Thursday, 2 July 2020

Sheeple vs Freeple: Isolating the Difference

Disclaimer: this is potentially a friendship-ending post. Read it if you want. Also, pardon my French.

Three kids, wearing masks over their eyes, grin like fools.
Oh, we've definitely been cooped up together for too long. (Image: author's own)

It used to be that people in masks were the bad guys. Now, masks seem to be a simple way to visually demonstrate whether you belong to the sheeple or the freeple, the educated or the ignorant. How you describe it and where you see yourself depends on so many things; religion, politics, education, and -- yes -- which network you get your news from. Or, in the simplest terms, whether you blindly follow rules or not.

For me, for my family, we are mask-wearers (unless I forget to bring one with me), but not for walks and runs and bike rides. If we go into a store, we put them on, and suffer the heat and discomfort and mumbling. I freely admit that I judge others for wearing (or not) a mask.

It's like when we moved here and saw the rules posted everywhere. Keep off the grass. No ball games. No cycling here

"We're Canadian," I told the kids over and over. "It doesn't matter what everyone else is doing. We follow the rules." 

But the longer I live here, the more I am frustrated, not by the excess of rules, not by the people that don't follow them (per se), but by the lack of enforcement. Why make rules that so many people don't follow? What's the point of having them if nobody really cares, either way? Why should I feel guilty for doing what everyone else is doing?

If all your friends jumped off a bridge, my mother's voice still rings in my ears.

I don't want to let my kids play ball games in the park, the games that the other kids play, often with their parents, directly under the No ball games signs, because it's against the rules. My kids are the only ones that dismount at the park entrance and walk their bikes to the playground. I'm sure our friends can't help but feel that we're judging them, and I know that the kids wonder why all their friends get to play with balls and ride their bikes, and they don't -- I also know that I'm secretly planting seeds of judgement in their little minds. 

We were invited to a "socially distanced" picnic on the weekend at the park. First, the act of sending the invitation alone was literally a criminal offence. Second, it was not distanced. The eight or so kids played tag, and the eight or so parents stood in a clump. Police officers on horses walked by and didn't break us up, just like they didn't break up any of the other too-large, too-close gatherings at the park. 

"We haven't seen you in so long!" the other parents said. 

Of course they haven't. My kids have been stuck inside every day, all day, with just each other and me for companionship/interaction/bitter fighting/screaming/sobbing. Our school has stayed closed. My kids hadn't been on a playdate since early March, and then we went on two, outside, with our "bubble" family, who had been locked in like us the entire time. 

The other parents were happy to see us, were incredulous that we have really been isolating that much, because "the kids really needed to see their friends." 

"It's been hell," I said, truthfully. 

I didn't say, "How could you not? No matter how your kids feel, what you believe, what your networks say, or what is happening in other countries, the rule here -- the law (until Saturday, that is) -- is that you can't get together with a group of other people the way that apparently every one we know, people we like and respect, has for the last three months."

I didn't say, "The fact that we followed the rules, alone out of almost everyone we know, doesn't make us stupid, paranoid or gullible."

It makes everyone else assholes. 


Monday, 1 June 2020

Get Up and Dance

A girl swings her long red hair, smiling
Photo by Johnny McClung on Unsplash

A few months ago, when isolation regulations were still feeling new, a friend sent me a funny dance tutorial by Joe Tracini, and said, “Try this.”

I was having a terrible day. I felt sad, hopeless, depressed. After all, I was trapped inside my flat with my three children, dog and husband for the foreseeable future. I was cut off from my friends, my running group (not mutually exclusive) and the active half of my income-generating work: my bootcamps and fitness classes. 

I still am. And I still feel pretty terrible. But, I digress.

I watched the video, smiled sadly, and wrote back, "Sorry, I just can't right now."

Everyone knows how strongly I feel about exercise and living a very active life. My mother has borne the brunt of this since I was in high school, but hey, science backs me up on every front. We should all -- ALL -- be exercising regularly.  Even little bursts of movement make you healthier in so many ways. It also makes you feel better. 

I know this.

I tell the kids this all the time. Movement, but especially dance, lifts the spirits. Go ahead: just try to do the running man for 30 seconds with a straight face. Or the Charleston. Or the Floss.* I dare you to dance and stay in a bad mood. You just can't.

