Thursday, June 30, 2011

No. Way.

One Shabbos, on one of those "let's get rid of residual weight" walks, I passed a house with a basketball game going on in the driveway. They were Jewish boys, and I was surprised to hear the jingle of a cell phone. Then I thought I saw one in a boy's hand.

"No way," I thought. "I must have been imagining things."
According to the Jewish Week I was flipping through last week, I wasn't.

The article says how teenagers are just too addicted to their phones, and are also bored on Shabbos. Well, the kid I saw was surrounded by friends, so it couldn't have been the latter.

Our whole faith is based on discipline. We can't eat what we want, we have to pray at certain times, we must refrain from work one day a week. I have heard it said that by restricting one's desires, one becomes free - our mind is what controls our emotions and impulses.

But for many who are FFB, those restrictions are taken for granted - a "you don't miss what you never had" sort of thing.

I am happy to observe that while the  long Shabbos afternoons were very hard on me as a teenager, but I find as I get older I am okay with being bored.

An expert was advising parents who have kids to entertain in the summer to teach them to "embrace boredom." Children have to be taught while very young that life won't always entertain them, and they have to be able to handle down time. 

But what of alleged cell phone addiction? 

The news was covering a story a few months ago how teenagers were complaining of exhaustion (apparently, more than usual) and their work was suffering in class. Some were taken to a sleep clinic, hooked up with wires and suction cups and whatnot, but here's the thing - they would wake up in the night to text. Duh, you're tired!

I have absolutely no attachment to my cell, sometimes misplacing it for days at a time. I don't have a texting plan. I simply don't see the allure. I really can't empathize. What I can't get is what is this scintillating conversation that one has to wake up for in the night? "Dude, that was a game." "I know, right?" "Yeah, man, love basketball!"  

So, what is it? Texting for the sake of texting? The thumbs get the ol' itch on Shabbos?

Does anyone else suffer from cell withdrawal over the 25 hours of Shabbos? 

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

How to Get Your Mineral On

When I bought my first mineral makeup, the salesgirl started to woo me about the wonders of the accompanying brush. Naively, I went along with it, until I realized it cost more than the mineral makeup itself. "No, thank you," I replied firmly, and had it removed from my bill. I'm not spending more on a brush than the foundation.

I rely mostly on brushes that I can find in drugstores, Amazon, Target, or Ebay. I don't think I've yet bought one in Sephora or department stores.

There are a few brushes that can be used with mineral makeup. One, like the Essence of Beauty Blender Brush, is thick and bluntly cut, making it easy to tap it into minerals and buff onto the face. 

The other style is kabuki. I purchased the Ecotools Recycled Retractable Kabuki, and it is the softest brush I have ever come across. The fibers feel like they are stroking the skin with butterfly kisses (bit much?)

Standard mineral procedure (which I've only started to obey recently) is as follows: 

Spill a little mineral makeup into the cap of the holder. Swirl the brush within. Tap off excess. Buff on. Repeat until achieving the desired amount of coverage.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Stay Home, Freebird

At the start of spring, a not very bright robin built its nest right outside the kitchen window, located right next to the parked car and the air conditioning unit. For months my family tried to accommodate  it; the window wasn't opened lest we startle it (despite the heat in the kitchen), we avoided that side of the house altogether unless getting the car, and thankfully it wasn't hot enough to put on the AC or else we would've been in a pickle.
But there was the beauty of seeing a mother bird devotedly parked over her blue speckled eggs, and so it was a shock when one morning we found the nest was empty. The eggs hadn't hatched yet to our knowledge, and I hoped it wasn't a predator, but rather she had enough with the crummy location and relocated her brood.

I was telling this story over to a middle-aged neighbor.

"You could have done shiluach hakan," she said.

I was confused. "Why? We don't need the eggs."

"But it's a mitzvah," she said.

"Nooooo," I replied, "One only does shiluach hakan if they need the eggs so the bird won't be saddened to see them taken away in front of her."

She kept on insisting. "It's a chok."

