Suddenly single

17 November 2007

blah blah blah, “I like you very much and we have great chemistry…” blah blah blah, religion….blah blah blah, lifestyle…blah blah blah, “I don’t think we should see each other anymore.”

In an e-mail.

JDate, here I come. Again.


Wacky wild world wide web

17 November 2007

Search terms that led people here

Food and recipes
chocolate appetizers
chocolate sushi recipes [ed. note: um, ew.]
using applesauce in wacky cake
worldwide weird recipes

Dating
“doesn’t want to date anyone”
first date played miniature golf in silence
“great guy” no chemistry
Why Are Boys So Weird [ed. note: if only I knew…]
asked me to marry him second date
a guy hasn’t called me back in a week
“scare him off” “love talking to him”

Random
is it ok to take 2 claritins? [ed. note: yes.]
funny stories of old married couples
mud wrestling [ed. note: heh.]
GODDESS. MUD WRESTLING
apt managers that wont listen
Control Freaks Torah


I am one of those melodramatic fools…

8 November 2007

neurotic to the bone, no doubt about it.

Argh.

I really, really wish I could just relax.

I saw A. four times last week. Pretty clear that he is interested in me, yes? But I last saw him Saturday night. We’ve e-mailed only a little; he has a bad headache and a ton of work and plans every night this week. I asked if, for a change, he’d like to come over and let me cook dinner for him this Saturday night, but he can’t because he’s having dinner at his Mom’s house with her and his aunts. Although I am venting to my friends (and my parents, and my brother-in-law), I am smart enough not to call him and say, “Pay attention to meeeeee!” I e-mailed him the other day, when he’d told me about his plans with family plus his work project that had sort of exploded, “Yikes, I hope things calm down soon. Will I at least get to see you again before T’giving? :)” He wrote back – a day later – a more chatty e-mail (still stressed) that included, “Hope all is well, and it will be before Turkey Day, I am sure!” So that was a little reassuring.

Tonight I am cooking and baking for Shabbat lunch. Once the peppers were stuffed and baked, the pumpkin bread was in the oven, and the chicken was marinating, I saw that he was still online at work, so I IMed him. It was a short conversation, nothing special, and I’d typed that I didn’t want to bother him at work and was really just saying hi. He wrote back that he actually had to go because he’s having dinner at a trendy new restaurant, and after a quick “talk to you later,” he signed off.

I know that he’s busy, and he has a life, and presumably he is still interested in me or he would either stop e-mailing or take the “in a relationship with Midnite99” out of his Facebook profile (yay Facebook) or actually, y’know, break up with me. I get that, intellectually. It’s just that thanks to my idiot ex, I am just so insecure that every new guy in my life is going to abandon me. Sigh.

My brother-in-law is in town for work, and we had dinner (kosher Subway) last night. His advice was not to worry. He told me, “You have to have the attitude that you’re the best girl in the world, the most beautiful, the smartest, and he’s lucky to have you.” My brother-in-law is pretty cool. He also said that although my ex was a horse’s patootie (as my father would say), I can’t blame other guys for that. My brother-in-law, in addition to being pretty cool, is also pretty smart.

And I KNOW all this stuff. Really, I do. Which is the most frustrating part, actually, because if I know it in my head, why am I having so much trouble knowing it in my heart?

Why, yes, it has been a long week, how’d you know?

* * *

For Shabbat lunch, I’m letting guests provide: green vegetable or salad, salatim (hummus, guacamole, etc), wine, fruit, and dessert. (It’s the first time I’ve “outsourced” dessert in AGES.) I am making:

* Chicken marinated in the same (store-bought) wasabi teryaki sauce that was so awesome on tofu last month.

* Stuffed peppers

Ingredients:
Cooking spray
8 bell peppers (red, orange, yellow — all taste better than green to me — just make sure they can stand up)
1 box Near East Mediterranean Curry couscous mix
1 onion, chopped
2 medium zucchini, chopped
oregano
salt
tomato-mushroom sauce [made last week (with some cherry tomatoes, tomato paste, mushrooms, garlic, and various spices) to go with spaghetti squash]
1/3 pound dried chickpeas, soaked overnight and drained [canned would work fine]

Preheat oven to 350.

