Friday, November 04, 2011

I gave a lot of hugs this morning

Hug #1: Paloma when she ran into our room and right on top of me at 3:30 AM.

Hug #2: Sabrina when she woke up, called for me, told me to leave and go back to my room, asked me to come back because there were monsters in her bed, and finally let me pick her up and snuggle at 7 AM.

Hug #3: Paloma who sobbed that her clothes were all uncomfortable and the outfit she picked out last night needed to be changed. Usually we make them stick to whatever they pick out the night before, but today I just had a sense she needed a hug and a little bit of flexibility.

Hug #4: Paloma, who told me flat out that she didn't like being left at school and wanted the family to be all together. Hugged and then her teacher gently called her over (and good thing she changed and was comfortable because it was picture day!).

Hug #5: Paloma has a very close friend at school whose father, H, has cancer. He has gone downhill alarmingly fast. A few weeks ago, Paloma went with them to a show. Today, I stopped K, her friend's mom, and asked how she was doing. "Good! Not good." And in her Danish-y English (they're recent immigrants) she told me how very, very sick H was today, how he was at the doctor and couldn't talk anymore. And I gave K a strong hug. And she started to cry.

 Hug #6: Sabrina wanted to keep holding hands at preschool this morning. Hanging on and on. I gave her a big hug and told her I couldn't wait to hear how her day goes. Her teacher asked her to help bring the snack inside, and she let go.

Hug #7: I saw a little girl in Sabrina's class crying and kind of wandering around. I gave her a gentle pat on the back as I was walking out and she just fell against my legs, sobbing. So I gave her a big hug too.

Seven hugs by 9:10 AM. One of those days I felt like my mandate as a mama is Free Hugs For Everyone.

And if I could give these sweet kids hugs too, I would!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

so delicious dairy-free easy to whip up balsamic vinegar

So good, you'll be looking for a salad or bread or meat or something to dip this into. Apples are also insanely good with this.
Use organic ingredients if you've got them.

Makes enough for maybe two-ish salads? Or so. This recipe is not an exact science. It's exactly delicious though.

  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • 2 T. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 small diced shallot (this is the KEY!)
  • 1/2 tsp. whole grain mustard (the gritty kind, not the bright yellow kind)
  • 1 T. (or, you know, a big dollop) maple syrup
  • pinch kosher salt
  • pinch fresh ground black pepper

Whirl that up in a blender or, as I prefer, with your handy dandy handheld stick blender, and you're good to go.

I'm saving a little jelly jar to keep a double or triple recipe of this in my fridge. Good. Stuff.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

my little 5 year old teenager

Eyerolling isn't just for teens! My darling almost five year old has perfected the art of the eye roll, the annoyed face, and the "you" insult, where I say "I think you should think about what you're saying" and then she says, "I think YOU should think about what YOU'RE saying." And then I stop myself from saying OHHELLNO.

I don't want to get too into the details of the exasperating crap because I think you know where this is going (if you don't, think Hall Monitor crossed with Very Sensitive Know It All). And hey, I'm also reminding myself that she's only (almost) five.

But I never let P say these things without telling her it's wrong. Mostly because I want her to see that it's ok to stand up for yourself, and I hope she does it for herself one day.

And to her enormous credit, when I call her out on it, sometimes she ignores me but sometimes she takes it very much to heart. Sometimes too much, like when I told her I thought her behavior was totally unacceptable and she cried and said, "Don't call the police!" !? I reassured her that they weren't part of the parenting thing.

Happily, other parents tell me this is not unfamiliar to them either. I'm sorry I am not alone in this boat, but glad too because this makes it more likely that it's a phase and less likely that I'm somehow raising an insufferable little human who will grow to be an insufferable adult. Which is my #1 parental fear, to fail at raising two people who will help their communities and world be a little kinder and better and instead have burdened the world with a couple more Bernie Madoffs.

That's over the top, ok. But that is why I should never have read something like "We Need to Talk About Kevin" during your pregnancy. It was part of my book club and during the whole thing, I kept fretting, "But she [the mom] did things mostly right. And LOOK WHAT HAPPENED!!!" Pregnancy and books about kids going on insane rampages = terrible mix.

During my second pregnancy, I think the heaviest my reading got was, I don't know, McSweeney's?

Anyway. I have an almost three year old and almost five year old, and I can see clearly that we are exiting the land of sheer physical exhaustion and the mental discipline that is required just to keep up with the day. And now entering the new land of greater physical independence. Which may be or may very well not be accompanied by emotional independence of sorts. There's definitely independent thinking, imagination and ideas flowing, which is delightful except when it's cheeky and I have to remember "good-with-bad."

I'm reminded me of the first lesson of pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum, which for me was-- this relationship is always changing.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Rachel Roy is Amazing

So many things are YES about Rachel Roy. Her vision for art and fashion are so fresh and feminine and just right. But it's her larger philosophy to help raise women's voices that makes me want to be a devotee. Because long after the runway show is over, it's the spirit of the art and of the women who will wear it that should live on.

Her approach to design work and to mothering is so inspiring. She's intense yet still centered. In charge and all around fabulous.

Friday, September 23, 2011

I never knew pop and that's ok

I was so popculturally ignorant as a child that I didn't know if that popular singer was PAUL Abdul or PAULA Abdul. I never listened to pop radio, so who knew if we were talking about a man or woman? I didn't.

I grew up listening to classical music in the car with my dad. It was turned way, way up. He liked it LOUD. Also, then we didn't have to talk because we could just be moved by the music and that was enough communicating for a day.

And with my mom driving, we listened to nothing. We were silent. Because she was *nervous* and *concentrating.*

So that was that. We had no MTV because we could just pick up channels with our tv antenna, and why would you pay for tv? We got no newspaper except for the Sunday paper, and then I pulled out the comics and tried to understand Doonesbury. I tried to understand them all-- Cathy, Family Circus, Foxtrot, Blondie. But I never got any of them. I always skipped to the puzzles at the end.

And I grew, and it didn't seem to really matter that I still wasn't a big Top 40 person (and haha, I've gone through much of my life not knowing what Top 40 even is). I'm just not. I still love Beethoven more than anything. I love folk music, including folk rock, jazz, blues, hip hop. I can appreciate a rad MC. I really really love analyzing films. I love live performances-- modern dance, modern ballet, storytellers. I love architecture. I love beautiful books and winding stories. I love being in old theaters. I *loved* being a house manager back in the day. I have a dream to be not just a donor but a patron of a dance company one day.

I don't love Justin Bieber or Taylor Swift, I don't get what's great about their songs, and I don't want to hear music that sounds like that. That eliminates about ten thousand other singers. I don't love boring models doing boring poses half naked on beds, motorcycles or a zillion other cliches. I don't love fashion UNLESS it's beautiful and/or meaningful. I do love fashion and makeup as art. I especially love political fashion because that is bold and necessary. I love food that has been loved in the making.

