Tag Archive for: Chanukah

The Holidays Are Gone – or Are They? by Debra H. Goldstein

The Holidays are Gone – or Are They?
by Debra H. Goldstein

The 2014 holidays, no matter what your faith, have come and gone. The Chanukah lights no longer burn.  Remnants of Christmas packages have been shoved into trashcans and folks are beginning to turn off their outdoor lights to save on their power bills.  It will be at least six to nine months before radio stations and merchants try to get us back into the holiday spirit.  That’s a shame.

It is nice to feel festive.  Sharing gifts, eggnog, singing of songs, and general merriment is fun.  There is a wonderful feeling when families come together whether in person, through computer links, or on the phone.  Even the television ads hone in on the warmth people share at this time of the year.

My heart goes out to those who don’t have enough to eat, a place to go, a hand to hold.  What these people are lacking is never so evident as during this time of the year.  Red kettles and bells, letters with enclosed envelopes, or requests to “come on down and serve a meal,” bombard us.

Although the holidays have ended – pick one to respond to.  I bet, even if only for a few minutes, you’ll feel the joy of the holiday season again.

Happy Holidays!

Tis the Season

By Evelyn David

The holiday shopping has begun. Chanukah comes EARLY this
year (that’s the thing about the Jewish calendar – it’s lunar, with an extra
month every four years, so it never corresponds to the exact same Gregorian
calendar date from year to year). Sometimes the eight days of the Festival of
Lights coincides with the week of Christmas. This year, Chanukah begins on the
night of December 8.

Now before everyone yells at me about Chanukah and gifts –
let me state for the record that I like giving gifts. I like thinking about the
individual and picking out something I know he or she will like. I have fun
wrapping presents. And all of this is in full knowledge that Chanukah is not
supposed to be a Jewish substitute for Christmas. It’s a minor Jewish holiday
and yet…in my childhood, I got a gift from my parents each night, albeit, most
nights it was something very small, like socks or a book. But there was one
really nice, I really wanted it, gift each year.

So I’m not going to be defensive or apologetic about liking
to give gifts – probably even more than receiving them. But here’s what’s not
so great about gifting.

Mailing gifts. Our extended family lives in California, Maryland,
upstate New York, Washington,
DC, and Israel.
The cost of postage or non-USPS delivery often costs more than the gift. Now common sense would be to send a check to all concerned, pop it into an
envelope with a 45 cent stamp (to go up to 46 cents on January 1) and call it a

But that’s no fun.

Or I could pick out a gift on Amazon, have them gift-wrap it
for another $5, and have it shipped directly to the recipeient. But unless the
gift costs $25, I’ll also pay shipping costs.

And I really do enjoy wrapping.

Not the biggest problem in the world. I’d vote for a
solution to war before I’d focus on my minor holiday quibble.

What’s your gift giving policy?

No gifts

Gifts only for the immediate family

Gifts recipients drawn by lots

Checks/Cash only


In any case, munching on holiday goodies while I wrap. Sending
all good wishes for happy, healthy, fun-filled holiday season for each and
every one of you.



A Reason to Give Thanks includes: Giving Thanks
in Lottawatah
, Bah, Humbug in Lottawatah, Moonlighting at the Mall, The Fortune
Teller’s Face
, A Reason to Give Thanks, Sneak Peek – Murder Off the Books,
Sneak Peek – I Try Not to Drive Past Cemeteries

A Reason to Give Thanks


Sullivan Investigations Mystery
Murder Off the Books KindleNookSmashwordsTrade Paperback
Murder Takes the Cake KindleNookSmashwords Trade Paperback 
Riley Come Home (short story)- KindleNookSmashwords
Moonlighting at the Mall (short story) – KindleNookSmashwords



Zoned for Murder
Kindle Trade Paperback

Brianna Sullivan Mysteries – e-book series
I Try Not to Drive Past CemeteriesKindleNookSmashwords
The Dog Days of Summer in Lottawatah KindleNookSmashwords
The Holiday Spirit(s) of LottawatahKindleNookSmashwords
Undying Love in Lottawatah- KindleNookSmashwords
A Haunting in Lottawatah – Kindle (exclusive to Amazon this month)
Lottawatah Twister – KindleNookSmashwords
Missing in Lottawatah – KindleNookSmashwords
Good Grief in Lottawatah – KindleNookSmashwords
Summer Lightning in Lottawatah – Kindle NookSmashwords

