Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Hand Sewing with Wool Felt

As most of you know my foray into crafting is very recent. There are so many crafts out there just waiting to be discovered. I first heard about Kata Golda's wonderful book Hand Sewn Felt this fall when a bunch of the craft blogs I read reviewed it. I liked what I read and after checking out her lovely website I decieded to order the book.

I had done a very limited amount of hand sewing before I got this book and most of it was playing around with felt over the past few months. I had the book for a while and I spent a lot of time looking at all the projects before I decided to tackle this bag. I ordered the felt from Ohma Felt and a few days after it got here I started the bag. The directions were very easy to follow. It took about 20 minutes to cut out the felt, including the little dog, into the pieces that I needed. I spent 2 evenings watching a episode of season 2 of Mad Men completing it. It was that easy .

D loves her bag. She put her little toy dogs in it and has been carrying it around. It's a really good feeling to see your child playing and enjoying something that you made for her.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Nourishing Traditions and a Pancake Recipe

Recently, Emily at Live, Learn, Love Sew has been blogging about a cookbook called Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon. It’s one of those books that I’ve been hearing a lot about lately so after I read all the good things that Emily was writing about it I decided to order it. You can now count me among the book’s fans.

One of the concepts that I found intriguing in the book was fementing and soaking grains before you eat them. Fermenting or soaking grains neutralizes enzyme inhibitors and phytic acid. Enzyme inhibitors hinder digestion of complex sugars, gluten and some proteins. Phytic acid affects the absorption of certain vitamins and minerals.

With this idea in mind I decided to try the recipe for soaked pancakes in Nourishing Traditions. They came out great and R and Z loved them (D and T don’t like any pancakes). Besides for being delicious they needed only a little bit of maple syrup because they were so moist. You do need to think about it the night before you make them but it is well worth the effort. Here is the recipe:

2 cups whole wheat, whole spelt or whole kamut flour (I used whole spelt)
2 cups whole yogurt
2 eggs lightly beaten
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons melted butter

Soak the flour in the buttermilk, yogurt or kefir in a warm place for 12 to 24 hours. Those with milk allergies can use 2 cups of water plus 2 tablespoons of whey or lemon juice. FYI when I first smelt the flour and yogurt in the morning it did not smell good. Just ignore the smell and when you add the other ingredients it will smell fine. Stir in the rest of ingredients. The mixture will be very viscous. Add a little water to thin it to the desired consistency. I greased my pan with butter and cooked them like regular pancakes. The pancakes took a little bit longer to cook than regular pancakes. I made pancakes that were about 4 inches wide and I put 1 teaspoon of maple syrup on each of them (maple syrup needs to be kept out of the hands of children or they will use the whole bottle!). You can refrigerate any extra pancakes and warm them in a 350 degree oven for about 5 minutes the next day.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Potato Latkes (Potato Pancakes) for Hanukkah

It is customary to eat fried foods on Hanukkah to commemorate the miracle of the menorah oil lasting for 8 days when it should have only lasted for one after the Jews regained control of the Beit Ha Migdash (Temple) from King Antiochas and the Greeks. One of the reasons my family looks forward to Hanukkah because it's the time of year when I loosen up a bit and let them partake in such delicacies.

Potato latkes are a Hanukkah favorite for many people. I was inspired by a recipe I found on Gourmet Kosher Cooking to make latkes that I could freeze so I would not spend all Saturday night cooking and not enjoying our family Hanukkah party. I slightly under cooked them so they wouldn't burn when they were reheated. Make sure you hand grate the potatoes and onion on a fine grater and you will not be disappointed by the results. This recipe yields about 8 to 10 medium (3 to 4 inches) latkes and can be doubled or tripled.

5 medium Idaho potatoes. I use the organic ones so if you know how big they are that's the size you need
1 medium onions
1/2 lemon
4 eggs
1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon of salt
Pepper to taste
Vegetable oil. I use to use expeller pressed coconut oil (NOT extra virgin) for frying.

Cheese cloth

1. Grate the onion and put it in a large mixing bowl. Peel the potatoes. Grate one potato and and add it to the onion. Squeeze half of the lemon onto the grated potato and onion and mix them up. This will prevent the potatoes from turning brown. Grate the rest of the potatoes and mix each one into the onion, potato and lemon mixture to keep them from browning. When you are finished grating the potatoes squeeze in cheese cloth or drain the excess liquid from the bowl.

2. Lightly scramble the four eggs and add them to the bowl with the salt, flour and pepper. Combine the ingredients.

3. Cover the frying pan with about 1/8th of an inch of oil and heat it up. Fry the pancakes for 3 to 5 minutes per side. Remember to slightly under cook them so that when you reheat them they won't burn. I found that I could fry 2 batches of latkes in the same oil with out having to change it.

4. When they are cool freeze them. To reheat them first defrost, place on cookie sheets and then bake in 350 degrees oven for 10 to 15 minutes or until they are sizzling.

Serve the latkes with sour cream and apple sauce.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Hansel and Gretel at the Met Ticket Give Away at Craftzine and Oh My G-d My Sparkley Menorah is on Craftzine

I got an email today from an editorial assistant at Craftzine (A very cool crafts blogs) today asking if I wanted to post a give away they were having for tickets to Hansel and Gretel at the Metropolitan Opera. I was out with the girls when I got it and wasn't able to get back to them right away. When I got home and checked my email there was another email from Craftzine. The editorial assistant had passed my menorah to their editor-in-chief and she posted it on their blog! Wow!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Jewish Crafts: Sparkly Hanukkah Menorahs

Any child who has attended a Jewish nursery school or kindergarten has done some kind of version of a Hanukkah menorah that was made with a piece of wood, some nuts as candle holders and paint. These menorahs are generally not keepers. I usually sneak them into the garbage right after the holiday (Sorry kids. I guess you now know where all your menorahs are!) .

While I was searching the web looking for some Hanukkah crafting inspiration I came across a more sophisticated version of this woodblock and nut menorah on It was very pretty but on the plain side. I came up with a little bit of a louder version (but not too loud) that I could do with the girls. D and T did the simpler version and R and I did a striped version that was a little more complex. You might want to do stripes on both sides of the menorah so you can practice getting the stripes as straight as possible. That's what I did and the second set of stripes I did were so much better than the first. I just need to make sure that the good side is turned to the front when we light the candles!

We really like the way the Menorah came out and I am pretty sure that these will not end up in the garbage on December 19.

This is what you need to make them:
1 Walnut Hollow wood carving block 1.75"x1.75"x10"
10 finished 1/2 hex nuts
1 1/2 " washer
Craft glue. We used Tacky Glue for the nuts and Sobo glue for the glitter.
Martha Stewart Crafts sterling glitter (any fine glitter will do but you can easily get this at Michaels)
Martha Stewart Crafts turquoise glitter
1" foam paint brush
small flat paint brush about 1/2 inch wide
Krylon Low Oder Clear Finish

1. Glue 9 nuts on the top of the wood block. The middle nut is where the Shamash candle goes (the candle you use to light the other ones). According to Jewish law the Shamash needs to be higher than the other 8 candles so I glued a washer on top of the middle nut and another nut on top of the washer.

