9/28/2011

Top 50 Comfort Foods



There's probably an official definition of "comfort food" out there somewhere, but I know what "comfort food" means to me: dishes I turn to when I'm feeling nostalgic, stressed, or blue.  The dishes below have the power to sooth, to reassure, and to transport me back to favorite times and places in my life. Reflecting the fact that I'm a product of the midwest, this list definitely has a midwestern bias: heavy on the butter and beef, light on seafood.  Would love to hear what foods others turn to in times of need.
  1. Apple Pie
  2. Bacon
  3. Baked Beans
  4. Beef Stew
  5. Bisquits and Gravy
  6. BLT Sandwich
  7. Brisket Pot Roast
  8. Brownies
  9. Buttered Toast
  10. Cereal
  11. Chicken & Dumplings
  12. Chicken & Rice
  13. Chicken Pot Pie
  14. Chicken Soup
  15. Chili
  16. Chocolate
  17. Chocolate Cake
  18. Chocolate Chip Cookies
  19. Corn on the Cob
  20. Cornbread
  21. Fried Chicken
  22. Gelatin/Jello
  23. Green Bean Casserole
  24. Grilled Cheese Sandwich (especially with Tomato Soup!)
  25. Hamburgers
  26. Hot Dogs
  27. Hot Chocolate
  28. Ice Cream
  29. Lasagna
  30. Macaroni & Cheese
  31. Mashed Potatoes
  32. Meatloaf
  33. Milk
  34. Milkshakes
  35. Oatmeal
  36. Pancakes
  37. Peach Cobbler
  38. Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwich.
  39. Perogies.  
  40. Pizza. 
  41. Popcorn
  42. Potato Salad
  43. Pudding
  44. Pumpkin Pie
  45. S'Mores
  46. Shepherd's Pie
  47. Spaghetti
  48. Tuna Casserole
  49. Turkey & Gravy
  50. Vegetable Soup (with crackers, of course!)

9/13/2011

Book Look - Devil in the White City, Erik Larson



The text on the back cover of Devil in the White City makes two promises: 1) to educate the reader about the legendary 1893 Chicago World's Fair, with particular emphasis on the role played by the fair's brilliant architect, Daniel Burnham, and 2) to shed new light on the murderous rampage of one of the country's most infamous serial killers, who at one point in his career availed himself of the fair to lure attractive female victims to their doom.

In fact, the book delivers both more and less. Erik Larson's meticulous historical scholarship and his scrupulous resolve to report only substantiated fact is both this work's strength and its downfall.

For instance, if you're looking for drama and titillating detail, you may find yourself disappointed. This is non-fiction, Larson reminds you at every turn, which means he can only report what has been entered into the historical record. And since our elusive murder, Dr. Holmes, was not a particularly trustworthy or forthcoming villain, the tale necessarily omits those mainstays of sensational true crime reporting - witness accounts, motive, and intent - that play a key role in generating empathy, suspense, and horror. By the end of the book you'll know all about the victims, the timelines, the crime scenes (including Holmes' infamous "house of horrors") and the investigation that led to his eventual arrest, but you'll gain little new insight into either the devils that drove the fiendish Dr. Holmes to commit his crimes, or the faults/flaws that predisposed his victims to fall prey to his machinations.

If, however, you're looking for an author who knows how to use research to deftly evoke a period and mood, you'll eat up this wonderfully detailed account of the U.S. at a unique and riveting moment in history. Through the eyes of Daniel Burham, the Chicago Fair's architect, Larson explores not just the physical construction of one of the most magnificent Worlds' Fairs in history, but also the social and cultural construct of a major U.S. city at the turn of the century. He skillfully paints the U.S. in general (and Chicago in particular) as a land of astonishing superlatives and extremes, in which towering skyscrapers coexisted alongside stinking slaughterhouses; in which men of enormous wealth coexisted with impoverished, exploited laborers; in which men possessed the vision to raise in a wonder from dust, but lacked the ability to alleviate the pain of a crippling toothache; in which people gaped at wonders such as Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, cannibals, belly dancers, and the world's first ferris wheel, while simultaneously taking for granted the wonders - elevators, skyscrapers, social progressiveness - popping up all around them every day; and in which men required only cleverness and vision to achieve great deeds and fame ... or, alternatively, to achieve appalling deeds and infamy.

I, for one, thoroughly enjoyed the tale. Though not without some flaws (too many menus, too much time devoted to Harrison's assassination, *way* too much Olmstead!), I felt Devil in the White City delivered on the promises of its back cover, and then some.

