Thursday, April 28, 2011

Back to Business as Usual

There's an old saying: "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger." It can surely be applied to getting through the yom tov of Pesach. A whole lot of people who were sure they would never make it to be ready for Pesach, and yet somehow they did. A whole lot of people who wondered if they could possibly make it through 8 days of non-stop cooking, eating, cleaning up, company and all that goes with being basically cloistered in close quarters with a whole lot of other people. Yup, they did. Those people should take some chizuk from the fact that they managed to produce Pesach and yes, even enjoy some of it.

And yes, I dusted off the "P" words and put them away in my files until it's time to get them out next year. I did, however, leave out one "P" word and a related "R" word to occupy my thoughts for a while today--Ponder and Reflect.

While yom tov is still fresh in my mind I'm making myself some notes for next year based on what happened this year. I'm looking at what things worked especially well this year and what things did not. I'm amending the purchasing lists to be used next year to include more of a few items and to eliminate a few items as well--in no way am I ever touching those non-gebrokts cake mixes again; no use in trying to save some time and energy if the results aren't going to be eaten or are not as advertised. I tried a couple of new recipes this year and one at least was a big hit with the family and company; the recipe is going into the treasured recipe file. A long time ago I learned not to count on memory alone when it comes to this particular yom tov.

So yes, I know it may be the last thing you want to be doing now that Pesach is finally over, but I'm recommending taking a little time to think about what you did and didn't do, and when you did or did not do them, and make yourself some notes to be used next year.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Tidbits from the Past

Some happenings from history that took place the week of April 24-30.

25 Delegates from 45 countries meet in San Franscisco to organize the United Nations. (1945)
27 Senior citizens take note, the first Social Security checks were distributed on this day in 1937.
29 Gideon Sundback of Hoboken, N.J. patents the zipper. (1913)
30 The Vietnam War ends with the fall of Saigon (later renamed Ho Chi Minh City) (1975)

Monday, April 18, 2011

Chag Kasher V'Sameach

Finally it's erev Pesach, and yes, you're going to make it! Tonight we'll all sit down to the Seder and once again discover why this night is different from all other nights of the year. Take a deep breath and repeat after me: Pesach is a wonderful yom tov, Pesach is a wonderful yom tov. All the hard work and frenetic activity is so going to be worth it. I hope that you and your families will find this yom tov a time to be making happy family memories that will last a lifetime. Chag Kasher V'sameach to you all.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

An Observation on Shopping

Someone wondered about my buying produce ahead for basically the whole of Pesach. A brief explanation may lead to some thought on your part.

If you shop in a fruit and vegetable market that sells nothing but produce--that is, no chometz items are found in the store--then shopping there next Thursday does not represent a problem according to our local orthodox rabbis. However, none of these rabbis allow shopping in the branches of the major supermarket chains unless those chains have plainly and clearly stated that they sell their chometz before Pesach--and none of our local branches do so. Ditto for the fruit markets that also carry chometz products. So, no shopping in the supermarket chains during chol ha'moed nor in the fruit stores unless they've sold their chometz.

Even where a store does sell its chometz those planning on shopping next Sunday are in for a rude awakening--it's Easter Sunday, and at least in our area NO fruit and vegetable stores will be open and no supermarkets either. That leaves shopping only in a kosher grocery store and many of those, or perhaps most, do not carry fruits and vegetables.

Obviously where you geographically live is going to make a difference in the shopping available, but the manager of the local Stop and Shop and the other chain stores said they will all be closed in the metropolitan NY area. Something to keep in mind as you shop today.

Pesach Countdown--1 Day to Go

Suggestion for the Day #1: Yup, may get a bit frenetic today and tomorrow as you're heading down the final stretch. I suggest that you keep in mind the old saying: No matter how we get there, we all sit down to the Seder. Yes, you are going to make it. Repeat that as many times as is necessary to get you through the day and night.

Suggestion for the Day #2: I know it seems a bit strange, but if you've been cleaning chometz out like crazy, please remember to leave a bit of that chometz to make bedikah with.

Tidbits from the Past

Some events of the past that took place during the week of April 17-23.