2. When the glue is dried use the flat paint brush to spread glue all over the top of the menorah and all over the outside of the nuts. Then liberally sprinkle the glitter all over the areas covered in glue, wait a for about 30 seconds and shake off the excess.

3. If you are making stripes skip to step 4. If you are not wait for the glue to dry and then do the same to the front, back and sides, one at a time. If you are not making stripes skip to step 10.

4. If you want to make stripes draw lines with a pencil that are one inch apart on the front menorah and the back if you want to practice.

5. Tape 1" painters tape on every other rectangle, making sure that the tape had been pressed on well. Then paint the glue on the rectangles that were exposed, making sure to cover every bit of the exposed wood.

7. Liberally sprinkle the glitter on, wait about 30 seconds and shake off the extra. Carefully take the tape off.

8. Wait for the glue to dry and then carefully apply the glue to the newly exposed wood with a 1" foam paint brush. Dab the glue on to the wood, right next to the glitter stripe next to it.

9. Glue and glitter the sides of the menorah.

10. When the menorah is completely dry spray it with the clear finish

Monday, November 30, 2009

Declaring Email Bankruptcy

People often ask me how I find the time to do everything I need to do and still find time to blog. My secret is that I just ignore certain things that I need to do. I often forget to pay bills, send in the dry cleaning and check my email.

Recently I checked the number of emails I had in my inbox. There were 8041 of them. Yikes! I knew exactly what I needed to do, declare email bankruptcy. I went through the most recent ones, answered the ones that needed to be answered, unsubscribed from a bunch of websites and deleted all the rest. I think that I'm supposed to contact everyone who sent me an email and let them know that if they have anything of real importance to tell me that they need to re-email me. Unfortunately I couldn't figure out how to do this.

I feel much lighter and carefree and I have managed to keep my email responses up to date for the past 24 hours. We'll see how long this lasts but first instead of doing something that I need to get done I'm going to check my wish list at Shopbop and see if anything on it is on sale yet.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving Memories

When I was growing up Thanksgiving was my favorite time of year. It was not because we had a wonderful festive meal with our extended family. For my family it was just about the 4 of us; me, my brother and my parents. Each year we spent the holiday at the Concord hotel in the Catskills, one of the many old "Jewish" resorts that are no longer around.

To me it was the height of luxury. We ate all of our meals in the giant dining room and we dressed for dinner (we still have some great pictures of our family all dressed up taken by a "professional" photographer). The Concord had a real night club where famous people like Ben Vereen, Gladys Night and the Pips and Hal Linden performed. There was also a carnival where each year the same woman swallowed swords much to our amazement. Every year we had the same waitress, a Holocaust survivor names Lola who adored my father and severed us champagne ices on Saturday night. Many of the same families went back each year so there were also special Thanksgiving friends. We spent 5 days swimming, ice skating, skiing, eating and have the time of our lives.

After my father died we went back for a few years but it was never the same for us. I remember that Lola had to stop being our waitress because she cried every time she came near our table. The first year after my father died I was 15 and my brother was 12. When we drove through the South Bronx in our car on the way to the Concord my brother and I took turns pointing at burned out buildings and saying " I have some really bad news for you, see that building over there? That's our new home". We laughed hysterically, still raw from my father's death 5 month before and unsure of our future. This is one of my most treasured memories.

I started spending Thanksgiving with my husband's family the first year we met, when he was still my boyfriend. His family had a tradition of going to see a Broadway play each year and that year we saw Les Mis. By the next year my nephew had been born and we began having a big family meal at my sister in law's. Broadway is no place for babies and there would be 5 more to come! This year will be my 19th Thanksgiving with them. It is now my family's tradition.

I have lots of memories from the 18 Thanksgivings we've spent together. Like the year my nephew was 2 and my sister in law and brother in law let him watch the Year Before Time instead of letting the adults watching the football game. My husband and I smugly swore we would never let a child control us like that. Of course we eventually realized exactly why one would actually make that choice when we had kids.

My favorite memory with my husband's family was in 2001, right after 9/11, when every one was feeling very patriotic and we all spontaneously burst into G-d Bless America during dinner. The kids love spending the holiday with their cousins and are forming their own memories. Every year the boys play football, the girls dance and Poppy (my father in law) gives all the kids gifts. It's a good gig and I really look forward to it each year.

Since I don't spend the holiday with my brother and mom anymore I do miss being with them on Thanksgiving. What I really miss, though, is that memory of ourselves, when we dressed for dinner. The one where my dad is wearing a suit and my mom has on a long crushed velvet dress that looked like it had been tie dyed. The version of of us when I was still taller than my brother.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. May you all add new and beautiful memories from your holiday gathering this year.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Jewish Crafts for Kids: Stained Glass Hanukkah Menorahs

The girls and I have been really enjoying making Hanukkah menorahs for the past few days. These are some pictures of some of the menorahs the girls made. T asked me to cut out some blue dreidles and Jewish stars so she could decorate her menorah. Of course D also wanted to decorate her menorah but she wanted pink hearts, pink stars and pink circles. Does anyone want to try guess what D's favorite color is! Below is a tutorial on how to make them.

Draw an outline of a menorah and candles on a piece of black construction paper with a white or light colored pencil. Then cut out the candles and the menorah with a craft knife.

Cut out rectangles of silver tissue paper that will fit behind the cut out menorah and cut out pieces of colored tissue paper that will fit behind the cut out candles.

Using a glue stick glue the tissue paper to what will be the backside of the stained glass. Make sure that you put glue around the cut outs so that when you trim the paper your tissue paper will stayed glued to the construction paper.

This is what the menorah will look like when you are done gluing the tissue paper to the back and you turn it over. Cut off the excess black construction paper leaving a border of black construction paper approximately 1/4 inch.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Spicy "Red Stuff" Red Lentil Soup

Each week during the morning Shabbat services Jews read a different parsha (chapter) of the Torah. This week's parsha is Toldot. This parsha includes the story of Easav selling his birthright to Jacob for a bowl of "red stuff" which was lentil stew. In honor Parshat Toldot I have posted a recipe for red lentil soup. I like to serve it with vegan squash corn muffins for a delicious and satisfying weeknight dinner. By the way this recipe is really easy to double and can be frozen.

2 teaspoons ghee or butter
1 medium onion finely chopped
2 cloves minced garlic
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup chopped tomatoes
1 cup of dried red lentils
4 cups water
1 teaspoon salt

Heat butter or ghee in a large pot. Saute onions and garlic in butter or ghee until golden. Add spices and stir for 2-3 minutes. Add tomatoes to the pot and cook until they breakdown. Add water and lentils to the pot and let simmer for 45 minutes, stirring often.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Cranberry Apples Relish for Thanksgiving or Whenever!

