Friday, November 20, 2009

Feist-ish

Plumb sounds like a sanitized version of Feist to me. Yet I find this song oddly pleasing, sort of like Lush's early albums.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Why don't I just address it to Saudi Sheik?

Today, I had the joy of receiving my gas bill.

As mentioned in previous posts, I tend to be rather conservative with my energy use due to growing up in Canada. So I was very surprised to see my bill jump by quite a few dollars this month. Upon inspection of my bill, I became aware of certain details.

First, the several dollars difference over last month was due to my having used just 1 more therm. Well, that didn't seem right. So I re-read the bill. And I was still dissatisfied with the explanation offered therein (albeit annoyed to see that I paid MTA surcharge on my gas delivery. Seriously- at this rate, how can the MTA even be charging fares to New York residents, what with how widespread this "surcharge" is being applied? More like surcharges ad infinitum. Sheesh.). So I called Customer Service.

The CSR was most apologetic and explained all the undocumented reasons why my bill was higher. My favourite was the 10 cents difference this month over last month for the price of oil. Fabulous. Yet another way that yiddin in New York are supporting our friends in Saudi and their compatriots across the Middle East. I hope the sheiks in question enjoy milking me for my extra shekalim.

So, once again, I am amazed and appalled by the state of New York's infrastructure. And I fill the need to repose the question: Why oh why do New Yorkers tolerate it?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Crossroads?

The past several weeks, I've been chomping at the bit to leave New York. Let's be blunt: I'm just plain not cut out for New York, and not in the way I would've expected. The brief version of the story is that my move to New York hasn't been particularly fruitful to date. Sure, I found work and got remarried. We all know how those endeavours worked out. And as I ponder the dating pool (i.e. quantity over quality, with most over-40 men wanting the "Brooklyn experience), my lack of work, and my overall personality, I couldn't see any benefit to staying in New York. And I mean not one.

But then last night I went to a birthday party. It wasn't anything special, just me and about a minyan of other ladies coming together for dinner to celebrate our mutual friend's birthday. And I had a blast. Every last one of those ladies has a story (or several) and is so chilled about their frumkeit that I finally felt like I was in sympathetic company. Now that's not to say that my friends to date haven't been fabulous. They definitely have. The difference lay in the face that save 2 ladies who are from Brooklyn, all of us were from out-of-town and either divorced or on the path to it. So I had people who could really identify with my "out-of-town" mindset, as well as where I happen to be in my life right now. It was quite liberating.

More to the point, I saw how all of these women were walking the line between being frum and living their lives. Unlike many people that I've met in Brooklyn, all of these women were trying to negotiate a life in Yeshivish Brooklyn when they are, in fact, more modern. Quite modern. And I appreciate that as well.
When I returned from the party lat night, I felt better than I had in ages. More to the point, I slept better than I had in months. So when I woke up this morning, I realised a few things.

First, that while I'm so over the prospective dating pool in New York (been there, done that- twice), there is a silver lining to the situation, namely that I can meet a lot of divorced/single women such as myself. Kindred spirits, if you will. Second, that what has been lacking from my life since I moved to New York, for various reasons, is having fun. Forget trying to cram myself into the Yeshivish box. That just not me. I need to go, live my life, have fun, and remain frum while doing so. That's it. Because after all, the only thing my being modern affects at this point is shidduchim, and even there, it's a good thing; I don't want to go get married to another Yeshivish person. That doesn't interest me in the slightest. So, since I don't have children, why limit myself to an existence in a tiny, constrained box for no reason? I mean, I was sitting next to a woman who's shirt keep falling down, and nobody felt the need to point out that we could see her bra. Because we were all fine with it. Say what you will, but my life definitely needs an infusion of that attitude.

I guess what I'm saying is, I may stick around New York for a while and give living my life like I did pre-New York a try. Live my life like I've always lived my life but here in New York. In any event, in the next while, I'm going to have make my decision. And as you all know already, while I'm not necessarily the quickest decision-maker (I like to devote adequate time to weighing all the pros and cons), once I do make a decision, I tend to stick with it. Within reason. :)

Yup, things are finally about to get interesting around here in a good way. Boo-yaaaaaaaaa! ;)

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Run Baby!

As you can tell by my recent tweets, I started up running again this past week. Today I made my third run, and this time I decided to up the time to 30 minutes. It's a good thing.

Anyhow, sometimes people are surprised to learn that I used to be very hardcore about running. I mean, I wasn't fanatical, along the lines of those who do the NY marathon, for example. But I was dedicated and ran daily.

It's a funny story how running presented itself as an exercise option, and I figure now is as good a time as any to share the saga. Hope you enjoy!

About 15 years ago, I was at the fitness level of an elite athlete. I trained with the guys, and enjoyed a level of strength, flexibility and endurance that had taken years of a strict physical lifestyle to achieve. And that's when it happened: my trainer told me that the only way I could continue to improve is if I started running; nothing else would do the job any longer.

Now back then, I hated running. I hated the mere thought of it. It seemed inane, and more to the point, all the runners I knew were on the whole rather annoying types. So when my trainer delivered this little message, you can imagine my reaction:

Trainer: You've got to start running. There's no other way.
Me: I don't run.
Trainer: You're going to have to.
Me: I. Don't. Run.
Trainer: Well, we're going to change that.
Me: Keep dreaming.

It's obvious who won that battle. I started running, and true to my expectations, I hated it. I would rather go on the highest level of the StairMaster or the highest incline on the treadmill all day long rather than run for even 5 minutes. I just felt like a moron.

So what changed? I wish I could say. But one day about 6 years ago I decided to start adding intervals of jogging to my cardio. And I suddenly found myself enjoying it. So I began to build up my jogging time until I could jog for an hour. Then I worked on my speed.

Of course, moving to Brooklyn, where running is considered very untznius, put a wrench in my routine. I continued to run indoors, which isn't the most effective method but better than nothing, until the car accident.

Then last week, feeling a bit like a blob, I decided that Brooklyn would just have to get over itself, and decided to give running a trial run. The rest, they say, is history. If any of my female readers is interested in going together for a run, let me know!

Resurrected!

Thanks to SW for her comment. It was timely indeed: this layl Shabbos, I ran into a fan, who lamented the demise of this blog.

Basically, I had made the decision to kill this blog, but didn't really advertise the fact. Since I wanted to keep the blog up as a reminder of a period in my life, not to mention in case I felt the need to review one of my divrei Torahs, I figured I would leave the blog as is, and let me silence do the talking.

However, I have decided that, for the time being at least, life still interesting enough to merit keeping this blog. I'll be posting some entries that I had kicking around so you can catch up on what's being going on in the interim.

Thanks again to all my loyal readers. It's all of you have made my blogging enjoyable. Keep the comments coming. :)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Remembrance Day

No poppy pin. But B'H' that I live in this day and age: I just had to go onto YouTube, and already people throughout Canada have posted video of Canadian memorial ceremonies.

AWESOME.

If you haven't already, there's still time to pause to commemorate all those who sacrificed during wartime for our benefit. We live in freedom due to their efforts, B'H' and bli ayin hara.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Poppy Pin (Cont)

For those of you who are unfamiliar with my reference to observing Remembrance Day in the Commonwealth, Wikipedia happens to have an excellent article on the topic.

Last week I was telling my friend back in Canada that I must really be homesick, because I have yet to get to the Canadian Consulate to buy a poppy pin. And I actually started crying over the fact. You could practically hear her roll her eyes when she told me that she would mail me a pin if she gets a chance. I'm now officially pathetic, lol.

