Emphatic Hands #9: Get Cozy

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For me, the last few days have been all about feeling cozy. This week in New York has seen both rain and a not insignificant amount of snow, so I’ve been all about wearing big wool sweaters and fuzzy socks and drinking lots of peppermint tea and hiding under blankets on the couch. I thought I’d share a few of the things I’ve enjoyed (indoors) during the last few days that have been comforting or cozy.

Here are my recommendations.

Listen to Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery on Audible.

I know I started off last week’s edition with an audiobook as well, but listening to Anne of Green Gables really was the nicest thing I’ve done for myself this week. I’m sure a lot of women are able to say this, but Anne Shirley was truly one of my best childhood friends. Listening to this book – narrated by Rachel McAdams! – has been a delightful reminder of how lucky I was to have found a role model in Anne Shirley. She made everything, from getting into scrapes to standing up for oneself to the intimacy of friendship, seem less scary. And she made me believe that my imagination was a valuable, powerful thing. I wish that, as an adult, I had half the audacity that the tweenage Anne displays in this book. I recommend this to anyone who feels like being inspired by the most fearless and romantic character I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing.

Make Ina Garten’s Crusty Baked Shells and Cauliflower from Cooking for Jeffrey.

I made this recipe with my friend Vincent on Sunday evening, not only because I was craving comfort food but also because I hadn’t yet used this cookbook that I received for Christmas and it suddenly seemed like the coziest idea in the world. I, like most of you (probably), love Ina Garten very intensely. And I think I love her husband Jeffrey just as much. (He pops in occasionally on her Food Network show and is always the most adorable.) So, I was very happy to finally read through this book – which includes plenty of stories about their life together, from their first date until now – and cook something from the collection of recipes that Ina makes especially for Jeffrey. I recommend making this recipe when you’re having a casual evening with friends, especially when it’s cold enough that you’d rather not venture out.

Listen to Julie Byrne’s new album, Not Even Happiness.

This is the first album of 2017 that I’ve really liked. Not Even Happiness is a fairly quiet acoustic album and I’ve found myself listening to it over and over again, likely because of its familiarity – Byrne’s style is similar to that of several other artists I like – and suitability for this time of year, when I’m looking for music that soothes my winter blues. All of the songs are very much grounded in the experience of travel and the transience of life so, yeah, of course this appeals to me. I recommend this album for when you want to feel like someone is wrapping you up in a blanket and telling you a nice story (but you’re not quite sure what it’s about) or simply if you want to feel transported.

Catch up on Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown.

I always forget the name of this show because it’s the same show as No Reservations, except on CNN. So I guess I usually just think of it as “No Reservations, except on CNN”? Anyway, I’ve been randomly watching episodes of Parts Unknown while I do mindless work things or other such activities at home because, even though Bourdain can be a dickhead and has actually kind of basic taste in music and has insulted at least one person I know in print, I really love watching him eat things and drink beers and talk to people. Plus, I learn a lot from him. For example, this week I watched the Iran episode of Parts Unknown and it was…pretty eye-opening. I realized that most of what I know about Iranian history (these days at least, I’m sure I knew more in college) I learned from Persepolis and the only Bravo show I still care about, Shahs of Sunset. Seeing real people sitting down together to share a meal, even if it’s on TV, makes you realize that life just…goes on in many of the places that we see as oppressed or conflict-ridden.  In addition to bingeing on Parts Unknown, I also recommend reading the Anthony Bourdain profile in this week’s issue of The New Yorker and whatever this Clickhole thing is that serendipitously showed up in my Facebook feed a few days ago.

Consider getting a subscription to FilmStruck.

My roommates and I received a subscription to FilmStruck, the new film streaming service from Turner Classic Movies and The Criterion Collection, for Christmas. I’ve had a pretty nice time this week checking out all of the available films and adding them to our Watchlist. (Finally, I’ll be able to watch many of the films featured in The Story of Film, the eight-part miniseries – on Netflix – that I’ve started three different times and finished once.) On Monday evening, I ate leftovers (the baked shells and cauliflower) while I watched A Separation, Iranian director Asghar Farhadi’s 2011 Academy Award Winner for Best Foreign Film. It’s a pretty serious drama, but it’s been on my list for a long time and I felt inspired by the Iran episode of Parts Unknown to watch it. I am not surprised it’s at or near the top of many critics’ lists of this century’s best films. (FYI, Farhadi is nominated for another Academy Award this year for his film The Salesman.) So, in closing, I recommend FilmStruck because it’s a better reason than most to curl up on the couch.

TV Hangover

Unless I have something planned, it’s hard for me not to watch shitty TV on weekend mornings when I’m hung over because it’s hard to do anything at all that involves thought. And once I start watching TV, it’s hard for me to stop. What follows is a true account of everything I watched on Sunday – good, bad and ugly.

10:30 AM. I can’t find anything on the movie channels so I press the On Demand button and do my usual scan through all of the free TV shows. I try to watch last week’s episode of Copper – which I know will be horrible – but it’s not available. So I do what any good American would do and check to see if Here Comes Honey Boo Boois On Demand.

Chloe, my favorite toddler, freezing up during competition.

It’s not. (I still haven’t seen a single episode.) So I turn on Toddlers and Tiaras.

I’m able to get through two episodes of that show with a break for coffee somewhere in the middle. I’m totally, totally into it for the whole two episodes but I can only watch so many mothers – who are all either black-hearted or extremely naive and all (looks-wise) on a scale between 1990s Rural Gas Station Attendant/Troll and Plastic Surgeried to Resemble E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial – dress their kids up like a-holes and volunteer them to be judged mostly on how sincerely they can fake their smile for a panel of deeply strange adults.

12 PM. I start the first of two episodes of Eat Street – a Diners, Drive-Ins and Divestype show about food trucks on the Cooking Channel. It desperately needs fewer people talking about just how local and fresh their food is that they serve out of a truck and more Guy Fieri.

1 PM. I discover the answer to my prayers, a marathon of Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations. I get in a just OK episode about Maine and half of an episode about different food obsessions before I venture out again for a long walk.

4:30 PM. At this point, I can say that I’m not really hung over anymore so I make a nice late lunch/early dinner and read The New Yorker while my roommate watches a few episodes of Bleak House (BBC, 2005), which I have already seen four times. (All eight, ninety-minute episodes). She stops watching with two episodes left to go.

Sometime after that, we watch an episode of Foyle’s War because we live in a quaint English nursing home. This episode – Season 2, Episode 3 – failed simply because it wasn’t the previous episode we had watched, which involved a gay war hero who murders his pregnant-by-another-man girlfriend (who is involved in an elaborate petrol-siphoning scheme because she is also a petrol truck driver).

9 PM. Boardwalk Empire season premiere. As we all know, this show is good but probably never blew anyone’s mind. That being said, I really liked this episode. (Even though I miss Jimmy’s face and haircut). At the end, I felt like I couldn’t wait to watch the next episode but also that I’d come a long way from the Toddlers and Tiaras of that morning.