Tuesday, May 19, 2020

The Things That Will Never Be The Same

This a long post.  It’s one that I’ve wanted to write for a while, but it took me some time to organize my thoughts.  It starts with more of the negative because I like to end with the positive.  I don’t have any pictures that really go with it, so enjoy a random assortment of pet pictures.  Because we can all use more pet pictures in our lives. 

It’s hard to say exactly when COVID-19 took over.  For me, I’m going with March 14, 2020.  That’s when we started canceling things we had planned; a cooking class, hair appointments, dentist appointments, etc.  March 13, 2020, was the last day I worked from my office.  Looking back, it was a normal, but really, really good workweek.  On March 13, 2020, I left work for the day, with my laptop, a few files, and several books.  I knew I’d probably be working from home for a couple of weeks, maybe a little longer.  I never thought I’d still be working from home two months later.  And I certainly never thought my opinion of so many people would change so drastically.  I never thought so many things would never be the same.

I’m not saying that I don’t think things will never go back to how they were pre-COVID.  I have to believe they will, or I would go absolutely insane.  Though, to be honest, I’d be pretty happy if shaking hands went away entirely.  This isn’t the first time in human history that something like this has happened, and this time, we have better medical care and over 100 years worth of developments and improvement in science since the last time the world faced something similar to this. 
I don’t think things are going to go back to normal any time soon, though.  It takes time to develop and test treatments and vaccines.  It takes time for economies to recover.  It takes time for trauma to heal, and in a lot of ways, I think a lot of people have been traumatized by this.  That kind of healing doesn’t happen overnight.  But it does happen.  I have to believe that.
But I still keep thinking about all of the things that won’t be the same, even when it’s perfectly safe for all of us to be back at work, in restaurants, and in hair salons.  Will we be so used to maintaining distance that we still avoid crowds?  Will we pay more attention the next time a mysterious illness affects another part of the world?  Will we become like our Depression Era great grandparents, saving everything and wasting nothing?  Will we spend more time outside?  Less time in front of screens?  Will the resurgence of interest in learning skills like baking bread, sewing, and basic home repair last? 

Those are the big picture questions, that may well only be answered in the history books.  There’s already a museum project in North Carolina encouraging people to save things like PPE once this is over, to preserve the history for future generations.  They’ll probably be the ones who will get the answers to the bigger questions. 

But what about the smaller, more personal or local changes?  Nick’s mom and I have had various versions of this conversation a few times.  How many friendships will be damaged beyond repair?  Or at least irrevocably altered?  How many people will you never view in quite the same light? 

I can’t help feeling like a lot of things will never be quite the same for me. 

I tend to be a rule follower, and seeing someone as a rule follower, or a rule breaker, has always been important in helping to form my opinion of people.  I didn’t realize just how important until the COVID restrictions went into place.  I’m much angrier than I thought I would be to see people blatantly disregarding social distancing measures.  To be honest, it feels me with a rage I didn’t expect from myself.  I’m sure that’s exacerbated by the fact that Nick and my sister are essential workers, that my parents are high-risk, and that so many of our friends are elderly and high risk. 
I’ve unfollowed several people on Facebook because I simply cannot stand to see one more post from them mocking the one-way aisles in grocery stores, complaining more about the closure of businesses than the loss of lives, or posting pictures of large gatherings they’re having or attending.  They’re adults, and I can’t stop them, but I don’t have to have a front row seat to watch them.

There are people I no longer wish to pursue friendships with.  It’s not some dramatic middle school style “we’re not friends anymore,” type of thing.  It’s just that the world is big, life is short, and clearly our values do not align in a way that’s going to lead to a lasting friendship. 

There’s a class I want to take when things are back to normal.  The person who teaches it locally has behaved in a manner that I cannot and will not condone, so now whenever I am able to take the class, I’ll be driving over an hour to take it from someone else. 

