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Lisa Birnbach's Five Things That Make Life Better for Friday, April 19, 2019

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Sometimes, you just need a change of venue. You need to leave home, go somewhere else, and give your brain and heart a break. I just did that; having returned from a weekend with my daughter, #ExhibitB™ in Los Angeles. We were basically velcroed together (minus a few hours) the entire time I was there. It wasn’t a time to socialize (although we did go to her friend Sarah’s 25th birthday party at a Tiki Bar in Hollywood), or do business of any sort. My agenda was to be with my kid. And we had a blast. Michael said when I returned home I had a giant smile on my face. That’s the point. Or as Exhibit B and I say, “the pernt.”

My guest this week, Andrew Friedman, is one of the country’s preeminent food writers. With his podcast Andrew Talks To Chefs, his blog, Toqueland, and his collaborations with many influential chefs on their cookbooks, he’s a real go-to when you need a recommendation or help securing an impossible reservation. (I’m talking about for myself; not for you.) I can’t wait to hear what his 5 Things are. So stay tuned.

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In honor of Andrew, I’m going to do a special list reflecting my favorite dishes (taste tested multiple times by yours truly).

A stunt- double of my beloved breakfast.

A stunt- double of my beloved breakfast.

1). Bega Bakery Egg & Cheese: When I think of my life’s favorite foods, my list changes from day to day. Now that I’m ‘quote unquote allergic’ to some foods, I have to make new favorites that are tolerable. But I can never forget the sublime egg and cheese (and spinach and tomato) sandwich that was served at Bega’s Bakery in West Tisbury, (Martha’s Vineyard) Massachusetts. When my exhibits™ were little, we would spend August on the island, renting the same house on Indian Hill Road for nine years. And a five or seven minute walk away was the tiny weathered bakery, prized for this sandwich, pizzas, and I think cookies. I never tried anything but the good coffee and the sandwich. We loved that sandwich! I think it was the intensely flavorful roll, sour and chewy that made all the other ingredients taste so good. In any case, R.I.P. Bega. No photo on the web. No indication online it ever existed except in our memory.

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2). Fried chicken at Root & Bone, in the East Village of New York. Allegedly brined in sweet tea with cayenne and paprika and dusted in lemon powder, this chicken is the treat of all treats for me. You know that I’ve admitted that fried chicken is my kryptonite. I’ve never made it myself. I cannot resist it on any menu, even though not all fried chickens are created equal. I still have more kryptonite to try in New York and Brooklyn, and everywhere else.

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3). The burgers at J.G. Melon’s. A classic fixture of the Upper East Side, Melon’s has served their excellent hamburgers since 1972 to preppies, grandmas, neighborhood families, and tourists. They serve chili, steak, salads, and club sandwiches too, but most people come for the great burger and distinctive round fries. (Actually, I just read online that they make a fried chicken sandwich. Will have to research.) (What I don’t do for my readers.)

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4). This is the kale salad at Il Buco, a wonderful Italian restaurant in Noho, Manhattan. I don’t want to give the (correct) impression that I pursue an unhealthy, ungreen diet. I will have consumed one of these babies before this week is done. I cannot tell you why it’s so good. For. a long time I tried to love kale salad and failed. My friend Jamie told me about this one, and she was right. It’s almost a meal by itself, except then you would deprive yourself of Il Buco’s pastas and entrées.

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5). The nachos at Tallula’s in Santa Monica. As required by #ExhibitB. The place, the relaxed vibe — it’s just a block or so from the beach — the kind women who work there… all good. It’s just a cool and inventive Mexican restaurant. Add the nachos and a margarita and you can almost bliss out. Just don’t drink and drive.

5 1/2. The spaghetti bolognese at Jon & Vinny in West Hollywood.

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And now Andrew Friedman’s Top 5! His are surprisingly utterly not food related, but they are great, and he explains how he came up with them on our podcast.

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2). Meditation — his own kind, which works.

 
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3) Walking, especially the streets of New York.


 
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4). Tennis (playing and watching, but mostly playing) and going to the movies. With families with lots of moving parts, and kids that need to be. chauffeured everywhere, you still have to make time for the things you love.

