I had been planning to write about our visits to Savannah, and then beaches of New Smyrna and Fernandina, but I am sheltering at home as they say, for Covid 19, and thought at this time perhaps it would be more pertinent to share my experience or rather ours as a family; my husband, Charles, our dog, Oscar, who has his own take on this stay at home, and me of course. We have now been back from Florida almost four weeks, and most of that time has been at home. I believe there will be four more weeks here at home.
front door awaits no guests
In my previous blog:
https://suddenly70.ca/2020/03/29/a-challenging-time-march-2020/ I was actually pretty excited about being back in Canada and at our home during the crisis of Covid19. I had Charles’ birthday party, albeit for just the two of us, but I was busy getting things in order after having been away for over 5 months.
arrived at home
And then it hit me. We couldn’t go anywhere. Not that there was anywhere to go, but aside from very brief (focused on performance) dog walks, that was it. Now that we have passed our two week self isolation, the walks at least are longer and wonderful. We are free to go to the grocery store, and drugstore and do some pick ups at places that will put such things as dog food in the car, and our fave sushi restaurant, Kaji, which we went to last week, well sort of; we sat in the car, opened the trunk and our marvellous meal was placed in there. We gave them a credit card over the phone. Then of course the big alcohol wipe down of everything that enters our house, and then the big hand wash.
take out sushi
So this is the new normal and we are luckier than 90% of the population because we have not lost our jobs, we are retired, we are not short of money, we love to eat and I love to cook, we have some excellent friends who have offered to do the grocery runs for us as we are still very reticent about going in stores.
our good friends and neighbours who have fetched groceries for us, Yes!
After our first week of isolation and eating well we noticed that the house was messy and dirty. We decided that Tuesday would be our cleaning day, as we are not letting anyone in the house, not even our cleaning woman, Renate. Charles and I divided the chores, although we found ourselves double doing, it worked quite well. He wanted a better mop, and some other products. Our cleaning styles are certainly different, but the job got done, sheets and towels changed. I learned that it is not a good idea to do our personal laundry along with the bedding, too much up and down stairs, and I also learned that Renate never empties the dryer filter, nor really cleans the stove well etc. etc. So we are a team and pleased after we finish, but I still miss her, and look forward to her return.
It seems that I am focused on food, and it is the highlight of our day. I got two beef filets from our favourite butcher/deli, Absolutly Fine Foods and they were superb. I found an old recipe for tournedos that I had created for a television show called Celebrity Cooks with Bruno Gerussi about a hundred years ago. It was scribbled in pencil, but when I read it lo these many years after, it still looked good. I seasoned the meat with some garlic powder and pepper and sautéed it quickly on each side. Then I poured some calvados on it and lit a match to flambé it. I had a small slice of paté which I set aside. I turned on the oven to about 250F for half an hour or so, and then turned it off, and placed the meat in there to just sit. Meanwhile I fried some mushroom caps, and green beans and sliced a potato very thin and fried it till it was crisp. I made a roux with flour and butter and added some beef broth. I use powdered no sodium beef broth with water, and then a splash of red wine and some pepper to taste. By the way everything I cook is by taste. I took the steaks out of the oven and they were perfectly rare which we love, and turned the pan on, poured the sauce over the filets, placed them on top of the slice of paté on the plate, and we ate like royalty.
Other dishes have been equally wonderful. I have bought again from Absolutly, organic fresh salmon pieces about 6 ounces each and covered them with sesame oil and an Indonesian soy sauce called Ketjapmanis. Charles barbecues this and crisps the skin. I served it the last time with broccoli and melted cheese on top. I just par cook the broccoli pieces and then put in the oven at 400F with swiss cheese covering it and I let it get crusty.
