Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Sing a Little Tune

Today I complete my fourth NaBloPoMo!

So I've invited Yael to sing you a little song...
(Doesn't get much cuter, does it?)

Don't forget that I'm giving away $25 to Oh Nuts AND a brand-new Chanukah book!
Both giveaways end on Wednesday so get cracking!!!
Did you do NaBloPoMo this year?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Eight Winter Nights {Review and Giveaway}

Eight Winter Nights: A Family Hanukkah BookI received Eight Winter Nights by Laura Krauss Melmed as a review copy, it arrived in yesterday's mail. My kids were very excited to get a new Chanukah book, and I was too! This book is lovely for many reasons.

The illustrations are sweet and beautiful. When I read it to Sam, he was able to count the candles on each page and there were lots of little things to look for in each page's illustration.

Each page had a number of whimsical poems and rhymes that were fun to read and elicited giggles not only from my 5-year-old but also from the 9-year-old who was studiously NOT paying attention to the reading that was going on. Our favorite was this one (pictured above, and you can see the sweet illustrations by Elizabeth Schlossberg):

Dreidel Chase
I had a little dreidel
I made it out of clay,
But Baby grabbed my dreidel,
And now I cannot play.
Let's catch that naughty baby -
OOPS! Baby got away!

For some reason, this tickled their fancy, and I thought it was adorable as well.

The book follows each night of the holiday, and what I liked the very best about it was that there was not a single mention of the "g" word (gifts) until the 7th night. Yes, on the 5th night, there is mention of chocolate coins, but no presents. And, to make it even better, the 7th night has a poem about "Opening Presents" accompanied by a poem entitled "Tzedakah" - how awesome is that?

The last night also explains how all the candles that we light add up to 36 (1+2+3+4+5+6+7+8 = 36) and while this didn't quite click with the 5-year-old, it did click with the not-listening 9-year-old who thought it was "cool." And I'd imagine it will click with parents who don't know this "cool" fact about the Chanukah candles!

So...if you're looking for a book to add to your family's Chanukah reading collection (we keep all the Chanukah books in our Chanukah box and pull them out each year to read during candle-lighting), may I recommend Eight Winter Nights.

We are going to keep this delightful review copy, since the publisher has been gracious enough to offer one for giveaway as well! (shipping only in the US or Canada, please)

How to win this book:
1. Leave a comment here with your favorite Chanukah story or book. (one entry)
2. Tweet this giveaway (one entry)
3. Facebook this giveaway (one entry, please tag me in the post)

Leave a separate comment for each way you enter.
*Make sure I have a way to contact you - do not post anonymously if you hope to win!*
Giveaway will close on Wednesday, December 1st sometime before first candle lighting!

And don't forget that I'm giving away $25 to Oh Nuts over here. Also ends Wednesday.

Saturday, November 27, 2010


When we said our Havdalah this week, I was struck by a realization that it's completely possible that it was my last Shabbat as the mother of three children.

Then again, I could spend another Shabbat as a pregnant lady...

Mentsch tracht, Gott lacht.

Friday, November 26, 2010

A Puzzling Thanksgiving

johA whole day of sitting around the house....with a prediction of crummy weather (it actually wasn't so bad) and not much to do...so we procured puzzles for everyone and it was a big hit:

200 Piece 39 Clues Puzzle (and still in pajamas)

100 Piece Space Shuttle Puzzle (and a smaller one which he put together so rapidly that I had to give him the 100 piece one!) (also in pajamas...their favorite part, I think.)

Putting the same 24-piece puzzle together over and over again...
What did you do all day on Thanksgiving?
Thanks to my Dad for the great pictures :-)

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Giving Thanks

There are 365 days of the year that I give thanks.
 Each and every day is a blessing.
As we celebrate the Day of Giving Thanks,
may you find blessings that abound in your life as well.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Chanukah Giveaway from Oh Nuts!

