Random Quarantine Thoughts

An old-fashioned bullet post.

Harry's Bar

  • I’m thinking about making a Bellini this weekend. A few years back, we crossed off one of my life’s bucket list items by going to Harry’s Bar in Venice and sampling this treat. It seemed extravagant at the time, but I’m so very glad we did it anyway. (The kids were given virgin versions, don’t worry.) I’ve thought about our Venice visit a lot during this quarantine. It seems impossible that once we gallivanted around a foreign crowded city, stayed in an AirBnB next to the Peggy Guggenheim Museum and flew in a plane with circulated air for 14 hours. What a miracle modern travel was. 😦

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  • “This Too Shall Pass.”  History shows humans have dealt with plagues before, and have survived. It’s helpful to remember the larger picture.
  • While I continue to pursue the Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred (Level Two is hard! So many planks!) my husband and kids are visiting the local driving range, which is allowed under the current rules. But by appointment only.
  • I’ve been revisiting older movies I enjoyed in the past. In Her Shoes and Father of the Bride have both held up well. Basically, I can only manage entertainment with really low stakes. Whether someone will or won’t get married is about all I can handle right now.
  • But I’m still having a really hard time reading books of any kind. 😦
  • I enjoyed the Fug Girls’ retrospectives of the gowns Elle Fanning and Aishwarya Rai have worn at Cannes. Here are my favorites: Elle, Aishwarya
  • I’ve been wrestling with the dynamics of how individualism in the US goes too far for years. Jonathan Franzen covered this better than most years ago with Freedom. Since COVID-19, I’ve seen individualism arguments run amok on both the left and right. I’ve seen liberal friends go absolutely bananas over the shelter-in-place order restrictions. And I’m also seeing people being shamed by the right who — for many very valid reasons — can’t take care of their health like many of us can. I side more on the Leslie Knope side of the spectrum (I support bans on enormous sodas) as opposed to the Ron Swanson side (see below), in terms of the collective vs. the individual in many circumstances related to health. Very few of us are Gretchen Rubin Upholders — those lucky and rare personalities that have the kind of innate willpower it takes in this world to make the right choices. (Rubin, for example, swore off sugar years ago. I could NEVER do such a thing!) Anyway, this article spells out my concerns better than I could express.

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Sorry, Ron. But I disagree!

  • I’ll end on a more positive note. My kids are writing letters to seniors who are alone and isolated during this time. It’s nice to see them contributing in this way. If you’re interested in doing the same, go here.

 

 

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Staying Fit During Covid-19

Like many, I have put on a few pounds like this shelter-in-place began.

Workout

We’ve been walking our dog Sally every day, often hiking up the big hills in our neighborhood. These walks usually hit 1.5 or 2 miles. But, I’ve also been cooking and eating more. The fun cocktails I’ve been making aren’t helping either. (We only make and consume one per evening, but there’s lots of sugar in Pina Coladas and Daiquiris. Boo.)

Pina Colada 2

I decided to add a strength training workout to the mix, after reading this post from of a blogger who streaked for 21 days, using an at-home video series. I used to work out at Orange Theory Fitness or the gym, so we don’t have any equipment here and I wanted to get started right away. This left me with not a ton of choices.

After listening to The Dream podcast, I have a fundamental distrust of MLM schemes, so I ruled out the very popular Beachbody video. I looked at our On Demand choices, and noticed I could purchase Jillian Michael’s 30 Day Shred for $5.99, which seemed like a deal. Having never watched The Biggest Loser, I didn’t much about Jillian other than what my daughter said. (“She’s very 2010.”) I started the program, and I love it. I’m currently on Day 9, and I have seen real benefits. I have more energy. My anxiety level has gone down, which is awesome. Note: I don’t have weights, so I am using soup cans that weigh 3 pounds each.

(I’ve since read that Jillian Michaels is problematic, which is a real bummer. Maybe they will tackle her someday on “Your Fave is Problematic”.) 

What I like most about this workout is that it’s only 20 minutes long. Admittedly, that 20 minutes is gruuuueeeelllling (particularly the push-ups!) but there is a modified version of almost every exercise you can follow, if you are getting sore. I also feel like Michaels tries to protect users from injury by emphasizing and demonstrating the correct form herself, particularly focusing on people not straining their backs and ankles. Caveat: I’m still in Workout One, which lasts 10 days, so not sure if the rest will promise the same level of safety. I also like that Michaels is around my age. As opposed to a 25 year old who can bounce around like Tigger with no aches and pains, lol.

