Our first day in Paris, memories of Notre Dame, 2013

Bleachers rise up from the sandstone plaza in front of Notre Dame, viewing stands or resting places or vantage points for tourists or foot weary street hawkers or gypsies searching for their next shill.  The police drive slowly in and out of the plaza in their electric cars, discouraging pickpockets and dispersing crowds.  An iron gate cordons off the verdant walkway above the river, a dog-free zone where parents allow their toddlers to roll on the grass and grannies and grandkids alike exclaim over the fresh green of the raised gardens: lime-hued flowers—bells of Ireland, massive spider mums, lacy ferns—interspersed with shocks of blue delphinium and tiny bachelor buttons, and the occasional column of white snapdragon.

We leave the living gardens through more iron walls to cross the river.  All the wire mesh fencing along the bridges here are woven into tapestries of metal, padlocks of all make and sizes hooked and latched to the grids of wire, like hearts carved in ancient trees. “Alicia loves Patrice” reads one. “Alphonse and Magritte, 2010” reads another, brass and chrome and iron proclaiming allegiance to l’amour.

On the far side of the river, in the shade beyond the Bato-boat entry steps, two panhandlers rest after the day’s exertions. They share a can of beer, slick with condensation, and chortle sweet entreatments to their pets. One man cradles a small brown and white rabbit in his lap. Collar and leash seem superfluous as we observe the creature gazing up into its’ master’s face. An equally enrapt guinea pig nestles in the lap of the second gentleman of the street. Perhaps one of the locks on the bridge bears the names of these pets and their protectors?  David wonders if we should ask to take a photo and how much do I think they will demand as a fee?  But the moment passes. We stroll on in search of a friendly cafe, a glass of chilled vin blanc, and a carafe of much-needed water.  Will we cradle our hands across the table on our first night in Paris where even rabbits wear the look of love?

Oxygen: I breathe, you breathe, we all breathe. Living the virus life, April 24, 2020 edition.

If you have a recent model Samsung cell phone with advanced features, be sure to download the “Samsung Health” app. Yes, it will force you to be tracked in a “big data” pool, sorry. However, the benefit is that you will be able to verify your oxygen levels, just like those oxygen finger monitors that are now being used to check people for potential Covid19 infection–and identifying risk levels. By monitoring your oxygen levels, rather than just looking for more outward manifestations of symptoms, you can detect your need for treatment earlier and improve your chances of survival. I don’t know at this time how reliable or accurate the device and application are, but better than nothing, right?

I confess to not yet doing the research on iPhones or other devices but thought I would get the information out there for others to consider. This was my process once I learned the function might exist on my phone:

1. First, make sure you have the Samsung Health app installed. It usually comes pre-installed on most new models.

Health app logo

2. Open the app and navigate through the categories. Oxygen monitor is part of the “stress measurement” function. Press the “measure” bar to begin.

3. Identify the scanning lens on your phone. It will be the small top square of glass that is third from the right.

4. Center the pad of your index finger over the lens, being sure not to press too hard. It should trigger a red light. You can verify it is running a monitor to analyze your oxygen level by peaking around to the front of the screen and you will see one of those jagged-line/stat monitors taking a reading.

5. Keep your finger in place until it finishes the analysis–the light will go off, and you can see the updated information in the app. Per the CDC, you want your oxygen level above 90%. 95% is a positive benchmark.

There are helpful suggestions with tools to help bring down your stress.

This is just a commentary on my personal journey of searching for resources to help ourselves and others. I have no political or philosophical agenda here. Feel free to add to the knowledge base. I just discovered this function a few days ago and welcome helpful information for other types of devices.

Ode to One-Pot Meals, April 23, 2020

Sometimes one-pot meals beat all else when it comes to the whole being-better-than-the-parts. We started with the requisite shallots and garlic spiked with a bit of crushed red pepper. Building flavor with a couple of almost forgotten links of kielbasa from Texas, we added chopped curly kale, a scattering of leftover fingerling potatoes, a slug of dry vermouth, and a can of Great Northern beans. This formed the base for the dish, finishing it with the main event: two boxes of Publix brand frozen mussels in the shell. Most satisfying. Oh, and no more bread for me this week. That French baguette rescued from the freezer, toasted with garlic oil and parmesan, sopped up the broth nicely!

We decided we can throwback this Thursday night dinner any old time. Feel free to share your favorite quarantine foraging here.

Ode to Sheet-pan Suppers, April 19, 2020

I have a profound love and respect for our native tongue: English. My husband possesses an equal depth of love for mangling said language to get my goat. So when we introduced our daughter and her fiance this week to the vast flexibility of the Sheet-pan Supper, David immediately advised me that we had a wealth of “snausages” in the freezer to use for the protein component. That’s right, Spell-Check, have at it. The letter “N” is not a typo.

