Pop Culture Update: What I’m Watching

October 29, 2009 at 8:08 am | Posted in celebrity obsession, the media | 2 Comments
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There are far more productive ways to spend one’s evening than in front of the TV.  If you are an attorney, for example, you can bill some quality hours at home at night (and indeed I do, when I must).  You can read – The New Yorker, for example, or a book for your book club (which you never attend because you never have time to read the book).  You can go to bed early, so that you can get up early and do something productive in the morning (such as exercise).  Despite my post yesterday extolling the benefits of breaking out of routine, however, generally I just like to watch TV.  I’m a pop culture junkie, and I’m proud.  Other than on Friday nights, when both my People and Us Weekly have arrived and I curl up in bed with my celebrity gossip trash at 8 p.m. (not sure they count as productive reading), I like to curl up on the couch with a glass of wine (not these days, sob!) and decompress in that most American way.   

I didn’t watch a lot of TV until I went to law school.  I read a lot.  I wrote.  I went to sleep early.  In fact, for a few years, I didn’t even own a TV (perhaps Iwas living out an intellectual aesthete’s fancy? That was misguided.).  In law school, however, after a day and usually part of an evening reading case law in very fine print, your brain is quite literally unable to process another word.  TV becomes the ultimate — and only — escape.  I watched so much TV in law school that I was even DVR’ing re-runs of Cold Case on the USA network.  Happily, these days, the queue is much smaller (sort of):

60 Minutes — I DVR this, but rarely go back and watch if I haven’t caught it live, but it has become our Sunday night tradition to eat dinner in front of Morley and the gang and make fun of Andy Rooney. (By the way, Lesley Stahl’s biography, Reporting Live, is very good.)
Gossip Girl — although I’m about to give up on this. Somehow everyone has ended up at NYU together, and sex and alcohol are just not as racy in college as they are in prep school. That being said, I’m surprisingly enchanted by Hillary Duff’s guest appearance! And I love this weekly recap.
The Biggest Loser — essential to only watch this on the DVR, not live, as you can blow through the interminable challenges and weigh-ins and focus in on the good stuff, like all the crying, as Father Scott so accurately depicts every week, here.
The Good Wife — perhaps my favorite new show. I should have thought of the concept: newly divorced mom (her husband, the former Cook County DA was caught with a prostitute and is now in jail for perhaps using state money to pay her…) goes back to work as a first-year associate at a Chicago litigation firm. (Love that Josh Charles from Sports Night is in this too. Have always thought he was cute/dreamy in a nerdy way.)
Glee — OK, this is the best show on TV, despite the slight RT* factor of the musical numbers. Will devote a whole post to it at some point.
The Office — even though it gives me the RTs. I love Jim.
30 Rock — I literally guffaw at this show. I love Tracy Morgan, I’m sorry. And Alec Baldwin. And my father’s law firm was (is) in 30 Rockefeller Plaza.
Supernanny — for some reason, even though it couldn’t be more formulaic week to week, we love this show. Schandenfreude?
Saturday Night Live — I just fast forward through this in case something funny happened (e.g., “Dick in a Box”), which 95% of the time it has not.
The Daily Show — on DVR, you can get through this in about 15 minutes.
Curb Your Enthusiasm — almost unwatchable due to the amount of RT’s produced, but this season is much fresher and funnier than it has been as of late. Even though as of late was like two years ago.

Shows I tried this season and rejected:
Cougar Town
Community
Parks & Recreation (I love Amy Pohler, but it hasn’t won me over yet)
Modern Family

Shows on hiatus but usually programmed on DVR
Entourage — have always liked it for the LA-industry references, but it’s getting old. I’m just about over it.
24 — total addiction, even though I don’t like suspenseful movies or shows. If Tim’s not around, I end up fast forwarding through the suspenseful scenes to see how they turn out, and then I rewind and watch them after I know the outcome.
American Idol — I refused to watch for years, but now I’m at the point where I text in my votes! This is a show that you can’t DVR, however, because you’ll inevitably hear about it before you have a chance to catch up. How brilliantly conceived is a show that forces you to watch it live — like in the old days!
Royal Pains — it stars Mark Feuerstein, for whom I have a soft spot since he went to my alma mater and I met him once at a post-college party in Brooklyn. I am so hip.

