Tuesday, December 30, 2008

T Minus 35 Hours

... in this case the "T" stands for Talent.
You can tell we are getting close to our annual talent night because Eric is dashing around buying sheet music and juggling rehearsal times so that nobody finds out what anybody else is doing... Of course he, as "house pianist" knows everybody's act - well, at least everybody that has a musical component to their act. [and that HAS an act already.... Joey reassures me that he is at his creative best under pressure....]
I'm not giving mine away but I will say that I gave Eric an awesome challenge this year - to find me an act I could do with Avram (cuts the "embarrassment factor" in half - last year we did the famous Abbot and Costello "Who's on First" routine) that is musical in nature (why should the men have all the fun?) but that I don't have to sing for.... tough, no? Well.... he came through.... and that's the only clue I'm giving you.... hey maybe if you guess I can use your ideas for next year ;)

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Eighth Night, Eighth Light - The Wrapup

There's always a sense of wistfulness as we come upon the end of a Yom Tov.
It's been a wonderful week and we are all sorry to see it go.
For those of you who didn't "make the pilgrimage" and want to reminisce or simply enjoy our style of "pirsumei nisa", I'm posting a photo of the final lighting of this year for you, along with a clip of the choir singing Maoz Tzur.

You Like Me..... You Really LIKE Me....!!!

I am completely channeling Sally Field at the 1985 Oscars right now....

The Babysitter has given out blog awards and she has linked me.
Don't we all write in part for validation like this?

Tag - You're It

I guess I should stop whining before I even start and consider myself lucky that I have managed to duck being tagged in a meme for the nearly two years that this blog has been in existence.
And in addition, the meme that Mike in Midwood has tagged me in is a BOOK meme, and we all know what an avid reader I am.

Here are the rules: reach for the nearest book and write the 5th sentence, plus the next two to five, on page 56. Tag five people to do the same (by linking them on your post and commenting on their blog) and don't forget to link the person who tagged you.  

Oh, and of course you've got to list the requisite seven random and/or wierd facts about yourself.

WARNING:  The rules of the meme clearly state not to go hunting for a book you think will "work well" but rather the nearest book. Therefore, I apologize... I have a rather eclectic taste in books and you may all be left scratching your heads.... 

Page 56 of Atul Gawande's Better: A surgeon's notes on performance: (Nearest book because I finally finished it and it's in the "return to the library" pile...)

"Urban police forces began using Kevlar vests in the early 1980's. American troops had them during the Persian Gulf War.  A sixteen-pound Kevlar flak vest will protect a person's "body core" - the heart, the lungs, and the abdominal organs - from blasts, blunt force trauma, and penetrating injuries.  But researchers examining wound registries from the Persial Gulf War found that wounded soldiers had been coming in to medical facilities without their Kevlar on. They hadn't been wearing their vests. So orders were handed down holding commanders responsible for ensuring that their soldiers always wore the vests - however much they might complain about how hot or heavy or uncomfortable the vests were.  Once the soldiers began wearing them more consistently, the percentage killed on the battlefield dropped instantly."
{I know I know that was SIX additional sentences, but I wanted you to hear the whole point of the thought. Now pardon me while I RETURN the book to the pile and avoid any more overdue fines....}

With that out of the way I go on to the seven random facts:
  1. I'm a pretty slow eater.  The only food I eat faster than any member of my family is artichokes.
  2. Some may attribute this to my Germanic heritage but I am obsessively "ordered". The birth of my children even follow a 'pattern'. Boy-girl-boy-girl. Four consecutive hebrew months - the boys on Yud, the girls on Yud Tes. The boys on Taanesim (yes, one was "nidcha").
  3. I used to do research on chickens. I still love all things medical/biological.
  4. I like to refer to myself as hashkafically "middle of the road".  You know what happens when you stand in the middle of the road, don't you?  You get run over from BOTH directions.
  5. I'm sometimes frustrated that I remember so little of my childhood.  Though I still remember the brown Timex watch I got for my tenth birthday.
  6. I carry a camera in my pocketbook at all times.
  7. My family is the most important thing in my life.
Now I see you all ducking and running for cover - - - I tag frumcollegegirl, Daughters in the Parsha, In the Pink, Just Stam and Ricki's Mom ...

