Thursday, April 23, 2009

Catching My Breath

I know. I've been missing in action for just about a week. I don't even have a good explanation other than exhaustion.

I've been busy at home, trying to put away Pesach stuff and take out the everyday things. I've been busy at work with several things, including our upcoming annual gala. I've been busy with health issues. Dear Child went back to school Monday morning and then woke up on Tuesday morning with pink eye! This meant she had to stay home for a day, we had to go to the doctor, get stinging antibiotic gel to drop in her eye, etc.

And I really haven't been feeling too good. I'm tired all the time and I've fallen asleep with the computer on 2 or 3 times recently. I find I'm out of breath after I take my granddaughter downstairs at work to her preschool class and I'm only walking back up the one flight of stairs. Once I get to the main floor I take the elevator the rest of the way up to my office! The other day we forgot her lunch kit and had to go back after we were already in the van. I was so tired by the time I got her back into the van and buckled up again that I could barely move my arms.

So I finally called the doctor today and made an appointment. The soonest I can get in is a week from now. I really can't afford the time I'll be taking away from work but I keep thinking about Grace talking about how her only symptom prior to her quadruple bypass was shortness of breath....

Friday, April 17, 2009

Slowly Getting Back to Normal

Well, Pesach is over. I'm not turning the kitchen back until after Shabbos though. It's just too much work. Especially when we have to go to our paid employment tomorrow morning. Dear Child is still off school and could stay home with her brother-in-law and the girls but has voted to go to work with Abba [Daddy] for the day instead. I'm going to leave work an hour early and pick her up on the way to go get Dog!

It has been a very expensive time, as it is every year, and I'm going to have to sit down and figure it all out sooner or later. Last year was the first time I put my notes, menus, shopping lists, etc. onto the computer and I'm planning to update all of this year's stuff with how it went very soon (before I forget). What got wasted? What went over like a lead balloon? What was finished off way too early? What did DC like last year but not this year or vice versa?

Right off the top, we did much better this year with getting the right amount of matzo. I've got about 1 lb. left, mostly broken up pieces. We have 4 bottles of grape juice out of six but that's not a problem because they were a couple of bucks per bottle cheaper than the ones I usually buy. Not a different brand, a different place. We'll use them over the next couple of months and that will help lower the weekly grocery bills over that time period.

I also have 4 or possibly 5 bottles of wine left. Now, one bottle is because my son brought 2 bottles to the seder when I thought he was just bringing one. But I'm surprised that I have so much wine left when I think I had more people drinking wine this year than usual. I know Eldest Son normally has 1 glass of wine and the other 3 grape juice when he has to drive home. This year they all slept over so he had wine. Hubby had less wine the second night, after having a headache the first day, but I don't think anybody else did. And there were no pregnant or nursing mothers this year. Again, it's not a problem per se. Shabbos comes around every week and it will be lovely to make kiddush on wine. We've been using grape juice for quite a while because we couldn't afford wine. But I paid a lot of money for the wine. The bottles I bought ranged in price from $9 to $25 and that's all money I actually spent up front because BC Liquor Control doesn't allow you to run a tab (for obvious reasons)! That's $69 (or $78, if there's still a bottle of Manischewitz left) that could have been put to other things.

Like my tab at 2 kosher food stores. Yes, I tabbed most of the food (the meat, dairy and a bunch of grocery items, plus candles) and will be paying it off over time. So it makes me a little sick to my stomach to realize that one $21 roasting chicken has been sitting thawed out in the back of my fridge on the bottom shelf for the past 8 days, behind a bunch of other stuff. I don't think it can be safe to eat any more but it's going to hurt to have to throw it out.

As I mentioned previously, I bought a new kind of Shabbos warming tray and never used it (partly because it's too big for my counter space and partly because it only has one heat all over). I'm going to try to take it back but I don't know if they'll refund my money or not. We'll see. It was $95 though, so it's really worth trying.

It's getting late though, and I have to get up in the morning so I'm going to go to bed now. I doubt that I'll have time to write tomorrow before Shabbos, what with the 2 hours it will take to bring Dog home and all, but I'll be back soon. Maybe Motzai Shabbos [Saturday night, after dark] or on Sunday.

Monday, April 13, 2009

More Kosher Kitchen Talk

Betty from Bouncing Back from Bankruptcy sent me a link to an article about a couple whose kosher kitchen renovation cost about $100,000. While the reno cost is enough to make me stagger it was actually a pretty good article and has inspired me to talk even more about my own kitchen than I've been doing recently (really, quite a lot).

First of all, it's very nice to have 2 dishwashers, 2 sinks, 2 wall ovens, a warming drawer, Sub Zero fridge, etc. etc. ad infinitum but it's not necessary in order to keep kosher. You don't even need a very big kitchen, although it's nice to actually have counter space (something I usually don't have enough of).