Why write this? Because for some years now, I've really loved being me and felt like it might make life fabulous to just love the things I love, and a fabulous life deserves some examination to determine what thoughts and values and choices make me me.

It's way beyond what I like and what I don't like in art, music, etc. There's work and work ethic, there's politics and food and education and science and religion and all the ways we advance.

But then this becomes a post that is way too long and self-indulgent, and while it might be said that the nature of wordydoodles, like the nature of drawing doodles, is self-indulgent, well, 1. I myself wouldn't say that, and 2. I would like wordydoodles to be a good read and a good place to start a conversation.

And so: Do you deviate from the mainstream in some ways too? Do you love it?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Missoni for my Soni: Class, Glamour, and Globalization

Posted by Priya at:

Maybe it was the advertising campaign, maybe it’s the nature of a fashion blog-addicted culture, maybe it was a minor eruption of euphoria in the depths of a darkening recession, maybe it was an attempt to shop away memories of the previous night’s Republican debate. Any way you look at it, the launch and liquidation of Target’s Missoni line last Tuesday was unparalleled in both popular excitement and subsequent news coverage and analysis, much of which I consumed in an attempt to make sense of my own enthusiastic yet ambivalent response. (When I write this, understand that even as I seek to examine the affective and political contexts within which I live, think, and dress, I hold myself accountable.)
Of all the rather superficial commentary and outdated theories of class behavior (I’m thinking of you Patt Morrison audience) this observation by marketer AnnaMarie Turano stood out:
“Now that the expensive knitwear’s iconic images (Missoni’s zigzags) are within the reach of the mass audience, Missoni may unfortunately experience backlash from their consumers who were loyal to the brand pre-Target. These Missoni loyalists might stop shopping and might stop wearing Missoni if they are concerned that others might confuse the boutique offerings with the made-for-Target line.”
Fashion has a very long history (some would date modern, commercial fashion in the West to as early as the 16th century), one driven by what we would refer to as the class interests of elites to visually display their power and prestige. As sumptuary laws governing the dress of people according to their rank and position faded, and luxurious imports began flowing in from Europe’s growing empire, dress, jewels, and other sartorial practices were utilized to indicate wealth, power, and a studied lack of attachment to the vagaries of the human body. Once the middling classes were able to mimic the crazes of their social superiors, these same superiors found new forms and practices to demonstrate their membership in the vanguard. More interesting, however, is that along with the development of a fledgling fashion discourse and industry, we have the development - erratic, marginal, anarchic, and awesome - of “punk” responses to the consumer identity machine. If the European colonizers perfected the art of using dress as a marker of racial membership and prestige, the colonized excelled at appropriating dress as gestures of challenge, mockery, and then later, outright resistance.
Clearly, the onset of industrialization, and now the technologies of our contemporary age, have sped the fashion cycle so that nearly anything is available in copycat form almost immediately upon its debut on the catwalks of Paris, Milan, and New York. There are entire industries built around the imperative to make high fashion trends available to those who simply cannot or will not spend the time and money necessary to purchase true haute couture. True, these are not punk, in fact they are very much party to the normative bourgeois culture that instantiates class differences and capitalist accumulation while at the same time providing an outlet for participation and the semblance of nose-thumbing, but let me have it, even if for a moment.
So, in response to those commentators who argue that the mass production of high fashion: 1) upsets those who spend money on the “real thing”; and 2) relies on the ignorance and naivete of lower and middle-class consumers who cannot tell the “real thing” from its more cheaply made version I say:
1) The joke’s on you if seeing us makes you rethink your purchase of a “real” Missoni sweater. Our enjoyment in partaking in a little bit of color and design that I refuse to spend any entire month’s pay on has nothing to do with your own enjoyment of the luxury item you have purchased, since they are obviously NOT THE SAME:
2) Nobody believes any more that they are somehow vaulting the social ladder by buying a striped sweater, no matter how cute and colorful it is. The habitus of class are much more complicated than media would have us believe. Dress is not simply a garment that one puts on, but a collection of behaviors, bodily modifications, interpersonal and intertechnological relations, and ways of being that subtly shift our everyday practices as we navigate our way through the myriad and shifting social groupings in which we move.
Additionally, complaining that the Target Missoni craze forebodes the end of our society - as a number of Morrison’s commentators did - because it represents (hysterical) young women’s shift in priorities toward consumerism and away from politics misses the imbrication of these two forces, and also misses the way in which glamour is the texture of our world, the very affective (pre-subjective, emotional) environment in which we move. I think the fashion writer who called into Patt Morrison’s show had it right when she argued that the Missoni line at Target tapped into a cultural zeitgeist - a desire for a little color, fun, and design in the midst of the general awakening of most Americans to the realization that education, hard work, and ambition no longer necessarily lead to wealth, let alone a job that pays a living wage (if it ever did, of course, is something we could discuss).
There was a sense of participating in a communal event to experience pleasure, affinity, and a sense of camaraderie with other like-minded and like-despairing people who cannot afford to spend hundreds or even a thousand dollars on items but refuse to relinquish style nonetheless. This camaraderie, this feeling of pleasure, is not even necessarily something one thinks about in a measured, rational way. Rather it is the opening up of our bodies to our environments. Environments in which color, light, sound, scent, the placement of objects and bodies, technological apparatus, text, all combine to construct spaces of community and subjectification through practices like being in-the-know, sharing this knowledge with others on social media, waking up early to purchase online or head to the local Target, sharing knowing looks and even finds with others, receiving envious looks and scoring a sought-after item, feeling the rush of adrenaline, and creatively incorporating items into one’s extant wardrobe. 
Now, a much more measured and thoughtful critique of the hype and frenzy surrounding not just the Missoni launch at Target but the entire project of budget styling would follow through on the comment made by the Women’s Studies professor, Michelle, who called into Patt’s show (the requisite “feminist killjoy” to use Sarah Ahmed’s phrasing and theoretical construction). How is it, she asked, that we are able to purchase clothing and other items so cheaply? What is happening in the invisible process of production and distribution that allows one to buy a Missoni-designed sweater for $29.99 or a Missoni-designed luggage tote for $50? Parsing out the relations among fashionable elites and middle and working-class consumers (with the lens being implicitly focused on the West/Global North) is not enough. Rather, we need to expand our mapping of the relations of production, consumption, and dress to include an examination of relations of power under globalization. Who is making these items? What are the conditions of their labor? Looking at the label and seeing that the luggage was “Made in China” tells us something, but not much. An initial foray into researching the line has led to little information about where the original line was produced, and almost nothing about where and how the Target line was produced so cheaply, besides the obvious: cheaper materials, etc. But what about the people (most likely young women)?
I came home to find out that my prize luggage tote had a Prop 65 warning. “Wash hands after using,” it reminds its potential user. That this potential user might very well be someone utilizing the tote as a diaper bag (as one reviewer planned to do) is worrisome (I’m returning it). But even more disconcerting, what is the level of lead exposure the people manufacturing the bag (cutting and treating the material, stitching the bag, attaching the handles) are exposed to? What is their relation to, their desires or lack thereof for, the products they make? It is not an accident that information about manufacturers and suppliers is very hard to come by. The difficulty of finding out this information abets the invisibility of labor and allows for the consumer fetishism glamour functions through.  
So, what’s the verdict? I don’t think there is an easy one. I do know that it is too easy to simply dismiss participation in such cultural moments, just as it is too easy to ignore the conditions of commodity production. Doing either misses the complexities and mechanics of biopower and globalization as they operate today and relinquishes fashion and culture to those who refuse to take it seriously and/or manipulate it for their own ends.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Using up tomatoes-- fabulous salad dressing!

