So remember the flowers we planted and then didn't water? And remember how
I tried to revive them? Yeah, well, it didn't work. So now I have a bunch of
window boxes and flower pots that need to be dumped out, or at the very least,
seriously weeded so the random or two flowers that did manage to survive can
mock me when I walk by.
And then there was this plant.
My tomato plant.
It has been pretty much ignored since day one; it never even earned the
courtesy of being transplanted into the ground. And yet, the other day*, I saw
the beginnings of a couple of tomatoes - so I ran inside to get some water to
try and help them along. At this point I doubt that my sad cup of water helped
anything along, but lo and behold, this morning there were five tiny orange
tomatoes smiling at me.
What can I say? This is just proof that our plants and flowers don't
really need us. We just like to think they do. And just knowing this
little fun fact makes me feel a ton better, much less guilt-ridden and possibly
even open to the idea of planting a real vegetable garden next summer so that I
can ignore and admire it from afar - preferably from an air conditioned room.
*The other day, being the day I cleaned the van. Or rather, The Day I
Cleaned The Van, because if nothing else, it was an event worthy of capital
letters. It was just a regular morning, the older three were in camp and the
baby was napping and I needed to clean the van like someone on the South Beach
diet needs to eat a brownie. I get in and out of the van several times a day and
I am mortified each time, especially when I pull up to camp and have to open the
sliding door so a kid can get in or out, and my Froot Loop encrusted interior is
visible to the world.
Everyone says their van is gross and messy, but mine could have won an
award. And I was so focused on the idea of cleaning it that I neglected to take
a picture. I'm sorry.
A few weeks before this Event, I had borrowed my mom's dust buster in
the hopes of giving the car a once over, which never happened. So the time was
now. I headed outside armed with my water bottle, the baby monitor, the phone,
the dust buster and a garbage bag.
I started by picking up the debris - empty water bottles, random
plastic spoons, granola bar wrappers and about a thousand empty freezy pop
wrappers, left there every single day by the same kid who gets one of these
freezy pops every single day, as camp is ending. Then I picked up all the toys,
hair bands, socks (yeah.), and sippy cups and piled those up on the front seat.
All that was left was the crumbs. I turned on the dust buster and started to
dust bust. And I have to tell you, I may be crazy and I may be hearing things,
but I'm telling you, the Froot Loops laughed at the dust buster. It was time to
call in the heavy artillery.
I went back inside and brought out the vacuum cleaner, plugged it into
the outside outlet and 25 minutes later, that van was beautiful. It wasn't easy,
I used all the attachments, even the ones I never use inside the house. I had to
climb into the trunk to vacuum the back seat, I took out car seats and booster
seats, I folded down middle and back seats and I even vacuumed the cup holders.
The van almost won, it really did, but in the end, I won. And that van is clean.
And it's going to be a long while before I buy Froot Loops again.
No no no, I didn't have a baby, bite your tongue, my hands are quite full,
But this past week, one of my besties, Debbie, had a baby boy after two
girls. We were all very excited - especially because this means another excuse
to bake and eat random cookies and cakes in the name of taste-testing - which brings me to these: Chocolate Dipped Rice Krispie Treats on a Wednesday.
I had this post ready to go for Cookie Tuesday and then I just totally forgot to post it. So here it is, a little late.
In the Jewish tradition, the first thing one might think of when faced with the birth of a new baby boy is the brit milah, the circumcision on the 8th day of life. However, before that event takes place, there is a custom to have a shalom zachar on the Friday night preceding the brit milah.
So what in the world is a shalom zachor and why does it involve taste-testing cookies?
The word shalom means peace or welcome and the word zachar literally means boy - so the name of the party in honor of the newborn can be defined as a Welcome Boy party. However, there is also another meaning to the word zachar. Zachar can also mean to remember. And what are we remembering exactly? So it's like this - it is believed that
when a baby is in his mother's womb, he learns the entire Torah by heart and when he is born, he forgets it. And so this shalom zachar is meant to be a comfort to this new baby boy who has forgotten all of the Torah and all of it's sweetness. The friends and family that gather together for this party are there to not only welcome the new baby but to remember with him the memory of all that he knew, and look to the future of all that he will learn.
In practical terms, the shalom zachar is a kind of like a drop-in party, where family, friends, neighbors, and anyone who hears about it and wants a dessert, comes to the family's house to wish a mazal tov or congratulations, have a l'chaim, which loosely translated means to drink some liquor, and to have some dessert.
