Home Base

Baseball diamond

It was so gradual, I wasn’t even aware it was happening.

My sister’s lived out of state for years. My mom died two years ago. My dad moved to Israel. His house just sold, so he came back to close the deal and empty out the final contents of the house. For the first time, he stayed with me instead of his house, which was basically empty. I realized that I had become my family’s home away from home.

I first became aware of the shift over the summer. My kids were away and my sister wanted to come home. Really, I thought? I’ve got no kids home and wasn’t looking for company. She hadn’t been home for awhile and wanted to visit the cemetery where our mother is buried. I couldn’t tell her not to come. Alas, in the new reality, I am “home” for her so I wrapped my mind around this idea, bought her beloved Diet Coke,  and told her to come. We had a great time as usual.

Now it’s my dad’s turn to stay at our house. It’s nice to have him with us – three generations living together for a month. He enjoys my children and we all enjoy having him around. He and I have lunch together most days. My husband and Dad chat over the occasional scotch. Such domestic bliss, you can’t imagine. My father looks the other way when I yell at my kids. We smile sweetly when he repeats himself. We’re practically a scene straight out of the tv show “Modern Family” – my dad being the cantankerous patriarch. I dare say he has even developed a moderate affinity for our dog.

All good things can benefit from a break though, so my Dad went to visit my sister and her family in Indianapolis, taking an early morning flight. My sister called me a few hours after he arrived. Our dad was sacked out on her couch – after all, he had been awake since four a.m.

“From my couch to yours,” I chuckled.

“How long does he usually sleep?” she asked with concern.

I felt like we were discussing a toddler instead of our paterfamilias. Fortunately he’s an active and healthy 79-year-old. It’s emotionally and physically exhausting cleaning out a house you’ve lived in for almost 40 years. He was tired.

I thought I was over the emotional part of saying goodbye to his house but apparently I wasn’t completely. The family homestead was the headquarters for our family for close to forty years. It’s a sad feeling to close that chapter of my life and a weird feeling to have the tables turned and for me to be home base. It’s a subtle shift, but a change none-the-less.

My father will leave the U.S. to return to his life in Israel next week. It’s strange for him to have given up his U.S. residence, but it’s worth it for him to be unburdened by the contents of a large home. He can visit his favorite possessions and my mother’s artwork in any of his children’s homes when he’s feeling nostalgic.

Yup, it’s a new rhythm for our family but one we are all adjusting to. There’s no place like home, wherever it may be.



Margarita Madness


I had three couples coming to my house for a dinner party, but no idea what I was going to serve. It’s 2014, meaning this was not going to be your mother’s dinner party. It had to be a kosher meal that accommodated a vegetarian, a gluten-free person, and some meat lovers. What a challenge to please everyones’ palate. I pored through cookbooks, recipes I’ve torn out of newspapers and magazines, and the internet. I was determined to make everyone happy and try some new recipes.

Then, as if by magic, something caught my eye on a high shelf in my kitchen – those margarita glasses from my wedding registry. We thought we would have many festive parties and use them all the time. I have never used them in the twenty years I’ve been married. So much for that idea. Shockingly, life has not been one big party.

I had found the idea to build my dinner party around – margaritas! Who cared that it was cold outside? Festivities are called for year-round.

Slowly, it all came together. Here’s what I served:

  • Guacamole and Chips
  • Carrot, Chile and Cilantro Soup
  • Sliced Skirt Steak on a bed of Spanish Rice
  • Chopped Romaine Salad with corn, black beans and tomatoes
  • Spicy, Smoky Lentils
  • Corn and Flour Tortillas
  • Sides of Salsa Verde, Chipolte Salsa, Cabbage, Avocado and Green Onions
  • Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Brittle
  • Sweet-Potato Cake
  • Sliced Oranges

It was a labor of love to cook for my friends and create a meal that everyone could enjoy. I’ve put two of the recipes from this meal that my guests enjoyed on my blog if you’d like to try them too. The margaritas were a delicious and fun addition to the usual wine, beer and scotch. Apparently I gave my friend an idea, as she wrote me the next day:

“You inspired me: on our way home, I conducted a mental inventory of our unused kitchen items, and came up with: a vintage 1970’s punch bowl, a waffle iron…and my mother-in-law’s circa 1955 jello molds.  I’m thinking the punch bowl is the way to go for our next dinner party (it’s really groovy, with green blown glass and matching cups), though I’m a little curious to break out the jello molds.  Maybe the ticket is to add some vodka to the jello before I chill it??”

Did someone say Jello? I totally want to be invited to that dinner party!

