I tried, I really did. I just couldn't shape that challah dough into the shape of a key. It kind of just looks like a sad little arrow.
And why would I be attempting to shape my challah into a key? I'll explain. It is a segula for parnassah, or livelihood, to bake schlissel challah this first Shabbos after Pesach. Schlissel literally means key in Yiddish - and so challah is baked either in the shape of a key or with your actual house key (covered in foil please, cause who knows what kind of dirt and dirt's friend, the germ, live inside your keyhole) baked right into the challah. And so I hedged my bets and did both. My house key is now baked into my challah and we also have that other challah, the arrow shaped one that is pretending to look like a key.
And now, back to the beginning - why a key? And why in challah? And what does a key have to do with money? I am not a rabbi, but I will share my own insights - and will try to answer the last question first. At first glance, a key and money don't reaaly seem to be related but if you sit and think about it while the dough is rising, you, like me, might see that a key really does have a lot to do with money. For example, if we had no money, we would not have a house and by extension, would have no house key. And so we bake a key into the challah, the epitome of Shabbos and the anchor of the week in our home. You know when you've hit on a good thing when your kids ask when kiddush and challah time is - all week long.
Another thought that I had while trying to shape my challah is that a key, obviously, opens up locked doors. And sometimes it might seem that the door to heaven is locked and that G-d just might not be hearing out prayers. But then, the mitzvot or good deeds that we perform - such a baking challah for Shabbos - combined with the silent and very personal prayers said over the Shabbos candles, right before we eat the challah, might be the key to opening to the gates of heaven, allowing our prayers to ascend and thereby having goodness and blessings rain down upon us, and the world. Maybe that's why my challah came out looking like an arrow pointing up - to help us (me) remember that everything good comes from up there.
For more explanations and for some very interesting insight into why we bake schlissel challah click here. This comes from my Josh's longtime friend, also named Josh (we are lucky to have many many beloved Joshes in our lives), who made some very delicious looking schlissel challah of his own this week.
Because I have talked many times about baking challah, and I am not at all sure I ever shared the recipe, here it is, straight from my cousin Chanie, in Israel:
2 packets of yeast
2.5 cups warm water
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup oil
1 tsp salt
7 cups of flour
Pour the yeast into the bowl of your standing mixer. Add the warm water and let it sit for about five minutes. Add the sugar, oil and salt and mix, using the dough attachment. While the mixer is on, add the flour one cup at a time, until it is all incorporated. Mix the dough on medium (level 2 or 3) for 5-7 minutes.
The dough can rise in the mixer bowl, or if, like me, you need the bowl to keep cooking, place the dough in another bowl and cover with a damp hand towel.
Allow the dough to rise until it is doubled in size - between 2 and 3 hours, depending on the weather.
Shape the challah (I usually get four or five nice sized three-braid challahs from this recipe) and let it sit for about 30 minutes, rising again. Brush the challah dough with a beaten egg yolk mixed with a tablespoon of water and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 25 minutes, checking the challah for doneness after 20 minutes. I can't explain it, but sometimes they are done after 20 minutes and sometimes they need to stay in for a full 30 minutes. Who knows.
Let the challah cool and then wrap them in foil. They can either be frozen, or if it is already Thursday or Friday, just place them in a ziploc bag and they will keep for Shabbos. We like to rewarm ours on the blech on Friday night and Shabbos day but it is not needed - they are delicious as is.
(Just as an aside, this recipe only uses 7 cups of flour. The dough is usually not very sticky and thus requires hardly any extra flour at all when shaping the dough. Therefore this recipe does not require that the baker make a bracha when "taking challah". However, if you find that the dough is very sticky, measure out the extra flour you are using because you may reach a level of flour where a bracha is needed. Either way, according to my husband's rabbi, the baker should "take challah" when baking this recipe, but no bracha is needed for this small amount of flour. Of course, to avoid all this trouble, the answer would be to double the recipe, "take" challah, make a bracha, and freeze half the challah for next Shabbos. Just a thought.)
So Pesach is starting tonight and for better or worse...
I am done with the cleaning. Okay, I still have to wash the floor and finish the laundry, but you know, those are minor annoyances in the scheme of things.
