Saturday, May 30, 2020

Summer Time is Coming

As we enter the last weekend of May, I am looking forward to summertime. I'm not sure that it will feel much different than the last several weeks for the most part, but it is nice to finally be getting back to some more normal things.

As a family, we went out to lunch yesterday and ate at the restaurant, inside because of the rain. It sounds like a small thing but it has probably been almost 3 months since the last time we went out to eat as a family. It was nice to to relax and just hang out.

This past week both kids returned school books and empty out their lockers. The school year is officially over. Online learning was okay at best. It was nice that several teachers would post a recording of the learning. It gave them the opportunity to watch the lesson on demand, on their schedule. I don't know that my kids did it but it also gave them the chance to rewatch the lesson if there was a question or something confusing. I think though that I would have liked them to do the lesson live in an interactive classroom space - like they do at school - where the kids can ask questions and the teacher can get real time feedback on how well the group was responding to the lesson. They all had office hours but they were not always at convenient times and some overlapped. As an example, math classes all had their office hours, a live chat space, from 8 - 9 am. The kids would need to watch the current lesson before the office hours or use the office hours for the last lesson, which was not always convenient. In addition, since all the math class office hours were at the same time, if you had multiple math classes (my son had two), you likely could only get to one or the other. Unfortunately, several teachers didn't do online lessons, video or live. They simply relied on the kids reading the book and shared some notes. I also feel like the lack of classroom discussion was a loss. How many times as a kid did you pick up on something based on what a classmate shared. Whether discussing a classic like Great Gatsby or asking a question about a chemical reaction, sometimes hearing it posed by someone else helps you process or clarify it for yourself. And then for activity driven classes, there was again a loss of opportunity. For my son, we boiled eggs for different lengths as a chemistry experiment but that was really the only experiment that the class did the last 12 weeks of school. I would have expected more labs as part of a chemistry class. And for my daughter, who was in Family and Consumer Sciences the last quarter of the school year, she missed out on so much. They normally make a drawstring bag but with stores on limited operation and most students not having access to a sewing machine, the pattern was simply shared if they wanted to try it. For the kitchen half, the lessons were limited. She made a dish with an egg (souffles for her), a bowl of fruit salad and a vegetable. She still learned from the videos her teacher would post but they normally make so much more in class. The other gap was the absence of spring sports, spring dances, lunch room socialization, after school socialization on the bus or the walk, and so much more together time with fellow students. It is a unique experience that has impacted my kids and something that they will remember always but I do hope that we can return to classroom learning in the fall for the benefit of all students.

Baseball season is restarting for my son. He had three practices this last week and we have games next weekend. I have missed the families and the experience of being at games. It will definitely not be the season we had planned - the boys didn't have their high school season and had limited access to facilities so mostly had to keep in shape on their own. We have already learned that one tournament was being rescheduled which caused the team to drop out of that tournament and pick up another one. Many schools are not opening their fields so there is a scramble to locate fields for games. In the youth program locally, several kids have dropped out (not sure if it is concern, the change in timing for the season or some other factor). I am happy to have baseball back and hope that it is as near normal as possible.

I continue with my daily walks and have done at least 30 minutes (usually closer to 50 minutes lately) each day for the past 77 days (today marks 78 but I haven't gotten out yet). It has been a great way to stay active but also a chance to 'get away', let my mind unwind and destress and a chance to relax and soak in nature and sunshine (and rain on occasion). I have easily 80+ pictures to illustrate the soaking in of nature - I have trees and flowers, blue skies and cloud formations, 'artsy' shots with puddles and capturing the droplets collected on the leaves. It has been nice. I do hope to continue the daily walk. We heard yesterday that the pool at our gym will open in just over a week for lap swimming only. I am very glad to hear that news and will try to get there 4 or 5 mornings each week and likely move my walks to later in the day when I do. I was at almost 100 miles swam since January when the pools were closed with the gyms almost 11 weeks ago. My goal is to complete the 100 mile challenge and then try for another 100 miles yet this year.

