The Anti-Nester

I finally live in a beautiful apartment, but I am not sure it needs to be furnished. My roommate brought a lovely couch and I have many books, but do I also have to buy bedside tables and chairs?

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How do you decorate an apartment without buying anything?

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And wait, before you tell me to devote my free time to Craigslist, or “make” furniture, I can’t be bothered.

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What if we just embraced a minimalist approach to furnishing? I don’t mean ideologically. I just mean, what if I give up on having my home reflect my personality and instead just try to keep it clean and add furniture when I can no longer stand the inconvenience of eating dinner at my kitchen counter?

Roasted Fall Veggies

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How gorgeous is my purple cauliflower? This is broccoli and purple cauliflower roasted with harissa.

Recipe:

Heat oven to 425, toss vegetables (all cut to the same size) with olive oil, salt and harissa from a tube or made from scratch.

Roast for about 15 min, although the thing with roasting vegetables is you have to just check. I check first when I smell them, then I usually turn them all over and put them in for another 5 min before checking them again.

Soap Operas

“I am watching my stories.” –one of the few phrases I remember from early childhood, spoken by my daycare provider while we all presumably were taking a nap in her basement. It seemed like a mark of real adult accomplishment to watch “stories” during the day. I now realize that I won’t really be able to watch tv during the day until I become a nice retired grandmother, so I have to get all my stories in at night. I don’t, I should say, watch Days of Our Lives. But I do watch Scandal, Parenthood, and Nashville–all examples of the new golden age of prime time soap operas.

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Soap operas are fascinating structurally, as James Franco taught us, because they have huge casts that need to be shuffled around while the writers also strive to maintain fever pitch drama during every episode. The new era of soaps have also learned quite a bit from premium television and thus have “complex” characters who are neither morally upstanding nor despicable. Everyone has to have a bit of Walter White in them these days. They have a bit of procedural pleasure (“what client will Olivia Pope have this week on Scandal?”), mixed with a bit of process voyeurism (for instance, Nashville just taught us how to buy a guitar that has a “bluesy sound”).

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I can’t watch Grey’s Anatomy anymore because even I can’t quite believe that the Seattle metro area suffers a mass-casualty mudslide every two months, but Grey’s Anatomy and its equally soapy spinoff Private Practice got me hooked on the addictive crack of crying every week. I now get this same crack from Nashville, a show that delivered my wet salty hit this week by restoring Connie Britton’s voice after she had “lost it” in a tragic car crash. As the audience of the Grand Ole Opry rose to their feet to cheer, I wept.

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Parenthood also reliably lets me drain my nasal cavity as Lauren Graham beautifully explains to Meg Whitman that marrying young can only end in ruin. I really lost it when Mae Whitman replied “I am not like you.” Fine, maybe this scene already took place in The Gilmore Girls, but Parenthood teed me up for that cry with the perfect level of tragedy. This is not Rory, this will not end well.

There is also a particular joy to crying while you are watching the luminescent skin of beautiful people shimmer before you, reflecting, nay drinking up the rosy light of the screen. It might be a really good primer and an expert application of highlighter, or it might be that they just have more LIFE. They glow so that I may empty out my feelings and begin anew.

Green Liquid

It is fall, I’m over salads. I eat an insane amount of roasted vegetables, but I am probably supposed to have some fresh vegetables once in a while. Which brings me to my new life solution: the NutriBullet! I never replace a meal with a NutriBullet smoothie but I now have one or two if these between meals everyday. Isn’t this just a smoothie? Can’t you use a blender? I guess. But this gadget liquifies stuff, which means the kale or spinach you add will be “juiced” while keeping all the fiber. 20131019-091055.jpg

20131019-091106.jpgThe ideal recipe includes a cup of greens, frozen fruit to make it cold and creamy, almond butter, and almond milk or water. This should get you a nice teal if you use blueberries (or the color of sadness, if you believe my husband). These photos demonstrate the danger of mixing red and green (=brown). I also enjoy the vibrant green of spinach, green apple, lemon juice and almond milk. Or the more appealing brown of kale, frozen banana, peanut butter, almond milk and tons of cocoa powder and cinnamon.

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This strawberry, spinach, coconut water, and peanut butter might have looked like garbage juice, but it was still delicious.

20131019-091541.jpgOther great things about this new gadget: it can blend ice with ease, it comes with tops that allow you to store extras in the fridge, it is insanely easy to clean, and you saved yourself about $400 by not buying a Vitamix.

The Literary Origins of Contemporary Female Experience

The foundational texts of a young lady of habit circa 1995, or what girls read before the Golden Age of Young Adult Fiction and the arrival of The Golden Compass, Twilight and The Hunger Games:

The Betsy-Tacy Books

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I will forever crave onion sandwiches and believe that I am entitled to a Grand Tour in Europe.

Anne of Green Gables

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But really I mean Anne of the Island or the Diana books, ’cause that is when the full domesticity porn started.