The Ghosts of Lottawatah – trade paperback collection of the Brianna e-books
Book 1 I Try Not to Drive Past Cemeteries (includes the first four Brianna e-books)
Book 2 – A Haunting in Lottawatah (includes the 5th, 6th, and 7th Brianna e-books)

Love Lessons – KindleNookSmashwords

Holiday Fun

Chanukah, the festival of lights, begins Tuesday night and lasts for eight days. This year it overlaps with Christmas. It doesn’t always happen that way because Jewish holidays follow a lunar-solar calendar. Because there is roughly an eleven-day difference between twelve lunar months and one solar year, the length of the Hebrew calendar year varies. Sometimes Chanukah is in early December and we’re just finishing up our holiday when Christmas celebrations begin.

Latkes, potato pancakes, are traditional Chanukah treats. I’ve seen recipes for latkes made with a mixture of zucchini, carrots, and parsnips. For those looking for something new or healthier to celebrate the Chanukah, maybe nouvelle latkes will float your boat. But since I only make potato pancakes once a year, I say go for it, use the potatoes and cut down on the fat intake somewhere else. Because nothing quite says Happy Chanukah to me like the smell of potatoes and onions sizzling in oil, and then topped with some cool applesauce. YUM! Below is my recipe for latkes. As they would say in Hebrew, B’taya Von! Or Bon Appetit!!

Any holiday is an opportunity to enjoy family and friends, reflect on the year, and count our blessings – including the ladies of this delightful blog and you, our readers. Whatever and however you choose to celebrate, we wish you a time of joy and peace.


Traditional Potato Latkes

5 large potatoes, peeled (I use Yukon Gold)
1 large onion
3 eggs
1/3 cup flour
Pinch of baking powder
1 teaspoon salt (you may need to add more)
¼ teaspoon pepper


Grate potatoes and onion (I use a food processor).
Strain the grated potatoes and onion to get rid of excess water.
Add eggs, flour, baking powder, salt, and pepper. Mix well.
Heat ½ cup of oil in frying pan, and when hot, add 1 large tablespoon of batter. Fry each side about 2 to 3 minutes.
Remove from pan and drain on paper towels to remove excess oil.

Add more oil as necessary.

Enjoy with applesauce (or even sour cream, which is decadent but delicious).

Brianna Sullivan Mysteries – e-book series
I Try Not to Drive Past Cemeteries- KindleNookSmashwords
The Dog Days of Summer in Lottawatah- KindleNookSmashwords
The Holiday Spirit(s) of Lottawatah- KindleNookSmashwords
Undying Love in Lottawatah- KindleNookSmashwords
A Haunting in Lottawatah – KindleNookSmashwords
Lottawatah Twister – KindleNookSmashwords
Missing in Lottawatah – KindleNookSmashwords

Sullivan Investigations Mystery – e-book series
Murder Off the Books KindleNookSmashwords
Murder Takes the Cake KindleNookSmashwords
Riley Come Home (short story)- KindleNookSmashwords
Moonlighting at the Mall (short story) – KindleNookSmashwords

Love Lessons – KindleNookSmashwords

Festival of Lights

“Never underestimate the power of a few committed people to change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Margaret Mead might well have been talking about the Maccabees, the Jewish insurgents who led a revolt against King of Syria Antiochus IV, in the second century BC. It is this triumph of a small group of Jews against the Seleucid Empire that is celebrated at Chanukah, the Jewish festival which begins this week at sundown on Wednesday.

Thanks to Wikipedia, let me recount quickly why Jews light a menorah, play dreidl, and eat latkes.