This recipe is from one of my favorite cook books Feeding the Whole Family by Cynthia Lair. I make this cranberry sauce for my roasted turkey from the time that the first cranberries are harvested until the end of the winter. Once the fresh cranberries are gone from the market I use frozen cranberries and you can't tell the difference. I often double the recipe and put 1/2 in the freezer (it keeps for 2-3 weeks)

1 1/2 cup cranberries
1 cup apples
1/2 cup currants
1 teaspoon orange zest
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup apple juice

Place cranberries, apples , currants, zest, maple syrup,salt and juice in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 25 to 30 minutes. Serve at room temperature. This will keep in the refrigerator for 3-4 days

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Crafts for Kids: Papier-Mache Bowls

I recently bought the book Handmade Home by Amanda Blake Soule. She has some great projects in the book but the one that caught my eye as something that the girls and I could do together was Calvin's Papier-Mache Bowl. We just finished our second set of bowls in two weeks. They are lots of fun to make and they have been keeping us busy. Since you have to wait until they dry between each step (making, priming and painting) we have been spending lots of evenings hanging out and creating together.

Here's what you need to make these bowls:
1. Newspaper cut into strips of about 1" by 6"
2. A bowl for a mold
3. Tin foil to cover the bowl
4. Papier-mache paste. We used Amanda's recipe for homemade paste. All you need to do is put 1/2 cup of flour, 1 tablespoon of salt and 2 1/2 cups of water in a saucepan. Cook the mixture on medium heat for about 10 minutes until it thickens. Add one drop of clove oil at the end to prevent the glue from getting moldy. Let it cool and stir before using. Unused glue can be stored in a jar in the fridge for one week.
5. Paint brushes
6. Gesso
7. Acrylic paint

Here's how you make the bowls:
1. Cover the bowl that you are going to use with a piece of tinfoil. Make sure that it's smooth and turn it upside down before you begin.
2. Take some of the glue and spread it on a piece of the newspaper strips with a paint brush then apply it to the bowl.
3. Make sure that you do about 5 layers of paper or else the bowl will not have enough body. It will take anywhere from 12 to 24 hours to dry.
4. When the bowls are dry take the papier-mache bowls off the molds and then peel off the tin foil.

Here's how you paint the bowls:
1. Apply a thin layer of gesso as a base coat and let it dry.
2. Apply a thin layer of acrylic paint and let it dry
3. Apply another layer of acrylic paint and let it dry.

We painted our first set of bowl with washable paint because that was what we had in our house. T actually put some fall leaves on one of her bowls. All we did was Mod Podge them on the bowl and when it was dry added another layer of Mod Podge to it. I think it looks really cute.

Our second set of bowls definitely came out better. We bought acrylic paints at our new neighborhood Michaels (yeah!) and it really made a difference in how the bowls looked (although you can't really tell from these pictures). T ended up randomly applying her paint brush to her bowl after the purple she was applying to the inside of the bowl got on the outside by mistake. I think it came out great. It looks kid of tie dyed. I think that we had a better sense of how to actually apply the papier-mache the second time around so the bowls looked smoother. I am sure that the next time we do it they will come out even better.

Monday, October 19, 2009

My Princess

D is going through a very cute princess phase. Every day she goes to school dressed up. D told me that her scooter is her horse and that's why she likes riding it. I love the picture of her riding side saddle on the mechanical horse in front of a local drug store. Not to long after I took this picture D had a complete meltdown after I told her that I was not going to put anymore quarters in. Before I put the first two quarters in, I made it clear to her that there would not be any more rides after this one. Usually this works and we can peacefully walk away. This time it did not work. I can't even go into all the details of what happened during her meltdown but a few of the highlights were:

-15 minutes of her crying on the horse.

-D running away from me (but thankfully stopping as she rounded the corner).

-Her refusal to ride her scooter home.

-Her complete insistence on me carrying her and her scooter home.

-Me hoping that I would not loose it.

-The red wine I was carrying in my reusable whole foods bag breaking and the ensuing leak that left a giant stain on my skirt.

-People staring at me and my crying child, the dripping wine and the giant stain on my skirt.

-Me throwing my bag out and cutting my thumb on the broken bottle while I was fishing out the deodorant and toothpaste I had just bought.

I could have just put in 2 more quarters and I might have avoided the meltdown but I really felt like I had to stick to my guns. I know that it's important to be consistent (although I have to admit that I am not always). The meltdown was over by the time we got home. It ended as quickly as it begin and my sweet child thankfully reappeared. It's sometimes hard to remember that she will calm down in the middle of a meltdown but one of the best things about being a mother for over 13 years is that I've been through this a million times before and I know how it's going to end.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Crafts: Origami Metro Card Cube

I found this cube tutorial on Instructables when I was looking for decorations for our Sukkah. I must have looked a little crazy picking up used Metro cards in the subway station but I did not have the patience to wait until we had used up 6 of them! It was a lot of fun to make and would be great for a kid (or parent) who is into puzzles.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Apple Spice Cake Recipe (Parve/Dairy Free)

For the past few weeks I have been trying to figure out why I don't like spice cakes. I love cakes and I love spices so why don't I like them when they are together? Yesterday I finally figured out why. It's the cloves that are in almost all spice cake recipes that I don't like. I came up with this combination of spices based on Syrian Jewish cooking. They often use a combination of allspice and cinnamon. I also added some nutmeg and for the first time I found myself enjoying the "spice" in a spice cake.

Nonstick vegetable oil and flour spray (I like spectrum canola oil baking spray with flour because it's all natural)
3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground allspice
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups Braeburn apples (I have also used macouns), peeled, cored, coarsely grated. You will need 4 or 5 apples.
1 1/2 cups walnut or canola oil
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 325F. Spray 12-cup Bundt pan with nonstick spray. Sift flour and next 6 ingredients into medium bowl. Measure 2 cups grated apples.

Using electric mixer (or mix master), beat oil and sugars, in large bowl. Beat in eggs and keep beating for about 3 minutes. Mix in vanilla. Beat in flour mixture. Mix in grated apples. Transfer batter to prepared pan. Bake cake until tester inserted near center comes out clean, about 1 hour. Cool in pan for 20 minutes.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Another Mom Blog (Revised)

When I first started blogging on Upper West Side Mom over a year and a half ago, I thought of it as an attachment parenting blog. I assumed that I would write about things like breastfeeding, elimination communication, co-sleeping and other ideas that I believed in and practiced. I did write about these things but as I found my blog voice I began find that the blog was not only about attachment parenting. It was turning in to something different. It is still a parenting blog but it is more personal that I expected.

In a lot of ways my life seems to finally be moving forward. For the first time in ages I feel like I actually have some extra time. My 4 kids are now 13, 9.5, 7 and 4 and there's no one else on the way. Not having a baby means that I have been able to focus on more kid stuff (big and little). I have actually had time to cultivate new interests and friends for both me and the kids. One of the biggest changes is my life is a new found interest in crafts. There are tons of amazing craft blogs out there that have inspired me to learn about crafting. The girls and I have been doing some sewing, paper crafts and beading. I recently finished a 4 week sewing class at Purl Patchwork in Soho (who, by the way, have the most amazing fabric) and as soon as the holidays are over I am going to hopefully get myself a sewing machine. My girls are really excited to learn how to use it. I can't wait to see how this all develops.

