A Survivor’s Guide to the Pandemic #4 – Stir Crazy Much? Focus on Your Music, Your Household, Your Kids & Your Spouse/Partner

What to do? What to do? We have so much time, every day that we’re stuck inside, how can we keep busy? If you’re like me…I’m busier than I have ever been! It seems like before I know it, it’s 5:30 and I’m out prepping dinner again. I have this huge TO DO list (read my previous Survivor’s Guide #1 – Activate to Motivate) and while I am chipping away at this list, there is always more to do or something pops up that takes precedence.

Learning all this new equipment and doing several Zoom meetings each week are also keeping me very busy. Keeping Cabaret Hotspot current is 2 hours a day so why am I writing this article on being Stir Crazy? Because I know many of you are after 40 plus days inside! I have some great ideas on how you can use this time to be more productive and to have some fun. Nothing feels better than accomplishing a goal and being all shiny clean and organized.

This blog will deal with suggestions for Singing, Household, Kids and Spouses/Partners…just scroll down for your topic of interest!

SINGING & MUSIC ORGANIZATION

Shows:  In my Cabaret business class I explain how I have all my shows organized in binders with the script, tech sheet, song list and all the song lyrics and music in one place so, should I ever decide to do that show again, I can just pull down the binder and it’s all there. For my jazz gigs I usually organize these in 3 folders for my MD, bassist and drummer. This way they have the original charts that they marked up ready to go. The script, patter, etc. goes in another folder and again, everything is ready to go.

Music: I have a full list of all the songs that I have charted and perform with the key that I sing them in noted and then another list of all the songs that I have in my library. I also have the scores and music books listed at the end of the library list. I cut and pasted this list with the keys noted into NOTES on my iPhone so that, should I want to call a tune, it’s all right there for me to access.

Charts:  It is your job to make sure that you get all your charts from your arranger in a computer file as well as a hard copy. You have paid for these charts. They are yours. You should be able to access all these charts in the Cloud or through Dropbox so, if you travel, you can always access a song. Your charts must be in two safe places. If you or your arranger ever had a fire, where would all those charts be? If they are in the Cloud or on another computer, they are not lost.

Electronic Singing: This is a whole new way of performing. We are all on a learning curve trying to figure out all this new equipment. Please read David’s Quarter-Note Series here on Cabaret Hotspot to get started. They are all incredibly informative. Please also watch the video we have featured on proper Zoom settings. Test drive Facebook Live, create a YouTube Channel or look at Stage It. Check out the Accompanist, Piano Trax and Set List Maker apps to help you rehearse songs you may not be able to get while housebound.

Next Shows:  Even though we are not performing right now, doesn’t mean that we didn’t have a project that got canceled or a project that we were working on before all this happened. I keep all my separate shows, producing projects, teaching projects and such in individual plastic folders on the side of my desk so that, when I have to access it quickly or should I want to work on something, it’s there with everything I left in it to continue my work.

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HOUSEHOLD LOVE

Do you love your home? I do! It’s my oasis. When I’m singing and out a lot, I LOVE to come home to my husband, my kitchen and my real life here. Whenever I do a major cleaning of my home, I feel the love from the space. This is my happy place!

Projects: Besides doing a major Spring Cleaning, what other projects do you want to get done? Painting a room? Reorganizing the pantry or cabinets? Tossing out all the green fuzzy food in the fridge or food with scary old expiration dates. P-U-R-G-E! Let it go…Let it go…

The Fancy Pantry: Oprah once did a show (man, I miss her!) on a book called “The Fancy Pantry” and it inspired me to go into my own pantry and put everything in mason jars with labels and to buy a few racks to “display” my can goods. This was a simple, little, inexpensive change that made me happy and helped me find things faster. They also have those cheap plastic spaghetti and cracker containers in the dollar stores. This all helps in pest control too should that be an issue.

   

Closets: Look at the clothes you were wearing before the Pandemic, because clearly all we’re wearing these days are jammies and yoga pants, and ask yourself, “Have I worn this in the past 3 months?” (pre-Pandemic) If so, hang it back up. If not, make 3 piles:

  1. Donate to Good Will
  2. Give it to someone you know who would like it (My friends call me “Macy” because I have been know to bring over clothes in big Macy bags!)
  3. Throw it away

Try everything on. See if the item still makes you want to dance in it. If you think it still looks great. Yes? Hang it back up. No? To one of the piles.

