Thursday, December 16, 2010

Sprouted Spelt and Quinoa Chocolate Chip Cookies

One of the things that drives me crazy is when my kids want me to send them to school with the same kind of snacks that many of their friends bring in. I really don't like sending them with any processed food and this includes all forms of Pirate Booty. I do, however, understand that only sending carrots and apples bums them out especially when everyone else has snacks that seem so much better than theirs. 

It's hard to find something that is actually nutritious, has no nuts in it (I think that all schools are nut free at this point) and seems as good as a Chips Ahoy cookie or sour sticks. I am constantly tooling with cookie recipes, trying to cut down on the amount of sweetener  and trying to increase the nutritional value. This spelt and quinoa cookie seems to fit the bill. It tastes really good and so far all of the kids that I have given it to actually like it. I know that my kids can hold their heads high in the playground with one of these!

This recipe makes 36 cookies which can be frozen.

Cookie pans
Parchment paper
Stand mixer or a good hand mixer
2 tablespoon cookie scooper or a tablespoon

2 cups of sprouted or regular whole spelt flour
1 cup of quinoa flour
1 teaspoon of salt
1 1/2 teaspoons of baking soda
2 sticks (1 cup) of butter at room temperature. I like to use salted pastured but if you use sweet cream you can add 1/4 teaspoons of salt.
1 1/2 cup of sucanat. Sucanat is the least processed sugar that you can buy and is lower in sucrose than regular sugar.
3 large eggs (I use pastured) 
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
1 and 1/4 cups of mini dark chocolate chips. You can get away with using less chips when you use mini chips. The small size helps to "spread" around the chocolate. I really like to use Enjoy Life mini chips.

1. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees and line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

2. Combine the flours, the salt and the baking soda and put them aside.

3. Cream the butter and the sucanut together.

4. Add one egg at a time waiting for the mix to be fully combined before adding the next one.

5. Add the vanilla extract

6. Add 1/2 the flour mixture and mix on low so it doesn't make a big mess. When it is well combined add the rest of the flour.

7. Add the chips and mix on low until they are combined into the dough.

8. Put the dough on the cookie sheets with the cookie scoop. If you are using a tablespoon make sure that you make rounded spoonfuls.

9. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes.

10. Take the cookies with the parchment paper of the cookie sheets and let cool.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Kosher Cooking Carnival Number 61

The 61st Kosher Cooking Carnival - the Tevet 5771 issue is up at Miriyummy. It looks like there are some interesting recipes. I definitely will be trying Miriyummy's Black and White Cookies recipe.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Recycled Dreidel "Paper Dolls" Guest Post At Bringing Chesed (Kindness) Home

I recently discovered a new blog called Bringing Chesed (kindness) Home. I love the concept of the blog and was happy to do a guest post for Sarah. Recycled Dreidel "Paper Dolls" is a great project for kids of all ages (even toddlers!) Check it out at Bringing Chesed Home.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Great Gifts for Kids

I thought I would share with everyone what some of our favorite toys are right now. All of these would make excellent holiday gifts for any kids on your list.


D is really into games now so I'm always on the look out for ones that are fun but don't take forever to play. I found Make Me A Cake at West Side Kids my favorite toy store in my neighborhood. All of the girls (5,8 and 11) love this game. Each cake you finish gets you a certain amount of ribbons based on the cake's height. Who ever has the most points at the end of the game wins. This is not a new idea but building the delicious looking cakes takes it to a new level.

I once read somewhere that kids don't fully understand winning and losing until they are 7 years old and I have found that to be true (well at least with my kids!). I have been hearing about cooperative games for ages but had not bought one until a few weeks ago. Cooperative games are games where all the players work together to achieve a common goal.  Recently, I was on Bella Luna Toys looking for a baby gift when I clicked on the  Cooperative Games link and decided to finally buy one. I ended up choosing Harvest Time. It is an engaging game and a pleasure to play with all my kids, especially my 5 year old who doesn't totally understand winning and losing yet.
Play Silks were the baby gifts that I was looking for when I found Harvest Time at Bella Luna Toys. The kids make everything from outfits to tents with them. The best thing about them is that your kids will use them from the time they are old enough to play peek a boo until they are at least 11!

Obscenely expensive? Yes. The toy that your kids will get the most use out of? Yes. The things I love most about Magna-Tiles (also available at West Side Kids) are that they keep my kids occupied for a long, long time and are loved by both boys and girls.  My girls like to design homes and decorate them with Polly Pocket furniture and my 14 year old son will still play with these (OK, OK. He will only play with them on Shabbat and they already have to be out!). We actually have 4 sets of them bought at different times for different occasions.

I don't know what it is about Sharpies but kids love them. There is just something about drawing with them that is fun. Be aware that these are very permanent so make sure  that if your kids are not old enough to understand what that means they should only use them when they are supervised. 

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Hanukkah or Any Holiday Sugar Cookies with All Natural Colored Sugar

Since it is a custom to eat fried food on Hanukkah, over the 8 days of the holiday your kids will be fed what seems like dozens of commercially made jelly doughnuts with all sorts of artificial flavors and colorings in them. I try very hard  not to think about this too much!

We will be having a small family get together over Hanukkah and I will not be serving any jelly doughnuts. Since I don't want to be a complete killjoy I will be serving potato latkes with applesauce and these buttery sugar cookies that the girls and I made last night with Joby & Marty's Amazing, All Natural Colored Sugar (I found it at Whole Foods).  I had a vision of cookies with only blue colored sugar on them for Hanukkah on them but as you can see the girls had other ideas! These cookie can be frozen for at least a month so you can make these ahead of time.


3/4 cups of sweet butter at room temperature
2 large eggs plus 1egg for glazing
1 cup of granulated sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
2 cups plus 1/2 cup of flour and a little extra flour for rolling the dough out
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
Parchment paper to line the cookie sheets with

1. Combine the 2 cups of flour, salt and baking powder and put aside.

2. Cream the butter with a hand mixer and then add the sugar. Cream the butter and sugar together until it is well combined.

3. Add the first egg and beat for a minute or so. Then add the second egg and the vanilla extract and beat until well combined.

4. Add the flour mixture while mixing on low until you can no longer use the mixer. Add any of the remaining flour mixture with a spoon (or your hands!). The dough should be a little sticky but if it seems too sticky add the other half cup of flour a little bit at a time.

5. Refrigerate the dough overnight.

6. When you take the dough out of the fridge the next day let it sit for about 5 minutes .

7. While the dough is sitting pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.

8. Sprinkle some flour on the dough and roll out the dough on a floured surface. It will still be cold and it will take some adult body weight to roll it but the cookies will retain their shape much better and will be much easier to work with if the dough is cold.