"No, it's not. It's a matter of tzaar baalei chaim; one doesn't shoo away a mother bird just for the heck of it. What would that achieve? Less baby birds in the world? No chok has us interfere with nature."

"That's not how I learned it," she persisted.

"That's how I learned it," I countered.

Eventually she conceded, or pretended to. But I was concerned; are there people out there unwittingly and unnecessarily causing pain to the animal world? 

I looked up shiluach hakan in the Chumash (Devarim 22:6) and the Rambam says that it is regarding tzaar baalei chayim, meaning it is not a chok

"If a bird's nest chance to be before thee in the way, in any tree or on the ground, with young ones or eggs, and the dam sitting upon the young, or upon the eggs, thou shalt not take the dam with the young; thou shalt in any wise let the dam go, but the young thou mayest take unto thyself; that it may be well with thee, and that thou mayest prolong thy days."

Firstly, it is if one happens upon a nest, not having one prepared (Rashi). Secondly, the fact that the law is to not take the mother with the eggs shows that one only takes the young if there is a purpose to removing the eggs or chicks, such as for food. 

Rabbi Nosson Slifkin is very much against current chicken kapparos because the birds are usually incredibly mistreated in the process (locked up in trucks without water on boiling-hot days, wings  and legs broken by too much force). This maltreatment  is cruel,  and renders them unfit to eat afterward, which defeats the purpose. 

Once, a farmer would take a chicken from his own backyard, then bring it himself to the shoichet to prepare for the poor.  Nowadays there are probably all sorts of laws preventing those chickens from being consumed, so money would seem to be a better option for the poor anyway.
My family happened to have never done chicken kapparos - a college classmate once asked me about the Jewish pastime of "chicken throwing." 

One should be very careful with the fowl.

Judaism was revolutionary because of its sensitivity to the pain of every living creature, man or animal. It would be incredibly disturbing if we give ourselves the image of the opposite.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Read On, Children

Friday's paper had a fascinating article about a multi-millionaire who, while not being religious but anti-intermarriage, wants to spread amongst Jewish youngsters all over an interest in Judaism and a Jewish identity. 

His foundation mails to Jewish children a different book each month. This program is such a force that even out-of-print books are back in print. 

The article is an interesting read, piquing within myself memories of the books I read as a child, such as Sydney Taylor's All-of-a-Kind Family series, which was also on their mailing list. I'm now sentimentally sifting through Amazon to purchase copies for my bookshelf.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Shabbos Face: Liquid Foundation

Now that we're primed, time for some color.

For those who prefer even more coverage, there is liquid foundation. 

The one foundation that regularly, steadily, year after year gets recommended is the Georgio Armani Luminous Silk Foundation. If there is a makeup list, it is on it.

While the price may make you cough, keep in mind that foundation  used strictly for Shabbos and simchas can last a loooooong time, and is really worth the investment.

It is said to be for all skin types - oil-free yet hydrating, weightless yet buildable. I should really succumb and buy it for myself already.

And remember: all department stores accept cosmetic returns. So try it, and see if you like it. 

In terms of matching foundations to skin color, it is a very complicated enterprise. Contrary to popular belief, the salespeople behind the counter are not omnipotent. They can very easily mess up. 

For instance, my sister, who has the same exact skin tone as my mother, went to the Saks counter to get the Armani. Ma owns the lightest possible shade, #2. My sister was matched with #4.5. She looked like an Oompa Loompa.
Oompa, Loompa, doom-pa-dee-do, I have a perfect puzzle for you . . .

Do some Google research beforehand, read reviews from those describing their skin color and the shades they bought. It pays to be prepared.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Are We Really That Bad?

I was on the train, and really had no choice but to eavesdrop on a conversation (they were practically on top of me! Really!)

Two middle-aged women sat down (judging by their skin, sun bathers in their youth, but I digress); one wore a cross. The cross lady began to chat about a program she saw about the Holocaust the other night. The other responded about how her father was Jewish, yet an atheist, but she was still raised Jewish (there was no mention of her mother being Jewish). And then the conversation went downhill.

"In Israel, the Orthodox treat you like garbage."

Cross Lady responded, "They treat you like that here!"

