Friday, May 30, 2008

Housing Problems

I know the housing crisis is awful. I know lenders were predatory and gave loans when they shouldn't have. I don't mean to blame the victims, for whom I feel truly sorry. But the couple featured in this article bought their "dream house" for $535,000. They earn about $65,000. Looking at those numbers, no matter the financing, the decision to buy a $535,000 house on that income just seems like -- how do I say this? - it sounds like a bad decision. Amid the terrible loss and financial ruin to normal people that the housing crisis has brought - does it also shed some light on our messed up sense of value and proportion -- like it all can be and should be ours, even if the numbers don't add up? And why does having it all and living in a dream house have to mean spending a lot of money? I know it's a little naive to ask this, but I still think it's worth asking.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Things I Would Write About If I Could

OK. I should have something to say about Emily Gould by now, but I don't. I haven't read her article and I'm not going to read her article. Because life's too short and I've started reading The Radetzky March again, again because I first picked it up in the Fall, and hungry for plot and confused about my own writing, I could appreciate it then but not love it. Now, two days into my reintroduction to the book, I love it and think it's well more important than Ms. Gould. At least to me, and since she was writing about what's important to her I think that my choice not to write about her is appropriate.

I would also blog about politics, if I could, but I can't, since I'm completely checked out from what's happening in the world, other than to note there's a new speaker of the house in Iran, which seems like mildly good news if only because the new speaker, Ali Larijani, is described as a rival to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who's a bad guy and apparently a poor steward of the Iranian economy to boot.

Also, I could blog about my brother. When I last saw him, he asked me why I never blogged about him (except to complain about his huge gas guzzling SUV) and I said maybe I would blog about him. How about every Tuesday, I said. Here's what I'd do, I told him. "I'll write a screed about you. I'll call it, 'My brother sucks.'" But, frankly, my brother doesn't suck. Save the car, he's a pretty decent guy. Granted, he's obsessed with gear and cool gadgets, which I don't get. Granted, he doesn't bring his own grocery bags to the supermarket, which I think is poor planning and vaguely rude to the universe. Granted, he prefers to live in place where he can't see his neighbor's yard, which I think is plain weird. But he smokes a good turkey, he's always ready to serve up a good tipple of bourbon, and, he's grown out of the annoying habit he developed at 17 of eating large quantities of cake and ice cream and taunting me, actively, while doing it. It's not that I was so shy about the cake and ice cream back then, it's just that he ate the SUV-style portion of the stuff. Me, I was even then more of a Prius kind of girl. So much for my Tuesday screed. Besides, it's Thursday. Maybe by Tuesday, I'll be a little more caught up in the world.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

40th Birthday Trips

So my friend P. turns 40 in June. She didn't want to wake up in her own bed in her own life on her 40th birthday. It was too big a day! Too much of a milestone! So, she and her boyfriend started plotting where they might go -- Portugal, Turkey, Greece. Yeah, Greece! That's the ticket, Greece! The only problem with Greece was you have to get on a plane to get there. And if you're going to an island? Damn. It's a taxi and a ferry and another hard-to-get taxi and oy what a schlepp!

Now, one of the very first things I learned about my friend P. back when we were becoming friends our senior year of college was that while she had traveled widely -- India, Japan, Kenya, Europe -- she didn't really like it. Sure she liked being in a new place, but she really didn't like getting there.

But, still, I told her last week over lunch, she should go. She'd be so happy when she got there. She'd be so happy to BE there.

Well, I talked to P. the other night and I asked what she did over the weekend and she said, "I made reservations to go to Canyon Ranch for my birthday." I was like, "What?! In the Berkshires?" She said, "Yeah, because I thought about that hard-to-get taxi from the ferry and then I thought about Canyon Ranch and I got in touch with how I really felt about being at Canyon Ranch, and that's where I'm going."

Can I just say? I love that. It's like, I don't know, P. decided she didn't want the huge gorgeous salad filled with things she knew would be gorgeous but she didn't know that much about and that she'd have to spend an hour washing to make sure all the grit was gone, anyway. Instead she chose the huge bowl of ice cream that she knew she'd love. The only downside is she's not taking me.

