A couple of months ago, I bought a leafy, fern-filled pattern and taught myself how to cross-stitch. Though I’m a couple of years late to the cross-stitch revival, I picked up the hobby hoping it would keep me off my phone (and off Twitter, where brain cells go to die) now that I lived alone and my evenings were much quieter than I was used to. It’s pretty simple as crafts go, but it requires a level of concentration to stick to the pattern and count out tiny rows of diagonal stitches.
My progress has been slow, but over the past few weeks of social distancing, I’ve been able to finish up the pattern while talking to friends, binge-watching old favorites on Netflix, and, sometimes, sitting in silence with my own thoughts. There’s a methodical repetitiveness to the craft that can be oddly relaxing at a time when the world spins in chaos (And if you’re looking for a step-by-step guide to crafting Texas-themed wares like crepe paper wildflowers, my colleague Emily McCullar’s arts and crafts column, Pins and Needles, has you covered.) For my next pattern, I’m eyeing a few colorful and slightly more complicated designs available from Etsy. —Amal Ahmed, assistant editor
Naked and Afraid
Humankind cannot bear very much reality, T.S. Eliot once wrote. Humankind can bear very much reality TV, though—especially these days. And if you’re trapped indoors, what better offering than the Discovery Channel’s Naked and Afraid?
The premise is simple: two survivalists, one man and one woman, meet each other for the first time in the wild and then brave it for 21 days, unclothed. They can each bring one item with them, like a knife or a fire starter. The landscapes they must live off range from the Texas Hill Country to the rain forests of South East Asia. Maladies abound: food-borne illness, dehydration, insects that swarm and bite, large carnivores, and, worst of all, stunted conversation.
I’ve always considered the show a prestige drama. There’s combative personalities, attempts to start fire in flood conditions, and a justified fear of the dark. But it has been a special comfort during the pandemic. People are resourceful; the outdoors contain mysteries you can discover from your couch. Not to mention that watching people eat a rat’s organs gives one a new appreciation for leftover beans. Naked and Afraid is man versus wild in concept, but man coexisting with wild in execution. And it offers a message suited for our times: Our opponent might emerge from the natural world, but our relief does too.
—Ben Rowen, associate editor
The Cut’s Profile of La’Darius Marshall
It took some time for me to join the Cheer fan club, but now I’m a card-carrying member. The Netflix series premiered this year and provides a look into the world of competitive collegiate cheering. The six-part series follows the renowned Navarro College cheer team in Corsicana as they journey to the national championships. Viewers are introduced to several characters, but few are as magnetic as La’Darius Marshall, who is profiled this month in The Cut.
The story provides an intimate look at Marshall’s journey, filling in some of the Netflix series’s gaps. Marshall, often credited for his extroverted attitude on the mat, opens up about his journey to the mat and what could happen once he graduates from Navarro. He aspires to become a radiologist, or an actor, or a cheerleading coach. This article reads like a long-overdue phone call with a friend, and provides just enough updates while fans wait for Marshall’s next move.
—Kennedy Williams, editorial intern
Flour From Barton Springs Mill
At a time when quarantining has become synonymous with baking bread, and flour is a hot commodity, Barton Springs Mill’s stock of heritage grains is a saving grace. Plus, the Dripping Springs-based brand is filling orders quickly and giving all Texans $10 off shipping. It’s a good excuse to experiment with the varieties beloved by the kitchens of Sour Duck in Austin, Empire Baking Company in Dallas, and UB Preserv in Houston.
For a bag of wholesome wheat flour alone, you’ll need to decide between Rouge de Bordeaux, Turkey Red, and Sonora varieties (einkorn, Marquis, and emmer are sold out)—a choice simplified by each grain’s bite-size history lesson and flavor profile. I’ve already ordered twice—don’t overlook their five kinds of grits!—and can attest to the fluffy delight that is the All-Purpose Standard Blend. It’s just what we all need to pull off this loaf of White Pan Bread, recipe courtesy of Easy Tiger’s David Norman. (I hear he’s also a fan of the stuff.)
—Alainna Beddie, newsletter editor
Vacilando Quilting Co.
For those wanting to explore a new hobby or anyone just looking for something to cuddle up in on the couch, Texas-based Vacilando Quilting Co. offers an option. Inspired by years creator Laura Preston spent traveling around the country in an Airstream, the quilts feature geometric shapes and a variety of colors that resemble faraway places and natural landscapes. Each quilt is designed in the artist’s home in the Texas Hill Country, handmade by her and several other quilters across the country. Vacilando’s online shop is currently open and selling quilts, pillows, and more. For the crafty quarantiner, Vacilando also offers a book that includes quilting patterns, tutorials, and inspiration, and has a shoppable Amazon page from which quilters can buy materials from home; I’m currently working on a quilt of my own.
—Lawson Freeman, editorial intern