8. Cut out the cookies with a cookie cutter and place them on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. 

9. Glaze the cookies lightly with the beaten egg and sprinkle the colored sugar on them.

10. Since you will need to bake a few batches you should put any cookie dough that is waiting to be cut in the fridge or freezer depending on how soft it has gotten and how soon you will be using it.

11. Bake at 350 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Fassoulyeh b'Lah'meh (Syrian Cholent)

On Shabbat Torah observant Jews do not cook. That does not mean that we can't enjoy hot food. One of the ways that this is accomplished is by using a crock pot. You put in the food before Shabbat starts and turn the crock pot on low. The next day you have hot food for lunch ( you can also put your challah on top of the crock pot and enjoy warm bread for lunch). My favorite thing about this recipe is you can prepare it on a Monday, put it in the freezer and put it in the crock pot frozen on Friday right before Shabbat. This means that you have one less thing that needs to get done of Thursday night!

The Fassoulyeh cooks for between 20 hours in the winter to about 16 hours in the summer (this is because Shabbat begins at 4:30 in the winter and 8:30 in the summer). I'm sure you could use this recipe for a weeknight dinner. My assumption is that if you put it on in the morning it should be done by the time you get home.

1lb of great white northern beans
2 lbs flanken
White flour
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup finely chopped onions
2 -3 cloves of crushed garlic
1 can tomato paste
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons sugar
Pepper to taste

1. Soak beans overnight (you can also use sprouted beans).

2. Saute onions in olive oil until golden. Remove with a spoon leaving the oil in the pan.

3. Dredge flanken in flour and brown on both sides in the pan that you sauteed the onions in.

4. Put the flanken on the bottom of a 5 or 6 quart crock pot. Put the sauteed onion, garlic and soaked beans on top of the meat.

5. Add 4 cups of water, the tomato paste, cinnamon, allspice, sugar, salt and pepper and combine with the water without stirring the beans and meat up.

6. If you are going to freeze it put it in the freezer.

7. Put it in the crock pot, cook on low over night and eat for lunch!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Dreidel Garland

It is hard to believe but Hanukkah is less than 3 weeks away. Since the Jews follow a lunar calendar all of the holidays are early this year so it's already time to get started on your crafts. As many of you know I love garlands. I think they are very festive and look great hanging up. I wanted to do one for Hanukkah that the kids could help out with and I came up with this dreidel one.

All of the girls were able to cut out the dreidels but obviously the older they were the neater they came out (If you look at the last picture you will actually see a few of those less than perfect dreidels). The nice thing about a hanging garland is that you can get away with a less than perfect one. I do have to admit that I "cleaned up" some of the ones the girls did!

By the way here are 2 more projects to do with the kids that I posted last year: Sparkly Hanukkah Menorahs and Stained Glass Hanukkah Menorahs

Materials you will need:

Felt (I have a weakness for the wool felt from Weir Dolls)
Rick rack (the wavy trim I used to hang the dreidels on)
Tape measure
Glue gun or fabric glue

1. Figure out how long you want your garland to be and if it will be horizontal only or horizontal and vertical. Since I did both I measured out how long I wanted my horizontal section to be and marked the beginning and end of the section with a pins. I got 8 dreidles per yard horizontally and 6 dreidels per yard vertically.

2. Make a dreidel pattern using the pencil and the ruler. The square part of the dreidel was 2 1/2 by 2 3/4 inches and the handle was 1/2 inch by 1 1/4 inch.

3. Make a bunch of copies of the pattern since you will probably got through through them when you are cutting the felt out. This is especially true if your kids are helping out.

4. Cut out the pattern, pin to the felt and cut out the dreidel. You may need to cut out a few until you get into a rhythm. Cut out the amount of dreidels you need.

5. Lay a piece of wax paper down on a table or the floor and figure out where you want your dreidels to be on the rick rack.

6. Using a glue gun or fabric glue, glue the dreidels to the rick rack.

7. If you are going to be doing a mix of horizontal dreidels and vertical dreidels glue down the horizontal ones first (If you are using fabric glue wait until it dries). Then lay out where you want the vertical ones and glue those down.

8. Hang it up!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Interesting Links

I often read or hear of interesting links and I always mean to post them but I never get around to doing it. This week thanks to the Jewish Homeschool Carnival I will actually do it!

This month's Jewish Homeschooling Carnival is hosted by Adventures in Mama Land. Even though I'm just a wanna be there's a link for my Fall Leaves Garland. I (of course) think it would be a good project for anyone with kids.

I heard about this really cool website on NPR called Save the Words. It's a site that is trying to save words that have been removed from the Oxford English Dictionary in order to make room for new words. You can adopt a word that has been removed and try to use it as often as you can to help bring it back into fashion. The word I adopted is wilmish. It means a pasty and/or sickly complexion.

The next time you feel bad about how much TV your kids are watching read this article in the Wall Street Journal. I was shocked at how many hours a week of TV the average American pre-schooler watches. You'll also find out who's fighting to get a piece of that time.

I love this apartment that was in the New York Times Home section last week. It's got some really interesting ideas about using space when you don't have enough, a problem that most New Yorkers have.

I discovered the BBC's education site after reading about it on Patch O' Dirt Farm. My kids seem to really be enjoying it and I love the British accents that all the characters have.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Kids and Computers

I have been feeling uneasy about the amount of time that my kids are spending on the computer. It's not like they have been spending all their computer time on the Internet playing games and watching videos. The girls do all sorts of "good" things like making movies on iMovie, listening to music, writing stories and playing school with SMART Notebook. Z spends time reading about sports and other things he is interested in, checking out his fantasy sports teams and of course IMing and video chatting (kids do not talk on the phone anymore). He also uses the computer for school work now that he is in high school. In addition to all this home use they are using computers in school. Our school has SMART boards in all of their classrooms.

A few weeks ago there was a very interesting article in the Wall Street Journal about handwriting and brain development for both kids and adults. According to the Journal:

"Recent research illustrates how writing by hand engages the brain in learning. During one study at Indiana University published this year, researchers invited children to man a "spaceship," actually an MRI machine using a specialized scan called "functional" MRI that spots neural activity in the brain. The kids were shown letters before and after receiving different letter-learning instruction. In children who had practiced printing by hand, the neural activity was far more enhanced and "adult-like" than in those who had simply looked at letters."


