Friday, June 29, 2012

Protect the Pout

Shielding skin from the sun is a requirement, but lips can sometimes be neglected. Lip skin is actually thinner than other skin, and is more susceptible to damage.
My favorite SPF lip balm is Giovanni Street Chic Premium Lip Balm SPF 35 in Peppermint Treat. I apply it before lipstick, and it also works very well on bare lips. 

I became addicted, from my other lip balms, to the feeling of tingly-ness, and this one provides that very well. I keep one at home and one in my office desk, since I always feel that exposing SPF products to heat (say, if it was in my bag) would degrade the potency. I just make sure to reapply before going out.

Drugstores are bursting now with lip SPF options, by Blistex, Carmex, Chapstick, Neutrogena, Soft Lips, as well as store brands.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

We'll Do Your Wanting For You

My aunt works in the psychology field. She mentioned once how there are no words in Yiddish for the issues she deals with; I suppose when the language came into being, between bouts of persecution and starvation, there was really no time to diagnose PTSD. 

I'm not trying to be flip about psychological conditions. But it is interesting how times of comfort and security unleash a host of problems that are all in, literally, the head. And now there are "professionals" to help with that.
In the late 1940s, there were 2,500 clinical psychologists licensed in the United States. By 2010, there were 77,000 — and an additional 50,000 marriage and family therapists. In the 1940s, there were no life coaches; in 2010, there were 30,000. The last time I Googled “dating coach,” 1,200,000 entries popped up. “Wedding planner” had over 25 million entries. The newest entry, Rent-a-Friend, has 190,000 entries. 
The article begins with a psychologist, marketed as a "wantologist," who helps people conclude what it is they want. A client came to her craving a bigger house; it turned out all she needed was a room filled with greenery. 

We are now the quintessential toddler: We don't know what we want. We could help ourselves, but believing every advertisement is more appealing. 
We've put a self-perpetuating cycle in motion. The more anxious, isolated and time-deprived we are, the more likely we are to turn to paid personal services. To finance these extra services, we work longer hours. This leaves less time to spend with family, friends and neighbors; we become less likely to call on them for help, and they on us. 
The more we use "them," the more we consider ourselves and those around us incompetent. "What do you know about kids? You may have had four, but this woman went to school for three months and has a laminated diploma on her wall certifying her to recommend sheer lunacy."

By farming out our responsibilities, the satisfaction that we should be getting from a job well done is being handed over to strangers. 
Focusing attention on the destination, we detach ourselves from the small — potentially meaningful — aspects of experience. Confining our sense of achievement to results, to the moment of purchase, so to speak, we unwittingly lose the pleasure of accomplishment, the joy of connecting to others and possibly, in the process, our faith in ourselves.
The ends don't justify the means; that is one of the basics of Judaism. It's also about how we get there; if we took the cheaters' way, or the hard and noble way. 

Individual responsibility can never be avoided. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Man With a Past

At a simcha, a woman approached me. 

"You look so familiar," she began. 

It was vaguely possible she had seen me before, but then the conversation casually segued into what I'm "doing," my age, etc, in other words, real shidduch conversation. 

We chatted pleasantly despite the proximity to the band, and when we parted ways she still watched me appraisingly from across the room. 

She later resurfaced, trying to get me redt for her divorced son. But lest one think I am being unreasonable, here's this little tidbit:

A cousin by marriage, a few years ago, tried to set me up. He decided to deliver the news that the other party said no by yodeling "It looks like it's not going to happen" across a packed room (obviously, we are no longer on speaking terms).

The declining party was this woman and her son. Before his marriage. 

It would seem, dear fellow/madam, the ship as sailed. (Tooooooooot). 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Can You Hear Me? Can You See Me?

I know I harp about this a lot, but it can't hurt to mention it again. 

Sherry Turkle's article "The Flight from Conversation," addresses the current tech-life, and how that turns us into more self-absorbed beings. 
We have gotten used to the idea of being in a tribe of one, loyal to our own party.  
By using media as our middleman, we have lost the ability to interact face-to-face. 
A 16-year-old boy who relies on texting for almost everything says almost wistfully, “Someday, someday, but certainly not now, I’d like to learn how to have a conversation.”
Phones and computers give us the choice to interact exactly, perfectly, the amount we wish to. But that's not how real life works.