9/09/2011

100+ Things that Women Are Expected to Know How To Do



Being a 21st century woman may be empowering, but it's also a lot of work.

Among the skills post-ERA women are expected to master: how to succeed at a career, advocate for ourselves, assume an equal role in courting/dating, and perform all those traditional "men" jobs.

However, we're also expected to continue to perform all those traditional female roles: mother, home-maker, family logistician, community volunteer. 

Finally, there's that unwritten, unacknowledged list of things attributes foisted on women by cultural expectation and practical necessity: feign interest when others insist on sharing long anecdotes about their  children/pets/health, forge compromise out of chaos, sit next to the uncle no one likes every Thanksgiving.   (Yes, I'm being tongue-in-cheek.  Sort of.)

Put all these responsibilities together and suddenly it makes a Darwinian sort of sense that women mature more quickly than men: look at all this stuff we're expected to have mastered by the time we're ready to venture out into the world ...!

Career & Community
  1. Manage a company and/or perform all necessary administrative functions
  2. Manage a community organization as efficiently as a company - but without any resources
  3. Accurately communicate strengths & achievements without embarassment
  4. Learn to network (correllary: know how to inconspicuously educate men as to the difference between networking and flirting)
  5. Speak confidentally in public
  6. Negotiate a salary or raise
  7. Serve as unofficial office social secretary (remembering and overseeing celebration of birthdays, weddings, etc.)
  8. Carve time out of the same 12 hour day our male colleagues are working to run family errands
  9. Proactively apply baked goods towards soothing frayed nerves
  10. Whip up casseroles for use as house-warming gifts, pot-luck events, and wakes
Social & Family
  1. Remember family names and relationships
  2. Maintain contact with family members (especially the ones no one really likes)
  3. Preserve, protect, and pass on family traditions
  4. Purchase and dispatch birthday/holiday cards and gifts so that they arrive by/before the specified date
  5. Gently deliver bad news
  6. Provide precisely the right words of comfort to those in need of comfort
  7. Protect those in need of protection
  8. Write thank you/consolence notes that sound personal and sincere
  9. Identify and purchase gifts that are simultaneously appropriate, thoughtful, unique, and affordable
  10. Plan and host a wide variety of social events (dinner parties, birthday parties, holiday parties)
  11. Plan and organize a wide variety of family events (vacations, garage sales)
Dating & Relationships
  1. Comfortably venture out in public places (restaurants, movie theaters) without an escort
  2. Ask a man out (as a date or friend)
  3. Remain polite even in the face of really bad pickup lines
  4. Hold our own in a basic conversation about sports (without expectation that men will be able to hold up their own in basic conversation about topics we're interested in)
  5. Feign interest in boring conversations
  6. Flirt without sending "signals" that could possibly be misinterpreted by even the densest, most sexist male
  7. Dance without embarassing ourselves (backwards, and in high heels!)
  8. Be prepared to assume bridesmaids duties at any time
  9. Change men without them knowing they're being changed
Interpersonal/Self-Advocacy
  1. Facilitate compromise (without anyone realizing they've compromised)
  2. Form and defend our own political opinions
  3. Say "no" in a convincing way
  4. Demand an explanation
  5. Identify and end toxic relationships
  6. Hurt someone's feelings when necessary
  7. Advocate for our own needs
  8. Learn to take criticism gracefully (but not passively)
  9. Delegate
  10. Handle stress/anxiety effectively
  11. Politely but noncommittally thank people* for unsolicited advice we have no intention of following (mothers-in-law, work colleagues, friends, strangers)
Motherhood
  1. Manage complex family schedules and logistical challenges that would daunt UPS
  2. Dispense allowances in accordance with a complicated formula incorporating age, number of children, number and difficulty of chores, etc.
  3. Possess sufficient medical knowledge to determine whether symptoms are minor or require a doctor's care
  4. Ensure children receive vaccinations and checkups (also, coordinate checkups required for enrollment in school, sports, and camp)
  5. Exorcise monsters hiding in closets and under beds
  6. Repair wounded stuffed animals
  7. Kiss boo boos and make them better
  8. Determine right/wrong in chidlhood disputes we haven't actually witnessed
  9. Interrupt even the most delicate tasks long enough to "watch this!"
  10. Still unruly kids - and adults - with a single "mom look"
  11. Maintain calm when faced with critical teachers, unrealistic coaches, and parents of "perfect children" intent upon telling us what we're doing wrong (or perhaps just telling us what they are doing right)
Home & Finance related
  1. Maintain a clean and tidy environment (house should appear magazine photographer-ready at all times, but without the staff)
  2. Make ordinary household repairs
  3. Kill bugs/catch mice
  4. Responsibly manage finances/investments
  5. Prepare taxes
  6. Know how to buy a car/house
  7. Prepare basic meals
  8. Whip up a meal out of whatever's in the refrigerator, no matter how eclectic or meager the ingredients available
  9. Know how to determine whether produce is fresh
  10. Instinctively sense when meat/food has gone bad
  11. Know how to set a table
  12. Choose the right wine to accompany a meal
  13. Perform basic wiring tasks (ex: setting up a stereo or computer)
  14. Follow directions well enough to assemble basic furniture
  15. Hang pictures on the wall so that they are lined up and straight
  16. Change a vacuum bag
  17. Fix a toilet
  18. Ensure that the house never runs out of essentials (because the woman always gets blamed when there's no toilet paper)
  19. Maintain a lawn (including mowing)
  20. Perform basic clothing repair (affix buttons, sew a hem)
  21. Properly care for common textiles (clothes, curtains, etc.)
  22. Remove a variety of stains
Car-Related
  1. Comfortably operate automatic and manual transmission vehicles
  2. Perform basic car maintenance
  3. Drive safely over long distances and in a variety of weather conditions
  4. Parallel park
  5. Jump start a car
  6. Flirt our way out of a traffic tickets
  7. Look sexy while traveling in a convertible, even if our hair is flying in our mouths and bugs are bounching off our cheeks
Health & Well Being
  1. Know how to choose clothes in styles and colors that best suit us
  2. Find and purchase expensive clothes at miraculously reduced prices (real women never pay full price!)
  3. Make inexpensive clothing look expensive
  4. Apply makeup cunningly enough to conceal exhaustion, stress, and/or age
  5. Perform basic first aid
  6. Drink responsibly
  7. Tan without burning
  8. Defend ourselves against a variety of threats
  9. Prepare and enjoy food without gaining weight
  10. Carve time out for exercise somwhere in between the 99 other things we do
Other Life Skills
  1. Take control in times of distress
  2. Demonstrate basic survival skills (building a fire, etc.)
  3. Tie a few basic knots: square knot, slip knot
  4. Apply makeup without a mirror
  5. Find the best deal
  6. Wrap a gift
  7. Hail a taxi
  8. Calculate the appropriate tip
  9. Hold a baby properly
  10. Entertain any child - even those not our own - for at least 10 minutes
  11. Locate items misplaced by others
  12. Be prepared with a supply of carefully worded phrases to offer in socially awkward situations (ugly babies, ill-advised engagements, unwarrented promotions, clothes that do make someone look fat)

