Oyster Crackers

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted anything here about simple little pleasures, but I should really try and do more of that. It’s one of the reasons I started this blog in the first place to have something that forced me to find and focus on the good things in life. Obviously that’s been a bit of a struggle the past 12 months, but given the funk I’ve been in lately perhaps something I need to get back into the habit of.

I have some friends that I have been doing an online game night with pretty much every Saturday since the pandemic started. It was very cute of me back in the beginning to think that this was only going to last for a few weeks so I sent out a new calendar invite every week where I tried to name it with a pop culture reference based on what number week it was we had been doing it. For a very long time it’s been a recurring calendar invite named Virtual Game Night: To Infinity and Beyond.

Now you are probably wondering what in the heck virtual game night has to do with oyster crackers. A few weeks ago for Galentine’s Day I bought chocolate tasting kits from River Sea Chocolates for us ladies to do instead of our regularly scheduled game night. We didn’t actually wind up doing it on Galentine’s Day because one of the neverending ice storms we had for awhile delayed my ability to drive around and deliver them.

At any rate the tasting kits included two little packages of oyster crackers to cleanse our palates between the different types of chocolate. While the chocolate was good we all got a little obsessed with oyster crackers and for the next couple weeks kept talking about oyster crackers in our group chat, buying oyster crackers, and musing about whether for our next tasting we should try a variety of flavored oyster crackers. Who knew that oyster crackers would be more popular than chocolate?

I really do love oyster crackers, but they are not something I ever really buy for myself. I pretty much usually only eat them at restaurants when they’re served with soup. They are key with clam chowder, but it’s really hard to find clam chowder in dumb Maryland. We’re all about crab here so everyone has cream of crab soup instead, which is fine but not the same.

I too should probably cave and buy myself some oyster crackers to snack on as a treat.

A Very COVID Christmas

Obviously like for many of us (though sadly not enough of us), this Christmas season looked very different than Christmases past. Although it’s not one I would necessarily want to repeat, I also found a lot of things to take joy in.

There were not the usual parties and get togethers that happen this time of year, but I appreciate how my friends got creative to come together and celebrate in new and interesting ways. One of my friends hosted an online holiday murder mystery. Having done some of these murder mystery parties in person I wasn’t sure how it would translate to online, but it worked pretty well. I even figured out who the murderer was! A different group of friends did a couple of online Christmas movie nights where we watched White Christmas and Home Alone over text together.

We also had our 17th annual Winter Wonderland party that we have with a group of friends every year. Back in the day we used to rent out the upper room at Max’s. Then once there were a lot of kids in the group meeting at a bar became untenable so our friends started hosting at their house. Then this year we had to move online. Our friends put together a slide show of past parties. It was fun to look back at the early years and see us and all our kids grow up. The other benefit to doing this party online was that some friends who have left Baltimore over the years were able to drop in and join us as well!

I usually bake a ton of Christmas cookies in December and give them away as gifts. I was obviously still able to enjoy this tradition, though due to mail issues I didn’t mail anything out this year worried that the cookies wouldn’t be any good by the time they got there. In the past few years since they moved to Baltimore I’ve also been baking and decorating Christmas cookies with my niece. Obviously this year we couldn’t get together to bake, but we each baked cookies on our own and did a little sidewalk exchange of cookies and presents. She did an excellent job on her own.

I wasn’t expecting to spend any part of the holiday season with my family. We have been super careful the entire pandemic and so were definitely not traveling or getting together with anyone in-person inside. My parents against my preference travelled from Arizona to my sister’s house in New Jersey. Even though I haven’t seen any of them since last Christmas we were not going to drive up and join them. However, on the Monday before Christmas my sister and my mother drove down to surprise us with a quick visit. They only stayed for about an hour and half and we sat outside in masks socially distanced and visited for a little bit before they turned around and drove back. It was a really nice surprise and it was great to see them. I look forward to some day hopefully in the not too distant future when I can see the rest of my family too.