One day I was in a restaurant (not something I do often) and in walked two women, and I guess they were together since they sat at the same table. They flung themselves into chairs opposite each other and furiously peered at their phones. They didn't smile. Barely glancing up, they mentioned something to each other from time to time, then frowningly continued tapping. 
This video has already made itself known, but I can't get enough of it. 

I thought I could paraphrase bits and pieces of this article, but it truly must be read in its entirety. Please do. Then talk to someone, while making eye contact, about it.  

Monday, June 25, 2012

Tame Those Flyaways

I had a dinner one evening, and I carefully ironed my hair that morning. Maybe my angle was off, or something, because sticking out of the side of my head were stiff short pieces of hair that refused to be tucked into my pony. 

It also didn't help that it was pouring outside. I could sense the humidity clinging to the window, craving to frizz that which was now sleek. "Let us in," the condensation oozed against the glass.

Google! Help me! 

It soothingly sent me to a few helpful links that recommended the same thing: Take a fluffy toothbrush, spritz it with some hairspray, and run it over the flyaways. 

My toothbrush wasn't even so fluffy, and the results were amazing! My pony was sleek instead of fuzzy and piece-y, the image of runway ready! And it was so simple, without remotely any effort; just spray the bristles and run it over the problematic strands.
This is a great way to tame unruly strands for other hairstyles as well.  

Friday, June 22, 2012

Shabbos Face: Lips, 3: Color

I didn't know what to use for Shabbos lipstick until I bumped into someone with magnificent lipcolor at a sheva brachos. "Mac Prolongwear," she firmly recommended. "I have to SCRUB it off on Motzei Shabbos."

So I trotted off to the Mac counter, and beheld a glittering array of colors. Glittering, literally. Prolongwear is a double-ended product, with color on one end and a moisturizing gloss on the other; if the color was glittery, then the gloss was devoid of sparkle, and vice versa.

The choice of shades weren't great, either. I like pinks for my lips, and the least glittery shades were were rather dull, with brown-undertones.

But it did stay on well over Shabbos, so I used those religiously for a few years.

One day my sister-in-law showed me her purchases at CVS. There was a "buy one get one at 50% off" sale by Revlon, and she had quite a few cheerful, non-glittery shades in her bag of Revlon ColorStay Overtime Lipcolor.

Of course I tried it out, and I was amazed how it seemed to last better than the Prolongwear.

But it is hard to figure out the colors. The names don't remotely reflect how the colors look in real life, so it takes some experimenting. (CVS has a return policy for cosmetics, which is helpful).  

  • Keep Blushing: A light pink with a frost finish. Looks great on teenagers. 
  • Infinite Raspberry: Pale pink with lavender undertones. If one is going for tame lipcolor, this is a good option.
  • Perennial Plum: I wouldn't touch this for years since I thought plum = purple, but I finally bought it and love it. Primarily pink, it is more like a lip-enhancing shade. Looks flattering without going overboard.
  • Non Stop Cherry: A dramatic pink-red. 
  • Forever Scarlet: A bright orange-pink-red. Festive and summery.
  • Stay Currant: A deep brick red. For golden or darker skintones, I would say, rather than white-fair. Appropriate for winter.
  • Ultimate Wine: Nothing remotely wine-like about it. I'm not sure how to describe the color—but it is on the tamer side, with bronze undertones. It has sheen, so it is not my personally favorite shade, but it is a nice neutral.
  • Always Sienna: Another "can't quite place the color" hues, but I would say it is like a darker version of Ultimate Wine.
Do to the nature of these longwearing products, I would not recommend them for a two day yontif. After 25 hours, the color flakes and cracks off unappealingly. I'll go through yontif lips later.

When applying, be sure to let the lipcolor dry thoroughly before applying the gloss. This makes a big difference in staying power. I put on the color early on while applying the Face, giving it plenty of time to dry. Last thing to do is brushing on the topcoat.

