Dispatch IV: An Update From Our Creative Director

This week I decided to ask our Creative Director, Gaby, for some help on this dispatch. Instead of a diary entry from me, I asked her a bunch of quarantine-centric questions - from what content she's indulging in to tried and tested recipes and a bunch of recommendations in between... So, without further ado, please enjoy a COVID-19 care package from us to you. 
xo ANNA
 

NEOPHYTE JEWELS: OK before I pry all your COVID advice from your flour-covered hands - How are you? 

GABRIELLE RETTA: Honestly, better than expected. I initially didn’t really reach out to many people at the start of the stay at home order, since I’m not the most present on social media or that comfortable with calling people I’m not super close with (#GenYProblems) but now I literally hop on Houseparty and can video chat with my friends and their friends. It’s definitely helped a lot to have a solid few friends on rotation to call when we need some human interaction, but it’s nice to feel like even in the midst of a pandemic, you can still branch out. All that to say, my hermit ways may not be behind me, but contrary to what I would have expected, this pandemic has weirdly helped curb some of those habits. 

NEOPHYTE JEWELS: We're now entering week 5 of quarantine (!!) - have you established some form of schedule or daily routine that you try to follow daily? 

GABRIELLE RETTA: Jesus. Christ. I hadn’t realized it has been that long, which I guess is a good thing… I definitely do not have a daily routine, which might explain why I’m still all over the place and unable to concentrate for long periods of time. I initially started the COVID-19 season off with a very terrible makeshift schedule of binge-watching CP24 and HGTV (there’s something so soothing about watching a run-down house being flipped into a beautiful, aesthetically-pleasing, functional living space.) A weird combination, I know, but I wanted to stay somewhat informed and HGTV was how I remedied the anxiety that watching CP24 created. But, after developing an overly specific hatred for a specific vintage tile that one couple that shall remain nameless kept using in their renovated kitchen spaces – see the photo below – that they then carried into the shower for continuity, I started to think this habit was more problematic than it was helpful. That said, should I ever need to renovate a space, I’ll definitely know what I’m into and what I’m not. For example, white subway tiles in the shower: classic? Yes. Boring? Yes. How will this help me in the future? It won’t. 
 
I recently started baking a lot. I’m not on Instagram or TikTok at the moment (a choice I made before the pandemic hit, and one I decided to stick with for the time-being), but I’ve heard most of the Insta stories at the moment are challenges your friends nominate you for and people baking, so I’m clearly not alone in this. The most recent thing I made was lemon blueberry muffins with streusel topping (I was craving those Starbucks blueberry muffins but all of the locations in my area are closed so I couldn’t cop out and UberEats them.) Please see photo below. Please ignore the zested (naked?) lemon.
I also did this before the pandemic, but I take more pleasure in it now since it feels like true self-care at the moment, but I make coffee in the morning almost every single day. Cleaning a milk frother is a pain, but so worth the morning mochas and maple lattes (occasionally tea lattes if I don’t want to feel like the squirrel in Hoodwinked after drinking that caffeinated soda.)  
 

NEOPHYTE JEWELS: Any general advice you're giving yourself/your friends about how to manage these strange times?

GABRIELLE RETTA: Definitely take everything day by day. At the start of the pandemic, I wanted to plan everything out months in advance to hopefully give myself some sense of control and comfort in knowing what I would be doing 4 months from now. That obviously does not work when the models are showing that we’ll be affected by this pandemic for the next year to 18 months. So, rather than providing comfort, it just instilled a sense of frustration. I now have some general goals for the future, but I mostly use them as a way of reminding myself of what I am working towards each week. I try to maintain a weekly to-do list so I can stay somewhat on track, but having a daily to-do list like I did before this just doesn’t work for me anymore. Instead, I hash out what I would like to get done each day. Some days are a complete wash, others are oddly productive.
Oh, and definitely take a daily walk. I cannot stress that enough. It clears your mind and helps you feel just a bit less cooped up.
Last thing: TALK TO PEOPLE. There’s no way you can sit at home, in some cases alone, and not go insane so be sure to talk to people. I know the Houseparty app can be anxiety-inducing (there’s something so chaotic about the idea that anyone of your contacts in the app can join your video call without asking first. Like, knock or something bro) If you’re able to use Facetime or Insta video chat or Whatsapp, it’s so comforting to see a familiar face after trying to do an at-home workout and realizing how out of shape you’ve become – even if it’s just to discuss recipes you want to try or shows you’ve been watching.
 

