Every year, we visit my husband’s parents for the Fourth of July. Usually, we drive. And when we drive, we fill the car. I mean, we fill it to the top. We try to pack lightly but then we realize we need car snacks, and did we bring enough books? And toys–the kids will be so fussy without enough toys. And my pillow. In case the kids happen to fall asleep at the same time so I can fall asleep, too. And my computer because I just might find time to write what with the grandparents to watch the kids and all. And sunglasses and sunblock and just one more outfit for each of us because you know how messy kids are and my notebook and pens and do we have enough snacks maybe two more granola bars and a cooler with soda and cheese and some towels just in case and are we forgetting anything? Somehow we always do.
Do you doodle? I remember my mom making these elaborate doodles of shapes and flowers and leaves on the margins of whatever paper she found lying around–usually when she was on the phone, I think–and thinking they were incredible, but whenever I would try to doodle I felt kind of silly, like it was a waste of time or effort to draw without really drawing. Well, the other day I was in a fairly stressful situation–I had to wait about an hour to go into a meeting that I’d been anticipating for weeks, maybe months–and so I got out my notebook and started to draw. At first I drew one of my usual comics–myself in a funny version of the current situation–but while I made myself chuckle, it really only served to amplify my nerves. So instead of drawing another comic, I drew a heart. And then a another heart around it. And then I thought, I’ll make this a paisley. And before I knew it, my mind emptied of my current situation and focused entirely on the few square inches of paper upon which I was doodling. Soon enough, I was called into my meeting, and I didn’t feel stressed out at all.
I think this is why adult coloring books are so popular. It gives you something to focus on, something completely meaningless but difficult enough that you have to devote your attention to it. I’ve tried coloring those detailed drawings while watching TV and I always end up outside the lines, even with the sharpest pencil. And mostly, I’ve used adult coloring books or doodles as a way simply to pass the time–my life is not filled with the kind of anticipatory stress I felt the other day–but when I really had something to take my mind off of, boy did doodling work. Next time I can’t sleep because I’m obsessing about something, you can bet I’ll doodle my brains out.
For the mommies.
A year ago, I had no idea who Johnny Iuzzini was. Then I saw him as a judge on The Great American Baking Show (the US version of The Great British Baking Show, nee The Great British Bake Off). Okay, I still didn’t know who he was, but he seemed to be knowledgeable and he was pretty cute and worked well alongside my beloved Mary Berry. And then a few days ago I was at Barnes and Noble, browsing the cookbook aisle (as I so often do), looking for a baking book that was not just a compendium of recipes but something of a baker’s text. I thought I wouldn’t find one (how many books can people publish that are just a bunch of recipes for cookies?) but then the title caught my eye and lo! A cookbook by Johnny Iuzzini. And not only that, a teaching cookbook by Johnny Iuzzini. With tips and ideas and recipes I actually hadn’t heard before. Things that made me go, “OoooOoOooOh!” and run to the kitchen to try them. Things that make scientific sense despite their contrast to conventional wisdom. Plus quite a few recipes using tarragon. I LOVE tarragon.
I’ve only made one recipe out of the book so far–Spreadable Caramel–and several of his techniques within other recipes. And oh my god. If you’re a baker, you really need this book.
I can’t remember what year it was, but I first learned about One Direction at the movie theater. They had a documentary/behind-the-music thing coming out and when I saw the trailer, it took quite a while for me to realize it was serious. I thought: mockumentary. I thought: I bet Christopher Guest is playing their manager. (Call Rob Reiner! Make it happen!) But no–these guys are really a “band.” A boy band.
The next time I encountered One Direction was about a couple months ago, when my daughter’s Elmo obsession led us to their appearance on Sesame Street, singing “What Makes U Useful.” I cracked up the whole time we watched it. It is now one of my very favorite videos on YouTube. Continue reading “Sesame Street, Boy Bands, and Other Parts of Growing Up”