Spray a baking dish big enough to hold 8 peppers. Cut tops off peppers, scoop out membranes and seeds. Put in baking dish and roast for 15 minutes, then remove from oven and cool until filling is ready — which in my case was the same time they were ready to come out of the oven.

Meanwhile:

Prepare couscous according to package directions.

Spray a large non-stick skillet with spray. Add onion, zucchini, oregano, and salt, and stir over medium heat about 5 minutes until most of their liquid has been released and evaporated, and veggies are soft. Remove from heat; stir in tomato sauce and chickpeas until well-mixed. Stir in couscous until well-mixed.

Carefully spoon mixture into peppers. Bake 15 minutes. (I had enough stuffing left over that I could have filled another couple of peppers, but the yellow ones were small and the orange ones were big but misshapen, leading to deceptively small cavities.)

If it weren’t a meat meal, I would have stirred some feta into the stuffing, or topped the peppers with grated parmesean.

* Spicy sweet potato “fries” — Slice a few sweet potatoes into wedges or fry-like shapes. Put in ziploc bag with a couple Tbsps olive oil, a few shakes each of salt, freshly ground pepper, cayenne pepper, and curry powder. Shake until all fries are coated evenly. Line a baking sheet with foil, spray with a bit more spray just to be safe. Dump fries onto sheet in a single layer if possible. Maybe season a bit more if you think you should. Bake at 400 for 10 minutes, then turn all fries over, and bake another 10 minutes. Serve with ketchup.

* Pumpkin bread to supplement the challah my Mom brought me Labor Day weekend

1 cup wheat flour
1/2 cup white flour
1 cup sugar/Splenda mix
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup pumpkin purée
1/2 cup applesauce
2 eggs, beaten (1/2 cup Eggbeaters)
1/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
(or, replace the previous 3 with 1 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a loaf pan (9x5x3, maybe?) and set aside.

Mix flours, sugar/Splenda, and baking soda in large bowl.

Mix the pumpkin, applesauce, eggs, water, and spices together with a wooden spoon.

Make a well in the dry ingredients, and pour the wet ingredients into the well. Mix with wooden spoon, but don’t over-mix.

Pour into prepared pan. Bake 50-60 minutes until a toothpick poked in the very center of the loaf comes out clean (took 52 minutes here). Turn out of the pan and let cool on a rack. Wrap in foil until serving.


Oh, how the years go by

4 November 2007

Wait, where did October go? How is it November already?

OK, it’s been a while since I’ve posted. Let’s see…the week before I left for vacation was awesome. Monday night I saw a Broadway concert with a friend; she has declared me her new theatre buddy, which totally works for me. Tuesday was the night I was officially declared not-single. Wednesday was…um, a blur of packing and cleaning and such. Thursday night was girls’ night — several of my friends came here first for appetizers (port which was SO yummy, crackers, gruyere and blue cheese, halved cherry tomatoes, baby carrots), then we met up with the rest of our crowd at a nearby sushi restaurant. There were a dozen of us total, and the meal cost less than $20 per person on average (including an 18% tip!). We had a blast. And I realized, looking around the table, that of the 11 women there, only one had been a close friend of mine a year ago. Five were people I knew a year ago, but only casually. And five were people who only moved to town within the last year (4 only arrived during the summer!). Yet they’re now all friends of mine. I’ve been to meals at almost all of their apartments, and have had most of them over to mine. It’s amazing how much can happen in a year.

And on the Friday that I was leaving (on an 11.30 red-eye), A. e-mailed me at work to say he could come over to say goodbye before I left, and he offered to take me to the airport. So I cancelled my SuperShuttle reservation, made us a last-minute Shabbat dinner, and got to spend a couple extra hours with him, which was nice. Then off I went to the East Coast, where I saw my brother, sister-in-law, and niece in NJ; two friends from work, one friend from college, and an old family friend in NYC; friends from college in Bethesda and DC; and friends from LA in Potomac. Good stuff, all around. My friends rock.

