Wednesday, September 29, 2010

In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite-Take Two

Here's the trailer for Melissa Clark's fantastic new book!

(And here's the link to the book.)

Rethinking the 9 Months

Over on Babble, Ceridwen Morris reviews Annie Murphy Paul's new book Origins: How the nine months before birth shapes the rest of our lives. Full disclosure: I am the mother who cursed upon hearing the news of the book (see the lede). But, I have to say, after reading the review (and talking to Ceridwen about it), I'm intrigued. As Ceridwen points out, modern pregnancy with it's focus on risk pits fetus against mom "and you can guess who’s the innocent one." And yet, she writes of Paul's book:

...between the data on phthalates and thalidomide, and around the edges of tragic stories about Holocaust survivors and flu pandemics, a strangely positive story emerges, a story about mothers and fetuses engaged in a highly synchronized and extremely responsive physiological rapport. Gestation, it turns out, is not the mother "hosting the perfect parasite," as once was believed. Instead, it’s a time when vital information is passed from mother to fetus, what Paul calls "biological postcards from the world outside." These stories “make up a mix of influences as individual and idiosyncratic as the mother herself."

So good to see a new door on the mother load of mother guilt finally opening and letting in some fresh, non-toxic air.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Mom Qua Media Watchdog

Last night, my son got it in his head that he wanted to watch Batman. He was completely dismayed that other kids in his class had seen Ironman and I wouldn't let him and he thought seeing some Batman would do the trick. Once, about a year ago, we mistakenly let him watch the Dark Knight trailer, so I thought this was what he wanted to see and I said no. Turns out, he didn't want to see that at all. No, he wanted to see this. It's inappropriate for an almost six-year-old for a whole host of reasons, and yet, really, there's nothing like a little Lego Batman to start your day off right.

Monday, September 27, 2010

How I (Still) Feel About Harem Pants

Right here.

Moving Forward with Obama

If you talk politics at all it's impossible to avoid the "Are you disappointed in Obama" question, which, for the record, I do not like. Of course I'd like for him to have moved ahead on Climate Change legislation. Of course I wish bankers had been called out on their colossal failure and real regulation had been put in place. Of course I'm overly forgiving of the political calculations that must drive some of the President's decision making on these fronts because I still believe he's not only the best we've got, he'd be pretty darn good in a field crowded with good picks. Given all that, I was glad to read this about Obama's presidency over on the Daily Dish. Here's a quote from the quote of the post by Andrew Sprung (so pomo, I know):

"He has laid foundations for universal healthcare and healthcare cost control (i.e., meaningful entitlement reform); educational improvement; and a reversal or at least slowing of the 30-year rise in income inequality (via healthcare reform, student loan reform, middle class tax cuts and tax hikes for the wealthy, the latter a work in progress). The stimulus also seeded a host of investments in infrastructure and alternative energy (as well as education) that will also take a long time to assess. With a little bit of economic luck, he will be the transformative president that he aims to be."

Friday, September 24, 2010

A Visit from the Goon Squad

I love this book. I just loved it. I've read other books composed of short stories that wind together. (I'm thinking particularly of Joan Silber's powerful Ideas of Heaven: A Ring of Stories.) I tend to like how they mess around with structure and I'm a sucker for the serendipities they rely on. But I loved A Visit from the Goon Squad in a way that goes beyond appreciating it's structure, which is terrific, and the writing, which is brilliant. I loved it in the way you love a book you can't wait to read and so to finish and then you actually finish it and get that feeling of "Nooooooo! Please don't end!" Plus, the book had me speaking a line to my husband I never thought possible: "Just read the chapter in power point because I cried on the subway when I read it." Really.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Education, Crisis and a Voice of Reason

With the release of the documentary Waiting for Superman and the administration's "Race to the Top," we've lately been treated to a whole host of articles about education, what works, what doesn't, and who makes that work happen. It's all become too predictable, too familiar. In the new New Yorker, Nicholas Lemann has a Comment that takes it apart. Here's a quote:

It should raise questions when an enormous, complicated realm of life takes on the characteristics of a stock drama. In the current school-reform story, there is a reliable villain, in the form of the teachers’ unions, and a familiar set of heroes, including Geoffrey Canada, of Harlem Children’s Zone; Wendy Kopp, of Teach for America, the Knowledge Is Power Program; and Michele Rhee, the superintendent of schools in Washington, D.C. And there is a clear answer to the problem—charter schools. The details of this story are accurate, but they are fitted together too neatly and are made to imply too much. For example, although most of the specific charter schools one encounters in this narrative are very good, the data do not show that charter schools in general are better than district schools. There are also many school-reform efforts besides charter schools: the one with the best sustained record of producing better-educated children in difficult circumstances, in hundreds of schools over many years, is a rigorously field-tested curriculum called Success for All, but because it’s not part of the story line it goes almost completely unmentioned.

