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June 2020

The Corona Diaries Week 15 - Back To Basics

June Gloom is still with us and I'm glad and I hope it lasts well into July. I don't look forward to hot summer days especially when there is nowhere to go. I haven't checked in a while, but I'm pretty sure the beach is still off limits as the virus case numbers are still going up in SoCal. I will have to get creative with our backyard summer fun and possibly even front yard summer fun. Also I'm sure we'll sneak over to our friend's pool again at some point.

Bike Camp went well and was a good focus. As was our running training for the 1 mile Harry Potter run we will do at the end of July. Last week we considered tennis camp, but then Kurt was busy working so we mostly did random stuff. Rode bikes a bit and kept the running going, but it felt scattered. This coming week is minecraft online camp, then next week is camping camp. (haha) After that I want to make sure each week has some kind of theme that we can actually do. Science Camp, Arts and Crafts Camp, etc. Even if the theme is only an hour a day, it's helpful to have something to plan and accomplish.

I'm also working hard to have Harper simply figure stuff out on her own to do (which seems contradictory, haha). It's become a habit to help keep her occupied for some part of the day. But aside from the running and biking (which I strive to do with her every day) there is a lot of time to fill and frankly, she can fill it herself - you know, like we all used to do for our whole childhoods! And with all kinds of cardboard, tape and sharp objects around, she does just that. (As always, you can click the images for larger versions.)

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It's amazing what she gets up to. One day I was deeeeeeep cleaning the kitchen and she asked me to help her set up the hot wheels track, but I said, nope, sorry, gotta keep cleaning. So she ended up doing her own thing with cool building blocks and all her cars. This was the end of the activity after about an hour and a half.

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Um.
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One night she made this, uh, Golem?
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Of course hot days require some splash time.

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And MadLibs. Ever MadLibs.

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In preparation for Camping Camp, we opened up the tent box and gave it a go! Inside that bigger box from last week was a much smaller box, thankfully. Harper and I put most of it up - that's how easy it was. Then Kurt helped with the rain thingy. It has a little screened porch!

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Willoughby inspected our work.


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The cats had another relaxing week.

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I lightened my hair a bit by myself. Did okay! Nothing dramatic at all, but a touch more light around the face...got the materials and color from my stylist and paid her for it all. Didn't do facetime coaching this time, just winged it.

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And speaking of back to basics, the food with week was pretty easy. I had a lovely lunch of Sticky Pickle, cheese and cracker one day. But OOH I miss the GOOOOOOOOD Cheddar that you could just buy at Waitrose. Have I mentioned I miss England? Ever?

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Harper and I had a VERY FANCY lunch one day.
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A friend has a peach tree which is raining peaches down upon him, so Harper and I went over and picked a bunch. Then I made a peach upside down cake. Why not?

Peaches in place:
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Caramel on top - NOT NEARLY ENOUGH! (I made a note in the recipe to TRIPLE IT.)
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Batter on top.
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Et Voila! It was pretty yummy but needed more caramel...!
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Back to more basics on the deep clean the kitchen day. Mmmmm.
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But don't worry we aren't really junk food junkies - many an evening's dinner looks like this.
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The bike riding is coming along. Harper and I went out on the streets! She did well.

No we are our own peleton. Harper attacked on the bike path and we had to hustle to keep up or she would have taken the stage win! Kurt had to unpack his suitcase of courage.

We busted out Kurt's new vacuum for the two area rugs inside the house that really needed attention. Boy-howdy did they need attention! It also works on wood floors.

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And Harper learned another new life skill.

We have fallen down hard on the drums and ukulele. I know I'd be more inspired if I had actual lessons. But noodling around on a borrowed Uke is good for now. When I remember to do it...

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This coming week will be busier and more organized thanks to minecraft camp.

Basics can be good though. Comforting. I plan on reorganizing our deck and putting up outdoor lights and making it a really fun comfy place to live this summer. With the covid-19 numbers only going up, STILL, we are just staying home. Pretty basic.

Oh. And I wrote a very rough draft of a novel. Huh. I accomplished something in lock down after all. Now to revise...


The Corona Diaries Week 14 - Life Skills Learned in Lock-Down

 

A note about last week's post - what the heck happened with the formatting? I have no idea. (EDIT: I fixed it!) My only thought is the youtube video did something wonky. This week I will put the video I have in an addendum to this post.

This was the first week of summer. Normally Harper would be off to some kind of day camp. But instead we are making our own day camps. This past week was Bike Camp! Harper has not wanted to ride her bike at all. She has training wheels and can do it, but grumbles and complains about it. So we decided it was time for her to just do it. Kurt was Bike Camp Counselor and on day one, he took the training wheels off, we went to a park with a low hill and lots of grass, gave her a few pushes and she was off.

