"Our most ancient metaphor says life is a journey. Memoir is travel writing, then, notes taken along the way, telling how things looked and what thoughts occurred. . . .This is the traveler who goes on foot, living the journey, taking on mountains, enduring deserts, marveling at the lush green places...as a pilgrim, seeking, wondering." -Patricia Hampl

January 15, 2010

M(i)LK Day

Just a year ago this coming week, I was hoping that Devi would be born on one of two days considered auspicious (to us liberals, anyway): either Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday, or Obama's Inauguration Day, which happened to fall on consecutive days in 2009. She was born on the 19th, MLK day: auspicious not only because the day marked the birthday of one of the world's most important civil rights leaders, but because every now and then she'd be able to celebrate during a three-day weekend or at least a day off from school.

So because we're celebrating Devi's first birthday over the course of the next week and a half, it's fitting that the festivities ought to start with a major milestone in her development.

Yes, blog readers, try to contain your excitement and enthusiasm when I reveal that our child has transitioned to cow's milk.

And I think her first word (apart from mama and dada) is moo.

Stay tuned for accounts of the first-year festivities...

With the new year came the countdown to our tigerlily's birthday, and as all birthdays should be, Devi's will be celebrated over the course of a couple of weeks. The festivities began with a trip to the children's museum to see the exotic fish and butterflies on MLK day (a day off for me, and, apparently, everyone else with a child who visited the museum that day). Yesterday, we surprised Dev in with a bunch of balloons in her room. She wasn't sure quite what to make of them until she was really awake, and she's been swatting at them every chance she gets. Last night, the grandparents came over for a little dinner and cake--the baby's first real taste. (Of course, she's hooked.)

January 10, 2010

Foodies for Thought

It happens most Sundays. I wake up with the intention of cleaning the house and preparing a week's worth of meals and getting all my essays graded and still find time for a nap. Oh, and laundry, which is the muli-tasker's crack.

I haven't napped since Devi was maybe five weeks old. There's just too damn much to do. I always loved when seasoned parents warned that if I didn't nap when the baby did, I'd lose points in the nap karma department, and then I'll never ever be able to again because before I know it she'll be 17 and asking for my car keys and then we'll just stay awake worried. Forever.

One thing I do with great success, most Sundays, is poke around food blogs. I love food. I love writing. So some of these are just a divine respite from the reality that nothing else is really getting done.

My friend Amy in Boston was my introduction to food writing and the meaning of a "foodie" (i.e., someone like Amy who will devote time to finding the perfect wheat flour for a particular recipe). Since exploring the pastries of Puerto Escondido with Amy and our friends Allison and Tina (ah, to be young), my own interest in the pleasures of the palette have matured. For one, Heath and I enjoy a subscription to Saveur, the covers of which on our humble coffee table always belie the baby foodstuffs in the pantry. But the food blogs are enough to carry me away for too long, languishing in the recommended pairings and recipes from true culinary connoisseurs.

Visit www.foodblogblog.com to see how extensive online food writing has become; the book/movie, Julie & Julia, depicting a woman's experimenting with Julia Child's recipes for 365 days and blogging about it isn't off trend. I tried a food writing unit with my seniors and they did well; but we were all a little humbled by the really good stuff. When I'd asked around on Facebook for suggestions of food writing to share with my classes, these were some of the responses:

Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Mineral
Use Real Butter
Isabel Allende's Aphrodite (apprently not suitable for young eyes)
Old issues of Gourmet Magazine (sniff, sniff)
Casual Kitchen
My Burning Kitchen
That Girl Can Eat
Ntozake Shange's If I Can Cook You Know God Can
Ed Behr on wine and cheese from The Art of Eating (a quarterly)
Untangling My Chopsticks, A Culinary Soujourn in Kyoto by Victoria Abbout Ricardi
Foodie Confessions
Patience Gray's Honey from a Weed

I'm still trying to get through the MFK Fischer's tome, The Art of Eating.

Bon Apetit!

Spanish-Style Toast with Tomato (Pan Con Tomate)
1 6" piece of baguette,

 halved lengthwise
1 clove garlic
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 very ripe large tomato
Coarse sea salt, to taste

1. Heat oven to 500˚. Put bread on a baking sheet and toast until golden brown, about 8 minutes. Rub garlic over cut surface of bread and drizzle with oil.

