VOTE: Take 2

>> Friday, October 31, 2008

Look at these awesome pumpkins carved by my friends Torie and Todd. I'm unaware of another election that has inspired so many ways to show support for one's candidate of choice.

If you are holding onto uncarved pumpkins, you can join the fun. Go to Yes We Carve to download a stencil or two, get out your knife, scoop out messy pumpkin innards, and voila, campaign pumpkins, or Barack O'Lanterns as they say. I am particularly impressed with the pumpkin on the left as I couldn't draw such a thing if the world depended on it.


Friday Recipe: Cream of Pumpkin Soup

I thought of offering "candy pie" for today's recipe, but opted for the slightly more healthy and wholesome cream of pumpkin soup. I first made and tasted this soup two years ago in Naivasha, Kenya as part of a thanksgiving day meal, and I continue to enjoy it. I'm planning on making it later today, so the pictures will feature the raw materials.

Cream of Pumpkin Soup
Serves ~8

4 tbsp butter
2 c. finely chopped onion
4 cloves finely chopped garlic
2 tsp curry powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp coriander
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
6 c. vegetable broth OR 6 c. water + equivalent vegetable bouillon
30 oz. (2 cans) pumpkin
2 c. half-and-half
sour cream/chives (optional topping)

1. Melt butter in soup pot. Add onions and garlic; cook until tender.
2. Add in curry, salt, coriander, and crushed red pepper. Stir well.
3. Add broth (or water + bouillon). Bring to a boil.
4. Reduce heat and let simmer for ~20 minutes.
5. Add pumpkin and half-and-half. Stir well and cook for ~5-7 minutes.
6. Using an immersion blender, blend soup until creamy (if you don't have an immersion blender, you can transfer the soup to a blender or food processor).
7. Eat! Garnish with sour cream/chives as desired.

*I sometimes use a mix of butter and olive oil; it works too.

*It may be possible to make this soup pareve/lactose-free using non-dairy creamer, but I've never tried it so I can't vouch that it will work.

*I cannot recommend an immersion blender enough. I believe they have revolutionized the kitchen, or at least my kitchen.

*This is an easy soup recipe to double or triple or even quadruple (if you have a humongous pot!), which makes it a great recipe for meals with lots of people.

*This is very much a savory, not sweet, soup. The curry flavors balance the pumpkin flavors well, so if there is someone at your table like me who dislikes sweet pumpkin dishes (I know, it's heresy to say it, but I don't like pumpkin pie), tell them to try this soup.

After a little searching, I found a picture from my initial foray into pumpkin soup. It's not the main feature, but you can see the deliciousness in the bowls on the table. If memory serves me well, we garnished with sour cream, chives, and a big crouton.

Happy Halloween!


A Toast

>> Thursday, October 30, 2008

Last week, as I got ready to leave for Boston, I kept mentally reminding myself to "write the toast." What I really meant was "don't forget to lasso [my friends] Sivan and Igor into this burst of creativity." At one point, I even sent an email to my co-conspirators about it. Inevitably, however, Friday came around and a toast had failed to materialize. And so it was that on Friday afternoon, as we walked to meet Claire for lunch, we brainstormed and later, as we were on our way to services and dinner, we scribbled it down. All in all, we collaborate well: Sivan is the expert storyteller, Igor is the funny one, and I'm the wordsmith.

I'm happy to say the toast was a success by the following metrics: 1) the audience laughed at appropriate moments, 2) Michael said he especially appreciated Igor's line about why Michael journeyed to California, and 3) at the wedding Claire told me she was still smiling about it.

So what did we say?

