Can you believe that it’s been more than a year of this pandemic? I certainly can’t believe it, but the calendar tells me that it’s true. March 7, 2021 marked our household’s one-year pandemic anniversary, and while my original intent was to write this post then, I decided to hold off until we could start returning to life that felt a bit more normal just to get everything (or so I hoped!) into this post.
And, luckily, Sergio and I joined the fully-vaccinated club in mid-May (thank you, science and Moderna!). So this blog post, like the first six months, is a way to document all of the pandemic things to remember them when this time has passed. I find that my memory fails at times when I think back to experiences a decade ago so these are the stories I want to capture for posterity!
Missed the first pandemic post? Here’s the blog about our first six months at home.
But without further ado, here’s a little bit of what’s been happening in our house since October!
The biggest winner of this pandemic? My stomach! We’ve continued to try new recipes and perfect our favorites. Sergio has started to make homemade Indian food, and his naan is out-of-this-world delicious! We’re still cooking almost every day (but trying to make bigger batches or freezing some of what we cook), and only recently did we start ordering some takeout. Last week was our first time at an actual restaurant since last March! But I’ll share more about post-immunity life in another post.
Last time I shared a few of our favorite new recipes, so I’ll do the same this time in case you’re looking for something new. We love finding new recipes online and we’re also big fans of the Eating Well magazine:
- Spaghetti Squash “Nests” (easy to make, reheats well)
- Pan-Seared Snapper (we use rockfish, which is always in-season in the Northwest)
- Indian-Inspired Shepherd’s Pie (we double the meat; it freezes well)
- Homemade Galette (top it how you’d top a pizza, and yes, the crust is delish)
- One-Pan Moroccan Chicken with Orzo (easy breezy)
- Gnocchi with Homemade Pea Pesto (freeze the sauce in one-cup portions and you have lunch in less than 10 minutes)
- Roasted Carrots and Mushrooms with Green Sauce (our new favorite side-dish)
- Bananas Foster Upside-Down Cake (my personal favorite — I double the rum!)
- Pumpkin Coffee Cake (perfect for a family gathering)
- Easy Chocolate Strudel (four ingredients, including store-bought pastry dough, and can be made vegan!)
Sergio has also taken up bread-making — it’s pretty impressive! Look at the crumb structure (I don’t actually know what that means, but he gets excited and tells me to do it, so here we are).
In general, celebrations have felt a bit muted this year. I’m not of the mind that everything needs to be big, bold, and beautiful, but it does feel odd to have missed out on seeing both of our extended families for such a long time. Instead of focusing on what lacks, this pandemic has helped me deepen my gratitude for what is.
First up this fall was my birthday — and we had dinner at home, including my brother’s delicious lemon cake, which is fast becoming a family favorite. My surprise favorite gift was my bath pillow. I’ve taken to having a bath every night to wind down before bed and this inflatable pillow has made it that much more relaxing.
We spent Thanksgiving and Christmas with my family — lots of homemade food, including homemade cranberries and a turkey smoked by my brother. I also made homemade brownies and Sergio made his now-famous homemade truffles! We had roast pork for Christmas and it was far better than ham!
Also we didn’t sent out Christmas cards this year. I feel half-bad but half-great about this.
We also had a lovely Christmas Eve together and we are continuing our tradition of Jólabókaflóo, or Yule Book Flood. Celebrated in Iceland, you give each other books for Christmas Eve and then spend the day reading. Does that sound ideal? It did to us as well! Actually, this is my perfect version of Christmas Eve — the two of us and the cat in our comfy-pants.
New Year’s Eve was also a very quiet affair — in this case, just the two of us at home. I made an appetizer spread and we barely made it to midnight! It was lovely to wave good-bye to 2020 and hope for a better 2021.
Then in February, Ashly and I turned five! It’s hard to believe that we have been Big and Little for five years now, but it’s been such a fun time. She’s 16 and now a licensed driver(!) and just about to finish her sophomore year of high school. I’m so proud of who she has become and how she continues to grow and challenge herself. Now that we’re both fully vaccinated we are looking forward to more sister time this summer!
