Thursday, April 30, 2009

Joining the Ranks

I suppose it happens to everyone at some point in their lives, but honestly I had no clue it would happen to me today. As of May 14, I will officially join the illustrious ranks of the unemployed having been laid off from my job.

I know this is the perfect forum to bash my soon-to-be former employer, but it's hardly my style. Hell, I got dumped and didn't even dish about the guy in this forum.

What I will do is use the extolled power of the Internet to network my ass off. I doubt I'll actually post my resume on the blog, but I do hope to use my resources as wisely as humanly possible (hey, I wasn't a Girl Scout for nothing).

So if you know of job opportunities in the nonprofit, government or corporate sectors I am extremely organized, I write well, I have experience in fundraising, event planning and foundations. I am most interested in project management as where I really excel is in getting things done. In the future, I think I would make a fantastic Chief Operating Officer.

Please contact me offline at

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Whose Soul Food is This?

Last night I had the opportunity to help bust a friend's Indian food cherry at an excellent vegetarian place in the Desi community capital of Iselin, New Jersey. The explanations another friend and I offered to our neophyte - pakora is (sort of like Indian tempura), a dosa (crepe-like Indian burrito with potatoes) and paneer (it's like tofu and cheese had a baby) - attracted the attention of other restaurant goers and even got some smiling nods of approval.

My sense of Indian restaurant street cred soundly in tact and a supremely delicious mango lassi dancing down my esophagus, I pondered what it was about Indian food that I loved so much. Many people revel in it for the heat, others for the vast array of spices and flavors and I'm sure nostalgia plays a significant role for subcontinent natives and their descendents. But I've begun to think that for me, Indian cuisine represents something else entirely - it's my soul food.

Sure, there's the simple beauty of fried chicken, cornbread, greens, macaroni and cheese and those other standards we in the United States have come to acquaint with soul food. But I keep kosher and Southern food wasn't exactly created with a pork-free or vegetarian diet in mind. Other global cuisines can get a little heavy-handed with the treif. Whereas jumbalaya, rodizo and coq au vin, arguably pivotal and central dishes of Cajun, Brazilian and French cooking immediately form obstacles, Indian food and meatless go together like idli and sambar.

Right away, Indian scores in the accessibility department. Then there's pricing. Aside from a very snooty place in my town that charges $7 for a dish of basmati rice, most Indian food comes with a small price tag and big portions. Case in point, last night's considerable feast cost only $20/person and there were ample leftovers.

Everything I've described about Indian food so far could also be said about Chinese and several other culinary traditions that include a sizable Buddhist population. Beyond price, flavorfulness and lots of vegetarian choices, I believe my connection to this cuisine goes a little deeper. First, I think it's the inherently rustic nature of Indian food. You know this is food that real people eat in their homes on a daily basis. Plus, it includes lots of carbs and those are always comforting.

Though I grew up in a mildly-spiced home, owing to my mother's gastrointestinal woes, I spent quite a bit of time in the kitchen of my best friend, whose family is South Indian (Telegu for those in the know) and I was something of the white person guinea pig at dinner time. My friend's mother would always insist on feeding me, even despite my protests of having just eaten at my own house. I still wouldn't know how to order all the dishes I enjoyed around the Myneni family table, but I loved nearly all of them. Maybe those years of high school left an indelible mark on my palate or at least singed a few taste buds into craving more.

My more scientifically-knowledgable readers can perhaps offer insight into why some people crave one flavor profile while others loath it. Until then, all I know is that chaat (a snack of fried dough covered with chickpeas, yogurt, tamarind sauce, small crispy noodles, onions, coriander and spices) gets my mouth watering even as I write the description and other people are probably looking for a bucket. This strange concoction served on the streets of Mumbai and Hyderabad makes much more sense to me than the offerings of New Brunswick's grease trucks or the disco fries that appear at many a diner.

What does it say about me to love Indian food the way I do and what might it say about another who feels the same connection with Jell-O? Does every soul have a soul food? What's yours?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Pulitzers for Everyone!

