Not To Be Trusted With Knives

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9 Weeks And Counting

So somehow we are 9 weeks into this whole stay-at-home/isolation/quarantine/shelter-in-place/lockdown thing. I struggle with what to call it, as here in BC we’ve actually not been ordered to stay-at-home or shelter-in-place or quarantine (unless you are coming across the border or have a specific reason, like you’ve been in contact with someone who tested positive or have tested positive yourself). We were just asked nicely to stay-at-home unless we were in an essential job and then we (mostly) all just did. Or, as Justin McElroy put it:

As other provinces started to announcing their plans to re-open, BC was getting criticized for not announcing plans to re-open stuff as soon as other provinces. But the province pointed out that other provinces were opening things that we never closed. In fact, that only things that were ordered closed in BC were dine-in restaurants and personal care services (like hair stylists, massage therapists, physiotherapists, nail salons – stuff where the practitioner has to get close to you to provide their service). Three of the health authorities in BC ordered gyms to close, though that was actually quite recent (and I learned at one of Dr. Henry’s pressers that that was because there were cases of COVID-19 that were spread at gyms) and the vast majority of gyms closed voluntarily.


It helped a lot that many businesses, organizations, and post-secondary institutions quickly moved to set up working-from-home where possible. Not every type of business can easily be moved to remote work, so there were many companies and employees who made huge sacrifices by shutting down voluntarily. And we’ve seen that some businesses haven’t been able to weather the storm and won’t be reopening ever again, which is really sad. Some companies found have ways to creatively continue to operate in new ways that are safe in the middle of the pandemic. I guess it’s kind of like evolution of organisms – “survival of the fittest” is context dependent. When the context changes, sometimes it’s just luck of the draw as to whether you fit well – or can quickly adapt – to the next context.


Many people are talking about being excited to get a haircut once we move into the next phase of re-opening society. I only usually get my hair done like every 6 months in normal times and I had it done in January, so I wouldn’t even be thinking about a haircut for another month or two anyway. (I love my hairstylist and will be delighted when I get to see her again, when she feels that it’s safe to re-open her shop, but at least as much because I want to catch up with her as friend as because she makes my hair beautiful). I’m most excited to see my massage therapist! When he feels it’s safe to start seeing patients again, of course.


Every month Google sends me an email to tell me where I’ve been the previous month. Because, as my mother puts it, my phone is spying on me. I found the email from April hilarious. Here are some of the images from it:

Clearly, Google can verify that I’ve been staying close to home and not doing anything frivolous.


Due to the lack of going anywhere, my car battery died (We’ve been taking Scott’s car for grocery trips). I used to only drive my car once or twice a week (to hockey mostly), but I probably hadn’t driven it in about a month when I tried to start it up to go to the store and it was dead. Figuring that I didn’t really need it since I don’t really go anywhere, I didn’t bother to call BCAA to get a a boost for a few weeks. But then I needed something from my car and since the battery was dead, I had to use the actual key to unlock the door instead of the fob. But then the key wouldn’t let me lock the door! I mean, it’s in my parkade and I don’t have anything valuable in there and it’s not like anyone could steal the car because the battery is dead. But then I got a reminder in the mail that I need to renew my car insurance. And I remembered that there is a discount if you driver fewer than a certain number of kilometers in a year, so you have to take a picture of your odometer and the insurance broker compares that to your odometer reading from last year to see how many kilometers you have driven. But my odometer is electronic, so without being able to turn on my car, I can’t see my odomter reading! So I called BCAA and got my battery boosted (Fun fact – the battery in a Smart car is underneath the passenger’s feet and is a huge pain in the butt to get to when you need to boost your battery). The guy who fixed it said to run it for 30 mins, which I did, and then to take it for a spin at least once a week. When I tried to start it again the next week for it’s weekly drive, the battery was dead again. So I guess I need to buy a new battery. The car is 11 years old and Google tells me that car batteries last about 3-5 years. I don’t recall ever having bought a new battery, thought it’s possible I bought one at some point during a routine maintenance appointment and I just don’t remember it.


Speaking of things that stopped working: the seal on my dishwasher decided that it didn’t want to seal things anymore. We were super lucky that it only caused a small leak and not a full on flood! After some Googling, we learned that it’s relatively easy to replace, so parts were ordered. They were supposed to be here in 3-5 business days. That was on May 1. I know the postal service is super busy with everyone buying everything online these days, but it’s been 10 business days, and the Canada Post tracking service says they are still “in transit”.