It's good to have friends. Anyhow, if I happen to still be in the States come Memorial Day, it would seem that the VA for Foreign Wars sells poppy pins in May. I should mention that when I called VAF this week regarding buying a pin, I was pleased to learn that the office sells every last pin they are issued in May. Now that's patriotism and respect for those who serve their country and, by extension, the world.

Makes me teary-eyed just thinking about it. :)

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Fled the Country

Last Thursday morning, I heard a knock on my door. It was someone looking for my landlord. Since I didn't know who it was, and I don't like making problems for people, I told the gentleman that my landlord didn't live in the building anymore. When he asked how long ago my landlord left, I decided that being vague was the best route to take. After all, how am I to know who this guy was? So I told him that my landlord had left in the summer and left it at that.

Then this layl Shabbos, I come home to find a 20 page Summons addressed to my landlord et al taped to the wall. The Summons was against not only my landlord, but all his known business associates. I suppose that solved the mystery of why my landlord basically moved in the middle of the night to Israel. More to the point, it explains why he decided not to provide a forwarding address to the Post Office. He continues to have all his mail sent to his old mailbox downstairs, with his father coming by every few weeks to collect it.

As I was coming home motzei Shabbos, my downstairs neighbour was exiting the building carrying the Summons. She said that she wanted to see what the papers said, because (surprise) both she and Basement Lady have been paying rent by depositing money directly into the landlord's bank account. She wanted to see what she might be implicated in. By the next morning, the Summons was taped back on the wall for all to see.

Just when I thought things were "quieting" down around here (she types as Downstairs Boy continues to give a full-blown concert from his bedroom.). If ever there was Big Sigh moment, this could well be it...

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Searching

I have been trying to track down a poppy pin this past week. In Canada, you see, Canadians really put their heart and soul into commemorating those who sacrificed during all wars, and from now until November 11, they wear a poppy pin on their left lapel.

I hadn't seen such a pin since I came to the States, so I just assumed that such pins weren't available. After all, the tradition is pretty a legacy of our having been part of the British Empire, and since almost everything in American history is basically an attempt to break from British tradition, I didn't question it.

But then it hit me- if wearing a poppy pin is mainly a Commonwealth thing, then shouldn't the Canadian Consulate have pins? It was worth a try. And sure enough, once I managed to bypass the automated system and get a live person at the Consulate, I was told that they do indeed have the pins.

The Consulate is open from 9-1 Mon to Fri. I mean, those are their REAL hours, despite their claim that they're open to 5. So I'm hoping to make it that far in Manhattan in the coming weeks so that I can purchase a pin.

It would make my grandpa, olev hashalom (who was Glaswegian) proud!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Neighbour, Neighbour

I was vacuuming my floors yesterday afternoon when there was knock on my door. It was my downstairs neighbour.

She started off by the conversation by saying "That's why I would never knock (referring to my pre-Rosh Hashanah policy of tapping on the floor when her son was making a racket). This is making a lot of noise; my ceiling is shaking". Interestingly enough, she seemed a bit taken aback by the fact that the noise was caused by a vacuum. So I decided it was an opportune time to educate her about the nature of the building.

I told her also that I tried very hard to be quiet. My point was that I try to be considerate of the fact that what I do may affect them, i.e. I try to be a decent neighbour. But I think she didn't catch that, since she responded that I needn't refrain from doing anything because they're loud.

I think she did take away though how 1. her son's bedroom is below mine, and 2. the floors/walls are paper thin. In short, we live on top of each other, with no privacy. What I found interesting about the "exchange" was that the offense that I committed, in her opinion, was that my knocking was causing her son to feel like he couldn't do whatever he wanted. While I chalked it up to cultural differences, I couldn't help but think "But he can't do whatever he wants. He's a young boy. And he needs structure in his life!".

Anyhow, the incident weighted upon me, as it seemed to me that obviously, despite my lack of knocking since Rosh Hashana, there was lingering resentment on their part. So I figured that the right response was for me to go downstairs and try to clear the air one more time. My first attempt to speak to them en route to shul was unsuccessful - the wife was sleeping. I decided that I would leave shul early to try to speak with her again before heading over to friends for lunch. After all, peace takes precedence over everything, right? B'H', my second attempt was successful: as I came down the stairs, the husband was collecting the mail, and informed me that his wife was up. So ran over to their door and knocked. His wife opened the door, and was thrilled that I had come by. She said that she didn't have anything negative in her heart when she had come by the morning before, and while I wasn't 100% convinced of that had been true at the time, I did think that my coming by rendered that true retroactively.

It was a nice ending to the saga. And, now that we're formally introduced and the air has cleared, I'm hoping that for the duration of our time as neighbours, we'll be able to remain neighbourly and keep the peace, bli ayin hara. :)

Monday, October 19, 2009

Missed Photo Ops

Friday afternoon, I look out the window onto the backyard and witness a glorious sight. There, curled up all warm and snug on the foam square closest to the playgroup's door, was Big Tabby Cat. It was almost as if he was challenging them, like "What're you going to do NOW?". I was busy cleaning for Shabbos though, and neglected to secure a photo.

Then Shabbos morning I peered out the window to gauge how bad the rain was falling. I began convulsing with laughter. Big Tabby Cat had somehow climbed up onto the roof of the neighbour's garage, which is abuts my landlord's backyard. He sat there all serene, looking out calmly over his kingdom as the rain and wind whipped about.

After his big show over the weekend, when I met him by the garbage bins earlier this evening, I had to stop and see what his reaction would be. How feral is he, I wondered? Would he skitter off like the former backyard cats or was he more used to humans than that?

He was awfully well-behaved, that's for sure. I suppose he felt it below his dignity to do as his predecessors had and rip open the garbage bags to procure food. Instead, he just looked at me, with a sad look. It broke my heart. So after dropping off my groceries, I came down a few minutes later and put out a bowl of milk for him by the corner wall, away from the garbage.

So I guess I'm now officially the Cat Lady for my building. Oh, and since once you feed a cat you're allowed to name him, Big Tabby Cat now has a name: King. :) I'm looking forward to some stellar pics sometime soon.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

My New Favourite Day of the Year

After my phone interview this morning, I dashed to Manhattan to jump through hoops for an employment agency (I'm not a fan of having to drag myself into the city for a 10 minute face-to-face in order to be submitted for a position).

That's where the day took a nice nose dive. First, the recruiter had neglected to give me precise directions to her building. Instead, when I arrived at the noted address, I found myself staring at a Starbucks. I walked a little further, consulted my sheet, determine that Starbucks was the right address, then started looking for a dry place to make a phone call. That's when my umbrella broke. There I was, getting pummelled by rain, shoes already squeaky, trying to find that darned building. You can imagine my chagrin when I place the call (and waste yet more money for a pretty much useless exercise) and find out that the address stretches around from the avenue to the street. I have to walk halfway down the block after turning the corner in order to arrive at her location.

By the time I reached her office, I was not in the best of moods. It was bad enough that she had to have me come in despite my having had the interview in the morning, but to give me incomplete directions on a day when it's down pouring? Not cool. I announce myself to the receptionist who then gives me a huge wad of paperwork to fill out. I start to fill out my name, birth date, etc. and then figured the heck with it- why am I providing all this information now? The client hasn't even seen my resume!

The receptionist was displeased, but I consoled myself with the knowledge that she was dressed inappropriately for her position (can we say jean miniskirt and low-cut t-shirt under some sweater thingie?). Naturally though she thought that I was the one who was amiss. Well, maybe she was right. After all, I was declining to complete the sacred paperwork.

