The Holidays Are Here!

I know that I am probably supposed to be the curmudgeonly Jew who reluctantly put up with the season of American excess and bacchanalia and is breathlessly grateful when New Years signals it’s completion and a return to normal American consumerism.

Yeah, that’s what I guiltily expect of myself as well.

But I have a confession to make and I might as well make it here and now while I still have your attention.

I LOVE THE HOLIDAY SEASON!

There, I’ve said it.

I get onto the bandwagon the first of November and ride the Turkey bus through Thanksgiving. I love Thanksgiving! I like to make pilgrim hat place cards, search endlessly for recipes I’d like to try (even though I always make the same thing the same way year after year), watch the Macy’s parade with Evan and, of course, our traditional viewing of the quintessential Thanksgiving movie – Home for the Holidays!

I just love it.

Maybe because I don’t celebrate Christmas I just sit back and enjoy the sights and sounds and fun of the season. I love the tv cooking shows – I am especially addicted to all the Unwrapped shows where Marc Sommers goes and tells us how candy canes and turduckens are made. I like the kitschy Christmas movies like The Christmas Story and Christmas Vacation and I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t admit to watching White Christmas and Christmas in Connecticut a few times every year.

I certainly have my Hanukah but I also am well aware of the nature of the celebration. It’s a small holiday in comparison to our High Holy Days of Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippor or even the fun and very festive holiday of Purim that most American Jews just ignore sadly.

I decorate a little and we light our own chanukiot and exchange small gifts. I make latkes and other special food items because for me, its a great time to try out all kinds of new recipes (even though I always go back to the old standbys like a good brisket!) I buy donuts and we play dreidel.

Christmas comes and finds me like it does countless other American Jews with a plate of Chinese food and a movie in front of me. I can’t say I am not bound by tradition now can I?

The holidays wrap up on New Years Eve when we have another big party for our little family with cocktail food and punch as we watch more tv and then race to see who can be the first to bed before the New Year.

It’s a great season for me. I am too poor to really be able to spend money on gifts like I was once able to so I sit now and knit presents that I think are cool and definitely made with love. I plan how to make Hanukah sparkle with homemade and dollar store decorations that Evan and I can make together. I stick cloves into oranges and I bake cookies while the snow flies outside.

It’s a nice time and a time I really enjoy.

So there…you have it. My confession.

No, I am not all of a sudden pulling a big, Griswald-sized Christmas tree into the living room. And no, I am not planning a trip to the mall to sit on Santa’s lap to whisper what I’d like under my menorah while perched on his lap.

What I AM doing is just enjoying each day as it comes and enjoying a time of year that is going to happen whether I welcome it or not. I have great memories of Christmases from when I was young. I can’t deny that now that I am a Jew. I don’t think it would be healthy TO deny that.

So I am embracing everything I am. The little girl who still has that look of wonder at the shiny lights and sparkly tinsel all around and the grown up girl who knows her boundaries and can still enjoy it all for what it is.

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Pretzel Challah

I don’t have much time today because I am busy making challah! Today I am pretzelling four of the eigt loaves I am making. Who thought it could be so easy!

In short, make your bread product as you normally do. I admit I use prefab bread and thaw it out to make my challah. In this case, I let it get soft and then cut it into loaf sizes and then strip sizes and then braid it into the final presentation.

Here comes the magic!

Boil 1/2C water. Stir in 1.5 t of baking soda once the water has boiled. It will fizz and bubble. Take it off the heat. Take a brush and brush your bread product with the baking soda mixture.

YES! IT’S THAT EASY!

Make sure you get all the nooks and crannies. If you want finish with an egg wash for a nice brown, shiny crust. Bake as you normally would ūüôā

Added: the children pronounced it “good! It tastes like a pretzel!” which is certainly high praise! Then they split the loaf in half, each taking half, and scurried back to their lairs.

Try it!

Settling In

Up to this point, I have been rebuilding my own life from the ground up. Rebuilding inside and outside. Therapy has helped on the inside and for the outside I have acquired shoes and clothes and lots of books and yarn.