Hi friend. You and I understand each other. We are going through the same thing, and that is the shared pain of being buried under the end of summer tomatoes. You don't want to waste them, I don't want to waste them. Someone put a lot of sweat into growing the things. The least we can do is eat them. Right? Right?!!

photo credit: Jon Fravel

Easier said than done. This is the time when it seems like tomatoes go on forever. I am on-my-knees grateful to live near a farm in suburbia that provides perfect quality tomatoes (and other produce!). But when the supply seems near endless, it's time to go no-holds-barred with our very creative tomato ideas.

Happily, I'm not going to subject you to a #tomatofail (my sadly unbalanced salsa in which I indiscriminately also threw in some tomatillos of varying ripeness). On the other hand, this is tamer than the roasted red pepper/asparagus/pineapple sauce. Here's what I made: Salad dressing!

Who would have thought? Tomatoes *in* salads, not *on* them. And since at least two of the four people in this household won't touch mayo or creamy dressings, we don't do 1000-island or French dressing person. But tomatoes in the vinaigrette was delicious. I used the heirloom tomatoes from our farm share, but any flavorful, meaty, umami-laden tomato will be perfect. Or use imperfect. Whatever you've got. It's worth a shot. (This is my kitchen mantra.)

Simple Tomato Balsamic Vinaigrette

Makes about 2/3 c.
5 minute prep (that's how you know I made this up; short prep!)

1 large (.5 lb) or 2 medium tomatoes
1 small shallot
1/3 c. extra virgin olive oil
1/3 c. balsamic vinegar
2 T. whole grain mustard (I used Murietta's Well mustard w/ garlic, which was great)
2 T. chopped parsley
salt, pepper

Roughly chop the tomato(es), shallot and parsley. Throw them in either a blender or the cup for your handheld stick blender (which I love because it's so much easier to clean than the blender, especially for smaller amounts). Add the olive oil, vinegar, and mustard on top. Blend away!

It's so good as is, but feel free to add salt and pepper as needed.

This dressing was fabulous on green salad (with tomatoes!) but I think it'd be a lovely addition to a purple/yellow potato salad as well. Have fun!

Thursday, September 08, 2011

when you've got red pepper, asparagus, and a random can of pineapple

You can throw them together for a fabulous sauce!
No, really. This isn't just end-of-summer CSA insanity born of one too many nightshades.

Well, maybe it is a little bit. But! This sauce really worked. Roasting red peppers gives them that seductive smoky roasty flavor. Asparagus, either roasted or grilled, brings a fresh green bitterness. And pineapple, very surprisingly, mellows them both and brings them together. And, like the earlier roasted veggies recipe, it was really easy to make.

Here's my cooking-by-intuition recipe:

- Preheat oven to 400 F.

(c) 2011
- Toss some sweet red peppers with olive oil. Pierce each with a knife and lay on a cookie sheet covered with parchment or foil or a Silpat. (I highly recommend just getting yourself a Silpat and saving the money on all that parchment or foil.)

- If you don't already have grilled asparagus left over from dinner the night before like we did, go ahead and toss your asparagus with olive oil too.
- Let them sweat in there for, oh, 25 minutes? Until they look roasty. If you're cooking in shifts and going to try and get work done while you cook, set your timer for 15 minutes and check in on 'em.

- When the peppers look good and scorchy, and the asparagus look bright green and crisp-tender (which might happen earlier, or might not, depending on the size of both your peppers and your asparagus), take it out and turn off your oven because you're all done with that.

- Let everything cool a bit. Then pull off the peppers' stems, squeeze out the seeds, roughly chop the asparagus, and throw them in a food processor. Add a splash of olive oil and a dash of sea salt.

- Then! Behold your can of Trader Joe's pineapple chunks in juice. Eye it the way I eyed our already-open can. Think about how badly you want to bring out the roasty goodness of the red peppers. Then have no fear in tossing in 5-8 pineapple chunks into your food processor.

- Whir it up until only somewhat chunky, kind of smoothish.

- Dollop onto pizza. Serve with chicken. Stir into vinaigrette salad dressing. Add to sandwiches. Stir into hummus. So many possibilities!

What we did was to dollop onto Trader Joe's organic three cheese pizza. Along with a broccoli-tomato puree I had made a week ago. And extra shaved parm and asiago on top. Not a bad dinner.

And we USED UP our CSA share of peppers! Until I get more tomorrow. :)

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Chocolate review: Poco Dolce, olive oil and grey sea salt

In the delightful Terminal 2 at SFO, I found a chocolate to swoon over. And coffee to revive myself, but that's for another post. I might have to do a whole post in love with Terminal 2. I'm not the only one! Sunset mag did an ode to it, as did SF Chronicle.

But back to the chocolate. Behold Poco Dolce's olive oil and grey sea salt bar:

An amateur photo of expert chocolate.

Isn't it pretty? The simple, elegant packaging is your first clue you're in for something special.

This is a special photographic technique I like to call "squint and tilt."
The second clue is the list of ingredients- also simple and elegant.

But of course the real test is the taste test. I was slightly intrigued and slightly skeptical about olive oil in my chocolate (though I'm an enthusiast for sea salt with almost anything). Let's just cut to the chase and say: Olive oil in chocolate is *sublime.* Olive oil adds a rich, smooth, creaminess to the texture the way milk or cream would, but without introducing the whey and lactose taste factors that subtract from the chocolate intensity. (Milk chocolate fans would say that there's no subtraction going on, that the sum of milk and chocolate is fabulousness, and I wouldn't disagree too vigorously.)

What about the olive oil taste, you might wonder. Whatever olive oil they used, it wasn't highly acidic and I didn't have that telltale olive oil peppery kick in the back of my throat (which the olive oil expert in Copperopolis told me indicated a fine, fresh oil). But, and maybe I'm revealing my pedestrian taste in olive oil, that was ok by me. The chocolate's texture had a welcome silkiness, without any hint of dark chocolate graininess.