"They don't recognize me as being Jewish. The Reform and Conservative aren't Jews to them."

I was debating whether I should jump in and dramatically reveal myself as an observant Jew, sort of along the lines when Darth Vader says, "Luke. . . I am your father."

I wrestled with myself for the next twenty minutes, weighing all the pros and cons to interjecting myself into the conversation, but decided that saying anything would embarrass them, and humiliating anyone should be avoided at all costs. Also, I couldn't quite say, "Yeah, we only recognize matrilineal descent." Aaaawkward.

But the other point was disturbing. SternGrad's post came up a couple of days after this (I've had this marinating in "Drafts" for a while), and I continued to think about it. Sure, there are Jews who, I think from misplaced anxiety, make a point to actively mistreat irreligious Jews. And it's not like the irreligious are bias-free; I live in an area that used to be primarily irreligious while Jewish neighborhood, and there are many noses  that curl upon sight of a knee-length skirt. Anyone seen "The Thin Jew Line" segment on the Daily Show?

But in the end, we have to be above such behavior. We cannot give others any excuse to despise us. Meaning we should exhibit pleasant warmth, instead of "I'm better than you." Our behavior should also always be impeccable; no breaking traffic laws, no harassing the waiters, no financial shtick

While I am loath to quote Oprah, "When you know better, you do better." The only way to be truly Jewish is to act it. Being it isn't enough. 

Friday, June 17, 2011

Summer SPF

One of the reasons why I can't stand summer is because my face freaks out. It's hot out, I have to apply sunscreen which claims to be oil-free but doesn't feel it, my face produces more sheen and sweat, and I'm covered in blemishes. Ugh.
Flipping through a magazine (I forget which) I came across Cate Blanchett's Beauty Picks;  one of her favorites is Colorescience Sunforgettable Sunscreen. It has an SPF 30, while other mineral makeups have only 10 or 15, and it comes in a variety of sizes and dispensers (Brush, Orb, Mini Orb, Rollerball, and Shaker). 

My sister had bought the Sunforgettable Brush, which she couldn't open despite numerous emails to the company, plus it seems lacking in control. I bought the Sunforgettable Orb, with which one can use a brush of their own choosing.

Colorescience Sunforgettable Sunscreen currently comes in three shades, either in matte or shimmer. I am usually, as with any makeup, anti-sparkle. The first shade, "All Clear" is rather white; I bought the second, "Perfectly Clear." 

And I had a summer like no other. 

While the previously mentioned WebMD article did not recommend relying on mineral makeup as primary SPF, I would like to counter that they were going with the premise that most mineral makeups have SPF 15 or lower, which is definitely insufficient for the summer, plus I do wear beneath it a tinted moisturizer with SPF. 

I don't spend any time, really, outdoors in the summers; if I do, then I definitely use something whiter and gooier. So for those of you that are the active and outdoorsy, mineral SPF won't shield your skin enough. To provide better protection for that lifestyle, go with sunscreen lotion (like Alba Botanica Sun 30 Facial Sunscreen), and remember to reapply. One only needs one episode of Dr. Oz to scare one straight, in terms of health and premature aging.

Every morning I would apply a thin layer of tinted moisturizer and/or sunscreen and would buff on top the Colorescience. For my ears, neck, arms, and legs I would apply the regular white greasy sunscreen (Alba Botanica Hawaiian Green Tea SPF 45 Sunblock; it doesn't have a strong pool smell). 

If I sweated, I looked more "glowing" and "dewy" rather than fashvitzed and gross. 

I just read on AOL of the importance of reapplying, even if one isn't doing much during the day. They recommended  the Bare Escentuals SPF 30 Sunscreen, which is like the Sunforgettable Brush dispenser, and much cheaper. 

If one wants to experiment first, the Sunforgettable Mini-Orb is ideal. It costs much less than the full size. 

After a pleasant summer together, my orb is running low. I almost bought the same thing again, but curiosity drives me to experiment. I purchased the  Korres Wild Rose Mineral Foundation in Fair. I haven't yet tried it, but I can give a status report mid-summer. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


I actually did not realize that Solely in Black and White had tagged me for a meme until I was home sick and listlessly sifting through my stat sources after finally watching Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.

