Musings on Passover

As Pesach draws closer, I’ve been thinking a lot about preparations for it. The cooking, the cleaning, organizing guests. The more I think about it, the lonelier I get. I live in Florida now with my fiancé and we don’t have many Jewish friends here. All my family is back in MA and I can’t afford to take the time off to fly back up. I miss the people, traditions, and fun we would have every year growing up. Especially because I don’t really get to see or experience them anymore. I know it wouldn’t be the same even if I did fly back up because several of my family friends whom I miss terribly have moved around the country and won’t be there regardless.

I’m trying to establish new traditions here and invite the few friends we are close to and/or invite friends who don’t have a seder. I still feel lonely. I worry because I haven’t gotten official rsvps from those we’ve invited and I’m worried it’ll just be the two of us for one, if not both nights. I love my fiancé, but the thought of chag with just the two of us is depressing. He’s not Jewish and is still learning about each holiday as it happens. So the intuition and knowledge isn’t there yet. I belong to a shul here too but don’t feel connected to it.

Last year we had one set of friends over the first night and just the two of us the second night. I honestly don’t remember if I did a proper seder the second night.

Maybe these depressing thoughts are punishment for not going to barre class this week (so I can clean, shop, and cook for Pesach around my work schedule). Any other people experience similar thoughts near Pesach?

I am excited to cook again this year, even if it’s a bit daunting. I found some new dessert recipes I’m interested in but am unsure if I’ll genuinely have time to cook them. Whatever I end up making, I’ll share next week so you can enjoy for the end of your Pesach.

Shabbat shalom v’chag pesach sameach! L’shana haba’ah b’yerushalayim!

Wedding Registries: Brainstorming & Beginnings

Kass and I have been engaged for about 7 months now and we’ve finally gotten around to start making our wedding registries. This has been a small struggle for us for a handful of reasons. First of all, it feels awkward and almost selfish to list out specific gifts that we would want people to give us. Secondly, we already live together and have a lot of housewares already, so what do we include? Third, asking flat out for money (whether cash or money towards a honeymoon registry) we feel is tacky (although we know not all agree, you do you folks) so we’ve decided against that. Finally, we’re doing a small ceremony and then reception/dinner a few months later for those we couldn’t invite to the ceremony, so any wedding registry we make needs to stay open long enough for both events.

The Knot’s Wedding Registry Etiquette breaks a lot of these registry and gift rules, do’s/don’ts and such down pretty clearly (and has some honestly solid advice). I’d definitely give it a solid read-through before you begin creating any registries.

So on topic #1: Asking for gifts. We’re not including the link(s) or store information for our registries in our invitations (again tacky/rude), but we will include information to our wedding website. (I’ll be writing a separate post on that, so stay tuned.) From there friends, family, and guests can get more information on the registries and everything else related to our wedding. If there’s anything we don’t get (of which we assume a lot) we can buy it for ourselves at our convenience. All of the items one here are wants/it would be nice if, rather than absolute needs.

Where do you even register? What should you include? It honestly gets overwhelming pretty fast.

Picking a place or multiple places has been honestly a small challenge. In my research, blogs, magazines, and websites all have varying pieces of advice but boil down these few key pieces:

  1. Register at at least 2 places but no more than 5 or so
  2. Make sure the registry incentives/perks work for you
  3. Include storage (especially for any china you may add)
  4. The way you entertain now will not be how you entertain in five or ten years, so plan ahead!
  5. Timeless timeless timeless (if it’s too trendy you might not want or like it in five years!)
  6. Include things that you’ll actually use (ex. if you’re really into camping, include things like that)
  7. Keep your guests’ budgets in mind. Have things for all price points (broke college friend who can barely afford to come vs rich relative who wants to buy you some crystal candlesticks or something like that).
  8. Charity. Make donating an option. Choose a charity or organization either you want to donate to or give your guests a series of options of where to donate.

First we settled on an Amazon registry. We already have AmazonPrime so I believe a shipping (and shopping) discount is included. It’s also a universal registry, so you can easily add items from outside of Amazon if there are better deals elsewhere or if the item isn’t found on Amazon. It’s also helpful if you only want one or two items from a store and it’s not worth it to create a separate registry. What I love about Amazon in general you can read all the reviews to see if something is good quality, will last etc. which you can’t really get in stores. The full list of Amazon Registry benefits can be found here.

We’ve created a second registry at Crate & Barrel for things like glassware and tableware. We have everyday table settings already, and are inheriting a set of china from my grandmother (which is incomplete so when we take inventory of that, we’ll add to it to complete it), but what we have isn’t lasting very well (thanks IKEA). That and we hate our silverware and how old and beat up it is (sorry mom). I absolutely recommend going into stores like Crate & Barrel, Pottery Barn, Target, or Bed, Bath, & Beyond in person because you have an opportunity to touch and feel items to make sure you like them in person rather than seeing them solely online.

To help you start figuring out where to register, I’d check out these places:

The Knot’s Top 26

Vogue’s Top 22

Bride’s Top 27

Bride’s Rewards & Perks Breakdown

So on what to include:
Well, the easiest place we found to start was the kitchen. We’ve included some kitchen gadgets, like baking items and a food scale. We have a Kitchenaide stand mixer that I inherited from my grandmother that was made in the 1960s I believe. The only reason we included one is because the one we have is a bit small (only 4 or 4.5 qt, rather than 5 or 6qt which is today’s standard) and since our current one is so old, it needs some maintenance to function safely, as it sat on the counter for many years (honestly probably about two decades) collecting dust.

