Dispatches From Home: Day 3, Part 1

I should have known when I woke up this morning that this was going to be a weird day, because my hair looked like this, and it NEVER looks like this:

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The universe, as we all seem to be learning the hard way recently, answers to no one. It doesn’t care about your plans or hopes for the future.

As of this morning, I’m no longer working. There wasn’t much work to do anyway; every event for the next several months has either been cancelled or postponed. I saw it coming, so I wasn’t surprised, but I hadn’t fully reckoned with the prospect of being stuck indoors while time stretched on blankly before me.

In any case, I don’t have a choice in the matter, so here we are. Maybe I’ll spend some time learning to curl my hair like this on purpose.

Dispatches From Home: Day 2

Today is Sunday, day 2 of our voluntary stay-at-home-ness, though I’ve been home since Thursday afternoon, so this is technically day 3.5. But who’s counting? (Haha.)

I’ve now watched several videos of Italians on their balconies singing together from across piazzas. (My favourite was this performance of Rihanna’s “Bitch Better Have My Money.”) Our balcony looks out over a thicket of trees and, beyond it, Eglinton Avenue, where there are barely any cars on the road. I can’t see a single other person from here. Note to self: teach Adrian some Rihanna songs.

Instead of asking ourselves what we’d like to do today, we’re wondering what we can do today. I wrote my grandma a long email after seeing on the news that Quebec has asked every person over the age of 70 not to leave their homes at all. My grandma, who lives in an apartment in Montreal, is 99 and a half (!!!), so I spent a couple of hours drinking coffee and sorting through photos to include with my message. Here are a few of the shots I emailed over:

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With my grandma and sister in 1988
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With my grandparents & my older brother in 1986
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Graduating from high school in 2002

We went for a quick walk around the block today, touching nothing, approaching no one. On the sidewalk, we saw a few people out with their dogs. The park across the street, which we avoided, was jam-packed full of kids playing basketball. The grocery store parking lot was full. We hurried home.

Here’s what I’ve read or watched today:

“Can I Sub This For That?”: An Almost Comprehensive Answer (Bon Appétit)

Learning to correctly sub ingredients is an important skill at any time, but particularly during this time.

Coronavirus Risk Doesn’t Stop at Your Front Door (The Atlantic)

It is relatively easy to avoid large gatherings and not shake hands with or hug strangers; it is another thing entirely to not hug our families, pick up our children, kiss our spouse first thing in the morning. To notice and eliminate all the small and nearly invisible touches with the people with whom we are closest is as difficult as not touching one’s own face.

Sourdough Bread | Basics with Babish feat. Joshua Weissman (YouTube)

Let’s all make sourdough starters and bake bread together and stay inside and be happy.

The Korean clusters: How coronavirus cases exploded in South Korean churches and hospitals (Reuters)

Don’t be patient 31.

 

Dispatches From Home: Day 1

Today is our first full day spent entirely at home, implementing the social distancing measures recommended by the government.

It’s also Saturday. We usually spend most of the weekend at home anyway, but it’s weird to have no choice in the matter. We keep starting sentences and trailing off midway, suddenly remembering our circumstances: “we should go get croissants,” one of us will say, or “we should go run this errand,” and then, slightly deflated, “or not.” All our favourite little non-activities, now on hold indefinitely.

Like many, we are staying home. Neither of us are sick, and I intend to keep it that way. And, as the TV keeps telling us, we are helping reduce the strain on the healthcare system and keeping the community safe. All by doing nothing! It seems unlikely, yet here we are. I’m vaguely comforted by the thought of millions of other people across the country, the continent, the world, all asking the same questions: “what should we make for dinner?” or “what should we watch on Netflix tonight?” Life moves forward, minus the parts we used to spend outdoors.

For now.

So, Saturday: we make coffee, we watch YouTube videos, we work out in the living room. I make a chicken stew that’ll be even better after it chills overnight. Adrian sharpens my chef’s knife for me, and the repetitive swooshing of the blade against the stone makes me feel calmer. I watch lots of Instagram Stories.

We’re having nachos for dinner. Our movie pick for tonight has yet to be determined, but if I have my way, it’ll be a) animated and b) in no way connected to reality. Maybe Disney’s Hercules. (I’ve been talking about Hercules all week long.) Tomorrow, we will get up and do this again.

Here’s what I’ve read or watched today:

Wuhan Today: Disinfecting Epicentre City (YouTube)

How do you disinfect a city five times the size of London?

P.J. Vogt on Reply All’s Instantly Legendary Episode (Vulture)

DO NOT read this until you’ve listened to the episode first! It will absolutely take your mind off the state of the world for one glorious hour.

