Tuesday, January 29, 2019

D is for...


we are dog people from way back.  I grew up hearing stories about my great grandfather's dogs - the best of which was a German Shepard by the name of Duchess, mother to my grandparents' dog Lady, with whom my mother grew up.  my father worked as a shepherd as a young teen, and while I didn't hear any stories of those dogs, I remember an old picture of my father out in the fields, with his rifle, and his German Shepard.  when my dad came to the U.S. with my mother, who was in her final month of pregnancy with me, they moved in with her parents, and that first night, settling into bed next to my mom, Ayesha - the German Shepard who was part of the family at that time - got up on the bed and stood over my dad, staring him down.  apparently, that was Her spot on the bed, and as nothing about him smelled at all recognizable, she was Not in any way ready to permit him to sleep in the bed next to her humans' adult pregnant child.  my father, understanding innately, took the hint and slept on the floor.  after that, he won Ayesha's respect, and was allowed to sleep in the bed next to his wife.


Ayesha was the first dog I knew and loved.  according to family 'legend', she was my self-appointed protector, and when they brought me home from the hospital, she stationed herself under my crib and let no one enter the room unless they were accompanied by my mother.  she also taught me how to walk by standing slowly while I had my tiny baby hands in her long, beautiful hair, and supporting me while I took one tentative step after another.  her long hair was considered some kind of genetic 'flaw' to the breeders my grandparents adopted her from (distant cousins), and they only let her be adopted under the condition that they would never 'show' her in any dog competitions, which they of course promised not to do.  none of their dogs were ever 'shown', and it always hurt to think that if my grandparents hadn't given her a home, she may well have been 'destroyed' for her 'flaw'.  she was an angel, and it broke my heart when she died, when I was still a kid in grade school.  it was the first death of anyone I loved that I experienced, and to this day, I clearly remember being at dinner at my grandparents' house, and suddenly realizing that I hadn't seen her, and asking, "where's Ayesha?", to be answered by that uncomfortable silence, and somehow knowing she was gone in that moment before they told me.

Dumbo Barley

we got our own puppy when I was very little - two or three - whom we named Dumbo for his big ears.  he was a mutt from somewhere in the neighborhood, but he was the Best dog!  sweet and gentle, loyal to a fault.  he was trained by my dad to protect us, and I 'pitied the fool' who tried to mess with any of us unaware (no one did).  there were two people Dumbo didn't like, and they were not invited back to our home as a result - one was a little girl in my class, who ended up getting into serious trouble as we grew up, and we insensitively joked that "Dumbo knew, even back then".  the other was a land developer that was trying to sell my parents some land to build a house on - and our well-trained dog could hardly be controlled to keep from attacking that man.  needless to say...my parents chose not to deal with him, and the house that was eventually built on that land sank into the swamp hiding beneath it.  by the time I was in high school, Dumbo - who had dutifully waited at the door for us kids to get off the school bus, jumping with joy each afternoon - couldn't get up off his rug to come see us as we came rushing in to pet him where he lay whining and wagging his tail, ears flat against his head, eyes full of love, to welcome his teenagers home.  he was our fuzzy brother, and his passing left us all with a hole in our hearts.

Sheba & Yaffa

after Ayesha, my grandparents brought home sister-puppies Sheba & Yaffa.  Yaffa died quite young (I don't remember why), but Sheba was with us for years, though she was always a bit melancholy after her sister died.  she was the last dog my grandparents had.  and even though we decided we didn't want a puppy after Dumbo died, my dad came home from shopping with my mom one weekend with big, baby eyes, saying he'd seen a puppy, and wanted us kids to come see it with him while my mom stomped angrily around the house saying she didn't want another dog.  she did eventually, she just wasn't ready for one that day, but my dad got his way, and brought home Misty.  I moved out of my parents house a few years after that, so though they had another dog - Kushi - after Misty was gone, I didn't really know him past being my buddy when I went to visit.  I found out while living alone in my first apartment how much I missed having a pet, but knew I couldn't keep a dog in a third-floor walk-up when I was out working most of the day, and partying half the night, so I started to have cats as pets, instead.  I wrote a post for the cats I have known, and I considered sharing them last week for 'C', but it seemed like a cop-out to just repost an older essay, so I figured I'd share it here as a footnote.


click on the image to see other entries, and play along!

Thursday, January 24, 2019

C is for...


