Category Archives: Food

Part 3: Didn’t see many ashes in Asheville

We left you in Cataloochee…Part 1 and Part 2. Lots of camping and talking about hiking and the rain.

So, after spending about 6 days in the wilderness feeling rather…damp…(the humidity!), Louie and I drove to the civilized world. We had three nights booked at an AirBNB so we’d be sleeping in a bed, using a bathroom with HOT water (fun fact: the campgrounds in National Parks never seem to have hot water, only cold), and who knows what else? Wearing real clothes, eating food at restaurants, and more!

First stop: the electro bike tour. A few years ago we’d done a bike tour in the Rocky Mountains (that was all downhill, so much fun) and I wondered if there was anything like that to do. A little searching brought me to a company that provided a tour on electro bikes—bikes that gave you a little assist with the hills. We met the tour guide in a park in Asheville, and it would be just us and another couple on the tour. The guide’s name was Torin, and he brought the bikes, helmets, and water for everyone.

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You can see the bikes look very similar to regular bikes. In any case, we took a few minutes to ride around the parking lot and see how we felt. I thought the bikes were great! You could have the assist off, but that’d be crazy, and then there were a few levels, low, med, and high. Torin told us he’d warn us when to turn up to high and otherwise we’d probably want to keep it on the middle level. You still had to pedal and otherwise steer/ride the bike as normal, but if you are comfortable riding a regular bike, you can do this. I personally thought it was amazing, because it made bike riding more fun and more easy, and you definitely still get a little workout!

We went to a variety of places, and got off the bikes and walked around a bit as well. You do ride in the street some, though the guide does his best to make things comfortable and safe, but there will be cars on occasion. I don’t mind at all, but the other party seemed to have some trouble with that.

We went to the Grove Park Inn which is an old historic hotel which overlooks Asheville.

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Then we biked to downtown Asheville and had a quick look around, tried to see the Basilica but it was closed to the public, and then headed to the Botanical Gardens.

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On the way, it started POURING buckets of rain. We all got completely soaked. We decided as a group to skip the last stop and just head back, which was a little disappointing, but probably for the best.

It’s important to note that we now each had two pairs of completely soaked shoes, and unfortunately for Louie, the only pair of shoes he had that wasn’t soaked was his tall hiking boots! I had sandals.

Anyway, our next stop was to the AirBNB to check in and do some laundry! We got a room with a private bathroom, private entrance, and shared laundry facilities. It was in the basement of the owner’s house, but it was great, and we’d highly recommend for an easy stay. It was only a short drive from downtown, in a neat neighborhood, and was just a great place to stay at a good value.

After doing some laundry and getting cleaned up, we took a lyft to downtown Asheville and went to Curate (our bike tour guide had recommended it)…OMG this was one of our top ten meals. We got there around 5 pm with no reservation, and were seated at the bar. I think we got very lucky, because the restaurant was absolutely packed from that point on. Based on the current menu online: here’s a sampling of what we ate:

ensalada de sandía y tomate
salad of compressed watermelon, heirloom cherry tomatoes, sheep cheese, sweet onion, and corn nuts with petite lettuces dressed in a honey-sherry vinaigrette

sardinas curadas
salt cured sardines, pickled raspberries, toasted pistachio (inspired by an elBulli flavor combination)

rossejat negro
thin noodles prepared paella style, squid in its ink, shellfish stock, garnished with all i oli and salsa verde, the essence of the ocean

We had a few more things too, but nearly every dish was a hit and was simply delicious!

I should backtrack and tell you a funny story from our lyft. We got into the car and the driver asked us if we had been camping. Here we are, finally all cleaned up and we thought, respectable looking, and yet we looked like we’d been camping? But she said, well she smelled campfire. We were baffled, but we agreed, we smelled it too. Later I realized the smell came from the umbrella! I’d been holding it over the fire the previous day to give Louie a fighting chance at starting it. Sigh.

