Monday, December 3, 2012

Where is Area E1?



There has been a lot of talk recently about area E1. A few days ago Israel announced plans to develop it. The word is that the development of this area will "destroy the territorial contiguity between the northern and southern West Bank" I think that it is really important that people are aware of the fact that this is not the case. Please check out the above map.  Even if area E1 is developed there can still be a viable (and contiguous) Palestinian State.





Sunday, November 25, 2012

Homemade Hanukkah Candles


Last year when I saw this blog post on Flowing with My Ducklings on making Shabbat candles I thought that it would be fun for us to make our own Hanukkah candles. I ordered two 10 packs of 8" x 16" sheets of beeswax and wicks but I never got around to making the candles. While I was cleaning out my cabinets a few weeks ago I came across the wax so I decided that the girls and I would make some Hanukkah candles this year. You can buy individual sheets and 12 packs of beeswax sheets and wicks from this page at candlemakingsupplies.net (scroll down for the wicks).

FYI according to Jewish law candles must burn for 30 minutes. The 4 inch candles I made burned for 45 minutes. I also made candles that were a little bit thinner (4" by 1 1/2"candles) that also burned for 45 minutes and taller ones (5" by 2") that burned for an hour.

Supplies 

8" by 16" sheets of beeswax
Wicks cut to 4 3/4"
Sharp knife/craft knife
A surface to cut the wax on that won't be ruined by the knife 
Scissors to cut the wicks
Ruler

1. First cut each sheet into half length wise but do not separate the 2 pieces.


2. Cut the two halves into eight pieces that are 2" wide each. You will end up with sixteen 2" by 4" rectangles


Place a wick at the very bottom of the the 2" by 4"piece of wax and push it into the wax.


Tightly roll the candle up.


Voila!


Saturday, November 24, 2012

One of The Reasons Why I Really Like R's Friends.




Because they decieded that they needed to make Thanksgiving hats to wear when they went to watch the floats being blown up for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Holiday Gifts for Kids 2012


Now that I am carpooling I find myself at the kid's school with D 3 days a week for about an hour before the big kids get out. We have been spending time in the school library playing games and reading books. Recently we came across a cute book The Scrambled States of America. This book awakened a love of geography in D so of course I had to order it. When I was searching for the book I discovered that there was a Scrambled States of America game based on the book so I ordered it. It turned out to be a great game and and D7 and T10 have been having fun playing it.

I found the game Money Bags at The Fun Way to Learn a great website full of non electronic, educational games! It teaches the kids how to count change. T10 enjoys playing it and D7 now knows how to count and identify change. It has also been great for her math skills.


Can you tell I'm really in to games right now? I also found Chocolate Fix a deductive reasoning game  at The Fun Way to Learn and even I like playing it. It says it's for 8 and up but even D7 has been playing it and having a blast. She get so excited each time she solves one of the puzzles.


The Little House box set is one of my all time favorites! I have just started reading these to D7. I read them to T10 and R13 when they were younger and they really enjoyed them. Even Z16 would listen in when I read these books.  I mean what could be more manly than Pa felling his own lumber.  

D7 got the Baggy Bunch Gals for her birthday last year from a friend and she still enjoys taking it out and making a puppet. It has a great selection of things that you can put on your bag to make and decorate your puppet with.

  
Now that R is turning 13 toys are no longer a gift option for her.  Morgan Prather is one of my favorite jewelry designer on Etsy and she makes tiny versions of many of her  earring designs. Don't forget to look at the regular sized versions for yourself!


It's tough trying to figure out what to give a teenager for a gift but I think that American Express Gift Cards are a win win choice. You get to pick out exactly how much you want to spend and they get to pick exactly what they want. They even get to use it like a real credit card at the store!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Real Bears

Check out The Real Bears a video produced by The Center for Science in Public Interest to counter the commercials produced by Big Soda. Since I have shown it to my kids Z16, R13 and T10 they have totally changed their attitude about things with sugar in them. They have not been asking for sugary drinks and are much more likely to take no for an answer the first time they ask me for something with sugar in it.

Please make sure to watch this video before you show it to your children to make sure you are comfortable showing it to them. There is one scene that some might find scary and there is one"intimate" scene between 2 bears which was fine with me since the bears are married : )

Friday, August 24, 2012

Tiger Lilly



We are having a great time in Jerusalem and I plan to write about my trip at some point but I have an urgent matter that I want to let all of you know about. There is this amazing kitten that has been hanging around our apartment. She is so sweet and playful and she loves kids. As many of you know I am a dog person and generally I don't fall in love with cats. She is so sociable and seems to prefer human company to cat company. She is a very doggy cat.

