Monday, February 25

Menu Planning Monday -25 Adar

After the marathon baking session that is Mishlach Manot Prep, I am looking for a quiet week in the kitchen. 

Review
Our Persian Purim feast was an interesting evening. The Kortmis Satsivi, was the lose of the week.  The keftes were good and Froggy even deemed them not awful.  The soup was the absolute win of the week. 

Menu
Monday - Fish ala Jenn, Rice and Peas
Tuesday - Cheese sandwiches and veggie sticks
Wednesday -quesedillas, rice and beans.
Thursday -Salad and Pizza
Shabbat -Challah, Mandu, Miso Soup, Asian Slaw, Salmon, snow peas,and homemade parve snickers for dessert

Baking
chocolate chip cookies,
 chocolate chip coffee cake

Wednesday, February 20

Quizlet!!!

We found the best online resource for learning vocabulary.  It is Quizlet. And it is free!  It is basically flashcards online but there are games that you can go with it too.  There are flashcard sets for almost every topic you could want.  The best part is that you can create your own flashcard sets.  I made this set for Froggy.  Each time we encounter a new shoresh or word in our Chumash study, we add it to the set.  Froggy loves to play Scatter and try to beat her time. 

Tuesday, February 19

Valentines

 For the first time, Froggy got to exchange Valentines like I did when I was in school. She worked very hard making 50 valentines to share with her friends.  We started with these printable bookmarks 
Froggy cut them all out. 
  
Then  she made little thumbprint hearts on them.  
We finished them off with a hole punched in the top and a ribbon tied through.
 It took her about week of diligent working to get through them all. 
She also made a mailbox to receive her valentines.

Monday, February 18

Menu Planning Monday - Purim!

This week our menu is all about getting ready for Purim.  We will be baking Hamentaschen galore to fill our Mishlach Manot.  The dough is already in the freezer ready to be filled and baked.  We will make some candy as well to put in it and package up nuts so that we have three catagories of brachot in our baskets.

In addition to this I have meetings three evenings this week so that makes dinner tricky.  

Monday - Crockpot Chicken, tatortots, broccoli
Tuesday - Dinner on the go between activities - turkey roll ups, carrot sticks and red pepper dip
Wednesday - Science Night - Abba and Froggy will eat without me - Fish Ala Jenn, rice and peas
Thursday- Chili and salad
Shabbat - A Sephardic Feast in honor of Esther - Challah, Sephardic Fish Balls, Persian White Bean and Noodle Soup, Mouhamara, Sephardic White bean Salad, Kotmis Satsivi, keftes Chickpea Salad and of course Hamentashen for dessert. 

Sunday, February 17

A Sweet Conversation

Froggy was invited to a potluck Valentines Day party.  We decided to make Conversation Hearts to share with the friends.  A friend did this with daughter at about this age and strongly recommended it. 
 
First this was mixing up the ingredients in the mixer
The dough becomes basically like playdough.  We divided ours into four parts so that we could have 4 different colors of hearts.

Froggy had a fantastic time mixing the color through the dough. She just kept kneading it until the color was all even.
Then she rolled it out using my best new purchase, rolling bands.  They kept her from rolling the dough to thin and helped her know when it was at the right level. 
Then she cut them out.  They are much bigger than store bought even using the tiniest cutter we could find.
Here is the first batch ready to be set aside to dry.

This was a super fun but super messy activity.  Here is the detritus left behind.

Thursday, February 14

Finished!

I finally finished Froggy's new kippah.  I learned a great deal from the first one I made for her.  This one is so much better.  She picked the yarn herself.  The colors a bright and bold and suit her immensely.  They remind me of Softa.  The yarn was hard to work with because it split terrible and it is fuzzy but those same traits make it a softer and yummier to wear. 

