Stuck at Home Doesn’t Have to Mean Bored at Home

Apparently Hugo Gernsback knew this day would come. (Well, maybe not this day.)

The Isolator aside, these are certainly crazy times.

Whether on full lockdown working from home or something short of that (for now), my guess is that soon enough we’ll all acclimate to the “new normal.” That said, it’s hard to believe that it’s been only a week!

And, although there is no question that this too shall pass and we will be all the stronger for it, it’s passing very slowly.

But, while we wait, it’s worth remembering that, even though we’re stuck in place, we can actually be (virtually) anywhere and still do quite a bit.

So, I’ve been aggregating ideas for diversions and maintaining some quality of life.

I polled family and friends (thank you all for your suggestions!) and spent some time searching for recommendations for interesting options. They are below.

I plan to keep updating as I find other good ones, so keep checking back and please share other ideas you have! (UPDATED:  3/29/2020 – updates in red.)

And, yes, I know this is an odd post for this blog, but bear with me; I thought it might provide some useful information even if off point.  🙂

Friends and family

Isolation has a way of highlighting the loss of daily personal connections.

It turns out, however, that there’s more to videoconferencing than grandma seeing the baby (though it’s still good for that too).

As good as video one-on-ones are, it turns out that video is even better for groups. I taught my first videoconferenced class and my firm had its first firm videoconferenced meeting. It works great! And, it makes a huge difference.

Videoconferencing – whether through Zoom, WebexSkype, Google Hang Outs, GoToMeeting, Jitsi, FaceTime, or any of the other options – provides a much better way to connect with people than email, text, chat, or even a phone call. And, many of them have free options. There are also a bunch of free videoconferencing options identified by CNET in “The best free stuff while you’re stuck at home.”

It probably won’t surprise you to learn that people have taken to using videoconferencing for all types of activities:  virtual dinner parties, cocktail hours (to my two friends hunkered down in P-Town, don’t forget that invite!), teas, birthday parties, and more.

Try it.

And, of course, once you’ve had enough, you can go back to your emails, texts, Slack chats, and phone calls. (Or you can have them all going at once!)

Home Not Alone (with Kids)

Who doesn’t love being with their kids? (Don’t answer that!)

But, it can be hard to know how to keep them occupied when they can’t go play with their friends – especially when they’re young. Fortunately, someone provided some fun ideas for entertaining young kids on Facebook.

A nice surprise was to see a compilation of suggestions from Shutterfly (that was not just a thinly veiled advertisement): Fun At-Home Activities The Whole Family Will Love.

And, KidsActivities.com has a few good suggestions too.

As does Almost Makes Perfect’s list of “35+ things to do while you’re stuck at home with kids.”

Need more? How about 101 Fun Things to do in Isolation.

Becoming Minimalist has added, “25 Things to Do with Your Family While Stuck at Home,” which has some more good ideas for family fun.

If minimalism isn’t your thing and instead you need crafts, Tia Dana – the (best) aunt of a close friend (who is the favorite niece, so I am told) – has “lots of great yarn related products, home decorations and basically a lot of cool crafts and things to keep you busy and smiling.”

While not for very young kids, Psychology Today, in a post called in “Creative Activity and COVID 19 Captivity,” suggests “engaging yourself and your family in positive growth during uncertain times” by each family member becoming an expert on something fun.

The Golden Gate Audubon Society has identified a few fun, bird-related (of course) “nature activities for kids during Covid-19,” including the always awesome Osprey live stream.

For those who have suddenly forced to become homeschool teachers, a “Texas Homeschooling Group Offers Free Digital Lesson Plans For Parents During COVID-19 Outbreak.”

Aquariums, Zoos, and Museums

Though kids and museums frequently don’t mix, the Boston Children’s Museum does have a live virtual tour. Stay out of the gift shop! (Yes, it literally can (virtually) take you into the gift shop.)

The Monterey Bay Aquarium, one of the best aquariums in the world, has live streaming.

The New England Aquarium also has a virtual visit page and some other fun video content.

The San Diego Zoo has live streaming of polar bears, orangutans and siamangs, koalas, penguins (and “friends”), baboons (and friends), and others.

The Houston Zoo has live streaming of various animals – with webcams that virtual visitors control!

The Museum of Fine Arts (Boston) has a YouTube channel with some gallery videos, lectures, and other programs.

The Museum of Science & Industry (Chicago) has a Science at Home program.

The ICA (Boston) has a ton of video content.

I was thrilled to see that the Louvre has virtual visits too!

And, the Vatican tours are awesome!

More: 

Board and Other Games (without the Board or Boredom)

Just because you’re social distancing doesn’t mean you can’t still play some old favorites: Boston.com has a list of board games that can be played online. (My wife and I are playing Scrabble with our two boys, neither of whom is home at the moment.)

GeoGuessr free maps games. (You’ll need to set up an account.)

Sporcle for trivia.

There are also a bunch of free games identified by CNET in “The best free stuff while you’re stuck at home.”

Music

The band Wilco has posted a recent surprise concert it performed on a basketball court.

The Philadelphia Orchestra has a terrific free Listen on Demand program (which includes video).

Similarly, the Berlin Philharmonic has a free-for-30-days “digital concert hall.”

The Metropolitan Opera streams one encore presentation nightly (on demand for 23 hours) and has many more operas available on demand through a subscription plan or on a pay-per-show basis.

There are also a bunch of free music services – see, CNET’s “The best free stuff while you’re stuck at home.”

In addition, lists of virtual concerts and other options have been compiled by several websites. Here are two options:

Broadway Shows

Broadway HD streams broadway plays and musicals. (It’s free for a week, then paid subscription afterward.)

