food · holidays · Jewish · slice of life

Applesauce and Sour Cream on Latkes

This Chanukah and last, I overheard some EITHER/OR debates about what’s a better latke topping: applesauce or sour cream. Last year, I rolled my eyes. Maybe I didn’t care because I had bigger things (e.g., Covid, remote instruction) to worry about. After all, wasn’t debating the merits of applesauce or sour cream being the better latke topping better than worrying about whether or not you’d catch COVID? Yes, yes it was.

This year, I’m hearing this debate in multiple circles of my Jewish life. I’ve had enough of this mishegas! I spent last night’s Chanukah dinner lamenting to my parents about this. They rolled their eyes. They don’t understand the #teamapplesauce/#teamsourcream debate any more than I do. But maybe that’s because all three of us eat our latkes the same way with — WAIT. FOR. IT. — applesauce and sour cream.

A little applesauce and a little sour cream on one of the potato latkes I made last night.

That’s right. I am #TEAMBOTH. (Do we really need a team? After all, aren’t we supposed to be part of the same team who rose up against the Assyrian Greeks many years ago since our people wanted to practice Judaism alone.) This faux debate is a bunch of malarkey! Why would anyone limit themselves to one topping on a potato pancake fried in oil?!!?!

Oh, you’re watching your weight and you think sour cream is too fattening? Applesauce isn’t the answer. After all, latkes are COOKED IN OIL!

Oh, you want something savory to place atop your latke? Sour cream, alone, won’t cut it. Maybe a little crème fraîche, smoked salmon, and capers would be a better choice.

I am unapologetically an applesauce and sour cream latke eater. Why? It’s delicious!

This evening, I made cheese latkes for dinner. I offered Marc and the kids a variety of toppings (e.g., raspberry preserves, strawberry preserves, yogurt, honey, maple syrup, and agave nectar) to place on their cheese latkes. Any topping was allowed. Marc decided to grab some sour cream from the fridge to bring over to the table. I wondered how it would taste with the raspberry preserves I was using. I placed a dollop atop my cheese latke, which was already schmeared with raspberry. It. Was. Delightful. Therefore, I topped the rest of my cheese latkes with raspberry preserves and sour cream.

Yet again, I’m #TEAMBOTH.

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Jewish · slice of life · weather

Jewish Mother Sweater Alert

Ari is the kind of kid who likes to pick out his own clothes. Sometimes he misses with his outfit choices, but he makes a good match over 80% of the time. (Not bad for a four-year-old kid!) This morning, I suggested, “You should pick out pants and a short-sleeve tee.”

“I want to wear the shorts you told me I could wear yesterday,” he replied as he grabbed the green and navy stripe shorts from his dresser.

“It’s too cold for shorts today, bud. You can wear them after your nap… or tomorrow. It’s going to be in the 80s tomorrow.”

“But it’s in the 60’s today.”

“No, it isn’t. It’s raining too. You don’t want to wear shorts when you go outside today.”

“Yes, I do,” my son, who could be considered stubborn, declared.

“But your legs will be cold!” I said.

“But it’s iiiiin the 60’s!”

I pulled put my iPhone to show him that it was cooler than what he thought. But when the weather app brought up the Lancaster temperature, it read 66°F!

I turned my phone and showed Ari the proof he desired. “You were right. It’s in the mid-60’s. But it is raining. So, if you’re willing to wear a hoodie, then you’ve got yourself a deal on the shorts.”

“Deal!” he said.

As I recounted a sliver of this story to my parents on the phone, my Dad teased me. “Jewish Mother Sweater Alert!”

It isn’t the first time he’s teased me about overdressing one of my children the way many Jewish moms are known to do. WPLJ, which was my favorite radio station as a kid growing up in the NY Metropolitan Area, used to declare a “Jewish Mother Sweater Alert” anytime there was a bit of a chill in the air on spring or fall mornings. It’s a phrase my Dad and I used to taunt my mom with whenever she’d insist on me adding a layer as a kid. Now, I am a Jewish mother, hence the necessity for an extra layer of clothing on a May morning.

Jewish · slice of life

Matzah Monsters and the #MatzahChallenge – #SOL21

I noticed decorated matzah filling up my Instagram feed yesterday afternoon. I clicked on the hashtag to see what #MatzahChallenge was about. Soon after, I found myself on the UJA Federation of New York’s website. The mission of the challenge was clear:

Ari was a little heavy-handed with the chocolate pupils!
  • Create a tasty matzah treat.
  • Snap a photo.
  • Post it on social media using the #MatzahChallenge hashtag.
  • An anonymous donor would donate $18 to UJA for every #MatzahChallenge photo on social media.

Easy enough, right?

