Sunday, May 31, 2009

Michelle Obama Does Not Have to Cook

Last week, before I'd read anything about Mrs. Obama's feelings for meal preparation I was washing cauliflower (again) and wondering if she missed the kitchen. Seriously. I was like, "Does Michelle Obama wish she had time to cook?" I decided she didn't. Which is to say that I wasn't surprised by her admission that she's fine with other people doing the cooking. In fact, if she didn't like other people doing the cooking, I might shoot myself. I mean, there she is, out in the world every day being an icon, a paragon, an exemplar of a real live working mother. How would she have the time to cook, never mind the energy to enjoy it?

In today's paper, however, Amanda Hesser writes that Mrs. Obama, the country's most prominent proponent of local ingredients and healthier meals, missed a great opportunity to improve the nation's eating habits when she admitted she doesn't mind other people doing the cooking. "Because terrific local ingredients aren’t much use if people are cooking less and less; cooking is to gardening what parenting is to childbirth."

This is true. It's true, as Hesser writes, that it's cheaper to cook for yourself and better for the environment in all kinds of ways. (Just think of all those plastic take out containers!) But it's also true that cooking can be a chore, and it's not just the food companies trying to sell me easy-make food that makes me say that. I cook a lot, sometimes I love it, and sometimes, meh. But is that so unusual? After all, anything you have to do every day can be a chore. That's the definition of chore -- a task that must get done not when you feel inspired to do it, but when it has to happen. Take my word for it, I tried to get pregnant for three and a half years and I can tell you that sometimes even the best way to pass the time can come closer to chore-like than you ever imagined. And on the flip side, sometimes chores have hidden pleasures you'd never uncover without all that, you know, practice.

All this to say denying the chore-like aspect of cooking doesn't help anyone get closer to the stove. And if Michelle Obama doesn't want to cook, she shouldn't have to. Her plate is plenty full as it is.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Playing the Racism Card

Of course the charges that Judge Sonya Sotmayor is a racist are absurd. Just in case you missed it, Charles Blow explains why.

I would be going bananas about all this, but I can't imagine that Sotomayor won't be confirmed and all this stuff and nonsense from the far right is nothing but the frantic grasp of a green warlock splashed with water but still grasping at straws as he melts away.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Everyday Cake

I made Orangette's Everyday Cake. Actually, my daughter did a lot of the making and somehow we ended up both AOK at the end of it. (Things always get hairy when it's time to add the flour in batches.) I didn't have yogurt or whole milk, but I did have buttermilk, so I used that. I also used regular Whole Wheat Flour, not the White Whole Wheat Flour orangette had. The cake is very, very.....pleasing. Very pleasing. I feel like it's a little heavy on the baking powder, but I might investigate tinkering with that. Otherwise, it's a cake I'd make again, and I recommend it to anyone looking for an easy cake to make. It'd be nice at brunch, or at a four o'clock snack and it's nice with some tea after the kids are asleep . Plus, it's the first cake my daughter ate without frosting and sprinkles, which, for her and her brother, is usually the entire point of cake.

Double X

Slate seems to have spun off a site chock full of stuff to interest women. It's called "Double X" and in case you didn't get that XX chromosome reference, were you to visit the site you'd know in an instant you were on a site for the ladies because the font color of choice is a shade I think of as "Ob/Gyn" purple. It's the purple of your pill packs and ovulation predictor kits, of cervical cancer information booklets and breast health reminders. Because the good folks at Slate seem to have agreed with all the big pharma designers out there that grown up girls just can't let go of lavender.

Here's the thing, Double X is a spin off of the Slate blog "The XX Factor." For whatever reason ever since it started (I believe they introduced it during the campaign), I've resented it. Now, I know there's a place for web sites devoted to "women's issues" and "women's politics." I know sites can spin off the way Jezebel spun off from Gawker, but somehow a ladie's celebrity/politics/women's site doesn't bother me in the way that the Slate site and the XX Factor itself bother me. I mean, I went to a women's college, I believe in Women's Studies and it still drives me up the wall.