Today Tix has posted a terrific list, “How to Watch Theater Around the World from Your Home.”

Well, not technically itself a broadway show, but this was cute, “The Broadway Coronavirus Medley.”

Cooking

A friend/colleague, Heather Krauss, has an amazing recipe for banana bread (reproduced it at the very end of this post) that is better than any of the recipes I’ve tried in the past. As Heather noted, she found a recipe online that she liked, and then tweaked it. So, a thank you to whoever posted the original! And, for what it’s worth, I recommend even more bananas and an extra egg, just because.

So, when Heather recommended these free online cooking classes, I had to pass them along. (Apparently because of COVD-19, they are free through at least April – and note that I am optimistically not putting the year!)

Photography

Venerable camera shop, Adorama, has an online photo lab, Printique, which is actually pretty good. They’ve posted 5 Photo Projects to Try While You Work From Home.

Photo Talk has posted a list of “12 Photo Projects You Can Do From Home During the COVID-19 Pandemic.”

And, if you need more, TechRadar posted, “52 photography projects: a great technique to try every week of the year.”

Some other good ideas from Digital Camera World are in their post, “Stuck at home: 11 fantastic photo projects to try indoors during the Covid-19 crisis.”

A little hokey, but good for beginning photographers, “Clever Indoor Photography Tips for Beginners.”

Fstoppers is always good for some quality photography advice and tutorials, and, during the current state of emergency, they don’t disappoint, “Fight Boredom During Corona Isolation With Photography, What To Do During Corona Outbreak Part I.”

Podcasts

Without the commute, when will you listen to your favorite podcast? (I don’t have an answer.) But, if you’re looking for something different, here are a few podcasts that you may not know about:

      • Stuff You Should Know. Just what it sounds like: amusing and interesting stuff to learn about.
      • Mac Geek Gab. Also properly named. Really needs no more of an explanation. But I’ll give it: 2 guys discuss all things Mac. Learn a bunch (they say at least 5 things) each episode.
      • The Maccast. More of the same, but less of a discussion.
      • Planet Money. An NPR show about all things economy and economics related.
      • Fro Knows Photo.com. For a rant on issues that irk this photographer (Jared Polin), it’s pretty entertaining – and sometimes informative. (It can be completely mindless sometimes, but still entertaining.)

Exercise

Now that you don’t have a commute, there’s even less of an opportunity to claim you don’t have time to exercise. So, here are a few resources:

Video

There are a bunch of free video services identified by CNET in “The best free stuff while you’re stuck at home.”

Random / Other Lists

Do you miss Pike Place Market? Need to see the fish toss? Enjoy!

Who doesn’t like a good (or bad) lawyer joke? If you’re in the mood, see Lowering the Bar.

While we’re on the subject of lawyers, if you are a lawyer and are looking for on-line resources, here is a robust listing from Bob Ambrogi. (For those who don’t know Bob, he’s provided the legal community with tons of on-line resources (and more) since there has been an “on line.” I did one of my early presentations with him way back then, something like “Find it Fast and Free on the Internet.”)

Not surprisingly (though it was to me!), I was not the first one to come up with the idea of compiling lists of things to do for people stuck at home. So here are some others:

Remember, it’s not just you. Here is a WSJ article that might help, “Zoom, CNBC and Jigsaw Puzzles: How America’s Shut-In Families Are Spending Their Days.”

And, if you’re feeling really alone, watch this: Astronaut Chris Hadfield Space performing Space Oddity (David Bowie).

While we are stuck at home, we have time to think about the many people who have been, and will continued to be, devastated by COVID-19. It’s nice to see that people are thinking about how we can provide practical help (if we’re not the doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals, first responders, people staffing the markets and other essential services, and others personally sacrificing their safety), there is at least one tangible way for some small businesses that are otherwise not likely to survive (and all of the people affected by their closure). A website in the Bay Area (of course they could come up with such a creative, thoughtful idea!) sprang up called, SaveOurFavs, which basically helps to try to solve cash flow shortages by enabling people to essentially pay now for future purchases. I will post other altruistic efforts here as I learn about them.

Finally,

This was just too good to not post…

Thank you Vicki Cundiff (fellow lawyer, adjunct prof, trade secret junkie) for sending it my way!

World’s Best Banana Bread

Ingredients:

    • 1-1/2 c. sugar
    • 1 c. sour cream
    • ½ c. butter, softened
    • 2 eggs
    • 1-3/4 c. (I use 4-5) very ripe bananas, mashed
    • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
    • 2 c. all purpose flour
    • 1 tsp. baking soda
    • ¾ tsp. salt
    • ½ c. chopped walnuts (optional)

 Brown Butter Frosting:

    • ¼ c. butter
    • 2 c. powdered sugar
    • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
    • 2-3 tbsp. milk

 Steps:

    1. Heat oven to 375F.  Grease and flour 9×13″ pan.  In a large bowl, beat together sugar, sour cream, butter, and eggs until creamy.  Blend in bananas and vanilla extract.  Add flour, baking soda, salt, and blend for 1 minute.  Stir in walnuts.
    2. Spread batter evenly into pan.  Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown.
    3. Meanwhile, for frosting, heat butter in a large saucepan over medium heat until boiling.  Let the butter turn a delicate brown with light brown bits and remove from heat immediately.
    4. Add powdered sugar, vanilla extract and milk.  Whisk together until smooth (it should be thicker than a glaze but thinner than frosting).
    5. Using a spatula, spread the brown butter frosting over the warm cake (the frosting will be easier to spread while the bars are still warm).