FAVORITE THINGS, JANUARY 31, 2021

So, technically I forgot to post last week. Oh well. This one can cover two weeks of favorites. Of course, I also forgot to keep track of the things I wanted to share over that time, so we’re still probably only getting one week’s worth.

First, MUSIC, because “The Pink Phantom” by Gorillaz, featuring Elton John & 6LACK has been giving me life. I love everything about it, but most especially and particularly the Elton John parts. As always with Gorillaz, I also appreciate the animation.

Apparently I missed a whole segment of Gorillaz music, so while their song “Melancholy Hill” isn’t new to the world, it’s new to me, and it’s become a regular addition to my dance parties with the kids.

A song that I’ve been loving that is new, is Jon Batiste‘s “I Need You.” I dare you not to enjoy this song, the dancing, the clothes, everything.

I usually try to keep our house free of music that’s meant specifically for kids because I want to maintain my sanity, but our friend Hannah (check out her beautiful sewing projects on Instagram) posted something a few weeks ago about Caspar Babypants, which is really just Christopher Ballew (former lead singer of Presidents of the United States) when he’s making children’s music. While I may not choose to listen to the songs on my own time, they’re actually super fun, and I’m happy enough when my kids request them. My favorite is probably, “Mister Rabbit,” but my kids love a lot of others as well.

Chicken breasts drenched in a creamy tomato and basil sauce, held in a white ceramic dish.

In COOKING, this slow cooker Creamy Tomato Basil Chicken was a hit at our house. I made some pasta noodles to go with it. My husband added Inner Beauty Hot Sauce to his and said it was to die for.

In WRITING, I am continually surprised and gratified by how many very supportive writers there are out there, doing work to help their fellow writers out. For instance, the Writing With Color Tumblr blog is such a good resource. In particular, I think the posts on describing skin color would be helpful to most writers.

Picture of a woman with dark brown skin. A golden-colored cat sits on her shoulder. Beneath the photo are the words “Writing With Color.”

Also, another writer, Bethany Hensel (check out her stories here), mentioned that she listens to ambience videos on YouTube while she writes, and it might literally have changed my writing life. So much easier to focus with the sounds of, say, a howling snowstorm playing in the background to drown out the sounds of my children ransacking the house. I sometimes use instrumental music for the same purpose, but my mind can get suddenly caught up in the musical intricacies, which distracts me from my writing, so this has been a better option for me lately.

Other things I’ve been loving the last couple weeks:
– Desert rain
– Being a reader and writer of good stories
– Watching my kids learn more about their world
– Therapy

Books of 2020

Due to health and other life complications, over the last several years I haven’t been able to read as much as I would have liked to. I was lucky to finish more than a few books in a year, so it’s been something of a surprise that in this year that has been hellish in so many ways, I was actually able to get in a lot of reading. Part of that was because my youngest reached a slightly more independent stage, so she doesn’t insist in being in my arms at all times. Another part of is that I just simply gave up on managing any of my responsibilities that didn’t absolutely require my attention right away. (There is a bathroom in our house that I’m pretty sure must be haunted by now because the neglect has made it a prime location for all things creepy.) 

I don’t think I’ve ever put together one of those lists of all the books I’ve read in a year. Probably because it would hardly have counted as a list. This year it actually seems like something worth doing. Even just as a reminder that reading voraciously is one of the few things from 2020 that I want to take with me into 2021. I’m not going to try to remember every book I read, though. Just the ones that really stuck with me. So, in roughly the order I read them, here goes:

The Living by Isaac Marion (final book in one of my favorite series)

Wayward Son by Rainbow Rowell (Swoon)

The Sound of Stars by Alechia Dow (I’ve been gifting this to everyone I know)

Bloodwitch by Susan Dennard (Best slow-burn, enemies to lovers story of the year?)

Call Down the Hawk by Maggie Stiefvater (Oh, Ronan Lynch)

Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman (Lovely)

A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow (Magical and poignant)

Roar by Cora Carmack (Haunted me for several days following)

Onyx and Ivory by Mindee Arnett (Very cool world building)

A Blade so Black by L.L. McKinney (Oh my gosh. Oh my gosh.)

The Unselected Journals of Emma M. Lion: Volume 3 by Beth Brower (I tell everyone these books are the perfect fall read.)

Merciful Crow by Margaret Owens (Got so into my mind I dreamt about it.)

I also got to be a reader for Volume 4 of Emma M. Lion and for a steampunk sci-fi by Kathy Cowley, both of which I loved. Kathy has The Secret Life of Miss Mary Bennet coming out in April 2021, so be on the lookout for that.

Christmas 2020

Our Christmas was a less lonely one than some of our other friends and family had. Both my parents and my husband Jordan’s parents live in town, and we quarantined with extra care for the couple weeks leading up to Christmas so that we could see them. We did Christmas Eve dinner with my parents–a prime rib roast that Jordan made following an Alton Brown recipe–and we checked in on Zoom with some of my siblings. My mom’s losing her hearing and my two children were running wild. Two things which added to the already inherent chaos of a group video chat, but it was nice to see the faces and hear the voices of everyone who tuned in. My mom is also on medicine that makes her tired and appears to mess with her memory, so that every time she talks about the call she seems to entirely forget the presence on it of one of my sisters. I haven’t had a chance to tease my sister about it yet, but she should be aware that teasing is definitely coming.

Christmas morning, we follow a tradition of my family’s from when I was a kid. We line up in our upstairs hallway, the kids each hold one of our sets of jingle bells and shake them as we sing a carol and make our way downstairs to our living room where the presents await.

(Two children in Christmas-themed pajamas hug each other and laugh. One child holds a menagerie of stuffed animals.)

After opening presents and leisurely getting ourselves ready for the day, we went to my husband’s parents’ house for more presents and food. My son’s favorite presents seem to be his several LEGO sets and his video games. He was not impressed by the books he received, but he does love reading and being read to, so I anticipate he’ll enjoy them more as the year goes on. Our youngest–nearing two years old–still wasn’t old enough to entirely understand what was going on, but she picked up on the concept of presents almost immediately and was excited and entertained by everything she was gifted.

(Two books. On the left, The Gallery of Unfinished Girls in black and pink and green. On the right, Circe, in black and gold.)

Unlike my son, I was incredibly pleased with the books I received. Circe and The Gallery of Unfinished Girls from my husband, and How to Read a Suit from my in-laws. This last one will come in handy in research for both my writing and my sewing. I also got some games I used to play with my family when I was a kid, and I’m excited to play them with my own family now. We already tried out Labyrinth, and it was as fun as I remembered. Next will be Rummikub. A classic.

(A hand holds a copy of the book How to Read a Suit: A Guide to Men’s Fashions from the 17th to the 20th Century. Its a brownish maroon with an image of a man’s figure wearing a mustard-colored suit from the 17th century.)

Christmas is my favorite holiday, but I think I’ve always loved the build-up more than the actual day itself. At least, the come-down from the high of the season tends to start toward the end of Christmas Day and always leaves me feeling a bit of melancholy. This year it waited to hit until the morning after. Partly, probably, due to the help of the show Bridgerton, which I binged in less than 24 hours and which I… almost loved? (Maybe I’ll write more on that later, but my qualms lie in the presence of a sexual assault scene–why???!!!–for which the character never seems to feel remorse, and which the show seems to want us to feel is justified?) Aaaanyway, it’s hard to fully give into melancholy when I’m immersed in a sweeping period romance, but once the melancholy did hit, I let myself indulge in it for a couple days, and now I’m ready to start doing real life again. Which is good, because tomorrow is Monday and real life is coming whether I want it or not.