Herod's pool

Mediterranean Sea

flying buttresses

Crusader Fortress wall

Caesarea is a town on the Northern coast of Israel, built by Herod the Great, around 25 - 13 BCE, which became a national park in 1952.  it is a treasure trove of archaeological discovery, and boasts many gorgeous discoveries such as jewelry, statuary, architecture from various periods throughout history, an impressive amphitheater and hippodrome, among other wonders.  one of the vessels thought to be the infamous 'Holy Grail' was also found there.  I've been privileged enough to have been there more than once, most recently this past summer, when I brought my son with me.  he's not much for archaeology, and we had both had a less-than-stellar journey the day before to get there, so all we really wanted to do was go to the beach, and enjoy the Mediterranean, but the other members of our party had other plans.  so we split off from our group, and the older folks (who had also been there before) took a leisurely stroll, while the teen and I chose to jump the barriers, and make our way to the water.  very naughty, I know, but forcing my son to engage with ruins isn't the way to foster a love of history in him (and I was tired), so we did what would make for good memories, instead.  these pictures reflect almost nothing of the wonders to be discovered there, but here's a link to their website where you can find something worth looking at:  Caesarea National Park map.

I'm trying to work through the alphabet with ABC-Wednesday, but I had a 'milestone' birthday this past week, so I got busy, and forget to post!  now I have to play catch up...

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

B is for...


anyone's birthday in particular?  why yes, thank you for asking, MY birthday.  my 50th birthday, to be specific.  guess what I'm doing?  NOTHING!  yaaay!  do you know why?  because I don't have any money, or people who want to celebrate with me.  well, that's not entirely true - I'm sure several of the people I consider my closest friends would want to celebrate with me, they just don't live in the same state as me.  my 'best friend', as he's come to be known, lives just an hour away, and while he agreed to come spend the weekend, there is an impending snowstorm on the way, so I think that plan is better off cancelled.  because I was feeling conflicted about a party this year (who wants to throw a party where no one comes?  a point made moot by the oncoming storm), I looked up a few articles on celebrating one's 50th - and as is my nature, I searched both "worst 50th birthday ever", and "best 50th birthday ever".  here's what I took from what I found:


looking back ~

in looking back over the years, the person who was most present in my life during ALL of my birthdays was my Zayde - my maternal grandfather.  I was born two days before his 49th birthday, and he considered me his gift that year.  I won't go into all the reasons why, but for 42 years of my life, his was the voice I cherished most on my birthday.  we had a very special bond, and he would have been 99 this year for what we considered our shared celebration.  he was a wonderful man, my Zayde, and everyone in our family loved him deeply for his sweet nature, kindness, sense of justice, even-temper, humor, and generosity.  he is missed.

1977 maybe?

looking ahead ~

perspective is everything, isn't it?  I honestly feel lucky to have made it this far, given some of the choices I made (over and over again) as a younger person.  I wasn't a crazy thrill-seeker or hard-core partier, but I certainly courted a certain amount of danger, and some of the activities I took part in could have taken me out any number of ways, and I am thankful to have come out of all that mostly intact, with enough brain cells left to continue to enjoy a certain quality of life.  all I really wanted, in terms of a celebration, was to spend quality time with people who care about me.  so, it'll be me and the teen...and while he's my favorite person in all the world, that looks pretty much like every other day of my life, and the lack of departure from the ordinary to mark my day as 'special' is frankly a bit of a downer.  because it's a 'milestone', I really would have appreciated a little 'more than', rather than 'less than', this time around, but I will make the best of it, like I always do.


this guy opened his article with "I would never be able to count all the ways in which my 50th birthday was made entirely of suck, and was the worst birthday that I (or anyone, really) has ever had."  poor dude...he only wanted what the rest of us seem to want - good friends and good food - but he got neither (didn't explain why) along with what he considered other harbingers of doom, and swore not to forgive or forget any of it.  I don't think my day is going to be that bad, but I'm not holding up any great expectation, given the fact that I know in advance there won't be a houseful of friends, or a fancy dinner, and we may well get hammered by a huge storm that could knock out our power and heat.  so, yay to pre-emptive plans for a survivalist birthday, and making sure we have our emergency supplies on hand and at the ready, just in case.

since I found both articles - and therefore the whole endeavor - slightly unsatisfying, as neither one spoke directly to my experience (I'm neither a wealthy wife, nor a childless bachelor), I read one last post that looked at both sides of the issue by interviewing several different people at different stages in their lives, approaching milestone birthdays.  it focused more on embracing the opportunity for celebration, connection, and community:

  • 'ok, so everything hurts...have a party anyway!'
  • assess your present/set future goals
  • give gifts rather than receive them
  • don't bother
  • celebrate simply with immediate family  
  • task others to make the world a better place through monetary gifts 
  • get a 'retirement job'
  • enter sporting competitions for your new age group
  • enjoy a family dinner/long weekend with friends
  • travel/do things now

some of the things in this list are doable for me, such as goal-setting, not bothering, and celebrating simply with my son.  other things - having a party, gift-giving (with or without the social justice component), competing (I could, if I did anything athletic, but I don't), and traveling - are all out of the realm of what I can afford right now.  I had planned on the dinner/weekend with the bestie, but again, the weather got the better of us on that one.  honestly, if I had my 'druthers', I'd spend the whole weekend in a fancy spa, getting pampered, relaxing, sipping cocktails, and eating delicious food with maybe one or two other non-relative adults who might be my lovers, after having attended some event or other, like a show or concert, and partying like rockstars until dawn.

