Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Why Feminism?

The Belle Jar posted this comic on Facebook today, and I couldn't help but repost it. It's seriously so relevant, and so true. Original comic can be found at 'my little sketchbook' (Katarzyna Babis' tumblr).

Katarzyna Babis
Katarzyna Babis
Katarzyna Babis
Katarzyna Babis

Katarzyna Bab

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Find of the Day: Dreams Are Real

In this midst of mad thesis crunching (Thursday night's Tap-a-Tap Hour doesn't have me in tears yet!), this gave me the courage to go on:

Dreams Are Real from Ryan Barger on Vimeo.

Yes, my fine little kittens, ur, readers, dreams are real.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

"How are you today?"

Felicity is now at the ripe old age of one and half. She has opinions. She has desires. It's almost like she's a little person. (Yes, she is decidedly a tiny human).

Felicity, with her vocabulary of thirty or so words, hasn't quite grasped the subtleties of polite elevator interactions.

Last week:

A woman stepped into the elevator after us. Felicity looked up from her stroller and in a small, sweet voice, said, "Hi!"

The woman smiled at her and greeted her back. Then the woman asked, "How are you today?"

Our downstairs neighbor probably wasn't expecting a response, or maybe she was expecting to hear a tiny, "Fine, how are you?" as is the custom to respond. Not so.

Furrowing her eyebrows, Felicity briskly held a rigid index finger to her bandaged, slightly scraped knee. She uttered a severe sentence or two, which we couldn't much make out besides the word "owee" once or twice.


Ian and I have been sick with the flu since Friday night. While we are finally starting to recover, Felicity has been feeling pretty miserable today. I took the baby out in the stroller this afternoon to pick up our CSA box, and she bravely sat quietly for most of the ride, only complaining a little when we walked past the playground.

After getting back into the building with the stroller and bags of groceries, I saw one of the MBA students, resplendent in suit and tie, coming into the building after us. Kind soul that I am, I held the elevator for him.

After the doors closed and we'd pushed our respective buttons, Felicity looked up at him and greeted him with a small and serious, "Hi."

He smiled, and said hello back. He then asked how she was. He was decidedly not ready for what she had to tell him.

Bear in mind that... some of what Felicity says is comprehensible to Ian or myself. Like I said, Flick has a small (but effective) vocabulary. It was apparently not large enough (at least in English) to express how bad she was feeling and what a terrible day she'd had.

In her tirade, from the lobby to the fifth flour, she told the young man in great detail about how it was to be a toddler and feel bad, how her (mean) parents wouldn't take her to the playground, expressly against her frequent requests, and who knows what else. Pretty much, a whole lot of baby-talk in an exaggerated, complaining voice. She sounded like a grandmother talking about her sciatica in an alien language.

Exiting the elevator, the MBA student said, "That's how I feel too. That's how I feel too."

I love having a toddler.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Review: Flaubert's Parrot

Flaubert's Parrot
Flaubert's Parrot by Julian Barnes

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Flaubert's Parrot has been on my "To Read" list for YEARS. To my delight, it was available on audiobook from the NYPL, and I downloaded it to my phone to listen to whilst walking about the city, riding the subway, and doing laundry in the evening.

I hesitate to even write that I hated it because I know it's supposed to be a great book. I'm sure it IS a great book. I tried. I really, really tried. I listened to just about half of the book before giving up completely in boredom.

Okay, okay, I know this book is about Flaubert, but I didn't expect it to really ONLY be about Flaubert. I usually find Julian Barnes to be an exceptionally interesting and engaging author that could make a housefly interesting, so I was disappointed to be increasingly annoyed at Flaubert, instead of, say, interested or engaged in his life and story. I feel that either this book should've had more framing (I did enjoy the little framing there was about the doctor who was interested in Flaubert and his story), or Barnes should've just written a biography on Flaubert. Random lists of quotes and dates just didn't do it for me.

If you're interested in Flaubert (I really am not) and don't mind more of a history lesson than a novel, you'll enjoy this, I promise. Please disregard my low-brow analysis and find a copy for yourself.

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Monday, July 15, 2013

Review: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Vol. 1

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Vol. 1
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Vol. 1 by Denise Mina

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

You've read the books. You've watched the movies (and are waiting with anticipation for the second and third American installments). A graphic novel series too? Yes, please.

The artwork is fantastic, the main plot is represented well, and Stieg Larsson's original magic is present. I highly recommend this to any fans (or if you're just too lazy to read the books - you know who you are...), just be aware that this is Part I of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and so does not represent the full book.

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Monday, July 1, 2013

Review: You Make Me Feel Like an Unnatural Woman: The Diary of a New Mother

You Make Me Feel Like an Unnatural Woman: The Diary of a New Mother
You Make Me Feel Like an Unnatural Woman: The Diary of a New Mother by Judith Newman

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I have very mixed feelings about this book. It made me laugh and laugh - Judith Newman is an incredibly funny writer and has a wonderful way with words. While You Make Me Feel Like an Unnatural Woman is a humorous read, and it was evident that Newman was struggling with her new role as mother, with her finances, and her marriage, she never really went too deep below the surface. She allows you glimpses of her actual thoughts, but doesn't write with any depth. There is nothing wrong with this, necessarily, just don't pick it up if you're looking for a mothering memoir that deals with the meat of being a mom and how it changes your identity.

