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How we’re finding calm, from virtual cheese tastings to fostering a cat

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How we're finding calm, from virtual cheese tastings to fostering a cat 1

Flattening the curve by self-isolating at home is a small sacrifice during the coronavirus pandemic, but it’s not without its challenges. How does one ward off loneliness in the absence of community? What can we do to keep anxiety at bay during such an emotionally fraught time? How do we fill the hours stretching out before us, and use this time to make connections, pursue long-neglected hobbies and discover new ones, and inject a little positivity and calm into our everyday lives?

Introducing The Unwind, a new, recurring feature in which Yahoo staffers share the ways we’re finding moments of peace, levity and inspiration during these trying times. From adopting soothing strategies that boost our mental health, to losing ourselves in virtual social calls, newfound passions and other joyous diversions, these are the things getting us through the quarantine. The days may feel uncertain, but beauty and bright spots abound.

For more, check out past editions of The Unwind.

A virtual wine and cheese tasting helped Erin Donnelly spice up her stay-at-home experience. (Photo: Erin Donnelly)

Virtual cheese and wine tasting

Nothing like some chilled rosé and a creamy slab of Kunix to take the sting out of entering your fourth month of sheltering at home. While I was initially dubious when a relative gifted me a certificate for a virtual cheese and wine tasting hosted by Antonelli’s Cheese Shop — in which I joined dozens of other gourmands over Zoom — it turned out to be the kick in the pants my social life (or lack thereof) needed. After arranging a contact-less pickup of the necessary bottles and prepared cheese plate from the store and logging on, an affable cheese expert and winemaker guided us through the pairings, pausing to answer questions and introducing flavor combinations I’m still savoring. All in all, it was a decadent treat that made me feel more like my pre-pandemic self, all while staying safe and secure in my little bubble. – Erin Donnelly, Yahoo Life news writer and editor

Cooking tutorials over FaceTime

I’ve always hated cooking. The only thing I was ever able to make was scrambled eggs, toast and cereal. I’m pretty sure Martha Stewart’s recipes are legit, but no matter what I tried to make, it just wouldn’t come out right. I gave up. But when COVID-19 happened, and I was stuck in the house, I couldn’t think of a better time to try this again. I started FaceTiming with friends, and over a glass of rosé, they helped me through the process as I started from scratch. From brownies to baked chicken with a rosé-mustard sauce (hey, that’s all that I had in my fridge), I was becoming quite the chef I knew was destined to be. – Jen Kucsak, Yahoo Life and Entertainment supervising producer

Al Toby is getting exercise and some quality family time thanks to regular wagon rides. (Photo: Al Toby)
Al Toby is getting exercise and some quality family time thanks to regular wagon rides. (Photo: Al Toby)

Wagon rides

“That wagon isn’t going to pull itself.” It’s something I said each passing day, yet I allowed the wagon to gather dust on the patio for a good year. Well, after weeks of my two children — ages 3 and 9 — begging for rides, quarantine life compelled me to actually do something. The result has been a nice bi-weekly ritual I do with the kids in the evening. Other than refereeing sibling sniping, it has been a stress-free way of getting exercise and fresh air. We navigate the neighborhood for about an hour to an hour and a half. The kids get to wave at passersby and plot the ride’s course through the streets. Dad gets a break when big sister decides to do some pulling of her own. Other bonus: Mom gets a break. – Al Toby, Yahoo Sports NFL director 

DIY pedicures

Since nail shops closed here in Ohio, I decided to put money down on a good foot spa and I love it! The spa warms up the water, has jets and vibrates. I usually put coconut oil in the water and soak my feet while I read or watch TV I then trim my cuticles, clip my nails and remove dead skin. After soaking them again and applying a sugar scrub, I paint them to my liking. Once dry, I apply my favorite lotion and wear cozy socks. My feet are usually soft for weeks! – Megan Sims, Yahoo Life writer

Alexis Shaw's balcony is the perfect spot for quiet contemplation. (Photo: Alexis Shaw)
Alexis Shaw’s balcony is the perfect spot for quiet contemplation. (Photo: Alexis Shaw)

Quiet moments on the balcony

My apartment has a balcony. Since summer has come to New York, as soon as I close my laptop at the end of the workday I head outside to sit on my small loveseat and watch the world go by. On a given day, that can look like people heading into the park nearby for a nightly vigil, friends strolling at a social distance with a take-out cocktail, or most recently, fireworks going off as soon as the sun starts to set. With the sky awash in pinks and blues and oranges, it’s a welcome break from screen time and I get to appreciate my home from a new vantage point. – Alexis Shaw, Yahoo Life and Entertainment news editor

Sensory bottles

Being trapped at home with a 1-year-old when you’re trying to avoid screen time can be tricky. Thank goodness for the internet! I had some extra bottles laying around after accidentally doubling up on an Amazon order, so I decided to get creative. I made various sensory bottles for my little girl to play with. I filled a couple up with water and put food coloring in them, threw different kinds of rocks in others, and froze another bottle. It bought me 30 minutes of free time! – Taryn Ryder, Yahoo Entertainment writer and editor

Becky Horvath used her quarantine to foster a cat. (Photo: Becky Horvath)
Becky Horvath used her quarantine to foster a cat. (Photo: Becky Horvath)

Fostering a cat

Like many others who found themselves working from home during the pandemic, I decided it was the perfect time to foster a pet. The first thing Elaine Pumpernickel did was run under my bathroom cabinet — and proceed to stay there for days. I suddenly found myself taking Zoom meetings, eating meals and even having happy hour on my bathroom floor. Elaine eventually decided the world was her oyster and is now a happy, well-adjusted little cat who has since found her forever home with my close friends. But I will always treasure the time I spent drawing her out of her shell. I may have restored her confidence, but she taught me how to slow down, be patient and celebrate life’s little victories. – Becky Horvath, Yahoo Life and Entertainment supervising producer

Family yoga

Our 5-year-old’s remote learning was a bust, so we had to quickly figure out other ways to engage her. Enter her amazing kids’ yoga instructor, a former special ed teacher who resourcefully put her program online early in lockdown. Three times a week, our daughter did Zoom class (yoga, meditation and a story/game) and it was the only online instruction she took. As a result, it was our single consistent thread in a time of uncertainty. We also joined for family yoga, taking 45 minutes amid the chaos of working, parenting and pandemic-ing to come together, breathe and lean on each other, partner Tree Pose-style. – Suzy Byrne, Yahoo Entertainment writer and editor

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