Comfort Soup

This is my comfort soup. I started making it in Italy during the first year of our marriage. It has evolved significantly since then – then, when I made do with bouillon cubes from the discount grocery and had no knowledge of how to make a good broth from scratch, but – on the other hand – when I had the luxury of the liquid sunshine from a lemon picked from the tree outside the kitchen door just before dinner.

It is only recently, though, that I have found The Noodle for this soup. I have tried tortellini, egg noodles, and shaped pasta, and it was never quite right. Never quite right – until I threw in half a package of the spaetzle, a chewy German egg noodle, that I’d picked up at Aldi. This was the answer – the chewiness that I’d loved in the tortellini, but none of the filling that had so unfortunately clashed in the past. The egginess of the egg noodle without the slipperiness that I just couldn’t quite embrace.

This soup is more than the sum of its parts, which is why I’ve struggled with a name for it. “Lemon spinach egg-drop noodle soup?” Well, yes, but not exactly. I don’t think I’d like Lemon Spinach Egg-Drop Noodle Soup – too lemony, spinach-y, egg-y, and slippery-noodle-y. This is none of those things . . . It’s just comfort in a bowl – perfect for fighting a cold or The Cold or both. Enjoy!

Steaming hot soup

image credit – Karen Winton

Comfort Soup

1 T. butter or olive oil or schmaltz (rendered chicken fat)

3 – 4 cloves garlic, minced

8 cups chicken broth (I use homemade meat or bone broth)

1 tsp. dried thyme

8 oz. (1/2 package) Spaetzle

5 oz. frozen spinach

3 eggs, separated

juice of one lemon

salt and pepper to taste – don’t be shy

coarsely grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese

Sauté garlic in butter or olive oil in a soup pot until fragrant; do not let brown. Add chicken broth and thyme, bring to boil. If the broth has very little salt, add a bit of salt for the noodles to cook in – do not salt to taste at this point; the soup will get saltier as it cooks and the liquid reduces. Add spaetzle; maintain a low boil. When the noodles are nearly done, add the spinach, either still frozen or (to further reduce its goitrogenic properties) steamed separately; return to low boil.

While the spaetzle and spinach are cooking, separate the eggs. Beat the yolks in a bowl big enough to hold 2-3 more cups of liquid. When the noodles and spinach are just about done, pour three ladlefuls of soup, one at a time, into the yolks while whisking the yolks to keep the yolks from curdling.

Reduce the heat of the soup to a bare simmer and pour the yolk mixture in while stirring the soup. Drizzle the whites in while stirring or whisking the soup to create “feathers” of egg-white instead of big clumps.

Stir in lemon juice.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve topped with grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan.

2013 Book Lists

The Book, 1913

The Book, 1913 – in association with Art.com

Book lists! There’s a list for just about every reader here – several lists for former English majors reading the same books that all of the other former English majors are reading, lists for foodies, science geeks, Catholics, evangelicals, atheists, capitalists, socialists, and a few lists for those who read books that apparently no one else is reading. It should be abundantly obvious that I do not endorse anywhere close to every title on these lists, but I appreciate them as a cultural snapshot, a societal conversation-starter, a glimpse of the zeitgeist – and possibly, practically, as a way to pad my own library-hold-request list and stave off that dreaded state of Nothing To Read. Enjoy!

Best Food Books of 2013 – The Atlantic

Best of 2013: The top 10 books – BBC

Buffett, Slim, Greenspan, El-Erian, Lew Pick Best Books of 2013 – Bloomberg

Favorite Books of 2013 – Books & Culture

Best Fiction of 2013 – The Boston Globe

Top Nonfiction of 2013 – The Boston Globe

The 13 Best Books of 2013 – Brain Pickings

“The Best Books I Read in 2013″ from a long list of contributors – Catholic World Report

15 best fiction books of 2013 – The Christian Science Monitor

My Favorite Books of 2013 – The Daily Beast

The Best Books of 2013: A bountiful offering – The Economist

Best of 2013: Entertainment and Pop Culture Books – E! Online

Books of the Year – Financial Times

The Best Books of 2013 – Forbes

Best International Relations Books of 2013 – Foreign Affairs

The Best Atheist Books of 2013 – Friendly Atheist @ Patheos

Goodreads Choice Awards: Best Books of 2013 – Goodreads.com

TGC Staff Cite Best Books from 2013 – The Gospel Coalition

Writers and critics on the best books of 2013 – The Guardian

Best Books of 2013 – Huffington Post

Best Food Books of 2013 – Huffington Post

Best 2013 Books for Entrepreneurs – Inc.