Because long-lasting lipcolors dry to a tight finish, the purpose of the moisturizing topcoats is to provide comfort of movement. The gloss, I have noticed, sinks in better and lasts longer (even overnight) rather than the balms, which some other longwears come with. 

I have tried other brands, like Maybelline and L'Oreal, but the rare matte shade would be blah, or the applicator was ridiculous, or it felt just nasty on my lips, or instead of a glossy topcoat it would have a balm instead, which not as nourishing.
Via Revlon Colorstay Overtime in Forever Scarlet
As I mentioned in my lipstains post, these colors can change dramatically depending on the lipstain hue. Therefore, there are really a host of possibilities. For instance, if I use a red stain under the Perennial Plum, it becomes more dramatic.

While these are long-wearing, they aren't tattoos. No biting into apples; maneuver forks and spoons that they should not touch the lips; straws while drinking is a good move. But even if you mess up they are very forgiving. 

To remove after Shabbos, one may need to bring out the lip scrub again. 

Have a glamorous Shabbos!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Cumulative Expense?

While flicking through channels on a day home sick, I came across a reality show called Extreme Couponing. It's pretty amazing; the people there put an insane amount of time in collecting and organizing coupons to the point they can leave a store with over $1,000 worth of groceries for $10. Spare bedrooms in the house are stockpiled with enough goods to survive for decades.
The prep work for such an outing takes as much time as a full-time job; some pay a fortune a year in newspaper subscriptions; some have multiple computers and printers since coupons have limits as to how many can be printed per device; some scour the neighborhoods for unoccupied houses with abandoned papers on their driveways; others dumpster dive for discarded circulars. 

And the stuff they buy! Vats of cream cheese, bottles of soda, boxes of cake mix, bags of candy, cartons of frozen dinners—all processed food that has an indefinite shelf life. For the personal care products, like twenty tubes of toothpaste—is all that toothpaste to combat the rotting teeth from such a diet? 

No one seems to consider the expenses to get to the coupons itself. Gas to troll for recycling bins; newspaper subscriptions; numerous computers; hours and hours of time that could be earning money instead—and they shouldn't even be eating this junk. Never mind the shot nerves when they get to the register, praying that they calculated everything correctly.

Nothing that they buy for nothing seem to be real necessities. They kill themselves, spend a fortune, when they could eat less and healthier. The produce aisle tends not to have coupons, but that's where one should really do all their shopping.

These women turned their couponing fetish into a business. 
Yoder and Knight are part of a growing community of people for whom coupons are a significant part of making ends meet. After declining for nearly a decade, coupon use has increased almost 35 percent since 2008 . . . Last year, more than 3.5 billion coupons for consumer packaged goods were redeemed, an increase of 6.1 percent over 2010.   
With seven children to feed and her husband out of work, Cathy Yoder took her clipping savvy and supports her family with it, in more ways than one. The article cites her stockpiling of tuna, canned veggies, and milk, certainly nutritious items, mollifying my previous stockpiling horror.  
If you want to slash your grocery bills, you must overhaul your nonapproach to shopping. Forget mindlessly rolling down the aisles, dropping items in the cart for reasons of brand recognition or this or that gustatory whim. You must become strategic, unyielding and impervious to marketing appeals. You must buy only what’s on sale — the same goes for unprocessed items, like vegetables and meat — preferably timing your coupon use to the sales and planning meals around what’s in your freezer or pantry. This is called “shopping your stockpile.”
Yoder is able to slash a $1,000 monthly food bill down to $400, and she gives classes on how to go about it. She can't seem to get her husband to shop with coupons, though. Men, apparently, don't coupon. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Baaaack, Baaaack You Bloodsuckers

Mosquito season in my neck of the woods is not pleasant. 

Avoiding DEET, I purchased a variety of "healthy" bug repellants, which usually are unpleasant yellow oil that can potentially stain clothing. And the success rate is not even the best; I even bought a sunblock with the aforementioned grease with claims of bug repelling, and came home with four bites on my legs.

One day last summer I tried a new sunblock—not as a repellant—and was surprised that day after day my legs were unmolested. 

