Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Never Get Between a Man and his Matzoh Balls

or, Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern are Hungry

The Player: We're more of the maror, matzoh ball soup, and charoset school. Well, we can do you matzoh ball soup and maror without the charoset, and we can do you matzoh ball soup and charoset without the maror, and we can do you all three concurrent or consecutive. But we can't give you maror and charoset without the matzoh ball soup. Matzoh ball soup is compulsory. They're all matzoh ball soup, you see.

Guildenstern: Is that what people want?

The Player: It's what we do.

So, apparently I commited marital betrayal last night by not either:

a) making matzoh ball soup or

b) telling hubby he needed to make matzoh ball soup

despite the fact that our main course was, actually SOUP. (Butternut squash mole, to be precise. And it was DAMN good, too.)

I was able to smooth over the problem by brandishing a very large lemon-curd-strawberry spongecake, but now I am warned. Matzah Ball soup is compulsory.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Passover crafts - toddler approved

So this year I finally got around to making the play-pyramid I thought of a couple years ago. It ended up being pretty easy.

Went to the local giant box store and got:

  • 2 primed pieces of MDF, 1"x2"x10ft, cut in half (four 5' lengths) for the base

  • 4 of the same, at 6' lengths (for the upright pieces)

    hardware (screws, a couple corner braces)
  • and lots of beige fabric (which I already had on hand - probably 5 or 6 yards, altogether)

I made a "U" shape with 3 of the base pieces _, using the corner braces and screws, so I had a 5x5' square.

Then cut the uprights at an angle and screwed them onto the base at each corner, so they met in the middle, about 5 feet up. You can figure out the angles with some complicated trigonometry, OR you can just draw a tiny scale model where 1 centimeter = 1 foot and then you have a paper template to put on your MDF sticks and draw the lines where you need to cut.

This part took about an hour, with the toddler's "help".

Then I spent a couple evening measuring, cutting, and sewing together the fabric sides - probably 3-4 hours altogether, while watching TV. (Remember to leave a doorway on one side!) I attached the fabric with a staple gun to the bottom edges, and folded the extra fabric underneath.

So far, it's served as train station, nap room (with couch cushions inside), and cat play-area. During the seder, the children will be allowed to go in, but must spend any time inside building with mega blocks (so they can experience the "hard labor" of Mitzrayim).

Pretty fun, and with the wooden parts all labeled, it can be disassembled and stored for next year fairly easily.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The working mom's guide to Pesach cleaning

1. Make sure the vacuum cleaner is working. Do this by running it gently over all the small toys your children promised they would pick up earlier in the day. If it successfully sucks them up, you'll be fine.

2. One week beforehand, take inventory of your pantry. Put any unopened boxes of chametz in a bag to be donated to the local food pantry. Assemble all the other half-eaten boxes of chametz and inform your family that the menu for the week is spaghetti with cookies and beer. (Pause for wild cheering)

3. Assemble wildly overoptimistic shopping and to-do lists, which you plan to take care of after the children are asleep and on the one day you've taken off before Pesach to finish the cleaning and prep. Think hard about whether you care that the lemon sponge cake you're cooking in the oven will smell like the gefilte fish you're cooking on top of it. Decide you don't actually care, so long as it looks pretty. Everyone will be 4 glasses of wine into it by then.

4. During your lunch break, go to the local wine bar and do a tasting of all the kosher for Passover wines. Buy a couple bottles. Then decide that you're not sure about your choices, and go back for another tasting. Repeat.

5. Carefully check under couch cushions for chametz and spare change. The spare change will pay for a delicious tasting plate to go along with your (hic!) wine tastings.

6. Oh, yeah, and make sure you eat any leftover snacks you've stashed in your desk at work. Can't be too careful. (No, bitch, you can't have my KitKats. I'll eat them all myself. I've got, like, all of Monday, right?)

7. Install dimmer switches on any lights in the dining room or kitchen, so that you can feel absolutely confident when you make the ritual disclaimer about disavaowing any chametz you didn't see or know about. Right. That should take care of it.

Lean on me

Bored? Have lots of time on your hands because your husband is doing all the Passover cleaning? (hahahahaha, you know you're lying, right?)

Just in time, one last Passover craft idea: creative seder pillows. Go on, let your imagination run wild. It helps to get into the spirit of the thing by drinking 4 glasses of wine first.

Then just get our your Sharpie and start decorating...

Dalton Wines get High Marks

Just had a little lunch-time wine-tasting and purchase for the seder, and found two VERY good Kosher for Passover wines, both from Dalton Wineries (Israel).
The first was a 2006 Fumé blanc that was so light and delicate you could use it to complement matzah. Seriously! Good, good stuff, perfect to start out the seder with, easy on the palate and will go really well with the karpas/herb plate.

The second was their Red Canaan, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Sirah and a little Shiraz. As a blend, it was very mellow, but should hold up nicely to the molé-spiced butternut squash soup I'm serving as a main course.

I tried a couple of others with bolder tastes, but I'll wait and buy them later in the week, or maybe even after Pesach is over. One in particular would be really good with pizza... mmm...

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Good Wholesome Fun... Mostly

No, seriously!

