Archive for November 2008

Things I’ve Done

Edited to add, I’ve had the chicken pox! Good thing my mom reads my blog…

A meme I saw over at Libby‘s. Blogger’s bold didn’t look so bold, so I’ve starred the ones I’ve done.

*1. Started your own blog
*2. Slept under the stars
*3. Played in a band
*4. Visited Hawaii
*5. Watched a meteor shower

*6. Given more than you can afford to charity

7. Been to Disneyland
*8. Climbed a mountain
9. Held a praying mantis
*10. Sang a solo

11. Bungee jumped
*12. Visited Paris
*13. Watched a lightning storm at sea

*14. Taught yourself an art from scratch – I don’t quite know what this means. Does making puff pastry count? Then I have.
15. Adopted a child
*16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty – this hasn’t been legal for a while. I’ve visited, though.
*18. Grown your own vegetables

19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
*20. Slept on an overnight train
*21. Had a pillow fight

22. Hitch hiked
*23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
*24. Built a snow fort

25. Held a lamb
*26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Run a Marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice – no, but I’ve ridden the vaporetto (less romantic, I know)
*29. Seen a total eclipse
*30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
*31. Hit a home run
–it was 5th grade softball, but I did it.
*32. Been on a cruise
— just this summer, to celebrate my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary with the whole family
*33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors
35. Seen an Amish community
*36. Taught yourself a new language Hebrew, from my friend’s Hebrew school books. It didn’t take.
*37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied

*38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
*39. Gone rock climbing
*40. Seen Michelangelo’s David

*41. Sung karaoke

42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt — no, though I have seen other, less predictable, geysers erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
*45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had your portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
*50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
*51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling

*52. Kissed in the rain

*53. Played in the mud

*54. Gone to a drive-in theater
*55. Been in a movie – do student productions count? then yes.
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class
*59. Visited Russia I have to admit I was 2, so I don’t remember it at all
*60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies
*62. Gone whale watching and also just happened to see some from the beach in Stinson recently
*63. Got flowers for no reason

*64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma

65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
*67. Bounced a check
68. Flown in a helicopter
*69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
*70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial

*71. Eaten Caviar

72. Pieced a quilt
*73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
*75. Been fired from a job — and I was so happy about it, too!
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
*80. Published a book
81. Visited the Vatican — I hung around outside for awhile, though.
*82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
*84. Had your picture in the newspaper – most recently here in the NY Times.
85. Read the entire Bible
86. Visited the White House – like the Vatican, I’ve done a drive-by. Ben fully expects to visit President Obama in the White House when we visit D. C. in April, however.
*87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating – it was a fish, which is probably not what this meme has in mind
*88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone’s life
*90. Sat on a jury
*91. Met someone famous

*92. Joined a book club
We’re a little group that’s been meeting nearly 6 years; one wedding, one divorce (different couple), and 3 babies later, still going pretty strong.
*93. Lost a loved one

*94. Had a baby

95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a law suit
*98. Owned a cell phone
*99. Been stung by a bee

*100. Read an entire book in one day – several times, but the most memorable was probably reading all of Dorothy Sayers’ Lord Peter mysteries in ten days the summer between sophomore and junior years of high school. I was sick with something like mono and moping around reading was all I could do.

That’s 59, if I counted correctly, which leaves plenty of interesting things to do in the years to come (though I’ll continue to skip the bungee jumping and sky diving, thanks).


This comes from Outside Voice; if you’re reading, consider yourself tagged!

1. WERE YOU NAMED AFTER ANYONE? my maternal grandmother.

2. WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU CRIED? oh, just a couple days ago, in frustration with my insomnia.

3. DO YOU LIKE YOUR HANDWRITING? I do, but it’s illegible to most.

4. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE LUNCH MEAT? Bacon, which I continued to eat for a year after I was calling myself a vegetarian.

5. DO YOU HAVE KIDS? Two boys


7. DO YOU USE SARCASM A LOT? Less and less.


9. WOULD YOU BUNGEE JUMP? No; makes my neck hurt just thinking about it.

10. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE CEREAL? Every morning: Joe’s O’s with homemade granola, dried cranberries and milk. Even if there’s brunch happening soon, or pancakes — I need my cereal first.

