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  • Youth Mental Health Association

10 New Things to Try in Quarantine + YMHA Recipes!

Updated: Dec 28, 2020

1) Learn a new language

Duolingo, Rosetta Stone, Babbel, you name it! There are so many free learning resources out there these days that you can use to brush up your language skills in a super fun way. Whether it’s because you want to learn more about your mother tongue, or you’re planning a trip to Spain after quarantine ends, this is an amazing way to pass the time and learn something new! This is also 100% customizable - whether you’re a beginner, intermediate or have never even heard the language before, you can learn at your own pace!

Free or Freemium Language Tools

Paid Language Tools

2) Knitting

I know, I know - at first glance, knitting seems like a suboptimal way to spend time during quarantine. But, if I’m being honest, it is one of the most calming activities I have ever tried. It might take some practice to get used to it (it took me 3 weeks to learn how to do the most basic stitch), but once you get the hang of it, there is so much you can do with this skill! I’m currently knitting a scarf for my dog. If knitting isn't for you, there are also tons of crocheting tutorials as well!

3) Start your very own garden, at home

Have you ever felt curious about what it would be like to eat the food that you have grown yourself? I think it’s an amazing feeling! Grab a few flower pots, some soil, and your seed of choice (tomato, lettuce, onion, carrot, cucumber, you name it) and build your very own garden! All of these materials can be ordered online, which makes it easier.

4) Watch the sunrise or sunset

This is something that I have personally fallen in love with doing. When I start to feel a bit cooped up or restless staying at home, I make a plan to wake up early the next morning (and I mean EARLY - around 5 am) to go on a walk to a nearby park, with nothing but a picnic blanket and some tea. I have found this very relaxing, as it allows me to step back for a moment in the midst of such a crazy time, spend time with the sun, and breathe. This is something I definitely would not have thought of doing if I wasn’t in quarantine. The best part is, if you are too tired to wake up and watch the sunrise, the sunset is just as beautiful!

5) Start your own podcast or vlog series

As a 12 year old girl, this idea would be my go-to! If you think about it, it’s not too bad of an idea though - in 30 years, when we look back on 2020 and remember our memories of quarantine, wouldn’t it be cool to have a podcast or vlog series to look back on? Even if it’s something to keep to yourself or just share with your family and friends, starting your own series opens up huge possibilities for you to be as creative as you want! You could start a podcast talking about your interests, create a “Day in the Life in Quarantine” vlog - the options are limitless!

6) Take an online class

For many of us, we have free time to fill. So, why not learn something new! Many universities, including Harvard and Yale, have free classes you can take on topics from game development to American poetry. Many are also self-paced and have no grading components, allowing for less stress and more learning.

7) Travel… virtually!

While there are limitations on where we can adventure currently, the internet has no such limitations. The team at have compiled a list of over 100 different virtual tours, livestreams, shows, and more. So whether you want to see a museum, explore some volcanoes, or bring the Disney magic home, you can! Here’s the link:

8) Get active, for fun or for charity

With gyms closed, workouts from home and outside activities, such as running, have become more commonplace. For yogis to cardio enthusiasts, Youtube can be your new fitness trainer. Organizations like Embrace Arts Foundation and CNIB Foundation help people of all abilities to be active. If you are new to running, programs like Couch to 5K can make the process simpler. Lastly, if you are looking to make a difference, The Scotiabank Charity Challenge allows runners to raise money for a wide array of charities, such as Crossroads Children’s Mental Health Centre. See more of the charities and sign up here:

9) Pick up an old hobby or start a new one

You can truly restart or pick up anything from tie-dyeing, to calligraphy, to learning a new language. Two that can be as low key or elaborate as you would like, are journaling and photography. For journaling, there is obviously the classic pen to paper option as well as online app options such as Day One Journal or Momento. Instagrams such as @shethespy, @katybellotte, or @lookbullet offer fun prompts and inspiration as well. For photography, while DSLR or Polaroid cameras are fun, your trusty old phone camera will absolutely do the trick. Add in photography hacks, such as adding a roll of toilet paper to your camera for a spotlight, or cool editing apps, such as the classic VSCO or lesser known Foodie, to up creativity.

10) Rest

Sounds simple, right? As my nickname is “Energizer Bunny” I have definitely struggled with this aspect of quarantine. Between school, work, and more it can be hard to allow ourselves the time to rest. Tips and tricks to help the process can be found at websites such as and Truly, there is no better time to work on slowing down and enjoying some downtime. Here is to peacefully sitting in the sun, napping on the couch, and catching up on the sleep we have been missing.