Wednesday, February 13

A Food Tour of Sephardi

Thanks to our great Scholar in Residence program and author, Gil Marks, I got to take a food tour of Sephardi.  I was not able to attend the Moroccan dinner Shabbos evening.  But we did get to share in the delightful Kiddush.
Prep in the kitchen for the weekend.
 Kiddush was a tasting menu from Central Asia and the Mediterranean. There was a complete Fleishig menu from each country including dessert.  Our favorites from the meal crossed country lines.  The Georgian Chicken in Walnut Sauce and the Red Pepper Walnut Spread were fantastic.  It is so sad that Ms. G is allergic to walnuts.  I am going to have to try substituting almonds in some of these recipes.
 Sunday was the kicker with the "World of Vegetarian Purim".  Rabbi Marks is a very interesting person who shared much more than his recipes with us.  If you want to know more about food than just how to make it I strongly recommend his book, The Encyclopedia of Jewish Food.  He shared lots of history with us while preparing the menu of Ethiopian Vegetable Stew, Lobio Pkhali (a Georgian bean spread that is on my menu for Purim), Keftes de Espinaca (the spinach patties below), a mock chopped liver and a sweet couscous for dessert
Unfortunately, the timing of Rabbi Mark's presentation was significantly off and the demonstration ran so long that there was not time for me to sample the food before needing to leave to pick up Froggy an hour past the scheduled end time.  It was very disappointing.  I enjoyed learning all the history about the food but after 2 hours of preparing the food I wanted to taste it too. 
All of the recipes from the demonstration are in Olive Trees and Honey which I have ordered.  I will share the recipe review as I make them. 

Tuesday, February 12

Mardi Gras

Many people claim that Mardi Gras has its roots in Purim. It is hard to deny the connection while preparing for both in the same week.  The feel of the holidays remarkable similar to any one who is familiar with both.

Froggy, eager for any opportunity to celebrate, was thrilled with the chance to help Aunt Petal, who is from Louisana and who grew up on Mardi Gras, celebrate her holiday.  We invited some of our homeschool buddies over to learn with us as we made decorations and King Cakes.
My calendar foobars gave me an opportunity to practice without the kidlets and learn some tricks to use with the kids.  Froggy and I prepped the dough Sunday night.  This recipe is basically a big cinnamon bun. I have seen others that are more danish like and I will try to hunt down one of those for next year.

Before the friends arrived I had Froggy draw rectangles of the appropriate size on parchment paper.   Froggy and her friend rolled out prepared dough.  It was a great deal more like mashing into shape than actually rolling.  I was having so much fun helping the girls, I totally forgot to take pictures.  We spread the filling and the girls got to roll up the cakes.

While the cakes were rising, we made Hamentashen.  Our visiting friend was baffled by how to shape the triangles.  She gave it her best shot and improved immensely.  We were all giggling and covered in flour by the time it was done.

While everything baked, the girls went downstairs and played dress up. They were layered in gowns and scarves and beads and crowns by the time they were done. 

Monday, February 11

Menu Planning Monday - 2 Adar

I can make Indian food at home!! The Saag turned out marvelous.  Abba even said I could increase the spice level a bit.  The hummus recipe was a neat idea and tons of fun to make but the spice combination just was not to our liking. 

Sunday - Salad, Pasta, Homemade Sauce and Garlic Bread
Monday - Cheese Quesedillas and Southwestern Spaghetti Squash 
Tuesday - Pancakes, Eggs and King Cake with Aunt Petal
Wednesday - Pulled Chicken, Peas and Harvest Grain Blend
Thursday - Valentines Day family style - a red picnic on the floor in the basement. It is all simple fun food.  A heart tuna mold.  Heart shaped carrot sticks.  A fruit and cheese plate. and truffles, chocolate dipped fruits and conversation hearts in  cute valentines day treat boxes.
Shabbat - invited out - All I have to bring is Challah.


Sunday, February 10

Goodbye Old Friends - read alouds.

Froggy recently said Goodbye to a few literary friends in a very short period of time.  We finished Understood Betsy, which we had started back in roughly September. We also finished the Trickster series which meant saying goodbye to all the friends who live in Tortall, after spending literally years of falling asleep immersed in their lives. Froggy's heartbreak at saying goodbye to these special friends how important and beneficial it really is to savor a book rather than race through. Froggy was very reluctant to start her new read-alouds and need a time of almost mourning before commencing.

We finally did commence though and welcome the new friends in.  Our new daytime read aloud is Wind in the Willows. We are enjoying our time with Rat and Mole by the riverside.  We read many books with an old fashion speech pattern and very language.  Yet this book feels somewhat daunting in its language.  The chapters are very long but we are working our way through it slowly.  We are still early in the book but Froggy is warming up to the characters as she gets to know them.

