Author Archives: deemallon

Slate gray skies

Cold enough for down coat, hat, and gloves for the morning’s dog walk. I feel a little about spring as I do about Bernie. How grateful I’d be if he dropped out! How grateful I’d be if we had a warm, sunny day! I anticipate the lush riches of spring with a heightened need this year — unfurling maple leaves, nodding daffodils, the bold tulips and magnolias. All this time spent looking out windows framing grey, taupe, and dun!

This morning’s writing class was marred by technical difficulties. I breathed through it. Wrote through it.

Here are some double exposures I created two nights ago. The constant image is the star-adorned wooden box that used to house my sister’s Aquarian Tarot deck. The other images include: dome interior from Rome, a statue of the Virgin from San Rufino cathedral in Assisi, a quilt, a garden bowl of water.

My remoulade bombed. It looked like cat puke in the chowder. Not at all what I was hoping for!

Tomorrow, we pick up a $30 box of produce in the Fenway, an effort organized by a place called “The Neighborhood.” I want to support small markets and local farmers to the extent I can, so there is more sourcing to do here.

Off for a nap! Hope you all are managing as best you can. I’m not looking for silver linings at the moment, but I wonder if this experience will help me develop patience.

Food, news, and a rant

Snowflakes wander to the ground this morning and put us in mind of another April Fools Day, when two feet of snow fell. We couldn’t open the front door. It seemed a grand joke from Nature.

Who feels like joking now?

What will people discover isn’t so necessary when this is all over? D’s biology class resumes this week, but online. No lab. Surely hands-on science won’t fall by the wayside, but maybe all those corporate, in-person meetings?

The snow must be over, for the skylight is a blue rectangle.

Problem: a very bland fish chowder. I’m considering a remoulade to add flavor. NOTE: Jars of roasted red peppers make fabulous quarantine food, especially when fresh vegetables run low.

My next grocery delivery isn’t for another ten days and I’m almost out of onions and celery! Lettuce for two salads left, maybe. I must wage my war of emptying-the-fridge and relying-on-the-pantry in silence, otherwise K might take it upon himself to grocery shop.

I really don’t want him to go to the grocery store. I know people are making different decisions about this, but avoiding the store is a way to avoid worry.

Put another two ways: I really want my husband to live; I really don’t feel like dying.

Leave it to my friend DT to get to the heart of any matter, even if harsh truths are involved. ESPECIALLY if harsh truths are involved.

“What’s so bad about dying,” she asks in a recent phone call. “Why are we so afraid of it?” After a pause, in which perhaps she thinks about the recent arrival of another granddaughter, DT adds, “But, I have so many reasons to want to live.”

Another friend’s brother is on a ventilator. In Florida (no comment — rant comes later). She’s remarkably sanguine about it. She’s married to a doctor, which makes me wonder if the medical perspective is generally less hyped-up with avoidance strategies. My brother’s going grocery shopping, that’s for sure. His partner is being exposed in a Los Angeles ER and coming home. What’s grocery shopping compared with that?

My roasted pepper remoulade will feature garlic, salt, and olive oil. Can you picture the pretty red swirl in the creamy soup? Plus a sprinkling of chives from the pot out by the garage.

A plane passes. Earlier, an ambulance. Hong Kong’s numbers rise again. Talk of asymptomatic carriers who never get sick. K quips, “I’ll bet China doesn’t want to call Hong Kong theirs NOW.”

We see clip after clip of ER doctors describing war zones, their eyes wide with sadness. We see field hospitals being erected in Central Park and in various arena around the country. And still, the Partisan Dicks of some Red States stand their ground in a vicious display of macho-trumpism (oh, sorry. Is macho-trumpism redundant?) How can their decisions be allowed to govern when their toxic allegiance will literally kill people?

It’s no metaphor when Nancy Pelosi says trump has blood on his hands. The Boston Globe says it, too. Blood AND sputum.

Among other things, trump demands that we re-invent language, for surely “callous disregard for human life” and “lack of empathy” don’t quite capture his epic willingness to let people die.

We are still running the heat. I look forward to a short-sleeves day.

I’ll keep you posted on how the food challenge goes, as the vegetable bins empty and the onion bowl reveals only a littering of rust-colored, papery skins. The challenge appeals to me — something about my farming ancestors? A potato-blighted, starving past, perhaps. But seriously, this is a fight I’m equipped to fight. For so many, I lack all skill, all stamina.

