Tagged: holidays

Shopping Lists for Holiday Cooking

Sometimes you feel like homemade pizza among all the other holiday fare.

The holidays are upon us, and in the last few years, I’ve been tasked by my family to handle a lot of the cooking. Shopping for a bunch of different recipes at a number of different grocery and specialty stores can be stressful. Preparing a list makes this manageable. I have a two solutions: a sheet of paper with rows and columns, and a recipe manager app.

Low-Tech Solution: Paper

Most shopping lists consist of a series of ingredients that you’ll use for a recipe. That works until you find that you have to go to multiple stores and you can buy at more than one store. I used to have separate sheets for each store and list the ingredients on each sheet where those ingredients are available. However, that led to a lot of flipping between pages and often missing things.

My new solution is to list the ingredients I need in a series of rows, as one usually does. My big breakthrough came when I added a column for each store I planned to visit. I would make a mark, such as an “X,” in each “cell” where that ingredient is available. It looks like this…

Ingredient Store A Store B Store C
Flour x x
Zucchini Squash x x
Poblano Pepper x x x
Soy Chorizo x

When I buy that ingredient, I cross it off my list. That way when I visit other stores, I skip past that ingredient.

High-Tech Solution: Paprika Recipe Manager

I’m not an expert cook, but I can follow a recipe pretty well and can make some effective on-the-fly improvisations.

One tool that has been really helpful with this particular workflow is the Paprika Recipe Manager. The app can very accurately read a recipe from a webpage and parse the ingredients and directions into its own database. When it’s time to cook, you can browse the ingredients list to prepare your ingredients and then read the step-by-step directions. My favorite feature of the latter process is that Paprika detects times. Tap on the time, and your device starts a timer. You can have multiple timers going at once.

Paprika can also help you make a grocery list.

When reviewing a recipe, you can add the ingredients you don’t have to your shopping list.

  • tap the shopping cart icon
  • uncheck the items you already have
  • add it to your list

As you shop, mark ingredients as complete.

No matter which way you chose, it’s important to remember that you shouldn’t rely on your memory. This is a stressful time of year, and you’re going to forget items if you don’t write them down, either on paper or with a digital tool like Paprika.

Happy holidays, everyone.

Why 2015 Was the Best Year in the US since 2009

Get out your perpetual calendar and look forward to 2020. That’s because in five years, we will experience a similarly awesome year as 2015.

Two thousand fifteen was the best year ever because major US holidays fall on days for maximizing vacation time around the summer and mid-winter holidays.

The colloquial summer season in the United States, when most everyone plans their vacations and such, starts on the Friday before Memorial Day and ends on Labor Day. In 2015, the unofficial summer season was as long as it could be: a full sixteen weeks.

  • Memorial Day is always the last Monday of May. In 2015, Memorial Day was on May 25, which meant that the colloquial summer started on the earliest possible date, Friday, May 22.
  • Labor Day is always the first Monday of September. In 2015, Labor Day was on September 7, which meant that colloquial summer ended on the latest possible date, Monday, September 7.

For fans of summer like me, this was much better than 2014 when summer ended on September 1, and better than 2010 when summer started as late as Friday, May 28. Those years sucked!

It was also great because Independence Day, July 4, occurred on a Saturday. Most everyone I knew observed it on July 3, granting many workers a comfortable three-day weekend.

The winter holidays were similarly charmed. This past year Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, December 24 and December 31, respectively fell on Thursdays while Christmas Day and New Year’s Day fell on Fridays. That allowed many workers to have two successive four-day weekends! Take three days off in between, and you could have had with eleven consecutive days off. Not a bad way to end this great year.

I first noticed this in 2009, and I looked forward to it every year since. Usually, these kind of years occur every seven years or so, but we have two leap years coming: one in 2016 and another one in 2020. That will accelerate the frequency of this kind of year.

It will happen again in four short years: in 2020. That’s plenty of time to plan an extended summer vacation or midwinter getaway. Or both.

Happy new year, everyone!

Spring Break Should Not Be Easter Break

My poor students need a break. We also need a smaller classroom than Kiely 264.

My poor students need a break. We also need a smaller classroom than Kiely 264.

