Five Things That Make Life Better on February 22, 2019


I wrote this blog on “Presidents’ Day” and I post this picture of a great president and a great Republican, Abraham Lincoln. It’s no wonder he is considered one of our greatest presidents. And isn’t it shocking that we’ve only had 45 presidents preside over our country? I think Andover has had more than that! (By the way, if you are a fan of audio books, George Saunders’ Lincoln in the Bardo” is an incredible audio experience — more like a play mixed with a dream. I highly recommend it.)

Here are the five things that made my week sweet.

1) It’s hard to find a stock image of POLITENESS, which goes to the top of the list. Actually it could go to the top of the list every week. As a culture, we used to be more mannerly. When someone makes the (nominal effort) to say please or thank you, I practically pant with appreciation. It’s gotten that bad. Today I heard a young girl, I’d say about 11 years old follow her mother out of a shop. Her mother said nothing but the girl said thank you and made the effort to make direct eye contact with the clerk she had worked with. I was impressed with this kid. Call me a fuddy duddy if you like. I call myself a fuddy duddy. Good manners make everyone feel better. They grease the wheels of pleasantness to one another.


2). Shtisel on Netflix. When my friend Fred raves about something I pay attention. A discerning consumer of culture, he wrote a few social media posts about this tv series and used the word “obsessed.” I confess I’m way behind the usual NPR-American when it comes to tv series. I’ve yet to watch “Homeland” or “Breaking Bad.” (If you leave me now I’ll understand.). I came very late to “Downton Abbey”, “The Crown“ The Americans”, “The Good Place.” But I urge you to watch. . Made in Israel, it is the story of an extended Hasidic family. Now that I’ve lost you let me add that the script is in Hebrew and Yiddish with English subtitles. Want to hear more? On Shtisel we meet some of the most original characters I’ve ever met on any show. The writers and performers have made me fascinated about the people behind the unruly beards and sidekicks , and frumpy long skirts, and wigs. These are not the Jews of “The Goldbergs” or “Transparent”, yet they are fully formed and flawed, passionate human beings. The first season consists of 12 episodes. I watched all of them in 2 days. I just learned there’s a second season, and perhaps plans for a third. And from what I’m reading on other columns, blogs, and so forth — you don’t have to be Jewish to be fascinated.

Bonus Separated at Birth: Armie Hammer & Michael Aloni of “Shtisel”.

3). Brodo bone broth. I read somewhere that bone broth was good and good for you. It’s a tone of protein in a low-calorie dose, it’s good for your skin, etc. (But do you believe everything you read?). (I respectfully retract that question.). Then I read about Brodo, a restaurant that sold very good bone broth made from the bones of cows, chickens, and turkeys or a combination thereof. I tried it at their Lower East Side store. Good. Warming. Great as a take-out drink when you can’t possibly have more coffee or tea. If you don’t live near a Brodo — as most of you do not — there’s hope in a plastic container for you. Brodo delivers its elixir — free in 39 states. If you live within a Fresh Direct region, you can order yours there. (I recommend its “Hearth” blend.). (I still miss Bovril, the English “beef paste” which I used to consume like tea in the cold weather; no longer for sale in the US.)


4) My friend Jessica is always game to try new places and experiences (remember the Rose Immersion?) and she invited me to meet some of her friends at Spring Place, a downtown work/social/fill in the next word club in Tribeca. It was Fashion Week. Spring Place is a Fashion Week sort of place. It is a large building, and there were hundreds of people everywhere — waiting to get in, waiting for an elevator, leaving a fashion show. A concierge told me where to meet Jessica (in the “Sixth Floor Sunken Living Room” to watch a documentary about the return of the 1970s brand Fiorucci). I ended up in a fashion show by mistake. And once in, I couldn’t leave. I felt like Lucy or more likely Ethel (Please don’t tell me you didn’t get the reference.) or say Melissa McCarthy in a fish-out-of-water comedy. No one noticed me when I took an actual seat. I got actual swag. While everyone else was oohing or pretending to ooh, or not oohing, I was looking at my watch wondering if the documentary would still be playing when I got out. That was a big laugh.


5). For all of you who think I have an actual crush on Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller, let it be said here that I don’t. I mean, it’s not romantic. I’m just really impressed with his service and his determination.

