Author Archives: Tanya

Everything but the Kitchen Sink

It’s the little things that count—especially on a boat, and especially when they save water or space, and keep things cleaner and drier. I have four product recommendations to make more efficient use of a galley sink. Depending on your boat, the size and shape of your basin(s), and the configuration of your counter tops/cabinetry, you may not be able to implement all of these products, but they might give you some new ideas to try in your galley.

Dri-Dek
  1. Dri-Dek in the bottom of the sink.  We have a standard, stainless-steel, double-basin kitchen sink that Jay purchased at Home Depot or Lowe’s several years ago and mounted to our custom counters (plywood with teak veneer, coated with polyurethane). I like having separate places to wash and rinse/drain. Dri-Dek, which we also have in our cockpit, water-maker locker, food/drink lockers, and under our mattresses in the cabins, does an admirable job of creating airflow. It lasts forever and cleans up well with a spritz of bleach and a scrub brush. Made in Florida, interlocking tiles can be purchased directly from Dri-Dek or from Amazon ($4.76 per tile at Dri-Dek, with a minimum purchase of 12 tiles or $78.59/dozen at Amazon). They can be cut to whatever size you need.
  2. Water faucet with a pause button. We love our Ambassador Marine Trinidad Head/Shower Combo Faucet with Classic Sprayer (about $200 from Defender). It is expensive, but incredibly well-made, durable, and water-saving. We have three on our catamaran: one in the galley, one in the small port head (used mostly for hand-washing), and one in the large starboard forward head (providing daily showers for a crew of seven). We’ve had to order some replacement parts for repairs, but they have survived heavy use for about ten years.
Faucet with pause button
  1. Liquid soap dispenser. We added LDR 501 6520SS Deluxe Soap/Lotion Dispensers ($21 each at Amazon) to our galley sink and to the heads. They can be filled from the top and help keep the area around the sink tidy and dry. To save soap, we often water it down (2 parts soap to 1 part water).
  2. Filtered drinking water faucet. Whatever your water source or storage tank material, this faucet, along with an accompanying under-sink charcoal filter, improves the taste and purity of your drinking water. This is a stainless steel, lead-free ESOW Kitchen Water Filter Faucet ($36.90 at Amazon), and what I love about it is the shape of the swivel-spout and the single-lever handle. Its high profile and variable pressure control make it so I can quickly fill a stock pot sitting on the counter or slowly fill an ice cube tray without splashing and wasting water.
Drinking water faucet and liquid soap dispenser

We provide a harsh testing environment for all sorts of home and boat products. Take Two has seen a lot of different household solutions implemented in the 12 years we’ve been aboard, and our testing team has ranged in age from newborn to adult. It is not made up of gentle, mild-mannered, careful people, either. One thing we’ve learned is that it’s better to spend a little more to get a quality product instead of wasting resources and leaving cheap, broken junk in our wake.

Pep Talk #17: Fish Out of Water

Flying Fish
Sam with a flying fish found on deck during a passage.

Have you ever observed a goldfish in a bowl? It swims in circles, it examines (and sometimes nibbles at) the colored pebbles on the tank floor, swims in and out of its little plastic cave, eats food flakes off the surface and generally doesn’t seem to mind it’s surroundings, as long as someone keeps the bowl clean and feeds it. To me, it looks like an inane life—a fish can only be content with this small world because its brain is tiny and houses no ambition. And yet…

I am married to my high school sweetheart (together 27 years now), creative problem-solver, father of our five children, captain of our boat, database engineer/consultant…and introvert. His “office” for the last twelve years has been a 3’ x 4’ x 6’ shared pace in the fourth cabin on our boat—office by day, kid’s bunk by night. It’s not air-conditioned unless the generator is running or we’re living at a dock, but he seldom complains. He rarely leaves the boat, since the work he does for fun is in the same place as the work he does for a living; when he gets up from his computer, he might pick up a sander and go to work on our decks, or a screwdriver to rebuild a broken pump, or do something with one of the kids. He meets many of the requirements for happiness in a solitary life and fitness for living aboard a boat. He’s no brainless goldfish, but he is content with a self-contained life.