I asked one of our chefs at the restaurant I work at for recommendations for knife sets, because that is something that can get very pricey very quickly if you’re not careful. His favorite brand is Victorinox, which he uses both at home and in the restaurant kitchen. They’re not crazy expensive, especially compared to some other brands out there, and are NSF (National Sanitary Foundation) approved which is pretty neat. We settled on this 15 piece set which includes a set of stake knives, which we absolutely need.

Outside the kitchen, we included more sheets and towels. We love board and card games so we included a few of those, like Jenga and Scrabble, to expand our ever-growing collection. Our splurge item is an iRobot Roomba to help keep the cat hair/dander and dust down.

After speaking to my mom and a few more observant friends, we’ve (I’ve) decided not to register for any Judaica at this time. Not that I don’t want any, but rather would like to pick out the pieces myself. I might create a Judaica-specific registry in time but most couples, at least according to my mother, use the money gifted to them to purchase their Judaica together. My other friends were gifted much of their Judaica at their bridal shower and only registered for home essentials/decor that they didn’t already have. I’m still rather torn, truth be told, over the issue. What do you recommend? I’m not really finding any solid advice online.

To start brainstorming your own list (and to take inventory of what you already have) I’d recommend starting here:

The Knot’s Ultimate Wedding Registry Check List

Buzzfeed’s Compilation of Ultimate Registry Items

FrumBride’s Wedding Registry Check List

Wedding Yenta’s Very Jewish Wedding Registry List

OneCountry: 50 Things You Didn’t Know You Needed

Emmaline Bride: 9 Things I Wish I Had Included
Young House Love’s Registry Dos & D’ohs

Charity/Tzedakah
Kass and I love Morikami Museum & Japanese Garden in South Florida and on our wedding website have asked our guests to consider donating there. We are members there and plan on making a donation there as well.

Hope this helps you as you start customizing your registries. Happy planning!

Shabbat shalom

Challah

Just in time for Shabbat, I have finally found a challah recipe that I love! You can find the original version here but I have modified it a little for myself.

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups of warm water
  • 1 tbsp of active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1-2 tbsp of honey for the egg wash
  • 4 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 8 cups of all-purpose flour (and more for flouring surface/cutting board)
  • 1 tbsp of poppy seeds or sesame seeds (optional)

Directions

  1. In a large bowl/stand mixer, mix in yeast with warm water
  2. Beat in 2 eggs, oil, honey, and salt
  3. Add 1 cup of flower at a time until all 8 cups are incorporated.Knead by hand as necessary until dough is smooth and elastic, but not sticky
  4. Cover with clean,d amp cloth and let ride for 1.5 hours. Dough should double in size
  5. Punch down dough and roll out onto floured board or counter
  6. Divide into quarters
  7. Roll/knead each section for about 5 minutes, flouring as necessary to keep from getting sticky
  8. Working with one quarter at a time, divide into thirds and roll out into long, snakes. Each snake should be the same length and diameter.
  9. Braid snakes. I found it easiest (and prettiest) to start braiding them without connecting them at first, but going back to the top after I finished braiding them all the way down. If you’d like to make round challot, bring the edges together before pinching them
  10. Grease baking sheets (or put parchment paper down) and let the challot rest on sheets
  11. Cover with towel and let rise for 1 hour
  12. Preheat oven to 375*F (190*C)
  13. Beat remaining egg with about 1-2 tbsp of honey and brush a generous amount over each challah
  14. If desired: sprinkle with poppy or sesame seeds
  15. Bake for 40 minutes (should sound hollow when thumped on bottom)
  16. Cool before slicing

After 20 or so minutes, you can cover the challot with aluminum foil to prevent them from browning too much.

For Rosh Hashanah I’m going to roll apple chunks in it and see if it works out better than the last time I tried it. I used a different recipe which ended up being too sticky and didn’t end up cooking all the way through. Might add some cinnamon too. Yummm!

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Shabbat Shalom

Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. On this day our fate is sealed for the next year.

It’s this weekend.

So let me explain: it’s a Jewish holiday, the one of (if not the most) solemn day of the year. It’s a 25 hour fast day were Jews all over the world pray, ask for forgiveness, and pledge to be a better person this new year. Kind of like making a new year’s resolution, but [arguably] with more sincerity.

I too therefore apologize if I have wronged you this past year, for I did not mean it. And I forgive you, in turn, for hurting me, for I know you didn’t mean it.

Part of my preparation for Yom Kippur this year is weaning myself off of caffeine. I’m not an avid coffee drinker by any means, but I have my one mug a day and that’s usually it. I am, however, very caffeine sensitive so I’m in the process of weaning myself off of it so I don’t suffer from a killer headache on Yom Kippur. I’ve done it before and I’d rather not again. So now, ALL THE GREEN TEA! Currently drinking Celestial Seasoning’s Raspberry Gardens Green Tea (green tea, white tea, and raspberry). It’s very nice, light, and refreshing.

I think I’m going to leave it at that. I should be back to posting on Sunday. As part of my new Rosh Hashanah/Yom Kippur resolutions, I plan on blogging Sunday-Thursday at 12:30 and 17:30 EST. That’s my ultimate goal, because just blogging these past several days has made me feel better and I want that to continue. That and exercise. That absolutely needs to happen more. I had made myself a routine and everything and I haven’t been following it well. Okay, I’ll be honest with you I haven’t done it at all. That will change.

“Throughout your life advance daily, becoming more skillful than yesterday, more skillful than today. This is never-ending.” Hagakure – Book of the Samurai (Yamamoto Tsunetomo)

This will be my ultimate goal.

May we all be written in the book of life, and have an easy fast.

G’mar chatima tova.