Pandemic Artifacts – Part II (of III)

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Pandemic Artifacts – Part I (of III)

Part II:

Community: Neighbors, neighborhood, rainbows, household helpers, tools, the murder of George Floyd and ensuing protests.

By the second third of the pandemic timeline, community became more important and more visible, sometimes as basic as are my neighbors wearing masks/having parties but beyond that as well.

There was more waving at each other as more people were home during the day. There were phone calls from my parish checking on our needs. The same from the kids’ schools about school meals and available wifi. Our area, and many others put rainbows up in their windows or on their lawns to be instagrammed or facebooked with area code rainbow hashtags, like a mini-scavenger hunt (hello GISH). One family in the neighborhood bought prisms and left them out, socially distanced for neighbors walking by to help themselves to. I sat outside in the front of my house reading, meditating, praying, watching the local world go by. I heard kids in strollers, on bikes, and nearby church bells ringing.

After the murder of George Floyd, I saw one or two Black Lives Matter signs in my very white, seemingly unaffected area, although it made me realize that no one is, nor should be, unaffected by the murder of a Black man by the police. The quarantine and lockdown enabled many to protest, and despite right wing complaints about social distancing, there was not much of an uptick in covid cases due to protesting as compared to political rallies held indiscriminately on the other side of the aisle.

I continued adding to my covid resource center, and my family cooked some of the recipes I was sharing. I attended church online and began to attend remote retreats, which I found both a distraction and a new way of prayer and contemplation. I wish I could say I wrote more; Maybe I did write more, at least here, and I’m proud of my work here. I tried to let the world flow around me and not put too many expectations on myself. I was home for my kids in a greater way than usual even though I’ve been home for my kids since they were born. This was the first year family didn’t ask when I was getting one or encourage me in that way of theirs to get a job. I already have several, thank you very much. We rediscovered our teamness. Looking forward to next school year in a few short months, I’m going to miss them when they return to school which we expect them to.

We were also able to go on vacation at the end of the summer. We remained in New York State since we were comfortable with the rules put in place by the state for covid precautions. I’m not sure how much longer my adult son will be willing to go along with us, and we’re enjoying time as an entire family.

The Photos:

Timeline, Part II.
(Pink = Summer, Orange = Fall)
(c)2021
4-6: Prism, orange peeler, In This House/BLM sign
(c)2021

Prism from neighbor

We belong to a neighborhood Facebook group, and at the beginning of the pandemic there were many posts offering suggestions for how to entertain the kids, especially the younger ones who weren’t in remote school. One of the fun, community activities we included ourselves in was the #Rainbow project. Houses and businesses began to put rainbows in their windows, on their garages, painted on pallets, flown on flags and banners, and included a hashtag of the area code with the word rainbow so those of us walking throughout the neighborhood could take pictures of all the rainbows we found, and post it online – on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, that sort of thing on social media.

My artifact came from one of our neighbors in the Facebook group. The family bought several prisms online and put them at the end of their driveway in a bucket with a rainbow flag. They posted on the Facebook that they were to be taken whenever folks walked by on their neighborhood romps, but of course, to please take only one per family. They went quick! We were lucky to be able to get one on her second round. When it’s held in the sunlight, it makes rainbow reflections on the walls, windows, and other surfaces. Just looking at the clear glass teardrop shape makes me smile and think of how lucky we are to be in the place that we live. Also, rainbows are hope and promises of better times.


Orange peeler

We all discovered our kitchens again. I was reminded very much of the nesting that went on after 9/11: we stayed home, kept our families together, simplified our lives, and more than ever before, we cooked. At least that’s what happened in our house, both after 9/11 and during lockdown. I’ve mentioned before about Chef Jose Andres’ Recipes for the People on Twitter. While we were on vacation, we had clementine oranges in our breakfast bags provided by the hotel and I became obsessed with having a delicious, juicy orange almost daily.

I bought this great little tool while we were in Buffalo from a five and dime store. I couldn’t figure out how it worked at first, but it was labeled as an orange peeler for sixty-nine cents. If I knew how much I would love this little gadget, I would have bought fifty of them! Well, maybe not fifty, but a dozen. I’ve already put this five and dime on my list to pick up some more the next time we go through Buffalo (hopefully this summer on the way to Canada). It was one of those things that I didn’t know I needed until I had it. I will never peel another orange without this perfectly constructed tool. So simple. So easy.


BLM sign

About the time in the summer that political signs went up, I saw this same sign on my neighbor’s lawn. I didn’t know this neighbor, but I stopped by anyway to ask about it, thinking she had gotten it locally. At first, I think she thought I was complaining about the inclusivity of the sign. She was happier that I liked it and wanted one of my own. She got hers from Amazon, and mine arrived about twenty-four hours later. I added the American flag, and we’ve added more flags for Memorial Day weekend and then buntings for 4th of July. We’ll leave this sign and one or two of the Stars & Stripes until fall clean-up.

