Thursday, September 09, 2010

Brand New Me

Time to put this dish on the shelf! I've graduated to a "big girl" website. Please come visit me at my new home soon!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Identity Crisis


If you're a semi-regular reader of the dish, you can probably tell that mimi has been going through a funk. An existential crisis. A "who am I, and remind me why I'm writing this blog?" moment. Or moments. Or months, if you want to be candid about it.

All mimi can claim is an insane work schedule and, indeed, a bit of an identity crisis. For the blog, that is. mimi has always been a Jill of All Trades type rather than a one-and-done personality. Likewise, the dish covers everything from writing to teaching to home life to rants about whatever gets mimi's goat that particular day. Once upon a time, it featured yummy-looking men every Friday in a popular feature called "The Bed List/The Dinner List." Hmm. Revivals are good for Broadway...

At any rate, identity is being considered and reviewed as we speak. By the time school starts (because that's really New Year's Day every year if you're a teacher type), mimi should have herself and her blog figured out. Then we'll be back to our regularly scheduled posts. Sound good?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Brontë Sisters Power Dolls

As one YouTube comment stated, "this is brilliant wrapped in bacon." Love. Hilarity. Thanks to JoAnn Ross for the tipoff!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

I Write Romance

mimi is always amused by the looks she gets when a well-meaning questioner finds out that she reads and writes romance. There's never a way to explain it that suits folks. You see, it's hard to think clearly when you're working around a bundle of stereotypes.

Luckily, mimi has Eileen Dreyer--who writes romance as Kathleen Korbel--to explain on her behalf. Check out her fabulous article posted at

Yeah. What she said!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Fresh Apples

mimi has been a hardworking girl for lo, these many years, and since this is the last year of National Board bonus money, it was time to upgrade. The nice people at the Apple store have sent me (courtesy of my credit card, of course) this lovely wee MacBook.

So shiny! So pretty! So fast! mimi is v. excited about possibilities and has already downloaded a fresh new copy of Scrivener so she can keep working on the book that is taking foreeeeeeeeeever to revise. Maybe revising will be more fun now that I have a new toy. Let's hope.

Friday, April 09, 2010

The Word Series

Props to Novel-T, which has created a lineup of American literature-inspired T-shirts. The baseball-themed shirts feature iconic characters and writers, like Hester Prynne, Moby-Dick and Captain Ahab, Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, and writers Whitman, Poe, and Thoreau. Each "jersey" features an icon befitting the player, like a whale (duh), a Captain's "C," paintbrushes, and a raft. My favorite is the international "no" circle/slash for Bartleby the Scrivener, who would, of course, "prefer not to." Clever, clever stuff. English teacher squee out of control, basically.

Even better, Novel-T donates $1 of the purchase price of each shirt to 826NYC, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting students ages 6 to 18 with their creative and expository writing skills. Now that's a team I can get behind!

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

It's About Danged Time

A friend sent me a link to this brilliant ad campaign for, of all things, tampons. The model in the first ad is actually a former intern at JWT who helped design the concept of the ad campaign. Clearly, she gets it (unlike the idjit who came up with the "have a happy period" tagline, who probably thinks we all dream of the day we can wear white during that time of the month and spin and go salsa dancing). The second spot just nails the American obsession with demographic testing. Funny stuff!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Rain, Rain

Wouldn't you know it? It's the first day of Spring Break, and it's pouring out there. *sigh*

Sometime this week, I have to catch myself up on everything. I've let the blog slip, the laundry slip, the writing slip...I know it's because I am SLAMMED at work, but still. So, this week, playing catchup. And doing the taxes. And the laundry. And maybe doing something Spring Break-y.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Newbery Update: 1960s

Now we're on a roll. The 1960s are the first decade where I had multiple reads already. Let's see what else popped up:

Onion John by Joseph Krumgold - This book marks the first time an author won the Newbery more than once (other double winners include E.L. Konigsburg, Lois Lowry, Katherine Paterson, and Elizabeth George Speare). This book didn't charm me as much as ...And Now Miguel, his first Newbery title. Onion John, the town eccentric, becomes the focus of a town-wide improvement plan, with interesting results. Sometimes weird is best, and best left alone.

Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell - I remember being fascinated by this story as a girl. Based on the true story of the Lost Woman of San Pedro Island, this book explores the life of a Native American woman, abandoned when her tribe evacuates to the mainland, and her daily struggle to create community with the animals of the island--most notably a wild dog--when the people have gone.

The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare - This book was not at all what I expected, but I was pleasantly surprised by what I found. Daniel chafes under the Roman rule in first-century Israel and readily joins a tribe of Zealots hiding in caves. A friendship develops with a young Jewish scholar and his lovely sister, and Daniel's life is changed when he has to assume the care of his fragile sister. Daniel's thirst for vengeance is tested by his sister's friendship with a young centurion and called into question by a young rabbi you might have heard of--Jesus.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle - This is one of those books I probably should have read and treasured as a child, but it somehow escaped my notice until now. Meg Murry is a little too much like me at her age--smarter than what's good for her, impossible hair, glasses, misunderstood. Meg is drawn into an interplanetary adventure to both rescue her father and save our world from an encroaching darkness. It's a great ride, a fascinating blend of physics and love.

It's Like This, Cat by Emily Neville - What boy doesn't feel misunderstood by his demanding father? Dave Mitchell brings rebellion into the house in the form of an alley cat named (surprise!) Cat and ends up learning about life, growth, tolerance, and maturity while romancing a girl and coming to the aid of a young man with no allies.

Shadow of a Bull by Maia Wojciechowska - In a way, this is the story of Ferdinand the Bull (DH's favorite children's story), told from the point of view of a reluctant young matador. Manolo has lived his whole life expected to become a great bullfighter like his deceased father Juan. Manolo's secret? He is afraid and lacks the afición, or desire, necessary to be brave in the ring. Or is he being called to another destiny? I've never understood the whole bullfighting "thing," but this book is marvelous.

I, Juan de Pareja by Elizabeth Borton de Trevino - Juan de Pareja is a Moorish slave inherited by the Spanish court painter Velázquez. Told from "Juanico's" point of view, we learn about the artist's life, and how painting truth, even when it's ugly, is far preferable to being second best at creating beauty. The question of slavery is deftly handled, and considering that the book was published in the 60s, at the height of the Civil Rights movement, it is an amazing tale of how mutual respect and affection can transcend society's rules.

Up a Road Slowly by Irene Hunt - This is an oddball, a coming-of-age tale that stretches from the day young Julie Trelling's mother dies until the day Julie graduates from high school. Julie's road is indeed slow, hampered by her impatience and a well-meaning secondary cast that includes a prim maiden aunt, a charming drunken uncle, a father scrambling to make sense of life, lost loves, rivals, city vs. country...there's a lot packed in here. Pretty good, but definitely a girly book.

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg - One of my top ten favorite books ever, the Newbery book I pushed onto my kids before any other title. Some of the references are dated (the fountain and restaurant at the Metropolitan Museum of Art are long gone, and hardly anyone these days has any clue what an Automat is), but the story, a combination of mystery, art, and cleverness, will live forever. Bless E. L. Konigsburg for creating Claudia and Jamie, and even more for Mrs. Frankweiler and her witty, cynical voice, which I enjoy more and more the older I get.

The High King by Lloyd Alexander - This book is the conclusion of a five-book series, the Chronicles of Prydain, which explore a magical land very much like Wales, complete with double f's, double l's, and lots of y's in the names. In The High King, the former Assistant Pig-Keeper Taran achieves his destiny as a warrior and fulfills an ancient prophecy. You're familiar with Prydain if you've seen the Disney film The Black Cauldron. High drama, swordfighting, magical creatures, bards, and a kick-butt princess, so good fun all around.

And the winner is...

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler!

I have to admit, I think the fix was in as soon as I read the titles of the 1960s winners. I adored this book when I was a child. Claudia was so clever and resourceful--very much a role model for a bookworm like myself. Besides, how cool to live in a museum, for Pete's sake? And the Metropolitan Museum of Art, for that matter? When I finally did visit the Metropolitan as an adult, you can bet I went looking for things I first learned about in the Mixed-Up Files: the Egyptian sarcophagus where Claudia and Jamie hide their instrument cases, the carved platform bed where they sleep. The Automat and fountain, alas, were long gone, but I have to admit to a teeny tiny fangirl squee anyway just from being in the building. When I grow up, I want Claudia's sense of possibility and Mrs. Frankweiler's attitude. She rocks.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Gah! Air Travel!!

