Thursday, April 17, 2014

Pucker Up

"Look, here comes the chosson!" 

My niece is very young, about 4, and she hasn't been to a wedding before. By the badeken I hauled her up so she could see the proceedings. I was rattling off incoherent descriptions of what was going on.

"See? There the chosson puts on the veil, because of Yaakov and Rochel, then her father comes up and benches her, then his father, then her Zeidy. . ." 

Wonder widens her baby-blue eyes as she gazes at the bashful bride, smiling demurely as the groom takes a swift moment to murmur in her ear. He then steps back so his father-in-law can place his hands on his daughter's head. 

"When do they kiss?" she asks in disappointment.
My whoop of laughter turned some heads, and I don't think I was able to properly explain to her the modesty standards that differ from Disney. 

And this is the kid with restricted television access. 

Monday, April 14, 2014

Battle of the Bulge: There's More Where That Came From

When one is the runt of the brood, fighting for every scrap of savory goodness becomes second nature. One can't just walk away from the kitchen if there is a cooling cheesecake on the counter; it's now or never. 

When siblings visit, that old programming activates. Even though I'm not necessarily hungry, there is that grim determination to get "something" before the rest of them eat it all.
I hate going to bed on a full stomach; I am so uncomfortable, and it robs my sleep of true rest. But there's gefilte fish! I love gefite fish! But there's sweet chicken! I love sweet chicken! Oh, and just a piece, maybe two, tops, of zucchini kugel . . . 

Last year, I was determined not to be os gechalisht. So, there's gefilte fish. I'll have it next Shabbos. So, there's sweet chicken. I'll have it another day, at a time when it can be enjoyed, not regretted. So, there's zucchini kugel. I'll have it tomorrow for lunch. 

I only munched a bite or two during Shulchan Oreich, able to eat the afikoman with a hearty appetite, and go to bed light and airy. I stuffed my face at lunch the next day (the meal I apportion for stuffing my face), avoided snacking in the afternoon, and after dozing off with my nephew in the afternoon, managed to cheerfully sing "Chad Gadya" (complete with sound effects) at midnight without sobbing for my bed. 

The sweet chicken was gone, without my having barely any. But, I decided, squelching the squealing internal voice of the cheated toddler, I am at least acting like a grown-up.

Ah, it was a joyful Pesach.             

Sunday, April 13, 2014

How to Be Frum

David Brooks wrote a lovely piece, "Alone, Yet Not Alone," about the state of the faithful. 

Not long, I could not bear to simply copy over bits and expound of them, since the words need no further expounding. 

Frumkeit is not about adamant certainty. Au contraire, religion is about being sensitive to the majesty of existence, and that "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy." 

Oh, for those seeking another guaranteed Pesach recipe, I made Pragmatic Attic's Intense Fudge Nuggets for my niece and they are so good I ended up eating most of them before she actually arrived for Pesach.
Via Pragmatic Attic
Two egg whites, no oil, reasonable sugar, swift and easy assembly; probably took me less then a half hour from beginning to removing from oven. Eat and you shall moan. These shall not be kept for Pesach alone.  

Friday, April 11, 2014

Then Again, Maybe Not

I don't know if I'm the only one (I doubt it) but I sometimes have fantasies about being approached by a potential suitor (!)

So it was when on public transportation, a seemingly possible candidate sat down next to me, it took every ounce of self-control to prevent the thrum of inner-thrill from reflecting on my face.

After a one embarrassing episode when I had batted lashes at what I thought was an unattached male, I no longer instigate. But I tried every which way otherwise. 

I casually removed my gloves, revealing my ringless left hand. I unzipped my puffy coat, just in case the bulge looked like a pregnant belly. Although I was enraptured in my book, I glanced out the window from time to time to give him the opportunity to strike up conversation. 

My imagination also decided to flatter this pathetic behavior by convincing me he was gazing at my profile, as opposed to the whizzing scenery past me.

But then I had the thought: What if he, as an eligible bachelor, did talk to me? And we hit it off? And we went out? 

Then I decided he wasn't for me? 

My shadchan buffer wouldn't be there! 

Some will consider it childish, but I come from a long line of non-confrontationalists, a.k.a. "chickens." I always wanted to take karate, but I think even if I had the ability, and a mugging situation presented itself, I would just cower and squeal, "Not the face! Not the face!" 

