Mar 24, 2007

Sweet Translations

Today a bunch of us from my mom's group went out the new Indian restaurant in Media, Shere- e-Punjab. I guess someone must have read my November blog post complaining of the dearth of Indian restaurants in Delaware County, and decided to take action. I am so powerful. Anyway, really good food, and they vary the buffet dishes enough to keep you from getting bored. For the desserts today, they didn't have my beloved golub jamun, fried milk balls soaking in syrup (!). Instead they had "Indian cheesecake." I wish they had left it at that and not included the Indian name, barfi. Quite the unfortunate nomenclature.

I thought it tasted odd; it just seems that desserts don't translate as well across cultures as savory dishes. Except for golub jamun, which must have a special drug in them. Chinese red bean desserts are unpalatable, to me, as is anything with rosewater, common to middle Eastern sweets. But baklava and halvah work for me, come to think of it, only too well. Maybe my hypothesis should be limited to Asian and East Asian desserts (not golub jamun, of course). I bought some little pig-shaped cakes at an Asian supermarket recently that no one in my family could stomach. They had lotus paste in them, which I have actually liked in certainly very freshly made dim sum (lotus rolls or balls or something). And yet, so many traditional American desserts have survived for decades and sometimes centuries, with only some adjustments in the sugar and fat levels. Indian pudding, apple pie, brownies, etc. I guess that might really be part of the same phenomenon; that homey desserts speak to our ancestral memories, and that's why they don't cross the East-West divide so well.

Because I became a lifetime member of Weight Watchers this morning ( six weeks at my goal weight), I thought I'd celebrate by eating barfi and blogging about desserts. Really, what better way to celebrate? To top it all off, I baked a mango upside down cake tonight and ate two pieces. My stomach protesteth. Here's hoping there shall be no barfi tonight.

Mar 21, 2007

I'm Enjoying My Lobotomy, Thanks for Asking

For Christmas my father gave me a $100 gift certificate to N**dstr*m's, a department store at the King of Prussia mall. "Dad!" I had said, "Thank you so much! But I never go to the mall!" "Guess you'll have to now."

Almost three months later I did go to the mall. I met my friend Bev there yesterday, "at the piano," which is where one meets one's friends at this particular store. At first I was intimidated by the fashionable shoes that were almost all over $200, so we moved to purses. Also very expensive, but I love to touch good leather. I did find a really nice little black and red holder for cards. You know, all those annoying cards for coffee clubs, car wash certificates, charge cards that you technically never planned to apply for but you did because you couldn't resist the discount offered at the time. In short, I bought one more thing to hold all the other dumb things I shouldn't have gotten in the first place. Still and all, it cheered me up for reasons I don't want to think about, and the sales clerk was all, like, "It's so handy! It matches your purse, too."

Next I picked out a funky scarf with different gorgeous fabrics, mostly silk, sewn together in large patches. It was on sale, so I was beginning to feel slightly virtuous again. Then I bought some beautiful drop earrings with pink stones that reflect light in a shimmery, quiet way. Then, I . . . wait. No more money! It's amazing, how quickly you can drop $100 in this store.

I hadn't been to this mall since I was pregnant with Will, so it was almost six years ago. At the time, with my big belly and Jack a toddler, it wasn't especially enjoyable, although I remember loving the "mothers' room" part of the ladies' restroom. I wanted to lie down and sleep on the velour couches. I think my friends and I stayed in that room for more than half an hour. The time before that, I had shopped for bridesmaid's dresses with my two best friends. That was exciting, but we were on a mission, and so "relaxing" is not the word for how that felt.

But yesterday? That was different. We moseyed. We chatted. It felt like we had all the time in the world. We ambled into a Cr*ne's Stationery store, which I never even knew existed. I like 100% rag paper stationery at least as much as I like soft leather. And the beautiful pens! I don't get out much. I bought some lovely robin's egg blue notecards. Someday maybe I'll actually send them. Then Bev and I had lunch at N*rdstr*m's Cafe. So elegant for ladies who lunch. We caught up on some gossip and flattered each other, as one does in these situations. Finally, we strolled one more time through the sunlit, immaculate mall, lined with high-end boutiques and peopled by slim well-groomed smiling humans. And I, I, a self-professed hater of malls, thought, "I love this."

Mar 18, 2007

Only Shamrocks, No Snakes

Yes, I did wear ugly green beer mug earrings. I think I'll donote them to Goodwill, since they do nothing for my skin tone.

It was a lovely party! Lilian and Anjali were both there with their families (Lilian's one son was at home with her parents). I had never met Lilian, and Lilian had never met Anjali. Also attending the party were a few other sad, misdirected people who don't even write any blogs.

