Shopping While in Shutdown (Plague, Day 26, March 29, 2020)

It’s Sunday Shutdown. Some of you are struggling to stay awake while watching online mass. Others are checking in with extended family or going for a long hike. And many of you are shopping.

I totally approve of online shopping during the Pandemic. It keeps the economy moving. There’s not much evidence that the virus lives long on cardboard boxes. One report said that we should be leaving Amazon deliveries for medical emergencies, but I haven’t heard anybody else say that. So shop away!

There are some caveats. Don’t buy anything that you might need to return. Many states aren’t allowing returns on purchases. Besides, it would involve an unnecessary and risky trip to the post office. So, don’t buy anything that you’ll need to try on, or items that are super expensive.

  1. Buy things to supply your hobbies.
  • Steve and Jonah bought a bunch of new seeds. They’re going to spend the afternoon doubling their size of their backyard garden. They’re also growing extra for gifts for friends/family.
  • They usually get their seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, but they seem to be having virus issues right now. Steve got extra seeds this week from Amazon. Here are some good seed packages.
  • Of course you need a lighting system and little trays for the seeds.

2. Buy things to be comfy.

  • I had an irrational, intense need to buy fun lounge pants last week. I can’t explain. I always work from home, so this isn’t anything new for me, and jeans are my typical outfit. But last week, I had the itch for inexpensive lounge pants.
  • I picked up this pair on Amazon. I have to say that I love cheap Amazon clothes. Yes, it takes some effort to sort through the tacky stuff, but when you find good stuff, it is so much cheaper than anything in the malls.
  • Keeping in mind the inexpensive rule for online shopping, I bought these lounge pants at the J. Crew outlet and have been eying this pair at H and M.
  • Since I’m padding around the house in my socks a lot, I tossed out all my old socks and got new ones.

3. Buy things to cook.

(And remember, if you do buy something through Amazon, please use a link for anything from this blog. Thanks!)

Apt. 11D Gift Guide 2019 – Food

I usually have the TV on in the background as Steve and the boys get out of the house in the morning. Lately, Dan Buettner, the National Geographic writer, has been talking up his new book, The Blue Zone Kitchen. When he comes on the TV, I usually stop putting away dishes and organizing my daily to-do list, and watch the segment.

Buettner has made an entire career around looking at the five areas of the world where people live the longest — Sardinia, California, Japan, Greece, and Costa Rica. His questions are always the same: What are those people doing right? What can we learn from them? The answers are clear. It’s lifestyle.

People in those areas have a life purpose that doesn’t end when they turn 65. They don’t immediately retire from a job, plop down in front of a tv, and remain there until heart disease and loneliness destroys them. The grandmas take care of grandchildren. The men keep fishing and providing for their families. They walk everywhere. They eat communally. All good stuff.

Now, he’s focusing on the foods that they eat. What are the commonalities? The answer is low meat consumption, lots of beans, vegetables, and fruit, low dairy. It’s interesting because so many of the fad diets put lots of those foods, like beans and squash, on the no-no list. Because we eat a pretty standard Mediterranean diet here, I am a fan of Buettner. In fact, this book is the only cookbook that I’m interested in right now.

We eat a lot of vegetables. At Sunday’s farmer’s market, Steve and I load up on at least four bags of vegetables. It’s fairly random. I grab whatever looks happy that day — leeks, cabbage, lettuce, corn, beets, radishes — and then figure out recipes later. The Sunday before Thanksgiving was the last day of the market until May, so I loaded up on squash, potatoes, carrots, and onions — items that would last in the bottom shelf of the pantry for a couple of months.

Because I work from home, I’m able to experiment with cooking. I probably spend more time in the kitchen than most people these days. If I was working in an office in the city, I might maintain our diet by planning ahead and cooking bigger batches of food every three days. But right now, I do this in my own disorganized fashion starting at 5:00 every day.

I do all this, not because it’s super healthy, but because it tastes good. I like the challenge of turning something humble and even ugly, like a turnip, into art. Because I was raised by the Italian side of the family, I associate food with love; it’s how I show my family how much I love them.

