Sunday, December 20, 2020

Sam's Weekly Quarantine Digest #37: December 20, 2020

 Hi friends,

I hope you're all getting into the holiday spirit!  Last week, I lit the candles with my parents, my brother, and my husband (some in person, some through a screen), and our neighbors surprised us with homemade latkes - it was a much-needed Festival of Lights in this dark year.  Today, I finally reunited with my husband in NYC after a few weeks with my family, and our beautiful Christmas tree (with a Star of David on top, of course) welcomed me home with its beautiful golden glow, and I was grinning from ear to ear as I once again remembered how some of you helped me surprise Luke by setting it up last year.  Combine all of that with the myriad social media posts and TV news clips showing friends and strangers alike getting the new vaccines, and it's hard not to feel a bit more optimistic (although I really do wish they'd stop showing the actual needles!).

Today, I'm combining my somewhat-delayed Thanksgiving reflections with the upcoming holiday, because what I want to talk about for both of them is what I'm grateful for this year.  I spoke with a therapist this week for the first time in a while, and she asked me what I'd been doing to take care of myself during the quarantine.  My honest answer was that I've been sending out this Digest.  And that's really true - the messages I've received back from many of you have been the bright spot of every week this year, and they've given me the energy to keep it up.  They've reminded me of all the wonderful memories we share, and all the things I have to look forward to when this is all over.

So, thank you.  Thank you for giving me an outlet and a purpose this year, and a place to focus my nervous energy.  Thank you for allowing me to be vulnerable and completely honest.  Thank you for giving me a way to truly be myself, and for giving me a chance to talk to you for a few hours each week, even if it is through a keyboard and a bcc list.  Thank you for the years of memories you've built with me before the quarantine, and for the years of memories yet to come.  Thank you for giving me so many reasons to smile every single time I look at your names while sending out this email.  Thank you for sharing fun articles with me and for trusting me enough to click a link or test a recipe every now and then.  Thank you for all of the support, for the texts and the calls and the emails and the cards.  Thank you for making me excited for 2021 and confident that things will continue to get better.

Happy holidays, everyone!


Holiday Spirit
  • Is there anything better than dancing around your apartment singing holiday songs at the top of your lungs?  Is that just me?  Either way, here is a playlist of my favorites.
  • Looking for a new way to celebrate?  Check out the Slay Ride: A holiday drag brunch featuring Manila Luzon, Monet X Change, and Ritzy Bitz.  The event was livestreamed earlier today, but it's still available on YouTube, so you can enjoy this brunch any day of the week.
  • The holiday season would not be complete for me without The Nutcracker.  Although I'll miss Lincoln Center this year, there are plenty of ways to enjoy it from home.
    • The New York City Ballet (my favorite - I've been a subscriber for over a decade) performs George Balanchine's classic choreography that made The Nutcracker so popular in modern times, and this year you can stream a performance on Marquee TV for $25.  It's a little steep, but it comes with a 30-day trial of Marquee TV with access to their selection of dance, theatre, opera, and music performances in case you're all caught up on (or getting sick of) Hulu and Netflix.
    • The "Virtual Vignettes" from New York Theatre Ballet were performed at Brookfield Place in Lower Manhattan.  This is a series, with the final performance being released on Wednesday.
    • American Ballet Theatre is offering a performance of Alexei Ratmansky's version of the Grand Pas de Deux for Clara and the Prince here
    • Read stories from NYCB dancers reminiscing about their first time performing The Nutcracker.
  • Make a holiday wish and a charitable donation all at once.  At Brookfield Place in Lower Manhattan, the Winter Garden is currently home to a canopy of colorful lanterns above the palm trees.  There are scheduled light shows every hour on the hour, plus two touchless wishing stations that let you activate the lights with a holiday wish.  For each wish, Brookfield Place will donate $1 (up to $25,000) to ROAR (Relief Opportunities for All Restaurants).
  • Light, Hope, & Joy: The German embassy and Washington Performing Arts have teamed up to offer a virtual holiday concert featuring the internationally renowned Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, the United States Air Force Band, and the String Queens.
  • Looking to make some holiday magic with your little ones this year?  Plant some jelly bean "seeds" in a bowl of sugar, sprinkle with a little peppermint fairy dust (crushed candy canes), and then stick some full candy canes in the sugar bowl after the kids head to bed.  Final step: Get your camera ready to capture the look on their faces when they find that candy canes sprouted up overnight!  Bonus points for starting off with mini candy canes the first day and then making them "grow" each day!
  • Don't forget to look up at the sky tomorrow night to see the rare "Christmas Star," when Jupiter and Saturn appear to be closer together than they have in 400 years.  This one is very real, but still downright magical!
Holiday Treats
  • Appledoodles: This new addition to the Cookie Party this year is one of my personal favorites of all time (and I think many of you already agree)!  In a large bowl, cream together 3/4 cup unsalted butter, 3/4 cup brown sugar, and 1/4 cup granulated sugar.  Mix in 1 tsp vanilla and 1 egg until smooth.  In a medium bowl, whisk together 2 cups flour, 1 3.5-oz. box of instant vanilla pudding (dry), 1 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp salt, and a generous pinch of nutmeg.  Add the dry mixture to the wet ingredients and mix until well-combined.  Peel 1-2 apples and dice them very small until you have 1 cup in total.  Dry them by wrapping the diced apple in paper towels and squeezing gently until the paper towels stop soaking straight through right away (maybe 6-10 times).  Stir the apples into the dough along with 1 cup white chocolate chips.  Refrigerate for 1 hour (if skipping, make sure you've really dried out the apples!).  Form the dough into balls, then roll in a cinnamon-sugar mixture (I use 1/3 cup granulated sugar and 1 tsp ground cinnamon).  Bake on parchment-lined sheets at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes (do not overbake!).  You won't have leftovers, but if you do, they're great stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3-4 days.
  • Eggnog-Bourbon Buttercream: Transform pretty much any baked good into a festive holiday masterpiece with this boozy topper.  Try it with anything from sugar cookies to cinnamon rolls to fruitcake (yes, really).  Stir together 3 tbsp refrigerated eggnog and 1 tsp bourbon in a small bowl; set aside.  Beat 1/2 cup (4 oz.) salted butter (softened) in a medium bowl on medium speed until light and fluffy.  Gradually beat in 3 cups (12 oz.) powdered sugar, alternating with the eggnog mixture, until light and fluffy.  Add another 1-3 tsp eggnog if needed to reach your desired consistency.

Other Fun Facts
  • Is your day making too much sense?  Let me help you out with this tidbit, courtesy of my husband: Mincemeat is fruit, sweetbreads are meat, and sweetmeats are candy.  Chew on that one for a bit!
  • I think the headline of this article from the New York Times says it all!  Feeling Socially Awkward?  Even Extroverts Are a Little Rusty.  Don't worry, you're not alone.
  • The American Ballet Theatre has teamed up with the Collective Conservatory, an immersive online music-making initiative, to create a collaboration called Visceral Harmonies.  This past summer, students from across the country gathered in an online collaboration to create music.  For one week, these young artists captured recordings from their daily lives and improvised together to generate content for a collective composition.  It was then choreographed by Amy Hall Garner, and ABT Studio Company dancers filmed their performances from locations in the US, South Korea, and the Philippines.

No comments:

Post a Comment