Maybe it's because Slate, a web site devoted to analyzing culture and politics, has a bunch of women writing about culture and politics without laboring under any taglines like that of the "XX Factor" -- namely, "What women really think." The fact of their womanhood didn't seem to matter particularly until the XX Factor came along and they along with family issues and education moved over there. I'm not saying that those writers don't write the way they do because of who they are and gender contributes to that, but male writers do the same thing. In any case, something about the whole thing just seemed entirely too bogus. The women staffers of Slate were already writing about the campaign, so why did they have to write about it in the women's blog? And why did the women have to write about the candidates' position on family leave and why should those kinds of stories be pushed to a section labeled as of special interest for women?

Can't those smart guys over there just pretend like we're all part of the same culture and equally invested in education, health care, and tort reform? Because sometimes pretending is like smiling when your heart is breaking -- you might know in your soul what you're pretending isn't real, but it still makes it better.

And, seriously, did they have to go with that purple?

Project Runway

I'm going to have to find Lifetime on my cable box! Come August, Project Runway is back. I did watch five minutes of Bravo's knock-off/replacement "The Fashion Show" and it was B. A. D. Seriously. Who doesn't love Issac Mizrahi? No one, but still, he's no Heidi.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Pay It Forward

Five minutes ago, I staggered to the checkout line at the market around the corner. I'd just walked with my kids to our local fire station. The door was closed, I didn't see a soul, I wouldn't ring the bell (we'd been there three times in the last five days and yesterday, firefighter Rich gave Elliot a tour of the truck and put on his mask for Elliot to see), my son became hysterical. Just as he was calming down, a block and a half later, we passed the Card-O-Mat. My daughter she wanted a card, a princess card to send to her cousin. Making a card wouldn't work because she didn't have princess stickers. She became hysterical. I finally got to the market where I got eggs, which we need, and whole wheat flour, so I could make this cake, which we don't need. I went to pay, but my wallet was nowhere to be found. I couldn't remember my credit card number, my daughter was desperate to eat a sort-of-mini chocolate muffin which I, in my desperate state, had allowed her to have. Suddenly, a woman appeared before me with two crisp fives, complete with purple numerals, and a big smile. "You forgot your wallet?" she asked pleasantly. "Yeah," I sighed. "Take it. Pay it forward. I'm serious." So, after some protest, I decided not to deprive this woman of her obvious and heartfelt good will. "I've had toddlers, too," she said. I got home and there was an email from the American Jewish World Service asking for money to help fight world hunger. What else could I do? I paid it forward.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

A Hot Day.

I had a bad day. This didn't help.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Knitting Thing-Take 2 & an Update

Lately I've been spending some of my now fairly limited blog-reading time on one web site -- Ravelry, which is some kind of knitting community. I say "some kind" because I kind of don't entirely understand the site and still it's wholly seductive. What's seductive about it is you can search yarn and patterns and imagine all the things you could make or would make differently. You can admire some exceedingly good handiwork and wonder about all the time people spend knitting. And you can be amazed at just how much energy people put into hats. Really. The hat making on Ravelry is intense. People are making hats with twists, with waves, with lace, with god knows what. I guess they do it because they can, because hats are quick and show off some nice work, but it's still overwhelming. The whole knitting thing is overwhelming, especially for me because I really do like to knit, but unlike with, say, cooking, practice is not making me better. Bolder, sure, but better? Not really. I don't know what it will take to get to be a better knitter, but I'm guessing it's more actual knitting and less perusing.

On a personal front, I'm almost out of the weeds and I expect and hope to be back in some kind of regular blogging rhythm by the weekend.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Suze Orman Should Keep Her Moment

I was weirdly fascinated by the profile of Suze Orman in the Sunday Times Magazine. I read it with a kind of growing horror and I wasn't sure why -- her advice is basic and she's a good salesperson. Then, I got to this:

"She has been reluctant to work on school curricula on personal finance, because she says students can’t learn empowerment from people who aren’t empowered, and teachers, she says, are too underpaid ever to have any real self-worth. She told me: “When you are somebody scared to death of your own life, how can you teach kids to be powerful? It’s not something in a book — it ain’t going to happen that way.”