“Continue to develop all your modes of learning so as you grow older you may choose to use them selectively. Keep in mind that each chapter in life can be a masterpiece if we evolve, no matter our circumstances.” - Virginia Levin, Lee’s Summit, Mo., 90.

ALSO...and here's the kicker...there's some CRAZY astrological stuff going down (where do you think that monster snowstorm is coming from?)!  first of all, starting on the 17th, all the planets will go direct, with 5 of them in their home star sign!  this is auspicious for taking advantage of opportunities, and taking on new endeavors.  so be hopeful, and begin an adventure!  as if this weren't enough, there will also be (on my actual birth day)...hang on...a FULL BLOOD WOLF SUPERMOON LUNAR ECLIPSE!!!  holy frijoles!  "what the deuce is that," you may be asking?  well, it's a full moon, because that's just where the moon is in it's cycle right now.  it's a 'Wolf Moon', because that's just the name of the first full moon in January.  'supermoon' refers to it's proximity to Earth, which is obviously very close, hence the term 'super'.  it's a 'blood moon' because of the eclipse - when the Earth is directly between the Sun and the moon, all the sunrises and sunsets on our planet are reflected onto the moon's surface, and make it appear to glow red.  isn't that cool?!  sure, there might be some drama, as all of our shadowy sides are revealed, but there might also be a bit of romance, and a call to deepen our connection to community (there's that context, again, pay attention!).  for me, since it's my 50th birthday, I'm going with 'signs point to yes', to quote my Magic 8-Ball.

I hope you all have an amazing week, and are ready for our collective crazy weekend.  happy birthday to me, and thanks for joining me on my journey!

join us over at ABC-Wednesday to play along!







Wednesday, January 9, 2019

ABC Wednesday Again? Sure, Why Not!

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A is for...

come on, you know you want to say apples, unless you want to sing "Alligators All Around", like I do right now!

but that's only because I saw it posted somewhere recently, and didn't play the video, so the chorus has been ringing in my head, and this seemed the perfect opportunity to listen to it.  I've been thinking about doing another round of ABC Wednesday for awhile, and now that's it's back around to 'A' (I've been watching it), I jumped right in, completely unprepared.  but as I mentioned above, a great many of us 50-something Americans think 'apple' when someone says 'A is for', and to follow on the theme started by Roger, who is hosting this round, I thought I'd take us back to The Unused Portion's humble beginnings:

Good to the Core!

aww!  if that isn't my little monkey about to take a bite out of that Empire Apple!  back when he was still just a mini-Vermonter, trying to figure out how to get along in NY, even if Mama did work at an apple orchard.  and that t-shirt...it was a dress on him for years, but once he grew into it, he grew right out of it.  it's long gone, now...this picture was taken the summer before he started kindergarten, when The Unused Portion was 4 months old.  now he's about halfway through his first year of high school, and this blog has been active for 10 years running!

so, the history of this blog and ABC Wednesday is that I first jumped in in September of 2012, on the letter 'I', skipped 'Q', and made it all the way to 'W' before I gave up.  in 2015, I gave 'A' & 'B' a go, but didn't go any further until 2016, when right around this time, I started another round on 'A', in which I commemorated the recent death of David Bowie, and that was the end of it.  until now.  so in the interest of getting this entry into the linkup before there's 4000 people in there, that's all I'm going to post, and start thinking up something for next week!

*and Roger's post isn't about apples, after all - it's about Alaska.  I guess it's the intro post he writes for the ABC Wednesday site that was about apples.  he says his favorite is the Macoun, which I always pronounced "ma-COON", but when I worked at Soons Orchard, Mr. Soons said it "ma-COW-an", and it was his farm (through his daddy and grand-daddy), so that's how I said it, too.  I'm not sure about a favorite...the boy ate an Empire a day back then, so I was always flush with those, but I also liked the Gala, Winesap, Braeburn, Cameo, and Jonagolds!  not working on an orchard, you kind of have to take what you can get, and at my local store, that tends to be Galas and Honeycrisp.  I'm a bit biased against the Honeycrisp, though, so I never buy them!  how do you like them apples?

