A Week in the Life: January 23, 2021

five everything bagels cooling on a wire rack. The counter below is covered in a tea towel that says "bitch I am the secret ingredient"

The last week was emotionally turbulent, but I am starting to feel better. I spent the first few days after Viola’s untimely departure crying and howling that I couldn’t believe she was gone. I still feel haunted by her absence but my body and mind can only physically sustain so much sorrow. I’m not crying (much) anymore and I’m starting to feel normal again. I am, however, exhausted. Strong emotions are tiring. On top of everything, I had to get out of bed and go through the motions at work all week. What the heck.

I appreciate all my friends for being so kind and supportive. Many people have offered condolences and help, some people sent cards, and I even got a plant. I think our culture (or at least the part of our culture I inhabit) has come a long way in recognizing how important pets are and how real our emotions about them are. People have said to me that it’s hard to lose a member of the family. Pets aren’t human but they are important parts of our lives. Unlike people, they can’t really disappoint you or be an asshole, so it seems unfair when they die.

This is my first real grief—I haven’t lost any close family members or friends as an adult, which is fortunate (especially in these times). So, I have been thinking a lot about what we say when someone dies. Most of my life I have heard “may they rest in peace,” in the Christian tradition. “Rest in peace” is really about the dead more than the living. They’re dead. It would be hard to disturb them, I think. I’ve come to appreciate the Jewish version, “may their memory be a blessing.” It seems to better acknowledge that grief is about the living. Someone dear is gone but we hope that, one day, their memory will bring you joy and not pain. A few days ago, I could only imagine pain when thinking about Viola. Now I’m starting to see where her memory can be a blessing. I have a story highlight on my instagram of her pictures and videos. I’ve been paging through it every night when I get in bed as if it’s a set of prayer beads. Last night was the first time I relaxed while looking at it. In life, Viola always helped me feel calm. I’m relieved to know she lives on, in a way, in photos and video. (Of course, writing this has made me cry again, so there’s no winning).

Consuming

Here are some things I’ve recently read, watched, or bought.

Books and Other Words

It was a little hard to read this week because Viola was always my reading companion. Many times I sat down to read and started crying instead, but I did manage to finish some books I had started including When Tiger Came Down the Mountain by Nghi Vo and Culture Warlords: My Journey into the Dark Web of White Supremacy by Talia Lavin.

I also finished up some reading on composting that I got from the library: Composting for a New Generation and Bob’s Basics: Composting. If you only have room for one composting book in your schedule, I recommend Composting for a New Generation. It is a good guide for beginners. It explains all the different ways you can compost and provides instructions for making your own composting containers. Composting is something I want to start doing this year and I feel like now I actually understand it enough to do it, which is exciting.

Meanwhile, on the internet:

  • The ignominious deceits of Congressman Cawthorn via The Nation. The new, 25-yaer-old, Trump-supporting representative from North Carolina has been lying about everything, including his education and business history. The article researches Cawthorn’s claims about training for the Paralympics and found that he’s not at all a serious person. The thing with some of these Trump-leaning conservatives that continues to baffle me is why lie? Why lie about this? Do you think your constituents are too stupid to care? Is the liar themselves too stupid to make a good lie? I can’t comprehend it.
  • The meaning of the mittens: Five possibilities via The Intercept. After sharing so many Bernie in his cozy mittens memes this week, of course I was interested in Naomi Klein’s analysis of the situation.
  • Do ‘elder Goths’ hold the secret to aging successfully? via The Washington Post. Most of our culture is youth-obsessed, but goths are all about the macabre past. From the article: “Bush argues that Goths’ success in aging has a lot to do with their ability to juggle opposing, seemingly paradoxical energies. Take Goths’ emotional intensity: While off-putting to some, Goths’ willingness to harness dark feelings such as despair, gloom and hopelessness, rather than repress them, can prove healthier in the long run, Bush says. Equally vital is Goths’ ability to find humor, irony and beauty in supposedly “ugly” sources, such as flowers that grow by a cemetery or the absurd frailties of the aging body. In a culture, for instance, that already treats older women as frightful, why not own that, and become the most fabulous grand dame of darkness the world has ever seen?”

TV and Music

We are living through a great time for RuPual’s Drag Race because we have season 13 airing right now and Drag Race UK season 2. I’m enjoying both, but the UK season has a certain je ne sais quoi and it’s hilarious. It’s really great to have something so fun to watch right now.

This week I started re-watching Star Trek: Deep Space 9 because I wanted something that wouldn’t be too wild and something I’ve seen before. It’s fitting the bill but I did kind of make a mistake because I forgot that in the first episode we have to deal with Sisko losing his wife in a spaceship accident. That set me crying again but I’m okay now. I also had to yell at the TV when they had an episode with a pandemic spreading around the station. Have they even been a pandemic before? Total amateurs.

Rampant Consumerism

a pile of zotter chocolate bars on my countertop
zotter chocolate

For some reason, facebook has started showing me lots of ads for chocolate makers and I keep clicking on them because I guess they’ve got my number now. I mentioned previously that I am going to order a book from an independent bookstore every month. I ordered my book for this month (it’s not here yet!). I thought it would be fun to get a fancy snack to accompany my reading. The chocolate got here before the book this month and we’ve been sampling it. It’s really good! This is Zotter chocolate and they make bars that are like a bonbon but in bar form. This year I’m all about trying to make fun or interesting events for myself at home while I ride out the rest of this pandemic. If that means buying fancy chocolate, so be it.

Making Things and Doing stuff

A weekly pill organizer containing daily vitamins and medication, plus an M&M in each slot
tip: add candy to your pill organizer

This week I was inspired to add peanut M&Ms to my weekly pill lineup. Why? Because they fit perfectly. Plus it makes taking my anxiety meds every night a lot more fun. Literally no one can stop you from adding candy to your pill organizer.

Knitting and Crafts

details of a shawl in progress with a pattern that sort of looks like stained glass
mystery “knit-a-long” update

Now that I’ve had a little break from my Christmas gift knitting marathon, I’m getting back into my groove and working on this shawl. I don’t know what the finished pattern will look like since it’s from a “mystery knit-a-long” that my mom bought for me last Christmas. However, I’m super into this part of the pattern because it looks like stained glass. Knitting is cool as hell.

Kitchen Witchery

I’ve kept things simple in the kitchen this week, but I did do a little bit of baking. I made a batch of my favorite pumpkin rolls to give myself something to do (and eat) because I still had some pumpkin in the pantry. In an effort to use the large amount of carrots I accidentally ordered, I made carrot bread (recipe from The Bread Bible). The recipe calls for raisins, but I don’t hate myself so I substituted pecans. I really like making quick breads like this in the mini-loaf pans. It bakes faster and it’s easier to deal with.

