Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Good Thing He's Cute

It's been 7 weeks.
He doesn't sleep much but we sure do like him anyway!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Viovio Photobook Review

I put up this post, reviewing photobooks from Picaboo and Shutterfly.

In response, a very lovely email came to me from Viovio, another photobook service. They offered me a $50 gift certificate to create a book and review their site. How wonderful!

Go read more of my review here.
(oops, I messed up and violated the terms of my BlogHer ads agreement. Sorry!)

Saturday, January 15, 2011

One Month Haze and Days

While on maternity far...

We made snowflakes...
Played video games (yes, he's holding the baby AND playing a video game. Such a multitasker, my kiddo.)

And someone turned one month old.
Where has the time gone?

Not much sleeping happens...but there's a lot of family togetherness.
It's so good.

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Tu B'Shevat Spirit

The holiday of Tu B'Shevat is coming - the birthday of the trees!
We've had lots of fun over the years with Tu B'Shevat, it's one of my favorite holidays. One year, I made green pancakes for breakfast. And of course, other fun tree/earthy sorts of activities.

But this year, I saw a great post from a friend on Facebook, showing me her Tu B'Shevat challah. It was gorgeous (she's quite a cook AND lucky for me, she lives in Europe so her Shabbat prep started way before mine...) so I thought I'd give it a try.

Here's my not-so-tree-like (but if you squint really hard and use your imagination...) Tu B'Shevat challah:

Can you see the tree in there?

And thanks to LeighAnn, because of her challah post, I now always braid with 6 strands - one for each member of our family. What a sweet and wonderful idea. (Oh, and a thank you to Tina Wasserman, for teaching me how to braid a six-braid challah.)

Hopefully more Tu B'Shevat posts coming this week as the holiday approaches...bli neder.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Swagbucks, Groupons, Discounts...Oh My!

Over the last few months, I've become a huge fan of many of the various sites that offer deals and discounts. So I thought I'd share a few with all of you.

First of all, Swagbucks. Lots of people have been sharing their "swag" stuff on Facebook but I resisted. Then I signed up and overnight, without even doing very much, I had earned about $15 in Amazon gift cards. That's nothing to sneeze at, my friends. (Have you seen how much I read?) It's a virtual currency that allows you to "earn" stuff...I thought it was a big joke but it's actually not.

Swagbucks has just introduced some new Free Games that are a really cool way to have fun and earn Swagbucks points fast. If you click here: Free Games you'll be taken directly there, and give me a tiny little kickback (gotta disclose, right?). When you go there and sign up, use the code SBGames and get an additional 30 Swag Bucks in your account (add that to the 30 that everybody gets for joining and you're doubling your points already!)

Okay, here are a few more that I like:
Groupon (nuff said)
Mamapedia - another daily deal site that is mom-focused
WeDeal - a super-local site  that is great - check if your city is in there...
FamilyFinds (formerly Mamaloot)
BabySteals and KidSteals (but for some reason, I usually miss the deal - someday I'll get something good.)
JDeal - a Jewish daily deal site. So far, mostly only in New York City. They say they're going to expand so hopefully Chicago is next!

Please note that almost all of those are my referral links, meaning that I get a small credit or points or something if you sign up and/or purchase a deal using my link. So, be nice. Thanks.

In addition, I've started to read a few blogs that share coupons, deals, etc.
My favorites:
Kosher on a Budget
Frugal Fun and Fortune

I do sometimes wonder if getting a "good deal" on something that I wasn't planning to buy in the first place is actually a good deal. But...that might be another post for another day when I've gotten more sleep.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

A Legacy of Song

The Jewish community lost a remarkable presence today. Debbie Friedman died early this morning.

Debbie has always been a presence in my life. Even before I met her in person at OSRUI in 1991, her music had a deep impact on my connection to prayer and Jewish life. 

But tonight, as I put my kids to bed, I realized her most lasting impact on my life.

Each night, we sing a bedtime Shema.

We sing Debbie's Shema.

And then, upon further reflection, I realized that we sing the Alef-Bet Song almost every morning.

And Havdalah each week. And I know that there are many many more...

Talk about a legacy. My kids will always know her, even without her physically present.

May her memory be for a blessing.
She will not be forgotten.

Book Recommendations

So I published my Book List of 2010 and received a few interesting comments.

Room: A NovelThe most interesting (!) was from a friend who pointed out a book that I read and forgot to record. (She remembers because I borrowed it from her!) My goodness...that makes 101. And it happened to be a book that I really enjoyed: Room, by Emma Donoghue.

The other comments were from people who suggested that I highlight the books that were "worth reading" or make a top 10 list.

