Happy Halloween and happy Día de los Muertos! We didn’t do much for Halloween, what with the ongoing pandemic, but we did leave out some candy for any trick or treaters. We have a bird bath in front of our house that was here when we bought the place. I decided we should fill it with candy, so we did. That said, I don’t think anyone actually came by. So now I’ve got a costco-sized bag of Halloween candy. Oh no.
Here are some things I’ve recently read, watched, or bought.
Books and Other Words
Mill Town: Reckoning with What Remains by Kerri Aresenault was an interesting read. It’s part memoir, part history, part investigative journalism, and part case study. Arsenault’s narrative focuses on her hometown of Mexico, Maine, which is known for its paper mill and extremely high rates of cancer. I struggle to describe this book because it contains so much. That said, it is definitely worth reading. It’s a window into small town, blue-collar life and how corporations don’t really give a shit about the people or environment around them.
Alix E. Harrow’s The Once and Future Witches is a battle cry. Harrow starts with the premise that witch stories are really allegories about women and their power. The story takes place in the late 19th century where our protagonists, the Eastwood Sisters, each overcome the patriarchal bullshit of their time to find out how to exercise their power as women in the world. Of course, since this is a book about witches, they literally exercise supernatural power. They also do the hard emotional work of reconciling after being pitted against each other by their abusive dad and set about liberating knowledge and power, spreading it to other women. I really liked the magic system in this book; to do a spell you need the words (what you say to work the spell), the ways (accoutrements like herbs, candles, or other artifacts of witchery), and the will (the raw insistence that the world must change around you). It also turns out that the ability to work magic isn’t preordained by fate or genetically inherited—thus avoiding the slippery, uncomfortable slope of magic eugenics—but belongs to anyone with the will to work it. What better metaphor for women seizing their power? We don’t have to wait to be born to the right parents or for someone to give us permission, women see a need and work their will. Real witchcraft.
Finally, Maria Dahvana Headley’s new translation of Beowulf was on my reading list this week. I admit I had never read any translation of Beowulf before this one even though it seems like something I “should” have read by now. I liked Headley’s translation a lot. It felt vibrant and it was fun to read. It skips trying to sound old or overly poetic and instead chooses colloquial language and incorporates some rhetorical devices, like alliteration and kennings, to preserve some of the feel of the original. If you’ve ever wanted to hear medieval warriors addressing each other as “bro” and telling each other they had better “come correct,” this is the Beowulf for you.
Meanwhile on the internet:
- A shadowy AI service has transformed thousands of women’s photos into fake nudes: ‘Make fantasy a reality’ via The Washington Post. This is scary and gross and another reminder that women don’t ever get to let their guard down. Messaging app Telegram has some kind of add-on that makes fake nudes out of women’s photos. Great. You may recall that I was not long ago looking into non-facebook messaging apps. I’m very glad I went with Signal and not Telegram.
- This scary statistic predicts growing US political violence—whatever happens on election day via Buzzfeed. Great, more anxiety to stifle. From the article: “’I’m worried about that no matter who wins,’ he added. ‘The social problems are the gasoline. Trump is throwing matches.'” Anyway, if you haven’t voted yet, please don’t vote for the guy throwing matches.
- Election Distractor via The New York Times. Some of these bits really calmed me down. Recommended for those of us trying to de-stess.
- Concept: a witch cat that’s too fat to fly via @FancySmudges on twitter. This little cartoon made me so happy so I am sharing it with you.
TV and Music
Kirk and I have been watching Silicon Valley, which, we have discovered, is really funny. The way the characters interact is perfect. Recommended it you want something to laugh about while you’re trying to get your mind off current events.
Last night we watched the new(ish) Disney/Pixar movie Onward. It was quite cute and entertaining. We are continuing with our theme of light entertainment since real life is such a trash fire these days.
It is perhaps a little early for such things, but now that we can’t fully trust the mail to run on time, I’ve been buying things in advance of when I want them. Long story short, I bought this hot cocoa advent calendar. Advent calendars are a lot of fun and it gives me something to look forward to (life after the election?) so I went for it. I cannot yet comment on the quality of the cocoa, but I am hoping it’s good!
Making Things and Doing stuff
I mentioned last week that we bought some plants. We got them planted last weekend now here they are. It’s apparently a little late in the season, so what we bought was already halfway grown, which is okay with me. We have some returning crops that we successful last year like the spinach and broccoli. We also planted lettuce, onions, and some herbs.
Despite not doing a lot lately, my hip flexor has been bothering me this week. I’ve dealt with this problem before, but not outside of actively playing derby and lifting heavy objects. I don’t understand what could have strained it and I am annoyed that, even when I’m barely doing anything, I can have issues. It mostly hurts when I go from sitting to standing—the act of unfurling my body is a source of discomfort. I almost didn’t go to ballet class yesterday because of it, but I figured I’d be more upset if I didn’t go than if I went and couldn’t do everything. Fortunately, once I got warmed up, I felt fine and I was able to do everything without any trouble. Conclusion: bodies are weird and annoying. I’m also glad I didn’t skip class because we started learning how to pirouette! We’re doing quarter turns for now but it is fun to learn something that’s a really recognizable ballet move.
I’ve been using the weekends to do some time-consuming baking. I’ve got nothing better going on and I’m trying not to let my anxiety get the better of me (-rueful laughter-). Last weekend’s baking took the form of empanadas. I made pumpkin empanadas from the Decolonize Your Diet cookbook, which came out really good. Although I did get frustrated with making a bunch of tiny-ass empanadas and eventually starting making what was basically a pop tart. Kirk suggested that some kind of chocolate topping would only improve them and I said “you right” and whipped up a chocolate ganache for dipping. Highly recommended. I also made carnitas empanadas, since I had made a large batch of carnitas and had a bunch of meat. I used the dough recipe from the Gran Cocina Latina cookbook, but just winged it on the filling.
You may notice that my empanadas are not especially beautiful. I tried to follow Gran Cocina Latina’s crimping driections, but they were not super helpful. Could I have looked for a video online? I have no doubt. Did I? No.
Empanadas aside, Kirk’s birthday was this week so I made him clam chowder. I also made white chocolate macademia nut cookies but forgot to take a picture. I’m sure you can imagine it though. Since the weather has cooled off, I made beef stew, which I always enjoy. I use the recipe from How to Cook Everything, but transfer it to a crockpot after browning the meat and onions.
For Halloween, we had roast chicken (not pictured), acorn squash, green beans, and the return of pumpkin knots. I tried this chicken recipe, which came out great in the end. I took it out of the oven too early though and let it sit for 15 minutes before realizing it wasn’t cooked. So we had a course of sides while we waited for the chicken to finish. After dinner, we had these pumpkin sandwich cookies because I love pumpkin and fall flavors.
Finally, here are some cat photos for your nerves.