How to throw a Yankee Swap, just perfect Judaica for Hanukkah, what the heck is Zoomnia, and more.
Sure, it’s the thought that counts—but it’s also nice to be able to give the gift back.
SECRET SANTA? Overplayed. Festivus? Too esoteric. The best way to celebrate the winter holiday of your choice is to hold a Yankee Swap. It’s a fun, intriguing—and totally frustrating—way to exchange gifts.
Here’s how to play: each participant must bring a wrapped gift that falls into a previously agreed-upon price range. An order is determined by drawing numbers out of a hat. The person who chooses No. 1 gets to select and then open any one of the wrapped gifts. The next player then chooses a gift and opens it. Then comes the big Let’s Make a Deal moment: the second player can decide to keep the gift, or swap it for the one that the first player unwrapped. The progression continues, with each player selecting from among all the previously unwrapped gifts. Then, just when you think the whole swap is over, the No. 1 player gets to step in again as the last present-swapper, getting his or her pick of all the available goodies.
The benefits: you don’t have to pick out a present for a specific person, so there’s no dread that you’d be stuck with figuring out what to get a man who doesn’t golf (my perennial present dilemma). You also don’t have to be a gracious gift recipient—there are no hard feelings if you shudder in disgust and get rid of that package pronto. And there’s something sadistically pleasurable about ripping a great gift out of the clutches of someone you know really, really wants it. Now, that’s the Christmas spirit!
Already a swapping pro? Try this variation: each player must choose whether or not to keep or exchange a gift before opening it. You could also try and come up with a theme: homemade gifts, favorite books, size requirements, even re-gifts. That way, if you get stuck with the booby prize during this year’s swap, you can always stick it at the bottom of your closet and throw it back into the ring next year. —Marisa LaScala
Beyond Chocolate Gelt
Judaica Just Perfect for Hanukkah
Oy vey! With eight nights to celebrate, dreidels made of clay and little mesh bags of chocolate coins get old fast. And while Prada bags know no religion, wouldn’t it be more meaningful to celebrate the holiday with gifts of Judaica? We think so, so we used our finest investigative journalism/yenta skills (same thing, no?) to shed some light on the best local sources for perfect presents for the Festival of Light and the rest of the year. You don’t have to travel to Tel Aviv to find beautiful Jewish-themed gifts; check out these boutiques instead.
THE AESTHETIC SENSE
FINE ART AND JUDAICA
198 E Main St, Mount Kisco
Mazel Tov! You found it—a bit of Eretz Yisroel in Northern Westchester. Fans say this boutique has the most stunning collection of Judaica around, including scores of menorahs by such artisans as Zachary Oxman, above (one of whose works was commissioned by Hillary Clinton for the White House), Lynn Rae Lowe (who works in gorgeous iridescently colored metals), and stained-glass artist Susan Fullenbaum. You’ll find dreidels ranging from 25-cent plastic ones, to a set of three made from sterling silver handcrafted in Israel ($400), to an unusual nesting doll type from Russia ($54). And for the kinder, check out the beautifully illustrated three-pack set of playing cards ($16).
1333 North Ave # B, New Rochelle
This longstanding shop has everything from “Aleph to Z,” including holiday-themed toys and books, and a vast selection of menorahs crafted of everything from tin (at $5, they’re perfect for your college student) to sterling silver ($745), and featuring such themes as basketball, dogs, golf, and even shoes (the “Imelda,” at $39.95, sports colorful stilettos). Other gift ideas: latke platters and hand-painted glass, ceramic, wood, and sterling-silver driedels, most of which are from Israel.
59 Katonah Ave, Katonah (914) 232-9643
Stop by this small, funky gallery for exquisite handmade menorahs made of river stones and steel ($80); mezuzahs of pewter, inlaid wood, and colored mosaic tile (the latter, from IS Art of Israel, are particularly stunning, and sell for $100-$150); Star-of-David necklaces (in 18-karat gold with a little diamond for $275 or in sterling for up to $30), and menorah-motif tile trivets ($28).