Which brings me to the cookies. I made these last week, as the shalom zachar was this past Friday night. Do rice krispie treats qualify as cookies? I think if it were the winter, I would say no. But seeing how hot it is out and seeing how not turning on the oven is still priority number one, I'm going to go with a big fat yes.
Pretty much everyone knows how to make rice krispie treats, but these are a
little different. These were cut into squares and dunked in melted chocolate
ganache, with the ganache allowed to harden over night. And they were yummy, if
I may say so myself.
Here's what I did.
First things first, lay a piece of parchment paper inside the pan you plan
on using to make your rice krispie treats. I used a disposable 9x13 pan.
Next, take one container of marshmallow fluff and a half a stick of margarine and melt them together in the microwave - I just add the margarine to the open container of fluff and microwave it in 15 second intervals. After about 30 seconds, the fluff is usually warm enough to easily pour into a larger microwave-safe bowl. Keep in mind that before heating the fluff even for this short amount of time, it would have been almost impossible to spoon it out of the container, hence the reason for the two steps.
Take the new larger bowl, cover it with a paper towel (you'll thank me later when the fluff doesn't explode all over your microwave) and microwave it for about 60 seconds, stopping every ten seconds to stir it.
Once the fluff and margarine are melted together, add the rice krispies. I
used a 14 ounce box. Mix the ingredients together.
Pour the mixture into the pan, spreading it evenly to all the edges and then
using the back of a large spoon to really pack those rice krispies in there. The
better you pack it in, the easier the rice krispie treats will slice later on.
Cover the pan with foil and refrigerate for an hour. Alternatively, if it's
not hot like an oven in your kitchen and you are not in a rush, you can just
leave the pan on the counter and come back the next day. Since I met neither of
those requirements, I put the pan in the fridge.
Meanwhile, it's time to make the ganache. Heat a defrosted 8 ounce
container of Rich's Whip in the microwave until it is just just simmering. Pour
the simmering liquid over a pot containing 9 ounces of finely chopped chocolate
- it can be semi-sweet, dark, milk, whatever you prefer. As long as it is finely
Cover the pot with a towel and let the mixture sit for five minutes. When
the time is up, uncover and mix with a spoon. The chocolate should be almost all
melted. Keep mixing until the chocolate is all incorporated. Allow the chocolate
mixture to cool and thicken on the counter. Don't do what I did the first time I
made this and stick the pot in the fridge to help things along. It won't help,
you will just wind up with a grainy chocolate syrup. Be patient and it will all
Anyway, come back an hour later, remove the foil from the rice krispie
treat pan and placing a cutting board over the top of the pan, flip the entire
pan and cutting board over so that the cutting board is on the bottom and the
rice krispie treats are on top, upside down. Lay the whole thing on the counter
and remove the pan from the treats and peel off the parchment paper.
Carefully, and using a very sharp knife, cut the rice krispie treats into
Line the treats up on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Mix the
ganache, which by now had cooled and thickened on your countertop, with a spoon
until it comes to a dippable consistency. One at a time, dip the treats halfway
into the ganache, allowing the excess to drip off. Place them on the cookie
sheet and allow the chocolate to harden all the way, an hour or two. At this
point, you can also put the cookie sheet in the fridge to help things along.
Because the ganache had already cooled, it won't become grainy when placed in
Once they're all dry, eat. Or package them up and send them over to a new
baby boy's house, knowing that his mommy is a huge fan of rice krispie treats
and chocolate. Perfect.
So in case you were wondering, this is what happens when you plan out your newly-minted-three-year-old's birthday party in your head, but fail to do any actual work for the party until the day before. And bear in the mind that this was supposed to be a Hello Kitty party. Go easy on me, it's slightly pathetic.
Here is her lovely birthday crown, made three minutes before her party started, out of plain white paper, a printed out picture of Hello Kitty, staples and markers:
We had a coloring page for all the kids to do as a first activity. I don't
have a picture of it, but all I did was google "Hello Kitty clipart", copy and
paste the clipart onto a Word document, enlarge the clipart to cover most of the
page, and use the "outline" tab to turn it into a coloring book page look-alike.
Then I used the "wordart" tab to write "Happy Birthday T" on the top of the page
and hit print. Never mind that the printer has issues so it took longer to print
than to make, but that's okay.
Next we made Hello Kitty necklaces. Except that they're not so much Hello Kitty necklaces as they are Froot Loop necklaces. But you know what? I told the kids we were making Hello Kitty necklaces and no one batted an eyelash. You gotta love three year olds. And this was my thinking - she's Hello Kitty. She's a cat. Cats like to eat, so what better for a cat than Froot Loop necklaces. Good? Good.
