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Nov 28 2011

Post-Thanksgiving Gratitude

By at 3:27 pm

"Are you Irish?"

I’ve been spending a lot of time feeling grateful lately, and not just because I’m still enjoying the leftovers from Thanksgiving. My baby girl got croupy (again) on Thursday night, and we ended up back in the emergency room. Sure, I was thankful for the excellent medical care we got, but one interaction I had in the hospital reminded me of just how lucky my family and I are in other ways as well.

The respiratory therapist who came to give my daughter a nebulizer treatment saw her name (Rose) and asked if we were Irish. In a rare moment of self-restraint, I didn’t point out that our last name is Naumburg (not O’Naumburg or McNaumburg), but I did mention that we’re Jewish.

“Ohhh! That’s so cool! I totally have a Jewish friend!” And with that announcement, that nice young respiratory therapist proceeded to goo and gaa at Rosie, all the while talking to her about Hannukah and latkes and apple sauce. I managed to ignore the Jewish friend comment until she finished my daughter’s treatment and wished us “Salaam Aleikum”—a traditional Muslim greeting meaning “peace be with you”.

She was serious. She didn’t know the difference.

All of a sudden I flashed back to my childhood in New Mexico, when I was given ashes on my forehead for Ash Wednesday by my public school teacher. (The possibility that we weren’t Christian was never considered; neither was the separation of church and state, apparently.) I was reminded of the time in college when our dining hall was decorated for Passover with glorious pyramids of freshly baked challah. And I remembered a conversation just last week with a new babysitter. Although we had specifically looked for one who wasn’t Jewish (our previous babysitter was a Rabbi’s daughter, and thus unavailable for Kol Nidrei or Erev Shabbat services), I wasn’t prepared for her complete lack of knowledge of anything Jewish. (Although she was quite eager to learn about “our Sabbath”, as she was interested in some nice young Jewish boy.)

As I sat in that hospital bed, holding my daughter, I couldn’t help but think that I am actually part of the 1%; Jews make up approximately 1.7% of the population of the United States, and just 0.2% of the population of the world. I have lived in a suburb of Boston for over a decade, and as such, I’ve been sheltered, and incredibly lucky. We live within a 30-minute drive of several synagogues, Jewish day schools and preschools, and Judaica shops. The public schools in our town are closed on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. We can buy Shabbat candles at our local grocery store, and which bakery makes the best challah is a matter of hot debate in our community. I write for an amazing online magazine where I can make reference to Yom Kippur, and none of my readers accuse me of making up a holiday just to get out of an exam (and yes, that’s a true story).

I live in a happy little Jewish bubble, and when it gets burst, I notice it, and it reminds me of just how fortunate my family and I are to have such an amazing Jewish community—both in real life, and online.

How to Host Large Holiday Meals (i.e. Lessons from Thanksgiving)

By at 12:50 pm

family mealI hope your Thanksgiving was as good as mine! Thank you so much for all of your help with menu ideas and general support. Below is the recipe and actual recipes for a fail-safe, easygoing Thanksgiving – print it out and feel free to use it yourself next year to come one step closer to becoming an official balaboosta. Also, it’s never too early to start planning your Passover seder. Think about using a similar menu, just substitute brisket for turkey.


  1. Assign duties. It’s called Thanksgiving, not Martyrdom Day. As we all know, if Mama ain’t happy, ain’t no one happy – and you doing all the work may give everyone else something to be thankful for, but what fun is that for you? People are usually so grateful not to be hosting the event themselves that they will happily offer you assistance in the tangible forms of stuffing, sweet potatoes, salad, wine, etc. Let them! Assign parts according to your perception of the guests’ abilities (no need to say that part out loud, of course). If you or your guests have allergies/eating restrictions/kashrut concerns, spell them out so as to have no misunderstandings. And if someone is flaky, make sure they’re assigned a minor part, i.e., one that, if they didn’t show up, it wouldn’t be the end of the world.
  2. Start planning out menu items.  This goes in tandem with item 1. Plan out what you want to serve and how much of it. Planning menu items can also be synced with writing out a shopping list. It’s easiest to get canned/pantry-esque stuff ahead of time.
  3. Buy copy of Leah Koenig’s Hadassah Everyday Cookbook. Great recipes that take kosher considerations in mind for kosher cooks.
  4. Arrange for a babysitter and reserve a table to go out to dinner Saturday after Thanksgiving. Yes, you will have eaten your weight in stuffing already and you will have a refrigerator full of leftovers. But you deserve to be rewarded for everything you’re about to do. Trust me.
  5. Order turkey. Fresh is ideal if possible.

