Monday, March 29, 2010

Zecher Nishmas

It is the yahrzeit of my father in law today. Physically gone, but never forgotten. He lives on in the deeds he did, which guide us even now, and in his words, which are repeated across the generations.

Usher Yaakov ben Yitzchak HaLevi a"h

May his neshomah have an aliyah.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Yom Tov Greetings

I'm in full cooking mode so let me take advantage of a few minutes lull to wish all of you a gutten yom tov. Wherever you are celebrating the chag I hope that there will be enjoyment and happiness.

Chag Kasher V'sameach.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Silence in the Midst of Noise

There are those who don't seem to be looking forward to Yom Tov, in particular our observance chutz l'aaretz of that extra day. The latest posting on Bad4 speaks of "enforced conversation," of sitting down to too many meals together. I would refer those people to my posting this week on Making Memories.

But there is another reason why some people find the days of Yom Tov so hard to bear, so interminable, and that is the sudden and complete divorce from the electronic toys which drive our lives on a daily basis. What is really bothering these people, although few will admit it, is the absence of noise. These people suffer plenty over Shabbos; a two-day yom tov seems unbearable.

Watch men on a Shabbos who usually have their cell phones/blackberries/ipods attached to their belts. They are constantly touching where these items should be and aren't. For some it's as if one of the body's appendages had been suddenly amputated. Suddenly people are being forced to do without their links to the virtual world and being forced to communicate the old fashioned way: face to face using their voices unmodulated by electronic devices. No 140 character twitter responses are available. There's no "oops, got to go" on a cell phone when a conversation starts getting out of the general and into specifics people don't want to deal with or face.

Real conversation requires involvement, requires paying attention for longer than a 10-second text message, requires engagement and participation. Real conversation, face-to-face, requires thinking about what is going on. It seems that the more you are involved with your electronic gadgetry on a daily basis, the more you "communicate" electronically, the less you value "enforced," forced or even spontaneous conversation in the real world. Real conversation requires minding your Ps and Qs, adhering to social rules, thinking of others and exercising your vocal cords for longer than a few minutes at a time.

Talking with each other instead of at each other is becoming a lost art for many, and an undesirable occurrence. It may well be why some people also find dating so stressful. Imagine, being "locked" together for two hours with nothing to do but talk directly to each other. How old fashioned, how passe, how backwards.

Me? I welcome the silence of all that gadgetry. No pings and beeps and vibrations trying to rule my living moments. I welcome the family sitting down together, really together, and speaking with each other, not at each other. So yes, I don't mind that extra day of yom tov at all. It confers the blessing of silence of the electronic slave masters. It allows me to thumb my nose at those gadgets that believe that they rule me, not the reverse. And yes, when we say "Avodim Ha'yenu" it takes on an extra meaning--no gadgets at the table (ever see a group of people in a restaurant? At least half of them are texting instead of participating in a conversation with those present) and for these two days we are "free men."

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Notice of Singles Event

The Young Israel of Staten Island together with YU Connects and the OU will be holding a singles shabbaton in May. It's going to be done a bit differently than other such weekends that have been held recently in other places. For one thing, the price is cheaper--$50 per person, and that covers all Shabbos meals and the program for motzoai Shabbos. For another thing, Shabbos lunch will be held in private homes throughout the community with 6 singles per house, giving the singles a better chance at getting to know each other. I'll post a reminder after Pesach is over, but singles out there might want to make note of the date. If you're interested in applying, go to and click on "Singles Shabbaton" in the upper right hand corner.

DATE:MAY 7-8, 2010
AGES: 28-38
COST: $50
Cost includes housing, all Shabbos meals and activities, and
Motzei Shabbos program. Full details will be disclosed as the date
draws closer, but reserve now to insure a spot!
The Shabbaton will be limited to an exclusive group of 100 great
orthodox singles. Once you submit an application, one of us will
call you to get a better idea of who you are.
To place a reservation, please complete the following application.
Please note that your place is not guaranteed until we have spoken
with you.
For more information, please email
We look forward to seeing you there!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

One Reason for Marrying Tall

There are any number of women who put down "tall" as an attribute they want in their future husband, and they catch a lot of flack for wanting something that others call irrelevant to what makes a good husband. I freely admit that I wanted a tall boy back when I was dating, although I dated a whole lot of guys who weren't. First, at 5"7" I was very conscious of my height--I was always among the tallest women in a room. But my main reason was a very practical one.

Way back when my mom laid claim to being 5'2", although we peg her at being no more than 5' now. It didn't matter how high she was going to climb on a ladder, she was never going to reach the top of the cabinets in the kitchen or the top of the closets, not without standing on tiptoe or climbing up onto the counters. But she had the perfect solution to her problem--my dad was 6'. In a clearly practical division of labor it was my dad's job to reach the high places. No one was going to expect my mom to wrestle the Pesach dishes out of their storage spots or to shlepp things and get them onto the high shelves. (She also made sure that she had tall children to take up the slack should my dad not be around.)

They say you learn from watching your parents. Well, I watched and I learned. I thought it was a perfectly wonderful idea to divide rooms up according to height, the height of the people in them that is. Like my mom before me, I married tall--6'3-1/2" worth--and I also produced the tall children--at 5'7" I'm the shrimp in my house. This has produced some wonderful benefits for me. I don't like balancing on step ladders while at the same time trying to be careful not to drop whatever it is that I need from a high spot in the house. And mostly I no longer ever have to do this. Cleaning jobs that would require me to act like an acrobat on a high wire have been gladly passed on to those with the height to do them more easily than I can.

Now, I'm not saying that girls in the dating parsha necessarily articulate that they want a boy who is tall because he can handle all the upper level cleaning jobs, but it definitely is one reason to have in mind. I'm always thankful for the man I'm married to, but this time of year his height--and yes, his willingness to do what needs to be done--is an undisguised blessing.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Making Memories

Long after the last meal has been served and the last guest has departed, Pesach will still be alive and well--in our memories. Who said what, who did what will be available for instant replay whenever we want.

Obviously there is a religious reason and significance to celebrating Pesach, but there is a secondary purpose as well: making memories. When all is said and done literally what remains is stored not in our cabinets and attics but in our minds. A coming together for Pesach is a chance to strengthen existing bonds and create new ones. It's a time to add to the wealth that is family. And it's a time to reminisce about occurrences of long past times and people no longer with us. It's a time to remind ourselves that we didn't pop into the world all on our own; we come from somewhere, from someone, from lots of someones. It's a time to remember that it's not only genetics that makes us a family but shared experiences and shared memories. Passing an inheritance on to our children shouldn't be only about money but should also be about a sense of connection to those that came before.

For my husband and I only my mother remains living of our parents, and she will be at our seder table. Her presence alone brings joy to all of us. But she brings much more to the table than just herself. She brings with her the stories of how life was "in der heim." She brings with her stories about the great-great-great grandparents and aunts and uncles. She tells the stories of how life was for a little girl growing up then and who the important players were in that life. She is the one who remembers what I was like as a little girl and shares those stories gladly with my children. She is the one I can turn to with "Do you remember when...?" on my lips and know that she does remember. And yes, it pleases her, gratifies her that the minhagim that will be observed in my home, the niggunim that will be used, the dishes that will be served are familiar ones, ones passed down from generation to generation on both sides of the family.

