Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Under the wire

It's almost midnight, and I'd really rather be asleep, but I'm a bit wired from travel and from the crazy few days we've had. So here's a quick update, and then to bed.

The backstory:
A week or two before Christmas, we notice that the heat isn't really working in the car, and the defroster just fogs things up. We take the car in for service. When we get it back, it's a warm day; the defroster works fine and we figure that's that.

The story:
December 22: We drive to CT. With no heat. Yes, the fan and the defroster work, but the air that comes out is, um, not warm. Actually, it's cold, except for the sunny part of the trip.

December 23: We are in CT. We take the car to my parents' mechanic, who replaces the thermostat and tells us we need new brakes soon. We know.

Other good things happen in here, like a big family party, Christmas, a tree, roast beef, yarn, a guitar, a loom, new shoes, books, music, happiness all around. We don't really go anywhere for a few days.

December 27: We decide to go look for a yarn store. A light flashes on the dashboard, indicating something wrong with the coolant level. Indeed, there is no coolant in the car. We drive to my uncle's house--he has the same car, and extra coolant. Score! is apparent as we stand talking in the driveway that the coolant is in fact ending up on the ground after only a brief stay in the car. This is not good news. We drive our car home carefully, carrying an extra gallon of coolant.

December 28: Mariah turns 19! We borrow my mother's car and celebrate with a friend and her daughter. Afterwards, we drop the car off at the mechanic, leaving the key and a detailed note. (It says, why didn't you fix our car? Or something like that...) Later, we all pile into my mother's car and go out to dinner.

December 29: We are scheduled to leave CT, but there is still no coolant in the car. We call the mechanic. He will contact us. Soon. By late morning, he calls, and we go pick it up. Loose clamp, their fault, no charge. We are on our way, only three hours later than planned. We decide to take the "western" route--it's longer, but avoids all tolls, most of major cities, and much of the traffic. We are driving into the sun, but we are headed home.

Until another light flashes on the dashboard. A new one, indicating a problem with the electrical system. Sure enough, the power steering goes out. We drive to a service station, and then to another. The second one takes a look: a belt has fallen off its pulley. It's too late in the day for him to do the job, but if we leave the car overnight he'll check it out in the morning. We are offered a ride, directions to a motel, and the hope of a working car in the morning. We take it. Checking my email (grateful for free wifi in the room), I receive shocking, saddening news of a friend's sudden loss. Everything feels surreal.

December 30: The helpful mechanic thinks it's too big a job for him and sends us to a VW dealer 10 miles away. We get a rental car and a promise that he'll "try to work us in." We drive off to explore Old Town Bethlehem. We are alert to the irony of being homeless in Bethlehem during the Christmas season.

After lunch, we drive back to the dealer, not knowing where else to go. We settle around a TV with our books and magazines. Eventually the service manager calls my cellphone, not knowing we are there. Mark goes to talk to him.

And returns with the news that the alternator must be replaced. Tomorrow. Can't do it now--it's too big a job, he doesn't have the part, other people want their cars too. It will cost lots of money and take lots of time. I might possibly cry a little bit but he is unmoved. We grab a few more things out of our disabled car and go shopping. (Yes, we are Americans, aren't we? I actually got some fabulous boots on sale, but I don't feel good about it yet.) Eventually, we check back in to our previous night's motel (same room!) and go out to dinner.

December 31: The free breakfast tastes better today. It is snowing. Hard. We check out and head back to the dealer after picking up lunch for the road (hope springs eternal). The snow lets up. Eventually the car is fixed, we give them all our money and leave the rental car, and we drive home--uneventfully, finally. We unpack the car in record time--no one fusses about carrying too much or being too cold. Our house is warm and quiet. Noisy revelers outside cannot disturb us. We are at home.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Christmas in the country

We're headed south today, leaving my parents' rural retreat and heading back to the city. But my Christmas column is all about the joys of the country Christmas, and of The Wind in the Willows. Enjoy!


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

instead of TV

At my parents' house in northwestern Connecticut there's a big flat-screen TV at one end of the living room. There's a satellite internet connection and wifi, so my dad and I can both be online at the same time. (Too many laptops and the connection slows down, but it's early yet). There's a blanket of snow outside and before long I expect Nick will be out in it; he went out last night after dinner to start a snowman and was only barely persuaded to come back in despite the frigid temperatures and the almost impenetrable darkness.

But for now the TV sits quiet, the snow undisturbed. Nick sits in front of the sliding glass doors that lead out to the deck, entranced by the display of birds feeding at the various feeders. It's a pretty good show.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


This week's Mama, PhD blog post at Inside Higher Ed is about losing things--I hope that by writing about it I can stave it off. I'll take the next two weeks off from that blog (I know, I'm slowing down all over) but will be back in the new year. Expect an update or two here, though, when I feel like it.

Right now I'm grading and sneezing, so my capacity for updates is rather limited.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Dinner tonight...

...was courtesy of Gwyneth Paltrow, who posted this great recipe for buckwheat-banana pancakes to her site. Pancakes and veggie sausage=vegan dinner. Yum.

I find it somewhat disturbing that I spent long enough on Gwyneth Paltrow's site to find a recipe I could make. The truth is, though, it was the first thing I found.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

One Word Meme

I thought I might have done this before, but apparently not. Seen at Life in Scribbletown and Magpie Musing...

Where is your cell phone? Purse

Where is your significant other? Here

Your hair color? Brown

Your mother? Planning

Your father? Typing

Your favorite thing? Reading

Your dream last night? Anxious

Your goal? Enough

The room you’re in? Sunny

Your hobby? Knitting

Your fear? Ladders

Where do you want to be in six years? Happy

Where were you last night? Home

What you’re not? Prepared

One of your wish-list items? These

Where you grew up? Various

The last thing you did? Shop

What are you wearing? Red

Your TV? On

Your pet(s)? None

Your computer? Mac

Your mood? Antsy

Missing someone? Yes

Your car? Sensible

Something you’re not wearing? Pink

Favorite store? TYL

Your summer? Oxford

Love someone? Yes

Your favorite color? Wine

When is the last time you laughed? Today

Last time you cried? Forgotten

Tagging: You

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Lattice Work

I'm afraid of ladders. I don't climb them much myself, and I cannot be nearby when anyone I love is on one. It's a (not entirely) ridiculous fear, I guess, but it's one I somehow can't--or won't--control, so Mark does a lot less ladder work than he used to around the house. Once he was working on the parapet roof of our (three-story) house with a ladder set up on the (first story) porch roof outside our bedroom window. He asked me to brace the ladder for him and I was so overcome by anxiety that I not only couldn't hold the ladder, I actually had to leave the room--in the end, Mariah held it for him instead. I tell a much shorter version of this story in my blog post over at Inside Higher Ed today, as a way of getting at a new metaphor for career success: the lattice. I've never climbed a lattice, but I'm beginning to think I'd like to try...

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Are you guys related?

I got this one from Caroline, and I've stolen many answers from her, too. Who else wants to play? Consider yourself tagged...

1. WERE YOU NAMED AFTER ANYONE? both my mother and my paternal aunt have my first name as their middle name. My middle name is my mother's maiden name.

2. WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU CRIED? a few days ago, probably. I tear up really, really easily these days--sappy movies, thinking about Mariah's move west, frustration--you name it. I did not, however, cry at Twilight, I promise.

3. DO YOU LIKE YOUR HANDWRITING? I do, but it's illegible to most. (Copied from Caroline!)

4. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE LUNCH MEAT? Again I'm copying Caroline--it's bacon, though I don't eat it often.

