Lockdown Week 4: Birthdays, Projects, and Frugal Food Failures

Week 4 under lockdown is complete!  Schools have been closed for only a month, but right now it feels like years.  Can stay-at-home dads get PTSD?

If this pandemic has taught me anything (and it’s already taught me several things), it’s that I have the greatest respect in the world for teachers.  People who willingly teach 20-30 rambunctious kids, day after day, year after year, without going insane are amazing people.  They’re obviously saints or super-humans.  Possibly both.

I’m no saint, but I’m trying!  This week our local school system started providing online lessons again… but it’s only 3 days a week (Monday, Wednesday, and Friday).  Online lessons don’t mean I’m living on easy street though — It’s still a ton of work to still help Tako Jr. #1 focus and get through those online lessons in a reasonable amount of time.

So, like my previous “Lockdown” posts, this is going to be something of a photo dump…


Birthdays Under Lockdown

Both of our boys have birthday’s close together in March.  We usually just pick a date and celebrate both birthdays at the same time.  This week was our birthday celebration.  The boys turned 5 and 7.

How do we celebrate birthdays for two young kids under lockdown? Well, we did the best we could…

Mrs. Tako baked the boys an orange flavored cake (their request).  Here was the result:

Orange cakeI think it turned out great considering we worked with what we had at home.  Unfortunately it wasn’t a big celebration.  Just the four of us.  No friends or extended family.  We did managed to video-call the grandparents, and sang “happy birthday” together.  That was nice, but a little sad.  (We usually celebrate with the boy’s grandparents)

Birthday presents were limited this year.  Most stores and shops are closed, and Amazon is providing delivery dates over a month away in some cases.

Thankfully, Mrs. Tako managed to secure some second-hand Nintendo DSI handhelds for the boy’s birthday.

happy birthday boys

While I’m sure the internet is going to be quick to point out that a lower cost Nintendo Switch exists, but $300 each is way outside of our birthday budget.  Besides, we have to think about the next birthday.  Hedonic adaptation is real, and it happens with kids too!


Mask Making Project

The first, and possibly most important home project this week was making masks!  Mrs. Tako is a master of the needle and thread, and she whipped up a few masks for us in record time.


Apparently the CDC has reversed course and is now telling everyone to wear homemade masks in public.  Yay!  Thanks for that little tip CDC!  Now I get to look like a ninja in public!



Lockdown Kid Projects

How do you pass the time under lockdown with kids?  Do you binge watch Netflix?  We haven’t been Netflix subscribers for years, so projects with the kids are how we’re staying busy during this lockdown time period.

The first “kid” project was a request from our boys — A sword and shield they could battle each other with.  Mrs. Tako and I decided foam construction was the way to go for this project…

foam shield

It took some time, but the shield(s) took shape…

foam shield 2

The foam is actually cut from some Harbor Freight foam floor mats bought on sale (before things closed) with a 25% off coupon.  I think I paid about $6.99 in total for four floor mats.

Cutting and gluing was the easy part.  Painting the shield was the most time consuming part…

foam shield 3

Eventually, we managed to create a fair reproduction of the Hylian Shield — from the Legend of Zelda.  It was an interesting challenge.  I’ve never worked with foam before!

hylian shield

Now, the boys are begging to finish the sword, to complete the set.  This lockdown is probably going to last another month, so we probably have the time.

Before starting on the sword though, I needed to finish another project for an important customer…


The Adjustable Desk Project

It’s been a awhile since I’ve done any major building projects, but Mrs. Tako decided we needed a proper desk for Tako Jr. #2.  He’ll be starting school in the fall (assuming schools open again), and we wanted an adjustable study desk that could grow with him… but holy hell adjustable desks are expensive!  Amazon doesn’t even sell one under $100.

So I thought to myself. “Hell, I can do better than that!  I can build one for nothing.”  So I did!

Tako Jr. #2’s desk was made from entirely recycled materials (i.e. junk wood taken from my free wood pile).

It works as both a standing desk…

standing desk

and as a sitting desk…

sitting desk

Building the desk took roughly 2.5 weeks, working around 1 hour/day on the project.  Obviously I don’t have a lot of spare time with the kids home, but the boys both enjoy a chance to get hands-on experience with real tools.

shop time

Being made from recycled materials it’s far from a perfect desk, but I’m happy to have built something (for free) that will last us a great many years to come.  Making the client happy is doubly important of course!

happy client


Frugal Food Failures Under Lockdown

While under lockdown, do you find yourself cooking more at home? We’ve always cooked most of our meals at home, but I’m starting to find it harder to keep the food budget under control.

