Now for something completely different

So that got weird fast

How much happens in a week.

As the Illinois general assembly is not in session it’s absurd to give you jobs aiming to influence their votes.

So we’re taking a little hiatus from all that. There is still some very important work to be done, but I’ll get to that later.

At the moment, I want to talk to folks who might feel like me right now, and that is overwhelmed by an avalanche of apocalyptic information. Some of us are needing to manage stressed out kids, some of us have pets who just need to be taken for a walk, and some of us have a slightly nagging cough that we are pretty sure is allergies but who could possibly know, tests are very hard to come by. If you’re like me you probably don’t need another clearinghouse of rapidly-changing information. If you’re like me you’ve been reading just about all there is to read on COVID-19. You’re all shopped up and hunkered down. And maybe, if you’re like me, you’re ready for something different.

So this newsletter is for you.

Want to help out? The Greater Chicago Food Depository is going into high gear to ensure kids not in school and others in food insecurity are provided for at this time. Their website details what you can do.

Block Club Chicago (which really, really deserves your membership support) is reporting about all the neighborhoods where folks are working to help each other out. Pilsen is drafting shoppers to get groceries for elderly folks and shut ins. Englewood’s My Block My Hood My City is gathering cleaning and disinfectant supplies for seniors and those with disabilities. And if you need something to do tomorrow, go serve as an election judge and pick up $255—election judges have been dropping out in large numbers.

Wondering what your kids are going to do for the next “two weeks”? Get hooked on bird cams. Our favorite over the years has been an owl cam. There is nothing quite as sweet as watching a mama owl bring her babies a dead snake in the middle of the night. These Texas screech owls already have babies; the mama great horned owl in this nest box is just now laying her eggs. If you’d rather skip the dead snakes and the daytime owl napping, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology feeder watch cam is for you—lots of daytime colorful songbird activity. Make sure you keep the sound on.

The Cincinnati Zoo will be giving 20-minute livestreamed information sessions every day about their animals at 2 p.m. on their facebook page. Today’s inaugural video features their hippo star, Fiona, and wow are there a lot of odd fascinating hippo factoids on offer. Such as, a group of hippos is called a bloat.

If you can’t peel your kids off a screen, why don’t you lob some good stuff in their direction. Liberty’s Kids, the American Revolution cartoon, taught me more than I ever learned in school when I watched this with my little fellas. You can stream it for free on youtube. The fascinating Story of Stuff inspired my daughter to ask at the dinner table when she was 7 years old, “What is your position on cap and trade, mom?” (The question, I regret to say, was met with several moments of stupefied silence.) And John Green’s Crash Course videos on everything under the sun are just addictive.

If you have energetic and visionary little dudes at your house, there are a lot of old school ways to generate fun. They can create a newspaper like a friend’s daughter did. Or build a large (I mean really large) structure out of used up cardboard boxes and tubes (No, bigger. Keep going). Maybe they’d like to start a book review blog that their friends can contribute to; weebly is a pretty easy free platform. For sure, regular video chats with grandparents, friends, or neighbors will be hugely appreciated.

Now as for you. If you’re like me, you might need something pretty to look at. Daily Paintworks is my literal daily go to, to see what all manner of artists produce every day. Some of the work is good, some wonderful, some terrible, but I love the whole thing, and the bright lively work always brightens my spirits. I even bought an artist’s trading card-size Cuban tody bird painting from one artist in honor of last year’s birdwatching hike in Cuba where we actually saw one of these little Christmas ornament birds.

More culture. The Met is offering free streaming opera every night at 6:30 p.m. while they’re closed. Amazing and lovely.

If you are a kitchen person, now would be a good time to practice some sort of more time consuming baking. Sourdough has been a recent minor obsession of mine. I didn’t learn from this website but The Clever Carrot offers an excellent tutorial on how to get started with regular sourdough baking. This beast is my latest loaf—from the recipe I shared before. It was frankly a little alarming:

Now is also a good time to plan out a vegetable garden. In the city we don’t have a lot of space, but let me tell you, there are a lot of gardeners out there who just don’t care about that. Their sites offer tips on container, rooftop, patio, and vertical gardening. Reflecting on feeding my family in extremely strange times has made me want to grow our own vegetables more in the future, and I’ll be using methods like these. Urban gardening for Dummies, growveg.com, and Gardener’s Supply turn up everything we need to know to get started.

Whatever your situation is, I hope you and all your household are healthy and—mere days into quite a lot of cohabiting to come—getting along reasonably well in a stressful time. Let me know what works at your house to keep the peace, bide the time, and generate joy. And soon I will be bringing you new education-related work to concentrate on and scheme about.

Thanks as always for reading.

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