Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Sam's Weekly Quarantine Digest #25: September 7, 2020

Hi all,

Today's Digest is the second installment of the "Best of" series, which will continue for another week or two before resuming the usual variety of of-the-moment digital offerings.  As noted last week, I am definitely not cool enough to have paid endorsements, so I have no relationship with any of these companies - although if you work for one of them and feel like paying me for future endorsements, let's talk!  :P  Enjoy, everyone!  I hope you each find something on this list that you haven't yet tried, and that it brings you a moment of respite from these crazy times.

Previous digests can be found on my blog at thatsthewaythecookiecrumbles.com.  If you have suggestions or would like to stop receiving these emails, just let me know.


Best of...Classes
  • 92Y: In addition to their renowned talks and live performances (as one example, check out this upcoming series examining various aspects of the U.S. voting system), 92Y offers classes on everything from history and the arts to a few pretty special cooking classes.  Some are one-offs, and some are multiple-week series.  Check out their current offerings here.
    • Dominique Ansel: Hold the presses, y'all!  Dominique Ansel is hosting a special baking class called Everyone Can Bake to celebrate his new book, in connection with 92Y.  I will most definitely be on the line, and I'd be happy to have a second video going simultaneously if anyone wants to nerd out with me.
  • Duolingo: This app/website offers language classes in 38 different languages.  It's free to use, but you can pay for an ads-free version.  While it's difficult to pick up an entirely new language since the course does not cover basics like rules of conjugation, it's a fabulous way to expand your vocabulary, improve your pronunciation, and refresh your memory on a language you already know (or one adjacent to it).  I speak Spanish and a little bit of French, so I used the first couple months of the quarantine to pick up a bit of Italian through Duolingo, and it was both fun and effective.
  • UdemyUdemy has bite-sized classes on just about anything (I have a class on beatboxing queued up for my next free weekend)
  • AI & Copyright: If you have three hours to kill and you're intrigued by the topic of how AI intersects with IP, security, and privacy law, you can check out this panel discussion I participated in this past June.  If you haven't already heard me discuss my paper on AI and copyright authorship that was published last summer, you can listen to a 5-minute summary in the video, starting around 48:00.  If you really can't get enough on the topic, you can read my full paper here.

Best of...Workouts
  • Cardio Kickboxing: Ok, I've recommended this one a few times, but that's because it's so darn good!  This cardio kickboxing workout will kick your butt every time, and it's only 19 minutes long!
  • Dance WorkoutThis dance workout from Les Mills (sponsored by Reebok) is a fun way to feel like you're learning something while getting a decent workout, but be sure to really throw yourself into it to get your heart rate up.
  • Popsugar: PopSugar has a whole bunch of workout videos posted for free streaming on YouTube.  Just search on YouTube, pick one that sounds fun, and get going!  To get you started, this hip-hop workout is pretty fun, and the final segment will burn your abs, arms, and quads into oblivion if you stick with it to the end!
  • Video Games: The Wii (yes, the one that was discontinued in 2013) has a couple of great workout games, so pull it out of the closet, dust it off, and get moving.  Luke and I both love NFL Training Camp and EA Sports Active 2 (and we've been using it for close to a decade now!).  For the xBox 360, try Your Shape Fitness Evolved.  For the Switch, try Zumba: Burn It Up or Ring Fit.
  • 305 Fitness: This cardio-dancing workout franchise has been offering free online classes every day on their YouTube channel.  I tried it once in person before the quarantine and worked up such a sweat that I was dehydrated for days (not a good thing, but the intensity of the workout sure was!).  I haven't given it a try on YouTube yet, but it's in my queue for this week.

