Before lockdown, I didn’t really enjoy cooking. I enjoyed eating, but the process of getting there wasn’t something I really enjoyed or put in a lot of love. I had a rotation of meals I enjoyed eating and were easy to make. But now that I have more time in the evenings and a boyfriend who seriously enjoys cooking, I have been learning both how to cook and how to enjoy it. Below I’ve outlined some of our favourite meals, most pretty easy to make and especially delicious!
Chicken Ramen (but make it fancy)
I LOVE ramen. When we eat out, Conor and I enjoy Japanese cuisine and have discovered some great ramen bars in London. So it makes sense that we would learn to cook a really good ramen while in lockdown. And it was still pretty easy to make!
We used miso soup as our base and added chicken, cabbage, onions, carrots, and ginger. Very easy – I did the chopping while Conor did the meat and the presentation.
Crispy Duck Salad
We had leftover crispy duck from making crispy duck pancakes the night before. So we repurposed our crispy duck into a salad, adding lettuce, carrots, greens, and an asian dressing. *chef’s kiss*
This was a super simple way to eat leftovers and still feel relatively healthy. Great light lunch idea!
I love this English tradition. It’s like Thanksgiving but acceptable to do it every Sunday! Chicken, stuffing, potatoes, veggies, and Yorkshire puddings! Oh my! We don’t do this every week but I love it every time we do. And it’s pretty easy – the only thing that’s difficult is timing to make sure it’s all done at the same time.
Like Benihana, but not as fancy. We bought a hibachi grill one of the first days of lockdown and honestly it was the best purchase we made. We love Benihana when we’re not under lockdown and we’ve almost cracked it (though nothing can truly replace the experience of Benihana). And it’s lovely to do in the garden when the sun is shining – which doesn’t happen often over here!
Bento Bowl (sort of)
This is my favourite meal because it’s so easy and so tasty. I seriously cannot get enough of peppers, onions, broccoli and garlic. I usually don’t have chicken with it because I don’t like handling raw meat but Conor helped out with this one. All over rice and sprinkle a bit of soy sauce in there *chef’s kiss*.
Chocolate Cupcakes! (ft. English Breakfast Tea)
I know it’s not ‘cooking’, it’s baking, but I still want to include it because I’ve been baking a lot more than usual. Thank you Betty Crocker. While Conor enjoys baking from scratch (hello delicious cinnamon buns), I am still as terrible at baking as I am at cooking if I don’t follow a recipe. So I cut out the middle man (that’s me) and go for the premixed box baking because how can I mess that up? Famous last words. I somehow managed to turn cookie dough into a hybrid cookie brownie cake. But I’ve pretty much nailed chocolate cake, whether in cup form or not.
Not pictured: only because I keep forgetting to take pictures because I keep forgetting I have a blog
Fajitas – my favourite meal to make!
Stir Fry – Besides ramen, this is our second go to meal. As I said, I simply cannot get enough of onions, peppers, and garlic. Add some stir fry sauce and bon appetit
Spaghetti Bolognese – Conor is unendingly disappointed that I do not like this meal and prefer to eat my spaghetti with only butter and parmesan cheese. But it is such an easy meal and smells delicious!
I know we’ve all been trying to find ways to pass the time in lockdown, whether or not you’re working full-time, part-time, or not at all. With more time on our hands than usual since we can’t spend it going out to dinners, bars, traveling, site seeing, etc., I wanted to put a list of really good reads together for you all. Reading is a great therapeutic activity to pick up right now, even if you haven’t read ‘for fun’ in a long time. For me, reading allows my brain to turn off from what’s happening in the world, to indulge in stories, and also learn something new.
At the start of 2020, I downloaded the Goodreads app to track what I’m reading and to set a challenge for 2020 – 17 books. With working full-time and having trouble finding the time to read with all the other distractions in my life, I thought setting 17 books was a challenge but not unattainable. Little did I know I would suddenly have loads of time to be reading – by the end of April, I’ve finished 11 books. I recommend downloading the Goodreads app and setting a goal for yourself – especially if you find yourself reaching for Netflix or Facebook at the end of the night. It’s also a great resource for finding new books to read!
