Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Tik Tok Toe

Hi, my name's Deirdre and I'm doing TikTok wrong.

At least that's what my kids tell me.

Honestly, it took me a while to figure out the point of TikTok. At first, I thought it was for editing and publishing videos, like this one that I made to celebrate the last day of school during the first COVID semester, because I tend to combine celebrations with things that embarrass my children.

Then I thought it was a source for nonsense news, and every time my kids would say hey, "Is it true that..." I'd immediately accuse them of getting their information from TikTok and cross examine them with, "did you fact check this? Did it come from a creditable news source? Did you cross-reference against NPR? Was it published by actual journalists in a regional or city paper?" #supportlocaljournalism.

But turns out they were getting all that from YouTube. 

My bad.

Then I heard about a certain group of TikTokkers who reserved tickets for an event they had no intention of attending, thus making sure it wasn't well attended, and I thought, ok, that's kinda fun. Finally, I realized all these videos I kept seeing on Twitter all came from TikTok and I started searching for them, and I fell down the rabbit hole. 


Funny bits by random people

Harry Potter spoofs (so many)  

And then...the food videos

I love to cook, I love to read cookbooks and apparently I also love to watch other people talking about food. 

Watch me pack lunch!

Here's what I got from Aldi! 

Here's how I feed my family of 10!

Here's what we eat for (insert holiday from any culture, if there's a meal, I want to see it)!

Let's make a Depression-era recipe using ingredients you don't want to eat together!

Watch me make a Minnesota salad! 

I could spend HOURS scrolling through my feed for food-related videos. 

I started sneaking TikTok recipes into our family meals, hoping to convince my teens to branch out in their eating. 

Three-ingredient ice cream!

Three-ingredient Fettucine Alfredo!

Three-ingredient coffee cream! (ok, that was for me)

Icebox cake!

Dessert charcuterie board!

Apple cider mimosas! (ok, that was also for me)

Sheet pan quesadilla!

Sheet pan pancakes!

Sheet pan anything!

It was the Boursin cheese pasta that finally broke us. 

I'd seen the feta tomato pasta, and was itching to try it. But then I saw Padma Lakshmi make linguine with boursin cheese and peas and OMG YES PLEASE. 

I served it on a Sunday night with roast chicken breasts and French bread, and the peas were on the side because this is not my first rodeo.

It was delicious, decadent, divine. 

Or, if you ask my was ok. 


"Meh," they said. 


"I'm sure it is, Mom," said Luke, while piling a mountain of sliced chicken on his plate, carefully avoiding the pasta.

"Yeah, Mom," Parker said, pushing his fork into the linguine to make it look like he'd eaten some. "It was good. It's just, you know, I'm full already." 


That's when I just stopped talking and started muttering to myself about ungrateful teenagers. 

Glass half empty: they didn't eat it

Glass half full: they felt so guilty after my Boursin-fueled rant they actually offered to help with the dishes. 

So I backed off. 

I stopped incorporating TikTok foods into our meal plan.

Ok, that's a lie, I just stopped telling them that's what I was doing.  

And then my oldest Parker had my phone (probably because he couldn't find his, which...don't get me started) and said, "Mom, your TikTok feed is so boring. You follow the lamest people."

I said, "I follow funny things. Those people are hilarious. You just don't appreciate satire."

Parker held up my phone to me, showing someone making a Mississippi pot roast. "No, Mom, I don't appreciate crock pots."

That's when he told me I was doing TikTok all wrong

That's when I reminded him I paid for his phone.

That's when he handed mine back and stopped talking.

We no longer speak of the Boursin pasta.

Or what we follow on TikTok.


Two weeks ago, I couldn't help myself.

I made the TikTok green beans.

I casually let it slip as we were in the kitchen. "Oh these? I got the recipe from TikTok."

And then I waited. Told myself: be cool, man. 

Parker dished up first and he didn't take any beans.

I didn't say a thing. 

Then Luke dished up. 

"Some green beans?" I asked.

Luke shrugged and handed over his plate. I served him a modest amount. NBD, just some beans. That are green. And viral.

