Here’s what someone said, somewhere, to someone else: You’re only as happy as your least happy child. Talk about a buzz kill. I don’t care how motivated and crazed a parent might be, or how loving and smothering: sometimes it’s impossible to extract light and joy from our beloved offspring. Not to flaunt my depth of knowledge about adolescent behavior, but I happen to know that sometime between middle school and college, the cheerful part of a teenager’s DNA shrivels and sulks. It takes time for the happy gene to grow-up, apologize, and come sit at the table like an adult.

Rather than admit defeat, I say change the battle. At least, that’s what I determined after experiencing the following epiphany: You’re only as happy as your least functional appliance. Put another way, I thought everything was fine until my dishwasher died. Unloading still-dirty dishes, however, underscored how powerless I was in the face of appliance adversity. I was distraught, and that’s an understatement.

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Memoir? Yes Please

I went online.

I went on dates.

I went a little nuts.

I went and wrote about it.


The story? It’s written.


More to come….




February makes me think of two things: Valentine’s Day and chocolate. I’m pretty sure one could make the argument that they’re synonyms. This is the season for love expressed via cards and candy, and maybe a dozen roses.

OK, I lied. It’s also the season for public declarations of devotion. Think Romeo and Juliet, on steroids, and for the masses. Basically, February combines the commercial concept of “The Bachelor” with the retail romance of “Say Yes to the Dress.”

But this is 2016, which means the bachelor may be looking for another bachelor, which is fine, and anyone can lay claim to being the bride, which is fine, and it’s nobody’s business whether the person wearing the gown stands up or sits down when using the toilet, which is also fine.

None of that is shocking. What’s shocking is that grammarians are in the news. Well, not just grammarians. Also linguists, lexicographers and etymologists. And if you think that’s a lead-in to a joke about them all walking into a bar, well, have I got a gender non-binary Valentine for you.

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How do you trace genius? What’s the recipe for inspiration? When listening to an acceptance speech, who gets a nod and who goes unappreciated?

Put another way, how much credit does the home field get when the home team hits one out of the park? When Highland Parkers make it onto the world stage, how much of that success is happenstance, and how much is attributable to the zip code?

Consider The Princess Bride. William Goldman, the author, was born and raised in HP. We could lower our taxes if there were a residual paid to the town every time somebody said, “Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.” Were those words inspired while clowning around in line, waiting for the cheddar fries at Stash’s? They might have been.

Anne Farleigh, the English teacher who ran the now extinct HPHS Reading Lab, was the one who first handed me Goldman’s book. With pride she said, “See what our graduates produce.” And that was before it became a movie.

More recently, HPHS can lay claim to the creators of Amazon’s top selling game, Cards Against Humanity: A party game for horrible people. Much has been written about these boys and their humor, but what about their local inspiration?

“Everything was safe, sanitized, boring. High school was an awful place, a futuristic prison,” says Max Temkin, one of the eight guys who, for lack of a better phrase, are all warped wizards.


Pressed to come up with even one thing from Highland Park he misses, Temkin’s face finally lights up. “The egg-white salad from Once Upon a Bagel. It’s the best. How do they make that?”

My eyebrows shot up. These boys, three of whom graduated first, second, and third in their class, and who together are just shy of forming a minyan, do they give a nod to their mothers? A nod to their teachers? A nod, even, to each other?

“I hate David, and David hates himself,” says Temkin, explaining their distinctive friendship. It’s that charming and ironic connection that keeps the group bound together despite physical distance and divergent daytime career paths.

Still, ‘tis the season of giving, and I feel the need to express my appreciation to these HP natives for the latest and most demented reason to be proud of my hometown.

So to you, Eli Halpern, David Munk, Josh Dillon, Eliot Weinstein, Daniel Dranove, Ben Hantoot, David Pinsof, and yes, Max Temkin, here is my gift: direct from Oscar Garcia of Once Upon a Bagel, the recipe for their egg-white salad. “Take low-fat mayo, a little bit of black pepper, celery, onion salt, and just the egg whites from boiled eggs.”

“What makes it so special?” I asked.

“It’s the love,” replied Garcia.

Yes it is. And boys, remember this: It’s not just the hometown egg-white salad that fostered your creativity. Give a nod to your mothers here in Highland Park. They put up with all of you.




ImageThe Cheney Gals, cooking up a foul brew.


Shakespeare was really the first to cash in on the idea of a cooking show. Complain all you want about those pesky reading assignments, but to a person we remember those three witches, standing around the cauldron, stirring with demented glee, and reciting their recipe faster than any of the groundlings could transcribe it. What’s shorthand for eye of newt and tongue of bat, anyway?

 Doesn’t matter. MacBeth is captivating, from the recipes right down to the ransacking. Of course, those kitchen-witches aren’t the ones fighting. In a play where unbridled ambition ruins families and fiefdoms, the three weird sisters seem to get along. Apparently, that’s what makes them weird. Don’t believe me? Ask the Cheneys.

 They’re helping to redefine Thanksgiving for the twenty-first century: food, family, and fights. Don’t even bother to send me your complaints. Save time. Send them directly to my mother, who agrees with you. She thinks everyone should get along, and she abhors the very concept of antagonism among siblings. Birth order dictates her point of view: That is to say, she is an only child.

 As one of four, I understand a little rough and tumble family fun. I have older brothers, and trust me when I tell you no sentence instilled greater fear in my bones than my parents leaving the house and my mother waving and calling out, “There are TV dinners in the freezer, and the boys are in charge.” (Full disclosure: I loved those Swanson TV dinners.) But putting older brothers in charge? Why not save everyone a lot of time and trouble and just let Betsy and me lock ourselves in the bathroom?

 The point is, of course, that siblings don’t always get along. That’s why the NYTimes put the feud between the Cheney sisters on page one. Liz and Mary aren’t talking to one another, unless you count social media jibes and news conference accusations as communication.

 At issue is same-sex marriage, which Liz Cheney vehemently opposes. Meanwhile, her sister, Mary, is married to Heather Poe, and together they have two children.

 Here’s my favorite sentence in the NYTimes article. “Things erupted on Sunday when Mary Cheney, a lesbian, and her wife were at home watching Fox News Sunday – their usual weekend ritual.” Does Fox know Mary and her wife are regular viewers? Do Mary and Heather realize they are watching Fox?

 Channel selection aside, what about the Cheney Thanksgiving? How will they get through the fair-is-fowl, foul-is-family fest when Liz’s bid for the senate trumps her family fealty? Ambition compels her to opt for expediency over loyalty.

 Sound familiar? Shake out those mothballs between your ears. It’s the story of MacBeth. And it is a tragedy.

 If only Shakespeare’s witches could cook up a spell to help Liz recognize the legitimacy of her sister’s relationship. It’d be a brew to help her accept her brood. That’d be a cooking show worth watching, and a recipe worth replicating. Instead, what she’s asking voters to swallow is poison.

Let the heavens weep. Oh hell. I’m weeping. People Magazine has declared Gwyneth Paltrow the World’s Most Beautiful Woman. Thanks, People, for confirming that beauty comes in one shape and one size: Toothpick-Thin and Double Zero.
Apparently, having no breasts, no hips, no butt, no thighs, and no apologies for exercising two hours every single day is the standard of beauty in this country. Where are the Dove executives when we need them most?
Whatever progress in accepting our bodies and our shapes and ourselves we might make has eroded another little bit.
Next year I expect to see Olive Oyl make the list, too. Assuming she dies her hair blond, of course.

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