Actual Christmas was quiet with just me and my husband. It’s the first time in my 20+ years of adult life where I have spent Christmas in my own home. I’ve always traveled to somewhere else either to visit my family or my husband’s family. Although I missed spending the holiday with family there was something nice about spending Christmas in my own house and trying my best to continue some traditions while creating some new ones of my own. Though I guess they probably can’t be called traditions if I never do them again.

On Christmas Eve I attended the Christmas Eve service at my church for the first time ever since I’m always traveling, though it was online. My main goal was to continue the tradition of eating shrimp cocktail on Christmas Eve. When I was a small child growing up in Georgia my parents had a Christmas Eve open house party every year. There were always two standard things that they served along with other appetizers, shrimp cocktail and a cheese ball. After we moved away when I was in middle school and they stopped having that party we continued eating shrimp cocktail on Christmas Eve. The cheese ball fell by the wayside, which is fine with me. I never really liked those things anyway. One year when I was first living in Baltimore and working at Barnes & Noble wasn’t able to fly home until after I got off work on Christmas Eve so I missed hanging out with my family that night and eating the shrimp cocktail with them. When I got there my mother told me that my grandma wanted her to bring the shrimp cocktail to the airport for me. My mom said she didn’t but it was in the fridge for me when we got to the house. My husband is a vegetarian so he won’t eat it, but I cooked up 4 little shrimp just for me to eat along with some other little appetizers for our Christmas Eve dinner. We also Zoomed with my family and opened our Christmas presents together and finished off the night watching It’s a Wonderful Life.

Christmas Day was equally quiet, but also was a lovely, peaceful day. I know that orange rolls for breakfast on Christmas morning is a tradition in a lot of families. It never was in ours, but it always sounded like a tradition I wanted in on. So this year I made it happen for myself and made some orange rolls for breakfast. I also discovered that I actually really like egg nog this year. I didn’t really think that I did, but in my quest to be as festive as possible I decided I should buy some and figured out that I actually really like it. I’m definitely going to limit myself to one little quart of it though because it is not good for you at all. My husband and I opened the rest of our presents from each other and from his family. He was even super proud of himself because I made some off-hand comment about there never being anything in my stocking without knowing that he had already stuck a little something in mine for me. So I even had a little stocking present from Santa this year.

My family has never had a set meal for our Christmas dinner, so unlike at Thanksgiving where I wanted to make all our traditional Thanksgiving food for just the two of us I didn’t feel compelled to make anything in particular. I just knew I wanted it to be simpler than all the food I made at Thanksgiving. I settled on making an individual beef Wellington for me, a butternut squash Wellington for my vegetarian husband with a side of garlic mashed potatoes and roasted green beans and almonds. My husband ordered a lovely little floral centerpiece from our local florist and we had a beautiful Christmas table. We finished off our Christmas watching Wonder Woman 1984 while eating popcorn and pecan pie.

While none of this is how I would have expected to spend this Christmas at the beginning of the year it also had many quiet moments of joy and peace. I know for many this was a Christmas of unimaginable loss, struggle, and hardship. I am beyond grateful for all the blessings I have. As we finish out this impossibly hard year I wish everyone a brighter 2021.

My Morning Walk

I don’t even know who I am anymore. This pandemic has turned me into a person that gets up early to go for a walk before work. The exercise part is not new. I have always exercised on the regular. I just tended to mostly do it at the gym because I like things to be climate controlled. Actual pleasant weather in Baltimore where it’s not too hot and not too cold is rare most of the year so in the past I haven’t exercised outside that frequently.

Obviously that changed with COVID-19. I could no longer go to the gym every day. I would normally go after work because I am not a morning person. I’m sort of a middle of the road person as I’m not a super night owl either. I think my ideal sleep pattern if I didn’t have to get up for work would be midnight to 8 am, but I digress. When the pandemic first started I was still walking after work and some on my lunch breaks. Turns out it’s an effort to get the same number of steps I used to get when I went to work because I no longer have all the incidental steps I used to get going about my day just doing stuff like walking to meetings and between parking lots and buildings, etc.