So, I put on a Beachbody workout, sluggishly went through the motions for a few minutes. I didn't work out because I wanted to, but because a) I knew it would make me feel better, less angry, less sad, and b) I was on a workout program, and I'm nothing if not a rule-follower. Within ten minutes, I was feeling slightly more cheerful. I jumped and lifted and sweated, and I felt better after. Better enough to take on the dance challenge.

Nailed it.

So, hey you -- yes, you -- get up and move. Dance and be silly. Do some jumping jacks, followed by squats and your choice of pushup variations. You'll feel better for it, I promise.

More on the science:

"I Don't Need Anyone Pressuring Me to Work Out Right Now"

Remember when that photo of Adele went viral? A beautiful, incredibly-talented, successful woman and mother lost a lot of weight, and it broke the internet. People that have praised her new look have been vilified, because they must be celebrating looks and the diet culture over talent, are completely invalidating the rest of her accomplishments, and "skinny doesn't necessarily mean healthy".

*See how many generations I've got covered there? 

Friday, 15 May 2020

"Better than Timmy's" Ginger Molasses Cookies

The Domestic Goddess hands the Baking Baton over to the Junior DG 

Chris liked the size of my cookies.

Unlike what seems like 99% of the world (on social media, at least), I have been baking and cooking less during this lockdown. With everyone being at home all the time, and my homeschooling three kids at the dining room table every day, I have less time than usual to bake and make dinner, probably because I get my most productive work done after 3:30, when the kids are "finished school for the day" and I can "work because they are finally in a different room". And also, "please can they go back to school now?"

But, I digress. Ailsa loves to bake. My Junior DG desperately wanted to make sugar cookies "you know, the kind you roll out, cut out with cookie cutters, then decorate".

These are my worst nightmare.* Don't get me wrong; I love eating them, and make them twice a year (Halloween and Christmas) then watch in horror as my kitchen explodes into flour, icing sugar and sprinkles. Also, I usually pop a scrap or two of the dough between each rolling-out, so I end up with a tummyache by the time they come out of the oven.

I much prefer one-bowl recipes that don't require any rolling or shaping, that can be mixed and baked in thirty minutes or less. (I still have the dough-eating tummyache issue, though. Maybe it's me.)

SO, when she found a recipe for Ginger Snaps, I wasn't sure... I love ginger molasses cookies (the soft ones, not the crisp ones), and this one was billed as "light and crispy" and involves rolling the cookies into balls and rolling them into sugar. But we did it anyway, adjusting the ingredients, temperature and timing as we went, and you know what? 

It was delicious and fun. Ailsa did all the measuring and mixing, then the two of us scooped, rolled and rolled again.

The result was an amazingly flavourful, spicy-gingery, crispy on the outside/chewy on the inside cookie. Dare I say, the perfect ginger molasses cookie? Either way I highly recommend (even if I have a tummyache).

Ginger Molasses Cookies (makes 2 dozen)

3/4 cup butter
1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
1 egg
1/4 cup molasses
1 tsp finely grated fresh ginger
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
5 tsp ground ginger, divided
1 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

Topping: In a little bowl, combine 1/2 cup of sugar and 2 tsp of ground ginger. Set aside.

Cream butter and remaining 1 cup of sugar in a large bowl until smooth. Add in egg, molasses and fresh ginger. Beat. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt, remaining 3 tsp ground ginger and cinnamon until blended. Add half the dry ingredients to the wet, mix, then repeat.

Scoop out a generous heaping tablespoon of dough, roll it between your palms to make a ball, then roll it in the topping. Space balls evenly on the baking sheets.

Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until the top cracks. Let cool for 10 minutes on the sheet (don't eat them yet!), then remove to a rack to finish cooling.

Enjoy with a cuppa or a big glass of milk.

* Aside from Nightmare Cookies, that is. We had a bad run with Nightmare Cookies, a three-ginger cookie, about ten years ago, and are still shaken. Ask me for the recipe if you dare.

Monday, 4 May 2020

DG Presents: Tea Lattes at Home

The Domestic Goddess takes a victory lap after creating the perfect tea latte at home

Branding matters: Should I call my shop Starhuffs? Huffbucks? 

