27 April 2007

Word of the Day: Omphaloskepsis

It means navel gazing. Try using it in conversation soon. "I'm going home to take a bath and indulge in a little omphaloskepsis."

Much blogging seems like omphaloskepsis, no?

Dental Secrets?

There was a woman on the train yesterday reading this here Dental Secrets book. I can't quite figure it out, but I find the title hysterical. I'm sure it's a useful book for a dental student, but secrets? What are they hiding from us patients?

26 April 2007

Thirteen Ways That I'm a Bleeding Heart Liberal

I'm feeling cranky about the state of the country today, so for Thursday Thirteen, here are thirteen lefty-commie-pinko bleeding heart liberal things that I believe in:

  1. Abortion rights (especially in light of last week's SCOTUS decision)
  2. Gun control (especially in light of last week's shootings at Virginia Tech)
  3. Higher taxes on capital gains
  4. Universal pre-school
  5. Universal single-payer health care
  6. Higher gasoline taxes
  7. Eating locally, and in season (no strawberries in January in NYC)
  8. National Public Radio
  9. Network neutrality
  10. Rollback of copyright protection (yeah, let the mouse go into the public domain)
  11. Recycling
  12. Increasing the CAFE for cars AND trucks AND light trucks
  13. Separation of church and state (starting with the removal of "In God We Trust" from our money, and the deletion of "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance)

Incidentally, I googled "bleeding heart liberal" out of curiousity. #4 on the list was this astonishing Best of Craig's list posting.

25 April 2007

Misha's Toddler Appeal (or lack thereof)

I showed Miss M. this nice clip of Misha leaping about in Don Quixote. About half way through, she said "when are the ballerinas going to come out?"

24 April 2007

Abortion and Breast Cancer are NOT LINKED

As reported in the Times, "there is no association between abortion and an increased risk for breast cancer". Here's the abstract from the Archives of Internal Medicine, and here's a post from The Blog That Ate Manhattan (written by a NYC gynecologist).

Got that?


Small Town Police Work

I hardly ever drive to the train station, but once in a while, it's necessary. Because I do it so seldom, I don't have a resident sticker for my car so I park at the meters. Once last year, I got a ticket when parked at a broken meter. I successfully fought the ticket, but it's a hassle going to court.

One day last week, I had to be somewhere at the end of the day, so I took the car. The first meter I tried was broken, so, good girl trying to avoid traffic court that I am, I moved the car. The second meter was broken. This time, I scrounged some paper out of my bag and left a note on the dashboard as well as a note taped to the meter with a Bandaid. Then, belt and suspenders, I called the police station when I got to my office.

When I got off the train at the end of the day, I found the note that had been stuck to the meter now amended and stuck under my windshield wiper. "All better now!" And, they'd set the meter so that there was still 3 hours left on the meter when I got there. Small town. Nice.

22 April 2007

Spring! (Cheating)

Okay, it is spring finally, and some of the daffodils are blooming and so are the crocuses, and we spent all day today and yesterday raking and pruning and rearranging the plants.

But this here fritillaria? It was forced. Yes, it's now planted in my garden, and with luck it'll bloom again next year, but it didn't bloom here in situ.

The other day as I was walking through the greenmarket on the way to work, I spotted some forced fritillaria in full bloom. I idly thought about buying one, mostly because I've never seen them forced before. But I didn't. Sometime later, someone scurried past my desk with one yellow fritillaria muttering "I've got to get rid of this, it smells like marijuana." I scurried after her, and told her I'd take it home. I schlepped it home, on the subway, on the train. It does smell funky, but now it's outside, where it belongs!

20 April 2007

Differently Invasive Gallbladder Surgery

"Doctors in New York have removed a woman's gallbladder with instruments passed through her vagina."

Having just had my gallbladder removed laparoscopically, I read this article in horrified fascination. On the one hand, I am repulsed - on the other, hey, maybe I would have felt better more quickly. But really? Eww. Going through the vagina to get to an organ up by the ribcage seems invasive, cumbersome, and somehow violating.


I read the many paid obits for Kitty Carlisle Hart in today's Times - and was struck by the one from her boyfriend Roy Neuberger. At the end, he quotes from Always, the Irving Berlin song that she sang often. I had the great good luck of hearing her sing it about 10 years ago at a benefit for the organization I then worked for. She was an elegant, warm and witty woman, with a sweet, slightly quavery voice, and a passion for the arts. She did three songs that night, ending with Always, and getting the audience to sing along with her. As soon as I heard that she'd died the other day, Always popped into my head and became an earworm.