My schedule as a whole will be changing here in a couple of weeks. I was offered a job and accepted it (actually, was offered two but one required relocation). It is such a relief after 6 months of being unemployed to have a job lined up. Job seeking during closure was interesting. I did all of my interviewing from home - a mix of phone and video interviews. It will be even stranger starting a new job at a company that is (at least right now) still work from home. I will be doing remote onboarding and orientation. I will meet the team that I will be partnering with by phone. I should have ample opportunity to explore the software and learn about the products on my own. I am a people person though, so it will definitely be strange.

Made some bread last night and it was perhaps the best batch yet. This morning, I am trying a new cinnamon roll / muffin type recipe.

What have you been up to? How are things opening up where you are?


Thursday, May 21, 2020

Young Vines by James Russell Lingerfelt

No compensation was received for this review. All opinions expressed are my own or that of my family. A complimentary review copy was provided to me. 

This past week, I spent my evenings reading Young Vines by James Russell Lingerfelt. The book is the third one in the collection of books sharing about the lives of three college friends: Ryan, Oz and Finn. This third book features Ryan and is primarily set at his Grandmother's vineyard. You can read my reviews of The Mason Jar (featuring Finn) and Alabama Irish (featuring Oz) by clicking on each book's title. As with the other two books, each can be enjoyed on its own but if you have the chance, I would recommend reading all three.

Young Vines is a contemporary novel about life, love, loss and good friends. When Ryan learns that he has inherited his Grandma's vineyard, he reaches out to his friends to have them join him for a couple of days at the Vineyard - in part to have time together and in part to not face it alone. At its heart I think it was a love story and as with the other two books there is something so enticing about reading a love story from a guy's point of view, especially when written by a man. The vineyard is the perfect backdrop for Ryan to reflect on the memories of his time there with his Grandma and provides him a place to heal and prepare to move forward. Lingerfelt does a great job developing characters by using a mix of active story telling and reflection and his rich descriptions help bring the surroundings to life.

This book (really, the whole collection) would be a great addition to your library and makes a great summer read.

about the novel
Dr. Ryan Lockwood is known as a professor who deeply cares for his students. Having grown up as an orphan, he now serves as a literature professor at Pepperdine University, his old alma mater. Located in Malibu, California, Pepperdine holds some of his most treasured memories. It's where he dated and married his first love, and it's where he met his two best friends, Clayton "Finn" Fincannon (The Mason Jar) and Brian "Oz" Bailey (Alabama Irish).

Now, Ryan's on track to become the department Chair, a position he's dreamed of since graduate school. At just thirty-two years old, life couldn't be better. But when his wife passes away unexpectedly, and his grandmother follows soon after, Ryan falls into a deep depression.

His grandmother leaves him her vineyard in Tennessee, where Ryan spent his childhood summers. Since the estate hosts sell-out jazz concerts and the best wine in the southeast, Ryan plans to sell the estate to the highest bidder. But when he visits the vineyard, he meets Rachel Young, the twenty-five year old daughter of the vine dresser. Rachel is good-sensed, hard-working, and she's one of the prettiest women Ryan's ever encountered.

Ryan has sworn to never fall in love again, the vineyard is auctioned at three times it's value, and Pepperdine offers him his dream. Now, Ryan must make a decision: Return to his career and friends in California, or begin a new chapter in life with a young love in Tennessee.

A love story set among the beaches of Malibu, and the lakes and pastures of Tennessee, Young Vines teaches us that sometimes we must let go of old dreams to embrace new ones.



about the author

James Russell Lingerfelt is also the author of The Mason Jar and Alabama Irish.

Find James online: website, Facebook, Twitter

No compensation was received for this review. All opinions expressed are my own or that of my family. A complimentary review copy was provided to me.

