Reading Time: 3 minutes

Lifecycle of Ingredients

If you’ve followed our Culinary Adventures, you’ll start to see a theme of no waste in this household. We love cooking and riffing off recipes. Sometimes, this will evolve over the lifecycle of ingredients to create some fun, novel adventures in cooking and help us when we live aboard RJ Slocum.

Turkey 5 ways

It all started when I was a kid and the values instilled in me by my parents when it came to economizing and thrift.

Not only were they homesteaders (before it became en vogue) growing avocado, corn, sugarcane and wheatgrass in our backyard, my parents never wasted food once it was cooked. Bulk dishes became leftovers that extended over days (or sometimes weeks) until depleted.

I’ve taken that principle and elevated it to a new art form … because, you see, I like variety.

The lifecycle of ingredients made up of leftovers became a culinary challenge that I learned at Wellesley College, my alma mater. The dining hall weekly menu would feature something like the following: 

  • Monday – roast turkey
  • Tuesday – turkey soup
  • Wednesday – turkey pot pie
  • Thursday – turkey tetrazzini  
  • Friday – turkey ice cream (just kidding)

Journey vs Destination

This was, of course, all very surprising to Andrew because he has a different approach to cooking. He once told me an anecdote of his culinary experiment to master the art of cooking fried rice.

His process would be to cook a batch of fried rice and if there was something off about it, he would throw it out. All of it. Andrew would then repeat the process over and over again. The garbage would have countless pounds of fried rice ready for the dumpster. In his quest for mastery, he valued learning the skill over the end product.

I can understand that principle… in theory.

Had we known each other back then, however, I would have quietly siphoned off each batch of fried rice into Tupperware containers and place them into the freezer to be repurposed for other dishes, such as

  • a cheesy frittata
  • roll them into balls, cover them in panko breadcrumbs and fry them up
  • place them in a rich flavorful broth with some hand-torn roast chicken 

We would have made a great team back then, as we do now.

Stage 1 Meals

I share this backstory so you get a feel for how we will be approaching our life aboard RJ Slocum.

The kinds of dishes that will be prepared at anchor will primarily be bulk cooking that can be tailored and elevated when we are on passage. Here are some of the ideas that you can take with some basic stage one meals laid out in the following hierarchy:

  • Stage 1
    • Stage 2+

 

  • Braised beef or pork
    • poutine
    • ramen
    • fried rice
  • Grilled salmon
    • salmon cakes
    • chowder
    • pasta salad
  • Steamed rice
    • fried rice
    • congee
    • risotto balls
  • Roasted chicken
    • chicken soup
    • chicken salad/sandwiches
  • Roasted vegetables
    • vegetable soup
    • strata
    • omlette
  • Bread
    • pizza
    • breakfast casserole
    • french toast

The best way to incorporate these ingredients is with eggs, milk, bacon and cheese along with varying up herbs and spices to give them another dimension. Taste the dishes as you prepare them and you’ll be able to adjust along the way so there are no surprises with your final product.

While we’re still observing social distancing and staying at home to prepare our meals, we are using this opportunity to continue to refine our skills for life aboard a sailboat.

We hope you find these ideas useful.

 

Reading Time: 8 minutes

Time to Level-Up

When it comes to preparing meals at home, the last area I tend to stock up is canned food. Canned ingredients are seldom prioritized because I prefer to cook with the freshest ingredients, farm fresh being the goal. The same comes to cooking, and I realized that I am lacking this skill in my cooking arsenal when it comes to preparing canned food recipes.

This seems like an essential skill while living on a boat. So, it’s high time to level-up.

What’s in your pantry?

In one of the recent episodes from Sailing Project Atticus , Desiree was providing a tour of the galley, including where she stored provisions and her use of combining canned goods with fresh produce to create meals. Behan from Sailing Totem also offers her strategies for cooking pantry meals as the basis for provisioning.

My pantry currently is stocked with the following:

  1. coconut milk
  2. evaporated milk
  3. lychee
  4. grass jelly
  5. pear juice
  6. San Marzano whole tomatoes
  7. Portuguese sardines
  8. Pate

That’s it in the canned food category that I replenish with any frequency. The only reason for their existence is to serve as ingredients for identified recipes making: Denise’s ultimate chocolate mochi (1 & 2), Taiwanese summer dessert (3 & 4), Momofuku braised short rib (5), marinara sauce (6), and snacks (7 & 8). 

Cooking primarily with canned food is not really in my repertoire, so I have an opportunity to hone in this skill before we move aboard RJ Slocum.

Canned Food Recipes

From a simple google query, I discovered some recipes that I would tackle over the next few weeks. These resources include:

  • BBC Good Food – Use up tinned ingredients like tomatoes, beans and tuna with these easy dinners. Or try our simple bakes for a great way to use canned fruit.
  • Bon Appetit – 10 pantry staples you should always have as well as pantry 2.0 recommendations.
  • Cheapism – 30 cheap and easy recipes from canned foods.
  • Epicurious – Cult canned food items and what to do with them. Say hello to canned cheese. Another article features many ways to use whole canned tomatoes
  • Love Canned Food – Find the perfect tinned food recipe using affordable delicious canned food products. Canned food recipes can be made quickly for the family.
  • The Modern Proper – What canned good should be in a well-stocked pantry? Which ones can you actually build a healthy, quick meal out of? Here’s the TMP list of canned food must-haves.
  • Taste of Home – Have canned goods collecting dust in the back of your pantry? Make the most of them with these yummy and straightforward canned food recipes.

Pantry Buster

Since I already have identified specific uses with most of my pantry canned items, I had another look at what else is currently stocked in the pantry. After taking inventory, I discovered we have one can of baked beans, 3 cans of sockeye salmon and 1 can of pineapple chunks.

A few of these items had expiration dates that had long since passed. When I had volunteered at a food bank, I learned not to be too bothered by this since the cans were in good shape.

If you want to evaluate your pantry, feel free to reference this guideline from FoodPrint.  

Sockeye salmon options:

Baked beans options

Pineapple chunks options

So without further ado, here are our top 5 choices from this experiment to seek out the best canned food recipes. 

#5 – Salmon Chowder

Given we continue to observe social distancing and staying safe at home, I had to do a number of substitutions on the salmon chowder since I didn’t have all of the ingredients readily available. 

  • Pantry – canned salmon
  • Fridge – mushrooms, onions, sour cream, bacon drippings 
  • Freezer – peas, homemade beef broth

You’ll be surprised how chunky and warming this dish came out. Yields 8-10 servings and it goes great with some crusty home-made sourdough bread… yet another culinary adventure!

There are many ways to substitute to make this more pantry-friendly, such as:

  • canned mushrooms
  • canned peas
  • spam
  • evaporated milk

Okay, next up….

