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family (71 posts)
I like to give the objects in my life names. My station wagon is named Louise (as in: "Please start, Louise"). My rocking chair from childhood is named Baby (as in: "Why is it when Mommy sits down in Baby and relaxes with a nice quiet book, everybody suddenly wants a glass of milk in a Cars 2 cup with a straw?"). My slow cooker is named Sanchez. This is because the first authentically delicious dinner I ever made in it was an adobe-covered pork shoulder that I shredded with a fork and served on warm corn tortillas with a homemade mango salsa. This is also because I need to thank my slow cooker for nourishing my kids and saving my dinners on a daily basis. "Thank you, Sanchez!" sounds a lot better than "Thank you West Bend 5-Quart Oblong-Shaped Slow Cooker."
There was another time, however, when Sanchez and I did not connect. For one long painful year, I made about 52 dishes (one per week) in it, all of which tasted the same. There was tender bland saddle with gravy, tender bland saddle with white wine, bits of tender bland saddle with garlic and mushrooms, and whole tender bland saddle with egg noodles. Some weekends, I would even invite guests over and brag about how easy using a slow cooker was—"Guys, you can sit around drinking wine and cracking jokes with your friends, and when it's time to eat, you just open up the cooker and slop it onto your plates!" But there was always that illuminating moment when we all had sat down, bit into our first forkful of so-called meat and chewed and chewed and chewed, trying to discover any taste in the food at all or any polite adjective that we could use besides "bleck!." Occasionally, I would ask brightly, "Who want seconds?" just to watch the whole table gasp in horror and look guilty down at their still full plates.
It wasn't as though I was in denial about my slow cooker fiascos. I simply had no solution. My life is too insane to spend long hours at the stove, where things catch of fire if you don't pay attention. So I approached the problem the way I do when I have to fix the DVD player—I plugged in a bunch of stuff. I tried ingredients after ingredient into the slow cooker, as well as called in some experts, trying to figure out what kind of foods not just bring out the flavor of dish, but also amp it up to downright delectable. The 7 magical answers (here) will surprise you.
The Secret Ingredients to Transform Your Slow Cooker
Rediscovering the Crock Pot
Anchovies in a stew?
On the average evening, my joy of cooking has turned into a duty of cooking. It's not that I don't love cooking—and all the eating that goes along with it. But in the relentless parade of roasted chickens and broiled fish and meat loafs (all family dinner standards) I just can't approach the activity with the same zest. I need some inspiration. I need some old fashioned, spaghetti-sauce splattered fun, something that goes beyond throwing the boiled pasta on the ceiling to see if it's done.
Imagine my surprise when I found out on Time.com that brilliant famous chefs need this too. Luminaries like Mario Batali, Tom Colicchio and David Chang paired up with the band One Ring Zero, which turned their recipes—word for word—into songs. The chefs picked their own musical styles, from classic rock (Michael Symon) to Mexican banda (Aaron Sanchez) to rap (Chris Cosentino), creating a hilarious ode to all things musical and culinary. A CD of the songs comes packaged in a book by Black Balloon called The Recipe Project, edited by Oprah.com's own Leigh Newman, which includes all the recipes (you can actually cook the dishes), plus interviews with the chefs (David Chang dishes on childhood violin lessons), original playlists by chefs, and essays on food and music by every kind and stripe of writer. But perhaps John Besh, the New Orleans chef, put it best in the video by Time.com as he sang along to his own recipe for shrimp remoulade, "Why didn't I think of this?"
Dorothy Howell Rodham, the mother of Hillary Rodham Clinton, died early Tuesday, at age 92. According to the Daily Beast, Rodham had been living with her daughter since 2006, just before Clinton launched her campaign for the presidency. Whatever you think of Clinton, can you imagine how proud her mother must have felt in those days, and how worried for her child? Rodham moved to Little Rock to be near Hillary when her marriage was in trouble; when the Clintons were in the White House Dorothy spent time there too, helping to raise Chelsea and support Hillary. (Read the original article on the Daily Beast for a heart-wrenching description of the difficult childhood Dorothy Howell Rodham overcame).