*If you don’t know what “RTs” stands for, email me and I’ll tell you privately — it’s not quite PC enough to explain here! Basically, though, it stands for the feeling you get when you’re just so embarrassed for the characters on the show that you cringe and can barely stand to watch and would fast-forward through those parts if your husband didn’t grab the remote away and call you a wimp.

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Politics and more

October 28, 2009 at 12:57 pm | Posted in little bug, Massholes, politics | Leave a comment
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Ted Kennedy died, and Massachusetts needs a new senator. The special election takes place January 19, 2010. There are four candidates. In addition, the Boston mayoral election is on November 3.

I moved to Boston in June 2003, and this the longest I’ve stayed put since I went to college. I consider myself relatively well-informed, politically, but these races have hardly registered in my conscious. I don’t know whom I’m supporting, nor who stands for what. The current New Jersey gubernatorial and New York City mayoral races still seem more relevant, somehow. I care more that Christie might actually be the governor of New Jersey (a potential travesty) and find discussing the pros and cons of Bloomberg’s potential term-limit extension much more interesting than whether the Menino machine can be broken.

Maybe this is the problem: In Boston and Massachusetts, in adherence to all stereotypes, the “machine” still seems to means something. If you want to be a player, have a future, in Democratic politics, you support the incumbent mayor for a fifth term, even if you can understand one of every five words he mumbles.

Likewise, now that Martha Coakley seems to have been appointed “the” Democratic candidate, it is unlikely that her three challengers will have a chance. Which is too bad, despite the fact that I’m sure she’d be a good senator (and I’m always supportive of women who run for office). 

Case in point: Last night Tim and I attended a fund raiser for Alan Khazei, another senatorial candidate. Khazei founded the nonprofit City Year (a kind of Peace Corps for teenagers that focuses on inner cities in the U.S.). He’s running a decidedly grass-roots campaign and is embracing the “community organizer” label. (“We have a community organizer in the White House!” he exclaims during his speeches.) I attended not so much because I support Khazei (indeed, I didn’t know much about him before yesterday and even thought his name was spelled like it is pronounced – “Casey” – and he was yet another Irish guy running for office) but because I knew some of the people hosting the fundraiser and was curious about why they were supporting this relative underdog.  The crowd was decidedly young and idealistic, and I spied a few figures whom I knew coveted a future in politics publicly bucking the machine and throwing their support behind Khazei, not Coakley. That in itself was heartening. But I don’t think he has a chance – not because of his message or demeanor (he is a funny, likeable man), but because the fundraising momentum is already behind someone else.

Khazei didn’t necessarily win me over last night. But meeting an actual candidate kindled my overall interest in the race.  In fact, it was invigorating.  I have always thrived when feeling like I’m in the know and aware of the world (one of the reasons why I became a journalist). Though going to the fundraiser meant missing putting Little Bug to bed (and how I miss her when I don’t see her all day!), a night away from my child might be worth it to keep the currents of inspiration and commitment to and interest in the world around me buzzing. In other words, to keep me being me.

Duh, you say. Of course you have to have a life of your own, apart from your kids (isn’t this what all mommy-lit is about?)  In reality, though, we all know how strong the pull of home is after a long day, children or not.  After the event, Tim and I swung by Gaslight (our favorite go-to-French bistro, in large part because of the free parking and quick access to the Expressway) for a quick steak frite. An impromptu weeknight dinner with one’s husband in an actual restaurant – no TVs, no computers, no dirty dishes – discussing politics and our work days (I have a vague fantasy that people without kids or with grown kids do this regularly…) is indeed a rare treat. And further compounded the obvious:  it’s good – essential, important, necessary, fulfilling, sustaining… – to get out of the urban-suburban commuting bubble (home, work, home). There’s a senate race going on and it matters to my life. So do personal relationships. I’m grateful for the opportunity to have stoked both fires.

