So 2020 took a massive turn with the coronavirus outbreak. When I sit down by myself and really think of the situation, all that is going on right now feels more like a scary sequel to Train to Busan than actual reality. COVID-19 has not only spread across the world at record levels, it has severely disrupted and changed our daily realities. Schools are now closed. Weddings and graduations are canceled. Businesses are suffering financially and winding up. Major cities are under lockdown, and one-third of the world’s people are now in quarantine or confined to their homes.
Many of us might have dreamt, invested and made many plans. To celebrate important life events. To travel overseas for a vacation. Or maybe to roll out a new business idea. Having to forcibly postpone or cancel them causes a huge sense of loss and disappointment. Personally, there were so much that I’d planned to see and travel in Switzerland and Europe this year. Our parents were to come over during the summer, and tickets to Portugal were all booked. It’s sad having to put all these plans on hold now, knowing that we won’t be seeing our family probably till next year or longer.
But the optimist in me is still looking for that silver lining. While life right now may feel like a hard slam on the brakes, God’s goodness has not been cancelled. Learning and growing and maturing has not been cancelled. Instead of grumbling about boredom and all the inconveniences during this period of isolation, we can choose to reframe our thoughts by spendimg our time meaningfully. Knowing that a heart can be filled with joy every day, not just the easy days.
With that in mind, here’s 10 #stayhome activities that I’ve been up to lately, to share and spread some positivity 🙂
1. Clean up your space
While the virus outbreak outside is beyond our control, we can control how our space feels. Walking into a fresh and clean environment is an instant mood-lifter. Often we find all means to put off cleaning, but now that we’re stuck at home 24/7, there’s no longer any excuses not to do so!
If you’re facing a lot of inertia to tidy up…Try setting a timer for 10 minutes to clean a designated part of your room. This trick always works, because once you start cleaning, you’d likely be in a state of flow, and theres’s momentum. And that’s when you end up cleaning way more than you’d intended!
Lately, I’ve also started making my own DIY kitchen cleansers using ORANGE PEELS! Thanks to that one day when I feasted on blood oranges and the eco-friendly Swiss side of me took over and decided to put this peels into good use. Here’s 2 recipes I found on the net that are non-toxic, cheap, and fantastic for cleaning just about anything!
Orange Peel Vinegar Cleanser
- Start to collect your peels. You can use any other citrus peels as well e.g. lemon and grapefruit.
- Fill a glass jar up with the leftover peels and white vinegar, and let it sit for 2 weeks.
- After two weeks, strain out the peels.
- Mix water with the vinegar in a ratio of 2:1.
- Use and enjoy! I spray this on my tabletops and kitchen surfaces.
Orange Scouring Scrub
- Place orange peels on a large plate. Lay it out under the sun for 3-4 days. (Alternatively, you can use the oven, but I try not to do so because that will strip away the essential oils in the peels)
- Once the peels are dried, pop them into a blender or food processor till it becomes powdery (Smells like heaven at this point!)
- Combine 3 tbsps of the powdered peels with 5 tbspns of baking soda.
- Sprinkle liberally wherever scouring is required, take a wet sponge and scrub over it. I use this for my kitchen sink, bathtub and toilet, and it works like a charm!
Staying indoors for so long leads to cabin fever, so it’s good to exercise and get those limbs moving and blood pumping. Not only does working out help to clear your head, it also releases endorphins to build up your immune system, which is important especially during this pandemic season.
I like to set my mat out at my balcony when the weather’s warm and sunny, and do a 30-45 minutes HIIT workout. Prior to the lockdown, I exercised for a maximum of… 3 times a week? Now that time is my biggest currency, I’ve increased my frequency to 5-6 times a week, and that’s quite a major personal feat!
My favourite workout routines are from Chloe Ting. Her workouts are challenging, but I do see results after sticking to it. I’d exercised zero self-control and over-gorged on food when I was back in Singapore during CNY, but after 1.5 months of exercising, glad to say that I’ve lost most of those hideous flabs and became leaner 🙂
Here’s my before-and-after shot. Quite a big difference, no?
3. Learn French!
One of my key goals for 2020 is to attain B1 proficiency for French. Lately, I am dedicating more time to firm up my foundation in French grammar and conjugations, and to improve my conversational skills.
Vince found us an online French Skype tutor since February, and it’s working out amazingly well for us so far! I like that our schedules are more flexible now, since we can change the timings of our classes if we are busy. It’s also more convenient to learn in the comforts of our home without having to rush to physical classes after work.
For aspiring French learners, I highly recommend you to check out RFI Savoirs. It is the learning arm of French radio broadcast station RFI.fr. There, you can find tons of great resources e.g. podcasts on current affairs, complete with transcripts, lexicons and quizzes. I frequent the website almost everyday and I find it super helpful, not only for keeping up with world news but also to improve my listening.
4. Cook and try out new recipes
Apart from the cleaning up…I actually enjoy cooking a lot! I find it immensely rewarding, especially when the dish turns out to be a success and you watch your loved ones savouring and enjoying your food. Shopping for groceries and cooking alongside each other is also a way for me and Vince to spend quality time together.
If you are one of those kiasu people who have stocked up your pantry more than usual during this period…NOW’S THE OPPORTUNITY to experiment and try whipping up different dishes!
If you have been following my Insta Stories, you’d probably know that we’re on a cooking high and have tried out so many new recipes! Some were pretty meh (Broccoli cheddar soup…I regret.) But there were other really delicious ones (e.g. Jajjangmyeon, Kimchi tofu stew, shrimp pancakes) that I’d definitely add to my regular list for lunch and dinner!