I could quote more, but, really it's worth reading the whole thing. Here's that link again.

Friday, September 17, 2010


Chocolate chip pecan loaf cake, to be exact. Check it out, you'll be glad you did. (I know because I've made it, twice.)

An Israel Problem

No, this one isn't about the West Bank or Gaza, it's about the perception of Israel and it's really depressing.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Top Chef: Sort of Spoiler Alert

I wasn't glued to Top Chef this season, but I've watched it intermittently and I happened to tune in last night, which was lucky, because the finale happened to be on and I had a fair sense of the finalists. But watching their, what struck me was how much I didn't want to eat food by a guy I really, really didn't like. I would go to Angelo's restaurant in a heartbeat. Ed's? No way. I don't care how good his Morroccan food was, he showed himself to be someone who'd kick a guy when he's down and I don't like that. Which is to say, when it comes to fancy-pants cooking, it's probably better not to know too much about the chef.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Voting: A travesty, continued.

Turns out I wasn't the only one who had issues.

Voting: A travesty!

I'm just back from voting in the primary here in New York City. If I didn't know better, I'd say Boss Tweed was alive and kicking in lower Manhattan having sent his minions to Albany to deal with those pesky things called votes. How? Well, here in New York City, they've replaced the old fashioned, lever pulling machines with scanners. But, in my district, where there once were at least six or eight machines there are now only two and this morning, just before I got on one of the very long lines for a machine, one of the two broke so the two long lines had to merge into one. Standing on that line was like being in traffic after a major accident shuts down the road. You're not moving forward, but if you want to get where you're going, you can't go anywhere else. Finally, the voting coordinator gave voters the option of slipping their votes into an emergency voting slot, promising to scan them when the polls close. I don't know for sure if my vote will be counted, but I know that without two hours to spend on the scanner line, I tried my best.

Saturday, September 11, 2010


I should say that I've been trying to write something about the whole Jodi Picault, Jennifer Weiner, Jonathan Franzen situation for a while now. I've gotten nowhere. But Liza Mundy over at Slate XX, she got somewhere. Check it out here.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

I Heart Kara Janx Kimonos

A little over four years ago, I bought a Kara Janx kimono dress for my niece's bat mitzvah. Every time I've worn it -- even when I've worn it on the streets of New York -- I get compliments. But, I haven't worn it for a while, and things, as in my body, has, let's say, changed recently. I was concerned because many of the clothes that I bought before the recent changes no longer fit, but I don't have such a big selection of clothing that would be appropriate for, say, Rosh Hashannah services anywhere that's not in Israel (where I could go in pretty much anything, I think). Still, this morning, I wrapped myself up in that kimono dress and guess what? Not bad! Not perfect, but what is? It's an extremely good dress that's extremely good to me. I think come spring I'll get a short sleeve one, just for good measure.

Happy, healthy new year everyone! And, seriously, here's to a year that brings peace and climate change legislation.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite

Melissa Clark's new book, based on her New York Times column, comes out today! Since I have an advance proof I've already read most of it; since I'm an ardent fan I've made many of the recipes. Even if Melissa weren't one of my very closest friends I know I'd love this book. It's got exactly what you want -- beautifully rendered essays about the ways food comes into our lives and the people who bring it in, showing with good humor and grace how our lives are better for it all. And, unlike Laurie Colwin's Home Cooking with its terrific food writing and recipes that don't quite work all the time, these recipes will quickly become your stand-bys. If you buy one cookbook this year, buy this one. You won't be disappointed.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Watching Movies

In a recent blog post Ceridwen Morris tells as that being a mom means she's a movie watching wuss. I'm right there with her. I couldn't even tolerate previews for The Changeling and when the dead brother plot point emerged in Rachel Getting Married my growing fury at the movie burst into a full blown case of weeping rage (rage at the manipulation, weeping for the lost child).

Little did I know that my husband, too, is now changed in his movie watching. He's always enjoyed the romantic comedies (we saw Notting Hill during its opening weekend), but before we had kids the only time he really cried in a movie was at the end of Whale Rider when, you know, the little girl rides the whale. But this summer? He got home from taking the kids to see Nanny McPhee Returns and confessed, "I totally sobbed." There's a war and a lost father, so one can understand that. Then he watched Nanny McPhee with the kids on the couch. (I'd already watched it the day before.) When it was over, he came staggering into the kitchen. "Sobbed," he chirped, "I totally sobbed." If you haven't seen the first Nanny McPhee movie, I can tell you, the end is like the end of any random fairy tale and while Colin Firth, the movie's lead, is especially good at providing the gleeful and humble emotions of those moments, it's not exactly a tear-jerker. No. It's children that's done this to my husband, nothing more, nothing less. Just children.