I equate saying "no" to other verbal abuse. Rejection always sucks, there's no way to get around it. It's no fun when I am on the receiving end, and for the onus to be on me to deliver "Hey, you are not a keeper" wrenches me inside. I had to do it once, and I felt horrible for days. Even when my "Let's be friends" is delivered via a third party, my guilt beggars the mind.
I abandoned my amateurish attempts to appear alluring, and simply focused on my gripping novel instead

When I reached my stop, I trotted off without a backward glance.   

Thursday, April 10, 2014

"Appreciatively Resigned"

What is the most reliable component for a lasting relationship? I guess the one who could possibly know the answer is Daniel Jones, the editor for the "Modern Love" column, who has read thousand upon thousand tales of couplehood.
The title of his article, "Good Enough? That's Great," is pretty much my own mantra in nearly all things. 
There are many who choose to quash their unfulfilled desires, to accept their marriage for what it is and figure out how to feel O.K. about it.
. . . You can’t have everything, they argue. Be grateful for what you do have.
There’s a temptation to dismiss quashers as being in total denial, but they aren’t. They just don’t see the point of wallowing in self-pity when they have accomplished what they hoped to in terms of marriage, family and career. As with most personality types, there’s a spectrum, running the gamut from the bitterly resigned to the appreciatively so . . .
What a difference a spectrum can make, though, because those at the other end of the quashing range — the appreciatively resigned — seem to be among the healthiest and happiest of the marrieds.
. . . Like Dr. Seuss’s Whos down in Whoville who hold hands and sing after being robbed on Christmas Eve of all their food and possessions, the appreciatively resigned rise each morning not dwelling on their marital shortfalls but counting their mutual blessings, whatever they may be: a shared sense of humor, an exchange of kind gestures, the enthusiastic pursuit of a mutual interest. Somehow they have managed to grow together rather than apart.
"Appreciatively resigned." Has a nice ring to it.

Jones goes into detail about "the restorers," the couples that sense when their relationship is getting a little off track and go on the offensive, which sounds rather exhausting. Date nights, outings, exercises, all the things that leave me irritable and overtired. I think I like that "appreciatively resigned" thing the best. 

"The restorers" get there too anyway: 
From their research they will learn how their boredom may ebb and flow before finally leveling off into the pleasant hum of old age. They’ll become experts in the ways men and women have driven each other crazy for all of eternity. They will have hugged and kissed and danced and date-nighted until they can hug and kiss and dance and date-night no more. And although they will have had some good times that made them remember why they fell in love in the first place, chances are they won’t exactly have turned back the clock in terms of reclaiming that ever-elusive passion.
Inevitably, as the intellectually curious people they are, restorers will return to their original and most perplexing question: How much do we have a right to expect from marriage? Is this simply as good as it gets? We do care about each other. We love our children. Health is generally good. Can’t we just be happy with what we have? And isn’t there a risk that in pressing for more we’ll turn something pretty good into something really bad?
Another thing I have learned: Many matters cannot be achieved by sheer will alone; sometimes, they have to slowly mellow at their own pace until they become a refined vintage.  

As studies have shown, marital ecstasy doesn't stick around forever. But when it flows away, leaving unexciting devotion in its wake, isn't that a fair swap? 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Bite Beauty Matte Crème Lip Crayon

This crayon has a few factors that I like. Matte, obviously. A narrow tip makes application all the simpler.
Bite has another lip pencil that claims to be matte but is laughingly not. Very satin, yes, but in no way matte. Therefore I peered at this offering with a skeptical eye. 

Hm. It passed. 

My initial purchase was Orange Red, for Ma—although after years of experimentation Ruby Woo still triumphs. Orange Red was more orange than red, and I am not a fan of orange in makeup. Orange, I find, is reliably harsh unless tamed sufficiently with pink. While Orange Red would look appealingly pink in some lights, but not all.

Yet the consistency of the product had piqued my interest; I was determined to exchange, not return.

While Sweety caught my eye, I already have a favorite lipstick in coral pink, Smashbox Be Legendary Lipstick in Electric Pink Matte. I opted for Kumquat, described as "pink grapefruit." 

With my skintone, I feel kinda '60s in it, that pale, Barbie-doll pink, perfect for summer.
Ignore the pink eyeshadow.
The finish isn't matte-matte; it glides on, easily, then settles in pleasantly without any sparkle. It's not Shabbos-proof, though; ideal for weekday, rather.

