Wednesday, April 12, 2017

3rd Night of Pesach!

The 1st night of Pesach or Passover was on Monday.  (The days of our holidays always start at night. So, technically, tonight's the start of the 3rd day.) Pesach is a holiday where we retell and symbolically reenact the story of when we were freed from slavery in Egypt. Basically the story of Exodus. We usually have 2 seders or ritual dinners for the first 2 nights. Seder lit. means order, so there's a particular order to these dinners. There's a seder plate full of things that symbolically represent certain aspects of it. Those being: lamb shank bone for the Pesach offering, horseradish for the harshness of slavery, parsley dipped in saltwater for the tears shed when we were slaves (and the green part for Spring), charoset (usually a fruit/nut mixture) for the mortar we made, roasted egg for the holiday offering when the Temple stood, for mourning of the Temple's destruction, and for the life cycle, lettuce for a 2nd 'bitter herb' that also represents that harshness, and a more modern one being an orange representing the inclusion of LGBTQ+ Jews. 

The matzo kind of represents both our slavery and freedom. When we were told to leave Egypt, we didn't have enough time to bake leavened bread/cakes, so we made unleavened bread. We eat this throughout the holiday, which lasts for 8 days. There are different forms of it that we can use, though. It can be smashed into pieces to make farfel, which can be good for making things like granola or stuffing. It can be pulverized into a sort of powder to become matzo meal. This is used in a lot of things. Like, in matzo balls, gefilte fish (acts somewhat like a binder), cakes, popovers, and more. Of course, there are uses for using the matzo as is, too. It's like a giant cracker. Some people make a matzo pizza, have melted margarine on it, sometimes honey on it, use it in lasagna, use it in a spinach pie, in matzo brei (basically a fried egg/matzo mixture. Can be either sweet or savory. I usually like the savory kind more), for sandwiches, etc. 

This is my wallpaper for April. It's Rin from Ao no Exorcist or Blue Exorcist. Thought it was cute. I thought, since I actually really like Pesach food, it would make sense to have this as my wallpaper. He looks like this when he sees really good food. (Or, when someone compliments him...) 

My Pusheen calendar features Pusheen as a unicorn. There's a rainbow with clouds on either end behind her. Her horn is sticking straight up, like a party hat. And, she has a mane in blue, yellow, and pink. Kind of reminds me of the pansexual flag. Her tail has pink, green, and purple in it. There's also a big yellow star below. Cute, and interesting for this month.

The month-long holidays for April are: National Garlic Month, National Grilled Cheese Month, National Soft Pretzel Month, National Garden Month, National Pet Month. Some are for important causes, some are to make you appreciate things you may take for granted, and some are just for fun. I love garlic, grilled cheese sandwiches, and soft pretzels! My kind of month. Pets are important too, but shouldn't they be celebrated every day?

I didn't expect it to be just me at my seder for the 1st night. It was actually an interesting experience. More personal. I still read things out loud, and went through all the motions. I was the leader, 'participant', and group altogether. I even hid the afikomen. The afikomen is supposed to be the last thing you eat for the night. It's matzo that the leader hid towards the beginning of the seder. Kids are usually the ones that search for it. They might get a reward like money if they find it. I got a Hebrew picture dictionary one year. It was fun back then, but kids also got really competitive with it. I also had a seder playlist on youtube full of seder songs. It feels weird to sing alone, so it was nice to sing along to something.

Interestingly, Rosie stayed by my side most of the night. When she wasn't near me, she was on a sectional watching me. She really wanted the food, too. I ended up giving her a little chicken and a tiny piece of matzo. She was kind of like a participant. After mouthing the matzo for a bit, then suddenly chomping it down, it seemed like she liked it. Yesterday and today, with whatever I've eaten, she's been begging for it. She doesn't normally beg like this. Maybe Pesach food's especially good to her.

I made hard-boiled eggs. One that I roasted, another as an appetizer, and the rest for a couple of sandwiches during the week. Roasted a beet instead of a shank bone. We had to throw out the shank bone, that we used for years, when the refrigerator had issues a couple of months before the holiday last year. Roasting a beet is what a lot of vegetarians/vegans do for the seder. It seems easier, too. The juices do look kind of like blood, and that was used during the story on the doorposts. I think it was a bloody lamb shank bone they used to smear it. So, it's a really similar concept. I don't think it was roasted enough, but the juice did come out.

