Showing posts with label Jewish. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jewish. Show all posts

June 16, 2014

6th Yahrzeit

Today is the sixth yahrzeit (annual memorial) for my father, may his memory be for a blessing. Last night I lit the 24-hour yahrzeit memorial candle, which is still burning as I type now.

Rik woke me at 6 AM this morning so that I could get to morning minyan (service) on time. I arrived by 7:10 and my friend D was already there. We had a minyan of 10 people by 7:45 or so. As the only Kohen present, I was offered the first aliyah. I'm sure my dad would have been proud, since he's the one who taught me how to do it. I remember my first summer at Camp Tel Yehudah. I had been offered an aliyah and I had to call home "collect" to get my correct Hebrew name from my parents. (You have to be old enough to remember what "calling collect" means.)

D ended up saving the minyan. No one had prepared the Torah reading, and when the man leading the services asked if anyone could sight read the portion, D said yes, if she could use a chumash (a printed book of the Torah). She did a marvelous job, leyning (singing) the trope (cantillation) in the lovely melody she learned from a friend. Imagine sight-singing a new piece of music, in front of other people, when the words are in another language, and you'll understand the feat D pulled off today.

In our congregation, at daily minyan, those observing a yahrzeit have the opportunity to hold the Torah scroll while reciting the prayer El Maleh Rachamim (God full of compassion). I held the Torah, sang El Maleh for my dad, and then told a short story about him:

When we were on a family trip to California in the mid-70s, we drove from San Francisco to Los Angeles. ALong the way we stopped at San Simeon for a night and stayed at a motel on the beach. We drove up and father said, "Take off your shows." We looked at hime like he was crazy. "Take off your shoes!" OK, we took off our shoes. Then, before checking in to the reception desk, he walked my mom, my sister and I to the edge of the beach, and told us to dip our toes into the Pacific ocean. That, he said, made us cross-country travelers. (As New Yorkers, we had of course been in the Atlantic ocean many times.)

It's especially sad to remember my father this year, when Father's Day and his yahrzeit coincided. Zichrono l'vracha, may his memory be for a blessing to all who knew him.

Shimon Shir ben Zalman haKohen uMiryam, 1985

June 07, 2014

Feeling better and better

It's been a week full of feeling (mostly) well and energetic. I actually cooked every night, real food, not just pasta. I only seriously crashed on one afternoon. I led the Yizkor memorial service at synagogue for Shavuot, and was powerfully moved. The next day I realized it was the 25th anniversary of my friend Charisse's yahrzeit.

While I was out buying groceries yesterday, I went through the U Village's sidewalk sale and found a great pair of sandals to wear to Bulgaria and a red dress to wear on stage. Later we sat down to Shabbat dinner with 11 friends who ate everything! (Of course, they brought half the meal.) And today I led musaf services and sang one melody I learned from Charisse. That was a powerful moment too.

On the other hand, my feet continue to hurt from Hand-Foot Syndrome, I'm still trying to figure out travel stuff (although I did apply and was approved for the Bank of America travel VISA card, 0% APR for the first year, no annual fee, chip and sign, and NO FOREIGN EXCHANGE FEES! I should really make a travel to-do list.

And on the other hand,  as Tevye would say, the weather is sunny and warm, my garden is thriving even if I haven't weeded in weeks, and I came home from synagogue to find Rik asleep in the hammock with Boychik the dog. Some things are just perfect; wish I'd taken a photo.

April 16, 2014

OK, I invented a dessert

As a riff on both Marcy Goldman's recipe for Matzoh Buttercrunch, and on Hershey's Almond Joys and Mounds Bars, favorite candies of my childhood, I invented a Passover version. Of course, you could make it any time of year; it's gluten-free and totally yummy (I think). Try it and let me know you opinion!

NOTE: The bars fell apart after I tried to cut them. I think next time I'll make individual ones in muffin tins lined with paper cupcake liners. But they still taste amazingly good, if I say so myself!

Passover “Almond Joy” Bars

1 cup almond meal
2 tablespoons melted butter
2 tablespoons sugar

Heat oven to 375° F.
Line an 8-inch square pan with baking parchment.
Combine ingredients for crust, and press into the bottom of pan. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until fragrant and beginning to brown.

