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Posts Tagged ‘These Unprecedented Times’

I am having a grumpy morning. Part of that is due to Carla having a surprise! day off of school (think broken furnace, frozen pipes kind of reason) when she was just off for FIVE CONSECUTIVE DAYS and part of it is that I got some feedback that was honest and thoughtful and nonetheless hurt my feelings and made me question my life choices and part of it is that I still don’t feel great after my booster.

I am going to tell you about my booster, for blog-record-keeping purposes, and for your own anecdotal-data collection purposes. But I want to be clear that I am GLAD I got my booster, and that a robust immune response is supposedly A Good Sign, so I am not complaining (well, a little) but instead reporting. I got my booster Sunday afternoon. I arrived at the pharmacy 15 minutes before my appointment, which is when I realized that I forgotten my vaccine card. (I did this with my second vaccine; now I have THREE vaccine cards SIGH.) The pharmacist was unfazed by my lack of physical vaccine card; I told her I had a photo of it on my phone and she was fine with that. She had me sit in a VERY little cubicle. She asked which arm I wanted and told me it was okay to take Tylenol later if I needed it; she said she’d gotten feedback that most people have a sore arm and feel a little achy starting about 6 to 8 hours post-booster. She injected me with the booster, applied a bandaid, and said goodbye.

I got the Moderna booster; my vaccines were Pfizer. By ten p.m.-ish I was starting to feel a little yucky, but that could have been the power of suggestion or the beginning of a long-weekend hangover. When I woke up Monday morning, I felt awful – achy and tired and shivery and off. My arm was very sore. My glands were swollen and painful to the touch. I had a fever of 100.9, so I took some Tylenol, fed Carla and drove her to school, and returned home and climbed into bed. I sleep for about an hour, but when I woke up, I stayed in bed, feeling yuckier and yuckier. At 2:30, I had a temperature of 101.7. When I picked up Carla, I felt so bad waiting in the car line that I kept running through little worst-case scenarios: would I pull over into the nearby parking spaces? Was my in-case-of-emergency friend still in the car line herself, so I could ask her to get Carla for me? Would we both get into her car? Did I have an extra booster seat? Did I have a mask? When I got home my temperature was 103.3, so I looked up whether I could take ibuprofen (the pharmacist had specified Tylenol, so I wasn’t sure). The CDC said I could take any NSAID, so I took some Advil and got back into bed. My bones and joints hurt. My skin stung – even the feeling of the fabric of my sweatshirt sliding over my stomach made me flinch. My eyes hurt. My neck and kidneys ached. I kept waiting for the time to switch over to 24 hours post vaccine, hoping either for the miraculous relief of my symptoms ending or for the sweet release of death. Neither came for me. As the night wore on, I felt slightly better. My skin stopped hurting, for instance. My fever was down to 100.6 when I went to bed

Today I feel MUCH better. My glands are still tender, but not quite as swollen. The site of the injection still hurts, both to the touch and with movement, but it’s not unbearable. My back hurts – but that could be from lying in bed all day. My head hurts and I feel a little wobbly. But no fever. My bones and skin are back to their normal state of only vocal when directly injured. 

AND – most important – I am BOOSTED. 

Carla gets her second vaccine in a few days (I set a reminder on my phone to remember her vaccine card!), and I am so excited for all of us to be vaccinated and boosted. It will be such a relief. And, frankly, even if we have to get boosted every six months and I have to have a day of yuck twice a year, it will be 100% worth it for the dip in Covid-anxiety I have enjoyed each time one of my family members has received a shot.  

Now, onto dinners this week.

Dinners for the Week of November 30-December 6

What are you eating this week?

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The grocery store was a madhouse this morning. Not unexpected, I suppose, considering it is the week of Thanksgiving here in the U.S. But still… I guess I hoped that it wouldn’t be too wild at 8:00 am. Oh well. I emerged unscathed (except for my checking account; hot turkey leg food is EXPENSIVE).

Iceberg lettuce, I am sure you will be relieved to hear, was on sale for $2.50 a head. (Sarcasm font.) Pancakes, of any size, are still completely absent from the frozen section – I need to see an in-depth investigative report on WHY frozen pancakes are a) so much hotter a commodity these days than in The Time Before, and b) so difficult to replenish/keep on the shelves. I read somewhere – oh yes; I googled what in the sizzling griddle is going on with pancakes, and found a tweet by some other miffed mother wanting some pancake clarity. The Eggo twitter account responded, which is kind of cool… but their response was both vague and unsatisfying:

Seriously. WHAT IS GOING ON WITH FROZEN PANCAKES. My grocery store doesn’t even have space for pancakes anymore. It’s not like there is a big gaping pancake hole indicating where the few boxes of pancakes had been before they were snatched immediately off the shelves by lucky pancake hunters… Instead, the waffle selection has swollen to disproportionate sizes, making it seem as though there were never any pancakes at all. When things like lunchables and pasta and flour were hard to come by, there was still space for them on the shelves. So I feel like there just are no pancakes. (I suppose my grocery store could just have gotten really adept at filling shelf gaps, to create the illusion of well-stocked shelves… but there was NO MAPLE SYRUP today, and where they should have been on the shelf was just a gaping nothingness, so…) I am assuming, based on absolutely no data at all, that pancake machinery is being used to support some other in-demand food stuff… but I can’t for the life of me think what it is. Or maybe Big Waffle is trying to eradicate pancakes from the planet. Whatever is going on, the pancake supply chain seems to have completely collapsed, at least in my area.

You may have surmised, based on the frenetic tone of the above, that I am still in the midst of my coffee experiment. Even though I am a regular drinker of both black tea and caffeinated soda, and even though I never notice an appreciable difference in personal caffeination (although if I skip my tea, I do get a headache, so obviously the caffeine is doing something), I feel like coffee is different. It’s like an injection of liquid energy, except not the kind of energy I can direct toward productive things like exercise or work; it’s more like squirrel energy, where my movements become rapid and jerky and I get easily distracted by acorns.

My husband, a legit coffee connoisseur, made me some of his good coffee this morning. He did so yesterday as well. (Saturday, and there is no reason for me to tell you this, but, squirrel, he slept in because he was coming off 12 straight days of work plus he was recovering from his Covid booster, so I drank my regular tea.) He grinds his own beans and has some sort of special drip coffee maker and I am supposed to believe that these things make the coffee much smoother. It is certainly much less bitter/nauseating than the pre-ground pumpkin coffee I drank last week when I began this experiment, but I am still suspicious. Coffee is coffee, right? I do find that I absolutely need to eat something before/during the coffee drinking, otherwise I feel very queasy indeed. This morning, I had a slice of apple cider donut blondie that my husband and daughter made yesterday. It is very tasty, but I have to warn you: it tastes NOTHING of apple cider. Which is deeply disappointing, because my husband had to reduce the apple cider by half and it took close to an hour to do so. Apple cider appearance or no, these blondies are soft and crumbly on the inside and crunchy around the edges and go very nicely with coffee. However, this may prove to be too much sugar for my stomach to handle in tandem with the squirrel surge of caffeine.

I apparently drink coffee much darker than I do tea.

Hey! This week is Thanksgiving, at least at my house, and I am looking forward to a very low-key day with just the three of us. I am making a turkey breast (America’s Test Kitchen recipe) (although I bought a couple of wing pieces to help enhance the drippings for the gravy), and my mother’s goat-cheese-garlic-mashed potatoes, and mashed sweet potatoes with marshmallows for my daughter, and cranberry sauce, and apple crisp. It still sounds like a lot of food and cooking, but I don’t have to make dressing (my husband agreed to let me buy it, pre-made, from Whole Foods, where we are getting our turkey breast), and we can sit around in our pajamas all day if we want and I feel like this is going to be a nice break before the crush of the Christmas holiday.

(By the way, in searching for my Thanksgiving recipes, I came across last year’s post about Thanksgiving. And I have ZERO RECOLLECTION OF ANY OF IT. Apparently we didn’t do cranberry sauce or dressing last year, either? Apparently we did a family Zoom? Apparently we made something called an apple sharlotka? NO MEMORY OF ANY OF IT.)

Hanukkah begins the Sunday after Thanksgiving. I am dithering over whether to make sufganiyot again. I really liked them, and it was fun to share them with our neighbor. But they really are best when fresh out of the fryer, so I don’t know if it’s worth doing again. Carla expressed interest in making some cookies, so maybe I will look into that. And maybe we will save a Hanukkah baking project for the end of Hanukkah instead of the beginning.