With just one week left until Chanukah, I'm so happy to offer to you, my beloved readers, this giveaway from Oh Nuts!
You can win a $25 gift certificate...with which you could buy...a Chanukah gift box like the one you see pictured here! Oh Nuts has some really delicious stuff and lots of choices for any holiday.

Here's how to win:
1.Go to the Oh Nuts Hanukkah gifts page. Choose your favorite Hanukkah Gift and leave a comment on right here on this blog post with the name and url of the gift you like the most.

I will pick a random winner and Oh Nuts will email the winner a $25 gift certificate. You have until Wednesday, December 1st, the first night of Chanukah (but I'll pick a winner sometime in the afternoon).
2 Other ways you can win, from Oh Nuts:

2. You can go to the Oh Nuts facebook page  and post on the wall the url and name of your favorite Hanukkah Gift. Please also write "I am here via Ima on and off the Bima" 

3. You can follow @ohnuts and Tweet 
" Win a free Hanukkah Gift from http://bit.ly/6nIsCi Follow @ohnuts & Retweet to enter.  "

Totally full disclosure: Oh Nuts is giving me a $30 gift certificate for running this giveaway and if I get more than 40 comments, I will get even more. So be nice, share it with your friends... 
Happy almost Chanukah everyone!

Just One Week!

There's only one week left...

G-dcast Spins Chanukah! from G-dcast.com
More Torah cartoons at www.g-dcast.com

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

No Pain, No Gain

I'll bet you're guessing that this title has to do with exercising.

You'd be wrong.

In fact, it has to do with the fact that what appears to be a fiddly, overly-complicated recipe is actually worth the time and effort.

Today, this month's Family Fun magazine showed up at my door. A friend was visiting, and we paged through it. She noted that "Chocolate Surprise Cookies" sounded good, so I said...let's bake! This was before reading the recipe, which was too bad, since she didn't actually get to taste the final product (too many steps taking too much time before she had to leave.)

It was really too bad.

Because these were totally worth all the steps.

I can't find the Family Fun version of the recipe anywhere online, but I see that Nosh With Me has a similar one posted on her website. Here's the one that I made, adapted from the Family Fun magazine:

Chocolate Surprise Cookies
Makes 20 - which is actually accurate

2 cups flour
1 cup cocoa powder
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup milk (I used the 1% that we have in the house. The recipe called for whole milk. I can't imagine how it could matter.)
2 tsp vanilla extract
10 marshmallows, cut in half

Heat oven to 350. Sift together the flour, cocoa, salt, cinnamon, and baking powder. Set aside.

Using a mixer on medium high speed, cream the butter and sugar for about 3 minutes. Add egg and beat for another minute. Combine milk and vanilla. Turn the mixer to low and add half the milk. Then slowly add half the flour mixture, then the remaining milk mixture, and then the remaining flour. Mix until well-blended.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment. Scoop out 2-tablespoon size balls, drop them onto the sheet. I did about 6 per sheet, leaving about 3 inches between them. They don't spread much. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven, top each one with half a marshmallow, cut side down, pressing it into the dough. Bake for an additional 4 minutes, then cool on a rack.

See what I mean? Not so much spreading. Could have fit more on the sheet, I guess.
Then make icing:
3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup sour cream (I used reduced fat, because that's what I had)

Whisk together the sugar and cocoa powder, then stir in the sour cream until smooth. It seems like it won't work, but it does, trust me. Then top the cookies with the icing so the marshmallow is totally covered. Set for about 1 hour and then eat. With a huge glass of milk.
It makes a ton of icing but trust me, you'll want all the icing. The cookies are not really worth eating without the icing.
 I'm now glad that we made them, but in the middle I was wishing I had read the recipe more carefully before deciding so quickly to make them! I have a feeling they're going to be requested again soon by my children.... What's your favorite fiddly-but-worth-it recipe?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Odd Nesting Behavior

They say that pregnant women "nest" when they're getting close to having a baby.

