Tuesday, March 31

Themes and Plans for April

Themes & Plans for April

April brings Pesach ...

And April also brings us (at long, long last), the first true days of spring: mild, soft and alive with sound and color. Nature is finally shrugging off its winter shawl, and showering us with its warm and friendly welcome.

It feels so good to open the windows again, and to leave the house with just a sweater - or none at all! I have been trying to introduce more nature study into our lives now that Froggy is able to particpate better and our plans reflect it. There are many, many joys to explore with our children this month, and what follows is but a sampling, just my own thoughts for the season. As always, I'd love to hear yours! But for now, please join me as I consider ...

~ Themes and Plans for April ~

Nature

  • Tulips start to bloom.
  • Skunk cabbage grows in marshy areas.
  • Bears are waking in the (deep) woods.
  • Cherry blossoms everywhere.
  • The skies are gray one minute, blue the next ...
  • ... and so rainbows are quite possible.
  • Forsythia is bursting all over.
  • At night we hear the spring peepers.
  • Mourning cloaks are the first butterflies we'll see.
  • Returning ~ thrush, phoebe, mockingbird and catbird.
  • The smell of wild onions is in the air.
  • We'll have rainy days; the rivers will swell.
  • Warm days are more frequent now.
  • Juncos leave; chipmunks re-appear.
  • Humpbacks are migrating back north.
  • Time to check for ticks again.
  • Dandelions are plentiful underfoot.
  • The Full Pink Moon rises on April 9th.
  • Bluebells appear along the wood's edge.
  • The grass is greening.
  • The goldfinches are brightening.
Food -PESACH
  • matzah, matzah and more matzah
  • matzah balls
  • gefilte fish
  • lots of egg salad
  • matza brei
  • flourless chocolate torte
  • macaroons
  • new potatoes
  • asparagus
  • dandelions
  • radishes
  • spring lamb
  • snap peas
  • spinach

Religion

  • Pesach (8-15)
  • Berakath HaHamah
  • Counting of the Omer
  • Leviticus
  • Yom HaShoah (21)
  • Rosh Chodesh (24)
  • Yom HaAtzmaut (29)

Household (& Garden)

  • Take outdoor furniture out of storage.
  • Clean out potting shed.
  • Establish new garden beds.
  • Prepare containers; purchase new ones.
  • Organize garden tools.
  • Prune flowering bushes after blooming.
  • Visit the nursery for spring plants, garden structures.
  • Arrange mulch delivery
  • Rake and compost leaf litter/debris.
  • Spread fresh mulch.
  • Finish spring cleaning / Pesach Prep.
  • Family meeting re ~ summer plans.
  • Turn on outside faucet.
  • Organize financial files.
  • Spiff up the bikes.
  • Get bike for Daddy

Life

  • National Autism Awareness Month
  • National Poetry Month
  • National Keep America Beautiful Month
  • National Aquarium Month
  • Cherry Blossom Festival
  • April Fools Day (1)
  • Hans Christian Anderson (2)
  • National Peanut Butter and Jelly Day (2)
  • Washington Irving (3)
  • Find a Rainbow Day (3)
  • No Housework Day (7)
  • Pesach (8)
  • 100th Day of the Year (9)
  • Thomas Jefferson (13)
  • Tax Day (15)
  • National Animal Crackers Day (18)
  • Earth Day (22)
  • William Shakespeare (23)
  • Arbor Day (25)

Book Basket

Field Trips & Outings

  • Matzah Factory
  • Annual outing for Pesach supplies
  • Second Seder at shul
  • Nature Hikes
  • Sunflower Garden

Crafts & Activities

  • Make afikomen bag
  • Make pillow cases for Seder
  • Make wilding sticks and nature bracelets.
  • Clean up litter in a local park.
  • Prepare field bags for spring.
  • Begin new nature journals.
  • Paint a butterfly house.
  • Look for tadpoles at the creek.
  • Conduct a rainbow experiment.
  • Go on a rainbow walk.
  • Paint rocks for garden markers.
  • Start vegetable garden
  • Set up a nature table at home.
  • Make tissue paper butterflies.
  • Color a butterfly guide.
  • Befriend a tree; start a notebook.
  • Look for nests before leaves come in.
  • Prepare May baskets.