IR’s Best Indie Books for 2013 – Indie Reader

Best Fiction Books of 2013 – Kirkus Reviews

Best Indie Books of 2013 – Kirkus Reviews

Best Nonfiction Books of 2013 – Kirkus Reviews

Most Overlooked Nonfiction of 2013 – Kirkus Reviews

Most Overlooked Novels of 2013 – Kirkus Reviews

Best Books 2013: Top Ten – Library Journal

The 7 Best Books of 2013 – MindBodyGreen

MoJo Staff Picks: The Best Books of 2013 – Mother Jones

The Best Political Books We Read in 2013 – National Journal

Christmas Shopping 2013: book recommendations – National Review Online

The Best Books of 2013 – The New Republic

The Best Books of 2013, part 1 – The New Yorker

The 10 Best Books of 2013 – The New York Times Book Review

NPR’s Book Concierge: Our Guide to 2013′s Great Reads

The Best Books of 2013 – On Point with Tom Ashbrook

Best Photography Books of 2013 – photo.net

Best Books of 2013 – Publishers Weekly

Baker’s Dozen: Best 2013 Books for the Physics Fan – Scientific American

Our Favorite Science Books of 2013 – Scientific American / Farrar, Straus and Giroux

31 of the best titles of 2013 – The Seattle Times

Best Books 2013: Slate Staff Picks – Slate.com

The Overlooked Books of 2013 – Slate.com

Spectator writers pick their books of the year – The Spectator

Which Books Topped the ‘Best Of’ Lists This Year? (Fiction) – Speakeasy @ The Wall Street Journal

Top 10 Fiction Books – TIME

Top 10 Nonfiction Books – TIME

The WSJ Best Fiction of 2013 – The Wall Street Journal

The WSJ Best Nonfiction of 2013 – The Wall Street Journal

The year’s 10 most intriguing religion books – The Washington Post

The best books we read in 2013 – The Week

Tablet Reading – links for September 11

Summer Field

photo of the week by Betty155

On finding one’s own peace of mind, using your children’s names judiciously, and having it all.

:: The Mental Neat Freak  (Conversion Diary)

And finally, after digging my way through piles and piles of words, I hit the core of the issue: ‘It brings order to my brain. It’s like . . . there are all these things that happen in my days that make my mind feel — I don’t know how else to describe it — messy. Like I’m surrounded by chaos, but on the inside. And it keeps piling up and piling up, to the point where sometimes I feel like I’m drowning.’ ‘And writing helps you tidy up, so to speak,’ she said, finishing my thoughts for me. ‘Exactly!’ I replied. And then I fell silent for a second. Because I knew that this insight she’d led me to was huge.

:: Don’t Wear Your Child’s Name Out  (Like Mother, Like Daughter)

I talked to The Chief about it and we agreed that we can hardly imagine it. In fact, he remembers thinking, as a young child in school, that one’s name, spoken out loud, had an actual, physical effect on one.  In his experience as an elementary school student, hearing “Philip!” gave him an electric shock, and he thought this was a universal phenomenon, well known to science.

But everywhere you go, there are children running around whose response to their name isn’t an electrical shock, it isn’t a “Yes, Ma’am?” (oh, how I wish I were born Southern and could have taught my children to say Ma’am and Sir!), it’s . . . nothing. Why? Because their families have worn their names out!

:: You Can’t Have It All, but You Can Have Cake  (Delia Ephron, New York Times, via The Minimalist Mom) [um - "adult" content . . . if you consider Anthony Weiner an adult . . .]

Personally, I believe having it all can last longer than that. It might be a fleeting moment — drinking a cup of coffee on a Sunday morning when the light is especially bright. It might also be a few undisturbed hours with a novel I’m in love with, a three-hour lunch with my best friend, reading “Goodnight Moon” to a child, watching a Nadal-Federer match. Having it all definitely involves an ability to seize the moment, especially when it comes to sports. It can be eating in bed when you’re living on your own for the first time or the first weeks of a new job when everything is new, uncertain and a bit scary. It’s when all your senses are engaged. It’s when you feel at peace with someone you love. And that isn’t often. Loving someone and being at peace with him (or her) are two different things. Having it all are moments in life when you suspend judgment. It’s when I attain that elusive thing called peace of mind.

:: Ballpoint Barber (Peter Simon)

Tablet Reading – links for May 29

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Close to the Edge

photo of the week by joeymc86

Babies are a gift – especially to their brothers and sisters when they’re all grown up. An article on our increasing discomfort with where exactly these babies come from – and another article that perfectly illustrates this growing cultural disconnect. Our prosperity and our fascination with the temporary – good things, or things that stand in our way? A woman’s intellectual journey. And a humorous video that hits the gender nail on the head – pun thoroughly intended.

