Monday, December 31, 2018

The Repurchased! VII Skincare

It took me a long, long while, but I FINALLY found a vitamin c serum in pump form, as opposed to dropper. I was never keen on the dropper. It exposes the serum to the elements, to air, to contaminants, decreasing the potency over time.
I was adamant about a pump or tube, and now that I've found it I go through it like matzah vaaser. I also love the consistency; most vitamin c serums found on Amazon performed well, but other options—including a very expensive one from Sephora—was sticky, or did not melt into my skin, or left an orange(!) residue.

In the mornings, I use witch hazel toner with a cotton pad (instead of washing my face) to prep my skin, then apply the Kleem (on top goes SPF, then makeup). 
The above are the ones I have tried and loved. Additionally, there is an Essential Renewal Gel (10%) for oily skin types, and an Enhanced Renewal Cream (12%) for dryer skin.

I have been a fan of this line when it was still called Alpha Hydrox. These are anti-aging treatments of various percentages that do lovely work. I rotate them with my retinol products (but I haven't yet tried their retinol cream).
For those who are new to AHAs (alpha hydroxy acids), it would be wise to apply a layer of Cetaphil moisturizer first, then this on top. The serum, for instance, is so potent that it stings if I put it straight on my face.   
Differin, at 0.3%, is still prescription; this one, at a lesser strength, is available over-the counter. While it is referred to as an "acne treatment," the main ingredient is a retinoid, which means it's for anti-aging too.
The same premise applies as with the AHA; apply Cetaphil first, then this on top. (A dermatologist told me to do that, by the way.) 

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Mamma Lushon

Every family has their own language, and that unique vocabulary can live on. 

In my family's case, cutely mispronounced baby words can cling for decades. For instance, as a toddler, Luke said "dahngess" (which is actually Yiddish for "worries") instead of "downstairs," and to this day, we say "dahngess." Then the next generation of kinfauna left their mark, and in short order. Luke's now 6-year-old son used to say "chapach" instead of "garbage," and I seem to be stuck saying the same. 

Then there are the European pronunciations from my parents' backgrounds. "Interasant" for "interesting"; "stoordy" for "sturdy"; "banant" for "banana." 

Then, when one marries, the spouse introduces their own family language. One of the reasons why I feel like I can be completely myself with Han is his ready acceptance of my verbal quirks, as this vocabulary is so much a part of me that it's unthinkable that I can let it go. 

"Shoin nisht the vaaser," Babi would say when washing hands. "Frozen meat doesn't rot," Zeidy would say regarding the health benefits of frigid weather. Quoting my grandparents, my parents, my siblings, the kinfauna—it's comfort, it's continuity. 

I thought of this while reading Deborah Tannen's "My Mother Speaks Through Me." Her mother died nearly 15 years ago.
I was grateful to be reminded that whenever I open my mouth to speak and my ears to hear, my mother is still with me.
Luke is a scientist; he told his kids that Babi will always be with them because they carry her DNA, she is literally in them. DNA can be seen in action, I have noted. I look like my father's side of the family, but Luke constantly says my mannerisms are like Ma's. When I echo her words, when she quoted her parents' Yiddish and Hungarian, I feel as though she is not gone, but with me. 

Monday, December 24, 2018

"Main Hoon Na"

(For those who haven't yet seen last season's black-ish, stop reading now.)

The last few episodes from black-ish season 4 got rather dark. I mean that literally. The screen became dim as we witnessed the fracturing of Dre and Bow. 

No reason is shown. Sure, he attacks her for "always doing this" and she counters with him "always doing that," but is that reason enough for him to get a new residence? 

They are on the road to divorce until he gets a call in the middle of the night. Bow is sobbing hysterically that her father died, and Dre's immediate reaction is, "I'm coming over." And he stays with her. And stays. And stays. He has no desire to leave, nor does she want him to.
"Main hoon na," the Indian declaration of love, is not "I love you," but "I am here for you." Avraham said "Hineni" to Yitzchak, even when he believed he would be slaughtering him in a matter of hours. He would be there for his son. (As opposed to Hagar, as I heard from Rabbi Fohrman, who cast Yishmael under a bush, abandoning him because she could not bear to witness his demise.)

Love is not merely an emotion. Love is action, in presence, in commitment. When Maria Shehata and her boyfriend sought out couples' therapy, they were advised to end their relationship. But they chose not to. 
I asked my Ukrainian therapist to weigh in. She didn’t even look up from her phone when she said, “Only fools marry for love.”
She is probably right. If we do get married, it won’t be for love. It will be because we stuck it out and built ourselves up as a couple until we had huge relationship biceps and triceps from all the times we were there for each other.
Main hoon na.  

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Hey, They Said It, Not Me.

In today's secular culture, it would be considered odd to say that working and socializing with the opposite sex is uncomfortable. But survey says: Yes, people are uncomfortable. 

"When Job Puts Sexes Together, Workers Cringe" by Claire Cain Muller (that was the print title) describes how there are enough individuals who are very much aware that it is not a simple thing to be alone with someone who is not a significant other or family member, whether in an office or a bar. 

