Monday, March 30, 2020

A Boon Day

Our Harris Teeter store, in a new 100,000 square foot space, finally joined the ranks of other retailers in offering early shopping hours for those over 60 years of age. It begins at 6:00 AM (apparently they don't think we need our sleep) and is only on Mondays and Fridays, but hey,  it's something. Jim was there a little after 6 this morning, and found a crowded parking lot and store with no chance of maintaining 6' of distance from anyone. The whole point is to get the more vulnerable population in and out of the store before it gets busy. He said a number of the shoppers were well below the 60 mark too. No respect...

toilet paper
He headed immediately to the toilet paper aisle where, wonder of wonders, there was actually some on the shelves for the first time since this pandemic was given its illustrious name. We hadn't seen TP at any of the stores we have visited. TP was definitely on the endangered species list. He was able to get the three packages that are allowed due to rationing (thanks, hoarders!), but he also scored two small containers of antibacterial wipes. They are cherished possessions as they've been as scarce as hen's teeth as well. He quickly grabbed the handful of other items on the list, and found a brisket to smoke for dinner tonight. Then he dashed to the car to secure the much sought after items in the back of the car before the shelves again emptied. Since we are now being advised we will have to stay home through April, it feels good to know that we are set with our paper goods for now. What a world!

Jim smoked the brisket all day, and it was amazing. We have leftovers to freeze, and those will come in handy for a couple of quick, easy meals down the road.

smoked brisket
The photo scavenger hunt contest was due today. Only three of us submitted our collages, so the lifestyle director just threw all the names in a hat to find the winner of a $100 local restaurant gift certificate. My name was not drawn (pretty sad when I had a one in three chance of winning), but here are the 45 photos I submitted. The first grouping was based on the alphabet, obviously, and the last seven had to be colors of the rainbow: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. The second collage was something crooked, straight, soft, smooth, rough, old, new, tiny, huge, high, low and beautiful. It was a fun way to occupy some time.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

The New Normal

Our calendar used to be chock full of activities for our community as well as various pickleball outings. Now we daily use White Out to remove said activities one by one. We are keeping busy with walks through the community and chatting at a safe distance with other neighbors. Last night eight of us gathered in the yards behind our house and the one next door. Keeping a safe 6' apart, we placed chairs in a circle. Sipping our own beverages, we spent a few hours catching up and discussing anything but COVID-19. It was so nice on a beautiful evening to feel somewhat normal again. I know how fortunate we are to be in a situation where we can get out and enjoy nature, as well as communication with others. I feel for those who are confined to a small apartment in an urban area as the sense of isolation must be huge.

I gave Jim a new camera for his birthday earlier this month, and it is the newer version of the one I own. We have spent quite a bit of time practicing shots together and apart. As one who has never been that comfortable taking my camera off of automatic exposure (don't judge-it takes great pictures), I am finding it extremely helpful to learn what else my camera can do by watching Jim work through his new one.

The community Lifestyle Director is currently running a Photography Scavenger Hunt. She sent out prompts for things to photograph, and we are to compile our photos into a collage and submit them to her. As the first prize is a $100 gift certificate to a local restaurant, I decided to submit. Though God only knows when I would be able to use the certificate should I win. There are 45 items on the list. The deadline is tomorrow, so once I hear who wins I will post my submission here. In the meantime, here are a few of the birds who have been visiting our yard.

bluebird, turkey vulture, and red-headed woodpecker

Friday, March 27, 2020

Stay at Home Orders

While this has already happened in other areas of the country, today was the first day that my town of Mount Holly and my county of Gaston issued Stay at Home Orders due to COVID-19. Basically we are not to go anywhere except to the grocery store, doctor's office or hospital if needed, pick up restaurant food, and go to work if your employment is one that is "essential". Most people who can have already been working from home for a week or more. We are allowed and encouraged to go outdoors as long as we keep 6 feet away from others and don't congregate in groups of more than 10 people.

