Tag Archives: Jewish Identity

Baking with Dead Nana

from generation to generation: Passover bagels

from generation to generation: Passover bagels

    Passover bagels?  Isn’t that an oxymoron?  Nope.  And believe me, they are so unlike real bagels, they will not induce any guilt or doubt about the Spirit of the Law in those who may be prone to such feelings about fluffy kosher for Passover baked goods.  These bagels are heavy, sweet lumps devoid of all fluffiness, and are in every respect, kosher.

     When Dead Nana was very much alive, she contributed Pesach bagels to every seder.  They take the place of yeast rolls on the table, and are lovely at soaking up the juice from Aunt Bobbie’s brisket.  At dairy breakfasts, straight from the oven, Continue reading

We Have Tam Tams

Here in the Buckle, I expect to have trouble getting all the Passover groceries I want. The grocery stores, bless their hearts, seem to forget Jewish holidays change dates every year, and sometimes wait too late to put stuff on display. They hardly ever order the same things year to year, and I might just have to do without Bazooka bubble gum and mini-marshmallows. And the matzah: they don’t know from Passover vs. regular, so I always doublecheck the hecksher on the box.

Last year we had one box of matzah to last the whole week. I was calling friends to borrow a sheet of matzah just to eke out a second seder. But it wasn’t just me: Continue reading

Scholastic Achievements: age appropriate

Having two kids 12 years apart (with nobody in between) means I get the best and worst of both age groups at the same time. Today’s photo shows one of the best of the best: paper records of high achievement for each kid. Last week, the Teenager won a Gold Key award from the regional Scholastic Art & Writing competition and Nashville’s Cheekwood Art Museum. I went to the awards ceremony and discovered the whole thing to be a bigger deal than I’d realized. Thankfully, I had bothered to shower that morning. The Toddler accompanied us, and though he was kept fairly quiet with a steady flow of reception cookies, he did sneeze on the mayor. His first political protest.

The Teenager’s winning photograph was taken inside what had, until recently, been the only grocery store within walking distance of a neighborhood of government housing projects and an inner-city school. (When the store shut down, a small stink was raised in the newspaper, where I learned the term “food desert.”) The photography teacher had arranged for the entire class to roam the site as a change of scenery, as an experiment in contrasts.

The Teenager’s selected photo is called Cleaning Lady. It aims down a dark hall of rippling vinyl sheeting toward a woman in a halo of daylight, head lowered, sweeping a floor that no one needs swept.

Change of scenery? Contrast? To privileged eighth-graders bussed to this wreck of a building from a private school a few blocks and a universe away? Yes. Part of me feels guilty that the subject of this photo is providing a convenient addition to my daughter’s college resume. But then again, I know my daughter, and I know she is alive to the shadows and lights of equality and fairness and justice. She took this picture to capture the contrast as a way to advertise, not capitalize.

And now for the Toddler’s contribution. His paper record of high achievement is a daily log from Day Care, upon which is highlighted in yellow marker: “PP in Potty!”
A first.

His First Challah

My Shabbes dinner may have failed, but one of its many mishaps led to an unexpected success. Remember the challah dough that refused to rise? I couldn’t bear to throw it away, so I put it in the fridge, thinking it might rise slowly anyway. It did. On Sunday morning, when reaching in for the organic margarine, I noticed that the rubbery lump had puffed into a convincing mound. Continue reading

Shabbes Dinner, plan B

Shabbes dinner did not go as planned. And planned it certainly was: for two weeks I’ve known what I was to cook. Planning, however, should also include knowing what NOT to plan on a Friday. Doctor’s appointments, freelance assignments, and lunches or walks with friends really ought not to be planned for Fridays at all. Unfortunately, I did all three last week and threw my carefully orchestrated dinner completely out of tune. I felt rushed and crabby and so not in the mood.