11. DO YOU UNTIE YOUR SHOES WHEN YOU TAKE THEM OFF? No, although the only lace-up shoes I own are my running shoes, which I kick off as soon as I’m home.

12. DO YOU THINK YOU ARE STRONG? Sometimes. Then sometimes also not.

13. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE ICE CREAM? Vanilla. With chocolate sauce and salted peanuts.


15. RED OR PINK? Until recently it was always pink. But lately more often red: clothing, lipstick, wine…

16. WHAT IS THE LEAST FAVORITE THING ABOUT YOURSELF? That’s not such a fun thing to consider, really. Let’s just say my knees.




20. WHAT WAS THE LAST THING YOU ATE? Popcorn and red wine right now.

21. WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO RIGHT NOW? The kids chattering in bed, my friends clicking away on their keyboards.


23. FAVORITE SMELLS? Bread dough, freshly bathed boys, newly mown grass


25. DO YOU LIKE THE PERSON WHO SENT THIS TO YOU? Yes! but we’ve never met 🙁

26. FAVORITE SPORTS TO WATCH? It used to be baseball but lately, basketball.

27. HAIR COLOR? Brown

28. EYE COLOR? Brown

29. DO YOU WEAR CONTACTS? Used to; now, Lasik!

30. FAVORITE FOOD? fresh peaches, milk, dark chocolate, kale — not all together, though

31. SCARY MOVIES OR HAPPY ENDINGS? definitely happy endings

32. LAST MOVIE YOU WATCHED? Who Does She Think She Is? Watch for a column on it next week



35. HUGS OR KISSES? Depends on who’s giving them

36. FAVORITE DESSERT? Warm peach pie with vanilla ice cream


38. LEAST LIKELY TO RESPOND. Whoever doesn’t feel like it

39. WHAT BOOK ARE YOU READING NOW? Captive Bodies: American Women Writers Redefine Pregnancy and Childbirth, by my friend Mary Ruth Marotte

40. WHAT IS ON YOUR MOUSE PAD? Who uses a mouse pad anymore?

41. WHAT DID YOU WATCH ON TV LAST NIGHT? No TV last night; when I get home, there’s a tivo’d episode of Top Chef waiting for me.

42. FAVORITE SOUND. The boys talking to each other in their room after bedtime; Tony’s laugh; and lest I get too sentimental, also: loud car radio; electric mixer; clothes dryer


44. WHAT IS THE FARTHEST YOU HAVE BEEN FROM HOME? I’ve lived in Japan, but I guess that wasn’t being far from home; the furthest I’ve traveled from home since I moved to the States was probably Austria

45. DO YOU HAVE A SPECIAL TALENT? Making ice cream before breakfast



Thanksgiving Dinner

This year, among many other blessings, I am thankful for good food, and family and friends who know their way around the kitchen so I don’t have to cook it all.

Mom’s Brown and Serve Wheat Germ Rolls
Butternut squash bisque
Whole berry cranberry sauce
Garlicky ginger cranberry relish
Green beans with lemon zest
Baked pearl onions
Mashed potatoes
Sweet potatoes anna
Shaved brussels sprouts with lemon and hazelnuts
Frissee salad with pear, manchego and pomegranate seeds
Wild rice, lentil and mushroom timbales
Mushroom gravy
Chestnut stuffing
Tony’s grandmother’s bread stuffing with lemon zest and parsley
Turkey and turkey gravy
Pumpkin pie
Cranberry almond crostata

Happy Thanksgiving!

Brotherly Love?

Ben and Eli were playing with their homemade paper walkie-talkies. Ben was sending Eli “text messages” by writing commands on small slips of paper, walking over to Eli and reading him the message. Smoke signals would have been more efficient, perhaps, but who am I to interfere in a self-initiated game that requires none of my involvement? I’m no fool.

And so it went, with Ben writing out his messages very carefully, reading them to Eli, and then the two of them running to the meeting place:

“Eli! I’m sending you a text message. It says, “Meet me at Pier 47! That’s the dining room, ok?”

Or, “Eli! I’m sending you a text message. It says, “Meet me at Pier 23. That’s the bathroom.”

Until Eli had enough. He ran to the art table, cut out a slip of paper, wrote an indicipherable message, and ran it over to Ben.

