I love compiling these lists of the little things that I’ve discovered and enjoyed. Sometimes I wonder if the ‘live your best life’ Oprah ideal serves us well. Lots of lives are painful and challenging. The idea that one’s best life correlates with buying a set of stuff (helpfully provided on Oprah’s Favourite Things list) is just plain ick. And god, aiming for one’s “best life” all the time is exhausting.
We’ve a tendency, I think, to swing toward wildly unachievable goals that offer the key to happiness. Really, it’s the little things that make a difference. The little things that (with perspective) are really the big things. Especially when things are difficult.
So, the things I loved in November:
Southside with You
Southside with You is a dramatisation of Barack and Michelle Obama’s first date. Both are perfectly cast and we see small echoes of the couple we know so well. I’m gonna miss the first couple. They have served America well. This was an interesting insight into one relationship, where issues of race, gender and making a difference were considered from the very different. (We’d never want to see a movie of the Melania/Trump first date!)
The Last Taboo
When I first say Wesley Morris’s cultural history of the black penis blow up on twitter, I thought ‘ugh, there is enough penis talk in the world! I am staying away from that’. Then, as often happens, I heard him discuss it on longform and on sex lives and felt compelled to read it. It’s a thoughtful, smart and nuanced exploration of one idea through a number of lenses. It did what all good writing should do; it made me think about something in a different way. If you, like me, were like ‘ugh’, I urge you to reconsider. The concluding paragraph, in particular, nails it.
Also, the longform podcast was the first time I’ve heard a man asked about writing about himself as women often are. That is, that there is something inherently shocking or shameful or brave or whatever in writing about penises, when you have a penis.
In essence, I bought a slow cooked because I wanted to find a way to re-create that feeling of coming home to a warm, delicious healthy meal. It encapsulates the kind of nurturing one gets form a mother or (in the 1950s at least) a wife. Since I have neither, a €30 investment in a cooking device that promises to produce enough food to feed 5-6 people felt like a bargain.
My first experiment was a flop. I tried this hungarian goulash but not having all the ingredients, I tweaked it a bit/a lot so that the end result was sloppish and flavourless. Also, I have no idea what cut of meat that is! Next, I tried this chicken tikka masala which was rich, balanced and delicious. And, for a €3 box of chicken thighs and a few cupboard stables, I got 4 generous dinners. That, my friends, is called a win!
Of A Kind’s A Few Things Podcast:
I’ve been putting off including this in the round up for fear that I not adequately convey my love for all things Of A Kind. I don’t know how I discovered it (nor did my internet history provide any answers to that mystery) but the podcast (& whole of a kind universe) have provided more solace and support than is reasonable to expect from people you’ve never met.
Let me try to explain: I spend a lot of time reading/thinking/working on traumatic things. Some of this trauma has osmosis-ed its way into my psyche, which was already home to a not insignificant amount of trauma. There are few things that comfort my trauma addled brain as much as the professional enthusiasm of Claire and Erica talking about their favourite ice-cream, popcorn, work out gear, beauty routines, pasta toppings, pyjamas etc etc etc
Each episode has a 20 minute chat on a niche topic. And I do mean niche - the ice-cream discussion was about the different brands/flavours of ice-cream, the best toppings, the best spoon to eat the ice-cream with etc
There’s something about the intimacy of a female friendship, eavesdropping on the rhythm of a conversation that is so well established, that feels so intimate and comforting. They are frank and funny and so genuinely, earnestly enthusiastic about everything. And they are super smart business ladies too.
More than that, this podcast has changed how I think about my space and my stuff. I’m a girl with a very utilitarian relationship to things. I’ve spent a lot of time on the road, living out of a bag. Inhabiting the ‘Of A Kind’ world has prompted me to be more intentional about my space, to realise that it can be grounding and supportive to come through my front door to see myself visually reflected there.
Thanks to Of A Kind, I am know the kind of person who would buy a coffee table book. I’ve tangentially followed Grace Bonney’s work over the past few years. This book, which is designed to offer a holistic representation of women artists, entrepreneurs and creators is both visually stunning and very smart.
At its simplest level, it’s a collection of women + pictures of their work spaces + questionnaire answers about life, business and creativity. I’ve read every entry (are you supposed to read coffee table books cover to cover?!) and underlined/sticky noted my favourite passages. It’s billed as a ‘diversity book’, part of it’s value at least from a marketing POV is that it seeks to be broadly representative of modern America. But once you start flipping through the pages, it’s the commonalities the really stand out. The connective threads of sustainability, self-care, business acumen and pure grit offered something more than inspiration. It succeeds in being an inspiring book without being saccharine or twee.
One of the best things you can do as a “mentor” is to live well in front of our mentees. To provide an opportunity to see what it looks like to live a full life, to be professionally successful, to try to do hard things and sometimes succeed and sometimes fail. This is the book equivalent of that goal.
I got a good deal (99c for three months - google around to find the same offer) to sign up to Skillshare and took a bunch of great classes:
- Danielle Meder’s 'Fashion illustration'
- Alana Massey’s 'Creative Pitching'
- Ashley Ford’s 'Writing from Memory'
- Emily Gould's - starting a writing practice, class on personal essays.
- I’d also like to try Daniel Jose Older’s writing class.
Even if you don’t do all the activities, the videos are (nerdy) fun to watch and the production design is very slick. I don’t think I’ll invest in a full membership, but it’s been a fun way to learn something and see how teachers work in a digital environment.
And with that, I’m signing off for the month of December. The blog will be dormant as I catch up on reading/sleeping/eating. I’ll be back, with gusto, on January 2nd.
P.S. You can find lots more recommendations over here.