There’s a healthcare (not traditional western medicine) facility that I won’t be going back to.  They’ve been open through all of the shutdown, and I fully understand that.  Healthcare is essential, and I believe this particular type of healthcare is very beneficial.  I chose early on to cancel my late March appointment because I knew Nick would still be going to work, and through him, I believe I carry a higher risk to the people I’m around.  I thought I’d be rescheduling once things were back to normal.  But now, after two months of Facebook selfies of the owner hugging people, various posts by the owner that the loss of life doesn’t merit the closures we’ve had, and that it’s good for healthy people to be exposed, I won’t be going back. 
I know there are plenty of people who view my stand as overly dramatic.  I’ve been told throughout my life that I see things as too black or white, with no gray area.  In some instances that may be true, but I don’t think this is one of them.  Choosing to endanger someone else’s life because of your own preferences or comfort isn’t a gray area to me.  I see blatantly and willfully disregarding the social distancing measures that are in place the same as I see drunk driving.  There’s a good chance you’re going to hurt or kill an innocent person, and that is unacceptable and inexcusable. 

I know there’s always a chance that I’ll change my mind when things are back to normal, and I’m not in a constant state of panic, but I think it’s doubtful.  I can’t see myself spending my money at and supporting a business when their values are clearly so contrary to mine.  And as far as friendships, I don’t think I’ll ever come to view willfully endangering people you see as somehow less worthy as a trait I want to see in a friend.  There’s the Japanese proverb that says. “When the character of a man is not clear to you, look at his friends.”  I’d rather my character be defined by people who are willing to do what is necessary for the greater good. 

The flip side of this has been the people who have stepped up in ways I wouldn’t have expected. 

We’ve had texts, phone calls, and offers of various food/supplies from people I wouldn’t necessarily have expected to be the ones to check on us during this.  These are the people I want to pursue deeper friendships with.  They obviously care, and that’s always a good basis for friendship.

And let’s not forget all of the people who gave me buttons when I needed them to make mask adapters.  I still have bags of buttons sitting around the house!  No one offered to sell or barter buttons, they simply figured out a way to share them. 

There’s the person at work who I thought highly of before, but wouldn’t have pegged as the person to be concerned for everyone’s mental well being, who has gone out of his way to provide resources and create ways to mitigate the loneliness and isolation that comes from working at home.  There’s the coworker who calls at least once a day so I can talk to another person while Nick is at work.  There’s the person at work who helped me track down PPE for my sister when her job couldn’t get it.  These are things that I will never forget.  I am definitely bringing in some cakes whenever we’re back in the office.

There’s the amazingly delicious pie shop kind of near us that has now provided me with the perfect excuse to eat too much pie once things are back to normal.  Technically, they could have stayed open during all of this, but they chose to close when schools closed and restaurants were required to go to take-out only.  There are various programs through the schools here to provide food for needy children, including programs that send food home with them over the weekend and holidays.  Schools closing meant more issues with food insecurity.  So, the pie shop handed out free bagged lunches (PB&J sandwich, an apple, a cookie, and milk) every day, even though they weren’t open for business.  As the community started to get involved, they were able to hand out more food.  That’s a business I want to support.  They filled a need, and provided an outlet for other people to help.  I feel good about spending my money there.  And it’s an added bonus that I’ll get to eat pie in the process. 

Then there are all of the restaurants that have provided food to Nick’s job during this.  A few local restaurants have dropped off food for them, and have provided free meals for first responders.  Some of them don’t have the best parking, or the most convenient hours, but they are absolutely the restaurants we will be going to once things are back to normal.  They’ve demonstrated that they value our essential workers and first responders, just like we do.
Frankie & Howard
I just can’t help thinking that seeing these things, the good and the bad, will forever change and shape how I view people.  There’s the Spanish proverb, “Tell me who your friends are and I’ll tell you who you are.”  I believe that’s true. 

So what about you?  Has your opinion of anyone changed, for good or bad, during all of this?  Are there businesses you will or won’t support going forward?  Do you think we’ll go back to exactly how things were before?

