Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Hanukkah Survey

This survey is going around the Jewish professional blogs and so I thought I'd share it with you.

One menorah, or several?

We own 9 menorahs (thanks to the Jewish preschool - we have 6 homemade ones). We only use 3 though on each night of Hanukkah - one for the family and the kids each have one.

Do you buy your children gifts for every night of Chanukah?

They get a gift from us for 6 nights. The other two nights they receive gifts from the grandparents.

Do you and your spouse/partner or any other adults in your life exchange gifts?

We exchange with kids and adults alike.

Special family chanukah traditions?

We invite our Jewish neighbors and neighbors of other faiths to our house to celebrate Hanukkah complete with pizza, latkes, munchkins, menorah lighting and dreidel. We also attend the synagogue Hanukkah events and spend time with each of our families during the week.

Latkes or sufganiyot? If latkes, sour cream or applesauce?

How is this for boring - Weight Watchers latkes with low fat sour cream or applesauce for me. Everyone else gets the real thing!

Favorite chanukah book?

Lemony Snicket's The Latke Who Couldn't Stop Screaming. :)

Do you actually play dreidl? If so, what do you use for counters?

Yes, we play dreidel and we use m&ms or pennies.

What relationship, if any, do you have with Christmas and all things Christmas-y?

Chinese food and movies, of course! Actually, my favorite songs this time of year are Bruce Springsteen's rendition of Santa Claus is Coming to Town. I also like Winter Wonderland and Let it Snow. If our friends invite us over for egg nog, we are happy to take part.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A Holiday Moment I'll Never Forget

It isn't even officially the holiday season, yet decorations are everywhere and the Salvation Army has taken its post outside of the doors of the mall.

Tonight, I took my children to the mall and we walked over to the cosmetic counter. A very nice young woman helped me with my selections and while she was trying it on me - she spoke to my kids.

"So, are you excited for Christmas?" she asked. I waited. Each year the kids have stayed silent not knowing what to say or how to react. They've been embarassed and have looked at me for assistance. This year - I just waited to see what happened.

My son answered, "We are Hanukkah not Christmas."

Not missing a beat the woman started to talk to both of them about how lucky they were that Hanukkah comes early this year and that they get 12 days of presents while she only gets one.

My daughter politely informs her that they only get 8 days of presents and affirms that they are indeed excited about it with a big grin on her face.

Here comes the best part. I was already proud of the fact that my kids said it out loud and with pride - "We celebrate Hanukkah." But then something else happened.

When I went to pay for my purchases, the saleswoman turned to them and wished them a Happy Hanukkah. My daughter turned around and wished her a Merry Christmas. And I just absorbed the moment where each person respected each other's holiday, recognized their differences and wished them a meaningful holiday greeting.

I know that there is a lot of talk about how "Happy Holidays" is too generic and impersonal to say or how salespeople shouldn't assume that everyone celebrates Christmas. This argument never really mattered to me until I witnessed this great moment when people of different faiths and traditions came together in mutual respect, much excitement, and pure joy.

I could not have been more proud of our family. It is truly a holiday moment I will not forget.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Jewish Cooking for the Clueless

IT'S HERE! My new cookbook - Jewish Cooking Boot Camp - came in the mail last week. I know that this cookbook was made for me - especially when there is an article on page 7 titled "Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Kitchen Injuries."

I'd like to add a new segment to the cookbook from the Clueless Cook (a.k.a. yours truly). I call it - Reasons to read the recipe BEFORE you start to cook.

Reason #1 - By reading the entire list of ingredients, you can make sure that you have each item in your kitchen. If you don't follow this philosophy, you will likely annoy your spouse when you send him or her out to the store to retrieve the missing (and usually hard to find) ingredient.

Reason #2 - Read the recipe again to make sure that you have all of the kitchen equipment you need. This would have come in handy before I was in the middle of making cupcakes with the kids from scratch without a sifter.

Reason #3
Read the amount that you need of each ingredient prior to putting it in the bowl. Otherwise, you may wind up quadrupling the one ingredient that you didn't read while using the exact measurements of the ingredients that you did read. Yes, I admit that I did this. I overloaded on the tomato sauce and put in the exact ingredients while making a mango sauce for my tilapia.

One more cooking tip for clueless cooks out there (are there any out there besides me?), buy 2 of everything so that when you mess it up - you have everything you need to start all over again!

Yeah, the brisket I plan to make for the High Holidays should make for a very interesting story. Wish me luck and stay tuned!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

My Lists

I'm back! Does September feel like a big freight train coming down the tracks and there is nothing we can do to stop it? The last time I blogged was in January (sorry about that). In January, I was dreaming about many things that I was looking forward to over the summer.

  • Family vacation to DisneyWorld (check)
  • Billy Joel/Elton John Concert (check)
  • The Producers at the Walnut (check)
  • Phillies games (check - 2 down & 1 to go)
  • Neighborhood BBQs (check)

I still have a few things left on my summer to do list, but my fall list is getting longer by the minute.

