Archive for October 26, 2009

Jogging In The Rain

It was one of those days where you’d be better off staying inside and having a nice hot cup of tea. It rained. It stopped. It rained some more. The wind blew hard. Instead of viewing the weather from the couch like most reasonable people, I decided to go jogging around the track with my friend Christine. image004 Christine was stressed. For 16 years Christine had been married to Cam, her Jewish husband. And, for the first time in all those years, her mother-in-law had agreed to come to her house to celebrate a Jewish holiday.

Granted, it was Hanukkah . I didn’t mention to Christine that Hanukkah (חנוכה‬‎) had started as a very minor holiday commemorating the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean revolt of the Second Century BCE. To remember the fact that oil that should have only lasted one day stretched for eight days, we light the candles on the menorah each night.

I agreed that it was nice of her mother-in-law to relent and give up hosting one of the Jewish holidays. The only problem? Christine (she herself admitted) couldn’t cook to save her life.

“So,” I huffed. “What do you plan to serve?”

Wrong question. Christine sprinted on ahead on sheer adrenaline alone. I caught up with her eventually and repeated my question.

“I don’t know,” she said. “I don’t have a clue. I’ve looked through books and the only thing I see is latkes . I can’t just serve potato pancakes.”

She looked at me hopefully. “Can I?”

A gust of wind blew my wet hair right into my face. It gave me a minute to come up with a tactful answer. “Well, usually you would serve latkes and then maybe a few other things. Maybe some applesauce and some sour cream.”

“Oh, right, she usually does have that stuff. Okay, what else?”

I suggested that she might want to include a roasted chicken, maybe some brisket, some vegetables. And then there were the desserts.

“I’m scared of the desserts,” Christine said. We stopped running. Christine was gasping for breath, either from running or from contemplating Jewish desserts.

I told her there was nothing to be afraid of. There was rugelach, there were blue-and-white cookies, chocolate-covered pretzels, blue-and-white Jordan almonds, there was chocolate babka and there was dark chocolate.

Best of all, there was me , her friend, who just happened to own Challah Connection. I had her covered.

“There’s just one problem,” Christine said. “Do you have any spray that makes it smell like I baked it?”

Hmmm…that’s one for R & D.

Best wishes for good weather and good friends,



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Necessity is the Mother of Invention…and Our New Get Well Basket

As a Mom to 3 sons, I’ve done my share of taking care of sick kids. From a little case of the sniffles to a full-blown case of chicken pox, my kids have brought out the Florence Nightingale in me. When the sick kid makes an appearance, I’m ready to dispense medication, put a cold washcloth on a feverish brow, and make sure he drinks plenty of fluids.

Call me confident. Call me cocky. I thought I had a handle on taking care of sick kids. M.D.? Who needs one when you have a mother’s instinct? When you can drop everything, take off from work, do what it takes to nurse your child back to health.

But what happens when your baby goes to college? What happens when you’re 1,000 miles away instead of in the other room? I have to admit, I didn’t see this one coming. Last week my oldest son Sam called me from school. “Mom,” he croaked. “I don’t feel good. I think I have the flu.”

“Have you been to the Health Center?” I asked him, trying very hard to keep the panic from my voice. Meanwhile, my husband shot me a look. What was going on?

“No, should I do that?” My son. He had gone off to college knowing how to balance a checkbook, do laundry, write a term paper, speak passable Spanish, and solve a calculus problem. But he didn’t know enough to take himself to the health center when he was sick.

“Yes, take some ibuprofen and then go to the Health Center.”

“I B what?”

“Take some Tylenol.”

“I don’t have any.”

“Okay, just go to the health center and tell them your symptoms. They’ll give you what you need.”
Two anxious hours later—after I told my husband what was going on and after he persuaded me NOT to hop in the car and drive 8 hours to our son’s campus—Sam called back and told us what was going on.

Correction. He called, dropped the phone and ran to the toilet. We could just make out the sounds of him throwing up in the background. He came back to the phone, where I was quietly hyperventilating. “Okay, I feel better. The Health Center nurse told me to go back to my dorm and “self-isolate” and drink lots of fluids and rest. She said not to leave the dorm till I was fever free for 24 hours.”

Sam promised to call when he woke up and let us know how he was doing. After I hung up, I ran out and put together a care package.

I’m happy to report that 3 days later, Sam’s feeling MUCH better, and so am I. It was really hard to be so far away when he was sick, but I was glad to be able to talk to him on the phone and coach him through the flu. He loved the care package and said it really helped. The Teddy bear now rests on his bed, a reminder that Mom (and Dad) are always there for him, even if we are a few thousand miles away.

Strangely enough, a customer called just yesterday. Her daughter in college also came down with the flu. Did I have a gift basket especially for someone sick?

As a matter of fact…yes!

May you and yours be healthy and happy,


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Our Fabulous Challah Connection “Kids”

Each day I look forward to the close of the school day. That’s when “the kids,” our after-school workers, come through our doors, enthusiastic and ready for work.

These high school students are a sheer joy to work with. Although they spend the day in a very competitive environment, they come through our doors eager to help. They answer the phones, assist customers in their gift-giving decisions and –most important– they pack orders and prepare all of our daily shipments for our 6 p.m. pick up by UPS and FedEx.

These are fabulous, hard-working kids who are a joy to have around. It’s refreshing to me that these kids — many of whom are not Jewish — have such tremendous passion for learning about the Jewish holidays and traditions, as well the workings of a small business. They are our future entrepreneurs! We teach them how to work hard, be part of a team and have fun.

During holiday time, when we are truly bursting at the seams with orders that need to be packed and shipped, teamwork is truly defined. On these days, we have close to 20 people working together, like a well-oiled machine. There are no bad attitudes and no job that is beneath anyone. Whether it’s taking out the garbage or cutting 100 sheets of cello wrap, whoever has two free hands takes on the task at hand. I am proud of what these kids are learning here at “Challah Central,” (my own kids, included).

From left to right, Bailey, Sara, Sherry, Jane, Kate

From left to right, Bailey, Sara, Sherry, Jane, Kate

When Bailey, who is a 17-year-old high school senior, began working here about a year ago, she knew very little about the Jewish holidays. But with her thirst for knowledge and interest in helping customers she quickly rose to the challenge and has emerged as one of our best Challah Connection “kids.” She is now applying to colleges and I was so pleased to be asked to write her a recommendation (glowing, of course).

“It’s important to learn new and different things, and I’ve learned so much in the last year,” Bailey tells me. “I’ve learned about the traditions of the Jewish holidays and the restrictions on what people can and cannot eat during specific holidays. I really enjoyed learning about Purim … it reminds me of Mardi Gras! Plus, the customers are so nice. I enjoy meeting new people and I like that I can help them when they call.”

She’s also has learned to appreciate the kosher foods that we carry. “The food is delicious. My whole family really likes the food that I bring home from work,” she said.

Avery, came to us familiar with Jewish customers and with Challah Connection. His older sister, Samantha, was one of our first after-schoolers (Sam graduated from high school in ’08 and now attends Cornell University). “I’ve learned a few things since I started working here, but I’ve also been able to share my knowledge with the people I work with,” he tells me.

“I work with very nice people here, which makes the job a lot of fun,” he adds. “Plus, I have come to have way more respect for people who run small businesses, now that I see the day-to-day operation. And, the food that we put in the kosher gift baskets is great. The apple cake is definitely a winner.”

Give us a call and say “Hi” to these fabulous kids. They’ll be thrilled to speak with you!

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