Welcome, friends. We’ve made it to Friday and I’m looking forward to logging off work in a few hours and embracing the weekend. I’m hoping it will involve some Chai tea, no snow (or freezing rain or precipitation of any sort, for that matter), and several luxurious naps.
It was a good week. I feel like my Casual Friday posts have been a bit “down” lately; I was pondering this and feeling guilty about my overall tone and determining I really should gloss over the hard this week and focus on the joyfinding. I have so much to be thankful for and even my hard, in comparison, would be trivial when measured next to so many others.
But isn’t this the very thing I’m trying to learn/share? Life is hard and messy and exhausting; at other times life is easy and neat and energizing. It’s okay to bring both realities to the table because that is life (in my world at least).
With that PSA out of the way…let’s get started and see where this recap takes us.
READING| I finished reading The Lazy Genius last week (4 stars). I’d skimmed this back in November 2020 and things didn’t really click – I don’t know if I even finished the book? But after two years of pandemic living and a renewed commitment to minimizing stress in my life, the content of this book resonated on a new level. I have intuitively been doing a lot of what Adachi suggests, so it was more of a comfort read. But it was also useful to highlight some subtle tweaks I can incorporate into day-to-day life. This is a no-guilt book with lots of fodder for anyone overwhelmed with trying to “do it all.“
The Picture of Dorian Gray (4 stars). So many thoughts about this book. It definitely falls into the “slow-burn” category. At some points I thought I could never get into the narrative and, full disclosure, I definitely did lots of skimming in the middle section. But…wow. The messages were powerful. So many parallels to the Garden of Eden (the promise of pleasure and then eyes being, tragically, opened); I also saw connections to themes in Great Expectations and the Lord of the Rings. And the ending – I just loved it. I didn’t know what to expect (before getting this book I had imagined Dorian Gray was a woman), but this left me thinking long and hard.
I do want to give a shout-out to Hamnet and Judith. Here’s the thing – I did not actually read all of this book. I had ordered it based on an acquaintance’s recommendation and didn’t know the storyline; I quickly realized I wasn’t in a place where I wanted to read an account of a young child dying (fictionalized but based on a true story). That said, what I did read (and yes I skimmed it, and yes I read the ending, but I didn’t skip to the end first so…you’re welcome) was masterfully written.
I had read Maggie O’Farrell’s memoir I Am, I Am, I Am, but this was my first time delving into one of her fictional works. The book imagines the backstory of the death of William Shakespeare’s son, Hamnet, and the resulting impact on his wife and Hamnet’s twin sister, Judith. It is heart-wrenching; even though I couldn’t bear to read it all, it was unmistakably well written. And I had no idea that Hamlet is a common name iteration on Hamnet, the actual name of Shakespeare’s young son who died so tragically young.
I did not enjoy Reasons to Stay Alive OR The Midnight Library and can’t actually recall what made me pull the trigger on ordering this book, but Notes On A Nervous Planet is my favourite book so far in 2022. I rated this 5 stars (rare for me) and have already ordered myself a copy (even more rare).
Notes On A Nervous Planet is a series of essays with a variety of formats – poems, lists, reflections. If this hadn’t been a library book I would have highlighted every other sentence. I saw some negative reviews online about the haphazard structure, but I actually appreciated how it was quasi-scattered and written in stream-of-consciousness. Instead of me trying to explain the book here are a few of the many quotes that jumped out at me:
- So, as physical health and mental health are intertwined, couldn’t the same be said about the modern world and our mental states? Couldn’t aspects of how we live in the modern world be responsible for how we feel in the modern world? Not just in terms of the stuff of modern life, but its values, too. The values that cause us to want more than we have. To worship work above play. To compare the worst bits of ourselves with the best bits of other people. To feel like we always lack something.
- The pursuit of looking young accentuates the fear of growing old. So maybe if we embraced growing old, embraced our wrinkles and other people’s wrinkles, maybe marketers would have less fear to work with and magnify.