#4 – Beef and Bean Meatloaf

Using this recipe from Food in a Minute as a jumping off point, I took into account what other items we currently have stocked in the house, substituting where applicable and supplementing based on preferences:

  • Pantry – baked beans, dried portobello mushrooms, panko bread crumbs, sugar, seasonings, BBQ sauce, zacusca and rice (side dish)
  • Fridge – celery, onions, eggs, bacon and homemade pickled carrots
  • Freezer – ground beef, garlic and peas (side dish)

Without over-handling, this came together as a fairly wet mixture and in retrospect, I would add more panko bread crumbs and eggs for binding. I pan-fried a teaspoon of the mix and adjusted the seasoning. Then, I turned the mixture into two loaf pans.

This made two loaves, which is enough for 16 servings.

Even though Andrew doesn’t mind eating the same meals over and over again, I prefer to vary things up. So the meatloaf made various incarnations: as a sandwich, quesadilla, fritter or served with rice, french fries or mashed potatoes.  

 

#3 – Caribbean Salmon Cakes

After scanning the pantry and refrigerator. I was missing some ingredients for the creole salmon cakes and had to substitute. This also makes for a completely different recipe, so here is my modified version, now renamed “Caribbean Salmon Cakes”.

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Servings: 4

Ingredients:

2 7.5 ounce cans salmon, Alaskan, wild caught
1 cup Japanese mayonnaise (Kewpie)
1 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup spring onion, minced
1 carrot, peeled and minced
2 teaspoons brown mustard
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon Sunny Caribbee Jerk spice seasoning
1 teaspoon garlic powder
extra virgin olive oil

Directions:

Drain salmon and set aside. In a large bowl add minced vegetables, all the spices, mayonnaise and mustard, mix well. Fold in salmon and panko bread crumbs.

Form into 4 patties or you could make appetizer size if desired.

Heat about 4 tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat, add patties in brown for about 4-5 minutes per side until nice and golden brown.

Finish in the oven 350 degrees for 10 minutes.

Served hot with cilantro scallion rice

#2 – Spicy Pineapple Linzer Cookies

I really wanted to bake a traditional Taiwanese pineapple cake, especially since I’m Taiwanese. It’s the national symbol of Taiwan and of good fortune, as the word “pineapple” in Chinese means “prosperity arrives.” Unfortunately, I really don’t like it because it’s dense and dry.

Carrot cake was another option, except Andrew is generally not a fan. As for pineapple cocktails, I am over fruity drinks having consumed a few watermelon mojitos each day (and every day) for the past couple weeks.

Note: I will recycle and upcycle ingredients until we’ve extracted every last ounce of nutrition. There’s no waste in this household! 

So, then I came across an interesting recipe from Saveur magazine. The Spicy Pineapple Linzer Cookie is an elevated cookie served at Te Company in New York City that pays homage to the Taiwanese pineapple cake.

The recipe called for the following ingredients:

  • Pantry – pineapple, flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, vanilla, hazelnut flour, lime
  • Fridge – butter, eggs, yuzu kosho (spicy citrus chili and garlic spread)
  • Freezer – rosemary

For this recipe, I made a few modifications, including:

  • halved the recipe
  • switched pistachio for hazelnut
  • modified yuzu kosho paste
  • switched Meyer lemon for lime zest
  • switched pink Himalayan Salt for Maldon Sea Salt

Otherwise, the recipe is identical and delicious! Yields 3 dozen cookies and the perfect accompaniment with a cup of tea, with its buttery, zesty and spicy bite.

 

#1 – Condensed Milk Chocolate Chip Cookies

The beauty of this recipe for condensed milk chocolate chip cookies is the fact that – perhaps with the exception of butter – everything is shelf-stable. It can also be argued that you can source canned butter, in which case the whole recipe is shelf stable.

Andrew has quite the sweet tooth, so I am pretty pleased that we have an option for baking while underway that doesn’t require eggs or milk. This makes about a dozen 3-4″ cookies, that are soft and chewy, with a tender crumb.

  • Pantry – flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, corn starch, salt, light brown sugar, condensed milk, vanilla extract, chocolate chips
  • Fridge – butter
  • Freezer – n/a

Andrew and I work in the same office at home. Most days he is taking conference calls while I quietly type up content for the website or update the bullet journal. The day after these cookies were baked, he brought the Tupperware containing the remaining 8 or 9 of these bad boys and proceeded to eat them one by one.

At one point, I overheard him talking with his mouthful of cookies and I turned and look at him, whispering, “Are you going to eat all of them?”

Deer in headlights.

He nodded and continued his conference call. Suffice it to say, these cookies were a hit. I may add slightly more salt next time to round out the flavor profile. The crumb is certainly tender and stays moist even going into our 3rd day of keeping them at room temperature.   

All-Pantry Meals

We hope you’ll have a chance to try out these canned food recipes. We had a lot of fun experimenting with them and riffing on the ones published. 

Other cruisers have shared their strategies for cooking and provisioning canned food meals. Thanks again to them who have forged a way ahead of us to develop these survival skills while sailing the high seas. These include:

When we consider provisioning when we move aboard, we may tinker with some of the ingredients suggested by Epicurious to create all-pantry meals , much like the condensed cookie recipe. I am also inspired by Behan from Sailing Totem to experiment with canning meat for long passages because our fishing skills have not yet been tested. 

Now that’s a sea foodie challenge. 

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Happy Birthday Surprises

Staying at home as a result of the coronavirus pandemic makes planning a surprise for Andrew pretty darn challenging. The fact that I’m writing this story weeks in advance could tip my hand on what I have planned. If this all goes sideways, I may relegate myself to just wishing him a “happy birthday” with a double latte, as I do each morning when he first wakes up.

Andrew doesn’t ask for anything nor does he expect that I would do anything for him. He can’t stand doing anything out of a sense of obligation or reciprocity. Gifts are meant to come from the heart. And so even though he doesn’t care for birthday celebrations, he knows that I love to plan surprises. And out of his love for me, he is an enthusiastic receiver of these thoughtful gestures.

This year, I would either have to get really creative or really conniving. Otherwise, I may have to reset my own expectations to successfully pulling this off. As you can probably tell, pulling off a surprise is more for me than it is for Andrew. So, it’s time to get really conniving! 

The first surprise will come in the form of something chocolatey, for what better way to say happy birthday than with a chocolate cake?

Denise’s Ultimate Chocolate Mochi

Over the years, this dessert made quite a few appearances at family gatherings as well as office potlucks.

In our house, the pantry is always stocked with Valrohna chocolate, Mochiko rice flour, and cans of coconut milk and evaporated milk (as written up in Canned Food Recipes ). Ironically, each time when I begin to assemble the ingredients, I revisit a few different recipes because no single one of them does the trick. 

For example, one recipe from FoodGal needs to be scaled up to a full box of Mochiko rice flour, however it lacks the rise and fluffiness that I like. In another recipe from Epicurious, the result has the fluffiness, but uses 2 cans of coconut milk, and it doesn’t factor the additional liquid introduced by chocolate, etc.

