Tag Archives: COVID-19

108 precious days of summer

It happens every five or six years: the calendar gods bestow us with an extra long summer.

Astronomers might start counting summer’s days at the summer solstice (June 20 this year), but I don’t. Summer for a native Minnesotan begins with Memorial Day weekend and ends on Labor Day.

Most years, including last year and next year, there are 101 days between the Saturday before Memorial Day and the Monday of Labor Day. But this year, Memorial Day falls as early as possible (May 25) and Labor Day occurs as late as possible (Sept. 7). That means there are 108 days of summer—a full week more than usual.

The calendar hasn’t been structured this way since 2015, and before that 2009. A quick look back reminds me I was spending precious early days of that summer of ’09 watching Little League baseball, running long distances and grocery shopping. Actually, those are not the worst ways to spend summer days.

In a year when spring this year wasn’t only weird, it was isolating and downright scary, the prospect of a long summer sounds pretty appealing. Even if I can’t enjoy it in the usual ways, I want to savor every one of those 108 days.

So I made a list of ways to appreciate the sounds and scents and flavors of summer, one for each of those exquisite days. Some of the things on my list might not be possible in a pandemic (stock car races,  a parade, fireworks), but I’m operating from an optimistic perspective, which is probably healthier if not entirely logical at this point. I packed in lots of little ways to enjoy summer, not matter what COVID-19 has in store.

Some of the items on my list are specific to my interests. I can’t roller skate, I hate golf and cotton candy is way too sweet for my tastes, but those summery things might be right up your alley, especially if you don’t eat meat or wear a ponytail, which made my list.

108 days of summer

If you like the idea of celebrating summer right down to slapping mosquitos, mowing the lawn and making fried green tomatoes, I turned my list into an image so you can download it and print it out.

Beginning Saturday, the first official day of Minnesota Transplant’s summer, here are 108 ways to fully enjoy it.

Sights of summer

  • Go to a county (or state) fair.
  • Go to a parade.
  • Attend a family reunion.
  • Lay on the ground and look at the clouds.
  • Light a sparkler.
  • Go to a drive-in movie.
  • Visit a museum.
  • Stop at a historical marker.
  • Take a road trip (interstate highways don’t count).
  • Appreciate marigolds.
  • Watch the sun rise.
  • Watch the sun set.
  • Watch (or listen to) a baseball game.
  • Go bird watching.
  • Count the stars.
  • Watch a bumble bee work.
  • Watch fireworks.
  • Enjoy sunflowers.

Sounds of summer

  • Listen to the wind through windchimes.
  • Go to an outdoor concert.
  • Listen to a rainstorm.
  • Listen for a cardinal.
  • Pay attention to crickets.
  • Make a summer playlist.
  • Listen to a mourning dove.
  • Listen to children playing outside.
  • Listen to frogs in a pond.
  • Count the seconds between lightning and thunder.

Flavors of summer

  • Eat a fresh tomato.
  • Eat corn on the cob.
  • Make homemade popsicles.
  • Eat an ice cream cone.
  • Eat a s’more.
  • Make fried green tomatoes.
  • Dip a radish in salt.
  • Drink an iced coffee.
  • Drink wine outdoors.
  • Eat watermelon.
  • Eat a freshly grilled steak.
  • Make cucumber salad.
  • Eat a hotdog (preferably a Chicago dog).
  • Buy meat from the source.
  • Shell peas.
  • Make gazpacho.
  • Make berry cobbler.
  • Drink a tropical cocktail.
  • Dine al fresco.
  • Eat a fresh peach.
  • Eat fresh basil.
  • Picnic.
  • Drink an Arnold Palmer.
  • Drink freshly made lemonade.
  • Attend a backyard barbecue.
  • Blow bubbles with bubblegum.

Scents of summer

  • Arrange a bouquet of fresh flowers.
  • Take a walk after the rain.
  • Smell lilacs.
  • Mow the lawn.
  • Eat rhubarb something.
  • Smell peonies.
  • Use coconut sunscreen.

Doings of summer

  • Walk through rain puddles.
  • Do goat yoga.
  • Swing.
  • Climb a tree.
  • Day dream.
  • Lie in a hammock.
  • Play hopscotch.
  • Read a book outdoors.
  • Go for a boat ride.
  • Kiss in the moonlight.
  • Walk along the shore.
  • Visit a farm.
  • Kayak.
  • Sunbathe.
  • Dance.
  • Take a twilight walk.
  • Walk a labyrinth.
  • Pick a dandelion.
  • Wear a ponytail and baseball cap.
  • Take a day off.
  • Play 7-up (it’s a one-person game with a tennis ball).
  • Watch ants at work.
  • Pick berries.
  • Shop a garage sale.
  • Write a poem.
  • Sit around a campfire or bonfire.
  • Slap a mosquito.
  • Wear shorts and sandals.
  • Attend an outdoor church service.
  • Get a pedicure.
  • Ride in a convertible (or open the sun roof).
  • Go to a farmer’s market.
  • Play mini golf.
  • Go for a run (even a short one).
  • Chase a monarch butterfly.
  • Go to a flea market.
  • Place flowers on a grave.
  • Collect shells.
  • Paint a rock.
  • Visit a sculpture garden.
  • Go to stock car race.
  • Splash in a pool.
  • Go to a sidewalk sale.
  • Raise a flag.
  • Hang sheets on a clothesline.
  • Throw a frisbee.
  • Ride a bike.

