Wednesday, November 28, 2012

recipe for AIR (bad language alert!)

Put air in a pretend salad bowl and eat it with an invisible spoon. Makes 1 serving for someone who ate so FUCKING much in the past week that I am still waiting for some kind of gluttony summons.

Oh, did you want a real recipe? For water? No? Okay. My most recent iteration of Kale slaw, called "Dinosaur Slaw" was in the November FamilyFun and is on the Parents website here (plus, that is the aproned and purple-clad torso of the very lovely Abigail Shirley Newman, aka Birdy). This is so good, you won't believe it: the hot dressing wilts the kale a little (rub it around with your hands, if you can stand to, to wilt it more), and it's all I want to eat right now. Please note, though, that it's sherry vinegar--not sherry, cooking or otherwise (I say this because even the food stylist was confused at the photo shoot). In a pinch, white-wine vinegar is fine. Red would probably be fine too! Also, please note that you might have to sign in there, but it's free. Report back if there are problems.

In other news, we went with my parents to the Andy Warhol exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and it was completely fantastic. Pop art is so great for kids--there's so much to connect to, to be wowed by, to laugh at and wonder over. This Ellsworth Kelly installation, Spectrum VI, was not part of it--we just happened to walk past it--but boy was it right up my alley, like paint chips, but for a giant.

Ben and Birdy are in this picture! But you can't see them because they're camouflaged! 

Did you know that I collect color-sample charts? I do. I have, I think, six of them framed in the house. Some are old. One of them is tiny bags of beads and sequins in all different colors from the amazing Alabama Chanin.

Another is also from Alabama Chanin, and it's the cotton-jersey-swatch card:

Also (transition to this paragraph currently unavailable) I just finished Caitlin Moran's How to Be a Woman, and I loved it so much. She is like Tina Fey, as people say, but cruder in a way that wholly appeals to me. This is her on the "proper muff"she thinks every woman needs (yay!):

"A big, hairy minge. A lovely furry moof that looks – when she sits, naked – as if she has a marmoset sitting in her lap. A tame marmoset, that she can send off to pickpocket things, should she so need it – like that trained monkey in Raiders of the Lost Ark."

Oh I do love her. And this too, which I lifted from someone on facebook named "Crazy Dumbsaint of the Mind," who kindly gave me permission to put it here:

This is so brilliant and funny it kills me.
Some people here were surprised and angry with me around the election, but the thing is? I'm gentle and loving, I am, and I make a killer cream-cheese frosting and a beautiful holiday banner--but I'm also fierce and and pissed, and a total, unapologetic, old-school feminist with a marmoset in my lap. I know you know that, but it bears mentioning.


Monday, November 19, 2012

The Annual Holiday Games Post

Oh, it's game season! For playing and giving. Money spent on a good game is money well spent, I think: the amount of play value is almost incalculable. As you may know, I’ve been recommending games for the holidays for a while now, so please allow me to refer you to this post, in which I link to all the other places where I’ve described games (and toys and books) in the past. There are also some holiday-gift recipes in the post. More game links are here, hereherehere, here, and here. Holiday books round-up here. For this year, let me start with the crazy gamer games and then move into the more conventional ones:
Seafarers of Catan is another of those games (like Acquire or, kill me, Risk) that does something weird to me, and I can’t pretend it’s good. And by weird I mean testosterone. During a recent game, I got so mad at Michael that I had the humiliating experience of the kids saying, “Mama, Mama, he wasn’t trying to screw you. You have to get over it or it’s really not going to be fun for you.” Sigh. Still, I always want to play. And the kids, who are better sports than I am, love it. Please note that you need to get the original (and very excellent) basic Catan first; this is, as we gamers say, an “expansion.”

It is so not okay to use as the theme of your game the Colonial occupation of an island nation, especially given that the indigenous people who weren’t wiped out by violence and disease were enslaved by the same brutal plantations that this game celebrates. So. If you are up for doing a little thematic intervention about the terrible politics of the game, then Puerto Rico is an excellent game, from the standpoint of gaming: complex, strategic, always interesting. My children are willing to play even given that I have to speak constantly about how offensive it is, so you know it’s a good game.
Chris Perry? Is that you?

I’ve mentioned Bohnanza before—the bean-trading game with bad art—but I’ve never mentioned it in the context of holiday gift-giving, for which it is excellent: easy to learn, fun to play, and not insanely expensive. Also, legumes! You won’t have the added pleasure of Ben’s thinking that the Soy Bean looks like a friend of ours, but you’ll still enjoy it.

