Saturday, July 15, 2023

We're Back with Some BIG NEWS!!!

Heya friends! I know that it’s been a while. Here’s what’s been going on: 

Quite a few years ago, when we started our hair care company, I received a comment from a How Bourgeois reader. She seemed upset and said: “You recommended products on your blog for those of us going gray. I bought them and now you are making and recommending your own line?!” To say I felt badly was an understatement, but then I took a deep breath and thought for a moment before I replied. Here’s the truth - 

The truth is, I loved and used and still stand by every single product that I have ever mentioned on this blog. They personally helped me in my gray hair transition and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them again! The thing is though, as a “Silver Sister” of 13 years, I’ve always been searching for a mythical hair care line that was more natural, more affordable and formulated for gray hair, and I never found it. I KNEW that we could do better given the opportunity.

For those of you who haven't been around for a while, I have to tell you that I’m not a gray hair influencer. I'm just an everyday silver sister like anyone else, searching for a way to make my hair as healthy and bright as it can be. Eventually, I made the decision to let the actual influencers take over in the social media space, and I moved my focus and effort from the blog to making great hair products! (I was more helpful over there).

I’m so thrilled that I can FINALLY share a bit of exciting news!!! Some of you might have noticed that The BTW Co. has been out of stock for a while - pandemic supply chain issues for both ingredients and packaging set us back a bit, and then the BTW Co. went through a big and fantastic change so we can always stay in-stock from now on.

Two great things have happened - 

First, we've heard you. Your input matters! Many of you have asked for smaller sizes of our shampoos and conditioners, especially when you’re using purple products for the first time. So with that, we’ve added 8-ounce bottles of our Purple Shampoo & Purple Conditioner to the line!

Additionally, many customers have found BTW because of sensitivities to certain ingredients and a desire to avoid harsh chemicals, fillers and synthetic fragrances. While we use scents derived from natural fragrance oils, and we have deliberately kept our scent profile low, some of our customers have asked if we could even create a fragrance-free option - so we did! You can now find 8-ounce bottles of fragrance-free Purple Shampoo & Purple Conditioner on our site.

We are also really excited to announce that we’ve updated our best selling Life-Changing Leave-In Conditioner and Silicone-Free Serum. These are amazing products for all hair types that may be used together or individually, to add moisture, control fly-aways and soften hair.

The second bit of news is that BTW has concluded a merger with a larger company that believes in our vision, allows us to keep complete control and is not changing any of the products and ingredients that you love. The new structure gives us more opportunities to share our line with our customers and never go out of stock again!

We're not lowering our standards or altering our formulas. We still hold a commitment to being as natural as possible, using the same production team and the best quality ingredients we can find. We continue to be cruelty-free with no animal testing, and no silicones, sulfates, phthalates, parabens or synthetic fillers!

We're excited to share our future plans as we go. In fact, 5-6 new products are in the pipeline for later this year/early 2024. Things like innovative styling products made just for long and short gray hair and gorgeously hydrating hair masks that you’ll love to pamper yourself with.

And that my friends is the scoop! This is where we’ve been, and we missed you. All of our products can be found at with free shipping when you spend $40 or more and (soon) on Amazon with Prime shipping. WE’RE BACK! 


Tuesday, February 01, 2022

Still Here, Still Gray!


Helloooooooo blogosphere readers, occasional lurkers and silver-haired friends! I've missed you . I'm here still here, I'm still gray, and I just wanted to say: "Hi!" I suppose that it's time for one of my occasional check-ins where I ramble a bit and plop some pictures and words down for posterity's sake and for those patient and good-hearted folks who come around to actually read about what has been new. Thank you, I really can not thank you enough for being here. Y'all are so nice with your comments (on other social media) and your emails and your patronage of The BTW Co.  Thank you!!

I know that How Bourgeois has been quiet these days, but rest assured, you haven't missed anything too exciting. We've just been continuing to stick around home and play it safe. Everyone is well and doing the best that they can.  I thought I would share a few up dates and going-ons from the past six months. I still have a skin care post that I promised to a reader. I started working on it months ago and would love it if I could get that posted. I've been dabbling in skin care for "aging" skin. You guys, this aging thing really snuck up on me! How does life move so quickly? At any rate, I only want to recommend products that I've used for some time, so I had to really go through a bottle or two of an item before I write about them. More about skin care to come.

So let's see... first off, everyone, human and furry are thankfully doing ok. It's very difficult to spend two years inside of a small house together, but we've made the best of it. I think we're pretty good at that. One thing that I have come to realize is that I AM NEVER BORED! Quite the opposite. I need more time in the day to get through all of the things that I would like to do and try, read, watch and listen to. The past couple of years has reminded me that life is AMAZING and there are interesting things EVERYWHERE! It's endless what  you can dive into learning. Aren't we lucky to have the internet? The spark of interest enters your brain, then you type it into a search box and then you are presented with endless information on that topic. You guys, it's SO GREAT! Here are a few things we've been doing (with the help of the internet.)

