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Just wait until you try this 3-ingredient olive dip.  Isn’t it amazing how sometimes it’s the easiest things to do, that are the most impressionable.  I have found this all across the board: in business, guest service, family fun and even (and maybe especially) in cooking. After decades running GAM GAM Kosher Restaurant, we’ve hosted hundreds of thousands of guests. Some of the easiest dishes have become the favorites that people can’t seem to get enough of.  This easy olive appetizer is one such recipe. 

Many of you ask which products I use and recommend. This post contains some of my affiliate links for “making every day the best day” while cooking, entertaining and living life.  If you buy something through one of these links, you won’t pay a penny more, but I’ll get a small commission which helps keep the lights on. Thanks! 

Olive Dip is Perfect for Shabbat or Weekdays

Those who have been around our Shabbat table know that I love salads and always make many of them.  Guests come from all over the world and I want to make sure there is something to suit everyone’s taste.  I’m careful to switch it up a bit. I make some different salads for Shabbat lunch, that weren’t served during Friday night dinner.  Some standards, like humus, are served for both meals due to popular request. And they are amongst the most simple to prepare. You can check out my humus recipe here. Another uncomplicated salad is coleslaw.  It’s a real crowd pleaser.

But there is one salad that is amongst the absolute easiest in my recipe box: 3 Ingredient Olive Dip.  There is something about olive dip that is so elegant.  Perhaps it’s the knowledge of how very special olives are. Did you know that olives are one of the seven foods that the Land of Israel is blessed with?  We even say a longer blessing than usual after we eat them.


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The Olive Through The Ages

Olive oil has always been important in the world at large and the Jewish world in particular.  Noah sent the dove to see if the flood waters had receeded.  It came back with the leaf of an olive tree in its mouth.  The Kohen Gadol (high priest) was annointed with olive oil in the days of the Temple (Beit HaMikdash) in Jerusalem. The Beit HaMikdash was where the Western Wall, the remaining outer border wall, still stands today.  The menorah in the Beit HaMikdash was lit daily with olive oil. Many have the custom to light the Hanukkah menorah each year with olive oil as well.

It’s by Divine Providence that the weekly Torah portion at the time of publication of this article is Tetzaveh. It begins with the commandment to take the purest olive oil found in the first drop when the olive is crushed.  We are taught that we need to live with the times. In other words, to see how everything in the Torah portion holds a relevant lesson to our daily lives.  Just like the olive, when we are under pressure, our finest attributes come out as well.  

Olives, Health and Nutrition in the Torah

The Talmud is the Oral Law of the Torah.  It was originally taught to Moses on Mount Sinai. Then, it continued to be taught orally in a continuous chain from teacher to student for centuries. Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi, born after the destruction of the Second Temple, foresaw that the Jews would be scattered throughout the world. He feared they would forget the Oral Law.  So, he compiled the Mishnah (law details), and later, Ravina and Rabbi Ashi compiled the Gemara (law discussions). Together it is called the Talmud.  

In the Talmud, whose details cover every aspect of life, it’s mentioned that olive oil is beneficial for our health. It specifically details that olive oil supports and sharpens memory.  Nearly 1,900 years after the Talmud was compiled, the advantages of olive oil have been recognized by the medical world. Now, it’s commonplace to read about the proven benefits of olive oil and how it is helpful for our well-being. 

Give It That Extra (Extra Virgin Olive Oil, That Is) 

It is indeed worthwhile to incorporate olive oil into our meals. In particular, extra virgin olive oil is even healthier because of the way it is produced.  The process is done without heat or chemicals involved.  Science now recognizes the good fats from the unhealthy ones.  It’s been proven that even cooking with extra virgin olive oil is beneficial. The antioxidants don’t break down under the heat and are instead absorbed by the food.

Olives have many varieties and have a unique taste.  That being said, let’s jump right into this recipe. The olive lovers amongst your family and guests are sure to delight in it.  Those who may have never tasted an olive or imagined that they would enjoy it, are in for a treat!

Watch: 3 Ingredient Olive Dip

3 Ingredient Olive Dip – Easy Olive Appetizer

5 from 4 votes
Prep Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Servings 4
Calories 142

Ingredients

  • 1 can Green Pitted Olives (plain, not spicy)
  • 1 clove Fresh Garlic
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil (to your taste)

Instructions 

  • Drain the liquid from the olives and place them in a bowl or in the food processor.
  • Add fresh garlic to taste. I use one clove per can of olives.
  • Pour on some extra virgin olive oil.
  • Blend with an immersion blender or in the food processor. Think pesto with olives!
Calories: 142kcal
Course: Appetizer
Cuisine: Kosher, Mediterranean
Keyword: appetizer, ChoppedOliveDip, dips, easy, kosher recipes, NondairyOliveDipRecipe, OliveDipWithoutMayo, olives, vegan

Nutrition

Calories: 142kcal | Carbohydrates: 4g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 15g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Sodium: 1517mg | Potassium: 44mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 383IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 52mg | Iron: 1mg

What is your favorite dip or appetizer? I can’t wait to read your comments below!

Purim 2021 is coming right up (Thursday night, Feb. 25 – Friday night, Feb. 26) and you can recreate some of the fun right at home with these 10 Purim Carnival Ideas. Do you remember the sights and sounds of a carnival when you were a kid? Read on to see how you can create that for those you care about.

Many of you ask which products I use and recommend. This post contains some of my affiliate links for “making every day the best day” while cooking, entertaining and living life.  If you buy something through one of these links, you won’t pay a penny more, but I’ll get a small commission which helps keep the lights on. Thanks!

What is Purim and how is it celebrated? 

Purim is usually a community wide event celebrated with food, fun, games and entertainment. Whether in local synagogues or at other venues, you can hear joyous music, see creative costumes and hear the traditional greeting, “Chag Purim Sa’me’ach!”

Listen to the pronunciation of the Purim greeting here.

Why is Purim So Important?

Purim commemorates a 14-year dark saga for the Jews of Ancient Persia.  Queen Esther saved her people from the evil royal official, Haman, who plotted to destroy the Jewish people.  

What Happens on Purim?

To remember the series of hidden miracles of Purim, we have four mitzvahs (commandments).  You can read more about the four mitzvahs of Purim here.

No One Can Cancel Purim!

Perhaps, a Purim Carnival wasn’t even planned because of the health situation that has turned life upside down since 2020.  You can make your own Purim Carnival.  Whether you actually have a backyard or not isn’t important.  These carnival ideas can even be done inside a small apartment like mine. (Keep a mop handy! JK 😃). 

The typical Purim festivities may not be happening as they usually would be.  But, the essential parts of the holiday (the mitzvahs) are happening and we all can create a wonderful Purim for ourselves.  

Young and Young at Heart Will Love These Purim Carnival Ideas

You can make the carnival games as simple or as detailed as you wish.  You don’t need to break the bank.  With a little bit of planning and some inexpensive supplies, you’ll be good to go!  