Carrot cashew romesco sauce for the goose (or hen or hog)

Traditionally, romeso sauce is made with roasted red peppers and almonds.

But when you’re ordered to stay at home, and the only vegetable in the crisper draw is carrots, you improvise. I whipped up this recipe last week, and I enjoyed it very much. Maybe you’ll like it, too.

I enjoy romesco sauce as a way to jazz up a boring pork loin, but this version made with carrots is just as good. You can roast the pork loin or pork chops along side the carrots and garlic for an easy meal. I think it would be just as good on chicken breasts.

Carrot Cashew Romesco Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds carrots, peeled and cut lengthwise into halves or quarters (you’ll need only about a half pound for the sauce; serve the rest of the carrots on the side of your protein)
  • 4 cloves garlic, smashed and skins removed
  • 3 mini orange peppers, seeded (optional; I had these in the bottom of the crisper draw and they fit the color scheme)
  • 1/4 cup cashews
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided (or more to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons pan drippings or chicken broth or water (more for a looser sauce)
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes or more to taste
  • Salt and pepper to taste
romesco carrots roasting

Here are my carrots before I popped them into the oven. Note the peppers and garlic in the bottom right there.

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Arrange carrots and peppers in a single layer on sheet pan. Add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil plus salt and pepper. Toss to coat. Add garlic cloves in one corner. Place pan in oven for 45 minutes. Stir at least once. You can roast your protein–pork chops, chicken breasts–in the same oven. Remove garlic cloves if they begin to burn.
  2. romesco carrots blending

    My roasted carrots and other ingredient, pre-blending.

    In blender, add roughly one quarter of the carrots, the peppers (if you used them), the garlic, 1 tablespoon of olive oil plus all other ingredients. Blend until smooth. Add more drippings, broth or water to achieve the consistency you desire.

  3. To serve dollop sauce on protein and serve with a side of roasted carrots. Yum!

 

 

 

 

 

romesco served

Here’s my dinner: Pork chop on a bed of broccoli-cauliflower rice, topped with romesco sauce, with a side of roasted carrots.

Pandemic of cleaning

If you’re vacuuming more or organizing closets or wiping down door knobs and switchplates, you might be stressed out.

Well, you might be using Lysol wipes like they’re a hot commodity because of CDC guidelines for avoiding COVID-19, but you get my point, right? Some people go into cleaning mode when they’re anxious.

Cleaning is a real response. A study published in Current Biology found a link between anxiety and obsessive cleaning. It’s an effective response, too, because your carpet or closet or door is clean you’re done. If you’re only wringing your hands in worry, all you’ll get is tight shoulders and a headache.

So it is for my Beloved and me in our new condo where we’re sheltering in place. The first thing we do when we move into any new place is clean; even without CVOID-19, we’re not fans of other people’s germy dirt. One reason we chose this particular piece of real estate is because it’s part of rental program; lake lovers can vacation here during the summer when we’re enjoying southern Wisconsin’s temperate climes. To avoid horrible online reviews of how dirty this place is, cleaning is even more imperative so we’ve spent our first few weeks here obsessively cleaning all the weird things in a house you tend to overlook when you’ve lived there a while. It’s just a bonus that all this cleaning helps dissipate anxiety about skyrocketing infection rates and plunging stock portfolios.

If you’re looking for ways to turn your anxiety into purposeful effort here are a few things to clean that are not as obvious as the junk drawer or your bedroom closet:

  • Molding: Before anything was moved in, we washed the walls and molding first to prepare surfaces for the painter. The tops of the window and door molding were covered in years of dust! Also overlooked, the shelves above the hanging rod in closets.
  • bathroom vent

    Bathroom fan vent

    Bathroom vents: This is typically the most disgusting thing in a hotel room, and they’re not that difficult to clean. Remove the cover and scrub it in soapy water. Run some compressed air in the vent.

  • Dryer vent: This might be a whole afternoon project if your dryer is already in place. We installed a new dryer, so it was easy to run compressed air through the house vent. My Beloved also used the air compresser on the vent in the dryer (when the dryer was still outside, waiting to be installed). 

 

  • room vent

    Room vent

    Furnace and air conditioning vents: You’ll probably need a screwdriver to remove these. Scrub the vent, and clean the duct. My Beloved spraypainted the ceiling vents from the bathrooms because they were a little rusty (he performed this messy project in the garage). They look better than new now.