Of course, since opposites attract, I possess other, complementary traits, like an outgoing nature, a love of language, hospitality, and creativity (especially when shared). These traits are also helpful when living on a boat—when we get to a new place, I am the one who meets new people, figures out where to get things, who acts as translator if necessary, who invites friends for dinner and arranges get-togethers and field trips with other sailors. I am the ambassador. When I’m forced to curtail these social activities—due to long passages, isolated locations, bad weather, or a global pandemic that requires social distancing, this outgoing nature is quickly frustrated. I begin to view the “goldfish bowl” as a small, uncomfortable, limiting existence.

Occasionally, a pet goldfish will try to leave its watery habitat. It usually happens when the temperature is off or the tank is unclean, or if the fish is stressed or ill. It might jump out of its bowl, hoping to discover better conditions, only to find itself flopping around on the dresser, gasping for water. Like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, it may discover too late that “there’s no place like home.”

Of course, I am not a fish, nor am I ready to “jump” because my social life has shrunk to a sunset happy hour with Jay on the back steps. Put in perspective with the real suffering of illness, poverty, and injustice, our mere discomfort does not merit complaint. If anything, now is the time to be grateful; we are healthy and safe, and the slower pace has been good for our family and our homeschool. But in addition to bemoaning the state of the world, I have also possessed the attitude of a spoiled brat; I confess to feeling discontented and ungrateful, to pining after something I can’t have right now, and to complaining about disrupted plans and lost opportunities. Without the normal rhythms of work and play, social activities and gatherings—some of which are, in truth, distractions—I am doing some soul-searching, and realizing that saying “God’s grace is sufficient” and living it are two different things (from Paul’s 2nd letter to the Corinthians 12:9). That verse continues: “His strength is made perfect in weakness,” but who wants to admit weakness? When the going gets tough, the tough are not supposed to act like toddlers, but sometimes they do. The verse finishes with, “therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”

My main weaknesses consist of self-centeredness and a choice to focus on the wrong things. I have discovered in the last three months that the difference between a “good day” and a “bad day” is where I keep my focus. If I am using a screen as a substitute for time with a real person, if I am spending a lot of time looking at bad news, if I am giving way to feelings of loss, frustration, or anxiety, then I am heading for trouble and probably tears. Instead, if I wake up early and have my morning quiet time, if I am praying for those who are suffering, if I am counting my blessings, if I am truly present and willing to accept the gift of this day (whatever it holds), if I am investing in real relationships, then I am content. A simple change of focus makes all the difference.

Here are the things for which I am especially grateful today:

  • For my marriage of almost 23 years, for the daily sunset “date” Jay and I have set aside in order to give each other undivided attention, for Jay’s calm, steady, unflagging nature, and for his tireless patience with my ups and downs, and for his honesty and hard work.
  • For my children, who offer pearls of wisdom every time I stop to listen.
  • For my extended family, whether by blood, marriage, or “adoption,” who are encouraging and supportive, who will stop what they’re doing to talk or pray, who demonstrate what love is.
  • For the homeschool community and the sailing community—despite the curtailing of activities, there I find love and connection.
  • For the privilege of living and traveling on Take Two, for all we have learned while living aboard, and for friends from around the world.
  • For the simple things—a safe place to sleep, food to eat, fresh air and sunshine, health, time with family, the gift of life itself.

Paul, in his letter to the church in Philippi, Greece, offers this thought on contentment: “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well-fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all things through him (Christ) who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:11-13).  

Maybe, like Jay, you are a happy goldfish. Or, like me, you might be feeling sometimes like a fish out of water, gasping for community, struggling in relationships, and experiencing a mixture of sadness, fear, and anger about what’s going on in the world. Your situation might be worse, or it might be better. Whatever the case, we can all use our present circumstances to delve deeper into what it means to have faith, to be thankful no matter what, and to find strength in weakness.

Boys and Trucks

Boys and Trucks
Eli’s 2005 Dodge Ram 1500 and Aaron’s 1994 Ford F-150

We’re entering a new era as a family: our first two boys (or should I say, men?) have recently acquired their first vehicles. Both chose trucks.

