Shavuot is coming up, so who wants to make some messy, homemade ice cream? I do. It's the one time a year my family makes ice cream, so right there it's a highlight of the Jewish calendar. "The…Giving of the Torah,"of course, is at the core of Shavuot, but "The Making of the Ice Cream" is a bit more memorable if you are 5. Don't have a proper ice cream maker? The kids can make it with Ziploc bags. Even if you do have a machine, the low-tech baggie way is a… >> Read More
Time to hide the Jew stuff: the HVAC guys are coming. HVAC is pronounced H-V-A-C, by the way. I used to say "aytchvack," thinking I sounded cool and handy, until a technician corrected me. I've…checked online, and authorities are mixed, but I'm sticking with the letters. We chose a huge maintenance firm based on the assumption it would give us peace of mind. Not with prices or guarantees, but with accountability via a hierarchy of supervisors. When we had dudes from small handyman services, I never knew what would… >> Read More
My friend Marjorie recently wondered if there was such a thing as Passover cooking for slackers. I wish. I overdo Passover so hard I always wind up ill before, during, and after the seders. Right…now, just the thought that I must find, unfold, starch and iron the Florentine tablecloths makes me sweat. Forget about creating the haggadah and sorting plague toys and designing elaborate afikomen treasure hunts and oh, the deep cleaning supposedly going on for weeks beforehand. I realize seder prep needn't be all or nothing, but I… >> Read More
The holiday of Tu Bishvat, a.k.a. the birthday of the trees, starts at sundown tomorrow. Tu Bishvat is a field day for all environmentally-conscious families: an ideal ground from which to explore,…celebrate and protect all things ecological. Kabbalists gave it a 15-course fruit seder of its own back in the 16th century, which is still observed in some fashion today. But if you want to make this tradition more tangible for your kids, we have some candy recommendations for you. To read the rest of Joanna's piece,… >> Read More
Birds need trees for food and shelter, but trees actually need birds, too. Biological sciences have proven what my gut tells me: when my kid hangs a pinecone feeder in the Sugar Maple, the Sugar…Maple likes it. And if the Sugar Maple likes it, well, then it's a perfect activity for Tu Bishvat, the birthday of the trees. If a seed-laden nut-butter pinecone attracts more birds to a tree, chances are good some of those birds will hang around and chow down on bugs. We can keep the birds… >> Read More
The holiday of Tu Bishvat, a.k.a. the birthday of the trees, takes place in (very) early spring. Tu Bishvat is a field day for all environmentally-conscious families: an ideal ground from which to…explore, celebrate and protect all things ecological. Kabbalists gave it a 15-course fruit seder of its own back in the 16th century, which is still observed in some fashion today. No time for a seder? That’s okay: it’s kosher to observe the holiday with just one, single fruit: one tree fruit not yet consumed since Rosh… >> Read More
It’s great to lavish time and effort into homemade, handmade treats for holidays, but it’s also great to find thematic goodies that are instant. As in, open a package and you’re done. No…fuss, no oven, no investment whatsoever except a buck at the Target Dollar Spot. Which brings me to an ideal nosh for kids at Yom Kippur. It’s instant, kosher, crunchy, cute, cheesy (in more ways than one) and it’s fittingly thematic: whale crackers from Stauffer’s. Why whale crackers? Well, what’s the story Jews hear on… >> Read More
Every year before Rosh Hashanah I stock up on bags of Bugles: the corn-chip snacks fried in the shape of cones. I don't even care how fatty or salty they are. I must have them.
Around a holiday,…most nutritional considerations get eclipsed in favor of the greater good: transforming the ordinary into something special and memorable. And for my family, this includes Bugles. Why? Bugles are miniature, edible shofars. Not by intention, but by conversion. They are hollow and tapered like tiny horns of plenty, and occasionally they've frizzled in the fat… >> Read More
My favorite part of Rosh Hashanah are the apples and honey. We get really into it at my house. We start with a huge (huge!) platter of apples. We try two different kinds of local honey for a taste…test. And then it's it's time for the moment--the first apple dipped into honey for the year. But before we eat them, we want to say the blessing--because eating apples and honey without the blessing on Rosh Hashanah just doesn’t feel right. Blessings are what help transform an everyday snack into a mindful and memorable… >> Read More
Apples and honey make a sweet start for the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah. They take no time to prepare, and even less time to eat: wash, slice, pour, dip, munch. Maybe this is why it’s so easy…to take the custom for granted, to treat it like more of an appetizer than a minhag (custom). But how about if we slow things down and invite our kids to help? Even toddlers can operate a two-handle apple slicer with supervision. And what if we turned Rosh Hashanah apples and honey into an edible… >> Read More
At Shavuot, we celebrate the receiving of the Ten Commandments atop Mt. Sinai. Here's a fun and yummy tribute--the perfect Shavuot treat to make with your child.
The basic design is a muffin or…cupcake turned upside down, frosted or glazed, with an edible version of the tablets poked into the top (formerly the bottom) of the mountain. You can customize the basics any way you wish, going homemade-organic-whole-grain-healthy or straight-from-the-bag-Hostess-mini-muffin. I've listed some suggested variations below using my favorite ingredients. Many of us don't have time to do tons… >> Read More
It's here. The Sperm Whale is finally here. My 4-year-old and I have been watching the mailbox since the ebay transaction last week. What makes this whale different from all other whales? It's…Jewish. Well, not technically. It is item #7998: a 13.5 inch, hollow Sperm Whale with operable jaw from Playmobil, a company that produces no Jewish toys per se. So what makes this whale Jewish? My kid. He can make that whale swallow a Playmobil person in one go. And not just any person, but Jonah,… >> Read More
A Jewish home can look like a lot of different things, but one common denominator is often found on the door. A mezuzah, which literally means doorpost in Hebrew, is a small scroll traditonally…mounted to every doorpost in a house to mark a family's commitment to creating a Jewish household. Some people touch the mezuzah and kiss their fingers (or vice versa) every time they go in or out of a room as a sign of respect. It's a little hard for toddlers to participate, though, when they… >> Read More