Sunday, November 28, 2010

Israel Adventures: Take One

Kotel tunnels ... yummy. 
Greetings from Eretz Yisrael, which, by the way, is known as Medinat Yisrael when you're in the country (Eretz = land and Medinat = state, and thus it makes sense).

I have a million things to blog about, which I'll aggregate for you here (and hopefully expand on -- when necessary -- when I return in a week). Among these things are:

  • The lack of self-awareness of a certain couple of super frum guys in front of us on the plane. I think there should be a rule about getting up from your seat for extended periods of time to daven and putting your SEATBACK in the upright position. You leave for an hour. I should get a break, right? 
  • There was some big macher rebbe on the plane. No clue who he was or what his chassidus was, but he was really important. Really. First-class and first-on-the-plane important.
  • My Hebrew sucks. My accent sucks. I'm angry at myself. I'll expand later. 
  • I don't care who you are, or where you come from, or where you're going, or what you're doing ... bringing a box cutter in your backpack through security to the Kotel is ... sigh ... the most idiotic thing. EVER. 
  • There was this kid that chased us down in the cardo (the market/shuk in the old Jewish quarter in Jerusalem) because he was haggling with us obnoxiously and we turned him down. I gave in, in the end, but for my price. I regret this. 
  • We had the same tour guide for the Kotel Tunnels and the Hurva Synagogue. He was awesome. You want a charismatic leader? I've got one for you. Oh, and the sites were amazing, too.
  • Why is it that when you ride a plane with some people or go on a tour with some people, you end up seeing them EVERYWHERE the entire time you're on vacation? Is Israel really that small? 
And, for now, lastly, Tuvia and I just returned home from the #BStweetup. For those of you not completely immersed in the Twitterverse (aka, this was an event for Twitterers who follow one another and like to get together and geek out and actually meet one another in real life (IRL). I've met some of my best friends this way, so it was the perfect way to meet my Israeli mishpacha (family) during our stay. It was really nice to sit down to a huge meal in Bet Shemesh (hence the BS in #BSTweetup) with a bunch of Americans who've made their way to Israel for one reason or another. If anything, it's made the desire to move to Israel stronger. Knowing we have friends and a mishpacha here? It's a confidence booster. So, I give you, the Israeli Twitter Mishpacha: A Sampling

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Chag Thanksgiving Sameach!

Happy Thanksgiving from ... Israel! Okay, not the most Americana place to spend the celebration of our most traditional and long-standing American holiday (which, I'll admit, has dubious beginnings), but this is the second year in a row that I've been in Israel for the holiday. I do think, however, that being in another country celebrating with other ex-pats probably gives you more of a sense of holiday spirit than when you're in America with the holiday saturating your lives. 
FACTOIDs: The first known use of "Thanksgiving Day" was in 1674. Today, we celebrate Thanksgiving Day as we believe it was celebrated in 1621 as a harvest feast shared by the English colonists (Pilgrims) of Plymouth, RI, and the Wampanoag Indians. 
I was never a big Thanksgiving celebrator. I don't like big meals. They always said to me "you're going to eat too much, run away." The holidays where we like to think it's okay to gorge are the holidays that I avoid gorging. And now, being Jewish, I get the big holiday meal once a week on Shabbat! Even then, I'm usually too busy to gorge, so it just doesn't happen (and now that I can't eat challah, a lot has changed).

My mom usually made the traditional goods: stuffing, a big ole' turkey that we'd eat on for a week, green bean casserole, and a host of other goodies. Things we never did? Sweet potatoes with marshmallows or cranberry sauce. In fact, I didn't know those were a thing until well after I'd graduated college. Green bean casserole has always been -- and will always be -- the food that sweeps me back to the holidays, no matter the time of year I eat it. Being gluten-free means that I haven't made the casserole in eons, however, because I'd have to make my own french fried onions and find a parve, gluten-free cream of mushroom soup. But the smell, the taste, the consistency ... in my world, Thanksgiving isn't Thanksgiving without the stuff. Thus, I can confidently say I haven't felt like I've had an actual Thanksgiving in years.  Stuffing is something I've always loathed. It just grossed me out. Lucky for me, I can't eat it now anyway!

Oh! And pumpkin pie! Color me a sucker for pumpkin pie. A little whipped cream? Okay, it used to be a lot of whipped cream, but it's been a while since I had a pumpkin pie (crust = not GF).

Are you catching a trend here? The traditional American eats are not friendly to those who can't eat gluten, from the stuffing to the casseroles to the desserts. This is good for me because many of the traditional eats I was never big on anyway. Maybe I was meant to move to Israel and not celebrate the American holiday?


In fact, I mentioned that it feels more American to celebrate with ex-pats in the Holy Land, and it's true. You get to get together with other American Jews, in Israel, to give thanks to a country that (in truth) did so much for the Jewish community over the years. (I have mixed feelings about exactly what America did for Jews, but that's for another post. By this I mean the encouragement of acculturation and assimilation, as well as the loss of memory.) It's just funny to be surrounded by falafel and schwarma and yet be downing classic Americana food.

So here's to Thanksgiving, American style, no matter where you are celebrating. May you eat plenty of turkey, veggies, and even a little bit of dessert. And may all of you who spent your childhood in public school recall the paper bags that sacrificed their lives so that you could "look" like an Indian with your gnarly leaf-colored paper-bag vest!

Chag sameach!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Google Tarts + SNL Cookie Laughs

Yes, this can easily be made gluten-free. Pick up some GF graham crackers and get going!
Looking for a last minute recipe? Google, in all of its awesomeness, has given press to TV chef and author Ina Garten. Just go to and you'll get this:

Nom nom nom. That looks good. And the recipe? (Yes, I'm buying into the world-wide press for Ina Garten here.) All you have to do is click on the Google logo above (or on and enjoy. There are six recipes available, enough for a full-on Turkey Day meal. So do the Turkey Trot into your kitchen and get busy!