OK, so not for everyone but one for my friend Ryan. You may remember him from a post I wrote a few months back when he won a Polk Award. Well now he's clearly outdone himself and scored a fucking Pulitzer.

When most of the news in the journalism world has been gloomier than a General Motors quarterly accounting report, it's indescribable to know my former editor and roommate Ryan Gabrielson is now a Pulitzer-prize winner for his outstanding work on Reasonable Doubt.

From the Pulitzer site:
Awarded to Ryan Gabrielson and Paul Giblin of the East Valley Tribune, Mesa, Ariz., for their adroit use of limited resources to reveal, in print and online, how a popular sheriff’s focus on immigration enforcement endangered investigation of violent crime and other aspects of public safety.

There's a ton of great press about it, but here's a piece from my local NPR Station (WNYC). You can listen or read.

The Takeaway story touches on it, but what's really fascinating and yet incredibly sad about the backstory is that the reporter who worked with Ryan on this piece was laid off from the East Valley Tribune in January. Massive newsroom liquidations have become incredibly common across the nation with the devaluation of quality journalism, and this piece from Heat City does a great job putting in into perspective.

While it seems like my own blogger prize and ultimate writer's validation is still a ways off, I will continue to bask in Ryan's reflective glow... and relish those excellently embarrassing photos that much more.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Off the Derech Mormon

For those who didn't grow up in the greater Phoenix metropolitan area, your entire conception of the Valley of the Sun may be limited to images of saguaro cactus, mind-melting summertime temperatures and a few Kurt Warner stats. There are a few others who've spent enough time in the area to have sampled our excellent Mexican food and those who've experienced the best golf courses Scottsdale has to offer. Usually, that's about all people know.

But if you go past the touristy parts of town and get to where real people spend their daily lives, then you're likely to run into Mesa, the state's third-largest city that was founded by Mormon settlers in the 1870s. Today the city of 500,000 is home to several hundred wards, stake centers, seminaries and other markers of the faith. There are churches where all the proceedings take place in Spanish and others designated for singles (which is actually a fantastic idea I wish the Jews would co-opt).

What there isn't often is a place within the Mormon fold for people who grew up in the religious ranks but who don't feel the strictest interpretations are the best fit for them. In the Jewish world, we call people who grow up "Orthodox," or "frum," or "traditional," or "fundamentalist," as being "off the derech," literally "off the path," when they leave behind their sometimes secluded life for something more liberal.

Luckily, the Jewish observance spectrum is profoundly broad and diverse and many of these people find a place for themselves that feels comfortable. It may mean wearing a kippah instead of a black hat or pants instead of skirts. It may also mean eating different foods, working different jobs or working different days altogether. What matters most for the purposes of this discussion is that no matter what, they are always Jews. They may be Reform, Conservative, post-denominational or just plain Jewish, but they are still Jews.

Short disclaimer: I am by no means an expert in the Mormon faith so please feel free to correct me if I'm wrong here. However, it's been my understanding from several young people who have felt their religious, political and theological ideas fall outside the norms of the LDS Church - that there is often little or no place for dissention, new interpretation and ritual selectivity. Put in layman's (or Heidi Klum's) terms, you are either in or you're out.

While some people can reconcile Saturday night beers or Sunday afternoon coffee (alcohol and caffeine are strictly verboten and Sundays are circumscribed as family time in the Mormon religion), with being a member of the Church, others sadly cannot. And sometimes the issue at hand is much bigger than a choice of beverage. Rather, it's about being homosexual or (gasp!) a Democrat. For some this means isolation, confusion, strained relationships with families and/or friends and even addiction.

Of course, the Jewish community knows all too well that addictions to drugs and alcohol often afflict those navigating the challenges of leaving the Orthodox world, and I'm sure it can happen to very observant Muslims, Protestants and Catholics too. Where the rub comes in for Mormons is that often the Church seeks to distance these people from the rest of the flock. Those not found in good standing are barred from certain ceremonies and the inner sanctum of the Temple becomes off-limits even for special occasions like a family member's wedding.

