Category Archives: holidays

Mensches and Elves: Surviving the Mental Load of Celebrating Hanukkah and Christmas…One Year at a Time

Anyone else out there holding together the mental load of celebrating Hanukkah and Christmas? It’s hard. I get it.

It’s not just that there are latkes and gingerbread houses to make, mensches and elves to move around, and gifts that require a spreadsheet and an arsenal of color-coded wrapping paper to keep organized. It’s also that Hanukkah is a moving target.

She has the power to show up early, late, or any time in between. She’s ruthless and an annual reminder that we have control over absolutely nothing.

If you want to survive the war of attrition that is Hanukkah (at least from a calendar perspective), you need to understand what you’re up against. Where Hanukkah falls during the holiday season can make or break—or tear to shreds—your holiday spirit and sanity.

It’s a crapshoot every year, but there’s one thing I know for sure. No matter which one we get—The Mindblower, The Marathon, or the Sneak Attack—we will always have eight nights of candle wax to scrape off the menorah in the end.

The Mindblower. Otherwise known as Thankgivukkah. This holiday mashup seems like a good idea on Pinterest, but does anyone really want to do holiday and back to school shopping at the same time? Does anyone want to make a challurkey (challah shaped like a turkey) or cook fusion food recipes like Maneschewitz-brined roast turkey and sweet potato noodle kugel? Does anyone ever want to drink Maneschewitz and eat noodle kugel? The answer to all of these questions is no. The early arrival of Hanukkah ruins Thanksgiving and is a bitch to spell, and in conclusion, may we never hear the expression “Gobble Tov!” again…at least until 2070 when this holiday fender bender is forced upon us again.

The Marathon. Or, the middle place. When Hanukkah falls after Thanksgiving and before Christmas, you’ll have some breathing room, but don’t be fooled by the runner’s high you get a few miles in. By the eighth night of Hanukkah, when you realize the behemoth of Christmas is imminent, you might cramp up, puke, or pee in your pants a little bit. As my Weight Watchers coach used to say, “if you fail to prepare, prepare to fail.” You need laser sharp focus, endurance, fortitude, and crap loads of wine (not Maneschewitz) to survive the relentless middle place.

The Sneak Attack. This is when Christmas and Hanukkah overlap. It’s a good idea in theory, but in execution? Not so much. Last year, when the first night of Hanukkah fell on Christmas Eve, I naively thought I’d killed two birds with one stone— Happy Christmakkah!—and I was an idiot. Do you know what happens after Christmas Eve, the first night of Hanukkah, and Christmas morning when your house is trashed, your hands are covered in wrapping paper cuts, the dishwasher is on its seventh load of the day, and your kids are swinging from the chandelier with chocolate gelt and candy canes dripping out of their mouths? Seven more goddamned nights of Hanukkah. Be careful what you wish for.

2017 has given us The Marathon. I hope your present on this first night of Hanukkah in the murky middle place of December is a comfy pair of new running shoes because you’re going need them.

Happy Hanukkah! Good luck!

Leave a comment

Filed under Christmas, Hanukkah, holidays, Uncategorized

The Greatest Gift


I’ve been racking my brain trying to figure out what to get my mom for the holidays, but all I can think about are the wonderful gifts she’s given me over the years. It goes without saying that she and my dad spoil their grandchildren rotten (with full approval from me!) and have helped my husband and I purchase some big ticket items to make our house a home, but as I stand in my kitchen waiting for menorah and star-shaped cookies to cool so the kids can decorate them, I’m overwhelmed with gratitude for the little things my mom has lovingly (and wisely) given me over the years that I never knew I wanted but have grown to cherish.

An apron. I love to shop, but there are certain items I have a hard time buying for myself, including perfume, makeup, pajamas, and aprons. Why would I buy an apron when I could buy a scarf or a sweater or shoes or a bag? You get the idea. My mom travels with an apron. This is a true story. I don’t remember when she gave me mine because it was that long ago, but she once came for a visit and packed two aprons but only brought one home.

A KitchenAid Mixer. As much as I begged for and drooled over the Vitamix Mike gave me for Christmas a few years ago (it is awesome), it doesn’t get nearly as much use as my KitchenAid Mixer. I enjoy baking, and, interestingly, my picky-eater kids have never met a cookie they didn’t like. I’ve mixed a heck of a lot of cookie dough and brownie and cake batter in my KitchenAid Mixer since becoming a mom, and, frankly, I’d be lost without it.

A cookie scoop. My husband often confuses this ingenious gadget for an ice cream scoop, but it is, in fact, a scoop that allows you to place equally sized and round servings of cookie dough on a baking sheet, which helps avoid cookie-on-cookie “stickage” in the oven.

A high quality, insulated, non-stick cookie sheet. My chocolate chip cookies are delicious in part because they bake evenly and slide seamlessly from the sheet to the cooling racks. Trust me, it makes a difference.

That silicone shield thingy that keeps pie crust edges from burning. A few years ago, I made an apple pie from scratch for Thanksgiving. I didn’t have the silicone shield thingy yet, but that was the least of my problems. Peeling all of those flipping apples made me batty, and childbirth was less complicated than making a pie crust from scratch! My valiant effort prompted my mom to purchase the silicone shield thingy. I admit I’ve never used it, but it serves as a reminder that she believes in my bake-a-pie-from-scratch potential, and it’s an inspiration to someday try again. (Maybe.)

A pastry mat. This thing is so cool, especially if you live in a small space. Basically, it’s a large rectangular-shaped silicone mat on which you can kneed or roll dough. It’s perfect for rolling out holiday cookies. It has horizontal and vertical measurements on the edges and outlines for circular pies that range from six to ten inches in diameter (if you’re crazy, er, skilled enough to make pie crust from scratch). Best of all, you can wipe it clean and roll it up for storage. It serves a huge purpose, but takes up zero space.

I still don’t know what to give my mom, but I know a love of baking is one the greatest gifts she’s given to me (and my boys). Maybe I’ll bake something for her. One thing for sure is that it won’t be an apple pie…unless she puts on her apron and helps.

What’s the greatest gift your mom has given to you?


Filed under baking, gifts, holidays, motherhood