Hello, friends. I’m trying not to sound overwhelmingly glib here. I’m an Enneagram 5, and I don’t do emotions well; I choose, instead, to create humor when the situation feels too heavy for me to adequately understand or feel. Please don’t think I’m making light of the global situation right now, but I think we could all use a little joy, and today I’m going to share my recommendations for what you could do while on self-quarantine.
I do want to just take a quick moment to say that I know many of you think that the current recommended level of quarantining is a total over-exaggeration, and maybe it is. But I also know that if staying in my home for a little while will protect someone else, that seems like a valid and small price to pay.
ALL OF THAT TO SAY…
It looks like a lot of us in the U.S. will be spending more-than-average amounts of time in our homes. When I’m home, my favorite things to do include: reading (duh), watching tv, listening to music, and cooking. So I thought I would recommend a few favorites to keep you occupied on your own homebound voyage!
Books: The Best Time You’ll Ever Have Spent on a Couch Near You
There are a few different categories of reading I want to do during this stretch of time: catch up, lighthearted escape, and listen while I work.
In my reading recaps every month, I include the superlative “Late to the Party.” This superlative goes to the book I feel like EVERYONE has already gotten to and posted about on Instagram. If you’re in the position where you’ve been rather busy for the last year or so and haven’t gotten around to reading the latest bestsellers, here a few you might start with!
The Lager Queen of Minnesota: If you haven’t read this yet, you should! I understand that the title might make you think you need to be a drinker to appreciate it, but I promise you don’t! There are memorable characters, strong fictional females, granny brewers, and interesting plot points. Also, if you haven’t yet, you should Stradal’s first book, Kitchens of the Great Midwest! It’s great, too.
Where the Crawdads Sing: I think this is a great pick because it seems to have something for everyone. I’ve heard from a variety of readers that they loved it, and to me, that’s the true test of a perfect recommendation. It has mystery and love, and it provides a beautiful example of setting. It’s also historical in a kind of modern way, so that’s appealing to a lot of people. It should also be said that this is not a slow read; there’s a great tempo to the plot. Give it a try, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
City of Girls: This is a great book that is also FUN. I read The Traveling Turner Sisters a few years ago and loved the descriptions of show business and performance on a small level; this book completely fit into that very specific interest (and it was better, too). It’s set against the backdrop of war, but you kind of forget that because of the drama and intrigue occurring for the main character. Of course, real life catches up to her, but it’s not overwhelmingly real, if that makes any sort of sense.
Daisy Jones and the Six: I’ve talked about this book a billion times, so I don’t think I need to say that much about it. There will be a music recommendation later on that will pair with this book perfectly, so I think maybe you DEFINITELY need to read this. It’s so good, and I don’t want to start blabbing again, so I’ll just cut myself off now. EXCEPT to say that this is also supposed to come to television (thank you, Reese Witherspoon), and I highly suggest you read it before it gets there! This might be a good time for you to read Taylor Jenkins Reid’s entire body of work– I don’t know, just a suggestion. She’s phenomenal.
Beartown: I will not apologize for still hyping this book. It is, without a doubt, my favorite book published in the last ten years, and I am infinitely grateful that Backman wrote it. It’s a translated text, but still totally relatable for the American audience (in my humble opinion). Includes: friendship and family, small-town rivalries, hockey, sexual assault, social class. It’s so freaking good. Please read this, if only so that you’re able to say you got around to it eventually. It’s amazing.
ANYTHING by Jenny Colgan: My favorites are Little Beach Street Bakery (the entire series) and The Bookshop on the Corner (plus it’s sequel, The Bookshop on the Shore), but I have legitimately and honestly enjoyed every reading experience Jenny Colgan has given me. You can see her entire collection here.
Garden Spells: Similarly to Jenny Colgan, I have liked everything Sarah Addison Allen has produced– but the Waverley family is my favorite. This is the favorite book written specifically about them, but the sequel First Frost is super sweet, and The Peach Keepers briefly references them, as well. These books are also very specifically Southern, but I think anyone could enjoy them. I can’t wait until she publishes a new book, because I have missed her writing sorely!
