If you are anything like me, Chol Hamoed can be just the teeniest bit stressful. Okay, maybe very, very stressful. But it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way.
Yes, you just spent a minimum of two to three, or more, weeks scouring every square inch of your humble abode, cooked up massive quantities of food in a minimum amount of time in pots, pans and appliances that you barely even recognize as yours, have spent countless hours washing endless streams of pots, pans, silverware and dishes and then Chol Hamoed rolls around. Despite the inevitable exhaustion that is oozing out of your every pore, your entire family wants you to not only prepare gourmet food but structure social activities that are fun, enticing and will make them the envy of everyone they know.
If you are anything like me you will try your best not to have a meltdown as you explain to your family members that with all the work you have done preparing for Pesach you have zero interest in being designated the family social director as well.
Take a deep breath and remind everyone, including yourself, that you don’t have a cape, you don’t have superpowers and you can’t possibly do everything, for everyone all at once. What your family is envisioning requires you to be in multiple places at once and requires an endless supply of money, which you probably don’t have, having just bought matzah, food for an eight day eating extravaganza and clothing for the entire family. So tell everyone to take a chill pill and remember that if they want to live in Fantasyland, they need to head down to Disney World. Because you can either prepare gourmet meals every day of Chol Hamoed or you can plan exciting activities to keep everyone entertained. You can’t possibly do both.
But that’s okay, because neither can anyone else. So just relax. You have worked so hard to get this far; it is finally time to enjoy a well-deserved break. Let’s start with the food. Go check your refrigerator. Got leftovers? Great. Then put them to good use.
Flake up leftover roast and serve it with a salad for supper one night. Dice up extra chicken and resurrect it as chicken salad or chicken potpie. (Skip the bottom crust. Trust me. No one needs all those extra calories this week.) Don’t have any leftovers? Cook up a pot of hot dogs or buy a package of cold cuts and remember that this just isn’t a week for dieting. Feel free to add some easy veggies to your menu: think bagged salad, grape tomatoes, mini sweet peppers (depending on your minhagim), or even a jar of pickles, all things that don’t require cutting up. Round out your meals with all those leftover kugel pieces and potatoes that are taking up valuable space in your fridge.
Try yogurt, leben, smoothies, fruit salad or even brownies for breakfast. Lunch choices can include tuna, eggs and if you eat gebrokts, matzah pizza or matzah brei. If you are planning a day trip, try serving a serious breakfast – say scrambled eggs, matzah and lots of sliced veggies – giving you the option of a lighter lunch which could consist of yogurt, string cheese, fruit, nuts or anything else that is easily totable. Feel free to freeze a few water bottles to take with you. Not only will they keep your perishables cold, but you will have drinks for the family as well.
Now that at least some of your meals have been taken care of, you can enjoy some quality time with your nearest and dearest. With this years’ long Chol Hamoed, there is ample time for lots of family fun, but as always, use your head and plan wisely. It is entirely possible that your teenagers may want to spend a day or two with their friends. Let them. It gives you the perfect opportunity to plan activities that are geared towards either older or younger family members. Check the weather sites and see what the forecast is for Chol Hamoed, taking advantages of the best weather for outdoor activities.
If your family enjoys the big outdoors then budget friendly opportunities abound. Try hiking, biking, rollerblading, or if the winds allow, kite flying at your local park. Stroll across the George Washington or Brooklyn Bridge. Pay a visit to the nearest (or not so near, if you are in the mood of traveling) botanical gardens and enjoy the most fascinating time of year as the trees start to leaf and the flowers start to bloom. (For those of you with springtime allergies, don’t even think about leaving the house without taking some form of allergy medicine.)