And even though I did not complete all the projects I had wanted to get done, I am done, for now, with the crafting too. The rest will have to wait until next year, when hopefully, I will start my preparations earlier. Haha! Are you lauging? Cause I am. The kids will still be small next year, so next year will probably look pretty much the same as this year. And that's okay. There will be plenty of time to turn Pesach cleaning into a month-long Spring cleaning, and to turn out a four course seder meal, with individual plated dishes and real wine glasses, when the kids get to first grade. Or maybe high school. Yeah, that sounds much better. High school. For now, cleaning the whole first floor in one day and turning the kitchen from a chametz kitchen to a Pesach kitchen will still be done at 11pm the night before. But from what I understand, there is something to be said for tradition.
And so as we enter this holiday of freedom, of shedding the chametz that clogs our souls and starting fresh with an open heart full of love and patience towards the world and yes, even towards our families, I say thank you - to you, and to every single reader who takes the time to visit my blog. Watching the visitor count climb way higher than I ever thought it would has been at the same time, amazingly happy-making and amazingly scary for me - for many reasons, not the least of which is because I initially started writing just for myself (and for my mom) because I was home all day alone with the kids and writing gave me an outlet (if you don't laugh, you cry, right?) and because it let me pretend that I was still somewhat of a professional with a job and a paycheck and high heels.
But the best (and scariest) part in knowing that there are actual readers means that I have to come up with actual ideas. Just knowing that you are reading forces me to try and be more creative and in turn, I hope that these attempts at creativity inspire you to create more with your kids and your family. And if that happens, then mission accomplished for all of us.
And because I do not have a new project for you today (no internet access and a baby with a cold with do that everytime), here is a recap of our Pesach projects. There's still time today to make a few to entertain the kiddies at your seder. (Just click on the pictures to see the project details).
We'll be back later in the week with some yummy Pesach recipes - ones that we actually tried over the first days of the chag, so you'll know they passed my kids' always-full-taste-testing-mouths.
Sometimes I feel like I live in a spelling bee.
Spelling Bee. s-p-e-l-l-i-n-g b-e-e
My kids love to spell words. LOVE to spell words, to the point where most of our conversation sounds like this:
Me: What do you want for lunch tomorrow?
Child: How do spell tomorrow?
Me: t-o-m-o-r-r-o-w. What do you want me to make, tuna sandwiches?
Child: How do spell sandwiches?
You get the idea. I've stopped asking what they want in their lunchboxes and have been using the default, cream cheese sandwiches, which, while boring, will sound fantastic next time this week.
So to capitalize on their current and hopefully long lasting fascination with letters and words, here is a quick and fun game that the kids can actually play by themselves - always a good thing.
The kids are going to be doing a word unscramble, for a lack of a better name. I generated a list of Pesach-related words for the kids, five in all (words, not kids) and wrote them on an index card.
This is the list:
The last time I was in (insert your local craft store here), I picked up a big bucket of foam letters in a bunch of colors, using a 40% coupon - a must cause those foam buckets are expensive! These foamies don't have a backing which is good because this means they are not sticky, which is what we are looking for.
Then I went fishing. I (finally) fished out the foamie letters to make the words (it takes longer to stick your hand in and pull our random letters than it does to dump out the whole bucket, but once you dump it out, even in a controlled setting, you will be finding letters all over the house for weeks), and threw them into a brown paper bag for each kid that will have to be colored, because how could it not be, right?
I threw in a few extra letters that they don't need, just for fun and to make the game last longer, and there ya go. An individual game for each kid that can be played quietly and alone and all by themselves, over and over and hopefully over.
Good not just for the seder, but for a rainy afternoon. Which, if you live in the NY area, will probably be your fate next week. Good luck with that. We're gonna need some too.
The next game, in the never-ending quest to keep the younger kids entertained at the seder, is modeled after Pin the Tail on the Donkey - except today it will be called Pin the Marror on the Seder Plate. Catchy title, no?
Aside from the thinking I had to do to get this done, the actual work time was pretty quick, maybe thirty minutes.