That worked fine for awhile, but eventually it got too hot to realistically and comfortably exercise after work. So I started dragging myself out of bed before work to exercise in the morning before it was stupidly hot, and even then some days were pretty uncomfortable. I got used to doing my long walk in the morning so even when it turned cold I still kept going for my walk in the morning. I like being out in the morning when it’s quiet and there aren’t too many people out yet. I still go out for shorter walks during my lunch break or after work to help make up for those incidental steps I’m not getting working from home and it’s always a challenge to avoid people. I’ve also seen some really incredible sunrises on my walks, which is not something I ever really experienced before either because I was still asleep or just inside my house and not out looking at the sunrise.

I spent a stupid amount of money on cold weather exercise clothes and the face mask does double duty in protecting me from COVID and helping keep my face warm, so it hasn’t been as bad as I thought exercising outside in the winter yet. The snow and ice is going to be the biggest impediment to that because I’m not interested in breaking any limbs slipping on ice. So outdoor exercise might be off the table for awhile until the snow we’re getting right now goes away.

Of course don’t get me wrong. Once this pandemic is over and life gets a little more normal I’m likely to go back to my old ways. I might be a little more liberal about what I consider okay outdoor exercise weather, but I’ll probably return to the gym and after work exercise. Right now since I have no commute and don’t have to do things like make my lunch I’m really not getting up much earlier than I did pre-pandemic. While getting up at 6:30 hasn’t been terrible, I’m not willing to get up before 6 am to get a walk in before getting ready to go to work when I no longer work from home. I’ll continue to try and make the most of my outdoor morning walks while I’m still doing them though.

Moravian Love Feast

Wake Forest holds a Moravian Lovefeast every year on the first Sunday in December. It was started by some Moravian students back in 1965 and has become one of the longest running and most beloved traditions at the school. It was always my favorite event of the year when I was a student there.

There are Christmas carols sung by the choir, played on brass instruments, the organ, and played the handbell choir interspersed with short scripture readings and a very short reflection sermon. Towards the end of the service everyone partakes in the feast part of the Lovefeast which consists of a Moravian Lovefeast bun and Moravian coffee. The bun is a potato roll spiced with nutmeg and mace and citrus rind. The coffee is a super sweet and milky coffee. I don’t like coffee and even I didn’t mind drinking it. The feast is followed by the passing of candlelight with the beeswax candles everyone is given when entering. It was always so beautiful to stand there and sing together in a sea of candlelight

They’ve been livestreaming it for years, but I’m usually always so busy at this point in the year that I have never tuned in for it. This year I’m obviously not enjoying all my normal holiday fun, so I decided it would be the perfect year to finally participate. I had the idea that I would bake some Moravian Lovefeast buns, make some coffee, and order some of the beeswax candles online. I had no idea that the red wrap on the candles to catch the wax is actually a Moravian candle skirt. I always assumed it was a generic wax drip catcher and that it would be easy to find. It was not. I had to order them from a Moravian candle shop in Old Salem, NC.

I was going to take a little Lovefeast kit with all the stuff to my friend who also lives in the area and is a fellow alum. Great minds apparently think alike because she also bought some candles and sent them to me. She wanted to bake her own buns, so I didn’t wind up giving her anything. Hopefully next year we can celebrate it together. We texted each other during the service this year instead.

This year’s feast was obviously a bit different than normal due to COVID. There was a not a crowd of people gathered together inside Wait Chapel for the service. Instead everything was pre-recorded with only the people participating in putting on the service present, but not at the same time. Everyone was wearing masks and was well spaced out. The choir was spaced out in the audience part of the chapel rather than up on the stage. There was obviously no live serving of the feast or passing of the candlelight. Instead they interspersed some footage of those things from previous years with the choir singing.

It was not the traditional Lovefeast, but it was still lovely and it reminded me of what a wonderful tradition it is. I am hopeful that next year it will be able to return to normal. I’m thinking I would love to make some time in my always full December plans to invite some friends to my house next year to celebrate it with me. It would be wonderful to have friends share in the experience and to be able to pass the candlelight to someone rather than me just yelling at my cat to not jump in my lap while I’m holding a lit candle.