It doesn't come cheap. And as much as I love to savor a good bar, I couldn't make it last long. Ah well. There's got to be something coming up to celebrate with chocolate! Right? Right?!

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

BlogHer11 - The meaning of life, drag queen style

This pretty much sums it up:
Ignore that men's room sign.
Life according to the drag queens of BlogHer11:
  • When you think you are doing your thing, wearing your fabulous flower, there will always be another who comes along wearing a FABULOUS FLOWER. And then there will be someone who is basically dressed as a flower. The point is, size does not matter.
  • Life is about leaving a lot of glitter, sequins and love in your wake. There are daily opportunities to be fabulous. Don't miss them.
  • These drag queens should eke a smile out of your serious little face, but if you're still feeling worn out or grumpy, go give someone a hug. Or if you're working, just think about it. It's better than retail or ice cream therapy. These ladies always have an air kiss ready; be generous with warmth and affection and it will come back to you.

It gets easier!

I love the It Gets Better project. I especially love the candid, unfussy videos and the honest-yet-loving tone that most of them seem to so naturally strike. I love the obvious care shown from older people to younger people, people who mostly don't know each other at all. I love that all kinds of people are finding hope in those videos and knowing that even some strangers really do care whether they live or die, and even whether they live well and happily.

I've been thinking someone ought to do this for new parents.

Let me give you an example. Last Thursday, I took the girls to shop for shoes, and it wasn't--repeat, was *not* -- a crazy challenge to round them up and try them on! I have usually dreaded shopping with them (grocery, clothes, anything) because they'd run off, lose interest, need to go potty every few minutes, lie in the aisles and cry, want to be carried (which I don't mind but often need two hands free and we're past Ergo age/weight), want things we're not buying (ie, candy), wander off and be in danger of getting hit by carts.... Now I'm not saying this shopping excursion was totally free of all that, but it was in fact easier than it was even 6 months ago.

It makes me happy to be able to report that. Because I know that if I read it myself six months ago, or almost three years ago after the birth of my second, or almost five years ago after the birth of my first, I would have held onto those words so incredibly tightly. Maybe printed them out and framed them.

In fact, I did receive these kinds of words of encouragement and wisdom. Not via a blog, but from a few beautiful souls who were complete strangers. I remember so clearly at least two times when I would be walking with my baby in an Ergo, and maybe I had some beaten down look on my face which I fooled myself into thinking could pass for the look of a peaceful, blissy new mama, and someone would stop me to say with delight and no small measure of warmth, "Oh, it just gets better from here!" And, "I have teenagers and it's only gotten better!"

Magical, beautiful statements that I believed that with every bit of belief that I had. It was easy to believe because I had already experienced incremental improvements with the parenting gig, especially the lessening of exhaustion. But I hadn't by then experienced what it was like to interact with someone who could express their personality using words and not just variations on "waaaahhhhhhhhh!!!" I had to simply trust that for some,and maybe even many, this business of caring for a growing person did get easier.

And it does. Not only does it get easier physically, for my money it also gets more fun. That is to say, more knock knock jokes than you could possibly imagine on your own. More koala pictures. More repetitions of "Happy Birthday." More eye rolls, but also more imagination, more giggles, more flat out breathtaking insights. Yep, from your three year old.

I have feelings about the end of the baby years. But I can't help but feel some miracle and wonder at what's right here, right now. And maybe just sharing that can be a light at the end of the tunnel for someone out there.

So I am here to report to you brave, tired new parents, from someone who is only slightly further along on this parenting path: It gets better.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


Among the most beautiful things I have seen: California at sunrise, traveling south by car or airplane. Mist still brushing the tops of the hills and hanging in the farming valleys. Quiet, but alive and breathing. The potential of morning with its angled light infuses the landscape with something mystical that disappears when the full blaze of sun hits.

I love starting my day like this. Early early. In the wintertime, I am much less enthusiastic and romantic about morning. Then it's just a dark, cold number on an alarm clock. But right now, I want to claim this time and indulge in it. Mornings are for creating, for warming up, for beginning things.

Especially while I am away from my girls and spouse, I want to burn up this energy making things that last: writings for this blog, relationships for work. Making connections online and in person. That's the goal for the next few days. Beyond that, the goal is to keep writing here. Something to keep this ball in the air, even if there isn't much art or grace in the words. How many drafts I've saved without publishing! The magical morning hour will help me get over that, I hope. It's a blog, a practice space, but a public practice space so there is some accountability. Which is a relief to have. (Are you sick of reading that in blogs? "I will do this because now I'm accountable?" It's such a cliche, but for now it's also useful. Sorry all!)

And also, I will be totally flabbergasted if I can actually manage to remember that I love mornings and kick myself out of bed at a sunrise-esque hour. Without waking up the littles. The Fear of waking them is almost enough to keep me huddled under the covers. Goal: get past The Fear.

There's the ocean and coast out my window. Time to begin the day with others. (It's BlogHer-- prepping for the crowds!)

Friday, July 08, 2011

Recipe: for delicious nontoxic lipgloss from your leftover beets

Ok, so I just posted about how great summer veggies are and how delicious they taste roasted in olive oil.

But some of you are just not going to be enchanted forever with your 352 pounds of beets. Even if you love beets roasted, shaved raw into salad, pressure cooked, steamed, maybe even boiled, you might find that your love of beets is equaled by your love of lip gloss, and surely your stomach won't mind if your lips sneak a beet for a cool red lip gloss.

I have two daughters who are really into lip gloss right now (where did they get it from...) and they can tell you how pink their tongues turn when they eat beets. This is how I get them to eat beets. Please no one tell them it can be lip color, not just tongue color. Because I can just imagine beets getting smeared *everywhere* and bathtime becoming a beety mess.


Beet Red Lip Gloss 

¼ cup beeswax 
¼ cup castor oil 
2 tablespoons sesame oil 
beet juice (I'm going to try a small dice of raw beets and pulse blend with a bit of water or oil. I'm also going to try this in a way smaller quantity.)

Melt beeswax, remove from heat and add oils. Add as much beet juice as desired for color. Store in jar. Source (< --- you should totally check this out for more delicious homemade beauty!)

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Recipe: For the most delicious, can't-stop-eating-them veggies

The summer bounty of the Terra Bella CSA is tremendously good. We are enjoying our weekly share, which includes a dozen farm fresh eggs in a rainbow of colors (and species-- a couple of times we've gotten a lucky duck egg).

In past years, though, I've been overwhelmed sometimes with All. The. Veggies. Can I get a "WITNESSSSS"? Anyone else ever have a fridge with veggies you admire from afar but secretly balk at the prospect of actually eating?