A friend once said to me, “In a barter economy, you’d be a queen.”

It was a compliment, I know, but at the time also stood as an indictment about how I just couldn’t manage to make money or survive in the corridors of business.

Mask post #3

If you’re keeping up with the news, you’ll see new reporting about the utility of wearing masks. Most people I know are keeping exposure to an absolute minimum but still need masks to decontaminate food deliveries or go to the grocery store.

(I kept asking K, “How can 2 billion people be wrong?”) (well, okay, 1.4 billion, but you get my point. They now surmise that Hong Kong’s outbreak was contained somewhat by the prevalent use of masks).

While I wouldn’t recommend using masks that can otherwise serve the medical professionals, homemade cloth ones might help the rest of us, especially if they have a pocket for inserting additional protection.

When I saw the video of the European tailor (below) whip up a mask out of three pieces of cloth in about three minutes, I was beyond impressed. This morning I finally gave his version a try. I want to share the extra steps that I devised to compensate for the fact that I don’t share his mad skills.

First the dimensions:

RECTANGLE: 7.5″ x 14″

TIES: 27.5″ x 1.25″

1) Press short lengths of rectangle under 1/4″. Fold in half. Top stitch from one edge in 2″ then top stitch other end 2″ from edge to the edge. I marked the two inch distances with pins.

(The tailor did not press first or make marks).

2) Press and pin pleats and stitch down. Finished length 3.5″

(The tailor folded as he went while attaching ties).

3) Fold tie in half to determine halfway point and pin, right sides together on pleats. Stitch down.

4) Press tie toward mask’s back then press each side of the long tie towards its center with 1/4″ fold. That makes it easier to stitch.

4) Fold tie and stitch from mid-pleating to one tie end before reversing and stitching from mid-pleat to the tie’s other end. (If you are a precise and practiced seamstress, begin at one end of the 27″ tie and sew to the other end).

5) If desired add an X of top stitching for additional strength at corners of masks.

Voila! A cloth mask with a pocket made from three pieces of cloth.

Here are some ideas for inserts, roughly ranked from most to least effective:

  • Piece of furnace filter cut to size
  • Piece of vacuum bag cut to size
  • A maxi pad
  • A piece of batting
  • A piece of cloth, esp batik or silk
  • A used piece of dryer lint
  • A folded paper towel.

Even if these masks do nothing more than remind one not to touch one’s face between hand washings, they have value.

This morning I read some speculation that the virus might in fact transmit through the air (and not just by droplets) for very short periods of time. That might make cloth masks more important than initially believed.

Some hospitals will accept these to wear over N95 masks. Some hospice/nursing home caregivers have no masks at all and would appreciate these. One friend is making cloth masks for her local firefighters at their request. Every area is different.

Obviously, wash between uses.

Walk with me

I used to take the boys to our town cemetery all the time to wander its broad paths and to feed the ducks. It seemed incredible that K had never been.

The hour drive to a Gloucester beach really didn’t appeal to me, so this was our compromise.

SIMPLE seems more important than ever right now. Ten minute drive. Finn left at home (no dogs allowed). Can return weekly!

(I’ve been wanting to quilt Celtic designs for a long time).

The names evoke other times. Rudolph. Anna Kate. Florence. Roland M King. Emeline. Jessie Annie. Gertrude. Levina. Adeline and Augustus. Elnora Wright.

George and Levi were everywhere.

We saw a number of other people but it was in no way crowded. It felt safe.

The green lights showed up again.

We could make a study of the flora. Many trees are tagged.

I thought more spring bulbs would be in bloom, but it’s still too early.

Driving home, we could tell it was Saturday because lots of fathers were out with their young children. Leaving mothers to soak in a hot bath, perhaps?

Freshening one’s living quarters feels more important than ever. Clutter imposes a drag on the spirits. In New England, air needs circulating. Today we’ll tackle the ‘new room’ (which is now 20 years old). As K’s ‘office’ and my fabric cutting station, it needs renewing, big time.

What are your plans for the weekend? What IS a weekend? Do you find tidiness matters more during home containment? Are you, like Dana and me, baking? How much news are you allowing yourself? Where are you putting your rage?

PS Son #2’s friend — the one from Brooklyn? — recently tested negative for the virus. I put some worries to bed, therefore, and also felt a little better about my 24 year old’s decision making.

