Fall is in full swing. Gone are the sauna-like bad hair days of summer. As a reward for enduring the heat and humidity of summer, we get to enjoy crisp, chilly mornings followed by warm afternoons. Instead of sweating through my daily walk where I count the steps until I reach the next patch of shade, now I stomp and crunch leaves underfoot while colorful leaves twirl down around me like Mother Nature’s confetti. The cooler weather also means it is time for seasonal treats like apple cider doughnuts and my favorite type of apple, Macouns.
On a rainy day, I was out running an errand when I realized a 10 minute detour would take me to the farmstand that sells both my favorite doughnut and apple. Life is all about balance. The farm usually sells out of their doughnuts by late morning, but since it was mid-week, I figured I had a good chance of scoring some despite it being 11am.
As soon as I got out of my car, I could see the cider doughnuts piled high on the table. Woohoo!! Thanks to Co-Vid, gone are the days of using a communal pair of tongs to select individual doughnuts. They are now packaged 6 to a container. Oh, the sacrifices we have all had to make because of the virus! Doughnuts acquired, I began wandering amongst the huge variety of apples looking for the Macouns. In my search, I came across a small green basket filled with knobby, dirt-speckled, brown roots. Ginger! I grabbed a piece the size of my thumb so I could use it to make some tea to go along with my doughnut. Right next to the ginger, I found a bushel full of Macouns. I selected a few apples and practically skipped to the counter with my bounty of fall treats. It was going to be a good afternoon despite the chilly rain!
When I arrived home, I called up to Oregano working in the office and told him that I had a surprise for him when he was ready for his snack break. A half hour later, a very long half hour during which I stared longingly at, but did not eat the cider doughnuts, Oregano came downstairs to claim his surprise.
I was sitting on the couch in the living room distracting myself from the doughnuts by writing an email when I heard him say, “This is quite a haul! Cider doughnuts and Macouns! But, why did you buy a single tiny potato?”
“I didn’t buy a potato. That’s a piece of ginger,” I looked up to find him holding the ginger in his hand turning it around and examining it like it was a piece of evidence.
“No. I think this is one of those fingerling potatoes. It really looks like a potato,” he said.
“I’m pretty sure it is ginger. It was in a basket full of other small, brown knobby pieces just like that,” I replied.
“You mean a basket of other small, brown potatoes,” he smirked, put the potato down and picked up a doughnut.
With lips covered in cinnamon powdered sugar we debated the characteristics of potatoes versus ginger.
Doughnut consumed, I said, “There is an easy way to get to the root of this problem. All we need to do is scratch the skin. Ginger is very aromatic. If it is ginger, it will be obvious.”
Oregano grabbed the questionable root, scratched off a piece of skin, took a whiff and handed it to me, “It’s a potato,” he said matter of factly.
I held it up to my nose and discerned that it was indeed a potato. I laughed so loud and so hard, I startled all three cats from their naps.
“I guess, now that it is isolated from the other brown, knobby roots, it does look more potato-like,” I admitted sheepishly.
“It is not potato-like,” said Oregano savoring his victory, “It IS a potato.”
I started giggling uncontrollably again, “What do you think the farmer thought when I showed up at the counter with 6 doughnuts, 4 apples and 1 very small potato?” I mused aloud. “I wonder why he didn’t say anything.”
“What would he say? I’m sure he has seen crazier purchases. The better question is what are you going to do with that tiny potato? It’s not like we can share it,” he said.
“That’s easy. I’ll make myself the smallest batch of home fries ever for breakfast tomorrow morning!”
I suck at hiking. I know what you’re thinking. Hiking is just walking in the woods. How much harder can it be than regular walking? For me, it is fraught with potential injury inducing opportunities and an assortment of insect bites. With a long standing record of injuring myself doing mundane household activities, doing a mundane activity in a natural setting only ups the ante on the risk factor. I’ve tried hiking in some spectacular locations: Glacier National Park in Montana, Waimea Canyon in Hawaii, The Alps in Switzerland. Hiking while surrounded by those stunning vistas was completely lost on me. I spent so much time concentrating on where I was putting my feet that I never looked up from the ground. I might as well have been hiking in an aisle in Target.
Oregano knows of my dislike of hiking so he was a bit surprised when I suggested we go hiking at a park in Pennsylvania as a way to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary.