A. picked me up from the airport Sunday night, and we hung out again on Monday night. On Wednesday, I had a long-overdue dinner with Samantha and got to catch up with her, which was so good. A. was coming over after dinner, so she met him, and I am very glad that at least one of my friends has met him in person! She left, and A. and I just hung out for a bit before he went to a Halloween event at a club where a friend of his was DJing around 11.30. That’s past my bedtime, though, so at his recommendation, I opted out.

After services on Friday night, I had dinner right near Universal Studios, at my friend D.’s brother’s condo. D. is a friend from USY and from college; he lives in Boston but was in town for a conference. I hadn’t seen him in about three years. I got a bit lost on the way there, twice — first, somehow I totally missed Highland and had to backtrack, then I found Highland and got on Caheunga but somehow (without turning) ended up on some totally dark street that dead-ended in a chain-link fence and gate that said, “No Public Access.” Then I remembered that I have a GPS, so I plugged her in and let her guide me the rest of the way.

Saturday morning, I led the first half of services, and later went to lunch at a friend’s apartment. She has a cat, and before I go to her place I always medicate heavily, which gets me through for about an hour to an hour and a half. Saturday night, A. taught a friend of his (the one who’d DJed on Halloween) to make sushi, and her girlfriend and I got to reap the fruits of their labors. I didn’t want to show up empty-handed, so I made truffles (see below) which were a BIG hit. The girls also live right near Universal, and I managed not to get lost, which was a plus.

After dinner, I followed A. back to his place so we could hang out for a while, taking advantage of the fact that although it felt like 11, effectively it was only 10 because of changing the clocks. I have so far changed my watch and my microwave clock (and the car’s clock), but haven’t yet hit my alarm clock, the spare room alarm clock, or the clock and old digital watch in my bathroom. The cable box, computer, and cell phone are all smart enough to change themselves.

As you might have guessed, things with A. are going well. I am trying (a) not to jinx myself, (b) to stay in the moment and not get too far ahead of myself, (c) not to make up problems where none exist. I told my friend D. on Friday night that I hadn’t heard from A. since Wednesday, and normally we e-mail daily. But when D. heard that I’d seen him three times that week already, and had plans for Saturday night (though I didn’t know when or where), he said that for sure I shouldn’t worry. His advice was, “As long as the next date is planned, you definitely don’t have to worry.” Good rule of thumb.

This past Shabbat marked the 36th anniversary of the Library Minyan, the lay-led minyan at my shul. They had special services and a dinner and luncheon over Shabbat, possibly some sort of party last night, and speakers today. I did not attend any of it except Friday night services, since they were combined with the service I normally attend. When I saw the Exec Director on Friday night, she asked if I were going to the Sunday event, and I said no. She asked, “Could you stop by just to meet someone?” It took me a moment to understand, and then I sort of stumbled over my words to say, “Oh! Um, I’m actually seeing someone right now, so, um, no.” It’s funny, I am not at all used to having a boyfriend. But I wouldn’t mind getting used to it.

Last Friday, 26 October, I started the day with H. in Bethesda, then went to R. & J.’s place in Potomac where I was spending Shabbat. That day marked one year since the “disengagement,” which honestly only occurred to me a few times during the day. R. told me that she was so proud of me for the growth and self-awareness I’ve achieved during the last year. H. asked if I would ever have believed then, that now I’d be healthy and happy and healed, and totally ga-ga over a new guy. When I got back to LA, a friend e-mailed me to ask if he could give my e-mail or phone number to a friend of his in New York who is in a bad state after recently being dumped (out of the blue) by her fiance. My friend ended his e-mail with, “Just let me know. (And see what a difference a year makes?)”

In the last year, I’ve cemented a few friendships with people who were incredibly supportive; I’ve let a few friendships drift away with people who weren’t; I’ve become friends with people I hardly knew (or hadn’t even met) a year ago. Time really is an amazingly powerful healer.

* * *

Pumpkin Chocolate Almond Truffles with Amaretto

The original recipe was this.

