June 7, 2019

Last Saturday, I picked strawberries and my mom taught me how to make jam! We stood side by side cutting berries, and she guided me through the whole process. For something that seems like an ancient art, canning strawberry jam involves a lot of precision; jars and sink need to be spotless, sugar needs to be measured exactly, and at the critical moment you can only boil the jam for one exact minute.

I am lucky to have parents who are kind, patient teachers. My mom has taught me to do so many things: how to curl my eyelashes, how to shave, how to drive stick (to her eternal amusement). She taught me how to read a pattern, how to cut expensive fabric, how to use an upholstery needle. Her example taught me how to weather pain, how to navigate loss. She is a great teacher because she won’t grab the whisk from your hand, she won’t take over, and she won’t lose faith in you. She helps you laugh when you stall out so suddenly that your elbow beeps the horn. When the hot oil snaps or my bike wheels wobble, her voice has calmly gotten me through things I never thought I could do.

Looking over my rows of sealed jars, shining like gems, was incredibly satisfying. Those strawberries started on a sun-warmed hillside and in one day I made them into something that I am proud of. My PB&Js have never tasted better than this week. I’m grateful to have learned this craft that runs back generations in my family and has at one time or another brought so many friends through my mom’s kitchen. And I’m just plain grateful for my mom.

  1. Meet Emma Boettcher, the University of Chicago librarian who just beat James Holzhauer on ‘Jeopardy!’ Chicago Tribune. A librarian beat the long-running champion on Jeopardy! this week, so of course we were all talking about it at work. She’s my age, and I feel very young when I read about her. Once I read a “What it’s really like to be on Jeopardy! article,” and did you know they record a bunch of those games one right after another? That’s why Emma said, “I had to keep my nerves, keep my energy very level so that I could sustain what I was doing” for the next game.” Wild! Also she is using some of her winnings to pay off her student loans which, though it is what I would do, kind of bums me out.
  2. What is a Beach Read, and Why? Vulture. “A beach read is a vacation in a book. It’s fully immersive. It’s escapist … It makes you feel all those primal emotions: lust, love, hate, greed, fear, redemption. To achieve this effect, at a minimum, a book should have charismatic characters, a propulsive plot, and a memorable setting.” I also think a good book for the actual beach is a mass market paperback that can get a little wet or a little sandy. For me this summer, that’s gonna be romance novels I think! This is another choice quote: “The best thing might be simply to drop the idea of a genre hierarchy, while admitting that summer is a welcome opportunity to lower your shades. “It’s so puritanical, this idea that anything fun, indulgent, and pleasurable must be suspect, that the only worthy things are hard or difficult,” says Necessary People author Anna Pitoniak.”
  3. Olivia Wilde, Director: ‘Too Old to Play Dumb Anymore’, NYT. “Her new movie, “Booksmart,” would be special enough to her because it is her directorial debut, but Wilde said it held further value. “It is remarkable that I am 35 years old and this is the first job I’ve ever had that wasn’t entirely dependent on and connected to my looks,” she said. “It grosses me out to acknowledge it, but I’ve been thinking a lot about it.” So Booksmart is a raunchy teen movie in some ways, but it is also very relatable, hilarious, nostalgic, and atmospheric. For me it immediately joins the ranks of Clueless and Dazed and Confused as a classic high school comedy. I highly recommend it! I’m pretty excited to see what else comes from Olivia Wilde. This quote is evidence enough of why I love thoughtful women directors: “When it came time to film an intimate love scene between Dever and another actor, Wilde said: “I was so excited to explain to everyone what I thought a closed set should mean. There aren’t 100 people in the room. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve done a love scene where I’ve been like, ‘But surely that guy doesn’t need to be there?’”
  4. How to Be a Library Archive Tourist. I think this is a great idea for the curious and the library-lover: do a little pre-research and make an appointment for one of the special collections or archives in the city you’re visiting. I’m going to Denver in July and I think this might be something on my list!
  5. On a Sunbeam, Tillie Walden. This graphic novel, which takes place in the far future, jumps between a high school romance in a space boarding school and a space construction crew, has me hooked. It’s a big volume but it moves quickly, because I’m dying to know the secrets of this advanced but familiar world. Also the back of the book had two phrases that always get me: “slow-burn romance” and “found family.”  I’ve been devouring books this week, mostly graphic novels. Here are two more that I’m liking: I Moved to Los Angeles to Work in Animation by Natalie Nourigat, and Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me by the transcendent Mariko Tamaki.

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