Feel free to check out my Pinterest board where I list down all the recipes that Vince and I have followed during this stay-home period.
5. Do some crafts
I don’t consider myself very good at drawing, painting or needlework. Ask any of my friends and I think they can vouch for that haha. But one craft I enjoy greatly and can manage reasonably well is scrapbooking. When time affords, I like getting my hands dirty with glue, glitter pens, stickers, and craft paper to create pretty cards. It’s my way of documenting memories, and also to let the recipient know that I love and think of them.
I’m currently serving in the Kids ministry (0-18 months) at C3 Lausanne. Last week, one of the Sunday school teachers suggested that we make some Easter cards and mail it to the bébés and their families. It’s been more than 2 months since I saw those precious little ones, and I miss playing with and looking after them on Sundays so much!
I made cards for 5 bébés. Pinterest came in as a great handy resource, and very soon I found some really cute card designs with bible quotes, and wrote little notes behind them. While I know the bébés wouldn’t understand what was written…it felt nice to bless and encourage their parents who would be reading them. I hope they’d find this little surprise in their mailboxes next week, that it would light up their day and make this isolating period a bit more bearable 🙂
I’d also did up a little collage for Vince to celebrate our 3rd year anniversary. It’s hanging on our fridge now, and adds a nice homey touch to our kitchen.
Having worked previously at SSG promoting life-long learning, and now in the field of e-learning, of course I should walk the talk! Aside from learning French, Vince and I are taking this downtime to up-skill ourselves through Masterclass. (Savvy hubby managed to snitch an awesome subscription deal at half the price during last year’s Black Friday sale!)
Masterclass is an online learning platform where experts from different fields teach their craft. Gordon Ramsay teaches cooking. Hans Zimmer teaches film scoring. Margaret Atwood teaches writing. Bobby Brown teaches makeup. There’s even Serena Williams who teaches you tennis!
For me, learning on Masterclass is like binge-watching on Netflix, but with an educational spin. Instead of dulling your mind binge-watching dramas, you’re learning while being entertained. The second best part is: the videos are EXTREMELY well-produced. From the quality of the camerawork, to the lighting, the sound, the music…even the lesson resources. Everything’s top notch, and makes learning much more enjoyable.
My favourite lesson right now is the one on Negotiation, which is such an important skill to hone for any profession. Other classes I’m taking are on interior design and wine-appreciation. These are both fascinating topics that are completely new to me, but I wanted to learn something unusual outside of my comfort zone!
7. Cosy up with a book
One of the best feelings in the world is getting lost in a good book. If you are bored or stuck at home, pick up a book that you’re curious about. Reading transports you to another world, and leads you to unexpected places.
My sister Carol shared with me a website called Z-library, and it’s where I’m getting all my ebooks from right now. It is a free online library with nearly 5 million books and articles. This is hands-down wayyy better than the NLB app which I was relying on previously. Because there there is no loan period, you can download up to 15 books per day onto your Kindle or your laptop, and the catalogue is REALLY extensive. Type in any book of your choice, and I’m 99% sure that it’s gonna be available! Except for new releases in 2020, of course.
Here are my top 5 reads for the first quarter of 2020:
- The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid (5/5) (Suffering severe book withdrawals, this is gonna be my best read of 2020. When you finish reading and end up googling on Evelyn Hugo thinking she is an actual person, that’s when you know book completely NAILED the characterisation. Because she feels so POWERFULLY. REAL!)
- Educated by Tara Westover (4.5/5)
- Swiss-Watching: Inside Europe’s Landlocked Island by Diccon Bewes (4.2/5)
- Room by Emma Donoghue (4/5)
- Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela (currently reading, very promising!)
8. Journal down your thoughts
I’ve kept a diary since I was a kid. Its a safe space for me to write down my thoughts and to be in touch with my emotions. I also have a separate gratitude journal where I try to write down 3 things I’m grateful for each day.
9. Indulge in skincare!
Our skin deserves a little more TLC. Now that we’ve all got the time, let’s make it a priority! The weather is still pretty dry and cold now in Lausanne, so I apply face masks regularly to give my skin that extra deep hydration.
Below are some of my favourite products for my night time skincare routine:
10. Stay connected
During these tumultuous times, I’m exceptionally thankful for technology like Whatsapp, Zoom and Facetime to stay connected with our loved ones so easily. My family is scattered across Singapore, Switzerland and the States, so we rely heavily on virtual communication. Once every 2 days, we’d video-call call our parents and siblings to keep one another updated about happenings in our respective countries.
As for church life: Although social distancing might be the rule of the day, that doesn’t mean we all enter into spiritual hiatus, or that we distance ourselves from offering each other grace. While many religious services might have been suspended, I found it really amazing how churches all across the world are adapting so quickly to this new reality, and finding new creative ways to bring worship and fellowship accessible online.
At C3 Lausanne, our church has converted to live-streaming Sunday services. Last week, we also held our first virtual Connect Group session!
Ultimately, the Church is not confined by physical barriers or safety measures. Instead, we can continue to worship with a united spirit, in praise of our God.
There can be many disruptive moments in life. Be it the coronavirus. Losing your job. An unplanned arrival of a baby. The death of a loved one. With every step over rough terrain, I trust that God is working in midst of this global health crisis. He who makes all things new will make a way for this generation.
The first quarter of 2020 has been unexpectedly rough. but let’s hope that this virus will come under control soon, and await for the day we can finally celebrate outdoors with our community: Sans the masks and hand-sanitizers, with warm hugs and bisous!
Until then: Stay healthy, be positive, and choose joy 🙂
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”