Category Archives: 2020

Dangly

Pre-pandemic I used to go to two craft shows a year in the Twin Cities – one on the State Fair grounds and one out at the Shakopee race track.  Hard to believe but with 40 vendors or so each, there wasn’t much duplication.  Except for Craft Fantastic.  They sell the makings for jewelry and they always have an inexpensive “make `n take” at each show. You start by choosing a piece of artwork, then you glue a glass tile on top of it.  After the glue dries, you trim off the excess and stick your tile onto a tray.  Then if you want a necklace on which to hang your goodie, they’ll give you one and if you want more components for other jewelry, they certainly have those as well.  I’m sure at some point I signed up for their emails but I don’t remember seeing them before pandemic. 

I have at least 10 of these necklaces from over the years although I don’t wear them often.  I like rings and I adore earrings, not as big a fan of necklaces and bracelets.

The emails started to seep into my consciousness a few months into pandemic.  Every month or so, they offer a “weekend designer” kit.  It is all the items you need to make a variety of things – usually in a theme.  I’m having a hard time keeping away from these, especially the earring collections.  They must be assuming that folks are making and selling these items because each kit makes WAY more than anyone needs.  I have given away quite a few pairs of earrings, necklaces and bracelets but that still leaves me with at least 30 more pairs of earrings than I had at the beginning of pandemic (and believe me when I say, I already had way too many earrings at the beginning of pandemic).  All dangly.  Chinese New Year earrings, Fourth of July earrings, Valentine earrings, Winter/Christmas earrings, Halloween earrings and then a large assortment of floral patterns.  Did I mention that they are all dangly?

I’m trying to cut back – most of the emails get deleted without being opened – but every now and then I spot a kit that is a little different than a kit I’ve had before.  I’m hoping that now I’ve made earrings for all the major holidays, I won’t be tempted.  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

What would you want buried with you so you could use it in the afterlife?

Duolingo

You all know I love my lists.  Last year when I got furloughed it took me a month to realize that I needed some routine in my days.  It was more challenging than I had expected to fill up approximately 10 hours a day, five times a week, especially since we weren’t supposed to be leaving the house.

I decided to use a daily list and to work on some new habits while I was at it: more fruits/veggies, drink more water, kitchen floor (yes, it REALLY needed serious cleaning), front porch (we’re scrapping old paint off the stucco), creeping Charlie.  The kitchen floor eventually got spectacularly clean, I got better at fruits/veggies and water, creeping Charlie…. well you know how it goes with creeping Charlie.  It was a relaxing part of my day to cross off things that I had accomplished. 

After about a month of furlough, I decide to re-start my work on Italian.  I had started about a year before, using a free app on my phone (Duolingo) but had let it slide after several months.  When I got back online, I started at the beginning even though the app remembered where I had been.  And I decided that I would keep each day’s lesson short; if I set a goal of too many minutes, I knew it might de-rail me. 

Yesterday after the first part of my lesson (I do two lessons a day), I got a blip saying I had hit 365 straight days… an entire year of working on my Italian every day.  I even did my lessons when YA and I went to San Diego in August – the app is on my phone, so easy peasy.   Of all the things on my various lists over the last year, this is the only thing that I have consistently done every single day.  It’s an amazing feat, even to me.  Of course, at ten minutes a day, I’m not blazing any linguistic trails, but if you want to know about elephants drinking water, I’m your gal (Gli elefanti bevono l’acqua)!

Do you have a routine you’re consistent with?  That’s you’d LIKE to be consistent with?

Open & Shut

Shouldn’t be a surprise to me that after a year plus of pandemic, businesses are feeling it.  As I drive about my neighborhood, I see that a few businesses have bitten the dust:  FedEx Kinko’s and Wax City at the Hub are gone as well as Old Country Buffet and my dog-training place, Canine College.

But it’s heartening to see that new folks are still willing to try starting up business in their places.  This morning I see that the Old Country Buffet is becoming a “Million’s Crab” – looks like the first one in the Twin Cities.  And Wax City is being replaced by “The Archery Cosmetic Tattoo”.  I was a little excited about the tattoo place until I realized it’s all about eyebrows and other cosmetic stuff – no skulls or motorcycle gang graphics!  I can’t wait to see what’s going into the FedEx storefront.  The dog-training place is still sitting empty; I can’t imagine what kind of restoration the owner would have to do to that building to make it palatable to anybody else.  I have a small (probably irrational) hope that maybe Canine College might be able to come back.