- And this is our attitude to time: something that mustn’t be wasted simply by resting, being, sleeping. We are ruled by the clock. By the light bulb. By the glowing smartphone. By the insatiable feeling we are encouraged to have. The feeling of this is never enough. Our happiness is just around the corner. A single purchase, or interaction, or click, away…The trouble is that we simply aren’t made to live our lives in artificial light. We aren’t made for waking to alarm clocks and falling asleep bathed in the blue light of our smartphone. We live in 24-hour societies but not 24-hour bodies.
- When I fall into a frantic or despairing state of mind, full of unwelcome thoughts that can’t slow down, it is often the result of a series, a sequence of things. When I do too much, think too much, absorb too much, eat too badly, sleep too little, work too hard, get too frazzled by life, there it is. A repetitive strain injury of the mind.
- “The frequent attempt to conceal mental pain increases the burden: it is easier to say ‘My tooth is aching’ than to say ‘My heart is broken.’” C. S. Lewis
- Fashion magazines and websites and social media accounts sell a kind of transcendence. A way out. A way to escape. But it is often unhealthy, because to make people want to transcend themselves you first have to make them unhappy with themselves.
- Change your perspective of how you view photos of yourself. Every photo you look at and think, Oh, I look old, will one day be a photo you look back on and think, Oh, I looked young. Instead of feeling old from the perspective of your younger self, try feeling young from the perspective of your older self.
- Value the things most that you’d miss the most if they weren’t there.
Favourite picture books from the week. Something from Nothing is one of our favourite books. Ever. Delightful illustrations, a sweet story – the kids and I keep coming back to this one. And The Library; another re-read from years ago. The title character is an Elizabeth, so it gets bonus points.
Homemade sushi. We’ve mostly stopped rolling traditional sushi and now just make hand-rolls (so much faster!). John made up a pot of sticky rice and some filling and we put a dollop of each into individual-sized nori before dunking them into his extra delicious soy dipping sauce. Yum. This was Saturday’s date-night supper and it did not disappoint.
Scrambled eggs and bacon inside corn tortillas. On repeat. With mayo and ketchup, obviously.
And Chicken Mango Curry (the actual recipe calls it Mango Chicken Curry, but I can’t stand how that sounds rolling off my tongue, so it will forever be Chicken Mango Curry to me). If I could bottle up a jar of this curry and send it your way, I would. I have not made this recipe in several months. That’s a real shame. It’s one of those recipes that takes a bit of extra time and effort, but it’s always worth it.
I got the recipe from Shauna Niequist’s book Bread and Wine, but she got it from Sally Sampson’s The $50 Dinner Party. I make it slightly different each time, and it has never failed me yet. Because I love it so much, I’m posting the recipe below with a few notes about how I tweak the recipe to fit our family’s preferences; but I’m sure it would be great following the original recipe, too!
Chop up veggies + ginger and fry with a bit of EVOO for several minutes. Either remove from pan until after chicken has cooked, or transfer over to a slow cooker.
Mix flour + spices together and coat chicken pieces. Fry over medium heat in EVOO.
Add stock and/or coconut milk (see below) and simmer until the veggies are soft. Add in mango + raisins + lime juice + herbs about 20 minutes before serving.
Modifications: - I'm careful how much cayenne I add - usually just a small sprinkle. If I use the whole amount, it's too much spice for the kids and it's easier for John to add hot sauce than for me to have a huge pot of something the kids refuse to eat. - I often use tapioca starch in place of flour to make it GF. But DO NOT skip the coating step; mixing the curry and flour together and dredging the chunks of chicken is key. - I've started cooking the dredged chicken in EVOO for 4-5 minutes, but not fully cooking it through. I toss the mostly-cooked chicken into a slow cooker with the bell peppers/onions that I've sweated down in a frying pan. It ends up being melt-in-your-mouth delicious. - I often double the bell peppers in the recipe and sometimes add a zucchini. - Fresh mango is definitely better than frozen; I tend to use frozen because it's easier to keep on hand...but ripe, fresh mango is preferred! I add the mango and raisins in about 15 minutes before serving so they don't go mushy. - I skip the tomatoes and basil completely. - I always add a can of full-fat coconut milk. Depending on how thick you want this, you can add more/less chicken stock. I don't bother with stock anyway and just use water, adding a bit of extra salt to compensate. - I serve this over rice; it makes it go farther and it's just so, so filling and delicious this way. - You can freeze any leftovers. They're delicious.
