Sitting in storage in Ireland is my cookbook collection. I own about 100. I used to cook and bake a lot and then about 5 years a lot of changes in my life meant that I had time to eat, but not necessarily to cook/wash up. Washing and cleaning is the untold story of cooking.
But the thing about Staying At Home FFS is that I don’t especially want to starve either. I still don’t really want to prioritise the spending ages cleaning the kitchen but it’s a prereq to cooking so needs must. This week has had some good meals, much to my surprise.
Until about a month ago, if you came to dinner at Chateau Treasa, the single most exclusive cooking joint in the neighbourhood, only one main dish was on the menu, basically GIANT prawns with couscous and peppers. Lately the peppers have been yellow narrow sweet peppers but it’s often their red brethren. Function of what is in the local supermarket, my relationship with their opening hours and stocking cycle.
I have expanded the repertoire since then and this week there was a delectable Irish lamb accompanied by gnocchi and cucumber. It was an absolute delight. In fact, I was thrilled to see cucumber back in the supermarket as it’s one of my go to salad choices for “ensuring I get enough green stuff”. Like water melon, it’s mostly water but it’s nice all the same.Irish Lamb with gnocci and cucumber.
The other big winner lately has been Chicken with Old El Paso BBQ spices, pepper, mushroom and onion in cup shaped wrap things. I didn’t intend to buy them but the supermarket was clean out of the flat ones so I decided to wing it. This has been a good idea. I will probably never by the flat ones again unless I move somewhere uncivilised that doesn’t sell them.Smoky BBQ Chicken in cup shaped wrap things with yellow peppers and caramelized onion
Of course, there has been fairly standard pasta as well and apart from using dry pasta I fake my way through a sauce.Mushroom pasta
The latest big hit – when I have time – is a scaled up breakfast. Normally I have a bowl of cereal but today there was poached eggs.Poached eggs on toasted Bauerbrot with 5 peppers.
All in all, I could have been living off prepped pasta and ready meals so all told, not bad.
I’m into about the 4th week of this. I could count I suppose but I’m a woman and I’m fairly certain about this to be honest. It’s still weird, it’s still like living in a rather odd fairy tale. More people are out getting exercise in the evenings now and Google is trying to convince me the last walk was shorter than the previous one which by the laws of physics it could not possibly have been. Mostly I am terrified of the runners. I fully understand why they don’t wear masks but I’d like it if they gave me a wider berth. L’Essentiel, one of the smaller newspapers here (they do the daily freesheet, or at least they did, not sure if it has survived), tells me that Luxair are hoping to restart flight operations around 4th May. That’s just under 4 weeks away and since I assume it will take that long to get ready, they must be reasonably optimistic about that. I imagine the flights are heavily booked out already by the hopeful optimistic.
I’ve been listening to RTE Gold lately, mostly because I like Rick O’Shea from the early days of the Irish Blog Awards, and also because they are playing fantastic music these days. Apart from Saturday when they simulcast with Radio 1 there aren’t ads (that I have noticed). I think it might be one of the best music radio stations in the world.
One of the odd things I’ve noticed in the last 4 weeks is that my head of hair seems to have thickened up. It’s also darkened in colour last night. I’m assuming it’s something to do with the change in diet and by process of elimination, the things I eat significantly more of lately are peppers and onions. I found at least one dodgy site listing peppers as good for hair growth so maybe there is something in that. Where onions are concerned, you’r supposed to run onion juice on your scalp (who comes up with these ideas) which I definitely am not doing, mostly because I use swank shampoo which I bought in Iceland in January and have not yet run out of (thought I’d be panic ordering bu now) and it smells a lot nicer than onions. Not that I am trying to attract anyone (social distancing and all that) but it makes me feel good.Gratuitous photo of Iceland – Geysir
On the working from home front. I’m fairly certain I want to go back to my work office. I’ve blown a nuclear bomb through my eco-credentials – okay I walk everywhere but between the cooking, the running of a computer, big screen and new router and having to charge small electrical devices far more often, my electricity and water consumption must have gone up. More of the food I buy is coming in plastic wrapping too. Most evenings at around knocking off time (or as near to it as I can manage it because it’s often a bit later), I leave work, walk out my front door, and when I come back, I come home. The only evidence of the home office which I cannot hide at present is my screen which I can barely complain about as it made working from home possible for a long term. Lap top screens are grand for an hour tops.
