Hey friends, show of hands if you, too, feel like time has lost all meaning (“Time’s gone all David Lynch!” as Buffy might say.) I actually woke up on Friday morning and had NO clue what day, week or month it was, let alone the hour. Turns out it was 7:34 am.
Like a lot of people, I’m bored and unmotivated and more than a little frightened. But I’m also going to shut the hell up about all of those things, because somewhere – somewhere close by; friend of mine is an epidemiologist – someone has it much, MUCH worse than a nagging case of boredom (very much enjoying all the memes taking celebrities apart for griping about ANYTHING. Please tell me again how difficult this is on you from the comfort of your multi-million dollar ranch. Y’all got as much to complain about as I do.)
Anyhow, once I sorted out what day it was, I decided to do my nails. Absent the four or five manis I’ve done since we moved, I really haven’t been keeping up with my nail art, and I’ve missed it. It’s comforting in a “Wow, has nail polish always smelled this bad?!” kind of way, and if ever there was a time for a bit of creative reassurance, this would be it.
So I sat down at my coffee table in the livingroom, cranked up the twenty one pilots, just like in the old condo days, and did these pretty floral nails. And I felt much better afterwards.
So, small lesson here? In the midst of all this chaos, fear and uncertainty, try not to fall too far down the rabbit hole (and definitely not to the point where you no longer know what day it is.) Keep up with the things that bring you joy and relaxation, no matter how insignificant they may seem in the grander scheme of our new, CORONA ONLY world. Because we’re still living, odd though the circumstances might be, and every now and then we need a reminder of WHY.
Is it still spring out there? We’re still in 2020, right? And this IS Planet Earth, yes? Show of hands if you, like me, have found the last two weeks to be wildly disorienting. I woke up this morning and had NO idea what day it was, or how far into the month of March we were. To deploy a favourite Buffy-ism, time’s gone all David Lynch over here.
So in the midst of the March that will not end, I was tending to a bit of what-season-is-it-anyways? cleaning when I ran across this cheery old KB Shimmer polish, Where My Peeps At? Rummaging around, I discovered that a number of my KB polishes – mostly the three-quarters empty, glitter-packed ones I’ve used time and time again – had completely dried out. I guess I just loved them too hard. The move was also not terribly kind to them (the move was not terribly kind to ANY of our possessions.)
But Where My Peeps At? was still standing strong. And since merely staring at its sunny yellow hue was cheering me up, I thought I’d go the extra mile and give myself a nice little manicure. Then, if I was feeling so inclined, I’d maybe go outside and take some pictures for the blog, find a nice spot around the side of the house where the lighting is good and the neighbours won’t see me standing there in nothing but my jammies and a really bitchin’ mani. Then I’d go back inside because of, you know, that whole troublesome end of times thing.
And so that is what I did! And it felt great, better than I’ve felt – more normal than I’ve felt – in weeks. So if you, like me and probably 95 percent of the world, feel like life has gone completely bananas and you’re just a little lost, try returning to an activity you have not indulged in for quite some time, even if it’s as simple as just painting your nails. I think you’d be amazed at how comforting and soothing a hesitant attempt at normalcy can really be.
Looking for a business model that will really prove its worth in these uncertain, touch-free times? Maintain your social distance and give a meal kit delivery service like Hello Fresh a try. My husband and I have been ordering from Hello Fresh for some months now – three two-person veggie meals per week for $52 to $74 Canadian – and I’ve long thought that it’s a nice (but perhaps not terribly cost effective) service for the at-home cook looking to shake up their usual kitchen customs.
Now I think it’s just this side of a necessity. These meals, while not keeping us in total body and soul, are the loveliest little treats, and a backup for the dishes we’re making here at home out of toilet paper, hand sanitizer and Lysol wipes, because everybody MUST be cooking with those items if they’re so persistently out of stock. You just would NOT believe how well my three-tiered (and three-ply!) Isopropyl Cashmere Cake is coming along.
I think you’d go flat broke trying to feed your family if you relied solely on meal kits, but as a supplementary food service, or a replacement for the meals you’re not currently enjoying out at a restaurant, it’s a blessing. There’s only so many boxes of KD you can stomach before your stomach says, “Yo! Can we get a different flavour profile down here?” To that end, Hello Fresh chooses its recipes – particularly the vegetarian ones – from a wide range of popular world cuisines, from Indian to Italian, Mexican to Middle Eastern, African to French. Best of all, your meals – individually bagged and then boxed – are delivered right to your doorstep, with no signature requirement. Smart. Responsible. Yummy.
Have I mentioned the yummy? Because these vegetarian meals are SO yummy! As well as creative, fun to prepare (get the kids involved!) and of really excellent quality. I have no complaints. I just hope Hello Fresh (and other meal kit services of its ilk) will be able to maintain their deliveries in the face of what is sure to be a massive new uptick in business. Like all things these days, fingers crossed.
Curious as to the kinds of dishes you might enjoy on Hello Fresh’s veggie plan? Take a peek at these tasty morsels we enjoyed some weeks back and set your taste buds revving:
Garlicky Mixed Mushroom Farrow Bowl with Goat’s Cheese and Candied Walnuts
Farrow is a kind of whole grain that looks and tastes like a cross between rice and barley. In this scrumptious dish, it was mixed with a sweet balsamic dressing and then topped with sauteed mushrooms and garlic, leafy greens, creamy goat cheese, candied walnuts and chives. This was a super filling – and wicked delicious – dish that reminded me in all the very best ways of this beet, goat cheese and candied pecan salad I used to love from the Manx Pub in Ottawa, Ontario (heh, Mr. Finger Candy and I enjoyed part of our multi-part first date there.) 🙂
Italian Mozzarella Panini with Herby Tomato Soup
Soup and a sandwich! This was a tasty little lunch Mr. Finger Candy and I enjoyed one recent afternoon. Actually, as I called him to the table, I thought, “You have turned into your grandmother,” a woman who was constantly calling my grandfather – who was probably off somewhere pruning a tree – in “for supper.” My grandfather would have been horrified to have found such a meal waiting for him at the table – pesto-flavoured tomato soup that looks like a science experiment and a mozzarella sandwich with aruga-who-now? – but we thought it was pretty nummy. A nice, light option for a midday repast.
Matar Paneer Curry with Green Peas and Yellow Potato
Paneer is a firm, mild cheese popular in Indian cuisine. Owing to its high melting point, it can withstand quite a bit of cooking, and so it often shows up, cubed, in stew-type preparations like this one featuring tomatoes, peas and yellow potatoes. The recipe actually directs you to add the roasted potatoes to the other vegetables, paneer and sauce, but I like how crispy they remain when you simply sprinkle them on top, like roasted potato croutons.
Beyond Meat Roasted Veggie Linguine with Garlic Tomato Sauce
As a lifelong pasta aficionado, I am always shockingly amazed at how delicious Hello Fresh’s pasta recipes are. I truly thought I had eaten all the good pasta in the world. This deceptively simple dish – just your basic tomato, onion, garlic and roasted veggie arrangement, enhanced with a bit of oh-so-trendy plant protein – was so friggin’ yummy! Then again, I actually really like the taste of Beyond Meat. Yes, it totally looks like cat food, but it’s versatile, it cooks well, and it adds a welcome shot of richness to your more basic vegetarian dishes.
Beyond Meat and Black Bean Tacos with Tomato Pepper Salsa and Crema
Beyond Meat strikes again in this dee-licious, but kind of unwieldy, taco dish featuring a fresh, zippy salsa and ear-splittingly tart lime crema. Loved the flavours at work in this recipe, but the proportions here were way off – there was MOUNDS of filling to just three soft tortillas per person. Things got very sloppy, very quickly!
Butternut Squash Ravioli with Creamy Garlic Sauce and Herby Goat Cheese
Another phenomenal pasta dish, this time sweet butternut squash ravioli enrobed – ENROBED, I say! – in a light, buttery sauce, with more roasted squash, chivey goat cheese and lightly toasted pepitas, which are a type of pumpkin seed. Good golly, this recipe was GREAT. I could have eaten triple the amount of this one, but that’s just me and pasta. This dish, too, reminded me of a seasonal pasta I used to like to order from Panera.
If you’ve been on the fence about whether to give a meal kit delivery service like Hello Fresh a try, I’d say now is the moment. There’s a lot of uncertainty in the world right now. How you get some of your food and fun should not be two of those uncertainties. So while you’re social distancing, maybe give Hello Fresh a try and see if they have any options that might work for your family.
Stay safe and healthy out there while you’re staying in, friends.
Waking up this cold, but finally, blessedly, starting-to-warm March Monday morning to a world that’s very different from the one I woke up to last week. Early last week, the Coronavirus was still joke fodder. Bustling about my new kitchen, putting the finishing touches on a special dinner for my folks last Tuesday, I joked with them about our drink options, noting – with a spectacular eye roll – that Corona beer was assuredly not on the menu.
Then in the span of a few hours Wednesday evening, somewhere in between You-Know-Orange’s disastrous address, Tom Hank’s sobering announcement and seemingly all professional sports getting cancelled en masse, the entire world changed, and there were no more jokes to be made.