Stay warm and act natural!


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Lisa Birnbach's Five Things That Make Life Better on February 15, 2019

EP 32 Email-BannerGuest-2019-NINA.jpg
You may now kiss the bride.

You may now kiss the bride.

I’m afraid I’m still all wedding-addled from Exhibit A’s ™ wonderful weekend when he married his beautiful bride. There’s nothing wrong with hanging onto Cloud 9 as long as you can. In fact, I believe it is recommended for one’s health.

Usually at a momentous occasion there are a lot of “if only we’d….” or “I should have said….” but I can honestly say I’m feeling content at the moment. The last thing my son told me was when I pointed to his wedding ring and he said, “It makes me happy every time I look at it.

Nina Lorez Collins

Nina Lorez Collins

But in case your son didn’t get married last week, there’s a whole week of gratitude to catch up on.

Meanwhile, I’m so pleased to tell you about this week’s guest. She is writer and editor Nina Lorez Collins, who in her spare time — and she has four children — founded the online and now real community called Woolfers, as in Virginia Woolf. Dealing with aging “without apology” as she terms it, Nina has written a book called What Would Virginia Woolf Do? that is published by Grand Central Publishing. She has also just released a volume of her late mother’s writings, entitled Notes from a Black Woman’s Diary, published by Ecco. I’m looking forward to hearing her five things shortly.

But first these five items have improved my life this week. Maybe they’ll inspire you.


1) I am heartened by the large numbers of women who have declared they are running for president. And the season is young! Given that women — those most emotional of creatures — have already been elected to lead such complicated countries as Germany, the UK, Ireland, Israel, India, Argentina, Phillippines, Norway, Pakistan, Switzerland, Finland, Peru, Macedonia, Thailand, Poland, Austria, and so on…. you’d think we could trust a female elected in the United States. We shall see. (A woman needs to prove she has the background and skills to do the job; but she can not be ruled out because she is a woman.) (Nor should be elected because she is female.)


2. I am grateful for my “stepdaughter,” Izzy, who was as helpful in helping me prepare for the wedding as any of my own DNA-bearing exhibits. ™ . In fact she was wonderful. I want to note that #ExhibitI helped do the important work of dressing up bathrooms — much more exquisitely than I would have done. And we had a lot of fun together.


3) Arranging flowers myself.

Of course we hired a florist to take take of the wedding. It was too easy not to. Room decorations, centerpieces for the tables, and a beautiful chuppah (marriage canopy) under which the couple stands. But for the rehearsal dinner, I did what any freelance writer with enough time and interest would do: I went to the flower district myself and bought flowers and vases. Michael at FleuraMetz USA gave us great advice on the size of our vases and how to mix ranunculus with roses, and very cool looking ruffled leaves. Jamali had the vases. The day of the rehearsal dinner was delightfully spent in making arrangements that weren’t too tall or too short; not to sparse or too stuffed. (Also the prices are much more gentle than at a florist’s.)

He’s about a day away from finding his place on the wall.

He’s about a day away from finding his place on the wall.

4) . Henry, as you know, is gone. But our painting of Henry just arrived after many months’-wait. It captures his spirit, and I like the homespun unrefined treatment.


5) . Robert Mueller. Robert Mueller. Robert Mueller. Hang in there, Sir.


And now this week’s guest, the multi-talented writer and social media arbiter Nina Lorez Collins, founder of What Would Virginia Woolf Do and editor of her late mother’s collected writings, Notes from a Black Woman’s Diary (Ecco).

1) . MOD Dinners — periodic dinners with fellow (sister?) moderators of the Woolfers digital spaces, all of whom are volunteers. Laughter ensues.


2) Fishnet stockings with a larger than usual net: (I have not described them well, but here’s a picture).


3) The Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford, Connecticut.

A fantastic surprise when driving between New York and Boston, both architecturally and in its collections.


4) . Lemon squares. (Especially at a MOD Dinner.) .


5) . Skin Trip Lotion . (A family favorite.)


Stay dry and act natural!

