Day 14 – The Quarantine Gurus

Day 14 – The Quarantine Gurus

We’re now entering week three of Quarantine in Italy. In other parts of the world governments are just starting to introduce similar measures. We’ve seen the toilet roll shortages and the last-order parties at pubs, but we now need to be prepared for a new wave of stupidness. The Quarantine Gurus.

Any day now, we’ll start seeing ads on Facebook by self-proclaimed isolation experts, who, after 24 hours of quarantine will have already written a manual and created a course you can buy. Be ready for titles such as;

  • Make Government Enforced Quarantine the Best Days of YOUR Life
  • How to Live Your Best Life in Self-Isolation
  • Beat the Corona Blues with these Hot Tips (Only $199 while the Corona Virus lasts! Buy Now!)
  • The Lockdown Lifestyle Guide – by self proclaimed Hinduism expert Todd Richardsmum (who spent a full week in India last year).

I’ve already seen a few articles with recommendations, written by people before they have even started quarantine. Here are  a few examples and my opinion:

1. Guru: Take this time to declutter your shelves and wardrobe. Clear out all those clothes that you haven’t worn in a year. Get rid of all those books you have never read.

Rosie:  This is the worst time to declutter. All the charity shops are closed, you can’t have a garage sale and there’s no point in trying to advertise items online as no one can come to your house, so where are you going to put all the stuff that you are going to bag and box?  If you feel you have to do a clear out, maybe learn to make patchwork or rag rugs out of your wardrobe clutter, or just plan to re-wear them instead of buying new stuff? And don’t get rid of those books, you will be glad of them if the quarantine continues.

2. Guru: Catch up on all those DIY projects you have been putting off.

Rosie:  DO NOT DO this. Do you want to add to your local hospital’s burden when you fall off a ladder and break your ribs or need stitches after using that saw you bought in Lidl three years ago which you have lost the instruction manual for? Stick to things that are not in anyway risky… like patchwork or rag rug making.

3. Guru: Turn Your Garage into a Home Gym

Rosie: Your garage is probably full of clutter. See number 1.

4. Guru: Categorise Your Digital Photos

Rosie: Yes I like this idea! I have photos dating back to 2012 I’ve never looked at since downloading them from my phone… I  just need to figure out how to access iCloud or find the mystery folder is that photos seem to be sent to when I download them from my phone.

5. Guru: Journal Your Corona Quarantine Experience

Rosie: This I agree with. The days can blend into one, so keeping a diary, or journaling, helps put things into context as time goes on and it is a great form of self therapy.

However, I’ve seen some gurus suggest that your kids should journal about it. I’m not so sure about this. Do you really want to look back and read;

‘We played Monopoly AGAIN. I still can’t see my friends and Mam is loosing it as all her wine is gone. Dad is staring at the wall as there is no sport on the TV.’

Best not to remember all the details, just recap the nice ones when this is all over.

Day 13 – What’s Cooking?

Day 13 – What’s Cooking?

There are great suggestions going around about what to do to pass the time in self-isolation and learning to cook is one that is very popular.

The thing is, you’ll probably discover you don’t have at least three of the ingredients needed. Are you going to risk your health and the health of those around you to nip to the store for Sweet Paprika when you have Smoked Paprika on the shelf? No, you won’t, because you are a responsible citizen and you will substitute ingredients instead. So I think every ‘recipe giver’ should include alternative ingredients that can be used as substitutes.

To help start this idea, I have shared a link at the end of this post to one of my favourite recipes. It’s Chickpea Curry and it’s a quick, easy, vegetarian recipe that is very tasty created by a couple of Irish chefs called the Happy Pear.

As I said, you probably won’t have all the ingredients, so here’s my substitute ingredient suggestions:

If you don’t have chickpeas you could use cannellini beans (white beans).

Coconut milk is also required – I find this difficult to get in Italy so it’s probably not something you have in your cupboard, so you could use cream instead.

