When the U.S. hunkered down for quarantine at the beginning of March, the days seemed bleak. Time stretched like taffy: who knew when the COVID-19 threat would end?
Not everyone saw quarantine as a stagnant period of time, however. Many people took to Pinterest, Youtube and Instagram to post about new languages learned, new crafts created or new organizational strategies set up.
Others went in search of something—anything—to do. Google Trends, a search tracker, found the query “Hobbies to pick up during quarantine” spiked 400% in the middle of May.
That’s how Marius Norton, a freshman criminal and restorative justice major, started making macarons, small, meringue-based cookies made from adding different sugars and almond flour to whipped egg whites.
“I was going through a phase during quarantine when I would watch a lot of baking videos on YouTube,” Norton said. “I stumbled upon a video of this woman from Tasty, a Buzzfeed company, making macarons.”
Norton had made macarons before in high school, but spent his time in quarantine watching more videos, practicing and perfecting his technique.
Olivia Martin, a sophomore mathematics major, discovered calligraphy and map-making by a different route: “There was a lot of Pinterest involved,” Martin said.
Martin plays Dungeons & Dragons, a fantasy role-playing game. During a long-distance campaign started in quarantine, Martin decided to take a map created by the group’s dungeon master to the next level.
“Since I had time on my hands, I thought it would be fun to make a larger version with calligraphed labels and textures for forests and mountains,” Martin said.
Also looking for something to do in her free time, Katy Thornthwaite, a junior music education major, learned embroidery. She spent time on Pinterest and Youtube discovering new stitches to experiment with.
“I . . . wanted something to do when I watched Netflix so I could feel like I was being productive,” Thornthwaite said.
All three agreed that their hobbies took dedication and commitment.
“The hardest part for me was having the patience to finish a project. I get distracted easily when I start projects so I had a hard time finishing what I started,” Thornthwaite said.
Norton pointed to the complexity of making macarons.
“The hardest part of making macarons is definitely perfecting the meringue . . . you can make a French meringue, which is a cold meringue, or you can make an Italian meringue, which requires a sugar syrup and tracking temperatures,” he said.
Martin had similar experiences with the intricacy of her maps.
“The hardest part of map-making is getting the fine lines and textures just right,” she said. “Once I ink the shape of a river or the border of a forest, it is permanent, and if I mess up, I have to start all over again.”
For Thornthwaite, what happened in quarantine stays in quarantine. With college classes and other commitments beginning again, free time is limited. Thornthwaite decided to fulfill her embroidery plans through a different avenue.
“I have a lot of friends who could embroider things for me if I want to, so I can support local artists that way,” Thornthwaite said.
Martin, however, continues to pursue her quarantine hobby, finding a sense of captivation in calligraphy and map-making.
“I love making the maps because it helps immerse myself into the world the DM [dungeon master] has created,” Martin said.
Norton also continues to bake macarons, highlighting their sweet nature: “They are incredibly delicious and beautiful.”