I also made bagels for the first time! I’m alternating my “kitchen vacations” with baking techniques and this week it was baking time. The bagels weren’t too hard to make, just a little bit of effort at the end with getting all the bagels boiled and topped with the “everything” blend before baking. I’ll definitely make these again because they were delicious. I used the recipe from The Bread Bible, which has yet to let me down. I tried both methods of shaping a bagel: one where you make a ball and push a hole through it and another where you make a snake then close it up into a circle. The snake-dough versions didn’t quite hold together as well as the hole-poke ones. You can probably tell which is which in the photos. A valuable lesson for future bagel efforts.

Cat Therapy

Finally, here are some cat photos for your nerves. Huey seems to be enjoying her new status as the only cat in the house. She’s been cuddling with me a lot more and sleeping on the bed every night. This is great but it makes me feel like I was neglecting her before. Kirk says I wasn’t, it’s just that Viola always made herself the center of attention. Regardless, Huey is getting plenty of high-quality attention now.

Two Weeks in the Life: January 18, 2021

a single croissant on a small black plate

When I was thinking about what I wanted to write this weekend, I had some ideas about novelty and how the pandemic has made novelty a difficult proposition. Of course, then Viola died and that has provided me with a horrible type of novelty that no one asked for. I’m writing this on Sunday night, past when I normally quit the computer to go to bed. When I was retiring for the night, I used to call Viola and she would race past me down the hall the hang out in the bedroom with me. She was always next to me when I was reading in bed. Normally I love getting in bed at the end of the day but now I’m only dreading it.

I thought about not writing a blog this week, but I didn’t write last week and I have some things I want to share/not forget about. It might be a little jumbled but this website is free.

Consuming

Here are some things I’ve recently read or bought.

Books and Other Words

Essa Hansen’s Nophek Gloss is another book in one of my favorite motifs: found family. It’s a space opera, there’s a crew of misfit privateers, and people trying to work through their trauma. I liked the story in general, but one thing I thought it was particularly effective at was its portrayal of PTSD. So this is a good book for sci-fi fans and for people who like to see complicated characters dealing with their shit.

Lauren Beukes’ Afterland was really good. It’s set in the present day United States, but a terrible virus has killed almost all men. The novel rotates points of view between Cole, her son (Miles) and her sister (Billie). Miles survives the plague only to be scooped up by the government’s research apparatus. Cole just wants to get her son out and travel home to South Africa. What follows is a wild road trip novel of family drama. There’s even a cult! What’s not to love?

Meanwhile, on the internet:

Rampant Consumerism

a bag of high-gluten flour and small jars of malt powder and "everything bagel topping" on my kitchen counter
preview of coming attractions

Something I’ve wanted to try baking for a while is bagels and I finally bought the ingredients I need. I looked into it last year, but this was during the rush on baking supplies when everyone was suddenly a baker. The thing I really needed was malt powder, but the high-gluten flour helps. The everything bagel topping is an added bonus. I’m hoping try this out next weekend.

Making Things and Doing stuff

Spanish

I am finally registered to take the DELE C1 exam! It’s November 13th in Seattle, which was the closest option for the testing date I wanted (I could have done Los Angeles in May but I am not that optimistic about the pandemic). I’ve been thinking about taking this test to validate my Spanish skills for years, but now I’m finally going to do it.

Kitchen Witchery

I’m trying to bring a little more excitement to my at-home pandemic experience so I’m making some new things in the kitchen. First, I’m tackling some new baking techniques. I made croissants a couple of weeks ago. It was fun and they came out amazing! It was my first time laminating dough, but it didn’t seem too complicated. It just required patience.

Second I am taking “trips” in the kitchen. On Friday, I went to Egypt with two recipes from Feast of the Islamic World: koshari and a semolina cake. I spent the day cooking and grooving to Egyptian music. It’s not the same as actually going somewhere, sure, but it was something fun and it broke up my routine. I shared the whole process on my instagram and took suggestions for where we should “go” next time. Popular suggestions include Cuba and Morocco, so that may be coming soon.

Cat Therapy

Finally, here are some cat photos for your nerves.

Viola Halsell, 2008 – January 16, 2021

Viola, stretching her front legs out

Viola died today. I did not expect that today would be the day she died. She had been lethargic all week. She spent a couple days curled in a ball on the bed. She rallied to eat some wet food earlier this week and I thought she was feeling better. Then she stopped eating and refused to acknowledge food. We put food in front of her and she would walk away from it. I thought she had a belly full of hairballs. This morning I put some hairball medicine on her paws and, rather than lick it off, she seemed to sigh and accept her sticky fate. That’s when I started calling around for a vet.

The vet today told me that Viola had a mass the size of a tangerine in her abdomen, she was dehydrated and sick. The vet said that it was likely cancer and, were it her cat, she would choose to euthanize her. The alternative was a battery of tests and a long weekend staying in the hospital, with no guarantee that she’d be able to recover. I did not want Viola to spend her last days scared and alone.

I adopted Viola in 2008 from the animal shelter in Seattle. I’d had Huey for a few months and thought she would like company (narrator: she would not). Viola was in kitty foster care with a brother, a fluffy white kitty named Chai. Viola was then named Viola Mae, but I’ve never once called her all that.

When I first brought her home, she was scared of everything and thin. But she always wanted to play and she warmed right up to me. She never slept on my bed until my then-boyfriend and I broke up. Once I moved, she was on the bed constantly.

Viola was a trooper who weathered several moves, including from Seattle to southern California, and from there to Sacramento. She was always by my side when I was home, either in my lap, purring next to me on the couch, or even sitting on the floor near my desk. She was a diva who wanted to be the only object of my attention. She sometimes harassed Huey by chasing her out of the bedroom and often tried to murder Kirk with her glare. She tried to be a bully, but the sound of the doorbell always sent her running to hide under the bed.

A eulogy

Viola, I love you so much and I will never be the same. You were my darling kitten. You were beautiful and fluffy and deserving of the best life. I hope your time on this Earth was cozy and worthwhile and that you felt loved and cared for. I wish I had known sooner that you were so sick. I wish I could have done more for you, played with you more, pet you more. I’m sorry you got cancer and you spent the last days of your life sick and tired. If there’s something after this life, I hope you’re getting the best of it. I love you so much and always will.

Here’s one last collection of Viola photos for your nerves.

Young Viola

Viola sitting on me

General Viola appreciation

Last Days on Earth

A Week in the Life: January 3, 2021

It’s 2021 and I have to go back to work tomorrow! I’m happy to be employed but I wish I didn’t have to work. Taking a week off has been really good. I read a lot of books and made foods, I played video games, and got myself organized for the things I want to do this year.

Consuming

Here are some things I’ve recently read, watched, or bought.

Books and Other Words

Nicky Drayden’s Escaping Exodus is about future humans who fled the Earth and are living inside giant, space-faring beats. This is a weird, squishy sci-fi and I liked it a lot. It reminded me of Kameron Hurley’s The Stars Are Legion, which also features a matriarchal space-faring society eking out a living on ships made of organic matter. Escaping Exodus takes a more class-focused lens and gives us a perspective into who suffers to keep society functioning. I’m always up for a sociological fiction so I thought this was a good read.

