Confessions of a Jewish Mother: I bought Easter candy at the grocery store yesterday!

I don’t have much of a sweet tooth. I don’t eat a lot of candy and I can usually pass up dessert. I am more of a savory kind of gal and I prefer salty and crunchy when it comes to snacks.

But I LOVE Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. I am hard put to pass up one of those chocolate and peanut butter delights. While I would not describe myself as a glutton in this arena, you could say that they are one of my guilty pleasures.  And only Reese’s will do, other cups do not make the cut.

After my kids go trick or treating for Halloween and they leave those bags of candy in the snack drawer for weeks and months, it is not the Sour Patch Kids or the Laughy Taffy that sense my weaker moments and call me to the kitchen. I am not drawn to the Nestle’s Crunch or even the M & M’s. It is only the Reese’s that entice me.

I confess that I have been known to sneak a few from the kids’ bags on an occasion or two. They are used to it and forgive my minor transgression. While I can’t really repent, I do tell them to take the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups to school and share them with their friends. I must be saved from temptation.

What is most interesting about my predilection for this divinely scrumptious confection is that my favorite form of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups is the Easter egg version. I can’t tell you why. It’s just better.  As it happens, my second favorite is the Christmas Tree. Oh the irony.

Maybe it is the shape that affects the flavor. Or perhaps it has to do with the size that creates a different chocolate to peanut butter ratio. I’m not really sure. I know it is not a simple matter of  volume because my least favorite is the King Size version and my third favorite happens to be the minis. You can pop those in your mouth almost mindlessly while watching TV or writing a blog post. More dangerous than Halloween Candy.

Maybe it’s because they are made in a special way for a holiday that I like the Easter eggs and Christmas trees so much, even if it’s not my holiday. I only get to eat them each once a year–or more considering they start featuring them in the stores months before their respective holidays actually occur.

I’d be happy to embrace a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup dreidel. If they applied the egg to Passover and changed the packaging, I’d be totally okay with that, except for the kosher for Passover part. Maybe they could try a shofar for Rosh Ha Shanah. Now that would be a sweet way to bring in the New Year.

Bottom line is that when it comes to Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups I am not picky about the holiday. I’ll eat them in pretty much any shape, size or form.

Kung Hee Fat Choy

I can’t resist a new year’s celebration. Today is the celebration of Chinese New Year, the year of the Yang Water Dragon. I don’t know a whole lot about it and the explanations that I read online are way too complicated to relate here. I encourage you to check it out.

I do know that I am a tiger.  I also know that everybody is eating Gau today so I am too. I think that is a good start. I’m pretty sure that’s how my kids’ classmates feel when I show up to their classes and bring apples and honey for the Jewish New Year! It takes a while to understand.

Kung Hee Fat Choy

We are eating right for the new year

I decided that I need to write one final blog for 2011. It has been a good year. As my friend Candy says, “We are blessed.”

Thank you to all of those who have clicked somewhere or another and found yourself reading about Being Jewish in Hawaii. I look forward to your comments in 2012 and  enjoying the conversation together.

While the East Coast is getting ready for the “Ball” to drop, we are just making dinner and settling down to an evening at home celebrating with our small family (extra small as teenager is not here.)

We invited friends to join us, but they declined. We understand. They also prefer to be at their own homes.  I don’t like to go out on New Year’s Eve. It is too dangerous. I am happy in my humble abode, safe and in comfortable clothes (notice the lack of photo.)

The star attraction of this evening is the food. Husband is at the barbecue and there will be meat to eat: chicken, ribs, and lamb (must pronounce the b.) If we don’t eat it all, no big deal, we can have it tomorrow for leftovers and you are invited (but please let us know that you are coming so we can make sure that we have enough paper plates.)

At Erev Shabbat services last night, Rabbi Schaktman mentioned recent efforts our congregation has embraced in regards to what I have heard in other arenas called “Food Justice.” We are translating it tonight by eating the peppers we grew in our yard and several other local products.