Eli found a good used truck in the Keys and drove down with Jay to complete the purchase this week and bring it home. It resembles the truck Jay used to own.

Aaron has a Ford fixer-upper–something he used to talk about when he was a little boy. He’s good with his hands, loves tools, and wants to spend the time (under the truck) to make it his own.

We’re very pleased to see them taking steps toward independence and proud of both of them.

Around the World in 12 Weeks (Summer 2020)

Feeling trapped or sapped? Why not travel by map? Here’s a homeschool idea you might enjoy.

travel by map

I’ve been getting that familiar feeling of wanderlust. Take Two has been sitting for almost a year now, tethered to a mooring in the Florida Keys. We’ve used the time to visit family, catch up with old friends, build the cruising kitty back up, get our big kids more independent (driving, working, going to college classes, and planning for the future). While I recognize that this is what we came back from traveling to do, I miss the change of scenery and sense of adventure. With COVID-19, I haven’t even been able to satisfy the itch by taking road trips (the Keys were closed and I wasn’t sure if I could get past the road block to get back in.)

So I’m combating that stuck-in-a-rut feeling by upping my homeschool game. If we can’t travel for real, why not travel in our imaginations? I’ve had these two books on the shelf since I was a public school teacher, and haven’t used them since the older kids were in elementary school. So I asked Rachel what she thought of “a trip around the world,” and she was game.

A Trip Around the World

We had just finished a Life of Fred math book, the last Adventures In Phonics spelling list, a chemistry curriculum, and world history up to the American Revolution. It felt like time for a break. So we looked at the world map, picked 12 countries, and set a course for a summer’s worth of geography-based learning. We invited a friend to “come along,” made up two notebooks full of maps, flags, and language lessons, created a global passport, and collected our first “stamp” on June 1.

Notebook and Passport

We have already “traveled” to Brazil and Kenya. While there’s been some push-back about the required journal entries, I’ve heard no complaints about coloring pages, virtual tours, or new recipes. The documentaries/movies we’ve found have been wonderful windows into places we’ve never visited in person.  I’m pleased to see the connections we’re already making between countries we chose at random, like the comparison between big cats (jaguars of the Amazon vs. leopards of the savannah), or the Portuguese exploration of both the East African and South American coasts.

Leopard journal entry

Last weekend, we made a Brazilian chicken pie, Empadão de Frango, and the traditional bite-size chocolate desserts, Brigadeiros, and enjoyed both while watching the 2016 film directed by Jeff and Michael Zimbalist, Pelé: the Birth of a Legend. (Spoiler alert: Pelé himself makes a cameo appearance!)

Brigadeiros

Many recipes from around the world can be found online (I especially like those from the “Global Table Adventure” blog by Sasha Martin, author of Life from Scratch: A Memoir of Food, Family, and Forgiveness) and in a cookbook from my shelf, Around the World in 450 Recipes by Sarah Ainley.

We break down our “travel” week like this:

  • Monday: Watch introductory video (like Paul Barbato’s Geography Now or Expoza Travel on YouTube) while eating “airplane snacks.” Stamp passport. Color flag. Label map.
  • Tuesday: Begin Duolingo language lessons/notebook language activities. Take a virtual tour of landmark(s). Color a page from Around the World in 50 Pages, illustratedby Hasby Mubarok. Write five facts about the country in travel journal.
Around the World Coloring Book
  • Wednesday: Language lesson on Duolingo. Watch a natural history video (by BBC or National Geographic). Choose an animal to write about in travel journal.
  • Thursday: Language lesson on Duolingo. Watch a video on history of the country. Choose a person from that country and do a short biography.
Pele journal entry
  • Friday: Read a folktale, listen to music, or do an art project or craft.  
  • Weekend: Dinner and a movie! Find a family-friendly movie made in or about your country and cook a meal using authentic recipes.

So far, the geography studies have given fresh life to our homeschool, and by virtue of family movie night and international cuisine, the whole family is along for the ride.