(Google, how do I groom a dog? Help!)

I think the happiest and most exciting news is that just this week we found out that Noah was accepted into a program for high school students at an Ivy League university out east!!! I don't think I should share the name here until he is home, but Noah is THRILLED, and Jon and I are THRILLED! We're just so happy that he finally has something great to look forward to and that he'll be able to get out of the house, out of town and go do something fun and interesting. 

Here's he is on his first day of 11th grade!

Noah's been working incredibly hard these past few years as a homeschooler. We're very proud of his perservenrance, especially throughout the pandemic. He has continued to take community college classes every semester and just passed his 30th credit with a 3.93 GPA . I don't know how he does it, but this kid has big plans and he's well on his way!

Speaking of education, but not really the same thing, I've taken part in some online classes and seminars. Lots of meditation and mindfulness, and recently, I've wanted to expand my knowledge of consciousness. It has lead me to a deeper dive in eastern philosophy. Did you know that there are MANY similarities between Hinduism and Judaism!? It's fascinating. Although, most major religions share many things with each other.  We are all one!

I've also been spending a lot of time volunteering online. Did you know that you can do that!? Yep, you can! I used to enjoy volunteering (in-person) when Noah was in school. Now I've taken the work up again, but  for now, online. It started a year and a half ago with a neat project that our synagogue was doing called "Plarn Sleeping Mats." I can't remember if I have written about it before, but "Plarn" is plastic yarn that you make from strips of plastic bags. After you have a very large amount of plarn, you take a big crochet hook and crochet these thick, soft sleeping mats. We then donate the mats to homeless shelters and out reach centers where they are distributed to people who need them. You would be surprised how insulating these mats are from the cold, wet ground. They fold up and you crochet a carrying strap too. It took me a while, but I finally got through one and it felt good to delivery the mat back to the organizers. 

After that, just over a year ago, I began facilitating a weekly online Zoom group for people who were mostly at home during the pandemic and needed a little company and support. We have not missed a single week in over a year and I have to tell you, this group is like my second family! I love them dearly and feel like it was such a fantastic way to make life long friends. We really love talking about anything and everything and checking in on each other. 

At the end of summer I began volunteering on a committee for my synagogue as well.  It's a membership committee and we come up with ways to keep current members having a fun and also brainstorm ways to attract new members. I went to one meeting in person when our community numbers were low, but since that time, all of my meetings have been over Zoom. We'll get back together one day. We've planned some fun online cooking and crafting classes among other things, and back in the fall there was an outdoor lunch and activities for kids and their parents.  We're kind of like the welcome wagon too, which is one of the things that I did for four years at Noah's old school in my old volunteer years. 

Finally, I was just asked last week to volunteer my time on a marketing team, also for the synagogue. This is going to be so exciting. I created some digital art and marketing material for new members and also for an up coming event and really enjoyed that experience. Who knows what will come next.

Anyway, I've probably bored you with so much talk about this, but in closing, I do have to say that volunteer work is near and dear to my heart, and has been the plan all along. I was hoping to get back into it this year and amazingly, I have been able to! I'm grateful to have the time to lend a hand and hope that these opportunities continue to grow.

So, speaking of digital art, I've kept up with drawing. I'm always practicing and learning new things, slowly but surely. I took two, short online drawing classes through a site called "Domestika" and learned a lot. I also made an advert for my Stepmom's restaurant and bakery for a local newspaper and magazine!

Another creative outlet that I've been doing is crochet. I sometimes crochet at night. Most recently I made this super easy shell stitch cardigan.  I used Wolly Wonders Crochet's Youtube tutorial of the Women's Shell Stitch Cardiagn.   Really, it is silly easy. This was made from one Caron Skinny Cake. I made this with a free pattern and a $10 ball of yarn!

SQUEEEEEEE!!!!!! The next project had me CRAZY excited because                  1.) I am a Beatlemaniac  and 2.) because I have always wanted one of these.....
Have you ever seen Paul's hand crocheted granny square vest? The one that he wore a lot during Magical Mystery Tour? Well, although I am in love with George, it is Paul who had the fabulous vest, and I had to try to make an inspired one. Here is said Paul's vest.

I just had to try to replicated it! So, I searched high and low for any chatter about the vest online, and sure enough, came across a few patterns on Ravelry. I ended up following the instructions on the blog "Happy Trousers."  She made a GORGEOUS replica for her son. Thank you Happy Trousers, I could not have done it without you!! I ended up modifying the original vest to be shorter and a bit more form fitting. I also narrowed the shoulders, added a border and a pom-pom tie and some hidden closure hooks. So, not a replica, but inspired by Paul's. It was so much fun and I even did something crazy and ordered the wool yarn from the UK! Amazingly, it was on sale and ended up being much cheaper than wool yarn in the US. I really had so much fun with this one. 

