A No-Bake Wedding Cake



Mazel tov!

On Motzei Shabbos (Saturday night), we offered a L’Chaim to the newest couple in our Respler family.  Lawrence proposed to Sara on a rooftop in Manhattan.  The family gathered in Queens as the engagement became official.  The atmosphere was electric as we awaited the arrival of this new couple at Sara’s family home in Queens just a few hours after havdola (ceremony terminating Shabbos).

As Shabbos concluded in New Jersey,  we prepared to travel to Queens.  I didn’t want to arrive at the L’Chaim empty handed.  I thought long and hard about what I could bring that was festive, whimsical, simple to prepare and could safely anchor the love birds from Yitzchok Aaron and Hindy’s Floral Arrangement.

Davida had been home for Shabbos with two of her terrific friends, Alyssa and Elana.  All three had helped all Shabbos long with our Shabbos meals’ setup and cleanup and were on board for the task of preparing this cake.  I had showed them the package of  new chosson-kallah (bride and groom) embellishments that had just returned with me from my latest trip to Jerusalem.  I loved that the chosson was wearing a glittery kippa on his head and the kallah was wearing a wedding dress with sleeves.   I joked that since there were a dozen embellishments in the package, if each one of these young women were one of the next twelve friends and family to find their bashert (chosen spouse) soon, I would save an embellishment for each of them.

The task was simpler than expected.  I repurposed a rose-shaped silicone mold.  Davida prepared a batch of Rice Krispies Treats and I packed the batter firmly into the pan.  After a short few minutes, I inverted the mold onto some wax paper.  I pressed the love birds and the Chosson-Kallah skewers into the cake and the SimpletoWow wedding cake was ready to go.

Mazel tov!


Please Note: This post contains affiliate links from Amazon, which means I earn a small commission if you click and make a purchase.



A Shabbos of Grapes

This Shabbos, I spoke at the aufruf of my son, Yitzchok Aaron.  It is attached for those who have asked for it to be published.


When contemplating a theme for this Aufruf, the choice was simple. The Gemara in Pesachim quotes    “Inveihagefen be’invei hagefen davar na’ah umiskabeil” — “The mingling of vine grapes with other vine grapes is a beautiful and acceptable thing.”  We’ve heard this quoted by so many of our friends and family with regards to the shidduch between YA and Hindy.

So, I thought we would explore together what exactly this means.

On the surface, we understand that this refers to the union of two well-matched individuals.  As I am fond of saying, “a good marriage is when two people with good qualities find each other.  A great marriage is when 1+1 is greater than 2, when these two people become a force together.”

At Yitzchok Aaron’s bris, I spoke (yes, YA, a woman spoke at your bris , even in Passaic).  I told the story of two men, two grape vines, one named Chaim Dovid Fischbein and another named YA Kramer.  I told of how Chaim Dovid, the proud yekkie,  left his wife and family in Israel after the war and tried to make a living on the shores of the US, hoping to bring them over.   I told of Chaim Dovid’s commitment to Shabbos and how it was so hard for him to hold down a job in America as a Shabbos-observant Holocaust survivor when a six-day workweek was expected.

I told of YA Kramer who was a fruits and vegetables dealer whose real career was to help people after the war.  I recounted how these two men met and how YA helped Chaim Dovid during those lonely and difficult years.  I told of how YA lived with broken-down furniture so that he could help people like Chaim Dovid who had lost their family and their lives in WW2 Europe.

I didn’t know then that YA was to be my only son, but I felt that the first boy’s name should be for Yitzchok Aaron Kramer, Don’s  Zaidy, as a token of appreciation for all that he had done for Chaim Dovid Fischbein, my Opa, financially and emotionally.

YA, that is precisely what invei hagefen means.  It is the entwining of two types of grapes that is so beautiful and acceptable to Hakadosh Baruch Hu.

We are honored and humbled by the mingling of the Resplers with the Shippels because we want your vintage to be the entwining of so many of the beautiful qualities possessed by the Shippels.  Their warmth and the chinuch and goodness that they impart to their children and to the world is breathtaking.

In just about every place that I have lived, we have planted a grapevine.  So, I know a thing or two about grapes and these are some of the interesting facts:

1) The quality and makeup of the soil determines the taste and quality of the grape and its wine

2) A grapevine requires the support of an outside structure and employs tendrils to adhere the vine to its support for strength and endurance

3) The vine trellises upward but its fruit hang downward

4) Every grape consists of sucrose, tanins and acids

From these grape-related facts, I’d like to weave some simple to wow marriage lessons for you, YA, as you leave our home and embark on your life together with Hindy.

