Because I live just 29 miles from Kirkland, WA, or what the LA Times affectionately calls, ”the U.S. epicenter of COVID-19,” I hear daily speculations about the possibility — and some are saying probability — of a mandated quarantine in the very near future. So what would that look like? How long would it last? And how on earth do you survive a quarantine without losing your mind?
I’ve never been forced to stay in my home before, but I’ve been stuck for lengthy periods because of downed trees and power lines, and snow that prevented me from getting up our driveway. So I have a little experience with finding diversions to keep cabin fever at bay.
Here are ten twelve ideas for how you can survive a quarantine without losing your mind — just in case it comes to that. (UPDATE: Check the end of the post for a few ideas for children)
Make some comfort food
- Red beans and cornbread is so much better than what the simple title suggests. This is true southern comfort.
- Stormy day cooking: Crock Pot (or not) Stew will make you long for a storm, just so you have an excuse to make this.
- Chicken Pot Pie is the ultimate comfort food, and very easy to customize.
- Country-style Ribs with Homemade Soppin’ Sauce. Have plenty of napkins on hand.
- Sunday Dinner: Ham and Copycat Cracker Barrel Hashbrown Casserole. If you’ve been to Cracker Barrel, you know all about this. If you haven’t, let me introduce you to their signature side dish.
- Split Pea Soup. You could make this in an instant pot, but there’s something wonderful about letting a pot simmer and burble on the stove for an afternoon.
- Better-than-Banana Bread really, truly is.
- Vermont Hot Chocolate, because who doesn’t like a little maple syrup in their hot chocolate?
- Salted Chocolate Chip Cookies — no other words necessary.
- Oh-So-Lemony Bundt Cake. After a bite of this, you’ll never go back to “just a polite hint of lemon” bundt cake again.
Make a Sourdough Starter
As long as we’re in the kitchen, why not take a little flour, salt and water and mix up a sourdough starter? If you’ve never heard of that before, it’s a fermented mixture of flour and water that you can use to make bread without added yeast. Whenever you take a bit of the mixture out to make a recipe, you “feed” the starter with a little more flour and water to keep it going. Sourdough starter is often passed down through families. Here’s an interesting article about a 122-year old starter and the woman who tends it. That’s dedication!
I’ve made a note to myself to write a detailed post about how to make a starter, but until I get to it, here’s a link to the jar I use and a really fantastic book that will guide you through the process.
Keep a journal
Someday, your descendants are going to want to know how you weathered this little inconvenience, and how you passed the time. Did you stock up on the right things? What did you run out of? What would you have done differently? Did you have any deep thoughts during this down time? 🙂 A simple lined-notebook will do just fine, but if you want to get artistic about it, here’s one example, and here’s another. This is sketch book I use for my art journal.
On that same topic, there will likely never be a better time to start a journal for someone else. Gift journals are just that — a gift of words you’ve chosen specifically for someone who means a lot to you. Here are some ideas for writing a gift journal that says, “I love you.”
Have little ones? How about giving them a simple journal (or notebook) and asking them to write a little every day — say, five minutes before bedtime — about what they’re doing during quarantine. If they’re too little to write, let them dictate to you. Not only will this journal become a sweet, treasured account of family history, but you may also be starting them on a life-long love of journaling.
Paint a room
That means different things to different people. Maybe you’ve been meaning to repaint a room in your house but just can’t seem to find the time. Well, here’s your chance. But maybe you’d like to do something a little more creative. If you’re up for an adventure, here’s a tutorial for painting a faux castle room. I promise — it’s easier than it looks. All you need are a few supplies: 2 grout sponges, dark gray matte paint, three bottles of acrylic paint: black, titanium white, and chocolate bar, paper plates, a roll of paper towels, and a round brush. If you take on this project, I’d love to hear how it goes!
When else will you have a better opportunity to really put your house in order? I’ve compiled a list of 10 questions to ask yourself when you’re trying to sort through your possessions. These are the things I ask myself when I’m clutching some item I haven’t seen in forever and didn’t remember I even had and have no use for but can’t bring myself to get rid of because my best friend in 6th grade gave it to me. You know the one.
If it feels daunting, start small. I suggest starting with the junk drawer — it’s a small job, relatively fast and easy, and will bring you immediate satisfaction. After that, you can go room by room (or drawer by drawer), or you can do it the way I did and make a checklist to motivate you as you go. It’s easy to do this with 6 x 6 graph paper
Pick up a good book
So many books, so little time! But that’s where a good quarantine comes in. I’m sure you have a pile of books by your bedside just like I do. Why not tackle it while you have a little down time?