Happy Birthday, P!!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


I made these brownies. The recipe calls for FIVE eggs. They are worth every single one. Which is to say, if you want the brownie, bake the brownie.

For those from The Skinny, I'm in a slightly un-Skinny phase, meaning I'm not planning lunches well, I'm eating on the run and too many leftover bagel pieces, but today I had a Very Skinny-minded lunch of grilled cheese and tomato because it was exactly what I wanted to eat. And it was delicious.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Weekend Update

Since Thursday at 12, I've been completely submerged in life with preschoolers. It's been non-stop painting, panting, chasing and zamboodeling. I know zamboodeling isn't really a word, but it sounds like how I feel when I'm with my kids. You know, kinds of up and down and all around. Strangely, I feel like over each day of the weekend so far I've been taking apart poor parenting decisions. Like, how is it that when we were leaving the carousel in Central Park, we had not only had ice cream (typical) but we'd also bought three balloons? I buy balloons about as often as I order orange juice in a restaurant. Which is to say never. But there I was, forking over singles for balloon after balloon. It all started with the face painting. Elliot wanted it, Helen not really. Then Helen saw the fireworks on Elliot's arm (he goes in for arm painting, actually), and she wanted some, too. But then the face painting lady was gone, but the balloon lady was still there. Down the slippery balloon slope we fell. All this to say, from now on, it's fcae painting only at the street fairs. We'll all be so much happier and have so many fewer balloons.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Time is Short

Because of the long weekend, I don't have much time to blog, but I've been thinking about a blog about blogging and how hard it can be to keep up a blogging groove and figuvre out one's own blogging world, assuming one doesn't want one's blogging world to be exactly the same as one's own. That spells trouble. So it's appropriate that an article by and about Emily Gould's Blogging World appeared in the New York Times just as I was thinking about all of this. I guess I'll have to read it. If anyone would like to, it's here.

More soon.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

I Love Madonna

But I saw this picture, and my first thought was, "Does Madonna dye her roots?"

Dry Cleaners

Here's the other thing: My son, Elliot: Totally obsessed with dry cleaners. Granted, there's one every block and a half in our neighborhood. But now, the constant dry cleaner questions ("Is that a dry cleaners Mommy?") have morphed into playing dry cleaner at home. This involves taking an article of mommy or daddy's clothing and carefully smoothing it with the heavy part of a computer plug.

My grandmother worked in a dry cleaners for many, many years. Part of me wonders if she has anything to do with Elliot passion for the cleaners. But she worked in the dry cleaners because her best friend owned the store and they'd sit there all day smoking and gossiping. Elliot isn't channeling any of that behavior. I've yet to find a pack of Virginia Slims Deluxe Ultra Lights, my nana's cig of choice, lying around. But he does chatter while he cleans, and his voice is mighty low, so you never know.

Jackie Warner, Skinny Maven

Lsat night, for reasons that I can't quite explain, I found myself watching Work Out, the Bravo show about celebrity trainer Jackie Warner, her trainers, and their "Skylab" clients. "Skylabbers" are, apparently, a group of, like, eight overweight adults going for the Jackie treatment to lose weight. So, here's the set-up. After Jackie leads a work-out session on the beach, she decided the Skylabbers just aren't where they need to be. She decides what they need is a retreat. Forty-eight hours in Jackie's world will get them on track! And there's all this nutrition drilling from a chef and Jackie. (Btw, in case you missed the NYTimes article, Jackie is, apparently, a hottie in straight-wife world.) The whole point of this paragraph is to get to Jackie's punchline, which she delivered at the end of a nutrition-info session: You don't want to lead a life of deprivation.

So now, having written all that, I don't really get why I've written it. Because we got that, right? But it's what I got on this sunny Wednesday. I've got a cold, I've got a haircut scheduled, and I've got Jackie Warner, camp counselor extraordinaire, telling me I shouldn't lead a life of deprivation. So if you're reading this, can I just say? If you want the cookie, have the cookie!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


Last night, after spending a good part of the day blustering and worrying about work, I plopped down on the couch with my college magazine. First thing, I flipped to the back to the class notes and happened to open it to the In Memoriam page. There, I learned that someone from my class, someone that I knew, someone that I actually lived with had died.