I shall pick up the dropped gauntlet.

1. I wish I . . . was a good traveler. I'm a wreck whenever I change time zones. I get pukingly nauseous on JetBlue, so I have to dope up on Dramamine; by the time I arrive I'm more zombie than vacationer. I spend my time harping how tired and miserable I am, and by the last day I finally adjust. I want to be able to fly to Israel without a support staff.

2. My biggest fear . . . Woodbury Commons will get hit by a meteor. Of course that is not my biggest fear, but I'm not going to bare my soul to that extent, even anonymously. 

3. I hate to . . . wait for people. I'm always early (never mind on time) because I don't want to inconvenience others. When they don't show me that same consideration of planning ahead and pacing themselves, then I'm pretty annoyed.

4. I love to . . . read. I read on the train, I read before bed, I read on Shabbos afternoons. There is no greater felicity than reading a really good book, when one savors every page and hopes it will never end. 

5. Today I will . . . rot in bed. I contracted some mysterious ailment that has left my limbs feeling like Jello. It's nice to take a day off and catch up on unwatched films. 

6. Yesterday I . . . was getting sick. Blah. 

7. My hair . . . is lovely, thank God. In general, but not right now. After all, I am diseased. I'm going to have posts on haircare soon. 

8. I will never . . . say "I will never." I really cannot claim to know what I will or will not do in the future, how I will change due to yet-to-be-had experiences. I'd rather not go on record just to be safe.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Battle of the Bulge: Eat Well

We live in a blessed time.

Hunger, at least for Americans, is virtually unknown, and if one does need assistance the government helps. We have kosher supermarkets stocked to the ceiling with every novelty, packed like mainstream junk with oil, salt, and sugar. Dunkin' Donuts is certified kosher in my area. I pass five restaurants on my way home from the train.

The battle for self-control is a hard one in the face of so many temptations.

I'll admit I've had a little boost; when I was little,  Ma stopped buying cookies, rarely purchased a seven-layer, and rugalach were only when the einiklach came. She carefully buys fruit, ensuring they are in season, sweet, and bruise-free. She stopped baking with margarine, and skimps when possible on the oil in her cakes.

Growing up in that environment programmed me in some ways, but still my eating habits left much to be desired. Portion control was beyond me. The double-chin I possessed throughout my tween years melted away after shooting up another foot or so, but still I needed to take charge. I've never had that metabolism that many of my BY classmates possessed, able to consume all species of food without consequences. I started watching myself from a young age.
It took over a decade, but from my own experience I think I've worked out a lifestyle to live by. It may not work for everyone else, but I discovered for myself how I can face the fridge without fear.

Step 1: Soyonara, Donuts
When I was 17, I decided: I would only eat good foods.

I ate whenever I felt like it, mind you. But I replaced any processed foods in my life with things that grew from the earth. It takes a training to appreciate and enjoy wholesome, healthy foods.

Goodbye, Stella Doro. Farewell, J2 Pizza. Bon Voyage, Haagen-Dasz.

Since sugar cannot be completely abandoned (after all, I am human), attempt to limit its consumption. Buy ice cream bars instead of tubs, as that way the portion amount is controlled.  Get small snack-sized, individually-wrapped chocolates, not the bars. When buying store bought coffee, order just that: only coffee. No whipped cream or caramel shots.

Check the nutritional facts on sugary delights, and note the portion size of the serving. Try to stick to it. Also, if, per serving, the fat calories are less than half the the calories, then it's an okay treat.

I rarely eat out. The only times I usually do is when meeting a friend or going on a date. Lunch I bring from home to work (if Helena Rubinstein brown-bagged, so can I). The amount of fat and sugar that goes into restaurant food is a mystery; same for what the waiters "add" if they don't like you.

Soon, with gritted teeth and minor cursing, one can train the palette to find processed foods distasteful. I no longer eat store-bought cookies, not because I lash myself to the mast, but because I don't feel good after eating them. Whereas, I feel great after an apple. 

