Sunday, May 24, 2020

Settling In; Moving On

Hiking on Vancouver Island, with Physical Distancing

 I'm pleased to report that the revisions to my novel have been going very well recently. This is officially draft number 3. I've expanded the ending, added scenes, and tweaked characters. I've also slashed out a lot of stodgy prose -- adverbs, nominal phrases, redundancies, and the like. It's leaner and punchier. I've managed to cut 5,000 words, which is good, because it's too long.

Unfortunately, when I'm successfully working on my novels, my blog writing doesn't fare as well. So today, I'm taking some time out to post an update.

Pandemic Panic

Like so many others, I was quite calm about staying home and sheltering in place at first. It was an adventure -- a chance to cook new things and use up supplies in the back of the cupboard. "Staying at home for a couple of weeks: how hard can this be?" I said to myself.

But then, I found myself staring at the screen in horror as the death tolls mounted in Italy and Spain. I stayed up into the wee hours poring over corona virus statistics from John Hopkins University, Worldometer, CBC, and the BC Centre for Disease Control. I spent 3 to 5 hours online every day reading news articles, watching videos and live broadcasts, and tracking the statistics. I became a fan of Dr. Bonnie Henry, the top public health officer for BC, and watched her daily update without fail.

Will the Rain Never End?
It gradually dawned on me that we were in this for the long haul -- years, not weeks. I missed seeing my kids, grandchildren, and friends. I went through some pretty bleak weeks, made worse by a bout of cold rainy weather.

The five stages of grief and loss -- denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance -- I've been going through them all. 

You'd think that staying at home with everything wiped off my calendar would give me ample time for my creative pursuits, writing and painting, which I never seem to have enough time for. But no. For the first six weeks, I couldn't work on my novels. I couldn't seem to focus. I was too anxious. I had to spend all my time reading about the corona virus. 

Perhaps the fact that I'm writing a three-novel apocalyptic trilogy had something to do with it. It's a little creepy when bizarre things I made up and wrote about in my fictional tale have suddenly started happening in real life.  

Settling In 

It's now Day 69 for us. Tomorrow we'll hit the 10 week mark. 

We're starting to settle in. This is our life. We're getting used to it. 

(I'm writing this knowing, with immense gratitude, that I and my family have been extremely fortunate. We're fortunate to be living in BC, where wise Dr. Bonnie Henry has led the provincial epidemic response informed by science, and where the residents of the province have been very socially responsible in following public health guidelines. I'm fortunate to have not lost anyone in my social circle to the virus.)

Settling in means I'm getting comfortable with my life with its new, more restrictive parameters. I'm happy to have time to write, even though it's because so many of the other things I was doing have been put on hold. 

One of my friends said to me, looking a bit guilty as she said it, "I kind of like just staying home."


I'm moving on with my life (while adhering strictly to the public health guidelines). Yes, things are different now, but that doesn't mean my life is on hold. I'm adapting to the new circumstances.

One of the advantages of being 63 years old is that I've had lots of practice at this. No, not with pandemics, but with difficult, wrenching life changes. 

I've moved a lot. Every move has meant leaving behind friends, my home, my job, favourite restaurants, and favourite walking trails. 

I've had injuries that have impacted my mobility. There were times I thought I'd never ski again because of knee injuries. I've learned to ski differently. I once broke a bone in my foot that wouldn't heal. I was in a cast for four months. I wondered if I'd ever walk normally again. 

Keeping in Touch
I've lost beloved family members. Every time it was extremely painful. It felt as if my own life had ended. I grieved. I came to acceptance. Time kept going along, and once again I found joy. I've adapted to changes and I've had a wonderful life. 

Moving On

Living in the age of the novel corona virus means finding new ways to do things, and continue to live a satisfying, fulfilling life.

I've started texting with my grandsons on Messenger. They love playing with the photo options and other media features. 

We enjoyed a physically distanced Mother's Day picnic with my daughter's family.

Mother's Day Picnic
Before the physical distancing restrictions, I was very involved doing fundraising with my local chapter of Lions International. All of those initiatives have been suspended. 

However, our Lions club has been out with other community members cutting broom. Scotch broom is an invasive plant species that is a problem on Vancouver Island. 

We can stay apart but be together while we cut broom. 
Rob with Broom

Clematis in Bloom

I have spent a lot of time out working in my lovely garden. Although the weeds are endless and I'll never keep up with them, I've been enjoying my gardening time.

I have planted tomatoes, herbs and a few other things in containers on my deck.