This week I have taken a new step in the rebuilding process.

I had some of my furniture still left in my old house. It hurts me so much to be there that I cry tears of such pain every time we have to go there. Scott and I had planned to get the boys to help and on Thursday this week, we would move my cherished furniture from my old house to my new house — the house Scott and I share.

I was entirely too upset to be a part of the “festivities” so I stayed home and worried myself into a migraine and upset stomach while the move was made but I was so happy when they arrived home and everything was brought inside.

We celebrated with pizza and donuts and by putting our bed together last night. We couldn’t get the box springs up the steps (they say that love grows best in small houses but come on!) but we still had the slats under the mattress so until we can get a set of separated box springs, it works.

In the meantime, there’s a lot more storage space which after rebuilding with clothes and shoes and books and yarn, I need a LOT of. AND there’s a lot of organizing, rearranging and homemaking to do.

And that, I think is the next step in my rebuilding. When I was out shopping last evening, I looked at tablecloths and bedspreads and dishtowels instead of clothes and cute socks. I think I am moving onto thinking of things around me and outside of myself.

I am moving onto making my house into my home and that’s a huge step forward for me…a long way from where I was two years ago and yet, a long way still from where I hope to be in two years.

There is a difference though that is the key. This time around I have dreams and I see myself in them.

Wintertime

Right on schedule, wintertime started in western Pennsylvania, and here in the Mon Valley on Halloween, and with it came heavy, bilowy, grey clouds that threatened rain and snow, colder temperatures and a biting wind.  More so than even the Christmas baccanalia that fills the stores this time of year, the weather really signals winter has come.

A week ago we thought temperatures that kissed the 40sF were cold.  Today, that has all changed and we wait for the 20sF because those will surely come and the gloves and hats and winter coats have come out and repairs have been made, what needs washed has been tossed into the dryer and we are pronounced ready for the inevitable.

Sure, it could get warm again and most likely will. ¬†But this coldness which caused us to turn on the heat, and hence the rule that the heat won’t be turned on until November 1, has come right on time.

It’s funny how we often wait a long time for winter to finally give way to spring which is cpaxed to give way to summer. ¬†Fall is standing at the ready with leaves that start to turn in early August regrettably. ¬†But winter, winter seems to come right on time. ¬†And even though summer can peek through occasionally causing oddly warm Thanksgivings or Hanukkah nights when warm strolls in the neighborhood seem more appropriate than the winter evenings I remember when we stood in knee deep snow to screw the lightbulbs into the chanukia in front of the synagogue on Main Street.

Yes, winter is here and won’t be letting us forget here until sometime in March or maybe even April if she decides to overstay her welcome. For me it’s a good time, a warm time and I know a lot of folks don’t feel the same way. ¬†It’s a time to bake cookies and think about warm, nights filled with family and knitting and soup-filled tummies inside a warm home looking from the inside out at the cold, frosty night.

Wintertime has come.

 

 

Good Eats? Then Why Am I So Offended??

Cooking is like an art to me…a form of self expression. ¬†I collect cookbooks and recipes. ¬†I pore through them and pick and choose things that I think my family will not only like but will also EAT. ¬†In short, I really enjoy not only the process of cooking but I think what I enjoy most is the CHALLENGE of cooking.

I admit I am a big cookie artist. ¬†I love to find all sorts of different kinds of cookies to make. ¬†I recently started to feel the same way about basically any kind of cooking I am doing. ¬†And to me, it’s so much of an art that I also get really offended when the family turns its collective nose up at what I have worked so hard to produce.

Every night for me is like Cupcake Wars with real food!

And it’s hard to even figure what they’ll accept or reject. ¬†Take for example Sloppy Joes ¬†– REJECT! ¬†In fact, one of the children asked where were the noodles for the spaghetti sauce, very clearly missing the hotdog buns (I think they create less messy Joes) set beside the plates. ¬†He also missed the plates and got another one instead – yeah, the “children” are 21 and 29, respectively, but please, bear with me.