Advent in the Time of COVID

Usually the weeks leading up to Christmas are a whirlwind of activity. There are so many holiday related things I try to cram in every year including the Hampden Christmas parade, multiple annual holiday parties, baking Christmas cookies, Christmas shopping, and usually a couple of theatre performances plus whatever else might come along. That’s in addition to heading off to some other state for about a week to spend the holiday with either my family or my husband’s family.

This year aside from baking some Christmas cookies and doing a little online shopping none of that is happening. It’s obviously sad because these are all things I look forward to every year and bring me a lot of joy. Instead of spending the next several weeks ruing over the fact that I’m once again missing out on things due to COVID, I want to let this advent season be a time of rest, reflection, and anticipation.

Advent is all about waiting and expectation, but it is also about waiting on the unexpected and not having things turn out like we planned. Before Jesus the Israelites were expecting a savior to come down and overthrow the government that was oppressing them. What they did not expect was that their savior would come in the form of a baby who would grow up not to overthrow an earthly kingdom but to create a heavenly one while subverting many of the things they held to be true. He called them to be servants and to care for the poor and the marginalized. What they were anticipating did not look like what they were expecting.

Recently while we were all glued to social media and the internet waiting for the 2020 presidential election to be called I threw out a question on Facebook to have a little fun. I asked people to name something that used to bring them great joy but that people younger than them would never understand with the example of discovering a hidden track on a CD. The interesting thing that I found was that the majority of the responses people gave were based on anticipation for all kinds of things like not knowing who was at your door or calling you, waiting to develop photos to see what actually turned out, actually finding a new release movie in Blockbuster, standing in line to buy concert tickets, waiting to hear your favorite song the radio, and so much more. So much of our lives these days revolves around receiving instant gratification. We have forgotten that there can be great joy in waiting and anticipation.

This advent and Christmas season more than any other is all about the waiting and anticipation. We are all eagerly awaiting a time hopefully in the not too distant future where our lives will return to some semblance of normal. So this season while we’re all waiting I hope we can learn to wait in hope and eager expectation but not necessarily for the way things used to be. Let this be a time where we can stop and reflect on the future that Jesus came to create not one of earthly kingdoms but one of social justice and servanthood where we are focused on caring for the least of these while on this earth but also anticipating the heavenly kingdom he is preparing for us.

Things to Be Thankful For

I’ve done a couple posts over the course of the pandemic trying to remind myself that there are still good things in the world because a lot of the time these days it doesn’t feel like it. It’s especially hard to be thankful right now when we’re supposed to be thankful at Thanksgiving because all the usual traditions are being upended. Instead of spending the holiday with family and friends it will just be me and my husband. But I’m trying to put on my thankful hat and do another one of these posts on things that I’ve been thankful for recently. This is obviously not a comprehensive list of all the things I’m thankful for. Just ones that I’ve been thinking about in recent weeks.

