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The big and little things I'm grateful for during the lockdown

Updated: Jan 21, 2021

What 6 p.m. looks like most evenings

I’ve been joking (or not so joking) to my friends and family that we all need things to look forward to these days. For some people (my mom), that means lots of bread baking. For others (my uncle), it means a book the size of your head about the Alamo.

For me, it’s a lot of little things. While I haven't taken on any new hobbies, I have been putting a little extra time, effort, and ceremony into the everyday activities that make me feel good. I woke up this morning feeling inspired to write them all down, and it has put me in a happy mood for the rest of today.

Of course, it goes without saying that I’m grateful for a lot of big things, too:

--for my own health and the health of my loved ones;

--for doctors, nurses, and all healthcare workers;

--for everyone who is doing their part to combat this virus, whether that means risking their lives at work or staying at home to protect themselves and others;

--and for the fact that I’m safe in Florence. This isn’t how I wanted to spend my time in Italy, but it has been very impactful to experience how this special country has come together to do what is best for public health.

My family in Texas and California during our Easter Zoom call

And a couple of other big things:

--technology. Specifically, FaceTime, which has helped me keep up with friends and family better than I have all year, and

--finally, for the free time I’m enjoying in general, which I’ve used to write about whatever I want. It’s a luxury for any writer to be able to explore their interests without the pressure of earning an income. As strange as this time may be, I’m relieved to have the opportunity to put words out into the world without a clear plan for the immediate future. You can keep up with me here, read my recent LA Times article, and check out my profile on Medium to see what I’ve been writing lately.

The snail is my favorite thing about my balcony, besides the view and my rocking chair

Now, here are the smaller things that have helped me get through this lockdown a little more joyfully:

My view: Most of my beloved lockdown activities have taken place on my balcony, which looks over a big palm tree favored by chirping swallows, foliage so green it’s almost electric, and dream homes dotting the hills across the Arno River. It’s a humble little space — the only piece of furniture on it is a rocking chair I ordered from Amazon — but it has been my happy place. It’s where I tan during the day and enjoy an aperitivo in the evening. It’s where I FaceTime loved ones at night and enjoy quiet time in the mornings (inspired by fellow Texan and fun-to-follow blogger Lonestar Southern) with coffee and my daily Duolingo lesson. It’s also where I get my only in-person interactions as of late: with one neighbor who works at my school and an Italian mother and son who have lunch al fresco every day.

Duolingo: I’m pleased to announce that I am now a level-three Italian speaker on this mighty language-learning app. Here are some of my favorite words and phrases from my lessons, organized by category:

--Useless, but funny: Il mio serpente mangia le tue torte. (My snake eats your cakes.) ???

--Urgent: Non c’e un momento da perdere! (There’s not a moment to lose!) I plan to use this if someone tries to go off the itinerary on a future trip to Disneyland.

--Romantic: Penso spesso al posto dove ci siamo conosciuti. (I think often of the place where we met.) I’ve actually used this while talking to my Sicilian crush on Whatsapp. Ooo!

--Wise: Sognare non costa niente. (It costs nothing to dream.) and Le cose non sono sempre come sembrano. (Things are not always as they seem.)

Instagram: I’ve been following my favorite Florence bloggers, Georgette Jupe (@girlinflorence), Emiko Davies (@emikodavies), and Coral Sisk (@curiousappetite) since my first week here. They've helped me form a more meaningful connection to Florence. Georgette has led me to attend so many events I never would have known about otherwise — like artisan markets, museum exhibits, and holiday parades — and Emiko and Coral have introduced me to some of my favorite Tuscan foods, like schiacciata all’uva and frittelle di riso. Following them during the quarantine has been just as fruitful; Georgette’s posts have been both informative and uplifting, and I love seeing (and copying) what Emiko and her cute daughters are cooking every day. I’ve been cooped up in my apartment for so long that my walls have started to feel like their own world. Strangely, Instagram has helped me remember that I’m still in Florence.

It's a well known fact that a Campari spritz pairs well with the Kiehl's turmeric and cranberry seed face mask

Aperol and Campari: I’ve never made spritzes at home until now, but it has become such an enjoyable evening ritual. As much as I love fancy crostini, I’ve found that these bitter drinks are best paired with simple snacks, like good old potato chips and salted roasted peanuts. It’s the perfect high-brow, low-brow combination.

Exercise on the internet: Despite my sedentary days, I’ve avoided getting creaky squeaky joints, which I attribute to Yoga with Adriene on YouTube. Her videos range from five-minute practices for specific body parts to hour-long flows, so I’m always able to find a class that suits exactly how I’m feeling. Popsugar fitness videos have also been kicking my butt (this one and this one are my favorites), and Steezy Studio has helped me rediscover my love of hip hop dance.

Melaleuca: I used to go to this Australian-style café behind my apartment building at least once a week for flat whites and too many desserts, like cinnamon rolls and lemon polenta cake. Now, their deliveries are the highlight of my week. I’ve had homemade sourdough, the best freshly ground coffee beans, a Turkish feast with flatbread and dips, chili con carne, and so much more. My body composition is now 90% Melaleuca.

Ann, Jessie, and Jessie's thousand-layer crepe cake!

My roommates: Before Jessie and Ann made it safely back to their home country of Taiwan, we were fabulous quarantine companions. Jessie and I exercised together. Ann barged in on my FaceTime calls, chiming in, “Hi, Mommy,” when I chatted with my mom and, “Beautiful girl!” when I chatted with friends. We watched all of the Hunger Games movies and a few Harry Potters. We made each other dinner and desserts with great frequency. The best were our burger night, all-day dumpling fest, and T-bone steak on my birthday. I miss them and am still cooking my way through all the food they left me: mung bean noodles, four types of chili sauce, and a five-spice soup mix.

Fun food: I’ve always looked forward to cooking and eating, but now even more so. It has been especially delightful to experiment with some fun and unfamiliar varieties of pasta, which always gets me excited for feeding time, like this flat and wavy-edged variety called tacconi (or taccozelle) and fusilli lunghi, an extremely long twirly pasta that bites like a chewier ramen noodle. Check out my quarantine cuisine post to see what sauces and other dishes I’ve been making.

Obvious entertainment: As far as music, I've been listening to my favorite artists even more than usual, like Lennon Stella, Cautious Clay, and The Japanese House. If you need shows to watch on Netflix, I've been obsessed with Cheer, Jane the Virgin and Money Heist (La Casa de Papel). And I was finally able to get my hands on a new book, The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes, which I'm really enjoying.

I hope this gave you some ideas to spice up your life in lockdown. I’d love to hear what you’re up to as well — comment here or send me a message on Instagram! Buona salute a voi.

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“I think often of the place where we met” is so lovely! Loving how you are finding joy in this new world! ❤️


I feel like I'm going to use those phrases a lot when we're allowed to go back to Italy. There's not a moment to lose applies to every panino place I've been and haven't been. There's not a moment to lose applies to all the restaurants on our (long) twinzie restaurant list. I often think of the place we've met? Yep, you guessed it... that's me, Nottolo, and a winery outside San Gimignano. I don't know about snakes eating cake, but my guess is that I'll find a place for that one, too. (Come to think of it, it's probably a bad joke about people I don't like.)

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