Strange times are here, indeed.

As schools and businesses remain shuttered due to the COVID-19 outbreak, life goes on at home. Everyone is adjusting as we roll on with this “new normal.”

Sure, we may be experts at working from home, but are we experts at staying at home? Hardly. We’re learning and adapting just like all of you. So, since we’re all learning together, we thought it would be worth sharing some of our own tips and tricks that we’ve picked up during quarantine life. Below is a recap of our daily routines, workout ideas, pantry recipes and creative ways to stay connected.

And don’t forget to send us your own tips and advice and we’ll share them with our readers. You can reach out to us anytime on social media (Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter) or send us an email.

The WriterGirl team on a virtual happy hour

The WriterGirl team recently held a virtual happy hour.

What we’re eating

  • Homemade banana bread. “Making homemade banana bread with my daughter has been fun! We’ve had so many ripe bananas that we’re able to make several loaves and freeze some.” –Nina (Here’s Nina’s go-to recipe).
  • “Coronavirus muffins.” Mary shares this recipe for spinach and banana muffins that she’s been making with her kids. Her son has dubbed them “coronavirus muffins.”
  • DIY dinners. “I have three adult kids at home, each with different palates, so ‘assemble it yourself’ meals have been a hit. That way, the vegetarian, the carnivore and the picky eater can create a dish they like. One variation is quinoa bowls. I make quinoa and stir in sautéed scallions and yellow onions. Then, I prepare additional ingredients, putting each one in a separate bowl: grilled chicken, roasted red peppers from a jar, kalamata olives, roasted sweet potato, cherry tomatoes, goat cheese. Everyone builds their own and tops it off with vinaigrette. This works well for pizza, tacos, stir fry and rice bowls, too. It’s nice because you just use whatever you have in the house — lots of variety and if you don’t have a particular ingredient handy it’s no big deal.” –Leigh
  • Daily baskets. “I saw this on Facebook recently and gave it a try: For the first two weeks at home, my kids were eating all day long, so we’ve started putting together a basket each morning. They choose something salty, something sweet, a piece of fruit and something dairy (yogurt, string cheese, etc.). This puts them in charge of their snacks, but limits them to what’s in the basket. When it’s gone, it’s gone, so they have to space it out throughout the day.” –Dama
  • Chocolate pumpkin muffins. Dama also shared this easy pantry recipe for chocolate pumpkin muffins: Take a box of devil’s food cake mix and add one can of pureed pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix). Mix together, fill muffin tins and bake at 400°F for 20 minutes.
  • Channeling Grandma Betty. “I make cookie dough and then bake just a few warm cookies every evening. Not a healthy snack, per se, but it’s a highlight of each day.” –Karla
  • Go-to pantry recipes. “One of my favorite recipe blogs, Cookie and Kate, published an excellent list of 50 pantry-friendly recipes and a corresponding pantry shopping list. My favorite recipe so far is the roasted veggie enchilada casserole. It works great with fresh or frozen veggies, and you can make your own salsa or just use the jarred stuff.” –Melanie
roasted veggie enchiladas

Another great pantry staple for Melanie: Veggie black bean enchiladas from Cookie and Kate.

How we’re staying busy

  • Scavenger hunts with the kids. “We’ve been going on scavenger hunts throughout the neighborhood on the weekends. The kids are loving it!” –Nina
  • Game apps with friends. “I’ve been using game apps that let you play with friends, like Draw Something, Words with Friends, and Trivia Crack.  They help pass the time and still let you connect with friends without having to schedule a specific time to talk with them.” –Katie
  • Blueprint tutorials. Karrie tipped us off to a great deal: The crafting tutorial website, Bluprint, is offering free classes until April 16.
  • Neighborhood Easter egg hunt (from a safe distance). “I’ve been doing an Easter egg hunt with our neighbors by placing plastic eggs of various sizes, colors and shapes in our windows for people to ‘spy’ on their daily neighborhood walks! The reactions have been such a sweet addition to our days. There are large eggs, brightly colored eggs, safari animal eggs and others that have ‘egg-spressions’!” –Rebecca

