Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Thankful Thursday

I'm thankful...

....for the end of Halloween.

....for the beginning of November, in our house, the birthday month.

....for how cute my middle child looked in his bee costume (pictures coming later).

....that the most pressing issue facing my children today was how much candy they could keep or eat.

What are you thankful for?

hosted at boogiemum

P.S. I'm not sure that I'm going to post about thanks each day, but it sure is a nice idea, isn't it? Judaism teaches us to say 100 blessings a day...

This is my first post in the NaBloPoMo....are you in?

Visit NaBloPoMo

Don't forget to visit my Giveaway and see hundreds more here at the Fall Y'all Giveaways...

Dealing with Halloween...Works for Me

The holiday of Halloween brings me a bit of stress each year. On the very basic level, I'm just not a fan of this holiday that has become so much bigger in the last 5 years. I remember a few weeks of build-up, some homemade costumes, a party in school, and maybe a party at someone's house...and maybe not. Pumpkin carving and candy apples....
But now Halloween is about decorations and lights, months of build-up, party after party...trick-or-treating in town, all other activities cancelled for the first I thought it was something new here in Chicago, but I'm realizing that it's all over.

My first year here, I arrived at my son's daycare at about 4:30pm on Halloween. The daycare was open daily til 6pm, and my son was usually one of the first picked up at 4:30ish. On this day, he was one of the last 2 kids 4:30pm. When I asked what was going on, the teachers told me that most of the parents took off work early to pick up their kids early to take them trick-or-treating. Just a few weeks earlier, on Erev Yom Kippur, the holiest Jewish holiday, when the center closed at 3pm, almost all the kids were still there at 3pm and the teachers told me that many were actually late on that day. ?????

So all this rant is leading to my to make Halloween as low-key as possible in our house. Not to mention my personal concerns about Halloween as a pagan holiday with values that don't necessarily coincide with my own, is also the need to not let something like this become overwhelming to my family.

Here's my recipe for a "low key" Halloween:

- No decorations. We spend a lot of time and energy on Sukkot (see here and here) and this is our fall decorating fun. Some years the two holidays coincide. Some not. Either way, I will continue to stand firm on this one!

- Pumpkin carving can be a fun fall activity, sometimes we try to do it for Sukkot or even after Halloween for Thanksgiving. This year I carved a flower! But I resist and resist. I try really hard to get out of it.

- I don't make a big deal about the costumes. We often recycle last winter's Purim costume or spend just a little bit of time talking or buying it. We have a little stash of dress-up stuff anyway, so we can pick and choose if we want...This year my son earned all the money himself for his costume since he wanted to spend far more than I wanted to spend.

- We eat a normal dinner, and trick-or-treat only on our own cul-de-sac. That's enough for me! (Plus it's cold and gets dark early, thankfully)

- We look over the candy, eat a piece or two, and then give all the rest to the kids at children's hospital.

- We're not giving out candy this year, ourselves, we're giving out bouncy balls.

- I think this is the year to introduce the UNICEF boxes to my son.

- When it's over, it's over! I can't wait.

Does anyone out there feel that Halloween has changed over the years and become more overwhelming?

Don't forget to visit my Giveaway...only a few days left!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Spiderweb's Tasty Tuesday!

Aren't these the cutest little spiderweb cookies? I cut this recipe out of a Cooking Light magazine a few years ago...they are actually very tasty but the most fun is making these spiderwebs out of frosting!

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup vegetable shortening
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg white
Cooking spray
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
3 tablespoons 2% reduced-fat milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt, stirring well with a whisk. Place shortening in a large mixing bowl; beat with a heavy-duty mixer at medium speed until light and fluffy. Gradually add the granulated sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until well blended. Add vanilla and egg white; beat well. Add flour mixture; beat until well blended.
Turn dough out onto wax paper; shape into a 6-inch log. Wrap log in wax paper. Freeze 2 hours or until very firm.
Cut log into 24 (1/4-inch) slices, and place slices 1 inch apart on baking sheets coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350 degrees F for 10 minutes or until set. Remove from pans; cool completely on wire racks.

Combine powdered sugar and milk in a medium bowl; stir well with a whisk until smooth. Spoon into a small zip-top plastic bag; seal. Snip a tiny hole in 1 corner of bag. Working with 1 cookie at a time, pipe 3 concentric circles onto each cookie. Starting at center circle, pull a wooden pick through other circles at regular intervals to create a "web."
For the glaze, snip a very small hole in the corner of the plastic bag. If it's too small, you can always make it bigger.

See more recipes at the Crazy Hip Blog Mamas and don't forget to check out
my giveaway here...
Plus make sure you check out the rest of the Fall Y'all Give-aways!
I'm having so much fun but I think my fingers are getting worn out from all the entries I've been typing!!!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Spiritual Parenting - Best Shot & a Giveaway

Updated - comments closed. Winner annouced after Shabbat!

It's hard to look into these eyes...

and not see God.

It's hard to look into this face and not think that something Incredible out there has created this amazing little being. How can I make her continue to see that she is created in the image of God, even as the outside world seems to be working against me??