PPS A colleague of my brother’s in the Stony Brook ER saw 21 positive cases the day before yesterday. Twenty one out of something like 24.

Also, my brother speculated that LA is about ten days behind NYC. The lack of density will mitigate the outbreak some, in his view, but the huge homeless and prison populations will do the opposite.

Let’s count

After a poor night’s sleep, I woke discouraged. ‘Why blog? Why tweet? Really, why bother?’ Things that seemed sustaining 24 hours earlier, seemed less so this morning. It alarmed me, actually.

Two cups of coffee and one dog walk later, I feel better. Nothing like a beautiful spring day! The sun’s out. It’s in the fifties. I didn’t have to wear down or a hat!

Let’s keep counting.

Five Zoom meetings this week. Four successful, one marred by a no show. Son #2 had better things to do, apparently. Maturing brain, I failed to teach manners, etc. But better things to do with a visiting friend from Brooklyn — really? REALLY?

Number of times I’ve wondered if DJT is a sociopath: too many times to count. Recent events confirm it. Incompetence, stupidity, and strategic vengeance only explain so much. He has more blood on his hands than all the most prolific serial killers combined (except Stalin, Pol Pot, and Hitler).

Spring robins are back! Saw at least five this morning. ‘Chirp-chirp-chirp!’ There they hop — through the green blades of daffodils, not yet blooming but nodding in anticipation.

Number of sirens wailing during 25 minute walk: three? four?

Number of new cases YESTERDAY in Massachusetts: more than 800.

Number of doctors and other health care workers who recently tested positive in Boston: something like 141.

Number of times I’ve seen a person on the red house porch on Jackson Street in 26 years: 0. Today, a woman with a lap top. “That’s 45 schools,” she says. “AND, all the faculty!”

Number of times I spray Lysol on the keyboard every day, even without external contact: once.

Number of yard crews suffered through yesterday: four.

Number of times I’ve looked for the tiny bottle of Purell that magically turned up out of nowhere and then just as magically disappeared: five?

God damn those elves!

Number of masks finished: 5. Number of masks half done: 5. Number of blog and instagram posts about masks: 5. Number of additional masks I plan to make: 0 to 10.

It’s an act of duty without clear cut benefit. I’d rather finish C’s quilt.

Number of email addresses collected for our hyper-local help chain: 11.

15: number of minutes I will sit and follow the breath today.

3: minimum number of pages that I’ll write. I expect pure ranting today but who cares?

2 or 3: number of yard waste barrels I will fill.

One delicious dinner planned. Fire up the grill!

 

 

Tick tock, calendar

Hello! In the thirties here, but at least the sun’s out today.

K spilled coffee at his work station this morning. A near disaster. I slid a stool next to the table for the cup going forward.

I might quilt this little piece into oblivion were it not for the fact that the backing cloth is an old, ornery, tough pillow case. Ugh! Just a little more stitching, then.

Went to phone calendar to see when Easter was, because, well, you know, and found flights to Florence and Rome. DELETE Found Airbnb reservations in Quebec City. DELETE.

Now? It’s Zoom appointments. Yesterday, with our finance guy. TONIGHT, with both boys. Feels necessary. Also? A little bit of a challenge. Because we span three times zones, I’ll have to be coherent at 10 pm.

Yard waste pick up starts next week. I can’t wait! I’ve filled almost all of our barrels, even with some composting in place.

What are you looking forward to?

Pantry entree: shrimp curry

Frozen shrimp and frozen peas.

Root veggies: potatoes, carrots, and onions

1 jar of your favorite prepared curry sauce

Dash of cumin

1/2 can diced tomatoes with juice

1 c chicken stock

1 c lo-fat unsweetened coconut milk

Handful chopped fresh cilantro (only fresh item)

** You’ll need a 12-inch sauté pan.

Sautée onions and carrots. Sprinkle with cumin, cook one minute.

Add stock, tomatoes, diced potatoes, and curry sauce. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer until potatoes and carrots are cooked, about 20 minutes.

Add frozen peas. Simmer a few minutes.

Throw shrimp in. If precooked, they will barely need any time at all. If they’re not precooked, more like six minutes.

Off heat, stir in coconut milk and sprinkle with chopped cilantro. Serve over rice. Yum!