2 large egg whites
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
Pinch of salt
3/4 cup sweetened flaked coconut

Put oven rack in middle position and reduce oven heat to 300° F.
Whip together egg whites, sugar, vanilla extract, and a pinch of salt until peaks form. Stir in coconut. Spread coconut layer over almond crumb layer. Bake until top is pale golden in spots, 15 to 20 minutes.

½ bag of chocolate chips
12 or more whole almonds

Spread chocolate chips over coconut layer. Transfer to a rack to cool completely, about 15 minutes. Decorate with whole almonds. Chill in refrigerator. Cut into bars to serve.

I think if you change three ingredients, you can call a recipe your own. I did adapt the almond crust and macaroon middle layer from:

Matzoh Buttercrunch, to give it the proper name

Here in Seattle, about 20 years ago, a recipe began circulating among Jewish mothers of pre-school-aged children while I was working at the JCC as the Jewish educator. Someone called it Matzah Roca, after the famous candy, and it began to appear on almost every seder table as "the" dessert.

On my hunt for the original author, I found Marcy Goldman, who "created Matzoh Buttercrunch when my eldest son, now 29, was about 18 months old and of course, disliked all Passover offerings, especially the desserts. I thought about something that would be easy to make and that a toddler might eat. That was the inspiration."

I asked Marcy if I could share her original recipe on my blog, and she gracefully said yes. Marcy also writes: "I feature this recipe ‘always free’ on my website… Usually I’m not given credit for this recipe, one of my most iconic ones. But in the big scheme of life, as you must know more than most people, it’s not one of the ‘big things’.  I am just pleased that so many people get such pleasure out of the recipe. But given you have no doubt, lots to handle, it’s particular kind that you sought me out and asked for copyright permission."

So for all of you who would love the original Matzoh Buttercrunch, click away!

April 15, 2014

Cooking and cleaning and so many dishes

I love Passover. Even though over recent years I have given up changing the dishes, cleaning all the cupboards, buying new foodstuffs in unopened packages, etc. I still love Pesach. It may be favorite holiday ever.

Yesterday I spent my four good hours on my feet cooking. I made my father's recipe for chopped liver. Thanks to my in-laws' generosity, I don't grind by hand but instead use the grinder attachment for the stand mixer. (Two of the best presents I have ever received!) Then I made some matzah farfel "granola" for Rik to enjoy at breakfast and for late night snacking. I did something different this year; maybe I added a little more salt? But we both agree it's spectacular this time. And I whipped up a new cake with almonds, pears, dried cherries (and a few of the fresh ones I found in the freezer left from our little trees this summer). I haven't tasted yet since it's for tonight's seder, but if it's good I'll share the recipe I found on line.

Last night's seder was fun, maybe a little short for me, but we still finished the whole thing and didn't leave until 10:30 pm. Our hosts always include his 93-year-old father who is a Shoah survivor. What a treat to listen to his Polish Hebrew, his melodies, and to watch him pound the table during Adir Hu and shout in a call and response El! B'nai! El! B'nai! I think I will incorporate this into my next seder.

Breakfast this morning was the first taste of matzah with butter and salt -- the best! I wait all year for that delicious taste. Today I baked matzah rolls (like popovers but with matzah meal, so yummy fresh from the oven!), and a batch of matzah "roca" (as we call it in Seattle), made with chopped pecans instead of almonds this time. This recipe has floated around the world and now the internet for maybe 20 years, and is the best Passover dessert ever. I've asked the original author for permission to link to her site. We'll see what happens.

Our hostess's version of the 10 plagues. Look who came to dinner!

December 04, 2013

Last night of Chanukah

I couldn't resist making latkes one more time for the last night of the holiday. Eating any food fried in oil counts to celebrate the miracle, and so we have eaten latkes, sufganiyot (doughnuts, traditional in Israel), olive oil on salmon, leftover latkes with scrambled eggs, you name it.

