Saturday, July 25, 2009

Week in Review

Consider this photo a little treat from me to you - a cookie favor bag! Wouldn't it be fun to get one of these when you were leaving a simcha - a nice snack for the way home or a bribe for your kids who were stuck at home while Imma and Abba partied? Or a nice addition to a welcome bag for your guests when you make a weekend simcha? A great thank you for everyone hosting your guests? Choose your flavors, your decoration, tie a little note on the top to say thanks for making this a special day... I think it's a cool idea!

I noticed that this week's entries sort of missed a lot of the week's goings on. On Sunday, we had a Rotter-Katsman barbeque to bid farewell to eating meat. A good and filling time was had by all, very little was leftover, and the little kids especially had a great time running around together, playing, and generally raising the decibel level in the neighborhood. After we got everything cleaned up, we started on the next project - it was our night for bringing coffee to the chayalim, so we had to get that ready and head out before we fell asleep ourselves. We got to the first machsom and found that it was much cooler there than it was by us. Mind you, this is five minutes from the house. We served everyone there, and they all seemed happy to be having a hot drink. Then we went to the second machsom, less than five minutes from our house and about eight minutes from our first stop, to discover that it was substantially hotter there and extremely muggy. Of course the chayalim there were unhappy that we had no ice pops or cold drinks for them (felt a little sheepish not to have thought of it), but they did happily accept the cookies. We were going to come back with cold stuff for them, but then a policeman brought some for them, so they told us not to bother but thank you very much. But all this just goes to show you how crazy and varied the climate is here - every five minutes of travel brings a climate change.
Monday brought Ariella's various appointments: speech therapy, pediatrician, and tutor, and we even managed to squeeze camp in there as well. Tuesday was Dani's dermatologist appointment, which was not a rousing success for our terrible patient. He will be returning there soon... Wednesday was Ariella's dental visit and Shana's optometrist visit - new contacts and a new prescription. Then was baking prep, a visit to the paper goods store, and more baking prep. In between we began our dairy odyssey, or as many are know to call it, the week of sauce and cheese.

Dani and Ariella went on a tiyul on Thursday to the Cholon Children's Museum. On Thursday morning, I reminded Ariella that she had to wear her camp t-shirt and hat because they were going on a trip. She wanted to know where they were headed, and I told her her, "Muzeon Hayeladim b'Cholon." She screwed up her face and said "We have to go through a chalon (window)?" Misunderstanding cleared up, she had a great time and said it was the best tiyul ever. Keep in mind when reading, all of her statements must be imagined in her little Israeli/Hungarian accent...

I spent Thursday in baking and baking and baking. I was kind of pleased with myself that I had organized well and plotted out everything I needed to do with some precision. I ended up getting to bed much earlier than I do on many normal Thursdays when I have only to produce five types of cookies and not ten, and do not have quite as many orders. Clearly, I work better when the degree of pressure is amped way up.

Friday morning was for cooking and packing up the trays. I sketched out configurations for each size and the variations, and Shana did an excellent job assembling them. I wrapped, she labeled, and we were good to go. The only minor snafu we had was when a customer came to pick up her trays and suddenly realized that she had forgotten that one had to be peanut-free, as they were going out to the home a a highly allergic young man. Fortunately, we had the supplies to put together a new platter, and all was well. After all, we aim to make people happy, not make them stop breathing. For such a customer, this was the platter:
This platter contained thin mint sandwiches, orange-cranberry-white chocolate cookies, molasses cream sandwiches, sugar cookie ganache sandwiches, whoopie pies, Mexican brownies, blueberry bars, and lemon bars.

This is the larger size of the fan favorites platter. Clockwise from the center: molasses cream sandwiches, Mexican brownies, orange-cranberry-white chocolate cookies, peanut butter bars, linzer cookies, blueberry bars, whoopie pies, lemon bars, and thin mint sandwiches.
I received good feedback, and didn't hear about any allergic reactions, so that's always nice...

Shabbat was pretty quiet. We made early Shabbat again this week, though I think that is a trend that will not last too much longer, maybe just a few more weeks. Three new families were welcomed to the neighborhood. After father-son learning (actually parent-child, but it's David and Dani who attend), David and I hung out in the park with Ariella for a while and chatted with the grown-ups who ventured out in the heat, while waiting for it to cool off a bit. When it did, we headed home for our fleishig seuda shlishit, and that was that. Tomorrow is another day, and I am sure there will be much to do. For now, have a shavua tov.


