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18 Signs You Grew Up Celebrating Chanukah and Christmas

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12/23/2014

Chai List photo

This time of year, the only thing going around the Jewish community more than influenza and greasy latke smell is Christmas envy.

It's okay – Christmas is pretty cool. Just ask your friends who grew up with both Jewish and Christian family members. This post goes out to all of us pulling double duty (and double the presents!) this Holiday Season.

 

1. Your Christmas tree was covered in Star of David and dreidel ornaments

18 Signs You Grew Up Celebrating Chanukah and Christmas 1

 

2. You made your Girl Scout troop sing Chanukah "carols" too

18 Signs You Grew Up Celebrating Chanukah and Christmas 2

 

3. You eat a gourmet family meal, not Chinese food, on Christmas

18 Signs You Grew Up Celebrating Chanukah and Christmas 3

 

4. You left Santa latkes instead of cookies

18 Signs You Grew Up Celebrating Chanukah and Christmas 4

 

5. Your holiday decorations were a hot mess of blue, red, and green

18 Signs You Grew Up Celebrating Chanukah and Christmas 5

There was probably a leg lamp. Or your family just said "forget it" and went all out for Halloween.

 

6. You know that Chanukah cookies make the best snack while watching Miracle on 34th Street

18 Signs You Grew Up Celebrating Chanukah and Christmas 6

 

7. You know how to water a Christmas tree, and can't understand why your Jewish friends think that means "misting it" with a spray bottle

18 Signs You Grew Up Celebrating Chanukah and Christmas 7

 

8. ALL THE PRESENTS

18 Signs You Grew Up Celebrating Chanukah and Christmas 8

 

9. You know it's not impossible to light a Christmas tree on fire with a menorah

18 Signs You Grew Up Celebrating Chanukah and Christmas 9

 

10. Your family sends out holiday cards like this:

18 Signs You Grew Up Celebrating Chanukah and Christmas 10

(My family literally sent this card out at least one year)

 

11. YOU invented Chrismukkah, not Seth Cohen

18 Signs You Grew Up Celebrating Chanukah and Christmas 11

 

12. You prepared elaborate Powerpoints for your friends to scientifically prove how you could celebrate both holidays

18 Signs You Grew Up Celebrating Chanukah and Christmas 112

 

13. You strongly identified with Tommy Pickles from Rugrats, who also celebrated Hanukkah and Christmas

18 Signs You Grew Up Celebrating Chanukah and Christmas 13

 

14. You can't believe kids today get books about combined holidays

18 Signs You Grew Up Celebrating Chanukah and Christmas 14

The best your parents could do was read Herschel and the Hanukkah Goblins back-to-back with The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.

 

15. You designed your own multi-holiday ugly sweaters

18 Signs You Grew Up Celebrating Chanukah and Christmas 15

 

16. Your Elf on a Shelf drinks eggnog with your Mensch on a Bench

18 Signs You Grew Up Celebrating Chanukah and Christmas 16

 

17. Underground dreidel gambling rings at Christmas parties

18 Signs You Grew Up Celebrating Chanukah and Christmas 17

 

18. You know there's no comparing what you feel when the house is lit by the glow of the menorah, and what waking up on Christmas morning feels like. They feel like home, like family, and like the perfect fit

18 Signs You Grew Up Celebrating Chanukah and Christmas 18

 

This could be the first blog of the rest of your life

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12/16/2014

This could be the first blog of the rest of your life photo

Oy!Chicago is looking for guest writers of all experience levels to contribute to our next special blog series, “In With the New,” a collection of pieces on fresh starts, new beginnings and that moment when everything changed for the better.

We want to help you share your inspirational story of accomplishment, of tapping into the new you. Or maybe you’re still getting there and want to talk about your journey. Whether you have a great story that’s ready to publish now or are looking for some help finding the words, we want to work with you and your idea!

The blog series will run Jan. 12-16. To pitch your idea, write a paragraph describing what your piece would be about and send it to info@oychicago.com by Friday, Dec. 26. The only requirements are that the post should in some way relate to the theme, and that you are 21 or older. We will review your submission and let you know if we are interested in working with you and running your piece in the series.

Please note that Oy!Chicago is a volunteer-run website, so we are unable to pay for published submissions at this time. If you have any questions, email them to info@oychicago.com

Thanks for your interest!

Stef & Steven

Stacey Ballis shares her ‘Big Delicious Life’

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12/09/2014

Stacey Ballis shares her ‘Big Delicious Life’ photo 1 Stacey Ballis shares her ‘Big Delicious Life’ photo 2

If Stacey Ballis isn’t working on a novel, she’s likely testing a recipe for her next book.

In October, Ballis published Big Delicious Life: Stacey Ballis’s Most Awesome Recipes, an electronic cookbook featuring recipes that appeared in her past novels.

Food always has been a character in Ballis’s novels, which feature smart, Chicago-based heroines who love life and a good meal.