So, Ari and I reprised the matzah monsters we made (with Isabelle) over the weekend. (Click here to read Rebekah Lowin’s original post and check out the recipe for her Matzah Monster treats.) While I learned a few things about working with candy melts and melted chocolate since making the first batch of matzah monsters over the weekend, I also learned that perfect monster eyeballs were out of the question when working with my children. I threw out the idea of perfection and just enjoyed working with Ari to create a tasty matzah snack for a good cause. Here’s how they came out:

The good news is that the Matzah Monsters taste better than they look.
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Jewish · slice of life

Breakfast on Passover #SOL21

Mommy: What would you like for breakfast?

Ari: An English muffin with cream cheese.

Mommy: It’s Passover. We don’t have any English muffins in the house. Would you like matzah with cream cheese?

Ari: No.

Mommy: Would you like matzah with peanut butter or a scrambled egg?

Ari: I’d like a waffle with syrup.

Mommy: Waffles aren’t Kosher for Passover. They’re leavened so we don’t eat them on Passover. What else would you like?

Ari: An English muffin with…

Mommy: We don’t have English muffins in the house because they’re also leavened. We don’t eat them on Passover. Remember the four questions? Chametz o’ matzah? Well, on all other days we can eat delicious yeasty breads or matzah, but on Passover, we only eat matzah.

Ari: I know.

Mommy: So no waffles, no pancakes, no toast, no English muffins this week. What would you like?

Ari: How about a matzah pancake like Zayde made me yesterday?

Mommy: I wish I could make that for you, buddy, but I don’t have the recipe for it and it’s too early to call Zayde at home. I will make bubbelehs, which are special Passover pancakes, for dinner one night this week. Would you like matzah with cream cheese, matzah with peanut butter, or an egg?

Ari: I guess I’ll have an egg. But no cheese!

Ultimately, this is what Ari ate for breakfast.
If only he’d be willing to have some veggies and chese mixed in like me…
beauty · Jewish · slice of life

Manicure in the Morning #SOL21

It’s 12:30 p.m. and I have still have more cooking to do for Passover today. So far, I’ve made charoses and matzah balls. This afternoon, I’ll make a flourless chocolate cake. Also, I need to roast a chicken and some broccoli for tonight’s Shabbat dinner. It’s madness, yet I’m enjoying it! I’m thankful I can stand on my feet again. On this day, last year, I was only able to bear 2/3 of my body weight on my foot while on crutches since I was recovering from foot surgery. This year, I’m able to do it all. However, I know I have to pace myself so I’m taking a break at my desk and leaving some comments on other Slicers’ posts before I start on the chicken, broccoli, and the cake.

Before I began cooking this morning, I did something that didn’t have to be done today, but it mattered so much to the ten-year-old girl in this house. I offered to give her a manicure. I made her an early-morning deal: “If you can get washed up, dressed, and make your bed in the next 15 minutes, then I will do your nails.” Seeing as she’s only had nailpolish on her fingernails three times in her life, she raced through her morning routine and beat the timer, like I knew she would, so that she could get her nails done.

Isabelle picked out a pink bottle of Zoya nailpolish from my nailpolish drawer. I grabbed the Midrash Manicure nail art decals, bottom and top coats, and an orange wood stick so we could get started.

Five of the ten biblical plagues are on her right hand and the modern plagues are on her left hand.

After I applied the polish to Isabelle’s thumb I asked her, “Do you like the color?”

“I love it!” she replied.

I could see, on her face, that she felt like a grown girl getting her fingernails painted.

I took out the nail decals after the two coats of pink polish dried.

“Would you like to do one hand of biblical plagues and one hand with modern plagues?” I asked.

“Yeah, that sounds good,” Isabelle said.

Together, we picked out the decals that would go on each finger. As I applied each one of the modern plagues decals — which included French fries (for unhealthy food), a Like icon (for social media), a coffee cup (caffeine), mosquitos (for mosquito-borne illness), and a fidget spinner (for distractions) — to Isabelle’s nails we talked about how these are more relevant to our times.

Once we were finished, Isabelle couldn’t wait for her nails to dry since she wanted to show them to her teacher via Zoom. At 8:55 a.m., she ran upstairs to sign onto her remote school day early so she could share her manicure with her teacher.


Okay, back to cooking now!

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Jewish · slice of life

Preparing for Passover #SOL21

This week has been one big carb load. We’ve eaten pasta. I’ve made meatballs. This morning, I took Isabelle to Starbucks so she could get a muffin before school. Tonight, we’re bringing pizza in for dinner. Why? Because PASSOVER BEGINS THIS SATURDAY NIGHT AT SUNDOWN.

If you’re unfamiliar with Passover, you might enjoy this humorous explanation of the holiday by acrtress Mayim Bialik.

