Sunday, March 29, 2009

Please look up...

How do you like my new header? (See above)

Although it's not technically a "best shot" I'm submitting it today as my Best Shot Monday so I can get your feedback!

P.S. Scrap-n-fonts is having a big clearance sale for all the Creative Keepsakes fonts... if you're a font-geek like me, this is pure heaven.

P.P.S. Haveil Havalim is up over at Jack's shack. I'm hosting next Sunday so stay tuned!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Rabbi Watches YouTube

As I indicated once before, I'm starting an infrequent (read: whenever I feel like it) series called "What Rabbis Do" or something catchy like that.

Right now, what I'm doing is enjoying this post about the Four Questions by Hadassah. She is looking for the Mah Nishtanah in multiple languages, which is such a fun activity. There's a wonderful book of 300 Ways to Say the Four Questions, which are an integral part of the Passover Seder. My favorite one in there is Pig Latin, which I think is perfect on so many levels for a Jewish event!!!

What I am also doing, and this is key to any good modern rabbi's life, is browing through YouTube for all the funny new Pesach videos so that I can be the first to share them with you.

Like this one:

or this

or this one...

Have you found anything great on YouTube lately?
How's your Pesach Prep going? The cold winter-like weather is not putting me quite the right mood yet!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Sometimes I impress myself...

Preparations for Pesach are underway! While I'm not as organized as some people, I do have my own little systems in place for creating a holiday experience. I don't have to make Seder, which is a blessing to me, and we're not frum about our Pesach observance. What do I mean by this? We eat kitniyot, but not in excess. I don't serve rice and beans, for example, but we'll eat soy hotdogs. This works for us!

I have finally figured out what I hope is a good system. Last year, I actually kept track of what I made and bought and used. I forgot that I had made this list, and was very excited when I found it. Hence the title of this post!

Here's what I made/bought/used:

Not bad, huh? I remember that we ate a lot of matzah with cream cheese last year. I also remember what a big hit those chocolate o's cereals were. Most people think they're gross, but my kids find them to be a delicacy since they don't get sugar cereals all year long. See how this works? (I find it hard to believe that I made only one batch of matzah brei, though, since I remember making it a lot. I think I made more at the end to use up all the extra matzah.) I know that last year I decided against matzah-meal pancakes because they're just too much work and I think I'm going to stick to that restriction this year. I never buy the pre-packaged mixes for things like muffins or brownies, either. I figure we can get by for a week without that kind of stuff. This doesn't take into account all the fruit and veggies that we buy and eat, also. I always eat a lot of salad during Pesach.
So I've got out my cookbooks...these are my two favorites...
and now I'm getting ready to plan the menus for the week of the holiday. This is always tricky, because you never know what the kids will eat. But I can handle it. David went through the kids' cookbook and picked a few recipes he wants to make. Since we're on Spring Break for most of Pesach, that should make for some interesting activity.

I'm definitely going to make a batch of Toasted Matzah Farfel, which I think is a great snack food. (And the Tam Tam's are back! Yay!) I was also noticing that there are some recipes that I've wanted to try but never have made. Like this one for something called Geschmierte Matzoh. Have you ever made it? It sounds yummy. Plus I have to plan for the Matzah Brei Cook-off, for which I've been quite a champion. Each year we have a cook-off on the first morning of Pesach, and I'm always trying something new.

Toasted Matzah Farfel
adapted from Passover Lite by Gail Ashkanazi-Hankin

3 cups matzah farfel
1/4 cup egg substitute or one egg
1 egg white
1 tsp oil
onion powder, season salt, garlic, or a mix of other seasonings to taste

heat oven to 350 degrees. Coat the farfel with the egg and spices. Spread on a cooking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes until it smells and looks delicious. When it's done, break it all up into smaller pieces and store in a bag or container for the week of Pesach. Start with a double batch. Good as "croutons" on salad, in soup, and as a nosh. Mmmm....

After writing this post, I noticed that Mother in Israel does the same thing.
How do you plan from year to year?

Sunday, March 22, 2009

White Belt Yellow Belt

I don't get to go to Karate class very often. But last week, David had his test to move from a white belt to a yellow belt, so I made sure to be there.

The White Belt:

Practicing his kata...

Answering a question during the warmup. Isn't this a cool picture? See how I'm in it....
(This is my favorite...definitely my Best Shot Monday)
And the finish....mazel tov!

Such fun!

P.S. Haveil Havalim is here and Kosher Cooking Carnival is here.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Throwing a Party with Rocky Road Bars!

Ultimate Blog Party 2009

Hello! Welcome to my own little shindig here on the Internet, part of the Ultimate Blog Party hosted by 5 Minutes for Mom! I’m so glad you stopped by.