Here are some of my favorite books, just in case you’re looking for a recommendation:
Inspiration: An Arrow Pointing to Heaven: The Biography of Rich Mullins. When I finished this book the first time, I put it down and thought, I want to be just like Rich Mullins. And then I grieved that I never got the chance to meet him. That will have to come later. This is a book I read every few years.
Productivity: The Slight Edge: Turning Simple Disciplines Into Massive Success & Happiness. This is the kind of book that gets inside your mind and lingers there, waiting for the moment when you need to remember it. The basic premise is that small things done continuously over time yield big results. I highly recommend. I’ve heard that Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones is very much like it. That’s the next book I plan to read.
Interesting history: The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. I’ve only just begun reading this, but I’m already hooked. It doesn’t hurt that these nine boys were from Washington. 🙂
Classics: Anything Jane Austen. Oh, the hours Jane and I spent together in high school. And college. And pretty much ever since.
Spiritual: The Bible … still the best-selling book of all time. If it’s been awhile since you’ve taken a look, now is a great time to read about how very much you’re loved.
Download a new workout
That takes care of working out your mind … how about a new workout for the rest of you? It’s too easy to meld into the couch, especially if you’re in the house 24/7. YouTube is chock full of videos of every sort. Spend a half hour looking at the options, then get up and get going.
Learn a new hobby or skill
I clearly remember the November night about 20 years ago when I was standing in the checkout line at Haggen’s grocery store, and my eyes landed on one of those little half-sized books in the rack right by the conveyer belt (where they know they have you hostage and bored). “Learn to Knit,” one title demanded mercilessly. Despite my reservations, I bought that little book, and the next day I drove down to Michael’s and picked up some knitting needles and yarn. Page by page, picture by picture, I slowly figured it out. Dave can attest that after a long hour, I looked up at him and said in my most childish voice, “I’m doing it! I’m knitting!” I’ve loved it ever since.
If knitting isn’t your thing, how about sketching, jewelry-making, or any other new hobby that catches your eye? What if you emerged from quarantine as an accomplished kazoo player? (Maybe let’s not do that.)
Along those lines …
Start a quilt
If sewing piques your interest and you feel extra industrious, this is a very fun project. You’ll need a little planning before you jump in unless, of course, you have a big stash of fabric at home. But whether you have it or you have to buy it first, this incredibly easy and forgiving flannel rag quilt would be a wonderfully distracting project. And if you start now, you get a good jump on a Christmas gift!
(Speaking of gifts, if there’s a little one in your life who loves Marvel or Barbies, this is a quick and adorable project. Make their favorite action figure a sleeping bag and matching pillow! This one takes no time at all, and hardly any fabric.)
Spread a little love
We don’t often enough express to our family and friends how much they mean to us. Determine that at least once a day, you’ll tell the people you love exactly what it is that you love or appreciate most about them. This isn’t just good advice for a quarantine, though. How might all our relationships change if we did this on a regular basis?
Start learning a new language
You know you’ve always wanted to learn French so you had an excuse to galavant through Paris. Why not now? Back in the day, we had to learn a foreign language from an honest-to-goodness human, and he or she had to be in the same room with us. But now? You’ve got all sorts of options: Duolingo, Fluenz, Rosetta Stone … It only takes one! And now’s the time.
Make a five-year plan
What would you like your life to look like in five years? What would you change? And how do you plan to do it? This is a great time to take stock of where you are and where you want to go. You can simply write your plan on a piece of paper, or you can take a look at Trello, my absolute favorite way to organize my life. I really can’t say enough about this free list-making application. I have a board for my study of herbs, a board for my real estate business, a board for the Mediterranean Diet, and our Favorite Meals, and Keto, and on and on. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll start to find all sorts of ways to use Trello. Here’s an example of one of my boards:
Bonus! Here are a few ideas especially for children:
- Make a bin full of rainbow-colored rice. Yes, this one is messy. But at the bottom of the post I give you my thoughts on that.
- Have your child(ren) make a vision board using poster board or a big display board (the styrofoam kind). Using magazine pictures or (better yet) their own art skills, have them draw or paste pictures of who they are now and who they hope to become. They can also add words to the board describing themselves, and you can too. Write all the wonderful character traits you see in them. It will be such an encouragement to those little ones!
- Games, games, and more games. Google “easy card games for kids” and you’ll have enough material for TWO quarantines.
So there you go. I’d love to hear anything you’d like to add to this list!