Carb-loading aside, I’ve been preparing for Passover with Ari for the past few weeks since he’s reached at an age where he is curious about the holidays and is soaking in everything he learns.

This morning, after I got the chicken soup — the first of many dishes I’ll make for our Seder — simmering on the stove, we began gathering everything we needed for our Seder table.

Gathering the items we need doesn’t mean setting the table. (That won’t happen for a couple of days because four-year-old children, fine china, and crystal don’t mesh.) What it means is running around the house and finding all of the items that we’ll need for our Seder table. Thankfully, he was an agreeable helper!

See? It’s a little more involved than planning Thanksgiving dinner!

Once everything was gathered, we took a nap. (I wish.) Seriously, though, we neatened everything up and went back to the soup.

Everything got tucked away for the next couple of days.

Tomorrow, I’ll make charoses, matzah balls, and a flourless chocolate cake. The rest of the dinner will get prepared on Saturday.

So now you know why I’ll be missing from the SOLSC this weekend!

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Jewish · slice of life

Thinking About 2024. #SOL21

Isabelle’s Hebrew School class has been talking about B’nai Mitzvah for the past few weeks. It’s the focus of their time together on Sunday mornings this semester. This morning, our Rabbi spoke to Isabelle’s Hebrew School class about having a Bar/Bat Mitzvah. Parents were invited. Isabelle invited me to sit alongside her while Marc zoomed in from the kitchen since someone had to watch Ari.

Our rabbi invited some of the parents to speak about something they remember from their Bar/Bat Mitzvah. I raised my hand and recalled trying to make a connected between my Torah portion and the world in 1990. Then, our Rabbi tried to assuage some of their fears (e.g., standing up in front of the congregation to lead the service) about the big day and what it entails. He spoke of some of the requirements. He invited parent questions. He assured the children that he would push them to take on as much as they could handle for their Bar/Bat Mitzvah, but he wouldn’t push them to the point where they’d feel embarrassed about leading any part of the service. Isabelle told me that hearing him say that made her feel better about what her Bat Mitzvah might look like.

There was a lot to take in. We still have a lot of decisions to make about where Isabelle will have her Bat Mitzvah (i.e., We’re entertaining the idea of going to Israel if she sees it as more than just a vacation.), when she’ll have her Bat Mitzvah (i.e., in the early spring of 2024 rather than the wintertime since I don’t want to deal with snow), and who will attend her Bat Mitzvah (i.e., will it be a small family affair or will she want to have a bigger celebration).

Right now, we’re talking. We’re not making any decisions. We are in the beginning stages of figuring things out. We have a year until we have to really make a decision. So, as much as Isabelle wants to know when/where it will be, Marc and I have decided that this is something the three of us need to discuss and decide upon together if we want it to have meaning and value to her. What we want may not be what she wants. (And, quite frankly, she doesn’t know what she wants yet.) We’ll get there…

But, honestly, as I was sitting on Isabelle’s bed, watching our Rabbi talk to us via Zoom, I did a double-take. How did my baby girl grow up so quickly? It feels like just yesterday that we were planning her Simchat Bat (i.e., Blessing of a Daughter ceremony at our synagogue in Harrisburg). In reality, it was nearly ten years ago! Now, we’re starting to think about her Bat Mitzvah, which will be in three years.

As the saying goes, “The days are long and the years are short.”

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Jewish · music · slice of life

Adom is the color of Love Monster. #SOL21

Twice a week, Ari and I participate in a 20-minute Jewish music class through The Leffell School in New York. To say it’s one of the highlights of our pandemic life is an understatement. The classes are some of the best moments in the week. It treat it as a sacred time by turning off the notifications on my phone so we cannot be disturbed.

One of the songs Amichai the Music Guy (who is the school’s Minister of Music) sings with the kids every Tuesday is “The Rainbow Song,” which teaches the kids the Hebrew names for the colors. Ari, and all of the kids who take the class, adore sharing items around their house for every color of the rainbow. This morning, Ari brought a special guest to the Zoom music class just for “The Rainbow Song.” It was none other than Love Monster (the main character of Rachel Bright’s Love Monster series)!

As always, Ari was excited to show off one of his color items during the class. However, there are about 100 kids participating in the class so it was possible his video wouldn’t get spotlighted when it came time for red (aka: adom).

But, sure enough, Ari was the first kid who was spotlighted right after the following words were sung:

My favorite color is Adom,
Adom is my favorite color,
Adom is the color of a strawberry…

Ari was holding Love Monster with outstretched arms, nice and close to the screen. Amichai didn’t miss a beat. He went right into “Adom is the color of Love Monster” before moving onto the next kiddo’s red item.

Can you guess Ari’s favorite color? I’ll give you a hint: it’s also the color of his shirt.

Ari was delighted Love Monster got to make a special appearance.