What We Don’t Talk about When We Talk about Fat by Aubrey Gordon is so good. It’s a perfect blend of research and personal experience as a fat woman. This book was a lot to take in. It’s good but terrible to see the statistics about how fat people are treated because I’m glad I’m not alone but also, fuck why are so many people so terrible? Research is pretty clear on the fact that dieting is not effective in the long-term, so why is our culture bent on demonizing fat people? Gordon posits that thin people have to see themselves as morally superior than fat people, otherwise they would need to acknowledge that body weight is largely luck, circumstance, and genetics instead of some kind of righteousness or good personal choices. This book is truly essential reading.

Feminist City: Claiming Space in a Man-Made World is also a combination of memoir and data. Leslie Kern discusses cities and the fact that they have been designed by men for men’s needs—seeing “respectable” women in public is a relatively new phenomenon. She asks what cities would be like if women’s needs were accounted for? How might housing be organized so that women could work together to share child care and other labor? What could make women feel safe? This book didn’t blow my mind, probably because I had already read Caroline Criado Perez’s Invisible Women, which chronicles the many ways that our environment favors men.

Meanwhile, on the internet:

  • America’s vaccine rollout is already a disaster via the Intelligencer. From the article: “As a country, we have only 40 million doses, and had aimed, according to Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar, to vaccinate 20 million by year-end. That’s bad enough. But we have administered only 2 million of those — barely 10 percent of the goal. At this rate, achieving sufficient vaccination to reach herd immunity and bring the pandemic to a close in the U.S. will take about seven years.” All I can say is ughhhh
  • Would you believe me if I said I was starving? via Talk Poverty. A reflection on being both poor and fat in keeping with what is apparently this week’s theme.
  • Fat lady attempts to get health care: An oral history via McSweeny’s. This is satire but I almost cried reading it because it is really resembles my experiences. I’ll never forget the time I went to the doctor because I was really sick and he was like “we need to talk about your BMI.” Bro, I am SICK.

TV and Music

I was excited to watch Wonder Woman 1984. That excitement was misplaced (spoilers ahead). The first Wonder Woman movie was a lot of fun because we see Diana being joyful and fighting for a better world. WW84 has none of that. Diana is lonely and spends all her time pining over a man who’s been dead since the last movie—which took place 70 years ago! She’s the greatest warrior in a generation, she stopped a god in the last movie, and now she’s spending all her time being sad about a man. Being sad for 70 years! I can’t get over that. This is not the paradigm of fully realized womanhood we need. I thought Diana was going to make friends with Barbara Minerva, who joins the museum staff where Diana works. But no, Barb is uncool and not in the cute way. I really did not appreciate Barbara’s story arc: she gets a magic wish to “be like Diana” and then starts getting strong, popular, and good at putting on flashy eyeliner. Do we need another version of the “let your hair down and take off your glasses to be a hot girl” trope? I argue no. There’s a lot of crazy shit in this movie (like Chris Pine’s character from the last movie doing a ‘Quantum Leap’ style body possession of an unsuspecting man. I’m not even going into this), the villain becoming a magic stone for making wishes, and Wonder Woman saving the world by whispering quietly to humanity. Next time I want a girl power pick-me-up, I’m going to watch Mad Max Fury Road or that scene from The Boys instead.

I think some people are going to be indignant about this but here it us: until this week I’d never listened to a whole Madonna album. I am passingly familiar with Madonna and obviously know her hits but she was not a fixture in my household’s musical landscape when I was young. In 12th grade, some school assembly had a 1980s-themed “name that tune” game and I got to be a contestant. I was super into new wave at the time, so I got almost every song within a few beats. I was not able to identify Madonna’s “Like a Virgin,” despite fellow students shouting “MADONNA” at me. Alas. In any case, I listened to the “Madonna” and “Material Girl” albums this week to educate myself. They were fun. They sound a little dated now, in a way, but it was fun to hear some new-to-me songs.

Rampant Consumerism

The targeted ads got me again and I bought a scrubby thing that’s meant to replace bath poufs. Because I wanted free shipping, I also bought their weird toothbrush. Both the scrubber and the toothbrush feel quite nice, but the scrubber doesn’t seem to lather body wash up in as satisfying of a way. However, it does stick to the shower wall, which I like, and it’s supposed to be recyclable.

Making Things and Doing stuff

Languages

I had a mediocre showing in Spanish last month but did a fair amount of French. Good for me. I’m feeling re-energized this month (which seems normal for me this time of year). I’m really looking forward to taking the C1 DELE exam in Spanish so I am feeling motivated.

Kitchen Witchery

I had some leftover egg whites I needed to use (I’m stuck in a cycle of having too many whites or too many yolks). I tried out this coconut macaroon recipe, which I liked better than previous versions I’ve made. I also put some chocolate on top because why not. I used the rest of the egg whites on this white chocolate mousse because I wanted to try something different. It was delicious but so rich. I am rarely bested by a dessert, but I’ve had to portion this out over the last few days. I couldn’t eat much at once.

Outside of desserts, I had some fun cooking this week. Including a butternut squash and blue cheese tart with caramelized onions (recipe from Salt, Fat, Acid Heat), a chili (roughly based on this recipe), and biscuits and gravy. I actually made a cream biscuit for the biscuits and gravy because, although I thought I had bought buttermilk last week, I did not. Shame on me. Regardless, the cream biscuits were really good.

I love the new year and I love snacks, so I went wild with a snack-based dinner for new year’s eve. We had ranch dip with various accoutrements, plus a baked brie. Kirk bought me a gift basket of cheeses for Christmas (it’s true love), which included brie, so this seemed like the right time to eat it. I baked it with the awesome salted honey that my sister bought me and it was, in fact, delicious.

Cat Therapy

Finally, here are some cat photos for your nerves. Huey has been enjoying the Christmas gifts.

2020: The 13th Annual Year in Books

I was really hoping I would beat my past reading record (90 books!) this year, but alas, it was not meant to be. I made it to 88 books, which makes 2020 the new second-place for my competition with myself to read the most books. Looking at past books of the year posts, I saw I had written this in 2017, “I made it through 62 books in 2017, which feels like a success considering the madness this year wrought.” All I can say is, wow, she didn’t know a damn thing.

  • Page count: 32,996 pages, based on the page numbers recorded in LibraryThing. When I read 90 books in 2014, the page count was 35,177 pages. So maybe I wouldn’t have beat my record anyway, were I to count pages.
  • Library use: 49 library books, 39 of my own books. Shout out to the library for keeping reading from being prohibitively expensive.
  • Female/male authors: 77 women authors, 10 men authors, 1 with a mix (from an anthology). This means about 88 percent of the books I read were by women. Come through, matriarchy.
  • Digital and analog: 47 digital, 41 paper. This stat doesn’t mean much, since I’m an equal-opportunity reader, but it is fun to see how things shake out each year.
  • Fiction and non-fiction: 56 fiction, 32 non-fiction. About one-third of this year’s books were non-fiction, which seems to be my new trend. Earth is full of interesting things.
  • Books in other languages: I read 8 books in Spanish, which I think is the most I’ve read in one year. It’s finally starting to feel more natural. It only took -checks notes- 10 years.
  • Favorites:

And now, the list!