"No!" I just about shouted. "Not Karen!" If I shouted, maybe it wouldn't be true.

It's not that Karen and I were good friends. Sophomore year we lived in an apartment with four other women -- six in total. Two of my closest friends in the world, one other very very good friend, me, Karen, and her roommate, who was a good friend to one of my best friends. From the get go, Karen and her roommate didn't get along with everyone else. And second semester we all did best in pairs rather than groups. I remember the one real conversation I had with Karen and one of my best friends. Karen was disturbed by the number of cookies she could eat at a sitting. The number seemed normal to me and my friend. I think we weren't kind.

All this to say, my connection to Karen was attenuated. I thought she was nice; I thought we'd get along better if we weren't in the same apartment (I was a slob, after all, and she was not); I thought she had beautiful, luminous skin. Over the years when I saw her name in the class notes, I was glad to read that she was doing work I knew she'd wanted to do. I hoped she was happy. I wondered at that year we lived together in that apartment. And now she's dead. After a quick google search I learned she died "unexpectedly at age 39."

This happens. I know this happens. I could list several people I know or know about who died too early and completely unexpectedly. When she was home one afternoon. When she got off the treadmill. After she dropped off her daughter at school. It happens. It's terrible.

And it's sobering. Painful and sad and sobering. Life is not kind; Karen is the second woman from that apartment to die. The other, one of my closest friends, died nearly 16 years ago. If you're exceptionally lucky in life, you get to worry about space rocks and work projects and where your kids will go to kindergarten. Maybe if you worry like me, you send up some prayers that Karen and her family know some peace, and then pray (selfishly) that the unexpected doesn't get any closer anytime soon.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

So You Won't Have To

There are a couple of things that New York City's Upper West Side is justly famous for: bagels, strollers, and smoked fish. Zabars, Fairway, if you're interested in some hand-sliced salty fish, you got what to choose from. Unless you're my mom. Because my mom comes to the Upper West Side packing. For an overnight stay, she brings her pillow and she brings her own fish. It doesn't really matter to her that Zabars is 10 minutes away. She can "save us" the hassle of buying fish there, and so she gets fish in Providence, where I grew up, packs it in a cooler, and drives it, what, 250 miles. Or so.

Don't get me wrong, I'm appreciative. I like lox no matter where it comes from or how long it's traveled. I understand her impulse. She's the mom, she brings the food. She's taking care of us. I get that. I mean, I also secretly believe that she believes the fish from Providence is just as good and sliced just as well sa anything at Zabars. I don't know if that's true. but it is good salmon. I just think it's, you know, funny, that of all things to bring to me on the Upper West Side, my mom brings smoked fish.

So we won't have to.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Angelina + 2

OK. I admit it. I'm fascinated that Angelina Jolie is having twins. And this picture, something about her face, It's not just that she looks gorgeous, it's something else. Maybe that her facial features look slightly rearranged. And, oh yes, she's hugely pregnant. Like I was, but I never wore heels, or flew to France or went to Cannes when I was so large with babies. Still...I had to link....

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Finger Pointing

I'm really trying to finish up this big project, so not a lot of time for posting this week. But, can I just say? I'm so tired of seeing HRC with that "Oh yes you did!" smile on her face and finger point to someone in the audience. That picture was on the front page of the NY Times this morning. But what's curious is it's not on the online version of the article. There, the much smaller image is of Hillary smiling through confetti and clapping while looking up into the crowd. Like the pictures you see of most male politicians.

So, what I wonder is if photo editors choose those finger pointing pictures of HRC because there's always one just like it, or because those pictures show her relating to someone and women are all about relationships. You know what I mean?

Throughout the primary I saw plenty of male candidates pointing fingers and giving the thumbs up to audience members, but I don't remember the images of the male finger pointing as being so ubiquitous. Granted, I'm relying on my gendered memory, but I'm pretty convinced at this moment that I'm right.