1. Sack Race

All you need is a starting point, a finish line and some large garbage bags.  This is probably one of my favorites.  It’s quite hysterical watching people of all ages jump, jump, jump their way to the finish line.

2. Bean Bag Toss

Place 3 colored bowls (they can be different sizes) in a line, each worth different points, with the bowl worth the most points furthest from the player.  Each player gets 3 tries to toss a ball into a bowl to accumulate points.  Player receives one ticket per point received or one ticket for each successful toss.

3. Three in A Row

Draw a tic tac toe pattern on a large poster board.  Using 5 bean bags, the player needs to get three in a row in any direction.

 

4. Pin the Hat on Haman

This is a take on the traditional Pin the Tail on the Donkey, but Purim style! Draw Haman on a large poster board and cut out some triangles for his hat.  Write each player’s name on a hat and add a piece of masking tape to the back so it will adhere to the posterboard.  Blindfold the player, give him a few gentle spins and watch the dizzy fun begin as he aims to put the hat on Haman’s head!  

5. Egg and Spoon Race

Just like the Sack Race, all you need is a starting point, a finish line, eggs and spoons.  Holding the egg in the spoon, each player races the other to the finish line.  It’s funniest if the eggs are raw.  If it’s too messy, use hard boiled eggs.

6. Ring Toss

Place 12 full water bottles standing in three rows of four.  The player tosses the rings trying to land them on the bottle spout. Or, you can use this cone and rings set.

7. Ladder Toss

Open a ladder.  Decorate with some streamers.  Mark each step with an amount of points.  The higher the step, the greater the amount of points. The player uses tennis balls to accumulate points by tossing them through the corresponding steps.

8. Flying Ducks

On a large poster board, cut out 5 circles that a rubber duckie will fit through.  Assign each hole a different point value: 20, 30, 40, 50 and 100.  Each player gets three throws.

9. Skee Ball

Cut 4 large poster boards of different colors into strips and staple them together to form circles.  Each colored circle should nest within the others, just like a skee ball game.  Each ring has progressively increasing point values.  Instead of rolling, the player tosses ping pong balls into the rings to accumulate points.

10. Ping Pong Toss

Place large disposable cups, each with a different hidden value written on the bottom, in random order.  The player tries to toss ping pong balls into the cups.  When he is finished with the balls, the points are added up. Mix up the order of the cups (and their point values) between players.

(Here’s An Extra Carnival Game)! Knock ‘Em Down

Using more of the large disposable cups, stack them face-down in the shape of a triangle (in a 1-2-3-4 pattern). Using tennis balls or something of similar weight, the player tries to knock all the cups over.


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Added Fun For Your Purim Carnival

Set up a photo booth! Use an easily made backdrop or one that is ready-made like this photo frame complete with a variety of party photo props.

A little decorating goes a long way.  Some colorful balloons and crepe paper streamers really can set the tone.  It’s super easy with this balloon pump set, complete with an electric air balloon blower pump.  And, I love these carnival style tickets that can be used for raffles and for the carnival games winnings.  Then, everyone can trade in their tickets for prizes.  Perhaps most important, don’t forget some delicious Hamantaschen on your prize table.  They are easy and fun to make.  Click here for my GAM GAM Kosher Restaurant Hamantaschen recipe!

Have Fun and Make Memories

Purim will come and go, and hopefully these 10 Purim Carnival Ideas will help you add some happiness to your holiday. We can take a lesson from Queen Esther.  Even under dire circumstances, she kept her Jewish traditions.  This gave her the strength to get through the challenges, even during some of her loneliest times.  As it is written in the Megillah, “For the Jews there was light, gladness, joy and honor.” So may it be for each of us!

If you need help arranging a Megillah reading or have any other Purim questions, please let me know at RebbetzinUnplugged@gmail.com. What’s your favorite of these 10 Purim Carnival Ideas? Can’t wait to hear from you in the comments below! 🎉 

What are the 4 mitzvahs of Purim? It is customary to learn and review about a holiday 30 days before it begins.  Purim 2021 begins Thursday evening, February 25 and continues through Friday evening, February 26. As the miraculous holiday of Purim is fast approaching, let’s go over some details.  Not only does reviewing the ins and outs of the holiday keep us knowledgeable, it also can get you in the mood for the festivities.

Many of you ask which products I use and recommend. This post contains some of my affiliate links for “making every day the best day” while cooking, entertaining and living life.  If you buy something through one of these links, you won’t pay a penny more, but I’ll get a small commission which helps keep the lights on. Thanks!

Being that the world is still going through the challenges that began in 2020, Purim may be a bit different than we have enjoyed it in years past.  However, the most important parts of the holiday remain the same, and that is where our focus should be.  By concentrating on the aspects that are truly the most significant, we each can experience a wonderful Purim.

Kabbalah explains that when a Jewish holiday occurs, it isn’t just an auspicious date on the calendar.  Nor is it just a time of remembrance of our history.  Rather, the actual spiritual power that was present at that time, comes down and is again present with us today. This is, in part, why we add the special prayer, Al HaNissim (For the Miracles), to our daily prayers and grace after meals on Purim. 

Prayer book open to the special Al Hanissim prayer added to the daily prayers and grace after meals during Purim (and Hanukkah).
Prayer Book – Al Hanissim Prayer

Let’s take a closer look inside the prayer book.  It says:

Al hanissim v’al hapurkan

V’al hagvurot V’al hat’shuot

V’al hanifla’ot she’asita la’avoteinu

Bayamim hahem bizman hazeh.

And (we thank You) for the miracles, for the redemption, 

for the mighty deeds, for the saving acts, 

and for the wonders which You have wrought for our ancestors

in those days, at this time.

Miracles Before & During Purim

Before we jump into the 4 mitzvahs of Purim, let’s take a quick look at what got us here in the first place. The Babylonian King Nebuchadnetzar destroyed the Beit HaMikdash, the First Temple in Jerusalem, in 3338 (423BCE).  His son Meradoch took over the throne, followed by his grandson, Balshezzar (Balthazar). 

In his arrogance, Balshezzar drank from the vessels of the Beit HaMikdash, plundered by his grandfather.  This is when the well-known “Writing on the Wall” occurred. The Jewish Prophet Daniel interpreted the divine message, explaining Balshezzar’s reign and the Babylonian Empire would end. They were soon defeated by the Persians, led by Darius.

Daniel is Appointed Top Minister

For the Jews, King Darius was a great improvement over the previous rulers.  But, his officials were jealous of Daniel’s position. He was a pious man who prayed three times a day, facing Jerusalem. They convinced King Darius to enact a law that no one could pray for one month.  Daniel continued to pray and as punishment, was thrown into the lion’s den.  We learn in the Book of Daniel, he miraculously emerged unharmed. 

Darius’ rule was short-lived and Cyrus the Great took his place at the throne in 3390.  He allowed the Jews to go to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple, 52 years after its destruction.  

