Tuesday, 4 May 2021

The Road To Normal

Things are rapidly changing in California now that counties like ours have inched past 80% vaccination in the 16+ age group. People (mostly boomers who are finished their second doses) are out on the streets, or sitting at outdoor cafes looking like they are with someone from outside their household and it's safe for them to do that - wow! Our numbers are down into very low digits for daily new cases. The CDC just announced that fully vaccinated adults don't need to mask outdoors anymore, unless they are in a crowd. It's so different to see that same group of seniors who were our most dedicated maskers now smiling and unmasked. In a couple of weeks we'll be far enough past our second shots to join the outdoor group getting rid of the 'ol masks tan lines (OK I don't tan but apparently mask tan lines were a thing). 

We went on a road trip to visit Joshua Tree National Park a few weeks ago and were invited to visit dear friends in Palm Springs on the way. In their pod, most are fully vaccinated and one person just partially vaccinated. Meanwhile we were partially vaccinated and kids are not vaccinated. It was tricky to navigate but we read a bunch of articles with epidemiologists laying out safe scenarios and we followed these new protocols. Despite the careful planning, it felt like a natural homecoming and a bit surreal. Just seeing our friend's faces and having a family catch-up. What a dream. 

Our next challenge for our pod all getting vaccinated is, how do we open up and with whom and how fast? We've had a lot of discussions so far. I think our priority is to each choose 2 families with fully vaccinated adults we would like to reconnect with and just stay at that level of open-ness for awhile. Keep kids masking and stay outdoors but it's a huge step toward being social again. There are things our group is definitely not going to do yet like eating inside a restaurant or going to an indoor gym. Apparently Dr Fauci is saying he also is not doing those things so we're not that unusual I think. 

Saturday, 20 February 2021

The Numbers and The News

It's getting better. I'm sharing the Marin County (pop 250,000) COVID-19 stats -- 17% at least partially vaccinated now! Cases in care homes are now almost nil after their vaccine drive. Marin is moving from the the most restrictive tier ahead of most of the rest of the state. 

In the wake of the new variants arriving in the US and having an administration now giving more timely advice, masks are stepping up a notch much like what's happening in Europe. The phenomenon of double masking has emerged and also, for those who have them, the emergence of N95 and KN95 masks in daily use. Almost everyone we see walking around has leveled up in the mask department. Generally I stick to the cloth mask for running and walking outside and double up for a run into a store and reserve my one coveted N95 for visiting a clinic. Kids masks are also leveling up. I have small KN95 masks that fit the boys well enough to replace their cloth ones for a Drs visit. It's been good to see the CDC and all the medical journals all on the same page finally. 

source: https://wexnermedical.osu.edu/blog/should-we-be-double-masking-now

In the news, headlines like 

White House says teacher vaccinations are 'not a requirement to reopen' schools

have reopened bitter resentment between teacher's unions and local parents and government. San Francisco is suing it's own school board in a case that's as ugly as that sounds. Some parents are picketing school boards with signs demanding an end to distance education while others are behind the unions demanding that teachers be put into the vaccine priority ahead of retired adults who can shelter in place at home a little longer. Other parents (more like us) are just staying out of the whole thing and planning to enroll next fall when everyone has had a chance to protect themselves as best they can. 

Sunday, 24 January 2021

The After Times

It's hard to describe the feeling of living here post inauguration. We got to the end of the week on Friday and no one had a drink in their hand, because just juggling work and kids and the usual stress of the Pandemic hadn't worn us down quite the same way as it did during the T**** era. I don't expect the harm to be erased, or the fights to be over, but knowing that functional adults are back in charge is incredibly good news. Just that look of glee on Fauci's face when he addressed the press spoke more to the people than any words could say. Help is here. It will get better. 

Tuesday, 5 January 2021

New Year Wishes

I can't really make a resolution. 2020 is still lying on the floor laughing at my list from last year. On the 31st we wrote on wish paper, lit it and watched it rise off the table and fall in floating grey ash clouds. 

What I hope happens this year is that we get enough vaccinations out there that our front line workers are safe and the deaths in care homes from COVID end. I feel somewhat confident that by Summer time we could see case rates fall to levels low enough to risk a road trip back to Canada with extreme measures of course, renting an RV to corral the kids, and quarantine at each end. We *could* be reunited with family as soon as June if things go even better than planned. I feel fairly confident that the kids will return to some kind of school in person in the fall of 2021. 

