• the coronavirus diaries: week seventeen

    The other night, my brother’s family and my family got together at my parents’ place for fresh black raspberry pies with whipped cream. My brother’s kids were playing, but my younger son sat apart. When I suggested he go play, too, he shook his head. Then he paused, reconsidering.

    “I could wear this,” he said shyly, pulling his mask out of his pocket. It was more a question than a statement.

    “Sure,” I said, and minutes later he was down on his knees, clustered with his young cousins around the sand pile.

    Watching him play — the first time in months that I’d seen him play in close proximity to other kids — my heart broke a little. An already sensitive soul by nature, he’s become increasingly cautious, fearful of getting too close to people, preferring to stay home than risk being exposed, or worse, exposing someone else.

    I’m glad he cares about other people enough to not want to get anyone sick (if only we could all be as thoughtful, can I get an amen?) but seeing him in the great outdoors surrounded by glorious tall trees and wide-open skies and the people who love him most, and wearing a mask on his face — a mask! — I felt so very sad. Children should’ve have to worry about this sort of thing.

    Some days it feels like the whole word has become shadowed — sinister, almost — and I get the distinct impression that we’re living in the middle of a dystopian novel.

    I wonder how the story ends.


    Gradually, we’re figuring out ways to be safe, yet still live. This means, in nice weather, having an open-door policy: when friends come over, we mostly stay outside, and we don’t worry when people need to come inside to grab stuff, use the bathroom, visit briefly.

    For example:

    *My younger son and I met up with friends at a river for a few hours of visiting and playing in the water.

    a physical-distancing picnic lunch

    *My older daughter’s friend is staying here, off and on, for a few days. With no air conditioning, our windows are thrown wide, and, thanks to the heat, no one’s too keen on cuddling in enclosed spaces. As an added precaution, she sleeps in the guest room instead of my daughter’s room. 

    *When some out-of-state young adults needed a place to camp out on their way through our area, we let them stay in our yard, giving them access to the downstairs bathroom and setting out breakfast on the porch.

    *My younger two spent the night at my parents’ house, sleeping out on their porches instead of inside.

    *My older kids went camping with friends for the weekend. They divided up between three cars to help with physical distancing, and sleeping arrangements involved hammocks and extra tents.

    Though that kind of fell to pieces when they got hit with a wicked rainstorm and one of the tents sprung a leak.

    Speaking of cars, I think my older son’s new car makes for a perfect covid-mobile.

    Lots of fresh air and it only seats two!


    The other day, in need of a dress, I stopped by Old Navy. I breezed through the store, yanking clothes off the racks willy-nilly to try on.
    But then I learned that the dressing rooms weren’t open. Seriously? What do they think we do to the clothes while trying them on — lick them?
    So then I had to buy a whole stack of clothes and take them home — to my contaminated, germy living space — and then, a couple days later, return the items that didn’t fit.
    Whatever. I’m chalking it up to yet another covid inconvenience.
    Over the past few weeks, I kept hearing people ask, re the Black Lives Matter protests, Why now? Why, suddenly, was George Floyd’s murder the one atrocity in a long, long line of atrocities to garner national attention and kickstart white people into caring?
    Wasn’t it obvious? I thought to myself. People were caring now because of the pandemic, right? Stuck at home, people were aching to do something. Frustrated and angry, they needed an outlet, and Floyd’s murder gave them one. Furthermore, since Covid-19 had interrupted routines, it’d shattered any sense of normalcy, jolting people out of complacency and making them more vulnerable and, consequently, more accessible. In a way, the virus was practically inspirational: if everything we thought of as fixed — work, commerce, schools — could fall to pieces in mere days, then maybe real change was possible?
    But nobody was saying any of that and, since it felt crass to suggest that real social change was pandemic-motivated, I didn’t say anything out loud (except to my husband).
    But then Code Switch did a podcast called Why now, White People? Of the three reasons they mentioned — peer pressure, Trump, and the pandemic — they spent the majority of the time on the pandemic. According to them and their guest social psychologist, the political landscape coupled with the pandemic, has made this an opportune time for protests. So I guess I wasn’t so far out in left field after all!
    It’s an excellent podcast. If you have a chance, give it a listen.

    And finally, three gems….

    If you’ve ever wondered how effective masks are, this clip (starting at about the 30 second mark) is for you.

    Our beloved Schitt’s Creek darlings salute the teachers on a zoom call.

    Oh, David. How we love you!

