Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Life on the Home Front: The Rest of the Birthday

In which I discuss FIFA, wild ramps, and cherry pie.....

The days run into each other now. We are not constant news watchers so even the news seems relatively the same. Next week will be different when the kids get back to online schooling. Our second week of spring break is going along just fine though.

The weather was cold, but I did convince Drew to tag along down into the woods to see if we could find some ramps (wild garlic) to make a wild garlic butter for Michael's birthday dinner. I wanted him along so he could film me as I demonstrated sustainable ways of harvesting the ramps for my nature videos. Unfortunately the ramps in our woods were too tiny to film, but that didn't stop me from dragging him all the way to the very end of two paths to see if we could find more mature ramps.

In return for going on the walk with me, I let Drew introduce me to the world of FIFA (a soccer x-box game). Since I don't play xbox, nor soccer, the whole process is new to me. I have to watch the ball, watch which player to switch to, switch the player, tackle the ball, shoot the ball, punt the ball, honestly, it's quite overwhelming. And then the part that got me was the constant commentary that is created to match your shots. Things like: "that was uncalculated, what a surprise, his teammates are staring at him now, we expected better......". And then, if you do a really great shot, you can choose if you want a typical or a-typical celebration and then you watch your player do some sort of hilarious crawl across the ground in celebration. I kept getting so distracted by the commentary I couldn't play well. I found the whole thing overwhelming. But I will have to try again.

I baked a cherry pie in the afternoon for Michael's birthday dinner. There were just enough cherries left between the freezer and a random jar of cherries that I always wondered why I had. I also had some thin chuck steaks in the freezer that were intended for Valentine's Day but never used. I labeled them for Michael when this whole thing started. This is where all my reading is coming in handy. "The Long Winter" taught me that mother's secretly stash special things in times of emergencies so that when holidays come around they can pull something out of hiding to make the day special.

As usual, I spent some time painting and working on a few other projects. I also spoke briefly with a friend via FaceTime.

I opened up the grill and got if fired up for dinner and realized it is on the very last legs of its already secondhand life. But I managed to get the little steaks cooked, and I had picked a few leaves of wild garlic and a handful of wild onion so we had the garlic butter and some fresh veggies with baked potatoes. Very delicious!

Drew chose "The Truman Show" as our family movie and we stopped half way to enjoy that amazing cherry pie! yum yum! Then it was off to bed with the expectation of a new month in the morning!

Food Eaten: oatmeal and tea, leftover Indian dishes, crackers and olive tapenade, steak with sweet potato, asparagus, broccoli, and garlic butter; cherry pie.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Life on the Home Front: A Birthday

In which I discuss birthdays, phone calls, and cheesy Bunny movies....

Michael's birthday helped make our day a bit more interesting! Of course he would be happy if nothing was done at all to celebrate. I grew up in a home where birthdays were a big deal. So we celebrate because I want to celebrate. :) ha ha! And it's good for the children to learn to celebrate with others.

We decided on a family walk at our local park with hot tea and pie at the end. We postponed our dinner and presents until Tuesday since Drew had to leave for his job at Subway right after our hike. It was nice to be out in the fresh air and we found many signs of spring in the park, several that we have not seen in our own woods yet.

This was an unusual Monday because I was not working at the flower shop. I had scheduled this day off when we were still planning to head to NC for spring break to visit relatives. Not working gave me the chance to have a more relaxed day and I did take some time for reading!

I had the loveliest surprise in the afternoon - my grandmother's sister called to say hello. I can't remember the last time we've spoken and it was an absolute delight to hear her soft voice and catch up a bit. It brought back many happy memories and connected me a bit to my grandmother who passed away 13 years ago now. The phone call left me with such a happy feeling.

I had the two older boys pull out stuff from the little pantry and from my back closet so I could clean and organize. Now it's sitting in the middle of the kitchen floor, forcing me to deal with it. The closet is making progress.

Laura chose our evening movie -- "Hop". It's basically like a cheesy Santa Claus movie but it's about the Easter Bunny. Ha ha!

Food Eaten: Oatmeal made with oat flour instead of whole oats (I love the texture) and tea, fried egg sandwich, apple pie, leftover Indian spinach and Chana Masala.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Life on the Home Front: The Weekend

In which I discuss cooking, organization, and fake poop......

Another weekend in the books. What a gift these slower days are in many ways.

