Tuesday, March 31, 2009

How To Build A Better Seder

Otherwise entitled - One Man's Meshugas Is Another Man's Yom Tov....
The blogosphere is rife this week with commentary on just what silly memories/traditions/minhagim (and here I use that term loosely) each and every family has with regard to Pesach.
And we all have them.
A few years ago, my mother generously "gifted" me with the red pyrex bowl she used to melt the Ringer's Chocolate (am I the only one who remembers this brand with their pretty red and gold label?) for the chocolate matzah in over the pilot light (remember when stoves had PILOT LIGHTS? And we used them to warm chocolate b/c we didn't have microwaves?).  I continue to make chocolate matzah as well and though the recipe now uses cocoa, I wouldn't dream of using anything but the red bowl.
Then there's the brown crock that Avram's grandmother (a.k.a. "Momi") used to house the Karpas.  How we treasured that piece of family history, until I accidentally sent it crashing to the kitchen floor one year and it shattered.  Did I toss it?  Dear me, no! I took the shards and saved them for the next year when I carefully and painstakingly learned how to do mosaic, so I could turn the old shards into two new crocks for future generations....

And why is it that all the wedding gifts that are too hideous to be used all year long become treasured family Pesach heirlooms? We've got the handpainted ceramic wine bottle from Amsterdam (which Avram secretly loves and I wish had been the item to shatter on the kitchen floor that day...).

Now on to the food traditions:
I've already listed chocolate matzah - good for breakfast, lunch or midnight snack! (just please don't ask me if you have to wash for it... I'm not your rabbi)
Sweetbreads (ack! I said bread!!) - a yom tov delicacy not limited to Pesach (and NO! they aren't brains)
Chocolate dipped macaroons.... 'nuff said........

And the songs - oh how we love the songs....
One night we sing my father z"l's niggunim, the other night my father-in-law z"l's melodies.
Chad Gadya is always an interesting affair. Everybody knows what sound effects to use for a goat or a cat, but Abba says "tsk tsk" in our house and I won't even BEGIN to describe what the Malach HaMoves does.....
And no matter how drunk or how tired everybody is, they all seem to wake up for the rousing round of Adon Olam that ends our sedarim (that minhag is from my mother-in-law's father).  Of course, when it comes time to clean up, they're all drunk or exhausted again......

Monday, March 30, 2009

Caveat Emptor

I've decided to give British Airways another chance.
I know, I know, when they lose seven of my bags like they did on the last trip, YOU don't want to hear about it...... 
I finally broke down and booked tickets to my nephew's wedding in England after Pesach.
All touring suggestions for sights in and around London will be greatly appreciated.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Strawberry Fluff - The Recipe and the Ritual...

If you ask me how it all started, I couldn't really say......
Early on in our marriage Avram mentioned that his mother always made frozen Strawberry Fluff for Pesach and he loved it (my apologies to the non-strawberry eating set - double apologies if you are also part of the non-gebroks set because I'm now two for two on not having a recipe for you.... maybe the third time will be a charm {smirk}).
Always looking to please my darling husband, I dutifully went to my mother in law and got the recipe. It was simple, light and a big hit time and time again.
The only problem was that the recipe involves beating the confection for a full 10 minutes. Having only a handheld beater for Pesach, this became a tedious affair.  As my children grew, I enlisted their help and we would all take rotating turns holding the beaters for a few minutes each.  The little children looked so cute with their chubby fingers intently grasping the vibrating mixer (sometimes causing the most endearing bounce to corkscrew pigtails....) that I began photographing the moment.
As the family grew, a record of sort was taking shape. A record of "Strawberry Fluff" pictures.
There's the year Jen was so small that she sat ON the table to have the proper advantage over the bowl.  There was the year Erica was nearly engaged to Moshe and he was back in England for Pesach so she wore a London T-Shirt to the proceedings so that when she forwarded the picture to him, he would know she was thinking of him.... As the family got larger, it became a scheduling nightmare to get everybody together for the Annual Strawberry Fluff Making event.  Believe it or not, last year, even with two married children (one set on their way to England) EVERYBODY made it!
This year, I doubt that will happen, but perhaps that is a record of its own.  Time marches on. The children grow and move on with their own lives. 
And I will still continue to make Strawberry Fluff for when they stop in to visit

                             Strawberry Fluff

  2                     egg whites -- beaten
     1/2           cup  sugar
  1               pint  strawberries -- sliced

Beat whites while slowly adding sugar.  Beat in strawberries. Continue beating at least 10 additional minutes.  Freeze.

