Thursday, January 31, 2008

Mmmmm... food

Seems like half of my girlfriends are in that lovely phase of hormone inbalance that wreaks havoc on our diets and creates incredible feelings of longing. Oh yeah - in honor of all my soul sisters who remember there's no "i" in "team" but two in "period," here's what I'm craving this evening.

1. Indian food. My last two roommates were both huge Indian food fans and so were easy to coerce into helping me satisfy this occasional craving. Now that I live alone, it's harder to commit to a naan-filled meal o' daals, curries and vindaloos. Who's up for the weekend buffet at Chola or a road trip to Edison?

2. Chocolate. Not just because Valentines Day is a few weeks away and not just because I'm a girl. OK, that second part isn't true. I have a little chocolate almost every day and think life would be pretty damn miserable without it. Luckily, this is a craving that's easy to satisfy.

3. Chocolate-covered strawberries. I've long since maintained these are my favorite fruit, a close second to mangoes, and infinitely better because they are blessedly kissed with antioxidant-packed chocolate. Or at least that's I tell myself when I'm blissing out. The best present I got for my college graduation was a huge box of handmade chocolate-covered strawberries from a friend of my family's who works as a caterer. Too bad the Godiva store in my town closed.

4. Homemade bread. That fresh-baked smell. Those still chewy, slightly-undercooked parts. Feeling completely comforted by such a completely simple food. Definitely a plus side of winter on the East Coast.

5. Really good Mexican food. As a transplant from the Southwest, I regularly crave food that I didn't eat at home, but grew to love from restaurants in Phoenix, Tucson and Santa Fe. Satisfying this craving might be one pro of my impending high school reunion.

Well, I'm good and hungry now and I hope you are too. Feel free to comment with your latest food cravings!

Friday, January 25, 2008

29 and Pregnant: Not Another Lifetime Movie

A recent front-page article in the Washington Post uncovered something incredibly un-newsworthy this week – it seems that college-educated men and women are actually having children before they hit 30.

Clearly, the Washington Post writers never looked at my 10 year high school reunion blog or my list of Facebook friends because let me tell you, I’ve been feeling like a slouch lately for not having had my requisite 2.2 kids yet… did I mention I just turned 28? And since my hometown features a large Mormon population, most of the parents among my fellow Toros from the Class of 1998 have three kids and counting.

In the past year alone, no fewer than 8 of my friends had kids and they join the ranks of many other colleagues, acquaintances and BFFs of mine who have already given birth. Let me also make mention of the fact that most of these people are not simply college educated, but also have advanced degrees in social work, law, business, occupational therapy and medicine.

While I absolutely think the Washington Post is right that more 20-somethings in my generation delay marriage and subsequent children because of factors like higher student loan debt, difficulty breaking into the job market, changes in career focus, anxiety due to their parents’ divorce(s), greater geographic movement and plain ol’ fear of commitment, I would hardly characterize a 29-year-old parent of a toddler as an anomaly.

Is this just another proof of the pendulum swing late-Generation Xers are boldly taking back to the family structures of the 1950s or have things never really changed that much?

Monday, January 21, 2008

Happy New Year - to the trees at least

Tonight starts the Jewish holiday of Tu B'Shevat. The name of the holiday refers to the date on the Hebrew calendar, but really it boils down to Jewish Arbor Day. When I was a kid, this was one of my favorite holidays. Our rabbi would read Dr. Seuss's environmentalist classic, The Lorax, during her Kabbalat Shabbat sermon time and at Hebrew school we'd plant a tree because we lived in Arizona and could do that sort of thing in January. Then we would get to eat a ton of fruit, which I suspect is the real reason I liked the holiday.

Now in a world adrift in "green living," I've had some time to think more deeply about Tu B'Shevat and why I like(d) it so much. First, I think it's fantastic to have a Jewish holiday that doesn't involve guilt or the classic adage - "They tried to kill us. We won. Let's eat." Second, you finally get a Jewish holiday rich in antioxidants and not laden with ultra-rich food. Third, in our modern practice - Tu B'Shevat is a great way to dabble in spirituality without having to go whole hog, so to speak.

The seder (or service) for this holiday began with the 16th Century Kabbalists in the Israeli city of Tzfat (not with Madonna in Los Angeles). I highly recommend the link above for a thorough overview of the symbols and practices of Tu B'Shevat - but very briefly - the Kabbalists understood our universe as comprised of four worlds simultaneously inhabited and constantly interacting. Assirah (Action), represents the physical world around us while Yetzirah (Formation) entails emotions and feelings. B'riyah (Creation) is embodied by knowing and the mind and finally Atzilut (Emanation) is the world of spirituality.