What to Wear: Pregnant Lady Lawyer Edition

October 27, 2009 at 8:27 am | Posted in the firm | 1 Comment
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Apparently, this blog’s most popular posts have been about my wardrobe: my post-partum/ nursing mom get up, and then my work wardrobe. Now that I’m six+ months pregnant, it is time for an update: what to wear while pregnant and working as an attorney in a somewhat conservative law firm (i.e., “Big Law”). I first considered this issue when I spent the final six, very large weeks of my pregnancy with Little Bug as a summer associate at my firm. Fortunately, I still have those clothes, but I’ve had to update that wardrobe to include both the first trimester and colder weather. I had enough misses the first time around (and ended up buying way too many clothes, since I didn’ t know what would really fit,  be comfortable, and be office-appropriate) that I hope you can learn from my mistakes.

First Trimester

Guess what — you are not going to be sporting an Angelina-esque baby bump any time soon. This revelation was initially kind of shocking and depressing. Instead, I just got thicker and thicker and my waistbands got tighter and tighter (and my boobs bigger and bigger) until well into my second trimester.  You just feel fat, and you so want that little bump so you can say to the world, “I’m not fat! I’m pregnant, see?”

So what do you wear to work during this awkward phase? My theory is that you can wear looser, flow-y tops, but only until you start to show that little bump. Then, it’s actually a relief to wear tighter, more fitted maternity clothes so you look somewhat stylish again. (You don’t want to wear a tent for 40 weeks.)  Here is what I did this time:

1. Buy a Bella Band. Stat. I pooh-poohed this the first time around, but, thanks to Big Mo, I now appreciate its genius. You can start wearing this as soon as you can’t get through a day without unbuttoning your pants, and it extends the life of your “normal” clothes for months. (In fact, I’m still mostly wearing my “normal” Theory work pants with the Bella Band, and will do so for as long as I can.)

2. Wear tops that are supposed to be loose and untucked.  The buttons on your “normal” work shirts will probably start to gape in the chest area, and I think it looks kind of sloppy to wear shirts untucked unless they are meant to be so. Instead, go buy a few shirts like this (from J. Crew)

jcrew shirt2

or this (from Banana Republic)

banana shirt

in a size or two larger than you’d normally wear.

3. You can still wear your cardigans and jackets unbuttoned. In fact, I’ve found you can do so throughout your entire pregnancy. (Later on, you just wear them over a nice, fitted, maternity T — see below.)

In short, then, for your first trimester and part of your second, you can extend the waistband on your normal pants with the Bella Band, wear more flow-y tops over that, and then top it off with your normal sweaters and jackets. Keep wearing your killer heels, and you’ll feel as good as it is possible to feel when you are nauseous, exhausted, and generally bloated.

Baby Bump (Second and Third Trimester)

This is where I’m at now, and I’m definitely wearing maternity clothes. In addition to my “normal” pants, whose lives have been miraculously extended with the Bella Band, I’ve been able to narrow down my wardrobe to a few staples. Again, you don’t want to spend a ton of money on maternity clothes, but you also have to spend enough money that you still look professional. I did shell out for a few key things, but otherwise rely on Old Navy and Gap maternity, as well as Ebay (more on that in a moment). Also, most of what I bought is black and gray. Since I don’t have very many clothes, I need to mix and match quite a bit. One color tone enables you to get away with wearing the same pair of black pants more than once in a week (and, remember, you can still wear your “normal” shoes and jewelry to liven things up).

1. Gap essential tank. I wear either the tank top or the cami almost every day under whatever top I’m wearing. This is just a personal preference, but I like to keep my belly covered just in case my shirt is loose or happens to ride up a bit. If you’re wearing the Bella Band, the tank top makes another layer over that, and by the time you add your top, you look nice and smoothly put together.

gap tank

2. Wrap dress. Not only is a wrap dress supremely comfortable, but if you wear it with a great necklace and black tights and heels, you can wear it to a client meeting if you have to. At the moment, I have three: Old Navy (super cheap but surprisingly professional and you can throw it in the wash); Gap sweater dress; and a fun, patterned Diane Von Furstenberg maternity dress (not cheap in theory, but cheap in practice because I bought it on Ebay).

