It’s Puzzling

Before I get into today’s topic, I’ve got a couple of quick updates regarding my previous post. First off, I made the honey butter a couple of days ago and it is epic. Since mentioning it to a few people who asked for the recipe, I figured it would just be easier to share it with everyone. This recipe was given to me by my colleague/friend Roberta though she can’t recall where she got it from. Warning – just reading this recipe will make you gain 10lbs:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup honey
  • 3/4 lb (3 sticks) butter, softened
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Combine the sugar, cream, and honey in a saucepan, then place over medium-high heat on your stovetop. Cook the mixture, stirring regularly, until it comes to a boil. Boil for 1 minute, then remove from heat. Place the softened butter in your blender or food processor. Pour the hot sugar and cream mixture over the butter, then blend or pulse until well-mixed. Add the vanilla extract, then blend again. Pour the finished honey butter spread into airtight containers. (The amount fills two pint-sized mason jars plus one half-pint jar almost exactly.) Keep refrigerated. The honey butter will stay fresh in the fridge for about 6 weeks, or a few months if stored in the freezer.

Spread on toast or a cut up apple and voilĂ , the most delicious treat ever. I think it would also be fab on grilled peaches. You can probably spread it on shoe leather and it would still taste delicious.

And speaking of toast, I finished my loaf of sourdough yesterday and since I’m not baking again til tomorrow, I had a slice of “regular” sourdough this morning. I’m not going to name names but this store-bought sourdough has always been my favorite and it’s made locally so all good, right? Well, it was beyond boring. And bland. And didn’t hold a candle to my homemade sourdough. I have to admit, I was surprised at the difference between the two. This just reconfirms that I will continue to bake my own bread from here on out. For the bread I’m doing this week, I’ll be using my ridiculous $13.95 flour. Will report back on how it turns out compared to the previous loaf.

I will now move on to today’s topic: puzzles! For those of you who have been reading snugandbee, you know that I love doing jigsaw puzzles. I finished another 1,000 piece puzzle on Sunday. I like to keep the completed puzzle out for a couple of days to enjoy before taking it apart and putting it back in the box. Here’s the evidence:

This particular puzzle of the man-made wonders of the world was really fun because I had visited so many of them… Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Sacre Coeur and Arc de Triomphe in Paris, Coliseum in Rome, Shwedagon Pagoda in Myanmar, Stonehenge and Big Ben in England, Torii gate in Japan, Saint Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow, Opera House in Sydney, Taj Mahal in India and of course (almost) all the ones in the U.S. Some were unfamiliar to me (must research) and I still need to go to Egypt and Easter Island…. #travelgoals

My love of doing puzzles started in the 6th grade because of Miss Levitt, my teacher (not sure if I’m spelling her name correctly). Miss Levitt was one of the cool teachers – she was tall with long blond hair and everyone liked her. Her classroom walls were decorated with jigsaw puzzles that she had done. That was also the same year that E.T. came out in the theaters and our family got a big puzzle of the image of E.T. hiding in Gertie’s closet amongst all of her stuffed animals. I remember it took us several days or maybe a week to complete. Then we flipped it over, glued paper to the back to keep it together and then delivered it to Miss Levitt (I think one of the corners fell off in transit). She then hung our puzzle on the wall, alongside all the others. I always thought this was one of the coolest ideas – decorating a room with completed puzzles. Needless to say, I was hooked.

One of the reasons I love doing puzzles is that it keeps my brain engaged and active in a good way – and it’s definitely better than watching TV. I’ve set up a “puzzling station” here in Carmel with all the pieces on a card table and then the assembly takes place on a separate table:

And of course I’ve developed my own method for doing puzzles. Nothing earth-shattering, mind you, but it’s efficient and it works for me. First off, I don’t dump all the pieces out at once – I take out a maybe 75-100 pieces at a time. This makes it easier to sort through them, turn them right side up and search for edge pieces. By the time I finish this, I usually have at least 90% of the edge pieces put aside. Then I can put together the frame.

From this point, assembly depends on the image of the puzzle. Common colors or text or whatever it is that helps me sort through the pieces. While I’m sitting at the assembly table, I will rotate the card table every so often so I can see all the pieces better. There’s always a sense of satisfaction when I hone in on the piece I need for a particular section. And I like to give the piece an extra tap (double tap!!) when I fit it into the puzzle.

When I open a new puzzle that’s never been done, I get excited if I find that a couple of pieces have stuck together. It’s like a little bonus – not having to put those two pieces together. But inheriting a puzzle is different since more often that not, the puzzle has simply been folded up and put back in the box so there are huge chunks that are already assembled. This is NOT okay and I make a point to break up all the pieces. Seriously, what’s the point of doing a puzzle if it’s already been done? super lame.