    And a current day Parks and Rec town hall meeting.

    The mask wars are real, y’all.


    This same time, years previous: buttermilk brownies, we have arrived, the quotidian (6.30.14), on slaying boredom, honeyed apricot almond cake, a potential problem.

  • the quotidian (6.29.20)

    Quotidian: daily, usual or customary;
    everyday; ordinary; commonplace

    The morning after my mother’s driveby berry drop-off. 

    I simply had to have a taste. 

    Regular and fancy, with cardemom, marzipan, and pearl sugar, on the right.

    Olive loaf that the webs raved about: meh.

    Sweets, from a local orchard.

    Pitter stains.

    Summer suppers = an exercise in finding creative ways to deal with the produce tsunami.

    No rhyme or reason: overproofed bread, OB tampons, alegra textbook, etc. 
    Sours, from our trees.

    I was sick of his grungy shirt so I ripped it. Then he finished it off. 


    Baby robins in a pear tree.
    photo credit: my younger son

    The campers prepare.

    Practicing for a very special event: stay tuned!

    This same time, years previous: burnt cheesecake, teen club takes Puerto Rico, roasted zucchini parmesan, twist and shout, better iced coffee, in recovery, blueberry pie, dark chocolate zucchini cake, a break in the clouds.

  • nova scotia oatcakes

    Hello, friends. It’s raining, a gentle downpour. Half of the family is at work (getting soaked, probably), and the other half is here, quietly working/playing on computers or reading or whatever (I don’t care enough to run upstairs and find out). I have no idea what I’ll make for supper, but a loaf of cheesy olive bread is in the oven. Maybe we’ll eat that and… aw, heck, I don’t know. Eggs? Tomato soup? Salad?

    That’s it! Salad, tomato soup, and cheesy olive bread! Hang on while I call my daughter and ask her to cut me a head of lettuce from the farm…

    Okay, I’m back now.

    The weather has been unseasonably cool all week, so I’ve been trying to bake a little more than usual: a grape pie, granola, oatmeal cake, raspberry cheesecake cookies, flan. Which brings me to my point: Nova Scotia Oatcakes.

    I already have an oatcake recipe on the blog — an oat biscuit, of sorts — but this one is entirely different. Thin and crunchy, these cookies are like a biscotti-cracker hybrid. They remind me of those packaged thin-n-crispy granola bars, but better (of course). Sweet and rich, they have a wonderful caramel flavor and the snap of a good toffee.

    The ingredient list is quite similar to the recipe for a fruit crisp topping: flour, oats, butter, sugar. Just, in this case the butter and sugar get creamed before adding the dry ingredients and then the dough is rolled, or pressed, into a large rectangle and cut into smaller rectangles.

    The original recipe provides all sorts of variations, including gluten-free and vegan versions, and a whole array of add-ins: peanut butter, nuts and seeds, dried fruit, spices. (So they are kind of like a delux granola bar, yes?) The author says her mother likes to butter (!) her oatcakes, but I think that’s overkill; they’re plenty rich as is.

    They pair well with anything — coffee, lemonade, vanilla ice cream. Probably they’d make a killer “graham cracker” crust, but I haven’t tried that yet. When I make these, I store them in a glass jar on the fridge, ready for packed lunches and after-work snacks. They never last long, though, so my advice: double, or quadruple, the recipe. Since they keep well at room temperature, they’d be perfect for mailing to that dear friend you can’t see right now because of this dang plague. If nothing else, they’ll freeze indefinitely. Really, you can’t go wrong.

    Except if you don’t make them, then you’d be going wrong.

    Nova Scotia Oatcakes 
    Adapted from Kelly Neil’s blog.

    1 stick butter
    ½ cup brown sugar
    ¼ teaspoon vanilla
    1 cup rolled oats
    ¾ cup flour
    ½ teaspoon baking powder
    ½ teaspoon salt

    Beat the butter until creamy. Add the brown sugar and vanilla and beat a couple more minutes. Add the dry ingredients and mix until combined.

    Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter, or onto a piece of parchment paper, and roll it into a large rectangle about ¼-inch thick. Cut into rectangles (about 12 oatcakes per recipe) and transfer to a greased baking sheet. Or, if rolling the dough out on parchment, simply pull the oatcakes apart from each other to create space between them and lift the parchment onto the baking sheet.

    Bake the oatcakes at 350 degrees for 13-16 minutes, or until golden brown. Let them sit on the baking tray for a couple minutes to firm up before transferring to a cooling rack. Store oatcakes in a pretty glass jar on the counter, or bag and freeze.

