Flour is getting in the way of my domestic goddess-ness

Every four or five months I get it into my head that I’m the sort of woman who is both impeccably groomed and can bake like the dickens. Fictional statement, to say the least. I own muffin pans, so technically I could bake. But I could also train for a 5k marathon and announcing that I walk to and from Third Avenue each day will never convince anyone that I won’t die of a heart attack after 1.5 miles.

Besides, I’m going to throw my short domestic attention span into sewing, since I love to shop, so naturally…I mean, naturally, this means I’m the next Etsy superstar.

Anyway, baking.

With the intention of creating something extraordinary called Baked Blintzes with Fresh Blueberry Sauce by one of my imaginary best friends, Ina Garten, I walked into the supermarket the other day in search of flour. Have you done this lately? When did flour become so damn confusing? Are you as bowled over as I am that there are 300 different varieties of flour or am I from another planet?

I try to keep our family meals healthy, despite what the Barefoot Contessa’s strong presence in our house would have you think. I was so distraught by what it all meant–unbleached, bleached, whole wheat–that I left the stupid store and decided not to make my all-important flour purchase until I did a little research.

And now I’m going to simplify flour. Hold onto your hat–it’s about to get exciting:

1. All-Purpose Flour: Most common flour that comes unbleached or bleached. Unbleached flour is not chemically treated and has more protein. It is used for cookies, pies, pancakes, etc. Bleached flour is chemically treated and is used in many breads, danishes, and pastries. All-purpose flour has a gluten content of roughly 12 percent.

2. Cake Flour: Soft wheat flour with a lot of starch but a lower gluten content than all-purpose flour–about 8 percent. As its name suggests, this flour is powder soft and ideal for cakes and pastries.

3. Buckwheat flour: Perfect for people who must restrict gluten in their diets, this flour can be used to replace all-purpose flour.

4. Organic Flour: Must pass U.S. Department of Agriculture regulation to be considered organic. Otherwise, it seems like you can use this flour for all of the same recipes that require All-Purpose flour. Companies like Bob’s Red Mill offer an insane selection like coconut, corn, and fava bean organic flours.

5. Bread Flour: One day I’ll make homemade pizza. My family will be forever grateful. And I will use bread flour, which has a stronger scent than other flours and a higher gluten content, between 13 and 14 percent.

6. Pastry Flour: With 9 to 10 percent gluten, pastry flour is slightly stronger than cake flour and can be used for biscuits and muffins.

7. Self-Rising Flour: Anyone can prove me wrong and I am happy to hear it, but by all accounts, self-rising flour seems like a pain in the ass to use. It contains salt and baking powder, but various manufacturers put different amounts of these in their product so how are you supposed to know how much flour to use in your own recipe? Anyhoo, it’s most often used for quick bread recipes and biscuits.


15 interesting celebs who drank the Sesame Street Kool-Aid

You say you’re in the mood to discuss great literature? Well, that’s just adorable, but as my Great Aunt Ida would say: “Go see where you gotta go.” I’m the mommy of a two-year-old. There will be no book reading, ever, to take place in this house. Ever again. Is that clear?

Now, I’m a firm believer in becoming as much of an expert in whatever experience just happens to be yours at the moment–vapid or otherwise. Since Sesame Street haunts my dreams, I thought I’d dig up a list of 15 of the coolest, most interesting celebs who took time out of their busy day to hang with muppets.

Lauren Bacall

The coolest woman ever in films not only appeared on an early episode of the show–where she read to children–she has been referenced several times since. Apparently, not one but two minor muppets reuse her infamous quote to Bogie: “You know how to whistle, don’t you?”

Carol Burnett

One of the funniest comediennes in history was also the first celebrity guest to appear in a Sesame Street telecast. She shared air time with Kermit in 1969.

Buzz Aldrin

Who else could convince Cookie Monster that the moon is not made of cookies? Sadly, Cookie didn’t get to find this out until 2005. I believe he was 49 at the time.

Chuck Close

How can you not love that the contemporary artist chatted with Big Bird about art in 2001? Though wouldn’t it have made more sense for him to shoot the shit with Bert, a muppet who you can actually envision hanging a replica of Rembrandt?

Robert De Niro

In 2001, the legendary actor entertained Elmo by pretending to be everything from a dog to a head of lettuce (which only De Niro could pull off).

Elvis Costello

You can say he bastardized a great song — “(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes”–but at the end of the day, it is his song to bastardize.

Jake Gyllenhaal

It’s not at all surprising that the actor appeared on the show; what’s surprising is that millions of moms had to force themselves not to shout, “He’s so cute!”  while wiping oatmeal from their child’s chin.

Hugh Jackman

In 2009, Jackman and Elmo spoke with an Australian audience about bushfires. Which is important, I know. But he and Gyllenhaal are also important because they don’t so much make me mind having to watch Sesame Street. So much.


The rapper-turned-actor chats with Elmo about his love for rhymes on a 2007 episode.

Kim Cattrall

The Sex in the City star appeared on a 2008 episode, where she–no surprise here–demonstrated the meaning of the word “fabulous.”

Kofi Annan

If only all unruly toddlers could follow the former UN Secretary-General’s example on the show as he taught some pissed off muppets how to resolve a dispute.

Cyndi Lauper

The outrageously talented 80s star sang “Do the Twist” with the Twister Sisters on the Sesame Street video “Elmocize.”

Nina Simone

In 1972, the beautiful singer sat on a city stoop alongside some groovy looking kids in bell-bottoms and serenaded them with “To Be Young, Gifted, and Black.”