And if you're just looking for a laugh Erev Thanksgiving -- and you're, perhaps, stressed out -- check out this hilarious audition tape from the one, the only, Cookie Monster for the SNL host spot! When did Sesame Street get so darn cool?! And if you missed it, check out my Shalom Sesame post from earlier this week. 

Leavin' On a Jet Plane!

As you know, I'm on my way to Israel, where I'll be chillaxing until December 5. This means I won't be around as much here on the blog and on Twitter, especially as much as I have been the past week (and, I ask, what's up with me being around so much?).

I did want to give a heads up to my Israeli readers that there's a Tweetup in Bet Shemesh (#BSTweetup) on Sunday, November 28, at 8 p.m. at Homes Burger. There will be Twitterers, Facebookers, Bloggers, and other awesome folks there, so I hope you can make it. People will be schlepping in from all over, so if you need a ride, it can probably be arranged. Check out the Facebook event.

I'm hoping to blog from the road, especially because my blogger wheels having been spinning rapidly these days (again, seriously, you'd think I have nothing else to do, right?). So stay tuned!

PS: We're staying in Jerusalem, but we'll be heading to Tel Aviv, Ramat Bet Shemesh, and Ramat Shlomo, too!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Spoiler Alert: Harry Potter, a Modern Holocaust Narrative?

Tell me this doesn't look like partisans running for dear life circa World War II ... 
So, there I was, sitting in the movie theater, at the 8:10 showing of Harry Pottery and the Deathly Hallows, minding my own business, and there's this woman, sitting a few rows up and over, telling some extravagant story, with her hands motioning wildly in the air. People are shushing here, telling her to be quiet, and there she goes, hands a'go in the air. So, being the mature adult that I am, I threw some ice at her. This stopped her talking, of course, and the rest of my time in the theater was excellent. I'd intended on writing a blog post on the premise that I like my movie theaters like I like my synagogues (quiet, quiet, quiet), but as the movie progressed, I realized there was something more interesting and pressing to write about.

The Holocaust.

I wrote in the title that this is a spoiler alert. I'm only saying that because I'm going to offer some details of the movie that might give things away. But I can't not write this blog post. It will eat away at me until you all go see the movie (or not), and maybe this will prompt some of you to head to your nearest theater. So let's begin.

I haven't read the Harry Potter books, but I've seen all of the movies. Up until this edition of the series, I hadn't really caught on to the overarching and ever-present looming Holocaust narrative. But this part of the series was ripe with Holocaust imagery, from propaganda to arm tattoos and more. The Deathly Hallows begins with a violent regime change, putting those of pure-blood wizard/witch status in full power. Muggles, that is to say, normal folk without any powers, are viewed as vermin, the lowest level of life form, and propaganda is dispersed about how to spot a muggle and what makes them vile. They must be registered, and ultimately are hunted down like animals. Harry Potter and his two BFFs make their way to the woods, where they hide out for much of the movie, running from Snatchers (people who seek out muggles and half-bloods) and trying to figure out how to save themselves and the world. There is a scene toward the beginning of the film where a woman is on trial, accused of not being a witch, and the woman -- I kid you not -- is styled perfectly with the 1940s, from her house dress to her pin-curl hair. Toward the end of the film, during a particularly heart-wrenching scene, Hermoine -- a half-blood -- is tattooed on her left arm with "Mudblood" by one of the major supporters of the violent regime change.

Wow. I know, right? It goes on and on and on. Here's a list of some things that I spotted that pretty much map out how this fits with the Holocaust narrative.

  • Muggles = Jews
  • Witches/Wizards = Nazis
  • Harry Potter + His Band of Noble Witch Friends = Righteous Gentiles, who fight partisan style from the woods
  • Hermoine = a half-Jew who has escaped to fight with the partisans
  • Voldimore = Hitler
  • And, I'm guessing, Dumbledor will come back Churchill style and save the day. 
I am still marveling at how this turned into a Holocaust narrative. And all of these examples are but mere, well, examples. There was a whole lot more. Harry Potter and Friends disguising themselves to pass as part of the regime, for one. Anyhow, the Holocaust narrative is strong with this flick. The righteous fighting for the safety of those not like themselves, while also trying to save the righteous who are fighting the just cause. And the arm tattoo!? Seriously!? And this was only Part 1 of the two-part final installment of the Harry Potter franchise. Personally, I'm razzle-dazzled to see how it's going to end. 

Did any of you see the movie yet? Did you pick up on this? Did it blow your mind like it did mine? 

Monday, November 22, 2010

Jewish Agencies and Viral Videos

There have been a lot of Jewish organizations and agencies putting out videos lately in attempts to fundraise and connect Jews. Many of them have been downright embarrassing and excessively inappropriate (think: Jewish Portland "Do you do it?" video and its porno music) and others have garnered mixed reactions (think: AJWS video featuring lots of non-Jews talking about the good works of AJWS).

This all makes me wonder: Why are Jewish organizations rolling out these videos? Are they resulting in $$ returns? Are they effective? Is the backlash worth it? And, most importantly, did they show it to anyone before releasing it to the wolves?

Thus, I give you a representation of an Jewish agency that has put out a hilarious, short, concise, and what I think is effective video. Hats off to JTA for getting it right.

A Wedding and a Stylish Hasidic Woman (Er ... Me)

Saturday night, the moment Shabbat ended, Tuvia and I got all gussied up and schlepped off super fast to Deal, NJ, for the wedding of one of Tuvia's oldest friends, Elan, to his lovely kallah, Elana. Yes, I know what you're thinking: Elan and Elana? Seriously? And yes, that's right. The joke was made all throughout the reception, and it is really bizarre and awesome.

The wedding was absolutely beautiful, from the one-of-a-kind chuppah, which I will continue to covet for the rest of my life, to Elana's amazing wedding dress and the crazy dancing by the very, very upbeat and energized crowd. Bruno Mars and Rihanna kept the guests dancing all night long, beyond even when Tuvia and I left a little after midnight.

