Cooking at home has likely changed a great deal in the last few months. It may be a sanctuary for some and a chore for others, but in an era of lockdowns, we will all sometimes be frustrated by not having this or that ingredient on hand – and no longer being able to just pop out to get it. While getting your hands on everyday staples is not always as quick and easy as it used to be, you can still use your favourite, tried and true recipes, just by making a few clever substitutions.  Here are a few tips on how to best substitute in, and swap out key ingredients while still creating delicious meals.

The Perfect Substitutes for 20 Common Ingredients

If you are on social media, you have probably seen the meme “Anyone else’s car getting 3 weeks per litre at the moment?” floating around.  And as funny as this is, it is also very true for many of us as our vehicles are staying parked on our driveways for long periods.

Our vehicles are not being used the same way right now – no commuting, no shopping adventures, no travelling distances for sports, concerts or other entertainment, no travelling to visit with family and friends.  And if the vehicles are moving, it is for short trips to the grocery store. Did you know that it isn’t good for a vehicle to sit for a long time?

I spoke with Jim, a local auto mechanic, asking for advice about our vehicles that are sitting, and what care we should be giving them.  He had one main tip:

Drive your car at least once a week, for a minimum distance around 10-15 km. 

Why you ask?  He offers two good reasons:

  1. Brakes – when a car has been sitting for a while there is a risk of rust forming on the brake pads and other brake system components.  And with it being Spring, there is a lot of moisture in the air from late snow falls, rain and the Spring melt in general.  Driving a minimum of once a week will keep the brake system lubed and running smoothly. It will also help reduce any rust that was trying to form on the brake pads.
  2. Battery – batteries that sit too long and are not used, can & will lose their charge.  When you drive your car, this recharges your battery.

And this is why the distance of 10-15 kilometres is recommended, as it gives your vehicle the time to charge the battery and wear off any rust.  So the next time you are out getting your groceries, maybe take a longer way home to give your car the loving care it needs.

“This time of isolation could be a period of great growth or great struggle in your relationship.”

John TierneyRoy F. Baumeister

March 29, 2020

Humans have evolved with a drive to share life with a partner—just not all day long. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors on the savanna formed pair-bonds, but they parted in the morning to go about their separate tasks. So did our ancestors on the farm. For hundreds of thousands of years, even the most devoted couples have been uttering some version of that basic romantic principle: “I married you for better or for worse, but not for lunch.”

So what happens now that spouses are staying home all day, and many unmarried couples suddenly find themselves quarantined together? The peril facing relationships quickly became obvious to the pioneers of this new intimacy on the Diamond Princess cruise ship, where couples were cooped up for two weeks in their cabin during the ship’s quarantine. Ellis Vincent, a retired airline executive from Australia, told a reporter that he and his wife, Kimberly, were passing the time by having long conversations during which she displayed a remarkable memory.

“She is able to bring up every transgression I’ve ever had,” he said. “I believe she is not finished.”

Read: I prepared for everything, but not coronavirus on a cruise ship

That is not the way for a relationship to survive the COVID-19 quarantine. The Vincents were succumbing to the negativity effect, which even in ordinary circumstances is the chief threat to couples—and can be an absolute relationship killer in these troubled times. The negativity effect is the brain’s tendency to respond more strongly to negative events and emotions than to positive ones. In short: Bad is stronger than good.

Research has shown that a negative event (such as your partner rehashing an old fight) typically has at least three times the impact of a comparable positive event (such as your partner recalling one of your past kindnesses). To keep love alive, bear a rough guideline in mind that we call the Rule of Four: Four good things are necessary to overcome one bad thing. Given the nonstop negativity in the news, people will need lots of positivity in their personal lives to compensate.

Finding good things to focus on takes some creativity in quarantine, but there’s an obvious opportunity at home: that trove of photos and videos of vacations, outings, and celebrations that you’d never had time to go through. Now you do. These can be a source of positivity at any time, and couples stuck at home together can use them to happily “nostalgize”—a verb coined by social psychologists who have discovered remarkable benefits in reliving the past.

