Tag Archive: hobbies


Where I’ve Been.

Hi.

I know, I haven’t blogged in awhile. Life gets busy and, with three kids, even the laziest days are filled with distraction and demand. But that’s not really why I haven’t been writing here.

I started feeling really awful over the Summer. My energy level took a huge dive and there were some alarming changes in my breast tissue. As I’m normally a healthy, fit person, I couldn’t imagine what was wrong with me – the vapors, early menopause, disco fever, cancer?? After endless blood tests, ultrasounds, and doctor’s visits, I was told that my hormones were in a precarious state of imbalance (in my mind, this looked like St. Bernard on a high-wire) and that it was probably due to a combination of insulin resistance and ovarian cysts. Not knowing the root of the problem was the psychological equivalent of walking around all day, everyday, with a sharp pebble in my shoe, so finding out it wasn’t something super serious was a huge relief.  I’m managing everything pretty well with meds, diet, and exercise. Trying to adjust to a life without sweets has been hard, but totally worth the effort. I feel a lot better now.

(Actually, disco fever sounds pretty awesome and I wish it had been the cause of my troubles. Any excuse to wear this.)

Other than being preoccupied by my own imminent decrepitude, time moves fast. The days bleed into each other like, well, like bleeding bloody days.  The kids are getting bigger and most of my domestic energy is spent trying to stop them from becoming more grown-up. This is obviously an exercise in futility, but like a pit bull, I won’t loosen my jaws until the struggle itself becomes futile.

This will be all too soon, in Noah’s case. He started 5th grade this year and turns 11 in March. He’s doing well in school and is enjoying his steadily increasing independence. His life is all about friends, school, camp, music, and fun these days. When he’s not busy with those things, he’s eating, growing, and taking things apart just to rebuild them.

The girls are good, too. Lilah is 8 now and still a wise, creative soul with an incredible amount of common sense. She’s super bright and expects a lot from herself, which is both a blessing and a curse. She loves to read and draw for the most part, but her feistiness comes out when she’s horsing around with her friends or playing soccer.

Aviva is almost 5, which blows my mind. She’s in that stage between preschooler and big kid – still biologically drawn toward cuddles and comfort, but unwilling to hold my hand when we cross the street. She’s a sassy, clever girl who loves preschool and playing with her friends. We’ll register her for kindergarten next month, which is something I’m not at all ready to accept. In fact, my insistence on keeping her small runs so deep that I’m planning to spend most of August at home with her, enjoying lots of carefree fun during the last few weeks before she starts elementary school.

See? Pit bull.

Now that I’ve bored you with a quick update, here are the highlights of the past 7 months in short order:

– Yoga. I started doing it because I lacked the energy to do my normal, cardio-heavy workouts and now I’m hooked. And really, really strong. Because my schedule is pretty packed and I can’t make it to a live class with any regularity, I take my classes online through Yogaglo. I love it.

– Noah went to overnight camp in Maine for 3.5 weeks over the Summer. We missed him like crazy, but he had an amazing time – learned lots of new things, made lots of new friends, and was really sad to leave when we picked him up. To cheer him, we ended his month-long Jewish indoctrination by taking him out for some delicious Maine lobster on our way home. Sacrilege never tasted so sweet.

– Aviva is learning Chinese in preschool. She’s picking it up so quickly that I’m thinking about hiring a tutor to help her continue the language when she starts kindergarten. She loves trying out her new words on actual Chinese people, so this comes in very handy when there’s a long wait to be seated at Hei La Moon.

– Lilah blocked all shots in goal during the Spring and Fall soccer seasons. Hell yeah!

– August brought us an ancient scourge: head lice. There is truly nothing like the moment when you realize that your child – your child with super thick, curly hair – has a head full of bugs. Thankfully, for me and for my children, this moment occurred in public, so I couldn’t fly right into screaming banshee mode. The delayed reaction proved to be advantageous because when I got home, I was able to just skip the hysteria phase and go right into the heavy drinking phase of head lice coping techniques. I only reverted back to the banshee phase once, when close inspection revealed that all three kids had it…and that I had it, too. The next 6 days were spent spinning through an endless cycle of combing, nit-picking, laundry, and stupid movies. Was it the end of the world? No, definitely not. Do I ever want to go through it again? Fuck no. In fact, if given the choice between Louse House: The Sequel and a non-serious injury, I’d take the injury…unless it was a bug-related injury, of course.

– We barely celebrated the high holidays this year. Our house was still somewhat disorganized from the lost week of lice, I was exhausted, and the kids had just started a new school year. We weren’t up for hosting Rosh Hashanah dinner for our extended family like we usually do, so we didn’t.  In hindsight, I missed it and plan to make up for it with a huge, fun Passover seder.