Along those lines...
For my first ever blog give-a-way, I will be giving one copy of
10 Principles for Spiritual Parenting: Nurturing Your Child's Soul
by Mimi Doe and Marsha F. Walch

This is a beautiful and wonderful book full of ideas and inspiration for bringing parenting back to a spiritual level. No matter what your spiritual tradition, this book is full of warmth and thoughts on bringing holiness into your life. The chapter titles alone are inspiring: "Be a Positive Mirror for Your Child" and "Add Magic to the Ordinary" are two of them. I very much enjoy this book and I hope that you will too.

Here's how you can win this book:
1. Make a comment here. Tell me how you balance your family life. This is your entry!
2. If you feel so inclined (I'd like it a lot), post on your blog or tell a friend about this giveaway and link back to me.
3. Don't forget to give me a way to get in touch with you if you win!
4. Contest ends on Friday, November 2nd at 5pm. I will post the winner Saturday evening after Shabbat is over.

See more giveaways here:

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

And see more Best Shot Monday here.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

8 is Enough.... & Five Places I've Been...

Oy...a long time ago (okay, I guess it was only a week ago), Mama Zen tagged me for the Crazy 8's meme...and since it's Sunday I thought I'd finally take on the challenge. So here goes...

8 Things I'm Passionate About:

1. My husband
2. My oldest child
3. My middle child
4. My youngest child
5. Judaism
6. Learning and Reading (I guess that's two!)
7. Finding and creating community
8. Making the world a better place

8 Things I Want to Do Before I Die:

1. Visit every continent
2. Grow a garden
3. Catch up on my reading list (yeah right)
4. Learn Spanish.
5. Hold grandchildren.
6. Learn to be a chef.
7. Write a book.
8. Open a b&b

8 Things I Say Regularly:

1. Period. End of Story. (my son told me recently that I say this all the time)
2. Whatever.
3. I just work here.
4. Send me an email.
5. Just Google it.
6. When do we eat?
7. Don't forget to breathe, in and out! (Name the movie -- I'll be super-impressed)
8. Drink more water.

8 Books I've Read Recently (or am reading now...)
1. The Attack
2. Matrimony
3. The Uprising
4. The Water Mirror (which, when I looked it up to make this link, I realized that the sequels are already available. Whoo hoo!)
5. Momma Zen
6. Triangle
7. The Kommandant's Girl
8. Measure of A Man
(It's amazing -- this one was really hard. I read a ton of books, I really wish I kept a journal. This is, by the way, a project that I want to start for my almost 6-year-old. We've only been reading chapter books for about 2 years, I think we could write a whole list. If we kept it up, when he's my age, he'd have a list of everything he has ever read. Ooh cool!)

8 Songs I Can Listen To Over and Over Again
I can't do this one. I can listen to almost anything over and over again. I am the dorky kind who never updates her ipod and just keeps listening to the same playlists over and over again!

8 Things that Attract Me To My Friends
1. Good sense of humor
2. Love of movies
3. Pop culture knowledge
4. Enjoy hanging out
5. Laugh at my jokes
6. Put up with my kids
7. Good conversationalists
8. A cute tush...oh wait, that was just my best friend (i.e. my husband)

8 Things I Learned in the Last Year
1. How much harder 3 is than 2.
2. How little sleep one can survive on.
3. How cool it is to have a girl.
4. How much change I can handle.
5. How much I've turned into a minivan-mom
6. How much I love my job.
7. Turning 30 just wasn't the big deal everyone said it would be.
8. How much fun blogging is!

8 People That I Want to Torture Think Should Also Do This Meme

Marci (Myriad Musings of Marci)
Helena (Thrice Blessed Momma)
Brad (Egel Nest)
Crunchy Domestic Goddess
SAHMmy says
Karen (Cheerio Road)
Elizabeth (The Whole Family)
Harry (my brother...think he'll play?)

In honor of the meme, here are Five Eight Places I've Been This Week!

Pumpkin Coffee Canister

Lack of Sleep = Cognitive Setbacks? (NY Times)

Holocaust Heroine Saved Children (Chicago Tribune)

Smart Mom Jewelry (ooh, I want one)

Photocard Mosaic

Monster Cookies

The Parent's Little List of Trust (from Cheerio Road)

The 12 Germiest Places in Your Life (ewwwww)

from my
Where have you been?
Stay tuned for tomorrow's (big-ish) Give-away. I'm so excited for my first giveaway!

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Saturday, October 27, 2007

Flowers for Melody

Wonderful Melody, who blogs at Slurping Life (if you're not reading should be) and creator of Wrapped Emotions, is going through some rough times with her family. While she would normally be posting for us a creative challenge (or hiring it out to a guest blogger, like me!), Jenny at Live and In Color has posted a project to "send flowers" to Melody.

Here's what she said:
If I knew her address, I’d probably send her a card or flowers, just to let her know I care. But this is cyberspace, so it’s time to get creative.

My challenge to you, whether you’re a regular WE participant or not, is to help me “send” a bouquet of flowers to Melody. Draw, paint, craft or photo a flower this week and post it to your blog. It can be as elaborate or simple as you like. Maybe say a few words about what Melody and Wrapped Emotions have meant to you.

