March 31, 2008

In like a lion, out like a lamb?

It's been cold and blustery this month in Seattle, with actual snow on the ground last Friday amid blooming spring flowers (as seen in this photo by Ken Lambert of the Seattle Times ). I personally can hardly wait for warmer temperatures and not having to wear wool sweaters.

Dad is still holding on. I hear he's lost a lot of weight but continues to have an appetite. Evidently dessert never loses it's appeal! The new hearing aid should make a difference in his quality of life as well.

Rik is on spring break and we are just back from a Costco run complete with yummy Polish hot dogs. At only $1.50, it's the cheapest lunch date in town. This visit's special treats were dried Montmorency cherries and Marcona almonds -- delish!

March 19, 2008

Happy anniversary to us!

Yesterday Rik and I celebrated 13 years of wedded life together. Here is an excerpt from the text of the card he gave me:

It's amazing what merely living near you does to me...
It's something that goes beyond my control or understanding...
... It's such a miracle that, out of the whole universe, you and I found each other...
... You are... the one person I could love forever.

(Linda Lee Elrod)

What a guy! A total mush-head and he's MINE!

My card had a drawing of two dogs cuddled up on a sofa, one at each end, just the way we sit together at night. One has it's feet up on the other's knee. An open box of chocolate is on the table in front of them. Ah, what a life!

March 13, 2008

Slow week

It's been slow here since we turned the clocks forward for daylight savings time. Or maybe that's just how I feel getting along on one hour less sleep at night... I've been reading my usual doses of science fiction, entertaining but nothing worth sharing. I took out a video from the library of A Wrinkle in Time which struck me as a really faithful adaptation of Madeleine L'Engle's novel (one of my all-time favorite books). I cooked dinner several nights in a row and appear to be on an Italian streak (lasagna, pizza).

No news on dad, all appears stable as he continues to receive physical and occupational therapy. My parents celebrated their 59th wedding anniversary yesterday and mom sounded quite chipper on the phone. Susan bought a black radish at the market and made some retach which my parents enjoyed. Retach is grated black radish and onion, bound together with schmaltz (rendered chicken fat) and seasoned with salt and pepper. It's one of those dishes from eastern Europe where people used whatever was available in the winter: the original locavores.

How to make schmaltz:
Remove the skin from a raw cut-up chicken. Place in a skillet over low heat. As fat melts, pour off into a small container. Can also saute some chopped onions to add flavor. Cracklings left in the pan are called gribbenes. Add to chopped liver for extra flavor and crunch. Store in the refrigerator in a sealed container.

Kosher homes use schmaltz in place of butter for meat meals. It has a smooth, silky texture and tremendous flavor.

March 07, 2008

Home again

The quick family visit is over. It seems to me that the best way to describe my dad's current situation is to call it a temporary but superficial improvement or rebound. He is clearly benefiting from physical and occupational therapy and is able to do a little more every day. However, his kidneys are failing, his heart isn't strong, and so the long-term prognosis is not good.

March 05, 2008

News about Dad

I find my dad surprisingly well for a man who has been bedbound for about two weeks.

At the end of last week he transferred from hospital to a skilled nursing facility. Yesterday and today he participated in both physical and occupational therapy in the PT room (not in his room), so he had to be up, dressed, and in a wheelchair for each session. Although he was quite cranky and refused to do much, he was able to stand (assisted) and do some stretching exercises. He also took an interest in what was going on around him and in watching televsion. Believe it or not, watching TV is a positive sign from someone who has been sleeping around the clock.

He lost one hearing aid and is having trouble hearing people, so it's tough to hold a conversation. On the other hand, he made several jokes and tried to help me do the crossword puzzle. His mind is all there even if his body is failing him. Although he isn't eating much, he still has a taste for dessert, making him a true Cohen.

I'm sure the procrit shot he had helped tremendously. Or was it the tonic of seeing the number-one daughter? Nah, probably the procrit.

March 02, 2008

Challah recipe

This is the challah recipe I have been baking lately, given to me by a friend from our synagogue, Congregation Beth Shalom:


1 cup water
2 packages yeast

4-5 cups flour (plus extra for rolling dough)
1/4 cup sugar or honey
1/4 cup canola oil
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs

1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon each cinnamon and sugar

Proof the yeast in warm water for a few minutes until bubbles form. Mix together with other ingredients, using 4 cups flour. Add extra flour (up to one more cup) if dough seems sticky. Let rise for 1 hour.

Divide dough in half. Roll out one half into a large rectangle and sprinkle with half of cinnamon and sugar mixture. Roll up along one long edge as for strudel. Cut the big log into three pieces. Roll each piece into a rope. Braid three ropes and shape into loaves. Repeat with second half of dough.

Brush each loaf with a beaten egg yolk and sprinkle with any leftover cinnamon-sugar mixture. Let rise for 20 minutes while oven preheats.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until loaves sound hollow when tapped. Let cool and enjoy with Shabbat dinner! (Leftovers make terrific French toast.)

Big bat mitzvah weekend

This was the big bat mitzvah weekend for us. Our very close friends D & G celebrated their daughter's bat mitzvah and R's partner was H, the daughter of Rik's high school friend.

On Friday night both girls helped to lead services at the synagogue. They sang beautifully together but were a bit nervous. Then we enjoyed Shabbat dinner at D & G's home. (I had baked 8 loaves of challah for the guests to enjoy.)

On Saturday morning we arrived at synagogue early. Both girls led the service, read from the Torah, chanted the Haftorah, and gave a short talk about the Torah portion of the week. Each set of parents also spoke a few words about their child and their joy in seeing her achieve this milestone. D & G honored us with the closing of the ark at the conclusion of the Torah service. There was a bounteous luncheon after services (yummy smoked whitefish!). Rik particularly enjoyed catching up with the 10 high school classmates who came to town for this simchah. He hadn't seen some of them in 30 years.

Rik and I came home and I literally crashed into a Shabbos nap. After some down time, we got dressed for the parties. Yes, parties -- plural. Since we know both families so well, we had been invited to celebrate with both girls. We went first to H's party where we took lots of photos of the high school buddies.

Then it was off to R's party, where I led everyone in havdalah, the ceremony marking the end of Shabbat and the beginning of a new week. We had a delicious dinner, danced up a storm, and took even more photos! At about 10 PM, we went back to H's party for a dance with the high school friends.

At teen parties in Montreal they used to dance in a large circle. One at a time, each person would take the center and show off their dance moves. Rik had a great time strutting his stuff!

We were home by midnight, tired but happy. Mazal tov to both families!