Okay, I'm not really telling the whole truth. The truth is, is that I had
briefly considered going to AC Moore and buying big pink and purple beads for
the kids to make necklaces, but this past week has been so hot, with the
temperature hitting way over 100 degrees that I just couldn't. It was so hot
that leaving Shoprite was like walking in the desert - you know how in the
desert the sand dunes look kind of wavy when it's so hot, yeah, so the parking
lot looked like that too. So I came home instead, and was very happy to find a
bag of some generic Froot Loops in the pantry. Whew!
And here are the cupcakes I made, instead of a birthday cake. I know what you're thinking, but really, I didn't make cupcakes only because they bake faster than a cake and shutting the oven has been priority #1 all week, I promise. Birthday Girl actually requested them. And her brithday with is my command, except for the whole Hello Kitty theme thing. The theme was kind of half-baked, if you will.
(I had such a hard time getting a half-decent picture of the frosted cupcakes. This was the best of a very sad bunch of pictures. They were so bad that I finally had to take the cupcakes outside and line them up on a chair that I put on the front steps. The next picture is a truly bad cupcake picture, but a kind of weird picture with cool colors.)
And the cupcakes - I took the easy way out with those also. Bake a box of Duncan Hines, add some Duncan Hines frosting and some sprinkles*, and you're golden.
And you know what, despite the lack of planning, she had so much fun that
she passed out on the couch an hour later. And her little friends looked like
they had fun too - so in my book, it's mission accomplished. But I do have to
say that it's a good thing she was only turning three. Anything older and I
don't think I could have gotten away with this. My boys are having birthdays
this summer too and I haven't given those any thought either. I think I'm
*If you have been following along, you will know that my little girl is
terrified of sprinkles. Except that we can now change that "is" to a "was". She
was scared. Now she loves them. In all colors. Except on ice cream. Oy, my baby
is growing up.
If you've been following along, you'll know that I wasn't home much this
last week as I was running back and forth between my house and my
mom's. And so when the dust settled and I came home to a house that
needed a major cleaning, I started in the kitchen. So of course I got hungry.
Trying to be good after a whole week of eating not-so-healthy food, I went for a
fruit, only to find that all the fruit in fruit bowl had gone slightly bad. Not
rotten, just a drop too mushy to eat.
So we made compote, which is basically a pot of cooked fruit. I like
compote, but both of my grandfathers love love love compote, so I figured I'd
make some for each of them and deliver it the next time I saw my parents - or
better yet, they could take it home with them the next time they came around.
Anywho, here is how to make a very yummy fruit compote, which according to
both my grandfathers, goes wonderfully with chicken or fish and doubles as a
dessert. What more can you ask for?
Gather together all the slightly mushy apples, pears and peaches you can find in
your house. Other fruits can be used as well, like apricots, plums, pineapple,
prunes and the like. I just didn't happen to have those.
I peeled 8 apples, 4 peaches and 1 pear and cut them into medium sized
pieces. Throw all the cut fruit into a medium sized pot and add enough cold
water to cover the fruit halfway. Add 1/4 cup of sugar and bring the pot to a
boil. Lower to a simmer, cover the pot and let the fruit cook for about 30
minutes or until the fruit is soft but not totally falling apart.
Allow the fruit compote to cool completely and store in an airtight
container for a good week. The compote can be served cold, straight from the
fridge or served warmed up with a scoop of ice cream.
The other day I told Josh that I wasn't scared of ever getting stuck in a
hostage situation with the kids because the hostage takers would let us go, with
their blessings, about fifteen minutes in.
Why, you ask?
I'll tell you. It's a long-winded story, but after spending 30 minutes
locked in the porch with my kids, I feel I am entitled.
A week or so ago we were lucky enough to have some work done in our house.
It's nothing that I can actually show you - it was all done behind walls, under
floors and inside crawl space, but I am happy to share that my attic and
basement are super-insulated now. Of course, we'll have no idea if this will
have any impact on our lives until the winter, so while I'm all excited about
these developments, I'm taking a wait-and-see-how-excited-I-really-am
It all started about a year ago when we found out about this program that
our electric company was offering, but apparently only in secret. I have never
had so much trouble finding information about anything before - when I called to
find out about the program, the woman actually asked me why I wanted to know and
how I had gotten the number. Hmmm. I know it's a federally funded program. I
know that I pay taxes. And I'm pretty sure I live in America so I think she
could have been nicer, but whatever.