There are lots of versions out there of this book. When we first tried to acquire this book, we got an abridged version that was absolutely awful even though it looked beautiful. This edition is unabridged and has the classic illustrations.

Our new nighttime read-aloud is A Wrinkle In Time.  Abba was concerned that Froggy would not get the math involved and thus not be able to enjoy the book until I pointed out that I did not get the math involved until I was in High School and I was still very much able to enjoy the book.  Froggy does not care about the math, she is fascinated by the inter-personal relationships and the battle of good and evil. 

Friday, February 8

Week in Review


 We took advantage of a crazy warm day and met friends at the park.  The sky was black and threatening but with temps over 70 in Jan, put on rainboots and headed out.  We hiked along the creek and found snails.  Many of the kidlets waded in the creek. Some who did not have boots even went wading barefoot.  Across the creek on a little disturbed island, they got to see deer tracks. 
Despite going to this same park regularly, we always see neat new things.  This week, we discovered this tree with a hole large enough for the girls to climb into even if they were not brave enough to venture in.
Froggy is almost halfway through her chess class and finally up to actually playing with Daddy.  
 
We went on a neat trip to the planetarium.  The best part of the trip of some was the unexpected chance to pet a snake.

Thursday, February 7

Progress!

Froggy was so proud of herself yesterday! She finished the basic construction of her dress for Dolly.  She started it ages ago.  But the changes we made helped and she was able to follow through finally.  After I took this shot, she was dancing around singing "I love to sew!"  This sense of accomplishment and joy is why I enjoy handwork.  It is wonderful to see her having pride in her work.

Wednesday, February 6

Girl Scout TuB'Shvat

For the first time ever, I led a children's Tu BSh'vat Seder at which all of the participants were actually Jewish.  Everyone knew all of the blessings once I helped them identify how the different unfamiliar fruits grew.   It was an amazingly different experience.

This seder was for our Girl Scout troop.  We opened with a craft, making presents for the trees.  The theory was that we were making bird feeders.  We tried to use this recipe but did not wait long enough and thus the gelatin all sank to the bottom and did not gel the seed.  You live and learn and the girls had fun getting super messy.

After we cleaned up from our craft, we moved into our actual seder.  The kid seder I do is from HeadStart on Holidays.  I cut it down a bit to fit within our timeframe and modify it to have the girls be more independent.  One of the things I really like about it is that there is an activity to go with each cup/plate so it is truly an interactive seder.  This is probably the last year I will be able to use it as our girls are getting a bit old for it and unlike previous repetitions next year I am likely to have much the same audience.

We ended with an outdoor activity.  We planted parsley seeds in yogurt cups.  The girls took it upon themselves to "water" them with snow.  Every year, Froggy and I plant parsley at TuBShvat in hopes of being able to use it at our Pesach seder.  It has yet to happen.  Maybe this year.

Tuesday, February 5

Scavenger Hunt

Some friends invited us to go on a field trip with them to the Freer Museum.  One of the mom's actually created a scavenger hunt for the children to do as a guide to viewing items in the museum. Froggy
 
Before we actually got to the meeting spot for our group, Froggy found a neat display of Chinese mirrors and garmet hooks.  The only indication to us that the plate like objects were indeed mirrors was the plaque next to the display which told us.  The side we could see is the engraved side.  The mirror side is up against the wall. 
 
We also wandered through a neat room which had several different displays of celadon.  Some were much more fancy than others.  Several were very similar to pieces that Grandma has on display at her house.  Some of the simpler ones were even similar to ones that Grandma uses when she entertains.
 
Finally we met up with our friends and started the scavenger hunt.
 
Froggy was very proud of herself when she found one of the items on the scavenger hunt.
 
 Although it was not on the list, Froggy was very proud when she discovered this 12th century Jewish Star.  We originally thought the collection might be a Havdalah set but closer inspection proved that false.  The item with the handle is a ladle not a spice holder.




Monday, February 4

Khelliah Tefillah




Froggy is so proud of being one of the "big kids" and leaders  when the younger grades come in for Khelliah Tefillah each Sunday.  They do Havdalah as well and I am not sure what else.

