I was thinking about Maya Angelou today

In honor of National Poetry Day (which is today, in case you all missed the memo), please take 5 minutes out and listen to Maya Angelou, one of the most profound poets to come out of this country, if not the world, read her poem “The Mask”. It is words like these which remind us all of what a monumental feat it has been for so many just to hang on to their humanity in this world.

It’s not the best recording, but the combination of watching Angelou’s face and listening to her voice dig deep into this profound subject is well worth the video glitches.

Here are the words:

We wear the mask that grins and lies.
It shades our cheeks and hides our eyes.
This debt we pay to human guile
With torn and bleeding hearts…
We smile and mouth the myriad subtleties.
Why should the world think otherwise
In counting all our tears and sighs.
Nay let them only see us while
We wear the mask.

We smile but oh my God
Our tears to thee from tortured souls arise
And we sing Oh Baby doll, now we sing…
The clay is vile beneath our feet
And long the mile
But let the world think otherwise.
We wear the mask.

When I think about myself
I almost laugh myself to death.
My life has been one great big joke!
A dance that’s walked a song that’s spoke.
I laugh so hard HA! HA! I almos’ choke
When I think about myself.

Seventy years in these folks’ world
The child I works for calls me girl
I say “HA! HA! HA! Yes ma’am!”
For workin’s sake
I’m too proud to bend and
Too poor to break
So…I laugh! Until my stomach ache
When I think about myself.
My folks can make me split my side
I laugh so hard, HA! HA! I nearly died
The tales they tell sound just like lying
They grow the fruit but eat the rind.
Hmm huh! I laugh uhuh huh huh…
Until I start to cry when I think about myself
And my folks and the children.

My fathers sit on benches,
Their flesh count every plank,
The slats leave dents of darkness
Deep in their withered flank.
And they gnarled like broken candles,
All waxed and burned profound.
They say, but sugar, it was our submission
that made your world go round.

There in those pleated faces
I see the auction block
The chains and slavery’s coffles
The whip and lash and stock.

My fathers speak in voices
That shred my fact and sound
They say, but sugar, it was our submission
that made your world go round.

They laugh to conceal their crying,
They shuffle through their dreams
They stepped ’n fetched a country
And wrote the blues in screams.
I understand their meaning,
It could an did derive
From living on the edge of death
They kept my race alive
By wearing the mask! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!

For any of you who want to dig deeper, this poem is actually an adaptation of an earlier poem by Paul Lawrence called “We Wear The Mask.” There is a very thoughtful post by Marie-Thérèse O’Loughlin which compares the two works that is well worth reading.

Where to buy a better version of everything for your garden

tools from the garden edit

A trowel and a bulb planter. But not just any trowel and bulb planter, no! These are BEAUTIFUL PERFECT tools that will of course yield far superior plants… and eternal happiness, too. (All photos courtesy The Garden Edit)

You know it’s bad when you get an e mail from your husband in which the subject reads “hide your credit card before you open this e mail” (like I sit around with my Amex on my lap or something… but I digress.) Because it turns out, this was very good advice which I am desperately trying to heed by writing about the website he linked to in the aforementioned message, rather than buying things from it.

The site is called The Garden Edit, and it is pure evil because it basically sells a more beautiful version of every garden tool you already have. And some thoughtfully designed books, and some meticulously handmade vases, and some original artwork, and an art journal/magazine all about plants, etc etc. It is based out of England, which may deter some, though it seems they are happy to ship most of the items worldwide. (So much for that excuse.) And the dollar is looking good these days, so now is the time to strike.

Just don’t tell your bank account it was my fault…

vases by Dana Bechert

And will you just look at these vases by Dana Bechert? I mean, who doesn’t want all of these?

Monday, Monday– or more links about Fleetwood Mac, DIY Halloween costumes and teaching your kids about money

DIY bulb vase

Another beautiful DIY project coming at you from the FreePeopleBlog (via one of Krrb’s Pinterest boards)

Halloween is coming sooner than you think, so now is the time to start getting inspired to craft your kids’ get-ups. Here’s a list of 50 costumes (and how to make them) to get the juices flowing.

Malcom Gladwell preaches the gospel of Fleetwood Mac and how practice really does make perfect.

Hey my fellow car owning New Yorkers, wouldn’t life be easier if we had the alternate side of the street parking schedule on our phones?

I am going to make myself one (or 4) of these light bulb vases (see above) as soon as I get my hands on a clear bulb.

What your kids need to know abut money.

Going to the Frieze Art Fair next week? Artsy brings together some of the UK’s art world luminaries to create a special guide to London that will help you navigate The Big Smoke like an insider.

And last, but perhaps most importantly, if you haven’t listened to President Obama’s speech right after the recent Oregon mass shooting you should watch it now. And then give a bit of money, sign a petition, make a phone call and, of course, vote in such a way that reasonable gun control becomes a reality in the US, instead of some kind of esoteric joke.