Friday, December 26, 2008

Classy Kitsch?

This post has been tumbling around in the vast wasteland that is the deepest recesses of my brain since last  chanukah already. I've wanted to blog about my affection for what could be termed Chanukah Kitsch, but I hesitated because those words conjure up visions of garish magen davids, superhero menorahs and blinky lights, which is definitely NOT where my passions lie.

I'm talking about the handpainted silk chanukah challah cover that I bought Avram a couple of years ago and the nice menorah pin with swarovski crystal flames (OK, and maybe the silver dangle menorah earrings too... but never at the same time....).  Which is why, for the purpose of this post, I'm going to call it Classy Kitsch....

I suppose that is what prompts me to "decorate" the way I do too.... Classy Kitsch simply makes everything more festive.  Which brings me to my newest acquisition.  In honor of Shabbos Chanukah we always prepare some special delicacies for the Friday night meal.  When I was a child it was always a goose or a duck, but frankly, I find both of them too fatty with not enough meat on them.  But I digress..... My point is that delicacies are no fun unless you have people to share them with, and since both my married children had other time sensitive plans, we invited friends over.  Knowing my penchant for "CK Chanukah", they presented us as a hostess gift a lovely set of menorah napkin rings, which actually look a whole lot like Avram's real life menorah :) .
Don't they look pretty?

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

All Clued In

I have a (sheepish) confession to make.
In juxtapostion to my recent post, I have to admit that I think I like the new Clue is better than the old one.
We finally played the game we had been bashing for two nights and I will tell you that it plays very much like the old game, but there are added "intrigue" cards that allow for unusual twists and turns and gameplay by giving individual players one time "powers" to be used at any time at their discretion.
Joey and I are highly competitive, as opposed to Avram, who needs to be woken each time his turn comes around ;)
We enjoyed foiling each other at every turn and gleaning information off one another's efforts.
Joey won (by a hair {and with the help of an intrigue card power I might add....}) and a great time was had by all.
So although I sure wish they still had the Billiard Room, I really like the added interest of the new game.  DEFINITELY *not* dumbed down! If anything, it's more complicated.
Two thumbs up!
Now can somebody please get Joey to stop saying "J'accuse" every time he takes a guess......?

Latkes Revisited

Tonight we will host the second "latke party" of this Chanukah in our home.
Monday night was "family" - tonight will be "friends", though we have been known to blur the lines...

A little known benefit of being the Chief Cook and Entertainer is the prerogative of nibbling on the latkes as they are just emerging from the pan - when they are at the peak their sizzling best.  Of course that spoils the rest of them for me because I know just how good they can taste!

I have been jokingly saying that since we are getting each night's doughnuts from a different locale, I'll be able to announce the winner of "best doughnut" by the end of the chag. The problem is, NONE OF THEM has wowed me yet. Maybe I just don't like doughnuts all that much....

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

No More Lead Pipe in the Conservatory!?!!?

Although Chanukah is definitely about much more than presents, I am not averse to giving my children a gift or two at a time when the family is gathered together and able to appreciate it.
We bought Jennifer the classic board game "Clue" this week, but let me tell you - the classic has been completely revamped for the times!
I guess the manufacturer thought that most kids wouldn't know what a conservatory was anyway and wouldn't want to hang out in a ballroom or a lounge - so they now have a spa, a patio and a guest house.  Joseph was most disturbed to find out there is no more lead pipe and no more wrench!! {I could hear him moaning to himself,  "No more wrench? No wrench??"  for a good ten minutes last night} They have added such items as poison and an axe.
The names are thankfully the same (I think no self respecting parent would sit down to this game if they changed the names!) but they've eliminated the titles in favor of first names.
So it seems the Billiard Room has gone the way of Crayola's "Flesh", "Indian red", "Maize" and "Raw umber" colors.....
Never again will Colonel Mustard be caught in the library with the revolver..........
I feel so old...................

