Around the time I went into solo quarantine, I discovered Ina Garten and Nigella Lawson were sharing easy recipes on Instagram. I would drool over the artsy photographs of plates of rich, creamy pasta, fudgy brownies, and loaves of crusty bread and platters of cheese…but that’s as far as I could go. It’s not that I’m dieting or don’t have flour, rice, and pasta in the pantry, I do; it’s just that my body doesn’t do well with lovely carbohydrates, especially bread.
What a pain to be quarantined with most of the necessary ingredients to make amazing dishes and end up eating tuna fish salad and lentil soup, which are good, but not what my taste buds are craving. And I love to cook and bake!
The constant search for recipes did me in–I gave in. Over the weekend, I made Sour Cream and Mixed Berry Muffins, courtesy of Jessica Sheehan, a chef and cookbook author on Instagram. Her recipe was super easy, and my God, they were amazing right out of the oven with a pat of butter. I was in heaven. But jeez, did I pay for it this morning with a slight headache, swollen neck glands, and stomach cramps. Not worth the pain.
Over the years, I’ve been forced to give up Doritos, salt, ice cream, Cheez-Its, whole milk, pasta, cakes, raw peppers and tomatoes, and recently, bread. Ugh, what’s next? And I bought a crepe pan last month, which I may try out just for the hell of it followed by a bunch of Tums.
So, while most people in quarantine are discovering or rediscovering a passion for cooking and baking (I’m happy for you, honest!), I’m doing a week of detox. I’ll return to basics with green juice, frozen fruit smoothies, celery juice, and jars of bone broth. And lots of coffee and tea for me with Cremora.
Those of you complaining you’re gaining weight in quarantine won’t get any much sympathy from me, smile. Enjoy that batch of gooey brownies with a large glass of ice-cold milk. I’ll toast you with my celery stick. The good part of eating right, whether you want to or not, is that I will fit into my new bathing suit soon. God willing, our trip to Puerto Rico (originally scheduled for 1-15 April) happens this summer or in the fall, or for Christmas or the new year. It’s nuts to think we can’t plan a summer vacation at this time. Strange times.
What got me through a mentally challenging weekend was looking at real estate properties in Puerto Rico. What better way to live through the coronavirus plague than with an ocean view or a walk along the beach. Pure heaven.
Be well, stay healthy. Thank you to all our doctors, nurses, lab techs, and front line workers, I love you all.
Don’t lose hope and be calm. This too shall pass. We will hug our loved ones again and we will be joyful, hopeful again. I only pray Americans come out of this challenging time in history with more wisdom and compassion, and that we all vote blue in November. Ache and amen.
Puerto Rican-born Eleanor Parker Sapia is the author of the multi-award-winning, debut novel, A DECENT WOMAN, set in 1900 Puerto Rico, published by Winter Goose Publishing. Eleanor is featured in the anthology, Latina Authors and Their Muses. Eleanor currently lives in Berkeley County, West Virginia, where she is in quarantine and working on her second novel, THE LAMENTS, set in 1927 Puerto Rico. Her children are out in the world doing amazing things.
Although I wish it were warmer than a brisk 42 degrees this morning, the sun is shining. The lilac bushes are in full bloom and the vegetable and herb seedlings in my living room are standing strong like little toy soldiers. Next week’s weather forecasts promise temperatures in the mid-to-high 60s. I’m anxious to plant the seedlings in the garden plot and in the three-tier wooden planter I ordered from Lowe’s, but surprise snowfalls are common in my neck of the woods until Mother’s Day. So, I’ll enjoy the lilacs, peonies, grape hyacinths, and daffodils in my flower gardens while I wait for consistent, good weather. I will also continue searching for the cortisone cream to relieve my annual bout of poison ivy. Fun.
Other than making online donations, I wish I could adequately express my thanks and gratefulness to the brave souls on the front line of this pandemic, all heroes. We, the American people, can never thank them enough for keeping us safe and healthy, fed and sane. If I ran the world, I’d pay each front line worker crazy amounts of hazard pay and pay them retroactively until we are safely out of the woods. I shudder to think where we would be without them. My local heroes are the trash collectors, the Fed Ex and UPS drivers, and my postal carriers. The best thank you at this time is for us to stay home and practice safe distancing if we can. I will continue to stay home.
Despite reading about a Harvard study that predicts we could be dealing with periods of quarantine until 2022, which seems both unbelievable and totally believable, I felt tentatively hopeful this morning. I can’t think that far into the future; my brain won’t allow it. It’s a day-to-day, new normal type of struggle for me. Although my routine often feels out of whack and forced, the early days of fear and despair, of feeling numb and experiencing immense sadness over the suffering around the world, and missing my children, are thankfully fewer and not as acute. But when I feel happy, I immediately feel guilty for being happy. Welcome to the new world.
I suppose it’s true we play head games with ourselves to get through traumatic situations, and maybe ‘faking it ’til you make it’ can help. On days when I don’t feel particularly happy (blessed, always), I acknowledge my feelings, write my Morning Pages or a blog post, work on my WIP, and I start a project, any project. Yesterday I cleaned out my medicine chest and bathroom cabinets. Tomorrow I might tackle the under the kitchen sink nightmare…yuck.