Golden Delicious is my preference (there is a window when they are peak. It's not now. Now hit the nectarines and peaches).

An added bonus - the complexion will be happier too.

Monday, June 13, 2011


An article by Rabbi Bentzion Shafier was featured in a locally distributed magazine called Chazaq.

It was about emunah. He was saying that what people do nowadays is decide what they need and daven to Hashem trying to convince Him to give it to them. 

He is definitely on-target there; I think we've all been guilty of that. That's not emunah; emunah is believing that whatever one gets is the best for that individual.

But the examples he brought made me uncomfortable.

One rarely sees the convenient reasons why a request was denied. Difficulties and tragedies happen in life without any seeming cause. It is at times like that when emunah is needed. 

Rabbi Shafier examples: 

1) A guy is begging God for a specific job, and he doesn't get it. He's furious at the injustice of the matter. But after a few months the whole business is outsourced to India. 

My issue: A job could be denied you for other reasons. Maybe the business decided you didn't have the right experience. Maybe you didn't do enough hishtadlus. Maybe a better job is around the corner. There could be other reasons that don't necessarily have to do with it's imminent demise. 

2) A guy wants to marry a specific girl, but she doesn't return the compliment, and ends up marrying someone else. He lashes out at God,  but it turns out that the girl had mental problems. 

My issue: A girl doesn't have to be for you without being mentally unhinged. The two of you could have ended up being miserable together. And let's say this hypothetical girl got married to someone else; he deserved the mentally unstable girl? 

3) A couple really wanted their son to get into a specific class because the rebbe is amazing. He doesn't get in. They are upset, until they find out that there was a boy who would have had a bad influence on him in that class. 

My issue: Children should be taught at an early age how to avoid bad influences. They are around us constantly, and shielding them will achieve nothing. Additionally, since this is a child we're talking about, maybe this son could have been a good influence on this troublemaker. Maybe by him being open and accepting, this boy's behavior could be modified for the better.

True emunah is believing that whatever happens to you is for the best, even if you never see the ending or the reasons why. There are so many potential ramifications, the reasons may not be fully realized for decades or even centuries later.

For instance, consider Rabbi Menashe ben Yisroel (1604-1657).  Since the text says that in the days of Mashiach the Jews will be gathered from the four corners of the world, therefore, he believed there had to be Jews in the four corners of the world.
Rabbi Menashe ben Yisroel
England had recently undergone a civil war; the monarchy had been abolished and Oliver Cromwell was the ruler. Rabbi Menashe petitioned him to permit Jews to enter England, which would be the first time since the expulsion in 1290. Cromwell did so, but despite Rabbi Menashe's pleas, he would not make it official law. 

Rabbi Menashe was heartbroken that his dream was only partially fulfilled. However . . . 

In 1658 Cromwell died; Charles the II regained the throne in 1660. Cromwell's body was exhumed and decapitated. Every law that he codified was overturned.

Rabbi Menashe was not alive when this occurred. He went to his grave believing defeat. Our disappointments in life do not necessarily conveniently play out in our lifetime. Therefore, emunah is the belief that no matter what happens, no matter what the end result is, I have the belief that this is how it should be.

Friday, June 10, 2011


I was at a mixed seating simcha on Tatooine.

"How old are you?" asked the married man to my right.


"Oh, you're young."

"How old are you?" asked the married woman to my left.


"Oh, you're young."

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, "Oh, you're young."

Oh, you're young. 


My theory debunking the "shidduch crisis" has been proved. 

Supposedly, there is a claim that there is no so-called "shidduch crisis" in countries outside the USA.

And why would it be if not for this?





There's no need to call in the cats yet, ladies. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

A Noble Title

My three-year-old niece suddenly began referring to my mother as "Bàbi Lipstick."
No coaching! 

Good girl. 

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Stating the Obvious

There is a passage from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (by the esteemable and dearly departed Douglas Adams) that I hold dear. 

One of the things Ford Prefect had always found hardest to understand about humans was their habit of continually stating and repeating the very obvious, as in It's a nice day, or You're very tall, or Oh dear you seem to have fallen down a thirty-foot well, are you all right? 
I commiserate with Ford's frustration. 