18 Paul Revere makes his famous ride from Charlestown to Lexington, Ma., shouting "the Red Coats are coming" as the American Revolutionary War begins. (1775)
18 The Great San Fransisco earthquake hits, killing 700 people. (1906)
19 The Revolutionary War begins. (1775)
19 After a 51 day siege in Waco, Texas, the Branch Dividian compound goes up in flames, killing the cult members (1993)
19 Timothy McVeigh bombs the Federal Building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people,and injuring hundreds more. (1995)
20 Two teenage boys go on a shooting rampage in Columbine High school in Littleton, Colorado. One teacher and 12 students are killed. (1999)

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Pesach Countdown--2 Days to Go

Suggestion for the Day #1: If potatoes play a big part in your Pesach eating, make tonight the night to get your helpers to do the peeling. For this to work you will need a few plastic buckets or extra large containers. The buckets/containers should be large enough to hold the amount of potatoes you will need for now until the end of the first days of yom tov with sufficient water in the containers to cover the potatoes. No, the potatoes will not start fermenting or "melting" if held in water for a few days. The advantage is that you can grab those potatoes and cook however you wish, whenever you wish, without spending the extra time in peeling and cleaning up the mess. And yes, husbands and kids make terrific potato peelers--lots of dad/kid conversations possible while they are all seated and working.

Suggestion for the Day #2: While your helpers are peeling potatoes, if you make your own lokshen for yom tov, make this tonight's job. Again, make all the lokshen you are going to need and freeze what isn't needed for the first days. Wrap the lokshen, uncut, extra well in plastic wrap. Defrost in the fridge on the day that you will need to use them.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Let the Buyer Beware

Having gotten into my kitchen fairly early I needed to have something to nosh for the week and for Shabbos and until we actually got into yom tov. My sister had raved to me about the non-gebrokts cake mixes that were sold last year so I decided to save some time and effort and get a few of the boxes. Didn't hurt that the market had them on sale either.

I'm naming the brand here because I think it's cogent to what follows. I purchased Liebers mixes. The first mix clearly said coffee cake with crumb topping on the box with a huge picture of a cake clearly covered with a CRUMB topping. The second cake was a chocolate chip cake. The huge picture on the front clearly showed a yellow cake dotted with some chocolate chips. The third box was clearly identified as yellow cake mix with a packet of chocolate frosting. The picture on the box showed a yellow cake frosted in chocolate.

So, what did I get from these cake mixes? Well, the coffee cake with crumb topping mix included did not include any crumb topping but did have a sugar packet to sprinkle on top of the cake before baking--final result looks nothing like the picture on the box. The yellow cake with chocolate chips turned out to be a chocolate cake with chocolate chips--nothing like the picture on the box. The yellow cake with chocolate frosting turned out to be a chocolate cake. Again, not what was advertised on the box.

I understand that manufacturers get kind of busy when they put out their Pesach products, but this is ridiculous. One mistake I could perhaps understand, but three (actually four, since I bought two boxes of the chocolate chip cake mix and they were both chocolate cake instead of yellow cake)? So much for shortcutting the baking--my mixer and I are going to be getting friendly again with a made-from-scratch recipe because when I want yellow cake I want YELLOW cake. If any of you bought those mixes, I hope you have better luck than I did, but don't be surprised if the final results are not quite what you expected.

You bet that Liebers will be hearing from me about this.

Pesach Countdown--3 Days to Go

Suggestion for the Day #1: Take a minute to think of just how many "large" meals you are going to be sitting down to over the next 10 days. You might want to make the meals for this Shabbos fairly simple ones.

Suggestion for the Day #2: Consider doubling one of the main dishes you are preparing for Shabbos and having it ready to warm up and eat on Sunday for dinner. Sunday is going to be a busy day for everyone and having a ready meal to eat takes some of the pressure off.

Suggestion for the Day #3: It takes the same amount of time to cook three large pots of soup as it does to cook one pot of soup. Consider making all your soups for Pesach today and freezing what you don't need until yom tov starts. Once the ingredients are in the pots, the soups cook themselves with little need for you to be hovering, leaving you some time to do other things you might need to do or might want to do.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Speaking of Eating...

I have at other times alluded to the problem of eating disorders that are seen in our frum communities. This is not a one-off, one-time occurence but is being seen with alarming frequency. The following is a link to an article in which rabbis are sounding the alarm that there is a problem in Klal as regards eating disorders. Better late than never.

