The Best of 2020 – Yes. There Was SOME Good

This Best of 2020 blog was started in January, then I had a bout of depression, and then we decided to move in February and now, while I have a few quiet minutes I am finishing it. Enjoy and apologies for the tardiness.

Fuck 2020. Yes. We’ve all said it. The entire year was a complete shit show of monumental proportions. There were many disappointments, hardships, and losses of all kinds. Even though they suck, hardships allow for growth in my experience. We all learned to rethink our priorities in several areas. Learning who and what I can, and should, live without was liberating in a way. I eliminated toxic people, situations, and yes, even some foods that I found I could and should live without. My mental and physical health became more of a priority. I normally love to shop in person, but I learned to be a better online shopper and I tried produce delivery services to avoid going into the grocery store as frequently (the delivery services were hit or miss, so I still ended up in the store). I was outraged on behalf of my friends in the small business community when they were held to crippling standards that the big businesses here in Vegas were not expected to follow as stringently. Supporting locally owned businesses became even more of an imperative for our family. I wept for and with friends for many reasons. We all did.

2020 Had it All…NOT!

There was a lot missing in 2020. Celebrations. Dinner Parties. Trips and vacations of all kinds. And even though I was annoyed by virtually ALL of it, I found myself willingly and gracefully falling into the dreaded “new normal” – a phrase I despise BTW – of COVID dictated frameworks. Checklist before I leave the house – phone, purse, mask – CHECK! Who knew a mask could become a fashion accessory? One more place to wear sequins, glitter, and rhinestones! Who knew Stephen King’s The Stand would resonate so profoundly with me every time someone sneezed or coughed in my general vicinity?

2020 was not a year of eating dangerously. It was not a year of new restaurants tried. And yet, 2020 did yield some surprisingly happy things. It had its charms in new and unusual ways. Many rediscovered the joy of takeout and learned about food delivery services (and their usury practices and fees).  Some of us learned to cook new things at home. Hello, Sourdough anyone? Many of us pushed beyond our normal kitchen/culinary comfort zones in 2020. I know I did. I am not usually a “joiner”, but I joined a cookbook club and made some new “e-friends” who are VASTLY different than I. Being involved with this community renewed my passion for feeding those in need.

With all the trials and tribulations of 2020, here is my list of the Best of 2020:

Please Send Noodles – My Cookbook Club

Helmed by James Beard Award Winner Kim Foster, this book club is unlike any other I have belonged to before. Every other week I join a Zoom meeting with anyone else who is interested. We choose a cookbook, and for a month or so, cook from it learning new techniques, recipes, and more about ourselves. Cookbook authors have joined us for private cooking classes and Q & A sessions that were informative and fun. We also do a once a month “community cook” where we band together to feed those less fortunate than ourselves. This group was a balm to my ragged soul in 2020. I thank dear friend Gemini for inviting me, and I thank each active member for contributing and helping me see more of myself. Cook-along Events

When the pandemic forced our local restaurants to close their doors, Jolene Mannina got creative as only she can do! Working with locally owned restaurants, she created limited edition cooking classes with the chefs. Instead of straight up take out, you picked up a pre-measured and prepped box of ingredients, and at a specified time, logged into FB and cooked along with the chef. BRILLIANT! A private cooking class with a local chef? SIGN ME UP! I was able to enjoy some of my fave dishes, like James Trees’ cacio e pepe. I learned his tricks to make it at home, and support locally as well. As much as I enjoyed all the meals cooked with the chefs, Nina Manchev from Forte Tapas is the best teacher on camera IMHO. Restaurants are now open again with limited seating, but Secret Burger is still doing amazing things. Click the link to find out more about upcoming events. Out of towners – this is your ticket to eating like a local…just sayin’.

Quarantine Kitchen with Nancy

Jolene’s cooking events encourage me to stretch my skill set a bit and I started doing online cooking with and for my sister Nancy. About once a month we select a recipe that she wants to learn how to make and I cook it LIVE on Facebook. This is one of the best of 2020 because it allowed me to stay more connected to my sister and out of town friends and I was able to do it through my love language of food. You can see all of the Quarantine Kitchen Videos on my YouTube Channel. While you’re there, take a sec and subscribe so you never miss a video class! If you want to know when the next one will be, be sure to “like” Good for Spooning on Facebook. It’s been a minute since we cooked together and it’s gonna be an even longer minute because I am moving and remodeling a kitchen (more on that soon).

My Sourdough Bread Adventures

From my previous blog you know that I learned to work with sourdough, and it truly is one of the best things from 2020. It’s not just the gorgeous boules that I have been turning out. I’ve branched into English Muffins and baguettes. I do love carbs and this is just a new way for me to love them.

Holiday Gift Guide – 2020 The COVID Edition

The Holiday Season is going to be very different this year. Thinking of having a Holiday open house? Fuggetaboutit. Holiday office party? Nixed. Traveling to be with family? Do it at your own peril. I am expecting the remainder of 2020 to be more of the same. Because many people are staying home as much as possible, all but one of the following gifts can be ordered and shipped, so you can shop in your PJ’s.