I have also been cooking more than ever. Not having a baby or toddler has given me more time to experiment and find new recipes. I am actually surprised to find how many recipes I have posted recently. I have been doing a lot more baking now that I have a little extra time. My desert repertoire was pretty basic. My only requirements were that it was quick and of course tasted good. I am now delving into slightly more difficult recipes. Of course they still need to be somewhat quick and easy 'cause it's not like I have all day to just sit around and bake!

The thing that I am most surprised to have found is how much being Jewish has influenced what I blog about. It makes sense though, after all my husband and I send our kids to Jewish day school, are kosher and we are shomer Shabbat (Sabbath Observant). Through my blog I have discovered how much my Jewishness permeates my life in a mostly postive way!

I don't, however, want this blog to be a Jewish parenting blog that's only for Jews who send their kids to Jewish day school, are kosher and are shomer Shabbat. I am pretty certain that when I am blogging about parenting, cooking or crafting, what I write about is relevant to all kids of people. I am hoping that all kinds of people will read my blog and see how someone who is a little "different" than them lives. Then I want them to realize how much we all have in common.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Our Rainbow Sukkah

Here it is, our rainbow sukkah. We just used the Chinese staircase paper chains and these tissue paper flowers from Origami Mommy. All my girls and our neighbor E helped make the decorations. I essentially ignored my kids all day (Joy was here) but I'm ready for Sukkot. I just want to wish everyone a Chag Sameach (a happy holiday).

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Crafts for Kids: Chinese Staircase Paper Chains for Sukkot

R came home from school a few weeks ago and showed me a paper chain that she had made in art class. I immediately recognized it as the chain that I used to make as a kid out of Juicy Fruit and Big Red wrappers. I thought that these paper chains would look great in our Sukkah. So far we have 12 feet of lavender and 12 feet of pink. They did not take a long time at all to make. I was actually surprised how quickly we ended up with over 24 feet of them.

I cut 1 inch strips from 9x12 construction paper using a clear plastic rule, a craft knife and a mat to protect my table (I cut about 5 or 6 pieces at a time). Then I folded the strips in half, opened them up and folded the ends into the center fold

When you have two pieces of paper that have been folded up you are ready to begin connecting them. Hold each piece at the end with the single V. Put the two corners on the top of one V through the 2 loops of the other V and pull it all the way through. Keep doing this over and over and over (you will alternate between putting it through the left side and right side) until your chain is the length that you want it to be! FYI, I would usually fold ten pieces at a time, connect them all and then fold up another 10 pieces

The Jewish Holiday Season

I have to admit that I really enjoy the Christmas holiday season. There are many things I like about it but the thing I like most are all of the decorations. Christmas decorations and especially Christmas trees can be beautiful. I am not the only Jewish person who feels this way. Many secular Jews have Christmas trees and decorate there homes during the holiday season for this reason. When I was about 21 I actually had a Christamas tree. I decorated it with plastic fruit that looked like it was made in the 1950's and rainbow lights.

As I became more involved in Jewish life I began to learn that the Jews actually have their own holiday season season that runs from Rosh HaShanah to Simchat Torah. Though I enjoy all of the holidays my favorite one is definitely Sukkot.

There are many reasons why I love Sukkot. I love having meals with family and friends and I love spending time outside in our sukkah but what I love most is having the opportunity to decorate our sukkah. Before I had kids I used to help decorate our synagogue's sukkah. The first year I helped out we covered the roof with cedar boughs and strung up pomegranates, small gourds and chili peppers. That was when realized I could channel that desire to seasonally decorate into something that was Jewish.

This year I had visions of really going to town with our sukkah. I had planned on making decorations that we would use year after year, using lots of greens and hanging white "Sukkot" lights. Unfortunately, since I am naturally disorganized and a bit of a procrastinator, I have not had time to make any reusable decorations. The plan now is to do a rainbow themed sukkah which the girls think is a great idea. We have been having lots of fun making paper chains and rainbow tissue paper flowers to hang in our sukkah.

This morning my husband is going to build our Sukkah in our building's court yard and the kids and I will begin to decorate it over the next few days. I can't wait to see how it turns out. I'll try to post a picture of it before the holiday begins this Friday night after sunset.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Delicious Spiced Caramel Apple Upside-Down Cake Recipe (Parve/Dairy Free)

I found this delicious Spiced Caramel Apple Upside-Down Cake on Jew and The Carrot. They partnered with to create a few Rosh HaShanah recipes. I made it last Shabbat and lets just say I had a hard time controlling myself around this cake. FYI, I made a dairy version of this cake for the Yom Kippur break fast. I just substituted the butter for the margarine and added 1/8th of a teaspoon of salt to the cake batter (and yes, everything is better with butter).

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Interesting Apple Link: List of Apple Cultivars

I just found this Wikipedia link about apples when I was looking for some info on the macoun apples I picked today. I think it is totally fascinating.

Apple Picking and Cardamon Applesauce

Today I reluctantly went apple picking with D's nursery school class. I say reluctantly because my intention was not to go but when I found out that every single child in her class had someone coming with them I really had no choice. I was willing to be a bad mommy but I was not willing to be a really bad mommy.

It was hot and sticky in Rockland County today and it did not take that long to fill up a 1/2 peck bag (I actually bought another one to pass more time). D and her best friend T had a great time though. After they were done picking apples they picked some dandelions and other assorted "flowers". Then we had a picnic and we were thankfully back on the bus before we knew it.

Well now that I had these apple I needed to make something with them. I decided that I was going to make applesauce. One of the things I love the fall are new crop apples but I am not an applesauce lover. I have, however, always felt like I had just not found the right recipe. Well guess what? I did today! I was scrolling through the recipes for applesauce on Epicurious when I came across a recipe for Cardamon Applesauce. My version uses succanat instead of regular sugar Make sure you wait until it's totally cooled off because when it's warm the cardamon is over powering. When it's room temperature, though, it is just yum. By the way my kids liked this too.

Cardamon Applesauce

2 1/2 pounds of apples peeled, cored and cut into 1/2 pieces. I have used Macouns and Mutsus but I can't imagine this would not work with any all purpose apple.
1/3 cup of sucanut (you can also use regular sugar)
1 cup of water
juice of half a lemon
1/2 teaspoon of ground cardamon

Mix ingrediants together in a good pot. Cover and bring to a boil. Simmer until apples are very soft, about 30 minutes. Remove the pot from heat and mash with a fork. Let it cool and serve

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Choosing Easier

I have a tendency to make thing more complicated than they need to be. If there are two ways to do something my first inclination is to to pick the more difficult way. I have definitely gotten better at trying to take the easier path but it takes a lot of will power on my behalf and it is usually after I have spent a lot of time planning the more difficult version of what needs to be done.