This is going to sound silly, but this article was the first
time I ever thought of the Secretary of State as being someone’s little girl,
of how hard and weird it must be to be the parent of a politician, whose life
becomes so brutally public. Isn’t it amazing, what mothers go through, and help
For as long as I can remember, I studiously answered the question, “Where are you from?” with an evasive, “Oh, near Chicago.” Or: “the Chicago area,” which sounds a bit like a medical term for something impolite. Or, even more misleadingly, just, “Chicago.” Invariably this would be the person to reply, “Oh really? Where? I know it well!” Which is when I would know I was caught, and have to admit,“Oh! Yes. Ah. Well, the suburbs actually." Inevitably, I'd end up reluctantly revealing my hometown to be a boring whitey-white suburb, known for producing “North Shore Girls” with teeny-bopper speech patterns who get SUVs as sweet 16 presents. (For the record, I drove my mother's Chevy.) Hardly a proper provenance for an aspiring writer!
So I know just how Katie J.M. Baker feels, when she writes in the New York Times Townies column that she has always been embarrassed of being from the LA “Valley Girl” suburb Encino. “’Encino is not L.A.,’ they’d snicker whenever I told someone I lived in Los Angeles..In retrospect,” she writes, “this was pathetic. I was like a balding man with a comb-over, or one of those women who wear bright prints to distract from their pear-shaped bottoms. Some things are impossible to disguise.” Oh! My! God! I, like, know!
In the era of instant nostalgia—looking at a photo the moment it’s taken and then losing it just as quickly in crowded digital archives—there’s something particularly wonderful about a film like Jeff Altman’s dazzling "Las Vegas 1962". The saturated colors are Mad Men-gorgeous; the film a reminder of how Vegas used to be—all excitement and fun and Rat-Pack-esque glamor. What was it with the 60s? Was everyone constantly hamming it up, smooching for the camera?
But what really gets me about this
film is the human element: these
people, beautiful and young, destined to be someone’s grandparents. In
footage they are smiling and waving and having a fabulous time, the stars of the movie of their lives. It reminds me of visiting my grandmother’s humid Skokie, IL,
apartment and staring at snapshots of a chic, raven-haired lady who I
simply did not believe could be my little Nani. Waving from
convertibles? Posing with girlfriends on the beach? Seeing her this way
made everything feel different. Surprise—she hadn't always been old.
My husband recently met a couple at an event
and complained, “They had this cool last name”—we’ll say "Darling," although it’s
actually even cuter than that –“but it turned out they’d made it up.” This,
we agreed, was cheating. As people with awkward and difficult-to-spell last
names, we have a certain chip on our shoulders. Why should a couple
get to breeze through life saying, “Darling!”, just because they feel like it?
“After all,” I said, “a family name is about your family, not about sounding cool.” My husband proceeded to clear his throat for the next half hour or so. As he didn’t need to point out, I hadn’t taken his name. I had very good, semiotically sound reasons for this that had to do with identity and feminism...and not wanting to fill out name-change forms.
In Anne Peterson's great essay on the Huffington Post, she muses over how much she's always loved “the distinguished tradition of a name like Peterson: a moniker for mustachioed Vikings and meatball connoisseurs with blonde braids.” She never thought she would change her name when she married—the very idea seemed retrograde. And significantly, she was not exactly in love with the sound of her fiance’s last name. “Saying it is like eating a handful of sand. It gets caught in your throat like a partially chewed piece of flank steak.”
Is it wrong to pick and choose a married name based on whether you like it or not? So maybe your husband’s name seems a little awkward, or doesn’t really go with your first name. How do you think Lauren Bush Lauren feels? Should the unity of your family be held above paltry matters like aesthetics? I admit that the idea of creating a new name altogether appeals in a way, eschewing issues of identity and awkwardness and starting fresh, the way our ancestors did at Ellis Island, only on purpose.