Chanukah In Germany Circa 1930

I found this picture of my father (right) and my uncle playing dreidel in their hometown of Mannheim.
It's nice to see that even though the war robbed them of a lot, they did have some semblance of a childhood before the horrors took over.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

First Night - First Light - First Report

Tonight was relatively low key, seeing as I am still getting over a nasty bout of something (food poisoning? stomach virus?) and I'm not quite ready to tolerate latkes yet (that will be tomorrow night when all the kids come in).
Tonight is the first of two (this year) "Sunday Nights" of Chanukah, which for some reason are marked by a bit of a pilgrimage for a sizable contingent of non-locals to my shul. Granted, our shul is large, with a very large menorah requiring 3 steps to climb up to it (in a previous chazzon's case, 4 steps....) and in the days of Chazzan Frankel z"l, it was quite an experience. It has become such an event that Joey has always said he wanted to sell T-shirts outside of shul. "I attended Chanukah '08 at _____ shul". This year was a bit calmer, due in part, in my opinion, to the weather, coupled with the fact that there's always next Sunday (more candles, more show). I think we need to post an additional sign in our shul's lobby that reads "Welcome to our shul. No flash photography please". Don't these people realize that the constant flashing during the lighting is very disturbing and on top ot that, in a sanctuary the size of ours, IT DOESN'T EVEN WORK??
Oh, and following the tradition that Chanukah is a festival of both lights and miracles, we had a bit of a Chanukah miracle right in our own shul. Half the 18 burned out (for over a year!) light bulbs were replaced this morning (there go my posts discussing "How many Shul House Committee members does it take to change a light bulb?" and our upcoming "if any more bulbs blow - candlelight maariv service"). Let's hope these lightbulbs last MORE than eight days.....

Happy Chanukah

Jennifer Made Pretty Even Prettier

Jennifer made a Chanukah suncatcher today that is the perfect addition to our decorations :)

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Be Careful What You Wish For....

The gaunlet has been officially thrown down, in the form of a comment by Citizen of Brooklyn North:

December 14, 2008 9:41 AM
citizen of brooklyn north said...
totally off topic, but isn't it time to put up a picture of chanuka cookies hanging from your chandelier??

I have never been one to refuse a challenge.

Now truthfully, up until now, the front door of our home always got decorated with the traditional paper dreidels that I made the year Michael was at home in playgroup [is it now 21 years ago???], but the chandelier has been the sole territory of Purim's Haman men and nothing else (see sidebar). CoBN got me thinking....

What's the verdict? I kind of like it :)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Shameless Plug

The new translation of the Hirsch Chumash is complete.
Rav Hirsch's peirushim have been described as "a symphony" and "timeless" and the new translation makes them far more accessible to all.
A very worthwhile purchase along with this.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Keitzad Merakdim?

Heshy over at FrumSatire shared his very amusing experiences at his father's wedding this week. (When my mother recently got remarried, I wasn't even invited, but from the looks of things, I have a feeling her Bnei Brak affair went quite differently {grin})

He also posted additional wedding pics on Facebook - one of which leads me to a rant all my own. Whatever happened to Keitzad Merakdim? What ever happened to fulfilling the mitzvah of being mesameach chosson v'kallah? This infraction seems to manifest itself in different ways as it spans the spectrum of Jewish culture and hashkofos but it no one expression is less egregious than another.