We had already been minimizing the amount of trips we make to the grocery store, and at any rate they still don't have any disinfecting supplies, antibacterial liquid soaps or toilet paper. (And none of those items are available online at any price.) Jim found a small meat market that is selling TP by the roll, so we purchased a few of them. That is a great way to keep people from hoarding it. We had to pick up some building supplies for the house yesterday, so we went ahead and bought some flowers and vegetable along with potting soil. The day may come when they don't even allow us to go out for those kind of things.

Today we went to our community garden plot to plant the tomatoes, peppers and marigolds. We are allowed to tend to the garden because it is a) agricultural and b) a community service garden where 10% of each plot's bounty is donated to the food pantry and Meals on Wheels. So they definitely want to make sure that we get our gardens up and running. We just have to wear gloves, use our own tools, and keep the 6 foot distance between us and others. It was no problem as there was only one other person there at the same time as us. It is a little early to plant, even for this area, but the temperatures will be in the 80s for the next few days, followed by a couple rainy days. Hopefully there will not be a late frost.

Mount Holly Community Garden
One of our neighbors had the idea to place inspirational messages on sidewalks using chalk. She has chalk packages on her front porch for anyone who is interested. What a fun idea, and then people walk through the neighborhood reading the messages. Of course we wanted to participate, and we used Pooh and Eeyore for our quotes. I just love the creative souls around here.

Chalk the Walk
To say things are strange right now is certainly an understatement. Charles Dickens had it right when he wrote, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times."

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Toilet Paper Humor

The title of my last blog post became an impetus to a poem about the toilet paper shortage. One thing I have tried very hard to do throughout my life is maintain my sense of humor. In trying times it is easy to fall prey to all the negativity being strewn around. There is a lot of fear and uncertainty right now, so it's particularly important to find something to laugh about. What brings a smile to your face these days?

Friday, March 20, 2020

The Great Toilet Paper Caper

No Toilet Paper
The Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) has certainly dominated the news as well as our lives - and the lives of people worldwide. This virus is unprecedented and unpredictable. What makes it and our response to it so different from other mass illnesses in the past is, in my opinion, social media. There is so much information out there (some correct, much of it incorrect), and people spread it like wildfire. I feel like the world as a whole has not made it easy to find in one reliable place facts about the virus, steps to prevent the spread, items to have on hand, and how to treat the symptoms if someone in your house falls ill. It is for that reason that people are failing to take the precaution of self-quarantine seriously, as younger people think it is only the elderly who will get the virus and/or die from it. And people of an age to know better are still congregating under the misconception that "it won't happen to me."

Lack of proper information and greed has also led to hoarding, at least in the United States. You cannot find hand sanitizer, anti-bacterial soap or wipes, congestion relief medications, Kleenex, paper towels or toilet paper in the stores or online. Many people bought up huge quantities and are selling them on Amazon, eBay, and other resell sites at incredibly marked up prices. One man, who was finally shut down on Amazon, was found to have 17,000 bottles of hand sanitizer in his garage!

A residential construction project in the US was suddenly without workers, but it wasn't because they had the virus. Someone had stolen all the rolls of toilet paper from the porta-potties. By federal law, all construction sites must have at least two rolls in each one of them, and it is such a huge problem that the john vendor could not replenish the toilet paper.

We have been to many stores over the past couple of weeks and have yet to find any toilet paper. We scored a couple boxes of Kleenex and a couple rolls of paper towels, but no TP. We are not hoarders, so our linen closets and pantry are not stuffed with an oversupply of anything. While we have enough to get by for awhile, it is a little disconcerting to think that down the road we may have to beg a neighbor for food, medicine or TP. Because this is a new virus, it is unclear how long we will be asked to stay in our homes, only venturing out to go to the grocery store. These are scary, unsettling times which may deteriorate before they get better. A few of us have commented that it is not unlike the days following 9/11 where we were all braced for something worse to come. Hopefully, cool heads will prevail and we will all work together to help each other instead of thinking only of ourselves.