“Food and cooking are just such a big part of my life, that it organically became a part of my characters’ lives as well,” Ballis said.

She consciously began writing recipes during the process of crafting her fourth novel. “When I was writing Good Enough to Eat, I was looking for healthier versions of the foods I love,” she said.

In Good Enough to Eat, the main character, Melanie, loses half her body weight, so the story includes recipes for comfort foods and the healthier version thereof. “Readers weren’t surprised, they were happy to cook the foods mentioned themselves,” she said.

Ballis has some legendary company in the pantheon of authors who include recipes with their novels.

“When I read books like (Nora Ephron’s) Heartburn or (Laura Esquivel’s) Like Water for Chocolate, it felt like a bonus gift to me. It doesn’t take me out of the story,” she said. “I read cookbooks as novels.”

Ballis began both cooking and writing as a young child. Her earliest memories of cooking are at her grandmother’s knee, but she said she doesn’t think Judaism is what made her into a passionate home chef.

“I make a killer brisket,” she said. “I continue to practice. I’m not a temple-goer … The appealing thing about Judaism is there’s no one way to practice ... Food is about the soul, not the stomach.”

In Big Delicious Life, Ballis said she wanted to gather all of her recipes into one collection that could be broken down by the novel it appears in and also include an index separating recipes by the ingredients used. The ebook format not only makes this possible, but also easy for pulling out the ingredient list while at the grocery store. And at $3.79 (on Amazon.com), it’s affordable too.

“It’s like buying someone a card, but for the same price, you’re delivering 150 recipes,” Ballis said.

Big Delicious Life also includes 40 “lost recipes” that were mentioned in the four novels except there wasn’t enough space to publish them.

Ballis has received good feedback on Big Delicious Life so far. She said readers have told her they don’t identify as cooks but feel like they can thanks to her books. She cites One-Pot Pasta and her recipe for braised brisket as easy recipes for new cooks to start out with.

Big Delicious Life also includes a chapter from Ballis’ next novel, Recipe for Disaster, which will hit shelves next March. The story follows Anneke, who teaches herself to cook after a series of unfortunate events finds her living in the house she is restoring.

Her next cookbook, Cooking for You: Wellness in the Kitchen, is expected to make its debut late next summer. Ballis is co-writing with her friend Dr. Francis Ardito, a professor at College of Lake County.

Ballis said when people hear “wellness,” they hear “diets,” and the cookbook aims to show that wellness can taste good, but sometimes moderation is needed.

“There’s an emotional wellness chapter, which has a killer chocolate cake recipe,” she said.

Jay Rapoport rocks with ruach

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12/02/2014

Jay Rapoport rocks with ruach photo 1

By day, Jay Rapoport is a mild-mannered Jewish educator with the title of director of Lifelong Learning at Temple Sholom of Chicago in Lakeview. But this persona is only a mask for his true identity: Jewish rock star.

Rapoport's second Jewish platter, They Tried to Get Us, We Won, Let's Rock, stirs in several flavors of rock 'n' roll, with a heaping helping of Motown-drizzled soul on the side. Food figures prominently on the "The Holiday Song," a New Orleans-style jazz number that catalogs the many Jewish holidays for defeating oppressors—and the foods we eat thereupon. But the bravest track, lyrically, is "God is Just a Word," which he wrote to start discussions with those who profess to be "spiritual but not religious," he said. 

Jay Rapoport rocks with ruach photo 2

Other songs discuss the relationship between the Jews and the Torah ("Am HaSefer"), students and teachers ("My Teacher, My Friend"), and friends ("Wherever You Will Go," based on the Book of Ruth). There is even a song about the ways of interpreting the Torah ("Pardes"). But the album's opener, "I Like to Dance on Shabbat," is just plain fun.

Rapoport's wife is named Rachel, his daughter is named Ruthie, and his website is named RuachRock.com. But there is nothing rated "R" about his music. He considers this a family-friendly album, one that "parents could enjoy along with kids," while it's also "what we adults would listen to" on our own.

Rapoport's first Jewish CD, With All Your Heart, came out in late 2010, but this new one is his ninth overall. His major influences are Billy Joel and Ben Folds, and he has performed with Craig Taubman, Rick Recht, Josh Nelson, and Michelle Citrin. He's even been featured on Recht's Jewish Rock Radio music-streaming site, and at his Song Leader Boot Camp. 

Rapoport studied piano and singing at Berklee College of Music. He also has a Master's degree in religious education from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York City.

While he joined Temple Sholom this June, Rapoport boasts 15 years as a Jewish educator, and he's written theme songs for many of his graduating classes. He's also been a camp director in Virginia, which inspired many of his songs. 

Rather than have his musical passion clash with his educational career, Rapoport has found a way for them to, well, harmonize. Thankfully, he lets us all sing along.  

My annual Chanukah music review "The Chanukah Wrap-Up" can be found on my JUF News blog at jufnews.org

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