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Nov 7 2014

That Time I Picked Up a Hitchhiking Bubbe

By at 9:37 am

hitchhiking thumb

We know the rule: picking up hitchhikers is bad. It’s been drilled into our heads from a young age, along with other stranger-danger situations and how to avoid them. Parents and educators teach children to be wary of strangers, and try to impart a survival savvy that they hope will never be needed. And in addition to the parental and school warnings are the many movies and TV shows that reinforce these concepts. We know that when a scene features a naïve driver picking up a hitchhiker, it will not end well for someone. Needless to say, we’ve been warned.

So then, what possessed me to pull over for a hitchhiker on my way to work?

I rolled my window down, and there she was: a woman with salt and pepper colored hair, a brown cardigan, and orthopedic shoes. She was at least 75 years old, and seemed to be in distress. She explained that she’d missed her bus, and was going to be late for an important doctor’s appointment. She told me the address of her doctor, which was coincidentally near my office, and she asked for a ride. What else could I do? I told her to get in.  Read the rest of this entry →

Dec 3 2013

Two Grandmothers, Two Guggle Muggles

By at 2:01 pm


Recently, my 3-year-old son came tiptoeing downstairs long after we had put him down for the night. “I can’t sleep,” he said, hugging his stuffed dog.

“Do you want a guggla-muggla?” I asked, opening the fridge and reaching for a carton of milk.

My husband snorted. “First of all, it’s ‘guggle muggle,’” he said. “Second, you make it for colds, not insomnia.”

“Says who?” I asked.

“My grandma,” he replied, definitively.

Like most discussions about Jewish food in our household, this one had its origins in our respective families, and specifically, with our grandmas.

For the uninitiated, guggla muggla (or guggle muggle, if you must) is a Jewish cold-fighting concoction of mysterious origins and disputed pronunciations and ingredients. Depending on your Bubbe, it might have been made with milk, sugar, and egg; milk and honey; or, for the unlucky, milk, tea, and schmaltz (chicken fat). My grandma made her “guggla muggla” with warm milk, honey, and vanilla. My husband’s grandma made her “guggle muggle” with egg, sugar, and milk. Hence the disagreement. Read the rest of this entry →

Apr 25 2012

Thinking of My Grandmothers

By at 11:13 am

My daughter and one of my amazing grandmothers.

Thanks to the complexities of blended families, I was lucky enough to have grown up with three grandmothers.One of them had a birthday earlier this month, and another one turns 90 today! (Happy Birthday, Grandma. I love you!)

The flowers in my neighborhood are just blooming, which always reminds me of my third grandmother, who passed away just before my older daughter was born. In addition, my local Jewish Federation, CJP, is holding a Bubbe contest. All of this has gotten me thinking about my grandmothers, and just how amazing they are, and were.

Read the rest of this entry →

Feb 8 2012

From My Days on the Forefront of Women’s Lib

By at 4:32 pm

women's liberation protestAlina Adam’s post on Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique inspired me to leaf through my copy. I’ve never actually read it but it is a treasured memento. In 1963, when I was still a little girl, my feisty, well-before-her-time grandmother bought up a whole bunch of paperback copies (still marked on the cover at $.75 each) and gave them out to friends and family. Read the rest of this entry →

Dec 8 2011

Hanukkah Gift Guide: Presents for BUBBE

By at 11:59 am

yetta from the nanny

Yetta, everyone's favorite TV bubbe.

Here at Kveller, we know that it can be hard to balance everything in your life–and then on top of it, people expect you to buy them gifts for Hanukkah? Not to worry, we’re here to help. Catch up on the other Hanukkah gift guides for the special people in your life. Enjoy–and happy shopping!

Let’s be real: For the woman who makes the best chicken matzah ball soup, who tells the best jokes, who reads the best bedtime stories, and gives the warmest hugs, you gotta do something special. Even if she says, “All I want for Hanukkah is to see my grandchildren,” (ahem) when it comes to Bubbe’s Hanukkah gift, you better bring it.

So here are some presents Bubbe might love:

1. Turn Bubbe’s favorite photograph(s) into a piece of jewelry. Sure, you can use the standard pics of her adorable, perfect, brilliant grandchildren, but why not also find one of those beautiful sepia snapshots of Bubbe’s parents and make a pendant for her to wear as well? If Bubbe isn’t the jewelry wearing type, you can make her another kind of photo gift like a mug or a sweatshirt (that’ll embarrass your teenage daughter but isn’t that part of the fun) or a keychain or even a jigsaw puzzle!

2. Now, ask yourself, what does Bubbe like? Yeah, of course her family is a huge priority, but it’s not the only thing in her life. Does she like dancing? Buy her tickets to the ballet. If Bubbe is into film, buy her the anniversary edition of her favorite movie. Does Bubbe like gardening? Get her a grow-your-own-herb-garden. (People, the herb garden is a win-win because when she uses the basil she grew to season her world famous brisket for Shabbos dinner, you’ll enjoy it, too. ) Hey, know Bubbe best–these are just some suggestions.

