//City and County of Denver workers collect specimen samples from city residents at a temporary COVID-19 testing site at Ruby Hill Park on Nov. 23. Photo by Esteban Fernandez | email@example.com
As of Nov. 20, Denver has adopted the “Level Red-Severe Risk” public health order, meaning we are now facing increased restrictions. It’s not quite a stay-at-home order, but it might as well be.
The new regulations came down as Gov. Jared Polis announced that one in 49 Coloradans is contagious with COVID-19. According to The New York Times, Colorado has averaged 4,394 new confirmed cases and 30 deaths per day over the last week. Although daily confirmed cases have decreased by 5% over the last two weeks, hospitalizations and deaths have spiked by 37% and 40% respectively.
Mayor Michael Hancock ordered a 30-day “home-by-10” curfew on Nov. 6 in an effort to curb the rise in cases. The mandate aimed to limit nighttime gathering at bars and restaurants along with private get-togethers. Even if this order isn’t extended, it’s probably smarter to be staying at home right now anyway. You basically have a one-in-10 chance of coming into contact with someone carrying COVID. No thank you.
So, now that we’re heading back into the dark days of isolation, you’ll need things to do. Many of us blasted through hours of television and movies, baked sourdough and picked up new hobbies the first time around. Here’s your survival guide for what we’re calling Quarantine 2.0.
Many people can’t afford to get food or groceries delivered to their homes and others may not have access to a car, which makes things especially difficult. How you decide to eat will be up to you and what your financial situation is. I like mixing it up with ordering in and cooking at home, creating a reasonable weekly budget for both. It also really helps being in quarantine with partners, roommates or family members to split costs. Cooking for one can be cumbersome and expensive. That said, I have a few recipes from my single days that are absolute bangers and fairly inexpensive (you can often make two-three meals out of these).
- Chicken fajitas: These can easily be made for one and you can make extras for more people or leftovers. You’ll need chicken breast, yellow onion, tri-colored sweet peppers, tortillas, cheese (I like cheddar, but you can use a different one if you’d like), sour cream or plain Greek yogurt, fajita seasoning, limes and jalapeños. Cut your chicken breast into strips and marinate in some oil, lime juice and fajita seasoning to taste. While that’s going, cut the veggies. I personally cook everything on the stovetop, but you can also put everything on a baking sheet and pop it into the oven or on the grill. My favorite thing is to melt some cheddar on the tortillas in the oven, and then top with Greek yogurt, lime juice, fresh jalapeños and Tapatío.
- Tortellini and veggies: This meal is SUPER easy and cheap. Grab a bag of frozen cheese tortellini from the grocery store and cook according to directions. I like to roast some tri-colored sweet peppers and zucchini, tossed in olive oil, salt and pepper at 400° F (15 minutes for the peppers, 20 minutes for the zucchini). Then I top those suckers off with some balsamic reduction and shredded parmesan. If I’m feeling extra fancy and have some in my cheese drawer, I love a balsamic BellaVitano or rosemary asiago, both of which you can find at King Soopers.
- Salmon, cheese gnocchi and zucchini: If you haven’t been able to tell yet from my recipes above, I love cheese, zucchini and balsamic. They’re a wonderful combo. This recipe is a little pricier, but you can make it last for a couple of meals as a single person or treat yourself to a “fancy” meal. I use this recipe for my salmon but be warned that if you decide to use frozen filets instead of fresh, it’s a lot harder to tell when they’re done. Spring for the fresh if you can. I don’t waste time making fresh gnocchi, however, because Target and Trader Joe’s both have frozen bags that you just throw into a pan on the stove. I will say that it is a lot better dressed up with some shredded balsamic BellaVitano and rosemary Asiago. I thin-slice the zucchini and toss it in some olive oil, salt and pepper then send it into the oven at 400° F for 20-25 minutes depending on how crispy I want them to be.
- Turkey sandwich: There are so many variations you can make with such a simple meal. Sometimes I get honey smoked, sometimes that mesquite is where it is. Don’t just go for Oscar Mayer, get the good stuff sliced at the deli. I personally like two variations: yellow mustard and cheddar with some butter lettuce, or when I’m feeling a little fancy, dijon mustard, Havarti and arugula. There is a world of cheese out there, try something new!
- Box mac and cheese: Okay, hear me out. If you make straight Kraft Mac, it’s not terrible but there’s a lot left to be desired. I have a few tricks to make it much better. When I first started dating my partner he taught me to use a bit of plain Greek yogurt in addition to a bit of milk. It makes it tangier and creamier. To avoid clumps of cheese powder, mix it with milk and your Greek yogurt in a small bowl or measuring cup. Once you’ve drained your noodles and they’re still in the strainer, melt the butter and combine with your cheese sauce. Dump the noodles back in the pot and sprinkle a bit of shredded cheddar on top. Don’t forget Tabasco.
- If you drink, smoke or use marijuana products, make sure you stock up before going back underground. Dispensaries and liquor stores will still be open during quarantine (look at how well it worked out when they tried to close them for three hours back in March). But it’s better to be prepared, especially with winter and snow incoming. There are also plenty of apps that deliver alcohol if you really need a drink during your waking moments of existential dread.
