Life Lately, Quarantine Edition

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Well, hello, we are, on week eight of life looking different for all of us across the world. Is it day 58? Or day 83? Who knows...

I've been quiet on here mainly because for so many weeks, I didn't feel that I had anything to say. But the truth is, I'm an avid blog reader and content consumer to begin with--which has only been heightened during these endless days. 

Like most, if not all of us, each week has all the emotions. Today, I'm tired and a bit sad because I'm remembering January and all the promise of 2020's beautiful, blank slate. I've seen some videos and old posts from January and February that made me all kinds of wistful. Remember when the biggest topic of discussion was "have you seen Little Women?" and the Internet was filled with a round-up of posts about goals, motivation, and the post-Christmas slump. 

Eight weeks later, I feel like we've settled into the routine of life right now: occasional grocery runs, drive-through coffee only, watching Mass at home, wiping down groceries/keys/door handles religiously, curbside pick-up for everything from office chairs to take-out, daily walks, working from home Zoom calls (and subsequent Zoom burn-out). 

Time is still strange though...March was endless. April felt like a blip, and my brain can't quite grasp that we're in May, which means we're nearly halfway through the year. Give us back our spring, dammit. I have a feeling the next few months of summer will feel equally dream-like, and then suddenly it will somehow be the end of August. 

More than anything, the shift in reality is the strangest thing. Cars are safe spaces. Homes are safe spaces. Offices with doors closed are safe spaces. Bed is the safest place of all. My mother-in-law and sister-in-law are sewing masks, making homemade soap, putting together "care packages" of cleaning supplies for us. Packages get the hazmat treatment. Front door drop-offs or parking lot hand-offs are a thing. My sister-in-law went home to quarantine before her graduation announcements arrived in the mail, so a three-day planning summit occurred between her, her roommate who was still in town, and myself. The roommate left it propped by the door. I picked it up wearing gloves. We left it by our door for a few days, and then I addressed and mailed her announcements for a canceled graduation but the still worthwhile achievement of completing her degree. 

We moved two weeks ago which I can say with confidence was one of the hardest things I've ever done. Our movers had been scheduled a while ago but as moving day got closer and closer, we knew we probably had to cancel. As a result, everything took much longer with just the two of us and a Uhaul, but after an extra long weekend, we finished. It has been a rough process especially since we uncovered several issues with the new apartment after we moved in. I knew moving would be hard emotionally even during a normal timeline, but it's been interesting dealing with those emotions and stress on top of...well, everything else that everyone is stressed about right now. It's a lot. We're just trying to keep moving forward and be thankful for what we have. 

Things are slowly starting to open back up again: there's traffic on the roads, more people in the grocery stores, the (limited) option to eat inside restaurants and attend Mass again. Which somehow feels more frightening than simply staying home...after so many weeks of knowing that we had to stay home, there's more unknowns now. More variables, more individual choices. We're still staying home as much as possible, but I keep reminding myself that everyone is trying to make the best choice for themselves and their families. 

Winter Tasks to Do While Listening to Audiobooks or Podcasts

Monday, February 17, 2020

I confess to not being much of an audiobook person, only because I love the act of reading so much. But I do love listening to podcasts, especially as a way to enjoy something hands-free while carrying out a necessary task. I'm always looking for more ways to motivate myself to check off a to-do list, and especially if said list includes more mindless tasks like taking out the trash or putting away seasonal clothes. 

Decluttering and cleaning. I do this every January anyways, and it feels like my post-holidays gift to myself to go room by room and restore order while catching up on my favorite podcasts. 

Folding laundry.
Theoretically, I love laundry. I find doing a load satisfying, and pulling clean clothes or  thick, terry towels out of the dryer never gets old. Practically, though, if the pile of items needing to be folded gets to high, I tend to put it off until at last I sit down and power through. 

I'd initially put down baking bread, but cornbread is the only type of baking I currently find myself in the mood for...with the obvious pairing, chili. Loaves of bread to dip into soups work equally as well. I tend to grab a loaf of something from the grocery store and pop it in the oven to warm on nights we make a soup.