Monday, January 7, 2019

From Soup to Nuts

I made a new-to-me soup!  and the teen did not want my new soup for his dinner, the brat.  he tasted it, but declared it unfit for consumption.  I was surprisingly pleased with it.  here's the ish...it's Mollie Katzen's Moosewood Cookbook "Gypsy Soup".  the recipe at the link isn't the one I used, though...I used this version before I realized it was 'adapted'.  the only real difference is the addition of kale, and the subtraction of bell pepper and tamari...but that's not the ish.  the ish is - - - if you guessed 'the name', give yourself a cookie (or a bowl of soup!).  while I'm not going to write Ms. Katzen and demand she change the name of her soup that she published in 1977, I do need to think of something to call this dish in My house, so I don't have to use that stupid name.  that being said, this soup is everything.  it's so good!  the sweet potato I had was sadly all old and spongey, so I had to swap it out for russets, and I saw it suggested that you could swap just about any orange veggie for the sweet potatoes, and any green veggie for the bell peppers, and have it turn out just as good.

there is something about the spice mix that reminds me very much of the 70's - of orange corduroy bell-bottoms, crocheted vests, and wooden-heeled clogs.  of food co-ops, and ancient grains, natural hair, and macrame.  it doesn't smell like anything that ever simmered in my mother's kitchen, but it's still so familiar, like something from a memory, a dream, or a past life.  deja vu soup.  seance soup.  70's soup.  hearty autumn soup.  burnt-orange soup.  could I simply call it Romani soup?  no, it sounds too much like 'people soup', or 'human soup'.  I mean, how would I feel about 'Jew Soup'?  I'd probably wonder why the person who named it that couldn't just call it 'chicken soup', which it probably would be...but my point is, it was super-yummy, and I will make it again.  this may be my most successful soup to date!

first I learned to make chicken soup - from a shikse (non-Jew) of all people - because...I mean, you gotta, and I AM a Jewish mother, after all (why I didn't learn to make it from my own Jewish mother is another story entirely).  last winter I made that garlic soup that was only ok.  then I learned to poach chicken, because I needed the broth for butternut squash soup, which turned out ok, and seems to have been eaten.  finally, I made the veggie scrap soup I'd been pondering for more than 20 years, and used it in my chili, to cook rice, and wherever liquid was called for in a recipe.  I made a second batch of veggie scrap, and used it in my second batch of butternut squash soup which was better than the first batch, but proved too boring to eat plain, or was simply too bland.  I need to work on that.  so then I made Mollie Katzen's soup with the last of the veggie scrap, and it was amazing!  I've been wanting to try minestrone for a few years, now, so that will be next on the agenda...

short story about my relationship to minestrone soup:  when I was still young enough to live at home with my family, there was some dish that my mom would make every now and again that my dad, bro, and I loved, that she didn't eat.  I have no memory of what that meal was, but I DO remember that whenever she made it for us, she would warm up a can of Progresso minestrone soup, and be so happy to have it all to herself.  I remember liking what I was eating, but I also remember being curious about my mom's magical soup.  she refused to share it.  and so, I never had a bite of minestrone soup in my life, because it didn't belong to me, and my mom told me I couldn't have it.  many years later, I had a baby of my own, who I can't imagine Not sharing delicious food with at every opportunity.  back then, there used to be this cool organic kid cereal on the market called Mighty Bites, which my baby loved as a finger-food snack, and I loved for it's healthfulness.  the cereal company ran a promotion for a free 'Brain Foods for Kids' cookbook, which I immediately ordered, and still keep in my kitchen today.  it's got these great little blurbs about which ingredients in each of the recipes offer specific benefits to the child's developing brain and body, and how the child's body processes those ingredients.  it's a great read, with wonderful pictures of tasty, healthy meals, and simple instructions so even a kitchen hack like myself can craft a delicious meal.  one of the recipes in the book is for 'Mighty Minestrone', and it's been at least 10 or 12 years that I've been looking at that recipe, thinking, "I'm going to make that someday".  December 11th was that day.  I have defeated another one of the demons handed to me by someone else to carry, and got myself a nice pot of nourishing soup out of it.  don't take your minestrone for granted, there may be someone out there who doesn't think they are allowed to have it.  you might want to share yours with them.  I know I do.

the minestrone was a hit - the teen liked it, but I Loved it!  I found myself wondering, though...are the two basically the same?  'Romani' Soup and minestrone?  this is the Moosewood recipe from Mollie Katzen:

3-4 Tbsp. olive oil
2 cups chopped onion
2 cloves crushed garlic
1/2 cup chopped celery
2 cups chopped, peeled sweet potatoes or winter squash (or a cup of each)
2 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. basil
1 tsp. salt
Dash of cinnamon
Dash of cayenne
1 bay leaf
3 cups stock or water
1 cup chopped, fresh tomatoes (or substitute 1 can of tomatoes)
3/4 cup chopped sweet bell pepper
1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas
1 Tbs. tamari

In a large saucepan sautee onions, garlic, celery, and sweet potatoes in olive oil for about five minutes. Add seasonings except tamari, and the stock or water. Simmer, covered, fifteen minutes. Add remaining vegetables and chickpeas. Simmer another 10 minutes or so until all the vegetables are as tender as you like them.

