What’s Cooking at Your House?

We came to Roanoke to work for a friend and escape the long, slow end of winter in Vermont. It’s our retirement plan. We know we are never going to really retire but if we can work and travel we’re okay with that. For now. Until we get really old. But maybe by then I’ll be selling more books.

mural frederick, md

From the Road: Mural art in Frederick, Maryland

We hit the road on March 7th, the day after my birthday. Co-workers were scheduled to cover for me at my part-time job at a gym near the Mount Snow Ski Resort. We have a great team of women my age who all work part-time in semi-retirement.

Charlottesville, VA street art

From the Road: Street Sculpture in Charlottesville, Virginia

We got to Roanoke on March 9th. On the 11th I heard the news the gym and the pool shut down due to the coronavirus. As of April 20th I am still waiting for my 1st unemployment payment. I finally heard I’d been approved for benefits but when I went to the Vermont claimant portal to file my claim there was a message in very small type at the top of a long blank white page that said, “The service is unavailable.”

Leesburg, VA

From the Road: Leesburg, Virginia

I’m also waiting for our $1200 stimulus payments. Every time I go to the government website Get My Payment I get this message: “We can’t determine your eligibility.”

In the meantime Rich’s debit card that is tied to our joint bank account has been hacked and we received a notice regarding two suspicious charges from Chipotle in Santa Monica, California totaling $110. Rich called the bank’s fraud hotline and the woman he spoke to was helpful and told him a new card would be sent within two to three days. This morning Fedex delivered the new card but when I checked our account  I saw the charges were still deducted from our balance and I had an email with five more charges from Chipotle in Santa Monica. They totaled $300. Rich called our bank’s hotline again.  The man who answered confirmed our case number, told us the money would be returned to our account in 1-2 ‘business’ days and the new charges that came after the claim would not be deducted from our account.

culpepper, VA

2 Days on the Road: Culpeper, Virginia

In the meantime we are well stocked with food and booze. It wasn’t this way at the beginning. When we arrived in Roanoke on March 8th there were no nationwide shutdowns. The original plan was to be in Virginia for two to three weeks depending on how long it would take to strip the wallpaper and paint the rooms. There had been talk of removing the wall to wall carpeting and putting down a hardwood floor in the living room which might add another week or two to our stay before we left for Florida.

Neither our friend nor we had any idea what we were about to walk into. The last time he was in Roanoke was two years ago. Since then an old friend was living here, rent free.  When I sent him some photos he said the place looked like a superfund site.

exploding pumpkin

Under the kitchen table where I was told a pumpkin exploded. When? Back in October?

the stove

The stove

 At first we were overwhelmed.  The tenant hadn’t made plans to leave although she’d known for quite some time we were coming. We spent the first night in a nearby hotel that was mostly empty except for the highway workers in the room next door who had set-up a grill and a cooler full of beers outside their door.

“Why did they have to put us next to each other?” Rich asked. They ended up being quiet and went to bed early. Rich watched TV and I read articles in the New York Times on how to stock your pantry for the pandemic, toilet paper hoarding, and possible stay at home restrictions.

hoarding

Someone read the New York Times – Food Lion, Roanoke, VA

We decided we were here and we could do this so we went back to the apartment and I started cleaning while Rich got to work. The owner had asked the tenant to get the master bedroom ready for us. That didn’t happen.

bedroom before

Bedroom – Before

I found some clean sheets but washed them anyway. I threw away trash, picked up Q-tips that I found on the floors of every room and never got an answer as to why they were there. I vacuumed and dusted and sterilized as best I could. There were plenty of cleaning supplies – Clorox, Mr. Clean, Windex. Almost all full. Clearly they hadn’t been used for possibly two years now.

During the first week the bedroom was adequate. Since then Rich has painted the room sage green and I did a deeper cleaning and redecorated with what was available. It now looks like this:

Bedroom now

Bedroom – After

But I still had the challenge of how to stockpile food when the kitchen was a disaster, the fridge was a mess, and I had no idea what I had to work with as the cupboards and pantry were in a state of chaos.

kitchen sink

This story has everything including the kitchen sink

countertop

The kitchen counter

refrigerator

This is not the only empty bottle in the fridge and I don’t know what the bottle caps are all about.