The meat we bought at Costco.

I am not in the habit of bragging, but I can’t help myself tonight. With our wonderful dinner we will be serving fresh, local, ripe Makaha Mangoes. It is the miracle of New Year’s Eve as even this transplant knows that mango season was over months ago.

But when I went to visit my friend Candy today to talk story for a bit and to share the holiday fudge that I only make once a year, along with her annual Chex mix that I love so much, she sent us home with several beautiful ripe and delicious mangoes.

Months ago, tweenager planted various seeds in the pots we have stored in the front yard. She has diligently watered them daily and the fruits of her labor became available this month. She was sure that she planted snow peas, but when we went to harvest it became apparent that they were peppers. Another miracle.

My husband picked a few of them today and mixed them in the sauce for the ribs. There will be mild, hot and fire hot on the dinner table tonight. Yum. Once again, if you will be joining us for leftovers tomorrow, just let us know.

On my way to Makaha I stopped at Tamura’s Super Market in Wai’anae to purchase some poke and fixings for salad. The line for poke was long, but worth it. We got ahi and tako poke.

As for the salad, I made sure to buy local. The Manoa lettuce was not cheap, but also worth it.

That’s about it: meat, mango, poke and salad.

I can’t imagine a better way to ring in the new year: safe at home eating right.

Happy New Year to you and your family with wishes for all good blessings.

Shaloha.

Happy Birthaversariakkah to me

When my husband suggested that we get married on my birthday I wasn’t sure why he thought it was a good idea. He joked that it was so he wouldn’t forget our anniversary, but even at that time I knew him well enough to know that it was not the case. I told him that as long as he did not forget my birthday, I was willing to go for it.

I still don’t know why he chose that date, but I’m not sorry. It was a great idea. I married him on my 45th birthday  and it is the best present I ever got. 2011 marked our fourth wedding anniversary, among other things.

I was born on December 26. This year, not only did we celebrate what we have come to call our Birthaversary, but we added in the 7th night of Chanukkah, making it a Birthaversariakkah.

There are two very special days on the calendar when I get to choose the family activity without absolutely no input from, or consideration of, anybody else: Mother’s Day and my Birthday.  Considering my usual Jewish Mother’s consideration of each family member in almost everything I do, I embrace these opportunities with abandon and glee and almost always choose a day at the beach or a hike. Luckily my family likes these activities too.

For this Birthaversariakkah I chose a hike. We went to Aiea Loop Trail where my husband proposed  5 years ago. This time we did the entire loop. Now I know why we usually turn around.

It took almost four hours to plod up and down the ridge, across the gulch and slosh through the 5 miles of muddy trail. But it  offers beautiful views of Pearl Harbor and the Tetsuo Harano tunnel on H3, the usual benefits of the great outdoors and nice memories of the day he stopped us at the side of the path and, with a rainbow in the background, asked me to marry him. We took a picture at the spot.

Once again, it was the perfect hike and the perfect day. The kids behaved particularly well, often running ahead and leaving us to enjoy each others’ company, appreciate some peace and quiet and sneak in an affectionate smooch here and there. We took some great photos. And between husband and teenager, I made it through  the extra slippery parts without falling.

We ended the day eating saimin at Forty Niner’s, another family favorite, and lit the candles at home that night.

Thank you for a very Happy Birthaversariakkah handsome Husband and loving family. It was a wonderful celebration.

Mele Kalikimakanukkah (Merry Christmas and Happy Chanukkah)

Everybody gets to celebrate today. Hallelujah!

My family is spending this Christmas morning delivering holiday meals for Lanakila Pacific’s Meals on Wheels program. Our Synagogue organizes an annual group of volunteers and we joined the team three years ago. We have made it a family tradition ever since.

And tonight we will celebrate the sixth night of Chanukkah with a holiday meal shared among friends at our home. I got up early to make chocolate fudge dreidles with the mold we got as a gift from my younger sister, boo. We’ll make brownies later with the other molds  she sent. Of course we will make latkes too.

