Sunday, July 31, 2011

Rosh Chodesh Av 5771

Rosh Chodesh Av approaches.
A time of great sadness and grief for all of Klal Yisroel.
A time of remembering staggering losses for all Jews.
A time of great personal loss for myself as well.
Tonight - Rosh Chodesh Av - marks the 10th yahrzeit of my dear father, Raphael N. Levi, z"l.
I can still hear his unassuming voice - his soft chuckle - his wise words.
How typical of my father to pass away at a time that we are all mourning anyway, so as not to inconvenience anyone in his family with undue sadness.

I cannot begin to tell you how much I admired my father, and continue to do so today {though the expression of this admiration may have changed slightly.... ;) }

As we prepare for these upcoming sad days, one of the books that come down from the shelf is my father's Kinos. The book itself is no more remarkable than any other of its kind, except for the fact that my father kept within reminders for himself of other more recent horrors and annihilation. Stored inside my father's sefer, are crumbling pages of The New York Times, dated August 1943 and 1944, detailing horrors beyond measure. They are difficult to read. They are imperative to remember.

(read column one on this one, then go down to the next one before returning to the remaining columns here)

May our tefillos and our actions merit the Geulah Sheleima speedily in our days when we all be joyfully reunited with our lost loved ones.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Bathmat Is Soaking Wet - Yep, She's Home...

The "first half", as it is affectionately known is now officially over.
We know this by the number of "Mommy Blogs" posting how many loads of moldy, grubby laundry they have done in the past several days.
I am no exception. Within minutes of getting Jennifer's overstuffed duffels through the door, the washing machine was humming away. There is NO WAY that I'm going to leave that stuff in my house overnight!
This was not easy considering that Jennifer's luggage arrived in Brooklyn (where we DON'T live), at around 10pm. I had intended to take a photo of the luggage scene but I forgot as I got caught up in the mosh pit.
You see, since the girls fly to and from camp and airlines have gotten utterly ridiculous when it comes to baggage fees, we choose to BUS her luggage. The luggage - like the campers - got delayed and the truck only arrived well after dark - on a deserted street with no street lamps adjacent to a cemetery (I kid you not, folks). They lined up all the bags along the fence (think Alfred Hitchcock - ravens, headstones, grave robbers etc.....) and parked some cars with headlights shining on the eerie tableau .
Being the good yekkes that we are, we arrived with flashlights in tow and quickly retrieved the bags.
But I digress.
The point of this post was NOT luggage, NOR laundry.
The point of this post was to make the observation that when one's children take "staggered" vacations, it quickly becomes evident who the culprit is in situations such as (but not limited to), "Who soaked the bathmat again?!?!?".
Enough said.........

Friday, July 22, 2011

Food Photo Friday - Many More Minis

My affinity for "minis" in food preparation has been previously documented on this blog.
This weekend, I eagerly continued the theme.
Our local grocery store had mini piccolini farfalle pasta on sale, so I made this pasta salad with pretty red and orange peppers, sauteed vidalia onion and garlic, and toasted slivered almonds. It's bright and fresh and summery looking (plus the teeny tiny bowties are just sooo cute).

I also managed to get my hands on another ingredient that I've been dying to play around with in the kitchen - adorable baby zuchinni!

I sauteed them up with a whole bunch of onion rings and sliced portobello mushroom caps. I added just a touch of salt and freshly ground black pepper and the flavors of the vegetables themselves will take center stage.

Do you make any "minis"? What do you do?
Are you also crazy enough to go on cooking binges during the hottest week of the year?!!?
Good Shabbos to all!
Keep cool, and as a commenter so rightly mentioned on an earlier post - take the time to check in on your elderly and infirm neighbors.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Biking the City - Week Two

Lessons painfully learned, sunscreen in hand, Avram and I set out yesterday to enjoy another rare temperate Sunday in New York City.

This week's goal was to go a few rounds with the bikes on the Loop at Central Park.

I've always been a great fan of Central Park and all that it has to offer, though usually we enjoy only one small segment at a time - whether it be the now defunct Philharmonic Concerts on the Great Lawn (why they chose not to run them this year is beyond me... ), boating on the lake by Bethesda Fountain (I searched this blog for a photo post showing the actual fountain, and can't believe that I never have.....), Shakespeare in the Park, Shakespeare on the Run (not to confuse the two), whatever happens to be going on at the bandshell (and something ALWAYS is...), the carousel, the zoo, or the numerous playgrounds and walks.

What was nice and new about circling Central Park on bikes, was that we could enjoy so many different corners of it all in one day. We started by sharing paths with all manner of tourists and attractions at the Columbus Circle Entrance to the park. We rode alongside pedicabs, hansom cab drivers and their horses, tourists, joggers and families out for an afternoon stroll. We took a break and enjoyed lunch while overlooking the scenic views of the Reservoir. We pedaled on and enjoyed the strains of all sorts of street performers as we flew by. We stopped for a drink at the fountain and admired the beauty of the lake, dotted with boats (and secretly were glad that we had chosen biking instead that day - affording us a cool breeze not present under the hot sun on the water).

