Tuesday, June 30, 2009


A story is told of a man who is celebrating his silver wedding anniversary. His family and friends have all gathered around him to celebrate this momentous occassion. Only this poor man sits at the head of the table crying silently into his hands. His best friend approaches him and asks him gently, "Why are you crying??". He answers that early on in his marriage he and his wife were having severe marital difficulties, so much so that he contemplated homocide. His lawyer strongly advised him to control himself, reminding him that the punishment for such a heinous crime would be 25 years in prison. The guest of honor turns to his friend and exclaims, "Today I would be a free man!!!!". Smiley Faces

Today's Hebrew calendar marks our 25th wedding anniversary. How much has passed along with the years. We have to our great sadness, due to the normal passage of time, lost loved ones. Yet through it all we have built a family - strong new shoots replenishing the family tree - children and grandchildren, hopefully carrying on our goals of living a life infused with Torah, dedicated to family and making a difference in the community. We are very grateful to Hashem.

{You might ask why I juxtaposed that joke with my sappy/serious post. The answer is simple. What one thing is important to getting through married life with your sanity intact? HUMOR! :) }

Ruby Tuesday

Leora participates in a photo meme entitled Ruby Tuesday. The idea is that on Tuesdays, you post a photo with a little or a lot of red in it. Simple enough.

I've been thinking about joining in on the fun for some time now and these lilies that Avram brought home on a recent Friday afternoon were just begging to be photographed
I loved them because they were not the traditional "lily orange". They were a velvety, deep red-orange.

The more familiar orange ones always remind me of summers from my childhood in Tannersville, NY where just down the road in an abandoned lot they grew wild in profusion. There were so many that you could pick them every week for the Shabbos table and not even make a dent. (Of course in those carefree years, our children's sensibilities were perfectly content with a bunch of clover blooms in a cup vase that was hand decorated with some colored tissue paper squares and far more glue than was necessary....)

Visit the original Ruby Tuesday photo meme here for more photos.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Male Patterned Color Blindness

This post by SD has inspired me to take on an age old complaint.
Why can't men perceive the subtleties of color? Now I'm not talking about some members of my husband's family who couldn't distinguish between an orange and a blueberry if not for their size... that's genetic.
I'm talking about guys with perfectly normal chromosomes who cannot distinguish between hot pink, baby pink and bubblegum pink.
Grass green, hunter green, celery green?
Come on fellas! Burgundy is a color! And it's not the same as cordovan.
We've actually made it easier for you by using food and flowers as a guide. You eat food, right? So you know what color an eggplant is. And it is not the same color as lavender.
You don't seem to confuse a pumpkin and a peach when you're rummaging in the refrigerator late at night, do you?
I've been wracking my brain thinking of male targeted subjects to use as color indicators, but I've found that there isn't much color in the male world. Baseballs come in only one color. Gemoros are bound in only a couple of colors. And fancy cars are available in more than one color per model, usually with very unimaginitve names....

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Berkshire Bank Art Show

The Berkshire Bank is the coolest bank (and I don't say that because I'm related to any of the VP's or anything...).
They not only are THE SINGLE MOST CUSTOMER FRIENDLY bank you will encounter (no voicemail - ever), they also participate in exciting local events in and around their various branches.
This weekend, the Upper Manhattan branch participated in the Uptown Arts Stroll 2009. If you missed it, the branch will continue to display the paintings and photographs for a couple more weeks. Stop in. I guarantee you a surprisingly warm welcome.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

You Don't Need To Be A Parent....

... to empathize with the plight of Gilad Shalit and his family, but it sure adds another dimension to understanding the suffering.
One of my children was AWOL for a few hours late at night this week. I didn't know where this child was or what could have caused a delay at that hour. I was concerned for my child's safety, even though in all likelihood there was a perfectly logical explanation and everybody was safe (there was and they were). Yet the feelings are intense.
What does it feel like as a parent for THREE YEARS not to know, under very real conditions of danger if your child is dead or alive, healthy or ill, being treated kindly or not. How must it feel to watch the world continue around you. How does one not give in to feelings of despair? He may be called a soldier, but he's only a boy....