Some days (particularly on rainy, gray days), it’s more difficult to reach inside and pull out happy thoughts and memories, but I try. Thoughts of my children, family vacations of the past, and videos of frolicking baby goats really help. Whatever floats your boat, right? Oh, and food videos. They always do the trick.
And speaking of food, my crêpe pan and beechwood crêpe spreaders arrived yesterday! I’m off to check out recipes for sweet crepes and savory galettes. On Sunday, I watched beautiful Salma Hayek’s fun video for making no-bake chocolate bites with nuts (she is one of two celebrities I follow on Instagram). I found a bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips and a bag of hazelnuts from Christmas pre-COVID in my pantry and done. They taste amazing and perfectly satisfy my major chocolate cravings.
Well, I have yet to receive my stimulus check. We shall see. This morning I learned about Trump and his insane pulling of funding for the World Health Organization (WHO) during a global pandemic. I can’t stand it. It’s pure insanity. I’m super grateful I don’t live in the states whose Governors refuse to put a state-wide, stay-at-home order in place. What the hell is the Governor of South Dakota thinking? The depth of ignorance, short-sightedness, and stupidity in some people is mind-boggling. What doesn’t she understand? Doesn’t she care about her constituents? Okay, I’m not going there today. Not today, Satan, stand six feet back.
April 16, 2020
I’ve been a history buff as long as I can remember. As a kid, I read the encyclopedia for fun, so it should come as no surprise I write historical fiction novels and I love doing research. Before I began to write full-time, I was an exhibiting painter. My passion was rendering realistic portraits in pastel and watercolor (an unforgiving medium for portrait painting; actually, any painting). Clearly, I don’t do things the easy way, but I am tenacious.
In late February 2020, my son, who lives and works in Bangkok, urged me to pay full attention to worrying news out of mainland China. I listened and began preparing myself and my pantry for an epidemic. My blood pressure went up, but I prepared nonetheless. Remember the classic book “Who Moved My Cheese?” by Dr. Spencer Johnson? It’s a wise little story about the two mice named Hem and Haw, who are faced with a disappearing cheese supply. Well, I remembered it and recognized COVID-19 had moved the damn cheese in a dramatic way like only a global pandemic can. I became the curious, forward-thinking Haw, who paid attention, didn’t hesitate, and acted. I embraced (maybe accepted is more accurate here) and began thinking of ways to deal with the coming changes in emotional and physical ways. I recognized that adapting would be crucial to successfully get through the coming pandemic in one piece. It wasn’t always a pretty sight, but I didn’t hesitate to do what I thought might be the next helpful step.
Now…as the number of people in this country and around the world who died from this virus rose, did my new mindset help? No, not every day. Some days were/are harder than others, and each day is a new day for me, my community, this country, and the world. Let’s be clear, COVID-19 has caused MAJOR CHANGE and upheaval in our lives; it’s not as simple as a change of routine or mindset. This time in our history requires herculean efforts on our part to get by; it’s damn hard. We didn’t choose for any of this to happen and it’s more than okay to admit we are struggling. Yeah, I might clean out a closet or two, work on my work in progress, arrange lilac branches in an antique vase, and bake an ugly loaf of bread, but I’m struggling, too.
When the World Health Organization officially called the novel coronavirus outbreak a pandemic, I began thinking about keeping a pandemic diary for posterity’s sake and started searching online for diaries from the past, specifically, diaries from the 1918 Influenza, the Spanish Flu. These days, my favorite past time is reading pandemic diaries as primary source in novel writing. Remember, I read encyclopedias for fun, so bear with me.
If you’re interested, check out the fascinating article in Smithsonian Magazine by Meilan Solly, published on April 13, 2020, “What We Can Learn From the 1918 Influenza Diaries”.
Two excerpts from the article, “History may often appear to our students as something that happens to other people,” writes Civil War historian and high school educator Kevin M. Levine on his blog, “but the present moment offers a unique opportunity for them to create their own historical record.”
“Nancy Bristow, author of American Pandemic: The Lost Worlds of The 1918 Influenza Epidemic, advises writers to include specific details that demonstrate how “they fit into the world and … the pandemic itself.”
We writers, specifically writers of historical fiction, use everything we can get our hands on while researching for our novels: diaries, historical photographs, memoirs, letters, journals, government documents, newspaper clippings, vintage magazine articles, and merchandise catalogs. A few years ago, I wrote a blog post about using drone camera videos on YouTube of Old San Juan and Isla de Cabras, the settings of my work-in-progress (WIP), THE LAMENTS. They are all primary sources and useful tools for a writer’s research arsenal.
My WIP benefited greatly from deep and extensive research, and from articles like the one written by Meilan Solly, all fantastic resources. As an added awesome benefit, pandemic diaries remind us that people, our ancestors, remind you and me, that they lived through the 1918 pandemic in quarantine with lost jobs, illness, disease, depression, limited food sources, death, losing loved ones, and they survived. I don’t know about you, but that gives me tremendous hope and strength today.
