*(an occasional (mostly monthly) meme, alternating from time to time with "The Current"). (Explanation of how this started & my inspirations in my first "Right now" post, here. Also my first "The Current" post, here.)
Pandemic diary/update: October was Month #31 (going on #32) of living with the COVID-19 pandemic. Late in the month, it was noted that we'd passed 1000 days since the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in the city of Toronto.
So far, the predicted 8th (!) wave has not materialized... but the numbers have remained relatively high all summer long, and have not been trending in the right direction. On Oct. 20th, Ontario reported the highest weekly covid death count since early May (109, an increase from 67 the previous week); a week later, on Oct. 27th, there were 121 more deaths, the highest number since Feb. 9th, and wastewater readings suggest the prevalence of the virus is on the rise. (See the stats below.) There are lots of ominous warnings about new immune-evasive variants on the horizon (two of which are growing twice as fast as the current dominant BA.5 variant), children with RSV are swamping the already-swamped hospital emergency rooms -- and there are increasing numbers of flu patients as well. There are currently more COVID-19 patients in Canadian hospitals this fall compared to the same time period in previous pandemic years (see the chart) -- vaccine uptake has slowed -- restrictions are practically non-existent (doctors are calling on the government to reinstate mask mandates -- good luck with that...) -- and our healthcare system has been already struggling for months. "Canada is heading into a potentially brutal winter," a recent CBC News article began -- and they weren't even talking about the weather...!
Since June 16th, the government has been reporting covid data weekly (on Thursdays) instead of daily. :( The Toronto Star (my main source of covid data) has started a brand-new weekly stats tracking page -- but not all data categories that were previously reported are still being disclosed there :( (and of course, the data we ARE getting is vastly under-reported). If you look at the charts for the past two months, most of the categories tracked have remained more or less the same ( = no huge increases -- but no significant improvement either). Among the latest stats (last updated Oct. 27th ):
- New case numbers & test positivity rates are no longer reported (on the Star's page, anyway -- not that they've been very accurate anyway, since PCR testing was limited/cut back at the peak of the Omicron outbreak in late December/early January).
- Hospitalizations (people in hospitals testing positive for covid) increased from 1,361 on Oct. 1st to 1,921 on Oct. 27th, up 8.3% over the previous week and the highest reported hospitalization rate since Feb. 9th (8 months). Low point was 1,323 on Oct. 2nd; peak was 1,954 on Oct. 25th. The graph shows a steady upward trend over the last two months.
- There were 138 patients with COVID-19 in Ontario's ICUs testing positive for COVID-19 or there for COVID-19 related illness on Oct. 1st, and 148 on Oct. 27th, down 6.3% over the previous week. Peak was 168 on Oct. 23rd; the low point was 120 on Oct. 9th & 10th.
- There were 7 deaths on Oct. 1st and 29 on Oct. 27th. Peak was 33 on Oct. 26th. The 7-day average on Oct. 27th was 17.3, up 11% over the previous week. (Total pandemic deaths reported: 14,724.)
- On Oct. 27th, 87.1% of Ontario's total population has had at least one vaccine, 83.9% had at least two, but just 52% had received a third dose. (No stats provided for fourth doses, which only became available to adults under age 60 in mid-July.) These numbers have hardly budged over the past couple of months.
- The new bivalent vaccines began rolling out to Ontario residents aged 70 and older on Sept. 19th, and to everyone else 18 and older on Sept. 26th. The guidance is that, at minimum, you should be at least three months out from your last dose/booster; the recommended interval is six months.
- Dh & I had our fourth vaccines/second boosters on May 11th, more than four months ago; Nov. 11th will be six months. We have appointments to get our bivalent/fifth shots on Thursday (Nov. 3rd), together with our flu shots. So far, most people I've talked to who have had both at the same time have reported very few side effects... here's hoping!
On the personal pandemic front: Dh & I continue to wear masks when out in public (even though we are not required to do so, and fewer and fewer people are). We remain more socially distanced than we used to be, and certainly more so than most people we know -- but we did get out a fair bit more this past month. :) On top of dh's solo (masked) trips to the supermarket for groceries (about once a week), and for occasional takeout lunches & dinners:
- We visited SIL & Little Great-Nephew at BIL & SIL's house 3 times.
- We went to Michaels, Chapters (local mega-bookstore) and Shoppers Drug Mart on Oct. 4th, picking up birthday cards, stuff for Little Great-Nephew's Halloween goodie bag, and other odds & ends.
