Pandemic Ingenuity




DEBORAH CROMBIE: In these stay-at-home weeks, we're all learning ways to compensate for the things we can't buy or do. Here are a couple of my pandemic hacks--silly they may be, but I'm quite proud of them.
With no trips to the nursery and no fresh herbs available in the supermarket deliveries (at least in my area) I was really missing planting my spring/summer pots of tender herbs. (Why is there a shortage of fresh basil, I ask??) So a few weeks ago I ordered a kit with little seed-starting pods for nine fresh herbs, including basil.  What I didn't realize until the kit arrived was that it was meant for a fancy $150 grow-light set-up. Well, I wasn't about to throw out my little pods, and I sure wasn't ordering the grow-light apparatus, but what to do with them? 
Here's my solution. An egg carton, an orchid stake, a plastic plant saucer, and the light from my kitchen window. And voila! All the little seeds have sprouted! In a day or two they will go into plastic cups, then hopefully, in a couple of weeks, into the outside bucket garden.

Hack number two was a solution for my splitting thumbnail. About fifteen years ago my right thumbnail developed a perpetual crack. This seems to come from  a fault in the nail bed and can't be fixed with glue or regular nail polish, and it doesn't heal itself when the nail grows out. 
The only workable remedy I've found is either a gel or an acrylic powder coating. With no salon manicures in the foreseeable future, I ordered a UV salon light and some base and top coat gels, then rooted around in my dresser for the bottle of gel color I'd bought to use at the salon before I went to London last fall. I've never even managed to do a decent manicure with regular nail polish, so I approached this with some trepidation and a good deal of trial and error. But what do you know, it worked, and it looks much more professional than I ever imagined! 


Dark purple wouldn't have been my spring color of choice, but it sure beats keeping a band-aid over my thumbnail!
Reds, what are some of your ingenious solutions?
JENN McKINLAY: Nice hacks, Debs! Much like you, I’m really missing my nursery! I’ve been using the scraps that used to go into the compost pile to plant. So far, I’ve had luck with repurposed green onion stubs, bell peppers cores, and sunflower seeds. Here’s a pic of one of my baby sunflowers.


Because I haven’t been able to visit the local “smelly store” (that’s what we call Bath and Body Works) and am missing my scented candles, I dug out all of the old plain tea lights I had, melted them down added some essential oil (lavender for calming) and a cotton wick and now have mini (colorful) candles burning while trying to maintain my Zen. 
HALLIE EPHRON: My favorite hack is in this week’s New Yorker - a NYC chef (Emma Bengtsson of Aquavit)  improvised, propping her phone on a head of broccoli to film a cooking demo when the tripod she’d ordered hadn’t come.
Not exactly a hack, but it's been an adjustment, not shopping for groceries every 3-4 days and walking down to the Seven-Eleven when we run out of milk. Instead I’ve been trying to order online for delivery. Anyone who’s trying to do this knows it’s a challenge to get a delivery slot. The first time I scored a slot, it was for 3 weeks ahead. My list grew longer and longer as the date approached, and the total ended up being nearly $400. Yikes. 
Then the delivery came! And immediately I began fishing for a new slot. It was an obsession. For days I tried at all different hours, only to find every time slot booked, And then last night I set my clock for 2 AM, got up and trundled down to my office, logged onto the market’s web site, and managed to book a slot. It’s two weeks from now but that’s perfect! Instead of adding to a shopping list, I go online and add to what’s in my ‘cart.'
I’m also understanding what we always called our parents’ Depression mentality. I simply don’t throw bits of leftovers away. They go into soups and stews. Overripe bananas can be frozen and used for banana bread or smoothies. Also we’re using the telephone a lot more. Actually *talking* to relatives and friends instead of texting or emailing. It’s really quite lovely.
And my hair… it hasn’t been this long since I was a hippie. I actually dug a curling iron out from under the bathroom sink and used it.
DEBS: Hallie, I cut my own bangs! Didn't turn out as badly as I feared (maybe I should get a second opinion on that...) and at least I can see now.
JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: I’m not going to be able to worry about planting for another month and a half, so I’m going to order seeds from Johnny’s Seeds here in Maine as soon as they open for residential customers (they’re only filling commercial farm orders right now. However, Jenn, I’m intrigued by sprouting from scraps, and would like to find out how!
We’re still setting fires in the kitchen and family room wood stove to help keep the house warm (we had snow last Thursday that stuck to the ground for over 24 hours!) We’re fine on wood, but we normally use newspaper twists as the base layer for kindling - from newspapers we get at the Transfer Station, since we only have the Maine Sunday Telegram delivered. Of course, the Transfer Station is closed right now… but we’re still getting a steady diet of junk mail, medical bills with three extra pages for privacy, etc. So instead of many pieces of newspaper, I’m crumpling the burnable parts of our mail (just paper, no plastic, no coated stock) and adding just a few twists of newspaper to start a fire. It’s actually working better than newspaper alone, because the print-quality paper goes up more slowly and lasts longer, creating a longer period of time for the twigs and small splits to catch. 
Hack for those of you who suddenly have a lot more people eating at home than you did in the before times: I’m completely doubling all dinner recipes. Like, I’m making so much, I do it in two separate pots. With a 19 yo, a 22 yo and a 27 yo at home, it at least makes sure everyone has all they want in the evening AND ensures leftovers for lunch the next day. Truly, I had forgotten how much a household of young people eats when there’s no high school cafeteria and take out pizza to fill the gap.
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: I am spending so much time not only cooking--but planning. What I have to use first, monitoring sell-by dates with supreme focus,  learning how to freeze things, being so frugal and careful. Don’t use all those paper towels to wipe the floor! I call out to Jonathan. We can use rags, then wash them. I use half a disinfectant wipe instead of a whole one.
Anyway. We had a bunch of hot dog buns in the freezer, (I think from last July 4, frankly), taking up too much valuable freezer space. So--I made rosemary infused olive oil croutons! Cut up the frozen buns into crouton size, coated them with the oil in a bowl, CAREFULLY toasted in the oven. SO delicious. I mean--fabulous. 
And I found out you could grow spring onions from the tips of the used ones. I mean, of course things grow, but it never mattered before, because there were always onions.  But now it seems so terrible to throw anything away. I am so happy that they seem to be sprouting! (How much water are you supposed to put in, anyway?)