(2007) [There's that London t-shirt]

(2008) [two new family members....]

Saturday, March 28, 2009

A Pesach Recipe for Brunhilda

A question has been circulating on one of the Jewish Food message boards as to which family Pesach recipes are so intertwined with the Yom Tov itself that it "just wouldn't be Pesach" without them.  
Every family can list their own.
We too have several.
Several recipes that are so intrinsically part of the Yom Tov, several utensils and several traditions.  I'm hoping to post some of them over the coming weeks to get everybody in the proper spirit (because I don't think posting about cleaning will have the same effect).

The one recipe that I make on Pesach that is actually REQUESTED during the year is my Mushroom-Onion-Farfel Kugel (my apologies to the non gebrokts set...).  Though I've taken quite a beating for it, I refuse to serve it outside of Pesach.  This makes it all the more special when I do serve it.

The recipe follows:

  1                cup  onion -- chopped
  1                cup  celery -- diced
     1/2           lb.  fresh mushrooms
     1/4           cup  margarine
  3 1/2            cup  matzoh farfel -- (1/2 lb. matzoh)
  3               cups  hot water
  1                     bouillon cube
  2                     eggs
  1           teaspoon  salt
     1/8      teaspoon  pepper
  1           teaspoon  paprika

Sautèe onions in margarine add vegetables until tender but not brown.  Place farfel in bowl and add hot water and then vegetables.  Mix.  Mix eggs and spices.  Add to farfel.  Bake in a greased square tin at 375°C for 35 - 45 min. 

Note: I double this recipe because it's so easy and then have one kugel for first days, one for last days (it freezes beautifully), and I even skim off a bit and make a small one to give away :)

Stay tuned for my next post about Strawberry Fluff and the accompanying family ritual....

Friday, March 27, 2009

Hang In There Shabbos Is Coming...

In keeping with the concept of "extra light" on Shabbos, I'm totally loving the new votive holders that were a gift from Simcha and Susan.  Please note that I do not use them as my shabbos candles, but they do look lovely on the table regardless....

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

V'Yikorei Shemo B'Yisroel....


Our new, dear grandson was named Eliezer, after my husband's late father, whose yahrzeit was this past Friday.  Eliezer ben Yechiel.  They carry the same full name. Avram's reaction on the video says it all.....

As Michael mentioned in his remarks, my father in law used all his talents to benefit the klal.  He was instrumental in the planning and building of our shul and his artistic talents still grace our oron kodesh on many of the porocheses that he designed.

Little Eliezer is our first grandson and the first namesake for my father in law z"l.
He has big shoes to fill.....

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

On The Night Before My Grandson's Bris...

A beautiful composition that speaks much better than this emotional grandmother ever could...

Monday, March 23, 2009

Sunday, March 22, 2009

When Did Machmirim Supercede Ma'minim??!?!?

I don't know... when I first heard this I thought it was a JOKE.
What milk company would call itself MACHMIRIM and tout that it's products are better than all the others because they hold by more chumras and have more certifications than any other company?
What company would come up with the slogan "Anachnu Machmirim Bnei Machmirim"???
Are they SERIOUS?!??!?
Do they honestly think that this is praiseworthy?
..... and then I checked the certifying agencies, only to find out that KAJ is one of them.....
Mike in Midwood coined the very apt phrase "keeping up with the Machmirs".  Is that what we have been reduced to?  Doesn't the intimation that four hashgachos are better than one make a mockery of the entire kashrus certification system?

