A Week in the Life: February 13, 2022

I was very close to not writing this today because this was another week that passed in a bit of a haze. However, that’s probably all the more reason to write, to differentiate the days and the weeks. I’m still annoyed at work and a little annoyed at my body (vision therapy is vexing me with lots of 3D activities and I’m struggling). Yet, the week wasn’t a total loss.

Consuming

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

Books and Other Words

This week I read She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan and Mother of Invention: How Good Ideas Get Ignored in an Economy Built for Men by Katerine Marçal. They were both good! She Who Became the Sun is a light-fantasy, historical fiction about a girl in 14th century China. She is disgusted with her supposed fate (“nothing”) and seizes the opportunity to be more. There’s intrigue, army stuff, and lesbians. Mother of Invention is a non-fiction book that was better than I expected. It starts with the history of the wheeled suitcase and describes the resistance to it—rolling one’s suitcase was unmanly, obviously. I thought the rest of the book would be fun/annoying tales of useful things men resisted, but the book is wide-ranging and thoughtful, taking the reader all the way from the wheeled suitcase to climate change, with stops on disability and witchcraft in between. The only thing I didn’t love about the book is an aspect of the writing style, which probably comes from a journalism perspective, in which the author includes pithy, one-sentences paragraphs every couple pages to drive home a point. I think it’s effective in a shorter work but I found it tiring in this case.

Meanwhile, on the internet:

TV and Music

Last week I wrote about ending my Spotify subscription. This week, I had a lot of fun actually discovering and listening to music. For the first time in a while, I feel connected to what I like to listen to. I didn’t realize I had completely given up in the face of Spotify’s algorithm. I started using bandcamp this week to find cool music. I really like the way they set up their app. In the evening, Fritz always wants me to throw toys for him so I’ve taken to listening to new stuff while I entertain him every day. I enjoyed and purchased the album Laurel Hell by Mitski, who is a new-to-me artist. The other album I bought this week was No Es Pecado by Alaska y Dinarama. I heard about this band by watching Drag Race España. While on original-flavor Drag Race, RuPaul ends every show by saying “If you can’t love yourself, how the hell are you gonna love somebody else. Can I get an ‘amen’?,” the Drag Race España host quotes an Alska y Dinarama song and says, “Soy así y así seguiré. Nunca cambiaré!” (“This is how I am, this is how I’ll stay. I’ll never change!” In short, being gay is not a phase, mom). Once I realized it was from a song, I tracked it down and loved it. It’s got a new wave sound and it’s in Spanish, so I’m down.

Making Things and Doing stuff

There are some things I’ve made and stuff I’ve done.

Languages

Yesterday I asked my Icelandic teacher if we could work on some more conversation practice in anticipation of my trip to Iceland. He said yes, but I have to prepare for it. I need a topic ready and I should figure out some key words in advance. I’m starting to appreciate into this type of learning. I’ve been doing something similar with my Spanish class where I sometimes write about or prepare a short presentation on whatever random subject has recently moved me. It’s definitely a different approach than what we get in school but it’s a lot more fun. I’m excited to try to think of some good topics of Icelandic conversation for my intermediate level. If you have a suggestion, let me know!

Kitchen Witchery

a plate of pasta coated in butternut squash puree and topped with an almond and apricot mix. There's also garlic bread.
butternut squash pasta with almond and apricot topping

Last week I said I would make the butternut squash pasta from the Grist cookbook and I did. I liked pasta with butternut squash, but I wasn’t loving the topping. I thought it was good with the paprika oil I had leftover from another Grist recipe. Considering how great everything else I’ve made has turned out, I’m not even mad at this one.

Cat Therapy

Finally, here are some cat photos for your nerves. Some of you ask me “where are the Huey pictures?” and I have to tell you that there aren’t a lot of great Huey photos because she’s always doing un-glamorous shit like lapping up leftover shower water or spending her time sleeping. Sleeping is cute, you might say. It is, but she’s a mostly black cat who mostly sleeps on top of a black pillow. There’s nothing wrong with any of this, but it doesn’t work well for a visual medium. So this is the photo you get of Huey today.

A Week in the Life: February 6, 2022

Last week was one that passed in a blur. I don’t really know where the time went, but it is now gone. I was forced to spend part of the week being annoyed about work (above the normal annoyance of simply working). My new boss this week effectively announced to the group that he intends to micromanage us so that’s … fun. He also told me he doesn’t know what I do so he wants to be in whatever training I do for our new editor. I’m having PTSD flashbacks to my last job. I feel like I can’t catch a break.

Consuming

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

Books and Other Words

I’m in the middle of several books (books that need to go back to the library soon), but I didn’t finish any this week. So please enjoy some internet readings instead.

Meanwhile, on the internet:

TV and Music

This week, like a number of people I expect, I stopped paying for Spotify premium. I’d been somewhat aware that artists are not well compensated for the music people listen to on Spotify but the controversy with Joe Rogan this week really shed some light on that subject. The people who make music are getting paid between $0.0033 and $0.0054 for each song that people play. Spotify is pocketing a lot of the difference and doing things like paying noted racist and covid misinformation monger Joe Rogan hundreds of thousands of dollars. I’m not thrilled with my money helping to fund that.

I’d been thinking for a little while about how I can actually listen to music and not just let Spotify take me on a passive journey. I was recently lamenting to a friend that I used to know everything in my library and now I have no idea what I’ve listened to. So, after I cancelled Spotify, I put all my mp3s on my phone so I can actually listen to them (I forgot I had a huge SD card in there. Whoops). I downloaded VLC for Android to play my music. I decided that, instead of giving Spotify my money, I’m going to buy a few albums per month from an actual music store. I bought a few this week from 7digital to fill in some music I know I was listening to often on Spotify but didn’t have in my own library. To listen to my podcasts, I downloaded the BeyondPod app, which I am liking so far.