So, let’s talk equipment. What is in heavy rotation in my kitchen these days? What needs regular replacement?

The key to cooking vegetables properly is knowing how to clean them and cut them up. Everything else is simple – you roast them, sauté them, steam them, stir fry them, eat ’em raw. But you can’t get past square one without the prep work. Mostly that takes some practice, but good equipment is also important. So, you need the following items: three or four great cutting boards, an excellent set of knives, a colander, and a sharp peeler.

I like to pile up my cutting boards on the counter, because the wood is a nice accent in my white kitchen.

Another important, but often skipped step to cooking dinner is to transfer the food from the pots on the stove into serving bowls on the table. I know a lot of busy parents skip this step and just serve the food out of the pots on the stove, but that simple transfer of food from pot to bowl is essential. It keeps the food from over cooking. It makes everything look more appetizing. Somehow that two second step turns dinner time into an event.

I’m lucky enough to have a new kitchen with deep drawers where I pile up my various serving platters and bowls. I heavily rely on a set of really basic white bowls from Crate and Barrel, as well as some super colorful bowls from Le Souk. I just picked up an inexpensive set of three nesting bowls from IKEA that I’m using a lot.

We finally got an Instant Pot, but that’s Steve’s baby, so I can’t talk about it much.

Alright, this post is long enough. My running buddy is pinging me to meet up with her.

Apt. 11D Gift Guide 2019 — Cyber Monday For Me

This is just quickie post of the deals that I’m checking out right now. Mostly it’s clothing that I want for the holiday season.

Because I work from home, my uniform are jeans, blouses, and boots. I have daytime versions and nighttime versions. I am not a yoga pants around the house girl. I feel pretty strongly that just because I work from home, I still have to put on contacts, make-up, and a decent outfit. After all, I’m out and about town seeing people during the day, too. I’m not living in cave.

I rely a lot on J. Crew, the Gap, Ann Taylor and Banana Republic for the girly blouses. They’re all having 50% off sales right now. At J.Crew, I like this one, this one, and this one.

Steve and I have been binge-watching Schitt’s Creek for the past month. One of the characters, Alexis Rose, is a modern Boheme who wears a lot of flowery dresses and floppy hats. So, maybe that’s why I really love this flowery dress at the Banana.

For the rare work event, I have a handful of dependable, comfortable, packable outfits. I just picked up these pants and blouse. These shoes needed a little breaking in, but now they’re conference-ready.

I’ve gotten way pickier about sweaters in recent years. This is one way that women over 40 can make mistakes. I hate itchy woolen cowl necks and bulky cable knits. I like items that can be easily stripped off, makes me look skinny, and/or are super soft. I have one J. Crew cashmere sweater that I wear nearly every day. I think I need another. They are 50 percent off at Garnet Hill today.

Apt. 11D Gift Guides 2019 – Tech

I’m going to start with tech products, because there are so many cyber deals today.

We’re an Apple family. So, I have an iPhone, an iPad, and an iMac. Jonah has an iBook for college. I need to upgrade my iPhone this year. My old iPhone 5S still works, but I need a better cell camera. I think I’m requesting the iPhone 11 this year. With the new phone, I’ll need a new case, too.

Because we use these products for years and years, I don’t mind spending big bucks on this items. Also, they are cross-over items, meaning I use them for work and for fun.

Good headphones are a must for the boys. Steve and I use wireless earbuds for running.

Ian is a Nintendo Switch kid, while Jonah uses Xbox. I’ll do game recommendations later.

Accessories like multi-port plugs and wifi extenders are frequently used.

I use my Nikon 5100 nearly every day to take pictures of the kids or books for my Etsy Shop. I leave the camera in the kitchen, so it’s always ready to record an especially good dinner. The camera is ten years old and still works too well to replace yet, but if I was going to upgrade, I would go for a camera with wifi, so I could more easily post pictures to Instagram and the blog. A former photography teacher told me that he leaves his good camera at home for typical evenings and slides a smaller camera in his pocket for quick, spontaneous shots. I haven’t done that yet, but would consider it.