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Breakfast for dinner

During the Nine Days, eating breakfast for dinner is a common theme. Eating milchigs all the time is really hard on this family of carnivores. Tonight was pancake night, which the kids wolf down. I use Ina Garten's pancake recipe, which has sour cream in it, and it makes fabulous pancakes. I didn't even mind standing over the stove to fry a double recipe. Astonishingly, there are only about four pancakes left, just enough to inspire fights in the morning.

Ariella made a return appearance at the dentist today. She developed an infection in her gum, which the pediatrician identified and treated with antibiotics, but we still had to find the cause. It turns out to be another cavity, under an existing filling. I hate to think what terrible care I must have taken of myself when I was pregnant, because this kid's teeth scream poor pre-natal care. And here I thought I did a good job. Truthfully, I would not be surprised if it had a lot to do with all the allergies and medical formula Ariella suffered through her first year. But she is healthy and happy and hilarious, so I have no complaints.

I am doing a lot of baking this week for a summer special I am running - fan favorites, nine flavors in all. Blog readers, you get a special sneak peek at the results: Whoopie pies, molasses cream sandwiches, orange cranberry white chocolate cookies, linzer cookies, thin mint sandwiches, mexican brownies, peanut butter bites, lemon bars, and blueberry bars. Sugar cookie ganache sandwiches are number 10, and they are part of a special order, as well as a substitution for nut free trays. Ten kinds of cookies - what am I , insane?! So now it's back to the rolling pin. For whatever reason, I love rolling out cookies. I am still enjoying all this insanity!

Laila tov,

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Loads of fun laundry

In anxious anticipation of the Nine Days, I am spending today washing every item of clothing I can get my hands on. This is not to say that I will not do any laundry until after Tisha B'Av; certainly at some point I will have to wash or everyone will look like the Simpsons did three hours after Marge went on vacation. If you never saw the episode, it means wearing torn, filthy rags and eating dog food. But of course the dog food part is not valid, because that's fleishig! Anyhow, I HATE, HATE, HATE laundry (can't tell you why, but it makes me feel bad to do it, and also bad if I put it off, so I am not sure which is the worse choice) but at least I know that I can put off washing as much as possible for the next nine days! Shouldn't feel that good about a sad period of time, but them's the breaks.

It is ridiculously hot, though not a sharav, so the consolation is that it could be hotter. In an effort to conserve electricity, both as good citizens who are concerned for the environment and as normal people trying to keep the bills down, we are using as little a/c as possible. Right now I am too lazy to go turn it on, but too lazy to continue typing while I am this warm. Taking a shower to cool off is not an option, as the cost of water has increased exponentially recently because of a tax instituted to get people to try to conserve. It is important (as Ariella says, "We have to l'hatzeel the Kinewet"), but man, is the prospect of going over the household allotment, which then costs 20 shekel per cubic meter, a scary thing. We have the potential to raise our bills a lot if we are not super careful and reduce our usage. And no, Dani, that does not mean you don't have to shower. It just means you had better speed it up!!!

Have to get to work making our last supper...ha, ha, just the last fleishigs til Shabbat, and prepping for this week's Dvora's Cookie Creations summer special - nine flavors (instead of five) chosen by fans as their favorites. It's not a strictly scientific sample, but it should be very yummy for everyone. More info later in the week.

Stay cool, if you can.

Thursday, July 16, 2009


Isn't that the greatest word? The way it sounds, the way it pops when you say it, the way it strikes as a little silly... While I hate to wax rhapsodic about a single word (though if you asked my former seventh grade students, poets have devoted whole poems to the sound of words, which turns out to be about something of great emotional significance, but you don't know that at first), it fits a little something that happened to me, baking-wise, this week.