Never fear. I have found The Recipe. It's basically all about roasting them tossed with a bit of olive oil, sea salt, a few twists of lemon pepper (I use Trader Joe's), a few splashes of white balsamic vinegar. They roast up, a few sugars in the veggies and in the vinegar carmelize up soooo beautifully, they get that roasty glow, they're the perfect bite size snack size, aaaannd-- they're gone. Any veggie I've tried preparing this way has come out so delicious, it's hard to stop eating them. Seriously!

That makes them a great contender for a midday snack as much as for a main dish (on a bed of salad greens with a tiny bit more dressing tossed in) or a side, perhaps for your tea sandwich. You can thank me after the veggies are all gone. Word of caution: I just made up this recipe. I'm a home cook who hearts approximating measures-- this is how my mom cooked too! I will measure stuff out meticulously for baking, but that's BAKING. This is easy summer living.

Delicious Roasty Summer Veggies

2-3 cups chopped veggies (broccoli and cauliflower in quarter size florets; zucchini squash sliced thin on a mandoline or diced; eggplant sliced thin on a mandoline)

ehhh, maybe 4-5 T extra virgin olive oil. Maybe more. Maybe lots more. Be pretty generous if you can.

3-4 big splashes of white balsamic vinegar (it makes a difference here; the white balsamic vinegar is not as heavy or aromatic as regular balsamic; it has the perfect balance of acid and sweetness for these kinds of veggies and light seasonings). More if you like it (it will add to the carmelly sweetness a bit, but too much will be -- too much).

5-6 generous twists of lemon pepper seasoning (or if you're going fully homemade on me, get out your mortar and pestle and grind together some peppercorns, sea salt, lemon zest, a bit of garlic)

1/4 -1/2 medium shallot, small dice

Preheat oven to 400 F.

In a small bowl, whisk together everything but the veggies. Then pour over the veggies and toss, toss, toss. Shake the veggies out onto a Silpat or parchment paper on a baking sheet and put them on the middle rack. Let them roast at 400 F for, oh, maybe 10 minutes? Don't take them out! Just check on them.

Let them roast some more, maybe another 10 minutes. Put on a mitt and give the baking sheet a gentle shake. Are things looking browned at the edges? Take 'em out, let 'em cool for a minute, then have at.

If they're not quite looking golden brown, wait for it. Waaaaait for it. It's the whole point of these shenanigans. You want the end result to be slightly carmelized, with a slight acid bite, an al dente or slightly softer feel, and the glorious flavor of the veggies to shine.

Enjoy and tell me if you try it!!

Monday, July 04, 2011

Diva Orientalism: it's not new! (Part 2 of 2)

In "Diva Orientalism, Part 1," I argued that the "Oriental fantasy" depicted in this beautiful and seemingly innocuous card from Trader Joe's is in fact representative of a more pervasive cultural trope for elevating certain women to that status of "Diva" through their consumption practices. In this iconic postfeminist scene (available to us in fashion magazines, clothing catalogs, films, TV shows, and even birthday cards!), privileged women (most often white, but not always) express their "empowerment" as cosmopolitan citizens through the discriminating incorporation of "global" fashion, their power over the "natives" in their service, and the apparent contrast between their "modernity" and that static, timeless, interchangeable quality of the (dark-skinned) help.

What is it about sitting perched atop an elephant or camel, covered in jewels and scarves, followed by a retinue of dusky natives that makes The Diva feel so fabulous? Frankly, the only impressions I'm left with of a pungent childhood camel ride on Juhu Beach are the distinct sensations of discomfort in my seat, and an even more discomfiting awareness of class inequality brought about by my status as a tourist in my parents' mother country.

The answer lies not just in the cross-references of today's fashion and media cultures, but rather in the very long history of this fantastical scene. The adornment of the European woman in Indian luxuries, her insertion in the scene of the Oriental procession, and the increasing invisibility of Indians themselves, gained traction in British literature in the late eighteenth century, and became common in the literature and art of the nineteenth and early twentieth. The cumulative effect points to a consistent association of Western women's desires with the Orient and the shifting nature of economic and racial ideologies within the context of European empire.

With the exception of the jeans and the birthday cake, the following could be a perfectly fitting description of the Trader Joe's birthday card:

"... she had arrayed herself in an infinity of shawls, turbans, and diamond necklaces, and had mounted upon an elephant to the sound of the march in Bluebeard in order to pay a visit of ceremony to the Grand Mogul."

Reese Witherspoon as Becky Sharpe in Mira Nair's Vanity Fair  (2004)
The "she" here is Becky Sharp, the erstwhile heroine of Thackeray's Victorian classic, Vanity Fair (1848). Mira Nair provides an excellent filmic depiction of this fantastic scene realized at the end of her 2004 version of the film. Becky Sharp's Arabian Nights-inspired fantasy is not idiosyncratic. Rather, it's merely the most famous rendition of an Orientalist scene that circulated in late 18th and 19th-century European culture. This passage comes from the fictional novel, Hartly House, Calcutta (1789), written by one Phebe Gibbes whose son had served in colonial India but who had never been there herself:

"The throne was composed of gold, pearls, and brilliants, and the nabob's dress worth a sovereignty... His state-palanquin followed, and was by much the most desirable object my eyes ever encountered... Four pillars of massy silver supporting the top, which was actually encrusted by pearls and diamonds... who could dream of a mortal female's refusing an enthroned adorer, with the wealth of the Indies at his feet?"

We now know that Hartly House was fictional (it was published anonymously and almost immediately believed to be either the work of a man long-returned from India or of a young girl - the narrator whose voice we hear here). No matter that contemporary critics lambasted the young girl, named Sophia Goldborne in the book, for her mistakes, naivete, and trivialities, Michael J. Franklin has shown that the passage from which the above excerpt was taken was reproduced in history books about India well into the 20th century as a true description of Mughal rulers in 18th-c. Calcutta. What interests me in particular, however, is the last sentence because it points to Sophia's insertion of herself, a white European female, into this Oriental scene. Reveling in the attention paid to her by the nabob (in plain sight of her British fiancee), she writes to her friend Arabella, "I have dreamed alone of state palanquins, thrones, elephants, and seapoys, ever since."

Gibbes humors Sophia's desires, allowing her room to voice her fantasies of consuming the great "wealth of the Indies" that even in the late 18th-century was being drained by a combination of Mughal mismanagement and European colonial expansion and exploitation. She even suggests, I believe, that Sophia's dalliances with Indian men signals her openness to and sympathy toward Indian culture and its peoples, in contrast to the new breed of East India Company colonial servant who maintained a studied distance and disdain for India and its people. 