I'll be loving you always
with a love that's true, always
When the things that you planned need a helping hand
I will understand, always, always Days may not be fair always

That's when I'll be there, always
Not for just an hour
Not for just a day
Not for just a year, not for just a year I

'll be loving you always
with a love that's true, always
When the things that you planned need a helping hand
I will understand, always, always Days may not be fair always

That's when I'll be there, always
Not for just an hour
Not for just a day
Not for just a year, but always.

19 April 2007

Silverware for Kidlets

I think about the most mundane things. I rather hate plastic, especially forks and spoons and plates and cups and bowls, although I see its utility in the care and feeding of the infant and toddler. And I love good silver – it feels so nice in the hand.

For baby presents, someone gave us the Elsa Peretti baby spoon from Tiffany, and someone else gave us a toddler spoon/fork set. The Peretti spoon was wonderful; long enough to get in the bottom of jars and yogurt containers and beautifully balanced. And Miss M. loves her “matching” fork and spoon. That’s what she calls them individually – the “matching” fork or the “matching” spoon. All three of those pieces were meant for little ones.

But there’s other silverware out there that works perfectly for little kids, and you can probably find it cheaply at a yard sale or antique shop or flea market.

Bouillon spoons are 5 or 6 inches long, with a round bowl – perfect for a little one to eat cereal with. And hardly anyone eats broth soups anymore, much less with specialized spoons, so they’re up for grabs.

Demitasse spoons are shorter – like 4 inches long – and look like tiny teaspoons, or short handled baby feeding spoons. And they work perfectly for a 3 and a half year old eating applesauce or jello.

And salad/dessert forks? Shorter than a full sized fork and perfect for a little kid.

18 April 2007

Nursing, at the beginning

I had a terrible time getting started breastfeeding my daughter. It may well have had something to do with the terrible delivery that I had. In addition to not being able to hold Miss M. for so long immediately after her birth, she was jaundiced and had to spend about 30 hours under the lights in the nursery. And the nurses kept wanting to give her formula. And I wasn’t allowed out of bed until Wednesday (two days after the birth). And the hospital lactation consultant took forever to show up. Though when the LC did show up, she immediately sent for a hospital pump and got me set up pumping, one side only because sitting up was still too hard. And baby M. had a hard time transferring milk – she seemed to be latched on, but nothing was getting in. And my milk was late – so late that I left the hospital on Saturday (yup, five nights in the hospital) with a precious bottle containing two ounces of colostrum pumped that very morning.

The day we left the hospital, the pediatrician was wary – the baby had lost a lot of weight, down 13 ounces from her birth weight of 8#4oz. The pediatrician said that we had to supplement – to make sure that she got two ounces in a bottle, 8 times a day, using breastmilk as available and formula for the rest. And she only agreed to discharge us when we promised we'd take the baby into the pediatrician's office for a weight check the following day.

I know I didn’t pump enough in the hospital – I was trying to get my strength back and the incision hurt and I just didn’t get it. Once home, with a rented hospital grade Medela pump, I started pumping like a mad woman – both breasts, seven or eight times a day - and I continued to try and nurse Miss M.

When she was a week and a day, I had a lactation consultant come in. Yes, a house call! She spent a couple of hours with us, weighing the baby before and after feeding to see what she would take in, and watching the nursing session to check latch and position. She confirmed that the baby just wasn't getting any significant amounts of milk out. The LC set us up with a Haberman Feeder - to use to help the baby work harder at sucking to train her to nurse better, and with a homemade supplemental nursing system - a tiny tube and a big syringe.

Despite all of this effort, at a check-up when she was 10 days old, the pediatrician had us increase the supplementation to 3 ounces, 8 times a day - because she hadn't gained any weight in four days.

When Miss M. was two weeks old, we had another house call - this time from the breastfeeding angel: A Doctor. Who Makes House Calls. And Specializes in Breastfeeding. Only in New York. She was awesome. She checked me out, weighed the baby before and after nursing, watched the nursing, and put me on Domperidone.

I was dogged about the whole thing. I kept pumping, kept trying to nurse. And finally one day, when Miss M. was about two months old, I had tender painful engorged breasts. And Miss M. nursed and got the milk out and relieved the engorgement. It was the first time I really knew that she was getting it.

17 April 2007

Back When Cheese Was King

Oh to be in in England. Today's Times has an article in the international fluff section about an English cheese maker who's set up a webcam in his cheese cave, so that you too can watch Cheddar ripening, aging, getting moldy.

I don't know why, but for some reason this reminds me of an old Roz Chast cartoon. It's captioned "Back When Cheese Was King", and shows a picture of a piece of Brie wearing a crown. And the cheese is saying "Après moi le café". It makes me laugh just thinking of it.