Anyway, Lilian made an astonishing oblong pastry that contained heart of palm, a Brazilian staple. It was as delicious as it was beautiful, with a shamrock cutout on the side. Certainly better than the Irish stew I made. The meat was tough and it really needed salt. (The leftovers were much better today, after cooking longer throughout the party, with added salt and, I know this sounds weird, but I dunked my friend O.'s Irish soda bread in it.) Anyway, two families who attended are vegetarian, and after tasting the Rollo de Palmito I was thinking "WHY do we eat dead animal flesh, again?" Fortunately, I also provided a cheese bourek, a dish from Armenian Delight I had mentioned in an earlier post. You can't go wrong with layers of phyllo, cheese, and butter. Lilian also made a delectable chocolate flan with raspberry sauce. By the way, her family all wore a tasteful shade of green, so they have now been dubbed The Very Irishest Family from Brazil, Ever.

Before the guests arrived, Jack and Will were bugging me saying "We don't have anything to DO!" (Helping set up had been deemed "boring.") So I suggested that they plan a play to perform for the guests, about how St. Patrick drove the snakes from Ireland. They were totally up for that, but then they kept asking John and me for props, items not easily findable or nonexistent, or large, awkward, or breakable. So we had to stipulate that they only use props they could retrieve themselves.

After dinner they enlisted Mira, Anjali's older daughter, to be a snake. Only she didn't seem thrilled to be driven out, with many minutes of the play left over. So she kept standing there and the boys would loudly explain she had been driven OUT. Then Will was a leprechaun who pretended that green Legos were more snakes, and, well, he threw them or something and then the play seemed to be over. Mira came back for the bow and it was quite the success, with much more action and narrative direction than in previous plays, and also less arguing about what the players should say and do. I had to say "Is it over yet?" only once.

Then to prevent complete mayhem we let the kids watch The Three Stooges, which is all my boys watch these days. I'll write a post on that obsession soon. Captain Underpants is so 2006. Then my friend O. came with her husband and kids, to recuperate from attending two obligatory family birthday parties, believe it or not, which we found extremely flattering. Everyone left by shortly before 9:00. So in other words, a late evening for us.

Maybe we'll have another one of these shindigs, where I give everyone a little more notice, and wear better earrings. And no one will have to wear green.

Mar 16, 2007

Uranus and You

Uranus is a tricky word. Suffice it to say that, on Uranus' very own website we are cautioned, "Careful pronunciation may be necessary to avoid embarrassment; say "YOOR-anus, not "your anus" or "urine us." I ask you, how can we possibly avoid saying one or the other? I'm going to avoid all embarrassment and just call it "Saturn." Jack knows there's supposed to be something funny about the name, but he doesn't know what. He'll say "Pee comes out of Uranus," and giggle uncertainly.

Now that he's seven, he occasionally asks questions like "Where do babies come from?" Only it's never exactly that question; it's always something more oblique. And he always asks these questions when I'm trying to negotiate a tricky left turn, or I'm about to answer the phone, or when I'm trying to get him to look for his shoes because the bus is coming in ten seconds. Clearly, we needed some kind of asynchronous communication. So I got him a book called It's NOT the Stork:A Book about Girls, Boys, Babies, Bodies, Families, and Friends, by Robie H. Harris. The boys and I were at Borders and I stashed it with the other books I was buying, with the idea that John should approve it first. But Jack asked to see it, and proceeded to sit down on the floor and read the whole thing from cover to cover. (We weren't in a hurry, obviously.) When he was finished, he silently handed it back to me. No questions whatsoever. Yep, I could cross "Tell Jack about the birds and bees" off my to-do list.

A week and a half later, the boys and I were at a local pizza place while John had class. It was quiet in there when Jack handed me the lid to his strawberry milk, and loudly chirped, "Here. Hang onto this for when you want to play sex." "What?" I asked, stalling. He repeated the same thing and my face must have looked blank because he went on, "You know--when a man and woman love each other so much the man puts his penis in the woman's uterus!" (Ouch.) I said, "Oh, yeah. That. I'd love to chat with you about that, but not right now . . . Look, our pizza's here!" So we ate for a couple of minutes, when Will, who had been mulling over Jack's anatomically inaccurate revelation, announced in his querulous high voice, "I don't get it. How can you put your penis in someone's body? That's silly!" Snort. Guffaw.

And no, don't ask me what the lid had to do with anything. In fact, don't ask me any questions at all about this. Not right now. Can't you see I'm busy?

Mar 13, 2007

Meet Jennifer

Eight years ago, John and I moved to an old house in a small provincial city in the Shenandoah Valley. A neighbor of mine told me that a young woman named Jennifer, just up the street, was starting a magazine with a friend, sort of a "New Yorker for mothers." Yeah, right, I thought to myself, knowing the low rate at which new magazines succeed. I soon got to know Jennifer, as she and I both wrote for a local monthly alternative newspaper. I would often see her catching a smoke on her back porch, and we would occasionally walk our babies in strollers together.