 

5). Openness to Change. Please listen to Andrew on the podcast. He makes some important observations.

Stay cool and act natural!

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Lisa Birnbach's Five Things That Make Life Better for April 12, 2019

 
A classic list. Not my own.

A classic list. Not my own.

Howdy do? Don’t you love when you can check every item off your To Do list? I love it. Which doesn’t mean I do it all the time or even frequently, but I had a very productive day yesterday, and it boosted my energy. (Long ago I got to work with the legendary director and lyricist Martin Charnin (heard of “Annie”?), who wrote down every task in a bound book, and when he accomplished what he needed to do, he’d strike each item out, with a black Pentel marker. I loved that once he did it, it was gone.)

Anyway, as Spring is showing signs of possible arrival here in the mid-Atlantic, my energy seems to be increasing exponentially, which is a good thing.

Here are this week’s five things that made all the difference.

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1). Teaching! I was a guest teacher at a class on podcasting at Stony Brook University (part of the S.U.N.Y. system). Those were the students, above, including the great interviewer and journalist Gail Sheehy, standing to my right. Everyone there is making his or her own podcasts, and their range of interests are astounding. I enjoyed hanging with the class, and stayed after to learn more about this universe of podcasts. I have also applied to teach a college writing class for a month next year, so this could be a new direction for me.

 
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2) Plant Shed 87th Street. Is a florist-nursery-café, gift shop a thing? As in, are they common hybrids? I saw an awning that said “Flowers. Plants. Coffee” and I was led to it as if by a magnet. The space smells divine. There are flowers, and lots of pottery, and 3 rooms of plants. I saw an area where you can learn to repot your plant in a cool vase or pot if you don’t want the standard clay vessel. And then there’s the cafe which is bright and pretty and busy! Afterwards, I also visited the Plant Shed’s main store on West 96th Street, a hugely busy resource for New Yorkers with terraces, balconies, window boxes, and just a desire for more green. I bough a delicate looking jasmine plant. I’m crossing my fingers that I can keep it alive.


Say hi to Jasmine

Say hi to Jasmine

 
 
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3). I’ve told you all that I’m developing some food allergies or sensitivities or something, because as in my whole life, I’m a late bloomer. I don’t have stomach aches but I’m trying to eat better. I don’t really have a sweet tooth, but I love salty food. Until I’ve reached the point where I’m just eating salt from the shaker, I’m looking for new forms of saltiness. to try. Love, Corn is pretty tasty. I know nothing about it, or who makes it, but it’s crunchy and made in Spain! So there!

 
Keri Russell and Adam Driver

Keri Russell and Adam Driver

4) Burn This! on Broadway. I first saw this play in 1987, when John Malkovich left us astounded by his performance. Even then we knew we were seeing something rare on stage, and so memorable. It’s a domestic love triangle sort of play, in which Anna a dancer (originally portrayed by Joan Allen now Keri Russell) mourns her roommate Robbie, a closeted-to-his-family gay dancer. She has a boyfriend, but her life is turned around when Robbie’s brother, Pale (Malkovich and now Adam Driver) shows up at her loft. I was eager to see it again — not sure it had been revived since the 1987 production. It’s different, plays differently, and times have changed us, but still has some rewarding moments. Adam Driver is a star, though. Bigger than life, and very manly. Hopefully when you see it, the squealing will have died down somewhat (don’t count on it) and you’ll be able to hear all of Lanford Wilson’s clever dialogue.

 

5). I come to praise The Atlantic Monthly. Founded in 1857 in Boston by a group of writers including Ralph Waldo Emerson, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Oliver Wendell Holmes, John Greenleaf Whittier, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, it has published serious, important, and entertaining long form pieces for 162 years. I have never written for The Atlantic, but I read it all the time, especially online. But I think it’s time I subscribe … you. know, to encourage them to keep at it.

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Thank you for reading. Thank you for subscribing.

Stay cool and act natural,

Lisa
















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Lisa Birnbach's Five Things That Make Life Better for April 5, 2019

 
Meg Wolitzer

Meg Wolitzer

I take the work of finding five things to appreciate seriously. Especially now that I do not have a permanent #5. In order for the exercise to do any good, the items have to be real and bring some actual meaning to me, otherwise, this becomes a shabby chore.