If you don’t make curries regularly you may not have curry powder you can just leave that out, and if you don’t have paprika you could leave that out as well.

If you don’t have a lime you could use a lemon.

Coriander is not a thing in Italy, I can’t find it anywhere, I’m growing my own now, but in the meantime I use flat leaf parsley instead.

So there you have it. Follow the instructions on the link below, whip this up, using the substitutes and you have my favourite dish Chickpea Curry … without chickpeas or curry … actually what you have made is White Beans in A Creamy, Parsley, Lemony Sauce which will probably look very bland and taste like crap.

But hey, keep a note of the substitutes you use for all the recipes you try, and you never know you may have your own recipe book ready to print by the end of quarantine 🙂

Here’s the link to my favourite recipe:

Day 12 – Food Glorious Food

Day 12 – Food Glorious Food

I’ve gone up 2kg I think, or it might be four, I don’t want to look close enough at the scales to see if the little dashes stand for one or 2kg each.

While standing there on the scales, I got a premonition of my future grandkids looking through a family photo album:

“This is my great, great, great, grandma Nancy, she lived through the Irish Famine. She became the mother of 11 children who did great things throughout the world.”

“This is my great, great, grandfather, Jim – he lived through World War 1. He became a soldier and won medals.”

“This is my grandmother Rosie – she lived through the Corona Virus Pandemic … She became obese.”

I’m not sleeping well either. It’s not because of the worries about the world, yes, I’m anxious about my elderly parents in Ireland, our daughter in London and my brother in New York, but that is not what is keeping me awake, it’s indigestion. I’ve never suffered from this before, but since going on lockdown, our fridge and cupboards are well stocked with all the good stuff we like. And since we are not working as normal, we are having time to make nice meals for both lunch and dinner.

The Italians do this all the time – a proper sit down lunch and a cooked dinner. It took me two years of living here to discover the secret of why they were not all obese with the amount of food they ate. The secret seems to be that they keep the carbs for lunchtime – the pasta and risotto’s and then for dinner they have fish or meat with vegetables. So the carbs get burnt off during the day. They also don’t really do breakfast – just an espresso for most, so maybe they are unknowingly doing the 16:8 fasting thing that we all hear is so good for us?

So it’s time for me to turn the clothes horse back into the glorious thread mill it once was, and get my son to show me how to use his weights. I can’t say I am going to end up with a Cosmo beach ready body but at least my knees won’t give way by the end of quarantine.

Day 11 – How To Homeschool

Day 11 – How To Homeschool

It’s Friday, the end of the first week of ‘home schooling’ for a lot of people. On Monday I saw posts of white boards of timetables with sticky notes, proclamations of how parents were structuring their kids work schedule, kids smiling at dining tables and home offices as they and their parents embarked on the new adventure.

How’s that going for you now? As a parent who homeschooled her kids for years, can I laugh now or should I wait until the end of next week?

Here’s what probably happened:

Day 1: It went wonderfully. You flew through the workbooks and assigned work in two hours, you think your kid is a super genius and that you lost your calling, you should have been a teacher.

Day 2: Mrs Murphy, your kid’s teacher, is playing a blinder, she has sent lots of assignments that you are finding really interesting. If only school had of been as good as this when you were going hey? You are so distracted by the history lesson about Egypt, that you haven’t noticed the kids have been playing out in the garden for the last half hour.

Day 3: There’s a new chapter in Math that you are asked to work through. You’re showing your kid how to do it the way you learnt, but “teacher does it different”, there’s a new way of doing it.

You find yourself saying ‘In my day we did it this way…’ and suddenly you feel as ancient as the pharaohs you were reading about yesterday. Your kid is now mixing both methods and getting completely confused. You decide to skip that chapter. The wi-fi is slow, so you call off lessons early and let the kids play a video game instead as a once off treat.