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Unpopular Opinions

Don’t worry, this post isn’t going to be overly negative.  I got the idea from a post Bijoux did recently, and thought it might be interesting to see how my unpopular opinions compare to yours.

I’ll start with what’s probably the most controversial opinion first.

1.  I don’t like chocolate.  I like white chocolate, though most diehard chocolate fanatics maintain that white chocolate is not chocolate.  I don’t like candy bars, chocolate chip cookies, chocolate cake, or even something not chocolate with just a little chocolate.  Chocolate sprinkles on a sundae ruins the whole thing for me, chocolate syrup drizzled on cheese cake ruins the whole thing for me.  I just don’t like it.

2.  I prefer Thanksgiving to Christmas.  This shouldn’t surprise anyone who has ever visited my blog in November, or spent more than about five minutes around me in November.  Don’t get me wrong, I do love Christmas, but I love Thanksgiving more.

3.  I firmly believe that towels should be rolled rather than folded.  It works better than folding when all of your towels aren’t the same size, it makes it easier to get a specific towel, and it doesn’t leave weird creases in your towels.  I could go on (and on, and on, and on), but I won’t.

Caroline agrees that rolled towels are better than folded towels.

4.  I greatly prefer Miracle Whip to mayonnaise.  I’m not sure if that’s a big deal everywhere, but in the south, it’s practically a form of treason.

5.  I can’t stand Seinfeld.  I do not understand its appeal.  That show is like nails on a chalkboard for me. 

6.  I usually prefer the plain/original version of things.   I think plain Coke is a million times better than any of the other flavors.  I love vanilla ice cream!

7.  I hate two-door cars.  It’s such a pain to get pets or people in and out of the backseat.  It’s a pain to put anything in the backseat, and it’s a pain to vacuum back there.  To top it all off, they’re not even cheaper than a four-door car.  I just feel like if you’re paying for the whole car, you should get the whole car.

8.  I love Velveeta cheese.  I know everyone loves to hate it, but in my opinion, it’s the best thing for purely comforting, melty goodness.  It’s like a bowl full of perfectly melted, delicious happiness.

9.  I’m a page folder.  I don’t like bookmarks.  I’d much rather just fold down the corner.  I don’t do it to someone else’s book, but if it’s my own, or a library book and someone else has folded the pages, I absolutely fold the pages. 

10.  I don’t like concerts.  I think I’d like them if there was a rule that no one could sing along or make noise, but it irritates me to spend a lot of money to hear an artist perform, only to hear fans destroying the music.  I’d rather just buy the music and listen to it at home whenever I want.

So what about you?  Do you agree with me on any of these?  What are your unpopular opinions?

As usual when I don’t have many pictures to go with the post, I’m just sharing a random assortment of pictures I like. 

Mortimer isn't bothered by my unpopular opinions.

Friday, May 8, 2020

A Video Tour of Our Yard

I feel like this video needs all kinds of disclaimers.  First, as you’ll definitely be able to tell, I’m not the best at taking videos.  Second, it took a while to get this uploaded.  I took the video on April 18th, so what’s blooming now is different.

But, since quite a few of us are being hit with a cold snap, it seemed like a good time to post a video of flowers and bushes. 

I hope you enjoy it. 

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Not Exactly A Regular Menu Post

So much for my plan of posting our menu every week.  That went about as well as my goal of not getting any takeout or delivery.  There was a lot of that over the last two weeks!

Here’s what I have cooked, in no particular order:

Greek meatball inspired meatloaf and sauteed zucchini, squash, and onions.  This was an experiment that turned out extremely well.  In addition to the usual egg, breadcrumbs, and Worcestershire sauce, I added feta cheese, chopped bell pepper, chopped onion, and Greek seasoning to the meatloaf.  I poured a jar of pasta sauce over it for the last 25 minutes of cooking. 

The veggies were sauteed in olive oil with salt and Greek seasoning.

It was delicious!  Definitely one of those meals that have you excited for leftovers.

