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February 2012

January 2012

My NOLA Food Baby

Unknown-1I just got back from four days in New Orleans. I'm on an alumni executive committee of my college and we meet three times a year - twice on the pretty but chilly campus in New England and once at a remote location. This year, the brilliant powers that be chose New Orleans. Cuisine Gumbo.ashx

We did get college business done - honest. But we got a lot of other business done too - primarily the business of eating. I have never eaten so much or so well in my life. (Thus the feeling this morning that I'm pregnant with a food baby - which I believe would resemble a fried oyster or perhaps a little crawfish.) The vice chair of our committee yesterday sent out a Word doc labeled "alternative minutes" which were simply a recitation of all the things we ate (and drank).

NOLA has been rebuilding since Katrina, with mixed results. There is a museum off the French quarter that has a hurricaine exhibit that is indescribably sad. So much loss, so much outrage about how things were handled. I certainly couldn't look at an overpass down there without thinking of those people stranded, or at the water marks on buildings or so many other things.

But they are gearing up for Mardi Gras all ready, there is music everywhere and man, those pots and pans are rattling. Yeah, I over did it. But - Je regrette rien.



The Other Side of The Microphone

UnknownIt's weird being on the other side. For 20 years I was a regular contributor to the New York Times. I've interviewed hundreds and hundreds of people - my office is full of  piles of completely full reporters' notebooks as well and dozens of old tapes from covering various stories over my career. Now, as the publicity jaugernaut starts to role on the book, I am starting to get interviewed myself. 

You might think I would be perfectly trained for such a position, but it is actually pretty different. Obviously I can no longer control the final product. Who knows what quotes they will use? I used to know what the questions would be. And on this last item, you would think someone who titled a book "The Mama's Boy Myth" might have been prepared for this question I got from a magazine writer yesterday: "So, what are the top 5 myths about mothers and sons?" Of course I was able to answer it, but it threw me for a second.  

But then as I started to answer, the interviewer said, "hold on, hold on - I can't type that fast and that's a great quote." Ah, that brought me back to my reporting days and made me relax.

Eli Manning and His Mama

Unknown"Eli and Olivia are certainly very close. They have that special bond that you see between mama's and their baby boys." - So said Archie Manning, the father of New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning, who last night  led his team to a dramatic win in the NFC Championship game for the second time.

In an interview with the NYT a few years back, Eli told the reporter that he would have been "lost and clueless" without the guidance of his mother, Olivia. When he was in high school, Eli and his mother would go out to dinner alone together once a week. The two were the more quiet and reserved members of the family and it gave them a chance to talk and share their lives.

Eli, who will return to the Super Bowl in two weeks, is known as a focused, disciplined quarterback - you don't hear about extra-curricular antics, showboating or partying. He married his college sweetheart.

Now, The Weatherman is a die-hard Washington Redskins fan, and in the event of a miracle that would have landed the 'Skins in the Superbowl, I would of course have to give them my full allegiance. But they didn't even get into the playoffs, so come February, I'm rooting for my favorite Mama's Boy on the football field.   

The "You Just Figured That Out?" Department

UnknownGlad to hear that Jay Z has decided to stop calling women "bitches". Evidently he came to this epiphany after becoming a father of a daughter. Thus the lyrics in his new song:

Before I got in the game, made a change, and got rich/ I didn't think hard about using the word bitch/I rapped, I flipped it, I sold it, I lived it/Now with my daughter in this world I curse those that give it. 

OK, better late than never, I guess. Images

This reminded me of an interview I heard with Piers Morgan yesterday, while huffing and puffing on the elliptical machine (me, not Piers). First, he was being extremely nasty about how the women on the Golden Globes looked, just being sexist and ageist and unpleasant.