Day 4: Mrs Murphy has scheduled a ‘live’ lesson for all pupils to log into at 9am. She too is enthusiastic with this new way of teaching. She expects you to get your kid up for a 9am lesson when you don’t have to get up to go to work? Is she crazy? So you decide you can skip that one, so do half the other parents so you don’t feel too bad.

When you do get up, you have 15 emails from Mrs Murphy and the other teachers, with different subject assignments to get through with your kids. You have work to do yourself for your own job, you leave it to the kids to sort through themselves.

Day 5: The novelty of being a teacher is starting to wear off. You’re now way behind all of the assigned work and it keeps coming. The kids have wiped the schedule off the whiteboard and drawn cartoon pictures of you and the dog, and they are building a miniature shopping mall with lego. You can’t find a pen. There are crumbs and stickiness all over your computer keyboard and you spend half the day searching for an important work file that little Freddy may have deleted from your computer while doing his english project.

Does that sound somewhat familiar?

Don’t feel bad, we planned to homeschool and it went ass ways, whereas it has been forced upon you guys, so don’t be too hard on yourselves, you weren’t prepared and you didn’t ask for it.

When we started homeschooling years ago, we too tried to stick with a school curriculum for a while and failed. Then we discovered the joys of un-schooling. Basically this is when you let the kids decide what they want to study/learn about and you facilitate them. Kids naturally want to learn, curiosity is a basic instinct.

Let’s face it, schools will probably not be back before the summer break and so the curriculum is out the window. By summertime, hopefully this crisis will have passed, and your kids will be able to play with their friends again, but for now in lockdown, it’s time for them to explore the things that excite them. Let them decide what they want to do – making cakes teaches weights and measures, designing a bedroom makeover teaches area and parameter.

If they like dinosaurs, literature, history, computer science, whatever, there are free interactive online courses by the top universities in the world. My kids did lots of these (check out and Sometimes my children lost interest half way through, but that’s okay, they gained some knowledge from it and moved on to something else.

If your kid wants to be a doctor, nurse or something in the science field, (note: if your kid wants to be, not if you want your kid to be) what better time to start researching and making notes now of what is happening in the world, it will add to a bloody interesting thesis for their masters someday.

If they want to work in TV or the movies then let them watch movies, if they want to design computer games then let them play computer games, if they want to work in the music industry let them play music. If they don’t know what they want to do in the future then just let them enjoy the present; listening to music, painting a picture, writing, reading, texting, sitting staring into space (the best solutions to world problems and the most creative works of art have come from people staring into space from time to time).

Also remember boredom is a great source of creativity. Don’t try and fill your kid’s day full of activities to stop them getting bored. Let them chill, let them get bored, let them solve their own boredom and let them make the odd mess. Do you remember the joys of creating a blanket fort behind the sofa, or a secret den under the stairs, a train from cardboard boxes or a go kart from scrap wood in the shed?

This has started out as a very scary time and a voyage into the unknown for us all, but you can turn it into a time your kids will remember as one of the best times of their lives, that time when all the family had to stay home together.

Day 10 – Finding a Positive

Day 10 – Finding a Positive

I try to find at least one new positive per day that is coming out of this experience. Here’s my top four as of today:

1. There’s less chance of an airline disaster – less planes in the sky means less chance of this happening.

2. Greta Thunberg will be less stressed – come on, admit it, we all want this to happen! Every time her little face comes on the TV I prepare to be sad. Less planes in the air, less cruise ship pollution, less cars on the road, factories closed, all lead to less crap in the air and in our water systems. It’s Spring, so birds, bees, fish etc., are breeding without human interference. Noise pollution is down. Nature is having a chance to recover. Greta must be feeling a little bit more happy now?

3. Mass Shooters are out of business – think of it, schools are shut, churches are shut, concerts are cancelled so they have no where to go. AND they may now have time to do that online anger management course they were meaning to do.