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Lisa Birnbach's Five Things That Make Life Better on Feb. 8, 2019


While you are reading this blog or listening to this week’s podcast, I will be experiencing something lifechanging: my son, Exhibit A ™’ (now I’m thinking about what tense to use, because you may be reading this Friday or later.) will have been getting married over the weekend. Yes, it’s a big step! And it’s such a joyful milestone and experience for our families.

The way he and his fiancee have planned and organized for this momentous tradition is very different from the way we did it … oh a century ago. FIrst of all they planned it, not us. (We were barely allowed to invite anyone.) There’s was no long engagement; no waiting a year to get ready. Who’s ever ready for a huge change in his or her life anyway? And they are not kids, so this event is a reflection of themselves, and not what they’re supposed to do.,

I’ve never seen my son happier; the look on his face when he bought the engagement ring was enough to convince me that he was deeply in love, which I already knew.

And his fiancée says she’s never met a man who makes her feel as good as my son does. That’s a lovely thing to hear.

So I think it’s fair to say that of my five things which made my life better, Love is number 1.

Candice Payne

Candice Payne

2) . I read a wonderful story over the weekend about a 34 year old real estate broker in Chicago, Candice Payne, who decided to personally rescue as many homeless people off the streets of Chicago during the impending polar vortex by buying inexpensive hotel rooms for a night or two. Her generosity didn’t end there; she had to transport the people to the hotel, feed them, and provide them with fresh clothes. Via social media Payne recruited other volunteers to help her ferry the homeless to the Amber Inn, as well as help pay for the hotel bill for what amounted to several more days, and 60 rooms altogether. Candice Payne is a hero. Through her acts of kindness, she jump-started other people’s altruism, and without waiting for laws to get passed or red tape to be cut. Here’s the story via the New York Times.


3) The Life-Changing Genius of adding Lug Soles to one’s shoes or boots.

Yesterday, these ankle boots had flat leather soles. Today, they are winterized with thick lug soles and heels. Who wouldn’t want that for their hard-working winter footwear? You can have these or any of a number of rubber soles affixed to your shoes (even red rubber ones to emulate Louboutins, if that’s your thing) at pretty much any shoemaker around. My thing is to not slip on the ice.

Richard E. Grant

Richard E. Grant

4) . I am crazy about actor Richard E. Grant. I’ve been aware of his work ever since the early 1990s when he appeared in a diverse group of movies such as “Henry and June,” “LA STory,’ “The Player,” “The Age of Innocence,” and no snob he — “Spice World.” He’s never boring, and doesn’t merely use his familiar bag of tricks to bring a character to life. I cite him now because he has been nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” as Jack Hock, the slithery sidekick to Melissa McCarthy’s Lee Israel. More than that, he is enjoying this run enormously. Though a recognized and famous actor at this point (62 years of age), he is not pulling a jaded, “Oh it’s an honor just to be nominated” pose; he’s joyous at every banal interview. Good for him! On Instagram Mr. Grant reads a fan letter he wrote to Barbra Streisand when he as a 14 year old fan in Swaziland. He finally got a response from Streisand (social media is a good lubricant.) and his reaction to it is priceless.


5) . Hi, Mr. Mueller. Everything okay? Can I get you some coffee or Tylenol or oak tag? I’m here if you need me, just not this weekend.


Stay warm and act natural!

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Lisa Birnbach's Five Things That Make Life Better on Feb. 1, 2019


Hello friends and countrymen. How are you faring in this polar vortex? Are you staying warm? Staying indoors? Getting cabin fever? Binging? Sometimes Mother Nature needs to rear her head and remind us that above all, she is in charge. And she is. We are at her mercy. So let’s not get in her way, and accept what she has offered. Or get on a plane and fly someplace warm while our TSA workers are back on the job.


1) My new pajamas. I recently bought them online and they have jumped to the head of the line. You know how clothes can do that sometimes? A new favorite surprises you. These are made by Eberjey, and though I thought they would feel more like cotton flannel, they are poly- modal, which means they hold their shape better. (But they are not natural. I wonder if they make something like this in all cotton?) It’s not easy to find a short-sleeved top with long pajama pants. (I’ve tried; I know.)