Whenever I cook for the Jewish holidays it makes me think of my mom, especially when I make chopped liver. It was her specialty. She used a hand grinder to combine the liver and eggs and onions. When food processors debuted she continued to grind it by hand,  insisting that the new contraption made the liver to mushy. She put it in a circle mold and served it with mini pieces of rye bread. My dad loved it.

My mom made chopped liver for every holiday and I always helped her. Using a special meat grinder attachment to her Betty Crocker mixer, she would grind the liver and the eggs and the onions separately and mix them all together for the perfect blend and consistency. I remember one year she had me separate the egg yolks from the whites and we ground those separately so that when we combined it all together it wouldn’t be too “Yolky.”

I started making it about ten years ago for celebrations at our home in Hawaii. It connected us to her, living so far away, as she shared her recipe and techniques. It evoked vivid memories of childhood that I could share with my daughter. And now it brings wonderful memories of my mom (may she rest in peace) and makes me miss her very much.

The first time I made it, she sent me a meat grinder she  used post Betty Crocker mixer. I still use it every year. I’m willing to use a food processor for the potatoes for the latkes, but in honor of Gloria, not for the liver.

The biggest obstacles have been the shmaltz (chicken fat) and the liver. You can’t buy shmaltz in Hawaii. One year she came to visit around Chanukkah time and brought a small cooler on the plane with a jar of schmaltz just for me. Talk about the love of a Jewish Mother!

Since then, I have alternately made my own or just used Crisco.

My mom always swore that calf’s liver was the best choice for chopped liver. I have looked island wide for years, never found any and had to let chicken livers suffice. I ordered them fresh from Tamura Super Market in Wai’anae and they turned out just fine. This year I found calf liver in the commissary. Oh Happy Day.

On this Christmas day, I will grind the liver and eggs and onions as my mother has done before me.  We will fry latkes as Jews around the world have done for ages. We will start a new tradition of making chocolate dreidles for dessert.

And on this sixth night of Chanukkah, we will embrace our holiday traditions as we light the candles, say the blessings, share a meal and honor all of the miracles that people celebrate this season.

On the fourth night of Chanukkah…

Our family came together with the community at the Aloha Jewish Chapel at Joint Base Pearl Harbor…literally.

After several relaxing, peaceful, child free days, my husband picked up our younger girl from Camp Erdman in Mokuleia on the North Shore and drove straight to Pearl Harbor. I brought the teenager from hula practice and we reconvened as a family for Friday night services and Chanukkah celebration.

I met my husband the first time I attended the Aloha Jewish Chapel (AJC) almost nine years ago. My very long time friend Dan Bender who leads the services at the Chapel introduced us. Much of our early courtship was spent sitting side by side at Friday night services. We progressed to marriage from there.

Before I went to AJC I wasn’t  aware that there is a vibrant Jewish community in the military. I didn’t know much about the military in general. It was out of my realm of experience. I’ve learned a lot since then, considering I married a Jewish soldier and am now, among other things, an Army wife.

The Aloha Jewish Chapel was built in the 1970’s and is the first  free-standing Jewish chapel built by the United States government exclusively for Jewish worship. Besides being a special place in terms of history, we like it because our friend, Dan, leads the services.

I’ve known Dan since I was in college in L.A.. We both taught Hebrew at Temple Emanuel in Beverly Hills and found each other again after I moved to Hawaii over 20 years ago. We go way back.

Our family enjoys Friday night services at AJC and our local Temple Emanu-El, but more often find ourselves at Pearl Harbor due to the proximity to our house and not having to drive in Friday evening traffic to get there.

Last night was a nice community celebration. A mixed crowd of retired military, young active duty couples, various dependents and local guests came together for latkes, dreidle and song.

We were happy to see the Donlins there and I took a picture of the Kamehameha grads with my teenager happy that they are a great role model for my Jewaiian girl.

