Books. Tea. Cats. Scribbling.

Category: Thoughts Page 2 of 10

The Day After Pi Day

Yesterday was Pi Day. In the Before Times, I celebrated it by bringing pies to the office for my coworkers to share. I’d send out emails to entire departments telling them that pies — pecan, apple, strawberry rhubarb, whatever I managed to find at the grocery store that morning or the night before — were free for the taking in the kitchen.

This is the first time since the pandemic started where Pi Day wasn’t on a weekend, so the absence of that office ritual was particularly noticeable. Before, Pi Day was one of my weird, lovable quirks. Former coworkers used to message me on Facebook and say how much they thought of me on Pi Day. Hell, my own mother called me yesterday morning to wish me a good one! I may not miss commuting, but I do miss seeing people and doing something nice and community-building and unexpected for them.

Yesterday, I sublimated all of this energy into baking the best damn pie possible for Mr. BooksandTea and myself to share. And my god, did I put a lot of effort into it. The recipe required roasted butternut squash and caramelized onions, so I started the prep on Saturday. Saturday! Caramelizing half a dozen onions to get a bare cup-and-a-half of savoury-sweet onion goodness! And then I made the pie crust on Sunday night and let it rest until Monday afternoon.

I don’t regret it because the results were truly, scandalously delicious — I made things even more decadent by replacing the feta cheese in the recipe with goat’s cheese, and also added in some crumbled bacon. But god, was it a lot of work.

A slice of savoury butternut squash pie on a white plate.
Look at this beautiful thing. Look at it!

Still, I miss sharing it with more people. I miss sending my coworkers silly pie jokes and having people come to my desk with little plates and utensils smeared with bright fruit filling. It’s not quite the same sitting at home and trying to celebrate things over Slack.

A long, thin community garden plot with plenty of freshly-planted seedlings.

2021 Gardening

One of the things that gave me a tremendous amount of joy last year was taking part in my local community garden. The whole thing was quite happenstance — I joined the waiting list in early 2020, but I didn’t hear anything about it until I received a phone call out of the blue at the end of May last year. There was a garden plot available, they said, and did I want it? Oh, and I had only 2 hours to make a decision, after which they would call the next person on the list.

The next 2 hours, as my former coworkers can attest, were frantic. I knew nothing about gardening. I had no idea how big the garden plot was. I had barely any tools. Was it a good idea for me to juggle this among all my other responsibilities? Could I share the plot with someone else? My mother said no. My aunt, who lives a short drive away, also declined. Maybe I could rope in the wife of my high school friend who lives only a 5-minute walk away? (Reader, I actually did! She’s super awesome. We worked on it the whole summer together and soon we’re going to look at seed catalogues for the upcoming season.)

Despite the logistical hurdles, I said yes! And so, a few days later, with all the paperwork signed and a partner in gardening crime, I set to work!

First, I persuaded my mother and aunt to help me clean up the plot. There was a large patch of lettuce amid all the weeds, plus some dill and onions sprinkled throughout.

Then, for the next few weeks, it was a steady routine of watering everything by hand every other day. My garden partner went to a nursery and bought scads of seedlings to plant. I don’t think I can remember them all, but there were strawberries, green onions, carrots, kale, marigolds, cucumbers, sunflowers, basil, lemon balm, and sage, among other things.

In the first weeks after taking over the plot, the lettuce grew so profusely that we couldn’t eat it all before it bolted.

Taking the produce home and cooking with it was intensely satisfying. It felt like I was the Barefoot Contessa — though, as Mr. BooksandTea likes to note, I was actually wearing socks most of the time.

More than that, though, it was the sense that I was actually contributing to something. I met my fellow gardeners and learned their names. We traded produce from our different with each other. People gave me free zucchinis out of the goodness of their hearts. I harvested extra produce and set it aside for delivery to the local food bank.

This was a pleasant but stark contrast from 2020. Months after the pandemic set in, novelty of working from home wore off. It was easy to sit inside 24/7 and spend hours playing Animal Crossing and Hades or catching up on DS9.

But last year, because of the garden, I had a reason to go out. In the mornings, I’d put on some janky shorts or yoga pants, walk to the garden plot with tools in hand, do some watering and weeding, then walk back home, shower, and start work. It felt nice carrying home bags of cucumbers, dill, tomatoes, and dirty spades.

Still Here. Somewhat Scatterbrained.

Oh hey, four months. Huh.

Lockdown has really fucked up our collective sense of time, hasn’t it? The summer is almost over but I never really got a chance to enjoy it, to luxuriate in it.

