Get a peek behind the scenes of Hello Little Home in my April 2020 Diary!
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April 2020 Diary
Welcome to my Diary! This monthly series gives you a peek behind the scenes of Hello Little Home. I’m sharing all the things I’ve been up to that don’t make it on the blog. Hopefully, we’ll get to know one another better in the process!
What to say about April? This month felt like one of the longest months ever, ya know?
Since I've started this series, I've kept a note on my phone so I can keep track of what's been going on each month. I don't know about you, but my memory for day-to-day things is notoriously bad! So those little notes I keep are super helpful when it's time comes to write these posts.
I had to laugh when I looked at my notes the other day, and the top thing on the list was "coronavirus". As if I could ever forget about that. Ha!
Anyway, besides the glaringly obvious, here's what I've been up to this month ...
Messages of Hope
We have a view of the Omni Hotel from our apartment building, and every night there's a different message. The messages are usually related to current events, sports, or conferences (we get a lot of them here!).
Since March though, they've been sharing different messages of compassion, hope, and reassurance. I love checking the hotel at sunset to see what that day's message is!
I made a video with some of the messages. It's a little all over the place quality-wise, but I thought it would be fun to share it anyway ... check it out above!
You can read more about these massages at Paper City, if you're interested.
As this quarantine drags on, I've been trying to do little things every day to help combat the inevitable anxiety. Here are some of the self-care things that have worked for me:
- Taking things one day at a time. Rather than thinking about the big picture right now (and getting overwhelmed with uncertainty), I'm focusing on each day as it comes.
- Limiting my news consumption. Over the last month, I've been trying to cut down on reading the news to only once, maybe twice, a day. I think I reached the breaking point when Boris Johnson was hospitalized. Personally, I think the guy is the pitts, but the implications of what that meant for the UK / globally freaked out, and I found myself constantly refreshing my news app. After that, I made a conscious decision to stop ... there's not a lot changing minute to minute at this point anyway.
- Wearing makeup a few days a week. This is kind of dumb, but I'm someone that normally wears at least a little makeup every day. So putting on mascara and doing my eyebrows has made me feel at least a tiny bit better / normal ... especially when I look in the mirror or jump on Zoom (ha).
- Making time to exercise. I reached peak couch potato status a couple weeks ago, and finally had enough. Since then, I've been doing a couple Zumba and yoga workouts a week with my husband. We also did a long walk along the Trinity River. I'd love to do more walks, but it's getting hot here, and it's hard to get out of my apartment without encountering tons of people. So I've looked for other ways to exercise, like the 30 day yoga challenge I started a few days ago (it's free if you have Prime). So far, it's exactly what I've needed.
- Trying to find a quiet corner. I'm a total introvert who loves peace and quiet. And while I love my husband, he's the total opposite of me (very social with a loud voice)! We've been together in our (small) apartment with almost no time apart for the past 50+ days, so whenever possible I've tried to find a few minutes of alone time (whether that's reading in bed, taking a long shower, etc.). And it definitely helps!
- Doing something creative. I've always loved doing creative things, and I was actually an art major in college. But even though I have a creative job (this blog) in many senses, I'm not making art on a daily basis anymore. In April, my husband and I did a Zoom figure drawing class with the Living Gallery (we've done in person drink and draw events with them before, too), and it was so so fun! Definitely give it a try if you're into drawing. I also started doing some (very rough) drawings / watercolors. I need to keep this up ... it's stress-relieving and enjoyable, no matter the results!
What kinds of things have you been doing that have helped?
Cancelled Smokey Mountains Trip
We didn't have too much planned for this month with the exception of a trip to Tennessee. The plan was to fly into Nashville, then visit the Great Smokey Mountains National Park and Dollywood.
Obviously, that was didn't happen. We actually cancelled back in March when it became clear we weren't going anywhere for a while. While I would have loved to go on this vacation, in the grand scheme of things it's not a big deal at all. To be honest, I was much more heartbroken about not being able to go to Mexico City in March.
