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

Favorite Things, January 18, 2021

Still not feeling like it’s a new year, or like I’m a new me. You know, like you’re supposed to feel in a new year? But I did manage to be a little bit productive this week. I cleaned some things, I wrote some things, I made sure my son got his homework turned in on time, I fed my children. Sometimes I even showered. And I still found things to enjoy.

Before I get into it, though, since it’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day, anyone reading this might consider supporting a charity/non-profit that does work in line with Martin Luther King Jr’s legacy. There’s the obvious Poor People’s Campaign, which carries on Mr. King’s legacy with the goal of “shifting the moral narrative, impacting policies and elections at every level of government, and building lasting power for poor and impacted people.” More locally, where I live in the Las Vegas area, there’s the JET Foundation, which works to “change the life trajectory of those in the community by providing academic, youth development, and health and basic needs support for families.”

Whatever you choose, hopefully, even with social distancing still in place, we can all find ways today to honor Mr. King’s legacy of helping those who are underserved in our society.

Now, as far as my favorite things go, in FOOD, this Tom Kha Gai recipe by Seonkyoung Longest, really hit the spot for me and wasn’t that difficult to make.

(Photo description: Titled “Authentic tom kha gai,” the photo looks down at two bowls of tom kha gai soup beside one bowl of rice.)

While cooking that, I listened to this Life Kit Sesame Workshop PODCAST, “What to Say to Kids When the News is Scary,” which I found informative and very appropriate for our times.

(Photo description: a logo for NPR Life Kit, Sesame Workshop made up of a several green squares placed next to each other to form a rectangle. In some of the squares there are images, like the muppet Elmo, a small gardening shovel holding a small potted plant, a green clock, the Sesame Street sign, and illustrations of a figure in a dress and a figure in pants holding hands with a child’s figure between them.)

When it comes to PEOPLE, author Rin Chupeco made my week by giving me amazing feedback on my query letter for my Lesser Demons book. (I won a query critique by participating in a KidLit for Luzon fundraiser campaign for hurricane relief in the Philippines.) You may enjoy their book The Bone Witch, a beautiful, lyrical read.

(Photo description: The cover of the book THE BONE WITCH by Rin Chupeco. On a dark blue-ish purple background, a girl with dark hair sits at the edge of a rocky cliff, looking into the distance. Under the title, there is a skull, missing its jaw bone and the words “Let me be clear, I never intended to raise my brother from the grave…”)

Another great person, singer Dionne Warwick has been killing it on Twitter, and, consequently, making the world a more enjoyable place.

(Photo description: Dionne Warwick tweets “Did you really read The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway?” with a meme from Anchorman of Will Ferrell smoking a cigarette and the caption “I DON’T BELIEVE YOU.”
(Photo Description: Twitter handle @annstapshoe tweets, “I had a dream last night that I was back in high school and @dionnewarwick was my music teacher.” Dionne Warwick responds, “This wasn’t a dream. Your assignment is late.”
(Photo description: Twitter handle @D1LFH4NK asks Dionne Warwick “bestie what are your thoughts on c*lin jost”. Dionne Warwick responds, “The person who sits next to Michael Che?”)

ANIMALS had their day in the Twitter sun this week too, thanks to Joaquim Campa who compiled this thread on animals interrupting nature photographers. Worth looking through the whole thread.

(Two photos. On left, a woman (Liba Radova) lies on her stomach in grass, holding a camera. A baby deer stands on her back, and a baby wolf nuzzles her arm. On the right, a man wearing a coat and a beanie lies on his stomach on a rocky beach. He holds a camera and a small seal lies across his lower back.)

Stayed up later than I meant to most nights, listening to MUSIC and pretending it was helping me go to sleep instead of supercharging my brain waves. Thanks to my binging of HBO’s Insecure (mentioned in last week’s favorite things), my ears were blessed by the song “Plastic” by Moses Sumney.

My husband Jordan sent me Olivia Rodrigo‘s “Driver’s License” song, which I think a lot of people have been buzzing about. (Language warning–don’t watch with the kiddies?)

Jordan (my primary source for good musical entertainment) also showed me “Sugar Drum Fairies” with Travis Barker and BYOS, which I know is a Christmas song, alright? But it’s fun, so I’m including it on my list.

NPR’s Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me! introduced me to Phoebe Bridgers. It’s very possible I’m the last person in the world to hear about her, but I’m sold now. My favorites at the moment are “Savior Complex” and “Motion Sickness.”

Other things I’m loving this week:
– Sleep
– 3 day weekends
– Naps
– Catching up with old friends, even if it’s just over text
– Sleeping in
– Pants that grow with my COVID lockdown body
– Did I mention sleep?

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.