Anyway, that’s my treatise on puzzles. I’m now off to Pilgrim’s Way bookstore here in town to pick up a new 1,000 piece puzzle that they had in the window. It’s called The Rocky Mountains by an American artist named Charley Harper. I’ll be looking forward to an afternoon of puzzling and making bread followed by a Zoom Cinco de Mayo get-together tonight complete with margaritas, chips and salsa – can’t complain.

Spa Day

It might seem like I’m slacking on the blog but I’ve actually been very busy the last few days. First off, I bailed on West Oakland and am back at my mom’s place in Carmel. She left Wednesday morning and I arrived in the afternoon so it’s just Juno and me this time around. It’s really good to be back here for all the reasons mentioned in previous posts. Like my friend Holden (while pretending to be a judge) was saying the other week “Yes counselor, the court will concede that Carmel is nicer than West Oakland. Can we move it along?”

Before I left home, I had a lot going on. The big news is I have finally ventured into the realm of making sourdough bread. My friend Sonja gave me some starter that she had made so that helped a lot. I didn’t realize that making sourdough is a three-day process but it’s totally worth it. I also want to give a shout-out to my friend Mary who was the initial inspiration for me trying to make sourdough in the first place. Anyway, I decided to just make a single loaf in case things didn’t go well. I will admit it doesn’t look all that pretty from the outside – kind of a misshapen batard. I am ordering some bannetons to help with my shaping though it will be a few weeks before they arrive since fermenting baskets are considered a non-essential (dumb). But the inside looks damn good. Here’s the evidence:

It actually needed another 3-4 minutes in the oven but honestly, it tastes delicious! I’ve really leveled up my toast game. Note to Sonja – I am also ordering you a banneton as a thank you for the starter and for the fabulous mask!!

It’s funny how baking bread has become such a huge part of my life since sheltering-at-home. I’ve honestly never talked about bread so much as I have in the past six weeks. And I know I’m not the only one. What it boils down to is having the time to make it. But I am pledging here and now to continue to bake bread after this is all over. Because it’s worth it – there is nothing like the smell of fresh baked bread and it’s even better when it’s in your own house. Oh, and also because I like carbs.

Yesterday was a day of beauty for both Juno ane me. I found a dog groomer in Seaside who is grooming dogs out of her home and was thrilled that she had time available. Poor Snug – his hair was so matted that it took almost an hour just to brush him out. But it was totally worth it – look how handsome he is now!

As for me, there’s a woman in town who I know well and she was able to sneak me in for a mani/pedi since it’s her shop and we were the only ones there. Being able to do something “normal” was so wonderful. I rarely get my nails done anyway but having them done yesterday was a real treat. Here’s a picture of my hand – this is all you will see of me since the rest of me is still a hot mess.

I’ve got a lot going on this weekend. I’m making a batch honey butter (DM me if you want the recipe), I’ve got a 1,000 jigsaw to do and I’m in the middle of Save Me the Plums by Ruth Reichl, my latest audio book. Juno will be chilling on the couch and chasing squirrels as needed.

I’m going to wrap up this post with a haiku about grilled cheese sandwiches that I just composed:

Muenster cheddar melts

Between grilled buttery bread

Lunch is served. Eat up!

Black and Blue

I noticed while putting on a pair of running tights the other day that I had a bunch of small bruises on my upper legs. It looked like I had repeatedly jabbed myself with a pencil eraser. They were all the same size, shape and at the same stage of healing. For the life of me, I have no idea how I got these black and blue marks. I thought about it for awhile – mainly because there’s not much else to occupy my brain right now. And came up with nothing. Then I started thinking how this has been a common occurrence throughout my life… how I would find these mysterious bruises and have no recollection of how I got them.

The idea that I could injure myself to the point of bruising but have no memory of the actual incident is slightly disturbing, considering that I have very clear memories of other kinds of injuries. For example, right before the shelter-in-place order came down, I had a few friends over for a BBQ since we had to cancel our annual spring training trip. I was using a mandoline to slice an onion and wasn’t paying attention – sure enough, the blade sliced through the top of my fingernail. A little alcohol, Neosporin and a bandaid and I was back in the kitchen. No harm, no foul. And even though my finger is perfectly fine now, I still remember what happened. There are lots of kitchen-related incidents – maybe I should say “accidents” – for which I have crystal clear recollection – exploding soup in a blender, slicing a bagel with a chef’s knife (requiring a call to 911 and several stitches), sizzle platter mishap at Chevys, etc. And I have other scrapes and scars where I know exactly what happened. Some of these things happened years and years ago. So what’s the story with black and blue marks – why can’t I remember what happened even though the injury just happened?

