Sunday, March 7, 2021

Sam's Weekly Quarantine Digest #44, March 7, 2021

Hi all,

This week, I've been thinking about work-life balance, and clutching at the strands of memory of what that meant in the "before" years.  For the past year, for many of us, home and life have been entirely blurred, as our kids and dogs appear in our work Zooms, our commute has been reduced to the length of the hallway between the bedroom and the office, and our work patterns have been entirely rewired (either grinding to a halt or sprinting at speeds hitherto unseen).  We work strange hours, and to the extent we are able to "unplug" in the evenings, much of our time is spent doing what feels like more of the same, as many of the activities we indulge in to relax have migrated onto our screens.

And yet, this pandemic has also given us a lot more time to use in our day - with our commute gone, our socializing reduced, and our meals either prepared in or delivered to our own kitchens, we have precious extra minutes (or even hours) more each day at our disposal.  It's strange, then, that we often still don't feel that we have enough time to finish our task list each day.

However, after years of racing full speed ahead through each day and having little or no time in my day that is not claimed by my schoolwork or my job, I've started a new position, and I'm in that delightful phase when you're too new to be very productive, but everyone is excited to have you around nonetheless.  I've been soaking up all I can about the company and its products, but in the evening, there really is a time when I "leave work" and wander off to other areas of my new house to focus on my personal life.  I've been watching TV again as I unpack boxes, cooking meals nearly every day, and playing a video game for what feels like the first time in ages!  I even started reading Tolstoy's War & Peace, one of the longest novels ever written, and it feels like an absolute luxury - the thought that I might be able to commit to having enough time to read an 1,100-page book in a vaguely reasonable amount of time feels like one of the most indulgent things I've done in perhaps a decade.

I find myself desperate to maintain some of this new rhythm once things pick up again, and to preserve this sense of having two lives once more - to recognize each day that there is more to my life than my work and my to-do list, and to dedicate some time to things that bring me and those around me joy.  We do deserve that - all of us do.  Our lives are precious, and there is nothing wrong with having hobbies and having fun.  Even while we're trapped in these strange times, even when we don't have a commute to set a natural boundary on our workday, we must find ways to create those boundaries and take time for ourselves.  So here's a reminder to take a step back and give yourself the gift of carving out a little time to relax!

As always, previous digests can be found on my blog at  If you have suggestions or would like to stop receiving these emails, just let me know.


Silly Fun
  • Looking to shake things up a bit?  Try Silly Goose Receipts, which will issue a random challenge each day to encourage you to step outside the box every now and then.
  • Remember art exhibits?  This immersive exhibit celebrating Vicent Van Gogh is selling out months in advance - check out this article for details about what it will look like in a city near you, and how to score tickets.
  • Have you heard about the cuttlefish that passed a cognitive test intended for human children?  The timing feels a bit meta, considering that the quarantine has been one long exercise in delayed gratification for all of us.
  • LovePop (my favorite card-maker) has added some seasonal varieties to their line of beautiful paper flower bouquets that I've been recommending throughout the quarantine, including some for Easter and St. Patrick's Day.  They also have a 5-pack of heart-themed cards for which a portion of proceeds will be donated to the American Heart Association.
  • Is music more your thing?  Check out this event from the New York Times - it's a conversation with the creators of Vulture's Switched on Pop podcast.
  • The New York City Center is hosting Matthew Bourne's "New Adventures Festival" over the next several weeks.  This dance-theater company is known for breaking the mold in their productions - the first one up on the schedule is Swan Lake, in which Bourne replaced the traditionally all-female corps de ballet with an all-male ensemble.  (Ironic considering that we just kicked off Women's History Month! More on that next week.)
  • TV has gone to the dogs!  Pooch Perfect, a reality TV show featuring dogs as contestants, airs on ABC on March 30, coinciding with the end of this season of the Bachelor.
Cooking Classes & Recipes
  • 92Y has a new "Cookbook Group" starting - it's a series of four classes and includes copies of all four cookbooks on which the sessions are themed.  It's like book club, only yummier!
  • This article, listing online cooking schools for learning how to cook some quarantine comfort food, was written at the beginning of the quarantine, but many of these classes are still available, and there are a number of options as low as $15 for an hour-long class, and one monthly subscription for $7.98/month.  Bon appetit!
  • Cuiline offers cooking classes by country/region, spanning a wide selection of cultures and cuisines, and the course includes a box of ingredients mailed to your door ahead of time.  They also seem to be making it easy for the non-tech-savvy members of our families to join - there's tech support right before each class to make sure everyone is set up and ready to enjoy once the class starts!
  • Sur La Table has offered excellent cooking classes for a long time, but they now have a much broader selection, and they're online.  They start at $29/household, for as many people as you'd like.
  • Play with your food!  We all need to laugh a little, and why shouldn't food be the source of that laughter?  Try a silly surprise for your family (or even just for yourself - stick some of these in the fridge overnight, and you'll likely have forgotten all about it when you open the door the next morning and start grinning from ear to ear).
    • Monster apple bites (these are billed as a Halloween treat, but they're so darn cute, I'd be thrilled to find these in my kitchen year-round)
    • Here's a delightful "Play with Your Food" Pinterest board - I want to make all of these!
    • Ice cubes: Mix 2 cups of water with two tablespoons of water.  Add a little extra water, one teaspoon at a time, to taste.  Pour into ice cube mold of your choice, freeze overnight.  Ok, ok - this is my own little joke for you.  But if you're reading this, you've also earned a Reader's Reward!  The first 10 people to email me about this will receive some cookies in the mail soon!
    • Remember "Magic Shell" topping?  Make it yourself at home!  Using a double boiler (or a heat-safe bowl set atop a saucepan with a couple inches of simmering water), mix 1/3 cup coconut oil, a pinch of salt, 4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, and 1 tsp of cocoa powder, and stir until melted and combined.  Stir in 1/2 tsp vanilla extract and remove from heat.  You can also substitute other extracts to experiment with the flavoring, or add a pinch of espresso powder.  Try other combinations, too, like substituting white chocolate and peppermint extract (and omitting the cocoa powder).  Just don't forget to add your sprinkles on top before it totally sets!
    • Sure, there are tons of mimicry recipes, like cakes shaped like...well, anything!  But you can work wonders with chocolate, too, like these bacon-and-egg imposters.

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