"Adults may benefit similarly when learning a new graphically different language, such as Mandarin, or symbol systems for mathematics, music and chemistry, Dr. James says. For instance, in a 2008 study in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, adults were asked to distinguish between new characters and a mirror image of them after producing the characters using pen-and-paper writing and a computer keyboard. The result: For those writing by hand, there was stronger and longer-lasting recognition of the characters' proper orientation, suggesting that the specific movements memorized when learning how to write aided the visual identification of graphic shapes."

This article of course made me even more uneasy about all this computer use. It really got me thinking so yesterday I declared a computer free evening. After a bit of whining and complaining they settled down and began doing things that had nothing to do with the computer. T and D managed to play school with out using SMART Notebook while they listened to School House Rock multiplication songs on the CD player. R joined in for a while but she spent the rest of the evening reading a book about Helen Keller. Z had homework he needed to do and since he had a basketball game last night he didn't have much free time anyway. He did however get to sleep earlier than usual.

One of the things that I love most about Shabbat is the fact that for 25 hours there is no use of the computer or TV. The kids always manage to keep themselves busy (even with out being able to draw or write!). Each week they are forced to deal only with actual people an actual thing such as books and toys. I know that everyone, including the adults, greatly benefits from this break from technology. While I do think that there are many benefits from all the things my kids do on the computer there are also many benefits from not using it. I am seriously rethinking how much of their time at home I want them to be on it.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Fall Leaves Garland

As many of you know I love collecting fall leaves. Last year I learnt that if you Modge Podge the leaves after they have been pressed for a few days in a book they will last for a long time. It occurred to me while I was thinking about Hanukkah garlands that I could easily glue Modge Podged leaves to some natural twine that you get at the hardware store to make an easy "natural" looking fall garland.

Between finding and identifying the leaves with my new book the National Audubon Society Feild Guide to North American Trees: Eastern Edition to Modge Podging the leaves and gluing them onto the twine this makes a great extended project for you and the kids. Below is the tutorial.

Things you will need:
Fall Leaves
Heavy book for pressing
Modge Podge (I used satin this time but I like the way the matte looks better since it is a little less shiny)
Wax paper
Hot glue gun or Tacky Glue

1. You need to collect leaves and press them for 3 or 4 days in a heavy book. You don't need to put them all between different pages but make sure they lay flat and are covered when you close the book.

2. Spead out wax paper to apply the Modge Podge on the leaves and spread out another larger piece for the leaves to dry on.

3. Apply Modge Podge to leaves and stems and let them dry on the big piece of wax paper. Make sure to do the other side right after the first side dries. If you don't do it with in an hour or so the leaves may wrinkle up.

4. When dry apply the Modge Podge to the other side of the leaves. If you don't plan on gluing the leaves to the twine you can layer the pieces of wax paper with the dried leaves on each other. If you layer the leaves directly on each other they might stick together.

5. When the other side has dried cover a long area on the floor or on a table with wax paper (you can reuse what you've already used) and spread out the string on the wax paper. Then place the leaves where you think that you will want them. I started from the middle and went out towards the ends to make sure that the garland had a balanced look to it.

6. With a glue gun or Tacky Glue glue on the leaves. If you use Tacky Glue you will need to wait for the glue to dry before moving it or hanging it up.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Leaf Rubbings

I love the fall. Each year I am amazed at how beautiful the leaves are. In the fall you will find me picking up leaves from just about everywhere. If I go out for some milk I'll come back with some leaves. If I take the dog for a walk in Central Park I'll come back with a lot of leaves.

One of the things the girls like to do with the leaves I bring home are leaf rubbings. They are easy and fun. All you need to do is put a leaf under a piece of paper and rub the area over the leaf with the side of a crayon (it's helpful to hold the paper for younger kids). While you can use any crayon I like to use the square Stockmar Beeswax ones best.

A few days ago I was trying to figure out what kind of leaves we had had found when I came across a tree leaf key on I thought that it would be fun to do some leaf sleuthing with D. We were able to figure out the kind of leaves they were and decided to do a rubbing and write what kind of leaf we had rubbed on it (D also thought some hearts would look good on the red oak rubbing too!).

I am quite sure that we will be spending lots of time this fall collecting and learning what kind of leaves I've been bringing home for all these years.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Jewish Crafts: Etrog Pomander

At the end of Sukkot each year one has to dispose of their etrog, a citrus fruit that is one of the Arba'at Ha-Minim/Four Species. Since the etrog is used for a mitzvah one can't just through it in the garbage when they are done with it. You need to wait until it can no longer be used for a mitzvah to dispose of it. This means that one should wait until it is dried up before they through it in the garbage.

There are other ways that one can get rid of their etrog respectfully. A lot of people make etrog jelly out of their etrogs but because etrogs are so fragile and because they are not used for "food" they are spayed with tons of pesticides.

Another option is to make a pomander out of them. To make one you need to poke holes in the etrog with a sharp object like a fork and then you fill in the holes with whole cloves.

Every few days one should squeeze the etrog to make sure that the cloves stay in tight. In a few weeks the etrog dries up and the cloves are dried into the etrog. You can use your pomander for Havdalah. Etrogs are beautifully fragrant and when combined with the cloves they smell unbelievable.

We used our not yet dried pomander for Havdalah this week and it was so lovely. Eventually the areas that are yellow shrink away and the cloves take on the shape of a small etrog. I will try to post a picture of our pomander when it has finished drying.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Sukkot 2010/5771

Yom Kippor is a very serious day but the minute it's over the mood instantly changes and it's time to begin preparing for Sukkot . The morning after Yom Kippor J and Z went out to our building's court yard and built our Sukkah. Over the next few days the girls and I finished up the decorations, New Year's Garlands from Purl Bee (made with regular thread since I could get the clear thread to cooperate) and Paper Ornaments from Creative Jewish Mom and the cooking.

This year two days of Sukkot and then one day of Shabbat equaled a three day Yom Tov (holiday). A three day Yom Tov means that with the exception of being able to cook on the first 2 days of Sukkot there are 3 days in a row where you are observing the laws of Shabbat. In most ways it is an incredible experience. Not being "connected" to the rest of the world gives you and your kids a much needed break from blackberries, computers and TV but you need to make sure that almost everything is in place before sundown on the first evening of the holiday. For those of us involved in taking care of the home this means a lot of shopping, cooking and logistical planning. For those who are working it means leaving everything in order and hoping that everything will go smoothly with out you.

Since we are lucky enough to have our own sukkah in Manhattan that means we do a lot of entertaining. We invite our friends who don't have enough space in their court yard or who have an uncooperative landlord or co-op board. That meant preparing and serving six meals. Thankfully I had my babysitter come and help me with the cooking and the kids on the two days before the holiday because I would not have been able to do it on my own.