After dinner, we decided to walk around a bit and headed to a few breweries as well. We’d been told to try the Wicked Weed so we started there and then went to the Green Man Brewing Company as well. After that we were exhausted and headed back and fell asleep.

The next morning my parents were coming up to visit for the day, so we waited a little bit for them to arrive. We had a light breakfast in the room, and luckily had a wonderful coffeemaker to use! Once my parents arrived, we managed to fit everybody in one car and headed out. Our first stop was the NC Arboretum. There was a lot to see there, but we headed for the gardens first.

The gardens were designed by Frederick Olmsted, who designed Central Park, parts of University Circle in Cleveland, the Danforth campus of the Washington University in St Louis, and the Biltmore Estate Grounds.  Basically he seemed to be the only landscape architect worth using for a period of history and had a long and busy career!

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The most interesting part was the bonsai garden, I thought. I didn’t know all that went into making a bonsai plant, that you had to cultivate it to grow exactly how you want and how much work it took!

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Next we decided to head on the Blue Ridge Parkway for a bit. We got some amazing views of the mountains, and ended up at the Pisgah Inn at a good time for lunch, so we ate in the restaurant there while enjoying amazing views.

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I know there were pictures taken with my Mom and Dad but I guess not on my camera! Anyway, they were totally there also.

After lunch we went to downtown Asheville and walked around again. We tried to follow the “Urban Trail” but found it very difficult. We had a good time anyway, and were able to see more things than the day before. We also went back to the Grove Park Inn and wandered around there more than the day before, saw an art gallery and a car museum in the area too. We thought of going to the Botanical Gardens too, but they were closed by the time we tried.

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My parents weren’t staying overnight though, so after a long day of sightseeing, we all got a coffee, visited for another hour or soon, and then they headed on their way. Louie and I looked up a place for dinner and ended up at a fun place called ‘‘Nine Mile” which featured Caribbean cuisine. It was great. We just went back home afterwards because we were exhausted.

The next day we had tickets for the Biltmore House. I’d been two previous times in my life, but not for about 8-9 years, and Louie had never been. We decided to get breakfast at a place called Biscuithead, which was kind of on our way.  I had the fried green tomato biscuit.

The day took a turn after breakfast though, because that’s when I found out my dad’s brother, my uncle Sam, had died overnight. He’d been sick for awhile with pancreatic cancer, but still. The news is never expected. I wasn’t sure what to do—it seems ridiculous to just continue your vacation after getting such news, but there’s nothing to be done otherwise…send words of condolence, know how sad you are and how sad you are for your aunt and cousins and grandmother…it’s just so sad.

So I wasn’t in the greatest of moods at the Biltmore House, nor did I know if we’d be cutting our vacation short, or what, but we went anyway, and made the best of it. And then I kept thinking of our last family trip to the Biltmore House, which was right around the time my grandpa died…of pancreatic cancer, and it all just totally sucked.

But we had prepaid, and there was nothing more to be done. We got the audio tour with our tickets, and I’d recommend that as well. We both enjoyed the tour and learned a fair amount. I always love the library and the pool was also really fun, along with so many other amazing rooms. (The Biltmore house is a house built by the Vanderbilts, and it’s like a palace. )

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I didn’t take too many pictures, but there’s a few. The pool couldn’t hold water for long because this was before the modern pool chemicals! And these days it doesn’t hold water at all—there is evidently a crack or something that makes it not work. Anyway, I encourage you to look up the history of the Biltmore House if you are so inclined.

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After the house tour we walked around the gardens. It was a hot day though, and we didn’t enjoy them as much as we might have.

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We went to the winery next and ended up getting a few bottles of wine to take home.

After that Louie wanted to check out the Moog museum, which was near downtown Asheville again. Unfortunately the museum wasn’t open, but there was a showroom with a bunch of stuff, including a few theremins. So we tried our hands at playing theremin!