By the time we visited the grocery store the toilet paper aisle was empty and still is. My daughter Michelle in Missoula has sent toilet paper. Michelle is also out of work and making masks. She recently sent ours along with a couple more roles so a month later I’m still getting my T.P. from Montana.

Once I got the kitchen clean but not quite functioning I stocked up with Ready to Cook items like chicken cordon bleu stuffed with asparagus, marinated boneless pork chops, boxes of rice and pasta, fresh veggies, and cans of Progresso soup. I tried to keep things simple as I still hadn’t tackled the chaotic cupboards with the shelves that were covered with flour dust, rice, and other crumbs. They weren’t ready for stockpiling.

We did have two nice dinners together. I did the cooking and cleaning but was getting irritated with our roommate’s housekeeping instructions from the ratty old chair in the living room.

the couch

I don’t know what happened here.

By Saturday we knew it might be dicey to go out to dinner but we were exhausted and there were no guidelines or restrictions yet so we went to a local Italian restaurant where a few days earlier we met a friend of our friend from Florida for lunch and discovered the restaurant had live Jazz on Saturdays so that night we sat at the bar, ordered a few rounds of drinks, had the most delicious mussels, listened to some good music, and met a friendly local who Rich hoped to play golf with. At this point we thought we would come here every Saturday night.

On Sunday we made coffee and english muffins with peanut butter that we ate in the bedroom where we stayed for the rest of the day, reading and napping with the door closed. We were exhausted. We didn’t want to engage in conversation. The next day, after a long week, our roommate left without a ‘thank you for cleaning my mess’ or a goodbye.

I was finally able to really start cleaning. I washed all the cupboards inside and out, rearranged things, took inventory, cleaned the fridge, threw away sticky cruddy old tupperware, old boxes of expired food, sticky slimy bottles of olive oil and vinegars.

The kitchen did have some nice things. I think our friend’s Mom liked to cook. I found a lot of interesting cookbooks in a box beneath a desk in the guest room. The only thing we were missing was a frying pan. We bought one at the grocery store and spent $150 dollars on food.

cupboards

A cleaner kitchen

The covers are back on the sofa cushions and we’ve covered it all with a clean sheet. The ratty chair is in a corner right now. We need to find a place to dump it but Rich has made friends with some local contractors building a spec house in the neighborhood and they’ve said we can use their dumpster. We have been cooking some great meals here and sometimes we eat fireside. Rich has painted the living room walls gray.

fireplace

Fireside dining

the pantry

The pantry

shopping

There are shopping carts in the parking garage that are helpful getting groceries up to the 3rd floor.

We are trying to avoid frequent trips to the supermarket. We get creative with leftovers. Here’s some of what we’re cooking in the days of the pandemic:

lettuce wraps

Lettuce wraps w/ leftover pork, mixed nuts, raw cauliflower, bok choy, onion, and tamari along with a spicy P.F. Chang miso chicken soup

hors dourves

An hors d’ouevre dinner of clam stuffies, cheese, prosciutto, artichokes, salsa fresco, and a can of progresso soup

leftovers

Ravioli in alfredo sauce, spinach salad, garlic onion bread, and another stuffie. They were on sale during Lent.

In the meantime the kitchen is up next. Rich is stripping wallpaper, getting ready to paint. It looks like we’re back to Stage One but our married life together has been lived in houses that are fixer uppers. I can manage this.

a mess again

Stripping wallpaper

So what are you cooking these days?

16 thoughts on “What’s Cooking at Your House?

  1. I have been cooking HelloFresh meal kits and pasta, veggie burgers, and every other week we have gone to the local fish market and gotten enough for 3 days at a time.

    Liked by 1 person

      • S***!
        This is the second time I compose a lengthy comment and it disappears into cyberspace. WTF WordPress? Too tired to remember and retype the whole thing….
        Maybe tomorrow. 😦

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    • Thank you Becky, We’re glad to have the work when so many others are out of work right now including both our daughters, who we have been trying to help. There’s also something satisfying about being able to fix something when there are so many things beyond our control.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Here goes, trying again:

    I saw many of these photos when you posted them elsewhere earlier but seeing them in their totality is devastating. You must have cried when you walked into the apartment. I salute you and Rich for all you’ve accomplished under horrid circumstances. I know that these tales will find their way into Sam and Liz’s life. It’s going to be a good one.