This is just in my small corner of the world but I’m assuming it’s same elsewhere.  I’m torn; it’s sad that businesses have failed but I’m glad there is enough hope out there that new businesses are opening.  Now if I could just get a bagel shop to open up within walking distance of my house!

Anything business that you valued gone under?  Anything new opening up near you?  What would you LIKE to open up near you?

Anticipation

A good friend of mine said once I should put “In a relationship” as my Facebook status.  When I was surprised and asked with whom I was having this relationship, she said “your library account”.  Ha ha.  But, of course, she’s right.  I know my library card number by heart and I probably check my account three or four times a week.  To keep myself from having way too many books checked out at once, I have half of my Hold list on pause so that needs curating as well.  And it’s also fun to watch those popular books with long waitlists as they creep slowly towards being available.

In the fall of 2019, someone at a party mentioned a new cookbook written by Dan Buettner called The Blue Zones Kitchen.  I’ve read three of his other books, 2 of them about the Blue Zones (particularly happy/healthy places in the world) so I went to my library account and requested the cookbook.  There were about 580 people in line ahead of me and not a huge number of copies; I figured it would take a few months to get, but I wasn’t in a hurry.

Then pandemic descended upon us.  The first thing was that the libraries all closed down.  Then during the summer they started lending again, but you couldn’t actually go in the library.  Now you can go into the building but you can’t hang out.  You’re supposed to “grab `n go”.  Hand in hand with all these changes is that due dates for books just keep pushing back and back.  Except for downloadable audiobooks, nothing ever seems to come due anymore. 

So as the months went by, I saw The Blue Zones Kitchen languishing on my Holds list, barely moving.  In the fall of 2020, about a year after I put it on my Hold list, the library purchased a few more copies, so I was a bit more hopeful.  On this past Monday, after 18 months, I got an email that the library was holding a copy for me. 

My patience paid off – it’s actually a very nice cookbook and I think I may actually purchase a copy for myself.  In the meantime, I’m going to make this recipe:

Melia Family Minestrone

7 Tbsp. olive oil

1 yellow or white onion, chopped

2 medium carrots, chopped

2 medium celery stalks, chopped

2 tsp. minced garlic

1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes

3 medium yellow potatoes, peeled & diced

1 ½ c. chopped fennel bulbs, stalks & fronds

1/4 c. chopped parsley

2 Tbsp. chopped basil

½ c. dried & peeled fava beans (or 15-oz can)

½ c. dried cranberry beans (or 15-oz can)

½ c. dried chickpeas (or 15-oz can)

      (If using dried beans, soak overnight)

6-8 c. water or vegetable stock

2/3 c. Sardinian fregula, Israeli couscous or acini di pepe pasta

½ tsp. salt

½ tsp. black pepper

  1. Warm 3 Tbsp. olive oil in large soup pot or Dutch oven.
  2. Add the onion, carrots, celery and cook until soft.  Add garlic and cook until fragrant
  3. Stir in tomatoes, potatoes, fennel, parsley and basil, drained beans and chickpeas.  Add enough water/stock so that all the veggies are covered.
  4. Bring to boil and then simmer slowly, uncovered, until beans are tender, about 1 ½ hours.  If using canned beans, simmer for only 10 minutes.
  5. Stir in pasta, salt and pepper.  Add up to 2 cups of water/stock if the soup seems too dry.  Simmer for 10 more minutes until pasta is tender.
  6. Pour 1 Tbsp. olive oil into bowl before serving.

Have you ever waited a long time for something?  Was it worth it?

The Little Guys

This Saturday, April 24, is Independent Bookstore Day – which I’ve written about here before – five years ago now (!) https://trailbaboon.com/2016/04/27/indie-bookstore-day/ .

