Here we are, three weeks in.
I truly meant to update last week but apparently I became very busy while self-isolating, which means as usual, I forgot and/or was uninspired.

I have discovered I need a hobby, I learned this week. Well, other than baking – I am not sure if that is exactly a hobby, because if I do it all the time we have to eat everything and um yes that is a self-isolation problem. Yesterday, I pulled out my Nintendo 2DS again and have spent an ungodly number of hours this weekend playing Pokemon Alpha Sapphire while watching Border Security: Canada’s Front Line. I have so many questions about the agriculture brought in by people, honestly. I’ve also made a pandemic playlist, thus far consisting of:

  • Look Happy, It’s The End of the World — Matthew Good Band
  • One of Them Years — Matthew Good Band
  • Panic Prone — Chevelle
  • Blue Vacation — Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness
(That last one, for the many now pandemic-appropriate lyrics. Self-isolating on an island maybe? Little southward politics? Y’know. But at least it’s not super depressing?)

I still, most mornings, am watching Justin Trudeau’s morning press briefing. I am no longer watching the province of Manitoba’s reports because I am staying the hell home anyways and I hear all the statistics later anyways. They are, like everywhere, predicting this week is pivotal. I presume if this week ends up not being pivotal we are just waiting for another one, but I honestly don’t know.
I still feel like, even though Trudeau has been good at instilling hope in these “unprecedented” days, this may still instil more panic as we question our access to medical supplies and I slowly freak out about maintaining long-term access to asthma medications as talk of shortages continues; and I think of this in the context of a hospital certainly being the last place I want to go. And then I try not to think about it.

Monday we had backyard six-feet-away coffee with my grandma. We sanitized the Starbucks cups which is probably unnecessary but you know what? If we are too careful, who cares. (Are we all going to have lasting issues after all this? Yeah, probably.)
 

Wednesday I got the call about my Tuesday doctor’s appointment. “Hi, how are you — good, you’re self isolating?”—it appeared my doctor’s assistant could not ask me quickly enough about my staying home for the past zillionty days. As previously announced, it will now take place by phone. This means I can stay in bed, and answer my phone at 8:30 rather than have to go downtown. Also, maybe this can happen forever because that would be convenient. Although, Steve and I had planned to go to the Canadian Museum For Human Rights after my appointment April 7, and clearly, that is not happening (though you can do a tour on their website. Does not help all the tactile things I wanted to show Steve).

Wednesday (Wednesday? Yes?) we played Jackbox games on Google Hangout with Dean and Jackie and Mary (and my mom and my aunt and I). I’ve also played quite a few games of Ticket to Ride with Dean and Jackie and their friends. Because what else are we supposed to do?

Thursday I made these cookies. Highly recommend.

 
 
 
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Day 17. #StayHome. Bake cookies.

A post shared by kerri (@kerriontheprairies) onApr 2, 2020 at 6:51pm PDT

Then I made the fancy internet coffee last night (officially Dalgona coffee or whipped coffee, less officially quarantine coffee and internet coffee). I also may have lost count of days as I previously had this labeled as Day 19, not Day 20, but today definitely should be the 21st day.

I don’t even know anymore, time is an endless circle. I am still in a constant state of disbelief, honestly.

It was pretty good, but very hard to stir. Don’t make it as full as the videos do or the stirring part will be terrible even though it will look nice.

I finally got my final flight of 5 cancelled this week, and got my Airbnb credit. Astounding a month ago we anticipated we’d be in Minneapolis right now. The world was a much different place then, even though this had already all more than begun.

And, I finished my first self-isolation project. After procrastinating since September, I ordered a damn green table cloth and set up my green screen. Which, thank God, because I spent 6.5 hours on Zoom on Thursday, so I had to do something to entertain myself. (Many of these pictures are from playing around with it earlier in the week, save for the top two and the lion from Thursday.)

IMG 8553

So now, to go full-circle, I need a hobby.
Or at least a new self-isolation project. 

Drop me your suggestions in the comments.