Today's world likes to operate on the "ideal" mode—in an "ideal" world, I can do such-and-such and there won't be any negative consequences. But the world is not ideal.
After the rape of Tamar by Amnon, the rules of yichud were enacted. That incident occurred, what, 3,000 years ago? Do any of us think that human nature has changed all that much? Not really. The women quoted in the article are leery of sexual harassment. Just having the awareness that a door should remain ajar is enough to cast a different tone on a man-and-woman meeting. 

I haven't been to any mixed-seating weddings since my marriage; prior, there were times when I was placed at a mixed-singles table. It was always disastrous. Making conversation was sometimes confused with romantic interest, leaving me wishing I could bolt from the festivities before the main course. 

I don't know if it is my quasi-Boro Park upbringing, or my own personal squeamishness, but it makes me nervous when there is too much . . . friendliness between unconnected men and women. Sometimes it can look rather similar to flirting. Lines can get crossed faster than one realizes. 

Monday, December 17, 2018

The Repurchased! V, Eyes

I was shocked that I haven't done one of these in a long while. Well, no time like now, when I've recently restocked during Sephora's annual November sale. 

This puppy alone gives monster lashes; applied with the Maximizer, then followed by two coats, leaves one devastating. I've tried the other versions of Diorshow but only this one stole my heart.
However, it is not a good option for Shabbos Face. It clumps if it comes in contact with a pillow. 
I'll admit, it took me time to warm to this product, even though everyone loves it.
I recently became further enamored because unlike my previous eye pencil love, this one does not diminish in creaminess and pigment no matter how long I've had this unpackaged. Creaminess means less tugging when applying (I buff it in with an eyeliner smudge brush), and pigment means it stays the same deep black always. 
Whilst called a "concealer," I treat it like a "color corrector." As I have repeatedly mentioned, I have monster, epic, terrifying dark circles. Concealer alone usually leaves the area looking gray.
The peach tone in this powder neutralizes the purple of the circles, and then I apply the concealer on top. (I've been using powder concealers as cream ones tend to make my eyeliner smudge horrifically.)

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Your Story is Not My Story III

The rain falls on the just and unjust alike. Illness has no rhyme or reason, striking the health-conscious and the McDonald fressers both. Perfectly capable individuals struggle with parnassah, while seeming incompetents ride the money train. The loveliest of couples can clash with their children, while the most clueless of parents will be respected by awesome kids. 

Yet, singles are all the same. The entire group is simply too picky.  

A friend WhatApped me a letter written by a 36-year-old single where he reveals his recent epiphany. He is quick to list (more than once) his wonderful merits, and how he expected the most wonderful woman in kind. If she actually had human flaws, she got her marching orders. 

However, looking back, especially considering the unpalatable shidduchim being suggested to him now, he has discovered he could have married so many other women who would have been "good enough." If only he (Mr. Perfect) would have deigned to overlook their lack of perfection, he would at least be wed and a father by now (he seems to assume that all these "good enough" women wanted to marry him in turn). Don't do the same thing as me, etc.

This letter left a bad taste in my mouth. 

Some may view his enlightenment as a good thing, as the picky man is reborn into a pragmatic one. As all singles are picky (it has been established) they should all become pragmatic too, like him.

But, again, we aren't all the same. This single came to a personal realization—and is still single, mind you—but since when are personal realizations meant to apply to an entire demographic? 

This chap even writes that those who aren't looking for perfection, but who have a few criteria, are being too picky. This is one serious pendulum swing. His policy wasn't correct before; it does not follow that a 180—for EVERYONE—is now the only answer. 

In my case, the few men that I was interested in seeing again—and they were all quite human, as I am—were not interested in me. No one else was a viable possibility at all. Han was so different from anyone else I had ever gone out with, even the ones I was willing to see again, that I could never say that I could have married "many" other men. Or even any other man.

But this is my case. This was my situation, my experience. There may be others like me, but I do not assume all singles are me—not even Han. 

We are INDIVIDUALS. We are DIFFERENT. Singlehood could be a self-inflicted state—or, it could simply be that not everyone is supposed to meet their soulmate in their low 20s. 

Our community likes these epiphany letters. It makes things seem so clear, so simple—and promulgate the stereotype that singles are their own worst enemy. After all, this guy figured it out! He was being too picky! As you are, obviously! 

I don't know this guy from a hole in the wall. I'm not taking life advice from him. But I do know me. So I will do what I have to do. Without insisting that EVERYONE else follow suit. 

Monday, December 10, 2018

Chicken Soup

Ma would make a big batch of chicken soup and freeze portions for a few weeks. I used to use her ancient pot (below, on left) but I became exasperated how quickly I needed to allot a Sunday to make another one. So off to Amazing Savings, and I got myself this baby (on right).
I don't make soup exactly how she did. Well, her method was always changing. My brother-in-law's friend was scandalized that she didn't use leek, so in leek went. My sister's sister-in-laws were laughing she didn't put in a tomato, so in went a tomato. Then she heard somewhere about chucking in a golden beet for color, and it does add a lovely shade. 

I've messed around further with the method. My sister, whose brood are deadly serious about chicken soup, has had to hone her skill finely. She simmers it overnight, so I now devote an entire day to its construction. 

I read in an article about browning the chicken before adding in the water for deeper flavor. Cool. 

But I added my own step to cut back on the necessary skimming of gunk: I pre-boil the chicken in the smaller pot for about five minutes—not too long. Then my soup is a lot cleaner. (It's naaaasty what's left behind!)

