The eighth day of Chanukah is such a letdown. The eighth night, you light a full menorah of candles, take some pictures with the family, maybe eat one last latke for the year. Then the next morning you wake up, and what? It's still Chanukah, technically, but given that there are no holiday rituals associated with daytime and no more candles to light that night, it's hard to feel much of anything. That's where we find ourselves today, so, in the interest of reminding us that it's still a holiday, I'm going to answer one quick question for each day of Chanukah, culled from the wide assortment of questions people ask me all the time.
1. Should I tell my mom/husband/sister-in-law that I don't like the gift that s/he gave me for Chanukah?
In the case of gift-givers who don't live with you, unlesss the gift-giver is likely to come over to your house and look for the gift, or if a return will show up on the gift-giver's credit card, there is no reason to share this information. Once the gift is in your hands, it's yours to do with what you like. However, since your husband is in your house already and will likely notice that the gift is not also in the house, you'll have to find a way either to tell him you'd prefer something different or to pretend to appreciate the gift.
2. What do you think about hiding vegetables in foods? Will it prevent my toddler from learning to like veggies?
Do it. Your toddler will figure out what s/he likes to eat once s/he has a fully developed frontal lobe and has moved beyond saying, "no" just as a sheer instinct. In the meantime, anything edible and vaguely healthy is a win. Vegetables hide beautifully in mac and cheese, tomato sauce and soup, burritos and smoothies, among other things. If you're my Facebook friend, you know that I've also been experimenting recently with hiding vegetables in ice cream. Seriously.
3. Where can I get good bagels in Philly?
On Fridays, Maxx's Produce at 20th and Spruce brings in bagels from Rolling's Bakery in the Northeast. Across the street at Spread, you can get a $2+ dollar "Montreal style" bagel any day of the week, if you're into that sort of thing. There's a place at 3rd and South that I like a lot, and all the people waiting in line on Sunday mornings agree. If you need bagels of the certified kosher variety, check out New York Bagel out on the Main Line and Bagel Spot in Cherry Hill. Rolling's are also kosher.
4. Do people actually submit all the questions you answer in the Advice Well?
Mostly. Some of the questions people ask me in person and then I ask for permission to write about them in the column. Some of them I solicit by asking people I know who are likely to have juicy stories to share. Some of them I get by reading people's Facebook posts and then, again, asking permission to write a column on the subject. If you ever have a question you'd like me to answer, no matter what it's about, I'm always happy to get those emails!
5. Is it safe to walk home alone at night?
Probably most of the time, but please use common sense. I tend to suggest avoiding bridges, like those between Penn and Center City. Even that would be fine almost all the time, but I certainly feel less comfortable myself, so I wouldn't recommend it to others. My gut reaction is to say that the safety level depends on where you live, but recent crimes and statistics seem to point to that not being true. Unfortunately, crime can happen anywhere in the city, but it's less likely if you're walking with someone so whenever possible, go for that option. If you can't, stay aware of your surroundings, stay off your cell phone and have cab money on you just in case you need it.
6. Paper or plastic?
Canvas, whenever possible. If not, plastic since I can ball it up in the bottom of my bag and use it for a leaky lunch, last-minute purchase or dirty diaper, depending on which need arises first.
7. Is it worth getting a slow cooker?
Yes. If you ever cook at all, you have probably felt rushed to get dinner finished. If you observe Shabbat, a slow cooker is totally valuable for having a hot Shabbat lunch. Even if Shabbat isn't really your thing, setting everything up in the morning and coming home to a yummy smelling house and a fully-cooked meal is a gift you can give yourself even on a busy work day.
8. Now that Chanukah's over, is it O.K. to make plans for Christmas?
Definitely! Start asking around now to see who's going to be in Philly (or wherever you'll be), and who wants in on the Chinese food plans. Lots of Jewish institutions plan wonderful Christmas Day family and cultural events. Lots of young adult organizations sponsor Christmas Eve singles events. Even if it's not your holiday, you may have family or friends celebrating Christmas, so you may have more options than you're anticipating. You probably have the day off, so take advantage like you would any other day off and enjoy yourself.
Till the next holiday (Tu B'Shevat in January!)...