AK Monthly Recap: November 2020

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It’s official — I’m a cat mom! This month, Charlie and I discovered a pair of rescue kittens that needed a home, and we decided to adopt them! They are two gray tabbies with white bellies and white paws, and their names are Lewis and Murray.

Their foster family originally named them Harley and Davidson because they purred so loudly. I named Lewis for John Lewis, the civil rights hero and legendary congressman who passed away this year — who was also a cat lover. Murray was a name we both liked — Charlie thought I came up with it, but I thought Charlie did, and the name suits him perfectly.

They are the cutest, softest, cuddliest, sweetest kitties in the world. And they’re tiny — very undersized for their age (4 months or so) with short, stubby legs. It’s possible that they could stay small long-term. I’m massively in love with them!!!

This is new territory for me. I’ve never owned a cat before, but Charlie has owned cats for most of his life, and is showing me the ropes.

We’ve had cat ownership on our radar for awhile, and we decided to adopt now because we’re pretty much stuck here all winter. Kittens need a lot of attention so we figured this would be a good time.

Lewis and Murray, gray tabby cats, lying next to each other on a green bedspread.
Lewis and Murray chilling on the bed.
Murray and Lewis on a wooden floor and looking upward in excitement.
Murray and Lewis watching the feather-topped stick.
Lewis, standing on top of a teal couch with his tiny stubby legs!
Lewis conquering the couch on his day of arrival.
Lewis lying down in a white chair with a gray and white blanket on top of him.
Lewis snuggling up next to our office nook.
Murray sitting on top of a beige cat tree with a wide-eyed expression.
Murray checking out his new home.
Murray sitting on a hard drive next to Charlie's computer.
Murray supervising us as we work.
Murray and Lewis sitting together on the teal couch.
Murray and Lewis chilling on the couch.

Destinations Visited

Prague and Nová Ves, Czech Republic

The white coffee table covered with a desktop computer and keyboard, cup of tea, kindle, candle, and packs of pepto-bismol tablets. You can see Kate's legs on the couch clad in leggings, merino wool socks, and suede slippers.
This was my election week setup. Note the Pepto-Bismol tablets.

Highlights

Biden won the election! Oh my God. It has been four years of absolute anguish and FINALLY, the end of Trump’s presidency is in sight. It’s not so encouraging that more than 70 million people voted to keep Trump in office, after how he mishandled COVID especially, but I’m thrilled to death that Biden not only won the election and flipped Arizona and Georgia but broke 80 million votes.

And in the days since, it’s been remarkable seeing how different it’s been. The nominations of well-qualified, diverse professionals — experienced public servants rather than top donors. A kind Thanksgiving video greeting from the President-elect and his wife. A news story about how the Bidens are getting a cat in addition to their dogs. It’s almost quaint.

THAT specific kind of “returning to normal” is nice. But in terms of policy, what was “normal” for most privileged Americans was and is a nightmare for the lesser privileged. Undoing the cruelty our nation inflicts on poor people, Black people, immigrants, and so many other lesser-privileged people needs to be the top priority.

We’ve got a hell of a lot of work to do. But it does feel less like we’re careening straight into hell.

THANK YOU to everyone who donated, volunteered, and recruited first time voters. You really made a difference. Now let’s get to work on the Georgia runoff. Donate to both Warnock and Ossoff and Stacey Abrams’ Fair Fight Action via Vote Save America here.

The kittens. They are the light of my life!!! There is SO much to share about them but I don’t want to go full crazy cat lady on you.

WELL, A FEW THINGS. We call them Murray Bear and Chewy Lewis. Lewis likes watching Bond movies and drinking out of my water glasses. Murray likes antagonizing his brother and playing with socks. They both enjoy chasing a feather-topped stick, attacking chair legs, and eating turkey and steak. Lewis chirps and Murray squeaks.

Cooking Thanksgiving dinner for the first time ever. We did the responsible thing and had Thanksgiving limited to people in our household only. Which, frankly, is the only reason I felt comfortable cooking!

I made Samin Nosrat’s buttermilk-brined turkey breast (GREAT, so flavorful!), Smitten Kitchen’s potato and leek gratin (very tasty but I honestly thought the leeks were unnecessary, and I might add a sharper cheese for more flavor next time), mashed sweet potatoes with smoked paprika, Nik Sharma’s blistered green beans with shallots and pistachios (decent but not extraordinary — a necessary light dish), and pumpkin pie from Bakeshop in Prague (FANTASTIC and we also enjoyed their delicious pumpkin soup for lunch).