Why exactly?  It seems like more people are cooking at home these days.  Food is flying off the grocery store shelves, and sales are far less frequent.  Now, instead of watching prices closely, I find myself just paying “whatever” when I see items in stock.  It’s a scary trend.

Thankfully, most food still seems to be available, but I’ve noticed prices are rising.  (At least in my area.)  Things like meat and eggs are getting more expensive.

Still, I do find the occasional good deal.  Like the pork loin I found on sale last week for $1.49/lb.  I made Tonteki with it (which is a kind of Japanese pork chop).


We paired it with a beautiful green salad, and I was a happy Octopus!

green saladHave you noticed food prices rising in your area?  Maybe I’m just imagining it.  I’m curious to hear about the experience of others as well!  Let me know in the comments.

That’s it for this week!  Stay home and stay healthy everybody!




27 thoughts on “Lockdown Week 4: Birthdays, Projects, and Frugal Food Failures

  • April 4, 2020 at 11:55 PM

    Mr Tako! As a 30 year veteran teacher I will take your amazement and gratitude with a happy heart! I love rambunctious kiddos and miss my students sooooo much! Your desk build is super, my dear husband is not so handy but incredibly resourceful, with 2 saw horses and and old slab of IKEA wood, he threw together a large desk that is a great work space for me, yes, I get a little sore from sitting in front of my laptop all day, but remind myself to stretch a lot to work the kinks out. Long distance teaching is…..hard–but we gotta do what we gotta do. I’m in NY and prices are rising for food but we are managing, not wasting anything and grateful for all we have. We have decided that we can afford one take out meal per month to support a restaurant and to lift our hearts a little. Yes, homemade food is awesome, but I do appreciate the change of pace as the chief cook of 3 squares a day, everyone helps with cleanup. Cheers Mr. Tako to you and yours, we’re all in this together.

  • April 5, 2020 at 2:17 AM

    Wow, you did more in a week then the vast majority I suspect. Those are cool projects! This goes to show that early retirement is perfectly suited for industrious and creative people. They’ll never get bored or run out of things to do.

    And that Toteki looks amazing. I’m not sure I’m gonna be able to hold off on breakfast now, my stomach just stated growling after seeing that!

    • April 6, 2020 at 1:49 PM

      It tasted amazing too Dave! The sauce along with that recipe is a fantastic match.

      I don’t know how people could be bored in retirement. I always have way more projects planned in my head than I have the time to do!!

  • April 5, 2020 at 4:09 AM

    That desk is great, i’m going to make one just like that!


    • April 6, 2020 at 1:51 PM

      Thanks Adam! Despite being made as cheaply as possible, it turned out great! Good luck with yours!

  • April 5, 2020 at 4:57 AM

    This lockdown has gotten me thinking hard about why do we live where we live? At the moment under lockdown we could be anywhere, but luckily where we are as our expenses and investment value are a function of each other. Couldn’t yet move to a higher cost of living country because our currency is weak. As such our net worth is lower than it wouldve been in the US but our expenses are a fraction of that too. As an emerging market our currency (and therefore our networth and luckily expenses too) has all dropped due to a 40% depreciation against the USD. As such we’ll stay a while longer. But once lockdown ends, would one stay in the same location even if you’re far wealthier, or would you move. Am curious what the reasons are for where you stay now, considering many places in the world are now in lockdown but the cost of living differs?

    • April 6, 2020 at 1:52 PM

      I don’t think the world is going to stay permanently “work from home”. Too many people like the social interaction and the face to face. That said, I think many more employers might be open to working remotely at least part-time that were not before.

      Hopefully something positive will come out of this whole thing.

  • April 5, 2020 at 7:04 AM

    Far away here in Malaysia, I’ve found a few “new” affordable food since lockdown but the normal things I buy like fresh avocadoes, have gone up a fair bit. I hope it’s because of the season and not a general supply chain disruption.

    • April 6, 2020 at 1:53 PM

      I hope so too. Some specialty items are getting harder to find, and “common things” like eggs seem to be getting more expensive.

  • April 5, 2020 at 7:27 AM

    I feel grocery prices have risen a bit, perhaps all that demand from John Q Public hoarding months of stock, why would a grocer cut their prices?

