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Pop Culture Cheat Sheet: FEBRUARY

courtesy Toby Lowenfels

As Moms, our days are filled with countless time-based decisionsapply makeup or drink coffee? — so we can’t spare a single minute on entertainment that does not entertain. Here are your recommendations for the month; now all you have to do is take off your bra, pour yourself a drink, and settle in for these fun nuggets.

Podcast…
Safe for Work

One of the most beloved picture books in our house is Richard Scarry’s 1968 What Do People Do All Day? My children all huddle around to see animals enacting outdated vocational stereotypes as I gently editorialize. Like, “No, Richard, Mommy does not need to ask Daddy for money to go to the grocery store.” It’s a fun family activity for sure. But what would that book even look like in the year 2019? It’d probably resemble something like Safe for Work, a podcast that gets to the heart of not only what people do all day in their jobs but how we should be working. Hosts Liz Dolan and Rico Gagliano bring on a series of expert guests from various fields to discuss everything from email etiquette to long term career goals and networking. The hope here is to gain enough knowledge so that by the year 2050, when robots have taken over all the jobs, we’ll all be happily retired, sitting pretty on our respective beachfront properties. Ahhh push play.

TV & Streaming…
Derry Girls (Netflix)

Teenagers. I can’t even think about that stage of parenting right now since I’m still in the baby trenches. But that doesn’t stop me from being totally obsessed with Derry Girls. The show follows a group of Irish Catholic friends as they navigate puberty in the town of Derry, the site of Bloody Sunday and a slew of other intranational violence. There’s an ultra talented ensemble cast that’s always crammed into one claustrophobic frame together, slinging enough rapid-fire insults to tide you over until the next season of Veep. And the actresses somehow manage to shift their faces into a million different positions per minute, like they’re made out of Silly Putty. But the most extraordinary part is that they do all of this while terrorism plays out casually in the background. With all due respect, it makes Angela Chase look like a sulky sack of potatoes*.

*RIP My So-Called Life

Mom crush…
@cupofjo aka Joanna Goddard

Since it’s Valentine’s Day month, let’s give a loving tribute to the #1 OG mom blogger. The woman who started it all: Joanna Goddard, folks. In case you need to wake up and smell the internet, Cup of Jo is required reading once you get your mom card. I’ve been reading Joanna’s blog for my entire adult life, since way before either she or I were parents, way back during the golden age of blogging (2007-2009, roughly). She’s super-relatable and always shows her readers how to focus on what really matters in life, like nurturing your relationships, raising decent kids, and finding the right lipstick for your skin tone. Similarly, her Instagram feed is worth a follow for a behind-the-scenes look at her now very-produced blog. A recent post showed a candid pic of her son reading with her mother and the simple caption, “I miss my mom.” Gah. Stick a fork in me. We all miss our moms every second of the day, even if we’re sitting right next to them!! Joanna gets all of us because she is all of us.

Book…
My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

“Sisters, sisters
There were never such devoted sisters”

……So goes the old song from White Christmas, which would make an excellent tagline for Oyinkan Braithwaite’s novel set in Lagos, Nigeria. The main characters are two sisters who couldn’t be more opposite: Korede is a responsible nurse at the local hospital with a sweet crush on the head doctor. Ayoola is beautiful and brash, with an addiction to killing her boyfriends. Korede is fine to go along as an accomplice, dutifully helping to cover Ayoola’s murderous tracks because, you know, family. But when Ayoola sets her sights on Korede’s crush, conflict brews. Does she tip off the man she loves or stand by her sister? Despite the title, what we have here is less of a thriller and more of a study in family dynamics with a side of social commentary. Though it’s a far cry from Rosemary Clooney’s cozy Vermont lodge, My Sister, the Serial Killer is a brisk and darkly funny satire of a slasher. Hard-boiled!

Music…
Mary Lattimore, Hundreds of Days + remixes

My nieces love to play “Nap Time,” where you lie down while they cover you with a blanket as you pretend to sleep. It’s a very satisfying game because everyone wins. Mary Lattimore’s music is the auditory equivalent of “Nap Time” that my life desperately needs. Armed with a gigantic 47-string Lyon & Healy harp, Lattimore composes complex, wordless music which, at first listen, might sound like you’re in a spa (keep dreaming). But, when you give it a little time, you’ll find that even the simple act of her tapping her ring on the side of the harp lends itself to some eerie, spacey textures. A frequent collaborator with Thurston Moore, Kurt Vile and many others, Lattimore writes songs that are beautiful, strange and unpredictable. Ain’t that life for ya?



Toby Lowenfels lives with her husband and 3 kids in Culver City, California, where’s she’s working toward perfecting the 20-minute dinner. Sign up for her weekly meal plans at DinnerIn20.com.