It is actually fairly easy to adopt a cat from Israel to the US. I would be happy to defray some or all of the costs of getting her to you. We have strongly considered taking her but I am worried that Tiger Lilly and Molly won't get along. If this was a US rescue I could see how it went and if they did not get along I could bring Tiger Lilly back to the rescue.

Please email me if you are interested in her.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Real Food Options on The Upper West Side

Though the Upper West Side is not known for it's food I have been lucky enough to have stumbled upon these 3 unbelievable resources available in my neighborhood, my CSA Cream of the Crop , the 97th Street Farmers Market, and Grow and Behold meats. Having access to them has completely changed the quality of the food that my family eats.

For those you who don't know, CSA stands for community supported agriculture. It essentially means that you buy a share of a farm. Each week vegetables and fruits are delivered to a set location and members pick up their share of the week. Each week you get different vegetables depending on what and how much is harvested at the farm. I was initially put off by the fact that I would have no control over what I got but the truth is that it has been wonderful getting vegetable that I might not have ordinarily bought. My kids have tried many new vegetables just because it "came from the farm". When I came home with 2 bunches of kale last night my kids were actually excited (they tried kale last year for the first time)

Cream of the Crop is an extra special CSA because not only can you get organic vegetables but you can  get a low spray fruit share, farm fresh pastured eggs, milk and other dairy products straight from the cow or goat, meat and chicken (non kosher) and the best fresh KOSHER goat cheese, goatgurt, lactofermented veggies and jams from Adama Dairy. There happen to be more share available so if you are interested here is the link.

Grow and Behold is an amazing resource for kosher, pastured meat and poultry. This meat is truly the best kosher meat I have ever eaten. Recently friends of ours who are not kosher told us that it was some of the best meat that they have ever had(and they have a lot more to choose from)! These happy cows are raised on pasture for their whole lives. For the last 2-4 months of their lives (this depends on the time of year) they have a choice of grass or grain. This makes the meat more tender (and yummy) than meat from cows that are only grass fed.

Grow and Behold ships meat nationally, delivers once a week to the New York metropolitan area, drops off once a month to 5 pick up spots in the Philadelphia area and has buying clubs in the Bay Area, LA, Seattle and St. Louis.

From asparagus and snap peas in the spring to apples and kale in the fall my Friday morning trips to the 97th Street Farmers Market are one of the highlights of my week. Not only do they have fruits and vegetables but you can also get farm fresh eggs, local honey, fresh apple cider, baked goods (not kosher), dairy goods, fish, meat (not kosher) and live jazz. Though I love all the stands my two favorite are Amanti Farm who have the most delicious eggs and J&A Bialas Farm because I just love their veggies. The farmers market is open all year though when it is not the growing season the selection does not include most of the farms that have fresh produce(though you can get apples all year round).

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Kippot and Cigarettes

Z is a pretty typical Modern Orthodox teenager in many ways. He goes to a Jewish day school and spends half the day studying Tanach (Bible and the prophets), Gemara and Hebrew. He goes to synagogue on Shabbat and he is a youth group leader. He plays on his school's basketball, soccer and baseball teams. He plays the piano and likes to read novels. He is also lukewarm about wearing a kippah. I totally get it. It's not always comfortable to stick out and look different than everyone else.

The fact  that he does not always have a kippah on causes me angst. Part of me feels like when Z is bare headed we are both being judged. I worry that people will think that neither Z nor our family are really Torah observant or that there is something intrinsically wrong with Modern Orthodoxy if their boys can go out with an uncovered head.

As Z has gotten older he has become much better about wearing his kippah in all sorts of situations and can often be found with a baseball cap on, an absolutely an acceptable alternative. The halacha (law) is not that a boy or man should wear a kippah it's that his head should be covered.

For some people the fact that Modern Orthodox boys in the United States don't always have a kippah on their head is evidence of the failures of Modern Orthodoxy. Truthfully I think it's about boys trying to figure out how to balance the world at large and Judaism. After all being Modern Orthodox is really about having one foot in each world and it's not always an easy balance.