5. DO YOU HAVE KIDS? Yes, a girl and a boy.


7. DO YOU USE SARCASM A LOT? Trying to give it up, but it's hard.


9. WOULD YOU BUNGEE JUMP? No, why would I do that?

10. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE CEREAL? In warm weather, muesli; in colder weather, oatmeal, often with homemade granola, dried cranberries and milk.

11. DO YOU UNTIE YOUR SHOES WHEN YOU TAKE THEM OFF? I only wear lace-up shoes to work out, and I don't untie them when I take them off.

12. DO YOU THINK YOU ARE STRONG? Physically, I'm a lot stronger than I used to be. Tae kwon do helps a lot.

13. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE ICE CREAM? Anything with coffee, chocolate, and things to chew in it.


15. RED OR PINK? Deep pink or deep red. Often together.

16. WHAT IS THE LEAST FAVORITE THING ABOUT YOURSELF? Hmm, really? Right now I think it's my tendency to procrastinate.

17. WHO DO YOU MISS THE MOST? Oh, so many people: Roxanne and Kristy, Abby, Caroline (but I'll see her next month).

18. DO YOU WANT EVERYONE TO SEND THIS BACK TO YOU? No, but I'll enjoy reading the answers that turn up on other blogs.


20. WHAT WAS THE LAST THING YOU ATE? Trader Joe's vegetable medley soup with leftover rice in it.

21. WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO RIGHT NOW? Sports commentators, my father-in-law and Mark chatting.


23. FAVORITE SMELLS? I used to live in between a laundromat and a sourdough bakery--that was hard to beat.



26. FAVORITE SPORTS TO WATCH? I will watch almost any sport with a ball: basketball, baseball, football, tennis. No golf, though.

27. HAIR COLOR? Brown

28. EYE COLOR? Brown

29. DO YOU WEAR CONTACTS? Used to; now, Lasik! (also stolen from Caroline!)

30. FAVORITE FOOD? dark chocolate, fresh-baked bread, summer pasta, winter squash and dark greens...

31. SCARY MOVIES OR HAPPY ENDINGS? Happy endings. I can't watch scary stuff any more.


33. WHAT COLOR SHIRT ARE YOU WEARING? silver-grey (I think of it as Caroline's color, though)

34. SUMMER OR WINTER? can't I choose spring? Or fall? This year, though, definitely summer.

35. HUGS OR KISSES? Depends on who's giving them (another stolen answer).

36. FAVORITE DESSERT? Chocolate guinness cake.

37. MOST LIKELY TO RESPOND? Freshhell is usually up for something like this...


39. WHAT BOOK ARE YOU READING NOW? I'm re-reading Feed and A Christmas Carol to teach.

40. WHAT IS ON YOUR MOUSE PAD? We have an Edgar Allen Poe mousepad up by the "family computer."


42. FAVORITE SOUND? Mariah singing, Nick laughing, summer rain, fire crackling in the hearth.


44. WHAT IS THE FARTHEST YOU HAVE BEEN FROM HOME? Kyoto, Japan--summer of 07.

45. DO YOU HAVE A SPECIAL TALENT? Hmm, does re-reading books and still being surprised by the ending count as a special talent?

46. WHERE WERE YOU BORN? Long Island.


Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thank Full

Well, that was one successful Thanksgiving feast. Nick and I are sitting on the couch while Mark cleans up the kitchen and his dad slices up the leftover turkey. Mariah has disappeared to her room muttering something about being "too full." Remember, now, she's the wheat-free vegan; if I managed to overstuff her, I think I did something right.

I forgot to take pictures of either dessert before we ate them, but I can report that the wheat-free vegan amazing pumpkin pie is indeed amazing. I would make and eat it even if no one I knew had dietary restrictions; it was that good. (This picture is pretty accurate, though mine, made from fresh-roasted pumpkin which I then drained in cheesecloth for an hour or so, was a bit darker.) And Nick's apple crisp was perfect: crispy on top, meltingly sweet and tart inside.

Here's the rest:

Turkey and gravy, sweet potato casserole, roasted vegetables, Mariah's timbale, and the brussels sprouts that did indeed make a convert of me. I didn't get a shot of the stuffing, but it was not all that photogenic anyway...

I hope you and yours also had a happy Thanksgiving. We sure did; and we will have more of it again tomorrow.

(See yesterday's post for links to recipes; I'm too lazy to put them in again.)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving menu, with vegan/wheat-free options

I think I have the Thanksgiving menu set now. I'd better, since both cars are out of the house without me and there's not much more grocery-shopping time left anyway. Here's what I'm planning; I'll report back tomorrow or Friday, with pictures if I think of it.

Maple-Glazed Turkey with Gravy: My most successful turkeys have been cooked quickly at high heat, like this one; I like the glaze idea and it looks pretty simple. I have a smallish (10 pound) turkey, so this may go even faster than two hours. Score!

I'm thinking of making a cornbread stuffing but I haven't actually dug up a recipe on the internet. Usually I make a version of an apple-chestnut stuffing recipe that a friend gave me years ago; she replaces the chestnuts with walnuts and I do, too. I think I can do that one with cornbread, so that will probably be it.

Mushroom, Lentil, and Wild Rice Timbales: Mariah is vegan and is currently avoiding wheat; this looks like a terrific entree for her (and I may steal some, too). I don't have ramekins so I'm baking it in a casserole dish.

Golden-Crusted Brussels Sprouts: I don't actually like brussels sprouts, but I keep hoping I will. This looks easy enough that I don't mind experimenting, and it looks good. If there's room in the oven, though, I might roast them instead.

Roasted potatoes, parsnips, leeks, and red pepper: (The link is a soup recipe but I will stop before they are soup...) Everyone loves roasted vegetables. This is the only form besides french fries in which Nick will eat potates. Go figure.

Sweet potato casserole: Because I might not make enough dessert... I'll have to vegan-ize this recipe with egg replacer, margarine, and almond milk. I'm thinking the sweet potatoes will mask any slight differences in flavor. We'll see.

Cranberry sauce: I will probably just make regular whole-berry sauce this year, no bells and whistles. I love the garlicky gingery chutney one, but I'm really the only one in my house who likes it, so it's easier just to stop at step one.

If the brussels sprouts don't look good, or I go a little mad, I may also add some green beans or a salad. Though, really, there are enough vegetables here already, right? Then for dessert:

Wheat free vegan pumpkin "pie": Pie without crust? I am skeptical, but I love my daughter, and she loves pumpkin desserts, so we will try.

I may also make an apple crisp, which is a safe and sound vegan, wheat-free dessert as long as you sub oat bran for wheat germ, gluten free flour for regular, and margarine for butter.

Yes, this is a ridiculous amount of food for five people (Mark's dad is with us). But I love Thanksgiving, and we all love Thanksgiving leftovers, so nothing will go to waste.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Things I've Done

Got this one from Ericka; you're tagged if you want to be!

Things I've done are bolded:

1. Started your own blog
2. Slept under the stars
3. Played in a band
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than you can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland
8. Climbed a mountain
9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sang a solo
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea (no, but from above, in a plane)
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
18. Grown your own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitch hiked
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Run a Marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
31. Hit a home run
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught yourself a new language
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelo's David
41. Sung karaoke
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had your portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater
55. Been in a movie (do student films count?)
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen (only when it's in my own church)
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies
62. Gone whale watching
63. Got flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma
65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten Caviar
72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle (not all that fast, but on the freeway)
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had your picture in the newspaper
85. Read the entire Bible
86. Visited the White House
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone’s life
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one
94. Had a baby
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a law suit
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee
100. Read an entire book in one day.

