Stuff to Do in These Isolating Times

I’m going to keep updating the blog itself, but I thought I’d keep this post on top because I’ll keep updating this particular one, too. Just scroll down to skip it if it’s of no use; if for no one else, at least these links will be easily accessible for me:

How to Help


  • You Must Remember This: “dedicated to exploring the secret and/or forgotten histories of Hollywood’s first century.”
  • Revisionist History: From Malcolm Gladwell, it “go[es] back and reinterpret[s] something from the past: an event, a person, an idea. Something overlooked. Something misunderstood.”
  • America Dissected: The overall podcast is about the United States healthcare system (anti-vaxxers, Big Pharma, etc.), but the second season is specifically about the Coronavirus. The host is a doctor, epidemiologist, and former health commissioner of Detroit.
  • Poetry Unbound: Each episode is generally less than 10 minutes, and concentrates on a single poem.
  • The Longest Shortest Time: A parenting show that’s over, but still fascinating and relevant.
  • Pop Culture Happy Hour: “a fun and freewheeling chat about the latest movies, television, books, and music.”
  • Forgotten Women of Genre: “Whether it’s the famous chords of a theme song or the ominous sound of Vader’s breath, the geekverse as we know it wouldn’t exist without the work or ingenuity of many women who sadly didn’t become household names.”
  • Levar Burton Reads: “In every episode, host LeVar Burton (Roots, Reading Rainbow, Star Trek) invites you to take a break from your daily life, and dive into a great story.”
  • The Good Place Podcast


  • Highlights Kids: Free online activities for kids
  • Audible Stories: There are also classic books available that could be of interest to adults.
  • Scholastic Learn at Home
  • PBSKids: Both videos and games
  • Virtual Field Trips: This is from the Nature Conservancy and it seems pretty cool! You can watch just the videos (so adults can do these, too!), but there are also teacher guides to download to interact with the kiddos. It says it’s for grades 5 through 8, but they can be adapted for all ages, and I would imagine that would be pretty easy to do
  • Earth School: This is from TED Ed in cooperation with a slew of other entities. There are 30 days of lessons and each week covers a different theme. Each day has a main video and secondary videos that I think you can watch without creating an account. To do the rest of it, which is really a multi-choice quiz (which I like because it holds Evie accountable for watching the main video) and a couple other options (like further discussion), you have to make a (free) account. But that also helps to track which ones you’ve done, so that’s one less mental burden.
  • This link has a slew of options, though the first section (Earth), is all from Virtual Field Trips, but the rest (29 other links) are from unique sites (though a couple are already on this list)

Electronic Resources: Entertainment

Electronic Resources: Recipes

  • King Arthur Flour
  • Joe Yonan: We got his cookbook, Cool Beans, and this is his website, which has a number of links to articles he’s written for the Washington Post on a variety of legume-based recipes.

Electronic Resources: Exercise

Electronic Resources: Consumerism

Look, why buy from Amazon when there are a slew of business out there who actually need the business (and who actually give back to the economy)? Amazon et al. will be fine. Buying from more independent sellers will also probably mean you’ll get your stuff WAY sooner and your orders won’t prevent people from getting goods they SUPER need (to include healthcare workers and various charities who use Amazon to hold their wishlists). Create an account at if you don’t want to spread your payment information around the internet. Most vendors have a paypal option.

Books, eBooks, Audiobooks

  • Better World Books
  • Your local independent bookseller: Go to this link to perform a search in your area. Many if not most shops have begun or ramped up their online orders.
  • Or go to, which sells books online but splits the profits among independent booksellers, no matter if they’re members. You can specify a specific local bookstore or the profits from your purchase will go into a pool of money that will be divided among all bookstores every 6 months. Here’s a Wired article from a couple of months ago to get a better idea of what they’re about.
  • Use for your audiobook purchases, if that’s what you do; your purchases support your local bookseller.


  • Go straight to the source! Many companies have an online shop, and most offer free shipping once you reach (usually) somewhere between $25 and $49
  • Hand Sanitizers: There are a ton of distilleries filling the gap and many sell directly to the public
  • How about a zero waste shop (some of which are called zero waste)? The products are meant to last longer (less shopping/going out/spending money -menstrual cups, for instance, for those of us who bleed monthly), help items last longer (the same), or just generally be more convenient for you -so why not?

