Tuesday, December 30, 2008

What a year it's been....

Oh what a year it's been....a little wrap-up of 2008 in blog-posts.

I made some resolutions, sort of. (More on that in a later post, by the way.) I hosted a party for Tu B'Shevat that was full of green-y goodness. (I even made green pancakes!) My son answered a very existential question very simply, and Yael turned one. (That last link is one of my most interesting regular hits, by the way. I get a lot of traffic for "tie dye cupcakes"!)

We said good bye to Helena, who died in February of this year. May her memory be for a blessing.

I went to Israel not once but twice. In February, when it snowed (pictures here, here and here) and again in March for the Family Mission. (some pics here)

David lost his first tooth (and quite a few more, since then actually) and we celebrated Purim. I started Tuesday Torah, pretty regularly, and I went to the Devorah Quilting Kallah at OSRUI. As I prepared for Pesach, I wrote this little piece on the Seder that won me an Honorable Mention in Scribbit's Write-Away Contest for April! (I also won a matzah brie contest....) April was quite a month for me, since I also wrote a post on 60 Bloggers for Israel.

I told my favorite joke and talked about why I love Israel. I hosted my first edition of Haveil Havalim, the Jewish Blogging Carnival. I cut off a lot of my hair for Locks of Love and I started growing other things too. I tried to have a quickie (shower) with Amy. I counted Omer and celebrated Shavuot. Plus I went to a wedding and hosted Haveil Havalim again as we packed for camp.

Our yearly camp experience was fun but lightly blogged (too much fun, I think, or maybe it was Yael's daily 4am wakeup call).

I mourned Ehud and Eldad.

We skateboarded the grass, played in the yard, and grew tomatoes. I mused about community. Sammy mused about snacks. Sometimes I took bloggy breaks and enjoyed the summer. Real Simple Magazine published my thoughts on motherhood's most important tool. I sent the boys off to school (with lunch) and I ditched the disposables. I took a High Holy Day hiatus and then got really really bugged.

I was part of Blog Action Day and celebrated Sukkot (but really didn't blog about it at all, October was a quiet month here on my blog!). I participated in NaBloPoMo and stuck it out for all 30 days! We celebrated birthday after birthday after birthday in November and survived it all! We lived through history and celebrated with great joy. I was a MotrinMom and a locavore. I shared my Thanksgiving rituals here and here. And in honor of NaBloPoMo, I even hosted Haveil Havalim again!

I counted down to Chanukah with a lot of giveaways and I made baked soufganiyot, a first for me. I gave away 2 birthday parties in honor of my own birthday. And now, as the year draws to a close, my eyes and heart are in the East.

Some of My Favorite Posts of 2008:
Putting My Money Where My Mouth Is
Walking in Right Paths
Seder Night
It Takes a Village
Why Spin Instructors are Like Rabbis
May the New Year...
Freedom from Fear
Living History
Prayer for the Economy?

Since I wrote last year's wrap-up post (wow, it seems like the year went by so quickly), I've written 301 posts. I've begun to twitter and I still love my Facebook world. Plus I've read almost 80 books (see left-hand sidebar) and lived and worked....

So what's up in 2009 for the Ima?
I'm hosting Haveil Havalim again this week. I'm going to celebrate holidays and visit Israel and go to camp and the quilting retreat. I'm sure I'll rant about something and giggle about other things. Maybe this is the year that the Reading Rabbi will kick off. Or not. I'll talk about world events and about silly things. Summer will return and then autumn again. I might cook or bake or make projects. I am so honored to have you all reading and sharing my life, I hope that somehow, in some way, my blog brings you something....inspiration, or a laugh, or even a little cry.

Happy (secular) New Year, y'all. May this year bring blessings and please, please, may it bring peace.

See you on the January side!

My Heart is in the East...

New people to follow:

Read this Post from Mother-in-Israel
and Jack continues to post updates and share posts from lots of people.

(original words by Yehuda HaLevi - My heart is in the east but I am at the end of the West...)

Monday, December 29, 2008

Birthday Weekend...in Photos

First was the 7th night of Chanukah, celebrated at my parents' house with candles and dreidel games...
(Sam will *not* take out his paci for a picture, no matter how nicely I ask....and if I steal it away, he just cries which ruins the picture anyway. I can't wait to get rid of the darn thing.)

My mom taught David to play Cat's Cradle, which was probably even more fun for me! If you haven't played it in a while, it rocks....