Again I will post my adaptation of my father's latke recipe. As my mom and I recalled, Dad would stand at the stove frying while we three sat at the kitchen table. He'd serve up a plate of latkes, start frying another batch, and eat his while standing up. No wonder both his daughters became master latke-makers!

Jill's take on Shellie's Latkes

2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled
2 onions, grated
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup matzo meal or flour
Avocado or other high heat oil, mixed with olive oil for frying
Applesauce or sour cream for garnish

1. Grate the potatoes by hand using the tiny holes in the grater. Or in a food processor use the thinnest grating blade, then whirl with the S blade to turn potatoes from grated strips into more of a mush. Grate the onions in the same way. Scoop up 1/4 cup of potatoes at a time with your hands and squeeze out and discard the excess liquid, then put in a colander and add the onions, eggs, matzo meal, salt, and pepper, making sure that everything is very well blended. Let batter drain in the large colander over a mixing bowl while you fry.

2. Heat about 1/4 inch of oil in a 10-inch pan over high heat. Scoop latkes using a tablespoon and add them to the hot oil. Don't crowd the pan -- four at a time is plenty. Be careful not to burn yourself! Cook latkes for about 3-4 minutes per side. Drain on a rack placed in a baking sheet with one inch sides (do not use paper towels), and keep warm in a 250 degree oven. Or eat standing up, while they're fresh from the oil.

3. Serve with applesauce at a meat meal or with sour cream or Greek style yogurt at a dairy meal.

PS You can freeze fried latkes in a single layer on a baking sheet. Transfer to a freezer bag or other container. When ready to eat latkes again, reheat in a low oven for about 20 minutes or until warm. This way your house doesn't smell like fried potatoes or stale oil when the guests arrive.

Rik loves latkes!

November 29, 2013

Happy Thanksgivukkah!

It was the best of holidays.....

On Wednesday night we ate the first latkes fresh from the oil with N and K and lit the first Chanukah candles. I froze the rest of the latkes for the next day's big meal.

On Thursday I baked triple-chocolate pumpkin tarts adapted from a Martha recipe )....) and watched the Macy's parade. I still want to be a Rockette, even if I'm an inch shorter than I was and can no longer kick my legs that high.

We gathered at D's home at 4:30 or so. Then T and I stepped up to the cooking with D and A, and everyone else scattered to talk. D's turkey was delicious, T's brussels sprouts were fought over as usual, and I was the only one who ate any of my gravy (but it was VERY good!). I think everyone liked the latkes, because they disappeared.

We spent a long time cleaning up and talking. After an hour or two, we all headed over to our home for dessert. (Over the years we've found that breaking up the meal with movie, walk, etc. means everyone has more room for dessert.) A had baked her first apple pie -- it was so yummy! -- and we scarfed down some of the pumpkin tarts with whipped cream for both treats. (Dunava, those tarts are waiting in the freezer for you.) We lit the candles and ate and talked and ate and talked and sent photos far and wide via Facebook. The dogs hoovered the floor for edible bits of pie.

The Thanksgiving part is over but Chanukah continues for another six nights. I need to venture out of our cozy house to buy Chanukah candles.

It was the best of holidays...and I am so thankful that I was able to participate in the baking; cooking in the crowded kitchen elbow to elbow with friends; and talking the night away.

November 19, 2013

Mom, birthday, and more

My 86 year old mother visited last week. Between tasks for the synagogue and wanting to spend time with her, I found no spare moments in which to blog.

We took a shopping trip but found nothing; we ate a fantastic birthday dinner (her treat); we went to the grocery store and Costco; we had dinner twice with friends; and we talked a lot. It was such a treat to cuddle in her bed after Rik went to sleep and talk about everything and nothing. PBS had an amazing two part special on John F Kennedy, who my mother and grandmother really adored. That opened the door for talks on what kind of person he was, what kind of government he led, and her father's involvement in the Democratic party. While the henna on my hands and feet dried, we shmoozed in depth.

As to the birthday, I clearly can't do math. I turned 54 last Friday, which is three times 18. And 18 is a special Jewish number. In Hebrew, all letters have a corresponding numerical value. The word that makes up 18 is chai -- life. So I had a really special birthday this year, but it took my sister and my friend S to tell me about the triple chai part.