I feel helpless. I have no control and I can offer nothing more than my voice:
my voice of sympathy, my voice of support and my voice in prayer.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

I Can Insult My Family, But YOU CAN'T....

Sometimes, when we are particularly close to a person, we are more comfortable pointing out their faults, because we know that all comments will be taken with the understanding that they are given from a position of love and overall acceptance. The comment is merely offered up as a means to effect change.

It is in this vein that I sometimes point out the faults and foilbles of the community in which I live on this blog. Don't EVER misunderstand me. I love my community. I work for my community. I contribute to my community. I love what it stands/stood for. While I may think that there are mistakes being made (and some of them are doozies), never misunderstand that THIS IS MY FAMILY.

I recently posted a comment on another blog in which I detailed something going on in my community that I felt was a mistake. Unfortunately, my comment was followed by a negative, non-specific, non-constructive comment about my community from another. I question the motives of that commenter.

If you are not involved in giving love and support and contributing to the betterment of the "family", you should really be careful when throwing barbs.

Random Things I've Learned From Having Shabbos Guests...

Some are big and some are small.
Correction: They are all big....
  • There are frum people in Germany who have never seen Greunkern.
  • In Holland, children go to bed not to Hansel and Gretel, but rather to Jip and Janika.
  • If you want to daven in the shul in Istanbul, you need to get them your passport before Shabbos.
  • The Basenji is a breed of barkless dog.
  • It's highly recommended to bring your own disinfectant products to clean the bathrooms in certain kosher resort hotels.
  • A few containers of water placed inside your piano will help keep it in tune during the winter months.
  • Some guests will eat anything for dinner as long as it's kosher and doesn't move off the plate.
  • A Cuban girl living on 177th Street can be drawn to Judaism by the holiness of her neighbors.
  • There is more that unites us as Jews than divides us.
  • The lasting impact you have on your Shabbos guests is far greater than you could ever imagine.

Monday, June 22, 2009

How Avram & I Met.....

Well, actually... this picture is not from when we met, but it IS the earliest picture I have of the two of us. That's me - the happy (?) looking child in the lower right corner ;). Avram is pretty easy to pick out. And believe me, the shidduch never entered ANYBODY'S mind until a good 16 years later!

What is interesting to me, is that as Avram and I approach our 25th (!!) wedding anniversary I wonder whether our union would have ever come to fruition had all the "safeguards" in place today been active back then. Avram and I knew each other and our families knew each other our whole lives, but had we not had the opportunity to work together on a Yeshiva project, we would never have realized how compatible we were. If he had simply been "redt" to me (and he was), we would never have dated....

Many of you know that although my children dated in the "acceptable" fashion of today, my daughter actually married a Shabbos guest of ours. How well I remember calling a certain cousin to tell her of the shidduch and upon hearing the story her response was in a loud voice, "You have *boys* at your table with a single daughter?!?!?!?". Ummmm.... yes...... if this is the worst that can happen, bring it on!

Now, don't all start jumping down my throat (I see you Bake Lecho Dodi, dipping your pen into the inkwell....). I am not saying that we need to dispense with the current shidduch system lock stock and barrel. But I am saying that when our children reach an age where we feel they are ready to marry (which in my mind, by the way, means they are ready to answer questions themselves and don't need non-stop coaching as to the "right" answers to questions and CIA-worthy grilling after the dates), they should be afforded the opportunity to mix with the opposite sex in normal, natural ways. This two year old post of mine is still worth a read.... as is ProfK's post entitled The Olden Days of Shidduchim - - Part I. I'm eagerly awaiting Part II.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Things You Might Not Know About Washington Heights Unless You Live There...