Tonight I made lemon chicken with sweet and sticky green beans and rice.  I even made the effort to make applesauce raisin bars for dessert.  Not even touched.  Last night I made them cheeseburger macaroni from scratch with Velveeta and most of ended up in the fridge.

I was crushed both times.

Last week, I went on strike and proclaimed for all to hear that I wouldn’t be making any NEW food OR cookies until all the leftovers STOPPED. ¬†I stopped making human sized portions too and stuck to child sized fare so there really wasn’t a lot to eat anyway and it was all first come, first served.

But now, I realize that I do get really offended when they reject what I make. ¬†Even the easy stuff. ¬†I mean, what am I supposed to do? ¬†I can’t even judge based on past experience what they will eat or won’t eat and I’m pretty much stuck making Happy Meal sized portions for a family of four adults for the forseeable future.

It gets even worse because I feel compelled to EAT this stuff when I prefer food I know they won’t even touch. ¬†Like chumus or falafel or vegetables or an apple. ¬†You get the picture.

Which brings me to my two evil confessions. ¬†First, yes, I hide food that I want to eat. ¬†Why? ¬†Because they are like locusts here. ¬†If I would put out a bag of tortilla chips that would take me a month to eat with salsa on the side as a snack….I’d never see them. ¬†So yes, I have a stash. ¬†And the second thing is I dole out cookies on a need to eat basis. ¬†I realized they were wolfing down my hard work like dime a dozen Dollar Tree cookies and so now I put out about half a dozen at a time. ¬†Is it mean? ¬†Probably but I felt so hurt that my hard work was eaten with such little regard. ¬†And I proved it, too, when I got them 3 dozen cookies for $0.99 from Aldis and they were gone in a day. ¬†About the same as it took them to inhale mine. ¬†So I don’t feel too badly about my evildoing.

It’s just all so difficult. How do you feed a pack of people like this? ¬†You can’t tell what they like (other than chocolate chip cookies from ANYWHERE) and you never know when or what they’ll eat.

So what do I do?  Any ideas?

I bought a head of cauliflower and tomorrow I am making Buffalo Cauliflower Bites with it. ¬†No one in this house will even go near it and I don’t even want them to.

They can have leftovers and believe me, there are a lot this week! ¬†They’re all made with good food from top notch recipes and you can take it from me, I worked hard to make them all. ¬†On second thought, maybe I SHOULDN’T complain OR be offended.

I’m getting quite a few nights off from cooking!

Memories – Tic Tacs, Velveeta and Baseball

I spent every summer with my grandmother to the point that a lot of my childhood memories revolve around the things that we did together and the memories I have of her.

I remember the blankets on the beds – blue flowery bankets edged in teal satin. ¬†Her perfume – that dark brown, “grandmother” perfum from Estee Lauder called (interestingly) Youth Dew. ¬†Her Adorn hairspray. ¬†The aluminum gliders on the porch. ¬†Fireflies in the twilight. ¬†The tree in the back yard. ¬†The peonies in the front yard. ¬†How she would sneak a cigarette on the back porch while my grandfather was working in his study. ¬†Laundry day and the laundry chute. ¬†Sewing with her in the basement. ¬†The way the books in the basement smelled and being scared of what really was behind THAT wooden door down there!

She, my grandfather and I would sit on their bed and watch the Pittsburgh Pirates play baseball on KDKA every night they were on. ¬†If they weren’t on we would listen to them on the radio and if it was a really special night, we would go INTO Pittsburgh to see the game at Three Rivers Stadium! ¬†I loved each of those nights and love the Buccos to this day! ¬†I can still hear her kvell about her favourite players. ¬†When I was an exchange student in New Zealand the Pirates made it to the World Series and not only did my grandmother send me Heinz ketchup that year but she also send me all kinds of Pirate memorabilia that was in all of the stores so I wouldn’t miss out.

She was a home ec teacher and taught school for 30 years before she retired. ¬†My dad decided to take bartending school in Pittsburgh so while he would be in school, my grandmother would teach me to sew. ¬†I made a really geeky polyester outfit but the time we spent together making it remains priceless. I wish I had a sewing machine even now because I love sewing that much. ¬†When I was little and lived with her before my mom married my dad, my grandmother not only dyed her own shoes…she also made all of her own clothes. ¬†That’s some serious respect you’re seeing from over here!