Some of the odd nest-like things I've found myself doing:
- cleaning out the car (and being frustrated that the car wash was closed on a rainy day. I didn't care about the outside, just wanted a good inner vacuum/scrub! Can't they understand that?)
- becoming slightly obsessed with organizing things, like putting the photo albums in order by date.
- ruthlessly dispensing with anything that remotely seems like it might be ready for the "donation" bin, including any piece of maternity clothing that doesn't quite cover my belly any more.
- stocking up on things that seem like they'll be good to eat after the baby comes
- waking up in the middle of the night and wondering what else I've forgotten to do...and of course, remembering that once the baby comes, those things can still get done.

I'm normally a pretty neat and tidy person, but sometimes I think this gets a little ridiculous. After all, when I went into labor with my first-born, I wouldn't let us leave for the hospital until we had made the bed.

And my sweet hubby obliged me.

(And then made fun of me for the past 9 years about it.)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Eternal Question....

(Which is really only a good question for vegetarians or people who like dairy meals, I suppose.)

Which is your preference? Post coming soon declaring my position....

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Whose Life Am I Leading?

Where can I get the cute sweater that Hermione is wearing?
Yesterday, we went to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I thought it was wonderful. I love that they did not try to cram the whole book into one movie, which allowed the freedom to be more true to more of the book than previous movies. My favorite part was how they retold the story of the Three Brothers and the Deathly Hallows. Overall, I was pleased and impressed ...and I can't wait to see it again in a double feature with Part 2!

And then late this afternoon, we went to see Megamind. (Loved it, by the way.)

Now, never mind that both of these movies are technically children's films (although Harry Potter is rated PG-13 and is not a children's movie by any means), whose life am I leading?

I went to two movies in two days.

You're jealous, aren't you?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Thursday, November 18, 2010

December Dilemma

Yael: Why don't we celebrate Christmas? Everyone else gets to go to Santa's house.

Sam: Because we're Jewish, not Christian!

Okay, I must admit to being totally shocked by this conversation. Let's remember that the children involved are ages THREE and FIVE (newly minted five, by the way), they frankly don't know a lot of non-Jews in their lives, and I can't remember ever even saying the word "Santa"...ever?

Okay, so why the "dilemma"?

I didn't want to say - we don't need Christmas, we have Chanukah! Truthfully, I don't really think that way.

This, to me, is the big dilemma of the season. I'm not interested in offering my kids an "alternative" to Christmas. I'm just interested in living my ordinary Jewish life. It doesn't mean that I'm not acknowledging the "season" that never seems to quiet down...it's impossible to ignore. But I've never felt a need to start making comparisons or justifications...

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

8 Days - Aliyah and Chanukah

 As you may know, my brother made aliyah in August of 2009, with Nefesh b'Nefesh. So they definitely hold a special place in my heart for what they helped him to do. (In case you're wondering, he's doing great and still in the army.)

Here's their entry into the Chanukah YouTube video fun, a trek throughout Israel celebrating each night (well, it's daytime but it's a music video, not really known for their realism) of Chanukah in a different part of the country. Cute, catchy, and entertaining. My favorite part is when he "unearths" a sufganiya, brushes it off with an archaeological tool, and then takes a big bite. Ew! But funny nevertheless.

What's your favorite Chanukah video?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Thanksgiving Rituals

This is mostly re-posted from last year, but it's worth having as the holiday of Thanksgiving approaches. (EDITED TO REMOVE THE BAD LINKS!)

It's hard to believe that the holiday of Thanksgiving is nearly upon us.

Thanksgiving is such a wonderful American holiday. It's simple - say thank you for the blessings in life and share a meal with those you love.

But often, the meal takes over, stress of family and needing a "picture perfect" celebration cause a little fraying at the edges. Creating an atmosphere of gratitude can be tricky when you're just trying to keep your 3-year-old from pulling the tablecloth off the table, don't you think?

I have created 3 different Thanksgiving services, based loosely on the idea of the Passover seder. After all, one good holiday centered around the table deserves another, doesn't it?

Feel free to read all three and pick and choose from within them! Your family might be somewhere between the longer edition and the quick version.

The first, a Thanksgiving Seder, is the longest of the three - suitable for strong attention spans.