“Ben! I’m sending you a text message! It says, “Stop bossing me!”

The end.

Appetizer, Dinner, Dessert

The new season of Top Chef has begun, and Tony and I are once again glued to the couch on Wednesday nights. It took me a little while to get in to the show; the original host was fairly insipid, and the fact that you could only see, but not taste nor smell, the dishes seemed a fatal flaw. Still, we watched, because we do love to watch people cook, and seeing chefs handle challenges like assembling delicious-looking dishes out of vending machine purchases slowly won me over. I’ve even come around to the new host, Padma Lakshmi, who doesn’t trumpet her cooking abilities but is more than just a pretty face — she knows her stuff.

This week’s challenge — a pretty straightforward appetizer, dinner, dessert; no unusual requirements or last-minute restrictions– had me shouting at the contestants. They’re only two weeks into the show, sure, but this is the fifth season: surely they’ve watched it before? They should know better than to attempt a dish with an unfamiliar ingredient (ostrich egg quiche, anybody? You didn’t have to taste it to know it was not a success.) They should know to ditch something and start over when they — and all their fellow contestants — think it’s too sweet. I’ve never seen Padma spit something out into her napkin before, but she couldn’t even swallow a bite of her lemon meringue martini with cherry surprise. Who can blame her, really? I’m not sure I would put anything called “surprise” in to my mouth.

Now I’m no Top Chef and have no aspirations to be, but I can find my way around the kitchen, and so can my Lisa, my coeditor over at Learning to Eat; recently we both happened to write about appetizer, dinner and dessert, so head on over there for some recipes. And in the meantime, I’ll keep watching what those Top Chef contestants are up to.

This Week at Literary Mama

In Columns

Great Green Room
by Stephanie Hunt

I have a heron. A gorgeous, mysterious Great Blue. In the mornings
when the sun is bright, I pull back my bedroom drapes and look first
thing. From my window I have the slimmest keyhole view through my
neighbor’s gate out toward the harbor, where at the end of a dock he
sits. Regal, still, his pewter feathers nearly indistinguishable from
the slate sky. He is my talisman, and when I catch him there, for some
inexplicable reason my day feels charmed.

Red Diaper Dharma
by Ericka Lutz

One of my favorite Roz Chast cartoons shows a woman in her forties or fifties wearing a flowing baggy dress with a wild hairstyle and clunky jewelry. The words read: Are you entering your “Goddess” years? Have you gotten heavily into herbal teas, especially the “soothing” varieties? Has your husband recently purchased an expensive sports car? What’s with the hair? This cartoon makes me convulse with laughter and cringe with a bit too much recognition. Am I her? Am I that? Is she my future?

In Fiction

At Second Sight
by Ashley Kaufman

The birth had been an assault. Natural childbirth and pitocin should not be uttered in the same sentence, much less tried together, at least not by her. She had felt inadequate; she had felt unsafe with all those expectant faces waiting impatiently around her, and all their instructions. “Push! Harder! Come on, bear down, now, let’s get this baby out!” The voices, unconnected to bodies, pierced unevenly through the bubble that shut her off alone with the pain. And it had been a bubble. Like being underwater. She was alone inside of it. No one could reach her. No one could help her. But they could hurt her, or at least he could and did. She felt the ring of fire as he crowned, and the last of what had once been her self slipped away and she watched as what was only animal pushed a baby out. It was not the spiritual experience the natural birth proponents had promised.

Literary Mama Logo Contest

Literary Mama is turning 5 and we need a fresh look! We’re soliciting designs for a new logo that includes our name and tagline — Literary Mama: Reading for the Maternally Inclined — plus, optionally, an image that captures the spirit of the site. The winning entry will become the property of Literary Mama, to be used on our site, and on any and all Literary Mama gear. We’ll give the winning designer credit on our site, of course, plus a t-shirt and a copy of the Literary Mama anthology. Send your entries (or questions) by January 1st as jpg files (800 pixels wide) to

Literary Mama Logo Contest!