But this week I’m full of hope. I have been looking forward to having my friend Meg Wolitzer on this podcast. The author of about 11 novels for adults, she has evolved over the years as an assured, confident storyteller. In books like The Position, The Wife, The Ten Year Nap, The Uncoupling, The Interestings, and The Female Persuasion, we see the zeitgeist, textures, and conflicts of the America we know right now. The Female Persuasion will be released in paperback in May.

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Flower Flash,

Florist Lewis Miller’s way of sprucing up NYC.

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Statue of Eleanor Roosevelt

1) Floral Community Service. I have not had the pleasure of seeing one of these en plain air displays in person, but I am totally taken with them. Lewis Miller of Lewis Miller Design takes leftover flowers, and repurposes them to beautify the streets and neglected corners of New York. What a cool and generous thing to do!

 
This is the set.

This is the set.

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2) I saw a play I’ll remember for a long time — “The Lehman Trilogy” (@PAALehman) which is being produced at the Park Avenue Armory for just a month or so. Using the saga of three German brothers who humbly made their way to America in 1844 to start a new family business in a new country of hope as the lens through which to see America from then till the financial crash of 2008 — playwright Stefano Massini and adaptor Ben Power tell a story as familiar as any Horatio Alger tale and as fresh as something original and new. A cast of dozens is performed by three singular actors, Simon Russell Beale, Ben Miles, and Adam Godley. Sam Mendes directed. The music, the scenery, and the script are transformative. And though the play has been performed all over Europe, it has a real power here, being performed in a building that has been standing in place since the Civil War. It’s quite extraordinary.


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3) VEEP
She’s back; they’re back. Life feels better as a result. I’d rather watch this jaundiced but hilarious take on politics than watch what’s really going on in our White House. In this way, this fantastic comedy is a kind of meta escape; it certainly has taken us behind the curtains of the inner turmoil and chaos in a pretend administration of a pretend president. Julia Louis Dreyfus makes it look easy. It’s on HBO.

4). Exhibit C™ and I went to see the Hilma af Klint exhibit at the Guggenheim Museum this week. I had never heard of this Swedish artist, (1862-1944) until this retrospective was put up. A talented artist who became very involved in a spiritual quest all her life, her work would fit into the category of “abstract art” but was way ahead of its time. As a woman she achieved heights in the art world when being female was a liability, or at least made success difficult. She embraced theosophy, rosicrucianism, and other philosophies and isms that I was Googling from the museum. The best part of her story and work is how af Klint imagined the kind of place in which she would want her paintings to be displayed. She basically described the (as yet unbuilt and probably not yet conceived) Guggenheim.

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5) Frank Lloyd Wright’s Guggenheim Museum

I grew up around the corner from the Guggenheim, and no matter how many times I’ve been inside, the building never fails to thrill me. Considered widely to be the “greatest American architect,” Frank Lloyd Wright led a fascinating life, some of which I’ve learned by reading, some of which I’ve learned from a fantastic docent at Taliesin West, the Arizona branch of his architecture practice, and where his institute and school are to this day. It is where Wright lived the last 22 years of his life. I have also interviewed people who knew him and one of his biographers. His vision of this building to hold the modern art collected by Solomon R. Guggenheim was beyond modern when he won the commission to build it in 1943; it must have been thoroughly shocking to its neighbors in 1959 when it opened. Unfortunately, Wright died about six months before it opened. It is a magical place in which to look at art.

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Welcome, Meg!

Welcome, Meg!

My guest this week is author Meg Wolitzer. Her Five — no make that Six Things are:

 
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1) Lawrence O’Donnell’s show on MSNBC. They tried to get rid of the show, but the viewers rose up as one, a la Friday Night Lights. And I particularly love the moment of overlap between the end of Rachel Maddow’s show and the start of his, when their separate talking heads, in individual halves of the screen, talk to each other for a transitional moment, kind of like a political version of members of ‘The Brady Bunch’ looking at one another from their different angles during the opening credits.