And while you’re shopping, some business out there are also donating a percentage of their profits to worthy causes.


  • JoAnn Fabric: Supplies and craft ideas, but they’re also offering Creativebug free for 2 months (this is, apparently, a place to “[g]et art & craft classes on-the-go”)
  • Etsy! There are a large variety of vendors who sell kits for a variety of crafts, to include tole painting type things and needlepoint; I also just ordered fabric from a couple vendors so while there are a number of vendors online for fabric, Etsy vendors are also a possibility.
  • Lion Brand: Buy yarn and other such equipment and or get some free patterns
  • Yarnspirations: Same; it’s the parent company of a variety of yarn companies
  • The Spruce Crafts (there are also other sites, such as recipes)

Ben’s Birthday

Ben turned 2!

James had to work, so the kids and I had our typical day of a walk and school stuff (this was our last week of real-quarantine-school), and Evie helped me cook and we ate and opened gifts once James got home. And it turned out that the shirt I got Ben matched one of James, so he changed into that for some pictures -and then quickly changed out of it.


I know it’s partly the flash/lighting, but he looks so tanned and blondish!

I made chicken fingers with a variety of sauces, chicken and veggie meatballs, a caprese salad with extra tomatoes, and baked beans for dinner.

And for dessert, we had homemade strawberry shortcake.

Random May Pictures

Instead of buying kiddie pools, we broke out the winter sleds and filled those with water, which both kids have enjoyed. Ben hates water splashed in his face a la Evie or the sprinkler, but he does enjoy sitting in the water and taking water from one place to another.

You can also see pieces of our old patio furniture. We (mostly James) took them apart so we could recycle what could be recycled. It took months but we (mostly James) finally finished toward the end of May/beginning of June! Now we just need to take the recyclables where they need to go.

You can also see a bit of our garden! At that point, we really only had mint, thyme, and some carrots, but we’re slowly getting lettuce and tomatoes and sugar snap peas (and still mint and thyme). Oh! And some chives.

Evie had to draw some flowers around the house for a school project.

I’m not sure if he was looking for more or what.

And here’s a dinner baby:

Ben clearly has an innate understanding of efficient, comfortable work spaces and what it takes to work from home.

I can’t resist taking pictures of my kids as they sleep.

We have lots of walking paths, washes, and reservoirs around our neighborhood, so there are lots of opportunities to insect- and frog-watch. This includes gathering some of the latter as well as pond water and plants for a school project.

We saw this on one of our walks, and I’m pretty sure it’s an alien organism that, when broken apart, will release a substance into the air that will turn those who inhale it into some sort of alien-controlled pawn.

We also saw this on our walk and the color contrasts were so striking and gorgeous, we had to take a picture.

Our Memorial Day consisted of bbq, green beans, various potatoes, and strawberries.

Mother’s Day

I had asked James for a picnic, but it was cold! So we ate inside. James put together a tea party with small sandwiches, smoked salmon, blueberry scones, a caprese salad, and tea. So good!

Plus, he made challah, which was supposed to be for French toast, but we ran out of eggs. So we had fresh baked bread with jam/jelly.

Random April Pictures

From about late March through the end of the school year, I homeschooled Evie. Starting about mid April, Evie’s teacher started sending weekly lessons, to include worksheets and projects. But until then, I was on my own. One of the things we did was make homemade play-doh and paper bag jellyfish -and then we made a habitat for the jellyfish with that play-doh. Our lessons were definitely not all so connected, but there it is.

Our dishwasher broke -but, unfortunately, was fixable (all of our appliances are really crappy -they’re GE after all; they work, so we’re not about to spend a few grand replacing them all, but we do sort of hope they’ll break so we can have that excuse. Sigh. I miss our appliances at the Bedford house…) Anyway. It broke and James had it out to fix it once the part came in, and Ben extended his helpfulness to repair work. Since then, every now and again, he’ll get on the ground to look at the base of the dishwasher. The first few times he did it, I was worried, like he stepped in water or something. And then I realized there was nothing and he was just curious about the thing.

This is just a standard Monday at the Sakasens.

