Social Distancing 101: A “Restorative” Video

Today’s Social Distancing tip is to relax and watch magic for a half hour. Christine McConnell—gothic artist, creator, restorer extraordinaire—has released a half-hour episode on YouTube in which she gives new life to an old gramophone. I wouldn’t call this a ‘restoration’ as she doesn’t do anything to the actual working parts, but she performs real magic on the horn and cabinet. This was originally intended only for her Patreon supporters, but she felt we could all use a distraction. I can’t think of a better way to spend half an hour, now that I’ve watched as many of “The Repair Shop” episodes as an American is able to see. Relax and enjoy.

Need more Christine McConnell? Subscribe to her channel on YouTube.

Social Distancing 101: Deep Dive Organizing

I have recipes. Lots of recipes. Some are aging, crumbling newspaper clippings. Some are printouts from websites. Some are PDFs on my hard drive. Some are cut out of magazines. Some are beautifully written on perfect cute cards by my mom, who’s handwriting approaches calligraphy. And some look like this one:

Yes, that’s two cards badly taped together. Amazingly, I can understand the recipe, if I squint and stand on one leg. I got it from someone, possibly a friend or maybe a relative, either a decade ago or a few years ago, I have absolutely no recollection. And I’ve never actually tried the recipe.

I’ve made many attempts to organize my recipes over the years, but have never once achieved the goal of a perfect system containing everything. The goalpost has moved over the years, too. Way back, the goal was to re-copy all recipes (after testing them) onto perfect cute little recipe cards. But with advances in technology, now my goal is to scan everything into PDF files, then toss out the newspaper and magazine clippings, the printouts, pretty much everything except heirloom recipe cards written down for me by family. Those I’d tuck away with other memorabilia.

Having everything in PDF form means I can send a recipe to my tablet for ease of use in the kitchen. I can quickly share it with friends and family. And I can have a vast amount of recipes filed in an array of sub-folders on my hard drive, making it easy to find whatever I want.

Sounds like a great project to tackle now that I am housebound!

I’m betting you have a project you’ve been meaning to get at. Maybe it’s scanning and archiving old family photos. Maybe it’s finally figuring out how to transfer all those home movies from VHS tapes to something else. Maybe it’s organizing your workshop or garage. Maybe it’s arranging your designer shoes in alphabetical order by brand. I won’t judge.

Hey, if I can read that recipe card, YOU can tackle one project. Just one! When it’s all done, you’re going to feel so good about it. Just one less bit of stress/guilt to be carrying around.

And, you’ll probably have fun!

Social Distancing 101: Enjoying The Arts

If you’re able to pull up the internet on your smart TV or a good-sized monitor, you can continue to enjoy cultural experiences from home. Yesterday, CNN published a good resource article: All the virtual concerts, plays, museums and other culture you can enjoy from home

Artnet News offers more choices in this informative article, Travel Plans on Hold? You Can Visit 500 International Museums From the Comfort of Your Own Home Thanks to Google

My friend Bookworm also mentioned her own local art museum.
Minneapolis Institute of Art

I like CNN’s advice to ‘class it up’. Make these tours special and memorable by blocking out any interruptions, and settling in with snack trays and festive beverages. And why not pull out the good china and glassware for your globe-hopping adventures?

My personal recommendation is Jeff Wayne’s 2006 War of the Worlds musical. The entire live performance is available on YouTube.

If you know of a good arts and culture virtual experience that isn’t mentioned in that CNN article, I’d love it if you’d post a link to it in the comments here.

Social Distancing 101: Free Literature

Staying home means more than trying to stretch your food so you don’t have to shop so often. Today’s advice is all about fun.

Read a Book! There’s no better time than now to catch up on your to-read pile. If you don’t have a stockpile of books already, there’s lots to read for free online. If you have a Kindle, many Amazon authors offer free books, usually as a lead-in to tempt you into following the rest of a series. I’ve discovered some excellent authors this way.

Your local library may have online resources too. Mine offers checkout services for digital books, movies and music.

I’ve got some of my short stories, printable coloring pages, and a collection of Steampunk adventure YouTube movies at The Brassbright Chronicle. Look for the “Free Fun” menu tab near the top.

And last but certainly not least, Mims House books has a fantastic offer for parents needing children’s books. Here’s their announcement:

NOTICE: To support families during the COVID-19 outbreak, all of our ebooks and audiobooks are free. We guarantee that you’ll be able to open these on the device of your choice. To get it free, ADD TO CART. The price will be zero.  Check out as usual. (Be sure you selected the ebook or audiobook version. If you see an amount other than zero, you chose a paperback or hardcover book. Remove it from the cart and instead add the correct version.) To narrow down your choices, click on the category below.

Social Distancing 101: Making Your Celery Work Harder

I’m going to start posting a daily tip on making the most of your food, since going to the grocery store right now has turned into the worst kind of contact sport. Today’s tip – celery leaves! Pull them off your fresh celery and toss them in the toaster oven on 200 degrees, with the toaster door cracked open. WATCH THEM, they dry and toast much faster than you think they will. When they are dry, crumble them, pull out any still-juicy bits that might remain (throw those in your soup stock scraps container) and store it in a jar. Now you have celery seasoning, and it was free. I do this all the time, and just keep topping off my jar. It’s great seasoning for soups and chili, and even cream-soup based casseroles. Here’s more info about making full use of your celery. She recommends dehydrating your celery, but not everyone has a dehydrator, and I happen to like the slightly toasty taste the toaster oven gives the leaves.

Tall Tales and Outright Lies Time Change Announcement

TONIGHT, Saturday the 14th, Tall Tales and Outright Lies says ‘phew!’ after its near-miss with Friday the 13th. Join us to share a story or just relax and listen to literary antics. 7:00-8:30 PM SLT. LAST CALL in this time slot!

Starting Saturday March 28th, we’re moving Tall Tales to a NEW TIME. It’s easy to remember, just change the PM to AM. Yep, we are flipping the egg of euphemism over in the pan of pontification, in hopes of luring American early birds and European non-night owls out for a bookish breakfast break. That’s 7:00-8:30 AM IN THE MORNING folks!

The CocoaJava Cafe