What Else?

  • My husband and I held a socially distanced cocktail hour with two friends on our patio. We sat far apart (about 13 feet at least) in the outdoors in a particularly well-ventilated area, and chatted in-person for about an hour. It was LOVELY.
  • We’re watching The Last Dance, and I am thoroughly enjoying it, even though I’m not a huge basketball fan. Part of the appeal is returning to the 1990s when anything seemed possible, and we didn’t have to worry about a pandemic or the economy collapsing. Michael Jordan was such an incredible athlete and is a fascinating personality.

I am planning to finish the 30 Day Shred, but if anyone has any other ideas for an exercise routine afterward that requires no equipment, I would appreciate it! 

 

 

 

 

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What Will I Remember About COVID-19?

Loribeth posted her own answers to some great journaling prompts about life in the time of COVID-19. It’s easy for this time to become a blur of working, cooking, cleaning and feeling like every day is the same. So I liked this idea of these prompts, and I am shamelessly copying it.

When was the moment you knew this was serious. Where were you, and what happened?

I had to track this story for work, so I knew that the virus was likely to spread and become a worldwide pandemic when Wuhan was shut down by the Chinese government on January 23, 2020. I hoped that the lockdown — which kept expanding throughout China — would contain the virus. But the experts I was following on Twitter (like Scott Gottlieb and Helen Branswell) were pretty pessimistic.

Looking back now, is there one particular news article or story that stands out to you?

The moment it became real for me was when I saw the infamous tweet that went viral on January 25, which was widely dismissed and criticized at the time (and has since been deleted). But in retrospect, Dr. Eric Feigl-Ding was incredibly prescient and, mostly, correct if also controversial.

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What was the first meme that caused you to laugh out loud?

“Boman got dressed…here.”

What have you observed in your community that has been heart-warming?

Lots of neighbors have put teddy bears in the windows for kids to find in their daily walks, and have posted signs thanking the essential workers.

What has been the biggest change to your everyday routine?

Since I worked from home before this, the biggest changes have been 1) Not driving kids around to their activities 2) Everyone else being home and 3) SOOO much more cooking and cleaning than before.

How has family life been altered in your home?

The twins have much more screen time than before. This is because of schoolwork, but we also let them do a lot more online collaborative activities with friends like Minecraft gaming and House Party groups watching Netflix shows like “Outer Banks.” We’ve been much more lax about what the kids can and can’t watch, as well.

What have you learned to do because of this pandemic?

Uhhh…not much? I’ve re-learned how to deep-clean the kitchen and bathrooms, and I am cooking a lot more. But I haven’t learned how to play an instrument, or anything like that.

What change has created the most disappointment for you?

I have been disappointed that people I know who are very privileged are breaking the rules, while also complaining over the lack of freedoms. Also, I can’t deal with friends  indulging in the Sweden debate. Sweden is in a totally different situation than the US. Their citizens are healthier, enjoy access to universal healthcare and suffer less from poverty-related health problems and obesity. And still, their death toll is higher than other comparable countries, like Denmark.

Meanwhile, the essential healthcare workers I know who are putting themselves at risk every single day are conducting themselves with such grace and humility, even patiently listening to those complaining about not being able to get their hair done. (I can’t say I am doing the same.) It’s the best and worst of human behavior at the same time.

What has surprised you?

See above.

What has not surprised you?

That the virus spread so far, and so fast.

What about the future creates feelings of worry or fear?

The economy is a real concern. We have to re-open it, and we have to do it right. Both are extremely difficult tasks.

Being on the West Coast, I am alarmed that there might have been a different, more contagious strain the East Coast has been dealing with. Yikes. What happens when it spreads here?

Finally, I’m worried about fall / winter 2020. The 1918 flu killed a lot of people in the fall and winter.

What have you truly enjoyed about sheltering in place?

Watching movies with the whole family, spending time with our lovely dog Sally and our daily hikes.

Who or what has impressed you in a positive way?

I continue to be humbled by our essential workers. The doctors, nurses, delivery people and grocery store workers who put themselves on the line every day are amazing. They deserve our everlasting gratitude.

What will you do differently when life normalizes?

I will definitely wash my hands a lot more than I used to, and take precautions when I am around large groups of people. I have no desire to go to concerts or the movies right now, but maybe that will change?