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Eight Weeks

8 Weeks! For (over) 8 weeks, I have made an effort and taken a walk. It didn't matter the weather, I found a window with less rain or snow or put on an extra layer, and I found time to fit in a walk of at least 30 minutes every day. On nice days, it typically stretches to 45 or 50 minutes, but my official 'target' was to make time for at least 30 minutes. As a result, I have also managed to hit my daily step goal every day (but one where there was a tornado that touched down in town and we had to spend the last hour of the night in the basement and I missed my goal by 100 steps) for those same 8 weeks. One auto goal management, it adds around 10 to 20 steps most days but does add more if I have really exceeded my goal. Now that I have made it 8 weeks, I would like to continue to fit in a walk everyday. I would like the streak to be much longer. Some days when I walk, I find myself wishing I was done before I have even 10 minutes in; some days, I walk very leisurely; some days, I walk as if on a mission to beat my pace. My VivoFit tried to prevent from success with the screen display failing (checked by replacing the batteries a couple of times in case one of the sets was old) and then Amazon's lead time for a new Garmin was 2 weeks because they were focused on essential shipments. I learned to 'count' the pressing of the button to start and stop my workout and to get the VivoFit to sync. Fortunately, my replacement shipped sooner than expected. I actually upgraded my device and really enjoy some of the added features, like getting my messages on my watch.
8 Weeks! It has been 8 weeks since the kids last went to school in the classroom. It has been 8 weeks since the last sports practice or event. They seem to be adapting to at home learning but certainly miss the social aspects of school. They have found time most days to fit in a workout. My son has tried to mix up long toss, pitching, and hitting (off the tee, bp or live pitching). Yesterday was the senior's last day of school for the year. To celebrate, they organized a parade and drove their cars through most neighborhoods in town. It was awesome to watch and cheer them on. It made me tear up a bit to think about the things they were missing out on. Our school is hoping that by postponing prom, graduation and baccalaureate, that they will be able to do them in person...but still have a back up plan in place. At the same time, it was impressive to see them driving through with signs and tin cans, mortar boards and decorations on their cars. And, the support in the community - there were families at the end of their drives and roads, with noisemakers, signs or simply a wave to acknowledge the completion of the kids' senior year. I hope that they add this as a new tradition, and based on posts I have read, others feel the same way. The birthday parades too! We have one lining up outside our house right now. They are such fun. Love the gatherings but what another great way to acknowledge and help the birthday boy or girl celebrate.

8 Weeks! For 8 weeks, I have been trying new recipes and dishes. I hit the jackpot earlier this week when we were enjoying chicken and rice bowls for dinner...my son said that he thought that the bowls that night were even better than Chipotle! Boom! Mission accomplished. My goal is that home made versions of our favorite dishes are just a touch better than we eat out. Don't get me wrong, I love to eat out but for years have been doing my best to recreate family eating out favorites at home. I started using the 'Copycat' cookbooks but for many of the dishes I have been able to find my own way. I have had to reinvent a few when favorite ingredients become unavailable. We have enjoyed very good bread - it's not the same as some of the bread loaves we pick up at the store but it is very good. We have enjoyed several iterations of donuts. I found a good 30 minute donut recipe but an even better glazed yeast donut recipe. We have enjoyed homemade pizza and burgers on the grill. We have also done our part by ordering in from the local places that are just trying to get through this crazy time. We have bought beer from a couple of different local craft brewers that we love. We found out that outdoor dining can open next Friday and indoor the week after. We have already talked about where to go when outdoor dining is open.