This morning, Ms. Without-Shopping and I woke up at o-dark thirty to catch a 6:30 flight to a conference. Flying anywhere for any professional reason almost never happens to teacher types (it involves money), so we're excited--until we get to the airport. We park and hustle into the terminal. Turns out the e-ticket is one of those "operated by" tix, so we're at the wrong airline. On the wrong side of the terminal, it turns out. While we're crossing over, we see that the TSA screening line stretches from here to Chicago (at 5:45 am?? Hello??). So basically, no plane for you!

So now I have a day off from work, but I'm spending it in the airport on standby. My life is an encyclopedic justification of Murphy's Law. Air travel FAIL.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Meeting in the Middle

I had one of those European experiences this morning. There was no room to sit in the local bagel shop, where I'd come hoping to review some writing along with breakfast, so I ended up sharing a table with a total stranger. Turns out we had plenty in common, when we were discussing our kids, but somehow, we got onto politics. We were quite different. One would expect fireworks, and yet...

...we had an amazing discussion. It was easy to tell where she and I diverged, but there were plenty of areas where we agreed. We talked a little about nearly everything, from education policy to global warming to redistricting to health care and found we shared far more common ground than the current freaked-out political vibe would lead you to believe.

It makes you wonder what those idjits in Washington are really all about. Between the two of us, Ms. Stranger and I could have solved some hugely knotty national problems, and we did this over bagels in less than an hour. Neither of us had patience for people who don't think or appear to have the capacity (*cough* Sarah Palin *cough*), nor did we appreciate the all-out monetary grubfest indulged in by too many in Congress. We also bemoaned the lack of common sense and actual voices in the debates over serious problems--for example, why aren't they talking to teachers when making education policy instead of the people who publish textbooks and educational software, or union leaders who have never seen or worked inside a classroom? Why can't we all agree that a growing population has some effect on the world's environment? Why are the only voices we're hearing so far out on the fringes that the rest of us are annoyed and increasingly disconnected?

It was a quick hour and an interesting one. My new acquaintance and I ended up exchanging numbers, though I doubt we'll ever see each other again. Still, it gives you pause: if two strangers can meet, disagree cordially, and leave with respect, why can't the people we're paying to do that job manage the same?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Circle, Circle, Dot, Dot, Dot

Need a break? Dial up the Nestlé Crunch hotline: 1-800-295-0051. Listen to the message, then wait about ten seconds after the "For English, Press 1; for Spanish..." option. It will then ask you if you want Piglatin. In Piglatin. Then it'll give you some other options (I recommend Option 4). Once you get that deep into the menu, it'll give you a plethora of choices; my favorite is number 7--which will also make the title of this blog clear!

I love clever people who aren't afraid to have fun at (and about) work. :-)

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Passing of a Legend


Yesterday brought the sad news that one of my all-time favorite authors, Dick Francis, passed away at the age of 89. I've blogged about my Francis Fangirl status at length--and seriously, if you love mystery and you haven't read any of his books, you're cheating yourself of a treat--but today is a wee celebration of his life and work.

Francis, a former steeplechase jockey and rider for the Queen Mother, turned to writing after he could no longer ride. Thankfully for us, he applied that knowledge to a series of novels set in the British racing world, one each year from 1967-2000, with a few additional titles co-authored with his son, Felix. Francis books are a wonderful blend of tightly-plotted mystery, great research, and clean writing. Francis created everyman heroes who tapped inner reserves of strength and intelligence to outwit a colorful series of bullies, murderers, crooks, and deadbeats. These heroes mastered all kinds of professions, from painter to glassblower to investment banker to, yes, jump jockey. The ride, as it were, was always a thrill.

Godspeed, Dick Francis. Thanks for your body of work, and for being an author to emulate.

Friday, February 05, 2010


They've finally opened a yoga studio in my lovely little hometown. That may seem like indulgence, but believe me, when trying for fitness means loading up the car and a fight across traffic (therefore rendering much of the stress-relieving properties of fitness moot), having a studio that I could get to on foot is a real boon. I attended their opening day festivities, liked the energy, and was elated to see that they offered a class on the day I reallyreally like to go to class, so boom! There I was, mat at the ready...all alone. No one else in class that day (strange), but the pert little yogi there to teach me was all happy and grateful, so basically, I got a private yoga class yesterday.

