FAVORITE HOLIDAY READS: Random House of Canada

Favorite Holiday Reads Random House of Canada.png

Win a gift pack with all four of Random House of Canada’s Favorite Reads for the Holidays

 

Something you should know: I tried Grammarly’s plagiarism checker free of charge because I’m a true original and I would never want to steal someone else’s originality. Even by accident. Or on purpose.

 

It’s Day 2 of our favorite holiday reads, and Random House of Canada is really sharing something for everyone. With a tell-all from a hilarious fictional character, family-sized fiscal responsibility, and two stellar fiction titles (including the 2013 Man Booker Prize winner), this gift pack, shared out, (or kept for yourself) is a sure winner. Personally, I loved Rachel Joyce’s Perfect (my review is still to come but you can see what I had to say on Goodreads. I’m saving The Luminaries for a weekend where I can really dig into it (it’s a big book, and you KNOW I love those!).

 

Which of these titles are you dying to read?  Please say them all, because you get to enter to WIN them.  The entry form is below, so good luck.

 

You can also visit and enter to win the Penguin Books of Canada giveaway, and keep your eyes out for Simon and Schuster Canada and Harper Collins Canada.

 

 

The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton

 

Winner of both The Man Booker Prize and the Governor General’s Award for Fiction, this book is set during the heady days of New Zealand’s Gold Rush, The Luminaries is a magnificent novel of love, lust, murder, and greed, in which three unsolved crimes link the fates and fortunes of twelve men. Dickens meets Deadwood in this internationally celebrated phenomenon.

 

Perfect by Rachel Joyce

 

 

From the author of the international bestseller, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, comes another exquisite and emotionally resonant novel about the search for the truth and unconditional love.

 

Cold Hard Truth on Family, Kids and Money by Kevin O’Leary

 

We all think carefully about the big decisions in our lives, like what career we want to pursue or who we want to marry. But few people spend enough time thinking deeply about the financial implications of their biggest life choices–and that’s a serious money mistake.

In his latest book picking up from where his last personal finance book left off, entrepreneur Kevin O’Leary presents another fifty common money mistakes. He provides all the tools you need to avoid making them and to keep more of your hard-earned cash in your bank account.

 

Let Me Off at the Top by Ron Burgundy


The loveably egomaniacal star of Anchorman and the upcoming Anchorman 2 shares the stories behind his illustrious life and career, and imparts valuable advice on a range of matters. The result is a can’t miss tell-all for this prestigious news anchor’s millions of fans and followers.

 

ENTER TO WIN ALL FOUR OF THESE AMAZING BOOKS!

 

Disclosure: I’m part of Grammarly’s Blogger Partnership program, but I’m a grammar nerd as you know, and so I have no problem being compensated to encourage good grammar.

To My Son on his 13th Birthday

image source: http://romero-britto-pop-art-and-hug.blogspot.ca/2011/07/romero-britto-imagenes.html

 

Phew.  Today is the day that you, my baby boy, turn 13.

 

Seriously, I never thought we’d make it this far.  I’m not even kidding. You. As a baby. As a toddler.  As a preschooler. You challenged me.

 

You know what?  We did it.  Together.

 

Before you arrived on the scene, I didn’t feel like our little family was complete. And, after you did, it was.  You were SO wanted.  Never, ever forget that.  The third time is definitely the charm, because you completed our circle of five.

 

When I was first pregnant, I was sure you were a girl.  But, we went to the ultrasound, your sister and I, and you obviously, and the technician asked,

 

Do you want to know the gender?

 

Of course I said yes. I hate surprises, after all.  When she pointed and said, There’s the scrotum, I was shocked.  I answered her with a perplexed,

 

But girls don’t have those.

 

No, they don’t. Nor does anyone have your unique Jonah-ness.   They couldn’t see that magic in the Ultrasound, now could they.

 

You are one of a kind.  If they bottled your energy, they could fill up a whole warehouse of 5Hour Energy drinks.  From the moment you started crawling at three months, I knew I had my work cut out for me.  You kept me running, that’s for sure. That’s when you weren’t laid up with one of your ear infections or other illnesses. You were a brave little guy, going through seven sets of ear tube surgeries, the first when you were only nine months old. I don’t know how someone could have been so happy and smiley when they were sick all the time, but you were.  Luckily you got all of that out of your system, and now, other than the occasional Wednesday-itis, you’re healthy like the proverbial horse.

