Monday, January 26, 2009

Furry Red Menace to Society

I am a big Sesame Street fan... watched it religiously as a kid.  I am also one of those people who thinks that Sesame Street has gone WAY downhill since the good old days when only Big Bird could see Snuffalupagus, when Roosevelt Franklin was a regular character, and when Mr. Hooper was still alive.  Before P. came around, I especially hated the new Muppets-- Zoe, Abby Cadabby and most hated of all was Elmo.  So syrupy with that voice-- no edge to him at all.  None of the slightly scary menace of Herry Monster, the endearing screw ups of Grover, the grouchiness of Oscar the Grouch.  And suddenly Elmo was the alpha Muppet, appearing on all the toys and getting a disproportionate amount of air time on the show.  An egomaniac media hog, like A-Rod or Paris Hilton, and clearly a Muppet created by the corporate powers that be, instead of lovingly and creatively dreamed up by Jim Henson.  

But I have to say, Elmo is growing on me, mainly because P. LOVES him.  I watch P. light up and laugh hysterically when we watch Elmo's Alphabet Rap and I just melt.  Parenthood is complicated.

The Resemblance is Striking...

My friend M.'s Christmas card featured Ralphie from "A Christmas Story."  We have it hanging in our kitchen with the rest of the Christmas cards.  Every time P. walks by it, he points and says "Mama!"  Should I be offended???

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A Few of My Favorite Things: No. 2

DIY Toner. So easy, it's ridiculous. And you get the satisfaction of making your own beauty product, with none of the mess of those yogurt/honey/oatmeal masks that probably work but are too much like slathering your breakfast on your face.

All you need is a generic bottle of drugstore witch hazel and a little vial of essential oil. Put a few drops of the oil into the witch hazel, shake to dissolve before using (each time-- the oil will float to the top of the bottle) and you're done. I like to decant the stuff into a squeeze bottle, both for ease of use and for aesthetics. (I've thought about designing a pretty label, but alas, my impending employment will probably get in the way of that project.)

Witch hazel is a great toner--- fights acne without drying, preps the skin for moisturizer, removes makeup and dirt. (It's also a very pretty plant!) I like the grapefruit oil that you can get at Whole Foods (a fresh astringent pick-me-up smell), but you could also use any mint oil, eucalyptus, lemon, rose, whatever suits your fancy. All for about $3 for a 12 oz. bottle.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Breaking News...

Brown University's hiring freeze has thawed and my formal job offer has finally materialized. (Pending a brief, pesky but ultimately not worrisome background check.)  My days of lounging around the house, eating bon bons and watching All My Children are soon to be over.  

Now what shall I do with my last few days of leisure???  One last craft project?  Immerse myself in daytime TV and catch my fave ABC soaps for what will be the last time until my next sick day? Do some research on the internets to demystify Twitter once and for all?  Take the train to NYC and see a show or two?  Clean the house and make several months' worth of casseroles to freeze for when we are once again a two-earner household? Redeem my excellent and indulgent spa gift certificate?  

I hate to fritter away these last precious few days, but I also feel like frittering is exactly what these days are for.

A Few of My Favorite Things: No. 1

Poe's Tobacco perfume by Tokyo Milk.  Very unusual-smelling: a combination of tobacco (like the leaves, not cigarette smoke), apple (but not squeaky clean green apple shampoo smell, more musky, like late fall apples that have been lying on the ground for a while), tea leaves and amberwood.  That description doesn't do it justice and makes it sound like it smells like an apple rotting in an ashtray, which it doesn't at all.   It's warm and kind of savory and smells like the perfect olfactory counterpoint to a crisp fall day.

I couldn't stop sniffing myself after I tested it out at Mignonette, an amazing shop on Wickenden Street that has all of these niche fragrances, hard-to-find make-up brands like Lipstick Queen by Poppy King, lingerie, etc.  Super girly and all in very good taste, most of it too rarefied (read: expensive) for me.  Anyhoo, the Tokyo Milk brand has about 20 different perfumes, although most of the ones I smelled were too sweet and cloying. Their perfumes are a bargain ($28 for 1 oz.) and have cute packaging.  Used to be hard to find, but it's available on Amazon and was recently featured in Oprah's magazine, so they'll be everywhere any day now.

I smell good.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

I Wish It Would Stop Snowing.