Construction is Brought to a Halt 

“By whom?,” you ask.  I’ll give you a hint.  Every year we read about him in the Megillah of Esther.  It was none other than the anti-semitic Persian king Achashverosh, who ruled during the 14-year Purim saga in the city of Shushan. 

In the Megillah, it says that King Achashverosh ruled over 127 lands.  After doing away with Queen Vashti for her refusal to obey his command, the king held a beauty contest to find a new wife. Against her wishes, Esther is forced to participate and becomes queen.  At the counsel of her wise cousin Mordechai, Esther keeps her Judaism a secret.  

Meanwhile, the king’s evil advisor, Haman became infuriated with Mordechai for not bowing to him.  Haman, with the king’s approval, plots to have the Jews killed.  To save her people, Esther reveals her identity to the king, but it’s too late. Once Achashverosh makes a decree, it can’t be nullified.  But, the king recalls that Mordechai once saved his life and decides to allow the Jews to defend themselves.

Mordechai and Esther Make a Plan

They gather all the Jews to fast and pray for three days.  Hidden miracles abound throughout the Purim saga, and the Jews are saved.  Each year since, we celebrate the miraculous events with four mitzvahs. 

Breakdown of the 4 Mitzvahs of Purim

  • Hear the Megillah by night and by day
  • Send food gifts to friends 
  • Give a gift to the needy
  • Celebrate with a feast

1. Hear the Megillah by night and by day.

Hand-written Megillah Scroll (The Book of Esther)
Hand-Written Megillah Scroll (The Book of Esther – One of the Five Megillahs of the Torah)

It is important to hear every word of the Megillah, and it must be in person.  Listening to a recording or over the phone may be good if you are studying before the holiday, but it does not satisfy the mitzvah requirement.  In these particular times during the health challenges of covid, there will be outdoor readings available.  And for those who can not go outside, home visits can be arranged to listen through a window.  

2. Send food gifts to friends.

The mitzvah is to give Mishloach Manot (also called Shalach Manos), a gift of two ready-to-eat foods to one friend.  Sending to two friends is said to be praiseworthy. When possible, it’s best to send it through a third person. Although all Jewish holidays begin in the evening, we wait until Purim day to do this mitzvah, so that we can do it after hearing the blessing of “Shehechiyanu” on the Megillah.  When we listen to this blessing, in addition to the reading of the Megillah, we also keep in mind all the other mitzvahs of the day.

Haman tried to convince King Achashverosh that he should be concerned about the Jews, because as is written in the Megillah, the Jews were “scattered and divided amongst the nations,” yet they worked hard to maintain their Jewish customs. The mitzvah of Mishloach Manot is therefore done to show the unity and friendship amongst the Jewish people.  

3. Give gifts to the needy. 

Tzedakah (Charity) Box – The Hebrew word “tzedakah” literally means righteousness.

Now it’s easier than ever to give tzedakah (charity) through an online charitable fund.  Ask your local rabbi or rebbetzin, who will have something set up specifically for the mitzvah of Matanot Levyonim, or be able to guide you otherwise. The mitzva is to give tzedakah to two people.

4. Celebrate with a feast.

In remembrance of the victory against the evil Haman, Mordechai declared Purim to be an annual celebration, marked by a feast.


Purim Background with party costume and hamantasch

Enjoy this delicious Hamantaschen recipe!


Special Things Before Purim Begins

There are some significant things we do in preparation of the holiday.  They include:

  • The reading of Zachor
  • The Fast of Esther – Her greatness and a role model for all
  • Giving of a Half Shekel (Machatzit HaShekel)

Ask your local rabbi or rebbetzin for details.  

Dressed Up for Purim!

Purim is known as the most joyous Jewish holiday of the year. 

And, we can always add in joy, so now is the perfect time to prepare to do just that!  Do the 4 mitzvahs of Purim. Bake some delicious Hamantaschen (recipe here) for your Mishloach Manot and make your arrangements to hear both readings of the Megillah.  Even if your Purim party will be more intimate this year (perhaps you will be on your own), it can still be significant.  Dress up and make a special meal! Most importantly, celebrate that we were not only saved more than 2000 years ago in Shushan, but we each made it through a very tough year. And, by uniting in friendship and charity, we will continue moving forward.

If you need any assistance making arrangements for Purim, let me know! Which is your favorite of the 4 mitzvahs of Purim? Scroll down and let me know in the comments.

“How do you make the perfect Italian coffee at home,” you wonder? Well, I’ll tell you!  As you may already know, I am passionate about coffee. When I go to sleep at night, I am already excited to wake up and have my morning coffee. Anyone else?  There are several ways and types of coffee that I enjoy, but there is a wonderful way to make coffee that is a deep part of Italian culture, and that is the Moka.  Not to be confused with mocha, the combination of chocolate and coffee flavors, but moka, with a “K.”

Many of you ask which products I use and recommend. This post contains some of my affiliate links for “making every day the best day” while cooking, entertaining and living life.  If you buy something through one of these links, you won’t pay a penny more, but I’ll get a small commission which helps keep the lights on. Thanks!

To make this coffee and bring some of this Italian coffee culture into your home, you must begin with a moka pot.  Interestingly, the word “Moka” actually comes from a port city in Yemen, where coffee was exported.

Delicious Coffee to Start the Day

There’s nothing like a cup of hot coffee in the morning.  Just the mere thought of the smell, the taste, can make you jump out of bed.  A pot of good coffee is a way to bring everyone together.  Sitting over hot coffee with a friend is one of my favorite things to do.  And, there are so many ways and types of coffee, but today I’m going to tell you all about preparing and drinking a moka.  

Coffee the Italian Way

Torrefazione Cannaregio – My favorite coffee shop!

Fortunately, not far from where I live, there is one of my most favorite places in all of Venice. It is a coffee house called Torrefazione Cannaregio.  Torrefazione refers to a coffee bean roaster. It was started in 1930, and was located on the main street, Strada Nuova.  It was a unique place. The door opened and you were hit with the most incredible aroma of coffee.  The floor was lined with enormous sacks of coffee beans and you could even get a glimpse of an enormous round coffee roaster in the back.  It was always packed, but the line moved fast. Some would take their coffee “da portare via” (to go) and others would drink at the counter, as there was only bar service.

It’s since changed ownership and now it is located right near the Jewish Ghetto, on the Fondamenta Ormesini.  Combining the look of a quaint coffee house with the beautiful glass containers of coffee lining the walls, you can sit inside and look out at the Venetian canal and watch gondolas go by. Although you may hear many languages from around the world at one of their canal-side tables, if you stand and drink right at the bar, you can often hear Venetian, the unique Italian dialect of the lagoon city. 