Oh also, jump on it early: Kayleen and I have a Youtube channel we’ve done nothing with yet. But we plan to record our successes and failures in making internet recipes while in isolation. So subscribe to Delicious or Disaster (and feel free to send us dessert and/or other recipes, preferably vegetarian for me, thanks.) 
I was going to say maybe that’s my hobby but recall, it may be crazy if baking things is my hobby because we still have Christmas baking in the freezer.

Plans for this week: work more hours as per my new contract (beyond lucky—yay!), clean my personal email inbox, make a Youtube video, don’t lose my mind.
AND ALSO A NEW PIZZA PLACE OPENED IN MY AREA. So, order pizza. 

A professor at the University of Virginia encouraged people to journal their pandemic experience. So, here it is. The new “pandemic” tag. Welcome.

Because yes, this is a thing now. While we are months into the existence of COVID-19, it was declared a pandemic on March 11. On March 13 we had our first 3 cases reported in Manitoba. The province of Manitoba declared a State of Emergency on March 20.

I am at the end of week 1 of social distancing, or not-sick-person self-isolation. Like many with chronic illnesses existing with degrees of immuno-compromise, as a person with severe asthma, I’m staying home. Even if you’re generally healthy with no underlying health conditions, we’re pleading with YOU to #StayHome, too. We aren’t learning our new vocabulary terms “social distancing”, “self isolation” and “self quarantine” for nothin’, here.

Unlike many, my post-pandemic, social distancing, self isolation life is perhaps not too distant from my regular work-from-home, very remotely from my coworkers who also work from home but in BC. Except post-pandemic life is regardless different. I don’t leave the house. I could go for a walk, but like, what if I see a cute dog I want to meet but how the hell do I stay six feet away from their human then? This is a problem of social distancing, and I lose self-control around doggos. Also, because nearly everyone else is social distancing, I’ve already had 2 virtual game nights, spent St. Patrick’s Day watching the Dropkick Murphys play to a camera crew in an empty venue (the 17th was the l went out: I had to get a Shamrock Shake from curbside McDonalds), and got to enjoy Drew Brown doing a basement acoustic concert.

Unlike others who are newly working-from-home and feel they have all this newfound time not lost in their commute, my days are the same except for watching the morning press conference from Justin Trudeau at 10:15 and then the one from the Government of Manitoba around 11 each morning. The pandemic news cycle is exhausting, but try as I might, I can’t avoid looking all damn day even though that’s what I advise others to do. I’m a news junkie and I have been since Donald Trump got elected because WTF? I scroll Facebook like the rest of us do, and read, and validate, and share. I try to share the good news. And I try to share the really good, and funny things arising of people’s social distancing.

Social distancing, self isolation, and self quarantine are making for some really damn good internet, I have to say. Like the sports commentator who no longer has sports to commentate on and instead is commentating on mundane life activities. These people who made a parody of If I Had A Million Dollars about COVID-19. Basically, I have learned this week that pandemics are distracting.

I’ve also been providing random observations, like I do, of the daily Trudeau press conferences. In case you’re reading this far in the future, recall that Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, also known as Justin Trudeau’s wife, has been diagnosed with COVID-19. This means that Justin is also self isolating at a distance in Rideau Cottage. (Justin, are we on a first-name basis? Thanks.) As such, the press briefings are outside.

Here is what I have observed so far. He still has a few days of self-isolation left as far as I can calculate, which means there will probably be some more things to comment on:

  • Friday, 03/20 – When Justin Trudeau has to do a press conference from outside his home due to self isolation, occasionally you hear a crow in the background!
  • Saturday, 03/21 – Justin Trudeau forgot to take out his earphones (Bluetooth) before he left Rideau Cottage. He began his press briefing, and then realized and removed them to put on the podium
  • Sunday, 03/22 – Justin Trudeau has to inform not one, but two reporters calling in by phone that their line is on mute. (There was also some banging during which he expertly paused before answering the reporter’s question, while simultaneously looking like nothing was happening.)
It is now a daily goal to record these odd observations for those who are not tuning in to the press conferences (also for Americans who need a more peaceful and even pandemic press conference experience). As well, I have been “determining” (ie. making up completely) which cabinet ministers are assisting JT with random tasks during his self isolation. So far Patty Hajdu (Health Minister) is wiping down the doorknob after he returns inside, Bill Morneau (Finance Minister) is helping him dye his hair which I cannot give any real rationale for, and when my friend Bill (not Morneau) asked whose job it was to be the crow executioner earlier today, I have assigned this to Joyce Murray, Minister of Digital Government, as the crow is clearly disrupting this process.
On weekdays, I usually watch the press conferences and go about my work life as normal. Archery ended the week before last, so a few days before we were in full on social-distancing mode. The last bus I took, on the way home from archery, had so many sick people on it, I got off two stops early and when I got in my mom’s car she informed me I was not taking the bus again till this was over. That was a Thursday. Friday the 13th was the day that everyone started buying up all the friggen toilet paper here. There was a line down the entire front of Costco waiting to get in (Facebook shows me, anyways). So Saturday the 14th we went to see the shelves. No toilet paper in sight, and that has continued in many stores around the globe.
Which is friggen bananas, in all realty. This is a respiratory virus. What do y’all need all this canned food and toilet paper for? It’s not a GI bug or a snowstorm. Now stores have begun to institute per person limits on many items, and in some cases are engaging in price gouging.
Also Jill in Ottawa spotted a guy with a cart at Dollarama full of rope, tarps and lightbulbs, so 1) I friggen hope he is building a shelter with those supplies and 2) the disconnect between lightbulbs and extreme prepper shelter building in a pandemic is perplexing.
Also speaking of doomsday preppers, I’ve been wondering how these people are doing. They’re surely laughing at the rest of us us (while medical professionals are or will be in desperate need of their masks).
Also I put this rainbow in my window today. I’m not sure if the kids are looking for rainbows or Easter eggs in Winnipeg’s treasure-hunt-social-distancing-go-for-a-walk game but I’ll add the easter egg soon.

Current stats in Manitoba: 11 cases confirmed, 9 probable cases, 0 deaths.
Canada has a total of 1430 cases confirmed, 41 probable cases, and 20 deaths.
STAY HOME.
(You can follow my day-to-day social distancing/self isolation updates on Instagram.)

Back in September, probably sometime between campaigns, I sent a note to the team at Atmotube, asking if I could review their product. They quickly said yes, and within a couple weeks I had an Atmotube Pro device clipped near-constantly to my belt loop, where it’s been most days for the last 2 months. 

Atmotube is a personal air quality monitor—it tracks humidity, temperature, barometric pressure, particulate matter (10 and 2.5) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). We’ve had a lot of time to get acquainted, as when after a month of use I’d planned to write this, I got a lung infection and blah blah blah. Not why we are here (but it will come up).

There are two models of the Atmotube, the tube-looking one and the Pro, which is the version they sent me. There are some functional differences between the two, but for me, I was most happy with the battery life on the Pro. I have mine set to test the air quality every 10 minutes, since I’m usually at home. As I understand it, it also does on-demand tests when you hit the button, so when I’m curious, that’s a good option too. 

Pressing the button illuminates the multicoloured LED present just above the button—the colour displayed corresponds to the colour the monitor associates with the air quality, from blue [great] to red [poor] with green, yellow and orange in the middle. It also does an on-demand air quality test. Opening the app gives you a greater sense of what your environmental air “looks like” at a given moment in time. Here’s one from as I’m editing this article:

I should really move the air purifier to the kitchen. More on that shortly.