If you need to get into a locked building on Shabbos, try the code "Agudah" on the lock box. 80% of the time that'll work.

If "Agudah" isn't the code, try "613" (see Mike in Midwood's post on this). That'll take care of another 15%......

Your own superintendant never does anything, but for a small fee, the other building's super will help you out......

The best place for singles to meet is Key Food on Thursday nights. (Guys, even if you do know how to choose a good melon, look flustered and a nice young lady just might approach you.....)

The worst place to find a good melon is Key Food.

If you Google Map 90 Bennett Avenue, 10033 - click on "Street View" and turn around 180 degrees, you will see Ronnie sitting on the steps of Shul. If you pass Ronnie, he'll say "Good Shabbos". If you ask how he's doing, he'll say "Boruch Hashem". If you commend him on his good work, he'll tell you he's a "Mitzvah Boy". Ronnie is definitely one of the Tzadikei Umos Ha'Olam (one last little known Ronnie fact: When he's done with shul and school, he goes and reads to children in the hospital).

The only parking spaces available after 4 pm are illegal ones.

All illegal parking spaces are filled by Hatzoloh members' cars by 6 pm.

This is an "interactive" post. Feel free to add your own.......

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Guess Who's COOKING Dinner?

Last night was a new one for me....You might have guessed by now that I like to cook. I also like to have guests partake in my culinary efforts. I have long entertained (pun intended) the idea that the physical pleasures of good food prepared and served with the right motivation and with the proper accompanying conversation, can raise the meal to a higher spiritual plane.

Louisa, a frequent participant in our Friday night meals, has been making noises for a long time that she would like to turn the tables and have a chance to cook for me. Well, it is well known by those who "know and love" Louisa that she goes after what she wants in a big way. Last night, Louisa came over to my house and before I knew it, she was master of my kitchen. She whipped out of her Mary Poppins-esque bag, delicious sourdough bread, two fresh whole branzini (fancy name for European Sea Bass), extra virgin olive oil, fresh lemons, rosemary, and various other goodies. It made me wish I hadn't eaten all day.

For after dinner entertainment, I was plunked down in front of a foreign film (I know, I know, my vision doesn't lend itself well to subtitles... but actually it wasn't too bad on the small screen) about a woman who uses her culinary abilities to uplift and heal a town.... (well, there's much more to it than that, but I'm still waiting for the full drasha on it from Louisa.....). The reviews call it "a powerful and poignant deptiction of what goodness, selflessness and generosity can bring to a community and to the individuals within it". Louisa isn't in to symbolism.... nah.... not much......

P.S. Guess who's got the "awesomest" fish salad for lunch today :D ?

Monday, June 15, 2009

A Bad Taste In My Mouth....

I'm posting this as a public service to anybody who might have in the past or might in the future experience these symptoms.

It all started (or so it seemed) last Tuesday morning. My office is mere steps away from a commercial kitchen that prepares food for more than one venue (kinda hard on the diet, I know...). So, having rushed out the door in order not to be late for work that morning, I popped my head in the kitchen and grabbed something quickly to substitute for that "most important meal of the day". Our cook is phenomenal but the food tasted positively foul and I wondered to myself as I grudgingly tossed it without comment, whether he was experimenting with some new and unusual spice. It was definitely not for me....

A few hours later, one of the kitchen aides pops his head into our office with a real treat. Chocolate pudding - freshly made. Would we like a taste? Sure, why not... my morning hunger was still not assuaged. Imagine my surprise when this creamy indulgence tasted METALLIC and BITTER. Did I sense a trend? Maybe it wasn't the food. Perhaps it was me......

All the rest of that day, everything that crossed my lips produced an intensely revolting taste on the very back part of my tongue.