The sunscreen is Alba Botanica Lavender Sunblock. The lavender, it seems, was keeping my skin whole.
Along with the sunscreen, I purchased a lavender body spray, which I used liberally throughout the summer. I sailed through August with barely any bites, and the smell is pleasant and soothing. I used it on the kinfauna when I took them outside; no  more worries I was going to return scratching children to their parents. It's great because I can apply it on Shabbos, as opposed to greasy creams.
I ran out in the beginning of September. I didn't bother to restock, since how long could the mosquitoes last? 

Almost into October. I was one, big, itching welt.

This year, I bought the BIG bottle of lavender. And will definitely reorder if it gets low.

For on-the-go refreshers, I purchased a travel-sized atomizer. In purple. ('Cause it's lavender, get it?)  

Lavender is a great bug repellant in general. Plant lavender around the property, and one can even use lavender incense for evenings outside. It has been concluded (I saw this on AOL, but misplaced the link) that the best moth repellant is lavender, not cedar, mint, or lemon. I got a bag of loose dried flowers to make my own sachets for my drawers and closets.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Farewell, My Love

The makeup world can be a fickle friend. One day, you will see a mascara/foundation/lipstick across a crowded room, and fly to its side, and make it your own . . . only to have it discontinued following an all-too brief courtship.
Like my beloved ketsy.
Poof. Gone. I was left alone.

The first few times this happened to me I made every effort to get my hands on some spares. Ma would tell me to calm down, but I wouldn't listen; then, with backups safely stored away, I would meet yet another wonderful product who could do all that my previous beauty fave could do, and more. 

I thankfully never went so far as to purchase nearly 40 of the same product as I finally heard Ma's point. (Besides, brown lip gloss? Feh.)

Usually if a makeup is getting the ax it is because the brand has invented something even better. True, sometimes the replacement is lacking, but then another company could be able to fulfill your needs. 

Yes, I was hurt when Tarte did away with their Vitamin Core Lipstick in Revive.
I purchased another one on a shady website. But then I noticed the kaleidoscope of color available in Sephora, realizing that frantic purchase wasn't necessary. (I mentioned beforehand my stocking up of a discontinued Sephora mineral makeup. That was more because it was ridiculously reduced. Chap arein.)  

It behooves us to evolve. Even if that means beyond a beloved mascara.    

Monday, June 18, 2012

Adequate Half

While young and unattached, she was discussing all of her future plans. 

"And then, when we arrive in Israel, we'll . . . "  

"Who are you going with?" I ask. 

"My better half!" (as yet unknown) 

"Your 'better half'?" I echo. "Nah, you don't want him to be better than you." 

A young wife bristled across the table. "Why shouldn't he be better than you?"  

"I should have an inferiority complex to my husband?" I respond. 

"You want to be equals," piped in a long-married woman.  


But my adversary wasn't giving up so fast. "Don't you want him to be better than you? Treat you right?"  

"It's in the books already he has to treat me better than himself," I retort. "I just have to treat him more than adequately. He doesn't have to be 'better' than me to follow that." (Rambam)

She unwillingly acquiesced, and the conversation reverted to shoes. 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Blistering Sun Defied

As you may have noticed, I zealously attempt to shield my skin from sun damage. However, it is not always possible; Shabbos, for instance, has a frownie face when it comes to smearing on goopy white lotion. Also, I tend not to reapply during the weekday as how would I be able to not ruin "The Face"?

I have known about the existence of powder sunscreens, but I never really got to know them better. But pair a shmoiling Shavuos with my epidermis inadequately powdered with mineral makeup, I was drawn to this Vogue article advocating its benefits.

Colorscience was the one who first introduced to me the concept of mineral powder SPF, so I decided to go with it again. There are two Colorscience Sunforgettable SPF brushes; in SPF 30, and in SPF 50, and there is about a $10 price difference.
However, my sister had had purchased the brush a few years back and never managed to get it open, despite the fact that I called the company. So I decided to purchase the orb, which actually has more product than the brushes do, and apply it with my own powder brush (the puff that comes with it isn't that great).
This is great for little kids who spend their Shabbosim shrieking in the backyard, or for baby legs dangling out of the protective shade of the carriage. Luke's kids burn in no time flat, so their skin needs shielding.