So, does it matter? Does it matter that HRC, in my non-scientific memory data, is shown more often finger pointing and male candidates are not? In so far as it reinforces the idea that women relate and connect in their victories and men relish and lead the celebration of theirs, I think it does. The photos chosen by editors -- consciously or unconsciously -- reinforce stereotypical notions of leadership style, and the purported relational style of a woman could be perceived as less effective. (In a man, it's a plus, of course, but that's a different story.)

I don't think this photo thing on its own is a big deal, but it is part and parcel of the package of gender stereotypes that candidates and leaders who are women must confront. Which is to say, maybe Hillary should stop pointing fingers.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Second Thoughts on Scrambled Eggs

I wasn't going to bog today because I have very little time and many many things to do -- but I've been seized by second thoughts about the HW post. So, to clarify a little I guess my point is we all must compromise at some point, but we all have different thresholds for how much compromise we can stomach and for what purpose. Before the Democratic campaign, I knew that HRC would compromise, but whereas once I thought I could live with her compromises, now I don't think I could. And yet, I'd still vote for her over McCain, albeit with a heavy heart. So I would be willing to compromise in my vote, if I had to. Good thing I won't have to!

Monday, May 12, 2008


By the way, last night, well before I got all caught up in TV, I made this chocolate cake so we could have a "birthday party." (It was no one's birthday but that didn't stop us from singing the song and blowing out the candles.) My kids were a little disappointed there was no frosting, especially no blue frosting, but my daughter still pronounced one of the best birthday parties, ever.

I found the recipe in my notebook of recipes pulled randomly from magazines years ago. I trusted it because it seemed similar to this butter cake, which I recently early one morning to bring to someone who was making us lunch, and it was pure genius.

Either cake, made with all-purpose flour, a round pan and nothing but confectioner's sugar and maybe a strawberry on top, would make an every dinner of roasted whatever and a green salad a little more festive. Because that's what cake does. It makes everything more festive, whether it's your birthday or not.

An American Experience: Lauren, Heidi & George H.W. Bush

Last night I fell into watching a really important show. It was called something like "The Hills: Stuff you've never seen." Since I'd never seen the actual show, but have read about Heidi and Lauren (boob job, sex tape respectively, I believe) on the covers of magazines, I was a little curious about what hadn't been seen. And apparently what hadn't been seen was a lot of drinking and crying and groping and fighting. Apparently, some pretty smart sounding people take their jobs creating a "reality" show around people being miked and taped (and scripted?) pretty seriously. What that says about reality, I just can't say.

Anyway, I started surfing during a commercial break and landed on a PBS show about George H.W. Bush. Weirdly fascinating.

Bush seems to have had an outsized sense of loyalty to his Presidents, country and the potential for his own political power. Much of this is admirable (you make some money, you serve your country), and much of it is profoundly cynical (e.g., his willingness to build the Texas Republican party and his own political footprint with white Democrats angered by Civil Rights). But honestly, it's all hard to figure out what I think of Bush because the veil of my own political opinions is so thick. I feel downright icky saying I think George H.W. Bush was not so bad all the time. And then there's the means-ends problem.

For example, while watching the show, I wanted to like the Bush who voted for the Fair Housing Act of 1968 and faced death threats for it. But I couldn't forget that he faced those threats because he had cultivated the votes of those opposed to Civil Rights in the first place.

Then there's the ickiness-means-end matrix. Because in this political climate it can be impossible to remember that reasonable people can disagree reasonably and the body politic is better for it. It's like I've forgotten that a Democrat and Republican can sit down to a meal and debate and walk away and not feel like the other person is a bad human being, but just someone with whom each disagrees.

I can think 41 is not so bad and that's not the end of the world. Except when I think he's willing to compromise too much and that's bad. I can't tell if my standards are the same all around, though. Because let's face it, nobody's perfect, and yet imperfection in the service of one's own goals and ideals is somewhat palatable, or at least sympathetic or understandable. Isn't this what we struggle with when faced with both Clintons? Imperfect choices when it comes to means when the ends are on the other side? That's some seriously bad stuff. (Witness John McCain's ethics problem. Would I feel the same way about them if he wouldn't pack the Supreme Court with as many more Alitos as he could possibly find? I think so, but I can't be sure.)