This was driving me crazy and I got a lot of advice from well-meaning friends. Reflux. Dental Issues. Yet I knew that the taste was far too localized and intense to be either one of those issues. That's where Google came to the rescue. A quick search of "bitter taste in my mouth" yielded a whole host of fascinating stories of people with the exact same symptoms as I was experiencing, which developed 1-3 days after eating pine nuts from China. I had eaten some pine nuts on Sunday! A quick call to the company in question confirmed that their product was indeed imported from China. Who knew? Although I can finally enjoy food again, my tongue is still not 100% "right" today....

Suffice it to say, don't go looking for the pine nuts in Susie Fischbein's Purple Cabbage Salad when you eat dinner at my house next time. That horrible taste hangs around for days and it's enough to make you swear off those little seeds forever.

Friday, June 12, 2009

What's In A Name

Adventures in Chinuch has a very interesting post on a psak that Rav Moshe Feinstein gave regarding the use of secular names when naming a child after a deceased relative.

  • " I've got a name, I've got a lovely secular name...

    I'm sure many are familiar with the all-time favorite flipping-out pastime of young men and women deciding to go by their Jewish name after being known by their secular name for their entire existence. We have previously discussed the reasons for this phenomenon, and I am not going to rehash that discussion. Rather I would like to present the viewpoint of a certain Rabbi Moses (as he was incidentally known as on his stationary) Feinstein on a very similar topic. It should be a mitzvah to publicize this teshuva.

    In the 4th chelek of Orach Chayim (somewhere in the samechs, I think), R' Moshe writes to a person who was concerned what to call his daughter. The child was going to be named after the guy's mother, so he wanted to know if they should call the baby by the mother's Hebrew name, or her secular name, which was how she was known (either way, the child would receive at least the Hebrew name).

    R' Moshe advises calling the child by the secular name for the following reasons:

    1. The concept of going by a secular name is not against the spirit of Judaism. We find many tana'im with Aramaic names, and many others as well. For example, R' Moshe points out that Maimon,Rambam's father did not have a Jewish name. R' Moshe even says that it isn't even in the spirit of mussar to use a Jewish name. However, to be fair, he does say that when Jews first started to use secular names, people must have been rightfully upset about it.

    2. If the mother was known by her secular name, it is a greater honor for her and her family that the child be called by the name that she was. I assume, and not by any great stretch, that this logic would apply to a name given by your parents; it is a lack of respect to change the name they gave you.

    3. The medrash that praises the Jews for keeping their names in Egypt does so b/c of the context. Since the Jewish people had little to distinguish themselves from the rest of the world (the Torah had not yet been given), they needed to rely on their name to separate them. Nowadays, R' Moshe argues, this is not necessary.

    I wonder what some name-changers would say after hearing thisteshuva.

    This brings me to my next topic, limmudei kodesh teachers calling students by their Hebrew names. I understand many do this. They may want to help students identify with their religious side, or something like that. However, I don't like it. I think it often creates a disconnect both between the teachers and students, and between religious studies and the rest of their lives. It's like: Chumash is for Moshe Tzvi, not for Matt or something like that. But I definitely see both sides of the story here, and am sure thispractive works with many kids. I just don't think it works with the majority.

    I wonder what Uncle Moishy would say."

I was very interested in reading this post. It always fascinated me that people both in my neighborhood and out, who approached my children on various occasions to "save their souls" by changing their name, were never concerned that the messages they were sending could undermine my childrens' Kibbud Av V'em.....

It was also important for me to be reminded that when people want you to do things their way, they are not always paragons of full disclosure....... (either that, or as a commenter recently stated, they don't even know the full truth themselves anymore).

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Doesn't Anybody Have Any SHAME Anymore??!?

The Yeshiva World quotes an article in the NY Post today highlighting the story of a "frum" convict who was allowed to hold a lavish bar mitzvah and subsequently a 'Vort' inside the jail. They were allowed to bring in a caterer, kosher food and cutlery. Cellphones which are usually confiscated were also permitted. Even Shwekey was on hand to perform!

