Hobby Feature: Picnics, paper folding, penpals and pâtisserie

An evening picnic, photo by Hannah Koehler

Quarantine has brought me a surplus of free time, and social distancing has left me with very limited options for entertainment. When I finally decide to drag myself out from under my covers and pursue some form of stimulation, I will often partake in one the following activities: 


If I can call packing picnic fare, searching around my house for a blanket, scouring the park for a good spot and eating outside a hobby, then going on picnics is my primary hobby. Though I have long been an avid fan of picnic food and spending time outdoors, quarantine has given me time and heightened my appreciation for being outside my house. As of late, when I feel particularly down, I will pack a book, a blanket, some fruit, some cheese, something I have baked recently and head to a local park. 

A sunrise picnic, photo by Hannah Koehler

Sunrise picnics are my particular favorite. I am decidedly a night owl and I do not usually see the sunrise, but occasionally I will set my alarm for 5:45 a.m., brew some coffee in my thermos, grab a muffin and drive to the lake near my house. It is quiet and peaceful, and every single time, I will wish that I could be a morning person and have those still moments every day. The middle-aged power walking ladies are also usually there around 6:30 a.m., and they will smile and wave at me as I consume my coffee. I usually see a dog or two and I will usually shamelessly tempt them with my muffin in the hope that they might come over and let me pet them. I have had one success with it – Chip, the black lab, was very excited and tried to drink my coffee. Chip’s owner was very embarrassed, and I was thrilled. 

Paper Folding

It seems that moving back to my childhood bedroom has spurred in me the strange desire to pick up the hobby I had as a 9-year-old. Midway into quarantine, I found myself perusing Amazon for origami paper. How did I get into paper folding as a child? I absolutely have no idea, but 9-year-old me spent a rather embarrassing amount of time constructing animals and flowers out of paper. At 21 years old, I can now only remember how to make a paper crane without instructions. However, quarantine has given me an unwanted amount of time, and now I am relearning how to make a paper tulip as I watch cooking documentaries on Netflix. 

Pen Pals

Many of my peers can confirm that going from being constantly surrounded by friends to only speaking to them over the phone has been inexpressibly challenging. I have sorely felt the empty spaces that had once been filled by people that I love to spend time with, but sending and receiving letters has somehow filled those spaces a little bit. I have guilted my friends into being my penpals, and it has been rather successful so far – I usually average around three or four letters a week. I usually like to ask my pen pals questions about their personalities or their likes and dislikes in each letter, and I have been delighted to find that I am learning new things about my friends. As a side effect of having pen pals, I am now obsessed with buying stationery – a gratifying but somewhat pricey consequence. 

Quarantine correspondence, photo by Hannah Koehler


It seems that everyone and their mom has taken up baking because there is a decided shortage of instant yeast in the baking section of my grocery store. I, too, have found myself joining the ranks of people trying new recipes and have found an excellent time diversion. For pastry items, I have been making rugelach, cream puffs and mini berry lemon tarts. The tarts were especially excellent as blueberry, strawberry and lemon is one of my favorite flavor combinations. Though not categorized as patisserie, I have also enjoyed making bread. Last week, I quite loudly rejoiced in my small neighborhood grocery store as I spied one lone bag of yeast on the shelf. If you happen to have yeast and want to try your hand at bread making, I would recommend this recipe for Jalapeño Cheddar bread. Savory bread is heavenly, and this bread is excellent for grilled cheese sandwiches. 

Mini berry lemon tarts, photo and photo’s contents by Hannah Koehler
A gathering of rugelach having an excellent time in quarantine, photo by Hannah Koehler

Hannah Koehler

Hannah Koehler is the page editor for Arts & Culture on The Hilltop Monitor. She is a senior majoring in English and psychological science.

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