Check salt. Add tamari if it could use a little more. Serve alongside cornbread or a crusty harvest bread.

and here is the recipe I used for the minestrone, from Brain Foods for Kids:

2 Tbs, olive oil
1 leek, sliced
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
3 green beans, finely sliced
1 quart vegetable bouillon
1 1/4 cups tomato puree
2 bay leaves
scant 1 cup pasta chapes
2/3 cup cannellini beans (drained & rinsed)
sprig of rosemary
salt & pepper to taste
grated parmesan to serve

heat the oil over medium heat, add the leek.  cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally until tender.  add carrot, celery, and green beans, cook for another 5 minutes.  add bouillon, tomato puree, and bay leaves.  stir well, bring to a boil; then simmer, half covered, for 15 minutes.

remove and reserve the bay leaves, and puree the vegetables slightly (with a hand blender or food processor), so there are still some 'bits'.  put the bay leaves back in, add the pasta, beans, and rosemary, and bring to a boil.  reduce the heat slightly and cook for 10 minutes, or until the pasta is tender.  remove the bay leaves and rosemary, and season to taste.  serve with a sprinkle of parmesan.

nope, not the same at all.  different spices mixes, different beans, different veggies.  different tastes.  I'm learning, slowly...so what should I make next?  I'm a big fan of one-pot meals because they help my process by not being too complicated, and also simplifying clean-up.  maybe tomato soup or red sauce?  yes!  the third of the five French mother sauces!  within the past 5 years or so, probably through my voracious watching of movies procurable at my three closest local libraries, I became aware of these 'mother sauces', and their place in French cuisine.  not being much of a cook myself, let alone one who knows about things like 'mother sauces', I was happy to learn that my natural instinct towards accumulating knowledge for its own sake followed a path I didn't know was there to tread.  I doubt I'll follow it to its end, but the side steps are worth taking by virtue of being there.  so - the five French mother sauces:  bèchamel, velouté, sauce tomat, espagnole, and hollandaise.

I learned to make roux (butter and flour) one night when a friend's daughter asked to spend the night at my house, and my friend, incredulous that I had survived more than 30 years on this planet without having learned to make it before, not only wrote down her recipe for homemade macaroni & cheese, she cooked it for us for dinner so I would know how to make it for her daughter the next night.  and her daughter (who was maybe 10 or 11 at the time?) coached me through both the grocery-buying, and the cooking processes.  I believe it turned out ok.  so I can make a bèchamel sauce (roux and milk), and Mornay sauce (bèchamel with cheese), which is generally what one uses for the previously mentioned mac & cheese.  recently, I had a 'leftover' container of sour cream hanging around in my fridge -  I'd bought it for the latkes I didn't end up making for Hannukah - so in the interest of using it up before it went bad, I wondered if I could make a bèchamel sauce from it, since I didn't have any milk.  I didn't document the process, but I looked up something that brought me to a recipe for garlic cream sauce, which not only used up my sour cream, but some chicken broth I had, as well.  and I had lots of garlic.  win-win-win.  turns out roux and stock is the base for the second French mother sauce, veloutè.

wow, two of the French mother sauces have been butchered in my kitchen?  hell yes.  time to destroy a third...to be fair, my Mornay is passable, but I doubt my veloutè would have been exciting to anyone other than me.  not bad for a first try, for sure, but it was not a well-executed project (I can't even find the recipe, or remember what I had it with).  since there is probably little to no cause for me to even attempt either the espagnole or hollandaise sauces, and I do use jarred marinara frequently enough (and have thought about making my own, often enough), sauce tomat seems to follow the natural progression.  it turns out, 'sauce tomat' as specific to French cuisine consists of "salt pork belly, onions, bay leaves, thyme, tomatoes (or purée), roux (butter & flour), garlic, salt, sugar, pepper."  it also turns out I don't know squat about what we dismissively refer to as 'red sauce' in our house - a sauce which has a deeper and more involved global history that I would have taken the time to consider, before reaching the age where food has obviously taken the place of sex in my life, with no great compliment to Rodney Dangerfield for that joke...

