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.


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!

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.


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.

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

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.

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.

Cleanliness, animals, healthy foods, books, nature

Taking center stage, rudeness, asking for help

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

Practical, loyal, hardworking, analytical, kind

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!


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.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Cynosure: Friends of the Opposite Gender

It's been a looooonnnnnng time since anyone asked my opinion on dating. Given my personal history, can you blame them? But I do have one friend who occasionally seeks my counsel. (Or, to use their words, "WWPCD: What would La Poutine Cachere do?".) The current conundrum facing my erstwhile friend was whether it is appropriate to have friends of the opposite gender if you're dating someone seriously. The foregone conclusion the said friend arrived at was that (surprise!) it's halachically better to abstain from such relationships. The following is my take on the issue.

In my case, I don't buy into the typical frummie adage that all opposite gender friendships de facto carry a sexual undercurrent, since I have personally had purely platonic friendships with men. Yes, there definitely are people out there who cannot think of someone of the opposite gender except in a sexual way, or who cannot refrain from wanting to "keep the door open". However, such people typically give off signals that they feel/think that way, and one should refrain from friendships with such people. Granted, I chose to only be friends with men who do not fall into the above category.

Another point where I differ from the party line is that I don't feel that maintaining opposite gender friendships is counterproductive to maintaining a relationship with one's significant other. Your significant other must always remain your primary relationship, and the focal point of your life. However, I believe that having friends outside this primary relationship is beneficial to that relationship, since one should rely on themselves to address their own "needs", i.e. they should not expect their significant other to be their "everything". As I tell every man when dating, my philosophy is that you are two independent people in a relationship, and is obviously the relationship to which one devotes the vast majority of one's energy. But if you devote all of your energy solely to your relationship without devoting adequate energy to also taking care of yourself, you will inevitably become dissatisfied in your relationship. Indeed, you may come to even resent all the effort you are devoting unless you maintain interests and a sense of independent identity.

Friends are a part of this separate identity, and if your friend happens to be of the opposite gender, that isn't unequivocably a problem. Where such relationships typically become a problem though is where there is either a lack of trust or a lack of self-esteem. After all, if your significant other trusted you implicitly and had adequate self-esteem, such relationships shouldn't fuel any shalom bayis problems.

That said, human nature being what it is, I suppose the rebbeim instituted the party line because people do have trust and self-esteem issues. Consider the party line therefore a pre-emptive measure to prevent potential marital discord. I can certainly respect that. In the end then, you need to hold where you're comfortable. My only caveats are that one should ensure that one isn't giving up such friendships due to trust issues, and that such abstinence will prove fruitful long-term. The goal, to reword, is promote shalom, through whatever avenue works for both you and your relationship with your beloved.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Summer Reading Literature

When it comes down to it, I have not read many of the works contained on the annual Greatest American Literature lists put out by New York Times et al. While I have read all Hemingway's short stories, the only novel I was able to get through was "Old Man and The Sea". I really tried to get past the first paragraph of "The Sun Also Rises", but I just couldn't. Same goes for John Updike, although I like his short stories, and while I adore Truman Capote, I have yet to read "In Cold Blood". The only American authour I have read every work by is F. Scott Fitzgerald. To my credit, I did manage to get through "Washington Square", but that's because my Secondary 4 professor assigned it. (Considering all the Canadian authours she could have chose, I'm still puzzled by the selection...)

So during my most recent trip to the BPL, I took out "The Sheltering Sky" by Paul Bowles. And unlike some of the other novels I've zipped through this summer, this one is slow going; you know the type- you keep checking to see when the chapter will end. True, I'm only up to Chapter 5, and things did pick up in the last few pages before I put the book down for the night.

I believe the common thread in my difficulty with these writers is the formal tone to their writing. And while other nationalities certainly employ such a tone, somehow the Americans' tone creates a distance that you have to overcome (at least in my case) in order to engage with the characters. Certainly in a novel that deals with disillusionment with society or a similar topic, such a tone is appropriate. Still, it makes the reading experience more cumbersome and mitigates the relaxation factor. Is it worth the effort? Undoubtedly. But it renders such books less suited for a Summer Reading list.

Right now, there's hope that I'll manage to finish the novel, since the setting is currently North Africa, a region that I have always wanted to visit. If and when I do, I'll be sure to let you all know. :)

NA Summit

It seems that America only recognises the importance of its neighbours when it's beneficial to them. The rest of the time, I have to endure the inane Canada-bashing, which is born of either US ignorance or ill-placed patriotism. When I'm feeling kind, I believe it's the former...

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Notes from the Block

Everywhere I have lived "out of town", I have been able to at least visually identify my neighbours, if not also know their names and other pertinent details.