“Why would you want to spend our anniversary doing that?” he wondered.
“Desperate times call for desperate measures. We can’t go on the celebratory vacation we planned or to a show or even out to eat. It was time to think outside the box or just think outside.” I replied.
“OK. If you are sure you want to hike, I’ll take the day off from work,” he agreed.
“It’s supposed to be an easy hike, so I should be fine as long as I slather on the bug spray and walk carefully,” I said attempting to muster enthusiasm for the loathsome undertaking.
The day before our anniversary outing, I took hammers out of the garage and put them by the front door.
That evening Oregano noticed them, “Why are those hammers there?”
“We’ll need them for our walk in the woods and I don’t want to forget them,” I said cheerfully.
“Hmmm… hammers on a hike? That’s weird. I can’t imagine where we are going that we’ll need hammers in the woods,” he wondered as he headed up the stairs.
“I admire your confidence in our relationship,” I said.
He stopped and turned to look at me. “What do you mean?”
“Well, your wife, who hates to hike, invited you on a hike in the woods and is packing hammers and you aren’t the least bit suspicious. We’ve been trapped at home together for the past four months, a man less sure of his relationship might be concerned about being taken on a journey to an undisclosed, remote location with a bag full of potential weapons.” I said with a slightly evil smirk on my face.
He shook his head, laughed and continued up the stairs.
“Don’t try Googling hiking with hammers in Pennsylvania,” I warned as he hit the top step.
Thankfully, the day of our anniversary was not blazing hot so we grabbed our backpack loaded with bug spray, water bottles and what may or may not be key pieces of evidence in an upcoming murder trial and headed across the border to Pennsylvania. It was a beautiful ride through bucolic scenery.
During the ride, Oregano’s curiosity reawakened and he mused about why we might need hammers. When we turned on to Ringing Rocks Road, he commented on the unusual street name and then a light bulb started to flicker above his head. “I wonder if that is a clue to where we are going.”
“It might be,” I said as we turned into the parking lot for Ringing Rocks State Park.
When we got out, I swung the backpack over my shoulder causing the hammers to clang against the can of bug spray. Oregano offered to carry the bag, but I said I could manage then made an ominous laugh.
It was a blissfully flat trail. We passed a few other socially distant hikers, all carrying hammers. I’m not sure, but Oregano seemed slightly relieved to realize I wasn’t the only one with hammers. After a few minutes, a strange sound began emerging from the left side of the trail. It wasn’t the buzz of insects or the chirps of birds. These were not sounds you’d expect to hear in the middle of the woods. It was either an oddly located blacksmith’s shop or some very large bells.
We walked down the path towards the noise and found a huge field strewn with boulders. Carefully, we began to pick our way over and around the boulders nimbly avoiding the poison ivy growing between them. My first thought after scrambling up and over a few rows of rocks was that this would be a great place for an orthopedist to set up shop. I was envisioning an ice cream truck tricked out with a portable x-ray machine. The doctor could even play music to help the unfortunate people in need of medical assistance locate the mobile office in the woods. As I scrambled around ungracefully on all fours, I wondered which of my limbs I was going to break first. Always the optimist, I realized that at least we’d be able to use the hammer handles as a makeshift splint until we could get me back out across the boulders.
While I was navigating this natural obstacle course, I could hear the clanging cacophony created by the other hammer wielding hikers. These people clearly had better balance or were direct descendants of mountain goats because they had made it to the far side of the field of boulders. A wide-eyed Oregano took the hammer I managed to extract from the backpack and started banging out tunes on any rock he could reach. Some rocks had deep sounds like a bell, others sounded like someone dropped change on a concrete floor and some were just duds.
“How on Earth did you know about this?” he asked me while swinging his hammer.
“During my pandemic purge, I came across an article I saved from 2007 about this park. I did some research and thought it would be a fun surprise for you. It only took 13 years and no other available options to move this attraction to the top of our places to see list.”
This will be my last Chronicles of a Corona Captive post. Most of us are slowly starting to emerge back into the world again. Now, we are more like Corona Parolees. Thank you for helping me get through this quarantine. What I thought would be a 2 week writing project to keep my mind occupied, force me to focus on the funny and help alleviate my own anxiety has lasted more than 2 months. I can’t believe you stuck around to read it the whole time! Maybe I do better maintaining readers when their other options for entertainment are extremely limited. You have made this quarantine bearable and, aside from the fear of contracting a potentially life-threatening illness, you’ve made it fun. I can’t thank you enough for that.