Alanna-The Song of the Lioness Series

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If you wish Arya (from Game of Thrones) had her own series, rejoice! More importantly, these books instilled in me the truth that all the best romances come from cross dressing.

A Ring of Endless Light

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Or really, I should say, any of the Vicky Austin books (Troubling a Star, The Moon by Night) or Polly O’Keefe books (The Arm of the Starfish, A House like a Lotus). A Wrinkle in Time might be L’Engle’s most celebrated work, but these other series were the ones that made me dream of going to Lisbon, Antarctica, and Massachusetts. They have tons of romance but they are also strangely fantastic and mystical without going full sci-fi or fantasy. They are kind of romantic mysteries about science!

 

-D

B*tch Stole My Look

This is a reference to the excellent segment on Joan River’s fantastic program “Fashion Police” on E! (But I didn’t have to tell you that).

Or in the words of the greatest publication known to man:

Who Wore it Best?

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Bitch stole my look I basically selected this dress solely for the purpose of appearing in one of these features. I win!

Ladies of Habit Book Club

I read all day for work, so when I read at night (my chin slumping towards my chest as my 8:00 buzz wears off), I have a few requirements: my books need to help me talk to other human beings at some point, my books need to actually keep my attention (see the super unsuccessful Middlemarch experiment of 2013), and my books need to preserve some level of mental health (basically I don’t want to read super sad memoirs).

My most recent picks are:

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk

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A veteran comes home from Iraq as part of a heroic military unit and spends one day at a Dallas Cowboys game as a VIP. Fountain’s characters talk like how I, as a woman who spends no time with working class men, imagine they really do talk. The politics of the book will make you marvel at how long it has been since the Bush era and its geopolitics. Mostly I think book is a fabulous depiction of how spectacle feels (both traumatizing and exhilarating).

The Interestings

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Life long friends meet at an arts summer camp. This book is the most delightful and on-point description of intra-friend jealousy that I have encountered. Wolitizer’s account of upper middle class white people’s debilitating need to be special is everything Claire Messud’s The Emperor’s Children wasn’t.

The Next Best Thing

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You need to be reading Weiner. Not this book, but don’t worry she writes a lot of them. I suggest Along Came You. The Franzen/Weiner debate about whether the divisions of high/low book culture are gendered or merely a distinction of taste never ceases to delight me (and it keeps on going!). But I genuinely think critics who don’t read Weiner’s books should stop writing about it. How can you engage in this debate without including formal analysis of both authors’ work? If you have already read something by Weiner, The Next Best Thing is interesting because it essentially takes on the question of commercialization in art from the perspective of TV. The protagonist gets her pilot picked up and then watches the network mess it up. Weiner’s own blind spots about commercialization become pretty clear in the book as Weiner describes her protagonist’s show as a newfangled Golden Girls but fails to prove this level of quality in her descriptions of the show’s plot or dialogue. Weiner, like her protagonist, often declares her own work to be literature without serving up the real quality. However, Weiner’s book takes risks that I see very few literary authors take on, such as having some steamy sex between a wheelchair bound man and a disfigured woman and giving you ALL the technical details. She is also basically the Stephen King/George R.R. Martin of books about normal women. In other words, the books are just technically excellent when it comes to plots, characters and stakes.

Coming up next: The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P., some good new young adult books, and the Flamethrowers (come on Brooklyn Public Library, bring me my books!).

-D

New Fall TV

My fall TV schedule is already very busy, so the arrival of new shows can be a little overwhelming. Should anyone really waste their time with a pilot when there is a new episode of Parks and Rec to watch? Don’t worry, I have watched a bunch of pilots so that you don’t have to.

First, shows that actually might make it onto my rotation:

S.H.I.E.L.D.: This is the new Marvel/Whedon enterprise, and I am surprised to say it is kind of great. It takes everything that is good about Whedon’s participation in the comic book world (his penchant for smart lady characters, fantasy, fun ensemble jokes) but gets rid of the bulk and stupidity of the two hour movies like Avengers.

Masters of Sex: You were probably going to watch it anyway, so I don’t have to sell you on this. But here: sexy science sex, Lizzy Caplan, good pencil skirts in nice cotton-poly blends.

Brooklyn 99: It has just the right amount of Andre to Andy ratio.

Almost Human: All the fun of Data-type story lines, but with better production values.

Trophy Wife: I am probably not going to watch this regularly, but this was surprisingly charming. Michaela Watkins and Marcia Gay Hardin are fantastic, but even Ackerman is kind of good at physical comedy. It might be the Cougar Town of Fall 2013.

And shows I thought I was going to like, but they disappointed:

Hello Ladies: No heart, like Two and Half Men made for HBO (get thee to a better show Merchant!).

Ironside: I watch soapy dramas, and this one could still get better, but it needs about 80% more Pablo Schreiber (it currently has only 15% Pablo Schreiber).

Coming up next: Michael J. Fox, Super Fun Night, Hostages etc.

-Dana

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