Matzo Ball Soup

(Don’t miss out on additional content. Listen to Matzo Ball Soup on SNORK, the podcast! Click Here!http://hwcdn.libsyn.com/p/d/e/a/dea34392b8dc86b6/Snork_Episode02.mp3?c_id=8785619&expiration=1429239792&hwt=2d30163003d047fd2e16267ba1170c58)

In the Spring of 1990, Easter and Passover landed on the same weekend. It just so happened, that was also the weekend I chose to bring my boyfriend home to meet my family. Since we are Catholic and he is Jewish, I thought why don’t I surprise him and make matzo ball soup with Easter dinner?!

I had never made it before and, truth be told, I’d never eaten it before either. But, I figured, it’s soup. How hard could it be?

Since I wanted to make a good impression, I called his mother and asked for her recipe.

“Manischewitz,” she said.

“Is that a cookbook?” I asked her

“No, no,” she said. “It’s a brand. It comes in a box. From the supermarket.”

“Oh,” I said. “But I kind of wanted to make your recipe. The one he grew up with.”

“Manischewitz,” she repeated. “Just throw some fresh chopped parsley in there. It makes it look more homemade.”

So, I went to the store to find the mix. The package claimed that one box made nine servings: a cup of broth and one matzo ball each.

This was perfect because 18 people were coming for dinner. I bought two boxes. Following the directions, I prepared the matzo meal, but when I rolled out the balls, they were as small as walnuts – miniscule.

I would be embarrassed to offer such a puny portion to my boyfriend. So, I went back to the store and bought two more boxes, then combined all the matzo meal and doubled the size of the balls. They still looked small to me, but it was actually better that way. I wouldn’t want everyone to fill up on soup, since my mother was cooking a huge ham. As you may have guessed, I hadn’t fully thought things through, menu-wise.

Once the balls were done, I carefully dropped them into the prepared broth. As per the package instructed, I covered it tightly.

While waiting for the soup to cook, I chopped the fresh parsley.

All this was going on at the same time that my family was getting to know my boyfriend. And by “getting to know” I mean “interrogating.”

After the soup was allowed to cook for the prescribed 20 minutes, I removed the lid.

It was like a David Copperfield trick. All of the broth, ever last drop, had disappeared. And each matzo ball had magically transformed into blobs the size of a grapefruit! But it was too late to start over. My mother had called everyone in to dinner and they were already seated. So I had to serve it.

Sinker!

To make matters worse, my mothers fancy china came with dainty little soup bowls. I could barely fit one ball in each.

My sister came into the kitchen to help me serve. She looked at one of the bowls, looked in the pot and asked, “What the hell are these?”

“Knock it off” I snapped. “They’re matzo balls, of course. What do they look like?”

“Grapefruits,” she replied.

“Never mind, just bring them out,” I said, as I hit each bowl with a few sprinkles of parsley. Oh, yeah. That parsley made all the difference. They looked homemade all right. Homemade by a shiksa who can’t follow directions from a box of soup mix.

My boyfriend looked at his bowl and I knew that he knew that I knew I’d screwed up. And then he said, “Sinkers! My favorite! These are just the way my mother made them.”

Now what do you do with a guy who’d tell such a sweet lie. You marry him of course. And that’s just what I did.

Introducing: SNORK, the podcast!

Hello, Snorkers!

At the beginning of this year, I hinted that some changes were coming to SNORK. Well, they have finally arrived!  Aside from our whole new look, we also have a new format.

SNORK, the podcast, a radio show version of the blog you love, is now available on iTunes!  CLICK HERE for your free subscription. You can also access the show in Podbay, Podcast Republic, Podcast Addict, etc.

Available on iTunes

Don’t fret…if you prefer to read SNORK rather than listen to the show, you still can.  All new posts and podcast episodes will continue to appear here.

For the podcast, we’re going to revisit some of your favorite posts from the past (as well as treat you to some brand new ones), we’ll have special guests, contests, and lots more surprises!

For this inaugural episode, we’ve retold one of SNORK’s most popular stories, called Siri-ously?  

So here’s your choice: you can listen to the podcast version by clicking here, or read Siri-ously? by clicking here. If you’re an Android user, you can also access the podcast through one of their apps: Podcast Republic or Podcast Addict.

We’d love your feedback on the podcast – our new baby – so please write to us and share your thoughts!

However you choose to enjoy SNORK, we are just so happy to have you as part of the SNORK family!

 

It’s Not A Floater

Every year since we got married, it’s been the same thing: my husband forgets Valentine’s Day.