Yesterday, at some point…

momofuku noodle bar

Yesterday, while running some errands in the east village, I looked up and saw Momofuku Noodle Bar across the street. And I am happy to say that I had the good sense to stop in for lunch.

The place was packed, and I was squeezed in between two parties at the bar with basically no place to keep my bag… And yet my Spicy Miso Ramen was so delicious I didn’t mind at all.

The lesson? Always treat yourself to lunch when you can. You will never regret the extra 45ish minutes of relative peace and culinary satisfaction.

Yesterday, at some point is a series of photographs that describe a moment I experienced during the previous day. The posts are meant to be stand alone images, though at times I can’t control myself, and I end up expanding the caption into a more lengthy bit of text. Hopefully the extra information is useful, or at least interesting. If not, feel free to ignore it.

Monday, Monday– or more links about how to do a few useful things properly

We all ned to watch the above video, because how many of us really know how to properly cut a chicken?

What to do if you open up your e mail and want to cry because you are on so many mailing lists and get so much spam and all you want to do is to blow up your inbox.

What to do if a friend loses someone close to them. (You remember what your mom always told you and write them a note, of course.)

How to apply eyeshadow (because I really have no idea, despite the fact that my 7 year old has tried many times to teach me…)

All the tech info you need to intelligently start a blog.

What to do if you get a flat tire.

How to transfer your favorite vinyl records into MP3′s so that you can play them in the car and as such continue to be totally in charge of all the music your family listens to. (This video is truly brilliant, by the way, and worth watching even if you don’t have records anymore.)

And, last but not least, what to do if you are walking along a path in the woods and you encounter a bear.

Yesterday, at some point…

the cliffs in LIC

Yesterday was our second school holiday in a row, as NYC schools have started to observe the Muslim holiday of Eid Al Adha, the feast of sacrifice. We spent a good part of the day in Long Island City at The Cliffs, an indoor climbing facility where kids (and adults) channel their inner Spider Man, scale the 45 ft walls and then “fly” down thanks to the magic of the auto belays.

I think my kid may have found her own superpower…

Yesterday, at some point is a series of photographs that describe a moment I experienced during the previous day. The posts are meant to be stand alone images, though at times I can’t control myself, and I end up expanding the caption into a more lengthy bit of text. Hopefully the extra information is useful, or at least interesting. If not, feel free to ignore it.

We will never tire of faries, elves and other magical creatures

The cover illustration from The Faraway Tree Collection: Three exciting stories in one, by UK author Enid Blyton

The cover illustration (uncredited, sadly) from The Faraway Tree Collection: Three exciting stories in one, by UK author Enid Blyton.

My friend Bibb is homeschooling her daughter and as such is even more vigilantly on the hunt for quality kids books than I am (who knew that was possible?) I try to get my hands on whatever she recommends… especially if it is out of print and/or by some exotic author that I haven’t heard of before.

Such is the case with British author Enid Blyton’s The Faraway Tree Collection, a series of three books about three siblings who move from London to the English countryside and spend their free time in the nearby forest which happens to be enchanted.

Which means that it is filled with magical creatures, that the animals can talk, and that the centerpiece is a massive tree called The Faraway Tree which leads up and up to a whole rotating series of different worlds, each with some kind of crazy theme (Birthday Land! The Land Of Take What You Want! Topsy Turvey Land!)

All kinds of interesting folk live in this tree, and our young heroes befriend just about all of them– especially a fairy named Silky (see above) and a round headed humanoid creature called Moon-Face. There is something of the Land of Oz in this universe with it’s psychedelic characters and situations, but it also feels very English, with tea happening like clockwork no matter where our friends find themselves. The first book was also written in 1939, which just seems like it was a time more conducive to kids being allowed to run off into the forest for days at a time and mothers taking new friends like Moon-Face and Saucepan Man in stride.

Which I’m sure is what I’d do if my three children, all under the age of 11, strolled into the house after an all-nighter with some weird old man covered in pots and pans. Oh no wait…

Five articles of clothing that I particularly liked during this past NY Fashion Week, for what it’s worth…

tess giberson ss16

This season, Tess Giberson had her presentation in a Chelsea gallery, which felt very appropriate as her clothes are the kind of thing you really want to see close up. It was also nice because it felt more like a gathering, a place for people to reconnect with each other after the summer and to revel in the gloriousness of the work on display. I will be sporting this particular dress come next spring, though there is also a skirt made with the same material that is vying for the winning slot as well…

mara hoffman ss2016

Mara Hoffman takes the amber waves of grain of our nation’s heritage, flavors it with a bit of Willie Nelson and emerges with a beautiful collection full of all sorts of flowing dresses and jumpsuits that will be the perfect easy breezy things to slip on when it’s to hot to think straight next summer.

zero maria cornejo ss2016

Thank you thank you THANK YOU Maria Cornejo, for making a jumpsuit that looks like it might be long enough for me to wear! (I know that it’s cool these days to show your ankles, but I’ve never been able to get past my childhood full of pants-that-are-not-quite-long-enough.)

rachel comey ss2016

And then there is the ever brilliant Rachel Comey. Who not only turns out incredible clothes season after season, but who chose to show them on real women… like the ones who might actually be wearing the stuff… and not just women, but mostly members of the dance company Robbinschilds who embody feminine strength to the core. Plus she served dinner at the show, god bless her.

a detacher ss2016

And last, but miles away from least, A Détacher has provided me with the dress that I will most likely be wearing every other day for the rest of my life, beginning the moment I get my hands on it. The most perfect comfortable sophisticated feminine intelligent whimsical dress out there, in my humble opinion.