 
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2) “Say Something Bunny,” a new interactive play at the UNDO Project Space in New York, through July, 2019.

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3) The Spelling Bee puzzle in the New York Times Magazine. There is a word to be made up only using the letters in the circle (i.e. HTKIENC = KITCHEN) and then lots of words using fewer of the letters, but definitely including the letter in the center. (The N is in the center of this particular example.). My husband, my mother, and I do it every week. I call my mother after the paper comes, and say, ‘Did you get the word yet?’ Usually, she has gotten it, and often before I do. She’s 89.

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4) Black garlic. I order it online, and add it to anything. It’s like some weird fudge for umami enthusiasts.

Game show presenter, Victoria Coren Mitchell

Game show presenter, Victoria Coren Mitchell

5) The best British TV show that no one in the US knows… ‘Only Connect’. It’s a British quiz show with unbelievably smart and odd people on it, hosted by the divine Victoria Coren Mitchell, who is married to the comedian David Mitchell (not the novelist), from ‘Peep Show’, et al. You have to find the connection between seemingly random things. Here’s one: Bach, Aria, Mills, Ono. (Answer: they are all the second wives of Beatles.)

One of Headspace’s sleep sleepcasts, “Rainday Antiques”.

One of Headspace’s sleep sleepcasts, “Rainday Antiques”.

6. Headspace.com’s odd sleepcasts, really boring stories designed to put you to sleep. They are called ‘Snowville,’ ‘Rainday Antiques,’ and my personal favorite, ‘Cat Marina.’ about a dock with a series of houseboats that each have a resident cat. Just writing the last part of that sentence bored me so much I want to go to sleep.

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Lisa Birnbach's Five Things that Make Life Better on March 29, 2019

Greetings Peeps.

L-R: My grandma, my mom, and me, circa 1981.

L-R: My grandma, my mom, and me, circa 1981.

I’m remembering my grandmother, Ruth Salit, pictured above, because I’m writing this on what would have been her 115th birthday. Born in 1904, she was a remarkable woman for her era: a college graduate, funny, athletic, independent, smart, adventurous, feisty, and opinionated. I loved her very much. I often think about how she would cope with these times. When she died, in 1984, she had been widowed for over 20 years, but had filled her life with family, friends, weekly trips to the ballet, symphony, and theater, and many trips to play golf in Portugal and the Berkshires. She loved to “play the stock market” and enjoyed a cocktail before dinner. She was loyal and judgmental. She hated phonies. She would be appalled, I think by our president’s behavior and values, and the kinds of people he brought with him to wreak havoc on our democracy. She' would not approve of swiping on one’s phone to meet a date. She would not like the extra-long buses that slowly make their ways east and west in Manhattan. She would probably still be wearing Adolfo.

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But this is an exciting week for …. waiting. It feels we do a lot of that here at Headquarters. Waiting for reports, waiting for the plumber, waiting for our vestibule to be finished, waiting for the ink to dry on a contract…. . Let’s go straight to my list of the five things that made my life better this week.

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1). Robert S. Mueller, III

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Look, things didn’t turn out exactly as we had planned. It was as if the investigation — threatened with termination every single day of its long existence — was a pressure cooker that instead of popping a valve, just shut down. It didn’t end with a bang or a whimper, but dutifully, with its submission to Attorney General Barr. If we want to be mad at someone, it’s Barr, who summarized the hundreds or thousands of pages in a cavalier and expeditious paragraph essentially exonerating the president. We know that Barr was appointed to this job with the goal of finding a lawyer who would protect Trump, and that he did.

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2). Robert S. Mueller

The man hasn’t had a life in two years. He hasn’t taken his focus off the assignment he had, one which took him away from his very high paying partnership at WilmerHale, a law firm with offices around the world to. the high. stakes intensity of poring through millions. of documents under daily threats. Mueller usually pulls in about $3 million per year, according to Money magazine. His work for the United States paid him a not shabby $161,900. And don’t forget the death threats!