As a freelancer on lockdown, I not only struggle with having my family underfoot All The Time, but also with missing my real office, Starbucks. I guess I'm saving money by making my own tea, but tea is tea, and I miss lattes.

Remember when I had the darnedest time trying to find someone who even knew what a London Fog was? (because it's "only a thing" "not in London"?) Well, one of the baristas had heard of one, and shortly after that post, she generously taught the local team how to make them for me. I feel seen.

But, now I'm at home, and Starbucks is closed for the foreseeable future. 

So, I undertook the challenge on my own! After several internet searches (and a lot of trial and error), I've found the technique that works best for my tastes, resulting in a smooth, silky, not-too-sweet latte, easy to make at home without any special equipment. (I almost bought a milk frother, before discovering that a 9-year-old with too much energy is an even better solution.) (Also, vanilla syrup is available pretty much everywhere; I picked mine up in the impulse-buy aisle of TK Maxx.*)

I present to you:

Le London Fog à la DG

Earl Grey teabags (2 per person)
Vanilla syrup (1 Tbs per person)
Milk (1/2 cup per person)

Step 1: Brew your tea strong. Pour 3/4 c of boiling water over two teabags, cover (I used a plate) and let steep for 4-5 minutes.
Step 2: Pour the milk (I use semi-skimmed) into a large jar with a tight-fitting lid. Add the vanilla syrup (mine is some kind of natural, low-sugar substance), close tightly, and shake for 30 seconds till it's all frothy and has doubled in volume.
Step 3: Remove the lid and pop the milk into the microwave. Heat it on high for 30 seconds.
Step 4: Remove the teabags from your mug, then pour the sweet, frothy milk over top.


I made a delightful Chai Latte the same way, substituting chai tea for Earl Grey (der), and replaced the tablespoon of vanilla syrup with a teaspoon of vanilla syrup and a teaspoon of sugar.

*Fun British Fact: TK Maxx/Homesense is the British version of TJ Maxx/Winners/Homesense. Same company, slightly different name, for no apparent reason. Odd.

Tuesday, 28 April 2020

Update on Huffling Home Schooling

The first thing you'll want to know is whether I've killed my children or husband yet.

I have not.

Proof of Life, as of Friday, anyway. Husband is (probably) just off-camera, honest.
(Image: author's own)

That doesn't mean that I don't want to, or that I'm not going to eventually, but that currently, right now, they are all alive and well. Pink-cheeked and healthy, in fact. Irritatingly so. And breathing through their mouths. And always right there.

Maybe you're also wondering how my novel is coming along, and whether my freelancing work is fun to do while locked to our dining room table from 8:30 - 3:30 every day because the kids' breaks don't match up and everyone needs constant supervision and we can't get to the park except on weekends because we're strictly adhering to the "one-hour-of-outside-per-day" edict.

The answer to both:  It is not.

It turns out that they cannot play together for more than seven minutes without needing intervention: not outside in the jagged-stone-covered courtyard, not with a board game on the living room floor. They can't participate in their daily PE With Joe session without someone watching and telling them to actually try to do the exercises instead of correcting each other (by which I mean, telling each other "you're doing it wrong") and trying to get away with doing the least exercise possible (new record for fewest pushups done in a 30-second interval: three). One of the three can't make it through more than ten minutes of schoolwork without...well, without not doing their schoolwork. They can spend twenty minutes on a task, then, when I look over their shoulder and point out that they have only written one sentence, and that sentence didn't even answer the question the teacher asked (and probably started with "Because"), they get angry, erase or delete, and start again...and usually, they answer the same question like that at least three times for each. Another one of them still can't hold a fork properly. 

Oh, and the tears and screaming!

And the kids' tears and screaming!

It makes for long days. 

It's interesting to spend so much time with these three little people, the apples of my eye that I dreamed of teaching right from wrong, kindness, consideration and manners and realize that I must have failed them in every single way because they have none of any of those things. It can't just be the influence of the media, the school system and their nasty little friends -- the usual things we blame -- that makes them terrible, because they haven't seen any of them in six weeks now.

It has to be something that I did. For this, World, I am truly sorry.

In the meantime, I will continue to not kill my family, or at least try my very best. 

Note to Family Services: this is not a cry for help. However, I hear you offer a service in which you show up and just take one's children. Much appreciated if you could send a pamphlet my way.

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