In past years, this has made me mad, sad and exasperated – especially during those early years. He was working long hours, building his company and I was working hard as a stay-at-home mother. It was exhausting. What little time we had together was “family time” and our focus would be on our children. Mommy and daddy became two shipwrecks passing through a sticky playroom. So, on just that one day every year, I wanted him to fuss over me. His forgetfulness of Valentine’s Day felt personal, like he was forgetting me. Ouch!

valentines-day-restaurants-melbourne-flA day or two later, something would trigger his memory (like me throwing his gift on the table saying, “You missed Valentine’s Day, AGAIN!), and he’d go out and buy a huge bouquet of half-price roses. It was a great way to save a few bucks, but not for scoring points. In fact, his peace-offerings usually made me even angrier.

For whatever reason, he simply could not get it into his head that Valentine’s Day is on the same date every year. It’s not a floater, like Thanksgiving, Easter or Passover. It is always February 14th. Always. Maybe it’s genetic. Once, when I invited his mother for Christmas dinner, she asked, “When is it?”

To be fair, there were some years when he knocked it out of the park to make up for the year before. On one of those occasions, he arranged for a neighbor to take our then-toddler son overnight. He booked a supper cruise around Manhattan, followed by a night at the über-posh Peninsula Hotel. The magnificent suite was larger than our apartment. It was glorious. Then there was the time he surprised me by showering our bedroom with rose petals. I will not lie. My very first thought was, “Great. Who is going to clean this up?” Very romantic, I know.

Am I the only one who sees this as an accident waiting to happen?

As the years rolled by, I took it upon myself to start reminding him. I realized that waiting to see if he’d remember was the same as setting a trap (which is childish and unfair, yet inexplicably tempting). I’d tell him two weeks in advance because the closer it came to the date, the likelier that all the good restaurants would be booked up. However, he’d still wait until the last minute to try to make a reservation, or he’d take me someplace without one and we wouldn’t be able to get a table.

Ok, let’s be honest here for a minute: You and I both know that the worst night to go out for dinner is on Valentine’s Day. The “special” menus are always limited, the food is only marginally good, and the wait staff hustles you in and out because they’ve booked extra seatings to squeeze every last dime out of the busiest night of the year. And it’s February! Do you know how cold it is in New York in February? Who wants to put on a slinky dress and heels to slip and slide down the icy sidewalks of Manhattan? I’d rather be home in my jammies. (Author’s note: do not tell my husband I said that!)

Anyway, now that our son and daughter are older and away at school, we have a lot more time to focus on each other. Every Thursday night is date night, come hell or high water. Rather than making a special effort for each other once a year, we set aside time every week. It’s better that way, wouldn’t you agree?

Are you wondering what we’re doing together for Valentine’s Day this year? Nothing. I’m going dancing with my sister and my niece. My husband and brother-in-law are in Cuba with their father to celebrate his 80th birthday. When my husband booked the trip six months ago, he forgot that February 14th is Valentine’s Day.

Thanks for another great year!

Well, SNORKers, as we bid farewell to 2014, I’d like to take this time to thank you for subscribing to SNORK. Your support and comments are always welcomed and appreciated.  Each year, the helper monkeys at WordPress.com prepare an annual report for SNORK and I want to share some of those statistics with you now.

Between WordPress.com, Twitter and Facebook, SNORK  has a following of nearly 8500 people!  A special shout-out goes to SNORK’s Facebook followers, who’s sharing drove the most traffic to this blog (followed by readers at Twitter and Pinterest).

With subscribers in 75 countries around the world, SNORK’s second highest readership is in Brazil (the United States is 1st and Canada is 3rd).  I don’t even know what that could mean, but Gracias Brazil!!!

The most popular post of 2014 was She.  If you haven’t had a chance to read it, you can find it by clicking here.

I look forward to writing for you in 2015, and I have a few surprises up my sleeve – so, stay tuned!  

Until then, I wish you a very Happy New Year filled with health, peace, prosperity and, of course, plenty of laughter!

Cheers!

Tidings

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SNORK wishes you the sort of holiday that makes you blow eggnog through both your nostrils (in a good way!).

Merry Christmas!

Give Them Love

For many, the holidays are a time of rejoicing, of abundance, and of feasting. But it can be the most difficult time of the year for many others. This SNORK is a public service announcement, dedicated to shining a light on a group of people who are often mocked, marginalized, and misunderstood. I am, of course, referring to vegans.

Oh, I can just hear you: “Who me? Why, some of my best friends are vegans!”

Please don’t try to defend yourself. I’ve seen it first-hand; the way people roll their eyes when someone announces their veganism. I’ve heard, “Well, I’d invite so-and-so to the dinner party, but have you ever tried cooking for a vegan? It’s a pain in the ass!”

I can tell you what it’s like from both perspectives because I, too, was once one of them.