Plus, the challah dough stayed a sullen lump in the bottom of its bowl (yes, I proofed the yeast), the grocery store was out of Empire chicken (the only locally-available brand I semi-trust), and the potato kugel I cleverly made hours in advance tasted like raw egg (possibly because it was actually still raw, despite the convincingly brown surface).
Suddenly, the kitchen walls started to pull inward. The stacks of mail, diaper coupons and dirty plates on the table seemed beyond hope. Usually, if I start early enough, I am at least able to sweep these constant companions into one random pile to be sorted later. But Friday, I could not bear to even scrape clear a usable section of the table. The clean laundry dumped on the sofa leered at me with a depressing permanency. The sink was full of dirties and the dishwasher was full of cleans. Black drifts of dog hair eddied around my ankles. The dog hair may have been the last straw. Well, either that or the kugel the Teenager said tasted like latke batter.
I started to whine. My husband immediately cut me off with a reasonable “okay, let’s get take out.” So we did. We had Mexican on paper plates. I do not know the halachic credibility of saying Motzi over a tortilla, but it was good enough that night. The Toddler scarfed down green salad with mangoes and avocado. The Teenager had all the chips and salsa she could manage, and we finished off with leftover Obama cake from my neighbor’s inauguration party. Shabbes dinner, plan B.
Hardly balabusta-level domestic engineering, but it worked.

Tot Shabbat Survey

This entry is simply a question for YOU.
If you go to a synagogue with your kids, what programming do they offer on Shabbat morning? Please leave a comment here about the structure of the kid’s service, what you like about it, and what you don’t like about it, and any other info or advice.

Our synagogue is revamping its Saturday morning programming for little kids. We’re offering a Tot Shabbat every single Shabbat morning at 10:30. Right now, different leaders do totally different things each time.

I want a unified, structured program about 30 minutes long, and it has to contain these things: a format that loosely mimics the Shabbat liturgy in the main sanctuary (we’ll say the Shema, do the Torah procession, etc.); some songs, dancing, movement, play; and some kind of hands-on exploration of the week’s Torah portion, or Parsha. We are a Conservative shul, so we cannot use art materials or musical instruments, but we can do puppets, dress-up, stickers, and role-play.

I would love to hear about any service that WORKS: anything that keeps kids engaged.
Thanks very much!

Daycare December Dilemma

The adorable and sweetly-meant tshirt above illustrates the raison d’etre of this blog: what it is like to live Jewishly when 99.08 percent of the people around you aren’t Jewish. The Toddler came home with this “holiday gift,” which his teachers at daycare imagined to be a neutral, politically-correct offering. I am delighted to have it, mind you, because it is now a sacred object: it has my child’s hand and foot-print on it forever. I can never, ever get enough hand and feet prints, and if someone else does the messy work of getting them onto paper and fabric, so much the better. But, it is most definitely not neutral or politically correct. It is not a winter gift, a Frosty gift, or a holiday gift. It is a Christmas gift, and we don’t celebrate Christmas. Continue reading

Wrapping Up Hanukkah

Yes, during Hanukkah I made a Buche de Noel for the Teenager’s French class party. And really, it isn’t much different from the Jewish Jelly Roll tradition. Except, Jewish Jelly Rolls don’t pretend to be Christmas logs…
I am especially proud of the meringue mushrooms, oui?

After 8 days and nights, the Toddler never did figure out gelt was edible. He hoarded it, stacked it, skated on it, and shoved it behind books in every reachable bookcase, but he never realized what was beneath that shiny foil. (The dog did, however, and it is for times like this that I buy paper towels. Up came the foil, the chocolate, and other things one doesn’t like to see puddled on the kitchen floor.) Continue reading

The query letter, the migraine, the Vote


Tuesday is Pasta Night, and this is a piece of last Tuesday’s capellini thrown against the panelling, inspected, and forgotten.
It is now stuck fast.
This pic is posted because I didn’t have a photo of a migraine, an agent, a voting booth, or a brownie.
Today, I ‘ve been querying an agent with a migraine. I mean, I have the migraine, not the agent. I mean, the agent doesn’t have a migraine…I have the migraine and I am trying to have an agent. Migraines inevitably cause some sort of cerebral slow-down. Obviously, this includes grammar and syntax. I could register my blog under the category of Migraineurs. To be more comprehensive, I could register my blog under the category of Migraineurs who write, raise children Jewishly, live in the mid-South, are gluten-free, kosher, At Home, and slightly obsessive. I could go on. But I won’t. I did actually register my blog with Jewishblogging.com today, and I hope they pick me up. I played it safe and registered under “Parenting.” It looks as if my particular brand of Conservative, Southern Jewish Parenting isn’t yet covered by the worthy blogs already there.
The agent, however, the hypothetical agent mentioned above is my goal for a different project entirely. I’m writing a couple of Jewish kids’ books, and I would so love to see them become real. For this to happen, I need an agent, apparently, plus a great deal of luck, persistence, and publishing savvy. I shall be trying out some material on JewishEveryday.com.

