Wednesday, December 30, 2009 year ends...another begins...

192 posts.

What have I said?

It's been a year full of history and ordinary life.

Sometimes I was funny. And sometimes I wasn't.

I traveled to Israel.

We celebrated all the holidays but I realize that I didn't blog about all of them in any great detail. Oops.
(We did make these cool eggs for Pesach...)

My kids were, of course, super-cute and funny and entertaining.

We went to camp (and can't wait to go back, of course...)

I read and reviewed a lot of books, and I baked a lot.

{{{Sigh}}} It's hard to believe that another year has come and gone.

And so I continue blogging....I look forward to 2010. I'm sure I'll host Haveil Havalim (I think soon, actually), and I know I'm going to be celebrating holidays and sharing the funny things my kids say and do. I will celebrate my 10th wedding anniversary and I will send my own child off to camp alone for the first time. And who knows what else will come my way during this calendar year?

I feel so lucky and blessed to be Jewish, to have the opportunity not once but twice to consider a new year (technically, there are other Jewish dates that are "new years" but I'm going with the main one, Rosh HaShanah) and to have a chance to rethink, renew, and restart.

So as we begin this secular year, I hope for all of us, for all of you, for my family and for yours, that this year bring peace, health, and blessings. May your dreams be fulfilled and your path be smooth.

May it be a sweet year, a full year, a year of hope and a year of love and life.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Road trip according to Sam

(AKA musings of a four-year-old on his first car trip longer than 3 hours)

Sam, about 20 minutes into the trip: Mom, you said that Yael and I could watch movies, David could play his DS and you would sit on Dad's lap and help him drive.*

*this is an almost-actual verbatim record of this pre-trip conversation minus the lap-sitting.


Sam, about 2 hours in: if we're going somewhere really long away, we should take a plane instead.


Sam, about 5 hours in: where are we going again?

(And his brother gave him the same answer we would give...a patient re-iteration of our itinerary! And then Yael repeated the question...and David answered AGAIN!!!!)
Sent via Blackberry
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Thursday, December 24, 2009

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

My Kids Say the Darndest Things...

A Grown-up Friend to Yael: Why do you have that bandaid on your finger?

Yael: Well, Sammy got an owie and I got a bandaid too.


Sam, eating a chocolate covered pretzel, after one bite, in surprise:
Oh! Did you know there was a pretzel inside?


Anyone: Yael, what's your favorite song?

Yael: We Will Rock You

Anyone: Who sings it?

Yael: The Queen

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Winner of the Reunion CD

And the winner of the Reunion CD by Julie Silver is catdfox - Adrienne, I know you will enjoy it!

Thanks, everyone, for entering the giveaway!
Thanks, Julie, for the great CD!

Don't forget that I'm also giving away Yiddish for Babies, ends on Thursday.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Don't Let the Light Go Out

Haveil Havalim is up over at Frume Sarah's place. Go tell her what a nice job she did!

Chanukah comes to its inevitable end.
The lights shone brightly
and filled our hearts and homes.

We have come to banish night,
banish it with candlelight.
May the lights of Chanukah continue to warm us
from within
as we work to banish night all over the world.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Yiddish for Babies - Review and Giveaway

Oy gevalt, stop kvetching and take a look at this hilarious and adorable book!

Yiddish for Babies: A Language Primer for Your Little Pitsel by Janet Perr arrived at my house last week and let me tell you, my kinder don't care so much (ima is meshugga) but I think it's awesome.

It's got photos of really cute babies illustrating various words in Yiddish. Then the words are used in sentences. (and it's a little bit of an alphabet book, too.)

KVELLING: proud, bursting with joy. Baby made in the potty and mommy is kvelling.

SHMUTZ: dirt. Oy, fill up the tub. Baby has shmutz on his foot.
(and there's a picture of a cute baby with a dirty foot)

I think my favorite:
TRAIF: non-kosher food. Baby, why are you carrying around that traif?
(and there's a picture of a baby carrying a LOBSTER!)

It's a book for the whole mishpocha to enjoy, but I think the imas and abbas will get the most out of it.

For a real Yiddish dictionary online, try this one

And, Simon and Schuster was kind enough to give me one of these books to give away to one of you, my lucky and wonderful readers!