 

J, your creative naughtiness is legendary.  Singlehandedly, you have dispelled any delusions I had about my mothering skills. You left me breathless, you had me stumped.  Looking at the results of some of your antics I just scratched my head, wondering WHY.  Or HOW.  or even WHEN.  Along the way, though, I’ve learned a lot. About myself, about you, about patience. You taught me to breath. You taught me to look below the surface.  Today, I am who I am because of you.  The bravery and maturity that I see as you own and overcome the challenges that come with your ADHD completely astound me.

 

Today, I apologize.  For not knowing. For not understanding what you needed every day.

 

Your brains.  They are huge. That’s all I can say.  I think you knew more than me when you were 10 years old.  I truly look forward to what the future holds for you. As long as hacking isn’t on the table, I’m fine with whatever you choose to do with your great mind.

 

You are so full of love, even though you keep trying to act all mature and teenager-y. I know you don’t actually think I’m as embarrassing as you say I am.  When I try and hug and kiss you in public, I’m sure that you would like to kiss and hug me back, but you don’t want other people to be jealous of us.  Some of my best nights, in fact, are laying in bed with you reading or watching movies.  I know I cling a bit to you, but you’re our youngest.  I need to keep you small for just a while longer.

 

What can I say to you on your 13th birthday, except that today you are a man.  I can’t wait to see you read the Torah at your Bar Mitzvah, and witness you take your place in the Jewish Community. Even though you say religion is dead, I know one day the pomp and circumstance will mean something to you.  Now, you do it for me. So I can swell with pride as you smile and look toward your future.

 

Kid, you were lucky you were cute when you were little, or we may never have made it to this moment.  But, I’m so glad that we did. And, I’m so happy that we have you in our lives.

 

I am honoured to be your Mom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

BLISS

source: lululemon.com

Last year, at Blissdom Canada, during a session on blogging and writing, Jen Reynolds, Canadian Family’s Editor-in-Chief, challenged all of us to craft a 700 word blog post about BLISS. While I didn’t win the contest (some incredible bloggers did, so go read the Reader’s Choice contenders here and find the winners in the March 2012 issue of Canadian Family), I’m still very proud of the piece that I wrote. I wanted to share it, as it was part of my journey of the last year; part of finding what’s still wonderful in my life as I grieved and moved forward after the death of my father and the loss of my job. When I wrote this, I laughed, I cried, and then I smiled. I hope that this story of Bliss, and what it means to me, finds its way into your heart.

What is Bliss?

Bliss is a bear hug from your giant 15-year old son. It’s a snuggle from your tween boy, who now reserves his affections for special moments. It’s a tossed off ‘I love you’ from your 17 year old daughter who is immersed in her own life and forgets she has a family. It’s sitting at the dinner table and listening to your children, almost grown, have amazing conversations, and know that when you’re gone, they’ll have each other.

Bliss is a waking up to a dog laying on your pillow, staring down, waiting for your eyes to open. It’s a cozy duvet wrapped around you as the wind whistles outside. It’s drinking a steaming cup of coffee on the back deck as the morning sun shines on your head. It’s the smell of a freshly cleaned house whether you cleaned it, or better yet, if you paid someone to do it. It’s opening up a brand new book and dreaming of the stories it holds. It’s laying in Savasana and waiting for the instructor to wake your body and calm your mind.

Bliss is being called Miss instead of ma’m by the checkout boy at the supermarket. It’s a compliment on your shoes from a salesclerk. Its a lovely comment on your blog. It’s a retweet on something you tweeted that you thought was especially witty or funny. It’s a picture where your hair looks great, and your butt looks small. It’s smiling at yourself in the mirror and liking what you see.

Bliss is your husband sneaking a peek when you’re changing, even though you’ve been together 22 years. Its a hug in the kitchen when he’s getting milk out of the fridge. It’s the twinkle in his eye when he dances around the room waving his pants above his head . It’s his laughter as you pretend to strip like Carrie on ‘King of Queens’. It’s remembering the look on his face when you walked down the aisle and how he held your hand when you gave birth to your children. It’s him telling you that you’re funnier and smarter than anyone else, and he doesn’t understand why they have a book and you don’t.