We were incredibly happy to be able to celebrate in their simcha, especially because they came to celebrate in our simcha nearly six months ago. Tuvia rolls with a specific crowd of friends that he's known forever, and it consists of four very close friends: Tuvia, Elan, Yoni and Yoel. Yoel, currently in Moldova with Peace Corps, even sent in a hilarious video. I recorded the reactions of Tuvia, Elan, Yoni and Elana for Yoel, and I hope he enjoys the playback of exactly how people felt about his words and well-wishes.

I would be remiss, of course, to not mention my fashion choice for the wedding, which came with great thought. One of Tuvia's high school friends mentioned later that when she initially walked by me, she thought, "What a stylishly dressed Hasidic woman!" This made me giggle, immensely. When pondering whether to sport my shietel fall, Tuvia assured me that I would stand out like a sore thumb. "You'll be the only one there wearing a sheitel," he said. But, as I've mentioned in the past, there's something about hair that makes you feel a little more dressed up, more professional. And? There was another woman there clearly sporting a wig, which I proudly pointed out to my dear husband.

So, after a trip to Dress Barn, I put together the following outfit, which made me look like a well-dressed religious woman. Tuvia's friend remarked that I pull off being religious and fashionable pretty well. Folks, it can be done. I apologize that the picture is not great, but, well, I left my profesional camera at home, so we relied on camera phones.

Sequined Hat from Target
Black Satin Skirt purchased last fall from Dress Barn
Satin Grey Tank and Floral-embellished Jacket purchased this fall from Dress Barn
Black Clutch purchased from Target many moons ago
School Marm Grey and Black Pumps purchased from Kohl's this fall

I am so very pale, no?
The great thing about this outfit? It was super classy, super easy, super cheap, and I didn't have to accessorize at all. No earrings, no necklace, simply my Pandora charm bracelet, wedding and engagement rings. The floral embellishments on the top plus the sequined hat gave this outfit enough pop to not be overly done, but to look upscale for a black-tie wedding. 

Mazal tov to the happy couple. May you live to be a 120 and may you always be as in love as you are now!

Can You Tell Me How to Get, How to Get to Shalom Sesame?

I had the pleasure of visiting Sesame Street last week.

No, I didn't take something or get food poisoning, I visited the Sesame Street Workshop in NYC for a screening of brand new episodes of everyone's favorite mesh of English and Hebrew and Israeli and American: Shalom Sesame! It was quite a trip, and I'm really wishing I had some little kids under my apron to share the awesomeness with, but, for now, I'll have to share it with y'all and play on your nostalgia and perhaps convince a few of you that the new Shalom Sesame will delight your own kids.

Photo op! Eeee!
The moment I stepped out of the elevator, I was struck by the color. It was a Crayola explosion, primary colors everywhere, and on the sconces in the elevator bay? All of the characters we love, like Elmo and Cookie Monster and Bert and Ernie. Our host came out and ushered me to a photo op with Oscar the Grouch (color me star struck), and then into the screen room with lots of yummy nosh from Our Most Favorite in NYC. The meal was complete with Sesame Street juice boxes, which made me feel nostalgically child-like. And then? The screening of an episode in which Grover learns Hebrew.

The new Shalom Sesame is a 12-part series, of which two of the DVDs are out, including a Chanukah episode (which was in our goodie bag upon leaving!). The entire series revolves around Anneliese van der Pol (of That's So Raven fame) and Grover heading off to Israel and their adventures in the land and on Rachov Sumsum. In the episode we screened, Grovery learns some of the basics like boker tov and mishpacha from his friends on the Rachov, and the events there are interspersed with cartoon clips on family, counting by none other than the Count, and a segment on the aleph-bet. Here's a preview of the first episode:

The characters are crossovers from the Israeli version of Sesame Street (Rachov Sumsum), but there are some new characters. Kippi, that gigantic porcupine, is no longer on Shalom Sesame, but there are characters like Avigail, Moshe Oofnik (the Israeli Oscar the Grouch), Brosh, and Mahboub. There's also a new cast of human characters, including Anneliese, Boris, Kobi, Lemlem, and Shoshana. I'd say that Shalom Sesame covered all their basis with that cast, as it appears to include American, Israeli, Ethiopian, and Russian Jews!

But I'm sure you're wondering what I thought, right? As someone with no kids but a box full of toys in her apartment so kids will come visit, I have to say that I really enjoyed the episode we screened, especially because in my Hebrew classes at UConn, we watched old Shalom Sesame episodes that were seriously outdated and needing revamping. I laughed -- a lot -- more than I thought I would, and so did most of the adults in the room. There were a few kids there, and they were bobbing along to the music and laughing at the funny moments just as much as the adults.

My only beef -- or question -- after viewing this episode and anticipating the rest is the presentation of the traditional family motif. I'll admit I really don't know how kids programming folks address this issue, but there was a segment on family and what makes up a family, which included both a segment with real people and a cartoon version (with some gnarly music with kids singing like 80s hairband stars). The songs presented used the, I have a father, a mother, and XX siblings -- the standard family unit -- as the basis for the song. There was a brief mention in both versions (human and cartoon) of a family with a grandmother, a mother, and the kid, but no single-parent households existed. No step-parents. No grandparents-only. No dad-only. I was really uncomfortable during this segment, and I'll be honest I'm not really sure why. My parents are still married, and I have two brothers. I am the "traditional," American family unit. But I know a lot -- a lot -- of people who come from the real traditional family unit nowadays: single parents raising several kids, grandparents raising kids, fathers raising kids, mothers raising kids, etc. What do you guys think -- should shows like Sesame Street give this more play?

After all, the point of this kind of programming is for kids to see themselves on the screen, right? To put themselves onto Rachov SumSum and in the shoes of Grover learning Hebrew!

