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, December 42nd

I’m not the first to make the observation that it hasn’t really felt like a new year (see the not-very-original “December 42nd” joke in today’s title). Everything in day-to-day life has been the same as it was before January 1, and the world certainly isn’t looking improved or new in many ways yet. However, though this last week was incredibly discouraging, there were some great things too. To mark the new year, I wanted to start compiling my favorite things from each week–a sort of exercise in gratitude, since that’s supposed to help keep depression at bay–and it actually wasn’t that hard to come up with a list of good things from last week.

For instance, in BOOKS, there was the release of Volume 4 of Beth Brower’s Emma M Lion series. It’s a historical speculative fiction series, set up as the journal entries of a young woman in a somewhat fantastical and utterly charming (fictional) neighborhood in London in 1883. Intriguing gentlemen and rogues abound.

(Cover of Beth Brower’s book THE UNSELECTED JOURNALS OF EMMA M. LION: VOL. 4. Title is printed on a background of red, bordered by a floral decal in each corner.)

There was also Girl Gone Viral, one of Alisha Rai’s Modern Love romances which was the perfect mind cleanser after such an intense week.

(Cover of Alisha Rai’s book GIRL GONE VIRAL. Title printed large over a background of seafoam green with an illustration of a phone screen showing an Instagram post of a man and a woman together.)

In MUSIC, I fed my ears with Yaeji’s “Raingurl” (brought to my attention by my husband).

(Musician Yaeji stands, looking toward the left, wearing a transparent raincoat and holding a transparent umbrella that is lit up with LED lights. Screenshot captured from her music video “Raingurl.”)

And Boy Pablo’s “Hey Girl” (recommended by a friend).

(Boy Pablo sits on soccer/football field and stares off into distance. Screenshot captured from the music video for his song “Hey Girl”)

In TV, I’m currently a little obsessed with the HBO show Insecure. It’s witty, and engaging, and painful in the best way. Also, I love Issa Rae’s makeup and clothes and basically everything about her.

(Creator and producer of HBO’s INSECURE Issa Rae looks to camera. Photo credit Michael Owen Baker for the New York Times.)

Other things I’m loving this week:
– Not being a white supremacist
– The officers who put their lives on the line to keep people safe at the Capitol
– The political leaders who value our constitution over their own political goals
– GEORGIA! And all the people that did so much hard work to get the votes for Warnock and Ossoff so that we can hopefully have some progress in our legislature instead of the maddening standstill that’s been going on for so many years.

(Founder of Fair Fight Action Stacey Abrams elbow-bumping Senator-Elect Raphael Warnock. Both wearing cloth masks over their mouths and noses. Photo credit Stacey Abrams’ Instagram account.)
(Founder of Fair Fight Action Stacey Abrams elbow-bumping Senator-Elect Jon Ossoff. Both wearing cloth masks over their mouths and noses. Photo credit Stacey Abrams’ Instagram account.)

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.