Date FinishedTitleAuthor
1/3The Golden Thread: How Fabric Changed HistoryKassia St. Clair
1/4Indelible in the Hippocampus: Writings From the Me Too MovementShelly Oria (editor)
1/5Rogue ProtocolMartha Wells
1/10Exit StrategyMartha Wells
1/12Betraying Big Brother: The Feminist Awakening in ChinaLeta Hong Fincher
1/19The Mirror EmpireKameron Hurley
1/30Empire AscendantKameron Hurley
2/3La fruta del borrachero: Una novelaIngrid Rojas Contreras
2/4The Broken HeavensKameron Hurley
2/8Nine Pints: A Journey through Time, Money, Medicine, and Mysteries of BloodRose George
2/12The Sisters of the Winter WoodRena Rossner
2/16The Secret Lives of GlaciersM Johnson
2/18StormsongC. L. Polk
2/21The F*ck It Diet: Eating Should Be EasyCaroline Dooner
2/24The Secret ChapterGenevieve Cogman
3/2The Luminous DeadCaitlin Starling
3/10AutonomousAnnalee Newitz
3/12The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of PowerShosana Zuboff
3/18Mostly Dead ThingsKristen Arnett
3/21Leftover Women: The Resurgence of Gender Inequality in ChinaLeta Hong Fincher
3/23DocileK. M. Szpara
4/1The Starless SeaErin Morgenstern
4/2UmamiLaia Jufresa
4/13Hiding in Plain Sight: The Invention of Donald Trump and the Erosion of AmericaSarah Kendzior
4/13Little GodsMeng Jin
4/17The City We BecameN. K. Jemisin
4/19Women TalkingMiriam Toews
4/24How Rory Thorne Destroyed the MultiverseK. Eason
4/28The Glass HotelEmily St. John Mandel
5/2CarameloSandra Cisneros
5/4The Voyages of Cinrak the DapperA. J. Fitzwater
5/8GingerbreadHelen Oyeyemi
5/14Network EffectMartha Wells
5/16Los hombres me explican cosasRebecca Solnit
5/17The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks about RaceJesmyn Ward (ed.)
5/20Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women that a Movement ForgotMikki Kendall
5/24Ancestral NightElizabeth Bear
6/1The Night WatchmanLouise Erdrich
6/7American Oligarchs: The Kushners, the Trumps, and the Marriage of Money and PowerAndrea Bernstein
6/12Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress CycleEmily Nagoski, Amelia Nagoski
6/15The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s DaughterTheodora Goss
6/25European Travel for the Monstrous GentlewomanTheodora Goss
6/28Children of TimeAdrian Tchaikovsky
7/1El reino del dragón de oroIsabel Allende
7/5The Vanishing HalfBrit Bennett
7/8They Were Her Property: White Woman as Slave Owners in the American SouthStephanie E. Jones-Rogers
7/10The Long Way to a Small, Angry PlanetBecky Chambers
7/16Gods of Jade and ShadowSilvia Moreno-Garcia
7/21The Sinister Mystery of the Mesmerizing GirlTheodora Goss
7/24GoldilocksLaura Lam
7/25A Closed and Common OrbitBecky Chambers
7/29Record of a Spaceborn FewBecky Chambers
8/4Children of RuinAdrian Tchaikovsky
8/8American Prison: A Reporter’s Undercover Journey into the Business of PunishmentShane Bauer
8/16Harrow the NinthTamsyn Muir
8/24A BurningMegha Majumdar
9/1How to Hide an Empire: A History of the Greater United StatesDaniel Immerwahr
9/1Technical Communication Today, 6th EditionRichard Johnson-Sheehan
9/6Empress of ForeverMax Gladstone
9/6Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce RacismSafiya Umoja Noble
9/11The First SisterLinden Lewis
9/16Miracle Country: A MemoirKendra Atleework
9/20Sistema nerviosoLina Meruane
9/25Sisters in Hate: American Women on the Front Lines of White NationalismSeyward Darby
10/1Feminismos: Miradas desde la diversidaded. Pikara
10/1Can’t Even: How Millennials Became the Burnout GenerationAnne Helen Petersen
10/6A Witch in TimeConstance Sayers
10/16MachineElizabeth Bear
10/19The Midnight BargainC. L. Polk
10/19Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the VoidMary Roach
10/25Mill Town: Reckoning with What RemainsKerri Arsenault
10/30The Once and Future WitchesAlix E. Harrow
10/31Beowulf: A New TranslationMaria Dahvana Headley
11/2PiranesiSusanna Clarke
11/5The Space Between WorldsMicaiah Johnson
11/6Sombras de ReikiavikAnthony Adeane
11/8Republic of Lies: American Conspiracy Theorists and their Surprising Rise to PowerAnna Merlan
11/12Transcendent KingdomYaa Gyasi
11/20The Language Hoax: The World Looks the Same in Any LanguageJohn H. McWhorter
11/22The City of BrassS. A. Chakraborty
11/27The Kingdom of CopperS. A. Chakraborty
12/4The Empire of GoldS. A. Chakraborty
12/9Twitter and Tear Gas: The Power and Fragility of Networked ProtestZeynep Tufekci
12/11Thick: And Other EssaysTressie McMillan Cottom
12/13The Empress of Salt and FortuneNghi Vo
12/22The Unreality of Memory and Other EssaysElisa Gabbert
12/27Escaping ExodusNicky Drayden
12/29What We Don’t Talk about When We Talk about FatAubrey Gordon

2021: Let’s Do This I Guess

collage of pictures including a garden, a goat in a sweater, a woman lifting weights, a girl with an owl and a cat wearing sunglasses
2021 mood board

I know that all of our troubles won’t magically disappear at the stroke of midnight on January 1, but I wish they would. I’m thinking about what I want to do in 2021 with present conditions in mind. I hope that, by the end of the year, we’re all vaccinated and living our best covid-free lives. I know I’ll be last in line for a vaccine since I don’t have to talk to the public or care for anyone. I’m thinking about the year with that in mind and with nine months of pandemic experience.

