Messages from Quarantine

Darkness across the world with COVID-19 continues to flood the newsfeeds. Staying home, knowing that inaction is the only way to support the brave medical personnel, grocery and food service folks, and transportation service can be daunting.

“Home” Schooling

Suddenly trying to support my kids’ teachers’ efforts to continue the curricula from home has been a challenging affair. T and I have found our groove by doing academic activities for fifteen minutes followed by ten minutes of play time.

D and I have struggled a little more. We’ve tried to play a lot of games, but every time I try to put an academic bent on a game…well, let’s just say we’ve not seen much success. I haven’t given up, though.

We try to spend some backyard or front yard time if the weather is good, but today with the rain, I opted for a session of Coach Joe’s PE class on Youtube. If you’re old enough to actually do it, it’s a great workout. If you’re an excitable preschooler and his older sister, however, your mom will probably yell at you to stop bouncing on the sofa instead of actually doing the jumping jacks. I enjoyed the workout and plan to follow along, but I’m going to have to track something else down for the children’s physical activity.

Artistically, we also try to do some drawing based on a Youtube tutorial or just free drawing.

The kids have also discovered the joys of Super Mario Brothers. Their dad encourages them (and helps them actually clear the boards…) and I escape to get some quiet time writing or reading. It’s amazing how a single block of time while they stare at a screen now results in another few hundred words.

T and I drew Princess Peach from a Youtube tutorial.

Culinary Efforts

It comes as no surprise that I have a sweet tooth. My sweet MIL offered to cook lunch and dinner for all of us as long as I kept the kids from harassing her all day long, so I’ve gotten to focus on sweets, like these delicious chocolate cups. I filled them with peanut butter, homemade marmalade, or homemade chocolate blackberry jam. This must be my third or fourth batch of these since I found the recipe—they come together so quickly and use ingredients I always have in the pantry.

Chocolate Cups

I also made rasmalai, which was a huge hit and tasted way better than anything I’ve had in a restaurant. My mom’s recipe finally came out right using the toaster oven rather than my somewhat moody regular oven. This is a two-part dessert, one part a ricotta cheese bake and the other a half-and-half syrup cooked way down.

I’m also looking forward to testing out some handed-down family recipes in the coming days. We tracked down all the necessary ingredients in the recesses of the pantry, so I’m about to give it a try. Unlike the cakes and cookies I’m used to, Indian desserts are usually made with syrups and involve a lot of stove-top cooking. The ones I’ve made usually take full-fat milk and lots of sugar, then cook off all the liquid. The flavor profile usually includes saffron and cardamom. Nuts, especially pistachios, can be used as garnish or may be a main ingredient. Coconut is another popular addition. The recipe I have on hand takes a mix of nuts and coconut…I’ll let you know how it goes.

Also, to avoid a complete breakdown of the hard work I’ve done, between working out and intermittent fasting, trying to lose weight, I enjoy my desserts but move the majority of them to the freezer so I can enjoy them when the mood strikes instead of eating them mindlessly just because they are available.

Entertainment

Well, I caught a bit of a Star Wars marathon while getting all my ironing done, and I’m watching Wonder Woman while I write this post.

Honestly, I’ve gotten my fill of COVID-19 coverage, and I’m trying to stay positive in the face of the heartbreaking news from Italy and elsewhere. Watching more sobering coverage while unable to get a change of scenery seems like a difficult mental health challenge.

I haven’t started any new shows, and the reading I’ve done has largely been lighthearted. I have also kept up with my language lessons on DuoLingo, which I think is the easiest way to learn a new language or three…


Stay safe and stay home, everyone. Wash your hands, and reach out to family and friends through the amazing bits of technology at our disposal. Together, we can flatten the curve.

The Disappointment of the Chocolate Vegan Cupcake

Gooey decadent chocolate oozing flavor and rich scent as I peel back the paper surrounding the confection and take a bite of cake topped with just the right proportion of icing and sprinkles. Chocolate sprinkles, chocolate icing, and, oh yes, chocolate cake.

Alas, I had really high hopes for my cupcake, purchased at a local bakery after lunch today. The bakery’s name will remain anonymous since I obviously don’t encourage anyone to eat their vegan cupcakes.  I seldom get dessert, since most are made with eggs, a no-no in my diet.  Normally I just sneak a few spoons of icing off the slice of regular cake that my husband ordered.  He’s never happy about it, since he likes the icing and cake together, and I don’t leave much icing for him if I can get in a few bites before he says something.

In the interests of keeping K happy, though, I do try to locate desserts I can eat, although they seldom include chocolate and never involve cake. So perhaps my expectations for chocolate satisfaction were unrealistically high and doomed to disappointment when I tore into this eagerly awaited vegan cupcake.

The first bite was chocolaty and sugary. Almost cloyingly sweet, in fact.  The next bite of cupcake revealed the real flaw – the cake lacked depth of flavor.  Texturally, the cake was moist, and not too heavy, which is K’s common complaint with my eggless (but not vegan) cakes.  They tend to be kinda dense, which this one wasn’t.

However, what it provided in terms of mouth-feel it could not deliver in terms of flavor. The rich taste of chocolate simply wasn’t there.  My go-to chocolate cake recipe happens to be vegan (although I do add a couple spoons of honey to keep it extra moist) and provides much deeper flavors than this cupcake did.  All I need is a good chocolate icing recipe and the time to do pretty piping on my own cakes.

Honestly, the best tasting part of today’s cupcake was the chocolate icing.  Sorry, K, it looks like I’ll keep stealing the icing off your cake while the hunt for the perfect eggless chocolate cake continues.