Quarantine was such a weird time. My husband and I got word that our kids' school was shutting down on March 17, 2020. Happy Saint Patrick's Day. We made the decision that I would leave my job as a registered nurse to stay home with the kids.
I was way too overwhelmed with the unknowns to stay in my job. How long would quarantine last? How dangerous was the virus? Were kids super susceptible? If I stayed working as a nurse, would I be putting my family in jeopardy? For someone who is Type A - a big planner - and prone to anxiety, it was best for my sanity to stay home and hunker down until we (me, my husband, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the CDC, the world, etc.) knew more about COVID-19.
I realized how fortunate we were that I could quit my job and rely on my husband's income to get us through. So many families did not have that option and I was well aware of my financial privilege. It's quite possible that the hobbies I picked up during quarantine were a way to cope with the guilt I felt around leaving my job and even having that as an option in the first place. My subconscious was screaming, "You've gotta stay busy! Make this time count!"
My Five New Endeavors
I've always enjoyed art, creating, and playing with colors. A friend told me about Let's Make Art, an incredibly supportive and fun online community that offers tutorials, a supply store, and Facebook group for people interested in learning to make art.
I bought a kit and painted along with the lovely Sarah Cray, the watercolor artist who co-founded the community and films the weekly tutorials. She makes the tutorials entertaining and easy-to-understand, even for a newbie like me. She embodies positivity and is a breath of fresh air. She helps make painting feel like therapy to me.
If you're interested in art, please check out their site. They have so many projects to choose from that are made accessible and do-able by watching the accompanying tutorials. Some of my favorites are the sea turtle, peacock and amethyst. The projects are free if you already own the supplies; I encourage you to purchase them through their site.
Let's support this awesome small business!
Never in a million years did I think I'd love being a Plant Mom. Seriously. Up until 2020, I had a certified black thumb. I'd unintentionally kill everything I tried to grow. I killed an air plant once. How does that even happen?! They require literally NOTHING.
My new obsession with everything green started when I noticed a friend's front yard agave garden. I told him how cool I thought his cacti were. First, he set me straight - agaves aren't cacti, they're succulents. Second, he dug up a baby one (called a "pup") and gave it to me. I was a bit nervous taking on this responsibility given my track record with plants but fell immediately in love with my pup. It was the weirdest thing. I never knew I could feel maternal towards an inanimate object.
My pup (named Big Blue) is now an adolescent century plant and has propagated a bunch of his own pups! I'm a proud Plant Grammy. He stands proudly in our front yard and I swoon over him each and every day. He's encouraged me and my husband to be Plant Parents in a big way; we've added all of these guys to our growing family: prickly pear cactus, elephant ear, banana tree, mother of thousands, various tiny succulents, lavender, majestic palms, aglaonema, lilies, and some vegetable plants (tomato, green peppers, and zucchini). Most everyone is surviving and/or thriving!
Sewing & Embroidery
I definitely jumped on the mask making bandwagon. My mom had given me a sewing machine years ago that I had never taken out of its case. Once the pandemic hit, I unearthed the old Singer and asked my mom to teach me Sewing 101. It took me longer than it should have to wrap my head around threading the machine properly and making stitches in a mostly straight line but eventually I became semi-proficient.
I sewed some masks for my kids with Minecraft and Paw Patrol fabric. I made some for my husband in an outer space pattern and some for me and my friends in a pretty polka dot. Learning how to sew made me realize I was just in it for the colors, patterns and designs on the fabric. I didn't love the actual sewing process; what I loved was picking out all the cloth! My sewing hobby has turned into more of a buying and hoarding fabric hobby but I'm sure I'll use it one of these days.
I also got into embroidery. I found this cool, modern-looking kit on Amazon and taught myself some basic embroidery stitches by watching YouTube videos. It was really soothing to do this repetitive activity which turned out a beautiful decoration for my house. I also revived my old cross-stitch hobby from years ago and made a Godzilla design for one kid and a Baby Yoda design for the other one.
Sourdough Bread Baking
I know, I know, so cliché! Everyone was on the Quarantine Sourdough Bread Bandwagon and I wholeheartedly jumped aboard. My friends and I did the Amish friendship bread thing and it was a fun way to stay connected with one another while apart. We discussed how to best care for our starters and which online recipes turned out great versus terrible. We discussed the merits of storing our starters in Ziplock bags versus Mason jars. In normal times this flow of conversation would have me bored to tears but during quarantine I really got into it.
My family got into it, too, because Mama was baking delicious bread on a consistent basis. Of all my carby creations, this one was their favorite - the original sweet Amish friendship bread, minus raisins and nuts.
The best part of the Amish friendship bread process was delivering and/or receiving a starter from a friend. Clad in our masks and armed with our hand sanitizer, we'd meet up on each other's front porch for the hand-off. We'd see each other, from a distance, for about three minutes to exchange the starter and a smile before dashing back home to hunker down again. These brief exchanges kept us going when life felt so uncertain and lonely. It was quarantine's version of "breaking bread" with friends.
I had always preferred cleaning up after a meal to actually cooking it. I was never a terrible cook, just an uninspired one. Cooking felt like too much effort to put into something that would be consumed in ten minutes' time. Not worth it. However, once I had ample time, I channeled it into making some pretty delicious dinners without the time-crunch stress I had felt in the past. I learned how to appreciate the process as well as the end product.
I cooked a full Thanksgiving turkey dinner just for the heck of it one weekend. I whipped up some homemade steamed pork dumplings with a soy dipping sauce. I used the sourdough bread that was ubiquitous in our home for an amazing panzanella and as a topping for a French onion soup. My mom, who quarantined with us, taught me how to shuck out the blue crabs my kids would catch out on the dock and use the meat in a delicious, local-to-Charleston Meeting Street crab dip. I made some healthier meals, too, like a roasted beet and goat cheese salad and experimented with pasta alternatives like roasted cabbage, spaghetti squash and cauliflower.
Of all the culinary pursuits, the most fun one was a family affair: candied pecans. Our friends gave us bags and bags of pecans from their front yard's pecan tree. My kids and I set up a workstation consisting of various blunt force tools (hammer, sauté pan, a plank of wood) and smashed the heck out of those pecan shells. Who needs an official nut cracker when you've got found objects that make the process more fun?! We set up an assembly line and cracked nuts and jokes and lots of smiles together. We candied the pecans and gave some away as Christmas gifts. This was our favorite recipe. So easy!
Now that things are more back to normal I have less time to cultivate my hobbies. Now I'm cultivating a new business as a postpartum doula! It was such a treat to have so much time to dabble in things I hadn't had the brain space for in the past. Looking back on quarantine, spending time on these hobbies is a definite bright spot during some dark days.
What were your bright spots during quarantine? What new hobbies did you pick up? I'd love to hear from you!