Pandemic Pastimes of 2020

Since I just finished up a massive cross-stitch project that I’ve been working on most of this year, I thought maybe I’d mention a few of the new hobbies and projects that I’ve taken on to occupy myself during this stay-at-home year. These are the things I’ve been up to in 2020, besides my normal writing and reading of books.

Baking

Early on in the pandemic, I jumped on the sourdough bread craze. I had been really into baking bread about ten years ago, and that was the last time I’d had a sourdough starter. Since then I’ve moved around a LOT and lived in what feels like a million different houses and cities. But, all the talk about bread baking and the yeast shortage got me back into sourdough again.

Since March, I’ve made a few decent loaves and plenty of bad ones. My loaves are still spreading out too much (vs. rising up). I finally sort of figured it out, then we moved. Now I have a new house and a new oven, plus this house is a lot colder than the place we were living in before. I’m think I’m going to have to figure it out all over again.

One thing I’ve learned this time around that I didn’t know back when I was first messing around with sourdough is all the awesome things you can make with sourdough discard. Now none of it is ever wasted. My favorites are sourdough pancakes and sourdough biscuits. For both I use the recipes on the King Arthur Flour website.

Stretching

In general, the pandemic has given me some additional motivation to focus on my fitness. I know that the virus doesn’t seem to care how healthy you are, and it seems to be effecting even really fit people in a very negative way. But, I figured it couldn’t hurt to step up my running and walking game.

One thing I quickly realized was that there was no way I was going to be able to remain injury free while running and walking at least 10k steps per day if I didn’t also stretch. So, stretching for at least 10-15 minutes every day is one of the habits I’ve been trying to develop this year.

I don’t think I’ve had a month where I actually achieved that goal, but I’ve been pretty close several times, and I’m definitely more flexible now than I was at the start of the pandemic. I am extremely grateful to the wealth of stretching and yoga videos on YouTube. I have a whole playlist of my favorites now.

Language Learning

When my friends’ kids started doing Duolingo over the summer to earn screen time for fun stuff like video games, I was reminded of how much I love learning languages. I studied French in high school and college, then I did a Spanish language immersion program in Ecuador a little over ten years ago. But I’m very much out of practice on both of those languages.

I considered doing a refresher of one of those, but decided to learn something totally new and started Hindi lessons instead. I’ve always wanted to travel to India. I’ve worked with a lot of folks from India during my corporate years, and I got introduced to Bollywood films. I love the mix of Hindi and English that they speak in those movies and have always been fascinated by languages that use a different alphabet from English.

The snapshot below is from the “year in review” that the Duolingo app sent me a couple of weeks ago. Since then I’ve improved on these stats, and my streak is up to 140 days (as of today)! I plan to see how long I can keep this going. Ideally, I’d like to get through at least the first level of every lesson in Hindi before I switch to something else, or add on Spanish and/or French practice.

Cross-Stitch

I have a bunch of friends who knit, but I don’t really like knitting that much. I tried it, and I made a scarf. That was fun, but it didn’t really stick as a hobby. So, when I decided I needed something to do with my hands during all these video conference calls, I went back to something I remembered enjoying as a kid. Cross-stitch.

I completed a few easy projects last year, before the pandemic, when I was hanging out with knitters and needed a project of my own to work on. Then I picked something that was way over my head and decided to take a bit of a break from it. Then the pandemic hit, and I picked it up again, determined to finish it.

And, that, my friends is really want prompted this post. I finally finished it today! Just in time for my niece’s birthday this weekend. Here it is, my completed Purple Galaxy Unicorn cross-stitch from Leia Patterns on Etsy…

I know this seems like a lot, but it’s been a long and stressful year, and I’ve needed a lot of distraction. It hasn’t always been super easy to escape into books the way I usually do, even though I’ve managed to surpass my annual 52 book reading goal on Goodreads.

I’ll have a post about all my 2020 reading stats after the year is officially over. I mean, I still have a few books I’d like to finish before the end of this month. In the meantime, stay tuned for that post I promised about how I plan to track my reading (and plan my life) in 2021.

Until then, happy reading!