(Interesting that both men are at the same table and accoding to Heshy, in this position the entire time - photo reposted with permission)

If you honestly believe that your learning is MORE important than the previously mentioned mitzvah, then perhaps it would be better for you to decline the invitation and remain in the beis medrash where your kavanah will not be disturbed by the band. Or do you honestly feel that your presence is of such magnitude that merely being seen will enhance everyone's simcha?? When all is said and done, it is a form of hubris. I've seen people stand in the FRONT row at chuppahs with seforim open and it's plain RUDE. The gedolim of yesteryear were apparently tremendous "amei ha'aretz", since this is a relatively new phenomenon.

And don't think the Blackberry Boys are any better! Rude, childish, hubristic - a veritable trifecta. Kindly take it outside (no issur of Blackberries in the bathroom to my knowledge) and please refrain or excuse yourself during video shiurim as well... the glow is quite distracting and we all already know how "important" you are.

That said, I'm going to briefly step over to the other side for a moment by saying that baalei simcha should attempt to make weddings that are small enough to be considered "simchos" as opposed to "conventions" so that their guests will all feel welcome and an integral part in adding to the joy of the day. Addtionally, weddings should run on time out of respect for the guests as well so that they can all get back to their learning and their blackberries as quickly as possible.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Insomnia Chronicles Continued

At the risk of horrifying those who think I disclose entire too much personal information as it is, I think it is no secret that I've been having a lot of trouble getting a good night's rest lately.
Although stress may be high on the list of contributing factors, as well as being unable to get used to the colder temperatures in the apartment at night as winter approaches, Avram and I are once again on the hunt for the "perfect pillow".
Believe me when I tell you that we've tried them all (or nearly all) with no success. We tried synthetic, we tried down, we tried the expensive tempurpedic (bricks!) from Sharper Image (I must say that they honor their return guarantee without a fuss....) and we even ordered the fancy down pillows my sister in law raves about that they use in the Avenue Plaza hotel in Boro Park. We were duly unimpressed with every last one.
So now we have discovered something new. The Waterbase Pillow. You heard me right. A sort of waterbed for your head....
It guzzled four quarts of water and now weighs a ton.
The big question is: Will it provide me with sufficient comfort that I sleep better tonight, or will I actually lose sleep worrying that it will rupture around 3 am?

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Joey Factoid # 29,371

This one came up at dinner last night and I really liked it.
It's a two part question.
Since the first part you either know or you don't know (or you "google" or "wiki", but that's not the point of this exercise...) I'm going to reveal the answer at the end of this post.
But since it is possible to deduce answer to the the second part of the question, I'm going to wait a day or two and then post the answer in the comments section if nobody else beats me to it. Please only post your answer if you come up with it on your own.... no googling or wiki-ing.
So the question is what is the stock symbol for Steinway & Sons and why?




It's not SSP..........It's not STN.....



Are you ready?

OK. It's LVB
Points for getting why :)
Have I mentioned I really like this one :) :) :)

Update: Spoiler Alert!! We have a winner in the comments section {Anonymous! You just know how much I love that }.... I should have told you guys to email me for posting later.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Only My Manicurist Knows For Sure

It's not just hairdressers, apparently....
File this one under, "With so little command of the English language, how do you even know this stuff??"
As I settled myself into the manicurist's chair this afternoon, she pre-empted her usual heavily accented questions of either "So did you cook a lot?" or "So are you finished cooking?" and proudly announced, "So I hear Shirley is coming to you for dinner tonight!".
I love "small community" living but this is getting ridiculous.....

Hang in There.... Shabbos is Coming...

I don't know what in my nature causes me to pick the shortest possible Friday to experiment with menus, but I've had a craving for stuffed mushroom caps for weeks now and this is finally going to be the weekend, so I've been busy...
Shirley and Eric are coming this week so dinner should be pleasant and the acid reflux quotient of every course will be duly calculated ;)
I'm hoping to catch up on some reading as well because several volumes in my mile high stack of books are in imminent danger of becoming overdue (Esther was fascinating last Friday night when she dropped by after dinner and told us about her trip to Berlin but when she left at 11, I was in no shape for reading...) and sometimes I think I single handedly support the public library system with my overdue fines, though I have a suspicion that material maidel might be giving me a helping hand on that score.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Newsies - Two Thumbs Up

Last night we went to see YCDS (Yeshiva College Dramatic Society) perform Newsies.
I must tell you I was blown away! The singing, the choreography, the acting, far exceeded my expectations.
I'm happy to say they played to sold out audiences all week long.
They certainly did justice to the original!