  • Furnace filter: Have you changed yours recently? These filter the air and you need that more than ever right now.

 

stovetop vent

Stove fan filters

  • Vent screens above your stovetop: These are greasy and gross, but ours are removable. I just ran them through the dishwasher. 
  • Ceiling fan: Are you sensing a theme here? If it’s a fan or a vent, it’s probably dirty. Get out a ladder and proceed with dusting it or, if it’s really gross, use soapy water.
  • Refrigerator coils: Yes, this means moving the refrigerator so you can get behind it. Air compressor to the rescue again (I think you could use a vacuum, too. Don’t depend on Minnesota Transplant for this one; best to google how-tos). We don’t think ours had ever been cleaned. My Beloved also removed the grate beneath the refrigerator door and washed it in the bathtub.
  • Kitchen appliances: When was the last time you washed the rotating plate in the microwave? The inside of your oven? How about your blender buttons (tip: cotton swabs)? If vinegar isn’t too dear to you right now, run some through your coffee maker (and then make a few pots with water only or you’ll ruin your morning java).
  • Kitchen garbage can: When was the last time this thing saw soapy water? And if it’s stored in a cabinet? Yeah, it’s probably revolting back there in the dark. Remove everything, vacuum up the coffee grounds and dried peas, and scrub thoroughly.
  • Air conditioner: A professional offered to do this for $400, which was too steep a price for us so my Beloved used his own power washer. Be sure you turn off the power before you try this trick.

cupboard cleaning

  • Cabinets: The knobs on your cabinets are probably disgusting but you’re blind to it. Look closely. Gross. Fill a new pail with soapy water and get scrubbing. If you’re really enterprising, remove the cabinet doors and knobs, sand them down and re-stain them (that’s what my dad is doing with his extra time these days). My Beloved doesn’t have a workspace like Dad, so he used a product called Restor-A-Finish. Just rub it right into the wood and let it soak in. Our cabinets had been so neglected, it took two coats.
  •  The deck: The power washer got another workout on the tile on the deck. Careful! Slippery when wet.
  • Window screens: Windexing the windows, that’s obvious. Removing the screens and hauling them into the shower, now that’s special. My Beloved used a scrub brush and dishwashing liquid.
  • Door bell: Lysol wipe and a Q-tip should do the trick. While you’re out there, look up? Got any bugs in your front light?

Have I missed anything? What strange element of your surroundings is now sparkling because of your anxious elbow grease?

Truth is stranger than fiction

Strange times, indeed.

As the COVID-19 pandemic overtakes America and the world, I’m sure I’m not the only one feeling like I’m walking through scenes in a catastrophe movie.

titanic couple

In the 1997 movie “Titanic,” Isidor and Ida Straus were depicted holding one another in bed as the ship sank. Fortunately, I’m sheltering in place with my Beloved, and between us, we’re not socially distancing.

I’ve been vacillating between feeling like the Titanic couple awaiting doom together in bed and feeling giddy that I have almost nothing on my to-do list.

I don’t know if I should be savoring every breath or if I should be behaving as if everything is going to be OK. This week, I required a blood test for a doctor’s appointment scheduled for May. The doctor already emailed to say he would be conducting telephone appointments for the foreseeable future. So I scheduled an appointment for a blood draw yesterday. Everything will be OK, right? The appointment will occur as scheduled, I assume. Proceed as planned.

The roads to my appointment were strangely empty (I’m living in a shelter-in-place county). Besides the phlebotomists, I was the only one in the office. The technician was all business until the end of my visit. I told her I was praying for people like her, and she said, “It’ll get worse before it gets better.” Then she described in vivid detail how all the stores near her home are boarded up and she heard we should all stock up two months worth of food.

I drove straight to the supermarket and bought $300 worth of food.

Buying groceries was surreal, too. The toilet paper aisle was empty, of course, but so were the aisles of canned vegetables, canned fruit and dairy. Unless I was interested in cake or ice cream, the frozen food department was wiped out, too.

It’s been months since I felt like blogging. After having blogged nearly every day for nearly seven years, the well was dry last June, and I just quit writing. It felt pointless. But then the world is turned upside down, and my mind churns blog topics up from the depths as I watch the news, as I make dinner, as I fall asleep and as I lay awake. Life has urgency again, and writing feels what a writer should do.

Another reason for this creativity spurt is time. I have time on my hands. I’m not working. I’m not renovating or decorating. I’m not driving all over creation. There are pauses, and I have blanks, finally, my mind is inspired to fill.

I’m not actually waiting for the boat to sink, but I am savoring time. Time to think. Time to Facetime with my parents in rural Minnesota (which I did for the first time today–why did it take so long?). Time with my Beloved.

Here’s hoping you can find the upside to these strange times. What are you savoring?