Category Archives: Food

Kind of Leaning in?: My Good-enough Martha Stewarting for LL & Cool J’s Awesome Ninjago Party


The other evening at a GNO, I said I’ve been hesitating to read Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In because I’m afraid it will just confirm my suspicion: I lack ambition. If I really wanted to writes piles of dense scholarship, wouldn’t I? If I really wanted a tenure-track job, wouldn’t I apply to every single one that came on the market? But then I brightened: “Oh, but I can’t say I’m not ambitious at all. Let me tell you about this Ninjago party I’m planning–”

The women shook their heads. “That’s not the kind of ambition Sandberg’s talking about,” said my friend, Sulochana, a Martha-Stewart type who sews complicated costumes and just baked her daughter this fantastic cake last week:

Screen Shot 2013-06-23 at 8.34.10 PM

I call this a cake, but as each layer has to be prepared and baked separately, it’s more like 6 cakes

Sulochana’s domestic diva-ness is an aside. She is actually an assistant professor who is writing a book that will change the way scholars understand poetry. We might all agree she has the kind of ambition Sandberg has in mind. She’s good.

As for me, I lack both her homemaker skills and career path, and I lack the drive for both. I am not “good.” I am “good enough.” Good enough cooking and baking, good enough career, good enough parenting.

I still think, however, the Ninjago party planning showed a spark of ambition. Inspired by Craft, Interrupted (The Scientist sent me this site featuring supercrafty moms as we began our planning, as well as another one that showed a mom refurnishing her entire house to fit the Asian theme. Now that’s “good”!), I decided we could do a version of it, too. Here’s how it all went down:

The 24 kids were divided into 4 teams of 6–Jay, Zane, Kai, and Cole (Lloyd was so coveted, I had to exclude it for fairness). Each kid got a pin to wear on his shirt:

Screen Shot 2013-06-23 at 9.28.52 PM

All the eyes are a little creepy, no?

Two teams went to the park with The Scientist for Ninja star throwing, the “Serpentine” obstacle course, and Lord Garmadon’s Relay race. The Ninja stars were a pain in the ass to make  so I delegated that role:


Ever been to a carpet factory in Egypt? Our house was something like that . . .

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, my MIL had the kids decorating their “Bonezai boxes” with their Ninja names–using crayons in the shape of minifigs–while I ran the photo booth:


The Ninja name of Poor Princess is . . .

Ninjago party

Testing . . . testing . . . Does this thing work?

Then we went to the backyard for Ninja training–


24 kids + one non-industrial bounce house = complete chaos

before the final mission: attacking the head of Sensei Wu:


Sensei Wu is full of crap — sweet, sugary crap!

And that was that. Well, almost. There was also an ice cream cake–

Ninjago cake

And, it being 2013, I also made a gluten free one–


And that was that. A good-enough party by a good-enough mom (and dad and Bubby and Zaidy) for good-enough kids.

But who am I kidding? It was pretty awesome! (at least I thought so!)

D Day


So, remember that decision we were supposed to make months ago about moving to the UK? Right. We’re still in the process of making it.

And in doing so, we are constantly weighing pros and cons. The biggest pro is that it is a professional step up for The Scientist. And there are other pros, of course, like new cultural experiences and European travel. On the other hand, I worry about not having a job there–about not ever getting a job there. Nevermind the longer term career issues for me, how can we possibly afford to live off of one academic salary? Also, I am also loathe to leave a place where I am quite content. But on the other hand (like Tevye, we seem to have many hands to play the other)–The Scientist has turned down tenure-track jobs before, and this is a really good one. How do we decide? Will a message just appear from the heavens?

It happens there are messages, like Chinese fortunes, but unwrapped and there for all to see, not up in the sky, but below, on the paving stones dotting my college campus. Throughout the semester–and our decision-making process–I trod on two on the path between my office and my classroom. One says “Yes!” (apparently the whole of the letter of acceptance a former dean used to send out). Another says, “Be happy. Never be content.”

It’s hard to ignore the signs.

BUT, there are other signs. Like grapes.

The other day, I’m chatting with my mom on the phone as I’m unpacking my groceries. Crunch, crunch, crunch in her ear. “Mom,” I gush, “I am eating the best grapes in the world. Do you know what I mean when I say the best grapes?”

“I know good grapes.”

“No, but I mean the best grapes. You know–like crispy.”

“I know crispy grapes.”

