Y’all, we made it to December. I was a newly minted 30 at the start of this year and I had all kinds of plans. I was going to Martha’s Vineyard, Nashville, Mexico, Missouri and Hawaii. I was determined to grow my writing business and land a byline in Vanity Fair. I had so much to do. And then, COVID-19 shut down the world and reminded me that the to-do list can never trump the to-be list.
I have been reminded throughout the year about the importance of being healthy, present, compassionate, kind and generous. These are things I’ve always determined to be, but they became especially important during a year where everyone has been left raw and open.
This week’s recommendations list is all about slowing down and finding delight in the simple things. It’s all about making time for imagination and wonder. It’s all about uplifting community and spreading joy. Get into it!
- TO WATCH: I honestly don’t remember how old I was the first time I watched Debbie Allen’s “Hot Chocolate Nutcracker” production. What I do know is that it airs on BET almost every Christmas and it played in Atlanta for many years. Allen takes Tchaikovsky’s famous ballet and makes it a journey around the world for dancers of color who take classes at her dance academy in Los Angeles. The journey to making it is documented in the Netflix film, Dance Dreams: Hot Chocolate Nutcracker. It is so inspirational, beautiful and magical. Do yourself a favor and let it warm your soul.
- TO EAT: Some things are just facts, and the truth is that a southern party platter is useless without deviled eggs. I love a deviled egg, and when you find a good one you know. There’s a diner in Atlanta called Wonderkid and they top theirs with prosciutto and flash fried okra. This Southern Living recipe is the closest I’ve found to theirs.
- TO DRINK: While you’re watching the “Hot Chocolate Nutcracker,” you might as well have some grown-up hot chocolate. For my birthday, my dear friend Kaleigh sent me a treat box from Lenox Cupcakes in Atlanta. On top of the box, there was a balloon attached to their signature hot cocoa bomb. Inside, it has cocoa powder and marshmallows. I poured some milk in a pan and put it all in there on the stove for a few minutes and it was so creamy and smooth. Add a splash of Godiva or Bailey’s if you’re feeling extra decadent.
- TO PLAY: I’m waist-deep in Christmas music until January, so Pentatonix it is for me.
- TO READ: For the last five years, I have worked with Atlanta Magazine to curate and write the arts & culture features for the annual Best of Atlanta issue. It’s one of my favorite things to do every year because it provides an opportunity for us to recognize the movers and shakers in the Atlanta arts community. This year, in selecting the honorees we thought about artists who created soul-stirring work this year as well as arts organizations that stepped up to help the local community. To make art in uncertain times is an act of faith and an assertion of humanity, so building this year’s list was really special.
- *BONUS* TO SHOP: Last year, Essence Magazine hosted a holiday market in Atlanta that featured local Black makers. It was there that I discovered Fabulina Designs jewelry and spent more money than I planned. Her boho chic style is like Kendra Scott with an afrocentric vibe. Get ready to grow your earring collection.