A few days after our family arrived, we made our weekly venture out for some fresh foods and learned that Ella’s Market was still open. After scoring some lovely vegetables, I happily observed the glass and acrylic barrier across the sales counter. The owner reported business has been great. Yay for everyone buying local and practicing safety measures.

As I demonstrated variations on the theme of assembling suppers on a sheet pan, I recommended some useful strategies for constant cooking in your own space during a pandemic. Keep a flavor-infused oil on hand. I make garlic oil and cook it just until the minced or grated garlic starts to simmer in the oil, but take it off-heat before it browns. If your kitchen is air-conditioned, you can keep the oil in a jar or covered at room temperature. Otherwise, you might want to keep it in the fridge, but I promise you, you will use it up so quickly that it will probably not be necessary. Drizzle over your meats, toss it with your vegetables, brush it on bread before you toast it, slather it over that pizza dough before you sauce it (don’t forget to add kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to that pizza topping!). You will never meet an uneaten pizza crust again. I promise. Feel free to add an herb to the flavor base of the oil, or crushed red pepper. I add the additional seasoning to the individual food item. So, while the Hasselback sausage (if you don’t know that technique, wait for the pictures to follow. Be sure to click on them for a better view.) received a light brushing of the garlic oil alone, the carrots and cauliflower earned some thyme (sorry), and chopped fresh rosemary anointed the apples, onions, and Brussel sprouts.

Note: We planned our meal to feed six people and provide plenty of leftovers. Therefore, we prepared three sheet pans. And, always eager for new ideas, our daughter introduced us to roasted kale. Okay, you may be over kale. And you may not think much of kale chips (I don’t), but partially roasted, with edges just beginning to crisp, and seasoned with Aleppo pepper and sea salt—a revelation! And no, I am not asking you to massage the kale for three minutes first to tenderize it.

Accept the Sheet Pan Supper Challenge if you haven’t already done so. Dive into your refrigerator or pantry and innovate. A little acid at the end never hurts: we added a slight citrus tinge to the apples and sprouts, and some excellent sauvignon blanc vinegar to the carrots and cauliflower after they left the oven. Toast that stale bread with a little garlic oil and a hit of shaved parmesan. Happiness awaits.

I think of supper on a sheet pan as the Stone Soup meal plan for sheltering in place. Feel free to share yours here!

Hello World! Sheltering among the flour and the flowers, April 18, 2020

This week, I offered up flowers, soft pretzels, and stories of playing Mexican Train on the porch on a rainy afternoon. Yes, we continue to work on the mask project, but in fits-and-starts. Now the hospital supplies most of the materials needed, and the masks go to their surgical units. But cooking remains the sustenance for our body and our spirits. My hands kneading impossibly silky dough, playing tag-team with the ingredients and the participants: who wants to grate the cheese? Slice the meats? Chop the garlic? The result? Three lovely, flaky rounds: Eggplant with roasted peppers; Pineapple with pepperoncini (an inspired choice! the pineapple first roasted with a little sea salt and Aleppo pepper), and the standard—Pepperoni, sausage, and mushroom. Our innovation—cooking the mushrooms in a hot oven beforehand, so the juices are sealed in, and they don’t dry out when the pizza bakes.

The salad definitely took a village. Nancy Silverton’s Chopped Salad should have inspired us to break out the opera music, but we didn’t. OH. Mackenzie put in the whole tablespoon of oregano the recipe called for, and I promise to never be that coward again! We forgot to put Dino on Pandora, so the soundtrack of Little Italy pizza parlors never emerged over the dining room speakers. Still, we slurped and chewed with comments of “Bellisimo” and “Delicioso” and, “Are you going to eat that crust?”

The next morning, with cold-pizza-for-breakfast in hand as I dead-headed the roses, the multi-colored “Pinata” climber called out for taco night. The House of Garlic goes for round two.


Sandwich Sheltering: Between the Employed and the Unemployed, April 12, 2020

My desk sits facing east, an antique cupboard forming a barrier to the open adjoining dining room, a wall of windows to my right, looking southward over the water toward the orange groves that crown the hill above Lake Reedy in Frostproof, Florida. Behind me, and tucked into the office nook, my husband works at his sit-or-stand desk, four monitors stacked before him, headphone perched atop his forehead or strung around his neck, our world’s essential listen-or-speak apparatus. If he leans to his left, he too has a long lake view.