Central Park is truly one of New York's great treasures.

Next week, I'm tempted to try out the Hudson River Greenway.
Any readers who have gone that route are welcome to offer tips and suggestions.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Good Shabbos - May Hashem Help Us Through The Sadness

When I light my Shabbos candles this evening, I will say an extra prayer for those people whose Shabbosos have been forever altered.
I will try to continue the spirit of Achdus and Ahavas Yisroel that seems to be the only silver lining in this very difficult week.

Food Photo Friday - The Season's Bounty II

Though I can't seem to break the habit of hot chicken soup every Friday night, for summer Shabbos lunches, the crock pot is stored away and Fruit Soup reigns supreme.

I got my original recipe for this delicious concoction from my dear mother-in-law. Over time, I have made some changes and tweaked the recipe a bit and this is what has emerged - a ruby red soup that is bursting with the flavors of summer.

The following recipe freezes beautifully and makes enough to last two weeks in our house .
Please keep in mind that EVERYTHING in this recipe is "to taste" - the ingredients, the varieties, the preparation methods (I leave skins on for texture) AND the quantities.


1 Can Pitted Sour Cherries
1 Can Water
1 Apple (I like Granny Smith or another firm variety), chopped
8 Peaches (or if you're not a big "fuzz" fan, 4 Peaches and 4 Nectarines), chopped
4 Plums, chopped
A Few Handfuls of Grapes
A Few Handfuls of Blueberries (only when they are "in season", i.e. cheap. Don't let me catch you putting $3.49 blueberries into this soup!!!)
1 Tub of Frozen Strawberries in Syrup
1/2 Package Strawberry Jello
Sugar (depending on how sweet the fruit is.... by August you should be able to omit this)

Combine cherries, water and apple in your largest parve pot (you never know when you'll want to serve the leftovers). Bring to a boil. Begin adding roughly chopped fruit, putting in the hardest varieties first to maximize their cooking time, adding the grapes and berries during the last 5 minutes. Boil until fruit is soft ~ 20 minutes. Add the frozen strawberries and any sugar that may be necessary (making allowances when tasting for the jello yet to come....). Return to a boil. Add in jello. Turn off flame and cool.

These vibrant colors:

meld into this tantalizing soup:

Bon Appetit!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Camp Mail - An Experiment

I mentioned earlier that Jennifer is off at camp.
The days of sporadic communication and no phone calls are long gone for today's young campers.
They get an unlimited long distance phone card upon arrival at camp, and they may receive emails to the camp address, which are printed out by the camp office for delivery to them daily.
For joy!

Because of all these conveniences, my daughter calls me fairly regularly - mostly to update me on the status of her "on again - off again" - (probably, not really, but maybe) broken finger.
Regardless, most phone calls seem to originate from the nurse's office.
There was the one that went something like this:
"Hi, Mom? The whole bunk is getting sick because we're not getting enough sleep and we all have runny noses and coughs so yesterday, we all packed up all our stuff and moved in to the infirmary for the night. It was a BLAST!"
I even had to speak to her new found friend today - also from the nurse's office. (Miriam B.'s Mom in Brooklyn: your daughter is having a lovely summer and she tells me that you may be hosting my daughter for Shabbos sooner than you think.....)
But I digress.

Apparently, even though I speak to her on the phone FAR too often, she's annoyed that I'm not sending her enough emails.
During our spoken conversations at home, I don't usually get a word in edgewise, so I'm not used to being the one to have to come up with content.

So here's where YOU come in, dear readers.
I'm going to try and inundate her with blog reader email.
Send me an email (of any length) to and I will forward it to Jen at camp, along with this post by way of explanation.
She has a good sense of humor so feel free to get creative.
Tell her about YOUR summer. Ask her how ceramics was. Send her a joke. Freak her out by telling her it's already two weeks until camp is over and why hasn't she begun packing for the trip home yet ;) ? I don't care. Just help me out here so that I can have a bit more time to focus on the blog.

Consider it your version of sending me to camp for a day or two.....
Good luck.
I'm counting on you.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Remember To Pack The Sunscreen....

That is about the ONLY thing that was missing from our day today at Governor's Island, off the southern tip of Manhattan.

I had heard all of the positive press about the advantages of spending the day on this quiet park-like island, accessible only by a free ferry from either Manhattan or Brooklyn.

There a lovely places to picnic, scenic views of the Manhattan skyline, lots of places to sit, walk or eat. There are playgrounds for the little ones. There is a free mini golf course. There are art exhibits and special activities almost every weekend. Families can rent quadricycles in various sizes and bike with their little ones in tow. Avram and I chose to rent bicycles and circled the island numerous times, enjoying the breeze off the water and the views of the city.

