Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Purim 2013

This year's Purim was pretty simple.

A lot of hamantaschen were made and eaten.

 The kids wanted to be the characters from the Wizard of Oz. I love the idea of a family theme costume, and we've never done it before...it worked...mostly. Solly would NOT wear a costume at all.

Even without a costume on, I am so glad I got this picture of my four musketeers!

Finally at the end of the Carnival, he let our friend Sam put HIS costume onto Solly.
For about 30 seconds. Just long enough for me to take a picture!
Sometimes Purim is a big blowout. 
Sometimes we just barely make it. 
This year was one of those barely-make-it kind of years.
But you know what? We celebrated, we had fun, and there's always next year!

Costumes and all that hamantaschen....and now we're onto Pesach!

Monday, February 25, 2013

I Love Mondays {Review}

Remember, I'm a working mama.
Many days, I get up and leave the house in the morning and don't return til the night.
Some days, I'm home for part of the day and some days I go into work in the evening.

When I walk into the house around dinner time, I will usually hear this question: "Are you home for the night?" and they don't really believe me until I put on my pajamas.

Lately, I've started to get little notes like this:

Aside from the obvious spelling error...yeah. You get the idea.

Recently, I received I Love Mondays and Other Confessions From Devoted Working Moms by Michelle Cove. It was just the book I needed after that little note made its way into my pocket this week.

It was funny and well-written, and it wasn't preachy. It didn't say that it's easy to be a working mom, or that it should be easy to be a working mom. What it did was remind me that there are a ton of parents (both male and female) out there who are experiencing the same push and pull that I experience. A desire to be with my family and a knowledge that my work is valuable and wonderful and beloved.

I liked the strategies in the book - real words about how to deal with real situations like the wails...."don't go, Mommmmmmmmmeeeeeee"....I liked the personal stories and the anecdotes.

I must admit that I read most of the book while sitting outside Solly's room while he tried to convince me that bedtime was optional. Those moments when I'm not sure that he's ever going to go to sleep...when I wonder what kind of mother I am that my child just isn't interested in going to bed and will he ever go to sleep and can I please go and sit downstairs and watch tv or have, shockingly, an adult conversation with my husband?

So maybe that's why this book struck such a chord with me.

But still, I think that all working mamas can benefit from this book. And even those mamas who work at home, I think you will like it too. Because parenting is hard. And whatever book can help us through it in a supportive way, bringing us together instead of tearing us down...well, I'm good with that.

So when you start to get little notes that tell you not to go to "wrck"...know that you are not alone.
I'm getting them too.

Friday, February 22, 2013

At What Age...

At what age did you get your ears pierced?

I was seven. To make a long story short, my parents had actually said 12. But I bargained it out by learning to ride a two-wheeler.

Yael started an ear-piercing campaign shortly after her fifth birthday.
I hemmed and hawed. It seemed like every day she'd come home with a new story of a different friend who "just got her ears pierced."

With only one girl in the family, I knew that I was not likely to be setting a major precedent if I allowed ear piercing at age 6. (I'm sure I'll let you know when the boys ask for it.)

So I finally agreed.

I asked around and decided that the place at the mall was the right spot.
I wanted someone who did it a LOT and had a relatively vested interest in making their customers happy and keeping them healthy. I called ahead to make sure there would be two people to do both ears at the same time.

Little did I know that Yael did her own research. Are you at all surprised?
On a regular basis, she has been dragging Uncle Josh to the mall (she has afternoon kindergarten so there are lots of open mornings) and visiting The Store Where They Pierce Ears. She's learned names. She's observed ear piercings. She told me all about the chair she would sit in and the stuffed bear she would get to hold. And the way they would mark her ears. And which of her "friends" at the place would help her.

I should not be surprised but I was totally in awe.

And just like that, trip-trap, she plopped herself into that chair, and got her ears pierced.

Lest you think I haven't contemplated the Jewish implications of this ear piercing experience, check this out.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Hamantaschen 2013

Every year we make a lot of hamantaschen. I love them. I love to share them with friends and family.

Many people make amazing themed mishloach manot.
I just give out hamantaschen.

I think it's okay.

So this year we made a lot of "normal" hamantaschen. A few batches of my Aunt Dora's recipe and a few batches of cream-cheese dough. One batch of yeast dough, too.
My brother is visiting from Israel and he helped with a lot of the fun!
Bubbie (my mom) made a whole bunch of filling for us!
Zeyde (my dad) approves

Why yes, they ARE playing with flour. Doesn't everyone?

And as usual, I wanted to try something new.

I was totally inspired by this post from Pragmatic Attic, Midnight Mint Hamantaschen.

But since I already have a chocolate dough that I know and love, my brother suggested that we just replace the vanilla with mint extract. And since I'd already bought the Special Dark Cocoa, I used that too. Just the dough was pretty darn yummy. Then we added the mint ganache as filling and they were outstanding.

Maybe other new ideas coming, we'll see!

If you're still looking for hamantaschen ideas, here are some of my previous posts on the subject.

Great-Aunt Dora's Dough Recipe (a basic, wonderful, forgiving dough recipe)
Yeast Dough
Chocolate Dough
Cream Cheese Dough
Hamantaschen Tips and Tricks
And if you don't like hamantaschen, try these Palmiers for Purim.

P.S. Hamantaschen are GREAT for breakfast. Just ask Solly:

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Pajama Party for Girl6

I know that I write a lot of posts about my daughter. She is great fodder for a mama-blogger.

Her birthday party? A class all of its own. 

