A few quick snapshots from Israel…
Stay tuned for more!
A few quick snapshots from Israel…
Stay tuned for more!
Thanks to Facebook Memories, I was reminded that exactly five years ago today, I wrote about my favorite gift: Gift cards. Since this post still rings true today, I thought I’d re-post it as a reminder for those of you doing last-minute holiday shopping for your loved ones.
The case for gift cards
Originally posted Dec. 21, 2011
If you should ever have to give me a gift for any reason — be it Chanukah, my birthday, perhaps an anniversary, or maybe even a very futuristic Mother’s Day — I hereby henceforth declare my written permission for you to purchase for me a gift card.
Here’s the part where you gasp. A gift card?! What an impersonal gift! But I’ll repeat: You have been granted my official permission (is anyone out there a notary?) to get me a gift card and call it a day. And yes, believe it or not, this can even apply to boyfriends and mothers.
When it comes to gifts, I can see how I may be difficult to shop for. I’m usually at least a season behind the rest of the fashion world (I just bought my first sweater poncho and I’m still not sure how I feel about it), I’m pretty particular about jewelry (I like silver but I’m not a huge fan of gold), and I like dollars but I don’t like any scents (haha, get it?). For whatever reason you’re buying me a gift, I am so grateful, and the last thing I would want to do would be to stress you out.
A gift card to one of my favorite stores (or really any store! I can find something anywhere!) is a nice way to put your gift to good use. As my personal shopping budget comes up a bit shy of the million-dollar mark, these gift cards come in handy to update my closet with the best fashion of 2009 or that iPod-pulverizing blender I’ve been wanting.
I do understand, though, the need for wanting to make a gift more “personal.” A gift card may be construed as cold or lacking in creativity. But if you’re feeling a bit of “gift card giving blah,” here are a few ways to make a gift card gift shine a bit more like you.
Be creative in your choice of gift card store. Maybe you’ve heard that I like scarves (it’s true!) and you have a favorite scarf store. I’d love to try a new store, and a gift card is a wonderful incentive.
Pair the gift card with a related gift. My mom often used to get people a gift card to Blockbuster along with a couple packs of popcorn, and I thought it was the cutest thing. What about a gift card to Old Navy on top of a fun pair of mittens? Or a gift card to a sports store with a nice water bottle?
Wrap the gift card in a big box. It’s fun to unwrap a piano-sized box shrouded in paper reminiscent of the 4th of July. It’s even more fun to find a little box inside of a big box. Make me work for the gift card. Heck, send me on a scavenger hunt around the neighborhood to make me find the gift card.
Write me a poem. You can include a thoughtful, creative card with your gift! Make a collage of pictures and memories of us. Scrape up your sonnet-writing skills or write about how I’m Lively, Interesting, and Active. Your creativity in the card is worth more than the gift.
So, use this guide to the gift card when thinking about what to get me or other people. Happy Chanukah, happy birthday, happy anniversary, happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and happy Wednesday!
“Should we keep these mugs that the Mazda dealership sent us with their logo?” I ask.
“Maybe — they might make a good White Elephant gift for my office,” Adam said.
Blog readers, I am here to ask you / vent about this: What exactly makes for a “good” White Elephant gift?
Back up. Around the holidays, many offices / groups of friends / families hold some kind of gift exchange. Instead of a more traditional (and religiously exclusive!) “Secret Santa,” some groups hold a “White Elephant” exchange. As far as I understand, the rules of this game are that people are supposed to bring a gift from their house or buy an inexpensive gift from the store that would make for a funny or random present.
Adam loves these exchanges and goes around all year looking at items as potential gifts. Mazda mugs! Mixing bowls with a drawing of ducks! The lamp from an old Aladdin Genie costume! People are going to love this!
I do not understand how to play this game.
These items are literally junk. Are we just playing a game of “pass around the junk from one person to another”? Is this assuming that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure? Because I finished tidying my house according to my celebrity tidying icon, and I’m not interested in accumulating items that other people think are tossable.
