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Archive for August, 2011

Cigarettes, Gas and a Sharpie

posted by Sheva 11:39 AM
Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Ahhhhh…. The sweet, sweet smell of cigarettes, gasoline and a sharpie.


I’ve never had a particularly sharp sense of smell. So I missed out all those opportunities to enjoy the subtle aromas of a delicious meal, or a spring day, or a delicate flower. But generally, I’m grateful for it – most smells we encounter every day are, after all, pretty disgusting. Pee on a public subway/street/stairwell, someone at the gym farts (never me), dirty diapers… I do smell these things, and they are gross, but I’m grateful I don’t actually smell them that much.

Actually, there was one time in my life I DID have a very acute sense of smell – when I was pregnant with my 2nd child. For the other two pregnancies, my nose stayed mercifully muted, but with Racheli in my belly, the world was suddenly awake and alive! Roses, perfumes, food, spices, trees, the grass… wow! So this was what it’s like to really have a sense of smell!

And then… I had to change my son’s diapers with that same heightened sense of smell.


Lots of throwing up with that second pregnancy.

I remember watching as a friend of mine, who was only in her first or second month of pregnancy and not telling anyone yet, blanched when she stepped into a room, muttering, “wow, some people’s perfume is just really strong,” then ran to the bathroom to throw up. Dead giveaway.

In my normal, not-pregnant-with-Racheli state of being, my nose minds its own business. Doesn’t make a fuss over amazing smells, doesn’t complain too much when something stinks. There are a few exceptions; I hate the smell of cigars so much that it makes me feel like throwing up, but for every cigar there is a cigarette – a smell that I shouldn’t reasonably enjoy, but I do.

I like to walk on the street past a smoker and breathe in deeply. I don’t want a smoker living with me, and I don’t think I’d like the smell in my house, on my clothes, in my car, etc. But once in a while, just a whiff as I stroll down the street… maybe it’s nostalgia for my teen years, but it does bring a little smile to my face.

And gasoline? Let’s put it this way: when I was a pre-teen, I had a massive sticker collection. Puffies, sparkly stickers, ones with liquid inside, furry ones, and of course, scratch and sniff. My favorite scratch and sniff sticker was a car. A car that smelled of gasoline.

And finally, the Sharpie… well, who doesn’t love the smell of a fresh Sharpie in the morning?

Sheva (BatSheva Vaknin)

Mmmmm, delicious!


posted by Sheva 1:49 AM
Tuesday, August 30, 2011

What exactly is a “ME-cation,” you probably didn’t ask yourself as you (hopefully) read my last blog, since you probably already sussed it out that it was the brilliant product of combining those two familiar and yet – for parents – often contradictory words, “me” and “vacation.”

Well, since you asked…

A ME-cation is a vacation you take in your own home, with your own kids (some of them, at least). The main two stipulations for a ME-cation are the following: 1. Husband must go out of town to a place where he will be having a great time (so you will not feel guilty on your ME-cation), and 2. You must have a trustworthy nanny and/or babysitter you can hire to work extra hours during the time he is gone.

That’s it! Simple, right? Here are some more great tips:

1. Take private Pilates lessons, twice a week. I recommend Stacey Zimberg, she is incredible.

2. Go to a movie with girlfriends (or, more precisely, with the one girlfriend who sticks by you after the other two bail because the movie is later than you originally thought it would be and they are already tired. It’s okay, I wasn’t mad. They weren’t on a ME-cation, I was!)

a. Make sure that movie is Crazy Stupid Love or at least a fun action adventure or a feel-good romantic comedy, ideally starring Ryan Gosling.

3. Dream about Ryan Gosling. No, seriously, I did have a dream about him. Like, in the morning, while I was still sleeping. Don’t worry, it was G Rated, I love my husband!

4. Talk to your husband (and, in my case, your son) lots of times throughout the day and night on the phone. Feel happy for him/them that they are having a blast, and feel happy for yourself that you are too.

5. Stay up until 1, 2, maybe 3:30am watching Grey’s Anatomy. BECAUSE IT’S CRACK.

6. Go out to drinks and a late dinner at a cool Abbot Kinney restaurant with three awesome girlfriends who you never spend enough time with.

