Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Love and Latkes

Latkes are definitely a labor of love. A very greasy, oily, labor of love.  A time consuming, set off the smoke detector (twice), back breaking, use up half a bottle of oil, not to mention a 45 minute cleanup, and the entire house smells like a diner, labor of love.  Can you feel all that love for the miracle of the oil? 

I have made latkes over the years in different ways according to the tastes of my family.  I prefer the home-style kind where you can actually see the grated potato sticking out in crunchy, jagged edges.  My daughter likes the mealy kind, where everything is ground up in the processor and poured out like pancake batter-she really likes the gigantic frozen kind (UGH). 

My husband is just happy that I am making something that can’t really be considered healthy.  Poor thing has had to suffer through broccoli, spaghetti squash, and turkey meatloaf (all which were eaten along with seconds…hmmmm).  But, bona fide carbs and oil? Well, who needs to spend endless hours shopping for the perfect gift when a fried potato will do?

I really wasn’t up to latkes this year.  I didn’t’ want to make them, especially after rolling, cutting and baking six dozen sugar cookies.…I was so tired.  However, my son made a special request for latkes and I had recently viewed a recipe in my favorite new cookbook Vegan Holiday Kitchen by Nava Atlas for eggless latkes.  Despite my weariness, I wanted my allergic baby to feel like everyone else and truly enjoy the holiday with traditional fare, as he has to cope with food issues  on a regular basis in school and elsewhere (by the way, other traditional fare also includes jelly donuts…don’t even think I am going to fry donuts  any time soon).

So, I grated, grated and grated some more…by hand (can you hear the violins playing in the background)?  Do I get the Jewish mother of the year award for hand grating as opposed to using the food processor? Do the cuts on my fingers and occasional drops of blood get me any closer to sainthood? Nope.  Then, I mixed, and plopped and fried….and fried, and fried and fried.  There was oil on the counter, stovetop and splatters on the wall.  Let's not even talk about my clothes that require fumigation. By the better part of an hour, I had a tin full of golden, brown, shiny, jagged, crunchy edged, and paper- towel soaked latkes.  Yeah, me.  Now, my son who deals with food allergies so stoically could eat the same thing as everyone else on Hanukkah…safely. 

He picked it up, popped it into his mouth, and declared…”sorry, I don’t really like latkes, can I have pasta instead?” 

Ah, yes, the miracle of rigatoni. 

Monday, December 19, 2011

Staying on the Radar…One Cookie at a Time

Holiday season is a time of joy for most, and stress for others. I admit that I fall in between the two.  Unfortunately, for those kids with food allergies, holiday season can become a landmine if no one is at the helm keeping watch.  I have made my son vigilant about food allergies;he knows not to eat anything at school, in class, in the lunchroom or otherwise.  For every treat he has to turn down, he gets the equivalent at home-safely.  The teachers in the school all comment on how great he is about managing his food allergies, and as a result, they take notice of my six-year old who maturely gives up some of the irresistible goodies in school.  Most of the teachers know who my son is simply because they are so impressed by his fortitude (not to mention that he can be so darn cute).

Every school year I introduce myself to the lunch aides, provide a note for the teachers to send home to parents, talk with the nurse, discuss my son’s  allergies with his new teacher, refill expired Epi-Pens and update medical forms.  On a lighter note, I also make dairy, egg, nut free baked goods for the teachers during holiday season. I do the same during Allergy Awareness Week. It’s a small gesture of thanks, and moreover, it keeps my kid on the radar.  I find that it takes the stigma out of allergy food as well.  Most people think that if it isn’t loaded with eggs or butter, it won’t taste good.  When those who are not familiar with quality allergy free products, taste it and comment ”Wow, I can’t believe these don’t have eggs!” There is pause for thought.  It’s no longer so weird or different, rather it’s now considered good, or daresay, normal.  It’s the new normal.

The day after I brought in some allergy free sugar cookies, the EMT’s were called into my son’s school because a fourth grader ate a cookie with nuts that someone in his class brought in for a birthday. Somehow, the kid slipped off the radar. I had been volunteering that day and heard the call for EMT’s regarding a nut allergic reaction.  My heart stopped.  The child had an Epi-Pen administered and was then sent to the hospital…he was fine.  Afterward, many teachers who saw my stress, said, “You know your son would never take a cookie and eat it.”  Yes, I know, he wouldn’t, and yes, I am glad they realize that and as a result would never even offer it to him. I would like to think my efforts have made a difference over the last two years, or at the very least brought the attention of food allergies to teachers who never really had a clear understanding of what it’s all about.  

Again, often we don’t ask for these types of missions in our lives, but when faced with the challenges we have to rise to the occasion one cookie at a time.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

GingerBees-Gingerbread Maccabees-Biting Someones' Head Off Never Tasted so Good

I have had a serious hankering for gingerbread, which is ironic because I never used to like it. I find that since I officially hit middle age with the recent celebration of my (fill in the blank) birthday, there are changes within myself that I cannot seem to control.

·    I now have to remove my glasses to read something up close.

·         I need mega doses of drugs to get over a common cold.

·         I can no longer say, what up?

·         I actually prefer a minivan to a sedan.

·         I take medication that I have seen advertised on TV.

·         Low rise jeans…well let’s not go there.

·         It seems that I like gingerbread. 