- We know that food and alcohol can be delivered. But if you’re immunocompromised like me and want to eliminate one more stop from your errands, you can also get your prescriptions delivered to your home. There’s only one caveat, if you’re on controlled substances you will still have to go to the pharmacy to pick up your prescription.
- If you remember what happened the first go around with quarantine, toilet paper and other products sold out for weeks. Avoid the panic and order your toilet paper online from an environmentally responsible company.
We’ve now moved on from baking sourdough. It’s time to level up. Try something more complex like making homemade pizza dough and experimenting with toppings. Or even soufflé?
- My partner started painting WarHammer 40K minis during the tail end of the last stay-at-home order. It might seem really nerdy (and a bit expensive) but he absolutely loves it. Things like painting minis provide a creative outlet and give you a goal to work toward.
- Try your hand at crafts or hobbies that can supplement your income. Propagating plants, resin projects, bookbinding, polymer clay jewelry and knitting can all result in products you can sell online.
- For me personally, it helped to start making a blueprint for my future. Obviously, we don’t know where we’ll be in a year and if we’ll still be trapped in our homes by then. But I started planning a year-long trip that my partner and I want to go on when we’re financially stable enough to do so. Doing research on places to go and things to do has burned through hours of my time.
If you’re sharing your quarantine time with your partner(s), it’s important to maintain scheduled date nights for the health of your relationship and intimacy. I know, it’s cheesy. But it really is true. When you spend so much time around the person you love, it can start to feel like a chore sometimes. Here are some simple date night ideas that I’ve personally found to be really fun.
- Build a blanket fort: Yes! Build a fort with chairs, your couch, tables, whatever you can find. Add pillows, fairy lights, pets, and a specialty (alcoholic or non-alcoholic) drink for extra comfort. Bonus if you can build it in front of the TV or bring a laptop in to watch movies.
- Start a project: Organize a closet, paint a wall, build something. Even if it’s a dresser from IKEA. There are also literally thousands of crafts to be done and now you have time to do them. Create something together for your home that you will always have to remind you of what a fucked up year this has been (made better by being together, of course).
- Get naked: This seems like an obvious one, but really. Explore some new things! Have you tried shibari? Have you tried role play? Use this time to test the waters.
- Love games: My partner and I had one of the best dates nights of our relationship getting tipsy and asking each other The 36 Questions that Lead to Love. We already knew a lot about each other, but this expanded our knowledge even deeper. It was incredibly intimate, fun and low pressure. I also suggest looking into getting a deck of relationship cards from The Skin Deep. They also have limited versions of their decks for free available through their app THE AND.
- Game nights: I’ll go into which games I suggest below, but there really is nothing better than whooping your partner’s ass at a board game.
We’ve reached the entertainment portion of the guide. As I mentioned, most of us have blasted through the shows we had on our lists for years and rewatched our old favorites several times. However, I’m still going to plug some of my absolute faves.
On HBO Max
Veep- This show ended last year, but honestly with the political environment being what it is right now, it has renewed relevance. You know that meme about Nevada you’ve been seeing on social media since the election? That’s from Veep. Cleverly written, there are some banger jokes that my partner and I reference almost daily.
Curb Your Enthusiasm- I know, again a show that has been around for years. But there are some people out there who still haven’t seen it. I know there are some episodes that are politically incorrect and Larry David is one of the most cringy characters on TV, but there are some scenes that left me in tears.
Lovecraft Country- I just binged the entire season of this show last weekend. It was visually amazing and incredibly relevant to the racial divide in America right now. If you want to read a full critical review, here’s a great one from The New York Times.
The Good Place- This show ended earlier this year. It’s not perfect. The later episodes delve a little too much into romance for where it started. But it is wholesome and funny and has a great cast.
Schitt’s Creek- If you haven’t watched and rewatched this show by now, what are you doing?
The 100- I started watching this with my mom years ago when I still lived at home. We finished through the 5th season but never got around to watching the last two. I recently finished the series after it concluded in September. It was definitely bittersweet without my mom there to watch it with me, especially because, although somewhat corny, the ending message is one I think my mom would have really appreciated.
Killing Eve- Amazing. Brilliant. Engaging. Two beautiful and haunting women play cat and mouse. Watch it.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine- I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve rewatched this show. I know, I know, we canceled the cop shows this year. But this one is genuinely funny and has several episodes that examine racial profiling by police and criminal justice issues. It’s also chock-full of LGBTQ+, POC and strong female characters.
What We Do in the Shadows- There’s a debate in my household about whether the movie or the show is better. I believe full-heartedly that the show is superior.
Imagineering- Okay, full disclosure. I’m a huge Disney fan. I love the parks and many of the movies. This documentary examines the history of the parks, shows and rides and was totally fascinating.
The Mandalorian- Season one of this show was a huge hit and introduced us to baby Yoda, one of the meme greats. The second season dropped on Oct. 30.
WandaVision and Marvel 616- I haven’t actually seen either of these yet, but I’ve been looking forward to them. Marvel 616 just dropped on Nov. 20. WandaVision will be on the platform in December.
