When You’re at Home, You Get to Noticing Things

Hits: 15

Welcome. The mission of At Home is to help our readers live a full and cultured life during the pandemic. Sometimes that means telling you what we think about Beyoncé’s “Black Is King.” Other times it means figuring out whether you should travel this year. Always it means telling you to make chicken shawarma.

Recently, in response to a reader request to be bossy, we told you to clean your stoves, explaining what joy would come of the labor. Reaction to that suggestion was immediate and remarkably supportive. Indeed, many asked for more cleaning directive at this difficult time. That tracks. We’re most of us at home more these days. Some of us are only at home. You get to noticing things. Peggy Sue sent an email asking how to clean the wooden chairs at her dining table. She’d tried a mild soap solution and had no luck getting the years of grime off the wood, she said.

What to do? A mild vinegar solution might answer, but I’d be worried about stripping the finish. Instead, try mineral spirits, applying the liquid to a clean soft cloth and rubbing it with the grain into the wood. Be patient, as it takes a little bit for the oil to get under the grime. (You can use an old toothbrush to get into corners.) Rub off with a clean part of the cloth and see the luster of your wood restored. That’s a good feeling.

Here’s your soundtrack: Phoebe Bridgers, “I Know the End.”

More good advice for living a good life at home and near it is below. Please write and tell us what else you’d like to know about: [email protected]. We’ll try to be helpful.

Credit…Rose Wong
  • As distanced learning becomes likely for at least part of the fall for most students, parents are finding themselves pressed into service as teaching assistants. One way to keep schooling in the fall from becoming overwhelming? Rely more on teachers and counselors.

  • If you’re feeling isolated in this prolonged moment of social distancing, don’t underestimate the importance of what social scientists call “weak ties,” those casual connections — with acquaintances, with neighbors, with people we chat with at the grocery store — that give us a sense of belonging.

  • Job interviews are always nerve-racking, but participating in them via video chat can be extra-challenging. To prepare: Get your lighting and camera angle set up ahead of time, practice your posture, and, of course, double-check the tech.

Credit…Heami Lee for The New York Times. Food stylist: Maggie Ruggiero. Prop stylist: Rebecca Bartoshesky.
  • The Honduran-American baker Bryan Ford wants you to expand your definition of what makes a bread “sourdough.” He revised the recipe for his childhood favorite, pan de coco, swapping the yeast for starter and adding cocoa and chocolate to complicate the bread’s flavors and texture.

  • If you’re all breaded out, use some of that yeast and flour you pantry-stocked in April to make pizza on the grill. The result is more flatbread than traditional pie, but it’s quick, impressive, and will keep you from having turn on your oven in August.

  • Melissa Clark doesn’t relish a hot kitchen in summer, but if she’s going to use the oven, she’ll enlist it to do double duty: roasting chickpeas and fresh corn for a satisfying farro salad that’s both chewy and crispy.

Credit…Jingyu Lin for The New York Times
  • The comedy of Sam Jay is “tough to pigeonhole: profane and heady, aiming for belly laughs, but never seeming desperate for them.” Her debut Netflix special is called “3 in the Morning,” and our critic Jason Zinoman found at its core “an idea that true freedom means standing out from the crowd.”

  • Nearly every day since April, the Paris-based artist Ania Soliman has posted a sketch on Instagram as part of her “Journal of Confinement.” Her work, and that of other European artists produced during the pandemic, is part of a new show at the Kunsthaus Bregenz in Austria. “This exhibition seems to ask us not only to reflect in real time, but also to take this fraught moment as a point of departure, and to shape what comes next,” writes Kimberly Bradley in the Times.

  • And on Thursday, August 6, we’re hosting the author Curtis Sittenfeld in an interactive conversation about learning to write short fiction in five, easy-to-digest steps.

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