How awesome that Jenny stepped up to the plate.
So much about life is just that -- stepping in when we need to.

For Melody...I have been thinking of you each time I turn on my computer, and a few other times as well, including at our services each time we say the prayer for healing...

But interestingly, I also thought of you today as my son and I began to carve our pumpkins.

Back story: I'm not a big Halloween fan. Wait until later this week for that story. But needless to say, it takes a lot of cajoling from my 5-year-old to get me to even begin anything that even smells of here we are, carving pumpkins.

I suddenly realized that this was the solution I needed -- I would carve my pumpkin for Melody! And along the way I could explain to my son how I was making a flower for a lady who was sad and needed cheering up.

So....without further ado, my flower for Melody.

May it bring blessings and hope.

See more of the bouquet here.

P.S. Stay tuned Monday for my first-ever give-away. I'm awfully excited.

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Friday, October 26, 2007

Vayera in Haiku

Part of Parashat Vayera in haiku....

Three visitors came
Who were they? Maybe angels.
Abe welcomed them in.

Where's Sarah? they asked.
Inside, in the tent, cooking.
Why do you ask me?

Next year at this time
I'll come back, she'll have a son.
Sarah overheard.

Ha ha ha ha ha
Sarah laughed and laughed and laughed.
A kid? When we're old?

And God called her out:
You laughed at My prediction!?
She lied, but got caught.

She did have a babe.
And named him Yitzchak, laughter.
They had a big feast.

Make sure to check out my last haiku Friday and check out the comments...Carolyn of Juggling Frogs was amazing!!!

See more haiku Friday here.
Shabbat Shalom!
P.S. Come back on Monday for a Give-a-way -- my first ever! I'm so excited. I think it's very good. I spent a lot of time thinking about something that would be reflective of who I am and what I am trying to do with my blog. How's that for deep?

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Thursday, October 25, 2007

Helping Fire Victims

The Union for Reform Judaism has set up a relief fund for those who have been injured or lost their homes in the Southern California fires. Click here to make a donation. In addition, they are collecting gift cards for those who are trying to rebuild. A gift card gives a strong measure of dignity to the recipient, allowing him or her to choose what to buy while still receiving a donation.

In addition, it's simpler than shipping large quantities of goods across the country. Click on this link to see the list of companies that are in the Southern California area and from which they are collecting gift cards.

In addition, the address to send your cards to is listed on this site. In addition, the Chicago Jewish United Fund has established a relief fund. Click here to make a donation through that organization.

We all stand together.

13 Great Things About Cincinnati, Ohio

I spent about 24 hours in Cincinnati, Ohio, on Tuesday/Wednesday this week. We lived in Cincinnati for four years while we were students at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of was fun to go back...and here are 13 things I enjoyed about re-visiting this city! (Okay, I didn't actually do or see all of this but these are all things that visiting reminded me of.)

1. Graeter's Ice Cream. Is there anything more delicious than their ice cream? I'm not entirely sure.

2. Habanero's, a local burrito joint that I loved. It's on Ludlow, in the college-y area of town, and it's still delicious!

3. Hebrew Union College -- this is where I went to school, and it was great to return and see many professors, current students, and the daycare where my son went for about 18 months, the Jewish Early Learning Cooperative (aka JELC)

4. The American Jewish Archives, housed at on the HUC campus. I haven't been in the new archives building and it was amazing. There is an incredible "electronic classroom" that is just spectacular. Huge screens, internet hookups, it's a techie's dream!

5. Did I mention Graeter's?

6. Cincinnati is the birthplace of American Reform Judaism. Plum Street Temple, built in 1866, is still an incredible monument to Reform Judaism's roots and a gorgeous place to pray.

7. The chili. Even though I really don't like it, it was fun to be back in the town where people do like it and eat it.

8. Kroger's grocery stores. There's nothing quite like shopping at Kroger!

9. Newport Aquarium. This is a great aquarium, small and not too complicated. Until the renovation there was nothing that really smelled fishy, which is the part of aquariums that I don't like. And a yearly pass was cheap and easy...

10. The multi-state nature of the Cincinnati's very cool to fly into Kentucky and then drive into Ohio. Why do I think this is cool? I have no idea but I do really like Kentucky.

11. Um, I think I mentioned Graeter's before. But it's worth it again.

12. Adriatico's Pizza. Mm...and Dewey's Pizza too. Have you noticed that my experiences seem to be primarily culinary? Maybe I should have titled this post 13 Great Things to Eat in Cincinnati. hee hee.

13. You can never go home again (so they say), but it felt so nice to be in this small city, a city that I know so well, a place that just felt good. There are plenty of flaws in Cincinnati, but for me there are so many sweet memories. My husband and I began our married life together there in a crummy student apartment, my first baby was born at Good Samaritan Hospital, I learned and studied and created community with my friends, I bought my first house (which I drove by during my brief trip...), I was ordained at Plum Street Temple and then my husband was ordained there. I still have friends there, although many have left. It's good to visit again.

For more Thursday Thirteen, look here!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Tasty Tuesday

Here's a great and easy appetizer recipe that is always eaten up right quick. It's the less-sophisticated version of baked brie...

