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Surprising things we achieved this year
Photograph: Shutterstock / Time Out

42 surprising things we achieved during 2020

Honestly, we never expected to spend this year making jam, grooming cats and getting really into antique furniture

By Time Out editors
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Hi there. We’re the staff of Time Out, and we’ve had quite a lot of time on our hands this year. Time when we’d normally be out and about, exploring the city, seeing friends and family, travelling and generally having a life. Instead, we’ve found ourselves stuck at home, going slightly mad and trying to channel our energies into something – anything – that feels in any way productive. What else could explain the weird skills, achievements and knowledge that we’ve accumulated over the course of 2020?

Here are some of the more surprising achievements we never thought we’d notch up this year – because when everything else goes wrong, it’s important to celebrate the tiniest of victories. We sincerely hope that reading about our silver linings in this weirdest of years makes you feel good about your own. Bring it, 2021!

1. ‘I learned how to make dumplings – by which I mean I made dumplings once, and they worked. So now that’s on my list of skills.’

2. ‘Learned how to make lots of posh puddings on an online bakery course. I’m a dab hand at opera cake and lemon meringue pie now, so I feel it’s paid off.’

3. ‘I’ve learned that it is possible to be locked up with my own children for months on end and not all kill each other.’

4. ‘My friend makes Zia Hatch Chile, so I learned to make hatch green chile everything bagels, which were delicious, and green chile tater tots, which I botched a bit and cut off a chunk of nail with my potato peeler.’

5. ‘I learned the importance of breakfast. Trying to keep a semblance of normality in an utmost abnormal era, I've made a commitment to embrace a regular sit-down breakfast each morning. It’s helped me tackle each day in a less chaotic manner.’

6. ‘I relearned how to repoint brickwork. I haven’t repointed for 30 years!’

7. ‘I got pretty into meditation and crochet. And TRX, a sadistic bodyweight exercise using a strap designed by an ex-Navy seal.’

8. ‘I learned how to make no-knead bread, which is the world’s easiest thing, and cinnamon rolls, which were probably the best thing I've ever done in my life.’

9. ‘While many baked sourdough on weekends, I studied vintage furniture eras. Next up is teaching myself how to date antiques!’

10. ‘Oh, nothing – just a casual MBA.’

11. ‘While doomscrolling, I was fortunate enough to stumble upon Sip and Feast – a New York Italian-style food blog. So my achievements include chicken piccata and eating a year’s worth of garlic in one sitting.’

12. ‘It’s been very satisfying getting into gardening. The best part is eating the literal fruits (and veg) of my labour.’

13. ‘After three failed (burned) attempts, I finally made my own jam.’

14. ‘I learned how to cycle long-distance, and now I can go 130km in a big pointless circle instead of sitting on the sofa for five hours.’

15. ‘Kombucha brewing and sock darning.’

16. ‘The whole “cooking and eating meat for the first time” thing was a pretty big deal in my otherwise boring life.’

17. ‘I took quite a few online courses in philosophy through Coursera. I’m much smarter now!’

18. ‘I learned to cook (some) Chinese food. Literally never tried before.’

19. ‘Above all, I learned a greater amount of self-care: yoga practices, meditation, eating right, drinking water, and the importance of sleep. If you don't do these things, it's never too late to find that inner discipline.’

20. ‘Yoga, properly.

21. ‘I started running! I got into podcasts!’

22. ‘Finally started and finished “Ulysses” after many years of avoiding the question when people asked if I’d read it.’

23. ‘I made a whole chicken for the first time!’

24. ‘I’m currently doing my next level in WSET wine studies.’

25. ‘I learned how to trim my cat’s nails.’

26. ‘I picked up walking and clocked about 100 miles per month.’

27. ‘Mostly I learned how to run better meetings.’

28. ‘I said at the start of lockdown that I was going to learn how to do the splits. I can confirm: I can now do the splits. It adds very little value to my CV but it looks cool at picnics.’

29. ‘After many failed attempts this year to grow or take care of any plants whatsoever, I tried to start a small herb garden during lockdown – and I did it! I have grown (and even propagated) mint and basil and started growing tomatoes from scraps. Yay, me!’

30. ‘I learned how to rescue a Burmese cat from a chimney.’

31. ‘My high-school obsession with reading trashy fantasy novels came back with a vengeance, so I read a lot (like, a lot) to escape the reality of lockdown.’

32. ‘I started a magazine: Colournary Magazine. Oh, and quit my job and joined Time Out!’

33. ‘I kept a plant alive. Only a little succulent, but still, more than I've ever achieved before.’

34. ‘I learned how to sew. I've made a Victorian skirt for Halloween and a tweed vest.’

35. ‘I learned how to cook four dishes, which is an accomplishment in my house, and a new understanding and level of patience.’

36. ‘I brewed my first batch of kombucha using a Scoby from a leftover bottle.’

37. ‘I started a book club! It started as an idea on Instagram when I was three glasses of rosé in on Fourth of July weekend, and has ended up as a bacchanalian, outdoor, socially distant monthly meet-up. It’s the absolute best time.’

38. ‘I drove for the first time in about ten years, which was knowingly horrifying for everyone in the car and unknowingly for a majority of the population of the Hudson Valley.’

39. ‘I started learning conversational German. Ja, echt!

40. ‘I joined an album club: like a book club, but with music. I’ve learned quite a bit!’

41. ‘I built and painted an outdoor bar for our garden using pallets that I found on the street, and I’m very proud of it, too.’

42. ‘I have two six-year-old boys, so I’ve achieved nothing: I just survived it all.’

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