Feb 27 2014
Ever tried hosting your own Shabbat dinner and felt a touch… overwhelmed? Bethany from The Glamorous Housewife is here to help with her monthly how-to series on Kveller. Read last month’s Shabbat Dinner Guide here.
We are deep into winter and although many of us long for spring, the weather is still cold and comfort food is often what we all crave. Therefore I thought a traditional brisket would be a perfect main dish for this month’s meal. The recipe I use the most is via The Barefoot Contessa because I think it is quite easy and totally foolproof. My favorite part about this dish is it can be made the day ahead and then reheated in the sauce. My only tip is to not use brisket but to substitute with chuck roast. Chuck often has more fat than brisket and fat equals flavor and tenderness, so when you cut into it there should be no resistance and the meat will melt like butter! Read the rest of this entry →
Feb 21 2014
The surprising thing about living on an island is just how much there is to do. Once my husband and I bought a house and made a long-term commitment to life on North Haven, we became a hot commodity. In addition to our jobs (teaching for me, plumbing and now programming at our community center for my husband), we serve in town government, volunteer with the ambulance crew, teach music lessons, and attempt to maintain a social life. I direct three or four plays each year, for which my husband either acts or does the sound design or both. I teach Pilates at the Y, and in the summer, ostensibly my time off, I open a small bakery and breakfast café.
That’s the way we like it. Neither of us is at our best with a lot of leisure time, and it’s not like there are a lot of places to go here to have a meal out or see a show. Typically if we have downtime at the same time we’ll go for a long walk, snowshoe, or kayak. Maybe we’ll learn a new piece of music or write and record a song. My workday ends at noon on Friday, and when I don’t have to get on the ferry for a prenatal checkup, I make a point of cleaning the bathrooms. Since sitting gets such a bad rap these days, with articles popping up all over the Internet claiming it’s as bad for you as smoking, being busy seems to make a lot of sense. Read the rest of this entry →
Feb 14 2014
Tonight I’m planning dinner by candlelight. It will engage all five senses, with attention lavished on the tiniest details, including our wedding china instead of Corelle, and soup that requires a trip to the butcher instead of just a can opener. They say oysters are an aphrodisiac, but I’m banking on the kneidelach my husband likes: the firmer, the better. Ah, February 14th.
Isn’t this how Shabbat should always go?
My kids’ preschool director sent an email out reminding parents that “we celebrate love and caring all year long, but we do not celebrate Valentine’s Day at school.” Last V-Day, when my son found a cupcake in his cubby with the Post-It note reading “Baked with love in our kosher home,” he thought it was a happy coincidence.
No valentines, no candy hearts–would Friday be any fun? Read the rest of this entry →
Feb 7 2014
Love our children though we may, inevitably my husband and I will eventually have commitments on Friday night. Luckily, we have the world’s most fantastic babysitter. Our children run to her when she comes through the door. Last time she left, our toddler clung to her leg and blurted out, “Miss Megan, I ruv you.” Like any good parent, I’ve instructed her to start failing her college courses so that she won’t graduate quite so fast and leave us, tearful, in her successful dust.
She’s not Jewish, and like most of our community, matters of faith don’t tend to come up regularly. However, now that Shabbat on Fridays is part of our family rhythm, I’m not sure how to approach her about it.
Don’t let me fool you. Our Shabbat practice is not picturesque nor extensive. It is a barefoot, pants-less, baby-on-the-countertop kind of thing. As we discover what traditions work for us, more often than not the mood absorbs the anxiety that comes with “don’t let the toddler grab the lighter!” than any sort of Shabbat peace. Read the rest of this entry →
Jan 24 2014
I was born a contradiction. On the Sabbath, the day we are commanded to rest, I prompted my mother to labor and deliver me into the world. So it’s fitting that I struggle with the God thing still.
Soon after we gave birth to our first kids, one of my dearest friends confided in me that pregnancy and childbirth made her feel closer to God than ever before.
Huh. Not me.
I tried to figure out why.
From early on in my pregnancy, I needed to see it to believe it. I waited until I saw the results of the home pregnancy test before embracing the possibility. I waited longer still for the first ultrasound to feel like it was actually happening. It wasn’t real until I had proof. Some have faith; I wanted certainty.
