’s the first post (there are 33 in total).

As I wrote a few months ago, Sam Sifton’s writing has been helping me ride the coronacoaster. His “What to Cook” is always entertaining, often inspiring, and typically a good source of ideas for, you know, actual cooking.

Speaking of…


Have you been keeping a cooking journal these past 8 months? Well, nor have I – at least not outside of the things I’ve shared here. And, looking back, I do wish (as Sifton wrote recently) that I’d thought to do it. Here again, I’ll remind both of us: The year isn’t over (and, sadly, neither is the pandemic).

In that cooking journal, had I been keeping one (although maybe I am, and this is part of it?) I would have written details about my experiment trying to replicate the Seessel’s raspberry swirl cookies from my childhood.

I’d have written about the experiment comparing Grit Girl‘s polenta to the grits, and which one makes for better cheese grits (the answer is: it depends).

And I’d definitely have written an entry detailing the completely disastrous (meaning, inedible) dinner a couple of weeks ago. I was looking through the NYT Cooking app for inspiration to deal with some chicken that needed to be cooked without delay, and I stumbled upon a seemingly quick and easy solution: Chicken Larb. The recipe was simple enough and didn’t seem problematic. Only the end result was completely and totally terrible, and I threw it in the garbage.

That failure sent me on a search for a different and better recipe (with a little experimentation in the process). Best choice (that I found)? The Splendid Table. But in between the disaster and the jackpot I made-up something with ground turkey, lots of onion, fresh green peas, fish sauce, lime juice, leftover rice, and gobs of fresh cilantro. It was delicious, and without the experience of the failed chicken larb, I probably wouldn’t have made it.

Reminder: There is often opportunity in failure.

Still working to replicate the butter lettuce salad from Porcellino’s (which, sadly, closed). Samin Nosrat’s Best Green Salad in the World is a good one, but it’s not what I’m looking for. Will keep trying and report back.

Also: I have Meyer lemons that will ripen in November, and I’m going to make lemon curd. Again. Because I love lemon curd. This time I’m going to try Alice Waters’s version from The Art of Simple Cooking (recipe not linkable because it’s not online, and I kind of like that fact).


I don’t watch much TV, but I finally made time to watch RBG, and I cried more than once. I’m glad to have waited until now to see it, although watching now is … oh, just watch it yourself and you’ll see.

The Work-Work

I got the Pivo (video assist) off the shelf because I had to make a short intro video for a fundraising event that we held last weekend in a field under a clear, starry sky.

Back in the before times, we had planned ye-olde standard (fundraising dinner + guest speaker), and we were excited to have as our headliner Victor Rivas Rivers, an actor who is also spokesperson for the National Network to End Domestic Violence, at the event. (Credit were credit is due: the connection to Victor, and underwriting for his planned visit to Memphis, was facilitated through cityCURRENT with sponsorship from ServiceMaster by Cornerstone, and I’m eternally grateful.)

But, you know, COVID-19; so no dinner in May.

And no dinner in the fall, either, we realized in early June.

We needed to raise some money, because here, as everywhere, COVID-19 is a mental health crisis for parents. A young woman on my team said: What about a drive-in movie?

Fast forward: Last weekend we hosted an outdoor movie, a private screening of The Mask of Zorro in which Victor Rivers plays Antonio Banderas’s brother (or, more precisely, he plays the character who is brother of the character played by Banderas), and before the movie we were treated to a guest appearance by Rivers (by video, because, COVID-19).

If you have 7 minutes to watch his speech, I think you’ll be glad to have done so.

What else might be a handy thing for you from my work-work? This article, written by one of our therapists, about how to keep peace in your family when you have strong differences of opinion (or politics): Don’t Fall Out this Fall.

And on that last note, please vote. Please, vote. And then go home and love the people you love, whether they voted the same way you did or not.


  1. Hey Hey Jennifer… I have missed you!! LOVED the video of Victor Rivers. I remember seeing the film. What a great guy. It was cool to get some of his background and trivia about the movie. Melanie gets around, eh? Thanks for sharing. I can’t wait to look up the books and articles you mentioned and the recipes! YAH!
    I did indeed vote the very first day the polls opened in Texas. We shall see what happens but whoever wins has me a bit nervous. Everyone is crazy! God this country is going to hell if things stay the way they are now. I’m just disappointed because 2020 promised me a handbasket!! HA HA HA!!!
    I hope you are well and staying safe. Take care…


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