    This same time, years previous: one morning, the quotidian (6.18.18), the quotidian (6.19.17), the quotidian (6.20.16), dobby and luna, walking through water, refried beans, Kate’s enchiladas, cold-brewed coffee and tea.

  • currently: a list

    These days, I am…

    Battling… boredom. Lately it’s been more intense than usual.

    Marveling… at the body’s ability to heal. My finger reattached itself, y’all! (My husband says “reattached” is too strong a word but I beg to differ. After three full weeks of bandaids and tons of coddling and lots of inconveniece, if I say the dang finger done did reattach itself, then it did, SO THERE.)

    Applauding… myself for running this morning because, even though it was my day off, I knew a run would help my mood on this gloomy, dreary day. And it did.

    Considering… murdering the neighbor’s rooster. The early wake-ups are putting me over the edge.

    Eyeballing… these cookies. Her recipes rarely work for me, but this one looks foolproof, yes? Also, I think it’s high time I learned to make flan and tres leches cake.

    Gobbling up… the freshly-picked black raspberries that my mother left in our mailbox.

    Stepping out of character and permitting… my children to experiment with frying: rice paper chips, sugared bananas wrapped in rice paper, potato chips.

    Appreciating… articles like Our Pain Is Not Your Classroom (Medium) and this video which I showed to my family at the supper table the other night.

    Signing… a petition to change the name of a local high school.

    Bookmarking… movies from this list of 15 Kid-Friendly Movies to Help Build a Conversation About Race and Racism.

    Watching… Queen of Katwe for our family movie night. Recommend! (The week before we watched Selma, and I’d like to watch this documentary with them as a follow-up to Just Mercy.)

    Listening to… to David Berry. I’m in awe.

    Reading… Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri. I love her characters, her insights, her writing, everything. Also, I just finished Being Mortal and Normal People. Next up: Scratched (I have a feeling I’m not going to like it), and I’m reading Little Women to the younger two.

    Putting on hold… books from the library: they’re up and running again!!!

    Hoping… the DMV sends my son the title for his new car and quick. Unable to drive it, the poor boy just sits in it for hours on end, or stands on the porch gazing at it longingly.

    Savoring… leisurely wine-and-cheese visits on the deck with friends.

    Puzzling over… the outlines for the next few chapters for my book. Which is the polite way of saying: I’m hopelessly stuck. Deep in the mire. Miserable. It’s agony, people. Do you hear me? Agony.

    Wearing… sweatshirt, jeans, and wool socks, in June.

    Laughing… over Sarah Cooper’s brilliance. Favorites include this, this, and this.

    Missing… coffee shops and crowds.

    Lingering… at the supper table, swapping stories, arguing (loudly and a lot), watching YouTube clips, and reading articles out loud.

    (If we were in a motley crew competition, we’d take the cake.)


    This same time, years previous: cousin week, family week, puff!, smart hostessing, sinking in, the quotidian (6.16.14), language study, a glimpse, when I sat down.

  • the quotidian (6.15.20)

    Quotidian: daily, usual or customary; 
    everyday; ordinary; commonplace

    Our strawberry patch is pathetic this year.

    On repeat.

    Carrot top and garlic scape pesto. Tip: blanch the carrots tops before blending.

    Puerto Rican flan.

    Dalgona coffee: have you tried it?

    Weekend feasting.

    Chasing Ellie with his drone.

    Master mess maker.

    Girl grooms.

    Day’s end: hot, dirty, tired, hungry.

    Yum, chicken!

    In great condition and for only 2K: he’s stunned, my husband’s jealous.

    This same time, years previous: the quotidian (6.10.19), barbecue sauce, up, up, up to Utuado, a new pie basket, high entertainment, a photo book, mud cake, spinach dip, street food, Greek cucumber and tomato salad, sourdough waffles.

  • the coronavirus diaries: week thirteen

    One of my sisters-in-law posted this meme to our group chat:

    So far 2020 is like looking both ways before you cross the street and then getting hit by an airplane.  And then she added, “Praying everyone can take a deep breath before the locust come.”

    Yep, pretty much sums it up, I think.


    On Friday, our governor made it mandatory for people to wear masks in public. That morning, I stopped by Food Lion — the store we’d been boycotting — to see if they were in compliance. Every single employee was masked, hallelujah! (Since then, I’ve popped into other stores that had previously been entirely maskless and it’s all the same — everyone is now masked.)