8 Weeks! For 8 weeks, we have had some unusual weather and fortunately, some beautiful sunny days. We have had crazy rain. A tornado touched down in town and a couple very close to here. We had snow in March, snow in April and yesterday and today - even snow in May! We have really appreciated the sunny days and the warmer days, where we could get outside and get some fresh air. The flowers and the trees have been in full bloom welcoming spring. We have had some beautiful sunrises and sunsets.
8 Weeks! For 8 weeks, we have used technology in new ways. We have used Skype and Zoom and MSTeams for game nights and girls night; we have used them for classes and for homework help; we have used them to interview for jobs and for coaching sessions. I had a dream last night that I had started a new job. The details were vague - I parked near the building on the street, the dress was business casual with jeans appropriate, and there was snow on my car when I left at the end of the day (coincidental with yesterday's weather I hope and not a sign that it is still months away). I had only gotten the offer the Friday before I started, hadn't told my family and when I came home, I realized I didn't even know what the offer had been and was trying to find the details. I was excited and elated. I was glad to know that I would be on an employer sponsored medical insurance and saving for retirement again. I hope it was a sign that good news would be coming soon. I found out last week that I didn't get one role that I thought I had a pretty good shot at (it was down to 2, so I knew it was at least 50-50). When it comes to reading, I have stuck with the old-fashioned paper book format. I have been reading through a stack of books that I have bedside that I picked up at book sales and just never got around to reading. This weekend though, I started a brand new book by James Russell Lingerfelt, Young Vines. I will share more about the book when I am done reading. I previously read his other two books, you can find those reviews here (Alabama Irish) and here (The Mason Jar).

Over the last 8 weeks, I have become better at ordering my groceries for pick up and last week managed to pick up from three stores in the same day that I placed the order (long story - was trying to catch some deals and so I ordered from more than one store last week - haven't done that in a while). I have tried new brands and learned that there are some brands that I would skip in the future and others that might be worth trying again. Online ordering isn't as bad when you are getting it the same day but I will have to determine if the fees are worth the effort saved (and the extra effort to order). The out of stocks are fewer but have shifted categories.

Last weekend, as the StayAtHome order shifted to StaySafeOhio, we decided to have a socially distant bonfire with friends. It was a nice relaxing evening and a great chance to catch up in person. It was just one other family and we were outside the whole time. They brought their own chairs and own drinks. It was a dose of what we needed. My son finally got his braces off this week too. He was scheduled to get them off a month ago but when the StayAtHome order went into effect, his orthodontist was among the places that had to close.
As I wrap up this post, I think the cats have had enough of us being home - they look chill here but they just want us to get back to it. My one cat comes and sits on my night stand next to my alarm clock in the morning meowing at me to wake up and feed her but I think she may also secretly be hoping that it will go off and it will mean we are all back to normal schedules and she can have peace to sleep all day.



Monday, April 27, 2020

New Habits and Activities

This time at home has lead to the development of some new habits and have introduced new things into our lives - some bad, some good.

As a family, we stay up later and sleep in. The first couple of weeks when it was all new and we didn't really have a feel for how long it might last, we were especially bad, not really paying attention to the time and really messing up our schedules as a whole. It is hard to argue why not one more episode of the show or one more chapter in the book or one more game, we literally have nowhere to be and no specific time to be there. I started seeing it impacting us, so I made the decision that we had to get better at it. Certainly bedtimes didn't need to align with normal but we needed to be reasonable. We successfully shifted and are getting to bed at more reasonable times and getting up to start the day earlier in the day. We also enforce more regular schedule during the week and allow a little flexibility on the weekend. This has helped us return to more normal eating schedule and with both sleeping and eating back on a more normal schedule, everyone generally feels better and has a better attitude too. It will still be tough when we have to be up and out the door at a specific time again but with a more normal schedule it will be a little easier to shift back to that then it would have been.

As a family, we have shifted from team workouts/group workouts to more independent workouts and activities. It's not that we are more or less active or burning more or less calories, we are simply doing it differently. I used to do group exercise and swimming workouts with an occasional lunchtime or evening walk to clear the head, now that those classes are cancelled and the gym is closed, I rely on walking for my daily activity. I have steadily increased the distance so as to stay ahead of my step goal in my otherwise stay at home lifestyle that we have had to transition to. I have successfully walked at least 30 minutes every day for the past 44 days. It has been tough on days that it was rainy or snowy but I watched for the breaks and even dealt with the light sprinkle of rain to get to 30 minutes at least once. It is noticeable too; when I was out walking on Saturday, two different people that were hanging out in their driveways commented on my regular walking. Strange thing is that the time of day I walk can vary greatly so the fact that they noticed surprised me. I have also used these walks to observe the world around me and captured many pictures; yesterday it was fun playing with taking pictures using the puddles.
My husband has been sticking with his running routine but doesn't have the bike/treadmill option on the cold or wet days like he used to. He has switched to running virtual races, as his race schedule for the spring and summer has slowly been cancelled or converted to virtual races. My daughter does a daily work out and often times fits in a short run too. My son, in addition to keeping up with throwing and hitting for baseball, has done several runs and has put more miles on his bicycle than he has in years.