Last but not least and most recent, I found a second ball of stripey yarn under the bed and decided to try to learn a new stitch, the Crocodile Stitch. See, they look like scales. I'm making a rainbow hat. 

I FINALY started crafting window decorations again. For many years I would make different window decorations for each season and often each month. I stopped making them during the pandemic for about a year and a half. I just ran out of motivation and steam. Sometime last month I just realized how much I missed it and made some January decorations. They are kids building snowmen and having a snowball fight. Now February's are ready to go up tomorrow. I love how they turned out!!! February's theme is "All YOU Need is Love" in honor of Valentine's Day. Which, btw, happens to be our 18th wedding anniversary!

I do have to say, all of this drawing on a tiny iPad, squinting at stitches of yarn at night and cutting out tiny pieces of paper has kind of wrecked my eyes. I finally went for an eye exam in the summer. So, that was good. I wear my reading glasses all of the time now and it's been a good time playing around with different inexpensive pairs. My big round glasses just came. 

I hesitated to talk about my hair care line in this update post because I don't want it to sound like I'm using the blog to just sell products, because I'm not! I think it would be strange to not mention how things are gong though, and what's around the corner. 

I know that things have been quiet from the BTW Co. as of late.  We struggled for a bit to get all of the ingredients and packaging materials in for our production. It's been a strange time for the supply chain. Also though, our current word-of-mouth advertising has worked well and wonderfully, we have many a returning customer, so we just keep chugging along.  BUT..... BIG, HAPPY things ahead! Oh, I am so very sorry that I can not talk about specific details just yet, but behind the scenes some super great things have been happening, and 2022 is looking to be an exciting year for BTW.  All of your favorite products will be here, all restocked and maybe even some FABULOUS new ones too! So please stay tuned and thank you, thank you, thank you for your continued support. Thank you soooo much. 

I spent a lot of time in the backyard this year. We, meaning 90% Jon, with a little of my help, power washed the deck, stripped off all of the old remaining stain, and then restained it. That was huge improvement and we spent so much time outside reading under the awning. I had my vegetable garden but honestly, didn't do a ton with it because I FULLY EXPECTED MY BACKYARD TO BE TORN APART THIS SUMMER! I don't how much I've written about it but we've been trying to have a small addition built off of the back of our house for...four years!? It has taken such a long time. First we had to interview architects and then once we chose one, the plan for a small first floor master had to go through several re-designs. Because our house is historically designated, we had to go in front of both the historic board and the planning board several times, and we had to apply for a variant. It was kind of a mess and sometimes took months to get on the meeting schedules. Then the pandemic happened when we were finally ready. It is a long story, but I really thought it was about to happen this summer. Well, it was, but then my Mom bought a new house and I let her use our builder and jump in front of us and the rest is kind of a twisted history. So, we're back to square one-ish. I'm rethinking even taking up the small bit of yard space that was slated to be used for the new footprint and would feel more comfortable going back to the drawing board with a new plan anyway. There's no big rush.

In spring, as soon as the ground thaws and it is warm enough, we have a whole row of 6' arborvitae being brought in for privacy , which I have wanted to do for ten years! I'm so excited and can't wait. We've kind of agonized over what to do with the mini-pool too. It's time to resurface again or fill him in. Mini is always in need of maintenance, for the surface and the bricks and the pipes and the filter. All of it. Not to mention constant cleaning. That is a lot for just  24"of water! I have plans for a beautiful butterfly garden where the mini is, but it still kind of makes me sad to think of not looking out at him. I just don't know what to do. 

This year the vegetable garden surprised me with suddenly popping up its own tomato plants this spring. Really! Also some shallots and chives and lettuce. It was really awesome. I also had the chance to plant and experiment with many different kinds of culinary and medicinal herbs and wildflowers! Those are my favorite by far, especially the herbs.

Oh and look!!! Look!!! I was absolutely ecstatic when the city finally agreed to plant a tree in our front yard, which is actually an easement. THANK YOU CITY, SO MUCH!!! I had been asking, basically politely begging for two years now. The large tree that was between our house and our neighbor was very old and fell down several years ago. After they tore down most of the church across the street and replaced it with a giant building, they also took out the beautiful trees and law.  We lost all of our shade and greenery. It was incredibly upsetting. At first the city refused to plant a tree because they said that our lawn area was too congested with underground cables, but after a second year of begging, they actually came out and saw what I meant about our corner lacking the green trees that our city is known for. They did an investigation for wires and pipes underground and decided that we could have a tree planted with a small root system. This is a terrible picture, but I'm telling you, it was the happiest day in November when they finally rolled up and planted our little Silk Lilac tree. Everybody, meet George. We  I names him after George Harrison, and this summer, I am going to make him a tiny replica of Rocky the Stratocaster guitar and laminate it and hang it from one of his branches. :)    I'm so so happy!!!! 