Dinners for the Week of November 22-November 28

What are you most looking forward to eating this week? If you celebrate Thanksgiving, what will your celebration look like this year? And do YOU remember last year’s Thanksgiving? Why has it been erased so thoroughly from my brain? Is there some sort of insidious black hole that is devouring pancakes and memories?

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I don’t have any new shortages to report, although Lunchables, which seemed to recover briefly, are once again non-existent and frozen pancakes remain highly elusive. But I had to rush here immediately to alert you that iceberg lettuce at my grocery store is currently selling for $3.50. That’s U.S. dollars. THREE DOLLARS FIFTY CENTS. Iceberg lettuce

I am well aware that prices of many items are creeping ever upward, but this seems like a GIANT LEAP. Usually, a head of iceberg lettuce is somewhere between $0.99 and $1.50. So the increase feels rather dramatic. 

It wasn’t even a particularly large head of lettuce, either. Smaller than usual. 

I find it so curious that the label says “2 for $7” instead of “$3.50 apiece.” Does 2 for $7 sound BETTER? Because it doesn’t sound better to ME. When did ICEBERG LETTUCE become such a hot commodity?!?!

Well. The other types of lettuce seem to be holding steady at their normal egregious pricing, so I’ll just forego my beloved iceberg for something more nutritious and less delightfully crunchy, like romaine. 

I was so gobsmacked that I mentioned the price increase to the checker. He commiserated and said that the shock waves of the pandemic were causing very strange cracks in the system. Even though I haven’t noticed a big difference in staffing – I see the regular staff members I’ve come to know over the past decade – he said they are really struggling with understaffing issues. 

He was the only checker open – which didn’t strike me as too strange; it was eight in the morning after all. But there was a guy behind me with two items to my full cart, so I let him go ahead of me. Then a woman got in line behind me, also with two items. What was I to do in that situation? Let her go ahead of me, too? It would have taken five seconds but then what if the next person showed up and only had two items? Or five items? I told myself that I had done the nice thing, letting the one person jump ahead of me in line, and that I didn’t have to do it again. But she had SEEN him go ahead of me, and I didn’t want her to think I was a jerk. So I told her I thought that the customer service desk would check her out, since she had so few items. She thanked me and headed off to buy her muffin and juice at the customer service desk. 

The whole interaction was super awkward already, but then it became doubly so when I realized she was my old hairdresser. 

I swear to you that I blogged about breaking up with this hairdresser, but I rummaged around in my archives a bit and couldn’t find the post, so you will get a small recap: I went to this hairdresser for several years and liked her. But then she started outsourcing things to others so she could work on other clients. Not just the shampooing. But like… “Oh, I’m going to send you over to Dean to do your color while I cut this other person’s hair.” Or… “Kelly’s going to trim your ends and then I’ll be back to do your color.” I did not care for this. First, it was a salon that charges more based on your stylist’s level of expertise, so I felt a little miffed that I was paying for HER level but getting half of my hair done by Dean or Kelly, and who knows WHAT level they were… plus, I wanted to see HER because a hairdresser/hair-haver relationship is very intimate and based largely on trust. So after this happened a few times, I went elsewhere for my haircare needs. 

It’s so AWKWARD, though, to dump a service provider. I don’t know about you, but I can’t imagine having an end-of-relationship conversation with a hairdresser. “It’s not you, it’s me” sounds even more insincere when it’s directed at your stylist, right? So I just… ghosted her. (I did the same to the next hairdresser, too, which is even MORE awkward because she remains my husband’s hairdresser.) (Then my next hairdresser ghosted me, but that was because she didn’t return to work after the pandemic and who can blame her.) I have seen the old hairdresser out in the wild a couple of times, but on those occasions I spotted her from a distance and I think I was able to slip away before she saw me. Or if she saw me, it was as I walked speedily away, head down, eyes averted. Yes, I am very mature.  

But this was the first time I have seen her face to face. Not only that, but I SPOKE to her. I was wearing a mask and glasses, and I am several years older by now. Sure, I remember her name and her daughter’s name, and the type of books she likes to read, but I was one of many clients that she’s had over the years. So I’m hoping she didn’t recognize or remember me. 

There’s nothing to be DONE about this very small, very fleetingly awkward interaction. Even if she did recognize me. Even if she did think, “Wow, there’s that person who ghosted me half a decade ago.” Even if she reacted with anger or hurt feelings. I can’t change any of it. It will likely be years before I run into her again in public. And yet I AM STILL THINKING ABOUT IT, and may continue to do so for hours/days, twirling and twirling the interaction around itself, trying to reshape it or make it less awkward by perseverating on it. Why is being a human so rife with these little inescapable twinges and pains? 

Let us now change subjects abruptly to meal planning.

I went to the grocery store with one meal in mind, and while I was there I came up with several possibilities. So now I have a full fridge and a nice list of dinners to make for my family this week.

Dinners for the Week of November 15 to November 22

WAIT A SECOND IS THANKSGIVING NEXT WEEK WHAT HAPPENED TO THE TIME WHERE HAS IT GONE?

  • Fire Fry: We haven’t had this in a long while, and I am craving crunchy veggies in a fiery sauce. My husband made me promise to drastically reduce the amount of spices I add to the yogurt though. He is no fun at all. 
  • Chicken Paprikas: Another meal we haven’t had in far too long. And I have a bunch of cooked, shredded rotisserie chicken in the freezer just waiting to be added to a rich, creamy, potato laced sauce and poured over noodles. 
  • Asian Chicken Salad: I think my husband will appreciate this meal, as it is neither tacos nor chicken/zucchini stir fry, both of which he is tired of. I will probably make some teriyaki dressing as well since I don’t care for the peanut dressing listed in the recipe.
  • Chicken/Zucchini Stir Fry: Oh yes, I love this stir fry. It’s so easy and so tasty and all the zucchini makes me feel so virtuous. And despite my husband feeling like we have it all the time, we do NOT and it has been many weeks since we’ve eaten it and it is time once again. 
  • Thai Red Chicken Curry: Am I in a stir fry mood or what? 
  • Red Wine Braised Short Ribs with Polenta: Why yes, this has been a recurring bullet on my dinner posts since October 25. I STILL have not made this meal, but the short ribs are in the freezer waiting to be immersed in red wine until they collapse in drunken ecstasy and the polenta is very calmly waiting on the shelf and I have a nice package of inexpensive-compared-to-iceberg-lettuce romaine waiting in the crisper, so perhaps THIS is the week it will all come together.

What are you eating this week, the last week before THANKSGIVING, which is somehow nearly upon us?

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November is really putting on a show for us: bright blue skies, occasional spits of tiny snowballs, lots of sunshine. Even the sunrises seem more brilliant and showy than normal. I am a fan. Plus, I am eating leftover black bean tacos for breakfast with great relish. (Hmm. Relish is a little confusing in that sentence, considering relish is also a food. But let me assure you that I will never eat relish, with relish or otherwise.) Your comments on my breakfast post were so reassuring and I am intrigued by many of your ideas and bolstered by your reassurances that eating lunch food at 8:15 is perfectly acceptable. (I had leftover chicken vindaloo for breakfast yesterday and it was magnificent.)

Completely deviating from my typical pattern of grumpishness/food talk, here is some HAPPY randomosity. I have somehow restricted it to five bullet points. Don’t worry, I have made each bullet point much more wordy than necessary to make up for how few there are.