Then he was asked about his baby daughter, and Piers started talking about the day she would bring home her first boyfriend. He proceeded to describe a gruesome fantasy of torturing the guy, locking him up, etc. Puh-leeze. As the mother of a son and a daughter, I'd like to propose we retire the stereotype of the Neanderthal Dad who must stomp over an adolescent boy to protect his innocent daughter. It's not that we don't all want to protect our kids, but not all guys are maniacal predators and not all girls relish the thought of their fathers default hostility towards their male friends.

And before he starts critiquing an actress as "grotesque", he also might want to think about how he wants people talking about his own daughter some day.


The book website it up! It is still a work in progress - hopefully more reviews (positive ones I can only hope) will be coming in, and appearances will be scheduled, but it has got the basics. The only adjustment I've had to make so far is with the excerpt - originally it was far too long, and the pubisher had me trim it back. The list of things you need to learn as a first-time author seems endless sometimes. Anyway please check it out! 

Celebrities - They're Just Like Us

Images-1There's a feature in US Weekly (I swear I only read it when I'm having my hair cut) called "Celebrities: They're Just Like Us." It usually features such photos as an actress with a cart of groceries in Whole Foods, or in full make-up and hair style, getting her kid an ice cream cone.

 I know celebrities must be just like us, because I find myself constantly overlapping  with them. For instance, I recently discovered that a small local Indian restaurant with very reasonably priced kabobs that I frequent is also a favorite for Bill Clinton and Martha Stewart. But most important, Beyonce just delivered her baby at the same hospital where I delivered my babies - Lenox Hill! Of course, The Weatherman did not have a maternity suite renovated, rent out an entire floor for my privacy and bring in a swarm of security guards, as Jay-Z did. Celebrities - they're just like us. Almost.

The Good News About Middle Age

ImagesA very uplifting piece in the Times yesterday about the upside of middle age. The author writes that we tend to focus on the negative aspects of growing older - the sagging skin, the loss of fertility, stamina, etc. But instead of focusing on loss, she suggests we pay attention to what is gained.

Researchers have found that by midlife, most people are better able to screen out small annoyances and setbacks, as well as  to better juggle family and career. In fact, middle age is the happiest time for most people, when their sense of well-being is highest in important areas, like "feeling in control of their lives, having a sense of purpose and supportive social networks."

So enough with mourning the loss of youth - a time when I certainly looked a lot better but was also much more stressed out - and more celebration of where I am now.

PS I didn't know how to illustrate this piece, and when I searched "Middle Age" of course came up with images of the Middle Ages. Thought I'd go with one anyway.


Mother Knows Best

UnknownToday's post is written by Lisa Belkin, parenting blogger for the Huffington Post (where it appeared yesterday). I thought it was appropriate in the wake of the Iowa Caucus. Pictured is Newt Gingrich, crying when talking about his mother.

"No matter where you fall on the political spectrum, the thought of your elected officials on Capitol Hill probably gives you about as much pleasure as the prospect of another Kardashian spin-off series. Poll after poll shows widespread dissatisfaction with Congress, and Americans' seesawing support for the presidential candidates indicates that they aren't thrilled with their choices for Commander-in-Chief, either. My advice to Washington? Listen to Your Mother.

I've spent a lot of time listening to moms rue the state of the economy and their elected officials' inability to do something about it. What's interesting is that many of the problems moms have with politicians would be eliminated if the men and women in Washington simply heeded the advice their own mothers gave them.

Need a reminder, Washington? Let's review:

Money doesn't grow on trees.

In a faltering economy, moms have more reason than ever to use this timeworn phrase; we have families to feed, clothe and shelter, and we've become experts at stretching the dollar. The average mom watches her budget like a hawk, cutting spending when things get tight by clipping coupons, scouring Craigslist for bargains, and buying the kids' clothing at consignment sales. If Mom can make cuts in order to keep her family's budget balanced, is it too much to ask Congress to do the same?

Play nice.

One of the earliest and most important lessons a mother teaches her kids is how to get along with others. "Be polite," we tell our children over and over again. "Learn to compromise." "Choose your battles." Unfortunately, the adults in Washington seem to have forgotten these social basics. The bickering between Republicans and Democrats feels uncomfortably like those annoying "I-know-you-are-but-what-am-I" battles that make a mom want to invest in industrial-grade earplugs. If only we could put certain House and Senate members in the naughty corner...