The meals turned out great and we all had a lot of fun. The grown ups and their friends especially enjoyed "dwelling" in the Sukkah while the kids and their friends played in the courtyard or upstairs in the apartment. It's nice to be at a point in our lives where we no longer have to chase after little kids.

When Sukkot ends on Wednesday we will be celebrating 2 more holidays Shmini Atzeret on Thursday and Simchat Torah on Friday. Then the holiday season will be over until the spring when we celebrate Pesach (Passover)!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Belated New Year's Wishes

I've been finding it really hard to find time to sit down and post lately. It's probably due to the fact that I've been really busy with the start of school and the holidays happening at the same time this year. I've also been suffering from writer's block. I have come up with many things I want to write about but when I sit down to write nothing comes out.

A week before Rosh HaShana I saw a powerful movie called A Film Unfinished. It's a documentary about film footage the Nazi's took in the Warsaw Ghetto for propaganda purposes a few month's before the Ghetto was liquidated and it's residents were sent to Treblinka. In one part of the movie survivors of the Ghetto were filmed while watching the footage. One of the women, now a grandmother, said something about her mother that I have not been able to stop thinking about. She said that her mother was a good mother. She made sure that everyday she and her siblings took a shower and brushed their teeth.

Simple acts but not when you are living in the Warsaw Ghetto. In comparison (and this may sound trite) I am always trying to be a good mother which for me means making sure that everything is going well in school, getting the kids to their after school activities, cooking them healthy food, paying attention to them, trying not to yell plus a million other things to numerous to list.

I feel so blessed to be living at a time where I have the luxury to worry about such things. I feel so blessed to be living in a time and place where my children can be joyful about life and joyful of being Jewish. I want to wish everyone a belated Shana Tova (Happy New Year) and a most likely belated Gmar Chatima Tova (may you be inscribed in the book of life for good).

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Apple Cinnamon Upside-Down Cake

This is the tweaked version of the Apple Upside-Down cake that I posted from last year. By adding some vanilla and salt to the batter I was able to give the cake more depth. I also decreased the sugar and increased the milk making the batter easier to spread and a tad less sweet.

Don't worry too much about tiling the apples. I have yet to make a cake look as good as I wanted to look and it doesn't seem to affect the taste! By the way for a real treat try making it with butter and regular milk. The dairy version makes a great breakfast cake for Yom Kippor.

1 cup softened margarine (I use Earth Balance because it's non-hydroganated) or butter
1 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar (for two 2/3 of a cup)
1 teaspoon or cinnamon
2 teaspoon vanilla extract (for two 1 teaspoons)
2 medium peeled, cored, and thinly sliced apples
1/2 a lemon
1 bowl of water
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon of salt
2 large eggs
1/2 cup soy, rice, almond or cow's milk

1. Heat the oven to 325°F and grease an 8 inch square baking dish.

2. Peel, core and slice the apples and put them in a bowl of water with half a lemon squeezed in.

3. Melt 1/2 cup of the margarine in a saucepan over medium heat. When it foams, sprinkle in the first 2/3 cup of the sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of the cinnamon, and the first (1) teaspoon of the vanilla extract. Stir over medium heat until sauce is smooth and a deep amber color (it helps to put some of the mixture in the spoon, raise the spoon a few inches and let the mixture drip back in to the pan).

4. Spread the caramel sauce evenly in bottom of baking dish and then tile the apple slices in tight rows over sauce.

5. Combine the flour, baking powder, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon of the cinnamon in a large bowl and mix thoroughly.

6. Cream the second 2/3 of a cup of the sugar with 1/2 cup of the margarine. When creamed add the second (1) teaspoon of vanilla and then one egg at a time. Beat on medium speed until a batter forms.

7. Add the flour mixture and milk alternately and mix with the mixer until it is combined.

8. Transfer batter to prepared dish and spread over apples. Bake until a toothpick inserted in cake layer comes out clean, about 45 to 55 minutes.

9. Let the cake cool for 5 or so minutes and then invert onto serving platter and serve warm or room temperature.

Moroccan Inspired Rosh HaShana (New Year's) Challah

This challah was inspired by the Moroccan challah recipes I have found over the years. All I did was add the anise seed to my regular challah recipe and voila. The anise seeds taste great with a little New Year's honey on the challah. Here's a good tutorial on how to make the challah round. Just ignore the first part with the raisins.

If you want to do the mitzvah (commandment) of challah all you need to do is triple the recipe so you can use a 5 pound bag of flour.

2 teaspoons of active dry yeast (I really like Fleishmann's)
1 1/2 cups of warm water
1/4 cups plus 1/4 teaspoon of sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoon of salt
2 teaspoons of anise seeds
1/3 cup of vegetable oil plus a little extra to oil the dough
5 cups of all purpose or bread flour plus 1/4 on hand during kneading

1. Combine warm water, 1/4 teaspoon of sugar and 2 teaspoons of yeast. Lightly beat with a whisk (or fork) and wait about 10 minutes until it froths.

2. While your waiting for the yeast to froth, in a large bowl, lightly beat the eggs and then add the sugar, oil, anise seeds and salt and mix to combine.

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

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

5. Begin to knead the dough. It might be sticky. If it is sprinkle a little bit of flour on it and kneed 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 two round loaves

10. When the dough has doubled (it will take at least an hour) bake in a preheated 350 degree oven until loaves are golden. This will about 25 minutes. If you want an egg glaze to make the challah shiny beat one egg and gently brush the egg on the challah with a pastry brush before you bake it.

11. Let it cool on a rack or place them on your counter on a few paper towels

Monday, August 2, 2010

Writopia Lab

This summer Z, R and T went to an amazing week long program called Writopia Lab. Writopia runs writing workshops for kids in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Westchester, Washington DC and Los Angeles. The kids do writing exercises such as hot computer (it's like hot potato except each time you get the computer you have to quickly write something) and 2 truths and 1 lie (everyone needs to guess which are the truths and which are the lies!). They also spend the week working on a story that they read and edit with their group. Writopia has a great set up where the kids write and store their stories on Google so they can use the lap tops at Writopia and then continue their work at home on their own computer.

On paper you might not think that this is the kind of place that your kids would love and beg to go for another week but it is. My girls loved it and kept asking me to sign them up for another week. I ended up signing T up for an extra 2 weeks that she started when the Z and R left for camp. Z was a little more cryptic in his feelings about Writopia. He told me it was just OK but when I asked his teacher I was told otherwise. Apparently he " was an enthusiastic participant in the workshop" .