Back in the early 1990s I was in the folk group in DCU, and we did some pop stuff, and in the background. I hear one of them, Moving On Up, which I think was by Primal Scream. Must check. Yes it was. A guy called Declan did the guitar solo bit if I remember rightly. [EDIT: oh there’s another one. Joe Cocker’s version of A little help from my friends]
It struck me yesterday, with the mental equivalent of a baseball bat, that I started university (for the first time) nearly 30 years ago.
I can’t quite believe that.
Anyway the weather is not as stunning today as I was expecting so I am not feeling particularly heartbroken about not being able to go anywhere. In the meantime. I’m being REALLY good about the chocolate. Until Sunday at least.
And to close: a picture of my beloved Atlantic coast of Clare.Waves, Doolin
Bernie Goldbach posted a video:
The interacting chat with Suzi Krupa.
I was supposed to fly to Ireland on Sunday with some Icelandic chocolate and pretty napkins. The Icelandic chocolate is in trouble as I have no idea when I can next get to Ireland and we are living in a crisis. I’m sorry, Irish family; the Icelandic chocolate is MINE.
With that public service message out of the way, today is Friday. I didn’t get to write yesterday evening as the evenings have turned out to be rather rough from an organisational point of view and for some reason, possibly the mix of cooking and extra housework driven by cooking (ware, and swearwords about washing up liquid) I don’t seem to have a whole pile of free time lately. This evening I completely crashed out and I probably needed it.
Did not sleep though and the lunchtime sketches have been of middling quality the last two days so I’ll not be posting all of them. This was yesterday’s:View this post on Instagram
A post shared by Me (@wnbpaints) on Apr 2, 2020 at 4:10am PDT
And while I can see a lot of things I want to do differently in the future, the thing is, I like it. Still nowhere near the sea though and that’s hard.
I did grocery shopping somewhat later than usual and there was a lack of the right bread so I’ll have to venture towards the shop again sometime during tomorrow or Sunday. The grocery store is still out of 5mm elastic so I can only assume somewhere, in some dark atelier, someone is turning out an absolute heap of cotton masks. I made one last week and I have fabric cut to make another one. However, while I think I have 5mm elastic somewhere, I may have to hack the pattern to use 10mm instead as I’ve been able to find nothing very easily since work arrived on my sewing table.
I assume Cactus, the grocery store, has to restock the sewing section on average once a year and they are out of 5mm elastic, almost out of 10mm elastic and the fabric clips set up isn’t great either. Plenty of needles though. I need to make a few more masks
So the other plan for this weekend is to make the sewing machine cover. I had grandiose plans of doing something not unlike a VW campervan. There are several examples online. You could also do a caravan but I used that idea for a teacosy the week before last. I did at least measure the sewing machine last week but the notebook that I use for sewing engineering is MIA since last Saturday. It’s probably with the 5mm elastic I can’t find.
And so now, it’s Saturday because I got distracted writing this yesterday and we can move on to Saturday’s events which so far amount to having breakfast and lounging around the place reading twitter. THis will change because the oven is for lunch and in other WAY EXCITING NEWS (not) I have an additional socket board so that I can do something about sorting out a phone charging station that is not the ironing board (it used to be the sewing desk which had spare sockets, currently occupied by a router, a screen and two computers as opposed to a sewing machine and three charging cables. I’d like to free up the ironing board, not out of any great love of ironing but the plan was to do SOME sewing today.
By way of news the Labour parties in Ireland and the UK have acquired new leaders over the last 24 hours, Alan Kelly in Ireland and Keir Starmer in the UK. Ireland still has a caretaker government but that might change sometime soon, hopefully. Apart from that, the rest of the news is Covid related, and some of it even hopeful.
But nothing to give me any hope I can stop teleworking any time in the next five or six weeks to be honest. When it’s over I am going to go to Bastelkiste and buy a load of fabric, that I probably still won’t need as I have plenty here.