First days with the Atmotube Pro
I sent a lot of messages to friends during the first few days with the Atmotube—this thing is COOL. I wore it out the first night I got it, but was outside most of the evening in great air quality, so my results were as expected. The next day, though, is clear in my mind. Here’s what my day looked like:
Noon – Left home to go to Staples and Shoppers Drug Mart.
12:45 – Shoppers drug mart asked I come back in an hour and a half for my flu shot.
1 PM – Arrived at a nearby apartment building to canvass for the federal election.
2 PM – Completed canvassing 2 floors, walked back to the mall.
2:10 – Went to the food court for a root beer
2:15 – Arrived back at the pharmacy
2:45ish – Returned to the apartment building, chatted with seniors, finally began canvassing again.
4:40 PM – Left apartment to walk to meet my parents for my mom’s birthday dinner. Immediately upon opening door (my hand was still on it!), the Atmotube app IMMEDIATELY alerted the humidity had dropped past the set threshold. My mind was BLOWN how fast it was.
5:05 PM – Finally get to near restaurant but we are not going there anymore. Get in the car.
5:15 PM – Arrive at Mongo’s Grill, an open-grill Mongolian-style stir-fry restaurant if you couldn’t guess.
5:20 PM – Atmotube continues to freak out about high particulate matter for the duration of the meal.
6:30 PM – Arrive home, where the air quality is consistently decent-but-not-great. 

Here’s what the graphs look like from that day:
 

Beyond everyday use
Within a week of getting the Atmotube, I headed off to Philadelphia. The device itself stores data while not connected to a smartphone, so being on the plane didn’t hinder my data collection (although I think it was still connected). The air quality was surprisingly good on all 4 of my flights, which I found interesting—and shocking! The hotel also didn’t cause me any asthma issues as they sometimes do, and the air quality there was also consistently good! 

My friend John also has an Atmotube, and he noted the air quality in the hospital he works in isn’t great – when I went to Urgent Care a couple months ago, I forgot to take the Atmotube with me, which is disappointing because I was sort of looking forward to that experiment! 

What I’ve learned from the Atmotube
I’ve learned a few things from using Atmotube. Here’s the most interesting one:

I very quickly noted sharp drops in air quality when cooking. I checked out a Government of Canada document that notes running the stove exhaust fan when cooking to be helpful for promoting indoor air quality (by drawing the particulate matter out of the house) – I’d love to speak to how the data from Atmotube Pro actually changes but I assume there are many variables involved that would make this complicated for my non-scientist brain to wrap around—ie. duration of cooking, what is being cooked and how, when or whether the exhaust fan was turned on, and device proximity. I can say the effects are a consistent drop in air quality with most stovetop cooking, though (as first noted at Mongo’s). As I wrote this section, my dad was just making food on the stovetop (with the exhaust fan on), some sort of grilled sandwich, as well as making coffee in the percolator. When I opened up the app a minute ago, the air quality score was about 50 – but the sensor is down the hall. Now it’s 66, sensor still down the hall, about 12 steps away.

The next is that some buses appear to have worse air quality than others, even when riding on the same route. I am curious if this is bus-model specific, but haven’t yet been able to determine reliably. It’s fascinating (but also sucky?). 

Oh, and this will surprise no one: It’s true – hockey arenas have poor air quality.
So do food courts. 

Changes I’ve made
Related to the stove exhaust, we try to run it more frequently when cooking on the stovetop.  I have purchased a “pluggable” “air sanitizer” (mostly because it was on sale for $30) made by Germ Guardian that is apparently good for minimizing cooking odours—it wasn’t running when the above food related numbers were cited. Of course, it’s really difficult to tell how well it works because “food odours” are pretty subjective, and I’m going to assume, the particles released are perhaps not super uniform.
But check it out—here’s a small peak in particulate matter during food prep time:
 

Though generally our house air quality scores are quite good overall, I also ordered an air purifier on Boxing Day (a JS FLO). And damn, I can tell you, the Atmotube says that thing actually works—here are the graphs. The first 2 are from the first time I turned the air purifier on. The third is from the day where I heard you should run the air purifier for a couple hours before you go to bed (makes sense, no?) so I left the Atmotube in my room with it.

If it isn’t clear, air quality score (AQS) should go up, VOCs (and particulate matter) should go down. 

Problems I’ve had with Atmotube
The problems I’ve experienced with Atmotube are pretty minimal.

