The year ended the same way most of the year transpired, with a fairly quiet month. It’s hard to believe we’re now past the 9 month mark of self-isolation. As with many people, I’m glad to see 2020 end. I don’t usually put much stock in the changing of a year, but this year, it feels significant even if just symbolically so.
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m very thankful that Holly and I have been able to work from home during the pandemic. And thankful that she and I get along so well that being home together so much has never been an issue. If fact, we have both loved the extra time together.
In my Reaching 6 months of Self-Isolation post, I speculated that our lives wouldn’t begin to feel anything like normal again until 2022. That still seems about right.
Although the vaccine has started being distributed, it seems like it won’t be widely available for those of us in non-essential and non-risk categories until late spring or early summer. Even that feels optimistic given the problems that have already materialized.
I’m guessing we won’t be physically back to work until late in the summer. Holly and I are the cautious type so I’m assuming we’ll be slow to incorporate normal activities. So, if all goes well, 2022 seems a reasonable guess as to when we’ll be fully comfortable going out and doing things. It will be a transition as we slowly re-introduce visiting people, going to the farmers’ market, eating out, visiting museums, and going to the movies (if that’s even still a thing).
We’ve done well during our 9 months of self-isolating. Winter will be difficult since we won’t be able to get outside as often, but at least we’re past the solstice and are gaining daylight. Winter will be easier to endure knowing there will be a vaccine waiting for us on the other side. Although it will be disappointing not being able to go out as often during the winter, I am quite glad we won’t be coerced into going out in the bad weather in order to get to work.
December was a quiet month because of self-isolating but that doesn’t mean it was entirely uneventful.
Holly’s birthday occurs during the first half of the month so we took a long weekend to celebrate. We have developed a tradition of going out to dinner one night and out to brunch sometime over the weekend, and then we would each cook the other a dinner and a brunch.
Since we’re not partaking in any of the outdoor dining options, we ordered delivery instead. On the Friday night, we ordered from Vedge which specializes in dishes built around seasonal vegetables.
On Saturday, we ordered brunch from The Gold Standard, which had been one of our great discoveries during the pandemic. It’s a fairly new place, and we hadn’t been there or ordered from them until a few months ago and have really enjoyed everything we’ve had. We’re looking forward to actually going there someday.
Friday morning, I made a porridge with quinoa, amaranth, raisins, and banana chips, and I made a vegetable lasagna on Saturday night.
The second half of December featured our winter break. One of the things I like about working in an academic library is that we shut down between Christmas and the New Year so we get over a week off. Since we haven’t been using much of our vacation time, we decided to extend the break by a few days and had 16 days off which was a welcome relief after such a busy and stressful year.
Our winter break usually serves as a kind of second Staycation. Of course, this year that didn’t mean the usual going out to eat and seeing movies (or, really, doing much of anything). We cooked a lot and ordered out but otherwise mostly just hung out at home, which, actually, was rather pleasant and relaxing.
Obviously, Christmas and the New Year were part of that.
We usually have some kind of seafood dish for Christmas Eve to approximate the Italian-American tradition of the 7 fishes. There are only 2 of us, so 7 fishes would be a bit much. This year, we returned to a Cioppino recipe we’ve made before with shrimp, clams, crab, cod, and salmon.
For Christmas day, we had a wonderful sweet potato millet porridge for brunch and a delicious ravioli with red gravy similar to the one we made last year.
Having quiet holidays with just the 2 of us has been nice. Ever since my mom died at the end of 2017, we haven’t established any new traditions so there really wasn’t any big event we felt like we missed.
Last year, we had done a few things with my brother. The weekend before Christmas, we saw a holiday show at the Kimmel Center with the Philadelphia Orchestra and then went out to dinner.
We had him over to our place for Christmas dinner (the aforementioned ravioli and red gravy), and he stayed overnight at a nearby Air BnB so we had breakfast together the next morning. I imagine future Christmases looking more like that.
We took a walk to The Miracle of South 13th Street which has become a bit of a tradition the last few years. However, the decorations this year were scaled back so it didn’t have quite the same festive vibes as usual.
New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day were likewise pretty quiet. Just more cooking, eating, and savoring the last days of our winter break.
We continued enjoying the last few episodes of the TV shows we started watching during the fall: The Queen’s Gambit, The Mandalorian, and His Dark Materials. I’m on the fence about how much I liked The Mandalorian, but I really enjoyed The Queen’s Gambit. Once I got over some grievances about changes from the books, I did end up loving His Dark Materials and can’t wait for the next season, although I’m a little suspicious about how well they can cover The Amber Spyglass, which is longer than either of the first 2 books, in 1 season.