Well,that is more then I can possibly do in a month but it will give me plenty of inspiration to run through during the month and help keep me inspired and focused.

April is here at last - and it will be gone before we know it - so let's make the most of it, my friends! Happy Spring!

Monday, March 30

Menu Planning Monday - cleaning out the freezer


This is the last week before Pesach. We are trying hard to use up all the stuff remaining in the house and not bring more in that is not Pesachdik.

Mon – Shepards Pie - From the freezer
Tuesday Fajitas - meat from the freezer - use up the last of the beans
Wednesday – picnic - use up the last of the cold cuts and bread.
Thursday - Stir Fry - We already have the tofu
Friday – Brown Sugar Salmon
Saturday - leftover buffet.

Friday, March 27

Music makes a home

For some time now I have been searching for a way to become more involved at our synagogue. Right now I was not willing to give the time commitment necessary to be a religious school teacher and I am fluent enough with the service and customs of this synagogue yet to take a more active part in leading the service. That did not leave very many opportunities. And then I discovered the Folk Music Group. They perform about four times a year at special services so some might feel their contribution to the shul is not large. That does not matter to me. I just wanted to be involved and meet people.

After several false starts and scheduling conflicts, I finally managed to connect with the group and join them for a rehearsal last evening. It was all I expected and so much more. With all that has been going on in my family lately, I was conflicted about taking this time away from them. It turned out to be the best thing in the world for me. It was not about spirtuality in a religious sense. It was more about a sense of belonging. Music has always been a huge part of who I am. I was actively involved in a performing group of one kind or another from age 6-18. In college, I lost track of it and never found the right home again as an adult. I think have now. I am very much looking forward to the next rehersal.

Friday Finds - Winnie The Pooh

This week's Friday Find is a classic. We are reading it both at home as well as listening to it as an audio book in the car. We have read short stories about Pooh Bear to Froggy every since she was born. Reading the stories in their original form the way they were meant to be told is so much more satisfying. For over 70 years readers have been reading and enjoying these stories. Why change them for children now? They were written for children in their original form. One does not have to wait until children are school aged to share quality literature with them. However it is important to pick the right story for the child. We had tried other of my favorite classics and they were not as well received as Pooh Bear. It may be that we need to set the stage properly.

Please join us next week for some Passover Finds.

Sunday, March 22

Menu Planning Monday - Baking Day

Between cooking for the freezer and being gone, we have eaten through all our stored baked goods and I am in desperate need of some quality bake time. Bad timing I know with Pesach just around the corner but the theory is that we will eat all I make. So in addition to my regular menu planning, I will share my baking list as well
Mon - Mommy returns home - Grandma is making pulkogi
Tues - Fajitas, refried beans, spanish rice, topping bar.
Wed - Family Swim Night - Picnic dinner of sandwiches, veggie sticks, cookies
Thurs - Folk Group Practice -Salmon Turnovers and salad
Fri - Shabbat - Challah, 40 Clove Chicken, garlic potatoes, Steamed asapragus, Chocolate Matcha Bundt Cake
Sat - Jr. Congregation - Leftovers

Baking List
- Granola
- Macaroons - We are testing several recipes in preparation for Passover
- buttermilk buscuits
- oatmeal rasberry pancakes
- Whole wheat bread

Friday, March 20

Fridays Find - Tangled Webs


Anne Bishop, one of the few authors I follow enthusiastically, has created a fascinating world with her Black Jewels series. "In the Realms of the Blood, the war has been fought, the battle has been won, and the epic tale has been told. But life goes on, so there are other challenges to face, smaller battles to be fought and other stories to tell. This is one of them." Tangled Webs is the novel so few authors write. Most authors only tell the epic tales. We as readers don't get to share in the "normal" life of the characters. In Tangled Webs, we do. I love that with this novel, we get another visit to the Realms of the Blood without Ms Bishop needing to create large complicated intrigue.

