e Jewish calendar is a solar-lunar calendar. This means that every month correlates to the moon, and each month also falls during the same season every year. By comparison, the Gregorian calendar is solar only (the months can start anywhere in the lunar phase) and the Muslim calendar is lunar only. That’s why the month of Ramadan cycles through the seasons as the years go by. 12 lunar months are a little bit shorter than a solar year, so each year starts a little bit earlier than the last.
In order to keep up with the moon AND the sun, the Jewish calendar is rather complicated. The months can be either 29 or 30 days long, so that the first of every month is always on the new moon. The Jewish calendar also inserts an extra month every few years. Since the Torah specifies that Passover is always in the spring, the extra month is inserted in late winter. This year is a leap year, and we’re in the leap month right now.
You know how, when somebody is born on February 29th, they only get a birthday every 4 years? That can’t happen in the Jewish calendar. The first of every month is called Rosh Chodesh, literally “the head of the month.” When there are 30 day months, the 30th day is considered “the first day of Rosh Chodesh” for the following month. Say you’re born on the 30th of Av, and Av only has 29 days this year? That’s OK, your birthday is also Rosh Chodesh Elul, and so you celebrate on the first of Elul.
Similarly, the leap month doesn’t get its own name. Instead of having Adar this year, we have Adar I and Adar II. Adar II is “the real Adar.” Any Adar birthdays are celebrated in Adar II. Purim, which normally falls on the 14th of Adar, falls on the 14th of Adar II this year. Purim is observed by giving gifts of food, giving money to charity, hearing the Megilla (Book of Esther) read, and dressing up in costumes.
Tonight begins the 14th of Adar I, the day that would have been Purim, had it not been a leap year. It’s known as “Purim Katan” which translates to “Little Purim.” There are a few changes in the daily prayers, but it’s not REALLY a holiday. We don’t go to the synagogue to hear the Megilla read, we’re not all getting dressed up in costumes, and there’s no obligation to give gifts of food to our friends and neighbors. Good thing, too, considering the blizzard outside!
What I do plan to do later is bake hamentashen, a traditional Purim cookie. We’re not baking massive quantities to give out to all our friends. We’ll do that next month. Today I’m planning on just making one or two batches for ourselves. Enough to acknowledge the day, but since it’s a minor holiday, we won’t go crazy.
This is the time of year when many people “party hearty” on December 31st and then feel the need to “diet” come January.
The Jewish New Year was nearly 4 months ago, and THAT was the real time for introspection. Not that my family ignores New Year’s Eve- we like to have a few “junk” foods, stay up late, and watch the ball drop on TV. It’s harmless and fun, but it’s not really meaningful.
I bought the kids some corn-based treats that didn’t tempt me in the least. I made spiced apple cider in the crock pot- I’m not supposed to have apples juice or cider, but I did have one mug-full. The temptation came with the organic nonfat frozen yogurt we received as a gift. I normally never buy the stuff, but I do occasionally buy full-fat ice cream, which I believe is healthier than the nonfat kind. Still, this product is free of corn and carrageenan, and Jack left it out on the table staring at me, and I ended up having half a cup with some chocolate chips added. All that sugar made me even hungrier.
Today is a new day, and so far I’ve had some lemon water. I plan to eat 100% compliantly, keep the carbs way down, and emphasize beneficial and diamond foods. I also want to go for a walk later today. I want to start walking daily.
This is NOT a “New Year’s Resolution.” Yeah, I over-indulged last night and I want a fresh start, but today is no more significant than any other day. It’s a new day and as good a time as any to re-focus on my long term health goals. If I slip up again in the middle of the year, I’ll make another fresh start and not wait for some significant date before making changes.
This year, for the first time in my lifetime, American Thanksgiving and Hanukkah coincided. Thanksgiving is always the 4th Thursday in November, so it can range from the 22nd through the 28th, depending on what day of the week November 1st is that year. This year it fell on the 28th, the latest possible date.
Meanwhile, the Jewish calendar is a lunisolar calendar. Months always begin with a full moon, so we can’t have a “leap day” every 4 years without messing up the days of the month. So we get a “leap month” every few years. Most years have 12 months but leap years have 13. The whole cycle repeats every 19 years. This year is the earliest possible point in the cycle, when Hanukkah begins on the night of November 27th.
So, we have an early Hanukkah combined with a late Thanksgiving, making the two holidays overlap. Somebody coined the term “Thanksgivukkah” and it’s fun to use- so why not? We won’t get to use the word again until 2070, when Thanksgiving falls on November 28th and Hanukkah starts that night.
Thanksgiving has never had much special meaning to my family, or I might have resisted the silly term combining the holidays. Most of us were off from work and school for Thanksgiving, and we either got a free turkey or we got one on sale, plus the rest of the “traditional Thanksgiving foods” were readily available, in season, and on sale.
We’ve always been flexible about having the turkey another day that weekend if Thursday wasn’t convenient. When I was 10, we moved during Thanksgiving week, and weren’t ready to host a big dinner on Thursday, so we had the traditional foods on Sunday instead. The year my son was born, his Bris (ritual circumcision) was on Thanksgiving Day, so we had the turkey and trimmings on Friday night instead of Thursday.