Hobbies and Other Witchery

  • Books. My private goal in 2020 was to read 100 books. I didn’t make it, but I got close. This year I am making it a public goal: I want to read 100 books. This is mostly just to say I did it and see what it feels like to read that much. Besides, I don’t have much else going on. I also want to do my part to keep independent bookstores alive because they always have the best stuff. Something fun I want to do for myself is buy a book from a different bookstore each month. I can’t go anywhere interesting so I have to bring things to me.
  • Music. Make a point of listening to new (or new-to-me) music and finding stuff I like. Kirk bought me a lovely blue tooth speaker for Christmas so that will help.
  • Knitting. Knit a sweater! I’ve knit many small things (and one top), but I have yet to knit a sweater, which is the quintessential knitting activity. I have yarn and a pattern picked out for a big, chunky sweater and I’m looking forward to making and wearing it.
  • Baking. Expand my baking skills and try new things. I know in the not-too-distant future I want to try making croissants, donuts, and a babka. I’ve got my bread game going strong so now it’s time to branch out.
  • Cooking. I have a lot of great cookbooks and a number of them are about cuisines from other places. I can’t travel so I want to try travel by cooking. My general plan is to try a few recipes from another place every month, but we’ll see what my energy levels are like. I have already marked a few recipes to try from Peru: The Cookbook and Feast of the Islamic World.
  • Composting. Maybe this is weird, but I want to start composting. Why throw away all these food scraps when we can turn them into soil?

Languages

  • Spanish. I have talked about taking the DELE exam before and, in fact, had planned to do it in 2020. This year I’m going to do it for really real. I mean it. I’ve even sent in a registration form already. I’m trying to register for a date in November, when, one hopes, things will be fairly safe.
  • Icelandic. I want to get back into learning Icelandic this year. I have been thinking about it a lot without actually studying. I’m hoping my teacher will be available again, or perhaps she can refer me to someone else if not.
  • French. I started learning French again on a whim, so my plan this year is to keep at it as long as I’m having fun. I also want to find something to read or watch in the language that makes it more interesting for me.

Intangibles

  • Take it slow. It’s hard for me to relax and not fill all my time with activities. That’s a little bit because I get bored easily and a lot because of how I cope with anxiety: be too busy to worry about it. This year I want to work on taking things as they come and not overfilling my schedule for the sake of it. This is also going to be important when/if we can start living that non-pandemic life again. I know I’ll want to do everything at once, but I also know that will quickly overwhelm me. I don’t have to make up for “lost time” or anything like that. I want to ease back into things.
  • (Re-)establish routines. The most difficult part of 2020 was that basically all of our routines were destroyed. Now that pandemic life is more of a known quantity, I want to focus on resetting some routines and establishing new ones to get me through all this at-home time. I’ve particularly struggled with exercising regularly since exercise used to be an activity that happens outside of the house. I’m hoping to find a new rhythm for my days and work in some good habits. I’ve started flossing and have kept at it for the last two weeks so I know there is hope for me.
  • Community. I’ve been donating to causes but I want to get involved in something that will better my community. I’m not yet sure what form this will take but probably some kind of volunteering. I’ve learned from the last few years that we are all responsible for making society and our communities not suck. Now I have to start putting in some work.

A Year in the Life: 2020

It feels a little weird to write this post. I know a number of people have been sharing memes saying they don’t need any year-end posts to make them feel bad about whatever they have done or not done to get through the year. I can respect that. For me, doing stuff is what got me through the year. Even if it was low-key stuff like baking bread and knitting socks. I am, of course, in a different situation than many people since I work from home and I don’t have to take care of anyone. We’ve all coped with this year differently. This post is about what I did.

Looking back at what I said I wanted to do this year, I feel a number of things. Obviously I could not have anticipated the pandemic and how deeply it would affect us all this year, so goals about playing roller derby and keeping up with my weight lifting are moot. Other things seem almost prescient. I talk about wanting to be less wasteful and not buy shit I don’t need, which has definitely been part of the spirit of living through the pandemic. Living through the early pandemic in particular made me get better at using what food I have on hand and not throwing away those last bits of leftover meals, habits which I’ve worked on through the year. I’m not saying I’m “grateful” for the pandemic (because I’m really, really not), but it has demanded a certain amount of reflection and reconsideration of how I run my life and relate to others.

This year has been hard. I feel a kind of survivor’s guilt because it hasn’t been that hard for me in a lot of ways. I have a stable income and health insurance, I have a cozy home. But the social upheaval and the uncertainty of this year have been challenging. I definitely feel less patient and more emotionally raw, as I’m sure everyone does. I have tried to channel that into, alternately, empathy and helping the people around me as well as relaxing and caring for myself. It’s hard, but I’m trying.

Something nice: this is my first full year of regular blogging (I started in the middle of 2019). If you click on the “2020” tag, you can see everything I wrote this year. I’m really glad that I kept up the blog this year. With the days of pandemic life blurring into one another, I know without it I would have looked back on this year and asked “what the fuck happened?” Despite the pandemic (because of?) I did a lot of things. They weren’t the things I expected to do, but I did things.

Books and Media

I read a lot this year! I am going to post my books of the year list later this week (I’m not done reading yet!), but I’m currently at 87 books. My private goal this year was to read 100 books, which is clearly not going to happen. I feel good that I’ve gotten quite close though!

One aspect of being at home so much is I started being more purposeful about what media I consume. I realized I wasn’t listening to much music and organized some new playlists for myself to make it easier to enjoy music. I’ve been trying to listen to some new (or new to me) artists so I don’t get too set in my ways. I’ve also been watching more movies and purposely picking what I want to watch instead of getting lost in the infinite scroll of netflix streaming.

Rampant Consumerism

As you might guess, most of my rampant consumerism this year focused on buying stuff for my house, like baskets for organizing my closet and bins for my pantry. I also got an air purifier (shout out to California’s worst fire season) and a rowing machine/exercise bike since it became more or less impossible to leave the house this summer between the heat and the ash. I also put a lot of effort into emergency kits. I can’t personally do much about the pandemic or the fires, but it does reassure me a little to have some emergency supplies in place.

Making Things and Doing stuff

Did you know I had to work at my job all year long? It’s ridiculous but true. I don’t write about work a lot, but I did a lot of fucking work this year. Pandemic notwithstanding, we did a lot of proposals and I took on projects like trying to help people understand how to write and organizing our reusable content. It feels really insane to me that many aspects of regular life have continued as normal while 300,000 Americans died of coronavirus this year. I’m lucky that my boss is understanding about how it feels to be alive right now and hasn’t demanded anything ridiculous. I’m a little affronted that we’ve had to keep working at all. Compartmentalization is at an all-time high.

Languages

Studying, at times, offered a good distraction from pandemic life. It’s an act of optimism to keep at it; a belief that I’ll eventually be able to go somewhere and talk to new people.

I really thought this was going to be the year I’d take the C1 DELE exam and validate my Spanish skills once and for all, but the pandemic has made fools of us all. That said, I did a lot of reading and studying in Spanish this year and I’m feeling pretty good about my skills. I even translated my voting guide into Spanish! I also started making efforts to do some volunteer translating work. I did a couple of small jobs and then it fell off my radar. Something to renew my efforts in for 2021!