I originally read this for my thesis (I'm reviewing a number of mothering memoirs) specifically because she is an older mom, and there aren't many mothering memoirs out there dealing with age. I'm not sure I can use it though as Newman never really went to any deep emotional place. I'm not sure how I didn't know it wouldn't be more serious, certainly the title should've tipped me off!

This is a thoroughly enjoyable read, and you'll certainly have fun if you're a parent yourself, especially a new(ish) parent living in NYC.

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Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Review: Why We Write: 20 Acclaimed Authors on How and Why They Do What They Do

Why We Write: 20 Acclaimed Authors on How and Why They Do What They Do
Why We Write: 20 Acclaimed Authors on How and Why They Do What They Do by Meredith Maran

My rating: 0 of 5 stars

I couldn't get through Why We Write quickly enough. Suddenly I find myself bemoaning the fact I'm working on a master's thesis and not working on a novel instead! Really though, this book is filled with such interesting essays and information. The editing is superb; the writers chosen are varied in genre, age, and experience, and I had such fun reading how they got started in their writing careers, their individual writing processes, and tips for writing well.

This is a fantastic book for a would-be writer (maybe something to help give the final push?), the discouraged writer, or the enthusiastic reader who would like to know more about the writing process.

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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Review: Why Have Kids?: A New Mom Explores the Truth About Parenting and Happiness

Why Have Kids?: A New Mom Explores the Truth About Parenting and Happiness
Why Have Kids?: A New Mom Explores the Truth About Parenting and Happiness by Jessica Valenti

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I've been looking forward to reading Valenti's book for several weeks. This is a great little book (and a pretty fast read, I got through it in about three hours) for anyone that is just beginning to explore the concept of finding happiness in mothering (though Valenti prefers the term parenting, which I completely get, this book is primarily about mothering). Valenti is an engaging and interesting writer and is sure to make you think about why we have children, the idea of what it is to be a good mother, and how we're all struggling to make sense of ourselves as parents.

However, after reading many, many, many books and articles on feminist mothering, empowered mothering, and the state of mothering today, this book was much the same. See how I still gave it four stars though? If you haven't done the extensive (and ridiculous) amount of reading on mothering that I have (for my graduate work), give this book a go! Really, really!

My two actual complaints about the book: Valenti could be more thorough in her reporting/research. The example off hand is her breastfeeding chapter. While I've certainly mellowed in my fanaticism for breast-feeding, I still think she might've give more research going both ways. This is one example of where she is very one-sided with her research and doesn't give a true, full picture. I generally agreed with all of her overall analysis, I felt I was only getting one side of an argument in a few places in the book.

My second complaint is never really addressing two of the three themes on the cover - why people choose to have kids and finding happiness in parenting. She covers both of these topics (most women feel obligated to have kids as society pushes women to have children; and people without children are happier than those with children, and working moms are happier than stay-at-home moms), but she doesn't really fully engage with either topic. I would've liked to see more discussion on WHY people choose to have children (or is the only reason because we believe we must, or 'oops!'), and more about what it is to be happy and be a parent (or, in particular, a mother).

It was fun reading this after working on the 50th edition The Feminine Mystique for my book club; there are so many parallels and women are still facing such crisis, even a half a decade later.

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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Review: Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook

Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook
Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook by Isa Chandra Moskowitz

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I obtained a copy of Veganomicon months before making the switch over (hell, I wasn't even a vegetarian at that point), and really enjoyed the recipes even then. After becoming a vegan, Veganomicon was that much more valuable. The recipes in this cookbook are great - well thought through, easy to make (most of the time), and typically quite healthy. Isa and Terry write with humor and provide excellent information. And, of course, most importantly, these recipes produce GREAT food. Om-to-the-Nom-Nom good.

While I don't want to make it sound like this is a "Betty Crocker" cookbook of sorts (shows you how to make the basics), Veganomicon is quite comprehensive and has recipes and menus for all occasions (or un-occasions). The recipes are also sorted as well to fit specific needs: soy-free, gluten-free, low fat, fast (under 45 minutes), and "supermarket friendly."

Some of our favorites (and frequently-made): Banana-Nut Waffles (our personal favorite brunch), Cashew Ricotta, Wheat-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies, Cheezy Sauce, Simple Seitan, Chile-Chocolate Mole (out of this world!), Mushroom Gravy (referred to the "Thanksgiving Hero"), and Snobby Joes, to list just a few.

If you're a vegan or enjoy eating plant-based foods, this is a must-have for your cookbook collection.

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Review: The Complete Guide to Vegan Food Substitutions: 200 Foolproof Food Substitutions for Everything from Milk and Meat to Sugar and Soy-Includes Recipes

The Complete Guide to Vegan Food Substitutions: 200 Foolproof Food Substitutions for Everything from Milk and Meat to Sugar and Soy-Includes Recipes
The Complete Guide to Vegan Food Substitutions: 200 Foolproof Food Substitutions for Everything from Milk and Meat to Sugar and Soy-Includes Recipes by Celine Steen

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was the very first vegan cookbook I looked at after making the switch from vegetarian to vegan. While I haven't made many of the recipes, the substitution lists and suggestions are useful and accurate, and the recipes I did try were great. I won't lie, this isn't your healthy vegan cookbook, and I'm not sure how into veggies either of these authors are. But the recipes are full of soul and are good comfort recipes.

