Monday, August 31, 2020

Sam's Weekly Quarantine Digest #24: August 30, 2020

Hi all,

Today, I went to visit my cousins and their beautiful new Bernese Mountain Dog puppy, Jason.  It's the first time I've intentionally done anything social and in-person since early March, and although it felt a bit strange at first to be so close to other humans without running away, I am feeling completely restored!  There's nothing like puppy kisses to cheer you up - even (especially?) in 2020, it's a powerful medicine.

So today, while I'm in such a darn good mood, I'm thinking about other things I love, and today's Digest is a "best of..." edition, chock full of the most delightful entertainment I've stumbled across over the past five months.  To kick it off, I guess you could say these are a few of my favorite things (which happens to be a quote from one of my favorite songs).  Full disclosure: I am definitely not cool enough to have paid endorsements, so I have no relationship with any of these companies - although if you work for one of them and feel like paying me for future endorsements, let's talk!  :P  Enjoy, everyone!  I hope you each find something on this list that you haven't yet tried, and that it brings you a moment of respite from these crazy times.

Previous digests can be found on my blog at  If you have suggestions or would like to stop receiving these emails, just let me know.


Best of...Streaming Video.  There is so much content out there that it is sometimes ironically difficult to find anything to watch - the options are so overwhelming, and it's hard to know what will match your mood.  I can't help you with the second part, but I can tell you that all of these selections have made me giggle, relax, or feel hopeful during these past few months when I thought I'd forgotten how.  I hope they'll do the same for you!

TV Shows:
  • Great British Baking Show: This is one of the best shows of all time.  Seriously.  There's something about this show that is calming and comforting, and for an hour, your biggest concern will be that your favorite baker just slightly overcooked their choux buns or you're worried that their shortcrust pastry has a soggy bottom.  You can find nearly all episodes on Netflix.
    • Already finished every season of the GBBS?  Try The Big Flower Fight (yes, it involves competitive flower arrangements) or check out this article with plenty of other cooking shows.  Another favorite of mine: Guy's Grocery Games.  And for some older shows (recipes don't age - they're still delicious!), try a dose of Alton Brown with Good Eats or Cutthroat Kitchen.
  • Schitt's Creek: This absurd story of a family's fall from grace will have you belly-laughing for hours, but it also addresses some important issues and the story ends up going some places.
  • Greek: The perfect level of mindlessness for the quarantine.  It's about - you guessed it - greek life at a fictional university, and it is chock full of inane (shall I say, sophomoric) antics, but it also has some wonderful character arcs and just enough substance to keep me wanting to watch just one more episode.
  • Love in the Time of Corona: There's not much creativity here - it's just actors reenacting conversations we've all had during the quarantine - and yet it's still somehow moving enough that I cried during the finale.
  • Being Erica: A Canadian drama that follows the life of a 30-something trying to figure out how to get her life in order; full of very relatable moments and emotions that are both poignant and inspiring.
  • Younger: Similar description to Being Erica, but not Canadian.
  • The Baker and the Beauty: This is a great soap-opera/telenovela-esque drama that had me hooked from the moment I heard the name!
  • The Bachelor: Greatest Seasons Ever: If you've never watched The Bachelor(ette), now's your chance to catch up - after production shutdowns forced the next season to be delayed (coming soon this fall though!), the franchise had host Chris Harrison lead an entire season of recaps showing the highlights from, as promised, the greatest Bachelor(ette) seasons ever.  It's delightful.  Do it!
  • Arrested Development, 30 Rock, and The Office: All are available for streaming on various services, and all are well worth your binge-watching hours!
Movies: I've watched plenty of great-but-sad movies over the past few months, but I just can't bring myself to recommend them right now, because I find myself vastly preferring pick-me-ups these days.  Here are some of the best I've watched recently:
  • Abominable: Dreamworks has done it again - this is one of the best animated movies I've seen in ages.  I was laughing, crying, and dreaming right along with the characters.
  • Onward: Another delightful animated movie that was released just before the pandemic arrived on the scene.  I saw a sneak peak of this in theaters the week before the shutdown, and I loved it.  It's now available to watch at home, so go for it!
  • Banana Split: This showed up in my Netflix recommendations and I was a bit skeptical.  It's pretty much just another coming-of-age story, but I enjoyed the twist and thought it was well done.  Time is very precious to me, but I didn't mind having spent an hour and a half in this story.
  • Anastasia: This is a classic movie full of gorgeous songs (Once Upon a December is another of my favorites!)and quirky characters and around half of the Russian phrases I know.