3. Child labor laws be damned, put your kids to work and have them design something special for Bubbe. A homemade challah cover is a great gift, and one that Bubbe will appreciate. If Bubbe isn’t the candle-lighting, Manishewitz-sipping, challah-blessing kind, then your kids can decorate an apron or a tote bag, or maybe a motorcycle jacket.  (Hey, after all it’s a new generation of Bubbes!)

4. If Bubbe likes music, buy her a CD of her favorite artist or composer. And if you’re feeling especially creative and have an extensive collection of legally (ahem) downloaded music, you can burn her a compilation of special songs. Mix it up:  Frank Sinatra, The Beatles, Ke$ha, Snoop dogg, Joan Baez… make it original.

5. If Bubbe doesn’t already have an iPad, you might consider giving her one.  It’s easy and convenient, and a great way for her to check email and connect with family via video chat on Face Time.  And it will give her such nachas when her grandchildren teach her a thing or two about how to use it! (And if she already has one, try out this fashionable iPad sleeve to keep it safe.)

6. Does Bubbe like to read? A gift certificate to might be nice. And if Bubbe is the kind who likes to browse the bookstalls, then pick up a gift certificate to her favorite bookstore.

7. A luxurious article of clothing like an elegant scarf is a decadent gift Bubbe might enjoy. And every time she receives a compliment on it, she’ll be able to say “my family gave it to me for Hanukkah.”

8. There’s a touching story about a young man who sees an old man planting a young sapling.  When he asks the old man “Why plant this tree when you will never live to enjoy the fruits of your labor?” the old man replies, “While that is true, my grandchildren and their grandchildren and their grandchildren will.”  And planting a tree in Israel through the Jewish National Fund in Bubbe’s name is a poignant gift for the future.

Nov 14 2011

Yiddish, the Language of “Bubbe Love”

By at 4:08 pm

i heart yiddish t-shirtI loved Cara’s description of her relationship with her own grandmother and of her pleasure in seeing her child relate to his grandparents. Believe me, Cara, your parents and in-laws are also kvelling as they watch you parent and grow into your new role of “mother.” It’s a bonus of grandparenting.

I also noticed, with a smile, the Yiddish words used in the piece.

Both sets of my grandparents lived around the block from me when I was growing up so I saw them a lot and have many, many wonderful memories. I lost one grandmother, my Nana, when I was only 9 years old. It was a devastating loss which I only fully realized, mourned, and came to terms with as an adult. My Grandma, on the other hand, died six years ago, at almost 100 years old, and lived to see my first grandchildren.

Each time I walked through her door with the twins, she first looked at me and happily called, “Hello, Savta!” Then she would beam at the twin bundles I brought to visit her every week. Her joy at seeing them was only exceeded by her joy seeing me as a grandmother. She was so happy for me. “I loved being a grandmother,” she would tell me, sure that I would find the same joy and sense of purpose.

Both my grandmothers spoke fluent Yiddish. I didn’t understand the words sometimes but the tone and the inflection with which the Yiddish words were spoken came straight from their heart and into mine. Read the rest of this entry →

Nov 11 2011

The Blessings of Bubbes and Zaides

By at 11:12 am
baby reaching out to computer

Babies love bubbes, even via Skype.

Since Aiven was born last year my husband and I have had the tremendous honor of watching our parents become his bubbes and zaides. I know how special a grandparent-grandchild bond can be since my bubbe was the earth, sun, and moon for me.

I can still feel the self-generated wind blowing through my hair as I ran from the elevator doors into my bubbe’s waiting arms. She always had my favorite treats waiting for me: chopped egg with onion, red Jell-O, iceberg lettuce with thousand island dressing, and green olives. (So my palate wasn’t too sophisticated back then, give me a break!) She would also put on Willie Nelson’s “On The Road Again” and we’d have a dance party around her apartment. Oftentimes when my parents were around I would crawl into bubbe’s bed and pretend to sleep.  I could hear her say, “Don’t disturb her. You can pick her up tomorrow.”  As soon as the door closed, she would come into the bedroom and let me know the coast was clear. We stayed up until the wee hours eating junk food, playing with her make-up, and trying on her shoes (clearly my shoe obsession predated Carrie Bradshaw!).

My bubbe passed away four years ago this month but I feel her near me every day. I can see her smile whenever I kiss my son’s chubby cheeks, and I imagined her laughing when I gave him some herring to try and he wouldn’t even go near it. As much as I miss her, her passing cleared the way for my mother to step out of her shadow and become a bubbe herself. Read the rest of this entry →

Oct 31 2011

No Fighting! No Biting! A How-To Guide For Discipline

By at 10:18 am

father disciplining childThe biggest challenge most parents of young children face is how to effectively discipline in a way that stops bad behavior, encourages good behavior, and creates a conscience.