In the meantime, it is not a hardship to weather this in place at our new home, surrounded by a great view and a wonderful community. Especially when I wake up to a sunrise such as the one we experienced this morning.

Mountain Island Lake

Monday, March 9, 2020

Packing on the Pounds

Did you know last Wednesday was National Pound Cake Day? In honor of the occasion, our community hosted a pound cake bake off. I believe 12 of us brought cakes, which had to be homemade, and the rest of the folks just showed up to eat them. It was a competition, and we all voted on our favorite cake.

As I have never made a pound cake before, I looked online for a recipe. Who knew there were so many variations? And I assumed it would be baked in a loaf pan, but apparently bundt and angel food cake pans are acceptable as well. Becoming overwhelmed with all the choices, I selected an orange recipe as that is a favorite flavor of mine.

My new oven has been a delight to work with, and everything I've made has taken the exact amount of time the recipe called for - until the pound cake. I used a loaf pan, as the recipe directed, and the cake just would not get done. It was becoming too brown, so I covered the edges with foil. By the time the center was ready, I was running out of time for it to cool so that I could put the glaze on it. I stuck the pan in the screen porch to help it cool, and still ended up having to slice it while it was too warm. I very nearly called it quits and was going to go to the party without it.

But I persevered, glaze and all, the plate still warm as I headed into the party center. I thought the presentation looked okay, if nothing else.

Orange Pound Cake
Pound Cake Party

The array of cakes was amazing, and a large number of people showed up for the event. Quite to my surprise, my cake ended up tied for First Place. Not everyone got a chance to sample a piece, so that is pretty impressive. And the co-winner is known in the community as "The Baker". We each got a prize, which were made from a painting done by one of the artists who had worked on the property when it was formerly an artist's colony.

But all these events involving food and drinks make it easy to pack on the pounds. I'm making an effort to spend more time in the fitness studio and on the hiking trails. Pound away...

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Keeping Busy

Imagery by Lennar, the community where we live, has a Lifestyle Director to keep us busy and out of trouble. Ha! All kidding aside, the activities have enabled us to meet many new neighbors, stay fit, and learn about the greater Charlotte area. Jim and I are enjoying the hiking club, and Jim attends the whisky and wine clubs as well. Many new clubs are being established, including photography and Bunco, which I will definitely participate in. We have taken tai chi and the yoga classes are working out well for us. The first of the small refurbished artists' cabins have opened, allowing us to have an onsite fitness and yoga studio as well as a beautiful party center. Additional cabins are under renovation, and will house a library, pottery space, sewing and quilting, a game room and pool house. An outdoor pool is currently under construction.

amenity cabins
On Saturday we drove to Lake Norman, which is less than an hour away from us. Jim wanted to take the Porsche out for a spin, and we decided to celebrate his birthday a couple days early at a restaurant on the water. Many places are seasonal and not open yet, but we found The Landing. It is a retro lakefront property with a fun vibe. Our meals were just okay, but with the location we would definitely give them another try in the future.

The Landing
On our way back we stopped to take pictures at Rock Springs Camp, which is located in Denver, NC. We have driven by it many times on the way to our friend's house but had never stopped. The wood structures look like an accident waiting to happen, but people still stay in them for a couple weeks in August. The camp traces its roots back to 1794 when a Methodist minister held a camp meeting in the area. In 1830 the current property was purchased, and except for two occasions the camp has been held each year. Though they are called tents, the roughly built cabins have dirt floors, no screens, and many have no indoor water. Despite this, the cabins are mainly passed down from one generation to the next. As many as 10,000 people of all denominations attend the religious celebration.

Rock Springs Camp
By far the biggest attraction in the area, though, is the constantly changing palette in our backyard. A new painting is created there nearly every morning and/or evening. THIS is why we bought our new home here.

Mountain Island Lake