Unfortunately, I didn’t work on Icelandic at all this year. My teacher was taking maternity leave and then the pandemic hit and I couldn’t muster the energy to study on my own. However, in a surprise twist, I did start studying French again, inspired by taking up ballet. I took three years in college but forgot a lot of it. It’s been interesting to get back to it, although I don’t love it as much as Icelandic (that’s right, I have favorites).

Knitting and Crafts

I went hard on knitting this year. I knit five pairs of socks! Ten whole socks! No wonder I feel like I want a break from sock knitting. I also knit an awesome top and two shawls. Many of these were gifts because who doesn’t love a handmade sock or shawl?

Moving It

As far as exercise is concerned, this year would have been cursed for me, pandemic or not. I started off the year strong but sprained my ankle in February (a lifetime ago, by many reckonings). I had fun taking a few turns at coaching before coronavirus took us all out of the game. With pandemic boredom getting me down and looking for something to help my ankle rehab, I took up ballet in the summer. I didn’t really know if I would like it, but I have enjoyed it a lot. It’s been a good counterpoint to roller derby because I have to use my body in very different ways.

Kitchen Witchery

I looked back at the food photos I posted this year and noticed three trends: bread, charcuterie boards, and treats.

I made a lot of bread this year. Of course, this includes some springtime sourdough, which I made like everyone else. I like sourdough but learned that I don’t like the commitment to regular baking. Once the weather started warming up, I abandoned the project. I still made a lot of great breads and expanded into some more labor intensive breads like pumpkin knots and Poğaça rolls.

These aren’t technically charcuterie boards since I don’t have much meat involved, but this year saw a lot of snack board/charcuterie/shark coochie art. Am I a basic bitch or am I finding classy ways not to make dinner? You decide.

Finally, because eating is one of the few reliable coping mechanisms remaining to us in this pandemic year, I made a lot of treats. Some might even say it was too many treats (It’s Kirk. Kirk might say this). I tried some new stuff like cream pies, battenburg cake, and macarons. I also revisited some favorites like cookies and toffee.

Cat Therapy

Finally, here are some of the year’s best cat photos for your nerves. Huey and Viola turned 12 years old this year.

A Week in the Life: December 26, 2020

It’s Christmas and I’m on vacation! We had a nice Christmas at home and I don’t have to go back to work until after the new year, so I’m feeling good about my life right now. Kirk and I like to keep Christmas low key so I didn’t really feel I was missing out on much because of the pandemic. I hate Christmas travel, so I don’t do it. That said, I am missing my family and friends. It’s hard to believe that the pandemic here has dragged on for nearly the whole year. A friend of mine who lives in Thailand told me that, after the initial wave of the pandemic, life there went mostly back to normal for much of the year, even though they’re going back into a lockdown now. Must be nice.

Consuming

Here are some things I’ve recently read or watched.

Books and Other Words

I rarely write about books I didn’t finish but I read half of Firas Alkhateeb’s Lost Islamic History: Reclaiming Muslim Civilisation from the Past and I have opinions. My first thought: lost for whom? I kept waiting for some “lost” history to show up but it didn’t happen. To be fair, I may not be this book’s intended audience; I have a bachelor’s degree in near eastern civilizations. I thought most of the information in the book was pretty basic middle eastern/Islamic history. Might I have learned something if I read the second half of the book? We don’t know. I had to return it to the library today and I made the decision to triage my loans and not finish this one.

In books I did finish (and that are due to the library today) is The Unreality of Memory: And Other Essays by Elisa Gabbert. I don’t even know how to describe this essay collection, but it’s really good. She wrote it before the pandemic, but every essay feels like it’s from the present moment. Gabbert deals with a Trump presidency, disasters, climate, and how it feels to live right now, in what we all seem to agree seems like the end of the world. These are really well written and proactive essays. I highly recommend it.

Meanwhile on the internet:

  • Does anyone really buy the giant bows you see in every commercial? via Vox. This article is two years old but it’s new to me so I’m sharing it. I was intrigued by this tale of businesses making giant bows and the people who buy them.
  • Rewriting the Future: Using Science Fiction to Re-Envision Justice via Walidah Imarisha. Also a little old but in my recent saved readings. This talks about how important speculative fiction is for reshaping real life.
  • Defund the Crime Beat via NiemanLab. From the article: “This should be the year where we finally abolish the crime beat. Study after study shows how the media’s overemphasis on crime makes people feel less safe than they really are and negatively shapes public policy around the criminal–legal system. And study after study shows that it’s racist and inhumane.”

TV and Music

We watched all three of the “How to Train Your Dragon” movies this week, which neither us of had seen before. They were cute, but I, as is my custom, have a lot of questions. Like: if dragons are an apex predator, how can there be so many of them? If it’s that easy to tame a dragon, how come no one (well, almost no one) had done it before? For that matter, why are they violent at all? They seem like big, flying cats. Who provoked those dragons? I’ve also concluded, based on the events of the last movie, that these events took place before recorded history, since (spoilers?) all the dragons disappeared until humans are responsible enough to interact with them without being assholes. Does that mean we will have dragons when (if?) we achieve world peace? Is that a real incentive? Introducing dragons to humanity seems like a quick way to disrupt that newly minted world peace.

Sidebar: I recently made an account on letterboxd, which is an app for logging movies you watch. I’ve been trying to watch more movies and thought noting what I watch would be fun—it works for me for reading. If you want to follow me, you can find me as linzomatic. I like movies but I usually don’t want to commit to watching a whole movie. I like watching TV because it comes in short chunks. However, I often end up watching multiple episodes of a show at once, so I might as well watch a movie.

Making Things and Doing stuff

a ballet barre made from pvc pipe
homemade ballet barre

My dance studio is, of course, taking a break for the next few weeks. With that in mind, and the feeling that we’re going to be back to online-only class for a while (thanks, pandemic and everyone being shitty about it!), I decided to make my own barre! I’d been using the back of a chair when practicing at home and it is not very satisfying. There are a few tutorials out there for making a barre from PVC pipe—I liked this one the best. It was pretty easy to do and only cost me about $40 in materials. The hardest part was getting all the right size connectors. For now, I’ve got the barre in my office so I can get in a few pliés when I’m bored during meetings.

Knitting and Crafts

I was so pleased with how the gnome socks came out! They look wonderful. Unfortunately, I knit them too tight and Kirk cannot get them on his feet. I’m distressed! I think, for this kind of color work, you have to keep the knit very loose and I didn’t. I’m not actually sure though since this was my first time.

My next knit is a shawl because, as much as I love socks, I need a break (there will be many more socks in the future though since Kirk got me the 52 Weeks of Socks book for Christmas). My mom bought me a cool knit-a-long (a kit where you get yarn and a pattern that’s released a little bit at a time) last Christmas, but I didn’t knitalong, I saved it all for when the full pattern was released. The yarn is very soft and it seems like a fun knit. I’m looking forward to chilling out and knitting it this week.

