Little joys for 2024
Drink "witch juice." (Recipe included.) Reduce your scented candle budget to $0. And other low-cost hints for exuberance.
Here are a few humble hints for increasing your exuberance in 2024. Feliz año nuevo.
Enjoy "witch juice"
Have you ever grasped a stinging nettle? A thicket of the wild herb grew near my house as a child, and every six months I would be possessed by the imp of the perverse to grip a hairy stalk with my hand. The result: burning red skin mottled with white lumps. I had to keep grasping the stalks because...why? Partly because it was satisfying to scratch a rash and mostly because it seemed crazy that a leafy plant could visit such violence upon a human being. The dimwitted child simply had to keep verifying…
If you've been violated by a nettle, it may be hard to accept that the plant is a hallowed source of nutrition. But it's true. Consuming nettles is is lindy. It has more calcium than an equal amount of milk, which is useful if you're not a big milk-drinker (is anyone a big milk drinker? If so, DON’T email me), a wallop of magnesium and a not-insignificant dose of iron, potassium, and zinc. But don't take my word for it; listen to the Department of Agriculture!
I am skeptical of vitamins in pill form and always looking for ways to thwart Big Vitamin by absorbing trace nutrients and minerals elsewhere. Drinking nettle infusion (which is the same as tea, but steeped for longer) has been one of the few nutrition habits I've maintained for longer than 6 months. It is inexpensive and low-effort. But before you stroll down Nettle Avenue, there is a trick you must know!
If consumed straight, nettle infusion tastes like the water left after cooking spinach. It is a punishment. Life is hard enough, we don't need elective punishments. Early in my nettle journey I had the idea to steep the nettle with peppermint leaves as a way of concealing the vegetal taste. And: it worked. Peppermint (the Leo of herbs) outshines the demure nettle without compromising her benefits.
I drink a few cups—chilled, over ice—every day, and think of it as my “witch juice.”
Has it "reduced inflammation" and "cleansed the blood"? Oh, who knows. It is pleasurable to drink a minty bog-colored potion and that is enough. The formula:
Put ~8 cups of water in a pot with 1/3 cup nettle leaves and 1/4 cup loose dried peppermint leaves. Bring to a boil and then simmer on low for ~10 mins. Turn off the flame and put a lid on it; let it sit for 4-8 hours. Then pour through a strainer into a pitcher. Chill it. If the above proportions taste too spinachy for you, just up the volume on peppermint and decrease the nettle. I'm not a scientist.
Add honey if you wish. The above makes a potent mix, almost a concentrate, so if you don't pour it over ice you'll want to dilute it a bit.
Incorporate neon ribbon into daily life
Wrap presents, flowers, cakes. Wrap yourself. I like 3/8” size. One option here. This is a minor yet effective intervention.
Defeat your iPhone
The easiest way to defeat an iPhone is to sentence it to the prison of “black & white mode.” Just try it for a day. Here are instructions:
Settings> Accessibility> Display & Text Size> Color Filters> hit the toggle, voila.
Now your phone's display is congruent with its effect on your personality: dull, dulling.
A pet hypothesis of mine is that we spend so much time staring at our phones because they are more colorful—far more vibrant, far more saturated— than anything in the earthly world around us. Compare the luminescent magenta on your phone to summer's finest dahlia and the phone will handily outglow the flower. But what a charmless glow!
Like many animals our eyes are helplessly drawn to vivid hues. You won't notice how handily the phone exploits this weakness until you disallow the exploitation. Within minutes of disabling color on your phone, your eye will readjust to the world and everything will slowly and then quickly become more beautiful.
Conduct an inquiry into pickled fruit
Pickled fruit: is it for you? If you are a fan of the “salty-sour-sweet” flavor trio, then yes. You can pickle any firm fruit and achieve fine results. Underripe strawberries and nectarines are my #1 and #2 fruits to subject to the strong arm of vinegar. In winter, it is apples or nothing. I always intend to accessorize my pickled apples with eg yogurt and hazelnuts (or make a pickled apple tart!) but inevitably end up eating them from the jar out of impatient lust. Here is the formula, which can be multiplied or divided:
1 cup apple cider or rice wine vinegar
3 tsp sugar
1.5 tsp salt
1 apple cut however you like it cut
Dissolve the sugar and salt in the vinegar and pour it over the cut apple. Store the mixture in an airtight container, like a jar or a Tupperware, in the fridge. It is best after waiting a few days. If you add orange zest before eating…you will ascend to heaven.
A way to reduce your “scented candle budget” to $0
This olfactory hack is so ancient it no longer registers as a “hack” to me—and yet I’ve never seen anyone under the age of 60 employ it. To all the under-60s who are reading this post…prepare to have your sensory world enriched.
Take a saucepot and fill it 1/3 full with water, then add whatever of the following aromatic elements suits you: lemon peel, orange peel, ginger peel or flesh, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, cardamom, coriander. Use cheap spices; the fancy kind are wasted in this application.
Then set the flame to low and let the pot simmer for hours, cauldron-style. It will invisibly but palpably transform any environment into a fairytale cottage. This trick is especially useful if your apartment, like mine, sits above a factory and features a hole-studded floor that sends foul-smelling columns of air shooting upwards from 7am-7pm.
You can reuse the same slurry of spices over and over, replenishing the pot as water evaporates. Eventually the slurry will lose potency. At that point, dump it out and start over.
Hopefully by now you are mummy-wrapped in fluorescent ribbons, fortified with calcium, puckered by pickles and swaying through spice-scented air. Happy new year.