Category Archives: Uncategorized

Pandemic Pasttimes…

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It’s be a while.  One hundred sixteen days, but who’s counting?  Okay.  I am.  Lockdown is over.  My state is in Phase II, with the numbers still growing.  I’ve been able to get my yearly, healthy medical check up, my teeth cleaned, and my hair cut.  Why then, do I feel that I am still “sheltering in place”?   Maybe, because I am.

With the exception of three times in 17 weeks, I have had my groceries delivered.  I have only done shopping online.  (Praise God for Amazon!)  I have enjoyed take-out twice.  I have filled up my car with gas once.

Here’s how I have kept busy…

I did some home improvements.  I repainted my exterior doors from apple green to “Bluebird Feather.”  I replaced my in-sink soap dispenser, and I replaced my modem and television.  Not being very technical, the last were challenging.  I called in the experts for clothes dryer, roof leak, and sump pump repairs.

I’ve worked Jigsaw Puzzles.  At first I felt like I was wasting time, but then I read (Google, of course) that puzzling helps strengthen short term memory, exercises both right and left sides of the brain, fends off Alzheimer’s, lengthens one’s life span, improves visual-spatial reasoning, and is meditative.  Wow!

I’ve started a Victory Garden.  Prior to now I’ve not gardened for years, because I was gone most of the summer, but this year, I have grown cucumbers and tomatoes in containers on my deck.  So far, it’s Squirrels 4/Deb 0 for the Big Boy tomatoes, but I have harvested and eaten 6 cucumbers and a small bowl full of cherry tomatoes.

I’ve  sewn.  The Wendy House out back (aka my She Shed) is my crafting studio. I finished a quilt I began 10 years ago, but other than that, I haven’t made anything more significant than face masks.  I spent a lot of time organizing and arranging fabrics, and pouring over books and magazines with project suggestions.  I’m great at starting stuff, and terrible at finishing, so I’m proud of the quilt.

I’ve been Coloring.  My baby sister, Paige (RIP), left me boxes and boxes of Crayolas and two very nice adult coloring books.  One is of birds and one is of Mary Englebreit pictures.  (Hello Right Brain/Left Brain!) Adult coloring improves stress and lessens anxiety, improves motor skills and vision, helps a person sleep better (who knew!?), and sharpens focus.

And, I’ve baked.  Early on, I needed sweets and chocolate, so I made Shortbread Cookies and Snickerdoodles.  Then I moved on to Brownies.  Now I’m baking bread.  Bread baking is very satisfying in more ways than one, but it’s mostly the kneading for me.  I have to set the timer, because…patience.  Then, just pushing and folding over and twisting over and over until the bell dings is physical and also meditative.  And there’s just nothing like the smell of fresh baked bread!

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I’ve also walked the equivalent of across the Sahara Desert.  I only know because my Fitbit told me.  And, of course, watched TV.  Again, thank you, God for Netflix, Hulu, Acorn, and Disney+.   I’d be lost without them.

Most importantly, I reconnected with several long time and long lost friends and a few former students.  Those were the most rewarding experiences!

Sometimes I feel like I should have worked on becoming fluent in conversational French, or written my memoirs, or at least a few more blog posts, and then I think, “Naw.”  The Pandemic continues to stretch out ahead of us.  It can look pretty bleak.  It can also be a reminder of our fragility.

Meanwhile, I think I hear those pesky squirrels out on the deck.

 

The Grass is Always Greener…

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No, not whacky weed.  I’m way too old for that.  Grass.  The green stuff that grows in people’s front and back yards.  Well, in most parts of the country.

I moved to North Carolina from a place where I raked the dirt.  I always felt some satisfaction at seeing those evenly space streaks carved in the loose quarter inch of fine sandy-type soil.  No mower, no gasoline and pull string, no push and shove.  Just some good core strengthening muscle power to scrape that sweet pattern across the yard.

Then I moved to God’s Country, where everything is soft, with diffused dampness, and a growth all the colors of green that are found in the Crayola box.  And I vowed, when I bought my tiny house, that I would NOT spend any money on grass.