Not even half! I'm leading a sheltered life...

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

About the body

Yoga is about the body. Knitting, too, is about the body. The more I engage myself in mind-work, the more important I realize it is to feed, clothe, care for the body as a central, not peripheral, aspect of life.

I have my dad to thank for this latest reminder, which is also an unexpected plug for Mama, PhD.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The new yoga?

The New York Times discovers knitting.

too much

Becca's been blogging a lot lately, in what seems like one of those "I was thinking about giving up the blog" moments. I haven't been--not because I'm thinking of giving up the blog, but because we're at that point in the semester/year when I don't really have much time to think about anything. Over the weekend I speed-read my way through several critical books on children's literature, trying to determine which ones to nominate for the ChLA book award. I also did some knitting, and watched Nick pass another tae kwon do test, and made a run to Trader Joe's (now a weekly occurrence--yay!). The Trader Joe's run resulted in mostly home-made pizza (TJ crust and sauce), spinach salad, and apple-berry crisp for dinner last night, so that was definitely worth it. But for the most part I'm just hanging on right now, hoping that I reach the end of the year without too many loose ends flying.

Mariah's trying out a wheat-free diet (she had soup instead of pizza) at the moment as part of a battery of approaches to her chronic fatigue/pain (we're not sure yet if we can call it fibromyalgia, but it's definitely painful). So I made the crisp without wheat or butter and it was still really tasty. But I'm coming to the end of my imagination pretty quickly, so if anyone has fabulous wheat free recipes out there, I'll take them!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Literary Mama Logo Contest!

Literary Mama Logo Contest

Literary Mama is turning 5 and we need a fresh look! We're soliciting designs for a new logo that includes our name and tagline -- Literary Mama: Reading for the Maternally Inclined -- plus, optionally, an image that captures the spirit of the site. The winning entry will become the property of Literary Mama, to be used on our site, and on any and all Literary Mama gear. We'll give the winning designer credit on our site, of course, plus a t-shirt and a copy of the Literary Mama anthology. Send your entries by January 1st as jpg files (800 pixels wide) to

Visit us at

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

On Knitting...

I haven't actually had much time to knit lately, but I do think about it...

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Yes, we can!

We got up early (ish) yesterday morning and all four of us were at the polls just a little after 8 a.m. The lines were long but didn't spill out of the building into the rain, and everyone seemed happy, if a little subdued. One couple was disappointed to discover they would have to separate because of their different last names--they'd only brought one cup of coffee to share.

Luckily they only had to wait about twenty minutes. We all gave our names and got our little tickets, then handed them to the next phalanx of poll workers and got right into the voting booths. Nick went with Mark. We have touch screens in our district (they'll be gone by the next election cycle, though they're not paid for yet) and I touched all the right boxes and made sure that the review screen listed all the people I meant to vote for (we'd heard stories...). We got snazzy big red-white-and blue "I voted" stickers with the presidential seal on them, and headed back out into the rain.

Krispy Kreme was offering free doughnuts so we went there next--the line for the drive-through seemed like it might be longer than the line to vote, so we went in. A short line later: free doughnuts! (Leftover Hallowe'en ones at our location--I had to scrape a lot of black-and-orange sprinkles off mine.)

After a quick stop at home we went to the Obama headquarters, where we'd promised to spend the next four hours. They turned us around to a different location for driving and phone-banking volunteers, where we stood in the longest line of the day, for a good thirty to forty minutes. Cars driving by honked and waved and everyone was in a great mood despite the drizzle. I handed off a bag of snacks to one of the volunteers to take inside to phone-bankers. After a while another volunteer came out and gave us the facts: while we might all eventually get assigned to drive folks to the polls, it could take a while, but they could use canvassers now. We chose canvassing.

Off to another "staging area," an art studio not all that far from home. They sent us to the neighborhood right by the kids' old elementary school, where we knocked on doors and left door hangers for an hour. The few folks we actually reached had already voted and gave us happy thumbs-up signs. We took our clipboard back to the office when we were done and headed home by about 2:30 p.m.

So that was our election day. I baked a pie and did some reading for the next day's teaching, and we went out for a quick dinner then to an election party with friends. We had to leave there by ten since Nick and I had to be up early, but we did manage to stay up (except Nick) to get the results (we won Virginia! Yay!) and see the speeches. I thought McCain was gracious and Obama was appropriately solemn and inspirational. And so we went to bed, knowing that we'd made history.

It's raining again this morning but the fall colors are lighting up the trees anyway. Both kids are sick--happiness hangover or a late-fall bug? I'm off to teach in a bit, because life goes on as normal; it's a new normal, though, one in which we can finally say "President Elect Obama." Sounds good, doesn't it?

Yes, we can!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Getting out the vote

It's the day we've been waiting for. And over at the Mama, PhD blog at Inside Higher Ed, I try to talk a little about why I'm spending the day volunteering, trying to help get out the vote. Here's a sample:

This is my fourth presidential election as a college professor. I’ve dutifully reminded my students to go to the polls in years past, and have gone myself, but without much sense of hope, without much conviction that anything would change. While I now think the last several elections really did change our course as a nation, I remember in 2000, especially, thinking it didn’t really matter all that much. (read the rest here)

Remember what that was like? I was wrong: it did matter--and this time it really does. Get out and vote!

Monday, November 03, 2008

Some quizzes just aren't surprising at all...

Your result for Howard Gardner's Eight Types of Intelligence Test...


22% Logical, 16% Spatial, 75% Linguistic, 49% Intrapersonal, 18% Interpersonal, 27% Musical, 4% Bodily-Kinesthetic and 31% Naturalistic!

"Verbal-linguistic intelligence has to do with words, spoken or written. People with verbal-linguistic intelligence display a facility with words and languages. They are typically good at reading, writing, telling stories and memorizing words and dates. They tend to learn best by reading, taking notes, listening to lectures, and via discussion and debate. They are also frequently skilled at explaining, teaching and oration or persuasive speaking. Those with verbal-linguistic intelligence learn foreign languages very easily as they have high verbal memory and recall, and an ability to understand and manipulate syntax and structure.

Careers which suit those with this intelligence include writers, lawyers, philosophers, journalists, politicians and teachers." (Wikipedia)

Take Howard Gardner's Eight Types of Intelligence Test at HelloQuizzy

seen at Shaken and Stirred

Sunday, November 02, 2008

On running for office

While I'm deeply invested in the outcome of this election, I have to admit I'm tired of the campaign. Running for president seems to me almost nothing like being president, and I'm tired of the minute-by-minute scrutiny of folks doing a job that isn't the job we're electing one of them to do.

This month my column at Literary Mama takes up some books in which children learn a similar lesson. These are books that implicitly say: democracy is hard. You might not actually want to be a leader. Gone are the inspirational stories of my own childhood, in which children embrace leadership and optimistically look forward to making the world a better place. These stories are, in fact, a little depressing in their realism about presidential politics.

Read the rest here...

(cross-posted at the other blog)

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Happy Hallowe'en!

Nick was Darth Maul, thanks to his sister's awesome face-painting skills. That's his buddy William with the skeleton mask. Nick also carved the pumpkin--a wolf up on his hind legs, not that my photograph makes that clear...

(edited to add a close-up)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Happy Birthday Irma!