What I didn't expect to see on the island was THIS shul. It is not listed in any of the literature that we collected there, so I don't have any information about it. But if any of my readers do, I'd be very interested.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Food Photo Friday - Dressing Up The Ordinary

One of my family's preferred cakes is a one bowl, no egg recipe entitled Quick As A Wink Cake. It is delicious to be sure.
But sometimes, I want to dress up a dessert a bit more.
This Shabbos, I have taken a few small steps to do just that.
I cubed the cake, placed it in a decorative dessert dish, with whipped cream, strawberries and chocolate sauce.
All of a sudden it becomes a decadent Chocolate Cake Sundae Trifle.
[This one won't make it to the Shabbos table. The table setter gets it ;) ]

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Wednesday's Wacky Signs - Mail List Classifieds

.... otherwise entitled, "You can't make this stuff up"....

The following is an ACTUAL email list post and response from this week. I'm not sure what about it disturbs me more - the nonexistent command of the English language or the content.... You decide.

Original Posting:
"I'm looking for a full time frum babysitter in my home in Far Rockaway starting this coming September. The hours will be Mon-Thurs starting somewhere between 8 and 9:00 am -7:00 pm. My 3 yr old daughter will be in school from 9-3 and my 1 1/2 yr old will be home all day. Any and all suggestions are welcome."
Actual Response Received:
"i now some one who would be great but she is in brooklyn no car would need transportation with small dog can cook great glat kosher meals let me know"

Thanks to Molly (and the "Aibishter"....)

I went on another one of Molly Resnick's Senior Trips again last night.
Molly, who tirelessly organizes these outings, is the most important part of the trip.
I know, because she told me.
I was resoundingly chastised for not mentioning her in previous posts.
So you've now been put on notice. The trips are NOTHING without Molly (though she does occasionally share credit with the "Aibishter").

That said, let me tell you about the less important part of my evening - namely the actual outing.
The New York Philharmonic Summertime Classics Series presented a Star Spangled Celebration, featuring The United States Marine Drum & Bugle Corps. What a perfect ending to a wonderful long July 4th weekend.
I never thought I'd laugh so much at the Philharmonic. Who knew conductors could be so cheeky?
It was rousing, humorous and entertaining all at once.
I snuck a few glimpses to share with you. I won't tell if you won't....

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

July 4th Secret Discovery Revealed

I am fully aware that by sharing this information, I may be diluting its value, but I can't help spreading the joy.

I think I may have discovered the perfect way to navigate the Macy's July 4th fireworks WITHOUT waiting for hours in the sweltering heat to garner a plum position with a perfect view (aside, of course, from making fast friends with an apartment dweller whose apartment overlooks the festivities...).

Now let me say right off, that I believe that everybody SHOULD go the route I just described ONCE in their life because those views are incredible and incomparable. Once you've gotten that out of your system, you should do what we discovered last night.

Our out of town company is still with us and we went out to dinner in a restaurant just outside the "official optimal viewing area" for the fireworks. We finished our relaxing meal just in time to saunter over at a leisurely pace to the West Side Highway (which was plenty crowded there too - don't get me wrong) and see the fireworks begin. While the views were not AS good at in the designated area, we were plenty close enough to see the blooms in all their glory (putting last years glimpses all the way from the George Washington Bridge to shame).

I am definitely doing this again next year. Dinner out anyone? I can highly recommend the Fettuccine Francais........ (shhh....don't tell anyone. I haven't cooked dinner in three nights. I sure hope I remember HOW when I get home tonight. A girl can get used to this.......)

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Running for a Cause

My favorite son-in-law, Moshe, and my son, Joey, are currently training for the New York City Marathon, which will take place in November 2011.

They are running for a good cause, too.
The Blue Card is a non-profit organization with a mission of providing DIRECT financial assistance to needy Holocaust survivors who live at or near the Federal poverty level.
Please check out their fundraising page and consider donating to this worthy cause.

Moshe's grandmother is a Holocaust survivor, so this cause is particularly meaningful to them. If you're down by the Far Rockaway Boardwalk, you might even catch a glimpse on some days of Moshe training with a double stroller! Now THAT'S dedication to his training.

To read more about Joey On The Run, you might want to click here and follow his new adventure through his own feet, ahem... eyes.

Friday, July 1, 2011

שבת שלום ומבורך

I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it with my own two eyes. The G6 Shabbos table was BARE at noon on Friday!

What could cause such a diversion from the norm (the norm being waking up on Friday morning to see a table decked out in all its Shabbos finery, whetting one's appetite for the menuchas Shabbos just around the corner)?

Guests arrived last night. Not just ANY guests. Close family from Israel that we haven't seen in nearly 30 years. We sat at the dining room table past midnight and the prep work just had to wait. A good thing too, because our cousins brought us the most lovely matching challah board and challah cover (& more) to further adorn the setting.

There's nothing a beautiful table and a delicious Shabbos meal needs more than family and friends to share it with.
And to all those people who requested a meal this week and were told that I would be completely fixated on my far flung family, rainchecks WILL be issued and honored all summer long ;)

An interesting aside - if you look carefully at the challah cover, it has the words of the Shalom Aleichem written around its borders, beginning with "Shalom Aleichem Malachei Hashalom", which happens to be the wording that is our minhag, but we found that interesting because we don't know anyone else who sings those words. Most people begin with "Malachei Hashares". I'm interested if any of my readers have information about these disparate wordings.