But I don't want this to be heavy. I really really loved my time at Sesame Workshop, and the folks there were so warm and welcoming. I have to think that working in such a colorful environment must have to keep morale higher than a kite. I'm really excited to see the rest of the series, and, I'm also really excited to open up the Chanukah episode ... Tuvia and I are the kind of people who -- even at our age -- enjoy the simpler, child-like things in life. I mean, come on, I keep Super Grover in my car at all times, just in case, you know, I need a hero.

Stay tuned for more on Shalom Sesame, and be sure to keep checking back at their website for plenty of resources, games, and educational materials for kids, adults, and educators. You can purchase the first two episodes and pre-order the rest by clicking here. I'm really excited to see how educators and parents use the awesome tools that are coming up on the website, which should be launched soon enough. There are aleph-bet games, resources, e-cards, and more. I'll be sure to post when the website goes live, so stay tuned!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

What I Fed My Mystery Guests

The bake.
For the second time since we've been in the Teaneck community, we were privy to take part in Mystery Shabbat. It sounds a lot more mysterious and spooky than it really is, and it is simply a way for the greater community I live in to get to know one another. People sign up as hosts or guests, the sisterhood matches people, and you find out at shul who you're eating by. The hosts find out who is eating with them the moment they, well, show up at the door. It's an up-to-the-last-minute surprise, and it allows people not to decline or prepare for certain guests (aside from dietary restrictions).

We had two couples and a single over for Shabbat lunch, with a total of three kids (one child, one toddler, and one baby). The only restrictions? A dislike of gefilte fish (bummer, but resolved) and dressing on the side. And, of course, my gluten restrictions. Here was the menu I chose, and the crowd was mighty pleased. The item that got gone the quickest? The Crapple, the recipe of which I got from @wifeofmottel, I simply de-glutenized for my noshing pleasure. Dig in!

Homemade Challah yes, I make it and don't eat it

Salad with cashews and craisins with a Raspberry Vinaigrette
Gefilte fish baked with honey and cinnamon
Matbucha, chummus, and chickpea salad

Crapple an oat and flour crust, cranberries and pineapple, with an oat topping
Roasted Potatoes a simple blend of potatoes with rosemary and garlic, roasted
Butternut Squash Cranberry Bake my favorite standby
Tarragon Corn the easiest thing to make, even mixing tarragon into cooked corn
Sweet & Spicy Chicken a huge crowd pleaser
BBQ Turkey Meatballs crumb-less meatballs bound with minced onion and egg in store-bought sauce

Dessert was provided at the community oneg, which was part of the ending of the Mystery Shabbat festivities, providing a way for everyone to get together with old friends and new friends alike. Unfortunately, no gluten-free goods for me outside of fruit. Next time? I'm going to make some Coffee Cake or Brownies or my beloved Chocolate Mousse Torte!

Friday, November 19, 2010

A Chanukah Giveaway from Oh! Nuts!

Chanukah is the time of year where we overdo it on oily goodies like latkes and sufganiyot, among other things. I'm going to be in Israel for part of Chanukah, and I was elated to find out that there's a shop in Israel that sells gluten-free sufganiyot -- color me happy! But my favorite part is all the gelt. Yes, gelt. I love, love, love gelt. But only the dark chocolate kind (keep that in mind).

Want to fill your candy dishes with some chocolatey treats? Maybe jonesing for some delicious granola or some gummy yummies? Then keep reading!

I've been doing a lot of giveaways lately, and I know that y'all love them. So here's another! The winner of this giveaway will receive a $25 gift certificate from Oh!Nuts, the fine purveyor of all things kosher and delicious. And you know what I love most about Oh!Nuts? They might be all kosher, but they offer goods and deals for every holiday -- Jewish or not!

Here are the details. You have three ways to enter. One here, and two elsewhere.

1) Go to the Oh!Nuts Chanukah gifts page, choose your favorite Chanukah Gift, and leave a comment here with the name and URL of the gift that you like the most. The winner will receive a $25 gift certificate.

2) Go to the Oh!Nuts Facebook Page and post the name and URL of your favorite Chanukah Gift from Oh!Nuts and write "I am here via Just Call Me Chaviva, aka"
3) Follow @OhNuts and tweet: "Win a free Chanukah Gift from | Follow @OhNuts and RT to enter!"
Good luck! The contest closes in a week (that is, Friday, November 26, 2010). Yes, I'll be in Israel, so it'll close before Shabbos in Israel :)

Food + Class: What Would You Do?

I told a classmate back at the beginning of the semester that I was going to blog about this, and she was game, but I sort of put it off and put it off, and now I'm ready. Ready?

We're all put in situations where we have to have meals with non-kosher-keeping coworkers or friends. We're all also put in situations where we have to have meals with our friends and coworkers who do keep kosher, but maybe not the same type of kosher that we keep. This issue is compounded, especially, with family. Most of the time, it's doable to either talk those who don't hold to your kashrut into going to a restaurant where you feel comfortable, or having them come to your house, but it doesn't always work out that way. Sure, you can meet people at a coffee shop or a bar for a cup o' Joe or beer (of which kosher versions are abundant), but what about a classroom?

I'm in a class right now where every single student is Jewish, but of varying types of observance and views on Judaism. From the most cultural/secular to graduates of YU and, well, me. We're working on final papers/projects right now, which involve everything from gefilte fish and kugel to delis to Ovadiah ha'Ger. The point? Jewish primary sources (which means a document or even food) built around the idea of what community means.

For our final class, it has been suggested that we bring in gobs of food for noshing. This was brought up a long time ago, but with the impending end of the semester, I'm trying to figure out the best way to approach this with the class. Not everyone will eat the food that anyone makes. There's talk of making gefilte or kugel to bring in. I know in most situations, the best option is to just call up Murray's or something and get some food catered in, but it seems that people really really really want to make food and bring it in.