When it comes to junk, what makes one item a “good” White Elephant gift and another a “bad” one? Is it the humor involved?
The other piece of the White Elephant game is that you often do not know who will be receiving the gift in the end, whether people choose from wrapped gifts based on an assigned number, or people “steal” gifts, or a crazy set of laws that look straight outta the Gemara. If I knew who my intended recipient would be, I’d buy or find an amazing perfect gift that reminds that person of our friendship and a joke we once shared or a known love of ducks on mixing bowls. But the gift receiver is basically a stranger, which makes humor and personalization impossible.
The last thing I want to do is get a dorky gift that says something about me … but it’s hard to know how to avoid that.
So, dear friends, tell me: What guidelines do you use when selecting these gifts, and do you find this game enjoyable?
In the meantime, I’ll be off searching my closets for … oh boy, I’m so bad at this game I can’t even make something up to be funny here … an unopened pack of napkins with Disney princesses?
I’d like to suggest that tomorrow, as families come together to celebrate Thanksgiving, let’s avoid the heavy topic of the elections altogether. What’s done is done, and while we all have a lot we can do to continue to make a difference in our world, maybe this Thanksgiving should be a time to focus on lighter topics. Not necessarily “small talk,” but just more fun topics.
If you need some ideas, I’ve compiled a list of my recommendations for topics to discuss.
Lia’s Recommended Thanksgiving Table Topic Discussion Ideas
I hope these help fill your Thanksgiving dinners with flowing, interesting, non-divisive, non-political conversations. Happy Thanksgiving!
Wow, the weather has been so nice lately! How’s work going? Do you have any upcoming travel plans? Okay, now that the small talk’s out of the way, let’s get to the real meat of our conversation.
Namely, this article, sent to me by my friend Carla. I like small talk as much as the next person does, but I’m thinking that this may inspire me to host my own “small-talk-free” dinner party. Who’s in?
On this sad day in our world, I have so many words flowing through my mind, but none of them are any better than what my fellow Facebook friends have shared. So, go to my Facebook newsfeed (or yours), read it, cry, and then come back here and smile, because last week my friends and I ate at the Saved by the Bell popup restaurant and there is still some good in this world.
Any place with cutouts of my favorite Saved by the Bell characters, plus themed food on the menu (i.e. “Mac and Screech”) is a place that brings a smile to my face.
Thinking back fondly on that special day one year ago this week …
Happy anniversary, Adam!
World, I move that we agree on a new rule: If you are reading a phone number or a credit card number to a person writing it down, you can just read it. You don’t have to wait for the listener to say “uh huh” after every three or four numbers.
I’m often the “listener” in this situation, writing down these long strings of numbers. And usually it’s not a big deal — I can write pretty fast. But sometimes it goes like this.
Person on phone: “The number is 1234 … (pause)”
Lia: (waiting) (waiting) “Mm hmm.”
Person on phone: “xx78”
Lia: “Wait a second, I missed the first two numbers.”
Person on phone: “12”
Lia: “No, I have 1234 and then something something 78. Let’s start again.”
I waited too long to say “mm hmm” and so then my gutteral confirmation blocked their next numbers.
Sometimes readers speed through their numbers, and that’s not good either, but at least we’re not waiting for a “yep” or a “got it” from me. I can always read the number back to them.
So here’s my suggestion to everyone. When reading your long string of numbers, first ask, “Are you ready?” When the listener says yes, go ahead with your number at a steady pace, stopping for a quick instant between each string of numbers.
1234 – 5678 – 9012 – 3456.
In fact, this rule already exists with the very advent of these dashes. A quick pause in a number. Otherwise, we’ll have:
Person: “1234. Do you have that right?”
Lia: “Yes, I got 1234. What’s the next set?”
Person: “5678. It’s the set that came after 1234, did you get that one too?”
Lia: “Mmm hmm.”
Person: “Oh, me again. 9012.”