Then...yesterday was my birthday, and we spent they day celebrating with a trip to the Milwaukee Public Museum (a great museum, if you're ever in town). They have a permanent butterfly exhibit.
My personal favorite part of the Museum is the Streets of Old Milwaukee, a reproduction of the gas-lit streets of yesteryear. I've always loved looking in the windows of all the houses and shops. It was only 10:15am but we popped into the candy store and I bought some Raisinets (health food, right?) and doled them out to my little people. How silly is this: you're not allowed to eat in the museum, but they sell candy. We were allowed to eat inside the shop, so we did.
This picture definitely falls into the category of "no one except mom is looking at the camera or even interested in having their picture taken but we're going to document this moment, darnit." Yeah. Thanks for trying, dad. (He took all the pictures that actually have me in them!)

But of all the pics of the weekend, I think this face from Yael wins as my Best Shot of the week. I'm not even sure what it means, but it was too cute to pass up.
Stay tuned for the winners of all the Tzedakah giveaways from the past week....and stay tuned for information about Israel. If you're interested, follow the updates of Jack and Jameel, as well as ynetnews and jpost.com....may safety and peace come soon.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Israel/Jewish Blog Updates

In case I forgot to link to it, Kosher Cooking Carnival is up here.

This week's Haveil Havalim is here.

And Jack is rounding up the Gaza posts right here. Jameel is live-blogging, but he's resting right now.

And of course, I'm following #gaza (although there's a lot of misinformation and inappropriate statements there....) and cnn.com and jpost.com and ynetnews.com with great concern.

Next week, I'm hosting Haveil Havalim, so get your posts in early, it always helps!

Plus, don't forget to comment on my birthday post to win a Birthday Party for a child in Israel.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Birthday Candles, Birthday Angels

Every so often my birthday falls during Chanukah. When it happens, I get a whole lot of birthday candles! This year, it happens to be the 8th night, so it's quite a display.

So, this year, in honor of Chanukah and my birthday, I will give away one Birthday Party to a lucky commenter on this post!

The catch: it's not for you.

It's for a kid in Israel who can't afford a birthday party, through an organization called Birthday Angels.

Check out their video:

It's a big bang-up ending to my 2 weeks of Chanukah fun and giveaways.
AND....If I get more than 32 comments on this post, I'll give 2 Birthday Parties!

So tell your friends, tweet it up, and let's celebrate!
Leave your comment....

P.S. Stay tuned for all the winners of the Tzedakah giveaways....

Birthday Candles, Birthday Angels

Every so often my birthday falls during Chanukah. When it happens, I get a whole lot of birthday candles! This year, it happens to be the 8th night, so it's quite a display.

So, this year, in honor of Chanukah and my birthday, I will give away one Birthday Party to a lucky commenter on this post!

The catch: it's not for you.

It's for a kid in Israel who can't afford a birthday party, through an organization called Birthday Angels.

Check out their video:

It's a big bang-up ending to my 2 weeks of Chanukah fun and giveaways.
AND....If I get more than 32 comments on this post, I'll give 2 Birthday Parties!

So tell your friends, tweet it up, and let's celebrate!
Leave your comment....

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Soldiers & Chanukah...a Tzedakah Giveaway

It's very clear that the story of Chanukah is a military one. Most renditions of the tale indicate the the holiday is a celebration of a military victory. It's relatively clear to me that the rabbis of the Talmud weren't super-comfortable with a holiday that celebrated military might, especially while they were living in Babylonia (and therefore subject to a foreign power), and so they reworked the story to focus on the miracle of the oil instead.

But all of this does allow me the link from the military victory of Chanukah to the present-day Israeli soldiers, many of whom serve at checkpoints, bases, and other various military installations. Standing Together is an organization that was founded to send pizza to soldiers and has expanded to sending coffee, donuts, and other treats and comforts that helps soldiers feel appreciated and cared for. More than anything, the soldiers of Israel are her children, and Standing Together helps remind us of that.

So....in honor of one wonderful and very lucky commenter, I will provide Chanukah donuts for four soldiers! Comment away on this post. How do you find comfort when you're away from home?

And, if you so desire, click over to Standing Together and make your own donation. Five bucks goes a long way, and if you're in Israel, contact them to arrange to deliver the pizza, coffee and donuts.

P.S. The awesome Leora has posted a great edition of Kosher Cooking Carnival. Go check it out!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Baked, Not Fried....and a Mazon Giveaway

For those of you not familiar with this truly incredible food, soufganiyot are jelly-donuts, deep fried and usually doused in powdered sugar. What could be bad about such a delicacy? And not only a delicacy, but a mitzvah! In Israel, where potatoes are not really native, these jelly-filled-fried-dough-balls are the delightful alternative for latkes (levivot), a food fried in oil. And, since oil is really the heart of the Chanukah matter, oily foods rule the day.

