issue #268: creativity, coffee, and connection ❤️‍🔥

Issue #268 - May 13, 2022
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A cozy dose of comfort for your inbox. A weekly newsletter with musings on and recommendations for downtime.

Making dumplings, making connections. Art by Carolyn Yoo, GNI's Artist in Residence.

Good morning,

Creativity, a core value of mine, has felt a little neglected these days. Ironic since I technically "create" for a living! But there's a certain, quiet joy in creating something in secret, without feeling the need to snap a photo of it and immediately share it online, and this is the type of creativity I crave. Writer and editor Aliza Abarbanel recently reflected on making a cool new zine about cake (just for fun!). As she wrote in her most recent newsletter:

“You don’t have to make something for widespread publication. Throw some Word art on a list of your favorite movie recs for a friend quarantining with COVID. Write up all the meals you’ve made over the past month and turn it into a pamphlet to keep on the fridge door, so you can finally stop arguing about what to cook for dinner. Or best of all, grab some friends, pick a theme that you could talk about for hours, and start writing.”
I'm often afraid of picking up a new creative practice for fear of abandoning it, which I do...a lot! But as Jia Tolentino shared in a recent interview, being devoted to a project and abandoning it might actually be freeing, especially given "there’s such an economic mandate to monetize every bit of work and play that you do around the clock." Abandoning a project can actually be "a special way out of that," she says.

For now, I'm practicing micro-creativity via trying fun new recipes in the kitchen (like a strawberry matcha latte). Soon, I'd love to extend it into a creative writing practice. Excited for my journal will be filled with really bad writing that no one else will see. :)
Have a good weekend,
Alisha Ramos (@alisharamos)

This Week's Recommendations

  1. Read: Two very different, new-ish books on my radar: Trust by Hernan Diaz, a novel-within-a-novel about the accumulation of a fortune in the Roaring 20’s, and Permission to Come Home: Reclaiming Mental Health as Asian Americans by Jenny T. Wang, PhD. (P.S. If you’d like to browse past GNI book recommendations, check out our Bookshop.)
  2. Watch: Conversations With Friends on Hulu (out Sunday), based on the bestselling book of the same name by Sally Rooney (and featuring Tswift’s beau), or Julia on HBO Max, depicting the rise of Julia Child’s fame (so cozy!).

  3. Dreaming of poolside reading? Top your Summer list with Alison Espach's Notes On Your Sudden Disappearance, a novel that is both a breathtaking love story about two broken people unexplainably drawn to each other and a 90s coming-of-age tale flush with unexpected moments of joy.  Sponsor 
  4. Listen (podcast): If you need something fun AND useful to listen to, try Borderline Salty. Hosted by former Bon Appétit editors and cookbook authors Carla Lalli Music and Rick Martínez, the podcast strikes the right balance of good-humored banter and helpful tips for home cooks. (Martínez also just released a beautiful new cookbook, Cocina, which showcases the wide breadth of cuisine from Mexico's diverse regions.)

  5. Listen (music): This “May Flowers” playlist is so feel-good, it’ll have you dancing in the mornings!

  6. Try: If you’re a coffee lover, I can’t recommend these little frozen capsules enough*. You just thaw them out (or can pour hot water over them) and you have a delicious cup of coffee, made from high quality roasters like: Counter Culture, Go Get Em Tiger, and Equator. The key word is quality: frozen coffee might sound suspicious, but these are manufactured with a fancy, high-tech mechanism that flash freezes the coffee at its peak flavor. Science! My husband, a certified coffee snob, has one each morning, and I make lattes for myself every now and then. The capsules are curbside recyclable, too. Love! -Alisha *this is a personal referral link

  7. We’ve got just the thing for your spring wardrobe refresh. Wearwell makes it easy to shop sustainable and ethically-made clothing, accessories, home goods, secondhand, and more. This month, GNI readers can get 20% off their first purchase plus free shipping with code GIRLSNIGHTIN Sponsor 

  8. Cook/Eat: This so-easy salmon dish that required very few dishes, which is always a win in our book. (We skipped the slicing up the salmon part.)

