Wednesday, December 31

Breakfast

I know that eating breakfast is a healthy way to start the day. I am just not very good at it. One of my goals for the new year is to try to be better about it. So far this week, I have sat down at the table and eaten a real breakfast (not just a cup of coffee - my standard breakfast) with Froggy both days. Not only are we eating breakfast together but this has become our "school" time as well. Right now, we do so little real school that it is easy to do during the meal. We read our parsha, talk about it and then do writing. We are making a rainbow letter of the week. I am also going to add in counting with a Hundred Chart as a way to do a bit of math prior to receiving my Singapore Curriculum.

But now I am out of breakfast foods and need to experiment. We can't do cereal and milk because it is gross with soy milk. I could do yogurt but I don't happen to have any plain yogurt on hand and Froggy's snack containers are too sweet for me to start the day.

Today I am making homemade granola and tomorrow (New Years Day) we will all have Granola Breakfast Bake together. Todays breakfast is Baked Oatmeal. I am going to make half the recipe in an 8x8 pan.

Monday, December 29

Soupy Goodness

What with coming home to an empty fridge and not having any activities scheduled, today is a cooking experiment day. Yesterday I soaked both navy beans and red kidney beans in preparation for making Pasta Fagoli. We even had pasta for dinner last night so I would have leftover to put in the soup.

So today I cooked the beans. The kidney beans turned out great. The navy beans are bit crunchier than I would prefer. I set aside the needed amounts for the soup and froze the rest. The kidney beans will go into chili later this week. I am still not sure what I will do with the navy beans. Probably they will gradually go into soups.

And on to the soup. I sauted onion and carrot (about a cup of each) until just tender and then poured in the broth. I used purchased organic chicken and vegetable broth because I had them on had. I really need to make own broth both as a cost savings but more importantly to cut down on the salt. The soup as it stands is too salty for my preferences and I put not a drop in deliberately. I also added 1 large can petite diced tomatoes. These are the same tomatoes I use for my spagetti sauce once we run out of those I put up during the season. Except here I used the liquid as well. Bring all that to a boil and add seasonings. I added dried oregano, pepper, and fresh basil. Toss in the beans (1 cup each).

Here is where I totally deviated from pasta fagoli. I didn't realize that the recipe was supposed to use uncooked pasta. I did not want that much pasta in the soup at all. But to just leave it out would leave the soup much too brothy (I know not a real word but you get the idea). So I improvised. I added a packet of leftover rice from my freezer and simmered for about 30 minutes.

Yummy soupy goodness with no name.

MPM - Wrapping up the Holidays

This week's menu is still part of the holiday times and has more eating out and parties in it than an average week. Next week, we will get back to normal. Next week also marks the start of the new budget which has a reduced grocery allowance so our menus will reflect some cost saving strategies. As part of redoing our budget, the Froggy and I will packing lunches much more often when we are out. That means I need to plan lunches as well. This is mostly a problem for me since I have already been packing food for Froggy everyday. We are also going to be trying to sit down for a real breakfast before heading out for the day. To that end, I am adding breakfast and lunch to our menu planning

Sunday – Spaghetti with homemade Sauce, salad and bread

Monday – Family Swim Night – Dinner at Five Guys

Tuesday – Tofu Stir Fry, rice, keem – No Classes of any Kind

Wednesday – First Night – Dinner Out.

Thursday- Frittata and Salad

Friday – Shabbat – Pot Roast (crockpot) roasted squash and steamed broccoli

Sat – Chili and cornbread – Games Day at our house

Lunches
  • sandwiches (peanut butter, cream cheese)
  • soup (Pasta e Fagioli)
  • Salmon pasta salad
  • Leftover frittata or stir fry



Making Lemonade

When life gives you lemon, make lemonade. That is what I did this morning. Froggy woke up a little before 4am needing to use the restroom. It was hard to get past the crying to find the problems. But once we did she went back to sleep fairly easily. I did not. So instead I made good use of the time.

When we came home from visiting the grandparents on Saturday, I found all the shelves in my craft room on the floor. They had just come right off the wall. Yesterday, the wonderful Daddy put the shelves back up. So instead of sleeping I started restocking shelves. I also did a load of laundry so that I can finish making the new window seat for the learning/play room. I most of the fabric back out the living room and still sat down to do school work at my designated time of 6 am.

Saturday, December 27

Mid-Year Course Corrections

We are halfway through the academic year. It is time for me to take stock of what we have done so far this year in order to make some course corrections as we navigate through the sea of home-schooling. I have a lovely new calendar with lots of clean white space to keep detailed plans and notes.

Reading
Froggy is confident with her letter names and sounds. We are now starting on sounding out words. She is not interested often. Personally I am a strong proponent of phonics based reading. However, Froggy seems to prefer a more whole-language based approach. We will still be doing Starfall and the Bob Books but we will also be adding in some dolch words to give a more balanced approach.

Writing
At Froggy's request, we have just started introducing writing. I have ordered Handwriting without Tears workbook for Pre-K. We have a blackboard on which I will introduce the letter and we will make a rainbow tracing of each letter as we learn it. These rainbow letters will become a showcase around the learning room. I need to get her shorter dry-erase markers to use with her Kumon writing cards. We also need to investigate handedness as part of this practice. She seems to do much better when she uses her left hand to write/draw/color. Yet because I am right handed and show her using my right hand, when we are practicing together she picks up the implement right handed.

