2020 Gratitude: Weekly Hot Pot

One of my favorite meals in the “before times” was all-you-can-eat hot pot. One of our favorite chains was Spring Shabu, which has two locations in two of my most-frequented locations – Boston and New York – and has one of my favorite formats – all you can eat noodles, vegetables, dipping sauces, etc. with an extra charge for meat, which I used very sparingly anyway. My mouth is watering just thinking about going back! I can smell the broth, feel the warmth of it on my face, and even hear my friends chattering around me while we shuffle back and forth with plates piled high with more food.

One of the very! low-level! worries I have about life post-quarantine is the future of self-serve restaurants and buffets. I sincerely enjoy(ed) them a lot and am worried that they won’t survive in a culture that is more aware of spreading germs.

In the meantime, during a trip to H-Mart earlier this year, we decided to impulse buy an at-home hot pot so that we could recreate some of those happy memories at home.

We have since turned hot pot into a weekly tradition, trekking to a local Asian grocery store to get the goodies (which, it turns out, is a great excuse to leave the house). After a few weeks, we have settled into a pretty set menu of our favorites – a plate of meat, soy puffs, lots and lots of vegetables, including bok choy and napa cabbage. I love some well-cooked taro in my bowl, while my boyfriend indulges in udon noodles with his.

As I’ve mentioned many times before, rituals and habits have been the saving grace of my quarantine, and weekly hot pot is just one of many that keep me on track. I look forward to going to the grocery store to pick out our meal every week, then sharing that time with my boyfriend to talk and catch up on any TV shows or movies that we want to watch together.

Unlike ordering take-out, I am hoping that our regular hot pot dinners continue well past quarantine times, and I look forward to having them… for the rest of my life, hopefully!

2020 Gratitude: A Car

Our now-local grocery store (image from bostonmagazine.com)

At the end of August, my boyfriend’s parents passed their old car to him. We had never had a car to ourselves up until this point, and therefore spent almost all of our quarantine within a 3-mile radius of our apartment. Thankfully, everything we needed was within that radius, including two grocery stores within a 5-minute walk, and a Target less than a mile away.

However, I didn’t realize how “trapped” I felt in my bubble until we were finally given the freedom to break free from it! I became excited about doing trivial things, like going to the “big” grocery store to buy a big bag of rice and not having to carry it home. Even a normal Costco run has become a fun excursion!

My new favorite state park, Borderland – Knives Out was filmed here! (image from mass.gov)

A lot of the other things I’ve written about so far wouldn’t be possible without the car, including going for long walks and hikes by myself .(For context, I cannot drive, but my boyfriend has been driving to different disc golf courses throughout the state. I’ve been using many of those drives as an opportunity to check out hiking trails!)

Finally, having a car has given us the opportunity to try new date ideas, like drive-in movies and going to a nearby sculpture park.

image from twitter.com

I had been feeling pretty cooped-up throughout the spring and summer, so the car came at the perfect time. Now, I can’t imagine how I made it through so many months without the freedom of being able to drive outside of my bubble!

2020 Gratitude: Taskmaster

I learned about Taskmaster near the end of last year, with two friends giving the show glowing recommendations. They described the premise, including a play-by-play of the very first task, and I was sold! However, my problem at the time was that there was no straightforward way to watch it. There were episodes unofficially available on “sketchy” sites, but nowhere that was easily accessible.

However, the official YouTube account started uploading full episodes, and I spent most of this year devouring them. Over the course of quarantine, I’ve binged eight full seasons with my boyfriend! We’ve sat through most episodes together, talking through how we would do different tasks, judging contestant’s attempts, and have generally used the show as another way to bond with each other.

My favorite Taskmaster submission – TREE WIZARD!

Throughout the year, we also hosted and participated in our own little Taskmaster competitions among our friends. We had three sessions overall, one that we hosted and planned ourselves, and two others that were run by our friends, and they were all interesting little diversions from the otherwise boring day-to-day of quarantine life.

We did many different challenges, including “cook an egg,” “create a bouquet,” “make a Rube Goldberg machine,” and “recreate a classic painting.” You can see our attempt at the last challenge below!

These Taskmaster games were not only fun and creatively challenging, but they were also a great way to keep in touch with friends! We’d chat with the hosts about rules, with our friends about their attempts, and always had an in-person finale at the end where we’d get to see each other’s submissions and crown a winner. Any way to keep in touch over this quarantine is a plus for me! (Looking like fools in the process is just a cherry on top!)