Thursday morning my husband and I went out for groceries just in the normal course of our lives. After 15 years of living within the very limited storage confines of a two-bedroom condo, we’ve had a difficult time adjusting to the space of a four-bedroom home, and so we rarely – still! – have anything on hand that we won’t be immediately consuming. Old habits are hard to break. So we needed groceries, and toilet paper! Down to our last roll, we were.
Despite the early hour, the store was busy, and steeped in a palpably electric kind of mania, like gathering storm clouds. At one point another shopper and I – both gloved, both trying to keep our distance – reached for the same pack of cheese, and she leaped back, hands clasped to her chest, in legitimate terror.
I had heard distressing stories about toilet paper shortages, sanitary paper hoarders and unscrupulous disinfectant fencers, but I was convinced all of that was happening “somewhere else.” Certainly not in polite, well-reasoned Canada. And I had already made all of the dismissive, “Do they know it’s a respiratory virus and not a pooping virus?” jokes. So I was completely unprepared to turn down the personal care aisle at my local grocery store – never, ever the place you’ll net a reasonable price on such items – to find it completely ravaged.
As I stood in the denuded aisle with a few other disappointed shoppers, Mr. Finger Candy emerged from the front of the store with one precious 12-pack of 9 mil-ply Cashmere. He tossed it to me with a saucy smile that I assume was worn by the very first caveman to lug home a particularly badass kill, at which point I frantically buried it in our cart like Lorraine Bracco disappearing half a kilo of coke down the toilet in Goodfellas. Mission thus accomplished, we paid for our purchases – a bit more than we’d normally buy, but nothing outrageous – and headed home.
Thursday afternoon the border restrictions, travel bans, cancellations and closures began in earnest. The stock market self-immolated. The World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic. Chaos and confusion asserted themselves as the overriding themes of the day.
The American Disney parks closed, an act that legitimately frightened me to my core. I long assumed that the ghost of Walt himself would have to come down with the Coronavirus before they shuttered those parks.
I clearly wasn’t the only one spooked. The news – local, national, international – was suddenly filled with stories of empty shelves at grocery stores and long line-ups. And the dim lizard part of my brain, the one Stephen King often refers to as “the panic rat,” began to worry. We had enough food and supplies to see us through the week, but nothing beyond that. And despite assurances from retailers that there was going to be lots of stock going forward, new social distancing measures were changing how we shopped, and there was no guarantee we’d be able to do our groceries in the same manner, and with the same choice, the following week.
And so it was with that thought in mind that we ventured out to Walmart Friday morning for a (reasonable) cart full of soup and cereal, pasta and rice, canned veggies, ramen and an absolute crap ton of coffee. We were already doing well on cleaning supplies and hand soap (thank you, Bath and Body Works) but there was no additional toilet paper to be had. Hot buy of the apocalypse.
And with that, we came home, where we’ve been in semi-self-isolation ever since. Which doesn’t actually feel that different from regular life. We’re just washing our hands a lot more and trying to steer clear of vulnerable populations. You do what you can, and you try to stay calm.
I’ve no idea when the world will be “okay” again, if it ever was in the first place. I’ve no idea what will be waiting for us on the other side of this experience. But I do know it’s okay to be a little scared and a whole lot confused. To mourn what we’ve lost, and learn to live without. To adapt, and change, and hopefully come out of the other side of this new nightmare better people – or at least better prepared people – one day at a time, one shopping trip at a time.
Late last year Mr. Finger Candy and I sold our two-bedroom condo apartment and made the rather spectacular leap to single family home ownership. To say it’s been an adjustment would be an oversimplification, but not a wild one – we’re not in completely over our heads here (unless we’re talking about the snow from our driveway, now piled high on our front lawn, which, after four or five storms, now stretches way, way above our heads.)
Without a doubt, things have changed, but in very few ways have they changed for the negative. Mostly, I think we’re just plum delighted with our new-to-us house, and thankful beyond all measure that we’re out of our condo. We…did not enjoy living there for what I was about to say was just the last couple of months, but really, encompassed the entirety of 2019. We really, really did ourselves in with the unfortunate quadruple whammy of deceased pet, chaotic reno, employment strife and arsehole neighbours. It was hard to view the place, beautiful though it was, as anything but a burden after that.
So we moved on to greener pastures (or at least they’ll be green once the snow melts.) To be sure, we have taken on a mountain of responsibility that we did not have before, but weirdly, I think we both kind of love it. You just can’t tell me that this man, outfitted in his best Captain Canada attire, out sweeping the back patio in the middle of a snowstorm, is not getting off on this!
Things I frequently and delightedly note that I love about our new home? The quiet. Our street is – knock on wood – SO QUIET. Or maybe it’s not and I’ve just been brainwashed into thinking that anything less than 2,000 other people thumping up and down the street every day is peaceful.