  9. Buy: This inexpensive paper towel holder (+ dowel) from Etsy that hangs from the upper cabinets will really boost your "making good use of vertical space" cred.

  10. LOL: The only person we’d trust to take on Elon Musk.

  11. *gasp* BOOK NOOKS?!

This week's Sponsor:

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Get Glowing

Yes, Play and Intimate Connection Can Be Part of Your Wellness

The next sexual revolution is here, and it’s all unfolding on TikTok: a conversation with Kim Pham

I’ve known and admired Kim Pham, the founder of Asian food brand Omsom, from afar for many years now. When I saw her self-describe as a dominatrix on social media, I immediately grew intrigued about this part of her identity. Below is our conversation on her journey so far. —Alisha

Q: Kim, tell us a bit about yourself and what you’re seeing in the self-care landscape.

It is impossible to ignore that “self-care” has become a thriving $13 billion industry. And for all the ways that we are given solutions to better skin, better hair, and better bodies, we don’t nearly give that same attention to sexuality, play, and intimate connection—integral parts of the human experience. Coming off of decades of wellness being steeped in restrictions and “purity,” it feels like our desire for authentic sexual connection is roaring. As both a trained dominatrix and founder of proud and loud Asian food brand Omsom, I have found my calling in allowing folks to view indulgence and play as part of their wellness.

My journey into play and sexuality has felt the most bolstered by the exploding popularity of TikTok. The hyper-ephemeral, hyper-addictive platform of short-form videos has created an algorithm that allows you to quickly find your community; often, the “For You” page knows you better than perhaps you know yourself.

Q: What, in your opinion, is so special about accessing this new world of information on TikTok?

As a brand leader, I’m obsessed with the platform. It doesn’t matter how much money you spill into the video—production value isn’t what TikTok users care about. It’s about an authentic voice, a real POV, humor, and relatability that brands can’t pay for.

As a consumer and creator, I’m grateful that the platform (despite being deeply flawed and imperfect) truly enables access: the words, concepts, and vernacular around gender, sexuality, and play that took me decades to learn in the dark are now being openly discussed in a safe and non-judgmental way. Ideas like the gender spectrum, safe and consensual views of BDSM, and non-monogamy feel infinitely more accessible on TikTok versus the college classrooms, dungeons, and community spaces I had to seek out to learn about these concepts.

Perhaps even more importantly, TikTok has enabled folks to find community! In ways that these communities used to be hidden, obscured, and buried in web 1.0 sites and forums, they are now being openly discussed in various “tok” communities.

Q: Are there any communities you personally participate in?

I’m quite active on “kinktok.” As a lifestyle domme, I started creating sex-positive content on TikTok to demystify BDSM, a world that has long felt like a black box to me. In just a few short months, I’ve built a small community of 20k+ followers keen to learn and engage more about ethical kink.

Read the full interview →

Kim Pham is a self-proclaimed internet weirdo and co-founder of Omsom, a proud and loud Asian food brand. She is also a domme and BDSM educator who advocates for ethical kink as a form of human connection and play. You can find her on Instagram and TikTok.

This Week's Reads

  1. Everything is trending all at once on TikTok.  Please, no more trends! (Vox)

  2. Can Motherhood Be a Mode of Rebellion? - Incredible piece by Jia Tolentino on Angela Garbes’s new book, Essential Labor, which is “partly a history of caregiving in the United States—or, more specifically, a primer on how colonial capitalism and self-regarding feminism made it possible for one of the wealthiest societies in the world to rely, for its basic functioning, on ‘an invaluable force of women, most of them brown and Black, performing our most important work for free or at poverty wages.’” (The New Yorker)

  3. A heartwarming piece about traveling with her mom, by Karen K. Ho. (Glamour)

  4. How Many Friends Do You Really Need? (The New York Times)

  5. You don’t have “mom brain.” You’re overworked. (The Atlantic)

  6. What it takes to be a “culinary celebrity” these days. (Eater)

  7. A good celeb profile of Elizabeth Olsen. (The New York Times)

  8. What Mothers Wish They Knew Before Becoming Parents (Passerby Magazine)
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