- We flew west for a week with my parents on Oct. 8th, departing via Toronto Pearson airport and arriving at Winnipeg's Richardson airport (and vice-versa on the return trip home, Oct. 16th). (One week earlier, on Oct. 1st, the federal government dropped all remaining travel-related restrictions, including mandatory masking on trains and airplanes. We wore masks, but less than half of the other passengers did. Grrrr....)
- While we were there, we went grocery shopping at the local Co-op store twice... but that was about the extent of our outings!
- Parents' Neighbours' Daughter came over twice, once to play cards and once with the Little Princesses, and we stopped by there before we left to say goodbye (wearing masks).
- Back home again, we went to Best Buy on Oct. 17th to buy a humidifier (see "Buying," below!).
- I accompanied dh to the bank and to supermarket on Oct. 19th for the first time in quite a while. (I've missed that!) We also picked up takeout pizza slices there for lunch. :)
- We returned to our old community on Oct. 21st for much-needed haircuts, a visit to the cemetery, and a swing by one of our favourite stores to stock up on frozen foods.
- We had dinner at BIL & SIL's on Oct. 22nd with dh's/BIL's cousin, his wife and their teenaged son (the same ones who hosted us at their cottage a few weekends ago).
- We headed into midtown Toronto on Oct. 31st (yesterday) so that our longtime regular optometrist could check out my eyes, post-surgery. (I was supposed to go about a month ago, but had a cold and had to reschedule.) He was very pleased with the outcome. The change in my prescription (from what it was before surgery became necessary) is so minor that I don't even need new glasses! He said I could get new ones if I wanted -- my current pair is 8 years old! -- but I decided that was an expense I could postpone for now. Back again in six months!
- En route back home, we went grocery shopping, and got a takeout pizza slice (dh) & soup (me) for lunch on our way out (we ate when we got home).
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Also right now:
Reading: I finished 3 books in October (all reviewed on this blog, as well as Goodreads, & tagged "2022 books").
This brings me to 41 books read so far in 2022, which brings me to 91% of my 2022 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 45 books. I am (for the moment, anyway) 4 books ahead of schedule. :)
- "Remarkable Creatures" by Tracy Chevalier (November's pick for the Gateway/Lighthouse Women NoMo book club.)
- "The Palace Papers" by Tina Brown (couldn't resist, in light of recent events! lol).
- "Anne of Green Gables" by L.M. Montgomery (chapter-by-chapter group read with my LMM Readathon Facebook group, which began in early July and will finish in late November, after which I will count this as a re-read). (My original review.)
- "Sarah Morris Remembers" by D.E. Stevenson (with my DES book club. I'll count this as a re-read once our chapter-by-chapter group discussion is finished in December). (My original review.)
- "The Menopause Manifesto" by Dr. Jen Gunter.
- Within the private online Gateway Women (now called Lighthouse Women) community, we have two groups discussing Jody Day's book, "Living the Life Unexpected" -- one group that's more conducive to UK/European/Australasian time zones, and mine, which is mostly North Americans. Since January, we've been meeting on Zoom to discuss one chapter per month. Unfortunately, I missed our calls for Chapters 7, 8 & 9. :( Chapter 10 is coming up in mid-November. If/when we complete the full 12 chapters, I'll count it as another re-read. :)
Most of my book groups have their next reads plotted out for a few months in advance -- and listing them here helps me keep track of what I should be reading next. ;)
A few recently purchased titles (mostly in digital format, mostly discounted ($5.99 or less) or purchased with points):
- "The Winners" by Fredrik Backman (the third and final book in the "Beartown" series). (This one was in paperback, discounted.)
- I ordered a used copy online of "Black Roses," a 2013 novel that "Widowland"'s C.J. Carey wrote under her real name, Jane Thynne, which does not seem to be available in any format here in North America (although some of the sequels are)??
- "Next Year in Havana" by Chanel Cleeton
- "Still Just a Geek" by Wil Wheaton
- "Flying Solo" by Linda Holmes
- "Managing Expectations" by Minnie Driver
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Watching: "The Handmaid's Tale," season 5 (just saw episode 8). Excellent performances all round (as usual), if somewhat improbable storylines. (I've said it before and I will say it again... how many times can June escape, or almost escape, Gilead??)