What’s hard about divesting from Spotify—or quitting facebook—for example, is that it’s a lot of effort. It definitely takes more work to think about what music I want to buy, go buy it, transfer it to my phone, find a new app to play it on. It’s more work to reach out to individual friends and cultivate relationships outside of facebook than to just click “like” on friends’ posts. These apps offer us convenience but are not actually making our lives better. I know I’m not even close to the first to make that observation, but I’m feeling it acutely as I try to find ways to relate to the world—art, friends—in a more thoughtful way. Part of the issue is certainly that modern life already takes a lot of time and energy. It’s hard to work 40+ hours a week in a job that makes you feel shitty. Then you have to do your laundry and buy groceries, do your stupid little tasks for your stupid mental health. So yes, it does seem great to outsource some labor to social media. I don’t have an answer. I can only say that I’m in there too.

Making Things and Doing stuff

There are some things I’ve made and stuff I’ve done.

Knitting and Crafts

nearly finished back panel of a sweater. The yarn is grey and features a cabled design with alternating columns of cable styles all the way up the sweater.
sweater in progress: back

I thought I would share some knitting progress after being in a bit of a slump. This sweater is a lot of fun to knit and it’s shaping up great. It’s knitted in pieces and this is the back. It’s almost finished! The magic of knitting with bulky weight yarn!

Kitchen Witchery

I’m still all about the Grist cookbook; I made two recipes from it this week. First, I tried the butternut squash risotto, topped with paprika oil and arugula. Normally, I’m not a big fan of throwing a big pile of leaves on top of a warm food, but I actually liked it a lot. I served it with these baked chicken thighs with butter and onions to round out the meal. Next I made the smashed garlic chickpeas, following the variation that called for a Moroccan-ish almond and apricot topping and served with roasted carrots and broccoli. I also made some couscous since we had it on hand and it fit the theme. Because this is a Grist fan account now, I’ll add that I’m planning to make a recipe from it tonight. It’s a butternut squash pasta which will use up my leftover squash and leftover almond-apricot topping. This is what passes for excitement for me.

I’ve been baking a lot this week too, starting with the orange poppy seed Snacking Cake. We have an orange tree in the yard and, although I’m not a great fan of oranges, I’ve been trying to find uses for them. I was surprised that I liked this cake a lot since I’m not a big fruit person. I made two recipes from 100 Cookies, which is also becoming a favorite cookbook. I tried the cinnamon bun blondies, which conveniently helped me use up the rest of my cream cheese and all the leftover egg yolks from when I made the meringue-topped carrot cake bars. I also made these very festive neopolitan cookies, which were not as hard as I thought they might be. It’s sugar cookie dough divided into three pieces. One part is mixed with chocolate, one with pulverized freeze-dried strawberries with another, and third is plain. You take a bit of each and roll it together for each cookie. It takes a little time but it was fun.

Cat Therapy

Finally, here is a cat photo for your nerves. I don’t make him sit this way, he does it to himself.

Fritz the cat sitting on me. He is leaning against my chest with his paws on my hand for balance. He has flipped his head down so it's tucked into my arm.
normal cat cuddling

A Week in the Life: January 30, 2022

This week, as I reflected on the fact that we’re staring down year three of the pandemic, I snapped and decided we need a garage gym. I’d been thinking about it pre-pandemic but Kirk talked me down since there’s a gym in our neighborhood. I have no idea when I’ll actually feel comfortable in a gym again but I really miss lifting heavy weights. So on Friday evening I took to craigstlist in search of some deals and, surprisingly, found one right away. I’m now the proud owner of a bar, set of plates, and a weight stand that I paid $560 for. I was surprised that all the weights were new in boxes when I went to pick them up. I had assumed they were used. I don’t know what kind of business is selling new weights on the cheap from a middle-aged man’s minivan, but okay. I’m happy to benefit. It will probably be a little while before we’re really set up for all manner of lifting. We cleaned and organized the garage yesterday, but we’re not ready to buy a squat rack or anything yet. I’m thinking I’ll buy a mat for the floor so I can at least get some deadlifts in, then we can go from there.

Consuming

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

Books and Other Words

I finished two books this week: Payback’s a Witch and Pagans: The End of Traditional Religion and the Rise of Christianity. Payback’s a Witch was a lot of fun. It’s a lesbian witch romance, which is basically catnip for me. It did have kind of a weird tone, vacillating between fancy-formal witchy speech while also using colloquialisms like “dead-ass.” However, that didn’t make me enjoy it any less. As for this week’s non-fiction pick, I saw “PAGANS” in the title and was like, yeah, fuck me up with some pagans. I was a few chapters in before I realized the truth, that it was really a history of Christianity book. It was still good, and I did learn about how the concept of paganism only exists to define an opposition to Christianity (of course). Ancient peoples didn’t think of themselves as religious or pagan or anything. They just lived and paid their respects to the gods. The emergence of Christianity changed that.

Meanwhile, on the internet:

  • Are you free, or are you just meeting expectations via Ijeoma Oluo: Beyond the Book. A lovely essay on plus-size clothing and the expectations society has of fat women. From the article: “When we dress how we want and signal that we want to move through the world as we want, we signal that we feel we are deserving of an autonomy that the rest of the world feels that we haven’t earned. And that threatens the idea that autonomy is something to be earned at all.”
  • What if we just stopped being so available? via The Atlantic. On norms around how fast we expect a response and no longer being “Sorry for my delay.” This is the kind of stuff I’ve been thinking about a lot lately and why I’ve started writing letters this year.

TV and Music

I watched Encanto and I thought it was cute. Luisa is goals, obviously. We also watched Star Trek: Insurrections. I found it surprisingly funny. Star Trek is often unintentionally funny but not as often funny on purpose and I thought this one had a lot of comical moments built in. Now I’m only one movie away from having seen all the Star Treks, and I’m proud of this achievement.

Rampant Consumerism

I bought this ergonomic mouse for my work computer and I love it. I love it so much that I think I need to buy another one for my personal computer. It hadn’t occurred to me that a mouse could be so much more comfortable, but it is.

Making Things and Doing stuff

There are some things I’ve made and stuff I’ve done.