The flowering shrubs bring joy. And I'm quite pleased with my little vegetable patch, tucked in amongst the decorative plantings. 

Veggie Garden
On the long weekend, Rob and I went on a beautiful hike around the point with my son and one of my daughters. We enjoyed time together while still observing public health restrictions.

My Son
My Daughter

Another way in which we have adapted is that Rob and I are going for more walks together. To celebrate our recent anniversary, we picked up take-out sushi and ate it at a picnic table in the park. Then we went for a lovely walk around the harbour.

Not Too Old for Selfies
Settling in, adapting, moving on -- a good life.

Saturday, May 2, 2020

Cooking My Way Through the Pandemic

First, a warning. Don't read this blog post right now if you're feeling hungry. 

Last Piece of Salmon (Caught by Rob)
Chicken Stuffed with Cheese & Sun-dried Tomato

Cooking and Me

I have always enjoyed cooking. It all started with baking. Somewhere in the family photo album, there's a picture of me around age 6 or 7 proudly displaying a cake I'd made in my Easy Bake Oven, a toy oven that was popular in the 1960's. My mom baked a lot, and she taught me to make cookies, cakes, and squares from scratch long before I took my one and only home economics class in Grade eight.

I helped with the cooking as a teenager, When I moved into my first apartment at age 20 after enduring three years of horrible university residence food, I embraced cooking and home meal planning with zest. I took a natural foods cooking course. "Natural foods" is what we called vegetarian cooking back in the 1970's, and the emphasis was on organic unrefined whole foods. I joined a food coop. I learned to make granola and bread. I went on to learn to preserve foods, and made a lot of jam, jelly, pickles, and canned fruit over the years.

Mom's Pie Crust Recipe in her Handwriting
My Cookbooks

I've collected a bookshelf full of cookbooks. As well, I have two thick folders of recipes that I've clipped out of newspapers, been given by friends, copied out by hand from somewhere, or developed myself and written down.

Most of the time these days, I invent meals as I cook them, without following a recipe. When I do use a recipe, I usually refer to one of my old standbys. Or, I look up recipes on the Internet and adapt them.

This past year, I lost enthusiasm for cooking. I don't know why, but I became bored with it. Except for a brief flurry of cooking around Christmas, when my son and two of my brothers came to stay with us for a few days, and when I volunteered to plan a community Christmas dinner for 60 people and cook it with the help of my service club, our meals became rather ho-hum.

The pandemic changed all that. Over the past six weeks I have been cooking and creating all manner of things in the kitchen. The photos above of the baked salmon and of the stuffed chicken breasts are two examples of my cooking efforts.

Turkey For Two

When Easter came along this year, I felt sad. Usually we have a big family dinner. We all get together and visit and feast. Our service club hosts an Easter Egg Hunt for the community, which my grandsons love to participate in. But, as we were sheltering in place, we couldn't be with our family to follow our usual tradition.

I decided to make turkey for our Easter dinner anyways, just for the two of us. I purchased the smallest turkey I could find and stuffed it and roasted it.

Roast Turkey
When you look at the photo, don't be fooled by the bare drumsticks. It might have been the juiciest, most delicious turkey I've ever made.

Turkey Dinner for Two

Turkey Dinner Close-up
Rob Adds Gravy
Turkey Pie
Two Berry Pies

I baked two mixed berry pies, one for us and one for my daughter's family. We did a pie drop-off the day before Easter. Perhaps we couldn't all spend the day together, but at least they had dessert for their Easter dinner. This pie has previously made an appearance here.

Of course we couldn't eat the whole turkey, so I froze much of the meat, and the bones for stock. This week, I used some of the frozen turkey meat to make a turkey pie. I still have lots left for soup.

Indian Curries

Last week, I also made a vegetarian chick pea and vegetable curry. The next day, we ate the rest of the vegetable curry along with some homemade chicken korma. A couple of years ago, my step-daughter gave me a great little cookbook, pictured below. I invested in some good Indian spices and learned to make my curries from scratch.
Curry Cookbook
Chicken Korma, Vegetable Curry, & Rice

Last Words

Rob is an appreciative diner, and therefore a delight to cook for. He cooks sometimes too. He likes to make pancake breakfasts for us on weekends.

Devil's Food Cake
Just in case you're not yet hungry, I've included a picture of a devil's food chocolate cake. I originally got the recipe from a community cookbook and have been making it for 55 years.

Hopefully, my desire to cook will still be with me when we're finally able to have guests for dinner again.