Our son sits on the other side of the cupboard, hunched and intent before a single, massive screen, the super-sized gaming computer at his feet, and, occasionally, a bird-cage or two by his side. When the birds call too loudly for his attention, he appeases them by wheeling them into our shared office, their chirps and chitters soon modulated by the tap-tap of fingers on keyboards. He quit his job in December to return to school, joining us here when everything shut down. Thankfully, his program restarted two weeks ago in an online delivery format.

Occasionally, my husband quietly announces, “I’m starting a conference call in five minutes.” Any urge to converse thwarted, a perfect time to get up and move.

I often begin my days pre-dawn, enjoying quiet solitude. Ironic, because there are three of us in this house, sheltering alone, our interaction buffered by technology. We spend hours so, cubicles of our isolation.

We gather for meals. Mostly, I cook. They eat.

This new reality sounds bleak, but it is not. We share joys: a message from a workmate about her son’s recovery from a long illness, news that two small local companies partner to make hand sanitizer, yet another funny bird meme. We debate over Pandora channels to broadcast, review the everlasting “to-do” list of household projects, discuss articles to read or movies to watch that evening. We are blessed with a full pantry and freezer when many are not. And we have space–a large yard in which to safely wander, separate rooms in which we can shelter alone, and birds to watch inside and out. Our cat alternates from lurking beneath the cages and stalking lizards on the screened porch outside.

We will be delivering devilled eggs and plates of Easter lunch to neighbors later today (with safety precautions in place). Maybe I’ll get back to mask-making after lunch, so many people still need them.

Joyfully, our daughter and her fiancé arrive tomorrow. Both unemployed service industry workers, after sheltering three weeks at home in Charlotte, NC, they determined it is safe to venture down to visit us. We hope they can make the trip with only one stop to gas up the car. We will tuck-in with a full house, the employed, the unemployed, the student, the cat, and the birds.

There will be enough people to play Mölkky in the carport, new competition for Mexican Train and Travel Rummy, new hands to knead bread, or mix cocktails. And indeed, more laughter.

Happy Passover. Happy Easter. Shelter safely. Call us if you need anything.

Living the Virus Life: Making Lemonade Out of Lemons, April 8, 2020 episode

This blog post is here on Frostproof Musings only because it turned out to be too long and complicated for a Facebook post.

Looking for something productive and helpful to do, my mother-in-law and I partnered up a few days ago to explore making face masks for those who don’t have them or can’t get them. I have been mining the internet for information and resources and decided to document our journey a bit and share some ideas and information that may be helpful. Please feel free to share this post and comment with useful ideas and suggestions if you wish. I include a link to an article from the NYTimes that gives a good summary of the pros and cons concerning fabrics and materials for making facemasks. As always, thank you for your time and attention!

Wendy White Goddard


I went to Senior Hour at Publix this week for our groceries and was heartened to see almost every customer wearing masks–many of them homemade in a variety of designs. My mother-in-law and I have been working on making masks, trying out different dimensions and designs, changing up materials, and looking for people to sew them if we supply the materials and cut and pin the fabric together. The options making their way around the internet are creative and inspiring.

I will say that we are pleased with our idea: creating a pocket between the fabric layers so you can insert a rectangle of H100 Sequential Sterilization Wrap (made by Halyard Corp, one of many other manufacturers). This is the material that the University of Florida is now repurposing, and sterilizing (they have ultra-violet sterilization machines), and fabricating into surgical masks. They have received approval to re-sterilize the face-coverings up to 9 times before disposing of them.

Click on the image to enlarge it and see details.

Of course, the general public does not have access to such sterilization equipment, but we found that we can cut 16 pieces from a single 20 X 20 sheet of the surgical wrap to insert into the fabric masks. We think this is a practical alternative and can maximize mask usage as well as providing better protection for the average “civilian.” Of course, you will want to sterilize your fabric mask frequently by laundering it in hot water and detergent or immersing it in boiling water for 2 minutes. Then, just insert a new piece of surgical fabric. Per UF’s anesthesiology team, this surgical wrap is 4% more effective in blocking microbes than the N95 surgical masks.

I will attach a picture of our design as it stands today. Who knows what it will look like as more and more people suggest improvements? Reach out, team up, find quilters in your community who are willing to donate fabric. For the nose-guards use large paper clips, or florist wire, or pipe cleaners. Now get to cutting and sewing! You might also consider using iron-on seam tape if you don’t have a sewing machine to assemble the masks.

In the meantime, mind your lemons, and stay positive!


NOTE: we use a piece of fabric cut 18 in X 7.5 inches for an adult size mask using 8 inch long elastic pieces for those who need a larger reach across their face to their ears. For smaller faces or children, a length of fabric cut 16 in by 7 inches will do. Cut the elastic into 7″ pieces for those with smaller faces.

Here is the link to the NYTimes article.