ugh...so much more to learn, still!  I feel like my job Here is to fill my brain with as much random, esoteric knowledge as possible to be downloaded when 'what I was' returns to Void from The Circus, and it looks like that's going to be another post, entirely.  there was plenty of good cooking happening over the 'holiday season', even in my reluctant kitchen.  having covered the 'soup', here's the 'nuts' - the chocolate peanut smoothies didn't turn out that well, and unlike the teen, I'm not of the opinion that it was because I used almond butter instead.  the chocolate fondue, on the other hand, was Brilliant, and we devoured it with a whole quart of strawberries, and had plenty left over.  we found a way to top just about everything with it until it was gone.  I made French fries, just like dad used to make, which means cutting the potatoes up really thin, and frying them almost brown.  the teen loved those, too.  I did that thing where you take the leftover mashed potatoes, and whatever other leftover veggies there are, and mix them together with some egg and flour to make 'pancakes'...leftover veggie-potato pancakes, I guess.  for some reason, I want to think of them as a traditional Romani dish, but I don't know why.  they were quite yum, and the teen ate enough of them to make me feel like I get to add another gold star to my Jewish Mama holiday cooking playbook!

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Shabbat Shalom

First Friday of the New Calendar Year

my family began observing 'Friday Night Dinner', otherwise known as Shabbat, when I was around four years old.  my parents may have been observant since they'd been married, or longer...I know it was a tradition on the kibbutz where my dad grew up, and I'm pretty sure my mom grew up with it as well, like generations of other New York City Jews. my memory of it in my life only goes back that far, but it's pretty well far enough to be considered an enduring tradition in my life.  my grandparents on my mother's side would usually join us, and we'd eat around the table in the dining room instead of at the 'regular' table in the kitchen.  Friday Night Dinner was a major pain as a teen, because I couldn't go out with my friends or my boyfriend until it was over, and it lasted for hours.  as a young adult, I never gave engaging with it a second thought, though every now and then I'd end up at one at my brother's house (he took over the tradition when his own family started growing, and our mom goes to his house, now) or at a synagogue sponsored event.  I don't believe I've Ever hosted a Shabbat dinner, though I've wanted to, and even if I can't do them consistently, week after week, year in year out, with my extended family, it's still worth doing for me, for my teen, at least once.  while we were cuddling on the couch this morning - our 5 minute snooze button - I was reminiscing about how his Grandma had done the same with us when we were kids, and suddenly realized it was Friday...and since we didn't have any after school/practice plans, I decided we should have Shabbat dinner!  (which met with a resounding NO, of course.  teens are so pleasant.)

for me, growing up, Shabbat dinner consisted of:

  • a clean house
  • traditional dress, or something between school clothes and formal wear
  • the 'good' dishes/silver on the big table in the dining room with the Sabbath tablecloth
  • lighting candles
  • some quick prayers
  • Manishevitz
  • challah
  • chicken soup
  • salad
  • main dish
  • side dishes
  • dessert
  • coffee

it's already 11am on Friday afternoon, and my life looks nothing like my mom's, with her cleaning lady, privilege, and years of experience being a traditional Jewish mom - but we all have to start somewhere, and the Shabbat dinners of my early youth were certainly more modest than the ones we had when I was in high school, up until I was in my mid-20's, and my parents sold that house.  so my version is going to be just perfect for what it is.  a first try.  a leap of faith in the spontaneity of playful nostalgia.  anyway, if I'm gonna get this done, I'm gonna need to get started...there's no way I can do what my mom did, with the time and resources I have, and my limited capabilities in the kitchen, but here's what I can do:

  • cleaning the house is gonna be a low priority in favor of getting the meal together.
  • I'll get dressed when it's all set to go, before serving.
  • setting the table - will fall to the teen when he gets home.
  • find some candle holders, and check to make sure I have Shabbat candles (pretty sure I do).
  • gotta hit the liquor store for Manishevitz...I hope they have it!
  • I'll need a challah, too...unless I can bake one?  no, don't push it.
  • chicken soup...I think I have everything I need:  chicken (frozen, but apparently that's ok.  I already put it in the fridge to thaw, since I don't have to start it until later), carrots, celery, onion, a potato for the hell of it because I have a lot of them, salt, pepper, parsley, oregano.
  • salad - I've got spring mix and spinach.  plus carrots, celery, green pepper, scallions, cherry tomatoes, croutons, and creamy Caesar dressing.
  • main dish - I think I'm going to make chili.  I know I have everything for that, because I bought  it all at the store yesterday.
  • for a side dish, maybe steamed broccoli, and also possibly green beens?
  • I need a dessert, unless I can think of something to make, but I'm going out anyway, so...
  • we don't drink coffee, but there's tea and cocoa in the house (and liquor, for that added warmth in the cup).