Pesach Countdown--4 Days to Go

Suggestion for the Day #1: Don't leave your perishable shopping until a day or two before Pesach--today is a perfect day. Dairy goods have a long expiration date and will last quite well for all of Pesach if you shop today. And yes, fruits and vegetables will do so as well if you take care to not buy produce that is at full full ripeness and won't last more than a day or two. Any produce that you do buy fully ripe should be used for Shabbos meals.

Suggestion for the Day #2: If you bake at home for Pesach this is a good day for it. Baking can be a messy job and time consuming as well, so get it out of the way now. And while you are at it, bake everything you will need for Pesach and freeze what is not going to be eaten now.

Suggestion for the Day #3: If you use fresh greens for your soups on Pesach, clean and check them today if you have not already done so. Decide how many packages you need of the greens based on how many pots of soup you will be cooking over yom tov and prepare that many packages ready packaged. Now, freeze the wet packages in individual plastic bags, except for any you will be using tomorrow. They stay beautifully in the freezer and there is no loss of flavor when cooking. Since checking and cleaning the greens can be very time/labor intensive--not to mention that it can create a mess in the kitchen--do them all now.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Please Don't

I received a few emails from readers who were asking if I knew more about the tragedy that occurred in Willowbrook yesterday. let me make this clear--I am not giving out any information about this, nor do I wish to discuss it. It is indeed a tragedy and there is nothing to be gained from public discussion except to indulge in loshon ho'rah and add to the tzar of the children. What is needed is prayer not gossip.

Pesach Countdown--5 Days to Go

Suggestion for the Day #1: If you're turning your kitchen Pesachdik before Shabbos HaGadol, today/tonight is a good time to do it. To take the pressure off of you, use disposable plates for any food that family has to eat. In fact, treat yourself to something you don't have to cook tonight, either brought in or eaten out. Suggestion for the Day #2: Designate one area as a "chometz may be eaten here" area and patiently inform everyone in the house of this fact. This will be the last area to be cleaned of chometz before Pesach so make it someplace that will be relatively easy to vacuum/mop up. I know someone with a fairly large entrance way to her apartment that sets up a folding table in that entrance and that is her chometz zone. All meals and snacks until she turns the entire house Pesachdik are eaten in that area, including meals for Shabbos. A porch or den would also work. Suggestion for the Day #3: For those of you who have already turned your kitchens this is a good time to prepare items that can be frozen over yom tov and taken out as needed. Takes the pressure off of you come Sunday and Monday.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Pesach Countdown--6 Days to Go

Suggestion of the Day: Double check the rules you follow for kashering sinks and stoves. Some hold that a sink must not be used for 24-hours before it can be kashered. Then there is having to self-clean an oven twice before it is considered kashered. Self-clean an oven twice in one day and you are taking a chance that you are going to need a repair person out. All the manufacturers advise against doing this. Whatever procedure you follow, schedule your week so that you can follow it.

Monday, April 11, 2011

On Mentchlichkeit

I've been too busy--or perhaps too mellow--to comment much on some of the shenanigans that always arise pre-Pesach when it comes to the sudden rise in product prices. But there is one complaint I have that has been fomenting for a few weeks.

In particular I am not happy with the Star K right now. A number of weeks ago I went online to the various kashrut organization sites to download product information to be used in shopping for yom tov. I know that the Star K puts out a reliable medicine/cosmetic list and I was particularly looking for that information as I will be having people in my house who regularly take prescription medications and who would need to know if they have to speak to their physician or not about possible changes to that medication over Pesach. In addition, there are otc medications I needed to check out, such as antacids. And yes, some toothpastes contain kitniyos or chometz and you need to know which is which. Is there anyone out there reading who doesn't have any of these types of products in their home?

What did I find? I could learn online about every other product the Star K certifies for Pesach but not about the medicines/cosmetics. Why? Because that medicine/cosmetic list is for sale at your local seforim store. Yes, for sale, and no, not cheap.

Yes, it's very nice that Rabbi Bess of the LA Kollel has been producing this list for the Star K for many years. Yes, obviously, there is some work involved in producing the list (although not as much work as the Star K would like us to believe--in a computer-oriented world such as the one we live in, keeping records and accessing information and compiling lists does not require the intensive effort that it once did). No, I have no idea if the Star K and Rabbi Bess have some kind of fiduciary relationship specific to the creation of the medicine/cosmetic list--nor do I care right now. Okay, I will give them credit that they discuss on their site the issues that may be involved in the use of medications and cosmetic-type items, but without the actual list of the items by brand name the discussion is philosophical at best and not practical whatsoever.