Here are some movies my staff and I love. Remember that we are not high-minded film critics, so if you’re jaded about movies some of these may not be to your taste. There are also thousands of movies on these platforms, most of which are really great. We’re trying to get a variety here.
On HBO Max
Just Mercy- Can a punishment be just if the accused can’t represent themselves? This movie is based on a true story. Michael B. Jordan plays an attorney who defends a man on Death Row with no resources and little reason to hope. It’s an indictment of our criminal justice system then and now. -Esteban
Ford v. Ferrari- Look, I don’t even like the world of cars and I found this movie really interesting. It’s the true story behind the 1966 Le Mans 24 hour race. The writing and acting are brilliant. -Madison
War Dogs- One of my guilty pleasures is wartime movies. The action of the movie meshes seamlessly with a nihilistic attitude toward war. Does it make light of horrible people profiting on war? Yes, it often does. But it also exposes their greed and manipulation. -Madison
Honorable mentions- Charm City Kings, Unpregnant, Us.
Cuties- For the full take on this movie, check out Amelia and Padideh’s review of it and the unnecessary backlash Netflix faced for streaming it.
Molly’s Game- Aaron Sorkin is one of my favorite writers and directors. The dialogue is witty and fast-paced, telling the real-life story of Olympic skier Molly Bloom who ran high-stakes poker games for the rich. It also boasts an all-star cast, including one of my faves Idris Elba. -Madison
The Death of Stalin- By far one of the greatest comedies made in the last few years. It’s a dark satire about the state of politics in communist Russia. Definitely in the vein of English dark comedy. -Madison
Honorable mentions- Lady Bird, The Irishman, The Social Dilemma.
Obvious Child- One of my favorite movies. It’s a light rom-com about a woman’s choice to have an abortion after a one night stand. A lot of people criticize the movie for not taking the abortion topic more seriously, but it’s unapologetic and non-judgemental in my opinion. The lead actress, Jenny Slate, played Mona Lisa in Parks & Rec. -Madison
Portrait of a Lady on Fire- It’s like Call Me by Your Name but for ladies and historic. It shows the best-case scenario for a 19th century back-cave abortion. In all seriousness, this quiet revolution of female sexuality shines a light on a surreptitious moment of defiance. -Annie
Parasite- This is an examination of who really exploits who. Why resist capitalism when you can fuck over your fellow proletariat? -Esteban
Honorable mentions- Mrs. America, Palm Springs, Buffaloed.
Hidden Figures- If you haven’t seen this movie by now, go watch it. Based on the true story about the Black women at NASA who got us to the moon, it’s an important piece of often-overlooked history. -Madison
Queen of Katwe- This movie is about harnessing potential and building upon it. It’s one of those movies that is so engaging you can’t walk away from it. -Madison
Black Panther- We’ve probably all seen this movie dozens of times by now, but go rewatch it. In the wake of Chadwick Bozeman’s death, it’s garnered even more significance. If you haven’t seen it yet because you don’t like superhero movies, I don’t know what to tell you. -Madison
Honorable mentions- Thor Ragnarok, Zootopia, Brave.
- A Cup of Water Under My Bed- The memoir of Daisy Hernández, a bisexual Columbian-Cuban woman, that talks about race, money, love, sexuality womanhood and family.
- Redefining Realness- The memoir of Janet Mock, former staff editor for People and contributing editor for Marie Claire. Mock came out as trans in 2011, and this book chronicles her journey from an unhappy child into the fierce woman she is today.
- It’s What I Do- Even if you’re not a journalist, Lyndsey Addario’s memoir about her experience as a war photographer is captivating. It’s a recounting of her love affair with photojournalism and how she grew into the world-renowned photographer she is now.
- Invisible Monsters- Chuck Palahnuik’s style of writing is chaotic, but this book was a joyous ride to read.
- Zeitoun- I know I’ll probably get lectured for including this book, but we don’t want to censor here. Since this book came out, there has been a lot of controversy surrounding Abdulrahman Zeitoun, the person on which this book is based. And what he is accused of doing is none the less fucked up. But this story is really interesting and it details the actions of Zeitoun in the days following Hurricane Katrina.
- Villainous- Based on Disney villains, this game is actually consistently highly rated at gaming conventions. Two can play it easily, but it’s better with more players. Suggested for date nights.
- Mysterium- Highly rated, this game is like Clue but way better. Best to play with five or more people.
- Farkle- FARKLE!!! A super simple game that can be played with two or more people. Suggested for date nights.
- Scrabble- The classic. Suggested for date nights.
- 20 Questions- Yes, this game is actually fun. It’s not just a road trip game to pass the time. Suggested for date nights.
- All Bad Cards- The premise of this virtual card game is very similar to Cards Against Humanity. There’s also a family-friendly version available, so you can play with kids.
- Dungeons and Dragons- Yes, it’s nerdy! But it’s a lot of fun! Find a dungeon master to run a campaign or one-shot for you. It’s a great game to play virtually with a group of friends on Zoom or Discord.
- Houseparty- Houseparty is a social network where you can hang out with friends and play games, like trivia or UNO.
Thank you, Madison, for this outstanding guide.