As mentioned, Evie’s teacher started sending home lessons and assignments and, since it’s a KSTEM, most of the projects incorporated the design and execution process. The wind unit included the designing and building of a windmill -check it out!

Not too long after we moved in, James built a swing for Evie. He has since improved upon it (particularly to make the seat larger so he can sit on it more comfortably), but when Ben started getting interested in the swing, Evie suggested Daddy make one for Ben!

For some reason, I feel like there should be some sort of runway. Or he should star breaking out into song, snapping his fingers to lyrics about jets and sharks.

Random March Pictures

Here we are sneaking cookies while Ben is elsewhere. Evie has a ways to go to understand such things as “act natural” and “clandestine.”

Every now and then, Evie will read Ben his bedtime story. Ben seems to be the limiting factor more often than not, but it’s still sweet to watch.

Ben is both a good eater and a good kitchen helper. He insists on knowing what’s in the oven, so the light is almost always on when the oven is -even if it’s just coming to temperature. If there’s even a hint that the oven could be in use, he runs over and insists the light turn on so he can check it out.

Best Buds

When we have enough time between dinner clean up and bedtime, we try to go on walks (though that’s easier when it’s not blazing hot), and the kids have taken to climbing up on the various berms around our neighborhood. Not only are there trees for running around/playing hide and go seek, but there are also decorative (but real) rocks on which to climb.

The Kids


  • He has clearly learned when he’s doing something wrong because whenever he’s doing something and we go to stop him, he’ll run and back away, shaking his head, like “come and get me, coppa!”
  • Ben and Words
    • He constantly says “oh nooo!” Something has fallen, “oh nooo!” Something is stuck, “oh nooo!” Something’s not working “oh nooo!” He’s done something wrong and wants to make it out like he totally didn’t mean to do it, “oh nooo!”
    • All done. This is another all purpose one. “all done…” I’m not hungry; “all done…” food’s ready. “all done…” I’m done hugging. “all done…” I don’t need your input, stop talking or telling me anything I don’t want to hear. “all done…” Mommy/Daddy/Evie are done doing whatever it was we were doing (showering, chores, walking, reading, eating, emptying containers…) “all done…” you may remove me from my bath.
    • “Airplane!” Which sounds more like there’s a B at the end of Apple, for some reason. And we’re under a flight path, so this happens a lot (not as much lately for obvious reasons, but still).
    • “Oooh!” When he’s very excited about anything or wants you to pay attention to what he’s paying attention to.
    • “Hot!” This is his general “this will hurt” word. See, Christmas. But it works because he’ll back away. So, another thing he does is insist on being involved with whatever is cooking. He always scurries over when he hears stove noises and always checks the oven -so we need to have the light on so he can peer in, even when nothing is in there -and when he hears the timer, he’ll run over and say “oooh!” and we say, “hot!” and he’ll say “hot!” and he’ll back away so he can watch from a safe distance. Or he’ll bring us the oven mitts, no matter if a timer has gone off or not and say “all done” like, “I say when it’s done.”
  • Ben loves to climb on things; he’s found my kitchen stool and knows how to open it without hurting himself and so will take it, open it, and push it around wherever he wants to go. Including the middle of the floor.
  • He loves to be outside. Even when it’s super cold or debilitatingly hot. And he’s really good at playing on his own, too, not just outside, but inside as well, which is helpful. He also loves walks and has also learned that going fast on walks is AMAZING.
  • He also loves to try foods, or at least to have the same foods on his plate as everyone else. This includes all manner of spicy sauces (hot sauce, gochujang sauce, cayenne pepper, spicy sesame oil, etc.). About which he says “spicy,” while strumming his lip and tongue. But then he’ll sometimes eat more.


  • She still loves to sing and dance, and she’s begun to sing -very loudly- outside. If you’ve heard “Into the Unknown” from Frozen 2 and remember the voice Elsa hears -that’s Evie’s call to all of the neighbor kids who have joined a coalition to shout to and play with one another from their balconies. When they hear her, it’s time to go outside and join the gang! Let’s rough up some dolls and blow some bubbles!
  • She’s starting to read; she still prefers to take the easier route to entertainment, but without really thinking about it, she starts to sound out words or even says them immediately (“that’s End, I know that.”)
  • She’s getting better at playing on her own, or playing with Ben. She still needs to the group play more than Ben does, but she is learning to entertain herself.
  • She’s still a ham and likes to pose for the camera… to the point we have to beg her to do a more serious one.
  • Clackity-Clacking on her “computer.” She’s created her own via paper AND random books, and she’ll sit there and play at using her computer to do various nonsensical things.