Easy-peasey-lemon-squeezy. What was all the previous fuss about?

To be fair, she did have a few moments of frustration, sitting and pouting, but then she would get up and try again. We are really proud of her.

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CLICK HERE for the video.

We went back every day for her to practice, which involved Kurt and I sitting in the shade and just watching her work it out. On day three of camp we made a picnic and Harper rode around and around, up and down.
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Picnic complete with cucumber sandwiches and cheddar with Branston Pickle. Have I mentioned I miss England? A LOT? I miss it. (More about sticky pickle later in the post...)

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This is her final day success picture. And she got a certificate of completion.

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Kurt and I signed it and presented it to her and she seemed very pleased and took it to her room. I hope she feels like she accomplished something big!

Next week is probably tennis camp, but we'll see how that plays out.

Cats. In the mornings I open one of the windows in my office and Biscuit likes to hang out there. And he makes his face like this and it's super sweet. Then he has to see what I'm eating for breakfast.

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He's just generally darn cute.

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Most of the time Willoughby and he get along fine. I thought more yelling/spitting/fighting would happen here, but luckily nothing did.
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We had a social distance visitor - Tom - and he and Willoughby got some bonding time.
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Tom also MADE MY WHOLE YEAR by bringing me this!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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I seriously just about cried. Not so much about the sticky pickle, but that Tom heard my silly longing fro Stokes Sticky Pickle and took it upon himself to find some, buy it and deliver it. I was seen and heard and a lovely gift was delivered. He also delivered a fantastic candle that I've already been burning two days and premixed cocktails! He's a gem, that Tom. And we are so grateful to know him.

There was another surprise that showed up on the same day (Saturday):
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From Kerry - just out of the blue! Again, I'm really touched to have wonderful, thoughtful friends.

And a third friend gifted us three ripe avocados. Some of them went into this yumfest.

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I also tried poaching an egg for the first time ever. Not bad! It needed to cook just a minute longer, but otherwise, I would do it again.
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Speaking of egg yolks - I went to the Japanese food store to buy fishcake and Melona bars (essential). I had to grab these on the way out because why not. Mostly they just taste salty.
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Garden harvest this week. Tomatoes are a bit on the dry side. Not sure why other than I really need to replace all the soil in my plant bed.
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Harper did a drawing for a friend's daughter who turned 13 this month.

"Is her hair curly?"

No Harper, it's not.

"Well, it's going to be curly in my picture."

You do you, Harp.

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Hello.
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Sweet unsolicited love notes from the girl.
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The week went well, though it did slow down a bit toward the end....but we'll start fresh tomorrow.

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In preparation for our camping trip I bought this CRUCIAL item.
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And our tent arrived. I bought a six person tent because I like to have space. It's a bit big...Can't wait to practice putting it up in the yard this week!

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And today is Father's Day. Kurt got the present he's been wanting since he took over the heavy lifting on cleaning days since we went on lock down. (Our housekeeper had her own vacuum and we've paid her to stay home since March.)
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Then we took a drive to Ojai to visit a friend who just moved there. It was a lovely day of garden adventures and delicious cheesecake and good food.

It was also a big day because Harper learned MAD LIBS! I haven't played in decades and it still makes you laugh and laugh. No one laughed harder then Harper.
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It's been a lovely day and a bright week. Grateful for good, kind, generous, thoughtful friends.

Grateful that Kurt is such a wonderful father. Harper is a lucky lucky girl.


The Corona Diaries Week 13 - Still In The First Wave

Did you ever go body surfing as a kid and get caught up in the wash of a big wave? It pushed you down and spun you around and just when you came up for a breath, you were pushed down again? Waves are like that. You think, "oh another wave must have broken over me while I was under." But then you come up to realize wave number two is not here. You are still thrashing about in the first wave.

Yeah. It's still the first wave of the pandemic, no matter how much everyone wants it to be the only wave or the second wave. I guess if you are hoping it is the second wave, that means we are closer to being done with this whole thing. Not even close. Still in the first wave. It sucks. No two ways around it. Ashley sums it up nicely here:

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I am not ready to head on out there and relax. As of this week, California infection rates are still climbing. New cases are increasing. Orange County said: Okay cool, no more masks for us. Whatevs. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

We are still staying home, we are wearing masks if/when we go out, which is rare, we make sure to social distance and wash hands and sanitize well. When I drive around to do an errand, I see people out, no masks, enjoying their time in restaurants. Okay fine. Everyone gets to do what they like, but Covid-19 is not gone. It's not going to be gone for a long time. Until there is a vaccine or at least a solid treatment, I'm not going to change much of my / our behavior. And it's hard. I want to go out. I want to do all the fun things. But it's not time yet. Patience is my keyword.