Rachel Haymer played the ukulele and led us as we sang, “Light One Candle,” “Rock of Ages” and “Not by Might.” Always one to appreciate the meaning in the moment, I was moved by the lyrics that pay tribute to the Maccabees and the “Pain they endured, when their right to exist was denied,” and the call to “Light one candle to bind us together with peace as the song in our heart.”

My spirit is renewed and refreshed by an evening with family and community in common celebration. Happy Hanukkah.

Chag Sameach from the North Shore

We tell our kids all the time, “Chanukkah is not a major holiday in the Jewish tradition. It’s only a festival.” It is a wonderful celebration of bravery and miracles and light, but it has nothing to do with presents. Americans added on that part because of Christmas.

Then we spend 8 nights lighting candles, playing dreidle, eating more than our share of fried food and giving them too many presents. I can’t help it. I love picking out presents for them.

This year we ended up sort of practicing what we preach. We were not together as a family for the first few nights. We have celebrated from different shores. We haven’t given them any presents…. yet.

Not only is this the holiday season, but it is also our wedding anniversary and my birthday. Yes, we got married on my birthday, December 26.

When Chanukkah falls during the later part of December, all of these celebrations converge. My husband and I like to celebrate what we call our “Birthaversary” each year by getting away alone together for a few days. Since we were expecting his mother to arrive next week, we celebrated early, thus missing the first few nights of Chanukkah with our daughters.

The younger girl has spent 5 glorious days at Camp Erdman in Mokuleia. We packed her and some dreidles and some chocolate coins and dropped her off last Sunday. Our teenager stayed with her  grandmother on the West Side enjoying family and going back and forth to wrestling practice in Kapalama.

Husband and I packed our own bags, plus an extra one filled with snacks and drinks and hit the road for the North Shore of Oahu to our favorite getaway destination, Turtle Bay Resort.

It has become a tradition for us to celebrate together in this beautiful vacation spot. Before we were married, he was deployed in Iraq from 2004-2006. He came to Hawaii to spend a week of his R & R leave with me at this very place. We have come back every year since that romantic week in 2005.

It was just as romantic this year. What I love about the Turtle Bay Resort is that it really feels like being away on an outer island without the hassle or expense of getting on a plane or renting a car.

We only spent a few days on the North Shore, but it was enough to relax, disconnect from the demands of daily life and reconnect with each other. I consider that a great way to celebrate a holiday and a minor miracle in and of itself.

We enjoyed the secluded beaches to the North of the resort, walking for a few miles along the coastline, dipping our feet in the water, picking up sea glass and coral and embracing the sun and salt air.

Wednesday morning greeted us with a double rainbow right outside our hotel room window. Talk about a blessing.

Add to that some time for my husband to surf in the challenging waves that side of the island has to offer, while I embraced a relaxing moment in the jaccuzzi, then topping it all off with a dazzling and romantic sunset moment, I have to say that it made for a wonderful holiday celebration.

We returned to Kapolei relaxed and refreshed and began to gather our children back at home for a family Chanukkah weekend (and a few presents.)

Tonight we will join some of the local Jewish community at Pearl Harbor’s Aloha  Jewish Chapel for Erev Shabbat and Chanukkah services, latkes and song. Others will celebrate at Honolulu’s Temple Emanu-El, but we can’t be at two places at once tonight.

Chag Sameach to you and your family and may it’s light and miracles brighten each of our lives on this 4th night of Chanukkah.

My apologies….

I must apologize to my parents. I am sorry, Mom and Dad. I forgot to light the yarzheit candles in your memory on Yom Kippur.

It wasn’t until  the Yizkor service that I realized my mistake.

I love the moment  when we are sitting in the Sanctuary, the late afternoon sun is streaming through the stained glass windows casting a golden glow over the congregation  and  representatives from the Sisterhood stand at each of the memorial boards and  turn on all of the lights on the memorial plaques.

I know this is a memorial service for those who have passed away and it is traditionally very solemn, but something about the moment makes me feel more joyous than sad.