What memory or moment will talk about in ten years? 

I think I’ll always remember when my husband and I went to the local grocery store right before the shelter-in-place took effect. There was an apocalyptic vibe in the air –people seemed fairly panicked — and we bought all sorts of supplies we never would have purchased before. Like a 5 pound piece of corned beef, for example. But the scary scenes in movies of people fighting over the last bottle of water, like in World War Z or Contagion, luckily never became a reality.

 

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What We Are Cooking

If April 2020 was an object, that object would be Bag. (I’m spending a fair amount of time on the Fug Girls site–bless them and their content–and Bag is a truly hideous Kayne West-gifted Birkin purse that is probably as good a visual symbol for these times as anything else. Is it coincidental that Bag showed its ugly face RIGHT before everything went to hell? Probably not.)

Hopefully May will be better? Here’s a few much nicer things.

  • I loved this story about the couple who got married on their street. We have a similar street in our neighborhood, and some friends who live on that street. It’s part of our route every day with our dog, and it’s nice to talk to friends along the way–with the appropriate social distance, of course. We’re very careful about that.
  • I laughed at this Architectural Digest tour from SNL. I think everyone’s home looks like this right now.

Truthfully, there wasn’t a ton of cooking going on here this week. We received some DoorDash credits, so we put those to use ordering a spinach pesto pizza from our local branch as well as burgers from Shake Shack, per the kids’ request.

Here’s what we did make:

Here are some recipes I want to try in the coming week:

  • Pasta with cauliflower, walnuts and feta We don’t have whole wheat penne or white wine vinegar, but we do have everything else. I think using regular penne will be fine, but not sure what could replace the white wine vinegar? What about a splash of white wine and lemon juice?
  • Rustic Cabbage Soup Via A Half-Baked Life. Justine made this 101 Cookbooks recipe, and it looks delicious.
  • Focaccia This was recommended by a friend who is a master baker. Hopefully our starter will work!
  • Matzo Ball Soup We have dill and matzo meal.
  • White Russian How very Big Lebowski.

What are you cooking?

Stay safe and stay well

xoxo Jjiraffe

 

 

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Helpful Resources as Shelter in Place Continues

leslie

No one is happy the shelter in place continues. As we all know, we need to curtail our freedoms for the common good until we’re ready as a country to re-open. Right now, we are not. Here’s what I said in a comment on my last post:

No one is saying we shouldn’t re-open — we have to — but what smart people ARE saying is if we do it wrong, there will be MASSIVE economic fallout and death WAAAYYY worse than what we’re currently experiencing. Yes, it’s hard to imagine, but it’s real. We have to do it RIGHT. And be ready. Right now in the US, we are not. I feel like in CA we’re making progress towards getting there, building contact tracers and protocol for schools and office work, but I have faith that our governor, who has done an excellent job so far, will make the right call as to when and how. From Forrester: “If Phase Three is mismanaged by companies, states, and the federal government, we will not drop back to Phase Two — we will loop back to Phase One and start the process from the beginning. This will risk a year-long disruption of the economy rather than the three-month disruption caused by Phase Two.” This is the point!!!!

TLDR: This is bad, but IT WILL BE WORSE if we bungle the re-open.

(Aside: I continue to find it extremely irritating that those pushing hardest for re-opening right now seem to be the people who can’t abide their freedom to go to the beach, hang out with their friends or go to Starbucks being curtailed–but are OK by all current standards.) 

Moving on.

We can all agree, I think, that this situation sucks, and it’s scary.  Which is why I’ve been relying on stoicism to get me through. There have been other online sources that have also helped. As always, practical tips and resources have been a lifeline.

  • Have regular Zoom calls with friends Most of you are probably already doing this. An article shared by Stirrup Queens talks about why you should do video conferencing, if you are not already. I have a couple of Zoom “happy hours” with friends each week, and it brightens my mood every time. My book club has also moved to Zoom.
  • How to improve your video calls Good tips here. One more: at my dad’s suggestion, one person is responsible for asking questions each week. Then, everyone takes a turn answering each question during our family calls. This tactic makes chats less chaotic.
  • How to grocery shop less often Game-changing suggestions here, including tips on how to freeze milk and butter. Going to the store can be so scary, and if you can go less, so much the better.
  • What to do about the yeast shortage I’ve tried to make sourdough starter, but I haven’t been discipled enough about the feeding it every 12 hours in the beginning. We still have yeast, but it’s getting low in supply. Good ideas here–and check out the comments for more.
  • Cloud bread I’ll resort to this if we totally run out of yeast and I can’t figure out a good starter!
  • How to dye your hair I get full platinum highlights every six months. It’s been about four months since my last visit, and the roots are coming in. Laura, the blogger who wrote that post, looks great so maybe this is worth a try? The one and only time I dyed my hair using a box kit was a disaster. I’m not exaggerating — talk about a “yellow-haired female.” My hair turned the color of a canary and became terribly damaged. Photographic evidence below if you don’t believe me. I must have chosen the wrong color.