2. Put a box grater into a large bowl and grate tomato over largest holes, discarding skin. Spoon grated tomato onto toast and sprinkle with sea salt.


This article was first published in Saveur in Issue #126

January 07, 2010

Stage Moms

Over the winter break from school, and finding myself with a few minutes between a book, the laundry, and waiting for my frozen pizza to heat up, I found this TLC show called "Toddlers and Tiaras."

And if you, like I, have seen it, you ran screaming from your t.v., swearing aloud that the world is a really f'ing crazy place and the people in it are completely tapped.

And then you went back to your t.v. and sat down, appauled and unable to move, transfixed by how insane some women can be about their daughters winning pageants for no apparent reason other than they very closely resemble miniature versions of a cross between The Stepford Wives (post lobotomy) and Tammy Faye Baker, hair, eyelashes, and sparkly costume all. While we watch the girls (some of them as young as 18 months) twirl themselves around the stage to canned, drum machine/keyboard music, the camera pans to their mothers, many of them once pageant girls themselves, miming and modeling the dance routine they've doubtlessly rehearsed in their living rooms to exhaustion, jumping around in faux-Fosse fashion.

I would like to think that I support all women, no less all mothers, in their tastes and desires for their babies to be what they think will make their children happiest and most fulfilled and nurtured. The show made me shudder, though, and when Devi woke up from her nap, still a little drowsy and warm from nuzzling her blanket, I made a quiet promise to both of us that I'm not sure I can iterate clearly in one sentence here--but it was partly to let her be little as long as she was little, to not rush her growing up, to let her personality emerge, and to try my hardest not to pin my own hopes or lost dreams on her (not that I'm sure I have any lost dreams--life's been pretty good--but I think if I had any talent with a guitar, I would have loved to be a rockstar, or at the very least, a really kick-ass soul back-up singer).

We took Dev to get her 1-year-old portraits done last Sunday. Alloted 30 minutes and three outfits, I chose a casual outfit she'd normally wear for play, a polka-dot dress I found on the clearance rack at Babies-R-Us two days prior, and a little shirt-dress I found in Japan that sports a strawberry and boasts the Champion logo and our hometown, the (old?) Champion HQ, from a Champion outlet store outside of Tokyo. During the shoot, the photographer did her best to get just the right angles and shots, while Heath worked his magic to make Devi laugh, and I worked mine. Apparently my magic is jumping up and down and making crazy sounds and faces like someone on a cocktail of mushrooms and crack.

And just as our photographer gleefully squealed that she got what she wanted, I had a flashback of those stage moms, jumping up and down and all about. It was a scary moment. Thankfully, no false eyelashes nor hair extensions on our stage, but I imagine there will come a day, maybe 6th grade, when she'll want to pierce a part she can't spell yet, or like the prom, when I won't help but be sentimental for the good ol' days when the dresses covered more than high breast tissue and thigh, and my girl will look like she's prematurely 35.

I, new mom and part-time control freak, just hope I have the fortitude to let her be herself.

January 05, 2010

Who Who's Clever

Most of us know that Jewish folks (such as we are) consider it to be bad luck, or at the very least, premature, to decorate a baby room way ahead of the delivery of a baby. So when it came time to think about our baby's room--she was yet to be named, so we just called her Blueberry--we had plenty of time to figure it out. Some of my friends had their baby rooms decorated within seconds of their first ultrasound, so I was ancey to get started, and tried to sate my nesting instincts by organizing all the closets in the house.

We knew we liked a calm green color. The paint we chose was actually called sweet pea, or something like that, but that was totally unintentional. We knew we wanted to showcase a tree--a symbol of life and family that Heath and I love--on one of the main walls, and after much consideration of having people we knew over to paint one, we found this awesome (and easily removable) decal, worth every cent for it is easily peeled and replaced if you totally mess it up (as I did). And we had this great rug: a lucky rug, because it never would have made it home had it not been for a generous gift certificate to Pottery Barn, and a PB gift certificate left over from our wedding. It features our light green and a dark green, had a bird and an owl on it, and we thought the owl would make a cool motif.