During my trip home to Mesa last week, I had a chance to reconnect with some high school friends who grew up LDS and who now struggle to live as they want but still go to church when they choose. It hurt me to see these young men (they happened to all be male) chafing against the fundamentalism but still desperate to be a part of the faithful.

We pondered what would come first - a woman president or a more liberal branch of the Church? Would we live to see a form of Mormonism that embraced critical questioning, progressive politics, women's leadership and lenient rules about caffeine/alcohol/sex? We had no answers.

For whatever its worth to new Church President Thomas S. Monson or anyone else out there, I hope more faith traditions take on the challenge of modernity and find a way to harmonize today's realities with yesterday's beliefs. Though I don't think Mormonism would work for me, I know many, many people who have found a spiritual, behavioral and moral guidance in the Church and that's really all any of us can ask for from any religion.

We're up to 213, but who's counting?

I can't promise I will always manage to link the Haveil Havalim of others back to this blog, but it's worth a shot. And since I hosted just a week ago, I feel it's good karma.

So here you go, courtesy of The Real Shliach.

Also, if you know of other great blog carnivals out there, please let me know! Finding new and wonderful places to promote Shtetl Fabulous can only help me reach my goal of world domination... or something like that.

If the rest of my evening is relatively uneventful, I'll try to eke out one more post before the end of my furloughcation. If you don't see something, it's because I've managed to hurt myself again in some ridiculous yoga accident.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


With the mixed blessing of a 10-day furlough from my job, I decided to spend a considerable chunk of my time off traveling. Two major airports, several trains and a few subway rides later, I got to wondering about chance encounters.

I'm not just talking about the semi-creepy classifieds on Craigslist, where people try in vain to find that guy or girl who sipped an extra foamy latte in the Mount Washington Starbucks on October 14. I'm much more interested in the people you sit next to on airplanes, who get a haircut at the adjacent station, who you share an eye roll with while waiting at the ATM. What keeps some of them limited to that brief smirky smile while others are catapulted into full-blown conversations or even real connections?

Full disclosure: I am the queen of the chance encounter. I have turned fellow line-standers into boyfriends (we were both buying flowers at Whole Foods en route to Passover seders) and have parlayed regular holiday meal coverage out of a women who was getting a pedicure as my nails dried. More than just my gift of gab writ large, I am confident there was some reason for why these otherwise mundane interactions became more meaningful and durable (though in the case of the boyfriend, I'm not sure how meaningful it was).

Fate and chaos theory seem generally at odds. One grants control of all human events to a higher power and the other denies any order but disorder itself. But in the case of shifting from total strangers to two people with a great "how we met" story, they both play a role. So too does that pernicious but undeniable force called timing. And its timing I believe in more than the hand of some invisible, manipulative god or a completely random universe. How else to explain the luck of sitting next to some great person during a long train ride? If either of you had been much earlier or later, you would have been stuck sitting next to that weird lady wearing a Santa Claus letter in April or, worse yet, not even sitting in the same car at all.

Powerful timing came into my life this past week, when a collection of high school classmates, long ago cast out of my mind, randomly appeared at the same bar as me on Saturday night. OK, they were actually there to meet one of my girlfriends who I knew to expect at that location, but you gotta admit the impromptu reunion factor is pretty random. Besides, timing played a big role in one particular alum and me hitting it off quite nicely.

I met my best friend from college at orientation and we connected instantly. Freshman year she lived off campus and we didn't see each other again until we both lived in the same 800-student dorm sophomore year. We crossed paths in the lobby while getting our mail and from then on we became incredibly close. Would that ever have happened had either of us gone to another orientation session or chosen to live elsewhere?

More than anything, I want to understand what was the glue that held that bond together and why was it so absent earlier today as I worked on this post, waiting for a delayed flight? Or all the other times in my life as I went through life anonymously. I don't really have the answer. But what I do know is when it happens, you have to jump on board the fate train because the trip is often as fun as the destination.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Haveil Havalim #212: How Many Days til We Can Eat Bread?