It all happened very suddenly. I was working out at the gym one day, when my trainer handed me a copy Skinny Bitch. His message, while as subtle as a blood-curdling scream, was not lost on me. By the time I finished reading it, I was so repulsed by the thought of food, any food, that I ate nothing but organic strawberries for the next three days. I won’t go into details here, but if you’ve read it, you know what I mean.

So, just like that, without forethought, I made a drastic and life-changing decision. This was not a bright idea, by the way. It’s probably better to put a little planning into something that dramatic, but no – not me! I jumped right in. Hindsight might suggest that I was actually pushed into it by an over-enthusiastic 19-year-old trainer with less than 4% body fat, but I bear no ill will against him (and may he blow up like a balloon when he hits the age of 40). Anyway…

The first step toward my new lifestyle was to drive to Whole Foods and purchase about a trillion dollars worth of groceries marked “vegan.” Whole Foods makes it all so easy by clearly tagging vegan-friendly products. No pesky label reading for this girl. Thank you Whole Foods.

The next step was to eat the food identified as “vegan.” This was a little trickier than purchasing it. For example, there is a phenomenon known as “vegan cheese.” Now, if you have had a lifelong love affair with all things dairy, this rubbery impostor will make you cry real tears. I searched the web for the most recommended brands, bought them all, tested them in a variety of recipes and decided I’d rather go without than try to fool myself into believing this crap was cheese (or even food, for that matter).

After a few weeks, two things became obvious:

  1. The vegan foods from the supermarket are so highly processed, you may as well eat a Big Mac (no offense Mickey D), and
  2. Whenever mealtime rolled around, I wanted to curl into the fetal position. You see, preparing food was becoming a much bigger chore since my carnivorous days…so much so, in fact, that I hated eating.

Now this should alarm you. Here I was, a healthy American-Italian-Armenian (translation: unabashed food lover) and I did not want to eat. My meals became repetitive and uninspired. Breakfast: oatmeal with berries and almond milk. Lunch: peanut butter on apples or bananas. Dinner: sautéed vegetables with rice and beans, and a salad. Zzzzzzz…

I should mention that during this time, I did not force my family to get on board. Hubby and the kids were still enjoying omnivore cuisine. I would cook for them without ever feeling the least bit resentful as I listened to sunny-side-up eggs popping and squeaking in the frying pan. I did not once growl or grimace as I coated precious, tender lamb chops with my own concoction of mint, garlic, onions and lemon and then smelled their heavenly aroma as they sizzled upon the grill. Oh, no! I was more than happy to do it, while my rice was boiling on the stove.

You had me at ‘mallow.

I should also mention that maybe, just maybe, I wasn’t so much fun to be around during my vegan adventure. As a result, my kids went from being normal teenagers to becoming food pushers: “Hey mom, you gotta try this provolone!” Or, “Tonight would be a great night for s’mores! Whaddya say?” They were desperate because I was becoming a real drag, a chronic cranky pants, to be exact. But I remained steadfast (against my own instincts). Oh, and are you surprised that vegans can’t have s’mores? Well, chocolate has milk in it and marshmallows (my kryptonite) are made with gelatin, which comes from pigs. So cross those off the list, along with every other delicious thing you can possibly think of.

Something else that I longed for was dining out. So hubby took me to a local Mexican restaurant and assured me there must be something on the menu that I could eat. Of course, I asked all the pertinent vegan questions to make sure there was not a hint of the verboten in my meal. After I sufficiently interrogated the waiter, I ordered a vegetable burrito (which was not on the menu, so I explained how to make one). When my dinner arrived, it was essentially under-cooked broccoli, with a few carrot slivers, wrapped in a tortilla. I just looked at it, sighed and drank my meat-free water. Misery.

And then, the moment I dreaded the most…we were invited to a Christmas party – a Christmas dinner party. I gave my husband strict instructions not to tell anyone I was a vegan. I did not want to be one of those preachy, demanding people with “dietary issues.” Surely I could navigate the meal by eating side dishes, after nonchalantly asking about their ingredients: “Wow, those Brussels sprouts look super tasty! What’s in them? Oh, bacon? Like real bacon or those soy bacon bits? Oh, real bacon. Ohhh.” Curse you, real bacon! And of course I could always fall back on the salad, and perhaps have some salad and maybe take a little salad. God help me if the hostess got creative by adding cheese to it.

That first party went off without a hitch. No one was the wiser. But the second soiree took a nasty turn. While performing my new skill of undercover food detective, I was able to ascertain which items on the table were OK and which were off-limits. But something must have had a hidden criminal element in it, such as chicken broth or perhaps butter. How do I know? Because when I got home, I was sicker than sick. It was the kind of sick that makes you fear you might die, and then fear that you might not. I had passed up the gorgeous beef Wellington, skipped the creamy mashed potatoes, and ignored the luscious cheesecake only to be taken down by the wild rice or some frigging yams! Unbeknownst to me, when you give up animal product for any length of time and then eat it again, your body holds a clearance sale: Everything Must Go!

