Highlights This Week

April Fool's Day - Sunday we had already scheduled our monthly Games Day, a ritual insanity whereby we invite hordes of people ad passels of kids to our house to play various board and card games together amidst reigning chaos plus soda and chips. Having this on April Fools day simply *begged* to be tampered, but while we came up with several ideas that were gross, surprising, thematic or generally hilarious, none of them really fit as "April Fools jokes" so we left off, figuring that since we're foolish most of the year, we'd take this one day off. I think waiting for the non-existent foot to drop is what threw people off the most!

Autism Awareness Day - Monday people wore their blue shirts and puzzle pieces out into the world to acknowledge autism, its people and their families affect by it. Honestly, I never thought about the world of "specialness" growing up, ("otherness" was mainly a term reserved for race or religious creed), and I thought Special Education was simply not a part of my world. (Of course there were plenty of kids who had disabilities or challenges at my school, but I didn't know them or meet them or interact with them in any way--I was so naive, I didn't even realize that I was naive!) The best thing we can give our young readers is those voices they may not have heard and to grant visibility to those who may be outside their blinders, open their eyes a little. Cynthia Lord's RULES is the best example of this, in my mind, because it talks about the neuro-typical sister dealing with her neuro-atypical brother. This is not the more palatable subjects of "Aspergers" or "a touch of autism," this is a family dealing with the socially-inappropriate and embarrassing screaming/self-hitting/selective memory kind of autism including the hours of therapy, training and focus that leaves the main character, Catherine, feeling outside and left out, wanting more than anything to have a friend. This, in my mind, is real.

See those stickers? Those awards are well-earned!

Passover/Pesach - Yet another Jewish holiday is on its way and my family is getting ready for the feast and the stories, the toys and the traditions and basically revving up to have a good time! Like many who don't live around their home towns, we time-share between families for the big holidays and I'm looking forward to spending time with my natal crew and their offspring (most likely springing off the adults, the couch, and one another in tumbles of glee). Sometimes folks around here marvel with sadness that my kids have never known the thrill of an egg hunt or had a picture with the fluffy Easter Bunny at the mall*. I try to assure them that my children have plenty of fun being pelted by toys at the dinner table representing the Plagues of Egypt, play with puppets and stuffed animals as we recite the four questions and the story of the Exodus, and delight in tearing up the house looking for the afikomen to bribe back to the grandparents for more sweets and toys (because we can't finish the dinner without it!)

I'm also looking forward to taking a break from writing and giving myself the gift of balance: enjoying family and nostalgia in the wake of hours at the computer. So I'm hoping to be offline and on task, chopping various vegetables and snick-snacking on charoset in the kitchen with my family for the next week or so. If I'm good, then I brought along my long-awaited copy of SAVE THE CAT by Blake Snyder to work on craft. (I'm really looking forward to this recommended read on screenwriting!)

This has been recommended to me over and over again. Like Scrivener and Tumblr. And look: kitties!

Wait...you don't know what charoset is? Oh! Well, well, well let's not leave without imparting some wisdom and calories! Traditional Ashkenazi charoset is made by shredding apples and adding cinnamon, walnuts, honey and sweet red wine together. Sure, it looks like the ancient mortar they made into bricks, but it tastes AMAZING! Now one thing I'll miss this year are the different charoset from around the world that often adorn my brother- & sister-in-law's table. I'm plunking two of their recipes here:

North African style Charoset:

20 dates
20 dried apricots
2 Jaffa oranges
1 c slivered almonds
2 T lemon juice
2 T sugar
2 t cinnamon
1/2 c sweet red wine

Zest the orange and set aside. Remove the white pith, cut the oranges into pieces. Chop dates, apricots, orange pieces & almonds in the food processor. Mix in orange zest and the rest of the ingredients. Chill. Yields 2-3 cups.

Venetian Charoseth (from The Jewish Holiday Kitchen by Joan Nathan)

1 1/2 c chestnut paste
10 oz dates, chopped
12 oz figs, chopped
2 T poppy seeds
1/2 c chopped walnuts
1/2 c chopped almonds
1/2 c chopped pine nuts
grated rind of one orange
1/2 c white raisins
1/4 c chopped dried apricots
1/2 c brandy
honey to bind

Combine all ingredients, gradually adding enough brandy and honey to make the mixture bind. YUM!

Enjoy! Freedom is best celebrated with family & friends!

* P.S. I secretly suspect my kids would view a giant Easter Bunny as something out of Donny Darko that would scar them for life. Ask me sometime about my daughter's first reaction to Santa visiting her preschool unannounced.


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