Welcome everyone to my first attempt at hosting that grand institution of the Jewish blogosphere, the Haveil Havalim! Some of my readers (particularly the non-Jewish ones) may be scratching their heads wondering what that all means. Well, luckily the originators of this Semitic smorgasbord have given me a handy little description.

Founded by Soccer Dad, Haveil Havalim is a carnival of Jewish blogs -- a weekly collection of Jewish & Israeli blog highlights, tidbits and points of interest collected from blogs all around the world. It's hosted by different bloggers each week and coordinated by Jack. The term 'Haveil Havalim,' which means "Vanity of Vanities," is from Kohelet, (Ecclesiastes) which was written by King Solomon. King Solomon built the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and later on got all bogged down in materialism and other 'excesses' and realized that it was nothing but 'hevel,' or in English, 'vanity.'

So there you have it. And while I can't offer pretty graphics and wittily-coordinated photos for you this week, I can promise my fellow writers that I will pimp your selected post to the best of my abilities. And for everyone else, please enjoy the diverse range of articles that only a blog carnival can provide. Oh, and everyone help us help bloggers and publicize this endeavor on your own blog, Twitter, Facebook status, smoke signal business, what have you.

Originally, this subheading started as the Humor section. Then I noticed that all the pieces had a Pesach theme running through them, because what could be funnier than enslavement folllowed by 40 years of half-starved wandering in the desert? After all, Mel Brooks said, "Look at Jewish history. Unrelieved lamenting would be intolerable. So, for every ten Jews beating their breasts, God designated one to be crazy and amuse the breast-beaters." Sage wisdom. Now, on with the show!

In one of my favorite posts of the whole carnival, Esser Agaroth teases his Pesach zealot friend with some classic Cleaning for Pesach shtick. As a bean/rice eating Ashkenaz, this was very much up my alley. On a less humorous than slightly pyromaniacal bend, Harry of Israelity tells his own tales of lighting bread products on fire with Burn Baby Burn.

We only get to say birkat hachamah every 28 years, so why not devote a post to it? Direct from Israel comes Batya's ray of light from the united Shiloh group. You're also invited to spend Passover there. And who doesn't love Good News from Israel? Jacob sure does and he's shared pictures from his own sun salutations.

Sometimes we can get bogged down into the mundane details of Pesach preparations. But Manely Montana brings us the Zen and encourages us to look inside for the real meaning of the holiday with Enough Already, Dayeinu. We made it past the sederim, but just to help us get ready for next year, Paul Kipnes writes a little Seder Redux: Deal or No Deal, Where's Your Egypt? Game, What Doesn't Belong on the Seder Table, Progressive Seder posted at Or Am I?.

What's a blog carnival if not a forum for shameless self-promotion. With that, I sneak in my (Shtetl Fabulous's) own seder experiences across the nation with Dispatches from a Wandering Jew.

Muse gives us a few Pesach-themed pieces... first, It Takes More Than Matzah Balls... posted at Shiloh Musings and then she thinks about those Chol HaMoed, In Between Days posted at me-ander. Who doesn't love a little entertainment with his/her typographical errors? Clearly A Time of the Signs finds it all too easy.

CHAMETZ (aka miscellaneous and Jewish-themed)
Haveil Havalim stalwart The Rebbetzin's Husband writes about the Arba Banim (four children) we discuss at the Pesach seder, but it's the only non-humor based Pesach piece, so I stuck it in this category. He also makes the point that the strength and predicted longevity (quality is his term) of the Orthodox community cannot be determined by its quantity. Denomination is a thorny issue for me, so I'll stay out of this discussion in my polite hostess role.

It's more personal than Jewish, but barring a separate personal category, this seemed like just as good a place as any for What War Zone's pre-Romanian holiday getaway opus, giving us his state of the blog address/inaugural mailbag. It comes complete with the pictures and adorable children singing in videos that I am simply not HTML savvy enough to include. Worth a read.