2. City mapper app. Don’t laugh, but growing up in New York in the 1970’s (yes, I’m old) I never took the subway. I took the bus (which was like watching paint dry; in other words s l o w). Citymapper is great for me; it estimates how long every option will take, how many calories you will burn for each (in an Uber? Not too many), and they even tell you which subway exit to use in case of rain. But they won me when they estimated how long a trip would take by jetpack. It makes me laugh every time I use the app. I loved Stophop, but I think this is even better. And I just learned they have apps for other cities as well — Boston, Philadelphia, London, Melbourne, Los Angeles, Lisbon, Copenhagen, and more! I never hear anyone talk about City Mapper, but I think it’s great.


3.) Flannel-lined jeans. I bought them for my fella, and made myself a little jealous in the process. Please let me explain. I don’t mind the winter if it’s moderately sunny and I’m properly and warmly dressed. I am a person who wears long silk underwear for much of this season. But getting undressed at the gym and wherever else I get undressed — (none of your beeswax) — and dressed in the winter is such a long and exhausting drag. Lined jeans make so much sense. I ordered mine from “Old Reliable” — L.L. Bean. I didn’t even open the package until today, when the wind-chill made New York feel like -5 degrees Fahrenheit. They are great. I’ll wear them again tomorrow. Men, women, and children can get lined pants — lined in flannel or fleece from many places. Everyone in the Midwest should buy lined pants and long underwear and then when you’re all toasty and warm, resolve to not go outside until your thermometer shows a balmy +7. Okay?


4) . “Gatz,” The Elevator Repair Company’s 8 hour production of (the entirety) of The Great Gatsby. I missed this when it was first produced at The Public Theater, but my Exhibit learned it was coming to Skirball Center, the performing arts venue at NYU. The lights go up on an office, one from the 1980s — large ugly computer monitors and hard drive boxes, ugly file cabinets, the sound of a constant whoosh of traffic through the doors. Eventually, when an office worker has trouble starting his computer, he pulls out a copy of “The Great Gatsby,” and reads it. Word for word. Eventually his co-workers become Daisy and Tom, Jordan, Muriel, and Jay Gatsby. There are several intermissions, including a 90 minute dinner break, but it’s almost worse breaking the spell and going out to find food. Though the set remains fixed, within short order, you think you’re seeing Gatsby’s estate in East Egg, or Myrtle’s squalid apartment, or Nick’s modest house. It is an extraordinary experience. The best part is the evocative writing of F. Scott Fitzgerald. No co-writers, no rewriters.


5) . Majorities may come and majorities may go, but Robert Mueller, deliberate and calm, is reviewing all his files and depositions. Slow and steady wins the day.


And now, The Five Things that Make Life Better for E. Jean Carroll!!


1) Vaseline Petroleum Jelly. A little trick E. Jean learned from a former boyfriend who was an Olympic swimmer. Vaseline protects the skin and she slathers her face and body in it year round. It would explain her good skin.


2) . Ezekiel Bread, Genesis 1:29 bread. It’s all organic and alive! Filled with sprouted seeds of all kinds. It’s a “seed cake,” as was mentioned in the work of Jane Austen. Ms. Carroll spreads hers with organic peanut butter. Find it in the freezer section of your grocery store.


3) . Hey ladies, who doesn’t appreciate their hair color? E. Jean’s favorite is Feria by L’Oreal. She likes their conditioner.


4) Her Pellet Stove. This is a new one for me, a small home stove (with chimney) that .burns pellets of compressed saw dust, that would be otherwise be trash. This little stove heats Carroll’s entire cabin, is much cheaper than her wood stove, and is better for the environment.


5) A three way tie: The Good Place, a welcome part of E. Jean’s evening. She watches one episode before retiring for the evening. “A show about ethics!”


Anthony Powell’s superb set of t2 novels, Dance to the Music of Time, which she listened to on audio. “You’re in for 3 delightful months, I promise you.


But she broke the tie with her absolute favorite for Number 5: Nancy Pelosi! “She’s firm!”


Stay warm, no seriously — stay warm and act natural!


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Lisa Birnbach's Five Things That Make Life Better on January 25, 2019


Oh, that’s right. This is what cold feels like. It’s amazing how we remember the idea of freezing cold, but our bodies forget the visceral feelings. No longer. It’s 8 degrees outdoors — with windchill -4 — (and feels like about 40 inside). Time for serious layering. Time to be strategic about moving about the city. If you spend most of your day in your car, you know what to do. And maybe my podcast can warm you up in other ways.

