On Widgets, Reading, and Soup
Things that are better when we don't go it alone.
I cannot believe I ever let my fear of new experiences with technology hold me back from starting Days of Rest. I’m really enjoying this format. I hope you are, too. And I’m so glad you are here.
An Anecdote, in Which I Learn about Widgets
I was entirely out of my element last week when I tried to make a few changes to my old website, which looks like an outdated motel room. What I mean is that all the basics, like beds and lamps, are there, and they are in working order. But it’s drab and faded and in dire need of nicer sheets, new carpeting, and prettier pictures on the wall.
When he told us to “look for the helpers,” Mr. Rogers did not mean Start a Live Chat with the help team at Wordpress, the platform that hosts my website. Still, I was bewildered. I knew I could not undertake this site renovation project alone, even if I started small.
Let’s call the helper who answered my online cry for assistance Chat Man. He was kind and patient, and I was thinking, “He’s going to do it for me. I don’t even need to try to figure this out.” Then he wrote, “I’d rather teach you so you can do it by yourself next time,” and I shot back, “You sound a lot like my mom when I was ten.” He replied, “;),” before taking me by the digital hand and walking me through it.
With that out of the way, I asked if he’d be willing to add my social media buttons for me. “You mean widgets,” he said. “Ribbit,” I replied, only half in jest. He soon had me following him around the site until I felt so overwhelmed I had to stop. It had been plenty for one session. Yet even as I typed the words, I knew I’d regret signing off. The odds were infinitesimal that I’d reach him again.
When I came home an hour later from the gym, I found an email from Chat Man, G-d bless him. He’d made a little slide show to show me how to tackle this next step by myself, which I did posthaste, lest my nerve fail in the waiting. I still can’t believe I pulled it off (Go me!). I spent that entire day repeating Ribbit! and I have widgets! in my head, but that’s another story.
Sometimes, you have to figure things out on your own. At others, you get lucky and someone kind and patient helps you along. Either way works when all is said and done, but honestly, it feels pretty good when it’s a bit of both.
A few months ago, my husband and I began reading together after Shabbos dinner, by which I mean he reads to me, and then we discuss. We have thus far chosen books that explore an aspect of Judaism or spirituality, so as much as we are reading, we are also learning, and we are growing as humans and as people of faith.
The process reminds me of a picture book our boys had when they were small called You Read to Me, and I’ll Read to You, which was meant to bolster their reading fluency. The sentences were short and rhyming, and it was a lot of fun when we got caught up in it. There’s a wonderful emotional and intellectual energy between people who share the experience of a book, whatever the topic and at any age.
We are currently reading Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski’s Angels Don’t Leave Footprints: Discovering What’s Right within Yourself. It’s about self-esteem, and our human ability to change and grow. Lots of potential there — in the book, and in us. I’ll let you know how it goes.
My Shabbos Reads
I also read plenty on my own. It’s one of the highlights of Shabbos day.
At the moment, I am finishing up the last few chapters of The Dakota Winters by Tom Barbash. It’s a fictionalized account of the year leading up to John Lennon’s death. I’m enjoying the novel’s cultural references from 1980, though there are pages that just feel like name-dropping.
Next on my book pile is A Horse Walks into a Bar by David Grossman. And if there’s time on this coming short Shabbos, I’ll start The Convert by Stefan Hertmans. I found his novel War and Turpentine, which is based on his grandfather’s diaries from World War I, to be heart-wrenching and so beautifully written it was almost mythical.
And Lastly, a Shabbos Soup
One of the things I love best about soup is that you have to make a whole pot if you’re preparing it from scratch. And if you’ve put up 12 quarts of something, you can’t eat it all by yourself, certainly not at once. This makes soup the perfect Shabbos food because soup is for sharing.
This soup is thick and filling. It’s flexible, too. Swap out the vegetables for whatever you have in the refrigerator, use different beans, or change up the spices. Best of all, it cooks quickly, which makes it perfect for a Friday when you’re short on time before candle-lighting.
Makes about 4 - 6 servings, and doubles well.
2 cups diced onions 1 cup chopped zucchini 2 cups chopped mushrooms 16 ounce can diced tomatoes, with liquid 5 garlic cloves, minced 1 can kidney beans & 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained 3/4 cup quinoa, rinsed 4 cups spinach 8 - 10 cups broth, chicken or vegetable 2 T. olive oil Black pepper, to taste 1 T. chili powder 1 T garlic powder
Heat the olive oil. Add the onions and sauté until golden. The fresh garlic goes in next. Give that a few seconds before adding the zucchini and mushrooms. Let them soften. Then add the broth, the tomatoes with their liquid, the beans, and spices. Bring to a boil before tossing in the quinoa. Lower the heat, cover, and simmer for about 20 minutes. I check 10 minutes in to see if it needs a little more stock. Once the quinoa is soft, drop in the spinach. Let that sit two minutes before serving.
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Yes, it was on-theme this week. :)
And recipes too! What an added bonus!