1) The quality and makeup of the soil determines taste and quality.

Make sure to look toward the roots of the Cohen/Respler and Wassner/Shippel families.  You don’t have to look too far back to find great role models.  You have an “Aba” who is the paradigm of Torah hasmada.  You have your Bubby, Zaidy and Savta who set the Chesed bar high and of course, you will find so many of these sterling qualities in the roots of the Shippel and Wassner families, too.

2) Just as the grapevine uses tendrils to attach and receive strength and support from an outside structure, make sure to find friends, role models and Rabbeim who help you grow in strength and offer support to you and Hindy as you continue to grow together.

3) The vine trellises upward but its fruit hang downward.  

As you grow upward, always remember to remain humble and consider where you came from.  Always aspire to great heights and never look down on others who are not  where you are yet.

4) And finally, every grape consists of sucrose, tanins and acids.

It is the sweet and sour that work together in the fermentation of the wine.  Hashem will give you sweet and sour times.  Make sure to use them both to ferment your own vintage.

As we send you off to marriage, please remember the humble grape that becomes elevated once it is squeezed.  While the grape has the prominence of being one of the shiva minim in its own right, it takes on a whole new kedusha profile once it is squeezed.  We know this by the change of bracha.  While a grape is a ha’etz, the grape juice and wine produced from the grape has the brocho of hagefen.  The product of the grape will beH be part of your marriage ceremony next week as we recite the hagefen and so many other beautiful brochos under the chuppah.

May your life with Hindy retain the kedusha of each of you individually and take on its own blend of kedusha as you create your own vintage that grows better and better with age.

Mazel tov!

Love Birds Floral Arrangement

love birds arrangement 3

This week is one where we have been basking in the beauty, delight and joy of a new couple in our lives.  Our son, Yitzchak Aaron, has announced his engagement to Hindy Shippel.  As we welcome Hindy into our family, we feel humbled by the enormity of the gift of this union between two families.  My parents, who are now staying with us, have been actively involved in this shidduch and my father especially has been delighting in the details of their courtship.

We were in Israel for the past two weeks and wedding-themed accessories seemed to be everywhere.  Hindy and Yitzchok Aaron’s effervescence has been infectious and my father called Israel occasionally to provide updates on them, always referring to them as the “love birds”.

So, when I found a pair of Styrofoam wedding birds in a store in Israel, I just couldn’t resist buying them.   The groom was wearing a black top hat and the bride was decked out in a tulle veil.  They were charming and delightful.  The five-shekel price was perfect and I knew that I would find the ideal opportunity to use them.

The lovebirds accompanied me home and were unpacked.  They patiently sat on my kitchen counter in their package.  Yitzchok Aaron and Hindy announced their engagement Wednesday night, just hours after we arrived in New Jersey.  The past thirty-six hours were a whirlwind.  And, I forgot about the Styrofoam love birds.

Yesterday, I picked up a 3 for $12 flower special at Shoprite along with the basic groceries to restock my refrigerator.  Still basking in the wedding spirit, I chose all white flowers.  I purchased two bunches of hydrangeas and one bunch of calla lilies.  I cut them down to size and arranged them into my hallway vase.

And, as I was bringing the vase back to the front hall, I encountered the love birds.  After positioning them atop my new arrangement, they too are basking in the excitement of this simcha.

Goldie’s Vintage Sheva Brochos Menu

Last week, I hosted Sheva Brochos for my cousin, Goldie and her chosson (groom),  Tuvia. The Sheva Brochos are seven blessings that are recited at the wedding and then again daily for the first week of marriage.  Typically, the tradition of Sheva Brochos includes a festive meal followed by the recitation of these seven blessings in the presence of a minyan (at least 10 men).  It is a wonderful way to bring family and friends together to usher the new couple into a lifetime of harmony, friendship, song and blessing.   It is an exhilarating way to extend the excitement of the wedding for the first week of a Jewish couple’s marriage. Many of the seven blessings are recited in song and we traditionally end each of the Sheva Brochos celebrations that we host in our home with dancing.

So that we could enjoy the party and our many guests, I chose appetizer, entree and dessert menu items that could be easily set up in advance without too much attention. That way, I could enjoy the guests, the atmosphere and the spirit of these Sheva Brochos.