The use of medications and cosmetics over Pesach does not fall into the same category as the use of plastic wrap and napkins and cocoa powder etc.. With the latter, whether you use brand X or brand Y is not a matter of possible harm to you. If you can't get one brand, you buy another brand. Medications and some of the items that fall under cosmetics (think ointments) are a wholly different story. Yes, there can be sakonah involved, to one degree or another. Yes, there can be discomfort involved (think allergies), to one degree or another. Why, when this is the case, would a national kashruth organization play the money game with its medicine/cosmetic list?! Yes, yes, I know, kashruth is big business. Well guess what? What it comes to the items on that medicine/cosmetic list business should be damned.

Of all the things that should not be peddled as just another product for sale, a listing of medications/cosmetics should be on top of the list. Where is the Star K's concern for Klal, the klal that allows it to stay in business by buying the products it certifies, proving to the manufacturers that they should continue paying the Star K for kosher supervision? At a very minimum, the Star K should be mailing a copy of that list for free to every orthodox rabbi in the US so that those rabbanim can inform their congregants. Druggists and doctors should have been able to request the list for free weeks ago. The best would be if they would stop trying to make a buck on the backs of just those kosher consumers who might need the information on that list so that they and their doctors can make informed decisions about health issues. The list should be available online or for the price of a stamp if you use snail mail.

There it is--my pre-Pesach rant. And this time I think I'm entitled to the ranting. Of all the people to penalize with Pesach purchasing costs people with medical/health issues or questions should not be on the list whatsoever. Where is the mentchlichkeit of the Star K?

Note: there is a telephone number available on the Star K web site for the LA Kollel that you can call and request a copy of the medication/cosmetic list. Right, and given snail mail time from LA to NY that list is not going to arrive, should you order it now, in time to do you much good. And yes, cynic that I am, I'm betting that a donation to the LA Kollel just might be the price of getting that list--can't say for sure, but it would fit in with the idea that the list is for sale everywhere else.

Pesach Countdown--7 Days to Go

Suggestion of the Day #1: Designate one place in your home and one place only where chometz may be eaten. Yes, even little children can follow instructions as to where they can eat. Any foods or snacks are served in that place and that place only. If you think that family members may forget where they can and cannot eat, print out a few signs on the computer saying "Chometz-free Zone" or "Chometz Limited to this Room" and put them up on the doors.

Suggestion of the Day #2: Yes, little children are spreaders of chometz (and to be truthful, some adults also). You might want to make all snacks given to children this week be kosher for Pesach. You may have crumbs to clean up but at least they won't be chometzdike crumbs.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Shopping Right at ShopRite

Anyone in the metropolitan NY/NJ area with a ShopRite market in their neighborhood might want to check out a couple of items on steep sale this week. For one, 18-egg cartons at $1.49 for the carton, limit of four. Take someone with you and get all the eggs you need even with the individual checkout limit. For those who use cholov staam and use it over Pesach, ShopRite cream cheese bars--OUD and kosher for Pesach--with the ShopRite card were 79 cents a bar, no limit. ShopRite also has its own brands of milk available OUD with the Kosher for Pesach designation. However, at least in our local branch, the expiration date is the day before Pesach. Pays to ask the manager when the next delivery is coming in with an expiration date further in the future.

Note: a lot of those big supermarkets, especially the ones that had their Pesach products out early, are not restocking the non-perishable Pesach product areas. In at least two of those major markets the space dedicated to Pesach products has shrunk by at least half, if not more. Why? Easter-type products are taking their place.

Note: we Jews are getting lucky with those eggs not because the market knows that Pesach is coming and lots of eggs are used but because they are featuring eggs because a lot of non-Jewish families color those eggs for Easter, both to eat and to "play" with.

Smartphone Privacy Risks

If you use your smartphone to upload pictures, please view this clip first. Privacy is becoming a thing of the past unless you get smarter than your smartphone.

Pesach Countdown--8 Days to Go

Suggestion of the Day#1: Don't leave haircuts to be taken in the few days before Pesach when you just may be busy with other things. Today is a good day to have someone take the kids for haircuts if they can't take themselves. If your hubby is going to get his haircut today, delegate getting the kids' haircuts to him. While it is quiet in the house, give yourself 15 minutes of "be good to mom" time and do whatever you want to, or do nothing at all. A leisurely soak in a warm tub, with no one banging on the door asking "Are you ever coming out of there?!" goes a long way towards restoring your equilibrium.