Checking the mail. We don't have a dog, but I know so many dog owners who rack up audiobook progress or work their way through their podcast queue while taking pets on daily walks. For now, my quick dashes to check the mail are something I look forward to if I'm in the middle of a podcast episode. 

Prepping dinner.
Is there anything more calming than chopping onions and garlic for a winter stew or hearty pasta dish while listening to a favorite episode? Carbonara, leek and potato soup, and chili are all delicious winter dishes I love making. I'm also a big fan of winter salads with crisp warm chicken. They usually make a surprising amount of leftovers for lunch the next day or two. 

Washing sheets and changing them to warmer bed linens. 
I try to stay on top of regularly washing our sheets and comforter, but I also love all the cold weather options, such as flannel sheets. Soft, thick, and perfect for sliding into in a cold night. We've had such a warm winter overall, though, that I've already had to put ours away. 

Winter walks.
I'm trying to get in fresh air and some type of movement everyday. On the less-than-cheerful days we've had recently, it's harder to stay outside without some form of motivation!

Grocery shopping.
I can't be the only one who does of my favorite ways to introvert is to pop my ear buds in and wander through the grocery store, lost in my own world. The only time this backfires is if I'm listening to something funny and end up trying not to laugh in the aisles. 

Making returns. 
This is one of my favorite errands period simply because there's something satisfying about both getting some money back and I feel like I'm being productive (and enjoying myself) while standing in line. 

Crafting (painting/knitting/sewing/watercoloring/calligraphy). Last year, I got into embroidery after wanting to entertain myself without staring at a screen or printed words. I had so much fun learning to embroider and experimenting with tracing phrases and patterns. Because you're just stitching over the traced pattern, it's easy to do with a podcast on in the background. 

Winter Survival Tips

Monday, January 27, 2020

We're three weeks into the new year and winter is in full swing now...while it's been a surprisingly mild one overall with a handful of blue skies and warmer, breezy temps, there's also been the usual wet, freezing days that make me wish loungewear was acceptable work attire. 

Last year, though, January and the following months felt like an endless slogging through dull, bitterly cold days. This year, I had a few days off in January to rest and ease into the new year. I also started off the month with a chat about 2020 goals with a friend, which helped immensely, as did my annual burst of decluttering energy. Now that the glow of "it's a new year!" has subsided a bit, I find myself slipping back into the same drearinessKate’s post about seasonal affective disorder a few weeks ago resonated with me: “Winter became a lot more tolerable once I realized complaining about the weather wouldn’t change the weather.”

I love that mindset and completely agree. This winter has been an interesting experience so far, because I've learned in the last six weeks that cold weather is SO more bearable (I dare say, even slightly enjoyable) with these little changes: 

A GOOD coat

Preferably a puffer one with a hood and snug wrists. Looking back, a part of why last winter was so miserable, was because I didn't have a proper coat that actually kept me warm. All I had was an old, thin fabric one that was a) too small and b) did nothing to keep windchill out. 

Socks without holes
I am slowly working on becoming better about replacing things when they give in point, buying myself new socks that are warm and don't have holes in them. 

Heating pad 
I know the Brits love their hot water bottles at their feet beneath the blankets, but I can't stop imagining it leaking all over the bed. Instead, I use a heating pad on a low heat and put it at the foot of the bed under the comforter. It has a self-timer that turns off after 15 minutes or so, so I never worry about anything catching fire. I'm always still awake when it turns off, since I use it just to unwind and warm up in bed. 

Keeping a spare pair of gloves in the car for freezing cold steering wheels
This was one of those inexpensive purchases that has paid for itself many, many times over. I even think it was a double pair of gloves from Target for a couple dollars. One pair stays in my closet, one pair for my car on mornings when I forget to bring gloves.