“But not just crispy. Crispy and –” chomp chomp –“juicy.”

“Yes, honey, I got it. I know crispy and juicy grapes.”

“You know what it is, mom?” I ask.

“What?” asks my mother, whose patience for me is astounding.

“It’s that Whole Foods charges, like, double the price for everything. This bag of grapes cost me $10, but here’s the amazing thing. It’s still a good deal.” I continue to unload my brightly colored organic produce, carefully packaged containers of cheese, and freshly ground peanut butter. “The thing is,” I say, “Their stuff is actually five times better than normal supermarket stuff.”

My mother sighs.

“Oh, princess,” she says, “You are not good at being poor.”

Alas, D Day approaches. In the next couple of days, we need to give the UK university an answer. What will it be? Will we stay on in this princely town . . . or will we go back to our (non-organic) salad days in a new land?

baby in a bathtub

Our former salad days: When Cool J came along, we didn’t have money for a place with a bedroom for him . . . but he survived!

NYC: The City of Culinary Delights (?)


When my sister used to plan her visits to me in NYC, we spent hours discussing where we would eat. An early love was the French Culinary Institute; later came Buddakan. We went vegan at Candle 79. We gave careful thoughts to desserts, and sometimes decided it would be best to have dessert-only meals.

So it was only natural that when Nancy Botwin decided to bring her 4 kids to the Big Apple, we didn’t worry about what to see or how to get there so much as WHAT TO EAT. In the land of small spaces and advance resos, we were concerned about eating options for the 10 of us. The ten noisy of us. Seven of whom are pre-Bar Mitzvah age. All of whom have a sprinkling of ADHD. What kind of restaurant would be appropriate . . . ?

About 4 weeks before our planned excursion, I solicited recommendations and made a few calls:

Carmine’s, with giant servings of pasta and plenty of loud to go around? No manga.

Mars 2112, featuring Martian food and a spaceship ride? No longer in this world.

Serendipity 3, home of the infamous frozen hot chocolates? Try your luck elsewhere.

Landmarc? Where Marc Murphy has moved his haute cuisine and 300-bottle wine list into the  last available restaurant space in the $1.7 billion Time Warner Center? Where one can dine on Foie Gras Terrine and Calves’ Liver while sipping Cristal and chatting about the Fall 2012 Miu Miu Collection? So kid friendly!

“It is!” insisted a friend, “They serve $6 Captain Crunch and PB&Js! Dessert is cotton candy!”

Sounded perfect. I booked it.

You might say we ought to have thought about more than food. Like — the date we were going in. March 17 is not so quiet in NYC. After all, on March 17, everyone is Irish. Which is everyone’s excuse for being drunk.

When we arrived in Penn Station, this is what we saw:

Even the protestors at Zuccotti Park were Irish (double score! Not only was it St. Paddy’s Day, it was also the 6-month anniversary of the Occupy Movement):

The drunks were real characters. So were these guys:

MoFo meet ElMo

And these:

Minnie vs. Minnie

But let’s face it–the Ferris Wheel at Toysrus, talented street performers, drunken St. Paddy partyers, protestors in the act of being arrested . . . our kids primarily had one thing to say: “I’m huuuungry.” This was occasionally interspersed with “I’m tiiiiiired.”

Well, Mother of Exiles, did you ask us to give you our tired, our poor brats, our huddled hungry masses yearning to be fed?

Maybe the kids aren’t so different from us. They, too, think NYC is the land of culinary delights. In fact, they ate so well all day, I had no choice but to cancel our Landmarc reso.

So, if you are heading to Manhattan with a bunch of bambinos, I’m the gal to call if you need a rec. I know all the best places to take kids . . .


Who knew the Canadian hockey player turned coffee genius was Irish?


Everyone's happy with a happy meal


Local cuisine! (there are maps of NYC on the walls . . . )


Vanilla Bean Frappucino Sugar Attack


Mr. Softee on the subway

Happy Purim


The old joke is that all Jewish holidays bear the same motif:

They tried to kill us. We won. Let’s eat.

But the food never seems to accurately reflect the true goriness of our past. Not the latkes, not the matzah, not the apples and honey! And so–

In honor of all those who had to beat the 3-cornered hat right off of Haman’s head, here’s some





Haman, we got ya good. Yum yum yum!


Poor Princess, and her apprentice, Cool J, aka Poor Pincher