To me, none of them quite nail it. Ironically each time I make this recipe, I would merge the adjustments in my head. It didn’t occur to me until now to write it down. So without further ado, I have written down the ultimate chocolate mochi recipe. 

Note: next to a few of the ingredients below, I have indicated my preference for the brands I would recommend. Not all chocolates are created equal. 

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup cold unsalted butter
  • 6 oz coarsely chopped dark chocolate (Valrohna 71%)
  • 1 can (14 oz) unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 can (12 oz) evaporated milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (Nielsen-Massey Madagascar bourbon pure vanilla bean paste)
  • 3 cups sweet rice flour (1 lb box of Mochiko)
  • 2 1/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup natural cocoa powder (Valrohna)
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • Confectioner’s sugar for serving
  • See Chef’s notes for other additions

Directions

Position rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9-by-13 inch baking pan (pyrex) with parchment paper. 

Melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat. Remove from heat and stir in chocolate. Add coconut milk and evaporated milk to cool down the mixture before adding eggs. Add eggs and vanilla; stir to combine.

In a separate large bowl, sift rice flour, granulated sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt together. Create a cavity in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the liquid. Stir until smooth and then pour into the prepared baking pan. 

If there is too much batter, pour remaining into cupcake pan.

Bake until the mochi top is shiny and cake passes toothpick test, roughly 1 1/2 hours. Cool cake completely in pan on a rack, about 2 hours. Cut the mochi into 24 squares before serving. 

Bake mochi cupcakes in 15 to 20 minutes, until it passes the toothpick test.

Chef’s Notes

The chocolate mochi keeps covered at room temperature for 3 days. Refrigeration will dry it out. If you want to store it for longer, place in freezer. When ready to eat, thaw at room temperature.  

If you want to level-up the tasty goodness of the chocolate mochi, feel free to add the following ingredients:

  • 1 cup of shredded coconut
  • 1/2 cup rum or bourbon
  • 2 tablespoons instant espresso powder
  • 1/2 cup pecans

…And certainly feel free to add them all! With the extra liquid introduced, you may need to bake 5 minutes longer. For kid-friendly version, you may want to hold back on the espresso. Its affect won’t burn off like the rum or bourbon. 

Speaking of bourbon…

 

The Andrew

As we first wrote about in the Project Slocum series , here is the story of how Andrew has a cocktail named after him.

We have spent quite a few evenings at our favorite gastropub Side Door in Corona del Mar. We love this place for a few reasons, such as:

  • it has a farm-to-table mission
  • they do not course out their dishes
  • the quality of the dishes has stayed consistently great
  • seasonal menu showcasing the freshest ingredients

It also happened to be where we were married, so we often celebrate birthdays and anniversaries here.

Within a couple weeks of our first meeting, Andrew took me to Side Door, where I was introduced to a variety of cocktails. He favored drinks profiling whiskey or bourbon, including the Whiskey River. In the pursuit of variations on a theme of this particularly tasty cocktail, Andrew asked the bartender to riff on the Whiskey River. She concocted a new drink and served it to him. When he first tasted it, his face lit up and broke into a huge smile. I’m not much of a whiskey drinker, but I enjoyed it as well.

And thus was borne, “the Andrew,” named after the cocktail inspired by SerenadeWind’s captain.

When dining in establishments is permitted once again, I highly encourage that you find your way to Side Door and order “the Andrew.” Until then, please enjoy this recipe.

Ingredients

  • 1.5 oz Bourbon (High West Double Rye)
  • 0.75 oz Foro Amaro
  • 0.5 oz Calisaya liqueur
  • 0.5 oz Nocino Cherry Liqueur
  • Single Ice Cube
  • Orange Twist

Early retirement = happy birthday

Earlier this year as we were planning the phases of this transition, we agreed that I would quit my job first. Because I was pinballing quite a bit about this transition, Andrew did not commit to a timeline. He wanted to be 100% focused on helping me. 

I joked to him that it would be awesome if he quit before his next birthday for the following reasons:

  • This way we have more time together
  • We can go full throttle at moving out of our house and onto a sailboat
  • It would also be so cool to say that he retired at the age of 40  

To the last point, Andrew retorted that he was never cool.

The reality is far different today than it was earlier this year, when I first pulled the trigger. Coronavirus has already taken – and will continue to take – its own toll in all sectors of the economy. Furloughs and layoffs are the reality. So, we are taking a wait-and-see approach.

Speaking of…

Wait and see

Over a month ago, I ordered a gift for Andrew from overseas. I was informed that shipping tends to be 5-14 days. It has been forever and I have no idea if this package will arrive in time. Of course, there are delays now due to coronavirus.

And so the waiting continues…

Updated May 28, 2020

Today, we received the package in the mail which was sent from Australia. We’ll describe a little more about this in our yacht club blog post, but for now here’s a preview of the gift:

We are officially yachties! 

Parting thoughts

In our relationship, we celebrate each other in little ways and often with tasty food. Andrew has commented a few times that he had no idea when we became a couple what a fatty he married. Apparently, my metabolism had him fooled. I suppose it makes perfect sense considering I was named after Dionysus .

This week to celebrate opening escrow on RJ Slocum, we ordered curbside pickup from our favorite gastropub Side Door . While it isn’t the same as when we dine in on their cozy couches, by the fireplace or outside in their patio, we had a nice picnic overlooking the ocean in Corona del Mar.

Happy birthday, baby!

 

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Catching Zzz’s

Since December, I have battled with fairly persistent insomnia. Falling asleep isn’t my problem. It’s staying asleep.

Usually, I will wake up in the small hours of the morning and stay awake for a few hours. If I’m lucky, I will drift back to sleep around 5 or 6 a.m. If not, I push on until the following night and crash between 9 and 10 p.m. In the past, insomnia occurred in my life when there was great upheaval.

Over the course of the past 6 months, the events which caused upheaval include:

  • Internalizing on the debate that began on the Whiteboard
  • My mind pinballing on the implications of turning my life 180 degrees
  • Post-Warner Bros. and experiencing retirement living 

Couple these factors with the coronavirus pandemic and it’s impact on our near-term sailing plans. and it’s no wonder insomnia has been an on-going battle.

Many of you may also be experiencing insomnia. Sleep has become the latest casualty of the coronavirus pandemic as reported in The Harvard Gazette.  

Short-term Goal

Even before I left Warner Bros., I had outlined my short term goal which was to focus on health and in particular being able to restore healthy sleeping patterns.

Rather than continue taking OTC’s (e.g., Benadryl and melatonin), I decided to seek help. I wanted to find a healthier and sustainable solution. As many of you who cope with insomnia know, addressing the root cause takes time. In the mean time, making little progress in dealing with stressors also can cause stress and compromise sleep.