Ingredients:
1/2 c pumpkin puree
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate
3 Tbsp margarine
1/4 c amaretto (or kahlua, or other liqueur — strong cold coffee would probably work, too)
2 egg yolks (OR 2 Tbsp Eggbeaters — or in my case, 2 Tbsp Simply Whites)
1 c toasted almonds*, ground
2 c powdered (or superfine) sugar
Cocoa powder (for coating truffles)

1. Spoon pumpkin puree onto double layer of paper towels, cover with another double layer of paper towels, and press gently to squeeze out excess liquid. Leave covered with paper towels until step 4.

2. Melt chocolate and margarine in medium-to-large mixing bowl in microwave for 45 seconds and stir. Microwave again for another 45 seconds. Stir gently until chocolate is completely melted and mixture is smooth. Let cool a few minutes. (Use this time to measure out your other ingredients.)

3. Stir in liqueur and egg yolk. Whisk until smooth.

4. Add ground almonds, sugar, and pumpkin. Whisk or stir until smooth.

5. Cover loosely with plastic wrap, refrigerate at least one hour.

6. Pour some cocoa (start with 1/3 cup, you can always add more if you need it) into a shallow bowl. Remove truffle mixture from fridge. Scoop with a mellon baller and roll into small balls (3/4 inch diameter, maybe?) and roll them in cocoa. Put in wax-paper-lined airtight container. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Made approx. 36 truffles.

*To toast almonds: either stir often in [ungreased!] saucepan over medium heat until golden brown, or bake at 350 on [ungreased!] baking sheet for 10-15 minutes and stir occasionally

Notes:

I had to make a few changes and substitutions which I was afraid had rendered the mixture unusable — for one thing, I was planning to use two egg yolks’ worth of Eggbeaters, but my Eggbeaters had gone bad and all I had was “Simply Whites.” I figured the yolk was there as a binder to hold the mixture together, and I didn’t think egg whites would work, and indeed the mix was really gooey and sticky. But I managed to shape it into small balls, which held their shape after being rolled in cocoa powder, and they were SO yummy.

Also, I couldn’t find ground almonds (or almond meal, or almond flour) at the store. I had slivered almonds which I ground in the food processor, but I didn’t toast them first. I suspect that toasting them gets rid of their moisture, so that when they’re ground you actually get something like flour. Since mine retained their moisture, I got something a bit more textured than flour. I decided to add the word “Almond” to the name of the truffle — i.e., treat it as a feature, not a bug.

I didn’t realize when I began that I didn’t have any powdered sugar (oops!). I did have superfine sugar (which you can buy directly, or you can make by running an equivalent amount of granulated sugar through a food processor for about 30-60 seconds — if you do this, make sure you wait a minute before you open the food processor so you don’t choke on a cloud of sugar dust!). It seemed to work just fine.

I made a double recipe and got more truffles out of it than the 28 the original recipe indicated. I must have a smaller mellon baller or something. I’ve given the measurements and quantities that I used. Also, mine might be somewhat healthier since I used trans-fat-free Smart Balance margarine rather than butter.


Nothing to fear but fear itself

17 October 2007

Used to be, when I was afraid of something, even if I knew intellectually that my fear was irrational, I would let the fear consume me, make me frantic and anxious and panicked. Used to be, once I got it in my head that I wasn’t sure about a particular guy, I’d find some reason to run away, rather than be the one left behind and wondering.

But apparently, I have reached the point where simply recognizing my fear is enough to let me overcome it. So when I acknowledged that I was afraid things with Event Guy would end up just like things ended up with my ex, I realized that was a pretty silly thing to be afraid of — for one thing, Event Guy is emphatically not my ex (and thank heavens for that)…and for another, I’m not the same person I was then. So ever since I got over the fear, I have been pretty darn excited about Event Guy.

So. Date #6 was Saturday night. He made me dinner — and for you foodies out there, it was amazing: grilled rack of lamb with a balsamic-fig reduction, red and green tomato salad (and the tomatoes were from his garden!), mashed potatoes with a drizzle of truffle oil. Then we watched a very cheesy movie called Antitrust, then just sat cuddled up on the couch and talked for hours. It was a really, really good date.