I'm Phyllis, also known as the Ima on and off the Bima, and I'll be your hostess.

Ima means Mom in Hebrew.
Bima is the raised platform in a synagogue from which the Torah is read or the service is led.
I am a Rabbi, so I am often on the Bima. But I'm always an Ima, whether I'm on or off.

I have three yeladim (children) - David, Sam, and Yael.
And I blog about Jewish parenting and living. And sometimes just other random things...whatever life throws my way - recipes, tips, pictures, commentary on the world...

Some of my favorite posts:
The Ten Commandments in Haiku
Pictures of a Recent Trip to Israel (I've travelled 3 times to Israel in the last 2 years, and I've blogged about my trips) and some more pictures here.
Award-Winning Passover Poem
Consumer Culture and Torah
Why Spin Instructors are Like Rabbis
Homemade Leg Warmers
Maintaining Family History
I Love to Read and Books I Read in 2008

Please feel free to subscribe to my RSS feed and also follow me on Twitter!


Right now, I, along with the whole Jewish world, am in the midst of getting ready for the holiday of Passover (in Hebrew, Pesach). This involves a lot of cleaning and in my case, a lot of baking and cooking. Why, you might ask? Well, we have to rid our houses of all the leavened items that are forbidden on this holiday. What better way to get rid of all the flour and other baking supplies than to bake them into delicious foodstuffs!? And I do love to bake. So in the spirit of using up flour, I made two different kinds of bars yesterday for our school's Teacher Appreciation Dinner. If you don't have the King Arthur Cookie Companion, I highly recommend it! I made Scandinavian Blondies (yum) and Rocky Road Bars, which were absolutely fantastic.

So today, I made another batch of those Rocky Road Bars.
(Passover is such a good time because you can get all sorts of things in the store like kosher marshmallows)

Absolutely Unbelievably Good Rocky Road Bars
(adapted from The King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion)

1 2/3 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup Dutch processed cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened at room temp
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped (I left these out)
1 to 2 cups miniature marshmallows (depending on how much you like)

Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease a 9x13 inch pan.
Cream butter and both sugars until combined, add salt and baking powder. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Mix in the cocoa powder, then the flour. Stir in 2 cups of chocolate chips and the walnuts if you're using them.
Pat the dough into your prepared pan.
Bake at 350F for 15 minutes until the edges are set but still soft in the center. Sprinkle with remaining 1 cup chocolate chips and then marshmallows. Bake about 7 minutes more, til melty and the marshmallows are toasted on top.
Cool completely (overnight worked great) and then cut. It makes 24-36 bars. They are super-rich!

and what's a party without music?

Glad you stopped by! Make sure to check out all the other party folks linked up over at 5 Minutes for Mom. There are prizes too!
My top 3 prizes that I'd like to win are:
19 — $50 gift certificate to Target Stores
Provided by: Shoot-Me-Now
Prize details: Treat your kids, or even better, treat yourself! Shoot-Me-Now would like to donate a $50 Target gift card to one winner.

49 – Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred DVD and The Biggest Loser Family Cookbook: Budget Friendly Meals Your Whole Family Will Love
Provided by: Pudget: Losing Weight On A Budget
Prize details: These two great tools will help you during any phase of your weight loss journey.

99 — $25 gift certificate for Shutterfly
Provided by:
Prize details: $25 gift certificate for Shutterfly for photos of all those cute kids, grandkids, pets, etc.

(or, if any of those are taken, I like 21, 22, 30, 58, 91, 97, 106, USC25)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Throwing a Party? While Preparing for Pesach?

It does seem like a crazy idea to throw a party in the midst of preparing for Pesach.

Then again, the house is on its way to being very very clean.

So why not?

Plus, it's a virtual party. Which helps a lot.

Ultimate Blog Party 2009

So I've decided to throw my kippah in the ring, too, so to speak, and sign on to the Ultimate Blog Party 2009.

I do love a good party.

Now...what should I wear?
Will you be there too?

Monday, March 16, 2009

Fun with Stickers

Look, Ma, a sticker book!

Oh, wait, it's much more fun to put the stickers on my toes.
...and on my arms...

Just for the cute today....
Go see other pretty pictures at Best Shot Monday.

p.s. go see this week's Haveil Havalim...great stuff there!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Cleaning out the Chametz and Clutter

I know many of my very Orthodox readers (and even some of the less practicing folks) are going to cringe at what I'm about to say:

I'm so excited to start getting ready for Passover!

There's a full lunar month between Purim and Pesach (Passover) and most Jews spend the whole month getting ready for the holiday. In fact, it takes the whole month to get ready and the holiday itself is only one week long. Sometimes I wish it were (gasp) longer, so we could put all that prep time to some use.