And then on February 27th, Miss Astrix turned 15! We love this little wild woman, cranky as she is these days. She’s really enjoyed having us home all the time (we think), mainly because we will let her out on the deck and back in again as much as she desires. She has discovered new favorite snacks and napping spots, and she’s also a Meowdel for Posh Pet Creations! She’s also a fan of her new “TV” (birdfeeder) and has taken to switching between her three favorite chairs throughout the day for naps.
We’ve also had the chance to spend non-holiday time with my family. In December, Mom and I signed up for an online paper-cutting class, something neither of us had done before. It was a lot more fun than I thought it would be, especially the free-cutting exercises.
We had a great chocolate-tasting in the winter too. One of my coaching clients sent me a box of lovely chocolates and we took turns trying them and rating them (we couldn’t pick a clear favorite!). Sometimes we break out a board game, or Dad and Sergio will play guitar/ukelele and Mom and I will start on a puzzle. These weekly family dinners were a godsend in the winter when it was always dark and we were inside and alone.
The other big news? My parents GOT KITTENS! They were teeny tiny when they first got them (they were probably 7 weeks old) and already they are growing into the awkward teenager kitten phase. They are super-active and adorable. Lily is the ringleader and troublemaker. She is bold and brave and has a white nose. Violet is a little more loving, the better eater, and she has the best purr, and a little dot on her back foot. They are super-cute little monsters.
Yes, I’d love to get kittens. But we’ve asked Astrix and it’s still a firm no ;)
Speaking of Astrix, this cat is Majestic AF. She’s loving quarantine life with the two of us always in the house, she’s meowdeling her bandanas like a champ, and we’ve discovered liquid cat snack food and she’s loving that too.
She’s also started coming in to wake me up in the morning and get some extra love (on her own terms, of course) during the workday. Now that the days are longer, the sun hits the office in the afternoon and she’ll meow until you open the shades for her sunning pleasure.
We had some problems in the fall with her eyes. I noticed that they were tearing much more than usual — sometimes it’s a mild infection, but this was different. Then we learned that she needed (for lack of a better word) a cat eyelift! Animal eyelids can lose elasticity as they age and roll inwards, scratching the eye. Unfortunately that meant two eye surgeries, two rounds of the Cone of Shame, and relearning basic behaviors, like how to drink without dumping the whole contents of the water bowl on the hardwood.
One of the funniest parts of the experience was how she turns into a Wild Woman in the car. Because of COVID we can’t go into the office for appointments or operations, and she gets really antsy in the carrier so Fur Dad lets her out and this happens…
I mean, how can you not love her?
I know. Some of you don’t love her. She’s not the most huggable cat to most people, but that’s just the Nebelung cat — fiercely loving of a few, indifferent to some, and hissy to the rest.
Kind of like me.
Something I’m really proud of from this pandemic is my commitment to fitness. In fact, I’ve worked out every single day since our first day home (457 days and counting). Some days are easier workouts (like rebounding or walking or yoga) and other days are more intense (cardio dance, weights, or barre). I continue to find lots of fun and free workouts on YouTube and I’m thankful for our basement gym.
I’ve had some other health struggles recently (you can read all about it here) so I’ve also been working on staying active even if it’s not a workout. While the steroids have helped my body heal it has meant some undesired weight gain — and sitting around at home for work isn’t helping! I was a little bit late to the party but I purchased a walking treadmill for the office, and now that the weather is much nicer, Sergio and I try to go for a 2–3 after-dinner walk a few days a week.
I also celebrated one year of teaching Barre With Sarah! I never expected I would teach barre every week (often multiple times a week) online, let alone for a year, but it happened! I’ve learned so much from this experience and it’s fun to watch my earliest videos to see how much I’ve improved. I’m on a hiatus at present to make sure that I’m fully healthy again, but I’ve signed up for two more certification classes (one in June, one in July) so I’ll be back on the channel this summer with some more intense workouts!