Holiday preparations are the kind of thing that I can make way more complex than they need to be and that's exactly what I did this year. I spent hours thinking about what I was going to cook for Rosh HaShana. I looked at cookbooks and online. I wrote down recipes that I wanted to use and then changed my mind over and over again.

The same thing was happening with my Sukkot preparations. Since becoming more interested in crafts this year I had visions of a beautiful, lush, green sukkah. I spent hours on line looking at silk ivy garlands trying to figure out which ones to buy. I was also spending a lot of time figuring out what we should hang from the roof of our sukkah (things like gourds, apples, pine cones, and of course lots of hand made decoration). I just couldn't get that vision of what I though our sukkah should look like this year out of my head.

It occurred to me as I was making a shopping list today that all this was ridiculous. All that was going to happen was that I was going to overwhelm myself and start the upcoming holidays overworked, resentful and in a really bad mood.

Thankfully I realized this just in time to stop myself from making this mistake. I decided that I would try one new recipe for a somewhat easy apple cake and make a tray of brownies for the rest of our meals. I have also decided to just do a rainbow themed sukkah with the girls. They will love it and it will be much easier to do. Now tomorrow won't be a disaster. I can do a little cooking, hang out with the kids and make colorful sukkah decorations with them and most importantly if I don't make things difficult for myself I will definitely be in a much better mood for the New Year.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Somewhat Easy Challah Recipe

This is my go to challah recipe. Since you are using a 5 lb bag you will be able to perform the mitzvah (commandment) of challah with a bracha (blessing). You will end up with about 6 loaves of challah. You can just freeze any of the challah that you don't use right away.

2 packs of active dry yeast (I really like Fleishmann's)
4 cups of warm water
3/4 cups plus 1 teaspoon of sugar
6 eggs plus 1 egg for glazing
1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt
1 cup of canola oil plus a little extra to oil the dough
1 5lb bag of all purpose or bread flour plus 1 cup on hand during kneading

1. Combine warm water, 1 teaspoon of sugar and 2 packs of yeast. Lightly beat with a whisk (or fork) and wait about 10 minutes until it froths.

2. In a very, very large bowl (I actually use a dish pan) lightly beat the eggs and then add the sugar, oil, and salt and mix to combine.

3. Add the frothy yeast to the large bowl and mix to combine.

4. Add the 5 lb bag of flour and mix with a big spoon until it becomes too difficult to mix.

5. Begin to knead the dough. It will be very sticky. When the flour and water are combined sprinkle a very little bit of flour on it and kneed until it in to the dough. Keep adding flour until the dough is still slightly sticky but not so sticky that it sticks to your hands in pieces. You will have better success with slightly sticky dough than slightly dry dough.

6. Now knead the dough until it is smooth and the dough springs back after you make an indentation with your finger.

7. Roll the dough into a large ball and smooth a little canola oil all over it. Put it back in the bowl and cover the bowl with a kitchen towel. Let the dough rise until it has doubled in size. This will take an hour or more depending on how warm your kitchen is.

8. When the dough has doubled take the dough out of the bowl and punch it down.

9. Shape the dough in to loaves or rolls and let them rise until they double in size again. If you want to make round challahs for the holiday here's an easy way to do it. When you roll out the dough to coil make one end much thicker than the other end. Start the inner part of the coil with the thickest end and just coil it around. Don't forget to tuck and pinch the thin end when you are done so it does not unravel when baking.

10. When the dough has doubled (it will take at least an hour), glaze the loaves with a beaten egg and pastry brush.

11. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven until loaves are golden. This will take anywhere from 18 to 30 minutes depending on their size. For example when I make a round challah that is 1 1/2 pounds (I weigh the dough on a kitchen scale) I bake it for about 27 minutes. Rolls will take about 18 minutes.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Only 10 days till Rosh HaShanah? Yikes!

Well it's hard to believe that Rosh HaShana is just 10 days away. Have I done any planning? No. Have I done any cooking? No. Every time I sit down to try to figure out what needs to be done I get distracted. Maybe one of the kids needs me or our new dog Molly looks really cute and I just have to get up and pet her. At least I no longer sit and look at the dogs on Petfinders for hours on end. Of course I also spend a lot of time reading my favorite blogs and wondering how everyone else manages to post and get lots of stuff done.

My big kids just got on the bus to go to school so it's just D and me today until 4pm. It will be really strange not having all the kids around today. I wonder if it will make things easier or harder. With her siblings around D always had someone to play with so I was able to get some things done around the house.

Today my plan is to make some round challahs for the holidays and and plan my meals but first I need to play with the dog.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Our New Smelly Beast

We are dog people. We are the kind of family that stops dogs on the street to pet them. We also tend to comment on all the dogs that we walk past. You might hear us say something like "Oh look, there's Blackie" if we pass a black dog on the street. We had a dog for 13 years named Sally. She was a great dog but totally crazy. Think a smaller, black and tan, female Marley. Until she was 10 years old people assumed that she was still a puppy.

Sally died about 3 1/2 years ago. At the time D was about 5 months old and we had our hands full so we decided that we would wait to get a new dog. Recently the kids began to lobby hard, especially Z, for a dog and since we want them to grow up with a dog we decided the time was right for a new one. We decided that we were going to rescue an adult dog so we would know exactly what kind of dog that we were getting (we also wanted to adopt an older dog because they tend to be harder to find homes for). My mom, who rescues deaf Australian sheepdogs, suggested that we check one of her fellow dog rescuer's website LABRN rescue.

We spent about a month looking at the dogs on the website. There was a brown lab that we were interested in but there was also this cute little black and tan dog that I kept going back to. When we found out she was a great dog we took the plunge. Now we have a new dog Molly. She is quiet, sweet and very mellow. She is also unbelievable with kids. On her first afternoon with us we had 8 girls between the ages of 3 and 10 all over her and she was so good with them. She also seems to get along well with other dogs which makes life much easier in Manhattan since there are so many other dogs on the street. We are just getting to know her and we like what we are learning. It will be interesting to see how things develop with her!

Monday, August 31, 2009

We Made It!

It's hard to believe that the summer is over. Home camping the kids was a great experience. My trepidation about not having the kids in camp with out having a babysitter for more than 8 hours a week were unfounded. It was one of those things that was much easier than it sounded.

When I told people that I had not put my kids in camp this summer a typical response was "Wow! That sounds great but I could never do it myself". I am not a particularly patient person and my kids can drive me totally crazy but with a little bit of planning and a little bit of flexibility the kids and I managed to really enjoy this summer.

The one thing I would do differently next year is I would plan a specific craft theme for each week. For example: one week we would do tie die and another week we could do sewing with felt. This way the kids would have an opportunity to immerse themselves in different mediums.