Geekerella: For me, Young Adult lit is typically a departure from my normal reading style. In this way, it usually reads a little less serious and a little more fun. I think the perfect example of this is Geekerella! I read it several years ago after receiving the ARC, and I immediately recommended it to many of my high school students. A play on the classic Cinderella story, but involving Comic-Con? Very cool.
Listen While You Work
If you are like my husband (not so much me, I’m pretty satisfied sitting around the majority of the time), you’ll need a project to keep you occupied. That means this is a great opportunity to catch up on some audiobooks! Here are my faves:
Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood (Trevor Noah): This is probably the best audiobook I’ve ever read. It reads more memoir than anything, but Noah has divided it into different chapters that are unique and not necessarily in chronological order. He has a unique story, absolutely, but his voice as a writer is tremendous and so engaging. I love this. I think, though, that this is an Audible original, so you might have to use a free trial to listen if you aren’t already a member.
Furiously Happy/Let’s Pretend This Never Happened (Jenny Lawson): Jenny Lawson is SERIOUSLY funny. Like, I think Furiously Happy is the funniest book I have ever read. But she’s also very honest and real; there’s no better combination in a nonfiction book, for me. If you read these two and need more, look no further than her Twitter account. It’s also a laugh riot.
Anything by Jacqueline Woodson: I don’t listen to much fiction; for whatever reason, I find it hard to focus when I’m listening to a fictional audiobook. The exception being Jacqueline Woodson. SHE IS AMAZING. Many of her works are written in verse, so they have a rhythmic quality. The language she uses is beautiful and sharp and concise. I cannot applaud her enough. Also, they aren’t very long.
Television and Film: The Best Time Consumer of Them All
On Amazon Prime:
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel: Of course. Do I need to say anything else? This show is fantastic and filled every part of me that Gilmore Girls left vacant. Hilarious, fun clothes, quick wit. Perfection in a 40-minute package.
The Grand Tour: Bear with me, I know this isn’t something I would normally recommend. But it can be really fun, and it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Also, there are some truly hilarious moments, and I think we could all use that right now! Also, there’s travel if you like seeing other parts of the world in a unique way: from the passenger seat of an interesting vehicle.
Encore: Why haven’t you watched this yet? Disclaimer: If you don’t like musicals this is not for you in a MAJOR way. I happen to love musicals, and I adored every episode of this show. I do not like Kristen Bell, but she didn’t ruin it too much because she was barely there past the introductions. Watch former high school theater casts recreate the musicals they performed in the “good old days.” You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and (most importantly) you’ll probably sing.
The World According to Jeff Goldblum: Are you constantly curious? This is for you. I have learned so many things that I didn’t even know I wanted to know. He covers familiar topics in an interesting and unique way. Also, they have these really cool graphics they include to illustrate his narration at times– I’m entranced by them.
The Office: All-time favorite. No description needed.
Gilmore Girls: This is my ultimate feel-good show. I typically do a yearly re-watch, but if you haven’t seen it before, it’s worth the commitment! I think Lauren Graham is a treasure, and the character of Luke Dane’s is one of my television favorites. I recommend it (even though Rory sucks BIG TIME and I hate that she represents the reading population).
Bob’s Burgers: I would NEVER have watched this without my husband basically demanding it, but it’s one of my favorite shows. I love it so much. The characters are hilarious (and unexpectedly relatable, for cartoons) and each episode is a guaranteed laugh-fest.
You’ve Got Mail: This is a go-to for any occasion. Sick? Watch You’ve Got Mail. Lonely? Watch You’ve Got Mail. Bored? Watch You’ve Got Mail.