I also started with Samin Nosrat’s Butternut Squash and Green Curry Soup (delicious recipe but calls for WAY too much curry paste so dial it down; I made half the recipe with 1.5 tablespoons and that still felt like a ton). American wines are a bit tough to find here, but I found a Zinfandel from California that was perfect for Thanksgiving.

I wouldn’t do a soup course next time (just too much work to eat while cooking main dishes) but other than that? Thumbs up. And the kitties VERY much enjoyed their first taste of turkey.

Four bags of luggage have arrived! This month I worked with My Baggage to test out their luggage shipping service. They comped me a basic four-bag order; I paid extra for two oversized bags. My mom packed up the bags at her house in Massachusetts and after a journey across the ocean and a week stuck in customs, they finally made their way to me in Prague! I’m so happy to have my winter coat, bed linens, and tons of framed artwork.

I did unexpectedly have to jump through a few hoops to avoid paying customs fees, but it eventually worked out once I gave them proof that I moved to Prague and would be exempt for that reason. Full review on the My Baggage experience coming soon.

Baking. I started baking a bit lately, like the quarantine cliché I am! Cookies mostly. My favorite recipe was Joanne Chang’s homemade Oreos, my favorite Boston treat and something I always seek out when I’m home.

FOUR SEASONS TOTAL LANDSCAPING. Is this the best political scandal since toe-tapping’ Larry in the Minneapolis airport bathroom? I think so!

Murray sitting in a pile of socks and giving the camera an adorable wide-eyed expression.
Poor Murray Bear got sick, but he’s doing much better now!

Challenges

Our first sick kitten. Murray had some discharge in his eyes, and we kept an eye on it, then we noticed that his personality changed — he stopped being cuddly and friendly and just seemed down. We brought him to the vet (who is within walking distance of our apartment) and it turns out he had a cat cold.

Poor Murray got both a thermometer up his butt and an injection into his belly — and he was so scared! But we’ve been giving him eye drops and antibiotics at home and he has rebounded so well. Back to his cuddly self!

Side note, I have no idea how any solo cat owner gives their cat eye drops. For us it’s VERY much a two-person job!! One to hold the cat down and one to put the drops in!

Tons of construction in our building, still. It starts at 7:30 AM each morning; thankfully it doesn’t go too late into the afternoon. I just poked my head in and it looks like they have a long way to go. If it were Normal Times, but I’d working at a cafe, but that’s not an option…sigh…

Kate selfie wearing a bright pink peacoat, black hooded sweatshirt and black and multicolor face mask, trying to stay warm on a cold day.
It’s getting cold! My current outdoor getup.

Top Blog Post of the Month

Why I Won’t Stop Talking About Politics On My Travel Blog — The post I’ve been waiting years to write, the post that resonated with so many of you, and the post that I will from now on be sending people on insist I STICK TO TRAVEL!

Other Blog Posts

Exploring Rovinj, Croatia — Travel Guide to Croatia’s Prettiest City — I love Rovinj and it’s one of my favorite places in Croatia. This is a huge guide to the city.

Best Gifts for Travelers (and Others!) — 2020 Edition — My annual list of top gifts for the year, filled out with a few new items.

A bakery window with dark brown round cakes with red and white frosting dots to look like the coronavirus. A label in front reads VIRUS.
Yes, there is a VIRUS cake for sale in Prague. No, I haven’t tried it.

Book Club This Month

We actually didn’t have a Book Club in November because our next meeting is taking place this Sunday on December 6 at 1:00 PM Eastern Time!

This month, we’re reading The Night Tiger by Malaysian author Yangszee Choo. You can get your ticket here. It’s pay-what-you-wish and I suggest $5; Patreon members get in for free.

A pile of giant, delicious-looking homemade Oreos. They look a bit like Whoopi pies. Nearly black shortbread with buttercream oozing between each cookie.
HOW GOOD do those homemade Oreos look?!?! (They’re pretty much 95% butter.)

This Month on Patreon

This month on the Adventurous Kate Patreon, my patrons found out about the kitties long before anyone else! They also pretty much find out about everything before everyone else, and we discuss interesting travel and news stories in the Facebook group.

This month’s long-form essay on Patreon was about one of the most marvelous people I’ve met on my travels, and what you do when a friendship hits the moment that it could turn into something more.