We sat down to eat. I took a bite and said, "wow, these are really good." And then mentally kicked myself for coming on too strong.

At first, nobody responded.

Then I watched as Luke picked up a green bean.

I was tempted to remind him to use his fork, but again, I said nothing. Memories of Boursin-laced linguine danced in my head as I watched him take a bite.

He ate the entire bean.

And then he said, "you know what, Mom?"

"What's that, sweetie," I asked, oh-so-casually.

He looked reflective, as he used a fleece blanket for a napkin instead of the actual napkin in his lap.

"These almost make me want to eat green beans."

And in my house, we call that a win.

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Charlie the Escape Artist

Today I learned that my dog is a liar.

He spends most of his days sleeping (except when I want him to be quiet) and I'd call him pretty calm, apart from having anxiety when there's a party and he's not invited (try to exclude him from a mom happy hour and you will subject your friends to the howls of he-who-wants-attention-and-maybe-a-lemon-bar).

Most mornings as I get ready to leave for work, he jumps onto the couch, props his head up on the pillow and looks at me languidly as if to say, "I simply shan't move a muscle until you return." 

But today, there was an opportunity to escape and he took it.

A few weeks ago, I got a call from someone on the street next to mine who said my dog was in her yard. He has a tag with my phone number on it, so she called me. My sons and their dad found him, and the front door was found to be the culprit, as it was wide open.

I figured it was an isolated incident. That Parker and Luke had left the door open and he raced out after them. He's spent hours watching them play basketball through the front window, and I thought maybe he saw the chance to finally shoot some hoops. I didn't think he'd try to get out again.

I think differently now. 

I was at the office this morning, when I got a call from a neighborhood kid who called the number on Charlie's tag after he spotted him in a parking lot behind my alley. 

He said Charlie was out roaming around and he'd try to get him back to my house. 

My first thought was OMG the boys left the door open again.

My second thought was OMG the boys aren't even home.

My third thought was OMG the dog has figured out how to use a door knob. Or someone broke into my house, quickly saw the dog hair and mess and realized there was nothing of value, but they left the door open and Charlie chased after them. (Not to defend the house, but in case they had a treat).

I stormed out of my cubicle a la Sally Fields's frantic march down the hospital hallway in Steel Magnolias, only less Sally Fields and more frazzled and agitated (frazitated?). 

I drove to my neighborhood and caught up with them on the corner of the same street the other neighbor had found him (also where we sometimes walk). But Charlie had made it to the end of that street and was heading down a much busier road. I'm sure if the kid hadn't found him, he might have gotten hit by a car. 

I thanked him, he helped me get Charlie into my car and I drove him home and lo and behold -- my front door was cracked open. Turns out I haven't mastered my new door lock, and I thought it was locked, but it actually wasn't. (Yes it was the door's fault actually, somebody tell Ted Cruz). 

I'm extremely grateful to this kid, who followed my dog on his little adventure on a very hot day, and and I'm sure Charlie is, too...except that I'm equally sure Charlie thought it was the Best Thing Ever and would do it again in a heartbeat if given the chance. 

His wagging tail and giant canine grin said it all.


So yeah, Charlie, I'm onto you. You're in trouble, Mister. I am serious. No more pepperoni for you, pal.

But just look at this face.

Monday, July 25, 2022

Tales from the Work-from-Home Front

These are actual conversations I've had with my dog and my kids while working from home.

Sometimes it's hard to tell who's worse.


Me: ok, I know you want to go for a walk, but I've got a 9 am call first. Soon as it's done, we'll go, ok?

Charlie: stares at me with puppy eyes that could melt Mitch McConnell* and when that doesn't work, he lunges at a rubber chicken on the floor.

Me: No, please not the rubber chicken. I have a CALL. 

Charlie: casually tosses chicken into the air. (Did I mention the chicken squeaks)?

Me: mutes my phone just as Charlie begins a game of catch-the-rubber-chicken with himself. I wave at the dog desperately because I know I'm going to have to unmute shortly. He ignores me and pounces again on the chicken. I give up and pray I don't have to speak.

