How To Survive Lockdown

We can all agree that 2020 was an annus horribilis of note – for many reasons, not least of which was a global pandemic that’s forced most of us to stay home.

The Wild Child and I have been in lockdown since February last year – almost a year. We went out to eat once (never again) and took a safe-as-we-could-manage roadtrip to Jeffrey’s Bay to end the year off, just before the beaches were closed, so even there we had to stay indoors.

I’m sure you’ve discovered by now that lockdown isn’t all pyjama parties and funny Zoom backgrounds. It can be lonely, and boring, and repetitive.

I thought I’d share what I’ve learned over the past year to make the best out of my time at home.

Bake

When we entered hard lockdown in March, there was a lot of panic around going to grocery shops. As a result, I stocked up on baking ingredients and started making my own bread, rolls and flatbreads. This quickly led to forays into cinnamon buns, meringues, cakes, brownies and other delicious things. We now know more about the virus and how to stay safe when shopping, but I’ve kept up the practice. I might not be making as much bread, but I love the quiet focus involved in baking. You have to get every measurement exactly right or else the results will flop. Constant vigilance!

And nothing beats starting the day with a slice of chocolate cake and a cup of coffee.

Start a garden

I have a little flower bed in the back yard that was pretty bare when I moved in (I won’t mention the grass).  Being a novice gardener, my idea of randomly planting my favourite flowers and plants (hydrangeas, roses, pansies, blueberries, strawberries) was an unmitigated disaster. Everything died. This is because certain plants are best for certain soils and levels of sun exposure and other factors I remain clueless about. After one too many failed attempts, I created dedicated flower boxes for plants that actually live together, and edible plants and herbs that I regularly harvest for meals. As for the flowerbed – I bought several packets of wildflower seeds and tossed them in to see what would happen. The result is a wild mess of beautiful flowers that constantly change and I couldn’t be happier.

My favourite place is my little reading nook in the garden, which is the best spot to spend a sunny Saturday afternoon.

Make an event out of silly things

When you’re at home, there is not much to look forward to and weekends can be quite boring. After countless weekends spent reading, binging reality TV and staring at my phone, I came up with the idea of Theme Days, like Batman Day, Anime Day, The Backyard Putt Putt Date Day, Competitive Gaming Day, the Birds of Prey movie Day, and Agatha Christie Day.

On my birthday we watched all the Batman films, from 1966 onwards. It was the best.

Bonus tip: The Velvet Cake Company delivers, so make sure your special day is complete with a slice of rainbow or carrot cake.

Find an online community

When my latest novel was published early last year, I was pretty disappointed that I couldn’t go on tour to publicise it. Luckily, I remembered the huge book community on Instagram and re-activated my account. I may not have been able to go on an actual book tour, but the #SeaStarSummer Intsa tour was just as fun, and I made a lot of new friends in the process. Plus I have an excuse to take more cat pics.

Get to know your cats

This goes without saying.

Get everything delivered

Even though its safe, the idea of walking into a mall fills me with dread. So for the last year, I’ve been getting everything delivered. I order my groceries through the Checkers Sixty app, my special once-in-a-blue-moon treats from The Velvet Cake Company and Woolworths, my medication from Dischem, must-read books from Google Books and Takealot, and my collectable figurines from Raru.

I have a special designated area at the front door for deliveries and shoes, so the rest of the house remains a “safe” zone. Really, its just an added precaution to make myself feel like I’m doing everything I can. I still wipe down my groceries… it’s all about feeling safe.

What are your top tips for surviving lockdown?

Why I’m living for Harley Quinn right now

Harley Quinn has been on my mind a lot recently. Even though I’m a fan of both Marvel and DC, she is, without a doubt, my favourite comic book character. There is a huge neon poster of her above my bed, and on the opposite wall, a signed poster by cover artist Laura Braga.

To mentally prepare myself for the Birds of Prey movie, I decided to haul out all my Harley Quinn, Suicide Squad, DC Bombshells, and Harley & Ivy comics to get into character, so to speak.

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A birthday to remember in Hermanus

The last few weeks have been fairly anxious ones with big changes causing all sorts of disarray in my life. My birthday fell smack-bang in the middle of it all and I was really worried the occasion was going to be undone by stress.

Thankfully, past-Sally seemed to anticipate a weekend of self-care was going to be sorely needed by future me and planned something very special.

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How to turn a business trip into an adventure

Promotional book tours help get the word out once a book hits the shelves. They’re especially important in the first six months after publication, which is generally the period authors become adrenaline-fueled squirrels of activity.

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Looking back at being different

Growing up, I knew my parents were different to other kids’ parents. They did their own thing. They listened to Black Sabbath and had a collection of vinyl records from the seventies. I used to watch The Muppet Show with my mom. We’d picnic in the park and eat junk food. The garden was my wonderland where I could literally do anything I wanted – dig holes, climb trees, stay out all day. I was so wild sometimes I’d sleep on the ground using the dog’s furry belly as a pillow.
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Kitchen experiments

I love the alchemy of cooking and baking – how mixing certain ingredients together can result in something deliciously pleasurable. I especially love the effect that good food has on people – that ooh after the first bite, the satisfied sigh.

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Taking it slow on Route 62

Working full time is tough. Not only do I have less time to write fiction, it also means getting up super early every day to the same alarm tone, sitting in traffic, and working long hours that often eats into my personal time. The next thing I know, there’s three or four hours left to make dinner, shower, catch the latest episode of something and then its bedtime.

Free nights and weekends become a game of Roulette. Is the dice going to land on writing, spending time with friends, catching up on chores or taking work home yet again? It can wear you down.

A long weekend away is the perfect antidote.

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In praise of Japan

I don’t have the most refined palate. Growing up, meals were a rotating conveyor belt of toast, spaghetti, mac and cheese, stew and braai (charred to a crisp, the way my father liked it.) Take-aways like KFC were a weekend treat, and on special occasions, and I mean, really, really special, we went to Spur.

I consider this a blessing. Being raised without a silver spoon in my mouth helped me understand the value of hard work and getting what you pay for. Which is why these days, when I do have a little extra to spend on eating out, I try to get my money’s worth.

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