Well, here I am on the downhill side of the less-intense summer months. July and August are my downest of downtimes, but September and the start of school rev everything up into high gear again. I had plenty of time to chill out this summer after finally finishing a critique-ready draft of a novel (wooooo!), so I got to start the term with my batteries fully charged.
Here are the new little things that helped me keep them that way this quarter.
1. Abercrombie and Fitch short-sleeve Henley shirts (men’s)
Dunno why, but I love the way I feel in these shirts right now. The XS size fits me pretty well, and I like how they can sub in as “classier” T-shirts/more casual business shirts. I guess I like the way my shoulders look, and that’s what this style emphasizes? Whatever, they’re handy for work while still being washer- and dryer-safe. So for now, they’re my go-to.
2. Bitter flavour combos: arugula + blue cheese, lime & tonics
I started getting fresh arugula at the Farmer’s Market, and damn if that plus blue cheese isn’t a flavour combo I’ve started to crave. I’ll eat it in salad, or, even better, use it to spice up a sandwich. I repeat: hot damn!
Which apparently got me start on a bitter kick. Don’t get me wrong, I love gin & tonics too. But alcohol can really do a number on my ability to get refreshing sleep. Sometimes, no matter how much water I drink with it, I get dehydrated and uncomfortable. And if all I really want is a flavourful beverage, tonic water with a squeeze of lime is where it’s at.
Also, I guess if I get the good stuff, it’ll cure malaria and scurvy at the same time?
3. Spending time with family!
For me, the highlight of every year is hanging out at the family cottage with all the aunts, uncles, cousins, second cousins, first-cousins-once-removed etc. on my mom’s side. (Plus immediate family, of course.) It’s so great when we’re all together, and so wonderful to hang around with the people I love and who love each other so much!
Never has such tiny given so much to so me.
I love my home office, but it gets really stuffy in the summer heat. I used to drag the bedroom fan down the hall every day, but that wasn’t really fair to Fiancé, who wakes up after I typically start work. Using the computer generates even more heat. So I was pleased to find this teeny fan that blows just enough air to keep me cool while I’m working at my desk and draws power from the computer itself… whether or not it’s turned on. Keeper!
5. Cooking with a cast-iron skillet
Okay, so I’ve had a cast-iron skillet for seven or eight years now, but I started using it only recently. I first bought it because so many cookbooks raved about needing one, but then I couldn’t use it right, and everything kept sticking, and did I actually season it properly, and how was I supposed to clean it again, and was that rust, and… etc. And whenever I tried to cook something on it, my old apartment filled with smoke and set the alarm wailing.
Fast-forward to now. I decided to cull the kitchen of stuff I don’t use. Found the pan. Thought, “Hey, I bet now that I’m SUPER grown-up and responsible, I can handle this.”
Turns out, I can (jury is still out on SUPER grown-up-ness, though). Fiancé and I both enjoy beautifully seared steaks, nothing has rusted so far, and I’m looking forward to finally developing that smooth seasoning once I cook on it regularly.
I saw one of these at the hotel my cousin and I stayed at when I was in Switzerland to research automata, and it seemed so handy. That was six or seven years ago. But I talked myself out of getting one (one-use gadget, I know how to make eggs myself, MINIMALISM IS WHAT’S FOR DINNER) until the start of this school year.
I love it. I can leave eggs to soft-boil without having to watch a timer, poach eggs without making a dirty pot full of egg bits that Fiancé hates cleaning, steam scrambled “patties” for breakfast sandwiches, and cook up a whole batch of hardboiled eggs at once for devilled eggs, soy-sauce eggs, or other snacks. It is more than worth its cost and counter-footprint in saved time and worry. In fact, after one week of owning it, I immediately sent another as a gift to my mom. And then another to my soon-to-be in-laws.
7. Feedback on my writing
I love writing — otherwise I wouldn’t do it — but I also love taking a break. In August, I finally finished a draft of the MS I’ve been working on for years. It’s not the final draft, but it’s a damn sight closer than the rough version from last year. That means I got to send it in to my awesome agent and a couple others and wait for their feedback.
Feedback is great, even when it’s “change everything, this is terrible!” It’s a fantastic feeling to finally share something you’ve been working on so hard with other people who’ll take it as seriously as you do. It’s great to stop banging your head against the wall and letting someone else step in to show you the exact right spot to apply pressure to make the whole thing crack down.
And, as much as I love writing, my energy gets depleted pretty quick. It’s nice to be able to kick back and relax without feeling like I “should be” scribbling in a mad dash for the deadline. Or to work lackadaisically on another project with a different, bouncier tone.
8. The Pearl Thief by Elizabeth Wein
This prequel to Code Name Verity won’t break your heart like its older sibling, especially if you don’t know what happens to the characters at the end of the latter. The irresistible voice of its narrator, Julie Beaufort-Smith, makes it easy to get sucked into the gentle mystery and exploration of social injustices in 1930s Scotland.
9. Earbud travel case
A few years back, I splurged on custom earplugs from an audiologist, because I am a super-sensitive sleeper, and Fiancé and I have very different sleep schedules. And apparently, I also have unusually tiny and, uh, right-angled ear canals, which means that regular disposable earplugs are not only expensive to keep buying but also very uncomfortable.
Anyway, all was well until I managed to drop and smash the protective case my ear plugs lived in during the day. Oh noes!
Luckily, after abandoning the delusion that I could force the plastic pieces to fit back together by sheer force of will, I found a sturdy clamshell travel case intended for earbuds or pills, just the right size. I really like it. It’s fake-velvet lined and has a nice cloth-covered exterior in fun shades of blue, green, and purple. Sometimes, finally solving a little-but-persistent problem feels disproportionately amazing!