Read: How negativity can kill a relationship

Nostalgia was long considered a sign of unhappiness with the present (and was once even seen as a disorder). But in recent years, Constantine Sedikides and his colleagues at the University of Southampton in England have shown that nostalgia isn’t just an exercise in relishing the past. If indulged in the right way, it makes us more satisfied with the present and more optimistic about the future.

Nostalgia has the potential to lift people’s spirits, make them feel more connected to others, and heighten the sense that life has continuity and meaning. It can counteract boredom and anxiety, can motivate people to work toward goals, and is linked to increased generosity and tolerance. Experiments have shown that people who nostalgize in a cool room actually feel physically warmer.

Other studies have shown that couples look happier and feel closer when they share memories—at least when they’re not recalling each other’s transgressions or lamenting what has been lost. The healthiest way to nostalgize is not to pine for the past—“Those were better days”—but rather to savor those memories as a treasure that can’t be taken away. So when you look at a photo of yourself with friends at a favorite restaurant, focus on your enduring friendship instead of the fact that the restaurant has shut down during the pandemic.

In most relationships, fortunately, the multitude of small good moments make up for the more powerful bad ones. And you can always create more good moments. You can try to regularly make a list of your partner’s traits for which you’re grateful, and also make a point of telling your partner what you admire about them.

Read: What you lose when you gain a spouse

However, accentuating the positive will only do so much. Because of the greater power of bad—that 4-to-1 ratio we mentioned—you can have a bigger impact by eliminating the negative, both negative actions and negative thoughts about your partner.

Instead of striving to be a perfect partner, concentrate on avoiding elementary mistakes. Studies have shown that people get relatively little credit for delivering more than they had promised, but they pay a stiff price for doing less. Before you make a commitment, beware what psychologists call the “planning fallacy,” our tendency to underestimate how long a project will take. Better to promise less and make sure you deliver on it than promise too much and fall short.

Another way to keep the peace is by fighting your own negative reactions to conflict. If your partner gets upset at what seems, to you, to be a trivial offense, remember that bad is in the eye of the beholder. You have to deal with their reaction no matter how irrational it seems—and the power of bad can bring out the irrationality in all of us. One critical word or careless affront looms much larger than any goodwill, and it will linger for longer, especially if you’re together 24/7.

When your partner does something that bothers you, don’t go with your gut reaction. Think before you blame, and be especially wary of what psychologists call the “fundamental attribution error.” When we do something wrong ourselves, we often blame it on temporary external circumstances: Yes, I lost my temper a couple of times today, but that’s just because of all the stress from the quarantine. But when our partner does something wrong, we’re inclined to wrongly attribute it to permanent internal flaws: He lost his temper because he has lousy self-control and doesn’t care about how I feel.

In 2000, researchers tracked couples’ “attributional styles” and found that attributing partners’ wrongdoings to internal flaws led to greater marital dissatisfaction and a higher likelihood of divorce. Before blaming your partner’s behavior on an inherent character trait, force yourself to consider a charitable excuse for what they did. And then give your partner the benefit of the doubt.

A friend of ours keeps his wife’s faults in perspective by taping a message to his bathroom mirror: You’re no bargain either. Being able to overlook your partner’s sins—to maintain what psychologists call “positive illusions”—is one of the surest ways to sustain a relationship. Some people seem to do it automatically, as demonstrated in couples’ brain scans. When shown a picture of their beloved, some people displayed less activity in the brain region associated with making negative judgments—and their relationships proved more likely to endure. But even if you can’t help spotting your partner’s offenses, you can at least pretend not to notice. As Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s mother-in-law once advised her, “In every good marriage, it helps sometimes to be a little deaf.”