I brush it on my face, my neck, behind my ears, over my legs. Begone, sun damage!      

Friday, June 15, 2012

Shabbos Face: Lips, 2: Lining

Before getting into Shabbos lipcolor itself, I want to discuss the liplining step. 

The product I use for Shabbos lipcolor seems to be unhappy with waxy lip pencils; it prevents the product from bonding to my lips, and there is a distinct line on Shabbos morning where the color wore away. 

Therefore, I had to look elsewhere to give my Shabbos lips a defined shape. 

Lipstains are great not only for Shabbos but for weekday, if one just wants to add a subtle hint of color rather than a heavier lipstick or gloss. 

For lip lining, getting one in marker form is better, like Covergirl Outlast Lipstain. They are all devoid of any sort of sheen, providing a lovely infusion of hue.
When used underneath lipcolor, it can change the shade depending on the stain color, creating all sorts of possibilities. 

I haven't yet found a well-reviewed Sephora option for a stain marker, but hope springs eternal.

Here are some Covergirl Stain options: 

400 Everbloom Kiss: Pale pink, just delicately enhancing lips

425 Plum Pout: On me, it comes out more of a red.

435 Flirty Nude: An orangey-nude (not my favorite; I'm not sure why I keep it around) 

440 Wild Berry Wink: Bright cherry red

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Who is THAT in the Mirror?

Denial's not just a river in Egypt.

Many of us bear imagined perceptions of ourselves that do not exactly match up to the reality. That can go either way. We can sustain both overinflated or devalued images of personality or physicality that is all in our heads.  

In terms of weight, at least a third, if not more, of America are lugging around more pounds than is advisable. Even the author of the article confesses to self-delusion regarding her obesity. 
As I was walking through the gym the other day, I caught a glimpse of an overweight woman across the room. But then I did a double take, and then another. The woman was me — I had seen my own reflection in a distant mirror and, for a split second, hadn’t recognized myself.
Denial is a frightening response since it does not allow necessary change. If action is vital, denial procrastinates. Then the moment of unavoidable truth is much more painful than it had to be.
I hope I can always be conscious of reality (and not just in terms of weight).    

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Swim With Public Ease

One of my favorite places in Israel is the Dead Sea. It should be obvious considering my obsession with skin products.
During my first visit, dabbling in the yam was a tad delicate; I only waded in, whilst fully clothed, being all-too aware of the other tourists. I wasn't able to embrace the experience to the fullest.

The next time, I decided, I was going to do it right. 

There is now available, thanks to Jewish, Muslim, Christian, modest, and sensitive-skinned individuals, various brands providing swimwear with more coverage.
I decided on Hydro Chic as it was carried by a local store and I could try it on. I purchased a swim top and a swim skirt with attached pants (like those seen above).

I had a blast at Yam HaMelach, able to bob in the water in comfort (soggy clothing is nasty), although ironically the beach was deserted. 

When I returned home I liked the swim top so much that I still use it in the pool, and my sister-in-law Organa wears the whole getup every time she goes swimming to protect her snow-white complexion (she burns very easily).

Going to the local beach is now a more fun experience, as I can unworriedly plop into the sand, now that the elements can't harm my garments. 

There are other brands available, like Aqua Modesta, Mira, Marsea, Undercover Waterwear, and Princess.  

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Nervous Much?

I always joke how ulcers have a long and noble precedent in my family. We are a nervous people, constantly assuming the worst of that which is in our control. When they used to go to the mountains for the summer, Ma said that she followed Luke around (when he was three) because she couldn't handle the heart-stopping feeling when a child is misplaced for a few minutes.

But when it comes to cosmic matters I am sweat-free. I don't concern myself with the ice caps melting, a resurrected Nazi party, or nuclear Iran. That is, most assuredly, out of my hands. 