Baked Cream Cheese

1 can of refrigerated crescent roll dough
1 block of cream cheese (go ahead and use the full-fat, why not?)
dill or other spices
beaten egg yolk

Lay out half the crescent roll dough, and put the cream cheese block on top. Sprinkle with dill and/or other spices, then wrap it up. Brush with the egg yolk.

Bake at 350 for about about 15 minutes, along with the rest of the crescent roll dough made into the cute little crescents.

Serve with crackers and veggies.

What can you make with cream cheese?
Tell the world at the Crazy Hip Blog Mama's Recipe Rally...

Monday, October 22, 2007

Learning to Edit? - Best Shot Monday many of you out there have tried Picnik? I've been playing with it for a while and it's about to come out of beta testing, which means that all the fun parts will become a fee-service. There is still a bunch of free stuff, and it all links directly into flickr, which I use somewhat...

Okay, so here is two versions of a picture that I edited using Picnik. What do you think? Which do you like? (if any)

So many of us try to document our children...with my second and now my third I'm working on monthly photos. This is part of the 8 month pics that I took of my girl. I love looking at her growth each I love looking at the growth of all my children and my friends' children...

Finally...just one more because it's adorable. This is what you get when you say "Smile, Sammy!" Hmm...guess we'll have to work on this one!

See more Best Shot Monday here at Picture This. This is definitely one of my favorite days of the week. Have I mentioned that I love to blog?

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Awards....and 5 Places I've Been this Week

Ooh am I behind in my blogging manners. I am so bad at these awards, let me tell you! Which doesn't mean that I don't appreciate them:-)

You Make Me Smile, from Robin at Around the Island (I giggle a little, because she passed this award to me in a post entitled "World's Worst-Mannered Blogger" which I feel now applies to me instead!) If I could, I'd re-gift the award back to Robin, since her posts always make me smile. She is a great writer and won an honorable mention that was well-deserved in Scribbit's Write-away contest this month! I pass this award on to Brad at the Egel Nest. I enjoy all of his posts, but I have to make sure you read this one that definitely made me smile. Or this one. Or this one. Hey, he deserves it!

Blogging Star award, from Helena, the Thrice Blessed Momma

This award is for bloggers who shine their light throughout the Blogosphere. Some do it with humor, others with creativity, and others with their kind and thoughtful natures. We all know more than a few of them so why not give them some recognition?
Here's what to do if you receive this:
* Proudly display it on your blog along with a link to who gave it to you.
* Mention that it originated here at
Skittles' Place so I can follow its journey.
* Pass it on to any blogger(s) you think should have it.

I have to admit, I would again re-gift this back to Helena. Her story is so inspiring and I love to read how she handles her wonderful (three!) five-year-olds. Plus, she sure knows how a mom needs a day off, and I agree and appreciate that one.

I gift this award to Melody at Slurping Life and Wrapped Emotions. She has been going through a lot lately, and her light shines through it all. The creation of the Wrapped Emotions project-blog has, I think, been an incredible addition to the blogosphere. Each week she challenges her participants (anyone!) to unwrap themselves just a little bit more through artistry. She is truly amazing, which you will see when you read either of her blogs.

Community Blogger Award from Marci...

This award was created by Sultana Blog. It is a Community Blogging Award designed to "celebrate people who reach out and makes the blogger community a better one."

I am super-honored by this award because I just wrote an article for my synagogue newsletter all about my blogging life and how I feel that it is all about building community! Marci, I think, understands me better than most since she is a fellow rabbi! She, too, deserves this award!

I am passing it on to Amy, the Crunchy Domestic Goddess. Amy was one of the first bloggers I started reading regularly, back when she was pregnant with her second baby. I was pregnant with my third, so I enjoyed reading her updates as I also got bigger. I am so impressed with the change and growth in her blog over the past year or so that I've been reading (wow, a year?) and the way that she "puts herself out there" to create the kind of bloggy community that she (and I) want to be a part of.

All of these awards truly make me speechless with joy. I am so honored that there are folks out there reading along with me as I post each (almost)'s so much fun and such a blessing in my life to be a part of the blog community. Thank you!


Five Places I've Been this Week

Butternut Squash Risotto, at Simply Recipes

Codes for Background and Text Colors in HTML and XML (who knew these things were so important!)

from my

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Picking Through the Pieces...WE #7

Wow...there is a lot of pressure when it's your prompt!

This week at Wrapped Emotions, I was the guest cool is that? I spent so much time and energy thinking about what to write, about how to approach the prompt, about how to touch all the participants and make them think and feel...that I almost didn't have anything left for my own project! It's as if the post itself was my project for the week...

But that just doesn't do it for me:-)

So here's what I came up with....
Fragments. I think of the fragments of my life and how I try to work them into a coherent whole. I try to weave my family and home life into my job, I try to bring my children with me when I can, I try to work at home or share my congregational life with my family.

But it all comes down to time.

Time....ah, isn't that just it. There just isn't enough...and yet sometimes there's so much! I know that sometimes the hours fly by, and sometimes they never seem to end. Alternatively my friend and my enemy, my watch guides my days. Can I get home in time for dinner? for bathtime? for stories? for bedtime? How many more minutes can I stay at home before I have to be at work? How long will it take me to drive wherever I'm going? How many minutes will I spend on email, phone messages, many minutes will I spend comforting, soothing, easing, scolding, teaching, praying, reading, doing....? Is any of it enough???