Today, most New York City-area colleges return from spring break. Consequently, I had a lighter workload last week because I didn’t have to teach at Fordham and because my office at NYU was more in a spring-cleaning mode than in our usual panicked, fire-extinguishing mode.

But at CUNY, we didn’t have the renewing benefits of that break. Instead, students and faculty have to endure another three weeks before we get our break. Why? Because our break is tied to the Easter and Passover holidays.

Merging Easter and Passover break with Spring Break might make sense for primary and secondary schools because families schedule holiday travel around this break, although my family never did. But in college, where the workload is much more intensive on students and faculty, this break is more urgently needed: scheduling it at the half-way point of the semester makes a lot of sense.

Because Easter and Passover always fall on different days of the year, due to the incompatibilities of the solar and lunar calendars, the CUNY Spring Break can start as early as late-March or end as late as late April. This year, our break comes towards the latter end of this period. That means we have about eleven weeks of classes before we get the benefit of a break. Right now, I’m exhausted. My students are exhausted. We could really benefit from hitting the pause button for a week.

Moreover, because of this scheduling, my class will be on break for two weeks, not just one. We will have our last pre-break meeting on April 7, and then we won’t meet again until April 28. It’s going to hard to gear back up after two weeks off. When we return, we’re going to have only two weeks before final papers are due, and three weeks before the final exam. This isn’t a midterm break: it’s an intersession!

CUNY does a lot of things well for our students, but sometimes, we do things that disadvantage our students compared to other universities.

When is Easter and Passover?

Pascual Moon

Because we have the Internet, we can always lookup what days Easter and Passover fall. But since I like to know how things work, I wanted to figure out whether Easter will be in March or April. Also, when I used to create the schedule for the McCarren Softball league, I wanted to figure out whether I had to schedule a holiday for Easter weekend or for someone’s Seder.

There’s Holidays and Then There’s Holidays…

As far as I can tell, there are three kinds of holidays that we observe in the United States. Although most of this information is well-known, I’m posting it should this blog survive the fall of the American Empire and of Google.

First, there are those that fall on the same day of the year every year. Those would include New Year’s Day (January 1), Independence Day (July 4), Christmas Day (December 25), Valentine’s Day (February 14), May Day (May 1), St. Patrick’s Day (March 17), and Cinco de Mayo (5 of May). Those last two are fun, not only because those are both days of intemperance, but because they always fall on the same day of week as each other. Yes, really!

Second, there are those holidays that fall on a certain day of the week of a specific month. For example, Memorial Day is always on the last Monday of May as Labor Day is always on the first Monday in September. We do the same thing with other federal holidays, such as President’s Day (third Monday of February) and Martin Luther King Day (third Monday of January). The only exception to this Monday thing, of course, is Thanksgiving, which is on the fourth Thursday of November, not the last one as is commonly believed. Retailers love it when November has five Thursdays because it extends the holiday shopping season.

Third, there are the kinds of holidays that require the help of celestial bodies. The start of each season is not on the same day as last year, although it’s pretty close. The start of the northern-hemisphere spring is on the vernal equinox, around March 21, as the northern autumn starts on the autumnal equinox, also around September 21. But it’s never the same day because the seasons are a function of our planet’s orbit around the sun. When it reaches a certain point in that orbit, a new season has started. Our calendar doesn’t measure this exactly, but it’s pretty darn close.

Sheer Lunacy

Once you figure out the March equinox, you can start to figure out Easter and Passover, but you’ll need to figure out when you’ll see the next Paschal full moon. You have some options:

  1. Look at the sky each night after the beginning of spring. Is there a full moon?
  2. Look at a calendar. The Mexican food place down the street always gives me a calendar with the phases of the moon on it. I can check when I’ll see the first full moon of the spring.
  3. Internet.

With this information, you can determine that Passover begins on the first day before this full moon. The Seder will be on the evening of this first full moon.

Easter is trickier because the Paschal moon is calculated from a table, not the moon itself. This is presumably because the full moon might appear different, depending on your position on Earth. Either way, Easter is the first Sunday after this full moon. If the Paschal Moon falls on a Sunday, we wait a week.

As complex as this sounds, Easter and Passover are always in the spring and the moon above will be waning during your Seder or Easter egg hunt.