I’m going to take a short break from writing while I finish up the school year and sleep outside the hair salon waiting for an appointment. You helped me rediscover my joy of writing, so I promise I’ll be back during the summer with more misadventures. I hope you’ll come back to read and comment. Until then, stay safe and be well.
Can’t stop baking…can’t stop baking…can’t stop baking…I had to bake for Oregano’s birthday, but apparently those Thin Mint cupcakes unleashed the vanilla scented beast I had been fighting so hard to contain. In one week, I made the aforementioned cupcakes, dill pickle bread and a tropical banana bread with coconut and pineapple. Friends who knew the baking beast was running rampant in my kitchen volunteered to do drive-by pick-ups of my baked goods. I’m not sure if that speaks to the quality of my baking skills or the fact that they are desperate to get out of the house. Either way, I have found a solution to my craving for baking and my aversion to the calories that result from consumption of the finished product. I’m calling it the Paprika Furstenburg Calorie Distribution Program.
Our governor is talking about reopening beaches for Memorial Day weekend. I can only imagine the tan lines the masks will leave.
One of the good things about being stuck at home is that there is now time to stop and smell the roses. Well, the roses aren’t blooming here yet, but I have been able to watch birds. I’ve gotten a front row seat to watch blue buntings and woodpeckers feeding their babies.
Oregano needed another haircut. This is the third time. You’d think I’d be getting the hang of it by now, but I am actually getting worse. After this attempt, his hair is lumpy and uneven, or as I referred to it…wavy. It’s quite a look. Now the poor guy will have to wear a mask AND a hat when he leaves the house.
My hair, on the other hand, has not been cut. I put on my sunglasses the other day and noticed a striking resemblance to Cousin It from The Addams Family TV show from the 1960s.
This pandemic has made me realize that we have been reduced to a more primitive version of ourselves: hunter gatherers. As is traditional, I have become the gatherer of our family spending an hour a day scouring the internet for hand sanitizer, wipes and any other products we need, but can’t find. Oregano hunts in the grocery store every week and comes home with his bounty.
My gathering skills might need some honing though. I finally found hand sanitizer spray online. The fine print said it was made with 70% alcohol and an essential oil blend called “dragon’s breath.” You’d think that a name like that would have scared me off, but hand sanitizer is hard to come by these days and even harder to have delivered to your door. I did my due diligence and looked up the components of dragon’s breath blend. It seemed harmless enough: lemon, cinnamon, eucalyptus, peppermint, oregano and clove. The hand sanitizer arrived (all 5 bottles of it) and let me tell you, dragon’s breath blend is aptly named. I don’t know who got close enough to determine the exact chemical make-up of a dragon’s breath, but I dare say they nailed it with this combination! Yikes! I have no idea how effective the hand sanitizing properties of this mixture are, but I do know that spraying this on our hands will certainly make it easier for people to keep an appropriate amount of distance between us and them.
The governor of New Jersey has officially closed school buildings for the rest of the academic year. I didn’t realize when I submitted my retirement papers back in December, that I’d get a 90 day trial period to sample some of the finer aspects of retirement like sleeping past 5:30am, going to the bathroom at will and working in a room that has windows. That said, the thought of another 6 weeks of remote learning is daunting.
The Mystery of the Missing Thin Mints… I made an experimental batch of mint chocolate cupcakes for Oregano’s birthday. The sacrificial test cupcake was a slam dunk so I was cleared to proceed to phase 2 – frosting. I waited until Oregano was out at the grocery store then I prepared the frosting, removed a dozen Thin Mints from their top-secret location and decorated every cupcake with a cookie. If I hadn’t kept them safely hidden, he would have eaten them all and had none left for his birthday. I’m nothing if not a benevolent bitch.
After 2 months of being homebound, I finally left the house! We were out together for 2 whole hours. When we got home, the cats gave us a “Where the hell have you been?” look.