NO Wire Hangers! One year just for fun, I went and bought all new (cheap dollar store) dark brown wood hangers and “re-did” my closet. It’s so stupid but it made me so happy. It looked GREAT! I also rainbow color coordinated my clothes…red, orange, green, blue, brown, black, black, black, black…no, I’m kidding…kind of! I also have two clothes racks…one for every day and the other for going out and performance clothes.

Cooking:  Before the Pandemic, on Saturday or Sunday when I was home (now I don’t even know what day it is anymore!), I would shop, cook and prep forward for the week of meals. I’d also think about re-purposing foods so that my leftovers weren’t just leftovers, they had a different taste profile the next day.

I’d buy in bulk (call me Mrs. Costco!) and come home and divvy up the big bag of shrimp and the steaks and the chicken thighs to smaller freezer bags so that I didn’t have to thaw a huge package of chicken for a meal for the two of us OR try to chip away two frozen chicken breasts from a package of eight! Now that we are staying in and only going out to grocery shop, BUY BIG and divvy it up! Even bacon. I got a huge package, cut it in half and then put 6 half slices in each bag for 8 portions.

Making a labor-intensive dish like lasagna or a big pot of spaghetti sauce and meatballs? Make it big then freeze 4 hunks in take-out containers with some of the extra sauce in a separate container to use for your next pasta night.

On-Line Recipes: You all know that mama can cook but anyone can really. If you can read, you can cook. Start simple. You can literally download any recipe on-line now. I would recommend Rachael Ray or The Pioneer Woman to get started as they are easier to follow. Like something and want to save it? Print it out, punch holes in it and put it in a photo album (if you can still find them)! Make sections in that album for: appetizers, bread, soup, entrees, pasta and desserts. It’s easy! Eventually you have a cookbook of tried and true dishes!

Top Chef or Chopped Challenge: Want to have some fun? Challenge your partner or kids to a cook off! You can even do this on-line through Zoom with a friend. Make some rules like:

You each get to pick 5 ingredients and make something out of just those 5 things OR the other person chooses those 5 ingredients.

Make a “garbage” meal. Whenever we say, “There’s nothing in the house to eat” but I end up making something pretty delicious, we call this a “garbage meal”. Re-doing leftovers or making up something on the sly is also a fun challenge.

Let the kids pick the ingredients for dinner with no rules…chocolate and spare ribs? Make it work! That’s the challenge!

Speaking of the kids…while I do not have any children, I am a “child whisperer” and have been known to keep the kids busy when they visit. What do I do? I’m VERY crafty…

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HOW TO KEEP THE KIDS BUSY

Cooking: Further to the above suggestion of doing an in-house cooking competition (if they cook) you can also…

Bake Bread:  Nothing will lift your spirits like the smell of a fresh baked bread. The kids can do the kneading and you can make it a class by explaining how the yeast must activate to raise the dough and then have them punch it down. Babka is also fun because you get to roll it and twist it AND fill it with whatever they want… Nutella, PB&J, Cinnamon & Nuts or, everyone’s favorite…Chocolate!

Cooking Class: Order them personalized aprons and don’t just have them help, teach them a recipe. Have all the ingredients and tools at a workstation at the table and teach them a step-by-step recipe.

Fancy Dinner Etiquette Night:  Set the table with all the appropriate cutlery and teach the kids how to properly use a knife and fork and how each utensil is used. Get all dressed up like you’re going to a fancy restaurant! Have them pull the chair out for mom! Teach them how to sample the “wine”!

PINTEREST: I repeat…Pinterest! Google this for a world of craft suggestions and household tips and recipes. Below are some Christmas ornaments I have made from two different kinds of clothes pins with the kids. All you need are clothes pins, googly eyes, pieces of felt or cloth and some paint.

 

Pinterest also has recipes for homemade GOOP and other science-type projects (with instructions on how and why these experiments work) that can be used to help teach them something for those parents who are now having to home school. There are no rules! Why can’t learning be fun and even a little messy?

“Stained” Glass Windows: My genius niece who happens to be the mom of 2 very active boys and a Chemistry teacher had her boys tape off the front door do a stained glass project for Easter.

