Unpopular opinion: I've never been a huge fan of birthday presents (both giving and receiving). When it comes to giving, I'm never clear on the politics of bringing them to parties for people over the age of eighteen. I've been to birthday dinners where no one brings a present, when I'm the only one to bring a present, and parties where I'm the only one to not bring one (I was recently so embarrassed when this happened that I ended up sending an exorbitant gift after the fact, as penance, in spite of the fact that I would never expect a gift from them). It often feels like "No gifts" on an invitation means exactly the opposite, and I've received extremely thoughtful gifts that ended up gathering dust because the truth is: I didn't need them. For birthdays, I've taken a cue from my mother-in-law-to-be and have started making a donation in the name of the birthday king or queen to a cause I know they care about. I know, I know, it's not as exciting as receiving a package you can tear open, but it addresses the issue of them getting something they don't need or arriving at an actually gift-free party with a wrapped present.
But here's the other issue: I get an enormous amount of pleasure from giving gifts, especially when I know it will be the perfect gift. My new solution? Unexpected gift giving. When a friend mentioned an intriguing book we both learned about through the New York Times Book Podcast, I ordered it for her from Powell's (signed from the host of the podcast). When I recommended the show Shrill to a friend who didn't have Hulu, I purchased a three-month membership for her. I'm shipping a cookbook to a cross-country friend this week who DMed me asking for a recipe. The act takes so little effort and doesn't need to be expensive (even hand-delivering cookies to a friend who mentioned a craving or shipping high-quality chocolate chips if they live far away can make an impact!). Right now is a particularly stressful time for everyone, but listening to your friends and hearing when they need something can go so, so far. Here's what else I'm loving this week:
After a few weekend trips in a row full of indulgent eating, I've been making an effort to make nutrient-dense meals—namely filling salads, full of greens and vegetables! For the salad bases, I've been mostly mixing and matching Trader Joe's vegetables (which I think warrants a post of its own—coming soon!) with shredded rotisserie chicken, beans, or salmon, then dousing everything in this satisfying and creamy four-ingredient Curry Tahini Dressing from the blog 'From My Bowl' which I discovered and already love! I mean look at these salads and dressings.
Was it great timing for me to read a book about the bubonic plague at the same time COVID-19 began developing? Nope, no it was not. But I will say, ever since picking up John Kelly's book The Great Mortality randomly from my parent's shelf, it's sent me on a major non-fiction deep dive (which should explain why it's been a minute since I've made a fiction rec here!). The book inspired a curiosity that originated in pandemics, but has since expanded to include not just inequality in medical treatment, but also in the judicial system, a book about sex I picked up at Book Soup, and countless Wikipedia pages. While I don't have a specific book to recommend (as fascinating as Kelly's book is, now is probably not the time to read about a pandemic if you want to stay sane), I do highly recommend setting aside your "to-read" list to simply follow your curiosity wherever it leads you! And when you need a break—as I do now—there's always this list of short novels to pull from. I just started The Bear by Andrew Krivak!
When I got back Sunday night from a girls' trip to Joshua Tree, I was exhausted and craved a clever, but easy show to unwind with. Enter: High Fidelity. The Hulu show is a remake of the John Cusack's classic film of the same name, but instead of Cusack, Zoe Kravitz plays the unlucky-in-love record shop owner. The show is a slightly grittier, more realistic update on the happy-go-lucky rom-com, and nearly as charming. It's worth a watch! Side note: Zoe Kravitz makes a strong argument for the cool factor of Hawaiian shirts...
Consider this your warning: When I came across the Instagram account @thedieline last week, I spent an hour scrolling through it. The account houses photos of incredible packaging, making it a great place to feel inspired by graphic design, but also to discover new products. Don't be surprised if you see one of the featured products pop up as my next recommendation here! Here are a few that intrigued me: Minuet, Levantes Family Farms, Faace, and this knitting set by Amano.
1. Loved this BTS of Taylor Swift's 'The Man' video!
2. This article made me feel better about our budget-driven decision to not hire a videographer for our wedding, despite seriously considering one.
3. Most of my distractions are on my phone, but if you have any desktop distractions this might be worth trying!
4. A look at the scary omissions some textbooks include, or rather exclude. (NYT)
5. What's better than one Mark Ruffalo? Two! Very excited for this show...
6. This woman qualified for the Olympics with her first-ever marathon (!). "She gave her sister a high-five at Mile 7." (NYT)
P.S., I didn't publish The List on Monday because I wanted to give Emily's post (a very important post!) space to breathe. Feeling very proud of cupcakes and cashmere this week! x