Good news! FINALLY got it working!! ... but not the way you might think.
I initially followed your video to the pixel and AGAIN nothing worked ... Even when I hardcoded some text into the initialize method it still didn't render the message.
I then ran around the yard screaming a few times and that made me feel much better ;)
Decided to start a brand new project from scratch and try it again.... created a new project / database etc .... created a new custom widget from scratch using your video and it worked like a charm right from the start.
Somehow, someway, I managed to break my old project and didn't realize it, so nothing I build within that project seemed to work ... no errors .. just nothing ... feel a bit silly because I should have guessed something was up when the very basic vanilla generated code from Thunder didn't work.
Anyway ... all's well that ends well ... I learned a few things along the way and only lost a few hairs in the process.
Thanks for sticking with me while I went through this.