What else? Well, I noticed that I have a lot of pictures wearing a mask if that's something. My stepbrother stopped by one day and was wearing a very fancy mask. He was delivering "800 hot chocolates on a stick and 6 cakes" from their restaurant and bakery to a large office that was having a holiday party. He drove 800 hot chocolates on a stick 250 miles. I don't know why but I thought that was very amusing. I guess I need to get out more. By the way, as a mask connoisseur, my favorite by far for comfort and performance are the BOTN KF94's with the adjustable ear straps. 

One thing that we've really tried to do is to get outside and explore and hike and see new places. Once in a while Noah would join us, like on this gorgeous fall day at Cranbrook.

Usually though, being a teenager, he didn't really want to tag along. A lot of the time it was just Jon, Josie and I. We had some good adventures and visited some trails and state parks that we've never visited before. The kids will grow up, but the dog will always want to hang out with you. 

A little winter snow will never stop a Michigander! We keep getting out. In fact, I think we're supposed to get a lot of snow this week. Somewhere I saw they were calling for 15".  I'm here for it. I want to get outside and shovel.  I love the snow! Noah and I took a snowy Christmas light walk one night. Our little downtown plasters lights everywhere.

We are ready for you snow, and many more adventures.....

(Sound ON)

And you know guys, that's about it! If you've made it this far, I appreciate you reading along through the minutia of my current life. 
I hope all of you are doing well and moving along the best that you can. I appreciate each and every one of you! Keep sparkling!!!

Until next time. 

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

So here's what happened: the street sweeper came by at 4:30am and woke me up. Which is weird I thought because the street sweeper usually only comes by in spring and fall, not summer. The street sweeper historically comes by at 5:00 or 5:30am and wakes me up then. It's a massive truck and as it passes by, sounds like a small jet getting ready for take-off. At least in the dead of morning it does.

And so I woke up and couldn't get back to sleep, because I was thinking about how much this past year and a half has opened my eyes and how much of what I see upsets and angers me. I tried to let go of the thoughts, tried to meditate, tried to convince myself that it would be far healthier to go back to sleep than to ruminate on something negative. But I couldn't. So just after 5:30 I took off my pajamas and threw on some clothes, and I tip-toed out into the garden.
Do you know what happened!? First, I went down to the bottom of the yard and I saw dozens of teeny tiny, newborn Arugula popping out of the soil. And to my surprise so many other new things. Down here is where I have a medicinal herb garden, a culinary herb garden and a butterfly garden. Days of rain and heat have made everything grow. I stopped and smelled the blooms on the onions. They smell just like onions! Flowers that smell like onions! Said hello to the resilient Sage plant that survived the winter. I willed my Yarrow to come up soon, bright and yellow.
Then, I took a towel and my pruning shears and went to sit down beside my other herb garden, closer to the house. It's time that I harvested some of my Lavender, so I did. Noting how "woody" woody plants truly are. I trimmed each stem of Lavender carefully, pruned it back and what did I find....CILANTRO! There was cilantro underneath my Lavender! And to my right was one, small, lovely stalk of runaway dill. I cleared all of the Lemon Balm, Spearmint and Mint that has tried to over take this little plot. I liberated the Thyme from all of them.
And it got me thinking- plants do what they want. Some of them bulldoze over the other plants, competing to take over the entire garden. This is just like some humans. This is exactly what kept me up this morning. If plants compete and dominate for their own survival, not for the greater good of the garden, then is it only to be expected and accepted in human behavior? That thought made me so sad and defeated. But then, I thought about the trees and everything we know now about the inner workings of a forest, the symbiosis of trees and the moss and the fungi. I suppose it gave me hope, not every living thing is destined to be a jerk.
I carefully etched two shallow rows into the dirt with a little trowel and sowed some cilantro seeds. And then a fuzzy Bumble Bee flew up and began to buzz from one Lavender blossom to the next, right in front of my face. It was so cute I wanted to kiss him! Instead I just said "hello." The birds were out by now, chirping their repetitive morning calls. We have a red-winged Blackbird and we whistled a round together. Or maybe more like ten rounds, and then I sang him apropos Beatles songs, like "Mother Nature's Son."
It all made me realize that this is where I belong. Quiet, peaceful, slow. Perhaps not the most popular choice in life - I know now with great certainty that 80% I could and should be living as a monk in a monastic community. That would be ok.Rest assured more George Harrison in Rishikesh than Howard Hughes at the Desert Inn.
As for all of the selfishness and pain going on in the world? I'm not sure, but in order to keep sane, keep staying up, it's ok to do what you need to do, even if that means quietly cloistering yourself at home or in your garden among the cilantro if it feels right.