Stanley Tucci's "Searching for Italy" is back! We missed the first episode since its return, earlier this month, but PVRd it and caught up when we got back from visiting my parents. It featured Calabria, the area where dh's family (as well as Tucci's) emigrated from. SIL was beyond delighted that a bakery in her dad's hometown (a hop, skip and a jump away from Tucci's, and about 15-20 km down the road from dh's family's) was one of the places featured. :)
I've been PVRing "Magpie Murders" on PBS (on at the same time as Tucci's show) and can't wait to watch (especially after reading the book! -- see above).
Listening: I'm still enjoying the daily Heardle challenge(s), including the decades versions. Current stats as of yesterday, Oct. 31st:
- Heardle (original/all decades): 33.3% (30/90) correct, including 8 on the first guess.
- Heardle 60s: 86.3% (44/51), including 23 on the first guess.
- Heardle 70s: 70.7% (41/58), including 25 on the first guess.
- Heardle 80s: 45.3% (an improvement from 37% last month!) -- (24/53), including 8 on the first guess.
- Heardle 90s: 31.5% -- also an improvement from last month's 26.7% -- (17/54), including 3 on the first guess.
Eating: Probably way too much while we were at my parents' house for (Canadian) Thanksgiving, but it was all FAR too good too resist! lol The usual turkey with my Grandma's bread stuffing recipe, gravy and mashed potatos... cabbage rolls (with & without tomato sauce)... cranberry sauce AND relish... turnips, peas and "Japanese" coleslaw (with ramen noodles). And a "salad" with Cool Whip, cottage cheese, miniature marshmallows, orange Jello and canned mandarin orange slices -- in Minnesota, where both my mother and this recipe came from, this is still defined as a "salad," lol. (Basically this recipe, but with miniature marshmallows mixed in too.) And apple pie with ice cream for dessert. And, on another night, roast beef with mashed potatos & gravy. My gallbladder (or the absence thereof) was not affected -- yay!
For our dinner with BIL, SIL and the cousins on Oct. 22nd (see above), BIL got us takeout from a local Portuguese restaurant, recommended by Younger Nephew. We had chicken, potatos and mixed vegetables, and it was all delicious! (There was also rice, but it was flavoured with tomato juice -- and I'm allergic to tomatos -- so I didn't have any of that.)
Drinking: Lots of tea! -- tis the season!
Buying (besides books, lol): "Hamilton" tickets! (Again! lol) -- albeit I had an account credit (from the first time I bought tickets, for a May 2020 performance that was cancelled by the pandemic) that covered the cost this time around.
I didn't buy it directly, but I cashed in some of my Air Miles, under the threat of expiration, and ordered myself a KitchenAid stand mixer as a reward. :) It arrived a few days ago.
Some Christmas PJ waffle-weave tops from Old Navy (ordered last weekend; should be here by this weekend). I have amassed a small collection of these over the years, and love wearing them around the house through the holiday season -- and some are more generally winter-ish than specifically Christmas-ish, so I can wear them past Christmas as well...!
A new humidifier.
- At the house, we had one attached to our furnace, but we've found winters in our condo to be incredibly dry. (Last Christmas, we returned from visiting my parents to a hygrometer reading of 27% humidity!) We bought a Honeywell humidifier when we first moved into our condo, but it was too noisy for my liking (not to mention a pain to clean and maintain), and after a winter or two, we sent it to the thrift store.
- But colder, drier weather will be here again, very soon, and dh -- who has very dry, sensitive, itchy skin at the best of times -- has been dealing with an awful case of eczema lately -- and my recent vision issues are related, in part, to dry eye syndrome -- and proper humidity is one of the things that can help prevent covid (and other viruses) from spreading -- and so a new humidifier became a priority as soon as we got back from visiting my parents.
- After doing some research (and being thoroughly overwhelmed by all the options), we wound up splurging (and I do mean SPLURGING!) on a combination humidifier/air purifier/fan from Dyson. I was won over by the idea of three appliances in one, the promise of quiet(er) technology, and also the promise that it would be easy to clean and maintain. Also appealing: it's high tech, with a a remote and a phone app! -- you can monitor the readings and adjust the settings even when you're out! We've had fun playing around with the technology and the different settings.
- (Plus -- we bought both nephews & their wives Dyson vacuum cleaners as a housewarming gift when they got their own houses. I figured if we could spend that much money on Dysons for them, we could get a Dyson appliance for ourselves! lol)
- So far, we haven't found it to be entirely quiet, especially when the fan is on auto mode (which is recommended) and it suddenly shifts into high gear -- but it's not too bad when adjusted to a lower setting. I've noticed it tends to show a lower air quality when we're cooking, and/or when I have my essential oils diffuser running... hmmm...
