Menorahs, Maccabees and more: Hanukkah explained

The Jewish celebration of Hanukkah began on Sunday evening, and you may have noticed your friends sharing pictures and videos of their Hanukkah festivities.

Hanukkah is a joyous celebration, and a popular Jewish festival. It is my kids’ favorite holiday, and for good reason! Who doesn’t love eight days of food, family and gifts?

Hanukkah is also one of the few Jewish observances those who aren’t Jewish (or connected to Judaism in some way) are familiar with, yet, despite the popularity of the holiday, many do not understand the full meaning and history behind Hanukkah.

As a Jew, and a mom, who cares about educating the world about Judaism, in hopes this might make others more tolerant and prevent antisemitism, I wanted to write this post to explain a bit more about Hanukkah.

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Recipes, books, games and more — PJ Library’s got everything you need to celebrate Hanukkah

Hanukkah is almost here, and I can already smell the latkes and see my kids smiling from all the holiday fun.

If your family is like mine, your kids are already looking forward to Hanukkah, and you are ready to make some special memories.

To help families embrace and share the joy of The Festival of Lights, PJ Library has updated its “Hanukkah Hub” for 2021 to bring Jewish and Interfaith families games, projects, recipes and more ways to make this year’s holiday one the family will cherish for years to come.

Photo Courtesy Of PJ Library

Whether you are looking for ways to mix up your latke recipe, or instructions on how to light the holiday candles, PJ Library is your go-to source for all things Hanukkah.

You already trust PJ Library to curate and deliver quality Jewish books to your family, so you can be sure that they have an excellent selection of activities to make Hannukkah a blast for all eight nights.

PJ Library’s Hanukkah Hub is free to use, and anyone is welcomed to visit PJ Library to browse all of their wonderful Hanukkah books, activities, and recipes.

For more information on PJ Library, and how you can enroll your children in their free book subscription service for Jewish families, visit PJLibrary.org.

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. All views expressed are my own.

White and dark chocolate chip cookies with WAFFLE CONE pieces

My son turned nine years old this week, and we will be celebrating with a small group of his friends this weekend.

I purchased a bunch of snacks (more than enough, according to my son), yet I couldn’t resist adding another fun treat to the mix.

My family loves chocolate chip cookies, and I often make the classic favorite we all know well. This time, however, I wanted to have some fun, so I swapped out half of the chocolate chips for the white chocolate version and added some waffle cone pieces for a crunchy, sweet surprise.

Note, I used the Keebler-brand waffle cones, as that’s what I had on hand. I would be curious how this would work with other brands, or even other types of cones.

Let me know if you try this recipe and share what you think in the comments.

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FREE Hannukah coloring pages: Dreidels, Dinos and Donuts!

Channukah, Hannukah, Hanukah, however you spell it, the Festival Of Lights is coming soon!

Though I am far from a professional artist, I was inspired to create these whimsical, Hannukah coloring pages to help kids of all ages get into the Hannukah spirit.

I hope you enjoy these, and please give me feedback on ways to improve my designs, or other ones you may like to see in the future.

Happy Hannukah and happy coloring!

What “Maid” teaches us about lifting up our fellow moms

I finished watching “Maid,” the Netflix limited-series, last night, and I still find myself sobbing at random moments, while recalling the powerful, gut-wrenching scenes of the show.

SPOILERS AHEAD!!!

“Maid” touched on domestic violence, alcoholism, toxic masculinity and other heavy issues, which, hopefully, sparked a conversation on breaking the cycle of abuse and doing better by DV survivors, while also acknowledging that many abusers are survivors of abuse themselves.

At the same time the series was shining a light on abuse, “Maid” was reflecting the stark difference in reality for those with financial means, and those without. This point was illustrated by the incredible story arc involving the relationship between main character Alex (Margaret Qualley) and Regina (Anika Noni Rose).

The viewer is introduced to Regina, when Alex shows up to clean her massive home. We quickly learn Regina is a power player, and, so it seems, has little to worry her. Meanwhile, at this point, we have already seen Alex escape her trailer home, sleep on a Ferry Station floor, and, thanks to visual reminders on screen, try to get by with little money.