Planned podcasts episodes
One thing that has kept me going in particularly difficult mornings is to always have some podcast episodes downloaded. They make those bleary-eyed mornings when I don’t want to drive to work much more enjoyable.

Keeping an oversized scarf or throw that doubles as a lap blanket at work
I think this is true for everyone whether you work from home or from an office, but some days you can't warm up, even if you're in layers. I have a thick poncho I keep folded on the back of my office chair that works perfectly.
Daily coffee

This is where I've embraced my decision to ignore every old-fashioned financial expert and buy the latte every day, or at least most days. Coffee makes a difference in my mood and ability to get through the day! Build. It. Into. The. Budget. 

Putting an ice scraper in the car
I don't generally think of myself as a Southerner, but as time goes on, I realize how much winter knowledge that people up north/on the East Coast grow up with, which I seriously lack. Last winter, we had a slew of days that resulted in frozen icy windshields. My husband (who has lived up north before and couldn’t believe I didn’t own an ice scraper) spent each one of them helping me scrape off my windshield with his. The next week he bought me an ice scraper to keep in my car, which has saved me countless mornings. 

Multiple pairs of chapstick
I've always suffered with dry skin in winter; during college, without fail, my knuckles and lips would crack and bleed from daily exposure to the elements while walking to classes. My hands haven't been as bad the last few years, but my lips are always chapped. Somehow I didn't have anything for my lips anymore, and finally got not one, but two tubes of Burt's Bees Chapstick. I put one in my purse and one in the bathroom, so I had no excuse whether at home or work. It's so silly but it's made such. a. big. difference. I knew chapstick would help, but just put it off time after time.

Slathering on any and all skincare every day 
At the very least, SPF, since we get a lot of sun and I leave the apartment almost everyday. Over the last two weeks, I've made a real effort to double down on moisture and cleansing my face since I fell out of daily habit during the holidays. This was always something I heard other people say, but I can actually see a glow. My skin feels smooth, clean, and hydrated. The results are so encouraging. My current winter skincare routine includes: washing my face every night with a gel or foaming cleanser, adding Vitamin C serum (a huge, huge gamechanger), and 1-2 evening moisturizers or a nighttime oil to lock everything in. 

Taking a water bottle or thermos everywhere
I take mine everywhere: work, in the car when I'm running errands, the nightstand in my bedroom, etc. It makes a huge difference in staying hydrated.

A good TV series to watch
This month I decided to give myself total free rein to watch--and binge--something enjoyable at nights. I got sucked into The Witcher (fully obsessed with the song "Toss a Coin to Your Witcher") and binged the whole season in one day. It was glorious. Henry Cavill makes it. There's only eight or so episodes, so it was the perfect amount of time to waste. I hadn't done that in ages and it felt good to get engrossed in a brand new story. I'm already excited for season 2 in 2021! Heads up, though, there's a good amount of nudity and graphic violence (think Game of Thrones). 

A December hello...

Monday, December 9, 2019

This started out as a November catchup, but I never got around to finishing it before Thanksgiving, so here we are, firmly in the first week of December. I'm alright with that those...bring on the festive cheer and winter coats. So many people had their tree up either after Thanksgiving or the first day of's been so cheerful and cozy to see snaps of everyone's decorations on IG stories. The best cups of coffee are ones enjoyed by the light of a Christmas tree. 

It's been a productive six weeks in terms of life admin. I finally tackled the things I'd put off all fall (returning library books, finding a good coat, getting a new glasses prescription). I'm most proud of the progress I've made on one of my yearly goals which was catching up on all the annual doctor appointments. It felt good to check all of those off and know I'm taking care of myself. It may not be the most glamorous form of self-care, but I think it's so important. 


-Last month was a bit of a reading slump--I hadn't read anything since the end of October. Life and work got busy and I ended up accumulating library fines, so in an effort to prevent being blacklisted, I returned every book whether unread or not. But something about Thanksgiving always makes me feel like a college student again, heading home to curl up with some good books and food. I managed to snag a few fun YA library books before heading out of town during the holiday weekend and it felt so good to dive into books again, as it always does. I managed to read four of six, and it did the trick of getting me back into a reading mood again. 