Waffles. The picture below does NOT do this meal justice. (It was dark, the lighting was terrible.) Just imagine a halo of light and angels descending and singing the Hallelujah chorus. This waffle was so good. Peanut butter, homemade cherry preserves (frozen cherries, a glug of maple syrup, and tapioca pearls microwaved for 10 minutes or so), fresh blueberries, lactose-free strawberry yogurt, chocolate chips, and maple syrup). The only thing missing was some cream cheese spread and bananas.
Last weekend also involved chocolate cake. One of Abby’s Christmas coupons was getting to request Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Icing for Friday-night dessert (I haven’t been making many desserts lately). This is the end result in all its chocolate crumb glory (I froze the other 1/2 of the 9×13).
PLAY | Wordle. I’m loving it. I don’t do it every day, but it’s been a nice mental break when I remember. We got to church early on Sunday morning and there was a whole row of teenagers playing. I literally plugged my ears because I didn’t want to know the word…and then promptly forgot to play it at all on Sunday.
HARRY POTTER | Regular readers know that I’ve discussed one child’s obsession with Harry Potter (and now Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit). At first, this obsession mostly involved copious amounts of trivia. But it has expanded to include both baking projects and Pictionary.
This pastry concoction – completed with a babysitter – took about two hours and at least a pound of butter. Let’s just say it’s a good thing they went with Sorting Hats and not the Hogwarts Castle. (And who has the audacity to put something like this gingerbread castle in a children’s cookbook? Someone who does NOT HAVE CHILDREN, clearly.)
As for Pictionary, at one point over the weekend I looked up from the dining room table to find the whole family huddled around a tiny whiteboard guessing characters like Gimli, Aragorn, and Nazgul from chicken scratches made with a broad-tip marker. Only J. R. R. Tolkien characters. On a whiteboard.
It was very endearing.
- Leak #1: Our front entryway started leaking during Tuesday’s rainstorm. It’s not a big deal – this entryway needs to be demoed as part of spring renovations, but it was still demoralizing to see the paint peeling from water damage and to step in a little puddle on the floor. Sigh.
- Leak #2: My winter boots started leaking. The first time I noticed wet feet, I assumed I must have gotten snow down my boot. But by the next day I realized the bottom of the sole had actually cracked. These boots – a great Sorel pair – owe me nothing. I bought them years ago for under $5 at a thrift store, and I have no idea how long they had previously served the feet of some other poor soul struggling through a Canadian winter. But still. It was disappointing and not ideal timing since we still have what feels like 8 billion months of winter ahead. I told John – as we trudged home through snow after Monday’s school dropoff – “I just want to wear sneakers. Not rain boots. Not snow boots. Not hiking boots. NO BOOTS. I just want to put on a pair of sneakers and walk out the door!” I’m not going crazy and wishing for flip-flops here. Just sneakers. For the love of all that is good and merciful, I just want to wear sneakers again.
- Leak #3: I am trying very hard to give my body a break. After a disastrous January, I’m trying a new hormone dosing schedule. Tuesday was the next cycle of treatment and I was mentally weighed down. It’s hard to do things to help one problem that create more; I called the OB/GYN office the same day and they confirmed that my doctor has been blocked from the OR for anything other than emergency cases (which I’m not) since November due to COVID. I have a call with her later today, but I’m honestly thinking it could take over a year before getting a surgery date. I’m fine, it will be fine, but it felt heavy and hard on Tuesday.