    How can anyone live like this? Id say a pigsty but pigs are cleaner. Utterly revolting.

    I love how you cook and manage to make fine meals out of what is available. I have been getting better at that myself, combining left-overs with what is in the refrigerator and cupboards to make pretty decent meals.

    Yesterday we went to BJs (which was busy!) and Aldi, finishing off today at Target and Dave. I’m not fond of Dave’ meat selection so make a quick trip to Shore’s, a small local grocery, to finish off. It was exhausting and surreal, but with the exception of dairy and other necessary fresh things, I plan to hold off shopping for about a month. Unless, that is, I hear that bleach and dish soap become suddenly available.

    Last night I made home made New England Baked Beans (before the season get too warm) and Tony grilled pork chops marinated in soy/ginger. We had with it a couple of slices of home made honey whole wheat bread that my sister made and I’m rationing because it’s so good. Only two slices left! I amde a Crown Cake, a cake from a special pan that came when my Mom bought her fist stove in the forties. It’s the cake I learned to bake with and it’s still my favorite. Nutella for frosting topped with chopped nuts. Yum.

    Tonight I am making chicken with a tarragon cream sauce and Roman orzo with vegetable. I am marinating an inexpensive cut of steak (Londong broil) in Italian dressing for tomorrow night with a couple of potato sluggers (From Dave’s. Yes, I actually bought some prepared food) and a squash/zucchini casserole. Mushroom marsala fettucini another night, and a creamy chicken dish developed my my former neighbor and friend Whitney, who is a fabulous cook. Grocery shopping week we eat well.

    We are greatly unlike in one way: I do like to stay put at home and meeting strangers is out of my comfort range. You know what a yakker I can be, but that is with family and friends. Generally, I’d prefer to melt into the woodwork unseen and unheard.

    I hope that the remainder of your sojourn to Roanoke is more Peaceful and that you have a safe trip back to Vermont.

    Take care, “Be Safe. Wash your hands. Eat Cake.”
    ~Christ Bohjalian

    Fondly,
    Your friend.
    ~Connie

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve been to your house for dinner and know that all of these recipes not only sound delicious, they are scrumptious. We’re all thinking about food these days. My daughters’ send me pictures of their dinners. The grocery stores are getting more and more stressful as time goes on. And what is up with dishwashing detergent? When we first got here there was some in the cupboard (not that it was being used much, what with all those takeout containers under the coffee table) but it was almost empty. Two days ago we thought we’d buy some more but the aisle was empty. I can’t figure out why people are hoarding strange things like dishwashing detergent? There is still no toilet paper here but there were paper towels and I saw 2 shoppers with their carriage full of them. What happened to the 2 item minimum? We have had news alerts on TV here warning people to not flush paper towels down the toilet – sewage systems are getting clogged.

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  3. Tony thinks that folks are using dish washing liquid to make hand sanitizer. It’s funny what people hoard. We are able to get enough toilet paper. We could each have bought a large package but opted to buy one between us. It’s enough. Paper towels, while not plentiful, could be had. What can’t? Bleach. Anywhere. Bathroom paper cups. Any kind of cleaners or wipes.
    I’ve read that store employees don’t want to get into battles with people who overbuy. Can’t say that I blame them. It’s not worth a fight.
    The first time we saw toilet paper available once the dearth began and we were low we each picked up two packages of four rolls. The clerk told us nicely we could only have one each. It didn’t occur to me to argue, nor would I have if it did. We put two back and left with each a pack.