My mom is a very with-it person, valuing new inventions for the help and convenience they bring to us. But she is also a big believer in the study of history, in the knowing of what came before. And this is particularly true when it comes to family. To know the past is to know yourself, to know where you came from and how you got to this point.

The Nazis, may their names be cursed for eternity, ripped asunder the fabric of my mother's life in Europe. They destroyed families and rejoiced in their insane actions. But they missed one point: memories can bring people back to life, can bring practices back into being, can bring us to where we are today.

Our family mesorah is an integral part of who we all are. With Pesach coming I wish for you all the chance to make new memories that will be part of that mesorah while recounting the tales of what once was, connecting the dots of then and now. It's another wonderful opportunity to add to that tapestry being woven about your family.

And yes, I sometimes daydream a bit and wonder what stories my great great grandchildren down the road will tell about my husband and I, about our celebration of Pesach. And I hope that those stories will go all the way back to at least my great grandmother. In our family Baba Gittel stories are legendary and we all know and can recount them. I will have done what I believe is my job if some future einekal can start a story "The Baba Gittel haht gezokt"--the Baba Gittel said. So go ahead, make all those preparations for Pesach, but don't forget the only thing that will last long after the table has been cleared--make memories.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Purpose of Kvetching

Human beings kvetch--it's part of our nature. But we seem to have annointed one period in our calendar where kvetching is not only acceptable but seems to be required. We are in that period now, the time between Purim and Pesach. If a subject is suitable to be kvetched about at other times, it is doubly suitable during this time period. Not sure what I mean by kvetching? See the following.

Schools/yeshivas: "What do you mean they are having a day off?! Don't they know we're busy making Pesach?!"--"What do you mean the teacher assigned a project that is due next week?! Doesn't he/she know that Pesach is coming?!"

Current Events/Politics: "This had to happen now?! They couldn't wait to give the bad news until after Pesach?!"--

Cleaning: "Just what crazy man invented the laws of what has to be cleaned for Pesach?! Did he hate women that much?!"--"There is no way that chometz got put up on that shelf in the closet! (pause) How did chometz get put up on that shelf in the closet?!"--(Upon reading the labels on cleaning products, both ingredients and warnings) "What crazy person allows this company to sell a product that can maim or kill people?!"--"We can't possibly own this much stuff!"

Economics: "They are charging WHAT for fresh fish?!"--"Who do they think I am?! Rothschild?! Where do they get the chutzpah to ask these prices?!"

Family: "Just who do they think I am?! The maid?!"--"I know I raised them to put away their things!"--"Sure my husband is going to have to work late every night this week!"--"My children need me to do what right now?!"

You get the picture. Frankly, I'm a great believer that kvetching is important for mental health. Those who kvetch are far less likely to indulge in mayhem and violence. Kvetching gives us an outlet for our frustrations. And if kvetching should also result in volunteer hands to make things easier? Well, wouldn't that be wonderful.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Love Cleaning? So not the right word.

A reader who knows me in the outside world sent me an email in which she chided me about some of the postings this month. I believe her point can be summarized as "Do you really love cleaning that much?" I went back to look at the pre-Pesach postings and nowhere can I find that I said I love cleaning. I do love how a house looks and smells when it has been thoroughly cleaned. But love the process? To me that is akin to asking a woman who has had children if she loves the process of delivery. We all love the end result--having that child--but loving the labor pains?! It's not love which is the word that applies but it is the word acceptance. I accept that if a house is going to be cleaned there is going to be some work involved. I accept that some jobs are time consuming and some are highly labor intensive. I don't believe that anyone would argue that changing a baby's dirty diaper is something to look forward to with joy--no one loves doing that chore. But we accept that the diaper must be changed and we do it. Know anyone who loves being around a little one with a smelly diaper on board? Well I don't like being around a smelly garbage can either. I could sit around and complain that it's not fair that all that cleaning will have to be done. I could sit and kvetch that I'm not going to do it and I just don't care who says it has to be done. Or I could stop wasting time trying to avoid the inevitable and just do the things that need doing. You don't want to do every "spring cleaning" chore every year? Your choice. You don't want to push all that cleaning to coincide with the arrival of Pesach. Your choice. You don't want to be made to feel badly about not doing what others are doing? Your choice to stop feeling badly. Just keep in mind that you can only put off the inevitable for so long before it becomes a must-do-now event. Don't want to do it for Pesach? Fine. But it's going to have to be done at some point. Call it judgemental if you want to, but I would not be comfortable being in someone's house where cleaning consists of a bare swipe and a "maybe later" on a constant basis. I know of someone who complains that paint companies are cheating their customers because those paints become dingy in only a couple of years. Sigh, it's not the paint. Let the dust and dirt pile up in those "optional" areas and dingy is the result. You don't want to do that sometimes necessary cleaning right before Pesach? Not my business but yours. But I would caution that accepting that the cleaning has to be done on a regular schedule is something we all--males and females--need to do. Not love---acceptance.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Putting Things in Perspective

I spoke with my friend earlier today and the topic of conversation put all my busy-ness pre-Pesach into a different perspective than the one I had been using prior to the call. The new perspective? Things could be worse, things could be a lot busier, and I'm going to be thankful for what is on my plate.

Said friend's daughter is overdue with baby number 6. If that baby is born today, that's a sholom zochor that will need to be made in my friend's house tonight--a sholom zochor she has nothing in the house with which to prepare for, her house being mostly pesachdik already. If the baby is born on Shabbos, that's going to be a sholom zochor next friday night with a bris on Shabbos. A seudah that is going to require challah. And a kimpiturin, a newborn, the father and 5 little ones to be accomodated in the house, along with the out of town machatonim, in bedrooms that have already been prepared for the other guests who are coming for yom tov. Should the baby hold out another couple of days you are talking a Pesach bris and trying to find room in the house for this family (which was not scheduled to be at my friend's house for Pesach) when all the beds are full.

Not sure what to wish my friend--a girl or another week before the baby is born. Either way I wish there to be a healthy mom and baby--and a grandmother whose sanity stays intact as well.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Truth, the Whole Truth and Nothing but the Truth

Back on March 12 I had a posting up about social white lies. It was my opinion then that even most of these white lies can backfire on you, and the best path to take is to tell the truth. Just now I received the following via email, and I do believe it makes my point for me.


Have you ever told a white lie? You are going to love this, especially all of the ladies who bake for fund raising events:

Alice Grayson was to bake a cake for the Ladies' Auxiliary in Tuscaloosa , but forgot to do it until the last minute.

She remembered it the morning of the bake sale and after rummaging through cabinets, found an angel food cake mix and quickly made it while drying her hair, dressing, and helping her son pack up for school.

When she took the cake from the oven, the center had dropped flat and the cake was horribly disfigured and she exclaimed, "Oh dear, there is no time to bake another cake!"

