Letter from the Editor: Time, time, time -- see what's become of me

  • These were the ninja gingerbread cookies my husband, Brian, made for the holidays (for some reason, these are the only cookie cutters we have?) He says Prue Leith would call them "casual." I think they turned out pretty darn well for not having pipings bags and tips.

    These were the ninja gingerbread cookies my husband, Brian, made for the holidays (for some reason, these are the only cookie cutters we have?) He says Prue Leith would call them "casual." I think they turned out pretty darn well for not having pipings bags and tips. Brian Shamie | Staff Photographer

  • Well, this is it: The Mary Berry Bakewell Tart. We were watching "The Great British Baking Show" and the bakers were making during a technical challenge. I said "That looks good!" My husband said "I can make that!" He did, that same night, and voila, he discovered his inner Duff Goldman. On a side note: This recipe uses almond paste, and I have no idea why that was randomly in the cupboard. Maybe somebody broke in just to make pignoli cookies and left behind the evidence?

    Well, this is it: The Mary Berry Bakewell Tart. We were watching "The Great British Baking Show" and the bakers were making during a technical challenge. I said "That looks good!" My husband said "I can make that!" He did, that same night, and voila, he discovered his inner Duff Goldman. On a side note: This recipe uses almond paste, and I have no idea why that was randomly in the cupboard. Maybe somebody broke in just to make pignoli cookies and left behind the evidence? Brian Shamie | Staff Photographer

  • Melynda Findlay-Shamie

    Melynda Findlay-Shamie

 
 
Updated 2/10/2021 10:18 PM

In the Daily Herald earlier this week, seniors who had been vaccinated for COVID-19 spoke in a cautiously optimistic way about what post-pandemic life might be like.

I've been thinking about that a lot lately.

 

While it's not time to burn our masks just yet, as one of the story's subjects said, moving into Phase 4 of Restore Illinois, as well as having the vaccine and even seeing the return of high school sports is like seeing a glimmer of light at the end of a nearly yearlong tunnel.

But as I've been thinking about where we're headed, I've also been looking back, too. The past 11 months have been ... an adventure.

It's hard to believe it's been that long, but I clearly remember the day in March that Gov. Pritzker declared the stay-at-home order. I was actually at a doctor appointment for sort of a nail-biter, and the doctor -- who was not my usual one and was nice, but sort of weird and fidgety -- spoke in monosyllables and kept leaving the room. I discovered later he was checking on the governor's news conference via the TV in the waiting room. (don't you have a smartphone like the rest of the world? I would've watched it with you!)

It would be a couple of weeks to a month we'd be locked down, the governor said.

I'm an introvert who loves to read, and Brian and I get along really well in close quarters and just don't really fight much. This would be a piece of cake! (lol, foreshadowing)

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I'd use the time constructively: Eat healthy and exercise more (I'd had two surgeries in 2019 and finally had been cleared to get back to my normal activity levels) I could get more reading in and maybe use the money I was not spending going out to spruce up my work wardrobe a little and perhaps get around to watching the first 14 seasons of "Supernatural," which I'd been wanting to do.

Later that day, I was chatting with my immunologist friend; she works at National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, one of the individual institutes within National Institutes of Health. If it sounds familiar, it's because you've heard of the director: Dr. Anthony Fauci.

"We're supposed to plan on working from home until mid-May," my friend told me.

Oh. OK. So that's when I realized it was going to be a little longer than expected.

Welp. That was March of 2020, and here we are in February 2021. Let me give you a brief look at parts of time between:

I accomplished one thing on that list: I got through all of "Supernatural." But once we were done with the adventures of the Winchester brothers saving people and hunting things, the "using my time constructively" all kind of fell apart.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

I also spruced up my wardrobe. We're not going to talk about that (I'M LOOKING AT YOU, ROTHY'S).

There was no exercising, and there were days I found myself living on saltines and peanut butter or Twizzlers and Cheez-Its. I have definitely gained a little weight. I somehow actually read less. Our 16-year-old cat Gracie died, but a few months later we found our new kitty, Lexie, who is afraid of the dark and has learned how to open doors by herself (!) I got this great new position at work editing the Northbrook and Glenview Heralds.

And then there was the baking. Oh boy, was there ever.

Once we were done bingeing every show we were interested in, we found baking competition shows. And Brian's heretofore unknown inner Duff Goldman emerged.

It started out pretty innocently enough -- it was like sports. Yelling at contestants: "You can't make macarons in an hour! They won't have time to dry!" or "Who cares if your cake looks bad? Your flavors are going to be on point -- you know that!"

Until one day we were watching "The Great British Baking Show," and during a technical challenge, the bakers were baking Mary Berry's Bakewell Tart.

"Ooh, that looks good," I said.

"I can make that," Brian said. "I can make it right now. We have everything."

He made it. It was delicious. That said: It uses almond paste, and I'm super curious why that was randomly in the cupboard. It's not exactly a staple for the casual baker. Did somebody break in to bake just to make pignoli cookies and leave behind the evidence? Who is to say.

Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood, Buddy Valastro and the Food Network crew had all come together to create a monster.

Baking also brought the moment I knew the quarantine walls were closing in (besides having saltines and peanut butter three meals a day) I found myself yelling things like "WE DO NOT NEED A THREE-TIER CHOCOLATE CAKE!" or having him mad at me after I deleted sweetened coconut and powdered sugar off our shared grocery list app.

Because -- and these are words I never in my life thought I would say -- a person can only tolerate so many fancy baked goods.

We had to come to an agreement about baked goods -- both the ones he made or the ones he picks up when he gets groceries. HOO BOY. That is a hard limit to set!

And speaking of limits, I'll admit that I'm approaching mine with the staying at home, so I'm happy to see restrictions loosening somewhat, although I'm still being very cautious. No Super Bowl parties for me!

But please know that, as I write this, while I may be joking around, that does not mean I'm taking the pandemic or its toll lightly.

In fact, part of the reason I've thought about it so much is I'm limited in how much I can even go out and be around people due to a medical issue.

However, this has been one of those times where, for me at least, it's a matter of "if I don't laugh, I'll cry." Plus, as I said, there's that light at the end of the tunnel, and with that light, there's hope.

So maybe a laugh and a bit of optimism is what we can all use right now.

• Melynda has worked at the Daily Herald for 21 years. She is currently discouraging a batch of brownies.

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