RECOMMENDATIONS 

NEOPHYTE JEWELS: Recipes that you've tried and tested: 

GABRIELLE RETTA: I tried this recipe for walnut cardamom pastries and it was so, so good. As an avid tea drinker, these made me so happy to have with my 3-4 daily cups of tea. I made several batches and they all turned out great, so it’s a pretty foolproof recipe.
I also made these blueberry muffins that I mentioned somewhere in this longwinded Q&A that came out beautifully. I did tweak the recipe though… I added some lemon zest and freshly squeezed lemon juice to the batter, and topped them with a lemon zest glaze. I also used greek yogurt instead of sour cream (hence the addition of lemon juice, so the yogurt thinned out to the consistency of sour cream, so I went with it and made them lemon blueberry muffins instead.)
My next venture is going to be pizza, fresh pasta, or this giant cinnamon roll. Not sure yet. 
Oh, by the way - this is the tweet that shared the recipe for the cinnamon roll:  

NEOPHYTE JEWELS: TV shows you're bingeing?

GABRIELLE RETTA: INSECURE IS BACK. I REPEAT, INSECURE. IS. BACK. For anyone that has been living under a rock, Insecure is the show on HBO that has good plots and good lighting (@ all the GoT fans out there) AND it’s funny as fuck. Issa Rae and Yvonne Orji are honestly two of the funniest people and watching their show makes my Sundays infinitely more enjoyable. It’s basically Girls, but… good? (I have a thing about Girls, I’m sorry I know some people liked it but oh my god, I sat through the entire thing and I was annoyed by literally everyone except Shosh.)    

NEOPHYTE JEWELS: Books you've been reading (or stopped reading)?

GABRIELLE RETTA: Okay, let me be clear. This is zero shade to Michelle Obama because I loved reading her book while everything was normal. But, I had to put down Becoming because the second my schedule got derailed and I had to read about her time at the White House and how she balanced everything, I immediately felt like the book was reminding me how unproductive I was being. My Dad also recently gifted me a book titled, How to Get More Done. As you can probably expect, I have avoided that read entirely. (Sorry, Dad.) But, I have started reading an intro to mythology book by Edith Hamilton. I can’t tell you why, I just always thought myths and folklore were interesting topics to read about. Also, it’s probably the most removed from reality that I could possibly get at the moment.

NEOPHYTE JEWELS: The most random internet black hole you've fallen into?

GABRIELLE RETTA: There are many, however, I recently rewatched all eight of the Harry Potter movies. It was really fun and not at all a representation of my mental health at the time. That said, while watching the movies I fell into a Harry Potter black hole about the reason why Harry drops the resurrection stone in the final movie before going to see Voldemort in the forbidden forest. I wish I could explain why that was needed for me to enjoy the movie (yes, I paused the movie and read through what was essentially an hour of www.scifi.stackexchange.com posts analyzing this move. Yes, I know that’s annoying and probably why people hate watching movies with me. I can’t help it) But yeah, it was necessary. 

NEOPHYTE JEWELS: Movies you've loved?