3. Tops. When I was pregnant with Little Bug, I immediately bought some Gap maternity button downs, thinking they’d be oh-so-professional. As it turns out, they look like tents, and I hate them. You can’t really tuck in button downs when you’re pregnant, right? And so they end up just hanging limply over your bump.  Again, loose and untucked  is good for when you’re not really showing, but once you are showing, wearing something that isn’t fitted just makes you look bigger.

Instead, I own four nice-quality, fitted maternity tops and two fitted (the fitted part is key, have you figured that out yet?!) maternity 3/4 length t-shirts, which I wear with cardigans that I already own. I have tried not to skimp on tops, as, obviously, this is what people will notice the most (especially because they are covering that large belly…)  Ebay can help out a lot here:  I found a colorful, patterned DVF maternity top and a black-and-white patterned top from Pea in the Pod.  (Note: normally, I think shopping at Pea in the Pod is akin to larceny, but there are just some necessary professional clothes you need to own that you really can’t find elsewhere, so at least check it out and figure out your size. Maybe buy one or two things there, and then stalk Ebay?)

I also bought a few tops from my absolute favorite maternity brand, Isabella Oliver. The prices are relatively steep, but of the several IO tops I own, I wear at least two every week. I also have the 3/4 length t-shirts in black and white and, again, wear those under sweaters.

IO t

I also own one of their white wrap blouses. Unlike the tent-like blouses, this one is crisp, fitted, and I think the most professional thing in my maternity wardrobe. I always feel great when I wear it (and, when you are pregnant, this counts for a lot!)

io wrap blouse

4. Bottoms.  I own this black skirt by IO, which I wear almost weekly. (I wore it a lot post-partum, too!) Again, because I wear it so much, I feel like it was worth the money. The fit and quality are incomparable.  I’m still making do with my “normal” pants, although I am not sure how much longer I’m going to be able to pull those off. Therefore, despite the highway robbery, I did buy one pair of pants at Pea in the Pod — a pair of gray pin-striped trousers. I own two Gap maternity skirts from my first pregnancy — both reasonably priced and perfectly suitable for work. One is navy and one is khaki, although this means that I can’t really wear them into this winter season anymore (I can’t do bare legs much longer, and I refuse to wear hose — only black tights). In addition, I own these black Gap pants. They are relatively inexpensive, are perfectly suitable for work, and you can throw them in the wash.  Everyone has their own preference, but, in general, I only like the pants with the “secret fit”  or “full panel” waistband — the panel that covers up your whole belly. Nothing else will stay up on me.

5. Suits. Do you need a maternity suit? I’d argue yes, if you’re an attorney or in a profession where you meet with clients. At least a jacket. I shelled out for a Pea in the Pod suit last time around. The jacket, I loved. Still love. The pants were horrible and didn’t fit. But I’m very glad I have the jacket.

ppjacket

It’s black, of course, so I can get away with wearing it with either black pants or a black skirt. In fact, I have a client meeting next week and will be pulling it out for the first time. If I don’t wear it again, fine. I’ll give it to someone or will sell it on Ebay. But it’s peace of mind to have it if an important meeting comes up.

6. Coats. Another hotly debated question: If you’re very pregnant in the winter, do you need a maternity coat? A good friend of mine got through her winter pregnancy wearing her “normal” down jacket (although she swears it is now stretched out in the stomach…) But if, as a lawyer, you don’t normally wear down jackets or your husband’s fleeces to work, I’d buy a maternity coat (especially if you’re due in March or something and really will need a coat during those big-bump months). Old Navy has nice, super cheap coats. And you don’t have to worry too much about an inexpensive coat wearing out after a season because…you won’t need it again next year (presumably!) Again, check Ebay too.

