Saturday, August 28, 2010

Winner of DonorsChoose Gift!

The winner of the DonorsChoose gift card is JaneTheWriter! {{{Waving}}} Hi Jane!!!!

But we can all be winners if we go and help students and go check out some of the great projects that you can fund through DonorsChoose.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Bumper Crop

Don't forget that I'm giving away $10 to DonorsChoose on this post....

I think it's so interesting how different my children can be from each other.

Often, they want to do exactly the same things in the same way. But sometimes they surprise me with their varying degrees of interest in some things.

For example, the garden.

While David could care less about the garden and Yael is interested to some degree, Sam is totally into it.

He helped me plant, he helps me harvest, he will go out by himself to pick tomatoes, and he'll even eat the fruits of our labors. He's totally into it.

This year, we're having a bumper crop of cucumbers....
and Sam is overjoyed!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Separated at Birth?

I knew there was a good reason I was resisting the bangs.
But she's the happiest little girl around.
So who can complain?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

For everything there is a season....

For everything there is a season, 
and a time for every purpose under heaven. 
(Ecclesiastes 3:1)

Yes, today is the first day of school.

Sending off my (gulp) third-grader for the fourth time to his first day of school.

 (to see the other pics in this series check out this post here.)


And what a blessing, to have a wonderful school to send him to.
To know that there will be pencils and pens, markers and paper.
To have the funds to buy school supplies.
To have the luxury of buying him a new lunchbox.
To have the comfort of knowing that his teeth was checked by a dentist, his health was checked by a doctor, and when he outgrows his shoes, there will be new ones to fit his growing feet.

I am so incredibly blessed. - Give to public schools!
In honor of the first day of school, I'm giving away one $10 giving card to Donors Choose.
Because there are schools, teachers, and students that are not as blessed as I am.

Leave me a comment telling me your favorite back-to-school tradition and you'll be entered to win. 
Tell a friend via Facebook or Twitter and I'll give you an extra entry.
If I hit 36 entries, I'll give out two $10 gifts.
Please help me out and leave a separate comment for each entry (comment, Twitter, Facebook).
Ends on Friday...

Sunday, August 22, 2010

When I'm a Bubbie...

This week's Haveil Havalim is over here.

My Bubbie is almost 95 years old. She doesn't bake any more, but when she did, she had some great recipes, like carrot cake and mandelbrot. The other great thing that she made, possibly the greatest of them all, was her coffee cake. She made a yeast dough cake that was similar to "monkey bread" - each piece was rolled in cinnamon-sugar and (sometimes, when I was lucky) nuts, and then squished together to make a pull-apart cake. Truly spectacular. So good that my parents shlepped some to me in Israel, so good that I'm pretty sure they shlepped some to Cincinnati when my first child was born, so good that I remember digging into one on a plane ride with my aunt when I was 8 years old.

So good that I've never ever ever tried to make it.

Plus, the recipe calls for scalded milk, which scares me.

So I had a bit of a yen for coffee cake. Something cinnamony and cakey and delicious.
And I did NOT have a yen to deal with yeast dough.

So I went to my trusty King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion, which always comes through for me with the best recipes and I picked out the Classic Cinnamon-Nut Coffee Ring to make on Sunday morning.

I was NOT disappointed.

Recipe, slightly modified by me:
5 tablespoons (2 1/2 ounces) butter
1/3 cup (2 3/8 ounces) vegetable oil
1 cup (7 ounces) sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups (9 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream (I used vanilla yogurt, because that’s what I had)
1/2 cup (2 ounces) chopped walnuts or pecans (didn’t feel like dealing with children who say silly things like “I don’t like nuts” when they’re just crazy.)
1/2 cup (3 ounces) chocolate chips (I really didn’t want the chocolate to mess with my cinnamony goodness)
1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) sugar
1/2 cup (2 1/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces) butter, melted
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
For the cake
In a medium-sized mixing bowl, beat together the butter, oil, and sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the salt and flavorings and beat until evenly incorporated.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and baking soda. (If you let your kids do this part, note that they should keep their little fingers out of the mixture, ok?) Add the flour mixture to the butter-egg mixture alternately with the yogurt, mixing on slow speed just until blended. 

For the filling
In a small mixing bowl, combine the nuts, chocolate chips, sugar, flour, cinnamon, and butter.

Spoon half of the cake batter into a lightly greased 9- or 10-inch tube or bundt-style pan. Smooth the batter to level it and sprinkle on two thirds of the all of the filling. Top with the remaining batter and sprinkle with the remaining filling.
Bake the cake for 45 to 55 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. The smaller (9-inch) pan will take the longer time to bake. (By the way, my 10-inch pan took almost 55 minutes too.) Remove the cake from the oven and let it cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Turn out onto a wire rack. Cool it completely, then sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar before serving, if desired.
Why should you put all the filling in the middle? Read the directions very carefully. It says to put the rest on the top, and then you flip it OUT of the pan. Guess where most of that cinnamony-goodness ended up? Yep, on my counter top. Under the wire rack conveniently placed there. Nonsense. I am not going to waste all that deliciousness again. See how in this picture (above) it appears that there's some sprinkly stuff on top? That was me trying to save some of that fallen-off cinnamony-goodness. {{{Sigh}}} Live and learn.