This program, called the Residential Whole House Efficiency Program (again,
I have a Whole House and I would very much like it to be Efficient, so I'm not
sure what was up with the nastiness) has three steps. The literature states very
clearly that Step Two should follow Step One, followed by Step Three, all in the
space of twelve weeks. It's been over a year and we just completed step three -
so I'm going to have to assume that Efficiency is referring to my Whole House
and not to the company's track record.
Anyway, Step One consists of someone coming to the house, measuring
everywhere, possibly casing the joint* and then handing out free light bulbs,
the curly kind that need to be recycled. A pain? Yeah. But free is free.
Step Two, as far as I could tell, consisted of pretty much the same as Step
One, except there were no free light bulbs and the guys that came ran the
Efficiency Test. The upshot of what they did: they picked the hottest day last
summer, came to my house, shut the air conditioner, shut all the windows and
closed all the doors. And then spent an hour trying to find the air leaks. But
if you have ever been to my house you will know this was a losing battle. My
house is windy in the winter and windy in the summer, its just that one
is a cold wind and one is a hot wind. I tried to explain this to the nice men
but they didn't believe me, until they came to knock on the car window where the
girls and Josh and I were sitting with the air conditioning on, to tell me that
they could not complete the test because there were too many air leaks in the
house. Hmm. I didn't say I told you so because the guys looked cranky
and sweaty, but I thought it in my head. And then I offered them drinks from my
cooler because it's nice to be nice. And also because I wasn't entirely sure
that they too were not casing the joint.**
In between Steps Two and Three was Step Two and a Half, where another guy
stopped by to hand me a list of work-to-be-done that the program was
recommending for my house. Great, I was ready to sign on the dotted line. But
no, no dotted line yet. Because Step Two and Three-Quarters was next.
A totally different guy showed up one day and showed me the list again, and
then finally, we we able to sign that we were indeed very interested in having
some highly subsidized work done on our house.
Step Three did not come until about a week or so ago, a full year after
Step One, but who's counting?
So finally, the day arrived when the contractors would arrive anytime
between 10am and 12pm. And at 12pm on the dot, they showed up - in an unmarked
white truck. Very professional. Out spilled the workers and Contractor John and
a massive amount of insulation.
But first, before I tell you what the guys did, I must show you my attic.
My attic is one of the reasons I bought this house - it's a walk up, fully
finished (except for that an insulation thing), with two nice-sized rooms. As
far as I am concerned, the only thing missing is a bathroom. But I'm just going
to wait for the Residential Whole House Bathroom Efficiency Program to kick in,
because really, walking down a flight of steps to go to the bathroom is highly
These are the stairs to my attic, which I am planning on carpeting as soon
as I know whether the weather up there will be bearable or not come winter. If
not, I'll just re-shut the door to the attic and be sad. But if it's nice and
warm up there this winter, I will be carpeting those steps and removing the door
to the attic faster than the kids wake up on a snow day. And then yahoo, I will
have a real third floor. A playroom? A guestroom? An office? Such dreams!
This is room #1 in my attic with every single item that usually lives inside the
crawl space now in the middle of the room.
This is room #2 with everything from the crawl space in the middle of the room.
Here is some of the lovely lovely insulation that was going to be installed in
And here is one of the crawlspaces before it was insulated. I would take an
"after" picture but it looks exactly the same.
This is the hose that ran from the driveway up to the third floor window.
It was used to blow insulation into somewhere in the attic, not sure where
And this is the huge fan that was used to conduct yet another air leak test
after all the insulation was installed.
Which brings me full circle to my hostage situation.
John, if you will remember, was the contractor. He asked us if we wanted to
wait inside the house with all the windows, doors and air conditioners shut
while they conducted the test or if we preferred to wait in the porch***. With
the air conditioner on. We chose the porch. The six of us filed into the porch
with John promising that the whole test would take 10 minutes.
John lied. And 30 minutes later we were still in the porch. But that's
okay, because we didn't need 30 minutes for panic to set in. We needed 5. Yup,
that's all my kids can last without food, water, a bathroom and a TV. And keep
in mind, the kids had finished dinner about 30 seconds before we closed
ourselves into the porch.
Three minutes in, this is what I heard - and remember to read this is the
whiniest voice you can muster:
I have to make. I really really have to make, said one little boy jumping up and down.
I'm soooo hungry, I'm gonna staaaarvvvvve, wailed another little boy while lying on the floor and kicking his feet - while, mind you, still licking the pizza off his fingers from dinner.
I really need to go to the bathroom, said the first little boy, again.
Mommy! The TV is inside, said a horrified little girl.