I sometimes feel judged by more right-winged Jews. I know I should not care but I know that the fact that there are MO boys who do not always have something on their head is proof for some that there is something lacking in the choices that J and I have made.

In a way not wearing a kippah is a sort of rebelliousness. Interestingly, for the more right wing community rebelliousness in teen-age boys often takes the form of smoking cigarettes. Z recently said "Wouldn't you rather me not always wear a kippah and not smoke?" Of course I feel that way. I am actually that crazy lady on the street that tells teenagers that they look like idiots when they are smoking!(Tonight my kids made me promise never to say that again when I am with them.)

In my ideal world he would always have a kippah on and he would not smoke but in the world of teenage boys I'll take a bare head and a healthy body.


Thursday, May 10, 2012

Instagram

My husband is much cooler than I am. He was the captain of the his football team in high school and he reads Pitchfork. He also knows about lots of cool things before I do such as Instagram. He recently installed the app on my iphone and I am totally in love with it. It's an app that makes your mobile pictures look really hip and creative, something that I definitely need help with. Below are a few pictures that were hipped up by Instagram. They were originally totally average mobile pics but Instagram took them to  another level!

 Molly
 D Ice skating at Lasker rink
 R and Molly 
 T after D accidently swung some ice cream her way
I didn't take the picture but I Instagramed it!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Easy Almond Milk (Kosher For Passover)

I often use almond milk when I am baking something parve (dairy-free). I like the way it tastes better than soy or rice milk. Last year I spotted some kosher for Passover almond milk. I got very excited and then I read the ingredients and saw that there was cotton seed oil and mono & diglyceride in it. Yuck. Obviously I did not buy it.

Yesterday I got the idea to make my own almond milk for Passover and this is the recipe I came up with. It's good plain but you can make it taste even better than the sweetened ones you can buy in the market with a few simple additions.

1 cup slivered almonds or blanched almonds
3 cups water

1. Cover the almonds with water to soak with a little extra to account for the water that will be absorbed for about 8 hours.

2. Drain and put the almonds in the food processor with 3 cups of water. You can use 2 - 2 1/2 cups if you want it to be richer.

3. Process the almonds and water for a few minutes

4. Pour the mixture slowly into cheese cloth folded into quarters to filter and squeeze the mixture. I put the cheese cloth over a mason jar with a rubber band over it to hold it in place. I left a nice pocket for the ground nuts to go after the liquid draines through. You can also line a strainer with the cheese cloth and put it over a bowl.


5. When all the liquid had drained I squeezed the cheese cloth to get the extra liquid out.

6. If you are not going to flavor and sweeten the milk you are done!

7. If you are going to sweeten and flavor the milk make a simple syrup from 1/4 cup sugar and 1/4 cup water. All you need to do is bring the mixture to a boil, lower it a bit and boil on low for 5 minutes. You can also sweeten with honey or maple syrup but I wanted a more neutral taste

8. Add 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla to the milk

9. Add salt to taste (I used a big pinch)

10. Add 2 tablespoons of simple syrup (obviously you can use more or less!)

11. Mix and drink or use for baking!

This post is linked to Real Food Digest/ Real Food Holidays - Passover

Friday, March 30, 2012

Fluffy Almond Flour Passover Pancakes


I've been working on these pancakes for the past few years but thanks to the addition of some tapioca flour this year (thank you Lisa at Real Food Digest) they have really come together. I made them about 3 inches wide so they would flip nicely (I have found that any pancake that is to big can get messed up during flipping!). I just ate some with a little maple syrup which you can now find kosher for Passover and they were yum.

4 eggs separated
1 3/4 cups of almond meal
1/4 cup tapioca flour (or potato starch)
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons melted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup of milk
Butter to fry the pancakes in

1. Separate eggs and beat the whites until they are stiff

2. Combine the almond meal, tapioca flour (or potato starch) and the salt.

3. Add the milk, yolks, vanilla and melted butter and mix on medium with a hand mixer (it will seem a little bit pasty)

4. Fold in the egg whites.

5. Fry them up in butter.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Clementine Crate Misloach Manot (Gift) Boxes


Each Novemeber we go crazy for clemetines and we eat and eat them until about January when we are all sick of them! Clementines  usually come in wooden crates and I figured that we should keep all of our crates because I thought that they might make cute gift baskets for Purim.

After some thought we decided to cover them with craft paper and Modge Podge. I think they came out looking very crafty! This is a good project for all ages and fun for a family to do together.  Below is the tutorial for them.