And books. We knew there needed to be books in this room. So we have a little book corner where we read, and on a very neat and picked-up day, it looks like this:
As you can see, the owl motif took: the lamp and stuffed owl came from Target, and now there's a very wise vibe about the room. But let's be clear: this room is still coming together, and Devi's turning one in a week.

In today's mail, we received the potterybarnkids catalog that does little else than make a parent feel a.) completely disorganized or uncoordinated, b.) lacking in imagination, c.) poor, d.) like why should a 4-year-old get a mahogany desk with a file cabinet when I have to keep my mail piled up on the counter and I'm using the kitchen table for a desk?

But we noticed that the catalog featured owls (maybe it's a comeback for owls this year), and we gave ourselves a pat on the back. Devi's room rocks! And it only took a year to put together.
Oh--and Dev's favorite book at the moment? Peek-a-Who!

January 04, 2010

Zen Reinvention

Glancing at my Facebook homepage briefly tonight, I found my friend Sejal had posted a link to an website dedicated to Zen Habits. Here's what it has to say about becoming your best (there were five suggestions, but here are the last three):

"3. Clear away distractions and focus.
Clear away email and Facebook and Twitter and your favorite blogs and news websites and social forums, clear away the iPhone or Blackberry or Android or cell phone, clear away all the little nagging work and chores and errands that pull at your attention, clear away the clutter that surrounds you (sweep it off to the side to deal with later).

In fact, if you can, shut off the Internet for awhile. You can come back to it when you take a break.

Now, find focus. Even if only for 15 or 20 minutes at first, but preferably for 30-60 minutes. You can take a break and check your email or whatever after you’ve focused. Focus on the thing that matters most. Do it for as long as you can, until you’re done if possible. Feel free to take breaks, but always return to your focus.

When you’re done, focus on the next thing that matters most, and so on.

4. Find happiness now.
Don’t look at happiness as something that will come when you’re done with this goal, or when you’ve attained a certain accomplishment or certain amount of wealth or material goods. Don’t look at happiness as a destination, something that you’ll get later.

Happiness is possible right now. Always remember that. When you push it back until later, it’ll never come. When you learn to be happy now, it’ll always be here.

When you’re doing whatever you’re passionate about, whatever matters most, whatever you decide is worthy of your time and heart and focus … be happy! You’re doing what you love. And that is truly a gift.

5. Reinvent yourself, every day.
Every day, you are reborn. Reinvent yourself and your life, every day. Do what matters most to you, that day.

It might be the same thing that mattered most yesterday, or it might not be. That isn’t important. What’s important is today — right now. Be passionate, be happy, right now.

You’ll have a fresh start every single day — not just on January 1. And that, my friends, is the best thing ever."

This last one reminds me of George Emerson from A Room with a View. You know--the guy who shouts "BEAUTY! LOVE!" from atop a tree in Italy? Passion. A good wheel to get behind. Onward! (And thanks for posting, Sejal!)

[Photo: Took this one in Ft. Cochin, India, right around the corner from the coolest little bookstore I'd ever seen. Thought it was appropriate, if you substitute "the lord" with "your soul."]

[N.b., 1/5/09: Thanks Marilyn in San Fran, for photoshopping.]

January 03, 2010

Auld Lang Syne

I want to make good here and at least get one weekend post in, since it's been a steady rush to finish grading, laundry, groceries, and get in some serious playtime before we go back to where we go back to tomorrow. Oh, if I could only make it snow. One more day would be divine.

But since I've already been a little lax (not really--I actually haven't stopped moving pretty much these past ten days) on the blogging end, I'll simply wish all my faithful readers a happiest new year for the second decade of the 21st century. (When did that happen? I'm one of those people who feels like we were all just hording bottled water and batteries in case the supercomputers all shut down with the turn of 2000.)

Ten years ago, on the eve of the new century, my Newton, Mass. roomates and I threw a costume party. To be ironical, I went as a cave woman. Somewhere I have a picture of me--maybe it's on this computer, I'll have to forage for it--in a animal print headband. I was on our balcony when it was taken, and I remember wondering where we'd all be in ten years.

I'm happy to say that I still keep in touch with 90% of you. So thanks for coming to that party, and thanks for staying in touch.