Daniel Smith wrote an article regarding his chronic anxiety. While I am thankfully not remotely as bad off as him, I can understand his problems with a communal college bathroom. But this thought was worth sharing: 
My brother and I grew up in a Jewish but largely secular home. Each of us had a bar mitzvah, but we managed to emerge from childhood with little understanding of, and littler faith in, religious texts. Scott is convinced that our lack of religion has handicapped us psychologically. “It’s not really fair, when you think about it,” he told me when he began the project. “We’re surrounded by people who came into this world with these portable little bundles of certainty, these neat foundational texts. They don’t have to go rooting around for comforting words. What do we have? What did we get? Nothing. A handful of movies and a few of Dad’s jokes. We’re at sea. We’ve always been at sea.”  
He has got a point there.  We always have a passage to fall back on, some biblical metaphor, a psalm to identify with.

What I find funny is how so many find "portable little bundles of certainty, these neat foundational texts" to be slaveholders of the modern mind. Whether it be atheists or agnostics or those who see their Jewish background as something intellectual, not practical, observant Judaism has certainly never been heralded as an anxiety-soother.

So I can only suppose that if I was raised without faith (chas v'shalom) I would be on meds right now.  

Monday, June 11, 2012

Cafe of Woe

The Starbucks date. 

It is praised as being the financial incentive for men to date more; if he doesn't have to treat to her to meal, or find a suitable hotel lounge, he'll be more likely to go on a date to a conveniently located and priced Starbucks.  

My issue: 

What does a gal do if she don't like coffee or tea?  

I once bought an Earl Gray, which I ended up throwing out. Nasty. 

The bottled fruit juices for sale tend to be mango, the one flavor I don't like. 

So I came upon a solution, albeit a childish one. 

Drink box.  

You know the one by Horizon? The flavored vanilla milk is very good. Pop the straw in, and sluuuuuuuuuuuurp. Very attractive.
But on one date—horrors!—my drink box was sold out! With no other options, I ordered a passion fruit iced tea. Three added sugars later, it was quite palatable. 
For once, I looked somewhat adult. Phew. 

Friday, June 8, 2012

Shabbos Face: Lips, 1: Prep

In order to get lip color to adhere to the skin better, lips should be devoid of dead skin cells that may get in the way. I use Softlips Pure Organic Coconut and Sugar Exfoliating Lip Polish, but it is just overpriced sugar. Making homemade scrubs is easy.

Many just use a soft, fluffy toothbrush to remove flaky lip skin.
When all the dead flaky skin has been successfully buffed off, apply a moisturizing lip balm. My current favorite (and has been for the last few years) is Burt's Bees Beeswax Lip Balm Tin. I scrape off a little with my fingernail and rub it thoroughly in. 

Long lasting lipcolors (like the ones I will soon recommend) are notoriously drying, so balms will provide some desperately needed moisture.

But since balm can also interfere with how color holds, I apply it early in the makeup process to give it time to sink in, then if there is still too much excess I dab it lightly off, leaving a hint behind.  

Next: Shabbos lip-lining! 

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Psycho Mumbo-Jumbo

There was an episode of Mad About You I remember seeing when I was a kid. Paul and Jamie are seeing a therapist, but are feeling unfulfilled since she just nods, says "Uh-huh," scribbles in a notebook, ending with, "See you next week."
According to a psychotherapist, that's where psychiatry is today. People sit on a couch for years pouring out their troubles, which gains them no progress, when true improvement should not take even a fraction of that time. 
Proponents of long-term therapy have argued that severe psychological disorders require years to manage. That may be true, but it’s also true that many therapy patients don’t suffer severe disorders. Anxiety and depression are the top predicaments for which patients seek mental health treatment; schizophrenia is at the bottom of the list. 

In my experience, most people seek therapeutic help for discrete, treatable issues: they are stuck in unfulfilling jobs or relationships, they can’t reach their goals, are fearful of change and depressed as a result. It doesn’t take years of therapy to get to the bottom of those kinds of problems. For some of my patients, it doesn’t even take a whole session. 

Therapy can — and should — focus on goals and outcomes, and people should be able to graduate from it. In my practice, the people who spent years in therapy before coming to me were able to face their fears, calm their anxieties and reach life goals quickly — often within weeks.
And while blaming one's parents in session may feel good, frankly it has no bearing on current issues; if one wants to move on, there is only forward.
Many patients need an aggressive therapist who prods them to face what they find uncomfortable: change. They need a therapist’s opinion, advice and structured action plans. They don’t need to talk endlessly about how they feel or about childhood memories. A recent study by the National Institute for Health and Welfare in Finland found that “active, engaging and extroverted therapists” helped patients more quickly in the short term than “cautious, nonintrusive therapists.
And that whole "How do you feel about that?" line? To put it plainly, crap. Duh, she just said she's not happy with her boyfriend. Ergo, she is unhappy. And the method which advocates patients drawing their own conclusions can take too long.

