six fun things

Look what just arrived in the mail!

One of the women in my writing group co-wrote a book, whoop! Congratulations, Shirley! Each time I see the book on my desk, I grin. It’s ridiculous how proud I am, like I helped birth a baby or something (even though I did hardly anything).

I knew she was sending me the book but I thought it was, oh, I don’t know, like a mock-up or something* (probably because I didn’t read her email closely enough … which is a problem I have; just ask my mom). I haven’t read the book yet, but I love its heft — the cover is gorgeous! — and the short chapters are enticing. I’m eager to dive in.

Actually, I lie. I have read parts of it since she shared chapters with our group — and my name’s in the book to prove it, squeee! — but a book in process is very different from the finished product, and I’m pretty sure I haven’t read any of the chapters that her co-author wrote.

I have a hunch it’s gonna be a fast, fun book and a great one to share with my grandparenty friends.

*Just checked Amazon and it won’t be ready until May 3 (so I did get a pre-sale book after all, ha!), but no worries: you can still preorder it now.


A few months ago when one of the cooks at the bakery made a tart-sweet passion fruit curd, I went nuts for it. “It’s just from a purée that I get at the international store,” she said, shrugging off my admiration. 

Apparently, one of the international stores in town (or maybe all of them? I have no idea) sells frozen bags of all kinds of fruit purée — mango, coconut, soursop, lime, blackberry, pineapple, etc — which doesn’t sound like such a big deal, but think about it for a minute: purée is just fresh fruit, but more accessible since there’s no peeling or juicing necessary. Just snap off a chunk (since the purée is frozen in thin rectangles, it’s easy to break apart and it thaws quickly) and pop it in the blender with yogurt and a banana for your smoothie, or simmer it with cornstarch and sugar for a fruit sauce, or cook it with egg yolks and butter for a curd to spread between layers of butter cake. 

mango curd and cream sunshine cake

I have a few bags in the freezer — passion fruit, mango, soursop* — and I plan to stock up on more soon. Summer is coming! 

*I used the soursop in smoothies last weekend. The fruit itself was disappointingly bland, but the gentle sweet flavor did bring back memories of my favorite (Guanábana) yogurt when we were in Nicaragua, so maybe that’s just how it is?


Check out this video about making Salers de Buron, a French cheese.

One of the people in my cheesemaking group shared the link with me (and then another friend told me this cheese was discussed on The Splendid Table podcast in an episode about saving rare foods). I find their cheesemaking methods — wooden barrels, salt on the calves’ backs — utterly bewitching, though I’m not sure how I feel about those unwashed teets….


Since my husband is super sensitive to smells, I very rarely use perfumes. (When I do, though, this one is the perfect blend of earthy, sexy, and exotic.) But then I discovered this gentle body mist.

My husband didn’t make any comments for weeks (months?) so it’s obviously not offensive, and a number of girlfriends have commented that I smell nice. (If I use it after my shower at night, I notice that my sheets smell like warm vanilla sugar cookies the next night.) So it’s just the thing: a light, sweet scent primarily for me that other people like, or don’t notice.

I’m on my second bottle. 


On the train to New York last month, I noticed a girl sitting across the aisle from me had a book resting in her lap. “Is that Crying in H-Mart?” I asked. She said yes, and I asked if she liked it — I had it on hold at the library I said. And then the guy sitting behind her stuck his head around the seat and said, “I read that book — it’s good!” And then the older gentleman sitting beside him intoned, “And so begins another Amtrak Book Club meeting.”

I’m enjoying the book so far. It’s all about food (HUGE bonus points) and I’m learning, retroactively, so much about that delicious meal we had in NY’s Koreatown. (Also, when I learned that the author’s mother had a “kimchi fridge” for her fermented foods, I felt seen.) 

Everyone says the book’s good as long as one doesn’t mind crying while reading, but I haven’t felt even a little bit sad and I’m nearing the end so either I haven’t reached the sad part yet or my heart’s a rock.


Have you seen After Life? It’s a British comedy-drama about a man struggling to go on after the death of his wife. My husband and I both loved it.