The recruiter was only slightly better. I had been told on the phone that I would be meeting both her and the account manager for the position. Of course the account manager had had to step out. More to the point, the recruiter just asked me really basic questions (which I had already answered on the phone) and barely listened to my responses. I refrained from correcting her, since I figured she wouldn't be registering that either.

To console my drowned rat self, I bought a beautiful peach-coloured pashmina. Definitely the highlight of my Manhattan experience today. Because blast it- at 3:30 on a Thursday, the metro was already packed with sardines. When I arrived home though, all the aggravation (and moisture- I was drenched to the skin) melted away. For lo and behold, B'H' for Oct 15- I opened the front door to discover that the heat was on!

Now that's the way to end your day, y'all!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Here Kitty, Kitty, Kitty...

This afternoon, surprised that it was the allotted hour and the playgroup/pre-school wasn't yet outside (ok, I'll admit it- I was hopeful), I took a look-sey out the window.

You'll recall that the invasion of the playgroup in June caused the resident outdoor cats to set up shop elsewhere. Imagine my amusement when I peered out just now and saw a Big Cat sitting smack dab in the middle of the foam mat. Perhaps the cooler weather has been causing the cat to seek shelter in the playgroup's slide/cars; kitty cat looked pretty at home.


Then it occurred to me what was about to ensue: how would the kinder, Flatbush natives all and most probably scared of animals as a result, react to Big Cat when they exited the house for their play hour?

I didn't have long to wait. I was clear in the kitchen, which is basically the farthest room from the backyard save the lavatory, when the petrified shrieks met my ears. Boy, do I wish I could've videoed that encounter. I wonder how Mr. Big Cat responded?

Anyhow, what with the change in weather, I'm thinking more of these episodes may be forthcoming. I wonder who will give in first? My money's on Big Cat for now. :)

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Beat Goes On...

Over Yom Tov, while I was kept up way late by Downstairs Boy (i.e., 1:30 AM and 3 AM, respectively), Front Neighbour and her crew seemed to have vacated the premises for the last days. Phew.

Then, as I was walking down the block Shabbos, I saw Block Yenta. She informed me that our landlord had told FN that either she shapes up or ships out. BY seemed to be of the impression that the current vacancy was permanent. However, as I tend to suspend belief where gossip is concerned, I didn't really give the situation too much thought. Sure, the thought of being spared at least one set of crazy, loud neighbours (who smoke excessively to boot) was pleasant. I just didn't believe that my mazel was on the upswing. :)

Sure enough, tonight around 9:30 post-chag, I hear the oh-so familiar sound of the front door opening, followed by thundering footsteps up the stairs and the next apartment door opening then slamming shut. From the voice that I overheard, I could tell that it was Front Door Israeli Guy, aka He Who Told Me To Keep The Front Door Open last Shabbos. Within seconds, they turned on their water full blast- an event announced by a screeching noise that reaches my ears from the very farthest point in the house. As for what the immediate running water was for, that's any one's guess and none of my business. :) What was my business, however, was my hand washing that was waiting for me in the tub. After the allotted hour soaking time was up, I went to rinse out my things.
That hour happened to elapse about 10 minutes after the said screeching noise commenced.

Now, perhaps I need to pause here and mention that in Canada, we're taught to conserve water. Specifically, we're taught to turn off the water at intervals. For example, when soaping up your dishes, don't leave the water running; turn off the water and then turn it back on when ready to rinse. I practise this conservationist etiquette pretty much exclusively. So I went to rinse out my hand washing, and did my usual routine of running the cold water for 10 seconds, turning it off for a minute or so, then turning the water back on.
It's also worth mentioning that one of the nice features of my building (perhaps the only one at this point, lol), is that when you run the water in your unit, it does not affect the water pressure or temperature in other units. Indeed, I have often been in the shower when FN et al turns on the water full-blast, and I have B'H' suffered no ill effects.

Imagine my horror when FDIG starts banging on my bathroom wall so hard that my shower head (which is an old-school pipe running into the wall) starts to shake. He repeats the pounding, even after I have turned off the water and am simply swishing around my stuff in the basin. I resisted the urge to turn the hot water on full-blast though. It would've served him right.

In short, I was appalled by his behaviour, and given that such is the normal state of things, am planning to have a conversation with my landlord once he is back next week. After all, if this dude isn't a paying tenant... Hopefully the said conversation will remind him that as a guest in the building, some common courtesy is in order. And if he can't manage to be civil (as demonstrated by his behaviour to date), then perhaps he should simply not be allowed on the premises.

At least, here's hoping so! Until I move, natch.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Where Do I Join?

In America, you basically have two viable political parties. If you're conservative, you typically vote Republican and if you're more to the left, you vote Democrat.

Having grown up in a country with at least 7 viable parties and most elections resulting in a minority government, I tended to vote for parties that were more to the centre of the political spectrum. That said, I am currently loving PM Stephen Harper. Yes, he's a Red Tory, but it's his leadership style that I adore. How can you not love a man who manages to remain the Polite Canadian while telling it like it is?

Here's the latest example of that style I'm loving. I think it's high time that I form the Brooklyn chapter of the RHSH (Right Honourable Stephen Harper) fan club.

Blast It, Bother, Phooey

My doctor's visit this evening was a total waste of time. The doctor (who came highly recommended) refused to give me any information until he runs x-rays/tests. And wouldn't you know it- they had just run out of the x-ray film he needed to do the x-rays right before my appointment.

So my schlepp out to BP only netted me the debiting of my co-pay from my bank account and several scripts. I even tried to find out something by reading the coded receipt he had me give to the medical assistant. Just my luck- he had only coded for what I had indicated on my medical history sheets.

Blast it. This guy really knows how to pull the Return Visit fast one. Highly recommended? Not by me!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

B9 Me!

This evening I took my very first trip on the Brooklyn bus. EVER. I will of course remind everyone that until the car accident, I had a car. And after the accident, I've limited my use of the MTA to commuting work/interviews, aka going to Manhattan. Local shopping I do on foot. In short, why would I take the bus?

But tonight I had a doctor's appointment in Boro Park, so the bus it was. I will admit to being nervous when I started out: Will I hold up the line onto the bus by not finding the card swipe/swiping incorrectly? Would I be able to move down the aisle or would it be packed like sardines? Would the ride be smooth?

I was most relieved to discover that every city on the east coast of North America seems to use the same bus manufacturer. So when I ascended the steps and went to pay, I was grateful to see the familiar Metrocard graphic indicating the Metrocard slot and method for inserting your card. Then, while the front was so crowded I could barely squeeze by after saying "Excuse me" a bazillion times, I got to the centre of the bus and found it quite comfortable while standing. A few blocks later I managed to get a seat. The trip was relatively quick. The bus was much cleaner than the metro and certainly quieter. The bus driver announced the stops clearly yet without that deafening volume they use on the metro. The ride was even even interesting sociologically: the teenagers and their texting/iPod combo were priceless, and I managed to interact with various nationalities that you don't see in Flatbush. So, my first bus ride in Brooklyn was a pleasant experience overall.

Was the ride bumpy? Yes. Were the seats comfortable? No, but given my experience with the MTA's metro, I wasn't expecting them to be. Honestly, the only serious complaint I had was my wait time. Both going to and coming from Borough Park, I had to watch 3 buses service the opposite side of the street while waiting for my bus to arrive. The schedule consequently seemed more like a joke than an actual representation of service.

Still, I took the Brooklyn bus...and am glad I did. Now I have an alternate way to get around locally, and in the winter (if I'm still in NYC) that alternative could prove really handy. Go B9!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

On The First Day of Sukkot, Hashem Gave to Me...