Sure, I can not eat the food, but I don't want to get into that kind of a situation, especially in an all-Jewish class. Comprende? 

So what should I do? How should I go about starting this conversation? Time is a'tickin' folks.

Announcing a Winner.

I'm ever so happy to announce that the giveaway winner is

LEAH SARAH (aka @enfini)

Mazal tov and Shabbat Shalom to all! Stay tuned for ... yes. Another giveaway. From my good friends at Oh!Nuts, as well as a blog post on the upcoming awesomeness that is Shalom Sesame!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Shall We Schmooze?

A girl can't speak on a Social Media panel without her MyTouch 4g, can she!?
Monday night, I had the privilege of sitting on a highly esteemed panel of Social Media pros for the MetroImma Social Media Schmooze. I had anticipated writing an awesome recap of the event, but, thanks to a few awesome individuals, a recap already has been written -- times two!

Check out AlarBean's take on the event, as well as panelist In the Pink!

It was most excellent to finally meet many people in person, including @alarbean, @rivkaht, the most amazing moderator in the world @critiques4geeks, @rafiber, and more! Not to mention, of course, the countless old (e-)friends who also made it in.

Overall, the event went really well, and it was nice to be able to share my experience and expertise with newbies and old pros alike. The one thing I would like to mention is that someone asked how we bloggers make money -- if we make money. I joked that I'm waiting for the book deal, but there's a truth here. I don't make money on this blog, I make things. I get products to review -- food, clothes, books, you name it. But I haven't made a cent, as far as deposits into my bank account go, in the four-and-a-half years that I've been running Just Call Me Chaviva. Am I upset about this?


But in the end, I don't blog for fame and fortune. Sure, I love being able to influence people and speak to people's hearts and help converts through the positive and present the oft-overlooked Judaism that we all should be embracing. But we all have bills to pay and mouths to feed. I'm blessed to have a husband that has a good job, a job that allows me to be in school full-time (on scholarship, that is). And at the end of the day, I'm not losing it over an inability to make money.

It'd be nice. In a perfect world, I'd make money off of the very few ads I keep here on the blog (people don't like ads, plain and simple), but I don't, and I'm okay with that. I didn't start the blog to make money, and to change my mission statement at this point would be uncomfortable. Of course, I also have to point out that this isn't a perfect world. I'll keep bloggin', as long as y'all keep reading!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Going Mad Before the Deaf

I've been busy watching a nine-hour, nine-part series called Heritage: Civilization and the Jews for my Jewish Communities course. It hasn't been easy, but between the overly dramatic music and the Fiddler on the Roof-style breakouts on shtetl life and Yiddish theater it's been interesting. I was particularly taken with an opening line that, to scholars, Mesopotamia is identified "as the starting point not of creation, but civilization." The narrator, Abba Eban, says, "You cannot recount the story of civilization without coming face to face with what the Jews have" said, written, and performed. A truer statement nary has been uttered.

But it was a mention of the Ba'al Shem Tov ("master of the good name" aka the Besht), the father of Hasidism, and a store he often told in response to those who were opposed to the unique styles of Hasidic life and worship. The story goes something like this:
A deaf man passed by a hall where a wedding reception was being celebrated. When he looked through the window, he saw people engaged in exultant and tumultuous dancing. But because he could not hear the music, he assumed they were mad.
Another version of the story goes like this:
Once, a musician came to town -- a musician of great but unknown talent. He stood on a street corner and began to play.
Those who stopped to listen could not tear themselves away, and soon a large crowd stood enthralled by the glorious music whose equal they had never heard. Before long they were moving to its rhythm, and the entire street was transformed into a dancing mass of humanity.
A deaf man walking by wondered: Has the world gone mad? Why are the townspeople jumping up and down, waving their arms and turning in circles in middle of the street?
Sometimes, this is how I feel. The dancing, exultant Jewess fervent in my Judaism and spinning in my own circles while others pass by deaf, or blind, assuming I'm mad. The appeal of Hasidism, I understand. The idea that anyone, even the simplest of mind, can study Torah and grow toward G-d. And as such, I truly appreciate this simple story. My neshama, or soul, is the people in this story, and the world around me the deaf man (at least, sometimes). The oft-asked question is, "Why on earth would you want to be Jewish, let alone Orthodox?" Sometimes it is difficult to express, to explain, the inner-workings and dancings of my soul. Even with fancy eye surgery, you might not see it. I'm not sure if the Besht meant what I mean when I discuss this story, but I think for converts, the story speaks volumes.

On a side note: It is truly interesting that at its advent, Hasidism was viewed as a threat to traditional Judaism, to Judaism in any and all ways. And yet, today Hasidism is alive, well, and powerful. Then again, there is always an internal threat, the perpetual driving force of Jew vs. Jew.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Hair Covering Giveaway!

Yes, it's that time of year. The time of year to buy new head coverings! Why? The weather is changing, the leaves have all but disappeared, and, well, who doesn't want or need new, beautiful head coverings? Thus, I give you a giveaway from (aka CYH)!

First, I have to tell you about the cute hat they sent me to get you guys excited about what's in store for the colder-weather months (and for those of you in Texas or Israel or countries where it doesn't get so cold, there are plenty of beautiful tichels and headbands available). Called The New Fashionable Beret on the site, this knit hat is a wonder. I buy a lot of knit winter hats at places like K-Mart and Conway (in NYC), but they tend to be plain, and I often wish that they had just a little something to jazz them up. Thus enters these hats. With a simple bow, the hat really does give off a different vibe than if it were sans the bow. And, believe it or not, adult bows are in fashion this season (so sue me, I saw it on TV). The hat is actually a lot thicker, which plays into a serious high-quality look and feel. Overall? I'm loving this hat! Can't you tell?