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3). Robert Mueller

Mueller and his report gave us a focus. When we’re addled every day and every night by an administration that likes to control us with no news, fake news, lies, and distractions, thinking about Mueller and his crack team of investigators gave us hope and a way. to organize ourselves with some optimism. Now what? Mitch McConnell is refusing to release the report even after his fellow Republicans (every one in the house; the vote was 420-0) voted to share the report to the public. Can he. get away with stonewalling forever? If Trump did nothing wrong, then why not show the report to everyone? If Trump’s campaign did nothing wrong, why wouldn’t you want your fellow Americans to see that in black and white? Now those of us who were counting on the report to help clear the web of entanglements must wait to see who can peer inside the report and the tax returns or whatever evidence is subpoena-able.

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4). Bob Mueller

Hey, what about the indictments? Without Mueller, we wouldn’t have the pleasure of seeing Paul Manafort. and Michael Cohen heading for the pokey. And if Roger Stone wants to get a tattoo of Donald Trump, he. might as well wait until he arrives at the clink — I hear the.inmates are great tattooers, and the price can’t be beat. No matter how disappointed you feel now, I truly believe that groundwork was laid to prepare for more names. of other bad actors. Finally, may I remind you that the investigation didn’t leak, dribble, or drool at all? It was iron-clad and clean as a whistle. Thanks to Mueller for that.

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5.). Robert Mueller

On a personal level, I am grateful to my permanent #5. When weeks were full of stress. and worries, I knew I only had to come up with four great things [not as easy as you would think] because my knight in shining pinstripe was holding down the fort. After. he turned in the report, Mueller and his. wife Ann. went out for dinner ( scallops for him) at Salt & Pepper, a favorite spot of theirs. On Sunday they went to church. Let’s leave them be for now. With thanks for a difficult job well executed. And with hopes that I will find five whole new things every week to lift me up.

 

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Lisa Birnbach's Five Things that Make Life Better for March 22, 2019

With special guest, Chip Kidd

With special guest, Chip Kidd

Shtisel

Shtisel

I cannot help it. I have “Shtisel” on the brain. How this unassuming television series crept up and became meaningful to me, I do not know, but it has. So many of my friends have watched it or are watching it now — the (refreshingly original) characters are a topic we discuss now — so far from American and world politics. Is it just pure escapism? The characters in the program have numerous disappointments, peccadilloes, and misunderstandings; people die, some story lines trail off, and yet, this @Netflix show — subtitled because it is in Hebrew and Yiddish — is full of plot, and heart, and love, and humor. If I haven’t persuaded you to watch it yet, I’m sorry.

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Also, some of its greatest fans are not Jewish. As in the rye bread, you don’t have to be…. Strangely, there is a membership-based group on Facebook I just discovered for the sole purpose of discussing the show, including lots of explanation about the rituals and habits. of the ultra-religious Shtisel family. **


** Yes I joined it.


But rather than going on and on about Shtisel, let me speed ahead to my Five Great Things of this week.

 
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1). May I brag about my exhibits ™ for a second? Each one of them is so hard-working; it makes a mother proud. Exhibit A, has about a million different jobs, as do all freelance artists relatively early in their careers: he auditions for acting parts, writes and directs comedy films and a tv series, hosts his own podcast, and performs in a comedy duo. And he just cut his first single. And he does a lot of voice overs. Exhibit B has a full-time job in Los Angeles (which can include late nights and weekends) but because she’d like more spending money, has decided it’s time she get an additional part-time job. And Exhibit C has a regular schedule of two jobs every week (about 30 hours) but has taken on two more this week. Now they could all ask me for money, but mostly they won’t. Being financially independent is something they all prize, #WhereDidIGoRight?

 
That’s a big tv.

That’s a big tv.

2). We bought a big TV over the weekend. I mean big — 65 inches! It was time for a new set and we have the space. Usually going to an electronics store to buy an appliance is about as much fun as getting blood drawn or going to the dentist (sorry, dentists!) but at the @BestBuy on Broadway and 62th Street, we encountered a trio of knowledgeable goofballs who made it a pleasure. We arrived after 5pm, so they had probably been on their feet all day and were ready for their evening to begin, but Dez, Brandon,and Johan were spectacular. They made us feel confident that we bought the right tv for us. Never has spending too much money been so fun.