Before I go out into the tundra, let me express my gratitude for Five Things That improved my life this week.

1) . First dinner date with old friends. You know how you can be friends forever with someone yet never meet them for dinner? Or you only see them amongst groups of people? Or you meet frequently, but without your partners? Or any or all of the above? Rose is my lifelong friend. Our mothers were best friends for most of their lives so our friendship was preordained. But we just had our first double date. And it was wonderful; the first of many, I hope.

2) Happy reinventions. A lot of us baby boomers have to (emphasis on have/need to/are impelled to) recreate ourselves as our former lines of .work are tossed out into the analog bin. (I hope we at least sparked some joy while we were at it.) . Our publications folded. Our practices were merged with others and everyone over 50 was deemed redundant. We took an early buyout because we thought it was the only alternative. We were downsized. Et cetera. Then it’s back to the drawing board to figure out how we can be of use.


Thus, I’d like to salute all of you who have uncomplainingly found a new gig, a new kind of work, a new passion. I think of work as a privilege. (And just to complicate things, I think of education as a right.) Some of my friends are now working in schools or colleges, as teachers or administrators, are writing plays (instead of tv shows which tend to die for arbitrary outside reasons and require some political jockeying to happen), or getting involved in a civic/community action or activity. And for the most part, they are uncomplaining about their new direction. Katy, Stevie, John, Barbara, Barbara, Yale, Lisa, Dani, and John — I’m thinking of all of you.


3) . Some of you may know that I love to eat chicken. I would probably marry a chicken (fried or otherwise) if it were legal. I like to cook chicken now, and have experienced enormous personal satisfaction from breaking my family’s pattern and becoming a competent chicken roaster.

I want to extend my appreciation to chickens that are featherless and well-cleaned when I buy them. This is sadly, not always the case. Fresh chicken from the artisanal butcher Hudson & Charles are pristine, as are the Katie’s Best chickens I get from Fresh Direct. Other chickens require my plucking and cleaning and wondering if I should just wax them. Then I start having second thoughts about eating chicken whatsoever.

4) . Routines. I come to praise routine and not to bash the concept. When you are a self-employed person like me, your day can fritter away with no effort. None. It’s just suddenly dark out (did I mention that it’s also very cold?) and it’s time to make dinner. But having been on my own professionally for more years than I was employed full time, I appreciate the benchmarks I put into my week, to break up my time and ensure that I am not just staring at a blank page or screen all day. Most of my scheduled breaks are for physical activity, but not all. And though my routine has taken a big swerve with the loss of Henry, Exhibit D ™, I continue to value the repetition.


5) . Robert Mueller. . I know some of you are tired of seeing Special Prosecutor’s name and face as number 5 each week. When I conceived this blog (and later the podcast) I was attempting to be apolitical. Can you believe that? I intended this space to be free of politics, to be an antidote to the gloom I felt within and without. But look, Robert Mueller, a distinguished American veteran and a registered Republican, is a good man doing tough work under tremendous pressure. And I respect that and him.


STAY WARM and act natural!

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Five Things That Make Life Better on January 18, 2019


So far, no real snow to speak of. What will this winter be all about, I wonder? Will the federal government’s shutdown define this moment in time? Will this be the winter of the strange Oscar Awards? Will 2019 be the Winter of Mrs. Maisel? Can we expect a Snownado or a Polar Vortex? It’s too soon to predict and change is way too constant at this point. Which leads me to this week’s 5 Items, for which I’ve taken a slightly different approach. This week I’m sharing the five things I own which elicit the most compliments from strangers. (Compliments= pleasure, for those who didn’t know.)