Math
We are ready to move beyond just counting. We are probably going to use Singapore Math for PreK. I have not yet ordered it. I am attending a homeschool conference with lots of vendors in May. I am hoping to be able to challenge her independently until then without a curriculum. But I may end up ordering it sooner.

Chumash (Religion Studies)
Despite my displeasure with My First Parsha, we will be continuing with this text. I am supplementing it with activities and discussion from TorahTots. We are adding an additional goal which is to have shacharit services at home daily. We will keep the service very short at first and gradually add prayers to it as we learn them together. For this purpose, we have added
The Jewish Children's Interactive Siddur to our Judaica Library

Hebrew
We are starting to learn our Alef-Bet and some conversational Hebrew. For now, we have added two Alef-Bet books into our reading basket and put Hebrew/English labels on various items around the house.

Friday, December 26

Friday's Finds - Railway Children

Edith Nesbit (1858–1924) was a writer and poet whose most famous work is Railway Children. Her works have inspired many others. The modern child may be more familiar with Magic By the Lake. But it is the wonderful works of Nesbit that prompted Edward Eagar to write his fun series. Take your child back on in time and share with them the original ideas. Other writers such as Arthur Ransome were also strongly influenced by Nesbit.

In Railway Children, Roberta, Peter, and Phyllis have a series of fantastic but non-magical adventures while they try to make sense of their father's mysterious disappearence. The story, like the slightly more modern Swallows and Amazons, is particularly appealing to many parents because it portrays realistic children having realistic adventures. Some may argue the realistic comment with me but there is no magic involved. The adventures the children have are all activities that occur in reality. People get saved from fires, homeless people need help, and travellers need to rescued from rockslides. Granted a family of children is not likely to be doing all these things but that is what makes fiction fun. The illustrations are beautiful, classic drawings that pull even a young child into the story.

So that is my find for this Friday. What is yours?

Wednesday, December 24

Dairy-Free Breakfast and the picky eater

Froggy is just not a big breakfast eater. That makes mornings hard especially when we need to be somewhere at a certain time. Many many days breakfast gets eaten in the car on the way to our morning activity. But it is important to me that she not eat much in the way of processed foods. And she gets bored with food easily. Together that means I need to be very creative

Well here is the idea I am currently working on. I am modifying the recipe to use ground turkey rather than sausage since we do not eat sausage. The first batch will use shredded soy cheese. I am not hopeful. Froggy seems to like the soy cheese in her mac&cheese but the rest of us think it is vile. I am still looking for other flavoring / texture options to use instead of cheese.

Works for Me Wednesday - Tolerance


What works for me today is tolerance. Many people forget their standard tolerance during this holiday season. Every one gets rushed and stressed. Families descend in on one another. Many people get hung up on their traditions. Traditions are important. I love my traditions. They are what make Hanukkah feel like Hanukkah. Yet there is room for tolerance while maintaining your own traditions. Tolerance allows that other people's traditions are valuable as well. Tolerance says that maybe we can create new traditions together.

I hope every one is enjoying their holiday. For more cool tips check out Rock in my Dryer.

Tuesday, December 23

Finished!!

I turned in the final project for my class this morning. The project not only marks the end of this dreadful class but it marks the completion of the entire set of courses that began August 2007. This final course soured my taste for the whole program. The subject of the course was "Culture in the Classroom" and yet this professor was the most culturally insensitive, biased professor I have ever met. Completing the requirements has been difficult because of the tremendous anger that arose just thinking about the course.

It is a great joy to be done and today is indeed a celebration.

Monday, December 22

Conflicted

I have never been so conflicted about our plans to homeschool Froggy. Saturday night, I took a tour of the local Jewish Day School (assuming by local you mean 30-40 minutes away). It is a K-8 School with only 144 students total. The director took me on a tour and it was amazing.

I have no doubt I can give my daughter an excellent secular education better than even a private school. I doubt my ability to give her a good Jewish education. At this school the children learn the morning service by the middle of first grade. I don't know it now. How can I teach it to her? I posed that question to some other Jewish homeschooling moms and they came back with some great answers.

The first and most common answer was to start attending a daily minyan with her. I cannot functionally do that. Our shul is 30 minutes away and does not even offer daily services. There were also many suggestions on how I can learn with her so that we can do morning services here at home. I think that is the path we will take for now. I have ordered this book so that we can both start to learn together.

Tuesday, December 16

999 Reading Challenge

I love to read but frequently find myself in a rut. Well this year I am breaking out. I pledge to read nine book in nine categories in 2009. The challenge is simple and was inspired by Ruth.

Pick any nine categories of books. Choose your books in each category. Start reading. Change the list as it works for you. Keep track of the books you read in each category. When I first decided to do this, I did not think it all the way through. It did not sound so hard. In making the lists, I realize what a true challenge it will be. 81 books that is an enormous amount of reading to cram into my busy life. But if I succeed, I will be a much more literate person able to converse on interesting topics.

Here is my tentative category list. I will add books to it as I think of them. I have also added links to my reviews of completed books for those I have written.