So at the same time I am working on this, I went to see my acupuncturist, Dr. Lee

Eastern vs Western

My parents were way ahead of their time. During my childhood in the 1980’s, my parents introduced us to acupuncture among other novelties such as wheat grass juice and solar energy. 

My dad was a licensed practitioner of traditional Chinese Medicine. During his schooling, he would practice on my brother and I. We would have to make up symptoms for him to diagnose, and he would use a ballpoint pen to mark where he would place the needles. When I relayed this story to my acupuncturist, Dr. Lee laughed saying his father who is an acupuncturist in South Korea did the same thing to him as well when he was growing up.

Unfortunately, my father’s practice languished as this form of medicine wasn’t a covered benefit. Acupuncture did not make its way into the mainstream until decades later, well into the aughts. Once it became a covered benefit under Section 2706 of the Affordable Care Act (enacted in March 2010), the use and practice of acupuncture took off. 

Given this background of exploring alternative approaches to living and taking into account eastern medicine and lifestyles, I didn’t have any skepticism toward acupuncture.

We live in a plural society, and I embrace the benefits of all that it entails. 

Orange Acupuncture

For the most part, I have received acupuncture treatments primarily to boost my immune system and help me recover from the flu. Since December, Dr. Lee has been helping me out with insomnia, and at the same time, has treated me after various accidents.

It must be said that I am a clumsy person. Bruises and scrapes are fairly commonplace, and they occur for the following reasons:

  1. Active lifestyle – snowboarding, rock climbing, and sailing (boat bruises)
  2. Tunnel vision – I tend to be focused on a task at hand and unaware of my environment, thus colliding into desks, coffee tables and other hard objects.
  3. Curiosity – wide interest to try new things, most recently longboarding

1 – Active Lifestyle

At each visit, I provide him with a rundown of my sleeping pattern chronicled in my Bullet Journal. On a few occasions, I will also mention my latest injury.

Dr. Lee may be surprised that a near 50-year old woman engages in these types of activities that would cause injury, but he is also sympathetic and worried. Here is a rundown of what has happened so far this year:

The first accident came as a result of taking a whipper in the climbing gym and my spine took a blow against the harness. The second accident came from the dock debacle detailed in Project Slocum, Part 5, and while I had a few bruises and scrapes, nothing really required treatment. The third came from a longboard accident earlier this week. 

In the spirit of maintaining our social distance while still trying to stay active, Andrew and I started to longboard around our neighborhood. Five minutes into the activity, I took a hard fall and landed on my butt. Luckily, I didn’t land on my tailbone. This fall however injured my wrist and compressed my spine, which needed some acupuncture treatment. 

So, even though I am near successful in getting back to a healthy sleeping pattern, it seems my continued clumsiness may require additional visits to the acupuncturist. 

2 – Tunnel Vision

Andrew is particularly observant and noticing things around him, as well as getting a read on me and my moods. He is always on the look out for me as well when we do things. This complements my lack of awareness. Could be that I am accident-prone, space cadet or have a tendency to be utterly preoccupied in my own thoughts – no matter the reason, bumps and bruises, scrapes and falls, as well as torn ligaments are part and parcel of the life I choose to lead.  

3 – Curiosity

As a result this, Dr. Lee tells me I shouldn’t keep putting my body to the test. 

But I wonder, why not? What is life for but to live it to its fullest? I realize I am not in my teens or 20’s, however I’m certainly not being reckless. Within the confines of what is reasonable, I say “Carpe diem!”  

For fans of the movie Dead Poet’s Society, John Keating played by Robin Williams challenges his students to live life, whispering the legacy of students who came before,

“Carpe diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your life extraordinary.” 

Support Local

And so I will continue to take calculated risks so I can live a full life. In the process, I may continue to accumulate some minor injuries. It’s a small price to pay… and it could help to support local businesses too. 

From A to Z, here are the other small businesses that we are supporting:

  • Altayebat – Middle Eastern store that has the freshest butchered meat and our favorite place to source lamb, puff pastry, pistachios and brown sugar cubes
  • Cortina’s – family-owned pizza and Italian market, which has the best pizza and sandwiches for take-out. Great source for cheeses, in-house pasta and porcini mushrooms which we have ordered in bulk at cost
  • International Meat and Deli – this is a family-owned Romanian store where we stock up on our supplies of sausages, in-house smoked bacon, Borsec and Vegeta
  • Orange Acupuncture – weekly visits to treat some chronic conditions (insomnia and allergies) with occasional accidents or sports-related injuries. The latest came while learning basic martial arts when I tweaked my back while tumbling on the mat. 
  • Pollo Fresco LLC – farm fresh chicken and eggs… whenever we have a hankering to make Hainan chicken, we’ll stock up chicken from here
  • Sender One – while our climbing gym is closed during this pandemic, we continue to donate to help cover furloughed employees 
  • Zion Market – small chain of Korean grocery stores that carry marinated bulgogi, beef shorts, and chicken teriyaki. Some locations have a Paris Baguette (where I stock up on cream bread for the absolute best grilled cheese sandwich). Note, this is a great place to source wheat flour for baking when all the major supermarket chains have run out

 

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Why I knit

Before the coronavirus pandemic hit, Andrew and I would hop in the car on weekends and run errands, head to the gym, shop for grocery, visit family, etc. Without fail, on each of these short outings, I would take along my current knitting project. Sometimes while I am standing in line, I will pull out my project and begin to knit. Others look at their cellphone, I knit. 

I find it incredibly soothing and therapeutic. It allows my mind to focus on a single activity and block everything else out. My breathing is relaxed and I achieve a meditative state. Climbing brings the same relaxed state as well. 

While knitting is making a comeback, many celebrities are getting into it, and the benefits are tangible, it takes a certain level of patience to slog through the repetition of movements and a certain level of tenacity to complete a project over weeks and months.

It’s not a quick hit

I am reminded of the students in my mom’s crochet class. Earlier this year, she volunteered to teach crochet to seniors for 10 weeks, and I enjoyed hearing her plans for the class, the projects and of course how her students fared. Even with crochet, arguably the simpler and more forgiving skill to learn, one or two students would continue with the project outside of class time (i.e., homework). The others would work on their projects only during class and had very little to show for at the end of each session.

It isn’t for everyone

While it used to be an activity borne out of necessity, the industrial revolution has rendered it obsolete, except for as a hobby. For me it is one that is incredibly rewarding because it provides opportunities for creativity, feeling productive and at the same time therapeutic. Turns out it also helps cognitive function, thus staving off senility.

Fiber Arts

During these first few months of retirement, I am spending more time knitting. The projects I had queued many moons ago are now being tackled. I have boxes of yarn stashed, neatly organized by project, just waiting for me to tackle and it brings me so much joy to be able to finish each project and to be able to share them with others. 

At the same time, I have so many knitted and crocheted finished objects.

40+

Hats & Toques

30+

Scarves & Cowls

10+

Sweaters & Tops

50+

Mittens, socks, etc.