(Side note: we have a family rule for road trips: you must spend at least twice as much time in the destination as you do in total travel time. It doesn't always work but I sometimes wish that this rule applied to holidays as well. Then again, 2 months of Pesach might be a little much for me. Okay back to the post...)

Anyway, so I read this post here at The Jew and the Carrot (great Jewish food blog, by the way) about how much chametz (leavened stuff) that writer has in her cabinet. As a very happy baker myself, I too have a lot of different kinds of flour and other miscellaneous items in the cabinet that we're going to have to "eat through" in order to get to chametz-free for Pesach. (Can we do it? Another post, I think.)

But it's so much more than this for me. Pesach comes at just the right time of the year. I can't wait for a warm day so that I can throw open the windows and doors, welcome the sunlight and fresh air in, and really clean out my cabinets and the whole house. Chametz literally means the leavened food items that are forbidden on Pesach (specifically wheat, barley, rye, oats and spelt), but to me there are so many spiritual connotations to chametz. Food made with these grains tends to "puff up" - to rise. Matzah is flat, without pretension. Chametz is all the stuff that "puffs up" our lives -- or in other words, clutter. This month offers a great chance to rid ourselves not just of the foodstuffs that are forbidden but also to clear out the chametz that fills our homes and our heads, the extraneous items and activities, the thoughts that don't need to be there and even perhaps an extra few personal pounds.

This phenomenon of spring cleaning is universal - it's not just restricted to Jews. And I know that just like preparing for Passover, it can be viewed as a chore, a dreadful activity that has to be done. Instead I think that we need to look at it as a part of our heritage passed down from generation to generation. From a different point of view we begin to understand how the search for Chametz applies to our lives both physically in our homes and psychologically within our spirits. As we prepare our homes for Passover so to do we prepare ourselves for the celebration of the freeing of our ancestors. Our Passover Haggadah reminds us “We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt, and the Lord freed us from Egypt with a mighty hand. Had not the Holy One, praised be God, delivered our people from Egypt, then we, our children, and our children’s children would still be enslaved.”

It is the same with us.

I know that I need this responsibility. I need to clear out some of the clutter in my life. I need to ask myself what I'm doing that I enjoy, and what things I'm doing that I want to cut out. There's such a sense of renewal at this time of year and I feel it both inside and out. We become a community again as my neighbors and my family start to spend time outdoors again. I feel so much freer leaving my coat at home and walking down the street. Passover is a holiday of freedom, celebrating the Exodus from Egypt. Celebrating freedom can also be a very personal thing as I free myself from the physical and spiritual clutter that has gathered.

What clutter has gathered in your life? How will you begin to clear it out, both figuratively and actually?
What will you do to prepare for Pesach?

This is the beginning in an irregular series on Preparing for Pesach...stay tuned.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Blogs Have Power!

The nice ladies over at BlogHer are trying to show the power of blogging and other social media. Always one to help out, here I am!

From Tide's Loads of Hope Website: Tide Loads of Hope helps in the aftermath of a natural disaster by providing clean clothes and a sense of comfort to families in need. Partnering with Feeding America, we travel to disaster affected neighborhoods with the Tide Loads of Hope truck or vans, our free mobile laundry service.

Tide Loads of Hope truck:
  • 32 high-effiency washers and dryers stationed on the truck
  • Can do 300 wash and dry cycles a day -equal to one year's worth of laundry for a single family
  • Will wash about 9,000 loads of laundry over a four-week period
  • Leveraged during massive disasters where electricity is unavailable in the region
Tide Loads of Hope vans:
  • In partnership with a local laundromat, the Tide Loads of Hope vans provide free laundry service at the same load rate as the trucks
  • Leveraged during disasters where neighboring communities still have a source of electricity
To date, Tide Loads of Hope has washed more than 35,000 loads of laundry for over 20,000 families. Most importantly, the Tide Loads of Hope program means we're equipped to take action whenever and wherever there is a need in our country.

Tide Loads of Hope Vintage Tees:

Tide Loads of Hope can also be supported through the purchase of a Tide Vintage Tee. All profits go to support families affected by disaster.

Where it all started

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the need for clean clothing became critical, and Tide found a way to help. So in November 2005, the Tide Loads of Hope truck headed to Camp Hope in the Metairie, LA area and cleaned over 10,000 loads of laundry. The spirit of this first venture informs and inspires everything Tide Loads of Hope program does.

So why am I blogging about this? You can get one of Tide's cool-looking vintage tees and support their cause. 
(Hey Tide, if you're reading, I could give away a t-shirt?)