We had dinner reservations at Rhubarb, a local “farm to table” restaurant. We really enjoyed our meal! Afterwards we went to a few more breweries: Burial and High Wire.

The next morning we were both pretty sad to leave. I was also struggling with knowing what to do next with my uncle’s passing and waiting to hear what would happen as far as a service. I was very hesitant to go to our next destination as I knew I’d be out of phone service there…and I was also hesitant to leave our creature comforts to go sleep on the floor again, ha! Maybe I shouldn’t have split up the camping…I’d thought, in the planning, that it would be a nice break, but it was hard to leave.

But we did. We loaded up the car and set out for the Smoky Mountains again. Since I’m going to stop this post before going on, I will tell you that I was able to make plans for attending my uncle’s service before we went into the wilderness again, and it did involve leaving one day early, so we only had two more nights camping ahead of us. I was happy to do it, because I really wanted to go to see my family and pay my respects.

Asheville: we would return. More restaurants to eat at, see the Moog Museum (for Louie), the Botanical Gardens, and we didn’t do any hiking in the area—evidently there is plenty! They say fall is a beautiful time to visit. We are hardly ever able to travel in the fall, but maybe someday.

Next stop: Cades Cove.

Day Off

A random Friday off is always nice, even though this month is pretty easy overall.

I feel I’ve lost my motivation to do anything musical. I haven’t really practiced at all this week! Maybe I need the downtime, but I have a stack of music to be working on, at least in the abstract, so hopefully next week will bring more motivation. Then again, motivation is something that comes from within, so I’ll look there first.

I’ve been working on reorganizing my house, especially my music collection. I keep getting more music, and hate getting rid of things, so getting it more in order will be nice. I think I’m going to get some magazine holders in order to keep stuff more together, and try to organize somewhat alphabetically/by genre/category. Any musicians have any successful ideas to share? I am not organized by nature but can work hard.

I’m working on my fall schedule as well. Well, as much as one can in June. I’ve got some wonderful “borrowed” students over the summer, but definitely have openings in the fall, especially on Wednesdays. Pass it on! I’m sometimes surprised by how quickly I go from absolutely insanely busy to, well, blogging in my pj’s after spending a few hours organizing. That’s right, I may or may not still be in my pajamas. That’s what days off are for, correct?

I suppose I spend too much time here acting silly Winking smile I was thinking earlier that I’m getting to be old and should be mature soon. I’m in my last year of my 30’s now…but I don’t always feel like I’m an adult, in the same way that I always thought my parents were adults at this age. Granted, I don’t have kids, and did I mention I’m in my pajamas? But I suppose there are times I feel adult. Right now, for instance. Spending a day off organizing my house and doing laundry is pretty adult. Also the other day I gave a student advice on how to help a younger student with a posture issue. Sometimes, in fact, I completely surprise myself with my adult-ness. (Or I’m still being silly. I think I need more coffee. Even with the day off, the sun woke me up by 7:30 am and I was planning to sleep longer after having stayed up late watching an episode of House of Cards.)

Other things I’m doing: uploading CD’s to iTunes (this is a project I started years ago but never finished) in order to be able to listen to anything I want whenever. My current impetus is because Louie is putting in a new radio in my car (the old one works only as a radio because the CD player is broken, and has no accessory function) which I can use to listen through my phone and also use as a bluetooth to talk on the phone. If I have all my music on the phone, then I can listen to any of it anytime! I learn music best when I combine the visual and the aural, and I just haven’t been listening enough since my CD player broke Sad smile

Also making an omelet with leftover potatoes from my “birthday dinner” last night (one night late.) I’m doing what I call a spanish omelet where you mix up eggs and add potatoes and whatever else to it and then cook it on low heat in a cast iron pan for around 30 minutes until it sets. It better be good!

(Last night’s dinner at Peacemaker Lobster and Crab. Lobster doesn’t fit great into my mostly veggie/fish diet, but I am okay with it plus a little sausage for special occasions. )

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That biscuit is SOOO GOOD too. I wish I could eat it right now, but I already ate it.