Bear in mind that this is also one of the areas targeted for downsizing since they all cannot come aboard our sailboat with us. We have a plan for this, which we will reveal in the upcoming weeks. 

 

Small Pleasures

The beauty of living in the present moment is gaining awareness, both internal and external. We described some of this in our previous post Past, Present and Future. As you tune into your external senses, you begin to appreciate the subtleties picked up by your senses.

I am reminded of scenes from Amelie who exemplifies these small moments in her every day life. This is depicted in the trailer for the film (see above). 

 

Lavender and Sage

I happened to tune into the scents of lavender and sage, which is the username by which I go by on Ravelry, a community site for fiber arts, including knitting, crocheting, weaving, spinning and dying yarns. Most of my projects can be found on this site, which has tracked my activity since May, 2012. 

 

Ravelry

 

In addition to being a great resource, it is an area to organize projects, stash, needles, and patterns.  

Is it for you?

I come from a family of knitters. Both my mom and my grandmother knit. While I have been knitting on and off since the age of 11 years old, most of my recent skills have been self-taught watching youtube channels, trying out new stitches and techniques. and reading knitting blogs. It turns out you don’t need to come from a family of knitters in order to start knitting.

Just as it is with sailing. No one in Andrew’s family or my family sail. Yet here we are reading, self-teaching, and one day learning from Bill how to sail a schooner.

If you would like to get started in fiber arts, please click on the links below. I hope you find these useful.

Reading Time: 7 minutes

Pandemic Life

We are all doing our part to stay home and save lives. In other words… Cook now explore later. Many of you are cooking every single night, and my hat’s off to you. I prefer to cook a feast, and enjoy leftovers throughout the week. 

Below are some of the tried and true recipes that we feature in our home throughout the year and especially now during the coronavirus pandemic. While we’re staying at home, we are busy taking these recipes and boat-proofing them, so that we can glide into our new adventure well-fed and happy.

Parmesan-stuffed Dates wrapped in Bacon

We made a brief mention in our blog post Go/No-Go, and these certainly deserve an in-depth mention.  

Three simple ingredients make up these little flavor bombs. This delicious smoky sweet appetizer is a product of the Suzanne Goin, chef de cuisine of A.O.C. in Los Angeles. I’ve made them countless of times for parties. Each of the ingredients store well, so you can make a batch now, later or anytime in between.

These same ingredients can also be tossed into a scone to deliver a sweet-savory breakfast or filling treat throughout the day. I think they would be perfect while on passage. This recipe is courtesy of Gjelina chef Travis Lett and pastry chef Meave Mcauliffe. 

Momofuku Braised Beef Short Ribs

The flavors from this Momofuku recipe by David Chang remind me of home cooking. Much like other recipes featured here, this one is fool-proof and delicious. If cuts of short rib are not available at the market, I will opt for cuts from the shoulder, leg or rump – anything with lots of connective tissue chuck, shank, brisket and oxtail. 

One of the few modifications I will make to this is to go easy on the soy sauce. I’ll control the seasoning afterward, but once you commit to this much soy sauce, you can’t really go back.

Substitutions can also be made for the type of acid you use. Pear juice can be swapped out for apple, pineapple and orange with no discernible compromise to taste.

I’m also a bit lazy when it comes to heating up the braising liquid. After I place the browned meat in the slow cooker, I pour all the other ingredients in, give it a quick stir to incorporate and then walk away. 

Note that the aroma in the house will drive you bananas. Make sure there’s adequate ventilation or possibly try to do this one overnight. Because if you’re sitting in the saloon of your boat with these smells wafting over you, you may quite literally eat everything out of your fridge and pantry.

 

The Soup Nazi’s Indian Mulligatawny Soup

					ELAINE
			Do you need anything? 

					KRAMER
			Oh, a hot bowl of Mulligatawny would 
		        hit the spot.  

					ELAINE
			Mulligatawny? 

                                        KRAMER 
                        Yeah, it's an Indian soup. Simmered
                        to perfection by one of the great 
                        soup artisans in the modern era.

                                        ELAINE
                        Oh. Who, the Soup Nazi?

                                        KRAMER
                        He's not a Nazi. He just happens to
                        be a little eccentric. You know,
                        most geniuses are.

 

Todd Wilbur of Top Secret Recipes published this recipe many years ago. My first attempt was in 2008 when I was nostalgic for a Mulligatawny soup featured at the commissary of Universal Studios. With whatever I had in hand, I threw this together one rainy afternoon. Paired with a side of crusty bread, this will hit the spot in the days to come as we binge watch Seinfeld episodes. 

Craig Ponsford’s Ciabatta

These days of retirement allow me to once again explore the world of baking artisan breads. Mix four ingredients (flour, water, yeast, salt), vary three dimensions (temperature, time and technique) and you can develop so many different types of crumb.

One of my favorites is the baker’s percentage formula offered up from Craig Ponsford, a renowned baker in Sonoma, California. It takes a lot of time and is a very wet dough, but the results are worth it. 

A few years ago, when Andrew baked cozonac for me, we got a hold of some fresh yeast. He portioned it out and placed it in the freezer. I pulled out a 100 g portion and made a poolish. Most of the poolish I refroze and the first portion I used as a starter for two loaves of no-knead bread, baked in a Dutch oven. And for Easter this year, I surprised Andrew by baking 3 loaves of cozonac for him, but putting my own twist on the recipe by adding dark chocolate chips and omitting raisins. 

Once we get through all the yeast, we will be embarking on a sourdough adventure with our own homegrown starter thanks to the inspirational sourdough bread Youtube video from Patrick Ryan. 

French Onion Soup

Certain sections of the grocery stores were sold out of items: flour, pasta, potatoes and onions. When I grabbed a bag of Mayan sweet onions, I should have taken a closer look. They had softened within a couple days, and I had to quickly use up a lot of onions in a short period of time. I turned to a tried and true recipe for French Onion Soup from The Joy of Cooking. Luckily, I also had a few quarts of homemade chicken broth in the freezer so this recipe came together pretty easily. 

These days, I am inventorying items that we will be taking aboard s/v Rachel J. Slocum. The versatility and comprehensiveness of The Joy of Cooking will make it a definite choice. Some celebrity chef cookbooks will probably not stand the test of time.

What will survive will be the recipes I have collected and cooked over many years. Those will need to be digitized so I would still have them as a reference. 

Breakfast Casserole

When I worked at Warner Bros, my department was big on potlucks. Each birthday was generally celebrated with bringing in food to share in honor of our work colleague.

Most of the time we celebrated with a breakfast potluck. Muffins and donuts were often featured. Since I prefer savory foods, I would usually come up with a salty option. I would alternate between this breakfast sausage casserole recipe or a spinach and cheese strata, depending on the ingredients I would have on hand. 

This background in cooking in large quantities helped a lot when it came to cooking aboard sailing vacations, when we would each take shifts in cooking for 10-12 people and you want the food to come out at the same time. 