From this vantage point, Regina seems entitled and self-absorbed, and our sympathies (at least mine) were with Alex, when her DV shelter friend, Danielle, “dognaps” Regina’s dog as payback for Regina refusing to pay Alex what was owed to her.

In a stand-off between Alex and Regina, we see Alex lay into Regina for freaking out over her dog missing for a few hours, when she herself had her daughter taken from her.

Perhaps motivated by Alex’s speech, Regina does pay Alex for her work, and continues to engage her cleaning services.

In what is a pivotal shift in her story, we first see Regina hastily packing up homemade pies for Thanksgiving, while her husband urges her to hurry up, all the while questioning the need for seven pies, which, apparently are for decoration only.

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Warm up your nights with this “ramen style” shitake mushroom soup

When you have picky eaters, you lean into the ways your kids enjoy food. My children happen to enjoy various soup, and this delictable, ramen-inspired soup with a delectable mushroom broth is no exception. And, with the weather getting colder, few things are as comforting as a warm bowl of healthy soup.

You will notice I don’t have ramen noodles in my ingredients list. Honestly that is because I can never seem to find them as a stand-alone item. Unfortunately, I do not have the skills to make my own noodles, so I work with what I can find.

I believe any Japanese-style noodle would work well in this recipe. If you are only able to find (or prefer to use) dry pasta, just boil the noodles in the broth following the instructions on the package.

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5 Ways to enjoy fall in the Western Hudson Valley

I have called the Hudson Valley my home for several years now, and I am finally getting around to sharing some of the incredible food, places, and culture this region has to over.

The Hudson Valley is an area of New York State that stretches along the Hudson River. On the east side, you have Westchester, Putnam, and Dutchess County, while on the west side of the river, you will find Orange, Rockland and Ulster County.

My family resides in Western Hudson Valley, so my focus will be on this part of the region, but you can certainly find incredible places to explore on the eastern side of the Hudson River.

While any time of year is a wonderful time to visit, the Hudson Valley is especially popular in the fall, and with good reason. The leaves turn gorgeous shades of red, orange, yellow and purple; farm stands are filled with tasty fall produce; and, apple and pumpkin picking is plentiful.



Please note fall weekends (especially Columbus Day weekend, and during Warwick’s Applefest) can be extremely crowded. If you prefer less people around during your visit, try coming in the middle of the week, or later in the season. Late November, before the Winter holiday activities start, is a good bet.

Read on to learn about some of my favorite spots to experience the best of the Hudson Valley.

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5 simple ways to enjoy a fun, safe family vacation

By Joyce Wilson

Family vacations during school breaks are always something to look forward to and can still be enjoyed even in the era of COVID-19. Thankfully, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advise domestic travel is safe for fully vaccinated individuals who wear a mask in public. If your children are too young for the vaccine, the CDC recommends you limit your travel to a short road trip to a location with outdoor activities that allow for social distancing.

Read on for ways to enjoy vacationing with your family in these unique times.

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10 times my kid’s outfits were better than anything at the Met Gala

The annual Met Gala is the place for high society to see and be seen in the most glamorous, avant garde and jaw-dropping fashion. From models to movie stars to even politicians, anyone who is anyone was on the red carpet at the event of the fall.

Scrolling through this years looks, I am reminded of all the creative clothing choices my youngest child has made over the years. From the moment he first became aware of clothes, he’s loved to dress up and express himself in unique ways. While I may have a mother’s bias, I think his looks could definitely upstage or at least turn a head or two if they were to strut their stuff at the Gala.

Here are a few of my favorite looks from recent years:

Overalls And Boots

Nothing says style like a snazzy pair of red cowboy boots.

Red Warrior

What can I say? The kid likes red.

Stealing The Scene In Green

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Thoughts on marriage from the other side of 10 years

During our first few years of marriage, when my husband and I were in the thick of dirty diapers, sleepless nights, stress-induced fights and the general haze of early parenthood, I would wonder why more couples weren’t splitting up during this time.

I had no data to back this up, just my observations of couples we knew, who had been married for many years, and had decided to separate. I couldn’t understand what had driven them apart. After all, their kids were grown up, or at least old enough to not be a major source of stress, and, in theory, they had more time for one another.

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