I tried to take photos, but the results didn't quite do it justice. The latent blue undertone seemed to jump forward, hogging the frame. I snapped with flash, without, opened the shades, but I just accepted the fact that I need professional assistance when it comes to photography. 

I hogged a photo from VampyVarnish instead:
Via From left, Kumquat, Sweety, and Satsuma.
Remember, ladies, always a PINK lip!   

Tuesday, April 8, 2014


The phrase, "Hi, how are you?" gets on my nerves. To clarify, it actually more like "Hihowareyou" rattled off in one breath. It is the most frustrating question, since few rarely stick around to hear the answer. 

Take my brother Owen, who called up one day while I shivered with fever. 

"Hi, Lea, howareyou." 

"Sick,"  I croak.

"That's nice, is Ma there?" 

It's already happened more than once. 

The sanitation workers on the street and I have a waving sort of acquaintance. 

"Hey, howareyou?" 

Am I supposed to answer? Do either of us really care what the answer is? 

Take telemarketers. One can always tell when someone is a telemarketer, because they insist on knowing how you are. 

"Hello, ma'am, how are you today?" 

"Yes?" (Just give me your pitch so I can hang up.)

"Uh . . . that's good to hear . . ." he replies with an annoyed tone of reproach. A salesman, yet.

But so many rely on that "howareyou" as proof of their consideration, since it is usually the preface to a request. 

"Hello, howareyou?" 


"I said, 'HOW ARE YOU?' "

You want me to take a package to your kid in Israel. You don't get to make demands.
Via Deviantart, by broomipus

Then there is the whole awkward business that since, when I am at work, I cannot answer "howareyou" with "Baruch Hashem," leaving "good" as the simplest response. But when I get home, and deal with fellow frummies, I don't always manage to switch back that mindless response.



"You are supposed to say Baruch Hashem, you godless heathen!"

Automatically asking how someone is can open Pandora's box.  

"Hi, howareyou?" 

"Well, I just finished my Master's, got engaged, but can't find a place, so I'm, like, totally freaking out, plus my gown could look better, and my sister is giving me the hardest time about dress color . . ." 

OK, I'll admit it: I don't really care how you are. That's why I don't ask. I stick with "Hi!" or "Hello!" or "Nice to see you!" I also assume passing acquaintances also don't care how I am, so why do they ask? 

You know who's on my side? Russians. I have read more than one article by Russian-Americans who are absolutely terrorized by "Howareyou?" The linkable complaint is by Alina Simone, explaining that to Russians, if asked "How are you?" they are quite confused. 
The question in question is, “How are you?”

The answer Americans give, of course is, “Fine.” But when Russians hear this they think one of two things: (1) you’ve been granted a heavenly reprieve from the wearisome grind that all but defines the human condition and as a result are experiencing a rare and sublime moment of fineness or (2) you are lying.
Exactly. Why do we pretend? 
The thing most Russians don’t realize is that, in English, “How are you?” isn’t a question at all, but a form of “hi,” like the Russian “privyet!” The Americans weren’t responsible for its transformation; that honor goes to the British. The Oxford English Dictionary defines the phrase’s precursor, “How do you do?” as a common phrase “often used as a mere greeting or salutation.” The anodyne exchange dates at least as far back as 1604, to Shakespeare’s Othello, where Desdemona asks her husband, “How is’t with you, my lord?” and Othello replies “Well, my good lady.” Even though he is half-mad with jealousy and only five scenes away from murdering her.
Whereas it’s easy to read a particularly American optimism into the easy embrace of the auto-fine, Russians seem almost congenitally unable to fake fineness.
I can never win with my responses. If I say "fine," I feel as though I am being looked at oddly for replying, and "fine" is such a flat, ungrateful way of expressing the comfort of good health and central air. Aren't I rather "ecstatic"? 

If I don't answer "fine," but respond with "Hey," I feel as though I am being looked at oddly for replying "Hey." 

Maybe I'm just too paranoid. 

Monday, April 7, 2014

Strawberry Fluff

This recipe was first discovered in a charity cookbook that has been living with the Pesach pots since the '70s. I've been making it for the last few years, and it has been eagerly gobbled up, yet I've always felt the method was a tad lacking; the juice from the strawberries would sink to the bottom and freeze into a solid, unappetizing sheet. 

Last year I was, for some reason, scouring for alternate versions of this recipe and discovered not different ingredients, merely prolonged beating. No frozen juice at the bottom of the Tupperware this time!  

