Thursday, May 21, 2020

Sam's Weekly Quarantine Digest #11: May 20, 2020

Hi everyone,

This week, I've been thinking about what social distancing really means in the long term.  Although many of us have been dutifully adhering to the rules of quarantine, it will become increasingly difficult for us to maintain physical separation for the many months or even years until a vaccine becomes widely available, and the risk will increasingly feel outweighed by the reward.  In areas of the country and the world that have reopened to some extent, restaurant owners have found creative ways to enforce social distancing and keep customers safe, from building private greenhouses for each table to asking customers to wear pool noodle hats or even bumper boats with a three-foot radius.  I also wonder about how to feel present while remaining physically separate - even once I'm able to meet up with my friends again, I won't be able to hug them hello, and whispered conversations won't be safely possible.  And yet, I know scores of grandparents who have made long trips just to stand 6 feet away from their grandchildren, so there's something about nearness (even without touch), and talking to someone without a screen between us, that fills part of this need we have to be "close."  (See here for the official advice from experts on grandparent visits.).

While we don't yet have all the answers, the concept of "bubbling" (slowly and carefully expanding your quarantine contacts to include a select few other people who quarantine as strictly as you do) seems to hold some promise, and New York is set to permit religious gatherings of up to 10 people beginning this Thursday, so perhaps life will slowly begin to return to normal bit by bit.  In the meantime, I encourage you all to find a meaningful way of connecting with others, whether that's through socially-distanced picnics (no shared food, wear masks, keep your distance!) or through phone calls and emails and cards to those whom you know may need a little extra love and support right now, or even just baking something delightful for yourself and your quarantine-mates.  This too shall pass.  In the meantime, do what you can and what you must to (safely) help yourself and your loved ones stay positive!


To smile and relax
  • NASA has released the first full map of the moon, and it's beautiful!
  • Mohonk Mountain House is hosting its annual Tulip Festival online, including tours of the tulips led by the head gardener, mindful meditation sessions amongst the flowers, and pastel tutorials.  Check out this colorful collection of activities here.
  • Netflix has a new British show about competitive gardening.  Yes, you read that right - it's called The Big Flower Fight.  I'm watching the first episode as I draft this email, and thus far it's everything I hoped it would be.
  • Have you been experiencing new or worse neck and back pain since you've started working from home?  You're not alone.  Spear Physical Therapy (which I cannot recommend highly enough if you're in need of PT) has been offering ergonomics workshops and live workouts (as well as remote 1:1 appointments).  Check out their YouTube Channel for recordings of past events.  You can also check out this guide to properly setting up your home workspace, and this ergonomics workshop with plenty of stretches and exercises to relieve pain and loosen tight muscles.

To eat and create
  • Recipe of the Week: Pecan Pesto: Last week's white wine-butter sauce was quite popular, so here's another sauce recipe, for a fantastic pesto I made last week.  A traditional pesto includes garlic, pine nuts, basil, cheese, and olive oil.  There are two problems with that for me: pine nuts are hard to find in grocery stores right now, and I don't love basil.  So I subbed in pecans for the pine nuts, and a handful of chives, rosemary, and thyme for the basil.  It turned out beautifully, and even my husband gave it two thumbs up.  So here goes: Place 1/2 cup pecans, a small bunch of chives (maybe about 20 total, sliced), a small bunch of rosemary (ideally minced - I used maybe 1/2 to 1 tbsp) and thyme leaves (I used maybe 1/2-1 tsp), 1 tsp minced garlic and 1 cup parmesan cheese to a food processor; blend until even consistency (should be a sort of sandy texture).  Drizzle in 1/4 cup olive oil and a splash of pasta water; add more of either or both as needed to reach desired consistency.  Add protein if desired (I tossed in sautéed chicken with a little chimichurri seasoning and rosemary salt (highly recommended if you followed my advice from a few weeks ago and ordered from The Filling Station!)).  And since this pesto is so good and you're going to want a lot of it in each bite, I recommend using a pasta with a grippy, sauce-holding shape, like fusilli, rotini, or radiatore.
  • The Jewish Food Festival is taking place through May 28, filled with tons of workshops, discussions, cooking demonstrations, and more.  Even if you're not Jewish, take a look at the schedule to see if there are sessions you might be interested in, and check out the recipes available for download on their website.
  • If you live near me in downtown Manhattan, the Downtown Alliance maintains this list of restaurants that are open for delivery, takeout, or both.
To distract and instruct
  • Sony Pictures Kid Zone is chock full of arts & crafts, learning aids, and physical movement ideas for kids in quarantine.
  • Embark, a company that offers dog DNA testing, has put together some great resources for learning about genetics, with activities ranging from dog-themed coloring books and bingo cards for young kids to genetics lessons for "high school and above."  

To give and share
  • One of our most important civic duties is to VOTE.  With the ongoing difficulties the pandemic presents for voting in-person, you may prefer to submit an absentee ballot.  New York is now allowing anyone "affected by Covid-19" (including those who are concerned about the risk of exposure) to request one.  Request your absentee ballot NOW
  • Early in the quarantine, I shared information about how to donate your iPad to hospitals for use with patients who were isolated with no visitors due to Covid-19 (and I donated my own).  The group who organized that project made this lovely video about the impact it's had.  If you'd like to join the effort, check out
  • Tune into Feed the Front Lines, a benefit concert featuring performances from many of the biggest names in country music.  The organization was started during the past few months to address the dual goals of supporting struggling restaurants and their workers while also providing meals to those who need them most (including both front-line workers and communities in need across the country).  The concert was taking place all day today, with the concert kicking off at 8pm tonight, but there are also recordings on their website and their YouTube channel, and the window to donate doesn't expire.

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