Here is our schedule for the week of 8/24:

Monday: We had our last ice skating lesson of the summer. T wins most improved. She couldn't even stand with out help and now she can skate backwards and is learning to glide. After ice skating we did not do our usual stops at Trader Joe's and Michaels. Instead we went to 2 Targets and a Toy R Us to find a blue razor scooter. Don't ask but it featured multiple head explosions on my part. The good news is that we found the color that I, I mean the kids wanted!

Tuesday: R had an appointment at the Orthodontist in the morning and Joy took the girls to the park in the afternoon.

Wednesday: We saw the movie Shorts (it was very loud and not particularly enjoyable for me) with our good friends The S family who had been in Israel for the summer. After the movie the girls went back to the S home to play. I met them at about 4PM with their scooters and then the kids rode down to River Run Playground where they had a great time playing in the sprinklers.

Thursday: We went to Fairway in the morning. In the afternoon R went to her friend T's for a play date. T and D refused all offers to go outside so they spent the afternoon playing at home

Friday: We needed to get ready for our vacation on Cape Cod so I had a bunch of errands that I needed to get done. The girls alternated between staying at home and coming with me to various stores. E came downstairs to play and the girls practiced making friendship bracelets for most of the afternoon. I had to deliver Z to Riverdale for his last Shabbat away from home Bar Mitzvah.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Crafts for Kids: Back to School Pencils

I can't remember where I saw these pencils but I thought that they were really cute and I knew girls would enjoy making them. Whenever I put a bunch of the cut up labels on our dining room table they get right to work making colorful pencils.

Here is what you need:

unsharpened, number 2 pencils
white 4x6 labels
exacto knife, ruler and cutting surface or a scissors

First cut strips that are 1 1/8 inch wide from the labels with an exacto knife and ruler (you can do 3 or 4 sheets at a time just make sure you press down hard). You can also use a scissors.

Use magic markers to color them in. You can put some glitter glue on them to make them sparkly.

When the label has been completed remove the backing and line it up with the bottom of the metal piece that holds the eraser. Then just wrap it around the pencil. When you sharpen the it the little bit of yellow left on the bottom will disappear.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Are You Finding It Tedious to Read My Daily Home Camping Schedule because I'm Finding It Tedious to Write It Down!

Here is an abridged version of week 7 and 8.

Week of 8/10:

Monday: Ice skating, Trader Joe's and Michaels in New Jersey with the girls.

Tuesday: R's friend S came over and Joy took all the girls to River Run Park. After the park T and D went to gymnastics.

Wednesday: We went to visit my mom and she took the girls shopping at 100% Kids in Cedarhurst. Although the prices are not cheap they have the best selection of a frum girl's best friend, Hard Tail skirts, (for kids and adults!). They also have a great selection of Shabbat and holiday clothes. My girls are now fully outfitted for the fall. Thanks Mom!!!!!

Thursday: R had a play date with a friend so I took the opportunity to take Z, T and D to the Bronx Zoo (R hates the zoo). It was a rainy, wet day but we had a great time.

Friday: Our neighbor E came home from vacation and for a special treat R and E went out by themselves to get their nails done. I can't imagine how grown up they must have felt! All of the girls and E spent the day playing together. In the afternoon I took Z to New Rochelle for a Bar Mitzvah. He has only 3 more left after this one and then we are done with our 2 year odyssey of Bar and Bat Mitzvahs (this is one of the things that one has to deal with in a coed day school!).

Week of 8/17

Monday: Ice skating, Trader Joe's and Michaels in New Jersey with the girls

Tuesday: The girls played at home for most of the day. In the afternoon Joy took T and D Gymnastics and R went with E to have some "alone time" upstairs.

Wednesday: I took the girls and E to the Children's Museum of Manhattan and then we stopped off at the park on 89th St between Columbus and Amsterdam. They have a great sprinkler and playground equipment that is really meant for older kids so R does not find this park too babyish for her.

Thursday: On Wednesday my friend Janice took her son Z and my son Z to this great place called The Castle Fun Center in Orange county and the boys loved it. I decided that my friend Chana and I would take our boys and the other Z to lunch and bowling in Teaneck NJ.

Lunch at Smokey Joe's, a kosher BBQ restaurant was terrible. They seem to be under the impression that BBQ needs to have a lot of mediocre BBQ sauce on it to taste good. They have no concept of what good BBQ should taste like. It also turned out that my son does not like bowling. Oh well! I guess I will leave Z to do what he wants to do (listening to music, reading and playing basketball amongst other things).

The girls were at home with Chana's girls and they actually had a good time just hanging out. Since R, T and D had been inside all day I had Joy take them to our new favorite park on 89th St while I went to Fairway.

Friday: The K sisters came over for a double play date we went to see Ponyo. It was very interesting from a cultural standpoint. The Japanese do not baby their kids like Americans do and their kids are a lot more self sufficient than ours are. All 5 girls really enjoyed the movie. Later that afternoon the girls went to hang out at E's while I took Z to Riverdale for a Bar Mitzvah.

Other unspecified activities for the two weeks were: arts and crafts, scooter riding, cooking, general horsing around, reading, board games, plain old playing and yes, we also watched some TV.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Crafts for Kids: A Bouquet of Paper Hyacinths

This summer the girls and I have spent a lot of time doing arts and crafts. I have been meaning to post these projects for ages. A lot of what we have been doing has been done with materials, such as colored construction paper, that you can find very easily at a stationary store. There is a tutorial for these super easy paper flowers at Origami Mommy. Even D (3.75) was able to make these with very little help (the pink one on the far right is hers).

Not only did the girls have fun making these they had a lot of fun playing with them. I don't thing that we have ever made something that we have gotten so much playtime out of.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Blueberry Crisp

I love fruit crisps. They are delicious and you even get a serving or two (or 3!) of fruit when you eat them. Blueberry crisps are one of the easiest crisps to make because there's no peeling, slicing or pitting involved.

1. Pre-heat your oven to 375 degrees

Crisp topping:

6 tablespoons of margerine (or butter which tastes really really good) 3/4 cup of brown or table sugar
2/3 cup of flour (you can use whole wheat pastry flour also)
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

2. Using your fingers, combine until the mixture is corse and crumbly.

Fruit filling:

3 pints of blueberries
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/4 cup of sugar ( you can add a little more if the berries are not that sweet)

3. Toss the ingrediants in a 7x11 pan and cover with the crisp topping. Bake for about 60 minutes or until the top is golden.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Busy, Busy, Busy

I am posting the abridged version of last week's home camp activities (that would be the week of 8/3. I'm falling a little behind!). With 4 kids at home I am busy, busy, busy.

Monday: I took the 3 girls to the Ice House for their ice skating lessons and we went to the uptown Fairway.