This month's issue of Cooking Light had this recipe for Baked Soufganiyot.

Baked!? How can you bake something that's meant to be fried? I have no idea. But they sure were yummy.

Yield 8 servings (serving size: 2 rolls)
  • 1 1/2  teaspoons  dry yeast
  • 3/4  cup  warm 1% low-fat milk, divided
  • 6  tablespoons  granulated sugar
  • 1  tablespoon  butter, softened
  • 1  teaspoon  grated orange rind
  • 1/2  teaspoon  vanilla extract
  • 1/2  teaspoon  kosher salt
  • 1  large egg
  • 14.5  ounces  all-purpose flour, divided (about 3 1/4 cups)
  • Cooking spray
  • 3/4  cup  strawberry jam
  • 1  tablespoon  powdered sugar


1. Dissolve yeast in 1/2 cup warm milk in a large bowl; let stand 5 minutes or until foamy. Add remaining 1/4 cup warm milk, granulated sugar, and next 5 ingredients (through egg); beat with a mixer at medium speed until blended (butter will not be completed melted). Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Add 9 ounces (about 2 cups) flour to yeast mixture; beat at medium speed until smooth. Stir in 4 1/2 ounces (about 1 cup) flour to form a soft dough. Turn dough out onto a floured surface. Knead dough until smooth and elastic (about 8 minutes); add enough of remaining 1 ounce (about 1/4 cup) flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, to prevent dough from sticking to hands (dough will feel sticky).
2. Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat top. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 1 hour or until doubled in size. (Gently press two fingers into dough. If indentation remains, dough has risen enough.) Punch dough down; cover and let rest 5 minutes. Divide dough into 16 portions, rolling each portion into a ball.
3. Place dough balls on a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cover and let rise 45 minutes or until dough is doubled in size.
4. Preheat oven to 375°.
5. Uncover balls. Bake at 375° for 14 minutes or until browned. Remove from pan; cool completely on a wire rack.
6. Make a pocket in each roll using the handle of a wooden spoon, pushing to but not through the opposite end. Fill with about 2 teaspoons jam, using plastic condiment bottle or a piping bag. Sprinkle rolls with powdered sugar. (Don't sprinkle until you're ready to eat, though, or the sugar seems to disappear and you have to do it again. Not that I know.)

I did not use jam. My oldest child doesn't like fruit-filled sweets (I'm not the hugest fan either) and since I've had soufganiyot filled with chocolate, I know it can be done. I used chocolate pudding. Delish!!! Plus I served up some extra chocolate pudding on the side to dip the extra dough (each donut had a little more dough than filling) into.

A truly delightful, if time-consuming, new holiday tradition for our family!

Mazon, which means "food" in Hebrew, is an organization working to stop hunger in the world. They do so by particularly linking simchas, celebrations, with helping the hungry. This connection is not new in Jewish life, but Mazon has worked very hard to institutionalize the concept of giving 3% of the cost of life-cycle and other celebratory events to Mazon to help those in need.

In honor of the food of Chanukah, I will donate $1 for every comment on this post to Mazon!

Happy Chanukah!

P.S. Thanks to my colleage Rabbi Paul Kipnes for pointing out this post on the NY Times Well Blog: ReThinking the Latke....interesting roundup of the healthification (a word?) of Chanukah food

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Chanukah Countdown Roundup & a Tree!

Chanukah Countdown Ima on and off the Bima

The first night of Chanukah is tonight, and I wanted to thank you all for joining me on my Chanukah Countdown Party! It's been quite fun for me to give things away every day (even if it was a little stressful) and I thank you all for reading and playing along.

A huge thank you to all those who gave me things to give away. Here they are, along with the winners of each day's giveaway:

Monday, Oh Nuts, winner: @kvetchingeditor Chaviva
Tuesday, PopJudaica, winner: Reiza, @reizam
Wednesday, Modern Tribe, winner: Rebecca, aka @tzurriz
Thursday, Bruce the Hanukkah Moose, winner: TechyDad! @techydad
Friday, ShirLaLa Chanukah, winner: @valerie2350 
Motzei Shabbat, Build-A-Bear, winner Leora, @leoraw 

Many thanks again to all who played along!

But it's not over yet.