This cake was important to Alice because she did so want to fit in at her new community of friends. So, being inventive, she looked around the house for something to build up the center of the cake.

She found it in the bathroom - a roll of toilet paper. She plunked it in and then covered it with icing. Not only did the finished product look beautiful, it looked perfect.

Before she left the house to drop the cake by the bake sale and head for work, Alice woke her daughter and gave her some money and specific instructions to be at the bake sale the moment it opened at 9:30 and to buy the cake and bring it home.

When the daughter arrived at the sale, she found the attractive, perfect cake had already been sold. Amanda grabbed her cell phone and called her mom.

Alice was horrified! Everyone would know! What would they think? She would be ostracized, talked about, ridiculed!

All night, Alice lay awake in bed thinking about people pointing fingers at her and talking about her behind her back.The next day, Alice promised herself she would try not to think about the cake and would attend the fancy luncheon/bridal shower at the home of a nearby neighbor and try to have a good time.

She did not really want to attend because the hostess was a snob who more than once had looked down her nose at the fact that Alice was a newcomer and not from the founding families of Tuscaloosa , but having already RSVP'd , she couldn't think of a believable excuse to stay home.

The meal was elegant, the company was definitely upper crust old south and to Alice's horror, the cake in question was presented for dessert; Alice felt the blood drain from her body when she saw the cake!

She started out of her chair to tell the hostess all about it, but before she could get to her feet, the Mayor's wife said, "What a beautiful cake!"

Alice, still stunned, sat back in her chair when she heard the hostess (who was a prominent member of the community) say,

"Thank you, I baked it myself.."Alice smiled and thought to herself, "G-d is good."

Oil Sprays

Thanks to Aviva for asking the question. She asked if there is an alternative to the canned spray oils available kosher for Pesach. She mentioned $5.99 per can as the price. I've seen them as "low" as $2.19 and yes, also up to $5.99. And yes, there is an alternative.

Relatively speaking the oil in the regular bottles comes out way cheaper than the spray cans. although oil is not cheap. But you can make your own spray oil and pay much less than the ready made cans. There are empty spray bottles available for sale. I didn't see them in my favorite 99 cent store but the garden supply center had them and so did the hardware stores in the neighborhood. (You may see the bottles near laundry supplies as some people use them to mist clothes they are ironing.) The price of the bottles was from $1.00 to about $4.00 depending on the size. Check if the bottle has a fine spray or mist setting. Pour in oil from a bottle and voila! you have spray oil.

Another advantage is that you can empty the bottle at the end of Pesach, wash it out and have it available for next year as well. After all, you don't think the price of those spray cans is going to go down next year do you? And just by the by, this is a good idea for chometz as well. Why pay extra for packaging you don't need?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Zipped Lips and Shalom Bayis

It's been a frazzling day for many reasons and my resistance to shtuss and nonsense was quite low. And then someone sent me a link to a Rabbi speaking about Pesach. To be more specific, speaking about women and Pesach. In so many kindly words he exhorted woman to stop being the slaves we were in Egypt and free ourselves of our stullifying mentality about preparing for Pesach. If we weren't so hell bent on self destruction we could enjoy and fully appreciate the freedom of the yom tov.

Well, he joins a long parade of others whose favorite pre-Pesach words of "wisdom" are seemingly all aimed at females and what we are doing wrong. Many a rabbi who pontificates that it only takes from 4-10 hours to make a house fully kosher for Pesach, and when we do more than that we take away from the simcha of the yom tov because we overtax ourselves for no reason. So many of these rabbis explaining all the details of kashrut and Pesach preparation as if they were speaking to children, and children who aren't very bright at that.

Well, I told you my tolerance level was low, and it's now at zero. So here is my answer to all those, rabbis and just plain men, who are going on and on: S-H-U-T U-P! Forget politeness right now--what I want is silence from the other sex about Pesach making.

Let's look at some details and facts and settle this nonsense right now. First, I've known a whole lot of rebbetzins in my lifetime and I can say this without exception: none of them make their houses Pesachdik in 4-10 hours. While their husbands are out whiling away the hours giving us mussar, they are weeks into the job of making Pesach. This is so much "do as I say, not as my own wife does."

Second, making Pesach the way so many of us do, with plenty of cleaning that stretches out for more than 10 hours is not slavery. Slavery is involuntary: it's what someone else does to you. If I and others choose to clean, shop and prepare the way we do it's our CHOICE. We may be working hard but we are nobody's slaves. To tell me I'm a slave is to demean my efforts to have a beautiful yom tov. You know why so many men complain about our work? Because they just might be asked to pitch in and help. They just might have to put their mouth on hold and lend their backs to some house labor. Far easier to tell us we're doing things wrong than to dirty their hands and make it easier on us. (And yes, my very dear hubby excepted.)

Third, I have yet, in all my years of living, heard a man praise his wife by boasting "She did only the minimum for Pesach. Isn't she wonderful?!" When the house sparkles and the table is laden with tempting dishes that might get a wife a compliment. I have a right to be proud of how my house looks when yom tov comes in, and a right to get it into that condition any way I want to. And when my mom comes in and tells me that the house looks so yom-tov-dik, and my family all enthusiastically bound up the stairs yelling "Something smells incredible!" you bet I'm happy and pleased and proud. I'm not doing all this work because I'm a slave or a martyr; I'm doing it so that we all can have a beautiful and enjoyable yom tov.

Fourth, do you really think we are so stupid that we don't know the difference between what is halachically mandated and what we do to prepare for yom tov? Wives of many years experience in making Pesach can probably quote you chapter and verse all the halachas about what is required and probably do so as well, if not better, than most men. The house and kitchen are their domain and they take yom tov halacha seriously. They cover what is needed halachically and then go on to put the "tov" in yom tov.

Men who have been married as long as my husband has been have finally learned that all the chepping at us to relax and not be so frenetic is of no use whatsoever. First they stop the complaining and then they pitch in. And then they pitch in without even being asked. I came home from work the other night to discover my hubby had washed the wallpaper, for me, without being asked to do so, so I wouldn't have to stand on a step stool on tiptoe to reach the top. THAT is how caring husbands earn brownie points with their wives. Yes, my husband appreciates all I do to make Pesach, and he tells me so often. And yes, my husband makes it a point to tell everyone at the table that they owe the enjoyment they are having to my efforts.

So men of all stripes, you want shalom bayis, you want to "help" your wives? Stop pontificating and start complimenting. Instead of complaining, use your mouths to tell your wives how much you appreciate all their efforts at making yom tov special. Tell your wives that you know it isn't easy and make them feel like the special people they are. And yes, lend a hand for the work without the constant out loud wondering as to why a sane person would be doing X, Y or Z.

And yes, gentlemen, should you find yourself in my vicinity, I wouln't start out with a diatribe on Pesach making. You really, really would not enjoy my comeback. And now I that I am feeling less cranky I'm off to plan some menus.

The More Things Change...

