“How bizarre, how bizarre!”

What a difference a week makes!

Last week, I played in a tennis match, picked my grandson up from school, went to the Public library to pick up some books, shopped at Publix with no agenda, got my hair blow dried at my salon and met friends for dinner. We were one of a handful of people, sitting at the bar Saturday night. We had an enjoyable meal, with lychee martinis (me), sushi and wine.

Right after my tennis match, the season was cancelled for my South Florida Women’s doubles league, quickly followed by suspending play on my USTA league. School was cancelled for all Miami-Date Public schools, as well as my Grandson’s preschool. Publix is somewhere you now want to avoid at all costs and good luck finding toilet paper, hand sanitizer, wipes, alcohol (the rubbing kind), bleach, or any kind of cleaning product. Salons are closed, as are all non-essential retail stores and all the Miami-Dade Public Libraries. And, as of Tuesday, all restaurants are closed for business, except for order out and take away.

Even while I enjoyed the simple pleasures of life we take for granted last week, there were clues of the eventual avalanche. At tennis, we elbow bumped, instead of shaking hands and my partner didn’t even want to do that so we air high-fived. At my grandson’s school, everyone appeared on high-alert, with hand sanitizer positioned at every opening. As I went to sign him out for the day, the Dad in front of me said “I believe that pen’s been sanitized.”

Even weirder was the library, where the lady at the checkout desk poured straight alcohol onto her hands as I got Wyatt some books. My Blo Dry salon was crowded, but there was a nervous energy to the place, the way it feels before a hurricane, where everyone’s terrified of what might happen, but hoping for the best. And, as we were leaving Sea Siam after dinner Saturday night, we peeked in the dining room and it was totally empty- an eery sight. It had the same effect on me as when my dog Bandit came inside the house before Hurricane Andrew and threw up on the kitchen floor. Although I hadn’t been worried before, this was an ominous sign that something was not right.

Today is Lauren’s birthday. While she originally thought about going out to Hillstones for dinner, we decided against it due to the need to socially distance. This was even before there was no option of eating out. Now we are going to get take-out from Moon and eat at home. I am making the girls favorite cake- a yellow cake with delicious chocolate frosting (from Joy of Cooking), topped with Reese’s pieces. I’m giving Lauren some TP, a mask, gloves and wipes as gifts, as a joke- kind of. I’d already given her one of my last two hand sanitizers, which is like liquid gold these days. We will celebrate her birthday, our small little family (Wyatt and AJ are gone) and try to make the best out of a very strange and unprecedented situation.

I am remaining calm and trying not to eat 24/7. Obviously, I ‘ve been cooking a lot. Also, working in my garden, taking walks around the block (six feet apart from others), meditating and doing yoga from You Tube videos. My husband Zeke’s decided to close his office, since no one is working anymore, so I will be getting a peek at what life will be like when he retires. (Insert terrified face emoji here. )And giving thanks for the fact that my family (as of now) is healthy, including my 83-year-old mother and her boyfriend Bob.

I’m giving thanks for the small things, like finding a cucumber at Publix yesterday. I was craving smashed cucumber salad, but unsure if I could find a cucumber. There is so much we take for granted. And remembering just a week ago, when life seemed much more normal and knowing that eventually, life will return to normal again. Hopefully, with a deeper appreciation of all the services, food, supplies and freedoms we normally are blessed with. Just not now.

It made me think of Hillstone where Lauren wanted to eat for her birthday. It’s not a place I eat a lot, but I do remember their Spinach Artichoke Dip being good. I found a recipe for a Knock-off of it on a website called cdKitchen. If you have canned artichokes and frozen Spinach, plus a few other essentials, you can make this. It’s creamy, cheesy and satisfying- comfort food to the max. Also fattening, but according to my stepdaughter Emma “calories don’t count in a pandemic.”

Hillstone like Spinach artichoke Dip

“Like” Hillstone’s Spinach Artichoke Dip from cdKitchen

  • 1 jar (6.25 oz) marinated artichokes, drained
  • 1 package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup Romano cheese, grated
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese
  • 1/3 cup 1/2 and 1/2
  • 1/2 cup sour cream

In food processor, blend artichokes, Romano, garlic and Parmesan cheese for 1 1/2 minutes. In a mixing bowl, add drained spinach, half and half, sour cream and mozzarella. Stir well. Spoon into artichoke mixture and blend all ingredients.

Butter an oven-proof shallow serving dish. Pour mixture into dish and baked 20-25 minutes at 350 until mixture is bubbly and cheese is melted. Remove from oven and serve with tortilla, sour cream and salsa.

Serves 16 (or 6 in a pandemic)

How bizarre indeed.

Published by gleeguilford

Born and raised in Miami, the daughter of a pilot and stay-at-home Mom, I love food in all forms. My great grandfather opened the first Italian restaurant in Miami in the 20's, The Boathouse on the Miami river. I love exploring my heritage and linking food and recipes to personal stories. I've been published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Food and Love and wrote restaurant reviews and news as the Miami Dining Examiner for three years. I love exploring Miami's latest hot spots, hole in the walls and institutions. I'm always looking for innovative ways to use the plethora of tropical fruits and vegetables South Florida offers, especially from my own garden.

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