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And some oysters. The night was quite a splurge, but was a lot of fun. Thanks Louie!

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How are you all?

Happy Presidents Day

Some of you may have off work today? I don’t, but I’m coming off of a TWO DAY WEEKEND so I’m feeling fully rested. That is to say, I got used to being somewhat slothful and sleeping in and I’m having a hard time getting moving this morning. The trick might be to never take a day off, then you don’t get spoiled. Alternately I could retire early, but Louie thought I’d get bored. I suspect I could fill my time with enough interesting hobbies, but then again, I don’t have QUITE enough saved, nor are my hobbies vastly different than some of my jobs, so work it is.

And cats. For those of you reading this from work, here are some cats!

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I’m always excited these days when there is a picture of Oistrakh in my timehop app. (Timehop takes your past instagram, facebook posts, twitter, and more, and shows you what you posted on the same day in years past.)

Last year Louie and I went out for Valentine’s Day and spent a good chunk of change. This year we decided to cook instead, but wanted a meal that was simple and delicious. (Simple, because cooking is a lot of work!) Also, Louie wanted steak, since he missed it and I agreed. So we decided to buy a local grass fed steak as a good compromise to not eating steak (ha! at least we are eating much LESS meat, which is a positive step IMO) and paired it with shitake mushrooms, a beet and goat cheese salad, and with a mexican chocolate cheesecake and salted caramel peanut ice cream. Louie sauteed the mushrooms in butter and then red wine (in the steak pan) and I roasted the beets with shallots, lemon and orange juice, and a bit of honey. It was a delicious, delicious meal!

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So that was Valentine’s Day. The salad is something I will add to our regular rotation since it wasn’t too hard to make and was absolutely delicious. And there’s more ice cream plus some chocolate we decided to save for later, which means that VDay lasts longer.

But today, I went for a run around the neighborhood. We got a few inches of snow yesterday and most of it was still there.

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I thought snow running would be closer to trail running than road running is. I’m running the Castlewood Cup in two weeks and I could definitely have been training more, but I’ve been running somewhat regularly…the cold and snow have made me a little lazy and I just haven’t managed to get to the gym in well, months. Oops. Today’s run was nice though: the snow was pretty, it wasn’t terribly cold, and I felt good trudging through the snow.

I’m also running the St Patrick’s Day race in March (I should disclose than I got a free entry in exchange for posting about it on here and in social media, but it’s a cheap AND fun race as far as these things go and you should run too) and then the Go Half Marathon in April. Are any runners still reading here? Are you doing any cool races in the near future?

Last note: I tend to do my laptop work on the couch, using a mouse/mousepad on my right side as I’m right-handed. Chloe often likes to join me, and by join me I mean, cuddle on top of my right hand and mouse. It’s cute AND annoying, and sometimes I’m terrified to move her because she has fragile skin and I’d hate to break it! But I hate using a track pad—how do you manage, if you use on? Would I get more used to it if I used it more? The things I like best about the laptop is being able to use the keyboard and the mouse.

Yes, I’m seriously asking how to do work with a cat in the way Smile And on that note, have a great day everybody! I’ve got a pretty normal week ahead of me as far as my schedule goes, but lots of music to be working on, and a few projects too. The to-do list isn’t terribly long but it never stops!

Laumeier Sculpture Park and ELaia

Since mostly I blog when I’m overwhelmed and tired (apparently!) right now I’m trying to blog while I’m spending about an hour purposefully relaxing. Why yes, writing my blog IS relaxing!

This weekend has been full of activity, but mostly fun activity. I’ve had a few students and a family issue (nothing to worry you about!) but otherwise Louie and I have had fun together. Friday night we went to the symphony concert…it was a little stressful coming right after what had happened in Paris, which I almost hesitate to even mention, since we ignore mass killings in non-European countries so often, but David Robertson did mention it at the concert…it seems fitting that I acknowledge it, and acknowledge how horrible things can be, and that all we can do is to continue to try to bring joy and music to the world.