Kitchen Witchery

After spending the last few weeks making Christmas treats, I was a little low on baking energy and interest for Christmas itself, which was totally fine. I did bake a loaf of rye bread to accompany the clam chowder we had on Christmas eve (a tradition from Kirk’s family. If I had my druthers we’d be eating enchiladas, but marriage is compromise). On Christmas itself, Kirk made Swedish meatballs, which is the Christmas dinner tradition we’ve chosen to adopt. I made a chocolate cream pie for dessert (recipe from the Kitchenista Holiday Recipe Collection). It was so good and a welcome change in the holiday dessert rotation.

Cat Therapy

Finally, here are some cat photos for your nerves. The kitties got a crinkly tube for Christmas. I was expecting zooming but so far they mostly seem content to chill in it. They also got a heated bed, which neither of them are interested in sitting in. Naturally.

Two Weeks in the Life: December 19, 2020

We are embracing Christmas this year, not the least because I am highly invested in putting up lots of lights. We finally got some lights to put up on the outside of the house, which I have wanted but we had struggled with the logistics. Kirk finally found a solution he was happy with and now we have delightful outside lights. We decorated our tree too, although it took us a week from getting the tree to decorating it. Life in the pandemic moves at its own pace. Life in the pandemic is also a lot of being in and around my house, so it might as well by shiny.

Consuming

Here are some things I’ve recently read, watched, or bought.

Books and Other Words

The trouble with skipping a week on the blog is now I have to remember what happened in all the books I read the previous week (in a surprise twist, I haven’t read anything since last weekend. My brain is tired). I had so many thoughts about them, but didn’t write them down, so you’re getting the abbreviated version today.

  • Thick and Other Essays by Tressie McMillan Cottom. This was great. Cottom frames this as a series of personal essays, explaining that the personal essay is one of the only genres of opinion afforded to black writers. She talks about race, capitalism, politics, and how they all intersect. She writes about being the wrong kind of black and “knowing your whites.” This collection will give you plenty to think about.
  • Twitter and Tear Gas: The Power and Fragility of Networked Protest by Zeynep Tufekci. This is technically a narrow topic—how protests and twitter come together—but there’s so much to be said about how different movements have used twitter to organize and hold power to account. Tufekci focuses on the protests in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, the Gezi Park protests in Turkey and the Occupy Wall Street movement in the U.S. I like seeing a serious discussion of twitter, often considered a frivolous application, being used in serious, world-changing ways. I also really appreciated the chapter on power and how we build it and hold politicians to account. Recommended for anyone looking to better understand the politics and realities of protest movements.
  • The Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo. This was a quick read but had some cool world building for something so short. Court intrigue, wandering scholars, and a coup. It was fun and I’m definitely going to read the next book in the series.

Meanwhile, on the internet:

  • The real reason local newspapers are dying via Men Yell at Me. The argument here boils down to newspapers not giving people what they need, so why would people pay for the paper? If a newspaper acts as a PR machine or only represents the interests of a rich owner, people don’t want it. Journalists are supposed to speak truth to power, and that’s happening less and less.
  • Stealing to survive: More Americans are shoplifting food as aid runs out during the pandemic via Washington Post. This makes me sad and it makes me angry. You know what people are shoplifting the most? Baby formula. We have failed as a society.
  • The Wife Glitch via The Baffler. On women’s work, compensating that work, and tech companies. From the article: “How strange and predictable it is, then, that wages for housework have, at last, become widespread—but in the form of our subscription to digital services and gig economy labor. This work has become concretely valuable at the precise moment its value can be effectively captured by a small cadre of men sitting at the top of the tech industry.”

TV and Music

We’ve started watching Star Trek: Picard, which is fun. Kirk (my spouse, not Captain James T.) says it’s not really a Star Trek show. It’s the equivalent of the Star Wars franchise calling something “A Star Wars Story.” You get a character you know and love but doing something entirely different and with a new cast of characters. I’ve been thinking of it as “Picard Solves a Mystery” more than anything.

Rampant Consumerism

a package of cocofloss and a sticker that says "floss daily"
making flossing fun?

Sometimes targeted ads show me something that I actually buy. In this case: cocofloss. I do not love flossing—but then, who does? One thing I hate about flossing and brushing my teeth is the flavor. I don’t like mint so I have this extra level of not wanting to do it. So I was really excited about cocofloss because it has alternate flavors. So far I’ve tried the coconut and it smells really pleasant. I also like that you can order “refill” floss and keep using the little case.

a long strand of lights wound around on the floor, light in rainbow colors
Setting up the new Twinkly lights

Much more exciting: lights! I hang colorful lights in the living room for Halloween and Christmas. Kirk discovered these programmable lights from a company called Twinkly. You can set them to different colors using a phone app. They have preset patterns you can use or you can make your own designs. It’s really cool! We just put them up this afternoon and I love them already. I posted a video on my instagram so you can see some different effects.

Making Things and Doing stuff

The December of Rare Household Tasks continues apace. I’ve dusted the bookcases and beaten back their chaos. I ran the self-clean on the oven for the first time ever. I know intellectually that all an oven can do is be hot so I don’t know why it surprised me to learn that the oven’s self-clean function is just … getting really hot. So, I ran that but then still had to wipe it down with some vinegar. These are the tasks that no one tells you about when you become an adult. We finally replaced the light bulbs in our bathroom too. Four of the eight had burned out so we replaced the lot of them with some of those cool bulbs with a spiral filament. This is a lot of words to say: we’ve been adulting pretty hard over here. I even cleaned the windows.

Moving It

I was delighted in my ballet class today because we spent about half of it learning a short choreography to “Let It Snow,” which we then danced for our own pleasure with no audience. It wasn’t much but it was satisfying to put a few moves together after six months (time flies! and also crawls!) of ballet lessons. We have a break from class for the next couple of weeks because of the holidays, which is good but ballet has been my only out-of-the-house experience lately, so I’m a little bummed out. Maybe I will feel feisty and do some extra practice at home.

Kitchen Witchery

You may recall that, before Thanksgiving, Kirk held a pantry intervention and made me clean out the spice cabinet. That lasted for all of five minutes before I got some new things that didn’t fit. Fortunately, I have now solved the problem by buying some of these organizer bins. I’m super happy with how this looks! Now I can’t lose anything to the back of the pantry. Like sprinkles. Apparently I just keep buying sprinkles and then they disappear to the back of the shelf. They have their own bin now.

I’ve been doing a lot of holiday baking because I’m going full mom this year and delivering baked goods to a few friends. My cookbook club is doing a cookie exchange tomorrow and I have made “million peso shortbread” (this recipe, but add a teaspoon of cinnamon to the shortbread and about a 1/4 tsp of ancho chili powder to the chocolate) and toffee (not pictured). I had fun trying these sesame blossom cookies, which have tahini in them, and another fudge variation, featuring dulce de leche. I haven’t only made cookies (just mostly). I tried this chicken gnocchi soup recipe and it was quite tasty. It’s going into my rotation of things to make again.

Cat Therapy

Finally, here are some cat photos for your nerves.