Girlie Friday

Who needs a girlie Friday? I do! I do! What am I digging lately?

Drinks in hotel lobbies. We had fabulous cocktails at the Fairmont Hotel in Toronto. I love that you can surround yourself by luxury for the price of a glass of wine and not even stay for the night.

Farro. It’s the alternative carb of choice here at Apt. 11D. It’s easy to make, but it does require a deft touch. My method of cooking: 2 cups of water, 1 cube of chicken bouillon, 1 cup of farro. Bring to a boil. Then cover and keep on simmer for about twenty minutes. Then turn off the heat and just let it hang out in the remaining liquid for a while, when finishing off the rest of dinner. Drain, if necessary.

Newsletters. Newsletters are the new podcasts. I subscribe to a bunch that range from ones that focus on education to conservative and liberal politics, to home decor. I have to work on mine after I finish this blog post. Please subscribe to Apt. 11D, the newsletter.

Black jeans. They can go from the school pickup line to the home office to an airplane to a conference. With a nice pair of healed booties and an oversized blouse, they are the most versatile item in a closet right now.

The Crown. OMG, this show is so good. Yes, Olivia Coleman is adorable. If you watched Outlander, you know how Tobias Menzies rocks the long monologue thing. But Helena Bonham Carter, as the eye rolling, chain smoking Prince Margaret, steals every scene. And the cinematography is so awesome that you want to pause the show and take pictures of certain frames. With Prince Andrew in the news, you can’t help seeing how so many tensions with the English royalty in a democracy still are present today.

Dr. Fiona Hill.

That’s it for now. I have to pump out a newsletter and clean the house for the housecleaner. If I get everything on my to-do list polished off, I’ll be back later in the afternoon.

Travel: Packing for Scotland, the Highland (Part 2) An Essential Purse

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True story. I am addicted to crossbody purses. I think I own ten. Probably more. I like them because I only need something that can fit my wallet, my cell phone, and a tube of lipstick. Anything bigger just cramps my style.

Crossbody purses are essential when traveling and you only need a change purse of pounds, the cell phone, and the key to the Air BnB. When you’re not using them, they fit nicely into a suitcase.

Pad & Quill‘s Heritage Bag is especially cute, because it has a nice shape and smells like new leather. It even has room for an iPad, so you can read Outlander in the corner of a cafe in Edinburgh for an hour or two. Hell, you can even imagine Claire using something like this.

When Pad & Quill asked to partner with me on this product, I immediately said yes, because of its vintage-modern vibe. My nieces offered to model it and now want one, too.

Travel: Packing for Scotland, Highlands (Part 1)

As I explained earlier, packing for a trip to Scotland is tricky for many reasons. The temperature can range, as it did on this trip, from the 90s to the 40s. Because we wanted to be mobile, everything had to fit into one carry on suitcase. And our trip started in London, so we needed some cute evening outfits, as well as rugged outfits for climbing abandoned castles in the Highlands. Everything had to match and work together when layered up on a chilly evening.

Since we were staying in AirBnBs with access to laundry, we took about five to seven days worth of clothes.

After a lot of thought, I came up with a formula for myself and the dudes in my family. Here are some of the essentials:

For the guys: every day t-shirts, a sweat shirt, a long sleeve shirt, two shorts, one pair of denim pants, one pair of khaki pants, a polo shirt, a button-down shirt, walking shoes/sneakers, sperry’s, a good rain coat

For me: 5 cute shirts, 2 plain t-shirts, 1 pair of shorts, one summer dress that could work on its own and with tights underneath, stretch black pants, one pair of jeans, denim jacket, scarf, two light cardigans, lots of tank tops, lightweight flats with a rubber sole, sneakers, comfortable sandals, an excellent raincoat

For days with lots of hiking and camera use, I carried a light backpack. Other days, I carried a small cross body bag, like this one from Pad and Quill.

We all packed running clothes, but we didn’t really need them. Our schedule was very tight, and we were already walking a ton.