Even though the book came out some time ago, Abigail Pogrebin's ode to celebrity Jews, Stars of David offers some good Pesach lessons according to Yeshivish Harry. In case you had any doubts about his claims on the title, The Real Shliach packs a wallop with On the 11th Day. Paul Kipnes presents Their Top 50 Rabbis List: Not as Statistically Accurate or Methodologically Sound as mine! posted at Or Am I?, saying, "One rabbi's humorous take on letting three people determine the hottest rabbis in America."

A Mother In Israel reflects on how even 60 years later, the issues surrounding Ukrainians and the Holocaust still have an impact on our lives. Batya is a busy girl. First at Shiloh Musings she brings us an alarming article about Jewish stereotypes infecting the Quizzes at Facebook . Then she turns all sweet with a few pictures capturing the season in Naturally Spring. On Israelity, Harry turns a little artistic with a certain collection of Images of Israel that are traveling across China right now.

Should there be "space" within Modern Orthodoxy for women to create meaningful prayer groups of their own? I adamantly say yes, but Shira of On the Fringe grapples with the issue much more eloquently and offers a survey for Orthodox Jews.

Just in time for this season of redemption, Beneath the Wings relates this touching story about The Arab Bus Driver in her town. Smart growth isn't just for American cities, says Tel-Chai Nation with his report on a UK Times article about "new towns in Israel." Mrs. S. presents Thoughts on one day of yom tov posted at Our Shiputzim: A Work In Progress, saying, "Mo'adim l'simchah, and thanks for doing this!"

Maya posted the latest Israeli ad campaign to merge Pesach and the gym at The Four Sons (and the Four Questions) Make Great Ads! And Benji Lovitt presents How Many Things are Wrong With This Picture? (Or Just Disturbing Actually) posted at What War Zone???.

Yisrael Medad of the Jerusalem Post sent along a mini-carnival of his own. He's following the money beyond the Green Zone with Green-Line Greenbacks, watching it all unravel with Indian Textiles and reflecting sun-gazing in April 1981 at Where Were You 28 Years Ago. Joel Katz gives us a review of media coverage on issues of religion and state in Israel with the caveat that his blog is not affiliated with any organization or movement: Religion and State in Israel - April 6, 2009 (Section 1) and Religion and State in Israel - April 6, 2009 (Section 2).

Finally, Maya made aliyah a year ago and she posts her reflections on her first 365 days as an Israeli at Not so "chadasha" anymore...

In case you missed it last week, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA), sent out an email to all its subscribers asking for donations and denigrating the entire universe of bloggers as "non-journalists" who are at the source of traditional newspapers' recent failures. Now, while the increasingly diverse realm of news sources hasn't helped news organizations find a more successful business model, I find it incredibly hard to believe it's all the fault of bloggers. Naturally, many of our fellow bloggers took a crack at responding to the JTA's inane and fearmongering assertions. And thanks to Ima on the Bima, I'm able to offer you a mini roundup of what went down.

Leah Jones at Accidentally Jewish reprints the article, so I figured it was a good place to start. My girl who always seems to be on the opposite side of the country from me, Esther K, works her formidable wordsmithing magic with a great Urban Kvetch response. Dan Brown with EJewish Philanthropy also offers a good overview on the issue and puts it into great context with the whole Nefesh B'Nefesh Jewish Bloggers Conference. CK at Jewlicious throws in its two cents and asks you to contribute to our collective "nonprofessional" work. Steven I. Weiss with The Jewish Channel, points out the utter hypocrisy of the whole episode, what with JTA producing (minimally-read) blogs of its own. As an aside, The Jewish Channel is an incredibly comprehensive blog that's new to me and pretty darn cool. I'd spend more time checking it out if this post didn't have a deadline. The New Jew, aka Maya Norton, puts this whole balagan into focus with a really thoughtful and well-researched piece about, conveniently enough, crisis-mode functionality. She also includes a directory of other posts on the topic. And finally, the JTA offers its mea culpa ... albeit from one of their writers and not from board president Elisa Spungen Bildner who authored the original email.

