Anytime I send Darren off on an airplane—you know, back in a former life when that happened—I always say, “I hope you have a boring flight.” Because nobody really wants an exciting plane ride. Boredom is safer.

That’s kind of how I feel about life in 2020. Even as things open up slowly, we’ll still be staying at home most of the time, doing the same chores, cooking the same food, seeing the same people. It means that we aren’t experiencing the worst that this virus can do, and that’s a good thing.

But it sure is . . . boring.

So yesterday I began to catalogue some new things we’ve enjoyed in the midst of a rather unchanging social landscape.

New schoolbook: 1100 Words You Need to Know. I needed something fill up Sparkler’s last month of school, and found 1100 Words You Need to Know by Bromberg and Gordon. Each page features five new words, with various activities to define them and use them in context. The lesson finishes off with a more-or-less common idiom. Our household is a very word-friendly place, so Sparkler and I thoroughly enjoy lists of words like solace, aspirant, dregs, frenzy, and scurrilous or idioms like to take down a peg. Plus, we go over it orally, so the whole lesson takes about ten minutes. It’s been a bright spot in the school day.

New recipe: Rice and Vegetable bowls. I feel a bit sheepish calling this a “new” recipe when many cultures have eaten this as a staple for, oh, ever. But it’s new to us. Darren and I find it difficult to eat more vegetables than meat-and-starches, so these bowls are a big help. We roast cauliflower, carrots, onions, radishes—whatever we happen to have—and then combine it with a little rice, some chick peas, and lemon vinaigrette. We tried to be extra virtuous and use brown rice, but that failed because neither of us likes brown rice. We also tried to be economical, but Darren said that if he ever buys canned asparagus again, he deserves to be flogged with said asparagus. But that’s the joy of new experiences, right? At least it’s new.

New Games. Just in time for the sudden shutdown, we acquired a couple of new games.

Terraforming Mars is a long, somewhat complicated game that relies on cards and resources to bring Mars up to a livable temperature and oxygen level. We found that the expansion really moves the game along. The array of options overwhelmed me at first, but Darren and our sons loved this game from the start. And while our girls don’t care much for it, many girls would enjoy this game a lot.

But if slow and steady isn’t your style, there’s always Celestia. In the era of Victorian steampunk, a group of people board a flying ship and battle dangers of the sky—such as lightning, birds, and pirates—to reach the city of Celestia. You can bail out at any time, but the farther you advance, the more points you can get. However, if the ship goes down and you’re on it, you get no points, and everybody starts back over. The game is quick, uncomplicated, and favors snap decisions.

Trash: I broke out our deck of cards and looked up this new-to-us game. Ranger and I are fans. (For what it’s worth, we play with Kings wild, not Jacks.) It’s simple, almost entirely luck-based, and a fun half-hour. Ranger absolutely wiped the floor with me last night.

New Book. As far as family reading goes, Darren has been working through All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot, which is hardly new. But let me tell you about my favorite baby name book, The Baby Name Wizard. Even though I’m not naming any babies, I enjoy this book for casual reading. It lists names, graphs to show their popularity (or lack thereof), “sibling” names, and a short blurb talking about the name’s style and associations in our culture today. It’s the best name book I’ve ever found. I’m waiting for my 2019 edition to arrive right now.

New Show. While my boys are always up for a game, my girls are always down for Netflix’s Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego? The show is very loosely based on the classic 90s computer games. It retains the geography mini-lessons, Carmen’s superspy prowess, and her crimson coat and fedora—but from there it launches into unexpected directions. It’s almost too cheesy, but manages to tell a good enough story that it’s enjoyable. Not only does it feature a woman who is a good leader and also relies on her team, but my girls exclaimed over the fact that when a major question of loyalty arose, the characters communicated about it instead of hiding secrets. It’s a hit. (Our boys would probably like this show as well; they just haven’t watched it with us.)

New Music. Ahem. Please help us here.

As we finish up homeschool, it’s pretty nice to take time to enjoy a few new things in a time of tedium. What are some new discoveries in your life recently? 

—Sara