29 Washington Ave, Pleasantville
(914) 449-6747 www.wisteria-gifts.com
You’ll find an eclectic selection of gift items here at all price points from hand-dipped candles ($14 for 44), to card games ($15), to fun decorative candles fashioned as bowls of matzoh ball soup, to handcrafted, etched-glass latke platters ($42), to stained-glass candle holders to display the 44 candles needed for one menorah over the course of the holiday ($69). You’ll also find an array of handcrafted menorahs of fused glass, stained glass, copper, ceramic, etc. ($100-$250) and dreidels ($59).
Go Ask Zoomnia
A local website provides local answers.
I recently learned of Zoomnia.com, a free website/service set up to offer advice and provide Westchesterites with personalized answers to their local queries. The site, which officially went live in September and was co-created by Chappaqua resident Steven Wolk, brings businesses to you. For example: have clogged pipes? Type in your question and up to three plumbers—all close to your home—will send you answers. Or that’s the theory.
There are currently 1,152 businesses signed up, each of which pays $2 to answer a consumer’s question. These businesses can either register themselves or are recruited by Zoomnia’s team and are, according to Zoomia, pre-screened. Customers remain anonymous and their privacy, says the company, is protected. Does it work? We decided to test it out.
My question: “I am looking to buy an amateur digital SLR camera. Any suggestions?”
Zip. No response.
So I gave it another chance. Question 2: “My best friend is getting married in April, 2008, and I am her maid of honor! I want to throw her a very nice and sophisticated but fun bridal shower. The shower will be thrown by the entire bridal party, and since we vary in age (15-30), we’re hoping to keep the price down. Can you give any suggestions/tips on how to achieve thus while keeping it classy and fun?”
Bingo! I received three answers within a day. Apparently the more detailed the question, the more chance you have of getting answers. The suggestions, however, didn’t knock my socks off (I think I know that making invitations myself will save money), but they did put me on the right track.
The company is planning to expand to the rest of the tri-state area (and eventually to the entire country), but for now, Westchester is its test market. So, why not give the site a try. But, in the meantime, anyone have any SLR camera suggestions for me?
NEW STORE OPENINGS
SHELLY BELLY MATERNITY/MY LILY PAD
14 Rye Ridge Plz, Rye Brook (914) 251-9171
Two stores in one location: one offers the latest in chic maternity fashions and the other, designer kids’ clothing from size 0 to 12. Co-owners Shelly Grossman (Shelly Belly Maternity) and Laurie O’Neal (My Lily Pad) have married maternity wear to babies’ and kids’ clothing to create “a one-stop shop for moms and kids, and moms with kids on the way,” says O’Neal, who ran an upscale layette business from her Rye Brook home before this latest venture. “We do everything from bedding to birth announcements and full layettes to up to size 12 in kids’ clothing. There is no other place in Westchester like it.”
27 Purchase St, Rye (914) 967-1055
This jewelry boutique showcases the work of such Danish designers as Ole Lynggaard, Julie Sandlau, Efva Attling, and Anna Andersson, plus Royal Copenhagen porcelain and glass by Orrefors and Kosta Boda. “We’re more like a gallery than a jewelry store,” says co-owner David Watts, “with different little areas devoted to individual designers—but our major focus is on the designs of Ole Lynggaard, handcrafted by goldsmiths in Copenhagen in 18-karat white, yellow, or red gold with diamonds and semi-precious stones. These pieces are for women who want a distinctive look all their own; the emphasis is on the design and not the size of the stone.”