Best of...Self Care: It is more important than ever to be aware of our own needs and to be sure to set aside some time each week to take care of ourselves.  This situation has been incredibly stressful and exhausting for everyone - do your best to check in with yourself every now and then and take a break to indulge in something that relaxes you.
  • Lush Butterball Bath Bomb: I love bath bombs, and this one has been my favorite since I discovered it a decade ago.  I'm allergic to a lot of fragrances, but this one is mild and smells a bit like the spa version of that odor that lingers after you spend an afternoon baking cookies.  It also has oils in it that leave your skin feeling impossibly soft - I find myself constantly hugging myself for hours afterward.
  • Bath & Body Works Foaming Hand Soaps and Hand Sanitizers: This company's soaps, candles, creams, and hand sanitizers smell delicious (even to me, with my allergies), and they cater to whatever type of scents you enjoy.  Obviously, my collection is full of the ones that smell like vanilla sugar or various baked goods (Warm Vanilla Sugar is a classic; Merry Cookie and Easter Chocolate are seasonal, but they're worth setting a calendar reminder for; and Black Cherry Merlot smells exactly like the deep, dark Luxardo maraschino cherries I use in my Pistachio Cherry meltaways), but they also have fragrances that lean toward the tropical or the floral or the spicy, with tons of different combinations, so poke around on the site until you find a few that speak to you.
  • MindTravel: Murray Hidary creates some of the most beautiful music I've ever heard.  Participating in one of his meditation events is truly transporting.  I've never been much of a meditation person, but MindTravel is an entirely new type of experience for me.  Can't recommend it highly enough.
  • ReFit Cardioboxing Workout: This 19-minute workout was part of their 19-day Covid-19 challenge, and it's fabulous.  I've done it a few dozen times during the quarantine, and I'm still not sick of it.  And I promise, no matter how fit you are, if you give this workout your all, it will absolutely kick your butt, even though it's short enough to fit in during a workday or in that last hour before bedtime.

Best of...Games:  As noted in a previous digest, my husband and I have played a LOT of video games on a LOT of systems, and a LOT of board games.  If you're looking for something specific, pick a mood or a genre and tell me which systems you have, and I can come up with a few recommendations.  Below are a few of my personal favorites that can suck you into a new world for a while.  Just don't get mad at me when you glance at the clock and realize that six hours have passed without you noticing - that's the whole point!

Solo Video Games
  • Viva Pinata: One of my all-time favorites.  Entice various pinata animals to visit your garden and then to move in, and then breed them.  Fun trivia fact: I once made a stuffed Chippopotamus for Luke as a Valentine's Day present.
  • Katamari Damacy: There are lots of things on Earth.  What would happen if we just rolled them all up into a ball?  Fun trivia fact: One of the songs from this game's soundtrack was playing when Luke and I cut the cake at our wedding.
  • De Blob: You are a blob that paints everything it touches, and your task is to bring color to each world you visit.  Street art/graffiti culture meets Katamari?
  • Cook Serve Delicious!: Frantic line-chef sim; very well done.  There are now three of these, and I've been holding CSD3 in my back pocket during the quarantine for when I hit a dark streak and need a pick-me-up.
  • Spyro the Dragon: Really delightful adventure/puzzle game that has stood the test of time - I come back to this every few years and love it just as much as the first time I played it with my brother ages ago.
  • Assassin's Creed (any): Explore beautiful scenery and complex stories, set throughout history.  I particularly recommend the Ezio Trilogy (starting with AC II, set in Tuscany) and AC Syndicate (set in London), both of which I played while visiting those parts of the world and can therefore vouch for their exquisite architectural accuracy. 
  • Civilization: Conquer the world.  There are lots of versions - I've played two of them and they're great, so just pick whichever one you have the easiest access to.
  • Two Point Hospital: Hilarious hospital management sim
  • Fall Guys: CHAOS!  Brand new game that just plain makes me smile.
  • Stardew Valley: Build a farm, make friends, mine.  You also get a dog.  This is one of those games that makes you appreciate the simple things in life.
  • Day of the Tentacle: Point-and-click adventure; absolutely hilarious.

Multiplayer Video Games
  • Minecraft: Digital Legos.  Need I say more?
  • Overcooked: CHAOS!  This game can make or break relationships, so beware.
  • Gears of War (particularly Horde mode): Shoot aliens with friends.  I love Horde mode, which gives you just one goal through 50 levels: survive.  Also some fun plot if you care for that sort of thing.
  • Rocket League: Car soccer; mindless but entertaining.
Board Games
  • Dominion: Luke and I love this game so much that he proposed to me while we were playing it, with a handmade card that's framed in my living room.  We own every expansion (I think - there are a lot now!), and it doesn't get old - every game is different and your strategy shifts with the setup, so it always feels new and exciting. 
  • Code Names: Fabulous party game if you're with friends or family.  There's also an online version now.
  • Lost Cities: There's both a card-only version and a board game version of this one, and I love them both.  It's a great two-person game, and Luke and I have gotten it for many of our friends over the years.
  • Unlock!: This is a series of escape-the-room games that have a 1-hour limit, making them easy to slip in even during a busy work week.
  • Wingspan: This gorgeous game came out recently, and I found out about it when a friend at work asked me if I knew about it - I didn't, but after I looked into it, I ordered it on the spot and Luke and I have loved playing this during the quarantine (thanks, Alexandra!).  The cards (hundreds of them) each feature a different real-life bird (complete with beautiful images and fun trivia), and the other game pieces include a buildable birdhouse and plastic eggs that look just like the Cadbury Mini Eggs.
  • Ticket to Ride: Simple game; great for families.  Build train routes across the map featured on your board.  The versions span the world, from a U.S. map to all of Europe or Asia to a whole bunch based on smaller regions or countries.
  • Sagrada: Simple dice game themed on the stained glass of Sagrada Familia (perhaps my favorite building in the whole world).
  • Dixit: This is a storytelling game with gorgeous cards featuring a wide variety of surreal artwork, and you have to come up with a one-sentence story to describe each one.  Very simple, but very powerful, and a great game to play in groups, both with people you know well and with people you've just met.

COMING SOON: Best of...Recipes, Delivery Food, and Kitchen Gadgets; Connecting with Friends and Family; Dance, Theater, and Other Streaming Performances; and more.

No comments:

Post a Comment