GABRIELLE RETTA: I’ve been rewatching all of my Disney movie favourites from my childhood. Tarzan, Aladdin, Mulan, Beauty and the Beast, etc. Tarzan definitely had the most impact though (I downloaded the entire soundtrack and played it almost every day for a week driving my mom to and from work.) PRIDE AND PREJUDICE. I don’t care who you are, if you don’t like this movie, I will literally not be friends with you. Ok, slightly extreme let me rephrase. I will have a hard time respecting your cinematic opinions and will likely discard any recommendations you give me. I also recently watched Just Mercy, but it made me really, really sad and judging by my bingeing of Harry Potter, it’s just not what I needed right now. Amazing movie though. Also - Knives Out, a fun murder mystery, Agatha Christie-esque movie about a wealthy, dysfunctional, potentially murderous family and their journey to discover how the patriarch of their family suddenly died after his birthday. Definitely a good watch.

NEOPHYTE JEWELS: Podcasts you're listening to?

GABRIELLE RETTA: I’m avoiding them. There’s been an influx in the Podcast realm (it seems like every celebrity has decided to start one) so I’m waiting for my friends to listen to them and recommend which are bomb and worth listening to and which are not worth the time. 

NEOPHYTE JEWELS: Music you're into right now?

GABRIELLE RETTA: The Tarzan soundtrack. I probably should’ve mentioned this in my answer for the black hole question but I just remembered it. I watched a documentary on the making of Tarzan and the animation software that Disney had to develop in order to accomplish what they wanted. It also featured the making of the soundtrack with Phil Collins, which then led me to watching recording sessions with Phil Collins and NSYNC for the album version of Trashin’ the Camp, which obviously led to watching the recording session for the movie version of that song with Rosie O’Donnell singing as Terk. This then led to watching Tarzan in Concert, a 46-minute long concert of the Tarzan soundtrack broken up by BTS footage of making the film produced by ABC. I wish I was joking.
If you’re not going through a mental breakdown and therefore can’t relate to the Tarzan soundtrack right now, some songs I’ve had on shuffle at the moment are Benzi Box (feat. Cee Lo Green) – Dangerdoom, Sex ‘n Drugs (feat. Harrison Sands and copper king) – Abhi the Nomad, Stay Alive – Mustafa, and the entire ‘Is He Real’ album from IDK, but specifically December. Still working on a WFH playlist for Neophyte, so look out for that! (I swear I won’t put the Tarzan stuff in there even though I think it would be bomb and y’all would like the nostalgic feel it brings to your home work environment but I digress.)
 

NEOPHYTE JEWELS: Best way to unplug from the news cycle/general anxiety around the crisis?

GABRIELLE RETTA: I touched on this before, but my previous go-to was HGTV. However, this led to an unexpected disdain for contemporary vintage-like tile so I moved onto random YouTube videos that are completely unrelated to the pandemic. I sometimes read NYT articles about the pandemic, economic impacts, the politicization of COVID-19 in the States with the looming election, and other fun, upbeat pieces lol. So, after reading something like that I may resort back to the comfort of my HGTV safety blanket.

NEOPHYTE JEWELS: Websites you're consulting daily?

GABRIELLE RETTA: I follow the New York Times on Twitter so when I’m on the app I often click to the articles they’ve posted, so I guess the NYT website. I was also in the process of gearing up to apply to medical schools in the States, so I guess the AAMC website. To all my fellow pre-meds out there stressing about their clinical volunteering hours because of the pandemic, I feel your pain.

NEOPHYTE JEWELS: Apps you're turning to?

GABRIELLE RETTA: I’ve essentially replaced Instagram with Twitter. I get all my meme fixes ahead of the curve (have you guys noticed almost all the memes on Instagram are from Twitter? Something I started clocking when I had both) and the content people post is generally funnier or more thought-provoking. I’ll probably migrate back to Instagram at some point, but for now it’s just Twitter, Reddit, and I guess YouTube if that counts? I promise I don’t have two desktop monitors and a rainbow keyboard.  

NEOPHYTE JEWELS: Any other guilty pleasures you'd like to mention here before we sign off?

GABRIELLE RETTA: I almost started rewatching Gossip Girl. Almost. Thankfully, it didn’t come to that (I only got to season 3, so I feel like that doesn’t count, right? Right??)
 

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