Educational Theory
The Well Trained Mind
Oak Meadows
How Children Learn*
The Laughing Classroom
Raising The Spirited Child *
Making School By Hand

Fantasy -
Moonstruck
Wicked Game

Biography
Fifty Jewish Women Who Changed The World
Women of Valor
Father of the Orphans

Judiasm / Jewish topics - These will also be part of the Jewish Literature Challenge
Bread and Fire: Jewish Women Find G-d in the Everyday
A Jewish Woman's Prayerbook
The Jewish Book of Journaling * I finished this. It was a quick read luckily since it was also useless
Zookeeper's Wife
Four Mothers
Fifty Jewish Women Who Changed The World (2)
Women of Valor (2)
Becoming a Jewish Parent

Cooking (recipes/ styles /techniques)
Fast Cheap and Good *
Artisan Chocolates
Fairytale Feasts *

Young Adult
Melting Stones *
Princess Ben
Father of the Orphans (2)
Let Sleeping Dogs Lie
Strange Relations *

Children
Five Children and It - in progress- a challenge due to strange colloquialism.
Railway Children *
All-Of-A-Kind Family - in progress

Hugo Award Winners(1)
Way Station
Stranger in a Strange Land
Dreamsnake * It was an interesting post apocalyptic world but nothing special.
Where Late The Sweet Bird Sings* - another post apocalyptic world. Clones this time
Doomsday Book * An interesting time travel book. Lots of description of the bubonic plague and life in the Dark Ages
Star Tide Rising
Cyteen
Barrayar
Mirror Dance

American Novelists
America and I
Zookeeper's Wife (2)
Huckleberry Finn - surprisingly I never read this in school so now is the time.


Take the challenge! Share your categories for now. We will check back in once a month.

* - completed
1 - Yes I know there are more than 9 here. I am not sure which I will actually finish. I will winnow the list as I read.
2 - Up to 9 books may count in two different categories.

Monday, December 15

Menu Planning Monday

I am keeping our menu simple for this week because we leave town on Monday and are trying to spend this week eating out the existing leftovers rather than making more. It is a clean out the fridge week here. Well I say that but then we have our annual holiday party here on Sunday (yes the night before we leave) so we will still have tons of leftover food to deal with. I am so so tempted to cancel the party. I am not in a festive mood. Looking at all I need to do between now and the party is rather overwhelming. I do not even have a menu for the party yet let alone have the groceries purchased. And today my MIL told me I need to make three different kinds of her cookies to bring for Christmas, two of which I have never made and are "fussy" cookies. Ok enough whining on to the menu

Sunday – Crockpot Cranberry Chicken - I use a whole cut up chicken.
Monday – makeup dance class – Family swim night – Dinner out
Tuesday – dance - Homemade spaghetti sauce and salad
Wednesday – swim – deliver cookies – Brisket (leftover from Shabbat), squash, broccoli
Thursday- mall storytime – Stir fry and rice
Friday – Maple Sugar Salmon, Rice, Green Veggie, Pumpkin Spice Cake
Saturday - Leftovers
Sunday - Holiday Party Here - appetizers and desserts.

Friday, December 12

Friday's Finds - Hanukkah


Welcome to a special festive Hanukkah edition of Friday Finds. There are more wonderful Hanukkah books out there than most parents realize. There are books that even preschoolers can enjoy that actually tell the story of Hanukkah. Books about draydles and counting candles are fun and provide variety but including an explaination of why Hanukkah exists is important and difficult for many parents. And on that note - here is this week's Friday Find.

Grandma's Latkes by Malka Drucker. It is a modern story in which a young girl learns the meaning of Hanukkah with her grandmother. We read it for the first time last year. It is a good story that weaves culture aspects of celebrating the holiday for her family with the telling of the Hanukkah story. The illustrations as well as the dialog with Grandma help young readers and listeners to be attentive through out. The book is thirty-two pages with more text per page than most picture books of a similar age rating (ages 4-8)


For older children there is The Story of Hanukkah by Amy Eirlich - This is a beautiful but involved telling of the Hanukkah story for a mature audience. It is violent and graphic. The artwork is lovely but again violent. We will revisit this book in a few years probably when Froggy is 7 or 8.

Wednesday, December 10

Lesson Plans - Spring Semester

For the Fall Semester - I kept our "schooling" obligations simple because we were starting a preschool coop with some friends. The coop is an important part of our week and we are very committed to it. However it is more a playdate than a learning opportunity. The real schooling we have been doing (which has been well-received by Froggy) is My First Parsha. I hate it. The language is so stilted and choppy it is driving me nuts. Add to that the editing choices and I am ready to chuck it out the window. I will keep with it though until I find a replacement.
Outside of academics - we are doing dance and swimming and parkday which we will continue as well.

For the Spring Semester I want to add more academics. Why I hear you ask, because I think Froggy is ready and interested. I need structure to keep me on track. Without siblings for Froggy to follow, she needs me to provide her with opportunities. We are going to do Handwriting without Tears, something for reading and something for Math. I don't know what though. 100 easy lessons has been tried and rejected quite thoroughly. Kidzone has some really neat things they do with flashcards and making sentences and we may do that rather than a structured curriculum. We will probably do either Living Math or Singapore Math or some combination there of. My goal for the next few weeks is to finalize these decisions and get some organization to my plans

Works For Me Wednesday - Ghiradelli

Avoiding dairy is hard. It hides in everything. Since we determined that Froggy is allergic to milk I have been getting quite the education. Ofcourse if you are avoiding dairy, you cannot have milk chocolate. But semi-sweet chocolate or dark chocolate should be fine right? No so. Most brands still have milk in them in some form.