I have always backed away from gingerbread for a few reasons.  First, I never really liked the taste of ginger, and from a philosophical standpoin, I always associated gingerbread men with Christmas and felt it was a wee bit “sacrilegious” to eat them.  Recently, I spotted a box of cute, chubby gingerbread men on the store shelf and truly, the only reason I bought it was, that it was baked in a dedicated nut-free facility.  The product is Mi-Del, and so on a whim I decided to try them out to see if my allergic son would like them.

Needless to say, I became totally addicted to them.  I loved the crunch, and the gingery kick, though these were a wee bit to…”kicky,” but most of all, (and I am embarrassed to admit this), I loved biting their little heads off. Perhaps this sadistic tendency can also be chalked up to middle age.  Who knows?

I liked the cookies, but I thought I could do better…with a little less kick.  So, I decided to cast aside all of my pre-conceived notions regarding  gingerbread and focus my baking prowess on  the GingerBees, the stalwarts of freedom because they too deserve a strong, kicky cookie to remind us of their bravery. I mean, who said there was a religious monopoly on gingerbread? Right?  Besides, the gingerbread cookie isn’t as meek and gentle as the sugar cookie, therefore, the Maccabee heads don’t fall off until you are ready to bite them off.  Those who have baked Hanukka sugar cookies know of what I speak.  How many countless Maccabee heads had to suffer? 

 So, I bring this awesome gingerbread cookie recipe to you adapted  from The Eat Clean Diet for Men Book.

Go ahead, bite someone’s head off…you will feel so much better.

PS-These are egg, nut, and dairy free (and they can be made gluten free as well)

GingerBees (and othe assorted shapes)


1/3 cup canola oil (you can also use coconut oil)

½ cup Sucanat (this stands for Sugar Cane Natural, much healthier than regular sugar because it is unprocessed, doesn’t spike blood sugar and adds to the molasses flavor of the cookie)

¼ unsweetened organic applesauce

½ cup + 2 TBSP Blackstrap molasses

1 ½ cup unbleached all purpose flour

1 ¼ cup Whole Wheat Pastry Flour (you can use  2 ¾ spelt or almond for gluten sensitive)

1 tsp. ginger

½ tsp. baking soda

½ tsp. salt

½ tsp. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 325


In a medium mixing bowl, sift the flours, baking soda and spices together.

In a large bowl, combine the sugar and the oil and using a whisk, beat for about two minutes until it is a caramel looking color and fluffy.  Then, add the applesauce and molasses and beat.

Add dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir.  As the dough gets stiffer, you will need to use your hands.  If the dough is too sticky, add a little more flour (not too much).

Divide the dough into two rounds and wrap in saran wrap.  Place in freezer for 1 hour or more.

·         Set oven to 325 degrees and line baking sheets w/parchment paper.

·         Remove from freezer and let the dough warm up for 5-10 minutes.

·         I cut a gallon-size ziploc bag down the side seams so that I can roll the dough inside the bag. Flour a rolling pin and roll out dough to 1/3 “ thickness.  Turn the dough clockwise to get all sides.  It is so much easier to do this with a Ziploc bag.  I find it works much better than plastic wrap or parchment, especially when you have to “peel” the dough sometimes. Then remove the dough perfectly flattened and place it down on a clean surface to use the cookie cutters.  The dough can be sticky and you have to work fast.  Sprinkle flour generously to prevent sticking.

·         Use cookie cutters to shape dough (smaller cookie cutters are best) and place on parchment paper.

·         Bake for 12-15 minutes depending on your oven.

·         Remove from oven and let cookies cool for about 1-2 minutes

·         Slide off baking sheets and place on cooling rack.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Lick the Bowl Roots-Holiday Cooking

I have decided to get back to my Lick the Bowl roots.  While this blog was originally intended to discuss food allergy related material including recipes and news items, I realized that my life was not just about food allergies.  Don’t get me wrong, they take up a big chunk of my energy, but the blog seemed to take on a persona of it’s own and I liked the direction it took.  Nevertheless, it’s holiday time and the one thing I love to do is experiment in the kitchen. 

A few weeks ago, I received a fabulous new cookbook from my Facebook friend, Nava Atlas.   It’s funny how people find each other in this big, wide world because prior to Facebook, Nava and I never knew each other.  Nava is an author and illustrator of many well-known vegetarian and vegan cookbooks.  She also has her own website  Some of her books include Vegan Express, Vegan Soups and The Vegetarian Family Cookbook, amongst many others.  

Nava found an anecdotal article I wrote for the Baltimore Jewish Times a few years ago (see below)  and decided to contact me on Facebook.  From that moment on we became Facebook acquaintances and she recently featured my challah recipe on her website

She has been very supportive of my newbie attempts at writing about recipes/food allergies and has been a source of guidance especially when I needed to make a vanilla allergy-free birthday cake a few years back and didn’t even know where to start.  Nava graciously sent me a complimentary copy of her new cookbook Vegan Holiday Kitchen (on shelves now) and I just had to blog about it because I think it’s fabulous.

I am the first to admit that I am an okay cook…not great…serviceable.  I have many food challenges in our home.  I have a carnivore-lovin’ husband, an egg and nut allergy son, along with a self -proclaimed, vegetarian who is also lactose intolerant.  It’s hard to find something that everyone can agree on especially at dinnertime.  Holidays are an extra source of stress, because when we travel or go to someone else’s house, I always have to worry about what the allergy child can eat.