Our most joyful piece of news was receiving word of the baby girl born to friends in our congregation. All went well and they were home in time to show us the baby on our weekly Sunday evening online church gathering. What stories her family will tell as she grows up -- being born during coronavirus!

I spent some time cooking on Saturday so I wouldn't have to do much on Sunday. I'm stretching out the meat in our freezer so decided on Indian dishes with spinach and chickpeas. Once in awhile I long for something with a lot of flavor. Indian works!! People often comment that I must like to cook -- I really don't think I do. I like to eat good food and I especially like to sit around a table with others. Cooking is simply the means to that end. I'd much rather be reading or painting.

The most memorable conversation from the weekend began with my overhearing, "Remember the fake poop we used to make and leave in so-and-so's yard to annoy them?" WHAT??!!! I'm still laughing about this. Yes, apparently my kids made fake poop out of mud and placed it in an annoying neighbor's yard just for the fun of it. I always knew I would later find out things my kids did when they were young. Fortunately, said neighbor repented in sackcloth and ashes (and a large bag of candy and a free snowblower) before moving and no longer troubles the children.

One son needed a haircut so we took care of that. Fortunately we can do without a barber for as many months as we want. I typically have my hair cut twice a year, and I can actually go without for many years if need be.

I worked more on tidying up my back closet which also serves as my art storage area, sewing room and fabric storage, and book storage area (it's very large). Having tidy spaces makes a huge difference to my inner peace. I've got plans for the little pantry and more plans for my closet this week.

On our church video chat last night we heard from some of those out on the front lines. A nurse let us know that our county expects the peak to hit our hospitals in 4-6 weeks. A friend in an industry "in the know" right now warned us to expect 50-60 more days of this. From all I read online, they are correct. One day at a time I guess.

Food Eaten: Saturday: Tea and toast; leftover pizza, apple crumble for tea, leftovers with eggs for dinner. Sunday: blueberry pancakes and tea, Chana Masala and Saag Paneer without the Paneer with homemade GF chapatis (from a mix), basmati rice, and coriander chutney; apple pie for tea, leftover pancakes for dinner.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Life on the Home Front: Another Week

In which I discuss spring break, pizza, and movies....

I love this photo because it says so much about our life right now: bagpipe lessons happening via FaceTime (shout-out to our wonderful teacher, Hope!), postage stamps all over the desk from the letter writing, candles littered (one of our sources of joy), a beautiful piece of art to escape into in the background, a tiny little bit of fresh flowers all the way over to the right.

Our first week of spring break is nearly in the books. We had intended to visit relatives in NC, instead we are home. It was a good week overall. The temperatures rose outdoors, we had a lot of good family time, and no one is going absolutely crazy yet.

Friday was rainy which kept us indoors until late in the afternoon when the sky cleared. I escaped to the woodland walk to catch more footage and enjoy the solitude of nature. The kids went out front to play soccer in the street and were joined by some neighbors, keeping their distances of course! It's so hard to repel little toddlers right now, who can't understand why one is backing away from them and saying don't come near me. Very heart-breaking.

I talked to my mom on the phone about art supplies and spent some more time at my work desk painting. All this time at home is helping me prioritize the painting practice. The workshop I signed up for in April has moved to May. Can't wait for it, hoping we don't have to further postpone.

Michael went on an important mission to deliver toilet paper to Mom LeFebvre -- because the stores have been out since we all came home two weeks ago.

I convinced Drew to take another day at baking something for tea. This staying at home is going to result in my boys developing such wonderful skills: baking, cleaning, food shopping. Drew took on oatmeal cookies today and we enjoyed them so much at tea time.

Friday is an easy day to choose pizza for dinner. I had a frozen gluten-free crust in the freezer so only needed to make the gluten crust. I don't miss too many foods, but I do miss good pizza. We decided to eat in front of our evening movie. It was my turn to pick! I had a list of four and decided to go with the top one: The Beautiful Terrific. It was an interesting movie, and overall very good. It must be one of those independent art-type films. It follows a young woman who has OCD and the transformation of her life through the transformation of her back garden. Although it was a lot slower than I meant to force on the family, everyone watched it and even commented positively at the end. I think it gave us something to think about and notice so it actually had more effect than a different movie would have.

Food Eaten: The last piece of the donut cake with tea! Leftover rice, veg, and egg for lunch. Oatmeal cookies for tea, gluten free pizza (dairy free cheese) for dinner with carrots and apples.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Life on the Home Front: Another Day

In which I discuss teatime, routines, and the lack of reading....

