The end

When Bianca Berning suggested creating this series, I found it hard to join. What could be the little thing that made me get through this horrible year? A year that has put us so much outside our comfort zone that we forgot there was such comfort once; a year that has shown us vulnerable; a year that has polarised our feelings so deeply that we made mistakes, we were angry, we fucked up.

Nevertheless, I added my name to the list. I wanted so badly to find the one thing that made me get through, but I couldn’t find it. Because there wasn’t one. Just one. Instead, I have memories of the days we made pizza at home (some Pinterest some Pinstrosity!), or when my new flatmate Juana made piña coladas, the hours I spent sorting out the jigsaw pieces (yes, sorting by size, form and colour! So soothing), or the excitement when the post arrived after two or three weeks (in the UK this is unheard of). There was the happiness of the day I found flour in one shop during the flour shortage and the healing bike journeys in and out of a deserted London. I remember the moments staring at the neighbours’ cats and then, when we were able to access their back garden, the time spent watching the wrens, the robin and the blackbirds, or suffering together with the blackbird when her nest was gruesomely attacked by a magpie. There was the time when I tried to save the sick laurel by washing meticulously each leaf and the excitement when the dried ferns came back to life after some watering.

2020 mix and match
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Home is where the heart is

I left my home country of Iran and my parents who live there in 2014, and since then I have made it a priority to visit every year for a few weeks. This was perfectly manageable, whether during a one year MA degree course, financial strains, or times of political uncertainty, I made the trip back. The last time I visited was September 2019; I told my parents I would be getting married, and when they hugged me goodbye in the airport, somehow separating seemed less painful this time. I would be returning soon for a non-negotiable wedding party. I trust I don’t need to explain what happened next. This is the longest I’ve been away from my parents and the home I grew up in—my mom’s cooking and the smell of her hugs. My dad’s dad jokes and his reassuring smile. Continue reading

What mattered to me

After deciding to become a graphic designer at some point during the first 23 years of my life in Siberia, I remember spending my days alone, in front of a computer: taking online classes, watching design conferences, and making self-initiated projects. I preferred to avoid client work that didn’t show promise in favor of my own, made-up assignments that would look good in my book. Instead of collaborating with people around me, I focused on getting better at my craft with as few distractions as possible. It seems that eventually I got what I wanted: I made a portfolio good enough to move to New York. 
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Better Vegetables

Iceland hasn’t been hit by the pandemic quite like most other countries have. Few permanent residents, very few tourists, vast space and clean, crisp air meant that the virus had little chance to spread up here in the North of Iceland. Travel cancellations are the one noticeable sacrifice which meant we had to stay in our little safe, but chilly and remote place.

However, there is something that I generally really really miss in our remote part of the world – pandemic or not: a variety in fresh produce. Continue reading

The Author is In

child's hands coloring

Cover page of “The Fairies and Ballerinas”

It’s been nearly 10 months since my kids went to school, slept over a friend’s house (let alone went into a friend’s house), stayed with a babysitter or grandparents, and lived in pre-covid normalcy. That also means it’s been 10 months of no childcare and a glaring lack of productivity in my own work. Since March, my writing practice and research agenda has taken an abrupt backseat to managing the daily flaming hellscape of remote learning for my two elementary school kids while also teaching full-time. This is fine.

Back in the early days of lockdown, my daughter began watching Lunch Doodles with Mo Willems, two weeks of daily drawing and writing activities that inspired her, a kindergartener whose first year of “real” school was cut short, to begin making books. If Mo Willems, an award-winning illustrator and author, can do it, why can’t she?

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After the Fall

You glow in the dark while gleaming in the light, spilling countless crystals like tiny diamonds glittering on a fluffy carpet.

You transform hills from rich black earth and vibrant green grass to shiny, slippery slopes. You sing a siren’s song to eager children envisioning endless days of downhill delights, pleading for their sleds to be taken out of storage.

Tranquil ponds and lazy lakes are no match for your awesome power. They render solid at your touch, inviting skaters to etch designs into their now-glassy surfaces. You do battle with the mighty falls and its fierce flowing river, seeking to still fast-running waters with your magnificent icy fists.
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Making Marmalade

I grew up with a mother who loved orange marmalade. In her travels as a young, adventurous and untethered Japanese woman in the 1970s, a short stint traveling through Europe cemented her curiosity and love for croissants, marmalades and pastries. She sought the jams that were slightly less sweet and a touch more tart, a criteria that seemed elusive in the American grocery store shelves of my youth.

While my mother cooked many things, we always got store-bought marmalade and bread. For example, baking a loaf of bread was not something I grew up with — we were more of a rice household. I didn’t even try much baking at all until my late 20’s. And now, here in 2020 in the midst of this extended shared quarantine, all the no-knead bread recipes circulating inspired a new round of experiments. Eight months in, I’m baking a loaf or two a week. Fresh bread is ::heart emoji::. Continue reading

Two starfish

It was December, many years ago, when my partner and I were out holiday shopping. We stopped at a bookstore to buy a present and were greeted by a retired racing greyhound. An odd combination to be sure — books and greyhounds. But the dog was there as an ambassador, accompanied by his guardian, to introduce the public to the special and gentle nature of the retired racing greyhound. And this one was a pro. We were smitten with greyhounds from then on.

Flash forward to the start of the pandemic, some 20 years later, and we were still keeping up with greyhounds and following rescue groups on social media even though we’d never had one as a pet. With tracks closing due to covid, the need to find permanent homes for racing greyhounds was more urgent than ever. We applied to become a foster family through GPA-MN, a rescue group that finds homes for greyhounds in need, particularly retired racers. The foster family is a greyhound’s first brush with their new life, helping them transition from working dog to companion animal while they wait to be matched with their forever family and home. Continue reading

The Mischievous Santa

You know you have been spending way too much time at home when you start naming the squirrels. Yes, you read correctly, naming squirrels; So far, I have White Ears, Delta, Fatso, and Stubs. But, that’s not why I’m here, and nor are you. 

The one time I did leave my home, it was the middle of June, and I was opening a dusty drawer in an antique store; here is what I found: A box with mold flecks and gold flecks. 

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