Suggestion of the Day #2: If you have not already done so, make your refrigerator Pesachdik today. After you've cleaned it, line with something disposable such as plastic wrap or foil or paper towels. As soon as you are ready to turn the kitchen just remove the temporary lining. This way you have a place all ready for items you are cooking or for perishables. You may want to put a sign on the door of the fridge stating "Cleaned for Pesach--handle contents with care."

Tidbits from the Past

Happenings in history for the week of April 10-16.

10 The "unsinkable" RMS Titanic departs on it's maiden voyage from Southampton, England. (1912)
10 The first professional golf tournament was held. (1916)
10 Do you love animals? The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was established on this date in 1866.
11 The U.S. Submarine Force was officially established. (1900)
12 By an Act of Congress, Puerto Rico becomes a U.S, territory. (1900)
12 Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin becomes the first person in space. (1961).
14 President Abraham Lincoln is shot by John Wilkes Booth at Ford's Theater in Washington, D.C. He died the next day. (1865)
15 The Titanic hits an iceberg in the Northern Atlantic ocean and sinks. (1912)

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Pesach Countdown--9 Days to Go

Suggestion for the Day #1: Need a break? Can't bear the thought of doing one more thing about making Pesach? Fine, tonight is your night. Treat yourself to a stress-free, Pesach-free evening. The world is not going to fall apart if you take some time off. In fact, you'll probably do better tomorrow if you relax tonight. HOWEVER...if you're not going to take that time off, make this family garbage night. The goal is to accumulate at least one bag per family member of things that have been hanging around long past the time they need to be here.

Been hanging on to back copies of lots of magazines? It's time for them to meet their recycling maker. If you have younger kids chances are that somewhere in a pile is that math test back from October that earned a 100, along with a lot of its friends and family. Time for them to move out. The job is to reduce those waiting piles to nothing or next to nothing. Still hanging on to some of those "cute" items that seem to arrive with Purim shalach monos? Time to either find them a new home elsewhere or get rid of them if you haven't figured out how you could possibly use them. Toys or games that your kids haven't touched in months or years? Time to donate them to someone or an organization that can use them. Books stacked precariously everywhere and anywhere? Take those that you aren't interested in keeping, bag them up and donate to your local library.

We all seem to collect things that take up space in our homes without producing any benefit to us. Tonight those items are spending their last hours producing clutter without benefit.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Pesach Countdown--10 Days to Go

Suggestion for the Day #1: Just in case you hadn't "noticed," it's Shabbos tonight. Do yourself a favor and forget that Pesach will be here soon. A bit of a time-out is needed and Shabbos is just perfect for that. Use a different P word and make yourself a Promise that conversation will not center around everything that has to be done yet for that other P word. Suggestion for the Day #2: Keep the dishes you are cooking for Shabbos in the non-spatter, non-crumb category--ovens are tough enough to get ready for Pesach without adding a new layer to be scrubbed off.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Pesach Countdown--11 Days to Go

Suggestion for the Day: If you haven't already done so, print out a calendar for the next few weeks. (Microsoft Publisher has a blank calendar available.) I actually do this starting with 6 weeks before Pesach, but it's not too late to do it now. On the calendar make note of any places you are going to have to go, any appointments you have scheduled. If you also work, make note of any special deadlines or meetings you will be having. Make note of when your kids have school and when they are on vacation already. This helps in not scheduling conflicting appointments. Keep a copy in your Pesach folder and check it every day.

Tax Breaks for Donating to Religious Schools

An interesting article on a Supreme Court ruling that upholds tax breaks for donations to religious schools. Could have some far reaching affects on state decisions regarding those schools.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

On Those Free Matzahs

A number of markets are offering free or almost free five-pound packages of matzahs as part of their advertising this week and next. For most of the markets there is a requirement to buy a minimum of $15 worth of other groceries to get the matzah free or at the reduced price. I had to be out shopping on Sunday and divided my shopping into two parts so that I could get the matzahs at both markets. Thursday I'll pick up the matzahs from the other three major markets in our area.

No, I don't need 25-pounds of matzah for Pesach. We happen to eat shmura for Pesach so I'll get no personal use out of those matzahs. However, there are organizations in our neighborhood that distribute food for the needy for yom tov, and those organizations already have been and will be again the recipients of those matzahs.