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For pure entertainment and distraction, I recommend the following:

  • Go Fug Yourself  The hard-working team behind this site, which usually dissects the fashion choices of the royal and famous, are stuck with no new material. After all, no one is really leaving their homes except in sweats for dog walks. As a result, Jessica and Heather have been diving into such oddly fascinating topics as Vogue covers over the past 40 years, the Clueless movie premiere and fashion retrospectives of stars like Katy Perry and Zoe Saldana. The result is thought-provoking eye candy, and their kind-hearted yet hilarious captions have been lifting my spirits. They are never mean, and that makes all the difference.
  • Parks and Recreation There is nothing more soothing to me right now than pretending to exist in the town of Pawnee, Indiana circa 2012. OMG – I just found out there is going to be a reunion special! That’s my Thursday night covered.
  • Rilla of Ingleside This is a book recommendation from Loribeth, one of the best book readers and reviewers on the Internet. Honestly, I’ve been having trouble reading anything, but I want to try this book as it sounds relevant to our Times of Trouble.

What resources are keeping you sane?

Stay safe and stay well,

XOXO Jjiraffe

 

 

 

 

 

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Stoicism in the Time of Coronavirus

Sally

This is probably what Grumpy Rumblings would call a deliberately controversial post.

First of all, I wanted to share a blog post from Forrester Research. It’s the most useful guide I’ve seen about what we’re likely to face with the coronavirus in the next year. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Now. I have serious doubts about whether the U.S. will be able to make it through Phase 3 without regressing again to Phase 2, particularly in the fall and winter of 2020-2021. Countries like South Korea and Singapore have been able to stay in Phase 3 (they never were in Phase 2) but that’s mostly because there is widespread testing, advanced tech to help with monitoring and containment and a population more likely to follow the rules, for a variety of reasons. We don’t have widespread testing or advanced monitoring yet, and many of our citizens are not currently OK with their freedoms being curtailed. A lot of people where I live are breaking the rules of the shelter in place (I see groups congregating daily on streets without distance), and/or complaining bitterly on platforms like NextDoor about not being able to go to the beach, have people babysit their kids, hang out in groups or go to coffee houses. (Mea culpa: this gets on my nerves. Most of these people still have jobs, are able to do their jobs remotely from home–the ultimate privilege these days–and are healthy.)

Anyway. Given all this, and the differences in the way states are handling reopening for Phase 3, I think it’s quite likely that the U.S. will regress at least once to Phase 2 before a vaccine. Or worse. We could be faced with the potential collapse of our healthcare system when Phase 3 doesn’t work, if we don’t return again to Phase 2. And this is possible given the current administration. This outcome could result in millions of deaths and an even worse economic fallout.

Basically, life is going to be really, really, really hard for at least the next year. Harder than most Americans who didn’t live through World War II have EVER had it.

What to do?

It’s worth looking at how people survived during World War II. I’ve mentioned this before, but the way the British people handled the Blitz and being at war has always been an inspiration to me. Average Americans (who, granted, weren’t dealing with being bombed like the Brits) also did their part to support the war effort, using rationing coupons, growing victory gardens and in general pulling together and sacrificing freedoms like being able to drive. Gas was severely rationed, no one had many eggs or butter, soldiers were dying and things were awful in many ways. Yet, people pulled through, for the most part. How?

I think the answer is Stoicism. I’ve written about this philosophy before, in better times, but here’s a refresher from my original post:

Stoicism begins with one core belief–-bad things will happen to you. Whether disease, loss, heartbreak, insults or death, pain is inevitable, and it’s just a matter of time before it reaches your door. This is not a cheery thought, so often people don’t turn to stoicism UNTIL they have had something bad happen.