I’m still here, still reading, still gardening, and — luckily — still employed. Other than that, things have been kind of a blur. We’ve settled into a comfortable, if somewhat humdrum, routine. Ontario may be in “Stage 3”, but Mr. BooksandTea and I still spend at least 90% of our time at home.

Honestly, I really don’t have much interesting to stay right now. R.B. Lemberg’s debut novella, The Four Profound Weaves, is coming out in a few days and I’ll be reviewing it later on in September. That’s pretty much it.

Living Under Physical Distancing

It’s been about a month since my last post. Not a whole lot has changed about our situation since then. We’re still at home, and it looks like we’ll be staying that way for the conceivable future.

Our saving grace right now is that I work for a company considered an essential service and that my job allows me to work from home. Job stability is a good thing! Plus, due to years of living with family and careful budgeting, I have a good emergency fund set up. Finally, since we don’t have any kids, we haven’t dealt with the burnout and mental gymnastics involved in trying to homeschool anyone. So I recognize that compared to many other people out there, we are incredibly lucky.

But still, holy hell, I am getting bored. I work, I cook, I clean. I’ve tried joining the sourdough bandwagon, with mixed results. (I poured my extremely sluggish starter down the sink yesterday.) I’m baking. I’m playing an awful lot of Animal Crossing.

On the plus side, my herb garden is experiencing some success! The lemon balm failed, but the parsley, basil and mint all sprouted. Now I’m trying to grow some thyme in the places where I originally planted lemon balm.

Left to right: Mint sprouts, basil sprouts, parsley sprouts, and the lemon balm pots that betrayed me. Yesterday I planted thyme seeds there instead.

I’m looking into planters for the balcony so I can grow some tomatoes and some pollinator plants. I have no idea how long we’ll be in lockdown, but I’m going to need some green, living things in my life to keep me going.

What I’m Doing Right Now: COVID-19 Edition

I had vacation days left over from work last year, so I decided in January that I was going to use them up over March Break. I had grand plans of doing my taxes, attending medical appointments, and even seeing Hamilton now that it’s touring in Toronto.

Surprise! Almost none of that is happening. Instead, I’m staying home right now because of COVID-19, and will keep on working from home once my vacation is over. I’m not sick (yet, at least) but since the prudent thing to do is minimize contact with other people, here’s what I’ve been doing to keep myself busy.

TV & Movies

Mr. BooksandTea and I have finally buckled down and started watching Deep Space Nine. We’re not even halfway through the first season yet, but we’re already quite enamored with Quark, Odo, and Garak.

Oh, and a content warning for those considering doing the same: the very fourth episode of the show involves a virus infecting the crew, quarantines, and a race against time to find a cure. Not exactly the kind of escapism I was looking for.

What surprises me the most about DS9 so far is how uninteresting I think Jadzia Dax is. One of my friends is running a Star Trek RPG and I created a Trill character to play, so I was hoping that the show would give me some ideas. But so far, all she’s done is look pretty, fend off unwanted sexual advances, and be vaguely competent at everything. Hell, even in the episode “Dax”, which is all about her character, she mostly remains silent while the other crew members try to save her; we learn more about her predecessor Curzon than we ever do about her. I hope that changes in future episodes.

Other than that, I’m also making my way though old episodes of The Great British Baking Show. We just finished watching season 4 on Monday and started season 5 yesterday. Whether this will translate to me suddenly becoming a Bread Goddess remains to be seen.

Books

I’ve been finishing books at an even slower pace than last year. I’m currently working my way through a Discworld book, a non-fiction book about cognitive fallacies, a book about baking, and a book about gardening. If I end up finishing those, I might continue my way through the Vorkosigan series, or through Squirrel Girl. One of the ironies of being at home indefinitely is that I could read anything I want, but there’s so much available that making a choice is overwhelming.

Other Stuff

I had hopes this year of starting up a small, contained garden on the balcony, and doing some shopping at nurseries. Those plans are on hold, but I did have some seeds I bought last year that I can sprout. Behold the beginnings of my herb garden!

12 small pots of peat and soil. Columns of pots from left to right: mint, basil, parsley, and lemon balm.

The lemon balm pots (right-most) are in the fridge because I need to cold condition them first before they’ll sprout. But I have high hopes for the other three.

And, of course, since I’m off work with nowhere to go, and I’m ridiculously anxious and feeling like I need to do something, I’ve been cleaning. Pro tip: your ceiling fan is probably filthy and you need to do something about it.

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