Moving It

I noticed this week that I’m finally starting to internalize some of the steps I’ve been learning in tap dance, like the time step. Tap is turning out to be one of those things that takes a while to settle into my brain, but once I get it, I totally have it. Tap class, more than my other dance classes, has also been kicking my ass. I was so sore from it this week. Which probably shouldn’t be surprising since it’s basically a whole hour of bouncing up and down.

Kitchen Witchery

I made a few new recipes last Sunday: the black bean potlicker soup from Grist, southwestern corn spoonbread from The Baking Bible, and a carrot cake with cream cheese frosting and meringue topping from 100 Cookies. I forgot to take nice photos before we ate so you get this weird ones instead. Everything was really good. Kirk is not a big cornbread fan but he liked the spoonbread because it’s full of tasty stuff and not too bread-some. The cake came out great but I really struggle with using a piping bag. The recipe directed me to pipe meringue kisses all over the cake and I tried but I just ended up with meringue everywhere. Maybe one day I will learn these secrets.

Cat Therapy

Finally, here are some cat photos for your nerves.

Two Weeks in the Life: January 23, 2022

Last week I decided not to write a post because I was worried I had covid. I won’t bury the lede: I don’t have covid. But it was all I could think about and I didn’t want to write about it without knowing one way or the other. Someone in my dance class turned out to have covid and I was worried that I’d been exposed. I spent the better part of a week being tired and feeling like I was getting sick but not actually getting sick. This is the magic of anxiety. Last week, I went to a county testing site to get a PCR test and had to wait in line for an hour. It took another five days to get the results, but I am, indeed, covid free, so I’m not complaining. The good thing is I took two days off work to rest and lounge and I definitely don’t regret that.

I mentioned in a previous post that work was going to suck again and it kind of is. My supervisor and my fellow editor have gone on to other jobs. I’ve been in this job for three months and the two managers above me have left since I started. I weathered everyone being on maternity leave only to be pretty much by myself again. I am not having a great time. The work itself is fine but I really can’t handle this level of chaos.

In better news you can now subscribe to my blog! Go to the subscribe tab at the top of the page and fill in your email address. You’ll get new posts emailed to you when I publish them.

Consuming

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

Books and Other Words

I finished reading The Warrior Moon, which is the last book in the K. Arsenault Rivera trilogy that I’ve been reading. I really liked it overall. The world was interesting, the characters were rich and flawed and the story was compelling.

I also read Out of Office: The Big Problem and Bigger Promise of Working from Home by Charlie Warzel and Anne Helen Petersen. The premise is that the pandemic is an opportunity for us to rethink how 40 percent of the country’s workers, workers in the “knowledge” economy, interface with work. Or, as the authors put it, “what if work wasn’t the axis of your life?” I like this book a lot because it really considers what it might be like to work “from home” in a community (when there’s not a pandemic). There’s no reason that working from home should replicate what we do in the office or that you should sit alone in your house all day. You could gather with your friends and work, for example. There was a part of the book discussing corporate culture and looking at the history of having a “career.” The authors state “Unlike a job or a gig, a career is above all else strategic and demands not just work but appropriate assimilation into workplace culture. A career entails showing up every day and putting concentrated hours and wholeheartedly leaning into a company’s ethos.” I read that and thought, damn, I finally know why I’m never able to articulate a career goal. I’ve started telling managers that my career goals are to get paid and not be miserable, which is … not what they want to hear. Reading this book gave me some context for why I never have a career goal, plus filled me with lots of other wisdom.

I’m in a big reading mood at the moment. I am really hoping my eyes cooperate. One of the biggest limiting factors for me on reading lately has been eye strain (thanks, binocular vision dysfunction). It’s getting better thanks to vision therapy but, as I’m sure I’ve said before, vision therapy also wears me out. I’ve got a large stack of library books right now and I’d like to read them all before they’re due. We’ll see weather tiredness or the will to read triumphs.

Meanwhile, on the internet:

TV and Music

We watched The Matrix Resurrections last night and, in preparation, I spent the week watching the original Matrix trilogy. I’ve seen them all before (The Matrix was, in fact, the first rated-R movie I saw) but it’s been a while. Rewatching them was fun and it made the new movie more enjoyable. Resurrections was really good. It built on the originals without simply remaking them and it continued to develop the world, both inside and outside the matrix.

I also continued my Cher-athon and watched Moonstruck last weekend. It was a pretty good movie and I enjoyed it. I didn’t realize that the “snap out of it” line that RuPaul often quotes is from this movie. However! Ru super exaggerates the Cher-ness of it, but she just says it normally in the movie. I felt strangely betrayed.

By the way, if anyone is on letterboxd, come find me. I’ve been logging movies I watch there.

Rampant Consumerism

I bought some really amazing chocolates from Bon Bon Bon and I want more and recommend them to you all. The flavors are great and the presentation is festive. A++ would Bon again.

In less exciting but essential purchases, I started subscribing to the eco-friendly toilet paper brand Who Gives a Crap. I kind of love getting it delivered and never thinking about it again. If anyone wants to order and save $10, I’ve got a referral code for you: https://www.talkable.com/x/dCLOov

Making Things and Doing stuff

There are some things I’ve made and stuff I’ve done.

Knitting and Crafts

I’m happy to report that I’ve finally gotten some good knitting momentum. I’m currently working up this sweater, which I’m very excited about. It has a ton of cables and it looks like it will be large and cozy. It’s made with bulky yarn, so I’m already through a good chunk (in a relative sense. I’m still slow lol).

Kitchen Witchery

The bakery has been open in my house the last couple weeks. Is it stress or am I just hungry? You decide. I made a rye bread and a focaccia (both from The Bread Bible). I made the rye to accompany a sausage and lentil soup, which was delicious, from the cookbook Grist. We had the focaccia with our favorite broccoli cheddar soup. I had been wanting to try making a dutch baby for a while and finally did. I … didn’t like it. I didn’t consider that it is made largely of eggs and I am not a big egg fan so the texture was a little icky for me. However, the flavor was good. I also made another snacking cake, the walnut with maple glaze, which is not pictured because, frankly, it looks like every other snacking cake I’ve made. Though that doesn’t mean it was any less delicious.

