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Wednesday, September 18th, 2013
A powerful voice burst into the world yesterday when Barnard College president Debora Spar released her new book called Wonder Women: Sex, Power and the Quest for Perfection.
Full of women’s history and introspection, this book gets everyone up-to-date on cultural gender differences today. Spar shies away from the term feminism, but she writes deeply and heavily in favor of women’s freedom to go to school, get paid well, have children and become married or stay single. But, she writes–and this is a big but–she doesn’t think women can have it all. Perfection isn’t a realistic goal. In fact, at every age and stage, striving for perfection is making us miserable.
One of her solutions struck me as particularly brilliant. She reuses an economic term called ‘satisficing.’ Her use of it means to settle for something that’s second best.
I’m going to type that again because it just feels good: Settle for something that’s second best.
How can you relay that idea into your life? For me, it would go something like this:
1. Do my kids really have to be the best readers in their classes? (As a book author and reviewer, I’ve always thought yes.)
2. Did it matter if my babies only had breast milk? (In retrospect, I wish I had been easier on myself and given more bottles.)
3. Do I have to kill myself and work at all hours to be the best at my job? (Not really, I’ll get paid even if I do pretty good work.)
4. Do I have to keep saying yes to this huge PTA project I do every year? (Ugh. I don’t know how to say no!)
5. Do I need to read that stack of parenting books to become a better mother? (I’m pleading the fifth on this one.)
Make a list of everything you’re striving to do. What can you satisfice? One of the points Spar makes in her book is that we’re spinning and going and never stopping. We parents are supposedly doing all of this stuff for our kids. But what do our children really want? Just a little more special time with us. Do they care if we’re perfect? No! And that’s good, because if anyone sees our flaws, it’s our kids–and they love us anyway.
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Thursday, August 29th, 2013
I’ve had two summer obsessions–and it wouldn’t be fair or nice to keep them all to myself. These are books turned into TV shows that I can’t get enough of. They are so brilliant that they won’t let me sleep or even bother to watch my kids. (I exaggerate, but just a little.) I’ll just be honest, I also love how sexy these stories are.
I kept hearing about Orange is the New Black from friends and in news stories online. I wasn’t too excited about it, but I thought I’d check it out since I have a Netflix account for my kids. Besides, did you see True Blood this season? It was barely watchable. Summer TV was a vast wasteland of bore. That was, until I binge-watched OITNB. It’s about Piper Chapman, a seemingly nice girl with a nice fiance who all of a sudden gets a call from the Feds. Her secret is that 10 years ago, she carried a suitcase full of drug money for her flashy, intriguing and sexually satisfying girlfriend who imported heroin. For her indiscretion, Chapman pleads guilty and must serve 15 months in minimum security federal prison. The main character is such a delightfully complicated mess on the show that I dare you not to watch. But even better are all of the supporting actresses–the women in prison with their own imaginative stories. Her fiance, played by Jason Biggs, dutifully visits her while her ex-drug-dealer-girlfriend (Laura Prepon) taunts her in their shared prison quarters.
Even better, I found out that the basis of the story is real. Orange is the New Black was a memoir first, written by the real Piper whose last name is Kerman. The book is fantastic, too, but it’s not nearly as dramatic. Kerman got herself together in real life. Her alter-ego Chapman has a very long way to go. I can’t believe I have to wait another year for season two.
My husband is jealous of my love of The White Queen–both the book by Phillipa Gregory and the TV show on Starz. I voraciously read it in two days, and then I sat down to watch the first three episodes on demand. OMG, if you are into crazy English history–war, blood, romance, plots, witches–you will believe you’ve hit the jackpot. The show follows the same arc as the book. The mostly true story is about the beautiful common woman Elizabeth Woodville who entrances the young King Edward during The War of the Roses in the 1400s. She reigns as queen and must constantly woo and scheme to keep her royal position and her head. The story is told through the eyes of women and suggests that they played more of a role in medieval politics than they’re often given credit for.
The White Queen book is part of a series, and I’m already onto The Red Queen. It’s every bit as addictive and good. I don’t know if Starz plans to follow Gregory’s brilliant writings into a second season, but I certainly hope that they do.
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Jason Biggs, Laura Prepon, Orange is the New Black, Phillipa Gregory, Piper Chapman, Piper Kerman, The Cousins War, The Red Queen, The War of the Roses, The White Queen, women's prison | Categories:
Best Sellers, Books-to-Movies, Fiction, Memoirs, Mom Must Read, Must Read, Popular Books
Thursday, August 22nd, 2013
The Casserole Queens have taken over my blog! Best-selling authors and frequent TV guest chefs Crystal Cook and Sandy Pollock tell you all about their new cookbook, getting kids to eat casseroles and even give you a super-easy and delicious recipe involving tater tots. Read on:
“Mealtime can become a battle between kids wanting their favorite foods and your desire to keep them healthy. We try to offer up menu items that can create some peace at the dinner table! For example, in our first book, The Casserole Queens Cookbook: Put Some Lovin’ in Your Oven, we took a kid favorite (Mac & Cheese) and gave it a unique twist. At first glance, our Lunch Lady Doris’ Spicy Mac and Cheese has all the things kids love, pasta and cheese – yet we sneak in some broccoli and sun-dried tomatoes to help balance out the dish. We Queens are sneaky like that!
We pull the same trick in our new book,The Casserole Queens Make-a-Meal Cookbook, with our Gluten Free Corn Dog Casserole! Just the smell alone will get the kids to the table in time for dinner. Maybe even the neighbor kids. Okay, forget the kids, who are we kidding? We love to eat it too! Casseroles are great for disguising vegetables, as they are layered with in the dish. You kids won’t even know you hit them with some vitamins!
