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COVID-19 and Me, Part 4

My birthday was yesterday, and that marks the first day of spring each year – the vernal equinox. The weather was beautiful – 70 degrees and sunny, good for a long walk, so Brooke and I made a 4.5 mile loop around my neighborhood, stopping a few places for coffee, lunch, and groceries. And now today, in true Rocky Mountain fashion, it’s snowing.

I gave myself two early birthday gifts on Friday – a 90 minute massage from my usual Swiss massage therapist and the first dose of my COVID-19 vaccine. The massage was great, of course. But the shot was a much bigger deal.

Here in Colorado, March 19, 2021 marked the start of what they are calling “Phase 1.b4” of the COVID vaccination rollout. This phase is for people with one or more serious health conditions, plus anyone 50 years of age or older. And that’s me! By great fortune, I got an email from my doctor last week saying that she’s now getting in vaccines to give to her patients. So I replied ASAP and got on the schedule to get my shot the first day I’m officially eligible.

My official Vaccination Record Card – I got the Moderna vaccine

Side note: I’ve come to realize that eligibility for the various phases of the vaccination program has been and will continue to be purely on the honor system. In the previous phase, they didn’t ask anyone to actually prove that you have two serious health problems. And in the new phase, they’re not asking anyone to prove that you have one of the serious health problems on their list. You just say you do, and nobody actually checks anything. I guess it’s essentially a moot point now that the State of Colorado has announced that starting mid-April – in just three weeks – they’re opening up vaccinations for any adult who wants one.

Showing off the Band-Aid on my injection site

Getting vaccinated was very bittersweet for me, much more emotionally charged than any other shot I’ve gotten. My father was on my mind. If the State of Texas had offered him a COVID vaccine a month sooner than they did, he would almost certainly be alive today. I’ve cried several times thinking about that over the past month, and cried again when I got my first shot. That’s the bitter.

Dad and me in 1969

The sweet, though, is that I’m hoping that this shot marks the beginning of the end of my personal COVID-19 story. Six weeks from now – two weeks after my second shot – I’ll be “fully immunized”. And another few weeks after that, all the adults in my life who want to be immunized will be immunized.

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my world this year so far

Here is Brooke and my new cousin Kairi and me
We went hiking in the foothills near Pike’s Peak one day and here is the frozen lake
On the road up Pike’s Peak there is a Bigfoot crossing
I found this sign ironic. BCycle shut down and moved all their rental bikes out of Denver a few months ago. That’s why nothing is in the bike rack.
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visiting Emeril

I just made dinner reservations at Emeril’s New Orleans, his “flagship” restaurant. My department at work is going to New Orleans next month for a three day planning meeting. So I decided to lead a group outing to get some great food on the first night. I haven’t been to this restaurant before – only read about it. But I have been to one of Emeril’s other restaurants and everything there was outstanding. So I’m excited for some good gumbo and boudin balls.

Emeril’s New Orleans

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Thanksgiving Dinner 2019

I haven’t roasted a turkey in a few years, so I decided to do so for Thanksgiving this year. The past couple years, I’ve gone out for Thanksgiving dinner or bought smoked turkey breast from a BBQ joint in town. Since a lot of people seem to appreciate my food posts, I’m gonna share my menu with you here. And maybe some photos.

The Plan

Hummingbird cocktail, fancy presentation

Here’s what I’ve got planned for the menu for today. It’s an extremely small gathering, which is good because my dining room table only fits two.

  • hummingbird cocktails – St. Germain, champagne, and club soda
  • Mary’s free-range turkey, roasted the traditional way (though I did imagine sous-viding it at one point)
  • Brussels sprouts with pepitas – I’m planning to do something that blends this recipe with this recipe
  • rosemary turkey gravy – improvisational creation in the Instant Pot with turkey drippings, broth, fresh rosemary, Lebanese garlic paste, and pepper
  • corn bread muffins – this is Brooke’s contribution, a family tradition of hers
  • cranberry sauce – more on that in a second
  • cherry pie from Project Angel Heart’s “Pie in the Sky” project
  • special secret small dessert treat for people who don’t like cherry pie (in other words, Brooke)

About My Cranberry Sauce

OK, so let’s talk about cranberry sauce a bit. I often make a cranberry relish dish from fresh cranberries, ginger, apple, and sugar. It’s served uncooked and cool, and is tart and refreshing. I wrote up the recipe here a few years ago. Last year I made a huge batch of that to take to dinner at my cousin Megan’s house. But I had a lot of fresh cranberries left over that I didn’t use, so I froze them.

This year, about a week before Thanksgiving, I pulled those frozen cranberries out and thawed them. But I wasn’t convinced that they would make good relish since the freezing process made them a bit soft. So I decided to make cranberry sauce for the first time ever. And since I now have an Instant Pot, I just had to use that.

A couple days ago, I put those thawed cranberries into the Instant Pot, along with a little water, some sliced fresh ginger, an apple cut into segments, some cinnamon powder, a cinnamon stick, and some sugar. I pressure-cooked the whole thing for 3 minutes, and then let it sit for a while after that. Once the pressure was released enough to take off the lid, I fished out the non-cranberry chunks – the ginger, apple, and cinnamon stick. Then I stirred it all together, as it cooled.