Chanukah (and it’s spelled a multitude of ways Hanukah, Hanukkah, and my preferred way of starts with a “c” and only has one “k”), marks the time when Jews regained control of Jerusalem and then rededicated the Temple after its desecration by Antiochus’s forces. It was the equivalent of David slaying Goliath. But that wasn’t the only miracle that Chanukah celebrates. When the Jews regained the Temple, there was just one vial of consecrated oil left to light the eternal flame in the Temple – and it takes eight days to make fresh holy oil. But the small amount which should have lasted one day, lasted eight. Therefore we light a candelabra known as a menorah that has room for eight candles and, one more a Shamash, an additional candle that is used to light the others. We light one additional candle each night so that by the eighth night the menorah is fully ablaze. We place the candles in the menorah from right to left because Hebrew is read that way (the opposite of how English is read).

Dreidl, a four-sided top with a hebrew letter on each side, is played to commemorate how Jews, forbidden to study Torah, used to meet secretly to learn. But if soldiers approached, the Jews would begin playing with tops, so that it looked like they were gambling, not studying. Each side of the dreidl has a Hebrew letter that together represents the statement, Nes Gadol Haya Sham, “A great miracle happened there”.

During the holiday, we eat latkes and other fried foods (like donuts) to remember the miracle of the oil.

Gift giving is a tradition, not a religious dictate. Like many families, my husband and I have always tried to walk that tightrope of giving gifts to our kids without forgetting the real purpose of the holiday. It’s an inspirational story that carries a message far beyond what happened all those many years ago. It’s a reminder that each of us can make a difference.

As we light the first candle on Wednesday night, we’ll draw strength from those who went before us who remained firm in their convictions, despite the overwhelming odds against them. We’ll sing about the miracle of the oil and we’ll rejoice in being together.

Below is my recipe for latkes – Enjoy!

4-6 large potatoes, peeled and shredded (a food processor makes this much simpler, but you can use a hand grater)
1 small onion, grated
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
Pinch of baking powder
Oil for frying

Grate potatoes and then squeeze out all liquid.
Add grated onion, egg, flour, salt, and baking powder.
Drop by teaspoonfuls into hot oil. Fry on both sides then drain on paper towel.
Serve with applesauce. I also serve with sour cream.

Marian, the Northern Half of Evelyn David

Note to our readers:
Today is cyber Monday. Gift shopping has never been easier. You can order online The Sullivan Investigation Series or the Brianna Sullivan Mysteries. A good mystery is always a welcome present. Enjoy!

The Sullivan Investigation Series
Murder Drops the Ball (Spring 2011)
Murder Takes the CakePaperbackKindle
Murder Off the BooksPaperbackKindle
Riley Come HomeKindleNookSmashwords

Brianna Sullivan Mysteries – e-book series
The Holiday Spirit(s) of Lottawatah
KindleNook Smashwords
The Dog Days of Summer in Lottawatah
I Try Not to Drive Past Cemeteries

Kindle NookSmashwords

Striking a Happy Holiday Balance

The official holiday shopping season has begun. Our family celebrates Chanukah, also called The Feast of Lights. The first of the eight candles will be lit the evening of December 11. Oy!

Our youngest daughter won’t be home from college until the holiday is actually over – so I plan to send some gifts to her at school, and save the rest for when she’s eating some latkes at the dinner table. Son number one and his wife live in Washington – so I need to get their gifts in the mail. If I’d been smart, I’d have had them ready and wrapped when they were here for Thanksgiving. Son number two and his wife, and son number three, all live in the area – so we’ll probably see them for at least one of the eight nights of the holiday.

I can give you the standard spiel, which is that Chanukah is a minor Jewish holiday, never intended to duplicate the breadth of Christmas. No trees, no garlands, no ornaments – at least not when I was growing up. Today, there are tons of decorations you can buy – but there’s a not-so-small voice that echoes in my mind that reminds me that I’m not supposed to go for the glitz (much as I love Christmas decorations) when celebrating the Feast of Lights. Chanukah commemorates the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean revolt. Desecrated by the forces of Antiochus IV, when the Jews retook the temple there was only enough holy oil to fuel the eternal flame for one day…but the miracle is that the oil lasted eight days, enough time to consecrate more holy olive oil.

Traditionally we eat latkes – potatoes fried in oil. In Israel they eat sufganiyot, jam-filled fried donuts. We play dreidel – a game with a spinning top with four Hebrew letters, Nun, Gimel, Alef, Shin, symbolizing the sentence, “Nes Gadol Haya Sham” — A great miracle happened there.” Actually in Israel, the final letter is changed to Pei , to read “Nes Gadol Haya Po,” — A great miracle happened here.”