Sure my mother, in her Martha Stewart way, taught me that things don’t always have to be used for their intended purpose – I may have used the margarita glasses once to serve a dessert in. I am a big cleaner-outer but somehow have not been able to give the glasses away. I knew there was a party waiting to happen, and those glasses were going to be waiting for me saying “hola, what took you so long?”

I can now scratch that off my list. As my husband and I were cleaning up, enjoying the afterglow and buzz of the party, we were deciding whether to wash the glasses by hand or put them in the dishwasher.

“Why not put them in the dishwasher? If they break, I don’t think we’d miss them,” he said.

Nope, I couldn’t risk it so I hand-washed them. It was a delightful evening – God willing, there will definitely be more parties in my future. Who knows what other inspiring treasures I’ll find in my house? Maybe next we’ll have a slumber party and I can finally use those breakfast-in-bed trays.

A Post for the Holiday Season – How to be a Good Guest


I was looking for somewhere to board my dog for a few nights next month. I came across a groupon type deal for a company that connects people who wish to board dogs in their homes with dog owners.

The idea of my pooch staying with a family is appealing. After culling through several pages of possibilities, I arranged a “meet and greet” with a woman who seemed to be a possible match for us.

My dog and I set off, in rush hour. What should have been a 15 minute car-ride ended up being 45 minutes. Lewey sensed something was amiss – I had to drag him up the stairs to the front door. We were greeted by the nice lady, her husband, and two pugs. At her suggestion, I took off my dog’s leash so he could explore the house.

A meet-and-greet is a nice way of saying that the boarding family wants to make sure my dog is not out-of-control and I want to make sure they are not psychopaths.

The woman and I sat down in the family room. She pulled out her notebook to ask me questions about my dog, who was being adorable and playing with one of the other dogs. As we continued our discussion, I followed her gaze to the left of my chair.

There, in the corner of the room, on the wall-to-wall carpet, my dog was taking a dump.

Really? After I went through all the trouble to find these people and shlep to their home, my dog is going to put the kibosh on the whole thing within the first five minutes by pooping in their house? I was mortified. He never does this, I assured them. It called into question my dog training skills. Maybe I was a terrible dog parent? Oh, the shame.

They were very nice and matter-of-fact about it. I quickly cleaned up the poop and the husband sprayed the anti-smell-please-don’t-poop-here-again-spray. He told me they’ve learned to take their dog guests for a walk as soon as they arrive as they can be agitated and out of sorts. Apparently my dog’s behavior was not as abnormal or abhorrent as I feared.

We finished the interview and talked about the dates I needed the dog to be watched. They seemed like they were actually still willing to watch my dog – I couldn’t believe it. I figured when I got home I would receive a text saying that something had come up for them and they wouldn’t be able to watch Lewey. You know, the doggie version of “it’s not you, it’s me.”

I felt as if I had ruined a first date. We did the walk of shame out to the car. I called my husband and my sister.

“They’re dog people,” my sister reasoned, “they’re used to this stuff.

To my surprise, they accepted my official request through the boarding website to watch my dog. I will plead with him to be a super good boy and do all of his business outside.

I hate to leave him, but sometimes duty calls.

May your Thanksgiving celebrations include only well-behaved guests.



The Lost Art of Hospitality


People don’t seem to entertain much in their homes anymore. Maybe it’s their busy lives or a lack of confidence in their cooking abilities, or their self-consciousness about their homes. I like to have people over. Not all the time, of course. I love going out to eat where someone else has planned the menu, shopped for the ingredients, cooked and cleaned up. It’s generally worth every penny.

What makes a meal great for me is the company.

Home hospitality invites people into your private world, if you are so inclined. Some people find it too invasive and stressful.  For me, it is a way to connect with people and share values and customs. My children learn how to be hosts and hostesses.  They have to engage guests in conversation, make everyone feel welcome and comfortable, and help with the dishes. They put their devices down and make eye contact. And they learn to speak with adults who are not their parents, teachers or coaches.

It doesn’t matter if you buy prepared food and serve it on paper plates or cook a feast served on your china and crystal. After all, what’s the use of having all those beautiful things if they are only going to be used as decoration behind glass or stored in a closet? Using them lends beauty and a special aura to a meal. It creates memories for our children, who will in turn be happy to use them when we pass them along the family chain.

My mother was a master of entertaining. She made everyone feel warm and welcomed. She was so skilled at making her table look beautiful and her food delicious while also pleasing to the eye. She prided herself on “assembling” meals, a mixture of store-bought items which she would masterfully spruce up and home-made foods. I can only share this secret now that she is gone. I think she wouldn’t mind. Okay Mom?

The truth is, people are happy to be invited and not have to cook.  Unless you’re a world-class chef or the food is vile, no one will remember what they ate. And no one cares if you spent days slaving in the kitchen or merely a couple of hours. What they will remember is the feeling they had while in your home.