Happy Chanukah! The last quarter of the year feels about five times as long as all the rest. Daylight gets shorter, the school semester gets more intense (hello, end-of-term papers to mark!), and I get more stressed out. But class is over, and I’m chilling in the eye of the storm until next term rolls around in January.
In the meantime, I glean small joys where I can. Here are a few from the last three months of the year.
1. Oxenfree (game for PC, mobile, and the big 3 home consoles, but we have it on Xbox One)
I am not a big fan of scary games, which is to say I don’t like them at all. So I didn’t actually play this. Instead, I watched Fiancé play, because I liked the story (teens go to party all night on an island, spooky stuff starts happening when they tune into a weird radio transmission) and wanted to find out what happens.
Watching this game was like watching a good paranormal mystery movie; I especially liked how dialogue options don’t stop the action to wait for input but instead slowly fade away if you ignore them… just like how, in real life, listening instead of saying the things you’re thinking is also an option and also makes a difference.
2. cable TV
Imagine my surprise as a cord-cutting millennial when I found myself actually enjoying having a bundled year of cable from our ISP. Mainly, I like being able to tune into live team sports at any time. Because when my emotional energy is fried, I can still handle hockey or soccer or football–it’s like having an easy-to-follow story in which I don’t have to care about the characters very much.
For 2018, I’m pretty excited to PVR my two favourite shows, Elementary and The X Files, instead of speed-watching them online in the week they’re publicly available.
These Japanese-style pickled plums are my favourite rice topping/rice-ball filling ever. Salty and sour: a perfect complement to steamed rice!
4. Jonathan Stroud’s Lockwood & Co. series (MG books)
I read the first instalment, The Screaming Staircase, a while back, and I only recently picked up the sequels. Our narrator, snarky Lucy Carlyle, relates her adventures in a world where dangerous hauntings suddenly took over nighttime at the turn of the century, and no one knows why. Only kids can sense ghosts, and that’s why teens like Lucy and her buddies work as elite ghostbusters. Come for the characters, swordplay, and exciting cases, stay for the overarching conspiracy-mystery that might finally shed light on what (or who!) brought the dead out of their graves.
5. Squish Candies‘ 24 Days of Candy
A little surprise each day helps me overcome winter blues. Neither Fiancé nor I observes advent, but I appreciate that around this time of year, it prompts stores to put out neutrally named products like “24 Days of Candy.” Squish Candies makes gourmet gummies in flavours ranging from traditionally fruity gummy bears to adult-aimed prosecco roses. I never know what I’m going to get, and that’s what makes it so fun.
6. short stories
I started reading the short stories on my phone. I got a short-story-a-day “calendar.” It takes me less than 15 minutes a day to get through a short story, and reading top-flight authors who write outside my usual genres (with the set of booklets, anyway) is mind-opening. I feel like it’s all a crash course in structuring short fiction. Which, y’know, could come in handy.
7. Super Mario Odyssey (game for Nintendo Switch)
I am not even close to being done this game, but it’s been a great brain-decompressor between marking papers, organizing wedding RSVPs, and responding to emails. You could blow through the single-player story in under a day, but you’d be missing out on tons of hidden collectibles and mini-games. The Mario series has always been great at teaching the player where to look for secrets without diminishing the challenge or excitement of exploration, and this game rocks at it.
8. being nice to myself
Some weeks, I don’t do my strength training. Some days, I eat stuff that I know is going to make me feel bad, and, worse, I don’t like it all that much anyway. Some afternoons, I can’t face even another 100 words or one more ungraded paper.
I don’t want to have those weeks/days/afternoons. But when things turn out that way, the worst thing I can do is to dwell on it. Instead, I’ve got to be okay with not meeting every single goal I set out to accomplish. Because the world isn’t going to end if I need a break from writing for a couple weeks. And maybe Winter Me has enough energy only for shorter gym sessions.
9. Lloyd & Company’s custom shirts
According to Fiancé, my work wardrobe is like my dad’s, because if it’s wrong to wear button-downs and sweaters, then I don’t want to be right. But I can be so, so sartorially wrong this fall only because I splurged on some custom shirts from the tailor that made my suit(s) and wedding tux, Lloyd & Company.
That means I can have shirts that fit with the stiff collars and cuffs traditionally reserved for men. I can choose the patterns I want (like brown and blue plaid on white), and the material feels about ten times warmer than my button-ups from the women’s section. And these ones tuck in properly and easily accommodate a tie.
I feel so comfortable and great wearing them that I put them on despite not having to go on campus and knowing I’ll have to iron them come laundry day. Which is saying a lot.