We’re Not Going Back to the Way Life Was Before (Slate)

The O.J. Simpson trial helped tank the popularity of daytime soap operas. The New York transit strike of 1980 is credited with prompting several long-term changes in the city, including bus and bike lanes, dollar vans, and women wearing sneakers to work. The 1918 flu pandemic prompted the development of national health care in Europe.

A City of Bodies (The Cut)

I felt resourceful as I gathered these items, mentally narrating their irrefutable practicality, unsure whether my husband would view my behavior as alarmist. I picked up some not-yet-strictly-necessary toilet paper. Everywhere there were Clorox wipes. I picked up Clorox wipes. I brought my purchases home. Surfaces, I thought, swabbing doorknobs and light switches. I felt newly aware that my doorknobs and light switches existed in a default state of filth — cleaning them now felt like an inadequate response to all the filth that came before and would come after. But, still. Why not?

 

To Be Afraid

In January 1998, when I was 12 years old, Montreal was hit with a major ice storm. We were just about to go back to school after Christmas break when the storm swept through town, depositing up to 4 inches of ice on every surface and leaving massive destruction in its wake. It caused billions of dollars in damage across Ontario, Quebec, Atlantic Canada, and the Northeastern United States, and many people and animals unfortunately died. It was, as you might say, a whole thing.

But, like I said, I was 12. I wasn’t an anxious kid yet; that came later. I didn’t know to be afraid of things yet. I didn’t know that the world grinding to a halt meant that something bad was happening. To me, an ice storm of this magnitude spelled out every kid’s two favourite words: school closures. Continue reading “To Be Afraid”

Vacation, All I Ever Wanted

There were so many things I wanted to do before going on vacation — get a manicure, take out American cash, buy a tube of sunscreen that wasn’t expired — and then I came down with a cold, spent three straight days on the couch, and now I’m leaving without having done half the things on my list. Life will not end, the world will continue to turn, but the anxiety I get when I leave things unfinished is like a vice that squeezes every good thought out of my brain and replaces it with dread.

“This is not a good time for me to take a vacation.” That’s what I’ve been saying, for weeks, to anyone who will listen. “The timing is so bad! Is it even a vacation if I’m going to be stressed the whole time?” But vacation waits for no one. The last time I took any significant time off was eight months ago and it shows; I’ve spent the last few weeks staring blankly at my work emails like, you want me to what now? It’s time to go away for a while.

The timing is bad, of course. We’re short-handed at work and everything feels overwhelming. I have always struggled with this sort of indispensability complex, wherein I’ve convinced myself that my presence is required or everything will grind to a halt (I’m sure there’s a term for this, leave it in the comments if you know it), to the point where I feel guilty if I take an hour off in the middle of the day to go to physio to fix a tear in my knee. That feeling like I’m bound to my work means I probably come off as extremely productive, while inside I’m actually an extremely miserable person who scowls at crying babies on the train because I’m too tired to have any patience at all.

Regardless of whether or not the timing sucks, my vacation is happening: it’s today, it’s right now. I didn’t forget my passport, and everything else is expendable: the things that I didn’t do before I left will get done another time, or — more likely — they will turn out to be unimportant and I’ll have forgotten about them by the time I get back. Vacation, had to get away.

Things I Read This Week: May 12, 2017

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How was your week (and weekend)? I had big plans to enjoy the sunshine yesterday, but instead I ended up binge-watching Master of None season 2 and I have no regrets. Here’s what I’ve been reading:

Apartment Therapy – A Travel Editor’s Soothing San Francisco Sanctuary
We bought a grey sofa last week and now I’m thinking that the logical next step is to replicate the living room pictured above piece-for-piece. I especially love that rug!

GQ – Dwayne Johnson for President!
Is there a reality series about Dwayne Johnson in the works yet, or is he too busy making what seems like seventy movies a year? Because I would watch that very, very much.

The New Yorker – I Work From Home
Oh, it’s just too real.

Flare – “Even When I Was Only Eating Three Apples a Day, I Knew I Was Too Big”
This interview with Victoire Dauxerre (former model and the author of Size Zero: My Life as a Disappearing Model) is a worthwhile look at the toxic ideals of beauty prevalent in the world of high fashion. France has introduced laws that ban fashion houses from using “excessively thin” models and require ads and magazines to add a “photographie retouchée” (retouched photograph) label any Photoshopped image, but it’s going to take a long time for the culture of modelling to change in a significant way.

Bon Appetit – Ina Garten Microwaves Her Oatmeal; Continues to Remain Perfect Anyway
“After breakfast, I always go for a walk on the beach from 8 to 9. It’s a great way to start the day.” Preach, Ina. This sounds like a really good way to become a morning person.