Patio Furniture

We needed new patio furniture but we couldn’t quite agree on what to get and we definitely didn’t want to spend a ton of money on it. Eventually, we decided James could take it on as a project (seriously, it was a joint decision; we were looking at other projects and talked about maybe making it ourselves, and then James started looking at stuff and I started looking at stuff, and then James took over).

The chairs took a while, but the table was a lot faster, in part because it was all straight cuts. There was a bit of a miscalculation, so he had to take it a part a little, but it still went a lot faster.

Next was to stain it -during which Evie insisted on helping (and she was a big help! She didn’t have any work clothes, so I put her in one of James’ work shirts) and then to polyurethane it. Lots of nights working on the project while the kids were asleep.

And then we got to use it! Well… We got to put it out on our patio and admire it and occasionally sit at it (also to admire it) because, naturally, we finished it just as various systems rolled through to make it cold and windy, rainy, windy, or just cold.

The one time it was warm enough was during a weekday lunch, so the kids and I got to sit out there.

It was sunny but still a little chilly; Evie learned that she needed to choose whether she wanted to be cold but not have the sun shining in her eyes or be warm but have the sun in her eyes. Eventually she chose the latter by scooching closer to Ben.

A Meal with Ingredients that Keep

Essentially. Also, both kids loved it. So there’s that endorsement.

I’ve been baking my own bread because we, the Sakasens, can’t live without bread, and I found this easy and delicious French bread recipe from King Arthur. It’s a recipe that requires a sponge (it’s just some of the water, flour, and yeast, mixed and let to sit so flavor develops), which they say needs a minimum of 2 hours, but I’d give it at least 4 (we did 2 the first time and it was really pretty boring). I’d also add at least 2tsp of salt (it says 1.5 to 2.25tsp, to taste). Regardless, I split it into two long, “oval” loaves (so I can freeze one if I need to), rather than 1 large round, and it’s fine, so don’t panic about deflating it too much. Anyway, it takes maybe a total of 8 hours, including time to cool.

Why am I talking about bread? Because this recipe needs bread and that’s the only thing that wouldn’t necessarily keep into weeks 2, 3, or 4 of not going out/to the grocery store.

It’s a recipe we got from Cool Beans but had to modify because we are, in reality, into week 2 of no grocery shopping and it called for broccoli rabe, which we don’t have. But we do have edamame in the freezer. We also don’t have great Northern beans because, I don’t know why, but we do have pinto. You just want something that can get that creamy interior and in choosing between the beans we have (black, pinto, and kidney), that was the best one. Anyway, here it is; if you look at the cover of Cool Beans, it’s that dish. And it’s SO GOOD.

Garlicky Great Northern Beans and Broccoli Rabe over Toast

Joe Yonan, Cool Beans: The Ultimate Guide to Cooking with the World’s Most Versatile Plant-Based Protein, with 125 Recipes (California: Ten Speed Press, 2020), 110.

