Archive for December, 2008

My Mid-Winter Amigos

Technically, it’s not mid-winter, I know.  Technically, winter began only a few days ago. But I like to think of it as mid-winter because that makes Spring and Summer seem that much closer.  Calendar be damned.  It’s kind of like saying you’re 40-ish, when you’re really closer to 50 than to forty (which I am NOT, by the way), but in reverse.  (In that in one case, I’m rounding up, and in the other, rounding down.)  Either way, it makes you feel better.

The thing that’s so great about winter is that you get a chance to wear big sweaters and a giant coat.  For a seasoned camouflage dresser like myself, it really is a winter wonderland.  Don’t want that arm jiggle to show? Just wear a big sweater?  Feeling like those jeans are a bit tight?  Just wear a big sweater.  Worrying about those crows feet? Well, maybe not.  But you get the idea.  Sweaters, coats, scarves…they are all a weight conscious girl’s friend.

The only problem is, at some point, the sweaters come off. And for me, that point happened a few days ago.  Because at this moment, as I write, I am in Chacala, Mexico, looking at the Pacific Ocean crash against a pristine shore.  And when I got here, I realized that I had brought with me three new friends:  the roll of flab around my middle, the lovely bulge of blubber along the back of my bra, and the official beginnings of a neck wattle, evidently hidden under turtle necks for the past few months.

Now I know, I know, I shouldn’t complain.  Here I am, on vacation, enjoying the sun, the company of (actual) friends, a break from the city, and from my routine.  And yet.

There is nothing like putting a bathing suit on after a long fall of over indulgence and general slothdom to give a girl pause. To give a girl a reason to exercise, to eat healthy, to dedicate herself to the health and well-being of herself and her family. And yet.

Here I am in Mexico, where the tortilla’s are homemade, the chiliquita’s they serve for breakfast so sinfully fattening and good that anyone serving them should be tried and convicted of excessive temptation.  I’ll make the arrest and eat the evidence. I can’t diet on vacation.  It would upset the natural order of the universe.

There is a bright side to all of this.  The Mexican vacation will soon end, and I will be back in the land of the sweaters. Back in the realm of keeping it all covered.  And I won’t have to worry about it again until June.

Here’s to a long and cold winter!!


December 29, 2008 at 6:54 pm 2 comments

The Joy of Getting

Another Stock Photo!

Another Stock Photo!

This year Hannukah and Christmas coincided.  This might not be big news to gentiles, but to Jews, it is a fortuitous lunar/solar alignment that makes us want to spin around singing “The Age of Aquarius.”  Because when the two holidays combine, that means we have something to do on Christmas Eve, when everyone else is busy,  most things are closed, and those that aren’t are staffed by people who are thoroughly pissed off that they have to be working on Christmas.

So we have our big-ole Latke and best Brisket in the world party.  We also have  excessive gift-giving, to which I am, in principle, opposed, but which in actuality, I loved. (more…)

December 25, 2008 at 10:00 am Leave a comment

Best Brisket EVER

Like the most beautiful baby in the world, the greatest Brisket Recipe is something everyone thinks they have.  Only I really do.  Really.

This is Brisket that’ll have you speaking Yiddish even if you were raised my nuns.  This is Brisket that would give a vegetarian pause, would get Sarah Palin to give up Moose. This is Brisket that makes up for the fact that the entire world is celebrating Christmas with twinkly lights, and cute little elves, and a fat guy in a red suit (hey, maybe he ate too much Brisket!) and endless Christmas songs looping so long it makes you loopy – while all you get to do is light your lone menorah and spin a piece of plastic. (Really, when did you last see a dreidel made of clay?)

This is BRISKET with all capitals, not just the capital B.  No packets of onion soup here – this is the real deal, just like Grandma Ruchel used to make.

Whether you call it Brisket, Pot Roast, Flanken or Ashkenazy Beef Stew – this is the quintessential Hannukah food, and the kind of winter weather warm-up meal even a gentile could love!

Happy Hannukah.

Granna’s Brisket

Prep time: 45 Minutes

Cook Time 3-5 hours. Plus it’ll be better if you let it sit overnight.

