Re-gifting as fast as I can

20 Dec

I am taking my son to his tutor in a half hour, through a foot of snow, and realized I didn’t buy a Hannukah gift for Eva and she had one for us last year.

So….would it be awful to give her a big bag of gourmet holiday coffee–cranberry flavored? Someone at work gave it to me but I don’t like flavored coffee except for cinammon. It’s got a Santa on it…sigh.

I feel like a heel.


Snowy morning

20 Dec

We have at least a foot of snow on the ground, very rare for NYC. I told the kids to try to sleep later, and not to come out of their room until 8 am at the earliest. I can hear them in there at 7:35, tapping at the window, oohing and aaahing over the blizzard.

I will open their door…

My wonton soup kicks ass

3 May

I am a wistful chef. I can’t cook much of anything despite reading cooking magazines, owning cookbooks, and worshipping various highstrung Manhattan chefs. I can roast a chicken. Toss a salad. Scramble eggs. More difficult tasks have a way of disappointing.

I’ve been wanting to try Chinese cooking for years. I bought some dumpling wrappers four years ago, put them in the freezer, and never had the nerve to attempt them.

But my son has taken up the quest of food and cooking. Or rather sitting on the kitchen counter beaming while I cook what he wants. He put in his request for wonton soup made at home and my stomach clenched with dread.

This morning I made the chicken broth from scratch, trudged over to Forest Hill’s only high-end grocery market and finally found some wontop wrappers in the freezer section. I also bought the sesame oil, the spinach and scallions, the ginger and garlic. I searched epicurious and found a recipe but it just had all the earmarks of disaster.

On a hunch, I tried youtube and found a blurry, amateurish four-minute video hosted by an extremely patient and supportive moustachioed Chinese gentleman on how to make wonton soup. I watched it twice. Alex watched it once.

I followed what he said to the very letter….and we are celebrating my greatest culinary triumph. Even Nora, world’s pickiest eater, digs it.

I can do it!!! I can make wonton soup from scratch!!

Come to Pappa

20 Apr

That’s the cover headline of the NY Post about the visit of Pope Benedict to New York City. (My love for the Post and all of its tacky shamelessness is unshakeable)

I’ve read the Post and the Times today about Pope Benedict and I have to say:

The Pope rocks.

He’s meeting with victims of priest molestation and repeatedly saying we have to clean up the priesthood; he’s telling Bush that torturing prisoners is wrong; he’s blessing disabled kids; he went to a synagogue; he’s praying at the site of World Trade Center and giving a little consolation to all the people still suffering from 9/11. Next stop: Yankee STadium. And he’s doing it all in this halting German accent.

I didn’t expect this to happen, but I feel incredible respect for him. It’s not an emotion I feel for that many humans.

Safe travels, Benedict!



20 Apr

So last night was Passover first night, and Max decided to finally do what he’s been muttering about for more than nine years and get going with the Jewish education. (Fine with me; I grew up with little religion, or, rather, confused religion. My position: Go for it.)

But in our family, I am the one who calls places and schedules things and investigates programs and creates kid rituals. This is one area I can’t take the lead role. Therefore, we’ve seen fits and starts.

Until last night. Max put together the plate–a boiled egg, parsley, a roasted bone and a “haroset”, a mix of apples and nuts and honey–he assembled the yarmukles, he bought a book to read the service from that was (somewhat) geared toward kids. The only thing he forgot was candles; we found one skinny candle, too slender for a holder, so he fashioned a ball of old crusty playdoh and stuck the candle in it.

Alex paid close attention to Max’s words. Nora just kept griping about the fact that she doesn’t do grape juice, thank you very much. (Kids drink grape juice whenever adults have to sip the wine) At the end of the dinner, when we opened the door for Elijah to come in and drink the wine, she freaked out over inviting a ghost into the apartment as if we were trying to reenact “Saw II.”

But when Max read the Passover history, the story of Moses and freeing himself and the Israelite slaves–it hit me. This stuff is OLD. I mean, obviously Jewish traditions are old. But here we are, commemorating an escape from Egyptian slavery that historians believe occurred in some form about the year 1800 BC.

Christianity took off some two milleniums later. And the big Christian holidays are a bit of a patchwork. Christmas is about the birth of Jesus, but the tree comes from German pagan tradition. Easter is about Jesus rising from the dead, but the eggs being painted and hidden comes from a bizarre mix of Roman and Celtic celebrations. I researched Easter when I was in charge of the food section at a women’s magazine (not the recipes, I hasten to add, just the writing about the food and the holidays). I came up with this (I thought) fascinating sidebar box on the history of the Easter egg hunt but my editor in chief had it mangled and cut because her born-again Christian readers could be offended. (“Jesus didn’t decorate Eggs? I’m canceling the subscription, Henry!”)

The Passover story and the sipping of the wine and the dipping herbs in salty water and leaving the door open for Elijah….no, there aren’t little bits picked up along the way from some Viking tribes in 400 AD. It seems pretty pure to me. Talk about antiquity.

And in our candle-in-the-playdoh way, we tried yesterday to keep moving it forward.

The Nicholl

19 Apr

I tried twice and didn’t get anywhere. The third year, Greg Beal (or someone) wrote “Top 15 percent!” on top of my ding letter. Most people would toss it in with this script. Move on.

But I’m back and ready to try one more time. I have a karmic feeling that things have been so tough for me the past six months that I could be ready for a big break. The universe is tired of messing with me. It’s Nancy time.

Nicholl, here I come!


17 Apr

My son is in his third week of public school, a LD (learning disabled) class within a large elementary near our apartment building. He loves it. Mostly.

“The girls don’t want to be my friend.” Alex wants to be friends with everyone. He likes everyone. At his former school there were a lot of problems and drawbacks and I was pissed off at them all the time, but they did somehow get all the kids in these little classes of 12 to like one another. Now Alex is in the big leagues and the kids are more “typical,” and guess what? Nine-year-old girls don’t really like nine-year-old boys.

He’s hurt. And confused. I reassure him. And I remember in my elementary school in Livonia Michigan how it wasn’t so much that I didn’t like the boys as I feared them. I was bully bait until I turned about 15. Now there are three girls–Mona, Bianca and Alaa–who have their girl clique going and they’ve decided they don’t like my Alex.

How could someone not like my sweet, beautiful, funny, bright, kind boy?

But I’m not going to make too much of it.