Fast forward to today, and Brain, Child has won Utne Reader's Best New Magazine award and has a great circulation AND a great reputation. Dads have been known to devour it cover to cover. It's an eclectic collection of original writing about all kinds of underreported aspects of motherhood. It can be funny, poignant, startling, achingly sad. You just never know.

Now Jennifer has written a book that will be published in May. Please go over to and say hi on her new blog and read about it. She will do a book signing near here on June 21, so mark that on your calendars! (Don't worry, I will remind you later.) She is also on my blogroll.

And, please, I don't want to be the only person commenting on her blog.

Mar 12, 2007

St. Patty's Day Potluck at the Dream Kitchen: A Reader Appreciation Event

Dear Readers,

May I interrogate you for a moment? Thank you kindly.

1. Do you read this blog regularly?

2. Have I ever met you in person?

3. Have you ever posted a comment on my blog?

If at least two of the answers are "yes," then you are eligible to be invited to the Dream Kitchen Reader Appreciation St. Patty's Day Potluck, or DKRASPDP for short. Oh, it helps if you will be in the Philadelphia area on March 17 in the early evening. A pot o' Irish stew, a few of John's "interesting" beers, whatever goodies you can coax out of the Dream Reader Kitchens, and some good crack will make a fine party. ("Crack" means "conversation" in Ireland, just so you know.)

Can't wait to wear my green plastic foaming-beer-mug earrings. All tacky St. Patty's Day getup welcome!

Mar 8, 2007

Sleep Happens

Right now, as I type this, I'm sleepy. Reading to the boys, ostensibly to help them get to sleep, has great sedative power. There I am, misreading the words, mumbling and trailing off during Grandpa Joe's narration of how Willie Wonka had to fire everyone at the chocolate factory for spying. "READ!" begs Jack. Later he says, "Give me the book! I'll read." I know better than to do the latter because he'll be reading aloud, avidly, becoming more and more alert, as I tilt over on the chair, snoring and drooling. Instead, I beg Jack to have mercy on me and stop yelling "READ" louder and louder. Will is usually already asleep, especially tonight since I gave him Benadryl for his congestion.

This is what will happen. At around 4 AM I'll wake up worrying about some minor housekeeping issue that I don't give a rat's ass about during the day. Like "I must sharpen those hedge trimmers before spring!" Or it might be "I must unpack those boxes in the garage!" Once it was, really, "That basket of raspberries in the fridge! We forgot to eat them! And they're moldy!" The sad part is we didn't even have any raspberries. Then after these faux anxiety attacks I'm completely alert, my heart practically pounding. Sometimes I drink a huge glass of water, because that actually seems to have a calming effect after a few minutes. The water in my stomach gives me ballast and I sleep eventually.

During the day, my body waits to snag some sleep here and there. If you ever want to tell me something important in the afternoon that may take a while, pleas punctuate your conversation with staccato laughs or curse words. Or punch me in the arm every so often. And of course, I never ever close my eyes waiting for a traffic light.

Yawn. Good night and sleep well.

Mar 7, 2007

Flotsam, and Some Jetsam for Good Measure

Argh. The longer I go without blogging the harder it is to start up again. As it is with so many things. For inspiration, I'll look out the window. It's snowing. It's also 17 degrees. Maybe school will let out early today? I'm supposed to teach my middle schoolers today at 12:50, so that means I'm squarely in the middle of an Ambiguous Snow Situation. Alright, not so much inspiration there. I'll look at my desk. Oh, here's a tidbit. It's a note the babysitter had written the the other night:

Dear Mr. Jack,

We regret to inform you that today at 7:00 PM you will be arrested. Sorry again.


The Police

P.S. You will get a cookie when you are in jail.

Now I'll take a look in my blog drafts. Oh, here's a new list of search terms that get folks over here to Dream Kitchen (the usual terms are: steel cut oats, Fine Old Dixie Recipes, dream kitchens, and quadrameter)

every pool boys's dream
children's haircuts of the 1940s
dancing "wet dress"
barefoot amish children
A typical mid-1940s kitchen
pictures of girls wearing saddle shoes and white socks
"still wears a diaper"
princess diana lady diana pictures photos
essay my grandmother's kitchen
parsnip cake
armenian boureg

My husband has an intestinal bug. Will has a cold. At least Jack FINALLY has a loose tooth, which he wiggles constantly and is very proud of. I have one of those annoying dry patches on the corner of my mouth.

Note to Jack Frost: Feel free to visit the Southern Hemisphere a little early this year, dude.