6 servings

  • 2c Dried great Northern beans (may substitute navy, cannellini, or other white bean), soaked overnight and drained*
  • Water
  • 1 Onion, studded with 12 whole cloves [I cut off the skin, but left it intact]
  • 2 large Carrots [I scrubbed these, but also left them intact -to include the leaves]
  • 1 (3″x5″) strip Kombu (dried seaweed)**
  • 3 Bay Leaves
  • 3T Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 large bunch Broccoli Rabe, cut into 1″ pieces
  • 6 Garlic Cloves, finely chopped [crushed garlic provides more flavor]
  • 1tsp Kosher Salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/4tsp freshly ground Black Pepper
  • 6 thick slices Rustic Sourdough Bread, lightly toasted***
  • 1T chile oil (optional)****
  • 1/4c Parmesan, grated or shaved*****
  1. Combine the beans in a large pot with enough water to cover by 2 inches. Add the onion, carrots, kombu, and bay leaves, turn the heat to medium-high, and bring the beans to a boil. Let them boil for 5 minutes, then reduce the heat so the beans are at a bare simmer, cover, and cook until the beans are very tender, about 1 hour. (Alternatively, you can cook the above in a stovetop or electric pressure cooker: Bring to high pressure and cook for 17 minutes if using a stovetop model or 20 minutes for electric. Let the pressure release naturally, then open.)
  2. Discard the onion, carrots, kombu, and bay leaves and strain the beans, reserving all of the cooking liquid.
  3. In a deep skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat until it shimmers. Stir in the broccoli rabe and saute until very tender, about 8 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until it starts to soften, about 2 minutes. Stir in the drained beans, 1.5 c of the reserved cooking liquid, and the salt. Cook just until the beans are hot and the flavors have melded, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the pepper, taste, and add more salt if needed.
  4. Divide the toast among shallow serving bowls. Drizzle with the chile oil, if desired, and spoon the bean mixture and broth on top. Finish with the Parm and serve hot.

* You can probably use canned, you just won’t have quite the flavor profile. But look for BPA-free, of course, and low sodium.

** As far as I understand, this is more to helps provide the enzymes needed to digest beans without, ahem, their musical qualities. Or at least to reduce them. They also provide salt and some flavor. BUT if you don’t have kombu, and, let’s face it, you probably don’t in these times, you can do without. I haven’t tried it, but maybe at a tablespoon of salt to the cooking water. As far as the gas, do what you need to do in that regard (soaking helps so maybe try to plan ahead).

*** Here’s where the bread comes in. I don’t like sourdough (a gasp from the crowd), thus the French bread recipe. But if you do, great!

**** I garnished James’ and mine with red pepper flakes

*****We started eating this without the Parmesan and it was really good, but once we remembered and added the shaved Parm it was SO GOOD. It just added that depth of flavor and punch of good salty rather than salty salty.

Again, we used pinto instead of great Northern and edamame instead of broccoli rabe. After tasting it, I think this recipe is very flexible. I still don’t know that I would use peas because they’re so sweet and their texture might be too soft, but then again, I’m thinking frozen broccoli would work, so maybe that’s not really an issue.

On another note, we saved the rest of the bean cooking liquid and the carrots and used those in the chicken noodle soup James made that night and it was good! So, in the spirit of little to no waste in these end times, save the cooking liquid and cooking veggies for other dishes.

My New Apron

I made myself an apron! I had a lot of scraps of fabric, much of which I had used for a picnic blanket I made a few years ago. Plus, lots of worn out jeans. Anyway, I did much the same thing, made a patchwork square fabric that I cut out to make a pinafore apron. The straps are a little short and I’m trying to get up the energy to take it a part and lengthen them, but otherwise, I like it! Evie had a small one that we’ll give to Ben, and Evie will use my old one. So we’re set until Ben grows too big for his. Evie has already claimed my new one, but she may change her mind in a few years.

Painting, part 1

We painted all of the rooms upstairs when we moved it, but hadn’t done much since then (I painted the half bath last year around this time). We had some water damage in the master bathroom/bedroom (and Evie’s room) because of shottily made houses and their roofs, wind, and rain, and the drywall repair extended down the wall a little in the master bath, so we had to paint that room. While we were at it, we painted the entry way. Much of the house was already painted, but I think the main reason there’s been little impetus to paint anything is that we were (mostly) done upstairs and the the main floor was an acceptable blue. Except that there was this weird light green along our entry and lower staircase. I mean, the color isn’t/wasn’t bad, but it just didn’t go with much of anything in the house (then and now), and we had so much leftover paint that we just mixed the dark and light grays together (the dark gray was from the master, the light gray was from Ben’s room). The master bath itself was the weird blue color that I had always intended to paint, but bathrooms are always such a pain (so many nooks and crannies) so I kept putting it off. But no more! As a matter of fact, we painted the master bath AND the ground floor bathroom. And maybe I’ll get to the ground floor room before we show the house to sell in a year or two.

In addition to painting the hallway, we put our pictures back up on the wall, to include some we got from Cynthia’s house, one of which was a large painting Grandpa Hammett did (James’ maternal grandfather), which we had framed and had just gotten back.