Categories
Personal

Stockpiling Joy

Surviving a pandemic is about more than physical health, it’s also about mental health.

If you live alone, how do you get through the challenges of isolation? And what if you live in a climate where winter is long, dark, and bone-chillingly cold?

Winter is a predictable part of life in Canada, but pandemic + winter is a combination most of us have never had to deal with before. Usually winter just creeps up on me, before I’ve even swapped my drawers of T-shirts and summer shorts for the cozy sweaters in storage bins.

But not this year. Given the exceptional circumstances, I decided in late summer to start consciously thinking about how I could make this winter more bearable, while not spending every moment glued to an electronic device. This article about how Norwegians not only get through winter – but thrive – helped me reframe and get inspired to start stockpiling some joy I can call on a bit further down the road.

First I started thinking about my physical space. I’m lucky to live in a cozy apartment with enough space not to feel hemmed in or trapped. But what could I do to make it feel even cozier? I had some cute fairy lights that I hadn’t ever done much with, and asked a friend adept at home decor if she had any ideas about what I might do with them. “Why not put them in a glass bowl,” she said. That could look really cute.

I didn’t have a bowl, but I remembered a large glass vase. Not big enough to fit all the lights, but after gazing around my flat I realized the plant stand could be a perfect home for the setup.

I did other things too. I got a couple more plants. I bought a patio heater, to extend the period in which I can host visitors outdoors. (My plans were thwarted by the province’s new lockdown restrictions, but I’m hoping to use it later this fall if Québec shapes up.)

While I’m out on the patio by myself, I fantasize about what sort of gardening I might do next year: I’ll try to grow some herbs again, hopefully figuring out why I killed two cilantro plants this year. Maybe try to replicate my friend Victoria’s great success with balcony basil and tomatoes.

What about crafts? Working with your hands can be meditative, plus you usually end up with something to show for it. I decided to try cross-stitching and ordered a cute beginner kit from a seller on Etsy. I’m looking forward to working on it, with a cat on my legs and fairy lights glowing.

Sea to sky cross-stitch kit. Trees and ocean abstract design in a circle.

I’ve also pondered trying a jigsaw puzzle, which a lot of people have gotten into, or rediscovered. I’m still contemplating these gorgeous wooden creations based on Canadian artwork, and in the meantime, a kind friend dropped off a couple of puzzles I can try out, to see if I enjoy the pastime.

One of the parts of travel I actually miss is spending all the time on planes and waiting at airports reading articles I’ve loaded up on Instapaper. I’ve still been saving them to read “later,” but I’m going to try to make a point to actually peruse them, even if it’s sitting on my couch at home.

I’ve also reserved some books from the library instead of buying them, and am excited to get that email, informing me they’re ready to be picked up. I’m thankful that even though our libraries are once again closed to browsing, reservations and inter-library loans are still available. After experimenting with some ebooks during the last lockdown, I’ve come to the conclusion that I still like reading on paper best.

I’ll still be cooking and baking a lot – check out some of the goodies I made during the first wave – and am planning to try some new recipes. (Scallion pancakes, here I come!)

One thing I need to make a point to do is get outside into nature. It always invigorates me, and I don’t do it enough. I’d like to get back to the Botanical Gardens, and go for a walk on the mountain (aka Mont-Royal). I’ve even toyed with the idea of getting showshoes, even if none have been procured so far. I can find it hard to get motivated to do these types of activities by myself, so friends will be pinged.

There are also a wealth of online activities these days, and I’m always keeping my eye out for these. I’ve taken part in online book launches, comedy festivals, and even a mixed media art class. I love seeing what my friends around the world are up to; for all its evils, Facebook is great for that, and I often partake in events I wouldn’t have been able to attend in person.


As I was writing this post, I got an email informing me that it’s World Mental Health Day today, featuring a video with Dr. Laurie Santos’s five favourite evidence-based coping strategies: exercise, gratitude, sleep, getting social, and being with your emotions.

Sounds good to me. Let’s see how it goes. Bon courage, everyone.

Categories
Personal

Pandemic Playlist

If I’d asked you in 2019 what this collection of things had in common, would you have been able to guess?

Anything to add to the roster of in-demand items from the last few months? Any predictions about what’s next?

  • Toilet paper

  • Jarred pasta sauce

  • Flour

  • Baker’s yeast

  • Hand sanitizer

  • Latex gloves

  • Computer monitor

  • Jigsaw puzzles

  • Face-mask pattern

  • Elastic

  • Sewing-machine needles

  • Sourdough starter

  • Weights

  • Bike

  • Seedlings

Photo by Jeffrey Zzum – Pexels

Categories
Food

Why in the World is the Whole World Baking?

When I wrote my last post about the magic dough, I certainly wasn’t anticipating the current epidemic. You know, the global baking epidemic?

I don’t know about you, but my social media feeds are full of homemade chocolate-chip cookies, lemon bars, and carrot cakes. Dutch ovens stuffed with loaves of no-knead bread abound. People are whipping up impressive-looking cinnamon buns and drool-worthy biscuits – and my co-worker’s daughter even made churros.

My own frying pan was crowded with cinnamon-raisin English muffins last Sunday, filling my flat with a magical scent. Caramelized onion and artichoke heart pizza with a magic-dough crust made for several savoury meals.

Thanks to the global pandemic, home baking has exploded among the quarantined, the self-isolating, and both veteran and newbie remote workers. People are keeping their kids busy with sprinkles, while others knead out their stresses.

What is it about baking that’s so comforting in the Weird Times (officially so named by my team at work) that we’re all living through? There is clearly something comforting about baked goods that you’ve made from scratch. It reminds us of normalcy and past celebrations, it warms our bellies, and our hearts. It reminds us how lucky some of us are to be safe in our homes, able to create something delicious out of a few ingredients.

Over the last 2 days I’ve tried to buy flour at 3 different grocery stores. Sold out. Ordinarily, there’s never a run on flour — even during peak pie season! Or autumn, when you start thinking about bread and soup. Seriously, I just wanna make some pasta, bread and cookies, people. Stop hoarding stuff you won’t use.

My Friend Charlotte

On the downside, hoarding flour – as with toilet paper – is definitely a faux-pandemic-pas. Please be kind to your fellow bakers, and leave some for the rest of your neighbours!

Have you noticed unusual baking activity in your part of the world? I’m interested in hearing about it.

Remote cookie-baking with current and former co-workers (and their kids)