ONE WEEK AHEAD: Read the rest of this entry →

Nov 23 2011


By at 3:48 pm

We’re closing up the Kveller shop and heading out to celebrate Thanksgiving. But before we go, we want to leave you with this post that offers an important reminder about the small stuff and why it’s really the big stuff. See you Monday!

So far this fall, my husband has stuffed 75 yard bags full of leaves. He didn’t mind, though, because as he blew the never-ending pieces of yellow, red and brown into piles on the lawn, our 2-year-old jumped into the middle of them, kicking and screaming with delight.

And that’s sad. Because next year, when he makes those piles again, a completely different girl will leap into them. A 3-year-old version of this weekend’s Ellie, with more abilities, more words, more thoughts. And that’s great. Except that it’s also sad.

My husband’s outlook on parenting lately has had this edge of sadness steeped in reality. He said he has been making a point of relishing every moment with Ellie because the child he plays with today will be gone tomorrow. Don’t get me (or him) wrong. He kvells from her development and knows that growth is the point, but he still mourns the changes, especially because they happen so quickly.

I’m busy. I am a stay-at-home mom with a full freelance writing schedule and a house to take care of. I confess that even as I play with Ellie, I am thinking about a story or wondering if the laundry is ready to go from the washer to the dryer. I’m not the best at being in the moment. So when my husband first mentioned how he felt to me, it stopped me in my tracks – and not much does.

A few days later, Ellie started jumping properly, catching air. I watched and applauded and hooted and hollered as she bounced around the basement testing out her new skill. And I got what my husband meant. Gone forever were the awkward yet hilarious movements she made when she thought she was jumping as well as a frog. Now she gets her feet off the ground and reaches new heights.

As Thanksgiving approaches, I feel thankful for many things but especially that I have a thriving daughter and a husband who is sensitive enough to notice the small stuff (which is actually the big stuff) and to nudge me into noticing it, too. We spend plenty of time on this blog complaining about our kids – they don’t eat, they don’t listen – so I wanted to take a moment to nudge you into thinking of those little bittersweet joys of parenthood and be thankful for the opportunity to bear witness to them.

Thanksgiving, Sort of Like Shabbat

By at 1:13 pm
illustration turkey

Thanksgiving? Shabbat? Where am I??

Fed up after watching yet another how-to-make-the-perfect-stuffing demo, I posted as my Facebook status, “Thanksgiving. The holiday where the rest of Americans learn what it’s like to make Shabbat every week.”

I must have struck a chord with my cadre of Facebook friends. A chorus of “likes” rapidly appeared on my post. My fellow Shabbat-celebrating moms and I enjoyed a virtual chuckle at all the Thanksgiving fuss, when we know that almost every week, we plan intricate menus, invite hordes of guests, and fuss over every detail from the place settings to the flowers. And we often do it twice(!), investing that level of preparation into TWO meals on the same weekend instead of just one since we have Friday night dinner as well as Saturday lunch to worry about. And somehow we manage this, without every single talk show host and magazine article giving us step-by-step how-to’s and hand-holding along the way. So forgive us if we can’t help but feel that all the stress about cooking the perfect turducken or green bean casserole is a little overblown.

My Facebook status did get me thinking about the connection between Thanksgiving and Shabbat. In fact, I have found the Thanksgiving analogy very helpful when trying to introduce Shabbat to those who are new to the concept. For instance, a few years back, when our local grocery store installed a kosher deli and bakery, I reassured the supermarket big-wigs at the grand opening that the kosher department was destined to be a financial success. I explained, “You see, it’s like my friends and I shop and cook for Thanksgiving dinner every week. Twice.” While they peered at me skeptically at the time, I have no doubt the store’s profits in the years since have proved me right. Read the rest of this entry →

The Kid-Dish: Turkey Babies, Old People

By at 10:18 am

All the Jewish celebrity parent gossip you (n)ever wanted to know.

– Welp, Tori Spelling jumped on the dress-your-baby-up-like-a-Thanksgiving-turkey bandwagon. Newborn Hattie looks… confused. (Celebrity Baby Scoop)

– Last week we wondered if Jewish dads were less buff than non-Jewish dads. This week, I bring to you the buff (half!) Jewish dad to end all buff Jewish dads. Seriously, if you click one link today, make it this one. (Hairpin)

Nothing to see here: just your typical 12-year-old boy with his typical 77-year-old dad, Larry King. (Celebrity Baby Scoop)

– Jewish celebrity mother of another Jewish celebrity mother, Goldie Hawn celebrated her 66th birthday earlier this week. And she looks upsettingly good.  (Famecrawler)

Nov 22 2011

Thanksgiving and the American Jew

By at 10:22 am

macy's thanksgiving day paradeI’m an overthinker. This puts me in good company with women generally, as we tend to analyze and fill in the blanks of our days and interactions, much to our distraction and occasional chagrin. But my overthinking started one Thanksgiving when I was about 8 and had a particular epiphany about what it means to be Jewish in America. No, really.