Actions speak louder than words.

It's a favorite mom-ism, but it seems to be lost on today's politicians. Moms are sick to death of candidates' slick speeches, flip-flopping on issues, and pandering for votes. They want to elect someone who acts, not orates, but finding that man or woman in the age of the camera-friendly face and ten-second soundbite is proving to be difficult. Quit talking and DO SOMETHING.

Treat women with respect.

Any mother of sons will tell you she's determined to raise them into men who honor the women in their lives and treat them with integrity. That's why moms have a huge problem with the number of male politicians whose bios include sexual indiscretions. I've heard moms repeat variations of this phrase too many times to count: If a man's own wife can't trust him, how can he expect his country to trust him?

Good question.

If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all.

There's nothing that turns a mother off faster than an attack ad. We teach our own children to take the high road and never badmouth the competition, and we wish politicians would do the same. "'Proving' your opponent is inept doesn't make you qualified!" summarized mother-of-five Shannon Eidson on my Facebook page recently. Exactly.

Forgive and forget.

Mom hates a cover-up, but when her kids come clean and sincerely apologize for their mistakes, she's always willing to give them a second chance. That forgiveness can extend to politicians who've made mistakes, as long as they're willing to publicly admit their mistakes and apologize for them.

With moms emerging as a key swing group in the 2012 election, don't be surprised if the candidates who win next November are the ones who've most closely followed their own moms' advice.

After all... Mothers know best."


Game Hens With Cranberry Stuffing

Christmas 2011 meal

One year I made game hens for Christmas dinner and spent a good chunk of Christmas morning quietly cursing in the kitchen. What was I thinking? It took forever, washing and patting them dry, trying to stuff their slippering little bodies, tieing their recalitrant little legs, and I was serving 13. I swore off game hens for awhile, until my daughter requested them again this year. This time, there were only 4 of us. And I decided to serve the stuffing on the side instead of cooking it inside the hens. Result: easy and delicious!

Game Hens With Maple-Mustard Glaze (courtesy of Epicurious)

  • 4 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoon dried thyme, crumbled
  • 4 Cornish game hens
  • Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350°F. Combine first 4 ingredients in small saucepan. Cook over low heat until butter melts, stirring until well combined.

Pat hens dry. Tie legs together to hold shape. Place in small baking pan. Season with salt and pepper. Brush with maple mixture. Roast until juices run clear when hens are pierced in thickest part of thighs, basting occasionally with glaze, about 1 hour.

It was hard to find a recipe for cranberry stuffing that didn't have nuts (my son is allegic) but Betty Crocker came through:

Cranberry Stuffing

1 cup butter or margarine

 3 medium celery stalks (with leaves), chopped (1 1/2 cups)

3/4 cup finely chopped onion
9 cups soft bread cubes (15 slices)
1/2 cup dried cranberries or golden raisins
2 tablespoons chopped fresh or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried sage leaves
1 tablespoon chopped fresh or 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

In 10-inch skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Cook celery and onion in butter, stirring frequently, until onion is tender. Stir in about one-third of the bread cubes. Place in large bowl. Add remaining bread cubes and ingredients; toss.

To bake stuffing separately, place in greased 3-quart casserole or rectangular baking dish, 13x9x2 inches. Cover and bake at 325°F for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake 15 minutes longer.




Thanks for the New Water Dish!

I'll admit it. My cats shared a Christmas stocking. But after the fun of watching them get high from the one catnip toy they get a year and watching them get excited about all the ribbons on the presents, it's pretty much over for them. Except that they both really appreciate the new water dish that appears in the living room each year. Here is Maddy, caught in the act and then attempting to look innocent. Happy New Year to all!

Maddy drinking under tree2 Maddy drinking under tree3