Bliss is hanging with your friends, laughing, maybe drinking wine. It’s your BFF texting you ‘I miss you’ randomly throughout the day. It’s knowing that there are people who have your back no matter what. It’s knowing that there’s someone who will tell you when you’re outfit is atrocious. It’s caring for others more than you care for yourself, and giving with no intention of receiving.

Bliss is your father’s last hug before he died. It’s his face when he opened his eyes the last time, smooched the air, and said, ‘I love you’. It’s the places he took you, the things he taught you, the dirty jokes he told. It’s the affection he openly shared, and taught you to share with your children. It’s the lectures he gave to teach you to be great. It’s the good genes he passed down so you don’t have wrinkles and your kids are brilliant, and the bad ones also, so your boy has ADHD.

Bliss is your mother as she ages, and becomes your friend. It’s when she tells you you’re worthwhile, and have something to say. It’s when she listens to you like you’re an adult not her child. It’s when she tells you something you cooked is better than hers. It’s how she changes and opens up and learns to share her love, because its never too late.

Bliss is your sisters, each with her own special self. It’s your brothers who can drive you crazy even while they make you smile. It’s your siblings, the ones who know you better than anyone else in the entire world. It’s knowing you have people who will be there always. It’s the nieces and nephews who keep you in babies. It’s the giant family gatherings full of love and laughter, and glitter and trucks.

Bliss is the small things.

It’s the everything. It’s what makes you happy. It’s what makes you sad. It’s what makes your memories.

It’s what makes you.

Bliss is life.

The Valium Chronicles: My Family Hates Me

I love my nanny

My family officially hates me.  And, I was only trying to do the RIGHT thing. To be a KIND person.  To SAVE money. To be a GROWNUP.

But apparently, what I did, was ruin their lives, and be the WORST MOTHER EVER!

This is what happened.

My sister has a baby. He’s one of the totally cutest babies ever. He’s one year old, so it was time for her to go back to work.

She suffers, like me, from the Housework Allergy (it must run in the family, although our mother doesn’t have it, so it must have skipped a generation). Therefore, for her back-t0-work plan, she chose to sponsor a nanny as opposed to putting her baby in daycare.  Except, her nanny didn’t arrive in time and the boy went off to daycare anyways.  He promptly got sick a lot, which was very stressful for her, since the baby doesn’t sleep at the best of times.  When he’s sick or teething or even its Monday, his sleep is even more disrupted.   The situation came to a head when had a breakdown one morning after  realizing she hadn’t done laundry in two weeks.   Needless to say, my baby sister was on her last nerve.

She finally heard from the nanny who said she had her interview booked, and she’d be able to come soon. Like really soon.  Sis was ECSTATIC.

Then, the bad news came.  The nanny got declined.  She didn’t have the right credentials. AFTER ALL THAT!!

My sister called me, so upset.  She’s my baby sister.  I’m a fixer.  What did I do?

‘Oh Sister, you can take my nanny.’  I offered this without thinking of the aftershocks that Luisa leaving would have on my life.  All I knew was that I was SAVING THE DAY!

I AM THE SISTER OF THE YEAR

Now, my nanny (well she’s really a housekeeper as there’s nobody to nanny around here) is the goddess of all nannies. No family has ever been taken care of better.  She is far beyond a cure for my housework allergy.  She is MY WIFE.  The downside to being cared for like this, however, is that we have all become a big pile of slobbypant layabouts.

I told my family (This is the point where they started to hate me, if you were wondering when I was going to get to the point):

‘Sara needs Luisa, so Luisa has agreed to go work for her.  We’re all going to pitch in to take care of ourselves.’

My family was not pleased:

‘No way, forget it. Tell her she can’t go.  Who is going to do everything?  And who is going to section my grapefruits for me?’ (The husband)

‘Pleeeeeeze no!!!  I love her. And she makes me BACON every morning.  Plus, the dogs love her. Noooooooooo.’  (Little J)

‘Oh.’  (Diva).  (Then I reminded her that she’d have to pick up after herself now, and help out around the house.) ‘Oh. Are you going to be mean to us now?’  (she’s 17, what did I expect?’)

‘Can I have her room?  ManCave in the BASEMENT!! YESS!! (Bubba) (Ok I guess he doesn’t hate me. But he’s so sweet, he’d never hate me.)