Instead of the usual chopped apples, crushed walnuts, grape juice, and cinnamon mix for the charoset; I did an applesauce, creamy peanut butter, grape juice, and cinnamon mix. This was because of my digestive issues. The hard part about this is peanut butter is kitinyot, which for Ashkenazi Jews (their ancestors came from Germany and Eastern Europe) isn't kosher for Pesach. I thought since it was to help keep me from being sick, it would be ok. Health always is more important. I used shredded lettuce for the 2nd bitter herb, but it looked like it was going bad. We don't usually eat what's on the plate anyways.

The orange has even more significance for me this year, considering I fully realized I was ace back in June and aro back in November. They are considered apart of the LGBTQ+ community. The orange might also symbolize the struggles within the greater LGBTQ+ community. Every letter has its own struggles. Especially, since people think the default or what's 'normal' is heteroromantic heterosexual cis people. Anything outside of that, is considered abnormal, inhuman (by some), or something that needs to be fixed. The orange, on the other hand, basically says you belong and nothing's wrong with you for being LGBTQ+. I think that's beautiful. When I was looking at oranges at the grocery store, all of them were so huge! Ended up getting a few anyways. The one I used dwarfed everything in comparison. Almost took up the entire middle area.

For the appetizer, I had a hard-boiled egg, gefilte fish, and matzo ball soup. The gefilte fish is like a fish loaf made of usually 3 different types of fish, and it's normally chilled. Many people are put off by it when they see it for the first time. Some really hate it. I love it. It's full of protein and good fish. I don't see what's wrong with it besides the gel that might be in the jar and the loaf shape. That gel's just to keep it fresh. When it's at room temperature, it's not the best. Yet again, I forget to put it in the refrigerator early enough before the seder, and it was just slightly cooler than room temperature. Still tasty, though.

Made the matzo balls from a mix, and they came out big and fluffy. For the soup part, I used chicken broth, carrots, and parsley. This is only the 2nd time I've made it like this. In the past, I sometimes would get it already made in a jar, or one of my parents would make it. Dad came home towards the end of the seder, and asked if she could have some of it. I, of course, said sure. She said she would have added onions, or shallots, or garlic, or celery. I was thinking of adding dried onions, but ended up forgetting about them while I was hectically cooking. She also said I should make it my own. Well, I think I did, don't you think? Except for the dried onions, anyway. It's supposed to be simple. The main attraction's the matzo balls. She did say it was good.

For the main dinner part, I had roasted chicken, salad greens with a garlic dressing, and 'savory' herb stuffing. We got a full roasted chicken like we sometimes do on Fridays. So, we just left a little bit for the seder. It was more than I expected, and I only had half of what was left, but it was still good. The garlic dressing seemed decent. I was surprised by how much the stuffing looked and tasted like regular stuffing. It used farfel as its base. They had me saute that in vegetable oil, add boiling water after it sat, add seasoning, and let it simmer until the liquid was gone. Very interesting.

For dessert, I wanted to try a little of everything. I tried to slice the chocolate chip cake as thinly as I could, so I wouldn't be too full to try the other stuff. That was even better than I remembered! Had a toffee crunch macaroon, a triple chocolate macaroon, a marshmallow, a candy fruit slice, and a chunk of the dark chocolate seder plate. I've had the toffee crunch macaroons and fruit slices before. In fact, those fruit slices are usually what we get. Although, some years we skip them. We usually get candied orange peels, too. I either didn't see them or remember them. The rest of the stuff was basically new for me. The triple chocolate macaroon is a chocolate-coconut macaroon with chocolate chips and is covered in chocolate. Surprisingly, really good. The marshmallow is super dense, and kind of has a more marshmallow flavor than a regular one. If that's possible. The seder plate was difficult to break and it's super thick. It has a beautiful and intricate design. Probably will take a while to eat...I think I still ended up eating too much, even though I tried to give myself small portions of things.

Last night we went to our friends' seder. I think there were about 10 of us in total. A pretty large group. The dogs were really happy to see us again, although they seemed less energized.

I did end up making the popovers, even though I really wasn't feeling it this year. It wouldn't have mattered if I modified it more, it's still the same thing essentially. My mom made them and brought them for a few years. Then, she stopped when she started to get really sick. I ended up making them during that time, and have kept it going. I just realized, I probably have been making them longer than my mom did...So, they're more of my thing than it was for her. Yet, I think people want them every year because it reminds them of her...I think they were originally from her grandmother's recipe, and she ended up writing it down at some point? I don't know why she didn't start making them sooner.