I had some time so I decided to weed out some things from my file cabinets. I'm just a wee bit of a sentimentalist and have kept some of my favorite papers from back when I was in college. I ran across a speech I wrote for a rhetoric class in 1971, and it proved for me that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Back in the dark ages of 1970 Queens College, CUNY began using a computer for student registration in courses. People had great hopes for that computer. It was going to make life simpler, quicker and more accurate. Uh huh. Below the opening paragraph of that speech.

On Monday morning, September 13, Herbert Jones prepared to enter Queens College as a lower freshman. On Tuesday, September 14, at 4:00 pm, Herbert Joners was certified as an upper senior and was duly graduated. On Wednesday, September 15, at 9:00 am, Herbert began registering for graduate courses. On Sunday, September 19, at 12:30 pm, Herbert's proud parents attended a University convocation at which Herbert was awarded a PhD, with honors. A doctor friend of mine has suggested that Herbert's brain should be dissected so that society may receive some benefit from learning about what gave him his super intellect. It is my feeling that we would benefit more from dissecting the computer that was, in truth responsible for his phenomenal success.***

The middle of the speech dealt with my tales of woe in trying to get registered in the courses that I wanted and needed, not the courses the computer inexplicably decided it was going to give me. The ending paragraph was as follows:

Sadly, and with the knowledge that I had been defeated once and for all, I headed for the cafeteria. On the way there I ran into Herbert Jones, my friend of the miraculous intellect. It seems that he was on his way up to Jefferson Hall, having received a letter from the Registrar's Office informing him that, as he had not attended his Freshman Orientation Workshop, his registration was being cancelled forthwith. We parted, each a bit more humble for the experiences we had been through.

There has yet to be a week in my life since writing that speech that I have not heard someone, somewhere complain about the foibles of a computer out to get them. 39 years have passed and yet that speech could have been written today. We supposedly live in a computerized world, one that runs more efficiently than the world pre-computers. And yet, find a totally screwed up situation somewhere and computers are going to be involved in some way.

Yes, I know, it's not computers that make mistakes; it's the people who work on them who do. So just maybe we ought to be concentrating less on our computer systems and a lot more on improving the people who work with them and use them.

***This scenario has played out in every school I have ever taught at since the time of the speech. Some of you may well have been the victims of computer malfeaseance--or maybe the beneficiaries of a computer's occasional bout of largesse.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Delineating the Costs of Pesach

Of all the yomim tovim that we celebrate, most people agree that Pesach costs the most monetarily. They are quick to point out that the cost of food is much higher since it must be only foods allowed for Pesach, and mostly with special hashgochahs just for Pesach. People look at their cash outlay before Pesach and groan, loudly and with gusto. But are these special food purchases really the only thing that raise expenditures pre-Pesach to the levels we see? Nope.

One reason the expenditures go up is company. For those whose children come home to them for Pesach, or who have others coming for the Yom Tov, expenses are multiplied way beyond regular expenses. When you go from feeding only a few people for a week to feeding a small army for a week, you are going to be spending money, lots of money. This year there is going to be very little Chol HaMoed free time, basically being yom tov, Shabbos, yom tov. Those meals over Yom Tov and Shabbos are not peanut butter sandwiches and a cup of coffee, no matter how "lightly" you cook. By my reckoning, not counting breakfasts and snacks or "tea" in the afternoon, nor regular Chol Hamoed meals,I'll be serving 11-12 major meals, all in one 8-day period. If I had company every Shabbos, for both meals, it would be 6 weeks to serve that many company meals. If I had that company only once on Shabbos, it would be three months to serve that many company meals. And the cost of those meals would be spread out over a 1-1/2 to 3 month period of food budgeting. And the choice of what to serve for those meals would be strictly mine, no special kashrus or minhag concerns applying.

And if you are not serving meals to company but only to your family? Principle still applies. In 8 days you are going to be serving the equivalent of 6 weeks of Shabbos meals.

Yes, this time of year cleaning gets frenetic for some, and the cost is there. Use more cleaning supplies and you spend more money. Some people have cleaning help all year round and get extra help for Pesach, and some splurge on that help only for making Pesach. Yes, this costs money. Right around now laundry doing has increased, and yes that too adds in, even if only a few dollars. And then there is the load of clothing going to the dry cleaners. And if you should decide to have your carpets cleaned? More money added to the expenditures.

Not every one is completely outfitted in their kitchen for Pesach cooking and serving. It seems that every year something new gets added. And that adds to the cost as well. Even those such as myself who have been making Pesach for decades find things that have worn out and need replacing. And for those who serve on paper/plastic and use foil pans instead of buying pans they may have no room to store, that is not a food expense and certainly adds to the cost of making Pesach.

And yes, there is the shopping of the non-food kind. I have to be one of the few women I know who does not jump on the "get a new outfit or more" for Pesach bandwagon. Why should I? I wear my clothes until they are no longer physically wearable. A suit purchased two or three years ago is still perfectly appropriate for shul, and I don't give a rat's behind about whether the color is in or not. For those who truly love clothes shopping, the spring styles and fashions are first arriving into the stores now; they'll be much more choice later on. And nothing goes on sale right about now: Easter and Passover are big-bucks times for clothing stores. And you can't count on the weather to fit with the clothing you purchase now--many a Pesach where the weather has resembled late fall rather than late spring, and those new clothes stay in the closet. And is it really, really necessary to buy more than one outfit, when closets in homes are bulging at the seams? Clothing shopping is an extra dropped into the budget, not a required item, and it's coming at a time that the budget is being strained in other areas. Perhaps, if money is tight, only those who have changed size over the year, such as growing children, should be considered as "must spends" before Pesach. The clothing shopping before Pesach has far more to do with being stylish than with necessity.

Just a little side note here: I caught a bit of flack on a different blog when discussing the purchase of hand shmurah matzah. Yes, it can be pricey. Yes, it is what we use out of choice and not out of ignorance that other alternatives are available. No, I don't "like" the price, but I want the product so I pay what is asked. But here is the thing. You have any idea how many pounds of that hand shmurah I can buy just by forgoing a pair of those "fancy, shmancy" shoes? Or not buying that "must have label" outfit or sweater or skirt? Or NOT buying a Borsolino and company hat for the men folk? Or yet one more limited time of use because it's in right now item? Like the rest of you, I choose where my money is going to be spent. At least in my house, in the tradeoff for designer/labeled clothing against the hand shmurah matzah, the matzah wins every time, for everyone.

Let's also talk about eating out this time of year. Yes, the day I turn my kitchen we bring in Pizza. After that, my kitchen produces the edibles for us. And yet, there are many who indulge in eating out for way more than once during the run up to Pesach. This, too, adds to the higher bills during this time period.

I haven't mentioned all the other extras that seem to come out this time of year, but they too add to the expenses. It may or may not be possible to cut expenses a great deal in one area of spending, but it could be possible to control these expenses by looking at everything that costs for Pesach time. And if you consider that all the items mentioned, plus those not, are how you WANT to make Pesach, then you shouldn't be complaining about the cost when it's your choice to spend the money. Sure, I kvetch a little--only human--but I'm spending on items and choices that I want. If I truly couldn't afford to pay for what I wanted, there would be plenty of ways to cut down on spending, and buying less food is not the only way.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

When the Weather Turns Deadly

In the last month the NY/NJ area has gotten slammed with a blizzard, a snowacane and just now a semi-mabul of torrential rain. Lots of jokes made about our weather this year, but not all the associated happenings of that weather are funny. Indeed, some are tragic.

