Culture Staff's New Skills Art

It’d be hard to pinpoint another period in recent history where people have perceivably spent more time apart than during the last month. Many have used this time to improve on certain life skills, and members of The Daily Nebraskan staff have been productively spending their time as well; these are their stories.

Mark Champion, senior culture editor

While I definitely have more time to be expanding my set of skills and honing new talents, this socially distant world has drained just about every drop of motivation I had. Luckily, I found something I can work on without the need to even move: my tan. 

Don’t get me wrong — tanning is a fine art that takes years to master. Finding a comfortable, outdoor-ready seating situation, presenting the proper amount of exposed thigh and ensuring you stay hydrated are just a few of the massive obstacles one must overcome when on the search for a perfect golden-brown roast. It’s a tough challenge, but now is the time to push ourselves out of our comfort zone and into a reclining lawn chair in the warm sun. 

Hunter Arias, assistant culture editor

Simple, repetitive hobbies like crocheting and basket-weaving are often considered grandma activities, but I believe they have the ability to capture the imagination of people at any stage in life. Not me, though. I prefer to scream. Picking a secluded spot and screaming, in any of its many forms and timbres, can be a method of meditation. Melodic screaming not only releases your pent up anger in a relatively harmless manner, it focuses some of the most fickle muscles in the body, the vocal cords, into submission. 

Whether you decide to take a more guttural approach like David Lee Roth or a more shrill howl like Yoko Ono is completely up to you. If done properly, and with the right amount of force and constriction, a voice can become a weapon for good and enlightenment. My personal screaming spot is right in front of the window that faces my neighbor’s porch. They don’t seem to like that so much, but a man’s screaming spot is a place of solitude, and I like the sun on my face. Maybe it’d be better if I didn’t stare at them too.

Jenna Thompson, culture reporter

It comes as no surprise that I’ve been thriving while social distancing. While I love seeing my friends, most of my favorite activities — writing, reading, drawing and painting — are best enjoyed alone. It’s been pure joy to focus on my forgotten hobbies during this time and tap into my introverted side.

There have been occasional moments of loneliness, though. I have a tight-knit circle I’m used to seeing every week and love dearly. Thankfully, my friends also feel this way and created my favorite development of the COVID-19 season: virtual book club. 

Yes, my closest gal pals and I have created a weekly Zoom meeting where we read and discuss our favorite literary finds together. As we’ve learned, roughly 5% of this time is spent actually discussing the book and the rest is devoted to messing around and being super weird. But I say any excuse to get ourselves reading is a good one.

David Berman, culture reporter

As Remy the rat from “Ratatouille” once said, “If you are what you eat, then I only want to eat the good stuff.” Once I evolved past my limited, kindergarten-age palette of peanut butter sandwiches and chicken fingers, I discovered my love for trying new foods. I love going out to a new restaurant or sampling new dishes my mom creates in our kitchen. While my mom and sister have always been great cooks, that talent and interest never seemed to find its way to me.

However, now that I have more time on my hands and an increased need for independence, I’m working my way through the Berman Family Cooking Class — aka spending more time in the kitchen and learning how to make more than just a grilled cheese sandwich. While I’m not at Remy’s level of cooking expertise just yet, I’m confident that one day I will share that rat chef’s satisfaction and pride of making a gourmet meal from scratch.

Mia Everding, culture reporter 

Move over, David Berman (and MasterChef) — it’s time for a real cook to get down to business. I kid, of course; everyone is entitled to pursue their own new hobbies and cultivate new skills. While I have always been an avid lover of weird recipes, time at home has meant more time spent in the kitchen. 

Inspired by drool-worthy noodles from a restaurant in the Chelsea Market in Manhattan, I thought I would try my hand at a Taiwanese beef noodle soup last week. The recipe didn’t call for homemade noodles, but I decided to ball out and attempt making the slinky pasta by hand. Like many other kitchen ventures, I badly miscalculated the time necessary to knead the dough and let it rest. I kept an anxious eye on the clock, as I was supposed to call my friends for a virtual Catan tournament in less than half an hour, and the dough was nowhere near perfection. I called an audible and feverishly began stretching the dough, slaving over a boiling vat of water, dropping long, unwieldy strips of noodles into the water. 

The experience was far from stress-free, as I balanced my phone on my shoulder while stretching the dough, which often broke before reaching its desired thickness — paper thin, if you were wondering. But the result was worth it. 

The aromatic, piping hot stew paired with delightfully chewy noodles and boiled bok choy was nothing short of delicious in my eyes and those of my brother-in-law, who is sometimes hard to please with new recipes. I can now check “make homemade pasta” off my bucket list. Next, is a perfect pain au chocolat, but I doubt I’ll be able to make a pastry that rivals the authentic delicacy I enjoyed along a riverbank in Lyon, France. 

Libby Schilz, culture reporter

Since the social distancing measures started, I've had a lot of time on my hands. I have a lot of time to bake now, so I’ve made many muffins, cakes, brownies and all the sweets you can think of. Being gluten free has made it even more interesting. I get to try different flours and spices I’ve never tried before, and seeing what everyone thinks of my hard work is always a joy. 

I’ve also had a lot more time to exercise, which is surprisingly one of my new favorite things to do. I started doing yoga, and I'm taking my dog on walks with my family. It has made me feel a lot better both physically and mentally. The most positive aspect of social distancing is that it has allowed a lot of people to step back and take a breath to reevaluate and spend time with loved ones and really cherish the time together. I’ve enjoyed trying new things, and I hope when everything goes back to normal, I’ll continue to explore new hobbies and be unafraid to try new things.