It’s a total Chinese Checkers renaissance around here. We’ve been playing with  “super” version rules, which is insanely fun and, if you know the game, really eliminates that boring mid-game congestion that can sap your will to live. Do try to get the version of the game that comes with iridescent marbles. They’re so beautiful I always want to put them in my mouth (Maybe that’s not a selling point?). Our friend Ava, whose family has the same set as us, has named all the colors: Dragon, Gubble Bum, Mustard, Ocean, Fire, and, my favorite, Almond Bath Bubble.

Booby-Trap is also enjoying a renaissance. I once recommended a newfangled version of it on amazon, but look on ebay! 12 bucks will get you the exact version we have, which is both delightful and esthetically pleasing. But if your kids are the sort to argue over potential turn-ending nanovibrations during pick-up-sticks, this is not the game for them.

Wait, this isn't a video game? They told me it was a video game.
This is Perplexus Epic. Do you need a large, clattery, and expensive ball of plastic in your house? Kind of! It’s a 3-D maze and, for us, it’s sort of a compromise—like a mechanical version of a video game, given that the kids don’t do a lot of screen stuff. It seems good for the old hand-eye coordination and logic-development, if you go in for those sorts of things. Plus, it’s great for odds and ends of time and, strangely, social: they watch each other play, even though you can’t begin to imagine why. If your kids are new to this large, clattery, expensive plastic phenomenon, then start with the original, less-epic Perlexus.

A total trip down candy-memory lane, right?
If a large, fun jigsaw puzzle is in your holiday-vacation plans, please allow me to recommend Candy Wrappers. We did it with our friends Meg and Pete over the summer, and I can’t think of one I’ve liked better. Oooh, except for this one, which is delicious in more of a Frank Lloyd Wright kind of way.

Eye Can Art Kits. Full disclosure: the lovely Eye Can Art folks sent us the Layered Wax Drawing Kit to test out, and Birdy loved it. The other kit that’s really catching our eye is the Sumi-e Ink Painting Kit. Ooh, and the cut-paper kit. The quality is absolutely fantastic, and the project we did was very thoughtfully conceived and explained.

That said, it’s a little bit on the expensive side, and you wish there were a little more in the can—ours had enough material to complete two projects—but you could supplement easily with inexpensive stuff from Michael’s.
Can you see how lovely this is? It's got layers of paper and wax and cray-pas, and it's stunning.
They’re offering a coupon code until December 17th: “HOLIDAYKITS12 may be used on our website for $5 off your order at Limit one discount per order.”

Unbored: The Essential Field Guide to Serious Fun Another full disclosure: the publishers sent us this book. But I like it a lot or, I promise, I wouldn’t be mentioning it. (For instance, have you heard me recommending an energy bar made entirely of whey? Or a cookbook filled entirely with meatloaf recipes? I didn’t think so.) It’s huge, illustrated, a little campy, a little retro. The kids made a vibrating tongue-depressor harmonica/kazoo from it. They play a game from it called “the game” that is a total mind fuck. They love that it’s not gender-specific. This is from the press release: “Most of its 352 full-color pages are dedicated to activities — the best of the old (crafts, bicycle repair, science experiments), and the new (geocaching, yarn bombing, LED “graffiti”) — for boys and girls to do on their own and with their parents. It's a hands-on, DIY book with contributions from three dozen talented experts in their various fields.” Please note Birdy’s classic sign of approval: the million post-it notes.

Ben modeling a sardine sandwich for ChopChop.

ChopChop: Full disclosure: I edit this kids’ cooking magazine! But it’s so, so great that if you haven’t subscribed, you should! Ben and Birdy cook us whole, entire meals from it. If that’s not worth the $14.95 subscription price, I don’t know what is.

Stripy jar sweater not included.

Cuppow. A final full disclosure: I was not famous enough for these people to bother sending me a press sample, and STILL I LOVE IT ANYWAY. It’s a BPA-free plastic lid that turns a mason jar into a hot or cold to-go cup. Brilliant. There’s a wide-mouth one and a regular mouth one, and I bought them both and plan to buy more as gifts. (Note: Will you feel, dorkily, like you're drinking coffee from a grown-up sippy cup? Yes. Will that stop you? No.)