The entire sign reads:

In this house, we believe:
Black Lives Matter
Women’s Rights are Human Rights
No Human is Illegal
Science is Real
Love is Love
Kindness is Everything.

This one sign really says it all. Really, what more is there to say?


Part III coming soon.

Friday Food. July. Dessert Cups.

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I was eating a Dole fruit cup – cherry mixed fruit or something – and I was transported back to my childhood. We didn’t have the individual plastic cups like the one I was eating from. My mother would buy the cans of fruit cocktail, and we would most definitely fight over the cherries because there were never enough, and they really were the best part.

When we would have a special dinner – a holiday dinner – whether it was Thanksgiving or Rosh Hashanah or Passover, it didn’t matter which, there was always a multi-course meal with special dishes. Some meals like Rosh Hashanah would begin on the top plate with a piece of lettuce, a slice of tomato, and a scoop of chopped liver. There might also be a soup course – matzo ball – always a good choice, even on Thanksgiving. There also might be half a grapefruit with sprinkled sugar or a small dessert dish with fruit cocktail in it.

I loved those dessert dishes. They were small and squat and sat on little pedestals. They were perfect for fruit cocktail, jello, chocolate pudding (with whipped cream), and all sorts of interesting foods. The one problem I found as a kid was the texture of the dish. It wasn’t smooth so you could never scrape all the little bits of food left from the nooks and crannies, and they were annoying to wash, but I loved opening the cabinet just over the sink and seeing them, wondering what wondrous sweet treat they would next hold for us.

I still have them although they’re packed away in our basement. I wanted to find them last month for chocolate pudding, and then again to include a photo in this post, but our basement is a mess and in need of pruning. Finding them will be a goal for the next twelve months, but in the meantime I’ve included a photo I found of them from Ebay. We’ll see in the future if this photo that matches my memory will match the real ones when I find them.

Sometimes it’s not the food that’s nostalgic, but the containers we use.

Photo from Ebay. (c)2021

Inspire. July. Road Trips.

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“To move, to breathe, to fly, to float, To gain all while you give, To roam the roads of lands remote, To travel is to live.”

Hans Christian Andersen

NEW Spotify Playlist: Road Trip


“Our happiest moments as tourists always seem to come when we stumble upon one thing while in pursuit of something else.”

Lawrence Block

During the pandemic and continuing through the last few weeks, our family has broken up our weeks of isolation pouring [th] into the car and taking road trips. North, east, and west; south is still on the list, and while they don’t have the stress or monetary expense of a full blown vacation, they do tend to get you out of your own comfortable neighborhood and out into the world, taking time to de-stress and see new sights (and sites). Even a day trip can be a fun adventure.

In the photo below are some of the places we’ve gone in the last few weeks. I’ve included links so you’re able to check out new and interesting places in the northeast, but some things – like that Mater Truck and the dragon outside a comic store – are just things we passed by and got a kick out of.

Take some time in your car and see what’s around you. It can be even cheaper if you pack a picnic lunch to bring along.

BBQ place, comic store, EA-Teriyaki Japanese at Holyoke Mall, Mater, St. Kateri Shrine, BatCycle (from the TV series, signed by Burt Ward) at comic store at Holyoke Mall, Springfield Museums, MA.
(c)2021
Guess the characters!
Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden at Springfield Museums, Springfield, MA.
(c)2021

Boneyard BBQ, Utica, NY

Holyoke Mall, Holyoke, MA

St. Kateri Tekawitha National Shrine & Historic Site, Fonda, NY

Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden, Springfield, MA

Not Pictured:

Martha’s Dandee Creme, Lake George, NY

Samuel’s Sweet Shop, Rhinebeck, NY

Big Moose Deli & Country Store, Hoosick, NY

Ben & Jerry’s Factory, Waterbury, VT

Friday Food. June.

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Working Breakfast/Lunch. (c)2021

It’s been a good day, and I may post about that in the delayed Inspire post later today or this weekend, but after my mental health break this morning, I returned to my favorite Starbucks, computer and backpack in tow, and they are open for seating (with appropriate social distancing), and I am thrilled.

I have set myself up at my favorite seat and am deliciously enjoying a breakfast sandwich and Very Berry Hibiscus Refresher.

Sometimes it’s the food that makes the Friday, and sometimes it’s the place that you’re enjoying the food.

In this case, it’s both.

We are slowing returning to pre-pandemic times, although I hope we’ve grown in the last year plus. Time will tell, but today maybe time can stand still for just a little longer.

Friday Food. May.

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Friday Food. May. (c)2021

The food pictured above, left to right by columns:

1. Caramel Cake for Mother’s Day, York Peppermint Patty, Rainbow Funfetti Cake Slice (just because).

2. Unicorn Cake Pop from Starbucks, York Peppermint Patty (yum), Tiramisu.

3. Chicken Paillard with Baby Potatoes and Blood Orange Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette (a cooking night on FB with my church, Brach’s candy egg (childhood memories of this candy, which is simultaneously the best and the worst candy ever), Homemade Meatball Sub.