Charlie: senses I'm on mute, stops tossing the chicken and lies down casually, as if to say, oh this old thing? I hardly even noticed it was there. Of course I can stop and be completely quiet while you're on a call.

Me: hears the round table of Teams updates making its way toward my area, unmutes myself and...


Me: mutes self, cursing


Me: glares, powerless 

Charlie: shakes his fur, glares at the retreating back of another dog being walked past our window and then looks at me smugly. 

"You're welcome" is very much implied.

Last week

Me: hey guys, I'm getting on a call. It's a short one, but I have to speak, so I just need everyone to be quiet for like 30 minutes.

Parker: Could you move out of the way? You're blocking the game.

Luke: doesn't look up from phone.

Me: ok, thanks guys. Closes door, gets on call, starts speaking and...

Parker: (from the den) OMG YOU SUCK! Stomps out of den, leaves door open, goes to bathroom & also slams that door.


Me: frantically gestures at my kids, because I am SPEAKING, a fact which no longer matters amid the teen boy yelling and my bracelets clanging together as I wave my arms desperately, trying to get their attention. The sounds from my microphone sound less like a conference call and more like a cage match at Abercrombie and Fitch. 

Parker: OMG YOU'RE SUCH A D***, MOM's on a CALL! Slams door to the den.

Me: thinks - well, at least the door's shut. Continues call and we're almost done and...

Luke: suddenly appears in front of my desk literally out of thin air, like something from The Omen, hissing, I HATE HIM!

Last Month

Me: (on a call) Sure, I can make that change and get you back an updated draft by the end of the day...

Parker: races out the den, prompting the dog to chase him.

Me: waves hands around, mouthing, i'M oN a cAlL!

Charlie: thinks hand waving is an invitation to play, romps through living room, steps on rubber chicken.

Me: head starts spinning in the manner of Linda Blair from The Exorcist.

Parker: come on, Charlie - leads dog back into the kitchen and gives him a treat - probably something he shouldn't have, and I don't care.

Me: resumes speaking, thinking PHEW, dodged that one.

Parker: jogs through the living room, stops at my desk and waves hello. There's a gleam in his eye that I just don't trust.

Me: shakes head, silently screaming, don't do it, please don't do it, don't say anything inappropriate...

Parker: (whispers) PE**S!

Me: hits mute so hard I almost knock over my laptop.

Parker: grins. LOVE YOU MOM!

*Just kidding, nothing could do that

Sunday, July 24, 2022

What the World Needs Now is a Christopher Guest Movie

Dear Mr. Guest,

I’m a huge admirer of your work. Best in Show is one of my favorite movies, and I watch it every Thanksgiving, or at least the years that I can wrestle the remote away from my mother (there’s only so many movies about a Christmas prince a person can watch).

I’m writing to you because my friend Carrie recently came across a video of a man explaining why he tried to pull a fishing hook from a shark’s mouth (not to spare the shark, he just wanted his hook back). We think this would make a great “hook,” if you will, for a Best in Show sequel. 

Now, I’m sure you have much better things to do with your time than entertain a silly proposal for a movie from someone who knows nothing about making movies. But, we live in crazy times where humor is the only thing keeping many of us going. A new movie from you could be just the salve our gaping wound of a world needs.

Picture this…Best in Show: Florida

We open on a fishing dock. 

A man with his arm wrapped in a tourniquet fashioned out of fabric printed with the American flag stands next to his wife. 

“Hi, you probably know me as the guy who stuck his hand in a shark’s mouth to get my fishing hook. I’m not a famous person, I’m just an average Joe who likes to take my family hunting for predators and then dump them off the side of the boat after I get a good picture. Me and my wife Ashley have seen a lot of comments from our video and we wanted to let you know our side of the story.”

Ashley nods and pats his arm. (The other one, not the one wrapped in the flag, through which we can see blood starting to seep). 

