To a greater or lesser degree, COVID-19 has triggered change for pretty much everyone. Since we’ve been working (and working out) from home for well over 10 years now, we’re coping with fewer changes to our world than many people are: mostly lower level challenges, like figuring out how to order groceries for pick-up when then next pick-up window is 10 days to 2 weeks out, how best to support elderly neighbours and extended family members, adjusting to virtual choir rehearsals and wondering what the 2020 hiking/biking season will look like.
Here are 4 things in our world that have shifted at least a bit as a result of the pandemic and one thing that has remained constant:
I’ve been baking bread for about 20 years and baking cookies, cakes and other treats for much longer than that. But baking supply shortages due to the COVID-19 pandemic mean I’ve had to evolve my bread baking techniques. Active dry yeast and even quick-rise yeast are impossible to find. But 454 gram (1 pound) bricks of fresh yeast are available from the grocery store where I place online orders for pick-up. So I’ve learned the equivalent measures and have had really good success using fresh yeast. Why hadn’t I tried it before? First, lack of awareness. Second, even had I been aware, it has a very short shelf life – about two weeks – so active dry yeast is a better option as a pantry staple.
In the past, I’ve generally left the mixing and kneading (and even the baking) up to my Zojirushi breadmaker. But with our youngest back at home (university classes are online now) and a fan of one particular Bon Appetit YouTube channel, we’ve incorporated no-knead, overnight bread into our bread baking mix. It’s low effort and keeps well, so has become a new favourite.
I’ve also started using some different kitchen tools when baking bread. Ingredients for the overnight no-knead bread are measured by weight. And testing for doneness is done with an instant read thermometer. Finally, I recently discovered that using a dough blade (purchased for making pasta) to clean up the sticky residue left on the counter after rolling out bread dough makes clean-up much easier!!
On a related note, another small pandemic-driven change to our world is turning stale bread into croutons instead of tossing loaf ends into the compost.
2. Stay-at-Home Photo Projects
With Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer advising us to stay home as much as possible, I’ve opened several stay-at-home photo project emails. I haven’t yet allocated much time to these, but did take one morning to dig into our Lego bins to build a stand for a 4×6 sheet of glass I took from an old photograph frame. I waxed the glass using the car wax Mr GeoK has on hand, to help water droplets flatten more slowly and then used my macro lens to photograph refractions of a “world” sticker placed below. It seemed a good representation of the strange world we’re all living in now…one where norms and time are bending and warping and may never return to the old “normal”.
What kinds of stay-at-home projects have you been tackling?
3. Jump Start on Gardening
We’ve had a small vegetable garden for 20+ years, and while we occasionally try growing new things, COVID-19 has prompted a couple of big changes for our 2020 gardening season. Due to uncertainty around the opening of garden centres this spring, we ordered seeds online. Also for the first time, we started seeds indoors – vegetables (kale, one of my all-time favourite salad greens) and flowers (cosmos, sunflowers and nasturtiums). Almost all the seeds planted in re-purposed takeout lasagna trays have sprouted and we look forward to transplanting them around the middle of May (depending on risk of frost).
What’s the situation with garden centres in your part of the world? Are they open? Are they modified to support physical distancing? And are you participating in the COVID-19 gardening craze?
4. Sewing Cloth Masks
Despite dialing way back on the amount of news I’m taking in each day, my feed alerted me to the likelihood that medical authorities across North America would start to recommend that we all wear cloth masks when outside our homes, especially where physical distancing is difficult/impossible (eg grocery shopping). And some stores (most notably Costco) are requiring customers to wear masks when shopping.
There are all kinds of homemade mask patterns and instructions on the interwebz. I did some research and then selected two patterns to test. After sewing four prototype masks, I selected the one that fit the best – it has a nose wire (section of pipecleaner), multiple pattern sizes, a pocket option that lets you insert a third layer of filtering material (such as a dried out baby wipe, a sheet of paper towel or a section of coffee filter) and a helpful YouTube instruction video.
Each time I sit down to sew, I say a silent “thank you” to my grade 10 Home Economics teacher and for the fact that I bought a sewing machine some 30 years ago to sew duvet covers, placemats, etc. and that it’s still in good working order.
It’s been a bit of a team effort in terms of cobbling together supplies. My sister provided some fabric and my mother-in-law provided a bunch of the laces that I’m using for the mask ties.
In the month of April, I sewed 31 cloth masks. Most of them have gone to extended family, friends and neighbours. I’ve been trying to equip everyone with three cloth masks so they can launder/sanitize after each use.
Most of the masks are simpler than this one, which was a special request from my sister-in-law. She wears it on shift at the firehall where she’s captain of her tour and it helps lighten the mood. 🙂
5. Vitamin (N)ature
Regular readers are already aware that a daily dose of outdoor time is essential for my physical and mental well-being. Fortunately, Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer has consistently encouraged everyone to get outside for daily exercise (while physical distancing). With provincial and national parks closed* we’ve been sticking much closer to home and have been heading out even earlier in the day than usual to minimize the number of people we pass on pathways and trails.
Here’s a remote-triggered selfie I took in the second week of April, while out and about on local trails in Canmore. Can you tell that nature is my happy place?
* Our national parks (including nearby Banff National Park) are closed (ie no access to park facilities, including trails). Alberta parks (including visitor facilities and parking areas) are closed to vehicle traffic – which technically means if you can walk or bike to a provincial park trail, you can hike it or bike it (where permitted). As far as we know, municipal parks in Alberta are open. Some cities, including Calgary, are converting lanes of some multi-lane roads into additional cycling and walking lanes to support proper physical distancing.
Those are five glimpses into our changing world. To see how other participants’ worlds are being shaped by COVID-19, check out the link-up at the bottom of PBC host PJ’s post.
While you’re there, please consider joining this photo blogging challenge, which is now in its eighth year! With most of the world under stay-at-home guidelines/orders, activities like this help bring a sense of purpose to a portion of time. It’s basically a low-stress photo assignment – an excuse to hone photography skills. For each month’s theme, share five photos taken with any camera. The amount of accompanying text is up to you. The next theme will be posted at a ‘lil Hoohaa in early May.