Now I'm not here to debate why somebody who is jailed (ostensibly because his offenses caused him to lose his freedoms) is allowed to do these things. But rather, I'm more astounded that he wasn't ashamed to flaunt his mistakes by holding such affairs. Is being jailed truly no longer a stigma in the orthodox world?? Does no one have any shame?

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Gastronomy Over Chumros

Alternately titled: "Derech Eretz Is Not a Chumra I Hold By...."

I am in full support for anybody to take upon themselves any and all personal chumras with which they are comfortable. I just kind of like them to
a) not impose them on me {i.e. tell me that it is my fault that boys are imprisoned in Japan} and
b) be consistent so that it appears you are doing these things because of your firmly held beliefs as opposed to being afraid of what the neighbors will think of you.

I've noticed lately that this whole separate seating /separate everything falls by the wayside where food is concerned. To begin with, the reputation that we have for "free food" and what happens next, in some circumstances, I find to be well deserved....

Add to the mix a kiddush, for instance, where perchance the caterer messes up and brings the cholent first to the ladies' side. Stampede central! Pushing ... shoving..... negiah? pffft! As long as we don't talk to them or look at them, it's ok to trample them for a nice piece of kugel. (In some neighborhoods "entschuldigung" (said while "enthusiastically" elbowing through any crowd) is a euphemistic translation of, "Outta my way lady - I see herring!!")

Gentlemen! If you insist that women need to be secured behind rows of dense foliage or impenetrable barricades, kindly don't jump said barriers when Mrs. Siegelman's cake enters the equation.... It makes me wonder about the strength of the convictions attached to your actions.

That all said, I propose that we begin teaching this to our children BEFORE these habits become ingrained in them beyond repair. Parents - watch your children at kiddushim and other affairs revolving around food and seize the chinuch opportunity. You'll be glad you did.

Monday, June 8, 2009

How Mysophobic Are You?

Treppenwitz has a laugh out loud post out about his son, a toothbrush and some pretty nasty bathroom germs, that I think many of us can relate to.
It certainly got me thinking....
We each have our own personal comfort zone.
For some it's the "10 second rule". Others will employ that leniency only for dry food.
Drinking out of the container? (See Frum College Girl's post about tactics to keep roommates away from your food stash....)
Public washing machines?  (We had a guest once who said that he was hesitant to use the public machines in his apartment building and could only bring himself to put his laundry inside by imagining "pretty girls" using them prior....)
What about the cook's hands in the kitchen? (Squeamish guests... stay at my dining room table please....)
Are you a "Purell Princess"?
What are your 'deal breakers'?

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Until The Lights Go Down...

Have you ever been to a really great show? How do you know that everybody else felt the same? The stage lights go down, the curtain descends...... and nobody moves...... That standard mad dash to leave the venue as soon as the last stage light extinguishes just doesn't happen. People want to linger.
Our Friday night stage was set. Elegant table, good food and pleasant company. Tnspr569 (who really needs to satisfy my curiosity on that acronym ;) ) threatened to come join us on this blog so many times that he had to actually show up, brought a friend, who in turn brought a friend - all of whom should be poster boys for my Six Pixels of Separation post. It seems N roomed with Lester in summer kollel, B's sister went to school with Erica and everybody got along seamlessly. How could you tell? Well, as the shabbos clocks clicked "off" one by one, nobody was moving any closer to the benchers. Waiting for the Shabbos candles to go out is just not an option in my house, because mine burn until Motzoei Shabbos, so when the last light in the front hall was 5 minutes from plunging us into a lovely fire lit glow, I grudgingly reminded everybody that it was well past midnight and perhaps we should bench.
The meal and the company were wonderful. I think we will need an encore performance.

As a post script, I must add that there was a bit of "blog talk" at the table and I must let some of the young single female bloggers out there know, that you had some definite fans at my table this weekend!! Don't worry, I didn't give away any secrets. Sadly, none of the guys could satisfy my curiosity either.......