“We’d been out catching sharks, catching ‘cudas, and the kids were getting bored. We land this last shark, and he wasn’t big enough to take a picture for the ‘gram, so I was gonna let him go. But I wanted my hook back. So I reached into his mouth and tried to yank it out and then I heard this popping noise and that’s when I yelled, Goddamn, he just took my finger! So my cousin Bobby here whipped off his undershorts and made me a tourniquet.”

The camera closes in on the tourniquet, where the elastic waistband of what is in fact, flag-printed boxers, is now visible. 

The camera then pans to Bobby, who is shirtless, wearing sunglasses and a Mickey Mouse towel wrapped around the lower half of his body. 

“I’m not a paramedic, but I did take a workplace violence course at the office last year. They teach you to run, hide or fight, and how to make tourniquets outta your underwear. Guess corporate America’s good for somethin’, am I right?”

The camera moves back to Shark Hook Man, who nods. 

“After Bobby wrapped up my arm, we hauled ass outta there and headed for the dock. Ashley had a heckuva time calming the kids down, what with all the blood and all, but she’s my rock.”

Ashley chuckles. “Well, Mister-driving-yourself-to-the-hospital-when-you’re-bleeding-out!” 

She then looks into the camera, confidingly. “I thought he was gonna faint any minute. The kids were screaming, the truck was weaving back and forth, his hand’s spurting blood into traffic. Why, he could have passed out and killed us all!”

Ashley stops and puts her hand on her heart. “But … that’s my man!”


Clearly I’m no screenwriter. But you get the idea. The state of Florida is ripe for character development. Adults who vacation at Disney could make an entire movie all on their own. To say nothing of people who visit Florida from other places. (Or used to visit Florida until it became just as terrible as their own state. Texas, J’accuse).

I’m sure this is one of many other ideas people send you all the time. There’s certainly no lack of potential material. I’ve seen school board meetings that I wished were one of your mockumentaries. I can only imagine what you could do with a movie based on some recent political campaigns – I’d like to be able to laugh about those. 

All that’s to say that the world desperately needs your movies right now. So if it’s not too much trouble and you have the time, I hope you might consider making another one.

Sunday, March 27, 2022

March Movie Madness -- 2022 Oscars

It's that time again when March Madness has a meet cute with the movies and everyone in my house is vying for control of the Roku remote. I'm tracking best pic nominees while my oldest is tracking the tournament and my youngest started two NCAA brackets - one with my picks and the other with the dog's and guess which one's winning? 

But I don't even mind that I've been bested by a hound, because it's time for THE OSCARS and this is a bracket I can win. 

I'd like to thank the Academy for once again pushing back the date, because it gives everyone more time to see more films -- and on behalf of parents everywhere, thanks for the multiple streaming options. Because movie tickets are pricey, even more so is the popcorn and by the time you add the drive to the theater and all the trailers, a two-hour movie turns into an entire afternoon. Which is hard to spare these days for anybody, and especially if you have my kids, OMG MOM GOING A MOVIE WASTES SO MUCH TIME I COULD HAVE BEEN PLAYING BASKETBALL/FORTNITE/DOING NOTHING AND COMPLAINING ABOUT IT.

Plus, my kids have seen movies at home that I never would have taken them to in the theater, because I'm not blowing $60 (tickets, popcorn, can I have a pretzel, omg mom we NEED M&Ms for the popcorn, etc.) on a film that I really want to see but I'm pretty sure my kids don't. Whereas I will spend $20 to stream something that my kids might watch accidentally if they breeze through the room and they end up seeing an unexpected story or perspective...and if not, that's fine, too.

Case in point, I watched Roma when it was nominated with my then 12-year-old, who hung on till the childbirth scene, which drove him pretty quickly out of the room. But to this day, when discussing movies, I'll sometimes hear, "oh is it like that one movie? The one that was black and white and had the words? Yeah, I kinda like that one."

So, which among these Best Picture nominees will be this year's Roma? 

Here's my amateur (and in some cases immature) review of the 2022 films in no particular order...