Menu Planning Monday - 24 Sh'vat

I am back on track with my menu planning and creativity in the kitchen.  This week has lots of experiments.  But first a review of last week.

Review - I still have not made the breakfast bread.  We went with the pumpkin muffins instead.  They were a tremendous hit. I think I have fine tuned the recipe to its final state.  The granola bars were good but too oily.  They came out chewy as predicted which is a plus but I think they need some nuts or something else.  I will make another batch this week and retweak the recipe.

We have been  eating out our freezer and it is now time to restock.  Each week I am making a crockpot meal and put one batch in the freezer.  We put the chili in last week and this week.  We

Menu
Sunday - Fish Ala Jenn, rice, peas
Monday - Salad, pasta, homemade sauce and garlic bread
Tuesday- Pancakes, Eggs and King Cake with Aunt Petal. oops this is next week.  We will still have BFD but no King Cake yet.
Wednesday - Chicken Saag (probably this or this recipe)and Naan
Thursday - Hungarian Goulash and Egg Noodles
Friday - Challah, Tricolor Gefilte Fish, Homemade Hummus and a purchased dip, Tomato Spinach Soup,
Orange Chicken, Spaghetti Squash, Cucumber Salad, Roasted Green beans and mushrooms, peach crisp, mocha crinkles. And in theory the apple breakfast bread unless I change my mind again.

Sunday, February 3

Scout Shabbat

Yesterday was Scout Shabbat.  All the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts were invited to wear their uniforms and participate in the service.

About 2/3 of the Boy Scouts were their uniforms while only about 1/3 of the Girl Scouts were their uniform.  Most of our troop attended services and helped lead Adon Olam at the end of services. This will help them earn their Lehevah Award

 Froggy received a special honor of being allowed to hold the Torah during the Haftorah portion.  She sat next to the Rabbi during the last few aliyot and got to count the 10 Commandments as they were ready.  She was positively thrilled and did a fantastic job.  She was still and respectful.  She told me afterwards that she loved holding the Torah and stroked it as she listened to the Haftorah.  For a child who is not even usually in the sanctuary during the Torah service, it was a very big change. 

Living Books for Mom

Charlotte Mason introduced me to the idea of living books.  Froggy enjoys the ones in her curriculum. So with the recommendations of several friends, I have been reading some living books myself. 

The first is Never Fall Down.   It is a novel based on the life of Arn, a Cambodian refuge who is 11 when the Khmer Rouge came into power. Like many living books, this is a fictionalize account based on a real story.  In the novel, Arn tells all the horrible things he endured to survive until by luck he was adopted along with two other boys and brought to America. The book is listed as young adult but is sufficiently graphic that I would say it is not for a sensitive youth.

Music is the magic ticket in Arn's life that garnered him the attention he needed to escape. The book ends in 1984 with a speech Arn gave at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine in New York, during which, for the first time, he found release in tears. Since then, Arn has spoken out in public forums around the world. In 1998 he founded an organization that has since evolved into Cambodia Living Arts, which seeks to revive traditional music that the Khmer Rouge brought to the edge of extinction.

The second book is The Breadwinner, by Deborah Ellis. I originally got this book with the intention of reading it to Froggy.  It quickly became apparent that despite it being on the children's shelves it is not for children.  It is very well-written and tells an important story but I would recommend that the child be at least as old as the heroine Parvana (11). When they are ready, read it together. The story is well researched and shows an important look into a hidden world.

The final book(s) is Rashi's Daughters by Maggie Anton.  This trilogy is my first living history book from a time period long ago.  The books look at Jewish life specifically from a woman's perspective during the time of Rashi (4800-4865/1040-1105 CE).  I am somewhat familiar with the history and so that is a background. The most fascinating part for me is the Talmudic debates.  It is fascinating to see how the logic develops and the decisions are made.  The book is full of quotes from the sages and Torah as the characters debate the topics that are very personal and relevant to their lives.  These debates while academic in one sense have a significant impact on the daily lives of the characters. 
It is also interesting to see how superstitious these learned people were.  The characters are considered the most learned members of their community and they believe in demons and that specific psalms will have specific reactions in the daily life.