It's the birthday today of Irma Rombauer, author of The Joy of Cooking. This was the first big cookbook I owned, and it's the one everyone in my family refers to when they need basic directions. How do you boil an egg? Scald milk? Make a custard pie? There are more innovative cookbooks, and there are more comprehensive ones, but this is the one I turn to again and again.

I have a sort of hypothesis that there are Fanny* (as in Fanny Farmer) people and Irma people. I have a tattered old paperback Fanny, but I use the Joy (as I've always called it) much more often--I suspect because my mother did. I've sometimes checked both for some basic thing, and they are almost always just slightly different, which can be disconcerting. Shouldn't there be just one way to do these basic things? Well, no. But if they do disagree, I'll almost always go with Irma. She's a good friend to have in the kitchen.

*Confusingly, at least to me, the Fanny Farmer cookbook is now written by Marion Cunningham, and the Joy has for many years listed Marion Rombauer Becker as a co-author. So really they are both Marion, but to me they are Fanny and the Joy.

Monday, October 27, 2008

My Eco-Dilemma

I live on a bus line to campus--it's less than a two block walk for me to catch a bus that gets me to campus in 15 minutes. And the university, as of this past spring, provides free bus passes for all employees. That's right, my commute is free.

So why don't I take the bus every day? Over the last fourteen years I haven't used it much at all, though this year I'm doing it much more often (read: free bus pass. Also, high gas prices and a third driver in the house.) Still, every week there are days when I don't take the bus. Tuesday and Thursday Mariah and I take an early morning exercise class, so we drive because we've got a lot to carry and really can't be late. She drops me in my office after our class and I take the bus home.

It's the other days that worry me. I teach on MWF, and I can get a bus that will, pretty reliably, get me in to campus more than an hour before my first class. It should be a no-brainer. But this morning, for example, I really had to think hard about whether to take it. And the reason, though I'm not proud to admit it, is my hair.

I know, I know, it's ridiculous. But hear me out. I have shoulder-length thick curly hair. It does best when mostly left alone--but that leaving alone has to come after it's wet. It takes about three hours to dry. Blow-drying leaves it bushy and frizzy (not to mention taking more time, energy, and skill than I have--and don't talk to me about diffusers). So I usually walk out the door with wet hair, and by the time I have to be presentable, it usually is. (As presentable as it's going to be, anyway.) In warm weather, waiting for a bus with wet hair is no problem. But as the temperature drops, I find myself reaching for the car keys. I rationalize: it's only six miles; if I get sick I'll use even more energy going to the doctor; at least I take the bus some days; etc.

It's a small thing. But it occupied way more of my mental energy this morning than it should have. Still, I took the bus. With damp hair and an outdoor temp of about 45. I guess I'll be checking back after the first frost.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

quick links

You may have noticed that the content is rather, um, light here lately. I've been busy with other things (teaching, grading, life) so the blog is running itself--or, mostly, not, lately. But here are a couple of quick links.

First, do you think it's fair to provide health benefits to families? Me, too. But not everyone agrees--or, at least, they want a cut if they're not taking the health insurance. What is fair?

Second, don't you want to look at some amazing pictures of animals? Really, you do. Link courtesy of the amazing Neil Gaiman who is, I'm sure, way busier than I am.

That's all I've got.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Hmm, really?

I saw this on Spynotes, and it's way more interesting than anything I could dream up today. I'm skeptical, but then again, that's what the quiz results say, too. So maybe it's right?

Your result for Are You a Jackie or a Marilyn? Or Someone Else? Mad Men-era Female Icon Quiz...

You Are a Marilyn!


You are a Marilyn -- "I am affectionate and skeptical."

Marilyns are responsible, trustworthy, and value loyalty to family, friends, groups, and causes. Their personalities range broadly from reserved and timid to outspoken and confrontative.

How to Get Along with Me

  • * Be direct and clear

  • * Listen to me carefully

  • * Don't judge me for my anxiety

  • * Work things through with me

  • * Reassure me that everything is OK between us

  • * Laugh and make jokes with me

  • * Gently push me toward new experiences

  • * Try not to overreact to my overreacting.

What I Like About Being a Marilyn

  • * being committed and faithful to family and friends

  • * being responsible and hardworking

  • * being compassionate toward others

  • * having intellect and wit

  • * being a nonconformist

  • * confronting danger bravely

  • * being direct and assertive

What's Hard About Being a Marilyn

  • * the constant push and pull involved in trying to make up my mind

  • * procrastinating because of fear of failure; having little confidence in myself

  • * fearing being abandoned or taken advantage of

  • * exhausting myself by worrying and scanning for danger

  • * wishing I had a rule book at work so I could do everything right

  • * being too critical of myself when I haven't lived up to my expectations

Marilyns as Children Often

  • * are friendly, likable, and dependable, and/or sarcastic, bossy, and stubborn

  • * are anxious and hypervigilant; anticipate danger

  • * form a team of "us against them" with a best friend or parent

  • * look to groups or authorities to protect them and/or question authority and rebel

  • * are neglected or abused, come from unpredictable or alcoholic families, and/or take on the fearfulness of an overly anxious parent

Marilyns as Parents

  • * are often loving, nurturing, and have a strong sense of duty

  • * are sometimes reluctant to give their children independence

  • * worry more than most that their children will get hurt

  • * sometimes have trouble saying no and setting boundaries

Take Are You a Jackie or a Marilyn? Or Someone Else? Mad Men-era Female Icon Quiz at HelloQuizzy

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

What's going on

It's fall break so I'm working at home, and taking a few breaks to run some errands and read things I wouldn't otherwise be reading right now. I realize that the whole concept of "fall break" is foreign to folks not on academic calendars--or on the quarter system--but believe me, it's a necessity around here. I talk about it a little in today's Mama, PhD blog post at Inside Higher Ed.

One thing I haven't done over the break, but I managed to do a few days before it began, is make power bars. Yes, I'm so crafty, I made my own nut-and-seed snack foods, the kind that usually come in their own packaging! They are so easy I feel almost guilty posting about them--in fact, I realized as I was snarfing one up yesterday that they are a sort of grown-up rice krispie treat. Really! I mostly followed this recipe--which was linked in one of the other blogs I read but I can no longer track it down. Just FYI, I made the following changes: I added two tablespoons each (roughly) of hemp protein powder and flax seed meal, because I had them, and used a combination of pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds where the recipe calls for pecans, because I didn't have them. I think I may try these next--maybe with almond butter? Mmm...and chocolate chips?

It's back to the regular schedule tomorrow, but I'm hoping this break leaves me well-rested enough to make it to Thanksgiving without getting sick. (Fingers crossed...)

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

A note

Dear Amazing, Wonderful, Highly-Motivated Instructor of my twice-weekly 7 am fitness class,

Please, for the love of all that's holy and the sake of my sanity, do not use the cd with "We Built This City" ever again.

Thank you,

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Parenting and Pedagogy

Tedra Osell's recent post on her "Career Coach" blog at Inside Higher Ed's Mama PhD got me thinking: what is the relationship between parenting and pedagogy? How has my pedagogy changed since becoming a parent? It's hard for me to answer the latter question, as I had only been teaching as a grad student for a few years before I became a parent; the two have really always been intertwined for me. But I do know that I don't answer the question the way Tedra does; here's a stab at how I do answer it.

(cross-posted at the other blog...)