Right now my heart is weeping for Teaneck and the families of the two men who were killed walking home from Maariv on Shabbos when part of a tree fell on them. Yes, the power outages were not fun and the gale force winds and the damage to property. But all that pales against a loss of life. We worry about how so many things will affect us, but this we somehow never expect.

May their families be comforted among the mourners of Tzion, and may they know of no more tzar.

Stretching the Hours...Not

Modern society is infected with the idea that we can have it all--nothing we want should be out of our reach. Were this only for necessities for life that would be one thing. However, we apply this axiom to everything. And when/if we don't have it all we are quick to look for where to place the blame. Fingers get excitedly pointed in all directions--it's the government's fault, it's the kehilla's fault, it's THEIR fault. Very few people look in the mirror and say "It's my fault."

One of the problems with wanting it all is that we haven't looked at a clock lately--yes, a clock. We think that we are masters of our destinies, but it just ain't so--time is. We have an infinite number of things we want to accomplish but forget that there are finite hours to a day. Somehow we believe that we can stretch the time available to us so that we can do all we want to do.

I'm looking at my to-do list for today. Typed, it runs about 2-1/2 pages, single spaced. Yup, it's neatly organized by category of things to be done. Hey, it's a piece of cake--just follow the list and everything is going to get done---not. Out of curiosity I assigned an amount of time to everything on the list. I even added in the amount of time to unload items into the car and travel to the next destination. Here's what I found: even being conservative for the amount of time everything would take me, I had about 21 hours worth of activity planned for today, if everything went on schedule with no problems. Okay, kind of overfull, particularly since that to-do list doesn't include "little" things, like time for meals (and their preparation), a shower, answering the inevitable phone calls and sitting down to the computer to answer emails and other business. And no, it didn't have sleep listed on there anywhere.

I'm not alone in being over-scheduled--it's a nation-wide phenomenon. But here's the thing--saying we all suffer from this problem doesn't help. So, what would help? Time for a reality check and admitting that having it all would require more hours than there are in a day, more energy than any human being can muster. It's time to prioritize. What absolutely must be done without question? (And while we are at it we need to add sleep to those must-do items.) What things fall into the "nice if I could find the time but otherwise forget it" column?

With Pesach coming, and the added work this yom tov brings, it's time for all balabustas to do a reality check. No, we are not going to go without food, sleep and showers for the next few weeks. No, everything we want to do is not going to happen. What do we really need to do to prepare for this yom tov, without which there will be no yom tov?

I just ripped up my to-do list and made a new one--it's half a page. With lots of work and time I should be able to accomplish everything on it and still get some food and sleep. What about the items that got cut? Not really necessities when I looked at them realistically. Have to end this posting now--the time allotted to write it has just expired and my to-do list awaits.

Friday, March 12, 2010

On Telling a Social Lie

Rabbi T has a post up discussing wanting to fit in, wanting to please others and telling lies to do so.

I have mixed feelings about those social lies. Giving a carte blanche to someone to tell a lie for social or esteem purposes seems to me to be a journey down a really slippery slope. Where do you draw the line?

If a wife asks her husband "How do I look in this outfit?" and he answers "Terrific!" he may or may not be telling the truth. But I don't think that most wives will care. For most women that question is not so much about objective truth as it is about eliciting a positive answer, one that shows "Yup, I still like you and of course if you are wearing it it will look terrific." I believe that this example is what is meant when many people will tell you that it is permissible to lie for shalom bayis.

But what about other lies? On the extreme opposite of the above example you have the wife who asks her husband, arriving home way late from the office, "How come you are so late coming home?" And the husband answers "A project deadline got moved up and I had to stay late to finish." Only just maybe he wasn't in the office at all. Maybe he was out having drinks with the "boys." Or maybe he was hunched over a betting slip at an OTB shop playing the ponies. Or maybe he was at a specialist's office getting a "something" checked out that he doesn't want to worry his wife about.

My feeling is that a lie should be the exception, not the social rule. A lie should be something we think about and yes, maybe worry about.

A Little Note on Coke and Pepsi

Regular classic Coke and plain diet Coke as well as regular Pepsi and diet Pepsi have hechsherim for Pesach. The color of the caps for Coke is yellow, but still check that the OUP is on the top. The Pepsi will have KP on the cap. Only the two liter bottles will have the Pesach hechsher. If you plan on buying these sodas for Pesach I'd do it now. It's not just that there is a limited supply of the Pesach soda, but it's also that frum people are going to have competition for buying the products.

The Pesach sodas are made using sugar, not corn syrup. A whole lot of people who aren't Jewish who prefer both the taste and the fact that the Pesach soda doesn't have the corn syrup. I know people who wait a whole year for this "better" soda to become available and they stock up when the stores start selling it. One market is totally sold out of its very large first delivery with only two more deliveries to go.

So, if it's on your shopping list and you see it, grab it because it just may not be there later.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

On Passover Discounts

I noticed something just a bit strange going on in a couple of the major supermarkets this week. I was doing my non-perishable shopping for Pesach and some items were clearly marked on sale. But it was when I got to the register that I got my surprise. Every one of the for Pesach only products, even the ones already on sale, got a deduction in price at the register. At Pathmark this was noted as Passover Discount on the register tape. That extra discount on the Pesach products reduced my total from 108.60 to 61.40. The same thing happened at Shoprite; a bunch of price reductions showed up that weren't indicated on the shelves. Stop and Shop had some really wild sales going on today on their huge selection of Passover products. Their Gefen spices were 10 for $10 or $1.00 each. My husband looked at the Kolel store in Borough Park and the prices were way higher.

I finally spoke to one of the market managers, first to thank him for the "extra gift" and then to ask why. Pragmatism on the part of the markets. Their products have been out for a few weeks already and they want to sell them all off. Having any leftover special Passover products after the yom tov is over is a loss for them because no one will buy them at anywhere near the full price or even their cost price. They are making the push to sell now.

For those who have these supermarkets available and who have the space to store the non-perishables, it pays to check if your branch is also offering this Pesach discount. And please, don't think that if you buy closer to Pesach you will be getting a fresher product. These products were manufactured ages ago and they won't be any fresher later on.

The ABCs of Yom Tov Preparation

I'm always interested in seeing how others organize the preparation for Pesach. Here and there I've culled some useful tips that have made life easier for me. A friend mentioned yesterday that she uses the alphabet to organize her cleaning. She begins with A and moves forward. A few examples follow.