Pep Talk #16: We Are Family

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” –Mark Twain

Providencia
Providencia, Isla de Colombia 2018

Something that travel has offered me is the chance to see myself as part of the human family, to go beyond labels of “white” or “American.” Making connections with locals in the places we traveled highlighted how much we humans have in common, despite differences in class, language, religion, appearance, and place of birth. We have been welcomed as friends by complete strangers, despite our awkwardness and our “otherness.” This reinforces our desire to do the same to others.

The kind of travel we do on our boat is not a vacation; we sail to a new place to learn about life in another corner of the world, to meet new people, and to hopefully go beyond the superficial. While we enjoy it, we also find it to be humbling, difficult, and eye-opening. And even the chance to live this way is a privilege of which we have become more and more aware.

Upon our return to the United States, we realized something else that travel offers: the chance to see our own country with new eyes. I hear music and language, see faces, and interact with people in a completely new way. I was raised to love and accept everyone as a child of God. I was raised to respect people even when I disagreed with them. While I may not have been “blinded” by racism or classism, I have had tunnel vision. I have made certain assumptions, had prejudices, and followed patterns of thought that put people in a box or even made them invisible. I probably still do; and will likely spend the rest of my life making course corrections as cross-cultural relationships broaden my horizons.

Tachi and Tanya, Providencia, Isla de Colombia
My friend Tachi , Providencia 2018

I am disheartened by the division I see in our country—by the ignorance, disrespect, and open hatred. Even among those who agree that there is one God, one faith, and one love that binds us together, there is disunity. Martin Luther King, Jr. noted that “the most segregated hour of Christian America is eleven o’clock on Sunday morning.” Those who claim Jesus as the Messiah, the Prince of Peace, must grapple with what it means to “love your neighbor as yourself.” And who is my neighbor? His parable of the good Samaritan answers that question by challenging racism and bigotry explicitly; he’s calling his listeners out on their hypocrisy.

It is easier to stand on the sidelines and criticize something as obviously wrong as looting and vandalism, to point out how it doesn’t honor the dead or further a just cause. It is much harder to see that the rage that leads to social breakdown is a result of systemic injustice, of our own actions or inaction; harder to admit that “there but by the grace of God go I” (John Bradford). If I had been born in other circumstances, I might be the one lighting fires. The potential for chaos exists in every human heart.

But so does the potential for compassion, communication with respect, and love. Do not lose hope. If you believe we can be governed by something beyond raw emotions, if you believe that God can set us free from all the things that bind us (including our own ignorance, bias, and past mistakes) and make us into a family, if you pray “Your kingdom come,” if you are willing to cross cultural barriers to form authentic relationships, then there is no reason to despair. I retain the hope that one day we will break down the walls that separate us, that we will treat others the way we want to be treated, that we will lay down our lives—our agendas, our judgments, our pride—for our friends. Hate is real, but so is love.

Mi hermano Deibi and kids
My “hermano” from Venezuela, Deibi, 2017

As a starting point, I can recommend these three books from different genres that have caused me to stop and question my own thinking and to see life from another vantage point:

  • Jodie Piccoult’s novel, Small Great Things
  • Trevor Noah’s memoir, Born a Crime
  • Spencer Perkins’ and Chris Rice’s non-fiction book, More Than Equals: Racial Healing for the Sake of the Gospel 

Silicone in the Galley

On a boat, silicone is often used as a sealant, adhesive, or lubricant, to waterproof a kitchen sink, bed a hatch, or grease an O-ring, respectively. But food-grade silicone is great in the galley, too.

