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.

IMG_0811

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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What We’re Watching During Shelter in Place…

Wagon Wheel

….in a nutshell, not much that is recent.

Since we’re all stuck at home, I figured it might be a good time to watch some classic movie fare. While I’d like to say my idea of classic movies means Citizen Kane and On the Waterfront, the truth is we’re not necessarily watching just the AFI 100.

Here’s what we’ve watched together as a family:

The Goonies: I remember loving this Spielberg treasure hunt flick when I was a kid, and it was also a hit with my 12 year old son. The Goonies isn’t a great movie, but the innocence of the kid heroes was refreshing and the plot was fun. I forgot how scary Mama Fratelli was — strong performance by Anne Ramsey.

Legally Blonde: My daughter and I enjoyed Reese Witherspoon’s star-making turn as Elle Woods, the California sorority girl who gets into Harvard Law School (“What, like it’s hard?”) then wreaks havoc amongst the snobby WASP-y students, eventually triumphing as a top student. As a former California sorority girl, I especially enjoyed the mostly positive depiction of Elle’s Greek life, which was more similar to my own experience than other hot takes. I know there are real and legitimate concerns about fraternities, but I found sorority life mostly to be empowering. The friendships, camaraderie, leadership exercises and social skills I developed while I was a member were invaluable to me both personally and professionally.

The Godfather: The ultimate cinematic touchstone, and #2 on the AFI list. I don’t know that we would have screened this movie without the COVID-19 lockdown. And we did fast forward through some dicey sections. My son is obsessed with fairness and justice, and he HATED the way Michael Corleone ended up handling his duties as a don, commenting several times that he was “evil.” And he was. I will never understand why Michael Corleone ghosted Kay, the girlfriend he was super into, and impulsively took a Sicilian bride.

North by Northwest: ALSO on AFI’s list. I love this movie. It’s smart, glamorous, the female lead is a surprisingly tough cookie for the 1950s, the costumes are gorgeous, Cary Grant is ultra charming and I love the mid-century architecture. The crop-dusting scene is one of the all-time best action sequences EVER. Kids thought it was just so-so. :/

Mean Girls: The Tina Fey script is sharp and funny, and Regina George is the gold standard for, well, mean girls. But overall this movie was kind of a “meh” for me, there just wasn’t enough heart or emotional connection for my taste. My daughter on the other hand LOVED it.

Titanic: The dialogue is not the best (too many exclamations of “Jack!” “Rose!”) and the heavy-handedness of the villain is over-the-top. But the visual storytelling is pretty epic and the inequalities of the haves and have-nots on board the ship sadly reflect today’s world. Having met the lead actor once (before he filmed this movie), I can attest to the fact this is a performance. DiCaprio is not at all like Jack, whose dreaminess mostly comes from his unstinting support of Rose. Had he lived and married Rose, you know Jack would have shared in household chores equally and helped Rose achieve whatever hopes and dreams she desired. These qualities are what makes him a lovely romantic hero.

Clueless: A spoiled California girl becomes a better person in this loose adaption of Jane Austen’s Emma. Clueless has mostly aged well (much like Paul Rudd, who plays Josh). So many great lines:

  • “It does NOT say R.S.V.P. on the Statue of Liberty.”
  • “Isn’t my house classic? The columns date all the way back to 1972.”
  • “Until mankind is peaceful enough not to have violence on the news, there’s no point in taking it out of shows that need it for entertainment value!”

Lilo & Stitch: Enjoyable Disney romp featuring a fierce yet sweet alien and a struggling pair of sisters trying to avoid foster care. My daughter and I enjoyed the Hawaiian setting as well as the strained yet loving relationship between Lilo and her sister Nani. For some reason I didn’t like Lilo & Stitch when it first came out?

I have also revisited a few of my old favorites without the kids.

Angels in America:  I remember being wowed by this miniseries, adapted by Tony Kushner from his own Pulitzer-winning play, when it first came out in 2003. Watching again did not disappoint. Angels in America is set during another plague (AIDS) and I found a lot of the material eerily relevant to today. The fear, the grief and the loss the characters experience definitely resonates with what we are dealing with now. The wildly ambitious screenplay (Kushner’s brilliant dialogue uses language so vividly) covers the divisions, beliefs, optimism, inequalities, philosophies and sense of progress deeply ingrained into Americans, and best of all, doesn’t reduce characters to stereotypes. Well, except Roy Cohn. The fundamentalist Mormon mom, the Republican striver, the sick WASP-y scion, the no-nonsense nurse, the Valium-addicted housewife, the fearful New Yorker who leaves his partner after he’s diagnosed with HIV: we feel for all of them, even when they do the wrong thing. The ending — suffused with optimism — demands for its characters what we all want right now for ourselves and our loved ones. More life.

Hannah and Her Sisters: Ugh, Woody Allen. I know. But I remember loving this movie when I was young, dreaming about urban life. It has NOT held up well. What I remember as sophisticated fare now reminds me of a student film made by someone who, to quote Clueless again, “…is trippin’ because he is in his post-adolescent, idealistic phase.” The script is sophomoric. Hannah (and her sisters) were so obviously written by a dude. No woman in the history of the world has ever said to a guy that he “…has ruined me for all men.” That’s pure wish fulfillment! This movie also features the icky trope of an older guy needing to “teach” a woman about culture and “the finer things” before she can become a more interesting person. Ew. PASS.

When Harry Met Sally: On the other hand, this romantic comedy is as brilliant as ever. The whole cast is perfect, especially Meg Ryan and Carrie Fisher. Their dialogue (courtesy of Nora Ephron) features the kind of catty bon mots you would exchange with your friends if you were exceedingly clever. Like Clueless, WHMS has great lines.

  • “This eight dollar dish will cost you a thousand dollars in phone calls to the legal firm of That’s Mine, This Is Yours.”
  • “I want you to know that I will never want that wagon wheel coffee table.”
  • (The wagon wheel coffee table is the funniest piece of movie furniture since the leg lamp in A Christmas Story.)
  • “When I buy a book, I always read the last page first. That way, in case I die before I finish, I know how it comes out.”

Studio 54 – The Documentary: New and not a re-watch. You can stream this on Netflix and to quote SNL’s nightlife critic Stefon — it has EVERYthing. If you don’t know anything about the infamous nightclub, the rise and fall of the ultimate discotheque is a pretty crazy and fascinating story. Started by two young lower middle class nobodies who came out of nowhere, Studio 54 invented the concept of the velvet rope celebrity hotspot, became “the place to be” and really was a lightening bolt of a cultural phenomenon. Like Icarus, the founders flew too close to the sun by making a series of bonehead moves, like skimming most of the money off the top and doing basically everything they could to ensure an IRS audit. Both went to jail for fraud and other charges, and the nightclub only lasted 33 months. But the glamour, fashion and style of “Studio”, as its regulars referred to it, is still relevant 40+ years later. Roy Cohn (Angels in America’s arch villain) plays a role in this drama as well.

What have you been watching? 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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