Grrrrr.. Wooof. GGrrrrr (the dogs, who sit at her door and cry all weekend when she’s not there)

Ban Housework Everywhere

Then, as I started to think about it, I realized:

  • I’d have to get up and make the kids breakfast and the lunches in the morning.
  • I’d have to do the laundry, which includes learning how to use the Soap Nuts. And fold it. And put it away.
  • I don’t know where anything goes.
  • I don’t even know what the kids like in their lunches.
  • I’ll have to clean up after myself when cooking.
  • My beds wouldn’t be all fluffy and made and stuff unless I did it myself.
When I kept thinking about it, I came to a very important conclusion.  I’m a spoiled brat, and that’s why my kids are spoiled.
Being a loving sister is probably the best thing that will ever have happened to my  family.
This truly is TOUGH LOVE PEOPLE.  Its CHICKY BOOT CAMP!  And you’re all learning how to do laundry!
And, ps. I don’t care if you hate me!
PPS, in case of flare ups of the Housework allergy, please send valium.
editor’s note:  I will still not be doing the cleaning as a flare up of the housework allergy could result in serious complications such as my children applying to the courts for emancipation, divorce, and the risk of my own nervous breakdown.

Thanksgiving-What I'm Thanksful For

There's a lot to be Thanksful for

I’m tired of being sad.  Yesterday’s post was a weeperfest.  Today, I’m going reverse, and instead of thinking about what I’m missing, I ‘m going to think about what I have, and what I’ve got to look forward to.

This weekend is Canadian Thanksgiving.  Growing up, Thanksgiving wasn’t a big deal in our house. I’m not sure if it was because I’m Jewish and we have our own series of holidays this time of year, or we Canadians are just playing catch-up to the American ability to ‘make a big deal’ out of every holiday. As a result, the whole turkey day on Thanksgiving is now de regeur with my extended family, replete with turkey, a sweet potato / marshmallow concoction, pumpkin pie, arguments, and a gigantic mess.

Inspired by Amanda (@amandaFactorOMG) on Today’s Parent, who was in turn inspired by @artofdoingstuff’s blog about Giving Thanks, here is my list of what I’m thanksful for:

  • I’m thankful for my husband who still thinks I’m hot after 20 years (even if the groping is annoying sometimes. I mean, there’s only so many boob grabs when you’re holding a hot pot of macaroni a girl can take.)
  • I’m thankful for my daughter who has started to kick her inner teenager in the butt & is approaching sweetness again.
  • I’m thankful for my two boys because they believe I’m the Queen of the World.
  • I’m thankful for my two doggies who fight over who gets to kiss me first.
  • I’m thankful for Concerta and the health plan that pays for it (it’s $3.50 a pill!) I’m doubly thankful for the days my son remembers to take his Concerta.
  • I’m thankful for my nanny, the only person who has cured my housework allergy.
  • I’m thankful that I didn’t go prematurely gray because I’m too irresponsible to dye it every three weeks.
  • I’m thankful that I have 3 fathers who love me ( 1 daddy, two steps), my mom,and step mom.
  • Even more because he’s gone, I’m thankful for my Dad and all the Rubinoff-ness he inherited to me.
  • I’m thankful to have 4 younger sisters even though they have no respect for my eminence.
  • I’m thankful for my two bros because who wouldn’t be?
  • I’m thankful for laughter.
  • I’m thankful for Robert Downey Jr., the Young & the Restless, and Benjamin Bratt on Private Practice.

Benjamin Bratt

I’m also thankful for my friends (all of them), hot yoga, my health, the existence of Starbucks, my good genes, Shellac nail polish, the way my ass looks in Lululemon, parchment paper, my keurig, slow cooker, and Kitchen Aid Mixer…actually…I’m just thankful for everything except the last two bosses I had, the one black hair growing on my chin, my funky hamstring, and this one person I hate (because I hate hating. But she deserves to be hated.)

 I’m a gazillion times thankful that I’m a FEATURED BLOGGER ON BLOGHER TODAY

 

Lastly… I’m thankful you’re reading this. 


What are you thankful for?

Psst. Here's the Brisket. Pass it on.