Having a galley on a boat instead of a kitchen in a house means finding ways to simplify and maximize storage space. I love to bake, but don’t have room for all the specialized equipment I used to own. For example, I replaced bulky muffin tins with silicone baking cups, which take up very little space when nested.

silicone muffin cups

I also have a silicone bundt pan, purchased by my friend Jennifer on S/V Cerca Trova. We were trading it back and forth all winter in a bundt-cake bake-off; it was a win-win arrangement (or should I say, gain-gain?) where she baked a cake, took two pieces and gave us the rest, then lent me the pan so I could bake a cake and give away two pieces. It does a great job, and stores small.

silicone bundt pan

I also have silicone baking sheets in two sizes, which makes cookie-baking a snap. I also use them to bake rolls, biscuits, scones, pita bread, and Stromboli. They’re a good replacement for parchment paper, which often has plastic or chemical components.

silicone baking mat

In the freezer, I use washable/reusable silicone storage bags, which replace plastic gallon zipper bags. They are sturdy and stand up better than plastic.

silicone storage bag

Our silicone-topped OXO spill-proof ice cube trays, which have lasted for years, provide us with ice for frozen drinks.

Cruiser Diamonds

And when we have extra, we can pour smoothie into our silicone popsicle makers for a frozen treat. These were a gift-that-keeps-on-giving from my friend Annie on S/V Sea Trek.

silicone popsicle maker

Pep Talk #15: The Caged Bird Sings (and Other Creative Coping Mechanisms)

Cartagena

“Do whatever brings you to life, then. Follow your own fascinations, obsessions, and compulsions. Trust them. Create whatever causes a revolution in your heart.” –Elizabeth Gilbert (in Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear)

Humans create things because we can’t not create. The cave paintings of Lascaux bear witness: even those hunter-gatherers whose lives were defined by the eat-or-be-eaten struggle still found energy to create beautiful images by firelight with materials they had on hand. Whether rich or poor, free or slave, homo sapiens write, draw, sing, paint, dance, cook, design, play instruments, sew, tell stories, take photographs, make up games, and decorate themselves and their living spaces. Creativity is universal, and not dependent on circumstances.

Tiny tapestry by Ray Materson: "Prison Musician"
Prison Musician, a miniature tapestry by Ray Materson,
housed at the American Visionary Art Museum, Baltimore

Hardship, in its many guises, cannot quash creativity: I once saw an exhibition of tiny embroidered tapestries by Ray Materson, a man serving time in a state penitentiary who got ahold of a needle and unraveled socks to make art. Similarly, the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum houses a collection of “illegal art” made by concentration camp victims, demonstrating that even in a seemingly hopeless situation, hope finds a way, and that way is marked with beauty. America owes much of its musical heritage to African slaves—who brought rhythms and styles from another continent and who made up songs as they labored under compulsion. Maya Angelou nails it in her poem, “Caged Bird”:

The caged bird sings/with a fearful trill/of things unknown/but longed for still/and his tune is heard/on the distant hill/for the caged bird/sings of freedom.

Cages take many forms. There are the bars and chains you can see, and the ones inside the mind, which may be invisible but no less limiting. There are cages made for us, and barred doors we lock ourselves. Slavery and persecution are cages, but so are the greed and hatred that cause them. Poverty is a kind of cage, and so are fear and depression. Childhood abuse can keep people locked up long after they’ve grown into adults, and mental illness can be a cruel and unusual punishment that leaves both body and mind imprisoned.

Even a quarantine is a kind of cage—though we can justify its necessity and though it may be temporary, it chafes just the same. Talking with a fellow sailor who finds himself in geographical limbo because of the pandemic, country closures, and the impending hurricane season, we agreed that though we are grateful for our relative comfort, the restrictions on movement and social interaction and the inability to plan for an uncertain future leave us feeling trapped. It’s a gilded cage, for sure, compared with nursing homes, shoebox-sized apartments in big cities, prisons, and hospitals, but a cage nonetheless.

One of the deepest longings of the human psyche is freedom—not just the ability to physically move without restriction, or to make our own decisions, but to be liberated in our thinking, to be unchained in our hearts. And when we can’t get out of a restrictive situation, creativity can breathe freedom into our souls. While it’s easy to focus on the negative because bad news sells, I have also been so amazed by the positive responses of the human race in the last couple of months.

Despite suffering from ALS and nearly complete paralysis, my friend Lisa’s grandmother was smiling and singing from her chair in a locked-down California nursing home. A college friend wrote a song with his suddenly-homeschooled kids and posted the music video. My daughter Rachel and her friend Zoe on S/V Rothim began an exchange of letters and art projects—each one more fantastic and creative than the last.