Anne Peterson decided to change name after all, though she notes, “A piece of my identity is gone.” For the record, this is why I haven’t changed my name, even though it doesn’t match the family’s and causes the doctor’s office to think I’m the babysitter and makes addressing mail to us baffling. It’s an identity thing. Even if my darling were a Darling, I swear my choice would have been the same. I think. Probably.
As it turns out, siblings may have a larger effect on our personalities and lives than any of us suspected. Jeffrey Kluger, author of the new book The Sibling Effect: What the Bonds Among Brothers and Sisters Reveal About Us, recently told NPR, "siblings are the longest relationships we'll ever have in our lives. Our parents leave us too soon, our spouses and our kids come along too late." Assuming everyone lives long enough, our siblings are the only people who know us our entire lives.
So what if you never knew your siblings, only meeting them as adults? Do they have the same effect on you as if you'd grown up together bonding over great games such as "Why are you hitting yourself?"
A documentary reveals the damage mainstream media does to women.
When Jennifer Siebel Newsom (left) learned in 2009 that she was expecting a baby girl with husband Gavin Newsom—California's lieutenant governor—she struggled to imagine how her daughter "could grow up to be emotionally healthy," she says in Miss Representation, the documentary she directed to expose how American media erodes female self-worth.
I used to work in Times Square, and I could always gauge how my day would go by my reaction to the swarms of tourists. Many mornings I stalked through the crowds like an ambulatory frown. Other mornings I'd emerge from the subway grinning, happy to help a lost tour group from Sheboygan, feeling as if just walking near a spunky pair of elderly travelers holding an upside map could make me see the city, the day, the world, with fresh eyes. Can you guess which days turned out better?
I was reminded of this when I first saw the below video, which has been all over the Internet for the past few days. In it a little boy and his sister are watching "The Empire Strikes Back" for the first time. When they get to that famous, so-familiar-it's-hard-to-imagine-it-ever-seeming-new "Luke, I am your father" scene, the boy flips out. The look on his face is absolutely amazing. It's a throwback to the world before leaked spoiler alerts; a reminder that this was once a surprising Star Wars revelation, yes, but also a reminder of the sheer wonder that exists in the world. I can't remember the last time I was this surprised by anything!
In everyday life it's easy to start feeling jaded and bored. Which is precisely why we need tourists, children, and other ambassadors of awe, to help us remember how the familiar—whether it's the city we live in, a classic movie, or just a gorgeous sunny day—has magic in it.
Reconnect with that sense of wonder:
5 ways to experience awe every day.
Embracing your inner child.
In her fascinating, revealing piece on IKEA, New Yorker writer Lauren Collins studies the origins of the ubiquitous Swedish furniture store, parses the culture at IKEA headquarters, and reveals why you can't ever seem to get out of an IKEA store without filling your cart (yeah, they do that on purpose). She also points out how IKEA has changed the culture of home decor: "Choosing a piece of furniture was once a serious decision, because of the expectation that it was permanent.," Collins writes. "IKEA has made interiors ephemeral." As Collins suggests, a person's IKEA purchases reveal her stage of life. First you're buying disposable furniture for a dorm room or apartment share...then it's the slightly sturdier, upmarket couches and beds for your first romantic cohabitation...eventually you're stocking up on cribs and changing tables. Sunrise, Sunset, SNRTIG.
So what does your IKEA furniture say about you? And am I the only one who feels a certain dread upon making yet another trip? I swore I wouldn't buy another LACK table...but...it's just so cheap...and... But when is it time to move on? As Collins writes, "IKEA can also be Swedish for feeling like you're never going to grow up." I know lately I've been feeling that mature nesting urge. I want a new couch, and I have a confession to make: I want it put together by a stranger, and I don't want to have to argue with that stranger about stick-figure-and-hieroglyphic instructions. For heaven's sakes, I'm married with two children. Isn't it time for a piece of grownup furniture?
Make your home work better for you:
10 steps to a more streamlined home office
Organizing tips from an expert
Clearing your mental clutter