Supplies:
Clementine crate
Pencil
12x12 scrapbook/craft paper
Modge Podge (I used matte)
Paint brush for the Modge Podge
Scissors

1. Pick the paper that you want to use to cover the crate. I used 2 different patterns that were the same color.                                 
2. Trace the short side of the crate on one of the pieces of paper.

2. Fold over the paper and and cut out the tracing. Since you were not able to totally trace the side just imagine where the line would have extended to so that you end up with a rectangle.
                                     
3. You will end up with paper for both of the short sides.

4. Repeat with the long side EXCEPT you want to add about a quarter of an inch to the width so you will be able to fold it over the ends. This will make the crate look neater.

5. Apply Modge Podge to the long pieces and glue on to the crate. Since the paper will be a little bit longer on the sides just fold them over.

6. Apply Modge Podge to the shorter pieces and glue them on to the short side of the crate.

7. Wait about 10 minutes and apply a layer of Modge Podge to the paper that has been glued to the box.

8. When the Modge Podge is dry apply another layer.

9. Line with tissue paper and fill with goodies!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

R's Bat Mitzvah Part 2: Shabbat Leining

Conceptually I had always thought that it would be nice if R had an opportunity to lein (chant from the Torah) for her Bat Mitzvah but initially neither me or R really took much initiative to make it happen. When R saw a friend lein last October she got the bug and decided that that she also wanted to lein. We contacted Paula Gantz and Adena Berkowitz who run Women's Tefilla on the Upper West Side and they got the ball rolling. I can't tell you how much time both Paula and Adena put into this Bat Mitzvah and I will be forever grateful to them.

We could have picked anytime to do it but we wanted to do it as close to her 12th birthday as we could. We decided on Feb 4th, Shabbat Shira. That gave us about 3 1/2 months to learn the trope (melody and notes) and as much of the parsha (portion of the Torah) as possible. With the help of our amazing teacher Leora R managed to learn almost half of it. Most kids take about a year to learn the full parsha so R really did a great job in such a short period of time. At the Bat Mitzvah Leora, Paula and one of Adena's daughters P graciously leined the rest of the parsha for us.

In typical me fashion I picked what turned out to be the logistically worst Shabbat possible at our shul. Some one had already rented the ballroom for lunch and there was a choir that day in the sanctuary in honor of Shabbat Shira so we could not do our speeches there. We had to figure out how to make the upstairs work for our service, speeches and kiddish and thanks to Deborah Riker (Rabbi Mark Wildes assistant AND A party planner) we pulled it off.

As those of you who know me know organization is not one of my strengths. Deborah kept me focused and on task. She  helped with everything from picking a great caterer who was not obscenely expensive and had delicious fresh food to not letting me order anything else whenever I was overcome with the fear that we would not have enough food! (She was also a huge help with the kids party!).

Since  we were doing a Women's Tefilla service only women and close male relatives (J, Z, 2 Uncles and 2 Grandfathers) were invited to come for the service. The rest of the men were invited to the speeches and kiddish. In order for a Woman's Tefilla sevice to be kosher there can be no more than 9 men there. If there was a minyan (10 or more men) you then run into problems halachically (Jewish law wise).

I have always "believed" in Women's Tefilla but I have to admit that this was only my fourth Women's Tefilla service. I felt a little disoriented as the service began (of course it could have also been that I have not been to the beginning of a Shabbat service in almost 16 years!). I had been so focused on the logistics of the day that I was not prepared for how I felt when R began to lein. I was transported. Her voice sounded beautiful. I still can not put words to how significant it was to hear my daughter lein. All I can say was that I felt just like I had when I gave birth to her when she was finished, complete with the adrenaline rush that left me sleepless for the next few days. I still can't stop thinking about what she sounded like.

T , who was very cute, did a great job closing up the service. When we were done we had a short break. J made Kiddish (the blessing over the wine) and we had some cookies and cake before we started the speeches, which we kept brief (there is nothing worse than having to sit through an hour of speeches at a Bar or Bat Mitzvah!). After the speeches we went next door for what turned out to be a beautiful and low key kiddish lunch. Since we had limited time to set up and limited space we put out a bunch of cocktail tables and everyone either found a seat or just milled about eating and talking with friends. I could not have been more pleased with the way that everything turned out.