  • Back to School shopping
  • Back to School nights
  • Soccer practice
  • Soccer games
  • Sunday School
  • Hebrew School (new for us this year)
  • High Holidays
  • High School Reunion (20th in November)

It's time to pull the train into the station and get some perspective on this. So, I took out one of my favorite books: Don't Sweat the Small Stuff (and It's All Small Stuff). And I made a new list to deal with some of my stress

  • Be aware of the snowball effect - meaning if I wake up in the middle of the night thinking of one thing and it turns into 5 more things - get a grip and go back to sleep.
  • Live in the Present Moment - practice living in the here and now and less on worrying about the past and future
  • Allow Myself to be Bored - WHAT! This one is the hardest for me. But the book says that if I allow myself to be bored - even for a short time - boredom will be replaced with peaceful feelings. Okay - I'll give it a shot! :)
  • Cut Myself Some Slack - Okay, sounds good. I know I'm not perfect and not everything on my to do list will get done. The important things will be addressed and the rest can wait for another day.

If you have this book hidden away in a closet and you haven't picked it up in a while. Maybe it is a good time to do so - before you see the freight train coming your way.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Piles of Pictures

I've been cleaning out my closets lately and recently I came across a big plastic bin of old pictures. In the past, I would take out this box and put it right back without opening it or doing anything to organize the photos. About a month ago, I decided not to put the box back and instead organize the photos and buy photo albums to put them in.

I did not realize what a large task this was. At first, I was very motivated and spent many nights pouring over the pictures, organizing them in piles (one pile for my daughter, one pile or my son, one pile for our trip to Disney, etc). After a while, it got a little tiresome so the pictures sat on my dining room table for another week before I touched them again.

Finally, I realized that I needed my dining room back in order. So, over the weekend, I plowed through the rest of the pictures. No wonder it takes so long. The thoughts that go through your head while taking on this project are so random:

"This picture will be great for the bat mitzvah montage - in five years"

"Look how skinny I am in this picture - someday I'll be that skinny again."

"Who is that?"

"Why did I make doubles?"

I am happy to say that 90% of the original pile of photos is now organized in photo albums. But, when I went looking for a place to put the albums - guess what I found - MORE PICTURES!

Oy Vey - will this project ever end?

Friday, January 30, 2009

Top 10 Random Jewish Things About Me

Facebook's new trend is to come up with 25 Random Things About Me and send it off to our friends. Here is my version of 10 Random Jewish Things About Me - feel free to post your own top 10 (or 5 or 3 - no pressure here).

1) I went to Israel in 1991 and climbed Masada, planted a tree, walked the streets of Jerusalem, had a crush on an Israeli soldier, rode a camel, slept in the desert with the Bedouins, and had a bat mitzvah ceremony at the Western Wall - A fantastic experience

2) I was BBYO member of the year and president of my BBYO chapter - Re'ut BBYO

3) My parents made my sister and I keep Passover in Disneyworld when I was 9 years old. Not easy to do!

4) I did nothing Jewish in college, except to go home over the high holidays.

5) I marched for Soviet Jewry in Washington D.C.

6) I love that my kids love coming to synagogue, preschool, Sunday school, youth group events, and singing in the choir. I'm hoping that it lasts a long time.

7) I enjoy listening to modern Jewish music in the car when I'm by myself - Rick Recht, Sheldon Low, Josh Nelson, etc. The music is uplifting and toe tapping and makes me feel good. Jewish music is no longer limited to "Sunrise, Sunset" and old Barry Manilow albums any more (although I am a closet Fanilow!)

8) I love my job as Program Director of my synagogue more than any other job I've ever held. It is fulfilling, enjoyable and every day I feel like I make a difference - even if it is a small difference.

9) As a kid, I belonged to a Conservative synagogue with 100 families, 1 rabbi, no cantor and 3 classrooms - we referred to it as B'nai Wawa because that was how big it was. B'nai Tikvah is still there and thriving today. Now, I work for a Reform synagogue with over 1000 families, 2 rabbis, in a huge building and I feel just as connected to this synagogue as I did to the one that I grew up in.

10) I was teased as a kid for being Jewish. People threw pennies and called me names and I sometimes felt that I didn't fit in. But, instead of turning away from it, my parents helped me to embrace our differences and it has made me a huge part of who I am today.

I hope you will post something Jewish about yourself that changed your life. I look forward to reading your posts!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

New Year, New Me

I have so many resolutions and I don't know which ones to concentrate on the most.

My two biggies are to get organized and lose weight. I have a plan for the weight loss - I'm gong to start back to Weight Watchers which meets at Beth Or on Tuesdays at 12 noon. How can I not go - it is right in my building during lunch hour. I have no excuse. I also plan to hit the gym as much as possible. This is a little difficult because the only times I can go are late afternoon or late evening. I'm hoping to find a gym buddy with the same crazy schedule as me - so that we can motivate each other to go.

Getting organized is a whole different thing. I am a big fan of Real Simple magazine, the Container Store, & I possess many "get organized" types of books. My problem is that I have too many systems -because I love to put them in place - and don't know which works best for me. I also don't know which room to begin with - do I start from the bedrooms down to the playroom or start at the bottom and work my way up. Do I start by room or by project? Last night I had a choice between cleaning out the fridge and putting the photos away that have been sitting on my dining room table for a month. I chose the fridge because we need to go food shopping. It looks great! Now what to tackle next?! Too many things to choose from...