My holiday baking became a real challenge. The gingerbread, sugar cutouts, cranberry jumbles and pumpkin cookies were all easy. But how can you not have chocolate. That is what makes the cookie platter look decadent. So off I went to investigate. Someone must be able to help me. Ghiradelli did. Their semi-sweet chocolate is absolutely dairy-free. The cooking can continue. Once again I am able to bake with ease. So Ghiradelli definitely works for me. For other tips check out Rocks in my Dryer.

Monday, December 8

Menu Planning Monday

This is a crazy busy week for us. I have meetings two nights this week as well as my final presentation for my class. Three night-time commitments in the same week and menu planning becomes a serious challenge. I am really looking forward to the new year where the only regular weeknight activity will be Family swim night and there should never be a week with more than two nights out.

Sunday – Chili and Corn Bread
Monday – Family Swim Night – GS Mtg 7:30
Tuesday – Daddy Date Night – Final Presentation
Wednesday – Frittata / Salad / Biscuits
Thursday – Leftovers – GS Training 7pm
Friday – Brisket, Mashed potatoes, Broccoli, Challah
Saturday – Holiday Adventures – Dinner out or leftovers

I would love to add more casseroles into our menu planning especially in the winter. Trying to find healthy versions that don't use a lot of pre-processed ingredients and can be made in a dairy free manner is tricky. Still the search continues. Hopefully some results will show up here in the next few weeks.

Sunday, December 7

Brisket Recipe

This recipe is from my dear friend Lisa. When I first starting making this recipe many years ago, I used to whole brisket as she suggests. I cannot find it anywhere any more so I am only using the first cut. It is still a good recipe but not the same. Cooking time is aboout 3-4 hours and there is no enough juice or sauce. I do miss the whole brisket.

Sure I will share the recipe, but like I said, it is technique, not quantity. The cut of meat is called a brisket. It can be hard to find. It comes from the side of the cow and it is sold as a first cut or a whole cut. The whole cut contains two pieces that are held
together by a fatty layer. This is a good thing as it lends lots of flavor to the dish and a natural gelationous quality (thick) texture to any liquid. It can be hard to find a whole brisket because of people's aversion to fatty cuts, its getting more and more usual to find only the first cut of brisket sold. The firts cut is is a relatively flat rectangular piece of meat and is several pounds., If you find a whole brokest it will be much bigger and will be the rectrangular flattish piece with a fatty thicker piece attached. Keep them together if you find a whole one.
I always cook it in a big roaster that I cover the sides and bottom with foil (t makes for much easier cleaning.)

Now as to what comes next...it really depends. The technique is that you are going to slow cook this for many hours in some liquid. The one you tasted was made with crushed tomatoes (similar to tomato sauce, but with more texture), lots of salt and some whole peeled cloves.I almost always used lots of sliced onions and garlic salt,brisket in, piour the sauce over, LIBERALLY season with salt and add the onions and/or garlic. Cover tightly with another piece of foil
and put into a 325 oven for about 6 hours. Start checking it at 4 hours (just in case you have avery small piece of meat) but be prepared for it to go to at least six hours. The house wil SMELL like brisket. Take it out of the oven, let it cool and then stick it in the refrigerator over night. It is important to let it cool because if you try to cut it while hot, it will probably shred away into little pieces. I have much better luck in letting it cool in the refrigerator until solid and then i can easil;y scrape off the fat from the juices and also cut the pieces ACROSS the grain into nice slices. Rember to slice across the grain.

You will find that you have way too much sauce (there is alot of liquid that is sent out from the cut of meat...hence the shrinkage.) You can do two things with the sauce. Skim the fat off of it and then cut carrots and stick them into the sauce and cook till they are done. This concenrates the sauce somewhat and gives the carrots great flavor. Another thing you can do is drain off the extra sauce and freeze it for your next batch. This serves likes a sourdough starter and ensures great brisket in the future.

Shabbat Dinner

Shabbos dinners are a special family time with all the pomp and ceremony of any holiday. We use our good china and pretty table clothes. We also have dessert like we would for any other holiday or special event. So Shabbos dinners are also a special challenge for menu planning.

Here are some of my favorite Shabbos recipes

Garlic Chicken
Steamed Salmon in a white wine reduction
Brisket

And of course it would not be Shabbat without Challah
Here is my recipe - It makes two smaller loaves which are perfect for our family

Challah
T
he key for me to making challah each week is my Kitchenaid mixer. Without it, my hands would not be work. I have made this same recipe by hand and it turns out good as long as you knead the dough enough which I am only willing to do when we travel to my mom's since she does not have and does not want a mixer.

Ingredients
1/4 c oil
1/4c honey
1/2c hot water
1tsp yeast
1 egg
approximately 3 cups flour - I use whole wheat

Add yeast to water to dissolve. Place oil, honey and egg in mixer with whisk attachment. Mix thoroughly. Add yeast mixture and 1 cup of flour. Mix for 2 minutes. Change to bread hook. add an additional cup of flour. Mix for 2 minutes. Gradually add the remaining flour mixing for at least one minute after each addition. Stop adding when dough is no longer sticky. Knead dough on medium speed for 3 minutes.

