Things I’ve done during Covid19 lockdown

In the start of the Covid19 lockdown I wrote a post about what one might do to make it easier or more tolerable. Looking at traditional media and my social media feeds I get a feeling that we all have had trouble concentrating, focusing and have often felt that we are not making ‘good use’ of our time.

I’ve been thinking a lot about why we feel that we need to perform well even when we are ‘locked in’ our houses or even when one has to go out to work in a situation that is far from the old normal we used to know. I guess it’s about having a sense of control and also distraction. I want now to share some of the things I’ve ended up doing when in lockdown and a few words about things I haven’t done. Maybe you find a sense of shared experience or new ideas –  in the UK and many European countries lockdown measures are being gradually eased, but I think it’s safe to presume it won’t be business as usual for a long time.

Online choirs

I mentioned my choir in my post about things one might do in lockdown.  I restarted my choir hobby in October and since in choir one is together with lots of people in close proximity that’s one hobby that will take a while to get back into. Luckily Rock Choir, in which I am in, has been able to create online practice options with practice videos to learn at your own pace and weekly Zoom session where the choir leader teaches the harmonies live and we can’t hear each other but can see familiar faces. We have also had sing-along sessions on Facebook. These are all part of a paid membership, but Rock Choir hosts a daily 3pm GMT sing-along on their Facebook page for anyone to join.

In addition to my normal Rock Choir now online practice, I’m taking part in Gareth Malone’s lockdown project The Great British Home Chorus that’s free and anyone can join the weekday rehearsals on YouTube live.

Adding to my own choir’s practice I’ve participated in Gareth Malone’s Great British Home Chorus, which he specifically started as a lockdown project. Three songs have now been recorded by participants on their mobile devices and the end results are in production. There’s a 30min practice each weekday on YouTube on Decca Record’s YouTube channel. Gareth Malone has said he’ll keep going as long as the lockdown continues, if you want, you can sign up for email updates here. You don’t need to have any prior experience and since no one can hear you outside your household and maybe neighbours, it’s a great way to experiment with singing and maybe build up the courage to find a group when singing together on person is again possible. Sending in a recording is not in any way required if that feels like too much!

Online choirs have kept me busy and recording my harmony on video has offered also a technical challenge. Notice duvets and yoga mat for muffling the echoes…

With daily singing, I have really felt my voice improve. When you are doing vocal warm-ups and singing you can’t concentrate on anything else, which is really helpful in this time. I’ve also participated in a Finnish virtual choir project with three recordings made and now released on YouTube. After having done six videos of myself singing, I’m learning to be easier on myself and can now mainly watch and hear myself on video without gringing. That’s a great outcome from this season, I think!

Cooking and baking

Like a large part of the nation (or World..), I have been cooking and baking a lot. Due to my coeliacs disease, I do that quite a lot anyway, but I have taken on more challenging projects. Due to other intolerances I’m now trying to use as little corn and rice as possible and avoiding gluten-free oats since they don’t seem to agree with me and hence using gluten-free substitute products is quite tricky. I’m learning to bake by mixing my own gluten-free flour mixes and that’s proved to be an interesting challenge. With the shortages of flour, eggs and anything baking related that has occured since lockdown started, I’m probably not the only one that’s learning to improvise.

I’ve made a rather successful bread for acute yearning for some from potato starch, teff and sorghum
These quark buns have the same dough as donuts I made and posted about, but have a topping of quark mixed with egg and raisins, flavoured with vanilla and sweetened with sugar.
Making savoury crêpes and filling them with for example minced beef and tomato or chilli or smoked salmon with rice and then topping them with cheese and grilling the cheese in oven makes a nice meal that’s a bit different.

I really feel that the emphasis on food as a way to delight and comfort is hightened now when we can’t have social interactions, meals out etc. That’s why I’m trying to switch things up and serve things with a twist as often as I can. My husband really loved these simple coconut shrimp I made!

This coconut shrimp is really easy to make – just dip slightly thawed frozen shrimp into a beaten egg and then roll in shredded coconut and fry in some oil in a medium heat pan until cooked through. I seasoned the coconut with some salt and a pinch of chilli powder. We had them with rice and Tamari Soy sauce but a sweet chili sauce would work well too! Be careful with the shrimp so that it stays cold prior cooking and is cooked through, adhere to instructions on the package.

I’m waiting for last bits of equipment to arrive to start learning to make my own gluten-free sourdough bread and I just got my cultures to make a Finnish yoghurt style thing called ‘viili’ (a bit more sour and more stretchy, not everyone’s thing but gentle to your tummy) and Bulgarian yoghurt for which I bought a yoghurt maker so I’m feeling I’m really going down the rabbit hole with the cooking and baking…

Trying new things

When learning something new time just seems to fly by! I bought myself watercolours, for I felt them calling me somehow even if my experience in painting is from art lessons in school some thirty years ago and dabbling with ordinary watercolours with my daughter. I really like it, feels quite meditative and doesn’t really take much time. I find it satisfying just watching the colours spread. My husband said it’s the spreading that would drive him crazy. Each to their own…

I’ve had a feeling quite a while that I’d like to paint with watercolours so finally bought myself some. Glad I did, the nice thing about watercolours is that just making stripes looks nice…

I now love having online Pilates sessions via Zoom with a friend who is an instructor. All this stagnation is taking it’s toll on my spine and I prefer professional eyes on me checking my posture and giving suggestions on adapting the exercises when needed. I find it’s a great way to replace the classes I can’t now attend. Michaela also does free sessions on Zoom (Thursday 10am) and on her Instagram Live (Monday and Wednesday 5:30pm) at the moment. If you are interested to try, have a look at Michaela’s site here.

In the online Pilates sessions Michaela demonstrates the exercises and checks that we are doing them correctly.

I have also sewn some fabric face coverings using the great YouTube tutorial by Tilly and The Buttons. I made a few for a friend as well using some cotton bedsheets we don’t need. The UK Government homepage has recommendations and instructions on wearing and making your own face coverings. If you are not in the UK check your local authorities guidance before making any.

I don’t take my sewing machine out as much as I want. Now I put it into use by learning to make fabric face coverings for our own use and made some for a friend as well.

Things I haven’t done

I was sort of envisioning that at this point, when we have been pretty much home all the time, I would have a house with no piles of clutter on tables or shelves and I would just enjoy everything being neatly in place. Well, that hasn’t happened… Of course there’s the fact that purchasing missing wardrobes, sofa, curtains etc. after our house refurbish that was luckily finished in the beginning of February was suddenly brought to a halt but also emotionally this period is really quite hard. I do understand that many have faced loss and financial difficulties and one doesn’t just spring back when that happens. Still if you have not been hit quite so hard, there’s still a lot of unknowns to tackle on top of the daily things you have to do. I feel it’s good to recognise when you feel tired or unable to focus that things aren’t ‘as normal’ however much we might want to pretend they are and get back into the swing of things.

If you feel you haven’t been ‘as productive’ as you think you should be, I want to let you know that at least for me it’s been a lot of a case ‘the things I must do’ mixed with ‘the things I want to do’. Most ‘the things I should do’ have just been left waiting (again) and I’m now looking at them why do I feel I should do them but still don’t get round to it. That’s a tale for another time, I think.

If you are interested, Hilary Rushford addresses productivity guilt in her ‘You’re Welcome with Hilary Rushford’ podcast Episode 58. You can find the podcast on iPlayer on browser or whichever podcast app/platform you might use.

I would love to hear if there’s something positive you have discovered during this strange time we are living or after reading this you have been inspired to take on an old hobby or a new one, organised all the old photos or made that photo book you have been planning to for three years…

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