:: The Gift of Siblings (New York Times)

That’s how it goes in a pack of siblings, and I sometimes wonder, when it comes to the decline in fertility rates in our country and others, whether the economic impact will be any more significant than the intimate one. For better or worse, fewer people will know the challenges and comforts of a sprawling clan.

Those comforts are manifold, at least in my lucky experience. With siblings to help shoulder the burden of your parents’ dreams and expectations, you can flail on a particular front with lower stakes and maybe even less notice. Siblings not only pick up the slack but also act as decoys, providing crucial distraction.

They’re less tailored fits than friends are. But in a family that’s succeeded at closeness, they’re more natural, better harbors. As Colt observed of his siblings, and it’s true of mine as well, they aren’t people he would have likely made an effort to know or spend time with if he’d met them at school, say, or at work. And yet a reunion with them thrills him more than a reunion with friends, who don’t make him feel that he’s “a part of a larger quilt,” he said. His brothers do.

:: The New Birds and the Bees (Public Discourse) [Note: Frank discussion of sex.]

For all of their intelligence, sophistication, and cosmopolitan ways, Westerners are increasingly uncomfortable with where babies come from.

I realize it’s a humorous and ironic claim to suggest that moderns—who dwell in an over-sexed, over-sensualized world—might actually be uncomfortable with the subject matter of sex. But I’m serious. They’re growing increasingly uncomfortable with where babies come from.

:: The Gay Guide to Wedded Bliss (The Atlantic)

The belief that gay marriage will harm marriage has roots in both religious beliefs about matrimony and secular conservative concerns about broader shifts in American life. One prominent line of thinking holds that men and women have distinct roles to play in family life; that children need both a mother and a father, preferably biologically related to them; and that a central purpose of marriage is abetting heterosexual procreation. During the Supreme Court arguments over Proposition 8, Justice Elena Kagan asked Cooper whether the essence of his argument against gay marriage was that opposite-sex couples can procreate while same-sex ones cannot. “That’s the essential thrust of our position, yes,” replied Cooper. He also warned that “redefining marriage as a genderless institution could well lead over time to harms to that institution.”

Threaded through this thinking is a related conviction that mothers and fathers should treat their union as “permanent and exclusive,” as the Princeton professor Robert P. George and his co-authors write in the new book What Is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense. Marriage, seen this way, is a rigid institution that exists primarily for the rearing of children and that powerfully constrains the behavior of adults (one is tempted to call this the “long slog ’til death” view of marriage), rather than an emotional union entered into for pleasure and companionship between adults. These critics of gay marriage are, quite validly, worried that too many American children are being raised in unstable homes, either by struggling single parents or by a transient succession of live-in adults. They fear that the spread of gay marriage could help finally sever the increasingly tenuous link between children and marriage, confirming that it’s okay for dads, or moms, to be deleted from family life as hedonic fulfillment dictates.

:: Pope: the culture of economic wellbeing and attraction towards the provisional prevent us from following Jesus (Vatican Radio)

“Each and every one of us has riches”. There is always, he said, a richness that “stops us from getting close to Jesus”. And this must be singled out. We must all, he continued, examine our conscience and pinpoint our riches because they stop us from getting close to Jesus on the path of life”. And the Pope focused on what he called two “cultural riches”: the first, a “culture of economic wellbeing that causes us to be lacking in courage, makes us lazy, makes us selfish”. Wellbeing, he said, “anaesthetizes us, it’s an anaesthetic”.

No, no, not more than one child, because otherwise we will not be able to go on holiday, we will not be able to go out, we will not be able to buy a house. It’s all very well to follow the Lord, but only up to a certain point. This is what economic wellbeing does to us: we all know what wellbeing is, but it deprives us of courage, of the courage we need to get close to Jesus. This is the first richness of the culture of today, the culture of economic wellbeing”.

There is also, he added, “another richness in our culture”, another richness that prevents us from getting close to Jesus: it’s our fascination for the temporary”. We, he observed, are “in love with the provisional”. We don’t like Jesus’s “definitive proposals”. Instead we like what is temporary because “we are afraid of God’s time” which is definitive.

:: The atheist orthodoxy that drove me to faith (Catholic Herald)

I looked for absurdities and inconsistencies in the Catholic faith that would derail my thoughts from the unnerving conclusion I was heading towards, but the infuriating thing about Catholicism is its coherency: once you accept the basic conceptual structure, things fall into place with terrifying speed. “The Christian mysteries are an indivisible whole,” wrote Edith Stein in The Science of the Cross: “If we become immersed in one, we are led to all the others.” The beauty and authenticity of even the most ostensibly difficult parts of Catholicism, such as the sexual ethics, became clear once they were viewed not as a decontextualised list of prohibitions, but as essential components in the intricate body of the Church’s teaching.