Cat Therapy

Finally, here are some cat photos for your nerves. I must apologize for the lack of Huey photos this week, but trust she is living her best life lounging on the couch all day.

A Week in the Life: January 9, 2022

This has been a slightly odd week for me because I haven’t been wanting to go to sleep. I’m normally very dedicated to my sleep routine, to the point that I am ready to fall asleep out of habit around the same time most nights. However, the last few nights I just don’t want to get in bed. It’s not that I’m frittering away my night hours on twitter’s infinite scroll (though I’m not above it), but I want to actually be awake and doing things at night, which is rare. I don’t know what to attribute this too. Perhaps subconsciously railing against routine (and mostly against waking up to work in the morning)? having a higher-than-normal amount of energy? new-year mania? I’m not troubled by it, mostly confused and curious to see if it persists.

Consuming

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

Books and Other Words

cover for the book "The Afhganistan Papers" shown in greyscale on a kobo ereader
The Afghanistan Papers

This week I finished reading The Afghanistan Papers: A Secret History of the War by Craig Whitlock. Whew. I knew on a certain level that the war in Afghanistan was a huge, expensive shit-show but this book comes in with the receipts. At essentially no point in time did the U.S. government know what they wanted to accomplish or how they could accomplish it. They tried throwing money at problems and were surprised when that didn’t pay off. It’s embarrassing that this country thinks it can roll in to a whole other nation, learn nothing about the culture, then try to build society in its own image—to say nothing of the harm the U.S. has done to the Afghan people.

Meanwhile, on the internet:

  • Long COVID could become Finland’s largest chronic disease, warns minister via Reuters. From the article, “a Finnish expert panel’s summary of more than 4,000 international studies … showed one in two adults and around 2% of children may experience prolonged symptoms connected to COVID-19.” So, that’s fucking terrifying. Whenever I’m tempted to develop a more cavalier attitude about covid after two years of this pandemic, I think about long covid and reconsider.
  • Millennials didn’t kill the economy. The economy killed Millennials. via The Atlantic. I saw this headline on instagram and went in search of the full article. I was not disappointed. It was published in 2018, but it’s still highly relevant. From the article, “Millennials are the most educated generation in U.S. history to date. They bought into a social contract that said: Everything will work out, if first you go to college. But as the cost of college increased, millions of young people took on student loans to complete their degree … And what has all that debt gotten them? ‘Lower earnings, fewer assets, and less wealth,’ according to the Federal Reserve paper’s conclusion.”

TV and Music

Kirk and I had been catching up on Doctor Who. He convinced me we should try again after I got mad and quit sometime around season eight. I really hated Clara (I still kind of hate her), but I like the show overall so we watched a few seasons. I was also looking forward to the newest seasons where a woman plays the Doctor. Unfortunately, we had to stop watching again because it got so bad. We didn’t even last three episodes into the new Doctor’s first season because the writing was terrible. There’s an episode called Rosa, which had us cringing before we started because the synopsis said that the Doctor and friends go to Selma, Alabama and—you guessed it—encounter Rosa Parks. This was so cringe-worthy that we had to stop. I don’t need to see the Doctor telling Rosa Parks that she’s “such a big fan.” So, we’re done with Doctor Who again for now. Maybe in a few years, we’ll forget the pain again.

I watched another movie this week! I hope everyone is proud. I watched Witches of Eastwick, which I picked because 1) witches and 2) Cher. It was overall entertaining, if a little weird and gross at times, but being weird and gross (in the form of Jack Nicholson’s character) is kind of the point. I’m thinking I’m going to keep with a theme and watch another Cher movie next; I have Burlesque and Moonstruck in my queue.

Rampant Consumerism

I said I planned to send slow mail this year, so I ordered some festive stamps to make the process more entertaining. I ordered some t-rex stamps (among others) because I am an eight-year-old at heart. I also wrote two letters this week to make good on my letter-writing plans. I’ve decided that, if I actually get into a habit of letter writing, I want to get a seal and seal my letters with wax to be pointlessly fancy.

Making Things and Doing stuff

There are some things I’ve made and stuff I’ve done.

Icelandic

Over the last month or so of lessons, I’ve been reading through a short story with my Icelandic teacher. It was very slow going because it was just a regular story written for people who already speak Icelandic, not people learning, and there were a lot of words and phrases I didn’t know. It made me realize that I’ve reached the hard part of learning Icelandic. I’ve got a good foundation from textbooks, but a lot of learning materials are now pretty easy to read. Anything made for native speakers is really hard. Now I have to do the brute-force work of reading and looking words up until it starts to come together. I haven’t been studying a lot lately and I think it’s because I’ve been putting off this hard stuff without realizing it. I’m hoping figuring this out will help me decided what to work on next.

Knitting and Crafts

I’ve been working on and off for a while on the Elín sock and I finally finished the first one on Friday. However, I had a little misunderstanding with the pattern (let’s not assign blame) and ended up with a heel that comes to a goofy little point. Were it the toe, I would probably laugh it off and go with it. But the heel, the part that goes under my foot? No. I’m not sure if I’m going to pull the heel out and try again or call it an art piece and be done with it. If I do make adjustments, it will be later on. I think I’m going to start knitting something entirely different for now.

Kitchen Witchery

a plate piled with soba noodles covered in a spicy peanut sauce, mixed with cut green beans. There are also some potstickers on the side.
peanut soba noodles with green beans

My in-laws keep sending Kirk home with random food items (parents, am I right?), which recently included two packets of soba noodles. I had not cooked with soba before, but I found this recipe, spicy peanut soba noodles with green beans, and gave it a try. It was delicious! It also, but pure chance, to be very similar to a recipe Kirk had been trying to get from his mom. He said his mom used to make these really good peanut noodles but he couldn’t get the recipe from her. As I was cooking this, he came into the kitchen and said it smelled just like the peanut noodles he remembered. Then, even better, it tasted like his mom’s recipe. So, this week I am happy to report that we have solved the mystery of the peanut noodle.