Shepherd’s Pie

In Good Eats, host Alton Brown would describe the science of cooking, which I found useful.

What happens when you introduce heat to a protein?

How do glutens form?

What is Maillard reaction?

For me, understanding these aspects helps me become a better cook. I find these cooking shows offer recipes that deliver the goods compared to other celebrity chefs whose shows are beautifully photographed, but whose recipes taste like crap. 

Here is Alton Brown’s recipe for Shepherd’s Pie. We try to keep to ground lamb for authenticity and taste, but if you find lamb to be too gamey, try 50/50 with lamb and beef. 

Boat Life

These recipes translate well to boat living, for the following reasons:

  • Provisioning

When you consider provisioning for a boat, think in terms of ingredients that serve as the basis for several recipes. Mirepoix is a great example of this. Carrots, celery and onion with chicken broth make a delicious soup on its own. In its individual components, the onion is the basis for french onion soup. In aggregate, the mirepoix in chunkier form can be used with the Momofuku recipe or in smaller diced form can be used with the Shepherd’s Pie.

  • Storage

These dishes profiled here also store well, not only the finished product but also the ingredients. Carrots, celery or celery root, and onions keep for weeks without refrigeration. Same with figs, flour and many pantry items. Once cooked, the items portion and reheat well for serving.

  • Family-style

When I was cooking aboard a Leopard 384 in the BVI, these recipes allowed me to serve a hot meal to large crew in a pinch. Traditionally, I have made the braised short ribs and both soups in a slowcooker. Both can be started on a stove top and finished in an oven. 

We are also experimenting in pressure cooker-friendly recipes so we can retire the slow cooker, and opt for an energy and time efficient method. We wrote about the Country-Style Pork Ribs prepared in a pressure cooker. Turned out, they weren’t as tender as the low and slow method. They are a decent option when you look at the big picture and weigh all variables. 

When we experiment with the beef short ribs, they were fantastic! The preferred method will be to use the pressure cooker from now on. I would even say they turned out significantly better than the slow cooker option, which yielded cuts that ironically had toughed up. We are throwing that batch into ramen to compensate for dryness. The pressure cooker version was tender and melty.

Parting Thoughts

As we continue to be in our “cook now explore later” mode, we’ve been watching a fair amount of sailing videos, most recently Sailing Project Atticus.

In this episode, Desiree was providing a tour of the galley, including where she stored provisions and her use of combining canned goods with fresh produce to create meals. It then occurred to me that I cook almost entirely with fresh food. Over the next few weeks, I have an opportunity to hone in the skill of cooking with canned food.

In the next culinary adventure post, we will profile our favorite recipes that primarily rely on canned goods. Stay tuned!

 

Reading Time: 5 minutes

During these times of uncertainty, it is helpful to sketch out a preliminary 2020 sailing plan to feel like you have control over something. Also, it’s a pleasant distraction from the 24/7 coronavirus news.

Upon purchase of s/v Rachel J. Slocum, we will have the pleasure of spending time with Bill (her original owner and designer), so we can familiarize ourself with sailing a 50′ staysail schooner. The initial 2020 sailing plan is to sail 3 legs of a triangle later this year, and spending significant time in the Vineyard living aboard:

  1. Cruise Atlantic Coast from Florida to Martha’s Vineyard
    • Daysails around the Vineyard, Nantucket, Cape Cod and Newport
  2. Offshore Passage from Martha’s Vineyard to Bermuda
  3. Offshore Passage from Bermuda to Nevis, Eastern Caribbean

These we will describe in more detail below.

Ft. Lauderdale to Martha’s Vineyard

Distance: ~1,025 nautical miles (over 5 days at 8 knots)

Best time: May to September

The first leg of this journey will entirely depend on when U.S. lockdown mode is eased, specifically, when marinas open up for cruisers to sail from port to port. Even if this doesn’t happen until August or September, this plan can still hold for this year. 

Our goal is probably to do a relatively fast passage offshore rather than take the ICW, which in places have a 5′ draft (our boat draws 6′). 

While Andrew and I have done some late night sailing, we haven’t done any overnights. So this will be a great shakedown cruise. 

Martha’s Vineyard

Best time: May to September

While the sailing season is short compared to other U.S. locales, the area makes up for it with stunning scenery and iconic culture of sailing. There is also a tremendous amount of variety, from calm, protected waters to treacherous seas for seasoned sailors. Lee Gaines describes the area as follows: 

  • Cape Cod Bay provides a calm and protected sailing environment but northern winds may occasionally churn the usually placid bay into a raging sea.
  • On the southern side of the Cape, Nantucket Sound and Buzzards Bay are popular sailing spots offering easy access to Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. Though not as sheltered as the Cape Cod Bay, calm weather makes this area a pleasant and relatively safe boating destination.
  • The Atlantic Ocean, accessed from the eastern ports along Cape Cod’s arm, can be a treacherous boating area and should be reserved for the most competent and experienced sailors.

For me, this will be returning to a region I called home for 10 years. Sailing here in s/v Rachel J. Slocum with Andrew and becoming part of this storied tradition will make this experience surreal, as we call the Vineyard home for a few months.

To be sure, there will be coves, inlets and different marinas to check out from Newport, RI to Boston, MA. Most of all, I think it will be fun to take Andrew to places that have personal history for me: in Wellesley where I went to school, in Cambridge where I hung out with friends, and in Boston where I lived in a 300 sq ft apartment.

Thanks to Mountain Project, we’ll also be sure to check out the local crags in Massachusetts. Lower Walls near Chestnut Hill looks promising. Otherwise, the coastline offers only boulder problems. Easy to get to, but not my cup of tea.

Martha’s Vineyard to Bermuda

Distance: ~650 nautical miles (over 3 days at 8 knots)

Tropical Storms: June to November

At some point in late October/early November, we will look for a reasonable weather window to point our bow southeast and head for Bermuda. With Bill aboard taking us through the paces once again, we’ll have a short passage to Bermuda.

In the most recent outlook, the hurricane season for 2020 is expected to be more active than in years past.  

  • A total of 16 named storms, eight hurricanes and four major hurricanes are expected this season.
  • This is above the 30-year average of 12 named storms, six hurricanes and three major hurricanes.

Despite its latitude and longitude – and its location so far north of the Caribbean, nearly a thousand miles north of it in fact – Bermuda is entirely frost-free, snow-free and ice-free. Why? Because the warm waters of the Gulf Stream pass near Bermuda.

Within less than a week, we will be traveling from crisp, autumnal New England weather to balmy, sub-tropical island weather. Luckily our 30-weeks to Minimalism downsizing project prepared us for these extremes. 

Exploring beautiful places and capturing them on film will be our goals along with rock climbing opportunities. Deep water solo, anyone?

We won’t stay here long, because our ultimate destination is the island of Nevis, Eastern Caribbean. 

