Legend has it that in 1775 Paul Revere rode through the streets of Massachusetts warning colonists of an impending British attack, calling out repeatedly, “The British are coming! The British are coming!” In truth, Paul Revere did no such thing; however, that wrongly-attributed phrase often goes through my mind in the days leading up to the yomim tovim, albeit with a slight refrain. While Revere was warning of a military invasion, in my mind, there is an army of adorableness heading in my direction and the words that echo joyously in my head are, “The kids are coming! The kids are coming!”
I can’t think of anything better than sharing the yomim tovim with family and friends, but having a full house does create a need for certain extras: in addition to being able to feed a crowd, you need to be able to seat them, sleep them and otherwise make them comfortable. So while you get busy counting up folding chairs, blankets and pillows, consider these new acquisitions that will be debuting at Hotel Eller as we welcome the year 5777.
Getting massive quantities of food hot is a top priority, and when you have a full house sometimes your oven and/or your cook top just isn’t large enough to do the job right. A hotplate seemed like a valuable addition to my kitchen and for a while I had been toying with the idea of investing in one, but I never followed through because I couldn’t bring myself to buy yet another kitchen item that takes up more than its fair share of space. Then, one day, I stumbled across an item called Hotmat and fell in love, not just because it was the coolest hotplate I had ever seen, but rather because its unconventional design makes it foldable, so storage is a breeze.
Created in Israel, Hotmat consists of four round Teflon-coated heating elements, two of which keep food warm while the other two get food hot. The heating elements are surrounded by a silicone frame, giving Hotmat its unique flexibility that allows it to be folded into fourths. Most importantly, the product bears both the German TUV labs and Canadian CE safety certifications. Priced at $129, Hotmat doesn’t come cheap, but isn’t it worth investing a little more into a hotplate that is both space-efficient and safety-tested? I think so, and, judging by the fact that Hotmat repeatedly sells out, it looks like there are plenty of others who agree with me. As to whether you can place food directly on Hotmat on Shabbos, that question is beyond my pay grade, so consult your local Orthodox rabbi for guidance.
Having lots of guests can mean having multiple babies in the house and, if you have more than one married kid joining you for yom tov with their little cutie pies, you may soon realize that one high chair just won’t cut it. I set out to find a high chair that met my two most important criteria: a reasonable price and a tray that offered one hand operation. Multiple web searches brought me back to the same product time and time again: the Oxo Seedling high chair. Not only that, it is height-adjustable, reclines, has lockable wheels and a five point harness, great for keeping your little Houdini just where you want him. Equally awesome are the Seedling’s color choices, which range from funky to traditional, instead of those annoyingly cute baby prints, a nice little touch that you don’t typically see in a high chair that retails for $119.99. Best of all, it comes with a removable, dishwasher-safe tray cover – put it away as soon as you get it and save it for Pesach. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did.
Now is the perfect time to invest in an energy-efficient Kosher Lamp. A unique product that allows you to have light when you want it, but gives you complete darkness with the twist of the shade, Kosher Lamp bears the approval of rabbonim in Brooklyn, Canada, Israel and England. Over the years the original Kosher Lamp has been upgraded to Kosher Lamp Max, with improvements including a larger light surface and an impressive selection of colors to match any decor. My personal favorite is Kosher Lamp’s travel model, a miniature model with four lighting options and a lighting surface that is more durable than that of the original. Be aware that while you can replace the CFL bulb in the original Kosher Lamp series, there is no way to do that on the travel lamp, but with an LED bulb rated for 30,000 hours of life, that mighty little lamp is going to give you lots of light for a very, very long time.
Having extra pillows and blankets on hand for guests isn’t that big of a deal, but running out of beds is a completely different story. You could start calling neighbors and hope that someone has extra bedrooms or you could invest in a good quality airbed, an answer that gives you sleeping space when you need it and folds up compactly when you don’t. We do own several bargain basement air mattresses and while they are good to have on hand, they are probably best for younger guests. If you are looking for something that more closely resembles an actual bed, check out SoundAsleep’s full line of comfort coil airbeds. Forget about misplacing your pump (yup, been there, done that), these babies come with a powerful built-in pump that can inflate or deflate your bed in less than three minutes. (If you enjoyed watching the dead come to life in the graveyard scene from “Fiddler on the Roof,” spend three minutes watching this thing inflate – it is actually pretty cool!). Because they blow up to a height of 18 inches, your guests won’t feel like they are sleeping on the floor and, because they are super comfortable, your guests will get a good night’s sleep.