What I wouldn't have done with all this time on my hands. A clean slate, weekdays look like weekends. John's around to share the household duties. Chief among which, short-order cook. Breakfast and lunch are his domain, and it frees up more mental real estate than I'd ever imagined possible.

Back when the kids were little it was a different kind of vacuum, my hourly fantasies were about ways of escape, so racy. The setting: Coffee shop. Prop: Magazine. I would hurl myself into a car the moment help arrived. Vogue, Vanity Fair, InStyle. Food and Wine. The New Yorker. The stack of periodicals was never outdated. My daily/weekly/monthly objective: feed kids, walk them occasionally, stay abreast of the styles. Know what's happening, where people eat, how they dress, new entertaining themes and, of course, recipes, what causes are sponsored by whom, and most rivetingly (to a former marketing executive), what is the "feeling of living" as communicated in our advertising. It was like a master's degree in popular culture. The thesis: How does style drive our society and how does it speak to what is happening in the world.

On a recent TED talk, Isaac Mizrahi discussed creativity and reinvention, his own based upon the principle that one must simply "stay bored". www.ted.com/index.php/talks/isaac_mizrahi_on_fashion_and_creativity.html Mizrahi, even with his silly, "none of this really matters" sense of irony, stages himself as a guru of reinvention. He's come in and out of the popular world in the way I wish women in the workplace could, he rises out of the categories of his career to again create a new life in a new job, and the world applauds him, "yeah, he's back!", for what he's done both in and out of the public eye.

So, style. Here's the link: Magazines, popular culture, the Oscars, the Stars. Color, pattern, texture, color. Fabric, flow, comfort. Living room, closet, kitchen. In a vacuum, we yearn for connection. We want to feel informed, but self-protected. We're desperate to be in tune with the times, but we're forced into this passive mode, waiting for life as we know it to begin again. In the No Job Vacuum it may be tempting to write off popular culture, we have so many deeper things to worry about. Yet as I see it, the style journals are doing their very best to walk the line between showing what's out there, flesh and blood and beautiful, and the coveted invitation to come back in where it feels good, where we can still enjoy the warmth of living on the surface. "Style" Mizrahi says in the TED talk, "makes you feel great because it takes your mind off the fact that you're going to die!" Ironic in his invocation to keep doing what makes you feel good. It couldn't be more important.

I look left at my stack of periodicals, subscriptions I still hold dear and prioritize even with the shrinking domestic budget. My culture-tracking objective is way less ambitious than it used to be. The stack is disheveled, it reflects my sense of the world. Reading about style is not an escape in this vacuum but it is still a lifeline, it's what helps bring the world together when it all seems in pieces. The function of style is crucial in this age of reinvention.



Pity party. Lately, it's Big Occasion city. February is full of them, and it's my turn to take the advice I've doled out to so many others. The milestones we pass, even if they're passed up, guarantee deeper meaning as we face into them next year.

Tomorrow, it's my birthday. Let me be clear. Birthdays are not just a number for me, they are the annual moment for acknowledgment. They are important. Historically, they've been launched like small businesses, with a plan and a committee (on which I preside). This year, I'm a committee of one, and there will not be much of a firework display. I'd be sad about it if it weren't my decision, but in the middle of the night as I lay awake and worry, this is the clearest, most appropriate gift to myself. No birthday celebration.

We'll light the fire in our beautiful colonial fireplace. Music. The kids, the dogs. The next day, dinner with family. In order for it to feel alright to me I'll preside over the kitchen. Others might rather relinquish, in the name of being pampered. Not me. It's my party, and I'll cry if I want to...

My Birthday Cake:

1/2lb bittersweet baking chocolate
1/2 c unsalted butter (1 stick, cut up)
3 tbsp bourbon (Maker's Mark)
1 orange, zested
4 eggs
2/3 granulated sugar
Couple tbsp shaved chocolate for garnish

Spiced Cream:
3/4 chilled heavy cream
2 tbsp confectioner's sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp cardamom
1/8 tsp ground cloves

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter/flour 9" baking pan, line bottom with parchment paper.
Melt chocolate and butter in a microwave, watch carefully, usually takes a couple minutes. Stir it to continue melting and not burn. Mix in bourbon and orange zest; set aside.
Beat eggs and sugar with electric mixer until pale yellow ribbons form, 6 minutes or so. Fold mixture into chocolate a little at a time. Pour into prepared pan. Bake 35 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool on wire rack.
With clean beaters, beat cold cream until frothy. Add confectioner's sugar and spices. Continue beating until soft peaks form (when peaks are droopy you're good.) Chill in fridge.
Serve cake on a plate covered with dollops of cream and shaved chocolate.

* Inspired by a cake served at the Spotted Pig, 314 W 14th St, New York.



Last weekend, in my expedition into the scary realm of READING THE NEWSPAPER I was met with a shocking, first in a long time experience: Inspiration. I read this article twice, gave it to John to read and sent it to several friends for whom inspiration was a fleeting memory. It's been a week and I can't stop thinking about this piece, I must re-publish it, and hope that it hits the mark with you as it did for me.

"What's Your New Plan B?" (by David Segal, NY Times, 2/7/09) nails the crazy confluence of the scary times with how we simply MUST confront them. If you don't have a job right now, a changed way of thinking has been foisted on you. But no one is out there, unscathed. Folks for whom a job is secure, in an industry not bombarded, in offices they own - they too are changing their behaviors, shedding old habits and thinking in a new way. Let's face it, things are going to be very different from now on. We have a choice: we change behind the times or ahead of them.