Meanwhile, I am trying not to be too nervous about today’s election. For the first time, I voted early, which means I am free to wallow in my own political and economic anxieties at home alone all day long. Brownies may help. I make the Gluten-Free Brownies of the World. Recipe upon request only, else I shall bore wheat-eaters silly.

so glad Hallowe’en doesn’t last 8 days and nights

I forgot what it was like to trick-or-treat with a toddler. Had I remembered sooner, I would’ve stayed home. What was I thinking? He doesn’t even know what candy is. Well, now he does. At one house, they gave out packets of raisins. Raisins, to the toddler, are nirvana. Great, I thought, he can actually eat something! I open the bag, pour the contents onto his stroller tray and voila: chocolate-covered raisins. I made sure to tell him these were not raisins, and these were not what were going to appear the next time he ever asked for raisins.

I also forgot that I am now 12 years older than the last time I went trick-or-treating with a toddler. I was wasted by 6:30pm. Getting Shabbos dinner ready, eating it, cleaning up after it, dressing the kid, doing my daughter’s hair (she was Sarah Palin), finding a treat basket, taking the obligatory photos…I was too tired to dress up at all. In the past, I’ve been the Queen of Hearts with a hoop skirt and hand-painted salt-dough tartlets; I’ve been Arachne with a giant spider bracelet and a cape of webs; I’ve been a tooth fairy with earrings made of dental floss boxes and a necklace of toothbrushes; I’ve been a bunch of purple grapes (never again. I couldn’t sit down on all the balloons), and even a nuclear warhead. But not this year. This year, I was a tired, old, and unashamedly sub-par Balabusta.

Hallowe’en Hallah

I’ve got it down. I know precisely when to start mixing the challah dough so that the moment the kids get home from school they can “punch.” If you’ve never made bread by hand, and have thus been denied the unaccountable pleasure of punching down dough, I urge you to unplug the bread machine and give it a go. Punching down dough is, alas, a fleeting pleasure: it takes about a second and you only get to punch once. But feeling—and hearing—the whole mass deflate is quite satisfying. And when else do we get to punch anything?
As I mentioned in the last entry, making the challah will help to assuage the Hallowe’en/Shabbat guilt ever so slightly.
Multiple fun-size Snickers bars will help even more.
I’ll let you know.

p.s. I use the hallah-with-kids recipe in Joan Nathan’s “The Children’s Jewish Holiday Kitchen.”

Happy Shabbos or Gut Hallowe’en? A fall fix.

As soon as the single Simchat Torah flag and all the Sukkot decorations were put away, out came the Hallowe’en crap. I have three ginormous plastic bins in the attic full of witch hats, pumpkin lights, teeny mummies on strings, table runners, spooky candles, and wee skull candy-holders. For starters. The black plastic cauldrons and home-made bouncey bats (toilet paper rolls, cereal box cardboard, and google eyes: classic) couldn’t fit, so they spilled over into the shed. We love Hallowe’en at my house. This year, though, there is a bit of a snag. It’s on Shabbat. Continue reading

Shalom, y’all

A propitious day to start a blog: Simchat Torah. The fact that I’m on a computer during a festival, and the fact that we utterly forgot to go to synagogue last night to celebrate the festival ought to clue you in to the fact that I am not strictly “observant.” This morning, to try and make up for last night’s gaffe, my husband and I hauled out all our toy torahs and our one battered Simchat Torah flag and marched around the house (inside. It’s cold out there). The toddler totally bought it, but the teenager excused herself to another room. We do what we can.

We do what we can. This may be my mantra, when I remember it.
To console myself, I remember that I did bake a chocolate cake in honor of Shemini Atzeret just days ago. Not to mention the presence of the Sukkah in the back yard (and almost finished).  And the homemade Yom Kippur break-fast.  And the round, raisin challahs for Rosh Hashana.  And the Star-of-David shaped “birthday cake to the world.”  And the orchard-picked apples in Israeli honey, too.  So, if I accidentally forgot about going to shul for the tenth time in a week, excuse me.
We do what we can.