Stay at Home

Marilu Henner’s Guide to Quarantine Life

04.29.20

BY: ELIZABETH DURAND STREISAND

Social distancing is no joke. Now that we’re roughly six weeks into isolation, many of us are struggling to draft a coherent email, complete a 30-minute workout, help our preschooler build a PJ Masks-themed racecar out of Amazon prime boxes for an online Zoom scavenger hunt with their class. You know, the basics.

But Marilu Henner isn’t like the rest of us. She has maintained a successful acting career across stage and screen for over 40 years. She has authored 10 books and has two more in the works. She survived Dancing With the Stars and Celebrity Apprentice (twice). So it should come as no surprise that the energetic triple-threat has taken #happyathome to a whole new level.

The Broadway vet is riding out COVID-19 at her Los Angeles home with her husband, Michael Brown, one of her two sons (the other is in Brooklyn), her brother, and her brother’s children, ages five and seven. It’s a full house, but true to the hashtag, a happy one. By her account, Henner is helping care for the two little ones, though their dad is doing the “heavy lifting.” Still, Henner has learned to navigate Zoom and dress up Trader Joe’s tomato basil sauce to satisfy all palates. And while she’s pleased with these accomplishments, this isn’t how she envisioned 2020 for herself.

“I was supposed to be working nonstop,” Henner sighed. “I was doing my one-woman show and four Hallmark movies and numerous speaking engagements.” Now, obviously, those plans are out the window. Still, she’s got everything handled. “My number one theory is that the key to your life is how you deal with Plan B,” she explained.

For her, this means making the most of her forced downtime. She has been “cooking like crazy.” Among her current favorite dishes are a vegan Caesar salad, a variation on Bubba Gump-style shrimp, and pasta dressed up with Trader Joe’s sauce and Beyond Meat spicy sausage. (In case you have any TJ’s tomato basil sauce in your pantry, just add some crushed red pepper, oregano, garlic, fennel, olive oil and a splash of red or white wine.) She also organized all of her spices alphabetically and has started going through them, in order, using some of the lesser-known ones to inspire new recipes.

Henner has also been cleaning. “I’m a super cleaner,” she noted, adding that her clothes are now so organized that her closet looks like a Benetton. Before you ask: She doesn’t do the Kondo Method. “I determined that because of my memory, everything sparks joy,” she laughed before adding, “So I can’t do it that way.”

She has also been cleaning her grout.

But Henner is doing far more than cooking or cleaning during quarantine. “This is a reset,” she explained, noting that she predicts this period in time is going to force us to reevaluate where we spend our time and energy. “This is what I keep comparing it to: You know when you’re like, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m running out of gas!’ so you don’t ride your gas. You become very conservation conscious with your gas until you get to the next gas station. I think we are going to look at our entire lives like that. We are going ask ourselves, ‘Do I have to use so much?’ ‘Do I have to do so much?’ I thought about both of those things as I taped multiple Amazon delivery boxes into a “racecar” while nursing a six-month-old baby and leading a conference call this morning. Next week, I might not bother to make whatever the next “racecar” is and I’m pretty sure my son will live.

“We have a rule in the house now,” The Gettin’ the Band Back Together alum revealed. “Each day, everyone has to do something for the community.” This will also stick with me. For now, our communities are the people we live with. In many ways, COVID has made our worlds smaller, but finding creative ways (with limited resources and no Amazon boxes left) to contribute makes even the tightest quarters breathe a bit better. “My nephew sets a mean table” Henner noted. I bet my son will too.