So many of my friends who came to the Women's Tefilla service have told me how meaningful they thought that the Bat Mitzvah was and I can not agree with them more! I really believe that leining has been an incredible growth experience for  R. It is another way for her to connect with G-d and be actively involved in Judaism and her community. I also feel like I have had the opportunity to grow spiritually. It reminded me realize how important Synagogue services are and how they help ground you in G-d, Judaism and your community. I can't think of a more significant way that we could have celebrated her Bat Mitzvah and I am excitedly anticipating T ans D's.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

R's Bat Mitzvah Part One: The Kids Party

When we first started to think about what we were going to do for R's Bat Mitzvah we figured that we would have her learn something and have a siyum (a celebration of completion). We had discussed the option of leining (reading from the Torah) at a Women's Tefilla service but R was initially not  interested in doing it. However, after she saw a friend lein at her Bat Mitzvah, R decided that she did in fact want to lein. So we changed our plans.

We decided that it made the most sense to do a kids party and have a kiddish after the Women's Tefilla  for our family and friends. At first I was a little uneasy about having two parties because it seemed a little excessive. When I thought about it though, I realized that it was actually the wisest thing to do. R's friends from school live in many different communities and if they came to the leining on Shabbat then we would have had to deal with feeding and putting up all the girls. That would have been a major undertaking both time and money wise.

One of the things that I don't love about Bat Mitzvah parties (and even Shabbat leining) is the emphasis on "The Dress". Bat Mitzvah girls tend to become hyper focused on what they are wearing and so do their guests. It occurred to me that if the girls wore pajamas to the party we could avoid that problem. When I first brought it up R thought that I had lost my mind!

When she brought it up with her friends they all thought it was a fun idea and got really excited about it so we decided that we would have a slumber party theme and the girls would all wear pajamas. I sent a note out with the invitation telling the moms NOT to buy new pajama's for the party. The girls were all so adorable when they showed up in a collection of flannel PJ's, fluffy pants, sweatpants, robes and tee shirts.  It was definitely the right move. There was a vibe at the party that would not have existed had the girls all had party dresses on.

Since this was a kid's party the party was all about the kids. We hired a great DJ (he was so much fun!) and gave out fake mustaches (which made for some hilarious pictures) and glow stick necklaces. We also we had airbrush tattoos and a green screen photographer. Since there were only about 60 girls at the party (All the girls in her grade, plus camp and neighborhood friends) the girls got the chance to take a ridiculous amount of pictures and get a ridiculous amount of tattoos! It was a little bit like being let loose in a candy shop.

At each Bat Mitzvah the Bat Mitzvah girl's friends really take the time to make her feel special. There are always personalized songs written, memory bottles made and because this was not on Shabbat the girls also made videos for R that we were able to show at the party. It was so sweet. These girls understand that a Bat Mitzvah really is a significant point in a Torah observant girl's life.

The girls all had a great time and we were so pleased with how the party turned out. T is now excitedly planning for her own pajama party in 2014!


The sign in "pillow" which is now proudly displayed on R's bed
The mandatory chair lift
Hula hoop contest which T won!
Dancing!
More dancing
The DJ played this hilarious game where the team that put the most blown balloons in the giant tee shirt worn by one of their team members won.
The "Stuffed" Girls
D didn't stop dancing all night
The little ones all had a great time
The only decorations that we had were balloons and center pieces. For the center pieces we filled up small glass vases with pink Hershey's kisses and stuck in hot pink toothbrushes that said "Ravi's Bat Mitzvah Party" in silver on them (those were our giveaways!)
Mandatory Coke and Pepsi game!
                                   
Below are some of the green screen shots:
Ah Paris. This one could be my favorite one.
The Cheetah Girls
Me, D, J R and T on a tropical get away
T and G on American Idol

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Coleslaw


I love coleslaw but I don't like commercial mayonnaise. This is my mayoless version that I make it at least once a week. It works just as well for a weekday dinner or for Shabbat lunch (It goes really well with cholent!). It is super easy to make and everyone always loves it.

Cabbage sliced thinly
Shredded carrots
Chopped scallions
Apple cider vinegar
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt

1. I have no exact measurement I just cut as much cabbage as I need and then add shredded carrots and chopped scallions.

2. Add the apple cider vinegar and extra virgin olive oil. I use about a 1:1 ratio of vinegar and oil.

2. Add salt to taste and then toss.

3. Taste and adjust the salt and dressing if necessary.

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