Last week I received an email asking if I make black and white cookies and if I could make them for those Shabbat platters. I reponded that I do, but they had not been on the menu for a while, and since last Shabbat was too soon, she ordered them for this Shabbat. Suddenly it occurs to me, I have not made them since Yom Haatzmaut two years ago, because they are such a darn problem to shape properly. I tried dropping, rolling, chilling, freezing, wet hands, greased hands, and all this to make the stupid cookies in their blue and white incarnations. So I searched for a new recipe and found one. I experimented early in the week, and did not like the taste as much as the original recipe. But in the comments section of the new recipe, someone gave an alternate shaping method. If it works for one recipe, why not for others? And it did! The cookies came out nearly perfectly round. I could not have been happier with the result. So, serendipity. Trying something new, searching for a new way, it led me back to what I knew was right, just executed in a better way. It would be great if there were many such serendipitous moments in life, where happenstance lets us improve the way we function. I am going to try the technique with other types of cookies, and try the concept in other parts of life.

If the proof is in the pudding, here is proof in the cookies:

See how round they are?! Sounds silly, but they made me so happy - not to mention the customer, who said she loved them, or my family, who gobbled up the leftovers. Here is the weekly platter:Chai sugar cookies, coffee and cream brownies, black and whites, cranberry pecan bars, and thin mint sandwiches. And for those cookies that are ready for their close-ups:

Cranberry pecan bars!

A new flavor - coffee and cream brownies: rich brownie base, layered with coffee cream and chocolate ganache. YUM!

Shabbat was nice, if uneventful. We had what the kids call a "Quiet Shabbos," with no company and no going out. David and I even managed a walk on Friday night - yay for making early Shabbat! - and the air worked perfectly in shul. There was a brit on Shabbat morning in the middle of davening, which was cool, and a double parsha and bentching Rosh Chodesh and a d'var halacha, so we didn't even finish until after 11. It was almost like being in the US, but still about an hour shorter. Shana prepared food for seuda shlishit, so we could have a formal meal outside instead of whatever was lying around leftover. The weather was great in the evening, so we enjoyed the pergola once again.

Today brings swimming for Dani and Ariella, Ayelet is babysitting, and Shana will eventually get out of bed. I am entertained that she is scheduled to babysit at the gym tomorrow am at 8!!! We are barbequing this evening - must get in all the meat we can before Rosh Chodesh! Shavua tov, everyone.


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Boring update without a clever title

So what have we been doing lately? On Sunday night, David and I took the kids out to New Deli, where we had a good time and enjoyed dinner immensely. New Deli is a sandwich shop, with lots of very tasty cold cuts and other offerings, with a large choice of toppings. Everyone can find something to enjoy (a rarity what with a few picky eaters in the house), and we got to spend our voucher from the on-line auction. Interestingly, without even trying, our total came to exactly the value of the voucher. Cool.

On Monday, David and I went out to celebrate my birthday (just a bit late, but nice to do) with dinner at Masik, in Modiin. We had seen a bunch of glowing reviews, and had heard from friends that the food was good, though not superlative. Lori, you were right. The food was quite good, though the menu was limited and a little all over the place. It is a nice thing that you have a range of prices, but I felt like they needed to decide whether they wanted to serve cuisine or bar food. But we enjoyed, especially the night out together.

Ayelet started her mother's helper job on Tuesday. It is actually more babysitting, and she is very happy watching kids who really love her like an extra older sister. Tiki wanted to know if Dani was coming too. Dani slept over at his friend Itamar's house, where he enjoyed a birthday party barbeque, and a 3:30 am wake-up call to watch the All-Star game. Unfortunately, he did not get back to sleep afterward, so he was a little (LOT) loopy when he got home Wednesday afternoon. Hopefully (I know it's an improper use of hopefully but it fits the bill here) he will sleep off the insanity tonight and will get back toa normal level of fighting with his sisters tomorrow.

Ariella is very thoughtfully keeping our dentist solvent. She complained of one of her teeth hurting, and sure enough, she needed ANOTHER baby root canal. Fortunately, she is not like her brother and is an excellent dental patient. This was her first experience with Novocaine, however, and the numbness kind of wigged her out at the end. That was exacerbated by my letting Dr. Abboudi pop out her very loose front tooth (by way of begging him to take care of it), so by the time we got home she was good and peeved. She recovered not too much later, thank goodness.

I guess the promise of a visit from the tooth fairy made it all better. Too bad Lola can never just smile for the camera - she always needs to "pose" and make herself look goofier. But we'll keep her anyway.