I don't think we'll really truly take a family holiday till Summer 2022. Our dreams of returning to France or doing a trip to Northern England, Scotland and Ireland might be possible then. Or what about getting back to Asia... 

We wonder what world travel might be like then. Will EVERYONE be suddenly taking the trip of a lifetime just because now they can? Will the usual haunts be so crowded that it's all like the Louvre in August or will people step out cautiously... maybe the financial ruin of the pandemic will still hinder most from taking the risk. 

I do feel wildly optimistic about one thing, 2021 has got to be better than 2020. To that I raise a toast, may we meet in person some day not too far off and HUG. Seriously, think about it. Hugging. 

Tuesday, 8 December 2020

Friendships and the Pod Evolution

It's been a hard year for relationships with people. Some friendships are the same as ever because we always had long pauses. We chat online and check in like it's no big deal. Other friendships have almost faded out without the frequent in person meetings. 

The pod thing is like playing "who would you want to be marooned on a desert island with?" only you really do it. There was no way to include all our close friends here and I really felt that the decision of who to quarantine with with came from being in lockstep with another family in our circle. When people ask how we decided I have to really think about it. Basically just before the whole world went crazy we were on a ski trip with a family we had become quite close with over the past couple of years. Their two kids were the same age as ours and the two younger as well as the two older were already best buds and classmates. The 8 of us found we traveled really comfortably together and while on that trip we plotted how we might team up if/when America locked down like Asia was doing at that moment. 

And so, when the lockdown began we rode out the first couple of months in isolation and then, the moment the local county said that we could, we podded up. It took a few weeks to hit our stride but eventually we began to live communally. Taking turns cooking and hosting dinner in the evenings, and eventually, putting all the kids to bed together almost every night which oddly enough makes bedtime easier. We spend the evenings with cocktails and games or sometimes just sitting on our phones in that comfortable silence between good friends. 

The key to happiness in a communal living pod like ours doesn't lie only in friendship but also in how  people cope with the pandemic stress. I'd say most people would probably find our habits pretty hard to roll with. Because we have two members with high levels of health risk, we are at the highest level of lock down measures all the time. We all have 0 direct contact outside the pod. Everyone works from home, kids homeschool and we only go inside a business if we have exhausted every other means of getting that item. It's something that might happen once a month and undertaken with the solemnity of performing surgery. We don't grocery shop in person, we don't eat on cafe patios, use public restrooms or take public transit or taxis. 

We're also all news junkies and among us we cover a mix of British, Canadian, French, Singaporean and American news. We read a lot of scientific papers and have been focused on the impressive research going on. It's helped keep the focus away from the scary headlines and on the progress instead. I find being focused on the goal of ending this pandemic to be very centering. Some people find the news keeps them up at night and makes them upset. To each their own. I think part of me would be happier if I could somehow be a scientist right now pulling long shifts trying to save lives. I've always been good in a crisis, not so good at riding out monotony.

In the autumn we added a third family. This was is another classmate of the older two kids and her parents who are part of our mutual parent friends as well. They were also keeping their daughter home when school resumed and maintaining a similar level of lockdown at home so it was a good fit for us all. 

We know we are fortunate to have found a pod life that feels right for this adventure we are on. Where this will go or where it will end, we don't know. But I hope when we look back we'll see the growth that happened. 

Thursday, 5 November 2020

The Election That Xanax Won

Usually elections are like a sports match here. Lots of parties, food, drinking, banter. The outcome matters but it won't end a friendship or a marriage. But the past five years have been different. We've seen the viterol of Fox news crazed white baby boomers tear families apart. Nearly every friend has some crazy uncle or parent who has adopted a level brazen racism that just doesn't seem real. The trend of anti-intellectualism was examined during the Bush years and much laughed about on late night TV, but I don't think anyone thought the cult of being uneducated could grow like this in a country with such value placed on innovation and growth. 

So here we are. Day two of ballot counting. Trump very close to being out of the game but too close to call yet. Children are in cages. White supremacists are parading around with impunity beating up POC, basic women's rights are at risk of being stripped back to the 1950s. It shouldn't be a tough decision. 