I wonder why they never thought to do this play before.... how much better can you get? Historical fiction that is heart warming and an ALL MALE CAST. I know it's been a while since they've done a musical but it was well worth the extra effort.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Blog Etiquette

With the rapid growth of the blogosphere, I think it's time for Emily Post to issue a new book. I have not been shy in the past about my feelings regarding anonymous postings, but truthfully, there are so many MORE etiquette questions:

  • Is it OK to blog about people and situations when those you refer to (albeit anonymously) are not aware that you have a blog?

  • I for one am very pleased when somebody discovers my blog by chance and then comes and tells me what they think - but my blog isn't so anonymous. If somebody has an "Anonymous" blog and you recognize them anyway, do you tell them?

  • What if you want to post a comment on their blog?

  • If somebody blogrolls you, are you required to blogroll them back?

This is only the tip of the iceberg....

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Funniest Thing.....(well... MILDLY funny)

...so I was reading the online edition of the Yiddish Forward yesterday {ok, you see, that comment THERE should already have you rolling in the aisles, because if you know me, you know I don't read the Forward and I don't read Yiddish!! But that's not the funniest thing, so pull yourselves together and pay attention!} because a friend of mine was written up and wanted me to see her name in print and "kvell".

She said her name was in the third paragraph from the bottom.... but when I went to scroll down the page, there was no scroll bar - - - until I remembered ... the scroll bar is on the LEFT of the page!

I don't know why I think it's so amusing, considering all "hebrew" pages are like that, but truthfully, I don't read them much so it was startling.....

Gripe Time: Outsourcing to India

Ok, Ok, I know I'm not the first person to gripe about companies outsourcing their customer service to India, and I have resisted the urge to jump on the grrr-fest until today.

I have made FIVE calls to India over the past several weeks, and I am continuously patronized with scripted lines that may or may not have any bearing on the problem at hand.
I had an "oh so lovely" online "chat" with Rajesh today.

It quickly became apparent that he was unable to help me so I bullied insisted that he connect me with an AMERICAN agent. Would you believe it? There was an agent from California visiting Hyderabad to help out with their holiday season rush. We had a very nice chat and she too was unable to fix (yet) my problem, but she was very amusing and I thought I'd share a portion of my chat transcript with you....

Jennifer: I understand what you mean. Please continue to hold for a few more minutes.
G6: ok
Jennifer: Sorry for the long wait.
G6: I'm used to it by now
G6: this is my fifth try....
Jennifer: Things don't look too good.
Jennifer: I have to tell you the truth.
G6: why is this so complicated?
Jennifer: That is exactly my question to marketing.

[Several more boring minutes of unsuccessful conversation....then when it became apparent that the necessary offices in California were still sleeping, we got friendly.....]

G6: well, frankly, outsourcing to India is a BAD idea
G6: i personally know a lot of people who have left your company because of it
G6: and i see why
Jennifer: Do you want me to be frank . . . outsourcing to India is not the problem with this situation.
Jennifer: I know people feel that way, but really this is a corporate issue. Our marketing department can't do a simple thing like this though we have asked them on behalf of customers numerous times.

[Several more minutes of quality bonding chat....]