Long-term and fruitless therapy can result in co-dependence; the psychiatrist is armed with a regularly-paying client, the patient has someone who validates feelings. While they may feel better, they certainly aren't evolving. 

The author's end note? Don't keep on doing something if it doesn't work for you. And that can apply in many ways. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Do I Have A Boy For You

I tagged along with my father to a business meeting. The woman across the table, possibly Jewish (but not religious), laid eyes on me, then scurried off. When she returned, she proudly presented a silver framed photo of her family, circa 2002, I would guess, with her boy an acne-ridden teenager sporting a straggly soul patch. 

"He's not Orthodox," she said, "but he is Jewish." She looked expectantly into my face.

I managed to summon a choked "oh" that hopefully conveyed what a nice picture it was and how lovely her son seemed. 

She continued to list his many qualities—he's currently in a prominent university, almost done with his studies—accompanied by a suggestive eyebrow jiggle.

I was absolutely bewildered. Was she trying to sell me her son? Or simply swapping stories with Ta over offspring?

If she was trying to sell me her boy, would he seriously appreciate his mom's efforts to set him up with an observant Jew? 

It's a new world, Golda. 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Baby Battles

Times were simpler once. There wasn't a guru on every corner spouting unproven twaddle; everyone did what they had to do with the time available, and that didn't leave much left over for analyzing life too deeply. 

Take parenting, for instance. There are all sorts of "methods," claiming to raise the most well-adjusted child who won't blame his parents in twenty years for creating psychological trauma.

I was once at a Shabbos meal when I was not that close with the other guests, a couple with a five year old daughter. The mother measured out her portion, and told her, "Don't throw it on the floor." 

The fact that had to be said could not be good.

Immediately the girl began to snivel, intentionally shaking the food off her plate. I reacted immediately, my mouth unattractively stuffed with challah, when I roared at her, "We don't throw food on the floor!" 

She stopped, and contritely padded off to the kiddie table. As for her mother? Not leaping to her defense; if anything, she seemed happy that someone else was doing the dirty work, her eyes focused on the other side of the room. 

(Aside: If your kid would rather throw her food on the floor than eat it, then she doesn't have to be given any lunch.)

But what if she had leapt to her child's defense, which is what other people face when their friends' children are rat-finks? 

New parents bring their own childhoods to the table, some wanting to provide their offspring the direct opposite of their own experience.
Ms. Dederer believed that many of her generation’s parenting practices stemmed from the fact that they were nursing psychic wounds from the family disruption and disengagement that had swept through their own homes in the 1970s. 
Take, for instance, a mother cited in the article who does "attachment parenting"—her children are pretty much glued to her side, all the time—because both she and husband had felt abandoned by their own parents. 

She referred to her method as "healing" for her. But then she is making parenting about her, not about her children. That is the crux; one has to examine their motives very carefully. It shouldn't be what makes us feel good, it should be about how to raise a competent mensch. But I digress. 

Then there is the mother who, while perfectly able and stable, feels inferior as she doesn't have a fellow mother-friend's slavish devotion to her progeny.
I’m feeling inadequate with her ‘I-do-everything-for-my-children’ example,” she said of the first friend, who has curtailed her own creative, prestigious career because she’s rarely able to find a baby sitter who meets her high standards. “I have these pangs of ‘maybe she’s doing everything right and I’m doing things all wrong.’ ” As for the second: Around her, Ms. Smith Rakoff feels like an undisciplined slacker. “I almost can’t see her because she makes me feel too bad about myself.” 
I would actually feel the reverse, I think. If a woman was remolding her identity through her children, I would actually be awash in superiority.

Raising children is not rocket science; youngsters don't crave much more than stability and seder. And as I have said, I would be the type to get aggravated if a parent ignored bad behavior. If a "method" advocates that, maybe the friend has a point.       