I wonder who will come for next Tuesday’s music class.

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donation · holidays · Jewish · slice of life

This one’s for the goats!

When Isabelle was in preschool, we began dedicating the fifth night of Chanukah to charitable giving. It felt like a no brainer to me since I’m not a present-each-night kind of mom. For the past six Chanukahs (including this one), Isabelle has emptied her tzedakah box and picks an organization for her donation. In the past, she’s donated to organizations such as Best Friends Animal Society, Children’s Miracle Network, and the Pajama Program (which Slicers may recognize as TWT’s SOLSC charity of choice!). This year, she selected to donate her tzedakah money to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital “to help kids with cancer.”

This year, Ari joined the fifth night donation for the first time. Over breakfast, I explained this Chanukah tradition to Ari. I asked him, “Do you want to help feed kids who are hungry?” He said yes. I asked him, “Do you want to buy books for kids who don’t have books in their homes?” He said yes. I asked him, “Do you want to help kids who are sick?” He said yes. I asked him several more questions and every answer was yes. But, finally, I got a different answer when I asked, “Do you want to help animals who may have been hurt or not cared for and are trying to get better?” His face lit up and he gave me a big YES!

I suggested Lancaster Farm Sanctuary, which is a local organization that cares for animals who have been abused and neglected, to him. I showed Ari some photos and a video on their website. Once he saw that some of Lancaster Farm Sanctuary’s residents are goats, he declared, “That’s where I want to give my money!”

This evening, Ari came into my office to make the donation. (He handed over the cash to me and I put it on my credit card.) When I filled out the donation form, I wrote:

Ari (my four-year-old son) is donating some of his saved Tzedakah money instead of getting a Chanukah present tonight. He loves animals, especially goats. We hope to come visit after COVID!

Less than two hours later, I received an email back from one of the women who runs the sanctuary, which said:

Please tell Ari we are so grateful that he chose to support our farm sanctuary. We hope after COVID you and Ari are able to come and visit us at the farm to see all of our residents, especially the goats 🙂

One of the photos I received this evening.

And do you want to know what else was included in the email? PHOTOS OF SOME OF THEIR GOATS! Ari will be thrilled when I show him the email and the goats’ photos in the morning.

Quite frankly, I’m touched the folks who run Lancaster Farm Sanctuary took the time to write back — and send photos of the goats — after receiving what amounted to a small donation. That kind of personal touch will have us donating again in the future.

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holidays · Jewish · slice of life

Making Traditions… Together? #SOL20

I heard about Days United sometime between our decision to pull Ari out of preschool and Rosh Hashanah. It’s a subscription service that provides holiday and culture boxes to families. I ordered the eight-box holiday set. The kids and I adored the Rosh Hashanah and Sukkot boxes. So, yesterday, when my friend Emily asked me if we had received our Chanukah box yet (She gets them for her daughter too and thought this one was amazing!), I said “not yet.” Both kids were awaiting the box’s arrival eagerly.

This evening, as I was preparing dinner, I noticed a package from Days United. THE BOX! I gathered the kids around and we unpacked it together. We got excited about the activities inside and decided to make the Chanukah menorah before bedtime.

Isabelle showered in record time since she knew we’d be doing a craft project together. I laid out the contents of the Star of David Menorah bag on the kids’ craft table and scanned the QR code for the speedy instructions. While the video was too fast to follow (They always are!), I knew I could look at the book and follow the pictures step-by-step.

But I couldn’t.

The booklet’s photos for the traditional menorah, which the kids wanted to make, were too small for me to see which side of each bolt to use. I called Marc since I needed help. He watched the too-fast video. He flipped through the instruction booklet. He couldn’t figure it out either.

WE HAVE FOUR ADVANCED DEGREES BETWEEN US AND WE COULD NOT FIGURE OUT WHAT TO DO! (Apparently we needed a master’s in engineering, which neither of us have, to complete the traditional menorah.) The kids were grumbling, but I was groaning the loudest. “This is supposed to be fun.” “This is a craft project we’re supposed to do with the kids, not for them.” “The company’s tag line is ‘making traditions together’… this isn’t together if they’re sitting on the floor while we’re sitting at the table trying to figure this out.”

After I scrapped the traditional menorah (since we were working unsuccessfully on it for over 20 minutes), I declared that we should try to follow the picture directions for the Star of David menorah, which contained slightly larger images. After fiddling around with it for about seven minutes, I finally figured it out. Even Marc was impressed since I am not a handy person by nature.

I allowed the kids to screw in the final two candle holders so they could feel like they completed some aspect of the project.
Ari inserted two candles so the kids’ menorah is ready to go for Thursday night.

I’m feeling better after having written this, but quite frankly, I’m hoping the rest of the items in our box are more fun than this was since this was anything but fun.