This commitment to fitness has helped me keep my anxiety in a good place — in fact, I think my anxiety has not been this stable ever — and has greatly helped with my insomnia. It’s also helping me address some of my body-image issues — something I hope to focus on in the second half of this year.
While I know that this pandemic has been challenging for extroverts, this introvert is in paradise! I’ve had the chance to work on a whole host of hobbies, including Lego, puzzles, diamond painting, piano, and, most of all, reading!
It’s been a blockbuster book year (78 books and counting — yes, really!) and I’ve enjoyed writing a monthly book blog to sum up my favorites (here is the most recent installment from May). I’ve been a bit slower with my Read the World Challenge because I’ve had many false-starts. But I have had great luck with some re-reads as I ensure that every book on my shelf deserves its place! I’ve also made the commitment to stop ordering books from Amazon and buy them from independent bookstores (Powells in Portland is still my go-to). Because I always have books to read, two-day shipping is completely unnecessary — and having extra time to think means that I can consider my priorities before making purchases!
I’ve kept up with piano as best as I can. I go through piano highs and lows, to be honest, but it’s always available for me when I need it (and occasionally I post videos). One of my former teammates introduced me to “diamond paining,” the process of sticking one million tiny dots to a sticky canvas to create a pattern. It doesn’t take much skill other than not spilling those damn dots everywhere, but I find it quite soothing. I might have ordered a few more, but they are in reserve for the winter!
I’ve also spent a fair amount of time working on my German language learning through DuoLingo and my new favorite YouTube channel, Learn German With Anja! German has been much tougher than Spanish or French to pick up, but in the last month or so I’ve had another breakthrough of sorts, mostly related to sentence structure. Even though English is a Germanic language, I find it to be less intuitive than I would have hoped. Anja’s videos have helped me understand some new basics — I just finished her A1 series and will start the A2 series this week! Now that we’re vaccinated we’ve been talking about what “big trip” we’d like to take once we can return to Europe, and you know Germany is always at the top of my list (or Poland… or Latvia and Lithuania… or… well, you get the picture).
And when May finally arrived we started working in the garden in earnest! Every year I plant a few containers of flowers in the front of the yard where Sergio does all of the herbs, fruits, and vegetables — he’s becoming a regular farmer!
The real harvest won’t start in earnest for another month or two, but we’re already getting herbs, kale, and lettuces!
Speaking of mini-trips, we did one! This March we took a long weekend to visit Sequim on the Olympic Peninsula. We knew we could spend most of our time reading inside if the weather was poor, but we had hoped for enough sun to try a few easy hikes, if possible.
We rented a super-cute (and very Christian) house on VRBO (literally all of the wall hangings had Biblical sayings) but it was quiet and very clean. We indulged in takeout a few times (this was March, before Washington State opened any restaurants), read books, and went on two short walk-hikes. We had masks for both because they were somewhat crowded… and I can tell you I did NOT like mask hiking. But because this was pre-vax, we did it.
We also went cider-tasting near Port Angeles. Our favorite cidery, Alpenfire, was closed (sad trombone), but we did another one anyway.
This trip was a nice break from our house, but it certainly made us miss traveling that much more. As we took the ferry back across the Sound, I started daydreaming again…
I have to admit that this last little section is my favorite because what we’ve most enjoyed about this pandemic is the chance to spend extra time with one another. We‘ve developed even more weird inside jokes, and yes, that’s possible.
I’m thankful that work has been so steady, a rock in an ever-changing world. Our office opened for optional attendance in late April, but since we just got our immunity recently we haven’t been in to try it yet. I went and picked up my boxes of stuff (mainly books and classroom materials) that are now piled in our basement.
Oh yes — and I got a new job! I’m still at The Company but moved from a role in the Learning and Development team to a role in the HR team. The work is pretty similar — working with leaders, teams, and organizations — but the organization itself is quite different, thus my desire to learn HR (and yes, I read that whole textbook). I’m thankful to still be with the #bestbossever and to have such lovely colleagues. We will likely return to in-person work this fall, but it sounds like we have the option to work part-time from home and part-time from the office. And I’m thankful that I’m still able to keep coaching some of my executives — working with them and supporting them in their development is the best part of my job. I’m learning so much and thinking about what might be next for me — so stay tuned!
