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A Gripping Podcast and Book That Had Me Laughing From the First Page

Feeling like myself again...
Toast's new favorite spot in the house

Toast's new favorite spot in the house

This was the first week in months where I felt like I hit my stride. A few things helped make that happen: We're far more settled in our new house (even if rooms aren't "designed," everything has a place), we've started going for easy hikes every morning with Toast which has helped manage his energy and neediness while Jonah and I are at work, and we've been reading and cooking a lot, two things I find incredibly inspiring and good for the soul. I've also started working out every other day, rather than aiming for every day, as I used to ("streaks" that Peloton, which I primarily use, encourages). I found that while it served my mental health earlier in quarantine to sweat every day, it had started to feel like a chore—and an excuse to not get dressed during the day. For the past few weeks, I've been waking up at 6 AM every other day to take a Peloton class before Toast and Jonah wake up. By the time they're up, I'm dressed, showered, and ready for our daily walk, which has quickly become my favorite way to kick off each morning. Here are a few things I loved this week: 


Can I get a hip-hip hooray for Gochujang and minimal cleanup? I love this recipe, recommended to me on The Test Kitchen podcast I mention below. I altered it slightly by omitting the turnips, and prepped it at lunch, allowing the chicken to marinate with the squash for a few hours, which meant dinner took me a total of forty minutes and zero effort to make—and it was so good. The scallion-radish mix is a must, and I opted for serving it over some white rice to soak up all the sauces. I also appreciate any recipe that makes enough for leftovers, which this one definitely did!


Emma Jane Unsworth's novel Grown Ups had me laughing from the first page, as Jenny, a "self-sufficient millennial" obsesses over the caption for a photo of a croissant. After typing "Croissant, woo! #Croissant," she gradually talks herself out of each exclamation ("Is this the absolute best depiction of my present experience?") until, pages later, she's left with "Croissant." The book is rooted in, and often told through, online mediums—captions, but also the cathartic email drafts Jenny writes but never sends, texts with her best friend Kelly, and her Google searches ("how to attract an alpha male"). Jenny is neurotic but also relatable (I Slacked our team a photo of a page that articulated the experience of reading mean comments) and endearing, written with a level of wit that reminded me of both Candice Carty-Williams's Queenie and "Fleabag," with a touch of 'Ingrid Goes West.' Hat-tip to the bookseller at Broadway Books who recommended it to me!


On the heels of the murder of George Floyd, historian and curator Tyree Boyd-Pates channeled his rage, as he put it here, into creating an anti-racism toolkit. The Freedom Papers Toolkit is based in part on the syllabus he created for his students in African American Studies 101. His curriculum is comprised of so many articles, speeches, and resources for learning about Black history in America that it would take months to thoughtfully read, watch, and listen to the entire thing. Though I only recently came across the toolkit, after listening to his conversation in this podcast episode, it's already helped to fill in a lot of holes in my own knowledge (including this piece on American slavery, a list of books I've started to make my way through—I recently purchased Ta-Nehisi Coates' Between the World and Me—and a documentary on the Black Panthers, which I highly recommend and rented here!).


How could I not write about The Staves' latest album, 'Good Woman'? (My obsession with the sisters has been well-documented here.) Their fourth album is less folk-y and more produced, but more personal, than their others. While I miss the acoustic harmonies that made the previous albums so enchanting, I cannot get "Failure" out of my head. Jonah and I bought the vinyl and have been listening to it every night—it's the perfect soundtrack for cozy evenings in from the recent Portland cold spell and snow.

By the way, the queen of mesmerizing movie soundtracks herself (and my number one played artist every year since 2006—not an exaggeration) Rachel Portman has graced us with another perfectly calming album, 'Ask the River.' Okay, technically it came out in May but I'm her #1 Super Fan and only just stumbled across it on Spotify—sharing it in case you missed it too! It's like her best soundtracks, without the random interruption of a Spanish guitar because Vianne's making chocolate again.


"The Test Kitchen," from Reply All and Sruthi Pinnamaneni, dives into Bon Appetit's 2020 reckoning as a racist and toxic workplace—a toxicity I had only heard whispers of when I worked in food, but was clearly more pervasive and damaging than I could have imagined. In the first episode, Pinnamaneni interviews test kitchen chefs like Yewande Komolafe, Sue Li, and Rick Martinez who were contemporaries of Alison Roman and Claire Saffitz but never treated with the same favoritism. It reveals the broken foundation of the brand—when EIC Adam Rapoport was promoted from GQ, he staffed the entire magazine with white editors—and how the decisions made by the white leadership sent lasting shockwaves through the company and the people of color who worked there.

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It turns out everyone, and literally their mothers, loves this show—and I'm among the last person on Earth to hear about it. For the two other people reading this who have never heard of Chip and Joanna Gaines: This is the wholesome, feel-good show you need right now, that might even inspire you to improve your own space. Chip and Joanna help a family purchase and update a "fixer upper" in a neighborhood they normally wouldn't be able to afford. Chip's plucky irreverence and obsession with "demo day" and Joanna's visions are so satisfying to see take shape. You can watch the first four seasons on Hulu, and the newest season (after a three-year break) on Discovery Plus, once you've talked yourself into adding yet another streaming service (I haven't yet, but I'm sure we'll get there!). 

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1. The Manhattan Shorts festival is online this year—you can buy a ticket here!

2. Sharing Uyghur cuisine in America is a matter of survival. (Don't miss the selection of Uyghur restaurants in the U.S., at the end of the article.)

3. How to create a DIY Zine, and the important history zines have played in grassroots political activism (by Ida Yalzadeh).

4. This new National Park in West Virginia looks stunning. Can't wait to visit it!

5. A beautiful essay on mental health (and jellyfish) by writer Nina Li Coomes.

6. I remember when this "fancy tower for billionaires" was being built... turns out to be not so fancy. (And here's the full NYTimes article "The Cut" is quoting from, for those interested, written by Stefanos Chen.)

7. I love this short story by Lauren Groff, a writer I've long-admired. (Trigger warning: It discusses physical abuse.)

8. Our contributor, Jazmine Reed-Clark, is launching a new podcast about destigmatizing mental illness!

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