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Sunday, May 12, 2013

It's May Already?

I realize it's been an entire month since you've heard from me. Apparently I can only focus on one or two things at a time. (Does anyone else have this problem?)

First there was this problem with my knee, then we all got sick. Sickness lead to an ear infection, and that was followed by insane focus on my research, which was followed by a week of stunning weather in which I completely avoided research, which has melted into a week of rethinking the way we're doing food and revamping our eating (yes, yes, we're still vegans, just trying to clean up our eating a little).

So yes, alive, working, thinking, and not blogging regularly like a good blogger should.

I posted a recipe on Plant Matters for a Cauliflower, Sweet Potato, and Cashew Curry this evening. It's a small offering in lieu of any sort of interesting post. 

Monday, April 8, 2013

Review: Are You My Mother?

Are You My Mother?
Are You My Mother? by Alison Bechdel

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I love Alison Bechdel and worked through almost all of her graphic novels last summer. I was excited when I finally got my hands on a copy of Are You My Mother and eagerly set aside the time to dive in.

And... I just couldn't. I want to say I gave this book a good effort. I tried and tried to read it. I got about halfway and gave up. I guess I'm not into books about trying to write (the meta-self-autobiography) and really hate psychoanalysis. It didn't seem like there was any structure, just a lot of confusion and self-loathing.

I'm sorry Alison Bechdel.

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Sunday, April 7, 2013

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Review: Sharp Objects

Sharp Objects
Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Immediately after finishing Gone Girl, I added my name to the library hold list for both of Gillian Flynn's other novels, Sharp Objects and Dark Places. They both came in this Friday, and I sprinted through Sharp Objects in two days.

I'm an anti-spoiler kind of girl, so I'll keep my review brief. Camille is a 30-something journalist writing in a mid-tier paper in Chicago. Her editor sends her home to Wind Gap, the small city in Missouri she grew up in and has avoided for many years, to write on a developing story about two young girls, one who was found strangled with most of her teeth pulled out, and another who just went missing. Despite recently coming out of major personal conflict herself, Camille takes the story and finds herself back at her mother's home in Wind Gap.

I'll say this: Flynn has a way of writing despicable characters. Similarly to Gone Girl, it's hard to find a likeable primary or secondary character in Sharp Objects. That said, Flynn is such an engaging writer. I found it very difficult to put this book down, despite the troubled antagonist and her series of cringe-worthy past and her seeming inability to make good decisions. The darkness is addictive.

If you enjoyed Gone Girl, definitely give Sharp Objects a read. It's not quite the stunner that Gone Girl is (it's a little more on the pedestrian side of the thriller genre), but the book is an engaging and a great addition to the mystery/thriller genre.

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Friday, March 29, 2013


Two weeks ago as Ian and I were in the bathroom getting ready for bed, he told me how proud he was of me in the last month. I asked him why. After all, if I'm getting a compliment, I like to know (and milk it for all it's worth!). He very sweetly told me how great it was to see me so happy, determined, and focused, that it felt like I had a direction and was working towards my goals. And it was all true!

The next day, as I was out walking with a good friend, and she was complimenting me on my organization (!)* and drive, I mentioned how great I'd been feeling. Hardly a bad mood, feeling over-all more energized, and just... happy. I mentioned how I finally felt like I was 'me', again, how I hadn't felt this good since before I got pregnant, two years ago. As I was saying goodbye to her, it hit me - at I'd been done breastfeeding for a month.

This is in contrast to where I was March 2012 - which I can say with complete confidence (now) was the land of postpartum depression. I was a Gloomy Gus. I was sad and angry, generally felt too tired to do much, and was constantly overwhelmed.

I'm glad that I breastfed Felicity for fifteen months, don't get me wrong. But that isn't to say that we didn't have many difficulties along the way, or that I loved it all (or most) of the time. We were both ready to be done.

* While we have a good calendar system and Ian and I are able to keep to our rigorous budget and keep up most of the time with our to-do list, I don't know if I have been used in the same sentence with 'organized' ever, unless it was to say, "Gee, I wish Rachel was more organized," or, "Rachel is so disorganized." This was, like, a major compliment. I'm pretty sure I blushed.

Friday? Friday.

Sometimes there are too many projects, ideas, and things to do. So instead of making progress on any of them, I get overwhelmed, duck, and make progress on none of them. Why yes, I need to write for an hour, make headway on my memoirs, update the baby book, put two recipes up on Plant Matters, get dinner ready, get my pinterest and facebook links working on both of my blogs, work through two weeks of email, call the pediatrician, read the novel for April's Book Club, and do the laundry. Seems like a perfect time to waste an hour online, no?

My time management was crazy great before my family came last week and I essentially took a week off. Now I can't seem to get out of vacation (lazy) mode.

Consolation? At least we got to the park today, and I saw this smiling, happy face.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Updated Recommended Cookbooks Page on Plant Matters

 I've taken the time to update our recommended cookbooks page on Plant Matters. Looking for a little kitchen inspiration? Check out the cookbooks we love, or browse through our kitchen-tested, lip-smacking recipes


Sunday, March 17, 2013

Top 75 Read Along Books for Mighty Girls

I really cannot say enough wonderful things about A Mighty Girl. This website isn't about girl power (which is problematic in and of itself). A Mighty Girl is about giving girls good role models that fit outside of the typical feminine stereotype.