Whenever I entertain guests, I try to first get an idea of their food allergies, likes and dislikes.  The word was that this couple likes meat and potatoes and very traditional food. I decided to nix the Spanish fiesta and Asian fusion theme options and opt instead for a vintage-themed party.

The menu was simple to prepare and assemble and was so well-received by our guests. The room-temperature tortilla shell appetizers were plated and served in advance of the start time.  They were colorful, beautiful and delicious.  The salads and entree selections were served buffet-style and the dessert selections were set up on a Viennese table.

To create the vintage-inspired theme, I gathered old pictures of my cousin and her family. I printed them in 4×6″ formats and scattered them in frames on tables throughout.

Mazel tov, Tuvia and Goldie!

So often, I am asked to share the menus that I use for entertaining.  So, here is the menu that I chose for this wonderful sheva brochos celebration:

Tortilla bowls filled with corn, avocado salad and grilled chicken garnished with Curly Scallions

Asian Red Cabbage Salad…Simple and Wow
Bok Choy and Craisin Salad
Apple, Beet and Pomegranate Slaw
Israeli Salad

Simply Reliable One Pan Roast Chicken Dinner
Low and Slow Oven Brisket: No Braising Necessary

Simply the Best Potato Kugel Ever
Vegetable Kugel with lattice and monogram

strawberry pomegranate daquiris with gooseberry garnish
chocolate mousse flowerpots
individual fresh fruit cups
Simply Delicious Baked Apples garnished with Chards of Colorful Chocolate Bark

White and Wow Wedding Arches


When Kaitlyn’s friends started to get married, we realized that there were no places in our community to rent or borrow wedding shtick (items of whimsy to adorn the wedding dancing).

That left only one choice.

We quickly needed to figure out how to make our own.

And we did. The most popular item that we designed were our wedding arches.

After the traditional Jewish wedding chupah (Jewish canopy) ceremony, the Jewish bride and groom have a few moments alone called Yichud (seclusion) in order to enjoy each other’s company before entering the reception room.

As the bride and groom prepare to enter the reception room after Yichud, there is palpable excitement in the air.  The band gets ready to perform a musical intro and the guests are on their feet waiting to dance the new couple into their lives together.

In the last few years, so many Jewish couples enter the reception by dancing under beautiful arches held by their friends and family.  There is nothing in halacha (Jewish law) or minhag (Jewish custom) that explains the significance of these arches.

So, we are truly left to our imagination.

Perhaps, the arches mimic the idea of the chupah, a shelter representing their new home and they represent the doorway from the new couple’s status as individuals into a life of togetherness. Perhaps, these arches connect earth and heaven.  Maybe, they incorporate the idea that the new couple is rooted in the friends and family that hold the arches.

Nonetheless, these arches carry the excitement and whimsy of an exciting new chapter just opened by this new Jewish couple.

And, that is what has guided the design of our wedding shtick.

These arches can be designed in so many different ways.  We have feathered and flower arches, but our most popular arches are our fluffy, curly and whimsical mesh arches.

We offer all of our wedding shtick with a donation to Camp HASC (Hebrew Academy for Special Children) in memory of Stephanie Cohen a’h. Stephanie was a very special friend of our daughter, Leah, and our family.  Her dear parents, Lisa and Stuart, are like part of our own family.  The joyfulness and whimsy of these arches were designed with Stephanie’s delightful character and joyful nature in mind.


Stephanie lived a life of joy and lit up the lives of all those who knew her.  Although she was physically and cognitively challenged, she used every fiber of her body to bring happiness and whimsy to others.  She taught everyone around her about being positive and happy  in one’s life and she brought a smile to all who interacted with her.  The original set of colorful mesh arches were designed using Stephanie’s favorite vibrant colors in order to raise money for the place that she loved most, Camp HASC.  


Stephanie’s colorful arches have been and continued to be borrowed over and over and have raised a great deal of money for Camp HASC.

This week, I  designed a new set of white and wow wedding arches to complement the colorful mesh arches that were designed several years ago. This time I documented the supplies and directions necessary to create their design.