Yet I still wasn’t willing to give up. Why? Truth be told, I never felt physically better in my life (with the exception of the aforementioned “incident”). Gone was the arthritis pain in my knee. No more belly bloat. No more general malaise. Psychologically, however, I was feeling pretty damn sorry for myself. But, life is full of trade-offs. Right? Certainly I would get used to this new way of eating. Right? People, I do not have what it takes to make a successful martyr. Sorry. No can do.

But here’s what finally tipped the scales and put me back on the meat wagon…my old pal, Whole Foods.

Each November, Whole Foods publishes a holiday menu full of catering fare. I always have at least 30 people for holiday dinners and, handy though I may be in the kitchen, I am not equipped to run a banquet hall. So I’ve always turned to Whole Foods for an assist. Basically I order the same things every year: one shrimp cocktail platter that serves 12 (if you show up late, you’re out of luck, my friend), an assorted crudité platter that serves 24, one Brie en croute that serves up to 10, and a double order of their turkey dinner for 8 (which consists of two turkeys and various sides). While flipping through the menu in search of additional dishes to round out the meal, I saw it. There it was, on page 10…the saddest thing you can imagine, especially during the holidays. Among the sumptuous offerings of “Rib Roast Dinner for 8” and “Roasted Pork Loin for 4” was “Vegan Dinner…for 1.”

One is the loneliest number.

One is the loneliest number.

In that moment, it all came into focus. I was alone. I was dinner for one. And, bloat be damned, I was hungry for cheese. Glorious, glorious cheese! And marshmallows. Real marshmallows made from Porky Pig! And wild salmon! And beef! I broke down is a puddle of my own wanton desire. It was not pretty, but it was bound to happen.

Therefore, when I say to you, “vegans need love,” I know what I’m talking about. So, the next time you meet one, or have to cook for one, or have to eat with one, keep an open mind. Do not judge. Do not mock. Instead, open your arms and give that skinny bitch a hug.

 

Believing is Believing

“Aha! I knew it!” I could hear my daughter’s squeaky little voice coming through her bedroom door. She was maybe about 7-years-old at the time.

Emerging triumphantly into the hallway, she began waving something in my face. At first, I thought it was a grain of rice, but her maniacal grin revealed a new gap along her bottom gums.

“Look!” Sure enough, she held one of her baby teeth between her fingers. “I lost this last night, but I didn’t tell a grown-up…and this morning, the tooth was still there…and there was no money! I knew the Tooth Fairy wasn’t real!

Now, another parent might have buckled. Another parent might have choked. But you’ve got to get up pretty early in the morning to outfox this fox.

With the cool detachment of a seasoned poker player or sociopath, I said, “Well of course she didn’t come. The Tooth Fairy communicates telepathically with grown-ups. If the grown-ups don’t know you’ve lost a tooth, she won’t know you’ve lost a tooth.”

My daughter eyed me suspiciously. Then declared, “Well, I don’t believe she exists.”

I’m not going to lie (to you). This stung me. She was still so young and I was not ready to see her give up on those charming childhood traditions.

Deciding to push another button, she added, “And I don’t believe in the Easter Bunny either!”

Seeing that I was still squarely on-kilter, she pounded the final nail into my mommy coffin… “Or Santa!”

NOOOO! Not Santa! On the inside, I died a little bit that day. But on the outside, there were no cracks in my façade. I knew that my reaction would either prolong those fairytales for a little while, or make her a cynic well before her time.

Without skipping a beat, I called her bluff, “Gee, that’s too bad.”

“Why?” She looked worried.

“Because when you stop believing, they stop coming.” I had her right where I wanted her. But my girl is pretty cagey, having not fallen too far from the tree.

“Hmm…” she thought for a minute. “What if I fake believe?”

Incredible, I thought. This kid is relentless. But I just shrugged my shoulders and calmly said, “Nope. That’s not how it works.”

“OK, fine,” she grumbled as she left to replace the tooth back under her pillow.

Turning on my heel with my head held high, I went into the bathroom, shut the door, and ran the shower to conceal the sound of my sobbing.

My son is a different animal entirely. He instinctively knew it would be sad for me when he “learned the truth” about Santa. I should probably confess here that when I discovered he’d outgrown Baby Gap and graduated to Gap Kids (as was explained to me by a cold-hearted sales associate with no soul), I literally started crying right there in the middle of the store.