And date #7 was last night. He came here around 6.30, which we decided was too early for dinner, so we sat on the couch and cracked each other up with bizarre tales of how the event planners are going to take over the world. An hour slipped away, making it a reasonable time for dinner in this ever-so-fashionably-late city, so we went to a cute new Italian place not far from my apartment. They don’t have a liquor license yet, so we brought a bottle of Opolo’s Mountain Zin, which I’d gotten in wine country during that rather memorable weekend in February. Dinner was excellent, and the chocolate souffle we shared for dessert was exquisite. All through dinner, we were holding hands across the table. At one point, he beckoned me to lean toward him, and he kissed me, just like in a movie. When the waitress (who’s also the owner and the wife of the chef) brought our check, she said, “There’s no rush. Stay here and be lovey-dovey as long as you want.”

We came back here after dinner, and I mentioned that I wouldn’t see him for a week and a half since I’m going back East for vacation, and I asked if he might be interested in picking me up from the airport next Sunday night. He said he’d be happy to, then said, jokingly, “Well, as long as you’re still single when you get back.” I said, “Hmm, let me think about the guys I’m going to see on this trip. There’s my brother, some random friends in New York, then my friend J. in Potomac who’s been happily married to one of my best friends for the last year and a half. So, yeah, I think I’ll still be single when I get back.” He laughed at that, then I asked, “So…am I still single?” He gave me a very cute smile and said, “No.”

“Event Guy” takes too long to type. I think he’ll be “EG” henceforth. Or “A.”

He makes me happy. He makes me feel good about myself. And, perhaps best of all, he knows that forks and bread plates go on the left, and knives and glasses go on the right.


Not letting bitterness mar our souls

12 October 2007

(my d’rash for tonight…)

Each month on the Hebrew calendar contains at least one holiday – except Cheshvan, the month we are entering with this Rosh Chodesh. The month is formally called “Mar Cheshvan,” usually interpreted as “Bitter Cheshvan” (think maror). The month is bitter, the explanation goes, because it has no celebratory days. The bitterness must especially sting since Cheshvan follows Tishrei, which is filled with the holiday smorgasbord: Rosh HaShanah, the Yamim Noraim, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Hoshana Rabbah, Shemini Atzeret, and Simchat Torah.

But there’s another interpretation of “Mar Cheshvan” which I heard as a child. “Mar” doesn’t just mean “bitter,” it’s also the Hebrew word for “Mister.” In this interpretation, “Mar” is an honorific, a title bestowed upon “Mr. Cheshvan” to remind the month – and ourselves – that we value it as much as any other month, and that it doesn’t need holidays to be important.

Mar Cheshvan is breathing room, a chance to catch our breath after the whirlwind of chagim we’ve experienced. It’s the pause between the notes in the orchestration of our lives. Mar Cheshvan offers a moment to reflect: have we started the year the way we want? Have we set the proper tone for the months to come? Tishrei is pomp and circumstance, dress-up and heightened reality. Mar Cheshvan is real life, every day-ness, who we are rather than who we’re trying to present to the world.

In Malachim Alef, First Kings, we read of Eliyahu’s encounter with G-d when G-d calls him to “Come out…and stand on the mountain before G-d.” There was a mighty wind – but G-d was not in the wind; then an earthquake, but G-d was not in the earthquake; then a fire, but G-d was not in the fire. And after the fire, a still, small voice. G-d doesn’t need fiery, dramatic moments; G-d is there in the still, small voice, in the quiet moment after the storm, in the Cheshvan after Tishrei.

In 1998, I lost three of my grandparents in a span of seven months. First, my Grandpa died just before Pesach; then my Nana, over the summer; and finally my Grandma, on the 30th of Tishrei, so her yahrtzeit was last night and today. Both my parents were very close to their in-laws as well as to their own parents, so they both stood for Kaddish for the full 11 months for each of my grandparents. Since the deaths occurred over seven months, that means my parents stood for Kaddish every day for eighteen months, a full year and a half. They finally got to sit down for Kaddish beginning on erev second day Rosh HaShanah. Of course, that was followed by Yizkor on Yom Kippur, and Yizkor again on Shemini Atzeret, and then my Grandma’s first yahrtzeit just a week later.