Writopia Lab has week long workshops through out the summer that are three hours per day, week long vacation workshops and once a week classes during the school year. I've already signed R up for a class in the fall and I expect to send T for one of the week long vacation workshops this winter.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Camp Mom is Back in Session!

Camp Mom is back in session. No more waking up to catch the bus! We had such a nice week last week. Our summer classes had not yet begun so the girls spent a lot of time playing, drawing, writing and enjoying the freedom of not having anyplace that they needed to be

I felt like Monday was the official start of our summer. Last May, in anticipation of this summer, I bought a tie dye kit and a tie dye book from Dharma Trading. We decided to try them out Monday morning. Our first attempt at tie dying came out pretty good but we definitely figured out that there were a few things we could do to improve our technique the next time. In the afternoon we went to the park on 89th St with the great sprinklers.

Tuesday morning we went to check out the sidewalk sale at Lester's and found a few things that were on super sale. Afterwards we stopped at Bloomingdale's to check out the sale they were having. We were hoping that we might find some clothes that would be appropriate for Shabbat for R and T. Of course we only found an everyday dress for D, the only one of my kids who does not need a thing thanks to her sisters' hand me downs.

Wednesday the girls decided to make a lemonade stand. They managed to sell 15 dollars of homemade lemonade in less than an hour. We ran out of lemonade pretty quickly so the girls decided that they were going to invest some of their profits ($12!) in a second pitcher so that they would be able to sell more lemonade next time. Later that afternoon the kids had a great time swimming with some friends who have a pool in their building.

Last summer we had heard that there was going to a free Gazillion Bubble Show in Union Square Park. We didn’t go because we thought it was going to rain (of course it didn’t). When we found out that there was going to be another free performance this year on Thursday morning we (the girls and our neighbor E) decided that we had to go. It turned out to only be a 5 minute preview of the show. We were definitely disappointed but we did learn that we did not want to spend 50 dollars per seat to see an hour's worth of a man blowing giant bubbles.

After a quick pit stop I realized that we were a 10 minute walk from another one of our favorite clothing stores Space Kiddets. We found some great clothes for Shabbat on sale that will also work for the fall so we were very excited. That afternoon R’s friend N came over and the girls wrote a play called “Detention” which featured vignettes of kids in detention. It was actually pretty good!

N slept over Thursday night and on Friday morning the girls wrote another play called Starbucks. It, of course, featured vignettes of people in Starbucks (notice a theme here?). When N left I took the girls with me to the Farmers Market and Whole Foods and spent the rest of the day preparing for Shabbat.

On Sunday we had plans to go to my Parents' for a 4th of July BBQ. I was, however, determined to do a better job tie dying with the girls before week one was up. That morning I got out the dyes (unintentionally red and blue) and some more tee shirts and we took another stab at it. I think they came out much better the second time around.

One week down. Ten to go.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Z's a Black Belt!

Z took his black belt test in Tae Kwon Do on Tuesday night and he passed! It was an absolutely grueling 40 minute test. First he warmed up with squats and knuckle push ups on wood boards (ouch!), then he did all his forms, kicks and punches.The test ended with sparring. His partners were nationally ranked athletes and his job was to get in a few kicks and punches and to show that he could basically "take it". I can't imagine ever being able to do what he did when he took the test and needless to say I am very proud that he was able to. It's really his first big accomplishment.

When he started 7 years ago he was not a natural and it was not love at first sight. He enjoyed the classes but his ability to pay attention depended on what they were doing at any given time. If it was relay races he gave it his all. If it was just practicing kicks or punches he was often staring into space. The drills were just not that interesting for him. It became clear that if he was to continue doing Tae Kwan Do he was going to need some one on one attention. He began taking one private lesson a week with Miss L who was very patient with him and managed to keep him engaged. About two years after he started the private lessons I found out that Miss L was leaving NYC to get married. I was happy for her but upset for Z. I was not sure if there was another teacher at the school who would be as good a fit for him.

At the same time that Miss L left, my husband, who had been a brown belt in karate, decided that he wanted to try Tae Kwan Do. It was then that he became the driving force behind keeping Z interested and engaged. Z began to go to the evening classes with his dad and J helped him to stay focused in class. It wasn't always easy. There were times when Z was not sure that he wanted to keep going. We (mostly J) managed to convince him that he should. As Z got older he began to enjoy it more and more and he began to appreciate the fitness aspect of Tae Kwan Do. One of his favorite classes became advanced conditioning.

There is about a 2 year wait between the red with a double black stripe belt and the full black belt. During the wait there were moments when it was difficult for Z to keep his eye on the prize. Last December he was told that he would be ready to test for his black belt in June. This meant that he needed to step it up. He had been going twice a week but he needed to start going three times a week. It was a bit of a struggle to get him there three times a week at first but we managed to eventually get into a rhythm when his basketball season officially ended.

For the six weeks or so before the test Z happily went to class 3 times a week and I never had to nag him to go! I felt like there was this momentum leading him forward. He did not seem nervous about the test even after J told him that he had to make sure not to take what happened during the sparring personally ( J was basically telling him not to get upset when everyone was beating him up!).

The days after the test I couldn't stop thinking about it and how well Z had done and I joked that he had been possessed by the soul of a Ninja. The truth was that past seven years were part of the process that delivered Z to this place where he excelled as he never had before. Now if we could get him to work this hard in school next year.....

Thursday, May 27, 2010

A Good Breakfast

I remember clearly writing down the instructions for my oat pancakes right before R was born. I wanted to make sure that Z would still be able to have his favorite breakfast after I gave birth to his sister. He alternated the pancakes with french toast and eggs for breakfast back then. As our family grew and life got busier those nutritious breakfast fell by the wayside and we began to eat cold cereal for breakfast.

Last fall a friend of mine who has a 4 1/2 year old and 2 year old twins was telling me about the breakfasts her family eats and it got me thinking. If she could find the time to give her family a real breakfast than I certainly could.

I started by making soaked pancakes for the kids. I make enough for 2 or 3 meals, freeze the extras and just throw them in the toaster oven for the next few days. Other breakfast foods I began to serve were fresh fruit and whole wheat sour dough bread with pastured butter, wild or organic smoked salmon and cream cheese on whole wheat sour dough bread, spelt soaked muffins (I will post the recipe as soon as I get a chance), coconut flour breakfast muffins (each one has a whole egg in it and I will post recipe when I get a chance!), soaked oatmeal, brown rice cereal and eggs.