The list below are some of my favourites I’ve read this year along with some that my friends are die hard fans of. There’s a pretty good mix of fiction and non-fiction so check it out and let me know if there are any you would add!
Invisible Women – Caroline Criado Perez
From government policy and medical research, to technology, workplaces, and the media. Invisible Women reveals how in a world built for and by men we are systematically ignoring half of the population, often with disastrous consequences. Caroline Criado Perez brings together for the first time an impressive range of case studies, stories and new research from across the world that illustrate the hidden ways in which women are forgotten, and the profound impact this has on us all.
Discover the shocking gender bias that affects our everyday lives.
The Alice Network – Kate Quinn
In an enthralling new historical novel from national bestselling author Kate Quinn, two women—a female spy recruited to the real-life Alice Network in France during World War I and an unconventional American socialite searching for her cousin in 1947—are brought together in a mesmerizing story of courage and redemption.
Thirty years later, haunted by the betrayal that ultimately tore apart the Alice Network, Eve spends her days drunk and secluded in her crumbling London house. Until a young American barges in uttering a name Eve hasn’t heard in decades, and launches them both on a mission to find the truth…no matter where it leads.
City of Girls – Elizabeth Gilbert
Beloved author Elizabeth Gilbert returns to fiction with a unique love story set in the New York City theater world during the 1940s. Told from the perspective of an older woman as she looks back on her youth with both pleasure and regret (but mostly pleasure), City of Girls explores themes of female sexuality and promiscuity, as well as the idiosyncrasies of true love.
Educated – Tara Westover
Tara Westover was 17 the first time she set foot in a classroom. Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, she prepared for the end of the world by stockpiling home-canned peaches and sleeping with her “head-for-the-hills bag”. In the summer she stewed herbs for her mother, a midwife and healer, and in the winter she salvaged in her father’s junkyard.
Educated is an account of the struggle for self-invention. It is a tale of fierce family loyalty and of the grief that comes with severing the closest of ties. With the acute insight that distinguishes all great writers, Westover has crafted a universal coming-of-age story that gets to the heart of what an education is and what it offers: the perspective to see one’s life through new eyes and the will to change it.
Circe – Madeline Miller
In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe is a strange child—not powerful, like her father, nor viciously alluring like her mother. Turning to the world of mortals for companionship, she discovers that she does possess power—the power of witchcraft, which can transform rivals into monsters and menace the gods themselves.
Threatened, Zeus banishes her to a deserted island, where she hones her occult craft, tames wild beasts and crosses paths with many of the most famous figures in all of mythology, including the Minotaur, Daedalus and his doomed son Icarus, the murderous Medea, and, of course, wily Odysseus.
But there is danger, too, for a woman who stands alone, and Circe unwittingly draws the wrath of both men and gods, ultimately finding herself pitted against one of the most terrifying and vengeful of the Olympians. To protect what she loves most, Circe must summon all her strength and choose, once and for all, whether she belongs with the gods she is born from, or the mortals she has come to love.
Life Undercover – Amaryllis Fox
Amaryllis Fox’s riveting memoir tells the story of her ten years in the most elite clandestine ops unit of the CIA, hunting the world’s most dangerous terrorists in sixteen countries while marrying and giving birth to a daughter
At twenty-one, she was recruited by the CIA. At twenty-two, she was fast-tracked into advanced operations training, sent from Langley to “the Farm,” where she lived for six months in a simulated world learning how to use a Glock, how to get out of flexicuffs while locked in the trunk of a car, how to withstand torture, and the best ways to commit suicide in case of captivity. At the end of this training she was deployed as a spy under non-official cover–the most difficult and coveted job in the field as an art dealer specializing in tribal and indigenous art and sent to infiltrate terrorist networks in remote areas of the Middle East and Asia.
Nine Perfect Strangers – Liane Moriarty
Could ten days at a health resort really change you forever?
These nine perfect strangers are about to find out…
Nine people gather at a remote health resort. Some are here to lose weight, some are here to get a reboot on life, some are here for reasons they can’t even admit to themselves. Amidst all of the luxury and pampering, the mindfulness and meditation, they know these ten days might involve some real work. But none of them could imagine just how challenging the next ten days are going to be.