But then Tishrei ended, and Cheshvan began, and my parents went to Israel for five weeks to help take care of my sister’s then three-month-old baby girl. It was a powerful reminder that life continues and begins anew, that moments of intensity are followed by moments of calmness. It was Cheshvan that gave them respite.

I may be a bit biased. My Bat Mitzvah was seventeen years ago, Shabbat Rosh Chodesh Mar Cheshvan, 5751. Ever since, I’ve felt an affinity for this month that is so often overlooked and marginalized, assumed to be bitter. But I believe that “Mr. Cheshvan” holds his head up high, and comforts those who are struggling not to give into the bitterness of their own lives.


Days of wine and roses

9 October 2007

Date #5 was last night. Event Guy was scheduled to come over at 7, and for the first time he was early (about 10 minutes, which was fine by me since I’m chronically early). I’d teased him that for all our restaurant dates, I’d picked the restaurant, so he’d promised that this time, he would have a restaurant pre-selected. So when he arrived, he told me that we had 7.30 dinner reservations. For date #2, he’d brought me (in addition to the RCA cable) a single long-stemmed pink rose. This time, he brought 4 long-stemmed red roses…very classy.

Off we went to dinner — at Lucques, a very nice place I’d heard of but never been before. The service was top-notch, which I love. We had a sumptuous meal (for you foodies out there: we shared a bottle of Chatueneuf du Pape; shared an heirloom tomato salad with persian cucumbers, torn croutons and french feta salsa verde [feta on the side, since he’s allergic to dairy]; he had the grilled duck breast with squash blossoms, pistachios, and roasted figs; and I had grilled snapper with brandade [essentially a salt cod mousse], grilled peppers and currant-pinenut agrodolce; we were too full for dessert). The food was excellent. I couldn’t finish mine, so in addition to thanking him for dinner, I also thanked him for lunch the next day. Too bad I couldn’t take home the quarter-glass of wine I had left…

We were the last to leave the restaurant, a little before 10.30. We came back here and chatted for a few minutes. But when I have something on my mind, I’m antsy until I’ve said it, and the moment seemed right for it. So I said to him, “There’s something I want you to know. I think you’re great, I’m really enjoying talking to you and getting to know you and all of that — but I need to tell you that you’re scaring me.” He didn’t flinch, didn’t even blink or swallow, just nodded and gestured for me to continue. I explained that the last time I met someone and things moved fast and affection grew quickly, it ended atrociously and was the most awful thing I’d ever been through. I told him, “I know that you’re not my ex. I totally get that. And I think it’s awesome that you’re not playing games, that you’re not shy about making it clear that you like me. It’s just that I’m gun-shy, and the idea of trusting a guy — any guy — is still a bit terrifying. It’s nothing about you, it’s entirely my issue, I just wanted you to know.”

He said he could understand, and he appreciated my honesty, and he’d been wondering how I felt and was glad to have the answer. He said he didn’t mind taking things slowly, and reiterated that he really appreciated that I was upfront with him. So that went well.

We’ve established a pattern of sending a thank-you-and-goodnight e-mail immediately after each date, so that the person who’s driving home has an e-mail awaiting upon his or her return. So after he left, I wrote him: “Thank you again……for dinner, for lunch tomorrow, for the beautiful roses, and for understanding. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate all of them.” And he responded with, in part:

It is really my pleasure! Thank you for being honest, communicative, and very cute. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate all of them…especially the later. [sic] ;) Seriously though, I hope I was clear in my position on things. I like you and I am really enjoying getting to know you and all that goes with it. Time is an easy part as far as I am concerned…

Then he asked when we could get together again, and suggested Saturday since he knew I was busy Thursday and had shul on Friday. So for the two of you out there who tend to worry about such things, I did not scare him off, just so you know.