Normalcy is square pizza

I have taken a picture like this everyday since I started picking up school lunches at the beginning of quarantine. I get up bright and early because though I’m working from home, I am expected to be accessible during normal work hours. I take a shower and then go pick up school breakfast and lunch from the elementary school down the street. The custodian handing out numbers recognizes me from my daughters elementary school days and greets me with a wave and a nod. The gentleman placing the tray and bag of milk and fruit in my passenger seat tells me he can’t let me go with just one lunch and sets down a second. I thank him, we wish each other a good day, and I go on my way. When I get home, I lay everything out and send my sister a picture. And then I put all the milk in the fridge and get to work.

Truth be told, my kid doesn’t eat most of the things they send home. My folks and I have school lunch for breakfast and I make sure the kiddo at least eats some fruit when she finally gets up. While she doesn’t care for the hamburgers or corn dogs, her face lights up when they send some of her favorites. Usually it’s a breakfast item, but last week it was chicken tenders that made her morning. I know lots of kids don’t like school food, but it’s still a comfort to them. The square pizza, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and little cartons of milk give them a sense of normalcy.

Last school lunch of the year…well, until the summer lunch program begins next week anyway. Thank you @edinburgcisd for providing a little normalcy for the kids. Times are strange and we need every bit we can get.

Daily prompt

When are you most at peace?

This is a better prompt.

Maybe I should mention where the daily prompts are coming from and what I plan to…oh who am I kidding? I’m not planning anything. However, I am hoping the daily prompts that I’m getting from Day One continue to inspire me to write a bit. The only goal I have for the blog is to be continuous and avoid year long gaps between entries. Not every entry in Day One will make it to WordPress, but I intend to write more often. It helps to get out a stream of consciousness once in a while.

So when am I most at peace? The first thing that comes to mind is my bed, napping with my cat. Fry, named after the orange haired lead of Futurama, isn’t known for being cuddly. For a long time my family didn’t believe that he purred because he only did it at bedtime. He purrs a lot more freely now, but my daughter is still caught by surprise when he hops up on her bed and starts rumbling next to her. She tells me he doesn’t like her, but he spends most days in her room while we are at work or school. Firstthing in the morning he is pawing at her door, asking to be let in. He doesn’t always want to be held, but I know he loves her. And if she would quit ruffling his fur, he would probably nap with her too.

Cat naps are the best! When I’m feeling down, I crawl into bed and my cat follows. I wrap up in my favorite blanket and smooth out a spot for him and he snuggles right in. We have the same little ritual at bedtime. And if I hit snooze too many times in the morning, he wakes me up by walking on me or biting my hair. I’m sure that sounds obnoxious to non cat people, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Summer blues

Yesterday was the monthly staff meeting, held via Zoom since we are still working remotely. The meeting started with the dean announcing that the library will be reopening on June 1. The library is in the process of installing plexiglass barriers at points of contact and will be providing cleaning supplies, gloves, and masks to public services staff, but nothing is available yet. There may still be the option to work from home some days, but it hasn’t been discussed beyond that. The university is not requiring masks on campus but the library is requiring them for anyone entering the library. I expect there will be some pushback on that.

I knew we’d be reopening eventually but it feels too soon. All summer courses have been converted to online. I guess I should have expected the university to jump the gun when Texas pushed for reopen everything. We are all hoping foot traffic will be minimal.

Before the staff meeting, I had a dental appointment. One of my canines broke right after everything shut down so I had to wait for my dentist to reopen to deal with it. As with all businesses that are reopening, they are running shorter hours and limited capacity. As I waited in my car to be called in, I snapped a pic (above) of the entrance to my neighborhood using the face camera on my phone. The dental assistant took X-rays and the dentist conducted the exam and I left with a couple prescriptions, an appointment for a root canal and crown (June 3), and a treatment plan that includes another root canal and crown. Hooray.

Sounds like a stellar start to the summer.

Daily prompt

What was the happiest moment of your life?

I hate this question.

I’m not an unhappy person. Wouldn’t say I’m happy either. Most days I barely feel like a person at all.

