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Thought about starting a small home or balcony garden? Now might be the time.Evgeniia Siiankovskaia/iStockPhoto / Getty Images

In these uncertain times, we are all looking for ways to take our minds off things. If you’re working from home and/or juggling the demands of looking after children or an aged parent, the affect on your mental health might be starting to show. Given the stresses, it’s never been more important to squeeze in some time for a leisure activity that reinforces the importance of being kind to ourselves – whether that’s learning to ballroom dance, giving your face a botanical steam, making pizza bites for the kids or the perfect dry martini (with a twist) for yourself. These self-care suggestions should go a long way to brightening your day.

Cocktailing / Cooking

Beginner

This two-ingredient dough (self-rising flour and Greek yogurt) is easy to make, a breeze to clean up and is the foundation of a medley of yummy things including cheesy pizza, bagels and pretzel bites. Note: The yogurt has to be Greek-style and can have any fat content.

Intermediate

Britain’s avant-garde cocktail king Ryan Chetiyawardana (of Dandelyan/Lyaness fame) has begun offering free mixology classes on his Instagram page. First up is a standby that will never grow old: The martini. As Cheiyawardana puts it, this is a drink that is perfect as a “point of pause and reflection on the day.”

Expert

Burnaby. B.C.’s Monika Hibbs has just published the cookbook Gather at Home: Over 100 Simple Recipes, DIYs, and Inspiration for a Year of Occasions. Her recipe for Earl Grey bundt cake stands out because of its ingredients and the way this self-taught chef presents the finished product. Start practising now for Mother’s Day.

Growing

Beginner

Microgreens or shoots are fast and easy to grow on a sunny windowsill or under a grow light. As Nova Scotia gardener and author Niki Jabbour explains, they are typically ready to scissor harvest in just a few weeks and are a healthy add-on to sandwiches, pasta, salads and stir-fries. Jabbour finds they have also another benefit: “They just make me feel good for my mental health.”

Intermediate

According to the National Gardening Association, food gardening in North America is at its highest level in more than 10 years, with container gardening responsible for a significant chunk of that growth. The arrival of spring means baby greens such as lettuce and spinach can be planted soon (they tolerate cooler temperatures). Tomatoes, hot peppers and strawberries will also thrive in containers with a little TLC, but wait to plant until the threat of frost has passed.


Expert

Sustainable gardeners are building pollinator palaces that provide nesting sites or shelter for beneficial insects. Canadian gardener Tara Nolan found inspiration from British garden designer John Cullen, who used metal gabions to build his structure. She stacked antique, rusted milk crates to create her palace, which features layers of garden debris, such as pinecones and sticks, as well as cardboard Mason bee nesting tubes. Instructions can be found in her new book, Gardening Your Front Yard, and excerpted on Savvy Gardening.

Sustainability

Beginner

Most homemade cleaning products cost less than $1 to make and use a variation of a few basic ingredients (white vinegar, liquid castile soap, rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, essential oils). Reasons to make your own? It saves you money, and they are safer for both you and the environment.

Intermediate

An alternative to pricey hydrating face creams is to make one yourself with coconut oil, which is antibacterial, and has emollients that smooth the skin’s surface.

Expert

Most scented candles are made from paraffin, a byproduct of petroleum, which pollutes the air. The solution is to do it yourself, armed with a few basic ingredients (beeswax, coconut oil and/or essential oils), reusable glass jars and perhaps a few clippings from the spruce or cedar in your yard.

Pampering

Beginner

Several artists are issuing informal challenges on their Instagram accounts to anyone who wants to stay creative during these turbulent times. Based on a prompt, you draw, paint, sculpt, etc. and share it on social media, mostly on Instagram. American illustrator Sarah Beth Morgan, with #drawfromadistance, asked followers to make fan art of their favourite book, movie or TV show. Another, illustrator and author Carson Ellis, started a #quarantineartclub that encouraged followers to create a self-portrait.

Intermediate

Teach yourself how to move your hips like a Bollywood star, sashay like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, or do the cha cha like Charo. Toronto’s City Dance Corps is offering free online classes, once a day, on Instagram, for adults and kids.

Expert

Loop Blankets, those chunky, cozy things perfect for settling down on the comfort of your sofa to binge the latest Netflix series, require no knitting needles. You just tie knots (lots of knots). Once you get the hang of the technique, a blanket usually takes one evening to make.

Grooming

Beginner

The Vancouver-based sustainable-beauty company Wild Jasmine Natural Apothecary has a botanical facial steam that clears your pores and smells heavenly. Just add hot water and place a towel over your head. Emily May, who recently opened the home and garden shop Spade & Sparrow in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., carries the product, and says she strains the steam after using it and keeps it in the fridge as a refreshing face spritz.

Intermediate

With your favourite nail salon closed, you may have no choice but to take care of removing your own gel manicure. No easy task because there is always the fear of removing a significant portion of your nail base. This video shows you how to avoid missteps.

Expert

We’ve all seen the posts online of people sporting mullets or poodle-dog coifs because salons and barbershops are indefinitely closed. Cutting bangs is always a risky proposition when you do it yourself, but you can follow an expert who takes you through it, step by careful step.

The spread of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 continues, with more cases diagnosed in Canada. The Globe offers the dos and don'ts to help slow or stop the spread of the virus in your community.

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