Five Things to Bring You Joy

Happy December! Do you have a handle on your holiday season? However you prepare and party, I hope you’re taking some hygge/mys/cwtch anywhere you can get it. If not, hopefully the things I’ve gathered below will help.

1) Do you have children in your life who are starting to realize the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, and Saint Nicholas are…not what they’d originally imagined? I can’t help you with the first two, but Martha Brockenbrough’s wonderful Love, Santa is a graceful, heart-filled way to help you navigate the latter. Lucy has been faithfully writing to Santa since she was five, but now she’s starting to have questions. Her mother’s answer makes me cry every dang time. Anyone who celebrates Christmas should have a copy of this lovely book.

2) How many face masks have you gone through since March? Jaanuu’s are the most comfortable, durable, and breathable that I’ve found, and they include anti-microbial technology so that the fabric lasts longer. The company normally makes highly-reviewed scrubs, so I trusted the masks would be of similar quality. I have not been disappointed. Hint: masks will make ideal stocking stuffers. I bought a pack each of navy and black, but they have livelier colors/patterns, too.

3) Speaking of lively patterns and colors, a game-loving friend recently recommended Azul, so I bought it in time for Thanksgiving weekend. It’s a tile-laying game that reminds me of Sudoku (or Colorku), but for 2-4 players. Its aesthetics are derived from North African-influenced Spanish and Portuguese azulejos, or ceramic tiles. The rules are easy to grasp, play is laid back but stimulating, and I hear there are some cool expansions as well.

4) Patrick and I have been craving British police procedural series all year, and I think I’ve figured out why. They aren’t nearly as gun-heavy as their American counterparts, and the accents are always a treat for me. Besides, justice is served; hunches are proved correct; mysteries are solved one painstaking clue at a time; corrupt cops are rooted out and punished; and both officers and victims’ families get closure. None of this seems to happen very often in real life, so forgive my penchant for fairy tale endings. (True confession: I’m saving the last episode of Endeavour to watch as a reward on some particularly challenging day in the future.)

Our latest indulgence has been Hinterland, which is set in western Wales, but has a very Scandi Noir feel to it. Richard Harrington’s Tom Mathias has a brooding charm and soulful eyes reminiscent of Paul McCartney’s. The supporting cast is all great, and I love picking up little scraps of Welsh language and culture. The bleak, gorgeous countryside temporarily satisfies my “northernness” craving. I’ll be specially sad when this one ends.

5) The talented Ben Harper feels like an old family friend. I love both his solo work and his many collaborations, especially with the Blind Boys of Alabama. His latest composition is “Winter is for Lovers,” a gorgeous, understated 30-minute instrumental suite performed on lap steel guitar. In every online slang dictionary, the word “chill” should have a link to this piece. It would make equally great accompaniment for a candlelit bath or a writing session next to a blazing fire. Hunker down and relax.

That’s it for this week, my friends. I’ll see you on the Jersey side of the weekend.

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