Here are the details:

  • One winner will receive a box of surprise hair accessories worth $25!
  • You have many ways to enter the contest, and for each thing you do, please mention it in the comments (honor system!) in a single comment, please. Here are the ways to add entries to your comment.
  • Remember: Post a comment on MY BLOG with all of the things that you did to enter. 
  • The contest will close at 10 p.m. on Thursday, November 18. The winner will be chosen at random! Men, enter for your wives, too!
Note: This CAN be shipped worldwide -- so, no matter where you are, enter enter enter!

And, just so you don't walk away empty handed if you don't win, you, my lucky blog readers, have the opportunity to receive 20% off at through December 31, 2010 using promo code "blog1231." Enjoy!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Hear Ye! Hear Ye! Come One! Come All!

I expect every last one of you to be there. Okay, every last one of you in the NYC area. Freebies and good time with techno-Jews and ... it's going to be awesome. I promise. And if any of you *really, really* want to come and don't think you can swing the entrance fee, let me know and we'll work something out. Begin press release!

------------------------------------------------- Hosts Jewish Social Media Shmooze Event on November 15th!!

NEW YORK, November 15, 2010 –, the only online social networking site geared towards Jewish moms, will host its Jewish Social Media Shmooze event Monday, November 15. This event is geared towards moms who are interested in learning how brands and bloggers are utilizing social media tools to create brand awareness and a following. Hosted by MetroImma and Esti Berkowitz of Primetime Parenting, the panel will be moderated by guest speaker Stephanie Grayson-Zane, a communications expert and social media enthusiast. Panelists include Ken Krimstein, author of Kvetch As Kvetch Can; Hadassah Sabo Milner, blogger at In the Pink; Chaviva Galatz, blogger at Kvetching Editor, and Jodi Samuels, co-founder of MetroImma. (That's meeee!)

The web site that offers a Jewish twist to the standard areas that interest moms – schools, how to save money, cooking, beauty, fitness, travel with children, juggling marriage and children, and other general childrearing issues – is always looking for ways to bring the online community together for an offline and personal experience. All women are invited to attend this phenomenal event where they will learn best practices to expand their client base and turn themselves into a household name.

The MetroImma Social Media Shmooze will take place at Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, 450 Lexington Avenue, 40th Floor, from 5:30 – 8:00 pm. The event will kick off with a tweet-up where guests have the opportunity to network. There will be raffle prizes and gift bags, and refreshments will be served.

Sponsors include: Lisa Brandes from Morgan Stanley Smith Barney,, Shutterfly,, Oh Nuts!, Manischewitz,, Bagels & Co., Shmirawear and more!

Entrance is $10 in advance, $15 at the door. All attendees are asked to bring ID.

Please RSVP to For more information, and to purchase tickets, visit

About is a one of a kind social networking site that focuses on the Jewish cultural aspects of marriage, parenting and raising children. With an initial focus on the New York area, MetroImma plans to provide active forums featuring other cities. What makes MetroImma unique is that it offers a Jewish twist to the standard areas that interest moms – schools, cooking, beauty, fitness, travel with children, juggling marriage and children, and other general childrearing issues. The site is organized across mommy-focused groups that are run by subject matter experts who moderate discussions and provide advice. Members can also initiate their own groups and conversations and keep in touch with other mom friends in a fun and user-friendly environment. MetroImma is a division of JMedia Connections Inc. For more information, visit

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Other End of Things: Review Backlash!

I have another blog, and that blog is a blog devoted to Gluten-Free and Kosher products, most of which I purchase myself and review -- honestly, to the core. More recently, companies have jumped on the bandwagon of sending me products to review, and I'm waiting to get some of those in the mail and/or try them, but I'm stoked. If I can preach the gospel of good gluten-free and kosher nosh, then color me happy.

But with the reviewing of products comes that fateful issue of angry product makers with a keyboard and an email account. Listen. Someone commented to me that my review of Susie Fishbein's cookbook was "honest," which was enlightening or refreshing or something like that. My policy in all reviews -- be they hair coverings or cookbooks or delicious gluten-free raisin bread -- is to be completely honest. I touch the highs and the lows. That is, if there are lows. Sometimes there isn't, and sometimes those lows are simply things that can't be controlled -- price at the supermarket or packaging and design. But I go for it all, from the calorie count all the way up to the way the pages of a book or the outside of a package look. I'm detailed, I'm thorough, and Technorati's recent study on the State of the Blogsphere says people trust other bloggers when it comes to product reviews. So here I am.

I recently reviewed a product on my Gluten-Free and Kosher Critic blog called Slurpin' Good Soup -- a product that is homegrown right here in Teaneck. I'm not sure if it's because of that or because of an unprofessional devotion to a my product is amazing everyone tells me so kind of mentality, but the chef behind these soup sent me a, well, backhanded "thanks" for mentioning his product by saying that "Needlessly trashing my product so you can feel better about yourself is hardly the way to go." Need I repeat myself? The chef then went on to tell me about a 7-year-old who calls him Chili and how everyone loves his product. My attempts to explain a review to this man were returned with "It was not a review, it was the comments of a student who trashed a product and company." You be the judge. I'm just a student. Pshaw.

Listen, that's super. Everyone thinks their product or creation or book are amazing. That's the nature of things. If you didn't think that, you wouldn't be making/cooking/writing it. But the nature of reviews is honesty. I went out of my way to give this guy press -- and at the end of the day, even bad press is press. Your name is out there, people will see the product and wonder "wait, how do I know that name?"

Am I wrong? Do those of you out there in the Blogosphere sing praises to every product you purchase in the hopes that, I dunno, maybe you'll get something for free? What's the point? How do you handle such individuals, when it's clear that they're, in a word, unprofessional?

Monday, November 8, 2010

A Winner is Chosen!

My father always told me, Life isn't fair. Just a thought before I announce the winner of the Quick & Kosher: Meals in Minutes Giveaway.