Our neighbours seem to be kind, considerate and helpful souls. Snow has been plowed, holiday cookies have been exchanged and plans have been made for better weather get-togethers. I hardly know what to do with this bounty of good neighbourliness.
The red heat lamp in our ensuite bathroom rocks my world. I never bathe that I don’t have “ROXXXXXXXXXXXX-anne!” running through my head, or think that I’m somehow showering in the midst of an Alien movie. Sometimes it’s both, which makes for a very unique bathing experience. 🙂
We have a finished basement! And true, it might be colder than Cocytus, the frozen lake of Hell, but that’s just because we don’t spend a lot of time down there right now, and so the heat’s rarely cranked. But I suspect that once the warmer weather hits AND we’ve renovated the place into the ultimate Haunted Mansion-themed home theater, it’ll become THE cool place to be, in temperature and vibe.
Speaking of the Haunted Mansion, Mr. Finger Candy gave me this dope Honeywell doorbell for Christmas, and he programmed it to play the first 12 counts of the soundtrack to the Haunted Mansion. “Heheheheheh, you’re going to freak out so many Jehovah’s Witnesses!” a friend gleefully chortled. Delivery people certainly think it’s amusing. Weird thing to say you love a doorbell, but here we are. 🙂
We have storage, so much storage! Four bedrooms’ worth of closets, two ground floor cupboards, two gigantic basement cupboards and an entire furnace room filled with floor-to-ceiling shelving. The real kicker for us has been learning to spread out, as we’re both still in that “Maximize every bit of space you’ve got” zone we were living in back at the condo.
Every time I do the laundry, by myself, in my basement at whenever-the-heck-o’clock I please, I do a little jig of happiness. It is so, SO wonderful not being beholden to prescribed hours of use, or having to navigate the complicated and needlessly aggressive social strata of the Friday Night Laundry Crew.
The wildlife that dances about our private backyard is plentiful, varied and very, very charming. I say that now in the winter when the bunnies, squirrels, chipmunks, blue jays and other assorted woodland creatures are snatching (provided) peanuts off our back patio, but I’ll probably be singing a different tune when they’re chewing up my garden. But I do kind of love “our” rodents. Maybe not as much as Mr. Finger Candy, who lays out back deck buffets of tiny peanut butter sandwiches, but I’m really rather fond of the little buggers.
A three-minute drive out of our neighbourhood in any direction brings us to a wealth of shops, restaurants and other retail establishments. Bit of a double-edged sword, that one. On the one hand, we’ve made excellent use of the local offerings – Indian buffet, Chocolats Favoris, Little Caesar’s, and one particularly inspired evening, Talladega Takeout (KFC, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut and Powerade.)
On the other hand, we’ve made excellent use of the local offerings. Maybe too excellent use. Our wallets and waistlines are demanding that we back off a smidge on this bounty of take-out and dine-in options and get back to our Hello Fresh-ing.
We’ve named our trees and wildlife! The chestnut tree at the front of the house is Chester, the oak in the back is Annie (Oakley) and the tiny squirrel with the kinky tail and the light brown tummy is Brown Betty.
I don’t even mind (too much) the cosmetic renos we’re carrying out – painting, molding and more mill work than you can shake a miter saw at – because at least we have real options for temporarily escaping the mess. Truly, this experience is night-and-day compared to the renos we had done to our condominium last year.
It may be a lot to lay at the doorstep of a new house, but this place has saved us. Back at the condo we were floundering, if not outright drowning, always desperately trying to make 800 square feet of concrete into a home, and invariably coming up short. There were simply too many rules, too many people and too many competing interests – a truly needless aggravation on top of (at the time) a pretty stressful life. As I testily wrote to our property manager last year, it wasn’t a home, it was merely a situation we were trying to survive. Badly.
Then somehow, against all odds, we found this place, our real home, and it saved us. We now have purpose, drive and positive responsibility. We have choice. And yes, we also now have larger bills, more square footage than we know what to do with, and a great big bloody pile of driveway snow that might just attain sentience and go off galumphing down the street, but these are acceptable trade-offs (maybe not the sentient snowman thing.) It’s worth it to know that these are things under our purview, and that if there is an issue with our home, either positive or negative, how we approach it will be our decision, and our decision alone.
I don’t sleep well, or at least I don’t sleep consistently. Back at the condo, the early morning hours were mostly a time to stress and worry and fret. And forget all that “rising gently from the depths of somnolence” business – hardly a morning went by that I wasn’t catapulted into consciousness.
These days I’m still rising early, but for a different reason. True, part of that reason is getting old/back is shit, but mostly it’s because I want to enjoy my new home in those impossibly still morning hours when it’s just me and the backyard bunnies and our plans for the future. Feels pretty nice, and like there’s maybe no place like it.