BEFORE BEING TOLD to keep our social distance, I went all-in and subscribed to Disney Plus, Netflix, Google Premium, and Amazon Prime--then noticed Mia (12) diving deep into Studio Ghibli (see My Neighbor Totoro above). After stressing my credit card with two new subscription fees (and renewing Express VPN so we can be region-agnostic), we now have a wishlist of films for the kids during the next 10 days of our confinement. Here are the ones we will watch during our first weekend stuck inside the house.
I reference this Oscar Winner from Ang Lee during the Film Studies module I teach on the Clonmel Digital Campus. The film is a "glorious cultural fusion joined emotional sophistication to thrilling Hong Kong-style acrobatic action" according to Kenneth Turan of the LA Times. It's available on Netflix.The Adventures of Robin Hood
We need the 1938 version with Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland. We can get it for $3.99 on Google Play and it casts directly onto our Samsung TV in three-strip Technicolor, using production values that help our 21st century kids appreciate what their Depression Era grandparents saw during the Golden Age era of studio entertainment.Children of Paradise
Mia (12) wants to learn French so it's only natural to infuse French culture in the form of this epic French romantic onto her viewing screens.Watching the Watcher
One of the most interesting side effects of being locked away for the next two weeks is watching our primary school kids watch me as I watch third level students work their way through assigned discussion items. Every so often, something interesting--like a penguin in a film--appears in the flow of video chats.
[Bernie Goldbach teaches film studies on the Clonmel Digital Campus for the Limerick Institute of Technology.]
Bernie Goldbach posted a photo:
Seeing drone batteries explode.
Monoprix had my nice eco non-handburning washing up liquid so hopefully I can reduce the amount of handcream I am using. It wasn’t cheap and the shop that sells it is kind of closed at the moment courtesy of lockdown.
Another day in paradise. I used to work in a small town called Dassel about lots of years ago, and the tagline that one of my workmates came up with was Arbeiten wo andere Urlaub machen. We lived in a Kurort, apparently.
I don’t remember that much about it although interestingly enough, a lot of the paper I paint on in sketchbooks comes from there. Life is interestingly circular sometimes. Anyway, today’s major victory included the acquisition of washing up liquid that doesn’t burn my hands, so I feel quite happy about it.
Today was a Zen kind of a day. I bought some art online too. I had missed an art sale from a painter I like but he’s done another one and I was lucky enough to find out. Buying art is something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately, but mostly prints, and I think I’ve mentioned that. I don’t know when this painting will arrive and I’m looking forward to it. It’s of Paris. For personal reasons I am also looking for paintings of Luxembourg as well, although there’s a book of watercolours that is attractive.
I’ve just learned that the schools in Luxembourg will stay closed until 4 May. If I am honest, I was expecting this. France had already made that decision. I don’t have school kids and it must be increasingly difficult for families with fulltime working parents trying to homeschool the kids as well. It’s almost inhumane pressure particularly when you’re not really allowed out much either. I don’t know; I think we need to think a bit more about how we alleviate the pressure on people. Parental leave and part time isn’t really an option for all families.
That being said, more of them are going walking in the evenings around 6pm. Certainly, we have the extra hour now but that hasn’t made much of a difference to the daylight at 6pm. But I am meeting more walkers which makes my attempt to avoid other Human Beings a bit harder.View this post on Instagram
A post shared by Me (@wnbpaints) on Apr 1, 2020 at 10:09am PDT
Lunch time sketch. Targetting more puffins and possibly surfing today. Dreaming.
My days have a rather predictable structure now. Two days a week I go to the supermarket first thing, otherwise, up, shower, breakfast, work, lunch, 20 minutes painting or drawing, work, 35 minute walk, home, dinner, cleaning, phone call to family. It’s the same pattern every day, only variation being the time I escape for the walk. So far, the weather has been largely cooperative and the days are incredibly bright. It makes being stuck inside, with a little piece of work taking up residence in my living room, harder than I could have imagined.
Rick O’Shea mentioned on twitter today that he was finding it hard to read. I know where he is coming from. I do too, and also, I’m finding it hard to write which is somewhat more worrying. It’s not that there is not much happening in my life, although frankly, I stay at home, and work, and stay at home. I have many thoughts, thoughts about this weird experience that we are enjoying, for want of a better word.