Servings: 6

3 cloves garlic

2 teaspoons Kosher Salt (or 1 1/2 table salt)

1 teaspoon paprika

Ground pepper to taste

1 beef brisket (3-4 pounds), trimmed with some fat left on

1 pound onions, sliced

4 carrots, slice on the diagonal

1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes

1 bottle (about 8 oz) Heinz Chilli sauce

1 bottle dark beer

With the back of a wooden spoon, mash the garlic, salt, paprika, and a generous pinch of pepper into a paste.  Rub it all over the meat, and let the meat sit for at least one hour, or overnight.

Pre-heat the broiler.  Place meat in a roasting pan and brown under broiler until nicely charred, but not cooked.  Remove pan iwth meat and change over temp. to 350 F.

Remove meat from pan and set aside.  Place half of the sliced onions and half of the carrots in the botton of the same roasting pan (do not clean pan). Return the meat to the pan and cover with the remaining carrots and onions.  Pour the tomatoes and chilli sauce over the meat.  Cover with foil and place int he oven for 2 to 3 hours.

Remove meat from pan, let sit for a few minutes (so that it is easier to handle) and slice into 1/2-inch think slices, making sure to cut against the grain.  This is important: the meat will be tough if you cut it the wrong way.

Return meat to the pan and stir to coat it with the sauce.  Add beer to pan and return to the over for another hour or unitl the meat is fork tender. (Or, move on to the next step, freeze, then thaw and finish cooking the meat just before serving.)

There will be A LOT of fat.  Skim it off as best you can, or better yet, once the meat has cooled, put it, covered, in the refrigerator overnight.  Before reheating, remove the fat, now congealed on top and easy to seperate.  Then reheat to serve, adjusting seasonings as necessary.

If you make this and like it — let me know!  If you make it and don’t like it…well, keep it to yourself!!!!!

December 21, 2008 at 4:09 pm 2 comments

Leapfrog Love

leapster2didj-product_shot1So it’s Hannukah (ok, ok, it doesn’t start until tomorrow, so we had our other side of the family party early too, so sue me again!) And I finally gave my kids their Leapfrog stuff. A Didj for my son and a Leapster 2 for my daughter.  (I gave away a Didj last week on my site, if you missed your chance, well, you really should be reading me more often.)

A little background here: my son has been HOUNDING me for months about getting a Nintendo DS. Let me see – do I want my kid to have a tune-out-the world, get carpal tunnel while I learn nothing but how to shoot things toy? (That being said – do I want a Nintendo personal trainer, a Nintendo Chef, and a version of Guitar Hero for the DS…um, that would be yes.)

That would be no.

But then I learned about the Didj at a blogger party and thought this might be it! This might just be the way out of this!! A handheld electronic game that will actually teach him something! If I weren’t Jewish, angels would have sung. So maybe it was the guys at the Deli counter – a rousing chorus of “Hallelujah” to the tune of “Hannukah O Hannukah” (did you ever notice, by the way, that there are about 972 songs about Christmas and exactly TWO about Hannukah: the above mentioned “Hannukah oh Hannukah,” and the ever-popular “I had a little dreidel?” Just a question. now back to our LF story…)

So anyway, I got the Didj (full disclosure, it was a blogger freebie. Thank you Leapfrog) and held on to it until today, when my son opened it and practically screamed with joy before saying “What is it?” (He recognized that it was some kind of handheld,but didn’t know which one.)

And here’s where I got a little worried.  Would he be disappointed by the “educational” aspect of the toy?  Would it be like how I felt when I was a kid and I asked my mother for dessert – thinking Yodel, or Ring Ding, or even vanilla ice cream, and she said “Would you like an apple?” I wasn’t quite sure how the Didj would  go over… fairytale “frog turns into a prince” ending or just a frog?

After one unsuccessful download (his “I’m applying to college for computer science” cousin messed it up), and one successful one (not to brag – but that was MY attempt) the games began.

My son quickly caught on to the fact that the Didj was educational. But instead of finding it annoying, he found it gratifying. “Mom, I beat the first level AND I did times.” Hey – he’s got the math skills, not the vocabulary. Times, multiplication, whatever. He’s doing it and liking it.

And that’s it in a nutshell….he’s learning Math and having fun doing it. What could be better?

As for my daughter, she spent the better part of the morning announcing to everyone in the family that she hated math. I have no idea why she was talking about math — vacation has begun, after all. (It’s the NYC Private School dictum: the more you pay the less you go.)