So, unless you make a lot of money you have no self-worth? No sense of power and efficacy in the world? Someone should tell Suze Orman that that message is SO 2006.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Once Is Enough or Twice Around

Somehow I ended up on the Times (of London) online and there I found this list of literary one hit wonders. To Kill a Mockingbird didn't surprise me, but where's Invisible Man? There's an accompanying list of spectacular second novels. They're curious, these lists, both because they're there and that they can be so fun. I can never resist a list, and I'm sure I'm not alone in that. They go down easy.

What We Know of Obama

On Slate, Jacob Weisberg gives us a four-point, four-month assessment of our president. He's closing point about the White House Correspondents' dinner is especially well-taken. There, Obama didn't do such a great job laughing at himself, which I guess is fine, for now.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Fear in My Heart

Two things struck fear in my heart today. First, this article in the Sunday Times Magazine by Edmund Andrews about his personal debt. I for one understood how his once solid, steady financial life spun out of control, and it was terrifying. Two, I saw a group of grown ups playing in Riverside park today. They were playing Quidditch.


Poking around for a replacement gurney to a Playmobil ambulance, I found the Playmobil collector fan site. I encourage a visit, if only to see the Playmobil Civil War re-enactment. Say what you will about this particular obsession, it must take an extremely high level of organziation. I think if I ever saw the sock drawer of the any of these fans, I'd lay down and weep.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Jon Stewart, Once Again

Here you go, via Sullivan, Jon Stewart on photography, torturing and gay translators in the military. You know what he'll say, but watching him say it? Priceless.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Wrapped Up

I've been a little wrapped up with work and family life and blogging regularly has been harder than usual. Apologies. By the middle of next week I'm guessing things will be a little more open and I'll be back to closer to daily posts. Until then, I'll do the best I can.

Have a good day!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Ruling Class Who Doesn't Like It

I get emails from something called Very Short List (VSL). I heard about it from a friend, and I know Kurt Andersen is involved. Today, in my VSL was a review of Walter Kirn's new memoir Lost in the Meritocracy. Maybe it was just my Springtime sinus headache, but I was in no mood for this bit about Kirn's Princeton education:

'“The essence of my training was to confuse the approval of my trainers with my own happiness,” Kirn writes. At the end of his journey, Kirn realized that instead of an education, what he’d received was an invitation to join America’s ruling class; decades later, the bad taste still lingers in his mouth.'

Kirn writes regularly for The New York Times--for the Sunday magazine, for the book review, for all kinds of places. He's published novels, he's a widely respected man of letters, and he lives in Bozeman. Montana. If Kirn really didn't like being part of the ruling cultural elite, then I wouldn't instantly recognize his name. Which is to say that that last sentence about the bad taste Kirn's education left in his mouth, a sentence no doubt written by someone who had a highly meritricious education and reviewed by Andersen, Kirn's former colleague at the seminal Spy magainze, drips with too much hypocrisy. Maybe I have to read the memoir to get the nuance here, but while Kirn may not like the taste of that invitation to the ruling class, he's had no trouble accepting it. He's fulfilled his ambitions so well it that now he gets to cast aspersions on it, like those angst-ridden pop-songs of regret by mega stars. It's something I'd expect from, say, Judith Warner, and it's so unappealing.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

A Brownie Failure

Every so often, I make brownies. On mother's day, I wanted to do two things: Go for a run and make brownies. I did both. The run was great. I listened to a disturbing story by James Salter called Last Night (the link is to the download of the podcast; I don't know if it'll work.) and the weather could not have been better. The brownies, too, started out promising. I bought good chocolate, I was prepared for the five eggs, the kids helped and there was no flour to sweep up from the floor. But, I under-baked the brownies. They were in long enough, and when I put in a tester, it didn't come out clean, but it wasn't fully brownied, either. I figured better to have brownies under done than over done. Which is true, except when you can't pick them up. The last time I made this recipe, almost a year ago, I slightly over-baked them, which is why I think I mde the decision I did this time. The good news is if practice makes perfect, next time I make these brownies, I'll be ready for some brownie bliss.