Sivan: The Third Date
Ronit: When you think of a typical third date, you think of driving to a restaurant for dinner for two. Claire and Michael's third date was nothing like this.
Igor: We know.
S: We were there.
R: The beginning of their relationship was intense, so intense that they needed us to chaperone their third date.
I: Michael flew all the way across the country not to visit us, his friends of over 6 years, but to spend the weekend with Claire, who he'd known in person for all of 36 hours.
S: As long-time friends of both Claire and Michael, we were there to break the ice.
R: And as a long-time friend of Claire, I was there to interrogate Michael and ensure his suitability for Claire.
I: Claire cooked a lovely shabbat dinner -- incidentally including asparagus, like tonight -- and we couldn't tell who was more impressed: her friends who had just met Michael or Michael, who just had his first taste of Claire's culinary genius.
S: We can't tell you about their fourth date, which commenced around 11.30 pm when we left, but we assume it went well as 12 hours later we tagged along on their fifth date.
R: It was a delicious Shabbat lunch, and as Claire and Michael walked away, Michael in his khakis and pressed white shirt, Claire decked out in a white flowy skirt and top, I was struck by how easily they strolled side-by-side, hand-in-hand, with a spring in their step.
I: It was a clear foreshadowing of the events that gather us here in Boston this weekend for their really big date. And apparently they like us as chaperones since they asked us to guard their Yichud* room on Sunday.
S: We raise our glasses to toast Claire and Michael and wish for them a life together like their third date: a life filled with warmth and tenderness, good food, the company of friends, the joy of a Jewish home, the excitement of a risk well taken and, above all, each other.

*Yichud: In Jewish tradition and by Jewish law, the bride and groom spend time alone together immediately after the ceremony.
**L'Chaim: To life

Mazel Tov!


Tree of Life Chuppah

As I promised a couple days ago, I'm going to share a little more about last weekend's wedding in Boston. In the interest of keeping the posts to a somewhat reasonable length, I'm going to break them into two. For the crafty, craft-inspired, and craft-interested among you, I want to highlight Claire and Michael's beautiful chuppah (you may sometimes here "huppah" as the "ch" is a gutteral sound, not the hard "ch" of chomp) as well as their ketubah (wedding contract).

Claire's mom made the chuppah over the summer (I know there was a little anxiety last June about when it would be finished, but it was complete and gorgeous by the wedding). The chuppah, or wedding canopy under which the ceremony takes place, symbolizes the Jewish home the couple will build together. Many people use a tallit, or prayer shawl, as the chuppah but it can be made of anything and therefore represents a fantastic opportunity to customize, personalize, and aestheticize the wedding.

The chuppah in action, resting on 4 poles carved by Claire's dad. The carving was impressive as each pole is actually 3 parts and yet that was invisible. The pictures do not do the poles justice.

The chuppah up-close and personal:

The blue and green borders -- the flower embroidery on the green area matches the flower embroidery on Claire's dress!

The central image, a tree of life surrounded by 4 pairs of birds.

The ketubah presents another opportunity for customizing the wedding ceremony, both artistically and philosophically. To say that traditional ketubbot are not the most egalitarian documents out there is an understatement, though some will acknowledge this point while emphasizing its language was designed to protect women in ancient times. But I digress. Today, many couples choose to alter the traditional language (this is, after all, the contract that defines the terms of the marriage), either through somewhat standard forms or individually.

In this case, Claire wrote their ketubah to reflect the mutual commitments she and Michael were making to one another. Designed by friend and Cambridge artist, Josh Meyer, their ketubah is beautifully written, designed, and calligraphed:

Printed on what I think is handmade leaf paper, the contract (literally) flanks the central text, Song of Songs 2:10-12:

"My beloved spoke thus to me
'Arise, my darling;
My fair one, come away!
For now the winter is past,
The rains are over and gone.
The blossoms have appeared in the land.'" (JPS translation)


VOTE: Take 1

>> Wednesday, October 29, 2008

In less than a week, we'll (hopefully) know who our new president will be. Just in case the issues at stake in the presidential and other congressional/state/local races/propositions are not enough to get you to the polls, Ben & Jerry's is sweetening the deal.

So mark your calendar, vote, and enjoy some free ice cream.


A House Full of Calendars

I might be living in a house full of calendars come January 2009 as I keep finding ones I really like. We'll see what the "aesthetics budget" has to say about this. Today's featured calendar is from five dot design (all images courtesy five dot design).