 
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3). I’ve tried to live dairy-free this week, and I can tell you, I don’t care for it. I bought the highly-recommended @Oatly milk, which is alright in coffee (it is creamy, even if it doesn’t look creamy), but not great in cereal. (#IMHO). But for those of you who’ve read this blog before, you know I adore BUTTER. It’s really my favorite food. How can I eat my toast without it? Watch me now drizzling my toast with flaxseed oil, a trick I learned years ago from an old friend named Lisa. According to the web, flaxseed oil is GOOD FOR YOU; it has a lot of those Omega-3 fatty acids. (But it’s no butter.). The good part? I’m doing something pro-healthy for myself.

 
The #MeToo team: Farrow, Kantor, Twohey

The #MeToo team: Farrow, Kantor, Twohey

Emma Brown

Emma Brown

4). Investigative Reporters: Without Jane Mayer, Megan Twohey, Jodi Kantor, Ronan Farrow, Jill K. Brown (Miami Herald; Jeffrey Epstein legal malfeasance), Sara Elizabeth Ganim (Jerry Sandusky, Penn State’s pedophile assistant football coach), the Boston Globe’s Spotlight Team who ferreted out the pervasive sexual abuses committed by their local Archdiocese, of course Bob Woodward & Carl Bernstein of Watergate fame, we would not know half of the corruptions, hypocrisies, and crimes performed by people in power who saw no way they’d get caught. A special mention to Emma Brown of the. Washington Post, who broke the Christine Blasey Ford story. A link to. an interview to Ms. Brown is here: https://www.kappanonline.org/russo-how-former-education-reporter-emma-brown-broke-the-christine-blasey-ford-story/

 
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5). It’s Mueller Time. I’m so reliably on the Mueller team that I’ve now received two presents from friends that prove how far gone I am: An I heart Mueller t-shirt from Shari, and a wooden cuff bracelet that Linda had decoupaged with Muelleriana.

 
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Chip Kidd was born in a small town in Pennsylvania, the same one which produced John Updike, whose book covers he would eventually design. A graphics design major at Penn State University, Chip moved to New York to begin his career. His first job was in the art department of Alfred A. Knopf, the literary division of Random House, Inc. Chip would go on to become a star there, even having an editorial job in procuring graphic novels. [We collaborated on a book together; True Prep.]. He met and made a life with J.D. McClatchey, the poet, editor of the Yale Review, professor, and librettist. Sandy, as he was known, died last April, almost a year ago. The intervening 12 months have found Chip adjusting to being alone after 22 years. Our conversation reflects his candid thoughts.

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His favorite things are in no particular order:

 
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1). The Second Avenue Subway. It took too long, was terrifyingly noisy, and cost way too much money, but the new subway line is a total game changer for Chip. He can walk one block to the station, and two stops later he is — improbably — at his office across town.

 
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2). The New York Times daily crossword puzzle. Done on paper only (natch), in ink (duh). Chip skips Mondays and Tuesdays and the minis (too easy). He does fill out puzzles in a particular pattern, which you can hear about on the podcast.

 
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3). Chip’s rolling baggage. Sure it’s elegant, it’s personalized, it’s expensive; it’s made by Goyard! But it gives him joy whenever he travels. It’s the smoothest ride he’s ever experienced with a roller bag, and it fits in the overhead compartment!

 
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4). Chip only wears round shaped glasses. He loves collecting clip on sunglasses, which he snaps onto his frames. It’s easier than moving between two pairs of glasses all the time, and these NEVER not elicit compliments.

 
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5). Not being a baseball cap kind of guy, Chip prefers to wear his American Academy of Arts and Letters cap. He has several in many colors because they are always the party favors at gala dinners at the academy, once or twice a year. Founded in 1898 to honor the country’s preeminent writers, artists, and architects, Sandy McClatchey was the president.

 
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Bonus thing). The last book that J.D. McClatchey published, Sweet Theft, in 2016, is a compendium of all the wonderful quotes, observations, and details Sandy copied down in many notebooks as a reader. A lot of the aperçus are funny: “In Hollywood we acquire the finest novels in order to smell their leather bindings.”— Ernest Lubitsch. “Somebody’s boring me…. I think it’s me.” — Bob Dylan. Others are excerpts about the art of writing. From Cesar Pavese’s diary: “Writing is a fine thing because it combines the two pleasures of talking to yourself and talking to a crowd.” Chip took Sandy’s photograph and designed this volume.