Anyway, it was a few days before Christmas when he said he needed to talk to me. He had that look people get when they know they’re going to tell you something you’re not going to like, but have to tell you anyway.

“I have a confession to make,” he began.

You’re 12, I thought. What could you possibly have to confess? I felt a chill run through me.

He stammered and stalled a little bit. Unlike his little sister, he was trying to let me down easy. “Well…I snooped.”

“Snooped?” I asked.

“I looked under the bed in the guest room…”

I immediately knew. And he knew that I knew. You see, all the presents from Santa are wrapped in distinct “Santa” wrapping paper with special gift tags (written in a curlicue hand that does not resemble mine), and stowed under the guest room bed. He had found his presents from Santa when Christmas hadn’t happened yet. This inconsistency in the holiday timeline could not be wriggled out of. I was trapped.

With wide eyes and a sweet loving heart, he said, “I’m sorry mom. Don’t feel bad. I’ve actually known for a while now.” And he put his arm around me. “But don’t worry. I won’t tell her.” The her he was referring to was, of course, his little sister. He was blissfully unaware that she’d already pulled the plug on me during the Tooth Fairy fiasco.

But now, here’s the funny thing about all this: kids really don’t know everything. If they thought for a moment about all those visits to St. Nick (such as the one that I previously documented here in SNORK) they would know that he does exist.

I have never stopped believing. In fact, every year, hubby and I pay that sweet old elf a visit before we go to see the tree at Rockefeller Center. And every year, he is just as jolly and warm and welcoming as the year before. And every year, as I’m walking through Macy’s Santaland, I am a child again, believing in peace on Earth, goodwill toward man, and the everlasting spirit and joy of the season. It fills me with a kind of love and comfort that can only be described as magical.

One day, my kids will experience this same enchanted feeling again. How can I be so sure?

Because, I believe.

Selfie with elf = Elfie

Selfie with elf = Elfie

5 Steps To Being The Perfect Houseguest

The holidays are just around the corner, and for many of us, they involve traveling. Will you be bunking at someone’s home? Are you wondering if you need a refresher course on houseguest etiquette? Well, today’s your lucky day! Not only do I travel quite a bit, I’m also an innkeeper of sorts, since my house happens to be a popular lodging spot for out-of-town family and friends. With the benefit of all this knowledge, I’ve put together a room-by-room, 5-step guide on how to be the perfect houseguest. No need to thank me. I consider it a public service. Now, pack your bags and let’s begin our journey…

#5. The Front Door (Don’t be cheap)

We all know you should never show up empty-handed to a dinner party. But did you know that when you’re a houseguest, your arms should be so loaded that you have to ring the doorbell with your nose? Its true!

What should you bring? Well, if your hosts don’t have small children, then it’s appropriate to bring something for the house such as a bottle of wine, fine chocolates, a gourmet food basket, a Vitamix Professional Series 750… Sometimes people bring a more personal gift, strictly for the hostess, something like a bath set consisting of expensive shower gel, body scrub, body lotion, perfume and body oil in the Bobbi Brown Beach fragrance, or anything from the Fresh brand of products (available at Sephora), or jewels. You know…stuff like that will surely be appreciated. And no, I am not hinting here at all. I swear!

If your hosts have children, you must, must, must bring something for them! It’s important to be on the children’s good side if you have any hopes of enjoying your stay. For children in the baby/toddler stages, you can bring a cute outfit. If they’re older, nothing but toys will do. A five-year-old welcomes a sensible sweater only slightly more than a poke in the eye. And choose that toy wisely, or you might end up with mashed potatoes in your shoes or “short sheets” on the bed. Which brings us to…

#4. The Bedroom (Don’t be a slob)

Whether your hosts give you a spacious annex with a king-size bed (a/k/a The Presidential Bungalow) or stick you on an air mattress in the basement next to the washing machine (a/k/a The Bob Cratchit Suite), know that:
a. it’s the best they have to offer
b. they’re saving you a bundle on hotels
c. beggars can’t be choosers

Regardless of where you end up, you will coo, “This is perfect! Thank you so much!”

While occupying that space, you should make the bed every morning. Yup, you heard me. Show some respect for your host by keeping your room tidy. And put your clothes away. If you don’t have a closet or dresser in which to put your garments, then contain everything to your suitcase. You wouldn’t want your host tripping over your stuff if she needs to go into your room for some totally innocent reason…not for snooping, naturally.

And for god’s sake do not put your wet towels on the furniture!!!! Moisture and wood go together like pancakes and nail polish remover, while wet towels and mattresses make for musty bedfellows. Hang them in the bathroom.