Since I’m talking about things that are painful, something happened yesterday that really hurt my wallet. Now – you all know that finding flour is nearly impossible. The last bag I bought over a month ago was special high performance bread flour and it cost me $6.99. That was steep but I figured it would be worth it since I was baking fresh bread on a weekly basis (and a good loaf of bread is around six bucks anyway). Fast forward to yesterday when I stopped at Market Hall for a few essentials and found that they had bread flour available! I was so excited as I’m almost out of flour and so I immediately grabbed a bag. It’s from some local mill in the Bay Area called The Midwife and the Baker. There was no price on the bag but I figured it couldn’t be much more than $6.99 – I mean, it’s still a 5lb bag of flour. So I’m checking out and nearly had a heart attack – the flour was… are you sitting down?? $13.95. Not a typo. $13.95. That’s thirteen dollars and ninety-five cents. For flour. And as painful as it was, I bought it. Because I want to keep baking bread. Here is a picture of the most expensive flour I’ve ever bought:

I like to think of myself as having a high threshold for pain. Accident in the kitchen? That’s what bandages and alcohol are for. Hit the pavement while out running? I pick myself up and keep going. Being “forced” to spend almost 14 bucks on flour? I suck it up. I mean, I’m sitting here on the couch next to Juno and he keeps farting but I refuse to move (and believe me, it stinks). But I have my limits. Which brings me to today’s list of things that I find painful:

  • Unbuttered popcorn (I mean seriously, why even bother?)
  • Dropping toast on the floor butter-side down
  • Hot Snug breath (Juno needs to get his teeth cleaned)
  • Missing pieces in jigsaw puzzles
  • Cutting up an apple and finding that it’s rotten on the inside
  • People who don’t clean up after their dogs (hello? West Oakland?)
  • Realizing just how gray my hair is getting
  • Missing my friends/family/colleagues

Yes, it is hard to be away from everyone. And now that the shelter-in-place order has been extended through the end of May in California, it’s going to be another long month of Snug and Bee. But I’ll try and keep things as real and as positive as possible. I’ve got my health, my dog, food in the fridge and toilet paper in the bathroom. The state will re-open – I just hope the bruises will heal and don’t leave too big a scar.

V for Virus

For those of you who have been reading my blog, you may remember I mentioned the graphic novel/movie V for Vendetta the other week in relation to The Valhalla Murders – I thought there were some similarities in the plot lines. I ended up watching V for Vendetta again after that post and wow, I was blown away. Not because of the similarities to The Valhalla Murders (which in hindsight are really minimal) but because of the similarities to what’s going on in the world right now. For those of you who haven’t seen the movie (or read the book), I highly recommend checking it out. And for those who have seen it, watch it again. It’s pretty spooky. Side note – if things continue to get worse, I may consider getting a haircut like Natalie Portman. Not sure I’d look as good as she did though…

I’d also like to point out that before naming this post, I did confirm that V for Virus was NOT a Sue Grafton novel. Turns out – her “V” book was V for Vengeance. So no worries about copyright infringement. Other V words I considered for today’s post were “victory” but we’re a long way from that, “vanity” but there’s none of that going on at the mo, and “vociferous” but no one really knows what it means.

Actually, today’s post is about fitness and the balance between staying healthy and enjoying couch time. As luck would have it, my neighbors got a new treadmill right before the shelter in place order went into effect and they were getting rid of their old treadmill. I immediately said I was interested so I scored a treadmill. It doesn’t have any incline capabilities – but it was free and I was happy to take it.

I like to think of myself as a fairly active person. When I’m at work, I’m never sitting down for very long. Plus the jewelry store has an upstairs so that also helps with my overall step count for the day. Now that I’m at home, it can be really easy to just lie on the couch all day (see previous post for notes on enjoying couch time). But I actually feel worse when I do this. My body literally hurts from inactivity. This is not good. On the flip side, I woke up this morning with aching knees so I started my day with Ibuprofen. Also not good.

Upon further review, I realized that I might have overdone it the last few days… Today was an hour long power walk in the Oakland Hills with Sonja. Yesterday morning was a 4-mile walk/hike with John and his puppy Bear in the Berkeley Hills. Then I walked on the treadmill for another 45 minutes in the afternoon while watching the final episode of Making the Cut (no comment). The day before that, I ran nearly 4 miles on the treadmill. And I ran 3 miles the day before that. So yeah, now I can see why my knees hurt this morning. But look at how cute Bear is – how could I not go walking with him:

FYI – I did not take Juno with me on the hike. It was really hot yesterday (strike 1) and he doesn’t like hiking (strike 2). If I had forced him to walk, he would have been dragging the entire time (strike 3) and since I wanted to keep up a good pace, I left him at home. We are spending every waking (and sleeping) moment together so I don’t feel guilty for leaving him behind.

With all this activity, you’d think I’d be dropping lbs and getting super fit. Sadly, this is not the case. Because all of the walks/hikes/runs equal the amount of steps I would have normally taken during the course of a day. So I’m basically maintaining the status quo. Which I guess is okay. I might look into streaming other kinds of fitness classes but I’m not there quite yet. I need to leave adequate time during the day for naps. I think I’ve had a nap 3 out of the last 4 days.