The strawberries and whites (no yolks) make it a practically nutritious, guilt-free dessert, and is a big hit with children and adults.

Despite the fact that it is a fantastic dessert option for all year round, and I mentally plan making it for any other Shabbos or yontif, it only seems to come to fruition for Pesach.  

Because the height is based on the whites and air, one can really add as much strawberries as one would like. Last year I made it with a whole carton of Costco strawberries that needed to be used up—two pounds, when the recipe calls for a pint—and three whites were perfectly sufficient.  

Strawberry Fluff 

1 pint to 2 pounds of strawberries, very finely sliced (the smaller, the better)
3 egg white
1 cup-ish of sugar  (more or less depending what you like)
2 T vanilla sugar 
1) Beat the whites in a LARGE bowl until foamy and somewhat stiff, then gradually sprinkle in about half of the sugar, until glossy and rather stiff. 
Doesn't look like much, does it?
2) Keep the beaters on a moderate speed; add strawberry bits slowly, making sure they incorporated before adding the next bunch. Add rest of sugar at this time. 

3) After all the strawberries are in, KEEP THE MIXER GOING FOR ANOTHER 15 MINUTES. I cannot emphasize this enough. All that beating is going to incorporate air, making the fluff grow higher and higher, as well as really working in the strawberries. That is why the LARGE bowl is necessary; those three itty-bitty egg whites will become quite a lot. 
4) Transfer into container of choice; freeze. 

5) It is soft and manageable straight out of the freezer; ready to serve, no defrosting necessary.            

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Dressing for Men: The Buzzfeed Suit Rules

Can be found here. "27 Unspoken Suit Rules Every Man Should Know." Not remotely as complicated as female attire, but still a lot of detail. 

An addition of my own: Embrace the pinstripe. Not the wide, tacky pinstripe of the Brooklyn mobster, but the whisper-thin refined pinstripe that elongates the body without being too loud.
Hickey Freeman knows best.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Casting Aspersions Upon My Name

I have heard stories of innocent people "imposed upon" by the unkind, and wondered, how is it possible that someone, minding their own business, can have their lives taken out of their hands to such an extent? 

I experienced this but slightly, and I am awash in sympathy. 

A relative called up gushing that a shadchan was "willing" to see me. Me! Little old me! Another shadchan out of hundreds who is possession of my basic information! 

As per what I believed to be her request, I e-mailed the so-called shadchan that did she want to meet me? What time would be conducive for her

The relative called back, sputtering, at my lack of conduct; I was supposed to be slaveringly grateful that such an eminent woman would even deign to cast her lofty eye upon my meh self. Apparently, this shadchan had texted her in so-called befuddlement as to the inept phrasing of my missive. 

What followed was brisk instructions; here is the phone number for this elevated being, with the reminder that I am merely a humble applicant for her magical services, and should behave according to my lowly rank

I called her. Five times. A child told me her mother would call me back; I then left two machine messages. Thoroughly furious at this point after being made to look incredibly stupid, and for no reason to boot, I then washed my hands of the affair, able to report to the relative that I did my part, now get off my back.

A month later the relative relates that her own neighbor met up with this shadchan, who gushed her eagerness to become acquainted with me. Ergo, said the irritated relative, why did you not make the effort? I did, I said flatly, five times. She now has in her possession my e-mail address and phone numbers, and due to the wonders of modern technology, computers and telephones operate in both directions. Huff, went the relative.

I refused to call again, so Ma did. The shadchan, with a distinctly annoyed tone, replied, as though dealing with a slow individual, that she has my information, and she will call when she has something. Now, she is quite swamped with work, begone.

The following evening she introduced herself to Luke at a simcha, purring how she is so sorry for being unable to meet me, as she is so very busy, you understand, but that I am paramount in her priorities. And, she added with a delicate giggle, she was perhaps not the nicest to his mother, but again, she is so very preoccupied.

Luke, who did not know of the whole "much ado about nothing" to date, was quite touched by her sincerity and consideration, and called, referring to the woman in glowing terms.

It did not take long to realize what is going on here. We have another candidate for "New York Yentas"; while claiming to be a shadchan, she does not actually have any eligible males to set up. But she cannot let go of this status, her only means to glory, and so informs all and sundry of her burning desire to meet me, appearing kind and generous, whereas I, therefore, am apparently ungracious and ill-mannered.

Now I have a slight inkling of what it is liked to be unjustly framed for a crime.