Inis board game art

Corona living: a few things we’ve come to appreciate

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What a bizarre world. As I’ve told many of my colleagues, this isn’t the spring we wanted, with so many canceled trips and weddings and live classes. But it’s the spring we got. And so here we are.

Covid 19 sucks.

Let’s get that out right away.  Let’s find a few silver linings. 

We’ve stumbled into a few good things this spring that made corona quarantine a little better. My writing brain (and working brain in general) has struggled, but at least these things work ok!  Raise your hand if you can’t keep two thoughts together right now. 

Sharing these in case you might benefit. Adding my affiliate links so you can find each service; sometimes with coupons or referral bonuses for you.

Eat without going to the store as much

My husband laughs at my accidental Covid-19 planning — I’d ordered cat food, litter, a huge box of toilet paper, and paper towels back in February before the quarantine surge stripped grocery stores of so many essential items. We got lucky. 

I also signed us up for HelloFresh with our first box delivered the week everything blew apart in March and shut down pretty much American life.  Turns out, not having to go to the grocery store as much during a pandemic is a nice perk. 

We’ve been doing HelloFresh for about 2 months now and will try a box from Gobble this coming week. 

HelloFresh mini review

*Use this link to save $40 off your first box from HelloFresh!

The meal box services are all pretty similar, and you can find multitudes of reviews online. I wrote a longer review of HelloFresh here. 

In brief, HelloFresh dropped a box of 3-4 good meals including a solid protein, a good carb, and a vegetable at our door every week during the worst of the quarantine for about $80-90 a week. We supplemented with our own sandwich food (for lunch) and breakfasts, and we even did the 4-person HelloFresh for a while to ensure we had some leftover food for lunches as we transitioned to eating entirely at home.

HelloFresh meal kit review May 2020

HF and other box services aren’t cheap. On average, a box costs $70-100 a week depending on how many meals you order and whether you’re doing the 2-person or 4-person size. You can also upgrade some meals by choosing a nice steal or salmon meal instead of their standard weekly fare. 

But there are intangible benefits to having someone else plan your menu and just hand you everything you need to cook. Put your brain on autopilot (if you’re skilled in the kitchen) and follow the recipe.  The food tastes good. Or throw out their recipes and make your own. Either way, someone else did the shopping for you, and if you aren’t in an area doing grocery delivery, this can be a lifesaver.

Avoid the toilet paper scramble – get a bidet!

Bidet living, man.  It’s a thing!   I’ve always been a bit afraid of bidets, because the installed ones I saw in Europe were so bizarre.  

Happily, there’s a whole market now of bidet attachments that you can install on your toilet with minimal fuss and get a clean butt without using toilet paper.  Our box box of Charmin that I ordered in February won’t last far into June, but we’re definitely using a lot less since installing the bidet. 

Luxe Bidet 185 - quick review

The model we purchased is the Luxe Bidet model 185, which offers both hot and cold water for your bum and a variety of nozzle positions so you can clean [whatever] — a handy thing for us ladies.  Amazon link

Installation was … mixed.  No complaint against Luxe; they did a good job with their directions and all the hardware they sent for installation was high quality. Plumbing is just a bitch.  

We experienced a few leaks in the 2-3 days after installation, requiring some trips to YouTube, Google, and Reddit to figure out what we’d messed up.  Everything boils down to tightening every connection enough but not too much. The bidet’s hot water line popped off its under-sink nozzle, spewing hot water throughout the vanity and requiring me to throw out a lot of expired cold medicine that got soaked.  I guess I can’t complain? It was exciting, that’s for sure. lol

Eventually, we got it sorted out, and since then not a problem at all.  The hot water hookup for the bidet (which sits to the right of the toilet if you’re doing your business) runs behind our toilet and the vanity to connect to the hot water behind our bathroom sink. The cold water comes from the same line as the toilet water supply (clean water, obviously).  The nozzles have a self-cleaning feature, so you can set the water to warm and run it for a few seconds to warm it up, then hit your bum. 