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

where I'm writing this week

I'm shifting back to my bimonthly schedule for the Children's Lit Book Group over at LiteraryMama. Though there are plenty of books to write about, my non-sabbatical year this year is keeping me hopping (or, more precisely, grading) in the moments when I might otherwise be writing a column. So look for that one next month.

In the meantime, I'm still writing every week, on Tuesdays, for the Mama, PhD blog at Inside Higher Ed. I'm enjoying the community of readers over there, so why not click over and join us?

[cross-posted at the other blog]

Sunday, September 28, 2008

All good things...

...come to those who wait. And after fifteen years in Richmond, my favorite grocery store has finally arrived! I found out during dinner this evening and made it out there before they closed, coming home with a good haul: wine, bagels, veggie "meatballs", cereal, milk, artichoke hearts, and chocolate. There was more, too, but we didn't go overboard--as I often have when visiting the one in Northern VA--because I knew we could go back next week. What luxury!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Telling our stories

One of my favorite feminist teachings is the oft-repeated mantra that the personal is the political. This doesn't, of course, mean that George W. Bush offers us advice for daily living (whew!) but that the power structures outside our homes don't necessarily stop at the doorway. We don't like to remember that, always--sometimes we want our decisions to feel free, open, disconnected from political realities. But they rarely are. This week in the Mama, PhD blog over at Inside Higher Ed I tell a little more of my story of balancing academe and family. Like all such stories, it's both idiosyncratic and representative, personal and --possibly-- political. Let me know what you think.

But don't stop there. In Capital-P politics, as you already know, there's a lot going on right now. Literary Mama columnists Ericka Lutz (Red Diaper Dharma) and Shari MacDonald Strong (The Maternal is Political) have terrific columns up now about the election, both telling different, but important, stories.

Two more columns at Literary Mama tell stories that don't feel political at all, stories of farewell. But Rebecca Kaminsky (Down Will Come Baby) and Vicki Forman (Special Needs Mama) know well how their stories of love and care are connected up with larger concerns--of how we treat women's particular health care needs, how we care for disabled children, how our families form part of a larger community of love and care.

The first time I ever wanted to take a political action was when, six months pregnant with my first child, I went to a meeting about doing clinic defense. Heavy with a chosen and deeply-loved child, I knew in my bones, my joints, my aching muscles, just how important it was for all mothers to have that same choice, to know their children were chosen as well. Organizers wiser than I dissuaded me, realizing that my condition would be a distraction, a potentially dangerous one. I've mostly stayed behind the scenes since then, hoping that my words and example in the classroom would be seen as the political statement I knew them to be.

This year I've been a little more mobilized--in July I walked a precinct with my newly-registered-to-vote daughter, and we signed up new voters together in the summer heat. She's spending part of her gap year doing more of that, registering voters and phonebanking and trying to be a part of something bigger than she is. Yesterday she finished working on a voter guide for a local progressive organization, and I saw the pride in her eyes as she told me of sending it off and getting it approved. "People will use my work to help them decide how to vote!" Seeing her and other young people get excited about this election is one of the things that gives me hope for the future--as does this new project, YA for Obama (check out Judy Blume! check out John Green!).

Listen to the stories around you--tell your own--you'll make a difference.

(cross-posted at the other blog)

Saturday, September 20, 2008


Claudia at FreshHell not only gave me an award, she tagged me for a meme! I haven't done one in a while, so here goes... I am to tell you six unspectacular things about me.

1. I am becoming one of those women who wears comfortable shoes. I love cute shoes (I spent far too much of the late 70s/early 80s in Candies--like these--which probably tells you more about me than I want it to) but my feet no longer do. In the summer I can get by with various kinds of sandals that don't scrunch me in too much, but winter shoes are particularly difficult. So I'm especially happy that I found these and something sort of like these (but, I think, cuter) today, on sale.

2. To my great surprise, I am enjoying a 7 am fitness class I'm taking twice a week.

3. I spend way more time playing WordTwist than I should. (Word games on facebook are somehow more addictive than any other kind. Why is that?)

4. When I was younger (yes, back in those Candies days) I sometimes imagined myself in a backup band. I never wanted to be the lead singer, but I'd have loved to stand behind the band and sing "doo-wop." Or something. I still think it would be fun.

5. I read too fast and therefore don't retain what I read very well. The advantage here is that I'm rarely bored when I reread a novel. I can also claim to have read many, many, books, as I have turned all the pages in them quickly and, for a brief moment, known what was on the pages. The disadvantages, especially for someone who teaches literature, are obvious.

6. I will eat granola for breakfast every day, as long as it's the granola I've made and there's some kind of fruit to put on it. (It's too easy to make granola--check out Caroline's recipe here, which is an adaptation of the same Nigella recipe that I also adapt, somewhat differently. She no longer uses the applesauce, but I do, for example--however, I skip the dried fruit and slice up a peach or a banana on my own bowlful.)

I'm supposed to tag folks, but really, just do it if you want. Six things. Not spectacular. Go.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Award Ceremony!

The wonderful Claudia over at Fresh Hell has bestowed upon me the coveted Arte y pico award, which comes with this lovely statuette. Don't you love it? As far as I can tell, the award is for being, um, awesome--or, to put it more formally, remarkable "in terms of creativity, design, interesting material, and general contributions to the blogger community." Thanks, Claudia!

Now, I need to bestow it on five more bloggers, preferably ones who haven't received it before. So here goes:

Writing as Jo(e) is always beautifully written. Jo(e) tells great stories (check out the one about how her kids amused themselves the other night), shares glorious pictures, and has a tradition of naked pictures on her blog. She's a parent, an academic, a vegan, and a dreamer, and a fabulous blogger.

I read Caroline's two blogs every day (or as often as she posts), and not just because she's my sister. In Food for Thought she tells family stories, talks about movies, and occasionally posts recipes; on Learning to Eat (where she co-blogs with Lisa Harper) she blogs exclusively about food and family culture (trust me, the two blogs are really different!).

Becca at Not Quite Sure is my go-to source for celebrity gossip, political rants, feminist thought, and lots of other things. She doesn't post pictures, but she will blog about chocolate cake, J. Lo, the Red Sox, and Sarah Palin all in the same week. (OK, no chocolate cake lately, but trust me, the chocolate cake posts are fine, fine work.)

I also read Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect every day--she's my colleague and my friend, and she's also a terrific writer who has her ear to the ground for everything children's literature and education related. She gives me things to post about (thanks, Tricia!), and things to think about, all the time.

So there you go--five very different blogs, all worth adding to your feed reader. Winners, now it's your turn to give five more awards!

(A special honorary mention has to go to my dad's blog, which is infrequently updated but always thought-provoking. Gardening, Episcopal history, and Beowulf!)

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

what I'm thinking about

When I'm teaching, everything revolves around the books I'm immersed in, and the books start speaking to my present reality. Right now I'm moving on from Frankenstein to Wuthering Heights in one class, and from Alice in Wonderland to The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe in the other two. And somehow Frankenstein made it into my Mama, PhD blog entry over at Inside Higher Ed today.

In other news, I'm working at home today while I wait for the Verizon installers. The question of the day is, will I finish my grading before they arrive?

(cross-posted at the other blog)

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Reading List

Not much time to post today, but lots of links:

I'm sure there's more, but that will have to do for now.

(cross-posted at the other blog)

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Getting in shape

I'm a confirmed couch potato. As a child I would rather sit than stand, read than run--and that really hasn't changed over the years. Nonetheless I admit that I feel better when I get some exercise, so I've actually signed up for an early-morning fitness class to go along with my two- or three-times-a-week tae kwon do classes. Strength, conditioning, flexibility, self-defense--I'm working on them all now, and it feels good.