My big outing was to visit nurseries in search of plants for the garden. Since we were outdoors and wearing masks, we figured this was a relatively safe way for me to venture out. I don’t really mind the mask and after a few minutes I forgot I even had it on. As I walked through the aisles, I saw a lilac bush. I love the smell of lilacs, but despite my green thumb, I cannot grow them. Any chance I get, I try to steal a whiff of them. When I bent down to sniff the blossoms, I was disappointed that they were not fragrant. His voice muffled by the mask, I heard Oregano suggest that I remove my mask and sniff again.
I realized that masks serve another purpose besides protecting us from the virus. Almost everyone’s hair is in the process of returning to its au natural state. Wearing a mask hides your identity until the salons reopen. Bonus, no need to wear make-up either.
When we got in the car to leave the nursery, Oregano noticed a woman in the parking lot loading plants into her trunk. He said, “Hey, she looks like she’s had a haircut! How did she do that?” I looked up startled at his outburst. I’m not sure what I found more surprising; the woman who had a very stylish, very short haircut or the fact that Oregano noticed she had her hair cut. He never notices when I get a haircut. We spent the 15 minute drive to the next nursery coming up with scenarios that would have explained how she was able to get a haircut. You wouldn’t think someone else’s hair could generate that much conversation, but it did. This is the world we live in now.
When we stopped at a light on our ride home from our excursion, Oregano looked lovingly at me and told me I looked adorable in my mask. It was very sweet. What was my appreciative reply to this compliment? “So, are you saying I look better with half my face covered?” Speechless by my response, Oregano chuckled, shook his head and pulled away when the light turned green. Tender marital moment over.
The weather is finally warming up and I can start working in the garden. At the beginning of April, I ordered several bags of soil from Miracle Gro, but, after 3 weeks, it still hadn’t arrived. I checked my confirmation email and shared my concerns with Oregano. That was the wrong thing to do. It unleashed a torrent of gardening and soil related puns. I will share them with you so that you can have a better understanding of what my quarantine experience has been like.
“It’s a dirty trick that they haven’t shipped that yet.”
“Don’t worry. I’m sure the soil has already left the plant.”
“I have growing concerns that your dirt won’t arrive.”
“Maybe the soil was delivered, but stolen. No one was guardin’ the door.”
“You’ll be so excited when it arrives, you’ll soil yourself.”
(I’ll wait and allow the sound of your groaning to subside before you begin reading again.)
Underwear with the days of the week on them is useless. Since we started the lockdown, I can’t remember what day of the week it is. If it was on my underwear, I’d have to pull down my pants to check. Wouldn’t it just be easier if they made socks with the days of the week on them? One sock could be the day and one sock could have the number of the date. Then, all I would have to do is look at my feet. This would be much easier to do on a video call.
After 8 weeks of experimenting, we have discovered that there is no amount of kisses that makes Linus walk away. Keebler won’t get close enough to our faces to kiss and Otis gives us a “Don’t even think about!” look.
The pandemic has given teenagers a legitimate excuse to walk so far behind their parents no one knows they’re with them. Instead of coming off as a surly adolescent, people think they are being cautious and caring by observing strict social distancing guidelines.
Have to bake…have to bake…have to bake!!! Oregano’s birthday is coming up. I can’t go to the store, so I will have to make the sacrifice and bake something at home. Since he did such a fantastic job for my birthday, I’m going to attempt an untested recipe for Thin Mint cupcakes. If the cupcakes wind up tasting terrible, I can always blindfold him and give him a few real Thin Mints from the still hidden stash.
Before I begin with what has turned into a lengthy update, I need to come clean about something. It has been weighing on me more heavily with each passing week of this lockdown. It’s not easy for me to say this, but it is the right thing to do. It is my fault we are all in this situation. Back in September, Oregano asked me what I wanted to do to celebrate my 50th birthday in April. I told him that I wanted to do something I’ve never done before. I meant spending my birthday with my toes in the sand on a warm beach. To be fair, I have also never been quarantined on my birthday so technically, what I am experiencing qualifies as a bucket list item. I should have been more specific about my birthday wish and now we are all suffering. For this I am deeply sorry.
Phew…. I feel so much better now that I got that off my chest.
The pandemic caused us to cancel all the plans we had made to celebrate my milestone birthday at the beach in the South Carolina Low Country. Because social distancing guidelines prohibit dining in restaurants or having gatherings with more than 5 people, coming up with an alternate local celebration was not an option, or so I thought.