And boy does it give you all the fresh tingly clean feelings you could ever want. 

Cannot, will not ever go back to wiping my bum with paper.  Nope.  Can’t do it.  We’re hooked on bidet living now!

Good accessory:  Put a basket of clean, cheap washcloths next to your toilet plus a spare trash can or basket.  Dry off after washing yourself, and throw the cloth into the bin for washing later. One use per cloth; wash each week.  You might try these inexpensive, soft cloths  And grab a trash can that’ll fit small spaces, like this one

Drink better coffee – from small roasters

Nobody is saying a good cup of coffee can downplay 100,000 dead Americans lost to Covid-19.   But supporting small local roasters right now is important too. We’re going to lose so many independent businesses through the economic downturn. Did I mention how much this all sucks? 

I saw an ad for Trade coffee and decided to give them a shot.  For a reasonable fee ($15-20), they’ll ship a pound of good, fresh-roasted coffee to your house. You can go for a subscription and get a new bag to try every couple weeks (a cool surprise to look forward to!) or just order coffee from them.  

Everything is sourced by local roasters across the country, and you can pick your order to ship the day after coffee is fresh roasted.  They offer good blog posts too about various ways to make a better cup of joe.  We’re huge fans of our bodum, as I’ve explained here.

Verdict?  Delicious!  We’ve gotten 3-4 coffees from Trade in the past month (some by subscription and mostly ones I’ve ordered to keep us resupplied), and they’ve all been good.  I could even order Methodical coffee!  We’ll keep running down to E-City for Tanzanian Peaberry, but if you’re trying to reduce errands and exposure, Trade is filling that niche well without forcing all your dollars to Starbucks.

Buy used books

I’m worried about our independent bookstores. They were already on the precipice before everything closed in March. Amazon relentlessly chews up everything in its path, so I’ve begun looking for alternatives. 

I’ve been searching at Thrift Books before resorting to Amazon. They carry a decent range of used and new books, and I was able to get about half of my recent books from them.

Some of their prices are better than Amazon’s and some are worse. Free shipping helps soften the blow of not using Prime.  

You can stockpile points to get free books as well, but the freebies have to be cheap ones, so maybe not as useful if you’re using Thrive only to purchase particular books (which is what I tend to do).

*Coupon for 15% off your first ThriftBooks order

Play games at a distance

No surprise to those of you already in the board game or TTRPG hobby, but it’s worth discussing tools to let you get some game time in even if you aren’t spending time around people in person.

Roll20 is a web-based service that allows people to share the same virtual space as a map for RPGs in place of a tabletop map.  Most folks combine this with a phone call or Discord voice server, but Roll20 does offer video and audio connection options. I have found them a bit unreliable, personally, so my group uses Discord.

Tabletop Simulator has been around for a while, and board game designers are getting better and better about porting their game designs into TTS for remote / online play.  We recently played Iniš with a friend, and it was a great experience.  We used Discord for voice, but you could do any conference call / video call / group call option for audio.  You can also just play online if the game doesn’t require personal interaction (like some Euro games).

Tabletop Simulator runs within STEAM. 

Bonus recommendation: Iniš

By the way, Iniš is an incredible game, and I give it a 10/10.  Gorgeous game in print, absolutely glorious art by a Hugo-nominated fantasy artist, and a fantastic game set in a fantasy-style Ireland.  Plays 2-4 people.

The gameplay is so tight! You’ll be trying to claim territory or control areas with your limited clans. Strategy is key. The amazing artwork brings huge tarot-sized cards in your hand to life, and these cards generate the actions you can take during the round. Special cards introduce crazy powers that can suddenly change the course of a whole turn.  We’ve played it once on TTs and once in person, and both times everyone came within a few moves of each other of winning the game. 

Buy Iniš (Amazon link) 

Inis board game


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