But I'm still not quite in shape for teaching, it turns out, and that's what I'm blogging about today at Inside Higher Ed. Note entirely gratuitous Sarah Palin reference...

Monday, September 01, 2008

here's what I think

about Palin and pregnancy and all the rest. Becca and Rebecca Traister have pretty much said it all for me. I have to admit, the early rumors about Trig Palin being Bristol Palin's son, not Sarah Palin's, got me going. They seemed to reveal such hypocrisy in the family-values right, such a failure of abstinence-only education, such an anxiety about "what people will think." And I was also inclined to agree with Dawn that, if Trig really is (Sarah) Palin's, her traveling while in labor--leaking amniotic fluid--showed at the very best poor judgment and at the worst, well, something much worse.

Mostly, I have nothing but sympathy for Bristol Palin. She's a teenager with a difficult family situation, no matter how you slice it, and she's only going to spend more time in the public eye in the next four months, not less. It's not her fault her mother's ambitious and John McCain wanted someone with no track record on his ticket.

(And while the rest of the country is rejoicing that Gustav appears to be less powerful than early reports had indicated, I imagine the Republicans are actually a little dismayed that they're still in the news...)

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

back to work

Classes started Monday, and it took me most of the day to stop feeling as if something was dreadfully wrong. It wasn't wrong, just different from last year: me in front of the classroom, doing a lot of talking (though, please, not all of it, I hope!), wielding the chalk, instead of me in a room with my computer.

Of course, the more things change, the more they stay the same, and my routine is much as I'm used to--including reading things in the Chronicle and wanting to engage in a little back-and-forth. So that's what I did this week over at the Mama, PhD blog at IHE.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

brief update

Classes start next week, which means that the meetings have already begun. I spent all morning learning things about advising so that I can do it over the next couple of days...and, after all, the rest of the semester as well. And I've been finishing up my syllabi, which has--as always--somehow also involved learning some new technologies, or new spins on old ones.

And then there are the termites. At home, not in the office. Sigh. They will be dealt with, but just knowing that they're there gives me the heebie-jeebies (whatever they are--I don't think I've ever used that word before!).

All this is to explain why my post over at the Mama, PhD blog at IHE is a little shorter than usual today--I've got a lot on my mind!

(By the way, Mother Talk is featuring Mama, PhD in a blog book tour this week. Check it out!)

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


I just saw this over at Magpie Musing, who got it from the Times: there's a website that calculates the "walkability" of your (or any other) address. So of course I clicked right over there and entered my address. Just a bit of information: we can walk to three grocery stores, three drugstores, and an entire 6-7 block street of boutiques, cafes, restaurants, consignment stores, and one vintage movie palace that shows movies just before they go to video. Not to mention the bus stop, the museum, and the several churches and one synagogue that we can walk to. We bought the house because of all that access, and while we don't always walk everywhere, we do make use of the neighborhood's amenities all the time.

So our walkability score? Is 75. Which, fine, I can live with--after all, I can't really walk to work (though I have ridden my bike), and there aren't really affordable clothing stores (except for the three consignment stores) in the neighborhood. But when I looked at what the website knew was within walking distance, I knew there was a problem. It lists, for example, one bookstore: "Quality Adult Books." While this is technically the closest bookstore to our house, it's not one I patronize. But then, there are at least four other bookstores well within walking distance--one specializing in children's books, one general interest, one used bookstore, and one specializing in fantasy and horror. Similarly, for groceries, it lists the specialty butcher shop that I've never set foot in, but none of the three grocery stores (one of which is an independent natural foods market).

OK, I just realized that it's only showing me the very closest of everything--but it's still missing my natural foods market, as well as the best of the consignment stores. And it's listing a gourmet shop as a school (because they have classes?). So, maybe not so bad as I thought, but still a work in progress, clearly.

Monday, August 11, 2008


I may have been away, but I've still been thinking of you, my loyal readers. I think of you, my mysterious audience, often. Actually, that's not really true. I tend to assume I'm writing for people I know--for my family (especially the blogging ones), and for friends, like Becca, who comment. I know there are more of you (yes, I check my stats), but I prefer not to think about you too much lest I go all self-conscious.

My column this month is sort of about that, that feeling of being watched--really, that knowledge that one is being watched. And it's up now at Literary Mama, so you can go read it.

I've also got a new post up at the Mama, PhD blog, in which I reap the just consequences of rejoicing in my good fortune last week. Sigh.

Three Days in Chicago

I've blogged a little about it over on the other blog, so you probably know I'm just back from the Terminus 2008 conference in Chicago. I went to interesting talks and saw folks in costume, but I also got out into the city a little and really enjoyed it. The weather was breath-takingly fabulous (warm but not hot, breezy, clear--glorious weather, really) and I walked a lot--enough that even really comfortable sandals stopped being quite so comfortable. But then I found even more comfortable sandals on sale at Macy's! (I then learned from a Chicago native that I should not have gone to Macy's because it took over Marshall Field's, but alas, the damage was already done. And the shoes, they are comfortable.)

Oh! And I bought yarn at a fun store, too. Twice. (Shh.)

One of my walks took me to the Chicago Art Institute, which was a real pleasure. I got to see various things I'd only ever seen in reproduction (American Gothic, Nighthawks, Beata Beatrix, lots of Georgia O'Keeffe, and many more I'm not thinking of in the moment) but what I most liked was the display of architectural artifacts from Chicago buildings. But I don't know how to find evidence of that online, so you'll just have to imagine. Gorgeous Frank Lloyd Wright windows, fascinating elevator doors, cornices from demolished buildings, etc.

So apparently I got a rather skewed vision of Chicago, since the weather was great and I had fun things to do, but all in all I'd go back, and not only for the sandals and the yarn.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Peach Season

I'm waxing a bit sentimental over at the Mama, PhD blog at IHE today...only a bit, though, really.

(Oh, and did you notice that Dr. B. has joined us as an advice columnist?)

Friday, August 01, 2008


So Nick is now, I guess, a tween. He starts middle school in the fall, and was recently heard to announce that he's "practically a teenager." Since it is one of my great happinesses in life that I will not be parenting two teenagers at once, I have quashed this notion thoroughly. Nonetheless it's true that he's a tween.

This summer he has:

  1. been to France
  2. eaten an oyster
  3. learned stop-motion animation
  4. lost a tooth (another one is hanging on by a thread...)
  5. learned to unload the dishwasher
  6. gotten used to having his sister as a chauffeur
  7. swum in the Mediterranean
  8. made pancakes for the family without a "tedium monkey"
  9. gotten well into the second guitar book
  10. grown from below my shoulder-height to well above it
  11. turned eleven.
Happy Birthday, Nick!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Thinking about teaching

As my sabbatical draws to a close I think about what I've learned about teaching in the year I've been away from it, over at Inside Higher Ed's Mama, PhD blog. See you there...

Saturday, July 26, 2008

In peace

As many of you already know, Literary Mama columnist Vicki Forman's son Evan died suddenly earlier this week. I've never met Vicki and her family, but I've been privileged to know them through her words, which have touched me repeatedly in the years she's been writing her remarkable columns. I've just read through her archive, and my heart nearly stopped when I read this:

After my twins were born, I understood how life could change in an instant, and never be the same.