So I've decided to add to my list and create a "top 20" list. I picked ones that I've been recommending to people all year long. I really enjoyed many others (almost all of them) on my list, but I tried to pick "unusual" or different ones - I don't need to recommend the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo to you. Good books, but everyone suggests those!
  1. Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde - if you haven't ever read his books, they're funny and creative and different.
  2. Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah - I thought this was her best book so far. If you've avoided her books because they look like "chick lit", this one steps a little outside that box.
  3. The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf by Mohja Kahf - a story about the Muslim-American experience. I personally found it interesting to compare to the Jewish-American experience.
  4. Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn - powerful stuff.
  5. Skeletons at the Feast by Chris Bohjalian - interesting Holocaust literature that isn't really about Jews, and it isn't BY a Jew.
  6. Song of Names by Norman Lebrecht - although many at the book discussion didn't like this book, I found it readable and interesting.
  7. Mornings in Jenin by Susan Abulhawa - really hard to read, the (fictionalized) story of Israel from an Arab perspective. I didn't agree with most of the book, I found it disturbing and annoying, but it also felt a little bit important to challenge myself.
  8. Mudbound by Hillary Jordan - better than The Help. Grittier, more difficult, but a more compelling story.
  9. Crashing Through by Robert Kurson - non-fiction about a guy who is blind and has his sight restored. Fascinating.
  10. Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen - one of my new favorite authors. I read through all her books in about one week.
  11. By Fire, By Water by Mitchell James Kaplan - Inquisition story, well-written and interesting
  12. For the Win by Cory Doctorow - he writes such interesting (fiction) books about technology - this one is about "gold farming" in massive multiplayer online games.
  13. My Name is Memory by Ann Brashares - a change from her Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, a book about reincarnation and memory, a sweet story.
  14. The Red Thread by Ann Hood - novel about adopting from China, tracing the adopting parents and also the mothers who give up their daughters
  15. A Novel Bookstore by Lawrence Cosse - the librarian handed this one to me and it was a challenge but very worth it.
  16. Mr. Rosenblum Dreams in English by Natasha Solomons - one of my favorite books of the year - a sweet story about trying to fit in
  17. The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer - well-written and gripping story of Europe before and after the war
  18. The Violin of Auschwitz by Maria Angels Anglada - a brief book about how music has such an impact
  19. Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner - really enjoyable book set mostly in Madison, Wisconsin
  20. Room by Emma Donoghue - the one I left off the list! Such an interesting perspective in this novel.
So...what do you think? What books are on your top list from 2010?

Friday, January 7, 2011

100 Books Read in 2010

For the last two years, I've been keeping track of all the books I read. I can't believe that I've never done it before in my life, since I've always been a voracious reader. Here is my 2008 List and my 2009 List.

I really like keeping track of what I've read because people are always asking me for book recommendations and I can never seem to think of anything off the top of my head when they ask me. I keep the lists in a Google Doc and so they're accessible from my phone - now I have three years' worth of reading at my fingertips!

So, without further ado, here is the list of books I read in 2010: (* indicates that it was a library book)

1. This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper
2. The Same Phrase Describes My Marriage and My Breasts: Before the Kids, They Used to Be Such a Cute Couple (Notes While They Nap) by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
3. The Help by Kathryn Stockett
4. Twitterville by Shel Israel*
5. Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann*
6. Claim to Fame by Margaret Petersen Haddix*
7. The Facebook Era by Clara Chung-wai Shih*
8. Groundswell by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff*
9. Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde*
10. Nanny Returns by Emma McLaughlan and Nicola Kraus*
11. Incantation by Alice Hoffman*
12. Living Oprah by Robyn Okrant
13. Tales of the Ten Lost Tribes by Tamar Yellin*
14. Tropical Secrets by Margarita Engle*
15. Genizah at the House of Shepher by Tamar Yellin
16. Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah*
17. The Poet Slave of Cuba by Margarita Engle*
18. The Importance of Wings by Robin Friedman*
19. Lost by Jacqueline Davies*
20. Naomi's Song by Selma Silverberg*
21. The Tortilla Curtain by T.C. Boyle*
22. The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf by Mohja Kahf*
23. Hidden Empire by Orson Scott Card*
24. Maybe Yes, Maybe No, Maybe Maybe by Susan Patron*
25. Freedom (TM) by Daniel Suarez*
26. Gaia Girls Enter the Earth by Lee Welles*
27. The Invisible Wall by Harry Bernstein*
28. A Quilter's Holiday by Jennifer Chiaverini*
29. Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn
30. Skeletons at the Feast by Chris Bohjalian
31. Song of Names by Norman Lebrecht*
32. One Amazing Thing by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni*
33. The Fruit of Her Hands: The Story of Shira of Ashkenaz by Michelle Cameron*
34. One Second After by William R. Forstchen
35. Hand Wash Cold by Karen Maezen Miller
36. The Aloha Quilt by Jennifer Chiaverini*
37. 36 Arguments for the Existence of God by Rebecca Goldberger*
38. Get Lucky by Katherine Center*
39. Except the Queen by Jane Yolen and Midori Snyder*
40. Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez*
41. Exodus by Leon Uris
42. The 188th Crybaby Brigade by Joel Chasnoff
43. Mornings in Jenin by Susan Abulhawa
44. Mudbound by Hillary Jordan
45. Crashing Through by Robert Kurson
46. I am Nujood by Nujood Ali*
47. The Girl Who Fell From the Sky by Heidi W. Durrow*
48. Looking for Alaska by John Green*
49. The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan*
50. The Glass Room by Simon Mawer*
51. Green Angel by Alice Hoffman*
52. Green Witch by Alice Hoffman*
53. House Rules by Jodi Picoult*
54. Start Over Finish Rich 2010 by David Bach
55. Stations West by Allison Amend
56. Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen*
57. The End of the Jews by Adam Mansbach
58. The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen*
59. Food Rules by Michael Pollan*
60. The Charm School by Nelson DeMille
61. By Fire, By Water by Mitchell James Kaplan
62. The Rembrandt Affair by Daniel Silva
63. Makers by Cory Doctorow*
64. For the Win by Cory Doctorow*
65. The Cookbook Collector by Allegra Goodman
66. My Name is Memory by Ann Brashares*
67. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
68. The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson
69. The Girl who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson
70. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
71. Displaced Persons by Ghita Schwartz*
72. Artemis Fowl: The Atlantis Complex
73. The Postmistress by Sarah Blake*
74. The Stormchasers by Jenna Blum*
75. The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer
76. Heroic Measures by Jill Ciment*
77. The Red Thread by Ann Hood*
78. The Typist by Michael Knight*
79. Annexed by Sharon Dogar
80. Dragongirl by Todd McCaffrey*
81. A Novel Bookstore by Lawrence Cosse*
82. Mr. Rosenblum Dreams in English by Natasha Solomons*
83. When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead*
84. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson*
85. The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orrington*
86. Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bible! by Jonathan Goldstein
87. The Violin of Auschwitz by Maria Angels Anglada*
88. Sabotaged by Margaret Peterson Haddix*
89. Impossible by Nancy Werlin*
90. Extraordinary by Nancy Werlin*
91. The Tenth Song by Naomi Ragen
92. The Mourning Wars by Karen Steinmetz*
93. Insatiable by Meg Cabot*
94. (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, a re-read)
95. Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner
96. The Networked Non-Profit by Beth Kanter et al*
97. Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett (kindle)
98. The Zero Game by Brad Meltzer (kindle)
99. The Ritual Bath by Faye Kellerman (kindle)
100. The Hangman's Daughter by Oliver Potzsch (kindle)