What do I consider essential? Now that they're readily available and not overly expensive, I wouldn't want to have to do without a stove with both Sabbath mode and a self clean oven. I have 2 identical stoves. One is in my rural home. The other one is here. So, obviously, I can't designate one for dairy and one for meat. What do I do? The 2 left hand burners are meat and the 2 right hand ones are dairy. The oven is dairy and I have a convection oven that's about 15 or 20 years old and the size of a big old microwave oven that I use for meat. I also have a microwave that's dairy (mostly used for popping microwave popcorn and baking potatoes).

Most of the sinks I've had over the past 20 years have been double sinks but the critical aspect has been that they're stainless steel and can therefore be kashered (unlike porcelain or enamel). I don't wash the dishes in them directly anyway. I have plastic dishpans that fit inside (a blue one for dairy and a green one for meat) and the dishracks sit on opposite sides of the sink, although the dairy one is the only one that stays out pretty well all the time.

I probably couldn't manage without my dairy toaster oven. It's extra large, big enough for 6 slices of bread at once. Toast is a lunchtime favorite around here with the little girls and it's great to be able to do everybody's at once. I can also fit in 2 or 3 pita pizzas or make a big tray of fries. And I use my meat crock pot pretty well every Shabbos.

You don't need a warming drawer to keep food hot on Shabbos. I have a Salton hot tray that works like a charm. It's about the size of a cookie sheet, keeps 2 different constant heats all the time and the hot spot on it keeps soup really hot. I bought a big Israeli style plata (the same idea only all metal surface and only one temperature) for Passover this year but it's too big for the counter. I didn't use it and I'm thinking about trying to take it back.

Two dishwashers would be quite the luxury but right now I'd happily settle for one (which I'd use for dairy because that's what we generally eat 6 days a week). Besides, my meat dishes have gold or platinum trim and that sort of thing gets worn off in a dishwasher over time.

I didn't spend $10k on a Sub Zero fridge with Sabbath mode. I just unscrew the light bulbs so they don't come on when you open the fridge on Shabbos! Some people are very careful to only open the fridge on Shabbos if the motor is already running (so they don't risk making it come on) but I'm just quick with the in and out. I don't leave the door open for long enough that it comes on. And look, I saved $9,000 over the Sub Zero model!

I wouldn't mind a little apartment size deep freeze but it's not necessary by any means. When I had one years ago it was often half empty or full of bread! In my current kitchen I'd like to rip all the cabinets out and replace them with IKEA ones. I like solid surface countertops or ones made out of granite or soapstone but I'd take Formica. I have my eye on a stainless farm style sink and a nice gooseneck faucet. Speaking of water, you couldn't pay me to have one of those pot-fillers by the stove since I won't cook with tap water. I like white subway tile for a backsplash and I love islands and breakfast bars (although they're not even possible in my current kitchen). And I'd like to put in a microwave/range hood combination because it's a great space saver.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Where's Dog When You Need Him?

The title of this post is Dear Child's new favorite saying. She really misses Dog, who has gone off on his annual Passover vacation. I'm sure he's having a riot. The place where he goes has 3 big dogs of their own, plus daycare and a couple of boarding dogs at any given time. They go for huge, challenging walks every single day and eat a raw food diet.

We, on the other hand, are missing him quite a lot. There's nobody to curl up behind my knees when I lie down in bed or on the couch. There's nobody to drink up the leftover milk from Dear Child's Pesach cereal or to ask for the bones from the lamb chops. There's nobody to bounce up to you when you come in the door from being out someplace or to check out what you're doing when you open the fridge. There's nobody to turn a somersault in your lap and ask to have his belly scratched or to lick Dear Child's feet as she wakes up in the morning.

We won't get him back until Friday but maybe we'll get some pictures emailed to us in the interim....

Turning the Kitchen Over Part Two

Okay, I was way too busy and way too far behind to get on the computer again before Passover started and then we had 3 days where you can't go online in a row (two days of Yom Tov, followed immediately by Shabbat).

I did get one vote for tiling but I ended up just working like a maniac instead. It was hell. I hate that it always comes down to the wire.

But the house looks really good. We had both seders. The first one was downstairs in our space with just us and my mother-in-law and sister-in-law because my father-in-law (who has been having some fairly serious health problems) didn't feel well. We actually had fun, although Dear Child didn't make it all the way to the end. She fell asleep after Kos Elijahu (the Cup of Elijah) and before the song she wanted to sing at the end (an English version of 'Who Knows One?'). We ended up singing it in Hebrew instead. But she found the afikomen and got her prize.

The second night we had it upstairs and all the kids and grandkids were there. It starts later, so the girls went to bed after midnight and I was actually up with one of my sons until probably about 2 am, talking! Only the baby fell asleep in the middle. The others were bouncy to pretty well the end. Dear Child finally led Mah Nishtanah (the Four Questions), relieving my 24 year old son of his annual obligation as the (former) youngest child able to sing them. And she sat in my lap to do Who Knows One? and Had Gadya (which she liked until a few days ago when she really started looking at the words and got freaked out over the Malach HaMavet [Angel of Death]).