Chanukah is here and I've decided to continue the fun. So all week I'm going to be giving away Tzedakah, gifts of charitable contributions in honor of my commenters and readers! It will be a little different each day so come back and visit me.

Chanukah Sameach!

Today I'm giving away a tree. It's partly because trees seem to be on the brain but also because it's always been one of my favorite ways to give tzedakah. Jewish National Fund has been planting trees in Israel since 1928 and their work has broadened and continued over time. Today they engage in amazing work for the Land of Israel.

I will plant a tree in honor of one of my wonderful readers. Make a comment on this post. Say something nice about trees, about Israel, about Chanukah...whatever you want! I'll let you know sometime on Monday.

You can even choose the forest/certificate (one of the $18 ones, not the $5000 forest, sorry) - go to JNF's website and check out all their great works.

Stay tuned for more.
Happy Chanukah!


Friday, December 19, 2008

Chanukah Chaiku & Build A Bear Giveaway

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
(This is a re-post of this Chanukah Chaiku I wrote last year. Did you know there's a new Hanukkah Haiku book out? We have it in our synagogue's library and it's darling.)

Alex the Great died.
His empire was split up.
Who owned Judea?

King Antiochus
was the new king for the Jews
but he wasn't nice.

"Give up your Torah,"
he said to the Jewish folks.
"Bow down to my gods."

The Jews weren't too pleased.
He defiled the Temple --
sacrificed some pigs.

Things were bad for Jews
They were being killed for faith.
But one guy stepped up.

In his town, Mod'in,
Mattathias stepped up
He said, "Let's rebel!"

His five sons followed
They helped lead the rebellion
and fled to the hills.

A guerrilla fight
against the Syrian-Greeks
hit-and-run fighting.

Mattathias died.
His son Judah took over -
he was a great guy.

Rebellion went well
They called him the Maccabee
(the word means "hammer")

He struck fast and hard
and finally the Jews won -
a long time coming!

A great victory
It was quite a miracle
Just one of many

Back to the Temple
but it was totally wrecked,
defiled, defaced.

They made it holy,
rededicated to God,
prepared for worship.

A legend for sure:
There was no oil to find
to light the great Lamp

One small flask was found,
only enough for one day
but it lasted EIGHT!

Today we rejoice
with victory dances,
remember that time.

The more likely tale:
They missed Sukkot in that year
and observed it late.

Eight days of the feast
have been translated to this
time of Chanukah.

Either way, it's fun
to eat latkes and candy
and play the dreidel.

Happy Chanukah
(However you spell the word)
let's all celebrate!

See more Haiku Friday here.

And now, today's Chanukah Countdown Giveaway....

Build-A-Bear Workshop is selling a really cute Moose for another holiday. They were very sweet to send me one to tell you all about and it is absolutely gorgeous. It is soft and cuddly and the antlers light up, similar to Bruce, I would imagine. His name is Hal and he and his pal Holly have a sweet little story book that come with them.

I think that it is a great holiday gift (and I plan to gift it to my neighbor's little boy even though my kids really love it and want to keep it!) and I do love the whole Build-A-Bear thing -- what a fun activity that gets you a friend at the end!

(I actually thought their stuff was much more expensive, too. There are some very nice looking inexpensive animals. If they are as soft and cuddly as Hal, it looks like a great product.) Go check out their fun stuff. Could be a fun winter break activity...(even though they don't have a rabbi-bear)

Thanks to Build-A-Bear, I have one $10 gift card to Build-A-Bear Workshop to give away to one of you, my lovely and wonderful readers! Such a nice Chanukah gift...

What do you have to do?
To enter, leave a comment on this post!
Earn an extra entry by tweeting about it. Let me know below in the comments.
Comments will close at 7pm Saturday, December 20th. (after Shabbat)
Comments closed.....the winner is Leora, @leoraw !!! Mazel tov!

Come back all week and next for some great Chanukah posts and giveaways!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Chanukah Bamba!? A Musical Giveaway

Chanukah Countdown

I was so excited to get this CD, Shirlala Chanukah from Shira Kline because I've seen it and haven't yet gotten a copy. I have a pretty nice Chanukah playlist on my iPod, so I was happy to add onto it.

It didn't disappoint! This is a cute CD with nice music. Most of it is traditional but there are some great new songs. The first song, Chanukah Bamba....I must admit I thought the song would be about the Israeli snack, but instead it was a cute take-off on La Bamba. My kids got a kick out of it!