Shabbat Shazam!
To celebrate D and C hosted a marvelous dinner with some of my closest friends. Everyone brought delicious food (all my favorites), and C brought at least two slices of six different cakes from Bakery Nouveau (as well as a twice-baked almond croissant or two). It was a very festive evening, complete with "Shabbat Shazam!" from the Superman birthday candle. (Credit again to S, who is so brilliant.)

Mom left before the crack of dawn the next day, and although I got up to say goodbye, I couldn't make it out the door. Rik drove her and managed her through all the hurdles until her escort showed up. What a guy! He sure makes a great husband and sone-in-law. He came home and went back to sleep. At 9 AM I realized I should get up and go to synagogue for the aliyah I'd requested for my birthday, but I couldn't keep my eyes open. Instead I slept until 2:30 PM and made up for a week of missed naps.

I've finished round 11 of Xeloda and see Dr G tomorrow. More to report then.

October 02, 2013

Last catch up

Since we've been back in Seattle I've bought lots of groceries, ran some errands, and taken down my part of the sukkah. We had a sunny afternoon yesterday, and I spent a hour or two taking down the decorations, throwing the s'chach (greenery) off the top of the sukkah, and sweeping the needles and green bits off the deck. (The next day was compost, recycling and garbage day.) I checked all the electric lights before packing them up, and have some of the decorations drying on the table while the rest of the stuff went straight into the storage box.

I made dinner for a shul family needing support, and have two other meals to make on Thursday and Friday. I sure hope no one gets tired of sesame cold noodles!

More catching up

Rik and I went to Vancouver BC for the bar mitzvah of the son of close friends. It was also the first time we took the all-electric Leaf on a road trip...

There are several high-speed charging stations on the highway from Seattle to the Canadian border. We headed for the first one north of us, about 65 miles away. We arrived there basically on "fumes," with only two miles remaining on the car's electric charge. It takes about 30 minutes for the car to charge about 80%.

We then drove to the next charging station, about 20 miles away, and charged again to 80% of maximum. Then we waited about 40 minutes to cross the border. We arrived at our hotel with 12 miles left on the charge. Luckily the hotel has an underground garage with electric outlets scattered throughout. We found the perfect parking spot and plugged in our portable 110 volt cord, and by the next morning the battery was fully charged.

This whole experiment took almost six hours, instead of the usual 2 1/2 plus the wait at the border. We were freaked out as well each time the car battery registered too low, wondering if we were going to make it to the next charging station. We have decided that the Leaf is great for driving in town, but that it sucks as a road trip vehicle.

Otherwise we had a great time. The bar mitzvah boy did extremely well with his singing and his Hebrew. His speech, on Cain and Abel, was insightful. As a younger brother, he brought a lot of personal experiences to his talk. The rabbi did something unusual. For each aliyah, he called up first the out of town guests, then the in-town guests, next family members and lastly the parents and the bar mitzvah boy. It was a most unusual way to involve everyone in the room in the service. And it was the boy's grandfather's birthday, so we sang Happy Birthday to him (and he was extremely pleased).

After a bounteous lunch, we headed back to the hotel and I took a long nap while Rik caught up on Canadian news. We joined our friends and their family and other guests for dinner at an Indian restaurant. Upstairs was a private room, decorated in a traditional manner. The food was yummy and spicy, a three piece jazz combo (two guitars and a bass) played mellow music, and everyone talked.

We met my cousins for breakfast on Sunday morning. It's been great to see them more frequently since they live so close to us, and to get to know their children as they grow up.

The drive home was just like the drive to Vancouver, expect that the border wait took an hour. We were again fried from the stress of not having enough electric charge to make it home, and luckily found an open Nissan dealer with a high-speed charger to get us enough juice to get home. What we would have done at night, I don't know. Probably called the Nissan help line and gotten a ride to a charger. But it would have been terrible to run out of charge on the highway. So no more road trips for the Blue Pumpkin.

So much to catch up on

Let's see ... Our synagogue honored me on Simchat Torah, we drove the Leaf to Vancouver BC to spend the weekend at a bar mitzvah, I took down most of the sukkah, and we might adopt a second dog. Whew!