  • I forgot to tell you about Halloween! Carla was a witch – a very glittery witch – and we happened to have beautiful clear, cool weather for Halloween. Often it is raining, but not this year! We stayed in our cul-de-sac, and all four of us accompanied Carla on her trick-or-treating sojourn. It was very pleasant to walk around, and I was reminded of just how wonderful our neighborhood is. We have SUCH nice neighbors. Even though we did not end up buying any candy whatsoever because my husband didn’t want to have a bunch of people coming to the door (I tried suggesting the Nicole Method, of mask and tongs, HI NICOLE!, but he wasn’t having it), probably 95% of our neighbors handed out candy. Most of them were sitting on folding chairs behind tables set up in their garages or on their driveways, with big bowls of candy on top. It worked really well and I think it persuaded my husband that there IS a way to hand out candy safely. Our neighbors all know Carla, especially those with dogs, and greeted her with glee. I was so charmed and touched to see how many of them had special treat bags set aside for her, or had full-size candy bars squirreled away for her. A couple of our neighbors even had treat for the adults – beer and little bottles of liquor and beef jerky “for the fathers.” It was such a nice evening, and Carla seemed content to tour our cul-de-sac for an hour and come home. Perfect Halloweening! And then the next morning, as soon as she was off to school, I put away all the Halloween décor. You know I love my bats and my ghosts, but with two extra bodies in the house (I am referring to my in-laws, not to murder victims; am not a murderer) they were starting to feel a bit oppressive. Literally the only person who noticed everything was gone was Carla, but that’s fine. I noticed, and feel that much less crowded.
  • My root canal is over and done with. Aside from a major headache and some lingering jaw soreness, which the endodontist indicated would last for a few days, I feel fine. AND, better yet, I can drink liquid of all temperatures again without pain. Doing the conscious sedation was a good choice for me. I was SO anxious about the root canal that the anesthesiologist kept telling me that he was going as fast he could so that he could calm me down. He was very nice and friendly and very by the book. He made sure to tell me, very clearly, that I could not drive or operate machinery for a day after the procedure; he said he had to tack on the second part after calling to check on a patient, and learning that the patient was outside using a chainsaw to cut down trees. According to my husband, when we left the procedure, I told the anesthesiologist that I was going to go home and use my chainsaw, and the guy was NOT amused. (I also told him that I had asked my husband if I could take a Xanax on the way to the procedure, but that my husband said the conscious sedation would cover that for me; the anesthesiologist was alarmed, and asked me several times to confirm that I had NOT, in fact, taken a Xanax. Not much for joking around, that guy. I’m glad I didn’t take my husband’s advice to tell him I ate an egg McMuffin for breakfast. You aren’t supposed to eat anything after midnight the night before, and I think he would have been distinctly unamused.)

  • As I mentioned, we are having a truly glorious display of fall right now. The trees were late to color, but now I’d say they are at their peak. All these beautiful maples, competing with one another over who can don the most fabulous autumn frock, boasting colors that you rarely see outside of a box of crayons. I have been walking every morning, despite the chill in the air, and I am constantly marveling at the trees and their outrageous plumage. It makes me so happy. I do wish that I could capture just how glorious the colors are, but my iPhone photography skills leave a lot to be desired. Plus, while a suburban tree shining just so in the morning sunlight is truly gorgeous, it is difficult to separate the trees/sunshine from the homes/power lines portion of the image. So you will just have to imagine an especially vivid fall suburbscape all on your own.

  • My in-laws decided to give us a little break and checked into a hotel last night. I think they are coming back here when my sister-in-law leaves, and maybe that is part of why they made the move: to be closer to her. But they positioned their departure as giving us a little break, and it is quite lovely. One of the hard things about having extra people in my house – especially when they are all night owls – is that I feel like I never get to talk to my husband. It’s hard for me to elbow my way through the throng to kiss him hello when he gets home, and forget about having any sort of private conversation before I slink off to bed, by myself, at ten. Last night, my in-laws left at about nine and my husband and I sat on the couch together and he told me all about work and I told him all about a phone call I had with a potential new client and we caught up on all the day-to-day things that we hadn’t really had a chance to share lately. It was SO NICE. Also nice: After our conversation, he wanted to go work on his music and I poured a (possibly too large) glass of wine and curled up on the couch and watched Seinfeld reruns all by myself. Even though I stayed up much too late, I feel partially restored. Maybe once I get back from my walk I will be all the way there.

  • I have been saving the best for last. Yesterday, I scheduled Carla’s Covid vaccine appointments!!!! She gets her first dose next week which means she will be all vaccinated before the new year. I am SO EXCITED. It took awhile for me to get to the excitement stage. I woke up Wednesday to texts from two of my mom friends who told me that Walgreens was scheduling vaccine appointments. I immediately booked Carla a spot, even though I would rather have her go to the pediatrician: she has extreme shot anxiety, and I think being in a familiar location with a familiar person administering the shot would be much better than going to a Walgreens thirty minutes from our house and having a harried stranger do it. But getting the appointment was important and I did it. I was kind of dreading the whole thing: dreading telling Carla she has to get two more shots, dreading the topic coming up around my in-laws (who, in prior conversation, have been opposed to us giving Carla the vaccine; we have purposely avoided the topic since this discovery because a) we don’t want to argue and b) we definitely don’t want Carla to hear and then feel more worried, but it’s possible their views have changed since we last discussed it), dreading the possibility of Carla suffering side effects, dreading the very-rare-but-not-nonexistent possibility of more serious issues resulting from the vaccine, dreading the entire thought of being a parent and making decisions for your child that could alter their futures in potentially negative ways, etc. Then, at 1:57 p.m., I got an email from my pediatrician saying they were scheduling Covid vaccinations. I called IMMEDIATELY. I was on hold for thirty minutes, but instead of getting irritated by the long wait, every minute that passed made me more and more giddy with excitement. Because the only reason they weren’t answering my phone call was because they were fielding so many calls from other parents trying to get vaccinations for their kids! The stupid hold music interspersed with repetitive messages about how important it is to get a colonoscopy and interrupted at intervals with “your call is important to us” started to sound like hope. Hope that Covid will soon be as mundane as the flu, hope that someday soon our kids can play together, indoors, without masks, hope that we can travel with less trepidation, hope that we can worry less, hope that fewer and fewer people will get sick and fewer still will die. I am feeling gleeful again, just typing it out! Upon learning that I’d scheduled her vaccine, Carla’s first reaction was YAY! She was PUMPED! She had so many excited questions: could she have friends over once they are vaccinated, and would they be able to play without masks, and would she be able to maybe have a sleepover with someone, and would she be able to visit her cousin without masks on, and would her school stop requiring mask wearing. A lot of questions I could not answer, but it really reminded me how eager even our adaptable, resilient, go-with-the-flow kids are to return to some sort of pre-Covid connectivity with others. When she realized that the vaccine is a shot, and there could be side effects, she was less pumped. But that’s just a normal anxiety around shots in general. And once I told her that she could choose a treat for afterward – ice cream or a donut were the treats I suggested; she added cake or mini cheesecake to the list – she switched her focus to the all-important task of which treat and when. (I think she landed on mini cheesecake for dose one, ice cream for dose two.) Loose end: Since I’d already made two separate appointments, I discussed the options with Carla: unfamiliar Walgreens on a Friday, so she wouldn’t miss school, vs. her regular pediatrician but during the school week, so if she has side effects she might miss a day of class. She preferred the pediatrician option, so I canceled the Walgreens appointment and I am sure it was snapped up right away by another parent eager to vaccinate their kid. Woo! LET’S GO!

Happy Friday, Internet!

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Well, I am playing a rousing game of Is It Covid? from home with my child, who had a fever and the sniffles and droopy/whiny child-illness-malaise yesterday! Yay! I am hoping to get her in to see her doctor today for a Covid test (or that we can do a drive-thru test at Walgreens, except in that case I will have to do the swabbing and I am not looking forward to that!)) so that we can… get her back to school? I have no idea what the rules are these days. Last year when she had the sniffles (once ALL YEAR which is a miracle; masks work y’all), she was out of school for four days. I am really REALLY hoping that she will be able to return to school by Thursday so she can participate in her much-anticipated Halloween parade. But please, at least let her be well enough to trick-or-treat next Sunday.

We are obviously hoping it is Just a Cold, for so many many reasons. (For instance, my husband has a rare day off which corresponds with a not-as-rare day off for Carla, so we have plans to go see a special art exhibit in town.) But the BIG one is that my in-laws are scheduled to arrive tomorrow, and my mother-in-law begins radiation therapy this week which I am assuming will suppress her immune system. Obviously they will stay at a hotel if Carla has Covid, and obviously we will all stay far, far away from them, but sheesh. What timing, amirite?

So I am distracting myself by planning meals for the week! Meals that I cannot shop for until Carla is cleared for Covid! Meals that I may never get to serve to more than myself and my husband! Woo! Covid-Era Living is fun fun fun all the time, isn’t it?

Dinners for the Week of October 25-31 (maybe, if we’re lucky)

  • Soy-Ginger Pulled Pork with Tangy Slaw: I love this meal, plus it’s easy peasy, plus I don’t think I’ve ever served it to my in-laws before (and they are surely growing weary of BBQ pulled pork and various types of tacos). The last time I made this for my husband, I made homemade bao buns which were… denser than they should be. But it seems that Asian grocery stores carry frozen bao buns, so I plan to go to my local Asian grocery and see what I can find. Once I am not potentially contagious, obviously.
  • Red Wine Braised Short Ribs: For some reason, I have had short ribs on the brain. I bought some short ribs at Costco already, so those are taken care of. Now I just need to figure out what to serve these with. I have only ever eaten them with polenta, but have never made polenta. And probably I will need to make a simple salad, too, to have on the side.
  • Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Fall Veggies: I looked back in my “dinners this week” emails to myself, which is how I used to keep track of meals and my notes on how they turned out. Apparently we used to eat this all the time and it was good??? Time to test out the veracity of my notes!

