Thankful, I am

I flew home on Tuesday, not sure of what to expect this Thanksgiving holiday. This had always been my Bubby Cyrille’s holiday, and when she passed away three years ago, I felt much of this particular holiday’s cheer would have passed with her. Fortunately — and not abnormally — I was wrong.

With my dad having had major surgery, and my Zaydie Sam not as strong as he used to be, this Thanksgiving will prove a challenge, along with plenty to be grateful and thankful for.

  • I’m thankful for my amazing family — my mother, for always supporting me; my father, for sharing his unsolicited pride in my success; my brother, for indulging my neurosis and for listening to me randomly rattle off recipes I want to prepare; my sister Anne for encouraging me on my Weight Watchers journey; my sister Amanda (and brother-in-law Dave), for being there for professional advice, and overall sisterly support. We have all come so far, but without each other, we’d be empty and lost.
  • I’m thankful for my wonderful job and incredible colleagues — I made a move this year to our parent company, and in so doing, had to adjust to a new team and new overall professional dynamic. I’ll always miss my old team (although now we’re all housed under one roof!), but my new one has proved to be delightful. I’m thankful for the way we all work so well together, through brainstorms and general effective leadership.
  • I’m thankful for my incredible friends — without the support of my friends…without their phone calls, texts, IMs, and Facetime requests…I’d be a much less interesting person. Thank you for pushing me to be more adventurous, to do things I would never normally do, and to embrace life as it comes my way.

Tonight, we’ll dine at my Auntie Phyllis’ — because that’s tradition, and we like that in my tribe — we’ll see family and friends (some old, some new). Most sentimental of all is that with my Bubby gone, my mother will recite the poem that her grandfather — Zaydie Fred — wrote for my Bubby when she was in the fifth grade.

Thanksgiving Day comes but once a year, but always it is full of cheer. There is but one who rouse this day, who this one is, I need not say. But just in case there is some doubt, it is the turkey gobbler I speak about. For the rest of us Thanksgiving Day is a time to fuss, a time to pray and thank God we live in the good old U.S.A.
I’m looking forward to seeing everyone, and continuing my Michigan vacation.
So, let’s turn the tables. Tell me, what are you thankful for?

A New Year’s Orphan

Holidays have been tricky for me since making the big move to the Big Apple. I have family here — I think most Jews do — but nothing compares to my Detroit contingent that gathers for weekly Shabbos dinners, the high holidays, Thanksgiving, New Years, and Pesach.

While I’ve grown accustomed to breaking the Yom Kippur fast with my New York cousins — very much worth a full day’s fast if I can snag even one of cousin Marion’s blintzes — especially as they often reminisce in my grandmother’s memory, nothing replaces digging into a deli tray and other dairy delights with my full mishpocha back home in the mitten that is Michigan.

My original plans for the holiday weekend, or rather, the weekend leading up to erev Rosh Hashanah changed last-minute. I was supposed to venture out to Amagansett for what was to be a lovely weekend of apple picking and time spent with my cousins Aaryn and Esther. Thanks to an unruly Hamptons Jitney operator, those plans unraveled.

Suddenly, I felt like a high holiday orphan. Many of my New York friends are not Jewish, and those that are have traveled back home for the holiday. Salt was rubbed into the wound after a few Skype calls with my siblings and parents, and I began to plan for an evening alone on 29 Elul in my teeny, tiny apartment in Queens, while they all made plans to enjoy the holiday back in Michigan.

My luck changed when a former colleague and good friend invited me to join his family for dinner. I jumped at the opportunity, and am excited for the experience. Nothing can replace holidays at Auntie Phyllis’, but hopefully this will be a close second. And while tomorrow I should be spending my day in services, I’m without tickets for Monday, and am plagued with my father’s work ethic, so I’ll be at work and not shul.

That said, to my readers, family, friends, and beyond – I wish you a very happy, healthy, and sweet new year. לשנה טובה ומתוקה לכולם!

Lentils, Spinach, Goat Cheese

I love Middle Eastern flavors. I could eat lentils for every meal, and often times I do.

In Detroit, we have some of the best Middle Eastern restaurants in the country — and I’m including New York in that statement. I’ve lived in New York for almost three years, and simply have not been able to find a single restaurant that comes close to my midwest Middle East.

Lately, Anita’s Kitchen (Ferndale, MI) is my favorite place to go when home because their portion sizes are more realistic and meant for one person (I don’t like being too full, and I don’t like taking home leftovers), and the food is a bit more eclectic. Their garlic sauce is not my favorite — I prefer it from Sultan’s in East Lansing, MI — but their Spinach, Goat Cheese, and Garlic dish is one of my favorites. Don’t even get me started on their eggplant salad. Noms.

For dinner tonight, I was craving Anita’s, but with a few states between us, I decided to make my own version of my favorite dish.

Start with a non-stick pan, and spray well with Olive Oil-flavored cooking spray or EVOO (1-2 tablespoons). Add half a medium white onion (sliced) and two cloves of garlic, finely minced.