This too shall pass. I will see my children as humanly and medically-safe as possible.
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Be well, stay safe.
Puerto Rican-born Eleanor Parker Sapia is the author of the multi-award-winning, debut novel, A DECENT WOMAN, set in 1900 Puerto Rico, published by Winter Goose Publishing. Eleanor is featured in the anthology, Latina Authors and Their Muses. She currently lives in Berkeley County, West Virginia, where she is in quarantine, working on her second novel, THE LAMENTS, set in 1927 Puerto Rico.
Before I share my Holiday news, I’d like to wish my wonderful family, friends, online friends, readers, and blog subscribers a blessed Holiday season and all the very best for 2016!
Thank you for your support and friendship during my writing journey that ended with the February 2015 publication of my first novel, ‘A Decent Woman’, which continues to be a dream come true. I’m excited to share that my second novel, ‘The Island of Goats’ or ‘The Lament of Sister Maria Inmaculada’ (can’t decide on a title) will be published in 2016! I love this new story and characters as much as I love the story and characters of ‘A Decent Woman’.
For the first time in four years since I moved into this old, quirky house in West Virginia, I am hosting my family for Christmas dinner. We will come together, minus my son who lives in Holland, which makes me sad. We will sure miss Matthew, and thank God for our plans to meet up in New York City in early 2016!
Since I am the only one who lives out of state, and to make it easier for my loved ones, I drove to Virginia and Maryland for Thanksgiving and Christmas. This year, however, I put my foot down and insisted my family come to me 🙂 Now, I’m the Christmas spirit! Most years I didn’t bother putting a tree up and decorations were at a minumum in my home, but this year my home looks and smells amazing. And the rush is on to finish wrapping gifts, send out Christmas cards, and get the house ready for my family. Get the house ready. OMG…I forgot how much work and preparation are necessary to host a family dinner!
Looking around the house on Monday, the to-do list from this year (and last year, and let’s face it…the year before that), stared at me in the face:
An empty fridge; the wooden steps I was delighted to discover under the horrid blue shag carpeting I removed immediately upon moving in, need white paint and wax; the twelve door frames (including two closets), 16 windows, and wide, wood floor boards in every room that I meant to paint white last year; the two paneled walls in the dining room still need painting; the laundry piled high on the washer and dryer in the laundry room; and the two guest bedrooms still need painting. Thank God I painted my bedroom, kitchen, laundry room and bathroom last year.
Whew! Well, there’s nothing like inviting the family to Christmas dinner and hosting a New Year’s party for friends and family to get a girl’s butt in gear. Yes, why do all this work and NOT host a NYE’s party? I’m going all out this year!
So on Tuesday, I decided on my holiday menu, went food shopping, bought cream-colored poinsettias, white candles of every size, and more Christmas decorations for my tree and wreaths. On Wednesday, I polished silver, found my baking dishes, and simmered my mother’s wonderful holiday concoction that makes your house smell like you’ve been baking for a week, and bought two gallons of white paint!
Holiday Simmering ‘Potpourri’
To a saucepan add:
2 cups water, 2 tablespoons vanilla, ten cloves, grated orange peel, a handful of fresh cranberries, 2-3 cinammon sticks, nutmeg, all spice, and pumpkin pie spice (or 2 tablespoons pumpkin pie spice, which has it all!), and simmer. Make sure to keeping check the water level and add more water as it reduces. Enjoy!
Late last night, I decided to concentrate on the downstairs and finished painting the staircase, a window, and two doorframes. Today and tomorrow will find me painting, and on Saturday, I’ll pack up my piles of writing supplies, books, and notebooks until January 2, and…
I’m adding Christmas lights to my laundry piles 🙂 Why not add a festive touch to a chore I won’t realistically get to!
Happy Holidays from my old, quirky home to yours! I wish you all the very best for 2016: love, peace, good health, and prosperity.
About Eleanor Parker Sapia
Puerto Rican-born novelist, Eleanor Parker Sapia, was raised in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Europe. Eleanor’s careers as an artist, counselor, alternative health practitioner, Spanish language family support worker, and a refugee case worker, inspire her stories. She is a member of Las Comadres Para Las Americas, PEN America, and the Historical Novel Society, and she is a contributing writer for Organic Coffee, Haphazardly Literary Society. When Eleanor is not writing, she facilitates creativity groups, reads, and tells herself she is making plans to walk El Camino de Santiago de Compostela a second time.
A Decent Woman, Eleanor’s debut novel, set in turn of the nineteenth century Puerto Rico was selected as 2015 July Book of the Month for Las Comadres & Friends National Latino Book Club, and is listed in Centro Voices, The Center of Puerto Rican Studies, Essential Boricua Reading for the 2015 Holiday Season. Book clubs across the United States have enjoyed A Decent Woman. Eleanor is featured in the newly published anthology, Latina Authors and Their Muses, edited by Mayra Calvani. She is the mother of two wonderful adult children and currently lives in West Virginia, where she is writing her second novel and a short story collection.