Nava’s new book Vegan Holiday Kitchen has so many recipes that I am itching to try.  The beauty of the book is that everything is vegan, a.k.a egg and dairy free and many of the recipes are gluten free for those of you who suffer with gluten allergies.  I love this book because it is unpretentious and makes me feel like I can cook great meals without necessarily being a great cook.  Nava understands that we lead busy lives and can’t take a lot of time looking for exotic ingredients. She is a firm believer in good quality shortcuts and doesn’t sniff if you want to use store bought vegetable stock as opposed to making it yourself, pre-made pie crusts, order to “free up your time for all  the other dishes you’ll need to prepare from scratch.”  I love that.  

The recipes are clear, concise, and there are beautiful photographs of many of the finished products and both Jewish and secular holidays are included.  There is something for everyone.  I have my eye on the gluten-egg- free potato latkes and the gluten-egg-nut free kugel.   Both look fabulous, easy, and very tasty.  The latkes can either be made with (believe it or not) oatmeal, or quinoa flakes.  Nava insists they are the best and that no one can tell there’s oatmeal.  I will definitely try them and let you all know!

If you are looking for a great cookbook, I highly suggest this one.  I am so touched that she sent it to me and I plan to make very good use out of it in the near future. 

Happy Thanksgiving!
P.S. Cookie Season is Upon Us
Get ready for some awesome cookie recipes that are egg-dairy and nut free…created by moi just in time for cookie season!! The bonus of these recipes is that they use all natural ingredients, whole wheat pastry flour, no butter, cholesterol free, and even have reduced sugar.  I just made a batch of Oatmeal Raisin and my kids (who normally don’t even like oatmeal cookies went crazy over them)!

Monday, November 21, 2011

"Tigger" on Steroids

Ah…finally, we have survived the six-year old on steroids.  It was a long, frustrating trip fraught with “increased” (and that’s an understatement) energy and major meltdowns.  He went to one of those bouncy places for a birthday party yesterday, so I timed the predinisone exactly 1 hour before he left.  Let’s just re-name the kid “Tigger” because he bounced every steroid laden cell out of his body and fell into a coma-like induced sleep afterward…sigh…the worst is over.  Now we move onto the inhaled steroid. 

It’s pretty pathetic that my son calls us…”puff” buddies.  We stand together by the sink with a cup of water and we each inhale from our Flo-Vent (an inhaled steroid), then we both swish water in our mouths and rinse the residue out.   It’s like doing drugs with your kid.  Actually, it is doing drugs with your kid.  It’s a bit surreal and frankly a bit disturbing on so many different levels.  Bottom line, if you can get through the worst, the drugs work, because we no longer struggle for every breath we take, and like I said in a previous post….breathing is definitely not overrated.

Now that the worst is over, I can finally focus on more pleasant topics.  Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post on a great new cookbook I received recently….You are going to love it!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

OW, OW ,OW…ow, ow, ow, ow….

Yes, these are the cries of pain.  These are my muscles screaming out in agony…”why are you doing this to us? We want to go back to the way it used to be?”  Believe it or not, I have not worked out in almost two months since this nasty little chest infection took my lungs hostage.  It’s been a long trip, filled with steroids, inhalers, antibiotics, and other assorted medications, but alas, I have been released from my arrested breathing and have begun to cautiously join the world of the living again.  Of course, nothing is as easy as it seems, because now my itchy, sneezy, wheezy, coughing, allergy afflicted six-year old suffers the same fate as his mama and is on the same course of drugs.  Let’s just say that steroids on a six-year old can turn a seemingly sweet, even-tempered child into the incredible hulk on speed.

I specifically switched his dosage time from morning to late afternoon, because I really like his teacher and didn’t want her to have to bear the full brunt of his manic, off- the-wall behavior.  Yep, I took a hit for the teacher.

Back to my muscles, they hurt.  Walking up and down the stairs is brutal and yet I am going back for more punishment today because my screaming muscles have atrophied. They have become lazy, mushy, and very unattractive.  Did I mention that I modified my workout…that’s right, I took it easy so the instructor wouldn’t have to pick me up off the floor and force Albuterol down the throat.   Instead of squatting with a 40 lb. punching bag, I used baby weights and in lieu of a 10lb ball for ab work, I used a 4lb. ball and still my muscles hurt so badly, it’s beyond the sweet pain of a job well done.  Ow, ow, ow, ow, ow and ….OW! 

Yes, I am in pain, but eventually it will pass with every subsequent workout and slowly, I will return to my advanced level once again.  Until then, I suppose a little patience is in order.  I’m really bad at patience, but my muscles are a constant reminder that patience is definitely a virtue.  OW!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Coughing and Coffee are NOT Homophones

Wow!  I have been sick.  Sick as a dog sick.  Sick, as I never want to be sick again for sickness sake sick.  It all started out innocent enough.  A cold. A tickle. An annoying drip.  Who knew what a drip could do?  Well, if a drip of water over millions of years could produce the world’s most humongous stalactites, I guess a drip in my throat for a month could build up just as well.  So, perhaps there is a stalactite in my chest. Sure felt like one.  A crushing, pressing, invasive, stalactite.   As I helped my son with his inhaler (because he was sick too) I’m having visions of taking a hit off of it, like a drug addict looking for a fix.  You know, there is something inherently wrong if you are fantasizing about suckin’ off your kids inhaler.  Bad mommy.  Desperate mommy.  Breathing is not overrated.  I needed help.