So.

Last week was Harper's last week of school, last week of 2nd grade. She's a 3rd grader now! Amazing.

We didn't do a lot, kept things pretty low key as you do in a pandemic. Her big surprise was this funny little drum kit. She said she wanted to learn how to play drums this summer so we got her a kid's size version. Now to find some online lessons. I borrowed an ukulele and I'm going to do some learning/practicing myself.

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She liked it! And she was pleased. Goes in and bangs around from time to time. It's only been three days, but I hope she keeps it up for a while. She also said she wants to learn to play guitar but we said she had to do drums first for a while. Fingers crossed.

Earlier in the week we went to a friends house for a social distance swim. After her school work was done on Tuesday, we headed out in the 90 degree heat to splash around in a proper pool. It was perfect for Harper, she got lots of jumping in and diving for toys. Our very kind friend said we could come any time.

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I always ask her to draw a picture or write a letter before she plays minecraft or similar. I enjoy the toebeans on this one:

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Thursday we went to pick up all her school things that were in the classroom. They had timed sessions for each grade at a table at the school gate. It was nice to say hi/bye to her teacher. I cried, but with a mask and sunglasses, no one could see. I just got really teary about the end of the year and that it's been such a weird f*cking year. There are a lot of feelings bubbling around.

Once we got home, Harper went through the whole pile and told us all about everything. I had to excuse myself after about half an hour as she was only about 1/4 way through it...! But it was fun to see her so excited about the old work.
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I found some old pics from the late 90's.

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I also spent a few minutes trying to wrap my head around the upcoming summer. Drums, ukulele, bike riding, virtual 1 mile Harry Potter run, a camping trip, a visit to a friend in Ojai to have a long walk. 
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It's been filled in more. And will continue to be filled in more. I forgot about virtual minecraft camp...

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Cooking got back to some basics, though there was a little baking as our neighbor dropped off two baskets of gorgeous strawberries and I happened to have some whipped cream left. So I made strawberry shortcake. It was yummy. We also had some trout one night with fresh herbs. (not pictured)

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Then I watched an episode of Queer Eye and Antoni made braised short ribs and I wanted it, so I made it. I forget how RICH it is. But oh so yummy.
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(Harper opts for PJs a lot these days.)

Another night we had sushi that I made. I had run out of the nori and sushi rice a while back so had some delivered. The sushi roller is not ideal, but hey, it worked well enough and bingo - sushi!

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It can be messy...
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And then there were the cats. Mr. Biscuit seems to be getting larger. More stretched out anyway.

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Can't pass up a good box.

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He made off with the dinosaur token from the monopoly game this morning. Luckily he didn't swallow it.
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He and Willoughby are getting along better...but oh Willoughby.
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Willoughby and I had an adventure. Well. Willoughby had an adventure and I bore the brunt of it.

We have a large mantel over our fireplace with pictures in frames and small vases, etc. Willoughby likes to get up there and walk around which I discourage as I don't want her knocking stuff over or giving Biscuit ideas. The other night Kurt and I were on the couch, Kurt closer to the fireplace. Willoughby leaps up from the couch and as I'm clocking her jump up there, ready to stand up and take her down, she knocks a picture frame over, which scares the bejeesus out of her. Instead of jumping straight down to the floor, she launches herself like a rocket across the room to the far end of the couch where I'm sitting, and landed with all claws out on my legs/ankles. This all happened in about three seconds. Kurt was surprised when I revealed my wounds. There are a couple more scratches around the other side. OMG. I doused the wounds with alcohol then put antibiotic ointment on them and bandaged them up for the night. SHEESH. (Pics are from the next morning.)

Five minutes later I was laughing about it so hard. Cat. I hope she scared herself from going back up there.
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This very morning I harvested the chubby carrots I planted about three months ago. All I can say is: Hmmmm. I believe my problem is the soil is way too compact. They taste like carrots, but not a whole lot of flavor. Maybe the raccoons will want them.

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My treat for the day was to find this GIANT gardenia bush growing on a block I've never walked down before. I kept the sidewalk in for scale. I acquired two of the blossoms. One for me and one for Harper as I have taught her the critical life skill of putting beautiful smelling flowers by your bed.


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I'll keep smelling the flowers through my mask.


The Corona Diaries Week 12 - What Is The Opposite of Anticipation?