From a very young age, I've had people saying to me, "You're tall!"

No, really? 

My belief is that if obvious statements, to the opposite extreme, would be hurtful, then it shouldn't be said. Example: 

"Hey, you're short!"

See what I mean? 

I am happy being tall; I love my height, I love being step-stool free, I love the fact that no one messes with me on the subway. It is not about that. 

A statement like "Wow, you're tall!" singles me out, and I'm not sure in what way. Is it good? Is it bad? Why is it even worth mentioning? 

The passage continues:

At first Ford had formed a theory to account for this strange behavior. If human beings didn't keep exercising their lips, he thought, their mouths would probably seize up. After a few months' consideration and observation he abandoned this theory in favor of a new one. If they don't keep exercising their lips, he thought, their brains start working. 

Stating the obvious doesn't exactly reflect brilliance. 

"Waddya know, the sky is blue!"

It just gets old, man.

Thursday, June 2, 2011


We all know the story of Snow White; her mother wished for a daughter with skin as white as snow, hair as black as ebony, and lips as red as blood. 

Not lips as brown as bark. Not lips as purple as plum. 

Lips' natural hue is, for the most part, pink. The premise of makeup is to exaggerate pleasing natural features. Therefore, we must conclude that lipstick is supposed to be PINK.
Plenty of females wear brown or purple lip color. I am aware that there are those that are able to pull it off.  But pulling it off does not mean looking the best possible. The fact is that even those that can wear brown or purple shades should be wearing PINK. Pink, pink, pink. 
According to Chanel’s global creative director of makeup, Peter Philips, who used the color on the catwalks of Jil Sander and Fendi, pink is the easiest lip color to wear. ‘‘It flatters almost everyone,’’ he says. ‘‘If you have a bit of olive in your skin tone, you should go for more bluish pinks. Suntanned girls look great in coral pinks. Ivory-skinned girls and redheads look best in a range of rosewood shades, while dark-complexioned girls often look fantastic with an intense but luminous pink. . . pink lipstick [is] highly versatile.’’ - NY Times Style Magazine, April 12, 2011
As mentioned, pink comes in a variety of different options. There is deep plummy pink, or reddish pink, or Barbie pink, or pale muted pink, to name but a few.
For the truly brave soul, there is red. Red is merely pink taken to the nth degree, so the reasoning is the same.
Each lipstick can react differently to various skin tones, so it has happened that I would ask someone for the lip brand they are wearing only to have it look terrible on me. Experimentation is required. 

I have quite a few pinks, but most of my lipsticks were limited edition or were promptly discontinued as soon as I bought them.  I would recommend applying with a lip brush, especially with vivid colors;  it gives more control and accuracy.

Here are the lipsticks that I own still in circulation:

Illamasqua Lipstick in Drench (a rich, deep pink)  -  I use this one for weddings. I have had no real problems with this brand, but two lipsticks my mother bought inexplicably melted in the holder; 

Tarte Vitamin Core Lipstick in Revive - in my case, it simply enhances the lip, rather than being a strong color  (although it has a tendency to change hues over time, starting off as more intense and then subsiding to perfect lip enhancement). The center of the lipstick is contains vitamin-infused balm. I wear it on weekdays; 

Revlon Matte Lipstick. Stormy Pink, Sky Pink, and Pink Pout are currently the only pinks available.  I haven't tried these shades, but they look as though they have potential.    

The most universally recommended red is very often Matte Mac Lipstick (available at department stores) in Russian Red. 

However, my mother swears by Ruby Woo (she has many red lipsticks piled up, but she only ends up using this one); it is less "blue" than Russian Red, and not as harsh on fair skin. 

Supposedly, Gwen Stefani is a fan of both. 

Another Mac Matte pink shade possibility is Please Me, a pale, muted pink, if one is going for a '60s look.
I will repeat again, one really has to experiment, as lipsticks depend greatly on skin undertones as to which hues will stand out. What looks fabulously pink on one person may look lavender on another. So try them on, and return or exchange if necessary.