Somebody please tell me when Ma'aminim Dairy opens up with only one hechsher on it.  I'll be their first customer.....

Thursday, March 19, 2009

L'Dorei Doros

We just took down the outfit new "Baby G6" will be wearing to his bris.
It may look a little frail but it is quite special.
You see, not only will baby G6 be wearing it, but his father wore it to his bris, as did his grandfather AND his great-grandfather. Four generations of G6 men wearing the same outfit to their brissim.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Circle of Life

I have posted before (one of my favorite posts, I might add....) about the fact that I firmly believe there are no coincidences in this world.  I believe that Hashem provides us with nechama just how and when we need it most. 
V'zorach Hashemesh U'vo Hashemesh (ok, ok - just for you efrex {points for anyone else who might get the reference} "When the Lord closes a door, somewhere He opens a window").
Some of you may remember that after nine years, I discovered that I was expecting Jennifer during the shiva for my late father in law z"l.  It provided untold solace during a very trying period in our lives.
Hashem must know that I appreciate the contiguity, for He has blessed us in this way over and over again.  
First Jen.
Then Kayla was born mere days before my father's yahrzeit. 
Now our new arrival is born once again only days before my father in law's yahrzeit - the first great grandson to carry on his family name.

Somehow I find this exceedingly comforting......

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Mazal Tov!!!

With overwhelming gratitude to Hashem Yisborach, we are delighted to announce that our children Michael and Chana are the proud parents of a healthy baby boy - 7 lbs. 14 ounces.
May we share in many more simchas together in the future!

I Caved....

After all these years, I finally joined Facebook.
It became too much of a "thing" not to be on there.
Friends would say - "Check out my videos. They're are on Facebook", "You didn't know I won the Nobel Peace Prize? But it's on Facebook...."
So whatever.... I joined......
Now I have ANOTHER THING to keep up to date.
Like I need this.....

Do me a favor.... friend me.....

Monday, March 16, 2009

Exploding Chocolate

Seriously, who thinks this stuff up??!?
I didn't pay much mind to the towering heap of calorie laden junk food  goodies that has been occupying a large portion of the kitchen table since Purim.  I just left it all out there in the hopes that it would magically disappear with the aide of hungry midnight snackers.
Until this gem surfaced from deep within the mound today.  It's a chocolate bar embedded with POP ROCKS.  Ummmm..... why exactly?
I must admit though, it's an intriguing experience.
Did anybody else receive anything odd and/or interesting?

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Purim is Over - You Are NOW Allowed to Mention the "P" Word

With Purim but a fond memory (excluding the one inadvertently overlooked mask still dangling from a picture in the dining room), we are now officially permitted in my home to mention the next "P" word.
PESACH (breath in... breath out....)
I should warn you that I'm a firm believer that in order to arrive at the seder table feeling like "bnei chorim", we should apply a sane and reasonable approach to our pesach cleaning tactics (in case you were unsure, inspecting your chandelier for chometz then wrapping it in plastic until yom tov is definitely NOT sane).
Which is why Mom In Israel's post and commentary about a recent pesach cleaning article in Mishpacha Magazine, that in my opinion is so ludicrous that it should be printed in their "humor" section (do they even have a humor section in Mishpacha Magazine?), is worthy of Honorable Mention here.  I couldn't have responded to the utter insanity of this absurd "helpful" pesach cleaning schedule better myself.


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Joey's Grammen 2009

The icing on the cake for a Purim Seudah which includes family, "like family", friends - both old and new is a grammen in which each and every person present occupies a verse.

Due to the fact that many of us have been lobbying Joey to "be nice" this year, he started his grammen with a poem entitled, "How the Grinch Stole Purim".  The grammen follows. 

As I noted previously, in order to protect one or two "family secrets", I needed to cut out small sections (including 2 punchlines) from the videos.  You are missing a sum total of less than 10 seconds.  Please don't ask me what was said... if I could have told you I would have!