When I was a little kid, I adored watching the Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York on television.  Clearly, my parents somehow encouraged this obsession: I’m sure it came in pretty handy for keeping me out of the way during Thanksgiving meal preparations.

I’d study the parade lineup in the New York Times as though it was a performance intended for me and me alone. Then, I’d sit down way too close to the TV, crossing my corduroy- or velour-clad legs, to watch the whole thing, start to finish. I loved watching the happy lipsticked smiles of the baton twirlers from Kansas and Missouri. I’d watch the hyper-enthusiastic facial expressions of spandex-clad dancers and the determined stride of the balloon-anchor-walker-people, whatever they were called. I’d even enjoy the wintry-bright cheer emanating from Katie Couric and Willard Scott.

But most of all, I loved the feeling that I was doing something that everyone else in America was doing. Now, as an adult, I’m well aware that most people don’t sit parked in front of their televisions watching the Thanksgiving Day Parade. But as a kid, I just assumed that this was the Thanksgiving equivalent of going to synagogue. This must be what people did in the morning, and in the afternoon, you ate, just like every Jewish holiday I’d ever celebrated.

I loved it that every family I knew – Jewish, non-Jewish, whatever – was all doing the same thing. I didn’t realize at the time that we were freaks because no one in the house cared about football. All I knew was that I had a day off from school to be thankful, to eat turkey and to be American. And it wasn’t like Sukkot where even the other Jewish kids didn’t know what holiday I was celebrating – this was one that everyone could understand. It felt good.

But when I was 8, I distinctly remember the end of the parade. With great to-do, the end of the parade – “the moment you’ve all been waiting for!” – came. And it was…Santa Claus. Read the rest of this entry →

Nov 18 2011

Friday Night: Turkey Challah

By at 2:23 pm

Delicious AND fun!

I don’t know about you, but now that I have a kid, I’m much more into holidays. I’m loving teaching my daughter family traditions–and making up new ones. Recently, I’ve been trying to figure out how to explain Thanksgiving to her. Taking it down to a 2-year-old level is a bit tough, but I think for now we’re going to stick with the basics: we’re thankful for what we have, we get to see our family, and we eat a big turkey.

Earlier this week Jordana Horn posted a request for some Thanksgiving recipe help, and I think I might have found the best Jewish Thanksgiving recipe on the planet. Are you ready for this?

Turkey Challah. That’s right. Our friend and Kveller contributor Ariela Pelaia does some incredibly inventive things with her challah (and her toddler) and recently, they made this gorgeous turkey-shaped challah. Though it’s time-intensive, it’s also fun-intensive. Sounds like a perfect project for the Shabbat before Thanksgiving–or even to make for Thanksgiving itself. Who says challah and Thanksgiving don’t go together?

Enjoy–and Shabbat Shalom!

Nov 15 2011

Thanksgiving Recipes: I Need ‘Em!

By at 3:17 pm

thanksgiving turkeyI’ve never been a Thanksgiving-er. Don’t get me wrong: I’m all for gratitude, family, and big meals. It’s just that Judaism affords us to have all of the above pretty much all year round. Between Passover seders, Sukkot meals, Rosh Hashanah family gatherings, and Friday night Shabbat dinners, there are ample opportunities for us Jews to get our food-and-family on. So the idea of entering the everyone’s-included Supermarket Scrum for things like squash and sweet potatoes seems comparatively unappealing.

My family’s Thanksgiving was always a relatively low-key affair, followed by all of us going to see a movie. I’m not going to miss my movie opportunity this year, accompanied by sleeping baby in car seat (crossed fingers), but apparently I am hosting Thanksgiving for the first time in my life. One word: yikes! Not only that, but I just got the memo that this thing is happening next Thursday! Are you guys all aware of this?

I love perusing Food & Wine, occasionally even making a recipe from there, but apparently a main food group of Thanksgiving is butter – and, being kosher, this doesn’t quite go with the whole turkey thing. I need pareve help: stat!

Let’s share. Anyone got any great recipes for pareve appetizers, soups, sides, desserts?


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