Thursday, June 03, 2021

426 Days At Home

*PROLOGUE - As I write this prologue, it is now early June of 2021. Life has gotten so much better since beginning this post last fall.            (Don't worry, this entry isn't all doom and gloom at all, it just starts off that way. )               

After all was said and done, we ended up stay in our home, pretty literally, for almost 14 months to the day. 426 days. As I go on to mention below, for 14 months we avoided stores, restaurants, get togethers with friends and family. It was really really difficult. Detroit was hit very hard with three waves of the Coronavirus and since we were lucky enough to have Jon working from home, and Noah doing virtual school, we took that safety bubble of ours very seriously.  Like so many of you, I know lots of people who have contracted the virus over the past 18 months and sadly almost as many who have had parents and Grandparents pass from this awful disease. So, we take it very seriously!

During the fall of 2020, when I wrote the following post, I was feeling so low. Pandemic fatigue and loneliness had set in and the social and political climate in America had really really gotten me down. Our country was on fire. It's the best way that I can put it. Everyday was like watching a distressing movie. That's how it felt for me. 

I've decided to go ahead an publish this half-finished post because I want to park it on the blog to remember this time. This hasn't been a good year and a half, but it's been a life-changing year and a half, so it's important to document. Thanks for following along.

(The morning we received our 2nd. vaccines.)


I'm sitting in the bathtub while I type this.  Which, I just realized, is probably not recommended. So because I am a rule follower, I will now close my laptop and brb...

I'm back. I was sitting in the bathtub typing this, and now I'm post-bath, flat on my back, typing from bed.  

In an attempt to lower my anxiety and rid myself of a stress headache , I had decide to take one of those epsom salt, magnesium baths. Do you know the kind? I also have a scented soy wax melt thingy going.  It's called "Honey Soaked Apples,"  in honor I suppose of Rosh Hashanah. Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year that is soon upon us, and for some strange reason I am hyper focusing on for the first time in my  entire life. 

(Spent days drawing the Rosh Hashanah greeting card.)

I would have to guess that this is because anything to focus on rather than my anxiety is a good thing.  Also, just to note,  Noah and Jonathan both said that my new wax melt smells like pineapple, not apples and honey, and it has ruined my fall mood.

It's so funny, because before the past week or two, I was actually doing well throughout this pandemic.  Like, truly well, even in terms of anxiety.                      I held myself together, stayed upbeat, positive, driven, focused and in control! There were grand, exciting plans for food storage and farming, and household essentials stockpiled in the basement.  I made online accounts for produce delivery, weekly grocery delivery, costco delivery, medication delivery, school supplies and books and even a chest freezer for our garage.  There was lots of disinfectants and online therapy and you name it, I had it figured out . I even found how to accurately measure Noah's ever-growing feet with some online, printable measuring device and ordered him snow boots. BAM! 

 I was king of this pandemic. So much so that it was I, scaredy cat Lauren who was reassuring and holding it together for OTHER people. "I've got this and you've got this!" I said.

But then, I don't know, something changed.  Maybe it was just fatigue as we approach this week- the 6th full month of staying home. We're more "careful" than 99% of my friends. For six months, we haven't been to a single store, grocery store, restaurant , carryout, friend visit, trip, adventure....just nothing.  We can't even take walks around our busy area , unless it's at night, but even the four times we did that, each one involved groups of teens whizzing by us or endless other people walking their dog in the cover of night too. 

Maybe though, my sudden anxiety is probably also up because our country has just spiraled into a totally divisive, conflict riddled hell. It's absolutely depressing to me, the state of our society, parts of our culture, parts of our past and parts of our now. I know with 100% of my heart, that I don't belong here. I'm not an American at heart. So maybe that's it- I feel trapped in a place that stresses me out and upsets me on a daily basis. As a friend put it, it's like being on a ship captained by a madman. Beyond that though, I'm sitting here trapped in a stress bubble because there is a pandemic outside of my window and it's out-of-control in our particular country compared to most of the rest of the world. It's because nobody cared in the first place to just stick around home and get our numbers to a manageable level during the first wave. We are a hopeless society on a whole.

Thank you. Ok, I feel better now. I just needed to get that off of my chest. You might not agree with me on the state of my country, or maybe you do, but...Im feeling down and worried and mostly just really really  sad about what's been going on around here, and concerned about the future too.

For the past six months I have been keeping busy. Very busy actually, in a good way! In a striving to never be bored way. First off, I've learned how to make digital art using the program "procreate" and an ipad. It's is SO MUCH FUN! It's wonderfully relaxing to spend an evening doodling in bed. Here is my favorite place- our local cider mill.

And then squirrels and a chipmunk driving to my favorite place-our local cider mill.

I will include some other drawings.  Actually, I opened an Etsy store to sell prints and stickers. I wasn't planing to do that, but some friends asked for framable prints and refused to accept them for free.  I found an online company that does art prints, created an Etsy shop, connected the two and voila'! It's been interesting to learn how the whole thing works. I have a lot of respect for independent creators. They work hard. My shop is called "Lolo's Little Studio."

