Friday, May 30, 2014

Spaghetti Squash Cheese Kugel

Ma's basic lukshen kugel that Owen would sell his soul for is rather simple: cooked egg noodles, 1-2 eggs, cottage cheese, sugar, vanilla sugar, oil in the pan and a little drizzled on top, 350° for an hour. Mmm. 

My initial foray into "healthiness" converted the egg noodles into whole wheat egg noodles. Owen was horrified, obviously, so I never particularly managed to succeed in my attempts.

Then I got the squash bug. Resistant starch fiber, Pop Pop! (Community reference, if anyone got that.) Then there was a large and lonely package of farmer cheese in the fridge. 

I purchased two small spaghetti squash, eyeing it carefully as the last two I bought were distinctly old and tasted as much. These, thankfully, were in their prime, and after one struggling attempt to cut them in half I simply stabbed them all over and shoved 'em in the oven at 375° for an hour or so. 

The insides flaked out beautifully, in very large amounts. I slowly mixed in the farmer cheese, one egg, sugar, vanilla sugar, and poured it into an oiled 9x13 pan, drizzled oil on top, and placed in 350° oven for an hour. After being in there for forever, it still wasn't dark enough so I flipped on the broiler for a minute or two. Then the top browned and the sugars intensified. 

OK, now this is pretty amazing: Owen ate it. Well, on the sly—he wouldn't quite admit it that he was going for seconds. I was very considerate and looked the other way.

There is also the option of making it savory, like mixing the squash with sauteed onions, mushrooms, leeks, shredded carrots, and so forth. Sounds like a nice alternative to a potato kugel. 

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Sell Me!

Ann Beattie sympathizes with the young generation, in that they are ordered to prove themselves via third-party recommendations ("The Incessant Selling of the Self"). 
Young people have been educated to believe that self-promotion is essential. Being excellent is only part of the scenario, and quick personal advancement is mandatory. Otherwise, all will be lost. All the talent, all the hope, all the achievement. Those things are not meant to speak for themselves: They’re kindling for the fire, and the fire must be breathed out of the mouths of young dragons that have no fear (with tongue piercings removed for job interviews).
How sad for everyone, that they’re expected to have their narrative — facts are to be spun into fiction; they’re prompted to make up a coherent story, though life itself is hardly that — while they’re still developing. Then they’re expected to be “adult” and to ask another adult to endorse them.
Oh, so it's not just us? 

"References" on profiles are a hot topic. It's all in how you select them, earnest young singles are warned. But some may be wolves in sheep's clothing, lurking in their guise as friend when they are truly foe. Shidduchim have been ruined
I don't think we can say words like "bashert" when someone you think well of can undo that which is heavenly ordained. Seems a little impossible, as Jews, I would think. 

A couple of Shabbosim ago I was struck by these pesukim in the haftorah. Yirmiyahu 17:5-8: 
Thus saith Hashem: Cursed is the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from Hashem. For he shall be like a tamarisk in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, a salt land and not inhabited. Blessed is the man that trusteth in Hashem, and whose trust Hashem is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out its roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but its foliage shall be luxuriant; and shall not be anxious in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.
Those who I believe are mature, kind, and profess to like me, I have on my information. Once I was told by someone who tried a shidduch on my behalf that a reference managed to put her foot in her mouth, rendering the date a "no-go"; I casually replaced her.

But I did not bear her ill will that she "ruined" the means to my soulmate. If it was bashert, it would be bashert. I try to look upon people as messengers of Hashem's will, not as the means in themselves.

As for calling references regarding a potential date? If I choose not to go out, it's usually based on the basic information and some Facebook research. If that is insufficient means to form an opinion—well, if I do not know the reference in question: 
I’m skeptical about the benefit of soliciting so many opinions. Surely, the crowd should be discomfited, as so many inflated balloons increase the risk of more students’ eventually sinking from sky to field. People on the receiving end have become inured to hearing that everyone is the very best, the very brightest, and though the recommender does not care for poodles, even the person’s dog ...
Every guy is the "best." He's wonderful, he's charming, he's good-looking, he's chock-full of personality. You know how many times that description has actually rung my doorbell? Almost never.
There’s already been a cry about grade inflation. Letters of recommendation are an equal problem. If all the letters stopped, the burden might be shifted. What are the standards of those offering opportunities? Couldn’t they conduct interviews and form opinions based on the person and his or her work, rather than amassing letters by seemingly objective authorities that by now everyone takes less than seriously?   
To quote Greg Behrendt and Amiira Ruotola, "It's Just a F***ing Date." No references. A meeting is the best gauge.    