When I walk in my neighborhood, I see all manner of beautiful lawns.  I see the crews drive in with their trailers, and their big mowers, and their blowers.  They get a yard done in 20 minutes.  They sow the seed, and spray the weeds, and drag the big rollers to flatten the ground.  They use something to poke plugs in the ground.  They make a yard Martha Stewart would laud.

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And I mow creeping Charlie, and violets, and buttercups, and white clover, and some delightful five-petalled flower no one I know can label.  I mow with my Kobalt electric mower, dragging my orange cord, trying my hardest not to mow over the cord and electocute myself.

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So.  Not only do I NOT spend any money on grass, I don’t spend any on gas, either.  While the grass is definitely greener in everyone else’s yard, mine has buttercups.  And you can’t buy that, I promise.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Pandemic “Cookbook”…

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The last two posts have referenced grocery shopping on my part.  Ideally, a person makes a menu, then makes a grocery list based on what is already available and what is needed to prepare meals.  Now, I admit, I am not the best grocery shopper.  I’d like to be.  I’m just not.  I try to make menus, but when it comes to preparing my food, I just eat what I feel like eating.  I usually go to the store, and buy stuff I like or that looks good, and bring it home.  That leaves food that I don’t eat.  Some of that food is fresh, and some is non-perishable.

With my Pandemic Panic shop, I bought snack food, which is my favorite comfort food…cheese and crackers, chips and salsa, guacamole.  My order-and-pick-up shop brought me canned goods, paper towels, and pet food.  So, that still leaves me limited choices.  Note to self:  Seriously, I have just GOT to do better with this. 

So, I thought I’d share a few of my Pandemic Recipes, made with what I have available.  You probably won’t have this stuff now, but maybe one day, we’ll all be sprung, and can go to the store.  OR, maybe you might want to order your grocery list, and pick up (hopefully sooner than later), OR, you just might gag at the though of these dishes, and lastly, you may just think, “God, she’s weird.”

Pandemic Coleslaw

1/2 head red cabbage 1/2 bulb fennel

a bunch of carrots a bunch of those colorful little sweet peppers

salt & pepper 1/2 jar Marie’s Coleslaw Dressing

I have a Ninja chopper (thank you, Geege!)

Chop it all up, mix in S&P, add dressing, and mix.      It’s really colorful, and the dressing is what makes it good, anyway!

Pandemic Salmon Patties

1 box Stove Top Cornbread Stuffing Mix (left over from Thanksgiving)

2 small cans Salmon (no idea why that was in the cupboard)

3 eggs, beaten  (I used 2, as I am conserving my eggs)

1 c hot water

Mix, spoon and form in hot skillet (I sprayed my skillet with Pam, but the box recipe says use butter, which would, Lord knows, make it way better). Fry until brown, flip, and repeat.  It made about 8 patties, which means I’ll be eating these for a bunch of meals, but oh, well.

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Pandemic Lemon Shortbread

1.25 c flour 1 t grated lemon peel (mine was in veg bin)

.5 c cornstarch 1 T lemon juice (squoze from old found lemon)

.33 c powdered sugar 2 T white sugar

.75 c (1.5 sticks) butter, softened (leftover from over-buying at Christmas)

2 T white sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In large mixing bowl, combine flour, cornstarch, powdered sugar, butter, lemon peel, and lemon juice.

Beat at low speed, scraping often, until well mixed (2-3 minutes, but I do about 30 seconds because I am impatient).  Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm.

Form in a rectangle on parchment paper on a cookie sheet.  You can use a rolling pin to flatten.  It helps to make a consistent thickness, but may be considered as a weapon in your home, so just use with caution.   

Poke with a fork.  Sprinkle with white sugar.  Bake 10-12 minutes.  Will not brown! 

Cut while warm into squares (or whatever).  Cool on rack.  Store in airtight container.

I’m sure these would be much better with fresh lemon, but the wrinkly lemon I used was good enough that there are no cookies left.  See Picture, attached.

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Okay, there you have it.  You can adapt these recipes to the ingredients you have available.  Your food will probably be better than mine, as I’ve never been know for my cooking.  Best of luck to you, and good pandemic eating!  Plenty of rest and good nutrition are important for immune systems!  Wash your hands, and a shower might be nice every now and then.