There is something comforting about all of those people and all of their lights and all of their lives lighting up together for us to feel and remember them all. It is not like the lonely one or two lights that shine during services at each Shabbat, commemorating the individual Yahrzeits.

It is collective and powerful and fills me.

Somehow I imagine that it has a similar effect on  those whose memories are being honored as well. They might feel a little less lonely since they are being remembered in a crowd. Lighting up together, connecting through our collective memories.

So that’s when I remembered that I forgot to light the candles at home and I was sad. It gives me similar solace to see the light of my parents’ memories dancing together on our kitchen counter for a full 24 hours and I missed it.

I light a single candle on the anniversary of each of their deaths, but it feels a bit more lonely and a reminder of our  loss.

The funny thing is that I planned ahead. If you call shopping on eBay planning ahead. I ordered yarzheit candles and special holders from Israel. I purchased them months in advance in anticipation of this moment.

And then I forgot.

My family suggested that I could still do it when we got home, but it did not feel right. The flame would seem false. In reality, the service would be enough.

I am pretty sure that it bothers me more than it would my parents. They were of a generally forgiving nature in life. I can’t imagine it would be any different now.

I will remember next year. I will remember them and the others and the candles.

Meanwhile, in the spirit of the Yamim Noraim, my apologies. I will try again in 5773.

What’s your New Year’s resolution?

When we go to visit my youngest sister at “camp boo” in the summer, we enjoy one of their many traditions of “Highs and Lows.” It is a simple one.

At dinner we go around the table and share the high moment and low moment of the day. Sometimes there are as many as 13 guests around the dinner table, so there’s a lot of sharing going on.

When I try to do this sharing thing around my small family table at home, I usually get groans and reluctant participation. They don’t enjoy it as much as I or the campers at my sister’s table do.

I love this kind of stuff. It could probably be said that I am one of those people who is always trying to appreciate the meaning in the moment.

I also like to make New Year’s resolutions. I do it every year. The cool thing about being Jewish is that we celebrate the Jewish New Year in the fall and then there’s another one in January. I know that Chinese New Year is also an option, but I have not gone there yet.

One of my many resolutions last January was to start using the calendar on my computer. I have been very successful at this, adding a smart phone to the mix and syncing the two. I have even gone so far as to find a way to update my husband’s electronic calendar with our family schedule.

For Rosh Hashanah I usually take a more spiritual approach. But I make resolutions nonetheless.

So instead of torturing my family this year, I have decided to turn to you and ask: What is your New Year’s resolution for 5772?

Perhaps you will be more like the campers at “camp boo.”

Happy New Year from Walgreens

My mainland family is getting New Year’s cards from us this year. Just the immediate family, sisters and parents. We don’t usually send cards for the High Holy Days. We don’t really send them for many occasions –except maybe birthdays, Mother’s and Father’s Day and Halloween to my youngest sister whose nickname is “boo.”

Why is this year different from all other years? Oops, wrong holiday. Then why are we sending New Year’s cards you may ask? Because they had them on display at the Walgreens in the Kapalama Shopping Center on North School Street in Kalihi, that’s why.

They didn’t have just one generic card for the occasion, they had an entire section of cards for Rosh Hashanah. It’s like a Rosh Hashanah miracle.

That Walgreens is my new hangout. I go there a few times a week because it is near Kamehameha’s Kapalama campus where I pick up my older daughter when she stays after school for hula or study hall. I can pick up a snack for her and use the bathroom before I drive up the hill.

When I discovered their New Year’s cards I had to support them. The Jewish community in Hawaii doesn’t get much acknowledgment from very many local retail establishments. When we, do I want to show my appreciation by spending my money there.

Since I am seeing Christmas trees going up in the stores before the Halloween candy comes out, I was doubly struck by the wonderfulness of Walgreens.

I had to share.

And even if you did not get a card from us in the mail, from my family to yours:

L’shanah Tovah Tikatevu–May you be inscribed for a blessing in the Book of Life.

I’m thinking that somebody at Walgreens will.

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