How we’re staying active

  • 10,000-step challenge. “I’ve been challenging my family members to walk 10,000 steps a day. We send each other encouraging words throughout the day and have a friendly competition to see who can keep moving! It’s fun to share your fitness moment via Apple Watch, too.” ­–Colleen
  • Home circuits. Our very own Reba developed this circuit course you can do at home. It’s quite a workout! Watch out for those burpees at the end.
  • Get moving whether it’s sunny or rainy. “I walk my dog, Biscuit, on nice days, and I use Wii ‘Just Dance’ on rainy days. Yes, our Wii is probably 12-15 years old, but it doesn’t feel like exercise and it gets my heart rate up!” –Karla
  • Online group fitness classes. Here at WriterGirl, we’ve been lucky enough to have some virtual group fitness classes organized by our CEO and a personal trainer, Madaris Grant of XAthletes (THANK YOU Christy and Madaris!). The workouts have been fun and challenging, and it’s a great way to bond as a team (check out at-home challenges and workouts on the XAthletes Facebook page). Many of us are also taking advantage of online videos and courses from our local gyms and YMCAs. They’re an excellent way to stay active and also feel like you’re working out and connecting with others.

What we’re listening to

  • Motivation music. When we need motivation, WriterGirl uses this go-to playlist.
  • Quarantine playlist. Special thanks to Rebecca for putting together these quarantine tunes.
  • Funny podcasts. “I’ve been trying to limit my intake of serious or news-related podcasts — it’s just too much right now. Instead, I find myself going to Conan O’Brien’s podcast or doing The Office re-watch alongside The Office Ladies. I’m also sticking to my old standby, Stuff You Should Know, so I can fill my brain with non-virus knowledge.” –Melanie

How we’re staying connected

  • Spending time in the sun. “We implemented what I call a ‘daily sun therapy session.’ Now that my husband and 20- and 17-year-old kiddos are home and we’re all busy online working and going to school, we sit outside in the sun for 15-20 minutes a day to absorb the benefits of the sun’s rays. This is in addition to walks and bike rides. We’re already very close, but it’s actually helped us share and work through a lot of concerns, anxieties and issues related to the uncertain times and being cooped up in a small house.” –Jeanelle
  • Virtual cocktails. “We live far away from most of our friends and family, but recently we’ve been making more of an effort to stay connected. We’ve been doing weekly cocktails via Google Hangouts with our friends back East. We prep a few drinks and some finger foods and share updates from our week.” –Melanie
  • Virtual family dinners. “My parents set up a virtual family dinner with my family, my brother and my sister. Each of us took turns providing an update, then the kids (7 cousins) told funny stories.” –Leigh
  • Virtual play dates. “My best friend and her kids live three states away, so we set up a virtual play date for our kids. We played virtual charades via Facetime using an online word generator from The Game Gal (which also has great online games to use while staying at home). It was simple and fun for everyone, it got us all up and moving and gave us a lot of laughs.” –Amy
  • Virtual family reunions. “My mom started a virtual family reunion. She sent an email to both sides of the family that included a ‘how we’re coping’ update and invited everyone to do the same. It’s been interesting and uplifting to hear from relatives throughout the country and how they’re dealing with their isolation, homeschooling and work-from-home world.”–Leigh

Other tips and advice for quarantine life

  • Keep some normalcy. “We make sure the kids get dressed every day just like they would for school. And while we don’t have a specific schedule, we have time blocks each day where the kids can pick something to entertain themselves or learn during that time.” –Mary
  • Take it one day at a time. “We’re taking it one day at time and trying to knock out those tedious projects that always find their way to the bottom of our lists. We’re also pulling out the 1,000-piece puzzle and getting some fresh air when the weather allows. I’ve also enjoyed seeing all the acts of kindness — big and small — and watching humanity reset its priorities.” –Rebecca
  • Look for ways to help others. Alice recommends helping people both inside your home and out: make and donate masks, donate money to someone who is out of work, share one of the last two rolls of toilet paper with someone at the grocery store, send encouraging text messages, stay positive on social media, mow someone’s lawn, etc.
  • Limit your news intake. Alice also advises setting a cap on how much COVID-19 news you take in each day — keep it to 20 minutes or less, if you can.

Don’t forget to share your tips and advice for staying healthy, happy and sane at home! Reach out to us on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter.

Remember, we’re all in this together.