I was so pleased when I saw this in my Facebook feed today: Top 75 Read Along Books for Mighty Girls.

Of course my own daughter is too young for these books, but yours may not be!

You can support the site (owned and operated by Carolyn Danckaert and Aaron Smith) by clicking by purchasing books through the website. Keep up the good work, A Mighty Girl!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

How Did You Find the Blog?

Some things just crack me up. Seriously.

Unless you have an account with blogger, you probably don't know that it (GOOGLE) shares certain information with me, like how many people click on a post a day, where traffic is routed from, blah blah blah. And no, it doesn't give me specifics about WHO is reading, and how often they come back, although I'm sure I could pay for this if I was very rich. And cared.

In wandering through my "Traffic Sources" I found the following this evening:
  • Most of the people brought in by search keywords are trying to find recipes for spinach rice casserole or blackberry ginger ale. Interesting. Maybe I should do more food blogging? Oh wait... I have another blog for that...
  • SEVEN hits were from people googleing "ladies breast." BWAHAHAH. Disappointment, much? Especially for those would-be readers only looking for ONE breast?
  • Five people found the blog by googleing my name. Good search skills. And I'm not being sarcastic, I literally had to do the same a few years ago when I'd gotten myself locked out and forgot the name of the blog. But 'like' the facebook page and make your life a little easier, I have a really long name. 
  • As of right now, I have 6659 page views (not including my own). Neat! 
Image rom Jezebel - The closest thing to 'ladies breast" you'll find on this blog

So, dedicated reader(s)? How did you find the blog?

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Finally Someone Asks Why Women Usually Change Their Names in Marriage

Jill Filipovic takes on name changes with marriage in a recent Guardian article - and it's about freaking time.

This is one of those issues I find extremely irritating, and I'm frequently reminded of it while reading Facebook updates like Filipovic writes. I've even had the thought, "But I thought you were a feminist!" when I see a name change following a marriage.

I know, I know. I bought into the whole White Dress (although, *cough," mine was ivory, take that as you will). We did the Wedding with the Flowers and the Music and the First Dance (for which we took dancing lessons, yes dancing lessons) and the Cake.

But we also did things our own way. We wrote our own vows (and there was no "promise to obey"). Ian's Buddhist sister got licensed at our behest and married us. We chose to both hyphenate our names, deciding that the order of McCready-Flora sounded better than Flora-McCready. So we became Rachel and Ian McCready-Flora, and just in time for Ian to finish his dissertation and receive his PhD under his new name.

Changing our names together meant that we both went the DMV to get new licenses. We both went through the hassle of dealing with our bank and credit card companies to change out names. We both had fill out mounds of paperwork and wait in long lines to get updated social security cards.

We chose to both hyphenate because neither of us thought it was fair to give up our own last name, and we wanted to have one family name, especially if we decided to have children (we did). We wanted to symbolize our partnership to each other and the equality of our union.

I know I'm going to offend almost everyone on my reading list with this post, but ladies, stand up for your names! Why should a woman be the one to change her identity when she gets married? Actually change her identity if her spouse is not willing to do the same thing? Why, because a man taking his partner's name isn't "manly?"

And if you want to have one family name, find a compromise. Hyphenate. Flip for what name sounds best. Create a new one.

Filipovic draws the connection between a wife taking her husbands name in marriage and the long tradition of women becoming the property of their husbands in marriage:
"Marriage has long meant a woman giving up her identity, and along with it, her basic rights. Under coverture laws, a woman's legal existence was merged with her husband's: "husband and wife are one," and the one was the husband. Married women had no right to own property or enter into legal contracts. It's only very recently that married women could get their own credit cards. Marital rape remained legal in many states through the 1980s. The idea that a woman retains her own separate identity from her husband, and that a husband doesn't have virtually unlimited power over a woman he marries, is a very new one.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Wasting Time

I put Felicity down for her morning nap and was going to update my reading list quickly, then spend the rest of Felicity's napping time reading my current memoir A Double Life: Discovering Motherhood by Lisa Catherine Harper.

And now it's TWO HOURS later. Zero reading of said book as occurred. And the goodreads website isn't even working today, for whatever reason.

Here's what I've done:
 - Completed the first meditation for the 21-day meditation challenge from Oprah & Deepak.
 - Researched getting my own domain name. It's completely flummoxing how much it costs.
 - Considered and reconsidered moving this blog to, and then realizing it doesn't make any difference if I'm not going to splurge for my own domain right now.
 - Updated This, That, and the Other's facebook page (we're up to 41 likes!).
 - Perused the links from Nursing Clio's Sunday Morning Medicine.
 - Emailed my thesis adviser.
 - Watched Justin Timberlake's veg video from his latest SNL appearance on March 9th, 2013. I had no idea he was a vegetarian (or maybe vegan? I could only confirm vegetarian online):

Justin Timberlake - Bring It On Down 2... by IdolxMuzic

I know, I know - I'm usually don't mix my veganism with this blog - but it's just too funny.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Review: Bring Down the Little Birds: On Mothering, Art, Work, and Everything Else

Bring Down the Little Birds: On Mothering, Art, Work, and Everything Else
Bring Down the Little Birds: On Mothering, Art, Work, and Everything Else by Carmen Gimenez Smith

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I actually read this little gem of a book twice(!). Carmen Gimenez Smith is a poet, mother of two, and an assistant professor at New Mexico State University in the English Department. Bring Down the Little Birds is her memoir that simultaneously works through trying to balance a family through her second pregnancy, her teaching, and her writing, while coming to terms with the fact of her own mother's cancer and failing memory.