The only thing I didn't really care for was their matzo ball soup during the meal. I normally don't like it anyways. I always end up adding a lot of salt to it. The chicken broth, I think, is homemade but there's no flavor to it. Normally, homemade stuff is better. Their matzo balls always end up too big and fluffy, and not really shaped like balls. More like they're shaped like mountains. Not much flavor in those either. I usually have it, because I don't want them to feel bad. It usually looks like they spend a lot of time on it. The appetizer before the seder was chopped liver and matzo. I hate chopped liver, so I stayed away from it. Usually, there's an alternative to something like that. Anyways, there was brisket, my popovers, the salad greens we brought with some dressings, a vegetable blend (kind of like a bake), hard-boiled eggs, and gefilte fish for the dinner. For dessert, there were chocolate covered marshmallows with nuts on top, candy fruit slices, homemade chocolate chip cookies, and a fruit salad. The cookies always look like mounds of chocolate chip cookie dough. They're super good, and still kosher for Pesach.

It was nice to see everyone there. Haven't seen at least one of them for a few years. She seemed to gush over me at one point, which I wasn't sure whether to be flattered or feel uncomfortable. It was a weird feeling, but I know she meant well about it. All in all, it was a nice seder.

I recently was messaged in fb's instant messenger, from someone who's apart of 2 of the closed ace groups I'm apart of. I know I had recently posted about 2 things in one of those groups, so I thought either they wanted to talk about those or they wanted to be friends. It was a guy who said it would be an honor to get to know such an amazing woman. Since I was thinking this came from an ace person, that they just really wanted to get to know me. So, I gave him a chance. Notice, he never said he was actually ace during the entire conversation. That should have been a flag early on. Eventually, the topic turned to relationships. I said I was aro ace, and would love to be in a qpr. I had to explain what a qpr was, which was understandable. Eventually, he said he wouldn't do anything I wasn't comfortable with. That was my cue to leave. Just the wording of it seemed odd. I don't know if he was actually a romantic ace or not ace at all. I'm leaning towards not ace at all. But, then again I've never dealt with a romantic ace like that before...There are quite a few allies in every fb ace group I'm in. Some of these 'allies' tend to be people who try to 'fix' us, which is scary stuff. I've already read about a few people who have been kicked out and banned from those groups because of that sort of behavior. Even if they might have been a romantic ace, they were really pushing the romance on me. The aro part of me was getting really uncomfortable. So, I stopped talking to him, and banned him so he couldn't bug me anymore.

Another thing I've noticed, there was also a recent article I've read about it, is that ace stuff seems to be centered on romantic aces. Even some ace activists will say things like: "We're not broken, we still fall in love!" This makes aro aces feel even more broken than they might already feel. Also, I recently saw a positivity meme lumping heteroromantic aces, aro heterosexuals, and aro aces together. I don't care what it was about, it seemed wrong to throw aro aces in there. I understand putting the first 2 in there and telling them they belong or whatever. But, being aro ace, there is no hetero in there. It's basically saying the default is 'straight', which hurts everyone. I have rarely heard people say aro aces are 'basically' straight. It's only been a few people on tumblr to be exact. A lot of people just don't know what to make of us. Also, read an article where someone seemed to think you couldn't be both aro and ace. They weren't either of those, by the way. It still felt so wrong to me.

There's an interesting app that people keep talking about called GayBFF. It's basically a platonic dating app for LGBTQ+ people. My type of thing. I so wanted to somehow find someone for a qpr, and this sounded like it'd help. The main focus in a qpr is emotional/platonic attraction. In a 'normal' relationship, it seems the main focus is romantic and/or sexual attraction. 2 attractions I don't have. Oh, and platonic attraction is a lot more than 'just friends'. So, this would have been perfect. Anyways, I created my profile, and looked at my matches. The closest ones were in Seattle. No one on this side of the water. That's too far for me, and people shouldn't have to go all the way out there for it. (Or, for everything for that matter.) What I put for people I'm looking for was really open. All the orientations, genders, etc. Just no one who smokes or is a heavy drinker. The other side of this is they didn't have ace listed, but they did have 'other'. I noticed there were a few aro aces that said it in their profile. So, that's not bad. I'm happy I saw those few, actually. The app might be so new that people locally might not know about it or are thinking about it. So, maybe in the future I'll try it again. Kind of sad, though.

Since no one showed up to the local ace meeting last time, I started an ace media list while I was there. Things like books, movies, TV shows, music, plays, podcasts, etc. Those that have either asexuality as a theme, or characters that are ace, musicians who are, etc. I've been weeding out the ones that make fun of asexuality, or the creator didn't understand what it really meant, or it was vaguely 'implied'. So, they're more authentic. I also want a representation of ones on the spectrum, and different romantic orientations (that includes aces who are aro and people on that spectrum). One site had a huge list of stuff, and that was a good starter for me.