    Thanks for the compliments.
    I was on a facetime with three old friends today and they all lamented having to cook every night. It seems that almost no one cooks anymore! We go out to eat maybe twice a month, and never order in except for pizza (We pick it up. I’ve never had anything delivered). I did not think I was that unusual. Tony says he’s glad I like to cook. 🙂
    Thanks for the compliment. We enjoyed having you, and then you and Rich over. Food, drink, friends, and conversation. Works for me.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. My daughter Michelle sent us homemade hand sanitizer along with the face masks she made. Her recipe is two parts high grain alcohol that was 190 proof (I have no idea where she got that – she does live in Montana and that sounds like the sort of thing you could get in the Wild West), one part aloe vera, and about a dozen drops of essential oil for scent. We keep it in the car per her instructions. LOL! I have heard the grocery store workers are also reluctant to argue with customers and I certainly don’t blame them – some of them don’t even make $15/hour and they’re now essential workers on the front lines risking their lives for all of us? Weeks ago before coronavirus I was so upset Michelle had been laid off from the Lucky Market closures and now I’m relieved. She was the beer and wine manager and salaried with full benefits but still out there on the floor. When we visited we were amazed at how many times she got paged for wine advice. i would be worried sick if she were still working. I really hope this all changes our country for the better and brings about more fairness and empathy.

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  5. We use grain alcohol to make our limoncello. (Many recipes use vodka but in my humble opinion it’s not nearly as good). Grain alcohol is not available in Massachusetts but is in Rhode Island. Thank goodness.

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  6. I always look forward to your blog posts and haven’t seen one in a long time, so thank you. What a crazy time in our world, our country, and on down to our state, city, neighborhood, etc. I’m in SC and spring has sprung, which is nice. It has helped me to have things to look forward to in the yard. I have lots of projects going right now, actually because that’s what happens in the spring, especially when I can’t go anywhere anyway! My only trips away have been the grocery store and down the interstate to check on my mom, who just turned 86 on Tuesday. My sister and I take turns each week going to see her for a few days. She lives alone but doesn’t drive any longer (a new thing in the last 2 months) but since the virus thing happened, my brother has been buying her groceries and leaving them on her back porch. He works retail and is not getting close to her, just to be safe. We are just having to be extra careful.
    Funny that you asked about cooking because I have been doing so much more of it! My husband travels all the time with work. We are self employed and I handle the accounting end of it and he is the work horse (he has the knowledge of the business side,the expertise). Well, we are shut down right now, no income, no travel,no nothing. He is catching up right now on things that he doesn’t usually have time to work on, but I am getting accustomed to having him at home! I am more used to having him at home on the weekends but now it is every day, all day, and night!!! So I am cooking a lot,and it has taken some getting used to, for sure. We have definitely ordered some take out. I can’t lie. But I’ve tried to cook. And the happiest thing ever was when he told me a few days ago that he wanted to stop his low carb diet for a while. Whew! That opened a whole new world for my cooking possibilities! I can’t wait to do more. I shopped today for soup ingredients because it is rainy and chilly, actually We look forward to it. Nothing like the snow that friends are getting but still, not the warm temps that we would expect right now.
    Best wishes and I look forward to more entries from you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • It is so good to here from you Logan. My husband is a housepainter and carpenter and I too am the bookkeeper. We got this opportunity in Roanoke and hoped to then move on to Florida for more work with a stop in the Carolina’s en route. Well that’s obviously not going to happen. Rich is having a much harder time adapting – he planned to golf at the end of the work day but that’s not happening either. He’s cranky sometimes and I wish he could just go out and golf and leave me alone to write. LOL. My dad’s 86 years old too and he can talk up a blue streak when I call him, ranting on about Trump. He’s upset the libraries are closed – he goes every two weeks and gets three books but some of the grandkids are sending him books now. My younger daughter in Missoula is making masks for family and friends. I’m back for now so there will be stories to share. It’s spring here in Virginia and when we get back to Vermont it will be spring again so that’s something to look forward to.

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  7. I would be so remiss if I don’t mention how much fun we are having with our two precious granddaughters during this time. We have not isolated out of their lives!! Our daughter lives just minutes away from us, thank goodness, and we decided early on that we would still see each other. Her girls are 2 years old and 9 months old and as you can imagine, they are the lights of our lives!! So much fun to spend time with them. They bring joy on these slow, boring days.

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    • Logan, what a gift to be able to spend time with your granddaughters in these difficult days. My daughters are in Montana and Colorado and I find the distance to be the most difficult part of this coronavirus journey we are all traveling. I made them promise to contact me every day even it’s just a hello text. And they have obliged well beyond a hello. Stay safe and enjoy these slow, boring days when the clock doesn’t matter.

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