Even though it’s occasionally didactic and cliché and (disturbingly) crass, it gets away with it because there’s a rawness to it, and a simple beauty and warmth, that has me still thinking even months after I finished watching all three seasons. It’s not every day there’s a show that delves deep into grief and makes me laugh even as I tear up and makes my husband appreciate me more. (The woman [Kerry Godliman] who plays the wife is spectacular.)

This same time, years previous: how we homeschool: Jane, the quotidian (3.30.20), Asian slaw, for-real serious, the art of human rights, the quotidian (3.30.15), Good Friday fun, braided bread.


  • Lizzy Williams

    My feeling about Crying in H-Mart is that if you have that specific kind of mother relationship, you cry the whole way through (I do, I did). My sisters, who are much older than me and arguably had a different version of our mother, weren’t impressed with the book. It did consistently make me SO HUNGRY 🙂

  • Shirley Hershey Showalter

    Of course I love that you included our book in your current favorite things list. And I expect to be feeling the same kind of pride when I hold YOUR book in my hands. Powderhorse Writers group was one of the best experiences of our decade in Harrisonburg. Thanks too for the introduction to AfterLife. That goes straight to the list. Love the conversation snatched from Amtrak. We are super excited to be close to a station that connects us to Philly, NYC, DC, and even Boston with no concern about navigating and parking.

  • Susan

    I wasn’t crazy about Crying in HMart — I heard the author interviewed and loved what she said, but the writing seemed kind of unfinished and choppy — maybe a little forced? I totally agree that the food descriptions were amazing, but that seemed incongruent with the rest of the story, like some essays written Bon Appetit were forced in. I’d like to hear other takes on it since I could change my mind for sure!

    Another memoir about I thought was so beautifully written was “Seeing Ghosts” by Kat Chow (who is often on my favorite podcast, Pop Culture Happy Hour).

    • Hattie

      Susan, I totally agree with your assessment of the writing in H-Mart. To me it had the feel of a journal that the author kept to deal with her grief. Maybe it’s a memoir that would appeal to young adults who are fans of her indie band, Japanese Breakfast, but in my opinion there are many better
      written memoirs on the theme of complex mother/daughter relationships and difficult childhoods.

      Thank you for your recommendation that I will pursue. Two that I can recommend are Beautiful Country by Qian Julie Wang and What We Carry by Maya Shanbhag Lang. Be careful if you are looking to get the latter as there are many with similar titles such as The Things They Carried (the great book about the Vietnam War ) and Call Us What We Carry (a new poetry book by Amanda Gordon).

  • Jennifer U.

    How about ordering Shirley’s book from an independent book store. If you don’ have a local one use and pick a local book store to support (hburg friends, I choose the Book Dragon in Staunton or The Bluebird bookstop in Crozet) yes probably more $$ than Amazon but supporting local bookshops is great. 🙂

  • April

    The PA Dutch rhyme in the book is familiar to me—sort of! The version I know is English-ish. Fun to see a more original version.

  • sandyginger

    ‘After Life’ is 100% spot on for accurate in explaining grief. I lost a child a few years ago-and my husband & I went tree exactly what is depicted in the series. ( with the except of all of the eccentric but lovable characters) It was therapy for us- I hung on to ever word and ugly cried. He got it 100%-I don’t know how he did it, but it is a gift to anyone experiencing grief. Also-for people to understand what grief is and how to help people though it-not over it, just through it.

    • Jennifer Jo

      I was wondering how this show stood up to real-life grief so I appreciate getting your take on it … and that you lost a child, I am so sorry. It’s nearly impossible to wrap my head around that sort of pain.

  • Becky R.

    Well, this is all fun stuff! I will have to look for the frozen fruits. The possibilities are endless for using this fruit! And you taught me something again. Never heard of soursop! Yes, I loved After Life as well, and I really loved his wife. And that perfume from NYC looks luxe! I don’t wear perfume much anymore either, but I am an Aromatics fans, particularly before they had to reformulate because of the scarcity of oakmoss. I’m with you, I like something earthy and exotic. I may have to order a sample of Santal 33, but that’s about all I can afford – LOL. I didn’t have Crying in H-Mart on my radar, but I will look for it from the library. Thanks for sharing all these fun things, Jennifer.

      • Becky R.

        I must have thought they were fun things. I just noticed how many explanation points I used. I don’t know what’s up with that (avoiding putting an explanation point here, BTW) ha ha ha.

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