She is really a beautiful and profound writer, and quite funny at times. She is honest with the sacrifices she makes for her family and children. Gimenez Smith writes poignantly about the internal conflicts that come with motherhood, like the dualism of selflessness and selfishness mothers are forced into. She also writes about the physical and emotional work that comes with having children, how easy it is to be unable to find yourself in mundane tasks like changing diapers and washing what seem to be eternally-full laundry baskets.

I really can't do this book justice in a few sentences. Gimenez Smith is a thoughtful and moving writer. She is able to capture the very essence of the largest conflicts within modern motherhood. Read it, love it, pass it on.

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Review: Black Milk: On Writing, Motherhood, and the Harem Within

Black Milk: On Writing, Motherhood, and the Harem Within
Black Milk: On Writing, Motherhood, and the Harem Within by Elif Shafak

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Black Milk by Elif Shafak differs from most mothering memoirs. This prolific Turkish author relates her experiences and thoughts through two main mediums in this book: through discussion and analysis of female authors who tackled the "motherhood question," and through internal conversations with her "harem within," the 4-6 internal identities that Shafak calls her "Thumbelinas" that represent different parts of her being.

Most mothering memoirs are fairly linear: pregnancy, birth, baby, toddler... maybe some discussion of struggles and thoughts, or on raising a child. Changes. Realizations. Shafak takes a different approach. The first 2/3rds of the book are pre-baby (most pre-husband), when she lives in different parts of the world, is writing, and thinking about the possibility of motherhood for herself. She tackles the question I feel most mothers have (at one point or another): "Can I be a mother and be [ ]?" Shafak's Thumbelinas argue amongst themselves as she travels, writes, falls in love - can Shafak be Shafak (writer, thinker, reader) and be a (good) mother?

Shafak discusses many of the great female authors from all over the world, looking at both their writing and their lives to analyze how they dealt with the possibility of motherhood and all of the roles that accompany it. Shafak looks at dozens, from Sylvia Plath, the Bronte sisters, George Eliot, Jane Austin, Zelda Fitzgerald, to Toshika Tamura and Sevgi Soyask. (I've earmarked about forty more books I want to read just from reading through Black Milk!).

Very little of the book is actually about her own experiences of motherhood, more about her thought process getting there. It isn't even clear if her pregnancy was intentional (although you get the feeling it might not have been), just that it happens (at page 177, so about 2/3rds of the way through the book). She doesn't write much on the actual experience of pregnancy, and nothing on birth, but plunges into the first six months after her the birth of daughter, when she experienced postpartum depression.

As mentioned earlier, Black Milk is very different from most mothering memoirs. It's very intellectual (in all of the right ways) and is a very thorough discussion on some of the questions I've been asking as a new mom. It seems impossible at times to balance the demands of a child, a household, and the individual. We make sacrifices, no matter what we choose. Shafak's discussion on identity and decision highlight the many and varied tensions that women and mothers (especially those women and mothers that write) must face.

Four stars for this book as, although it was beautifully and thoughtfully written, I feel the final third felt forced or rushed? Her discussion on postpartum depression didn't seem as well penned as the rest of the memoir.

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Saturday, March 2, 2013

Question for my Readers

Hello Friendly Readers!

For my thesis project, I'm analyzing mothering memoirs, looking for a themes in empowerment, guilt, identity, and desire. I'm sure more things will crop up, you never know.

My question for you: Are there any memoirs on mothering that you think I should be including, or that you found particularly helpful or moving? I'm trying to find a full spectrum, so memoirs by both feminist (or feminist-aligned) and non-feminist mothers.

I think I have a pretty good list, but I'm always looking for input. Let me know if you have any thoughts!

Review: Gone Girl

Gone Girl
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It is hard to right an adequate review of Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn without saying too much. I promise up front, no spoilers!

I waited an obscenely long time on the NYPL's hold list for this book after hearing rave reviews from my book club members. I knew three things:

1). The book is about a married couple.
2). Gone Girl isn't your typical whodunit.
3). Every person I know who has read Gone Girl has loved it. Stayed up all night to read loved it.

Seriously, that was it.

Gillian Flynn is a master - she writes great plot, interesting (albeit a bit unlikeable) characters, and does it all with quite a clever hand. The book was incredibly detailed in all the right ways. I had some serious trouble putting it down, and can't wait to get my hands on Flynn's other books. I absolutely have to add her to my favorite mystery author list with Tana French and Agatha Christie. And Janet Evanovich (not!).

My only gripe: I'm not totally in love with the ending. The book still gets five stars though for being immensely engaging and a whole lot of fun.

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Thursday, February 28, 2013

Review: Writer Mama: How to Raise a Writing Career Alongside Your Kids

Writer Mama: How to Raise a Writing Career Alongside Your Kids
Writer Mama: How to Raise a Writing Career Alongside Your Kids by Christina Katz

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I read Writer Mama by Christine Katz as part of a month-long writing course this February. Before reading it, I knew practically nothing about what it would take to be a freelance writer.

