Pesach is coming and we're pretty much doing everything but cleaning.
No really, I'm not just saying that.
Let's see, we're in the process of ripping up the backyard.
Today, we replanted our etrog plants that the kids started from seeds with their teacher back in October.
And we had several diseased trees from the backyard taken down on Friday. I tried to take pictures, but the tree guy said (and I quote) - Ma'am, whatr'ya doin? Get back inside that house. That ain't not a good idea.
So I went back inside.
It's two days later and if I close my eyes, I can still hear the incessant buzz of the chainsaw.
Good times, good times.
But I do have a picture of the newly potted etrog plants. (I know, I know, it's the wrong holiday, but it's a plant that I have kept alive for several months now and that has never happened before; I say all this very quietly lest the plant hear me and be sad. From what I understand, you're supposed to talk to your plants.)
And I do have pictures of my boys taking apart the very poorly laid brick path in the backyard that has become nothing more than a tripping hazard and therefore must go.
Pulling up bricks is the perfect activity for 7 and 8 year old boys. They feel all manly because they're, you know, doing construction type things, plus, they get to wear work gloves and come back inside through the garage only. It's been keeping them busy for a number of Sundays and they work for free. Or for ice cream. Either way, it works for me because I'm not paying anyone to pull up my path. My hope is to even make a few dollars by putting the hundreds of perfectly good bricks on Craigslist when the boys are done.
On the Pesach front, you'll be happy to know that I have pinned many many ideas on how to make the seder more fun for the kids, but I have yet to actually read through any of those ideas or heaven forbid, implement them. But they're pinned, so you know, that's progress.
And we did the clean the guest room but that was mostly because we had actual guests sleeping there this past Shabbat and it kind of needed a cleaning. I feel like this past Friday was a good a time as any to put away all the Purim stuff littered across the room, plus an excellent time to throw out all the leftover mishloach manot crap that I'd been hiding in there so the kids wouldn't eat it. Why I did not throw it all out right after Purim, I do not know.
But I do know that I really like this Pesach frog puppet my kindergartener came home with from art this week. It makes me laugh and the original idea came from Crafts by Amanda and can be found here.
And then the little cutie sat down and made these - her version of the four cups of wine. I love how she named each one after a sibling.
So now that we saw the cute stuff, let's get serious for a second. But just for a second because too much stress is no good.
Pesach is in a week from tomorrow.
I know. And that wasn't even the profound part.
So here goes -
Don't stress. That's it.
I know it's very easy to say, but really, don't. Pesach cleaning does not equal spring cleaning and is certainly not the time to start sorting clothes or washing the windows. It's time to look for crumbs, for chametz, and that's it.
The way I see it is this - the more clean and the longer and harder you have to work, the angrier you will be. Or at least I will be. You will find yourself tired, cranky and irritable with the little people (and the male person) in your life. But that's not good. In fact, it's bad. Pesach is a new season, a time to start fresh and to release any anger or irritability you feel, the chametz of your soul, if you will.
I know it sounds cheesy, but this is the truth. A happy and calm mommy has a happy and calm home with a happy and calm family.
If Pesach cleaning makes you less than and forces you into being a different mommy than you want to be, change that. If you need to get some cleaning help, go for it. It's not that expensive to hire some help for one full day - and even if it's not in the budget - and I certainly know what that's like, I know that I would certainly much rather pick up some less expensive meat (or no meat at all and just go for chicken) for the chag and use that money to hire some help. If there's one thing I've learned from being a stay at home mommy, it's how to juggle the books. Move some money around, get creative, get help and be the mommy you want to be.
Wishing you lots of cleaning luck, some good helpers and the ability to easily release the mental chametz from your life.
In an effort to make the seder more fun for everyone and not just the kids, we have adopted an on-and-off again minhag of going around the seder table and having everyone present take turns reading a paragraph. But it always get somewhat confusing because if anyone stops to talk or discuss or ask a question during the going-around-the-table, we get confused about who read or who did not or who's turn it is.
Enter the matzah crown. When it's your turn to read, you wear the crown. When you're done, pass it to the next person. So easy.
And super easy to make.
Draw a matzah.
Cut it out.
Glue it to a piece of paper to make a crown.