 

Ninja Warrior:  This same niece created an obstacle course in her yard for the boys to run around in, get some fresh air and hopefully, burn off some energy!

Living Room Picnic or Camp Out: Set up a blanket on the floor in the living room and have an actual picnic with picnic foods. OR, you can set up a fort or a tent and “sleep out” in the living room. Make smores!

Movie Night: I know, I know, every night is movie night lately but why not make it a weekly event to make popcorn and get a few boxes of big movie candy and just go to the movies together all snuggled up under a big blanket on the couch? Each week it is someone else’s movie pick.

Book Reenactment: Pick a favorite book and assign parts and put on a show. Why not write a book together as a family or about your family?

Talent Show: Produce a good old fashion Micky & Judy Talent Show with a curtain and microphone. Make sure there’s a prize!

Dance Party: Show those kids that you have moves! Do a disco party or a soul train party and show them how you used to dance. Maybe make it a costume party as well! Just watch out for those polyester clothes because they are highly flammable…Hoot! Hoot!

Puzzle, Coloring or Game Night: Get a gigantic puzzle and get the whole family to work on it then hide one piece and have a house hunt for it and whoever finds it gets a prize! OR get out the coloring books and crayons OR play a game or make up a new game as a family. (If it is a good game idea, copyright it because you never know the creativity of a child’s mind!)

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HOW TO KEEP THE SPOUSE BUSY

The only thing that my husband has been doing for these past 45 days that kind of ticks me off is, he’ll come down around 9:00 am from his office, because he’s up at 7:00 am, and he starts making noise in the kitchen. He’s putting the dishes away from dinner and he’s also putting the coffee or for me so there’s that but, because I go to bed very late these days (insomnia), I’m only just waking up at about 9:00 am and sometimes even later. I come out in all my spiky hair glory and he sweetly says, “Sorry, did I wake you up?” OF COURSE, YOU DID! I truly believe he just misses me and wants to talk to me and this his subliminal way of making it happen. I forgive him of course but Grrrr!

Date Night: How do you Keep the Music Playing? Well, you start by playing some music! Light candles, set the table, take a shower and put on clothes and have a proper date night. Talk. Pick a topic and hang on their every word and discuss like you would if you were on a date with a person you are just getting to know and trying to impress.

Dance: After dinner, swoop them up and dance with them like you mean it. Fall in love again in their arms. Remember the first time you danced together. Put on some funk or salsa music and bust a move just to be silly but DANCE them to the end of love!

Sexy Time: OK after 36 years, it’s more like he does the dishes and vacuums and I think it’s sexy! LOL! Seriously though…there’s no time like now for sexy time! reconnect! You can start by doing a…

Spa Day: I sometimes, for no reason at all, will lay out a towel in the living room and give my husband a facial and a massage. Spontaneous acts of kindness at a time like this when we are confined like this makes life and co-existing more enjoyable.

Arguing: It happens, my husband changed our marriage years ago when I was ranting about something to him and he put his finger up in my face (yes, he nearly lost that finger) and said to me, “If you were this angry with your best friend, you would find a way to tell her that you are this upset without screaming at her, right? Why can’t you afford me the same courtesy?”

I was stunned and then I was humbled. He was right…SO right! Kindness at a time like this is vital. Let the small stuff go. Pick your battles. Do socks on the floor really matter? This is the person you chose to spend your life with for a reason…just remember that reason when things get heated and breathe! A way to avoid this from happening (even though it certainly will happen) is to:

Spend the day apart: If you can, separate during the day except for meals so that when you come together after dinner you have something to talk about. Shut off the phone and be present in the evening to watch TV or dance or whatever.

Start the Day with a Hug: Before coffee, as I wake up to his pot banging “alarm”, I walk up to him and I stand there and hug and kiss him. This is our “heart connection”…this is how to start the day!

Movie Star Kiss: Spontaneously grab your spouse and give them a big, wet, sexy movie star kiss.

If you continue to feel Stir Crazy after reading this blog, well, I tried. Again, I am not an expert on anything, I am just another person in the same boat that may have a helpful suggestion (or twenty) that could help you get through these crazy times.

Stay safe, stay healthy and continue to stay in!

Sue Matsuki
Dream it! Believe it! DO IT!