The other reason that I’m able to maintain the status quo is by refraining from snacking. This can be a real challenge but I manage it by having three good meals each day. Plus I know that I have absolutely ZERO willpower so I won’t even buy Doritos or pretzels or other salty vittles (another V word!) Give me the choice between salt and sugar and I’ll take salt 9 times out of 10. And I’m not a fan of the whole salted caramel thing. I want salt or I want sugar. Don’t mix them up – it’s annoying.

Of course, there is the exception that proves the rule. Exhibit A: Dill Pickle Ranch snack mix from Whole Foods. I discovered this fun bag decorated with cowboy hat-wearing saguaro cacti earlier this week. Normally I avoid ranch-flavored anything – blue cheese is my go-to. But dill pickle? Yes please! So I took a chance and OMG, I am in love. I have really tried to limit consumption to meal times only but have been unsuccessful. You will notice in the picture that the bag is practically empty. So now I have to make a hard decision… Do I buy the cute cacti snack bag again? Or do I just say no and cut up an apple instead. Only time will tell. Sigh.

In other food related news, I was in downtown Oakland late yesterday afternoon picking up a salad from Mixt for dinner and was thrilled to see that the Humphrey Slocombe ice cream shop was open! And they were doing a buy 2 pints, get the 3rd free. So of course I spent $20 on ice cream:

Okay okay, I’m getting sidetracked from my original subject of home fitness. I should mention that I also have a Concept 2 ergometer but it’s currently sitting in the corner in two pieces. Anyone who has done crew knows that the erg is no joke – this is a hard ass workout. My goal for the coming week is to dust it off and set it up. At one point, I even considered getting a Nintendo Switch because they have some fun fitness “games” but they are sold out pretty much everywhere. And I can’t really afford to spend $300 on the console and another $60 on each game. That would be irresponsible. But $20 on ice cream is fine. I can justify that. You know, keeping local businesses afloat and all that.

I will say this though about staying active and doing any kind of fitness – it really does make me feel better. I’ve always been a runner – BQ (before quarantine), I ran 3x/week in the morning after walking Juno. But now I’m doing something 6x/week. And yes, I realize I’m making up for not buzzing around at work. But more importantly, it keeps my spirits up. I’ve never come back from a walk/run/hike and felt worse. And even the annoying lady on the fire trail yesterday couldn’t dampen my spirits. With all the bad news that is out there, it’s important to do whatever you can to stay positive and feel good. So if my new normal is a hike followed by a nap and then some dill-flavored almonds with an Ibuprofen chaser, I can live with that.

Couch Time

I’m not going to lie, Snug has been a little depressed since we got back from Carmel on Monday morning. He’s been lying around the last couple of days showing very little enthusiasm. Mind you, lying around was his primary activity at my mom’s place. The difference is that down there, he was on constant squirrel patrol and that made him happy. It gave him a sense of purpose. Here in West Oakland, squirrels are pretty rare. There was the one time that Juno caught an opossum in the yard and he’s never been more proud of himself. Every night after that, he would patrol the backyard looking for more critters. But since we’ve been home, he’s barely gone outside.

I’m happy to be home though the neighborhood is looking a bit more grim than when I left. This morning we were up just after 6am and took a long walk where I noticed lots of new graffiti… There’s this one building that has all these amazing tigers painted on the side and I was sad to see that someone tagged over some of the tigers. Maybe it was a statement against The Tiger King? I don’t know. But I always thought there was an unwritten rule against tagging over legit street art. I’ll share some pix on my next post of some of the cool street art in my neighborhood.

At the moment, I’m sitting here on the couch with the door open and enjoying the view. My Japanese maples are in full bloom now and they look beautiful! Once I’m done with this post, I’ll sit outside and get some sun.

So let’s talk about couches/sofas (feel free to look up the difference at your leisure) since I imagine we are all spending way more time on our couches than ever before. The key is to keep things “fresh” by moving around on your couch. Fortunately I have a very large couch that is almost 12 feet long and has a chaise on one end. It could comfortably sit at least six people before COVID-19 – now it seats two people with one zebra lying in between them.

Sitting up on one cushion in the morning, moving to a different cushion in the afternoon, lying across two cushions, sitting on the chaise, lying on the chaise… there are so many options. I had a lovely nap the other day lying across the chaise onto the next section. And don’t forget the importance of throw pillows and blankets – there is no such thing as too many pillows and blankets. Here’s what I’m talking about:

In order to maximize comfort, be sure to re-plump your cushions on a regular basis. Added bonus by doing this is that you can clean up any snacks that have fallen in between the cushions.

I’ve come to realize that when I’m “working” – I like to sit up on the couch. Now when I say “working,” that’s really a misnomer. Because I’m not really working. Working encompasses things like checking email, reading the news online, writing a new blog post, etc. When I’m watching TV, more often than not, I’m lying down. And I actually prefer sitting up if I’m on the phone.