Well, it’s come to this…

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Disclaimer:  This is a serious Situation and Time in which we find ourselves.  But if I can’t laugh, I can’t live, and if I can’t laugh at myself, then there is no laughter.

The 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle of the Downton Abbey folks is at a standstill on my kitchen table.  My new best friend, Flat Stanley, is giving me the side-eye.  And, I’ve started growing my own celery, for Lord’s sake, and that’s a prayer.

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Before the pandemic, I volunteered, did church and church activities, went to the Y for exercise, read, sewed, walked in the neighborhood, shopped, bought groceries, did yard work, took naps, had coffee with neighbors, played cards and met my book club once a month, met for Bible Study once a week, got my hair done every six weeks, visited a shut-in friend twice a week, cooked pots of soup, and cleaned house and did laundry.

Since the “stay at home” expectation two weeks ago, I can still do many of the same things.  Of course, none of the meetings are available, but all the home chores and hobbies are at my fingertips.  Yet, each morning I wake up, and think,”What day is today?  And does it matter?”  Every afternoon about 4 o’clock, I think, “Well, I have practically made it through another day!”

Living alone in these days of Social Distancing has it’s own set of problems.   I’ve had to be careful about spending the whole day in my jammies…the Christmas ones are my favs.  I’ve had to remember to brush my teeth, and have found myself thinking, and I’m not proud of this: “I won’t be close enough for anyone to notice, anyway.”  Forget about the hair!  Nobody sees the back, anyway, so why bother to brush it?  I’ve made three batches of shortbread, and I’ve polished off all three.  I ordered groceries on Monday for pick up, but the first available pick up time was six days later, on Sunday at 3 PM!  I’ve been looking forward to Sunday at 3 PM all week!  Paul and Pru and Noel and Sandy are my TV crushes, and if you know who they are, you are in the same circle of hell.

Yet, this week,  I received three surprise, and totally unexpected, deliveries from three sets of Angels bearing gifts…flowers, chicken noodle soup, a baguette, chocolates (!!!), and hand cream, and you know how much that is needed; and two new jigsaw puzzles, because, God knows how much my brain needs stimulation.  And the third was wine and coffee creamer.  ‘Nuff said, there.

Day by day (though what other way is there, I ask you), I am hanging in there.  With Zoom, Flat Stanley, my little dog Hattie, Beedle the cat, and with driveway talks with my neighbors, dog walks, and Angels hovering about, I’m well, I’m safe, I have everything I need.  Most of all, I need to stay at home…so I don’t spread the virus, so I stay healthy and don’t cause worry for others, and so I don’t tax the health care profession.  We all need to be doing the same.

Two more hours until I can pick up my groceries.  Hoo-boy.  Maybe I’ll bring Flat Stanley along for the ride.

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Pandemic Panic Shopping…

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Disclaimer:  A pandemic is NOT funny.  We all need to wash our hands, People.  We need to stay home if we are sick, we need to keep our hands off our faces, and we need to be pragmatic about where we go, and what we do.  Read:  keep social distance.

All that being said, I have tried to remain calm, and to follow my own advice and be practical.  I was doing pretty well about all of that until today, and if I can’t laugh at myself, who can I laugh at?

Now…I will backtrack:

It is Lent.  My Lenten plans this year have been pretty much what they are every year…don’t buy anything that is not necessary and read a good faith-based book.  This year, after a particularly indulgent Christmas season and it’s aftermath, I decided to up the ante.  I am not buying any shoes, clothing, underwear, make up, household decorations, or books.  I am not grocery shopping until I have eaten the food that is now in my refrigerator and pantry.  (I’m also reading a good faith-based book, but that’s not what this blog today is about.)

It is the end of the second week of Lent, and I have kept my to my plans, even on Sundays (which are technically excused as Sunday is a day of celebration).  I did NOT stock up on food or necessities prior to Lent, and I’m sure I have enough food, paper products, cleaning supplies, and personal care items to last at least until Easter, if not longer.  God knows, I have enough books, household decorations, clothes, shoes, and underwear!  Anyway, I haven’t been anywhere near a store since the last week of February, and I was feeling pretty confident I’d be able to master the PLAN.