7. Take your daughters on special trips to ice skating, ice cream, and kids’restaurants, for fun “girl time.”

a. Make sure to bring a “mommy friend” or meet friends there so you can have ‘grownup’ talks while the kids have fun! (I told you, this is your ME-cation, woman, who are you, the babysitter??)

8. Don’t cook. Allow your friend to make a full meal for your kids and you, and don’t feel an ounce of guilt as they eat two entire dinners worth of her food in one sitting and remark that it’s “The best food they’ve ever eaten.” Feel the warm glow that happens when your children are well-fed. Who cares who fed them! They ate, and they liked it!

9. Impose upon your excellent cooks/nice/have kids the same age as yours neighbors to host you for two Shabbat lunches in a row.

10. Take a nice long nap after lunch on Shabbat, and don’t worry about your five year old daughter who is playing by herself the whole time you nap. She’s fine.

11. Take the girls swimming in the neighbor’s pool.

12. Make sure your husband’s garden is watered and cared for properly every day (AKA have the nanny do it on all days you are ‘unavailable’).

a. Pick the cucumbers that are ripe and get prickly fuzz all over your arms and be happy about it “because it’s not always easy taking care of things while he’s gone.”

13. Go surfing!

That’s about it, folks! Now go book your spouse that flight…


Sheva (BatSheva Vaknin)

Long Live the Go-Go's!

To Eat? Perchance to Cook, ay, There’s the Rub.

posted by Sheva 11:47 PM
Sunday, August 28, 2011

Let me start by saying I love food. And by that I mean, I love to eat.




So… it would be – if nothing else – practical, not to mention, a useful way to support my eating habit, if I also loved to cook. Not to mention feed any one or – hey, how about all! – of my three constantly-in-need-of-eating children and – hey, while we are at it, also my cute husband who, like me, likes to eat.

I wouldn’t use the word hate when it comes to cooking. I mean, I basically only hate things like having a bad flu, or having $70,000 stolen from me and all my jewelry too. And Hitler.

But cooking (when it’s me doing it, that is) isn’t too far behind those items either. In hate-itude.

Of course I LOVE cooking when it’s being done by my amazing cook of a husband. Don’t love doing dishes… but Jesus, who am I to complain, my husband just cooked me an amazing meal??!!

I love cooking when it’s being done by a restaurant. I love cooking when it’s being done by my next door may-as-well-be-a-chef neighbor, or my best friend Betsy (who actually is a chef), or my mother, or father, or basically ANYONE who is willing to put the time and effort into making me a meal. God bless you all.

When I told my girlfriend & mom of 2 little ones that my husband was out of town for two weeks and I took that opportunity to have a ME-cation, she really didn’t get it until she asked me if the nanny cooked for the kids, and I answered, “well, duh! What, was I going to cook for them while he’s out of town?” (“He” meaning my husband, who puts a lot of husbandly pressure on me to cook at regular intervals for the family so our kids will eat something other than fish sticks, chicken nuggets, scrambled eggs and cold cereal for dinner. Hard to fault him for that…)

Anyway, when I said that, a lightbulb went off in my friend’s head (whose husband has MUCH higher standards than any of my kids or husband and she actually meets those culinary standards 6 days a week). “Oh!” she cried, everything clicking into place. “You didn’t cook for two weeks! WOW!”

I could already hear the wheels turning in her head, plotting out her very own ME-cation for the upcoming weeks when her husband will be leaving town.

You go, girl! Now, excuse me while I go defrost some chicken.

Hahahahaha!!! Just kidding. String cheese time. Delish.


Sheva (BatSheva Vaknin)

My greatest culinary accomplishment to date.

From the Files of “Ok, Now this is Getting Ridiculous”

posted by Sheva 1:23 PM
Friday, August 26, 2011

Come on. Drunk on one beer, ok, fine. Well, lame… but fine.  But drunk… on one fish? As of last night, I believe I officially hit a new low in the scale of being able to hold one’s alcohol.

