Saturday, January 31

Themes and plans for February


  • Full Snow Moon (9)
  • seeds begun indoors - Part of Tu B'Shevat
  • the trees in their bare winter glory
  • spring birdsong begins for some species - investigate which ones
  • snowdrops poking through the snow - can we find any?
  • slowly but surely, lengthening days
  • humble winter roots - parsnip
  • citrus still in season - yummy clementines
  • pancakes (or paczki) on Shrove (or Fat) Tuesday
  • cherry cake for Washington's birthday
  • a jelly roll on Lincoln's birthday


  • TuB'Shevat (8)
  • Rosh Chodesh Adar (23)
  • Begin preparing for Purim by Rosh Chodesh
  • Weekly Parsha (Parsha book and My Weekly Sihdar

Home & Garden:

  • declutter ahead of Passover cleaning
  • purchase Valentines (or any last minute materials)
  • pick up seeds for spring garden; file in index card box
  • order summer flowering bulbs
  • take an inventory of garden tools and equipment
  • Finalize spring planting order
  • prune where needed
  • stock up on bird feeding supplies
  • launder all throw blankets


  • American Music Month
  • Black History Month
  • National Bird Feeding Month
  • Potato Lover's Month
  • National Heart Month
  • National Cherry Month
  • Great American Pie Month
  • Superbowl (1)
  • Groundhog Day (2)
  • Focus on Feeders Weekend (2-3)
  • Abraham Lincoln's Birthday (12)
  • Valentine's Day (14)
  • President's Day (16)
  • Washington's Birthday (22)
  • Fat Tuesday/Mardi Gras (24)

Book Basket:

Field Trip Ideas:

  • Visit the Nature Center for bird identification
  • Visit Mount Vernon

Crafts & Activities:

  • Play shadow tag.
  • Make silhouettes.
  • Make shadow puppets.
  • Decorate plates for Tu B'Shevat seder
  • Plant parsley seeds
  • Lincoln logs on Feb. 12th
  • Spend an afternoon making Valentines.
  • Have a Valentines tea with friends.
  • Start Purim Costume
  • Make Felt board figures for the Purim Story - Esther,Mordicai, King, Haman, Vashti

Friday, January 30

Community Garden

I very much want to make a Sunflower garden playhouse at one of the public parks where our homeschooling group meets regularly. We will do all the work and maintain it and provide all the materials. Once it is established and growing and safe, it would of course be open to anyone who wanted to visit it or play in it or enjoy it in any reasonable manner. I want to do this this year as a precursor to a more adventurous community vegetable garden idea that is percolating.

I believe it would benefit the county and the park to have this as part of the environment of the park. My problem is I don't know politics. I don't know who to approach to start the process. There are so many different departments and dealing with bureaucracy makes me crazy

Friday Finds - Grandma Chickenlegs

This week's Friday Find is brought to you by Froggy. Her new most favorite non-Disney based books is Grandma Chickenlegs. If it were up to me this book would not be quite as well read as it has been this week.

The book is fun with incredible illustrations. The story is a retelling of the Russian folktale about Baba Yaga with a Cinderella twist to it. McCaughrean's language is vivid and wacky. The witch's front door, for example, "swung on its hinges, squealing like a thing in pain"; the house itself is a "rickety-rackety shack" that runs around the garden atop "four scratching, paltry poultry legs." The illustrations are a wacky as the language. Using a style that is a pleasing mix of realism and impressionism, the artist captures the fantasy inherent in the tale. With their vivid greens, reds, oranges, and blues, the lively art jumps off the page. There is detail to discover in every page. For instance, Grandma's iron-fanged dentures sit in a cup on the nightstand, fabric on her loom bears a broom motif, a chimney cap takes the shape of a witch's hat

What are your favorites or your child's favorite even if you loathe it?

Wednesday, January 28

One Month In - 999 Update

As January comes to a close I thought it might be useful to check in and see how I am doing on my 999 Literary Challenge, a pledge to read 9 books in 9 catagories in 2009. I have completed significantly more books than I had expected to by this point in time. I have completed 8 books so far which is a terrific start. Having the books on my book reader so that I can read them while I am putting Froggy to sleep makes all the difference and is why certain catagories will be harder than others.