    It’s amazing, how different I feel now — so much more calm and confident. For the first time, we are all pulling together as a team. It makes me hopeful.

    But it’s also kind of infuriating. Because here we are, nearly three months into this mess and we’re only just now beginning to take a unified approach. If only we had acted together. If only we’d had a plan. If only we’d all worn masks from the very beginning (as my sister-in-law advised), can you even imagine? Just think of how much confusion and anxiety, petty arguing, and suffering we could’ve spared ourselves!

    But no, I can’t go there. It makes me too angry.

    For now, I’ll just be grateful that I no longer have to drive all the way across town to buy a gallon of milk.


    My aunt has taken to drawing cartoons: she has a series that she calls Pandemic Nights. This one made me laugh out loud.

    (If you don’t catch the reference, watch this.)


    For awhile now, I’ve noticed that we don’t really hear much about the dead and dying. Somehow, in all the pandemic flurry, that part feels tucked away, hidden from view. And because we don’t see the sick, it’s easy to think Covid happens to just certain people, the ones they tell us are more susceptible: the black, the elderly, the obese.

    It makes me think of Vietnam, how that was the first time a war was televised and what a huge effect that had. What if we were televising the pandemic, actually showing what’s happening in hospitals? Filming the people dying alone, the exhausted medical professionals, the distraught family members?

    When I mentioned this to my husband, he said, “You just don’t see it because we don’t have TV. They’re probably showing it on the news.”

    Maybe. But maybe not? We get the Washington Post and the NY Times and listen to NPR, and still, I somehow feel like I’m not getting the whole picture.

    (And then last week, Terry Gross interviewed a journalist who investigated the death care system in NYC. It was exactly the sort of reporting that I’ve felt is missing.)


    And now, a story.

    A couple weeks back, a friend from church was in a bad bicycle accident. In one of her caringbridge posts, her mother wrote that, when she told her daughter that the nursing staff would train some care partners for her, her daughter wrote in a text, “Can I have a therapy pony?”

    It was all a joke, of course — her brother, the one who’d be caring for her, responded that he was not going to clean up any pony poop — but it got my wheels turning: my daughter has a pony, and we certainly had lots of time on our hands.

    On a whim, I emailed one of her housemates with my idea: a surprise pony drop-in. Yes, please! the housemate responded. So my daughter borrowed my dad’s truck and an animal trailer from another friend, and then she spent hours trying to train Ellie to ride in the trailer.

    Ellie would get in the trailer just fine, but whenever the truck moved, she’d go berserk, rearing up and getting her feet caught between the slats. Once she even flipped over on her back.

    About a half hour before we were supposed to leave for town, I emailed that we couldn’t make it after all: Ellie just wasn’t complying.

    “I could just ride in the back with her,” my daughter said.

    When she’d suggested this before, I’d dismissed the idea outright, but now I wondered if it might now be such a bad idea after all?

    My daughter quick did some research. “I think riding in trailers is only illegal on the highway,” she said. “We can take the back roads.”

    I called my husband. “Whatever,” he said. “Just don’t tell me what you’re doing.”

    Only several miles down the road, a white car pulled up behind us.

    “That’s a cop,” my son said. 

    “Haha, very funny.”

    “Mom, seriously. It’s a cop!”

    The trailer slats obstructed my view of the car, but maybe? My daughter had completely disappeared from sight. Was she flat on the floor? And then the car turned off — it was a cop! — and my daughter popped back up, laughing. Good grief!

    In town, we parked at the university and then walked to the house, giggling all the way and hoping Ellie wouldn’t take a spontaneous dump.

    At the house, we waited in the yard — the housemates had set up a little sitting area under a shade tree — while they blindfolded our friend and led her over.

    Touching Ellie’s nose, her first suggestion was a goat, but then, realizing it was a pony, she burst out laughing and jumped up and down.

    We didn’t linger long. It’s not like there’s anything to do with a pony besides brush her and feed her grain, and besides, since we couldn’t see our friend’s expressions — she had a mask over her trach, a mask over her mouth, and after her blindfold came off, she wore sunglasses — I worried we might be wearing her out. When I emailed her housemate later to follow up, she assured me that everyone had enjoyed Ellie’s visit.

    Which may have been true — I hope it is, anyway — but somehow I doubt anyone could’ve possibly enjoyed it as much as we did.

    It was just the sort of adventure we’d been needing.


    And finally, Julie’s back with a part two!