From Grandma, With Love <3

From birthday parties to rainy Wednesdays, this cake has been a mainstay in my life. Originally from my grandma, it has now been passed down to my generation to learn and share. It’s simple, it’s delicious, and it’s so so comforting. - Serena

Classic Butter Cake


  • 1 lb of room temperature butter

  • 1 lb of sugar (plus some to sprinkle the baking pan)

  • 1 lb of flour (and 3 tsp for the baking pan)

  • 1 tsp of baking powder

  • 1 tsp of pure vanilla

  • 6 large eggs

  • Optional: 3 oz of cocoa powder if you want to have a chocolate top.

You will need a stand mixer, sifting tool, cooling rack, two 8x8 cake pans, and a spatula.


  1. Butter your two cake pans with sugar and flour. Put aside.

  2. Cream butter and sugar together in a stand mixer until really creamy. You’re aiming for the mixture to become white in colour. This is the most time consuming part, but the creamier the better!

  3. Add vanilla

  4. Add eggs. Mix on high but for a short time, over mixing will make it too heavy.

  5. Sift the flour and baking powder into a separate bowl, before mixing it in either at 1 on your stand mixer or with a spatula

  6. Pour mixture into pans (If you’re doing the chocolate, instructions are below)

  7. Bake at 350 for 40 minutes

  8. Cool in pan for about 15 minutes

  9. Invert onto cooling rack.

  10. Enjoy!

If you’re doing the chocolate addition:

  1. Pour in about ⅔ of the regular mixture into pan

  2. With the remaining ⅓, add 3 oz of cocoa and ¼ cup of milk. Mix well

  3. Pour into pans, and using a spatula (or spoon or something similar) swirl the chocolate around until you get your desired marble effect.

  4. Bake at 350 for 40 minutes

  5. Cool in pan for about 15 minutes

  6. Invert onto cooling rack

  7. Enjoy!

Frosted Cinnamon Rolls

These cinnamon rolls are so close to the Cinnabon recipe that it will literally blow your mind! The process is a bit lengthy, but it is 100% worth it. - Isha

** Retrieved from The Ambition Kitchen (


For the dough:

  • ¾ cup warm milk (whole milk or 2% preferred) (110 degrees F)

  • 2 ¼ teaspoons quick rise or active yeast (1/4-ounce package yeast)

  • ¼ cup granulated sugar

  • 1 egg plus 1 egg yolk, at room temperature

  • ¼ cup unsalted butter, melted

  • 3 cups bread flour, plus more for dusting

  • 3/4 teaspoon salt

For the filling:

  • 2/3 cup dark brown sugar (light brown sugar also works)

  • 1 ½ tablespoons ground cinnamon

  • ¼ cup unsalted butter, softened

For the cream cheese frosting:

  • 4 oz cream cheese, softened

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

  • ¾ cup powdered sugar

  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. Warm milk to around 110 degrees F. Transfer warm milk to the bowl of an electric mixer and sprinkle yeast on top. Add in sugar, egg, egg yolk and melted butter. Mix until well combined. Next, stir in flour and salt with a wooden spoon until a dough begins to form.

  2. Place dough hook on stand mixer and knead dough on medium speed for 8 minutes. Dough should form into a nice ball and be slightly sticky. Or, you can use your hands to knead the dough for 8-10 minutes on a well-floured surface.

  3. Transfer dough ball to a well-oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and a warm towel. Allow dough to rise for 1 hour to 1 ½ hours, or until doubled in size.

  4. After dough has doubled in size, transfer dough to a well-floured surface and roll out into a 14x9 inch rectangle. Spread softened butter over dough, leaving a ¼ inch margin at the far side of the dough.

  5. Tightly roll dough up, starting from the 9-inch side and place the seam side down making sure to seal the edges of the dough as best you can. You will probably need to cut off about an inch off the ends of the dough.

  6. Cut into 1 inch sections with a serrated knife or floss. You should get 9 large pieces.

  7. Place cinnamon rolls in a greased 9x9 inch baking pan or round 9 inch cake pan. (You can line the pan with parchment paper as well, in case any of the filling ends up leaking out.) Cover with plastic wrap and a warm towel and let rise again for 30-45 minutes.

  8. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Remove plastic wrap and towel and bake cinnamon rolls for 20-25 minutes or until just slightly golden brown on the edges. You want to underbake them a little so they stay soft in the middle, that’s why we want them just slightly golden brown. Allow them to cool for 5-10 minutes before frosting.

  9. To make the frosting: In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar and vanilla extract. Beat until smooth and fluffy. Spread over cinnamon rolls and serve immediately.

Written By

Serena Martin & Isha Verma

YMHA Contributors & YMHA Associates

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