I must also report that I made a batch of blondies in which I mixed the crumbly bits of some coconut macaroons that refused to hold their shape, plus some chocolate and almond and the result was delicious. There is, however, no photographic evidence.

Cat Therapy

Finally, here are some cat photos for your nerves.

A Week (or Whatever) in the Life: January 2, 2022

Christmas and New Year’s Eve have come and gone and I haven’t written a regular post in a few weeks, but I’m here now!

A big thing on my mind lately is that work is about to suck again. My fellow editor returned from maternity leave and work leveled out, but she announced last week that she’s leaving for a better job. Then my boss announced the same day that he’s also leaving for a new gig. I’m not sure where this leaves me, but I’m annoyed by it. I left my last job due to new management being horrible and turnover chaos, but here I am again.

Consuming

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

Books and Other Words

cover of the book The Phoenix Empress shown in greyscale on kobo ereader. Features an armored person with their sword drawn, riding a horse
The Phoenix Empress

Yesterday, I finished the second book in the Their Bright Ascendancy trilogy by K. Arsenault Rivera, The Phoenix Empress. I bought the “omnibus” ebook of the series, and I’m on the third book, but I’m barely through half of the combined ebook. The third book seems very long. I am going to reserve my opinions about this book until I finish the series. It was good, but middle books are always preoccupied with setting up for the last book.

Meanwhile, on the internet:

TV and Music

You may hardly be able to believe it, but I watched two entire movies this week: Ten Things I Hate about You and To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar. Both were entertaining. I had actually never seen Ten Things I Hate about You, despite probably being its target audience when it originally premiered. Overall, I liked it, but it did have some weird vestiges of nineties-ness. I decided to watch To Wong Foo to expand my gay pop culture knowledge because that’s how I roll. I’m proud to now know where the phrase “more legs than a bucket of chicken” originated.

Rampant Consumerism

We can’t talk about Christmas without talking consumerism. Kirk got me a lovely robe (that I requested) and a really nice jewelry box (that I did not request, but was happy for). I used to have all my earrings and things in a little set of plastic cubbies and it was really annoying to dig out a matching pair. Now I can see everything and it is glorious!

I also went to the bookstore on one of my days off this week to get a few books I wanted with the Christmas money I had in my pocket (thanks, Grandma). I made an outing of it and got pastry too.

Making Things and Doing stuff

a 20 by 28 inch puzzle, glued together and set in a black frame. The puzzle features a pond with a giant swan, a lion with a suspicious look on his face, and lots of other whimsy
a framed puzzle

My mom came to visit the week before Christmas. We hadn’t seen each other since the pandemic started, so it was good to finally see her again. We mostly hung out and watched Christmas-themed TV, but we also did this cool puzzle, which we have now framed. We spend most of a day on it, which included a significant amount of time trying to keep Fritz from absconding with stray pieces.

I, of course, did a lot of Christmas baking, culminating in these big-ass cookie plates. I tried a few new recipes this year including these almond horn cookies and orange and poppy seed pretzels. I also wanted to share a photo of the dulce de leche fudge I made, because the swirl on top looks very pretty.

For Christmas eve, I wanted to make a kransekake, and I did, in fact, attempt it. I didn’t come together the way I wanted, but everyone agreed that it tasted good. I found the dough was too crumbly to shape into rings to make the characteristic tree structure, but I piled up the cookies into an abstract tree, which is still kind of festive.

For New Year’s, I tried my hand at a lucky batch of beans. I know black-eyed peas on new year’s are supposedly lucky. I had yellow-eye peas, which I hope are lucky enough. I made a really good recipe from the Jubilee cookbook with them, but did not post a photo because it just looked like a big glob.

Cat Therapy

Finally, here are some cat photos for your nerves. I have to note that I thought for sure Fritz would wreak havoc on the Christmas tree. He seems like exactly the type of cat to nest inside, but he was actually afraid of it. He didn’t even want to be in the same room as the tree at first. He resolutely refused to go near it for the whole season. The reason remains a mystery to the humans of the house.

2021: The 14th Annual Year in Books

This year started out so strong for reading. I read 44 books in the first half of the year and I really thought I was going to make it to 100. Alas, it was, once again, not meant to be. I read 62 books in total this year. Between vision therapy, changing jobs, getting a kitten, and preparing for my Spanish exam, reading got cut for time and energy in the latter half of the year. Still, I can’t be upset. I read many good books and, thanks to vision therapy, reading is getting physically easier (who knew that was even an option?!).

  • Page count: 21,266 pages, which is rather less than last year’s 33,000 but not far off from 2019’s count of 23,500.
  • Library use: I read 17 books from the library (though I am sure I checked out more than I read) and 45 books that I owned.
  • Female/male authors: I’m keeping my pro-woman-author bias strong. I read 54 books by women and just 6 by men.
  • Digital and analog: It was a fairly even split between ebooks and paper books with 25 ebooks, 33 paper books.
  • Fiction and non-fiction: 48 fiction, 14 non-fiction
  • Books in other languages: I ready just two books in Spanish this year. Studying for a test, unfortunately, doesn’t always mean reading books.
  • Favorites:

If you want to see what I read in previous years, you can click the books of the year tag to see all my past annual book posts.

If you would like to be book friends all year, you can join me on StoryGraph! My username is linzomatic.

And now: the list of books I read in 2021.