-Elsie Larson's How to Build a DIY Dollhouse post series on A Beautiful Mess.

-Carly's Embroidered Holiday Cocktail Napkins tutorial... she does it with needlepoint, but I think it's such a fun inspiration for whatever type of crafting you enjoy. I've never been a crafty or DIY person, but at some point last year, I got interested in embroidery hoops re these gorgeous examples. I loved the idea of unwinding and making something creative that didn't involve any type of screen. I took the leap and bought a few supplies earlier this year, and have slowly worked on a few projects. It's just as satisfying and therapeutic as I imagined--the hardest part is deciding what to embroider on the "blank canvas," but doing something easy like a favorite quote every now and then is fun. I genuinely find myself looking forward to it and I haven't even learned any specific stitches yet, so I'm exciting to keep going in 2020!


-The Kacey Musgraves Christmas Special
A must-watch for any Wes Anderson lover--full of gorgeous colored set pieces and fabulous costumes. The songs and special guests are also a delight. Highly recommend playing in the background while wrapping gifts, writing Christmas cards, or folding laundry. 

-Die Hard

Somehow I'd never seen this before but have heard legendary things about it for years. It felt like the perfect Thanksgiving evening watch, and it didn't disappoint. 

-Netflix's Fireplace for Your Home, Classic Edition

I love having this on in the background while I'm reading or working on something. Especially with the Christmas tree next to it.

-the new James Bond trailer for No Time To Die

Daniel Craig is my favorite Bond, so I'm looking forward to watching him on-screen again and see Phoebe Waller-Bridge's take on the iconic 007 series. -next year's live action trailer for Mulan
Perhaps the only Disney movie that really calls for a live-action remake...I had my doubts initially, but it looks very good. Jury is still out on the bird-witch character, but yay for adding another female character to the male-heavy film?

- Sainsbury's 2018 Christmas commercial about a group of schoolkids in a Christmas play

I've watched this maybe 15 times since last year and it's just as good every time! Sainsbury's is a British grocery store chain and like most major British retailers, releases a Christmas "advert" every fall. They're serious, high-quality productions with usually a funny or heartwarming theme. Last year's was their version of a Christmas play (which most schools in England put on every December), complete with all things British and Christmas: the Queen's Christmas Speech, camels, ornaments, crackers, and angels. Keep an eye out for the plug, who steals the show. I pretty much laughed until I cried the first time I saw it. 


-A Beautiful Mess Podcast: "Forever Homes," "How to Do a 100 Day Challenge," "Handmade Gifts"...essentially, every episode! I love Elsie and Emma's rapport and the format of the podcast. They drop a new episode every Monday and it always gives me something to look forward to on Sunday evening. 

-The Office Ladies: "The Pilot" and "Diversity Day"

-The Lazy Genius: "#134 - How to be Happy with the Gifts You Give"

-The Cut on Tuesdays: "How They Get It Done - Eva Chen Has a Magic Wand"

-Conversations with Creatives: "Carly Heitlinger"

-Kacey Musgraves' Christmas album, especially "Present Without A Bow" with Leon Bridges


Thursday, October 31, 2019

Happy Halloween!

The end of the month (and every day October) here—tomorrow when we all wake up, it will be November and the countdown to Thanksgiving begins. Today felt like Friday and a long weekend...probably because of Halloween. 

One of today’s highlights was seeing everyone’s costumes online. There were so many clever ones—I especially like a niche character costume or when someone dresses up as an real life celebrity (Ina Garten, Paul Hollywood, Clare Saffitz). Or maybe I just really enjoy people dressing up as bakers. We had a quiet evening in watching GGBO before calling it a night...and seeing the lines of people waiting outside of bars in freezing weather as we drove home, I wouldn’t have traded it. 

Hope everyone had a lovely Halloween and plenty of treats!