Happy season is here

Good morning. It is a pleasure to greet you this Friday after Thanksgiving, at the beginning of the fun season, here in the dwindling days of the year. I usually write to Times readers through the At Home and Away newsletter, where I’ve spent months thinking about ways we can live full and civilized lives during the pandemic.

I started working with a group of Times journalists in the early days of the lockdown, trying to gather ideas and inspiration to help you navigate a world that was changing abruptly in almost every way. Twice a week, I collect recommendations from my colleagues and from readers to pass the time generously, wherever you are. Today I’m here to offer some suggestions for how to spend your post-prandial weekend.

The day after Thanksgiving is one of those in-between days that the holiday season gives us: a day off for many, but not the real big day. It’s a day to choose your own adventure, whether your particular adventure is shopping on Black Friday (perhaps this plant-based gift guide will inspire you?), curling up with one of our 100 remarkable books from 2021, heading out to see Paul Thomas Anderson’s new movie, ‘Licorice Pizza’, or do something else.

I’m a fan of quasi-hibernation after Thanksgiving in slippers and sweat, orbiting the kitchen, where the leftovers beckon. It’s the ideal weekend to stream something you’ve always wanted to catch. (The final season of “Insecure”? Rebecca Hall’s directorial debut, “Passing”? “Cowboy Bebop” — either the original anime series or the new live-action version?) But if you’ve had enough of the hunger-down life, hear I you, and encourage you to set out safely. We indoor cats will look after the fireplace until you come back.

Vacations, in the Norman Rockwell version, are rosy-cheeked, cuddly-all-round affairs. That is of course not always the reality. If this weekend brings you the welcome emptying of an overcrowded house, if it’s the first time in a week that you’re tensing up, or if you’re just not feeling well after another confusing year, you’re not alone. My friends and family have used the vague but all-encompassing phrase “it’s a lot” to describe how we’ve been feeling lately. It explains what is happening without going into detail; it’s non-specific but readable by, well, anyone.

However you spend this weekend, I hope you are safe and warm, that you can relax a little and connect and catch up with the people you love. I hope you have some left over (more on that below from my colleague Sanam Yar), and if you are traveling I hope your trip is headache free. Thank you for making room for me at your table.

  • South African scientists have found a new variant that has led to travel restrictions from countries in the region. It’s too early to know how well the vaccines work against it.

  • The retail industry is fighting a vaccine mandate for its employees before the holidays.

  • Some objects and practices born in lockdown are likely to stick around (like masks and QR codes). Others (a “no-touch door opener”) less.

If you’re lucky enough to have a mountain of Thanksgiving leftovers, a world of possibilities awaits beyond your standard turkey sandwich. (But if you still want one, make it an Elena Ruz sandwich — a sweet-savory concoction named after the Cuban socialite who invented it.)

You may want a leftover enchilada pie, which may sound a little unusual, but is easy to make and delicious. Turkey also lends itself well to pinched versions of tikka masala, mole verde, or pho, courtesy of Samin Nosrat. As for other sandwiches, Melissa Clark recommends turkey cubanos or healthy pitas.

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