This week I decided to ask our Creative Director, Gaby, for some help on this dispatch. Instead of a diary entry from me, I asked her a bunch of quarantine-centric questions - from what content she's indulging in to tried and tested recipes and a bunch of recommendations in between... So, without further ado, please enjoy a COVID-19 care package from us to you.
NEOPHYTE JEWELS: OK before I pry all your COVID advice from your flour-covered hands - How are you?
GABRIELLE RETTA: Honestly, better than expected. I initially didn’t really reach out to many people at the start of the stay at home order, since I’m not the most present on social media or that comfortable with calling people I’m not super close with (#GenYProblems) but now I literally hop on Houseparty and can video chat with my friends and their friends. It’s definitely helped a lot to have a solid few friends on rotation to call when we need some human interaction, but it’s nice to feel like even in the midst of a pandemic, you can still branch out. All that to say, my hermit ways may not be behind me, but contrary to what I would have expected, this pandemic has weirdly helped curb some of those habits.
NEOPHYTE JEWELS: We're now entering week 5 of quarantine (!!) - have you established some form of schedule or daily routine that you try to follow daily?
GABRIELLE RETTA: Jesus. Christ. I hadn’t realized it has been that long, which I guess is a good thing… I definitely do not have a daily routine, which might explain why I’m still all over the place and unable to concentrate for long periods of time. I initially started the COVID-19 season off with a very terrible makeshift schedule of binge-watching CP24 and HGTV (there’s something so soothing about watching a run-down house being flipped into a beautiful, aesthetically-pleasing, functional living space.) A weird combination, I know, but I wanted to stay somewhat informed and HGTV was how I remedied the anxiety that watching CP24 created. But, after developing an overly specific hatred for a specific vintage tile that one couple that shall remain nameless kept using in their renovated kitchen spaces – see the photo below – that they then carried into the shower for continuity, I started to think this habit was more problematic than it was helpful. That said, should I ever need to renovate a space, I’ll definitely know what I’m into and what I’m not. For example, white subway tiles in the shower: classic? Yes. Boring? Yes. How will this help me in the future? It won’t.
I recently started baking a lot. I’m not on Instagram or TikTok at the moment (a choice I made before the pandemic hit, and one I decided to stick with for the time-being), but I’ve heard most of the Insta stories at the moment are challenges your friends nominate you for and people baking, so I’m clearly not alone in this. The most recent thing I made was lemon blueberry muffins with streusel topping (I was craving those Starbucks blueberry muffins but all of the locations in my area are closed so I couldn’t cop out and UberEats them.) Please see photo below. Please ignore the zested (naked?) lemon.
I also did this before the pandemic, but I take more pleasure in it now since it feels like true self-care at the moment, but I make coffee in the morning almost every single day. Cleaning a milk frother is a pain, but so worth the morning mochas and maple lattes (occasionally tea lattes if I don’t want to feel like the squirrel in Hoodwinked after drinking that caffeinated soda.)
NEOPHYTE JEWELS: Any general advice you're giving yourself/your friends about how to manage these strange times?
GABRIELLE RETTA: Definitely take everything day by day. At the start of the pandemic, I wanted to plan everything out months in advance to hopefully give myself some sense of control and comfort in knowing what I would be doing 4 months from now. That obviously does not work when the models are showing that we’ll be affected by this pandemic for the next year to 18 months. So, rather than providing comfort, it just instilled a sense of frustration. I now have some general goals for the future, but I mostly use them as a way of reminding myself of what I am working towards each week. I try to maintain a weekly to-do list so I can stay somewhat on track, but having a daily to-do list like I did before this just doesn’t work for me anymore. Instead, I hash out what I would like to get done each day. Some days are a complete wash, others are oddly productive.
Oh, and definitely take a daily walk. I cannot stress that enough. It clears your mind and helps you feel just a bit less cooped up.
Last thing: TALK TO PEOPLE. There’s no way you can sit at home, in some cases alone, and not go insane so be sure to talk to people. I know the Houseparty app can be anxiety-inducing (there’s something so chaotic about the idea that anyone of your contacts in the app can join your video call without asking first. Like, knock or something bro) If you’re able to use Facetime or Insta video chat or Whatsapp, it’s so comforting to see a familiar face after trying to do an at-home workout and realizing how out of shape you’ve become – even if it’s just to discuss recipes you want to try or shows you’ve been watching.
NEOPHYTE JEWELS: Recipes that you've tried and tested:
GABRIELLE RETTA: I tried this recipe for walnut cardamom pastries and it was so, so good. As an avid tea drinker, these made me so happy to have with my 3-4 daily cups of tea. I made several batches and they all turned out great, so it’s a pretty foolproof recipe.
I also made these blueberry muffins that I mentioned somewhere in this longwinded Q&A that came out beautifully. I did tweak the recipe though… I added some lemon zest and freshly squeezed lemon juice to the batter, and topped them with a lemon zest glaze. I also used greek yogurt instead of sour cream (hence the addition of lemon juice, so the yogurt thinned out to the consistency of sour cream, so I went with it and made them lemon blueberry muffins instead.)
My next venture is going to be pizza, fresh pasta, or this giant cinnamon roll. Not sure yet.
Oh, by the way - this is the tweet that shared the recipe for the cinnamon roll: