On Day No. Whatever-We’ve-Lost-Count of coronavirus shutdowns, we were in need of a little inspiration. Maybe you are too. So here are some of the daily delights and sanity-saving practices helping our features staffers get through their stay-at-home days.

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Megan Burbank, outdoors/general assignment reporter

Margot Robbie returns as Harley Quinn in “Birds of Prey,” one of the movies features reporter Megan Burbank enjoyed recently. (Claudette Barius / DC Comics)
Margot Robbie returns as Harley Quinn in “Birds of Prey,” one of the movies features reporter Megan Burbank enjoyed recently. (Claudette Barius / DC Comics)

Though I am usually a spread-too-thin goer ’n’ doer, I bristle at the pressure to be “productive” during this time, and the things that are getting me through aren’t particularly glamorous — they’re just helpful: a regular meditation practice, online appointments with my therapist, a glass of rosé at the end of the day, regular talks with family and friends, walks to neighborhood P-Patches, streamed ballet class three times a week, taking time to actually watch movies (“Birds of Prey” and “Emma” are two recent faves) instead of just bingeing TV, then going ahead and just bingeing TV (I’m watching FX’s “Mrs. America,” and making my way through the early seasons of “Better Things”), finding creative ways of employing the contents of my produce delivery box, watching great blue herons fly over Green Lake from my apartment, and reading as much as I can.

Yes, I have done a few projects in the kitchen — I’ve made soft pretzels, Nutella banana bread, my own vanilla syrup for DIY espresso beverages, and pickled red onion in tribute to Bon Appétit’s king of fermentation, Brad Leone. But right now I’m all about the quieter moments, when I can really be present with whatever’s happening around me, even if it’s awful, instead of forcing a cheerful lens onto an objectively terrible situation. I think we can all do better than that right now.

 

Trevor Lenzmeier, travel and books coordinator

Maple Leaf Reservoir has been a recent favorite walking destination for travel and books coordinator Trevor Lenzmeier. (Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times, 2016)
Maple Leaf Reservoir has been a recent favorite walking destination for travel and books coordinator Trevor Lenzmeier. (Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times, 2016)

My predominant (printable) coronavirus coping mechanism is walking in the evening. Meandering outward from the University District, I favor distance over direction — I like to freestyle routes by crossing the street or turning off when I see other walkers. There are innumerable tiny joys on these jaunts: flower gardens exploding with purple, green, yellow, bees and so much life; masked smiles and waves of appreciation for keeping social distance; the discovery of new parks to walk, journal or sit in. Maple Leaf Reservoir has been my recent favorite. Winding through the tree-lined streets of Green Lake, Ravenna and Roosevelt is a reward in and of itself. But then you get closer, continuing uphill — the sky slips into shades of orange and pink, the outlines of the Cascade and Olympic mountains poke into your peripheral vision and Maple Leaf’s baby blue water tower peeks above the tree line, keeping an eye over the scene. The panorama is, as the adage goes, worth the climb: snow-covered Mount Rainier, the Seattle skyline, the Space Needle, more mountaintops, more trees, more greens and blues than you could capture. No matter where I wander, I walk home in a better mood, singing along to whatever’s in my head or in my earbuds. I’d like to think I’m encouraging people to maintain social distance.

 

Moira Macdonald, arts critic

Minnie Mouse slipper socks are adding some joy to Moira Macdonald’s life.  (Moira Macdonald / The Seattle Times)
Minnie Mouse slipper socks are adding some joy to Moira Macdonald’s life. (Moira Macdonald / The Seattle Times)

Things that help me stay sane these days: Puzzles. The Minnie Mouse slipper socks I ordered from Target. Really taking time to tweak and perfect a banana bread recipe. Rereading. All the outfits on “The Good Wife.” Watching my friends looking awkward on Zoom (and watching myself looking awkward on Zoom, though I’m not crazy about that part), and having it make me love them even more. Spring flowers, from the seller who recently set up shop on weekends in the parking lot of the gas station down the street. The way that, when I take a walk in the neighborhood, people seem way more likely than before to say hello. Takeout. Spring breezes. Hope.

 

Jackie Varriano, food writer

Baking everything from biscuits to English muffins is just one of the ways food writer Jackie Varriano has been staying sane these past few weeks. (Jackie Varriano / The Seattle Times)
Baking everything from biscuits to English muffins is just one of the ways food writer Jackie Varriano has been staying sane these past few weeks. (Jackie Varriano / The Seattle Times)

I wish I could say I started a letter-writing campaign to keep in touch with all my friends, or that I’ve started dropping elaborate care packages off on doorsteps, but it’s really been a whole lot simpler. The thing that has helped me through these past few weeks is maintaining human connections. I’m baking with my San Francisco-based sister-in-law. We pick something during the week to create each weekend (we’ve done scones, English muffins, pita bread, cinnamon rolls, biscuits and doughnuts), Snapchatting and texting our results all weekend long. I’m meeting girlfriends for social distance gossiping where we BYOE (bring your own everything — from camp chairs to snacks) and sit 6 feet apart, laughing way too loudly.

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The most random? I’m Marco Polo’ing. Right after my daughter was born, I joined a mom’s group through Swedish Medical Center. We met once per week with our babies to laugh, cry and commiserate over the crazy things that were happening to us with these new people in our lives. Four of us have kept in close contact ever since — this month and next our “babies” are all turning 2. Since the stay-home order went into effect, we’ve moved the majority of our conversations to Marco Polo — which, if you aren’t familiar, is an app that allows you to trade video messages back and forth. You can essentially monologue to your friends without interruption and in turn, they can fast-forward through the boring bits or watch on two-times speed. The videos are little snapshots into our daily routines. We laugh, we cry, I send parody videos of my morning routine. It’s a sanity-saving trifecta.

 

Yasmeen Wafai, features news assistant

Colorful flower gardens are one of the many simple joys on evening walks around Seattle in spring. (Trevor Lenzmeier / The Seattle Times)
Colorful flower gardens are one of the many simple joys on evening walks around Seattle in spring. (Trevor Lenzmeier / The Seattle Times)

Being inside more often and working from home has prompted me to make a walk, whether in my neighborhood or on a trail somewhere, part of my daily routine. By the end of the workday, I’m ready to both get some fresh air and stretch my legs. It certainly helps that, thanks to spring, the weather has been very inviting more often than not. Seeing the fresh blooms of cherry blossoms and flowers is a nice mood-booster. I’m definitely guilty of snapping a nature pic for the ‘Gram, but I think we could all use a little brightness right now.

I used to be a big reader when I was younger, but then life happened and I struggled to find (OK, make) the time to finish even one book in a timely manner. I’ve been itching to read more for a while now and what better to push me to do that than a pandemic? I still have days when I choose to use my free time in others ways (read: to play Animal Crossing), but even getting in just a few pages a day makes me feel accomplished. It’s the perfect way to get away from a screen (yes, I still read actual books) and wind down.

 

Amy Wong, features producer

Seattle Times features producer Amy Wong has been baking a lot during her stay-home stint, including making these giant crinkled chocolate chip cookies. (Amy Wong / The Seattle Times)
Seattle Times features producer Amy Wong has been baking a lot during her stay-home stint, including making these giant crinkled chocolate chip cookies. (Amy Wong / The Seattle Times)

I’ve always been an avid baker, but staying home has really ignited a love of and appreciation for cookies. Now that I have so much time on my hands, I’ve poured a lot of energy into baking things I normally wouldn’t. Recently I made a popular recipe for giant crinkled chocolate chip cookies, which I haven’t made in the past because of the time-consuming process. But the great thing about baking during lockdown is that it fills your time and you get to eat a cookie at the end! Although the bad thing is that it has kind of morphed into a sugar addiction, making me a human Cookie Monster. My stay-home motto: A cookie a day keeps uncalled-for anger toward my roommate away! OK, now that I’m writing this maybe I’m not doing that well in lockdown. 

Similar to Yasmeen and also half of the internet, I’ve spent much of my time playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons. For those unfamiliar with the gaming classic, Animal Crossing is an extremely chill video game where you can explore your island, meet your neighbors, decorate your house with cool furniture and catch fish and bugs. So basically … it’s doing all the things we can’t do in real life. And even though it’s all virtual, it’s a great way to connect with others — my brother and I will visit each others’ islands and trade items in the game. Being able to live vicariously through my Animal Crossing character is perhaps the central thing that is keeping me chill right now.