Best of...Staying Connected
  • Send a cardLovePop cards are really special - they're quite expensive, but their pop-ups are absolutely amazing, with dozens of options so you can find the perfect theme for the occasion or for the recipient.  They even now make pop-up paper flower bouquets and 3-D stickers that you can sprinkle around your home office to brighten up an otherwise dreary Wednesday.
  • JackBoxJackBox is a set of simple games that are easy to play over Zoom, Google Meet, or FaceTime, including Drawful, Fibbage, Trivia Murder Party, and You Don't Know Jack.  If you haven't yet tried them out, let me know and I'd be happy to put together a test run.
  • Good old-fashioned planning: The Jewish High Holidays are coming up, and Christmas isn't far behind them.  Send out your video call links ahead of time to make sure everyone can celebrate together.  For Passover this spring, my family actually really enjoyed the silver lining that family members and friends who would normally be far away or hosting a different gathering were all able to join via Zoom - we had participants at our seder from Maryland, Alaska, and Florida as well as the usual Tri-State crowd.  Be sure to plan ahead for your holiday gifts this year, too, given the post office delays and the fact that you'll need to ship just about all of your gifts to their recipients.  This is not the year for last-minute scrambles, so make your list and start shopping a bit earlier this year - for example, try making Black Friday the end of your shopping period rather than the beginning.
  • Birthdays: Find ways to make birthdays special despite the distance.  You can try virtual Escape-the-Room experiences (try here or here for lists of recommended options), Murder Mystery events, video game dance parties, private cooking classes (Homemade pasta, anyone? Email the Eataly team at lascuola@eataly.com, or check out Nonnas Live to learn from an Italian grandma who lives in the countryside near Rome!), or game nights (try JackBox (see above) or Code Names).
  • Virtual celebration experiencesAmazingCo Experiences offers an awesome assortment of curated virtual activities, including everything from "Foodie Fun Night" to "Family Date Night" to virtual escape rooms, trivia nights, and even playdates and birthday party activities for kids
Best of...Kitchen Gadgets, Part I
  • Rubber spatulas: I know, I know - this is such a basic kitchen tool, how could this make my list?  Well, these simple rubber spatulas were purchased in a last-minute panic when my previous Oxo spatula lost its head (literally, not figuratively) a week before the baking began for my annual Cookie Party.  They've since been a daily staple in my kitchen, taking me from scrambled eggs to risotto to cookie dough and cake batter.  They've survived for years without staining or chipping, and the color coding makes it easy to be careful about allergies - for me, red and orange = dangers (tree nuts or un-vetted ingredients), and the rest are safe to use for any dish.  And each one is a single piece, so the head will never come off my dough again. 
  • Waffle ironThis waffle iron is small enough to tuck away in a drawer or a corner of a cabinet (or even inside a pot), takes only about two minutes to make a perfectly-portioned Belgian waffle, and is absurdly easy to clean.  If you're worried about needing to make more at once, at a cost of $10, every family member can pick their favorite color (it comes in more shades than Jacob's coat)!
  • Rolling pins:
    • This rolling pin is magic.  Not only is it non-stick and dishwasher-safe, but the handles are weighted so they're always facing the right way for your hands, and the weighting gives you the perfect amount of control to ensure that your dough is flat and smooth, without those sloping edges that make your cookies burn.  I actually did not own this one myself until recently, but I was baking at my parents' house and borrowed it from my mom, who offered to trade with me when she saw the delight and awe it inspired in me throughout that week.
    • If you really need a very precise thickness and you don't trust yourself to gauge it yourself, this rolling pin from Joseph Joseph (a company that makes really creative and joyful kitchen gadgets) comes with thickness rings of varying depths to help you get that pie crust or sugar cookie dough to a perfect 1/8".
  • Bottle Cap Opener: Do you have hand pain when you try to open a tightly-sealed bottle cap?  Try this nifty tool that helps you twist them off more easily.  Just choose the hole that matches the size of your bottle cap (I used a Sharpie to label the one that fits a Diet Coke cap for the recipient I gifted this to).
  • KitchenAid beater: This beater blade for your KitchenAid mixer is great for cookie doughs and other dishes that need to be very well-blended and that have a tendency to stick to the sides of your mixing bowl.  This game-changer was a wedding gift from my team at Google, and I've in turn gifted it numerous times since.
  • Measuring Cup: Ever go to read your Pyrex measuring cup only to find that you need to switch hands because the marking are all in milliliters?  Try this "left-handed" measuring cup, and never have to attempt a please-don't-spill mid-air hand swap again.
  • Stay tuned: More coming in future Digests - I could start a second blog devoted solely to awesome kitchen gadgets and have material ready for a year!

COMING SOON: Best of...Recipes, Delivery Food, and (More) Kitchen Gadgets; Dance, Theater, and Other Streaming Performances

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