Tumbleweed: (rolls by)
Lia: “Yep, I’m caught up so far. Can’t wait to hear the ending!”
Person: “3456. Do you want to repeat that back to me?”
Here’s wishing everyone lots of clear and accurate strings of numbers!
As Yom Kippur comes to a close, I was thinking about a piece I wrote for Temple Jeremiah in September 2014. The subject of my essay has remained my “tradition” for the last four years — spending Yom Kippur at Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox synagogues.
The beauty of the Jewish people is in our diversity
Sept. 12, 2014
Originally written for Temple Jeremiah
I’ve always been a bit of a synagogue hopper.
Right now, when asked where I go to synagogue, I say, “I go to five.” I love my community here at Temple Jeremiah, and meeting all of you has been one of the best parts of my job; I enjoy attending synagogue with my family where I grew up, at Beth Hillel Congregation Bnai Emunah in Wilmette; I attend two synagogues in Lakeview, the neighborhood where I live; and I co-lead a monthly Friday night minyan in the city.
I love Jewish communities. I love the diversity of customs, melodies, faces, teachings, architecture, and emotions.
So it’s no surprise that on Yom Kippur last year, I found myself in three different synagogues in one day. I spent the morning humming the melodies of the High Holy Days, while greeting congregants and meeting new faces here at Temple Jeremiah; in the afternoon I sat with my mom, listening to my dad, brother, and sister-in-law sing in the choir at BHCBE; and I spent the evening Neilah service with my friends at Anshe Sholom Bnai Israel, a modern Orthodox synagogue in Lakeview.
That day, I experienced a cross section of our larger Jewish community, splitting my time between Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox synagogues. During Neilah at Anshe Sholom, I found myself not paying so much attention to the words on the page, but reflecting on Jewish peopolehood. The Jewish community – our kehillah – is made up of so many different kinds of wonderful, dedicated, intelligent, interesting, and friendly people.
Our beauty is in our diversity.
We Jews are a tiny percentage of the world’s population. I pray that we can come together as a larger Jewish community to be enriched by the uniqueness of our brothers and sisters.
On that Saturday afternoon in September 2013, driving back and forth between Northfield, Wilmette, and Lakeview, I had the chance to truly feel the richness of our people; and to me, it was like seeing the face of God.
A family friend told me this week that he reads my blog occasionally, but especially when I write about food. So, in the interest of my readership, here’s another food post!
As a somewhat picky eater, I sometimes struggle at restaurants finding a “Lia-friendly” item on a menu. I am usually able to find something to eat at most restaurants when necessary, but sometimes there’s a bit of the “substitution” game — no chicken, broccoli instead of mushrooms, tortellini noodles instead of bowtie noodles, vodka sauce instead of spicy arrabiata sauce, etc. Plenty of people make these kinds of changes, but I always feel bad. In the rare occasions when I order an item off the menu as is with no extra comments, I always feel a little extra excited, like I should get some kind of a ribbon.
It’s why I was so excited to see this friendly piece of the menu at a restaurant I visited this week, Piazza Bella in Roscoe Village:
It says: Piazza Pasta Prefirita: Don’t see your favorite pasta? As long as we have the fresh ingredients, we’ll gladly make it for you! Just ask your server….Market Price.
A sentence like that is music to my ears. People like me are welcome here! I can be picky, within reason!
As a Jewish professional, we’re always talking about how to make everyone feel welcome in our organizations, especially interfaith families, LGBT families, and families with special needs. We’re constantly working on language in our printed materials that makes it clear that these groups are welcome and we are willing to go above and beyond to make them and everyone feel comfortable. This little blurb on the menu is the Lia Food version of that, and it did not go unnoticed.
I truly enjoyed my potato gnocchi. The menu paired the gnocchi with gorgonzola sauce with cracked black pepper (for another blog post: is that the same thing as just “pepper”?), but I knew I’d be much happier with vodka sauce. And I was.
Thanks to Piazza Bella for making me feel extra comfortable!