A Mother's Day Moment

A Thank You to The New Mom for pointing me in the way of this essay by Kate Cole-Adams, a writer in Australia. It's well worth reading. Now, I've got to go find my kids!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Car Culture Revisited?

I loved this article by Nate Silver about the declining mileage racked up by Americans. In fact, Silver himself predicted how much I'd love it. There's this quote from it:

"For people like me who live in big cities where one does not need a vehicle to get by, there is a certain romantic attraction to this story. Why, if only all those Bubbas could ditch their SUVs, take the monorail to work, and buy their families a bunch of Schwinns, life would be just grand!"

The difference for me and Silver is not only don't i like "Bubbas", I would swap it out for "my brother" (If only my brother could ditch his SUV) and then for the concluding sentence I'd write, " would be just grand and I would be so right!" Sibling rivalry, isn't it grand?

Friday, May 8, 2009

Dinner with Tom

Last week, I read an interview with Tom Colicchio the New York Times Sunday Magazine and I can't stop thinking about it, "it" being the following:

Household issue he’s fussy about: When I am having a dinner party and the food hits the table, please be seated already. It drives me nuts when people aren’t there.

Tom, I just want to tell you that if you ever were to invite my husband and me to your house for dinner, you'd find that we were excellent, maybe even exceptional, guests. Really, you wouldn't have to worry about where we'd be when the food hit the table. Not for one hot second.

Thursday, May 7, 2009


My post this morning was a mess, I can barely wrap my head around the news, I'm very distracted these days. Did you read that sentence? What a mish-mosh. I'm sorry. I'll be more careful and better. Here's to next time!

Time Management-Family Style

I saw the news that Jon from Jon and Kate Plus Eight had an affair on the cover of OK. I didn't believe it, not because I know anything about the guy, but, I mean, he has EIGHT KIDS! Who has the time? I know he's organized, because I've watched a little bit of the show here and there and, believe me, these people are organized, but now that it's been confirmed (see the link), I'm still aghast. It's sordid, of course, and such a terrible betrayal, but it's also, as Sandra Tsing Loh would say (in an Atlantic article I can't get online), a lot of showering.

Then, this morning I started to read about this family with seven kids (two sets of twins), a publicist and eleven gorgeous homes renovated and moved in and out of (most of them) in twelve years. Of course they're getting a reality show, too. I couldn't finish the article, though because really, not only is their reality so far from mine, but it was keeping me from my to-do list that I have yet to make. I can barely organize my meals, never mind assemble paint chips for eleven houses and have seven babies and five pregnancies. There must be some serious flow charts for their days. I just hope there aren't too many showers in their future, if you know what I mean.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


A little while ago I put down a novel and picked up Pnin, by Vladimir Nabokov. At first, I was riveted by it. Then, reading it made me feel, what's the word--small. Like I shouldn't try to write anything, not even on the blog, because I probably only know about a third as many words in English as Nabokov did. Nabokov's language, his controlled exuberance, his cutting humor, it was all amazing and very technically satisfying, but it wasn't until about halfway in that I became emotionally connected to this story of a Russian emigre which, in the end, moved me deeply. I almost feel like starting over from the beginning tonight. I won't, but I'm sorely tempted.

The Costume Ball at the Met

It's the morning after the famed event and no matter how busy you are, do not deny yourself the pleasure of the fug girls.