We have a little bookstore here in Winona called Paperbacks and Pieces. It’s mostly a paperback exchange except for one corner of new books, and a shelf of popular new titles that you can rent. They will do special orders for individuals and book clubs. Pre-pandemic, they hosted author signings (including our Chris from Owatanna!), local speakers, and occasional local group meetings. Spring and Fall would bring a huge Sidewalk Sale – actually in the side street which was closed off for the occasion.  They’ve been everything I want in a local, independent shop. P & P recently changed owners, but I have no doubt they’ll continue in this same vein.  The other local bookstore (not counting Target & Walmart) is downtown, Chapter 2 Books – used and vintage books, CDs, DVDs – which I also try to support; different vibe, and they have a wonderful cat.

The Big Box retailers did awfully well in the past year, according to this August 2020 article from the New York Times .  As we come out of isolation, I know some of our favorite places – restaurants, coffee shops, small independent businesses like hardware stores – have already gone under. A lot of the remaining ones are struggling to survive, hungry for customers as we start to open up again. I occasionally notice on Facebook posting for one of these places, and share them when I can – like this one for Swede Hollow Café in St. Paul, where I loved to go when I lived in the Cities.

Do you have any favorite small businesses in your vicinity that you will support, as we “open up” from isolation?

Have any of your favorites disappeared with the pandemic (or before)?

Pi Day – Not!

NO I DIDN’T HAVE A PARTY WITHOUT YOU GUYS!!  PHOTO IS FROM TWO YEARS AGO – SENT TO ME BY A FRIEND.

One year ago on the day before Pi Day, I read an online column in which I saw the “flatten the curve” phrase for the first time. Even though only one person had told me that they were going to skip the Pi Day party due to covid-19.  But after reading that column, I realized that I needed to get onboard immediately and I started calling and texting people, letting them know I was cancelling.

Like everyone else, I was thinking that we’d have a couple of bad months and then get back on track, so I kept all my Pi Day organizational materials: the list of ingredients that I had bought (and hopefully wlll need to buy again), my timing spreadsheet with what time various pies have to go in the oven and what temperature they need (sorted by temperature, of course) and the little placecards with all the pie names.  All these items are in the drawer in the living room and I see them occasionally and sigh.  And now it’s been a second Pi Day with no festivities in the house. 

Not entertaining has been a huge hit for me during pandemic.  I entertain a lot and I miss it a lot.  You all know that I try to keep my expectations low, so I’m hoping that I’ll eventually be able to have Pi Day fun at my place, but I’m not making plans.  And that’s made me think about other changes that I’ve made that may or may not be permanent. 

I am spending WAY more time texting and emailing than I used to.  I’m spending way too much time farting around on my phone.  I’m doing my Italian lesson (also on my phone) every day – I’m on a 310 day streak and I doubled my lesson time about 4 months back.  For the first time in decades I am hitting the gym more than 12 times a month (masked, sanitized and socially distant).  Pre-pandemic I used to follow several blogs, a couple of chefs, several science sites, husky dogs; I’ve quit following all of them and only occasionally check them out – usually if they pop up in my feed.  Last summer I sent thank you cards to people with great gardens that I encountered while walking the dog.  I’ve started sending birthday cards to people on a Facebook group of stampers – complete strangers and I increased the cards that I made for charity.  Way more gardening and more jigsaw puzzles.

I don’t which of these habits will continue if and when we get past pandemic.  I hope to keep all the good changes (reaching out)  and jettison the bad ones (phone games) and I hope like heck that I eventually get to celebrate Pi Day with my friends and loved ones.  Maybe Pi and a Half Day? 

How has pandemic changed you?  Do you think some of your changes will continue?

I’m Not Hoarding – I Swear

I hate buying toilet paper.  It’s just irritating to cough up cash for something that ends up being flushed away.  The fact that it’s constant doesn’t help and I make it worse by not liking most of the conventional tp.  My preferred is Seventh Generation, which I purchase at my co-op.  It’s unbleached and comes individually wrapped in paper, not plastic. 

I’m not a Costco/Sams kind of person – I don’t have storage space for huge quantities – but for years I have purchased my tp by the case from the co-op.  48 rolls at a time for a huge chunk of change – but this means I only have to be irritated every 10 months or so.  We keep the case at the top of the attic steps and bring down rolls to the bathroom when we need them. 