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

L'Oreal Infallible 24 HR Eye Shadow

Nothing like a 30% off CVS coupon to have one eagerly trolling the drugstore makeup aisles. 

Peering at the L'Oreal Infallible 24 HR Eye Shadow, I noted that Sultry Smoke did not have the excessive amount of sparkle that the others did. Nor did Endless Pearl. Checking it up later online, neither does Continuous Cocoa.
It's not exactly matte-matte, but matte enough. I'm not exactly used to using cream(ish) shadows, but this spreads quite delightfully with a few taps of the ring finger. They aren't primarily cream shadows; apparently they are labeled a cross between powder and cream, so they are brush-friendly. 
Others use long-wearing formulas like this as a primer itself. 
I have used Sultry Smoke over my entire eyelid, then applied my usual darker shade into the crease (if L'Oreal had one without shimmer, I would have given it a try). But Sultry Smoke is certainly crease-worthy, as is Continuous Cocoa (with a gold shade or lighter brown on the lid). Endless Pearl would be a good option for highlighting the brow. 

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Ignore the Insult and Talk About the Weather

My aunt, a social worker, and I have been swapping books; after I passed on Brené Brown's I Thought It Was Just Me, she responded with Susan Jeffers' Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway.
I must admit I'm not particularly crazy about this book; from the beginning, she claims that the underlying motivation for fear is that one will not be able to handle it. That's not my reason for fear. I know I can handle having a broken bone, but from what I hear, it's kinda unpleasant. Fear, at least in my case, is of unpleasantness of certain experiences.

But one segment induced the squirming that only perfect mussar can:
Start noticing what you say in conversations with friends. See if it includes a lot of complaining of a lot of people, such as, "Would you believe that Jill was late for dinner again? We had the biggest fight - right in the restaurant." If this sounds familiar, see if you can turn the situation around so that you learn something new about yourself. For example, "I notice that when Jill is late, I begin to feel really angry. I wonder why I feel that way? I think it's because she doesn't seem to have any respect for my time. On the other hand, part of me likes it. It makes me feel superior to always have something to gripe about . . ."
In a notebook, list the many choices available to you that can change presently upsetting experiences into positive ones. Using the example of Jill's lateness, what choices could you make?
You could stop meeting with her; arrive later, knowing she will be late; bring some interesting reading material; relax. If meeting on time is essential, you could simply tell her that if she is not there by an agreed-upon hour, you will not wait. There is no reason for anger.
The key is not to blame others for your being upset. This is not to condone the behavior of others, but simply not to allow it to be the source of your upset. . .
This is really tough! See if you can go one week without criticizing anyone or complaining about anything. You will be surprised how difficult this is. You will also be surprised to learn how much complaining and criticizing you do.
By the way, when you ultimately stop putting down other people in your life, it may seem you have nothing left to talk about with your friends. Griping is a habit, and needs to be replaced by something more positive. This takes a bit of time and ingenuity, but it will be far more satisfying and joyful.
Oh, shoot. 

Monday, May 26, 2014

'Memba Them?

My sister dated for a pretty long time. While not as long as I have, enough to rack up a terrifying amount of blind dates. 

We all like to think that we evolve, that we are nice people, and that if we have ever failed in that inner belief, we pray, oh, how we pray, that the offended party has, please please please, forgotten about it. 

As my sister and I strolled leisurely on a Shabbos afternoon, I told her about a dating nightmare, which was all the more shocking since he had a prestigious position in a hotzy-totzy law firm; it wasn't like he was just shoved out into the world and was not yet schooled in common courtesy.
"Oh, I learned that early on—all of the hot-shot lawyers I went out with were . . ." 

Her entertaining sagas come spilling out. 

"And that was nothing compared to the eye surgeon . . ."

A first date shows up at the appointed street corner and says, "Didn't you see me coming?" This was before FB, mind you; "I was supposed to say hello to every man wearing a kapul?" 

Then there was the prince who abandoned her on 8th Avenue and 42nd Street (twenty years ago!) in the dead of night, despite the fact that she had driven into the city to make his life easier. 

Then there was the one who was so absent-minded that she thought she was going to lose him in the next manhole. 