Off to the doctor, who by the way was impressed with the fact that I had a conscience and didn’t inhale with my son.  I got my own brand, new, shiny inhaler along with a high dose of antibiotics for a diagnosed sinus infection.   I could feel the weight lifitng from my chest, as I knew the meds would take care of everything…WRONG!

I am walking around the house sounding like a 30-year smoker.  Slap on a pink waitress uniform and some garish blue eye shadow like on the caricature type, 90 year old waitress who raspily calls you toots and sounds like she’s coughing up a lung while she pours your stale coffee in some seedy diner. That’s what I sounded like.  The kids look at me with frightened eyes.  They aren’t used to me like this. 

Now, we move on to steroids….OY.  Ten days of steroids is enough to put anyone over the edge.  One moment you are a ravenous carb-o-holic vulture, and the next, you’re staring off into space like a cat coming down from a cat-nip overdose.  But wait, there’s more.   The cough is still not waning, so now we are on Advair-an inhaled steroid.   I never thought it would happen, but I am now actually taking medication that is advertised on TV.  You know, where they give you so many potential side effects including death, but the people on TV look happy anyway?  I was soooo not happy, but on the up side, I could breathe.  Again, totally not overrated.

Slowly, I begin to come back to the world of the breathing.  My son, who is in first grade and is trying to get a grasp on homophones, says, “Couging, and coffee are homophones.”  Here’s a refresher for those who are too embarrassed to remember 1st grade phonics…homophones are words that sound the same but are spelled differently….like pair and pear.  “No sweetie, those aren’t homophones, they don’t even have the same endings,” I tell him gently.   The fact that I even give a damn to correct him means that I am finally feeling better. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Live, Love, Laugh...Laundry

I’ve been feeling a bit more reflective these past few days following Yom Kippur (the grand daddy holiday of contemplation), and truth be told, it wasn't really Yom Kippur per se.  No, it seems the source of my reverie emanated from my...laundry.      

First, I need to back up.  I mean dirty laundry doesn’t usually yield itself to introspection, unless introspection includes cursing the wet laundry left in the dryer overnight because you forgot to turn it on.  No, my contemplative musings actually began with my son’s two recently missing front teeth.  My girlfriend hadn’t seen us in a while, and clearly the gaping hole in his mouth warranted her attention, to my six year old’s delight.

After their exchange which included questions about the elusive tooth fairy (who by the way was in default on payment because she didn’t have any cash, requiring money from her 10 year old’s piggy bank the first time.  The second time, the tooth fairy fell asleep and forgot to submit funds thereby being saved once again by her 10 year old daughter.  Clearly, the tooth fairy needs some management skills).  

While they were discussing the tooth fairy’s magical attributes, my girlfriend flashed me “the look.” Her look conveyed everything I had been feeling over the last few weeks regarding all the open real estate in my son’s mouth.  I knew that he was hovering on the cusp of cuteness for just a few more short weeks until his teeth grew in and the entire structure of his face would change.  After all, I was overtly aware that his face had pretty much hollowed out and most of that chubby cheek yumminess was gone, his once curly crop of hair was now straight, and I could already see the buds of his new teeth racing each other to the finish line. 

Enter the laundry.

A few days later, I am downstairs knee deep in rank laundry.  I hate laundry.  I despise laundry.  I absolutely loathe laundry.  I would rather have a gynecological exam than do laundry.  This is evident when Mt. Everest sized laundry piles surround me at every turn.  I have to don hiking gear to get from the washer to the dryer.  The family sends out a search party when I am down there for an inordinate amount of time.  You get the picture. Laundry.

This time is different, however.  Still feeling that bittersweet reverie, I look to the laundry as salvation as I can be alone for a few minutes in a dark, cool room where the only noise is the hum of the dryer.  As I methodically sort whites from colors, I begin to unearth items of clothing, that like my six year olds teeth, document my children’s looming journey towards maturity.

There’s the flannel doggie pajamas that my daughter refuses to give up.  The pant legs only reach to her knees, creating a female Tom Sawyer effect.  There’s her favorite shirt from kindergarten, that she wore all the way through 3rd grade, that mysteriously continues to haunt the basement floor, not to mention her size 5T shirt with the peeling, war torn decal of her and daddy on the front that has taken up permanent residence beneath the laundry rack.  

My son likes to hold on to things “for memory.”  Okay, I get sentimentality over certain items of clothing or toys, but seriously…what memory does he associate with dirty, disgusting, swiss- cheese like socks?  He doesn’t like the adage, out with the old and in with the new, because that signifies change and while change can be good, letting go is really hard.  Gee, I wonder where he gets those anxious tendencies from?  Though I must admit, he eventually rallies, like when his sister left for summer camp for a month and he brooded about it until he acquired the highly sought position of…Director of DVD Transport Services.  Just like that, he embraced change with an ironclad fist around the car DVD remote.  