  1. Online Game Night – Pretty much every Saturday since the pandemic began I’ve been hosting an online game night with some friends. We play a variety of casual games from board games where no one else needs access to the board, games that have online versions, and stuff inside the Board Game Arena website. There’s a core group of us every week with some other people who have come and gone or occasionally drop in. It’s a nice little social thing I can look forward to every week even if it’s not as good as getting to hang out in person. The benefit is that with these friends having kids and also all living out in Harford county I get to see them every week now instead of just the handful of times during the year we would normally manage to get our schedules to align. Who knows maybe we’ll still do it on occasion even after the pandemic is over.
  2. Thanksgiving food – Even though I will miss out on the other aspects of Thanksgiving, I’m still super excited for Thanksgiving food. I love Thanksgiving dinner and am very excited to dig into a big old plate of stuffing and mashed potatoes and some pumpkin pie which I will eat for breakfast for several days after the holiday. In addition to regular Thanksgiving I’m sad to also be missing all the annual Friendsgivings I’m a part of that allow me to eat even more Thanksgiving food. But don’t get me wrong this food only belongs in November in conjunction with Thanksgiving. That’s what makes it special.
  3. People trying to slow the spread of COVID – There aren’t enough of us, but I’m thankful for the other people that are sacrificing their holiday and many other things in their lives to help keep themselves and others safe. It’s a thankless job, but I see you.
  4. Vaccines – It’s absolutely incredible that we potentially have 3 highly effective vaccines that should hopefully be rolling out in the new year. It’s going to help us get our lives back so much quicker than if we had to wait for people to develop herd immunity naturally. Yay science!
  5. Biden’s Cabinet picks – It’s just so nice to not have to care that much about Biden’s Cabinet picks because he’s actually picking people qualified to do the jobs instead of political cronies who have no experience and/or just want to dismantle the organization they’ve been tapped to lead. Until this year I don’t think I’ve ever been thankful for a Cabinet pick, but now I am.

Good Things Roundup

It seems like it’s pretty hard to come by good things these days, so I want to make sure I’m documenting them when they do happen. There were a number of things that made me happy over the past week or so, so I thought I would write up a quick post about them.

  1. We have now entered one of my favorite times of year when all the noisy bugs of summer are out in full force in the morning and the evening. Cicadas, crickets, katydids are all out there humming away now and I love it.
  2. I got a couple of surprises from friends that made me feel loved and it reminded me that I have some really great friends even if I don’t really get to see them much in person these days. Some friends went out to a farm and cut a bunch of sunflowers and dropped one off to me as a nice little surprise. That happened on a day when I was feeling really down on life and people, so it was perfect timing and very sweet.
  3. The other day I was watching TV and a character eating popcorn for some reason really made me crave the caramel/cheddar popcorn mix from Garrett’s Popcorn in Chicago. I looked into how much it would cost to have some shipped to me and decided I didn’t want popcorn that much. I did find two different brands of cheddar/caramel mix popcorns at the grocery store that I decided to do a taste test of. The Cretors came closer to the Garrett’s, but still wasn’t as good. The Smartfood I didn’t care much for. I posted about all this on Facebook, and then a couple days ago I opened up my door to a tin of popcorn from Garrett’s that one of my friends sent me after seeing my post. I have the best friends y’all.
  4. I got to actually see some friends in person this weekend. Some friends from DC drove up and we got carry out brunch and sat socially distanced in the grass behind my house. It’s a friend I’m used to getting together with fairly regularly, but who I hadn’t seen since we parted ways in the Tampa airport after going on what was in retrospect a very ill-advised trip to St. Pete Beach on the very week that the world decided that COVID-19 was a pandemic. Had our trip been one day later we would have canceled, but literally up until the point we were in the air flying to Florida the media was still downplaying how bad this was going to be. It was really good to be able to see each other again. I’m trying to be a little bit braver while also being completely responsible to see friends in person while the weather is still nice enough for us to sit outside because unless things change I don’t see myself spending time with people inside this winter. It’s going to be a long, lonely winter.
  5. Blacksauce biscuits are also making me very happy. Blacksauce is beloved staple at farmer’s markets and festivals in Baltimore serving up delicious biscuit sandwiches and more. I always got a Blacksauce biscuit for breakfast every Saturday morning pre-pandemic. For 3 months we did not eat any food that we did not cook in our own house. After the research kept reiterating that it was unlikely you would get it from eating carryout, we finally started getting carryout on my birthday. That opened the door for me to also finally start eating Blacksauce again. They are not at the farmer’s market right now. Instead they’re cooking out of a restaurant that closed last year and are doing scheduled pickups in their parking lot. The sandwiches rotate every weekend and some of my favorites only ever come around once or twice a year, so it’s been a nice stretch over the past three weeks with some of my very favorites: fried green tomatoes, roasted figs, and fried chicken with spicy honey. It’s summer so the roasted peaches have been in heavy rotation. I love that one too and will get it as soon as one of the rare ones that I love isn’t on the menu.
  6. Both universities that my library serves announced last week that they are going virtual for the fall semester. There was one day where it seemed like one would be virtual and one in person, which was going to make life very complicated. So I’m happy they got on the same page and that my co-workers who were going to have to go back to campus and interact with a bunch of students get a reprieve from that. I’m also grateful that I was and still am able to work from home through this.
  7. And that leads into my perpetual reminder to myself that as terrible as all of this is I have it really good. I am as I just said able to work from home. I still have a job. I enjoy spending time with my husband and my cat. We’re doing this in a time where it’s possible to still stay connected with people virtually instead of being completely cut off. And I’m not having to make any agonizing decisions about what to do with my kids this school year. I am extremely privileged in this situation, and I don’t want to lose sight of that either despite it still generally sucking.