Date FinishedTitleAuthor
1/2Feminist City: Claiming Space in a Man-Made WorldLeslie Kern
1/5Nophek GlossEssa Hansen
1/11Composting: Bob’s BasicsBob Flowerdew
1/11AfterlandLauren Beukes
1/18When Tiger Came Down the MountainNghi Vo
1/19Culture Warlords: My Journey Into the Dark Web of White SupremacyTalie Lavin
1/21Composting for a New Generation: Latest Tcniques for the Bin and BeyondMichelle Balz, Anna Stockton
1/28Big Dirty Money: The Shocking Injustice and Unseen Cost of White Collar CrimeJennifer Taub
1/29How the Multiverse Got Its RevengeK. Eason
2/1Psychology of Time TravelKate Mascarenhas
2/6The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry GirlsAnissa Gray
2/10Mexican GothicSilvia Moreno-Garcia
2/14Nickel BoysColson Whitehead
2/19Winter’s OrbitEvarina Maxwell
2/20Work Won’t Love You Back: How Devotion to Our Jobs Keeps Us Exploited, Exhausted, and AloneSarah Jaffe
2/23The Color of AirGail Tsukiyama
2/25WitchmarkC. L. Polk
2/27StormsongC. L. Polk
3/2SoulstarC. L. Polk
3/12Caste: The Origins of Our DiscontentsIsabel Wilkerson
3/19The Poppy WarR. F. Kuang
3/25Hollow KingdomKira Jane Buxton
3/30Mediocre: The dangerous legacy of white male AmericaIjeoma Oluo
4/2The FlamethowersRachel Kushner
4/6VagabundosHao Jingfang
4/10We Ride Upon SticksQuan Barry
4/16How to Lose the Information War: Russia, Fake News, and the Future of ConflictNina Jankowicz
4/19My Year AbroadChang-Rae Lee
4/24Gonzlez and Daughter Trucking Co.: A Road Novel with Literary LicenseMaría Amparo Escandón
4/30The Bright and Breaking SeaChloe Neill
5/3Fugitive TelemetryMartha Wells
5/8Not All Dead White Men: Classics and Misogyny in the Digital AgeDonna Zuckerberg
5/13The Invisible Life of Addie LaRueV. E. Schwab
5/16Leave the World BehindRumaan Alam
5/19The Galaxy, and the Ground WithinBecky Chambers
5/26A Discovery of WitchesDeborah Harkness
5/31Shadow of NightDeborah Harkness
6/4The Book of LifeDeborah Harkness
6/10Minor Feelings: An Asian American ReckoningCathy Park Hong
6/10Los desesperadosJoselo Rangel
6/12The Disaster TouristYun Ko-Eun
6/14DeathlessCatherynne Valente
6/21The UnbrokenC. L. Clark
6/29With Teeth: A NovelKristen Arnett
7/16Master of DjinnP. Djèlí Clark
7/23The Actual StarMonica Byrne
7/24FinnaNino Cipri
8/16The OutsideAda Hoffman
8/21Crying in H Mart: A MemoirMichelle Zauner
8/30The World Gives WayMarissa Levien
9/8The Chosen and the BeautifulNghi Vo
9/12The Season: A Social History of the DebutanteKristen Richardson
9/20Belabored: A Vindication of the Rights of Pregnant WomenLyz Lenz
9/22The FallenAda Hoffman
10/4Arcana, ciudad escaleraTamara Romero
10/6A Psalm for the Wild BuiltBecky Chambers
10/9A Spindle SplinteredAlix E. Harrow
10/27The Jasmine ThroneTasha Suri
11/9Practical MagicAlice Hoffman
11/23Certain Dark ThingsSilvia Moreno-Garcia
12/1Black SunRebecca Roanhorse
12/22The Tiger’s DaughterK Arsenault Rivera

Goodbye, 2021. Hello, 2022.

a collage of images representing my mood for the year, there are relaxed capybaras and capybaras doing revolution, a cat in a hammock, a comic about killing jeff bezos, and an opossum drinking ice water, among others

I almost decided not to write a year in review post because that always feels a little boring, a little like a performance review. However, I looked back at my 2020 year in the life post and thought, wow, I did some things and that inspired me to write a few words about 2021. Scroll down for my thoughts on what I want from 2022.

2021 Thoughts

This year was wild for all the reasons that everyone had a wild year. We started with covid uncertainty, got the experience the manic excitement of vaccination, and here we are closing out the year with omicron. It was also wild dealing with non-life-threatening health issues like binocular vision dysfunction and TMJ. Getting new glasses and doing vision therapy is notably improving my life, but the therapy is also tiring and takes time from other things.

I also had the chaos of spending months preparing for the DELE (a Spanish certification test), and then not being able to take it. In my 2020 post, I wrote that I really thought I was going to take the test that year. Well, I for sure thought I was going to take it this year too! I traveled to Seattle to do it but got screwed by a poorly communicated change to the exam time. Maybe 2021 is the year.

However, the DELE drama is nothing compared to Viola dying. It was certainly the worst thing that happened in 2021 for me. It’s been nearly a year, but I still tear up when I think about it. It’s honestly the most grief I’ve ever felt. I had a little health scare with Huey this week (turns out she’s totally healthy) and I freaked out to think that I might lose her so soon after Viola. I’m just happy she’s okay.

Here are some other notable (and not sad) happenings from the past year:

  • Adopting Fritz! Although losing Viola was terrible, we love Fritz and it’s lovely to have a kitten (Huey is still here too, but that’s not news).
  • Dance class: I’m now up to three classes each week and I’ve been in two virtual recitals. I’m basically a professional now and I’m having a lot of fun.
  • I cooked many foods. I learned how to make bagels and croissants (apparently that was this year!), and pasta. I made a lot of bundt cakes and snacking cakes, and I’ve gotten pretty decent at making Indian food.
  • I traveled for the first time since the pandemic and also flew first class for the first time (it’s worth it).
  • I got a new job because my old job was a chaotic trash fire.
  • I found a new Icelandic tutor and I studied Spanish a LOT.
  • I wrote many blog posts including a voter guide for the gubernatorial recall election (remember how fun that was?) and translated it into Spanish.
  • I moved a semi-truck using only the force of my body!

2022

a collage of images representing my mood for the year, there are relaxed capybaras and capybaras doing revolution, a cat in a hammock, a comic about killing jeff bezos, and an opossum drinking ice water, among others
2022 mood board

I’m continuing my annual mood board tradition. As much as I am a word-person, a collage communicates a lot about my feelings and values. This year, I made a folder and collected things that resonated with me throughout the year. There’s a lot here about rest and luxuriating, but there’s also a lot of “I will burn this shit to the ground,” and I guess that’s just what I’m feeling here in these chaotic times.