    • April 6, 2020 at 1:57 PM

      Grocers respond to competition like all businesses. If competitors can’t keep an item in stock, then they’re free to raise prices.

      I think this is what’s going on behind the scenes. Like toilet paper. Items that are out of stock more often might be getting more expensive in response to the disruption.

      That, or some items with slower response times in the supply chain might be having trouble adapting…i.e. you only have so many hens laying eggs in the system and it takes awhile to raise a new generation of egg layers to meet the suddenly increased demand.

  • April 5, 2020 at 7:37 AM

    Well done! We spent a few scary hours as little one had a fever in the emerg at local children’s hospital. It was very quiet, and luckily no covid-19….quarantine for 7 days anyhow. Two bedroom condo, no walks…..oh boy! Take good care!

    • April 6, 2020 at 1:57 PM

      Wow, that’s scary. Hope you guys are all healthy now!

  • April 5, 2020 at 9:13 AM

    Nice work! The shield looks brilliant, and the desk is awesome. Good luck with the days and weeks ahead. That’s too bad the birthday celebrations were less than hoped, but you guys made the most of it which is what’s important.

    And BTW – for it to be PTSD, it needs to be “post” – you’re still in the middle of your conflict… 🙂

  • April 6, 2020 at 8:34 AM

    Hang in there. Good job with the kids. I think it’s okay to lower expectations for now. Doing projects is already a good way to teach them how to be more self-sufficient.
    I’m having a hard time too, but I’ve been through this before. I’ll be over soon.
    Keep cooking and making stuff!

  • April 6, 2020 at 11:12 AM

    Wow the shield looks professional made! Maybe that’s a project I should look into with my kids.

    We are having challenges here and there at home too. But it has been a good learning experience. Our youngest turned 4 in March and we had a low key birthday celebration too.

    • April 6, 2020 at 1:59 PM

      Congrats on the birthday! We are doing out best to keep busy, but I think everyone misses the occasional moment apart! 😉

  • April 6, 2020 at 4:48 PM

    +internet points for pix of food!

    I’ve been cooking a lot more so my food budget is way down. I’ve found tomato paste and a little heavy cream make a nice sauce to simmer mixed (frozen) vegetables in. i’ve been splurging and adding fresh zucchini to the slop. Next I think is a pork loin I have in the freezer.

  • April 6, 2020 at 8:44 PM

    Just found out that Washington State school is online for the rest of the 2019/202 school year. I cried.

    We have been cooking a whole bunch of food, not been driving much(which has been nice). Going for walks on our mountain.

    Trying to get some projects done at home.

  • April 7, 2020 at 12:37 AM

    Have you had any preferred shares pause divis yet? Some of my reits have reversed dividend resolutions. I’m waiting for some of the preferred shares (banks especially ) to pause payments next. Quite something for income investors.

  • April 7, 2020 at 5:37 AM

    I LOVE the shield! Amazing! That will be something your boys will tell their kids about. 🙂 I’d be afraid of the swords… at that age, my boys would have been wacking each other over the head and then running to tell me about it ALL THE TIME. 😉 Food prices are up here in the Northeast USA and the shelves are a bit sparse when it comes to anything dairy or baking. It is fine for us but I am so worried about seniors, those who are alone and those who were already struggling financially. Our community put together a virtual farmer’s market… order online, delivered to your door non-contact. Great way for farmers to sell direct and for those in need to receive food. They even made it so that those on nutrition assistance can use their benefit to pay for their delivery! Such a terrible time for so many but I have been touched every day seeing people help their neighbors and community wherever they can. 🙂 Stay well!

  • April 8, 2020 at 6:07 AM

    Yes, the last time I went to the grocery store, I noticed slightly higher prices. I also noticed myself not even trying to find the best price. I just want to get the item and get away from the people. So, it’s a double whammy.

  • April 9, 2020 at 5:18 AM

    Verry nice shield ! Looks like the desks Matthias wandel made i will make one of them for the kids soon

  • October 17, 2021 at 1:08 PM

    It’s only been about a year and a half since this whole thing began in the States and this post, but it’s super interesting to “travel back in time” to read this. Reading this post made me nostalgic of when we were allowed to just start working from home “until late March, 2020” – really enjoyed that transition personally (I’m more of a homebody).

    Now it’s the reverse. I dread the idea of having to go back to work (luckily I can still WFH).


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