Virtual Game Night

With our stay at home orders due to COVID-19 obviously social lives have been completely upended. Thank god this is happening in a time when we have plenty of options for staying connected even when we can’t see each other in person. In order to give myself some sort of social interaction with people I have been hosting a virtual game night every Saturday night via Google Hangouts. It’s worked out well. It’s kind of funny to me that I am now spending every Saturday night with a lot of friends who I usually only see a handful of times per year due to our normal busy lives. Now that we’re all stuck at home we have time to get together online every weekend.

So far we’ve played a different game every week. I’m sure we’ll cycle back through some of these eventually if this goes on long enough. But here’s a list of things we’ve played in case you’re trying to come up with ideas for your own game nights.

Trivial Pursuit

We did this with an actual Trivial Pursuit game board. We set it up so that my iPad camera pointed down at the board. Every team had a die they could roll for themselves in their houses. I just moved the game pieces around the board on everyone’s behalf and also read all the questions. I promise I didn’t cheat and read the answers when it was my team’s turn to play. The version I had on hand that we played was made in 1994 so the questions were really old at this point. After starting by playing by the actual rules we soon pivoted to the quick method of you get a pie piece every time you get a question correct if you don’t already have that color otherwise we would have been there all night.

Code Names

One of my friends knows some people who programmed their own online version of Code Names, which is what we used to play. I think you could very easily play this with the actual physical version of the game as well if you again had a camera pointing at the words and then texted photos of the key card to the two clue givers for each round.

Scattergories

This was a fairly easy one to play. I just took photos of all the category cards and sent them out ahead of time. Then during the game I controlled rolling the letter die and setting the timer. I talked to another friend who tried playing with friends who all had copies of the game, but they discovered that having bought them at different times sometimes the category cards were not exactly the same. So fair warning if you go that route. My sister also found some online generator that will provide you a random set of categories along with a letter that we used to play with my nieces.

Family Feud

We used this online version of Family Feud that I found to play. We divided everyone up into two teams and then made my husband the emcee since he doesn’t care that much about playing games. You could also switch the emcee every round if you don’t have someone who wants to do it for the entire time you’re playing.

Drawful 2

Drawful 2 is one of the Jackbox Games. They are a set of games you can buy online and then play with friends over the internet. I actually managed to snag this particular one for free. Only one person needs to own the game in order for up to 8 devices to also be logged into the game. To play via Google Hangouts or Zoom you just share your screen to the game. Everyone does need a second device to actually draw and answer the questions. In this particular game everyone gets their own weird clue that they have to draw. Then everyone is shown the same drawing one by one and they have to provide a title for what they think the drawing is of. Then you get a list of all the titles people came up with plus the real title and people have to choose which one they think is the actual title. You get points for every time someone selects one of the titles you created instead of the actual title and if it’s your drawing you get points for every person that selects the actual title rather than one of the made up ones.

Other Future Options

We haven’t played any of these games yet, but they are possibly on tap for future virtual game night.

Additional Jackbox games

Someone else offered to buy some of the additional Jackbox games, so I think we’re going to do another one of those this coming weekend. There are a number of those we could cycle through if we want to pay for them.