That Lauren, Heidi, Spence and Justin led me down a path to George H.W. Bush seems particularly appropriate -- the truest of American Experiences, right? Pop culture flows into political culture, and we can then examine what incites our passions. What's right, what's wrong, when do you draw the line? It gets all muddled up pretty quickly. A little like this post.
Coffee anyone?

Friday, May 9, 2008

Plastic Bags -- The OK Kind

I'm going to blog about plastic bags now because my friend Melissa told me I should. Frankly, I think she just misses blogging. And frankly, I miss her blogging, too, but such is life.

So I called Melissa about an hour ago and she said I needed to blog about those "big plastic freezer bags." Why? "Because," as Melissa said, "You know what? You can put them in the dishwasher, and they get clean!" She'd done just that with a big plastic bag that had been emptied of garlicky paella. Having only used the bag once, she refused to give up on it. Having washed it in the dishwasher, she can use it again, perhaps even for something that you wouldn't want any garlic near, like strawberry rhubarb compote.

I have to admit, plastic kitchen bags -- for storage, for snack -- are a terrible addiction. I almost always have my reusable grocery bags for trips to the market. In fact, in my day-to-day bag, I have the grocery bag and a water bottle and not always a lot of room for anything else. But the kitchen bags? I just can't quit them.

I use them for snack, for storing food, for freezing food. I try to reuse them, especially the snack ones, but I don't always succeed, because I lose them before I can rinse them out and put them back in the closet. It's discouraging. I'd like to be rid of them, but until I find a company that makes reusable, washable snack bags, I'm stuck with them.

I know, I know - -there's tupperware, snack containers, cups with lids. I've tried them all. They work sometimes. But the problem is the lid! I can't always keep track of the lid. If there were a little snack bag with a velcro tab I'd be in heaven. I have sandwich wraps for sandwiches like that -- why can't that company make snack bags? Inquiring minds want to know!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Compulsive Checking

I keep checking the New York Times to see if there's an article posted a minute ago telling me that Hillary Clinton has dropped out. Apparently, that's just not going to happen.

The West Side Highway

I got a late start today and little sleep last night, so I don't have much time to muse on, say, how people without children feel about strollers and when a child is old enough to be out of a stroller and how terrible it is to try to get your kid from one place to another in a stroller even if he can walk and speak in full sentences. I mean, some people are really entitled about their children and their status as parents. And some people are incredibly nasty to people with children, whether you're a presuming parent with a big stroller or not. I have stories, oh do I have stories, about the contempt adults show small children in this city and I daresay in this country. Contempt that would shock an Italian, let's say. But I can't get into the details right now. Right now, I want to talk about The West Side Highway. Because I love The West Side Highway. It shoots up the, you know, west side of Manhattan and I'm rarely on it and when I am I'm always thrilled. Because I love watching the neighborhoods change. I love seeing the green of Riverside park and the dinginess of the 50s and 40s and the celebration of downtown. I love how extreme everything feels so far west. It's paved, but it's wild. And it's not like I love cars or driving or being on any highway at all. But I love that road. Maybe it's my Route 66. Flying up it this morning, after leaving behind the choked traffic on tenth avenue, I felt the familiar rush of romance when we passed by the Hustler club and the unfortunate Trump Towers and the Liberty Helicopter pad. All this under the clear Spring sky, and all I could think was: Ahhh, New York, New York!!!

Monday, May 5, 2008

Don't Say That!