I personally love the vegetables from the soup (my in-laws considerately keep it for me). I use not only the aromatics (onion, celery, carrots), I gleefully add parsnip (not too many, Ta's not crazy about the flavor), turnips, and rutabaga (oh, rutabaga, mmm). 

My niece commented that my soup tastes like Ma's, and her mother said that's because I use dill. 'Cause I love dill. 

Ma used chicken legs, but for all that merciless simmering, I use chicken bones. I add turkey legs too, but keep on the skin because that's where all the fabulous collagen is. 

For seasoning, I definitely undersalt (still can't escape Ma's high blood pressure, even though she ain't here no more). Peppercorns, red pepper flakes, garlic cloves, bay leaves, fresh parsley, and again, fresh dill. Mmm. 

Straining is vital. Cheesecloth! Or at least use a fine mesh strainer. 

Behold, nine to ten weeks of golden joy. I try to let it cool as much as possible before pouring it over into plastic, then into the freezer it goes.

Friday, December 7, 2018

TGI Chanuka

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

"The Old Consciousness"

One of the difficulties of the current modern age is the application of contemporary perspectives to that of, say, biblical times. 

For instance, Torah detractors grumble about a number of incidents that, by today's sentiments, are brutal and sexist. 

We have a lot of mass murder at the hands of the shoftim and melachim. Dovid, our paragon of divine servitude, was up to his eyeballs in blood. Women don't seem to get a fair shake either (Pilegesh b'Givah? Shiver).
While reading a book review of a novel retelling The Iliad from the female perspective, the reviewer, Geraldine Brooks (a favorite of mine) notes: 
Henry James famously warned historical novelists never to go back more than 50 years beyond their own era, since “the old consciousness” would surely elude them.  
Brooks herself writes of historical characters, and she does say she does not concur with his opinion. 

There are a rare few who can go back and see, but the rest of us have limited imaginations, I think. 

Feminists often cite the Bible or Jewish law as being sexist. Yet that is their misapplication of modern sensibilities. The world, in general, was crueler—to everyone

In another fifty years, society will probably view us as being more brutal and sexist as they are. I'm not saying everything was awesome millennia ago, but it was different. It is not fair to see their norms through our eyes, for they knew things that we don't anymore. 

Monday, December 3, 2018

Shidduch TV

Yes, I know, I'm about ten years behind the times, but I'm now watching Srugim
I asked Han if he had ever watched it, and he said he had started to when he was single, but found it too depressing. 

I totally get that. 

The show does bum me out. It cuts a little too close to home. It also doesn't help that I don't really find the characters . . . likable.  

Reut is humorless and sharp-tongued. Nati is self-absorbed, casually churning through dates without care, frightened of any "real" connection. Yifat is hard yet brittle, mooning over the nonreciprocating Nati.

Even the ones who are nice(ish) make pretty bad mistakes. Hodaya, who comes from a home more to the right (rabbi's daughter) than the life she's currently living, is constantly operating under a cloud of embarrassment. She dodges family members on the street, afraid of their reaction to her jeans. She's equally ashamed to tell her chiloni boyfriend that she's religious, even when she breaks up with him over it. 

Amir is a recent divorcee who tries to do the right thing, but is finding it frustrating as women are turned off by his previous marriage. That also leads him to goof up. 

I realized while I was talking with Han about it why it's a bummer: it encourages the notion that singles are screw-ups (they do say "dofek" a lot). They're single because they can't get their acts together. Which isn't fair to the rest of us screw-ups. Sorry, singles.

And yet, I'm addicted. It does remind me, all too keenly, of those years of unknowing, when you're not sure what you are "supposed" to be doing, flailing and praying. 

Maybe because us frummies have few entertainment outlets that display our lives that I'll take it and run. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

To Construct, Not Criticize

She was expressing frustration how her son became insulted when she corrected him. 

"He should want constructive criticism!" 

"Why should he?" I said, laughing. "No one wants criticism! Do you?"
I was reminded of this while reading Judith Newman's review for marriage self-help books. There's a line from her favorite, written by a divorced divorce attorney, James Sexton. 
He points out, for example, that what we all like to think of as constructive criticism of our mate is actually just criticism. He’s a big believer in training people through redirection and praise for even tiny changes, kind of like throwing bushels of “Whoosa Good Boy!” at your dog. And this guy is nothing if not a realist. Holding sex back as punishment is counterproductive, but suddenly becoming way more affectionate and enthusiastic when your mate does something right: That’s the way to go.
It's a very careful line. If criticism—from any source, in any relationship—isn't carefully thought out and carefully relayed, it is simply hurtful and degrading. It has been my mantra for some time now that "Do you want to be right, or do you want to be heard?" 

There's a way to relay information that it can remain palatable to the receiver. But the message cannot be accepted at once. We have to allow others to save face, and save some battles for another day.

Monday, November 26, 2018

A Rose By Any Other Name

I was one of three girls in my high school class that had a legal name that didn't match my Hebrew one. I suppose it's unsurprising that those girls also had European backgrounds. 

Supposedly, my legal name is the same legal name my Hebrew namesake, my great-grandmother, had back in Czechoslovakia, so I have some heritage there too. 