At the end of your stay, ask for clean sheets so you can strip and remake the bed. You should then deposit your used linens and towels in the laundry room. Make your mother proud by taking this added work off your hosts’ shoulders. Assuming they are hospitable, they’ve probably done enough for you already. And if you’ve been under their roof for more than three days, you might already be pushing your luck. So this small gesture will be warmly welcomed.

#3. The Bathroom (Don’t be disgusting)

The potential for grossness resides no place more intensely than in the bathroom. If you have the luxury of a private bath, you have a little more latitude, but don’t get carried away. This is not carte blanche to leave globs of hair gel all over the floor or neglect to flush (I’ve seen it all.). At some point, someone will have to clean that bathroom. Don’t make them hate you. I’m serious!

If you have to share the bathroom with your host’s family or other guests, you must be even more diligent. Vanities and countertops should not be littered with your junk. Pack a toiletries kit and take it with you when you enter and exit. Capice?

If something has “happened” and the “situation” requires you to scrub the toilet, please do so – including under the rim and seat. Not kidding. I see no need to plunge any deeper into this subject. I’m sure you get the picture, and I will spare you by not posting one as an example. You’re welcome.

The best way to be sure you’re doing the bathroom thing correctly is to make a game out of it. Think of it as a crime scene and you are the perp. Before making your getaway, remove any DNA evidence that could place you in that room – rinse your toothpaste out of the sink, wipe off the counters, look for stray hairs…

And while we’re on the subject of hair, let’s get something straight: unless a hair is attached to a human body, it is gag-worthy. Following your daily ablutions, look around. Ladies, are your lush locks adorning the shower walls? Gents, did you leave the bar of soap looking like a Chia Pet? Are your follicles in the sink or on the floor? They are? Excuse me for a moment while I retch.

If you’ve used a water glass while brushing your teeth, please return it to…

#2. The Kitchen (Get out and stay out)

The kitchen is the heart of a house, and while it may be the place where everyone gathers, remember that it is also sacrosanct to the person who owns it. I don’t know any serious cook (male or female) who is not possessive and controlling when it comes to his or her kitchen. So don’t insinuate yourself there.

If you’d like to repay your hosts by treating them to a meal, take them out to dinner or pick up some take-out. If you’re unwilling to do either, I’m wondering how you got invited in the first place. But if you are that kind of houseguest, there are other ways to repay someone for their hospitality without opening your moth-infested wallet: offer to help make the salad, set the table, fill the water glasses or take out the garbage. If you are incapable of performing any of those tasks, please lose my number.

But let’s say you’re pretty handy in the kitchen and think that your hosts will be overjoyed if you surprise them by whipping up a meal without their permission – you envision their wide-eyed gratitude when they wake up to the smell of a gruyere frittata in the oven, bacon crackling in a pan on the stove, coffee perking away…

STOP! This scenario only plays out successfully in the movies. Why? Because on a movie set, a trained chef is baking that frittata in something other than the host’s prized $300 professional-grade skillet that no one is allowed to touch (or even gaze upon), and an entire crew is busy wiping grease from the stovetop, sweeping crumbs off the floor, polishing surfaces, etc. In the movies, when the hosts glide into the kitchen (looking artfully tousled and rosy-cheeked), the table is laid with fresh-squeezed juice, a gentle curl of steam wafts off a basket of hot fluffy muffins, the pinkest of pink grapefruits gleam in the sunlight and, most importantly, there is not a dirty dish, or a crumb, nor a smear anywhere in sight.

Here's what you envisioned.

Here’s what you envisioned.

Now, here’s what happens in real life: Your hosts stumble into the kitchen, hung-over from the night before. They are visibly annoyed that someone has roused them at an ungodly hour by slamming cabinets and clanging cookware. And as they peer through their half-opened, puffy eyes, they see is that you have violated their space. You’ve used the sacred skillet. You’ve cut the grapefruit directly on their $11,000 limestone countertop (the acid of which has left an indelible scar – not to mention the deep gash from the once perfectly-honed knife that you have forever ruined), everything is covered in a layer of sticky, and to top it all off, they don’t even like frittata. Grateful? That won’t be the first word that pops into their heads.

Here's what you delivered.

Here’s what you delivered.

Think I’m exaggerating? Let me tell you a little story…

There once was a woman, from New Jersey, who had her kitchen completely remodeled (let’s call her Martha). To show it off, she decided to throw a bridal shower for her niece. During the party, one of the guests (who we’ll call Nimrod) took a metal meat mallet to a bag of ice, smashing it on the brand new granite countertops (granite which Martha personally and lovingly selected on a road trip to a quaint little quarry deep in the heart of Vermont). We all suspected something was wrong with Nimrod, as she kept announcing having “to pee” about every 10 minutes. Turns out, she was neither pregnant nor diabetic. Instead, Nimrod was sneaking off to shove cocaine up her nose – giving new meaning to “visiting the powder room.” While that might explain her moronic and potentially calamitous maneuver, it certainly does not excuse it. And that bring us to…

#1. All Remaining Rooms of the House (Don’t be a hot mess)

If you cannot control your liquor, then by all means, lay off the sauce while you’re a guest in someone else’s house. And I think it goes without saying that you should leave all your bongs, ghanja, ruffles, etc. at home as well.