Other activities are done on a stool in my kitchen – eating meals, reviewing cookbooks and/or recipes online, making grocery lists, paying bills, dealing with taxes and other grown-up stuff. Speaking of which, I made the egregious error of looking at my latest IRA statement from Fidelity and nearly cried like a little girl. Won’t be doing that again…

I’m not sure how long I’ll be home before I start getting itchy to go back to Carmel. I made a fresh loaf of bread and a big jug of green juice so once those are gone, I’ll reassess. A big part of the decision has to do with when California decides to re-open. I’m hopeful for mid-May but who knows? Honestly, the the thing I’m most excited about when things re-open is getting Juno groomed. I keep thinking that I should try giving him a little trim but I’m terrified to try. As it is, it is hard to tell the difference between Juno and this pillow:

Final note on couch time – be sure to get up every once in awhile and stretch your legs. I have a treadmill set up next to the chaise and I swear the thing just taunts me. But that’s a good thing – I’ll be doing a run later this afternoon. I’m thinking my next post will be about home fitness. Either that or a post about adventures in DIY dog grooming.

Real Estate Porn

Many years ago, I worked for an awesome magazine called THE WEEK. For those of you not familiar with this publication, it is multi-source and multi-perspective, covering everything from domestic and international news to arts & leisure, to health & science to business. Every week, there was the “Hot Properties” spread featuring homes from around the country. There would always be a theme and the homes were always amazing. When I would present the magazine in client meetings, I always referred to this spread, fondly, as “real estate porn.”

Since I have been sheltering-in-place here in Carmel-by-the-Sea, I have had ample opportunity to walk around parts of town that I previously hadn’t explored and drool over all the incredible homes in town. Seriously, the whole town is basically real estate porn and as soon as I fall in love with one home, I find another that’s even more amazing. Anyway, since this is my last post from C-B-T-S, I figured I’d do a rundown on some of the homes currently for sale. Mind you, I am NOT in the market for a home. I don’t think I’d qualify for a mortgage based on my current economic status. But it’s fun to scope out the possibilities…

Oh! And before presenting my top picks, I should clarify the difference between Carmel-by-the-Sea and Carmel. CBTS is an incorporated city – all residences/businesses within the city limits do NOT have addresses and use P.O. Boxes for mail. When trying to find a place, the “address” will be something like Monte Verde Street, 4 NE of 3rd Ave or something to that effect. Carmel is the unincorporated part of Monterey county and the homes do have addresses and mail delivery. And now presenting the coolest homes for sale (the top left pic being my fave):

If none of these homes are to your liking, you can always just buy a nice empty lot right across from the beach for about $8 million:

$8 million but you have to build a house

One of the other things that sets Carmel apart (besides Clint Eastwood having been Mayor) is the tendency for people to “name” their homes. Of course, many of the names reference the water with names like “Sea Quest” and “Sand & Sea.” There’s a home called “Xanadu” and another called “Knockwood” and my mom’s favorite is “White Caps and Night Caps” – it makes me think what I would name my home should I ever have the opportunity to live here. Probably the “Bee Hive” or something to that effect. Anyway, here’s a gallery with some of the best signs I’ve seen over the last couple of weeks:

I was perusing the Real Estate section of the Pine Cone (local newspaper) after I got back from my stroll the other day and saw these massive homes for sale on Pebble Beach in the $20+ million range and I started thinking what it would be like to have that kind of money. And then I thought about Jeff Bezos, who does have that kind of money. I think $25 million to him is like 25 cents to me. It’s an amount so small that you wouldn’t miss if you lost it. Jeff Bezos could give every hourly employee at Amazon and Whole Foods a $10/hr raise and it wouldn’t even make a dent. Scary.

So it occurred to me that I have been remiss in giving you updates on Snug! Juno does not like the beach – he doesn’t even like getting his feet wet. His favorite activites are taking strolls around town, hanging with Tiger and of course chasing squirrels. Here he is doing what he does best:

Snug on the deck looking for squirrels
Juno’s nemesis
Hanging out with Tiger

Snug has been looking pretty scroungy the last week or so. He was supposed to get groomed this week but the groomers are closed. So I gave him a bath yesterday. He wasn’t too happy about it but it made a huge difference. He smells like baby powder now and as you can see, he’s looking pretty delicious.

In other dog news, I saw this on my walk the other day…

Well it’s time to wrap up this post – my friend Gillian is coming over and we’re going to take a socially distant walk together. Good way to wrap up my time here in Carmel. See you back in Oakland!

Silver Linings

Every morning over breakfast, I read the news. I look at CNN, Yahoo and sfgate.com to see the latest. And as we all know, the news is fairly grim. It can be a real challenge not to let the news completely ruin your day. I have found that I purposely read articles about things that are unrelated to Coronavirus – or at the very least would be considered silver linings. So that’s what today’s post is going to be about… things that I am grateful for. And for those of you who were waiting for a real estate tour of Carmel, that will be the next post.