A is for artwork. She dusts and cleans the picture frames first thing and then she doesn't have to think about them any more. B is for books and beds. She cleans all the bookshelves and turns the mattresses and vacuums then early. All she then has to do is put on clean linen before yom tov. C is for carpeting. If she's going to clean them she does it now, not when she's crazy busy right before yom tov. C is also for curtains--no reason to wait to wash them until later. As she pointed out microwave, refrigerator and stove come late in the alphabet and get done close to yom tov. Even Z gets covered--the z'roah gets made right before yom tov.

She did admit that a few items get handled out of alphabetical order out of necessity. For instance, she spreads her shopping out over the weeks before Pesach. And laundry is an ongoing process. But she says that basically this works for her and keeps her from flitting from one thing to another with no organization.

If you're still looking for a method that might work for you, ponder this one.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Looking at Singles Events

I am still on the mailing lists for many places that offer socialization chances for singles, what is called a "singles event." Sometimes these events are based in a shul somewhere. Sometimes the event may be held in a restaurant. Sometimes these events are held in a hotel. Sometimes these events take place over a Shabbos or Yom Tov. Sometimes these events are for only a few hours midweek. Sometimes these events may have a strictly delineated age range--21-26 for instance. Sometimes these events have a very large age range--21-60s. Sometimes these events have a restricted number of slots open for participants. Sometimes these events are open to anyone who wants to come. Sometimes these events are focused strictly on what singles can do to better their chances for marriage. Sometimes (more rarely) these events focus on a topic of interest generally. Sometimes these events are built around a single speaker. Sometimes these events are based around an activity (again, more rarely). Sometimes these events are sponsored by organizations whose sole purpose is promoting the making of shidduchim. Sometimes it is shuls who sponsor these events. Sometimes the events are well organized and do provide quality opportunities for singles to meet each other. Sometimes the focus seems to have gotten skewed and there is little time or opportunity to meet the other singles at the event.

But what all of these events have in common is that they charge money to participate in them, sometimes a whole lot of money. And sometimes, many times, far more money than the event is worth, in every way. Let's look at some examples.

A shul sponsors a singles Shabbos. Those attending will be put up in shul member's homes. They will eat their meals together in the shul. Motzoai Shabbos there will be a Melave Malka with a speaker and food. Cost? $133 if you register early; $160 if you register after the deadline. If you are going only to the Melave Malka the cost is $30 for early registration and $40 for late registration. So, you say? Why this cost, I say. Yes, the meals over Shabbos are catered, and catered food costs. But costs how much? You are talking Friday night, Shabbos lunch, Shalosh Seudos and Pizza and coke for Motzoai Shabbos. You think the organizers are providing caviar and champagne for that $36 to $40 per meal? Yeah, right. A local caterer in our neighborhood can provide a full lunch with all the trimmings, including waiters and paper goods, at $16 per person, and you bet he is making a profit. So where else is the money going? Well, there are mailing costs and advertising. Uh huh. And the Internet and shul bulletins cost so much. And then there is the cost of the speakers. The idea of an honorarium for a noted personality to show up somewhere is not a new one but some of these honorariums are ridiculous in size given who these speakers are--or aren't. And if some of these speakers, whose topics all seem to center around how to make a shidduch, are so concerned about the fate of singles, let them donate their speaking time, l'shem mitzvah.***

Now look at this from a single's perspective. They'd like to get married and they want to meet people so they can do so. Were they to only attend one Shabbos program like the one described above and one midweek program ($35 to $100 per event) per month, they would be spending from $171 to $260 per month on these programs. And there are programs which charge way more than the figures mentioned. Go to more events per month and the price can double. And this is not counting the cost of dating for these people, should they be so lucky as to find someone at these events. But it's entertainment money! someone is going to yell out. Oh that some of these programs were in the least bit entertaining. But tell me, you who are married already, do you budget $500 a month for "entertainment"? Right, I didn't think so.

Now, before some reader raises the question "What else have they got to spend their money on?! They're not paying tuition or supporting a family!" let me give you the facts. A whole lot of the singles I am referring to, in fact, probably the majority, are not living in their parents' homes. They are out on their own. Just as married couples do, these singles have living expenses. They pay rent and utilities and insurance costs and transportation costs. They buy food and clothing and medicine and all the other items needed for living. They, too, have shul costs and Shabbos costs and Yom Tov costs. They, too, give tzedaka. The difference is that a married couple can count on two people to bring in the income to cover basic living costs if need be--singles can't count on dividing the expenses between two people. There is some truth to the saying that two can live as cheaply as one, and it's reverse can also be true: one can't live as cheaply as two can.

Provide socialization events for singles? Yes, but let's not price gouge on the backs of those singles for the "privelege" of eating bad pizza. The prices for most of these events is way out of line for what singles can afford week in and week out, and a lot of singles are turned off by the prices and don't attend.

***Note: the well-known organizer of one of these weekends for singles told a participant who asked about the price that she does not keep any profit made from these weekends. All "extra" money is donated to a tzedaka that feeds poor people. Nowhere is this plainly stated on any of the advertisements for the weekends sponsored by this program. And does the fact that a tzedaka will benefit override the fact that the singles are being charged more because money is going to go to tzedaka, money they are paying but aren't being credited for apropos of the donation to the tzedaka? And if this one person admits to making a profit want to bet how many other groups that sponsor such events are also making a profit, groups such as shuls?

Monday, March 8, 2010

Klal and Shidduchim

When a benefit accrues to all of Klal it would seem to be only logical that making sure that benefit takes place would also be the responsibility of all of Klal. A lot has been said, online and off, about making sure the replacement numbers for Klal stay not only steady but increase. In order for the numbers to be there children have to be born. And for those children to be born, marriages must take place.

Now, a lot has also been written about how the cost of tuition is keeping many parents from having large families--they can't afford the cost. This is not an argument in favor of reducing tuition and/or increasing the size of Jewish families. This is about what a whole lot of people are missing in their narrower focus. There are loads and loads of frum singles "out there." And if they are single, they aren't having families. Instead of running to blame tuition for a lack of growth at "expected" numbers, perhaps we should backtrack and take a look at those not yet married. Perhaps what is needed is more concentration on shidduchim, how they are or are not being made.

Many have said, I among them, that the process used in making shidduchim today is skewed, convoluted and sometimes just plain off the wall. Yes, there are shidduchim being made today, many, many shidduchim, but they are being made in spite of the system in place, not because of it. When large groups of men and women suddenly appear on the "marriage mart" each year it is inevitable that some shidduchim will come out of this influx. But what about those for whom the system does not work, for whom the system does not result in a shidduch right out of the starting gate?

Well, we give those people another few years to "get with the program." And somewhere, when a woman turns 21 or 22, she suddenly finds herself labeled as an "older single." And once this label is affixed all hell breaks loose. Suddenly those who were so eager to bring up names are getting reticent. Suddenly the questions start flying about whether there might be a "reason" those women--and yes, those men not married as well--are not married. And suddenly we've made those singles into second class citizens. "Everyone" knows--whoever that everyone is--that the best girls and boys, the "good" girls and boys get married first. And so what does that make those who didn't get married while still wet behind the ears? Don't even think of going there!