I need to mention, here, the two free bags of groceries that showed up on my porch by way of my dear acquaintance J, who I met through some disadvantaged women artist weekly brainstorming meeting group (they set it up, and it met at her offices) - my car recently broke down, and I remembered a few years ago I needed snow tires, and J got me in touch with the United Way who were able to help me buy them.  so hoping the United Way might help me again, I called J to see if they might be able to expedite the process in any way, and to see if they could give me a ride to or from the mechanic's when the car was ready (they live close by), but we crossed communications and missed each other.  BUT - they left two bags of groceries on my porch, and when I got home, the bags were waiting there for me.  carrots, onions, potatoes, celery, milk, cheese, oatmeal, a whole chicken and two additional 2.5 lbs. packages, spinach, spring, mix, eggs, butter, bread, pb & j, two boxes of pasta, and two jars of red sauce...it was so sweet and kind, and welcome.  I already made one pot of soup from that gift, and a pot of mashed potatoes, and I'm feeling pressured because I want to use it all before it goes bad!  ugh, I'm in a race against time, here, and I have to get back to it!

ok, so the shopping list is simply Manishevitz, challah, and dessert, so I'm gonna run out and get that at 2pm, before I start the cooking portion of this evening's entertainment around 3 or 3:30.  I'll clean up until then, and have the teen clear the table off so he can set it nicely with my Sapta Lisa's dishes that are tucked away in the back of the cabinet when he gets home.  when all that's handled, the food is ready, he's showered and we're both dressed, we'll light the candles, say the prayers, serve, and enjoy!

chicken soup is technically done, but I'm letting it simmer for however long, and the chili is cooking, with the timer set for 1 hour.  yay!  got the Manishevitz and the challah, bought a box cake for dessert, because that was what I thought I could handle.  I haven't even looked at the directions to see when I need to start it, yet!  so, I just need to make the salad, and the sides.  I wished I had thought to make mashed potatoes, and I guess I still can, because I think that goes better with broccoli, and we can just have that as one side (potatoes and broccoli), and green beans for the other.  seems somehow better to me.  so I guess I should go put those up if I want them to be ready...was just taking a quick break after getting it all on track!

That.  Was Freaking.  Fantastic.  I just hosted my first successful Shabbat dinner!  I made:  chicken soup with carrots and noodles, a pot of chili, roasted potatoes/broccoli/garlic, steamed green beans with butter, and a salad.  the teen came home in a mood, and made a big show about how much he hated everything and how my asking him to shower, dress, get out a tablecloth, clear and set the table, find the candle holders and get two candles to put in them, was the most heinous thing I ever could have asked of him, but I gave him a firm talking to, told him his tomorrow's freedom depended on his willingness to participate in my rather important to me endeavor tonight, so he complied, and he even got in the spirit in the end.  once the food was ready, he was ready, and the table was ready, I got ready, and he actually took a picture of the table.  then we lit the Shabbat candles, said the same prayers my dad used to say, from his book, sipped the wine and broke the bread, and sat down to our meal!

the teen had two bowls of soup, most of the green beans (I was allowed a spoonful), and one scoop each of chili and roasted veggies, but no salad.  I ate Everything...I'm so stuffed!  Success!  after we cleared the table and set all the leftovers aside to cool, he was released to play video games while I did the dishes, filled the tupperware containers to pack into the fridge and freezer, mixed the cake, and put it in the oven.  just as I decided to check in again, the timer went off  ~ ~ ~ needs more time, which is fine; it gives me more time to finish the paragraph while the cake cools for 15 minutes, at which point, we will finish off our Sabbath meal extravaganza, and put a big, gold star in my Jewish Mama book.  feeling pretty good, yes I am!

cake was both moist and fluffy, with gooey chocolate bits mixed in.  we didn't even get to the cocoa...food coma now.  zzz...

*based on the teen's dad posting "My guitar says it needs a band soon, or it's moving to LA. and taking the amp with it." on facebook, I've been hearing one of my all time favorite happy songs play in my head (I posted it in his comments, wondering if he remembered it, how much I loved it, and doubted he did), which I played while cooking.  well, for about 6 minutes of the cooking, because I went ahead and played it twice.

Shabbat Shalom!


Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Memory Jar 2018

we emptied and read our entries into our memory jar a bit early this year (we usually wait until New Year's Eve, or thereabouts) because we were flopping around the house all week trying to stay occupied so as not to get bored and get on each other's nerves too much during the Teen's winter break from school.  we had been remarking to each other of late how empty the jar is this year, because neither one of us made filling it a priority.  still, we went through the motions when we did, and here's the list of what we took the time to memorialize:


Shavuot soup (not sure what this was, though I know it had to be a dairy dish in accordance with the Jewish holiday)

L's in Pine Hill (friends moved closer)

perfect summer days in the Catskills (no need for an explanation!)

losing 30 pounds on Whole30 (20 of which I gained right back)

Sly and the Family Stone vs. Parliament Funkadelic (teen's gig)

Goods delivery! (the ONLY place that delivers food to us, and only on rare occasions)


