On March 25th, 2020 I published this list about how to stay busy during the Covid-19 lockdown. Since then, I’ve been trying to accomplish all 46 suggestions. I’m having better luck with some than others.
Wow. The entire planet is one sick puppy with Covid-19 at the moment.
Dr. Deborah Birx is the one I’m watching, with her fancy scarves and outstanding mind. Majored in chemistry, MD Colonel in the Army, infectious disease specialist, and, in my view, the best voice to stand at the podium and tell us what’s going on. Dr. Fauci is great too.
While we’re waiting for the planet to heal, we’re all looking for things to do during our isolation. I perused cyberspace and collected some ideas, then added some of my own.
1. Sew washable, cloth face masks.
UPDATE: Oh man, has THIS been a journey.
I went crazy making masks until stores ran out of elastic. Nurses began commenting that the elastic was hurting their ears anyway, so I then researched how to make TIE masks using seam binding…until stores ran out of seam binding.
Then, out of the blue, a gal contacted me through Facebook and said she and her husband were printing off 3D seam-binding makers. I had no idea what she was talking about, but she had fabric to give me and asked me to make as many masks as possible for a group in Georgia.
Sure, I said, not knowing what I was getting into with a printed seam-binding maker. I could only envision a sheet of paper sliding out of the printer with an image of a hole punch type of thing that would jump off the page and make seam-binding. Covid-19 was making us all a little nutty.
We met this gal’s husband in a Subway parking lot. He handed my daughter a plastic sack and drove off. The sack contained 5 yards of black fabric. I remarked to my husband I hoped we weren’t making masks for bank robbers.
The seam-binder maker looks like this.
Turns out, it’s a handy little gadget that helps fold 2 in. wide strips of fabric into loose seam binding. You slide it through one end and pull it through the other, ironing it as it comes out. Somewhere inside, the fabric shape-shifts into a couple of folds, and there ya’ go. Thank you, science. My daughter got the hang of it pretty quickly and became the seam-binding wiz. How a printer creates these gadgets is still beyond me.
So, instead of making these…
…we switched to making these.
Bank robber, right? That, or terrorist.
I’ve since discovered there’s an even easier way to make a mask – from a t-shirt. In fact, there are several methods. You can see them all HERE.
My TIE MASK method (without a seam-binding maker) is still good too.
We now have a variety of masks in a jar at our house: elastic, ties, and t-shirt types. We’ve made over 125 masks, mailed them to GA, and to a nurse friend in WI. I’m finally getting the hang of it. 🙂
2. Pull out the games.
Board games or playing cards. Create Tic-Tac-Toe or Hangman sheets. (We’ve been playing Rummy and Spades with a deck of cards from Shutterfly that has pics of our grandson on it.) These are face-to-face activities we used to do before we replaced our human interactions with screens.
UPDATE: Card games went by the wayside after about a month. We got hooked on the TV series Homeland, and that swallowed our evening hours. (More on Homeland later.) Recently, we discovered Crokinole, a Canadian board game that’s pretty fun and fast-moving.
3. Wipe down stuff.
Once a week I bleach our bathroom/kitchen counters and faucets, surface areas, doorknobs, ‘fridge handle, cell phones, TV remotes, etc. Whatever we’re touching every day. You can make quick sanitary wipes by pouring 1 part liquid bleach to 2 parts water into a bowl. Use old washcloths or cut-up towels/t-shirts as rags. Pour any unused solution into the toilet, let soak a bit, brush, then flush. So far, bottled bleach is easier to find than Clorox or Lysol canister wipes. UPDATE: Still doing this!
2nd UPDATE: I’m realizing how many recurring house germs we have lived with for 30 years.
4. Clean out the ‘fridge
How often does anybody do that? My excuse is that I never have time. Also, it’s kind of a big, messy job that’s no fun. Well, it’s still a big, messy job that’s no fun, but I now have the time. When life returns to ‘normal’, it will be delightful to have a clean refrigerator. UPDATE: Still dragging my feet on this one. If I play my cards right, the hubs might help with this one.
2nd UPDATE: my dear hubby did this about 2 weeks ago. The man is irreplaceable.
5. Catch up on laundry.
This is an obvious one. UPDATE: I’m trying to do a load a day. So far…no backup.
But then, go a step further and wash items that don’t get regular attention: throw blankets, throw rugs, armchair drapes, curtains, mattress pads, pillows, shower curtains, knit hats, scarves, and gloves.UPDATE: I’ve washed everything, but the shower curtain. I don’t think about it until I’m ready to take a shower. Then, of course, I need it. You see my problem.
6. Make this hot drink (or store the method for future use.)
If you’re sick, (Covid-19 or not – we happen to have some sinus infections going on at the moment), or you’re in a cold climate, sip on this soothing beverage. It’s our take on Starbucks’ Medicine Ball.
Mix up a batch of canned, frozen lemonade. Pour as much as you want to into a pan to simmer on the stove (we keep ours on ‘melt’.) Keep the rest in the ‘fridge for later servings.
Place a tea bag or two in a cup. Peach and citrus/mint are the two flavors Starbucks uses in their Medicine Ball, but you can probably use any flavors you like and 1-2 tea bags. This is the flavor I like.
Add some hot lemonade to the cup, at least to the halfway point. Add some water to fill the cup if desired. You can also fill the cup with lemonade. Diluting the lemonade or not, and to what degree, is up to you.
Let the drink steep for a minute or two – the lemonade, water (or not), and the tea bags (1-2) of your choice.
Sip the drink to soothe sore throats, unclog noses, or just keep you toasty warm. The lemonade cuts through mucus and loosens congestion. It’s widely modifiable by changing tea flavors and the number of bags. The only constant is hot lemonade. (Lemon in hot tea or water has always been recommended for treating colds.) You can also add honey if you prefer the tartness to be tempered. While we’ve been sick, we’ve kept hot lemonade on the stove all day.
UPDATE: It’s now hot in Florida, and we’re currently well, so hot lemonade is off the stove; however, there are 2 frozen cans in the freezer…just in case.
2nd UPDATE: I’m downing seltzer water and pomegranate juice these days.
7. Get outside.
Take a walk around the block, stomp through nearby woods, ride your bike, or toss a football or frisbee in the back yard. We don’t have to stay inside, just six feet away from people we’re not entrenched with. UPDATE: Our daughter and I are trying to walk every night. We don’t always make it, but it sure makes me feel like I’m combating the extra calories I’m downing every day.
2nd UPDATE: I never thought I’d say this, but I’m missing my spin classes at the gym. I’m entering three months without a sweaty, breathing-hard workout. Classes start again on June 1. I hope my first class back doesn’t kill me.
8. Start a journal.
Maybe just about this time of Covid-19 lockdown, or maybe one for the year. Kids home from school can jot down a few things every day – highs and lows, frustrating things, blessings, etc. Give it a theme, or not. Add drawings, colors. UPDATE: Does making a daily list count? Then, I’m good.
9. Call or Facetime with someone you’ve been meaning to, but never do.
Think of grandparents, or friends you’d like to catch up with. Remember…it seems everyone is sitting at home looking for things to do. You’ll probably catch that person you never seem to be able to reach. Touch base with someone who needs your forgiveness, or vice versa. Mend a relationship. UPDATE: We’re doing Echo Showwith Dad weekly. He’s only a mile away, but we can’t see him in person. There are some days this makes me sad. 🙁
2nd UPDATE: Echo Show has been wonderful for all of us. Dad has fallen several times in the past month, and with the Echo Show screen, we can drop in and see his bumps and bruises or talk with his nurses/aides. Almost like being there.
10. Pull out photo albums.
Browse through old photos. Clean out as you go. Toss duplicates, blurry shots, old boy/girlfriends, pictures of yourself you hate, etc. On occasion, I’ve emptied old albums completely, and I’m currently storing photos saved by year or event in this clear carry-all with smaller boxes inside. Here’s a link to this one I found at Michaels. (You can surely find them elsewhere online as well.) Photos can also be stored in gallon-zippered bags.
UPDATE: Oh, my gosh, have I gone hog-wild on this one. Dad had 7 BINS in our garage of photo albums and documents. We have emptied 4. Thousands of pictures. We drop off shoeboxes full at his ALF, and masked employees meet us at the door to take them to Dad’s room. Three days later, we pick up piles of sorted photos to mail to relatives and friends – things he wants to pass on.
We’re all getting a bit tired of it, but still plugging along. This is the perfect time to get this project behind us. I’m thinking ahead on this one – after I’m gone, I don’t want our kids to have to sort through all our pictures.
2nd UPDATE: The hubs took about 20 manilla envelopes of various sizes to the post office today. So far, people are enjoying receiving old photos. What I’ve learned: we take entirely too many pictures.
11. Bake some treats for delivery.
If you like to bake…now’s the time. I made cinnamon rolls this week and we delivered them to my Dad’s assisted living facility. A staff member met our daughter at the front door to receive the pan. (Dad’s ALF is on lockdown.) I wanted the workers to know we appreciate the extra work they’ve been doing since the arrival of Covid-19. Take goodies to postal workers, Fire Stations, your local ER. Simply hand a plate/tray of well-wrapped goodies to whoever greets you at the door. Health workers and first responders need extra love these days. (NOTE: some facilities are not accepting home-baked goods; call and check first.)
UPDATE: Here in FL, hospitals have stopped taking baked goods not wrapped and produced in a factory. However; Dad’s ALF is always happy to receive goodies from us, so we bake a couple of times a week for the hard workers who are keeping the residents safe.
2nd UPDATE: Our daughter has learned how to make sourdough bread from a starter concoction. It’s fascinating how it works, and we’ve been enjoying baguettes and boules and scrumptious sourdough pancakes (the best I’ve ever had) every week. We’re still baking goodies for the staff at Dad’s ALF; they are his family at the moment, and I can never thank them enough. HERE’S the latest treat I’ve made several times now.
12. Go through bookshelves.
As you dust off your books, reevaluate what you want to keep. Set items you don’t want/need anymore aside for donation. I did this with one bookcase the first week we were told to stay home, and I ended up with half a cleared shelf. Do the same thing with your DVDs/CDs. UPDATE: I filled this half a shelf right back up with some binders and books I discovered elsewhere. Sometimes I don’t clear out as much as rearrange.
2nd UPDATE: Still rearranging. Sometimes I remove things from one place only to discover they were in the right place to start with.
13. Flip through Pinterest.
Choose a project/craft to start and complete. If you have kids at home, let them choose something as well. Return to Pinterest as often as needed. UPDATE: Found two new recipes here. One did not turn out well; the other one I’ll alter if I make it again. Sometimes, Pinterest is a crapshoot. Still true.
14. Clean all the ceiling fan blades.
They’re dirtier than you think. Make it easy by slipping a damp pillowcase over the blades to contain all the dust. UPDATE: Still on the list.
2nd UPDATE: The hubs is on vacation this week and he cleaned all the fans and vents in the house just today. This involved hoisting the Kirby vacuum cleaner onto the ladder paint tray and then climbing the ladder himself. Balancing perfectly, he raised the hose to swipe over everything. I was so impressed. Thankfully, we don’t have to do that for another 20 years.
15. Consider your will.
If you have one, update it. If you don’t have one, write one. Everybody drags their feet on this, but here’s why it’s important. UPDATE: Drat. Forgot about this one.
2nd UPDATE: OK, now I’m just dragging my feet.
16. Clean out your spice cabinet.
In my kitchen, I recently found a small canister of cumin from 2011. Good grief. Spices do lose their potency. I chucked a few things and now bottles fit nicely into two small baskets I can easily pull out of and slide back into the cabinet. UPDATE: I tossed out another spice just yesterday. I like having extra cubby space. I hope I can stay on top of this one. Does anybody know what cardamom is used for?
2nd UPDATE: I’ve discovered I’m not crazy about Mrs. Dash’s no-salt seasoning, a bottle I’ve had in my spice box for a long time. I’m now using it in everything to use it up. Backwards, I know. I could just toss it, but the bottle is half full. Hmmm, ambivalence.
17. Take lots of naps.
Nobody gets enough sleep. Now is the time. UPDATE: Good grief, every day about 3 p.m., I lose steam and plop to watch prior seasons of Mom. Dozing invariably follows.
2nd UPDATE: My 3:00 p.m. naps are now pretty ingrained into my day. Not sure this is a good thing.
18. Scroll through TV like never before.
All those shows/movies you want to watch/catch up on? Make a list. If you’ve never seen LOST, or just love it as I do…Hulu…all six seasons are available. Sixteen years later, it’s still groundbreaking and intriguing. Best television ever.
UPDATE: Additional recommendation: Little Fires Everywhere, also on Hulu. Really well done. Kerry Washington and Reese Witherspoon knock it out of the park.
2nd UPDATE: We are now hooked on Homeland. It was originally on Showtime, so there are copious, superfluous f-bombs, and some nudity in the first few episodes, but the plot is riveting. Damian Lewis and Claire Danes both won Emmys for their performances, which are heart-wrenching. We’ve watched 3 seasons of the 6.
19. Check out the Cincinnati Zoo.
Starting last week, the Cincinnati Zoo is live-streaming animals at 3 p.m. daily. Check this site for full info. UPDATE: I can’t seem to not be napping at 3 p.m. Still true.
20. Finish your taxes.
You now have until July, but once Covid-19 has passed, you’ll be back to your life and won’t want to do it then. Get it over with now. UPDATE: DONE!
21. Go through make-up/nail polishes.
Mascara older than six months is full of germs. Smell things, shake things, toss what’s old, dried up, no longer used. Wipe out your make-up drawer/case with a rag dipped in bleach water (See #3.) UPDATE: I actually did this about 6 months ago.
22. Catch up on reading.
That book you been wanting to get to? Now is the time. Maybe you’ll stumble across said book while doing #12. Here are the books I’m working my way through. (Gotta love Joann’s coupon sheet bookmarks.) UPDATE: Finished Hatmaker’s book. Now I’m trying to stay up on the TIME magazines that arrive every month. You’d think I’d be able to read one issue a month, but for some reason, they stack up under the laptop.
2nd UPDATE: I got diverted reading through some of Mom’s old diaries and college yearbooks. I found pictures of her younger days I had never seen before, and those things prompted me to write a post about losing her in January. You can read that HERE.
23. Hose your house.
How often do we spray the outside of our homes? Hose off the bugs and bird doo-doo. Spray under the eaves to clear out leaves and debris. Spray all screens and doors. Then wipe off all knobs/handles with a bleach-water rag. UPDATE: The hubs did this early on. I guess he does read my blog.
24. Memorize something.
The presidents, the state flowers, John Grisham books, all the family birthdays…whatever floats your boat. UPDATE: I’m trying to memorize what I came into the room for. Or where my glasses are.
2nd UPDATE: Sadly, this situation has not improved. It’s gotten worse; I can never remember where I’ve placed my phone.
25. Hide a sock.
Stuff a sock in a couch cushion (or in any hiding place), then tell your family 5 bucks goes to whoever finds it. This could take a week. UPDATE: I’m always looking for the “other” sock. So far, I’ve not made a dime.
26. Learn to make an origami creature.
Swans are easier than you think. Here’s a good tutorial. UPDATE: I learned to make these swans a few years ago.
2nd UPDATE: I learned to make an elephant! And a pug! HERE is a really cool site – geared towards kids – that illustrates how to make all kinds of origami animals. Have the family make a zoo!
27. Write letters.
Yep, old-fashioned letters with stamps and everything. Grandparents especially love getting mail. Have the kids draw a picture to include. UPDATE: Just wrote one today to a cousin in CA. She writes in beautiful calligraphy; I type in apple-system 12 pt.
28. Do yard work.
Mow the lawn and weed-whack. Show junior how those tasks are done. Pressure-wash the driveway. Scrub out trash cans and recycle bins. UPDATE: The hubs is great about yard work and pressure-washing. Hosing out those stinky bins? I’ll have to check on that.
29. Clean the garage.
Everyone can be involved in this one. Go through boxes and bins you haven’t looked in for years. Pitch and reorganize. Wipe down the washer and dryer. Go through tools and toss rusty/broken or duplicate items. Get rid of worn-thin or deflated balls. Donate toys that kids have outgrown. Check paint cans for what’s still good and what has solidified. Sweep the floor. UPDATE: We’ve been working on this a couple of weeks. Just today, we got to the bottom of the 7th BIN of Dad’s. Getting rid of old paint cans makes lots of room for new junk.
2nd UPDATE: The hubs and I cleaned up the garage for the second time since I first wrote this post. Our local thrift store just reopened, so a trunk full of items made the move. I wonder how many times we could clean the garage in a month and donate more stuff. Goods seem to multiply at night when no one’s looking.
30. Make soups.
V-8 makes a wonderful tomato base, and chicken stock (homemade or boxed/canned) makes a good clear base.
For any soup, saute whatever veggies you like. Add desired seasonings. Stir in leftover proteins (chicken or beef or beans) to punch up the hearty aspect. Add the large can of V-8 juice for a tomato-y soup, or a quart of stock – chicken, beef, or veggie – for a broth-based soup. Add water as needed/desired. Simmer until veggies are tender and the kitchen smells great. Here’s our favorite V-8 based soup recipe – easy peasy. UPDATE: I’ve made both chicken soup and V-8 based soup (Trappist Monk recipe) since I first wrote this post.
2nd UPDATE: I’ve discovered Tortellini Soup! And I love it! Check it out.
31. Make this healthy snack.
If you’re like me, you’re eating more during this Covid-19 lockdown. It’s something to do, right? Well, here’s a healthy snack that will give you a bit of sweet, while filling the tummy. UPDATE: Made it. Ate it.
2nd UPDATE: Made it. Ate it again.
32. Go through your clothes.
Start with one drawer. Donate or toss what you don’t wear. One drawer doesn’t take long. Tackle a second drawer or a section of your closet. Every time I inventory my clothes, I end up with more room. If you feel really ambitious, follow the Konmari method and dump every item of clothing on your bed. This makes you see how much excess clothing you have. This is when I think of the poor and get motivated to donate. Here’s my experience with Konmari.
UPDATE: I love the Konmari method of folding t-shirts, and have not gone back to balling things up in the dresser drawer.
33. Clean out your emails.
I started looking through my 1600 email messages and came across two important ones I had somehow missed completely. I’ve deleted 600 messages. Still working on this one. UPDATE: I’m down to just under 200 emails!! This is HUGE.
2nd UPDATE: I’ve got it down to under 180 or so. Can’t seem to get below that. Any tips?!?!?!
34. Learn something from YouTube.
Always wanted to build a birdhouse? Want to know how to replace the innards of a toilet? Learn fancy braids? There are videos for those and just about anything else you’d like to learn. UPDATE: I’ve watched more “cloth mask” videos than I can shake a stick at. However, HERE’s the funniest one I’ve ever seen. Even if you don’t sew, give yourself a guffaw.
35. Create menus.
Take inventory of your ‘fridge and pantry. Plan meals based on using only what you already have. If Covid-19 gets worse before it gets better, getting to the store might become more problematic. UPDATE: I’ve used up canned green beans I kept ignoring and peas I’ve been moving around in the freezer for 6 months. I’ve used up older pasta, the oldest sour cream, and I’m working on eating up the last, stray Lara Bars.
2nd UPDATE: I have to say, it’s a challenge to keep up with this. We still have things in the back of the pantry or buried in the freezer that never see the light of day. Why is that?!?!?!
36. Stretch, stretch, stretch.
Reading for hours, or binge-watching TV will make muscles stiff. Try some Yoga moves; the basics are HERE and feel really good. UPDATE: Stretching before bed. Hoping it burns off the snacks I eat while watching LOST or Homeland.
2nd UPDATE: Stretching has not burned any calories. The 5 lbs. I’ve gained since the start of this nonsense is still with me. UGH.
37. Do crossword puzzles or sudoku.
At Boatload Puzzles, you can download puzzles for free. Do one a day. UPDATE: Not normally a crossword puzzle fan, I have learned to enjoy them…as long as they’re in the “easy” category. (Hey, I’m new a this.)
2nd UPDATE: I’m still enjoying sudoku. I have decided however that the ‘easy’ category is right where I belong.
38. Make meatballs.
Cook up a double batch of meatballs and freeze them for later meals when you’re back to work and life is crazy again. UPDATE: I did this once, and I need to do it again.
2nd UPDATE: Made another batch. When I’m doing this, it seems like it takes too much time. But, later…when I pull those extra meatballs from the freezer and dump a can of Ragu on top – BIG WIN! I think, what a smart cookie I am.
39. Fill out your census form.
You can do it online. DONE!
40. Read a proverb or psalm a day.
Lots of wisdom there. And reminders that God’s still in charge. Covid-19 was not a surprise to Him. UPDATE: Hmm. I went a different route here. I’ve been saying the rosary nightly for all Covid sufferers and all health workers.
2nd UPDATE: My prayers have expanded into praying for family members, new opportunities, healings, and other issues close to a Mama’s heart. I often find the rosary in the bedclothes the following morning. Apparently, I doze off while chatting with Mother Mary. I don’t think she minds.
41. Create your bucket list.
Write down everything you want to do before you leave the planet. Start big and jot everything down. A day or two later, review the list and pare it down to significant activities you will actually work towards. UPDATE: I’m living the dream right now of clearing out 7 BINS in the garage.
2nd UPDATE: We cleared out only 4. Seems Dad still wants to hold on to a few things. And that’s OK.
42. Take Vitamin C.
Take 500 mg. twice a day. You can’t take too much, because your body eliminates the excess. We get sick when our immune system is weakened, and vitamin C is an immune booster. Even when the Covid-19 crisis has passed, keep taking C. UPDATE: The hubs and I have started this. There are days we forget, but I’d like to keep this going after Covid-19 has moved on. Sticking with it!
43. Make pillowcases.
If you like to sew, this is a fun, easy project. You only need one yard of fabric. Another creative way to clean out your fabric stash. Make pillowcases for your family, friends, or loved ones far away.
2nd UPDATE: I’ve not made a pillowcase since masks have become popular items.
44. Buy this brownie pan.
Yes, it’s pricey, but you will never need to buy it again. Using this pan, and this recipe for Ballpark Brownies, you will forever make the best brownies you’ve ever had. You can bake these brownies in other pans if you want, but they are not the same. The Baker’s Edge pan creates the right thickness for a good brownie and creates a crunchy edge for every bite. I don’t get any kickback from Baker’s Edge. They don’t even know I exist; I simply love the pan.
UPDATE: This pan is getting lots of use this month. Brownies here, brownies there, brownies almost daily fare. This pan is still in business!
45. Don’t watch Covid-19 news nonstop.
Once a day for a Covid-19 update is enough. After that, do other things until tomorrow’s update. A steady diet of how sick the country is will create more anxiety than is healthy. We might be quarantined for a while, so don’t overload on dire news. It won’t help you get through your day. In your “non-news” viewing, be sure to watch some light-hearted, funny stuff. I Love Lucy or Home Improvement reruns give me the giggles. UPDATE: Mom is currently the funniest thing running; it’s on CBS Thursday nights. (Or past seasons on Hulu.)
2nd UPDATE: Bob ♥ Abishola is a fresh and charming sitcom. Family-friendly. It’s currently on hiatus, but catch it on CBS when the entertainment business is up and running again. Bob is a compression sock salesman. That alone is funny.
46. Appreciate the difference between “social distancing” and physical distancing.
What we need to maintain is physical distance. Because of social media, we’re all still socially in touch via Facebook, Facetime, Twitter, Instagram, email, phone calls, and myriad other avenues. For all its headaches, today’s technology is shining at the moment. If Covid-19 had appeared just thirty years ago…we would be battier than we are now.
2nd UPDATE: I have been meeting with friends, one one-on-one. We don’t hug or get too close, we sit spaced apart at tables, or meet outside to walk. They have been following all the guidelines, and I have too, so we are comfortable with getting together on occasion.
I think we’re coming to the end of the severe quarantine. We’re going to find a balance between isolating and socializing, but it’s going to take some time. Most people will adopt new habits and think about the greater good. A few won’t, and that will make things more difficult for the rest of us. Such is human nature in every situation.
I pray we can all learn from what we’ve been through – that our choices do affect those around us, and that government doesn’t always have immediate answers for everything. (The government is made up of just people, after all.) We have to take responsibility for our own lives and make the best choices we can with the information we have at the time.
We’re going to make mistakes, and we’re going to have victories. I pray we can learn to be kind through all of it.
Mare (still) in the dugout