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Friday, November 25


Have you seen Real Simple magazine yet? It looks a lot like Martha Stewart Living with page after luscious page of lovely foods and happy, real simple people wearing expensive clothes and smiling at how simple their lives are.

"Tra-la-la," they seem to be saying as they clink simple, elegant glasses together while wearing simple, elegant monochromatic clothing.

The only problem is you can tell just by looking at them that life is Real Simple only because there's a Rosita somewhere taking care of the kids while they enjoy "soul-nurturing ritual times."

Whatever the hell that means.

Real Simple is supposed to be a classy antidote to magazines like Martha's that encourage us to spend our spare three and a half minutes a day sponge-painting terra-cotta pots with yogurt in order to cultivate a "distressed" look. (Look closer, toots. That's me, not the pot looking destressed.)

Words like actionable leave me feeling unsimple and even anxiously complicated. Much the same way I felt while reading the : "Pantry Dinners" section of the magazine and discovered that their idea of a simple recipe for Vegetable Chili with Polenta contained thirteen ingredients, not a danged one of them in my pantry.

What? You people never heard of Manwich?

Another issue printed a recipe for a tuna casserole that didn't even include cream of mushroom soup, proving that they've got a lot to learn about the simple life.

Real Simple is shameless in its quest to simplify everything. There's even a section called "Soul--In a Nutshell," apparently for people who are overcome by the rigorous demands of developing a soul via Oprah's three minute "Remembering Your Spirit" segments. Shouldn't some things take a little time?

Real Simple seeks to remind the frazzled working woman and mom that "It's about quality, not quantity." Less is more, they say.

No, it's not...More is more. Their idea of a lovely table is one white candle plunded down in the middle? I'm glad these freaks didn't plan my wedding reception, where every table had enough flowers for a casket spray.

It's quite trendy now to take decorating advice from "minimalists." Take idebana, for instance. This is a type of flower arranging where you essentially take a big stick from your yard, wire a single flower to it, and charge fifty bucks. I don't get it.

With this simplicity movement comes the new national obession: "nesting" at home. Whatever happened to going out on the town, spending too much money and staying out too late?

I'm sick of all those magazine articles about the importance of pot-roast-and-mashed-potato family dinners. I can't honestly believe that macaroni and cheese is the best way to soothe our national psyche. Nope I want to go out Friday night and have somebody serve me something sumptuous that isn't topped with Tater Tots. This is what it means to be an American, not sitting around weaving and discussing everybody's damn day. Don't we do that enough the rest of the week?

The whole return to the nest has led to a new design trend: the "hearth room." This is what we used to call the living room, that oversized, underfurnished, and always-cold-in-the-winter room where nobody ever went to unless it was Christmas or piano-lession time.

Later the living room morphed into the "family room"and finally, the "great room." We have a small one so I just call it the "okay room."

The new "hearth room" is a kitchen/great room combo that actually includes a firplace where you can tend those stewpots on Friday night instead of going out and getting sloppy on licorice margaritas like you used to do until "They" decided we should spend Fridays mixing cookie dough with the kids.

Now, don't get me wrong. I love cookie dough, but adults deserve some downtime, away from all the hearth and kith and kin. Or you can kith your sanity good-bye.

The hearth room is supposed to call to mind the home spun life so revered in shows like The Waltons. One big room with Grandma rolling out lard biscuits while John Boy scribbled obsessively on the settee.

Designers should remember that there was a reason everybody hung out in the hearth room back then. It was the Depression, the dark time in our nation's history when nobody ever had a date. Better to remember that those who don't learn from history are doomed to spend Friday nights at home. Or something like that.

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