The craziness of this week left me without many of the tools to make the mosaic that I dreamed of as I wrote the prompt. So I present this mosaic, which I call "The Timely Mosaic"...the major theme is a photo that I took right before our building went under the construction knife, when we were cleaning it out. Something about the pile of clocks from our classrooms all lined up struck me...I didn't know why. When I came to think about what I would put into a mosaic about the time in my life, I thought right away of these clocks.

What did you build this week?

(and why don't you join in next week? It's a lot of fun!)

P.S. I used fd's flickr toys to make the mosaic.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Abraham's Haiku!

This week's Torah portion, Lech L'cha, from the book of Genesis, tells the story of the beginnings of Abraham's journey...and if it were in haiku, maybe it would go something like this:

Abraham, get up!
Go forth and find a new place.
You'll get a big prize!

What is my prize, God?
The stars and the sand, try to count.
I can't count that high!

That is how many
your descendents will become.
Won't you be proud, nu?

Check out Juggling Frogs for other creative ways to interpret and share the weekly Torah portion with your kids and family. This week, she's serving star-shaped chicken nuggets! Now that is creative!!!!

For more Friday Haikus, go here...

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Magical Fingers...Works for Me

My husband was introduced to the work of Dr. Darren Weisman, and his book The Power of Infinite Love and Gratitude. I'm not good at explaining the whole thing, but basically, he speaks about owning your own power in creating your own health in your life.
One of the things that Darren advocates or speaks about is using the power of love to heal. He uses, as his logo and sort-of trademark symbol (although I'm not sure you can really trademark the sign...) the "I Love You" ASL sign.

In our house, we've started using the ILY sign for lots of things. Bumped your head? Let me give you some love. Baby's tummy feeling gassy? Rub the ILY sign on her belly. Headache? Hold the ILY sign to your head. Mommy comes home stressed out? Daddy says -- go give mommy a hug with the ILY sign.

It's been a great way to "send love" for those little bumps that are more about the hurt pride than the hurt knees. It's a great way for us as a family to share the love when we say goodbye.

Even though the little ones (2 y.o. and baby) can't make the sign, I know that they feel the love that we spread around. I think it's so important and fun to figure out secret family codes that indicate love. What's yours?

(The ILY sign pictured here is my baby brother, Harry, who's leaving tomorrow for about 18 months of study in Israel. We're so proud of him but of course sad to see him go!)
Did you notice my new layout? I'm still trying to be Pink for October.
And you can go to 5 Minutes for Mom to win a pink digital camera! (or don't, so I can win.)

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Tasty Tuesday - Squash Mushroom Soup

Curried Squash and Mushroom Soup...

adapted from Mollie Katzen's Moosewood Cookbook, one of my favorites! The adapted part is that I use the frozen squash, which makes this very easy to prepare. I bet you could make it with canned pumpkin, too. The original recipe called for squash to be baked and pureed. This is much easier.

2 boxes of frozen cooked winter squash
2 1/2 cups water or stock
1 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons margarine
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 medium clove garlic -- crushed
6 ounces mushrooms -- sliced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
dash cayenne
fresh lemon juice -- optional
chopped toasted almonds -- for garnish

Defrost the puree. Combine in a kettle or saucepan with the orange juice and stock.
Heat the butter in a skillet and add the garlic, onion, salt and spices. Saute until the onion is very soft. (You may need to add a little water if it sticks.) Add mushrooms, cover, and cook 10 minutes. Add the saute to the squash, scraping the skillet well to salvage all the good stuff.
Heat everything together very gently.
Taste to correct seasoning.
You may want more cayenne or salt.
And, since this is a fairly sweet soup, you may want to spruce it up with some fresh-squeezed lemon juice.
Serve topped with yogurt and chopped, toasted almonds.
(Note, this soup need not be served immediately. It can simmer a while and the flavors will mature.)
See more recipes at the Crazy Hip Blog Mamas' Recipe Rally...

I'm a Guest Blogger!

Wrapped Emotions button

Check me out at this week's Wrapped Emotions prompt...the guest blogger is ME!

I'm so excited I can't stand it!

Join in the Wrapped Emotions fun!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Keepin' It Green...Blog Action Day & BSM

Bloggers Unite - Blog Action Day
Today is Blog Action Day, a day for bloggers to unite on one topic. This year's topic is the environment, a topic that I have blogged about before. Today, in order to increase the reach of my Blog Action Day post, I've decided to combine it with my Best Shot's picture is of my kiddo enjoying our natural environment...and a few links to some of my other posts on environmental topics. (And yes, it's from the summer time. It's a little too cold around here for this kind of behavior now!)

Why save the world?

Because it's the only one we've got.

It is not ours to complete the task, but neither are we free to desist from it. (Ethics of our Fathers)

Changing the World, One Post at a Time...

See more Best Shot Monday here.

Learn more about Blog Action Day here.

