Smile Politely

Dispatches from isolation: April 18th

This new column offers a glimpse into how people in C-U are working and spending their time during this stay-at-home order. You can read previous installments here. Have questions, or want to suggest a person for this series? Email us at

How are you spending your days in isolation?


6:52 a.m.

I wake up and check the time then decide it’s way too early to get up on a Saturday.

8:15 a.m.

A kitchen counter. A pour-over coffee apparatus is set up, with someone off camera pouring hot water. Behind the coffee pot is a bag of coffee. To the right is a carton of eggs. Photo by Carly McCrory-McKay.

Photo by Carly McCrory-McKay.

I’m awake again, this time to my alarm. I start my morning routine, which begins with a shower, getting dressed, and coffee. Coffee is a process in our house: boil the water, grind the beans (usually from Columbia Street Roastery or Page Roasting Company), set up the pour over process, start the pour over process, pour the coffee, then cream and sugar for me.

My husband makes breakfast: eggs (purchased from The WheelHouse) and fruit.

8:40 a.m.

I walk around the house and open all the curtains (I love this small, daily task). I try to FaceTime my niece while doing it, but she’s more interested in Moana.

8:42 a.m.

A white desk is positioned facing out of a window with a PC computer on it. There are two vases of flowers on the left, and two laptop computers stacked on the right, in front of a desk lamp. Photo by Carly McCrory-McKay.

Photo by Carly McCrory-McKay.

I sit down to work, which entails catching up on the news, answering emails, organizing for upcoming meetings, following up on Zoom calls from the week, updating our COVID-19 resource page, and planning for a Facebook live event later this evening. One thing is for sure — I always have too many tabs open. I’ve recently started a nightly task of making sure I work through all open tabs. It helps me start each day without clutter on my screen.

Quick pause to call my husband’s grandma — it’s her 79th birthday.

10:45 a.m.

I need a break from work so I put on a record (Christy Hays), do some dishes, and change the water in all of my flowers around the house. My flowers — from Illinois Willows — show up to my front door each week; you can pick Tuesday or Thursday delivery. I’m really loving tulips lately.

I distract myself for a bit and take advantage of Hopscotch’s sidewalk sale on their Instagram page. It also gives me a reason to get myself a salted caramel brownie tomorrow.

12:16 p.m.

Two slices of pizza are on a round white plate. The slices are small, and topped with white cheese and spinach and mushrooms. Photo by Carly McCrory-McKay.

Photo by Carly McCrory-McKay.

Time for lunch: leftover NAYA pizza from last night. We ordered two, the charred pepperoni and the burrata and mushroom. While both were good, I preferred the burrata and mushroom.

Back to work, energized by a Ski, the best soda in the world. It’s made in Southern Illinois (Breese, to be specific). I didn’t even know it existed until I started dating my husband. It’s a staple in his family. The SLU cup (go Billikens!) was a gift to my husband; it’s his alma mater.

A green bottle of Ski soda sits on a desk. To the right, a large tumbler cup with

Photo by Carly McCrory-McKay.

2:11 p.m.

I clean around the house and switch out the laundry so I can fold while watching Governor Pritzker’s daily press conference at 2:30 p.m. I watch (or at least listen) to these daily briefings as much as possible.

I package up gifts for my friend who is expecting her first baby next month. Her shower was cancelled earlier this month so I decided USPS is best. I print labels and schedule a pick up for Monday. She and her husband live in another state, but I encourage a move to Chambana often.

I sit and pause. I was reading quite a bit earlier in the year, but haven’t had much extra time lately. I open a book I have on loan from Champaign Public Library, Della Owens’ Where the Crawdads Sing.

Check in (FaceTime) with my mom. I miss seeing our families in person.

4:30 p.m.

Back to work for a bit, but get up a few times to put on a new record. When I don’t have music playing, I typically have Gilmore Girls on a screen in the background. I’m team Jess, followed by team Logan. I am definitely not team Dean.

6:08 p.m.

A man pushes a small lawn mower over green grass of a yard. There is a dark gray building to the right of the image. Photo by Carly McCrory-McKay.

Photo by Carly McCrory-McKay.

My husband decides to mow the lawn. I go outside for some sunshine, a walk around our house, and to point out the areas he missed.

6:40 p.m.

I chat with my husband about what to order for dinner. It has to be quick because I need to be online by 7:20 p.m. for the Facebook live chat. We decide on Farren’s in Downtown Champaign: BBQ sandwich and fries for me, and a chicken sandwich and potato chips for him. (I know what you’re thinking, but we’re grilling out tomorrow and decide to skip burgers JUST THIS ONCE).

A large sandwich with shredded lettuce coming out of the sides is on a plate with potato chips and a small container of a white dipping sauce. Photo by Carly McCrory-McKay.

Photo by Carly McCrory-McKay.

My husband goes to pick up the food (curbside, in a zone designated by the City of Champaign). We eat (it’s delicious) and enjoy Triptych beers, which were delivered to our house earlier in the week. F is my beer of choice for this evening, which they made for the now-postponed Boneyard Arts Festival. F has moved into my top five Triptych beers of all time.

7:20 PM

Screenshot of a Facebook Live video. Three white women are pictured in individual boxes. All three are smiling. Photo by Carly McCrory-McKay.

Photo by Carly McCrory-McKay.

Hop on Facebook to join my pals Terri Reifsteck (Visit Champaign County) and Laura Weisskopf Bleill ( for our live Facebook chat: Shop Around Chambana. We’re joined by Xander Hazel from Champaign Center Partnership and Darius White from Urbana Business Association.

9:07 p.m.

Unbaked focaccia bread on a sheet pan topped with a lot of rosemary. A hand hovers over the bread. Photo by Carly McCrory-McKay.

Photo by Carly McCrory-McKay.

We decide to make some bread. It’s focaccia tonight since we have some rosemary to use. This, and the No-Knead Bread recipe from The New York Times, are our go-tos. Focaccia is my favorite.

9:49 p.m.

Baked focaccia bread on a sheet pan. A hand with a silicone glove holds the pan. Photo by Carly McCrory-McKay.

Photo by Carly McCrory-McKay.

Time to pull the bread out of the oven. While waiting for the bread to cool, we discuss what record to buy from Exile on Main Street (this would have been National Record Store Day; I was reminded on Facebook). We search the catalogue. I decide on Same Trailer Different Park by Kacey Musgraves, my husband picks His Majesty’s Pop Life by Prince.

10:33 p.m.

After a bit of back-and-forth over which game to play, we decide on Splendor. My husband wins three games in a row. I’m done with games for the evening.

The card game Splendor is laid out in a light colored wood table. Across the table is the arm of a man in a light gray sweatshirt. Photo by Carly McCrory-McKay.

Photo by Carly McCrory-McKay.

12:12 a.m.

I decide to call it a night. Wipe down my phone, grab a glass of water, brush my teeth, change into pajamas, and get into bed.

Carly McCrory-McKay is the Executive Director of the Champaign County Economic Development Corporation. She lives in Champaign with her husband, Tate.

Top image by Carly McCrory-McKay.

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