The intricate yet clean design of each page stands out to me in this calendar. In addition, when the month's image relates to a holiday (see February, March, October, and December below), the page is festive while remaining light and even whimsical.

I particularly like March's cascade of clovers (as well as October's pumpkin).

The distinctiveness of each page (and the calendar as a whole) comes, I think, from being unafraid to play with layout and scale. In addition, keeping the calendar part of the image in the lower right quadrant provides ample options for different combinations of off-centered pictures that actually center the individual page. Does that make sense to anyone but me? I'm not sure, but I like it. In other words, the calendar is cohesive without each successive month conforming to a template. And as my birthday is in July, I always have to check out the July page; these daisies are lovely.

Finally, as a bonus, you can buy the calendar as either a desk calendar or a wall calendar. Or, if you're looking for just the image, there are single cards made from several of the month's images available as well. It's nice to have options. To find out more about five dot design, check out its blog.


Tutorial: How to Make Coasters

>> Tuesday, October 28, 2008

I've enjoyed figuring out how to make fun coasters over the past few months (see them here) and, in response to your requests, I offer this tutorial as one possible way of making them. I am sure there are other (possibly better) ways out there, so take what you can from this and go forth, be creative, and have fun. If you don't want to make them, you can buy them from me here.

To Make a Coaster or 4...


*Tiles (available at hardware stores, tile stores, and, often, at recycle/reuse places)
*Paper/Books (for the coaster tops)
*Glue (I recommend ModPodge available at most craft stores)
*Varnish (again, available at most craft stores)
*Paint Brush
*Felt Circles (available at most craft and hardware stores)
*X-Acto Knife & Self-Healing Cutting Mat (optional; alternatives include a paper cutter or scissors)


1. Measure your tile (they are typically 4" x 4" or 4.25" x 4.25" but measure to check) and decide how big you want your coaster top to be. I usually cut mine 3.75" square.

2. Cut out your squares. You may elect to do this by tracing a square and cutting it with scissors, using a ruler and X-acto knife, or using a paper cutter. The latter is obviously the easiest but not everyone has a paper cutter handy. Remember that you don't need to follow the direction of the paper. In the pictures you can see that the lines are straight in the original, but I cut diagonally because I think it looks more interesting.

3. Turn the paper square over, and coat the back with glue using your paintbrush.

4. Take the square, center it over the tile, and press it onto the tile. You have a few minutes in which the glue is still liquidy and you can move the square around until it is placed exactly where you want it. Make sure there are no air bubbles by smoothing a ruler or your fingers (or a bone folder) over the paper.

5. Once centered, paint a layer of glue over the papered tile. Make sure to paint in one direction. (As you can see, I spread out paper bags over my table to keep the glue away from the tabletop; this also makes clean-up much easier.)

6. After the glue has dried, paint another coat of glue on the tile. You can decide if you want to paint the glue in the same direction as the last time or in the other direction (e.g., horizontally instead of vertically). If you are making multiple coasters at once, the glue on the first one will usually dry by the time you get to the last one. If you are only making a few or you are stopping in between steps, make sure to wash out the brush so it doesn't dry and harden.

7. When the 2 layers of glue have dried, use the paintbrush to coat the tile with a layer of varnish as a sealant. Varnish usually takes longer to dry than glue.

8. When the coasters are dry, turn them over and add felt circles in each corner to protect your furniture.

9. Congratulations! Your coasters are ready to be used.

If anything needs more clarification, please let me know. This is the sort of project that anyone can take on as well as one whose creative limits are endless.

You can use fun paper,

or images from books,

or anything else you think of.

p.s. Don't forget, the coaster giveaway is open until Friday, October 31.
Leave a comment to enter -- it's open to regular and new readers alike.