Recommended by Emma
American Dirt – Jeanine Cummins
Lydia Quixano Pérez lives in the Mexican city of Acapulco. She runs a bookstore. She has a son, Luca, the love of her life, and a wonderful husband who is a journalist. And while there are cracks beginning to show in Acapulco because of the drug cartels, her life is, by and large, fairly comfortable.
Even though she knows they’ll never sell, Lydia stocks some of her all-time favorite books in her store. And then one day a man enters the shop to browse and comes up to the register with a few books he would like to buy—two of them her favorites. Javier is erudite. He is charming. And, unbeknownst to Lydia, he is the jefe of the newest drug cartel that has gruesomely taken over the city. When Lydia’s husband’s tell-all profile of Javier is published, none of their lives will ever be the same.
Recommended by Hadley
The Silent Patient – Alex Michaelides
Alicia Berenson’s life is seemingly perfect. A famous painter married to an in-demand fashion photographer, she lives in a grand house with big windows overlooking a park in one of London’s most desirable areas. One evening her husband Gabriel returns home late from a fashion shoot, and Alicia shoots him five times in the face, and then never speaks another word.
Theo Faber is a criminal psychotherapist who has waited a long time for the opportunity to work with Alicia. His determination to get her to talk and unravel the mystery of why she shot her husband takes him down a twisting path into his own motivations—a search for the truth that threatens to consume him.
This is week five of lockdown in the UK and I’m still adjusting. The first three weeks were spent quarantining with my boyfriend, Conor, in my London flat. Since then, we have moved to Conor’s mom’s home in a small village in Oxfordshire where there is more room, a back garden, and a dog.
The last four weeks have been full of Zoom calls, work calls, late nights, late mornings, fewer workouts, more drinks, vivid dreams, sad days, long walks. I’m sure my experience of lockdown isn’t anything special compared to those on the frontlines of the NHS, those classed as ‘vulnerable’, or those who have lost a family member. While not particularly special in that sense, all of our experiences are still valid.
I miss my family the most. They were all quarantined together at our home in California before one of my sisters returned to her university housing for the remainder of the school year. But, still the rest of the family is together in our childhood home with our puppy, trying not to kill each other while learning Tik Toks. My oldest sibling is the first to spend her birthday in quarantine, as San Francisco has been on lockdown just as long as London. But, my brother, mom, and youngest sister are all going to be celebrating their birthdays in lockdown. A small, seemingly insignificant thing, but a day when usually the extended family comes around along with friends and neighbours to celebrate. It will be different. Many things will be different, already are.
During this time, I am lucky to still have my job. I work for a small events company and my boss has made it clear to all of us that we will be fine and our salaries will be protected. I am one of the lucky ones. But, I’m also learning new skills as we venture into the world of digital events. There are way more things that can go wrong than I thought and we are learning most of them the hard way. I’ve spent countless hours on Webinar Jam with my boss testing all the different settings and trying to figure out everything that can go wrong and sometimes discovering cool features that are surprisingly helpful. So my weekdays are actually quite full with full-time work, frustrating phone calls and many a ‘can you hear me?’.
Additionally, I have been finding time for other hobbies. While there really is no need to being doing this, I have always been a planner/organizer/reader anyway. With my friends from Ohio State, I have started a book club to accompany our weekly Skype calls – first up is The Alice Network (if my copy is delivered in time, stay tuned). Conor’s family does weekly Zoom chats as well and each week we are tasked with some creative project so I’ve been painting more as well. And obviously, I am writing this blog. I took a bit of time off from writing when all this stuff first started happening – it was too overwhelming to be doing anything other than living a bare minimum daily life. Now that I’ve found more structure and time in my days, I find myself returning to my hobbies, picking up new ones, and wanting to be more mindful of how I spend my free time.
Life under lockdown has been very easy in some ways and very difficult in others. I recently produced a livestream with Elizabeth Gilbert who had this advice for us during these trying and uncertain times –
“If there’s anything I could want for you all, it is to give yourself mercy.”