Monday, June 4, 2012

Tomato Goodness

Tomato soup was usually a weekly staple when I was a kid; my brother Owen's love for it was even hereditarily passed on to his daughter. 

One day when I was shanghaied into babysitting for my sister, I debated what I should make with my culinary-inclined niece. We sifted through various cookbooks, and nothing appealed or it was too complex. 

I hit upon the tomato soup. We didn't have all the necessary ingredients, but I bundled up the two babies into the carriage and tottled off around the corner to the store. 

Once, when we were at a simcha, my mother was blown away by the tomato soup they served. She never does this, but she asked to speak to the caterer, who was reluctant to reveal secrets of the trade. He finally confessed: The amazing ingredient was green pepper. Put a whole one in the soup while it is cooking, then discard.

So when at the store, along with tomato juice and tomato sauce, I picked up a green pepper. My niece eyed it dubiously. 

We managed to lurch back (the three year old insisted on pushing the carriage) and I went to work.

One of the basics of European cooking is the roux (French) or in Hungarian, rántás (pronounced "rahn-tahsh"). As Ma does it, it is a little flour mixed with some oil, only enough to slightly coat the bottom of the pot (since my nephew has celiac disease, I used whatever gluten-free flour was available).

I then poured in the tomato juice and sauce, and raised the heat a little. For additions, one can use rice, or alphabets, or pasta. Don't forget the sugar! A few heaping tablespoons should do.

I scrubbed the pepper well, then just plunked it in the pot.

When it was done, my niece went wild. "There's some sort of taste here . . . it's spicy!" She had three bowls and could barely waddle out the door to a classmate's bas mitzvah. 

However, I have lately become concerned with the sodium content in most tomato juices and sauces. There's about 30% of the daily value in a single cup of juice, which is kinda frightening; tomato sauce, unless it says "no salt added," isn't much better. I searched online for alternatives; instead of using full-fledged canned tomato juice, one can simply reconstitute it from tomato paste.

Leiber's tomato paste, for instance, has about 12% of the daily value in an entire 12 oz can. So I googled "tomato soup from tomato paste," and found quite a few options. Many involve milk as an ingredient, but to keep things pareve I figured non-dairy milk could also work.

Beginning with the roux, I used two cans of tomato paste. Referencing the first recipe linked above, I refilled the paste can eight times, half of the liquid being soy milk. For a little added tomato-ness, I threw in a can of tomato sauce (sodium free) too. 
The old time tomato soup has rice, but to make it extra healthful I wanted to use brown rice, but it takes practically an hour to cook, and as I didn't want to reduce the liquid, I cooked it separately. 

I also added for extra nourishment a can of chickpeas and a can of cannellini beans. (Note: for those who think beans = dying alone, the body's . . . reaction to beans is due to digesting a specific protein. However, if one consumes beans regularly than the system gets used to it and there are no . . . aftereffects. Beans have amazing nutrition and should be a steady part of a balanced diet). 

Since there is no sodium, really, some added salt is necessary (in the end whatever one adds is better than the sodium added by the food processors). Sugar as well, a few tablespoons. 
The moment of truth: will the niece like it? 

She takes a tentative slurp. Swishes it about her palate. "It's . . . interesting." She proceeds to clean out the bowl. 

A hit! 

Friday, June 1, 2012



"(mumble) . . . Ihearyouwanttogoout?" 

Oh no he didn't. 

Despite the fact that this lad was pushing 30, it seems this was the first time ever that Bossk called the girl to arrange the date. 

When the shadchan had asked if she should arrange it or if he should call, I thought the answer was obvious. I did not realize this meant he never called a girl up before. And, as always, the insecure will pin the date on me. Fine, I desperately want you. Happy?

He actually took me to a very nice lounge, but it didn't warrant nearly 90 minutes of driving roundtrip. Especially since I had to read the instructions off the GPS after he nearly steered into a pole peering at it.

P.S. I'm sorry, but this is one of my pet peeves. I find using a credit card to pay for a $1.50 drink to be rather sad. Does no one carry cash anymore? That could even have been paid for in pocket change.