After reading it:
- I know what I want to write about and how to find audiences for what I have to say.
- I can write a query or cover letter
- I know how to write several different kinds of articles (how-to, list, personal essay, etc.)
- I have a good idea what I need to do do market myself
- I know how to keep track of my expenses for tax purposes
- I can in general can see how freelance writing could be a plausible source of income.

Katz provides clear instructions and examples in addition to immensely helpful exercises. If you're a mom (or dad) that is looking to bring in some extra cash through writing, this book is a fantastic place to start.

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Review: Anything for Jane: A Novel

Anything for Jane: A Novel
Anything for Jane: A Novel by Cheryl Mendelson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Anything for Jane is Cheryl Mendelson's the last installment in her Morningside Heights trilogy. While I loved the first book, Morningside Heights, and really liked Work, Love, Children, I have mixed feelings about this book. The plot is interesting and Mendelson again tackles class issues in New York City. I won't give any spoilers, but will just say that she took the story where I didn't think she would or could. I hadn't been so surprised by a book ending in quite awhile (good surprised? bad surprised?), and really had a difficult time putting this one down to, you know, sleep.

While Mendelson writes about the neighborhood I live in and love, I find her omniscient voice and detail a bit aggravating in this book. I'm not sure if her writing was less refined in this one, I cared about the characters less, or perhaps the story just couldn't carry the writing this time.

Final analysis: If you read and liked the first two in the Morningside Heights series, you should go and ahead and read it. It is nice to see old characters again, and the book was overall an enjoyable read.

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Thursday, February 21, 2013

Writing, Writing, and More Writing

While I'm not technically enrolled in classes right now, I've been loosely working on my thesis for over a year. And by loosely working, I mean that I was very occasionally reading and taking notes until I changed my topic over the summer. Then I was working about once or twice a week here and there, until I finally kicked into high gear in November. Not a coincidence that this is when we were able to get a babysitter to hang with Felicity a few mornings a week, and I got more serious about carving out specific times when I get to leave the house and work.

I've been focusing my attention on an independent study that I never completed before we moved to New York. My professor was very gracious about the whole thing (I was pregnant and working and sick, so she just said to finish it whenever). I had a draft done in early January, waited over a month for the professor to look at it, and then basically rewrote almost all of it in the last 10 days. It's 28 pages long. I'm immensely proud of myself. I'm not going to claim it's the most polished thing I've produced, but it's a good solid paper with original theory.

And, the really great part is, after I get this thing in tomorrow (I have four hours of childcare in the
morning so I can put my finishing touches on it and get my annotated bibliography done), I get to focus on my thesis.

The background research is already done and I'm going to challenge myself to write for one hour every day, even on the days few days a week where I there isn't carved out time for me to work.

What is my thesis about, you ask?

Empowerment in mothering. I'm reading through mothering memoirs and looking at themes of empowerment, guilt, desire, and identity. After just writing almost thirty pages about empowerment and guilt in the second and third waves of feminism, I've feel like I have a running start. I originally was going to conduct a qualitative studies about feeding decisions of new mothers (in relation to guilt), but given that a) I want to finish my degree this summer at the latest, and b) once I am finished with my degree I can either start writing for money or find a job, a lady has to do what a lady has to do.

And, if current trends continue, I'll have a thesis that is 120 pages long instead of 80 pages. And my adviser will kill me. 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Find of the Day: The Calorie Detective

Have five minutes? Watch the video:

I love that calorie counts are enforced in NYC and am glad to hear that most chain restaurants nationwide will be forced to give their counts as well. However, I had no idea that the given calorie counts aren't tested. I thought companies were at least being audited by the FDA on a semi-regular basis, just as the health department will show up unannounced and do a check.

Why have a law (and a good law at that) if it isn't going to be enforced?

Friday, February 8, 2013

Perfume Genius, Heteronormativity, and the Idea of Safety

I've been listening the album Put Your Back N 2 It by Perfume Genius (Mike Headras) on Spotify for a few months now and have been really enjoying it. I'll admit, it was usually on in the background and I didn't pay much attention to the words, just loved the overall sound and feeling of it.

I was on HuffPost today for whatever reason, and ended up clicking on a story about a gay porn star that committed suicide a few days ago in New York City (Arpad Miklos). As I was reading the story, it referenced a music video that Mr. Miklos performed in with Mike Headras. Of course I clicked on it, and it's beyond lovely and moving.

See what I mean?

HuffPost reported that this video had been banned from YouTube. The music video is up today (I hope you just watched it, or are about to watch it), and in following the in-text links from HuffPost, it looks like a 16-second promo for the album is what was actually banned from YouTube.

YouTube apparently banned the promo because it wasn't "family safe," writing the following:

"The ad has been disapproved because it violates our Adult Image/Video Content policy. Per this policy, video content, audio, static imagery, and site content must be family safe. Any ads that contain non family safe material are disapproved. I noted to the team that the people in the video are not entirely unclothed, but the overall feeling of the video is one of a more adult nature, including promoting mature sexual themes and what appears to be nude content. As such, the video is non family safe. In order to have this video ad approved, you will need to bring it into compliance with our policy."