A Week in the Life: December 5, 2020

It’s December, which is exciting for me because I love advent calendars. Starting my day with a piece of chocolate is great and we should do it year round.

Less thrilling: it’s become Rare Household Tasks Month here. This week I cleaned and dusted our laundry room (and made Kirk vacuum up all the dryer fuzz trapped behind the machine) and cleaned the hard water deposits out of the shower head (link in case you, too, require this knowledge). Obviously we’re not cleaning in anticipation of guests—what guest would dare to criticize a laundry room anyway—but I’m trying to set myself up to actually relax later this month. I’m planning to take vacation between Christmas and New Year’s. Since both holidays are on a Friday, it equates to ten consecutive days without work for the low, low price of only four vacation days. I know myself and if I don’t get some household stuff done before I’m on vacation, I’ll fill all my time up with things like cleaning the windows instead of the relaxation I want, need, and deserve.

Consuming

Here are some things I’ve recently read, watched, or bought.

Books and Other Words

book cover of Empire of Gold shown on kobo ereader
Empire of Gold

This week I read the third and last book in the Daevabad trilogy, The Empire of Gold. It was so good! I love this series. It has been the perfect escapism lately. I won’t say more because I don’t want to spoil anything for people who want to read the series.

Meanwhile, on the internet:

  • Aubrey Gordon on Dealing with Aggressive Fatfobia via Lithub. This article is heavy but accurate in describing the experience of being fat in the world. I thank the author for giving us the term “fatcalling” because I’d never had a good word to describe the phenomenon of random people shouting at me because they object to my fatness.
  • Scented candles: An unexpected victim of the COVID-19 pandemic via Kate Petrova on twitter. Negative reviews of scented candles claiming that the candles have “no scent” have correlated to rises in coronavirus cases. Fascinating. (note: one symptom of coronavirus is losing your sense of smell or taste).

Also on the internet: newsletters. I’ve been subscribing to a bunch of them via substack. It’s all the fun of blogs except it comes to your email. Here’s a selection of some really good ones from the last week:

  • Small Data, Big Implications from Zeynep Tufekci. A close look at a small study that examined just a few cases of people who got infected with coronavirus in a restaurant. This isn’t a newsletter just about ‘rona, but I thought this particular entry was very interesting.
  • Essay: The King Herself from Mona Eltahawy. I love the power in Eltahawy’s essays. Rage, hair, embracing yourself, and a fat dose of fuck the patriarchy come through in this one.
  • Here’s the real danger with the “to hell with Trump voters” argument from The White Pages. This newsletter is about the work of white people helping other white people to be less racist and how this is really a problem of community. This particular installment gave me a lot to think about in regards to the unglamorous labor of bringing fellow white people around.
  • The Mom Does It from Anne Helen Petersen. I’ve shared Petersen’s work before; everything she writes is a gut punch of truth. This essay is about the work of “moms” (actual mothers or people who take on the “mom” labor for their group) and the holidays.

TV and Music

We watched the new season of Animaniacs this week and I’ve had the theme song stuck in my head—dueling with the original version of the theme song. It somehow feels exactly how I remember it while poking fun at contemporary topics from Trump to designer donuts. I read an article about how the animators redesigned the characters to modernize them. This is interesting to me because the show to a non-expert in animation, seems exactly like the 1990s version. Yet, it’s not.

I also felt compelled to watch Happiest Season on Hulu because lesbian Christmas movie. I went into this having already been warned by lesbians that it was not, indeed, the happiest. But did I listen? No. I watched it and yelled at the TV/into the void for the whole thing. Kristen Stewart was good and Dan Levy’s classic anxiety gay character was, obviously, delightful, but this is not the lesbian Christmas movie we deserve. If you want to read about it and skip watching it, I recommend this article (also recommended if you watched it and need to process).

Rampant Consumerism

coway airmega air purifier in my house
new baby

I’ve had my eye on this air purifier since fire season two years ago when the sky was sepia-toned and it seemed the world would end. After this year’s apocalyptic repeat, I finally womaned up and bought the damn thing. It’s the Coway Airmega and it was 20 percent off after Thanksgiving. So far, it seems good. It’s fairly quiet and it’s “smart” so it doesn’t have to run constantly. I’m hoping it will spare us some pain next time there’s a big fire nearby.

Making Things and Doing stuff

I’ve been embracing being festive for Christmas this year. I am liking Christmas more and more every year because I have realized I can do whatever I want and that there’s nothing wrong with liking cute stuff if it makes me happy. My (now ex-)step-mom was a real tyrant about Christmas and doing shit her way, which was not my way and I didn’t particularly enjoy the mandatory fun aspect of it all. Adulthood is all about remaking your life into what you want, so that’s what I’m doing.

stockings on the fireplace and chrismas-themed gnomes sitting on the mantle
festivities intensify

Languages

In the beginning of November, I took a lot of comfort in studying and using it as a method to avoid election doomscrolling. I had a really good routine going for a couple of weeks and then lost it again, but such is life (and studying). In any case, Spanish is moving along as always. I have been reading books and chatting with my teacher regularly. French is going okay but I need to start thinking about how I want to it to be interesting for me in terms of figuring out what to read or look at in the language so it’s not just textbook life.

Knitting and Crafts

I’ve finished yet another pair of socks (everyone is getting socks for Christmas, in case you haven’t guessed). This is the Luminary sock pattern knit in yarn from A Homespun House. I was fun to knit once I got into the rhythm of the pattern, which took me a little while. This pattern was also a good lesson in recognizing that “knit” and “knit through back of loop” are, in fact, not equivalent.

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I’d be making Kirk these gnome socks for Chistmas. So far the pattern is a lot of fun and very cute. Since this picture, I’ve turned the heel and started on the gusset, but this is enough to appreciate the pattern. I’m not trying to hide them from Kirk because we’re home constantly and it takes a long time to knit. He seemed surprised and delighted by the choice, so I am happy.

In non-knitting news, I made a table Christmas-themed table runner. I feel that my younger self would find table runners highly unnecessary and uncool, but here I am, 34 years old, sewing table runners. If I’m going to be home forever, I want something to look at.

Kitchen Witchery

It’s interesting to me to go back through the week’s photos and see which foods I actually took a picture of. This week: treats! I made fudge for the first time using a recipe on a card I picked up at Nugget. The result was a success. On Saturday, we got a Christmas tree (not yet decorated so no photos yet, mom) so I decided to go high-key festive and make sugar cookies. Kirk requested Christmas tree shapes. Who am I to say no?

Something I put a lot of effort into but didn’t take a photo of is this pumpkin tart, which, on paper, sounded delicious. I seriously hated the results though. It didn’t seem to taste of anything and it felt like all the textures came out wrong. Ick. To cleanse my savory tart palette, I’m thinking of going back to a recipe in Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat for a butternut squash and blue cheese tart, which is the flavor I want but, you know, actually good.

Cat Therapy

Finally, here are some cat photos for your nerves.