Coaster Giveaway

>> Monday, October 27, 2008

Apparently this week is a big giveaway week in the blogosphere, via the Bloggy Giveaways Quarterly Carnival. In anticipation of opening an etsy shop with some of my crafts (coasters, challah covers, etc), I'm giving away a set of 4 "fun and funky" coasters.

How does this work?

1. Leave a substantive comment on this blog entry. What counts as "substantive"? Tell me your favorite blog post, something 2hippos-related you'd like me to blog about, something you'd like me to explain in more detail, improvements I could make to the blog, suggestions for crafts I should make or fabric/paper I should use, etc. Word to the wise, "great post," "interesting blog," nice giveaway" do not count as "substantive."

2. Make sure to provide a valid email address through your blogger profile or left in the comments [e.g., your_name (at) email address (dot) com] so I can contact you if you win.

3. The giveaway closes Friday, October 31. I will select a winner randomly.

Other details:
*Because of shipping costs, this is restricted to U.S. entrants only.
*I will mail the coasters to you at the address you provide to me.
*One standard blog comment entry per person.
*You may earn one extra entry by linking to this post in your blog and copying that link into the comments the section.

ETA: The Giveaway has closed. Thank you for participating.


A Wonderful Weekend

I just got back from Boston, from Claire and Michael's wedding weekend. It was wonderful, and I will post a few things about it in the next few days.

Some of the weekend highlights include:
*Getting to hang out with Claire on Friday, including some relaxed chatting amidst pedicures, an amazing lunch at Henrietta's Table, and some last-minutes errands around Harvard Square where Sarah and I marveled over a fun 40s-esque black felted hat that neither us had reason to ever wear.

*Unrelated to the wedding, but tied to being in Boston: I ran into (or rather he saw me and called my name several times before I figured out what was happening) one of my former advisees who is now at Harvard Medical School (I have nothing to do with this; he was brilliant without my advice). Unexpected run-ins are so gratifying.

*The best Kabbalat Shabbat I have been at in a while. The room was packed, voices were loud and clear, emotions were high (in a good way!), the group turned the end of Lecha Dodi into 10-15 minutes of dancing around Claire and Michael. It was amazing, one of the few truly spiritual moments I have felt in many years. The last great Kabbalat Shabbat I can recall took place in my living room in CA -- one of the various times the minyan met at my house, and I was sitting on the stairwell as there was no other space, and looked around with some awe about what we had created. And this is quite relevant to the wedding as I'm sure Claire, Torie, Sivan, and Igor were all there that night and we all celebrated together this weekend.

More on the actual wedding to come. As a sneak peek, here is a close-up of the beautiful chuppah that Claire's mom made for the wedding (using applique and embroidery):


Friday Recipe: Butterscotch/M&M/Topping-Of-Your-Choice Bars

>> Friday, October 24, 2008

I believe this recipe may have originated in Cooking Light, in which case you can believe that eating dessert is good for you.

Butterscotch/M&M/Topping-Of-Your-Choice Bars
Serves many (9x13 pan)

1 c. sugar
1 c. packed brown sugar
1/2 c. butter, softened
4 large egg whites
2 tsp. vanilla
2.5 c. flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
cooking spray
butterscotch chips/M&Ms/Topping Of Your Choice

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Beat sugars and butter until well-blended.
3. Add egg whites and vanilla; beat well.
4. In a separate small bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt.
5. Add flour mixture to wet mixture; beat until blended.
6. Spread batter in a greased 9x13 pan.
7. Sprinkle topping on the batter.
8. Bake at 350 degrees for 27-30 minutes, or until a toothpick tells you the bars are cooked.

*This is a versatile basic cookie base. You really can top it with anything, or even mix the topping into the bars. The dough will look, feel, and taste like chocolate-chip cookie dough sans chocolate chips.

*I often dump the dry ingredients straight into the wet ones without the pre-mixing stage. I'm posting the recipe as written, but this modification has yet to harm the deliciousness of the bars.

*This recipe can easily be halved if you don't need as many, or doubled if you need more. The bars freeze well (cut first, and store in a tupperware in the freezer).