:: It’s not about the nail (Vimeo)

Tablet Reading – links for May 22

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photo of the week by miki kucevic

photo of the week by miki kucevic

Americans traveling abroad are warned “Don’t drink the water,” but it appears that immigrants coming to the U.S. should be warned “Don’t eat the food.” Michael Pollan gives the best overview that I’ve read of a very important and often overlooked part of our health. Jen Fulwiler lays out six great questions to use when making decisions. A contemporary evangelical Christian take on the ten books everyone should read by the time they’re 25 (it seems I have some catching up to do). And a wonderful short film of “Little Red Riding Hood” – in French. (Both of my only-English-speaking-if-that children loved it.)

:: The Health Toll of Immigration (New York Times)

Becoming an American can be bad for your health.

A growing body of mortality research on immigrants has shown that the longer they live in this country, the worse their rates of heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes. And while their American-born children may have more money, they tend to live shorter lives than the parents.

The pattern goes against any notion that moving to America improves every aspect of life. It also demonstrates that at least in terms of health, worries about assimilation for the country’s 11 million illegal immigrants are mistaken. In fact, it is happening all too quickly.

“There’s something about life in the United States that is not conducive to good health across generations,” said Robert A. Hummer, a social demographer at the University of Texas at Austin.

:: Some of My Best Friends Are Germs (Michael Pollan, New York Times)

Our resident microbes work to keep pathogens from gaining a toehold by occupying potential niches or otherwise rendering the environment inhospitable to foreigners. The robustness of an individual’s gut community might explain why some people fall victim to food poisoning while others can blithely eat the same meal with no ill effects.

Our gut bacteria also play a role in the manufacture of substances like neurotransmitters (including serotonin); enzymes and vitamins (notably Bs and K) and other essential nutrients (including important amino acid and short-chain fatty acids); and a suite of other signaling molecules that talk to, and influence, the immune and the metabolic systems. Some of these compounds may play a role in regulating our stress levels and even temperament: when gut microbes from easygoing, adventurous mice are transplanted into the guts of anxious and timid mice, they become more adventurous. The expression “thinking with your gut” may contain a larger kernel of truth than we thought.

:: Six questions for conquering crazy-think and making good decisions (Conversion Diary)

Whenever I’ve started going down a path that introduced tension, resentment, or other bad vibes into the family, it’s always turned out to be the wrong decision. This isn’t to be confused with short-term sacrifices that may be difficult, like when Joe was studying for the CPA exam and it was super stressful at times but we were both ultimately on the same page about it; it’s more about choices that fundamentally put you at odds with your spouse or your kids. Over and over again, I’ve found that if a call you hear is really from God (and not just your own selfish desires doing their best imitation of the Holy Spirit), one sure sign is that it will ultimately end up strengthening your work in your primary vocation.

:: 10 Books Everyone Should Read by 25-ish (Relevant Magazine)

A good book changes us. The right words speak out what we have hidden in the deepest of places. A good book lifts our eyes beyond the ordinary and shifts our perspective. A phrase or a word picture or a story immediately lodges into our long-term memory, and somehow becomes our phrase, picture, story. But good words – they stick with us. A good book changes us.

This is the power of good words—they are perspective-shifting, heart-understanding, life-changing. So what’s a must-read good book in the midst of the millions of options? Here we humbly offer our top ten books (with our own subtitles) that can change your life by age 25.

:: Le Petit Chaperon Rouge (Olive Us)

It’s a familiar story, so you should be able to follow along (and we know you’ll love the visuals no matter what). If you are interested, we have also posted the text in English and French here. It is based on a version Grandpa Blair tells. (We think this might be the most enjoyable way to study French).

Tablet Reading – links for May 15

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colored pencils

photo of the week by anitab0000

The Internet, social media, and Facebook – one person’s year without the Internet, reflections by another on the good side of social media. But – in another link – not if you’re multitasking. Especially if you think you can multitask. The power of little things like compliments and excuses. A literary review that had me laughing harder than anything I’ve read in a long time. And a fun short-film overview of the history of typography.

:: I’m still here: Back online after a year without the Internet (The Verge via Becoming Minimalist)

It’s hard to say exactly what changed. I guess those first months felt so good because I felt the absence of the pressures of the internet. My freedom felt tangible. But when I stopped seeing my life in the context of “I don’t use the internet,” the offline existence became mundane, and the worst sides of myself began to emerge.

I would stay at home for days at a time. My phone would die, and nobody could get ahold of me. At some point my parents would get fed up with wondering if I was alive, and send my sister over to my apartment to check on me. On the internet it was easy to assure people I was alive and sane, easy to collaborate with my coworkers, easy to be a relevant part of society.