Let’s be honest 2020 has sucked

A. LOT. It has been one stress inducing thing after another. To help blow away the Holiday Blues that COVID has brought, this is my annual Holiday Gift List, just in time for Cyber Monday. This year, nothing on the list is a splurge. Every item is under $75 each. In fact, you could buy one of everything on this list for under $200. Because we have all been cooking at home more than in the past, this year’s list features the things that I have found useful, entertaining, been obsessed with, or would like to have for myself again. When possible I have shared links to small stores, local stores, or the manufacturers rather than the “big box” retailers. COVID has hit the small business owners harder than ever, support them when you can.

This Cookbook

Right now I am obsessed with Chinese cooking. In particular, THIS book, all about wok cooking. There is something totally meditative about the required prep work that makes this style of cooking great for tuning out stress and tuning into the here and now for me. The author was kind enough to get on a Zoom call with my cookbook club and she is just as amazing as the book itself. The recipes themselves cook up FAST – most in under 10 minutes – the prep is the step that takes the time. Bonus – true wok cooking uses very little oil, so it’s a healthier option in many ways. $35 – available at The Writer’s Block (they ship too).

Stir Frying to the Sky’s Edge – my fave cookbook purchased all year

Now that you have the book…

To make the above book the perfect gift, pick up this wok set. It has everything you need to get started. It’s the perfect gift for the budding cook, a cook dipping their toes into Chinese cooking waters (like me), or the experienced cook who needs an upgrade. I am obsessed with this pan. I am using it as much as possible to get a great seasoning on it (think cast iron). Of course, the woks are available individually as well. Per Grace Young‘s recommendation, get the flat bottomed vs. the round bottomed. I also suggest you add the flax seed oil to your order for seasoning. BONUS – the carbon steel woks are made in the USA! The wok comes with complete instructions for seasoning like a pro. $60 (HOLIDAY SPECIAL) – The Wok Shop, San Francisco.

The kit makes a great “get started now!” Holiday gift, but if you’re buying for someone who already has decent cookware, just pick up the wok itself. Photo from The Wok Shop

Grow Your Own Holiday Magic

For the cook you know that has a green thumb OR wants to try their hand at something new, get a mushroom growing kit. I was gifted one years ago by Friend Rev Kane (Ministry of Happiness) and I LOVED it! ‘Shrooms are easy to grow and if there are kids in the house, they’ll get a kick out of it too. Try Sundown Mushrooms right here in the Vegas valley to support a small company. Various varieties at $33 with free shipping.

This variety is called Blue Oyster, but there are others available. Photo from Sundown Mushrooms website

Small Batches and Limited Editions

I am a sucker for anything that is “small batch”, “limited edition”, “only available for a limited time” and so on. These sauces by Artful Saucier make the perfect Holiday gift for that saucy as hell friend or family member. Made with love by dear Friend Gemini, each is a complete and total flavor bomb. Available online only at this time and a great way to support a small business. Starting at $10. Sign up for the newsletter so you know when new batches are available and when there is a sale!

A sampling of the small batch sauces available from Artful Saucier. Photo from their website.

And THIS Holiday Ornament Sums it Up

A little humor goes a long way in 2020. Especially when it is spot on AND is decorative. Find this ornament and others like it on Etsy. I seriously think everyone on my Holiday gift list may be getting one of these. #Fuck2020

Photo from the linked seller’s site on Etsy

Everyone Needs this…Yes, REALLY

The Hubs found this by accident one day while on a mission to Total Wine after we had come back from a European River Cruise. It is perfect in tea, coffee, or hot chocolate, and utterly delicious on ice cream. Of course this is not for the kids, or anyone who abstains from alcohol. This is one of those things you MUST buy when you see it in the store because they don’t ship it, and it is in limited quantities. When you see it, buy 2. One for you, one for a friend. If you have ever had a Stroopwaffel, you KNOW how delish they are, so wrap your head around your fave hot beverage tasting like all of that goodness…yeah, that. If you have never had a Stroopwaffel, it’s everything you ever dreamed of in a waffle, a cookie, and caramel rolled into one delightful mouthful. Van Meers Stroopwaffel liqueur $13 from Total Wine.

Photo from Total Wine website.

The Holiday Gift that Keeps on Giving

December 1st is Giving Tuesday – Make a donation to your loved one’s favorite charity in their name. My suggestion is to always choose something local to their community or a local chapter of a national organization.

What to Get Me

In case you didn’t know, I started teaching my sister Nancy to cook via online videos. One camera, one take, no editing. Some are better than others, quality wise, as you can guess. As a gift to me, subscribe to my YouTube channel (and watch the cooking videos) and/or my blog (there’s a place for your address at the bottom, and NO I don’t share your info). Follow me on Instagram and Facebook. And once you do, comment and interact with me. It makes my day so much more interesting than just seeing “likes”.