Until this morning, that is, when I talked to my neighbor who had some opinions on the matter of COVID-19.  Then I called my folks, and Mom said I should go to the grocery store “at least for milk.”  I rarely even drink milk!  And the final straw came when I read in the newspaper that the World Health Organization has officially announced a “pandemic.”  Hoo-boy!

My chest tightened, my blood pressure shot up, and I had to sit down.  I nearly had to put my head between my knees to keep from fainting!  My throat constricted, and my chest felt tight.  Were these symptoms of the coronavirus?  No.  They were symptoms of panic.

So I did what every other panicking American has done…I drove to Trader Joe’s, loaded up on wine, toilet paper, chips and salsa, cheese and crackers, chicken and vegetables (for chicken noodle soup…I have a killer recipe), and boxed milk!  Because Mom told me to get milk, don’tcha know?!  Then I came home, unpacked my groceries, took a picture, because I realized I had panic-shopped, and most of what I bought was just stuff I liked.

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So much for the Lenten slip, and  I am not proud of myself.  But I’m back on track, fully stocked up, and maybe I will take my “eat what I have in the refrigerator and pantry” promise past Easter.  Maybe I will be glad I went to the store because “nobody knows,” as my great-nephew says, and I may be homebound.

I’m prepared.  Panic has abated.  After all, I have toilet paper, now, and Pragmatism is my new middle name.

I’m Every Age I’ve Ever Been…

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I didn’t say that, Annie Lamott did.  But she is right, and that is the truth.

I am the toddler who saw her first black person, and said, “That man’s got shocklate arms and shocklate legs!”

I am the child on the bus who screamed, “I don’t ‘peak Fwench, I said I don’t ‘peak Fwrench!”

I am the only child in my class whose parents were college graduates…and divorced.

I am the procrastinating 7th grader, and the scared 9th grader, and the Northern new girl, starting school in the segregated South in the middle of her Junior year of high school.

I am the ECU (East Carolina University) girl, who knew there would be no second chances for messing up in school, but messed up a lot anyway,  who fell in love with the wrong man, and married the wrong man (not the same one with which I fell in love), got a teaching job by default, and fell in love with teaching, which became the one, sustaining grace of a long string of years.

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I am the grad student, displaced and yet, rescued.

I am the woman who struggled for 33 years to hold on to a marriage that was doomed from it’s inception.

And I have my 15 minutes of “fame”…I am the 4th person in the United States, and the first person in Arizona to achieve two National Board Certifications in Teaching.  I am the rising star, the Star, and the falling star in my teaching career.

I am a Child of God.  I am a sister, a daughter, a “grandmother”, an aunt, a writer, a teacher, a friend, a Godmother, a helper, a Sponsor.  I am a woman with feet of clay.

I am every age I have ever been and ever will be.  And that’s the truth.

 

 

 

Keeping Between the Mustard and the Mayonnaise…

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Finally, this year, I have decided to focus on my own business.  I know.  You’d think I would have figured that out by now, but I am a late bloomer.  Really late, in some cases.

I am working hard to stay in my own lane.  For me, that means not having an opinion about the actions of others; not second guessing what others think, feel, or mean when they behave in certain ways; not jumping to conclusions; and not being hurt or upset when others do not respond or react as I might have thought they should in the past.

It’s a big task for me.  I’ve shared this intent with several friends, and it has led to some really beneficial conversations.  Most recently, in talking with my Lake Sister, she shared the expression her grandson taught her.  “Keep between the mustard and the mayonnaise.”  I’d never heard that before.  Not only did it give me a colorful metaphor, but it made me laugh.

Living alone, I have found I don’t have someone with whom to regularly bounce ideas off, and I don’t have a lot of opportunities to laugh.  I have to seek out both.  I think I’m going to be more successful in keeping my head and my life straight by visualizing the yellow center line and the white shoulder line, as I slog through this new year.

Maybe I can stay between the mustard and the mayonnaise, and be a better, happier person.  It’s a goal, anyway.  That, and to avoid ketchup.

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Muskrats…

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Now there’s something you probably have never thought about, or at least have thought very little.  Me, neither.  But for some reason, muskrats have recently shown up at my sister’s pond out front.