Let rise until doubled in volume, braid let rise 15-20 minutes then bake for 30 min.

Saturday, December 6

Snowball cookies

It is holiday baking and over the next few days I will be sharing some of my favorites as I dig through my recipe file and finish off my holiday baking. As I mentioned before I make lots and lots of cookies each year. I give them as gifts to everyone

To kick things off, a traditional favorite. I like this version because it is more kid-friendly. The dough holds up well to little hands.

Snowball Surprise
Great recipe to make with children

½ cup butter softened
¼ cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 ¼ cup flour
Chocolate Kisses
Powder Sugar Icing
Decorative Sprinkles

Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl beat butter for 30seconds. Beat in powdered sugar and vanilla. Beat in Flour.

  1. Shape 1 teaspoon of dough into a ball. Press a kiss into the ball and enclose the chocolate in dough. Repeat with remaining dough. Place balls on ungreased cookie sheet.
  2. Bake in preheated oven for 12-14 minutes or until bottoms are lightly browned. Transfer to wire rack and let cool. Dip cooled cookies in powdered sugar icing. Sprinkle with decorations.
Storage

Layer cookies between waked paper in an airtight container.
Store at room temperature for up to 3 days
Freeze unfrosted cookies for up to 3 months. Thaw cookies. Dip in frosting

Friday, December 5

Friday's Finds - Tamora Pierce

Tamora Pierce has released a new novella, Melting Stones. It was originally released as an audiobook. According to the press release, this is the first time a prominent author has ever chosen to release the audio version first. The book was written to be performed, with specific actors in mind. The only differences between the audio version and the print version are attributes like "he said" or "she said".

The story itself is a continuation of adventures begun in Street Magic, part Circle of Magic reforged series. You do not need to have read any of the prior books to be able to follow the story. Unlike other novels in the series, there is a large jump in time between these books during which life happens that is not written about but shapes the characters.

Evvy, a fourteen year old rock mage, goes with her guardian Rosethorn to a "battle island" where the plants are dying off. She is supposedly along for the ride, a reluctant observer. Yet, as all who are familiar with Tamora Pierce expect, she with the help of Luvo, the living heart of a mountain, discovers that volcanic spirits plan to erupt. How Luvo came to be with Evvy is part of the life happenings that are not written. That is a story I would like to hear.

This is a novella, not a novel, shorter than most of Pierce's books. It is written for young adults. Publishers Weekly lists the age as ten and up. I personally would be willing to let my child read it as soon as they were interested and capable. We will almost certainly try the audio version in pieces during car drives a couple of years from now.

To me, all of Tamora Pierces books are timeless and can be read over and over again. I will admit a little secret here though. I don't know if I have seen the words to any of the latest six or so. In our house these books are special and saved for "story time" when Daddy reads them aloud. There is much much grumbling each night when he stops because it is hard to let go of such engaging characters.

Do you have a book you love? Share your favorite finds here.

Wednesday, December 3

Works for Me Wednesday - Read Along Books

You probably remember these from your childhood, a record (yes I am showing my oh so advanced age) that would ding when you needed to turn the page. I had a few Disney stories that I would listen to over and over again. By the time I found these I was reading on my own even at the level these books were and still loved having the record read to me.

These days everything is digital and so there is a much larger selection than my parents could find for me. Our local library has a large collection of read-along books for children, with stories geared to all different age levels and attention spans. These books are perfect for long car trips. Froggy does not like ride in the car. She does a better job of it now that she is older but it is still not an enjoyable activity for her. Planning long car trips for a family is a major ordeal. We have two scheduled in the next six weeks. My solution - hit the library and stock up on these special books. I start early. Read them at home without the CD first. If the book is requested at home again, then it goes on the list for the car. If not, it goes back to the library.

The books from the library are filler though and a break for the grownups. The best treat for Froggy are the Sing-Along books by Barefoot Books. She likes these even better than the read-alongs because there is great music with the story. Our library has Animal Boogie which Froggy can listen to and sing along with for an hour easily. But there are others in the collection. Creepy Crawly Calypso is my personal favorite. Frogyy likes Farmyard Jamboree better. That may just be part of her current fascination with numbers though. For the first night of Hanukkah, Froggy will get Dragon on Our Doorstep. I hope it provides as much joy as the others have.

For a bibliophile who cannot read to themselves in the car for whatever reason, be it age or motion sickness or being the driver, audio books are a great alternative and definitely work for me. For other great tips check out Shannon at Rocks in My Dryer

Friday, November 21

Getting it together

I am finally getting my act together as a mom. I had an all day conference today. I hate being gone on Fridays not only because I miss our standing park day date with the other homeschool friends but because it makes Shabbat preparations so hard. Before today if I had to be gone all day on Friday it usually meant a “faked” Shabbat with a store bought Challah and dinner out on the way to shul. Not today. I left the house this morning with challah rising in the fridge, a crockpot meal ready to hit the button and asparagus ready to steam.

I am only starting to get my act together with this organization game called motherhood. If I truly had my act together my menu planning would have reflected my plans for today and included a crockpot meal instead of the planned roast turkey and I would have had dessert prepped as well. We had dinner at home and fresh challah but a store bought dessert. Still I am making progress and proud of it.