Of course, as we all know from colonial history (or from Lagaan), the latter attitude won out among the British in India, but interestingly, white female desires of indulging in the luxuries of the East, did not cease. What did change in that regard was the presence of Indians in the fantastical scene; they become all but invisible, serving only as the servants and harem girls in the background, those whose labor and arts functioned to make the procession possible, give a certain "local color," and, most importantly, elevate the European female by comparison. 

A British Memsahib in India
In her travelogue, Scenes and Characteristics of Hindostan (1835), Emma Roberts is concerned that her young female readers are influenced by colonial narratives and an Arabian Nights-obsessed popular culture to emigrate to India, fantasizing of "bales of gold and silver muslins, the feathers, jewels, carved ivory, splendid brocades, exquisite embroidery, and all the rich products of the East, on which our imaginations luxuriate when we read of an Indian marriage." The fantasy is based on marrying an European nabob (that is, not an Indian man but rather a white man who has lived in India long enough to accumulate great wealth but be "corrupted" by its luxuries and practices) "who saw service is the days of sacks and sieges, and who comes wooing in the olden style, preceded by trains of servants bearing shawls and diamonds!" 

If for Gibbes Sophia's desire for Indian luxuries and her wish to become a nabobess signals a positive openness to India, in the nineteenth century, such female desires were seen to be mistaken at best, unproductive, illicit, and dangerous to the colonial project and society at large at worst. By the time Thackeray writes Vanity Fair, the scene has come to stand in for the destructiveness of excessive female desire in general - that is, having nothing really to do with the specificity of daily life in colonial India, female emigration, or marriage within Anglo-Indian society in India. Becky's Arabian Nights fantasy is meant to signal the extravagance of her ambitions, her cold-hearted matrimonial calculations, and her essential triviality. 

"Mr. Joseph Entagled" (c. 1861)
Illustration for to Chapter 1, Thackeray's Vanity Fair: "And before he had time to ask how, Mr. Joseph Sedley, of the East India Company's service, was actually seated tête-à-tête with a young lady, looking at her with the killing expression; his arm strecthed out before in an imploring attitude, and his hands bound in web green silk, which she was unwinding."  Image scanned by Gerald Ajam and captions by Tiaw Kay Siang and Sabrina Lim.
So how then does the "Oriental scene" transform from an essentially negative symbol of female desire and frivolity into a putatively positive one of female empowerment? Two points here: 1) we can discover hints of such a shift in Vanity Fair itself (after all, Becky emerges as the novel's most compelling character) and 2) the difference between the notion of excessive female desire based on the consumption of "exotic" luxuries and the notion of female empowerment through the very same behavior are not as diametrically opposed as they may first seem. In fact, postfeminism traffics in the same essentialist ideas of nineteenth and twentieth-century femininity that feminists so powerfully contested: affinity for luxury, fashion, and glamor at the expense of sober rationality; proclivity for all things domestic and for interpersonal relationships, the flip side of which is the need to despotize underlings; sexual innocence and hypersexuality; and a tendency to control and manipulate men in order to gain access to goods. 

The Real Housewives of New York in Morocco
(Thanks Kim Feig!)
The difference of course is that in this postfeminist moment, these "natural attributes" are celebrated as critical for acquiring celebrity, fame, wealth and status - those things which seem to most loudly proclaim success in our wired postmodern capitalist society. Rather than hindering the formation of social ties (read: patriarchal relationships), female desire and its attendant practices of consumption are believed to promote individual achievement and facilitate socioeconomic mobility (through the interlinked phenomena of social recognition, control over the labor of a retinue of marked yet invisible "others," and heteronormative marriage). What is telling, however, is that once married, the Diva often finds herself at a loss: she is expected to continue representing the socioeconomic success of her family, while at the same time refraining from many of the practices and activities that earned her special status in the first place. That is, she is expected to submerge her narcissism under her concern for the well-being of her husband and children, refocusing her desires and consumptory practices on the establishment of the home and the needs of her family. And what then does the fantasy of her escape from this confining sphere of domestic celebrity look like? Why a trek across the "the Orient" of course!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Diva Orientalism: It's all about you! (Part 1 of 2)

The other day I was standing in the checkout line at Trader Joe's when this caught my eye:
Card designed by Rachel Newcomb

At first glance I thought that TJ's, perhaps realizing a niche market, had crafted a card to celebrate Diwali (a little early sure, but for only $.99)! Looking closer, I realized that the card was actually celebrating a birthday, and that the "you" who "it's all about" was in fact a slinky strawberry blond. Perched in a gold palanquin atop a bedecked elephant, our heroine (the "Diva of the Day") holds up a luscious piece of layered chocolate cake while Indian servants and harem dancers form a train of revelers below, strewing the ground with rose petals, fanning our be-jeaned beauty lest she sweat in the hot sun, and carrying what we may presume to be a sultan's treasure trove of presents behind her.

Now clearly, strawberry blonds, like every other consumer niche, deserve birthday cards too (in fact, I have a few recipients in mind already!). What is striking however, is the choice of scene and the details of her special birthday celebration. Is it simply that the Indian-inflected motifs make for a pleasing, eye-catching aesthetic? I would argue that when we take into consideration the prevalence of this scene in popular culture, particularly fashion photography and film, and then, when we look at the long history of this scene (stretching back to the late eighteenth century!), we are talking about something that has sustained cultural currency - that is telling us something about how the relationship between West and East, between the white woman in the palanquin and the Indian people on the ground below is understood.

Edward Said famously coined the term "Orientalism" in 1979 to demonstrate the manner by which an idea of the "Orient" (variously North Africa, Middle East, and South Asia) was consolidated in the nineteenth century as European colonial expansion in these areas ramped up. A confluence of historical, literary, medical, and juridical discourse, along with other popular cultural forms like drama, music, and art interwoven with one another through citation, plagiarism, and references produced tropes and stereotypes of a despotic, oppressed, static, traditional, sexually depraved monoculture that served to justify colonialism. Clearly, this version of the Orient had little to do with realities on the ground, and had much more to do with European ideas, hopes, and fears about itself, as well as the need to rationalize European notions of its own superiority and the atrocities being committed in the name of empire. One of the most abiding Orientalist myths is the notion that the West's treatment of its women marks it as the vanguard of progress and civilization, while the East's "universal oppression" of its women (symbolized most powerfully by the harem and later the veil) indicated its lack of progress, civilization, and modernity.