First, a short clip of Avram introducing Joey.  He managed without the new (hipper?) pair of reading glasses which he had donned for earlier stanzas of his poem, after Michael thought they were part of a Purim costume.....

The rest of it pretty much speaks for itself....  pretty impressive considering that Joey had not previously met two of our guests.

As a post script, I must add that Jonas, our new friend from Berlin gave us the biggest compliment possible last night.  On his way out the door he said that he is tempted to return to the United States at this time next year just so that he can join us once again for Purim Seudah! He will be most welcome.  

Private P.S. I think that if you realize that somebody has ideological and/or political differences with you (and you occasionally butt heads about things) but you also realize that nothing is meant personally and you show this by dropping off unexpected Shalach Monos - it's a very CLASSY thing to do...

Purim Wrapup - The Early Edition

Another marker of my getting older is that I don't bounce back from all these festivities as quickly as I used to.
There is so muchI want to post and write about, but I'm not yet up to full speed.
So in the interim, as per reader request, I am posting two short clips of KAJ's choir.
I apologize for the quality of the first few moments on the first clip (it quickly improves, though).  I was going to post only the second clip which is steady throughout, but I was voted down...

Regarding our personal purim.... it was FABULOUS.  Avram went a wee bit overboard on the decorations - - - it looked like Mardi Gras threw up all over our dining room. Everybody really got into the spirit of things.  There was the perfect balance of Torah, Purim Torah, and of course GRAMMEN.
Now on that front, Joey warned me that in an effort to foil my attempts to post his grammen on my blog, he was going to weave in lines that HE KNEW were unpostable.  I said there was no such thing..... Well, for once, Joey was right.  I can't believe he found anything that I would NOT be willing to post, but he did!  So today's agenda involves learning the rudiments of windows movie maker as fast as possible so that I can upload and share albeit edited clips of his work.

Monday, March 9, 2009


Many of you read the writeup about Avram in the Jewish Press and the HaModia last week.
Apparently, it was good for business and some feelers we've been putting out in other areas of the country have taken an interest.
Shortly after Pesach we will be packing up and heading down South!!!
Miami here we come!!
Things here in our little corner of the world have changed so radically that we felt it was time to move on... as unbelievable and as sad as that sounds.  But this is a wonderful opportunity.
Joey will be hanging around until he graduates in January and then we hope he'll be looking at law schools nearby (he's been pushing for a warmer climate ever since Yeshiva and he's right... the people we've met from there {you know who you are at Young Israel of North Miami Beach!}, along with the weather know a thing or two about warmth ;) )
I'll keep on blogging and our new home will continue to be a haven for "starving dorm boys"!
More updates to follow... I'll attach them to the bottom of this post as they come in!


The Anatomy of a Rumor:
  1. Find an outlandish story with just enough "plausibility".
  2. Add in just the right amount of detail.
  3. Post on your blog.
10 minutes later the Purim fun begins:

  1. Unnamed family member: "umm.... it's a joke, right?"
  2. Friends on AIM and Gchat:  "You're MOVING?!?!?"
  3. Flurry of phone calls to various children of mine to "verify" the story.
  4. Comments begin posting on the blog - some sure, some unsure.
  5. More frantic phone calls... 
To all our dear friends, we ask mechila if you were at all upset by this post....
To all those happy to see us go... we will continue to be a thorn in your side in the near future :)


Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Decorations Start Going Up... The Excitement Builds...

All month long the Purim cucumber has adorned our front door. The presence of these green harbingers of the festival is so ubiquitous that I'm beginning to think they are mandatory - like blood on the doorpost on Pesach...  Tonight the Haman men are getting "hung" as well. Granted, it's a day early... but hey, it's Sunday :)
Decorative masks have been hung from the corners of many of the dining room frames.
We even got some Purim gel clings!
I'm such a sucker for this kind of stuff.
The digital frame is programmed to display only Purim pics from years gone by and randomly rotate through ten Purim songs as well...
Joey's been muttering to himself about the grammen... everybody at the seudah traditionally gets a verse - a daunting task for him this year to be sure, considering that he's NEVER MET some of the people coming (and he's really getting annoyed at my repeated warnings to 'be nice')!