We are cooking and baking more. The cookie jar is almost never empty. There is fresh made bread in the house every weekend. We have found ways to create the tastes of our favorite dining out meals at home. We have tried many new recipes - although it seems they are mostly desserts or at least sweets.
My daughter has Home Ec (they call it family and consumer sciences now though) this quarter - so far, there has only been one hands on assignment - make an egg dish. She chose a souffle - it was good and she really did learn things - separating eggs, why we fold in egg whites, why we cover custard with wax paper, why a souffle will rise and come out of the oven fluffy and deflate within a short window following. Even with that, we are still trying to support local and try to order in at least once a week from a local restaurant and get beer from the local brewery.

We are binge watching series and catching up on movies. On some shows, we have to wait for a new episode to come out and on others we have a few seasons to go. I have started watching new series on HGTV and Food Network, just for a little variety. Some shows we watch as a family, some we watch in smaller groups, some we watch on our own - we use our family room, our media room, our computers and the iPad to provide the flexibility. It helps us as we look to find the right balance of together and alone time - since we all are here pretty much all of the time.

We are reading more. I have been reading from the stack of book sale books that I have near my bedside. My daughter has been reading a couple of different YA series and has even been trying her hand at writing in the style of some of those books.

The kids are playing more. Together and apart. My daughter is spending more time on the swingset. She has always loved it but it is a way to be outside and change up the scenery. They have been playing games / challenges together. They set up a course the other day with dominoes, strings, weights and more. They sat at the top of the stairs and tried to toss a ping pong ball into a cup at the bottom of the stairs.

I am trying to continue the clean-up/purge journey I began when I lost my job. We went through the backroom in the basement and organized and got rid of and sold things that we no longer needed or wouldn't use again. We have gone through the kids clothes to pull out the things that don't fit (or don't wear) and have been trying to sell those. I have gone through some of my files (there are always more and I can only do so much at one time). I used this stay at home to organize the freezers and inventory the food we have on hand so that I could focus on what we needed at the store and ensuring we used things up. I am trying to work through my stack of magazines that have arrived monthly over the years and I simply never had the time to read them. I read them, pull out the page or two that has something that I want to try or look into and off it goes.

We finally have time to tackle home projects and it gives us something to plan and to do. I have painted doors and frames, I have painted (portions) of the playset in the backyard (limited by paint not time). My husband cleaned up and cleaned out the garage. Moved things to mark the change in season and make outdoor activities more accessible.

I have changed the way that I shop (but I will go back at least in some ways). I really like Target's drive up service. I think I will use that for more things even after this stay at home order. If I know I need a few things, it really is easier to order them and pick them up than to park and run into the store. I went for detergent and fabric softener yesterday. The whole trip - drive time and order pick up time was 10 minutes. Since I live 5 minutes away, it essentially took no time to get my order. I am convinced that the 'let us know you are coming' gives them perspective on how close you are when you push the button. They almost always are walking out the door with my stuff as I shift my car from drive to park. I love that the app / their spots are connected and it automatically lets them know I am there. I'm generally not a fan of grocery pick up service - although, I might be more of a fan when they return to allowing you to pay at pick up. I get frustrated that I can't simply maintain and add to my list as the week passes - I have to process a payment each time I make an update. I can start my cart a week out when I reserve the timeslot but I don't always know a week out what we will be low on or be craving or otherwise need when I do pick up. I also struggle to find the magic way to search sometimes. I have gotten better at managing the substitutions so that I get what I want...but that also means that I do without on some things because I ask for no sub even though I might sub if I was in store. I don't like that sales are fewer and/or that sale items are bought out all the time. I like to be able to shop the sales and stock up, so I don't have to buy during non-sales times.