I would like to blog about politics or current events or some such, but. honestly, I'm completely checked out from current events. I haven't read the newspaper in too long, I get my political news from Jezebel or my husband (who reads like five papers every day plus political blogs so he's a good source), and I'm completely wrapped up in two things: (1) work project and (2) my kids.
So, since I'm not going to blog about work, I'm going to tell you about my daughter, Helen, who decided this morning to get dressed all by herself. She picked out her dress and shirts (she insisted on wearing an undershirt over her long sleeved shirt), and then, when I told her it'd be too warm for tights, she went and got her socks. Not easy since the sock drawer is at the very top of the dresser and she must've really stretched on the chair she was standing on to get any pair out of there. So what that the pair she ended up with was for a six month old!
Looking back over this paragraph, I see that I wrote she got dressed all by herself as if it was no big deal at all. Like she just pulled her shirt on and figured out the front and back and where her arms were to go and then pulled on the next shirt and did the same and then pulled on her dress as if it didn't have a lining that she could get all gummed up in.
I wrote it like she didn't cry and kick and tell me over and over again that she didn't want any help and that she would do all of it by herself.
I wrote it like she didn't keep saying, "Don't Say That!!" What was "That"? That was "Good job!" or "Perfect!" She didn't want me to say that. No compliments. The compliments were driving her batty.
This took me a while to get. I say "Good job!" as naturally as I say "Hey guys!" and with about as much thought. No wonder she wanted me to stop saying it. She knew she wasn't doing the best job getting her clothes on. But she was trying.
She'd lay down and weep and then try again and tell me to stop saying "Good job!" and then say she couldn't see where her arm went and then tell me she didn't want help and then when I finally said she had to hurry up and finish, which I thought was a little harsh given the circumstances, she actually did.
All that trying and crying reminded me of when I climbed Mt. Elbert, which, according to my then boyfriend, is the highest mountain in Colorado. It was a difficult hike for many reasons, not the least of which was I didn't know we were going all the way to the top until we were halfway there. I believed D. when he said we'd only be going for a little walk on the mountain because it was already 2 in the afternoon when we got there. But no. He took off like the proverbial bat out of hell, and being 6'4" he made fast work of the steep grade. Me, not so much. It was more of a slog in thin air. When I hit the third false summit, I just sat down and told D. to keep going and started to cry. I cried and cried until I finally decided I would feel even worse if I just sat there and waited for D. to come back from the top and didn't get to the top myself because I was almost there anyway.
So I picked myself up and trudged on and made it. D. took about a million pictures of me making my way over that last little bit and I have to say I look happy in all of them. I was happy. I'd made it.
I was a little chagrined, though, what with all the crying. But crying was part of it.
This is what I thought of as I watched my little girl sob in frustration. This is what it feels like to do something hard. At least for me and I guess for her. Sometimes you kind of have to weep and fight to get through it and then you do and you feel like you climbed the biggest mountain ever. Even though you know it wasn't. So don't say it was.

Friday, May 2, 2008

The Pleasure of Pleasure

I'm reading Eat. Pray. Love. I just finished the Eat section, which takes place in Italy. In it, Elizabeth Gilbert writes this: "Still, I will say that the same thing which has helped generations of Sicilians hold their dignity has helped me begin to recover mine -- namely, the idea that the appreciation of pleasure can be an anchor of one's humanity." That's nice. And it makes me feel even more pleased that I baked chocolate chip cookies last night. Not only will they complement my tea, they'll anchor my humanity!

May Day!!

Honestly, I'm too tired and glum to blog about too much. The presidential race may be as interesting as American Idol, but it actually is more than just theater. I'm so pissed that Clinton has, like a 12.1 percent chance of getting the nomination (according to, sorry I'm not linking to the specific article) and she's still in the race because she thinks Obama will be a bad candidate in the general election. Self-fulfilling prophecy anyone? If Obama is the candidate and loses, will Clinton go on the Sunday morning shows and say, "See, I told you so!" Can't you hear it now? And then there's war, death, rape and the fact that high gas prices don't mean lower fuel consumption worldwide, because everyone in India and China now want to use their cars, too. I was thinking of blogging about how whenever the Athleta catalogue gets into my house my heart breaks a little at all those tan flat bellies on every page, but it seems a little besides the point to complain about it. Never mind to complain about having to give up the fantasy of having a life where all I'd do is practice yoga and go hiking and send positive energy out into the world.
It's bleak, man! And it's raining! And I'm tired! So I'm sorry for this post, but it's the best I can do.
Fortunately, next month, The Love Guru will open in theaters near you...and me, too! Now that's something to look forward to.