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?

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.)