When I was a kid, my mother slapped me on my hand, arm, or tush. And I was a good kid! The worst thing I ever did was “be fresh” (aka talking back) or fighting with my younger sister. I distinctly remember putting a book in my underpants–I might have been good, but not too smart. My mother removed the book before potching (Yiddish, slapping) me.

My husband, by his own account, was pretty mischievous–he shot his sister’s canary to death with a water gun, tried to flush his friend’s snowsuit down the toilet so she wouldn’t leave the play date, got stuck on top of the garage, and frequently heard, “Wait ’til your father gets home!” His dad then took him into the den and slapped him with a belt! It is impossible for me to imagine my lovely and loving father-in-law doing that, but he did. So did a lot of dads in those days. (In my case, my father never hit any of us. He never even raised his voice to me.)

Long ago, our friends spent Shabbos with us. We each had two small kids at the time. Their young son (probably about 2 years old) was angry at his older sister and hit her. His father, a psychologist it should be noted, took the little boy across his lap and spanked him several times, all the while saying, “We do not hit!” This is a true story.

As a parent, I was absolutely philosophically opposed to any kind of corporal punishment. But I did slip up and recall giving a potch when daughter #2 broke a bottle of nail polish all over the bathroom after being warned repeatedly, and a slap on son #2’s tush when he broke an expensive doll after being similarly warned, and a big yell and zets (Yiddish, more than a potch) on son #1’s tush when he ran into the street–I was very pregnant and didn’t get to him fast enough to prevent his sprint. I think I must have hit daughter #1 at least once, but neither of us recall when. I regret these times when I was so out of control that I physically hurt my child. It was wrong in my scheme of things. Their provocative behavior was never repeated–partially, I think, because of the shock of my reaction. Read the rest of this entry →

Sep 21 2011

Don’t Cook Like Bubbe

By at 10:12 am

We all talk about wanting to cook like Bubbe, but you know what? Sometimes we really don’t. Or we do, until we find out what her secret ingredients were.

Here’s what I mean: Of all the amazing, delicious concoctions my grandma Rosie made, the one we requested the most – and miss the most – was this incredible, outstanding, lick-your-lips cabbage soup. I know: Cabbage soup? Bist meshugah? But this had a borscht base, contained a cooked-till-it-melts brisket, and was oddly sweet in a way nothing else was.

Before she took her little snooze on outer Long Island, Grandma Rosie imparted the recipe to me, her favorite granddaughter. (Fine, I happened to be the only one who asked. I’m also the only one writing this article, so until you read the comments, I’m the favorite!) When I made the soup a couple years ago, I verified the ingredients with my mom, who added a few I really couldn’t believe.

The first steps were predictable: Brown the brisket with onions. Dump in a jar of Mrs. Adler’s Borscht. Fill the rest of the pot with chicken stock. Throw in the vegetables you have, most likely rounds of carrots, diced celery, and chunks of potatoes. Handfuls of raisins, which plump up into sweet, delicious delights. Add a bit of tomato puree, some vinegar, a bay leaf (of course but DON’T EAT IT, every version of the recipe reminds me, because otherwise I surely would).

And then? The secret ingredients: brown sugar and ginger snaps. Not only that. “I hate to admit it, but if she didn’t have ginger snaps, she’d just pour in some ginger ale,” my mom told me on the phone, because no way was she going to admit such a thing in print. Read the rest of this entry →

Aug 1 2011

Bubbe Chic: It’s All in the Pocketbook

By at 1:15 pm

Growing up, my Bubbe referred to her purse as a pocketbook. We always made fun of her, and said that it was a purse. Nonetheless, she never stopped calling it a pocket book. Now when I think of a pocketbook there’s a vintage feel to that term. I can see her pocketbooks right now in my head, and I am really glad my mom was savvy enough to save the good ones. Pocket books have suddenly changed from funny to endearing.

Once I really started to think of her beautiful bags, I realized her bag style was timeless. If she was alive today her bags would be considered vintage. The basics of her bags are still alive and well. While envisioning my Bubbe holding her pocketbook, I found more modern versions with all of the basic elements of the pocket book.

The characteristics of a pocket book can be one or more of the following: a frame with a clasp, a flap over the front of the bag, a chain strap, shorter strap, clutch style.

Here are day bag looks:

Here are evening looks. Now remember in the day of the official pocket book it was standard to take an evening bag even if just visiting a friend in the evening hours.

One final thing: I know these bags look small for what you want to carry daily, but we must remember that back then there was so much less to carry. Maybe it’s time for you to consider what is truly an essential. Once you bring it down to essentials you could carry a gorgeous pocket book too. Believe me when I tell you that you’ll exude nothing but chicness.


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