I did not find the books I had hoped at the Science Fiction/Fantasy convention we went to, so I am still looking for some good recommendations for fantasy books. I seem to be on a roll with the Hugo Award Winners. I just finished Where Late The Sweet Bird Sings. If you like post-apocalyptic world studies, you will love it. I am now reading a time travel Hugo Award winner, The Doomsday Book. I am enjoying it thus far.

WFMW - Book Review

Book review work for me. I love exploring new books. There is no way I could complete the 999 Literary Challenge without exploring new books. But how do you know if a book is any good. The best way for me is a book review. I hunt down book reivews all the time. In all different catagories. There is a blog carnival that I regularly participate in and read that is book reviews for all age levels and types of books. As well, I host Friday Finds here.

Friday Finds is a more casual, laid back place to share your reviews. You can leave them in a comment. Or better yet post in your blog and place your link in the Mr. Linky at the end of each Friday's Find similar to WFMW that Shannon has been kind enough to host. So come back on Friday and share your review. This week I will have a contest as well as a review.

Monday, January 26

Menu Planning Monday

This week's Shabbat dessert is identical to last week's since we did not get to eat it last week. I tried making it but instead of yumminess in our tummies, we got a house full of smoke and dinner out. The springform pan I used did not hold the very runny batter and created a disaster in the oven. I am going to try it again because it sounds really good. I will be using a different pan this time and hopefully will have good news to report next week.

Another experiment this week is Swim Night Dinner. After swimming, we need to eat dinner immediately because Froggy is likely to fall asleep for the night on the drive home. Yet Dad and I both are tired of the dining out option near the pool. So this week we are trying a picnic dinner at the rec center. There are harsh limitations to this idea. Froggy and I leave the house usually 10am in the morning and don't return until we home for the night. That means the picnic needs to be appetizing after sitting in the car all day.

Sunday – Potpie – using leftover chicken/Salad
Monday – Swim Night –Picnic Dinner - Salmon Pasta Salad/rolls/apples
Tuesday – Tofu Stir Fry / Rice / Keem / Steamed Broccoli - Mom has class
Wednesday – Pasta/Homemade Sauce/Salad
Thursday – Leftovers
Friday – Pot Roast (CrockPot) /Roasted Acorn Squash/Challah/Peas/Chocolate Decadence Cake

Friday, January 23

Friday Finds - Daddy Island

I just found out that one of my favorite books for Daddy to share with the little one is no longer being printed. Daddy Island was the top gift for Fathers Day among the crowd around here. It is currently on sale and when it is gone, it is gone. Barefoot Books claims that in Daddy Island, "Philip Wells celebrates father and son in enchanting verses that will delight and lull the most wild of wild things as they prepare for bed". I believe that it is can and is a celebration of fatherhood with any and all children.

"The power of a little boy's imagination as he plays around on his daddy's body is the premise of this superb rhymed tale for the four-and-under crowd. Daly's exuberant pictures show the child dancing, sleeping, and roughhousing with a parent who clearly revels n the relationship between physical play and imaginative reality." - NAPRA Review

In this wonderful poetic book, the child fantasizes about all the different kinds of games he can play with his daddy. "I am a rock on Daddy Island/I can stay very very still./Still as a mountain, still as a hill./Strong and steady, steady and still./I am a rock and I'm stiller than still." The illustrations have their own fantasy like quality. Every child will be able to find something to relate to in the child's antics and every daddy will see the worship of his own child reflected in the text.

What are your favorite celebrations of parenthood?

Wednesday, January 21

Works For Me Wednesday - Stark Bros

Well really any garden catalog. I like them all. But Stark Bros has a special place in my heart. Their catalog is well organized with the information presented in a logical easy to read format. The catalog actually gives me all the information I need to make a decision regarding which variety I want. But what really rocks my socks about this company is the quality. When these plants are planted they actually grow. And produce and let me tell you those are rare things in my experience.