    This same time, years previous: berries for supper, the quotidian (6.4.18), a better grilled cheese sandwich, when the studies end, on pins and needles, meat market: life in the raw, the best chocolate ice cream ever.

  • black lives matter

    Monday evening, my older daughter, younger son, and I attended our town’s silent march.

    To quote the organizers, “We are going to bring attention to these matters that have been oppressing our black brothers and sisters for way too long!”

    The march itself was, as planned, mostly quiet and completely peaceful: hundreds of demonstrators with signs held high walking by the courthouse and jail and then cutting back through the downtown.

    The organizers had told us we were to stay on the sidewalks, but there were so many people that we filled the streets completely. Police accompanied us, stopping traffic (and, I’ve since heard, silencing an irritable driver who was honking). Passersby pulled their cars over to film the march, and some non-marchers stood along the route, or sat in their parked their cars, holding signs. As we neared the end of the route, people started chanting, the shouts of “No justice, no peace!” echoing against the walls of the public library, the children’s museum, the office buildings.

    We hadn’t been able to hear the opening remarks — so many (masked) people! — but we were able to stand closer to the speakers during the closing remarks. The line I most remember (wildly paraphrased):

    We come with our anger and hurt, and we come with a fierce love for each other.



    A (summary of a) conversation from this morning…

    “Have you seen what people are saying about being silent?” my older son said. “That anyone who remains silent on issues of oppression takes the side of the oppressor. I feel obligated to do something but I don’t know what.”

    “Silence comes in different forms,” I said. “Turning a blind eye is one thing, but being quiet in order to allow others to speak up is very different.”

    “But I want to help out in some way. I feel like I should do something. Like I should say something, but because white males have been dominating for so long, I don’t feel like I can say anything.”

    “So what’s the opposite of that?” I asked.

    “Being quiet,” he said.

    “Then listen,” I said. “Listen to black and brown people. We have to listen to what they say they need from us. We need to read their books, see their plays, listen to their podcasts. Follow their lead.”

    I don’t know if that’s the most helpful advice, but it’s what I came up with. Like many, I’m on a steep learning curve.


    *75 Things White People Can Do for Social Justice. (Medium)

    *For the month of June, Just Mercy is streaming for free from multiple platforms, including YouTube, Amazon Prime, and Redbox. (I can not recommend it highly enough.)

    *From Ibram X. Kendi, a list of 24 of “the most influential books on race and the black experience published in the United States for each decade of the nation’s existence — a history of race through ideas, arranged chronologically on the shelf.” (New York Times)

    *Specific to the current riots and demonstrations, this interview with the Brooklyn Borough President on Fighting Police Brutality From the Inside. “At 15, Eric Adams was beaten by police. He later joined the force and worked to reform NYC policing by co-founding 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care.”

    *I don’t have Instagram, but for those who do, here are five accounts to listen to and learn from. (Cup of Jo)

    *And finally, if you haven’t yet seen it, this video of Trevor Noah: George Floyd and the Dominos of Racial Injustice.


    This morning my cousin posted the following on Facebook…

    My beautiful boys. Marc is 13 and Luc is 10.  

    I have to teach them what to say and do if confronted by a police officer. It still may not matter.  

    When they wear their COVID masks, I have to tell them to keep their hoodies down. It still may not matter.  

    My son Marc started to run for exercise before Ahmaud was murdered. He’s not allowed to run alone anymore. It still may not matter.  

    Following the murder of George Floyd, I watched as some people in my town attached confederate flags to their vehicles, touting their white privilege/supremacy. I can do everything in my power to protect my boys, but it still may not matter.  

    My sons are caring, kind, respectful, and hilarious. They are bottomless pits, athletes, gamers, and cuddle bugs. They work hard at their household chores and don’t hesitate to help their neighbors. They are creative, loving, and fearless. They are black. 

    And their lives matter. 

    Reading my cousin’s words, the tears came. I’m not sure why, exactly. Was it because these children are family? Because I’d just returned from a run with my son? Because Mother Pain is something I connect with? Because of the cumulative stress, tension, and pain of the events of the last few weeks? Whatever the reason, I wept.

    Thank you, Karen, for sharing. All my love to you and your precious, beautiful boys.

    This same time, years previous: the quotidian (6.3.20), mama said, this is us, brown sugar rhubarb muffins, the quotidian (6.1.15), the quotidian (6.2.14), the quotidian (6.3.13). small pasta with spinach and bacon.