We also continued watching the weekly Philadelphia Orchestra performances.
The December program featured:
- December 3: Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 4
- December 10: Missy Mazzoli’s Ecstatic Science and Ludwig van Beethoven’s Coriolan Overture and his Piano Concerto No. 3
- December 17: Englebert Humperdinck’s “Crackle Waltz” from Hansel and Gretel; Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Selections from The Nutcracker; and a selection of Christmas favorites.
Although we had fewer daylight hours and the weather wasn’t that great, we were able to get out for a few walks. Since most of those were on film, I don’t have those photos ready to go yet, although one of my posts from the month was from a December walk: Yashica Mat-124G with Ilford XPS Super.
My other photo posts from December were pictures from November:
I might have had more December photos on the way except one of my cameras started having issue while I was out shooting. The shutter on my Olympus Pen-EE started sticking which, needless to say, was disappointing. It now joins my Flexaret Automat and my Pentacon six TL in my camera graveyard. Most optimistically, a waiting room as I hold out hope for getting these working again, but I’m not sure how that’s going to happen.
One day, we took a short walk around out neighborhood. I wasn’t necessarily intending to take any photos, but I had my Olympus TG-5 with me, so I did take a few. Since I didn’t take that many pictures, I hadn’t posted them here before.
One big bit of news is that Holly gave me a light box for Christmas! I have tried it out and plan to post separately about that in the near future.
I don’t have any specific photography goals for 2021. I just want to be able to go places and take pictures outside our apartment and immediate neighborhood!
Drawing and Graphic Design
I finally finished watching The Lettering Seminar, although I didn’t do any of the exercises after getting stymied trying to use Adobe Illustrator’s pen tool. I’ve been meaning to spend more time practicing but haven’t gotten around to it. Once I get more comfortable with it, I hope to return to my Keep Cool But Care project.
I also finished a tracing and drawing project involving a wine label.
I have been drawing sporadically over the past few year but would like to get to it more consistently in 2021.
My biggest success of December and of 2020 has been my work on this blog. I set out wanting to post more often here and have done so. Although I didn’t commit to any set schedule, I did post here consistently. I posted 6 times in December and 61 times during the course of the year. Last year, I had only 20 posts.
Despite not making any attempts to promote this blog, my visits increased throughout the year, due, I’m assuming, just to the fact that there was a steady flow of new content. I broke 500 site visits for the first time in December. I had 3,787 visits in 2020 compared with 1,063 visits in 2019.
My other writing didn’t fare as well.
I had hoped to work more on my short stories than I ended up doing. I did finish 5 stories, 4 of which, however, I actually began in 2019. I was inconsistent about submitting them and did not have any of my stories get published. I also revised one older story and had some false starts on other ideas.
My 2020 writing goals were:
- More posts to This Creative Midlife
- A refreshed and thoughtful approach to my short stories
I think for 2021, I’m going to basically stick to variations on these.
I have really enjoyed working on this blog and want to keep up my good pace with posting. I would like greater variety in my posts as the majority of them on 2020 had to do with photography. For whatever reason, I tend to only write about my other interests in these monthly updates.
I found it interesting to read a new Paul Theroux story since I had read (and loved) The Mosquito Coast a few months ago.
Despite not being much of a magic realism fan, I did enjoy Our Lady of the Quarry.
I wanted to read more short stories last year and note the ones I liked. I ended up with a list of 57 (see below). I’m not inclined to say I necessarily want to read more short stories, but I would like to make an effort to read more diversely as most of these (35) were from current issues of The New Yorker.
Short Stories Read in 2020
So far in 2020, I’ve read 57 stories that I have enjoyed.