Grilled chicken, marinated using this recipe.  The chicken was delicious, and I think this may become my go-to marinade for chicken.  I did learn, however, that it is absolutely no fun to grill out on a windy day.

Huevos Rancheros.  My sister visited Costa Rica last year, and brought us some delicious sauce, which I used on mine.

Biscuits and gravy.

Veggie pizza, using dough made in the bread machine.

Muffins, from a box mix.  Not the most exciting thing, but they are good.

Rotini and meatballs.

Cauliflower fried “rice”.

Taco salad.

And that was pretty much it. 

So what have you cooked over the past two weeks?  Have you tried any new recipes?

Sunday, April 19, 2020

This Was Our Menu For The Week 04/12/20 - 4/18/20

No pizza order last week!  We did get takeout twice, though.  My goal for this week is no takeout or delivery.  We’ll see how it goes.  We picked up a fairly large grocery order from Wal-Mart on Friday evening, so I  have no excuse not to cook, and I definitely want to make sure the produce doesn’t go bad.

Sunday: It was pretty chilly here, and very rainy and stormy, so soup seemed like a good choice.  I made my version of Olive Garden’s Pasta e Fagioli soup, and it was delicious.  I also made a loaf of Italian Herb bread in the bread machine.

I made a buttermilk pie for dessert on Sunday that we enjoyed through most of the week.  I know it’s not pretty, but it’s so good.

Monday: Cheese Enchiladas.  I used this recipe, but halved it.  We also had refried beans with our enchiladas.

Tuesday: This was when the takeout started.  I had Thai food, which I love, but Nick is less crazy about.  Nick had Arby’s, which I refuse to eat.

Wednesday: We had burgers and milkshakes from the McDonald’s drive-thru.

Thursday: Cheese Tetrazzini.  It’s not the prettiest dish, but it was so good.

Friday: Taco salad.  We were actually able to get lettuce on the grocery order, which was a nice change from the last few.

Saturday: Nick made pancakes for breakfast.  I love pancakes, but mine are absolutely terrible.  Nick’s are really good, and these were even better than usual.  There is no picture of the pancakes because I was too busy devouring them.  We had leftovers (taco salad and cheese tetrazzini) for lunch and dinner.

Breakfast was mostly cereal, with one day of egg sandwiches, and one day of this Dutch Apple Pancake, which I did an experiment on.  I read recently that oat milk works the best in baking if you’re not using regular dairy milk.  I wanted to test it out, but I wanted to do it on something fairly low stakes.   We were out of milk by Friday morning, so I gave the oat milk a try in the Dutch Apple Pancake.  We’d had it before, so knew how it was supposed to taste, and it wouldn’t waste a lot of ingredients if it was bad.  It was fine.  Neither one of us could tell any difference.  I feel fairly confident now in using oat milk in baked goods if we’re out of regular dairy milk.  That should help limit our grocery trips/orders a little more.

I think I may have finally figured out a system for getting produce right now.  I’m trying to only do grocery orders every two weeks, or even a little longer if we can manage it.  That makes it a little tricky with things like fresh produce and milk.  The oat milk experiment mostly solved the milk problem, so that just leaves the produce problem.

There doesn’t seem to be any particular pattern with what’s available as far as produce, so I’m learning to be a little more flexible.  I put a variety of produce on the grocery order, knowing we wouldn’t get all of it.  We were able to get lettuce, spinach, yellow squash, zucchini, onions, strawberries, asparagus, a couple of tomatoes, cilantro, cauliflower, carrots, celery, and a very tiny head of broccoli.  We weren’t able to get cucumbers, parsley,  butternut squash, raspberries, green beans, or any shredded broccoli or coleslaw mixes.

My plan is to use the things with the shortest shelf life first, then move on to the things that will last a little longer, and then to probably use some frozen veggies the last few days before our next grocery order.

So what about you?  Have you changed the way you shop for groceries?  What produce have you been able to get, or not been able to get?   Have you tried any successful substitutions?