Thanksgiving Seder 

The second, a Thanksgiving Seder for Families with Young Children, is a quick version, meant to be fun and light for the preschool and elementary school set.

Thanksgiving Seder for Families with Small Children 

And finally, an ecumenical version. What do I mean by that? It talks about God but it's not particularistic, i.e. not really very Jewish. (I know that some of you loyal readers aren't Jewish or share your table with people of many faiths and still might enjoy this concept!)

Ecumenical Thanksgiving Service for Families 

All three include ideas for usage and suggestions for incorporating your own cultural and ethnic heritage. I hope you like it and I hope you let me know if you use it.

May your celebration be full and enriching!
Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 15, 2010


From this....

...to this
in the absolute blink of an eye.

Wasn't it just yesterday that I was made into a mom?
Wasn't it just yesterday that he was spitting up and learning to nurse?
Wasn't it just yesterday that he was taking his first steps?
Wasn't it just yesterday that he spoke his first sentences?
Wasn't it just yesterday that he learned to read?
Wasn't it just yesterday that he told his first joke?

And now....he's a big grown up 9-year-old.
He can read in THREE languages, shares conversation with adults and kids alike, sleeps away at summer camp, loves movies and video games but can't stay away from books, runs rather than walks, wants to be treated like a "big kid" but still loves to wrestle with his little brother and snuggle with his little sister. When I told him that we were going to have another baby, he was excited and cheered. (Oh, and he wanted "feetie" pajamas for his birthday.)

Wow, 9 years.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Birthday Planning...

My almost 9-year-old (it's coming up....I can't believe he's almost 9) decided that he wanted an Ipod Touch.

To me, this seemed a little bit of an extravagance. After all, he has access to almost every video game system available (my husband, bless his heart, loves them). So what did he need with a fancy ipod?

But I didn't say no. I told him to go ahead and save his own money.

And he did. He started saving, and the money slowly added up.

Then, it came time to plan his birthday party...and he couldn't decide what he wanted. We gave him many choices, all fun and interesting ideas. But nothing seemed to thrill him.

Then I had a brilliant idea. I offered a trade - I could make him a birthday party, the kind that we always make, or I could give him $100. I did not try to sway him either way - in fact, I wasn't totally sure what I thought about the idea.

And after some deliberation, he chose the money over the party. And he's even closer to his goal.

I think I got off easy.

What do you think?
Thanks to my dad for the picture.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

5 Seconds?

Do you hear your phone ring (or buzz) and immediately respond? Can you leave it alone for a few minutes, or are you compelled to answer/respond to each text message instantly?

Modern Uberdox has this to say in his post "5 Second Rule":
Recently I've expanded this rule to my cell phone.  When I get a text I make myself wait at least five seconds before even reaching for my phone because I want to remember that I'm in charge, not my phone. 

I think a lot about this idea. Do I control my technology or does it control me? There is power in choosing when and how to respond to each text or email, even each phone call. There are some calls that I answer immediately. But others? I consider what I'm doing and make a conscious choice. Having a cell phone keeps me in constant contact if I want it. But I can choose to put the phone aside and choose control.

This is aside from the idea of Shabbat - this is making a choice on a regular, daily basis.

How do you handle your texts and phone calls? Who is in charge - you or your phone?
Can you wait 5 seconds?

Thanks to the Rebbetzin's Husband for this week's Haveil Havalim (and the link to the post that inspired this one!)

Friday, November 12, 2010

It's that Time of Year...Chanukah Countdown!

I know, I know...it's only November 12th.
But it's the 5th of Kislev, so there are only 20 days left until Chanukah!

So here are some Chanukah links and projects to get you started:

Dreidel Factory from Matzo Ball Soup - simple and awesome

From King Arthur Flour
Check out this cupcake menorah - I think we're going to have to try this one this year!
Here are the 27 craziest menorahs ever!

Need a good Chanukah playlist?

Here's one of my favorites:

What are you planning for Chanukah this year?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Future Preschool Teacher?