Every year Beth Shalom honors two members on the holiday of Simchat Torah, when we finish reading the Torah and start it all over again. All the chairs were moved out of the center of the sanctuary, and people were singing and dancing with the Torah scrolls. When it came time to honor us and read the Torah, everyone formed two lines facing each other, and E and I were carried through the lines sitting on chairs. It was very exciting to be so surrounded by our community.

A congregant spoke about both E and I. In her case, the speaker was a woman who is basically her "adopted" daughter and a great teacher. In my case, it was a friend who's known me for a long time. They both said lovely, truthful and thoughtful things about us.

We each received an aliyah to the Torah. I think I received the last aliyah because of details having to do with my Kohen status, but who knows? It could just as easily been age first (E is a senior). At any rate, I looked over the shoulder of the Torah reader to see the beginning of Genesis in its original Hebrew.

After services we ate a good lunch, and then Rik and I headed north to Vancouver BC. See the next post for details.

September 25, 2013

End of Sukkot holiday

It's been rainy and cold as we end the Sukkot holiday. I don't want to walk the dog or eat in the sukkah when the weather has changed so quickly and dramatically from summer to winter. So I made Rik drag up the boxes of wool sweaters from the basement and I changed over my wardrobe in the hope that I could warm up!

Thank goodness Bob the dog is happy walking or not walking. In fact, his favorite pastime seems to be laying on a dog bed and sleeping.

Now I'm off to get Avastin-ized!

September 19, 2013

Xeloda round 9 and holiday update

I finished the ninth cycle of Xeloda on Tuesday and I am paying the price for agreeing to up the dose back to max again. I just never remember that increasing the dose gives me terrible side effects of more hand-foot syndrome, diarrhea, and fatigue. I stumble around because my feet hurt and I sleep until late morning because I'm so tired. At least I have the good tincture of opium to dry up the diarrhea. But for four days in a row?!

The Jewish new year holy days have been lovely. This year's fast for Yom Kippur was particularly long because the holiday fell so early in September. We gathered for a quick dinner at 5 PM and headed off to synagogue at 6:15 or so to get good (i.e. comfy and not folding) seats. Services began at 7:15 and the fast ended at 8:15 the following day, so it was a bit longer than a 5 hour fast.

I enjoyed leading Yizkor, the memorial service. It's an honor and a pleasure to help people remember their loved ones who have died. I try hard to give enough emotionally so that I can connect with people's feelings, but not so much that my focus on my own losses distracts from my leading the prayers.

Ne'ilah, the closing service, is usually highly energetic at our synagogue. We've been together as a community for a long day, we've prayed together, sung together, and listened to words of wisdom from members and our rabbi. We conclude with a final blast from not one shofar but many shofarot. Anyone, of any age, who brought a shofar to the synagogue can stand up in front and try to hold the longest note. The noise defines cacophony, and the shofar blower holding the longest note this year was, as usual, my friend K. Man, can that man make his shofar sing!

The next day Rik and some friends built the sukkah, a shack resembling what our ancestors lived in while they were bringing in the crops. The harvest aspect is like Thanksgiving, and the decorating aspect is kind of like Christmas (evergreen boughs, lots of silly decorations, and lights). This year marks the 19th since Rik and I met during the Sukkot holiday. He says building the sukkah is a lot of work, but the finished product always makes him happy, because it reminds him of the day we met.

September 13, 2013

Brain scan results good

My recent brain MRI shows stable disease -- some mets are 1 mm smaller, some are 1 mm larger, but overall this means stable disease. Now that's a nice way to start the new Jewish year.

Gmar hatima tova -- May you be inscribed (in the Book of Life) for Good.

September 03, 2013

Starting a new year

Tomorrow night marks the eve of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year. I have a lot to be thankful for as this High Holyday season begins.

I appear to be in good health, with tumor markers continuing to fall while I am taking Xeloda. There are few side effects, and the most annoying (Hand-Foot Syndrome) has responded well to henna. I would like to continue taking this chemo as long as possible because it is so effective and so tolerable.