Leave me a comment telling me YOUR favorite Yiddish word or expression. I'll choose one lucky reader to win their very own copy of Yiddish for Babies.
Extra entry for tweeting, but you MUST come back here and leave me a separate comment or it doesn't count.
Ends Thursday, December 24th....
(And throw me a little Facebook love, would ya?)

P.S. Don't forget that I'm also giving away Julie Silver's new CD, Reunion. Ends Tuesday!

Total disclosure: Simon and Schuster sent me TWO copies, one to keep and one to give. While I might give the second one away to a friend, I might also keep it! I was not obligated to do anything...

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Reunion by Julie Silver - Review & Giveaway

I just want to start off by saying that I earned this CD.

Julie Silver, a sweet-voiced gem of a singer, is also pretty lively on Twitter and Facebook these days. And during a presenation I made at the recent URJ Biennial, she dared me to pinch the cheek of one of my co-presenters. She told me she'd give me a CD if I did it. How could I refuse!? After all, it was for you, my dear readers, so I could offer up this giveaway. So, in the spirit of full disclosure: I earned this CD and now I'm giving it away to one of you, lucky readers. See below for how to be entered to win.

Julie's CD is lovely. It's a pleasant and heart-warming mixture of liturgical music and what other reviews call "story-songs" (I just love the sound of that phrase....I want to tell story-songs!).

My favorite track is Halleluyah, a rendering of Psalm 150, is singable and lively - definitely a new favorite for me! I love how she mixes personal words in English with the prayerful words of Yih'yu l'ratzon and looks for shelter in a re-telling of part of the Hashkivenu prayer.

One of the most interesting songs on the album is Where Am I? This song puts into words the struggle that so many women feel when they read Torah - how can I find myself in these stories that for generations have left me out? How can I respond to statements that the Torah makes like "If a man should make a promise, his word must never fail/if a woman makes a vow to God, the same does not hold true/Her husband or her father must decide what she should do..."? Julie asks the question but doesn't really give an answer - and as she says at the end of the song - "surely this is what our tradition's all about" - we seek answers that we haven't yet found.

Each time I listen to the album, I find a new treasure in Julie's words and music.

It's available to buy here at SoundsWrite but it's a smidge less expensive to download from Amazon. know you want this CD. Of course you can buy it somewhere else, but you can also WIN IT here!

Leave a comment and make sure I know how to get a hold of you if you win.
Winner will be chosen on Tuesday, December 22nd. Tell your friends!
Extra entry for tweeting but YOU MUST LEAVE A SEPARATE COMMENT to tell me about your tweets, pretty please?
Wouldn't it be nice if you shared it on Facebook too? I'd appreciate it. You know you love me. Thanks, y'all!

Pillow Pets - A Review

I saw an ad for these on TV. That's what you get when you watch commercials.
I clicked over and totally fell in love.

Yes, I fell under the spell of the Pillow Pet.

I couldn't resist! But then...I thought...hmmm...and I sent off a nice gentle bloggy "beg letter" - can I review your product for my nice blog?

And they said YES!? (Thank you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)
(which just goes to show...)

So the fuzzy Pillow Pet arrived at my house. My husband's response: "you only got ONE!?"

The kids fell in love:

Yes, that is my 8 year old hugging the furry bee. Yes, they've fought over who gets to sleep with it. Oh, by the way, the 4-year-old won it. I don't really know how, he is the one who has possession. That's 9/10ths of the law, I guess.

Anyway, the Pillow Pet really is great. It's soft and furry, the perfect size pillow for a little person, and adorably squishy. It folds in half (I'd imagine it's great for travel, just like they say) and my 4-year-old is dying to take it to school to show his friends and use it at naptime. They have a bunch of other cute animals, also with adorable names (although my kids named this one Fuzzy). You can see the whole list here, but I'm very sad to report that Pillow Pets are out of stock. I tried to order 2 more and couldn't!

If I were a bigger person, I'd be giving this Pillow Pet away to a nice reader. But I'm not. Sammy just can't part with I'm writing this really nice review instead and I'm hoping that you'll wait until the Pillow Pets come back in stock and buy one to thank those nice people for sending me this one to review for all of you!