Pretty heavy - huh? I'm not even going to attempt to break all of this down or wax rhapsodic about my own personal theories of the universe. Mainly because I haven't really figured that out yet. But, what I will mention is this passage from a seder I attended last week about why it's important to bless one's food. Again, remembering to thank the appropriate Divine powers for my nourishment is a challenge - but hopefully this will serve as a good nudge.

"The Kabbalists believed that reciting a blessing before eating draws down the flow of Divine energy through the fruit or other food to restore the soul. A blessing over fruit also draws down the divine "angel" of that fruit to cause renewed growth to replace the fruit that was consumed. But a person must eat the fruit and make the blessing in order to keep the Divine energy going."

Amen indeed!

Thursday, January 17, 2008


Barbara Kingsolver, acclaimed author and fellow University of Arizona alumna, once wrote, “In any event, I never put real people into my fiction – I can’t see the slightest point of that, when I have the alternative of inventing utterly subservient slave-people, whose every detail of appearance and behavior I can bend to serve my theme and plot.”

I’ve only recently discovered Kingsolver’s nonfiction, but as a former newspaper writer who now babbles in the gray area of the blogosphere, the notion of choosing to reveal or not to reveal details of my life (and the lives of those around me) on this site has crossed my mind on many occasions. A blog author certainly has no requirement for absolute journalistic integrity nor do I generally concern myself with libel suits.

Readers who dare to visit this site frequently will notice that I never use my real name and that even when disparaging past dates, I substitute with nicknames to protect the guilty. It seems that among my friends – two views of the line of anonymity prevail. One set wants all the gory details and would much prefer my blog take on a tone more often reserved for preteen diaries or the weekly columns of a certain blonde living in New York City. But to be honest, my life is simply not interesting enough to supply regular fodder in a tell-all format.

The other group of friends routinely request that I preserve their low Internet profile and kindly omit all the embarrassing stories and incriminating evidence. Despite my rare flirtations with the exhibitionistic, I do hope that overall, I adhere to their wishes. That said – I will let it be known that sometime between now and December 31, 2008 – a certain person owes me a power yoga class on the condition that I take a more meditative yoga class.

At the end of the day, I’m still figuring out what purpose I want this blog to serve and I believe that the fluidity of this format is part of the reason I love it so much. Though I generally keep myself to the essay format, I appreciate the open opportunity to dabble in fiction, or at least a creative approximation of the truth. While I can’t promise absolute secrecy for every friend and family member, I will try to keep that story about Andrew shoving a piece of electrical tape in his ear to myself. Oops.

Saturday, January 12, 2008


Those who know me well (or even not so well) might find my next statement a bit surprising, but here it goes. I never realized until a few years ago that I have a much higher energy level than most people. When other people are running out of steam from their second steam (was that a mixed metaphor), I'm usually still going strong. At first, I had a hard time not writing other people's flagging energy off as a character flaw. But now with my age-acquired wisdom, I've learned that I have the ability to keep on going with fervency akin to a battery-peddling rabbit.

Where does it come from? I honestly have no idea. Maybe I possess some Rogue-like mutant strength to suck the lifeforce out of others? Nah, living alone for a year and a half has demonstrated that I buzz along even when no one else is around. Maybe my metabolism works in some bizarre way that I can burn off calories and instantly convert them into efficient energy. Nope, I still got my booty and my belly. Maybe it's all those amphetamines? Just kidding, Mom.

Regardless of the source, my seemingly endless reserves of energy do seem to have some practical applications. For example, I manage to write this blog on a regular basis. Also, I am awesome at returning phone calls and emails in a time-efficient manner (with some exceptions) The most impressive usage of my high-energy level, to me at least, has been my incredible weekend productivity.

Today, I took advantage of an early wakeup to make breakfast, go grocery shopping, take a 4-mile walk and enjoy a soothing bath all before 2 p.m. To some, this may seem hellish, but to me it's pure bliss. One of the best weekends of my life took place this past Memorial Day. In the span of four days (we had a little extra time off for Jewish holidays), I drove to Brookyn, Hoboken and Westchester; stayed out until 3 a.m.; attended my first African dance festival; visited old friends from high school and grad school; made new friends and cooked up a storm!