¡¡¡¡sǝıʇıʌıʇsǝɟ ǝɥʇ ɹoɟ ʎpɐǝɹ ʇǝƃ

Friday, March 6, 2009

Take THAT Con Edison!!!

Last month we bought what seemed like a whole truckload of the energy saving flourescent light bulbs.  Before you start cringing, let me tell you that they've come a long way since they first came out.
They are not that harsh white light anymore.  They come in a softer incandescent look too.
They don't only come in that unsightly 'coil' anymore.  You can get them in normal lightbulb shapes, as well as globes. (The only thing I couldn't find were 150 watt equivalent globes and small chandelier flames)
We replaced most of the lightbulbs that we could find suitalbe replacements for.
The result?
Our electric bill was more than $50 cheaper this month!!!

(Full Disclosure Time:  I found that the globes do take about 10-20 seconds to warm up before they are giving their full light.  If you're running to the bathroom for a "quick trip", it might be a bit dim until you are already washing your hands.... ;) )

Thursday, March 5, 2009

We Must've Done Something Right.....

Nothing gives a parent more nachas than watching their children grow into the kinds of "menschen" we hoped they would become.
I know I've said this before, but Joey is a pretty terrific guy.
I've thought back and forth whether or not to post this, and I've decided that if even one person is inspired by his actions (I know am), it is a worthwhile endeavor. 
As I mentioned earlier, Joey was laid over in San Diego during the snowstorm (this is not the part that makes him terrific).  He arrived home quite punchy, not having slept in over 27 hours (As a nice post script to my Alps post, he did tell me that it was quite awesome to watch the sun set over the Pacific Ocean, hop on a plane and arrive home in time to view it rise over the Atlantic).
He lay down for a couple of hours but by dinnertime he was itching to go to sleep again.  And THEN the phone rang.  A male member of the community is in the hospital and the family didn't want him to be alone at night.  So for the past two nights, on barely any sleep, Joey has been dozing (and I use that term loosely, especially considering a 2 a.m. room change) on a chair next to a patient in the local hospital.  Oh, and did I mention he gave blood (again) today as well?  He tried to go on President's Day but they wouldn't take his blood - apparently his iron levels were too low.... that won't stop Joey.... he'll just try again....
I'm glad that all that Torah that he has learned has found a practical application in his life. I'm glad to see that it has made him a better Jew.  

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Dreaded "Kiddie Table".....

This post is a public service announcement. As my children have grown, it doesn't apply to us this year but let it be a warning to you......

I've been informed by my children, that one of the terrors of childhood is the dreaded "Kiddie Table" at family simchas, parties and get-togethers.  Apparently only my overabundance of love and affection at other times in their lives has negated the need for countless hours of therapy to overcome this trauma.

So what's a hostess to do?  If my table only fits fourteen (according to Joey sixteen) and if people don't R.S.V.P. in a timely fashion, I might end out with more guests than we can comfortably seat (no Simcha, you are NOT sitting on the couch). Such is the problem when one exercises the "always room for one more" principle. (Well actually, there is one condition to be a guest at our purim seudah {tied in to the post below} - - - you must be sober enough at the end of the meal to be able to say birkas hamozon.  I do not take kindly to my son needing to either clean up your vomit or half carry you home, undress you and put you to bed (yes, he HAS done all those things....).

So to recap - UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES are you to have kiddie tables for the overflow.... you might end up with severely depressed, axe-murderer progeny.....