*If you replace the butter with margarine and use a non-dairy topping, this can be made as a pareve/lactose-free dessert.


All Wrapped Up and Ready to Go

>> Thursday, October 23, 2008

I'm heading to Boston this weekend for Claire and Michael's wedding. I'm going to be staying with a friend from high school who is also attending the wedding. I love that my California graduate school friends and my DC area high school friends have become friends with one another in Boston -- and I had nothing to do with it. I love that I can meet up with high school friends after 10 or so years (last spring), get back in touch with them, and have a place to stay for the wedding weekend. As a thank you gift for hosting me, I'm bringing a set of 4 newly-made coasters.

I didn't realize it until writing this entry, but it seems that I am on a red-and-white kick of late.


Sneak Peek

>> Wednesday, October 22, 2008

I started a new project this weekend. It's an experiment in working with two colors because these fabrics complement one another nicely.

I haven't gotten very far (writing papers will do that to you), but I've learned that my mental arithmetic (mostly multiplication and division) could use some practice (or perhaps some paper and pencil assistance). I had this idea that I would make squares slightly larger than the pattern calls for and started cutting strips for the squares, only to realize that I would be about 2 inches short of the white fabric (which I picked up somewhere long ago so I can't just go out and buy more). I wasted a little fabric due to this mistake, but at least I realized the problem before I had cut out all the squares.

p.s. This is an experiment in auto-posting, to see how blogger does if I order it to hold the post and then publish it at a certain time. Kind of neat, if I managed to set it properly.


Blue Hippos

>> Monday, October 20, 2008

This made me smile:

Sprout Design is a small Australian design company that designs and screens its own fabric. In addition to selling their fabric, they make stuff from their fabric -- bags (obviously), home decor, and wall art.

If one were, say, interested in hippos, one could buy hippo fabric, a hippo bag, and hippo wall art. Other animal designs include giraffes and tortoises.


Who Doesn't Like Pirates?

>> Friday, October 17, 2008

Check out these great new posters for 826 Valencia:

For those unfamiliar with 826 Valencia and its pirate shop, the original organization arose in San Francisco in 2002. Dave Eggers, perhaps best known for A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, started the nonprofit tutoring and writing center at, you guessed it, 826 Valencia (in SF's Mission District). How does the pirate shop relate to a tutoring center? According to 826 lore, the building in which Eggers et al set up shop was zoned as commercial space and thus needed to be used as commercial space.

What better use of a segment of their building than selling pirate gear? Everyone, after all, can use a eyepatch, a parrot, or a glass eye, right? Apparently they now sell literary things, maps, and t-shirts. I don't know if pirates wear t-shirts, but I suppose they occasionally read books and consult maps. I'll have to check with a friend who writes about pirates, err, privateers, on the veracity of these items.

In any event, back in 2002 when I graduated from college, 826 Valencia was definitely a destination on the must-see circuit for those of us who migrated west. I have, indeed, entered the pirate's dominion in the Mission. And so I couldn't help but chuckle when I saw the new posters. I'm particularly fond of the "Cannons don't sink ships; pirates with cannons sink ships" option. To learn more about the design of the posters, go here.

Finally, there are now 7 total 826 Valencias scattered around the country, so check one out the next time you find yourself in San Francisco, Seattle, LA, Chicago, Ann Arbor, New York, or Boston. Each tutoring center has its own store:

San Francisco’s pirate supply store sells glass eyes and one-of-a-kind peglegs, 826NYC’s Superhero Supply Company offers custom-fit capes, Seattle’s Greenwood Space Travel Supply Company sells “rare imports from other planets,” 826 Michigan's [Robot Supply & Repair] specializes in [robot stuff], 826LA features a time travel store, there's a secret agent supply store in Chicago, and a Cryptozoology shop in Boston is in the works! [For more information, go here.]
If you live in one of those places, there are many ways to volunteer or contribute. Take, for example, the Skrabbel for Cheaters competition in A2. Creative fund-raising for an excellent cause at its best.