*EPILOGUE- And that my friends, is where I stopped for the night back in 2020.  I was tired. There's more to document though. This has been such a strange time, so I would love to park a few memory on the blog and keep in this post going.

The new digital art hobby went on to become an actual thing! I've absolutely loved drawing on the iPad and have kept it up. There were a lot of winter themed drawings that got me through the cold, dark months. Like these:

I just kept going and even did several commissioned drawings of people's homes and businesses. My most recent was just run as an ad for a
 restaurant in a local paper! 

For the most part though, a lot has just been nostalgic, fun drawing. The bustling little hill where I live:

My favorite bread, Challah.....

A fantasy world where I am the only one at my local soft serve .

Some little inspirational ditties....

               I tried my hand at making some stickers, which was really fun and....

And I learned how to create mini animations!!

Like I mentioned, this time was all about keeping busy, making the most of things, and learning everything that I could. I tried to stay sane and to help keep my family going. We cooked every single meal and tried lots of new dishes. We baked! I kept a detailed list of each new recipe. There was vegetable gardening and planting flowers. Crocheting and reading and learning a new language- Yiddish! I kept a journal, we took drives and I read the news each day. I listened to A LOT of podcasts, I love podcasts. I was interviewed about going gray on a Youtube channel and was a guest on a webinar. Those were first for me!  Also, there were Zoom calls with all of our family and friends and Zoom parties and Zoom family reunions, Zoom classes, Zoom groups.  One of them being a weekly chat group that I lead for people at our synagogue who were stuck at home like myself and looking for some company and encouragement  Basically it was Zoom everyday all day for a while. I'm really thankful for this technology. 

My niece and nephew and I like to have a watch parties with Youtube videos of animals. 

I'd Zoom from outside. (More on our deck bubble later.)

There were the birthday parties

And more and more and more....

I learned how to change my background and Jon grew a large "Pandemic Beard."

Oh, and there were some great Zoom memes during this time.

It really is astonishing to me, when I go back and look over the photos form the past year and a half, just how much we have done together at home. It was stressful and a bit scary, but more so, it was such a gift of time to be together. I will never ever forget that. Here are a few more pictures for posterity of some of the things that we did. I'll try to go in chronological order the best that I can.

It started out like this. I told you I was all holding it together, going in to this pandemic STRONG!  I tore apart out utility closet, bought some shelves and turned it into what we affectionately call the "Prepper Closet." Then I filled it and and pantry full of emergency bulk food items. I was ready and a lot of people were laughing at me. They thought I was Chicken Little and over reacting. Then I made this drawing and posted it on my Facebook page.

I was trying to be positive and upbeat for everyone, by making a series of hopeful front window decorations.

In retrospect, maybe I was a little bit too idealistic. 😅😬

Crocheted this useful gem. 😂

TODAY is my Grandma's 99th Birthday!! Can you believe it!? Isn't that great? Last spring, at the beginning of the Pandemic, my parents brought her home from her senior living apartment to stay at their house for four months. It was just safer that way. My Mom sent me these photos. My Uncle drove four hours just to surprise my Grandma and speak to her through the window. It was so sad. She hadn't seen him in a while and we didn't know the next time that she would be able to hug her son.

After a short visit, he gave her a kiss through the window before he left for home. 

As soon as the snow melted we decided to make the most of our outdoor space for the coming spring and summer. So we made bonfires and roasted marshmallows over it on sticks and made S'mores.

I became REALLY into graphing my own daily case counts for our county and annoyed everyone with updates. Until official tracking websites popped up.    

I started my vegetables from seeds, on a rickety, old clothes drying rack turned shelves, because everyone knows it's a good idea to play with dirt in your bedroom. Over carpet. With two cats and a dog bumping into it everyday. 

But like always, the sun started shining more and the birds began to sing. Last spring our wisteria vine Harry had the most magnificent blooms!!!

I grew wildflowers, lots of wildflowers out front to make people smile, and this spring even more have popped up, all on their own!

And here is my extra big, Sunflower. 💓

The vegetable garden had some success, mostly lettuces and tomatoes. It just ended up being too shady for a lot of plants. I hadn't realized how much shade we actually get in that corner when everything is full and grown in. What a great learning experience though. I had a pumpkin and mellon patch on the lawn. I need to find a picture of that!

Here are my HUGE carrots and pumpkins!!! SUCCESS!! 😂😂😂

The herb garden that I kept did much better. I was able to make some mint tea and dried a bunch of different herbs. The lavender smelled so fantastic! I dried it and then displayed it in a vase.