The COVID Times – What I’ve Learned

Yeah – I get it. COVID has made this summer suck. Vacations cancelled. Weddings Cancelled. Graduations cancelled. Everything cancelled. Thanks COVID! The opportunities to share and celebrate with friends and family and enjoy your “normal” activities were severely reduced. I get it. I feel it too. BUT I learned a lot about myself and others through COVID mandated social distancing, small gatherings, cancellations, and closures. As a social person by nature who feeds off excitement and activity, isolation is literally my worst nightmare. Being cut off from everyone and everything was nearly trauma inducing for me in April. Then I got my head screwed on straight.

I took this time of isolation to learn and observe.



For more than 25 years I have tried to make sourdough bread. I’ve killed starters, made shitty versions of sourdough, and thought I was a lost cause. Then Friend Gemini gave me some of her starter. I thought, “I have nowhere to go and nothing to do. This is the perfect time to try again.” So, like most of the country, I started baking again. Using a book gifted to me by Friend Chris M, I began. First with no success, then with moderate success, and now a few months into attempts, I am having fairly good results. I finally learned a lot of what I was doing wrong with sourdough. My problems were multifold. Firstly, I didn’t know all of the “tricks”. I thought all sourdough was supposed to have that tang like “San Francisco Sourdough” NOPE! I wasn’t following the directions precisely because I thought I knew how to make bread. Being impatient, I was trying to rush the process. Lastly, I was treating sourdough like other breads, thinking it could be done in one day. NOPE! Sourdough takes way more time than I realized. It takes 3 fucking days! COVID taught me to slow down.  

 I also learned how to finally make great Cacio e Pepe – read about it here.


I have always been in awe of Martha Stewart – that bitch can do anything! So, I decided I wanted to learn to sew. I had made crafts before, but now I wanted to sew garments. Well, of course no one is teaching classes right now, so it was up to me to teach myself. Thankfully, Friend Jeanie is a master seamstress, so I could call her and ask for advice. Friend Janet has been sewing for years and taught me some tricks too. And even though I had bought fabric and patterns, the mere idea of creating a garment made me break out in a cold sweat. “I have nowhere to go and nothing to do. This is the perfect time to try again.” So I did. I have made 3 dresses! I made a bunch of masks from scrap fabric that I had laying around from craft projects – those were easy. My problems with sewing in the past have been multifold as well. I am impatient…again…and want the results YESTERDAY! Because the crafts came together so easily and quickly, I thought garments would as well. NOPE! I didn’t know all the lingo or how to read a pattern. And being a novice, I was choosing patterns and fabrics “out of my weight class”. COVID taught me to slow down.


Sister Nancy wanted me to teach her how to cook online through live videos. I was hesitant to try, but jumped into it because I love my sister. I learned A LOT doing this for/with her. There is a LOT that goes into a live demo, and I knew some of that having done over 1000 in my lifetime, but this was different. I had to look at a camera, talk to a virtual audience, and describe things more fully than if people were there in person. I learned how to “go live” on Facebook and how to transfer the videos over to YouTube. You can watch all the recipes on my YouTube channel*. What I also learned is that while I don’t think I am fast…I kinda am. And when teaching others via live video, it was hard for some folks to keep up. COVID taught me to slow down.

What I RE-Learned About Myself

  • I really like to read trashy novels – not romances, just stuff that I don’t have to think too hard about
  • Cooking is comfort for me
  • I love to travel…and I get cranky when I can’t “get away” for a few days
  • Planning anything (travel, parties, get-togethers, etc.) makes me happy and gives me something to look forward to doing.
  • When I don’t have anything to look forward to, depression sets in
  • Depression BLOWS!

What I Observed About Myself:

  • I have far more patience with myself than I realized – sewing illustrated that for me
  • I have far less patience for other people’s bullshit than I ever dreamed possible
  • Never underestimate the power of a good hug.
  • I never realized how spoiled I truly am.
  • If I put my mind to it, I can do nearly anything
  • I am more of an introvert than I thought
  • Masks hide my resting bitch face
  • I enjoy peace & quiet with no one talking to me
  • I don’t enjoy gardening as much as I used to
  • Don’t take the company of others for granted

What I Learned About Others

  • No matter what you do, someone will always be there to criticize you
  • Tempers become VERY short, when people are cooped up
  • People really don’t understand science
  • Isolation makes everyone react differently
  • Isolation allowed people’s true colors to shine through. Some good. Some not so good.
    • “When someone shows you who they are believe them”
  • Some people can’t read a “one way” sign
  • A person can remain calm, PEOPLE panic

*(shameless plug – subscribe to my YouTube channel, linked above, so you get all the video content. When new videos are posted, you’ll get notified so you can watch them whenever it’s convenient for you). Even better – if you want to cook along live with me when the videos are created, you can follow me on Facebook at Good for Spooning. Same handle on Instagram to see everything I am eating!