And if a single gets to the late 20s or 30s or into their 40s? Lots of head shaking and very little of rational action on the part of Klal. Suddenly these people have another label attached to them--"too picky." Or maybe they are also labeled "unrealistic." Shidduchim are redt for these people that have nothing, but nothing to do with what they are looking for in a mate. Women are told in all seriousness that all that is left out there is nothing special, but that they need to take these men that are "nothing special" or they will never get married. And the same is told to the men. Have we all lost our collective minds?!

First, we need to stop categorizing and labeling our singles and using an age range that is unrealistic and harmful as well. You aren't an older single if you are 21--you are just a single. You aren't an older single if you are 23-26 or any other age either--you are just plain single.

Second, we need to dismantle the system in place and put in one that takes into consideration the needs of singles of all ages and types. We have gotten so hung up on certain rules that we no longer see how those rules are inhibiting the marriage prospects of huge numbers of our singles. We have gotten so hung up on keeping our single men and women apart from each other except in the limited area of a date that we can't see just how injurious this can be for many. And to be frank, we are so petrified that the spectre of sex might raise its head that we erect sky-high fences. Here's a news flash: those fences don't work. Those who want to engage in activities not allowed by our religion have always found a way to do so, fences or no fences. As to the rest, sure they would love to be able to enjoy the perks of marriage, but first they want to get married. Only we leave them sitting on the sidelines waiting for phone calls that may or may not ever come. We have marginalized the singles in the shidduch process--we don't even "let" them make the initial phone calls to ask for a date. And this is normalcy just how?

The system won't get dismantled overnight and there are some who will scream bloody murder at even mentioning the dismantling of the system. The blind and dumb have always been among us. But what can those do who feel that the system is not working, who look at those singles among us and want to help?

Eat dinner or lunch on Shabbos? Yeah, that's all of us. So why aren't there singles invited to your tables, males and females? Why aren't more people inviting the singles in their communities and outside of them for a Shabbos and introducing them around to everyone in shul and the neighborhood? Why aren't we giving social networking opportunities to these singles? Forgetting political philosophy for a moment, but Hilary Clinton is not wrong: it takes a village to raise a child, or in this case to make sure those children get married. Forget talking about shadchanim as the answer: we are, all of us, more than capable of being shadchanim, and it's incumbent upon us to act in that role. But not as the be-all and end-all in the process. We need to be the catalysts at providing mingling opportunities that will allow our singles to see and be seen. Our shuls need to stop leaving the few opportunities that do exist to those who are in the "business" and just might be making a profit.***

I have a friend who is a diamond dealer. There are plenty of middlemen who broker the diamonds in case lots. Sometimes they even broker an exceptional diamond all on its own. But my friend is no fool. He expects to see all of a case lot and examine it. He expects to compare those diamonds to each other. He knows what he has in mind for the use of those diamonds and he is going to pick out those diamonds that he believes belongs together. But first he needs to see all the diamonds to be able to make a choice. Many a time a broker will try to peddle one stone at a time. For my friend this is wasted time. That middleman could bring him 30 stones individually, on 30 separate trips. But it's stone 138 that is the one he has been looking for. If he's lucky and the middleman is smart, the goods are laid out so he can choose from all that's available.

The singles of Klal are all diamonds. They will match up beautifully with their proscribed mate. But they'll never get to that point if we don't all stop trying to "peddle" these diamonds one date at a time with no chance to see the whole case lot. We are long past the time of bringing back the idea of socialization as a tool and method for making shidduchim. What have we got to lose if we don't change the present system? All those children not yet born and with no chance of being born. For far too many of Klal's singles the present set up of making shidduchim is a particularly nefrarious form of birth control.

***Note: there are some socialization opportunities that are presented for some members of our communities. That subject is going to take a posting of its own because, no, I'm not particularly enamored of what does exist.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Pooling for Price Reduction

Thanks Lion for suggesting this posting. Even careful shoppers will find themselves spending a lot of money for purchasing of products to use on Pesach. But there are a few ways to save even beyond watching out for sales and doing comparison shopping.

I mentioned in the comments on a different posting that a neighbor and I pooled resources for many years when it came to fruit and vegetable shopping. Since I was buying for both of us and since the purchase was a large one, I bargained with the owner of a local fruit and vegetable store to get a price reduction. The store charged less for restaurants and caterers and he gave me the restaurant discount price, about a 20% reduction in price for the total order.

There are also many wholesale distributors, both for fruits and vegetables and for other items, who might not take a discounted order from you for only a few dollars but who are more than willing to take a large order at the discounted price. We have such a supplier here in SI that I now use. This is where pooling resources can result in a huge savings. Even if two families get together and put in an order you get a savings. Now imagine if 3 or more families came together and put in one order. Sure, there is going to be some work to divide out the items ordered by family, but the savings are real ones.

Some of these wholesalers have a case minimum for purchase and delivery (for non-perishables and few types of perishables), although it has been my experience that you need only buy one case of each item as long as you meet the total case minimum. Since the number of items vary by case it is quite possible to make the minimum with only a few families pooling together. A case of potato starch, for example, may have anywhere from 8 to 16 cans per case depending on the size of the cans. A few families, particularly if they don't brok on Pesach, can easily account for two cases, and that's just potato starch.

One pool that I know of handles purchases a little bit differently. The pool contains 5 people. However, each of those five people has a mini-pool they are buying for, usually family members. They have had tremendous success in buying wholesale or at greatly reduced prices. One of the members mentioned that this year they have already had success with their egg buying. They have ordered 120 dozen large eggs from a restaurant supplier and they will be paying only $1 per dozen. Given the prices of these eggs in the various stores, averaging out at about $2.99 per dozen, they are saving 66% on eggs alone.

Of course, you would need to know just what items you will have to purchase for Pesach in order to make the pooling work. This is truly where a list of all the items, grouped as perishable and non-perishable can help. If you are considering this way of shopping you need to get started now in doing your planning, negotiating and ordering.

Friday, March 5, 2010

A Bit of Work Now

I am definitely a paper and pencil person, or computer and printer person. I make lists, and I do it for everything and anything. Before Pesach those lists are real life savers. I keep my lists on file on my computer. A posting I did a few years ago gives a basic idea of the types of lists that can help keep the Pesach-making insanity at bay.