My life is different this Passover.  There’s someone missing. The person who taught me to love food, to feel it smell it taste it , is gone.  It’s hard to imagine having a Passover Seder without my father. He was a grumpy pain-in-the-butt.  But, his huge presence filled the room. He loved the family time, and to hear the kids read from the Haggadah. And, even though he wasn’t a religious or even traditional man, he still was crazy for the traditional Jewish foods:  Gefilte fish, Matzoh Ball Soup, and my Brisket.  When I cooked for two days for this meal, it was always with him in mind.  And, that’s why I decided to boycott Passover

How I was going to do this, I wasn’t sure. I figured that I would just put it out there, and whoever was managing my life that day would make it happen.  The fates came through for me with an email that said, ‘Our quarterly Management Meeting will be in Vancouver on April 19th.’  I read that email with both elation and dread.  The former because it would solve my boycott conundrum, and the latter because I would have to tell my mother that not only would the Seder not be at my house,  I wouldn’t be at the Seder. 

This is what I said to my mother:

“IhaveameetinginVancouverrightinbetweenthefirstandsecondsedersandIhavetogo

becauseIjuststartedmyjob (take a breath)

andJandItalkedaboutitandhesaysitsoksoI’mgoingsodontsayanythingitsalreadydone.”

She said, “OK. I understand.  I’ll do it. I will have the Seder at my house.”

After I fainted, I asked, “My family will still come.  What would you like me to make?”

Now, a bit a of background, I’m a bit of a Jewish holiday control freak (its not really appropriate to call me the Brisket Nazi).  I like it the way I like it.  I usually have everything at my house (grumbling the whole time that its a big mess, every one is ungrateful, yadda yadda).  I’ve established unbreakable traditions;  we eat the same foods at every meal, year after year.  My brisket is LEGENDARY, so obviously, that’s what she asked me to make.  Since I was given the opportunity to boycott Passover, I thought I would share the recipe, just in case you aren’t and you need to impress people with minimal effort.

Two days before:

Slice two HUGE Vidalia onions.  Place 1/2 of them in a large roasting pan.  Flip a 5-6 lb beef brisket over to the yucky side. (You’ll know it when you see it).  Season very generously with 1 tbsp at least of chopped garlic, and then some salt, freshly ground black pepper, and Paprika.  Flip over and throw that slab of meat in the roasting pan on top of the onions.  Repeat on the top of the brisket, then spread the rest of the onions on top. 

Key Brisket Ingredients

In a large measuring cup, ix up 1 pkg onion soup mix, a big splurch of ketchup (probably 1/2 cup), about 1 1/2 cups of dry red wine (pour a cup for yourself while you’re at it-some for meat, some for Momma), and 1 1/2 cups of orange or apple juice (orange works best, or even those tropical blends are delicious).  Pour over the brisket.  Cover and refrigerate.

Not Passover?  Add some mustard, any kind, although the hotdog mustard works best, to the measuring cup. How much, well, you know, a big splurch (maybe 1/4 cup).

The Day Before:

Remove from fridge and let sit out 1/2 hour.  Roast in a slow oven (325 degrees or even 300 degrees depending on your oven).  Keep it covered so that the liquid doesn’t evaporate and the meat stays moist.  Check every two hours and if the liquid is almost gone, add more orange juice and some water.   The brisket should take about 4-5 hours to cook.  It’s done when you place a fork in the thickest part and the fork comes out easily when removed.  Its not done when the meat lifts with the fork. (There I spelled it out for you.)  When done, remove from oven and cool overnight in the fridge.

The Day you want to eat it:

Take the roast out of the fridge.  If there’s fat hardened, take it off (gross).  Remove the meat from the pan, scraping  all the now-carmelized onions back into the roasting pan.  Slice thinly with an electric knife or very sharp knife, against the grain.  If you slice and its all stringy, you’re going the wrong way.  Reheat in the pan juices.  Serve on a platter with the juices and onions on top.  Delicious with red horseradish.

Note:  if you want to eat it on the same day as you cook it, then its totally fine.  Its easier to slice when cold, and also, you can scrape of the extra fat when its cold.  But, do what you need to do. Its just meat for goodness sakes.

Since I’m leaving the day before, all I’ve got for you is the uncooked photo.  Use your imagination for the rest, or even better, send me a picture of YOUR completed meaty masterpiece.

ChickyMaras famous (in my head) Brisket

By the way, I’m actually really sorry that I’m missing  Passover now.  I definitely have boycotter’s remorse.