Practice with a quill pen

Projects people put off for years are getting done, murals are popping up on walls, and photographs are getting shared. People are making music and not just downloading it. People are learning to grow vegetables and cooking homemade meals and not just consuming convenient calories. Despite cages of illness, fear, sadness, and anger, creative humans are responding with love, light, color, sound, and joy.

Our creativity can be fed, and not choked, by our circumstances. We can take our mixed emotions, our limitations, our pain, our frustration, and make something. It is always within our power to make or destroy, to raise or raze. While it is arguably easier to destroy—to give in to rage or apathy—the hard work of making something beautiful brings us a sense of accomplishment and joy that frees our minds even though our circumstances may remain unchanged.

To do this fearlessly, without self-criticism and without worrying about what someone else will think, is to engage in something magical, miraculous, and transformative. I leave you with a quote from Rachel Hollis (in Girl Wash Your Face: Stop Believing the Lies About Who You Are so You Can Become Who You Were Meant to Be):

“Creating is the greatest expression of reverence that I can think of because I recognize that the desire to make something is a gift from God…if you’re unconcerned about other people’s interpretations, then everything you make is fantastic.”

Go make something fantastic.

Laundry Day Uke Practice
Uke practice in the community garden, photo by Erica S/V Tulsi

Caribbean Coleslaw Recipe

Not your average coleslaw: this zingy recipe will take your taste buds on vacation to an island rimmed with white sand beaches and coconut palms. I can almost hear the steel drums…

Caribbean Slaw

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

3 tablespoons Turbinado sugar

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon favorite hot sauce

1/4 cup extra-virgin coconut oil

1/4 cup water

Salt and pepper to taste (start with 1/2 teaspoon each)

1 head of green cabbage, thin sliced or shredded

1 large ripe-but-firm mango, peeled and julienned OR

         1/2 pineapple, cut into small chunks

1 cup shredded or julienned carrots

1 cup thin-sliced red or green bell pepper

1/2 cup thin-sliced red onion

1/2 cup sliced almonds or sunflower seeds

Combine the Dijon, sugar, red wine vinegar, lime juice, garlic, hot sauce, coconut oil, water, salt, and pepper in a jar and shake for about two minutes to emulsify (or use a blender). In a large bowl, place cabbage, carrots, pepper, onion, and mango; toss to combine. Add dressing and toss again. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary. Serve chilled and sprinkled with almonds. 

Pep Talk #14: You Never Know What You’ve Got Until It’s Gone

Mom's Night Out

I was accosted in the grocery store parking lot…by a friend who ran up to my car window, hugged my neck, kissed my cheek and then promptly stepped back a foot or six and apologized. Though we live in the same small town, I hadn’t seen her in person since early March. A few months ago, this would have been bizarre behavior on two fronts: I would neither have thought twice about a hug-and-kiss, nor would she have felt the need to recoil after realizing her impulsive behavior might offend me.

It is hard to know how to behave right now—that’s what’s got all of us on edge, and some of us at each other’s throats. I’m married to a self-employed introvert who doesn’t mind retreating for a couple of months while the rest of humanity learns about this novel virus through trial-and-error, but I am an incautious extrovert, unhappy with the sacrifice of three-dimensional friends for anything short of the plague (which this is not). As a result, we’ve met somewhere in the middle—doing risk-benefit analysis on everything from grocery shopping procedures to allowing our boys to go to work to going for a walk with a friend outside. I have resorted to asking Jay before I do anything, except for maybe stopping by a friend’s boat in the dinghy, where “social distancing” is the norm based on the size of our dinghy and the height of the deck of a boat.

Because we really don’t know what the risks of this new illness are or how easily it spreads, because there’s so much conflicting information, it takes time to sift through possible responses and come up with a reasonable approach. I have tried to remain humble and non-judgmental—any posturing from either end of the spectrum (“Fear nothing!”  Or, “Fear everything!”) looks like arrogance to me. Solomon, in his wisdom, said that the man who fears God avoids the extremes of foolishness and self-righteousness (paraphrase of Ecclesiastes 7:18).