- On the same Tuesday (February 8th) I woke up to a notice that schools were cancelled due to freezing rain. At 6:12 am that single text withered my spirit. I had allowed myself a light day of work on Monday and had a long list of things to accomplish Tuesday and suddenly it all involved having children home. I am – still – tired of filling hours. I don’t want the kids to become blobs on the couch watching screens, but with nonstop cold/ice lately, even getting outside has been hard. John’s day was stacked, but he set up a schedule for them which included chores, board games (just the two of them, no parental involvement; it went shockingly well), writing letters to distant family members, outside play, independent play, showers, and yes – their beloved screen time. I floundered through work tasks; one meeting went way overtime and the kids ended up video-bombing it (with Levi in PJ’s at 3:30 pm post shower), which actually was fun and brightened the mood of a pretty tough meeting.
- I also had a suspicion something about the 8th day of the month and a mental health day felt vaguely familiar. Turns out it was the exact day I indulged in lamenting last month.
- Emotional eating. Some of it is the hormones. Some of it is just winter angst. Either way, it’s so frustrating. I want to feel in control of my eating and I haven’t the last week or so. It’s not terrible – lots of carrot sticks, granola + yogurt, and muffins. But it’s not about the food, per se, but how and why I’m eating it and how I feel afterward. I know I’ll adjust and get back to eating more mindfully, so I’m not being too hard on myself…but trying to recognize the fact that eating a muffin doesn’t make me less tired of COVID and winter…and I really need to stop thinking it might just this once.
- Saying “yes” to Levi when he asked (without much hope of receiving a “yes”) to cash in his Christmas coupon for a family movie night. On a Monday. I fell asleep during the movie, but it was fun.
- Also joyful – hearing Levi say at least 5 times on Tuesday how much fun family movie night had been.
- Crisp, juicy grapes. I love grapes, but biting into a soft grape is one of life’s ultimate disappointments. The grapes on sale this week were delicious.
- Abby’s elaborate Shopkin/Calico Critter display. These tiny toys have been just sitting on a shelf lately, but she got into a frenzy of organizing and her creativity just knocks my socks off sometimes. She built sets for all sorts of different rooms and scenes, including making a dozen desks for a “school room” – it really does warm my heart.
- The kids love audiobooks, but we don’t let them listen to one every night. I guess one night Abby, unbenownst to me, used her digital camera to “videotape” Stephen Fry narrating her two favourite chapters from the final Harry Potter book. So now if it’s not an audiobook night, she listens to these two chapters from her camera video. Over and over and over again. Oh that kid.
- Monday’s supper. A big bowl of rice and Chicken Mango Curry with some fresh green beans on the side. We lit candles and lingered around the table. It was nice. And then having leftovers of the same meal on Tuesday.
- Wednesday’s Chicken Noodle Soup. Followed by granola and yogurt.
- Picking up the car (we were rear-ended a few weeks ago and finally got the car back from the body shop; weather + delays on parts meant the process took a lot longer than expected) to discover they had detailed it. The carpets were washed and the seats looked like new. I know with kids in the back seat this will last about 3 minutes, but it still felt so…joyful!
- Texts with friends, especially when they send me clips of stand-up comedy routines about emotional eating (I may have texted someone I wanted to eat a whole sleeve of Oreo’s).
- Watching the kids play outside on snow piles at dusk. They made little slides on the icy banks and something about the time of day just made it feel extra joyful.
- Daily walks. Everyday since January 1st I’ve logged at least 1 km outside. This daily practice has been so grounding and one of my favourite moments from each day.
- This post from SustainableMom about the challenges of living with uncertainty. Yes to everything she says.
- This post from Diane at Life off Headset about how the daily rhyhms of daylight are reminding her to slow down and savour the beauty – free for us to appreciate – of the world around us.
- Heather, creator of my new favourite planner (Sprouted), stopping by to comment on my “review.”
- Hot showers.
- A comfortable bed at night. Occasional daytime naps. White noise machines. Magic bags for cold feet. Kids in pajamas.