30 Signs That Christmas is Coming


  1. Halloween costumes 90% off
  2. Sales on turkey end; sales on ham begin
  3. Tree lots mysteriously appear overnight
  4. Token "happy" stories begin to appear on evening news
  5. 500% increase in Chia-Pet and Snuggie commercials
  6. Improbable products pitching themselves as "the perfect holiday gift"!
  7. Noticeable increase in weight loss commercials
  8. Families in matching outfits massed outside of photo studios
  9. Children behaving suspiciously well
  10. Huge increase in number of catalogs arriving by mail
  11. Restaurant items suddenly available in peppermint flavor
  12. Green and red bagels
  13. Run on gelled fruit at grocery store
  14. Scary balloon inflatables appearing in front yards
  15. Co-workers disappearing for suspiciously-long lunch breaks
  16. Normally tasteful people attired in tacky sweaters
  17. Local weathermen start obsessing about snow
  18. Painfully earnest Christmas specials
  19. It's a Wonderful Life begins airing 24/7
  20. Legitimate radio stations playing songs by the Chipmunks
  21. Mailbox full of brightly-colored envelopes with handwritten addresses and jaunty Christmas stamps
  22. Mailmen and newspaper delivery boys make point of greeting you cheerily
  23. Painful holiday puns (aka "Santacular Sale!")
  24. No parking spots
  25. People wearing antlers
  26. People singing in public without embarassment
  27. 10,000 calendars to choose from
  28. Civic organizations selling wreaths
  29. "Santa Tracker" appears on NORAD website
  30. Jews looking disgruntled and/or resentful
  31. Camels all rented out
  32. Huge increase in sales of cookies and milk