♦ Puzzles

Dear Shaina,

One of my friends read your letter and told me it made her sad. Dad acknowledged the Shealy thread. I continue to be perplexed at how you evolved into adopting the Schuster avoidance method of perpetual motion…and I just wanted to fix it…right away.

None of us come with all the puzzle pieces put together.  Maybe it’s enough to know that there are pieces missing and that it’s our job to look for them and try them on…like a jig-saw puzzle. I was 36 when you were born…and Dad was 45.  The seeds we planted in our twenties and thirties and forties gave no clue of what was to come. The puzzle pieces only made sense in retrospect.

At 62 and 70, our conjoined jigsaw puzzles are filling up nicely. The depth and expansiveness of our lives would not be the same without you. The pieces that you have added to the tapestry of our lives go far beyond rain forests in Bolivia and salt deserts in India. You pushed the boundaries of our capacity to love in a way that neither of us thought possible. You stretched the edges of our individual puzzles into new-found spaces filled with curiosity and color and joy. That doesn’t mean that we have no empty holes, no spaces yet to be filled, no angst still to be felt, even at our age.  I am still trying to find the balance between action and stillness, acceptance and striving.

I know how hard it is to be 25…all the pieces dumped out in a random pile on the floor with just barely an outline formed by the edge pieces…a few double and triple rows and some random blobs of color and texture where the pieces all happened to find each other…and all that empty space…anxiously waiting to be filled…


Sometimes, it’s hard to see the forest for the trees… Every once in a while, it’s a good idea to step back and look at all the pieces that have been filled in…to see beyond the pieces…to marvel at the big picture and appreciate the themes and beauty that have already begun to take shape. And then to examine the empty spaces and begin again. This is as much a reminder for me as it is for you.

I wish, for you, that there was an easy answer, a straight line, a clear vision.  I know there is not…

I do know that I trust your ability to know when the puzzle pieces truly fit…and when they don’t.  The right pieces are there and you will persist in finding them, trying them on, choosing the right fit and discarding the rest.  Awareness and patience…and trust in yourself…you have the rest of your life.

We are on our way to South Carolina.  Soup, turkey and cheesecakes in hand. It’s part of our DNA. We cook and feed and nurture. It’s the antidote for the life search…grounding and connecting us to those people and places most important to us. And it keeps our hands and minds occupied, distracted and temporarily oblivious.

Poker in SC i The next generation!

Poker in SC … The next generation!

I love you and miss you.

Love, Mom



Shirly’s Corn Pudding

I have been cooking like crazy lately.  This recipe that our Israeli cousin Shirly made for our family reunion was another favorite of mine. It was perfect for a dairy meal I made for a Meet ’n Greet with the new Rabbi and his wife and some friends.  It’s really easy to make and goes well with salads and soups for a light dinner. I also varied it by substituting other veggies for the corn. It is like a lighter version of a crustless quiche. I even like the leftovers for breakfast.


  • 2 cups frozen corn kernels , thawed and drained (1 Package)*
  • 1 cup cottage cheese
  • 1 cup aged cheddar cheese, coarsely grated
  • 2 tablespoons cornmeal
  • 3 eggs
  • One cup plain regular or Greek yogurt (I used no fat Greek)
  • 1 tablespoon onion soup mix (other spices of your choice can be substituted)
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • 1/3 – 1/2 cup grated cheese for topping
  • Butter, margarine or cooking spray for greasing the pan

* Sauteed mushrooms and onions or chopped drained spinach and onions can be substituted for the corn to vary this recipe. Jarlsburg or other cheeses of you choice can be substituted. I added a little freshly ground nutmeg, salt and pepper and left off the onion soup.

Preheat oven to 350°

In a large bowl place the corn, cottage cheese, cheese, cornmeal, eggs, yogurt and soup mix and any additional seasonings to taste.
Mix into a smooth mixture .
Pour mixture into preheated and greased loaf pan.
Top with remaining grated cheese and bake about 50 minutes or until cheese melts and is bubbling and top is lightly browned


Vegetarian Chili Casserole (for a crowd…and then some)


No matter how I start out, this chili always ends up making enough for a huge crowd with leftovers to be shared with friends or frozen for later use.  This combination of vegetables reflects what I had in my refrigerator plus a few things I picked up at the grocery store.  The recipe and quantities are very flexible and accommodating to individual tastes and desires, so don’t feel like you have to follow this recipe precisely.  The secret is in the spicing.  Taste frequently and adjust the seasonings to suit  your tastes.  It is best if it is cooked at least one day before you plan on serving it to give the flavors a chance to blend together. Get out your biggest soup pot (6-8 quarts) and start creating!

Yield: 6 – 8 quarts

Prep time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 2- 3 hours to be done
45 minutes to reheat as a casserole

  • IMG_28762 Tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 package tofu ground “beef”, regular or taco flavored
  • 2-3 carrots, chopped
  • 3 stalks celery, cut up
  • 1-2 large onions, chopped
  • 2 fresh peppers, green, red, yellow or orange, cut up
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic
  • 5-6 cans (14.5 ounce) diced tomatoes
  • 4 zucchinis, cut up
  • 4 yellow crookneck squash, cut up
  • 2 cups frozen corn kernels
  • 1/2 pound baby portabello mushrooms, cut up (optional)
  • 2 cans black beans, drained (or you can cook your own dried beans, any kind you like)
  • 2 cans red kidney beans, drained
  • Cumin, Chili powder, garlic, coriander and salt to taste ( a good taco or chili seasoning mix can be used)
  • Aged Cheddar Cheese for topping (optional)

Cut up all vegetables in small or bite sized chunks.
Heat oil in a large 6-8 quart soup pot. Sauté tofu, onions, carrots, celery, peppers and garlic in olive oil.
Add canned diced tomatoes and remaining vegetables and beans and cook at medium heat until thoroughly heated.  Add spices to taste. Lower the heat and cook until liquids are reduced and mixture is thickened. This could take a couple hours.  Taste and adjust seasoning frequently.


This chili can be eaten as a thick soup or placed in a casserole and topped with cheese and rebaked in the oven at 350° for about 45 minutes or until hot and bubbly.


Serve with fresh cornbread and your favorite green salad and you have a hearty winter meal.