Are you participating in Blog Action Day? Why not give it a go?

Friday, October 12, 2007

The Bumpy Path...WE #6

This week's prompt up at Wrapped Emotions was a chance to feel our make crayon-rubbings of various textures in our lives.

I was so excited that I bought a new box of crayons and carried them around in my purse all week.

But it was in my office that I actually did the rubbings...because I was sitting at my desk and I noticed how a few of the books sitting right in front of me had nice textures in the covers. I am a big fan of books, and there are always some laying around my office (along with the bazillions on the shelves!). After I did the three books, I "felt up" every single cover in my office and didn't find any others with fun textures, so I started wandering around our offices, crayon in hand, hoping no one would notice me...I rubbed an etrog box (to hold the citron we use for the holiday of Sukkot), and I rubbed the sign on my door (hence my name) and I basically enjoyed the experience of looking at my office in a new way.

Here are my rubbings:

I do like the second picture, of the first book I rubbed: "How each of us can change the world." (Extra points if you can identify the book I rubbed....leave a comment) Such a powerful idea that we can all change the world. Judaism tells us that if we save one life, it is as if we have saved an entire world. I think this applies to all aspects of "saving the world." If we reuse one grocery bag, it's a start. If we save one bottle of water from a landfill, it's a start. If we blog on blog action day, it's a start. What can you do to save the world?
The whole world is full of texture. It's up to us to take care of it.
See more Wrapped Emotions participants here...and stay tuned for a big wrapped emotions surprise!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Tomorrow one day older...

My six-year-old is at the best age...
...he can do most things on his own.
...he is in Kindergarten, and the world is opening up to him.
...he can express his desires in complex and complete ways.
...his imagination is creative and wide and incredible.
...he can still snuggle with mom and dad.
...he is starting to see that he's not always the center of the world, and he's okay with it.
...he is eager to grow and learn.

My two-year-old is at the best age...
...he needs help for many things but can do some things on his own.
...he is just about to start preschool, and the world is opening up to him.
...he is learning how to express himself.
...he is just discovering the wonderful world of make-believe.
...he snuggles all the time with mom and dad.
...he believes that he is the center of the world and that is okay.
...every day is a new experience for him!

My eight-month-old is a the best age...
...she can put her pacifier in for herself and choose her own toys, but other than that, mom & dad do everything for her. (what a life!)
...she hangs out every day with mom or dad, all the time.
...she is just beginning to understand that we are communicating with her
...she laughs at peekaboo but doesn't always believe that we'll come back.
...she snuggles all the time with mom and dad and anyone else who will hold her.
...she knows that she is the center of the world and that is just right.
...each day she grows and learns and changes.
And tomorrow, each of them will be one day older.

Tomorrow, each of them will be at the best age again.

Written as part of MamaBlogga's Group Writing Project for October. Join in!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Re-Usable Grocery Bags - Work for Me!

I usually grocery shop at Sunset (a local chain), although at least once a month I hit Jewel or Dominick's. At Sunset, not only do they bag your groceries for you, they even take them out of the cart -- serious luxury for this girl! The other thing they ask you at Sunset is...."paper or plastic?" I must admit, I always thought that paper was the better choice...until I read these statistics:
plastic bags consume 40% less energy to produce than paper pags,

and plastic bags generate 80% less solid waste than paper bags.

as waste, paper bags produce 70 times more air pollutants than plastic bags,

and as waste, paper bags produce 50 times more water pollutants than plastic bags.

Plastic takes up to 1,000 years to decompose!
(stats from the Clean Green Bag)

The final answer...neither is really good. In fact, both are pretty darn bad.

So Sunday, at Dominick's, I picked up four of their re-usable tote bags, and the nice lady loaded my groceries into them. My thoughts:

- What would have probably filled at least 10 plastic bags all fit into 4 reusable totes and one plastic bag.
- They were pretty heavy but totally held up.
- The handles made them easy to carry.
- For only 99 cents a piece, they were a great deal!

Are they sturdy enough to hold up? Listen to this little facty: "A sturdy, reusable bag needs only be used 11 times to have a lower environmental impact than using 11 disposable plastic bags." (The Sierra Club) I think my bags will make it.

I'm so excited for them! (My only other question: Will Sunset care if I bring in Dominick's bags? Maybe that will convince them to get their own!!!)

Here are some links to sites where you can get reusable bags or learn more about them...

A bag roundup from this week's Chicago Tribune

Here's my question for you: Would you use these bags? What would get you to do so? AND...what do you do with newspapers for recycling? That's the only thing I use the paper bags for. I can use the bags that come with the newspapers for diapers...

P.S. I ended up giving away all four of my bags to kids at Sunday School as I shared this story with them. Now I have to go and get more! But it was worth it -- the kids were so excited about promising to get their parents to use re-usable bags!

See more Works for Me Wednesday at Rocks in My Dryer...

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Tasty Tuesday - Mushroom Barley Casserole

So delicious...this recipe tastes like mushroom barley soup, but without the soupy part. Mm...perfect for a cold fall day.

And since it's still Vegetarian Awareness Month (and I'm still a vegetarian), no meat involved in this puppy.