I also understood the terror of the counterpoint, “Life goes on.” A friend made this remark shortly after Evan’s birth and Ellie’s death. She’d patiently listened to me talk about the suddenness with which my life had changed, of my inability to think of the future or of a time when I wasn’t bowed under by grief. “Life changes,” she said, “but life also goes on.”

What I could not tell my friend, but what I knew to be true was this: when life changes in an instant, it does go on for others, but not for you. Grief holds you tight, and only loosens its bounds slowly, in unpredictable bursts.

As grief holds you tight again, Vicki, I pray you feel its bounds loosening in time as well. I grieve your loss, and I thank you for sharing Evan's life with me, with all of us.

Evan David Kamida
July 30, 2000 - July 24, 2008

There's a brief tribute to Evan at Vicki's column site, and information about contributing to a memorial fund.

Vegan (or not) Zucchini Muffins

When I was in graduate school I shared an office for a while with a woman who had a son a year older than Mariah. She was smart and funny and I always liked chatting with her when we were in the office together. I remember once moaning to her that I wanted something (can't even recall what, now), but didn't need it, and she looked at me and said, "Need. What an interesting concept." I've repeated her words often over the years--mostly ironically, I hope.

Anyway. This does get to muffins, believe me. Once she told me that she'd taken her son to the pediatrician and, in the course of the appointment, had asked for advice on how to get more vegetables into him. The doctor had suggested that maybe she bake zucchini bread, carrot muffins, things like that. Deanna was outraged. "What a sexist!" she exclaimed. "How dare he tell me to bake!"

I didn't see it quite the same way. I liked to bake (you'll be surprised to hear) and it didn't strike me as sexist at all, but as practical. He was 15 years ahead of Jessica Seinfeld, after all. But in the moment I sympathized with her; she was a good office mate, after all, and if she didn't want to bake zucchini bread I wasn't going to insist.

I don't know if Deanna ever got her son to eat vegetables, but whenever I make these muffins I think of her. My kids know they have zucchini in them, and they love them. They are loosely adapted from a recipe at, and if the flax seed meal and the buckwheat flour freak you out you can certainly try her version and let me know how it is. But this is how I make them:

  • 1 cup unbleached white flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup buckwheat flour
  • 1/2 cup wheat germ
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. allspice
  • 1 tsp. salt (I use less)
  • 1-1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1-1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 tbl. flax seed meal
  • 3 eggs (or egg replacer, which is what I use: 4-1/2 tsp. beaten into 6 tbl. warm water)
  • 1 tbl. vanilla
  • 2 cu shredded zucchini (I think this works best in the food processor rather than the box grater, because you get a drier, firmer shred, but you can decide.
  • Preheat the oven to 375 F.
  • Mix the dry ingredients (flour through baking powder) in a bowl and set aside.
  • Mix the sugars, oil, eggs, and vanilla in a large bowl. Stir in the flour mixture. Stir in the zucchini.
  • Spray or grease your muffin tins, and fill them mostly full (the muffins don't rise a lot). When I do this, I get 15 muffins, which means using a second muffin tin. If yours come out the same, don't forget to put a little water into the empty muffin cups so they don't scorch in the oven.
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when you poke it into a muffin. Allow the muffins to cool in the pan briefly before turning out onto a wire rack.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Vegan ice cream

(One small edit below...)

I have to say, one thing I didn't miss while we were on the barge was cooking. I love to cook, and I love to feed people, but a week of luxury was really nice, too. The first couple days we were back I was too jet-lagged to cook, and too brain-dead to plan (it was over 100 and brutally humid). But it's cooled off now and I'm back on schedule and now I'm making meals again--not as good as Charlie's (our chef on the barge), but they're just fine. And the one thing Charlie never quite worked out for Mariah was vegan desserts--she mostly got fruit salads, which were fine, but she did sneak a few ice creams here and there on shore when he wasn't looking. So she was delighted to come back and get vegan ice cream again.

I promised this recipe a while ago, but it's taken me this long to test it more than once and make sure I like it. Everyone in the family likes it, in fact--with "real" (store-bought) ice cream in the house, this is what everyone wanted for dessert tonight.

Make sure you have your ice cream maker's bowl well chilled. I just keep mine in the freezer all summer so it's ready.

1 can coconut milk [ETA: best if this is well chilled. I just store it in the fridge.]
1/2 cup soy milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup cocoa
4 oz. silken tofu
1 tbl. instant espresso powder (optional)
1 tsp. vanilla

Put all ingredients in the blender and blend until well mixed. Pour into your ice cream maker and freeze according to the machine's directions--mine takes about 20-30 minutes. Then remove it from the machine into a freezer container; freeze for as long as it takes to eat dinner. The next day it will be a bit hard to serve (maybe--once mine never really thickened up and it was like very cold mousse--also delicious, but not what we expected), but leave it out while you eat dinner, or nuke it briefly in the microwave, and it will be fine.

This is very rich--small servings are plenty.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


I blog about my reflections on our trip today over at the Mama, PhD blog at Inside Higher Ed. Follow me there...

Monday, July 21, 2008

Back again

I am back from the most fabulous family vacation ever, and all I can say is, if you ever need to make 13 people ranging in age from 3 to 70+ happy, take them on a barge trip in Southwest France. There was something for everyone, from the jacuzzi to the wines, the beach to the ruins, the high culture to the low. We saw bull games in the Camargue and fireworks over the water the night before Bastille Day, swam in the Mediterranean, ate gourmet food on the barge and off, drank and tasted some of the most famous wines in the world, and relaxed and enjoyed each others' company.

For those of you keeping track, I did not read one word of The Water-Babies (you were so right, Becca!), but I did finish one entire knitting project and made a little progress on another. (I also had two pairs of knitting needles confiscated out of my luggage in Vienna--argh!) I've "marked all read" for most of what was on my google reader, caught up on a few other blogs, checked in on facebook, done the laundry, and deleted most of my email--all the kind of low-brain-power activities that I can do while still feeling mightily jet-lagged. Things don't ramp up until later in the week.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

what stays, what goes

I'm packing for a trip and I'm trying to be ruthless about fitting stuff in carry-on. So the extra bottle of hair conditioner is out, as is yet another pair of black sandals. But what do I do about books I desperately want to read, but I only have in hardcover? What do I do about knitting--don't I need more than one project, in case I finish? (Or, more likely, get bored or frustrated?) So far the books and knitting are in, though I may regret it as I schlep through airports. I have a little while yet to decide, and no more time to shop, so I doubt I'll be adding more. But what if I'm not in the mood for The Water-Babies (which I have assigned in my fall semester course and must therefore reread)?

I'll be away from the blog for a bit. Back with details...

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Not Indispensable

I'm blogging over on the Mama, PhD blog at Inside Higher Ed again today. This week I'm thinking about indispensability, and why it's a dangerous myth for both teachers and mothers to buy into.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Five Years

Today's my fifth blogaversary. So here are the first lines of the posts on July 6, from 2003 to 2007 (or as close to July 6 as I can come, if I didn't blog on the day...)

Today Nick swam.

Nick had his first day at summer camp yesterday.

I'd been planning a post about cooking in someone else's kitchen, but it seems a bit callous to go on with that when we're 100 miles from London.

A year ago today I was in England, in the midst of my first week of classes.

I think I may again be competitive for bad mother award--who else takes her kid to the library and won't let him check out books?

Today is also my brother and his wife's 22nd 23rd wedding anniversary--and this weekend, we leave town for the big celebration of my parents' 50th!