So, the symphony. We are subscribers but this was a trade from next week which didn’t work for my schedule. It’s super easy to trade concerts if you buy a subscription, by the way. It took about 3 minutes on the phone. My one complaint about the symphony concert was that they had a little screen up with some words and moving animation in the back for various parts, and I found it very distracting and awful. I find supertitles to be helpful when there are singers, but other than that I don’t want quotes or pictures to “enhance” the performance. The music should speak for itself, and usually does, and definitely would have in this case. I know I can be a fuddy-duddy with classical music (using that world probably makes me one for sure!) but in this case I really think I’m right…

Saturday Louie and I walked around Forest Park enjoying the unseasonably warm weather. It was seriously around 70 degrees and sunny! And then for dinner I’d made reservations to take Louie out for a belated birthday dinner at Elaia. Wow. We had an amazing meal—it was not cheap, but I’d been planning on it for awhile, and it was a great experience. We both got a 4 course prix fixe dinner and shared each course. My favorites were a mushroom dish called “Hen of the Woods” and the Beet and Salmon Salad (totally strange combo, but it worked magnificently). It was a great evening—good food, drinks and conversation. I would say I’ll be back, but not for a long time due to the price. Right next to Elaia is Olio, which is also great and a bit more affordable, depending on how much you eat.

This morning we went to Laumeier Sculpture Park with friends. I had originally thought I’d sleep in a bit, since I’ve been complaining of being tired, but decided it was worth it to do something new with people. It was a lovely morning to walk around in the woods, the grass, and see some interesting art.

This was made by an artist using a chainsaw, if I recall. One tree trunk.

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A tree covered in aluminum. It reminds me of that tree from Lord of the Rings. Gondor?

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I liked this one with the lady playing the piano. It was a piece of art in memory of somebody, and I thought it was really nice. I hope somebody makes some art for me when I’m gone. Or maybe before that?!

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A chair made from a tree trunk. There wasn’t a sign not to sit on it.

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A cat mosaic sculpture. It was gorgeous to look at with all the different kinds of materials. Very shiny.

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I’m glad I got to do some exploring this weekend and enjoy some new activities. It definitely helped my mindset. It’s easy to feel like life is just on repeat, and that each day is the same as the day before (or in my case, each Monday is the same, each Tuesday, etc…) so seeing a new park and eating a great meal at a new restaurant were great activities for me. Even if I’m still physically a bit tired, I am mentally and emotionally a bit more satisfied, which is good.

One more full week until Thanksgiving! This week will be a bit stressful too, as I’ve got another quartet concert AND a student recital, among other things but there is light at the end of the tunnel and that light is a bright one Winking smile

Dog swim and more

Here we are again, on a Monday. I ran 8 miles this morning as part of my training for the Go Halloween Half Marathon and now I’m catching up on some things before I start teaching for the week…

The weekend went by quickly, as they are prone to do. At least I only had one work-related commitment so it wasn’t too crazy!

Friday night we went to a local Mexican restaurant, Lily’s, with some friends. I think Louie and I have developed a problem (it’s been years I’m sure) where we really will always pick a Mexican restaurant over anything else. It’s not JUST the margaritas, it’s also the tacos, and the beans, and the chips…I promise! We had a great time.

Saturday was the Maplewood Dog Swim. Mackenzie had had a rough day on Friday involving having to spend a good deal of time at the vet (no worries, everything seems to be under control) so it was nice for her to get to run around with other dogs and swim to her heart’s content. We were there about 1 1/2 hours, and by the end she was really dragging, but kept insisting she was still having fun.

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She didn’t like to jump into the pool and instead always used the stairs or a shallow entrance. She was very smart though and also knew how to use the stairs to get out of the pool!