Stockard Channing

Rizzo + Jim Henson’s muppets = everything great in the world. But years before Grease, Channing made her TV debut on Sesame Street playing “The Number Painter” (1972).

Lisa Bonet (aka Denise Huxtable)

Hands down, the best dressed television character of the 1980s appeared on the show in 1986 beside Gonzo and her Cosby co-star, Tempestt Bledsoe.

Who are your favorite Sesame Street celebs? Oh, you’re too busy reading? Liar!


Dear coworkers everywhere: new parents just can’t drink with you at happy hour

Dear Coworkers Everywhere:

As a new parent, I can no longer drink with you at happy hour.

It isn’t because I’m an antisocial freak. I’m actually a nice person who used to be considered fun. You would never know this looking at me now, as I dash out of the building at exactly one second after closing time with a perpetual worried look slapped on my face, but 10 years ago I used to go out—on “school nights.” I would hit up all kinds of bars with coworkers. Oh, there were wine bars on Prince Street and vodka bars on Broadway and good ole nasty cheap beer bars on Rivington Street. There was one bar in Chinatown in which you descended a deep staircase and could disappear into a dark hole-of-a-corner for hours. There was this other bar in East Williamsburg in which I witnessed people who made important decisions by day make horrible choices after 10 p.m.

But we had this social contract, one that built trust and improved our ability to work closely together. The following morning you simply agreed to forget everything you saw the night before. And then you closed a deal in unison. And then you went out drinking again and repeated the process. Cooperative is an important word in the modern work place. At work meetings we form little groups based on everything except our eye color, then we grab chubby markers and go to town brainstorming on large sheets of paper. This emphasis on groupthink also extends to shared experiences outside of the workplace—whether they exist in the form of mandatory professional outings like barbecues and overnight retreats, or more informal happy hours.

I was game for all this 10 years ago. But today, I am mommy to a gorgeous two-year-old daughter. In a nutshell, she is the best reason why I can no longer drink with you on a random Tuesday evening.

But there’s more you should know. There are other things my boss should consider before she pulls me again into her office and chastises me for not partaking in more social experiences with members of my (work) family.

Let me assure you: I really, really, really want to go out and drink with you on a lovely summer evening. But this is why it’s not as easy as you think:

• I’m away from my daughter for most of the week. When I do get home from work, she spends the first hour ignoring me, and the next clinging to my leg. Until America takes back its eight-hour work day, or until I can find a way of working three days a week, I am going to be wracked with feelings of guilt any time I tack on an additional three hours away from her.

• Even if you’re lucky, as I am, to have a loving and considerate partner, getting some time away requires the bargaining skills of a pro-baseball scout. My husband encourages me to go out and I’d like to think I do the same for him. And yet, our conversations still often go a little something like this: okay, if you give me this Thursday, I’ll give you next Sunday. What do you mean, you don’t want next Sunday? But we already have plans next Saturday, so what about next Tuesday? Oh, and you can even sleep in tomorrow morning and then I’ll head out for that other thing I have to do when you get up.

• And if you are one of the 40 percent of women in this country who are raising children without the help of a spouse, I’d like to give you a million dollars just for figuring out how to make happy hour happen—particularly considering how a three-hour evening spent drinking cocktails could set you back an additional $60 in babysitting fees—and that’s assuming you only have one child.

• In addition to haggling with your partner, there is quite a bit of negotiating with one’s self that goes on when a parent finds the luxury of free time. I could go for that drink and catch up on office gossip, but I could also sit down at a coffee shop and work on a short story that has been torturing my brain since pregnancy. I could buy shoes. Finally read three pages from Infinite Jest. Get a pedicure. Take a nap. My minutes are precious and get gobbled up like Pac-Man pellets these days. Every ounce of wisdom warns me not to waste them at happy hour.

• And, finally, coworkers: have you ever woken up and had to take care of a toddler while nursing a hangover? Did you know it’s scientifically proven that you can not coax toddlers to nap beside you on a couch, ever, especially not when they could be screaming and dragging a green crayon across the hardwood floor?

If I go out drinking with you, I will have a green floor. Terrible shoes. An even less cultured brain. And do I really deserve to have to get up early four mornings in a row to compensate for one night out?

Of course, none of this means you still shouldn’t ask me to join you. New parents are tired and unlikely to take you up on your offer, but we still like to be asked.


A what? A Luteal Phase Defect? Um, a what?

Three days before my period is due and I feel that warm sensation in my belly that always inevitably turns into cramps. Any hope I had when I felt wetness, when I looked it up and learned it could be a sign of pregnancy, when I was so sure we had perfectly timed everything this cycle—is washed away with one cramp. I feel defeated and sad, like my body is working against me. I feel old and shattered and wonder if this is the end of my chance to bring another life into our family. I feel selfish because I already made one life and she is a blessed, gorgeous life that I don’t even deserve. I should just be happy because so many women don’t get an opportunity to create one life. Who says two or three or four lives are superior to one? Who decided that?

Part I of my blood has already been given away to the gyno and I’ve been instructed to return on the 21st day of my cycle to give away Part II.

A Luteal Phase Defect.

What a beautiful name for a stupid thing.

All of a sudden, I am the moon, or a portion of it? A crumb? My limp body is being pulled and poked by its highness the moon, like a submissive tide? The moon isn’t supposed to get things wrong. It isn’t supposed to only provide 8 days in between ovulation and menstruation. That, my friends, isn’t enough time to conceive.

Idiot moon.

In every place on planet Earth, you’re considered young, gyno told me when I visited her a few months ago. Except here.

Remind me why I didn’t have children when I was 24? Oh yeah, that apartment in Williamsburg was pretty, pretty fun, that’s why.