Then she got her Leapster2 with a Math Missions game and spent the better part of the afternoon doing math and loving it.

Leapfrog: I’d give you a big kiss, but I’m afraid it would turn you into a prince, and I like you just the way you are.  Two kids who are having fun doing math?  That’s enough of a  fairy tale ending for me.

December 20, 2008 at 10:43 pm 1 comment


CB055152She who shall not be named re-gifted me this year. (We had our Hannukah party early – so sue me.)

Know how I know?  She gave me something I gave her just a few years back.

“It’s unusual,” she said, as she gave me the box.  “As soon as I saw it, I thought of you.”
No kidding.

Look, everybody regifts now and then.  There’s no shame in that.  You get something that’s perfectly nice — just not “you,” and you give it to someone else.  It’s like that mythical fruitcake: some say there is only one in the entire world, and just keeps getting regifted and regifted…. And even Miss Manners says that’s OK with her.

The thing is, though, you’re not supposed to get caught.

There are even RULES and a proper protocol for re-gifting!

And again – the basic tenet of all of it is: don’t get caught. (though the above article says otherwise…she thinks we should all fess up, lose the stigma.  Yeah, and lose my hard-earned good relationship with oh, way too many people!)

I’m sure there is NO WAY she did it on purpose.   If she knew what she had done, she’d be mortified. But when I opened the box I was, quite literally, speechless.  I don’t even think I said thank you.  What could I have said? “Well, of course this made you think of me — I gave it to you?”  Or “why, it’s lovely, I’ve never seen anything like it….since I wrapped it three years ago.”  Or maybe, “hellloooooooo?  Anybody in there?”

I don’t think I mind being regifted so much as knowing it.  As realizing that she doesn’t like the things I pick out for her any better than I like the things she picks out for me.  As confronting the truth about regifting:  that it comes to no good.

Because the thing is, when I gave what I now refer to as “the offending item” to her in the first place, it was a re-gift.

December 15, 2008 at 1:00 pm 2 comments

Santa isn’t Jewish

cg6b5Santa Claus isn’t Jewish.

That was my daughter the other day, explaining to her friend why, though she believes in Santa, he isn’t coming to our house this, or any other, year.

Well, can’t say she’s wrong, can I?

I was relieved to hear her give her friend such a casual explanation, because I’ve been wondering how my kids feel about the fact that Santa doesn’t come to visit us.  Even in New York, which feels like a Jewish town, it can make you feel a bit left out.

There have been quite a lot of posts floating around lately about how the spirit of Christmas has been watered down by the whole Happy Holidays phenomenon.  Say again?

Since Thanksgiving – hell, since Halloween!!!, every store, every streetlamp, every …everything, it seems, has been festooned with Christmas paraphernalia.  And the music.  Endless loops of Frosty the Snow Man, and Baby it’s Cold Outside.  Not that I’m complaining. (Well, maybe about the music) I realize that Jews make up less than 1.8% of the US Population and I don’t remotely expect equal time. In fact, I kind of like the decorations — they’re festive and twinkly, and make even the dingy bodega on the corner look sparkly and happy.  It’s just that I don’t buy that people who do celebrate Christmas are somehow being pushed out of the mainstream.  (more…)

December 13, 2008 at 11:52 am 3 comments

Size Matters

Lately, my eight daughter has been obsessed with her size.  She has been weighing herself constantly – with her clothes on, without her clothes on, before a meal, after a meal.  She’s been reporting her weight to the tenth of a pound several times a day.  “I weigh 56.2!”  “Now it says 54.9!”  It’s like she’s calibrating the single most important thing in her life.

Needless to say, I’ve been feeling guilty about this.  Evidently, I have transferred my own obsession with my weight to my daughter, who now faces a bleak future of strategic dressing, incessant dieting, and warped body image.  Sign me up for the Mom of the Year award!!

But then yesterday, I asked her (with feigned non-chalance — all those acting classes I took in High School were not in vain!)  why she cared so much about her weight.

“I wanna get to sixty!” was her answer.

She’s hoping to get bigger — as any shortest-in-the-grade kid would — not smaller.

So I haven’t (yet?) transferred all of my issues to her.  She’s still the same little girl who, at three years old, stared at herself in the the mirror and told me she was just checking to see how beautiful she was.

Mother of the year award…I’m ready for you!

December 11, 2008 at 1:53 pm Leave a comment

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