I saw a great tweet that said instead of the “new year, new me” junk, we should embrace “new year, more me,” which I think is great. When I think about what I want to do in the coming year, as I have for the last several years, I feel like I’m on the right track. I want to keep becoming more powerful and awesome in what I’m already doing.

Here’s what is on my radar for 2022.

I learned that there’s a community fridge and pantry organization in Sacramento and I want to start contributing food to that. I’m realizing more and more that participating in community and making sure as many people as possible have something as basic as food is really important to me. I’m hoping to contribute regularly (but not overwhelm myself) and maybe organize some friends to get involved too.

Looking to another form of community, I am still thinking a lot about how to stop using social media as the main intermediary between me and my friends. Using signal for most of my chats has been great and writing my blog is a piece of the puzzle too, but I also want to get in the habit of sending physical mail to my friends. You know, slow mail. Pen pals. I just started an address book on Postable after seeing one of my internet friends mention it (If you want to get occasional mail from me, you can add your address here: www.postable.com/lindseyhalsell). This is also part of trying to take life slowly and deliberately (refer to the relaxed capybara in my mood board), instead of getting stuck in the anxiety-void infinite-scroll of the internet.

A big theme in 2021 ended up being taking care of myself. I’ve learned that I need to stop assuming that if something feels bad or uncomfortable, that’s just how it feels to be alive. I am planning to keep that in mind for 2022. I want to finish my vision therapy and keep taking care of my eyes and managing the TMJ issues. I am working on forming a habit of spending a little time on the stationary bike after work most days to help clear my mind and separate the workday from the rest of the day. I also want to make sure I’m taking time to relax and not trying to do everything.

I’m looking forward to more cooking and baking in the new year, of course. I got a big book of patisserie for Christmas so I’m hoping to learn some new techniques and broaden my baking knowledge. I’m also trying to get a better sense of what I actually cook for dinner and keep track of what I want to make again. I recently saw a genius idea for making a spreadsheet of what I cook regularly and including information about how hard the recipe actually was and how long it took to make. Naturally I made my own. It seems like a good way to maintain the meta-knowledge of what recipes I have among all the cookbooks and internet bits.

I’m not going to be so cocky this year as to set a reading goal though I hope to reach the elusive 100 books in a year goal at some point. My plan is to read as much as I can. However many books that turns out to be. I want to keep enjoying the library (and my library bike rides) and independent bookstores. Last year, I started tracking my reading on StoryGraph (though I still use LibraryThing to maintain my library). If you join, we can follow each other and see what we read. It’s fun! My profile is linzomatic.

I’m going to attempt, once again, to take the DELE C1 exam this year. If it doesn’t happen this time, I’m giving myself a personal seal of approval in Spanish and moving on with my life.

I didn’t knit a lot this year thanks to changing jobs, eye therapy, and a new kitten, but I want to knit more this year. I have many cool yarns to use and things I want to make. It’s also highly satisfying to wear things I made myself! This ties in with my goal of relaxing more too because, when I knit, I chill on the couch and watch TV or a movie. I would also like to do a little more sewing but that is more of a stretch goal.

Finally, I’m excited because we’re planning a trip to Iceland this fall! We’ve started planning the trip and I think it’s going to be a lot of fun. I’m happy to have something to look forward to outside of the routine.

I’m hoping 2022 will be an okay year for us all! I’d love to hear what you have planned for the new year too.

A Week in the Life: December 12, 2021

This week has felt a little weird. I’ve had a hard time getting myself to focus on things. All I want to do is look at instagram and play scrabble go. Actually, scratch that. I don’t particularly want to do either of those things but I’m having a lot of inertia when it comes to getting away from my dumb phone. So I haven’t done much in the way of reading this week and I didn’t really think to take any food photos either (there are cat photos though, don’t fret). However, I’ve done a lot of dance and I even left the house for a cultural event, so I’m not fulling living on my phone.

One good thing from this week is I’m no longer the lone technical writer at work. One of my colleagues has returned from maternity leave, which has cut my workload in half. Amazing! When the other coworker comes back, this job is going to feel luxurious.

Consuming

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

Books and Other Words

I didn’t do a lot of book reading this week, but I did read a lot of interesting stuff online (note that the Washington Post articles are “gift” links and you should be able to read them even without an account):

Rampant Consumerism

a tote bag with hand-written style letters that says "trust your cookbooks. blog recipes are usually bad and riddled with ads and trite anecdotes about the person's life"
new tote bag

I bought a delightful tote bag from Club Waaa, which is, unfortunately, going out of business. Get your weird art while you can.

Making Things and Doing stuff

Last night we went to the Sacramento Ballet’s performance of the Nutcracker and it was fun! I’d actually never seen the Nutcracker before, but this year I decided to be bougie and get season tickets for the ballet. What’s cool about buying a season ticket is you get a really good seat in the theater—we were just five rows from the stage! The set design and costumes were both amazing. I was impressed by the “snow” that fell onto the stage during the snowflake number and by the hot air balloon that whisked away Clara and the Nutcracker at the end of act one. It was a lot more interesting to watch this after taking ballet classes for the last year and a half. I could see what some of techniques were and it made me want to keep learning more.

Languages

I have officially decided to try the DELE exam for Spanish again in May. I submitted my registration form but haven’t heard back from the organizers yet (of course). At least that’s in motion. I sort of don’t want to do it but I also want to have my revenge on this exam.

I’ve been looking for some new ways to approach my Spanish studies and classes so I have started working on reading up on random topics then presenting that information to my teacher. I’m thinking I want to alternate weeks with giving short presentations and maybe tackling some writing prompts to get me thinking about different subjects and exploring new vocabulary. Last week, I talked about synesthesia after listening to a Radio Ambulante episode about it. It was neat to read up on and discuss something like that in Spanish.

Moving It

me at the dance studio. I'm wearing a mask and have fake flowers clipped into my hair. There are barres in the background
ready to record for ballet

This week all three of my dance classes recorded performances for our virtual recital (showing on YouTube December 26, 2021 at 4 pm and January 8, 2022). It was a lot of fun. It’s funny to see how different people react to performing. Some people got more stressed about remembering steps and counts but I decided to take a “no count, only vibes” approach and I think that worked well. After our last recital, I thought that how I felt in my head didn’t translate to what I saw on camera so I think a vibes-based approach will help with that.