The first, with the LED, you have to hold the device at a very particular angle to see the actual corresponding colour to the current air quality—if you move the device around, you see different colours. For this (and for the greater amount of data), I prefer to use the app.

The device also comes pre-calibrated, and states it does not require regular calibration as it will continue to calibrate as it works. In mid-November (coincidentally, just as I was getting sick with that lung infection), I was getting consistently lower readings. This is also right when it got colder, and I assumed, when the furnace was running more—so, having asthma, I attributed this to why I was feeling cruddy. (As determined later, it was a lung infection leading to the asthma issues.) I did hit the recalibrate button. The change in results (which improved), of course, lead to questioning on my part of the accuracy of the device—it’s generally been consistent . I’d love to do side-by-side comparisons between two devices, such as with another Atmotube Pro, or a different personal air quality monitor (I think there’s maybe one other on the market right now), to see if results are consistent. I still think given my experiences—ie. poor air quality on buses with doors constantly opening and closing in traffic, realistic responses to humid environments and temperature changes, and so on—that the device is reliable.

There’s also a barometer function that I really don’t use—the scale goes from “stormy” to “very dry”, and it’s always apparently “stormy” with low pressure. I don’t know much about this, but I certainly know it’s currently cold but calm outside! 

Oh and this isn’t really a problem, but more of a funny: the Atmotube always alerts me to poor air quality when I do a nebulizer treatment. The particles are likely 5-7 micrometres, which is near certainly registering in the atmotube as an influx of PM10 (which is particulate matter 10 micrometres or less in diameter. I will maintain that the Ventolin I am inhaling is good for my lungs and not a pollutant!

What I’d like to see
While the Atmotube has already given me so much more data and insight than I’d have expected possible—seriously, this thing is cool—the main thing I’d really like to see from the Atmotube app is actually a bit more different information. It does a good job of really concisely saying what you can do in general to improve indoor air quality, but it’d be nice to see, for instance, some information tailored to what you’re experiencing. “Hey. Your PM2.5 is increasing. If you’re cooking, try running the hood fan.” “Hey, your house seems pretty dry. Here’s what can help right now and over time.” (My house is apparently too dry all the time. Other than buying a humidifier, which I don’t want to do, I still don’t know what to do about that.” While I will say it has told me to get plants to increase my household humidity, I’ll say I’ve only been successful at keeping my cactus alive for several years… and it’s a cactus.
More actionable alerts rather than generalized articles would perhaps actually encourage people to do things to alter their indoor air quality, humidity, or so-forth. Like right now, I’d like to know where the heck the elevated VOCs are coming from causing the app to “alarm”!

I can also think of a number of great quantified self projects when I decide to dig into playing with the CSV files a bit more. But that is a nerdy pursuit for another day!

Who Atmotube is for
Are you a nerd who likes checking a device you’re wearing all the time? Do you have a health condition, like asthma or heart disease that makes it more important for you to know what you’re breathing? Are you willing to put some time in to devise patterns, do some research, and make your own inferences from the data the Atmotube is getting you? If yes to any or all of these (all = me), and you can make the financial investment, I’d say yes. I’ve found using the Atmotube the last several months fascinating and illuminating to what, exactly, is in the air I’m breathing. 
Even if that happens to be Ventolin and it tells me its pollution. We can’t be totally perfect. 😉 

Disclosure: I reached out to the makers of Atmotube, who sent me an Atmotube Pro device to review honestly (and keep) with no strings attached beyond just writing this article. They were fabulous answering my many questions, sending a reviewers guide, and being patient in all my delays getting this article out—thanks, Ariuna and Daria!

I’ve got rave reviews about the cookies I make (for which I took the recipe from the internet, of course). People are always mind-blown that they’re that good and have 4 ingredients.

 

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Oh hey, s’mores cookie bars.

A post shared by kerri (@kerriontheprairies) on

I’m not mind blown, because one of those ingredients is cake mix. Tonight, I made these s’mores bars on a base of cake mix cookies, and Facebook seems pretty amped. So, here’s the recipe. (Take that, recipe bloggers. You too can do a very brief recipe intro.