For those who have read Herman Wouk's EXCELLENT Inside, Outside knows that the dual-named Jew is an ancient tradition. 

So I found it entertaining to read this article how Dear Abby ruffled feathers by advising Indian parents not to give their newborn a "complicated" name that'll make their lives difficult. 
For some readers, Ms. Phillips’s advice was simply practical. “She’s right. Get over it,” Ike J. Awgu, a lawyer from Ottawa, wrote on Twitter.
Mr. Awgu, whose father is from the former Biafra and whose mother is from Antigua, said that while his given first name was Ikechukwu, certainly not the easiest name to pronounce, his middle name is Jonathan. He goes by “Ike,” he said, because it is easier for Canadians to understand. Yet he snickered at the suggestion that he was in any way abandoning his culture by using a simplified version of his real name.
The reality, Mr. Awgu, 34, said, is that long, foreign-sounding names do not end up sticking. “The practical effect of that is nobody calls them that,” he said. “So they end up with some truncated name that is Anglicized any way.”
Although, when I asked a classmate then why she didn't have a legal name, she scoffed. "Schools are filled with people with ethnic names. Mine is going to stand out?" 

True. My college was a veritable United Nations. It was hysterical watching the professors turn blue pronouncing all the quirky names. I have Chinese co-workers, and some felt a need to Anglicize their names while others do not. It makes no difference. In Europe one hundred years ago, there was no diversity. 
Most of my nieces and nephews have legal names, usually when the Hebrew matched up to an easily pronounceable English (like "Simon" for "Shimon"). But if their names did not, then the Hebrew went on the birth certificate.  

Like Mr. Awgu said, though, going by a Hebrew name has nothing to do with Jewish pride or lack thereof. In my case, it feels a bit like mesora. I'm probably going to continue the practice. I actually find it a reminder that while we may interact with the outside world, we aren't of it. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Fave Recipes V

I religiously read the New York Times Food section every week, but for the most part I'm not keen on their recipes. Too complicated. Too ethnic. Too treif. 

But every once in a while, I hit upon something with potential. Although harissa is probably the furthest thing from the comforts of my Hungarian seasoning, I was intrigued.  

I bought harissa online, and based on the online comments altered the recipe a bit. 
  • It called for 3 tablespoons; I used 1 1/2. 
  • It called for skin on; all my chicken goes naked. 
  • It called for shallots; eh, I used leek. 
  • It called for chicken stock; I didn't bother. (The following week I made it again at Han's request, but since I had leftover soup I used it. It made the sauce too thin.) 
  • It called for cilantro; I hate cilantro. Nuh-uh. 
  • One commenter mentioned a splash of white wine; I had an open bottle of Chateauneuf, why not?
  • It called for a very short cooking time; I give all my chicken thighs/legs a solid 90 minutes of simmering. 
My audience loved it. Like I wrote, when asked, Han requested it again. I forgot to take a picture. Here's the one that goes with the recipe:

I linked this one a few centuries ago, and it is worth a reminder. This salad dressing is perfection. It's the only one I use, really, besides the homemade tossing of haphazard ingredients (olive oil, vinegar, garlic powder, black pepper).
Via Aggies Kitchen
I bought a bag of "Power Greens" from Costco (kale, collard greens, and spinach), chopped up a cucumber and an orange pepper, then drizzled this on top. 

Han requested a big bottle of it to use at work. Thank you, Rena! 
I linked this recipe eeeeeeoooooons ago, and it's still a winner. I'm obsessed with lemon. I think it's the perfect palate-cleanser following a heavy Shabbos meal. 

I don't use a microwave; I make the yolk batter on a teeny-tiny flame on the stove while constantly stirring. Nor do I bother with the whites over boiling water; eggs tend to be pasteurized, and after eating raw cake batter my whole life I have yet to be felled by glorious eggs.
Via Confidently Keto. I did not serve mine with lemon slices on the glass.
I made this when hosting a guest for Friday night. I topped the mousse with some blueberries. The guest flashed me a thumb's up in appreciation.   

I do think that now I have a palate less reliant on sweet, I should try cutting back on the sugar and see what happens. 

Monday, November 19, 2018

Shidduch Lit VI

  • The Way Men Act by Elinor Lipman
Lipman's prose is swift and snappy; she does not condescend to her audience, a trait I find appealing. 

Our narrator, Melinda, is 30, and feels her singleness keenly. She has returned to her roots, a picturesque college town, after a failed foray into the greater world, working as a florist for her cousin's shop.

What makes this book Shidduch Lit for me is Melinda's dating perspective. She is determined to pair up, and undergoes disappointment followed by disappointment. Here is one scene following a botched date with someone she shouldn't have gone out with in the first place: 
"You're hurt," said [he]. 
"I'm used to it," I said.  

But she navigates the minefield with self-confidence. She may get knocked down, but she gets back up again, without self-pity or wound-licking. 

This book, obviously, does not have the old-world poshy-woshy rules of courtship, so it has the UA (Un-Aidel) rating established by Bad4.  
  • Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding 
My sister brought by her copy of Bridget Jones' Baby, and I sheepishly confessed I hadn't read the first two books. She was scandalized.
I slunk to the library and applied myself to the 1996 original novel. Wow. Really long time ago. I remember when I read snatches of it from my sister's newlywed nightstand. But I had never consumed it in its entirety. 