Huge hit.

I think that when I'm a Bubbie (God willing), this is the cake that I'm going to make for my grandchildren. It's that good.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Summer's Not Over Yet!

A good day at the park means that summer isn't quite over yet.
Even though we're thinking about Elul.
Even though school starts on Tuesday.
Even though it's getting darker earlier now.

There's still time for a day at the park.

What signifies the END of summer for you?

Summer Stock Sunday still has some more weeks check it out over at Robin's place!

Thursday, August 19, 2010


The Big Brother...
The Little Brother...
It's such a joy to watch when they're getting along, when they're playing together, when the Big Brother is giving the Little Brother all the encouragement and love that I hope I'll always see....

May they always be the best of friends...please?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

When the Cake Falls....

For me, part of any holiday preparation involves getting into the culinary spirit as well. Elul, of course, makes me think of honey cake, apples, and round challah.

So today I tested a new honey cake recipe. (Is it really fair to say it's new if I've never made honey cake before? Well, it's new to me.)

I made this recipe from Smitten Kitchen, which is really from Marcy Goldman's great cookbook.

Except it didn't quite come out the way I hoped it would.
The middles of all the cakes fell in.
And then they stuck to the pan when I flipped them out.
So they were messed up on the bottom AND the top.
But the upside? It tasted delicious.

Sometimes things don't go quite the way we've planned.
Life is unpredictable. Sometimes the middle falls in.

We work hard during this month to get it all right...we work hard to right our wrongs and fix our mistakes.

Sometimes it's not pretty.

But at the end...when we worked hard and spent the time in teshuvah and personal growth....
it tastes delicious.

So that's what I'm aiming for this month.
How about you? Share your Elul hopes here...

Crossposted from over at my other blog, where I'm Blogging Elul all month....

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Jewish Book Carnival

Did you see that there's a new Jewish blog carnival in town? The Jewish Book Carnival, in its second edition, came out this week.

I'm excited to tell you that I'll be hosting in January 2011. Can't wait!

Guess I should post some book reviews, too, huh? I'll get right on that :-)

Saturday, August 14, 2010

What I did on my Summer Vacation

We spent four days in Wisconsin Dells last week. I'm embarrassed to tell you that I've never actually spent more than an afternoon there in my whole life - and I grew up in the state of Wisconsin!

It was a great vacation. We hardly ever left our resort and we visited only half the water parks available to us! We're already making plans for our next trip. (And of course, making lists of things to do differently or not to forget.) We did such a nice job of not over-doing it - we ate most of our breakfast and lunch meals in our room (it had a full kitchen) and we didn't buy into all the hype of all the attractions that we really didn't need. (Even though some of them sounded pretty darn cool.) We also had Uncle Harry with us - he was visiting from Israel and it was great for the kids to spend time with him and just hang out. Yael definitely had him wrapped around her little finger!

The hardest part was taking pictures - I didn't want to drop the camera in the water and I couldn't figure out how to leave it with our shoes without living in constant fear of it getting stolen. So I only brought it to the water parks one day. Anyone have any good tips on how to make this work?

We stopped in Madison on the way home, and had Babcock Hall ice cream on the Union Terrace. (No one wanted to order my favorite flavor - Orange Custard Chocolate Chip - but it tasted just as good as I remembered from my college days.) It was too hot to do anything other than eat ice cream and take a few pictures, and then we were on our way back...
And that's what we did on our summer vacation!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Thus it begins - we welcome Elul

This post is part of Jewels of Elul, which celebrates the Jewish tradition to dedicate the 29 days of the month of Elul to growth and discovery in preparation for the coming high holy days. This year the program is benefiting Beit T'shuvah, a residential addiction treatment center in Los Angeles. You can subscribe on Jewels of Elul to receive inspirational reflections from public figure each day of the month. You don’t have to be on the blog tour to write a blog post on “The Art of Beginning... Again”. We invite everyone to post this month (August 11th - September 8th) with Jewels of Elul to grow and learn.

as the new moon Elul approaches
the days begin to grow shorter
as the new moon Elul approaches
our minds begin to wander
toward the healing breaths
of the days of awe.

each day dawns
beckoning me to
pay attention
get ready!

my heart moves toward
the days of awe.
am i ready?
have i asked the questions?
forgive me
pardon me
raise me up
renew me
refresh me
bring my soul back home
so that i may fill myself up

plant the seeds of the new year
and watch them grow
small shoots of green that begin to poke up
during this month
they blossom and flower
into the days of awe
and i flower with them
reaching my petals, like a flower,
up to the Holy One.