The basement floor is a “treasure trove” of lost items.  I am finding items that had once mysteriously disappeared into the laundry abyss, only to have re-surfaced.  These items tell a story, re-create a memory and I feel like a time traveler juxtaposed between two worlds.  Perhaps I will find my grandmother’s antique diamond ring that I regretfully lost a few years ago. Not likely. Though, I did find an errant nursing shirt that may have escaped from a donation box and has been living out it’s days on the floor underneath an old panty hose pile (again, I am not proud of this people). 

I smile as I put my husband’s dirty socks into the machine.  These are his stretched out wedding socks that continually sag and droop around his ankles. He refuses to throw them out.  I tell him how touched I am by his fidelity to his socks, as one day I will be saggy and droopy, and am glad to know that I won’t be discarded or upgraded for a newer model.  He looks at me like a nutcase, and says, “you have been hanging out in the basement way too long.”  

I  add detergent to the wash and proceed to collect the random worn out, outgrown, faded and torn pieces when I spy a little lacy sunhat  that had no doubt been awaiting its fate for sometime.  I picked it up and fingered its delicate edges while being flooded with a mental montage of my daughter in the stroller. I gingerly carried it upstairs with me and placed it in the back of my closet, but never in the back of my mind.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Resolutions –Stop the Make ‘em and Break ‘em Cycle

The differences between Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) and the secular New Year celebrations are very distinct.  RH (Rosh Hashanah) isn’t televised all over the world in a live celebration including rap stars, singers, or Ryan Seacrest.  People don’t wait in line for 24 hours in the freezing cold to watch a ball drop, ticker tape is a big no-no in a synagogue, and champagne is not the drink du jour.  However, the similarities are interesting to note.  While we aren’t standing outside surrounded by thousands wearing ridiculous hats or oversized glitter glasses, we are stuffed inside the synagogue with a large group of people wearing assorted colored and textured yarmulkes, prayer shawls and holiday attire.  Merry plastic noisemakers are replaced with the ultimate noisemaker-the shofar, and at the end of the service, we ultimately wish each other Happy New Year.

Perhaps, the biggest similarity between these two celebrations is the…resolution.  One might think we Jews are lucky as we get to make resolutions twice, so that if we break them the first time, we get a second chance in January.  Hmmmmm, I guess my resolution to be more positive is already waning. According to surveys, most people who make New Year’s resolutions will fail by January 20th.  I don’t think there are any Rosh Hashanah resolution statistics…but I would be curious nonetheless.

Resolutions are a funny thing.  We place a lot of emotional weight on them, and it makes it even more frustrating when we don’t follow through.  I sometimes feel like I have to break the resolution just to get rid of the pressure of making it, like a kid who has to touch something, even though they know they shouldn’t.  After all, didn’t I point out to my husband during services (while we were specifically reading about egregious sins such as gossip and slander) at how many women were ridiculously wearing boots on an 80-degree day for fashion’s sake?  Yes, I was callous and no doubt not very repentant but commenting on high-holiday synagogue fashion was just too good to give up.  There were skirts that were inappropriately short, heels that were ridiculously high and all the while ironically, I kept pulling at my own skirt for fear that the people behind me thought my behind was way too big for it. There, another sin…vanity, sue me.  I like to think of it more as insecurity.

The whole resolution thing makes me a little cranky and I had to stop and really think why.  I mean, here is an opportunity to better myself, make good, do the right thing, and yet everything I was doing was the wrong thing at the wrong time 

When I look at my life, there is certainly so much of which I am grateful for.  There is precious health, family, friends, a nice home, and food on the table. These are things; however, I thank God for on a regular basis…even in the supermarket.  As I survey the organic produce, which costs a fortune, and some o f the specialty items that I have enough money to pay for I am overwhelmingly grateful.  In fact, swiping my card feels like a holy act sometimes. 

I have a stack of insurance receipts sitting in a folder for numerous strep tests, Lyme tests, blood work, allergy follow-ups, minor surgeries, antibiotics, check ups, immunizations, allergists, dermatologists, dentists, orthodontists and pediatricians.  I am grateful everyday that I have health insurance.
I just returned a few weeks ago from my niece’s bat mitzvah where I had the entire weekend to enjoy my family.  At one point, all the younger cousins were playing in the hotel pool, and I was sitting on a lounge chair with the newest member of our family.  As I sat there stroking her beautiful, bald, head as she fell asleep in my arms, I was so complacent and overwhelmingly grateful for my family.  When her diaper leaked all over me, I was grateful that I was done having children.
So, I guess my point is, I am grateful all the time; it isn’t something I just reserve for a holiday.  I am constantly aware of my behavior as I am usually feeling guilty about something or someone and always trying to fix it. That may not be a good thing, but it’s something I am aware of nonetheless.  Let’s face it, the whole resolution thing is a work in progress that is constantly evolving.  So, it makes me feel better when I look to Rosh Hashanah as a marker, rather than a finite starting point.   It takes the pressure off while allowing me to either fail or succeed and if my resolutions need additional tweaking, well... there’s always Jan. 1st.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

This Aint Your Bubby's Apple Cake!

This aint your Bubby's Apple Cake!

I was featured in Washington Post Food Blog today for an allergy free apple cake for Rosh Hashanah.

Have a wonderful New Year everyone.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Age 44 is The New 80?

It’s official; I am the poster child for Oral B hygiene.  We now have a new gadget to add to our already expanding line of oral hygiene care.  It seems both my husband and I have too much bacteria festering in our mouths, but for opposite reasons.  I am overly aggressive in my dental care, and he isn’t aggressive enough.  I told him that I could put up with many things that go along with aging, but teeth in a glass…deal breaker.