Bermuda to Nevis

Distance: 900-1,000 nautical miles (over 5 days at 8 knots)

Best time: November (offshore), late November to May (via Bahamas)

Tropical Storms: June to November

Once we’ve had our fill of deep water solo in Bermuda, we’ll take a look at the weather window and head south toward the Eastern Caribbean. We haven’t decided on whether we’ll sail via Bahamas or not. 

Our goal is to safely deposit Bill back at his home on Nevis.

While we were doing some of this planning, we discovered that Pinney’s Beach is one of the top attractions of the island of Nevis. Pinney also happens to be the same as Bill’s last name.

Coincidence? 

We’ll get to the bottom of that story once we make landfall. 

 

Plan B

Many states are beginning to ease restrictions beginning this week.

We have been monitoring the news on updates with respect to California, Florida and Massachusetts since this will impact our plans in the near term. While hair salons, bowling alleys and certain retail operations are opening up, we feel it is too early to commit to any action, in light of the following:

  • potential rebound spike in number of cases, hospital admissions, and mortality
  • likely second wave in the fall of this year
  • other factors still unknown that can help shape how the “new normal” will work

The telltales we are reading come largely from the cruising community and whether marinas and services open up, and whether there is less restricted movement among ports. Until we see that happening (which will be on the trailing edge or the “leech” of trends), we’ll remain on hold.

If those trends don’t materially change until November, we will move directly forward with sailing s/v Rachel J. Slocum from Florida to the Bahamas or directly to Nevis. This scenario can hold until well into spring 2021. Either scenario would be great opportunities for us to learn the ropes on this new vessel, so we can’t complain. 

Reading Time: 4 minutes

 

This post was originally written in February, 2020. These days, there are very few options to buy items with stores shuttering temporarily due to stay-home measures to slow down the spread of coronavirus. This message becomes all the more relevant for those of you who would like to take stock of what you have around you, and MacGuyver it up! 

 

make vs buy

It’s been about 10 days since I began to bullet journal. So far, it’s going well. I’m taking a somewhat minimalist approach so that I build pages as I need them. And I try not to do anything too fancy or flowery.

I do however have to carry a small cache of writing supplies, which can be awkward.

 

Typically when a need arises, we generally think about buying a product. It’s a pretty ingrained habit that we all share. We all live in towns where there are plenty of places that would be delighted to sell you their wares. So it is perfectly natural to hop in your car, drive to the nearest store, and purchase whatever it is you need.

Now think about being in the middle of an ocean when a need arises.

Cabo Rico 38 Photo: Neville Hockley

Where is the nearest store?

Maybe if you’re lucky, it’s a few days away.

But maybe you’ll be in the middle of passage making, and you’ll have to improvise a solution to your need before you reach shore. While needing a pencil case and being stuck in the middle of an ocean seem like two unrelated topics, they marry up in my mind as follows:

Here is an opportunity to break a habit. Rather than instinctually driving to the nearest Michael’s, Office Depot, etc., why don’t I look around my house and create a solution based on what I already have?

This is the beauty of upcycling.

Current items around you suddenly become raw material to be transformed into something else which serves a better use.

I’m a sucker for life hacks and upcycling videos, so when I came across a youtube video from WhatsUpMoms  that seemed to serve my need, I went about and assembled the supplies: duct tape, ziploc bag, and scissors.

Five minutes later, I had a pencil case. I felt pretty proud of myself being resourceful. 

10 days later…

The duct-taped ziploc case turned out to be rather flimsy. In my haste, I had chosen a ziploc bag that had already been used for my knitting projects, so the zipper had a tendency to go off the rails (so to speak). It was time to improvise another solution.

Ironically, my first instinct kicked in. My brain fixated on a cute pencil case at Michael’s with the tag line: “Stay Humble. Work Hard. Pet Cats.” I had to shut down that thought and challenge myself to be resourceful.

 

 

So, the next idea was to knit a pencil carrying case. I scoured the nets for patterns and settled on a felted pencil case pattern from Lion Brand Yarns. I went into my stash of 100% wool yarns, selected a skein of black Patons worsted weight yarn, doubled up the strands and happily began to knit this project. Two days and two loads of laundry later (in order to felt the finished object), I have a new pencil case. It’s in need of a button to secure the opening, but other than that, I’m pretty pleased with how it turned out. 

Another 10 days later…

The pencil case is still holding up well. While it may not have a cute tag line, there’s nothing to stop me from embroidering a design and making it not only my own but stylish.

Post Script

Six weeks ago when I wrote this post, who could have envisioned the world and circumstances we live in today? Many businesses shuttered temporarily; some may be going out of business as they don’t have sufficient working capital. We are donating and financially supporting some of our favorite businesses, because we see the long term value in them or believe in their mission. This is part and parcel of serenadewind’s non-profit charter. 

However, when the services and products are not available, we are also left with the choice of giving up or doing something about it. We choose the latter.

As individuals hunkered down at home, here is an opportunity to not be a victim to a situation. Necessity is the mother of invention. Improvise a solution based on what you have at home. If you are short on ideas, there are so many life hack videos to help out with that. Here are links to life hacks or upcycle ideas to get you started. Check out MacGuyver episodes (original or reboot) to find inspiration.

The point is to feel empowered, take action and stay positive. 

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Where’s the nearest barber?

Part of embarking on this new adventure is learning to give up the convenience of specialists all around you to cater to every whim and need (e.g., doctor, mechanic, plumber, and of course barber). In this case, I will become Andrew’s new barber, every 6 weeks.

For about a year now, I have been cutting my own hair. A large part of this had to do with the fact that my stylist of 5+ years moved back to South Korea, and I couldn’t find a suitable replacement. Every hairstylist I have encountered has done a hack job, and I vowed that I could do better than any of them. 

DIY Upskill

So one Saturday morning, as I was browsing through Pinterest (one of my all-time favorite apps, btw), As we talked about in Eye of the Storm, I discovered Pick Up Limes a couple years ago and in particular their pin on DIY Long Layers Haircut.

I watched it a couple times and headed straight to our bathroom with a pair of crafting scissors and started to snip away.

Fifteen minutes later, I had myself a new do.

Andrew shook his head at this, and decided if I was going to be serious about doing this again, that I would need proper equipment. In short order, an exquisite pair of Mizutani Japanese-forged scissors arrived on our doorstep so that I could cut my hair properly.

The second haircut went a lot more smoothly, thanks to the sharp blades. While I may have nicked myself a couple times, I was pretty pleased with the results in the end.

Leveling-up

It’s one thing to cut my own hair because long hair is fairly forgiving. For good reason, I was more cautious with cutting hair that framed the face, as every flaw and mistake could be readily seen.

A few years back, Andrew and I also had decided to shave our cat’s fur in the spring. Our older cat Oreo in particular has issues with mats, and it pains me to have to give him a sedative in order to get him into a car and transport him to a vet in order to be shaved. There isn’t one step in the whole process that doesn’t seem cruel and unusual to me.   