Childbirth also called my beliefs into question. Read the rest of this entry →
Jan 10 2014
I learned to braid and to bake at the same time. At my mother’s side, we mixed packets of yeast with warm water to let it proof, melted butter and stirred it together with eggs, milk, and honey, and added flour to make it a soft, pliable dough. She got the recipe for this sweetened and enriched challah from a roommate’s great-grandmother, who brought it with her from Europe.
“Push it away with the heel of your hands, then fold it over and pull it towards you,” she instructed, teaching me how to knead the dough. After the dough was springy and resilient, we placed it in a greased bowl to rise in a warm place. In the fall and winter, which is when we most often made honey-egg bread, we placed it on the edge of the kitchen counter, closest to the woodstove in the next room. We swaddled the bowl in a dishtowel.
After an hour, we lifted back the towel to see the dough, puffed out to double its size. My mother told me to punch it down, and we pried it out of the bowl and kneaded some more. She then cut it into equal pieces, three or six, depending on how many loaves we were making, or if we were making one big braid with a baby braid on top. We shaped each piece into a long, skinny snake, rolling on a floured board or between our hands in the air. Our golden retriever lay at our feet, hopeful for a dropped piece of dough. Read the rest of this entry →
Dec 20 2013
About a week ago, a friend posted on her Facebook page: “Happy Houseiversary!”
She and her family had been living in their new home for a year (a home that happens to be across the road from my home. Hi, Lori!)
I saw Lori’s post, checked the calendar, and immediately felt shame. Just a week before Lori’s houseiversary, we had a houseiversary, too. It’s just that I hadn’t noticed. I didn’t mention it to my husband, and he didn’t mention it to me. I didn’t post it on Facebook, or give it much thought, at all. In fact, when people ask us how long we’ve been living in our new home, in our new town, we usually mumble, “Uh, a year? About a year? Maybe a little less than a year?” (For the record: one year, three weeks, and five days.)
I’ve blogged on Kveller a bunch about my ambivalence about the suburbs. First I wondered if I was old enough to own a house and then I wondered if the suburbs would make my kids boring. There was a post where I asked, “Will we find people like us?” and one where I tried to instruct readers on how to “close on a house and not freak out.” Read the rest of this entry →
Nov 8 2013
“I want Shabbat,” my son Benjamin proclaimed on a recent Saturday afternoon as the guests we’d invited over for lunch milled about the house. I looked up from the salad I was throwing together, certain I’d misunderstood him. Shabbat is something we do every week in our house, yet something Benjamin, now 10 years old, had never once acknowledged. But then he said it again.
Benjamin has autism, and with his variation of the disorder comes serious language impairments that make it insanely difficult for him to do something that most of us take for granted; to identify the thoughts he wants to express, find the corresponding words, and then actually put those words out into the world. Communicating is an Everest-scaling level challenge for him, and because of that, Benjamin has become quite adept at paring it down to the basics.
And we, in turn, have become quite adept at interpreting the collection of compact lines he has curated over the years in order to get his needs met. More difficult is decoding the subtext, although we have become increasingly skilled at that part, too. Read the rest of this entry →
Nov 1 2013
This past week, I was lucky enough to fly to Chicago and attend the Covenant Foundation’s awards dinner and symposium. Many months ago, I received the generous invitation to attend the conference as their guest, but also as a guest of my mother, a previous winner of the Covenant award and well-respected Jewish educator. Mostly, I would be there to accompany her; I was my mother’s plus one.
But in terms of the facts (i.e. I am a teacher and a writer) none of what I do is explicitly Jewish education. And in terms of the facts (my mother is very at home in this setting) she didn’t really need me there. And so it was that upon arrival, as Jewish education’s best and brightest swarmed my mom and welcomed her, I found myself feeling a little bit out of place, unsure of my purpose.
As a teacher, I’m used to being up in front of the room. As a writer, I’m used to being squirreled behind a computer. Here, I was sitting at round tables with people whose biographies revealed their very obvious connection to the professional Jewish world. I was an imposter, sharing a hotel room with an insider. Read the rest of this entry →