The kids singing with Shira are not always on tune or on time...which would be fine if they were my kids but they're not. They are slightly distracting from the music. But I like their participation, which invites little listeners to feel a part of the CD. I like her storytelling style, and the way she shares the songs and the story together. It's a great mix of musical styles and will get you moving!

Plus a cute comic book about Chanukah, which was a lot of fun to look through.

Her CD is out of stock at Amazon but the Shabbat and Pesach CDs are available also for download. (Maybe she'll give me a Pesach CD to give away come spring....) I must make to Shira as well as any other Jewish musician out there: a good Sukkot CD would make me pretty happy. Or how about a whole CD for Shavuot? I know, I'm pushing it....

Shira has given me one CD to listen to and then give away to one of you, my lucky readers!
How can you win?
To enter, leave a comment on this post!
Earn an extra entry by tweeting about it. Let me know below in the comments.
Comments will close at 8am Friday, December 19th.
Come back all week and next for some great Chanukah posts and giveaways!
Comments closed...the winner is @valerie2350! mazel tov!

Join in the Chanukah Countdown Party - feel free to grab my badge above and link back here with your own Chanukah posts! How do you celebrate, what's your favorite observance, favorite tips and tricks, etc...What's your favorite Chanukah music???

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Have you met Bruce The Hanukkah Moose? - Giveaway!

Chanukah Countdown with Ima on and Off the Bima

Day 4 of the Chanukah Countdown Party continues!

I am a storyteller. It's one of my favorite things to do anytime of year. I'm always looking for new holiday and Shabbat stories to share.

A new book came my way: Bruce Bruce the Hanukkah Moose

While at first I was skeptical, it's a pretty cute book. It's a common technique in children's books in general, but not in typically in Jewish children's books: animals acting like people serving as all the characters in the book. It is such a freeing idea - if you want to see yourself in the story, you can. Unlike so many Jewish children's books in which the characters are "traditionally observant" Jews, these animals are contemporary and pretty "normal" (except that they are furry, of course). The rabbi in the story is, of course, an owl (isn't he cute?). And Bruce is a cute moose who hasn't grown into his antlers yet.

The book is beautifully illustrated, brightly colored and fun to look at. It comes with a CD including an audio version of the story as well as an original song (which wasn't exactly my favorite Chanukah song, but it was enjoyable...click here to hear the song!) My kids love audio books so I know that will be a hit with them.

Plus a portion of the proceeds go to planting trees in Israel.

All of this adds up to a nice addition to the world of Jewish children's literature! This book definitely works for me.

If you'd like to order your own copy of Bruce Bruce the Hanukkah Moose, click over here to purchase.

Or, before you buy, win a copy of Bruce Bruce the Hanukkah Moose! The authors/publishers have so kindly sent me a copy give away here.

To enter, leave a comment on this post!
Earn an extra entry by tweeting about it. Let me know below in the comments.
Comments will close at 8am Thursday, December 18th.
Come back all week and next for some great Chanukah posts and giveaways!
Comments closed....the winner is....TechyDad! @techydad Mazel tov!!!

Join in the Chanukah Countdown Party - feel free to grab my badge above and link back here with your own Chanukah posts! How do you celebrate, what's your favorite observance, favorite tips and tricks, etc...
P.S. To see and buy some of my other favorite Chanukah books, check out my Amazon Affiliates Shoppe.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

I made my Dreidel out of....(ModernTribe Giveaway)


The Chanukah Countdown continues here all week! (Keep reading for today's Giveaway!)

I'm sure you know the Dreidel song. The one about making the dreidel out of clay. Who makes a dreidel out of clay today? The ones we play with are all wood or plastic or something like that. What I like to do is solicit additional materials (paper, ice cream, chocolate, snow) and sing the song, "re-writing" the words as I go along. This is, especially in front of an older audience, a tricky test of your rhyming skills...

For example,
I have a little dreidel, I made it out of paper. I folded it right up and put it away for later.
(it's not perfect. but sing it and you'll see...)
I have a little dreidel, I made it out of snow. I looked for it in the summer, where oh where did it go?

So what are some other things you'd like to make your dreidel out of? Share your verses in the comments!
If you can't wait, how about a Virtual Dreidel Game?

and the Giveaway....
Have you heard of No Limit Texas Dreidel?
Yes, that's right, the game of Dreidel has gotten a face-lift. Now there's a new game in town.

From the ModernTribe website:

Unless you're under the age of five or have an obsession with things that spin, the traditional version of the dreidel game is endearing - but let's face it - the game is mind numbing after a few minutes. In fact, whenever we were ready to end our Hanukkah party we found the subtlest way to clear a guest-filled house was to play a round of dreidel.

