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.
Baltimore has these public salt boxes that the Department of Public Works puts out around the city in winter that people can take salt from to spread around icy sidewalks. They are these yellow wooden boxes usually with the words Salt Box spray painted in black on them.
This winter someone decided to start decorating them and replacing the black Salt Box lettering with artistic ways of saying Salt Box. Of course this took off on Baltimore social media and she shared with everyone how she was basically taking plywood, painting it yellow, creating the art on it, and then screwing it into the face of the salt box and encouraging others to create their own art. Baltimoreans jumped on it and as of today there are now 100 pieces of salt box art. Now I’m sad when I stumble across a salt box and it doesn’t have any salt box art on it. It’s stuff like this that makes me love this city.
I’ve been taking photos of the ones I’ve found in my walks, but there are tons more out there. I haven’t even looked through them all, but I am highly impressed with some of the creativity that people have come up with. There’s also a Google map that the original artist put together showing where the salt boxes with art on them are and where there are still salt boxes that are still unadorned in case you want to add your art to one.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Remember approximately one million years ago when I said I was going to start blogging about things in Baltimore that make me happy and I then managed to write maybe two posts before never writing another one? Yeah, it’s been so long, me neither.
I actually had a couple of posts in the works way back when that I never wrote but took pictures of things for. I ran across them in my photos the other day when I was looking for something else and thought, hey I should write those posts. They might bring the tiniest amount of joy into our currently hellish world.
This one has a little bit of sad tinge to it in that the Gnome Garden is currently on hiatus because the gnomes have had to social distance, but one day it will hopefully be back. Someone in my neighborhood has created this little Gnome Garden in her front yard and invites little kids to play with the stuff in the garden and to take things home from it for a short time.
She would post updates and gentle reminders about the garden from the perspectives of the gnomes on Nextdoor under the title Gnome News. It was pretty much the only good thing about Nextdoor. For whatever reason, even though my settings in Nextdoor were set to get a daily digest of posts I stopped getting them eons ago and never bother to go to the site because it’s mostly garbage. I did go and search for Gnome News to confirm that the reason the garden disappeared as in fact due to COVID and was informed that that it was because the gnome doctor insisted the gnomes follow CDC guidelines.
It was a delightful little spot in the neighborhood. I always enjoyed walking by it even though I don’t have kids and thus never played with anything in it. I appreciate the joy that it brings to be people, and I hope that it won’t be too long before the gnomes can come out of quarantine.
By the way I took these photos way back in September in case you were wondering how long ago I thought about writing this post originally.
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.
We listen to Marketplace almost every night while my husband is making dinner. I’m also a huge fan of two Marketplace podcasts, Make Me Smart and The Uncertain Hour. So I toss them some money every once in awhile. I am especially pleased by their swag. Kai Ryssdal host of Marketplace and one of the co-hosts of Make Me Smart along with Molly Wood is always saying “The stock market is not the economy”. I love my reusable bag and now new socks that play off of that phrase. I look forward to all future punny swag they come up with.
So I’m guessing no one thought my first post about Baltimore would be a random post about flags, and not even the Maryland flag which is a pretty cool flag that we love to put on everything. I can tell you what you’re going to get in at least the first month of these posts are a lot of little things that I’ve noticed and that make me happy. It’s important to enjoy the simple things, and I’m trying to be better at doing that. Plus over the many years I’ve been writing this blog, I’ve already written about a lot of the big things about Baltimore that people might actually expect me to be writing about. I’m sure I’ll write about some this eventually, but don’t expect to get a bunch of posts about things to do in the city. You can go search my archives for that.
What I’m writing about today is my neighbor’s flags. Someone who lives near me has a flagpole that they constantly change the flag on. I first really noticed the flags changing on a consistent basis a couple of years ago during the Men’s World Cup. He (I’m making an assumption it’s a he, though I don’t really know who lives there) started changing the flag to whatever country he was rooting for.
Sometimes I’m able to figure out what the flags are and sometimes I’m not. Sometimes it’s hard to see what the flag is because there’s not enough wind to make it unfurled. Sometimes it’s obvious like this past June when he had the rainbow flag and the trans flag flying for Pride month. The title of this post is a reference to the YouTube show called “Fun with Flags” that the character Sheldon on the Big Bang Theory has. Whenever I can’t figure out what a flag is I joke that I need to watch “Fun with Flags”. For flags I don’t know I’ve made the assumption that they have something to do with soccer teams so I’m guessing that Sheldon actually wouldn’t be able to help me either.
Sometimes I’m able to get a good enough look at the flag and can Google what it is based on a description of it. Recently he had the Tennessee state flag flying for some reason, which I was able to find out through Google since I don’t know all the state flags.
Right now he has flags for the New Orleans Saints and the New England Revolution soccer team. It took me forever to confirm that New Orleans Saints flag. I felt like a very terrible librarian because I couldn’t figure it out. I spent a really long time searching for that one and couldn’t figure it out. I tried again yesterday after I saw someone else a few block away with the same flag flying when I was out on my walk. I still couldn’t locate it based on any efforts at describing what it looked like. I finally based on timing, the fact that multiple people were flying it, and what I know about the Saints that it might be a Saints flag, so I Googled New Orleans Saints flags and after a bit of scrolling did eventually find that flag. So mystery solved there.