Photo by Rex Bonomelli

Photo by Rex Bonomelli

Our guest this week is the funny (in a dry way) and insightful writer Alexandra Styron, photographed below. She has written a new book called Steal This Country.

photo credit: Elena Seibert

photo credit: Elena Seibert

1.) My leather jacket. This is probably my very favorite garment of my adulthood. It was designed by my friend Charles Nolan as part of his first named collection, and I bought it at the opening of his boutique at Saks Fifth Avenue in 2004. (I met Charles through my dear friend Andy Tobias, and their relationship was a true loving partnership.) But let me tell you about this jacket. It has Charles’ signature cuffs — long and stylized, and the leather is pebbled. The jacket is perfect. People have stopped me to talk about it, to see where they can buy it. Someone even wanted to borrow it to bring it to a tailer to copy. Once I almost lost it in the trunk of a rental car in California. And once someone nicked it at at a reception after a memorial service. (It was a group effort to get it back.) I get it; it’s a great shape. It dresses down what’s too precious and dresses up a sloppy pair of jeans. This jacket has been everywhere with me. The leather is starting to crack, but I love it so much, I will not give it up. Charles died in 2011 after a brutal return engagement of cancer. I miss him and am grateful that I have so many souvenirs of his talent and memories of our time together.


2) Debbie Lewin gave me these socks after we went to see “Call Me By Your Name” together. They are brightly colored with images of peaches. (Get it?) I think because my usual sock wardrobe veers from solid navy and black all the way to solid grey, these socks get a lot of praise at the gym, the backstory notwithstanding.

With Meg Wolitzer (L) at last week’s Brown Club gathering.

With Meg Wolitzer (L) at last week’s Brown Club gathering.

3.) My eyeglasses. I have spent almost my entire life trying not to wear eyeglasses. My mother noticed that I squinted at the tv when I was very little, and took me to the ophthalmologist. Next thing I knew, I understood what “leaves” were — not blobby areas of green, but individual, unique fronds or blades, with their own networks of arteries. I didn’t know I couldn’t see until I could. I spent my young years fearing blindness — not for any logical reason, but because I thought my vision would get worse and worse. (Spoiler: it has.) . In any case, as soon as I was able to wear contact lenses, I did, and I felt my life changed for the better. No more 8th graders asking me if I were blind on a daily basis. I did suddenly have a ridiculous appetite for sunglasses, but at least I could buy cheap ones. Now that I’m — I think I have something caught in my throat — years old, I find I need reading glasses too. So having lost a dozen of those, I had this pair made with light blue lenses and guard them with my life. People seem to like them. Or else they are being super solicitous.


4.) My Dad’s watch. When my father died in 2007 he left each of his three children one of his wristwatches. I don’t wear mine every day. It’s too precious to me to wear to the gym or just to do errands. But when I have it on, I’m thinking of my dad; I still think of this as his watch. It’s a great size for my wrist (too big, but very good visibility.) I miss my father every day, whether I’m wearing his watch or not.


5.) You can tell a lot about a man from his watch. Here is Robert Mueller in a basic Casio watch during a 2013 hearing. That watch tells me he’s a sportsman and not a fop. Here’s to allowing Robert Mueller to finish the job he started.


And now here are five things from my guest this week, Alexandra Styron. Al, as she likes to be called by her friends, is the mother of two teenagers, and still somehow manages to write, and teach, and edit, and be a great wife, daughter, and member of a powerful tribe of siblings. The daughter of the great American novelist William Styron, Al’s memoir, Reading My Father, enjoyed particular acclaim.

Photo by Deborah Copaken

Photo by Deborah Copaken


1.) Seltzer Water - selt·zer . /ˈseltsər/

definition: soda water.

  • medicinal mineral water from Niederselters in Germany.

I think I owned the very first Soda Stream seltzer maker. I am obsessed with seltzer and drink it all day and night. I really (really) like wine and look forward in a possibly unhealthy way to a glass or two in the evening. But I don’t think wine is keeping me alive. Seltzer definitely is.

Tui Na.jpeg

2.) Tui Na: If you live in New York, you’ve probably passed a Tui Na joint in your neighborhood about a hundred times. They’re the little Chinese massage places that look super sketchy and dot every other side street. Do yourself a favor and go inside and ask for a massage. But only if you like to be tortured, in a good way. Tui Na practitioners are insanely good massage therapists. They find the spot that is bothering you, and then they beat the crap out of it. Sometimes I think the masseuse down the street from me in Park Slope is going to break my neck. But she hasn’t yet, and I usually get up from her table feeling like a new person. (P.S. like nail salons, they’re very cheap, so tip well!)