I feel like we have a routine developing around here, I just hope the kids don't get tired of this too quickly. Thursday was a gorgeous day outside -- Michael and I took a nice walk mid-day down into our wooded path and back again. It's crazy to see how many people are out walking now, and everyone is extra friendly too.

I'm not taking as many photos as I normally do. It must be because my world is suddenly much smaller? I need to look for beauty and capture it. Checking my phone for photos from yesterday revealed mostly pictures of chores: the exploded pumpkin in the pantry that required a major cleaning effort, the closet disorganization that I spent more time working on righting, and a knitting project re-discovered along with the needles I was missing and the pattern I couldn't find. I'm making progress on household projects, but at the same time feeling like there are so many more to go. I also need to be content with a house that is becoming more worn out with age and no amount of cleaning or organizing can really change that.

Drew did our tea baking: blueberry coffee cake. We had some blueberries still in the fridge. Our normal schedule is for Laura and I to have tea together immediately after getting home from school each day. I try to buy blueberries for one or two of those teas each week because Laura loves them so much. She's loved blueberries since she was a baby and often has asked for a blueberry cake for her birthday. Anyway, the Laura tea times have been put on hold now and we still had two pints of blueberries left! It's my turn to bake today. Maybe I should use the other pint up!

The change in schedule is helping me focus on painting for about an hour each day. Being able to spend time like this will help me move my skills forward at a faster rate! I'm having so much fun experimenting with gouache and capturing moments of each day on paper. The one thing I am upset about is that I've lost nearly all my reading time. Our entire evening is spent together as a family -- which is so important I don't want to change. The day is full with the other things I've prioritized and I don't know how to fit the reading back in again. Sometimes I can squeeze in part of an audio book. But, I've chosen sleeping in right now instead of adding more time to my day so I suppose I must be content with my choice.

In many ways I feel as though I'm a person in a dark room with my hands against the wall, carefully pushing and pressing to find the doors and ease them open. It's tedious work, and I can't see, but little by little I'm making forward progress and once in awhile a door opens into a new room.

Did I mention each one of us is taking a night to pick a movie in a genre we like? This makes for watching a lot of movies I would not choose to watch -- but that's the whole point, really. We watched some kind of Samurai movie last night and sure enough the scene of a Samurai being punished by beating showed up in my dreams. Yuck. I love piecing together dreams and seeing where different parts of the dream came from a different part of my day or a different stress I am dealing with. Tonight is my movie choice -- I want something beautiful and uplifting, then maybe I'll dream of the Lake District and tea with Jane Austen.

Food Eaten: tea and a piece of the Glazed Donut Cake for breakfast (yes!! what a treat), turkey soup for lunch (its final appearance!!), blueberry coffee cake for teatime snack, and a wonderful dinner of roasted cauliflower, baked sweet potatoes, roasted chicken, and stir-fried onions, summer squash, and asparagus. Sigh.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Life on the Home Front: First Full Day of Lockdown

In which I discuss Prince Charles, cake, and alien movies....

The first thing that I heard Wednesday morning was that Prince Charles had tested positive for the virus. That's just a little too close to the Queen for me! I am a very avid follower of the Royal Family. We grew up with an old book about the princesses (the Queen as a child) and a dollhouse they played with, then we lived in Uganda, a former colony of Britain, then two of my children were born in the UK, and of course two of my great-grandparents were also born there. It's inevitable that I be a royalist. I'm glad the Prince is not hospitalized and that he and Camilla are isolating way up in Scotland in a "cottage."

Sunshine today! I took a walk early afternoon to grab more footage for my nature videos. A neighbor was out moving flowers around in his flowerbed and promised to send me a bucket of daffodils he'd divided along with yellow lilies. I don't think I've ever seen so many people out walking in our neighborhood! Must be the new national past-time. People are more willing to say hello too. I found plenty of progress in the woods to report on -- lots of flowers making their way to the surface and a few actually blooming. Especially exciting was finding the ramps (wild garlic) poking up through the leaves.

Today was the first day when we actually knew someone who tested positive for the virus -- relatives in Connecticut. And friends in Rhode Island most likely have the virus too. And my friend in NYC continues to give me firsthand reports. Life there is very stressful, far more stressful than here. When someone you know gets the virus, that's when it all becomes real.

A friend shared a picture of her Glazed Donut Cake on Facebook and I thought it would be perfect to try for tea-time. James attempted a gluten-free version of it for us and it was SO delicious! How have we not known about this cake before??? The recipe we used is here. We used GF flour and xanthan gum and made buttermilk with milk and vinegar.

