Wednesday, September 30, 2009

"This synagogue is 'very' Reform."

"This synagogue is 'very' Reform." But as the Rabbi said, this is meant as a judgment but, with the right attitude and for the right person, it can also be a good thing.

The Jewish high holidays have come and gone, and while it's certainly a time for reflection on the past year and what's ahead, I did most of my thinking about what type of synagogue I want to join. First, I saw my own temple in Atlanta through Adam's eyes when he was astonished by how much music was incorporated into the service and how few prayers are sung in Hebrew. An organ in a synagogue? What is this? Church?

I don't blame him. My Jewish identity was primarily cultivated at the religious summer camps I went to year after year starting at age 8. Where "pluralist" really meant "Conservative." I recited prayers every morning and before and after meals. And, yes, I do mean "recited." While I learned to read Hebrew for my Bat Mitzvah, I cannot read and understand word for word the Hebrew prayers. Does it bother me that I cannot translate them? No, most importantly, I understand the gist and I find meaning in the recitation of time worn Hebrew prayers.

Interestingly, in Atlanta, one of the rabbi's sermons focused on the history and contemporary role of the Reform movement. An ever modernizing and evolving (reforming) sect of Judaism, I admire the social action and political inspirations to affect Tikun Olam through practice of Jewish values and ethics. However, my sense of spirituality doesn't agree with reading English translations of prayers that read more like shmaltzy poetry than religious evokations.

Would a Conservative synagogue be a better fit for me? That raises my concerns of being raised a Reform Jew feeling "lesser than" to other Jews who are "more Jewish." I don't agree with what I put in quotation marks--I've actually heard people say these things. In a Conservative synagogue, I struggle to feel as if I belong when I don't know a prayer everyone else knows by heart. But what do I really have to apologize for, be embarrassed about?

What's a happy medium? How will Adam and I want to raise our kids? And how did we get here? I believe that the history of the Jewish American experience is one that has been a constant back and forth, from one generation to the next. Our parents are reacting to what their parents did, and now it's our turn. Assimilated as ever, I reach out and embrace Hebrew prayers as a stamp of what makes Judaism Jewish. I want to have Shabbat dinner in my home, so my children will appreciate being raised in a Jewish household. And will they reject that?

Anyway, so long as I'm asking questions, my Jewish identity is intact. ;-)

La Belle Vie

You know how some restaurants can suffer from too much hype? Not La Belle Vie, my friends. The instant Open Table sent me an email announcing Restaurant Week, I made reservations at La Belle Vie. For $30, we had an amazing three course prix fixe tasting menu at THE BEST RESTAURANT in the Twin Cities. There's nothing I can write that scores of restaurant reviewers haven't already covered, but since you may not have read them I'll say: the servers glide around and effortlessly anticipate every finished plate and next course, and every.single.bite. of food is perfection.

Restaurant Week only comes twice a year, but otherwise, if you can afford it, this is absolutely your go-to "special occasion" dining experience.

Fall Comfort Food

Brr! It's official, folks, Minnesota had its first frost advisory of the season so it must be fall. As Adam will be the first to tell you, I probably comment on the weather at least once out of every 10 statements that leave my mouth. Sigh. There's no denying it so I might as well own up to it and provide you with this awesome comfort food recipe clip.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Wrapping Paper

You know when you're an adult if...
you buy wrapping paper from your boss's kids!

Not so many years ago, I, myself was a young whippersnapper sending my mom and dad off to work with my catalogs and ordering sheets to solicit coworkers to help me win those awful prizes.

All things considered though, I didn't just buy something to "give back." Honest to goodness, I thought to myself, "Why yes, I will need Chanukah wrapping paper, and where else in Minnesota will I find it?" Done and done!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Accidentally Drunk in Madison

Adam and I planned a weekend trip to Madison to visit Adam's and my friends Matt and Carly, who, oh yeah, happen to live near the New Glarus Brewery. New Glarus makes Adam's favorite beer, Spotted Cow (henceforth just "Cow" the way the locals say it), and it's only sold in the state of Wisconsin. The beer is good--delicious, even--but the fact you have to cross state lines to get its sweet nectar must add to the allure.

We left Friday evening and drove through pounding rain the entire way. The lousy driving conditions only enhanced our appreciation for the brisk, dry fall day we had on Saturday. We started off by going downtown, where the capitol is, to sample the farmer's market. Delta's September Sky magazine featured Madison's farmer's market as one of the 10 Best in the World, so naturally I was curious. While it was good, not actually shopping for fresh food left me to be distracted by other things, such as singing Mennonites and ooooooh, pumpkins! Downtown Madison is truly charming. It reminded me of the town square in Gilmore Girls on just a slightly larger scale. People look colorful, friendly and happy.