So much ink has been spilled deriding the false concept of a “Facebook friend,” but I can tell you that a “Facebook friend” is better than nothing.

:: How Social Media Made Me a Better Person (Relevant Magazine)

Facebook helps us love other people better. We are able to keep in touch with many more people. Yes, critics will say, “But how deep are those relationships? Aha! Got you!”

At the very least, social media creates a wealth of small talk relationships that can dip down into deeper topics more quickly. I know when people are really sick, when there are major life changes, or when someone goes radio-silent for a while, I can pop them a message, ring them up on the ol’ landline, or even drop by those who are in my zip code. And when we do interact more personally and directly, I can leap over the chit-chat and get to the heart of the matter.

:: You’ll Never Learn! Students can’t resist multitasking, and it’s impairing their memory. (Slate.com)

David Meyer, a psychology professor at the University of Michigan who’s studied the effects of divided attention on learning, takes a firm line on the brain’s ability to multitask: “Under most conditions, the brain simply cannot do two complex tasks at the same time. It can happen only when the two tasks are both very simple and when they don’t compete with each other for the same mental resources. An example would be folding laundry and listening to the weather report on the radio. That’s fine. But listening to a lecture while texting, or doing homework and being on Facebook—each of these tasks is very demanding, and each of them uses the same area of the brain, the prefrontal cortex.”

Young people think they can perform two challenging tasks at once, Meyer acknowledges, but “they are deluded,” he declares. It’s difficult for anyone to properly evaluate how well his or her own mental processes are operating, he points out, because most of these processes are unconscious. And, Meyer adds, “there’s nothing magical about the brains of so-called ‘digital natives’ that keeps them from suffering the inefficiencies of multitasking. They may like to do it, they may even be addicted to it, but there’s no getting around the fact that it’s far better to focus on one task from start to finish.”

:: Compliments from Random Women (DailyLife.com.au via Design Mom)

It’s funny, what a compliment can do.

I wouldn’t describe myself as starved for attention, or particularly insecure. Most of the time, I’m not walking around hoping against hope that strangers will flatter me in passing. I can get through my day just fine without even a single kind remark from a person on the subway. But just a few consecutive compliments have the power to make me abruptly happy. And for some reason, they mean even more when they’re coming from other women.

I was thinking about this in the cab on my way to the work thing. I’m not sure what makes compliments from other women feel particularly meaningful. Maybe men are simply more likely to dish them out to the women they randomly encounter, so when women do it, it feels special. Maybe the compliments from men almost always have an ulterior motive-y whiff about them. Women’s compliments can feel more earnest. Maybe I just care what other women think in some quiet, deep-seated, socially ingrained way that I don’t know how to parse or unpack.

What I am sure of is that compliments, though often brief, insignificant-seeming moments, make a difference.

:: The Making Excuses Game (Catholic All Year)

I teach my children to make excuses for bad behavior, and I don’t even require that the excuses be particularly believable.  It’s fine if they are, but sometimes the most outlandish excuses are the most fun.

And before you figure I’ve finally gone off the parenting deep end, let me clarify that The Making Excuses Game involves making excuses for other people only.

:: Don’t make fun of renowned Dan Brown (The Telegraph)

Renowned author Dan Brown hated the critics. Ever since he had become one of the world’s top renowned authors they had made fun of him. They had mocked bestselling book The Da Vinci Code, successful novel Digital Fortress, popular tome Deception Point, money-spinning volume Angels & Demons and chart-topping work of narrative fiction The Lost Symbol.

The critics said his writing was clumsy, ungrammatical, repetitive and repetitive. They said it was full of unnecessary tautology. They said his prose was swamped in a sea of mixed metaphors. For some reason they found something funny in sentences such as “His eyes went white, like a shark about to attack.” They even say my books are packed with banal and superfluous description, thought the 5ft 9in man. He particularly hated it when they said his imagery was nonsensical. It made his insect eyes flash like a rocket.

:: The History of Typography – Animated Short (Forrest Media)

7 quick takes – library books

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::1::

The city where we’re living right now is trying to bribe us – well, me – to stay here f.o.r.e.v.e.r. Boy, do they have me pegged. When I swung into the library last Saturday for a quick book drop-off and oh, okay, I’ll check out some more even though we are the Very Last People in the library and the librarians are all counting the minutes until Part II of their cruelly divided weekend can begin, one of the librarians came up to me and said, “By the way, they’ve just raised the borrowing limit from 25 books . . . to 100 books.” She watched the stunned look on my face and added, “I’ve been telling everyone who I know keeps their card close to the limit just to see the reactions.” (Make that two cards – M(4yo) has one in her name, too . . . let’s just say that she’s not the one watching the occasional PG-13 movie that shows up on it.)