lamb newly rubbed with herbs waiting to be roasted
leg of duck with lima beans, sweet potato, the package gives instructions for cooking
I found some scallops in the freezer, sautéd them and served them over spaghetti with jar of tomato sauce which I doctored with wine, oregano, cumin and a splash of maple syrup. Pretty tasty. I made a roast chicken that I stuffed with cutup old bread, onions and sage, softened with hot water and placed inside the bird, buttered inside and out, and seasoned with basil, garlic, salt and pepper , sometimes some sprinkles of cinnamon, and quick roasted under cooking film, I use Look brand bags, which I cut open and just use the top to cover. You cook at 400 degrees for 20 minutes a pound, crisp on the outside and juicy inside. I served it with mashed potatoes, gravy and some carrots. The next day I made a chicken pie with a frozen pie crust that I thawed. I made a roux with butter, milk, some leftover gravy, wine, pepper and cut up the leftover chicken, added cooked carrots and frozen peas and covered with the crust. I baked it at 350 F for about 40 minutes. Usually enough for two meals.
More food. I made a lamb roast on Easter Sunday. I seasoned with olive oil, rubbed it around, then lots of rosemary, thyme, whatever else inspired me in the spice cupboard, placed large cut up Yukon gold potatoes and large chunks of carrots around it. I cooked it at 400F for about 15 minutes, then 250F for about 45 minutes. The leg was 6 lbs. with the bone in. I made a gravy from the drippings, some flour, wine, Worcestershire sauce, Ketjapmanis, and a squeeze of lemon. All good. Then our neighbour lent us his meat grinder and we ground the leftovers and I made a shepherds pie. No need to season, but I used the leftover gravy, and some panko to dry it up a bit, covered with mashed potatoes and baked at 35OF for about 30 minutes. I served with canned low sodium corn niblets. Again enough for 4 servings.
Now enough about food, although it is the central point of our day. We have been at home for four weeks. After a few days of regrouping with wifi, papers and the such it was reality time. We were home. So what to do? First off I realized it is important to have a routine, no matter what that is. So I usually wake just before seven. We turn on CBC radio news to get caught up with Covid19 because that is really all that is talked about. I guess being part of a pandemic is news. Duh! The dog sleeps on our bed and is quite happy to stay there as long a possible. I turn to Charles and say, ‘so honey, what’s on your schedule today?’ the joke is wearing thin, but it does give us a smile.
The bathroom stuff with iPhone updates , face check up, and then let the dog outside. Nothing different here from normal. If it is Tuesday we start cleaning, but that only happens once a week. Charles makes his coffee and I get dressed to go for a long dog walk. If it is Monday I have a Pilates lesson on Zoom with my trainer, then breakfast, then start thinking about food for dinner, and ordering any groceries. I head upstairs to the computer and deal with stuff. The income tax is done, so I will write emails, order things online, and then work on this blog.
some rooms of the house where we are spending our time
At 10:30 I take a shower, put on makeup, then head into the kitchen to hear the Prime Minister’s broadcast on CBC radio at 11:15 and eat my breakfast. I also read the paper thoroughly. Okay, it is time for lunch and so I expand my breakfast. This is getting really exciting. Charles takes Oscar for another walk. I am now back to singing for my pleasure or frustration, and sit at the piano for about 45 minutes. Neil Perkins, my old family friend, and I have started to practice together again. We are going to do this every week. Now the great thing about this is that for various reasons Neil had stopped playing for ten years. Our first session left something to be desired because we started on Face Time, he at his piano in his living room, and me at mine and I just couldn’t hear him. So then we tried Zoom with me using earphones and that was slightly better, but the lag time was quite funny, as I kept thinking he was going to slow and he kept thinking I was. We will do this again using Zoom or FaceTime and hope it works. It did!
Speaking of Zoom, we did our Easter dinner with our good friends and neighbours, Liz and Wouter. I made the apps, and the lamb , and left it on our porch for pick up, and they brought a fabulous dessert and champagne that arrived on our porch as well. Just a few hand waves. Then we met in our living rooms on Zoom with our drinks and talked. Soon after we took them to our dining room where they were ensconced on the dining room table and we carried on. It was great, although we ate and drank too much. It was Easter after all.
Zoom with our friends at easter dinner
Oscar likes a 4:00 walk and his timer is always right on. He also likes his dinner at 5:00. Now if he were writing this he would tell you that the greatest thing that has happened in a long while is this Covid thing. We are home all the time, he gets naps with us, walks, treats, a chance to lick off our plates after three meals away. He watches tv and if you know him you will know that he plays the piano, and it seems like he is playing an awful lot now that he has an audience. He never gets left alone and he is getting very spoiled following us from room to room.