Tuesday: Z started basketball camp (he will be there through Friday). We went to a class at the Metropolotan Museum Art called AM at the MMA. It was very...dry. We left halfway through and went to the much more interesting Model as Muse exhibit. We met some friends, walked home through the park and then all the girls hung out at our house. Joy took T and D to gymnastics. R went with them to watch while I got some alone time at home

Wednesday: We went to see the movie Up which was a really enjoyable movie. Afterwards, we stopped off at Magnolia for a treat. We spent some time in the afternoon doing math work sheets from this great web site The Math Worksheet Site. The girls were able to create their own worksheets with answer keys so they could check their own work

Thursday: In the morning we did some more math work sheets. Joy took the girls to Hippo Park in the afternoon and I went to yoga

Friday: I took the girls to visit my Mom and of course had to make a quick pit stop at Michaels to buy some lanyard on the way home.

Other unspecified activities were: arts and crafts, general horsing around, reading, board games, plain old playing and yes, we also watched some TV.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Kids and Pornography

In the past month I have heard from direct sources about 2 incidents where frum (religious) 13 year olds have been caught viewing pornography. One of the boys was Yeshivish and one was Modern Orthodox. In both of these cases the parents just didn't seem to realize that their kids had easy access to pornography. In one case of the teen had down loaded pornography on to an ipod touch (many parents are unaware to that the ipod touch has Internet access). In the other case of the teen's parents were letting him sit in his room with his door closed with a computer that had no parental controls on it.

I am amazed at the lack of knowledge in the Jewish community (and the general parenting community) about this topic. Parents don't seem to understand what thier kids have access to. The pornography available in the 70's and 80's is down right quaint to what is available today. One of the most disturbing aspects of the easy availability of pornography is the havoc it may create in a young man's intimate life. Many of the images that are avaiable on the Internet are of women who have used plastic surgery and other body enhancements to alter there bodies. There is a real possibility that these boys could lose the ability to have an intimate relationship with normal, non enhanced women (such as their future wives.) Pornography addiction is another very real and very destructive problem these kids might develop.

It is really important that parents talk to their kids about pornography and the dangers of it. Make sure they know that you are aware of what kids are doing today. My attitude has always been assume the worst. I don't care how frum a kid is (or if said kid is a girl). Having a computer, phone or an ipod touch with out parental controls is basically giving your child the green light to veiw and download pornography.

Parents need to install parental controls on everything that has Internet access. Family computers should be in high traffic areas in the home. Kids should not have internet access in their rooms. Parents should also be checking their browser histories and cell phone bills often. You should also know what your childs's passwords are to his email and Facebook accounts (a lot of pornography sharing happens through these venues). Most importantly don't assume your teen is different because he says and does all the right things when he is with you. Even the straightest teens can be curious about pornography.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Parve (Dairy Free) Brown Sugar and Chocolate Chip Blondies

These blondies are really good and most importantly super easy. Since they are made in a 9x13 inch pan you can serve half of them and freeze the other half for another day.

1 cup all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup of walnut or canola oil (I like to use walnut oil because it has omega 3's in it.)
2 cups light brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup chocolate chips (I like to use mini chips.)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and lightly flour a 9x13 inch pan.

2. In a mixing bowl combine flour, baking powder and salt and set aside.

3. In a separate bowl combine oil and brown sugar and then add the 2 eggs and stir to combine. Add the vanilla and chocolate chips. Spread the mixture in to the prepared pan and bake for 40 to 50 minutes until golden brown at the edges.

4. Cut the blondies while still warm

Friday, July 31, 2009


Wednesday R (9.5), went to Dunkin Donuts with our neighbor E alone for the first time and today they went out to lunch by themselves. Tonight I put D (3.75) to sleep in the girl's room for the first time. It is 3:04AM (I'm up because of the nap I took today and the break fast cup of coffee. It was Tisha B'Av today) and she is still there, hopefully fast asleep. This is the first time in 10 years that my husband and I have had our bedroom to ourselves. It was also Z's (13) first 25 hour fast. I am amazed at his fortitude. When I was his age I would never have fasted for that long (of course I was not an observant Jew). A lot of what kids do ritually can seem like a habit but the fact that he made the choice to fast seems significant to me. There have been big changes going on in my family. It's one of those moments when I can see how much my kids have grown up recently.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

They're Back!

Well it's official 2 kids are easier than 4. My big kids are home from camp and the routine I had has been knocked for a loop. Things have been a little crazier than they would have been if my mom had not had her gallbladder removed 10 days ago. As much as I love my mom I would not have seen her 5 times in 14 days under normal circumstances. I will chalk up the past week to the unreliability of life.

I went to pick up R late Monday morning in New Jersey. She had that I've been in camp for the past month look. She needed a bath and a hairbrush! She did look adorable and I was very excited to see her as were her sisters. I wanted to visit my mom with the girls so we made a pit stop at home and then drove out to Long Island. We made my mom the tissue paper flower garland that I found on Origami Mommy. It is a great project for kids and even D was able to work on it. Everyone was glad to see everybody and the girls had a great time playing with my mom's housekeeper Jillian's very adorable one year old.

Tuesday was the day that Z came home from camp. Joy came at 10:30 so I did not have to shlep the girls out to NJ with me. Z's bus was already there when I got there so I found him and his bags and we went back to the city. The girls were very happy to see him and all of them gave him a big welcome home hug. Z, of course, had to run to get lunch at the bagel store.

We had stopped at Michael's on the way home from my mom's and had bought some new beads and stickers so the girls spent most of the afternoon drawing and making necklaces, bracelets and anklets. Z just hung around at home getting reaclimated to city life. Of course now that I was done with R's laundry we had to start on Z's. Thankfully, Joy was there to help!

Later in the afternoon Joy took D and T to gymnastics and I went to Barnes and Nobel with R to pick up some Archie comics (I was so excited that she was reading them. I used to love them when I was her age.) We also picked up some new Candy Apple books that a friend of hers had recomended to her (by the way, this is a great series). It was so nice to have some time with her alone.

Wednesday was a very rainy day in New York. Whenever we got motivated to go out it began to pour. We really didn't do anything. Z hung out with some of his friends. Our neighbor E came down stairs and the girls spent time drawing and playing. The girls ended up going upstairs to E's for a while in the afternoon. At some point late in the day D and I went to Starbucks just so we could get out of the apartment. That was pretty much it for the day for us.

Thursday was Tisha B'Av, a Jewish fast day. I went out with the girls in the morning to our neighborhood library when I knew I would still have some energy. Joy came at 1 and took D to Hippo Park. T,R,Z and our neighbor E hung around and watched too much TV. When I woke up from my nap I told T she could watch another TV show since I was so beat from fasting (no water is allowed!). T told me that this was the best day ever because I was letting them watch everything they wanted to watch (well almost everything!) on TV.

Friday I took all the kids to visit my mom. She is doing much better and the kids had a great time with the dogs (my mom has 4!). By the time we got back to the city it was time for us to get ready for Shabbat.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Where did July Go?

This was my last week with just D and T. By the time I finally post this I'll have a full house again. July was such a great month. Maybe with twice the kids August will be twice as good. Here was my schedule for last week.