Next, we drove out to the brewery. It was a bit of a drive, but we took scenic country roads that really impress upon you why Midwesterners feel so prideful. The countryside, especially now that the fall colors are beginning to pop, is gorgeous.

The brewery itself was a lot of fun--although the education on the self-guided tour was provided by a mulleted man in head-to-toe denim. Luckily for us our visit coincided with Oktoberfest (that's right-on the last weekend in September) so everything was particularly lively. We left with our souvenir pint glasses, which honestly made me more happy than the beer itself.

In New Glarus, the Oktoberfest was hosted in a small Swiss village that felt a little hokey in the Disney Epcot style. We enjoyed beer, polka, and cheese, and more beer. Then again, 3 Heffe Weisse later, I was down for the count the rest of the day. A tipsy afternoon can be one of the best ways to enjoy a Saturday but I didn't plan for Oktoberfest-level activities.

Oktoberfest montage.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Wedding Shmedding: an Update

Doodle and I are making progress. Even the most bridezilla resistant of us can still get stressed out. Over nothing. That's what Adam and I have so far: nothing. I'm anxious about "setting the date" so we can have an answer when people ask. And I don't blame people for asking the most obvious question for a newly engaged couple, but I can't always trust myself to not roll my eyes.

So, rather than fret, I do research! After initial lukewarm feelings, I latched on to the idea of having the wedding in Atlanta, my hometown. My inclination grew as I realized what a tremendous help having my parents' time and resources would be. Adam, however, was just not feeling it. Adam was raised in a Conservative congregation, and a trip to my "very" Reform synagogue cemented Adam's anti-Atlanta sentiments. I don't hold it against him, but if we're not even going to get married in my temple, why be in Atlanta?

One thing that was beneficial about our trip to Atlanta was the opportunity to visit a reception site that my sister actually used for a different event. The venue was a converted mill and had a big, open multi-purpose space. There was a lot to like about it, but it wasn't for us. It's true with so much in life: it's still an important lesson to find out what you don't like.

So, after waffling and being all over the emotional spectrum, I'm returning (this time with gusto!) to the idea of having a wedding in DC. I feel vulnerable committing this to my blog considering the number of times I've changed my mind. But, miracle of miracles, I found a reception site in DC that really--for the first time--got me excited about the day we'll be getting married.

All of a sudden, rather than feeling like I was forced to plan an expensive party, I began to feel like I deserve, and can have, a truly special, meaningful and memorable event.

Here is a glimpse at Dumbarton House, in the Georgetown/Embassy Row neighborhood of DC:

My guess is the place is too small for the number of guests we want to invite, but I view this discovery as a great sign. Sometimes I look at Adam and just radiate happiness: we have so many good things to look forward to. (OK, I apologize if that was over the top.)

Sounds like it's time to plan a wedding venue shopping trip to DC!

Happy 70th Birthday!

Big shout out to my dad who turned 70 on September 8, 2009. This past weekend, Adam and I flew down to Atlanta (pre-floods) to celebrate. We had a big 50+ person party for dad, and I think it's fair to say that everyone had a really really nice time.

Here's a picture of Dad with his five kids. We haven't all been together since Thanksgiving 2008, so it was special for us to all make an effort to come for the party. (3 of us traveled from as far as Orlando, Tuscon, and Minneapolis.)

We were also home for Rosh Hashanah, which was nice because the Jewish holidays always make me homesick for tradition. For Yom Kippur, we've been invited to join our adoptive Minnesota family—and so I'm also excited for new traditions!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Football 4 Days of the Week: Too Much of a Good Thing?

Ever since the Steelers won the Super Bowl back on February 1, I've been waiting for football season to return. Football is the #1 reminder of why I'm glad to be out of school: you can watch football, literally, ALL weekend with no regret about procrastinating on homework. But when you finally do watch football ALL weekend, you might be disappointed to find yourself becoming a little... bored.

What is it they say? Everything in moderation!

Well, I don't mean to be a total pooper. Thursday's Steelers game was awesome!

I'm sad about Polamalu's injury but this catch was truly amazing.

And we had the great pleaure of going to the first Gophers home game of the season at their brand spanking new stadium. The Gophers won. Barely. But thank goodness. Otherwise, it would bring terrible karma to the new stadium.