::2::

The only thing more ridiculous than carrying on a conversation via IM or texting with someone in the same room when there’s no need for silence or privacy is Skyping with someone in the same room anytime. As my husband and I just did.

::3::

One of the parts of growing up is realizing that the cool superhero-inspired inside-joke Skype handle that you gave yourself back in your carefree pre-kids days might not be the best option for professional conversations. Fortunately, Skype seems to be aware of this phenomenon and you don’t even have to come up with a new e-mail address to add a new handle for business purposes. Nice. After you set the new one up, though, you will want to make sure that it comes up correctly when someone else tries to find you, so it’s handy if your wife – er, someone – is there to do a search with her account for your new Skype name. And then, of course, you have to Skype with each other. To the great delight of the 18mo, who was on his Daddy’s lap, and the 4yo, who was giggling her head off with Mommy. All in the same room. But we did have our backs to each other because our desks are in opposite corners, even if we could hear each other at least as well not over our computer speakers.

::4::

My library book pick of the week – French Twist: An American Mom’s Experiment in Parisian Parenting by Catherine Crawford. I’m enjoying the recent “French parenting” trend (see Bringing Up Bébé by Pamela Druckerman; her spin-off, Bébé Day by Day: 100 Keys to French Parenting; and French Kids Eat Everything by Karen Le Billon). I’m enjoying the trend chiefly because it basically confirms the way a) my husband and I were raised and b) we’re raising our kids. (Except for the minor detail of the amazing French food . . .) Daddy and Mommy are in charge; boundaries (which means being comfortable saying – and meaning – “no”) help kids feel safe and taken care of and maintains household sanity; snacks are an exception; dinner is made at home and eaten together, the same basic meal for everyone; adults are not just tall playmates, nor are responsible for having something fun (or organized) scheduled for every moment of the day – independent free play is a Very Good Thing.

So, for me, the books are a combination of “You were doing what before?”; the cozy adult recognition that my parents were right all along; and the relief that I no longer have to feel guilty for not having my children’s day divided into Enriching Activities or for not carrying snacks in my purse (which aren’t missed, for the record). 

::5::

Let me clarify that there are still plenty of ways in which I am not a “French parent” (or even an American “French parent”). It would be easy to get the impression from the French parenting books that their approach and, say, the attachment-parenting approach are mutually exclusive. (And, frankly, the extremes of each are mutually exclusive.) But so far things seem to be going well with our Brooklyn-meets-Paris, extended-breastfeeding, parents are parents and kids are kids approach.

::6::


My children’s library book pick of the week is Queenie Farmer Had Fifteen Daughters by Ann Campbell, in honor of Mother’s Day – and in honor of my mother. Now, my father is still happily married to (and living with) my mother – he did not disappear a la Mr. Farmer in a futile search for missing cows. But the baking, crafting, creative love for her fifteen daughters (and fifty assorted grandchildren) that Queenie Farmer displays reminded me immediately of my own Mom and her baking, crafting, creative love for her three daughters (and assorted grandchildren). Gorgeous dresses (Christmas, Easter, prom, bridesmaid’s . . .); baptismal gowns; our special birthday desserts (my daughter is already plotting baking time with Grandma for my birthday this summer); and the many favorite photos of my children that were taken by their photographer Grandma. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg of my Mom’s creative talents. Thank you, Mom! Happy Mother’s Day!

::7::

Finally, this is Day 1 of the Pentecost Novena, or the nine days of prayer between the Ascension and Pentecost. The Pentecost Novena was the original novena; the idea of a novena has since become to pray a prayer or set of prayers daily on the nine days leading up to a feast. There aren’t particular prayers set by the Catholic Church for the Pentecost novena. There are short options (the “Come, Holy Spirit” prayer, for instance) and Very Long options (the Novena of the Seven Gifts, for instance). I happen to like this Pentecost Novena, which is somewhere in-between.

For more Quick Takes, visit Jen over at Conversion Diary!

Tablet Reading – links for May 1

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Cherry Blossoms

photo of the week by Makio Kusahara

Links about the exploration and pursuit of the new. Raising a kid who doesn’t fear new foods (a link to an entertaining post about a book that I enjoyed); the voices of two inventors – one still alive and one long dead; practical advice on having and pursuing great ideas; the invention of . . . a pronoun (and a new take on gender – I never said that all new things were necessarily improvements . . .). And a humorous video spin-off of a commercial for an invention of the future present.