In his later works, Said calls our attention to the continuance of Orientalism in post World War II United States. Since 9/11 in particular, feminist scholars have powerfully challenged the new brand of Orientalism that sought to justify U.S. actions in Afghanistan by making a very similar argument. But what of the types of seemingly less politically minded images seen in pop art, fashion photography, and film? Gwen Sharpe and Lisa Wade do an excellent job exposing the stakes of this kind of imagery in fashion photography, the kind you see quite often in the pages of Vogue, Elle, and the Anthropology catalog (all frequent offenders):

"Indian Summer," Vogue UK, September 2007
Sharpe and Wade point out the way in which these images use Indian people interchangeably with Indian architecture or natural life to place emphasis on the white model who represents the modern consumer accessing "exotic" locales while never quite succumbing to them. The behind-the-scenes video of the shoot on Vogue's website demonstrated ample evidence of busy modern life in India's booming metropolises, but as Sharpe argues, the photos themselves are edited to present India as stuck endlessly in a pre-modern mode of existence (how Hegelian!).

Anthropologie Catalog, May 2010
I would also add that the "clean, rich, white woman" (to use Wade's phrase) is made exceptional not just by somatic contrast or by her contemporary clothing, but (in that the white model is an idealized stand-in for the magazine or catalog's intended viewers/shoppers) by her status as a savvy consumer of fashion. The viewer/shopper's decisions to purchase tasteful, stylish clothing, and her ability to incorporate "ethnic" styles into a modern wardrobe identify her as a discriminating and cosmopolitan consumer. The Indian men, women, and children, whose labor may very well be expended and exploited to make the clothing worn in the shoots are made effectively invisible as subjects to the same degree the model emerges as an idealized global citizen, their labor hidden by the smiles on their faces.

Sex and the City 2 (2010)
Let's look at another representation of this "Oriental scene." This one comes from Sex and the City 2 (2010). In it, Carrie et. al. make their way through the "Arabian Desert," dressed in avant garde couture that incorporates all manner of "Oriental" motifs (turban, embroidered and mirrored chiffon sleeves, layers of colorful, patterned textiles), perched atop elaborately decorated camels led by native servants. "Arabian" music plays in the background. As in the Vogue and Anthropology shoots, the setting serves to highlight the women's cosmopolitanism and status as savvy consumers. Furthermore, it identifies them as "divas" - women whose empowerment and self-styled importance comes as a result of their consumption practices and power over a retinue of service workers (stylists, assistants, housekeepers, chauffeurs, personal cooks, even camel trainers!). And although the card, and most popular cultural examples portray white women as their heroines, I would argue that access to the status of diva has perhaps more to do with class and economic security than race necessarily (how this might change the power dynamics or narratives at play is something worth more consideration).

This brand of "Diva Orientalism" is representative, I think, of the postfeminism we're being sold by popular culture today. It traffics in a particular and limited brand of female empowerment through consumer choices, and reduces the complexities of globalization - the inequalities between women of different classes, races, ethnicities, religions, sexualities produced and reified by changing labor patterns, liberalization and the rise of multinational corporations, shifting national borders, and increased militarism, to name just a few transnational trends - to the question of the personal taste, glamour, and financial acquisition of a relatively limited number of privileged women. Like the card says, "it's all about you!"

Friday, June 17, 2011

For my father...

This Father's Day I am very lucky - not only is Jaspret celebrating his second year of double fatherhood, but my parents have been staying with us this week, and so I'll be able to toast my own dad in person rather than over the phone! Naina and Niku have been excited all week at the prospect of taking Nana to their school's Father's Day Breakfast, and Naina even asked her teachers if she could make a special drawing for him: her rendition of her beloved grandfather's face with a caption that reads "I love my Nana because... sometimes he gives me water."

Off to Father's Day Breakfast!
This is particularly hilarious because in fact, Naina's Nana does EVERYTHING for her and her brother (above and beyond keeping them hydrated). When we wanted to take Naina to the zoo for the first time, it was Nana who volunteered to stay with Niku so Naina could enjoy herself without the distraction of an adorable, but rather moody brother in full throes of the "terrible twos." When Naina and Niku started school a few months ago, it was their Nana who came down to stay for two weeks to ease the transition, who took them to school on their first day, and who sat with Naina while she completed her first homework assignment. And when Niku was very young and couldn't fall asleep, it was Nana who walked him around for hours in his arms until his eyes finally closed.

Naina's first homework assignment
And I wouldn't expect anything less from him! My dad did all the same things for me and my brother, Sameer. My memories of childhood are replete with little moments that have added up to the constant undercurrent of unconditional love, support, and groundedness that my father has provided for both of us. I don't think I could have survived these first years of new parenting, with all its emotional ebbs and flows, fatigue, and sacrifices, if I didn't have my father's example to inspire me, his advice to guide me, and his infallible confidence in the values and ethics he and my mother have instilled in us to anchor me.

As a culture, we seem to always be debating, discussing, dissecting, and representing motherhood. The recent brouhaha over Amy Chua's memoir, Tiger Mother, is a good case in point. The internet and airwaves were ablaze with analysis of the types of mothering we have collectively seen, experienced, benefited (and in some cases had to therapeutically recover) from. While the crux of the debate was the (false) dichotomy between Eastern and Western styles of mothering, there was at least some room for more nuanced analysis of the multitudinous forms mothering can come in. What is also interesting to note is that throughout mothering served as the metonym for all types of parenting, and that in fact, a critical discussion of fathering never really ensued. Chua's husband, when mentioned at all, came to stand in for a lax, emotive, "Western" style of parenting, and Asian/ Asian-American fathers fell out of the picture completely.

But in a way, that's not really surprising at all. Certainly, representations of Asian mothers are still plagued by caricatures (hello, "Tiger Mother"??) and an Orientalist paradigm of tradition versus modernity, but as I mentioned, we're beginning to see more richly textured portrayals of mothers and mothering, particularly in the diaspora. I don't know if the same can be said for representations of Asian fathers. Speaking specifically about representations of Indian fathers in Bollywood, Hollywood, and diasporic films and literature, besides a few notable exceptions (a big shout out here to Geeta Malik's film, Troublemaker, and Jhumpa Lahiri's novel, The Namesake, which in very different ways provide us with touching, complex, and very real portraits of South Asian men) I would argue that we're still locked into a polarized vision of Indian fatherhood. On one hand, you have the glorified patriarch of Bollywood films (i.e. every Amitabh Bhachan film since his comeback), the imposing figure whose wisdom guides his ever extending family through the dangers and hurdles of a rapidly changing world. On the other, of course, is the "Desi dad villian," the traditional father whose inability to deal with the shifting economic and social realities of migration and liberalization leave him emotionally bereft and often violently protective of whatever shreds of patriarchal power he still imagines himself to hold.

Yes, without a doubt, stories do need to be told about the kinds of violence that exist in our community. But stories also need to be told about all the various avatars fathers come in as well, about all the other creative ways men deal with the exigencies of migration and modernity. I always felt that my own dad was missing from the repertoire of representations I would see and read. He grew up in Halol, a small town in Gujarat, the eldest of six siblings. As the eldest, he helped his mother with nearly all the household tasks - bringing fruits and vegetables, getting them ready for dinner, taking care of his brothers and sisters. His village did not have electricity until he was in high school, but this was no reason not to excel, coming first to Baroda for higher education, and then Bombay, Utah (BYU), and eventually Toronto, where he and my mother settled after their marriage.