It all started with my 40 day resolution to go off refined sugar, with a little asterisk that wine and alcohol would be included in that resolution too, simply because my body doesn’t process wine/alcohol very well. Or at all.

Case in point: last night I skipped a local Kosher wine tasting event at The Cask, where my husband joined three other couples (well – two & a half – the husband half of one of the couples is sober so he skipped it too). Why bother to go – I wasn’t drinking wine, right? So instead I went to a nice event in Hollywood, then met everyone, along with Sober Husband at a restaurant for dinner.

The food was great, the wine flowed (to the drinkers of the table, that is, everyone but me and Sober Husband), and conversation was engaging and entertaining.

At the end of the night, I had to take my nanny home, because – duh, my husband had been drinking wine all night. But as I dropped my husband home, I remarked that it was weird – I hadn’t drank even one sip of wine, but I felt tipsy! Even my mouth and my stomach had that sour feeling I get from drinking wine.

Had a gotten a contact high?

No, dear readers. I had eaten fish. FISH.

Cooked in wine.

I hadn’t even realized the fish was cooked in wine, but when I told my hubby how I felt, he remembered the waiter describing the dish (it was one of the specials), and apparently, it was indeed cooked in wine, or Sherry, or something of a similarly alcoholic nature.

And it made me tipsy.



Sheva (BatSheva Vaknin)

Oh no! Could the Leader of the Free World also be a (fish) alcoholic??


posted by Sheva 5:05 PM
Wednesday, August 24, 2011

WOW. This past Monday. What a day. I was blissed out, flying high…

The day didn’t start out fantastic. In fact, I was criticized by an authority figure (who will remain anonymous here) whose opinion greatly matters to me in front of a large group of people (whose opinions also matter to me). And he didn’t just criticize, he used a biblical reference as a METAPHOR to criticize me.

If you must know, he likened me to one of the spies who Moses sent to Israel to check things out & who came back & reported to Moses that Israel was a dangerous & negative place (NOT one of the righteous people Moses sent (like Joshua) who came back seeing only Israel’s potential).


That afternoon, in an arguably related incident, I wolfed down a foot long mayonnaise SUBWAY sandwich (okay, fine, technically it was tuna, though I challenge you to actually find the tuna swimming in all that mayo), followed by a chocolate brownie AND a chocolate cupcake, neither of which I was really into, and all of which, gave me heartburn. Fantastic.


Then I went surfing. Or, to be more precise, I went for my first surf lesson. This has long been a dream of mine – to be able to skateboard and to be able to surf. I still can barely even navigate on a scooter – my son’s scooter, I might add, which he can basically do upside-down blindfolded wheelies on, and I practically topple over the minute I’m two feet off the ground.

But… the ocean… I’ve always loved the ocean. Love love love it. And although it’s true, I live in Los Angeles… I also live in Los Angeles.  Meaning, I technically live in a beach city, yet for all practical purposes I’ve probably been in the ocean once in the entire past year. What? That’s how we roll, over here in the City of Angels.

So when an acquaintance – actually one of the “Fitness Experts” who writes for the online magazine I oversee ( – offered to teach me to surf, I jumped. Plus my husband was still out of town (translation: Me Time). The waves were small (and perfect for a beginner), the crowd was just a smattering of a few surfers (again, perfect), and Blue (my Expert, Blue Benadum) had even invited his photographer friend John to come along & shoot photos of my attempt to learn to surf.

All in all, I found paddling harder than standing up. There is a lot of paddling in surfing. Let’s face it, “surfing” means “paddling” with a few lucky ‘standups’ in between all the paddling. Which actually was fine with me, until Blue let it slip that the “cool” way to paddle on a longboard wasn’t to lie on your tummy and stroke with your arms (what I was comfortable doing) – it was to be up on my knees and to blade the water with my arms.

Yeah, that wasn’t happening. Once I was in the right position, though, the “standing up” part came pretty quick. (Though perhaps I should add “staying up” to that list of what is hard.) I actually managed to stand up twice, and considering there weren’t so many ‘usable’ waves within the hour+ that we were out there, I was pretty stoked!

The. Coolest. Day. Ever.