Conclusion

I don’t have all that many clothes. My staple outfit is black pants or a black skirt (with black tights). Then I wear my Gap cami layered under either (a) my patterned maternity tops or (b) my black or white Isabella Oliver t-shirt with a “normal” cardigan. I tend to wear bright shoes (think: red patent flats, yellow patents heels, black and white spectator heels), so I don’t end up feeling too drab. To mix things up, once a week I’ll wear one of my wrap dresses. If I have a client meeting, I’ll wear a wrap dress, my white Isabella Oliver wrap blouse with black or gray pants, or my one maternity jacket.

A few other thoughts on maternity clothes

1. I mentioned Isabella Oliver, above. The prices are steep, but please at least check them out. If you buy just one or two things, have one of them be either this black skirt or these black pants. You can wear them from day one of your pregnancy and also post-partum. Somehow they manage to be comfortable and professional. If you buy one top, buy one of these t-shirts or this wrap blouse. You’ll thank me, I promise! (Note on Isabella Oliver sizing: I’m normally a size 8 in pants and wear an IO size 3 on the bottom. For the 3/4 t-shirts, however, I wear a size 4 — her clothes are beautifully fitted, but I tend to be a little bigger on top and don’t like things to pull. I’m a size 3 in the wrap blouse, though.)

2. Ebay. Why didn’t I use Ebay with my first pregnancy? Oh yeah, because I had no idea what I was doing. Or my size in any maternity clothes. It’s worth it to go to Pea in the Pod and try on a few things and make note of your size and then try to find similar items on Ebay. I love the DVF maternity stuff. Her clothes run small though (I’m normally a size 8 but always wear a L in her clothes — pregnant or not!).

3. Maternity jeans. PAY ATTENTION: do not, I repeat, do NOT go out and buy those expensive Seven for All Mankind maternity jeans that you see at Pea in the Pod or wherever. Even with the full belly panel they do not stay up. I was warned by pregnant friends the first time around and bought them anyway — and after five minutes the crotch was at my knees. This time around, I thought, well, maybe I’m a different size than I was the first time or maybe they make them better. And I bought them again (see, they are sooo tempting!) and had the same problem.  I suggest Gap maternity skinny jeans or Isabella Oliver jeans. Size hint for jeans: for my body type, the great thing about being pregnant is that I don’t have to worry about waist size. I’ve always found that the size of my pants was probably always a bit bigger than I needed it to be in terms of the fit in the butt or legs just so that they would fit at the waist (I will never ever be the girl with the flat stomach. It’s genetically impossible, and I accept that.) But when pregnant, I can wear a size smaller jeans that fit in the butt/legs because I don’t have to worry about them fitting around the waist (does that make sense?) Also, remember that jeans stretch. While I might normally wear a size 8 in pants, my Gap skinny maternity jeans are a size 6. They are awesome.

Comments and suggestions welcome! What are your favorite maternity finds? What purchase has been the biggest waste of money?

Littlge Buggy Update: Fall

October 26, 2009 at 9:53 am | Posted in little bug, the 'burbs, weekend, yoga | Leave a comment

As I’ve written about before, one of my biggest flaws as a parent — bigger, perhaps, then still giving my 2.3 year old a bottle of milk in her crib every night — is that I am terrible at documenting Little Buggy’s childhood. I don’t have a baby book or photo albums, nor do I update photos in frames. Probably because I take so very few photos.

Case in point: we had half a dozen or so of Little Buggy’s “friends” over on Sunday for a Pumpkin Carving party. It was chaos. And a hoot. (Damage done: one bruised forehead, two bloody lips [including my own!], one broken toy piano key. Not too bad!) And I didn’t take one photo. Hopefully, others will send me theirs, but I was too busy carving pumpkins, refreshing sippy cups, and pouring white wine.

Ah, if I only had an iPhone, I keep telling myself. My rationale is that the iPhone would be semi-permanently attached to my personage, making picture taking unavoidable. The few shots I have to Little Bug this fall are from Tim’s iPhone (see?), but capture pretty well this stage in our lives.

raking leaves

Raking leaves yesterday, a picture perfect Indian summer day in the suburbs. (Note the swing set in the background!)

yoga

Taken Thursday night and emailed to me while I worked late. Little Buggy had donned one of my yoga tank tops and was “doing yoga” in our bedroom. I’m assuming her arms are making their way into “mountain pose”?