 The dentist insists on a water pik twice a day, electric toothbrush, and flossing as well. This adds quite a bit of time to my already compressed morning routine. I am exhausted just thinking about it.  My husband who travels on a regular basis can’t lug all that equipment with him… but guess what? Now, for a mere $90 they make an all in one gizmo that flosses, piks and brushes in one little compact electronic wand.  Yipee!

Whatever happened to the good ole days of just brushing my teeth?  When did oral care become this complicated? Well, it seems the older we get, our teeth need more help.  Oh, and I just got fitted for a new mouth guard because the last one looked like a doggie chew toy.  That’s right, due to all the teeth clenching I do (by the way, I never did this before kids) I whittled my expensive $1000 mouth guard down to a nubby stub.  Seriously.

As long as I am on the “oh my god I am getting older bandwagon,” let’s talk about what the doctor added onto my regimen.  I now have to take a cocktail of vitamins, including Vitamin D, multi, and yes, an all-natural phyto sterol to combat my genetically induced cholesterol.  Apparently, this is a last ditch effort before he puts me on real meds.  UGH!  I am seriously having trouble getting it all down, so I have to take the stuff in shifts, which I often forget to do.  So, I started putting all the pills in a small dosage cup and leaving it on the kitchen sink as a lame reminder…but I still forget. 

While in CVS, I asked if they carried pillboxes.  PILL BOXES???? I actually asked for PILL BOXES?  Wow, it sounded just as bad coming out of my mouth as it did in my head.  What am I …80?  I listen to Ceelo and Ke$ha, I watch Glee and secretly enjoy One Tree Hill!  You can’t do these things and use a pillbox! It’s just wrong I tell you.

The store clerk was more than happy to discuss the different types of pillboxes…there’s a box for everyday of the week, clear,colored, floral, funky, metal, plastic, eco-friendly, square, round, rectangular, compartmentalized, flat, tall, AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!  How is it that CVS carries a plethora of pillboxes, but they stopped carrying construction paper for my kid’s art projects?  Hmmmmm.

In the end, I nixed the pillbox idea. I’m on to more pressing issues now, like the fact I that I was recently sucked into a MURAD skin product informercial.  The irony here is, that when the bill comes for my elixir in a bottle “to combat the effects of hormonal aging,” I’ll have to take my glasses off to read it.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Top Ten List of Travel Affirmations

This past weekend, I attended my niece’s bat mitzvah.  Now, I could get maudlin and weepy, (which I’m known to do) and I could pontificate on the bittersweet subject of children growing up and time passing as the song Memories plays in my head. I could obsess over the fact that we all have a few more lines on our faces, or grays on our heads, or muse over the palpable absence of loved ones, the aunts and uncles whom we elevated to immortal status , and yet eventually succumbed to the same fate as everyone else. 

I could elaborate on the fact that this momentous and special occasion fell on the same terrible weekend as 9/11 and that my heart was painfully contorted into a mangled, labyrinth of emotion.  It reminded me of the time I attended a funeral while I was six months pregnant.  As I watched the burial at the cemetery, I could simultaneously feel tiny life affirming flutter kicks deep within, reminding me of life’s cyclical and seemingly unjust balance. 

Yes, I could truly focus on the philosophy of life as life cycle occasions usually force us to take stock of our lives and all we hold dear.  I could sit here and cry over the passing of time (with or without chocolate), or lament the things I haven’t achieved.   However, since, I woke my kids up on Sunday at 3:30 a.m. after they fell asleep at 1:30 a.m., to catch a 5:45 a.m. flight, my mind is still a bit short circuited from lack of sleep.  Therefore, I can only concentrate on the non-philosophical for now, because when you are overwhelmed by emotion, and sleep deprived at the same time, it’s easier to cope by focusing on the mundane.  So, here is my lame attempt.
Top Ten List of Travel Affirmations

1.       Glaring overhead lighting in airport bathrooms is not a good look for any bedraggled traveler.

2.       Not loving the full length mirrors in hotels either.

3.       The fact that my daughter takes 10-second showers in a hotel and turns out all the lights but takes 10-hour showers at home and lets the electricity burn is curious to me.

4.       Wal-Mart looks the same in every state.

5.       Driving a rented Buick Crown Victoria was not good for my image.

6.       Watching 9/11 footage waiting for my plane did not bode well for my nerves.

7.       Regional propeller planes do not bode well for my nerves either.

8.       When the pilot says to a passenger, “Dude, I didn’t know you were on this flight,” one pauses for thought at who’s flying the plane.

9.       When the pilot is not that much older than your two children’s ages combined….not good.

10.   My kids LOOOOVVVVEEEE serious turbulence…guess I don’t have to take them Disney.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Clean Towels Really Shouldn’t Be a Passion

I realize that I haven’t written much lately, and maybe that’s because I just haven’t felt passionate about much over the past few days.  Sure, school started, along with all of the crazy that accompanies those first few days, but I managed to get through it without too many tantrums (by me, that is).  Life has fallen into a new routine, which is really the old routine –the sequel.   Slowly, I have come to accept that I have crossed summer’s finish line,  and entered the Fall zone without too much kicking or screaming (again…we’re talking about me).

