Students Share Top Tips for Creative Relaxation
Written by Mary Caroline Whims
It’s been a long day. You’ve crammed for a chemistry midterm, chatted it up with Dr. Arnn in the dining hall, gone to about five meetings, and played frisbee on the Quad. Hillsdale days are packed, but sometimes it’s relaxing to take a break and chill while doing something with your hands. Hillsdale students enjoy many different crafts and creative pursuits. Here are two of their favorites: fun activities that leave you with something beautiful to give or keep.
What better way to unwind than to spend some time creating in the kitchen? Baking keeps you occupied but doesn’t require deep focus. Take out your angst while punching down bread dough, or find an adventurous new recipe and start your own Great British Baking Show. It’s one of the most rewarding study breaks ever.
Sara Garfinkle ’20 enjoys what she calls “procrastibaking”: “When I first started, I would get so invested in my baking that I forgot about the homework. Now, I use baking as a way to break up hours-long study sessions. By the time I’m done studying, I get to celebrate with something warm and yummy.”
It’s easy to get inspired—a quick Google search pulls up a myriad of recipes for everything from maple syrup scones to morning glory muffins, cheddar bay biscuits, and other treats. Sara’s specialty is traditional Jewish challah. “It’s eggy and slightly sweet and the perfect bread to break with friends and to introduce them to my traditions,” she says.
Once you’ve chosen a recipe, it’s time to track down the supplies. Kroger is a three-minute drive from campus (or, if you’re ambitious and the weather’s fair, a seventeen-minute walk). Wal-Mart is just seven minutes away in neighboring Jonesville. Flour, sugar, baking powder or soda, eggs, butter, and milk will provide the basic foundations to just about any creation you can dream up. And cocoa powder and chocolate chips are always good to have on hand. Most of Hillsdale’s dormitories are well-stocked with baking pans, but on the off chance your pie tin is missing, call a friend and see if you can borrow one. (Don’t forget to return it later!) Finally, turn up the music and start mixing…and be ready for wonderful smells to waft through the kitchen.
At the end of every successful baking session, there’s the moment where you get to decide what to do with your spoils. Sharing them with your dorm or house can earn you some (dare we say?) serious brownie points. Then again, you just might decide to eat them all yourself.
Want something a little more portable and with no mess involved? In their spare time, many Hillsdale students enjoy handcrafts like knitting and crocheting. Both require minimal supplies, and they’re easy to take anywhere. Plus, you’ll end up with gorgeous, wearable art.
Christine Mitchell ’21 began her knitting journey a few years ago when she decided she wanted to make her own socks. Getting started was simple: for Christine, it meant picking up some yarn and printing out a pattern she found online. Her first project—a pair of socks for her mom—turned out great. After honing her skills with several other projects, Christine now enjoys working on more complex cabled designs.
If you’ve never tried knitting before, don’t stress—free patterns are available online for any skill level. Christine recommends Silver’s Sock Class, which offers basic sock tutorials with step-by-step instructions and illustrations. Many other sites, such as KnitPicks, provide free downloadable guides for projects like hats, scarves, shawls, legwarmers, sofa throws, and pretty much anything else you can dream up. (Next year’s Christmas presents? Done.)
Yarn and needles aren’t hard to find either. Just a few blocks from campus, Hillsdale Craft Supply sells knitting and crocheting materials. They also host classes for the whole community. Want some company while you’re crafting, or just looking for a new space? There are tables in the middle of the store where customers are welcome to sit and craft.
For many knitters, the end product is incredibly satisfying. Christine says she loves “the motivation of creating something new.” She’s made socks in a kaleidoscope of colors: orange, aqua, gray, forest green, bright red. “I enjoy the process of making things and having beautiful patterns, and just the reward of working with your hands,” she says. If you catch her on a weekend with a ball of yarn in her hands, she’ll be happy to show you what she’s creating.
Whether you end up knitting or kneading, take some time this semester to unwind and try something new. You’ll be glad you did.
Mary Caroline Whims, ’21, studies English at Hillsdale College, where she serves as editor-in-chief of Fool’s Talk magazine. On a given day, you can find her playing in an intramural basketball game, waxing poetic about church windows, or postponing homework to make a good conversation last longer.
Published in May 2020