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Stay cool and act natural!

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

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Oh Spring, you are teasing us!

One day it’s on; one day it’s off. It’s gorgeously sunny and seasonally temperate today as I tape this, and yet I’m still bracing for a winter storm between now and Easter. You know, just to not be too disappointed it it were to happen. (If I remember correctly, the famous diet doctor, Dr. Atkins, slipped on the ice and died several APRILs ago.). (I just looked it up. April, 2003.)

 

But without nattering on about the weather, let’s get to the list of the five things that enhanced this week for me. Hoping to inspire you towards some grateful moments of your own.

1). Connecting people together. I love to introduce friends and associates to one another — you’ve written a new book and want to hire a publicist? I have just the one (or 3); let me call her. You need a great rheumatologist? I have one. You just moved to Dallas and need a friend? I have one. It’s satisfying to be helpful and it’s nice to close the circle a little. I like when my friends like one another and have been surprised by how well some of them get along. (I have also introduced a few couples that married; and many more that didn't.).



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2). This fantastic product, Mr. Clean’s Magic Eraser, was the actual subject of an entire conversation at a family meal the other day. My sister-in-law, my daughter-in-law, and I all have had great results using this sponge for various stains, scratches, and marks that honestly I would not have known how to otherwise repair or cover up. I am not sponsored by Mr. Clean, his rich father, or his overseas bank account, but I found this consensus overwhelming, and I share it with you, in case you haven’t tried it yet.


 

3). Date night. When my marriage broke up, I started to hear a lot about “date night,” a common (I guess) weekly rite of married couples to be alone together, and keep the embers of love burning after children or years erode the passion or magic [twice in one blog] between a pair of cohabiting adults. My former husband and I grew so far apart that a date night would have been uncomfortable and not fun. So many of my friends scheduled regular date nights that I wondered, really wondered. “where was I when the memo was sent out?” Did everyone know about these except us? Well now I’ve been in a relationship for about 8 years and we do not have a weekly appointment together. But last week I dressed up to go out to dinner with my fella, and it felt good. Was it a date or was it just dinner in a little makeup? In any case, after a few months of layering and dressing for warmth, it felt nice to show my legs and make an effort.

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4). Suddenly, there’s a thing called Micellar Water, and it’s everywhere. According to ALLURE Magazine — which should know, “Micellar (pronounced my-sell-er) water is a combination of purified water; hydrating ingredients, such as glycerin; and low concentrations of extremely mild surfactants, according to cosmetic chemist Joseph Cincotta. "‘The molecules of those mild surfactants naturally group together to form microscopic spheres called micelles, which act like magnets for dirt and oil,’ Cincotta explains.” A few months ago, I found myself with sensitive skin and had to be very careful about soaps, moisturizers, shampoos, etc. I decided to try the harmless micellar water and I like it. I think different products offer different attributes, but that knowledge is above my pay grade, as they say.

 
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5). Is this the week? Or will it be next week? I come here to praise Mueller, not predict his timing.

Be good and act natural!

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Extra Bonus Blog: A Guest Writes In

Katy Coffey, left, and her mom Terry Bruno Coffey.

Katy Coffey, left, and her mom Terry Bruno Coffey.

I’m sure each of you has a friend that you’ve met online somewhere that you somehow care about even though you don’t actually know him/her/them well in real life. Someone whose ups and downs you’ve navigated from a distance but with a full heart. My person is Katy Coffey, whom I did meet once, along with her son Beck, when they were in New York a few years ago. We “met” the old fashioned way, on Facebook, through our mutual friend Kera Bolonik, who is also wonderful. These two Chicago-area natives wear their hearts on their sleeves, such a rarity these days.

In the last year or so, Katy closed down her business, Chocolate Twist (candy making) , helped nurse her mother back from a stroke, (maybe not in that order), and found a job at the nursing home/senior living facility where her mother was living. Katy has found fulfillment there, and exudes gratitude along with laughs. This verbatim text arrived for me this week, and I am sharing it because — and I don’t say this lightly — it sparks joy.