Due to travel restrictions, we had to reschedule it for June and now it's pushed back indefinitely. Maybe this fall? I'm not all that eager to get on any planes for a while, that's for sure.
What about you ... do you have any trips planned that you've had to cancel?
Testing Meal Kits
Over the past month and a half, I've been testing different meal delivery kits.
I've been a customer of Blue Apron for years, so I ordered a couple boxes back in March when it was so hard to find groceries. It was kind of a lifesaver at the time, and a nice break from pantry meals, like rice and beans!
Most of these companies offer a discount on your first box or two, so after that, I decided to try some of the others. So far, I've ordered boxes from HelloFresh and Dinnerly. And over the next couple weeks, we're trying Purple Carrot (the first box came last week). I'm really loving the variety that these meals have provided!
I've been taking pictures and keeping notes. Eventually, I'm planning to review these companies on the blog.
Have you tried any of these services? Which one should I check out next? I'm debating between Green Chef, Home Chef, Martha & Marley Spoon, and Gobble ... there are so many!
Behind the Scenes of Hello Little Home
With everything that's going on, it's been hard to find motivation to create new posts on Hello Little Home. I'm also not even sure what people are looking for right now ... for example, as it warms up should I do more comfort food or healthier / light spring and summer recipes (or both)? If you have ideas for things you'd like to see, please let me know!
While I haven't shared tons of new content lately, I have been doing lots of work behind the scenes. I've also developed quite a few new recipes. So much so, that I've actually got a bit of a backlog at this point. Ha!
Some of the things I have coming up are a different kinds of pesto (besides basil), pasta and pizza recipes, easy curries, a few hummus recipes, and simple salads. Since yeast has been so hard to find, I'm also working on a couple recipes for yeast-free bread and pizza. And I've got some lifestyle-type articles in the works, too, like relaxing things to do at home.
Please send me some positive mojo to get those photos edited and recipes posted. And let me know if there's anything you'd like to see first!
What I've Been Cooking
I've really been struggling to find the motivation to cook these past few weeks. While I'm definitely thankful that I actually have food to put on the table during this difficult time, it's just started to feel like a major pain to cook three meals a day. Please tell me I'm not alone!
When I look back though, we ate a lot of good food this month. We ordered takeout a few times from some of our local faves. And as mentioned, I did LOTS of cooking!
Here are some of the meals I remembered to make a note of:
- Thai Coconut Curry - I'm working on a recipe for you, which should hopefully be ready soon!
- Chickpea Lentil Curry - Another recipe I'm working on.
- Shredded Brussels Sprout Salad - So simple and easy!
- Broccoli Pasta with Peanut Sauce - Will maybe share this one, too. It's always a fave around here.
- Tater Tot Casserole with Mashed Potatoes - No tater tots at my store, so I had to improvise! This was a comfort food throwback to a casserole my mom made, except vegetarian.
- Cilantro Pesto + Cilantro Pesto Pasta
- Kale Pesto + Kale Pizza + Kale Pesto Pasta - More new recipes ... obviously I'm a kale fan!
- Nestle Tollhouse Chocolate Chip Cookies - I've lost count of how many times I've made these. So good and so easy!
- Pot Pie - Very similar to my Ninja Foodi Pot Pie Recipe, except made on the stove and baked with biscuits on top. Yum!
- No Knead Bread - using one of my last precious yeast packets ... it was worth it!
- Chickpea Tacos - Another recipe I'll be sharing soon.
- Black Bean Tacos - One of my go-to struggle meals, ha. So easy!
- Bean and Rice Burritos - Another struggle meal that's ready in minutes.
- Wet Burritos - We had leftovers of the bean and rice burritos, so I turned them into wet burritos. So so good and pretty much exactly the type of food I'm craving right now.
- Pasta and Sauce (Jarred) - Lazy dinner go to.
- Kale Farro Salad - Yum! Will be sharing this recipe soon, too.