If the affront is one you can’t endure, then say something, but do it calmly without retaliating, because the negativity effect can quickly turn a small disagreement into a raging battle. This dynamic was observed in experiments at the University of Chicago in which people took turns playing a game that gave them the option of either cooperating with their partner or acting selfishly. When a player acted benevolently, the partner typically reciprocated in kind. But when a player acted selfishly, the partner didn’t merely reciprocate—they tended to escalate the conflict by acting even more selfishly themselves. The Chicago psychologists summarized the participants’ reactions: “You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours, but if you take my eye, I’ll take both of yours.”

That’s not the spirit that will get your relationship through the pandemic. There’s enough angst in the world right now without adding to it at home. You can suppress your visceral negativity bias by consciously looking for the upsides of your relationship—and even the upsides to being quarantined. After all, it’s giving you an unprecedented opportunity to get to know your partner.

“This is going to be a period of great growth for relationships,” says the anthropologist Helen Fisher, who has studied romance around the world. “Couples are either going to grow together or grow apart.” Therapists love to advise couples to create quality time for themselves, and now we have more of it than ever. Use it wisely—and positively.

So, your hair is getting long, and all of the salons are closed because of a global pandemic. Unless you’re lucky enough to be quarantined with a hair care professional, you might be getting desperate for a trim. Stylists will advise you to avoid getting too overzealous with your scissors, but sometimes you’re left with no choice. Cutting your hair is more complicated than it looks, and this guide is not one-size-fits-all, but it should help you at least figure out the basics on where to start and help you avoid a DIY disaster.

How to Cut Your Own Hair at Home

For some of us, working from home is new and still a novelty.  For others, they have been doing it for years.  And they can provide us with great tips on ways to ensure we are staying productive while working from home.

 

  1. Create a workspace or home office – Each person who is working in the house should have their “own” area to work (to the best of your ability).  Be flexible and maybe have a few spots in the house for working, this allows for “privacy” if one family member is on a video meeting.  Make your workspace as comfortable as possible.
  2. Set a firm “start” and “end” of the day work hours – keep office hours that are in-line with your coworkers.  Having set hours helps establish a sense of routine.  This routine also helps if you have kids, as they can set their “school work” schedule around your work day and know when not to disturb you.
  3. Take breaks – Just like when you are in the office, it is not good to sit for too long.  Build into your daily schedule short breaks to get up and move.  This could be as simple as walking into another room to fill up your water bottle or doing a few squats at your “desk”.
  4. Get dressed – As tempting as it is to stay in your pajamas all day, get dressed, whether you are leaving the house or not.  And keep your morning hygiene routine; shower, shave, brush your hair and teeth – it is the little things in our daily routine that helps keep “normalcy” in our lives.
  5. Keep your routine – this is more than just your morning routine, this includes your work day routine.  If you have certain business tasks that need to be done daily or weekly, continue to do them around the same time or in the same order each day.  And if you have trouble starting in the morning, make your commute to your home office a little longer and go for a walk around the block.
  6. Build in physical activity – whether it is going for a walk, doing an online/virtual exercise class, or playing outside with kids, build in physical activity into your daily routine – it can be in the morning, on a lunch break or after your working hours.
  7. Designate a “work-free” zone – This is important as it gives your family a space to be in to do other things (watch tv, games, puzzles, etc) while you are working. This also allows your downtime to be without distractions. You won’t be tempted to check your email one last time.

On lockdown and feeling the urge to bake, but missing something apparently vital? Cake has taken on a new significance now that most of us are stuck at home all day, every day. We’re comfort-eating and baking like there’s no tomorrow. But what do you do when you’re craving cake, but can’t find eggs, and the flour shelves are empty at your local grocery store?  Here are some recipes and ideas from great bakers, past and present, to get you through every ingredient shortfall.

23 Cake Recipes For When You’re Missing an Ingredient

Nothing signals the start of “everything good season” like the opening of Canada’s Wonderland. But since we don’t know when that will be, the park has gifted us with the recipe for its iconic funnel cakes so we can make them at home!

That crispy, yet chewy, light-as-air funnel cake, covered in a dusting of powdered sugar, smothered in that sweet, sweet strawberry sauce and topped with a magical swirly mountain of soft-serve vanilla ice cream. Mmmmm….

