We’ve entered week four of #stayhome and I continue to be amazed at how we’ve accepted this as our new normal. As Rob keeps telling me, it’s because we have to—the alternative would be to just melt into a puddle of fear and uncertainty. We are also so vividly, viscerally aware of how lucky we are to be healthy and to have the privilege of staying home. This morning, Lilly and I painted a rainbow to hang in our window and when she asked me why (something she does approximately nine million times a day because we’re definitely in that phase), I told her it was because a lot of people are sick and we wanted to thank all the people who are helping make things better. “And to make people happy?” Yes, Lilly, to make people happy.
On that note, here are a few more things keeping our little unit happy these days.
Making hand-washing fun: Unsurprisingly, it’s not easy to get a toddler to wash her hands properly. So far, our most effective tool has been this video that my friend Gina sent me. It’s her friend Azizah’s son, Wilder, doing an adorable demonstration of how to thoroughly wash your hands, complete with helpful reminders (“pat the dog,” “butterfly fingers”). It’s useful for both kids and adults, and works even better if you make up a little song to go with it.
Going full weekend: Gina also inspired us to double down on the weekends to make them feel different than the weekdays. She’s been planning special activities for her family, like creating a “spa” in her house and giving her husband and two boys manicures and massages. We’re saving that one and instead have been emphasizing “no school!” on the weekends, letting Lilly stay in her jammies for as long as she likes, and doing afternoon movies. It’s also a good excuse to for Rob to make celebration breakfasts like Sarah Copeland’s amazing and healthyish waffles and Vinegar Hill’s impressive sourdough pancake. Next up: Dutch Baby pancakes, which are one of my favorite vehicles for savory or sweet toppings.
Getting the wiggles out, kid edition: While we’ve been trying to get outside with Lilly at least once a day, it’s not the same as letting go full-tilt on a playground for an hour. To help her expend some energy, I’ve been doing Peloton’s new bite-sized family workout videos with her (moderately successful) and playing “freeze” in our backyard (more successful). My friend Rotem also had this genius idea: use sidewalk chalk to write the alphabet, numbers, and shapes on whatever outdoor space you have access to. Then give your kid random commands like “hop five times on letter A” or “run from the square to the five.” It’s like an educational obstacle course.
Reveling in tinned fish love: Last time, we talked about how beans are finally getting their due. I’ve been similarly pleased to see tinned fish finally getting the love they deserve (this old newsletter has a link to some great brands). We’ve always loved sardines, mackerel, and tuna and have been leaning on them even more in the last weeks. If you’re new to the tiny fish club, or just looking for some inspiration, here are some go-to’s:
- Pasta con le Sarde, which pairs my favorite pasta shape (bucatini) with currants, fennel, and sardines for a ridiculously tasty dish.
- Tuna and white bean salad, which is great on greens or as a sandwich.
- Chickpeas lightly mashed and combined with mackerel or sardines, lemon, and salt—again, great on greens or toast.
- Baguette or miche, lightly toasted, topped with good butter, any tinned fish, flaky salt. Green salad, extra-cold wine, done.
Eating our weight in peanut butter: We’re peanut butter enthusiasts in the best of times but lately we’ve been going through a jar a week. In addition to eating it with dates or granola as a mid-morning/afternoon/late night snack, we’ve been using it for quick, Asian-leaning sauces for soba or brown rice. I’ve found this Melissa Clark NYT recipe is a good rubric—just use whatever ingredients you have—and also love this even simpler 101 Cookbooks Peanut Noodle Salad. P.S. My all-time favorite brand is Santa Cruz Dark-Roasted Crunchy.
Arts and crafting for amateurs: While we’ve been doing plenty of painting, coloring, and cut-things-out-glue-them-down projects, it’s also nice to have an all-in-one set. Hayley sent us this stylish arts-and-crafts kit from Kid Made Modern and it’s been such a big hit that I’ve had to hide it so Lilly doesn’t want to do it as soon as she wakes up. We also have a few kits from Djeco, a lovely French brand that has a great aesthetic and inventive ideas.
Stocking up on masks: As soon as the CDC recommended that we should all be wearing cloth masks when we venture outside, Rob started rummaging through our drawers for old t-shirts and bandanas. Thankfully, my dad is great with a sewing machine and is sending us a bunch, but this is also a great easy tutorial. Or if you’d rather purchase, take a look at Pepper Home, a DTC home decor company that is selling personal masks as well as taking donations for masks for healthcare workers.
Reading and crying, reading and crying: I’ve been alternately impressed and overwhelmed by the sheer volume of pandemic-related journalism and commentary that’s out there. And while I’ve been trying to wean myself off the NYT live updates, I’ve been heartened by some of the beautiful, thoughtful, and almost optimistic writing that is out there. Among many: Atul Gawande on why washing hands really is that important; Ed Yong’s extremely sobering but extremely thoughtful Atlantic piece about the different ways this pandemic could play out; Ann Patchett on why it’s ok to not use this time to read War and Peace (pick up an escapist YA novel instead!); David Remnick’s melancholy but hopeful snapshot of New York City right now; and Dhruv Khullar’s account of what it feels like to be a doctor in the epicenter of this crisis.
P.S. Old editions live here.
P.P.S. It’s been heartbreaking and inspiring to hear the 7pm cheer for essential workers (we have been joining with Lilly and letting her shake her tambourine). Elizabeth responded to my last newsletter to share The Letter Project’s initiative to write letters of support to healthcare workers, clinics, and other essential workers. Take a look if you’re interested!