Happy Hanukah

Yep, happy hanukah to those of us/you out there who celebrate the holiday. It is with a sense of relief that the day arrives. This year I'm out of the retail-mall storming-package wrapping loop for the most part. Even still, the relative calm of this holiday makes me relieved that I have so fewer steps to take to make my holiday happen.

Packages in the mail to my daughters. Done. Many batches of shortbread baked to be given to my husband's staff. Done. Requests for ideas for gifts for my parents. Done. Gifts, not done, but I'm thinking of making some cards for my mother with pictures of miniature furniture made by her mother (you can see the card table and chairs in my sidebar), and I'll try to motivate myself to do one more batch of shortbread. It's easy and fast; bringing the butter to room temperature and then hand-shmooshing the four ingredients together is the main workload.

And a new menorah. You could fill a warehouse with the ugly and over-priced menorahs on the market. Each year I try to invent something home-made and beautiful, something that won't require the classic yellow box of 40 candles that you had every year from Sunday school. We no longer belong to a synagogue, and it's hard to find Jewish cultural artifacts in my area of the Chicago suburbs. This year I had a vague idea about tealights and river rocks and a big wooden bowl. Then I started thinking a tiny bit smarter, and I thought, wooden bowl, burning candles, flames. Perhaps not such a good idea.

Then, in his wanderings about book stores this weekend, my husband came across this one at Borders. Simple. Unfussy. Good candle colors. Only $19.99. Fits on my dresser by the front door, somewhat in keeping with the request that you place your menorah in a window so that it can be seen from outside the house. You load the menorah from the right, then light it from the left. (I always forget, so I'm letting anyone else out there who needs to know, know.) The one slightly taller candle holder is the shamash, or the head candle, which you light first, then light the other candles from that one. Every night you add another candle, so that you work your way from two candles (the shamash and the first night) up to nine.
Good loot, too. As per tradition, a new desk calendar. This one is awesome: Women Who Dare, from the Library of Congress. First up is a favorite, Jane Addams. And I always check the birthday pages for good luck. On mine, Maya Plisetkaya, a Russian ballerina who danced on the Bolshoi stage once more for the celebration of her eightieth birthday. And a book and a CD of ocean sounds and a share in a knitting basket (two sheep and two llama) from Heifer International.