The first days were quite eventful. Unfortunately, no communal sukkah was erected (although Front Neighbour Girl invited me to stop by whenever. More on that later.); instead there's a little colony of sukkahs on the property. Imagine one sukkah filled with Israelis, then multiply it. That, my friends, should tip you off to the tenor that my chag has taken thus far.
  • All the meals I ate out were fabu, as were the sukkahs in which we ate. The only thing I can't get used to in New York is the sechach rolls people use. I'm used to the pine branches we used back in Canada. Also, I give a hearty "Todah Hashem" for the fact that my outfit lasted until after the last meal- during which the child seated next to me ate a whole bunch of cherry tomatoes. Suffice it to say, I spent Sunday night picking the seeds off my hat and clothing. It was pretty hilarious.
  • Shabbos I was unable to sleep due to the enthusiasm of my co-building dwellers in their respective sukkahs. Saturday night, desperate for some sleep, I dragged my mattress into the living room and finally fell asleep. When I awoke in the early morning (4 AM), I dragged the mattress back in- and didn't feel too guilty when the frame thudded against the floor. I considered it karma.
  • Shabbos afternoon I was leaving to go visit friends (since I was unable to take my Shabbos nap) when I had a run-in with an Israeli. As I was coming down the stairs, I saw a young man whom I had never seen before with a big ring of keys. He opened the door and as we met in the hallway spoke to me. He asked if I could keep the downstairs door open on Shabbos, because they got locked out for 4 hours and had to call a locksmith. I found the whole thing ridiculous and told him that I have my reasons for keeping the door closed. That's when he went Israeli on me and asked me why. I was like, unbelievable! So I figured I could act Israeli too, and told him straight out that my security is my business and that he should do like me and carry his key with him (aka use a bendel dude!). But seriously, who the heck is he to be telling me to keep the door open???
  • Sunday morning, I got up bright and early, eager to get to shul in time to see Hallel. Even though my favourite fall chag is Simchat Torah (aka Shemini Atzeret Part II), I must admit that seeing the whole men's section waving their lulavs and etrogim gets me teary-eyed. It's just a beautiful spectacle. But wouldn't you know it? My stomach is generally unhappy over the chagim, and I was feeling so lousy that I got to shul right after Hallel. I was totally bummed out, and consoled myself by remembering that at least I got there in time for Bircat HaKohanim and Hoshanos.
  • Sunday afternoon Downstairs Kid was in good form as I was trying to take a mini-nap. So I did a polite "tap-tap" on the floor. I hear a fist banging my floor. So I figure it's the kid playing, and tap again. Bang-bang again. Repeat. Within 10 seconds my front door is being banged on. HARD. At first I just ignore it, but then I figure I may as well take the wind out of whomever's sails it is. It's Downstairs Guitar Guy, and he's all furious that his kid is quiet, and why don't I go downstairs to ask them to be quiet. I explained that I banged because I wasn't dressed. Like "Hello"- isn't that obvious by virtue of the fact that I'm not opening the door? Anyhow, it was heated conversation (read: Israeli) and I told him that we weren't going to reach an agreement so let's just drop it. I subsequently went downstairs and spoke to him about the situation though, in an attempt to make peace. After all, it is before Hoshana Rabbah. The sad part is that I had tried to call them before Rosh Hashana to wish them a Chag Sameach. Ah well.
  • Block Yenta saw me on the street and called out to me "I need to talk to you". Suffice it say that despite my general gratitude to her for filling me in on what's going on with/in the building, I was in no mood for new info. Anyway, the past week, Front Neighbour Girl has had her father visiting from Israel and to say father and daughter don't get along would be an understatement. Then again, my apartment has been smoke-free since Daddy Dearest arrived, so I assume part of the negativity is due to FNG's refraining from smoking. Block Yenta then informed me that there have been a couple of incidents involving FNG and one of her regular guests. Now I certainly don't know what's the truth or not, and I'm avoiding believing any of what Block Yenta told me until what's what becomes evident. However, if what I heard is to be believed, things are indeed in a very bad state in the building. Colour me Not Amused.

Chol HaMoed has pretty much followed suit. I'm hoping that things will be on the upturn by Friday. At least, I sure hope so!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Where's the Heat?

Can someone refresh my memory regarding the heat by-law? Is it when the temperature is below 50 F at night and/or after October 15 that the landlord must provide heat?

All I know is that it's dang freezing in my sad little abode. (And please refrain from the "But you're Canadian" comments!) Back in my fair land (and it is beautiful folks, I should post some pics...), landlords get serious penalties for denying heat. After all, there it's a matter of life or death.

Anyhow, a reminder would be most appreciated. This way I know what to state when I call my landlord's brother, aka my landlord's substitute in lieu of both my landlord and his father being in Israel for Sukkot...Aside from "Just turn the heat on already", that is. :)

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Talk About Inappropriate

Note: The following post is not about my situation with my landlord or living condition. Everyone has already chimed in ad nauseum regarding that situation, and I admit that I will need to move in the near future, aka when I am able to start repacking, etc. Therefore, please keep any comments to the noted conversation.

Last Friday, after listening to my fridge making very sad sounds, I called my landlord's father (aka he who told my DEH that I'm a bad wife). As previously noted, the said father is supposed to operate as the stand-in for my dearly departed landlord during the latter's extended absences.

My phone call found him surprisingly agreeable. "Just tell me what time on Tuesday to be there, and I'll take care of everything then". I told him noon, hung up, and hoped that this obvious rash of good cheer was due to chagim- because maybe then it would last.

This morning, at 12 PM sharp, the buzzer rings. I let him in. That's when the charade begins. I had told him on Friday that the fridge makes a sound like the motor will die for several minutes, then click into regular motor sound for a few more minutes, before the whole fridge goes quiet. So I had expected him to at least look at the back of the fridge, right?

Alas, no. He instead thumped the fridge several times while reiterating that the fridge was new, under warranty, and even if it should die, they have another one to replace it with. So just give him a call. He also mentioned something about the electricity, and that motors don't gradually die; they just conk out. Anyway he's going to Israel on Thursday, do I have the rent cheque for him?

You'll note that today is a few days prior to the end of the month. I gave him an incredulous look for a moment, then went to get the cheque, which I had prepared last night in anticipation of him (ahem) fixing the fridge. As for the window that has remained pending for several months, the part the landlord ordered to fix the window a couple of weeks ago still hasn't arrived. Hmmm.

As he was leaving, the unforgivable part of the episode occurred. He took the rent cheque from me then stated that my problem was, quote, "that (you) don't have a man around". That, my friends, was the end.

It's the day after Yom Kippur. So I forgave him for the comment, chalking it up to cultural difference. But the not knowing when the repairs would be done, and what appeared to be an outright lie (saying he'd fix everything Friday when today it seemed like he only showed up to collect the rent)...that got me. So I called him a little while ago. He immediately became defensive when I asked him a question (the usual course of our conversations unfortunately) and started yelling at me. I asked him to please stop yelling, at which point he managed to subdue himself for a few moments. So I again tried to tell him what I didn't understand, at which point he started yelling over me again. The end result was of course him telling me that if I don't like it here I can move.

I told him to have his son in Israel, aka my landlord, to please call me, since the father and I can't seem to communicate. Why, oh why, Hashem must I deal with this man????

Friday, September 25, 2009

Just a Thursday in Brooklyn

Today was an interesting day, Brooklyn-wise.

In the morning, my davening was tested by a motorist who decided he would lean on his horn- for full 2 minutes. Like, HELLO, this is a mixed-zone neighbourhood. Some of us actually live here, and are trying to conduct our lives in peace. As for the rest of the yahoos who conducted the routine honking, I've said enough on them for a lifetime, so I'll leave well enough alone.