Growing up, my father was always engaged in our lives. He was ready to play the minute he came back from work, and always sat down with us when it was time to do our homework. Wiffle ball, Mille Bornes, Monopoly, algebra, trigonometry, the science fair project where I experimented with exhaust fumes and plant growth (??), you name it, Dad could do it. But it was not just games and homework, my father was the one who helped me pick out fabric to make my first quilt, who comforted me when my homemade prom dress turned out a hot mess and then convinced me to give it another try (the same could be said for boys I suppose), who gave me my first feminist lesson in the unjust and purportless nature of cheerleading (I ended up joining the basketball team instead). He came to every award ceremony, cheered me through every decision I made in college, and encouraged me when I chose to go to graduate school to obtain my degree in English literature (while other men of his age and background questioned why I needed to get a Ph.D. in English when I already spoke English or condescendingly referred to my profession as a "little job"). He moved me to Michigan and then, without one word of admonishment, moved me back to Irvine when I realized I was perhaps a California girl after all. And still, to this day, he is the one I turn to read my work, to remind my why I got into this field, and to give me hope and, more importantly, perspective, when I feel like my future isn't what I once thought it would be.

Dad and me, c. 1978; Nana and Nikash, 2011
So, this Father's Day, I celebrate my husband and my father, two men whose incredible devotion to their families and children defy stereotypes and continue to make me strive to be a better woman.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

exercise-- it's happening!! It's really, really happening!

You know how you hit a point where you just can't take not moving anymore? I'm the type who LOVES movement. I love being physical. Mostly in a studio, where I can smell the wood floor and make shapes with my body, which somehow becomes the most important thing in the world to me while I'm doing it. But I can also be happy on a trail outside. Walking or jogging is ok, but I kind of love leaping, so if that's possible, that's what I do. If there's no one but my spouse and kids around.

The other day I posted on Facebook that I really cannot take another day without dancing, and I totally meant it. There are some days in my job where I'm just sitting immobile in front of the computer, totally failing to get up even to hit the restroom and get a bite. Some days, taking a big breath was big movement for me. For me, a person who likes to move, I had to tell myself, "Back it up, Buttercup. How did you get here and how are you going to get going again?"

I tried a couple times getting to a class regularly, but it was too much to do it and make the girls dinner AND make it to a class on time. And D doesn't get home until after most classes are in progress. So I tried getting a couple DVDs, but with a 4 and 2 year old, it's kind of difficult to get 45 minutes straight to complete a workout.

But I just couldn't take it any more. Last Friday, I had to take Sabrina for a visit to her new preschool. We had time to go to the gym and without even trying, I could make the 5:30 PM yoga class. It was pretty much the most cathartic thing I've done in months. The teacher happened to be a friend from high school, Malia, who has become this totally brilliant, higher-plane-of-spirituality-evolved yoga teacher who literally emits light (I'm just saying that to annoy you photon-counters out there. But she's really amazing.).

It was so incredible to be on my back on a mat by myself (in a class of adults, that is, but you know), that wood floor beneath my feet, the darkness of the room comforting like a womb. I actually shed tears at the beginning and end of class, it was that cathartic. Malia says things like "let it feel good" and does these excellent, gentle corrections that tell me she's got a sharp kinesthetic awareness. She says "let it feel good" even if it's hard work and the muscles are all burny and shaky-like (which is how I like my yoga and dance classes).

So it's a total shame that we're leaving the gym where she teaches that class, because we've GOT to save money because Sabrina's preschool plus Paloma's preschool will now cost as much as our mortgage. That is painful and scary. Also wrong and makes you want to do something about it.

But it's getting scary to me to not move my body in the way that my body wants to move. The physical health implications of it are scary enough, but I've finally also just had it in ignoring this part of who I am. Finding balance between all or none is essential. So I am going for it. I'm going to try out at least one yoga class a week at the lovely Yoga Company and I have signed myself up for a ballet class starting in July when I signed up the girls for their circus arts class. (They are beside themselves excited to try acrobatics and tumbling.)

And when I'm not doing those things, I'll be doing Bar Method DVDs at home. I'm lucky enough that there's a studio close by, but then we're edging back up those costs we needed to cut. I've found the personal and meticulous and rigorous approach of the Yoga Company teachers to be worth doing (and at-home yoga DVDs haven't been that great for me), so that's where I'll splurge on being in the studio.

I'm probably never getting back in the studio with Mr. Savage (the good old days!! He taught with a Debbie-Allen-from-"Fame" cane!! More muscle burning goodness). But at least I know I'll be dancing a bit, and moving daily and vigorously and sweatily, starting right now. There's a place inside of me that is now very, very content.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

I love pomodoros!

It's true I like tomatoes in all their incarnations: spicy bbq sauce, lovely marinara, delectable caprese salad open faced sandwiches, and in the ridiculously addictive slow-roasted version (I heart Smitten Kitchen). Hungry? :)

Let your stomach wait a sec because I'm about to feed your productivity soul. The Pomodoro Technique is familiar but also better implemented than the old "just use a timer" advice. A brilliant colleague (who is, incidentally, way productive) introduced me to the adorable and effective Pomodoro method. It's adorable because who doesn't love the idea of calling an indivisible unit of time "tomato" in Italian?  And it's effective because it helps me to allot the time I require to properly complete tasks-- and then take a 5 minute break.

The Pomodoro Technique is simple; one click through to the site and you'll see. They use a tomato-shaped timer to parcel out time in 25 minute increments, with 5 minutes allotted for doing something completely different with your brain and body. Apparently this helps you absorb and retain info, and also helps boost your productive work time.

The technique aims to reduce anxiety about getting stuff done (which often turns into that terrible self-fulfilling prophecy of not getting stuff done), reduce interruptions, increase focus, and simplify organization.

I've simplified the process that's outlined here for myself, but it's still effective. I'm using a version of his task sheet idea, my regular (8.5 x 11) daily calendar (I love the Staples brand best), the timer and Google calendar to keep things straight. I think the task sheet in Excel has been the best tweak to my routine, because I can have them all in one place rather than scattered throughout my calendar. They're there, too, so I can see due dates as they come, but it's nice to also be able to sort through things by urgency or topic.

And the timer! I sadly don't have a cute tomato timer, but my old square kitchen timer works perfectly. And if a Pomodoro doesn't go well, I follow the rule to say "The next Pomodoro will go better." That helps, in a Tao of Pooh kind of way.

Got a favorite organizational method? Got a favorite tomato recipe? Like spaghetti and marinara? Want to come over for dinner? :)