Time

I can’t ever remember having so much free time and it’s been great getting to do so many things that I enjoy. I’m not really cooking or baking down here at my mom’s so I’ve had plenty of time to do more jigsaw puzzles:

Also, the last couple of days have been beautiful so I’ve been taking long walks around town. It’s been wonderful to see so many people out and about – couples walking together, families out for bike rides, people enjoying the beach. And everyone is doing their part to stay one zebra length away from one another.

I downloaded my very first audio book from the library to keep me entertained while walking – Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane. I actually read this book when it was first published but it’s wonderful listening to Neil read it to me. For those of you not familiar with Neil Gaiman, he is an English fantasy writer and one of my favorite authors. He wrote The Sandman (one of the most amazing graphic novels ever), Coraline, Stardust, Good Omens (brilliantly hilarious adaptation available on Amazon Prime), American Gods, Fortunately The Milk and so many other great stories that I’ve lost track. Since I know you all have lots of time on your hands, check him out – you won’t be disappointed!

Even walking Juno in the morning has proven to be more enjoyable than usual. I don’t mind if he wants to sniff something for a long time since I’m no longer in a hurry. This has lead to me noticing more on our strolls – check out the banana slug I saw the other day:

I had never seen a banana slug in person until now. Maybe I’ll see a mountain lion before I head back to Oakland next week – sightings are rare but there are some in the area. I’ve always wondered that if I’m allergic to cats, would I also be allergic to lions? Mind you, if I did see a mountain lion, I wouldn’t try to pet it. I should also mention that I didn’t pet the banana slug either.

Pollution

I have been heartened by all the articles I’ve read about how clear the skies are in large cities since there are fewer cars on the road creating less exhaust, fewer planes taking off, etc. These pictures of Los Angeles are just incredible:

https://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/clean-clear-air-Los-Angeles-photos-coronanvirus-15201254.php

I grew up in LA and can tell you that I was NEVER able to see Catalina Island from Griffith Park. Last week, there was an article about Venice, Italy and how the water has cleared up enough that you can actually see fish in the canals.

And on a related note, it seems that all the wildlife are also taking advantage of people staying at home. People who live in Yosemite report seeing 4X the number of bears right now. I even saw a video of two coyotes howling in the streets of San Francisco.

Who knows whether the global shutdown will have a long term impact on global warming but this can’t be a bad thing. Oh – and you shouldn’t pet coyotes either. They are dangerous.

Vindication

Being right makes me happy. I was reading an article the other day about the shortage of yeast and I did a little fist pump. For those of you who remember my first post, it was all about the shortage of yeast and the lengths I went to to procure some. When I was at Whole Foods in Monterey earlier this week, they were totally out of yeast and had almost no flour. So see – it’s not just me/ not just the Bay Area. The funniest part about this article was the comment that all up until recently, everyone was all about being gluten-free. Now everyone is baking bread. I’ve even seen a few articles about people sharing sourdough starter in San Francisco – or just leaving it on street poles in the Bernal Heights neighborhood. I think this is awesome. And for the record, I was never gluten-free. Gluten is good.

Proving my mom wrong also makes me happy. For example, she was very kind to get me a 1,000 piece Carmel-themed jigsaw puzzle featuring a hand-painted map of the town, as well as local businesses and local dogs (sadly Juno wasn’t included). I told her on Tuesday afternoon that I would have it finished by EOD yesterday. She said no way – we even made a bet that if I was right, she would buy dinner. If she was right, I’d buy dinner. Guess who was right????

Let me tell you, the reuben sandwich that I “won” last night for dinner was friggin delicious. I was equally happy when I was right about who the killer was in The Valhalla Murders. Side note: I liked the series a lot though the plot was somewhat similar to V for Vendetta.

I am not a Polyanna

Anyone who knows me knows that I am not exactly a “glass is half-full” kind of person. I think of myself as a realist with a side of snark. I know how lucky I am that I have my health, a beautiful place to stay, a can of yeast and a large supply of toilet paper at my disposal. Of course I am nervous about money and I’m hopeful that by the time my taxes are due in July, I’ll be back at work. Of course, I know that once I am back at work, I’ll miss having the time to bake bread, look for banana slugs and do jigsaw puzzles.

It’s overcast and drizzly here today so it’s a good day for a run – I’m going to head out shortly. But before I do, I will leave you with a link to Kevin Durant’s house which just hit the market. No, it’s not in Carmel – it’s in the Oakland Hills. And while I have never been a Warriors fan (let’s go Lakers!), I wouldn’t mind sheltering-in-place at Kevin’s house:

https://www.sfgate.com/realestate/article/Kevin-Durant-Oakland-Hills-mansion-for-sale-15200090.php

Shout out to Belgium!

One of the things I like to do to kill time during the day is to check my stats on WordPress. I am able to track how many visitors and views I’ve had on a daily basis – there’s also information on where people are when reading my blog. The majority of the visitors to SnugandBee are, not surprisingly, based here in the USA. But what I find really interesting is that people from other countries have somehow happened upon my blog.