Remember to throw it in the suitcase when you're packing up for the sedarim.
Go ahead, make one. It took less than five minutes and it makes the seder, an always late-at-night and sometimes long and drawn out affair a little bit more fun.
In less than one week, we will all be sitting down to the first seder. Are you tired just reading that? Cause I yawned just from typing that.
Today was (besides for take the six-year-old with the ear infection to the doctor day) oven cleaning day.
I'll just say it - my oven was gross. I always mean to clean it, but I forget. It has a door that closes so it's not like I see the mess when I walk by, and whenever I am near it and thinking about cleaning it, it's hot. Also, it's a not a self-cleaning oven so it's not so simple. And I really don't like the smell and the chemicals and the yuckiness of something like Easy-Off, so the oven rarely gets done.
Wanna see? It's gross, don't say I didn't warn you.
But take a look now.
I know. Such a difference. And that was only after the initial baking soda wipe-off. I did it again and it's totally clean now.
And I did it without poisoning myself with oven cleaner fumes. I poured baking soda all over the oven, sprayed vinegar over the baking soda, let it all sit for a while - and while I wish I could say poof! the stuff wiped right off - it didn't. It did take some scrubbing with a wet sponge but it wasn't too bad and my arm isn't that achey now so all in all, totally worth it.
(Where did I find this idea? Pinterest. Love that place. And I wish I could tell you where on pinterest I first saw it, but sadly, whoever pinned it didn't also link to it. Pinterest etiquette, people!)
Normally, when we clean the oven before Pesach, we'll wait until the kids are asleep and then open the windows in the kitchen and clean. But this year, I did it while they were having dinner, two feet away. They didn't even flinch from the smell of the vinegar, but that could totally be because they were having Italian dressing and salad with supper.
Anyway, now that you have a clean oven, you can kasher it and start baking, because what's more important than dessert? That's right. Nothing.
Here, some desserts from years past:
Brownies that have passed the test: the husband who is beyond loyal to Dunkin Hines and can't imagine why anyone would ever bake anything else, liked these - or at least Pesach-liked them, which, really, is saying a lot.
Blondies worth eating even though it's Pesach. It's true.
Are they good? Yes.
Are they healthy? With all that sugar, I can't really say yes, but they're much healthier than anything you'll find in a store.
Go. Bake. Freeze. Because I can't see Pesach desserts being any good after sitting out for a week.
I really hope they wait a while because I'm not ready for Pesach, but I have been informed by my very delicious four-year-old that the chametz police are coming and really, mommy, we have to start cleaning.
This hat, pictured above, came home from kindergarten yesterday and it's been looking at me ever since. Wherever I go, it's there and I'm starting to get a complex.
I tried to tell it that I started and finished the basement for Pesach yesterday, but I don't think it's good enough. I'm not sure what my childrens' beloved teachers have been saying in school, but my children were not at all impressed with my basement announcement - and in fact, (yeah, the oldest used the phrase 'in fact, mommy' (what is that about?)) there are some other mommies who are all finished cleaning and are only sending Pesach-friendly snacks to school.
And to that, I say a big fat whatever. In a nice way, of course.
Pesach. It's coming. You can run and you can hide, although I don't recommend hiding because you will most likely end up in a closet or under a bed and then you will find dust. And Pesach has nothing to do with dust, only crumbs.
Say it with me: Now is not the time to start Spring cleaning!
Pesach is so early this year, it's not even Spring yet, so let it go, let the dust bunnies be and we'll all be much happier.
Too many people (women) make Pesach into a huge deal, and it's really not.
Do you eat on top of your ceiling fans? No? We don't either, and that's what ours will not be cleaned before Pesach.
Do you eat under the bed? I hope not. Although I will be giving my kids' underbeds (is that even a word?) a quick once over with a flashlight, just to make sure. But the eating upstairs ended the after Purim. I know, no one should ever eat upstairs and we really don't - except I recently learned that my children hoard candy they get in school (lovely, right?) in their dresser drawers. The day after Purim, Josh marched them around their bedrooms, they pointed out all the hiding places and all the candy was dumped into a Shoprite bag that now lives in the pantry.
By now you are surely asking yourself what my point is.