Don't Look Up - funny, topical - a little too over-the-top for me, but maybe that's the point? Chock full of talent, on-point satire, this was the 15 year-old's favorite. (The tween's favorite was Spider Man: No Way Home and no, he does not care that it wasn't nominated for Best Picture. He still hasn't forgiven the Academy for not voting for Black Panther, so I expected nothing less).

Belfast - relevant, great story & cinematography. Plus it's got that Hollywood trifecta of black-and-white visuals, intimate story set during a major historical event, and a memoir(ish).

Dune - I saw the original in the 80s when Sting was in it. Sting wasn't in this one. At one point, I hit pause and my 15-year-old said, "OMG, there's an HOUR left of this?" My sentiments exactly. It's not the film's fault; I'm not a huge science fiction fan, but I did read the book a million years ago and I don't know that anybody would have better luck turning that into a movie. But hey, good to see the Sandworm from Beetlejuice making a comeback.

West Side Story - loved this remake and I'd totally forgotten how many memorable songs came from this film. I'd also forgotten the maturity level of teen/tween brothers, so I spent a lot of the movie scowling at my boys as they snapped their fingers and staged mock Sharks vs Jets battles in front of the TV. 

King Richard - watched this one with both my kids. He made us hate him, but at the same time he made us root for him, it was complicated, it was an amazing story and we all agree Will Smith deserves Best Actor. 

Licorice Pizza - I was so looking forward to this one. And then I saw it. I don't know...I just kept waiting for something that never happened, and then Bradley Cooper showed up and there were lots of water beds. 

Drive My Car - I know there were some really meaningful, interesting moments in this movie because I meant to write them down...but instead I fell asleep. Lesson learned: no three-hour movies after dinner. I did really like Hidetoshi Nishijima's and Park Yoo-Rim's performances, but I'm going to have to try and watch the second half again sometime when I'm more awake.

Nightmare Alley - I really liked this one in the beginning, but it could have been about an hour shorter.  I'd take less Cate Blanchett and more chicken guy. (Nothing against Cate Blanchett, I just liked the carnival storyline/scenes better). 

The Power of the Dog - if you want to watch a movie just to get really angry at someone, this film's for you. Stunning landscapes, but I'm not sure I've ever disliked a character in a movie so instantly and Benedict Cumberbatch may have ruined the banjo for me forever. HOWEVER, the last seven minutes of the movie turned it around. Well played, Jane Campion. So, if you're going to watch this one - you have to watch till the end. #wedonttalkaboutbroncohenry. 

CODA - one of my favorite kind of movies is the kind that tells the seemingly small story of a family or a friendship or just an ordinary person - not a war, not a great sweeping epic, but a small slice of life that sweeps you up in it completely. Like Minari or Little Miss Sunshine or Sideways...or this movie. The storyline, the acting and the writing were all so good. Beyond all those very rational reasons for CODA being my Best Picture favorite, there's also this: the main character is the child of deaf adults in Dorcester, MA. My maternal grandfather was a child of deaf adults in Worcester, MA. I barely knew him, but I like to think maybe this movie gave me a tiny glimpse into a life with similar challenges and hopefully, similar joys to his.

So there you have it - my vote's for CODA, but I think the dog movie's gonna win. 

Best of luck to all the nominees and in case E! needs any new correspondents for next year, my kids are on deck

PS - because I'm an Oscar nerd, I have a menu themed around some of the best pic nominees, and here's that lineup:

  • CODA - smoked salmon dip 
  • Belfast - Irish cheddar
  • West Side Story - Cielito Lindo dip 
  • Nightmare Alley - peanuts 
  • Licorice Pizza - duh, licorice and pizza (there's always a nominated film that features pizza - it's just not usually this obvious)
  • King Richard - the iconic Wimbledon dessert of strawberries & cream
  • Spencer* - Walker's English shortbread
  • Power of the Dog - this is not actually a food item, it's just me trying to use my powers to keep the dog from eating all the food

*Yes, I know Spencer wasn't in the Best Pic category, but English movies are the best supporting actor of any Oscars menu. You can always use them to add cookies (ahem, biscuits) or cheese - and it really doesn't matter what else you screw up, as long as you have cookies and cheese.