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.

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.