Thursday, November 20

Friday's Finds - Fairies


As all my loyal readers know I am obsessed with Fairies. Fantasy novels have been my preferred reading genre since I became an independent reader. I am currently reading the latest installment of Laurell Hamilton's Fairy series, Swallowing Darkness. I just started it so I cannot really review it yet. The series as a whole is nice mind candy. It is not a profound thought provoking series. But it is a captivating story which provides a nice escape. As a mom I sure need an escape sometimes.

Yet as much as I love fairies and fairy stories, I cannot stand the insipidness with which most children's books treat fairies. One wonderful exception to this general rule is The Barefoot Book of Fairies. It is an anthology of twelve stories from around the world about realistic fairies. These are classic stories retold in modern language.

One of my favorite is "The Fairies and the Cake Baker." The young mother is a town baker. The fairies, who of course love sweets, come steal the mom away to bake for them in Fairie. The mom uses her wits to stall and finally free herself and her family. Yet even at the end she shows respect to the Fairies and leaves them treats periodically.
I won't give away everything but I do want to share another example with you, "Fairie Mischief". Fairies are some of the most famous mischief makers around. In this story, the fairies share some of their favorite tricks.

This book is a wonderful way to share the timeless joy of classic fairy stories with all ages of children.

Do you have any favorite Fairy books or any book to recommend? Share your favorites here.

Wednesday, November 19

WFMW - Immersion Blender


I try to keep my kitchen as basic as possible. There are not many gadgets I use or store. I keep cleaning out my cabinets to get rid of more and more of them.

One of the tools that makes this possible is my immersion blender. I ave the Kitchenaid brand. When my old one broke, someone gave me a different brand as a replacement. I used it one time then went out and bought another Kitchenaid. I do not use my stand blender at all thanks to my immersion blender.

This is the time of year when my stick as a I call it gets a real work out. I use it to make all my applesauce. This year we put up 45 jars of applesauce. I also use it when making mashed potatoes, squash, and soup. I found a new use as well. I made my own pumpkin this year. I roasted it and then pureed it with my stick. Viola. No more need for canned pumpkin.

For more great tips check out Rocks In My Dryer

Monday, November 17

Menu Planning Monday

Laura over at Orgjunkie hosts Menu Plan Monday each week. I have been doing this for a few weeks now. It helps us keep track of what we are eating so that I can see where the favorites are and whaat experiments were a success or failure. Starting in January we are on a super strict budget so I am trying some food changes here and there around holiday baking / shopping to prepare.

Frittatas are one of those changes. Eggs are less expensive than meat and still something Daddy is willing to eat. So we have frittata on the menu every other week minimum. I plan it for Family swim night because they are good hot or at room temperature and travel well which means we can eat it in the car if we need to.

Meatloaf is another one of those money expanders I am trying to include in the rotation more often. I use homemade bread crumbs and egg as filler to stretch the ground turkey in the meatloaf.

Sunday – Spaghetti with homemade sauce / salad
Monday – Family Swim Night / frittata
Tuesday – Girl Scout Training / Chuck E Cheese
Wednesday –Meatloaf / green Beans / roasted acorn squash
Thursday - leftovers
Friday – Shabbat – Conference – roast chicken stuffing steamed asparagus
Sat - Gone

Saturday, November 15

Friday Finds - Thanksgiving

Please forgive me. This week's Friday Find is late due to technical difficulties. I hope you all will still add your favorite Thanksgiving finds. Our family needs some new good books for Thanksgiving.


Mary's First Thanksgiving – This book is set during the early 1900's. Mary and her family are recent immigrants from Ireland. This is the first year they are in America for Thanksgiving. Mary comes home from school angry saying she hates Thanksgiving and has nothing to be thankful for. Her family is extremely poor and has little food yet her parents help her find reasons to be thankful and show her how life is good and getting better.

I really like that the book shows an honest child’s perspective of envy and poverty. I also like that it shows Mary finding age appropriate yet meaningful things to be thankful


Fletcher and the Falling Leaves – This book is more an Autumn book than a Thanksgiving book but we hold it until November rather reading it earlier in Autumn so it fits to me. Some people have recommended this books a helpful tool for little ones faced with death / grief. It can be read simply as a season book or used as a jumping place for other discussion. It shows the circle of life as Fletcher deals with fear and grief as his favorite tree loses its leaves.





Thursday, November 13

Baby Wearing Week

Welcome to the inaugural Babywearing Week.

As Babywearing International puts it“Babywearing” simply means holding or carrying a baby or young child using a baby carrier. Holding babies is natural and universal; baby carriers make it easier and more comfortable, allowing parents and caregivers to hold or carry their children while attending to the daily tasks of living. Babywearing helps a new dad put a fussy newborn to sleep. It allows a new mom use both hands to make a sandwich. It lets an experienced parent or caregiver carry a baby on her back and wash the dishes, do the laundry, take a hike, weed the garden … all while keeping the baby safe and content"

There are several organizations that can help you find out more about babywear as well as which carrier is right for you and your child. I recommend NINO as well as API.

And I will take gratutious advantage of this opportunity to share some picture of me wearing Froggy.
This is Froggy at 7mths in the ring sling. I wish we had earlier pictures of her in the Moby.