In the summer I wanted to spend some time volunteering from home. I was involved in this great project. We were crocheting sleeping mats for homeless people made from "plarn." Plarn is plastic yarn. Yarn made from plastic grocery bags that were flattened, made into strips and connected together to for the largest balls of yarn you have ever seen. The mats are surprisingly durable and soft and perfect for insulating. They keep the cold of a floor at bay. You roll the mats up and they come with a crocheted tie and carrying strap.

We sat outside often on warm summer nights.

We talked. It was incredibly nice spending time with Noah.

Gosh I'm lucky to have had this summer with him around the house. We had great conversations about politics and current events. Each day brought something new and surprising to talk about in the evening.

Politics and society and civics. We got to turn in my voting ballot together and tried to support the causes that we believe in. It was a nerve wracking but exciting time.

Oh and you guys, the food. The FOOD! It was out of control. We literally did not eat restaurant food for 14 months. Instead, we cooked. Jon did a ton of cooking. I'm so lucky. We cooked and baked and budgeted and learned a whole new cookbook worth of recipes. Every time that one of us missed a dish or cuisine, we took it upon ourselves to try to recreate it! That was so incredible. Jon even made ingredients that were difficult to find or have delivered. He made his own ghee for Indian dishes and paneer to go in them for me. Also matzo for the Passover the first year. 

We missed Ethiopian food, and while the Injera bread didn't work, there was all kinds of ginger and garlic and greens and lentils and spices. It was WONDERFUL.

There was the painstaking perfection of bagel making.

And bread, too much bread! Fresh loaves once or twice a week. It became Jon's hobby. He ordered hundreds of pounds of flour it feels like. There is a farm in Illinois that grinds to your preference and sells in bulk. His latest endeavor has been Rye bread with Caraway seeds. We've had endless Whole Wheat loaves and Brioche and Julia Child's White Bread. No Kneed bread and Focaccia turned into pizza. Flat bread and homemade pita for fresh falafel sandwiches. Pan Au Chocolate and homemade rolls. I'm telling you, all too much!

I went through a "vegan lifestyle" phase (probably in response to all of the bread.) This is my vegan "cheese" made from cashews and nutritional yeast. 😂 During this time, I also tried to become an expert in tempeh and new tofu dishes. We experimented with lots of vegetarian protein sources and ate more bean and lentil dishes than I can count.

There was Jon's Pastie phase. Hand pies with potatoes, carrots and other root vegetables, beef for them, veggie for me. All in a buttery, flakey crust. It was heavenly! 

When it came to Asian cuisine, we missed it ALL! So naturally, we had to at least try to make some. For Noah's birthday he asked for sushi.  Jon found company in Seattle that would send fresh, sushi grade fish on dry ice to you. This isn't something we'd normally do, but it was his birthday and you know. We tried to recreate some of the Vietnamese food that we missed like fresh rolls and vermicelli bowls. Then there was our attempts at homemade ramen and soba and pad thai.

I'm honestly embarrassed to talk about the baking. It was spread out over nearly a year and a half, and we made things for each of our birthdays and holidays. Still it sounds like a lot. My favorite was Jon's chocolate Babka I think. There was also these old fashioned lemon meltway cookies with glaze that I made for us.

I was presented with this cake for my birthday! Best birthday, nicest day by the way. This was yellow cake with a mocha icing. Jon also made us carrot cake. There were cinnamon breakfast muffins and blueberry muffins.

My friend in England inspired me to make for the first time "Millionaire's Shortbread." It was a homemade shortbread base, with caramel and chocolate on top.  One of the longest processes but worth it. Like most of our desserts, I cut the shortbread into servings and then we froze the rest and had some to eat for quite a while!

The same friend in England inspired me again, this time, chocolate dipped pretzel rods. I thought they came out cheerful.

I also made peppermint bark for the first time. I don't think I've eaten it before. Maybe? It was so delicious and dangerous to have around the house!

Oh, and before I end with desserts, I have to say, the best thing we did was make a big big batch of chocolate chip cookie dough. We'd roll it up into four parts, wrap them in parchment and freeze. Then we'd bake off one roll or half a roll and have fresh cookies anytime. That worked out great and we have repeated the process several times.

HERE IS THE CRAZY THING- after all of this food I didn't gain weight!
Furthermore, we SAVED a bunch of money each month on food! I'm not joking. It seems crazy to me, but I  think that by eating mostly homemade, planning our meals and grocery lists carefully, we managed to do quite well. Dinner leftovers were often lunch the next day and it was fabulous. We never felt deprived, the opposite! I feel as though by being mindful and devoting our time to doing it correctly, we ate a lot more veggies and greens and legumes and just good stuff 
and at a reasonable price. 

Switching gears now- the bubble. As summer turned into fall, I knew that we would have a long six months of cool and freezing and snowy weather ahead. I figured that a little sunshine, as much as we could get, would help to keep our spirits up. That and the fact that we could use any extra space for the three of us living day and night in our small house. The bubble is a pop-up kind of clear tent that I found on Amazon. We set it up on the deck, strung some fairy lights and voila! It was perfect!