I could give the cliche day of my child’s birth answer, but it’s not true. I didn’t want to be pregnant, I didn’t want to be a mother, I didn’t want any of it. It took a long time for me to be okay. I am content in my role now. I couldn’t ask for a better kid and I love her dearly, but that wasn’t a happy time.

What else makes people happy? Wedding day? Never had one. Graduation? May never have that either. Dream job? Gave up on that dream as the college debt started piling up.

That’s not to say there haven’t been plenty of happy moments. All of my kid’s milestones. Good times with friends. Promotions at work. My dad surviving bypass surgery. Taking in that tiny kitten when his mother had abandoned him in the backyard.

I’d be hard pressed to identify a happiest moment, but I guess I am generally content. Is that what it means to be happy? I couldn’t tell you.

Way to dodge the question, huh.

Journaling in a Time of Uncertainty

Once every couple years or so I am motivated to keep a journal, either publicly on my WordPress blog or privately on Day One. Today’s motivation came from a webinar called Journaling in a Time of Uncertainty.

I kept a daily journal for a bit several years ago. I remember tapping away at my iPad while sitting in my car waiting for Sidney’s elementary school to let out. She is in high school now. Today I tap away at my shiny new iPhone 11 Pro Max while sitting on the porcelain throne. There is no workplace to be at and no school from which to fetch my child anymore. The global COVID-19 pandemic has brought the world to a halt while governments and medical professionals figure out how to keep infections and fatalities to a minimum. I am fortunate to live in an area with a low concentration of both, and even more fortunate to be able to work from home. Not everyone in my industry or even in my library has that luxury. While I have grown weary of being home all the time, I will continue to find professional development opportunities online until my workplace decides it’s time to go back. And I will continue to try to entertain myself and my child at home until I feel it’s safe to resume our normal ventures into the outside world.

Governor Abbott announced phase 2 today. I have strong opinions about the way our elected officials are handling things, but I don’t want to go off on an angry tangent.

I probably would have been to the beach three times in the time we’ve been quarantined. I miss the beach. I miss Target. I miss normalcy. But it’s too soon for all that.

Sourdough: the Beginning

I’ve become fairly obsessed with bread baking. If the baking and bread subreddits are any indication, most people who embark on this journey do develop an obsession. I started my journey a few months ago and discovered that I not only love eating bread, I love baking bread.

Today I’m taking my hobby to the next level. I’ve started a sourdough starter. If I manage to cultivate yeast instead of mold over the course of the next week, I’ll be baking my first sourdough loaf next week.

Day 1: I’ve combined 3/4 c flour and 1/2 c water in a mason jar covered with a coffee filter.

I’ve named him Steve.

I baked something: Triple Chocolate Chunk Cookies

I spent my Valentine’s Day evening baking cookies for the “heart healthy” themed potluck at work on Friday. I read somewhere that dark chocolate is a heart healthy food. Loophole! I decided I’d bake triple chocolate chunk cookies, chock full of dark chocolate baking cocoa, semisweet chocolate chips and chunks, and a last minute tweak to the recipe, salted caramel chips.

The tweak came about when I gathered my ingredients and found that I only had half a bag of chunks and that wasn’t enough for a double batch of cookies. There were plenty of other chips to choose from in my baking supply cart. Cinnamon? Mint? Caramel bits? Any of them would have been great, but I went with salted caramel because these cookies are insanely rich and I thought little salty bits would complement the chocolate overload best.

I learned that two batches in one bowl is too much for my mixer to handle and ended up stirring it up the old fashioned way. Yes, there was a little flour left at the bottom of the bowl. Cookie dough is tough to stir!

Since I was short on chunks, I used what I had to decorate the tops of the cookies. As you can see, I ran out of chunks a couple trays in and decorated the rest with chips.

Note: this recipe calls for cake flour. If you do not have cake flour ( I didn’t), you can make your own. For every cup of cake flour, put two tablespoons of cornstarch into your measuring cup and top it off with all purpose flour. Sift together. Voila! You now have cake flour.