Here are some other suggestions for kid-friendly meals from our Make-A-Meal Cookbook. And keep reading below for our Q&A with resident book reviewer and mom, Kristen Kemp. Then, below that, check out our recipe for Tater Tot Casserole! (more…)
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budget meals, casseroles, celebrity chef, Crystal Cook, kids meals, Sandy Pollock, tater tot casserole, The Casserole Queens, The Casserole Queens Make-a-Meal Cookbook | Categories:
Best Sellers, Cookbooks, Guest Blogs, Mom Must Read, Must Read, Parenting Advice, Popular Books, Q&A With Authors
Thursday, August 15th, 2013
As a longtime writer, I adore the famous creativity expert Julia Cameron and her seminal book, The Artist’s Way. I read it over and over in college as I tried to write colorful essays and stories. I still wake up a few minutes early to write three longhand (completely sloppy) pages of random stuff, an exercise Julia calls Morning Pages. Her tips, tricks and wisdom can add momentum and energy to your work and your life.
Finally, after years of requests, Julia has written The Artist’s Way for Parents. Use this great guide to increase creativity for your children–and for you, too. She says when adults get that vibrant energy flowing, inevitably kids will too. She also thinks we’re all too over-scheduled. So go ahead and do it: Just say no to that next activity, and use that time to stoke your creativity.
I was honored to interview Julia Cameron. Below, see what she has to say about playtime, boredom, technology and more.
KK: Do you think we over-schedule kids today? Do you think we often forget to give them the opportunity to be creative?
JC: Children today are often over-scheduled. In our desire for them to do well, we frequently demand that they do more. A violin lesson, a math tutor, a French class, a soccer match–all these and more are crammed into our children’s lives. Conspicuously missing is free time, time for the imagination to play.
KK: Why is creativity so important for children to cultivate and experience?
JC: Creativity brings happiness. Children experience the joy of living through developing their creativity.
KK: How is the Artist’s Way for Parents different than the original Artist’s Way?
JC: The original Artist’s Way focused on the nurturing of the self. The Artist’s Way for Parents focuses both on nurturing the self and nurturing the children in our care.
KK: If a busy new mom only has time for one creativity exercise for herself, which one would you suggest?
JC: Morning Pages–three pages of longhand morning writing that connects us to ourselves.
KK: Why is it important that she continues to explore her own interests?
JC: Continuing to explore her own interests keeps the new mother from feeling stymied and trapped.
KK: What’s a fast and easy creativity exercise for a mom and child to do right away?
JC: Mother and child can play the game of “Highlights”– each naming and describing the high point of the day.
KK: What are some of the ways that parents unknowingly limit their child’s creativity – and what are some ways that they can break this cycle and start encouraging their creativity?
JC: Over-scheduling their child’s time, far from improving their lives, actually damages them. Scheduling an hour of free time strengthens their imagination. When children are free to concoct their own diversions, they develop passionate pastimes. As they play with dolls or toy horses, they make up stories. These stories are often deeply imaginative.
KK: How can technology and our many digital devices (iPads, computers, TVs, etc.) be blocks to creativity?
JC: Technology teaches passivity. Absorbed in our devices — at any age– we are absorbed in someone else’s perspective.
KK: What are a few of the activities you did with you mother that really encouraged you to play and be creative?
JC: I would say crafts connected to holidays: Easter eggs, Halloween goblins, snowflakes, valentines.
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KK: You write that boredom is nothing more than a “call to action.” So when a child complains of boredom–how should parents respond?
JC: Setting out playthings and then leaving the child alone is the trick. Don’t try to “fix” the child’s boredom–rather, let the child find his or her inner resources.
Thursday, August 8th, 2013
What did you read this summer? What will you read? After all, we still have more than a month left! My friends and their kids started school in the Midwest, so their beach vacations are over. But here in the Northeast and elsewhere in the country, getaways are still in full swing. Well, regardless of your schedule, here are a two of my favorite books this summer so far.
by Meg Wolitzer
Who doesn’t love a book about friendships and love and happiness and heartache? This book, written by an expert commentator on culture and conundrums, spans decades nailing life’s changes that define each one. The story follows a clique of people who met as teens at summer camp in 1974. Jules, Ash, Ethan, Jonah, Kathy and Goodman all represent a part of yourself or someone you know. This book is not about a stunning, dramatic plot line. Instead, it’s for readers who love characters and their richness. On nearly every page, Wolitzer writes some poignant line that is something you’ve thought before but not been able to put into words: ““After a certain age, you felt a need not to be alone. It grew stronger, like a radio frequency, until finally it was so powerful that you were forced to do something about it.” I didn’t want this one to end.
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by Curtis Sittenfeld
I’ll just be honest. The only reason I read this book was because I loved the author’s debut novel, Prep, so much. I knew Sittenfeld had a knack for recounting intimate thoughts and revealing tidbits about slices of life I knew nothing about. She still has those chops when it comes to Sisterland. But the subject matter is totally different. Stay with me here: Twin sisters Kate and Violet have ESP. One doesn’t dig it at all and tries to live a quiet, normal life. The other, Violet, is a flamboyant psychic who predicts a major earthquake in their state of Missouri. Head-butting ensues. If you can get over the gimmicky plot, the book is great. That’s because the author really gets that sibling relationship down. Her pace and her characters kept me turning the pages. Read it–find out if that earthquake really happens.
best books of summer, Curtis Sittenfeld, Meg Wolitzer, Prep, Sisterland, summer reads, The Interestings | Categories:
Best Of Lists, Best Sellers, Fiction, Mom Must Read, Must Read