Shirts can be purchased through this link:

They're really cute!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Purim FUN Recap....

This might have been one of our best Purims ever.

A brief recap and some other thoughts:

- Saturday night we celebrated Martinis and Megillah at the Senior Rabbi's house. It was a lot of fun, with really weird-colored drinks that tasted great! It was a fun way to kick off what became four solid days of Purim fun.

- Sunday was the Purim Carnival. Kids had a blast. It was great. Our Purim spiel was "Shushan Idol" based on American Idol. I wrote it, and played Rabbi Seacrest. It was a big fun hit!
(me as Rabbi Seacrest, host of Shushan Idol. Not a particularly inspired costume, but a fun spiel.)

- As I said last year, I've decided to put my money where my mouth is and provide the Purim costumes that are desired by my kids. Sam really really wanted to be a horse. Yael didn't have an opinion, but her Dora the Explorer costume came from Shuk haCarmel in Tel Aviv. David wanted to be a rock star again but I think he's still pretty excited about wearing ripped-up pants. I could not get them to pose nicely in front of quiet backgrounds. That would have been too much, right?

(oh yeah, and Sam took off the horse costume after about 10 minutes. He stuck with his usual pajamas. That's right, the rabbi's kid wears pajamas to Sunday School. With Transformers slippers. He kept the horse head on, though. For three days straight.)

- Monday night, Erev Purim, was lightly attended at the synagogue but still fun. We did a March Madness theme, and tossed basketballs all around the sanctuary during the service. I did my favorite Purim shtick: "Give me a G! Give me an O! Give me a D! What's that spell? God! Yay, God!" I sang a newly wonderful song "On with Purim" - to the tune of "On Wisconsin" in protest for having to wear an Illinois basketball jersey...

- Tuesday is my day off. What a great day to have Purim, isn't it!? I spent the day, as I always do on Tuesday, with Sam and Yael. We dressed up in costumes (I wore my favorite Purim hat) and spent the morning delivering Mishloach Manot all over town. I think I strapped them into their carseats over a dozen times and my shoulders and back are feeling it...
They had so much fun and definitely fought over who got to carry each bag and who got to ring the doorbell. Sometimes, rather than fight, we just rang it twice. I knew who wasn't home....!

- for dinner, we had Pizzatashen. Okay, so they were actually calzones in the shape of hamantashen. But they were pretty good. I used the recipe for Pizza Dough from the Vegan Lunch Box cookbook. They came out a little dry but still yummy. We ran out of hamantashen (I think I'm glad about that) and our guests brought flourless chocolate cupcakes. A perfect end to a perfect day!

One more thing to say about Purim.
The concept of gift giving (mishloach manot) on Purim is primarily related to the giving of food. But we've decided, out of frustration with the whole eight days of Chanukah commercialization issue, to eliminate Chanukah presents in our house. And replace them with Purim gifts. We announced at Chanukah that this was the last year for Chanukah gifts within our immediate family. (We're not telling the grandparents or anyone else that they can't give our kids gifts.)

So to kick it all off with a bang - we got a Big Family Gift... a Wii!

It sure created a lot of Purim excitement.
And that was the point.

Ah....I love Purim.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Happy Hamantashen!

The Jewish holiday of Purim is upon us (technically Monday night and Tuesday). I posted this: 13 Things I Love About Purim, go read it to learn more about the holiday.

One of the best things about Purim is the treats. We eat these delicious cookies called hamantashen. They're filled three-corner pastries that remind us of the bad guy in the Purim story - Haman, who in theory wore a three-cornered hat.

It sure is fun to make them - roll out the dough and fill with yummy stuff like jam or chocolate spread. I took Robin's idea for the chocolate spread (it's Israeli but we are lucky to have a great Israeli grocery store in the 'hood) and let me tell you, I'm never going back. (Side note: one of my kids asked if they could have it in their lunches and I, like Robin, also said no. It's definitely a sweet treat, though! And I think I'll make it a part of the Passover treats...) My creative addition to the canon of hamantashen baking is the sprinkles. If you spread them out on the table and then roll the dough out on top, the sprinkles end up in the dough and it looks really cool. The kids might've gone a little overboard on some of them....

 Somewhere in here is whatever must be my Best Shot Monday, right? The pictures from the Purim Carnival just didn't come out well. I think the battery on my camera must have been going...I'll try again over the next few days to get really good pictures of the kids in their costumes. Sam was a horse, Yael was a Dora the Explorer fairy (I don't really get it either, but that is the costume I bought in Tel Aviv for her) and David was a rock star (the great excitement there was that I ripped his jeans for him).
P.S. For some fun pictures of Purim in Israel, see this post from last year