So as we begin the slow process of opening up, coming out of our collective quarantine, returning to work, school, and social lives, our family will continue to govern itself by this middle path: we will neither shut ourselves up indefinitely to “stay safe” waiting for a medical miracle, nor will we behave flippantly during a pandemic—our behavior can and does affect others, and we ought to be governed by compassion.

And we will never, never, never take relationships for granted.

They say you never know what you’ve got until it’s gone. There’s some truth in that—ask anyone who’s ever lost someone they loved. Or ask a New Englander how he feels about summer sunshine during the middle of a hard winter. Or ask a traveler how she feels about home a few months into a long journey. Living on the boat has taught us something about deprivation and appreciation, too. Until we lived without an endless supply of hot water or without air conditioning on a hot, still night, we didn’t properly enjoy a long, hot shower, or a cool night’s sleep.

Gratitude is magnified when we experience abundance after scarcity.

A few things have made this apparent to me. My Bible study group here in the Keys consists of praying women in different stages of life; it has continued to meet at our normal time during quarantine. Every Wednesday morning, we grab our coffee and log into Zoom, our faces popping onto the screen like the intro to The Brady Bunch. Last week, we met at the beach, which had recently re-opened, spreading out in a wide circle, but in person. It was a night-and-day difference. Their love, faith, and encouragement have been wonderful during this strange time—and I’m grateful we have the technology to stay connected, but I didn’t really grasp the metaphysical difference between 2-D and 3-D until I saw them again in living color.

Phone calls/video chats with family, virtual “tea parties” with friends, and keeping tabs on people via Facebook or Instagram are better than nothing, but a poor substitute for the real thing. Going for a walk with a friend, celebrating a birthday (outdoors, just to be on the safe side), and sharing a happy hour wine-and-cheese with neighbors in their cockpit—these simple joys from the last couple of weeks have reminded me how much we need real people in our lives. And, how much they need us.

Last weekend, we helped some friends whose house is finally getting repaired after hurricane Irma damaged it in 2017. They needed some extra muscle to remove the furniture from the second-story living space and to finish a chicken coop to protect their birds while they are away living in a rental house so that the construction crew can demolish and rebuild part of their home. This work couldn’t wait until we have decided it’s “safe” to come out, so we took the risk of offering assistance. We had a literal barn-raising—a true community effort. I had forgotten what a joy it is to be with a group of people, working together, sharing a meal, seeing teenagers chip in cheerfully—lugging couches downstairs, preparing lunch for others, painting the chicken coop. This is what life in a community should look like.

And what is life without community? We need each other; our very survival depends on cooperative behavior. It is essential to our well-being as social creatures. I am reminded of a quote from a favorite animated movie, The Croods, about a family of cavemen who venture out into the dangerous unknown. Commenting on their “safe” life inside the cave, the teenage daughter Eep says, “That wasn’t living! That was just…‘not dying!’”

The message, “stay safe,” that we see on billboards, that flashes across our screens, and that we hear on the intercom at the grocery store, contains an inherent fallacy. Life, love, the pursuit of our dreams—these things were never safe. Everything we do requires a risk of one kind or another. How long can we live inside a cave, simply not dying? Every person will have to do this risk-benefit analysis going forward, and when we reach different conclusions than our loved ones, only compassion and humility will smooth out the wrinkles.

My heart is full of love and longing: for our parents, who we haven’t seen in months and who face a much higher risk of life-threatening infection if they go out in public or visit in person, for my siblings and the close-knit group of friends who have supported us for years in our homeschool journey, for our friends old and new in far-flung places, now that travel has become difficult-to-impossible. I remain hopeful that we will be able to normalize our interactions someday, but until then, I can see already how much more I appreciate these relationships.