For those not familiar with the Black Jewels series, it is important to start at the beginning. There are six other books set in the Realms of the Blood starting with Daughter of the Blood and including the just released The Shadow Queen

Wednesday, March 18

WFMW - Hand Work

What is fantastic way to keep active and get stuff done while still playing/ being with your children? Handwork. Handwork makes tv time, playgroup time, any sort of hanging out tim e productive time. It is the ultimate in multi-tasking. I learned to knit from my grandmother when I was a child. I learned to crochet my final year in Hebrew school from the rabbi’s wife. I started doing counted cross-stitch as college student when I wanted to paint picture but lacked skill as an artist. There is a beautiful picture of an angel watching over a sleeping child hanging over my child’s bed. I made it long before she was ever conceive d.

I cannot knit or crochet any longer. Carpel Tunnel has taken its toll on my hands. I miss knitting terribly. As my ability to do these forms of handwork went down I looked for others. I have quilted since college but most of the piecing is done on the machine and that hand quilting is done in a huge frame. So this lack of portability takes it out of the realm of what I consider handwork. Then I discovered appliqué. And fell in love as I did when I made my first crocheted kippah.

Applique is extremely portable once it is prepped. I use a freezer paper method which keeps all the little pieces flat and turned under while waiting to be attached. It is pretty mindless and attention-light which is a critical component for me. I need to be able to do my handwork while carrying on a conversation and watching an active roaming preschooler at the playground.

All my friends are used to me dragging a ziploc bag filled with fabric bits around. It has been the same project for so long. It is a Hanukkah banner. One of the children at the park insisted I put it away because Hanukkah was over. "It is for next year" I told her. On Friday, I finished the lastof the applique for the project. I don't have completed pictures since I still need to piece the border and quilt it but soon we will have a new applique project to introduce to all the friends who have watched this one grow.

So whatever form of handwork you choose, do it everywhere, do it often and share it with the children in your life. Then they too will have a lovely product way to multitask and create works of art.

Tuesday, March 17

Marking Time

With a little one just learning the cycle of the year and the concept of time, it is very important to me that we mark time "Jewishly". One of my favorite books, Becoming a Jewish Parent by Daniel Gordis talks about this concept and touches on some ways to make it happen.

Homeschooling helps tremendously. Children, particularly young children, recognize the year by landmarks, holidays and birthdays. Right now, Froggy is learning to sing the Four Questions and what is and is not chametz. She is not looking forward to an Easter basket. She does not even know that Easter is a holiday or that it is approaching. If she were in even a secular preschool, she would. And she may even feel left out for not having it. Through out the year, the benefit of celbrating the holidays at home and in shul and limiting her exposure to other holiday celebrations has been incredibly evident.

The cycle of the week is also an important way to mark time in a Jewish manner. We make Shabbat together as a family every week whether at home or at synagogue or some combination there of. Saturday is hard though. And I see it becoming harder and harder as she grows and becomes more involved in activities. We are not in a supportive community. My husband's job requires emergency support regularly. I run a retail business for which the prime means of selling is conferences.

I would like Yom Shabbat to be a strictly family day but I cannot figure out how to make it happen. I cannot turn to my parents for help because they do not know. Growing up, Saturday was a fun day and we would frequently take day trips and do fun things and we never had to do chores on Shabbat. But we did have sports games and my mother would get called into the hospital sometimes.

I know I need to find my path now and become strong in it so that I can teach Froggy well.

Monday, March 16

Menu Planning Monday - No Mom

Our menu planning last week totally fell apart. We ended not being at home a single night all week. Menu planning only works if you are home to eat it. I did get my pasta sauce made for the freezer. And I managed to pack a proper picnic dinner for Family swim night. This week I only get to make dinner at home twice and then the Daddy has to take over. This week is what freezer meals are made for. I hope he remembers to serve veggies too. I have the menu as a reminder.

Sun – Pot Roast - Make Shepards Pie for the freezer
Mon – Swim Night - Picnic Dinner (Sandwiches, carrot sticks, melon, cookies)
Tuesday – Tofu Stir Fry Rice Keem
Wed –Mom leaves - Pasta, homemade sauce, salad.
Thursday – Preschool - Shepards pie and steamed broccoli
Friday – Parkday - Chicken Pot pie, green peas, challah, dessert with Grandparents.