SLAYER! x 3 (he went to see them with a friend, without me)

Sly/Funk (gig)

Fortnite season 5 (thanks G for the battle pass)

2 snow days in a row (oh for the halcyon days...)

hangin' with G

food, friends, fitness, live music, and a recognition of perfect summer days isn't a bad year at all, without even adding in the Teen's video gaming, and the joy of youth over cancelled school days.  no matter that the list is short, or that the folks who have graced it in the past turned out not to have a place on it in our future, and knowing that will most likely repeat itself this year, due to miscommunications (not by me - I communicate rather effectively, and go out of my way to make sure I am understood), and a general lack of respect for me and mine by those I would have thought above such foolishness...but alas.  we move forward, no?  and look to the new connections we will make in the coming year that will be better suited to helping us move harmoniously into our future.

there are some things we forgot to put in the jar, like my birthday last year, attended by several of the people who have definitively shown me since that our friendship wasn't worth their time moving forward - but it was still a fun party where I felt surrounded by love, and I certainly don't want to negate that, or the people who were there with whom I still enjoy camaraderie.  also the Teen's birthday, which was just a simple sleepover with his one friend, as he desired.  he played (and I attended) several gigs with his music school - a 'Zombie Prom', a Black Sabbath show, and a 'New Wave of British Heavy Metal' show.  I even got in on the action and played a gig of my own (which was awful, and I hated every minute of it, but I got out of my comfort zone and tried something new, so yay me).  we went to Israel (the Teen's first trip - I've been many times, but not in a long while).  we celebrated Hannukah as best we could without money to give each other material gifts, but we did honor certain principles each night that I find more important than consumerism.  I made both 'Romani Soup' and Minestrone soup for the first time...we had friends over for dinner (once, the entire year) and my 'bestie' came up for a night or two (which I try to appreciate more than be mad about because I want more time with them more often, but...life).

it was a really rough year for me financially, and I had a bunch of people help me out with cash for food, heat, car repairs, and ticket money for gigs, while also gifting the Teen a new-to-him phone, and some comfy pj's for our winter holiday - SO grateful for all of Those blessings, Thank You!  a mystery challah showed up at my door on the last night of Hannukah, and while I know now who left it, it was a sweet gift to come home to that night.  I 'officially' launched Mysteriam Ink, engaged in activism and social justice work mostly (but not exclusively) related to issues that effect the Romani community, the Teen started high school, I was able to get my hands on some old photographs of my ancestors, and I uh...engaged in some 'adult activity' for the first time in too many years.  we all rode the wave of these trying political times, and while I don't tend to talk politics, here, I would be remiss if I didn't at least point out that this year, many of us are...let's say unhappy in regards to the current monstrosity of an American president and his administration.  there's a terrible world going on outside these walls, and frankly, I don't want to go out in it alone, so I'm grateful to those who stayed friends with me, and spare little to no thought for those who chose to show me their worst (though I do hope they manage to work through their issues for their own personal growth and development).

on the flip side of that, there's an incredibly Beautiful and Exciting world out there, and I'm looking forward to enjoying more of it, and watching my son learn to recognize and engage with it's gifts each day.  we don't have it easy, but we could have it worse, as we're very well aware, and we navigate our low points with whatever grace we can glean while sitting back and relaxing when the sailing is smooth.  so Happy New calendar Year to all friends, fans, and readers of The Unused Portion!  thank you for being here, subscribing, liking/following on facebook, commenting, and generally putting up with the rants and raves I dump out of my head, convert to pixels, and share with you.  sometimes it's a gift, sometimes a curse, but always worth doing for myself.  I hope others get something out of it, too.

Memory Jar posts from previous years:

2014, 2015, 2016, 2017

*New Year's Day update:  I loved The Doors when I was in high school, and I often think of the first few lines of Jim Morrison's "Ghost Song" (part of the first track, "Awake") on their An American Prayer album first thing in the morning.  this is what they say ~

"Awake...Shake dreams from your hair, my pretty child, my sweet one...Choose the day, and choose the sign of your day, the day's divinity...first thing you see..."
I woke up this morning - 1/1/19 - at 7am, to the sounds of my cat puking on the Native American poncho covering my desk chair, on which she was napping.  and I just washed it, too.  lovely...great omen for the new year, huh?  at least I know it will get better from here!

consequently, I also learned that this album was released 7 years after Jim's death, and 5 years after The Doors broke up.  I can't just stop loving it, but that fact - coupled with the new knowledge that Jim had his Own plans to release this work with artists that were not The Doors - really threw me for a loop, and made me feel like I've been lied to all these years.  not a good feeling, and I'm angry at the remaining three Doors in retrospect.  come on, 2019, you've Gotta do better than this for me!