This afternoon I ventured off making deliveries: cookies and candy to those I'm visiting on Shabbos, my remaining stash of ginger almond cookies to my friend S (who loves ginger cookies), and my cheque to the Rav as per the gabbai's plea on R'H'. When I made my deliveries, none of the recipients were home. Yet as I made my way about the neighbourhood, I happened to see my host for Fri night, my friend S picking up her kids at the school bus drop-off, and the Rav's wife doing some shopping. I even ran into a friend of my coming home from Avenue J. It really was the first time ever that I felt like I was part of the neighbourhood. I have to admit: it was a nice feeling.

The evening was slightly less warm and fuzzy. I made the moronic decision to scoot into Moisha's to procure some Starlight Mints (since I had just given away my Organic Lollies in my care packages). The entrance aisle was barred by a woman who was reviewing the babka so carefully that she oblivious to the fact that her cart was preventing more than 10 patrons from moving.

This woman was the definition of chutzpah, and not the Brooklyn kind (I'll refrain from identifying her nationality). Figuring that everyone had carts except me, I crammed myself between her cart and the next patrons to get her attention, and asked her if she could please move so that the patron coming from the opposite direction could pass, thereby clearing the aisle for the remaining patrons who were waiting. Her response was sadly predictable. She told me that I could wait a minute. I politely pointed out that several people were waiting to pass, and that's when she unleashed the litany.

Are the Yom Tovim over yet? Because brother, the law of the land here is sure wearing me out!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Highlights from R'H'

A few moments worth noting from the last couple of days:
  1. Had a tender reunion with the elderly Holocaust survivor I had the pleasure of sitting next to last year (see A Rare Honour). I was thrilled to see her. As for why her face lit up to see me... :) Anyhow, over the two days, similar to last year, her tefillah bolstered and inspired me.
  2. Fought the urge to cry Day 1 as it was Shabbos. I managed to refrain from letting the tears spill over. Day 2 though I was simply exhausted and couldn't rekindle my enthusiasm. Hopefully Hashem took notice on Day 1.
  3. Ate dinner with the "Mussar" host et al. Due to the small crowd (5 guys and me), he limited his berachas to everyone in general and left the personalised mussar for another time. As with my previous visit, the part of the evening that I enjoyed the most was communing with the women in the kitchen. I met the hostess's daughter, who was a breath of fresh air. She uttered the most memorable line of the chag: "I knew you were from out-of-town because you don't look miserable. You're too happy to be from Brooklyn". Classic.
  4. Listened to the shofar today, with various interruptions (more on that in a separate post, bli neder). The funniest moment was when two cute kinderlach were obediantly sitting crunching away loudly on their nacho tortilla chips as Mommy tried to hear shofar. The CRUNCH CRUNCH CRUNCH was surprising loud in the otherwise quiet shul and almost overshadowed the blasts. I tried to keep from laughing as I attempted to determine what message Hashem was sending me. :p Aside from "Pay better attention", of course.
  5. Walked to the beach to do Tashlich. Saw at the Sefardi shuls along the way large throngs of people surrounding either wading pools or basins filled with water (and a few token leaves). The scene struck me as hilarious. I mean, how far were these people from the beach? So I assumed it's some minhag born from living in the desert hundreds of miles from water. Then again, maybe not. Inquiring minds want to know!
  6. Made it to the beach just in time to do Tashlich (6:20 PM). I had forgotten however that the paper that I printed off a few years ago uses odd abbreviations. The end result is that the last few years I have problems deciphering what I'm supposed to say in spots. I'm sure I made the usual mistakes this year. Now the question is do I have to do a repeat visit to the beach?

That, along with a lot really terrific food, pretty much sums up my chag (While the terrific comment refers to the various meals I ate out, I'm pleased to report that my salads turned out fine after all). Hope everyone had a great chag and that it was the beginning of an excellent New Year!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Jackpot

Every once in a while, Hashem throws you an undeserved treat.

This past Friday afternoon, I did a bit of shopping online. I picked the standard shipping option, and looked forward to receiving my new long-sleeve t-shirts (in very pretty colours) just in time for Rosh Hashana. Well, this morning, at 10 AM, my doorbell rang and the happy UPS man delivered the said t-shirts into my delighted little hands (why can't the USPS guys be so happy?).

Prior to placing the order, I had contacted Customer Service by phone to ask a few questions, and the phone CSR told me I qualified for $5 off the shipping charges. Since the shipping labels didn't have pricing details, I decided to call the company to see what my credit card had been charged. The CSR I spoke to informed me that not only had I not received the reduced shipping, but that I should have received additional savings on each item. (I still don't know how I qualified for reduced pricing, but hey, I'll take it!) The end result is that I got a refund of $8 on my order.

Now when your Monday morning starts like that... :)

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Smells of Rosh Hashana

This morning I had an early morning appointment. Yes, very bad planning on my part, given that I was up until 4 AM due to Selichos.

But in the end my Shabbos nap proved restorative enough, and I found myself full of energy as I bounded about Flatbush, running my miscellaneous errands. It didn't hurt that it was absolutely perfect weather- or that my purse was stocked with a nice baggie full of Jelly Bellies, courtesy of my friend S! In any event, it felt really marvelous to be out, and my shopping was relatively uneventful.

The only snafus in my day regarded my outfit. First, my favourite long-sleeve t-shirt wound up with two nice holes, and then one of the nose pieces on my glasses broke. B'H' I have a few pairs of contacts left. I wonder why the confluence though...Maybe to give me the kick in the "pants" to go get my eyes examined?

But then again, when you have spent an afternoon outdoors in the beautiful sunshine, smelling all the delicious foods that the Flatbush women were cooking today pre-Rosh Hashana (brisket anyone?), you can't help but stay happy, no matter what. Maybe it was the effects of Selichos, or maybe of my only having time for one cup of coffee this morning. Whatever the reason, it was the most pleasant day that I've spent in Flatbush in a very long time. Here's hoping that today is the start of a trend. :)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Breslov Love

Earlier this week, I found myself on Avenue J. As I was returning home, I saw a Breslover Chassid carrying his books, and tried to get his attention so that I could give him tzeddakah. But wouldn't you know it? I guess wearing colour AND a jean skirt screamed "untznius" to him, because he literally turned the opposite way and walked away from me. Strangely I wasn't offended, only disappointed that I had been unable to give him the tzeddakah.

But then this afternoon, after waiting for the non-stop honking to cease for a few minutes, I ran across the street to do some shopping. I was most thankful to find that the shop was half-empty. (Don't worry though: the honking resumed shortly thereafter, as did the mob scene in the shop.). That's when I was approached by a Breslover Chassid.

I enthusiastically reached for a dollar to give him and after waving away one of the many pamphlets I already own, asked if he had a calendar. He then proceeded to give me at least 6 pamphlets that I hadn't read yet, as well as a book that supposedly you keep in the house as a segulah (Does anyone know about that latter one? I've never heard of it before.). True to form, all the pamphlets he chose are eerily pertinent to my life right now. That he gave me one for my basheret I expected (my hair is uncovered after all), but the rest? Spooky stuff, as usual.

Anyhow, I gave him an extra dollar to make up for the other Breslover earlier in the week and because he was just so pleasant and friendly at a moment when I really needed it. Why can't all my interactions with yiddin in Brooklyn be so pleasant? :p As the saying goes, it starts with you, so maybe if I read my pamphlets enough, those interactions can start improving. Hey, they call it emunah people!