Australia is a no-brainer as I have some friends there (and I lived in Sydney once upon a time). And England – again, I know a few peeps there. Canada? Okay… I mean we share a border so I guess it makes sense. But I’ve seen traffic come in from Germany – and this morning someone from Japan happened to stumble onto my blog. But Belgium has been the big surprise. I have never been to Belgium, nor do I know anyone in Belgium. In fact the closest I’ve come to Belgium was seeing the movie In Bruges several years ago. Yet several people over the last few days have been on SnugandBee. So I’m giving a special shout out to all the cool kids in Belgium… And by the way, you make the best cookies ever:

Best cookies ever

I’ve come to realize that one of the silver linings about sheltering-in-place is having the time to catch up with people. This blog wouldn’t even exist if I hadn’t had a long talk with my friend Tom. Over the past month, I’ve finally had time to connect with friends who I hadn’t been in touch with in ages. So the theme of today’s post is communication!

Of course the challenging thing about catching up with everyone is finding things to talk about that don’t have to do with Coronavirus. My friend Rebecca and I had a long Viber video call last weekend (I’ve totally given up on Skype) and we managed to talk for a solid 10 minutes about the trainwreck that has become Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. And I promised my friend Jerry that I would share this crazy video about a guy in Tokyo who lives in Manga Kissa:

In case you are in need of things to discuss when conversing with your friends and family, here’s a list of topics to keep everyone engaged:

  • What ride do you start with when going to Disneyland? (Actually there should be no debate on this – it’s Pirates of the Caribbean)
  • Star Trek vs Star Wars
  • Why LeBron James is the GOAT and not Michael Jordan
  • The god-awful last season of Game of Thrones and will George Martin ever finish writing the last two books?
  • Why See’s Candy isn’t considered an essential business?
  • Best Harry Potter book/movie
  • How Cate Blanchett was robbed of Best Actress for her role in Elizabeth by Gwyneth Paltrow
  • Crunchy peanut butter vs smooth – which is better and why
  • Who Joe Biden will choose as a running mate
  • Chocolate vs Vanilla
  • If you could time travel, where would you go – future or past?
  • And in honor of Easter, who you would want at your “last supper” and what would you eat?

See? There are lots of things that you can talk about that have nothing to do with Coronavirus. Communication really is key right now… even if it’s just getting/sending a quick text, it makes you feel less isolated. So reach out and touch someone! But don’t actually touch anyone. See Michael – I told you all that hugging was dangerous…

I think my next post will be a virtual walking tour of Carmel, complete with pictures of homes for sale. Because there’s nothing like shopping for a multi-million dollar home while waiting for my $1,200 stimulus check to arrive!

Shelter in (Another) Place

I abandoned West Oakland two days ago and drove down to my mom’s vacation house in Carmel. Technically Carmel-by-the-Sea. Yes, this is the place where Clint Eastwood was once Mayor. But that was a long time ago – before my mom had this house. And yes, I did see Clint once – we were both shopping at the Whole Foods in Monterey. He was alone and no one bothered him. I was also alone and no one bothered me. Clint and I have a lot in common.

As much as I love my loft, there’s something to be said about being here in Carmel. The town is small and quiet and so it’s much easier to be out, go for walks, etc. My plan is to be here for a couple of weeks and hang with my mom (she drove up yesterday). Last night we celebrated the first night of Passover and did a little Seder.

My mom was camera ready. I was not

Anyway, I was re-reading my last post and I may have given the impression that I haven’t been watching that much TV over the past few weeks. This is not the case at all. A few shows I’ve totally binge watched – others I would take my time with, watching over a few days. And amazingly enough, there have even been a few days where I haven’t turned on the TV at all! For the record, I don’t have cable – but between Netflix, Amazon Prime and Showtime, I have more than enough options.

Here’s a quick rundown of what I’ve watched – I may have missed one or two shows. And I will not apologize for any of my choices – who doesn’t love trashy reality shows now and then?

  • Love is Blind
  • Making the Cut (still watching)
  • The Stranger
  • The Mandalorian (did the 7-day free trial on Disney+ just for this show)
  • Fleabag
  • The Circle
  • Inside Out
  • Monsters University
  • Jumanji: The Next Level
  • Ford vs Ferrari (this was a rewatch)
  • The Kitchen
  • Kidding (Jim Carrey is soooooo good!!)
  • Tiger King

Tiger King was the last show I watched and I have to say, I hate every single one of these people. There is no “hero” – they are all horrible individuals who treat animals in the worst way. And then I made the mistake of going online after the show to find out what’s happening now with all these animals – and things got even darker. I was on the PETA site and saw a video with one of these f*&kers with a baby bear. Needless to say, I cried. And then I held Juno and told him how much I love him. Because I didn’t know what else to do. It’s hard to un-see that kind of thing. But I really really hope that there’s a special place in hell for these people. I will now jump off my pedestal.

