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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.

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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.

Ice-T


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!

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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.

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Dear Mom, this is what I wish I could’ve written in my Mother’s Day card to you

As I write this I am sitting in my doctor’s waiting room nursing something that could be strep, a common cold, or the bubonic plague. You have selflessly driven to brooklyn from Queens to watch K, even though you have to work in the afternoon and this is a giant hassle for you, and despite the fact that you have been sniffling for days and have not once vocalized your own discomfort. Before I took off for the doc, you were sitting on the floor next to K, watching her place “Princess” on the Little People potty, over and over again. There you were, asking me if I wanted to pick up the ingredients to make chicken soup and offering to whip it up for me instead of rushing back to your home the minute I return so that you could, you know, live your life.

Yesterday on Mother’s Day I gave you a beautiful card and I wrote some sweet sentiments inside. The usual. Thank you. You are the best mom. You have shown me how to be a good mom to my daughter. The card took me five minutes to write (that morning) and, though I mean everything I penned, those words neither created a warm sensation within me, nor made me pause and reflect.

And that was wrong of me. Because there are things you should really know. There are multi-layered thoughts that actually race through my mind when I think about you late at night. When I let myself go to that ugly place where I imagine your death and realize that, at 64, you could have 30 more years or five. These are the facts about you that inspire me. That make me proud. That make me feel pity for you. That break my heart:

1. You never joined the other women when they cleaned up after Christmas dinner. You, like them, are Italian American. You, like them, learned your place in this world. Yet you, unlike any of them, refused to sit at the women’s table. Refused to leave meat on on your plate. Poured a second and third glass of wine. And then sauntered off to the men’s table and, without asking, plopped down next to Uncle Nick to play cards. You assumed the role of dealer. Blue and red chips accumulated in front of you. You didn’t bother to organize them into neat piles.

2. Your parents didn’t feel college was for girls. You always believed things would have been different if you were Jewish. Jewish parents encouraged their daughters to get a college degree, or at the very least, to sit in a college classroom for two years so they could marry a more respectable man. You would have been a lawyer. You tried to go back a few years ago. You attended classes for two semesters and quit with a 4.0 GPA. Why did you really give up?

3. I’ve tortured you through the years with cutting remarks about how you were never around. Yes, it hurt me when you weren’t there. But if I focused as much on the memory I have of you making me Stelline pastina with melted cheese when I was sick, of lying next to me in bed to watch The Muppet Show, of sitting by the radiator on snowy mornings while you made us fresh juice and oatmeal, of playing beauty shop with me and letting me brush your hair (thicker than mine, oily, darker, with deep red highlights…during this game you taught me the word “auburn” and this new unusual sounding trait made me wish my hair would change into something with an exotic name, something other than “brown.”)–if I focused on these memories instead of how often you were absent I would realize your need to look for fulfillment outside of the house (because one can only play beauty parlor with a four-year-old while watching All My Children for so long) wasn’t unusual or sinful. It didn’t have anything to do with your love for me. I would realize you were there as much as you weren’t and that our ideas about people, and especially about our mothers, are 30 percent fact and 70 percent emotion and resentment. I would confront the realization that forgiveness is not my strongest quality and that I expect you to be a Madonna, while I hold no such expectations for myself.

No Mother’s Day card could hold all these thoughts. And there are more. Decades of thoughts. I’m waiting for the day when I have the courage to spill over.

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What the hell are you going to do when your daughter asks about thigh gaps?

Last night my husband informed me that I have a thigh gap.

“A what? What the hell is that?” (frantically feeling up my thighs)

“A thigh gap. All the girls want one. I just read about it.”

“Let me guess. New York Times Style section?”

“No. But everywhere else.”

He’s right. A quick Google search for “thigh gap” yielded about 10,000,000 results, including countless Tumblr accounts that serve as “thinspiration” for girls who want to gaze at photos of Victoria’s Secret angels and ordinary teens with long, coltish legs and post remarks about how their fat asses will never stick to a diet long enough to earn those legs.

For those of you who are as clueless as I am when it comes to the desires and pursuits of anyone under 25, let me fill you in on the ugly details: a thigh gap is just what is sounds like—a space between the inner thighs that most prominently shows when one stands still. Beyonce, one of the most beautiful women on the planet, has had her legs photoshopped to achieve the look, while one gorgeous 20-something coworker informed me that a thigh gap was “an unfortunate thing” that she “unfortunately wanted bad.”

To achieve this gap you must either be a recovering anorexic who eats healthfully and exercises but takes little joy in food and will forever be a bore at restaurants (ding, ding, ding, I win that prize), an actual active anorexic, or a naturally slender person barely out of her teens.

And yet young women are starving themselves in order to achieve this latest (and most bizarre) sign of female perfection.

As mothers of young girls, isn’t it enough that we can anticipate the heartache our daughters will experience when they don’t get the boobs they so desperately want? Or when they can fill a DD bra at age 13 and want to hide the boobs everyone else so desperately wants? We already expect that there will be stupid diets at 16 and that, at age 17, she will pull her skirt down and almost rip the hemline because she wants to hide her “fat thighs.” She will either abhor her belly and pull at it or reveal her belly every chance she gets because she hates her breasts and wants to compensate for them.

