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I am a Cleaner After All

My friend changed her Facebook status [around 3 minutes after she finished her Purim Seudah] to “wake me up after Pesach!”

I felt the same. At the end of Purim, I say (with fear in my voice) “4 weeks to pesach!” Motzei Pesach I say “4 months to Tisha Be’Av” and as I break my fast “8 weeks to Yom Kippur” and then “2 months to Chanukah” and on the 8th day I start planning my Mishloach Manot, after all it is “3 months to Purim!”

Am I not the happiest person ever? I am always counting down to the next Jewish Day.

As Jewish women, we spend our lives planning and preparing for the next occasion, the next Simcha, and/or the next Yom Tov. We always have something to do that involves panic and often a fear or two as well. Let me introduce you to some of my choice phrases that come to mind for said times of the year:

“Oh my g-d did you really just ask me for a cookie? Do you really think I will bake so close to Pesach? If you are hungry eat the dust mites that need to be gone anyway!”

“Of course the Menorah looks shiny I spent 3 days scrubbing it. You helped? Yes you turned off the water when I couldn’t move my hands anymore!”

“If you get drunk, I will not clean up your vomit! You will sleep outside and will not come into my house until you are sober and showered! Take point, do not get drunk on Purim!”

And so they go on.  I really am a nice person, but there are some things about certain times in the Jewish calendar that get my ‘yiddisher mama’ instincts out and put my girly-moody-terror swings into full force. And Pesach is not only one of them, it is the main one.

I grew up with a real Jewish mother who would pester my father from Chanukah to Chanukah “spider webs are Chametz, they must not be seen on Pesach and you must take them down before next Pesach!” So you can see why I get this fear when someone mentions the “P” word, I mean how am I meant to have a house so clean for Pesach that there are no cobwebs, when there are no cobwebs to begin with?! How will I know when I am done?!

Or maybe I am never done because as soon as I am done ‘Pesach cleaning’ away the Chametz, I must clean up the Pesach food and dishes, and then change back to Chametz and then clean up the crumbs from the pizza and then make shabbos and clean up again and clean and clean….


I just realized the point of what I am trying to say.

When someone tells you “such a true yiddisher mama” or “you are a real Balaboosta” or (best one ever said to me) “your house is always so clean and you always have such good food!” what do they really mean?

“Hey you are such a great cleaning lady!!!”

And we are right?  After all, everything we do involves cleaning or cooking or looking after the kids, or cleaning some more.

So I sign off with the following:

If Pesach starts getting you down, just think it as 6 months to Tishrei (3 times 3 day Yom Tovs!) and that has to be harder than this. If you think your house isn’t clean enough, it obviously isn’t! Find your husband and get him to help. If you don’t think you will be able to clean everything and shop for food, wash dishes and kids clothes, and then cook and dress the kids – then go have a cup of tea. G-d will help you figure it out eventually. After all, no one ever came to Seder night and had to eat challah!

Happy Pesach Cleaning  🙂

Photohraph by Rivka Bauman Photography

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Rosemary – Fig Hangover Hamentaschen

Yeah, I know, I was supposed to write this last week and now Purim 2013 is just a blur — except for these little beauties! Dainty little things filled with whatever you want; in this case creamy sharp cheese combined with macerated figs, rosemary and vodka.


Here is what you need for:


  • 2 cups flour (whole wheat or all-purpose are fine)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • pinch salt
  • 2 eggs
  • ⅓ cup sugar
  • zest and juice of one lemon
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 stick butter, (8 Tablespoons, ½ cup) melted


  • ½ cup dried black Mission figs
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  • scant pinch sea salt
  • splash vodka
  • small wedge manchego (or similar aged sheep’s milk cheese)

For the filling: Slice the figs and throw them in a glass jar or tall plastic container. Add the rosemary, vodka and tiny pinch of salt. Add just enough water to cover the figs. Give the container and shake (after putting on the lid, of course!) and set aside for 30 minutes or a couple of days.

In a large shallow bowl, mix the flour, baking powder and salt. Form a well in the centre of the bowl and add the eggs, sugar, lemon and vanilla extract. Begin to slowly stir, without breaking the walls of flour. Gently incorporate the butter and eventually all the flour in the bowl. Knead the dough just until combined. If the dough is too sticky, add small amounts of flour as needed. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes or a few hours.

Preheat oven to 360F. Line a baking tray with parchment paper.

Sprinkle some flour on a clean surface to lay the cool dough. Then sprinkle some flour on your rolling pin and use it to roll out the dough into a large flat expanse. As the expanse grows, sprinkle some more flour on it, then flip the dough and sprinkle flour on the second side, which then gets rolled out some more. Supposedly they say as thin as 1/8th of an inch.

Using an upside down mug or glass, cut out as many rounds as you can. The remainder of the dough can be kneaded into a new ball and rolled out again a couple of times, but try to handle the dough as little as possible.

Add a small piece of the cheese and a couple of fig slices to the centre of each dough circle. Have a cup of water nearby and with wet fingertips and pinch three corners together to form an overall triangular shape. Transfer to the prepared tray and bake until golden, about 12 minutes.

Happy Shushan Purim!

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Finding the Purim Spirit Through Learning

As life goes on, Purim becomes less and less magical. As children, we learn about the holiday, we dress up, make our lists of who gets Shalach Manot, and plan which parties are worth attending. When we get older, dressing up becomes less important, Shalach Manot becomes a chore, and the importance of learning about the holiday is diminished. After all, who has time to sit down and learn when we have to worry about the fifty-seven food packages to assemble for our children’s friends?

Growing up, my mother always said, “I’m not dressing up this year, I’m not in the mood,” and every year I convinced her that it would get her into the spirit of the holiday. Every year she conceded to my begging and pleading, wearing a Renaissance style dress with a beautiful mask.

As Purim has been inching closer, I realized that for the last couple of years, taking care of everything has caused me to lose sight of my Purim spirit. Despite my generally elaborate costumes, last year, my costume was just a mask. I never want to be “not in the mood” to enjoy and partake in this holiday!

In order to renew my excitement, I invited a few friends to my house to learn about the holiday. In my search of a new perspective on Purim, I found a real gem. The Torah Anthology has a wonderful translation from the Me’am Loez that has a take on the Purim story that I have never encountered. With each pasuk (in Hebrew, and translated) comes a commentary that is an easy read, but is packed with some serious learning. Going through this book has really revved up my enthusiasm for this coming Saturday night.


This commentary discusses the ancestry of Achashverosh (his father was raised by a dog?), the miscalculations of the prophecy of the 70 years (how many times could they miscalculate with such conviction?), as well as the relationship that Mordechai and Esther had (an old discussion with a new twist). There are in depth explanations of the parties that happen throughout, as well as why the Jews had to go through this ordeal.

The more we learn about Purim, the clearer the miracle is, and the more we want to celebrate. Although I have not gotten everything planned for this weekend, I know that I will be running from place to place with an excitement that was lacking last year. May we never lose sight of the hidden miracles that Hashem provides every day that will lead us to the final redemption.

P.S. Mom, are you in the mood for a costume this year?