As I realized that the month of Elul was approaching, I looked back at the tag "Elul" for this blog. I giggled a little, because the posts about Elul are much like how I interact with the month - a little scattered. Sometimes, I've written panicked lists about what still needs to be done. And other times, I've been more eloquent about the month and its meaning. I wonder what this year will bring...each year is different, each year has its own character and flow....

An incredible free email will come directly to you each day of Elul - The Jewels of Elul begins today!

For the past six years Craig Taubman (yes, the musician) has collected short stories, anecdotes and introspections from some fascinating people. It's an eclectic group of people including President Barack Obama, Eli Winkelman, Desmond Tutu, the Dali Lama, Sarah Lefton, Eli Wiesel, Deepak Chopra, Pastor Rick Warren, Kirk Douglas, Rev. Ed Bacon, Rabbi David Wolpe, Ruth Messinger, Jeffrey Katzenberg and over 100 other inspired voices . . . well known and not so well known.

Just click on the Jewels of Elul link below and enter in your email address. That's it. No spam, no guilt. Just inspiration on a daily basis for the whole month. What have you got to lose?

This year I'll be "blogging Elul" over at my other blog. Join me over there, won't you? 

May this month bring you what you need.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Fruits of our Labors

I really meant to put up pictures of my garden as it has grown...but I didn't.

And things didn't go the way I had hoped. It started out so nicely, lush and beautiful. But I lost about half of my "crops" - my corn and zucchini, my pumpkins - they all turned to mush. So I really thought the garden was just a lost cause this year.

But things seem to be perking up! Look what we harvested this week:
(Yes, those are purple beans - it was a tri-color planting.)
Um, look what happened when I tried to take this picture!

And it all tasted very yummy too!
See more Summer Stock Sundays over at Robin's place.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Haveil Havalim #279: It's Almost Elul!

What's going on here today?
Founded by Soccer Dad, Haveil Havalim is a carnival of Jewish blogs -- a weekly collection of Jewish & Israeli blog highlights, tidbits and points of interest collected from blogs all around the world. It's hosted by different bloggers each week and coordinated by Jack. The term 'Haveil Havalim,' which means "Vanity of Vanities," is from Qoheleth, (Ecclesiastes) which was written by King Solomon. King Solomon built the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and later on got all bogged down in materialism and other 'excesses' and realized that it was nothing but 'hevel,' or in English, 'vanity.'
Please please please publicize HH on your own blog and share the news about it! 

Miriyummy shares Rapunzel with some beautiful old family photos.

Batya of Shiloh Musings asks Israel's Children of Illegals, Nu... What do Other Countries Do? and Matching Funds, The Right Partner and also needs some help with Email Problem, Please Help, Mailing Lists Gone. (hey, Batya, put me back on the jblog lists, please. I’m phyl613 at!)

Wikibias, a new blog that wants to monitor bias on Wikipedia (see Who am I, What is Wikibias?) posted Wikipedia Article: Israeli Occupied Territories. What do you think?
Ilana-Davita posted her weekly interview: Weekly Interview: Risa.

Daniel Ben-Shmuel wrote Sodomites In Beit Knesset posted at THE JEWISH FIST: A Call to Resurrect the Jewish Scholar-Warrior of Old. *careful, this post is pretty offensive, IMHO.
 The rockin’ Minnesota Mamaleh asks Mama, What's Heaven?
To Kiss A Mezuzah followed up on last week’s post with Update on Rose.
Batya posted Stung! at me-ander.

SuperRaizy is bidding blogging farewell with It's Time For Me To Fly Away. :-(
FrumeSarah is trying to Do the Right Thing.
The Homeshuler is talking about Marriage.
Rabbi Jason Miller is considering the Internet’s Effect on Jewish Newspapers.
The Real Jerusalem Streets (I love this blog) shared pictures of Festival Time.

You know the drill, please publicize Haveil Havalim on your own blog. It would be very nice of you! 
Submit your blog article to the next edition of haveil havalim using our carnival submission form.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Need Vacation!?

Many many people are overworked and in need of a vacation.

This article in today's New York Times, however, says that clergy are especially in need.
Members of the clergy now suffer from obesity, hypertension and depression at rates higher than most Americans. In the last decade, their use of antidepressants has risen, while their life expectancy has fallen. Many would change jobs if they could.
It's true. I know so many of my colleagues and friends who have a hard time separating work from life.

But "many would change jobs if they could"?

I might be tired out and I might be ready for the vacation that is coming up next week, but I do love my job and all that it entails.

Does this look like a rabbi-mama that needs a break?
Taking that sentence out of the equation, though, it is an interesting and powerful article. What is also interesting to me is that the rabbis I know are all buzzing about it. (Oh, and clergy parents, like my mom, who called to check if I'd seen the article.) Are our congregants reading it as well? No one would begrudge us a vacation, but how would they feel if our vacation coincided with their family event?

Either way, I'm headed out on a little family roadtrip soon. I'm sure that it will be interesting, to say the least, and perhaps not restful at all. I am hoping for a lot of fun, though!

I'll let ya know how it goes!