Personally, I think what we do as bloggers IS important and valid and offers tremendous value. At the same time, it breaks my heart to hear about newspapers folding and close friends losing their reporting jobs. Journalism is integral to a free society and we should do what we can to advance the cause of truth-seeking and information-disseminating. Has the field lost its way in the past years as the bottom line has canceled out integrity and hard work? In parts. Has the mainstream newspaper world failed to develop a viable and profitable business model? Sadly, yes. Is that a reason for all-out civil war? Absolutely not.

I have my own ideas about how we can save journalism and inexpensive subscription services may not be an entirely bad idea. But in the end, the best course of action is to keep on blogging quality material and let history judge.

Phew! Thanks for reading all the way through or at least skimming until this point where you saw the end.

Chag Sameakh and Happy Easter to everyone. Don't forget to buy some half-price Reese's Peanut Butter Eggs tomorrow to save for Thursday. And if you're in NYC on Thursday and want to celebrate with me over a beer - post a comment!

Official HH Closing: That concludes this edition. Submit your blog article to the next edition of Haveil Havalim using our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page. Technorati tags: haveil havalim, blog carnival.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Dispatches from a Wandering Jew

My dear friend Maris has a tattoo (spelled correctly in Gaelic, I hope) that reads, "Not all who wander are lost." While she's not Jewish, her ink certainly resonates with many Jews who live a little retro and decided not to leave that 40 years in the desert to the annals of history.

I've lived away from my immediate family for the past seven years and though I've spent a few of those Pesach seders in my hometown, many more have been enjoyed in the homes of families and friends who opened their doors to a wanderer like me. It's only fitting as the seders of my childhood routinely included newcomers, single parents and people I'm convinced my father picked up off the street. Aside from truly excellent matzah ball soup and the special Lenox china, our festive meals had few diehard customs.

However, in these years of being a Pesach guest, I've had the opportunity to experience a wide array of other families' traditions. There was the ex-boyfriend whose seder I missed, not least because he and his brother insisted their grandmother's matzah ball soup recipe included regular noodles. I even bought a box of ridiculously expensive kosher for Passover noodles to use instead but the shit hit the fan on that seder regardless.

What about the Israeli-dominated seder where half the guests were expected to read their parts in perfectly-accented Hebrew? Or the times I was the only non-family member sitting around the table, looking puzzled when reminiscing overcame the conversation? My more favorite seder was the one that began with me picking up a really cute guy at the Whole Foods checkout when we were both buying seder flowers.

Of course, nothing takes the Mrs. Manischewitz cake like the year I went to my ultra-Orthodox cousins' house for my first seder in Baltimore. First off, it didn't start until 9 p.m. which was completely foreign to me who had heretofore only been to seders that ended by around 9:30-10. Then there was the revelation that the entire family would conduct the seder and speak only in modern Hebrew or English rather than their regular custom of Yiddish. Nice break for me.

Incredibly hungry and shocked that we still hadn't eaten around 11:45, I relished the moment we got the OK to eat the handmade shmura matzah. [For the non-Jews, shmura matzah is "watched" throughout the manufacturing process to ensure it comes into contact with no liquid until absolutely necessary and for no more than 18 minutes when it is necessary. It's handmade and has an even more cardboard like taste than the square matzah you usually encounter. Oh, and it costs 4-5 times as much.] Then I realized that no one is permitted to speak or ingest liquids until they choke down his/her entire portion. Awkward.

This seder was also my first encounter with the "non-gebrokts," which is an Ashkenazi Hasidic custom that forbids the combination of any matzah or matzah derivative with any liquid substance. Meaning, no matzah ball soup, one of my favorite Pesach foods.

The fun continued literally until 3:30 a.m. when I discretely stepped away from the table in the middle of Hallel (yes, it comes toward the end). It was yet another part of the seder my family conveniently skipped back home. We usually just went from talking to eating to singing an off-key rendition of Chad Gad-Ya. Looking back, I chalk up the whole evening to a cultural experience, not unlike the time I attended a Kwanzaa celebration or went to a Vietnamese/Chinese wedding.

