December 19, 2011

Happy Chanukah Nadine!

The rolling pin clicks as it glides across the soft dough, smoothing out creases in my mind. Holding the worn wooden handle, I nimbly guide the dough until it opens wide, becoming even, circular, shiny, tinged by molasses. With each gentle push, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger float into the air, flooding the kitchen with memories. I can hardly count the years now. Can it possibly be forty?

One December day in the 1970s (it must have been a cold and snowy Sunday), my friend Nadine and I decided to make cookies. We were two Jewish girls living in Toronto in the midst of Holiday Cheer; endless songs of Dasher and Dancer on the radio, holly wreaths hanging on our neighbours’ front doors, and old station wagons driving around with Christmas trees hanging from the trunk, sprinkling the snowy road with a spray of pine needles.

What were we to do? It would soon be Chanukah. Each year we would carefully arrange our coloured candles in the menorah until it looked like a box of Crayola crayons. We would try to sing ‘maoz tzur’ just like we learned it at Hebrew School, but never get past the first verse. We would eat our latkes with extra globs of apple sauce because we preferred sweet, and we would play dreidel games with chocolate covered coins, always gobbling them up before the game was even won.

We needed something new, sweet and creative: something us.

We must have been the first to discover fusion baking. We took a simple gingerbread recipe, bought a dreidel-shaped cookie cutter and created Chanukah cookies with the taste of Yuletide. Since Nadine’s dad owned a candy store, our creations transcended a regular cookie—they were quickly deemed masterpieces. We baked for our family, our friends, our teachers and for ourselves.

Each year our enterprise grew. We made more dough, expanded our cookie cutter collection and accumulated more interesting decorations. What was once a sheet of cookies soon became a full-sized operation with the kitchen becoming the rolling room and the dining room the decorating room.

Decorating was the real challenge as we wanted each cookie to be different. We had a collection of shapes for every mood and occasion; fierce Macabis, funny dreidels, proud shields, and delicate menorahs. We also had snowmen in three sizes and a star of David.

We met each year. We snacked on sprinkles and gorged on M&Ms. We talked. We concentrated on our cookie art and decorated in silence. We talked. We laughed. We sampled. Nadine took pictures. And our tummies ached.

We met each year. Nadine got married and one year baby Laura joined us, watching the operation with interest from her baby seat. I was then married and before we knew it, we had more company in the kitchen.

We met each year. Our babies crawled around underfoot, and soon enough, they could stand up and peer over the counter. They watched, their eyes wide in amazement. At first they ate. Then they rolled the dough, cut the shapes and decorated cookies. They even had tummy aches just like us. And when they lost interest, they would jump around the house together on a sugar high. Alone, Nadine and I would roll, cut shapes, decorate and talk until the last scrap of dough was used. We would take pictures and then split our booty. Tired, our clothes whitened by flour, floors gooey and crispy with errant sprinkles and nuts and licorice, we would sigh, “Well, there’s another year gone by.”

We met each year until I moved to Israel. That was six Chanukahs ago. Nadine’s girls are off at university and now Nadine bakes alone. My children, being a bit younger, still want to bake gingerbread cookies for Chanukah. We have fun and yes, we all get belly aches and end up with a sticky kitchen floor.  Yet I miss Nadine. Our talks. Our silences. Our sighs.

Forty odd years?

And now it is Chanukah. I carefully press the plastic Magen David shape into the pliant dough. I am preparing a tray of Star of Davids. I lift the spatula and place them in the pan in front of my eager decorating crew.  Faced with a blank canvas of gingerbread, my kids are silenced, dreaming up new ways to create their masterpiece. They choose candies from a colourful palette and sprinkles for brushes; gingerbread decorating is serious business around here.  They laugh, they munch. I marvel how the years have gone by. I put down my rolling pin and I sigh.

December 7, 2011

Deepest, Darkest Dryer Drama

You cross one errand off the To Do list and another mysteriously appears… 
This is a bbm conversion with my daughter about what happened yesterday.

Hi there.

Whatz up?

Bought new bedding today.


Hey, aren't you in class? It's 10:20.

Kind of.
Just had math test.
Scary hard.
Just want to see new cozy sheets.
Want to sneak home from school.
Buy anything else?

You must be bored. Yep, bought 2 new pillows.

Soft and fluffy.

Makes me want to sleep.


Don’t you have class?

Kinda….but your life is more interesting than biology.

Hard to believe. Got to do laundry.



You in class NOW??

Kind of, but verrry bored. Whaz up?

Dryer ate duvet cover.


Burnt to a crisp.

Finn crisp.
I crave crackers.

No joke. Looks like toast.

I want toast.
With butter and jam. Food at school icky.
You  eating toast?

No. Sheets are toast.


Roasted like marshmallows.

I so want marshmallows. How?

Deepest darkest dryer drama.

Bad dryer.

Evil dryer.

Nasty, possessed evil dryer.

Got to run.

Awwwww. How come?

Have to call dryer repair guy.