Barley and Mixed Mushroom Casserole
Recipe from Jeanne Lemlin (Food Network)

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 medium onions, finely diced
1 carrot, very finely chopped
1 celery rib, thinly sliced
3/4 pound (4 1/2 cups) thinly sliced mushrooms (such as shiitake, button, baby portobellos, and oyster)
1 1/2 cups pearl barley
/2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme, or 3/4 teaspoon dried
3/4 teaspoon salt
Generous seasoning freshly ground black pepper
4 1/2 cups boiling vegetable stock

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the onions, carrot, celery, mushrooms, barley, thyme, salt and pepper and saute, stirring frequently, until the mushrooms begin to brown, about 10 minutes. Scrape the mixture into a shallow 2 1/2quart baking dish (such as a 10 by 10inch Corning Ware casserole) and pour in the boiling vegetable stock. Cover tightly and bake 60 to 75 minutes, or until all the liquid is absorbed. (Be careful of the steam when removing the cover.) The barley should have a slightly crunchy texture when done. If it is too hard after all the stock has been absorbed, add some boiling stock or water and cook 10 to 15 minutes more.

See more recipes at Crazy Hip Blog Mamas' Recipe Rally

Monday, October 8, 2007

Little Best Shot Monday

I am working so hard to create readers in my family. So far, we're doing great. All three of my kids think books are the coolest things. Hooray!

Sam's favorite thing to do is to take a whole bucket of books, dump them all out on the floor, and then settle in to read them all. Yael gets quite a kick out of the dumping and then she chooses one to gnaw on while he reads.

He is definitely "reading" this book to her...doesn't get much cuter than this...
That one he's reading is one of his current favorites, the pages slide open and he loves it. What are your kiddos' favorite books?

See more Best Shot Monday at Picture This...

Sunday, October 7, 2007

5 Places I've Been This Week

Any good tips on switching Blogger templates or creating your own? Just wondering...

Here are 5 places I've been this week...

Jewish Women Watching

In Jews, Indian-Americans See a Role Model (NY Times)

Homemade Candy Corn

When I Grow Up from beyond the of my favorite blogs

Free Tools for Digital Life

from my

Where have you been?

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Legal Grafitti...Wrapped Emotions #5

This week's prompt at Wrapped Emotions is much less intense than last week's...and I think it was at a good time for everyone. I've read some of the posts already and it seems that joy is an often overwhelming theme. Last week we "unwrapped" ourselves and the relief seems almost palpable...

So here's mine. Simple, graffiti-like, full of the emotions of joy and release. As the holiday season drew to a close this week, I felt a great weight lifted off, and an ability to just sit for a moment and be...Shabbat came well-ready, well-timed this week. Ups and downs and all arounds...I'm glad to just sit and color!

(I painted the brick-like background in my journal first, as a "canvas" for the graffiti -- I'm a literalist, what can I say. It didn't come out quite perfect, partly because I pulled up the tape too early in my impatience to see how it looked!) I had to use the flash to get the photo to turn out so I don't think you can see all the small words in the white lines (they're also upside down)...the words are: focus... connect... wonder... pray... wish... grow... hope... seek... question... sing... try... wings... fly...

This week's Torah portion was the first of the year...And God made the world...

...and it was very good.

See more Wrapped Emotions here....

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

13 Things I Love About Simchat Torah

The holiday of Simchat Torah comes at the end of Sukkot...and here are 13 things I love about it:

1. Celebrating the Torah. The holiday celebrates the end of the Torah-reading cycle by reading the end of the book of Deuteronomy and the beginning of the book of Genesis.

2. Unrolling the scroll. At Am Shalom, we unroll a Torah scroll all the way around the sanctuary and read from the end and the beginning. It's such a cool opportunity for us to see the whole scroll unrolled. Depending on which Torah we use, it can go all around our sanctuary.

3. The music. We invite a Klezmer band to be a part of our celebration and it rocks!

4. The dancing. We usually dance with the Torah, traditionally 7 times around. Some people dance with their Torahs out in the street, or other public places near their synagogues. We pass the Torah from person to person so everyone gets a chance to dance with the Torah.

5. The Consecration. We consecrate our kindergarteners and new students to the beginning of their Jewish education. It was especially wonderful this year for me because my own child was consecrated. We give the kids miniature Torah scrolls and I still have mine from my own consecration!

6. The T-Shirts. Our consecrants receive t-shirts that say "Confirmation Class of 2018" (or whatever year it would be.) Basically, that means that in 10 years, they will be confirmed as part of their 10th grade year. By giving them these shirts we are telling them what we value most of all -- continuing Jewish education. I'm so excited that my son has one of these shirts!

7. The treats. We always have donuts, cider, of all...caramel apples. Yum-o!

8. The top 10 list. We count down the top 10 events in the Torah. I think that we might be biased to our choices, or perhaps we are in a bit of a rut with our choices, but I don't think it really matters. Choosing the top 10 events in the Torah is pretty tricky, don't you think, considering that something big happens in each Torah portion each week!:-)

9. The joy on the kids' faces. For them this is a very special night, a chance to celebrate and dance with the Torah and their rabbis. They get such a kick out of it. I wish I could bottle their enthusiasm and joy in Judaism at the moment of celebrating Simchat Torah and give it back to them when they're less-than-enthusiastic middle-schoolers.