By the Numbers
A numerical look at holiday decorations
1882: Year the first lights were strung on a Christmas tree, at the home of Edward H. Johnson (a colleague of Thomas Edison) on Fifth Avenue in New York City
80: Number of lights on that first tree
200: Average number of lights on a Christmas tree today
200,000+: Number of lights strung throughout The Westchester last year
$83.20: Average electricity bill for Westchester residents using 460 kilowatts/hour in December ‘06
$42.55: Average amount of money Americans spent on new Christmas decorations in 2005, the year for which the most recent stats are available
5 hours: Average time it takes to decorate Mulino’s restaurant in White Plains for the holiday
28.6 million: Number of households that purchased Christmas trees in 2006
16: Percentage of people in the country who cut down their own tree
7: Average number of years it takes for a six- to seven-foot Christmas tree to grow
$40.50: Average cost of a real tree
$68: Average cost of an artificial tree
22: Percent of people who didn’t put up a Christmas tree because they “didn’t want to or feel like it,” according to the National Christmas Tree Association
596,000: Total number of people hired as seasonal help in retail outlets throughout the U.S.
$474.5 billion: Estimated amount of money that will be spent in the 2007 holiday season
$5.25 billion: GDP— which measures the value of goods and services produced in a year—of Somalia
230: Calories in a four-ounce cup of eggnog
$100 - $200: Average cost of a menorah at The Aesthetic Sense in Mount Kisco
32 feet: Height of the world’s largest Menorah, which currently is at 59th Street
and 5th Avenue in Manhattan —MI
A Road Is A Road
Some road names pop
up all over the county.
By W. Dyer Halpern
Driven PAST OSCEOLA AVENUE OR Road lately? What about Purdy Street, Court, or Avenue? Certain names pervade our county’s thoroughfares and back alleys, but lest you be distracted wondering “where the heck did that name come from?” while you drive, we’re listing the origin of the names of some of the most common historically-significant Westchester streets.
Where: Elmsford, Greenburgh, Hastings-on-Hudson, Irvington, Ossining, Scarsdale, White Plains, Yonkers
Why: Most, if not all, of the “Aqueduct” streets, roads, and avenues are named after the New Croton Aqueduct, a structure built in the 1840s to supply water from the Hudson and Croton Rivers to New York City.
Where: Ardsley, Dobbs Ferry, Yonkers
Why: According to A Short, Informal History of Ardsley, NY by Arthur W. Silliman, Ashford Avenue is named for Ashford, Kent County, England, the birthplace of Captain John King, an early settler and sloop owner “who raised cucumbers which he processed in his own factory at the foot of King Street.” The factory, Silliman reports, closed after King’s 70th birthday in 1878. King’s son, Thomas, however, moved to Michigan where he set up new pickle factories for Heinz. King was married to Eliza Ann Dobbs—hence Dobbs Ferry.
Where: Armonk, Bedford, Larchmont, Mamaroneck, Mount Kisco, Mount Vernon, New Rochelle, North Castle, Scarsdale, Yorktown
Why: Baldwin roads are probably named after Reuben D. Baldwin, who donated land for a railroad station along U.S. Route 6 in the mid 1800s.
Where: Larchmont, Mamaroneck,
Why: Chatsworth was the name of the palace of the Duke of Devonshire in Devonshire, England. According to Larchmont, a book published for Larchmont’s centennial celebration in 1991, the name was used “perhaps” to make potential residents think of “parks, gardens, and an aristocratic way of life.”
Where: Dobbs Ferry, Hastings-on-Hudson, Yonkers
Why: Cochrane Lane in Yorktown, and perhaps Cochrane Avenue in Dobbs Ferry and Cochrane Avenue in Hastings, are named for G.A. Cochrane, a horse racetrack owner who lived in Yorktown and ran a track around the lake on his property.
Where: Cortlandt, Peekskill, Yorktown
Why: Crompond is an amalgamation of the words “cromp,” an Old English word for “crooked,” and “pond.” Cromp Pond is in Peekskill.
Where: Harrison, Mamaroneck, Peekskill, Port Chester (Rye and Yonkers as well, but spelled without a second “a”)
Why: The Halsteads were some of the earliest settlers in the New World. Indeed, the first Halstead came to the country on the Mayflower. Ezekiel Halstead was the first Halstead to settle in Westchester. He emigrated here in 1755 and was active in Rye civic affairs.