Things I Read This Week: May 5, 2017

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How was your week? Happy Cinco de Mayo! Here’s what I’ve been reading:

Bon Appetit – The 5 Best New Sandwiches in America
I NEED this lox sandwich (above) from Philly Style Bagels. Anyone up for a road trip to Philadelphia?

GQ – Brad Pitt Talks Divorce, Quitting Drinking, and Becoming a Better Man
“The terrible thing is I tend to run things into the ground. That’s why I’ve got to make something so calamitous. I’ve got to run it off a cliff.” Wow, this is … so much.

Extra Crispy – What Happens When You Drink Too Much Coffee
Spoiler alert: it’s not pretty.

The Atlantic – The Fear of Feelings at Work
This is so interesting: “Negative emotions can help us in the workplace to be more effective thinkers, to dig into the facts of what may go wrong. To mandate that we should just be positive at work takes away from the idea that emotions have evolved to help us adapt.”

Food & Wine – Ultimate Cinco de Mayo Guide
Celebrate Mexican culture with recipes for all the drinks, cakes, and (of course) tacos you could ever hope for.

No-Knead Bread for Beginners

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It’s Mental Health Week! Seeing as baking is proven to be good for your mental health, I wanted to celebrate by sharing one of my favourite baking recipes: No-Knead Bread.

Like most novice bakers, I thought making bread would be too difficult to master. The stakes seemed much higher than they did for cookies or quick breads. I was afraid of failing after dedicating so much time to making a loaf of bread, so I avoided it. But as my baking skills improved over the years, I wanted to try something more challenging. Enter no-knead bread.

The recipe I’ve shared below is a mash-up of other recipes, namely Mark Bittman’s recipe from the New York Times, Mark Bittman’s recipe from How to Bake Everything (which has different proportions), and The Kitchn’s no-knead bread recipe. My first few loaves had problems (too gummy, too bland, unsatisfactory crust), so in an obsessive quest to resolve these issues, I turned bread into a science experiment.

This is my recipe for no-knead bread. I have baked this bread repeatedly and adjusted the recipe to suit my idea of what a perfect loaf looks and tastes like. That’s the cool thing about bread: it’s part science experiment, part magic. The slightest adjustments can yield different results. It’s all good, though; in the end, you have bread.

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You can make delicious bread, too. No-knead bread isn’t difficult, and you don’t need any fancy equipment, but it does take time; this recipe will take 22-24 hours from start to finish. Most of that time is hands-off, obviously, but if you’re baking bread for a specific occasion, be sure to start your dough early enough to avoid disappointment! If you put a batch of dough together before you go to bed tonight, you can have this bread for dinner tomorrow.

And finally, remember to trust and believe. This yields a very wet, slack dough that may look different from what you may have seen elsewhere. As long as your yeast is working (you’ll be able to see and smell it), then you’re on the right track. Don’t give up!

Continue reading “No-Knead Bread for Beginners”

Things I Read This Week: April 28, 2017

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How was your week? Buds appeared on all the trees seemingly overnight and May is just around the corner, so I think it’s finally safe to say this: it’s springtime. Here’s what I’ve been reading:

Bon Appetit – Grilled Steak Salad with Beets and Scallions
I’ve made variations of this salad before, and it’s always delicious. Use a mixture of greens you like, and go for skirt steak if you can find it — despite its reputation as a tough cut, skirt steak is really tender when cooked to medium-rare and cut against the grain, plus it’s usually less expensive per pound than strip steak.

Saveur – The Real Reason Chinatown Produce is Crazy Cheap
Hint: it has nothing to do with subpar produce. Thanks to low overhead and their proximity to distribution warehouses, Chinatown produce vendors are able to pass on savings to their customers, as well as offer a wider selection of fruits and vegetables that are difficult to find elsewhere. Bring a reusable bag and experiment with produce you’ve never tried before!

The Guardian – The Ungrateful Refugee: ‘We Have No Debt to Repay’
A great read for anyone looking to get a more nuanced understanding of the challenges refugees face when arriving in a new country.

Racked – Princess for a Day, Disney Bride for Life
“The ceremony begins at 10 a.m. on a Wednesday morning, because Disney weddings happen ’round-the-clock … Brides and brave-faced loved ones arise as early as 3 a.m. to begin hair and makeup prep, employing glam squads whose typical call-times occur in the middle of the night. The guests, too, rise promptly — weddings that take place inside Disney’s Florida theme parks begin two hours before regular parkgoers enter, which means they can start as early as 7:30 a.m., or two hours after parks close.” This is next-level commitment.

Extra Crispy – Why Baking Is Good for Your Mental Health
File under “articles to refer to next time someone asks me why I’m baking yet another loaf of bread.”