I laughed with her as we dissected these tales, disbelieving that these man-children somehow wed. 

After every date, I fret over every little thing I said, wondering if I had given a negative false impression of myself.

But after rehashing such episodes, I always think, I couldn't have left such a terrible, unforgettable impression as these guys did. 

Friday, May 23, 2014

Battle of the Bulge: Just Use Real Sugar Already

It gets really tedious how when people get a coffee or tea, they will opt only for mystery sugar-alternatives for a mere teaspoon, but when it comes to other foods in their life they consume sugar willy-nilly.
Every time some new miracle alternate sweetener debuts, they are eventually proven to give dogs brain damage, or something of a kind. Sticking to the real stuff is safer, and one can still stay on top of one's weight. 

Sugar, per teaspoon, is only 15 calories. Having a sprinkle in your coffee won't make such a major difference. That scone, however . . .
It won't bite.

When it comes to baking, hefty cups of white, refined sugar is more the issue.

There are now available varieties of evaporated cane juice (succanat), and depending how they are processed they can contain a goodly amount of vitamins and minerals. White refined sugar has no redeeming features; at least with these unrefined sugars one can get some nutrition. 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Real Life is Tough

Monica Weslowska's "Modern Love" piece, "Clinging to Each Other, We Survived the Storm," had a number of fascinating lessons. 

We think that it is the hard times that drives couples apart, but it may not be necessarily so. Her son was born, but doomed to die; she and her husband remained a solid unit, fearing this crisis would tear them asunder. Aware of the danger, they ensured a loving and considerate relationship during that harrowing experience. 

They believed that since they had emerged from this tragedy with a stronger relationship, anything would be easier by comparison. Every moment of health and happiness would be cherished and appreciated.

But everyday life, in the end, the petty aggravations of the daily grind, that is where the potential for drifting apart can lie. Weslowska fast-forwards a decade—deadlines, misplaced shoes, undone homework.
As we struggled together in the front hall, however, I felt the distance between us and that happy ending. Ten years on, we were living something almost harder to describe, something less dramatic, something so common people hardly ever talked about it.
We were in the midst of an ordinary life.
"Bikesh Yaakov leshev b'shalva," "Yaakov wanted to live serenely." Who ever pleads with the Eibishter for a disordered, chaotic life? But the calm existence isn't guaranteed, unless one focuses on it and makes it a priority, and is grateful for it.

To be thankful that life is boring—deadlines, misplaced shoes, and undone homework can be wonderful. It is the best there is.

For writers, Weslowska's advice: 
Up at the school, I was going to tell children that to write, they just needed to pay enough attention to their lives.  
While I revel in novels that imagine our galaxy a long, long time ago, I don't have that depth of creativity. But, as it was said, "Write what you know," and I shall stick with that. 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

I'm Just Bleeding, Don't Mind Me

She had said something. Something so hurtful, so emotionally painful, that it was the spiritual equivalent of being stabbed in the gut. As I gasped in shock, she then, smugly and serenely, thoroughly salted the wound.

One the primary difficulties of being single is rarely the fact one is single. Sure, it has its moments of isolation and frustration, but everyone has their own aggravations that it certainly doesn't affect one's cheerful countenance. One can still go about her day, smiling, outgoing, open to all the joys and experiences available on this wondrous planet

But on the inside, there are times when one is clinging to the edge, managing to hold on just by the grips of one's fingers. Then a passing individual, claiming to be the Good Samaritan, refuses to offer a helping hand, but rather decides to sweetly apply a stomping foot to the already overtaxed knuckles.

That's when it sucks to be single: When the support system doesn't only fail one, it shoves one off the cliff.
No one would find it a kind gesture to inform a couple struggling with fertility issues of all the things they are possibly doing "wrong." In personal relationships, one would have to be a supreme cad to insert oneself, uninvited, into a disagreement, claiming he knows exactly what has to be fixed, "just wanting to help."

But if one is single, it is must be that one is behaving like an orangutang on a date. Of course, when I go out for an evening I make use of the opportunity to groom the waitresses for head lice. 

As always, my initial grief after being verbally slugged in the gut morphed into mind-numbing, Godzilla-level rage.


The way this post originally continued was to numerically list all the logical fallacies utilized by my attacker, furiously tapped out with my jaw clenched. 

But then, one Shabbos in shul, my brain activity went into hyperdrive. 