G6: You're the FIRST person, you should know, that I actually believe has a SHOT at fixing this... :)
Jennifer: Hopefully I can. You're giving me confidence in my own abilities ; )
Jennifer: If I can't help you, I have a plan of asking you to write directly to a memeber of Marketing.
Jennifer: If you convinced me, I'm sure you can convice him!
G6: lol
G6: I haven't been too successful THIS far
G6: but if you get me to the appropriate department, I have a better shot
G6: I'll tell the computer geek that he'd better EARN his pocket protector, lol
Jennifer: They aren't geeks. Geeks fix problems. Marketing people ignore them.
Jennifer: Ouch!
Jennifer: Sorry. I had to vent.
{Oooooh look at Jen! Getting all sassy and venting.... I think I was a bad influence on her...}
G6: so why cant we talk to the GEEKS :)
G6: do you have a number for the geeks?
Jennifer: The geeks in this situation work for another company, so I don't have access to them.
G6: oh boy
G6: wow
G6: that's frustrating
Jennifer: The geeks who work at our company are very helpful.
G6: maybe they meet the other company's geeks at their holiday party and can talk about this ;)

Jennifer: Yes. That might finally get this resolved. Geeks getting drunk together. This chat is making Rajesh laugh by the way.

So................. in conclusion.... my problem had YET to be resolved, but I DID manage to make Rajesh laugh.......

Monday, December 8, 2008

Son In Law 101

Actually, this post should be entitled "Husband 101" but since I'm writing as the mother-in-law, I'll let it stand as is....
As I mentioned earlier, Moshe flew to London last week to be with his family following the death of his grandfather. Erica joined us for Shabbos so that she wouldn't be alone. Moshe is an amazingly caring husband. He managed to make sure that Shabbos flowers were delivered to his wife this Friday, in our home.
It chokes up a mother-in-law....
He should give lessons!

Friday, December 5, 2008

The Early Signs are Encouraging....

Invitations for our now annual Open Mike / Talent Nite at the G6 household have gone out well in advance, giving anybody who plans to attend the shindig no room for excuses this year. "The dog ate my act", just won't fly.....

Following Michael's performance of Di Provenza last year in the original Italian, with Eric accompanying on the piano, I thought we were done with international fare. But believe it or not, I've heard some buzz that Fig wants to sing "Das Wandern ist des Muellers Lust" {oooh I hope it's in costume!}

RebD asked for a chalkboard.... that's intriguing {and when did I become prop-meister and stagehand??}

Aviv is only half joking when he says he wants to lip synch "Y'hey Y'hey". I told him that the day he gets Eric to play The Chevra, is the day he'd get ME to sing......

Now this really should be a separate post, but there's a whole psychological component to how and when people respond to Evites.... What's WITH you people who have to wait and watch to see how and what everybody else responds before RSVPing?!?!? Can't you think for yourselves?
...and for those of you who still don't know you're invited, because you "don't do email", to quote Aviv yet again, "Do you also wash your clothes on a board in the river?"

And for the last time, no, you cannot "instant message" me your RSVP because "Fred Unthinking" there is checking the Evite responses daily and waiting to see your answer, before he can make up his own mind.......

Hot Sauce and Peanut Butter Brownies

Two good things... not so great together. Thankfully the hot sauce is in the chulent this week and the brownies are Chana's contribution to dessert. As it turns out, both married kids will be in for the weekend, but sadly, without Moshe, who is in England following the death of his grandfather.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

A Celestial Summit Meeting

To quote the Hayden Planetarium, "Every once in a while, something will appear in the night sky that will attract the attention of even those who normally don't bother looking up". Yesterday evening was just such an evening. A slender crescent Moon, just 15% illuminated, hung in our evening sky in very close proximity to Venus and Jupiter.

I must say I'm pretty impressed with my photograph. These things are very hard to capture and it was much more impressive in real life, but you get the idea....

Additionally, if you enlarge my photo, I have successfully captured another phenomenon called Earthshine, Earthshine was first recognized by Leonardo da Vinci. The full globe of the moon is visible, its darkened portion glowing bluish-gray interposed betweent the sunlit crescent and the not much darker sky.