The irony is that I had all these visions of organizing, cleaning, purging, and re-decorating various rooms and/or closets in the house over the long, lazy summer.  Yet, I found myself in the express lane doing two months of work over the last three days as I scrambled to re-invent my daughter’s bedroom from “stupid” princess motif to funky a la college dorm.  Three garbage bags later filled with blinky things, old papers, doo dads, and other  random items along with three bags of clothing donation including some 6x T-shirts  (she’s a size 10-12 now)that were somehow lost in the black hole of her dresser drawer.  Throw in a new comforter set, a bean bag chair and some funky throw rugs (actually really cute bath mats), a poster, move some furniture around and voila…a new room without having to re-paint her high gloss pale pink walls that she despises so much.  Phew…

Once I had the purging bug, I was unstoppable.  When the two body-bag size duffel bags full of rank camp laundry crowded any available real estate on the basement floor, (due to the the pre-existing mountain sized laundry pile), I decided to take action.  Yes, I swore I would do it over the summer, but life gets in the way know, and somehow I got distracted.  There were other important tasks that required my immediate attention such as, mooning over my daughter’s absence, writing letters, and shamelessly terrorizing the mail carrier like a provoked pit-bull. I am happy to say, that 90 % of that task has been completed, as only a few assorted items still lay strewn on the floor.  The duffel bags have been mercifully stored away, and we finally have clean towels again.  I love looking at them all stacked and color coordinated in the hall closet.  I feel a monumental sense of accomplishment because nothing makes me happier than a well-stocked linen closet.

Huh, it seems like my passion has become clean towels…probably a stellar time for me to find a hobby.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Camp Chronicles: D-Day and Beyond

Well it’s hard to believe that my daughter finally came home from camp a mere four days ago (can you see me grinning from ear to ear?)  I couldn’t stop touching her the entire day, as if she was an apparition about to slip through my fingers.   She looked great, albeit tired, but had an air about her that clearly indicated… a change.  A new self -confidence, or perhaps a bit more independent ... nevertheless, she was home! 

 I have finally made amends with the postman, though; he is still a bit wary of the nut case who’s been hot on the mail trail for camp correspondence.   I presented my daughter at the mailbox as proof of evidence that my camp mail witch- hunt had officially ended…for this summer season anyway.  I think he’s put in for a transfer.
You would think that after her return, however, I would be shouting it immediately from the rooftops via my blog, or even Facebook.  After oozing my angst all summer with a series of blogs solely devoted to the new camp experience, her anticipated denouement should have been the post du jour.  However, my seemingly quiet and monotonous summer where I was able to “indulge” in my own writing self-help suddenly flipped without so much as a warning leaving me like a deer in the proverbial headlights.
The minute she walked off the plane, like an astronaut’s re-entry to earth complete with paparazzi (a.k.a. anxious parents crowding the plane door), cameras flashing, welcome home signs, crying babies, crying campers, crying parents, life turned upside down.
Here is the top ten list of what I have encountered in the span of just four days.  It’s easier to write this as a list.

1.       A very loquacious, happy, exhausted camper who feels she has to condense her one -month experience into the course of 2 hours.

2.       Four lice checks (yes it went around camp, and I am paranoid that it came home).

3.       Lyme testing (this one was for me, not fun and I am on an intense round of antibiotics)

4.       One month’s worth of very rank laundry.

5.       Laundry that has been ripening on the basement floor prior to camp that needed to be done first.

6.        Strep tests at the doctor (strep went around at camp as well).

7.       Back to school drama (classes, carpools, requests for volunteers, last minute doctor notes for Epi-pens, blah, blah, blah).

8.       A 5.8 earthquake

9.       A pending hurricane

10.   Dealing with Unit #2, (my son) as re-entry has been difficult since his demotion from Sheriff to Deputy again…
Yup…its official…summer has come to a screeching halt. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Camp Chronicles: Throwing Out the Seeds of Doubt

Well, we are in the home stretch!  The letters arrive a bit more sporadically and are no longer gut wrenching essays.  Camp is now being described as a “home away from home.”  My girl is blossoming, absorbing, and taking it all in.  She is thriving, smiling, and enjoying herself to the fullest.  She is described by camp counselors, liaisons and friends as a model camper; the kind that every camp needs and promotes.  She has made the definitive decision to return next year…four letters ago she wasn’t so sure. So, in the long run, she stuck it out and reaped all the rewards of an utterly exciting camp season.  Yeah for my girl!

Allow me to sigh audibly for a moment…haaaaaahhhh.

The tightness in my chest has subsided, and my relief is evident in that I no longer camp out in front of the mailbox, nor do I hound the postman by chasing him down the block, or rifling through his bag while insisting on an earlier delivery time.  No, now that I am secure in the knowledge that she is loving life, I AM GOING TO THROTTLE HER WHEN SHE GETS HOME!