Friday, June 5, 2009

The Pros and Cons of Thick Walls...

Let me start with the pros...... 

~ When your kids are tearing up the place in the back room, the living room is blissfully quiet.
(Wait.... is that a pro or a con....?).

~ You don't hear every word the neighbor says to his wife (particularly nice if the neighborhas a foul mouth).

~ Better insulation (Is this true? I just made that up....).

Now for the con:

It is seemingly impossible to set up a wireless network with coverage that extends from one end of the apartment to the other, without losing so much of the signal that you feel like 1981 dial up again.

Some would say that it's a good thing that there are some areas of the apartment that continue to be designated "wi-fi free" {as opposed to "free wi-fi" ;) }.  Unfortunately, those people are not me......

Joke of the Week

Conan O'brien predicts that in the future YouTube, Twitter and Facebook will combine to form one huge time wasting website called You Twit Face....

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Another Great Perk of Having Your Son Appear on Television...

... you get an email from the girl you sat next to in high school and haven't heard from in over 20 years!
She tells you that she watched the show with her TWELVE (!!!!!!!!!) kids and loved it.
Nice to reminisce and catch up.....

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Six Pixels of Separation

We have a new Friday night guest this week - a relatively recent reader and commenter on this blog.   Coincidentally, it turns out he will be a guest of people now living in the apartment in which I grew up.

In the Jewish world, we all know it's never six degrees of separation.
Considering our penchant for Jewish Geography, raised by some to an art form, we are never more than three or four degrees away.

I've been thinking about the blogosphere. Six degrees of separation is the theory that anyone on the planet can be connected to any other person on the planet through a chain of acquaintances that has no more than five intermediaries.  I wonder how many degrees of blogger separation there are.  The more of you I meet, the more I realize that it can be shaved down to one, two or three quite often.

Care to play?

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Reading is FUNdamental

OK, how badly am I dating myself with that title? For those of you who are still decades away from reading glasses, Reading is Fundamental, Inc. was established in 1966 in order to promote literacy in young children.
I am a big proponent of reading at any age.

I can still remember my father taking me to the library for the very first time and being allowed "just this once" to take out THREE BOOKS instead of the standard rule two (one of them was The Fire House Dog, another Dandelion.... can't recall the third - so much for needing three....)

I just bought Kayla a new book (pictured above) and I hear she LOVES it.
  • What were your favorite books growing up?
  • Do you remember getting your first library card?
  • What are your favorite books now? (this part is just a shameless effort good excuse to pad my own "to read" list...)
I will tell you that my favorite children's picture books to read as an ADULT are Cows Can't Fly by David Milgrim and No, David by David Shannon.

For older children I suggest Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh and From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg (I still find myself wanting to sleep in the period rooms and bathe in the fountain every time I visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art).

My Friendly Facebook Stalker

I was brought up to have good manners.
If somebody links my blog, I try to thank them and/or return the favor.
Well, apparently I have an anonymous fan who linked my blog on their Facebook page and it's been bringing me traffic from all over the globe all night long (lots of friends in interesting places!).   Funny enough, it's not one of my own Facebook Friends (don't you like me enough to friend me?)
I'd like to thank my Facebook Fan.
Drop me an email, 'mmmkay? (the button is on the right hand side of my blog)

U/D (6/3):  Awww c'mon people..... won't any of you tell me who has been linking me? It's been a day and nobody is in the sharing mood.... that is, except my Facebook Friend.....

Monday, June 1, 2009

In An Instant......

... families whose biggest worries for the day would have been what to make for dinner, who would pick up the dry cleaning, or perhaps helping their neighbors and friends manage in this difficult economy, have entered an alternate reality - a reality where everything "normal" becomes trivial.
All of a sudden NOTHING else matters.... nothing else has any significance.....
My heart goes out to the family and friends of those aboard the Air France flight.  My mind is filled with uncertainty, shock and grief with them.