I went to shul the second day and took the baby with me because I can use a stroller on Yom Tov (unlike Shabbat) and she had a great time. Nobody went the other 2 days because it was raining and walking for an hour and a quarter in the rain, pushing strollers, is Not Fun.

From now until sundown Tuesday are the intermediate days of the festival, when we can do regular things. I've been online, catching up on all the PF blogs I usually read and watching the episodes of Survivor and Dollhouse that we'd set up to tape. As I went from blog to blog it seemed like a huge number of major things had happened in the few days I'd been disconnected. People in car accidents, relatives dying, relationships ending, medical crises. I actually felt pretty overwhelmed. I got kind of sidetracked, writing comments or emails to people and almost didn't come post here!

Well, it's very late, so I'm off to bed. Just one last thing before I go. I think the thing I did that I was most proud of was that I washed the dishes the second night course by course. As I'd bring the soup bowls or whatever downstairs I'd quickly wash them as I was filling plates to send upstairs for the next course. I can't tell you how good it felt to get up on Friday morning and not be faced with a stack of greasy dishes!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Turning the Kitchen Over Part One

Well, I'm still massively behind on my Pesach cleaning but I'm on track with the kitchen!

On Thursday I received my dairy order, which meant that I had to clean most of my fridge. I still have to clean the big bottom glass shelf that covers the vegetable bins and the bottom shelf on the door (where the last of the chametz has been hanging out) but I'll do that tomorrow. Upstairs. In Eldest Daughter's bathtub, seeing as I still don't have a functional one of my own.

I made a point of "using up" food for Shabbat and after Shabbos was over I cleared the counters, scrubbed them, cleaned the stove top, scrubbed the burner pans with steel wool, scrubbed the double sink with steel wool and then self-cleaned the oven (sticking the burner pans in there on the rack). Now everything has to sit for 24 hours and then I can kasher the kitchen. That entails self-cleaning the oven again, pouring boiling water over the counters and sink and turning the burners up to max for at least 10 minutes each. Then I can cover the counters again with transparent contact paper.

I still have to scrub the inside of the pots & pans cupboard and the pantry cupboard and then line them so I can put stuff inside.

Since I can't kasher the kitchen until the middle of the night tomorrow night I am faced with the dilemma of what to do Sunday during the day. I have lots of general cleaning to do but there is also the tiling. Do I clean, or do I tile? If I don't tile I won't have a usable bathroom until a week or two after Pesach ends. If I tile on Sunday and grout on Monday my son-in-law can put in the vanity, countertop, new toilet etc. whenever he can. Well, he'd have to put in the toilet Monday night but the other stuff could go in then or when he's off on the following Sunday and Monday (he has a whole 5 days off at the beginning of Passover). And I could build the wardrobe in my multitudinous spare time (HA!) on Monday or Tuesday and put the coats into it.

But that cuts into my time for doing things like reboxing papers and suchlike and sticking them into the bottom of the closet. Or for reorganizing the storage room to try to get more into there. I have to spend some time on Dear Child's room because it's still full of boxes and I can't even get at her table and chairs, which I need for the kid's table at the seder! I have a bunch of laundry to do and the rooms all need to have floors washed, swept or vacuumed.

What will I do? I honestly don't know yet. I guess we'll see what happens tomorrow. Stay tuned for Part Two!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Not a Wednesday to Write Home About

I went to work for a couple of hours. I came home. I slept for a while. I packed the contents of the dairy pots and pans shelf. I did some banking. I picked up Dear Child and came home, then went back to work after dinner. I stopped at the grocery store on the way home. And I should be asleep now but I'm blogging instead.

The weather was disgusting. It snowed. Not much, and very wet snow, so it didn't stick. But really. It was April 1st. If I wanted to live somewhere where it snows in April I'd be in Minnesota or New York State or Toronto.

Today was Wednesday. Next Wednesday night is the first seder. I am so not nearly ready that I'm starting to have panic attacks. That was why I forced myself to get up and pack that box. I should have done the meat shelf at the same time and then scrubbed out the cupboard. But I didn't and I'll pay for that tomorrow or later this week. I did do a ton of work on Sunday but I've been feeling sicker ever since then and I'm tired all the time.

I work all day tomorrow and then am home all evening. I really need to do a lot of work then in the kitchen. Right now, just packing up all the everyday stuff so I can scrub everything down and then get out the Passover pots, pans, dishes, etc. is the most important thing. Friday is the last day I'm cooking. After Shabbos I have to clean the stove and self-clean the oven to clean it. Sunday night I have to self-clean it again to make it kosher for Pesach. Monday I have to start cooking for the seders and Shabbos. Plus I have to finish cleaning the rest of the house and be finished by Tuesday night!