Seriously? “Home away from home?”  She took a piece of my heart with every gut wrenching; tear inducing, heart-rending manuscript she meticulously wrote.  I waited anxiously with my heart in my mouth, every day, for a piece of paper that would either make my heart sing, or destroy every ounce of parental self-confidence I ever had.  The first week brought doubt, sadness, stomach pain, sleeplessness, and food binging. I gained 5 lbs this summer!
Each letter contained some sort of zinger that would plague me until the next delivery.  Does she even realize the hell I have been going through?  Does she know that I am constructing a protective bubble to keep her in next summer? Could she ever know that her father (by the way, whatever they say about Jewish mothers is totally wrong…it’s definitely the fathers who should be the butt of every neurotic joke)  was ready to jump on a plane on a moment’s notice and whisk her out of the “evil, alien” environment we call…camp?  Or that he was ready to do the “I told you so” dance, but exercised sympathetic restraint when he saw how awful I felt? NO, NO, NO, NO!   
She couldn't possibly know any of that because my letters were nothing but positive, supportive, motivating, and understanding.  “Don’t worry, sweetie, homesickness is natural, it means you love your family.”  I dug deep into my social work background, I used all the appropriate jargon, I stepped up as the understanding parent and did everything to encourage and foster independence, self-awareness, and acclimation despite my own fears and insecurities.

And how does she repay me? She takes my advice…THE NERVE!!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Community Blogger of the Month-Whole Living Magazine

I am taking a moment out of the Camp Chronicles (I have a lot to write about, and I will do that later) to let you all know that I was featured at the Community Blogger of the Month in Martha Stewart's Whole Living Magazine on newsstands now.  Let me know what you think...pass it on to someone you think will appreciate my neurotic, yet insightful and anecdotal remarks.  Look carefully, it's a sidebar and thumbnail picture!!! 

Thanks Martha~

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Camp Chronicles-The Banana Bread Blues

We are now down to 11 days before my girl comes home…but I’m not counting.  The reports I receive indicate that she is doing great…I’m glad.  However, I am still not used to the sensation of not having her around.   While her days are filled with sports, swimming, and special projects, mine are restricted to being in the house alone at my computer, and while I relish the quiet,  I can’t seem to quell that little anxious part of me that just wants her home already.   

Yesterday, I walked into the kitchen to the overwhelming smell of overripe bananas.   Believe it or not, this was an indicator of how much I missed my child.  I buy bananas by the truckload.  Often, strangers quizzically look at me when they see the monkey’s worth of Chiquita sitting in my shopping cart.  What can I say? My kids like bananas, which is the reason I always buy in bulk.  The fruit disappears by the end of the week, though I have made many breakthrough, emergency banana runs to replenish them before the week’s end.
Today, however, there were six, overripe, giraffe colored, heady smelling bananas lifelessly lounging in the fruit bowl, which only reminded me even more that my girl wasn’t home.  Clearly, I needed to learn how to downgrade on the bananas since she wasn’t around to eat them.   
I decided to turn my restlessness around with the old adage, when life hands you rotten bananas…make banana muffins.  Baking is rather therapeutic for me.  It’s my happy place, and while I sifted, stirred, scooped and taste tested, my anxious nerves took a break, (until I made some banana oatmeal cookies with the extra banana and ate my weights worth, which then sent me into a cookie induced coma)! 

For what it’s worth, I am giving you my recipe for banana muffins (adapted from the Joy of Vegan Baking), and my breakfast banana cookies…my own creation that you can actually serve at breakfast …especially to those picky breakfast eaters.  The recipes are all egg, dairy, and nut free.  Enjoy.

Banana Muffins
1 ½ Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
½ cup unbleached flour

1 ½ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
2 TBSP wheat germ (optional…but so healthy)
½ cup Sucanat (Sugar Cane Natural-you can even cut this to ¼ cup…if the bananas are ripe it will still be a little sweet)
1/3 cup canola oil
4 ripe bananas mashed
¼ cup water
1 tbsp vanilla
½ cup mini chocolate chips (optional, I use Enjoy Life allergy free brand)
Preheat oven to 350, line muffin tin with cupcake papers
In medium size bowl, sift the flour, baking soda, salt and wheat germ…mix with whire whisk to incorporate all the ingredients.
In a large bowl, beat the sugar and oil together then add the mashed bananas.  Stir in the water and vanilla and mix thoroughly.  Add the flour mixture, along with the chocolate chips and stir to mix.
Fill each muffin tin halfway with the batter. Bake for 20-30 minutes, until they are golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Yields 12 muffins.
Banana Oatmeal Breakfast Cookies-Makes approximately 24 cookies (depending on size)

1 cup + 1 TBSP White Whole Wheat Flour (you can find this in mainstream grocery stores….it is whole wheat flour with all the benefits, but is much lighter and yields a lighter product).
½- cup Sucanat
2 tsp. vanilla
½ tsp. baking soda

½ tsp. cinnamon
1 TBSP wheat germ (you could also try flax seed)
¼ tsp. salt
1/3 cup canola oil
1 ripe banana (large)
2 cups rolled oats (not the instant kind)
¼- ½ cup raisins (optional)
Whisk banana, oil, sugar and vanilla.  Sift in the dry ingredients and mix well. Add the rolled oats and raisins and may want to use your hands.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Scooping by tablespoons, (I use a small ice cream scooper) place dough balls an inch apart from each other, and then slightly flatten with your hand.
Bake for 8-10 minutes, pull tray out and flatten the cookies slightly again (they tend to puff up) and bake for another 2 minutes.  I like mine crunchy on the outside…if you like yours softer, take them out sooner.
Cool for about  1-2 minutes and then transfer to baking rack.
These are very hearty cookies, and really hold up nicely to a good cup of coffee.  I have also served them for breakfast along with yogurt and fresh fruit.