Also for grown-ups:

 This book is perfect, as I know I've mentioned.

And this book is perfect too.

What are you guys playing, reading, making, giving? And should we do a give-away on Amazon? Of what?

Friday, November 09, 2012

Simplest Butter-Sauced Cabbage

Okay, I hear you, my fellow CSA sufferers luckyheads. Turnips, beets, soups, slow cooker recipes. I am on it. But I’m hearing “cabbage” too, and it reminded me that this is a recipe I always intend to share, even though it’s embarrassingly simple. It’s our go-to cabbage recipe, in fact, even though roasted cabbage is delicious and far more glamorous. 

But this is somehow comfortingly sweet and plain, and the children have always absolutely loved it. In fact, I asked Birdy to hold the dish for my photo, and then she ate all of it, and all the rest of it from the serving bowl too. Ah, cabbage. It’s like potato chips. Only without being anything like potato chips.

Simplest Butter-Sauced Cabbage
The amounts here really depend, as does the cooking time, on your cabbage: how fresh it is, how much there is. But what I recommend is a generous hand with the butter and salt, and then add enough vinegar that you can just start to taste it. Only make this with nice, fresh fall cabbage. Once the cabbage has been stored for a while, it won’t be so sweet and lovely.

Sweet, fresh green or white cabbage, halved, cored, and cut into 1-inch squares
Cider Vinegar
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper

Put the cabbage in a steamer basket over an inch of boiling water, cover it, and steam it until tender. Check it at 5 minutes, but it will likely not be done until closer to 10 (or longer, it's possible, especially if there's lots of it). You want it to be completely tender to your teeth, but not, you know, supersoft in that gross cabbage-y way.

Drain the cabbage very well, then put it in a bowl and add a nice big knob of butter, lots of salt and pepper, and 2 or 3 capfuls of cider vinegar (I don’t know why I measure it in the cap, but I always do). Toss it well, then taste a piece. It will likely need more salt and vinegar. Add whatever it needs, taste it, and repeat until it is sweet, just barely tangy, saucy, and delicious.
I only used half of it because I didn't realize that Birdy was starving for cabbage.

After my planet sent me down on an abduction mission, I became a handy kitchen device!
Before steaming.
After steaming.
The bottom of my cider bottle has something called a "mother" floating in it. You don't even want to know.
Don't skimp on the butter!

Thursday, November 08, 2012

a deep poem and a boring promise

photo courtesy of Ben Newman

by Birdy Newman

Happiness bubbles inside you
And then explodes
Into a shower of joy

A smile
On your face

And suddenly the whole world seems brighter


Love to you all. All of you. I am so glad you're here. Recipe coming soon. Any requests? xo

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Monday, November 05, 2012


photo courtesy of Ben Newman
Dear ones, I hope you are all safe and sound after Hurricane Sandy. I am checking in today just to say, "Vote tomorrow, please!"

It's amazing to have this barometer of the children's growth and development, isn't it? Four years ago, when Obama was elected for the first time, Ben was 9 and Birdy was 5. And four years before that, Ben was 5 and Birdy was 1. (I'm just showing off now, being such a crazy subtraction prodigy and all.) But I was remembering Ben asking, during that election 8 years ago, "So, if George Bush were driving in his car, and he saw me, would he try to run me over?" And I realized in that moment that perhaps we had not offered a very nuanced interpretation of good and bad.

But oh, I am feeling it, this hope again. Hope for justice, for fairness, for compassion and intelligence and the understanding that women must retain the right to make decisions about our own health and well-being, that healthcare is a right, that we must prosper together and the rich should not get richer at the expense of the poor. Among many, many other things. I know you understand.

I was explaining to the kids about the voting machines in Ohio--just the fact that, in two counties, in a swing state, the voting machines are owned by an investment firm that's done business with Tagg Romney, an investment firm whose executives are some of the biggest-ever donors to the Romney campaign. And the thing about kids? They understand intuitively, about fairness. "Even if they don't cheat," Birdy said, "It just feels like cheating already." Like if you happened to buy the field where your kid's big soccer championship was going to be held. What? I'm not influencing the game. Just standing here, owning the field, is all. You, yeah, you--this is actually my field. No, go ahead, keep playing. I'm just saying.

That culture of wealth and intimidation? It's not how I want my children to grow up. Which is why--spoiler alert--I'm voting for Obama tomorrow. Also, I worry that Romney would actually try to run the kids over.