Over the past few weeks, Oregano spent an inordinate amount of time holed up in our home office. I figured he was busy with work and when I finally asked him what he was doing, his response was, “I’m working on stuff. People whose birthdays are in the next few weeks shouldn’t ask too many questions.” Apparently, he and my close friends were all scheming to plan a way to make my quarantine birthday an unforgettable day. Boy, did they ever! On one hand I feel incredibly blessed to have a husband and friends who love me so much they went to extreme measures to make sure I felt special. On the other hand, I’m a little concerned about how good they all are at being sneaky.
Oregano started the festivities by telling me that there were a few surprises in store for me and suggested I might enjoy them more while wearing make-up and real clothes. I’m not going to lie. I had quite a bit of trepidation at the thought of wearing pants with a button and a zipper for the first time in 7 weeks. I’m very happy to report that they still fit. It was a birthday miracle!
The first surprise eveeryone had up their collective sleeves was a virtual birthday party and a Vid Hug video message montage. We got to chat for quite awhile then they sang what was simultaneously the best and worst rendition of Happy Birthday ever.
After the virtual party and lunch, Oregano suggested we take advantage of the fact that it was sunny and warm for the first time all week and sit in the front garden. I managed to sit still for all of 5 minutes before the siren call of the weeds lured me from my relaxation. I popped up, grabbed my weeding fork, gloves and bucket. Oregano looked at me incredulously and asked, “You can’t let that go for one afternoon?” I told him I was still enjoying being outside with him and this would get rid of the weeds. I was killing 2 birds with 1 stone. (No birds were harmed. Don’t worry.)
As I worked my way around the garden, I noticed that I couldn’t see through the slats of our small picket fence. I didn’t know what was blocking my view and started poking a finger at the reflective obstruction. Oregano sat snickering behind me and told me to walk around to the front where a big banner was hanging notifying the entire neighborhood of my age. I laughed at how oblivious I was.
Dandelions eradicated, I sat down to read until my asthma flared up from all the pollen. I went into the house to use my inhaler and just as I stepped onto my front porch, I noticed a line of cars coming down the street while honking their horns. I didn’t pay much attention because this had happened earlier in the day because one of my neighbors was also celebrating a birthday. I figured these were more of her guests, but as the cars kept approaching our house, I realized it was a parade of my friends for a drive by birthday party!
After 7 weeks of hearing my friends as disembodied voices on the other end of the phone or as talking heads during video calls it was amazing to see them in 3 dimensions.
It was frustrating to not be able to spend more time with everyone or give them hugs. Then I realized the upside of quarantine birthday parties, I get to see everyone, but I don’t have to share my birthday cake! However, wearing a mask makes it really hard to blow out the birthday candles.
The pandemic has forced people to get creative and improvise with what they have on hand or can find in the few stores that are open. My friends were the embodiment of ingenuity in crisis. One friend decorated her car with a banner made of paper plates, others made signs from boxes supplies ordered online had been shipped in. One friend cranked up her car stereo, got of her car then sang and danced in the street. They managed to create birthday cards or modify whatever cards they could find. They even sanitized the cards and gifts for my protection.
At the end of the day, Oregano was exhausted. He told me that it is very difficult to plan a surprise party and even harder when the person you are surprising never leaves the house. He managed to pull it off though. I might have to toss the guy a few Thin Mints for his efforts.
Left the house for the first time in weeks. As we passed a mechanic, I noticed that they were advertising a free roll of toilet paper with any service. While I applaud their timely marketing technique, they are giving away “a roll” of toilet paper. One measly roll of toilet paper is all I get for bringing my car in for a service which costs considerably more than a case of toilet paper? Come on, guys! I know toilet paper is scarce, but unless I am desperate, offering me a single roll of free toilet paper is not going to entice me to your service center.
Saw a story on the news that the cosmetic company L’Oreal has reported an increase in sales of beauty products and hair dye. I completely understand the uptick in sales of hair dye, but not the beauty products. I haven’t worn make-up since March 13th. During every video conference call I have had for work or with friends, none of us has make-up on. Some of us are brave enough to go au natural to a video call and others just turn off their cameras. Who’s buying all this make-up?
