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A Book-Inspired Dinner and the Dynamic Podcast Duo We All Needed

Plus, a movie villain you'll love to hate.
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I'm pretty sure my first "perfect day" was inspired by none other than Hoku herself. Since middle school, I've designated random "perfect days," where I indulge in little treats throughout to create as close as possible to an ideal day. Leading up to it, I'll work hard to finish looming work projects, clean the house, and buy myself fresh flowers so that when the day comes around, I'm ready: I buy myself coffee in the morning, treat myself to lunch, wear a new lipstick, start a book I've been looking forward to or a movie I've been saving. In anticipation of my birthday last week, I decided to celebrate by creating a perfect day, and even took the day off (something I've never done for my birthday, but with so many unused vacation hours, why not??). I started the morning with a hike in Forest Park and Fried Egg I'm In Love (IYKYK), then spent the afternoon reading and working on creative projects, and took myself to the Portland Japanese Garden before diving into a cheesy TV show I've been wanting to watch ("Firefly Lane"). In the evening, Jonah and I tried our hand at making one of my favorite dishes, Unagi Don, at home for the first time (we bought the Unagi at Uwajimaya in Beaverton). As terrible as a lockdown birthday could have been (at this point we've nearly all had them!), this was as close to perfect as I could have hoped for. Here are a few things I loved this week: 

1

If 'Gone Girl' taught us anything, it's that Rosamund Pike makes an excellent villain. In 'I Care A Lot,' she plays a professional legal guardian who takes advantage of the elderly by putting them in court-ordered care and assuming their assets as her own. When she kidnaps a "cherry," an old woman who's particularly lucrative (no living relatives, tons of cash), played by Dianne Wiest, the movie takes a dramatic turn. I love any movie that makes you root for the worst people—and Pike's character Marla is truly The Worst—and this psychological thriller is full of fun, conflicting twists (albeit a few plot holes might drive purists nuts). 

2

Though I laughed at the idea of "Dry January" this year (a drink has been one of the only things in quarantine that helps delineate day from night, for me), I realized this month that my craving for a beer could be sated with a simple swap. At the beginning of February, my mother-in-law sent me a tasting of Girl Meets Dirt Shrubs (a concentrated fruity, vinegary syrup). I started adding about a tablespoon to sparkling water at the end of the day as my pre-dinner "cocktail," and haven't had a drink in weeks. To be fair, I'm not sure how much of that has to do with the man currently in the Oval Office or the addictive flavor of this Peach shrub, but you be the judge!

3

Ta-Nahisi Coates' Between the World and Me (originally recommended to me through this list by Tyree Boyd-Pates) is written as a letter to his teenage son, Samori. The memoir, interspersed with American history ("an empire built on race"), addresses Coates' upbringing and time at Howard University (what he calls "The Mecca"), and how he later reeled from the murder of one of his college friends at the hands of a police officer. Below is a passage I found myself rereading even after I'd finished the book (bolded emphasis is my own):

Had I informed this woman when she pushed my son, she was acting according to a tradition that held black bodies as lesser, her response would likely have been, "I am not a racist." Or maybe not. But my experience in this world has been that the people who believe themselves to be white are obsessed with the politics of personal exoneration. And the word racist, to them, conjures if not a tobacco-spitting oaf, then something just as fantastic—an orc, troll, or gorgon[...] there was no golden era when evildoers did their business and loudly proclaimed it as such.

I'm looking forward to reading his novel, The Water Dancer, and recommend watching his conversation at SXSW 2018 embedded above! 

4

Two pages into Kristin Hannah's The Nightingale, I pulled out the highlighter I keep in my bedside table to underscore her description of a provincial French dish, "Beside it was a bowl of fresh peas, swimming in butter seasoned with tarragon from the garden. And of course there was the baguette Vianne had made yesterday morning." (Nine times out of ten, I highlight food dishes in novels—you'd be surprised how many include cooking inspiration!) You better believe that by evening the next day, I had my starter proofing on the counter to be baked off the next morning, with tarragon compound butter chilling in the fridge for fresh English peas, which were luckily available at my local Trader Joe's. We ate a baguette (the recipe yields three) with peas for dinner the next night with a small Greek salad (we also recently re-watched 'Before Midnight,' which is set in a seaside town in Greece). So good, so simple. Also the book is excellent, as everyone promised it would be.

5

Barack Obama and Bruce Springsteen have a podcast. (Do I even need to continue this review?) The two American heroes have been friends since they met on Obama's 2008 campaign trail and in their podcast, "Renegades," they reflect on their enduring love of America, the "American Dream," and what the future might look like. It's the exact hopeful podcast I needed amidst a time when I've wondered, as so many of us have, if America can even be fixed. According to Bruce and Barack, it can—and it will.

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1. A reader recommended this collection of "feminist retellings of Japanese folktales"—making a note to pick up a copy soon.

2. How cute it this little seashell dish?

3. A reader recommended this movie to anyone who loved 'Palm Springs' - planning on watching it this week!

4. This kids' food show looks adorable. 

5. A brilliant typeface

6. How the white image of beer culture has erased its Black history

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