I’ve never found Thanksgiving cooking to be that much more work than what I prepare for Shabbos every Friday afternoon- only I’m making a larger amount at once and using leftovers for Shabbos that week. I made brown rice the night before, and added raisins and apple chunks to the rice. I put onion and ginger slices on a foil pan, put the turkey on that, then stuffed with the prepared stuffing. I sprinkled dried dill over the bird, covered with foil, and put in the preheated oven. I uncover it in the last hour of cooking, basting every 15 minutes, so the skin gets crispy.
I also made a pumpkin pie with a rice and almond flour crust. The pie filling itself was a can of pumpkin with eggs, homemade rice milk, honey, and spices. I made cranberry sauce by combining 1/3 cup of raisins, 1/3 cup of unsweetened dried pineapple, cut into small chunks, with 2 cups of water and 3 cups of frozen cranberries. I let that simmer on low a long time and chilled before serving. I also opened up a can of jellied cranberry sauce, since Hannah prefers that to the homemade kind. When basting the turkey, I removed some of the cooking liquid into a small saucepan and thickened that with rice flour to make gravy. The final dish was simply steamed broccoli.
I’d originally intended to make latkes as another side dish, but I ran out of energy. We truly did have enough food without it. I’d made latkes the night before, and have made them several times since. We don’t need to have latkes EVERY day of Hanukkah!
For Halloween, my Mom bought a huge packaged of assorted “fun sized” chocolates to give out to trick-or-treaters. She didn’t want to be tempted to eat the chocolates, so she gave them to us.
At first, the kids gorged and I restrained myself. Instead of eating a candy bar, I mashed an avocado, added cocoa powder and agave, and enjoyed a bowl of 100% compliant chocolate pudding! But then the next day I caved and ate one “fun sized” Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. It was OK, but not as tasty as I remembered; it’s now much too sweet for my taste.
If that one little chocolate had been my only indulgence for the month, I don’t think it would have hurt me. But there’s milk in those little goodies, and milk sets off allergic-like cravings in me. I had a hard time keeping myself from snacking on small amounts of cheese every day. Then, just when the cravings were almost under control, came Jack’s birthday, with the resultant cheesecake and dairy-heavy meals. I’ve had a hard time coming off the dairy since then; having a few slices of cheese for a bedtime snack, or topping off a healthy “salad and fish” meal with some cheese on a rice cake.
We had Jack’s birthday party yesterday, and most of the leftover candy went into the goodie bags. I baked the cake with spelt flour; which is so toxic for me that it’s not even a temptation. The purchased (wheat) pizza is finished; I didn’t eat any. It’s time for me to get back on track with healthy eating and detox from all the dairy and sugar I’ve managed to ingest in the past few weeks.
Today I’ve eaten clean all day, but I feel brain-fogged and tired and I still have a slight headache. I expect to feel better by tomorrow. I could have prevented all of this if I’d just been more careful with my diet in the first place. I KNOW better!
All this was started by one little “fun sized” candy. Not so much fun after all.
My son Jack turned 12 last week. He’s planning a party for his friends next weekend, but we had a mini-celebration at home, just for the family.
When he got up before school, he asked for pancakes for breakfast. Normally he has oatmeal or rice cereal, as it cooks up a lot faster and is less messy on busy school mornings. But it was his birthday so I obliged. I mixed together an egg, a cup of milk, a dash of salt, about a tablespoon of rice bran oil, and enough whole grain spelt flour to make it the right consistency. It occurred to me afterwards that I usually also add baking soda and some kind of sweetener to the batter, but he was happy with the taste and texture, and this was easier. I fried the pancakes in butter and served them with real maple syrup. There were enough pancakes left over for quick microwaving later in the week.
Dinner was planned out further in advance. He wanted 2 different kinds of pasta and 2 different kinds of sauces, and then Hannah requested that one of the pasta dishes be heavy on the vegetables, which Jack wouldn’t eat. I started out making the box of ziti. While it was cooking, I prepared the vegetable sauce. I peeled and shredded a few broccoli stalks, cut up mushrooms and onions very small, and used the vegetable peeler to make very thin slices of carrot. I sautéed all of that in the frying pan, then added water and tomato paste when the vegetables were fully cooked. I blended that with some ricotta cheese and about half the ziti. It was too large to fit in the casserole dish I’d intended to use, so I used a foil pan instead.
The other half of the ziti was mixed with ricotta cheese and tomato sauce- a very simple sauce consisting of tomato paste and water. He likes things simple. Both dishes of ziti got covered with mozzarella cheese and went into the oven. Then I started making the spaghetti. In my small pot I made a cheese sauce: milk, rice flour, and shredded cheddar cheese. Then I mixed the last little bit of tomato paste with hot water for the tomato sauce. We had enough food for 6-8 people, and only 3 of us were eating! The leftovers are being used for Jack’s school lunches.
The cheesecake got baked in the afternoon but was served last. I could have made a goat cheese cake, but I decided to go with the traditional cream cheese cake this time. I did substitute honey for the sugar called for in the recipe. We used real whipped cream for the frosting. I buy heavy cream in Trader Joe’s where I can get it from cows not given hormones and without any additives such as carrageenan. I whipped the cream with maple syrup and vanilla, and then added cocoa powder to a small portion of that. I put the chocolate whipped cream into a sandwich bag and cut a tiny hole in the corner, and then Hannah used it to make a pretty design on the cake.
Needless to say, I ate a number of avoids that night, and too many carbs. The same thing happened the next day when I ate leftovers. But I only ate the ziti with vegetables, and that’s finished now. The rest of the pasta I’m saving for Jack.