Canada Post time travel
I’m really excited about Canada Post’s new time travel technology. I can’t wait to have received my packaged on May 12!

So we’ve had to wash the dishes by hand like in the Olden Days. (The Olden Days were long before the Before Times, which is what I have taken to calling the time before the pandemic. Given that we were already running the dishwasher way more than usual due to always being at home and my stress reduction baking habit, this is really getting untenable. Hopefully the parts will arrive on Tuesday (curse you, holiday Monday!) and we can get the dishwasher back into action. I think in the not-to-distant future, I should probably just buy a new dishwasher. While looking at the manual to find out the make and model to be able to order parts, I found a receipt from when the former owner of my condo had the computer board in the dishwasher replaced… in 2009. So the thing must be over 10 years old (given that they paid for the replacement, it must have been past its warranty period). And the last thing I want is my dishwasher to have a full on meltdown!


Random thought: people’s Christmas letters are going to be hella boring this year.

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Sourdough Starter

And speaking of pandemic baking, I finally did something that I’ve been meaning to do for ages: make a sourdough starter1!

Well, I’m attempting to make a sourdough starter, at least. I won’t know for several days if it worked out or not. I decided to go old school and create it from just flour and water and whatever wild yeast are floating around. It takes a bit longer – and I’m sure has a higher failure rate – than making it from packaged yeast, but I figure I have time to spare, so may as well go for it.

My plan is to make this sourdough starter and maintain it and pass it along to others, so that generations from now people will say “This sourdough starter was created during the great pandemic of 2020!” And maybe people will search on the Wayback Machine and find this blog posting and say “So that’s what my sourdough starter looked like on the day it was born!”


The recipe is literally to just mix together and 4 oz of flour and 4 oz of water and then let it sit on the top of your fridge for a day, and then you feed it over several days and hope the yeast start doing their yeast thing.

Here’s what it looked like when I mixed it together today:

Sourdough Starter - Day 1

The consistency at this stage is thick and sticky:

Sourdough Starter - Day 1

And here it is, sitting on top of my fridge:

Sourdough Starter - Day 1

I’ve set a reminder to feed it after 24 hours have passed. Very excited to see what happens over the next few days!

Also, like a good scientist, I decided to make a lab book to document my process:

Sourdough Starter - Day 1 - Lab Book

My friend Paul informed me that if this batch doesn’t work, I should try using pineapple juice instead of water, as it’s the right pH to favourite the good wild yeast. So I have a plan B if this batch doesn’t work.

I promised my friend Heather that she will be the first recipient of my sourdough starter once it is ready to be shared. Heather is a public health nurse on the front lines of the pandemic – translation: she’s a freaking hero! Thanks for everything you do, Heather! You are a rock star!

  1. Since sourdough starter something I’ve never made before, it counts towards my 2020 goal of making foods that I’ve never made before. And then when I bake my first loaf of sourdough bread, it will be another thing I’ve never made before and will count towards my 2020 goal of baking 20 times. And I also have “bake sourdough bread” on my list of 101 things to do in 1001 days, so really this is like the most efficient goal achieving act I’ve ever done! []

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Cyberbaking – It’s Not Just for Christmas Anymore!

As you may recall, my family and I love to bake. And sometimes at Christmas, if I’m not in Ontario visiting, we cyberbake: I bake in my kitchen in BC and my mom and my sister bake in my sister’s kitchen in Toronto and we videochat while we do said baking1.

Well, I’m really missing my family while everyone is isolating in our own homes during the pandemic. I know it’s kind of silly, because I often only see my family at Christmastime anyway, but (a) before the pandemic hit, I was planning to go to a conference in Ottawa in June and was planning to see my family then (but of course that is now not going to happen), and (b) it’s different when you don’t have a *choice*. Back in the old timey days where we could just hop on a plane whenever we wanted to, I at least had the option to go see my family. Now, since non-essential travel is a no-no, that choice is taken away, so it feels harder. I know it’s important that we all hunker down at this point to manage this pandemic, but I’m still acutely aware of missing my family. AnywayI digress…

A few days ago, I suggested that we all get on our webcams and bake together today. My mom in her house, my sister and her family in their house, and me in my condo. It really is fun to just chit chat and bake and be “together” even though we are apart.