Yael has her own way of doing things.
She likes to "read" books to her baby dolls.
It's all in the details, though. Check out the crossed leg and the pointing finger.
She's going to make a great preschool teacher someday.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Move Over, Cake Boss - Dragon Cake

My kids (and their parents too!) have all fallen in love with the show Cake Boss. One of the episodes we saw was of a Chinese dragon cake - simply spectacular. I do actually believe that Sam's desire for a "dragon party" stemmed from his desire for a cake like this one.

I'm good. But I'm not that good.

Then again, the internet is my friend. So I discovered this pattern, and it seemed like we could do it.

So here we went...Michael helped with the cutting (he's good at that spatial stuff):
And then I did the assembly and frosting.

And then, voila, an amazing DRAGON cake.
Fire-breathing and everything!
(The fire is fruit roll-ups, by the way...)
Move over, Cake Boss, the Ima is in town.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Dragon & Dinosaur Party

Last year, Sam had a Monster Truck party. It was a big success. Each year, our parties are low-key but well-planned - we try to find a theme that will be fun for the kids and their friends.

So this year, Sam asked for a Dinosaur Party. And then he asked for a Dragon Party. So I decided to combine the two - they seemed pretty similar to me, right?!

So...here's what we did. Everyone was invited by evite (my first time actually using it, how about that for a techno-geek like me?!)

A bunch of little boys descended upon my house (6, to be exact) and they started out by playing with every dragon and dinosaur toy we had in the house.
We went outside to play some games. My awesome husband led them in "roaring" exercises, a dinosaur scavenger hunt around the yard, and my favorite game - Viking Says. Here is a little "viking" scratching his armpits. (Other things they did? Scratch their heads, jump up and down...ya know, all good Viking things.)
We always play some sort of pin-the-tail game. This is pin-the-tail on the dinosaur...it never gets old.
Each of our parties has a story time. Why not? Every kid loves a good story. We collected all the dinosaur and dragon books around the house and Michael read 3 or 4 books to the boys. Their attention didn't waver for a moment!
We ate pizza, and it was my favorite part of the party because I loved listening to the conversation between the 7 little boys (and Yael, who mostly just ate) - a serious conversation about their favorite cartoon characters, and how old exactly each one of them is ("I'm 4 3/4!" "I'm already 5!") - it was a delightful "fly on the wall" moment because I don't think they had any idea that I was listening so hard. The other pretty cool thing? I put a bowl of carrots on the table and I'm quite sure that every kid had at least one, without any prompting!
Each friend took home a really cool party favor that I ordered from Giggle Junction - it was an "I spy" bag with a dinosaur theme. I special-ordered these through their Etsy shop and they were a total hit. (They also took home a personalized placemat with their name and a dragon/dinosaur picture on it. One of the parents told me that they still have last year's party placemat!)

After everyone left, Yael and David helped Sam open his presents, and then...
I took a nap.
(Wouldn't you?)

Come back tomorrow to see the coolest cake I've ever made.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Five is a BIG number

What do you get when you turn five?
In our house, you get to chew gum.
You also seem to be a really grown up little guy.
Tracing Sam's life....
Happy 5th birthday Sammy!

Sam loves dragons and dinosaurs, he's just starting to learn to read, and he is a stickler for details. Full of opinions, he alternates between total devotion and total disdain for his sister and brother. But he hates to be alone - he always loves to have someone around! He loves to play his Nintendo DS and he is very interested in anything technological. He likes to make up stories and he really likes to hear stories. He listens so carefully to the stories that I tell, and he corrects me when I change them. He's not perfect - stubborn and often grumpy - but he's adorable and wonderful and sweet. I can see him growing and changing right before my eyes....and now he's 5 years old!

Coming up tomorrow....his dragon and dinosaur party!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Rosh Chodesh Kislev

Cold and dark
the month of Kislev
comes in

Ending Cheshvan
ushering in the month of

Kislev...from kesel
confidence that the light
will come
confidence that the dark
will not take over

Kislev...the month of dreams
most of
the Torah's dreamers
visit during this month.