I'll admit this tour de force even made my head spin, but in retrospect I am intensely proud of my accomplishments. With such a need to stay busy at all times, it can get a little challenging to feed the beast. Luckily, I now live in a very walkable community and have lots of friends within relatively easy access. Plus, cell phone plans allow me to get tuckered out on the phone and IM provides necessary distractions too. I've begun to explore yoga lately and I still have my weekly West African dance class.

Of course, there's always a little extra time in the day so I am open to anyone's suggestions of new hobbies to explore. Any ideas?

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

What I’ve Learned After 28 Years on Earth

Another year older and none the wiser? Yeah, as aphorisms go, this one is probably true, but I really do believe that I’ve learned a few things over the years. And as I inch ever closer to the big 3-0, I feel that on my birthday I should share a little of my wisdom with you, dear reader.

I believe that if I can master the Los Angeles freeway system, then getting where I need to be in New Jersey should not be this hard.

I believe that a carefully-administered combination of the Peanut-Butter-Jelly-Time clip from Family Guy and chocolate-covered strawberries can almost always cheer me up.

I believe in long, slow, deep, soft, wet kisses that last three days (Thanks Crash).

I believe that the price of a meal and the quality of that meal often have an inverse relationship. As long as whoever does the cooking loves what he or she is doing and there are fresh ingredients in the mix – you’re in for some tasty goodness.

I believe that even after all these years, The Simpsons remains my most quotable television show (and that Whacking Day, The Shinning and Lisa the Vegetarian are among my favorite episodes).

I believe that it’s OK to make decisions about people based on what they like just as much as what they are like.

I believe that by being the sole member of the Finer Things Club at my office I am doing my small part to save the planet.

I believe that nothing can or will ever truly replace black as the new black (and I believe that this could be used as evidence that I’ve spent too much time living near New York City).

I believe that I was meant to do West African dance… or at least my hips were.

I believe stellar travel opportunities do not necessarily require a plane ticket, but a full tank of gas always helps.

I believe that I can get all the news I need to survive from a skillful mix of NPR, the Daily Show and the Onion, with an occasional hit from the New York

I believe that five hours spent watching Sex and the City can be considered a productive afternoon.

I believe that having a wig-themed birthday bar crawl was an excellent idea and ended up as one of my best birthday parties ever (all apologize to Skateland – home of my 7th birthday party).

I believe that writing a blog is both a blessing and a curse to one’s creativity.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

An Open Letter to Mapquest

Dear Mapquest Editor, Mapmaker, Computer, etc.

Over the years we’ve shared a tenuous relationship. Sometimes you’re incredibly helpful, like that time I drove from Baltimore to DC without getting lost in Southeast. I managed to get to my grad school classes in Catonsville, Maryland via two different routes thanks to your amiable assistance.

However, after working together in this new location for the past year-and-a-half, I must ask, have you ever been to New Jersey? Is the term “jughandle” a part of your vocabulary? Are you familiar with the concept of a divided highway? Do you know that cars can’t drive through concrete barriers without severe damage and injury?

Perhaps, like me, you were lucky enough to grow up in a state where the cars came before the people. Back in Arizona, drivers must love you. The perfectly straight streets that meet in perpendicular intersections exactly one mile after the previous one must make your job easy. If someone perchance misses his/her turn, he/she only needs to make three right turns to get back on track. Not so in my new homeland.

Here in New Jersey, and other locations throughout the Northeast, three right turns could put you in a whole other county… or state (they’re smaller here, you know). There’s also an innate aversion in the Garden State to sufficiently sized street signs so that roads meeting at major intersections are merely shrugged at instead of clearly indicated. Sometimes you just have to guess at which road is the one you’re supposed to take and pray that you don’t get lost in Newark somehow.

With so many pitfalls, construction zones and shady neighborhoods, Jersey is the ideal place for Mapquest show its stuff! I mean, who’s impressed by good directions in Midtown Manhattan or Phoenix? It’s a grid! But the backroads on Springsteen songs are a challenge, and one that Mapquest should be able to handle.

While I’m not ready to abandon you yet, my cartographic lover, I must admit that the call of the GPS mistress rings like a siren song in my ears. I’ve even indulged in an affair with Google Maps. I implore you, step up to the plate. Take a few trips off the Turnpike and actually learn where the roads go in the Jerz, then you can give me directions.

XOXO, Shtetl Fabulous