The last gasp of summer…

corn chowder

My own version of a late summer corn soup, topped with a bit of basil to seal in the summery goodness.

I am a corn fanatic.

I only eat it on the cob (or occasionally in a salad where I know the kernels have just been cut off moments ago.) I only eat it on the same day it was picked, otherwise, as far as I’m concerned, there’s no point. I always eat it boiled (not grilled) for 3 minutes, with no salt or butter. And I pretty much only buy it from one or two farms in Bridgehampton, NY, though I have been known to begrudgingly make an exception or two here.

So the happiest day of my culinary year is when the corn shows up on the farm stands. And the sad time, which is now, is when the cobs start getting smaller and the end is in sight.

To mitigate my sadness, I bought well over a dozen ears last weekend, ate a few of them almost raw, and then made the rest into corn chowder, which I will be able to eat for days on end and even potentially freeze to enjoy much later on, when the temperatures are low and the vegetable pickings are slim.

I started with this recipe for Summer Corn Soup from the NY Times Cooking site (thanks, Elaine Louie) and then went left of center, adding bacon and chicken broth to the mix. I’m sure any version that is even close to this will be delicious, as long as you start out with high quality corn. Which means this might be your last week, so get on it!

Corn Soup To Honor The End Of Summer


6 slices bacon
12 ears corn
1 onion
1 clove garlic
2 red bell peppers
1 bay leaf
10 whole black peppercorns
6 basil leaves
1 teaspoon butter
1 cup chicken broth
1 to 2 tablespoons salt, to taste
Black pepper
½ cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon smoked paprika, optional


Husk corn. Dice onion and mince garlic. Cut bell peppers in half lengthwise, discard seeds and dice. Chiffonade basil leaves.

For the corn stock, cut kernels off corn ears and reserves cobs. In large pot, combine cobs, bay leaf, peppercorns, 1 pinch salt and 16 cups water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and simmer for 30 minutes.

Cook bacon in a heavy stockpot and remove when done, leaving 2 Tbs of bacon fat in the pot. Break up the bacon into bits and reserve. Add onions and let simmer for 5 minutes or so, until they begin to soften. Then add peppers, and let simmer for 5 minutes. Add garlic and stir 1 and 1/2 minutes more, until garlic is golden but not brown. Increase heat to medium, and add butter and corn kernels. Add a tablespoon salt, pepper to taste and stir for about 4 minutes. Add more salt and pepper to taste. Add 5 cups corn stock and 1 cup chicken stock. Stir broth. Add heavy cream and stir. Cover pot and lower heat to simmer for 10 minutes.

Take 4 or 5 cups of the soup, vegetables and all, and puree it in a food processor. Add the newly pureed batch into the pot with the rest of the soup (this adds body, but you still get to munch on the individual kernels of corn.) Add more salt and pepper to taste and, if desired, smoked paprika. Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with basil.

You will not be bummed.

Another thing I really don’t need but totally want, regardless…

Baker's dozen wooden spoons on Food52. Photo by Rocky Lutton and Mark Weinberg for Food52

Baker’s dozen wooden spoons on Food52. Photo by Rocky Lutton and Mark Weinberg for Food52

In one of my former lives as a magazine editor, I wrote a piece about a potter (ceramics artist?) who lived out on the East End of Long Island. One particular thing I remember about that day was that she had an enormous, extremely well stocked kitchen and one of the most impressive collections of wooden spoons I have ever seen. She probably had more than 50, which made me feel great in that way that a junior hoarder gets to feel like a minimalist while looking at the piles amassed by the infamous Collyer Brothers.

They were all different sizes and shapes and were clearly all loved and well used. Ever since that afternoon I have secretly wanted to amass a similar collection for myself, though in the interest of staying married, I have limited myself to maybe 5 or 6 spoons in our much smaller kitchen.

And then I saw the above set of thirteen (13!) amazing, individual, hand crafted wooden spoons in all sorts of subtly-different-but-totalluy-practical-in-some-specific-way shapes on Food52 and all was lost.

Lets just say that I am working very hard to figure out a word that means the opposite of need, because that is exactly my relationship to this set of cooking implements. I really really really do not need any more wooden spoons. And yet my desire for them grows every time I look at the photo. It is evil cruelty. Maybe somebody will give them to me for my birthday or Christmas or something, and I will be forced to begrudgingly accept them and find room for them on my counter.

Because I wouldn’t want to be rude and return a gift, now would I?