For the last six months or so, Yael has been planning her birthday party. We decided early on that she would have a pajama party. Before you get all excited, note that I didn't say a "sleepover" or even an "undernighter." Yael's party was from 3:30-4:30pm, it was purely a party in which people wear pajamas. It was pajama-themed

That wasn't the part that Yael planned. The biggest deal for her was the guest list. In our house, you get to invite (approximately) the same number of guests as the years of your age. She had to narrow her list down to six friends. For weeks...nay, for months...she has been writing and re-writing the list. She takes the school Buzz Book and reads the names. She has spelled the names. She has decorated the names. 

When the time came to make the final list (that is, send out the evite), she was absolutely ready. In fact, I think everyone in the house could recite the list of guests!

Remarkably, all of her guests were available. I try so hard to convey to the other parents the full weight of this invitation from her. She chose so carefully! I so appreciate that the other parents "got it."

Yael wanted chocolate cupcakes.
Decorated with pink frosting.
And sprinkles.
"And everyone's initials on their cupcake, mom. Because I can tell you everyone's initials."

So often, parties are about the guest of honor. To Yael, it was very much about making all of her guests feel special and welcome and important. And that is one of the things that makes her so special. 

So we decorated them all with initials. 

The rest of the party went off as expected. There were our usual party games, like "pin the pillow on the bed" and relay races and hot potato (played with a bedroom slipper). There were bedtime stories, most of which were about...well...bedtime. The Abba Sababa led the group in some "bedtime calisthenics" which were hilarious as usual. And of course, we ate cupcakes and had general chaotic wonderful birthdayness. And even Michael and I wore our jammies!

It was fairly perfect in Yael's mind.

I think she's already planning for next year.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Now She Is Six

The boys all have their birthdays in November and December.
What am I saying? Everyone in our household has their birthday in November or December.

Except Yael.

She never fails to mention that her birthday is "last" - which makes sense if you live life by the Jewish calendar or in Yael's world, where all the birthdays come in rapid-fire succession. We've tried hard to explain and convince her that her birthday is actually first. Sigh.

Either way, my little girl is now six years old!

Six! That's a big number.
And of course, with two older brothers and a younger one, she is her own unique blend of awesome.
She is fun and funny, able to make up intense creative imaginings that keep her busy for hours.
Her emotions are loud and powerful, and she feels a need to make her presence known.
She is amazing with her little brother and totally worships her big brothers.
Except when they make her crazy and she heads into her "office" for a little alone time.

Happy birthday to my sweet girl....

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Banana Oatmeal Muffins {Recipe}

also known as...The End of a Blender Era

Today happens to be my wedding anniversary. Thirteen years.

It seems like a long time, and then it feels very short....isn't that how time just goes?

I still have a few of my wedding presents, including my blender.
It was very nice.
I liked it a lot.
Tonight, I killed it.
Poor blender. RIP
While making these muffins.

Banana-Oatmeal Muffins (based on this recipe that I found on Pinterest)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees
Spray muffin pan with nonstick cooking spray.
Into your blender, put:
1 cup Greek yogurt
2 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
2-3 ripe bananas
1/2 tsp cinnamon
pinch of salt
(optional: 1 tablespoon PB2 powder, if you happen to have it and like peanut butter as much as I do)

Blend them all together.
Then add 2 1/2 cups of old-fashioned oatmeal about 1/2 a cup at a time.

Pour it all into the muffin pan.
Bake about 15 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.
Remove immediately from the pan and cool.

They are quite yummy.
Almost worth the new blender I'm going to have to get!

Nom nom nom....

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

My Journey to Cuba

I just returned from five days in Havana, Cuba.

You're thinking....Cuba!? How did *that* happen!?

Turns out, you can travel to Cuba legally from the United States, if you have a special humanitarian visa. (There are other ways, as well, but this is how we did it.) In fact, our congregation has been taking trips to Cuba for over 10 years, on this special visa that allows us to bring aid and comfort to the Jewish community.

There are Jews in Cuba!?

Of course, silly. There are Jews (almost) everywhere.

Actually, the Jewish community of Cuba was once thriving but is now a pretty small remnant. There are probably less Jews in Havana now than we have in one seating on the High Holy Days at our synagogue! For sure, there are more Jews in Highland Park, Illinois, than in Cuba.

You can read a little more about the Jews of Cuba here.

We were able to bring into the country a lot of medical and school supplies, things that are hard for them to come by, and we also brought cash donations to aid their programs, such as senior day care, youth learning, and ritual observances. We visited the two Jewish centers in Cuba - one is Ashkenazi and one Sephardi (but they work together a lot) and some of their projects. One of their main projects is a community pharmacy that helps to supplement the state-run pharmacies that provide medical care in Cuba.

Before we went, I read as much as I could about Cuba. This still left me completely unprepared for the sheer beauty and decay of the place, the happiness all around me, the total poverty that I could see in so many places, and the experiences of being a part of what was once a magnificent city. I know that most of what we saw is "touristy" - even though Americans can't travel as tourists to Cuba, many others certainly do! I met Canadians, Europeans, and South Americans who were all visiting Cuba purely as a tourist destination. It was warm and beautiful, with beaches and beautiful sites to see. The food was quite good, although we didn't drink the tap water, we didn't have any trouble finding places that our guide deemed "safe" for us to eat (and try the mojitos). Nearly every place we ate, there was live music and we also spent just a few minutes in the baseball stadium to get a feel for the Cuban national pastime.

At the end of the trip, we asked our participants (there were 36 of us in total) to offer 6-word summations of the trip. My favorite one was "Short flight. Landed fifty years ago." Only 45 minutes away from Miami is this country that truly feels like a trip to the past. The buildings, the cars, the mentality... even though modernity is slowly coming to Cuba, there is still an old-world feeling to this place.

Of course, I took a LOT of pictures (although there were many other shutterbugs on our trip, so I didn't take even close to the most pictures!) and here are some of my favorites....


You might also like: 
once reviewed a book about Cuba.