Once the onion softens, add a 1/2 cup cooked beluga lentils, 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, and 1.5 cups spinach. I added steamed string beans to my recipe — about one cup.

Because the lentils were air-packed, and not freshly boiled, I didn’t add salt. For a peppery taste to balance the earthiness of the vegetables, I added 1/8 cup pepper-crusted goat cheese.

Delicious, filling, and healthy. Lentilicious.

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The Power of 3

My sister and brother-in-law are upstairs sleeping after their long journey to Michigan from Seattle. This week marked two important milestones for my family. My brother Aaron was newly minted Dr. Kirsch in his graduation from Wayne State University Medical School, and my sister Amanda and her husband Dave celebrated their 3-year wedding anniversary.

I’ll never forget the day they were married. My Bubby Cyrille — the best grandmother anyone could possibly have asked for — was fighting a horrific battle with cancer, and this was one of her final family events. The event was beautiful, and family members from all across the states — and then some — gathered to celebrate my sister as she entered the next chapter of her life, and took the opportunity to spend what would likely be their final moments with my late Bubby.

While I wish that some of the paternal family drama had not played a role — but it seems no Kirsch event can take place without it — my sister was beautiful that night, and I gained another brother (indeed, from another mother).

As a result of Dave joining our family, I’ve been fortunate enough to feel that my total family has expanded. His parents have been nothing short of lovely in welcoming me into their home for Jersey-bound Jewish holidays.

To Amanda and Dave, mazel tov on another happy year of marriage, I wish you 120 more. To my brother Aaron, I’m incredibly proud of all that you have accomplished. Thank you for being one of the only people to care about my latest chickpea-laden recipe, or newly discovered BritComs. You’re the best, and I’m so grateful to have you in my life.I long for the day when Amanda and Dave start a family — no pressure — and at this important stage in their relationship, I still see the same, head-over-heels couple that joined under the chuppah three years ago.

[And so that Anne doesn’t feel left out, I love her and am proud of her, too. My Texan sister has made a true lifestyle transformation, having lost 50 pounds in the last year. She stays active in the Houston heat, and is a daily role model for my own routine.]

Family Ties

Shortly after I returned from my Thanksgiving holiday in Detroit, I jetted off yet again — this time, to [not-so] sunny Southern Florida.

While most of my relatives are rooted in Detroit, handfuls from my grandparents’ generation established adult lives outside of the Michigan mitten in Florida and in New York.

My maternal grandmother’s sister, my Auntie Molly, moved to Florida fifty-five years ago, and while geographically removed from the majority of the family, the anecdotes that she shared during my weekend trip proved that she has managed to stay very much in the loop.

I write about my family often; I’m quite fond of them.

My entire trip down to Florida was lovely — even the hour-long schlep we made from Jupiter to Fort Lauderdale at 4 a.m. to return our rental car — but my favorite thing was spending several hours with my Great Aunt and my mom, talking about her upbringing, and learning of her past as a writer.

I’m in the process of reading A Prayer for the Departed by my cousin Bill Broder.

Between Bill, his wife Gloria, and one other cousin in publishing, I thought I had interacted with all of the writers of their generation.

I was wrong.

My Aunt Molly pulled out a metallic silver binder full of clippings from a column called, “Molly’s Moments.”

Not sure of what to expect, I read through, one by one, and quickly became drawn to her tongue-and-cheek writing style.

In a post not far off in the future, I’ll share “Molly’s Moments” with you, in hopes that you’ll find them equally as entertaining.

Another quick note: I’m often a literary hard-sell, and began reading Bill’s book (mentioned above) out of familial curiosity. That said, I’ve had a hard time putting it down. Bill writes a very warm collection of stories from his youth — stories that take a look at the dynamics of a Jewish American family living in Detroit, Michigan. But the themes in his book extend beyond geography and religion. I highly recommend it as a curious mind, and not as a cousin. 

 

Banner Happy

A while back, my nearest and dearest friend took part in a design contest that involved designing a Michigan-centric postcard. While supporting her work, I stumbled upon the work of another Michigan-born, now California-based designer, Angela Duncan. I loved everything about Angela’s designs, so much so that I sent her work to a family friend who owns a rental property in her home town of Beulah, MI.

At a certain point, I decided to invest a bit more in my blog, which meant giving its banner a facelift. Angela took my weak direction and came up with designs that articulated what I couldn’t — an aesthetic that was part kitsch, part Kirsch.

Courtesy of Angela Duncan

She included the above design proofs on her site here, and if you like her work at all, you should consider hiring her, too. She was beyond easy to work with, her work is creative and clean, and I could not be happier with the end result.

Real Extended Family of Parsippany, NJ

I have family everywhere. Sometimes, when I view wireless provider coverage maps, I wonder what a color-coded map of my extended family throughout the United States might look like.

When I made the decision to move to New York, there was a small sliver of comfort in the fact that my cousins in New York were a short train, bus, or taxi ride across the 59th Street Bridge.

In addition to my maternal extended in New York (mostly concentrated to the Upper East Side), I am fortunate enough to have  a bit of ultra extended (ie: my sister’s in-laws) family a little further west in New Jersey.

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