We dream and hope
we live and love
we celebrate
even in the darkest days
of our calendar.

May this month bring peace and light and hope and dreams and love.
Chodesh tov!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Spring Back, Fall Forward?

Seriously, enough with the daylight savings thing.

Yes, I know that we get an "extra hour of sleep tonight."

And yes, I understand many of the arguments that it's good for energy savings, and all that.

But it just isn't any fun to deal with cranky children who don't understand why the clock says one thing but their body says another.

And um, parents too. I can't tell you how long it takes me to get used to eating meals at different times.

When it gets dark, it gets dark. That's just how it is.

And don't even get me started on how daylight savings works in Israel. Because I understand that even less. (And again, don't get me started on Indiana.)

Someone please tell me why this daylight savings thing is important? I once read an article that explained that DST unfairly impacted people who care for small children far more than those who don't. (here's an article that says it should go away.)

What do you think?

Friday, November 5, 2010

Hold on Tight

A dear friend of mine lost her husband last night. May his memory be for a blessing.

It certainly makes you squeeze your loved ones more tightly.
It certainly makes you count your blessings.
It certainly makes you hold on to each moment, no matter how silly or mundane.

It certainly makes a birthday weekend (like we're about to celebrate in Beit ImaBima) a reason for celebration.

Stay tuned for birthday posts...and a cake post that will surpass any I've ever made before.

Until then....Shabbat Shalom.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Fun with the iPad!

My husband got an iPad for his birthday and I can't wait to tell you all about how much fun we're having, especially the kids. Actually I'm writing this post using it!!!

So...do you have one? What are your favorite uses? What are your favorite apps?

The most amazing thing about it is how naturally my kids have taken to it. Michael downloaded a digital children's book and they instantly understood it's "bookiness" - to them it was not strange at all. My children are remarkably digitally native...

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Online Nesting

Pregnant women are known for their nesting.

In my case, at the moment it applies to my blog.

Is that weird? Online nesting....I guess I'm a modern gal.

Do you like my new header?

(And yes, it's NaBloPoMo so I'm paying a little extra attention to my blog this month!)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


"Wow, are you sure there's only one in there?"


"You look like you're ready any minute!"

Nope. I'm not ready cuz the baby's not ready. When the baby's ready, I'll know...that will be called labor. Until then, I'm here and enjoying every minute of this pregnancy.

Thanks to my dad for this great photo!
And aside from the look on Yael's face in this picture, which is totally priceless, all the kids are super-excited for the baby's arrival.

And may that arrival be in its own and best time.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Annexed {Review}

There are many many many books written about the Holocaust. One of the best known, of course, is The Diary of Anne Frank. And her words have spawned so many others, a whole collection of books and discourse about her diary.

AnnexedBut Annexed, by Sharon Dogar, is a little different than others that I've read. It's Peter's story - a relatively fictional account based only on what we know from Anne's own words. And what happened to Peter afterwards? We don't really know, so Sharon Dogar writes a powerful tale of what might have happened.

I think what is most interesting about this book is the reminder that Anne's diary is just that - her story. There were other people in the Secret Annex, and I'm sure she must have left out most of their stories and feelings. Peter is just one of the other people, and this book, written in a first-person narrative, gives the reminder that every story has, as part of it, another story untold.

I appreciated the author's final note indicating what is "real" and what is imagined in the book. This is particularly helpful for those of us who haven't read Anne's words in a long time...

The book is well-written, interesting in its style and I really couldn't put it down. It's billed as a "young adult" novel, grades 8-12, and I think that's just about right. There are disturbing scenes, in particular when Peter ends up in a concentration camp, and there are some sexual references that won't be appropriate for younger readers. I highly recommend this book, go and find yourself a copy to read!

Full disclosure: I received a free copy of this book for review from the publisher. I will not be giving it away but instead putting it in our synagogue library. If you're in the neighborhood, stop by and check it out! Oh, and if you're a publisher looking to send me books, keep it up! I love this stuff.