3.) The New York Times : Paper Edition: We still get the paper and I still read it cover to cover every morning (well, to be honest, since 2016, I spend a disturbing amount of time on the front section and usually toss the rest). Frankly I don’t know how anyone reads the paper online. What are you supposed to read first? What’s above the fold and what’s below? And where are all the weird human interest stories that leaven the bad news? The paper hitting the stoop often rousts me out of bed. Marital rule: whoever gets downstairs first gets the front section.


4.) Edith Wharton: She was such a modern, funny, wickedly observant writer, you can’t believe she was publishing around the turn of the (20th) century. Her novel, The Age of Innocence won the Pulitzer Prize for Literature in 1920. She was the first woman ever to win that award. Try her; you might like her!

Shortcake, aka “Shorty”

Shortcake, aka “Shorty”

5.) Shorty: Three years ago we rescued a Pit Bull-Bassett Hound mix named Shortcake, aka “Shorty”. I know it sounds hyperbolic but she is actually the cutest dog who ever lived. (See above.) . Everyone in our family is unreasonably fixated on her (actually I can . hear my husband downstairs talking to her right now). I don’t love her more than I love my children — I really love my children! but still……



Five Things That Make Life Better on January 11. 2019


It’s January 11th already? How did that happen? Stop going so fast! What’s the hurry?

I am kidding, I think. I make this joke every week, and it gets less funny with each passing week. Why do I stubbornly keep at it? Never mind, because today’s podcast will certainly make you laugh. My guest is the always funny and warm Caroline Rhea!


You may know Caroline from her role as Aunt Hilda in the original “Sabrina the Teenage Witch.” Or from the Match Game, or from the Caroline Rhea Show (formerly Rosie O’Donnell’s talk show). I’ve known her (not well) for a while. And we live in the same New York neighborhood.

Enough about her. Now it’s about me. My Five Things;


1) I recently learned that I’ve developed late onset allergies. They are mysterious and disturbing. How could I suddenly develop an allergic reaction to the watch I wear every day? None of the doctors I’ve seen (four or five so far) have been able to be definite about what is happening or why. But the third dermatologist I consulted just told me that I am not allergic to wool or cashmere. It was a close call. Phew. I would have hated to have parted with all those cozy sweaters I live in. So now I’m looking at my sweaters with new delight. Everything old gets to stay even longer. There will be no Kondoing of my sweaters for now.


2) A bracing walk outside every afternoon. I cannot tell you how long it is, or how many steps I take, but an afternoon walk with all its head-clearing potential is on my hit list. (Dogs are excellent for this purpose.) My intention is to clear my head, so texting and using the phone don’t improve this experience. Just walk. Think. Don’t think. Look around. Do an errand if you must, but be out there.


3) . I read and enjoyed The Wife when it was published fifteen years ago. I am a fan of Meg Wolitzer’s writing and found her novel about the wife of a heavy duty literary award-winning novelist to be compelling, funny, and smart. In December, the film based on her book was released, starring Glenn Close, Jonathan Pryce, and Christian Slater. Glenn Close is winning awards and nominations for her work in it. Because I had the opportunity to interview Meg this week on behalf of the Brown Club (we are both alumnae), I reread The Wife. It is better than I remembered. In fact, it is exquisite. Read it.

4) I just discovered that there are stores or cafes all over Manhattan that double as secure storage places for luggage. What a brilliant idea! I can imagine it was after someone had to take their bags with them after leaving their Airbnb, and they weren’t leaving the city for hours, and the shlepping and stopping and starting just made everything not fun.


Since I live here, I don’t need to store my own suitcases at a shoemaker’s shop, but I seriously appreciate it when tourists aren’t walking down the sidewalk with huge rolling bags by their sides. Thank you for this innovation.


5. Thank you, Robert Mueller. We’re relying on you to help return our democracy back to the people.

And now, here are Caroline Rhea’s Five Things


1) Anything to do with her daughter Ava (pronounced, “Ava.”)