After a month or so of feeding the kids a real breakfast I broke the news to my husband that I was no longer going to buy cold breakfast cereal. I suggested that he make some soaked oatmeal or rice cereal in the morning since he wakes up before me. He was hesitant at first but was happy to give it a try. My husband has been happily eating his cooked breakfast cereal, pancakes and eggs for a few months now and he has become a big fan of the home cooked breakfast. An added bonus for him is that he often makes some extra oatmeal for R and he has been able to enjoy that feeling of cooking something healthy for someone else!

It's definitely more work to give my family a good breakfast and it does add to that feeling that all I ever do is cook but it's a great opportunity to get some healthy food into my family before they head out to school and work.

Soaked Oatmeal Recipe

This is a very easy recipe for soaked oatmeal. Pre-soaking the oats breaks down the phytic acid, helps it to cook much faster in the morning. It also makes the oatmeal taste creamy and delicious. For a real treat use goat's milk yogurt.

1/2 cup oatmeal
1 cup water
2 tablespoons of yogurt
pinch of sea salt

Mix 1/2 cup of water, the oats and the yogurt and let it soak overnight on the counter. Put the oatmeal in a pot with 1/2 cup of water and a pinch of salt and bring to a low boil and lower the flame to simmer. It should be ready in about 5 minutes. I like to add some cold milk and a little bit of maple syrup. You can also add some fruit, raisins or nuts.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Recipe: Vegeterian Black Bean Chili

This could be my favorite dinner. I serve it over short grain brown rice with sour cream and chopped jalapenos. It also makes a great lunch the next day (and the next) if it hasn't all been eaten.

1 cup of finely chopped onions
2-3 cloves of garlic minced
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 tablespoon of ground cumin
1 tablespoon of coriander
1 cup of best quality salsa
6 cups of cooked black beans (16 ounces dried beans)
1 28 ounce can of chopped tomatoes
1 cup of chopped red peppers
1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels

1. Saute onions and garlic in olive oil until golden

2. Add the cumin and coriander and saute for a minute or two.

3. Add the chopped tomatoes, salsa and chopped peppers and cook on a low to medium flame for 15 minutes

4. Add the beans and corn and cook on a low to medium flame for 15 minutes.

5. Add salt to taste.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

14 Year Old Boys Are Capable of Doing Their Own Laundry!

My family of six produces lots and lots of laundry. Between me and my amazing housekeeper of 11 years Gloria we manage to get it done each week. As my kids keep growing so does the volume of our laundry. Recently it began to seem like we were always on the verge of not getting it all done when it occurred to me that my 14 year old son is totally capable of doing his own laundry. I am a big believer in kids being involved in keeping the house clean. I have been blessed to be able to stay home with my children and have cleaning help but this does not mean that my kids never lift a finger. They are expected to help clean the dishes, set the table, take out the garbage and make their beds (among other things). Having them help with the laundry was something that I just hadn't thought about until recently.

Z had from time to time done a load himself and he had also occasionally ironed his shirts if they were too wrinkled to wear. I knew he was capable of getting the task done although I do admit that there was a little resistance at first. No one want to be told that they have to do more chores.

It's been about a month since he started doing his own laundry and though I sometimes having to remind him to get it done he's been doing great. He really take pride in how he looks and he has been making sure that his clothes look good. With the exception of him setting up the ironing board in front of the refrigerator so no one can get into it every now an then, the ironing has also been going well. I can't begin to tell you how good it feels to watch your 14 year old take care of himself and I know that it also makes Z feel good about himself.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Pesach (Passover) Almond Cake

Usually during Pesach I throw caution to the wind and we often eat things that I generally don't let my family eat during the rest of the year. I was hoping that this year I could find some Pesach cakes that are a little bit less nutritionally void than our Pesach family favorite jelly roll. Today I made a Pesach (Passover) Almond Cake and the kids and I think that it's really good. It has a lot of almonds so at least there's some real food in it, not just empty carbs! I'm not sure it will be replacing jelly roll as our favorite but it will make a good breakfast or a snack.

3 eggs
2/3 cup sugar (I used demerara)
1/4 teaspoon salt (I used sea salt)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup tapioca starch or potato starch
1/2 cup almond milk or orange juice
1 3/4 cup of almond flour or finely ground almonds

Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees. Grease a 7x11 pan and then fit a piece of parchment paper into the pan. Separate the eggs. Beat the yolks with the sugar on high for about 5 minutes. Add the salt, vanilla extract, potato starch and orange juice and beat on low for about 2 minutes. Add the finely ground almonds and beat on low until combined. Beat the egg whites until they are stiff but not dry and fold them into the batter. Place the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 40 minutes or until golden.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Pesach (Passover) Brownies

I really like to use extra virgin coconut oil for these brownies. Extra virgin coconut oil gives the brownies a delicious coconutty taste and has lots of good for you medium chain fatty acids. I called the OU and was told that any extra virgin coconut oil can be used for Pesach (like extra virgin olive oil). You may need to gently warm the coconut oil up so that it's liquidy but it often liquefies by just sitting in a warm kitchen or cabinet. Do not use cotton seed oil because it is totally toxic (full of pesticides!)l. It will also give these brownies an off tatse.

I will also be using demerara sugar. Demerara sugar is less processed than white or brown sugar (although during the rest of the year I use sucanat which is even less processed.) You can find either Florida Crystals demerara sugar or Domino demarara sugar with an OKP on it.

3 cups sugar.
1 1/2 cup vegetable oil.
5 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons of sifted unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup matzoh cake meal
Vegetable oil for greasing the pan
Potato starch

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9 x 13 pan with oil and lightly flour with potato starch. Combine the sugar with the oil. Lightly beat the eggs and add to the mixture. Then mix in the vanilla extract, salt, cocoa powder, and cake meal. Bake for about 45 minutes or until the edges begin to brown.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

High School, Homeschool and Pesach

It's been a full month since I last posted. Thank G-d everything is fine but my brain has been very busy these past few weeks. Z finally got accepted at his elementary school's high school but not without a little drama! Due to all sorts of reasons, we did not get our acceptance letter right away. It was very nerve racking because we had not applied anywhere else. The whole incident kind of sucked the life out of me for a while. We have never been so happy to send the school $2000 as we were when we sent in Z's registration fee for next year! Of course there was part of me hoping that he wouldn't get in because then I would be forced to homeschool him!

Possibly being "forced" to homeschool Z brings me to another thing that has been keeping my brain busy . I have been spending a lot of time thinking about homeschooling the girls next year (thinking about things obsessively is something that I'm really good at!). I've been doing some research, talking to to some frum and some plain old homeschooling families and reading my favorite homeschool blogs. The blogs are so inspiring and they almost always make me feel like I could homeschool and truly be happy doing it.

