Reading More Poetry
Lana Xu, APPC-V

Peter and I have been reading more poetry these days over tea, coffee, beer, and wine. It’s quite fitting, since April is the National Poetry Month. But more importantly, it is just therapeutic. I do miss attending events at the Kelly’s Writers House on campus, though.  — Lana

PSA: Requesting a mail-in ballot in Pennsylvania
Ellen Iwamoto, APPC-V

Here’s the link to get information and to request a mail-in ballot for the Pennsylvania primary on June 2. Your completed application must be received by 5 p.m. May 26.

Thanks for the sewing machine, Mom
Ellen Iwamoto, APPC-V

When the recommendation came to wear face masks, I got out my mom’s 60-plus-year-old sewing machine that I’ve taken everywhere since I graduated from college. Unlike the modern plastic ones today, this machine is all metal and heavy! But it still takes care of all basic sewing needs beautifully. I watched too many video tutorials before going with a very basic one. (What’s with all that ironing?!) Here is a first effort. If you don’t sew and are looking for something stylish, check out this Inquirer article about how you can support local businesses that are selling masks.

A New Supervisor at the Rendell Center
Ellen Iwamoto, APPC-V

Meet MJ, who is in charge of the Maggie’s Civics Corner initiative at the Rendell Center for Civics and Civic Engagement. Maggie’s Civics Corner was inspired by Governor Rendell’s dog Maggie, who was one of MJ’s buddies, according to Beth Specker. It was created to meet the needs of parents and teachers during the coronavirus pandemic. Civics lessons are posted regularly.

A Seder Different From All Other Seders
Jessica Erfer, APPC-V

Ma nishtana….Passover has always been my favorite Jewish holiday. I used to think this was because of the emphasis on social justice (‘A slave anywhere is a slave everywhere’), but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized it is because of family. Growing up, we always had our Seder in Pittsburgh, either at my Aunt Norma’s house in Squirrel Hill or my Great Aunt Mary’s house in Blairsville. Dozens and dozens of people from various family and social circles, weird but delicious food, a story of freedom, and lots of talk of politics. What always made Passover holy, to me, was hearing the stories from my grandparents and great aunts and uncles, larger than life figures with slightly yiddish accents arguing about American politics.

My grandfather, Jack, was always at the head of the table while his brother in law, my Uncle Kirk, lead the service out of haggadah so old and well used, you often were missing a page. I used to spend the whole day helping to set up – set the table, stir the soup, dust the tables, put out more bowls of chopped liver. And the smell. Oh, the smell of the chicken soup! To this day, it is one of my strongest scent memories of growing up. My Grandma’s soup was the best. Her matzo balls were floaters whereas everyone else’s were sinkers.

Passover remains my favorite of the Jewish holidays and I’ve always made an effort to spent it with my parents and mother in law, missing only a couple here and there in my adult life. I found solace yesterday in the fact that the seder plate I registered for as a wedding gift is the same one my own mother has, and I didn’t even know that when I registered for it.

When thinking of being home with just my spouse and kid, I kept thinking about how much I’d miss that soup. My mom’s is pretty good and a good substitute for my grandma’s. I didn’t want to buy from Hymie’s, largely because my husband doesn’t eat meat so chicken soup would be useless.

Enter, Imagine Foods Vegetarian No-Chicken Broth! Once I found this, I wondered how I could make it work for matzo ball soup at home that we could both eat. It does not have an aggressive vegetable flavor, but instead tastes like the central flavors of chicken stock – carrots and onion. Tooting my own horn here, but it was fantastic. Now you can make vegan (not on purpose) matzo ball soup at home! Note that I got the stock delivered via Instacart from Wegmans, but I’ve seen it at Whole Foods and even Target before.


  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 4 carrots, peeled and cut into big chunks
  • 4 parsnips, peeled and cut into big chunks
  • 2 onions, cut in half with the skin on (rinse it off)
  • 4 celery stalks, cut into big chunks
  • 2 tbsp(ish) of miso paste
  • Salt.
  • Half bunch of parsley, rinsed and ends cut off. Keep stems on.
  • 2 quarts of Imagine Foods Vegetarian No-Chicken Broth
  • Matzo ball recipe or mix of your choice
Simmering away

Sauté the vegetables with some salt in a large stock pot with the heated oil. Once coated in the oil, add in miso paste. Break up miso paste and stir to coat the vegetables and avoid large chunks of miso. Add in two quarts of stock, mixing to incorporate miso paste and add salt. Once boiling, stir and reduce heat. I let it cook on low for an hour or so (and boy did the house smell good). Once in a while, I’d skim any fat from the top and stir again. Taste soup along the way and add salt as desired. The broth turned a golden yellow and all veggie were soft. Strain the soup and store broth and veggies, which I chopped up a bit smaller, separately. When ready to make matzo balls, add directly to the stock to help absorb some of the flavor.

The soup got rave reviews from the only other consumer at the table, but trust me – This is the vegetarian matzo ball soup recipe you’ve been looking for.

Having just my husband and slightly cranky 6 year old at home, safe from illness and the uncertainty so many people around the world face right now gives new meaning to dayenu. From my small family to yours, we wish you a chag Pesach sameach / a gut yontif, / zissen Pesach.

Make Your Own Bagels
Ellen Iwamoto, APPC-V
My husband loves bagels. What to do when your favorite bagel shops are closed? Make your own! And luckily, we had bread flour and yeast. He tried his first batch last weekend. More like bread rolls than bagels, he says, but plans to keep trying at least until the bread flour runs out.

University City Garden Club Online Plant Sale
Ellen Iwamoto, APPC-V

University City Garden Club Plant Sale – now online! The University City Garden Club has moved its annual plant sale online. Order a variety of annuals, herbs, vegetables, and more from our friends and neighbors. Flowers, plants, containers and hanging baskets are available for gifts and planting in your garden! Orders are for curbside pickup only. Pick up your plants on May 2 from Woodland Terrace near the 40th Street Trolley Portal. All the proceeds from the sale will be used to support greening and civic beautification. Place your orders here:

Grocery Delivery Options
Ellen Iwamoto, APPC-V

From the Penn Sustainability Office:

Getting groceries delivered to your home? Try these alternatives: Misfits Market and Imperfect Foods.

Homemade Wontons – Yum!
Lana Xu, APPC-V
Lana’s gorgeous homemade turkey wontons with the perfect pairing of a Victory beer. We just want to know when she is going to start offering takeout service!

Pictures of My Dog Forming a Circle
Daniel Corkery, APPC-V

I’ve been doing my work in our tiny second floor office/closet/soon-to-be nursery, which leaves the whole of the first floor to my wife and our dog. He spends most of the day sleeping, save for when I come downstairs and he feels free to go insane. Still, he’s been more tired in the evening. I think our being home has messed up his routine of sleeping all day. Here are some pictures of him forming a circle while he sleeps, one of his go-to formations.

Then sometimes he steals my wife’s nursing pillow, which is also circular. Have a great week!