Not mentioned in that posting is also a different list that lots of balabustas keep--what things did I store away last year that I won't need to buy for this year. Look at the expiration dates on some of those products--many are for 2011 or 2012, if not later. If they can be kept in a store's warehouse for all that time, they can just as easily be kept in my Pesach cupboard. What items have I carried over for this year? Among other things, salt, honey, cocoa, herbal tea bags and a few boxes of those Pesach sweeteners that no one will touch after Pesach anyway. I tape the list of what I have stored for the next year on the inside door of the cabinet where they are being stored. No more guesswork and no more waste.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

If You Have the Extra Fridge

My extra fridge will be made ready for Pesach by the end of today. Why? Six reasons. First, it's one less appliance to wrestle with in the week before Pesach. The fridge portion gets double lined so that, if needed, fruits and veggies and drinks can still be stored in it that aren't Pesachdik. The only cleaning needed in the week before Pesach is to remove the extra linings carefully. The freezer will be ready for Pesach. Two, since most of the butcher shops in the NY area will already start having kosher for Passover meats beginning this week, it allows for some relatively leisurely shopping and provides a place to freeze those meats for the next few weeks. Empire products in the supermarkets already have the OUP on them. Three, in case something goes on sale you have a way to take advantage of the sale because you have freezer space to hold the items. Four, the closer you come to Pesach the surer you are to find that prices have gone up beyond what you paid for items only a few short weeks ago. Buying early because you have a place to store those items means you won't be hit with all of the price raises. Five, the stores are definitely less crowded now. You are going to have a more peaceful shopping experience without battling the crowds. Six, given the way our winter weather has been unfurling I wouldn't be at all surprised to see snow in March. We've already had the experience in NY of a blizzard at the end of March. If you have that extra fridge it is so worth the effort to get it Pesach ready now. And just as a reminder, vinegar makes an excellent cleaner for the inside of the fridge--pesachdik one of course.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Why Moshe Rabbenu would have Trouble Making a Shidduch if He were Living Today

Hat tip to Matt for sending me the link for a well-written, well thought out posting on shidduch making. Lots in the posting to ponder and to learn from.

Yes, They Expire

Two years ago this month I had up a post about cosmetics. Mostly I focused on the high cost of certain name brands and the tendency to over buy.

However, at the end of the posting I added that we need to keep in mind that all of these products have expiration dates. In addition, there is a safety concern when items that are used on the face can be contaminated by bacteria. Some commenters said that the products last longer than what is recommended by the government and the safety issue is not all that big a deal.

I am now living proof that these products can and do expire, and they can cause you a health problem. At this point in time I simply do not do the full makeup thing any longer. But I bow to my mom's wailing "At least put on a little lipstick!" I do when I remember. When the weather gets wintry blustery I put on that lipstick as much as a protection for the lips from the weather as for any decorative purpose. Last week I felt a burning, itchy sensation at the corner of my mouth. From somewhere I had gotten a rash. When the rash didn't disappear despite what I tried out of my medicine cabinet at home, I dropped by the dermatologist's office. I think I expected to have him tell me it was just a cold sore and dispense a prescription.

Instead, he asked me if I had worn any lipstick lately. The upshot was that my lipstick, purchased I can't possibly remember when, had given me a "boo boo." The doctor told me to ditch it. In truth, looking into my make up box, I couldn't remember when I had purchased any of the items in there. Again my doctor's advice: ditch it all. He mentioned that a lot of cases he sees where women come in with a "something" on their faces are caused by contaminated makeup.

Ladies, variety may be the spice of life, and make up may be your joy, but once purchased, make up doesn't last forever. Using makeup past its expiration date can cause problems. The burning itch was so not worth saving a few dollars in replacing the lipstick.

Now that you're cleaning for Pesach you might want to start by cleaning out your makeup box and ridding yourself of any items that could cause more trouble than they are worth.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

They Want How Much?!

A money saving tip to consumers who have computers and printers. The OU regularly puts out a booklet of all of its Kosher for Passover products, along with other information helpful for Pesach. The complete booklet is available online for download by going to and then typing in passover product listing in the search box. Yup, the whole booklet is some 95 pages. If you scroll through and note the page numbers of the pages you want, you can print only those.

But here's the thing. If you order that booklet already printed up the OU is charging $10 for the booklet--yes, you read that right. Apparently the days when those booklets were given out as freebies to shoppers has ended this year. Groceries are being encouraged to order booklets to give out to consumers--I'll assume their charge is less than $10 but you know what they say about assumptions.

Let's see, about 1-1/2 minutes to download and print the booklet and about 65 cents in paper and ink to print it. That leaves me with $9.35 to spend as I want. A local nail salon has chair massages at $1 per minute. So I can spend $10 to get the pre-printed booklet versus 9 minutes of sheer bliss getting the kinks unkinked. Sounds like a no-brainer to me.

Avoiding the Price Gouging

As I've been told on numerous occasions, I seem to have a fixation on the P holidays, and mention them all too often and all too early to suit most people's tastes. I don't really need to justify my reasons for getting started on Pesach at what seems too early a time for many, but there is one reason for doing so, another P word, and it's a good one--Price.

Leave Pesach and all the shopping it entails to the last week or so before the holiday and you are going to be costing yourself money, sometimes big money. When you are on a close deadline and you are shopping for something you need, you grab it and add up the bills later. When you can shop at leisure (or at least more leisurely) you can take the time to comparison shop and find the bargains that reduce the money outlay.

In our neighborhood the major supermarkets have already put out their Pesach products displays. And no, the prices aren't identical across all the markets. Already a few of the items have "on sale" stickers. In addition, many of the general use products, such as foils and plastic bags, are not specifically targeted to Pesach but are on sale. If you know you will need X number of rolls of foil wrap for Pesach, what possible reason is there for leaving the purchase of that wrap to erev Pesach, especially if it's on sale now? The cost of Kedem grape juice has steadily risen over the past two years. Price that juice in some of the kosher grocery stores and your eyes might pop out. One of the supermarkets has the one liter bottles on sale now at 99 cents. Guarantee that that sale won't be around as you get to the week before Pesach.

Non-perishables simply won't go bad if you buy them now and hold on to them for 4 weeks. Somewhere you are going to be able to find a corner where you can store those non-perishables, even if you have to put them in a box, throw a tablecloth on top of the box and call it a new end table for the living room.

It's bad enough what we are going to have to pay for fresh meat and fish for Pesach. There's no reason to price gauge ourselves by not shopping early for the other products that can be gotten at better prices now.

Monday, March 1, 2010

A Price Above Rubies

This year I served a drink for Purim Suedah that has to be one of the most expensive drinks, relatively, that I've ever served. I was gifted with beautiful cut crystal shnaps gleiselach when I got married and I used those to serve the drink. Truthfully, I needed the small glasses or everyone would not have gotten a taste, the amount of liquid in the bottle not being a large amount.

So, what drink did I serve? Well, I'll give you a little hint: it was imported from Norway. No, it wasn't Aqua Vit. And the bottle was tall and cylindrical in heavy glass. And my guests cracked up when I served it.

Last week, as class was letting out, one of my students asked me if I'd like a bottle of water--he had an extra. I said yes, thank you, and that's when the fun started. Voss water, imported from Norway, and selling for between $3-5 wholesale and $6 to $8 dollars retail for the bottle, containing only 12 ounces. With an OUP no less. Is it spring water? Nope, it's "artesian well water." One of the guests jokingly asked if you needed to make a shecheyanu on the drink--he's never had it before. You just never know when a bit of Purim fun is going to drop into your lap.

Oh yes, for those of you who believe that your pets should also be treated like kings, there is Voss imported Pet Water. Truth is indeed stranger than fiction.

Just on a practical note: bottled spring water at 16.5 ounces per bottle, 32 bottles to the case, was on sale locally last week at $3.99 for the case. You do the math. And then please explain to me the concept of imported designer water.