And, just because it's really funny, I thought I'd share with you my favorite question and answer from their FAQ:

Q: Can you bet the empty gelt foil?
A: This question comes up from time-to-time, usually by people who've indulged in their winnings before the end of the game. They want to know if the empty foil: sans chocolate, has any betting value. Our answer is definitively: No.

While you're over at ModernTribe, check out all the cool stuff in their Chanukah Shop. (Including this peace sign menorah, which is clearly priceless! Make sure you look at the price...) And they're home of these really cool t-shirts.

The folks at ModernTribe have generously given me one No Limit Texas Dreidel set to give away to one of you, my beloved readers. How cool is that?

How can you share the joy of No Limit Texas Dreidel with your friends and family?
To enter, leave a comment on this post!
Earn an extra entry by tweeting about it. Let me know below in the comments.
Comments will close at 8am Wednesday, December 17th.  
Come back all week and next for some great Chanukah posts and giveaways!
Comments closed....winner is Rebecca, aka @tzurriz! Mazel tov!

Join in the Chanukah Countdown Party - feel free to grab my badge above and link back here with your own Chanukah posts! How do you celebrate, what's your favorite observance, favorite tips and tricks, etc...

Monday, December 15, 2008

Hug Your Menorah - Giveaway!

Chanukah Countdown

Last year, I got this great Menorah Hat for Chanukah.
I'm really the only kind of person who can truly get away with wearing this hat - it's great Rabbi-wear, if you ask me. I wore it on Sunday morning for Religious School and it got great response.

The other kind of person who can look good in this hat (which, I suppose, implies that I look good rather than just plain silly), is my daughter.

Actually, the Hebrew word "menorah" just means lamp. This 9-branched menorah is technically known as a chanukiyah, or Chanukah menorah. The term chanukiyah was coined by Eliezar Ben Yehuda or his wife (it's unclear), as they revived the Hebrew langugage as a modern tongue.

One of my favorite on-line Judaica stores is PopJudaica. You can, all year long, click on their button over there to the left, to buy great stuff from them. Go ahead, browse around. I can wait. Make sure you look at the Shlep Bag, the Wax-Off Spray, this awesome Menorah Wine Cork, and even this Poker Yarmulke. Great stuff, isn't it? It's a great year-round site. You can even follow them on Twitter.

Now that you're back, look at this cute stuffed Chanukiyah! You can't wear it on your head, but it sure is adorable and just the right thing for "lighting" with your kids. And they are so awesome - they're giving one away to a lucky reader of Ima on and off the Bima! (PopJudaica is giving the stuffed Chanukiyah, NOT the hat my Yael is wearing. Sorry. Didn't mean to confuse!)

How can you win this adorable stuffed Chanukiyah?
To enter, leave a comment on this post!
Earn an extra entry by tweeting about it. Let me know below in the comments.
Comments will close at 8am Tuesday, December 16th.  
COMMENTS CLOSED -- the winner is....Reiza, @reizam - Thanks for playing!
(Sorry, friends in Israel, they only ship to US or Canada. But you could enter anyway and send it as a gift!)
Come back all week and next for some great Chanukah posts and giveaways!

Join in the Chanukah Countdown Party - feel free to grab my badge above and link back here with your own Chanukah posts! How do you celebrate, what's your favorite observance, favorite tips and tricks, etc...

Isn't she adorable?
That's definitely my Best Shot this week.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Places I've Been, Chanukah-Themed Edition

***Make sure you click over to my first Chanukah Countdown Giveaway -
Entries close tomorrow at 8am.***
Come back for Giveaways all week!!!!

Haveil Havalim - the Almost-Chanukah Edition

Team Super-Jews (I joined the Green Team, come join us!)

Cute Chanukah project

Freeze your Chanukah candles

A December Dilemma (last year's NY Times article)

From my delicious. Are you part of my network? It's a great way to keep track of and share your bookmarks.

Again, don't forget to click over or scroll down, depending on how you got here!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Chanukah Countdown, Food, & Giveaway!


Welcome to my Chanukah Coutndown Party!
I'm so excited to be celebrating 2 weeks of Chanukah posts, giveaways, and just general fun. Make sure to check back here every day because I have something great to give away all week and all throughout Chanukah!