Here we go!


hula hoop
heavy-duty scissors
scotch or cloth tape (optional)
duct tape or White Gorilla duct tape
21″ wide deco mesh (For each arch, I needed one 10-yard roll of deco mesh plus extra embellished mesh for accents)
pipe cleaners to match mesh or floral wire
white gloves (optional)


Carefully cut a hula hoop using strong scissors.  Some hula hoops have beads inside to create hula hoop sound effects.  If you would like to add those sound effects to a plain hula hoop, add a few beads to the inside of the cut hula hoop.

Cover the ends of the hula hoop with duct or cloth tape to prevent the beads inside from falling out.  Use duct tape to coat the hula hoop from one end to the other.  I find that the easiest way is to leave a 2-3 inch section of tape exposed on the roll and wrap the duct tape roll around and around the cut hula hoop.


Prepare pipe cleaners or cut wire into 12-16 inch sections.

Line up mesh near one end of the hoop.  Begin securing the mesh to the hula hoop by using a pipe cleaner or mesh to secure the mesh to the hula hoop about 6 inches from the end of the hula hoop.

Making sure that the mesh covers both sides of the hula hoop, wrap the mesh around the hula hoop, twisting slightly to form a swelling effect.  Secure mesh again to the hula hoop in about 12-15 inches.



Continue to wrap the mesh around the hoop, securing it with the pipe cleaner or cut wire at equal intervals, making sure that the last interval before the end of the hula hoop is secured about 6 inches from the other end.


Cut the mesh close to the end of the hula hoop, leaving the same amount of space for a handle at both ends.

Using the deco mesh, cut 8-12 inch sections of mesh.  The longer the sections, the more perfect your rolls will look.  The shorter the sections, the more rolls you will have.



Prepare pipe cleaners or cut wire into 18-30 inch sections.

Take 3-4 deco mesh rolls and twist a pipe cleaner or wire section around the middle, forming a whimsical curly flower, making sure to twist the middle tightly, but to leave plenty of wire at the ends so that the curly flower can be securely fastened to the arch.  Here is where you can be creative and incorporate different colors, textures, ribbons or media.  For these arches, I used three white sparkly mesh rolls and one 4″ section of bubbly mesh for each curly flower.


Continue to cut deco mesh rolls and create at least as many curly flowers as you have secured intervals on your hula hoop arch.  Each one of these flowers will cover the wire that you used to secure the mesh to the hula hoop.


I like to prepare a few extra curly flowers to fill in the middle of the arch, which will add whimsy and height to the final arch.  I also sometimes prepare a few smaller curly flowers, made with only 2-3 curls to fill in areas where the arch needs some more volume.


Using the ends of the wire or pipe cleaner, secure each flower to the arch covering the exposed pipe cleaner or wire that you created when you secured the mesh to the hula hoop, making sure to twist tightly and secure all wire ends.  Examine your arch carefully and critically, adjusting curly flowers to cover both sides of the hula hoop and making sire that the arc looks full.  Add curly flowers to areas on your arch that look unadorned.  To achieve a full look, each of these arches took 9-12 curly mesh flowers.


If necessary, cut the end of the deco mesh so that at least 2-3 inches at each end of the hula hoop can be handled.  Use heavy duty duct tape, secure the ends of the deco mesh to the handle.  Wrap the duct tape around and around so that the handle is neat, comfortable and secure.

To give the arches a more finished look, wrap matching pipe cleaners around all exposed wire securing the curly flowers to the mesh hula hoop.

If you would like to make a donation to Camp HASC  or would like information on borrowing these arches for an upcoming wedding, please comment below or email me at

Please Note:  This post contains affiliate links from Amazon, which means I earn a small commission if you click and make a purchase.

Perfect Salmon with Roasted Vegetables

My childhood friend, Pam, hosted and enjoyed many guests for her son’s Aufruf  (literally meaning calling up”) Shabbos.  It was an exciting Shabbos for Pam, her husband Ron and her family, as her son, Ariel, is getting married this week.

It is customary for a Jewish groom to be called up to recite a brocha (blessing) on the Torah in synagogue on the Shabbos before his wedding.  Pam’s guests joined the family and Ariel in synagogue Shabbos morning for a beautiful davening and kiddush.

I prepared a delicious fillet of salmon that Pam served for Seuda Shlishis (third meal on Shabbos afternoon).  It is one of those stunningly colorful main dishes that can be prepared in one pan and served so easily as a showstopper buffet option. It was so simple to prepare and oh, so beautiful and delicious.

This dish can be served cold, warm or room temperature and can also be prepared in individual portions.

salmon with roasted vegetables on platter