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Pre-Purim Points to Ponder

As we are approaching Purim, I'm going to take a bit of a break from some of my lighter posts and give you some food for thought:
  • In these somber financial times, we might do well to question whether or not any "elaborate" shalach monos packaging is going to have an effect on the amount of matonos l'evyonim that we are able to give. 
  • Drinking in excess is stupid and unnecessary. PERIOD.
  • Giving drinks to minors is ILLEGAL. PERIOD!!!!  (yes, even one little drink... because all the houses before you had the same thought and these boys can get seriously poisoned)
  • NOWHERE is smoking even remotely related to Purim!
  • Parents who throw up their hands and say, "what can I do?" or "boys will be boys" are showing a SUPREME lack of responsibility.  If your child has a propensity for this behavior (did he act out and/or vomit in a public place last year?) it is incumbent upon you to keep him at your side all day long.... even if it cramps your style.  Do not make the community responsible for your child.
Wishing you and your family a SAFE and joyous Purim 

Monday, March 2, 2009

Snow Day!

Somebody is going to be cold.....

This picture I that I took this morning on my way to work (so much for my "snow day".... sigh....) actually reminds me of the year Michael was in Yeshiva in South Bend, Indiana. True to its midwest locale (Why is it called the midwest anyway? It's neither in the middle of the country, nor in the west.... but that's a whole other post....) it is known for its fierce, blustery winters.
One morning, as Michael was dashing across the lawn from the dorms to the beis medrash in the driving snow, he lost his scarf (probably the only piece of outerwear he had on at the time).  When he turned around to look for it, the falling snow had already buried it.  It didn't turn up until the snow melted..... in the SPRING.

JPix is Up

This month's edition of JPix, the photo carnival of the Jewish blogging world is up at Leora's.  She was kind enough to include my hamantaschen picture but truthfully, my favorite this month is Jacob's "Tending to da lilies".  I've photographed that exact same spot myself and was not able to catch such an amazing photo.
Check it out and I hope you have time to peruse a few other of Leora's posts.  Her blog is creative and interesting.
Stay warm, dry and slush free today :)

Sunday, March 1, 2009

To Be Filed In The "Some People Have All The Luck" Category...

I cannot imagine who would rely on my blog as their official news source, but in case you have been so busy cleaning for Pesach that you haven't heard, and true to the adage that March goes "in like a lion and out like a lamb", please be advised that New York City is expecting the biggest snowstorm of the season tonight and into tomorrow morning.  Snow accumulations could reach up to 12 inches.

Now we all know that I'm over the hill and I left my joie de vivre back in yonder valley, but I would hasten to say that most people who live in the city,  10 year olds with upcoming math tests excluded, do NOT appreciate this lovely gift from mother nature which quickly turns into graying slush puddles and yellow drifts (if you get my drift....).  {Yes, yes... I know I just posted about the Alps and all but that was on vacation and did you see even one yellow patch??!?!  I rest my case.}

Snow in the city tends to be nothing more than an unsightly inconvenience and makes people rather grumbly.  I plan on taking my camera outside tomorrow morning and trying to capture at least a tiny bit of beauty before the huddled masses spew forth and trample upon it.

Now back to the title of this post.... where is my Joey might you ask? Well he was slated to fly into New York tomorrow morning, but the poor fellow's flight has already been cancelled and he's being held over for a full 24 hours. Where, might you ask? SAN DIEGO.... home of sunshine, beaches and 85 degree weather. Grumble, grumble, grumble....some people have all the luck.....

{Calgon... take me away.......}

A Gift for the Guf and a Gift for the Neshama

Louisa came by on Friday bearing unexpected gifts.
One for my 'guf' and one for my 'neshama'.
We learn hilchos Shabbos together and the gift for the neshama was something to help me better adhere to the mitzvos involved in Shmiras Shabbos.
The gift for the guf was my favorite fruit of all time and I haven't had them in so long that they are a "Shehecheyanu" for me at the same time.
I hugged her when I saw the fruit. I should have hugged her more for the gift for my neshama.  This disturbed me later.  I guess as my guf was hugging her for the gift it was about to enjoy, my neshama was simultaneously hugging her for its gift.......