When I visited in October, we spoke of them, but this visit, I began to wonder, “How did they come to be here?  Did they throw their belongings, hobo-style over their shoulders, saunter along the fields, and say, ‘Hey, this looks like a nice spot.  Let’s build our village here,’?”  It gave me an interesting visual, so I googled.

Wisconsin muskrats (not sure there are other kinds) are rodents, that live in and out of water.  They have burrows, but my sister’s muskrats have lodges that stick up above the surface of the pond,, and that was what I was seeing.  Those are the humps you see in the photo below.  Yes, the pond is frozen.

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Muskrats can be aggressive, but they are nocturnal, so I’m not too worried about myself or the dog or my family.  We are early go-to-bedders.  Muskrats are beneficial, in that they help maintain marshes, which in turn provide habitats for aquatic birds, and here, those will be the Sandhill Cranes, of which I am so fond.  Plus the muskrats feed on cattail, and those things, while attractive, can be a mess.

Muskrats live for about three years in the wild, and the babies are called kits.  They can have as many as three litters a year, though the number of babies in a litter was not revealed.  Guess they hold their privacy.

So far, I have not actually spied a Muskrat, adult or child.  That’s probably due to the nocturnal bit, but the pictures don’t show them as all that cute to me.  Nevertheless, with three litters a year, if they grow and stick around, could increase the number of lodges that show up in the pond.

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If the coyotes don’t take them out, and if they like the spot, (and why wouldn’t they?) we may have quite the Muskrat town here next year.

That seems to bring me back to my question of from where did they come?  Their last area of residence may have gotten too crowded for the population, and they followed the waterway that cuts through the fields.

No matter.  They sure hit payday here!

 

 

Year Word, 2020…

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In lieu of making New Year’s Resolutions, which I have never been able to keep, the list being lengthy enough to paper a wall, I choose a word for the year.  I heard about this some years ago, from a Today Show interview on January first of said year.

“Whoa,” thinks I.  “I can focus on one word, but this wallpaper list thing isn’t cuttin’ it.”

And so, here are some of my year words on which I have focused:  Look, Listen, Give, Accept, Wait, Quiet.  I write the word in a variety of scripts, and I place these words at very visible places in my home.  I meditate on the word.  I pray about the word, and I find that it presents itself to me in ways I would have never anticipated throughout the entire year!  So…

This year’s word…ta-dah!  IMG_1272

This is what I want to replenish:  my spirit, my creativity, my bank account, my relationships, my optimism, my hope, my joy, my health, my sense of adventure, my spontaneity, my reservoirs of lost self.  It will be interesting to see how I replenish other aspects of my life which are not apparent right now!

May you have a joyful 2020.  May you find the focus for your future.  May you love, laugh, and may you replenish whatever you need.                          And so, Amen.

Finnan Haddie

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Don’t know what that is?  I didn’t either.  But my sister invited me to join her for Finnan Haddie, and hey!  A new experience.  Why not?

Finnan Haddie, I found on Google, is also known as “milk fish.”  It is of Scottish tradition, which I guessed.  I mean, what does it sound like?  Scottish, of course.  It is also from Maritime Canada.  Prob’ly the Scots settled there.

And I am going to say, Finnan Haddie is delicious!  It is served with boiled potatoes and peas!  I LOVE boiled potatoes and peas!  Ima guessin’ that’s the Finnan part.  The Haddie part is smoked haddock fish baked in a thin milk gravy.

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Here’s the general recipe, sort of, in the fashion of my mother:

Smoked Haddock Fish Filet                              Wondra Flour

Butter                                                                    Milk

Make a white sauce with the butter, flour, milk.  Plop the fish in the milk sauce, Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes (don’t hold me to that).  Boil small white potatoes.  Cook peas (we used the Steamers and microwaved them).  Serve hot.  You can pour the white sauce over the peas and potatoes.

Now, I am NOT a picky eater, and I don’t turn down many culinary opportunities, and I am so glad I was down for this meal.  Again, it was delicious!  Oh.  Caution, though.  You don’t need any additional salt.

Try it, if you can find the smoked haddock!  In the words of Julia, “Bon appetit!”