Had a little fun playing around with some old frosting and cupcakes.

See, it's not just Shana who needs to find some entertainment. She is looking forward to getting together with her friends Shobi and Chana from the alte heim, and she is waiting to hear about a job schedule, babysitting at the local gym. It's something to do! Then we vacation, then her friend Elana comes to stay with us for a week, then the summer's over. So really, it's no time at all. No big deal. Hey, I just Seinfelded the whole interminable time!

And by the way, it RAINED today. It drizzled for a few minutes, poured for about thirty seconds, then stopped and if it weren't for all the dirt droplets on my car, you would never have known because the sun came right out. Thought it wasn't supposed to rain now. Must be one of the signs of the apocalypse.


Monday, July 13, 2009

Things that make me laugh

These are things that have made me giggle in the recent past (or sometimes chuckle, guffaw, snort, or even weep with laughter):
1. Ariella telling me that one of her friends was inSAHLted, and me suddenly realizing and accepting that, my G-d, she really does speak English with an accent.
2. 30 Rock's priceless season ender, "Kidney Now." All the Michael Jackson insanity caused me to hear the original "We are the World" repeatedly, which in turn confirmed how spot-on hilarious this parody was. Not erasing that from my hard drive, but you can find it on Youtube.
3. The Office. The whole series. Which I have recently watched. Yes, the whole series.
4. Cakewrecks. My sister Rena sent me the link, I laughed so hard that David thought I was having a nervous breakdown, and now Shana and Ayelet made me a birthday cake based on one of the pictures there. They did not write, however, "I want sprinkles" on the top, so it was a sweet and not a wreck. Find it at I still have not made it through the whole thing, because it's nice to always have a little funny in reserve. And even better, there's always new stuff!
5. That's it. I got nuthin' else. Anyone, any suggestions for the next funny?


Saturday, July 11, 2009

Dvora's cupcake bakery

Another week gone by. The summer is (literally) melting away. Okay, the assessment is a bit premature, but time does just slide by in the summer. The rest of last week was a good one. On Tuesday I delivered my cupcake order to Modiin.

Two dozen vanilla cupcakes, frosted (1/2 chocolate, 1/2 vanilla) with sprinkles. The happy customer forwarded pictures of the party, so I was very pleased. And I will say, those are some yummy cupcakes. We can't get suitable cupcake boxes here for more than one cake at a time, so we cleverly constructed our own, MacGyver style. Necessity is the mother of invention. Now if I could only find a way to make better sprinkles. I miss American colored jimmies. If any US reader wants to bring some here, you would be my hero, as well as the recipient of some samples!

The remainder of the week was pretty quiet. We had company for Shabbat dinner, a new family to the yishuv. We had a nice time - more lively than our usual Friday nights. On Shabbat, the a/c in shul was broken again. This time they knew in advance, and in fact, warned everyone that the repair could only be made after Shabbat. The main minyan was very quiet as a result; many people went to the earlier minyan in the downstairs hall, where the air was working. Ironically, the davening upstairs was excellent. Let's hope that lots of people head for the 8 am again next week! In the end, one half of the shul had working air conditioning. Let's just say that is the shul was a ship, we would have capsized from the uneven weight distribution. It was definitely reminiscent of teenagers trying to pull a prank on an airplane.

We were also out for seuda shlishit at our neighbors Ari and Debbie. Ari's cousin is an OLD friend of David's - from elementary school! - and was visiting with his family. It was nice to catch up, and Debbie made an unbelievable amount of food! Yum.

This week's cookie flavors were chosen by my friend Caryn, who was celebrating her birthday by treating her hashkama minyan kiddush chevra with cookies.

Her flavor choices were as follows: molasses cream sandwiches, orange-cranberry white chocolate cookies, penaut butter bites, sugar cookie ganache sandwiches, alfajores, and kicked up chocolate chip cookies. In truth, while everything was yummy, the chocolate chip cookies were not quite as kicked up (with cinnamon, cayenne, and black pepper) as they should have been. Didn't leave enough heat in the back of your throat. So I am making another attempt today to get the proportions worked out properly, and will try to get Caryn to be my taste-tester. And if not her, then I am sure her daughter Mira will not protest taking over.

