Grab Bag Post - Pandemics, Pastimes and Patience

After almost six months of furlough and quarantine, of late I’ve been experiencing something almost unprecedented for me.  I get sick of television.  (What??? How?!!!!!) And yet the hours must go by somehow, so luckily there are other ways I’ve found to pass the time.




I’m definitely not the only one to turn to puzzles during this worldwide time out. This article from NPR sums up the popularity nicely.  I was lucky to already have a stockpile of puzzles (I keep a lot of them on hand, just like books, in case of a siege or whatever).  What’s different, now that I basically have all the time in the world to complete a puzzle, is how I find a lot more satisfaction in the “doing” of the puzzle, not just the “finishing”.  Where dumping the pieces out of the box and turning them all face up used to be a chore, now it’s something I actually enjoy.  It’s a very easy way to start creating some order out of chaos and I’m not ashamed of how on the nose that is considering the era in which we’re living. It doesn’t bother me if every time I sit down only nets a few pieces locked in.  I’ll while away the time examining a piece, turning it this way and that, and enjoy the surprise of finding one that fits after a few spins. With the Nats playing in the background, I can find a shocking amount of peace for a lot longer than I would have thought possible.  


A few of my favorite puzzles so far this summer have been gifts, with varying degrees of difficulty. This one (thank you Alice!) based on one of my favorite books of all time, Anne of Green Gables.  Not only is the puzzle itself cheerful, given the bright colors and book quotes, Anne herself is one of the most optimistic heroines of all time ,which I was reminded of throughout the time I was working on this one. Despite her difficult beginnings, she maintains a bone-deep appreciation of beauty and, even better, she finds it all around her. My mom and I visited Prince Edward Island, the setting for all the Anne books, and found it just as enchanting as Anne sees it throughout her journey. I found myself smiling a lot as I put this together and reflected on Anne's story.


This one (thanks Alan!) is trickier, with no straight edges plus holes in the design. But it’s one of the most beautiful puzzles I’ve ever had - the pieces are pristinely cut (no puzzle dust), super shiny and slick to the touch.  The tactile experience is as fun as the mental one.  


This was the most difficult puzzle I’ve tackled all summer - let me tell you, assembling that dress was QUITE the hairdo.  And distinguishing between the blue, blue-green and green pieces that comprise the sky had me metaphorically shaking my fist at those dastardly puzzle designers.  But it kept me occupied for several weeks so all is forgiven!




I’m at about a 50% success rate with new recipes I’ve tried during lockdown. But the ones that have worked out are total winners that I will be adding to my ongoing menu rotation.  A couple I wanted to share with you:


No Sweat Vinaigrette, from Small Victories* by Julia Turshen. I reviewed this cookbook on an earlier post and have continued to be delighted with what I’m learning from her recipes.  Bonus points that this provides a great way to make use of the last bits of mustard in the jar, and really couldn't be easier.  I made the balsamic vinaigrette, but I’m guessing this would be great with any vinegar you happen to have on hand.


Cranberry Orange Scones, from Barefoot Contessa at Home*.  This is a more challenging recipe but still completely doable and a good place to practice the patience I’ve been developing from puzzle assembly.  Even though I’m a much better cook than I am a baker, the recipe was spelled out clearly enough that these turned out amazing.


TwinsthenewTrend YouTube Channel and Panda Cam


I generally don’t think I get YouTube.  But I do get a huge kick out of TwinsthenewTrend.  Tim and Fred Williams are twins living in Indiana, who record themselves reacting to music they’re hearing for the first time.  When I need a pick me up, I like to pull up their channel and see how they react to a song I particularly like.  They’ve gotten a lot of attention for their reaction to Phil Collins’ In the Air Tonight.  They even got profiled in the New York Times!!!  They started doing this because they only listened to hip hop and wanted to expand their musical world view.  They take suggestions from viewers (someone suggests a lot of Carpenters tunes, which they are kind enough to indulge).  I particularly enjoyed their reaction to Layla, Jolene, and It Takes Two.  I love how even when they clearly don’t really connect to the music, they find something to appreciate. They’re trying to get to a million subscribers to their channel, so consider this a signal boost for their efforts!


When I need a shot of PURE JOY I tune in to the National Zoo Panda Cam. Our 22 year old Mei Xiang gave birth to a panda cub on Friday, August 21st. Pandas can only get pregnant one week out of the year, and it’s been six years since Mei Xiang last had a cub.  A baby panda is about the size of a butter stick, and the Panda Cam runs 24/7 giving us the chance to hear it “vocalize” (squawk) and occasionally to see it wiggle around Mei Xiang’s arms or torso. The zoo has captured a few videos where you get a good look at the baby, and can appreciate both mother and child (Mei Xiang also twists herself into some very flexible sleeping positions!) We are really lucky to witness this miracle cub, and as it gets older it will be even more fun.  Prepare to be addicted to this livestream!

If you have some great ideas to share for passing the time while on lock down, hit me up at winpopcultureconcierge at gmail dot com.

Thanks for reading!

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