A Tree Falls in Brooklyn

Since the playgroup has morphed into a school as of Tuesday, I decided yesterday to have a conversation with Basement Lady. Basically, I asked her to provide me a time frame for when the children would be outside; I figure this way we all have a schedule and can amicably work around each other. She told me a one-hour slot, and although the time was probably the worst hour of the entire workday for me, I decided that for the time being, it would have to do. After all, if it wound up being a problem, we would just have to converse a bit further, right?

However today, the hour wound up being an hour and a half. And while I understand that with children you can't be exact, it was too much already. To come out 15 minutes before the agreed-upon time? Fine. To extend past the allotted cut off point? Not cool. So I had no recourse but to take the loathed route, and call down to get her attention.

In typical Flatbush fashion, the assistant made out like I was from Mars by responding with the anticipated "But they're children". To which I mentioned that we're all trying to make some parnassah here- at which point Basement Lady conveniently became available and took over the conversation. Yet she also seems to speak Brooklynese also, because our conversation consisted of her repeating that she had given me a time, and me trying to point out (without actually saying the words in an effort to remain civil) that the time frame had been over for a nice while already. Much to my relief, she wound up taking the children in shortly thereafter, and I was able to proceed with job hunting calls I had been waiting to make.

While I know that the whole situation is pointless and I really need to just move already, I still felt lousy about the "incident", because who wants to be on bad terms with another yid, especially in Elul? Sure, I'm fed up with being accommodating, especially when she seems to unwittingly take advantage of it. I just wish I didn't have to come across as the Nasty Upstairs Lady.

I suppose I'll have to simply suck it up for the time being, and hope that I can find work outside the house. Until I can eventually move, of course.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Random Thoughts

A few thoughts that have been rolling around in the old noggin this week, courtesy of the influx of people returning after the summer.
  • Honking: Why, if they see that the roadway is completely blocked so that no cars can negotiate moving, do drivers insist on leaning on the horn? How about a smidgen of patience people? Since last Thursday, the symphony of honking has been a non-stop, all-day/night affair. Give it a rest already!
  • Staring: What's with the open-mouthed stare anyway? I was wearing white this past Sunday, and two teenagers gave me the Brooklyn double-take, complete with the over-the-shoulder look. Since when is white assur? I decided to let the Satan win for the moment, and catching their eye over-the-shoulder as well, gave a loud "RUDE!". Seriously...
  • Schooling: What's with the half-day on the first day of school? Is the only reason because the teachers need the afternoon to try to garner their outstanding pay from last year? And by the way, school is now officially what the playgroup downstairs is being called. Because yes folks, it is now a year-long affair!

I think it's time I have another peanut butter brownie, eh? Maybe with a little swig of something stronger than tea to take the edge of my nerves. :p For everyone's sake.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Yeesh

So I celebrated my birthday recently. And yes, I did in fact celebrate versus do my typical hermit routine, because my friends surprised me with a mini-party layl Shabbos. Thoughtful of them, eh? Anyhow, when did I feel old? On my birthday? Nope. As people sang "How old are you now"? Nope.

Instead, yours truly clued into how old I am (read: penultimate to a milestone) when I listened to this song and realised it was a hit in 2001. That's eight years ago. Here's the short version, although true to my trance roots, I prefer the Armin Van Buuren remix. Hope it brings back some memories for someone other than myself. ;)

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Ah, Memories

Back when I was, ahem, off the derech, my musical tastes ran the gamut. But I have always had a soft spot for techno, specifically trance. To quote my friend H, techno is happy music. And in my mind, techno was to the '90s what the love-in was to the '60s. How can you resist all that peace and love?

Pre-Shabbos, I happened to be in techno mode, and played a few of my fave tracks. It was kind of a rave for one. :) But tonight, when my friend D gave me an opportunity to hit YouTube and spend an hour or so getting back into technoland...well, that was something special. And it left me inspired.

So for D and H (and any other reformed speaker girls out there!), here is a sampling of my "go to" techno songs. Hope you enjoy!

ATB featuring Paul Van Dyke
Two powerhouses collaborate. Could it get any better? I think not...

ATB featuring Miss Jane- One Fine Day
Are you sensing a trend here? :p

Fragma- Toca's Miracle

Ian Van Dahl- Castles in the Sky

Melanie C- I Turn To You


Paul Oakenfold- Send Me An Angel
This one is representative. The man is simply a genius and I love almost everything by him.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Can't I Just Be Frum?

I heard recently that one of the latest questions that shadchanim ask a girl is whether she sleeps in a nightgown or pyjamas. Supposedly nowadays, as opposed to when I was growing up, the thought is that pyjamas are actually more tznius- despite consisting of pants. Perhaps they mean does the girl wear pyjama bottoms under the nightgown? All I know is my Mom had me sleeping in a nightgown at a pretty young age. And duh I wore something in addition to the nightgown, albeit not pyjama bottoms. So does that make me less tznius?

Which brings me to the point of this post. There I was yesterday, enjoying a little impromptu shopping in NWL, trying to decide whether I am now supposed to be buying PJs instead of nightgowns or in addition to nightgowns. And that's when I reached my limit. Why on earth should I be wasting mental energy trying to decide if nightgowns are now assur? WHO CARES?

It would appear though that Brooklyn cares. A lot. So here comes my question of the hour:

Why can't I just have a relationship with Hashem, without it becoming the business of everyone else in this and every other frummie neighbourhood? Why should anyone feel comfortable enough asking me what I wear to bed at night? How I stack my dishes on Shabbos and/or if I do? If I wear colour or only black and white? As long as I'm shomer mitzvos, show ahavah to my fellow yid, and try to continue to foster my relationship with The Creator, why must I be subjected to the questions/comments/looks?

Can't I just be frum and have that be good enough already?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

You Know It's Elul When...

I've noticed that since Rosh Chodesh, the yetzer hara is a lot stronger. Case in point, this evening while I was out shopping, I was much closer to the edge while making my rounds. The yetzer hara wants you now, while you're trying to start making amends for your aveirahs, chasve shalom, of the past year, to FAIL. It wants you to keep adding to the Going to Gehinnom column, chasve shalom, as opposed to wiping that side clean.

So don't give in, y'all. Stay strong. Hang tough. Remain aware of the yetzer's devious little plan. And don't get caught in his trap. We're all better than that, and if we put our mind to it, we can succeed.

Here's hoping that we all side-step any spiritual pitfalls in the coming weeks so that we can truly enter the new year spiritually recharged and invigorated. And make Hashem proud.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Tweeting is Killing My Blog!

I should have know it would be my latest obsession. I am utterly hooked on Twitter. And it's not just the convenience of having exactly the sound bites you want all together in a central location. No, the clincher is that I LOVE streamlining my thoughts into 140 character snippets. Maybe it's the Yekki/Virgo/techie in me, but gosh, it makes me feel so zen.

The upshot though is that I've started neglecting my blogging. Why develop carpal tunnel typing away when you can give the gist instead? Tweeting is efficient, and that's awesome.

But fear not. Sometimes I still have a rant or two in me (okay, maybe more often than sometimes, true) so this blog is going nowhere for the time being. Just make sure to subscribe to me on Twitter. Or at least read the Twitter Updates to stay abreast with Life with LPC.

CFN!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

My Birthday Wish

Since supposedly I am closer to Hashem today (it's now officially 4 Elul), I figure it would only be appropriate if I ask Hashem for a little help and guidance.

First Hashem, please bring Mosiach immediately. It would be lovely to exist in a world where morality, peace, and perfect health existed for all.