Know Your Coffee

The staff is well-versed in every type of coffee they sell and how exactly to make it.  Each coffee bean produces a different taste, and the staff is kind and patient to explain the details.  Some coffee beans are more fruity, while others are more earthy. At Torrefazione Cannaregio, they will even blend coffee for you with your choice of ingredients such as anise, black pepper, cinnamon and more. In Italy, people genuinely savor and enjoy the flavor of the coffee.  A typical Italian breakfast is a coffee and a “cornetto,” a croissant, either plain, dusted with powered sugar or chocolate-filled. 

The Moka Coffee Grind

Perfect Moka Italian Coffee Grind

If you will be buying coffee beans to be ground on the premises, you will be asked whether you would like them ground for espresso or moka.  The grind for a moka machine is a bit more course than that of an espresso machine. Once you have your perfect grind and blend, you are (almost) all set.  

An Italian Coffee Classic

With these easy steps, I will share with you how you can make the perfect moka Italian coffee at home, just like the Italians do. I That’s a coffee with a smooth, rich taste, and not bitter. But first, you must have a moka machine.  My preference is a Bialetti, which is the most well-known brand.  With a Bialetti, you know what are getting.  It is a high-quality coffee maker, named after it’s inventor, Alfonso Bialetti.  The story goes that in the early part of the 20th century, Mr. Bialetti had a workshop where he produced aluminum products.  In the 30’s, he designed what would become the iconic moka pot, which has enhanced the way people drink coffee around the world.

Moka machines comes in a range of sizes.  At home, I have a six cup moka, which is a perfect size for just us or for when we are having some company. If that’s too big for you, you can get a small moka that makes two cups.  I’ve seen a much larger 18 cup moka, as well. And now, on to the actual brewing process.

                                                              

How to Make a Moka Coffee

Making a moka is actually very easy.  Familiarize yourself with the parts of the stove-top machine.  The base get filled with water.  The little filter cup gets the coffee.  On the underside of the top of the moka machine, you will see two parts: a little filter and a rubber ring holding it in place.  It’s all quite basic.  But there are some tricks of the trade that will make your moka coffee taste just perfect.

Step 1

Put some water up to boil, because starting with boiling water is one of the keys to making a delicious moka.  By beginning with water that is already hot, the coffee in the moka machine won’t be exposed to the direct heat of the flame any longer than necessary. This will eliminate that bitter taste that’s commonly associated with coffee that is prepared incorrectly in a moka.  

Step 2

Next, take a look inside the bottom container.  You will see a little valve.  That’s where you fill your boiled water to. Keep in mind that once you fill the base of the machine with the boiling water, it will be hot.  So, work with a dish towel when you need to pick it up. You can also preheat the coffee cups you’ll be using with some of the remaining boiled water.

Step 3

Now it’s time to fill the filter cup with coffee.  Fill it to the top of the cup, without pressing the coffee down. You can give it a gentle swipe to even it out, but it shouldn’t be packed.  Insert the cup into the water-filled base.

Step 4

Next, take your dish towel to hold the base still while you place the top of the moka machine on and carefully twist it closed.  And now, you are just a few minutes from having some of the most delicious coffee you will ever taste.

Step 5

Place the moka machine on the stove and turn the flame on to medium-low heat.  Regardless of the size of your moka pot, be sure that the stove flame does not extend outward and up the sides of the moka pot.  Soon, the coffee magic will begin. You’ll start to hear the coffee boil upward through the internal mechanism into the top container.  It’s doesn’t take long, so keep an eye on it. 

Your kitchen will smell so delicious.  All the coffee lovers in the house will come running.  Carefully pour, serve, sip and enjoy.  I always say that coffee is like a vacation in a cup.  And a moka is like when you get an upgrade. To make it even better, you can pair it with these delicious Bisse Italian Biscotti.

A Virtual Shopping Experience in Venice

When you do come and visit Venice, you can buy a bag of beans to take home for yourself or to give as a gift.  What an amazing souvenir for a coffee lover.  But, why wait! This is one of the places I love to take people on my virtual personal shopping tours. Would you like me to pick some up for you? Let me know! You can set up a virtual personal shopping experience in Venice with me, from the comfort of you own home.  For more info, email me at RebbetzinUnplugged@gmail.com

What’s your favorite flavor or type of coffee? Let me know in the comments. I’m so excited to hear from you!

This GAM GAM Kosher Restaurant Hamantaschen recipe for Purim will win over everyone’s hearts and stomachs!  There’s nothing quite like the first sight of Hamantaschen to get you in the mood for one of the most joyous times of the year! Whether you are receiving Hamantaschen or giving these holiday treats, it’s all part of the fun.  And, it can be part of a mitzvah too!  Giving gifts of ready-made food, Mishloach Manot, is one of the four mitzvot (commandments) of Purim. This year (2021), Purim begins Thursday evening, February 25 and ends Friday evening, February 26.

Many of you ask which products I use and recommend. This post contains some of my affiliate links for “making every day the best day” while cooking, entertaining and living life.  If you buy something through one of these links, you won’t pay a penny more, but I’ll get a small commission which helps keep the lights on. Thanks!

Celebrating Purim Made Easy!

Just seeing these delicious Jewish holiday cookies conjures up memories of Purim parties, carnivals and celebrations.  For that reason, we make these hamantaschen at GAM GAM Kosher Restaurant all year long.  It’s always good to add in joy, and the happy thoughts and memories associated with hamantaschen make it the perfect way to do just that.

If you’ve never made them before, this hamantaschen recipe for Purim is quite easy.  And, you likely have all the ingredients at home, except for the oranges. A little bit of orange zest and juice give this recipe that distinct flavor that sets hamantaschen apart from your typical flour and sugar cookie.

You can divide the dough and make half to pack into mishloach manot and keep the other half of the dough in the fridge well-wrapped for a day or two, until you are ready to make the rest.  These hamantaschen also freeze well, so you can even make them ahead if necessary.  

Hamantaschen Your Way

I just love the versatility of hamantaschen.  You can fill them with your favorite jelly flavors, poppy seeds or chocolate chips. And if you want, you can separate some of the prepared dough and work directly into it some poppy seeds, colored sprinkles or even some cocoa powder to add some more variety to your batch. (The chocolate hamantaschen with peanut butter filling is a hit around here).

If some of your hamantaschen open while baking, those are perfect for taste testing. 😀 Keep in mind the joy of the holiday and have fun!


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Hamantaschen Recipe for Purim

5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Servings 60 cookies
Calories 84

Ingredients

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 4 – 4 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 TBL orange juice ((optional))
  • 1 tsp orange rind
  • 1 tsp Your favorite flavor jelly for filling

Instructions 

  • Mix all the ingredients, except the flour.
  • Add flour one cup at a time, mixing completely before adding more.
  • The dough will be sticky.
  • Roll out the dough between 2 sheets of parchment paper into 1/4 inch thickness.
  • Use a round cookie cutter or a cup to cut circles. 
  • Add 1 tsp jelly or other filling in the center of each circle.
  • Shape into triangles by folding up from the bottom, and then folding the two sides in simultaneously
  • Bake on a lined baking sheet at 350F/175C for 9-11 minutes

Notes

Note:  Total hamantash amount may vary depending on thickness and cookie cutter size.
Calories: 84kcal
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Jewish, Kosher
Keyword: hamantaschen, holiday cookies, Jewish Holidays, kosher, oznei haman, Purim

Nutrition

Calories: 84kcal | Carbohydrates: 11g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 4g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 11mg | Sodium: 45mg | Potassium: 14mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 16IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 15mg | Iron: 1mg

What’s your favorite hamantaschen filling? I’m looking forward to hearing from you in the comments below!