Um, yeah, the surfer language rubbed off on me too. As did the inspiration of the ocean. Because…

While I was out there, sitting in my wet suit on my surfboard in the vast beautiful ocean, I made up my mind to stop eating sugar – ALL PROCESSED SUGAR – for the next 40 days. Yup, that includes chocolate. Alcohol too BTW, just because my body seems to hate it; I have a half glass of wine and the next day my stomach is bloated like I’m 5 months pregnant.

It made sense to me – 40 days is the amount of time, Kabbalistically speaking, it takes to get over an addiction or a pattern of behavior. Plus that amount of time would be enough to really show me if the sugar does or does not affect my body, my moods, and my energy levels.

PLUS, I could write about it. And struggle on those days that all I want and all I obsess about is a bite (or more) of cake/cookie/chocolate.

Because sometimes struggling is good for the soul.


Sheva (BatSheva Vaknin)

Drunk on One Beer

posted by Sheva 11:32 AM
Wednesday, August 24, 2011

I know. Pathetic, right? I’m cool, I’m hip. (Oh lordy – isn’t there a universal rule that if someone has to say they are cool and hip, they automatically aren’t? Shit, when did I get so square??) Okay, fine, I’m not cool or hip. Still, I would like to think I can go out with some girlfriends and keep up with them as we have good girlie fun together.

I put this theory to the test the other night when I met three dear girlfriends out for dinner (yes, husband was out of town, future blog on my “Me-cation” coming to a theatre near you). I put on my cutest heels, LBD, got my “hair did” and went to meet them at Gjelina on Abbot Kinney.

I should have already suspected trouble when I realized I couldn’t pronounce the name of the restaurant we were going to. I mean, hip and cool kids need to be able to say the names of the places they frequent, right? For a moment, I thought the gods were smiling on me anyway, because I got ROCK STAR parking in front of the crazily crowded restaurant.

Okay, truth be told, I had to move it because it was loading only, but THEN I found ANOTHER rock star spot across the street! And granted, I had to wait almost ten minutes for the chick to leave, and wave around annoyed drivers the whole time. But I got the spot! It was mine, all mine – kismet! Fate! Divine Providence!

And then the lights went out.

No, not in my car, dear reader. On the whole block. And in the restaurant. All. The power/electricity. Out.

Which meant Geegeelina or whatever that dumb place is called wouldn’t seat anymore diners. Which meant I had to walk six blocks to meet my girlfriends at a bar/restaurant with actual power, yes, in those self-same high heels I was previously so excited to be wearing. And if you read my last blog, you know how much fun walking those six blocks was.

Oh yes, I got a ride back to my car at the end of the night. And I wouldn’t have walked the six blocks at all – I would have left my rock star parking in the dust – if only my friend hadn’t promised me the bar was only “two minutes” down the street. My friend, who bikes all over Los Angeles. My friend, who I noticed was wearing flat sandals that evening. Because her “two minutes” was my ten minutes in heels.

Here’s the rule, people: It’s like dog years. One minute in flats = 7 years in heels.

Finally I arrived, hungry, annoyed, and a little freaked out by the blackout. I drank half of my friend’s beer (at which point I wholeheartedly forgave her for making me – GASP! – walk in L.A.), and then ordered another beer, of which I drank half.

Dinner was amazing that night, and it made up for everything; there is nothing like a getaway with awesome girlfriends, even if the getaway is just to a cozy restaurant in Venice. I had gotten mildly buzzed for a few minutes off the beer minus food, but hadn’t thought anything of it, and didn’t order any more alcohol for the entirety of the dinner.

Next morning? Pounding headache, dry mouth, and sluggishness. I was hung over.

On one beer.

I am SO not hip.


Sheva (BatSheva Vaknin)

Dude - this place is freakin' da bomb. Or - er - so I've heard...

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posted by Sheva 2:56 PM
Tuesday, August 23, 2011

I know, I know. I know I said I loved high heels. And I do – I love them. High heels are fucking sexy, I believe was the phrase I used in my Ode to high heels. I’m wearing them right now, in fact.

And yet.