5/20/2007 4:55 PM

If you keep your head on straight, chances are excellent that you will not break anything, throw up on the heirloom Oriental, cause a lot of commotion by getting arrested, or spoil everyone’s good time by requiring CPR during your stay. After all, you want to be invited back, don’t you?

That’s all there is to it, friends. Follow my 5 simple rules and you’ll be the kind of guest that everyone will be fighting over (No, I want her to stay with me!), rather than the one everyone will be fighting over (She still has not reimbursed me for that bail money!)

As Gandhi probably should have said, but didn’t, “Be the guest you want to see in your own house.” And…um…don’t forget that Vitamix.

Related article: Giving & Thanking, A Modern Guide To Thanksgiving Etiquette

She

She has always been one surprise after another…

For legitimate reasons, we believed a second child was not in the cards for us. So imagine our surprise when we were dealt a miracle! I was certain we would have another boy, just like our first, with jet-black hair and rich olive skin.

On delivery day, my husband and I were relaxing in a birthing suite at New York Hospital – very civilized. After an epidural (mine) and a nap (his), we started watching a movie, starring Bette Davis and Charles Boyer. I never saw the ending because, with only minutes left, my doctor decided that I looked “too comfortable.”

Upon examining me, she turned to her nurse and said, “Let’s go!”

Suddenly, off went the television. Poof! Bette and Charles left me alone with a doctor and a nurse scrambling around the room, and an anxious husband standing over my bed.

“Hang on a minute,” I said. “The movie’s almost over.”

My husband informed me that let’s go meant let’s go right now! “You didn’t see the look on her face,” he whispered.

“Like right now, right now?” I asked. “There’s five more minutes left of the movie!”

My doctor looked at me askance (priorities anyone?) and then told me to push.

Now, if you’ve ever expected a baby, I’m sure some thoughtful, kindhearted person has shared horror stories of women pushing for hours and hours… Me? I pushed once and only once, possibly setting a land-speed record in childbirth. I should have known right away that this little one would be a force of nature.

She draws you in

When the doctor handed her to me, she took my breath away– a perfectly round head covered in wisps of wavy hair, the color of pale summer wheat. She had full pouty lips and skin so creamy and translucent that she seemed illuminated from within. Her eyes were the color of emeralds. This little thing I cradled to my chest looked like a peach with the Gerber baby’s face superimposed onto it.

I fell completely and instantly in love.

If she felt the same way, it was not immediately obvious. Her hands were drawn up to the sides of her little fruit face, fists clenched and she was screaming more loudly than seemed possible for a person her size. Since we’d only just met, I didn’t take it personally.

She’s unpredictable…

Now that I’ve gotten to know her better, I can tell you that everything about my girl, and everything to do with her, is not what you’d expect.

There is no lay-up. There’s never a preamble. She glides and pirouettes with the shifting winds of her own creativity and goes wherever her ideas take her. And just when you think you know where she’s headed, she chicanes. A human plot twist on wheels is she, and I defy anyone to pin her down, or anticipate her next move.

She is a typical teenager…

She has a Tumblr account, Skypes with other kids, wears a ton of bracelets, plays the guitar, and loves to dye her hair crazy colors.

She is unlike any other…

She’d rather hang out in a library than go to a shopping mall, prefers writing with a fountain pen, hand-tats Victorian lace using an antique shuttle and is a loose tea connoisseur.

She is fearless…

Take for example the time she saw an open casting call, a paying gig, for a sketch comedy troupe in Manhattan. You know the Manhattan I’m talking about, right? The one filled with tens of thousands of unemployed actors who’d pummel each other just for the chance to wear a sandwich board in Times Square, if it meant having a job? Well, she asked if we’d drive her to the audition (because 15-year-olds don’t drive). As parents, we wanted to protect her and grappled with preparing a soft landing pad: Just so you know, sweetheart, it’s kind of a long shot… We’re so proud of you for trying, but… Instead, we decided to mind our own business and say nothing – which turned out to be the right thing because they hired her on the spot.

That’s the stuff from which she is made. She floats through life like a curious butterfly, winging it from one thing to another, lighting just long enough to gather an experience and then off she goes again, on to the next thing.