Runaway Bride: I’m a big Julia Roberts fan. Even if you aren’t, I think this movie rocks; it’s a totally underestimated chick flick, in my opinion. Also, the Dixie Chicks are on the soundtrack, and so is Martina McBride. Best of the early 2000s Country music.
Ratatouille: This movie doesn’t get enough love, I think. It’s really clever! And cute. Even though there are rodents everywhere and it’s totally unrealistic (thanks, Disney). Just in case you felt like watching a good Disney but didn’t want to watch princesses or listen to singing.
Seriously Good New Releases:
The Peanut Butter Falcon: Oh my word. Such a sweet movie, and the ending almost made me cry. I was pretty sure I was going to, actually (spoiler: I didn’t, but I could have). Knox McCoy may have been right about Shia Labeouf after all.
Knives Out: We rented this two weekends ago (before the global panic), and it was so good! I knew basically nothing about it with the exception of the fact that it was Clue-ish. I legitimately didn’t predict the ending, and I enjoyed every second of watching it. It’s also not sad, so that’s great.
Little Women: This is not yet available for rent, but you can buy it on Amazon if you’re just dying to watch it– to be honest, I think this is good enough to warrant the purchase. I’ll definitely probably buy it when it comes to DVD/Blu-Ray. I just saw a New York Times article that called this “the ‘Little Women’ for a new era” and that’s an apt description.
Music: When You’re Bored with TV
My Go-To Albums (as in, the ones I can listen to all the way through and not want to skip that many songs):
Rumours, Fleetwood Mac: Yes, I know. Everyone and their mother loves this album, but that doesn’t make it any less great. I try not to be basic all of the time, but I think I can afford it every once in a while. As I mentioned earlier, this is perfect to pair with Daisy Jones and the Six, but you can listen to it whenever the heck you want. Favorite songs from this album include:
- “The Chain”
- “I Don’t Want to Know”
Diamonds, Elton John: I am a BIG Elton John fan. I frequently played this album for my son when I was pregnant with him, and three of the “good night” songs I sing for him are Elton’s. Alexa is probably tired of me requesting that she play Elton’s John. Also, it’s pretty good for a retro-style dance party. My favorite songs from this album are:
- “Your Song”
- “I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues”
- “Candle in the Wind”
- “Bennie and the Jets”
Golden Hour, Kacey Musgraves: The only recent album I recommend with frequency. Love Kacey Musgraves, she just has such a cool sound. She’s kind of country but not overwhelmingly country, which I love. Favorite songs include:
- “Slow Burn”
- “Space Cowboy”
- “Velvet Elvis”
- “Golden Hour”
- “Wonder Woman”
Food: Instead of Bored Eating, Try Bored Cooking
I love cooking, but I HATE washing dishes. I think that’s a pretty average opinion I have, but it’s true nonetheless. With all this time on my hands, however, it’s a good opportunity for me to work on the contents of the deep freeze and make some meals for the family. I’ll link to a few of my favorite things to cook below:
Butter Bread: I like to bake fresh bread when I have the time, and this is the best recipe I have found! I do use a bread machine, but I think you could use a stand mixer and have similar results.
Baja Fish Tacos: Okay, this is my favorite recipe. We *basically* follow this recipe, but I have substituted on occasion if the need presented itself. For example, I just use whatever fish I have in the freezer (talapia, swai, even the bass/catfish/crappie fish we catch and freeze over the summer). I really do love their white sauce recipe, so I pretty much stick to that. Don’t skip the Sprite in the batter!
Southwestern Sweet Potato Skillet: I make hash pretty frequently; it doesn’t require a lot of ingredients, doesn’t dirty a ton of dishes, and I always find it filling. This is a nice alternative to the usual breakfast hash! I think you could substitute regular potatoes if you wanted, but we like the sweet potatoes in this one.
Everyone stay safe out there. Maybe use this time to refocus, consider your priorities and truly, genuinely appreciate the life you have been blessed with. This is a great opportunity for us to refocus and improve as humans. Prayers and love to you all!