My sister made cinnamon rolls and two loaves of bread shaped like turtles. She also taught my about “parbaking” – where you bake bread to about 80% of the way done and then freeze it. When you want to eat it, you bake it the rest of the way. So that’s a pretty great idea for when you have the urge to bake a bunch of stuff but you are stuck in a condo with just two people who shouldn’t each several loaves of bread in a day. I also realized that since “parbaking” means “partway baking”, that “parboiling” just means “partway boiling”. I would face palm, but touching one’s face is frowned upon these days.

My niece made snickerdoodles and my nephew made chocolate chip cookies. Last Christmas I gave my nephew a “virtual reality” baking set because I knew he likes baking and apparently he only wants to use the measuring cups from his set when he bakes. So nice to see that he likes his present!

My mom made a modified shepherd’s pie, using up some things she had around the house.

I decided to make carrot cake. I’ve never made carrot cake before, so it counts towards my goal of making 20 new foods this year). Plus I have a giant bag of carrots from the last time we went to Costco, so it seemed like a good way to use some of them up! I got my mom to send me my Uncle Stephen’s carrot cake recipe and I have to say, it is delicious.

I posted that before I made the cream cheese icing. Mmmm, cream cheese icing!

As always, the down side of cyberbaking is that you can’t taste what each other are baking! Fortunately, I have a bunch of carrot cake with which to console myself.

  1. As aside: this past December was so busy that I didn’t do any Christmas baking at all. None! That’s the first time in my life that I can remember not doing Christmas baking. I think maybe I upset the balance of the universe and that caused our current apocalypse. If so, sorry about that! []

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#ExtrovertProblems

Those of you who know me in person are probably painfully aware that I am an extreme extrovert. So self-isolation and social distancing are quite a challenge for a social butterfly such as myself. But since lives are literally on the line, I am taking the advice of experts who say to stay the hell away from everyone.

It’s so weird that the best thing we can do from society is literally nothing. Stay at home. So hard to feel like you are doing something important when you feel like you are doing nothing. And yet here we are!

So many things are weird right now. So many things that would be good to do in normal times are the worst things to do now. Like taking public transit instead of cars. Or helping an elderly person cross a street. Or going to the gym. Or visiting a friend or family member who is in the hospital or a long-term care home. Or giving people hugs! The world is topsy turvy.


I’m extremely fortunate that all of my jobs can be done from home. My entire office was put on work-from-home indefinitely starting last Monday. The one face-to-face course that I am teaching this semester was moved to online this past week as well, and my other course was already an online course. I’m developing two other online courses and all of that work can be done from home, so, like I said, I’m very lucky when it comes to work.

In working from home full time for the last week, I’ve noticed that I really miss the little conversations I got to have with my colleagues. Whether it was coming up with a plan to get our work accomplished, or chatting about how our weekends were, or how our families were doing, or sharing recipes for the baked goods that someone brought in to share1, or talking about upcoming vacation plans2 – I always knew that I loved conversations with my colleagues. But I never realized how much I needed them.


In the interest of socializing, I’m making an effort every day to reach out to one or two people I haven’t talked to in awhile to see how they are doing. While we aren’t able to go out for a coffee or go see a movie or anything like that, phone calls, texts, Twitter conversations, and Google Hangouts/Skype/Zoom/FaceTime video call are my lifeline right now. It’s a silver lining that I’m connecting with people I haven’t connected with in a while3.


I also saw on Twitter that some researchers at UBC are doing research on how people are coping with the COVID-19 outbreak ( https://blogs.ubc.ca/coronavirus/ ). So I took their survey and then I signed up for their other study, in which you fill out a morning and evening survey for a week. I think it will be fascinating to see the results of this study, as this situation really is unprecedented and is putting stress on people in so many different ways: worry for ourselves and our loved ones, worry about jobs and being able to pay bills, worry if our healthcare system will collapse under the avalanche of patients that are coming their way, and just the stress that comes from dealing with so much uncertainty (just to name a few).


As I settle into this new way of life that I suspect will be a few months4, I’m trying to do my best to take care of myself, go one step at a time, and make connections with those I care about.

If anyone is up for a call or video chat, hit me up!

  1. Omg, remember the days when you could share food with each other? []
  2. Omg, remember when you used to be able to travel to places?? []
  3. In addition to being an extrovert, I’m also an optimist! []
  4. Oh please, let it only be a few months! []