We got another 7 inches or so this morning.  Nice that I didn't need to go anywhere (my weekly Target run to North Attleboro was yesterday) and nice also that tomorrow's a holiday, but I'm pretty sick of the snow.  At least it's warmer here than in Pittsburgh.  B. took P. to the playground in the toddler backpack thing.  They looked very cute but I was quite happy to stay in, make some phone calls, keep the laundry going, and snack on my cookies, thank you very much.  Maybe I'll venture out tomorrow.

January's Cookie of the Month: Oatmeal Coconut Lace

This recipe from Gourmet magazine is incredibly good... easier than it looks and the results are both tasty (super crispy, like a cookie composed entirely of the edges of Pamela's crepe-like pancakes, topped with chocolate) and elegant. I skipped the white chocolate and the cookie was excellent with just the dark chocolate.  It's fun to get in touch with your inner abstract expressionist with the chocolate swirls-- I had a few very nice designs but I ate them before I took the picture, so the cookie at right does not represent my best work.  Make the cookies a little smaller than the recipe says--- they say to use a rounded teaspoon--- I'd use a scant teaspoon because there's so much butter in these that they spread a lot.  Mine ended up being huge, and because they're so fragile, that makes them kind of difficult to keep in one piece when you're eating them in bed or on the couch.  Also, you don't need a Silpat liner (which can cost between $20 and $25 each); just use parchment paper to line the cookie sheets and you'll be fine.  The verdict: 9 out of 10. Highly recommended. 

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Hooray...DIY Textile Design!

Today's NYT had an article about a company in NC that will produce your homespun textile designs... it's too good to be true!  The fabric selection is limited, but they plan to have more options soon, so I'm one step closer to designing my own upholstery fabric to recover my grandmother's rocking chair (currently covered in a fairly hideous mauve floral print-- not my bag).  Now if I can find someone who will take that textile design and make a laminated or rubberized canvas, I'll be able to build my handbag design empire...

A Present from Carrie

Check out the beautiful necklace that my sister Carrie brought me from Mozambique... it's so delicate and the color is my absolute favorite--- my poor photography doesn't do it justice.  The rope clasp is a little unravelled but I should be able to get that fixed at a local bead shop.  Now I just need somewhere to where it.  Too fancy for work??? 

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Pop is MIA.

B. pointed out that many of our children's books have a subtle but pernicious bias toward the mother as dominant child rearer.  I perused P's bookshelves and found countless examples of books where the mother is the only parent mentioned (Dad is nowhere to be found and may have abandoned his family years ago, going out for a pack of smokes and never returning).  Some higher profile examples include Where The Wild Things Are, Llama Llama Red Pajama (I'm tempted to give this one a pass, since it's a great book and Mama is a no-brainer in the crucial rhyming scheme), Where Is Baby's Pumpkin?  ("Is [Baby's pumpkin] behind Mommy's bowls?"... as if a father has no use for bowls, come on), Quack Quack Come Back, Five Little Dinosaurs and many more.  Hop On Pop, a Dr Seuss classic, includes fathers but they tend to be put-upon sad sacks: Exhibit A: "Dad is sad.  Very very sad.  He had a bad day.  What a day Dad had."  Exhibit B: the Pop who is hopped upon.  Physical abuse is not very nice.

Two books stand out for their even-steven parenting treatment: 365 Penguins (B's favorite) and Richard Scarry's Best Word Book Ever.  The Scarry book must have been done back in the 70s because I remember it from my childhood, and it's a little dated.  My one quibble is that while both Mama and Daddy Rabbit are cooking in the kitchen, Daddy Rabbit is wearing a suit and clearly headed to the office after he finishes frying his eggs while Mama Rabbit is wearing an apron and undoubtedly will spend the rest of the day toiling on the home front and maybe reading Betty Friedan.  But overall, it's a good book and nicely balanced on the gender role stuff.

A related phenomenon is the fact that every single tv commercial for a cleaning product will feature a woman or more specifically a "mom."   

My most hated commercial character these days is the Glade (or "glah-DAY") woman.  She's constantly trying to pass off some bo-bo grocery store air freshener or candle as a "boutique fragrance."  After she's been repeatedly busted as a pretentious lying cheapskate, why do people hang out with her anymore?  How in the world does she have friends left who are still coming over for yoga?  Why hasn't her husband left her for someone who isn't a total phony poseur?  A mystery.  But I'm not alone in my loathing.

All this also reminds me of the old birth control pill commercials where they went to great lengths to prominently feature the wedding ring on the woman's hand... because single ladies were undoubtedly saving themselves for marriage and had no need for the Pill.  (More recent commercials seem to be less rigid on this point.)

And this post is the sum total of my extensive coursework and deep intellectual interest in Gender Studies back in college.  Sad.