The protests against police brutality continue, though with a bit less rioting and looting. People are focused and it's incredible and inspiring. Might change actually come? If I were a praying person, I would pray, but I'm not so I'll donate and learn and listen and write postcards and do text-banking. I'm usually an optimist so I say this with a smile: we better not fuck it up.

"Despair" and "hopelessness" come up as antonyms for "anticipation."

Feels about right.

Normally we have something planned. Something big-ish, a road trip, a visit from my mom, a visit to my mom, even just plain old day camp. But there is nothing. Just a big vague grey mass of who knows what. It's frustrating. It's not my style. I HATE IT.

There is one more week of school. One week for us to organize the time off from school. There is plenty to do - arts and crafts, social distance swimming in a friend's pool, one actual online camp I signed Harper up for - minecraft gaming camp. (I chose the short week before 4th of July in case she doesn't like it...) I want to rearrange the office that Harper and I share to be more efficient. (I bet you $100 that there won't be IRL* school in the fall.) I want our deck to be more livable during summer. Easier to eat and even have social distant people over. We bought misters one summer, need some of those. We might go camping. We are not campers. I know there are private camp grounds we could go to that are not terribly big to keep away from crowds. I'm going to extricate myself from Facebook products. I already let go of Whatsapp and will probably let go FB this month and then lastly instagram. I might just let that fall fallow. I'll go back to good old fashioned twitter.

We planted our victory garden in March and April. We've been benefiting from the pole beans at least twice a week.

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This fine creature spends a lot of time on the beans.
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I bought a little olive tree plant at Trader Joe's last summer (I think) and holy crap! Look! Little tiny olives are growing on it!
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Harper loves apples and she planted one of the seeds. I was sure nothing would happen but I was so wrong. Our little Apple (a link to a much funner spring in 2017) grew an apple!
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And the poenies, which I wish grew in our yard, but these come from Trader Joe's. They smell heavenly and look dreamy.
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We have this running joke with friends about "Pandemic Panic Purchases." These are things that you might have bought in early pandemic panic mode (but not including toilet paper as that was too obvious). Or things you bought as the realness of how the virus will change our lives forever settled in, the things you bought with a long opposite-of-anticipation future ahead of you. In the early days, I bought 4 giant bags of potting soil. I've used 1/4 of one so far. A few weeks ago I got a coupon for a wine delivery service. It was a good deal! I ordered it a while back - there were delays - and it showed up just as I decided to stop drinking for a while. (I wasn't over doing, just didn't have a real reason to have two glasses of wine every night.) (Or wait, is that considered overdoing it? Hmmm...)

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Luckily wine keeps.

The cats are ever busy. Willoughby has been way more affectionate and cute. Mr. Biscuit is just a Superior Biscuit.

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This was a moment for the ages...no fighting, just hanging.
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And this moment captured from a distance. Also no fighting.
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I decided to try soda bread again - I had buttermilk on the verge of expiration and I wanted some lovely toast. I didn't overwork it and I didn't bake it too long. Alas, I erred on the side of not baking it long enough and it was underbaked inside and therefore inedible. I did manage some lovely bites of the crust, but most went in the trash. Baking is a challenge!

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Harper loves her post it notes. She also loves to tell me things I might not notice if I'm on the phone or busy working on the computer.

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Some days lunch looks like this
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Or sometimes its really different and looks like this. Cucumbers are a Harper staple.
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I got a wild hair and needed to make a gin and lime cake similar to one I had in England at Ickworth Manor in 2018. I wrote to the National Trust and they sent me the recipe! If I had only bothered to explore their website more I could have found it there myself.......!!! But here it is. It fell a bit in the oven. But it tastes good! I gave half to our friends down the street as I have no business baking a whole cake for the three of us, especially when two of us don't love lime flavored cakes.
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Friday June 5th was National Donut Day. (As well as the birthday of an old friend - Happy Day!) We grabbed our masks and popped over to the local donut shop and luckily it was empty. We had our fill. (Harper likes blue, in case you weren't sure what her favorite color was.)

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She and Kurt created some art.
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One of the school art projects was the "recreate a masterpiece" thing. Harper and Kurt were all over it.
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This coming week is the last week of school. So I asked Harper to draw up a thank you picture and we sent digital thank you cards/gifts to her two teachers. I promised them she would work on her spelling. Rainbows are nice.
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I can't wait to have wonderful things to look forward to again. I know it will come.

 

 

*IRL = "in real life"


The Corona Diaries Week 11 - Sh*t Show 2020

Wow. What an awful time we are living in. George Floyd was murdered by cops in Minneapolis and the reaction has been loud and intense. This follows on the heels of other black people being killed for no reason at all, other than the color of their skin. There are protests in cities all over. These have turned into riots and then looting. I believe there are people creating more violence than expected, people coming in simply stir up trouble or simply to break windows and steal stuff.