We spent most of fall out there reading and drinking coffee and even working on our laptops.  Don't ask me about wintertime and the bubble though. I meant well. We had a little portable heater that was great. It would have been perfect had we ever actually decided to go outside in the cold. 🙆

In the  early fall, (before the second wave) our numbers were down and I started to realize that I could find places outdoors to walk that were less busy than my neighborhood and more open. We ended up taking Josie to run at my old high school quite a bit. We'd throw the ball and she would fly!  

We began to explore some new trails, a nature center and a gorgeous nearby estate.

In November, Noah celebrated his 16th birthday! I felt so badly that he was all set and ready for his driver's license but couldn't sit for it due to the virus. He worked so hard to log 40 practice hours with us. It's ok, we have an appointment in July now (they are so backed up). Noah is a great sport about it all. Here he is in his present, a "gaming chair." 😎

Probably the biggest event in our house this past year has been Petey. Petey , the world's best squirrel. It's a long story but I began feeding Petey in the fall. He would come everyday and stare at me in the kitchen through the window until I would bring him some peanuts. Long story short, I trained Petey to instead come to my bedroom window and let me know when he was up in the morning. I would "take his order" (watch the video below) and then as soon as he would see me walk towards the stairs, he would race down to our back door. I'd meet him there with his order and he would eat! Soon Petey invited his friends and now I have a lot of customers.

Putting in his order.

It was such a strange  year for manufacturing and business.  For all companies I'm sure. On the one hand, it was fantastic for us because women were deciding to ditch the hair dye and grow their gray out. We sold out of our two most popular products! On the other hand, Covid-19 really disrupted supply chains and hence the speed of manufacturing. It's taken us a while to get back on track. Excitingly, our new shipment of product will be on sale next week, including a brand new item!! (Which is a surprise, for now.) We spent this slower time to work with a designer on a new color pallet and design direction for labels. That was an interesting process.

Had some Chanukah at home and Christmas and New Years. Oh and Thanksgiving before that. All quiet but relaxing.

At Christmas I neurotically stressed baked cookies and did a porch drop at my parent's house. It was kind of sad. 

During the winter I became obsessed with the tiny snow sweeping vehicles that would clear the sidewalks. It was weird, I was so into them, I even drew a picture of one. It was my thing for a while. 

This meant many snowy nights just sitting and watching out of my window. It was weird but so peaceful and nice.

We took winter walks late at night when no one was out. Absolute quiet.

The same thing along the river.

Then it was spring again! We had a mini seder for Passover. Noah did not want to pose for another family portrait. 🙈

The animals did well in quarantine. Hector has grown older in recent years, so we decided to turn our bedroom into a little "senior apartment" for him. He's free to come and go as he pleases, but with Hector's food, water, toys, bed and kitty litter up here, he rarely chooses to navigate the steep stairs anymore. He's content to lounge upstairs in the sun. He actually seems happier than ever , so that's really great. 💖

Josie and Alice continue their strange love/hate deal. 

I found out that Josie possess the most perfect proportions for the Golden Ratio!!!

Noah built a fort in his bedroom and slept on the floor for a week. I have no idea. 😐

And finally, most recently, there has been chess. 😃

Then, almost exactly 14 months to the day that the quarantine started, we became fully vaccinated and life kind of began to open up again. We really don't go many places, but we have visited with our parents which has been great. We hadn't seen Jon's parents in a year and a half. 😰 It was a long time. Noah finally got together with a friend! We're catching up on appointments and a few necessary stores here and there, but for the most part, we stay around home. It feels really good though, at least to know it is safer out there when we need to go somewhere.

I will never live my life in the same way that I did before Coronavirus. At least, I don't think I will.  I've learned how much I love the peace, quiet and simplicity of being home, and how much I loath busy stores. I'm content living with less, living more slowly rather than constantly going out. It just works for me.

Finally, one last share. It's funny, even though I missed/miss my friends dearly. I do feel like we've done a good job of regularly keeping in touch and connected. I laugh out loud when I receive a funny meme from one of  them. I was looking over some of the items that I saved over the past year. Then I began to sense a theme in them........LOL

I guess I was learning how to let go of control?  😂😜

Here are some of my favorite memes of recent. 
The first had me seriously laughing out loud. My FAVORITE meme of 2020.

Working and schooling from home 2020 meme.

And this one! 😂
(It's NOT true.)

And that my friends has been our pandemic year. This is where I've been. Just here. As I watch the world struggling and people hurting in so many different ways, I'm constantly thankful. Constantly aware of how fortunate we've been to weather this time with my family safely and with relative ease.  We've been very conscious of giving back  to others and to  those in need right now and we won't stop. This past year and a half has taught me so much about the world, about being a fellow human, about gratitude and love and just how much we need each other.

Until next time!