So please, if you've been bypassing those matzah offers because 1) you already have all the matzah you'll be using for Pesach or 2) they aren't the type of matzah you use for Pesach, get those matzahs anyway and donate them. A number of organizations could use them. [Just as an example, our local Bikur Cholim stocks a completely kosher kitchen at one of the SI hospitals, and they need matzah--what, you think that no one needs to use the hospital over Pesach?] The saying goes "Let all who are hungry come and eat"--even if they aren't necessarily coming to you, you can still help to feed them.

Don't bypass those free matzah offers--send that lechem oni to where it can do some good.

Pesach Countdown--12 Days to Go

Suggestion for the Day: Shopping, Cooking and Preparing are lots easier if you know what it is you will be serving and when. If you already haven't done so, today is a good day to get out a calendar and plan the menus for Pesach meal by meal. Don't forget that there are days where breakfast, lunch and dinner are involved--plan accordingly.

I put these lists on the computer so that when the time comes to be cooking I know what I have to cook and when.

Note #1: knowing what you will be serving makes shopping more organized as well. No guessing if you have to buy product X or product Y: if those products appear on the menus, put them on your shopping list and buy them; if they don't appear on the menus, don't buy them.

Note #2: If you're not sure what you will be serving or are looking for something new to serve, today is a good day to research some new recipes. Yes, there are cookbooks out there specifically for Pesach, but there are also hundreds of Pesach recipes available online for just a little finger walking (or mouse gliding if you prefer). Download those recipes and print out a copy to have handy in the kitchen.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

A Stop and Smell the Roses Reminder

Yesterday the dentist and I had an un-longed for and unwanted visit. To say I haven't been in a good mood since that visit is an understatement even I'm not capable of. I had no energy to do much of anything, and no desire either. And no, the overcast wet weather has not been helping any.

About the only thing I accomplished yesterday was to take some of those crumbs and odds and ends of dry chometz that I'd been saving and go spread them across the planter beds for the birds. Even there I wasn't all that hopeful that I'd see a cheerful and cheering up gathering of birds because of the rain. And besides, the rain would probably just turn those crumbs into something the birds wouldn't look at, so why did I bother?

Just now I got the answer to that "why bother?" question, and a good lesson as well. A new type of bird that I have never seen before came to visit in our yard. It has a snow-white underbody and beautiful cobalt blue and white on its top and feathers. If this is a type of bluejay it's a very unusual one. And yes, it's been enjoying a long and leisurely breakfast.

Amazing how the sight of this beautiful creature of nature has taken me out of wallowing in misery. Suddenly the day has possibilities I wasn't seeing before. Sure, I'm still going to take those ibuprofen precisely when I'm allowed another dose, but I'm not sitting around any longer feeling sorry for myself with only those ibuprofen to look forward to. We shouldn't just mutter "this too shall pass"--we need to believe it, because yes, it--whatever "it" is--won't be here forever. And yes, the sights of nature are still one of the best antidotes to the blahs that there is.

So, if you're having one of "those" days (and before Pesach those-days-itis is a common enough occurrence), literally stop and smell the roses--or ooh and aah as nature is once again unfurling spring in its journey to summer. No, the pain won't go away, but amazingly enough it will be lessened.

Pesach Countdown--13 Days to Go

Suggestion for the Day: Do you want to have company for some meals over Pesach? Want to invite someone over for tea and cake? If you haven't already done so, make today the day that you write up your invitee list and do the inviting. No time like the present to know just how many people you will be feeding and for what meals.

About that Myth

It's time, once and for all, to get rid of that myth that Pesach is only eight days long (or seven days if you are in Israel). In no way, shape or form is this yom tov that short.

Apparently there are mystical--and quite likely mythical--beings that can wake up erev Pesach morning a bit earlier than usual, get rid of all of their chometz, clean their houses k'halacha, do all their shopping, run all necessary errands, do all of their cooking and sit down to the Seder with a smile on their faces. Right, and I believe in the tooth fairy also.

Even if you leave a whole lot of things to the last minute (for whatever your reasons) that last minute needs re-defining. Do you push everything necessary into 3 days? How about 4 or 5 days? If so, let's be realistic and add those days to how long Pesach lasts.