Friday, 30 October 2020

Dinner in the dark and turning 40

I was unsure of how to celebrate Joel's 40th or my own this past month and as mine drew closer, I felt a little pressure to figure that out. It's supposed to be a big day, it's supposed to be momentous. Finally we landed on the idea of Joel cooking one of his epic feasts out of two of our Ottolenghi cookbooks and I searched for the most ridiculous show-stopper of a Birthday cake I could find. We invited our pod and Joel spent the week preparing and receiving mysterious packages. Then we were given notice of extreme fire weather over the weekend and told the power would be cut for 24 hours starting during our planned dinner. We changed nothing but checked the batteries in the LED candles and lanterns and made sure the 2000 watt power inverter was set up beside the car and there were extension cords spread around the house to the fridge and freezer so we could be on back-up power in about 10 minutes when needed. When the day arrived the dinner was absolutely perfect, I'm going to share some pictures. The power went out as we finished the final courses and we cheered and made espresso by the flickering light of a lantern hanging in the cozy kitchen. 

Grilled Grapes with Mozzarella

Beet, orange and feta salad

Curried lentil, tomato, coconut soup

Palette cleanser: home made vodka lemon sorbet with champagne

Tri tip

Roast cauliflower

Baked home made gnocci

Asparagus with almonds, capers and dill

Roast eggplant with sesame, and sauteed shallots

We began with one of my favorite chardonnays sent by my parents

At the meat course this big peppery Cab Sauv came out

Dessert was a St Honore, butter puff pastry crust with Italian pastry cream filling; layered with sponge cake brushed with rum; decorated with chocolate and fresh whipped cream and pastry cream-filled caramelized cream puffs.

We also had a tray of assorted italian cookies by the same pastry shop


Sunday, 18 October 2020


Since it's the week of reflecting on being thankful, here is my big over-arching thing I am thankful for. What a gift it has been to be located here during the lockdown. We've had 7 months of blue skies almost every single day (except for the smoky time). And so much room to run, hike and lounge outdoors. I run or walk alone every day and Joel runs or takes a bike ride on the roads or mountain bike trails. It keeps us positive, no matter what is going on out there. 

Thanksgiving of course was not the same this year. We didn't have a sit down dinner for 40 in the back yard or guests arriving from all over the place, cooking and baking here for days beforehand. That whole festival of food will be a happy memory from the past for a while yet. 

This year we decided not to try to make it like anything else we've ever done. We skipped traditions and our pod of three families gathered here. We had a loose theme around a British pub night. Everyone brought beer and we ordered curry for the adults and the kids had steak and ale pie and chips. I made an apple pie and the kids all went to bed leaving the adults to sit out under the twinkle lights and patio heater and enjoy ourselves. 

Friday, 2 October 2020

Glass Fire and Red Flags

A screen grab from the San Francisco Chronicle this morning of the damage to one of the huge wineries destroyed this week by the Glass Fire. 

We had a lovely three weeks or so of our "normal" September weather. Skies in the deep blue that you only see along this part of the globe. The mornings were a little cooler and evenings filled with crickets and frogs in symphony. Days for lounging in temps around 30c. Perfect for sipping rosé and BBQing. 

We'd cleaned the soot from all our outdoor decks and washed all the cushions and hammocks. But as we feared that didn't last. Fire season resumed with a new fire exploding in wine country just an hour North of us. *Just* before that began we had word that our wine order had shipped from Terra Valentine but it's not here so we're a little worried one of our favorite places might be evacuated too. 

Marin is on high alert with a red flag warning this week too. No one is allowed to use power tools outside or use many of the roads through the parks and lots of parks are just closed. Red flags are something we're pretty used to having whenever the humidity and wind gets to the danger point. I hope that they don't need to cut our power but if there's any high wind this week, we fully support them shutting down the grid. We have a generator and are equipped to just carry on. 

Living anywhere on the planet is going to subject you to climate emergencies at some point now. We're gutted that all the most spectacular places we have been are going to be first on the chopping block it seems. 

Saturday, 19 September 2020

Then The Sky Turned Orange

 One couldn't really blog 2020 in the Bay Area without marking that day the freaking sky turned orange. But it did and we were socked in along with the entire coast all the way up into Northern BC. 

But that dreadful week passed in a dim post apocalyptic light and then the wind cleared all the air and we are back to beautiful clear Summer again. Joel and I are happy to be back to our trail runs at sunset.