Follow Up: This was, indeed, delicious. The “marinade” might be better if used as an actual marinade; next time, I may let the pork sit in it for a few hours beforehand. Also, the veggies I did this time were carrots, parsnips, sweet potatoes, and radishes. The sweet potatoes were the best, the parsnips were acceptable (and my husband loves them) and I didn’t eat the carrots because I already know I don’t care for carrots. But the radishes were DISGUSTING. No thank you, do not make again.

Follow Up: I made this with the “alternate” option of using leeks instead of fennel. (I only noticed that leeks were an option AFTER I had purchased a bulb of fennel, which I kept around for awhile until finally throwing it away.) It was DELICIOUS. I would 100% do this again. My husband doesn’t even like salmon and he liked this dish. It was very easy and semi-fancy enough for guests. I will definitely make this again YUM.

  • Chicken with Mushroom Gravy: And a side of steamed broccoli. This is another meal that I found in my old emails. “GOOD. MAKE AGAIN.” say my notes. This is the moment.

Takeout for the other nights. And, who am I kidding, probably these will bleed over into next week, too. I can muster only so much momentum for cooking.

Should I be planning something special for Halloween? I’m having trouble thinking of anything fun, since Carla doesn’t eat anything. (She did not even eat the ADORABLE hot dog mummies I made last year.) Plus, the weather is likely going to be cool and rainy, and we will be pre-occupied with trick-or-treating. Probably I will just do one of the crockpot recipes and call it a day. Who knows. Maybe if Carla is all better and back in school, I will feel a surge of energy for planning some sort of baking project, at least.

Do you normally make something fun and Halloweeny for Halloween? Are you handing out candy this year? If you know trick-or-treating-age children, are they planning to trick-or-treat? Carla didn’t do it last year; I swear we set out candy for people to take, but my husband doesn’t remember doing so and is Firmly Against It this year (although he is okay with taking a masked [Covid free only, obviously] Carla this year). (This means that we have ZERO Halloween candy in the house.) (I am not counting the remaining bag of candy corn; we have had a bag already, plus two bags of the Brach’s pumpkins. But we have had no miniature Snickers bars or fun size Milky Way Midnight bars and that is tragic.)

I am curious what you do normally/are planning to do for Halloween this year. And also how Halloween will coordinate with football, since both are on Sunday.

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I got an email reminder from the dentist about an upcoming appointment. 

There’s a photo at the top of the email. The photo features three children of varying ages. (WIDELY varying ages, I should say. Two seem to be in their late teens/early twenties and one is the early elementary school age range.) In the photo, it is summer; the children are in shorts and T-shirts. The oldest is holding a dog. The whole thing has a very Stock Image in a Frame You Find at Bed Bath & Beyond vibe.

Who are these children? Why are they in the email? What do they have to do with dentistry in general or my dentist in particular?

* * *

My bank sends me emails every time I pay for something with my debit card. It used to be that the subject line of these emails read something like: Transaction alert. Or: You made a recent transaction.

The other day, I purchased something online. A few minutes later, the bank alert appeared in my inbox. This time, the subject line read: YOU RECENTLY MADE A LARGE TRANSACTION.

THAT was alarming – I had NOT recently made a large transaction; my online purchase was for $38. Had I accidently bought something else? Was there an error from the retail website? Had someone stolen my bank card and used it to buy a bunch of TVs or a Lambourghini?

Nope. The transaction in question was $38. 

Large transaction, bank email? Really? LARGE?

* * *

I went to the bank with Carla before an appointment. We had exactly enough time before the appointment to stop at the drive-through ATM. But the ATM had no cash.

No worries – the bank also has a walk-up ATM. I pulled around the block and into the parking lot, which was full.

It was raining, and I could see a huge line of people approaching the bank and stepping inside. I pulled down the hood of my raincoat, grabbed my umbrella, and splashed through the puddle strewn parking lot. All the people were crammed into the ATM vestibule. Were they waiting for the ATM? What was going on? I peered in and a kindly woman told me they were all waiting to be admitted to the bank, the ATM was free for me to use. I stepped inside and immediately realized I wasn’t wearing a mask! Yipes! “Oh no!” I said to the jam-packed vestibule. “I forgot my mask!”

While I wanted to disappear into the rain, I instead splashed back to my car, grabbed a mask, splashed toward the bank once more, and withdrew the money I needed. But my heart was pounding the whole time. Yes, I’m fully vaccinated, but I still don’t want to jump into a pile of strangers while not wearing a mask. Nor do I want to come across as someone who is okay jumping, maskless, into a pile of strangers. 

* * *

This morning, I dropped Carla off at school. She always waves to me as she’s running into the building. We exchange air kisses and then I drive off. This time, no wave. She looked forlorn. I waved, and, dragged along by the tide of other cars, kept moving toward the exit. I could see her in the rear view mirror. She was in the same spot – now rummaging in her backpack, now talking to a few friends. 

Realization dawned. I made a circle in the parking lot, called to her, and she jumped into the car. We drove back home to get her a mask. 

* * *

I can’t speak to what is going on with the dentist. Like, at all.

Likewise, I don’t really know what’s up with my bank. Maybe they simply want to jar people into opening their emails. Who knows.

But I am more invested in getting to the bottom of the mask stuff. This isn’t the first time in recent weeks that Carla forgot her mask before school. We did have several masks stuffed into the seat-back pocket in my car.  But she’s used those up. And, at one time, we had a bag of extra masks that she kept in her backpack. But I guess we used those masks, too, without replenishing them. 

Are we getting complacent? Are we getting weary? I have no idea, but it’s still jarring, to contemplate being somewhere public without a mask. I still have dreams that are eerily similar to my ATM experience – I’ll be in Target or the grocery store and suddenly realize I’m maskless. The pandemic-era Oh No I’m Naked dream – so it seems like I’m still anxious about mask-wearing. 

The issue with Carla is one thing, I think. At the beginning of the year, we had a whiteboard list of all the things she needed to do before leaving for school: take temperature, eat breakfast, wash dishes, brush teeth, fill water bottle, grab mask. She’d check them off before we left the house. This was, in large part, for my benefit; it was a new routine and I didn’t want to forget anything. Of course I am also trying to give her tools to stay on task and organized, and to help her become more responsible. After awhile, as we got more comfortable with the morning structure, we became less vigilant about checking items off the list. And then, eventually, I felt like the list wasn’t useful anymore so I erased it and replaced it with a more general catalog of To Dos. 

Clearly, we still need the list. Mornings are the worst part of the day, and all my energy is devoted to simply getting out the door on time. I need Carla to be responsible for her own masks. 

When we came home this morning to get her a mask, we also refilled her “extra masks” bag for her backpack, and I am going to put a few extras in my car. I have several masks in my car for me, I guess I just need to remember to bring them when I go in places. So far, the only issue with forgetting has been the ATM experience. 

My problem, maybe, is that I no longer feel the need to wear masks outdoors. (Carla still wears a mask outside; I think she just feels more comfortable that way, and she’s used to wearing a mask all day anyway, and this way she can pet any dog she encounters.) I usually carry one with me, in a pocket or on my wrist, so that I can put it on if we encounter people. But my neighborhood seems to be going more in the mask-free direction, at least outside, and the people we know to stop and talk to have all voluntarily announced they are vaccinated, so I’ve even gotten a little lax about keeping an extra mask on me. Perhaps this is all adding up to a more general carelessness about mask wearing, I don’t know. I suppose I shouldn’t read TOO much into a one-time lapse in maskment. 

* * *

Now that more people are getting vaccinated, and things are “opening up” (whether or not that’s a reasonable thing), wearing a mask seems more controversial than ever. At least in the early days, when we had specific mandates for mask-wearing, it seemed like there was a clear right and wrong. Now that mandates have been lifted and the CDC is issuing less strict guidance around masking, there’s even more tension around wearing or not wearing a mask.