Of course, as HuffPost pointed out, YouTube most likely would not have had an issue with the video if it featured a heterosexual couple instead of homosexual one.

I know, I know, this is old news (a whole year old, and I'm pretty sure internet years are like dog years). Even though this issue has since been resolved, the banning of a harmless promotion really irked me. I wrote about the potential harm of assuming heterosexuality two weeks ago (part of the overarching theme of heteronormativity we find ourselves in), and THIS is the result: the blindness that people and organizations have about putting heterosexuality over homosexuality, and marginalizing people that don't fit into nice little boxes of "masculine," "feminine," and "straight." (And really, is anyone 100% straight? I'm not.)

A quote from Headras:

"Why are straight women always walking with their hands in the back pocket of their boyfriends' jeans? Would I do that all the time too if I didn't have to think about it? Alan [Hadreas's boyfriend] and I hold hands in specific parts of the city and sometimes outside of those parts. But there is always a little 'catch'; no matter how much I think the shame and fear is gone, there is always a little something in the back of my mind. I am almost embarrassed sometimes when we are holding hands, and that fucking infuriates me. I can't even imagine that hesitation ever going away, and that makes me very sad."

Where do I feel safe? I feel safe almost everywhere. I feel safe in my apartment, in my parents' home, in my neighborhood, and really anywhere that Ian and I go together. I feel safe holding hands with him, even kissing or hugging him in public. I feel safe in my sexuality.

I find it saddening to imagine a world where none of that is true, or only bits and pieces are true. I have never had to "come out of the closet." I don't worry about my family rejecting me for wanting to have sex with the person I love. I don't worry about not being able to express the gender I identify with. I don't worry about being unable to find gainful employment because I'm open an openly straight person (I worry about finding gainful employment for other reasons!).

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Review: The Paris Wife

The Paris Wife
The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I read The Paris Wife with my book club this month. I started the novel without knowing anything about it, so was surprised when Ernest Hemingway popped up immediately. Sometimes I guess it helps to read a book jacket before starting something so you know what you're getting into!

I both loved and hated The Paris Wife. We all know that Ernest Hemingway was a sexist alcoholic, and not very likeable (read: JERK). On the one hand it was quite interesting to see an account from a lover's perspective - what attracted Hadley to Hemingway and what a magnetic person he could be. On the other hand, I wanted to wake Hadley up again and again, to say, "He's not worth your time or your sacrifice!"

This poor woman gave up everything for Hemingway, and while affectionate and passionate, he took and took from her, then disposed of her with quite a bit of callousness and cruelty. And she let him. She never stood up for herself for longer than a day or two, always caving to him because 'that's what love is'.

Towards the end of the novel Hadley admits that she was so subservient as both she and Hemingway had assertive, loud, and over-powering mothers, and she wanted to avoid becoming that. What she doesn't see is that Hemingway doesn't offer her another alternative besides the over-bearing wife or the doormat wife. There is no sense of partnership or mutual respect. Instead of 'loving too much,' it seems there was a hollowness to their love.

McLain is an interesting and engaging writer. She clearly did her research before writing The Paris Wife. The story did drag at points, or include seemingly unnecessary scenes for the plot, which seemed to beg for additional editing, but I think this was probably because McLain wanted to include as many of the recorded events and conversations as she could.

Four stars for the writing, two stars for the story (which equates me giving 2 stars to history I realize, I guess I can't help but hate Hemingway for being who he was).

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Friday, February 1, 2013

A Writing Course and Friday Update

I signed up for an online writing workshop specifically for stay-at-home moms. I know, it sounds a little silly, but I'm really excited about the whole thing! the workshop is through Writer's Digest and we officially started yesterday. By the end of February, I'll have written an essay and submitted it to a magazine of my choice with a cover letter. I'm thrilled.

Did any of you know I was interested in writing? I didn't know myself until we moved to New York, and Ian kept encouraging me to give it a try. I now have two book ideas: a starting guide to veganism, and a book about raising a daughter as a feminist. I also want to do a cookbook at some point, and my fabulous food-photographer friend that lives in Argentina promised she'd do the pictures (maybe she didn't know that I actually plan to write a cookbook at some point, but hey,  promise is a promise!).

My class is reading Writer Mama by Christine Katz. I'm only a chapter in but already finding it quite useful. Interested in writing, and a partial or full time stay-at-home mom? It's worth your $15, I promise.

 - - -

In unrelated news, Felicity is 14 months today and had three steps this morning, and my husband turned 30 this week. To celebrate his birthday, we're heading to Cafe Blossom, an awesome vegan restaurant in the Upper West Side, and I'm taking him to an Upright Citizens Brigade show afterwards. My, we're going to have such a lovely time.

And in seriously unrelated news, my never-ending headache is gone! I had the damned thing for over two months (and more migraines than usual), but simultaneously started a new medication and incorporating trace mineral drops into my diet and POOF, headache gone.

Personally, I think my body was short on magnesium, which also explains why I only got one headache over Christmas - I was obsessed taking my dad's chewy multi-vitamins twice a day. (They tasted like peaches, what can I say). So, I've also added a multi-vitamin back into my life, as well as an additional magnesium supplement.

I'm seriously a different person, I feel so much better.

That's all. Have a wonderful weekend readers!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Felicity's First Boyfriend

Names have been changed for privacy.