Just as they say, Summer bodies are made in the Winter, Spring Cleaning Organization starts now too. These expert tips will help you get organized, so your Spring cleaning will be a breeze. 

Many of you ask which products I use and recommend. This post contains some of my affiliate links for “making every day the best day” while cooking, entertaining and living life.  If you buy something through one of these links, you won’t pay a penny more, but I’ll get a small commission which helps keep the lights on. Thanks!

No Winter Blues Here 

The feeling of a clean home is comforting to those who live there and reassuring to those who visit.

Anyone else clean when they feel that their mind is cluttered?  Only me? Ok, fine. 😀

Naturally, we spend more time inside during the colder months of the year. And, since sundown is earlier, the days feel shorter. But now, the sunset is getting later day by day and it’s the perfect opportunity to get a head start on Spring Cleaning.  It’s time to see what you have and what you don’t need or no longer use.

Divide and Conquer

Make three piles.  

1. Keepers

2. Make Someone Else Happy

3. Thanks for Your Time on the Planet

The best is to take out two large garbage bags to put items directly into for transport.  An added benefit is that once you put something in the bag, it is out of sight.  You’ll have less emotional battle during the process.  However, if you prefer to make piles instead, that can work too.

Whatever you do, don’t take out more than it would take to put away if a friend suddenly called and said, “Hey, I’m in the neighborhood.  I’ll see you in 10 minutes.”

In other words, keep it manageable, and you won’t get overwhelmed.  

Spring Into Action

When we see too much in front of us, we can get distracted by memories, the dust or whatever else comes to mind.  The memories can take us completely out of our element and before we know it, 20 minutes has gone by reminiscing.  

Take out a small bit and get it done.  Just like taking small bites of food is healthier, so is this method of cleaning out and organizing your home. It’s important to stay positive. Often, sifting through items we haven’t seen or used in months (or longer) can set off negative thoughts like a switch. 

  • Look at this dust. Can’t I even keep my house clean?
  • How will I ever be able to fit into this again!
  • I’ll never get all of this under control!

Don’t even let that negative thinking begin. Let’s get back to our three piles.  Very quickly, go through as much as you can in ten minutes.  Sort the items between the three piles. Here’s my sure-fire method to make your Spring Cleaning Organization worth every second and to get through it painlessly:

The “Keepers” – If you like it, use it and it makes you feel good, then it’s a keeper.  Everything else gets divided between the other two piles:

The “Make Someone Else Happy” pile.

and

The “Thanks for Your Time on the Planet” pile.

Remember, if it is an object, you can always take a digital photo of it.  This works especially well with school work or kid’s adorable handwriting in those 20 year-old workbooks. (Oh, just me again.  Ok!)

Eliminating what you truly don’t need (IOW, what you finally decide to let go of), will free up some physical space, and likely some psychological space too.

Now, if you’ve sorted those things and you feel like you can do more, go for it.  But remember, only take out 10 minutes worth at a time.  Use a timer if it helps. Everyone can do something for 10 minutes. You won’t get overwhelmed and the room won’t turn into a disaster.

Getting Organized Now Will Keep It Under Control Later  

Just read on and these Spring Cleaning Organization tips will help you!

For storage, whether it’s seasonal clothing, shoes, or keepsakes like photo albums and personal items, I love using clear boxes on wheels.  I keep two shorter storage boxes filled with shoes under my dresser. 

You can see what’s in there without even opening it.  They are easy to wipe down and the wheels make it a breeze to move them from room to room or to slide them under the bed. 

Some boxes, I rarely open, like my Passover Supplies storage boxes. I keep a list of its contents and a “To Buy” list inside the box facing out. That way, I can remind myself of what’s in there and what I need for the upcoming holiday without even having to open it.  This becomes very handy during Passover preparations, but we’ll save that for another blog post. (You’re welcome!).

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Kitchen Organization

Start in the cabinet that you use most often.  If that stained set of warped food containers with another 72 pieces that you rarely use is causing a daily struggle to get something out of the cabinet, then give it a “Thanks for Your Time on the Planet” and put it out to be recycled. Better to invest in a set of Rubbermaid containers with sizes that you will actually use.

Is your silverware drawer so heavy that its breaking the drawer glide? Perhaps you need a new clean kitchen drawer organizer.  As you are switching everything over or cleaning your current drawer organizer, look at what you actually use, and put only those items away.

One of my favorite things in my kitchen is what I have dubbed, “The Work Station.”  It’s a portable (and very narrow) kitchen cart that sits between my sink and my stove.  On it, I can easily get to my most used items like salt, pepper, olive oil, pot holders and trivets. But the most handy part is this is where I also keep my most used cooking utensils in a ceramic container that I picked up at a florist when I was getting some orchids (My favorites!).  It’s large enough to hold my set of silicon kitchen utensils and I have another for my wooden utensils, that clean up very well. 

The Work Station helps me keep everything organized and easily in reach while I am cooking.  It also helps me save water and avoid dry hands, since I don’t have to wash them each time I need to take something out of a cabinet or drawer.  (Tip: I always keep some hand lotion by the sink. Your hands will thank you for this).

Declutter to Make Your Spring Cleaning a Breeze

One of the places that easily gets cluttered is the bathroom.  Small bathroom cabinets quickly become packed with makeup and skin care products.  That nail polish color that you love that you haven’t worn in more than two years……say bye-bye.  Check your makeup for expiration dates or if it’s been open longer than the suggested length of time on the package, it’s time to get rid of it.

I have a front loading washer and dryer, so that I can make use of the top.  The washer top usually stays completely empty.  The dryer, which is in the back corner of the bathroom, is where I keep some supplies that don’t fit in a cabinet. My hairdryer, makeup bag, face cream and other items I use on a daily basis all stay there.  

The trick to keeping everything neat and clean is two clear plastic bathroom storage containers.  It makes it a breeze to wipe things down.  Instead of having to move a bunch of items, I can simply lift, spray and wipe.  


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Organization is Liberation

Shoes – Take a good look at what you’ve got and get rid of shoes that aren’t comfortable.  If you want to wear a certain pair, but always decide to wear the other shoes that aren’t as nice but are more comfortable, then you know it’s time to send them to the “Make Someone Else Happy” bag.

Jewelry & Accessories – Get a special accessory hanger to organize your jewelry & accessories. It will make getting dressed in a complete accessorized outfit every day much easier and more enjoyable. 