– Michael and I went to The Rally to Restore Sanity back in October. My parents had already planned to have the kids at their house that weekend anyway, so we went for it! It was the first time in five years that we’d been away without the kids.  It was a whirlwind of a weekend, but we had an amazing time – saw some sights, went to some museums, ate some fabulous food, and rallied sanely. It also made us realize that we should spend a weekend away without the kids at least once a year. Grown-up travel is much more relaxing than family travel.

– Lilah turned 8 last month. We celebrated by getting her a fancy new bike and letting her host her very first slumber party. Seven extra girls invaded our house and, even though we braced for chaos, everyone behaved really well. The giggles tapered off around midnight and we didn’t hear another peep until 7am. This has led me to conclude that these children could stand to spend some time with 8-year-old me and my 2nd/3rd grade friends. We’d teach them to raise some sleepover hell. None of this “asleep at midnight” malarkey.

-The December holidays were good. Chanukah was fun, as always, and the surrounding weeks were punctuated by visits with dear friends. We welcomed the new year at home with the kids, playing games and dancing.

Happy 2011 to the handful of you who read this blog. I hope to be here more often this year.

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Happy Mothers’ Day! I hope you all enjoyed your burnt pancakes this morning.

Awhile back, I mentioned that I was fooling around with coconut milk in the hopes of making some really good dairy-free chocolate pudding for Lilah, who is severely allergic to all dairy products.  I came across several decent recipes during the course of this little experiment, some with eggs, others with additional ingredients like tofu and lecithin. All of them were just OK – a little too eggy, a little too chemical, a little too sweet. They all lacked that smooth, creamy, deeply chocolate richness that I was so hoping for.

Then I saw this recipe. It originally called for whole cow’s milk, which I easily replaced with coconut milk and hoped for the best.

And, well, let me tell you:  It is THE BEST. I love it so much that Pee-Wee Herman would probably suggest that I marry it.

Not only is it the most delicious pudding I’ve ever eaten, but it is also the easiest pudding recipe I’ve ever made. No eggs, no weird stuff – just pure chocolate-coconut bliss.

You can thank me when you’re done licking the bowl.

Chocolate-Coconut Pudding

(adapted from John Scharffenberger via Smitten Kitchen)

Serves 6

1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups light, unsweetened coconut milk
6 ounces 72% bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. Combine the cornstarch, sugar and salt in the top of a double boiler*. Slowly whisk in the coconut milk, scraping the bottom and sides with a heatproof spatula to incorporate the dry ingredients. Place over gently simmering water and stir occasionally, scraping the bottom and sides. Use a whisk as necessary should lumps begin to form. After 20 minutes or so, when the mixture begins to thicken and coats the back of the spoon, add the chocolate. Continue stirring for about 4 to 6 minutes, or until the pudding is smooth and thickened. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla.

2. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer** into a serving bowl or into a large measuring cup with a spout and pour into individual serving dishes.

3. Cover dish(es) and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 3 days (if you can restrain yourself for that long).

*You can fashion your own double boiler by placing a heatproof bowl over a pot of water. Just make sure the bowl fits just inside the top of the pot without falling in!  And please save yourself a trip to the ER by using good oven mitts when removing the bowl from the pot.

** I didn’t strain the pudding. The world did not end.

Good Things To Eat

Because of this blog’s title, you had to know that I’d be talking about food at some point.

I love food.

And!  I’ve loved to cook since I was 7 years old, which is when my Mom first taught me how to make scrambled eggs.  At that point, she was taking a break from her 30-plus year teaching career and running a small-but-successful catering company out of our kitchen (obviously, this was way before you needed a license and a commercial kitchen to do such things).  Everyday, I’d come home from school, tell her about my day, and watch her cook for awhile.

I was fascinated and learned quickly.

By age 10, I looked forward to new issues of Bon Appetit more than my Mom did.

By age 12, I could make basic things – spaghetti, burgers, baked chicken, cookies, quickbreads, etc.

By age 14, one of my chores was to cook dinner once or twice a week.

At age 16, I cooked my first-ever “fancy” dinner for my high school boyfriend and he INHALED it.  This bolstered my confidence considerably.  (In hindsight, though, he was a growing, teenage boy and, even though he definitely liked what I made, he was probably just really, really hungry, too.)

At age 17, I hosted 20 guests at a dinner party for my parents’ 25th anniversary.  I made a lot different tapenades and served them with toasted baguette and vegetables.  Dinner itself was a buffet with lamb (mom helped a little with the lamb since I’d never made it before), pasta with pesto and tomatoes, stuffed peppers, and salad.  Dessert was fresh berries and cake…from a bakery.