Friday, March 13

Friday Finds - Happy St. Patricks Day

  March Theme Banner

In honor of St. Patricks Day, this Friday's Find spotlights my favorite Irish tales. The classic for me is Tales from Old Ireland. This enchanting collection of favorite Irish folk tales deserves to be read aloud at every hearth. Described by Malachy Doyle in captivating language, the larger-than-life characters, dramatic landscapes, and magical happenings of all the tales, including the famous legend of the bewitched Children of Lir, are also brought vividly to life by the luminous art of Niamh Sharkey, making this a book that will transport readers to another world for many happy hours.

My favorite story from this anthology is The Twelve Wild Geese. This is a classic folktale that has been retold in many formats. The Grimm Brothers wrote a version called the Six Swans.

The second selection is Tales from Celtic Lands. Formerly, Celtic Memories, this re-release of joyous stories, songs and values of the Celtic peoples create an irresistible magic both for descendants of the Celts and individuals from other traditions around the world. Thoughtfully compiled and magically retold by renowned author Caitlín Matthews, these stories and blessings offer a spellbinding journey through the Celtic world. A beautiful anthology for young and old from the same partnership that produced the best-selling The Barefoot Book of Princesses, Celtic Tales is an ideal introduction to Celtic tradition, and the lavish illustrations make this a book to treasure for life before passing through the generations

Wednesday, March 11

WFMW - Dry Erase Markers

One of my favorite office supplies from when I was a teacher is the dry erase markers. I loved them as a classroom teacher and now as a parent I love them even more. We use them for everything. On the fridge, on the whiteboard, as note takers everywhere. And they are best home schooling supply. For some reason they sell to Froggy in a way chalk does not even come close. I am not really suprised because it was exactly the same in my classroom with eighth graders. They have as much fun erasing as they do writing.

Every teacher and office manager is familiar with these and goes through them by the caseload every year. Because of course they are wonderful. But research has shown (and the market has responded) that little hands need thinner, shorter tool to work effectively. So Crayola made Pipsqueaks and we just finally found dry erase markers just like them. We use them with our Kumon cards. But we also use them for tracing practice of any style. Insert a design into a regular sheet proctector and viola instant dry erase card. We are starting writing whole words this week and each word will occupy one page. Froggy will get to practice writing it as many times as she wants with her dry erase markers.

To see what works for everyone else, check out all the tips at We Are That Family

Sunday, March 8

Menu Planning Monday

This week is crazy busy. Not only do I have to cook for the family for this week but I am trying to make freezer meals for the nights I am gone next week. And we are out two nights this week and then I have a conference Thursday-Saturday. Eeek thank goodness for menu planning or we would never survive. I will try to add links later

Sun – Purim Carnival - Finish baskets - Dinner out with the Auntie
Mon – Tofu Stir Fry before the the Purim Speil - Chili for the freezer
Tuesday –Swearing in – Purim Deliveries – Homemade Pasta Sauce (half for the freezer), noodles and salad
Wed – Family Swim Night - picnic dinner at the pool.
Thursday – Preschool - Daddy Date Night -
Friday – Parkday - Tot Shabbat - Dinner out after services.
Saturday – Totswap – Pot Roast - Make Shepards Pie for the freezer

Friday, March 6

Friday Finds - The Vor Series

As part of my 999 Literary Challenge, I am reading many books I would not have otherwise investigated. In doing so I apparently discovered a new series. I did not realize when I started The Vor Game that I was starting in the middle of a series. I do not as a rule enjoy space odysseys but this one is holding my attention well. I will need to go back and investigate the rest of the series. It is a full series which explores the characters in depth. Miles Vorkosigan has serious birth defects in a culture that is phobic about genetic mutations. Yet he manages to overcome those challenges and become a military officer.

Here is the complete list in order chonologically according to the story time line.

