As I sit to write this post from my home office, 35 miles east of San Francisco, on June 23, 2020 we are one day shy of 100 days of Shelter in Place during the global COVID-19 pandemic. Typing that sentence feels daunting and heavy. It feels loaded down with the weight of 100 days of uncertainty and constant change paired with an almost boring status quo, day-in-day-out sameness; a dichotomy that we collectively and oddly understand to be true.

Cultural shifts: together-apartness

Throughout these 100 Days of Shelter in Place, we, as a people, have come together yet we have become more divided. We have united while pointing fingers. We have declared “together we will get through this” and then seemingly in the next breath stated, “wearing a mask infringes on my rights, you cannot make me wear one.” All the while we have reconnected in our apartness with loved ones near and far in ways like never before over a multitude of video chatting apps.

A re-awakening

If you are like me, and many others, this time of strange together-separateness has given you pause to think about what truly matters in the world.  The answers for each of us will be slightly different, but I believe many of them to be the same: love, joy, community, family, health, wellness of the mind, body, and soul, prosperity and financial freedom.

A new way of living

It is in that re-awakening and re-focusing that my family and I have found a new way of living life. One filled with deliberate intention, forethought, and a renewed appreciation for the age-old adage of, “stopping to smell the roses.” We now go on meandering walks for the pleasure of it, engage in deeper conversations, and sit on our porch in quiet togetherness. We picked-up new hobbies along the way too: we joined a cooking club, started an herb garden, created an inviting outdoor living space, perfected the art of the French macaron, and have reimagined SIP date-nights.

Here is a round-up of our favorites from 100 Days of Shelter in Place!

Cooking Club at Home with Food La La

Join us twice a month as we dive into things like THE BEST filet mignon we’ve ever had in our lives, homemade ricotta – which we then baked, artisan cocktails and so much more. Being foodies, Hubby and I ate pretty damn well before cooking club, but since cooking club we’ve hit an all new level of amazing, delectable food that is super easy to cook.

It’s not too late to join the Club! You can learn more at food-la-la.com/cooking-club-home. Be sure to tell them I sent you!

Our Favorite Shelter in Place Date Night – The Drive-in Movies

We live in Alameda County and our Fair Grounds have opened a drive-in movie experience. The first showing was Indiana Jones, Raiders of the Lost Ark. Being true 80’s kids we had to go! We were delighted to attend a drive-in as adults. We stopped at Total Wine & More for adult beverages and then to Roam Burger for take-out and shakes, but not before stopping at Walgreens for movie-candy. Adult Drive-ins rocked! We had gourmet burgers, adult drinks, and two desserts. It was a great night of childhood nostalgia and adult fun, just a few minutes from home.

For additional date-night ideas during 100 Days of Shelter in Place, check out these two blog posts: At Home Date Night Ideas According to Your Love Language & Love Language Date Ideas – Part 2

Curating an Inviting Outdoor Space

Buying a home in the SF Bay Area comes with some concessions. For us, it was giving up outdoor square footage to find a home in our price range. We are thankful and grateful for our beautiful home while also missing outdoor living space. During SIP we have missed an outdoor living space more than ever, so we were determined to make our tiny balcony inviting and warm.

To start we scrubbed the balcony top to bottom. We washed the floor, the screens, the windows, the walls, all of it. Once it was sparkling, we rolled out indoor/outdoor rugs & a bistro table from Wayfair. We added planters with colorful fuchsias, sweet alyssum, and plant stands of varying heights for depth & dimension. We added rope lights for ambiance and put them on a timer, so every evening they kick on at sunset. Our glass top table felt a little cold, so we added a planter of succulents and a few candles. The area rugs warmed and softened the space, but I felt it needed a little touch, so I layered a decorative doormat over the area rug by the door. It added that little extra detail, and I love it.

Now our tiny balcony feels much bigger than when it was bare. We spend mornings watching the sunrise, evenings watching the sunset, we eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner out there and stay up late playing cards, enjoying wine, and conversing together.

Urban Herb Gardening

While we live in a rural suburb of Livermore, our neighborhood is designed to be quite urban. We’ve always wanted to have fresh herbs, but we never prioritized the time to find creative solutions. Now, with our rediscovered appreciation of slowing down, making time and prioritizing our mental and physical health we made urban gardening a priority.