Quick & Kosher: Meals in MinutesI do a lot of giveaways here, and although I change up the "how" of entering, it doesn't tend to affect how I choose my winners. I either use a random number generator in which each number corresponds to a different person who has commented or I type all of the names up (doubling up for those who entered in multiple ways) and throwing them into a random picker. I'd like to pick the "best" or my most "favorite" of the entries, but it doesn't seem fair or objective, especially because I know many of the entrants personally. What do you guys think about this -- am I thinking too much about it? Or does my way make sense?

At any rate, thanks to the awesomely funny random generators at (it's geared toward teachers who want a fun way to pick names from a class), we have our winner! Mazal tov to ...

Please email me at kvetching dot editor dot com with your mailing information! I hope Mara will add some of Jamie Geller's awesomely quick and budget-friendly 

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Chavi and the Hair

Tuvia and I were married May 31, 2010, which means that on November 31, while we're gallivanting around Israel, we'll celebrate our Six Month Anniversary (cue loud, booming voice and doomful music). That will be six months of tichels, hats, scarves, and a sheitel (that's really a fall meant to be worn with headbands and hats). That also will be six months of an experience that seems to entertain or captivate the likes of blog readers the world-over. My posts on hair and hair covering are some of my most well-read and most talked about. Most days I wonder why that is, but I usually come to the conclusion that it's because it's 2010. It's the 21st century and the idea that there are women out there willing to cover their hair in a bounty of ways seems foreign, if not archaic or unsensible, to probably 90 percent of the population. Women, after all, are liberated, right? We're proud to share the right to vote (in the U.S. anyway) and equal opportunity for jobs (even though we still make less than men for equivalent work) and those with house husbands are free to work their tushes off without worrying about raising their kids full-time. Women are free, free to do whatever they want, which to most means wearing pants and letting those locks fly freely in the dirty, NYC wind.

When I first posted about hair covering, I got a lot of comments that my sentiments would change. I'd grow weary of it quickly, my head would itch and I would throw off my scarf in rebellion, embracing my awesome hair and the liberation that uncovering can bring. I'm not being flippant, but there were people who expected me to give up on covering. So we're only six months in, and maybe there's still hope that I'll go back to my awesome 'do next year or in ten years or moments before I kick the bucket ... but don't count on it.

I've got drawers and nooks and crannies stuffed with scarves of every color and size, headbands for my fall, and now that winter is upon us, boatloads of cute knit winter hats. I'll admit, hair covering in summer sucks. It's hot, no matter how thin your tichel, and with my style -- homegrown bangs -- it's an even hotter mess. Thus, thank G-d for winter ... I can wear my knit hats with or without the fall, and look like a cute ski bunny in the process.

My hair has finally grown a bit to the point where I can comfortably leave a bit less than a tefach out of my knit hat without feeling uncomfortable. The look, I think, suits me. Of course, I was concerned about meeting the criteria -- being covered and being bound. My hair is short enough that I can't bind it, so the rim of the hat tends to keep it bound in place (that is, it doesn't move), so through executive decision, I've deemed it both stylish and legitimate as far as kisui rosh goes. My knit hats are blue and gray and brown and black and one even has a big ridiculous bow on it. I've discovered that K-Mart is an excellent locale for knit hat shopping, and even my super sequined sparkly black hat from Target gets the job done. Winter, for me, is without scarves and tichels for the most part, although we're going to Israel at the end of the month and Israel is a place where wearing a scarf is more comfortable than a hat or sheitel. I intend on packing a few necessary scarves and to buy up Israeli ones while I'm there.

I can't say that I'm any more comfortable in my sheitel than I was a few months ago when I got it. To be honest, I probably went a month without even wearing it, bringing it out this Shabbos for a schlep to family in Monsey. The weather was up and down, and, feeling perpetually warm, I opted out of the hairy option. I keep toying with the idea of getting it chopped, as sometimes it feels bulky and annoying. I see so many women with cute short 'dos, and I have to wonder what would work for me. Sure, long hair is sultry and sexy, but that's not exactly the point of it, nor is it what I'm going for. Functional and comfortable are the key words for hair covering in my book.

Overall, hair covering ain't no thing for me. I wake up, I throw on a hat, I run out the door. If anything, it's made my life loads easier. I've almost mastered cutting my own bangs (okay, not really, but I try), and I look darn cute in a winter knit hat. It might push me to move to the Great White North so I can rock this look 24/7/365. I'm still coping with the bangs + tichel/scarf look. I feel like it looks weird, where I once thought it looked awesome. Would I get rid of my bangs? Probably not. They're my signature. People usually ask whether they're homegrown or fake (yes, you can buy clip-on bangs). The question I'm sure most are wondering is whether if it "ain't no thing" if I'm getting anything spiritual or religious out of it. The answer is a resounding "of course." I walk a certain way, talk a certain way, dress a certain way, and it all starts at the tip-top of my head. It allows for a full and embodying sense of self-awareness that I strengthen with each day I cover my noggin and hair.

What about you, readers? For those of you who cover, does it get easier, harder? What has really pushed you to reconsider or reevaluate your own hair covering? What keeps you trucking and what trips you up?

A Carnival Kinda Day

Yes, you know the drill. Haveil Havelim #290 is up at Frume Sarah and The Kosher Cooking Carnival is up at Isramom.

Now go give them your love and attention!

And don't forget: the cookbook giveaway for Jamie Geller's new Quick & Kosher: Meals in Minutes ends tonight at 10 p.m.!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Web Site Story!

When I was in High School, I got to play Maria in West Side Story for two of the four performances. I felt *super* important. If this were a real musical, I'd so be Maria ... and I'd meet Tony online on JDate. it'd be AWESOME. Instead of Sharks and Jets, it'd be Orthodox and Modern Orthodox or something silly like that ... (hat tip to Elisha for sending me this!)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Jamie Geller Goes Quick & Kosher ... Again!