This is the second time I’ve made these cookies. Chocolate makes my heart happy, and the salted caramel chips complemented these cookies perfectly.

I baked something: Honey Oat Bread

When my sister (and her mixer) moved out of the house, I bought myself a shiny new onyx black Kitchenaid artisan series stand mixer. I didn’t have any plans for it other than to have a fancy kitchen gadget of my own on the counter and maybe do a little baking. My sister was the baker, but I had a keen interest and an ever growing collection of recipes saved on Pinterest.

The first thing I made with my new toy was a batch of Alton Brown’s soft pretzels. The whole boiling and then baking thing is a bit of a pain in the ass, but as with all good things, totally worth it.

And while I meant for my new toy to become a source for blog content, I let the blog go by the wayside. I’ve never been very good at keeping up with my blogs. I’d like to say that I’ll keep it up this time, but I don’t like to make promises I can’t keep.

That said, my new toy certainly has become a valuable source for content. Baking has become one of my favorite hobbies. The more recipes I try, the bigger my “to do” pile becomes.

I started baking bread a few months ago, starting with a basic white sandwich loaf. It was nice, but dense. So I tried another recipe. The Amish white sandwich loaf was a hit. Light, fluffy, and flavorful. The squid thought it was too sweet though, so after a few Amish loaves, I tried another recipe. Which brings me to the titular honey oat bread.

My first attempt was pretty wonky looking, but squid approved. She took one bite of her first slice and then asked me for a ham sandwich.

A week later, I baked the two giant loaves pictured above. One for me, one for my sister. Not only did they look nicer, they were even softer.

I skipped bread baking last weekend because we had lots of store bought sandwich bread, but resumed yesterday. H-E-B had a $3 coupon for a 25lb bag of flour and I couldn’t resist. Like I said earlier, baking has become my favorite hobby. I go through a lot of flour!

So this weekend, I baked another pair of honey oat loaves. I’m really pleased with the shaping and scoring of these loaves. Something was a little off though, because there was some gapping inside. Maybe it’s the flour (I used a brand I’d never used before) or maybe it’s a proving issue.

Can’t complain though, it is delicious. I love this recipe. It’s not a fancy sourdough artisan bread with big bubbles and ears, but it’s a crowd pleaser and easy enough that even novice bread bakers like me can get good results.

Best part of bread baking, besides the bread eating? Filling your house with the smell of baking bread. My cat can’t get enough of that smell.

I watched a movie: Coco (2017)

If the plot of Coco sounds familiar to you, it’s because it was done a few years ago in another Dia de los Muertos themes film, The Book of Life (2012). Main character is faced with the decision to follow their heart or join the family business and proceeds to go on an adventure in the land of the dead. I had high hopes for The Book of Life because you don’t see many animated films featuring Mexican culture, but ultimately it missed the mark. Meanwhile, Coco resonates with its audience immediately. It’s the little things like the scene at the table where Miguel’s abuelita serves up a huge pile of tamales despite his protests. Or when she takes off her chancla, throws it at the dog, and then orders Miguel to fetch it for her.

My own family never made altars or ofrendas. There were no flying chanclas in my house. We didn’t celebrate Day of the Dead. We’ve never been big on traditional stuff like that, but it is part of our culture and it felt good to see it represented in a relatable way on the big screen. It was beautiful and authentic and real.

“I needed the audience to be able to connect with that character in a way [that] they forget they were watching animation. They forgot they were watching a skeleton. They were just seeing a soul.”

– Lee Unkrich, in a Vanity Fair article

I took my daughter to see it a few Sundays ago. That week’s Sunday Funday involved a bucket of popcorn, a giant soft pretzel, and a movie. I did not expect to like this movie as much as I did, nor did I expect it to have any lasting effect on me. And I certainly didn’t expect my 12 year old to ask me to buy it on DVD for her before we even left the theater. I am far from traditional, and my kid’s interest in movies rarely extends past the theater door. When her grandparents asked how the movie was, she said, “Very emotional. I almost cried.”

She lies. She did cry.