Second, please let this year be the year when I truly begin to make progress on all my shortcomings. Let this be the year when, by slowly making real change in my thoughts, actions, and character, I can become elevated spiritually.

Finally, Thank You for allowing me to reach yet another birthday. Until 120!

Sincerely,
You Know Who

Duped Again

I got referred to a family for Shabbos lunch, and it turned out to be yet another "singles" affair, complete with two dozen or so older singles. GRRR.

To be fair, the hostess was a wonderful, warm lady, as evidenced by the fact that when I first arrived and went to the kitchen to introduce myself, the other ladies were all in there too. I find that such grouping tends to only occur when the hostess has truly opened her home and heart to her guests.

In any event, the food was delicious, but the problem was that there was no talking during the meal (save when the women cleared and congregated in the kitchen between courses). Instead, the talking during the meal consisted of the host giving over divrei Torah, complete with the constant, "subtle" focus of reminding us singles that it is our shortcomings that have prevented us from getting married. Of course, if we just apply the advice from his divrei Torah, he'll have the joy of attending all of our vorts and chuppahs!

But it didn't stop there. It seems that the host also has a minhag of going around the table, and giving each guest an individualized beracha. Very nice, except he again throws in a bit of mussar. He even told the woman to my left that she should learn to be flexible and listen more- in front of everyone. I cringed internally,, wondering how he could justify embarrassing someone in public like that. When it got to me, I told him before he started that I didn't need a beracha for a shidduch. He managed to alter his beracha formula for me in time. When I was taking my leave after the meal however, he felt the need to raise the question: Why had I asked him to refrain from a beracha for a shidduch? I found the question inappropriate, but since that was evidently the law of the land in that house, I decided that honesty was the best policy. So I explained my situation to him, and he remarked "Smart woman". I managed to refrain from the almost automatic eye-roll, cordially thanked him, and managed to escape without giving any confirmation concerning a repeat visit.

Now, I can certainly appreciate a host who opens his door wide for singles, and sincerely wants to help his guests find their bashert. However, it's about time that some Rav puts a stop to this condescending down talk. Just because some one is married does not mean that they are qualified to speak on shidduchim or that they themselves are perfect spouses. So let's refrain in future from this New York-wide phenomenon of marrieds feeling justified in passing mussar on to their single guests. It is simply offensive. Obviously, if one knows a guest well, is on good terms, and the guest initiates the topic during private conversation, a host may (I repeat, may) have an opening to gently point out certain behaviour that is preventing the guest from finding their bashert. But most of the time,the delicate topic of shidduchim should be left to the given man or woman, their Rav, and their shadchan.

Because in the end, humiliating one's guests in front of each other, even with the best of intentions, is simply unacceptable.

Virgo!

In honour of my birthday tomorrow (penultimate to a milestone!), I'm posting a few facts about Virgos. While I certainly don't hold by daily horoscopes or anything of that nature, I do find that the personality descriptions of each sign are typically pretty accurate. I consequently interpret this accuracy as yet another instance of the wonderful structure that Hashem used when creating the natural world.

That said, does the following sound like anyone you know? ;)

All About Virgo
With an acute attention to detail, Virgo is the sign in the Zodiac most dedicated to serving. Their deep sense of the humane leads them to care-giving like no other, and their methodical approach to life ensures that nothing is missed. The Virgo is often gentle and delicate, preferring to step back and analyze before moving ahead.

Friends and Family
A Virgo is a helpful friend to have indeed. They are excellent at giving advice, and they really know how to problem-solve. You'll find that a Virgo will remind you to take good care of yourself as health is a focal point for them. And when the meal is done, they'll be the first to jump up and start the dishes. Loving and dedicated to family, the Virgo is also first on the scene when care is needed. When someone reaches old age or is ill, the Virgo will be there doing all that is needed. The Virgo is not known for showing feelings. They would prefer to show through deed than by word.

Career and Money
I analyze is the key phrase for the Virgo personality, while practicality is the keyword. Industrious, discriminating, and scientific by nature, the Virgo really knows how to get to the heart of the matter. They are exceptionally methodical and do well in jobs that require organization. If there's anything out of order, set a Virgo to the task!

When focused on a task, the Virgo will push it to perfection, leaving no stone unturned. They are exacting and take great pride in a job done to the absolute best of their ability. When they feel their talent falls short, they'll turn to the books to learn whatever they need to improve. Careers suited to this sign include being a doctor, nurse, psychologist, teacher, writer, and critic.

Virgos are excellent with their money. They plan well in advance for expenditures, and when it comes to shopping, they aren't apt to overspend. Every now and then, the Virgo can be seen buying something of beauty, though. They love the arts and enjoy decorating their homes with taste.

Ruling Planet
The ruling planet for Virgo is Mercury. Representing intellectual urges and the avenue of expression, this planet rules reason, rationalization, words, awareness, and communication. Its action is quick, and it also deals with travel, speaking, writing, trade, and emotional capacity and technique.

Colors
The colors of choice for Virgo are green, white, and dark brown.

Gemstone
Virgo's star stone is the sardonyx - the reddish brown variety. Jade is also lucky.

Lucky Numbers
Virgo's lucky numbers are 2, 5, and 7.

Compatibility
Virgos are most compatible with Capricorn and Taurus.

Opposite Sign
The opposite sign of Virgo is Pisces.

The Perfect Gift
Virgos are picky and hate others making a fuss. Take them out to eat at their favorite restaurant. Buy them some of their favorite spirits. Good-quality blue agave tequila is generally much admired. Virgo women cannot resist flowers.

Likes
Cleanliness, animals, healthy foods, books, nature

Dislikes
Taking center stage, rudeness, asking for help

House
Natural sign of the Sixth House. This house focuses on health, perfection, service given, skilled work, and pets.

Famous Virgos
Michael Jackson, Beyonce, LeAnn Rimes, Pink, Jada Pinkett Smith, Keanu Reeves, Tommy Lee Jones

Best travel destinations
Greece, West Indies, Uruguay, Paris, Boston, Heidelberg

Strengths
Practical, loyal, hardworking, analytical, kind

Weaknesses
Worry, shyness, overly critical of self and others, all work and no play

Charismatic marks
A certain, reserved manner marks the classic Virgo. Virgos are generally medium to slight in build.

Best environment
Virgo is most at home in the company of animals and close to nature. Virgo enjoys being the sidekick or indispensable assistant.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Baking Challah

Last night I checked the freezer to see how many challahs I have left. Since I was down to one, today was challah day.

One good thing (okay, maybe the only good thing) about the current heat wave is that your dough sure does rise quickly under such conditions. The first rise happened in 20 minutes, and the subsequent two in 10. In short, the heat and humidity made for some very fluffy water challah. So for any of you who are "yeast-challenged", i.e. claim they cannot bake challah because it never rises, I suggest you try on day like today.

In a related vein, the issue I tend to have is not with the baking challah part- it's with the taking challah part. I can never remember how much flour equals the amount requiring the taking of challah. By that I of course mean officially, since I always take challah, even though some rebbeim claim that with certain volumes you don't take at all. Here is a run down of the general guidelines/quantities:
  • 1 lb flour = approx 4 cups
  • 5 lbs flour = take challah with the blessing
  • 2 1/2 lbs flour to 5 lbs flour = take challah without the blessing
  • Less than 2 1/2 lbs flour = do nothing

And FYI, if you hate having to smell up your kitchen with burning the challah taken, you have a couple of options. First, you can store the challah taken until Pesach, and then you burn it all with your chometz. I actually know quite a few people who do that. My freezer of course prevents me from taking that route. Instead, I follow option 2, which is to double-wrap the challah taken in wax paper or aluminum foil and then dispose of it in the garbage.