Seriously, I never thought I'd like it this much. Who knew!?

I received a Pillow Pet from the company for purposes of review. My kids will not give it up.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

My Best Winter Menu...aka Comfort Food

You're looking at it.
This is my favorite meal to make and to eat in the winter.
I like lots of food, don't get me wrong.
But Sukkot comes, I make this meal for our Sukkah party,
and then I love every wintry opportunity to make it. Oh, and it's super easy.

Vegetarian Chili
I don't have a recipe. I do something like this: open cans of beans, all varieties. Rinse. I usually use "chili" beans, preferably the organic ones. Small can of chili peppers. Can of refried beans. Corn? Sometimes. Spinach? Usually, although it appears not in this photo. (package of frozen chopped spinach, thawed) Oh, don't forget the canned tomatoes. The really big can. Sprinkle in some chili powder. Let simmer.

Go to Costco. Buy the cornbread mix (Penguin brand), follow directions on package plus add one can of creamed corn. Bake it.

Macaroni and Cheese 
all measurements approximate. just dump it in.
1 (8 ounce) package elbow macaroni
(or whatever shape pasta you have on hand)
8 oz shredded sharp
Cheddar cheese
1 (12 ounce) container cottage cheese
1 (8 ounce) container sour cream
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350. Make noodles. Drain. Return to pot. Dump in cheeses and stuff. Mix well. Add salt, pepper, seasonings to taste. Spray nonstick cooking spray in a large baking dish. Spread mixture into pan, bake for about 30 minutes until crusty on top. Sometimes I sprinkle wheat germ on top but don't tell the kids, k?

If you're feeling healthy or the Queen is coming to visit, serve a salad with it.
 What's your favorite comfort meal?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Lighting Their Fires - Review & Giveaway

I was blessed to receive a review copy of Lighting Their Fires: Raising Extraordinary Children in a Mixed-up, Muddled-up, Shook-up World by Rafe Esquith.

The title alone is a pretty awesome thing to unpack. We do live in a pretty crazy world these days, and every parent I know is trying to make it work for them. But something that I seem to notice a lot is a lack of "fire" in kids - there is a lack of passion and a loss of the sense of wonder that I would wish for my children. So the very title got me excited to read this book.

I have not read Esquith's first book, Teach Like Your Hair's on Fire (the guy has a penchant for well-titled books!), so I was unfamiliar with his classroom and his unique teaching methods. But that didn't really matter, even though I now would like to go and read his first book.

Using a class trip to a baseball game to frame his story is an excellent technique. As the innings pass by, the readers are drawn into the real-life weaving of Esquith's teaching, parenting, and enriching tools. He doesn't hesitate to use examples from movies and books to illustrate his point, and he's not afraid to say that he thinks television is a real danger to young minds. I love the way he focuses his goals on things like punctuality, focus, confidence, selflessness, humility - beautiful values that create little human beings, rather than little robots or college applicants.

It's not preachy, and I want to go back and re-read this book. I actually took a really long time to write this review because I wanted my husband to read this book too, but he's been busy so I finally gave up and decided to write it - and also give it away to one of you, my lucky readers!

By the way, may I also recommend Mitten Strings for God and The Gift of an Ordinary Day by Katrina Kenison. I just finished reading the second (the first I read many years ago) and in some ways it was a beautiful coda to Rafe Esquith's book, her writing is lyric and calm even as it seems that her world is being turned upside down as her sons grow and change (and apply to college). 

But I digress.

One lucky commenter will win a copy of this book. And if you don't win it, you must go and get it and read it.
Leave a comment telling me your favorite parenting book. 
Tweet for an extra entry, but leave me a separate comment to let me know, okay?
I'll pick a winner on Wednesday.

Disclosure: In case you haven't figure it out, I received a review copy of this book from the publisher.

TV or Washing Machine?

Friday, December 11, 2009

Happy Chanukah...and the Winner!

Winner of the $25 gift certificate to Oh Nuts is AMY who actually made a comment that she thought I "didn't need her any more"!!!! See, Amy, you were win! I'll be in touch to get the code from Oh Nuts to you:-)

Wishing you all a wonderful Chanukah and Shabbat!!!