Collateral Noise

I've been told not to blog about collateral noise, the term I've come to use for the sound that emanates from ear buds and headphones cranked up to a Spinal Tap eleven. I've been told not to get so upset about it, to take it easy and just calm down because it's not such a big deal. Don't you hate it when someone tells you to calm down? I especially hate it when it comes to this noise, because it's so tinny, so persistent, so grating. I work in a library and I travel by subway and while I don't expect silence on the subway -- especially when I'm there with my kids -- I also don't expect that I'll have to listen to someone else's playlist. Ditto at the library. But it's worse there since the room is supposed to be quiet. Really, it's infuriating. Granted, I may be a little extra sensitive to the sound, but the sound is, objectively speaking, awful. Did I mention it's tinny? So tinny. I can't bear it. I know it should be the worst of my problems, but it's my problem right now and I can't find it's source. I'll have to move and hope for the best.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Glasses Problem

I now have a very hard time reading without glasses. I find this distressing. I've had reading glasses since I was sixteen, but in the last two months my eyesight has gotten terrible. I don't really know why I'm writing this other than I'm hard up for blogging, having had the kind of day where I kept my kid from napping at 4:45 by offering him chocolate pudding, and I was going to blog about Ayelet Waldman, but then I just got bored. Seriously, I've been so annoyed at her for whining about how provoked everyone was when she wrote something really provocative (that she'd be more upset if her husband died than if one of her kids did) for so long (I first read a teaser of her whining in Real Simple a few months back), that now that my husband brought home an article about her in the Washington Post Style section, I can't even gather my panties in my hand, never mind get them into a bunch. Which is too bad because it's one less blogging topic. Maybe if I'd had my reading glasses it would have helped matters, but as it is, I'm opting for the peace of blurred vision and unfinished articles.

Monday, May 4, 2009

The Wordle

My friend Ceridwen made this wordle for me. How great is that? Thanks Ceridwen!

Rwanda & Recovery

In last week's New Yorker, Philip Gourevitch has a fascinating article about the rebuilding of Rwanda. The genocide was fifteen years ago, and now there are courts organized by the government to facilitate some kind of reconciliation between Hutu and Tutsi, perpetrators and survivors, and lay at least a tentative groundwork for preventing another genocide. There are also new roads, billboards promoting the payment of taxes as an honor to the country, and a lal banning plastic bags. That's right. To limit garbage and environmental damage, Rwanda has outlawed plastic bags. Considering everything, it's the least amazing part of their recovery, but still amazing nonetheless.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Sunday Night Foods

Tonight, I was looking through The River Cottage Family Cookbook with my son Elliot, something he loves to do because it not only has pictures of things all cooked (he likes the baked apple especially), it has pictures of things in the making. Chocolate melting, homemade pasta going through a machine, a nice glob of bread dough--it fascinates him, providing him an instant answer to the "what's that?" and the "how do you make this?" that are always on his lips. But here's the thing--while the cookbook made me want to make all kinds of things (easy flatbreads! gooseberry crumble!), it didn't make me want to make dinner. Or even a side dish. And so I start the week with no dinner plans and no big ideas for a dish or two that will take me through two or three meals. Hopefully, I'll find inspiration in the morning, on this side of the pond, and in time to make a list for the supermarket. It's my new resolution: Make a list. Good one, right?

Friday, May 1, 2009

Starbucks No More

Today instead of the Assam tea I'm growing to love for its tea-ish-ness, my husband made a pot of green tea. Nutty, delicious, satisfying, but lacking a certain, you know, kick. So, I went to Starbucks. And since I'd been up since about 2 AM (a dream about an article on the kindergarten crisis in New York City woke me up), I thought I just might go for a soy chi latte. Why not start the day with a candy bar, right?


One, the line. It was long, and while they moved it along, I still waited for regulars to be served who were nonetheless behind me in line. I may not go to Starbucks every day, but a line is a line.

Two, the sizing. I thought I'd go all Starbuck-y and instead of saying "small" I'd say "Grande." Only "Grande" is medium in Starbuck-ese. Everyone knows that, except me, I forgot.

Three, the cost. That damn Grande was almost five dollars! I didn't even want to look at the calorie count.

I was so annoyed I couldn't even fully enjoy my candy-bar of a drink, and so I did a very Skinny-ish thing. About half way through, I just dropped it in a garbage can. If I couldn't enjoy it, why drink it? Next time I have to be in a Starbucks, it's a small mint tea for me.