Designated writing hours… or not?

Every week, Friday is food day on my blog, but I half expected that I would have to call every day “food day” this week. The week before Passover, every day is food day. Shopping yesterday, cleaning the oven today, getting a head start on my cooking as soon as I can!

So far, though, prep work hasn’t superseded my freelance writing, blog, or social time. I wrote this post while I was waiting for my car to be ready, because today was also snow tire removal day for me.

I’ve had three lunches out in the last week, and now that I have freelance deadlines, I’ve been thinking more about how to structure my time.

After I was downsized and started blogging and working on my book, a few people asked if I had designated hours for writing. I wondered if it made me less organized or productive that I didn’t… aside from specific blogging days, when I usually write in the morning.

But my schedule seems to have evolved, just like my post-downsizing path in general. I blog Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays, and I work on my book more regularly now that I’ve joined an online group that holds me accountable each week for the number of words I write.

The book-writing hours are still evolving. I try to start earlier in the week, although I still don’t have designated days. At first, I thought I should be writing more, and more often, but now I’m content to write my self-imposed minimum, and sometimes exceed it.

Because of the subject matter (the year I lost my dad, and said Kaddish for him), I think it might actually be better to write the book in small doses, even though it’s not all sad. Parts of it are funny, parts are just interesting, and some parts have broader implications (I hope other people will think so too!).

Now that I’ve adding freelancing to the mix, it would be easy to spend most of the day in front of my computer.

It was good for me to get out of the house and spend time with friends this week. I like working on the things that are most time-sensitive before I head out, and catching up with the rest of my writing later.

Maybe I do have designated hours now. Sort of.





Chocolate Sunday – Passover Birthday Cake!

I was planning to write a blog post about my easy Passover chocolate birthday cake, including the recipe, but I realized it’s already online. Phew! More time for me to get busy with Passover preparations.

passover chocolate birthday cakeHere’s a link to the article I wrote in 2009 for The Canadian Jewish News: “Chocolate Passover birthday cake is easy to make.” It includes the recipe.

I’m adding a more recent picture, because the cake looks better garnished with chocolate strawberries than it does plain. This year, I’m thinking of filling it with marmalade instead of red jam, and dipping orange sections in chocolate instead of strawberries. We’ll see.

Obviously, my photo editing skills can use some upgrading. There were a few spots where the glaze didn’t cover the cake smoothly, and I tried to cover those up in the picture. But, whenever I make the cake, everyone seems to like it!

One of the reasons I love this recipe is that the cake (actually a big brownie) is made with oil, not margarine. I can’t bring myself to buy Passover margarine; I think it’s too unhealthy. I’m not surprised that it’s #2 on nutritionist Aviva Allen’s Passover dirty dozen list.

It’s a challenge to buy healthier oils for Passover too. I prefer the harder-to-find oil that is kosher for Sephardim, even though my background is Ashkenazi, because I refuse to buy unhealthy cottonseed oil too. Sigh.

Olive oil is another option, but not always preferred for baking. But even without margarine and cottonseed oil, there are a lot of delicious desserts you can bake for Passover.


Chocolate Passover birthday cake is easy to make

Passover Country Potato Pie

On one of the Facebook groups I belong to, someone asked about “go-to” Passover meals. Immediately, I thought of two: leftover soup noodles with  tomato or pasta sauce, which requires no work, and country potato pie (a quiche with a shredded potato crust), which is a great make-ahead meal.

I used to send a couple of them, baked in foil pie plates, back to school with my daughter when she was away at university. They taste good, freeze well, double easily, and cover more than one food group. cooking what comes naturally cropped

The recipe is from Cooking What Comes Naturally, by Nikki Goldbeck, probably one of the first cookbooks I bought after I got married, and definitely the first vegetarian one.

I’ve adapted the recipe by adding mushrooms, replacing part of the butter with oil, and eliminating dry mustard for Passover. It appeared in The Canadian Jewish News  in 2007 as part of a roundup of Passover food ideas.


Country Potato Pie (adapted from Cooking What Comes Naturally, by Nikki Goldbeck)

serves 4

1 tbsp. butter

1 tbsp. oil

3 medium potatoes, peeled

1  1/2 tsp. salt

1 c. shredded Swiss or Cheddar cheese

1/4 c. chopped onion

1/4 c. sliced mushrooms

2 eggs

1 cup milk

1/2 tsp pepper, or to taste

2 tbsp. chopped parsley

1/2 tsp. paprika

1. Spread 1 tbsp. butter over bottom and side of 9-inch pie plate.

2. Shred potatoes and drain well. Sprinkle with 1 tsp. salt, and press over bottom and side of pie plate to form crust.

3. Sprinkle cheese over potato crust.

4. Heat oil in skillet. Add onion and mushrooms, and cook until tender and transparent. Spread over cheese.

5. Beat eggs with remaining 1/2 tsp. salt, milk, pepper, parsley and paprika. Pour over onions and cheese in pie plate.

6. Bake at 375 for 40 to 45 minutes until edge of pie is golden, and knife inserted in centre comes out clean. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.



What’s strange about writing my book

My book is coming along, slowly but surely. It’s a bit strange writing a memoir about the year I lost my dad and said Kaddish for him (the traditional Jewish way of mourning a parent).

It’s strange because as a journalist, for the most part, I write about other people’s stories, not my own. I’ve written three reflections on saying Kaddish, however, and they seemed to strike a chord with many people.

It’s strange because as a journalist, I work from notes I take during interviews or events that I’m covering. During the year of Kaddish, I made a point of not taking notes on what I was experiencing. That would have felt even more strange, and on some deep level, didn’t feel right.

It’s strange because I remember so many aspects of the Kaddish year – my feelings, bits and pieces of conversations, holidays, celebrations, funerals, things that happened at work, at home and at synagogue – that I’m starting to wonder if this is normal. It’s almost six years since my dad died. Why do I remember so much detail? Is there something different about the way my brain is wired?

I don’t think I’m obsessed, and I don’t think I’ve prolonged the mourning period. I do attribute my detailed memories to the fact that so much emotion was attached to everything I experienced that year. I’ve read that that’s supposed to enhance memory. I also have articles and thank you notes that I wrote, old emails, and my 2008 and 2009 calendars to jog my memory.

Another thing that makes a difference for me – I still attend services regularly, and that triggers memories, too.

I’m not flooded with them. They come to me in bits and pieces, and that’s how I’ve been writing them. But they seem to be turning into a cohesive whole.


Exclamation marks

Journalists generally don’t like exclamation marks. We believe that words alone should have enough impact in most cases.

However, I find myself using exclamation marks on a regular basis now that I’m blogging. Groan!

That said, there’s definitely a place for exclamation marks in conversational writing. I find myself using them mostly to convey excitement, especially when I’m writing about food.

Jicama! Cherimoya! Chocolate!


But only one exclamation mark at a time. I have to show some restraint!