16 April 2007

How to Stay Clean Whilst Painting

Wear a smock! And for a cheap and easy smock, use an old shirt - like an old button-down oxford cloth shirt that's otherwise ready for the rag basket. Put it on backwards (so the buttons go up the back), roll up the sleeves, and keep the kid's clothes clean.

Thanks, Moky, for the reminder.

Dirt, or, when will it ever be spring?

As Margaret Atwood once said, “In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.” I am waiting for that day. Instead, we are watching it rain and rain and rain.

15 April 2007

Quick Pasta

Gourmet used to have a column called Five Ingredients (or something like that), where the schtick was recipes with no more than five ingredients. My all-time favorite is a pasta with asparagus and lemon - using pasta, lemon zest, asparagus, olive oil and parmesan (and salt and pepper). It is delicious, but it is a little complicated, despite so few ingredients.

But I think I've found a new winner - hardly any ingredients AND almost no work AND fast! It's City Mama's pasta with tomato butter sauce - and it's great. I think it's going to be a new staple in the house, the stick of butter notwithstanding.

13 April 2007

Seat Belts

I'm sorry that the Governor of New Jersey was seriously injured in a car accident yesterday, but why the hell wasn't he wearing his seat belt?


Once upon a time, when I was pregnant, my OB suggested that maybe a birth class was in order. Or maybe I asked her - I can't remember. I asked her about the classes offered by the hospital; she called them crunchy in a mildly pejorative way and gave me the names of two people who gave private classes. I thought crunchy sounded good, so I signed us up for the hospital class. And I suppose it was crunchy - there was a decidedly non-interventionist drug-free slant. Of course, I missed the last class, which was the one covering c-sections, and I had a supremely interventionist birth culminating in a trainwreck of a c-section, but I kind of liked the birth class.

But crunchy? When did crunchy become a quick way to paint something/someone as a lefty-commie-pinko earth mother eating granola in Birkenstocks?

I don't wear Birkenstocks (but I do wear Danskos). And the lefty-commie-pinko earth mother part of me likes to make granola. It's not as sweet as the stuff you buy, and it's incredibly easy to make. I like to eat it sprinkled on plain yogurt mixed with fresh fruit. Miss M. likes it sprinkled on her Crispix.

Crunchy Granola

4 cups rolled oats
1 cup wheat germ
6 T. sesame seeds
3 handfuls shredded coconut
5 T. brown sugar
2 t. salt
1/3 cup oil
1/3 cup honey

  • Mix all the dry ingredients together.
  • Add the oil and honey and mix well.
  • Using a big roasting pan, bake at 350 for 10 minutes, and then broil, stirring frequently until toasted. Or bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so.

I usually only make a half batch. Sometimes, I use a mixed grain/seed blend in place of the sesame seeds (like one that had millet, flax, poppy, sesame, oat, wheat, rye and sunflower). I use either toasted or untoasted wheat germ - whatever's in the house. Sometimes I use sweetened coconut, sometimes unsweetened (which is sort of hard to find). Sometime I throw in a handful of chopped nuts. In other words, it takes well to variation.

11 April 2007

Hiring and Human Decency

I just completed a search to fill a soon-to-be-vacant position in my office. Yesterday, I sent out a round of emails to the unsuccessful candidates (both the ones we interviewed and the ones that didn't even get a phone call). I think it's really important to do so; we're a non-profit and you just never know where your next donation is coming from. Every little communication with the outside world is an opportunity to show us in the best light possible. Besides, I think anyone who takes the time to apply for a job deserves the courtesy of a reply.

Shortly after I sent those thanks-but-we-hired-someone-else emails, I got this reply:

Dear Ms. Musing:
Thank you for bringing me up-to-date on your Development Director search, and informing me of your decision; it showed a gracious (and, unfortunately, increasingly rare) respect for the time and effort job seekers invest in their search for meaningful employment. I wish you good luck with your new Development Director, and continued success for [Organization that I work for].
Candidate Who I didn't Even Interview

I find it really sad and disheartening that most places just don't bother to respond to their candidate applicants. I know that my little gesture is Sisyphian, but I have to do it anyway.

10 April 2007

Just Post(s)

justpostmar2007I submitted my Kristof Led Donations post to the roundup of March Just Posts, which has just been posted. Go check out some of the others.

Greedy Greedy

As I was loading Miss M. into the car the other day, with a container of raisins in one hand and a piece of matzo in the other, she said to me “I have two snacks. One for me, and one for me.”