The kitchen cleanup and turning to Pesachdik is not accomplished in an hour or two--neither is the cooking. Given how Shabbos Ha'Gadol comes out this year, a whole lot of people will already be Pesachdik for Shabbos. In order to accomplish that the kitchen is going to be turned on Thursday, or even Wednesday. So you do the math. Pesach starts on Monday night, and you've been cooking Pesachdik since at least Thursday. Adds up to more than one week of yom tov. Once you're in your kitchen and it's Pesachdik, yom tov has arrived. Sort of like Chol Ha'Moed, followed by yom tov, followed by Chol Ha'Moed, followed by yom tov.

Even those who are not turning their kitchens before Shabbos will be doing so Motzoai Shabbos/Sunday morning. Okay, so they will be adding only two additional days to yom tov.

Someone might as well declare this yom tov to be two weeks. Since the really frenetic part of preparing seems to be the grocery shopping, kitchen cleaning, cooking and preparing, that would be out of the way the week before the sedorim. I know a lot of women who would be far more relaxed heading into the sedorim. They might even be able to enjoy some time together with their kids, who are all going to be off from school that week before Pesach as well as Pesach.

Truthfully I wouldn't mind a bit if Pesach was extended as I described above. All that work and in a blink of an eye it seems that yom tov is over.

Monday, April 4, 2011

What is Advice?

A number of blogs and online sites, this one included, frequently give advice on how to do things. But what is advice? According to the dictionary advice is "an opinion or recommendation offered as a guide to action, conduct, etc.." In short, advice is a suggestion, not a rule or law. Advice is a "how-to" manual that you may choose to follow or not.

But how do you figure out whether or not advice you have received is right for you? How do you figure out whether advice you are receiving will work for you? Well, here comes a piece of advice about advice: know what it is you are asking about and asking for when you seek advice.

Let's take an area on a lot of people's minds right now--Pesach. Lots of advice out there now on how to prepare for Pesach, what to buy for Pesach, how to budget for Pesach. And yes, a lot of that advice is good advice---if it works for you. So, what goes into determining whether or not you can use advice you've received?

None of us are living identical lives. Where we live can impinge on what advice will work for us. By this I mean geographical location as well as our actual physical place of residence. Shopping for foodstuffs in the heart of Midwood Brooklyn is different from shopping in a small town in the heartland of the country. And yes, shopping in SI is also different from shopping in Brooklyn. A four-bedroom house with attic, basement and garage is different from a two-bedroom apartment in an apartment complex. And even with these examples there may be major differences--all two-bedroom apartments are not identical in size and layout and neither are all four-bedroom houses. They may have differing amounts of storage space and require different types of cleaning and shopping for Pesach.

How much "free" money do you have available? Is there one working spouse or two? What are your financial obligations? What, if any, kind of debt are you carrying? How conservative or how liberal are you when it comes to spending money, and on what kinds of items?
How much "free" time will you have to take care of all Pesach preparations? Will you have any help in the preparation, whether spouse, other family members or paid help? Is there anything going on at work that may impinge on how and when you prepare for Pesach? How big a family are you providing for? Children present? Age and sex of those kids may make a difference. Going to be having company for Pesach? What type and for how long? Will you be home all of Pesach or away for part or all? Any of your family or company have food issues or medical issues that have to be factored in? And just how old are you? What a 20-year old can possibly accomplish may not be what a 50/60-year old can accomplish as regards sheer physical strength, stamina or just plain get-up-and-go.

And the above may only be the tip of the iceberg as regards personal factors that make us "different" from others. In short, there's a lot more to advice than it's inherent "goodness" or "badness." What works for you may not work for me and vice versa. The key is to be honest with yourself about what your personal situation is, what all the factors are that have to be taken into consideration, and take or not take advice based on your unique position. No need to be upset if you find you can't use what you think may be a good piece of advice--if you can't use it it isn't good advice for you.

Pesach Countdown--14 Days to Go

Suggestion for the Day: Yes, a lot of shopping being done and that will be done. But shopping for what? If you haven't already done so this is a good day to begin a file on your computer marked Shopping Lists. You don't have to follow my way but what I do is make two lists: one for non-perishables and one for perishables.

The non-perishable list is divided into categories, such as baking items, plastic and foil and paper goods, spices etc. The perishable list is divided into fruits and vegetables, dairy products, meats and fish. I print out the lists and take them with me every time I go shopping, specifically for Pesach or not--never know when you're going to hit an unexpected good sale. After items are purchased I enter the number and place I've stored them next to the item--no more guessing how many of something has been purchased or where it's hidden.