When toilet paper first became the cause celebre last year, I wasn’t worried; we had plenty.  Or so I thought.  As the spring and summer came and went, I watched our supply dwindle.  Unfortunately, by the time we started to run low, the co-op had suspended bulk orders and for several months I was having to pick up tp on a regular basis.  You’d think I had better things to get irritated about, but you’d be wrong.  As if that weren’t enough, the co-op quit getting the Seventh Generation and what they were carrying didn’t last as long per roll.  Crazy making.

Two weeks ago, just for jollies, I asked somebody at the co-op’s Customer Service desk when bulk orders would be re-instated.  They called the manager out and they said I could again order tp by the case.  Even though I wasn’t crazy about what was available from the co-op, I figured that the lack of irritation would make it OK.  Then about an hour later, they called me from the co-op; the stuff they now carry comes in case lots of 96, not 48.  That would make the price tag close to $200.  Aaarrrggghhhh.  I told them not to place the order.

As I was explaining this to YA, she started banging away on her phone.  “You know, you can get a case of the Seventh Generation at Amazon.”  Calm as could be.  I looked at her phone and confirmed that it was exactly what I wanted, and unbelievably cheaper, than what I used to pay at the co-op.  An additional benefit is that I didn’t have to worry about anybody looking at me funny for getting a case of toilet paper during pandemic.  So now we have the tp I like best and I don’t have to get all worked up and buying more until Solstice!

Is there anything you like to have in bulk (or used to like to have in bulk….)?

a new year – hopefully

YA and I ordered take out from our favorite Chinese Restaurant over the weekend.  I set the table nicely with red plates, chopstick holders and even lucky red envelopes (with chocolate coins).  But our only guest this year was Nimue, who made herself at home on the table. 

This completes my year of no festivities.  Last year I was all ready for Pi Day when the world turned upside down.  I had all the ingredients for my pies, had a to-do list of what needed to be done in what order, including baking times and temperatures.  I even had little placecards done with the names of all the pies.  Then on Friday, the day before, I had to cancel; the pandemic had arrived at our door.

Since Pi Day, there have been several other occasions when, during “normal times” I would have entertained: my Girlfriend High Tea in May, our neighborhood Memorial Day gathering, a new neighbor welcome party in June, my birthday bash in August, Leaf Pile in October and, of course, the Great Gift Exchange at Solstice.  This list doesn’t include book club meetings or other breakfasts/lunches/dinners with individuals.  I would have always said that I entertain a lot but when everything is listed out like this, I realize that it’s an enormous part of my life.

So now that we’ve celebrated Chinese New Year on our own, we’ve come full circle.  Unfortunately there won’t be a gathering for Pi Day this year either, but I am hoping we can do a Pi and a Half Day in September.  Fingers crossed. 

What’s the most interesting party you’ve ever been to?

Hoarding Grapenuts

I am ashamed to admit it. This weekend I bought a box of Grapenuts when I didn’t need it.  I was hoarding.  It is all the fault of a recent news story that the Post company was having a hard time keeping up with demand for Grapenuts.  People are apparently snarfing them down at an increased rate due to staying home so much.  There is only one manufacturing plant for the cereal. It seems to require specialized manufacturing equipment on which the the Post company has a patent.  There have apparently been Grape nut shortages across the country,  and people are upset.

I don’t eat much cold cereal, but Grapenuts with milk and some golden raisins or currants are a big comfort food for me.  I shudder at the lurid colors of the cereals I ate as a child at the urging of commercials on Saturday  morning.

What were your favorite cereals as a child?  What would you hoard if you thought there might be a shortage?

Hunkering Down

It is supposed to get bitterly cold here this weekend. Husband and I bought all the groceries we imagined needing for Saturday and Sunday on Friday night,  and plan to hunker down, going out only on Sunday morning when we have to sing in the church choir.  If there were more of us we would stay home, but a six voice choir can’t function with two missing members.

We have all been isolated for the last ten months, but there is something strangely satisfying being at home because of the weather. Snow days are wonderful,  in my memory.  It is when my mother made waffles from scratch.

What are some of your favorite snow  day or bad weather day memories? How do you like to “Hunker down”?