I am sure that you knew the traditional food of Chanukah is latkes and/or sufganiyot. Latkes are potato pancakes, fried in oil. Sufganiyot are jelly-filled donuts, also fried in oil. The oil is the key, of course, because of the mythology of the oil and its important role in the story of the holiday.

But did you know that it's also customary to eat dairy foods on Chanukah too? You might be thinking, um, Ima, isn't that Shavuot? Yes, we eat dairy on that holiday too, but for different reasons. This is a really rockin' girl-power reason:

The Story of Judith.

Unfortunately, it's not that cut-and-dried - we don't know what really happened, we have two different versions of the story and it's all apocryphal.

During a siege of the city of Bethulia (which we know nothing about), the supposedly beautiful widow Judith is determined to save her people by assassinating the Assyrians' general, Holofernes. She left the city with the intent to seduce the general. Holofernes invited her into his tent for a nice meal, intending to seduce her. Judith waited until he fell into a drunken sleep, grabbed his sword, and cut off his head, bringing it in a sack back to her town, which turned the tide of the battle. Hooray!

The other version of the story goes like this: Every virgin bride (in the other she was a widow, note) prior to marriage was obliged to sleep with the Assyrian governor (ew). Judith, when it was her turn, fed the governor cheese which made him sleepy and when he went to sleep, she chopped off his head and saved all her fellow ladies.

Because of Judith's heroism, in whatever way it occurred, it's customary to eat dairy foods on Chanukah. Another good vegetarian holiday, if you ask me!

Today's giveaway...full of food!

Oh Nuts Giveaway - $30 gift certificate to anything on their site!

Oh Nuts is a great company that participated in my Chanukah Countdown last year, and from which my mom ordered a bunch of gifts because if it... (Hi mom!)

They have these really nice Chanukah baskets, and some other stuff too, including these jelly bean dreidels which I think are adorable. (And if you're here and Chanukah isn't your holiday, there are other things for other holidays too as well as coffee, other gifts, and even healthy stuff.) See here what Miriam got from Oh Nuts. You could buy these cute cookies too!

To enter, leave a comment on this post!
Earn an extra entry by tweeting about it. Let me know below in the comments.
Comments will close at 8am Monday, December 15th. 
Come back all week and next for some great Chanukah posts and giveaways!

Join in the Chanukah Countdown Party - feel free to grab my badge above and link back here with your own Chanukah posts! How do you celebrate, what's your favorite observance, favorite tips and tricks, etc...  
Comments closed. The winner is...@kvetchingeditor Chaviva!
Watch your email.... 

Monday, December 8, 2008

Prayer for the Economy?

Can you pray for a bailout?

In today's New York Times article about Detroit churches praying for a bailout:
The S.U.V.’s on the stage, a Chevrolet Tahoe, Ford Escape and Chrysler Aspen on loan from local dealerships, were all gas-electric hybrids, and Bishop Ellis urged worshipers to combat the region’s woes by mixing hope with faith in God.

Is this really how prayer works?

Certainly we can pray for the strength to make it through tough times. We can pray for the ability to help ourselves and others. We can even pray for wisdom - for ourselves and our lawmakers.

Prayer, I believe, is within us. God is not a magic candy dispenser, giving us a gumball for a quarter, a bailout for a prayer. Faith must, I believe, be coupled with the inner work of the self and the outer work of culitvating our connection to humankind.

My prayer for today:
May difficult times bring us the power to help each other. May we all be blessed with the prosperity of spirit that will bring us together and uplift us even in dark days. May we find inner peace and outer community.
May we all be blessed.

Some Related and Possibly Useful Posts:
Human Rights
Change the World, One Sandwich at a Time
Growing My Own
Gifts of Tzedakah
The Obama Family Thanksgiving

and please consider donating to this DonorsChoose project which is about to expire.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Take the (Carrot) Cake

My cousin had a birthday this week, and so I baked him a carrot cake.
The list keeps growing of people who love this cake, who hope or expect (um, husband) a carrot cake for their birthday or sometimes when their favorite team loses the SuperBowl.

This past summer I suggested to make this cake for a friend's birthday. She protested, "oh, you don't have to do it." Her 7-year-old son came up behind her and whispered (loudly), "Take the cake, mom!" I delivered it on her birthday!

Even kids like this carrot cake.

Growing up, my Bubbie Rose (bubbie is Yiddish for grandmother) made it for our special occasions or whenever we begged for it! I used to put a piece on my plate on its side and eat it all the way up to the frosting and then eat the frosting last. It was quite a cake-eating-ritual. But Bubbie says my cake is even better than hers...I think she's biased, because she likes me better than cake.