What You Will Need:
stickers (any kind)
First things first, you will need to draw the biggest circle that you can on the oaktag. This is much harder than I thought and probably took more time than anything else. I could have drawn it freehand but I wasn't looking for an egg-shaped seder plate. Looking around the house, I didn't see anything remotely large enough or round enough to trace, but I did vaguely remember that we used to use a protractor (?) a compass (?) to make circles in fifth grade, not that that would help because those things only made small circles. But I was impressed that I remembered that it was called one of those two words. Go me.
Josh suggested I tie a string to a pencil and hold the string in the center of the oaktag and move the pencil around in a circle, thereby drawing a circle. Brilliant, that math guy. I, on the other hand, didn't quite listen. I mean I did, but I didn't have a pencil, I had a marker and about halfway around my hand slipped. Ultimately, I had a circle, it's just not the best circle I have seen. And that's okay. I am comfortable with my circle.
Moving right along, I drew (traced the bottom of a ribbon spool) six smaller circles inside the larger one - these are the little plates that hold all the goodies that live on the seder plate. And what are these goodies? In no particular order and some may vary from seder plate to seder plate, they are the beitza (egg), the marror (bitter herbs), zeroah (shankbone), charoset (nut and wine mixture), chazeret (leafy greens) and the karpas (potato, parsley or some other food that grows from the ground).
Draw pictures of these foods to the best of your ability (and you will see from the pictures that mine were kind of pathetic looking - but to be fair, the clock was inching towards 11pm when I was doing this project). Then I spent some time writing the title of the game around the seder plate. Then I checked my work and saw my mistake - well, two mistakes.
Mistake #1: The game is called Pin the Marror on the Seder Plate. In light of that information, I probably should not have drawn any picture on the marror section of the seder plate. Which brings me to mistake #2.
Mistake #2: The picture of the marror looks exactly like the picture of the chazeret. Hmmm. Good thing I was going to get rid of the marror picture. But I needed white out and when I asked Josh if he had any, he answered, "here or in school?" Not very helpful. But then he did get helpful because he said he thought he saw some in the pen bag.
Yeah, the pen bag. Doesn't everyone have one of those? A random bag of pens that may or may not work that sits around in the kitchen closet where all your tax information that should have been filed away four years ago hangs out? No? Huh. Well, we do. And what he said exactly, when asked if he knew where the pen bag was, is this: "In the satellite office". Doesn't everyone have a satellite office? No, I'm kidding. I am quite sure that we are the only ones with a satellite office right off the kitchen. You see, when we moved into this house, we started calling one of the rooms in the attic, "the office". Of course, after a while, we realized what a huge pain it was to go up to that office to get something, anything, for example, the pen bag. And so when the bi-fold doors on the closet next to the kitchen fell off their roller thing for the final time, we decided to make that small space into an office - to paint it, make a shelf into a desk, plug in the laptop, maybe get a cup for the pens in the bag - but apparently that was all too much for us, because since that time, we have neither painted the closet nor gotten a cup and the laptop is no longer with us. So yeah, we call the closet where the garbage can lives under a shelf that we made (see, we started on the office, we made a shelf) the Satellite Office. And that, my friends, is where the pen bag lives.
Looking through the pen bag always raises my anxiety level, if for no other reason than because that bag symbolizes all that is cluttered in my house. But I digress, and I shouldn't because I found the coolest thing ever in that bag. There was no white-out (which should probably be spelled Wite-Out, as it is a brand name), but there was something called "correction tape".
I like to think I am somewhat worldly, even if I have not watched the news or read a full newspaper article since before my first child was born. And yet, I had never before seen this thing called correction tape. I feel like I have vaguely heard of such a thing, a wondrous invention that doesn't dry out like regular white-out (Wite-Out), but I am not sure I had ever seen one. And yet, there it had been sitting in my pen bag, in my satellite office, five feet from where I wash the dishes several times a day and I had no idea.
So yeah, you take the correction tape and slide it over your mistake and presto, your mistake is gone. And so my marror picture was correction taped (can it be a verb?) over and like magic, all was well. Oh, and it doesn't need to dry, it just is.
After all that, I cut out some random amorphous shapes from the green paper, as these will serve as the marror that will be pinned on the seder plate.
The only question remaining was how to stick said marrors onto the oaktag on Pesach. Sitting there and cutting scotch tape (Scotch Tape, sorry) is not allowed on the chag. So I googled "adhesive for shabbat" and the first link to come up was a winner! You can see the discussion here and just know that I will be using small stickers to pin those marrors on the seder plate.