She is 9 months here getting ready for her first plane trip with just Mommy.

And a shot of Daddy wearing her for her first H18 mths. She can walk well but not enough to keep up.

I still wear her even now at 3 years old. But not it is only on long long days at the zoo or museum or in the airport. Not at fun times when we get pictures to share. I miss wearing her more even as I love the precocious running fun we have now.

Wednesday, November 12

Holiday Baking

Some people have me to explain my system fo holiday baking. Here it is.
I start early getting organized and making my lists sometimes even before Halloween. I decide who all needs a cookie tray. Cookie trays for individuals contain 6 cookies of 4 different types for a generous total of 2 dozen cookies. The trays I make for parties or groups get a dozen of each type for a total of 4 dozen cookies.

So once I have my list of recipients made up I know how many cookies I need to bake. This years list totals 30 dozen. That includes teacher present, neighbor offerings, party platters and hostess gifts. It sounds like a lot but being organized makes it easy. As well I don't only bake 4 types of cookies. That would be boring to me.

I start now trying out new cookies and each time I try something that sounds new and fun, I also make a batch of a proven winner for the freezer. I freeze the batter not baked cookies. Drop cookies are frozen in drops. Rolled cookie batter is frozen in a sheet. Sliced cookies are frozen in a log. Freezing only the batter gets lots of the work done ahead of time while still giving a fresh baked taste in the final product.

Baking time is all of December. Having the frozen dough allows me to bake dozens of different kinds of cookies quickly. I will prepare a cut out cookie while a drop cookie is baking. Or I can slice up some fancy log cookies. And in one evening have a party tray of different kinds ready while still keeping the family cared for.

This is the list of cookie type I am planning for this year. The ones with question marks are the new kinds I am trying in the next week to see if they doable.

Sugar cookie cutouts
Gingerbread cutouts
Nobake peanut oatmeal
Chocolate chip kisses
Cranberry orange pinwheels
Cranberry drops ??
Pumpkin cookies
Chocolate mint snowtop cookies
Chocolate
amaretto bars
Cranberry magic bars ??
Pecan shortbread logs ??

WFMW - Humidifier


Our family is not sick often. We trundle on without any problems all year long. We spend lots of time outdoors and with the windows open.

Then Autumn comes. The windows are closed more and more. Finally we give up and put the heat on. And start to look and act sick. Until I remember to put the humidifier on too. The instantly we all start to feel better again. No more bloody noses, less coughing and sneezing. It is amazing. If the economy were different or we had more savings I might invest in a whole house humidifier. But for now what works for us is a simple $15 unit from CVS that sits on the floor.

For more tips, pop over and visit Rocks in My Dryer

Carnival of Homeschooling


I missed entering the carnival this week. I have just been too busy with my own schooling. Melissa has done a lovely job pulling together all the great submissions with her theme - Who let the dogs out. Stop by. You can visit with her dogs, a golden retriever and a goldendoodle as well as learn lots more about all kinds of dogs while you take a tour of neat ideas, fun games, and creative tips from your fellow homeschoolers.

There are tips for little ones learning their letters as well as older children taking a tour of the world. There are interviews and giveaways and lots of other things. Just because I missed out does not mean you need to.

Monday, November 10

Book Giveaway - Childrens' Winner!!



Please help send congratulations to Kris and her two little girls who will receive Animal Boogie as well as Heidi and her boisterous family who will receive Llama Llama.

I tried to use the random number generator to choose the winner. After 3 tries where it picked a winner I could not contact, I gave up and picked based on who had valid contact information.

I hope you have enjoyed all the book giveaways as much as I have. I did not win anything despite many many entries. I did find many new fun blogs to enjoy though. That alone has made it worthwhile to me.

I hope all the people who have won here enjoy their books. Whether you won or not I hope you come back to visit often.

Friday, November 7

Book Giveaway - WInner!!


Congratulations to Tracy of Frugal Fairie. She is now the proud owner of Super Natural Cooking. Her spicy vegetable soup was truly inspiring. She has lots of fun recipes and frugal ideas on her site so go check her out and tell her congratulations while you are at it.

Fridays Find - Yoga

This week is Book Giveaway Week in the blogosphere and coincidentally Barefoot Books just announced a free product giveaway. All my loyal readers know how much I love Barefoot books so clearly these became my Friday Finds

Living Barefoot Free Yoga Planet Banner 468x60 U.S.


Yoga Planet is a new addition from Barefoot. It is similar in concept to Yoga Pretzels but takes the concept farther. Instead of just yoga poses, it also adds relaxation tips for children and cards to help the whole family live more ecologically.

But neither of those are really books. The book that started it all is My Daddy is a Pretzel. It is a favorite in our household. Before acquiring this book, we had never done yoga or even considered it. Now Froggy pulls it out and asks to do yoga. So much so that later today we will take our first Mommy and Me Yoga class at the local Arts Center. Unlike most exercise books, the is a story here. You can read the book snuggled on the sofa and never move. The setting is a classroom where each child tells about their parents. Each yoga pose is related to a task or job the parent does.



"Niki says her mommy is a gardener. Sometimes my daddy's a tree."

The images are fun and captivating. Even a pre-reader can pick up this text and start learning. Yet it can also be a story enjoyed alone The best combination of everything

It is your turn now. Share your finds - be it for yoga, exercise or any other guide.