Friday, July 04, 2008

How I spent my Fourth

Mariah and I went out today and registered voters as part of the Obama campaign's Independence Day registration drive. (They're at it all weekend, actually.) We met up with a group in the morning and were sent out with a map, a packet of flyers, registration forms, and volunteer sign-up sheets, and an experienced worker (she's an Obama organizing fellow).

I can't say we had a lot of success. Most of the houses we approached were empty--or at least the folks there weren't answering the door. We registered one new voter and informed one felon of his right to have his voting rights restored, and that felt good. But the real reason we weren't all that sucessful is that most of the people we met were already registered. And every one of them told us she (or he, but they were mostly shes) was voting for Obama. Everyone was friendly, though one woman reminded us that she'd been voting longer than I'd been alive, and she was plenty well informed and didn't need me to teach her anything. Fair enough. Another woman gave us each a cold bottle of water, and that may have been the nicest thing anyone's done for me all week.

My feet are tired and I'm still feeling the heat of midday, even now, but I'm glad we did it. We didn't get to go watch fireworks tonight--it's been raining off and on, and Nick has a sore throat--but we did our patriotic duty. And I'd do it again.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

for the train-lovers among you

I have two nephews who love trains. One of them dresses as an engineer as often as possible, and both know arcana about trains that I could never in a million years master. Neither of my kids ever really went through that obsessive stage (though Nick does know an awful lot about dragons...), but I remember my brother going through a dinosaur stage that was somewhat similar. I'm always impressed by the way kids absorb knowledge about the things that interest them, and it's been fun to watch my nephews with the trains.

But it may be a good thing they don't live in New York; the subway system offers a whole new level of obsessiveness, at least for some kids. This is a fabulous picture-book tale of two boys and the subway--check it out!

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Mothering at Mid-Career

Did I mention that I just finished my annual report? Why yes, I did. It's put me in a reviewing mood, it seems; over at Inside Higher Ed, I speculate on what it would be like to report on my work as a parent.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Week that Was

It's been a busy week. As June comes to an end camps kick into gear, plans for our summer trip take on more urgency, and there are various finishing-up things to do after the end of the academic year. Here are a few highlights:
  • I turned in my annual report. Early!
  • I met with Claudia for coffee and discovered that she grew up in my neighborhood. I knew Richmond was a small town, but I hadn't quite realized how small.
  • I re-knit something I'd knit in March. It is oddly satisfying to rip out an entire garment (OK, just a stole, but still) and re-knit it so that it actually works. I did some more ripping out (of something as yet unfinished) yesterday, and that was satisfying, too. I realize I like the process of knitting enough that ripping and re-knitting is not so bad.
  • There's a lesson here, I think.
  • I finished a long article on fantasy literature and education that's been percolating for a while, and got friends to read it on a ridiculously tight deadline. Good friends. One more pass through the revision mill and I can send it out.
  • Friday night I got to go to a free "art-tasting" at the Visual Arts Center and made a fabulous glass pendant. Now I want to buy a soldering iron so I can make more!
  • The four of us went to see Wall*E yesterday--what a sweet movie!
  • Went to a "Unite for Change" Obama party last night and was blown away by the engaged, thoughtful, articulate group of recent high school grads there. They, almost as much as the candidate, give me hope about this election.
  • Heard the rough cut of some of the music we recorded earlier this month; now I can't wait for the rest of it!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Tuesday again!

So it looks as if I haven't posted since last Tuesday. I have things I want to write about--movies I've seen, things I'm doing--but since I'm doing them, I'm not writing. That may change, or it may not--no promises.

But in the meantime, here's what Mariah's recent graduation made me think about.

By the way, one of the awesome friends I mention in the piece is responsible for the fact that Mariah is now driving/riding a bubble-gum pink scooter, on a long-term loan/rent-to-own deal. I can see her--Mariah, that is, not the friend--out the window of my office as she is strapping on her helmet to go to a job interview.

There, see? Some news!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Parenting in the News...again

Over at the Mama, PhD blog at IHE today I'm talking about Lisa Belkin's shared parenting piece in the NY Times magazine, as well as two pieces more specifically focused on academic women and academic parenting. Let me know what you think!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Vegan Food for Meat-Eaters

We threw a graduation party for Mariah on Saturday, and I put her (mostly) in charge of the menu. Since she's been vegan since about September, she wanted to provide food that was 1) food she could eat and 2) food that would prove to meat-eaters that vegans can eat well. I think she satisfied both conditions.

Here's what we made (sorry, no pictures--I was running late and it was all I could do to get the food on the table within the first hour of the party!)

  • raw veggie platter (grape tomatoes, cucumbers, baby carrots, sun-dried tomatoes)
  • grilled veggie platter (zucchini, asparagus, red peppers, mushrooms--Mark was a hero, standing over the grill in the hot sun so we could eat)
  • home-made sushi (carrot and cucumber rolls)
  • samosa-stuffed baked potatoes (from Mariah's favorite cookbook, Veganomicon. These were a huge hit.)
  • chips and salsa
  • home-made hummus (also from Veganomicon) and black bean dip
  • pita crisps
  • sesame tempeh (also a big hit)
  • fresh fruit: grapes, cherries, strawberries
  • chocolate-chocolate chip-walnut cookies (yes, vegan ones, also from Veganomicon, though we used pecans instead of walnuts)
  • chocolate-raspberry cookies (ditto)
  • chocolate cupcakes (one recipe of crazy cake makes two dozen cupcakes; I used balsamic vinegar instead of plain to fancy them up a bit, and I bought canned frosting which has no dairy products. Next time I'll look into vegan icing...)
I also forgot to put out the broccoli florets on the raw veggie platter, and the watermelon and canteloupe with the fruits. Oh, well.

The sesame tempeh is so delicious, and so easy, and so "meaty," that I thought I'd post it here. The sauce is from Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone; I got the technique from my sister and brother-in-law, but I don't think they've ever posted it. So here it is:

Tempeh with Sesame Sauce

2-3 packages multi-grain tempeh (2 packages serves four generously as an entrée)

¼ cup toasted sesame seeds
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons dark sesame oil
3 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
6 tablespoons soy sauce
4-6 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed (or already chopped)
1 teaspoon ground ginger (either fresh or dried works)
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

Cut tempeh into slabs or chunks

Combine the next 9 ingredients in the blender and puree until smooth. Pour the sauce over the tempeh slabs/chunks in a shallow saute pan that holds all the tempeh without too much overlap, and heat until almost boiling. (I think you could also stand the tempeh on end in a saucepan if that's what you've got, but I like to have the most surface area possible getting caramelized at the end.) Reduce heat and simmer for about 15-20 minutes, turning the tempeh so it caramelizes a bit on both sides. You can do this ahead of time and then barbecue the tempeh briefly, or simply serve it as is. The longer you let it sit in the hot pan the more sauce the tempeh will absorb. You can serve this hot or at room temperature; it's tasty and filling either way.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Books for Babies

I went to buy a book for a colleague who had a new baby recently...

As I picked up each book, the anonymous big-box store faded away as the memories flooded in: sitting in the frayed armchair with Nick in my lap, late one night, reading Little Bear's Visit until we reached the part we wanted to hear. Initiating the call-and-response of Eric Carle's Do You Want to Be My Friend? with Mariah, and hearing her echo back the text. Laughing together over the smart dog who travels along with the safety officer in Officer Buckle and Gloria. I could outfit a different library for a new baby every day of the week, if I had money enough and time, and all the libraries would be good.

Read the rest here...

(Cross-posted, as usual.)