Hi, All! I should be cleaning for Pesach, but I'm giving myself some time off for good/awful/awful good behavior. You decide.
Our friends, Ellen and Kalman, made a wedding for their daughter, Ali, this past week. The wedding was last Thursday in Yerushalayim, on the worst day (weather-wise) we've had since we moved here. All day the thunder was crashing, the wind the gusting, rain poured periodically - and to top it off - we had hail! It was hitting the windows so hard I couldn't believe it! Emma was a little puzzled when, during a lull in the weather, I took her outside and we were walking on little balls of ice. In Yerushalyim it was actually snowing.
But we made it to the wedding hall; another couple we'd met in ulpan, Karen and Al, gave me a ride and David went straight from work. Poor Ellen! Murphy's law was definitely at work that night. They'd left a bag at home here in Ramat Beit Shemesh with Ellen's sheitel (wig), shoes, jewelry, and Igor's (the choson/groom) new kippah. Thank G-d she had a friend there who normally doesn't cover her hair who gave her a beautiful black hat that exactly matched her dress, and one of the kallah's (bride's) friends had an extra pair of shoes that fit perfectly. The wedding hall Ali and Igor had booked (before Ellen had a chance to see it) had two rooms; the big, beautiful nice one - and Ali and Igor's. It was a tiny, dilapidated room with no heat, torn-up floors, white cloths shabbily hung on the walls to cover up holes, and a very meager staff. But Ali was radiant, and everyone's enthusiasm made up for the surroundings.
Last night we made sheva brachot for them (one of the seven meals they have each day for a week after the wedding with at least 10 men who make 7 blessings for the choson and kallah). I had decided to make meatballs and rice, because it would be easy and not so expensive for so many people. HAH!!!
I actually don't think I've ever made meatballs before. There was an extremely easy recipe in my old Betty Crocker cookbook for sweet 'n sour meatballs using cranberry sauce, ketchup, brown sugar and lemon juice. How easy is that?
So, before Shabbos I made the sauce. It wasn't exactly the flavor I was hoping for, but, oh well. After Shabbos I took out all the ground turkey I had defrosted, added the last of my bread crumbs (see, I'm doing a little for Pesach already!), some eggs, onions, whatever. Then I formed about 90 nice-sized meatballs. But then I worried, as always, that maybe it wouldn't be enough for 20 people. Am I a Yiddishe mama or what? So I had to take out a package of ground beef and defrost it in the microwave. I had already used all my bread crumbs so I added some matza meal.
Okay, so now I have about 105 meatballs, more or less. The recipe says to throw it in the sauce which has been simmering on the stove. All the meatballs were in one large bowl, getting all squished together unbeknownst to myself as I was making the extra batch, and just as I was dumping it into the sauce, David came into the kitchen and said, "You should really fry those in a pan first to keep them from falling apart."
He couldn't have said that about 10 seconds earlier?
Now comes the fun part of the evening.
All of the meatballs were, of course, falling apart in the sauce and I started digging them out with my large slotted spoon until all 105 of them were in about 6 plates, all soaked and dripping with sauce. I got out a frying pan, put in some oil, put on some latex gloves and started re-forming the balls one by one, at the same time trying to wipe off as much sauce as possible before putting them in the frying pan. I wasn't sure if I should be laughing at the total ridiculousness of the situation or crying at the frustration of it. Here I was doing a mitzvah, and the simplest thing was taking hours of my time! The thought crossed my mind that there must be a Candid Camera somewhere in the kitchen getting all this on tape, but then I decided that the only audience I had was Hashem. I have to shake my head sometimes at His sense of humor. And then I realize that He's telling me I'm taking myself too seriously again and He's having a little fun with me. Okay.
So I take my time re-rolling those balls, wiping off the extra sauce, frying them a little until I'm sure they'll keep their shape before they go back into the pot of sweet 'n sour sauce, which is now a sauce dotted with tiny pieces of meat throughout. I scrub the frying pan between each batch, taking my time, laughing at myself.
Later (much later...), as the pot sat simmering on the stove and I was washing my way through an unbelievable pile of bowls, plates, cooking utensils, pots and pans, I realized I smelled something burning. Oh, yeah - it was. But I got to it in time, and David came in and poured everything into our super large soup pot. Then we just looked at each other, and I have to hand it to him; he did a super-human job of not bursting into laughter or making even the tiniest of comments which I'm sure were already formulating in his mind.
In the end, everything turned out fine. We only had about 15 people. One guy forgot about coming and worked late, but David started knocking on doors in our apartment building (only in Israel!), and a teen-age son of our Vaad Habayit (apartment manager) came down to join us. A couple of rabbis were here and they gave great divrei Torah, and after the benching all the men started dancing, which is no easy feat in our tiny apartment where the couches were already upended to make room for all the tables.
And, of course, after everyone left and we had cleaned up somewhat and David had gone to bed, all I could think was - When will it be my turn? Jared seems to be pretty settled in his (non-Jewish) home life, and Nathan isn't in any hurry to meet someone until he's able to earn enough money and have some kind of parnassah (living), and he's not at that point yet. I started to miss my friends back home and called Barb, one of my first friends I had made in St. Louis when I moved back there from Milwaukee in 1992 and who had been one of my mah jongg partners for 9 years. It was so nice to hear her voice! Then I tried calling Lynda, one of my other mahj partners, but she wasn't home and I left a message. I already talk periodically with Shifra, the fourth in our mahj group. Barb and Lynda don't have computers, so we're really out of touch. Hard to believe there are people without computers in this day and age.
Some people would consider my sitting here writing a waste of time on a beautiful, sunny Monday afternoon exactly two weeks before Pesach. (Actually, it's the first sunny day in over a week.) I have accomplished a few things today, however; I ordered meat for Pesach from the butcher in Yerushalayim, I ordered kosher-for Pesach dog food from our vet, I ordered matza that will be delivered a week from Thursday, and I called Avi at Nefesh about possible communities that we could move to that would be closer to where David works. Avi emailed me contact names of people in 4 different communities; Maale Adumim, Ramot, Nachalot and Efrat. We also spoke about Kochav Yaakov, and even moving to Beit Shemesh. So now we have to think about visiting each of those communities, maybe spending a Shabbos in Efrat and Maale Adumim. Nachalot is the only neighborhood actually in Yerushalayim, behind the shuk. I really didn't want "city" living, but that would certainly be in the center of things.
Okay, time to clean out some kitchen cabinets - I have an hour before my Israel mahj group shows up for our Monday afternoon game...