Friday Recipe: Roasted Vegetable Black Bean Soup

Soups might just be my favorite genre of meals. I almost always make a large pot, even if it's just for me (in which case I eat it for a few days and freeze the rest for another time). This is a great fall recipe that uses the last of those summer tomatoes.

Roasted Vegetable Black Bean Soup
Serves 8-10

2 pounds tomatoes, halved
2 large onions, cut into thin wedges
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
6 large garlic cloves, chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp dried oregano
4 cups (or more) vegetable broth
6.5 cups cooked black beans or 4 15-ounce cans black beans, rinsed, drained
Chili Pepper (optional)
plain nonfat yogurt or sour cream to top the soup (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
2. Combine tomatoes, onion and carrot in roasting pan(s).
3. Add garlic, oil and oregano and stir to coat vegetables.
4. Roast until vegetables are brown and tender, stirring occasionally (about 55 minutes).
5. Remove carrots, chop into smaller slices/cubes, and set aside.
6. Put remaining vegetables, broth and half the beans into a pot. Using an immersion blender, puree until smooth [if you don't have an immersion blender, place all the items in a regular blender or food processor and blend, then transfer to the pot].
7. Add remaining beans. Bring soup to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer until flavors blend (~ 20 minutes). If the soup is thicker than you desire, add some more broth (or water).
8. Add carrots to soup.
9. Season with salt, pepper, oregano, and chili pepper as desired.
10. Serve with yogurt or sour cream as desired.

*I usually use Trader Joe's organic vegetable broth to make this quickly. You can, of course, make your own vegetable broth ahead of time.

*You don't need a roasting pan for roasting the veggies. I use 2 9x13 baking dishes and it works just fine.

*You can roast additional veggies and add them too; the recipe is flexible like that.

*For those keeping track, the basic recipe is vegan/pareve; only the additional yogurt/sour cream makes it dairy, so it's a great option for vegan meals or a vegetarian option for a meat meal.


A Real Lifetime-esque Love Story

>> Wednesday, October 15, 2008

January 2005 (Chicago)
Swimmer/Diver Reunion. We all meet in Chicago for a wonderful weekend of catching up, roaming around the Windy City, eating multiple meals at Orange, and picking up valentines from Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind.

However, there was one swimmer we could not track down in our planning. Where was Phoebe?

January 2006 (San Francisco)
Swimmer/Diver Reunion #2. We gather again, this time in slightly warmer climes and occupy two rooms for two nights for free (thanks, D) at the SF Hilton. This time we managed to track the Phoebster down, finding her hotmail account, and convincing her to join us in sunny San Francisco (I don't lie; it really was sunny that weekend, except when it rained while we meandered through the mission).

Amidst watching preening sea lions, playing with mimes, and catching up, Phoebe tells us a story (after all, she has extra information to impart, having disappeared for a few years). Phoebe is a nurse, and while working in the hospital, she encounters this state trooper named Tim...if this tale came from anyone else, I would swear they were relaying the plot of a Lifetime movie they half-watched while sick in bed, but with Phoebe, it was true. The nurse meets the police officer in the local ER and off they go.

Fast forward to the summer of 2007. We all met up in June for our 5th year college reunion and Phoebe and Time were still going strong. Then not much more than a month later, they're engaged. They got married this past weekend; unfortunately I couldn't make it, but I'm sure it was a lovely wedding. I did, however, send them a gift designed with their save-the-date and wedding invitation (and many of the swimsuits we wore back in the day) in mind.

Purple, gold, and white were the dominant colors, and I designed accordingly.

The table runner was about 18" x 38". The white border fabric is actually a creamy white with gold specks in it that picks up the golden yellow in the butterfly fabric and the darker yellow in the yellow-on-yellow fabric (used in the squares and for the binding).

I backed the table with a piece of purple and gold fabric. It's not quite the same shade of purple as the front (the back is more reddish, the front more blueish) but it draws on the same color palette and could be the front if Phoebs and Tim want to change it up at any point.