Or, get a set of shower rings to hook on the closet rod or a hanger.  Use it to store scarves, belts and your go-to necklaces and bracelets.

While you are at it, is that costume jewelry or men’s tie (which you hadn’t even seen for the last year) something that you forgot you even had?  Is that scarf nubby and itchy?  You know what to do! Quickly put that jewelry in the “Make Someone Else Happy” bag and stick that scarf in the “Thanks for Your Time on the Planet” bag. 

Younger nieces and nephews will enjoy those things, while you’ll enjoy a bit more breathing space.

Roll With It Into Spring

By the time Spring rolls around, you’ll be in a much better position to get that Spring Cleaning done.  But you won’t have to wait for the benefits to kick in.  Each day, from now on, you will experience the joy of having a bit more space, less stress because it’s easier to clean and the positive feelings associated with gettings good things done.

In 10 minute spurts of Spring Cleaning Organization, you will be able to accomplish more than if you set out to do a complete overhaul, which never seems to get started. Stay positive and just keep imagining each room the way you want it, and before long, your Spring Cleaning Organization will be something you look forward to.

What other tips can you share to get organized for the Spring? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Budgeting should be simple.  In theory, it is.  Subtract your expenses from your income, and voila!  But often, we get sidetracked or overwhelmed when trying to budget. Are you looking for a good way to organize your expenses?  One of the most important things you can do is to set up a budgeting system.  With these practical budgeting tips, it will be easier than you think. Plus, there’s a free instant download to help you, so keep reading!

When is it Too Late to Start Using a Budget?

Whether you are just starting out at your first paying job or if you are nearing retirement, a budget can help you get your finances under control by giving you a plan of action.  Not only does a budget help you with your hard-earned savings, but it can also help you minimize your expenses.  A budget helps put you in charge of your money.  Read on to discover how you can take control of your finances once and for all.

Practical Budgeting Tips
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But I’ve Tried to Budget Before

When it comes to budgeting, most people fall into one of these categories:

  • Those who don’t know where to begin.
  • Those who won’t begin because they keep everything in their heads.
  • Those who spend so long trying to make a budgeting template that they get frustrated and quit.
  • Those who spend hours (or days) making such an in-depth budget template that they made it too challenging to use or are too tired to even look at it again.

Have no fear, you are already halfway there.  I’ve made a budget template for you to start using right away.  We’ll get to that in a moment.  Let’s focus a minute on the “Why.”

Why Should I Use a Budget?

Having an organized budgeting system can help you acheive your goals. One of the first things you will discover is that aside from having more organized finances, you can set up goals for yourself, your family and your future.  Most of us are so busy working day to day, that we don’t give ourselves the opportunity to plan for the future. But a little bit of planning goes a long way. When we set specific goals, then we have something to strive for. Budgeting goals will help us be more aware of our spending decisions in general, as well as careful with our day to day choices.

Having a budgeting system in place also helps encourage you.  It puts things in perspective and makes you see what you are doing right and helps you improve on what needs to be done better.  Once you get things down on paper, it is easier to see how you can be more efficient.


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Other Budgeting Tips that Work

Open a Separate Savings Account

This is an important step to insure that you don’t “borrow” from your savings.  An even better step is to open a savings account in a separate banking institution.  

Direct Deposit

Automate your savings with direct deposit from your employer. There are many benefits to direct deposit, including convenience, immediate availability of funds and reduction of paperwork.

Set Up an Emergency Fund

This will be one of the first goals.  After you set up your budget by itemizing your expenses and income, decide how much money you can put toward an emergency fund. 

Dave Ramsey suggests an emergency fund should have enough money to keep you going for two months.  Then should an emergency arise, such as loss of work, you will be in a better position until you find work. Begin with a goal of $1000.  Once you reach that, focus your energy on minimizing your debt, beginning with your smallest balance, not including a mortgage. 

Meanwhile, continue to add to the emergency fund until you reach your two month goal.  Whether it takes months or years, do everything in your power to pay off your debt. 

Itemizing your expenses will bring to light any expenses you can do without, at least temporarily.  Once you reach your emergency fund two month goal, you can then contribute solely to your savings account.

Meal Planning

This step can be a great way to reduce expenses.  It guides you to buy only what is actually needed at the grocery store, reducing extra expenses.  It also helps reduce any food waste, contributing to even greater savings.  It is also a time saver.  Spend 10 minutes once a week deciding what to prepare, instead of having to think about what to cook seven times a week when you come home tired from work.  You can download my Meal Planner by clicking here.

Overall Benefits of Using these Practical Budgeting Tips

Lastly, review your budget every six months and make any adjustments necessary. Often, people think that a budget is limiting, but ultimately, the opposite is true.  These practical budgeting tips will help you minimize stress, give you a sense of freedom and add to your overall quality of life and relationships.  

One of the best advantages is that with each year of budgeting, you become better at it. Just like a muscle that you use becomes stronger, the more you set healthy financial goals and boundaries, the easier it becomes.  It won’t be long before you will see the benefits and begin to enjoy them. And, this will lead you to want to be more organized in other parts of your life as well.

Budget Template

To help you get started, here is an Interactive Budget Template. It’s a free instant download. Click Here!

What other templates will help you with organization? Let me know in the comments below. I’m excited to hear from you!

This article is currently featured on AvinaSeating.com

As a restaurant owner in Venice, Italy, where our streets are canals, we deal with certain aspects of the business that most entrepreneurs would never think about.  Whether it’s renting a refrigerated boat to transport product or closing our outdoor seating because of high tides, there are an array of complexities to deal with.  But, one thing that is standard regardless of location, is choosing the best chairs for your food establishment.

I’m always on the lookout for great products to enhance my guests’ time in GAM GAM.  When people think about where they would like to go out to eat, the things they usually consider are: the food, atmosphere, guest service, location and price.  These priorities stand out in the minds of any restaurant guest.  However, seating is not usually something given much thought.

Atmosphere – Setting the Tone and Mood in a Restaurant

Eating out is relaxing, takes one’s mind off daily challenges and is a great way to step out of the usual and connect with family or friends.  Guests save time cooking and cleaning and are able to reinvest that time with those whom they care about.  

Sometimes, people choose a meal out to celebrate.  We’ve hosted everything from birthday parties to graduations and wedding proposals to 50th anniversaries. We know that as a team, we are providing more than just a meal.  We hope to contribute to an atmosphere that will help create beautiful memories for years to come. Often, guests are trusting us with some of the most special moments of their lives. 

Especially now, as the world struggles to contain the Coronavirus, going out to a restaurant is almost deemed as a luxury.  The time spent at a restaurant is more valued by the guests, and restaurant staff are happier than ever to see their usual clients come back for a visit.

There are also the things that enhance the atmosphere and the guest experience that are more subconscious. One of those things is the seating. Imagine your favorite restaurant. What words would you use to describe the feeling when you are there?  That is the atmosphere.  And before you even think about what type of chairs you need, you have to decide what kind of atmosphere you want to create.