Bridget is in her thirties; single; obsesses about her cigarette, calorie, and alcohol consumption; wonders what is wrong with her that she's alone; and can't stomach the company of the "Smug Marrieds." 

Cigarettes and alcohol aside (my vice is sugar), I found this book to be an excellent candidate for Shidduch Lit: Un-Aidel Edition (like seriously, totally, epically Un-Aidel) so my audience has been warned. 

I was quite surprised how familiar everything was, in terms of a single's thought process. 

It is supposedly a vague knockoff of Pride & Prejudice, except Elizabeth was chock-full of self-confidence; she was only self-conscious when her family behaved badly socially. 

I will confess to having seen the movie, more than once, simply because it was often on, but as always, find the book more satisfying. The movie insisted on a misunderstanding that I found quite frustrating. So I'm quite pleased with the book.  

Friday, November 16, 2018

Told Ya

My sister isn't as obsessed with makeup as I am. But I'm managing to corrupt her, bit by bit. 

After a shopping outing when I made a point to reapply my lipstick (with a lip brush), she texted me a few days later that she did the same before taking the car to the mechanic.
"Everyone is so nice," she noticed. 


Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Dating Like a Peacock, Revisited

Han, a fellow animal lover, was showing me a video of a male clownfish attempting to woo the larger female. The way he goes about it is by shivering

"Look at these poor guys knocking themselves out," I said. "Why is it so different in the animal world than in the human? Here, women kill themselves in makeup and heels to get a man. Everything about the animal world is the other way around. The males are pretty, the males do the pursuing." I even wrote about it a number of years back.
But then, a dvar Torah by Rabbi Noson Weisz explained the disparity to me: It's because of the chet. 

When Adam and Chava were created, Chava called the shots in terms of interacting with the outside world. That's why the Nachash approached her, as opposed to Adam; she was the one in charge. 

But after she messed up, she lost her leadership role. Additionally, the ensuing curse physically diminished her, causing her to rely on male protection for survival.

In the wild, females rarely need protection from males. If the males stick around to raise the offspring, it's an equal-ish role (he may do more). 

However, in these days leading up to Mashiach, the curses are lessening. Men can sit in a climate controlled office to earn their bread, rather than by the "sweat of his brow." The Industrial Revolution created a means for a woman to support herself if needed, rather than by entering in potentially unfulfilling yet financially beneficial marriages. While childbirth is still unpleasant, women are much less likely to die from it anymore. 

In these days, where the original equality is within sight, perhaps women can stop trying so hard. You want us, fellas? 

Let's get you some peacock feathers to try on.  

Monday, November 12, 2018

Jacques' Poached Salmon

Ma was the master of pan-cooked salmon. I have observed her making it for a number of years. I wrote down her recipe too. 

But I can't do it. 

"I overcooked it again," I wailed to my sister. "I can't do it!" 

"I can't do it either," she commiserated. 

Fish is a delicate creature. One second, it is raw; blink, it is overcooked. I was desperate for a method to consistently grasp that small window of soft, almost creamy succulence.

After overcooking the salmon Ma's way three times, I gave up. Recalling the delights of poached salmon, I researched like mad. All roads lead to Jacques Pépin, of course.

Most poached salmon recipes call for twenty minutes of cooking. I learned from Jacques that salmon slices only need—get this—FOUR to FIVE. Then, by keeping the lid closed, the residual heat steams out any lingering rawness. 

The results? Soft, almost creamy succulence, every time

I use this method whenever I poach fish, even classic white fish (but that's another post).

The irony is that I discovered this recipe during my engagement, when Han was coming for a Shabbos. But it turns out he's not a fish fan, excepting these (whereas Ta considers canned fish "cat food"). 
Poached Salmon à la Jacques

Salmon in 6 oz. (or so) slices
1 onion, sliced into thick discs
1 carrot, chopped in half and lengthwise
1 stalk celery
1 sprig of fresh thyme or a few sprinkles dried
2 bay leaves 
1 to 2 tablespoons lemon juice 
1/2 cup white wine
1 to 2 cups water 
salt and generous amount of black pepper (1/2 teaspoon, says Jacques) 

1. Combine all the above ingredients, except for salmon, in a pot. Bring to boil. Simmer for 20 minutes or so.

2. Ensuring the flame is on a low simmer, place the salmon on top of vegetables (the onion in thick discs is helpful for this). Close pot and set a timer for FOUR (4) to FIVE (5) minutes, depending on the quantity and size of the fish. DO NOT LIFT LID. 

3. When timer rings, turn off flame. DO NOT LIFT LID. Set a timer for TEN (10) minutes. 

4. When timer rings, LIFT LID. 

5. When cool enough to handle (or even before, if one has seared out sensation from their hands), transfer to a container and strain in the broth. Cover and chill. 

C'est magnifique.  

Friday, November 9, 2018

DIY Wart Begone

I had an innocuous little wart on one finger. Not particularly noticeable, but I wanted it gone. 

The last time I treated warts I was a kid. I had one on the back of my hand, and classmates were shrieking "What is THAT?" in exaggerated horror. Ta bought me a treatment kit and it vanished rather quickly. 