I think it’s safe to say that in some way or another, bad things are now happening to all of us. So, if bad stuff is coming down the path for you, if indeed it already has arrived, what do you do about it? I think the key concept is how to cope with bad stuff. We can’t solve COVID-19 as individuals. What we can do is learn how to cope with it.

First, when bad things happen, honor the sadness. Sit with it. Then, try to let it go and move on. Unfortunately, I think the usual time it takes to sit with sadness, given the amount of bad things happening, will probably have to be shorter than usual for us to go on living our lives. This truncated grief time will be one of the biggest adaptations we’ll have to deal with, and it’s going to be really hard.

The best way to do this is to maintain perspective. Again, this is going to look vastly different than it did in the past. I would define perspective as something very basic in this time. Spend time feeling gratitude for what you have. Be thankful if: you are healthy, every member of your household is healthy and you have some kind of income coming in. Astonishingly, this is what being lucky looks like in 2020.

Other Stoic tips:

  • Don’t spend a lot of time looking too far ahead.
  • Focus on the day-to-day as much as you can. Be in the moment, whether it’s being present for your Zoom call, cooking or working.
  • Control what you can control.
  • Connect with the people in your household in a functional manner, as much as you can. Be genuine and vulnerable in your conversations. Talk about your fears, hopes and dreams. Try not to get defensive, and really listen to others.
  • I liked this advice if you’re a parent. It’s from the point of view of an adoptee, but there are also universal truths imparted.
  • Don’t be a martyr or play the pain olympics. This is hard for everyone. Lots have it worse than you. And some have it better. Comparing, as always, is a waste of time.
  • Help others!! Donate money, if you can. Make masks. Donate n95s to your local hospital, if you have any. If you can, order delivery from your favorite restaurants to help them stay afloat. Shop for a senior citizen. Reach out to neighbors who might need help.
  • Vote. Make your voice heard.

Most of all, I hope you all stay safe and healthy.

Xoxo, Jjiraffe

 

 

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Bad Week and What We Are Cooking

Frittata

Rough times here. My uncle passed away, and we can’t have a funeral. A family member lost their job. A colleague I worked with died, simply because he attended a conference. Seeing his last tweet expressing excitement to meet with friends and learn more about his industry was heartbreaking. (This conference happened before we all knew how bad COVID-19 was.) Finally, a good friend lost a parent to the virus. This week can suck it.

In the meantime, there is work to do and food to prepare. The football draft was helpful as a distraction. It was a relief to hear the silly ESPN music and watch something hopeful.

What have we been cooking? Well, I have tried to move on to eating more nutrient-filled food after discovering I had gained a couple of pounds since the shelter in place. Ugh.

Here are some recipes we tried:

  • Baked Asparagus Frittata – I found this by googling, typing in ingredients we had. The end result was fantastic, and gobbled down by 3 out of 4 members of the family in 15 minutes.
  • Kale and Apple Salad – I substituted parmesan for pecorino because we didn’t have pecorino, but it was still good. 
  • Steamed Salmon with Dill in foil – This was light and fresh, and delicious the next day too when I ate it cold for lunch.
  • Turkey tacos – I served with guac, salsa, cabbage, jack cheese and beans in corn taco shells heated in the oven.
  • Cabbage and egg noodles – To vary it up for our pasta eaters and add veggies to starchy things, I made this Ruth Reichl’s concoction from My Kitchen Year (my favorite cookbook).

A few cocktails I made:

Gimlet

  • Gimlet – Like British sailors of yore, we used this drink as a way to get our Vitamin C.
  • Sidecar – This was delicious, and a hit with my husband.
  • The Morse – We had strawberries, and this looked vacation-y. This was kind of like a high-end strawberry daiquiri. I recommend.

Sidecar

Here’s what I want to try in the coming weeks:

  • More recipes from My Kitchen Year, including No-Knead Bread, Spicy Tuscan Kale and her pancakes for the kids.
  • Baked Frittata With Spinach, Feta and Dill – We have a lot of eggs, and need to use them. We also have frozen spinach I want to use.
  • Orzo Salad– I made this Heidi Swanson recipe a while back, and it was fantastic.
  • Cauliflower Soup and Spinach Chop – From Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Everyday, which only contains vegetarian dishes. I suspect I will be relying on it more.

Hope you all are staying safe and are well.

Xoxo, Jjiraffe

 

 

 

 

 

 

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