Five Things to Bring You Joy

It’s All Hallow’s Eve Eve! Sigh. Despite my love of chocolate and how much I enjoy dressing up, I don’t particularly care for Halloween. So I’m not actually sad that tomorrow evening, due to the pandemic, after our traditional chili dinner, I won’t be taking anyone out trick-or-treating or manning the sugar bowl on our front porch. Instead, we’ll eat all the candy ourselves (bonus!) while watching a movie.

(We still don’t know what that will be, since we have a 12-year-old and Patrick has a low tolerance for horror. I’m always up for Frankenweenie, but we might go for something a little more grown up, like The Others, Signs, or World War Z.)

But if you’re devastated by the prospect of no traditional Halloween where you are, I have five things below that might cheer you up a bit.

1) To paraphrase an oft-memed ad campaign, I do almost always make my own jam. But when I don’t, I eat Bonne Maman Intense Fruit Spread. You’ve probably seen Bonne Maman’s distinctive gingham-topped jars in your supermarket’s jam aisle, but this stuff is new—much more fruity and less sweet. It pairs fantastically with peanut butter or plain yogurt. I’m a sucker for the apricot, but I’m dying to try the cherry and the red fruits, too.

2) Years ago, Patrick bought me Ann Leckie’s multiple award-winning sci-fi novel, Ancillary Justice. I was hooked immediately and eagerly wolfed down the second and third books in the trilogy the minute they came out. So when Leckie put out her first fantasy novel, The Raven Tower, I knew I’d be in good hands. The world building is intricate and unique, and the story is captivating. Here’s hoping for much more where that came from.

3) I’ve subscribed to the online knitting magazine Knitty from its very beginning, and it’s only gotten better over the years. Started by Amy Singer in 2002, Knitty has a grassroots approach that has revitalized fiber culture and hooked (no pun intended, crocheters) a whole generation of young crafters.

It comes out once a quarter (with a few surprise issues here and there) and is a terrific resource for knitters and spinners of any level. It has fresh and innovative patterns for everything from hats to socks; detailed instructions on technique; in-depth interviews and reviews; a searchable archive; and lots more. I love the way the patterns are organized by level of difficulty: mellow, tangy, piquant, and extraspicy. I also love that the models are every size, color, shape, and age. Inclusivity!

4) I have a soft spot in my heart for the unlikely intersection of crass and uplifting. To wit: my deep love for Kira Jane Buxton’s profane yet adorable apocalyptic novel Hollow Kingdom. Even if you don’t like books about talking (or swearing) animals, I’m pretty sure this book will win your heart.

Another case in point: Apple TV+’s new series Ted Lasso. An American football coach gets hired to manage an English soccer team, and no one’s very happy about it at first (except golden retriever-like Ted). It instantly became one of my favorite shows ever. Jason Sudeikis is utterly charming, as is the rest of the cast. I cannot wait for further seasons (which I’m happy to report have just been announced!), and I’ll probably watch this one at least once more while I do.

5) Here’s a fun coincidence. I alluded to the show Friday Night Lights in Monday’s newsletter. I didn’t realize it at first, but today’s featured music artist, Austin-based Shakey Graves (born Alejandro Rose-Garcia), played The Swede, a minor villain, on FNL. Luckily for us, he’s an even more talented musician than he is an actor. I love everything about this song: the growly, yowly vocals, the stripped down, groovy accompaniment, and that crazy suitcase-drum-tambourine thing Shakey rocks so well.


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