Plus, I made masks out of tea towels and hair holders, essentially the origami version. SO pleased with myself. 
Getting ready to cut my bangs. AHHHH. I have a Facetime appointment with the hair guy, and he is going to tell me how. Or try to, at least. Debs, your success gives me hope.
LUCY BURDETTE: We are very fortunate to have planted tomatoes, peppers, and basil on our deck well before all this hit. If only I could share!
I had the funniest experience on Saturday. Our church in CT sent out an email inviting us all to be part of a Zoom Easter choir. I love to sing (though I’m lacking in real talent) and I hated missing Easter, so I signed on. Our choir director/organist Nathan is an incredible musician, who cares deeply about how a group of singers sounds and works hard to get the very best out of the material he’s given. Anyway, about 17 of us plus the minister aka tech guy showed up on Zoom, along with Nathan stationed at the organ. We were to sing two familiar hymns “Christ the Lord is Risen Today” and “Thine is the Glory” that would be used in the Sunday service. We had a practice run. We were so AWFUL!! It wasn’t only the basic droning, it was the waxing and waning of Internet in 17 homes that caused us to be completely off the beat most of the way through the song. Poor Nathan! There was a lot of discussion about how to fix it--I suggested lip-synching or solos. Others thought we should all sing separately and some IT wizard would run that together, or maybe watch Nathan’s head bobs. (We were really trying though!) Finally, I said: “I think we have to focus on the joy and not worry so much about the sound.” So we tried again. At the end, someone asked the minister how we sounded. 


“There were glorious moments!” he said, then added, “Even the most broken things can be glorious.” 
I’m telling you the laughs were so worth the price of admission!
RHYS BOWEN: I am frustrated because I’m trapped in our winter home in Arizona,which is a lovely place to be but... it was only equipped with the basics and we moved house last spring, tossing out any bits and pieces. So no baking items, no sewing items, not even a jigsaw puzzle!
  We just have a patio and shrubs so no garden. My daughter gave me a couple of pots and seeds but so far none has come up. Am I the only person in the universe who can’t grow zucchini?
  I will try Hank’s growing onion tops ! Any other suggestions?

Also hardly any bath products etc. all those lovely bath bombs in California! And craft supplies plus a huge library to read! Thank heavens for Kindle.  
My one hack has been making a face mask from a bra!  But it’s not very breathable.
  I am trying a little painting with my granddaughters in California.
DEBS: So we are all working on our Little House on the Prairie selves, with a little WWII victory garden thrown in. 
What about you, dear readers? What solutions have you come up with for the little nags of our new reality?
  #PandemicHacks #StayAtHome #COVID-19 #CoronavirusHacks
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