Moving on to happier topics, today is my birthday. I am celebrating the 20th anniversary of my 29th birthday… (thank you Roberta!) I woke up with Juno’s feet in my face so not a bad way to start the day. We took a nice stroll and then I went for a long run. I always run on my birthday – it’s a tradition. A leisurely breakfast followed – here’s Juno enjoying a nice mug of tea:

Snug with mug

No big plans for the day though cake will be consumed. My mom brought the cake up from Hansen’s – this is my absolute favorite cake in the world. I think we’ve been ordering this cake for close to 40 years. It’s marble cake with chocolate chip filling and white icing. Here’s the link to their site if you’d like to drool: https://www.hansencakesbakery.com/ To be honest, I started on the cake last night. But I was well within my rights… Why? Because I was born on the first night of Passover. So according to the Jewish calendar, my birthday was yesterday. Hence the eating of the cake. Which was not Passover-friendly. Here’s what it looked like before I cut into it:

For those of you who are unaware, QWNBEE is my license plate. It is my mother’s nickname for me – she usually just calls me Bee. If she calls me Jill, it’s because I’m in trouble. So now you know.

It’s almost noon now so I’m going to wrap up this post – it’s almost time for lunch and I bet you can guess what I’ll be having… But before I go, here’s a PSA on following my blog – when you go onto the site, there should be a little pop-up in the lower right corner that says “Follow.” If you enter your email, you will receive notification when I post something. Or you can bookmark the site. Or not.

“What is a weekend?”

For those of you who were fans of Downton Abbey, “What is a ‘weekend?'” was one of the best lines uttered by Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham (played brilliantly by Dame Maggie Smith). For someone whose days were spent having tea, writing letters, taking a turn about the grounds and dressing for dinner, Violet had no idea of what a weekend was. Here’s a clip I found on You Tube:

So why am I referencing this quote on today’s post? Because I have become Violet. I have completely lost track of the days and therefore weekends have become irrelevant. While I’m certainly not dressing for dinner, I do have lots of time to do things like drink tea, write my blog, and run on the treadmill. And now that I think about it, I did wear gloves when I was grocery shopping the other week. Not the glamorous long gloves that the ladies of Downton wear but gloves nonetheless.

But here’s what’s interesting… I find that even though I’m doing very little, I still like to have a schedule. Here’s today’s schedule:

  • Wake up – 6:30am
  • Walk Juno – 6:35am – 7:20am
  • Breakfast/News/Email – 7:30am
  • Brush teeth/Get Dressed – 9:30am
  • Run Errands – 10:30am – 12:30pm
  • Lunch/Email – 1:00pm
  • Start Bread – 2:00pm
  • General Nonsense – 2:30 – 5:00pm
  • Bake Bread – 5:00pm
  • Walk Juno – 6:00pm
  • Dinner/News – 6:30pm
  • Nightly Activities (movie/TV/phone calls) – 7:00pm
  • Bedtime – 10:00pm

Mind you, this isn’t my schedule every day. Sometimes I don’t run errands which means no getting dressed and possibly no teeth brushing. And sometimes General Nonsense starts earlier in the day. Sometimes I substitute puzzles in for baking bread. Last night I called an audible and made birthday brownies for Yas, one of my colleagues at PavĂ©.

When you have lost track of the days, I find that having some kind of schedule to be helpful. Quick shout-out to my friend Priya who has been doing livestream cooking classes on Saturday morning the last couple of weeks. There is a fee but all the money is being donated to a worthy cause. Added bonus – it’s something to put on the schedule. Plus she’s an amazing cook and now I’m learning all her secrets…

In terms of other accomplishments over the last couple of days, I completed another jigsaw puzzle. This time it was candy wrappers. And again, there were several candies that were unknown to me… Curly Wurly? 3 Chubbies? Candy Dogs? And an unfortunate candy called Plopp.

I need to space out my puzzles. What I like about doing puzzles is that I do them on the island in my kitchen. This means I stand the entire time. This is a good thing. Sitting for hours is no bueno. I think my next post will be about home fitness. Either that or the Netflix show Tiger King. (Side note: I am VERY worried that COVID-19 has been found in one of the tigers at The Bronx Zoo.)

Oh! And if anyone from General Mills read my previous post, I wouldn’t say no to an early delivery of the Halloween trifecta. Count Chocula, Boo Berry and Franken Berry. That would definitely make my day. I would do a whole post about Halloween cereal, which I think is even better than Halloween candy!

And speaking of Franken Berry, I’d like to end this post with something else that I find troubling, outside of the tigers getting sick… the real Frankenstein. Frankenstein was NOT the monster, Victor Frankenstein was the scientist who created the monster. Yet, Frankenstein has always been thought of as the creature with the big head, ragged scars and bolts coming out of his neck. Normally I’d don’t have time to think about Frankenstein and his creature but today, I allowed myself 2.5 hours to engage in General Nonsense. And this is the result.