This time around, I remembered that I had heard once that wart treatment is salicylic acid. The main ingredient in aspirin is salicylic acid.
I double-checked with the internet and confirmed I wasn't (completely) crazy. Before bed, I dissolved an aspirin tablet in a dab of aloe, applied it to the wart, and covered with a band-aid. 

In a couple of weeks—vanished. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

From Bad4's Shidduch Lit

I never properly read The Outside World by Tova Mirvis. I managed a few rushed pages here and there years ago when I came across it one Shabbos in my brother's house, enough to get the gist but not a proper read. 

So I decided to take it out. While she does presumably depict the frum world, I found her take a little . . . confusing. 

Our (presumed) protagonist, Tzippy, is 22 and dating. She is suffocating under the pressure, and while she emits sweetness when she is outdoors, her mother Shayna is ducking from her indoor fury. 

What I found contradictory was that Tzippy wants to get married, but then after what seems to be a promising date decides she wants to go to Israel (she didn't go to seminary, and wants to experience it three years late). 

There's no conversation about self-improvement or even God, really, in the book. A "good Bais Yaakov girl" would occupy her time, presumably, with shiurim, but there is no conversation about um, kibbud eim? 

Like, none.  

What is also disturbing is how most of the characters—of various levels of observance—have fantasies of fleeing. Running, flying, freeing themselves of the bonds of frumkeit. There are very few examples of fulfilled Jews, more those who focus on the restrictions, as opposed to the positives. 

There is repeated imagery of little girls fantasizing about weddings. It just makes our community seem so . . . small and generic. (I personally didn't fantasize about my wedding as a kid. I was pining for a horse.) 

I agree with the premise that a 22-year-old girl should not be panicking about marriage. But let's not throw away the baby with the bathwater. 

Mirvis, in recent years, has officially left the fold (she even wrote a memoir about it). The Outside World does not reflect much spiritual satisfaction that can be found in a religius lifestyle, and I'm assuming that is a reflection of her personal perspective, to which she is, I suppose, entitled. Yet it would be nice if there was a book available in public libraries that found our lifestyle actually pleasant.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Too Above, Too Beyond

I've become rather attached to a Jewish cooking group on social media. They've been very helpful, really. While the majority of posted recipes do not pass my self-defined "healthy" criteria, they've provided plenty of inspiration and options. 

As the "fun" parshios have swung back, the feed is cluttered now with women posting their "parsha desserts." Cakes covered in blue fondant and animal crackers. Rainbow blondies. Star cookies. Some breathtakingly elaborate.,c_limit/mare_cranberry_and_raspberry_star_cookies_h.jpg
Group members tend to post what they made, which can give others much-needed ideas when they're tired of making the same chicken for supper three nights in a row. But there was some backlash to all the parsha postings, to the point that the administrator gave everyone a scolding. If you don't want to make it, then don't make it!, she said. That doesn't mean you have to be snarky and disapproving!  

Am I the sort of gal who'll spend my Friday carefully crafting a "mabul cake"? (I still don't know what that is). No. Not me. 

I do think it's an excellent idea to get children excited about the parsha. However. However: 

I'm pretty stressed on Fridays. I pride myself in not overdoing things, but after hitting the stories at 7:30, cleaning chicken, and praying I don't burn the broccoli again, I can get pretty busy. I'm also unwilling to do certain things, like stay up past my bedtime, to make a special something for Shabbos that, chances are, will not get the reception I was expecting for so much effort. 

Cooking for Shabbos can be overwhelming. When one is overwhelmed, one can get . . . testy. Maybe a little yell-y. So if any wife, mother, or daughter lost it because of the complicated desserts that are being made in the name of Torah, IT WASN'T WORTH IT. Because no matter how "ooh, aah" that confection is, people would rather not get their heads taken off.
So if all of those mothers made multi-colored challahs with a smile on their faces and a song in their hearts, kol ha'kavod! You are amazing. But if one cross word was uttered, one irritated look flashed, because they took on more than they should have—

It missed the point. Buy the cookies instead.  

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

The Good Person

I noticed what a difference religion makes in the grieving process. Now I see what a different religion makes in . . . everything. 

I discovered this when reading, of all things, an in-depth article about the show The Good Place. I don't even watch the show (yet), but I adore Kristen Bell and Ted Danson so I have plans to.
The show's creator, Michael Schur, fell headfirst into philosophy while creating and maintaining this series. Schur seems to be obsessed with niceness and ethics (he has a "no jerks" policy for anyone working for him). 
The idea that excited Schur, for his next sitcom, was both simple and infinitely complex: what it means to be a good person. It was an idea he had been obsessed with in different forms for many years — and that had crystallized for him back in 2005, when Jennifer Philbin, who is now his wife, got into a very minor traffic accident with a man driving a Saab. No one was hurt, and no visible damage was done, and yet the incident would become, Schur later wrote, “one of the most interesting and complicated events of my adult life.” When the Saab driver filed what Schur thought was an unnecessary insurance claim and demanded $836 for bumper damage, Schur countered with a grandly high-minded alternative. If the man would drop his claim, Schur said, he would donate the $836 to victims of Hurricane Katrina. Schur’s plan went viral, and friends and supporters jumped in to pledge more than $30,000 — an incredible philanthropic victory — and yet Schur began to feel a growing sense of unease. He suspected that his mission was not, perhaps, entirely righteous. There was an element of grandstanding to the gesture, of moral one-upmanship, and Schur spoke about it with his family and colleagues and even professors of ethics. He became fascinated by the ways people can rack up ethical credits and debits all at the same time. This, eventually, would become the subject of his show.
It made me realize that Judaism would have a relatively simple answer to this question. Yes, perhaps there would be "grandstanding" and "moral one-upmanship," but it doesn't matter what one's motivation is, as long as charity is going to the right people.  