At age 19, I came home for Mothers’ Day weekend and made wild mushroom risotto, grilled steaks, and a homemade ice cream cake. (There’s nothing to do in my hometown, so weekends home from college were always a good excuse to buy groceries with my parents’ money and play around in the kitchen.)

In my early 20’s, I lived in Europe and then lived off-campus when I returned, so I learned how feed myself well for very little money.  This skill came in handy again when, 5 years ago, my husband was suddenly laid-off.  With two small children and another on the way, it was a relief not to worry too much about getting food on the table. (Thankfully, he got another job 3 weeks before Aviva was born and he’s been working there ever since.)

In my mid-to-late 20’s, I was home on-and-off with babies and had some time on my hands. I worked on my techniques and started using a wider variety of spices.

Also, since my teens, I’ve been pretty keen on trying any and all types of cuisine.  I figured that the more I tasted, the better my own cooking would be.

Now, here I am, at age thirty-something. My Mom now thinks that I am a better and more adventurous cook than she ever was…and, man-oh-man, that is some high praise.  When I thanked her, she clarified, with a wry smile,  “But I’m still a better baker.”

That is very true, and due mostly to my flawed character.  I don’t have the patience for large scale baking projects.  If a baked dessert requires more than 30 minutes of prep time, I won’t make it. What I do bake, however, is always pretty decent.

So, now that you know how I’ve come to love food and cooking, I’m going to try to share good things to eat with all of you.  If I go to a good restaurant or try a new recipe, you’ll probably read about it.

You’re welcome.

I just realized that you’re probably wondering where I get my recipes.

The answer is: EVERYWHERE.  Online, cookbooks, magazines, friends, family, my own mind.  If it sounds good, I’ll give it a go.

Like this recipe here.

I’ve made it twice in the last three weeks and might make it again next week, I love it so. The kids love it, too, which surprised me because Noah and Aviva normally HATE spinach. It’s a good recipe to play around with, too.  Next time I make it, I’m omitting the bread, doubling the sauce – spices, vinegar, and all – and serving it over saffron rice.  Yum.

In my cooking, I always need to consider my Lilah’s severe dairy allergy, so I sometimes have to modify recipes to make them safe for her to eat. It can be tough, but we work around it and have found suitable replacements for most dairy products.  This week, she and I will be playing around with coconut milk in the hopes of making some amazing chocolate-coconut pudding.  I’ll let you know how it goes.  It will definitely be a delicious experiment.

Also, Passover ends tonight.  I plan to serve some citrusy grilled chicken alongside a simple pasta – spaghetti tossed with quickly sauteed garlic, baby heirloom tomatoes, fresh basil, a handful of chopped kalamata olives, a pinch of crushed red pepper, and a squeeze of lemon – and celebrate not having to eat matzah for another year!

A Short Story by Lilah

Lilah has an amazing teacher who fosters creativity in every classroom activity, no matter what the topic.  So, when Lilah told me that her class was writing short stories, I knew the results would be pretty great.

I was definitely not disappointed. For your reading pleasure…

The Spooky Day

By Lilah

Once, when I was at camp playing hockey, an alien popped out of nowhere.  It said, “Can I play hockey with you?”

Nobody knew what to say.

The alien said, “Thanks, I love hockey” and played a game with us.

When the game was over, it tried to attack us.

I found the alien ship and pulled a lever. Something like a hammer came out and started to bang the alien on its head.  My knee pushed a different lever. It pushed the alien up in the air.

The alien fell down and got out. It put me into its ship.

It took me into space.

I escaped the alien ship and landed on a weird planet called Zombie Planet. The zombies looked scary, but just wanted to play.

One zombie pushed me.  I slipped and fell off Zombie Planet, came back to Earth, and landed on top of my school.

I climbed down and started to play.  It was getting dark.  I walked home, but nobody was home.

So, I put on the movie Labyrinth.

When it was over, I went to bed.

It had been a spooky day.

About the author: Lilah lives in Massachusetts with her brother, sister, mom and dad. She wrote this story because she likes hockey and aliens.

Weird Science

We got Noah a microscope for his birthday earlier this month, a gift that was totally worth the shocking price tag.  He uses it almost everyday, taking a closer look at whatever piques his interest.

Yesterday, he came bounding down the stairs, exuberantly imploring,

“Mom!  Look at my blood!  It is so PRETTY!”

It was, quite possibly, the darkest thing anyone had ever said to me in such an excited, cheerful tone.

While I peered at his platelets, he started to leave the room, so I asked where he was going.

He replied,

“Oh, I need a band-aid.  I picked the scab on my knee to get the sample. “