Friday Food. Nostalgia.

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How many times do you smell something cooking or take that first bite of something and you’re transported back in time to a special occasion or your childhood, Grandma’s house or getting a quick bite before a doctor’s appointment?

Whenever we have baked sweet potatoes, pools of melted butter mixing in with the soft, sweet flesh I always think back to when I was sick. I was sitting up in my parents’ bed and on my lap was a plate with a hot sweet potato, butter melting as I mashed it in the skin with a fork. It is the best tasting thing in the world, and it makes me feel calm and better.

Speaking of food when you’re sick, chicken noodle soup is known by some as Jewish penicillin and the ingredients blend together to make the common cold disappear or at least wave away the symptoms so sleep will come.

Chicken Noodle Soup.
(c)2021

Other of my comfort food favorites include:

The perfect grilled cheese. Two to three slices of cheese depending on their thickness. Instead of buttering the bread, I put the butter in the pan as if I was doing French toast. Before flipping, I add more butter. I cover the sandwich with a pan lid until the cheese is perfectly melty. I have also used ghee instead of butter, and this is an excellent substitute.

Perfect Grilled Cheese.
(c)2021

Matzo ball soup. I use a box mix, which says to simmer for twenty minutes. I let it simmer for an hour, at least, sometimes longer. After the first half an hour, I’ll add baby carrots (fresh or frozen), some chives, and leave it until dinner time. Delicious.

Matzo Ball Soup.
(c)2021

Macaroni and Cheese. Kraft. The blue box. (The 7oz. one.) I use butter and not margarine and add milk for creaminess. I could eat this all day, every day, and I am the only one in my house who makes it right. (That’s not me saying it; that’s the rest of them.)

Macaroni and Cheese.
(c)2021

Fruit and Sour Cream. I don’t know when in childhood I started eating this, but it is delicious, and healthy, and comfort food at its best. I cut fresh fruit into pieces and put in a bowl, add sour cream, and that’s it! No sugar, no granola, no nothing; just fruit and sour cream. My favorite fruits to use are: bananas, strawberries, blueberries, peaches. It can be all or some, but the bananas are a must. (I have no idea why!)

Fresh Fruit with Sour Cream.
(c)2021

Soup’s On!

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For the last six Wednesdays, beginning with Ash Wednesday, my parish has been delivering soup weekly during Lent. Typically during Lent, they would have a noon Mass and then have a community soup lunch in the parish center, but since covid arrived last spring, this was their reaction to the cancelling: a limited delivery service for the remaining weeks of last year. In 2021, they started delivering right at the beginning.

It’s been a wonderful idea and example of works put into action. Every week, my family looks forward to seeing which soup is that week’s, and tasting something that we normally would not have made ourselves.

Since the kids are learning remotely, they are home to run outside when we hear the car in the driveway and bring in four soup-bowl sized containers filled with the steaming hot soup of the day along with four soft pieces of (usually sourdough) bread for dipping or spreading with butter on the side.

Every slurp of broth, every bite of fresh vegetables is a reminder of the greater community of the church. There are gatherings in the parish kitchen (covid protocols always in place), chopping, cooking, ladling, packaging, and delivering our midday bounty. And for us at home there is a brief respite from our individual remote workings to come together even for a moment for each of us to collect our containers, talk a minute about what kind of soup, and appreciate the greater community around us.

Creamy Vegetable Chowder, Hamburger Barley, Cheesy Potato & Corn Chowder, Tuscan White Bean, Rye bread, Corned Beef & Cabbage, and Chicken Pot Pie, Pastry round.
(c)2021

It is a time when all of us at home can come together to enjoy the offering midday, mid-week, mid-Lent. We share the same meal, unlike most lunches during the work and school day, and we ooh and aah as our taste buds come alive. A couple of times I was able to enjoy lunch with my kids when their lunches coincided with the delivery.

We find out that our parish cooks like pepper and/or garlic depending on the soup. In mid-March one of the soups that contained corn had the most delicious, crunchy kernels of corn. It tasted like summer corn and I savored every tiny bite. Chunks of tomato in the bean soup surprising me (in good ways) with its red broth rather than white. They were all delicious and filling and made for a wonderful, satisfying lunch. There was rye bread with the corned beef and cabbage soup and a cracker sized pie crust round to go with the chicken pot pie soup, both wonderful change-ups and delicious.

On the last day we received a cheerful card from the students in youth ministry. I’m already looking forward to next Lent and hoping that they do this again. I’m not ready to give up my weekly soup so I even made matzo ball soup on the weekend for Passover.

Card received from youth ministry.
(c)2021

I don’t have any of their recipes, but I’m sure varieties of them can be googled, so I will include the names of the weekly selections: Creamy Vegetable Chowder, Hamburger Barley, Cheesy Potato & Corn Chowder, Tuscan White Bean, Corned Beef & Cabbage, and Chicken Pot Pie.