From Animal Crossing to making sourdough: How we're spending our coronavirus quarantine time

Key Points
  • Computer games, bread making, puzzles, music lessons and basketball drills are some of the ways the CNBC tech team is passing the time while sheltered in place.
  • Reporters are spread across the country, primarily in the New York region and San Francisco Bay Area.
Sara's jigsaw puzzles
Sara Salinas

Like office workers across much of the U.S., CNBC's reporters, editors and producers just wrapped up their third full week working from home, doing our part to help slow the spread of the coronavirus. The news never stops and we spend most of the working day glued to our devices. But in the off hours, we're finding other ways to pass the time productively.

We asked members of CNBC's technology team to give our readers a short glimpse into one activity they're doing now with regularity that wouldn't otherwise be on the daily agenda. There's music, food, sports and good old-fashioned reality television. Maybe some of these will help you find new ways to pass the time.

Here are the submissions, in alphabetical order by first name:

Alex Sherman — Princeton, NJ

Alex Sherman and his kids
Meredith Sherman

Playing the piano for my kids was one of the things I dreamed about growing up. I'm a pretty good piano player, and I couldn't wait to expose my kids to it. Maybe they'd get inspired and be great piano players. Now I have two sons, four and six. My wife and I have been doing daily "music class" with both kids during quarantine. I play the piano and we all join in the sing-alongs.

Here's what I've learned: They don't care that I play the piano. They enjoy singing. My piano accompaniment is irrelevant at best, an annoying distraction at worst. We have one more son on the way. Maybe the third time will be the charm.

Annie Palmer – Brooklyn, NY

Animal Crossing: New Horizons

One of the unexpected benefits of quarantine life has been that it's forced me to slow down. When I log off for the day, my favorite activities certainly reflect that.

A big one has been cooking, and specifically, pickling. I've been eating a lot of things in bowls – rice, quinoa, spaghetti, lentils – and pickled veggies are a great way to spice things up. I made some pickled cucumbers and have now graduated to jalapenos. It takes about a day to be able to sample the finished product, but luckily I have nothing but time right now.

The other way I've been keeping busy is playing the video game Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Nintendo timed the release of this perfectly. It's extremely wholesome and calming (great for when the world feels like it's on fire). You can go fishing, shopping, visit other deserted islands that your friends have created and curate your virtual life. It's great, except for when you get chased by tarantulas.

Ari Levy — Alameda, CA

Hugo Levy, Ari's son
Ari Levy

My four-year-old son, Hugo, is really into basketball, and was loving his Saturday morning group classes before the coronavirus shut everything down. Some of the coaches from Triple Threat Academy, the company that runs his weekend sessions, started posting online dribbling and ball control videos, live and recorded, and sharing them on Instagram.

We have two basketball goals in our carport — a 10-foot hoop and a seven-foot hoop — so Hugo and I can play together and against each other. I try to get out with him for at least a half hour each day, starting with the Instagram drills and then moving on to a shooting contest. He usually beats me. He's very competitive.

Kif Leswing — Oakland, CA

Conquer Club
Conquer Club

I've been playing dozens of games of Risk. I don't have enough people to play with in my one-bedroom apartment, so it's all virtual. I'm playing on Conquer Club, a site that lets you play a Risk-like game (the name was changed for legal reasons). The site offers scores of maps, ranging from World 2.0 (a much larger world map) to the western front of World War II. 

I'm mostly playing with old friends from high school, now scattered around the country in Seattle, New York, San Francisco and the Washington, D.C. area. We played in high school, and the site hasn't been updated since. The software has a very 2007 feel and the message board is a throwback.  

On most games, you get 24 hours to make your move, so a game can last weeks. One game is now in its 50th round, although I've been eliminated. When we were setting up our accounts, we were pondering whether to commit to one game or two. We went with the latter. As one person in our group chat said, "Why not play both? We're in quarantine."

Megan Graham — Chicago suburbs (lives in Jersey City)

Megan's bread
Megan Graham

For years, I've enviously regarded photos of friends' jars of gurgling sourdough starters and the resulting perfect loaves of bread. But though I love to cook, I've never cared much for baking. On the stove, I can wing it, adjust along the way, add a little something for balance in a three-ring-circus requiring constant attention. To me, baking is obnoxiously precise and can require so much waiting.

These days, for obvious reasons, I have a little more patience. For the uninitiated, no-knead bread making is an hours-long affair (days if you're making your own starter), and requires a lot of coddling. There's moving the dough around, folding it, wrapping it up in cloth, checking on it and a whole lot of waiting.

My first attempts were a bit flat and not salty enough due to a misstep in flour choice. But my third loaf, to which I spontaneously added herb salt with rosemary to the outer crust just before sliding it into the oven, was wonderful. Now I just have to figure out how to keep from constantly eating it.

Sal Rodriguez — San Francisco, CA

A scene from "Survivor" on CBS.
Source: CBS

I'm not sure if it's because this season is a reunion season comprised solely of returning characters or because the name of the show itself is simply so relevant for times like these, but I have been binge watching past seasons of "Survivor" every night over the past week or two.

I was a fan as a kid, and I decided to start watching the new season, set in Fiji, when it premiered a few weeks ago. Now that I'm watching, I'm recognizing many themes that could apply to a situation as dire as what some of the most pessimistic people say could happen if the current pandemic reaches its worst possible outcomes.

Of course, there's a bit of capitalism at play here too. CBS decided to give everyone a free two-month trial of its new CBS All-Access streaming service, and I'm take full advantage. There's a chance I'll become a paying customer when the trial is over.

Sara Salinas — Reisterstown, MD (lives in NYC)

Sara's puzzle
Sara Salinas

The clock ticking too slowly? Try starting a 1,000-piece puzzle.

It's the only thing I've found in quarantine to consistently pass the time. Sit down, put on a long playlist, start sorting border pieces from the others and somehow minutes become hours. I recommend a comfortable chair and a nearby water glass, too.

I had dabbled in puzzles before the coronavirus forced us all indoors. But the extra time and mind-numbing sameness of quarantine has served as a perfect backdrop for developing a pretty serious puzzling habit. The full-sized dining table at my parents' home in Maryland has helped.

On my first Saturday in isolation, I bought five 1,000-piece puzzles. I finished the first by that Sunday. I'm currently working on the fourth and now have five more in the mail. Concerned friends have said I need to pace myself, but I find it the ideal activity for these times. Puzzles are offline, relatively cheap, stimulating and low-maintenance.

They also go well with cocktails.

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