A character says, "What makes us good is our bonds to other people and our innate desire to treat them with dignity.” Sounds right. 
In a low moment, I mentioned to Hieronymi (the show's "consulting philosopher") that American culture seems to have abandoned ethics. She disagreed strongly. “It’s amazing to me how moralized and moralistic we seem to be,” she said, “especially right now. It’s just a cultural blamefest.” All the arguments that rage every day across social media and cable news — racism, reverse racism, statutes of limitations, reparations — are fundamentally about ethics. Even the top-down distractions meant to derail these conversations are conducted under the guise of earnest concern for right and wrong.
When people complain "how bad things are nowadays," they don't seem to realize that the world used to operate without any morals whatsoever. Lower classes were exploited and treated like chattel. Life was cheap. Existence was about getting ahead, at the expense of everyone and everything. 

Religion used to be the only source of ethics, and even then the supposedly devoted failed miserably. But contemporary agnostics, atheists, and those who follow organized faith all want to be good people. 
Schur told me he wants to stress, in his show, the hard work of morality. So much of our ethical life is about thankless grinding drudgery, daily feats of internal strength, a constant invisible resistance.
“It feels, all the time in life, like a bad decision is right in front of you,” Schur said. “No matter who you are, there’s the opportunity to make bad decisions and hurt people. And it takes work just to keep not making those bad decisions. It takes a lot of concentrated effort to do the right thing all the time. Hopefully, you get so used to it, and it becomes such a part of who you are, that it doesn’t take work — you’re on autopilot making good decisions. But not always, and for a lot of people, not ever. You don’t have to look very hard to see a group of people in this country who have given in and are just making the worst decisions you can make. . .”
That's the perk of religion. We are raised, from childhood, that certain behaviors are unacceptable, and it is second nature for many of us. Sure, each of us does struggle with certain not-nice drives, but we know that is what our purpose here is. 
In the face of so much badness, Schur said, it is always tempting to give up. But the heroic thing is simply to try.
“You have to work at it, every day,” he said. “It’s so hard. The temptation will always be there to go: ‘Oh, no one’s watching. No one’s looking. I’ll just do this.’ Whatever ‘this’ is. If you throw a coffee cup at a garbage can and you miss, you could just walk away. The amount of bad you put into the universe is very minimal. But someone else is gonna have to come along and pick that thing up, and it sucks. It’s not that person’s problem, it’s your problem. And it’s a very slippery slope. . . " 
We believe that we are watched, all the time. I heard a speaker once ask: "If you were alone in a room with a sandwich on Yom Kippur, would you eat it?" The audience was horrified. "But if you were alone in a room with a pile of money, would you take any?" The audience was now thoughtful. But we still do believe that we are never "alone in a room." We will always be accountable. 
“And now the next thing is like, whatever — you cheat on your taxes. And you get away with it, because government bureaucracy is bad at picking up on tiny errors people make. And you’re like: All right, nobody got hurt. Because you’re not thinking about the school 82 miles away that couldn’t afford new textbooks because they didn’t get enough tax revenue and had to lower the school budget. All you’re thinking about is, I saved $400 by cheating on my taxes, that’s pretty cool. The window just keeps shifting, and eventually you become the kind of person who is making the bad, selfish, wrong decision by default instead of the good one. And then 15 years have gone by.”
We also believe that every person can achieve salvation, even in the blink of an eye. 
". . . Do you give up or do you try? And they decide to try. And that is what the whole season is like. We’ll keep trying as long as we can. We’ll keep trying. No one is perfect. No one will ever win the race to be the best person. It’s impossible. But, especially since starting this show, I just think everyone should try harder. Including me."

Monday, October 29, 2018

Love and Fear

I was reading Safy-Hallan Farah's tale of driving when this line made me laugh: 

"Like many immigrant daughters, I fear my mom more than I fear God, death or the police . . ."

I was born in the U.S., but Ma was not. And I feared her. 

Don't get me wrong: of course I loved her. 

But I feared her. I was more terrified of her than the pediatrician—I wouldn't scream in his office, because she did not condone "scenes." When we pulled up to the public high school building so I could pick up work papers, she bellowed at me to go get them on my own already (Luke was the only one who was able to resist her fury). If I (we) said one word out of line, hoooooo boy. 

Yet because of my relationship with her, I understand what it means to love and fear Hashem.

Ma was still cuddly. I would crawl into her bed when I was little (and not so little) and she would croon endearments in Hungarian. She cheerfully made our favorites for our birthdays. She was big on kisses and hugs.  

We are given parents, we are told, so we should know how to interact with our unseen Papa. We are required to both love and fear Him. So it would make sense that we should both love and fear our parents. 

Strictly loving our parents wouldn't be sufficient; after all, when love is divorced from awe, disrespect can creep in. 

Whereas only fearing one's folks leaves many a hapless adult on the shrink's couch.  