I'm surprised by how many anime characters there are. I know the most recent one was when the creator of One Piece basically said during an interview that Luffy is aro ace. Luffy is the main character of the series. It's considered one of the most popular anime/manga in history. (It's also one of the longest running.) One of the reasons why I was reluctant to try the anime, actually. I don't think the creator actually used the words aromantic and asexual during the interview. However, he said that Luffy isn't attracted to anyone romantically or sexually. His loves are adventure and food. His friends are his family. So, he's very close with them. After hearing about this, I actually like Luffy more now. I think I mentioned a lot of this last time, but it's still interesting. And, that was before I looked at the list.

I actually found a handful of asexuality-themed songs. One is rather hokey, and there was one that I thought was really good. The others were so-so.

This list could actually be a really good thing to do. Raising awareness, and saying there is some representation out there. Might be good for people who don't know about asexuality. Might change people's minds about it, too. I could share it in many different places online eventually. I want some input from the local ace group I started on fb. Hopefully, in person during our offline meetings. I might bring it up again soon. Maybe show what's on there already when I do. Or, I could also make it like an open document where people add stuff they know about. Maybe both? It can be flexible.

We're now up to 13 members. Yay! One person asked to join, and I noticed they were a swinger. A lot of their profile page was very sexual. Even their profile pic was. So, I ignored that one. First time I had to decide on it like that. Then, yesterday, another person asked to join. There was no sexual content, so I approved them. If there is sexual content, or it's suggested, or I see they're something like a swinger; I'm not going to approve it. Some aces are into things like bdsm, work in the 'adult' industry, or are apart of organizations like the Center for Sex Positive Culture. We have different views with these, though. With the Center for Sex Positive Culture, they seem to be truly sex positive. Meaning they look at all orientations in a positive light. The one in Seattle has some ace related events. They would actually like feedback for more ideas on events. I'm somewhat interested in going to those events, actually. Many aces are sex-positive. Even if they're sex-repulsed when it involves themselves. Also, in general, many groups on fb don't approve people with such content. I'm happy we've made it to 13, though. For a while we were at 9. There's a lot of people I don't know in the group now, which I think is pretty cool. I'm glad we have some allies, as well. They can help the group just by learning about it, spreading the word about the group, seeing what they can do, etc.

Also, someone mentioned bringing up ace stuff at a diversity conference. I'd be really nervous to talk in front of a lot of people like that. But, I'm slightly interested in talking/presenting at events in the future. I'd probably have to make a powerpoint or at least have lots of notes. I wouldn't be sure where to begin. How else are people going to learn about it, if they don't hear from people who actually are ace? There aren't that many people presenting on it in general. I think people will like to hear from actual aces, rather than from people who've just researched it. Maybe sharing personal experiences will help, too. At least, to show that we're not all the same.

I'm almost ready to publish the print version of Alliance on Amazon. I essentially just have to go over the proof preview, and then move on to the pricing. (I've always thought the first sentence sounded awkward, so I'll change that first. I think I've figured out a better way to word it...) I briefly looked at that proof a few days ago. It was really cool to see the cover, spine, and back art put together. You can twirl the outside of the book around and see it from several angles.

I like the overall concept for the entire cover. There's a wall with a grey-ish and black dirty looking floor on the front. A teardrop is in the middle, and it shows part of a garden scene. The teardrop has a glowing effect on the wall. The spine is made to look like it's where the wall ends, and it has a 'marble' effect that to me looks like a shadow of trees/leaves. The back is the full pic of the garden that's lighter, and somewhat glows itself. I distorted the actual pic a little. It's of a pic I took when I went to a local park/garden a while ago. Thought it was a cool looking scene. The lettering on the front and spine is white, and on the back it's black. A lot of the theme of the book is nothing is as it seems. The humans seem to have it more difficult than the demons do. So, it's like the humans are looking through the teardrop side. But, things might not be so great on the other side. It's kind of an abstract thing. I think with just having the front cover, it didn't illustrate the full meaning. So, this might work better. It's interesting to see the guts of it, too. I'm getting excited about it!

Sweet Endless Terror will be a bit different. I might have it about half the size of Alliance, since it's roughly half as long in Word. It's also 12 short stories, so there's no actual 'chapters' to it. Should be interesting. The front cover will be the same with the skull and candle I drew/colored, and the black background. The lettering on the front is the same color as the flame. The spine will be black with the same color/font text. The back will have my drawing of a bloody knife standing on its tip with a red ribbon flowing down/over it. I thought that looked cool. The knife and the ribbon (separately) have big roles in 2 of the stories. Maybe I'll make the back cover text the same color as the blood? It'll also have a black background. I'm adding a description to this on the back, like I did for Alliance.

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