09 April 2007

Gramercy Park

For some months when my small child was tiny (like 4-8 months old), she came to work with me every day. I had a babysitter meet me in the office and take her for 4 hours. They'd putter around the Gramercy Park/Madison Park/Union Square area, shopping, eating, playgrounding - or they'd hang around the office, and check out the kids in their ballet classes. One day, the babysitter said she'd been to Gramercy Park - a nearby but private park. I said, "how did you get in"? She said, "oh, I just asked one of the doormen for a key". I was dumbfounded and awestruck. Such gall. She was a great nanny, that Norma.

08 April 2007

Dear Easter Bunny

Dear Easter Bunny,
You are qute. Your present is the carrot.
See you next year.

Hey - I could type when I was nine! But my spelling was rather, um, qute?

06 April 2007

Poetry Friday: Politically Correct Nursery Rhymes

Will wonders never cease - nursery rhymes are now catch and release?

The other day, Miss M. woke us up to recite a nursery rhyme that she'd learned at school:

One, two, three, four, five,
Once I caught a fish alive.
Six, seven, eight, nine, ten,
Then I let him go again.
Which litte finger did he bite?
This little finger on the right.

I'd never heard this one before, so I googled it and found a bunch of versions. Interestingly, all the other versions had 8 lines - Miss M. managed to leave two out, but it still scans okay. Furthermore, in her version, it seems to imply that the fish bit the finger in lieu of a hook, like noodling for catfish, instead of the biting of the finger being the reason to release the fish.

05 April 2007

The Interview

So I volunteered, to Mayberry Mom, to be “interviewed”. Here goes!

1. Tell us your best "only in New York" story.

Once upon a time, I had a Ford Fiesta. I got it new in 1980, when I was in college, and we had it until 1997 when it really started to give up the ghost. It lived on the streets of NYC for a long time (note the dents), and it was a wonderful car in the city – tiny (and therefore easy to park) and unassuming looking (and therefore not desirable to steal).

One day in the late 80s, W. (then boyfriend, now husband) told me that the muffler was about to fall off. I merrily drove to work in Brooklyn. On the way home, I offered a lift to a friend who lived in the West Village. To get to the West Village from Brooklyn involved a drive up Hudson Street, which was then still cobblestoned. Sure enough, those bumpy cobblestones knocked the loose muffler off, and it dropped in such a way that it was stabbing into the street – no further forward progress was possible. I got out of the car, looked underneath, and stood up scratching my head. What next?

With that, out of a manhole nearby emerged a ConEd worker. “What seems to be the problem?” “Well, my muffler’s fallen off.” “No problem.” With that, he disappeared into his truck, reappeared with stainless steel baling wire, dove under the car, and wired the muffler in place with his heat-proof gloves. It wasn’t fixed-fixed, but it was enough to get me home. I don’t even remember giving him a tip – but I should have.

2. What is your favorite cookbook?

Tough question. I have rather a lot of cookbooks. My current favorite is one I found via 101 Cookbooks - it’s called “Falling Cloudberries”, by Tessa Kiros. It’s gorgeous, and beautifully written, with lots of context for the recipes, and it’s full of things I want to try.

The runner-up would be nearly anything by Julia Child.

3. What toy of your daughter's do you play with while she's asleep, or otherwise secretly covet?

I haven’t found myself actually PLAYING with any of her toys, but I love Grey Elephant. I can’t remember who gave this elephant to her, but he’s been everywhere, including to California where he spent the night in a fig tree. He’s wearing a dress that my mother made when she was a child in the 40s – wait, maybe that means he’s a girl?

4. How did you choose your child's name (if you can answer without revealing more than you'd like)? What, if any, were the ones that got away -- the boy names, or the ones that your partner vetoed?

We never bothered to discuss boy’s names, because we knew she was a girl - I’d had a CVS. We started some lists, which included things simple (Anne), outré (Elektra), family (Elizabeth), and Shakespearean (Rosalind, Isabella, Portia*, Miranda). As it happens, Miranda kept showing up on the list – three times according to the lists I kept. And so she became Miranda. Curiously, neither of us gave any thought to the Miranda Warning, or to Carmen Miranda – it was all about the Bard.

*We couldn’t call her Portia – people would have thought we’d named her after the car.