Friday Night Pizza

pizza pepperoni

Friday Night Pizza is a long-standing tradition on Take Two, but it dates from my childhood. I remember my mom making homemade pizza on Friday evenings, or sometimes Dad would “cook” and we’d have Pizza Hut or Domino’s, and later, Papa John’s. It’s an easy meal to make for a crowd, and we have often invited friends and neighbors to join us for pizza night. I’m missing that right now–and missing all of you who have sat around our table and shared our Friday night tradition. If you want to try it on your own, look below to find the recipes for my pizza crust and homemade sauce!

pizza dough

Pizza Crust for Four 15-inch Pizzas

2 cups white whole wheat flour

2 cups unbleached white flour

2 teaspoons salt

3 1/2 cups lukewarm water

1/2 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons yeast                   

3 tablespoons sugar

4+ cups unbleached white flour

  1. Mix flours and salt in a large bowl.
  2. Mix water, oil, yeast, and sugar in a separate bowl, stirring until yeast is dissolved. Allow to rest for a few minutes; yeast will begin to bubble.
  3. Add liquid mixture to the flour mixture and stir well with a wooden spoon. The dough will be very soft and sticky.
  4. Begin to add flour, one cup at a time, stirring after each addition, until the dough begins to form a ball and becomes too thick to stir.
  5. Turn dough out onto a clean, floured surface and begin to knead.* The dough will stick to your hands initially. Keep adding flour, folding it in as you knead. Eventually, the dough will be less sticky, but be careful not to add too much flour or the dough will be too dry. The goal is “tacky, not sticky.” *If you have a KitchenAid, use the dough hook and let the machine do the work!
  6. After kneading for 5-10 minutes, the dough should be soft and stretchy; if you take a small ball of dough and stretch it between two hands, you should be able to make a translucent “window” of dough you can see light through. If it tears instead of stretching, it needs more kneading!
  7. Once well-kneaded, sprinkle flour over the the ball of dough and cover with the inverted bowl or a damp towel. Allow to rise while you make the sauce, oil the pans, and chop the toppings, 30 minutes to one hour.
pizza sauce

Homemade Pizza Sauce

2 15-oz cans tomato sauce

1 6-oz can tomato paste

2 teaspoons dried oregano or 2 tablespoons fresh oregano

1 teaspoon Italian seasoning

1 pinch red pepper flakes

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon sugar

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 cloves garlic

  1. Put all ingredients into a Vitamix (or blender/food processor). If using a regular blender/food processor, mince the garlic first.
  2. Run on high for 30 seconds to one minute, until mixture is homogenous. Set aside while you chop toppings.
pizza oven

Top, Assemble, and Bake!

2 6-oz packages pepperoni

1 lb. Italian sausage or turkey sausage, browned and crumbled

1 cup each: sliced mushrooms, olives, green peppers, onions

8 cups mozzarella cheese

Other options: hamburger, bacon, and salami; chopped ham and fresh or canned pineapple; tomato slices and fresh basil; chicken, bacon, barbecue sauce and cheddar-jack cheese; chicken, black bean, corn, jalapeño, salsa, and cheddar cheese…et cetera.

  1. Preheat oven to 425°. Space oven racks so you can get two pizzas in at the same time.
  2. Oil four 15″ pizza pans and sprinkle with corn meal. (If you don’t have four, place dough circles on oiled/corn meal-sprinkled aluminum foil and reuse the same pizza pan.)
  3. Once dough ball has doubled in size, divide into four equal portions and roll into balls.
  4. Sprinkle your kneading surface and the top of a dough ball with flour. Using a rolling pin, roll ball into a 15″ circle, adding flour as necessary to reduce sticking. Fold into quarters and transfer to pan; unfold. Prick all over with a fork. Repeat for other three dough balls.
  5. Pre-bake crusts for 5-10 minutes; they’ll begin to rise/bubble, but not brown.
  6. Remove hot crust, top with about one cup of sauce and desired toppings.
  7. Sprinkle with 2 cups of cheese.
  8. Bake another 10 minutes, or to desired doneness. Crust should be golden brown, cheese bubbling at the edges.
  9. Slice up and serve with “shakies”–red pepper flakes and parmesan cheese!
pizza margarita
Margherita: fresh tomato and basil