Luckily on our leisurely neighborhood walkabouts we saw these lovely balcony planter boxes. We snapped a pic to look them up online and they happen to be very cleverly designed. They self-water with a bobbing water level indicator, they attach to the balcony without obstructing our rope-lights and provide our herbs with hours of sunshine. We ordered two balcony boxes and after 6 long weeks, one of them arrived. We promptly planted chives, green onions right form our fridge, and thyme.

Here are the balcony boxes and an article showing all the kitchen scraps you can grow and regrow in your urban gardening adventures.

Perfecting the Art of the French Macaron

This idea of this hobby started from an event I did with Food La La two years ago. Lindsay has a DIY Macaron Bar that it’s always a hit with guests. Being a macaron lover myself, bringing Lindsay on for this event was a no brainer. After watching the guests make their macarons a seed of an idea was planted in my mind but being a busy event planner, I soon tucked that idea away for “some time when I am not so busy.”

Fast forward to the beginning of the pandemic, after my Spring and Summer weddings had been postponed and life took on new meaning with new focus. I was searching for hobbies when an email landed in my inbox.

Lindsay was offering virtual masterclasses and first up was Macarons! I don’t think I’ve ever signed up for anything that quickly before. The class came and it was fun, informative, and easy. I was hooked. My first batch came out fairly well and every batch since then has turned out a better than the one before. Macarons are tricky, but with Lindsay’s class I had all the tricks on replay. Thus far, I have made raspberry, mocha-java, lemon, and mango-lime. Still to come is key-lime cheesecake, strawberry cheesecake, blueberry, honey-lavender and more raspberry.

The best parts of macaron making are the time, effort and creativity it takes to make one batch. It takes me two to three hours to make a single batch of 26 macarons, and that doesn’t include the three days of aging egg whites, or the 6 hours of bringing the whites and butter up to room temperature on baking day, or the menu planning and grocery shopping that must happen first, or the 24 hour melding process that happens after baking, but before eating.

Once a batch has been precisely measured, whipped, mixed, piped, baked and assembled you can decorate them. They can be painted with edible metallic paint, water colored with gel food coloring, or dotted in sprinkles. Your canvas is a 1.5” macaron, yet the possibilities are endless. Once decorated they go in the fridge to meld, after which they can be enjoyed; but only after sitting out for 10 minutes, allowing the butter cream to soften just so.

All in it takes about a week to produce one batch of macarons. This is the perfect hobby for our renewed way of “stopping to smell the roses”, or in this case, slowing down to enjoy the art and skill of perfecting the French macaron.

In Closing

As my thoughts linger on the previous paragraph, this post, and the past 100 days of Shelter in Place, I can’t help but think about the French way of cooking and the Dutch idea of Hygge (pronounced hoo-ga).

The French Cooking Philosophy

The French believe in starting with the highest quality ingredients and keeping their dishes simple, elegant, and delectable. Remember the filet mignon I mentioned at the start of this post? We made it with six ingredients: butter, thyme, chives, parsley, salt & pepper. It was the most divine steak I’ve ever had. I purchased the highest quality butter, the freshest herbs, and the best cuts of filet I could find. The preparation was easy, the execution was simple, and the result was beyond our expectations.

The Dutch Art of Hygge

The Dutch believe in Hygge, a sense of togetherness, comfort and wellbeing. It is a feeling and a way of life. The Dutch seek this feeling and consciously incorporate it in their daily lives. It can come in the form of appreciating a sunrise, sharing a meal with close friends, snuggling on the couch with your love, or taking time for oneself in quiet solitude. Here in America these are things we enjoy, but often discarded or set-aside for a less busy time, when work isn’t so hectic, and our familial obligations are less demanding. The feeling or idea of Hygge is an abstract one at best in American culture.

Will you join me?

Whether by happenstance or by seeds of knowledge planted in my subconscious in busier times, I have taken the 100 days of Shelter in Place and cultivated a life of Hygge with a good measure of the art and culture of French cuisine. I share this with you, not to brag, but in the hopes you too can cultivate your version of Hygge.

To get started

If you’d like to learn about Hygge, I recommend this book: The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living (The Happiness Institute Series)

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