Shards of Honor
Barayar
(these two books are also combined into "Cordelia's Honor")
The Warrior's Apprentice
Short Story: The Mountains of Mourning
(all short stories are contained in "Borders of Infinity")
The Vor Game
Cetaganda
Ethan of Athos
Short Story: Labyrinth
Short Story: The Borders of Infinity
Brothers in Arms
The Borders of Infinity
Mirror Dance
Memory
Komarr
A Civil Campaign
Diplomatic Immunity

So what book did you end up enjoying quite unexpectedly?

Tuesday, March 3

Works For Me Wednesday - Playdates

Lots of the parents of Froggy's friends bemoan playdates. But for me it is all about the playdates. It needs to be the right child of course. And I do mean child. Parties are not the same thing. It is the one-on-one interaction of Froggy and the playmate that is critical.

When a friend comes over to play, different toys get played with. A friend came over on Saturday, he brought playdough toys with him that he needed to get out of his house. So he and Froggy scuplted and molded until snacktime. My child had not touched her playdough for at least two months prior to this. After a snack they played with colorforms, a holiday gift that was played with once right after receiving it. They also decided they needed to hide from an imaginary monster and ran up and down the stairs burning vast amounts of energy. Here they are hiding next to the bed.

Since that playdate Froggy has played with both every day independently and for significant blocks of time. These lingering effects, these shifts in focus are what make playdates work for me.

For other tips check out Kristen

Monday, March 2

Our Snow Day

March definitely came in like a lion here. We do not usually have to wait until March for our first serious snow fall. Today was a great snow day. Daddy was able to stay home although he did have to work. Our "school work" is so minimal and such an integral part of our day that it happens on snow days as well. Froggy was up extraordinarily early so we were eating breakfast by 7:30 and done with both it and "school" by 8am. Daddy made a roaring fire and we each did our own thing all morning just enjoying the day.

After a yummy snow day lunch of homemade soup and sandwiches on challah, we piled on the snow clothes and ventured out doors. Froggy made snow angels and tracks while I shovelled the walk and driveway. She was very eagar though to help me spread the salt. We attempted to make a snow man but it was a dismal failure. I just could not get the snow to stick.

Finally Daddy was able to extract himself from work and join us for a trek to the sledding hill (aka the local elementary school). We took both Froggy's little purple sled and the large red sled from the days at the farm. The sledding was fantastic.Here is Froggy going down on the big sled with Daddy. It took several rides down on the big sled with each parent before Froggy was willing to try it on her own.

She loved it once she tried it though even when the sled almost tipped over.

She even wanted to try the big sled by herself but that was not to be. The whole adventure lasted about 2hours which I thought was great.

We came back in had some more warm soup and watched The Sound of Music. All in all a lovely snow day.

Ariel Dress


For almost two months now, Froggy has been asking for her Ariel dress. We got the fabric at the same time as the fabric for the last baby quilt. Well today thanks to the snow that canceled our regularly scheduled activities I was able to put the finishing touches on it. I am not thrilled with the pattern as a whole and will not use it again but the dress turned out funtional. I fussy cut the bodice so that Ariel was whole. And thanks to the new sewing machine and a manual, I was finally able to master button holes. All in all I am quite pleased and Froggy can't wait to wear it.


See it has real functional button holes.

An up close view of the front. You can see a glimpse of the bodice lining. It is a very full skirt.

999 Literary Challenge Update

Okay another month has gone by. Time to check in and see how I stand on my challenge. And more importantly I just finished a book and wanted to record it. I just finished The Doomsday Book by Connie Willis. It was an interesting look at England in the Dark Ages via a time travel plot.

I am trucking through books now reading the Hugo Award winners. I am having an easy time with these books for a couple of reasons. First I read them on my blackberry while I am putting Froggy to bed. That means there is a period of 20-60 minutes guaranteed reading everyday. Second my blackberry comes with me everywhere I go which means if suddenly there is spare time available I can read a blackberry book. Because of these reasons, any book I can read on the blackberry will get read faster than a traditional book.

I have updated my reading list and added links to the books I have read and reviewed. It is not too late to join. You can count all the books you have read this year even if you did not read them with this in mind.