I have no issue with the rage that comes from the injustice.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar wrote a fantastic op ed in the LA Times. His words are excellent. Please read it.

There were hot spots all over LA this past week/weekend. Curfews were put in place. Today is Monday June 1 and I'm sure there will be more curfews today and until who knows when. There is a vacuum of leadership in our country which makes this whole situation even more scary.

Have I done enough to be an ally? No. I'm going to do better. This list is a help: 75 Things White People Can Do For Racial Justice.

There was a small ray of hope and optimism over the weekend. Astronauts launched into space on Saturday from Florida in a SpaceX rocket. They docked with the International Space Station on Sunday. I watched all of it and felt joy and excitement about a new start to our lower earth orbit space program and how that will boost our return to the moon and then onto Mars. The excitement is tempered by the awful stuff, but not not snuffed out entirely. (Click images for larger versions.)

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Yesterday (Sunday) is when I usually write up my blog post, but the morning was filled with watching historic space action and then we actually went to visit our friend Patrick IN REAL LIFE for some social distancing bloody marys, garden tours (his is a literal cornucopia of fresh veg) and snake art. We got home just at curfew at 6pm and hunkered down a bit. Watched the season finale of Killing Eve after Harper went to bed so as to escape a little longer. We have that luxury.

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Patrick has a snake named Nick.

Harper made other art this week. She worked hard on a design for her cardboard play kitchen. And also did a fresh fruit/veg piece for art class for school. We are collecting cardboard for the kitchen.

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The cats had a very busy week as usual. Biscuit enjoys my chair and ALWAYS need to check what's in my coffee cup. ALWAYS.

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Biscuit loves his bags and boxes. After every grocery store run, he'll inspect the bags. Last Monday, we had left a bag for Biscuit to play with.  I finally went to pick it up to put it away and didn't realize there was a large cat inside, STILL! I was surprised.
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One afternoon he came to hang with me during my quiet time. This is rare so I enjoyed every minute of his company. (My designated quiet time is at 2pm most days, sitting on my bed looking out the big windows.)
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Kurt also had a moment with the cats on morning.
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Willoughby tried SO HARD to lay down on the inbox that had piles of crap all over it. Not sure what she was doing.
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Speaking of Willoughby and Calicoes - I was going through old pics and found these of my cat Peach. I was probably 10 or so when we got her. She had been a wild kitten who came around and we fed her and soon she was our cat. She lived a nice long time and cemented my love for calicoes.
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There was food. I did a big swerve away from baked goods into meat. First, I did try to make shortbread but it wasn't great. I think my butter was not cold enough and I overworked the dough. Bummer. But I'll try again.

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I turned to this classic to make my favorite kalbi ribs.

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We all love the kalbi ribs. Harper especially. Then I made a big batch of Kalua Pig in the slow cooker. YUM. I stuck half in the freezer for later.

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I found a recipe for mason jar ice cream and decided to try it.

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After shaking and freezing:

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In a pinch it is ice cream! But maybe I'll try half and half instead of heavy whipping cream.

Made some lovely fresh hummus.

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Was missing my Stokes Sticky Pickle terribly. Also missing England like crazy. Oh to be in England right now. So I had to do what I had to do and pick up some Branston pickle at Cost Plus World Market. Original being the only option. It's the best I can easily get here for under $10, but it doesn't taste as good as Stokes and the chunks are TOO BIG. British friends tell me you can get "small chunk" in England. But if I were in England I would get Stokes Sticky Pickle and the problem would be solved. Just being in England would solve so many problems. Oh England.
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There were flowers galore. Two bunches of Peonies that opened beautifully and smelled heavenly.

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Harper finding her own in the garden and wearing it well.
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And then this...this...miracle.

MY GARDENIA PLANTS BLOOMED!

I've never been able to keep a gardenia bush growing, let alone blooming, but after we redid the front garden four years ago I planted two of them and it's been A G E S.

But oh! They are heaven. I picked one and Harper picked one I put them in a tiny bud vase and basically carried it around with me so the scent was always with me. Especially at night on my nightstand. It reminded me of when I went to visit Auntie Martha on the Big Island years ago, before Harper was born. I did an interview with her for research and spent a night. In her darling guest cottage she had a small vase with three or four gardenias next to my bed. Dreamy. 

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Things are going to get much worse before they get better. Much much worse. But if I can find a gardenia now and then, I won't lose hope.