I’ve never really been bothered by the mask wearing. I don’t mind a little extra protection, a little extra anonymity. I get why some people don’t like them. I get that some people find it to be a violation of their rights (I don’t understand that line of thinking, but I understand that people feel that way), and whatever; you do you, boo. I will be over here wearing a mask and avoiding you if at all possible, but let your air holes run free if that’s your priority.

It would be nice, I think, if mask-wearing sticks around in some form for the longterm. People feeling like they could/should wear masks when they have a cold would be beneficial to us all. But right now, it’s all! so! fraught! No matter what you do – mask or no mask – it feels not only like A Specific Choice, but a choice that carries judgement. I wonder if that will ever go away. 

My husband had a cold recently. At a meeting with colleagues, one person said, “We’ve all been vaccinated, so I’m okay if we remove our masks for this meeting.” Everyone agreed. My husband said, “Well, I have a cold, so I’ll keep mine on!” Which, I think, is the right choice. The respectful-of-others choice. But then the rest of his colleagues kept THEIR masks on as well. He is not the fretful type, but just the fact that he told me this story leads me to believe that he fretted a little bit about his role in “making” them wear masks against their will. Did they feel like his choice was a judgement against their choice? Did they do it out of solidarity or respect? Did they figure if he had a cold, they wanted the extra layers of protection their own masks provided? Who knows. It is just all SO FRAUGHT. 

A friend and I sometimes go walking together. We are now both vaccinated. When we walk, we do so outdoors. I keep agitating about whether I should ask if she feels comfortable going maskless on our next walk. But maybe this is a case of it DOES hurt to ask. Would she feel pressured to go maskless, even if she wasn’t comfortable? So far, I haven’t said anything. It’s been too cold and rainy, anyway. 

Carla got sunburned this weekend. Because she was wearing a mask, the sunburn made her look like the Hamburglar and made me feel like of Mother of the Year. I sent a picture to my mother and her response was, “Why was she wearing a mask outside?” 

I explained to her the thing about Carla’s comfort, the thing about the dogs. And we all know that email is notoriously terrible at conveying feeling or intent with any reliable accuracy. But I kept turning her question over in my head. Was she judging me for what she perceived as me making/encouraging Carla to wear a mask outside? 

Why can’t we just be okay with other people’s choices? This is an imperfect analogy, because there’s no potentially-deadly virus involved, but I think we should view masks the way we view any other clothing choice. When it’s 45 degrees outside, and I’m wearing a jacket and you’re wearing a sweater and the other guy is walking around in short sleeves, I’m not feeling anything more than mild interest in our clothing choices. Sure, if it’s freezing and all you have on is a tank top, I might be a little more concerned. But I’d probably think, “Well, she probably works in a really hot workspace and is only outside for a short time…” or “Maybe she forgot her jacket at home…” or (with deep sympathy) “Hot flashes” or “To each her own!” and then go on with my day. We all, for the most part, realize that people have different reactions to/comfort levels with different temperatures. Some people are freezing in a 70-degree office and wrap up in shawls and have their space heaters going, while others keep their windows cracked even in the dead of winter. You might argue over the “correct” setting of the thermostat, but you’re not going to get angry at your colleague for wearing tights and a cardigan to protect her from the summer A/C, and you’re not going to be all judgmental toward your coworker who comes into work in February wearing nothing but a hoodie over his button-down. We are all different and we make different choices.

Sure, there are always well-meaning people who say, “Aren’t you hot in that jacket? You’ll be more comfortable if you take it off.” (“You know, that baby should be wearing socks. She’ll be too cold.”) So perhaps we can never get away from it entirely. But it would be nice to be able to see someone wearing or not wearing a mask and simply think, “Hmm. Not necessarily the choice I’d make in the situation, but it takes all kinds” and move on with our lives.

Of course, this would require everyone else (except those occasional obnoxious busybodies) to take the same approach. So I suppose we’re doomed. 

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Tuesday, we had 73 degrees and sunshine. This morning, we woke up to at least two – possibly three – inches of snow, with more hurrying down from the sky. 

This is my kind of April Fool’s Day prank. But I do love snow. 

When I woke Carla to share with her the trick the weather had played, she was first delighted then dismayed because she had not come up with her own prank. I assured her it was fine – REALLY, it was fine; I do not care for April Fool’s Day or really pranks of any type. I had vague plans to track down some googly eyes, to put on household items, but forgot my plans once I was inside Target. And really. I just cannot muster any enthusiasm for a day that purports to deceive and embarrass. Yes, I sound like a huge prissy party pooper, but SO BE IT. 

Aside from that last sentence there, I am recovered from my crabbiness. I attribute the recovery to you and your comments about candy and hormonal fluctuations. Thank you for commiserating. 

To abruptly change topics, Swistle posted yesterday about her experience getting the Covid vaccine. I suspect that, for me, vaccine reports could EASILY rank right up next to grocery store reports in terms of pandemic subjects I find fascinating. In case you also find that sort of thing fascinating, I am going to post about my own experience getting the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine (Pfizer). 

First, I had a friend who got the vaccine a month or so ago and she started to gently urge me to find a way to get it. She had some friends who were… massaging the system a bit, with the desired results, and she was passing this information on to me in case I, too, wanted to know how to get a vaccine as quickly as possible. 

This next bit is going to be a little awkward to write, because I want to be clear that I DO NOT CARE how or why you or anyone else gets a vaccine. As long as you are not knocking a syringe out of a wheezing elderly person’s arm or kidnapping a vaccine provider, I am just pleased to hear when a person is vaccinated. I do not care if you had to fudge the truth a little. Or a lot. TRULY.

And yet I am and will always remain A Rule Follower, and so I could not bring myself to lie. I TRIED. I went onto the websites my friend suggested, but whenever it asked if I was 50 or older, I could not bring myself to click yes. Nor could I come up with any remotely reasonable way I fit into any of the medical exceptions. 

However, I was prepared to sign up the INSTANT that it became possible to schedule a vaccine for my age group. I signed up on my hospital system’s website to be notified as soon as I was eligible. Please note that I had to put in my age and my birth date, so that the system had all the information necessary to determine when I was eligible. 

Time passed. My age group became eligible for the vaccine in my state. A (different) friend sent me a link to a not-my-hospital provider that had openings. I dithered a little bit, and texted my husband to see what he thought, but in the few seconds he took to respond, the appointment had been snatched out from under me. Filled with regret and dismay, I refreshed the page until a new appointment popped up. The only issue was that the location was an hour’s drive away. But FINE! I will drive an hour! I signed up, I had an appointment, HOORAY! 

Three days before my appointment, I got a text from my hospital system. It said, and I quote: 

Suzanne, it’s time to schedule your COVID-19 vaccination. Supplies are limited. You can schedule online at LINK.

I clicked that link SO FAST, you guys. (Yes, I know I already had an appointment. But I was hoping for a nearer vaccination site. And my appointment was still far enough away I felt I could cancel without, like, RUINING the vaccine they had intended for me.)

On my hospital website, one of the questions you had to answer, before scheduling, was if you were age 50 and up. 

I looked at that question for a long time. A very long time indeed when you feel that vaccination slots are being filled every nanosecond.

In our state, the 40-and-over group was newly eligible. I had pre-registered with my hospital system. I had given my age during the pre-registration. The hospital system had texted me and explicitly said it was time to schedule my vaccine. 

I decided that they had simply not updated their website to reflect the new eligibility requirements. It had only been a couple of days, after all. So I clicked that I was 50 and up. Which is a LIE and felt WRONG. I told you, I am A Rule Follower. But I felt like the website was inaccurate, and that I was still adhering to the rules, which said people 40 and over could get a vaccine. (Perhaps this is the type of slippery justification that everyone makes when they LIE to get their way.) (Grimace emoji.)

After I LIED justified my inaccurate answer, I was able to schedule an appointment for the very same day that my previous appointment had been on, which was great news because my husband was off work so I didn’t have to worry about Carla. Plus, the vaccination location was about ten minutes from my house rather than an hour. Unlike with my previous scheduling experience, I was able to schedule my second vaccine at the same time. 

(In the interest of completeness, it was not SIMPLE to schedule the vaccine. There was a nine minute time limit on your ability to secure a specific time. And I am sure the system was overwhelmed with people making appointments, so I spent a lot of time holding my breath while the “waiting” wheel churned on my screen. I dithered VERY SLIGHTLY in scheduling my follow up (just so I could check my calendar!) and the spot was filled. So I had to start all over again and click YES on the 50-and-up question again, which was agonizing. Okay, so it only took two tries to secure an appointment. But it took nearly the entire nine minutes each time, which was very stressful. Like watching 24 only you are tied to a chair in a flaming building while you wait for Jack Bauer. Perhaps I am being a touch dramatic.)