:: Hungry Monkey (Design Mom)

Given to me by my stepmother (my sole inspiration and role-model when it comes to all things food and whose great wedding present of a curated cookbook collection you read about here) this past weekend at my baby shower, Hungry Monkey is sub-titled “A Food-Loving Father’s Quest to Raise an Adventurous Eater.” I accepted the present greedily, like a recovering addict would take to their formerly beloved drug, because all through this pregnancy, I’ve eaten like a stereotypical four year old. I like things that are white and yellow. I want nothing to do with green. Chicken fingers and plain white cupcakes with plain white frosting (or Funfetti, if we’re feeling really adventurous) have constituted their own food groups.

As someone who has lived her whole adult life on spicy curry soupsbrussels sprouts tossed with mustard and capers, and Ethiopian injera, this has been moderately terrifying on a good day and depression-making on the worst. Is this kid so picky I can’t even tolerate any decent food pregnant? Are we going to be resigned to dinners of plain cheese pizza and pasta-with-butter-no-sauce for the next 18 years and eight weeks?

Is it okay to start crying now?

:: Steadicam Inventor Joins the Inventors Hall of Fame (NPR)

BROWN: Well, the prime – the way I see it, the prime inventing act is identifying something you really want which is missing. You know, we gloss over what’s missing, we take for granted what’s missing.

CONAN: Well, a lot of us who are inspired by invention really want a whole lot of money.

BROWN: Well, a whole lot of money is an auxiliary phenomenon to inventing. If you’re a good inventor, you get a whole lot of money. I guess theoretically that’s the idea. But you know what, a good life, a great career, a good marriage in effect are inventions because there is something that you want which may or may not presently exist or may only partially exist. What you have already may need improving or it may not exist at all, you know. So I think you have to broaden the definition; it isn’t just gadgets and gizmos and machines and processes. It’s whatever you want and the finding of it, the getting of it could be considered an invention, you know?

I’d love to encourage people, particularly kids, to think of their lives in those terms, you know, and incidentally, by the way, to think of stuff they want personally as accessible. I’m a big fan of personal inventing. My house is full of one of a kind gadgets that might not be worth even patenting or selling, but are very satisfying to own, you know?

:: For the First Time Ever, You Can Now Hear What Alexander Graham Bell Sounded Like (The Atlantic)

“Did Bell speak with a Scottish burr? What was the pitch and depth of the voice with which he loved to belt out ballads and music hall songs?” Bell biographer Charlotte Gray asks in Smithsonian. He had lived in England, Canada, the eastern United States. He summered in Nova Scotia where people spoke Gaelic. How did all these influences combine in his speech?

And now Gray has her answer. The Smithsonian has released audio recovered from a wax and cardboard disc dated April 15, 1885. In it, you can clearly hear the inventor speak the words: “Hear my voice – Alexander Graham Bell.”

:: How Entrepreneurs Come Up With Great Ideas (Wall Street Journal)

How did everybody else get inspiration to strike—and how can we work the same magic?

To find out, we turned to the experts—the startup mentors who discuss launching businesses at our Accelerators blog, as well as other investors, advisers and professors who have seen and heard countless success stories, and entrepreneurs who have written success stories of their own. They saw inspiration coming from all sorts of sources—everyday puzzles, driving passions and the subconscious mind.

Here’s what they had to say.

:: Sweden’s New Gender-Neutral Pronoun: Hen (Slate.com)

Ironically, in the effort to free Swedish children from so-called normative behavior, gender-neutral proponents are also subjecting them to a whole set of new rules and new norms as certain forms of play become taboo, language becomes regulated, and children’s interactions and attitudes are closely observed by teachers. One Swedish school got rid of its toy cars because boys “gender-coded” them and ascribed the cars higher status than other toys. Another preschool removed “free playtime” from its schedule because, as a pedagogue at the school put it, when children play freely “stereotypical gender patterns are born and cemented. In free play there is hierarchy, exclusion, and the seed to bullying.” And so every detail of children’s interactions gets micromanaged by concerned adults, who end up problematizing minute aspects of children’s lives, from how they form friendships to what games they play and what songs they sing.

:: ADmented Reality – Google Glasses Remixed with Google Ads (Rebellious Pixels via the creators project)

When I saw Google had somehow forgotten to include any ads in their Project Glass promotional video I just couldn’t resist fixing that little oversight for them. So less then 24 hours after Google released their video I remixed and uploaded my own slightly more realistic version of the augmented reality glasses – now featuring contextual Google Ads for your life!