5. Describe (or photograph) a piece of art or other treasured object in your home and tell us why it's special.

I gave this painting to W. for Christmas one year. He opened it and said “I almost got you that!” – clearly showing, once again, that we’re on the same wavelength. It’s called “Mama’s Cat Can Do No Wrong”, and it’s by a self-taught artist named Sarah Rakes. I got it in a little Madison Avenue gallery that specializes in folk art and outsider art. The gallery was walking distance from our NYC apartment, so we’d wander in from time to time when we were out for a wander in the neighborhood. The painting’s not as cock-eyed as it looks in the photo – but I couldn’t photograph it head-on because of the glare (maybe if I were a cleverer photographer with a better camera). I love that the cat is sort of demonic looking, and I love the painted frame.

Are you up to being interviewed? Let me know and I'll make up some questions! And thanks, Mayberry Mom, for pushing me off on all these tangents!

04 April 2007

Writing about Beans

This week's New Yorker has a piece by Adam Gopnik on "Real Food from Fictional Recipes". Lots of the "recipes" found in novels aren't really presented as such, but there's often enough there to figure out how to prepare the dish in question. But he turns the whole thing on its head in a beautiful passage on beans and writing, and the relationship therein.

The beans alone establish Spenser’s credibility as a cook. “I shelled the beans from their long, red-and-cream pods and dropped them in boiling water and turned down the heat and let them simmer,” he tells us. A devotion to shell beans, I have noticed, divides even amateur cooks from non-cooks more absolutely than any other food, and they are, into the bargain, a perfect model of writing. Like sentences, shell beans are a great deal more trouble to produce than anyone who isn’t producing them knows. You have to shell the beans, slipping open the pods with your thumbnail and then tugging the beautiful little prismatic buttons from their moorings—a process that, like writing, always takes much longer than you think it will. And then even the best shell beans, cleaned and simmered, are like sentences in that nobody actually appreciates them as much as they deserve to be appreciated. Shell beans are several steps more delicious, lighter and finer, than dried beans, much less canned beans; but the sad truth is that nobody really cares beans about beans, and not many eaters can tell the fresh kind from the dried, or even the canned.

And you know what? Gopnik's right. Writing is hard, and fresh shell beans are a great pleasure. Come August or September, chase some of those fresh cranberry beans down at your local farmer's market, shell them, boil them in a little water for about 10 minutes, drain, and toss with kosher salt and good olive oil. Sublime.

02 April 2007


The great not-so-secret pleasure of recovering from abdominal surgery is the freedom to laze about and accomplish little of consequence, all in the guise of illness. I had the day to myself today, without husband or child, and took to my bed with the laptop, some books, some magazines, a stack of gardening catalogs and two telephones. I did actually do a spot of work (internet access to my office lets me pretend to be working and assuages the guilt). And I made some phone calls (follow-up with the surgeon, complaint to the insurance company, job offer to a prospective employee). But mostly, I napped and read and poked around the internet. Don't get me wrong - I'm staggeringly tired and still quite sore - but a reclining position does wonders for both of those afflictions.

Kristof Led Donations

I've just realized that, thus far this year, most of my charitable giving has been either very close to home (my kid's daycare, the non-profit I work for), or prompted by a Times column written by Nick Kristof.

At the end of February, he had a heartrending column about a childbirth injury called obstetric fistula (sorry, Times Select). I promptly sent small gifts to the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital in Ethiopia (video link), and to the Edna Hospital in Somalia (video link). I hope that others did too.

Last week, he had a column about microfinance, with a spotlight on a small organization that matchmakes little loans. In just a few minutes, I used my Paypal account to send a $25 loan to a woman in Kenya with a small general store. My $25 was the last of the money she'd requested; I hope that it helps her to accomplish the goals she's set out.

Depending on what Kristof decides to write about next, I could be broke by the end of the year!

Note: The Kiva widget above doesn't show the person that I lent money to - since she's now fully funded, the Kiva widget will rotate amongst others seeking funds.

01 April 2007

Sludge, but no Stones

My gall bladder is no longer with us. In its place are four little holes and some significant pain across the middle of my belly. But the very nice nurses provided lots of Dilaudid in the recovery room, and I went home with script for Percocet.

It turned out that, contrary to what the radiologist had said, there were no gallstones, just a bunch of sludge. So, my mother was disappointed because we can't compare stones (she has a baby food jar full of the stones from her gall bladder removal in 1969), and W. is disappointed because he doesn't get cufflinks made from my gallstones. Oh well.

Everyone at the little local hospital was very nice, although the anesthesiologist was humorless. I think he would not have been amused had we been blasting "I Wanna Be Sedated" as we had been when the anesthesiologist came to put in the epidural when I was in labor with Miss M.

One odd little flashback happened in the elevator - among other signage was a listing for the Cornell Center for Reproductive Medicine and Infertility. I didn't realize that they had an outpost at my little local hospital.