I do worry about having a homeschooling chevra even though every frum homeschooler has told me it's not as important as I think. There are a bunch of people in NYC who do homeschool so my kids would not be isolated but this would be a much easier decision if I new there were more frum homeschoolers out there. Any frummies who are homeschooling or thinking of homeschooling in the NYC area or anyone who knows frummies who are homeschooling or thinking about homeschooling out there in the NYC area please email me! (In my mind the NYC area is Manhattan, Riverdale, Bergen County, Passaic, Westchester, Monsey, Queens and Long Island.)

I've also been busy preparing for Pesach (Passover). I've done most of my shopping for food and other things I needed for the kitchen but I haven't been doing a crazy amount of cleaning. I try very hard to remember not to confuse cleaning for Pesach with spring cleaning. This is not the time to go through the boxes of old clothes on the top shelves of our closets. The truth is because we live in an apartment, because I can't stand clutter and because we have an amazing cleaning woman Gloria we just don't have a lot of cleaning to do. The biggest job the kids and I had was cleaning off all of our folding chairs.

I went through the girls clothing and toys right after Purim so I knew what we needed for the holiday (just a few new tee shirts). Z feels the same way about clutter that I do so there was not much to do in his room either. The only thing he needed to do was put some books that he didn't have room for in some storage containers that we put in his tiny closet. It's a little crowded in there right now but this is not the time of year to buy new book shelves. I'll deal with it after Pesach.

Of course I know that I am experiencing a bit of a false calm. I haven't yet decided when I am going to finish turning over my kitchen. I hate to be at the mercy of Pesach food for any longer than I have to be. I have an Ikea cabinet in my kitchen that I store my Pesach stuff in so all I need to do is take the tape of the doors. I have also cleaned my oven, turned over one cabinet for food and cleaned the refrigerator in my kitchen (I have a second one in my maid's room). I also keep my Seders pretty low key so there is not a ton of cooking to do. I don't invite a lot of people to our Seder and I don't serve a lot of food. No one is ever hungry after eating all the matzo that you have to eat before dinner even starts. I usually just serve some meat, a vegetable and a little dessert.

So that's what's been going on here. I am a little disappointed that we really didn't have time for any Pesach crafts. I had some project ideas that I wanted to do but I just never found the time. Of course I still am hoping to do a little bit of crafting with the girls before the chag starts!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Crafts: Mishloach Manot Cans

I love crafting with tissue paper. My favorite thing to do with it is to Modge Podge it on to things. I have lots of coffee cans in my recycling bin and I thought that they would make cute containers for our Mishloach Manot this year. I decided that the girls and I would decorate some white contact paper with tissue paper and Modge Podge and this was the result. Below is a quick tutorial:

Here's what you need

Empty coffee cans with removable paper labels
White contact paper
Colored tissue paper
Modge Podge (I used glossy but matte also looks nice)
Paint brushes
Tape measure

1. Take the label off the cans and then measure the can with a tape measure. Use the measurements to cut out white contact paper that will fit over the can and completely cover it.

2. Cut out the contact paper with a scissors or use a craft knife on a self healing mat.

3. Cut the tissue paper that you are going to use into small (but not tiny) squares. Don't make them all the exact same size.

4. Start Modge Podging the tissue paper on to the contact paper you cut out. You can layer the pieces on top of each other and create different shades shapes and colors. When it is totally covered let it dry.

5. When the contact paper is dry gently roll the paper so that it will "mold" around the can.

6. Strip the backing off the contact paper and stick it on the can.

7. Fill with yummy treats!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Purim Sameach (Happy Purim) Purim Door Garland

Purim is one of my favorite holidays. It's so festive and fun. On Purim Jews give each other something called mishloah manot. Mishloach manot are small gifts of food (usually sweets!). According to Jewish law each person must give at least one gift of at least two portions of food that are cooked and ready to eat. Ideally the giver should hand deliver the mishloach manot to the person who is to receive the gift. This means that on Purim a lot of people come to your front door, hence, the Happy Purim (Purim Sameach) Purim Door Garland. This garland combines two things I really love; wool felt and hand sewing. Surprisingly it was quite easy to make. I was able to sit with the kids and sew while they did their thing. Below is a quick tutorial.

-1/2 yard of two different colors of wool felt. I definitely had a fair amount left over but I needed the width of a 1/2 yard to make the felt piece that the flags hang off of. I ordered my felt from Weir Dolls and Craft it it got here in 2 days! They also have a huge selection of all kinds of different felt.
-Matching embroidery floss the same 2 colors as the felt.
-Scissors and a rotary cutter if you have one
-Computer paper and pencil to make the triangle pattern and letter patterns

1. Cut off a 1/2 inch by 30 inch wide piece of felt in both colors from the wide side of the felt. I used a rotary cutter and a ruler but you could also mark it off with a ruler and use a scissors to cut it.

2. Make a 6 inch equilateral triangle out of paper and use it as your pattern. Using a rotary cutter and ruler or a scissors (pin the pattern on if you are using a scissors) and cut out 4 triangles of each color so you have a total of 8 triangles. If you keep "flipping" the pattern over you will use less felt (see above picture).

3. Write Purim Sameach (in Hebrew!) using bubble letters on paper. Cut the letters out and use them as the patterns. Pin the cut out, paper, bubble letters on top of the felt that you will be using and cut them out. Make sure to cut out a purple letter for a red triangle and visa versa!

4. Pin the felt letters on to the triangles. Cut off the piece of embroidery floss you will be using and sepreate 3 of the 6 strands ( gently pull 3 strands off of the 6 strands that embroidery floss has). Sew on each letter with the 3 of the strands of floss using the staight (running) stich. Don't forget to use the red embroidery floss on the purple felt and visa versa.

5. When you are done sewing on the letters pin the triangles onto the long felt strips. Use 3 of the 6 strands of red embroidery floss and the straight stitch to sew on the purple triangles on the wool strip and visa versa.

6. Hang it on your door!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Recipe: Soaked Whole Spelt Chocolate Cake (Parve/Dairy Free or Dairy)

This recipe was inspired by a recipe for carob brownies I saw in Nourishing Traditions. I have made both the parve/dairy free and dairy version. The parve/dairy free version was really delicious but as we all know most things taste better with butter (and yogurt) in them and this is the case with this cake. The picture above was taken about a half hour after the dairy version had been out of the oven. I had to quickly freeze the rest so that my kids would not eat it all up.