There exists a parallel reality where high heels are also instruments of torture. For example, remember Roxana? That con artist bitch who worked for my husband for one year and during that time managed to steal over $70,000 and almost ruin our business? Yeah, her. She’s still torturing me. In the most recent incident, she used one of my most favorite pair of high heels to do it – my sky-high (6 inch) Stuart Weitzman snakeskin peeptoes with the wicker-like heels, that were a gift to me from my high heels mentor, Betsy Davis.

How, you are probably wondering, did Roxana the Con Artist Bitch use my shoes to torture me? Did she break into my house and beat me on the head with them? (God forbid) Did she steal them in the dead of night, my favorite shoes? Wrong again.

No, she lured me. Lured me all the way to the downtown courthouse on a Monday morning, when my husband was laid up in bed sick and I was the only one who could leave work (in my sky high Stuart Weitzmans), jet down to the courthouse (or 6 blocks away from the courthouse, to the parking lot, rather), in order to race those same six blocks UPhill to the courthouse, in order to make it there before 10am which was the deadline. You see, I was told by the DA that very morning at 9:10am that either I or my husband needed to race down before 10am if we wanted to claim a money order which Roxana had supposedly gotten for us for $30,000 (towards her restitution).

In return for such diligent behavior (ie, starting to pay us back for the money she stole from us), Roxana was bargaining with the DA, hoping for a lighter sentence (something we BTW had no say in – go, legal system!) Hey, I can use $30,000 as much as anyone. I ran down there. I didn’t stop to change my shoes. I even parked in the WRONG block downtown, and walked two blocks until I realized I was in the wrong place, then walked two blocks back to my car to drive “closer” to the courthouse.

By which I mean six blocks away. For any woman who is not a superhero, 16 blocks in sky-high heels (4 in the wrong location, 6 there & 6 back) is, in a word, torture.

Icing on the cake? As I arrived panting to the courthouse, at 10am on the dot, the DA called me. “You didn’t leave yet?” she asked me. “There was a mix-up. There is no check. I got the message wrong, or they left the wrong message, I don’t know. But there is no check. They are working on getting you a check. It may happen in a month.”

“Are you fucking kidding me?” I wanted to but did not say.

Instead, I limped the six blocks back to my car, and swung by my house on the way back to work so I could change my shoes.


Sheva (BatSheva Vaknin)

Even if Madonna herself were my heels, walking 16 blocks would still be torture.

Grey’s Anatomy. AKA, Crack.

posted by Sheva 12:26 PM
Monday, August 22, 2011

Let’s get this out of the way: I’m addicted to Grey’s Anatomy.

Because what started as an eager, consensual relationship, has morphed into something uglier: a need. I’m too involved.

Every day. I must – MUST – have my fix – must satisfy that endless need, must watch another few episodes, every single day, sometimes staying up until 1, 2, yes even  3:30am at night to keep watching, despite the full cognizant knowledge that this is going to end badly.

And by that I mean, of course, that Meredith and McDreamy may not live Happily Ever After.

I’ve already Googled & Wikipedia-ed the upcoming seasons and episodes (I’m almost through Season 3 now), so I know which characters’ love will last (basically, none of them), which characters will leave the show (many of my favorites), and which new ones will join. (HER?! Come on, not her…?!)

I get angry at the cast and the writers. How COULD they make those two break up again? How can Burke just ABANDON us like that? Who cares about Private Practice, can’t Addison just STAY? But then I watch another show, forget about all that, and get sucked right back in.

Yes, I cry like a baby and laugh out loud in pretty much every single episodes. Bastards! But I also watch each episode with a smirk, silently mocking each goopy, over-dramatized scene, saying COME ONE YOU HAVE GOT TO BE F***ING KIDDING ME! to myself as Meredith Grey informs yet another dying patient that, “sometimes you really can’t predict the future” as she simultaneously shows us with her eyes that she is at that exact same moment in time teaching herself the same lesson – that same lesson that JUST SO HAPPENS to apply perfectly to her latest dilemma.

Come on! So maudlin. So never happens like that in real life – that we give advice or hear someone speak and realize at the same time how it exactly applies to that personal situation we’d been grappling with. Showing that, every episode, so obviously, it’s so writing/acting/directing 101!