Me? I could never be like her. I am a planner. I like things organized. All the labels in my refrigerator face forward and my drinking glasses are arranged in the cabinet by size, shape and color. According to my calendar, I know exactly what I’m doing through to 2015. I don’t have OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder), but living with her has turned me into the OCD (Ordered-Chaos Director). And while I can’t be certain, I’m guessing she was put here to teach me about spontaneity.

She is a parenting challenge…

Living with a person like this will keep you on your toes, I promise you.

So I don’t know why it came as any shock when she announced that she wanted to go to boarding school.

Everything was in place for her to attend our local high school, which is within walking distance from our house. I had mapped out the entire academic year in my head and that map did not lead to a school in another state, 150 miles away. But she had heard about this wonderful place and asked my husband to research it. He thought it was a great idea and made an appointment for a tour and an interview.

Did I mention that this all happened over the course of 48 hours? Did I also mention that I was dead-set against it? Now don’t get me wrong. Of course I want the best for both our children, but before her brother left the nest, there were four full years of high school to prepare for his departure. I knew what was coming. With her, I had no warning at all.

On the day of the appointment, I grudgingly went along for the ride (which was very scenic), took the tour of the school (which was quite impressive), agreed to an interview (which was certainly pleasant), and fell in love with the place (which was very sudden and surprising to everyone, especially to me).

With only two months to prepare, I vowed to make the most of our last scraps of time together. We spent the final week of August lazing by the shore. We walked along the boardwalk, shopped, got matching henna tattoos, and sampled fudge and frozen custard (the sweetness of which could not compare to those afternoons with my daughter).

Contrary to everyone else’s opinion, I will be fine. So what if she has occupied one-third of my waking thoughts and commanded so much of my attention for all these years? What does it matter that, since her brother started college, it’s been just the two of us at breakfast, after-school or whenever hubby is at work or traveling?

I am adjusting. She’s doing it, so I can, too. Right? Here’s how I cope: I imagine that she’s there with me when I have my morning coffee. I feel her presence in the passenger’s seat as I run my errands. I pretend she’s holding my hand, like she always did, when I have to do something that scares me. But there’s one thing I haven’t worked out yet: when I need her advice, I won’t be able to ask her, or call her, or text her. You see, she gives great advice, but I don’t want to interrupt her while she’s busy studying, and getting to know her roommate, and making friends.

She is my best friend…

Conventional wisdom and all the experts say that Rule Number One of childrearing is: Do not become your child’s best friend. That’s a boundary that should never be crossed. “Be the parent!” they say.

I always thought this advice was based on the principles of respect and discipline. If your child views you as a friend, she will not take you seriously. She will not listen to your rules. By relying on you for friendship, she will be hesitant to make friends of her peers.

Well, my daughter does respect me, and listen to my rules, and has never hesitated to venture out into the world.

So, here’s the real reason: Parenting Rule Number One exists not to protect the children, but rather to protect the parents. (Notice I said she is my best friend, not that I am hers.) When our offspring leave the nest, they will be on to their next adventure. They will be forging relationships and making friends and learning about themselves outside the context of their family. But you, my dear parent, will be left behind.  You’ll be sad, and you will be worried and you will be lonesome.

Photo by Paola A. Bowley Photography

I know all this to be true, because she moved out 3 weeks ago. The whole house feels different. And even though she’ll be back, she will be changed. Heck, she practically changes on a daily basis. She will be more mature. She will be more self-sufficient. But there is one thing that will be forever constant: I will always break Rule Number One and she will always be my best friend.

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

SNORK is devoted to humor but amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is certainly no laughing matter. ALS (more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease) is a progressive degeneration of nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. Its effects are devastating and there is no known cure.

So, how did such a serious subject wind up here on SNORK?

Well, unless you’ve been living in a cave for the past two weeks, you’ve heard of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. It is a phenomenon that is sweeping social media. Here’s how it works: People are nominated to video tape themselves dumping ice water over their heads, as a way of bringing attention to ALS. They have 24 hours, from the time of nomination, to respond to the challenge. If they don’t want to get wet, they can opt to make a donation to http://www.ALSA.org instead. Once a person has responded to the challenge, they can nominate others to do the same.

Now, if you know anything about me, you know that I’d never run from an opportunity to have a little fun while raising money for a good cause. So, I made a donation AND took the challenge!  And I’m not alone.  As of this writing, the Ice Bucket Challenge has raised over $9.5 million toward finding a cure for ALS as well as funding care for those living with the disease.  So, don’t be a party pooper…take the challenge and keep it going by nominating your friends, family, co-workers, and anyone you can think of who is up for it.

If you like my video, please share it and give as generously as you can to ASLA.org.

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