I started to putter in the garden -- mostly because I needed to deal with the plants I was given. After my long walk, and with a bike ride ahead (with Laura) I didn't want to do too much and over-do. I did find rhubarb coming up! YAY! Last year I planted some again to see if I could get it going. My attempts over the years have eventually failed.

I managed to get our linen closet re-organized. What a relief. So many more things to do like that. One at a time. The kids get the easy job: I ask them to pull everything out of the space I'm going to organize. I get the hard job of sorting and putting it back.

It was David's night to pick a movie, I think? Anyway, the movie was about humans fighting aliens and seemed to follow a similar line to the Groundhog Day movie. I spent the time knitting while we watched (and I secretly catch up on texts too).

Food Eaten: toast and tea for breakfast; leftover rice salad and eggs for lunch; glazed donut cake for tea, round two of taco salad for dinner with cut apples.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Life on the Home Front: The Last Hours Before Lockdown

In which I discuss the impending lockdown, snail mail, and Quiplash...

This was our last day before Indiana's official lockdown began at midnight. It was already our 13th day of staying at home and practicing social distancing. Not much will change for us except we can no longer make discretionary trips out in the car to randomly leave things on people's porches or exchange insignificant items. But there was a sense of urgency to think about what needed to be done before official lockdown:

1 Send Drew to Kroger to shop for us and to shop for Grandma LeFebvre
2 Send Michael to the post office to stock up on postage stamps
3 Acquire four seasons of Foyle's War and other random DVD's from a friend
4 Deliver puzzles and books to nephews
5 Sew and deliver a tea cozy

I weighed taking a walk, wanting to gather video for my next Nature Nibbles clip but realizing I would end up with a whopping sinus headache if I braved the colder temperatures. I finally gave up on the walk.

David and Laura (ages 13 and nearly 10) get up at a reasonable time (around 8?) and are quick to jump on their chores and one of them on their music practice. David heads to "his" chair and spends hours reading everyday. Laura is able to occupy herself in a number of ways and also works on her project of creating cards and letters for friends.

Drew and James (17 and 15) sleep in even longer than I do. I'm so happy for them to be getting sleep. Drew now has a letter from his employer (Subway) which he can show to police if he is stopped while driving to and from work. (Seriously??!! It sounds like we are living in World War 2!) But my neighbors have these letters too. I almost feel like I'm missing out on a letter!

My sister, Emily, sent a picture of herself from the hospital. Boy it makes it all seem real. She's there working, five days a week as an occupational therapist. She said that this week they seemed to have enough masks and that makes us all feel better. My sister-in-law, Crystal, gives ultrasounds at her hospital and it's scary because she is in close contact with her patients for long periods of time. I am proud of these women for doing what they are doing. And I must remember to keep them in prayer.

Tuesday morning was slow again because of my late wake-up and all the little things that go into the morning routine. I got some painting done before lunch, Face-Timed a friend for a few minutes for a brief catchup, taught Laura how to make chocolate chip cookies, and headed out to drop some things off on people's porches. I've been trying to write a letter or two as much as I can - to put in the "real" mail to people. I miss that so much. When I was a teenager I lived with my family in the heart of Chicago and it must have been similar to lockdown because my brain reverted to that time period as soon as we got stuck home two weeks ago! In Chicago we had few friends, could not leave the apartment by ourselves, stayed indoors in a small space much of the day, and conducted almost my entire social life via pen, paper, and stamp. I had at least three people whom I wrote to weekly. Many, many others I wrote within a months time. There was hardly anything better than getting a letter in the mail and my family stills laughs at how much I loved checking the mail (I still do but I'm willing to let others do it too).

Our evening routines are very similar right now. We gather in the front room around 8pm. Half of the evenings we begin our time with a game we all play with our cell phones and the xbox called "Quiplash". I would describe it as a word game. It's so funny and even Laura is fairly decent at it. During spring break we are watching a movie afterward (otherwise it would just be a shorter episode of something). And then it is time for bed! (During our Quiplash we were delighted to hear a knock on our door and find friends out delivering cookies! How special. Thank you!!!)

Food Eaten: Two pieces of gluten-free toast with tea for breakfast (so thankful to find a number of loaves of GF bread in the freezer!), leftover rice and egg casserole for lunch, Laura's cookies for snack, and taco salad over rice for dinner with another cookie thrown in for dessert.