Happy baking!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Evacuate Now!

You've all heard me complain about the water bugs that saunter into my apartment through the front door, courtesy of the front apartment. Yesterday I made a grotesque discovery. There, in the middle of the afternoon, were 5 gigantic water bugs hanging out in my floor-level, pareve cabinet in the kitchen (aka the cabinet by the stove, where I've seen their friends).

That, my friends, was the very last straw.

I promptly went to Bargain Hunters to procure boric acid. I then ran home, cleaned out the bottom part of said cabinet, causing a melee of activity from its dwellers when their camp-out was disrupted. Iwashed all the items that the buggies had nestled amongst (that was a long cleanup) and proceeded to do a light dusting of the boric acid in the usual spots (under/behind fridge, along baseboard of floor cabinets, under/behind stove)- including a nice heap in the corner by the front door where they like to make their entrance.

Today I concocted a nice soap and water solution and filled my newly purchased spray bottle. Just now the spray bottle executed its initial mission. The given target froze long enough when he sensed my movement to allow me to douse him nicely. How very accommodating of him. I suppose not all of Hashem's creatures have a finely tuned survival mechanism. Let's hope he took the message home to his friends. But just in case:

"Now hear this. Now hear this. Evacuate now or face the consequences. I repeat, evacuate now or face the consequences."

Watch out, buggies. Mama means business!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Lost Sheep

I was at ShopRite yesterday as the last leg on my weekly shopping trip along MacDonald Ave. My backpack was already quite full, as I had hit King Tomato, but I figured I would just have to keep myself in check while perusing the ShopRite aisles. Not that the prices of the non-sale items doesn't help with that, but anyway.

I thought I would take solid measures to ensure that I wasn't slogging 20 pounds home by hand, and decided that a hand basket would do the trick. So I located the stack, then started down the aisles, keeping to only the items on my list. I hit the very first aisle I need, my basket is (thankfully) still empty, and I see a 20-something frum guy trying to put his groceries in his baby's carriage. You've all seen the women do that, and to be honest, I think there's definitely an art to it- kind of like the female version of Tetris. Anyhow, I see this guy, and his carriage is about to topple over despite his having only a few items. Then, to prove my observation, a bunch of things cascade from the carriage onto the floor as I'm coming down the aisle.

I quickly sized up the guy, and noting that he was beardless, decided that my speaking to him wouldn't result in my either being ignored or hostility. So as I passed him, I asked him if he needed a basket; I could get another one. He gratefully accepted the basket, and I turned around, went back down the aisles, and got myself another one. When I returned to the same aisle to commence my shopping anew, he was still there, and politely said "Thank you" as I made my way down.

There you have it. It was nice to finally get past the whole "I'm looking at the ceiling/over to the side pretending not to see you" situation. And as a result, I was able to do a little chesed for one of the klal.

Right to Set Their Own Rules

Over Shabbos, the conversation turned to some new tznius guidelines implemented in the Satmar community. The items specifically discussed included the decision to ban both shells and "the layered look".

The irony about the latter item was that just this past week I caved, and bought a very sweet, folky t-shirt to wear over my long-sleeve t-shirts. So as I sat there at the table, it was dressed for the very first time in banned item #2. This coincidence/timing actually furthered the conversation, so despite my initial embarrassment, I'm glad in the end that I was dressed as I was.

With regards to shells, it was commented by the women at the table that shells do tend to 1. move around (I suggested pinning them in place), and 2. draw attention to that part of the body, i.e. whatever pieces the shell is filling in, that's where the eye tends to fall. I suppose that the shells in question are of the tank top kind, with regards to comment 1, although I couldn't be certain.

As for the layered look, one woman scoffed (and commented that she liked how I looked in my outfit as proof), but another pointed out that the community has a right to set rules for themselves to follow. As non-Satmar, we can choose to either associate with them and follow the guidelines, or go elsewhere. I thought that was a particularly insightful comment. As for the whole issue of fashion, I can understand it. But then again, I've never been a slave to fashion. I like simple and neat, and am never up on the latest trends. So perhaps I'm not the best one to chime in. I will say that I am not generally a fan of the layered look (in spite of the compliment I was paid, lol), because it tends to look "forced", aka trying too hard to be hip. Again, what do I know?

Anyhow, I found the guidelines to be an interesting discussion point, and I hope I've provided some fodder for further discussion regarding current tznius standards, across communities.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Happy Discovery

As you are all well aware, I adore dark chocolate. My pantry is eternally stocked with baking cocoa for truffles, and I scoop up Cadbury's Royal Dark whenever it's on sale. Given my typical stress level these days, I consider it medicine.

I've been suffering through a bout of gastronomic discord for the past week (B'H' for the car accident), and feeling utterly lousy. I've tried fruit and ginger tea, which helped but certainly didn't solve the problem. I've tried popcorn and steamed veggies, to no avail. I was thinking I'll just have to muddle along until things either straighten themselves out or I wind up in hospital again, chasve shalom.

This morning I was eating an orange (see, fruit) when I got a craving for a mocha. First, I was happy that I had a craving, since I haven't been feeling hungry all week. So that was encouraging, and I made myself the mocha. I mean, heck, there sure isn't much further to go down the feeling lousy scale (bli ayin hara). And wouldn't you know it? Chocolate really is a miracle food! I actually felt quite a bit better. I of course had to make myself another. :)

So let go of that residual guilt you may have about scarfing down that Hershey's chocolate bar. I, for one, say "Go for it"!

Seven Things I Love Meme

A while back I was tagged by Moshe in the "Seven Things I Love" meme. Moshe, you'll excuse me, but I won't be tagging 7 bloggers BECAUSE YOU STOLE HALF MY LIST. ;)
  1. My mom. DUH.
  2. Animals/birds. Fascinating.
  3. My first cup of coffee in the morning on Shabbos.
  4. My Schottenstein Interlinear Tehillim.
  5. Benchlicht.
  6. My friends (I'm B'H', bli ayin hara, so very blessed.)
  7. The internet. So I can keep in touch with #6, and the world at large.
Since I'm not tagging anyone, feel free to post your list in the comments.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

My Dad's Yartzheit, 2009

This week was my dad's yartzheit, and it wound up being unexpectedly eventful. I won't bore everyone with the details (for once), but I will share a few points.

First, while my reaction was pretty much consistent with last year (see this post), the focus of the day shifted almost imperceptibly. Did I cry? Yes, once. But I managed this year, as opposed to last year, to truly contemplate the lessons that my father taught me through his example. More to the point, when I said tehillim this year, it wasn't numbly. Rather it was with tremendous concentration and purpose.

So as much as the day is still painful, yet another reminder of his physical absence from this world, I am slowly being able to fill the void every so slightly by applying what he taught me. In turn, as much as I definitely feel the lack caused by our inability to communicate tangibly, I am starting to fixate less on that lack, and instead sift through my internal repository to find answers to my questions. Because one thing I realised this week is that I have a repository of his point of view within me; I have internalised the examples he left me with his actions and his words.

And I suppose, in the end, that is what a parent is: the person who forms you and guides you, who acts as your teacher so that you can make your way in the world, eventually, without them. I hope that through my actions this week in his honour, his neshama can continue escalating through the heights in Olam Haba. Kisses!

Amazing

There are people who proudly label themselves artists. Such people invariably do so in order to have "creative license" to be dramatic- versus actually creating.

This woman however is the real deal. Performance art that speaks to people of all nationalities, if half a million hits on YouTube and comments in multiple languages are any indication.