And yet.

I find myself simultaneously thinking, Meredith is so right! That patient really can’t predict the future, and look, look how now she gets it, because she can’t predict the future either. SHE CAN’T EITHER!

I’m too involved.

I think about the characters of Grey’s Anatomy randomly throughout the day, daydreaming about their secret crushes and current liaisons.  I get annoyed at the writers for having the doctors drink so much alcohol, seemingly all the time on their time off. I mean, come on, really? Who drinks that much?? I don’t!

But I’m not a doctor… I mean, do doctors drink that much on their time off? Do they, Meredith? Just because they can’t predict the future?

Ha. I think not. But I have to admit, it is pretty sexy watching all those smoking hot doctors get tipsy and do things and say things that only the alcohol would make them do and say.

Shit. I’m too involved.


Sheva (BatSheva Vaknin)

This chick is SO taking over my life right now.

Daddy Dearest

posted by Sheva 11:01 AM
Friday, August 19, 2011

The following email landed in my inbox not long ago:

I’m working my way through Bossypants and boy do you write as well as Tina does.  In fact, a lot like she does.  Maybe better.  And you’re prettier than she is.  When do you get to produce your own television series?

Audible sigh.

This is why we daughters love our dads.


Sheva (BatSheva Vaknin)

Hey, someone in Hollywood, are you listening?? (to my dad??)

Amazing Grace

posted by Sheva 2:29 AM
Thursday, August 18, 2011

My mother’s office voicemail makes her sound like she is a deeply religious person.

It goes something like this:

You have reached the desk of Julie Susman. She is not here right now, but if you’d like to leave a message, please do so after the beep. If you need to reach her immediately, please dial “zero” and ask for grace.

Okay, fine, “Grace,” with a capital “G.”

My mother’s assistant’s name is Grace.

But still…

How cool is that? Her voicemail gives people the option of pushing a button and asking for grace, which is another word for forgiveness, mercy, and God’s love. And, you know… a kind, older woman who has excellent secretarial skills.

Grace has been with my mother for years and years. She helps my mother with personal and business tasks, and she does so with skill, tact, and – uh – grace.

When I helped my husband hire an assistant two years ago, I wanted him to find his own version of grace. I mean – uh, Grace.

After interviewing friends and Craig’s List candidates for the job, I focused in on one young woman in particular, Roxana Martinez. She was eager, bright, quick… she spoke Spanish, which was a plus since many of my husband’s workers/subs speak Spanish (he is a general contractor), and my husband only speaks HebrengliSpanish (speaking English in a Spanish accent is about as close he gets to speaking Spanish).

My husband’s office is in our detached converted garage, so Roxana spent one year working for us in our house. It was great to have her there, supporting the business while my husband was busy juggling three, sometimes four major clients and I was dealing with the pregnancy and then birth & health complications after birth of my third child. Roxana did bookkeeping, assisted my husband, played with our kids, took classes at The Kabbalah Centre, and, in general, got to know us – our home, our family, and of course, our business…

…and then I found out she had been stealing from us. The entire year she worked for us, she had been stealing from us. She forged checks, totaling over $30,000. She made tens of thousands of dollars worth of fraudulent credit card transactions. She had let our bills go into collections, paying them with hundreds of dollars of late fees at the last possible minute – all the while, hiding everything from us, lying about everything, covering her tracks in Quickbooks with false entries and lies.

She has plead “no contest” and will be going to jail shortly, I’m told. She will owe us restitution, though only around $40,000, which is nothing compared to what she took from us. She nearly caused our business to tank.

And then there was our nanny of four years, who was like family to me and my kids, and who somehow orchestrated a break-in, in our house, when we were out of town. The thieves made off with my jewelry – heirlooms, gifts, diamonds, engagement ring and wedding ring – and my laptop (which she subsequently returned to me). This happened just a couple months after we fired Roxana.

Apparently, I hired Decepto and Destructo to work for our business and our kids.

Why isn’t life ever as simple as dialing zero and asking for grace?


Sheva (BatSheva Vaknin)

The crooks in our lives never look like this, do they?

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