- Lots of Meal Kit Dinners
- Drinking - Diet Coke, Wine, Iced Coffee, water, and Dalgona Coffee
I started this quarantine thinking I was going to be baking lots of bread and pizza, but I quickly discovered that I was low on yeast. And of course, it is no where to be found in any store. Are you in the same boat?
For one of my grocery orders, they substituted pizza yeast instead of the active dry yeast / instant yeast I requested. Unfortunately, you can only use pizza yeast for pizza. I'd never tried this kind of yeast before, and the crust it makes is pretty bad in my humble opinion ... very cardboard-esque (and now I have 12 packets, ugh). I actually found a source for yeast online just last week though, so maybe next month I'll have more bread in the mix!
Unlike most Texans, we do not have a car ... shocking, I know! We actually haven't owned one since we left San Francisco, which is over seven years ago at this point.
Most days, I don't miss having a car at all. It saves us tons of money and stress. Plus, I live right in downtown Dallas, so I basically walk everywhere. And before this current debacle, I also took public transportation and /or Uber when needed.
I live in a high rise building, which I also used to really like. Right now though, just getting in and out of our apartment is kind of a nightmare. Only 50% of people in our building are wearing masks, and we already know there's at least one person that has had the virus here (probably many more at this point). We have to take an elevator from the 18th floor to leave our apartment, usually crammed in with other people (and again, not everyone's wearing masks). Not good at all ... basically, I'm dreaming of moving to the suburbs at this point.
Long story short, we decided to rent a car one day last week, and it was pretty much the best thing ever! We spent the whole day driving around, while still social distancing, of course. Texas State Parks have reopened, so we went to Mother Neff State Park, which is near Waco. If you live in Texas, I'd recommend checking it out during the week (you need to reserve a pass online) ... the park was beautiful with lots of short trails and very uncrowded!
You need to wear masks in TX parks (I used this pattern to make four in March), and we only ran into a handful of other people the whole time (and they were 20+ feet away from us). I'd only left our apartment one other time this month, and it felt so awesome just to be outside!
Besides visiting that park and driving around, we also stocked up on groceries and other essentials. Like wine ... I definitely don't want to run out of that right now, ha ha!
What I'm Watching / Listening To
The binge-watching continues! After finishing The Sopranos, we started and then deserted Lost. I really loved it the first time around, so maybe we'll give it another go, but we just couldn't get into it for some reason.
The first two seasons of Barry were highly entertaining. I also rewatched the first two seasons of Ozark with my husband so he could catch up, then we watched the third season together (such a great show, though pretty dark).
I'm keeping up with Good Girls as it airs, and one night I finally gave in and watched Contagion. My husband actually visited this movie set quite a bit when we lived in San Francisco. He didn't want to see it though, so I watched it after he went to bed one night. It didn't freak me out as much as I thought it would, surprisingly!
Have you watched Succession? It's been on our list for quite a while, and we finally watched it. So good! If you have HBO, definitely give it a go. We also watched a bunch of random stuff, like Tales of the Tour Bus (an animated show from Mike Judge that was really excellent), all the National Lampoons Family Vacation movies (always a fave ... I think I know most of the words by heart!), and both My Big Fat Greek Wedding movies.
As far as podcasts go, I've been focusing on old faves, like Stuff You Should Know, Office Ladies, Bad on Paper, Be There in 5, and the occasional WTF with Marc Maron (the Laura Linney interview was great!). I also started listening to What's Gaby Cooking in Quarantine ... the episodes are short, so it's possible to bang them out quickly (or in little bits of time).
What's Coming Up Next Month
Who knows? Ha ha ...
Like many states, Texas has started the reopening process. I live in the heart of a big city though, and I don't really have a lot of faith in my state's leadership on the best of days. Cases of the disease are still trending up here, so I will be playing it by ear and continuing to self-isolate until I have a better idea of what's going on.
I hope that you've been able to stay healthy, both mentally and physically. It's been rough! What does the next month look like for you?
I hope you enjoyed reading my April Diary. Before you go, check out my March Diary to see what I was up to last month … AKA the month when the @#&!* hit the fan!