As you can see, I started reading hard-core on the Kindle near the end of the year. In fact, all of the Kindle books were read since the baby was born. It's so easy to pick up my Blackberry and read with one hand - it's been really great. I don't plan to stop using the library, but at this particular juncture, the Kindle is working great for me.

I like to keep track of how many library books I read - this year it was 64. I think I get my money's worth out of my public library, don't you think? I often read books for discussions that I'm leading at the synagogue - those are usually the books that I end up buying. Also, I often borrow books from friends, that makes up the rest of the non-library books.

Okay, so what did I like best? This is always the hardest part for me. I really enjoyed reading the end of the Hunger Games trilogy, and I was caught up in the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series for a whole weekend. Books I find myself recommending a lot are: Mudbound, Winter Garden, The Invisible Wall, A Novel Bookstore and Mr. Rosenblum Dreams in English. My Name is Memory was also a notable one for the year, it seemed so different from Ann Brasheres' other books (namely the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, of course). Most of the books I enjoyed, I try not to read too many books that I don't like! Oh, and the award for best titled book I read this year goes to: The Same Phrase Describes My Marriage and My Breasts: Before the Kids, They Used to Be Such a Cute Couple (Notes While They Nap) by Amy Krouse Rosenthal. Don't you agree???

Do I have goals for next year? Lots of book bloggers make reading resolutions. I think the one thing that I'd like to do is read more non-fiction. There's so much of it out there that is interesting and engaging and I notice that I read mostly fiction. So I'm going to try to read a few more non-fiction books this year.

I was about to try to make a list of books that I'm interesting in reading in 2011, but as I looked over last year's list in which I made those suggestions to myself, I actually only read one of those books! So I think I'll leave my options open. What do YOU think I should read in this year? (Oh, and if you're a book publisher or PR person, YES, I would love to read and review your books. Thanks!)

In case you want to follow along for 2011, the list is over on the left-hand sidebar of my blog. I keep a regular list going over there. You can see that I've already started!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Who Am I?

An old Jewish joke:
A proud young mother sees off her son to school on the first day.

"Be a good boy, my boobaleh! Be careful and think of mummy, sweetest! Come right home on the bus, honey! Mummy loves you very much, baby!

At the end of the day, she’s waiting for the bus and sweeps him into her arms. "And what did my love learn on his first day at school?"

"I learned that my name is David."
(Important to know - Solomon in Hebrew is Shlomo...and it can be shortened to Shlomi.)

One day, I'm changing Solly's diaper and I call him Shlomi.

Yael: did you call ME Shlomi when I was a baby?

Me: no, we called you YAEL!

Guess we have to work on our overuse of nicknaming, huh?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

What's Coming Up in 2011?

Oy - how did it get to be 2011 already?

I have a ton of posts ruminating in my brain, including a 2010 wrapup (it's not too late, right?) and a review of my list of books read in in 2010, along with some reading goals for 2011. I have some recipes, funny stories, and hopefully some stuff about Tu B'Shevat.

Oh, and the baby is almost exactly a month old.

So I haven't fallen off the face of the planet, just busy holding the baby. For a review of maternity leave, read this post from my last one.