Monday: In the morning we took the bus to Fairway, shopped, dropped off our frozen food at home and then went to the Bloomingdale branch of the New York Public Library . The first thing I needed to do was to return 3 books from last summer and pay my $139 fine (Yes, that is what it costs when you do not return 3 books to the library for almost a full year). After I finished at the front desk, we went upstairs to the children's library and saw a great program about people with disabilities. It explained what it was like to have a disability in a fun and non scary way using books, songs and puppets. Both of the girls enjoyed the almost hour long program (and so did I).

After we were done we looked at and picked out a bunch of books to check out. D was so excited to have 8 new books to read. We will hopefully be going back to the library before next summer to return the books and get some new ones. On the way home we stopped off at the small park on the same block as the library and the kids played for about a half hour. Later that evening I took the girls to Mike's Pizzeria and Italian Kitchen for dinner where we had a delicious meal and the best chocolate mousse (made with good chocolate and cream) for dessert.

Tuesday: We had our 3rd lesson at the Ice House in Hackensack and the new skates that I bought T made a big difference. She was really doing a nice job skating with out holding on. I got a call from my brother in the afternoon that my mom had gone to the emergency room with severe pain in her upper abdomen. Thank G-d it turned out to be only a bad gallbladder. She ended up having it taken out on Thursday. I was definitely thrown for a loop. My mom has been pretty healthy so I just don't expect that she would be sick enough to go to the hospital.

Joy came at 4PM and took the girls to gymnastics while I went to yoga and then met J at the movies. We saw The Hangover. I think we were the only 2 people in the theater who didn't think it was funny.

Wednesday: We went to Swedish Cottage in Central Park to see Peter Pan which the girls really enjoyed. After the puppet show we has a picnic at the Great Lawn. The girls had a great time running all over the lawn in bare feet (a luxury for us city folks). On our walk out of the park we stop off at the Mariners Playground at 85Th Street where the girls played for about an hour before we went home.

Thursday: Joy came at noon and took the girls to open gym time at New York Kids Club and I went to visit my mom at the hospital in Manhasset. If you know me, you know what a terrible sense of direction I have. When I have to go somewhere I've never been I get very stressed. The chances of me getting lost or making at least one wrong turn is about 95%. Thankfully, we recently got a GPS so I was able to find my way there with out any problems (and with out uttering any words that one might find inappropriate). I was even able to find Michael's in Manhasset after I left the hospital and then I managed to made my way home.

When I got home our neighbor E was at our house. She had just gotten back from camp and the girls were so excited to see her. I had picked up some new beads and paint at Michael's that the girls decided they had to use right away. They spent most of the evening playing and creating together which meant that I was able to get some Shabbat cooking done. I made turkey burgers for us for dinner and thankfully Josh came home in time to remind me that it was the nine days before we ate them.

Friday: We did some cooking for Shabbat in the morning and the girls made a bunch of beaded name necklaces for the friends that we were meeting that afternoon at Hippo Park The girls played for a couple of hours before we came home to get ready for Shabbat.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Is It Me Or My Camera?

I have not been happy with the pictures that I have been posting on my blog. I chalked it up to my own ineptitude. I think though that it might not be entirely my fault. It appears that the pictures I took today with T's new camera (a not very expensive coolpix) on the Great Lawn in Central Park are a lot better than what I have been taking with my Kodak. Now if I can only figure out how to make them bigger on my blog.....Wait, I just noticed that the first one is bigger than the second one and I have no idea why.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Home Camping: Getting Into A Groove

I can't believe that this is the 3rd week that R and Z have been away. I feel like the summer is just flying by. The past few weeks that I've had T and D home have been great. After our initial flurry of activities things have definitely mellowed out. I'm surprised at how happy they are to just be at home. This week we ended up doing a lot more art than we did last week.

It's been interesting to watch the girls interacting with each other. They have been spending the vast majority of their time together. They seem so close, like a small, tight unit. It's hard to believe that T will be going away to camp in a few summers. I feel like the days that they have together are so precious.

So here is last week's schedule:

Monday: We had our second ice skating lesson at the Ice House in Hackensack. Everyone did much better than last week. T was skating more on her own and D took a few steps with out holding on to Gina (our ice skating teacher). When T got off she told me that her feet hurt so I took her in to the pro shop to see if her skates still fit. Guess what? They didn't so I had to buy her a new pair. It will be interesting to see if the new skates make any difference in her skating this week.

After we got back to the city we got some lunch and headed over to our friend's house. The kids had a great time playing together and I got to have some adult conversation.

Tuesday: A few summers ago I had taken the kids to the Heckscher Playground in Central Park and we had a great time. I've been meaning to get the kids back there since then and I finally did. Yikes! It was so crowded. It seemed as if half of New York (and half of Europe) was at that playground Tuesday morning. The playground had a great sprinkler and winding river that went up to and connected to one of those giant boulders in the park. The girls ran off and started running "up" the river.

I was having a particularly tough time keeping my eyes on them because I had scratched my eye and only had in one contact lens (note to self: do not go to a crowded playground with only one contact lense in). All of a sudded the play ground was invaded by 3 different large camp group. I told the girls it was time to leave and we got out of there as fast as we could.

I felt like our morning was not going well when the girls suggested that we go to the Central Park Carousel. As crowded as the Hecksher Playground was the carousel was empty. We got to go on 3 times in a row. I actually got to ride on one of the horses for he first time in 9 years (I always had a baby with me and had to ride on the couch). I forgot how much fun it is. The girls would have gone on again but we needed to get home because Joy was coming and I had some errands to so.

Joy took the girls to gymnastics and I met my husband at the movies. We saw Bruno and we thought it was hysterical, although somewhat horrifying.

Wednesday: We had tickets to The Little House of Cookies a cute musical at Tada . After the show we took the bus to Magnolia Bakery (yes, kosher people, I eat there and I'm fairly certain that I will not be served trief hot dogs like some people recently were at a glatt kosher restaraunt Brooklyn).

After some delicious cake, cupcakes and cookies we headed home. I had seen a cute snail project at No Time for Flash Cards and decided that we should give it a try. The girls had a good time doing the project. It was perfect for T but D needed a little help finishing it up. When we cut them out the next day and added the googly eyes we were really pleased with how they turned out. They are now hanging on our front door. After they were done with the snails they wanted to paint so I set them up at the dining room table.

Thursday: The girls and I started our challah in the morning. We also baked some butterscotch chocolate chip blondies (I do intend to post this recipe at some point) and made peanut noodles for Shabbat lunch since we were having guests this week. The girls did some more painting when we were done cooking while I spent a 2 hours trying (unsuccessfully) to download softwear for our computer that we need to get the printer to work. Joy came for a few hours and took the girls to Open Gym time at gymnastics, while I blew off my yoga class to get some alone time at home.

Friday: We baked a blueberry crisp for Shabbat lunch in the morning and then we all went and had manicures. My parents came in for the afternoon so we just hung out at the apartment with them. Giga (my mom) bought T a new camera and Papa N(my stepfather) very patiently taught T how to use it until it was time to get ready for Shabbat (he also spent some time doing math problems with her!).


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