As of this week, Chez Small is entering Week 4 of the Great Pandemic of 2020. I gotta say that the first two weeks of this madness were pretty disorienting (as they were for everyone) and we just couldn’t find our groove no matter how hard we tried. My focus was completely shot and suddenly, the whole world was full of bakers and alcoholics or drunk bakers, I’m not sure how to tell the difference. That pretty much sums up the beginning.
But now, we’re finding some semblance of normal in what is now some abnormal times. I don’t know when we’ll get back to where we were or even if that’s possible any more, but given the fact that I’ve still got at least 8 weeks being house-bound (thanks, shoddy immune system), I’d thought I’d share some insights into what has helped us to get through these stressful and uncertain times:
1. Take a Walk
I’m not a scientist (nor do I play one on TV), but walking is essential during this time of prolonged stress and curtailed activity. Without access to a gym or fitness center, walking really can make a difference to your physical and mental well-being. Google the benefits of walking just 20 minutes a day and you’ll see what I mean. If it’s good enough for Harvard then it’s good enough for me plus I always feel so much better after walking even when I have to push myself to go.
For those who are literally house-bound because you live in an apartment or somewhere without easy access to the outdoors, you can still walk inside your house by stair stepping. Going up and down your steps at a brisk pace will elevate your heart rate and boost your mobility. Bonus points for carrying that laundry basket with you!
2. Keep a Journal
I do this every day, 365 days a year, and have done so for the last eight years. Part of my motive was my desire to write (hello), but the bigger part was having a place to put my anxiety when I was diagnosed with a life-altering illness. I needed to take the stress and negativity out of my relationships, yet at the same time, still needed a way to get it all out. And a journal did just that.
Journals and pens is where I allow myself to go hog wild – I use high end Italian journals and top end fountain pens and inks, but any paper and pen will suffice. Your instruments of choice don’t matter – only your dedication does. You need to write every day without fail. Doesn’t matter what you vomit out onto the page. That seems harsh, but to make it work, you’ve got to build it into your routine. Create a habit. You’ll find after awhile, you get cranky if you don’t get your thoughts down on paper. When you get to that point, congratulations you’ve passed the threshold.
3. Plant a Row
It’s amazing to me how much gardening is making a comeback right now. I guess it’s not too surprising given that people are worried about food shortages, but also, let’s be real, people are stuck at home with their loved ones and kids and need something to do – preferably not in the house.
That’s where container gardening comes in and I’m going to let you in on a secret. Are you ready for it? You don’t need no fancy boxes to grow vegetables. Hell, you don’t even need a container.
You can grow tomatoes directly in a bag of potting soil! In the UK, they call them grow bags and this video will show you how. In the US, they are literally the big 45-50 liter bags of potting soil you can pick up at any nursery or large box chain store. If you’re planting cherry tomatoes then you can probably get away with 3 plants in a bag like they would have in the UK, but for beefsteak sized tomatoes, I’d err on the side of caution of no more than 2 plants per bag of compost/potting soil.
Still, if you do have containers, you have more choices. I’ve used garbage cans and plastic bins for planting potatoes, carrots, eggplants, and melons to name a few – just make sure you drill holes in the bottom for drainage. This year before the pandemic hit, I picked up two cow troughs to give my garden that hipster look.
There are plenty of Youtube videos and websites that can give you some good ideas and you don’t have to limit yourself to just herbs or cherry tomatoes. If you haven’t tried container gardening before then I’d suggest picking up Square Foot Gardening off of Amazon or Fruits & Vegetables in Pots by DK Publishing. Lots of great photos in the latter and great for inspiration. Get out there and get dirty!
4. Make Bread
When the world falls apart, apparently, the first thing people do is bake. If I had a dollar for every Facebook post or Instagram pic that showed a picture of some tasty delicious morsel that my gluten-intolerant body can’t have, well, I’d be worth thousands of bucks by now. It seems like the vast majority of people have lost their ever-loving minds and watched too many episodes of The Great British Bake Off. I’ve seen more loaves of homemade bread just in the last couple of days then I’ve seen at a state fair. Everybody be baking!
And honestly, good for you, if you’ve dusted off your hands and gotten into the flour. Even the husbot who doesn’t cook (does toast count?) knows how to use a breadmaker and has started using it weekly. We have an Oster breadmaker (unavailable on Amazon), but both Crate and Barrel and Williams Sonoma do carry other brands and are in stock. I would highly suggest the Bread Machine Cookbook. You can always make bread the old-fashioned way by hand and I love this Sourdough Youtube video.
5. Read a Book
And last, but not least, drumroll, please . . . . . .
When all else fails, grab a book and read. Yes, the author is recommending books, no surprise there, but that’s what books are for – a way for us to escape our world and to jump into someone else’s. Nothing else quite satisfies like a book. The fearless heroine. The flawed villain. Or maybe non-fiction is more your thing so go peruse your online retailer for a biography or history book. Whatever you choose, books help get us out of our heads and they distract us from reality even for just a little while. Jump on board the written word train and let it take you to a new destination.
So, that’s it for this week. I’ve got 5 more suggestions for you on how to survive Corvid-19 without strangling your children or losing your mind. Stay tuned next Friday for Part 2.
See you on the other side.
xo – shawnee