It took extremely gloomy weather and moods for me to pull another Emily Gilmore and insist upon finding some joy and letting it be satisfying and enough and motivating. I made an indulgent brie grilled cheese for lunch. I played Christmas music while working. I exercised after the workday, which I haven’t done enough in the pandemic world because, gosh darn it, I love and miss my Planet Fitness. I also recognized that I’m still finding joy in certain pop culture that really has made this time more manageable.
Let’s start with the title of this post. I keep playlists for my writing projects that consist of songs that either inspire this particular work or are directly included in it. For my current work-in-progress, I recently stumbled across “For Now” from the musical Avenue Q, which is just a sweet, delightful song reminding us that everything, good or bad, is temporary — for now. Every listen of it always cheers me up.
I’ve recently discovered the Pod Ledom podcast, a recap series of America’s Next Top Model. If there’s anything my 2020 posts might have taught you, it’s that ANTM rewatches will always be my top TV guilty pleasure. Just when I had exhausted my favorite cycles and confirmed that certain seasons are still unwatchable, this podcast came along with its hilarious and insightful trio of hosts. Plus, they’re only up to Cycle 10 of their rewatch, so I have tons of content to look forward to. If you’re a fan of America’s Next Top Best Friend, Pod Ledom is similarly goofy, but it dives a little deeper into ANTM episodes without tangents.
Speaking of podcasts, I’ve rediscovered a love for cooking and food that basically went on hiatus over the summer (I get bored of grilled and no-heat recipes pretty easily). This has translated into a love of food-related podcasts. I recommend Cooking By Ear and Table Manners with Jessie Ware for recipe talk mixed in with celebrities, while Homemade and Out to Lunch with Jay Rayner are interview shows with both TV chefs and regular stars. On the food blogging front, I love Smitten Kitchen and Damn Delicious. I also have an instinctual love for Rachael Ray and her recipes that comes from my mother, and I have a few Jamie Oliver recipes bookmarked for Christmas.
Netflix’s Sweet Magnolias has been the perfect low-stakes and aesthetically pleasing content when I’m not in the mood for TV to bum me out. I want everyone’s clothes and the small-town life it portrays is actually kind of enviable. Let it known that this show is only a slight notch above Hallmark Channel quality (Why is the ex-husband so unredeemable? Is Annie a bad actress or just a poorly written character? Is Kyle actually Justin Bieber in 2009?), but it’s captivating fluff that’s good for a multitasking watch.
Season 4 of The Crown was way more entertaining than Season 3, but it was the first time I seriously worried about its effects on the people it portrays as well as William and Harry. I washed it down with the documentary Diana: In Her Own Words, which only confirms that Princess Diana was much more sad and complicated than her legacy usually suggests. It’s all fodder for a great debate about whether the senior royals considered anything from this time in response to the media portrayal of Meghan Markle (I like to think that Charles did, as he’s always seemed particularly sweet with Meghan).
I turned to intense historical dramas earlier this year for pandemic distraction, and while that’s still often the case, ANZAC Girls has sort of become my Sweet Magnolias equivalent in that genre. Yes, there’s still war, blood, and dying, but this World War I mini-series about Australian nurses serving in Egypt, Greece, and the Western Front goes heavy on the romance, quirky period sayings, and exotic locations. The character development isn’t great, but you’ll likely warm up to at least two of the main nurses and still have a favorite love interest. It’s currently streaming on Amazon Prime if you’re interested.
While I haven’t played any of them for a long time, my new obsession is searching for ambience room videos on YouTube. There are the standard seasonal and Harry Potter-themed ones, but my deep dive uncovered very specific interiors and historical themes that I love. There’s just so much creativity in them. Some of my favorites so far include “Relaxing Train Journey with Rain Sounds,” “Carriage Ride Through the Woods,” and “Getting Ready for a Party in 1921.”
The kickoff to nipping my bad mood in the bud was deciding to watch the 2008 Gavin & Stacey Christmas special sooner rather than later. I finished this series last year, just in time for James Corden announcing a new Christmas special almost a decade after the show wrapped. That was a lovely treat, but the original Christmas episode is already a classic in my late-to-the-party American mind. For some reason, I thought the series was no longer streaming on Amazon and that I would have to buy the special, but it’s all still there! Two little joys for the thought of one! Seeing as I watch this clip at least once every few weeks, I do not regret this decision.