Today my shrink Dr Dobie offered suggestions on how to treat my chronic insomnia. I was taking the Cymbalta at the wrong time of day! Tomorrow I will begin taking it in the morning. I can increase my dose of Ativan and take it 90 minutes before bedtime. These two shifts should help me get better sleep.

I just spent the long weekend in Cincinnati with my mother and sister. We went for a family wedding, but this was also the first time we'd ever taken a trip together, just us girls. We laughed and talked and had a great time. I took the opportunity to reconnect with three high school friends. We started at 6:30 pm and closed the restaurant down at 11 pm. Marvelous! Plus I ate Graeter's ice cream every day. The wedding was fun too, as was spending time with my distantly related cousins. We've been close since 1968, when my family moved to Cincinnati, and have shared one another's simchas over the years. I think the bride is my third cousin, once removed.

As far as spiritual health, all I can say is that I am a practical Jew in the way that Hadassah is practical Zionism. Hadassah builds the land of Israel; I cook, sing, dance and generally find ways to bring joy to my life on a daily basis.

That's what I've learned through 11 years of living with advanced cancer: live your life with joy every day.

L'shanah tova u'metukah -- to a good and sweet year!

March 28, 2013


Pesach has alternated between quiet and a madhouse.

On Sunday I started cooking, finished everything by Monday around 2 PM so there was plenty of time to take a nap. Our young friends H and A came over to set the table, sweep the floor, and do any ancillary chores. I certainly couldn't have been ready without them!

Our group of eleven at seder was lively, fun and full of ... POETRY! I had asked everyone to please write a poem about part of the seder, and they really stepped up to the task. Here are some samples

From K:
A green shoot breaks through
the packed soil, yearning for
freedom in the spring air,
reaching for the sky, striving
for freedom from the earth.
He wants to be a strong stalk
a beautiful plant
shaking in the summer breeze.
At the peak of his existence, he
gives us his fruit and fades away.
Just a memory on a rainy fall sukkah.

From S:
So now it's time for the story of Pesach,
Four questions, four sons, it's all on the mesa,
Tell the story of Exodus and dab wine for the plagues,
We narrowly missed the Egyptian blades.

(Nice play on words in the last line. The Hebrew word of Egypt is Mitzrayim, meaning the narrow place.)

And one last haiku from G:
Delicious dinner done
Afikomen next we eat
Eliahu comes
I plan to type up all the poems and send a booklet to everyone who participated, along with the photos Rik took.

March 24, 2013

Brain mets are stable

I have n=been deficient in blogging for the past few days.

First of all, my brain mets appear stable. This is the good news from last Monday's scan. Dr G plans to try one more round of Xeloda, although he did agree to reduce the dose by 1/6 (from six pills to five) and will give me an extra week off treatment in April. I may need it, since the leftover fatigue from the last round is still wearing me out.

I continue to have very little appetite in the evenings, and have lost about five pounds (from 120 to 115). Breakfast usually goes well, and lunch too, but somehow I never seem to be hungry until after 8:00 PM.

I am spending today doing some Passover cooking. I just made the chopped liver to my Dad's recipe and after I clean up, will start eggplant caponata, matza farfel "granola" for Rik, and chocolate-almond cupcakes for seder dessert. Tomorrow I will make the roast turkey, chicken soup and knaydlach (matza balls). Everyone else is bringing something.

My plan for Monday is to be done cooking early and have time for a nap. Then I will relax, enjoy seder and let everyone else do the serving and cleaning up. Am I smart or what?

December 12, 2012

Latkes and Chanukah

Tonight we'll light the fifth candle for Chanukah. Last night I made latkes for dinner (and fresh trout, and green peas). I used my Dad's recipe but instead of standing and frying while Rik sat and ate (Dad used to fry while we ate; he'd eat standing up at the range), I kept the latkes on a rack placed on a rimmed baking sheet in a warm oven until we were ready to eat. I learned that trick from Cook's Illustrated.