- My uncle writing to say he is co-winner of the Wolf Award in Physics (past winners include Stephen Hawking, so it’s kinda a big deal) and saying he was embarrased to write (didn’t want to appear as though he was bragging) but wanted to be the one to let our family know. That there are people in this world who are so smart and talented while remaining utterly humble is refreshing. He also noted, very nonchalantly, that winning this award is typically seen as the pivotal step toward winning a Nobel Prize. My laid-back, sweet-as-they-come uncle. Well on his way to winning a Nobel Prize. (While I try to not eat a sleeve of Oreo’s at 7 pm on a Tuesday and consider it a job well done if I manage to shave my legs once a month.)
ode to a ‘snow’ day
Last Friday ended up being a snow day. More specifically – a freezing rain day (not to be confused with the “rain” day cancellation they had the following Tuesday). We got about 12 hours of freezing rain/ice pellets.
Not to be discouraged, we bundled up and headed out for our daily walk. At one point the kids decided it would be fun to slide down a neighbour’s side hill. We did that and then trekked home through the woods. Here are some shots of the fun.
During our time in the woods, we unexpectedly bumped into a neighbour who was out running. On a snowy/icy trail that was like sugar quicksand. That is dedication, folks. This being the neighbour who offered to shovel last weekend, whose wife makes the best cookies, and who leaves Christmas lights up until the early spring just to brighten our view. Want to know another endearing fact: he told the kids: “It’s Friday. That means peanut butter and banana sandwiches when I get home!” I could not love this more if I tried. To think of someone running through the woods in freezing rain (all the gold stars) and then heading back to his wife so they can make their Friday afternoon PB & Banana Sandwiches together. #LifeGoals.
phone use update
I recently wrote how I wanted to be more mindful of how much time I was spending on my phone. While I can certainly get distracted by my laptop or other screens, for the most part, it’s my phone that has a tendency of turning me into a mindless zombie.
Here are the numbers:
|Total time for the week||Average time/day||Total pickups for the week||Average pickups/day|
|Jan 9-16||5 h 27 min||46 min||413||59|
|Jan 16-23||7 h 13 min||1 h 1 min||415||59|
|Jan 23-30||7 h 42 min||1 h 6 min||517||74|
|Jan 30-Feb 6||9 h 18 min||1 h 19 min||480||69|
One of the things I didn’t want to do was throw the good out with the bad and my smartphone does a lot of good.
It helps me stay in communication with my family (I’ve mentioned my mother’s daily texts) and I use it regularly to capture photos.
So I took the numbers one step further and separated out the time I spend on life-enhancing activities – namely communicating with those I love, capturing photo memories, and time spent organizing my lists.
|Jan 9-16||Jan 16-23||Jan 23-30||Jan 31-Feb 6|
|Camera||1 h 17 min||1 h 19 min||47 min||1 h 7 min|
|Messages||1 h 45 min||1 h 13 min||2 h 53 min||2 h 45 min|
|24 min||38 min||1 h 5 min||27 min|
|Photos||44 min||1 h 18 min||40 min||1 h 1 min|
|Anylist||6 min||5 min||1 min||5 min|
|Total||4 h 16 min||4 h 33 min||5 h 26 min||5 h 25 min|
|Excess scrolling time||1 h 11 min||2 h 40 min||2 h 16 min||3 h 53 min|
The numbers are…better than I imagined. I don’t love the scrolling time of almost 4 hours last week, but it’s not horrific. I’ve made a point to navigate to news sites less frequently and I’m trying to look up fewer random Google search strings. (Do I really need to know more about the Dancing Plague of 1518? Turns out I do. This dancing mania killed 400 people and may have been caused by the consumption of rye flour contaminated with the fungal disease ergot, which is known to produce convulsions. I’ve now saved you 10 minutes of Googling on your phone. You are welcome.)
More than anything, I want to monitor my usage and, as Gretchen Rubin says, we monitor what we measure.
How was your week? Please don’t tell me if you’re able to wear sneakers outside every day. Try any great recipes this week? How are you feeling about your smartphone usage lately? Have you jumped on the Wordle bandwagon yet?