I'm so thirsty, I can't take it, said, ironically enough, by the same little boy begging for a bathroom.
It's taking forever, when are they done, I wanna go home, cried the pizza-licking boy.
So here's what we did:
Josh and I listened to everyone complain with good humor until the ten
minute mark. Then one of us got a diaper off the shelf and held it out so the
boys could do their standing-up business in it. If you recall, originally, only
one little boy had to pee. But not to miss out the super-fun of standing over an
open diaper, his brother had to have his turn too. I don't think I have ever
before had the pleasure of watching someone force themselves go.
Fifteen minutes in one of us found a cup of cheerios on the shelf from who
knows when and all four kids lunged at it like we'd been lost in the forest for
Sixteen minutes in, with the cheerios gone, we considered going to sit in
the car, and then realized the car keys were inside the house.
Seventeen minutes in, with the whining getting to unbelievable levels, Josh
went and started banging on the window between the porch and the dining room.
But no one came. It's a loud test. Or maybe it's not. Maybe they just heard the
whining and decided to stay far away.
Finally, finally, 30 minutes later John came to tell us that the test was
done. All I can say is, bathstoriesdrinksbedtime happened very quickly that
And the lesson learned that night? That it's okay to negotiate with
terrorists. Sometimes having a potty, juice boxes, snacks and a TV are more
important than going free.
*I'm kidding. He was a lovely person who just happened to not take his
muddy boots off before he tramped through my entire house.
** Again, I'm kidding. Really.
*** The porch, although an enclosed one, does not qualify to be counted as
part of the "thermal footprint of the house" (check out the technical jargon I
picked up!) because it does not have a heat source. And no amount of convincing
on my part changed their minds. So sad. We'll have to insulate the porch
Remember these flowers we planted? I'd been trying to be pretty faithful about watering them but then this past week or so, they hadn't been watered at all. And it hasn't rained. And this is what they look like now. Pathetic, brown, and all limp.
My grandmother passed away this past Monday and between a funeral, and my
mom, my grandfather and my uncle sitting shiva - the Jewish week of
mourning - and running back and forth between my house, my mom's house, day camp
and Shoprite (always with the Shoprite, I know), watering the flowers got bumped
way down the list. And that makes me sad. So did my diet, but if you ask my cousin who has been staying in my parents' house all week, it's not my fault. We are genetically predisposed to tasting everything and anything that makes it's way into the kitchen. You know, just to see if it's good. A little taste. Or a whole cake. There's really such a fine line between the two.
But I digreess. My flowers needed me, so this morning my four-year-old and I watered them. We doused them, almost drowning them, all the while hoping to revive the pretty flowers we worked so hard to plant.
Spending the week trying to explain to my kids with many questions that
Bobby Judy ("Bobby" being the yiddish word for grandma) had died, that
no, she wasn't coming back, that no, she doesn't have a cellphone and that no,
we can't email her and that no, we also can't mail her a letter, has been
exhausting. We haven't done any projects in weeks, since before Bobby Judy
entered into hospice care. We haven't baked, we haven't glued and we haven't
painted - and I know that that's the last thing Bobby Judy would want. She
liked to do all of those things. She always loved to hear about the projects we
did and the cookies we were taste testing. And she was always the first in the
line of the brave souls who would taste whatever weirdo thing I mixed up* in the
So yeah, this morning, we tried to get back into it. And since it was such
a nice morning outside, we went out and watered the flowers that had seen better
Can flowers be brought back to life? I don't know. All I can do is try. I
can water them and watch them and water them again when they've been in the
blazing sun for too long. Can Bobby Judy come back? The answer, as I have
explained to the kids over and over during this past week is that no, she can't
be brought back. I can't bring Bobby Judy back so my kids can call her on the
phone, but like with my flowers, I can make sure that their memories of her are
watered and watched and watered again, not so much with a watering can but with
pictures and stories and taste-testings of her recipes. And even if their young
memories of her become withered like my neglected flowers, I can try to bring
them back to life by reminding them of who she was and her legacy to them.
That's what she always called the kids, "my legacy, children of my body".**
So now my little legacies have a lot to do - they have to remember and to
pass it on. My little legacies now have a legacy of their own to carry. And I
believe that that is the greatest gift she could have passed on to my kids, the
memories and the legacy of a great-grandmother.
*or mixed out, for those in the know.
**And she also used to always say that if the kids came from school or
camp with so much as a scratch on their heads- and I should inspect them - that
she would take out whoever it was who scratched them. And she would have too.
Are you a Mom?
Of course you are,
your shirt is dirty :)