The Game of Things

I think this game should also translate fairly easily to an online interface with answers being texted or emailed to the reader rather than submitted on a piece of paper.

Five Second Rule

This is a game I’ve never played in real life before, but I saw it when I was buying myself The Game of Things and thought it sounded like it would also be able to be easily played online with only one person owning the game. I bought a copy so we can try and attempt it. We’ll see how it goes.

Heads Up

Again I think this should work out okay as long as people can have a camera pointing at the phone on their heads so people can read the clues that they need to be getting the person that is it to guess. Thus I think this will probably be a better game to try when we have a night where it’s only couples and no single players so that one of them can train a camera on the other. The the single person could obviously set up something stationary as well.

Pictionary

I think if we ever do actual Pictionary we will need to do a modified version of it because I don’t think the all draw plays will translate well to an online format. It would be hard to see both people drawing at the same time and the potential internet lag time might disadvantage one team over the other. Otherwise I think it should work to have a phone or tablet camera propped up so that it’s pointing down on the piece of paper someone is drawing on.

Charades

I’ve been a little reluctant to try this one since I’m not sure how clear it will be to see what people are doing, but it might be worth trying at some point. I’ve seen some online charades clue generators that people could use to get their clues.

I will also say that depending on your set up for playing it may or may not be helpful to have a couple of options in your back pocket and to test things out ahead of time if possible. For instance the first night we tried to play Drawful 2 we ran into some technical issues that I hadn’t foreseen because it was difficult to test the game fully on my own. Luckily I anticipated there might be problems and already had Family Feud in my back pocket, which we were quickly able to pivot to. Also at least the way I’m running my game night is that whoever expressed interest in joining has been getting the weekly invite. Not everyone shows up every week so there may be instances where we need to switch things up depending on who comes on a particular night. For instance the Jackbox games can only have 8 logins at a time. Sometimes we’ve had more people than that. The virtual game night has definitely been a great way for me to keep some semblance of a social life though and gives a little bit of structure to what we’re doing online rather than just awkwardly staring at each other through little online boxes.

Magic Containers

I’ve been in awe of these Rubbermaid Freshworks produce containers for years and had previously thought about writing about them here as something that makes me happy but never did. Now in the midst of this COVID-19 crisis I feel like it would be remiss of me not to share my knowledge of them with you. I’ve always been skeptical of any specialized stuff like this claiming to keep stuff fresher longer. In my experience they never work. So when my husband bought some of these containers a couple of years ago I kind of scoffed at him and was like whatever. Those were probably a waste of money.

Boy was I wrong! These things are amazing! They totally do make our produce last longer without getting wilty and sad. With our new reality of trying to go to the grocery store only once every two weeks we bought even more of these to try and extend the life of the fresh produce we’re buying. I highly recommend getting some for yourself. Now if only someone could figure out a way to make it so bananas didn’t get ripe so fast. There’s no way I can buy two weeks of bananas at a time.

“Live” Music Getting Me Through Isolation

I missed out on my normal New Music Friday post yesterday. I’ve been really busy with work this week, and it’s also just been an emotional and draining week so I honestly just didn’t feel like writing it. I still have plenty of new music to write about. I just didn’t feel like it. Since I didn’t write about anything yesterday I thought I would share some of the musical things that are bringing me a little bit of joy right now.

Obviously if you know me or have been reading this blog for any amount of time you know how much I love music and how much I love to go to concerts. Obviously that’s not possible right now. It’s been sad to continue to delete more and more shows off of my calendar. I’m also trying to come to terms with the fact that even after this initial self-isolation period is over and concerts resume I’m probably going to have to refrain for the next year or so until there’s a vaccine or we’ve reached a high enough transmission rate for there to be a decent amount of herd immunity due to my multiple underlying conditions and immunocompromised status. It breaks my heart because live music is one of the things that brings me the most joy in life. Even if the show goes on I’ve already committed to abandoning my trip to Washington State the first week of June to see Brandi Carlile in a fan club only show in Seattle followed by seeing her at The Gorge, one of the venues on my bucket list. I haven’t completely come to terms with it yet, but I’m starting to think through the fact that the Newport Folk Festival is also probably going to be out for me this year as well.