Added later due to popular request…

Passover Lemon Pie (aka the only thing my family will eat after eating 17 courses at a Seder)

Crust:

Crush 1 box of passover mandelbread in the food processor (or make your own and crush to about 2 cups worth).  Mix with 1/2 cup melted butter or margarine and press into the bottom of a springform pan. (hint: if you line the bottom with parchment, you can easily lift out later to serve).

Note: if its not Passover and/or you’re not of the Passover celebrating religion, you can substitute Nilla wafers for the crust (or even chocolate chip cookies)

Filling:. 

Place 6 whole eggs, 6 egg yolks, 1 cup fresh lemon juice, the zest of 1 lemon, and 2 cups of sugar in the top of a double boiler (to make your own double boiler, boil water in a med pot and place a metal bowl on top.) Whisk over a slow boil and low heat until the mixture begins to thicken (its like magic).  Set the lemon curd aside to cool.  Beat 6 egg whites for about 2 minutes in a stand mixer or with a hand mixer.  Add 6 tbsp of sugar and beat until soft peaks form.  Fold into the cooled lemon curd.

Pour the lemon/egg white mixture into the prepared crust and freeze overnight or 12 hours.

Meringue:

Beat 6 eggs whites until foaming, then add 5 tbsp sugar slowly until stiff peaks form.  Cover the frozen lemon pie with meringue, making it look fancy by swirling and twirling the meringue.  Broil until golden brown (or if you’re me until you smell burning)

Refreeze until you’re ready to serve.

Gee This House Smells Terrific: A Chocolate Chip Challah Adventure

Chocolate Chip Challahs

There are many things that I love in this world.  I love to read, I love to walk, I love great food, and I love to laugh.  I love to sleep, I love to shop, and I love to explore new places.  I love my family, I love to cook, and I love to create.  I especially love when I can enjoy more than one love at the same time.  That’s what happened today:  I was able to laugh, be with family, cook, and create.  Here’s what happened:

I have four sisters and two brothers, plus umpteen brothers- in-law and sisters-in-law.  I also have 20 nieces and nephews. That’s a lot to love.  Sometimes its fun to love them all together.  And other times its more special to love them separately.  Today, was a love ‘em separately day, as my sister came over with my dee-licous nieces Hope and Kate (their sister Alexis was at a sleep-over, and my baby nephew Luke Arthur (named for my Dad) for a visit and a baking party.   We decided to bake Challah, the traditional Jewish egg-bread.

When my sister told me the kids wanted to bake with me, I wasn’t sure how it was going to go. Since my kids are older now, and completely disinterested in doing anything fun with me, I’m a bit rusty with entertaining the young ‘uns.  I prepared myself for a big, fat, flour-y mess.  Instead, what I got was smiles, hugs and a fantastic smelling house. 

First thing in the morning, I put the ingredients for the dough in the breadmaker.  (Look I’m a Balabusta, but I’m also lazy.  If there’s a machine willing to knead my dough, why shouldn’t I let it? 

Challah ingredients in the breadmaker

  The dough was just about ready when my Sis arrived, kids in tow.  As soon as it came out of the machine we got working.  I cut the dough in two, and the girls washed their hands and rolled up their sleeves ready to work.  As they watched their dough rest, Hope, who’s almost 7 asked, ‘Can we make chocolate chip Challah?’ 

First, I wasn’t sure.  Then, I though, ‘Hey, why the heck not? What’s the worst that could happen?  It’s just bread dough…’

I brought out the chocolate chips, and they kneaded them into the dough.  The girls got to work shaping their breads (well, Kate, who’s 2,  watched me shape, ate chocolate chips, and tried to keep her boogers out of the dough). 

Hope and Kate shaping their Challahs

Then, we put their Challahs down for a 30 minute ‘nap’.  Once the dough had risen, we glazed the loaves with egg wash, sprinkled vanilla sugar and cinnamon on top, and put them  in the oven.  Another 30 minutes later, we had chocolate-y bread-y masterpieces.

Moral of the story:  little kids have great ideas

The recipe:

Place in the breadmaker:

1 cup milk, 2 eggs, 3 tbsp butter, 3 tbsp sugar or honey, 3 2/3 cups of flour, 1 1/2 tsp salt, and 1 generous tbsp of bread machine yeast.

