I was in Los Angeles for about a month before life went virus belly up. My husband and I have a cottage in the Melrose area that I claim as a second home despite it being owned by my daughter. 

Returning to St. Louis

With the virus running amuck in California, the family decided it was best for us to return to St. Louis. We caught one of the last planes out before lockdown and are now self-quarantining. Today’s paper reports a 600% jump in Missouri COVID-19 cases. When we first arrived home in St. Louis, most of the reported cases (testing was scarce) were clustered in a small radius around my home in the Frontenac suburb, so we burrowed in, essentially staying at home and venturing out only to walk the dog. 

Life Without Travel is a series of first-person accounts from the Getting On Travel team. Each post offers a personal glimpse into the lives of our travel writers and bloggers apropos of the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020.

I order groceries delivered (which is foreign to me as I was a daily shopper before “19,” buying only fresh ingredients—never frozen or processed). Now I buy online for two weeks out and, frankly, am not good at it. The freezer is loaded, the pantry packed, yet, despite it being a life-long passion and big part of my professional life, food doesn’t excite me. 

I used to find great joy in cooking for family and friends. Confinement, remote shopping and distressing times has tarnished the shine. Lately I make survival dishes that take less than five minutes to prepare. No kidding. Here are two quickie examples of throw-togethers with what’s on hand:

  • BREAKFAST: Put a small handful of uncooked oats in a bowl and cover with boiling water; set aside until oats absorb water. Then grate an apple on top of oats and sprinkle with fresh lemon juice. Drizzle with sweetened condensed milk. Add a handful of nuts. Stir to combine ingredients. Eat.
  • DESSERT: Put a small handful of chocolate chips in a cup. Add a square or two of dark (70 to 80%) chocolate. Cover all with heavy whipping cream (and add a sprinkling of sugar—or a little cocoa mix if you must—I don’t). Microwave for 1 minute. Stir well and eat while the mixture is hot. Results are like eating the inside ooze of a chocolate lava cake.

An unexpected source of joy 

During quarantine, my primary activity revolves around my new dog, Moxie. The dog was found wandering the 5 Freeway in Los Angeles. We think she was used to breed and when too old, thrown out. When I first saw her four weeks ago, she had been shaved to combat awful skin and ear infections. She was full of nipples, tumors and warts, smelly from dental problems, starvation skinny and otherwise pathetic. I fell in love. 

Susan of St. Louis at the iconic angel wings on Melrose), just after adopting Moxie

Susan at the iconic angel wings on Melrose, just after adopting Moxie

We adopted her, named her Moxie, and saw her through two (expensive—OMG) operations and a dental procedure that necessitated pulling 10 teeth. Happy to say that Moxie is now thriving, and after being silent for three weeks, has found her voice and barks with deep-throated Billie Holiday intonations. We brought her to St. Louis and she has rewarded us with endless love— instrumental in getting us through these unusual times.

Daily routines upended

Work has come to a complete standstill since I’ve been home in St. Louis. My cruise assignments—canceled! Hotel assignments—useless! Destination articles—on lockdown. Nada. Zip. Zilch.

Time is fluid. Life unscheduled. Unstructured. On a usual day (and they are all strangely unusual), I wake up, putter around, walk and feed Moxie, make coffee and go back to bed. From bed, I read the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, The New York Times and check out Facebook. (I miss my travel colleagues and friends from all over the world. Facebook helps me keep in touch.) 

When the spirit strikes, I get out of bed again, putter around, eat, walk, clean house, garden, read, call a friend, make popcorn. When the sky darkens, I pour a glass of wine—or two (or more), make dinner then go to bed and read or watch something not news-worthy on TV. It’s amazing how I can never find enough time to do all the nothing I want.

I am reading everything I can by Elena Ferrante. Can’t put the books down. 

Sweet, sweet leisure

I was a food writer long before I was a travel writer. I do adore my blog, Sweet Leisure, but didn’t have time to pay it proper attention. With travel on hold, I am going to channel my wanderlust into the blog, switching copy to present food first, followed by the destination, property or restaurant that inspired the food. So many people are finding renewed or new interest in cooking during quarantine—and I have so many fabulous recipes from wonderful places to share that I think Sweet Leisure will be more appealing than ever. 

A dash of optimism

St. Louis: Another view in France

Remembering a sunny day on the canal barge in France

Sunshine follows the rain. Stay strong and carry on. Bloom where you are planted. This too shall pass.

Yes, being quarantined, I have found new appreciation for life’s treasures so recently taken for granted: fresh air, clean water, sunshine, the Internet, my cell phone, the public library to deliver books to my Kindle, doctors and nurses, friends and neighbors, a source of food. I am adoring my dog, the orchids and art in my home and the way my friends continue to stay creative and positive in these stressful times. I have always loved my family beyond words, but now, more than ever, respect and admire each individual’s ethical, caring, thoughtful and generous nature. I am eternally grateful that I have food, a home, family, friends, what’s left of a bank account and options in life. I feel blessed.

Hopefully, when this pandemic is exhausted, people of the world will join together, make the planet a safe and healthy place for all and that the community spirit continues to collectively work to eliminate poverty, homelessness, hunger and hate.

Take care. Stay in. And continue to look forward to a time when doors open and we can explore the world with a refreshed sense of awe and adventure.

GOT Contributor Susan Manlin Katzman

Based in St. Louis, Susan Manlin Katzman has a multi-faceted background. Her food and travel writing credits include: syndicating columns to over 125 major metropolitan newspapers; authoring five books; designing and editing custom publications; teaching culinary arts; contributing feature articles to a variety of international, national and local magazines; and creating the award-winning blog “Sweet Leisure.” Fueled by wanderlust, Susan transits the globe believing that travel enriches life and enhances a world view that incorporates respect for different people, cultures and life-styles. She particularly likes writing about captivating destinations, barge cruising, unique accommodations, restaurants, spas, Paris, multi-generational adventures, culinary odysseys and luxury travel.