1. Preheat oven to 350ºF (I always forget to do this, you can probably do it later because these cookies require dough chilling. Yes, I actually do it and yes it actually makes them better. Just listen, kay?)

1. Dump a cake mix into a large bowl. You can use whatever cake mix you want. (I find chocolate cake mix makes the best cookies but all are fine.)

Add:
2 eggs
1/3 cup of vegetable oil
Stir.

2. Stir in 1/3 to 1/2 cup chocolate chips (Or other types of chips if not making s’mores bars. Or if making s’mores bars, have fun!)

3. Cover the bowl and stick your cookie dough in the freezer for about 20 minutes to chill. Or longer in the fridge. Or somewhere in between if you are using the fridge of the outdoors like I did.
Preheat your oven to 350ºF now.

4. Lightly grease a large cookie sheet. Spread the batter on a cookie sheet, or make actual cookies. (If you make actual cookies, I highly recommend a cookie scoop because they’re fun).

5. Bake 9-13 minutes. Or 11-13 minutes. Or something. They’ll be soft but seem done. I’ve also never burned these, so pay attention sort of.

6. If you’re making s’mores bars, remove from oven at about 11-12 mins (or when they start looking like they’re almost done), sprinkle with 5-6ish crushed graham crackers, marshmallows, and more chocolate chips.
Return to the oven for 2-3 minutes, or when things start looking melty.

7. Broil for 2-3 minutes on high on the middle rack. Stare them down while you’re doing this because one time my rack was too high and I lit some brownies basically on fire and had to re-make them. Oops.
Once you see them getting the right level of golden—both the marshmallows and the cookies—remove immediately and let cool.

8. Slice into bars (obviously) and store in an air-tight container. They last a good long while, I’m sure, but they always get eaten before they can get even close to old, so don’t worry about it. 😉

That was easy, eh?

If you make these, tag me because I want to see your delicious cookie bars :). Twitter @KerriYWG, Instagram @KerriOnThePrairies.

It seems like as good of a day as any to document the (partly strange) unfoldings of my life as they occurred today. 

1) Back to the old blog roots, I should first say I had my first pumpkin spice latte (iced, duh. But light ice.) of the season today. Honestly, while it was totally fine, I think there’s better stuff at Starbucks. But that still could be because they changed the pumpkin spice stuff all those years ago.

2) I had my annual visit with the psychiatrist for my ADHD meds today. She has moved her practice to her house and this is the first time I was there instead of the clinic. She once brought her dog to the clinic, but it turns out she has TWO DOGS and they have beds in the room she sees patients in, and when she told me to go have a seat in the room for the patients, I did not actually have a seat but went and crouched on the floor and visited the dog that was laying there all chill.

The other one seemed less chill about the whole thing, but also that was sort of nice because she was the greeting committee as soon as I walked in. Also as I left, I told my doctor about the 19 dogs I met while canvassing in the provincial election. Just in case she had any doubt I liked dogs, or anything.
But yeah, why is THIS the doctor I only have to see once a year? She has DOGS. 

3) I had a couple of phone meetings, which is a thing that happens when you work with people who live in BC, for a BC-based organization. (I am still pretty darn thankful they were like “hey, let’s ask this Manitoban to work with us”, because they are awesome.)

4) Here’s the weirdest story. As I was heading out for a NDP constituency meeting tonight, this kid on his bike stopped at the end of the sidewalk as my mom and I descended toward the street. 
He looks at me and says “Do you go to my school?”
He is like, SIX.
Child, I am TWENTY-EIGHT YEARS OLD, no, I most certainly do not go to your school, though I did more-and-less than TWO DECADES ago.  

I am used to people thinking I look younger than I am, but this is a little extreme.

And now I have a headache. I would say it was from the sheer confusion about this child’s question, but honestly, I’ve had it off and on since this morning, so it’s perhaps best that I stop writing (not that it will probably help.)