Decided to try to come up with a craft project to keep myself occupied. I spent hours on Etsy, Pintrest and Amazon searching for craft ideas or kits. Nothing was inspiring me. What did come up during my search for mosaic tile kits, stencils and cross-stitch was a penis pinata. I have no idea how that popped into my search on Etsy, but nevertheless there it was. I couldn’t keep an item this unique to myself so I shared the link with a friend. She suggested that a pinata might be a fun way to kill some time. Oregano was uncomfortable with the idea of whacking a stick at a papier-mache penis even if he was guaranteed to get candy afterwards.
We had put it off as long as possible, but we had to do something about Keebler’s claws. We knew we’d need to drug him with a tranquilizer even if we were just taking him to the emergency vet, so we decided that before we committed to a $200 feline pedicure, we’d attempt an at home salon treatment. Saturday morning, we spiked Keebler’s tuna and waited 90 minutes for the calming effects of the tranquilizer to begin to take hold. So much for that plan. Two hours later, Keebler was wide awake and chasing the chipmunks as they scurried past the sliding glass doors to the patio. Not only was he not sleeping, he wasn’t even groggy. Maybe next time we should consider one of those tranquilzer darts they use on tigers. We had no choice but to commence with wrangling procedures to get him into his carrier to go to the vet. After 10 minutes of high-spirited evasion tactics, Keebler relented, got into his carrier and cowered in the corner. As a last-ditch desperation attempt, I decided to try to cut his claws while he was confined. It was either going to work or be a steel cage death match. Oregano scruffed the poor frightened furball and I managed to maneuver the clippers and extract one paw at a time until all of his claws were cut. That is a big win for the humans and their opposable thumbs!
The Mystery of the Missing Thin Mints continues, but this time it is at Linus’s expense. When Linus heard me getting the carrier to take Keebler to the vet, he disappeared. We figured he’d come out eventually when things quieted down, but he didn’t. Oregano and I started hunting all through the house looking for him. As we searched in closets, under beds, behind furniture and in all manner of tight spots, Oregano said, “If I don’t find Linus, maybe I’ll at least come across the Thin Mints.” I am happy to report that Linus was found and the Thin Mints were not!
Spent an afternoon cleaning out my digital files for work. Organizing non-tangible files is not nearly as satisfying. There is no clean file cabinet or closet to stand back, look at and admire the results of your effort.
Otis is a small, thin cat despite eating more than our other 2 cats. Whenever I pick him up, I scratch his belly and say, “You are too skinny. Eat a cookie!” Last night, I put one of the delicious no bake cookies I made on a plate and began making a cup of tea. I heard a strange noise and turned around. There was Otis sampling my cookie! Once my brain processed the fact that a cat was eating a cookie, I yelled at him to stop. This drew Oregano’s attention who was probably surprised I wasn’t yelling at him for eating a cookie. With a smug grin, Oregano pointed out that this situation was all my fault since I have been telling Otis to eat a cookie for years. I can’t argue with his logic. What surprises me, though, is that I never thought Otis was actually listening or that he knew what a cookie was.
Saving lots of money on my grooming budget since I can’t go for a haircut, color or pedicure for the foreseeable future. After calling 5 different vets trying to find someone who would help us trim Keebler’s nails, the emergency vet agreed. The catch is that it will cost 20 times more than usual. After careful contemplation and debate we decided that the money was going to be spent one way or the other. If Keebler scratches himself with his talons, he could wind up needing medical attention. If the nails get too long and grow into his paw pads, he’ll need medical attention. If we attempt to muscle him into submission while trying to clip the nails on squirming, writhing paws, we’ll all wind up needing medical attention. I guess I’ll just divert my grooming funds to him. Easy come easy go.
Picking up our face masks today. A friend’s mom made them for us because I can’t sew and the ones we ordered online have still not arrived. When I took sewing class in middle school, my parents told me that sewing is a life skill. What I didn’t realize is that it would eventually become a life or death skill.
Learned an important lesson. Now that I am teaching remotely, I spend a lot more time with a screen in front of me than usual. My eyes are not happy with this new arrangement, so the eye doctor suggested using lubricating drops. In my desperation to get some relief, I put one drop in each eye then attempted to read the dosing on the bottle to find out if I needed to use a second drop. My vision was too blurry. Next time, I’ll remember to read the instructions before I use the drops.