A two-tone pink crenellated building in front of a lawn in Prague, underneath a blue partly cloudy sky.
I always love seeing the pink house on a pretty day!

A Quick Plug for the Newsletter

Lately I’ve been trying something a bit different with my email newsletter — I collect interesting links throughout the week and share my favorites under the heading “Stuff I Read and Loved.” Sometimes travel, but more often news, culture, entertainment, and just random cool and interesting stuff I find. I aim for weekly but end up missing every now and then; three a month is probably the closest it gets.

Some recent faves: Hanson Is Facing a Mutiny From Its Fans (from Ashley Spencer on Vice) on how my favorite teen band Hanson became COVID conspiracy theorists and lost fans; Santo Domingo: The City That Kept Slavery Silent (from my friend Lebawit Lily Girna on BBC Travel) on how the Dominican Republic hid its history of slavery; AOC’s Attractiveness Drives Us All Mad (from Dr. Tressie McMillan Cottom on Medium) on breaking down the sociology of how Republicans react to AOC; A Journey to the Center of a Spicy Dunkin’ Donut (from comedian and hometown neighbor Josh Gondelman on The Ringer) on the strangeness, beauty, and peculiarity on Dunkin’s latest offer.

If that’s your thing, you might enjoy that aspect of my newsletter. You can sign up here or enter your info in the box below:

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    Kate wears a black and gold polka dot dress and long black peacoat, holding a rainbow striped umbrella, and smiling with one leg perched up behind her, standing in front of a White House entrance.

    Most Popular Photo on Instagram

    I shared this photo on Election Day — back when I got invited to the White House in 2014 for the Travel Bloggers Summit (obviously under the Obama Administration). Still a cool claim to fame, and it was a great day.

    For more from me on Instagram (now with many Stories about the cats), follow me at @adventurouskate.

    A vineyard on a steep hill in Prague looking downward. The vines are yellow at this time of year, and it's a gray cloudy day. Lots of urban sprawl in the distance.
    Did you know there’s a vineyard right in the heart of Prague?

    What I Listened To This Month

    I’ve mentioned the American Girls podcast before, which covers the American Girl books, but now is a great time to listen because they’re finally getting into the Molly books! While Molly wasn’t my favorite American girl, her books, set during World War II, were some of my favorites growing up.

    I love the context that the two historians add to this podcast, which is a great way to revisit the books as an adult. In the first Molly book, Molly and her friends dress up as hula dancers for Halloween, and the hosts talk about how Hawaiian culture was hugely popular in the 1940s (and it wasn’t a Pearl Harbor thing — it was just really popular in pop culture).

    So many Americans were into Hawaiian culture, Hawaiian music, ukuleles, grass skirts, the hula! Which is rich, considering that Indigenous Hawaiians were once banned from doing the hula.

    What I Watched This Month

    An ivory and gray crenellated building, seen from its corner, so it fans outward.
    One of my favorite buildings on Pařížská Street, home to luxury shops.

    What I Read This Month

    The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett (2020) — In the town of Mallard, Louisiana, everyone is light-skinned Black and obsessed with skin color. Desiree and Stella, sixteen-year-old twin sisters, run away to New Orleans — but soon Stella disappears and begins living life as a white woman. As their lives diverge, people from Desiree’s and Stella’s extended families keep overlapping until the secret of the sisters threatens to spill open.

    This is a wonderful novel about identity — not only by the two sisters and how they choose, but two of the other characters are a trans man and an actress, each focusing on different aspects of self-reinvention. Each of us is dealt a certain hand in life, but within that hand there are so many paths we can choose. How important is it to value our family and roots? Is intergenerational trauma a valid enough reason to erase your entire history? Can you go home again after you’ve changed so much? These are the questions I wrestled with while reading the book.

    Hood Feminism: Notes From the Women That a Movement Forgot by Mikki Kendall (2020) — While the feminist movement has branded itself as a struggle for equality, the leaders of the feminist movement have a huge blind spot: it centers privileged white women while overlooking everyone else. So much of feminism has focused on getting more privileged white women into boardrooms, which while good and necessary, ignores issues like food insecurity, access to healthcare, safe schools, and community violence. So much of it has been accessing power for the privileged while ignoring intersectionality.

    When I chose to read this book, I knew on one level about how the feminism movement has failed Black women, women of color, queer women, poor women. This book gave me the detailed, concrete examples of which I now have greater knowledge and can use in spaces that make change. This is a much-needed blueprint for how we go forward.