The goop in the IP after pressure cooking
My first cranberry sauce, I think

I was surprised at how thick and gelatinous the sauce became once I started stirring. That’s normal, of course, but I’ve never made jam or preserves or anything like that, so it was new to me. Then it went into a container to cool and rest in the fridge until turkey day.

Cooking Photos

That brings us up to Thanksgiving day. I ended up spending several hours in the kitchen, even though the menu was pretty simple.

Here I am with my spoon and apron, invoking the spirit of Hup
Turkey roasting away

Both the turkey and the gravy took longer than I planned. I think I ran into problems with uneven temperature in my oven. And I could not get the flavor of the gravy just right.

Brussels sprouts cooking away in the Instant Pot in slow cooker mode
The finished bird, ready to be carved
Brooke and her plate of food
Here’s how my plate came out

I think my favorite parts of the whole meal were the cranberry sauce and the turkey. Now, lots of leftovers! I hope you had a nice Thanksgiving.

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mile high composting and voting

Since this past spring, I’ve been working to arrange composting at my condominium complex. And this week it starts to pay off.

Denver Compost Collective is an organization that collects food waste from apartment dwellers and takes it to their large scale composting facility. Then they give the resulting “black gold” to a local urban farm/food charity. The city has been encouraging composting the past few years, but if you don’t have a big garden, it’s tough to do. So this group fills that gap.

Here is me with my new bucket. I’ll fill it up throughout the week with food scraps (no meat or dairy) and then put it in my building’s parking garage for DCC to pick up Monday morning. They weigh each bucket, dump it into a bigger container on their truck, rinse the bucket out, and put it back in the garage.

In other news, I voted today. The ballot and issues were so easy this time I decided to do it while enjoying some quasi-legal recreational drugs. It’s great to live in Denver.

Saturday, maybe Casa Bonita. Seriously.

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Pride Parade 2019

In Denver, this was pride weekend. I was invited to walk in today’s parade as part of the Employees of the State of Colorado group, which I did. It was good fun. I got to meet the governor, wave a sign, and get in a nice walk on a nice day.

Here is a photo of Brooke and me, in front of some others in our group. We met up at Cheesman Park before walking out behind a state trooper patrol car that was decorated with rainbow stripes.

After we started moving, we then had to pause just outside the park for about 20 minutes until the parade actually began. Here is the group behind us, Rainbow Alley. The Celebrate Pride sign in the middle of the photo shows the State of Colorado’s new logo, modified for the rainbow theme.

The parade ended at Lincoln and Colfax, and we then went to the festival going on in Civic Center Park. Brooke spotted a tent of people from CSU so had to stop for a photo op, as a proud alum. I kept my mouth shut, being a wise CU alum.

Also, I didn’t take a photo but we were surprised to see my cousin Nashira, who just returned from college two days ago, and is working at NARAL for the summer. She and one other young woman were running the NARAL booth at the festival. I told her how proud I am of her.

Another tent we found was for the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. It’s my favorite museum and I’ve been a member for decades. So we had to get this photo.

According to my iPhone, we walked 4.3 miles. That includes walking to the start of the parade, walking in the parade, wandering around the festival, and walking home from the end of the parade.

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I met Larry Elmore today

I met the famous fantasy painter Larry Elmore today. We were both waiting for the same late airport shuttle and then rode together on the bus. I got to talk to him for 30 or 45 minutes, about everything from cars to meth to air travel to retirement to the draft. He’s 70 and says he’s never retiring, because he wouldn’t know what to do other than paint.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Larry_Elmore

I thanked him for all the great art he’s made that has enhanced fantastic role playing games since the 70s.

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Cowboy Chicken

A couple of the locals at the game convention said I need to check out Cowboy Chicken, a restaurant with really good rotisserie chicken. And I needed a walk and had a three hour gap in my schedule. So I walked here.

My order: “quarter white” with green beans, okra, and a glass of ice water. It’s pretty good. The place is a little more fast food-ish than I expected. And their use of Texas cowboy-ness in the decor is a little excessive (like a lot of things in Texas). But I like the food.

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first “win” of the con

I’m in Irving, Texas for a small four-day gaming convention called North Texas RPG Con. I attended last year and it was fun enough I came back. The convention is at the Westin hotel by the Dallas-Fort Worth airport, so it’s easy and pretty cheap to get to.

I arrived early this afternoon and got in two games so far. One was Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG and the second was a tournament game of a DCCRPG variant called Umerica, which is mostly modeled on the TV show “Thundarr the Barbarian” and related fantasy and sci-fi shows of the 80s.

I got second place in that second game. Here is my medal and my award-winning character, named Diana Ross.

The back of the medal reads “2019 NTRPG TOURNAMENT – BLOOD BATH AT ALLSVIL”.

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fox on the run

I thought "Fox on the Run" was by Cheap Trick, and just happened to sound a lot like ELO. But it’s actually by a band I’ve never heard of called Sweet.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fox_on_the_Run_(Sweet_song)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qBdFA6sI6-8