"...And Felicity's boyfriend will be here tomorrow night for dinner," my mom said with a smile as she folded a towel. I paused what I was doing and looked at her.

I was visiting my family for two weeks over Christmas, and my mom had invited her close friend Georgia, along with her husband and one-year-old son, Julian, over for dinner on New Year's Eve.

I was really excited to see Georgia; she's been a sort of surrogate big-sister/mentor for me since my teen years. I cried when she miscarried her first pregnancy, and was thrilled to find out she was expecting again, a few days after I found out I was pregnant with Felicity. Julian is about three months older than my small offspring, and, apparently, is Felicity's intended.

"Mom," I said softly, "Julian isn't Felicity's boyfriend." I paused. "Felicity can only have a boyfriend if she can consent to have a boyfriend, and she hasn't yet, she's much too little to make a choice like that."

We turned back to the still-warm towels and continued folding, moving on to conversation about what we would serve for dinner, and my plans to bake that evening.

The next afternoon, while Felicity took her afternoon nap, my older sister and I sorted through a large tub of pink baby clothes passed down by one of my aunts. My mom was straightening the kitchen and living room, a seemingly endless task with two toddler grandchildren hell-bent on spreading duplos and board-back books to every possible corner. She stopped by the table to check our progress with the clothes.

"Felicity's boyfriend will be here in about an hour," she said, encouraging us to finish our project and clean up the aftermath as swiftly as possible before the company arrived.

"Mom!" I snapped, more harshly than I intended, "Julian is not Felicity's boyfriend!" I furiously picked up a pink sweater and folded it quickly, messily. "She isn't old enough to speak for herself. She isn't old enough to choose to date someone and to say if she'll even like boys. She may decide she wants to date girls!"

I couldn't look up to meet my mother's eyes. My sweet and loving Christian mother holds very different views on sexuality and morality and I'm sure I offended her on many levels. I felt bad that I reacted so hotly and that I had most likely caused pain, but I also didn't regret my words.

"But in as much as Julian is a boy, and in as much as he is her baby friend, then yes, he is Felicity's boy friend, a friend that is a boy," I conceded.

"Yes," she said quietly, "That's what I mean."

I know she meant well, but I also know it isn't what she meant. I know because it's what I grew up in, the endless matching of this person to that person, always female and male. It's odd that I basically wasn't allowed to date at all throughout high school (yet did, on the sly, once or twice), but I was often verbally paired with someone from church that met with my parents' approval.

This is part of the problem though, isn't it? It seems so innocent and sweet, to tease about babies dating, or even to tease your teenage daughter about which boy in her youth group is cute (although only boys who get good grades, are "serious about the Lord," and intend to go to very good Christian colleges are presented as options). And haven't I been tempted to do the same thing with some of the New York mamas with some seriously sweet and adorable baby boys?

But I abstain, because what I said to my mom is absolutely true: I don't know if Felicity will be interested in men or women when she grows up. I don't know if she'll decide she wants to identify as a female. For all I know, she may resent the fact that she has such a feminine name and go by Brian instead (her middle name, which I'm suddenly convinced we wrote out as 'Brain' on her birth certificate), and decide to have her breasts removed. I do know that whoever and whatever she chooses to identify as, I want to support her completely. I never want her to feel any shame about who she is, what she feels, or what she wants. I don't want to assume anything about her that will cause her harm, or the harm of others.

And that's really what this is about. Statistically, my daughter will choose to identify as a female and will be attracted to men. But by assuming that this is the case and joking about it, we reinforce that heterosexuality is expected, that it is what is normal and right. This belief is why homosexual and queer kids are bullied in school, why adults find it difficult to find work if they dress or act outside of the binary of male/masculine and female/feminine, why our country is having such a difficult time accepting the possibility of gay marriage.

For now my daughter's bangs are swept to the side with a little bow as they grow out, but she also listens to stories about how a baby bird has two mommy birds, or two daddy birds, and all of the dinosaurs in her books are strong, decisive lady dinosaurs.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Review: Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

It normally takes me 3-5 days to finish an interesting piece of fiction. It took me a whole MONTH to read this book. The writing seemed really spotty in places, and it took me 2/3 the way through the book to actually get interested in the story. I found it difficult to put the book down in the final 50 pages or so, but I want to say that that was in spite of Jamie Ford's writing. I found him to be dull to read, and clich├ęd in places.

Final analysis? Interesting story had someone else told it. Had this not been for my book club, I wouldn't have bothered after the first 40 pages.

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Friday, January 11, 2013

I think I can safely call this ironic.

I fed Felicity spaghetti tonight. It was a simple but messy affair. In removing her from her chair, carrying her to the bathroom, stripping her down, and getting her into the tub, I found myself covered in little saucy hand prints, globs of tomatoes, and even a few noodles. I removed my dirty top and threw it in the laundry, and pulled a freshly laundered sweater out of my dresser drawer and over my head.

Four hours later, I looked down and found a dried noodle stuck on/in my sweater that had survived our washing machine from the last  time Felicity had spaghetti for dinner.

Parenting. New thrills every day.

[Please note that this picture was taken before she smeared spaghetti into her hair and over her eyebrows. Please also note the pasta delicately draped over her the arm of her chair. I'm raising an artist here.]