GAM GAM Kosher Restaurant at the main entrance of the Jewish Ghetto of Venice, Italy

Style is for More than Clothing

High back, low back, fancy and formal, there is so much to choose from.   Knowing the environment you want for your guests, will help you determine in which style you should invest.  Some style concepts to consider are: casual, chic, rustic, elegant, contemporary, artsy, modern and fabrics such as upholstery, leather and plastic.

Another aspect to consider is the chair frame.  There are many types such as wood, metal, plastic or aluminum lightweight material.

Choosing a specific style of chair goes further than the aesthetics. The design and style allows the guests to sit closer or further apart.  Some chairs inhibit leaning forward.  Keep in mind that part of enjoying a meal out is that it provides a way for your guests to connect with one another.  

Other style factors to consider are the flexibility of moving chairs when necessary.  In facilities with a high guest turn-over rate, chairs shouldn’t be too heavy for the staff who will have to move them during cleaning.   Chairs should also be easy to move around when rearranging the composition of tables to adjust for larger parties.  And, if you have busier seasons where you’ll need more chairs than usual, consider stackable chairs to maximize storage space. 

Feel Comfortable – Make Yourself at Home

A chair can actually affect how a person feels while they are dining.  An uncomfortable chair can be likened to having a small pebble in your shoe while you are walking.  It can make or break the entire experience, especially if the meal is a longer one.

It’s one of those things that you don’t give too much thought to until you are seated in a chair that is uncomfortable.  Have you have been seated in “the broken chair?” Or, where you can feel the inner parts of the chair itself because the cushioning is too worn.

Diners come to relax and you want them to be comfortable, but not that guests will linger unnecessarily. An important factor to consider is how long your guest will be seated.  If you have a food establishment with a low-cost menu, it is likely that you rely on having a high turn-over of tables. If your guests are going to have a quick coffee and a croissant, then a barstool may be a good choice.  Not only because this matches the more informal style of a coffee house, but it also lends itself to that sort of quick food service.  On the other hand, if you run a more formal establishment, diners will likely take their time to enjoy a longer meal. Here, a more comfortable chair with proper cushioning will be more suitable.

Proper spacing is an important consideration as well.  Guests should be able to comfortably walk between tables without banging into those currently dining.  This is even more important to think about if your restaurant is located in a tourist area or in a shopping zone where guests may come in with their shopping bags. Or, in the Winter, if you don’t have a coat room or rack, your guests will need space to put their coats on the back of their chairs.

Adequate spacing is also important for waitstaff who need to safely transport food while moving easily and quickly. Your choice of chair size will help staff avoid frustration and help ensure they can provide quick service.

GAM GAM Kosher Restaurant in Venice, Italy offers seating with a view of the Cannaregio Canal

Durability is Key

When it comes to durability, there is a difference between commercial vs. residential grade chairs. Use from the sheer number of guests coming in to a food establishment far outweighs the typical wear and tear that a chair built for home use can withstand.  Restaurants need chairs that are specifically built to tolerate this kind of use. Chairs are an investment in the restaurant. It’s not the part where you want to take the cheap route.  Having to replace chairs more often than you should will end up costing you more in the long run.

Another factor for durability is the fabric.  It can make all the difference.  

Whether an elegant fabric or a faux leather, it should be easy to clean, especially if you have a family restaurant where there will be children dining.  Consider chairs that can be cleaned using a light damp cloth to both eliminate dust and to easily and thoroughly remove food crumbs in the cracks and crevices where it can accumulate.

Hygiene is More Important than Ever

Restaurants are struggling to find ways to make their guests as comfortable as possible during this difficult time while abiding by the increase of health regulations because of the Coronavirus.  Many restaurants have limited hours and reduced seating capacity as a result of having to remove some tables.

Here are some best practices during this challenging time:

Print signs for employees and guests reminding them to wash hands for a minimum of 20 seconds.

Hand sanitizer should be readily available in all public areas, such as at the entrance, restrooms, coat racks and the bar area.

Provide clear pathways for your guests to walk.  Proper signage helps guests know where to enter and exit.  Signs should also assist guests as to where to walk within the restaurant as to avoid, or at least minimize, direct contact with others as much as possible.

Menus are some of the most handled items in a restaurant.  Just as it’s an obligation to maintain proper food handling practices in the kitchen, we train our staff to maintain health standards in the service areas as well.  This includes proper maintenance of menus, which should be wiped down often.  During these particular times of Coronavirus, we are using temporary menus that are disposed of after each use.

Soon we will be introducing a more permanent solution.  Guests will be able to scan a QR code on the table and pull up the menu directly on their cell phone.

By taking these 5 essentials for choosing the best restaurant chairs into account, you will be able to enhance your guests’ experience in your food establishment.  You’ll be able to create a great atmosphere and your guests will come back again and again, because they will know they can dine in a clean and stylish place with efficient service.

Have the taste of GAM GAM at home with GAM GAM’s Hummus recipe!

There’s nothing like taking a few minutes each day to do something nice for yourself.  It can be very easy to treat yourself in a special way.  Here’s a tip that is not only is nice, but has many benefits as well. Infuse yourself with care.  Learn how to make a tisane infusion with delicious natural ingredients like mint, ginger and cinnamon.

What is the Difference Between a Tea and a Tisane

The difference between a tea and a tisane is quite simple.  Tea comes from specific plants.  A tisane is an infusion of a variety of herbs, leaves, spices and flowers. 

Tisane varieties and combinations are endless, and can suit your mood or taste.  After dinner, I love to make a digestivo, which as you can guess by the Italian name, can help to aid in digestion.  As an after dinner drink, one of the most popular choices at GAM GAM Kosher Restaurant is my infusion of mint, ginger and cinnamon stick.

Yet, this tisane is not only a great way to end your meal.  This particular blend is also a delicious way to start your day.  It’s distinct combination of flavors makes your morning feel like a holiday. 

Make It a Special Moment

For the mornings, I have a special mug that I bought when I was traveling with my daughter.  In the evenings, I love to use the Richard Ginori tea cups I was gifted by a friend.  I also love  tea sets with a floral motif.  Using a specific cup for your “tisane-time” can genuinely elevate the moment.  It’s a reminder that you are taking a time to do something special for yourself.  And, making use of a gift, whether from someone else or from yourself, can conjure up good memories.

Benefits

Aside from taking some time for yourself, a tisane has many physical benfits as well. It can be a great way to avoid caffeine, if that is important to you. Generally speaking, a tisane can be a stress reducer, helping you calm down and unwind after a hard day.  It’s relaxing qualities can also help induce sleep. You work so hard.  You deserve it!

Tisane Your Way!

Whatever your taste palate, there is something for you.  When it comes to nature, there is no limit.  Aside from my go-to tisane mentioned here, other popular choices to create your own infusion are: lemon, chamomile, dill, lavender, rosemary, thyme, orange peels, cardamom and even edible flowers such as pansies.