10. Reveling in the cycle. It's so incredible to think that each year we end and begin the Torah reading cycle again. Most holidays are part of the cycle of life, of course, but this one reminds us so strongly about the ending and beginnings...

11. Creating Jewish memories. The other rabbi that I work with has committed himself to taking pictures of people "creating Jewish memories" so he takes pictures of kids and their parents with the Torah. I think there's something incredibly special about this.

12. Saying Yizkor. We repeat the Yizkor memorial service at Simchat Torah, Pesach, and Shavuot as well as Yom Kippur. It's one more way to remember those who've died in a special moment at the holiday.

13. The end of the major holidays. Whew...we've been going strong now for quite some time, through Rosh HaShanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot and now will be nice to rest a little from holiday celebrations!

Late Sleep is Elusive...What Works for You?

In a reversal of things, Rocks in My Dryer is hosting a "backwards" Works for me Wednesday. As in, I ask the question...and you, the Internet, answers. Woo hoo! I'm so excited!

Okay so here goes:

My (almost) 2-year-old gets up SUPER early. Sometimes as early as 4:30am. No matter what time we put him to bed. (Well, we've never kept him up til 10pm but within reason, no matter what time we put him to bed)

This shouldn't be a problem -- he is in a regular bed, in the same room with his older brother. I frankly wouldn't care if he got up that early if he'd just play or look at books. But he screams and cries as though we're terrible people who've completely abandoned him to be alone. You co-sleepers out there might say that we have! But still, even at 4:30am when I go into his room and lay down in his bed with him, he cries and wants to leave the room. I usually can hold him off a bit by saying "lay down" and then closing my eyes....which is what I want to be doing at 4:30am anyway! have at it.

What to do?

(and see more Works for Me Wednesday here...)

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

5 Great Cookbooks - Go Veg!

Here are 5 of my favorite Vegetarian cookbooks, in honor of World Vegetarian Day (yesterday) and Vegetarian Awareness Month (October):

The Vegetarian Family Cookbook by Nava Atlas (who has a whole host of great cookbooks, including Vegetarian Celebrations which is great for holidays with meat-eaters at the table as well) Favorite recipes: too many....Creamy Tofu and Broccoli Skillet, Baked Risotto, Seitan "Meat and Potatoes" Stew (which I once served to a family of serious meat-eaters and they loved it)

Moosewood Cookbook, by Mollie Katzen...a very old standby, I have the 20th anniversary edition and let me tell you, it rocks. Favorite Recipe: Stuffed Eggplant, made Mediterranean Style. Yummmm!!! (I also love Enchanted Broccoli Forest.)

Claire's Corner Copia Cookbook by Claire Criscuolo. The Deep Dish Gourmet Pizza is awesome and so is the Mushrooms Stroganoff.

Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker by Robin Robertson. Who says slow cookers are only for tough cuts of meat? Try the Moroccan Style Lentil and Chickpea Soup. Mmm....

Vegan Cupcakes Take over the World by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero. Maybe I just like the title. Maybe I just like the photos. Nope, I actually like the cupcakes too! The "basic" cupcake is great, but I did make the peanut butter ones once to no success -- no one but me liked them. Oh well, you win some, you lose some.

I'm sure there are others, but these are the most dog-eared in my kitchen:-)

What are your favorite cookbooks?

Monday, October 1, 2007

Spoon Love...Best Shot Monday, Veggie Recipe, and Pink!

It's all about Spoons here today..And for the recipe for a delicious, spoon-licking good soup...(so easy you can have it on the table in 25 minutes):

Tortellini Tomato Spinach Soup (adapted from Kathleen Daelemans)

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup chopped onions (about 1 small onion)
1 garlic clove, minced
4-6 cups vegetable broth
1 (14 ounce) can whole tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 (9 ounce) package fresh tortellini or dried tortellini
kosher salt
cracked black pepper
10 ounces fresh spinach or frozen spinach, defrosted and chopped
1 can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese (optional)

In a soup pot, heat olive oil over medium high heat.
Saute the onion and garlic, stirring often until onions are translucent, about 5 to 7 minutes.
Add broth and tomatoes, turn heat up to high, and bring to a boil.
Add the tortellini and cook according to package instructions.
When tortellini is almost done, add chickpeas, spinach, basil & oregano and taste, adjusting seasonings with salt, pepper.
Serve immediately.
Garnish each serving with a sprinkling of Parmesan.
This is one of those fabulous recipes for which I can have every single ingredient hidden away in the pantry, pull it out, and make it in literally a half hour. I keep the chopped onions frozen to make it even faster. If you don't have whole tomatoes, you can use the chopped canned ones, and I once used stewed tomatoes in a pinch. All good. Seasonings to your family's liking.

Happy World Vegetarian Day!Oh, and by the way -- I'm PINK for October! (see the badge on the right) It's a little much for me, but I'll get used to it...Pink for Breast Cancer Awareness, by the way, in case you've been living under a rock for the last 5 years:-) Thanks to Rocks in My Dryer for her link.