I confess I get caught up in the commercial holiday spirit because I love picking out gifts for loved ones and seeing their delight. And while I could certainly give presents other times of the year – and do – there is something fantastically fun about enjoying the communal spirit of shopping and giving – both on a personal and charitable level at this time of year. I’m a wrapping paper connoisseur, insisting on sharp tight corners on the package, and choosing just the right bow, because the original Evelyn insisted a present always required a ribbon. Who knew?

So I try to strike the right balance between the religious components and commercialism. And there is, of course, the thrill of the hunt – finding the perfect present at just the right price. I’ve never shopped on Black Friday – except this year, when I carefully combined coupons and promotion codes, and stopped by several online stores. Throw in some free shipping and this is one happy shopper. Might I remind all that books, especially mystery books, are always a perfect, one-size-fits-all gift!

So as the weeks move along during this holiday season, whatever you are celebrating, I wish for you the joy of giving, the delight of seeing those you love savor your thoughtfulness, and the importance of remembering those less fortunate at this time.

We’ll talk more in the weeks ahead. Enjoy!

Evelyn David

Murder Takes the Cake by Evelyn David
Murder Off the Books by Evelyn David

Let’s Make a Deal

I don’t want to be the grinch who stole Chanukah, but holiday shopping this year, even on a limited scale, is frustrating at best, deadly at worst.

We’ve all heard the tragic news story of the security guard at a Long Island Wal-Mart, who was trampled to death by an out-of-control, bargain-hunting Black Friday crowd. The mob mentality ruled that ugly morning, as shoppers stepped over, around, and even on the victim, in their zeal to score good, nay fantastic, deals. Gunfire broke out in the parking lot of a toy store in California, when two shoppers continued their in-store arguments over merchandise.

Are these incidents the result of shoppers who are frustrated before they ever walk into a store because the economy is in the tank and the holidays are going to be spare, if at all? Is it the American competitive spirit now taken to the cash register, with shoppers determined to find the biggest bargain and get the most bang (literally at times) for the buck? And what, if any role, do the stores play in this madness?

I suspect there is more than enough blame to go around. Undoubtedly, there is an urgent need to switch the focus from the materialistic to the spiritual side of this holiday season. As thoughtfully discussed by Marilyn, Susan, and Maggie last week, this holiday season we need to give more of ourselves, and less of our pocketbooks.

But since many of us are still buying a few gifts this year, even if the number and cost have been drastically reduced, here’s a plea to the storeowners.

I understand that the holiday season is, for many of you, a make-or-break time. In the best of economic times, many retailers net half their profits from October through December. But these aren’t the best of times – not even close. I want you to stay in business, you want me to buy your products. It can be a win-win – but here’s what you need to do.

1. Cancel Black Friday and any other events that encourage a survival of the fittest, mob rule mentality. When you offer four free video systems – or frankly anything else – and you have a crowd of 200 who’ve been waiting out in the cold for hours, it’s a recipe for disaster.
2. No more gimmicks. I want to look at a price on an item and not wonder if I have brought the right coupon – or somebody else in line is getting a better deal. One price should fit all.
3. Hire sales help who know your merchandise. They should be able to do more than ring up the sale. You want a staff that understands how to “make” a sale as well: Suggest a tie to go with the shirt; discuss which books might be appropriate for a beginner reader; tell me what are the hottest new games in the Wie universe. And it would be nice if they did it with a smile and good grace. As the Southern half of Evelyn David nicely summarized: a salesperson should be a problem solver instead of just another problem for the customer.

In exchange, I promise:
1. To honor that this is a business and you need to make a profit. I won’t try to take advantage of honest mistakes in pricing or abuse your return policy.
2. To treat your merchandise carefully as I search for the perfect gift so that if I don’t buy it, someone else can.

3. To behave with good grace and a smile; to wait my turn; to follow the golden rule and treat you and your sales staff the way I hope to be treated.

Let’s put some fun and dignity back into holiday shopping. What else do you think businesses should do to make holiday shopping a better experience?

Evelyn David