Where: Mamaroneck, New Rochelle, Pelham, White Plains
Why: “Harmon,” being a somewhat common name, has many derivations. However, many of the Harmon roads in Westchester are named after Clifford B. Harmon, a World War I pilot and aviation pioneer who built many extensive devel-opments in the area, including the playhouse on Truesdale Drive, and the Nikko Inn, a hotel frequented by popular actors of the time in Croton-on-Hudson. Harmon was the first civilian to fly into Germany after World War I.
Where: Croton-on-Hudson, Greenburgh, Lewisboro, Yorktown
Why: An early settler, by the name of Saunders, believed Hastings-on-Hudson resembled his home town, Hastings, England. It is unclear what about the town resembled its sister city across the Atlantic.
Where: Harrison, Rye, White Plains, Yonkers
Why: David Haviland, the founder of a French china company that was the precursor for the still-existing Haviland China Company, was born in White Plains in 1814. It is unclear whether the roads were named for him or his ancestors.
Where: Mamaroneck, Mount Kisco, New Castle, Scarsdale, Yonkers
Why: Named after Caleb Heathcote, Mayor of New York City from 1711 to 1714, who purchased Scarsdale from the Native-Americans and John Richebll (see Richbell, below). Of note, Scarsdale, where Heathcote Road runs, means “valley of rock crags.”
Where: Croton-on-Hudson, Dobbs Ferry, Harrison, Irvington, Mount Pleasant, Mount Vernon, New Rochelle, Pelham, Pleasantville, Port Chester, Sleepy Hollow, Tarrytown, White Plains
Why: “Irving” is, of course, a common name. But many of the roads that bare the “Irving” name were named after Washington Irving, the famous author of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.
Where: Lewisboro, New Castle, Ossining, Pound Ridge, Yorktown
Why: Named after the Kightawanck family of Mahicans who lived in the Croton-River Valley.
Where: Elmsford, Greenburgh,
Why: “Nepperhan” is the Native American name for the Saw Mill River. It means “running cold water.”
Where: Dobbs Ferry, Irvington, Yorktown
Why: Named after the Hotel Osceola, which once stood in Yorktown. The hotel was named after a Seminole Indian chief whose tribe inhabited Florida and Georgia. Surprisingly, Chief Osceola never visited Westchester.
Where: Briarcliff Manor, Cortlandt, Harrison, Port Chester, Rye City, Somers, White Plains
Why: Named after the Purdy family, whose most famous member, Joseph Purdy, owned the house in White Plains that once served as George Washington’s headquarters during the Revolutionary War.
Where: Mamaroneck, Scarsdale,
Why: Named after John Richbell, who purchased Larchmont and Mamaroneck (which included what is now Scarsdale) from the Native-Americans in 1661. For his tract of land, Richbell paid 22 coats, 100 fathom of Wampum, 12 shirts, 10 pairs of stockings, 20 hands of powder, 12 bars of lead, two firelocks, 15 hoes (the gardening type…we assume) 15 hatchets, and five kettles.
Where: Greenburgh, Hartsdale, Ossining, Scarsdale, Yonkers
Why: These roads, at least the ones in Southern Westchester, were most likely named after members of the Secor family who were active in Westchester politics. James and Francis Secor both served as town supervisor of Scarsdale. Ambroise Sicard, from whom the Secors descended, was a French Huguenot who purchased 109 acres of land near Scarsdale in 1692 for the price of 38 pistols and eight shillings.
Where: Greenburgh, Harrison, Mamaroneck, Mount Pleasant, Ossining, Scrasdale, Tuckahoe, Yonkers, Yorktown
Why: Most likely named after either Captain John Underhill, a soldier who fought in the Pequot war in the late 1600s and was the subject of a poem by John Greenleaf Whittier, or John Underhill, who dammed the Bronx River in the first half of the 1700s to build a grist mill.