I designed the table runner around the remnant of the purple and yellow butterfly fabric I picked up on a whim. I rarely buy "realistic" fabrics, there's something about most "authentic" illustration fabrics that reminds me of biology textbooks so I usually desist. But the butterfly fabric was different, and the monarch-like butterflies against purple flowers worked for me. A handy fabric to have around when Phoebs' invitation came around.


Quilting for Obama

>> Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Denyse Schmidt made this quilt. According to the Obama website,

Renowned contemporary American quilt artist Denyse Schmidt and friends have created a quilt inspired by Barack Obama’s message of hope and change. Long before women had the vote, they created quilts with political and commemorative themes. We are proud to participate in this honorable tradition.
I'm tempted to ask some questions about the idea of political quilting, quilting as material culture, and/or political quilting and women's agency pre- and post-19th Amendment, but that's not the purpose of this blog, so...

Donations to the campaign ($10 increments) earn you spots in a raffle for the quilt. As Gina Halladay at QuiltersBuzz says, "Rocking the Vote, One Stitch At a Time."


Granny Smith Apples, or Why I Like Sukkot

>> Monday, October 13, 2008

My friend David likes to make fun of the apples on the back of my challah cover. Admittedly, it's a rather fall-themed fabric, but I rather like fall (as do others). The front of the challah cover (which I use year-round) is perhaps autumnal, but not necessarily:

There may or may not be maple leaves on the black fabric, but I don't think David ever noticed that element.

But back to the apples. I know there are many apple varieties, and some would say Honeycrisps or Galas or Fujis are the way to go. I would beg to differ. There are few fruit experiences better than a small, hard, very green with white spots, very tart Granny Smith apple. In my experience, the matte bright green white spots is a fairly accurate predictor of delightful tartness. And the annual experience of excellent apples often signifies Sukkot's presence or imminence.

The reasons why I like Sukkot overlap with many of the reasons I like autumn. For example, leaves changing color:

[These pictures are especially for those of you who live in Israel and requested envelopes full of pretty autumn leaves. More than one of you made this request, and you know who you are. It's difficult to send leaves without an actual address, you know.]

Sukkot is the festival of the tabernacles, hence those funky temporary little huts Jews build in their backyards and on their porches -- who doesn't like getting out their drill to piece their hut together in a modern fashion? Thus the holiday actually commands the people of the book to take their books outside, to eat outside, to sleep other words, to be outside, to live outside, to appreciate the (ideally) glorious autumn. Clearly this works better for American Jews in New England than in, say, Texas or Florida, but location aside, encouraging people to get outside serves as one of Sukkot's many virtues.

I wanted to build a Sukkah this year, but alas it will have to wait for next year. If I did have a Sukkah, it would be under this tree,

One might not see the tree through the skach -- that which covers the top of the sukkah, usually branches of some sort, so long as one can still see the stars through it. (Growing up, the extensive backyard bamboo covered our sukkah and most of the neighborhood sukkot.) But the fallen leaves would offer a nice crunchy accompaniment to meals, parties, and the like.

That's right, parties. The sukkah party circuit is rather enjoyable, and hopefully includes apple cider,
locally pressed, or not. Sukkot is, after all, a harvest festival and should be celebrated as such. So bring out the gourds, the cider, the squash, the pumpkin bread, and enjoy with guests. Indeed, the tradition of inviting guests to join one in the sukkah is another element of the holiday I respect for it emphasizes the value of community.

The full harvest moon (tomorrow night), the (perhaps in a couple days) crisp air, the foliage, the cooler nights (that make a down comforter so lovely) and cooler days (fleece comes out of the closet), delicious soups (I recommend Cream of Pumpkin of Roasted Vegetable Black Bean -- recipes forthcoming), meals in the Sukkah with friends, and, of course, the easy availability of Granny Smith apples all make Sukkot one of the best holidays on the Jewish calendar.

Chag Sameach!


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