Bad Cohen and I recently had the great pleasure of introducing the toddler to Mary Poppins (the original movie with Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke).

It still had all the great songs and pageantry, the silliness and fun that I enjoyed as a kid. But whoa! - if you haven't watched this as an adult, you should. The sexual politics, the class commentary, the parenting opinions - there was a lot more there than I remembered.

The toddler didn't quite get the plot, especially as he had also seen Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang for the first time a month ago, which has Van Dyke as the father. But he giggled a lot, and wandered around singing "chim-chiminy, chim-chiminy" for a couple days afterwards.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

It's Good to be Queen

I'm awarding myself a new title:

Here's the justification.

(Wanna take me on? C'mon, then! But I warn you, I WILL cut a fish!)

And yes, yes, I know I said Bad Cohen is off fish. However, the reason I get this title is that his exended family has asked me to make it for the seder anyway. So there.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Is the seder like the SuperBowl?

One of my cousins, and her husband, are absolutely NUTS about the Superbowl.

They buy, cook, and serve food to roughly 100 guests every year while watching the game. They wear the colors of their favorite team. They talk endlessly before (and during and afterwards) about the prospects, the players, the weather conditions, etc.

I actually know all of this only from FaceBook, where I was reading regular updates from them about how many pounds of meat they'd purchased, etc.

I can't stand sports.

I mean, really, who cares which team wins? If you're not playing (or winning lots of money from a bet) why does it matter to you?

Last night, Bad Cohen and I were having our annual "why-do-YOU-find-this-important-no-I-asked-first" discussion about the seder (in response to my totally out of control approach and his laid-back, happy-just-to-show-up-and-eat one).

I really don't think G-D gives a hoot if we make our kids go through the motions every year. That's not why I do it.

I do it because it's what "we" do. It's what makes "us" us. It's enacting Jewish peoplehood. And I want my son to experience that, and find it fun and meaningful and interesting. No doubt when he's grown he'll have his own take on it, but for now, there's a lot of pageantry when we host the seder. (And a lot of chametz when BC's family hosts, but that's another story.)

So, maybe the seder, for us non-frummies, especially for those of us who obsess about the menu, make a different haggadah every year tailored for the attendees, paint backdrops and make 5x5' pyramids for the kids to play in, is sort of like painting your face in the team colors and making the 7-layer nacho dip.

The game is what it is.

But the party around the game is what makes it ours, and what makes us part of it.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Zucchini. We'll eat zucchini.

Our guests for first night of Passover are vegetarians.

Obviously, this means we'll do a dairy meal, but with Bad Cohen's current list of food sensitivities, I've been kind of stuck on what goes with matzah and cheese.

No potatoes.
No fish.
No nuts.
No tomatoes or peppers or eggplant.
He's also down on cumin, although that's just a taste thing.

And we're not sure if the guests do kitniot (we do, but Bad Cohen can't digest beans).
Obviously, no grains (wheat, barley, spelt, rye, oats) or other chametz.

So far, I've got hard-boiled eggs, and possibly a spinach/cheese/egg/fresh herbs/ crustless pie thing. (Sounds weird, tastes good)

And, you know, salad. And cake.

Have I mentioned that I hate matzah ball soup with a passion normally reserved for finding a slug in your food?

And did I mention there will be several children under the age of 5?


Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Ladies, Hang Onto Your Daughters

I have found the perfect future husband for all your daughters (although that would be slightly illegal, so maybe he can just be the model for all the future husbands, since otherwise we're dealing with polygamy or serial divorces). Anyhoo:

Meet Tom Henderson's son, a sensitive 13 year old feminist boy who features in his recent post, Hey Dad, Thanks For The Blow-Up Doll.

For any of you approaching the age of needing to have "The Talk," Henderson offers a pretty good example, if you're brave enough to follow it.


Monday, March 08, 2010

Best Movie of the Year

Bad Cohen and I finally got around to seeing "Where the Wild Things Are." It was wonderful. Amazing. The best movie I've seen all year.

Let no-one confuse you: it is NOT a kid's movie.

It is a movie by adults, about what it feels like to be a child. A scared, lonely, confused, brave, child.

You know, the way many of us adults feel a lot of the time, despite drinking fancy coffee and wearing suits.

If you haven't seen it, go.

But don't bring your kids. They have to wait until they're older to see something as scary as being a grownup.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Don't Forget to Get Your Blogess On!!

Holy Crap. I just realized it's been over 2 weeks since I visited the Bloggess. Not only have I missed some exciting writing about cats and stupid people, I almost didn't get my award!!

Seriously, guys, this is important stuff!

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Be Thrifty, Halachic, and Lazy!

Via Amy @ Homeshuling comes the reminder that Pesach is only a month away. Why is this a great thing?

Well, if you're like me, you cook too much, and end up freezing leftovers periodically. Right now, my freezer is full of leftover odds-and-ends, from puff pastry to soup to curry. So, for the rest of the month, I'll be thawing these out for meals, meaning:
  1. I don't have to cook (Sweet!)
  2. I save money on groceries
  3. I'm clearing out my chametz

See, some parts of Pesach prep are great. Especially the ones that require you to eat up all your cookies before the end of the month.