Turn the machine on to ‘dough’ and let it do the hard work.  Wait two hours (or whatever your machine’s cycle is).  Sprinkle some flour on your counter or other surface.  When the machine beeps, take the dough out, roll it around in the flour, and then let it rest for a couple of minutes.  Sprinkle some chocolate chips onto the dough and knead it in.  Shape as you desire. 

To braid: cut dough in three even pieces.  Roll them out into tubes.  Smush the three pieces together at one end.  Then braid. 

Braiding a Challah

Preheat oven to 350 degrees about 10 minutes before ready to bake.  Place the shaped bread dough on a parchment lined cookie sheet, and cover with a tea towel.  Put in a draft-free place for 30-60 minutes.  When the dough has doubled in size, brush with egg wash (1 egg mixed with 1 tsp water).  Sprinkle with cinnamon and vanilla sugar (can be found in the kosher section).  Bake until golden brown and when the bottom is tapped, bread sounds hollow, about 30-60 minutes depending on size of loaf.

These are memories you just can’t buy at the bakery!

Queen of the Irresponsible, Junk-food eating, wine-drinking Bad Moms

Queen Mother -See she's very busy getting pretty c dailymail.co.uk

(This post is dedicated to all the judgy moms out there) 

This week a @mommymoments asked, ‘ Is it bad if I go through the dive thru for my coffee and my kids are a few minutes late for school?’

I said, ‘ As long as they’re there before the attendance goes down, they won’t be marked tardy.’

Then, she posted a picture of peanut butter and said, ‘…Is it bad that all I want for dinner is this with a spoon?’

And I said, ‘Its protein.’  Then, I reassured her that wine is a fruit, milk chocolate and ice cream are dairy, and eating celery burns calories.

All of a sudden, I became her hero.  Her Bad Mother Mentor. She claims I will have a gazillion subjects once I’m crowned QEEN OF THE IRRESPONSIBLE, JUNK-FOOD EATING, WINE DRINKING BAD MOMS

Well, if that’s the case, here are some guidelines for my Queendom:

1.  Chicken nuggets, pizza pockets and pogos are an excellent dinner option, especially if you teach your kids to use the toaster oven to make it by themselves.  Then, you can watch Young and the Restless in peace, and they’ll stop whining that they are hungry.

2.  Kids were born to be your slaves.  Make sure they know how to use the coffee maker from an early age.  They should also know where the toilet paper is, in case you’re stuck on the potty and you forgot to refill the roll.  They’re also excellent at fetching glasses of water,uncorking the wine, and unwrapping candy bars.

3.  Its ok for the kids to be late for school, as long as its for a good reason, such as you didn’t feel like getting out of bed due to the wine party at your friend’s house the night before. 

4.  Underwear has two sides.  If you haven’t had time to do laundry (because you were very busy at the gym or having lunch with your friends, or even napping), just pull a pair from the hamper/floor and turn it inside out.  Voila, clean underwear.

Avoid Laundry at all costs c: motifake.com

5.  Your happiness is the most important thing.  Your children should learn to enjoy watching American Idol, Grey’s Anatomy, and So You Think You Can Dance .  For goodness’ sake, storytime can WAIT until the commercial.  As well, they should learn to sit quietly while you shop for bras, get manicures, and have a long and intense conversation over coffee.

6. Weekends are for sleeping.  Your children should respect that and not enter your room until at least noon.  If your children are bored, and want to do fun activities, they should find a friend whose mother actually enjoys playing with her children.  Even better, make sure that friend lives next door so you don’t have to drive your child there (see Rule #7).

7.  Your convenience is paramount.  If there’s a conflict with your massage appointment and a birthday party invitation, your child will just have to watch teletubbies at home with a sitter.  Make sure you have your children in proper increments so the teens can care for their siblings, and when its time, drive them around.  This way, you can offload your spawn onto the older spawn.

8. A hot breakfast is overrated.  Cold pizza does just fine, as does dry cereal if you’re out of milk.  Fruit roll-ups are an excellent option (what do you mean there’s no fruit?).  They can get their nutrients from vitamin supplements, after all. 

9.  Make sure the lunch boxes are full of junk food like cookies, chocolate bars, gummy bears, and fruit punch.  There are two main benefits to this type of lunch.  First, your child will have tons of energy for gym class.  Second, they’ll be extremely popular when they trade their stuff out (and isn’t popularity all that’s important?) 