Rabbi Ephraim Stauber said that if you love something, you are afraid to jeopardize it. One doesn't disrespect someone they love, because they are afraid to damage the relationship. One guards that which they love—like my favorite pair of sneakers from my niece's questing eye—because they are afraid of it being taken away. 

I have seen many a parent make themselves into doormats for their kids, but from what I learned from my upbringing is that they aren't doing their kids any favors. Children have to learn the concept of parental respect because how else will they respect anything in life? How will they respect an unseen Hashem? 

And the parents who don't demonstrate their love, focusing on submission only, create an image of a cold, unloving Creator who spends all day sharpening His lightning bolts.  

It's all about balance.

Friday, October 26, 2018


  • "The soul is a verb . . .  not a noun."—The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Rams vs. Kudus

I was reading an interesting article about the various animal horns that have been used for shofars. The author described the kudu horn, which was utilized by the Teimanim as they didn't have ready access to sheep. He mentioned various ibex and antelope as well.
But he concludes with the reminder to his audience that while all these various horns seem alluring, the original mitzvah calls for a plain ol' ram's horn, so in this time of easy access, a ram's horn should always be used for official shofar blowing.
My nephew happened to have received a kudu shofar for his bar mitzvah, and he spent Rosh HaShana pottering around the house tooting away, to everyone's annoyance. 

It made me realize, again, how we can get so enthused with new, shiny things that we forget that nothing is new and shiny to Hashem. He said to use a ram's horn. 

"But there are cooler things out there!" He knows. He still said to use a ram's horn.
"But get a load of this insane horn! Isn't it so much more interesting than the ram? You get the ram all the time! Let's shake things up a little. Give You some novelty."  

He created the insane horn. He's well aware there is one. He still said to use a ram's horn. 

How often do we fall into that trap? 

"Ah, a mitzvah! But it's been done this way so many times. God must be bored. Let's jazz it up a little!" 

God isn't bored. We're bored. 

If He was capable of boredom, He wouldn't have detailed the commandments with specific minutiae. God is not human, we can't ever make that mistake. He said that He treasures dutiful, punctilious service, under the parameters He requested. 

We cannot presume to know what He really wants. 'Cause He said what He wants. 

Monday, October 22, 2018

Married Guilt

I was born feeling guilty. Is it a European thing, this constant burden of guilt? I should have. I could have. If I did, why did I? 

My newest guilt is, of all things, being married. I feel like proclaiming whenever I meet a single, "I didn't get married at 21! I was a there's-no-hope-for-her-let's-get-her-some-cats 32 on my wedding day! Don't let the sheitel fool you: I'm really just like you!",c_limit/catladylede.gif
Which is totally, completely perverse.  

I wonder if, somehow, my very wedded presence grates on singles, the way some marrieds got on my nerves just by breathing. "Was it something she did? Did she go to the right shadchan? Did she act the right way? Did she do the right mitzvos and was so blessed? Or did she simply tranquilize a guy then drag him to the altar?" 

I was in a shtiebel I don't usually go to for Shabbos. I'm aware of, but not friendly with, the family of daughters who sat ahead of me. They happen to all look alike, so I had difficulty figuring out potential ages and whatnot. Another sister arrived, and I was marveling at her thick, luxurious hair until her left hand appeared and made it clear she was married.

Now that I realized her status, I noticed that she carried herself differently than her single sisters. There was an air of assurance, self-confidence, belonging. 

Her sisters' bearing was stiffer, less secure, more hesitant. Did I used to look like them? Do I look like her now? 

I don't like to think I wafted insecurity in my decade + of singleness. That even if I didn't feel it, I fiercely acted to appear assured, self-confident, and like I belonged. 

But did I? Was I fooling myself all that time? Did marriage magically grant me the aura that I had convinced myself I had attained through sheer will? 

In any case, I don't want to appear confident just because I'm married. I don't want singles to think they are so different from me, because, sister, I bolted through that gauntlet on repeat. I'm one of you. I'm still one of you, even though I may not look it anymore. 

Do you believe me? 

Friday, October 19, 2018

Powder to Correct and to Conceal

This was a usual scene following a date with Han: 

I breezily floated through the door, thinking, "At least my makeup was on point." Trotting blithely to the mirror to brush my teeth, the record needle scratched. 

My eye pencil had . . . migrated. Downward. Oh frack. I looked like this all night? The humiliation!
Well, maybe not this bad.
For years, my eyeliner did what it was told. I didn't understand what had changed. Was it my color corrector that I had fallen in love with? Was it making the territory under my eyes to greasy?

I tried applying lid primer. I tried setting the color corrector with the concealer powder. Nothing doing. 

"That it!" I wailed, as my pencil smudged yet again. "I'm done with eyeliner!"

The next morning I picked it up again. I love it so. And we used to get along so well. What changed? 

I don't know. But then I bought a color corrector powder. I then top it when with my trusty concealer powder. Then I apply the pencil on top.

Rewind: What is the purpose of color corrector? I have TERRIFYING dark circles. Like, zombie quality. Concealer alone simply mutes it to an unappealing shade of gray. Color corrector in peachy shades neutralizes the purple, then the concealer on top looks more like my skin tone. 

I still prefer the finish of the cream correctors and concealers, but we can't have it all.