However, I did see reports that there are two hour queues outside gun shops in some American states which was a little concerning. What’s that all about? After buying their 100kg of pasta and 850 toilet rolls they stop off at the gun shop so that they can protect the said pasta and toilet rolls from their neighbours, who have also bought 100kg of pasta and 850 toilet rolls? So incase the neighbours run out of pasta and toilet roll before they do in the next four weeks, they are ready to defend?

Let me tell you something, I bought a 5kg bag of pasta here in Italy last September. It was on sale for only €2.40 and I thought – well, I’ll get it incase of an emergency ie. we get a sudden craving, that only a good ragu would satisfy. At the time of buying, I wasn’t expecting that an actual worldwide pandemic would hit us.

After six months we still have 4 kg of the bag of pasta left. These guys have watched way too many zombie apocalypse movies. Seriously, if you get through that much dried pasta in the next four weeks you will be throwing the remainder at your neighbours because you will be so sick of it.

4. We’ve got food (other than dried pasta), water, Netflix, Skype and What’s App – how lucky are we compared to people in previous world disasters?

5. The world is slowing down – We have all got too used to being available 24/7, having instant access to everything, working 60 hour weeks away from our families. This crisis is forcing a lot of people back into their homes, the first days may be filled with anxiety and stress but after a week, they may start enjoying having precious family time or the time alone they have been craving. We’ll have time for proper rest, take deeper breaths, to cook meals from scratch and realise what is important again. We are learning patience.

What other positives can you think of? Please leave your ideas in the comments below. The more bizarre the better.

Pic: My 5kg bag of pasta which is still going strong since last September, some yellow tulips to make you smile … and a toilet roll to make some of you jealous.

Day 9  – My Invisible Friend

Day 9 – My Invisible Friend

I think I must be the only woman in Italy who hasn’t cleaned her house from attic to cantina 10 times already. I haven’t cleaned it once. My brain has gone through several stages during quarantine, sort of like Worzel Gummidge with his head changes. It started in Party Mode, then Slob Mode now it’s in Lazy Bitch mode. Well that is not exactly true, I have never been a fan of cleaning. I was going to save cleaning until week three when we could all possibly be so bored that we’d find cleaning interesting, but I don’t think I can wait that long. It needs to be done today.

My Italian friends have told me women here use cleaning as a way to de-stress. Their houses must be sparkling by now. It’s a pity there is a lockdown, otherwise I could do a lot for the women in my community and help ease their stress levels for at least a week by letting them rip on my house.

I live in a house with two lads – my husband and our 17-year-old son. Cleaning is not really a priority for them either. We keep on top of the laundry, dishes and son keeps his room in sparkling order, but to get the rest tidied we need a motive. Our motivation is usually when we know family is coming to stay or a friend is coming over for lunch or dinner. As soon as we know someone’s coming, we go into superdrive, and the place looks amazing within two hours.

Sometimes when I notice the housework is getting a bit out of hand, and don’t want to just do the cleaning by myself, I’ll say, ‘Oh I got a text from Lizzie, she’s going to be passing here around lunchtime and is going to drop by’. Or ‘Lizzie might drop in to borrow the strimmer tomorrow so we’ll all get up early and give the place a good clean, yeah?.’ The house gets sparkled. 

For the last two years Lizzie always cancels, probably because Lizzie doesn’t exist. I use her sparingly, only in emergencies. Neither of my menfolk have realised Lizzie has never actually been to our house. Both of them think they have met Lizzie at different times when they were out with me alone. Once with my son, I stopped in the supermarket to talk with someone I know through my business and once with my husband when I greeted  a friend of a friend on the street. Both times they asked “Was that Lizzie?” Me off guard, but casually, “Yeah”.

So one thinks Lizzie is a tall woman in her 30s with an English accent and they other thinks Lizzie is a short Italian in her 60s.

So I’m going to have to think of a different motivational strategy now in this unusual time that we are living when family can’t come to stay and friends can’t call by, not even invisible friends like Lizzie. I miss her.