As soon as I got a confirmation email, which took just a few minutes, I cancelled my previously-scheduled vaccination. I hope it was filled quickly by someone local.

I slept terribly the night before the vaccine. Pre-vaccination jitters? I don’t know. 

I left my house a little early, so I would arrive at the vaccination site about ten minutes before my vaccine. When I got close to the medical building hosting the vaccinations, there was lots of easy-to-see-and-read signage about where to go. I pulled into the parking lot and opened my window to speak to a man with a bullhorn. He asked me what time my appointment was and told me they were running late. He said I should pull into a parking lot to the right and back into a spot. Then listen for him to call my vaccination time, at which point I should drive through the parking lot, past him, and into a parking lot closer to the building. Then walk in and follow signs to the registration desk. 

I do not like backing into parking spots, but I did as I was told. I had to wait about twenty minutes, which passed quickly because of adrenaline. Also because two vehicles nearly got into an accident – one backing into a spot didn’t see the other was within hitting distance. The person who was almost hit leaned on her horn and yelled foul things at the first person, and then, surprisingly (to me), backed into the spot directly next to the perpetrator. That seems like an awkward situation she could have easily avoided, but people make interesting choices all the time. 

I was worried that I wouldn’t hear the bullhorn, but I did. I pulled out of my spot, found a nearer parking spot, and walked into the building. Lots of volunteers were on hand to keep people on track. The line was long but moved quickly. Stickers on the walls and floor marked out six feet of space between each person; unfortunately, the people behind me ignored them completely and crowded me. If Carla had been there, I would have made a loud, cheerful, passive aggressive comment to her about how nice it was that the hospital had put up these stickers to help us keep adequate distance from others, but she was not there and so I merely looked over my shoulder in a shocked and uncomfortable way several times. The people behind me did not notice. 

The first stop was a table where volunteers took our temperatures and gave us paperwork about the Pfizer vaccine. Legal disclaimers and side effect information. I did not read it because I was going to get the vaccine regardless. There was also a personal information sheet, but the volunteer said we would fill it out at the next station. The next stop was at the door to a large room. Volunteers and hospital staff sat at long tables on either side of the room. Each person had a computer. In the middle of the room were two lines of people waiting to be taken back for their vaccines. When there was a spot open at a computer station, I went and sat down. There was a big bottle of hand sanitizer on the table. The tired-looking but kind staff person asked me things like my name and BIRTH DATE and the typical “have you had any Covid symptoms” questions we have all answered a million times by now. She had me sign something – I can’t remember what but I am assuming it was a consent form of some sort. Then she had me go stand in one of the two lines in the middle of the room. Again, there were stickers on the floor. The same people who had been behind me earlier lined up behind me again, though this time they did less crowding. 

When I was first in line, a volunteer motioned for me to follow him. He led me past a bunch of curtained cubicles to one with an open curtain. A man sat inside the cubicle and told me to sit down, then he closed the curtain and asked me a few more questions, including my birthdate. The man – who turned out to be a nurse from my hospital system; he was wearing a nametag and scrubs – was very nice, let me clear on that, but he was the type of person who makes sort of awkward jokey comments. So I did a lot of polite/awkward laughing. Like, he made some comment about how do I come here often? and that I don’t look forty at all! I am not good at this type of banter.

He also asked me why I was there. “To get my vaccine,” I said. 

“But… You’re only forty. Do you have any of the eligibility requirements – asthma, diabetes?” he asked. I started to get nervous at that point. 

“No,” I told him.

“Then why are you here?” He was very congenial, not accusatory, and kept filling out my vaccine card the entire time he was asking me questions, which helped me stay calm.

“I got a text from the hospital saying it was time to sign up, so I did,” I told him.

“Hmmm,” he said, still very conversational and friendly. “I thought we were only scheduling people ages 50 and up. But what do I know?” 

I remained silent. 

“Well, ages 40 and up are eligible as of what, last Friday?” He was preparing the syringe. 

I nodded. Silently. 

He shrugged and scooted closer to me. He wiped my shoulder with an antibacterial swab.

I felt like I had gotten away with something. (LYING.) But I was also irritated at the hospital system for a) not adhering to the state-wide eligibility requirements and b) texting me to say I should schedule my appointment if they really didn’t mean for me to do exactly that.

He said something jokey about how he would try not to let it hurt. I told him that I was going to look away, which I tell everyone when I get a shot, because if I look at the syringe – or wood board the syringe entering my skin – I will pass the eff out.  He made some jokey comment about how he was going to look away, too. 

The shot hurt as much/as little as any shot does. He applied a Band-Aid, while making a jokey comment about how he couldn’t even see the puncture and he’d been looking away so he had no idea where it was. He handed me a timer, which he had set for 15 minutes. He handed me my vaccination card. 

I thanked him, profusely, and left the little cubicle. Across the hall, a volunteer directed me into a big room that had dozens of chairs set up, roughly six feet apart (I am assuming), with people sitting in about half of them. A volunteer told me to sit on a chair with a sticker on it. The sticker turned out to be my “I am vaccinated!” sticker, which I obviously photographed immediately and sent to all my friends.

As I sat there with a dozen or so of my fellow vaccine recipients, I was full of so many feelings! I was so happy to be halfway vaccinated! I was so proud of all these people in the room who had made the same choice! I was so grateful to the nurses and volunteers and the vaccine makers! I was so relieved! I was so terribly sad that we’d all had this collective experience of fear and grief and loss. I thought I would cry but I didn’t. 

I was also a little anxious – okay, more than a little – to be in a room with so many strangers. I could hear one poor woman hacking and coughing in the distance and I hoped fervently that no one would get Covid from the vaccination site. 

My timer went off and I handed it to a volunteer who immediately sanitized it. Then I followed signs to the exit, got in my car, and went home. 

It was a very smooth, efficient, and surreal experience. 

My arm was sore to the touch for two days. It hurt to sleep on that side for two nights, but didn’t hurt to move or lift. My appointment was in the morning and I felt crummy (tired, nauseated, glum) for the rest of the day, but it’s possible it was because I hadn’t slept well the night before. And now I am half vaccinated, with my second shot scheduled for mid-April. My husband, brother, and sister-in-law are fully vaccinated. My parents get their second vaccinations this week. That just leaves my husband’s parents, my other sister-in-law, my niece, and my daughter (and my niece and my daughter will be a loooooong way off). I find that with each person in my circle who gets vaccinated, I feel a burden of worry lift off of me. Similarly, when I read about vaccinations happening – to friends, acquaintances, or strangers – I feel a wonderful lightening. 

I hope YOU and your loved ones have a vaccination in your near future. But I’m hoping – hoping hoping – that with each shot that enters into the tissue of someone’s arm, another little tiny layer of protection surrounds you in the meantime.

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My grocery store seems, on the surface, to be back to pre-pandemic normal – as much yeast and 409 as anyone can ask for – and yet, several items that I have had on my list for weeks remain elusive. My favorite brand of pickles (Clausen; you can get spears but I don’t want spears). The jars of Old El Paso taco seasoning (they do have the packets, but I want the jars. And yes, I know it’s probably better to make my own, and I can and I have, but I just LIKE this specific seasoning and it makes life easier). Eggo frozen pancakes (there were NO frozen pancakes at all this week; nor were there any French toast sticks – just a big yawning gap in the freezer section). Rose’s lime juice is completely out of stock.

I don’t like it. Yes, I acknowledge that these are very specific/specific-to-my-family items, and probably have nothing to do with the pandemic. And yet I haven’t been able to find them in at least two weeks. In fact, it’s probably been longer than that; it’s only once I can’t find something multiple weeks in a row that I really start noticing its absence. 

Perhaps I am feeling a bit anxious given that we are now a year from when the pandemic began. Last March, we had very few cases in my state… but the virus was blowing up in New York and California and Washington and Europe. Friends were cancelling their spring break plans. I had already begun strategically bulking up our stores of emergency supplies. We were preparing to maybe not return to in-person school after spring break. Paper towels were already becoming scarce on the shelves. The echo of those memories is stronger right now, even as spring peeks her cheery head above the winter gloom and news of increasing numbers of vaccinations and new guidelines for gathering together make everything feel full of hope and promise. Hopefully, with time and distance and rising vaccination rates, those echoes will grow fainter still.