Baking has blown up, not just in Canada, but around the world as a fun quarantine activity to do at home – with sales of essential ingredients like flour and yeast in high demand.

Canada’s Wonderland Funnel Cake Recipe

 

Decluttering is defined as the removing of unnecessary items from an untidy or overcrowded place, like a room or your home.  Home organization can be defined as the arranging of a room or space by systematic planning.  When you are organizing a room or your whole house, it may involve decluttering, as well as rearranging the furniture to fit better within the space.

Often decluttering involves purging.  It can be quite cathartic to get rid of things that you discover you have been holding on to for years and don’t know why.  Many of these items, when properly sterilized can find ‘new homes’ using sites like Varagesale, Freecyle or Facebook Marketplace. For those items that can’t find a “new home”, you will likely find a ‘curbside holiday’ for it.  Many cities and municipalities have lifted their minimums and ‘costs per bag’ for regular household garbage.

Just remember to fully commit to the decluttering and organization routine.  Start with one room/space so you are not overwhelmed and are able to finish the task.

If the task is feeling to overwhelming and large to undertake, there are many professional “home organizers” and tidying experts, who have resources online that you can read, watch or purchase.  There are companies that are now offering virtual services at this time as part of their paid services.

Whether for your home or business, the Professional Organizers in Canada website has a quick-look up form that allow you to narrow down the search for the professional organizing services needed.

https://www.organizersincanada.com/getorganized/find.html

Think of Find My Organizer website as a yellow pages, with detailed, personalized listing of organizers in your province who can assist virtually assist you.

https://www.findmyorganizer.com/organize.b.507.g.71435.html?page=1

 

KonMari

Founded by Marie Kondo, the KonMari Method encourages tidying or decluttering by category, not a room or location.  So you would start with your clothes then move on to books, papers, miscellaneous items and sentimental items.  You keep only those things that speak to the heart, and discard the items that no longer spark joy.  You thank them for their service, then let them go.

https://konmari.com/

There is also a movement for minimalism as a whole lifestyle, not just the decluttering within your home.

 

The Minimalists

Learn more about how to focus on clearing the clutter from your life’s path to help make room.  The Minimalists focus on making room for more: more time, more passion, more creativity, more experiences, more contentment and more freedom.  Josh and Ryan, the founders of the Minimalists, are helping people live meaningful lives with less.

https://www.theminimalists.com/

 

Becoming Minimalist

Designed to inspire others to pursue their greatest passion by owning fewer things.  Joshua is a best-selling author, offering tips and guiding people through rational minimalism and discovering what minimalism uniquely means to them.

https://www.becomingminimalist.com/

Some of the simplest and best cleaners, are made from the most natural of products and most are probably found in your cupboards.  Whether you are using them for your Spring cleaning, or they become part of your regular cleaning routine, here are a few recipes and tips for great homemade cleaners.

 

Staples to have on hand:

White Vinegar

Borax – is a great bleach substitute

Hydrogen Peroxide

Rubbing Alcohol

Baking Soda / Sodium Bicarbonate

Castile Soap

Lemon Juice / Lemon Oil

 

Good Housekeeping offers 33 tips for Spring cleaning this year.  Make sure you scroll down though when you check out this webpage as they have their Ultimate Guide to Spring Cleaning at the bottom of the page.  These include great tips and articles on: “How to clean your car’s interior like a Pro” and “How to get blood out of your carpet” as who knows what wrestling matches have been happening in your house during the winter and past few weeks.

https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/home/cleaning/g3345/spring-cleaning-tips/

 

This spring, clean your house like a professional. Merry Maids is just one of many cleaning services that offers a checklist on their website with tips and how-to’s to Spring clean your house like a professional service would

https://www.merrymaids.com/cleaning-tips/seasonal-cleaning/spring-cleaning-checklist/

 

Divide and conquer the Spring cleaning with printable checklists.  Go room by room, or divide up rooms between the family.

https://www.tasteofhome.com/article/spring-cleaning-checklist/