10.  Lastly, hygiene:  children should learn to bathe themselves, wipe their butts, and brush their own teeth by age 2.  This is very unpleasant business, and they should take care of it themselves.  If they’re not visibly dirty, bathing once a week is satisfactory.  Soap, while useful, is over-rated and could dry out their skin necessitating a time consuming visit to the doctor.  If they don’t want to brush their teeth, that’s their own problem.  If they don’t brush their baby teeth its fine, as they’ll get a second chance with their permanent teeth anyways.

A Eulogy: My Daddy, Their Grandpa Treats, Everyone's Dr. R

Dr. Arthur Rubinoff

Anyone who knew Arthur Rubinoff knew he lived his life to the fullest.  He marched to the beat of his own drummer, followed his own set of rules, and had a damn good time in the process.  He was also one of the smartest people you’d ever meet, able to converse with everyone and anyone, regardless of their interests.

It’s hard to sum up a man like him in just a few words, but I’ll try.

There was the public Arthur.  Charismatic.  An amazingly talented dentist.  An art collector, a wine connoisseur.  A gardener.  A rebel.  A lover of women.  An unbelievable cook.  A father, a husband, a friend.  A maker of nicknames. There was never a more gregarious, intense, emotional, multi-tasking person.  Not only did he attack life with an unsurpassed passion, he also practiced gentleness, humility and kindness.

There was also the private Arthur: Daddy, Grandpa Treats.   The sensitive, loving, humble, warm, sweet man.  Who would tell you, and anyone else who would listen that he was proud of you. Praise your accomplishments. Tell you that you were beautiful. That you were a wonderful mother.  An amazing cook. An excellent dentist. A good provider. A great dancer.  An amazing musician. An excellent student.  A great artist.  Daddy didn’t give praise for the sake of it, but when he did, it meant something. Daddy had pictures of us, and the grandchildren all over his office, and no matter what procedure he was doing, he always would take our calls.  “Hello. Which one is this? What do you want?  That’s not important…why did you call?”

Our childhoods were unconventional with our Daddy, but boy were they a whole lot of fun. We went to plays, museums, country fairs, the planetarium.  We never just sat around watching TV.

Every visit with Daddy started with the opening of the glove compartment, where the candy would tumble out.  Jujubes, black babies, licorice, you name it.  Obviously, that’s how he got his name, “Grandpa Treats” as he always arrived with goodies for the kids. Never empty handed or empty hearted, he loved his grandchildren so much. I’ll never forget his face when my daughter Skylar was born, and he held his ‘pumpkin’ for the first time. That pride was repeated 9 more times, as each of his much-loved grandchildren arrived to enrich his world.

Daddy had several passions in life, His family.  His artistry as a dentist. His commitment to finding a cure for Neuroblastoma, and to raising money for the James Burrell Fund.. He believed in the importance of education, and was always asking about the kids’ marks and if any of us adult childen wanted to take courses.   He had conviction: he didn’t make any decision lightly but once he did, he stuck by it.

With Paddy, he finally found his life partner.  He loved, respected, and admired her. She brought richness to his life he didn’t have before, with family, friends, and travels.  Paddy, thank you for being such a wonderful wife to daddy, and for finally getting him to be on time. He loved you so much.

A few more things maybe you didn’t know. Random people used to give him tastes of their dinner in restaurants. He loved spicy food. He would eat just about anything, but drew the line at blood pudding.  He bought art because he liked it, not because someone told him it had value.  He loved traditional Jewish food like brisket.  He always took a doggie bag when he ate at someone’s house

What we know, as his children.  He taught us how to love, what love means, and how to say ‘I love you’ with ease. He taught us that if you love your work, you’ll want to go every day.  He taught us that you can find joy and richness in everyday things.  He showed us that you can connect on a personal level with everyone you come into contact with; that everyone is a potential friend.

Once Daddy said to me:  Its not where you’re going, its who you’re with.  It’s the people who matter. Its not the place, or the money you spend. That’s how he lived his life. People were important to him: his loved ones, his children, his grandchildren, his patients, his friends.  His legacy is of love, life, generosity, and learning.  This world will not be the same without Arthur Herbert Rubinoff (he would kill me if he knew I said his middle name).  I used to say it to him, and I’ll say it again, “Look around. This is ALL because of you.”