Yesterday evening I discovered that our pantry was overrun by ants. I pulled out a fairly sticky bottle of honey only to discover that it was covered in them—just what we need on a Saturday night in 2020. Fortunately, the ants seemed singularly focused on the honey and had ignored the temptations of bags of chocolate chips and of powdered sugar secured only with a twist tie. Currently, the contents of my pantry have been relocated to the kitchen table. We’ve murdered all the pantry ants and Kirk went outside to spray down their trail with Windex (I read that this masks their chemicals so they can’t find their way). I’m not sure how the ants were getting in, but what we’ve done has motivated them to stay away; I haven’t seen any this morning.
Here are some things I’ve recently read, watched, or bought.
Books and Other Words
Miracle Country by Kendra Atleework is a memoir about life in the difficult parts of California. Atleework grew up on a little town on the east side of the Sierras and she gives us a look like what it’s like growing up there. The book takes on family, illness, climate change, and California water politics (you know, just a few subjects). Ateework’s childhood has an air of the fantastical to it, which comes from living in a difficult place and being a child of people drawn to difficult places. I liked the writing style and the way Atleework told her story. The book is well researched too, discussing the area’s native people and some of the history behind L.A. siphoning off most of the area’s water. It’s interesting to me, as a child of southern California, how little I knew about where our water came from. In contrast, kids in the Sierras never stop thinking about where their water is going. I appreciated this book as a window into how other Californians live.
Meanwhile on the internet:
- Halloween and Christmas items sell out as we go all in on decorating via the Los Angeles Times. I was going to share more fires/climate change doom but then I thought, jeez, we get it. I found this article kind of fun. I’m happy that people are making the best of being at home by decorating. I’m feeling inclined to go harder on the holiday festivities myself.
- Why everything is sold out via The Atlantic. Long story short: our supply chain is fucked. It’s weird/interesting/scary how much of a consumerist illusion we’ve been living in where anything is available immediately. I know we all need things and it’s annoying to not get what you want, but part of me can’t help but wonder if this is good in some ways.
TV and Music
I was reading the latest Culture Study on how taste gets made and how we listen to music. It made me realize something: I rarely listen to music now. Most of my listening happens in the car, but now I don’t drive much. I don’t like to listen to things when I work and I spend a lot of time reading. I’ve gotten used to silence. I used to listen to music all the time. I turned it on when I woke up in the morning and got ready for school or work. When I was in middle school, class didn’t start until 8:45. I would wait for everyone else to leave the house then get out of bed and blast the stereo until it was time to go.
This week I’ve started listening to music again while I’m idly browsing the internet, doing dishes, or whatever. I’ve also been reorganizing my Spotify a little bit. I took some inspiration from this article, which waxes nostalgic for the “deleted years” of music—the period between CD collections and reliable, centralized streaming. I read this and realized I have no idea what I listened to in the early 2000s. I have tons of music on my computer and a growing collection on Spotify, but these two don’t talk. I went through my local collection and saved albums to some new playlists for things I like. Spurred by curiosity about my deleted years, I set up playlists by music decade. It’s a work in progress, of course, but I’m glad to be getting re-acquainted with something I enjoy.
I know Kirk doesn’t read my blog (he’s living it all with me instead), so I feel safe sharing this. I bought this knitting pattern and some yarn to make him a pair of socks. He commented recently that I’m getting quite good at making socks, so I asked if he wanted a pair. His response, “only if they’re Christmas socks.” He really likes gnomes so I am happy I stumbled onto this pattern. I know there’s not really any way to secretly knit a pair of socks for someone when we share a home and are here practically 24/7, but I am going to make an attempt.
Making Things and Doing stuff
I feel like I have to note the fact that I got tested for coronavirus for the first time this week. It was really as unpleasant as everyone says. I felt my nose tingling for hours after getting swabbed. I am hoping to avoid this experience in the future! The good news is I do not have coronavirus. I was a little worried I’d been exposed (a story I am not going to tell here today), but I’m happy to report that it turned out to be a non-problem.
I have been plugging away at Spanish this week. I translated a couple of articles from Spanish to English as homework for class and I finished reading a novel, It’s Sistema nervioso by Lina Meruane. I felt I understood most of what I read but I am still struggling with retaining what I read in Spanish. I could tell you about parts of the book, but I would have a hard time describing the overall plot. I think I just need more practice but there’s a part of me that wonders if I’m doing something wrong. Can you even read wrong? I don’t know.
Spanish aside, taking ballet classes has me starting to feel like I should dust off my French. I took three years in college on the logic that I would need a research language for grad school, but then I didn’t end up going to grad school for what I thought I would and I never really revisited it. It doesn’t take much to make me interested in things and I have a tendency to go maybe too all-in on whatever I’m doing. Is ballet class enough impetus to take French up again? Almost certainly: yes.
Speaking of ballet, I had attended my first class in the studio yesterday. We’ve been exclusively online since I started this summer, but now the studio is taking precautions to have class in person. Everyone wears a mask, each dancer has their own square on the floor blocked out and their own bar, and everyone gets their temperature checked on the way in the door. Despite the coronavirus rigamarole, it was a pleasure to be in the studio. I got a lot of corrections since I had developed some not-great habits during video class, but I also got some encouragement. The instructor, Tori, told me I have good body awareness, which made me chuckle since developing body awareness was one of the reasons I wanted to take ballet. I think the last few years of derby and weight lifting have made me more body-aware than I realized. That said, the real highlight of class was that Tori brought her dog, Galaxy. Galaxy spent probably half of class camped under my bar until Tori made her get out of my way. I love seeing the world and petting the animals in it!
Earlier this week I was completely ready to start cooking some broccoli beef, only that the broccoli I had was no longer good. I still had flank steak to use and I wanted Chinese food. I found this recipe for Mongolian beef instead. It was really good! Less vegetables, sure, but delicious and a good meal when served with some rice. I expect to make this again.
Yesterday I made vanilla cream buns based on a recipe in the Nordic Baking Book. I purposely chose something a little complicated both to learn something new (pastry cream!) and to keep myself occupied for a while. I’ve been getting kind of restless on weekends in particular, so I thought a complicated baking project—now that it’s not so hot—could help. These turned out better than I thought they might. I was a little skeptical of my custard. I think I needed it to thicken a little more but it held together. The buns are good and not especially sweet. The dough is flavored with cardamom and the cream with vanilla (obviously, given the name). This morning I had some leftover buns for breakfast along with hot chocolate because I am ready for hot chocolate season.
Finally, here are some cat photos for your nerves.