Shameless publicity stunt

October 23, 2009 at 9:29 am | Posted in Massholes, read this, the media | 1 Comment

Have you heard of Radio Ink magazine?

What, you haven’t? I’m shocked. Well, let me introduce you, here (scroll to p. 26).

Read this

October 22, 2009 at 8:37 am | Posted in read this, the media | Leave a comment
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David Rhode is a Times reporter who was kidnapped by the Taliban on his way to interview a Taliban commander in Afghanistan. As it turned out, he was taken hostage by the very subject he was supposed to be interviewing (though he didn’t find this out until weeks later) and was held for seven months, until he escaped. This week, the Times has run a five-part series by Rhode, recounting the experience. (Read the first installment, here. Then read the rest. It is worth your time.) It was big news when he finally escaped because the Times and other news organizations had never publicized his abduction to begin with. Rhode’s story is incredible, not only because of the obvious — he was kidnapped by the Taliban — but because of its insights, as a result of his capitivity, into what is actually going on in Afghanistan and Pakistan (for example, how utterly brainwashed these uneducated young men are in their anti-American thinking).

Afghanistan, the news media has recently let us know, is the big story right now. Bigger than Iraq. And, yet, it’s difficult to understand why. Who is the army? The militia? The Taliban? Al Qaeda? Rhode’s reporting starts to delineate the “enemies” from the “allies,” and yet also underscores how difficult it is to tell one from the other.  It helps one understand why the decision to send more troops there is so fraught. 

My interest in this area also has recently been piqued by Dexter Filkins’ The Forever War. Filkins, another Times reporter, does not merely recount the stories he already reported from this region. Instead, he opens up the rest of his reporter’s notebook — his observations and personal analysis of his reporting in Afghanistan and Iraq, before 9/11 and before and after the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. We read about his interactions with warlords, politicians, soldiers, and the often overlooked civilian. I was given this book by a pro bono client, whom I’m representing in his application for political asylum. My client, an Iraqi, is mentioned in the book several times. (After reading Filkins’ accounts of some of the things my client went through — things my soft-spoken client plays down — I have moments where I am so glad I am a lawyer and can help someone like this and yet despair that I can’t do enough.) I haven’t read many other books on the conflicts in this region, so I can’t compare Filkins’ approach or effectiveness, but his book has given me important background into why the U.S. is finding it so difficult to accomplish what it wants and needs to in both of these countries.

Inspiration strikes

October 21, 2009 at 3:20 pm | Posted in decor, Home inspiration, the 'burbs | 3 Comments
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Well, hello! Did you miss me? I’ll give you a brief update on my life over the past few months, and perhaps you’ll forgive me for not posting:

  • I’m having a baby. A boy. (What?! I could have, and probably should have, written about a dozen posts on my reaction to this. But it’s sunk in. And I’m excited, although Tim and I disagree wildly on names.)
  • We bought a house. I now live in the suburbs and own a washer and dryer and a lawnmower.

I’ve been a bit too tired and somewhat overwhelmed to post regularly. Not to mention that work has picked up slightly (a leading economic indicator?), and I have a commute. But, mostly, I just lost my some of my creative fire — my desire to write and to share.

Today, I snapped out of it. Here’s why:

Etsy stool

This is a vintage footstool, covered in orange KWID fabric. I fell in love with this print a few days ago when one of the design blog regulars on my Google reader was offering a yard of it for sale at a deep discount, but I emailed her too late and it had sold. While Etsy browsing today, I stumbled across it again. I snapped it up this time. Our new home has reignited my passion for interior design, and while I’ve been saving design images from the internet and magazines for months, this was my first real purchase for the house. The stool will go in front of the fireplace in the living room, and even though I don’t have my colors for the room completely conceptualized, clearly now orange will play some role.

What do you think?

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