For my tap class, we performed to a song from the musical The Boyfriend. We had been working on it for the last two months and I hadn’t thought about it much, but this week I went to look for some clips online to get the feeling of it a little more. This tugged at my memory and I realized I knew this musical because we did it in high school, but I’d completely blocked it out (as I have with many high school memories, I would guess). I was cast in the chorus but dropped out for reasons I don’t exactly remember, but I do remember being mad that the director had intentionally cast it so all the shortest girls and tallest boys had the main roles for, apparently, comedic value. The height of comedy, I’m sure. In any case, watching some clips inspired me to try to be as extra as possible in the performance, so I’m interested to see how it will look.

Cat Therapy

Finally, here are some cat photos for your nerves. Fritz has been living a life of luxury (as is normal in this house). Huey has re-taken the bed, which I’m proud of. She was letting Fritz drive her away but, now that it’s cold, she’s holding firm to claiming her rightful place.

A Week in the Life: December 5, 2021

I’ve been thinking a lot about anxiety lately. I recently had a moment where I was getting pretty freaked out and started thinking, oh, anxiety’s at it again. Then I realized what I would normally name anxiety was actually some feelings I now recognize as eye strain and TMJ pain striking intensely and simultaneously. It made me wonder if I truly have anxiety disorder or if physical pain is putting me so on edge that I feel stressed and unable to cope.

I was first diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder in my early 20s, at the same time I got diagnosed with autism. The doctor explained that it’s normal for autistic people to have anxiety because part of autism is struggling to predict what might happen or people will do, then facing a mismatch between reality and one’s expectations. Given this context, I hesitate to think that my anxiety in particular is purely physical (and I’m also not suggesting that anxiety isn’t a real, chemical problem), but it is interesting to consider how much of my anxiety is informed by being in pain and not having been able to identify it or deal with it. I’ve spent years thinking that having a headache or being “just tired” was the normal state of being alive so it’s interesting to me to work on unraveling all these troubles. Part of me wants to believe that my anxiety will go away once I’m finished with vision therapy and if I keep managing the TMJ, but another part of me knows that’s not realistic. Plus, even if I do deal with these issues, the state of the world is anxiety-inducing enough to replace whatever I might have healed.

Consuming

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

Books and Other Words

I read Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse and it was great. I can’t wait for the sequel. This is a fantasy set in pre-Columbian America, which I don’t think I’ve seen before. I loved the world and thought it was a rich, interesting story. Highly recommended!

Meanwhile, on the internet:

  • Climate change fuels a water rights conflict built on over a century of broken promises via The Washington Post (This should be free to read even if you don’t subscribe to WaPo. I am a subscriber and got a link to “gift” this article.). This is an interesting deep dive into the tension between Native people in the Klamath River Basin and the farmers who grow things there. Something that stayed with me from this article is that is the farmers are mad because they’re saying this is their life, their grandparents owned the farm, and they don’t know anything else. However, the grandparents often got the farms after the government repossessed the land from Japanese people during World War II. Meanwhile, the Native people have been on the land for thousands of years. It’s wild seeing farmers being mad about not being able to farm after just three generations of it being their “identity,” as one put it, but then there’s not much consideration for the identity of the tribes who have been taking care of the land for much longer.
  • Utah makes welfare so hard to get, some feel they must join the LDS church to get aid via ProPublica. This kind of shit is exactly why I hate Mormonism. Church and state are supposed to be separate to avoid exactly this type of problem People deserve help whether or not they’re living the way Mormons think they should.
  • The deadly myth that human error causes most car crashes via The Atlantic. As usual, we’re quick to blame individual failings rather than systemic problems.
  • The escalating costs of being single in America via Vox. Recommended reading!
  • Stores can’t write off customer donations made at checkout via AP News. I have assumed for a while that stores ask for customers to make donation so they can get the tax write off and so they can publicly trumpet their charity. It turns out that I was half wrong. AP says stores don’t get to write off the donations that individual customers make at check out.

TV and Music

Kirk and I have started watching Doctor Who again. I used to love it, but I got mad at it sometime during season seven or eight because Clara annoyed the hell out of me. We are enduring her presence for a couple more seasons, but otherwise enjoying Peter Capaldi’s take on the Doctor. I’m looking forward to seeing some of the newer seasons where the Doctor is a woman (#feminism lol).

Rampant Consumerism

I haven’t bought anything exciting lately but I did join the Sacramento Buy Nothing group on facebook, which is really the opposite of consumerism. I realized my bookcase was becoming overstuffed, so I decided to give away some books that I know I won’t read again/I’d given up on reading at all. There’s an Elk Grove buy nothing group that I tried to join first and they denied my request. I’m still puzzled by this.

Making Things and Doing stuff

There are some things I’ve made and stuff I’ve done.

Moving It

Good news for dance recital fans: my studio will be airing the recital on youtube again this season. The dates are December 26 and January 8. I will share a link once it gets closer. I’ve been having fun preparing for our performances. I’m in three classes now (ballet, jazz, and tap) so I get three times the dance recital.

Kitchen Witchery

I made a few good things this week, including a pot pie from leftover turkey, using my favorite recipe from the Harvest Baker cookbook. I tried this gnocchi with brussels sprouts and brown butter recipe, which was not hard to make but satisfying, especially when served with a little chicken to round out the meal. As for my baking, I made the sugar cookies from the 100 Cookies cookbook and rolled them in Christmas-colored sprinkles. I have a surprisingly large quantity of sprinkles in my pantry so I’m making an effort to use them. I also wanted to make a bundt cake and use some of the buttermilk in my fridge, so I made this marble cake, which was delicious. I realized I’d never made a marble cake before now, despite loving it and always asking for it on my birthday as a kid. Now I know I can make it anytime!

Cat Therapy

Finally, here are some cat photos for your nerves. I want it to be known that Fritz, who is now about eight months old, is getting very large. He’s also a complete nut.