So we decided, we would shave Oreo at home. We did the research and settled on an electric clipper set that was fairly quiet and well-reviewed. On one sunny Saturday morning we got everything set up for the grooming event… 

Oreo, however, was not a willing participant in the event.

Needless to say, that should have been predicted. As mentioned previously, I am a notorious saver and I hate, hate, HATE wasting anything. In this case, it killed me to have a perfectly nice clipper set and let it go to waste. Andrew, however, was a willing participant in this event.

We got set up in our bathroom, and I happily shaved his head. After about 10-15 minutes, the deed was done and when Andrew looked at himself, he was not enthusiastic. 

I may have cut off too much hair.

There’s an old picture of Andrew he carries around with him since it is on his green card. His head is closely shaved and it gives him a rather militaristic look. I gave him much the same look to his chagrin and that of our daughters, Emma & Silvia.  

…Try, try again

We all love Andrew’s locks, and so it was with some caution that I consider cutting his hair once again.

Luckily, there is Legit Mom from Youtube to the rescue, and I can once again study a 15 minute video and put it into practice on my willing and loving volunteer/victim.

And then, be able to do it again every 6 weeks…

Every 6 Weeks

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, many retail services including salons and barbers are closed. While you may opt to go native, we thought you might also find it helpful to try this out for yourself or for your family. 

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Rather than overreact to coronavirus media hype, set your waypoint & maintain a steady course through these rough seas we call life.

In the midst of the media onslaught on coronavirus, we all want to do the right thing. We hear advice from the experts while at the same time we are deluged with misinformation.

  • How do you make sense of all this?
  • Do you give into the fear and follow the panicked hoarders?
  • How do you stop from screaming at those who aren’t taking this seriously?

Here are our top 5 strategies to stay sane during this time.

1 – Unplug

With the amount of media coverage on coronavirus, it’s pretty hard to achieve a balance. I see a suggestion on Facebook encouraging people to post some good news. It’s a fine effort, I suppose. In my experience, I find it far easier to modify my own behavior than the behavior of others.

So, after updating myself on the news in the morning, I unplug.

I walk away from social media, news feeds, and conversations about coronavirus. This obsessive focus on the latest announcement isn’t healthy for me. It certainly can’t be healthy for anyone.

Find ways to occupy your time. Read a book. Watch a movie. Go for a walk. Play with your dog or cat. Tend to your garden. Learn a new skill. 

I am recently retired, so I’ve had to deal with a different transition alongside adjusting to coronavirus. Because I don’t have work deliverables and work colleagues to distract me, I find other ways to distract myself from the media.

I spend my days writing, knitting, playing piano, talking to Andrew, chatting with my mom and my friends on the phone or Facetime, making jewelry, playing with my cats, going on walks, reading books about sailing, experimenting with a new recipe, generating new content for serenadewind.com, and brainstorming about our future plans on a whiteboard, 

2 – Introspection

Whether going into the wilderness or carving out a little time on your own, this is a great opportunity to embrace solitude. There are time-tested benefits and we hope you will find inspiration in these quotes:

  • Originality thrives in seclusion, free of outside influences beating upon us to cripple the creative mind. Be alone – that is the secret of invention. Be alone – that is when ideas are born. ~ Nikola Tesla
  • A man can be himself so long as he is alone. If he does not love solitude, he will not love freedom; for it is only when he is alone that he is really free. ~ Arthur Schopenhauer
  • The best thinking has been done in solitude. The worst has been done in turmoil. ~ Thomas A. Edison
  • I never found a companion that was so companionable as solitude. ~ Henry David Thoreau
  • I think it’s very healthy to spend time alone. You need to know how to be alone and not be defined by another person. ~ Oscar Wilde

We elaborated on this as well in our post Selectively Social

3 – Deepen relationships

We’re all in this together. Why not make the most of it? Take some time out each day to talk with each family member. What is each person going through? If the answer is “despair,” check out Trey Ratcliff’s video on this topic. 

Despair is a necessary and seasonal state of repair, a temporary healing absence, an internal physiological and psychological winter when our previous forms of participation in the world take a rest; it is a loss of horizon, it is the place we go when we do not want to be found in the same way anymore. We give up hope when certain particular wishes are no longer able to come true and despair is the time in which we both endure and heal, even when we have not yet found the new form of hope. ~ David Whyte 

Brainstorm about your future plans, as we did when we started this whole journey in our Whiteboard post. Look at this collective moment in time to re-prioritize your life.  We elaborated on this as well in our post Project Slocum, Part 3

4 – Go into the wilderness

Observing shelter at home measures, which I support wholeheartedly, we have all become quite sedentary. Many of us may also be stress-eating. All this will lead to the nation (or the world for that matter) gaining the “COVID-15.” 

All beaches are closed. National parks same. Points of interest around the world where people tend to congregate – they are all shut down. For us personally, climbers are also warned against climbing at their favorite crags during this time. 

So, how can we be more creative about spending time outside and yet still practice social distancing?

Orienteering anyone?

A few weekends ago, Andrew and I drove to the Angeles National Forest in the San Gabriel Mountains. I’m familiar with a few hikes there back when I was training for summiting Machu Picchu. With that background, I knew the location of several trailheads and decided if the parking lots were full or if we were turned away, we could park off the side of the road and head into the woods.

I have a compass app on my iphone, and even if I didn’t, we could Bear Grylls our way up and back on our own off-trail hike. Pick a heading or a landmark and head towards it for 2 hours. Hang out in the middle of the forest and breathe in your surroundings. When you’re ready to go, hike back to the road. 

As luck would have it, we snagged one of the last remaining spots at the Icehouse Canyon Trailhead for Timberland Mountain. Modernhiker is a great resource in general for hikes in Southern California. I pulled up the website and familiarized myself again with the route. 

The cool part of this trail is that it runs alongside a flowing river, filled each spring when the snow melts or after storms pass through, such as the ones we’ve had this season, We decided to scramble on the rocks and take photographs. While other hikers remained 50+ feet away on trail, we were secluded and adequately distanced from everyone else. 

While I can imagine park rangers the world over cringing, we are at an unprecedented time. For those who embark on this activity, remember to act responsibly, which includes the following:

  1. Keep your distance from other hikers (6′ or more)
  2. Leave no trace (pack out all trash)
  3. Dispose of human waste properly
  4. Keep a low profile and minimize noise
  5. Respect other hikers and be mindful of hiking etiquette 
While more parking lots at trailheads are closed, rangers didn’t seem to stop hikers from venturing on trails while observing the guidance above.

5 – Chart a waypoint

In the end, Andrew and I have found that we take all of the information we gather each day about the events and we weigh them all in balance. Rather than have a knee-jerk reaction to all the media hype, we use our own judgment to chart a course, to establish a waypoint to our destination, and to maintain a steady course during the rough seas we call life.

We hope you find this helpful.