- The Swimmer, John Cheever (The New Yorker)
- Birdie, Lauren Groff (The Atlantic)
- The Aurelian, Vladimir Nabokov (The Atlantic)
- Things We Worried about When I was Ten, David Rabe (The New Yorker)
- Three Women of Chuck’s Donuts, Anthony Veasna So (The New Yorker)
- With the Beatles, Haruki Murakami (The New Yorker)
- A Simple Case, E.C. Osondu (The Atlantic)
- Kid Positive, Adam Levin (The New Yorker)
- Go Team, Samantha Hunt (The Atlantic)
- Night Swim, Anne Enright (The New Yorker)
- Out There, Kate Folk (The New Yorker)
- Edge of the World, Souvankham Thammavongsa (The Atlantic)
- The Other One, Tess Hadley (The New Yorker)
- Bedtime Story, Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum (The New Yorker)
- Likes, Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum (The New Yorker)
- The Burglar, Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum (The New Yorker)
- Demolition, Fiona McFarlane (The New Yorker)
- Pursuit as Happiness, Ernest Hemingway (New Yorker)
- Confessions of a Shinagawa Monkey, Haruki Murakami (New Yorker)
- White Noise, Emma Cline (New Yorker)
- A Shinagawa Monkey, Haruki Murakami (New Yorker)
- Grief, Scholastique Mukasonga (New Yorker)
- Eating Fish Alone, Lydia Davis (Can’t and Won’t)
- The Dreadful Mucamas, Lydia Davis (Can’t and Won’t)
- Reversible Story, Lydia Davis (Can’t and Won’t)
- Jack and Della, Marilynne Robinson (New Yorker)
- Heirlooms, Bryan Washington (New Yorker)
- The Lottery, Shirley Jackson (New Yorker)
- Hunting Knife, Haruki Murakami (New Yorker)
- U.F.O. in Kushiro, Haruki Murakami (New Yorker)
- The Cows, Lydia Davis (Can’t and Won’t)
- The Seals, Lydia Davis (Can’t and Won’t)
- You Are My Dear Friend, Madhuri Vijay (The New Yorker)
- Cicadia, David Gilbert (The New Yorker)
- The Sand Banks, 1861, David Wright Faladé (The New Yorker)
- Deep Cut, Andrew Martin (The Atlantic)
- Young Goodman Brown, Nathaniel Hawthorne (The Story and Its Writer)
- The Tell-Tale Heart, Edgar Allen Poe (The Story and Its Writer)
- The Cask of Amontilldo, Edgar Allen Poe (The Story and Its Writer)
- Bartleby the Scrivener, Herman Melville (The Story and Its Writer)
- Flashlight, Susan Choi (The New Yorker)
- Switzerland, Nicole Krauss (The New Yorker)
- Face Time, Lorrie Moore (The New Yorker)
- Rainbows, Joseph O’Neill (The New Yorker)
- Life without Children, Roddy Doyle (The New Yorker)
- A for Alone, Curtis Sittenfeld (The New Yorker)
- The Death of Ivan Ilych, Leo Tolstoy (The Story and Its Writer)
- An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, Ambrose Bierce (The Story and Its Writer)
- A White Heron, Sarah Orne Jewett (The Story and Its Writer)
- The Necklace, Guy de Maupassant (The Story and Its Writer)
- Désirée’s Baby, Kate Chopin (The Story and Its Writer)
- The Story of an Hour, Kate Chopin (The Story and Its Writer)
- Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad (The Story and Its Writer)
- The Darling, Anton Chekov (The Story and Its Writer)
- The Old Man in the Piazza, Salman Rushdie (The New Yorker)
- Dietrologia, Paul Theroux (The New Yorker)
- Our Lady of the Quarry, Mariana Enriquez (The New Yorker)
I absolutely loved Something Happened. Dare I say that it has made Catch-22 my second favorite Heller book? I was amazed by how Heller was able to create a fairly horrible main character yet make him sympathetic at the same time. In satirizing the business world of mid-century United States, he makes Bob Slocum seem a victim of a toxic society acting out against his own best interests. At times, it was a bit hard to stomach but well worth it in the long run.
Prior to this, the only other Heller I had read was Closing Time which I was not particularly enamored with. Now, I’m curious to read more Heller.
A Concise History of Modern Painting was good but a little dry and academic for something that was supposedly geared to non-experts. It was originally written in 1959 and updated in 1968 and 1974. It also has a last chapter added in 1986 written by 2 other people. Despite these updates, the book shows its age since it lacks a historical perspective on many of the works and movements and also has very little discussion about female artists or artists of color.
Many of the included illustrations were not of the paintings discussed in the book, although they were often by the same artists. I’m guessing this was probably due to copyright issues, but it would have been helpful to have more images from the paintings being discussed.
It was quite a good reading year. I didn’t read as many books as last year, but last year’s list was padded with some short books and graphic novels. I feel like I’ve read more during the pandemic which isn’t surprising.
