Cabin Fever

Toxic Limit Value is the maximum amount of exposure one agent has against another before trouble occurs. In humans, that translates to cabin fever during the month of January.

In the work world, the t.l.v. is labeled and sent out as a Material Safety Data Sheet. Attached to any chemical-based product or available from the manufacturer, this sheet applies even to something as simple as dish liquid used in a restaurant.

Too bad that a M.S.D.S. doesn’t come with the marriage license. A lot of grief could be avoided when cabin fever sets in and the two people who otherwise are a happy couple begin to reach their t.l.v. and have no clue how to avoid a meltdown.

My husband and I have learned four tips for avoiding that meltdown and bringing some calm to an otherwise irritable, quirky, grumpified day. (Yes, I made up that last descriptive word. It was all I could think of on a day before we came to terms with the whole t.l.v. thing.)

First, and best by far, is to get out of the house. Be outdoors. Bundle up and step outside. Walk around the yard. Walk to the mailbox and back. Walk around the block. This activity can be done solo or together. Fresh air can revive any sour attitude. It can wash out hurt feelings. It can clear the air of toxic negativity. If both agree, find a park or walking path nearby and stretch forward until muscles and brain cells are filled with oxygen.

Second tip is to take advantage of the sunshine. In winter, it is true that whole days go by without a speck of that warm, bright ball of light. But when it does show up, bask in it. Outside is best but even if you are housebound for some reason, find those rays coming in through windows and get as close as you can. Move your chair if you have to so that you are totally “in the zone” as they say nowadays. You can simply sit there, feeling the warmth of the sun or you can read or knit or crochet or some other activity that is useful. We do not recommend watching the television. It somehow seems to take away from the moment.

Thirdly, spend time apart each day. One person may have to leave the house to shop, visit the library, walk in the park, work or eat. The other person stays home and cooks, cleans, works on a hobby, uses the home office or garage or work shop to finish a project. If leaving the house is not an option, then find different rooms and give each other a time out.

Fourth and one of our favorites is planning a meal around a comfort food. For my husband, vegetable soup is his go-to choice for supper on those days that try to defy all forms of positive thinking. The act of shopping for all those vegetables has a soothing effect. The aroma of the bubbling pot permeates the entire house. Coming in the house is a truly savory moment, drawing one into the kitchen. Lifting the pot lid is almost automatic.

For our son, the smell of bacon frying lays to rest most of the nerve-racking turmoil of a t.l.v. day at work. It doesn’t seem to matter what the bacon is going to be-a sandwich, a side order with French toast, crumbled up on top of a big salad or next to a creamy mound of macaroni and cheese.

For me, a whole roast chicken, with mashed potatoes, country gravy and steamed green beans is comfort food. Seasoned with celery and garlic cloves, topped with pepper and paprika, that roasting chicken reminds me of my childhood, my early days of marriage, what I have to be grateful for now and why there is absolutely no reason for meltdowns or grumpified days during January.

Basic Vegetable Soup

One pound small cut stew beef

2 cups low-sodium V-8 juice

2 cups low-sodium, no fat, beef broth

1 can diced tomatoes with juice

Assorted canned vegetables such as peas, corn, green beans

1 cup each of chopped celery, carrots, potato

1 bag shredded cabbage/carrot coleslaw mix

1/2 to 3/4 cup barley (quick-cooking)

This a very basic recipe — adapt it to your family’s preferences. Everything goes in a Dutch oven or heavy kettle. Add liquid from the canned vegetables. Add more broth, V-8 juice or water to insure enough liquid to cover everything. Simmer for a couple of hours or up to all day. Other additions can include beans, such as great Northern or black beans. Rice may be substituted for the barley if so desired. We use the no-salt-added canned vegetables and season with pepper, garlic powder and a bit of onion powder. For a chicken-based soup use chicken broth and a cup or two of shredded cooked chicken. For vegetarian, use vegetable broth, V-8, or tomato juice.

(The coleslaw mix is a time and cost saver. Usually a head of cabbage is too much.)

Outside the Box Mac & Cheese

1 tablespoon minced onion

1 tablespoon butter or margarine

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1-1/4 cups milk

2 cups shredded American cheese

1 cup elbow macaroni

Cook macaroni according to package directions. While it is cooking, cook onion in butter in saucepan until onion is soft. Add flour and stir well. Add milk and cook over low heat until bubbly and sauce begins to thicken. Add pepper if desired. Reduce heat to lowest setting/simmer. Stir in cheese and blend until it is melted.

Drain cooked macaroni. Return it to its pot. Pour cheese sauce over it and stir well. Cover and let stand over lowest setting/simmer for a few minutes. Stir before serving. For baked mac & cheese, pour into a buttered casserole, bake at 350 F for about 25 minutes or until bubbly. Baked makes for a brown, slightly crispy top. Toppings can also be added such as crushed saltine crackers, crushed potato chips, French-fried onions or crumbled bacon.

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  • Published on Jan 8, 2016
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