I'll be back with more giveaways and Chanukah stuff after Shabbat. Things got a little crazy around here this week and I didn't quite get to it all....

Here's one of my all-time Chanukah favorite songs...Ocho Kandelikas...sung by one of my favorite bands, the LeeVees (hey guys, where's my Sukkot album?)

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Winner of the Holy Ground CD

And the winner is Leah Magid! I'm so happy to send this off to Alaska....
Mazel tov, Leah!

Everyone else - come back soon since I'll be giving away a CD by Julie Silver next....and a children's book....and some other stuff.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Holy Ground - Review and Giveaway

Chanukah Countdown Picture

Craig Taubman, a wonderful Jewish musician (and a friend), published a new album recently.
I love the cover art:

I love the way the shoes are set next to a book - a mixing of the sacred and the ordinary that exemplifies the American Jewish experience.

The title track, Holy Ground, is beautiful. It reminds us that "all of life is holy ground" - wherever we are. What a powerful reminder for those days when we feel that our lives have become mundane and ordinary. It was commissioned in honor of the HUC Rabbinic Class of 2008, and I think it's a perfect song to help new (and veteran) rabbis (and non-rabbis too!) remember the sacred nature of every act they perform, even ones that seem trivial.

My favorite track on the CD is V'shamru. It's a rockin' rollin' awesome version of this traditional reading. And Craig writes in the liner notes: "Don't let PlayStation steal this chance to live and to love." I love this singable song and I love the reminder to carefully guard and protect the joys of Shabbat.

The other track I'm holding onto is Ki Hem Chayenu (not the least of which because it is dedicated to the memory of Grandpa Ben and Grammy from Ben, Anna, Noah, and Dorothy - a family that I hold dear), because it's a really beautiful reminder of the real meaning of the prayer Ahavat Olam. Teach us to number our days that we may have a heart of wisdom...

There are other great tracks that I'm going to learn...a musical setting for Birkat HaGomel, a prayer that Reform Jews have begun to embrace thanks to its inclusion in the new Mishkan Tefillah prayerbook, a Lecha Dodi that is also pretty jazzy (but I'm a fan of Craig's earlier Lecha Dodi too!), Love Your God, a setting for the Shema that is a perfect lullaby.

It's a great CD, would make a great gift, and no one even paid me to say this! (Actually, Craig himself handed me this CD at the Biennial and I told him that I'd be giving it away after I listened to it!) know you want this CD. I'm sure you can get it somewhere else, but you can also WIN IT here!

Leave a comment and make sure I know how to get a hold of you if you win.
Winner will be chosen on Tuesday, December 8th. Tell your friends!
Extra entry for tweeting but YOU MUST LEAVE A SEPARATE COMMENT to tell me about your tweets, pretty please?
Wouldn't it be nice if you shared it on Facebook too? I'd appreciate it. You know you love me. Thanks, y'all!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Wrestling with the Angel [Re-Post]

Re-posted from November 23, 2007

Vayishlach, this week's Torah portion...briefly...

Jacob stays alone
sends the family on ahead
scared of Esau's wrath

By himself at night
he wrestles with an angel
or was it a man?

The man could not win
so he pulled the leg muscle
and he cried "uncle"

but Jacob was wise
"I can't let you go until
a blessing you give."

and so he was blessed
his name changed to Israel
means "wrestler with God."

Jake renames the spot
Peni-el, face-to-God's-face
His life changed a lot!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Winner of RotemGear Giveaway

The winner of the Got Latkes shirt is @irajwise.

Didn't win? Go order your own at RotemGear - so many cute things to choose from. Order fast so you get it in time for Chanukah!

Oh, and come back soon since I'm going to be giving away some great stuff in the next week or so before Chanukah!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Thanks, Shabbat, Love

Those are the three top words that I use in my tweets.

Did you expect anything else from me!?

Thanks to this cool Tweet Cloud, I can show you!

How fun is that?! Thanks @icodeforlove!!!


Even though NaBloPoMo is over, I guess I just can't take a day off!!!

Don't forget the Got Latkes shirt giveaway (ends soon) and the Oh Nuts giveaway going on right now...