It is May 13, 2020 when I started writing this. March was particularly special to look back to as it was the month where I was able to enjoy “normal” as I knew it before we were introduced into a new way of life. March 17, 2020, Tuesday, was the start of Shelter In Place Order in California.
March was the month of many “lasts” for the the time being as well as many “firsts.” It was in March when I last went to church with my family and we were able able to have communion together. The last hug (for I do not know when the next time will be) that I gave my brother, sisters, nephews and niece. If I have known, I would have hugged them harder and longer. (Actually, I could not because I had a cold.) I am so blessed because Mr Sweetie gave me a surprise belated birthday party with my family just before the lock down. I am very grateful that I have that lovely memory to cherish for a while until we get to get together again as a family. Here are the special things to remember in March:
Pastries to Bring Cheer
Serious talks about the coronavirus outbreak started. Everyone was nervous at work. My co-worker Michelle brought us a box of croissants from Arsicault to cheer us up. (Arsicault was named by Bon Appetit as the Best New Bakery in the US in 2018. It is now closed due to the lockdown. I am hoping that it will go back to business when this is all over.) I miss my co-workers!
Take Out Date Nights
Dining in at restaurants was prohibited the weekend before shelter in place. Mr Sweetie and I adjusted to date nights without dining out. Our very first takeout Saturday dinner was a delicious Korean meal at Bento & Bowl. The Saturday after that we walked to Brenda’s and picked up fried chicken and beignets. These are both in Oakland and both places to get delicious food. And I am happy to say that they are still in business.
First Day WFH
I started working from home (WFH) on March 24, the week after shelter in place was declared in California. I work 3 days a week from home and go into my office twice a week. The first week was a mixture of excitement and dread. I was excited to be able to stay home and finally have the time to do the things that I could only dream of one day such as cooking up a storm in my kitchen, taking food photos, organizing and getting rid of things that “no longer bring me joy.” Ha! Ha! At the same time, I could not get comfortable in my skin. Working non-stop for years in jobs that I greatly loved but are also highly stressful, my body and brain could not adjust to slow pace of life without the stimuli that my brain was used to. On my second week of WHF, things felt a little better except I could not get used to the empty, desolate streets of the ever bustling San Francisco (even to this day 2 months later). San Francisco looks like a set for an apocalyptic movie except it was real.
Last In Person Sunday Worship With My Family
I do not make a habit of taking pictures during worship but my sister in law said as we were about to take communion, “this will make a nice picture.” So I did and I am glad that I did. This was the last in person church service. Our church has gone online since then. Fellow church members take turn providing food after the service. We enjoyed a hearty Filipino-style chicken noodle soup that Sunday. It is pretty much no different from American chicken soup but with milk added.
A Belated Birthday Surprise
My birthday was in February but Mr Sweetie gave me a surprise birthday party on March 8. He has given me a few surprise birthdays in the past but I have always suspected. This time I was really surprised and overjoyed! I had a cold so I was out of it. When I walked into our house, my siblings and their families were there. They were decorating and inflating balloons. It was funny because it was just us — my brother and sis in law, sister and brother in law, 3 nephews, another family member and his girlfriend but they still decorated the house. Mr Sweetie ordered so many trays of different types of pupusas (El Salvadorean dish that is very similar to quesadilla and eaten with pickled cabbage and hot sauce). For dessert we had El Salvadorean empanadas which are bananas filled with custard, while my family brought an assortment of Filipino rice cakes and cake for me . We ate until we were close to bursting. The kids played video games, the men bonded while us girls took tons of photos by the photo booth that my family put together as well. It was really a simple and cozy day that was full of love, food, family and happiness. There was so much food that my sister in law brought the rest to church the next day to share after the service after packing boxes of leftovers for the family. I was not able to go to church the next day because I was still sick.
Spring Time During Coronavirus
It was difficult to reconcile the colors of spring such as vibrant gardens and cherry blossoms with boarded up store fronts and somber mood of people wearing masks. I finally braved venturing out to do grocery shopping at Trader Joe’s for the first time in two weeks after shelter in place. There was a long line of people wearing mask and social distancing while Smitten Ice Cream and See’s Candies across the street were boarded up. It was this month where I got to freely walk for the last time at Berkeley Marina and saw squirrels playing before parks closed to the public. Bonus photo: I got visited by a raccoon in my backyard! My cat, Kimba, was staring at it from the window and we both watched it the entire time it was eating and being oblivious to us. Such a beautiful creature but fierce and scary! (I also learned that one of my friends got bitten by a raccoon! My friend is fine but now I am totally terrified of raccoons and would not go in the backyard when it gets dark!)
Looking on the bright side of things, being on quarantine allowed me to indulge my desire to cook and experiment in my kitchen without limits. It is a dream come true and not longer a farfetched daytime fantasy. I also enjoyed taking photos of my food while the light is still good which I never got to do before the pandemic.
On my quarantine cooking menu are the following:
- Beef liver, egg and tomato over rice: I saw the beef liver at the grocery store and I could not resist getting it! The last time I remember eating beef liver was at a diner when I visited my friend in Palm Springs. That was almost 10 years ago!
- Cauliflower and Sweet Potato Soup: This was the first dish that I made and it was delicious!
- Arroz Con Pollo: Easy and delicious chicken and rice dish
- Tamago Sando: Pretty Japanese-inspired egg sandwiches
- Blueberry Banana Muffins: A funny cooking disaster but resulted in yummy muffins on the second try!
What I Am Grateful For
There are so many things that I am grateful for in March. While the pandemic turned the way of life that we knew upside down and inside out, I am grateful for life, safety and health, the vibrance of spring, family and friends. I am very grateful for food and necessities in life. And yes, I am very grateful that we have lots of toilet paper in stock and we did not have to join the crazy hoarding crowd. I always like to have plenty of water and toilet paper mostly because of fear of an earthquake. It paid off to be prepared. I am very grateful for the blessings of a well-stocked pantry and abundance of food. I am very thankful for the security of employment when many unfortunately have lost their jobs, finances and even homes. I am grateful for the many happy memories that I know I will continue to have with my loved ones and friends when this is all over… because someday it will finally end. Let us keep hope alive!