Sunday, February 22, 2009

Thinking about the Other Mother...

Sometimes my friends and I joke that we need clones—one for work and one for home, perhaps? Wouldn't it be great, some days, to have someone else to help raise the kids—someone who wouldn't be bored by the endless play with Lego, who would miraculously make healthy meals they'll eat, who would come up with rainy day activities that are fun for the whole family? Of course on bad days at work I want the clone to sit at the computer while the "real me" goes off to play with the kids. It's all a matter of perspective.

Read the rest in this month's Children's Lit Book Group column....

(cross-posted from the other blog)

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Friday, February 13, 2009

Valentine's Eve

I think I've said before that I'm ambivalent about Valentine's Day. I dislike the obligatory gift- and/or card-giving in elementary school, but I love chocolate. I dislike the heterosexism, but romance is ok by me. I dislike the pressure to do something special, but I actually like doing something special.

So, OK. We have dinner plans with friends tomorrow, and various stuff planned during the day, and there's no need to get all worked up over the holiday. Nick made a Valentine's card for his "Secret Cupid" and took it to school yesterday (no school today: teacher conferences) and that took care of his obligations. But then this morning I heard Nigella on NPR talking about cupcakes*, and I knew something had to be done. I was on the website before she'd finished talking, and I decided to make the chocolate-cherry cupcakes before she even said anything about them. How could I not? Easy, delicious, and combining two favorite flavors--a sure winner.

So I stopped at the store after dropping Nick at a friend's house for a playdate and picked up cherry preserves and some nice chocolate, and went to work. As I started to prepare the muffin cups with the cupcake papers I realized that I was short about six papers, but no worries--I could improvise something with parchment paper. I was short about 1/3 cup preserves, too, but some raspberry jam seemed a reasonable substitute. Oh, and I didn't have self-rising cake flour, but a quick google told me that if I added 1/2 tsp each of baking soda and baking powder, and a 1/4 tsp of salt, to my cup of cake flour, I should be fine.

I should maybe have cut up a little extra parchment paper when I realized the muffin tins were overfull, but I soldiered on, just topping them off with an extra teaspoon or so of filling each. Then I glanced over at the recipe to make sure it really did say it made twelve (it does) and realized that--oops!--I'd unintentionally doubled the sugar. I considered melting some more chocolate and butter to double the recipe, but the batter was already in the muffin tins. I figured the cupcakes might come out too sweet, but it was worth a try.

I hate to throw away food.

Just as the timer beeped to tell me my 25 minutes was up I started to smell a faint smell of something a little, um, burnt. And indeed, when I opened the oven, I found a good bit of cupcake batter burned to the bottom of the oven. And lots more overfilling the muffin cups, making of the 12 separate cupcakes one rather large--thing. With indentations in the twelve former middles. As it were.

I got them out of the muffin tin (with Mark's help--he just ate most of the overflow)** and decided that, really, these were not a Valentine's dessert. I wasn't quite ready to throw them out, but I was going to start over.

Back to the store: more cake flour (still, no self-rising cake flour at my grocery store), more cherry jam, more cupcake papers. More butter.

Twenty minutes later, another batch was in the oven. This time there were fifteen--so it wasn't just all the extra sugar that overfilled them the first time. And they started to overflow before the time was up, so I lowered the temp a little bit (I've noticed before that my oven runs hotter than Nigella's) and carried on.

They came out less molten than the first batch, and definitely not as sweet (no raspberry jam in this batch, either). But Nick liked both kinds just fine, while Mark--full of the remnants of the first ones--has yet to taste one of the "official" version. [Edited to add: yes, you're right, even the "official" ones don't actually have the cherries on top. I don't like glace cherries.]

And I have most of two batches of cupcakes in my house, and only three eaters. Two of them, however, fail to see that this is a problem, so perhaps it isn't.

To round out the dinner I made Nigella's really easy salmon (from Forever Summer: marinate some salmon steaks in 1/3 cup each of pomegranate molasses and honey, and 1 tlb. soy sauce; broil until done); green beans, and couscous/rice pilaf. Nothing was perfect; everyone was happy.

The End.
Happy Valentine's Day

*Becca, this is why I listen to NPR. But then again...
**Mark says the last words he will hear on this earth are "Mark'll eat that."

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Teaching and Research

I'm blogging about Jill Biden, my new role model, over at the Mama, PhD blog at Inside Higher Ed. And trying to get to work on my column. Remember that? I do still write it, but only every other month these days. While I'm away, though, you might check out Mama at the Movies, writing about the lovely oldie, Fly Away Home. Back later!


Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Mothers Movement and Mama, PhD

Here's a great conversation, among Caroline Grant, Elrena Evans, and Andrea O'Reilly, about Mama, PhD and the issues facing mother academics (and other parents, but you'll see why the focus is on mothers, I think). This is particularly pertinent to me since I've just been to (yet another) meeting about child care on campus. (No, we don't have a child care center here; yes, we are still talking about it.)

Here's a brief excerpt:

Andrea O'Reilly: I am beginning year three of a large, government-funded research project on "being a mother in the academe." I have interviewed approximately 45 women and hope to interview another 50. A central finding of my research is the pull mothers feel in trying to live up to impossible standards of perfection in both the university and in the home. As the "ideal worker," a woman has to have a book published before 35, etc. and as an ideal mother, she has to be the perfect mother, with the perfect house, perfect children… i.e., a child who reads before two and speaks two languages by age four. With the contemporary discourse of ideal motherhood, what Sharon Hays calls intensive mothering, it is impossible to be a "good" mother and "good" academic.

There's an interesting conversation about this stuff going on at 11-D as well, where I find myself taking the unusual (for me) glass-half-full position. The thing is, having given up on the "impossible standards of perfection" O'Reilly mentions above, I'm doing OK. But I do still see plenty of room for improvement.