What new activities or habits are you developing? What shows are you watching?

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Observations from StayAtHome

As I woke up this morning, I was reflecting on this time we have had at home over the past five weeks. It's only officially been four weeks since we learned of the true StayAtHome order (and still a few days short of it being four weeks its been in effect) but it was five weeks ago that things started to close. First to close for us was the schools, then restaurants for dine-in, then gyms, then non-essential businesses and so on.

On one hand, I feel isolated with no where to go and miss time spent with people (outside of those that I live with). I miss going to the kids' sports and school events. I enjoy watching them do the things that they love and the chance to connect with friends that I only see at those events (who has time in their schedule to see them otherwise). I miss being able to go to the gym and visit with people as I walk on the track or swim in the pool or take a class with friends. Sure, I am getting out and walking each day but even though I am getting in my activity and decompressing in the process just like I would at the Y, it is not the same as it lacks that social element. (Actually, I am pretty proud that I have found the opportunity every day for the past 35 days to get out for at least a 30 minute walk. Considering the rain and snow, I had to make an effort to find the right time to get out.) I miss getting together with friends for hanging out or game night, I miss going out for dinner or trivia, I miss having plans.

I know that the kids are also feeling it too, although I would say it feels like it is impacting my son more than my daughter. He has reached the point of bored where he went for a 7 mile bike ride last weekend. No destination, just a ride. Yesterday, it was snowing and he wanted to get outside for a bit. He wasn't sure what to do but settled on getting in some swings of the bat, hitting the ball off the tee into the net. This actually surprises me a bit because I would have always said my daughter is more social than my son - I think though now that I reflect on it, he has always been very dedicated to sports and spends a lot of time on a sports field and even when he hangs with friends there is usually some type of sport involved. It isn't that he isn't social, its just that he does more group social activity than one on one. My daughter is all about spending time with friends and although she does a lot of that through sports too, her and her friends can spend hours just spending time together.
I don't even get my normal weekly get away to the store (one constant that I can always count on regardless of the schedule is getting to the store to buy food), as I am almost exclusively shopping online for curbside pick up of my groceries. As I have shared, I am an in person shopper - in part to connect with others and in part because I like to explore and consider my choices - so this shopping online is not natural for me. I also find it is not easy to explore products online - you can't exactly walk down the aisle and see all your options. I have found that some stores do more abbreviating in their names making searching challenging even. I am very appreciative of those stores that have apps and I can scan barcodes of the products I have at home, then I don't have to figure out how to locate the item online. I am still rotating through stores based on what time slots I can get. Normally, I am going out about every 10 days for groceries and every other day it seems to Target for a pick up of odds and ends. This next week is an odd one as I have two grocery pick ups scheduled. The one store has a sale on 2L of soda and the other has the beer that my husband enjoys and we are out of. I haven't yet filled out my orders but anticipate that the first one will be a really light order, since I just picked up groceries last week and have been buying for two weeks at a time. I will likely make the second one be my next 'regular' pick up and fill it out with milk, bread and eggs.

On the other hand though, having no plans, no place to be has been kind of nice. There is a certain leisure to being able to get up in the morning and take care of a few chores and then to simply sit down with a coffee and a book or movie or my puzzle. It is nice to be able to have time to bake each week - I have used the same bread recipe each week but it is a little different each week (better in my opinion).
It is nice to be able to find time for a 30 minute walk each day - without having to try to squeeze it in between things or before it gets too dark. In fact, everyone is finding time to get out and be active - whether going for a walk, a run, a bike ride or simply playing in the yard. It is nice to sit down as a family each day and enjoy our meals at a normal time (we usually eat together, it just is squeezed in or after all our things) and to spend our evenings hanging out watching Jeopardy!, a TV series or a movie. Everyone has developed a new routine. We are staying up later and sleeping in. We are keeping our meals mixed up to avoid boredom and still finding a chance each week to do pick up from a local restaurant (and occasionally from Chik-fil-A because who can resist those sandwiches).