Here's what's hard, and believe me, we live it. Plan B for us is the same as Plan A: Get a Job. That's where the last post comes in (the "Sanity Salon"). In order to re-jig our Plan B we have to build channels in our daily lives. Tamra reminded me in an email yesterday to keep going for walks. Think it's that simple? Amazingly, when the bottom feels hard and cold, the walk is our channel, we can talk without looking at each other, we can breathe. Are you laughing? Like, what a pollyanna she is! Let me ask you this: what else do you have to do? Light the fire and make the Earl Grey Latte (Earl Grey tea with steamed or, in a pinch, microwaved Soy Milk, sounds weird but is truly delicious). Pull out the Scrabble and WIN. Then, a few light moments under your belt, go for Plan B.

Segal's article spends alot of upfront time talking about Plan B as a sorry shedding of dreams - the 2-day work week, the chic B+B in St Remy. But read these lines: "The new Plan B relies heavily on improvisation..." Aren't we, in the New Now, already improvising? "And here’s a hopeful question: does the new Plan B have any upsides?" YES! Get in front of the change, get into Plan B!



Your recession has hit. Through these posts I've tried to establish, yes, how bad it is and no, you are not alone. But the truth is, 90% of the process feels pretty damn lonely. The phone might ring but never at the moment the din gets loudest in our heads. That's where today's post comes in.

Who's on Facebook? If you are, you too are enjoying the latest, greatest guilty pleasure: "25 Random Things About..." I have not completed a list, but without fail I finish reading yours with the biggest smile on my face. Douglas Quenqua said in his NY Times piece about the "25 Things" phenomenon (2/5/09) that it's anybody's guess why this particular note has caught on and spread so much faster than anything else on Facebook to date. It may be true introspection, an opportunity for verbosity or simply unapologetic narcissism... I have my theory and it fits perfectly with The New Now's reason for being: it is Community. When I read your lists of "25 Random Things" I feel close to you and proud of you, I laugh with you and feel much less isolated thanks to your confessions which are seemingly written just for me to read.

I know not what time of day or what state of mind brings you to this post, but I want to hear from you. So that there is more for us to read and, in the spirit of "25 Random Things", so we can learn about each other while we share what makes it easier to get through each day.

Welcome to...


Add your tried and true Make It Better's by clicking on the highlighted "Comments" below this post.

Scented Candles from GAP (last purchased at $2.99)- Light one next to where you're sitting and take it with you when you pace

"Force It" Walks - Make an "appointment" (e.g. in 15 minutes...) with your Partner and get outside together. Takes the place of a pricier date night and forces conversation, don't know how, but always works.

Good, dark, grocery store chocolate after dinner, no matter what, a promise to you from the Universe that good things await if you make it through the day

  • Charlotte: Ghirardhelli Bliss Intense Mint ($2.99)
  • Suzy: Dove Silky Smooth with Roasted Almonds ($3.53)
Scrabble with Partner, friend, children

Set up DVR (or Tivo) and study the day's media. Make a plan for what you get to watch each evening and record others for a later viewing. There is so much good TV out there right now! Some of my favorites:

  • Damages (FX)
  • Weed (HBO)
  • Big Love (HBO)
  • Brothers and Sisters (ABC)
  • House (Fox)
  • Mad Men (AMC)
Read a Blog. They are everywhere. Avoid the narcissistic ones and head for what helps you feel part of your particular world. I like:


Please don't wait, add to The New Now.



Our phone is ringing! And it's The Network. In these times, the most profound of concepts is the network. And thanks to our network, the phone is ringing.

I've just read "Netherlands" by Joseph O'Neill, which for my money is one of the most finely wrought novels of the year. Not just because it paints a richly layered portrait of the cultures I know and love best - England, Holland and New York. But because the story is told like a matrix. With these incredible yet diverse cities along the bottom axis, and every meaningful character profile along the side. The man, the woman, the family, the enigmatic friend. The portrait is of how each interacts and gets tangled up in their network, these cities, and how they survive.

Without the entanglements with people, we have no way out of the mire.

In the beginning, I arranged every minute into a social event putting John on stage. I invited, opened up, cooked for, laundered for, phoned, suggested, enticed and manipulated. I dumped my results on a desk and expected the opportunities to rise like gumbies and dance around John with exciting opportunities, offers of a hand, the answer. I did that for about a month. Until I crumbled in an exhausted heap for the weight of delivery. The truth is, this is not my search, it is not my job. And the more I work to deliver the gumbies I'm taking away from doing my own job, from raising my children, from caring for John and definitely from caring for myself.

The City, the notion of the City, was built on this concept of network. Cities were not haphazard, nor were they Utopian - they were architected out of "the belief in the real possibility of creating worlds of peace, order, beauty and well being. (That) people can, at times, all get along and build something bigger than themselves."

I'm quoting from a New York Times review of an exhibit in Washington DC's National Gallery of Art (1/30/09) called "Pride of Place: Dutch Cityscapes of the Golden Age". Washington couldn't seem farther away right now as our travel budget has been slashed to local driving and at-home entertainment, but if I could, I'd airlift to see this installation. Not only is it Holland, not only have I just read this amazing novel, but it is an examination in art and cartography of the City, as a living organism, a thought-out way of shoring up and ensuring the network. And it's not "the village" (as much as I respond to Hillary Clinton's expose' about what it takes), it's THE CITY. It's infinite in its possibility, and in the end, it'll be the City that provides the opportunity for all of us, to grow, and not to die trying.

Some resources for networking: http://www.womenatwork.com/, http://www.momcorps.com/