3 cups whole spelt flour
2 cups of full fat yogurt or 2 cups of water with 2 tablespoons of lemon juice
3/4 butter softened or extra virgin coconut oil
1 1/2 cup Rapunzel organic whole cane sugar or sucanat (I have bought both of these at Fairway and Whole Foods.)
4 eggs beaten
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1 cup of cocoa powder (not dutch processed!)
1 tablespoon of baking powder
oil/butter and white flour for the pan

1. Soak flour with the yogurt or the water and lemon juice on your counter for 12 to 24 hours.

2. Cream butter or extra virgin coconut oil with whole cane sugar or sucanat.

3. Add the eggs, vanilla extract, salt, cocoa powder and baking powder. Please note: I have found that the eggs don't combine well with the dried whole cane sugar/sucanat and butter mixture. It does, however, all come together when you add the flour soaked in yogurt. I did not have the same problem with the coconut oil.

4. Mix in the soaked flour mixture until well combined and pour into the pan.

5. Pour batter into a 9x13 inch greased and floured pan.

6. Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Toilet Paper Roll "2 or 3 Fingers" Finger Puppets

I was staring at all my saved toilet paper rolls recently, trying to figure out what to do with them, when I realized that they would make cute "2 or 3 fingers" finger puppets. I finally got around to doing this project with the girls last night and I think they came out really cute. We also had a really good time making them and playing with them. I predict that we will be making more of these soon. Below is a quick tutorial on how to make these easy finger puppets.

Supplies that you need:
Toilet paper rolls
Felt, fabric or colored paper scraps
Yarn cut up in to pieces for hair
Glue (we used Tacky Glue)

1. First we glued on the eyes and drew the mouth and nose.

2. Then we designed clothing from our felt scraps and glued them onto our puppets.

3. The last thing we did was glue on the yarn for hair (R gave her puppet's "hair" a trim and added side bangs!).

The finger puppets were super easy and super fun to make. By the way this project worked well for my 4yo, 7yo and 10yo.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Fairway v. Whole Foods

When Whole Foods opened their store 15 blocks away from Fairway, at Columbus Circle, Fairway was obviously concerned. They put up a giant poster in the front of their store comparing the prices of 5 items. Fairway's prices were of course lower. That was one of the reasons why I was sure that I would not go to Whole Foods. I was a hard core Fairway shopper and nothing was going to take me away from my beloved Market.

Fairway is an Upper West Side institution. It's the kind of place where you can get your organic produce, European cheeses and your Charmin Ultra Strong "6 mega rolls equals 24 regular rolls" pack. It is also the kind of place where wearing your your flip flops in the summer can be dangerous. The back of your heels might get clipped by a too close to you grocery cart.

I clearly remember my first time I bought something in Fairway. I was standing on line with a bag of 3 oranges. A little old lady asked me if she could go ahead of me. I turned around and saw that she had an almost full cart. I told her no. Over the years I've had many conversations with other patrons with topics ranging from my pre-typed shopping list that follows my path through Fairway to the elevator that moves like molasses but has a door that shuts almost as quickly as it opens. This is the of the charm of shopping at Fairway.

When Wholefoods opened a new store 22 blocks from Fairway in the other direction on 97th and Columbus I had the same attitude that I had when they opened up the Columbus Circle store. There was no reason why I would shop there but this times the circumstances were different. D's pre school is right down the block so I am near it 5 days a week. It's also on the same block as the 97th Street farmer's markets and Michaels, 2 places that I frequent.

One morning, right after Whole Foods opened, I dropped D off at school and decided to stop by to see what the new store looked like. It was not the usual Manhattan grocery stores. It had wide isles and was very peaceful. Even at 10 am Fairway is a mad house. I walked around the store and checked out what they had. I bought a few honeycrisp apples and left. It had been a very pleasant experience even if the honeycrisp apple cost a bit more than they did at Fairway.

That next Monday I decieded to go to Whole Foods to pick up a few things that I needed. During this visit and I noticed more things that I really liked. The carts were larger and were easier to push. I noticed that Whole Foods has a private label brand that is very well priced and is of excellent quality. They had frozen fruits and vegetables, beans and grains, organic orange juice, organic milk, organic 100% natural hazelnut flavored coffee and bread, all things that I buy frequently. I also found out that their delivery fee was 3.99 versus Fairway's whose is 7.99. Even if certain things are 20 or 30 cents less at Fairway that extra 4 dollars for begins to eat up the savings. They also give 10% off if you buy a case of anything. I left Whole Foods a bona fide fan that day.

Much to my own surprise I now shop at Whole Foods about 50 percent of the time. Recently I was in Whole Foods, poking around the freezer and looking for a particular flavor of ice cream. One of the workers noticed what I was doing and came over to me and asked me what I was looking for so that he could check to see if there was any more in the back. A few moments later he came out with my pint of chocolate. You do not get this kind of service at Fairway. This is another of the reason why I keep going back to Whole Foods.

Over the past few months I've discovered the delicious Sky Top farms organic, non-homogenized milk Whole Foods carries, enjoyed their selection of local beers and discovered the joys of food shopping in a relaxed environment. I still have a special place in my heart for Fairway. They have a great kosher in house bakery, the best olive oil selection and a huge selection of organic produce. My love for Fairway, though, is no longer exclusive.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Back to School

Some people might think I'm crazy for saying this but I think that our winter vacation was too short. The kid's vacation started on December 24th and they were back on January 4th. By the time we got into a groove it was time to go back to school. We had a really nice staycation here in Manhattan. We managed to see an Alvin Ailey performance at City Center, the Flaming Idiots at the New Victory theatre and Alvin and the Chipmunks the Squeakqual. We also went to one of our favorite kosher restaurants Les Marais twice.

The kids spent a lot of time at home with and with out friends. The girls did a lot drawing and crafting and Z spent a lot of time reading. We also got to sleep late which made all of us very happy! I'm really looking forward to our next week off in February.

I thought that I would post some of our favorite crafts from last week below. They were all relatively easy and lots of fun to do.

T is learning about dinosaurs in school and has been drawing tons of pictures of them. I just like the way this picture looks.

I first saw these Styrofoam "wood cut" prints on Creative Jewish Mom this summer and I finally found the time to do these with the kids last week. We used the yellow Styrofoam trays that our meat comes on. They were lots of fun and even D who is 4 was able to make her own designs to print. Here's the tutorial. I did find that the prints came out best when we put the paper on top of the Styrofoam and gently rubbed it.

R made this stuffed heart inspired by Kata Golda's designs. We got a pattern for the heart from here and hit zoom out a few times to get the size we wanted (this site also has some other cool shapes that we hope to get to soon). R worked really hard on this. We did have to pull out stiches a few times but this is really the first real embroidery project that she did all by herself.


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