Charles and I usually read in the afternoon until we get sleepy, and then it is nap time, until it is walk time. Isn’t this exhilarating? I also talk on the phone which I haven’t done in a long time. I like to speak to my sister and to girlfriends. I am a napper normally, but those old naps were only 5-10 minutes. Now they are at least an hour and they are delicious. I am becoming a lazy bum. Sometimes we will watch a movie matinée. We started with old ones like When Harry Met Sally, then Sleepless in Seattle, and You’ve got Mail. We even saw Forrest Gump, and Rain Man which were delightful, and thought provoking. At 6:00 I head to the kitchen to make dinner or rather prep it while I listen to CBC radio news, and Charles watches Global local news. I join him for the National Global News, and prepare a bath which takes about 15 minutes to fill our whirlpool tub. We have ice water in the bath. Well we drink ice water in the bath when we are taking a hiatus from champagne or wine.
One break in routine is the hair challenges. I am accustomed to trimming my hair in between hairdresser appointments. My hair is layered, and thick so I can disguise any errors, but colouring it is another thing, and it was definitely due. So I ordered what I thought were the right colours and I also thought I would be creative and try to give my hair some balayage, a little hair painting with a darker colour. After three goes, it didn’t quite turnout. Actually I looked like an old woman whose hair colour was faded and her part was white, wrong! Then I saw this package under my sink of a touch up for roots that I must have bought at some point. I used it, perhaps not as it was intended, but I am presentable. Actually it looks pretty good. Of course only Charles and Oscar are seeing me in person, but I have to look in the mirror. I will experiment with a slightly darker colour next time and fiddle with that. Charles promises to let me cut his hair as it is growing too. Wonder of wonders, and Oscar is due for a bath and a trim. Then there are nails and toenails to deal with. I miss my pedicures.
But what I really miss is my early morning swim whether here or in Florida. Here in Toronto it is at an old pool called Gus Ryder, and I leave the house at 6:30 am and return by 8:00am. It is a wonderful way to start the day. I meditate when I am swimming, but of course during this time it is closed, and the bath has to suffice because I need my water fix.
my darling Carrie
It is April and my saddest time of year normally as my daughter Carrie was born April 6, 1966 and died April 14 1985. Now it is a long time since she died, but it never gets any easier to be without her. Even though she was a teen, I imagine when I see others with their daughters, what it would be like to have her as an adult with children of her own. Fortunately, I dream about her from time to time and my dreams are very real, but April is still my sorrowful time, and Covid is certainly not joyful to say the least. If you want to know more about my life you can read my book: Aria: Song of a Life.
After our nightly bath, Charles and I take it together as the tub is huge, there is dinner with wine, and finally a Netflix series. Currently we are watching Ozark, but we loved Unorthodox, and The Marvellous Mrs. Mazel. We are planning another Zoom dinner with different neighbours on Friday night. We look forward to FaceTime chats with our grand daughters. It is important to have at least a few things on the calendar.
This is not our usual life of spring opera at the Canadian Opera Company, and the fabulous Stratford Festival that will not open this May, or of concerts, and gliding and golf and entertaining and shopping and party planning. My sister has a birthday coming up, and I have a party planned for her that will have to be postponed. This is a time of canceling trips to visit our kids in Vancouver, and trips for pleasure in Europe to enjoy this chapter of our lives while we can still travel. But of course we can’t do anything. It is a time at home, and a time for reflection on how fortunate we are, and a time to send large donations to the food banks here and in Florida, and to help those that are in desperate need in the Arts Community, and the list goes on of needy folk.
We are working hard to stop this virus from spreading by staying home, and staying away from others, and by being diligent about washing our hands and using alcohol wipes and hand sanitizer. We will continue this interval until we are told we can resume normal life. It is the right, the only thing to do.
And I promise that my next blog will be memories of our last mini vacations in Savannah and the Florida beaches, filled with joy and exuberance, and of course good food and excellent scenery.