It is going to be a trial, for sure.

And now we have to worry about fucking thigh gaps.

And why? Because adult women like me won’t order dessert at restaurants. Because adult women I work with spend $400 on Isagenix to lose 10 pounds and then believe no one wants to speak with them because we are all jealous they lost weight (reality: we don’t want to speak with you because all you talk about is Isagenix).

Can we please all man up, read a newspaper, and talk about anything—anything outside of ourselves? At this point, I would even take something as trivial as Tebow or your many, many sexual pursuits.

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Discipline tips for wussy moms

According to this article published in Redbook, the average toddler hears the word “no” 400 times a day. If the average toddler spent more time with me, she/he would hear things like, “Let’s not do that” and “Don’t you want to do this instead of that?” Total wussy mom. I want a respectful, amazing child, but man do I have to work through my whole aversion to discipline.

I’m going to be a good American girl and blame this on my own mommy. Any toddler who spent as much time with my mother as my K does would hear 400 “no’s” in addition to all of the following:

* “Don’t fall down, gonna get a boo-boo!”

* “Be careful!”

* “Watch how you sit in that chair!”

* “Don’t run!”

* “You’re going to trip on the rug if you walk that fast.”

* “You’re going to get a splinter if you don’t put on your shoes.”

* “Brrrr…it’s cold, where’s your hat? Did mommy forget to put you in an undershirt?” (It’s 60 degrees outside)

I feel I have to pepper each of these rants with the obligatory–Holy crap, my mother is saving my life by watching K while I work. Which is true. She is.

But our parenting styles differ greatly and I’m trying to find painless ways to recommend to her that she not fill K’s head with morbid ideas about the countless dangers pervasive in our universe. Do I really want K to grow up and, like me, imagine she has 8 forms of cancer on the basis that “something around her waist area” hurts?

I heard the word “no” regularly as a child. Every answer to every question was “no.” Do I think it screwed me up? Probably not. Do I think it’s odd when parents refuse to ever say “no,” as if it’s a dirty, shameful word? Yes, a little. Regardless, I would much rather maintain a positive home environment, and I am wondering lately if it would be enough to subtly model some of these Redbook suggestions in the hopes that my mother will catch on? Or do I have to have an uncomfortable talk with her–the mere thought of which makes me want to slap myself because (as I mentioned before) she is saving my life by watching K..?

I will paraphrase Redbook’s suggestions on how to discipline children without saying “no:”

1. Instead of saying “no, you can’t so this,” explain why the action shouldn’t be done (example: “We only eat dessert after dinner so that we don’t fill up.”) By the way, do you love my wussy way of saying “we” instead of “you?” It’s a teaching trick I use to make my 8th graders think I am on their side…

2. When your child misbehaves, explain your feelings to him/her. (Example: “It hurts mommy’s feelings when you purposely rip up her term paper. Mommy is going to grad school to make your life better–if it were up to her she’d be drawing in a whopping $4 an hour to write professionally. Don’t make mommy feel bad.”)

3. Provide choices. If your child is doing something you don’t like–such as dragging a blue crayon across a white wall, as K did last night–offer him/her the option of either sitting at the table with her crayons, or–I’m thinking, I’m thinking, what could be more fun than coloring a wall?–I’ll get back to you on that one.

4. Show, don’t tell. Here’s one suggestion that makes sense to me. Instead of saying, “Don’t kick mommy in the tummy when she’s changing you,” take her little hands and pat them gently against your tummy. Show him/her what you want instead of shouting about what you don’t want.

5. Develop a mean voice and look. My husband is the master at this. I’m still working on not laughing every time K does something ridiculous.

Overall, I have some issues with numbers 1 and 2, like 3 and 4, and can’t master #5.

Feel free to send your wussy mom discipline tips my way!

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Open letter to my period, which needs to follow my demands for once in its stubborn life

Dear Period,

Remember how when I was 13 and all the other girls had their periods, I desperately wanted you to come? How I wanted you to bring your snobby friends–breasts and curves– with you and how they refused to grace me with their presence until I was 16 and the novelty of boobs and curves had worn off? Remember how I lied to Josephine and told her I got you about a year before I actually did and how I even crumbled that pink maxi pad paper in my wastebasket before she came over so I could prove to her that I wasn’t lying? Yeah, that was pretty psychotic.

But you didn’t answer my prayers. You came when you felt good and ready and consequently, while the other girls were being “felt up,” I would only go as far as kissing because I had nothing to feel up (so I guess that’s a good thing and I owe you one..but I feel I’ve reciprocated enough by enduring years of cramps and by making Mr. Midol just a little bit more wealthy. What have you done for me lately?)

And now here I am approaching 35. I understand where you are coming from—you’re tired and bored with me. You gave me one beautiful, healthy child. Don’t be greedy, you seem to be saying. Perhaps you are teaching me crucial life lessons?

Well, ain’t no one got time for that. I demand that you stop psyching me out each month by providing pregnancy-like symptoms and teeny spots that cause me to run and Google that mythical thing everyone calls “implantation bleeding” on the 22nd day of each of my cycles.

A second baby fits into my life plan right now. Not in one year, and certainly not in two. Get with the program, Period.

Sincerely,
Not Pregnant (Again) This Month