It is a repetitive message of Rabbi Yisroel Reisman that "Bishvi li nivra haolam": "For my sake, this world was created." Meaning, even if one has been shoved into a seemingly "unfair" position, one has to analyze her own behavior. 

For instance, it is a constant aggravation of mine that shul attendees tow along underage children who are incapable of maintaining the necessary silence to permit others meaningful prayer. Usually I would be mentally cursing out the parents as they halfheartedly shush the high-pitched squeaks and squeals of their young. 
But then, that fateful day, I recalled Rabbi Reisman's point. If I did not choose to discipline myself sufficiently to devote true kavana to my davening, why would Hashem provide me with ideal praying surroundings? I have idly daydreamed through many a shacharis; am I deserving of a shriek-free environment? 

From that "aha moment" I leapt to a further conclusion. Whatever pain I experience I have a reason for receiving. I was due a put-down. Ergo, while that individual did not have to volunteer for the job, this psychosomatic agony that aches as I breathe has a purpose

Additionally, I could attack the attacker for her unkindness, carefully parsing away all her groundless arguments, but it would be a fallacy on my part to believe their harsh words was truly about me. She was in a bad place, needed to lash out, and I was there, ready and waiting, a plump chicken to be plucked: An older single who is (obviously) shooting herself in the foot.

Even if I was in an armored mental state when I could have destroyed her conclusions, point by point, in the end, my retorts could never have sufficient debate power until I am armed with the ultimate rebuttal, a groom. 

Silence is my only option. 

Not only silence to accept the Eibishter's Will to suffer this consequence of my transgressions, but silence to know it is not truly about me, and therefore, such stabbing statements require no response. 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

HaRoeh Es HaNolad

This song had to be inevitably paired with Frank Bruni's "Maturity's Victories." Gigi is my favorite movie (and Barbara Walter's, as she told Hugh Jackman this past week), and "I'm Glad I'm Not Young Anymore" has only begun to appeal to me recently. When I was ten I fast-forwarded through this "boring" tune, but if you listen to the lyrics, it possesses truths that should be heard.

The article is from February, and references that whole Peyton-Manning Superbowl frenzy which touched me not; Bruni was then unaware then that the gifts of maturity didn't help Manning's team win. But: 
He has the kind of poise that maturity typically midwifes. He’s unflappable. When something goes wrong, be it his fault or a teammate’s, he’ll grimace only fleetingly, shrug just slightly and press on. Panic, he understands, is a waste of precious energy, a pivot into rushed, stupid mistakes. With a bit of age has come a better grip on the fact that a game, like a life, is long. Stay calm. Hang in. Wait for the inevitable break. Trust your training.
I don't want to be that person who goes to pieces when something untoward pops up. I did it once in high school, freaking out about what I considered to be an avalanche of homework, but after I made a scene on the bus and flopped into the kitchen, I realized it wasn't so bad. Blush.

Once, if I was pressed for time, I would rush and make stupid mistakes that would prolong the necessary tasks. Now I know it is better to opt for careful action as opposed to devolving into hysteria. 
And it’s no accident that many of us, while remembering and sometimes yearning for the electricity of first loves and the metabolism of our salad days, don’t really want to turn back the clock. We know that for everything that’s been taken from us, something else has been given. We don’t move as nimbly as we did. But we manage our emotions with greater dexterity. Our energy may be diminished. Our use of it is more prudent. We’re short on flat-out exuberance. We’re long on perspective.
Oh dear Lord. I'm a creaky grownup.    

Monday, May 19, 2014

Clinique Chubby Stick Intense Moisturizing Lip Balm

I do not like glosses. No, I do not. Clinique Chubby Stick Intense Moisturizing Lip Balm, however, is more lip stain than lip balm. 

I went for 05 Plushest Punch.
An invigorating, effortless swipe of color when I don't have much time to apply.
Via Clinique Chubby Stick Intenses, swatched L-R: 01 Curviest Caramel,  02 Chunkiest Chili, 03 Mightiest Maraschino, 04 Heftiest Hibiscus, 05 Plushest Punch, 06 Roomiest Rose, 07 Broadest Berry, 08 Grandest Grape
Other lip stains that I checked out had drying ingredients like peppermint oil, but these provide great moisture with no drying. They tend to wear like other lip balms, but it's not complicated to whip it out to fix any boo-boos.