And there you have it. One suggestion though, make sure to tape the oaktag to the wall before Pesach begins. Just a friendly reminder. Not that you have anything else going on right now or anything.
My kids are pretty cute, if I may say so myself. And not just in looks, but in ideas. And when they put their heads together and actually use their brains for good instead of evil mischief, they come up with some pretty smart ideas.
The other day, in a bid to put off bath time, they decided to make themselves a Pesach seder. I was washing dishes at the time and like my mother, I too cannot hear anything when the water is running, so I kind of didn't notice that they were schlepping the little table they sit at in the kitchen into the hall, along with all the chairs. They also raided the snack closet, promising that they were just using their loot for pretend.
And they made this.
Their table setting was adorable, they were so earnest about it. When they were done, they had me and Josh sit at the table with them and they made all the brachot that they had learned in school, they poured everyone multiple cups of wine/apple juice and were very excited to sing the songs that they had learned.
So yes, I realize that setting a table with fake and real food is no big feat - I just think it's really cool how they worked together without fighting, without anyone being overly bossy and with how proud they were of themselves. Sometimes these kids just surprise the heck out of me.
And just look at the table. If only a real seder served chocolate pudding, applesauce, jello, popcorn, salad dressing and wooden cupcakes - and lasted all of ten minutes like theirs did. Don't get me wrong, I happen to really like Pesach and I enjoy the seder, but I will say what I have said every year since becoming a mother - why, oh why can't the seder be at lunchtime? If it was during the day then I wouldn't have to force the kids to nap in the afternoon so they could stay up late (and we all know forcing a nap never results in an actual nap, just an overtired child) - and most of all, if the seder was during the day, I wouldn't have to stay up so late either. I just can't do that anymore, I'm 32 already, I'm no youngster - and it's not like the baby understands that mommy is up late. Nope. She still gets up at her usual time - and so do the other kids, whether they go to bed at 7pm or 12pm. 6am (on a good day) is wakeup time in our house, whether the sun is up or not. Hence the annual show of lovely overtired and throw-yourself-on-the-floor-tantrums that take place every year over the first two days of Pesach. Good times. Good times.
These Stop Signs, perfect for attaching to doors of rooms that are chamtez-free and ready for Pesach were totally unplanned and made in a panic. It was this past Friday afternoon and since Shabbos is coming in so late these days, there are many hours to fill between when school ends and Shabbos starts. Many hours. Sure, there's the Friday-afternoon-toy-clean-up, the-washing-a-million-dishes-party, and the-everyone-in-the-bath-at-the-same-time-game. But then there's that twenty minutes in the very late afternoon when Josh jumps in the shower and I am alone with four very kvetchy kids who are not at all happy that they had to clean up their toys and take baths and hang up their backpacks and worst of all for them, close the doors to the TV cabinet. Not that it's Shabbos yet but we make it a habit to close those doors and say g'Shabbos to the TV at 4pm on Fridays.
So what to do with the kiddies? We had been talking about our upcoming treasure hunt and the kids were very excited. And then one of the boys took a stop sign out of his backpack and said that his teacher said to hang it on a room that was clean for Pesach. Brilliant. Except that we would need at least ten stop signs, one wasn't going to cut it. So we made stop signs.
What you will need:
I drew some very un-octagon-like octagons on the oaktag and the kids colored them in as they saw fit. It was so interesting to watch.
My two year old scribbled hers, but that is to be expected. My four year old used every single marker and crayon and wrote the word "stop" over and over in small letters inside his octagon. He only made one sign because he was so painstakingly deliberate with his. My five year old, on the other hand, zoomed through his - he made several of them, and all of his had to look like real stop signs. He would only use a red marker or crayon and had to be persuaded to use another color to write the word "stop" because using a white crayon to write it like on a real stop sign would not work on a white oaktag. Oh, the interesting minds of children. Just to live inside their heads for a day...
So yeah, we colored, we cut and we were done. And today, as we cleaned, we hung signs. We didn't get to hang as many as I hoped today, but we made progress and there is no more eating outside of the kitchen until next Monday, when Pesach starts.
Are you a Mom?
Of course you are,
your shirt is dirty :)