Tonight we hope to treat the kids to New Deli, so hurray, no cooking tonight! David won a discount voucher in an online auction, so we are going to redeem it - how cool. Just FYI: it's not the cooking I mind, since I actually love to cook, which may not come as a surprise to anyone who knows me well enough to be reading this, it's just the heat and the cleanup.

Anyway, have a wonderful week. I will be back when there is something interesting to say!


Monday, July 6, 2009

The mind is the first thing to go

Today is, wait for it, my 38th birthday. I have now officially celebrated two go-rounds of matching up Hebrew and English birthdays, which makes me old. It does not actually match up perfectly, which is weird, but apparently not so unusual. And don't even got me started on how anti-climactic it is to not have two days to celebrate, not to mention all the days in between!

So to celebrate, we went out to ... Sheva Brachot! Our actual going out date will have to wait for next week, but that's okay. This was Sheva Brachot for Rafi and Esther, the son and new daughter-in-law of our neighbors, the same chattan and kallah whose beautiful wedding we went to on Thursday night. The evening was at another one of our neighbors, and it was a lot of fun. It was a first for us, but the entertainment portion of the evening was The Newlywed Game. Several couples from the guests were called up to participate, including the chattan and kallah (thankfully not us, as we are a bit shy, at least "camera-shy"). It was really funny, and interesting to see that longevity was absolutely not a factor in winning. All the guests contributed to the meal, and there was a lot of yummy milchig food. I made (surprise, surprise) cookies: thin mint sandwiches, molasses cream sandwiches, and glazed lemon cookies. I forgot to take a picture of the platters - senility is already setting in - but I did photograph a couple of the flavors. The top if the lemon glazed, and the bottom is the molasses cream. Thin mints have been previously photographed - sorry, trying not to repeat myself.

Not too much else is going on here. Dani and Lola are happily in camp, and Dani is also in afternoon sports camp. He is going on an overnight tiyul tomorrow, and Ariella is going to the Biblical Zoo in Yerushalayim, which should make her very happy. She is following the lead of her older siblings, insisting that she had to pack up mamtakim (sweets) because she is going on a tiyul! Ayelet is sleeping at Carmi's tonight - one last chance to hang out before Carmi leaves for camp in the States. We will all miss her, but certainly Ayelet will the most.

Tomorrow is cupcake day - I have to fill an order for two dozen cupcakes, and then I need to start on prep for Shabbat orders. Looks like I am going to be spending a lot of time in the kitchen in the next few days!

Have a good one!


Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy to be here

Even in the quiet days of summer, even with many friends away in the States, life here in Chashmonaim is very full. On Tuesday evening we attended an engagement party for the children of two families here in the yishuv. The chattan and kallah have known each other for 15 years, when their families were neighbors. The party was lovely, the couple adorable, and the speeches charming. Plus there was wine. What could be bad?! Of course, not all the news here is good, so it is nice to have something to celebrate.

Thursday night was the wedding of the son of our neighbors. They are very special people, who were so helpful to us as we were getting ready to move in and ever since. And it was a beautiful, joyous, leibedik wedding. It was also nice to see a bunch of people from Modiin, the kallah's home. On Shabbat, we went to a kiddush for two bar mitzvahs - second cousins, born the same week. They davened in the same shul, separate for Shacharit and laining, and all together for Mussaf. We will also be attending the Sunday night party for one of the boys, then going to Sheva Brachot on Monday. But all the fun will end Thursday, with Sh'va Asar b'Tammuz.

For Shabbat lunch, we did potluck with two families, to reward ourselves for being here and not going to the States! It was a lot of fun, and much less work to make a few dishes each but still enjoy a great meal with great company. For dessert I made cupcakes, a sort of test run for a job later in the week - really I wanted to practice piping with the large star tip, since it's been a while. Better to practice in advance than make myself crazy the day of the job!
This week's cookie flavors were chosen by my friend (and customer) Nicky, in honor of her birthday.
Nicky chose chewy chocolate chip cookies, mint brownies, Mexican brownies, lemon wedges, and cranberry-orange-white chocolate cookies. I catered the cookies for her son's bar mitzvah last year, and Nicky had a chance to develop some real favorites. Hope she enjoyed - and everyone else!
Shavua tov, y'all!

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