The real problem for me is that I don't always like other peoples' latkes, so when I go to a Chanukah party, I might be disappointed. Latkes should be made from potatoes grated on the small, round holes of a box grater, not shredded, with plenty of onion, salt and pepper, and just an egg or two (depending on quantity) and maybe some matzah meal or flour to bind everything together. Okay, I use my food processor instead of a box grater. But after I shred the potatoes, I spin them a few times using the S-blade. This gives the texture of grated potatoes without the risk of bloody knuckles. Same with the onions.

My sister taught me two tricks:
1. After you mix everything together, place the mixture in a strainer over a bowl and let it continue to strain while frying. The less liquid, the better.
2. If you want to make latkes in advance for a large group, fry and then freeze on a flat tray. When frozen, bag until you need them. Reheat gently in a low oven.

Today I fried about 30 latkes and froze them to serve for dinner on Friday night. I couldn't help but eat the broken bits. YUMMY!

November 20, 2012

The rest of the birthday celebration

On Friday night we enjoyed Shabbat dinner with friends. Their young daughter made me a card and a small paper lantern "lit" with carnation flower. It was a sweet way to celebrate.

Saturday morning saw me in synagogue, feeling well enough to lead the musaf service as planned. There's something very powerful and satisfying about standing in front of the congregation, with my back to them. I can't see them, but I can hear their voices lifted in song along with me. Leading the congregation in prayer has got to be my favorite synagogue activity.

That night our inner circle of friends got together at one home for a potluck dinner and birthday party. We noshed on nuts, cheeses and crackers, focaccia, and a bottle of champagne. Then we went to the table for Moroccan vegetable stew with quinoa, broccoli and leek quiches, green salad, more talking and more wine.

Our friends from Vancouver were in Everett for a kid thing and drove to Seattle in order to see us. They arrived in time for dessert. I had picked up a yummy selection from Whole Foods including mini cupcakes and tarts in chocolate, vanilla, lemon, key lime and salted caramel; a couple of eclairs; a fresh fruit tart and a small apple pie. In addition we had Graeter's chocolate-chocolate chip ice cream, Fran's dark chocolate sauce, more mixed nuts, pomegranate seeds both fresh and covered in chocolate, and chocolate covered ginger. Of my four personal food groups (champagne, chips, chocolate and whipped cream), only the whipped cream was in short-ish supply on the eclairs and the mini tarts.

Sunday's festivities featured a clothing exchange with about ten friends. We had all picked from our closets the items we no longer wear, or don't like, or that don't fit properly any more. Everyone contributed, and everyone went home with something. You should have seen R in a slinky one-shoulder black velvet gown. Just about everything looked good on N. S was particularly helpful in saying if something really flattered or wasn't worth keeping. Even a couple of teenaged daughters ended up with stuff they loved! I think I ended up with the best bargain: a grey cashmere dress with short sleeves by designer TSE. It looks kind of like this item from the TSE spring 2010 collection. The remaining clothing from our exchange will go to another clothing exchange, and the final bits will go to the Lifelong AIDS Alliance thrift store.

Now the birthday celebrations have ended and it's time to pick up some projects I've avoided lately, prepare for Wednesday's chemo cycle three, and get ready for Thanksgiving!

November 11, 2012

Another anniversary

It turns out yesterday was the 40th anniversary of my bat mitzvah! I went to shul knowing that the week's portion was Chayyei Sarah (the life of Sarah), which was my bat mitzvah portion. I arrived early enough that the Kohen aliyah was still not taken, and the gabbai offered it to me.

I went up to the bimah to tell Rabbi Borodin that today's was my bat mitzvah portion, and she immediately asked how old I was. I told her I was going to be 53 next week, and she said, "It's the 40th anniversary of your bat mitzvah!"

When I went up for my aliyah, Rabbi B had prepared a mishebayrach for this occasion, also asking for blessings for good health. She even remarked to the bat mitzvah girl, "This is where you could be in 40 years!"

I called my mother after services and we had a nice catch up about favorite memories from my bat mitzvah. The memory that leaped to my mother's mind was my little sister turning around to say to my mother, "Look, Aunt Edol is finally here!" (Edol is chronically late to everything.) My mother also praised me for doing such a good job on that special day so long ago.

All in all, it was a lovely and most unexpected concatenation of Jewish moments.

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