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The pool was fun to watch for us too—there were dozens of dogs running around and frolicking and trying to fetch tennis balls. It was a real hoot!

Saturday night I had a performance with a pianist I hadn’t played with before. He is also a doctor, but is an excellent performer! We played two pieces together for a program at a local synagogue. Afterwards he and his wife and Louie and I went to Basso for a bite to eat. Louie and I had been there before but not for awhile. We each got a little pizza and shared some roasted cauliflower, and it was very tasty.

Sunday we went on a bike ride on Grant’s Trail. I like it, but I think Louie found it a little dull. We’ll have to get out to a more scenic ride next time, probably along the river (and NOT the River Des Peres) would be better but we just weren’t sure how all the rain over the summer had affected those trails and didn’t want to have to turn back. Otherwise I spent Sunday cleaning and doing other stuff around the house and then had dinner with my friend Sarah. We are both violin teachers and spent a lot of time sharing stories and possibly making some plans for joint studio projects.

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I saw this on the internet the other day and thought it was great. Maybe I need it printed out to show my students. A small percentage of them would find it most amusing and helpful, and the rest would probably just be baffled. LOTR is so a few years ago, isn’t it?

How’s your Monday going? What is your favorite Mexican restaurant?

Fall-Se Alarm

See what I did there? After blogging about fall and pumpkin spice and cooler weather (okay, I didn’t really do any of those things…but my last title had the word “fall” in it) it’s been a really hot week and weekend, and I must say…I’m over it. Luckily this morning hasn’t been so bad, mostly overcast and breezy, so fingers crossed we are moving on? (Full disclosure, I started this post last night, and today I’m already more pleased by the weather, so…maybe things are turning.)

This weekend was pretty fun!  Louie’s dad was visiting from Philly for a couple days so we went out to eat a few times and did a little sightseeing. We went to Treehouse, which is a vegan restaurant that I am conflicted about. I don’t like that their descriptions of dishes involve words like “sausage” or “chicken” and don’t specify how those things are actually made. I get that they want to show you that you don’t need meat, but to me it feels like deception. I had the seitan katsu, which was actually quite good, but the description said it was chicken (which I knew it wasn’t…it was seitan!) which to me, is just weird. Nonetheless, the meal was tasty enough, especially the beets—I’ve become obsessed with beets! The other meal we had was at Olio, which is quickly becoming one of my favorite restaurants. My favorite dishes there are the smoked whitefish salad and the roasted beets with ricotta. Yummy!

We also went up to walk across the Old Chain of Rocks bridge. I’d been there on my bike before, but this time we just parked (on the Illinois side, the Missouri parking lot was closed) and walked across.

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These little buildings fascinated us. It seems they are water intake towers and are inaccessible today.

Yesterday Louie and I met up with some people my friend Eliana’s birthday. We had pizza at Dewey’s Pizza and frozen yogurt at a nearby Tutti Frutti. It was nice to meet a few new people and celebrate her 30th (so young!) birthday with her. It’s always fun to chat with friends of friends and expand our social horizons.

And then this morning I ran 7 miles (around the Botanical Gardens and Tower Grove park from my house) and now…getting ready to teach and must do a bit of practicing. Luckily there is leftover pizza to refuel after my run (great for carb-loading AND refueling, right?!).

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Today I have a few students who wanted to take Labor Day off for various reasons, but I’m teaching the rest. I figured I started late enough in August that we didn’t need a break yet! Talk to me in a couple months…and I’ve set up a fall recital date for the students, which is a first for us. I have other ideas too, like some sort of ensemble Christmas performance with another teacher, but I also know things just get crazy around that time (for me and everybody else) and I’m not sure I want to tackle too much.

Oh, and I promise more trip recaps are on their way. I’m working on the Yellowstone blog post—it’s just a long post but I am working on it, in case you are wondering. I haven’t forgotten, and I will finish!