But as far as grocery shopping goes, this is how it will be forever, I think: some perfectly ordinary shortage makes me feel disproportionate alarm, triggering a must-hoard-things response. It requires work to squelch this reaction, and sometimes we will be unable to resist the siren song of readily available staples. Today, I was successful. I did not even buy any flour or yeast, even though they were abundant. What I would really like applause for is walking out of the store without olive oil. It was on a HUGE sale – basically, buy one get one half off – and yet I left without even a single bottle. I have FOUR FULL BOTTLES in my cupboard already. I did not need more. I did not buy more.

The only other thing I really wanted that wasn’t available was white asparagus. But there was lots of fresh baby green asparagus in stock, so I bought that instead. Not quite the same thing, but we make do with what we have.

Dinners for the Week of March 9-15

  • Spargelsuppe with Rosemary Garlic Focaccia: I have been nostalgic for spargelsuppe ever since my husband and I ate it a million times during our anniversary trip to Germany and Austria… so I am going to try to make some this week. How can it possibly live up to authentic Bavarian spargelsuppe, or frankly, to my memory? Especially if I have only GREEN asparagus to work with? (Side note: I re-read my post about our trip and now am PINING for travel. Any travel! To any place!) (Will I ever feel comfortable on a plane again? Will I ever want to visit public spaces with other people? Will I ever again experience the joy/pain of walking many miles a day through a European city?)

Follow Up: The asparagus soup was fine. Good, even. But it was not authentic Bavarian spargelsuppe. Well. If I can ever find white asparagus, I will try again; the white asparagus (which makes me think of Bunnicula) is supposedly milder. The focaccia WHICH I DID FINALLY MAKE was a huge disappointment, largely due to user error. This user erred by not reading the recipe in advance, so I had neither the correct flours nor the right size pan. I powered through, though, and the result was edible. But it was much denser than focaccia is supposed to be. I want big pockets of air, and soft, fluffy bread. My version had neither. I also messed up the application of the roasted garlic. I think maybe because my dough was not right? Or maybe I needed to really poke it down into the dough? It all either burned or fell off the top of the focaccia. It is unlikely that I will buy either whole wheat flour or the correct sized pan at any point, so I need to find a new recipe.

  • Lemon Roasted Salmon with Sweet Potatoes and Broccoli: This one-pan recipe just smacks of nutrients, doesn’t it? I fear that means it will be first to be jettisoned from the list if one night I don’t feel like cooking. I discovered some time ago that broccolini is not – for me – worth the price. Too much stringy stalk for the cost, I say. So I will swap out broccoli.
  • Skillet Enchiladas: I saw this on Instagram (I follow three categories of accounts on Instagram: books, workouts, and FOOD) and I immediately bookmarked it. YUM. Of course, I do not own a skillet. So I will be making these the old fashioned way, in a 9 x 13 pan in the oven. 
  • Szechuan Stir Fry: We haven’t had this in awhile and I am in the mood for stir fry.

This is a bit more ambitious than my recent dinner posts… but if I am in the MOOD to cook, then why not DO SO? (Because being in the mood NOW does not guarantee being in the mood later, Self. Have you learned nothing from your years of making dinner?)

What are you eating this week?

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This morning, as I drove Carla to school, it was snowing heavily – the kind of thick, breathless snow that makes you feel like you are in the center of a cloud, big clumps of snowflakes sticking together, so much snow that you can hardly see anything besides the lacy, dancing white. I love it so, so much. I recognize that snowfall and bitter cold is wreaking havoc in parts of the country that don’t normally experience snow, and of course I feel terrible for all the people with bursting pipes and icicles hanging off their ceiling fans and days without power. And I sure hope that YOU and your loved ones are warm and safe. But I still love the snow. 

This was from yesterday when we had sunshine that transformed the snow into millions of diamonds. Very hard to capture in a photograph.

We did already have a Snow Day this week, which meant that Carla was off two days in a row. In a normal winter, I would enjoy an occasional snow day. But this year… well, Carla has been at home TOO MUCH (for instance, this was our second four-day weekend in a row) and I have nothing left to give. We spent her snow day playing Barbies and Scattergories and otherwise puttering around the house; it was too cold to play outside, sadly. So I am delighted both by today’s snow and by Carla’s being at school rather than here with me. Yes, I recognize that many children are still at home permanently. I have many blessings and in-person school is right up there near the TIPPETY TOP of that list.

I tried some new (to me) candy. In fact, I bought this specific candy for Carla, for Valentine’s Day… but then I also overbought other candy for her, plus my husband brought some treats home from work, plus we made all those cookies. So I put them away for another time. “Another time” being, apparently, yesterday. 

The new candy is Big Chewy Nerds

Photo from my poorly-lit office. This bag did not have an adequate ratio of pink to other colors.

I ate a couple of every color, which is how I discovered two important things: 1. The pink are the best and 2. I do not care for Big Chewy Nerds. In my opinion, they are deeply inferior to regular nerds. 

My husband told me, in advance, that they were similar to Nerds Ropes, so I don’t know why I found them disappointing. I am familiar with Nerd Ropes only because Amazon accidentally sent us an entire box full of Nerds Ropes a few years ago. We ate a couple – enough to realize that 1. The only person in our family who likes Nerds Ropes is Carla and 2. When Carla eats Nerds Ropes, the Nerds all fall off the Rope and get everywhere. We donated most of the box to the local food bank, which suddenly sounds like a mean thing to have done. 

I would say that yes, Big Chewy Nerds are very similar to Nerds Ropes. They are a thin shell of Nerd candy wrapped around a chewy rather tasteless interior. I would liken the interior to gum that has been chewed so long that it is losing both its flavor and its elasticity. Perhaps my expectations were too high; I thought they might be like Chewy Sprees or Chewy SweeTarts or even Chewy Gobstoppers, all of which I enjoy.  Anyway, I saved the rest of the bag for Carla, who will, no doubt, love them. 

(Do you know what the best use for regular Nerds is? Using as an ice cream topping. They are DELICIOUS on a scoop of vanilla.) 

Let us not be deterred from counting our blessings by the disappointment of the Big Chewy Nerds. There are many things I have been enjoying immensely lately, and I haven’t shared any since… late October

Photos from amazon.com

My sister-in-law sent me this hair turban for Christmas in that exact shade of pink. I absolutely adore it. It holds my hair much more snugly and daintily than wrapping an unwieldy bath towel around my head. Plus when I wear it around the house my husband makes fun of me less (though admittedly not zero) than when I plop my hair in a T-shirt and make a turban of that. It has a little button at the nape of your neck, and you fit the button through a loop on the other end and it stays put as long as you want it to. What a time to be alive.

Photo from wikipedia.com

My husband and I just finished watching The Queen’s Gambit (Netflix) and I loved it and want MORE. I know I’m a little behind on watching it, but if you, too, have been delaying, I highly recommend it. The thing that surprised me most about the show – and there will perhaps be very slight spoilers in my explanation, although nothing big – was how nice it was. A person would appear in Elizabeth’s life and I would think, based on my copious TV-watching experiences, aha! that person is going to take advantage of her or treat her badly or Something Terrible is going to happen! And then they/it didn’t! The people in her life were (mostly) genuinely loving, good people who cared about her and admired her and wanted her to succeed! It was surprising and fresh and I really appreciated it. It reminded me of Ted Lasso in that way (although the two shows are similar in no other way except that the each centers around a sport I am unfamiliar with). And don’t get me wrong – just because the people were, in the main, kind and honorable, doesn’t mean that there wasn’t plenty of sadness in the show. But there was also a lot of support and redemption and family-doesn’t-necessarily-mean-related-by-blood kind of goodness. If you were also hesitant because you don’t play/like chess, let me assure you that you need NO knowledge of chess playing to understand/enjoy the show. I’m guessing it might enhance your viewing if you were a chess enthusiast, but I did not feel like my lack of chess knowledge put me at a disadvantage. (If you want an idea of how little I know about chess: the other night I asked my husband, “What are the horse ones called?”)

Photo from teasquared.ca

You know how I absolutely LOVE my Uncle Grey tea from Tea Squared, right? Well, the boxes my husband ordered me for Christmas came with samples of a few of their other teas. I just tried a sample of Lavender Rooibos and it was amazing. Like, so amazing I am strongly considering shelling out $11.50 plus shipping just to have more of it. (It inspired me to buy a box of regular Rooibos tea at the grocery store the other day but it was NOT the same. By a long shot.)