Quick and Kosher. These are two words that I live by. I keep kosher, and I prefer that keeping kosher not keep my calendar in the "rush" formation. When I cook kosher, I want to cook quick, but thoughtful. Quick, but healthful. Quick, but delicious. Can it be done? Is it possible to cook quick and kosher? To set aside generations of slaving over a hot stove for two days for Shabbat meals? Yes, yes it is. And Jamie Geller shows us how (and she makes it look incredibly easy).

I first heard about Jamie's work from the beautiful personality behind In the Pink, so I ordered the book immediately off Amazon, tabbed a bajillion pages, and got cooking. Aside from a few gripes about recipes coming out tasteless (which, to be honest, I can't blame on Jamie -- I am a super taster, if you are familiar with the term; I need lots of spice in order to taste anything), I was incredibly pleased with the ease and speed with which her recipes could be completed. Yes, there were opponents who scoffed at her Duck Sauce Chicken recipe (jar duck sauce, chicken, cook), but that's because people don't get what Quick & Kosher means.

Quick & Kosher: Meals in MinutesQuick & Kosher means easy meals that pack a flavorful punch with minimal ingredients that won't have you multi-tasking on three different devices. Quick & Kosher means giving you the options for meals that you wouldn't have thought of otherwise. Duck Sauce Chicken? Sure, it seems simple, but when you're scrounging for the easiest possible Shabbos dinner dish, would you, off the top of your head, just think about throwing some sauce and chicken together? And if you have a beef with the health issue (onion soup mix and what have you), then you, as the consumer, need to think: look for low sodium options, look for all natural ingredients, and find a way to make the recipes work!

Thus, with Jamie's new installment in the Quick & Kosher series -- Meals in Minutes -- we have a boatload of options that come adorned with side dishes! Jamie offers a main dish and a side dish on every page, so you don't have to think about what to make with your protein. Can you mix it up? Who's to stop you? But the nice thing is that you can stick to one page and have a healthy, quick, delicious meal. In the back of the book, Jamie offers a variety of meal options for every Jewish holiday from Shabbat to Shavuot, and, to be completely honest, I'll probably use the festive meal menus for a regular Shabbat in the future. Why? Because I'm the kind of person who starts building a menu and ends up with two main dishes, six side dishes, and three desserts plus a soup or salad or fish. I overdo it. I kill myself cooking for Shabbat, when I know that -- in reality -- a few side dishes with a main course, a delicious dessert and a hearty salad are all a meal and the guests need to be complete and satisfied. I also love that Jamie offers wine pairings and gives short and sweet explanations of the questions you know you're asking, like, what is lemongrass (check the Thai Chicken Soup recipe)? Or how to pick cheese or wine or why is awesome (for all intents and purposes, Jamie's their spokesperson).

Pumpkin cookies! FTW!

I know what you're thinking -- they gave me the book for free. I'm worshiping at the altar of Jamie Geller and the Quick & Kosher team. To be honest, aside from the spice/flavor issue, I haven't had a problem with any of the recipes from either book, and I've made probably a dozen or so in the past few months. And, as a gluten-free consumer, I've been able to fix up all of the recipes I've made for a gluten-free twist, including the Pumpkin Cookies in the new book. (Easiest cookies out there after, of course, an unhealthy pre-packed mix). I also am a huge fan of the Lamb Meatballs in Pita, which I made for my Israeli friends and paired with an abundance of Israeli salads (they loved the meatballs). I'm super eager to make the Greek-Style Chicken with Lemon and Dill, paired with Tomatoes and String Beans (okay, so I'll have to make Tuvia something else), as well as the Pumpkin Black Bean Soup (what a combo, right?). Spice-Rubbed Grilled Chicken with Fruit Salsa? Yes, please! The list goes on and on.

And if you know that you only have 40 minutes or 60 minutes, all you have to do is go to that chapter and get cooking. Organized, quick, and kosher. Bravo, Jamie!

So now, what you're really here for, the giveaway. Here are the rules:
  • There will be one winner who will receive one copy of Jamie Geller's new Quick & Kosher: Meals in Minutes.
  • The contest closes Sunday, November 7, 2010, at 10 p.m. 
  • To enter, you must write a fall/winter food haiku (or limerick, just for you M.E.) OR tell me (and, in turn, Jamie Geller) what recipe or food you love for which you wish there was a "quick and kosher" recipe. 
  • Tweet this, Facebook this, and spread the word. Let me know where you've thrown up a mention (honor system here, folks) for an extra entry into the contest.
Good luck, and happy cooking!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Kosher by Design Winner!

Kosher By Design Teens and 20-Somethings: cooking for the next generation

I am happy to announce that the lucky winner (via random number generation) of my Cooking w/Giveaway, Susie Style is ...

Everyone wish her a grand ole mazal tov, but stay tuned. There's another giveaway in the works. It'll probably go up tomorrow night and last through Sunday night. People usually stop entering after four days, so we'll keep it short, serious, and sweet. The next giveaway will be of Jamie Geller's Quick & Kosher: Meals in Minutes

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Be Careful What You Post ... or Don't!

While reading my friendly neighborhood New York Times Magazine (circa October 24, 2010), I learned something shockingly shocking: it is "reported that bloggers — regular folk expressing their honest opinions! — could face huge fines ('up to $11,000 per post,' asserted) for inadequate disclosure."

Wah!? So you're telling me that if I didn't mention that the kind folks behind Kosher by Design had actually sent me the book to review, some snoopy Big Brother could have turned me into the FTC and I would have been facing an $11,000 fine!? Hot dog. That's a hefty fine for non-disclosure.

Anyone run into any FTC issues for non-disclosure? I'm baffled. And wondering how this is actually enforced. I wonder if all of those hits on my blog from Washington, D.C., are really Big Brother checking in ... hopefully my reviews that I do on my own accord (you know, buying the products myself and reviewing them myself) are mistaken for undisclosed reviews and ... what if agents are around the corner!?