This article is so dead-on. Granted, the author is 26 when she got married (not 23) but I still find it to ring so, so true.
Re-posted, without WaPo permission, below:

The Marriage Divide
Was I too young to get married or too old? Depends on whom you ask

By Monica Hesse
Sunday, September 6, 2009

The two responses I received last year when, at 26, I announced I had gotten engaged:

a) Oh, God, finally!

b) Oh, God, already?

Followed by:

a) Have you chosen your canape platter yet?

b) Is this because of a tax break or something?

And then possibly by:

a) Where are you registered?

b) Wait, are you sure you haven't been drinking?

Whether my friends answered a's or b's depended entirely on which time zone -- which side of the International Wedding Date Line -- they lived in. The IWDL is a complex concept that can be explained only by me (because I just made it up), but it comes down to this: On the East Coast where I live now, at least among most of my friends, getting married is something you do after college, after grad school, after your 30th birthday, after your second solo climb of Mount Everest, after you successfully balance your checkbook for 16 months straight, after, after, after. In other words, getting married at 26 is pretty much like getting married as a fetus.

In the Midwest, at least in the rural Illinois town where I grew up, getting married is something that you do before you begin to think of buying property, before your single-person routines make you stubborn and inflexible, before your metabolism slows enough that a white wedding dress would make you look like a rhinoceros. Optimal marriage age: 20 to 23. Getting married at 26 is like filing your tax returns on April 16.

So the Midwest friends were supportive, as if they were welcoming me into their club, while the D.C., Philadelphia and Boston friends were just dubious, as if the club I wanted to join was for insane people. When I broke the news to my New York buddy Jo, I sheepishly tried to hide it in casual conversation: " 'Real Housewives' was beyond ridiculous; Simon's pants are horri -- I'm-getting-married-do-you-want-to-be-a-bridesmaid -- fying, and did you see Alex's hair?" Then I called my Illinois friend Jeanne and went, "Eeeeeeeeeeee!"

Neither of my deliveries felt completely honest, probably because I still wasn't sure how I felt about it. I was like the answer to a riddle.

Q: Who is both too old and too young to be married?

A: Someone who doesn't know where her home is.

As melodramatic as it sounds, all of this kind of felt like admitting some sort of geographical allegiance: East Coast friends? Fooled you! It might seem like I belong out here, but in private I'm talking like a "Fargo" extra and making a wide variety of Campbell's soup casseroles.

In the end it didn't matter. You can't choose the age you are when you meet the person you want to spend your life with; my husband and I ended up getting married last September. My Midwestern friends waited until after the ceremony to ask when we'd be having kids, and my East Coast friends danced until 3, carried all the good booze back to their rooms for a continued after-party, then fell asleep in their clothes.

But it turns out that getting married still left me in a state of between-ness. While I was busy planning a wedding, some of my friends in Illinois had been busy having kids. I would log on to Facebook and see status updates that read something like: "is making cupcakes for her son's preschool class. No peanuts!" From the friends of the East, it was more like: "is thinking cupcakes and tequila are a good 4 a.m. snack." No one seemed to be doing what I was doing: "is going to Ikea, then watching three 'Wire' DVDs in a row, then considering the big step of getting a plant."

In the past few months, though, I've been feeling better about my placement. It's nice to have friends who can offer advice in matters marital and domestic, even if that friend is my new sister-in-law, who married my brother at 23 and already owns way more cutting boards than I do.

Recently, one of my most vehemently single friends phoned to tell me that she'd met someone. The romantic pearls of semi-wisdom that I'd saved up during the three years that I was dating my husband and she was occasionally hooking up with a yoga instructor were suddenly, actually, useful.

I'm still the first married friend. And the last married friend. My own time zone on the IWDL.

Which now feels:

a) Weird.

b) Kinda neat.

Would anyone who reads this blog...

...stop reading if I renamed it Engaged in Minneapolis? Apparently that's what all my posts are about lately.

Although, get ready because I have one post coming up that's not engagement or wedding related at all. And, really, I'm not obsessed.

Bridezilla, I am not. Bridezilla, I am not. (New mantra.)

Although technology may catch up with me...

... and email may go the way of the Walkmans by the time Adam and I legally wed, I decided to go ahead and claim a Rachael Rosen gmail account as my own.

I won't start using it but if you really want to, you can reach me at

Too soon? you ask. Well, the fact that rachael.rosen was no longer available indicates to me that, no, in fact, it was not too soon.