I also took the plunge and got braces… AGAIN! I wore them from 6th-9th grade, but my orthodontist lied to me and said I could stop wearing my retainer after 10 years, so I did.
And my teeth went back.
I just finished the seven-month “active” phase of Invisalign and now am wearing “retainers” (which are basically the same as Invisalign) until August at which point I get to switch to nighttime wear only. I’m happy I did it — and since I had a mask on most of the time, who knew? I can also promise you that my teeth have never been this clean in my entire life.
I also went red this winter to spice it up a little! Our hairstylist Jackie retired so we’ve started with new stylists, but I am glad for my last few visits with her and for her kindness and care all of these years.
If you’re anything like us, you love getting your mail these days, and it’s extra special when your #safl sends you her SHRM workbook and flashcards and throws in a puzzle because she’s awesome… or your sweet colleague from Brazil mails you special Brazilian chocolate! I got to return the favor with not one, not two, but THREE baby gifts for current and former coworkers who are having babies in June and July — and let me tell you, there are so many cute baby outfits to choose from these days!
We also very unexpectedly said goodbye to Sergio’s car, Smokey. I took a week off of work to stay home and relax and decided to take care of some of our outstanding errands, including an oil change… at which point we learned that the work needed on Smokey was far, far beyond the value of the car. Very unexpectedly we were car shopping that same afternoon!
Of the many things that Sergio and I have in common one of those I am most thankful for is our similar approaches to money. We both prefer to buy used cars, and while we would like nice, reliable cars, we’d rather go to Europe than buy something fancy or something that will lose 20% of its value as soon as you drive it off of the lot. And we knew it was time to start switching away from gas-powered cars, so we did what I thought we’d never do — we bought a used Leaf! Thankfully this Leaf is much less ugly than the previous generation, so now Ohmette has joined the family.
I wanted to name her Silversword. I lost.
We were snowed-in for six days this February — but luckily we had power, food, and water, and it’s not like we had anywhere else to go. I love the way snow looks in Seattle.
Did I watch cars try to make it up the hill and laugh? You better believe I did.
And let me finish this section of fun random pictures with this — I’m tired. We’re tired. This freakin’ pandemic has gone on forever. There are so many days that are all the same and even all of my personal pep talks aren’t enough sometimes. Sometimes you just need a couch nap to forget what’s happening so you can get up and try again.
We are so thankful for our health and our home and for the safety of our families and friends. It could have been a lot worse. MUCH, MUCH worse. Washington State has been rather conservative when it comes to re-opening, which aligns with our personal values. However, there is no winning in this situation, because a slower re-opening means that small businesses suffer, children struggle, and unemployment continues for many around us.
Thankfully, we were able to get our first vaccine on April 16th, the second day for most adults in our state, and then our second shot four weeks later on May 14th. We are incredibly grateful to everyone who made that happen and for how efficient and well-run the clinic was at the Kaiser clinic near our house. It’s absolutely wild that we got our vaccines 15 months after this started and we are grateful for the technology that allowed that to happen. Sergio had mild side effects both times; other than some arm pain, I felt fine!
I have to remind myself pretty regularly now that “You can relax — you’re vaxxed!” We still follow local mask rules in stores because we believe in setting a good example — and if wearing a mask helps people who work there feel safer, we’re open to that too. I imagine that these mandates will start to lift later in the summer, given that Washington State has reached almost 50% of the population fully-vaccinated, and in King County we’re approaching 70%! It makes me proud to live in a place where people are caring for those around them, especially those people who are unable to be vaccinated yet, including kids younger than 12 and the immunocompromised.
So — that’s that! I’m looking forward to sharing some more regular life updates as our life gets… more regular again (we hope). And wherever you are, remember — be safe, take care of yourself and those around you, and get the vaccine!
P.S. I mean, you know this happened as soon as we had our Immunity Day. I’ll be back next week to tell you all about it our first post-vax trip and give you some new travel tips for this current version of normal!