Way more important than cleaning things that don't need to be cleaned right now and organizing things that can be organized after Pesach - or never - is deciding what you will be eating on Pesach, desserts obviously being the most important. And the most Pesach-y dessert I could think of? Macaroons.
I'm reading an awesome book now called A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg. I have been very into food memoirs lately and hers in the latest in a string and possibly the best I have read so far.
One of the recipes she shares is for Chocolate Covered Coconut Macaroons and I tried them last night - with some changes. I did not have vanilla so I left that out and I also did not make the chocolate ganache as she did because I was not sure that there was any heavy cream with a kosher for pesach certification - and even though my kitchen is far from being ready for Pesach, I did want to try out the recipe as if it was already Pesach. I only used ingredients that I had on hand that are also sold with a KP.
This recipe made 24 nice sized macaroons. Molly's recipe indicated 14-18 macaroons so I can only imagine how large and yummy hers are.
Start by pouring 3 cups of unsweetened* shredded coconut into a pan.
Add 3/4 cup sugar.
Add 5 egg whites.
Mix all very well and heat over a low heat for 10 minutes, mixing almost the entire time. I stopped mixing here and there but I did wind up with some brown coconut and I think that was not supposed to happen, so just keep mixing. Your sculpted arms will thank you later.
After mixing for ten minutes, pour the coconut mixture into a 9x13 pan and spread it out over the bottom of the whole pan. It doesn't need to be pretty, it just needs to cool off, so stick that pan in the fridge and let it do it's thing - mine took about twenty minutes, the perfect amount of time to do homework with a first grader.
Once the coconut has cooled, preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (not wax paper - bad things happen when you bake wax paper) or foil. Roll the coconut mixture into small balls and place them on the baking sheet. My coconut balls were probably about an inch big, maybe the size of a walnut.
I was able to squeeze all 24 onto one baking sheet but had I known that I was going to get 24 coconut balls out of the recipe, I probably would have sucked it up, let them breathe a little and just used another piece of parchment paper on a second pan.
Bake for about 25 minutes or until they are a golden brown color. Mine did not take a full 25 minutes, but my oven runs hot. Keep checking them, you'll know when they're ready.
Let the coconut balls - we can now call them macaroons - cool.
I melted a handful of chocolate chips, dipped the macaroons halfway into the chocolate and then let them set up on a cooling rack.
I found the best part of this recipe to be the simplicity - no preservatives, no unhealthy fat from bad Pesach oils, like cottonseed and the like. I may not love the amount of sugar in these little guys, but at least I know what's in them.
Josh (and the kids who like coconut) found them to be quite tasty, straight from the oven last night and were equally pleased with them this morning. The other kids and me? Not so much. But it's a coconut thing in general, not a commentary on this recipe.
But here is a commentary on these macaroons: If you look carefully at the chocolate covered ones above, it kind of looks like they are wearing chocolate toupees on their heads.
Do you see it? I had to hold myself back from using the rest of the chocolate and a toothpick to create faces on each one, like a bunch of old guys on a bench.
*The original recipe called for sweetened but that, combined with the sugar seemed over the top to me.
And we're back.
Another Pesach is over and done with. Pesach was, all at the same time, long and beautiful and fattening. The kitchen has been returned to its rightful chametz disposition. The haggadahs and school projects have been packed away and we have all had a piece of birthday cake for good measure. Yup, this time it was my brithday and no, this time I did not bake myself a cake. My parents were kind enough to bring one - although I think they might have miscounted the number of people eating when deciding on the size of the cake because this cake could easily feed thirty. Really. Look.
But I appreciated this huge cake from Costco. It was delicious. And I even more appreciated the fact that 3/4 of it went home to my cousins.The last thing I need is a yummy birthday cake lurking around my kitchen. The post-Pesach food plan is back in full swing. After all, summer is coming - or maybe it's already here. 90 degree weather in mid-April is just a little concerning. But not from a global warming perspective, more from an "oh-no-it-cannot-be-time-to-switch-the-clothes-in-the-kids'-dressers-again" kind of perspective. But oh-yes it is! Fun for all and project for an entire day.
Are you a Mom?
Of course you are,
your shirt is dirty :)