Whatever the time of year, there are always great ingredients to be found to make a delicious tisane, and it’s always in season to take care of yourself.  So, don’t hesitate.  In fact, make it a priority to do (at least) one more thing beneficial to your physical health.  After all, our physical bodies protect our souls.  So nourish yourself physically, so you will have the calm and strength to nourish yourself spiritually.

Tisane of Mint, Ginger and Cinnamon

0 from 0 votes
Prep Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes

Instructions 

  • Boil water
  • Add mint, ginger and cinnamon stick to suit your taste to a tea pot
  • Cover with the boiling water
  • Steep for a few minutes
  • Drink as is or add your favorite sweetener, like honey.

Want something to dip in your tisane infusion? Try these delicious Italian Bisse Biscotti!

Italian Bisse Cookies biscotti from the Jewish Ghetto of Venice
Italian Bisse Cookies biscotti from the Jewish Ghetto of Venice

What other herbal combinations would you like to try? Let me know in the comments down below the related articles. I love hearing from you!

What is the best new year’s resolution idea and how does one achieve it?

Life is full of decision making. Sometimes it’s easy.

Sometimes it’s not. Every single decision we make, has an effect on someone or something.

But as challenging (or even sometimes stressful) as that may be, that is exactly wherein lies the inherent beauty of each decision: Our free will, our free choice.

🤍 Many of you ask which products I use and recommend. This post contains some of my affiliate links for “making every day the best day” while cooking, entertaining and living life.  If you buy something through one of these links, you won’t pay a penny more, but I’ll get a small commission which helps keep the lights on. Thanks!

Do We Really Have Free Choice?

I hear my small son drag a chair to the kitchen counter.  He doesn’t know that even though I am out of his sight in the other room, I can see him in the reflection of the living room mirror across from where he is.  It’s just before dinner-time.  He reaches into the cookie jar.  At any moment, I can come in and stop the situation.  I am in control of the bigger picture.  However, he is 100% going to choose for himself whether to take that cookie or not.  

The One Above could have created the world in a perfect way.  But instead, He chose each one of us to be His partners to get the job done.  Every time we are faced with a possibility, a decision to make, we have the potential to bring us (and the world) closer to that goal. What we actually decide, is up to us.  And from that decision, we learn and store away the information to use in our future experiences.

Don’t Make the Same Mistake Twice

When we choose one way over another, or to do something and resist the other option, what comes into play? What is guiding our decisions? For the most part, our choices in life are based on our previous experiences. It is taught that everything that we see and hear teaches us something. 

Party objects in a gift box
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We Are Sterling Silver

When we are born, we are like a shiny sterling silver tea set. Through the passage of time and with exposure to the elements, the silver tea set becomes less shiny, and a bit tarnished. And in some unfortunate cases, it even becomes scratched. Oftentimes, with the right care, even deep scratches can be smoothed out. Nonetheless, the essence of the tea set doesn’t change. It still has its purpose.

Our experiences also have an impact upon us. They show us how to do (or not to do) things in our daily lives. That is, in part, why when we are younger, some situations seem to bear more weight. 

Why is this so?

There are two reasons here:
1. The situation has never been experienced before.

2. Less time on the planet means having less of life’s experiences, so each experience stands out as carrying more weight, being more impactful.

For example, if someone worked for 30 years and has already dealt with all of the typical encounters one does at a job – disagreement with a colleague or having to approach the boss to discuss a difficult issue – then when something comes up, we can look to our previous experiences to decide how to handle it. 

However, if we are at our first job, then when challenges arise, it is sometimes more stressful because we simply haven’t experienced it before. And, this is also so because the experience isn’t diluted by the quantity of experiences one has after decades of life.  So each experience stands out more.  One teaspoon of hot sauce in a large pot of soup won’t make a big difference, but that one teaspoon in a small bowl will.

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When Knowing Is Not Good Enough 

So if we have our own free will and we have our experiences to feed off of, (or the advice of trusted people), then why is it so hard? That is where discipline comes in. Whether young or young-at-heart, discipline is something that always needs to be worked on. It’s like a muscle. Discipline needs to be strengthened by using it. 

The more we put it into action, the stronger our discipline becomes. And then, the easier it is for us to make beneficial choices and work toward our New Year’s Resolution Idea or any goal we set for ourselves. Sometimes we need a push to get started, like when one is learning to ride a bike. It takes a gentle push from someone who is excited for you, from someone who wants to see you succeed. The last thing they want is for you to lose your balance and fall. They want to celebrate with you. 

The Power of Two Working Toward an Aspiration

When the opportunity presents itself to make a resolution, share it with someone who wants to see you win. Just the mere action of sharing it will help strengthen your determination. How much more so, does it increase your sense of accountability. When you share your resolution with someone who cares about you, believes in you and is rooting for you, you realize that you have a backing.  You are not alone in your endeavor.  

Firstly, the expectation is there.  You now know that someone other than yourself is expecting you to get it done.  But what’s more is that now you have someone that will help encourage you if you feel challenged. No one said that all of the decisions we take upon ourselves would be easy, but we can put systems in place that will make us more likely to be successful.

And, the more things we accomplish, the more gratified we feel.  This sense of accomplishment nourishes our soul.  It gives us the strength to choose the next thing to go after, and the next thing after that.  This is how you build discipline.  

Developing a Routine and Strengthening Your Intent

Get out your pen and paper, even if they are digital. There is something powerful about writing things down.  It gives them more permanence than if we keep them bottled up with the other thousands of things in our mind.  Make a daily plan for all of the small things that you need to do and it is more likely that you will stick to it.  

When you develop a pattern of doing the small things each day, you are exercising your discipline, just like you would strengthen any other muscle with repetition.  And by putting this into practice successfully more often, you will become accustomed to it.  Scheduling things becomes easier and you will get used to deciding on an outcome and ensuring that it gets done. Eventually, this will help you in your bigger decisions, like taking a resolution upon yourself.

Self Control and How to Achieve Your Goal

Along with developing our discipline comes a greater sense of self-control.  It is said, what is not permitted is definitely not permitted, but what is permitted isn’t always necessary.  One may think that they have to have self-control first in order to be disciplined.  But practicing being disciplined actually helps us have better self-control.  I always say, anyone can do something for five minutes.  Sometimes you just have to start.  

Think of something that will benefit you. When you do something good for yourself, you will be in a better position to do good things for others. Each moment that passes is gone forever, and we don’t know where the future lies.  But we hope and plan for the best and we have it within us to make the best happen.  Choose something for yourself.  Tell a friend or a mentor about your resolution.  Let them share in your wins and if necessary, help you to the finish line.  That’s what life is all about…..helping ourselves, helping others and helping the world, one win at a time.

What win will you choose for yourself? What will be your New Year’s Resolution Idea?

I’d love to hear from you in the comment box below. If you prefer to keep our correspondence private, just say so. xoxo

Fireworks over the Lagoon of Venice, Italy
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