Not so on my block. Save the:
  • neighbours one door down
  • Chinese family three doors down
  • elderly Russian lady four doors down (who inexplicably started speaking to me last week after refraining from interacting these past 3.5+ years. [we now wave to each other])
  • young thug who walks his dog while chain smoking
  • two Chassidishe boys who gawk as they ride by on their bikes
  • block yenta
I have no clue who lives on my block. FYI, all of the identified parties live on my side of the street. That means the other side is an utter mystery.

So it came as not such a surprise this last layl Shabbos when I meet a young lady (Canadian no less!) who lives across the street and only 5 doors down from me. I had NEVER seen her before. That's almost as hilarious as how much she reminded me of myself at that age, down to the style of her skirt. A CANADIAN on my block and I was unaware. What a disgrace!

On a separate but related note, to all my male goyishe neighbours, young and old, the following is for you:

Please, please, please stop exiting your houses without your shirts. That behaviour is just gross. Same goes for shorts. I don't care how fabulous you feel you look (and I suppose, in turn, consider such displays to be a gift to the female population), I'm here to burst your bubble and inform you that the sight thereof is downright gag-worthy. In short, just put a shirt on already, and if you could throw on trousers as well, so much the better! Thought I would get that in before the heat wave this week.

Thursday, August 6, 2009


Once upon a time, a verrrrry long time ago, I used to be a singer. And by that I mean my choir toured the world, made recordings, and performed with world-renowned symphonies. We were arguably one of the top choirs in the world, if competing against the Manchester Boy's Choir and Vienna Boy's Choir is any indication.

The choir was all my mother the Music Teacher's idea. Because as much as I loved singing, she's the one who decided to "channel" my enthusiasm in the appropriate direction. At least my singing endeavours proved more fruitful than my piano lessons. (Sorry Mom). And like the piano lessons, when I became older, the singing in public went away. You have to do what's tznius after all.

Years of yelling "Sound Speed" in my film production days, not to mention teaching, have left their mark on my current singing ability. My voice is no longer pure as crystal, and my range has shrunk by a few octaves. No longer would anyone be able to proclaim as they used to that I could sing anything. Heck, one recent Shabbos, I even managed to croak when I initially began a song (it was women-only, of course). Yet I still carry my love of music, and go around my house most days singing to myself (quietly, lest the neighbours hear). And I'll admit, I have at least one album of songs in me, if not more. Granted, I wonder how original they might be; they could wind up just being a hodge podge of all the songs I've listened to throughout the years. From time to time, I contemplate recording. At this point, the recording would be to simply give pleasure to my mother, aka my one and only fan. But it would be fun to do.

Then last night, while researching music resources online to make that recording for my mom, I stumbled upon the online karaoke community. I must admit, the thought of karaoke sends me into fits of laughter. I remember when I was lived in Korea how it was a major pastime, along with drinking soju. Let's be honest, for most people, karaoke is equivalent to a bunch of drunkards singing loudly and tonelessly through song after song, unaware of their complete lack of musicality. The whole point of karaoke is not to sing well but to show that you can follow the song in question.

Yet on these online sites, you find quite a few good singers. And given that some of the women post audio-only, versus video, it raises any interesting question about whether recording yourself and putting it up on such sites would be considered tznius. You even have a comment for each recording you upload, so I would think that if a woman wrote "For women only", that might be deemed "kosher".

Now, I am NOT planning on becoming Queen of the Online Karaoke community. Even if I wanted to, my singing just isn't up to snuff to do so. Still, it raised an interesting question for any frummies out there who love to sing and seek an outlet. Maybe the internet isn't so bad after all? :)

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Vera Wang Knock Offs!

When I saw Barb Chansky on Shavous, at one point in our conversation the topic turned to her footwear. You see, on that occasion, she was sporting a fabulous pair of pink, bejeweled, Vera Wang "flip flops". Then, on a later occasion, I saw Barb in identical flip flops, but this time in brown/gold. Since earth-toned clothing/accessories are my current obsession, to say that I was dazzled by the latter pair would not be an exaggeration. (Barb, keep up the good shopping!)

Well, Hashem must have decided to throw me a bone. Last night, I was given a present, and it was none other than a pair of knock-offs, in bronze/gold no less, of those Vera Wang flippies. (I believe the party from whom I received the gift purchased them at ShopRite, if you're interested in procuring some yourself). The remarkable part of that story is that I never mentioned Barb's footwear to the person from whom I received the present. I guess the gift was truly bashert.

Alas, I now have a bit of a problem. Since I wear stockings outside the house, does anyone have tips of wearing knee-highs, etc. with flip-flops? I would looooovvve to wear these outside the house. After all, something so pretty should be shared with the outside world. :)

What to do?

It couldn't last, of course.