Literary Mama is turning 5 and we need a fresh look! We’re soliciting designs for a new logo that includes our name and tagline — Literary Mama: Reading for the Maternally Inclined — plus, optionally, an image that captures the spirit of the site. The winning entry will become the property of Literary Mama, to be used on our site, and on any and all Literary Mama gear. We’ll give the winning designer credit on our site, of course, plus a t-shirt and a copy of the Literary Mama anthology. Send your entries by January 1st as jpg files (800 pixels wide) to

Visit us at Literary Mama

Mama at the Movies: Baby Mama

The first I heard about the movie Baby Mama was when our accountant emailed this poster over and said “They stole your cover design!” Well, I don’t think we had a monopoly on the use of alphabet blocks, but still it somehow triggered a teeny sense of totally unreasonable resentment toward the movie, and that, coupled with a busy summer, meant I never got out to see it.

And then Sarah Palin was nominated for VP, and Tina Fey made Saturday Night Live relevant again, and I thought it might be worth checking out her movie. I wrote about it this week for Literary Mama; here’s an excerpt:

I lost sleep over the election. Partly because of my investment in the outcome, certainly, but also because for the first time since I was in my 20s, I regularly stayed up past my bedtime watching Tina Fey’s sharp Sarah Palin on Saturday Night Live. So when my family planned a relaxing weekend away with another family, I thought Fey’s recent comedy Baby Mama would be a good rental to toss in the bag. After a busy day at the pumpkin patch, we settled the kids into their beds and settled ourselves in front of the TV, prepared to be entertained.

Click on over to Literary Mama to read the rest! and while you’re there, check out columnist Karen Murphy’s newest installment of Motherhood from Afar; Elrena Evan’s Stepping Stones; Ona Gritz on Getting to Yes; and finally, if your kids are anything like mine, you’re still answering dozens of questions about the election, so check out Libby Gruner’s thoughts on political picture books in Running for Office.


It’s taking me some time to absorb the impact of Tuesday’s election results. I missed the critical moment — the networks’ calling the election — because I was earning my Nobel Peace Prize (Family Harmony Edition) negotiating a bedtime dispute between the boys. I’d weighed the pros and cons of keeping them up to watch the results — we’d been watching the newscast all night, with Ben announcing the numbers like a sportscaster — but I decided that sleep was more important for the general good of the whole family than hearing newscasters announce the election outcome on TV. We’ve got a long time — eight years, I hope — to discuss the significance of Obama’s election, and what he actually does as President, and I’m looking forward to all that with the kids.

But once the boys were settled and Tony was home from his board meeting (he, too, missed the critical moment) we opened a bottle of champagne with my parents and watched Obama’s speech in Grant Park. I remembered being in Chicago four years ago on election night, watching those discouraging results, and marveled at how much has changed. We’re pinning a lot of expectations on Obama, but from all signs so far, he’s absolutely up to the job. And when I went upstairs after the speech and found Ben still awake, I teared up telling him that Obama had won. He is the president of my boys’ childhood, and I feel tremendously happy for them.

By Wednesday, my joy at Obama’s election had been seriously tempered by the news that Prop 8 had passed. So there’s more work to do here, and I’m planning to get involved in it. I’d told a friend a week or so before the election that I needed to volunteer for the campaign because I wouldn’t be able live with myself if somehow Obama lost and I hadn’t done anything. We’d sent some contributions to the campaign (as had Ben), but that didn’t feel sufficient. So I made phone calls — first the easy ones, to MoveOn volunteers, reminding them of their shifts and asking them to take on more; then I made harder ones, to swing state voters, asking them to consider a vote for Obama. The calls weren’t all pleasant, but they made me feel like I was participating in the campaign and have had the unexpected result, this week, of making me feel
the teeny-tiniest bit more involved in its good outcome.

Today, I watched Obama’s first news conference, and seeing the crowd of people surrounding him has started to make this all feel real. He’s our president. I’ve never been so proud of our country in my life.

*Obama poster designed by Shepard Fairey and available from


I woke at 3 AM and lay there a moment wondering why before realizing, Ah. All those calls I made to Virginia voters yesterday rubbed off: polls were opening in their state.

I managed to roll back over and sleep for an hour but then woke again, too anxious and excited to sleep any more — I feel like a kid waiting for her parents to wake on Christmas morning.

A friend in Pennsylvania reports that at 6:50 AM he was the 90th person on line to vote. To all my friends in swing states, I wish you patience and hope you have something good to read while you wait on line!

It’s 5:54 AM in California as I write this, and I’m just waiting for my turn to vote for change.