I’ve been meaning to write a “what we’ve been up to in London” post for a while, but it’s been hard to find the motivation when there’s a raging pandemic, America is on fire, and the UK has the worst covid numbers in Europe. I’m sure you can all relate, at least to two out of three.
We have largely been at home for the last three months. Exceptions have been trips to the grocery store, to the post office, and one trip to A&E (the emergency room for my American audience) in Kingston. For the most part I’ve seen people doing their best to maintain social distance, though that tends to break down in the grocery store. Maybe 25% of people are wearing masks. The UK government has now mandated that masks should be worn on public transit from June 15th, so I expect to see a general uptick.
Professionally, Ye Olde Day Jobbe has continued with little interruption. I feel fortunate to not just continue my employment, but to continue to grow and learn. It’s been nearly two years in the UK now, and I’ve been forced to stretch and grow on a monthly basis. It’s been good for me.
Personally, I’ve been up to my usual things. Lots of reading, writing, cooking, and video games. On the reading front, I thoroughly enjoyed Tamsyn Muir’s Gideon the Ninth and Martha Wells’s Network Effect (definitely read the prior four novellas before diving into Network Effect). I have written a few short stories in the last three months, and I have made my second story sale of the year. It should be out late this year; I’ll post about it when it’s published. I also wrote a novella in the vein of The Witcher and The Black Company. It’s a secondary world fantasy set in an analog of the middle east during the late bronze age collapse. The initial feedback is that it has some pacing problems, but that’s fine. I was planning to expand it into a novel, anyway.
I don’t tend to buy newly-released games, but Steam (and lately Epic Game Store) sales usually see a few of my shillings. Recent favorites are XCOM 2 and Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey. AC Odyssey is the first Assassin’s Creed game I’ve played, and my understanding is that longtime fans of the series give it mixed reviews. It works well for me because I wanted an open world RPG with bronze age technology. (See the novella I wrote earlier in the year.)
For the cooking, well, see all the pictures littering this post. My coworkers are talking about all the running and cycling they’re doing, and how they’re losing weight. I have found the weight they’ve lost. I need to find a better routine than work all day, cook a high-calorie dinner, and read/write/game all evening.
The girls are all doing well. Carissa is eager to get back to gymnastics, but her gym hasn’t reopened yet. She is dragging me on plenty of walks and spending a good bit of time in the garden.
The eldest child has been playing Animal Crossing New Horizons non-stop. I’m starting to worry about her relationship with Tom Nook. Her school took a few weeks to adapt to online learning, but has been moving along reasonably well for a while now.
The youngest child has been playing everything under the sun other than Animal Crossing, including the Sims 4. I gotta say, though, she’s an enabler. I wouldn’t be doing nearly as much baking if she weren’t encouraging me by eating everything I put in front of her. Growth spurts will do that. I think the child has grown six inches this school year.
Piper continues wandering in and out of the house, pretending that he’s starving if he hasn’t been fed in the last two hours, and getting into scuffles with the neighbor cats. He is definitely London’s second-least-favorite orange American.
All this talk of food, and you all are thinking “how you gonna do this to me and not link some recipes, Brent?” I got you, fam. Some recipes:
- How to get sourdough starter working. Pro tip: watch the temperature if you use the “put it in the oven with the light on” method. I nearly killed mine by having 105 degree (F) temps. Oops.
- King Arthur Rustic Sourdough. For when your starter isn’t quite ready to ride without training wheels.
- Sourdough crumpets. A great use of discarded starter.
- Kenji’s foolproof 2-minute Hollandaise
- Homemade pretzels
Brent’s Easy Salsa
- 3 heirloom tomatoes, diced (don’t bother with standard grocery store tomatoes)
- 2 jalapeno or red peppers, diced
- 2 to 3 anaheim and/or other mild peppers, diced
- 1 medium white or yellow onion, minced
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 lime, juiced
- 1/2 bunch of coriander (cilantro, my Americanos), chopped
- Big pinch of salt
- A few grinds of a pepper mill
- Optional: a birdseye or Thai chili, for extra heat
- Instructions: Combine in a bowl and eat with tortilla chips!