 

1). My hair is so fun. It makes me laugh daily. [Ed note: She cut her hair very short and as it’s growing out, it takes on a life and shape of its own.]

2). I’ve finally whittled my life down to officially categorize it as “uncomplicated.” This brings me so much joy.

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3). I just became a group barbells instructor and I now teach classes. I was expecting to love it but what I didn’t expect was how humbling and empowering it is. That 9 women want to join me on a Saturday morning at 8am to participate in a really hard workout makes my heart sing. And pound. 

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4).  My kids are doing what they’re supposed to be doing. No monkey business or flimflam. They’ve found their voices and talents and are productive citizens of the world. What more could a mama ask for?

5).  I love with my whole heart sitting on the couch and needle pointing. It’s my Sunday afternoon treat to myself after getting through the week. I’m currently working on a canvas that I’m finishing for my BFF’s second baby that will be making Her debut in May. Every stitch is doused in my love for my friend and soon to be new niece. 

This is an image that came up when I googled “joy.”

This is an image that came up when I googled “joy.”

Perhaps the best part of Katy’s text was the ending:

“And if this isn’t Lisa I’m happy to have shared my thoughts with you.” 

Please feel free to send me your list of Five Things that make your lives better too, if you are so inclined.

xLisa

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

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I gave birth to a baby boy on March 7, 1990. I remember that when I entered the hospital the evening before, I wore a huge parka with fur framing the hood. (And as a woman past her 40th week — 10th month — I was running very warm all by myself.). On the day I was released — I think it was two days later, Spring had sprung and so had #ExhibitA ™. Exhibit A became the fulcrum of my life thereafter, until I had to split my focus when Exhibit B showed up and again when Exhibit C roared in.. And now my son is 29. And married. Whoah. It really seems to happen in a blink.

Anyway, seeing my child in good shape leads me to my list of 5 things that made my life better, sweeter this week. My hope is to inspire you to remember some things or people that made your life better in some way this crazy winter.

 

So now,

1) Happy son. He’s not my wholly-owned subsidiary any more. Now he has a wife, and they belong to one another. But we all get along beautifully, and I cannot ask for more. Also my daughters, who are thriving, are not chopped liver. I’m amazed by how close I feel to them.

 
Delicious!

Delicious!

2). Fresh mango. For years I confused papaya and mango with one another. They are two sweet fruits of warm climates that are considered exotic. I like papaya and thought it was a great taste until I discovered mango. No competition. I love its flavor and texture. While mango is featured in every fruit plate you’ll get in Mexico or Thailand, like an orange slice here, I often forget that mango is available at every market at home.


 
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3). @CocoFloss, a cool, (probably hipster or just) hip new dental floss.  Is it the packaging?  The flavors? The thickness and smoothness of the string?  Somehow flossing is more fun with it than without it, and I use it much more regularly. By the way, I think I first read about it on a blog  called Girls of a Certain Age.  Check that out too.

 
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4). I’m late to the Educated party. I know Barack Obama read it last year and loved it. (I’m trying to keep up – I really am!)  Tara Westover’s story, calmly told, begins in a shack out west where her survivalist parents shun education and conventional thinking, and ends up at the pinnacle of the ivory tower at Cambridge University. How Tara got there is some kind of miracle. I thought of this book today while in my class on Identity and Justice. Victor Hugo, we were told wrote “Opening more schools will obviate the need for prisons.” Education is… well… everything. It’s the leg up. It’s the ability to think dialectically — holding conflicting ideas in our heads. It’s the opportunity to get rough edges polished. It’s a new group of friends and mentors. I always knew that I would be going to college; in my nuclear family it was an expectation.

Little did I realize what a privilege that was.

 
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5). )  Robert Mueller has been called an American hero before.  When I call him a hero everybody says I have a crush on him. When Ty Cobb, who used to be Trump’s lawyer, calls him an American hero – everyone swoons. I am looking forward to his report, to put it mildly.


 

Stay safe and act natural!







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