7 quick takes – holy water and easy readers edition

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::1::

The Resident Theologian and I spent our first (school-) year  of married life in a cottage-y little townhouse in the beach town of Santa Marinella (featured in pics 1, 2, and 5 of this post of Mama needs coffee. [Thanks, Jenny, for the trip down memory lane!]) Santa Marinella attracts a lot of student family ex-pats because, as a beach town, it has a lot of rental properties available during the school year that are either used by their Italian owners or rented out for three times the school-year rent during the blazing Italian summers. We loved our drafty little nest, our landlords were wonderful, and though I’d had to leave all of our wedding presents in storage (read: my long-suffering parents’ basement) in the States, I feathered our nest through the year with comfort-making things like an IKEA tension-rod-mounted shower curtain, a pot lid (lots of pots, no lids when we moved in), bigger drinking glasses, and even a stick blender that a friend of ours gave us because she never used it (hello, spinach hummus!). And at some point that year, we had our first little home blessed by Fr. Luke Buckles, OP (so wonderful to run into him in this post over at Catholic All Year – if only I could run into him in person again now!).

::2::

At the end of those two semesters, we’d figured out that we’d be back in the fall for one more semester, so we packed up books and a few personal things that we didn’t want to cart back to the States for just the summer and we stashed them (with our landlords’ blessing) in a crawl space in our rental. We knew our landlords were renting the place to vacationers over the summer, and we were rather familiar with the habits of summer renters (our landlords’ sheets and an antique linen bedspread had walked off the summer before we first moved in). We were expecting some . . . attrition . . . and had an IKEA run planned for soon after our return to fill in any gaps.

::3::

But the night we re-entered our home after a summer away . . . Well, the box of stuff we’d left was intact, still sitting in the crawl space. But our sheets, blankets, shower curtain and tension rod, stick blender, pot lid, drinking glasses, and even our collection of spices – along with other things – had been taken during the summer. I was six months pregnant with our daughter, expecting to give birth before we returned to the States, and I felt like a mother bird whose nest had been torn open and plundered. Our home had been a place of peace and comfort when we’d left. Not now. I wasn’t prepared for the feelings of insecurity and violation. Or the darkness of the anger and frustration. But from somewhere in the middle of the black cloud that I was wrestling with as I tried to fall asleep that night, I remembered the bottle of holy water that had been in our crawl space box of stuff. I went downstairs, dug it out, blessed myself, and then sprinkled it around our house, in every room. And the evil left, and peace returned, and I slept. That’s not to say that the hurt and the anger completely disappeared then – they didn’t, and took some time to heal (finding the 1-euro yellow spray bottle that I’d gotten in Florence and discovered hadn’t been taken helped) - but the sticky ugliness of that black cloud, and the feelings of exposure and violation and peace-less-ness left that night with the holy water.

::4::

And this was what I remembered last Saturday, when the kids and I were in foul moods all day. Pretty much our worst ever collective day – but one that we, as a family, had been building up to for a few days. (The Resident Theologian was out at an event on this particular evening, due back sometime after the kids were in bed.) Right before getting dinner together, I really wasn’t sure how I was going to make it until the kids were in bed. So Many Tears. So Much Drama. And a black storm cloud over my head, too. SO Frustrated – and then in the middle of my mental storm, remembered our bottle of holy water. Got it out, silently blessed each of the kids & myself with it, dashed a bunch around the house… Placebo effect? Not so fast – I didn’t say anything about what I was doing to either of the kids, who’ve never seen me do this before – but their moods changed (even in different rooms). And mine definitely did. (And the Resident Theologian made sure to bless himself with some as soon as I told him about it, which was pretty much as soon as he walked in the door that evening.) Neither of us has any idea what was going on except for lots of evil flying around the country that week (Boston bombing, Gosnell trial, etc.), but the tears and drama left our family that evening after a good dousing with holy water. Thank You, Jesus. Love, me.

::5::

Now for an entirely different topic. Easy readers. I naively thought that a Level 1 easy reader would be a book containing only words that may be easily sounded out by one who knows the most basic consonant and vowel sounds. Ideally, two and three-letter words with no blends or diphthongs, focusing on the short vowel sounds. Hat, bed, pig, jog, fun. English has lots of these words. I was wrong. So dreadfully, dreadfully wrong. Easy readers (with the sole exception of the mind-numbing BOB books) are just books with short sentences and relatively short “familiar words.” No matter if there’s not a chance that the new reader could sound out any of these words by herself. She’ll get them by osmosis…er…worksheets…er…by hearing endless repetitions of “sound it out” from her parent or teacher. When. She. Can’t. Because sounding them out requires knowing too many rules all at once.

::6::

So, like the Little Red Hen, I am going to do it myself. I already fired off one story (with a plot! and dialogue!) containing only two and three letter words, no blends or diphthongs (except limited use of the word “the”) before lunch one day a couple weeks ago.

::7::

Pictures are a bit more of a hurdle. But we will figure something out.

For more Quick Takes, visit Jen over at Conversion Diary. (She’s back!)

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