2) Caroline’s 53 year old Soul Cycle teacher and friend, Sue Molnar


3. Being with her sisters


4. Being in New York City. (Caroline is currently in exile in Los Angeles.)

5. Having coffee at Starbucks with her best friend. (It’s not about the coffee.)

And finally, you can catch Caroline in these upcoming shows! I RECOMMEND IT!

Caroline & Friends – Game Show Network - CAROLINE AND FRIENDS

Disney’s Sydney to the Max – January 25th - SYDNEY-TO-THE-MAX

Stay cool and act natural!



Five Things That Make Life Better on January 4, 2019

December 29, 2018 with the brood at Joe Allen’s

December 29, 2018 with the brood at Joe Allen’s

2019! A year that sounds like science fiction to me, a relic of the Twentieth Century. I’m not scared. I’m not hiding. But I want to snuggle at home with my Exhibits ™, who are still here. (It’s bliss, and sometimes a little crazy around here.) . New Year’s Eve saw a giant sleepover for one child, plus assorted “passing through New York” classmates. I hope your evening was good/great/pleasant/not horrible. We recognize it’s one of those nights that have swollen out of proportion to be MEANINGFUL and IMPORTANT. But it’s just a day. A night. A countdown. We went to a lovely dinner party where the conversation and the company were so diverting, I didn’t even realize we left the table just before midnight.

Anyway, this kind of half-week isn’t solidified in my head. How can I begin to think of summing it up? Luckily, I will be chatting with one of my favorite people on the planet — someone I think you’ll enjoy. It’s Exhibit B.


Before I get any further, allow me to share the five (5) things that helped me get through this week. As always, this list is pretty personal, often involves culture, family, and natural fibers.


1) Mike Birbiglia — I’ve been aware of this comic storyteller for some time. (I believe it was his story about seriously scary sleepwalking syndrome on “This American Life” — Sleepwalk with Me). I’ve seen him in the movie “Don’t Think Twice” which he also wrote and directed, and I had filed him under the category of “Like” as we now heart things easily. (Thank you emojis for stripping the nuance away from our emotions.)

With everyone home for the holidays, I wanted to plan a night at the theater. It was all my exhibits and their significant others. I bought tickets to Birbiglia’s new one man show, his first on Broadway, called “The New One.”


We couldn’t have loved it more. Here is a gifted, self-deprecating, smart storyteller, who takes you on a twisty adventure along a straight road. It’s about a couch, his marriage, his life on the road, and other things. Birbiglia’s writing, his charm, his hilarious timing — it was one of those times when my face hurt from smiling so much. And then on to dinner, with 9 of us! Nothing could make me happier. See picture above.


2) A Week of Nice Cab Drivers, Uber Drivers, Lyft Drivers, Delivery people: It was noticeable how patient and sane NY’s drivers were the last week of 2018. It must be said. Credit must be paid. The men and women who sat behind the wheel the last crowded tense fraught week of the year were uniformly good natured. I appreciated that. (I also notice that I took way many more cars than subways. Note to self: economize whenever possible.)


3) Speaking of which, the Curb and Arro apps which allow you to pay for your NYC taxi rides digitally, are fantastic. What that means for me is I can travel without taking my wallet, and I can literally leap out of the vehicle instead of fumfering around with credit cards and so on.


4) “The Jungle” at St. Ann’s Warehouse. If you live in or near New York or travel to this city, I urge you to try to get a ticket for whatever is being produced at St. Ann’s Warehouse. It is likely to be provocative, avant-garde, possibly uncomfortable, and certainly memorable. “The Jungle” is a play about immigration and identity. The play is held in a polyphonic tent in Calais, France where emigres from Afghanistan, Sudan, Eritrea, Syria, and elsewhere are huddling for cover and safety while they await an almost Godot-ian entree to the UK where they plan to seek asylum. We, the audience are placed within the tent — immersively — and without realizing it, we start to identify with our local tribe, as well as the courageous Europeans who have volunteered their sympathetic and well-meaning help. I guarantee you it is much more fascinating than my explanation.


5) Robert Mueller, still steady as he goes.


B is on the left.

B is on the left.

And now, here are Exhibit B’s Five Things:

1) Realistic Resolutions

2) Exercising with My Mother

3) “Killing Eve”

4) . Reunions With Old Friends

5) . Poo Pourri .

Stay cool and act natural,