Can I just say that there really are no words to describe how wonderful shavasana feels when you've worked your way through a class? No illusions about the rigor of the class itself--it'll be awhile before this body is ready to tackle ashtanga again--but working through an hour-plus of poses she chose to work my stiff hips and ease the rhinoceros of tension that seems to drape on my shoulders like an ungainly shrug made that ten minutes or so of corpse pose the best thing I did all day. And I had a good day at school, mind you.

There's something about letting yourself go that we moms and women rarely do. Just lying on the floor without a brain full of squirrels feels decadent. A guilty pleasure (though guilt and yoga shouldn't ever be roommates, if you can help it). That ten minutes in shavasana, covered with a blankie, no less (something Debbie does at the end of class for all her students), felt like the best thing I'd done for myself in ages. So of course, I bought a class card.

Love the WiiFit and my Rodney Yee-on-the-beach yoga tapes, but there's something about a calming studio with low lights, soft candles, a tease of incense, and soothing music that really does the trick for this stressed-out mom. I'll be there Thursday, and I blast-texted a huge bunch of friends to come play with. Let's hope they find out the wonders of shavasana for themselves.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Rev. Robertson FAIL

I can't even begin to describe the ridiculousness that is Rev. Pat Robertson's comment on the Haiti earthquake, so I'm going to let this letter from the Minneapolis Star-Tribune say it for me:

Dear Pat Robertson, I know that you know that all press is good press, so I appreciate the shout-out. And you make God look like a big mean bully who kicks people when they are down, so I'm all over that action. But when you say that Haiti has made a pact with me, it is totally humiliating. I may be evil incarnate, but I'm no welcher. The way you put it, making a deal with me leaves folks desperate and impoverished. Sure, in the afterlife, but when I strike bargains with people, they first get something here on earth -- glamour, beauty, talent, wealth, fame, glory, a golden fiddle. Those Haitians have nothing, and I mean nothing. And that was before the earthquake. Haven't you seen "Crossroads"? Or "Damn Yankees"? If I had a thing going with Haiti, there'd be lots of banks, skyscrapers, SUVs, exclusive night clubs, Botox -- that kind of thing. An 80 percent poverty rate is so not my style. Nothing against it -- I'm just saying: Not how I roll. You're doing great work, Pat, and I don't want to clip your wings -- just, come on, you're making me look bad. And not the good kind of bad. Keep blaming God. That's working. But leave me out of it, please. Or we may need to renegotiate your own contract.
Best, Satan

Lily Coyle, whoever you are, if I lived in the frozen hinterlands you would totally be my BFF. Sarcasm WIN, with a tip of the hat to C.S. Lewis's The Screwtape Letters.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

She's Tidied Up, and I Can't Find Anything!!

I have to say DH totally won the Christmas present sweepstakes. For the past several major events (anniversary, birthday, etc.), he's asked what I want. Jokingly (not really), I've been telling him I want a house elf. You know, my own personal Dobby who will keep things tidy and bring me a sammich when I'm having a snack attack at midnight. Amazingly, he found someone. Her name is Wendy.

She doesn't have pointy ears or magic, but she definitely knows how to tidy. She and her daughters arrived this morning, and when I came home from work, blam! My house is freakin' clean. Of course, there are stacks of things everywhere--books, boxes, and whatnot--but that's my fault. Surfaces are clean, floors are clean, bathrooms are clean. She even left fresh flowers on the table! Couldn't believe it. Still adjusting to the fact.

Obviously, Wendy and crew can be so efficient because they don't have an emotional attachment to our stuff. They move at will to get the job done. The one unfortunate thing is that nothing's where I left it. Which is fine--I can move stuff back--but my tiara is missing! This is the Queen of Writing World Tiara that I bought with the Puffs some time back, and it is a vital talisman for the writing. A must-find. Methinks a text to our house elf is in order.

That, and huge thanks. It's hard to admit that I really can't do it all. I know what to do, but making it happen is often another thing entirely. God bless the Wendys of the world, who can.

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