This time home has certainly made me appreciate time at home. Normally, it's only on that random Saturday where games got called due to rain that we legitimately have a completely unplanned day. I like unplanned...in doses. I suppose right now, as we all have our new routines, that it feels a little less unplanned but certainly is unrushed. The kids have flexibility on when to do their schoolwork most of the time, the exceptions being when there is a class online or a quiz that has to be done in a certain timeframe. Most of their work has a weekly rather than a daily due date.

We learned this week that the governor hopes to begin to open things up on May 1. There is officially a light at the end of the tunnel. Sure, the opening will be gradual and will not be 'full' but it is a move in the direction of returning to normal. I am hopeful that all of us will remember this time and will find ways to keep some unplanned/unrushed time in our schedules and will appreciate the little things that we had taken for granted.

How are things in your part of the world?


Friday, April 10, 2020

As the Week Winds Down

It has been a good week. Following the productive weekend, I feel like we accomplished some good things this week. I think in part it may have been helped by the updating of the models for COVID19. I don't know where you all live but here in Ohio we were significantly under the model and the updates lowered the expected peaks significantly and brought the peak in a few days. I am starting to believe (not just hope) that we will have a return to normal following the current stay at home order expiration.
Of course, Ohio weather has been typically weird weather. We have had some gorgeous days, where we could get outside in short sleeves and enjoy the sights of spring. We had a couple of tornadoes touch down within a few miles of our house. We had that gorgeous super moon, of course it was partially obstructed but we got some cool pictures when it wasn't obstructed. We had flurries and sleet yesterday and then this morning, we woke to a covering of snow.

I have learned, when we are home we bake. We have always been bakers but in 'normal' schedule time we are generally limited in frequency and often I do most of it. During the break, my son has been doing a good amount of the baking. I had to add flour, butter and eggs to my next order to make sure that we can continue to bake. We have made 2 batches of biscotti, 3 batches of cookies, a batch of macarons (trying all-purpose flour in lieu of almond flour), a batch of beignets and two batches of bread. The kids would like to give another try to an alternate recipe that uses all-purpose flour for macarons.

We also cook. Again, not that we don't do a lot of cooking when we are not on a stay at home order but we seem to be on the go enough that we have a lot of quick fix meals rather than longer prep meals. Over the past couple of weeks, we have made homemade macaroni and cheese and a childhood favorite chicken in gravy over biscuits (and they were homemade biscuits). We have also tried knock off versions of restaurant favorite dishes. Homemade pizza has been a staple of our weekly menu.

Tonight, we celebrate our 21st Anniversary. Normally, we would have planned a dinner out as a couple or with the family. Or, if the timing worked out, we might have even planned a getaway as a couple or a family (Niagara Falls area is one of our favorite getaways). We are getting carry-out pizza from a local place and a growler of beer from the local craft brewery. Supporting local and celebrating us.

I definitely miss people. As much as I am a homebody, I also love being with people and being social. I want to host a game night or sit with friends watching kids sports and visiting or go to trivia with friends or just visit around a bonfire. During this time, it is nice to catch up with friends on the phone or via chat - but it is not the same as in person interactions. I find great joy in crossing paths with others when I am out for a walk. Sure, I cross the street or walk on the edge of the road to allow appropriate space but just waving to the walkers, the runners and the cars that drive by gives me that sense of connection with others. It was nice to visit at a distance with the owners at the craft brewery as I picked up the growler - hearing about their dog and his peculiarities.

The other night, I woke up in the middle of the night. I was thinking about what I had to do the next day and became a little disheartened that we really have gotten to the point where the next day is the same as the last and the next. Even with looking forward to our anniversary and Easter, there still isn't much different. We still don't have 'plans' or get to see family and friends. I am excited for the Easter dinner that I will make and the little bit I have pulled together for the kid's baskets, yet without being able to share it with family, it seems less than it should be. Knowing that this social distancing and stay at home order is really having an impact is the shining light that continues to give me hope and helps me to keep moving forward.

How are you holding up?