Tonight I come home to find a young guy in beanie and white shirt parking his minivan outside the building. No biggie. As I'm going up the stairs schlepping my books, etc., the guy asks "Are you __?". To my chagrin, he uses my English name, which immediately frames him a bad light. So I turn around and ask him why.

He says he's my landlord's cousin, and he wants to buy the building. Can he come take a look? I told him I didn't understand his question- was he actually asking to see my apartment? He said yes. I then replied in the negative, and turned to continue back up the stairs. He asked if I wanted to speak to the landlord. I told him no, I didn't.

I'm upstairs putting my stuff away, just waiting for it. Sure enough, first the front apartment bell rings, then mine. I say "Yes", and he tells me he has the code for the basement, can I open the downstairs door for him? Since the stated door is for entrance to the upstairs apartments, not the basement, and since the stated code grants him access to the basement without my assistance, I told him no, why should I, who is he, and leave me alone.

The really infuriating part of the saga is that a part of me has been suspecting for months that the landlord was planning to sell. And given that this guy shows up, who I don't know from Adam, and asks for entrance to my apartment- that really got my goat. Why the heck do I care if he sees the building or not? In the end, the only place it'll get me is a rent increase.

So now I don't know how to proceed. What are my rights? How can I be preemptive about documenting the lack of maintenance in the building without creating a situation that gives them grounds for an increase? Any advice/hot line numbers would be most appreciated.

Pure Embarrassment

I had been meaning for a while to bake something and bring it over to one of my frequent Shabbos haunts. This Sunday I decided to just grab the bull by the horns and make the time to do so.

I figured a cake was more presentable as a gift than cookies, so I quickly baked one of my vegan marble cakes. I was short on time though, and when I grabbed the cake to deliver it on foot to its destination, it was still literally scalding to the touch. Suffice it to say that by the time I arrived at my friend's house 10 minutes later, it was a sad sight indeed. The cake had deflated and caved in on itself; It had literally melted in the summer heat.

I was positively mortified. My baking skills have always been my ego safety net. Sure, I may suck at everything else, but I can bake! So when I looked at that cake, I just didn't know what to do. And I mentally castigated myself for not keeping to a more tried and true format, like cookies. I mean, cookies you can't mess up, and they transport well. What had I been thinking?

I called my friend later in the evening and apologized. I promised to bake something else if it wound up being unpalatable. She told me she was sure it was edible and told me that she planned to have it the next morning for breakfast (she was fleischig, and my oven is dairy). Unconvinced, I called her yesterday to see if she needed me to bake anything else. NO ANSWER, and she generally returns calls promptly.

I'm at a loss as to what to do next. Let it go and bow my head in shame? Bake something else and drop it off? HELP!!! One thing is for sure: if ever there was a case of haste makes waste, this is it. :(

Chalav Conundrum

If you think about it, frumkeit in NYC is an anomaly. By that I mean that the experience of being frum here is unlike anywhere else in the world. Where else do they have comparable resources available? Not even Israel, from what I hear. Case in point: when I was dating the last time, one NY guy, when I asked where he was holding, decided to list all his dietary chumrahs. I refrained to pointing out that I hoped he planned to remain in NY for the rest of his life, because no way could he perpetuate that list outside of the Greater NYC area.

Which leads me to the point of this post. Until I lived in NY, I didn't bother with chalav Yisroel. To be honest, it was for the most part unavailable, and when it was, it was easily double, if not triple, the price of regular milk. Since I had never kept that chumrah growing up, I didn't feel the need to deviate from my stance. As one of my rebbetzins pointed out, all milk in North America is kosher!

And then I moved to NYC, where to keep chalav stam is scorned. True, given the ease with which one can procure chalav Yisroel and generally tolerable pricing thereof, why wouldn't you buy it? To be fair, I never took the chumrah upon myself- I just love Hershey's Special Dark too much. But I have refrained from buying a litre of chalav stam.

Yet last night I was in ShopRite, and given that I had been unable to find the brand of chalav Yisroel I like in the local shops, decided to peruse the dairy aisle for once. And I made two discoveries. First, while chalav Yisroel comes in skim, 1% or whole milk, chalav stam offers 2% as well. And my taste preference has always been 2%. Secondly, the chalav stam was a full 30% or more cheaper than the chalav Yisroel.

So I'm faced with a conundrum. Do I cave and get the 2% going forward. Or do I suck it up and keep paying more for my less fave yet supposedly "holier" 1% chalav Yisroel? Comments, please!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Ban It!

Tonight, while listening to music via YouTube (I've been searching for cover songs), I came across the following video. To say that I'm now scarred for life is an understatement. As someone who believes in the pet-owner bond, I found this video positively shocking. I'm still mopping up the puddle I left on the floor- although the sobbing did seem to alleviate my allergy symptoms...

Consider yourselves forewarned.