Meanwhile I’m consoling myself with some of the many musical things that artists are doing from their houses. There are way too many of them to even think about keeping up with, especially the ones that are being done only on Instragram and have to be viewed within 24 hours. I’ve watched a few of those things, but obviously I can’t share those with you now so I’m going to concentrate on the ones you can still watch. Also, I was feeling overwhelmed with feeling like I was missing out on something I would love so committing to some of these and just watching other stuff when and if I can has made me feel less bad about missing out on things.

I So Lounging with Amanda Shires (and Jason Isbell)

It is no secret around here how much I love Jason Isbell and his wife Amanda Shires who has her own band, plays in his band when she can, and is the founding member of The Highwomen. Every day at 5 pm Central Amanda performs for about a half an hour from a barn on their property outside Nashville. Sometimes it’s just her. Sometimes members of her band who are quarantining with them show up. Sometimes her mom shows up. And in most of the later episodes Jason Isbell shows up. The format they’ve seemed to settle into is one or two of Amanda’s songs, one of Jason’s songs, or sometimes some covers. Kelly Bueno, so is married to one of Amanda’s bandmates and who works for but does not play in the band, is producing the daily shows and keeps an eye on the chat and passes them questions that people are asking that they then answer. They obviously have a plan for the songs they’re going to play, but otherwise things are pretty loose and can get a little silly. It’s very much a bright spot in my day. You can catch them live on Youtube each or go back and watch the previously recorded episodes.

The Kat & Dave Show

The Kat & Dave show is Katharine McPhee Foster and David Foster doing performances and being silly together. It started out a little loose and they have since gotten much more planned with themed episodes. They even say that they’re rehearsing for these for a couple hours, so they’re obviously putting a decent amount of work into them even though they still seem a little off the cuff, which I find fun and really enjoy. They’ve done 10 episodes so far and are now on a little hiatus to supposedly plan more shows. Hopefully they do return and soon because I really love them. You can go back and watch the already recorded episodes on YouTube. They go live from both of their accounts so that both of their fans can follow along, so there are two versions of every episode listed. You can just pick whose phone you want to watch it from.

Choir! Choir! Choir! Distan-Sing-Alongs

If you are unfamiliar with Choir! Choir! Choir! is a weekly drop-in sing-a-long in Toronto hosted by Daveed Goldman and Nobu Adilman. They also tour now so you can potentially sing with them wherever you live. I saw them perform at the Newport Folk Festival a few years ago. What they’re doing online is different from the live shows where you only sing a couple of songs and they walk through teaching the songs to everyone with half the room doing the melody and half singing harmony. In these obviously you aren’t singing with a whole room of people. You can only hear them and yourself and whoever else might be in the room singing with you. They are still a lot of fun and just seeing the people participating in the chat from all over the world while you know we’re all singing together makes me feel way less alone through all of this. We’re literally all going through it together. They’ve done two so far the Choir!intine: Epic Social Distan-Sing-Along! and the Epic Love Song Social Distan-Sing-Along. They’re doing a third one tomorrow at 3 pm Eastern where we’ll be singing songs about spring. You can watch either on Facebook Live or Youtube Live. I highly recommend. It will definitely brighten up your day I promise.

Christopher Paul Stelling

Christopher Paul Stelling has played a couple of times in the past week just sitting down with his guitar and playing for a good long time. The first one was an hour and half and the second was two hours. He’s just an amazing guitar player and I find his music so calming. His song “Scarecrow” with its chorus of “So breathe, breathe it out, lay your burdens down, to rest. Breath, through the doubts, never let them get the best, the best of you.” has long been one of my go to songs when I’m having a bad day and is moreso now than ever. I was really happy that he played it during the second show and was highly amused that it has obviously been awhile since he had to stop, figure out what the lyrics were, and then start again. If you just want some music that give you a little peace in these troubled times I recommend some Christopher Paul Stelling.