When I came in from today’s walk, I flaked out on my bed, in theory hoping to see the figures for Ireland or Luxembourg, but instead, what I heard was one of my neighbours singing. I think, possibly Greek? Not sure. It put me in mind of that style of singing anyway. I could only barely hear it. I have not been dancing for the past few days which is indicative of a change in mood, and today, my own sound track was the Scots Gaelic singer, Julie Fowlis, especially this.
I hope the link works because the soundcard on this machine is a bit unreliable and won’t play anything for me.
It’s a long time since I listened to a lot of Scots Gaelic songs and I love the rhythm of some of them. It’s soothing to have in the background, between the inevitable conference calls.
I don’t know what other people’s experience is like; I love my job for the most part, and have done since I started where I am working somewhat over three years ago. But I find the days very long. Mostly, it’s small things like, oh look you need to do that bit of laundry, or, there’s my sewing machine, my guitar, piano….things I do here, at home. Normally, at home I don’t review spreadsheets, processes, calendars, reschedule things because this meeting can’t take place on that date any more because we are locking down longer than we thought we would 3 weeks ago. I don’t get distracted as such, I get wistful. The music helps a lot. It acts as a base for my heart which is a bit disturbed by the need for my home life to be as regimented as it has become. My hands are in bits because I cook more and therefore wash ware much more often and oh look, I’m sensitive to that brand of washing up liquid, who’d have thought it, just at the time when I am also washing my hands more frequently just because…just because.
Most days at around 12.30 or 1 – just after I finish eating my lunch – I go and hide in my bedroom and I draw. I won’t have the work computer in my bedroom – enough that it lords it over my otherwise usually technology limited living room – so that’s some form of escape. I mentioned in an earlier entry that I miss the sea, and that’s true. There is a slightly tendency for me to pick on sea scenes to draw, paint, be inspired by (be very inspired by on some days). Today though I drew a couple of owls, living in isolation.View this post on Instagram
A post shared by Me (@wnbpaints) on Mar 31, 2020 at 4:40am PDTOne owl doing yoga, one owl looking on in disdain.
Most of my friends in Ireland are now in some form of lockdown now too, many working from home. We were, I suppose, a week ahead of them but now we’re all planning supermarket trips, although at least the toilet paper calamity has ended.
I’ve been thinking a lot about how people deal with this situation differently. In my heart and soul, I know I am not badly off. Certainly, I have my job for now, I can work from home, I’m not overly exposed to risk apart from at the supermarket and that’s only two days a week. I have friends to contact via assorted electronic devices.
I’ve seen people online talk about how easy people living alone must have it. In particular, I saw a family therapist on twitter talk about how much time childless people have. I didn’t find it constructive. People have different challenges with this current situation. Sure, I don’t have a 4 year old wanting to sing her heart out during a morning conference call. But I don’t have a 4 year old to hug and kiss when I put her to bed either. There may be practical benefits to living alone, certainly, but there are major emotional challenges. And I tend to feel very guilty about the days I find it hard and that’s reinforced by a lot of things (people telling me I have loads of time to do loads of stuff). I’m slowly coming to the conclusion that realistically, this affects me, and everyone else in lots of different ways and a little self forgiveness goes a long way. And keep painting.
I also think about the future. Not the Grand Future Full of Meaning, but how we move out of the current lifestyle. It occurred to me yesterday that in one way, we live a modern fairy tale, and that fairy tale is most similar to the Sleeping Beauty. All I need really is for a huge forest to spring to live around Luxembourg; the place is fairytale like in its own right. And the kiss of life will come not from some prince or other, but from a person bearing a needle and a vaccine.
But until that happens, do we stay asleep, do we gradually reawaken our society as the number of infections slowly recedes?
I don’t know. I always thought my life would be defined by 9-11, but now, at least, it will be defined by Covid-19. I think the two events have certain similarities for the fact that they have and will continue to have huge impacts on how we operate, the processes which underpin many aspects of our life. In the meantime, I’m looking for the ways to travel within these four walls and gradually, beyond them again, in some weeks or some months.