Tuesday, November 4

Book Giveway - Children

Here is a midweek pick-me-up to continue the joy of Book Giveaway Week.

This one if for the little ones. Do you have a little one in your family? Then share with them the joy of books. I will pick two winners. Tell me which book you want and bit about the child with whom you read. Earn extra chances to win by posting about this giveaway in your blog - leave the link to your post in a comment. Earn a third chance to win by subscribing to this blog.

Winners will be announced Monday morning.


Animal Boogie will let you shake, shimmy and boggie-woogie-oogie with the creatures of the Indian jungle! Enjoy a tale that is bright and fun, wacky and exotic! The vibrant, fun illustrations in this book are packed full of jungle animals to find and count. The rhyme bounces along introducing a colorful collection of intriguing animals through lively word play and repetition. A musical score is included in the book.
In this sequel to Llama Llama Red Pajama, llama llama gradually learns to become a partner with Mama LLama rather than battling her.

Carnival of Homeschooling - Fables

Apollo's Academy presents a fable based fieldtrip around the blogosphere with the Carnival of Homeschooling #149

Check it out!

Torah Study Week 2 Review

Now that Froggy is 3, we started Torah Study. We are using My First Parsha Reader. It was the only Parsha study I could find that was geared towards preschoolers. The language is more silted than regular books or even the bible story books we have. It took some convincing initially to get Froggy to sit for the reading but we persevered. My goal is to read each parsha at least three times. So far we have made that. The questions at the end of the parsha have not been useful thus far. I think they may prove more engaging and relevant when we do the series again next year. We have delved deeper. For instance, in Noach, there is no mention of the rainbow. As well, with Babel we talked about how bad ideas sometimes get a hold and crowd out the good ideas and how we have to help make sure the good ideas get heard.

After completing two full weeks, I am finally starting to see results. Only now is Froggy starting to ask about the stories. And what does she ask about, not Lech Lecha but Beraishit. She asks about Cain fighting with Abel. And about G-d punishing him.

With Lech Lecha, we start something new. We are creating a Hebrew word book. I had no intention of teaching Hebrew yet but since each parsha uses so many Hebrew words, I am without meaning to. Why not make it meaningful?

Books Books and More Books

If you love books and you love saving money then this is your week in bloggydom. It is Book Carnival Week and there are lots of free books to win

Brimful Curiosities is offering Nature Discovery.
Lipstick to Crayons is offering The Daring Book for Girls
Confessions of a Bibliophile is offering two books

Monday, November 3

Pumpkin Cookies

All year long I crave pumpkin foods. But I tend to be alone in that so I don't indulge. This time of year, everyone else wants them to so I am free to indulge to my hearts content.

Here is one of my favorite - Pumpkin Cookies

Ingredients

* 1 cup applesauce
* 1 cup sugar
* 1 cup pumpkin puree
* 1 egg
* 1 teaspoon vanilla
* 2 cups all-purpose flour
* 1 teaspoon baking powder
* 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
* 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
* 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
* 1 cup raisins
* 1/2 cup finely chopped nuts

Directions

Add applesauce, sugar pumpkin, egg and vanilla; beat well.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg.
Add to wet mixture; blending well.
Stir in raisins and chopped pecans.
Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls about 2 inches apart on greased baking sheets. Bake pumpkin cookies at 350° for 12 to 15 minutes.

Makes about 36 pumpkin cookies.

MPM - Comfort Foods


This is recovery week at our house. After the rush of all the Fall holidays and birthdays, we now settle into a time of calm and our menu reflects it. There is nothing fancy this week just some simple comfort foods that help us feel the calm we need. I will add more recipes as we make them.

Sunday - Soup and biscuits
Monday - Crab and Broccoli Quiche, Pumpkin Cookies
Tuesday - Chicken Fajitas, Black Beans, Rice
Wednesday - Tofu Stir Fry - This appeared on last week's menu but never got made.
Thursday - leftovers
Friday - Roast Turkey, Stuffing, Steamed Broccoli, Apple Crisp
Saturday - leftovers

For more menu ideas check out all this week's selection at Org Junkie

Book Giveaway - Cookbook


I love to cook. I love to experiment. So now I turn to you all inspire me. I want to see what you feed your family. And you can win Super Natural Cooking by Heidi Swanson. This lovely cookbook can help everyone get more real food into the family.


Heres how to enter.

1. Post a recipe on your blog
2. Leave the link below in Mr. Linky
3. Place link to this contest somewhere on your blog.

You must do all three to be a valid entry.

And check back often. There will be lots more books to win all week.

Sunday, November 2

A Modern Day Barn Raising

Froggy's sovta gave her a swing set for her birthday. Today we had a couple of families over to help us put the frame up. It was like a modern day barn raising. The men put the structure together. I made some good wholesome food to keep the builders going. The children ran and played.

This is what we are replacing



Our Sturdy Builders



Laying out the tower


\ It is starting to look like something now


A break to enjoy some of the pleasures of autumn


And finally just as the sun starts to give out for the day, the super structure is complete enough that Froggy can give the wonderful new set a test drive. Daddy and I will spend most of next weekend putting on the final details but it is up and usable and that is what matters.

Thank you so much to those who came and helped today.