I have made a few adjustments to Bubbie's cake. I've replaced most of the oil with applesauce and I'm pretty free and easy with the measurements in general. It always comes out for me.

Here goes:
3 cups flour
2 cups sugar (technically you're supposed to sift with the flour but I often skip that part)
2 cups grated carrots (I usually throw 2 cups of baby carrots into the food processor and chop them up really finely)
1/2 cup oil
1 cup applesauce (I use the unsweetened kind and I think the unsweetend chunky is best, but it's hard to find.)
16 oz. crushed pineapple with juice
3 eggs (egg substitute works fine)
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts

Mix the dry ingredients.
Add the wet ingredients plus the nuts.
Put into a greased and floured 9x13 cake pan.
Bake at 350 (*325 if using a glass pan) degrees for 45 minutes to an hour.
Let cool completely.

Blend 8 oz cream cheese, 4 oz powdered sugar, 1/4 cup butter, a little vanilla and a splash of milk if needed in the food processor or mixer...spread on the cake and lick the spatula.

I have actually made this into a layer cake before but it's just too much work. I frost it right in the 9x13 pan and we never have any leftovers!!!

Five Places I've Been This Week...

Take a Weekly Retreat
Ugg Cargo Boots (I've got a birthday coming up, it's a good idea to point out)
Picture Perfect Snowflakes
Chocolate Cobbler....looks delightful
Meshuggah Mommy's Thanksgiving with Adopted Sailors - beautiful and so touching

From my delicious
Where have you been?

P.S. This week's Haveil Havalim is up over here. It's a good one!
P.P.S. Please read my post about this about-to-expire DonorsChoose project!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Please help - Time is Running Out

Only 29 days remain on this Donors Choose project.

Here's what Mrs. M says about her program:
As a new teacher at a junior high last year, I enthusiastically developed an after-school Book Club for Girls. This new extracurricular activity was a smashing success, particularly with bilingual and socially-challenged girls who may not have otherwise joined an after-school club. A group of approximately fifteen girls met weekly to discuss book and life related issues of friendship, diversity, peer pressure and determination. This group of girls, representing a plethora of races, languages, religions and ages, put aside their differences as they bonded over great literature.

 This project only needs $312 more. If each of my wonderful subscribers (I know there are a bunch of you!) clicked over to the left <---- where the Donors Choose widget is, or clicked on that link above, and gave just a few dollars of your tzedakah money....we will fund this great project, helping girls gain so much from reading. I know there are a lot of causes out there in the world, but I'm hoping you'll help me and these students out here today.

It is customary to give tzedakah (charity) before Shabbat begins. So click over today....you certainly won't regret it and it will help out.

Thanks so much and Shabbat Shalom!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Ima's Breakfast Menu

I am so tired of fighting over breakfast. Most of you who follow me on Twitter or Facebook know that my kids have been getting up super-early lately, and then can be crabby. (Me too!) This means that they tend to fight about whatever I offer for breakfast. And I really believe that giving choices just invites problems. Also, we have been going through frozen waffles like crazy and they're not so cheap!

So I invented the "Breakfast Menu."
Not only did I make a menu, but I now make a big deal about each day's food.

Here's the Menu:

Monday: Yogurt and Cereal
Tuesday: Muffins (and cereal)
Wednesday: Pancakes
Thursday: (Frozen) Waffles
Friday: CheeseToast & cereal
(Saturday and Sunday are more free-for-alls....)

The biggest hits are, of course, Muffin Tuesday and Pancake Wednesday. These even have songs composed in their honor.

How, you might ask, do I serve muffins in the morning? I make them over the weekend or whenever I have time and freeze them, of course! Pancake Wednesday is a little trickier. Sometimes I measure out all the "pancake sugar" (as David called it once) the night before. But today I made this recipe for a Baked Pancake (found via this great blog) and it was a huge hit. One of my kids even said: "Pancake Wednesday should always be this kind of pancake!" (I think I could measure it all into the blender, refrigerate overnight, and then whizz it up in the morning for a really speedy thing.)

Hey, it works for me.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Why This Is A Great Picture

Okay, maybe it's not the greatest picture. But I tried.
How on EARTH am I supposed to get a family picture with everyone actually smiling and looking at the camera!? What do you do?

My dad took this picture on Thanksgiving and it is a great shot of me and my husband, and even David....but Sam and Yael just don't want to look in unison at the camera.

Oh well....
Go see other people's best shots this weekend....

 Check out this week's Haveil Havalim, too!