Photo from athleta.com

Yesterday I put on a BRA and JEANS and went to Target like it was 2019 (I had to exchange something and I haven’t figured out a way to do that remotely), so today I am leaning hard into Soft Clothes. My favorite lounging-around-in-yoga-pants sweater is this pranayama wrap from Athleta.  It’s super soft and has pockets AND thumbholes and I just love it so much. I have it in the marl grey heather but the next time I get a coupon I am going to buy another one, perhaps in the chrome blue or the black.

Photo from amazon.com

Carla still doesn’t love to read, which causes me a lot of angst as a book lover myself. I keep telling myself that she just hasn’t found something she WANTS to read. Because I think there is immense value to being read to in addition to reading by oneself, I have encouraged Carla to listen to audiobooks. She has been listening to several Judy Blume audiobooks lately (many of them read by Judy Blume herself!) through our local library, and she LOVES them. I am so delighted by that because I loved Judy Blume books as a kid and, in fact, love them to this day. Carla went through Iggie’s House and Blubber in a couple of days (and we had some really good conversations about racism and bullying and commenting on other people’s bodies). She gobbled up Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great and Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing. We’ve been waiting for what feels like WEEKS for the next book in the Peter-and-Fudge collection, and I am thinking I might use the delay as an excuse to buy her the box set of the books. Perhaps she will be interested in reading them as well as listening to them? I have always been a re-reader, but I’m not sure whether Carla will be the same or not. Well, we’ll see. 

What are you loving these days?

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Hello! I’m so glad to see you! Please, allow me to take your hats and mittens. Head right on into the kitchen and I will get you a hot drink.

Can you believe we haven’t gotten together like this since two years ago March? I know! Time is a wild wolverine, full of teeth and impossible to trap. In today’s session, I would be so grateful for your advice on pandemic birthday plans – mine, in particular – so please put your party planning hats on. 

But before we get to that urgent agenda item, it seems critical that I fill you in on what an exterminator emergency is. Or at least, was, in the case of my particular exterminator postponement. (Carla speculated that it was bees! in the walls! which would indeed be an emergency, holy hot honey, but it was not that.) I asked our exterminator during his visit (after I determined that he and his loved ones are all okay, phew, may he live a long and healthy life) if he could satisfy my curiosity. Turns out it was a Live Mouse Issue. My mind, as you might imagine, went immediately to a room teeming with mice. But alas (for my imagination, not for him or his client), it was a single mouse that was alive and in his client’s kitchen. His poor client was, how shall we say?, dealing poorly with the appearance of the mouse. (My exterminator, in his low gentle drawl, “Lady was hysterical. What’d she think I can do? I am not a house cat.”) He was able to – 

LOOK AWAY to the next ALL CAPS paragraph if you don’t care to learn about the (non-graphic, I promise) demise of a mouse…

— Have you looked away yet? 

— Here is some buffer space for that pesky peripheral vision. 

– trap it on a glue trap because it was already clearly very sick from ingesting poison and did not want to move much at all. And then he… disposed of the mouse. May it ascend to a cheese filled heaven. 

— Buffer space for the lookers away —

— More buffer space in case your eyes are more curious than your brain —

YOU CAN LOOK NOW.

Photo by Polina Tankilevitch on Pexels.com

All right, Party Planning Committee. On to the topic at hand, which is my birthday. I turn 40 later this month and I am feeling pre-mopeful about a) turning 40 and b) not being able to make A Big Deal about it. 

This is ridiculous for many reasons, the top being: We are in a pandemic, and no one who is not a Kardashian is getting the birthday celebration they want. PLUS, even if we were not in a pandemic, I am not A Big Deal kind of a person, and would feel stressed and anxious about any sort of Big Deal being made over me, so why I am wistful over the lack of A Big Deal is a mystery for the stars to solve. 

And yet I am full of self-pity because I am Fun. 

So! I think what I need to do is, you know, buck up. And then plan some fun things so that I can look forward to the day if not the event. And that’s where you come in! Because we are in a pandemic! And many of my ideas will not fly! 

Let’s establish a pre-pandemic celebratory baseline here.

Normally, for my birthday, I prefer to have a day off. I like to go get a massage, maybe a facial, maybe a pedicure. I like to do absolutely nothing at home – no cooking, no dishwashing, no anything. And I like to go out to a favorite restaurant, drink some yummy wine or champagne or cocktails, and stuff myself with something delicious and decadent. But of course I am not going to places for a massage these days nor am I going to restaurants. 

For me, A Big Deal would look something like the above, but maybe with a babysitter for Carla and maybe another couple or two would join us for dinner, and then maybe we’d all go bowling afterward or head to a bar for margaritas or come back to my house to play board games. I remember one birthday when my husband and I went on a brewery tour with couple friends of ours; something like that would be an awesome way to spend my fortieth.

Of course, once again, we are not hanging out indoors with other people nor are we going on indoor tours of places, especially those involving taking off your mask to drink things, nor are we hiring babysitters, or going into bars or bowling alleys, or inviting not-my-exterminator other humans into our house. 

In the Before Times, my husband (who turned 40 last fall with MUCH LESS WOE-IS-ME) and I had talked about the two of us, plus Carla, going to Europe as a joint birthday hurrah. That would have been delightful, but I have zero desire to get on a plane anytime soon. 

So. Those are the things that are NOT happening. 

What can I do instead? 

Here are the very minimal plans I have already made:

  1. I have requested that my husband make me lemon pudding cake, which is delicious. 
  2. I ordered two cute tops from StitchFix that I have had in my cart for awhile PLUS I ordered myself a Fix, to arrive on my birthday, which I haven’t done in ages because a) I have nowhere to wear Real Clothes and b) I have gained so much weight during the pandemic that I haven’t wanted to buy any new clothes. 

Here are some additional things I am considering:

  • Good food. I am tossing around dinner ideas: would it be nice to make tacos at home, because I love tacos? Or maybe we could order takeout from our favorite Mexican restaurant? Or maybe we could try one of my other favorite restaurants that we haven’t visited since before the pandemic – and order steak or a burger or something that seems really risky (to me) as a takeout option. Probably best not to wing it on my birthday; nothing adds to the self-pity like a lukewarm soggy-bunned hamburger in a Styrofoam container.

  • Perhaps we could find a movie we haven’t watched yet and watch it. I have no idea what this would be; the new Amy Poehler movie doesn’t drop until March, so that one’s out of the running and I haven’t heard of anything else.
  • A game night? My brother got us The Deadbolt Mystery Society for Christmas. Maybe I will request that my husband and I start that as a birthday treat. 
  • Near-birthday happy hour with friends. I haven’t had a virtual happy hour with my back-home friends for awhile. Maybe we could set one up on or near my birthday. Probably not ON; I wouldn’t want it to be about me, just about our normal catching up and chitting chat. But doing it the day before or day after my birthday might add to the fun anticipation. 
  • Special sweets. Perhaps I will buy some Reese’s peanut butter hearts and snack on those all day. Ooohhh or order myself some Shari’s Berries, which I haven’t had in years.

Beyond these things – which are surely more than adequate in and of themselves – what can I do to make the day feel More Special? What would YOU Do?

I know for sure that I don’t want to request that my husband set up some sort of birthday parade; I can see how those would be so fun and bolstering for some people, but I would find one for ME to be stressful. I also know for sure that I do not want a big family Zoom session, which Carla had for her birthday and which she recommended with great enthusiasm for my birthday. 

A dear friend of mine, who also turned 40 this year, said she and her family did a virtual beer tasting together. Something like that would be really fun, but I am guessing it is too late to plan it and even if not I would feel weird planning it for myself.

For my husband’s fortieth, our little family went on a long-weekend trip to a nearby state. We stayed in an Air BnB and ordered takeout and did outdoor activities and it was a lovely little getaway… but that seems less fun/doable in February, and I’m guessing we would have had to plan it in advance.

If you have had a birthday during the pandemic (most of us have, by now, gloom gloom gloom), what did you/someone else do to make it more special? Or was there something, in retrospect, you wish you had done instead/also? Have you thrown any virtual celebrations for anyone this year that went particularly well? – or badly, I would want to know if something went badly. Or do you have a birthday coming up – yours or someone else’s – for which you are already tossing around plans? If so, I would like to hear all about it. No plan is too simple or too extravagant or too specific to you that I don’t want to hear about it!

And, of course, if you just want to complain about birthdays I am always here for that.

Photo by Polina Tankilevitch on Pexels.com

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