I still have her teaching cookbook which I use a lot.  Her favorite recipes are marked in it.

One thing though she couldn’t stand were vegetables and the way she choked them down was copious quantities of Velveeta melted on them. ¬†I was basically starved at home since my parents were never there and school lunch was our only meal most of the time so this delicacy of Velveeta and broccoli or french cut green beans was like nectar!

And as far as I was concerned, her only really bad habit was her smoking.  I think because of it I can jokingly say she became addicted to Tic Tacs.  I know now that when I pop one in my mouth, that sweet vanilla mint outer coating makes me think immediately of her.  The smell of Youth Dew wafts around me and my grandmother is right there again.

I hope she knows how many memories she gave me and how very much I miss her. ¬†She is so much a part of who I am and tehe person I have become…more so I think than even my mother.

Tic tacs, velveeta, baseball and everything.

 

 

The Biggest Disappointment

I have been thinking a lot the past few days. ¬†Usually this leads to a very dark place that I have a hard time coming back from. ¬†I so very don’t want to ever go back to that place ever again. ¬†Often when I find myself headed to this place these days, I just shut down the thoughts and go to my happy place and lalalalalala…..it doesn’t matter anymore.

But sometimes the dark side creeps up on me.

What I am thinking about is my biggest disappointment. ¬†That, of course, is and always will be having to leave Jerusalem. ¬†Despite all of the wonderful things that have happened since, and I don’t want to say they are any less amazing or wonderful, leaving that city will always be the biggest disappointment of my life and one I can never fix.

Of course that leads directly to a situation of lashon harah (something very bad which was said about me by someone else to many people, regardless of whether it was true or not, who then believed it carte blanche without question because the person telling them wanted them to – take it from me, as our sages say, the evil tongue, lashon harah, does kill a person when it spreads and it never should.)

The worst case of this spread of lashon harah is when it was told to my father. ¬†Today I had to accept that without question, without asking me, without any doubt whatsoever, my father believed it. ¬†I had to accept today how very much this has hurt me…how truly deeply it sears my soul to not be believed by my very own father and worse, to have him automatically believe the worst of me without ever even conceiving that he should even believe the better.

This takes me back to when I was 17 years old and some piece of scum walked into my father’s nightcluband told him I was “the best he ever had.” ¬†My father came home and beat the living shit out of me with a razor strap. ¬†It happened without warning so quickly I barely even knew WHY I was being beaten and defense? ¬†Absolutely none. ¬†And mercy. ¬†Really? ¬†I was guilty without a trial.

And that’s how it remains today.

Guilty without a trial. ¬†It’s just like it was when I was 17 – and my father’s opinion of me has never changed. ¬†For a man who molested me, this is actually….well, I don’t even know what it is.

Today I had to accept all of this. ¬†And obviously I need to act on it but I don’t have any idea what to do. ¬†I didn’t have therapy so I didn’t have a chance to talk to my therapist – that will have to wait a week. ¬†In the meantime, I am just going to process it and not worry about what to do about it. ¬†I am going to let it sit there. ¬†I am not going to roll it over and over and ride with it under my arm to the dark place. ¬†I’ll just wait a while until I can talk to Kellye and then I’ll know what to do and I’ll act on it and send it on it’s way.

This is something I really don’t want to think about.

This is betrayal at it’s very worst. ¬†It’s betrayal, lies, deceit, it’s a whle lifetime of what I had built up in my mind as support from my father that never was and all that “never was” just crumbled away….I guess.

But as unreal as all of that was Рthe hurt is VERY real.  I am devastated.  I am shot through with devastation.  I am lying on the floor, curled up in my grief for what I thought existed and never did.  I am once again afraid to trust, afraid of people, afraid of the world.

And I know it had led to both a setback and a step forward.  Hopefully they will cancel each other out.

Time will only tell.v