Wearing: Back to long pants, long sleeves (and/or a cardigan on top), socks AND slippers...! :(
Noticing: Dh spotted a large coyote last Friday morning, in the marshy space between our condo building and the townhouse development behind us. We've had signs in the elevators & emails from the property managers, warning of several sightings recently. There are lots of small dogs in our building (as well as a few small children), so I hope the owners/parents are paying attention...!
This isn't the first coyote sighting in our neighbourhood... we saw a few of them -- and heard them, howling in the nearby creek ravine, late at night! -- a few years ago, when the townhouses were being built. We also saw a deer then, and spotted foxes and even a beaver!)
Appreciating: The recent warm, sunny weather. Temperatures reached as high as 21C (about 70F) last week, and they're projected to reach 18C (about 64F) later this week! In November!!
Enjoying: The beautiful fall colours, which seem particularly colourful and long-lasting this year. They're past their peak in our neighbourhood, but we drove several miles down Yonge Street yesterday, into midtown Toronto for my optometrist appointment (see above), and the colours were just gorgeous. :)
Wanting: To get back to the art gallery where I have a membership... we haven't been there since just before covid hit, and the fall colours are always beautiful there!
Hoping: Our reactions to our bivalent covid/flu shots (scheduled for later this week) aren't too bad.
Prioritizing: Shopping for birthday and Christmas presents for Little Great-Nephew over the next few weeks... birthday #3 coming up mid-month!! (eeekkk!)
Worrying: Dh's cousin (also his godson) got married in August 2021, with only immediate family present, because of the pandemic. Ever since then, the cousins have been bugging him about when we're going to have a party to celebrate. The subject came up again at the recent funerals of two of the aunts, and shortly afterwards, an email went out: there WILL be a party on Saturday, Nov. 12th, at the groom's mom's condo's party room. Dh already told him we'll be there.
Of course I've been fretting ever since then, with one eye nervously monitoring the rising covid rates. I know we can't NOT go (especially when everyone else will be there) -- BUT: how big is the party room, and how good is the ventilation? How many people will be there? (Dh's aunts, cousins & their families alone will amount to 40-50 people -- including several teachers and school-age kids. Will the other side of this cousin's family be there? His wife's family? Friends?) We'll be 9 days past our latest shots (the bivalent booster) and I, at least, plan to wear an N-95 equivalent mask when I'm not eating, particularly if it's a big party with lots of people we don't know. We'll probably be the only ones masking, but I don't care. I know my "never had covid" status is becoming increasingly rare, but I don't intend to give up the title without a fight...! ;)
(One thing that makes me feel better: the "bride" is pregnant and due in February -- right around the same time as Younger Nephew's wife, in fact! -- so I can't imagine they won't want to be careful -- right? ) (On the other hand: with two pregnancies in the family, it's guaranteed that there will be baby talk in abundance. Sigh.)
Trying: To persuade dh to wear a N-95/equivalent mask more consistently when he goes out... often (especially if I'm not going out with him, or don't see him before he heads out) he just puts on a cloth mask. He claims he finds it difficult to breathe in an N-95. I mean, points for wearing a mask at all (he doesn't have to be persuaded that he should wear one), but it's a fact that cloth is at the low end of the scale in terms of effectiveness, and there are new variants afoot... we need all the protection we can get! (especially when the provincial government is doing absolutely zilch to help... but that's another post entirely...!)
Loving: Spending time with Little Great-Nephew. :) I know, I sound like a broken record on the subject ;) but he's just so darn cute. :) We stayed with him last week for a few hours while SIL went out for an appointment -- took him to the nearby park, played in the leaves, came back to the house and watched TV and played with his puzzles and Legos and toy cars. He's so GOOD -- a little mischievous, maybe ;) (like many little boys!) but no real trouble at all. (Where was he when I was a teenaged babysitter??)
Wondering: How the heck is it NOVEMBER already?? (Still not my favourite month, but I don't dread it the way I used to when I was working!)
Feeling: Thankful -- for getting home to see my family, for Thanksgiving dinners and card games and jigsaw puzzles, and for the promise of another visit soon at Christmastime. For dh & our own cozy little condo, and for the family we have here. For Little Great-Nephew, who never fails to brighten our day. :) For beautiful fall colours and good books to read. For 15 (!!) years of blogging! For blogs and all the wonderful people I've met through them. :)