    The example that blew my mind was that soda taxes, always seen as a positive thing, actually do the most harm to low-income families, because soda is the one beverage that is affordable (and in places like Flint, is the only safe and cheap option).

    The Book of Two Ways by Jodi Picoult (2020) — Dawn Edelstein survives a plane crash, but as the plane is going down, she’s not thinking of her husband but a former love, Wyatt, an Egyptologist with whom she worked in Egypt until she had to abandon her work. Instead of flying home, she gets on a plane to Cairo and tries to find Wyatt again, just to see what can happen. Two versions of Dawn’s life, one if she left and one if she stayed, unfurl throughout the book.

    If you’ve been reading my book reviews for awhile, you know my relationship with Jodi Picoult books. Her books are engrossing and easily devoured and I can’t put them down — but they are also formulaic and unrealistic and they make me roll my eyes. This one was no exception. It definitely has a lot of “THAT NEVER WOULD HAVE HAPPENED!!!” moments, but was an entertaining journey to Egypt and a mini-crash course in Ancient Middle Egypt, something I knew almost nothing about.

    Prague's Old Town Square, with its multi-colored crenellated buildings and church steeples, and crowds around a decorated Christmas tree.
    Prague’s Christmas tree is up!

    Coming Up in December 2020

    After being closed since mid-October, Prague is opening up again! We just learned that thanks to sustaining much lower COVID infection numbers, Prague will be reopening restaurants and nonessential shops on December 3.

    I don’t plan on changing my day-to-day much if at all, but I’m glad places will be open. Especially since this means there will now be access to public bathrooms in coffeeshops and stores again. It’s been a pain going out for a long walk, having to use the bathroom, and having there be literally nowhere to go.

    We are actually doing a staycation in Prague! We’re getting our apartment painted later this month, one of our top redecoration priorities, so we’re spending three nights at an apartment in the cool Vinohrady neighborhood while the work is done. And taking the kitties with us, of course. We need to get them used to traveling.

    Spending a few days in Vinohrady will feel like traveling while staying in the same city. How our lives have changed!

    Other than that, we’ll be lying low in Prague. I can’t wait to publish my “Best of the Year” posts.

    What are your plans for December?

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    12 thoughts on “AK Monthly Recap: November 2020”

    1. Related to kitty eye drops, the show Secrets of the Zoo shows how at the Columbus zoo the keepers have trained one of the panthers to get necessary eye drops through the fence every day! So cool that they can do that safely and easily

        1. Love the kittens! If I read your post right, do you mean that you are planning to take them travelling with you when they are adults? Is it common for hotels to allow cats? I have always wanted to adopt cats, but we used to travel a fair bit before Covid and weren’t sure how to fit them into that, even though we’re only gone about 6 weeks a year.

    2. So many thoughts. First of all congrats on being a cat mom. I’ve been a proud cat mom for years and it’s wonderful (as my cat paces back and forth between my face and the computer screen). I do not know how to describe the relief I feel knowing that competent humans who care about other humans are returning to the White House. So much to fix and so much to do for the first time. I am hopeful but nervous. There are millions of Americans who chose hate and lies.

      As I am sure you know most of America refuses to lockdown and would prefer to let thousands of people die every day. As an emergency physician I am feeling the strain. We have no ICU beds locally. Our hospital does not have enough nursing staff and because of how competitive pay is for the right now we can’t afford any. It’s scary. It’s not just COVID patients, it’s patients needing acute dialysis, patients with strokes and heart attacks. Our ICUs are full of COVID patients and there’s no room for the rest. I wish people understood that hanging out with your friends at a restaurant is NOT OK.

      That being said, every time I think about Four Seasons Total Landscaping I giggle. I laughed until I cried the first time. Such incompetence.

    3. I must be the only one who didn’t like The Vanishing Half. I was SO excited to read it because I had only heard raves, but I really felt like it read like YA. Very little character development, a lot of social issues mentioned but not explored fully (Reese’s life), and just clunky dialogue and one-dimensional characters. There’s nothing wrong with YA, but it’s not my preference, and I was disappointed at how much this book felt like it when it wasn’t marketed as YA.

      1. Totally understand this comment! I do feel like Brit Bennett keeps her characters a bit further away than I would like. Really hard to truly get to know them; it’s like there’s a barrier they’ll never cross. And I did expect more significant journeys from other characters.

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