Much as I have loved all this guest-ing, I do miss my college days where I hosted an annual seder for all my friends. Whether I had all the space of my off-campus home kitchen or had to borrow an illegal dorm refrigerator, I welcomed at least 10-12 people to enjoy my spiced charoset or my dense-on-the-inside-but-fluffy-on-the-outside matzah balls.

Hopefully the coming years will bring me an opportunity to cook and host more seders of my own. As for this year, I will be the guest one night at an Iranian family's home and the second night I will be one of 60 celebrating at a synagogue seder complete with assigned discussion questions and organized food shlepping. If nothing else, it will all make a great post for Pesach next year.

Happy Passover - Chag Kasher V'Sameakh to all!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Spring Has Sprung Weekend Roundup

There isn't much in my life I do half-assed... except maybe this blog sometimes. So it should come as no great surprise that with my new found single status, I have thrown myself into the social fray of late. From a 350-person mixer to NCAA watch parties, I have kept remarkably busy and I debated whether to focus today's post on any one activity or just to throw it all against the wall and see what sticks. Luckily for most of us (I hope), I've chosen the latter.

In the zeal of trying new things that often comes with a suddenly open weekend schedule, I signed up for a hot power vinyasa yoga class on Friday night that featured Motown music and promises of a post-class bar outing. My mat, towel, change of clothes and friend Mike in tow, we ventured to Garden State Yoga in Bloomfield. According to the studio's site, by heating the room to 90 degrees, "the integration of sweat, strength and spirit detoxifies and rejuvenates the body."

I'm not sure what spirit I brought to the class, but I do know I brought the sweat. Did you ever know your shins can sweat quite a bit when working out in a 90-degree room for 75 minutes? Somehow, in 16 years of living in Arizona, this never came up. Did you also know that it's really hard to rock out to Stevie Wonder's "Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I'm Yours," when you're in extended side angle pose?

After class and an awkward post-shower run-in with my friend, we ventured out to the aforementioned bar to schmooze with our fellow yogis. The supposed coordinators stood us up, but a few others ventured out and we enjoyed a lovely dinner with total strangers. Plus, we scored coupons to a deli in Denville. Gotta check that out sometime.

Saturday was one of those days where certain friends of mine would both marvel at and pity the amount of work I did. I woke up around 8:45, made a huge batch of pancakes (gotta eat up the mix before Passover starts), cleaned the kitchen and even scrubbed the floors on my hands and knees. After hitting up the library and bank, I bought groceries and came home to do laundry and clean the bathroom. I whipped up a huge pot of soup, cleaned the bathroom and got myself together in enough time to meet friends for drinks. Oh, and somewhere in there I discovered that I now get the Style Network and I watched a whole lot of that reality show about wedding planners. Argh, such a geek!

Today, I got a little deeper into the Passover mood by volunteering to deliver food packages to indigent or homebound elderly. It wasn't quite the opportunity for socialization with fellow volunteers I'd expected, but it was really affirming to know I can do a little good for the world and brighten someone's day in just a few hours.

Also, much to the delight of everyone in the Northeast, it seems Spring has arrived! It always seems to take forever, especially for people like me who didn't grow up with seasons. Yet it is always worth the wait when you take that first walk around town (like I did for an hour today) and see all the trees with new leaves and the tulips starting to emerge with pretty colors. Until you start sneezing uncontrollably. Curmudgeonly as that last statement sounds, I really do relish the idea of spring and I appreciate the entire seasonal concept so much more now that I live in a place that has them.

Before I sign out, just a few news items.
1. I am going to attempt a Pesach-related post sometime in the coming days. Be on the lookout if you're into that sort of thing.

2. Next week, I'm hosting the Haveil Havalim Jewish Blogger Carnival. If you want to be a part of it, please submit your posts to me via email. Also, if you can offer technical assistance, I will love you forever... or at least a few extra unpaid weeks.

3. One of my favorite bands, Gogol Bordello, is playing this summer at the All Points West festival in Liberty State Park, NJ. If anyone is interesting in seeing them or the other vast assortment of bands, let me know. I'd even be down for sharing an all-weekend pass. Check out the line up.