Books Read in 2020
I read 40 books in 2020:
- Fear of Flying, Erica Jong (Kindle book)
- Late Bloomers: The Power of Patience in a World Obsessed with Early Achievement, Rich Karlgaard
- L’Appart: The Delights and Disasters of Making My Paris Home, David Lebovitz (Kindle book)
- The Complete Untitled Film Stills, Cindy Sherman (library book)
- The Fifth Season, N.K. Jemisin
- Fates and Furies, Lauren Groff (Kindle book)
- Drinking French: The Iconic Cocktails, Apéritifs, and Café Traditions of France, with 160 Recipes, David Lebovitz
- The Mars Room, Rachel Kushner (Kindle book)
- Trust Exercise, Susan Choi (Kindle book)
- The Happiness Curve: Why Life Gets Better after 50, Jonathan Rauch
- Gravity’s Rainbow, Thomas Pynchon
- A Gravity’s Rainbow Companion: Sources and Contexts for Pynchon’s Novel, Steven Weisenburger
- Weather, Jenny Offill (Kindle book)
- The Altering Eye: Photographs from the National Gallery of Art, Sarah Greenough, ed
- Until the End of Time: Mind, Matter, and Our Search for Meaning in an Evolving Universe, Brian Greene
- The Cactus League, Emily Nemens (Kindle book)
- The Glass Hotel, Emily St. John Mandel
- White Teeth, Zadie Smith
- Vineland, Thomas Pynchon
- The Mosquito Coast, Paul Theroux (Kindle book)
- A Burning, Megha Majumdar (Kindle book)
- The Old Guard, Greg Rucka, Leandro Fernández (Kindle graphic novel)
- Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Renni Browne, Dave King
- Can’t and Won’t, Lydia Davis
- The Nickel Boys, Colson Whitehead (Kindle book)
- Sally Mann, A Thousand Crossings, Sarah Greenough and Sarah Kennel, eds.
- Mason and Dixon, Thomas Pynchon
- Titus Andronicus, William Shakespeare
- Remain in Love, Chris Franz (Kindle book)
- Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare
- Love’s Labor’s Lost, William Shakespeare
- The Old Guard Vol. 2: Force Multiplied, Greg Rucka and Leandro Fernández (Kindle graphic novel)
- Mumbo Jumbo, Ishmael Reed (Kindle book)
- The Lathe of Heaven, Ursula K. LeGuin
- The Silence, Don DeLillo (Kindle book)
- What Are You Going Through, Sigrid Nunez (Kindle Book)
- Piranesi, Susanna Clarke (Kindle Book)
- The Martian Chronicles, Ray Bradbury (Kindle Book)
- Something Happened, Joseph Heller
- A Concise History of Modern Painting, Herbert Read
This Creative Midlife Posts in 2020
- 2019 Camera Inventory
- December 2019 Update
- 2019 Update and 2020 Goals
- Tracing Exercise in Procreate
- Midlife: A Philosophical Guide Review
- Some Lingering 2019 Photos
- January 2020 Update
- Half-Frame Fun
- Old Age as Defined in The Atlantic
- Black and White Photos with the Canon AE-1
- February 2020 Update
- Late Bloomers Review
- Self-Isolation Week One
- New and Old Lenses for the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV
- Self-Isolation Week Two
- March 2020 Update
- Self-Isolation Week Three
- Spring Photos with the Olympus TG-5
- Self-Isolation Week Four
- Macro Watches
- Self-Isolation Week Five
- More Self-Isolation Macro Photos
- Self-Isolation Week Six
- April 2020 Update
- Looking Out Our Window
- Self-Isolation Week Eight
- Spring Photos with the Canon EOS Rebel 2000
- Last Normal Photos with the Olympus OM-1
- May 2020 Update
- Spring Flexaret Photos
- Two First Rolls
- June 2020 Update
- Some Favorite Photos from 2020 So Far
- Canon Rebel 2000 with Ferrania P30
- Finished the Procreate Project I Didn’t Think I Would Finish
- Minolta Hi-Matic 11 with Ilford XPS Super
- Minolta X-700 with Kodak Portra 400
- July 2020 Update
- Two Slightly Disappointing Rolls
- Trying My Hand at the Mason and Dixon Ampersand
- Minolta XE with Lomochrome Metropolis
- Second Half-Frame Roll
- August 2020 Update
- How I Fixed My Medium Format Dilemma
- Macro Photos of Cameras
- Reaching 6 Months of Self-Isolation
- Canon AE-1 with Kodak Ektar 100
- Minolta X-700 with Fomapan Action 400
- September 2020 Update
- October Walk with My Canon EOS 5D Mark IV
- Keep Cool But Care
- Canon Rebel 2000 with Ilford Delta 100
- Olympus OM-1 with Kodak Ektar 100
- Staycation Walk
- October 2020 Update
- Second Roll with my Yashica Mat-124G
- Second Roll with My Minolta Autopak 450Ex
- November 2020 Update
- Minolta Hi-Matic 11 with Lomography Color Negative
- Kodak Ektar Shot at the Wrong Speed
- Yashica Mat-124G with Ilford XPS Super
- Pipeño in Procreate and with Water-Based Markers
- Top Nine Instagram Photos of 2020