Note #1: after Pesach I enter a note next to any item on the list in the computer that there was too much of or not enough of with the amount that I should have purchased--makes it easier for next Pesach not to make an error.

Note #2: If items are left over from Pesach this year but can be stored successfully with the Passover items going to be packed away, I note that on the computer list as well. Check the expiration dates on the packages.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Pesach Countdown--15 Days to Go

Suggestions for the Day:
1)If you don't have a dedicated space for it then decide on a corner or closet somewhere in your home that will be a Pesach shopping storage area. Clean the area thoroughly and put your purchases, packed into cartons, into the corner you've cleaned. If you don't like the look of the stacked boxes, cover with a small tablecloth. [Non-perishables obviously] It helps as you continue to shop to know that there is someplace the items can be put until needed for Pesach.

2)If you have an extra fridge and you haven't already done so, make today the day to clean that fridge for Pesach. Makes it easier to have someplace to put items that are a good buy but need to be frozen or refrigerated.

Tidbits from the Past

Some happenings in history that took place during the week of April 3-9.
For events in Jewish history please go to

3 The Pony Express begins delivering the mail. (1860)
4 Susanna Medora Salter is the first woman to be elected mayor in the nation in Argonia, Kansas. (1887)
4 Martin Luther King Jr. is assassinated. (1968)
4 The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is signed. (1949)
5 General Douglas MacArthur died in Washington, D.C. at the age of 84. (1964)
6 Explorers Matthew A. Henson and Robert E. Perry are the first to reach the North Pole. (1909)
6 The first modern Olympic games opens in Athens, Greece (1896)
6 Twinkies hit the market. The first twinkies were banana-filled.(1930)
7 The musical South Pacific, by Rodgers and Hammerstein, opens on Broadway. (1949)
7 The World Health Organization (WHO) is founded. (1948)
8 Hank Aaron of the Atlanta Braves hits his 715th home run to surpass Babe Ruth's 714 home run record. (1974)
9 Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrenders to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Courthouse, ending the Civil War. (1865)
9 French explorer LaSalle reaches the Mississippi river (1691)
9 The U.S. Senate passes a law making Winston Churchill the first honorary U.S. citizen (1963)

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Pesach Countdown--16 Days to Go

Suggestion for the Day #1: Tonight is a good time to gather together anything and everything that is going to have to go to the cleaners for Pesach. Leaving it to the last week, when other things are surely going to be occupying you, is not necessary. Most cleaners in frum areas are also going to be mega busy that week, so beat the crowd. And if you do so, remember to take hubby's talis to be dry cleaned. If the cleaners in your area are open on a Sunday, then get the bag you gather together tonight to them first thing. Otherwise, place by the door for an a.m. run on Monday. And keep in mind that anyone with a drivers license can take the clothes to the cleaners--hubby or any of your kids that drive. Learn to delegate.

Suggestion for the Day #2: Yes, computers are wonderful for organizing your efforts for Pesach, but some things need to be printed out. Make yourself a Pesach organizing folder, or two. I use 2 two-pocket folders. One holds shopping lists of all kinds along with the printouts of the kosher for Passover product lists I've downloaded. This folder goes shopping with me. The other folder holds the "To Do Lists" for now and on Pesach, the menus, the recipes I'll need handy. This one lives in my Kitchen now and on Pesach.

Friday, April 1, 2011

A Note to April

Clearly the month of April was not a very good "student" in school and probably was talking or daydreaming or not paying attention when the teacher covered the April rule: April Showers Bring May Flowers. That's showers, such as in rain. This morning, as April arrived, it brought with it mixed rain and SNOW showers here. Attention April: Snow is officially now passe, verboten and banned--get with the program!

Pesach Countdown--17 Days to Go

Suggestion for the Day: Given that the first Seder night is a Monday a lot of people are debating about what to do about Shabbos HaGadol. Should they turn their kitchens Pesachdik before Shabbos or should they wait until Motzoai Shabbos to turn the kitchen? Today would be a good day to ask yourself that question if you already haven't done so. How you answer will make a difference in how you plan out your work over the next few weeks. It may change what you shop for and when. A lot of individual factors go into the decision, so grab a cup of coffee or whatever will put you in a thinking mood and think ahead.