We always plant a tree for Tu B'Shevat ( the birthday for the trees) which is February 9th this year. So I am really under the gun. Given where we live we can't actually plant the tree in its final home on that date but we either plant a tree for Israel by donation, plant a picture of a tree we will plant in the yard later in the year or we plant an indoor plant in a pot. This year we will be planting this little beauty. And hoping really hoping that it actually produces fruit.

Tuesday, January 20

Menu Planning Monday - a day late

Tuesday – errands unpacking swim class – Pasta, Homemade Sauce, Salad
Wednesday Kiddie Time– Family Swim – Dinner out
Thursday – Preschool - Chili (already prepped and in the freezer), corn bread, salad
Friday – Roast Chicken, Challah, Broccoli, Baked Potatoes Chocolate Decadence Cake I

Home Again

It is good to be home. We got home from our trip to the frozen north super late last night. Everyone was in a foul mood and touchy from so many hours in the car. This morning Froggy woke up with a smile on her face and a request to read on of her home books. We said MoDe Ani and then read the story. We snuggled as a family and I could feel a sense of peace settle over us. We followed our regular morning routine for the first time in almost a week. We all had a wonderful time on our trip. Froggy played in the snow and visited with her Aunt Adrian and tons of fun. Daddy and I explored and gossipped, caught up with old friends and met new friends. The trip was exciting and fun but stressful in a very positive way. And now the calm and peace of being home is visible in every member of the house.

Thursday, January 15

Friday Finds - Fairytale Feasts

This book combines two of my favorite things, reading and cooking. It is a collection of 20 fairy tales, each accompanied by at least one recipe. Froggy and I love to cook together and we love to read together so what could possibly be more fun than a cookbook from one of our favorite authors. Jane Yolen. She doesn’t much like to cook, but her daughter Heidi E. Y. Stemple loves to spend time in the kitchen. The two collaborated on Fairy Tale Feasts: A Literary Cookbook for Young Readers and Eaters a book filled with fairy tales and folklore from around the world, all of which contain references to food. To accompany the tales, Stemple created recipes to match the tale’s themes. For instance, Red Riding Hood needs recipes for her picnic basket favorites and Brer Rabbit must of course make carrot soup.

The tales and accompanying recipes will delight children of all ages. There are favorites for the preschooler with a very classic Little Red Riding Hood as well as more mature versions of classic for the older crowd. This telling of Snow White does not pull any punches which pleased me immensly. While kids can attempt some of the recipes on their own, most are more fun with a parent. Just like there are stories for all ages, there are recipes for the whole day, breakfast to dessert.

What I liked best about the book were the sidebars. Sidebars throughout give interesting facts about the stories and the recipes. Yolen's knowledge of folklore shows in her tidbits about the tales and their origins. Many of the food facts are intriguing, too. For instance, alongside the Stone Soup recipe is a note that Al Capone set up Chicago's first soup kitchen. And did you know that grapes are considered berries and that pumpkins are 90% water? These sidebars sparked many conversations, not just with Froggy but with other family and relations as well.

What are your favorite books fairytale or not cooking or not?

Off to the Frigid North

The time has come the Walrus said to speak of many things.
Of Ships and Shoes and Ceiling Wax of Cabbage and Kings
(Lewis Carrol)

After a long and restless night, it is time to finish loading the car and head to land of snow and cold. We are going to Boston for the long weekend. You say why would anyone go to Boston in January. Because we are crazy. We are even more crazy for driving there with Froggy. But that is where the convention is and that is where we must go.

I love Boston. We lived there for several years BF (before Froggy) and would still live there now if it were not so blasted cold. I don't even mind snow just cold. And so ofcourse when is our routine visits, January. And this year it is greeted with the coldest most frigid temperatures they have had or are likely to have all season.

Wish me luck.

Monday, January 12


I am still struggling with breakfast. My body needs protein or nothing in the morning. A breakfast of pancakes or waffles or muffins just does not cut it for me. Yet I need Froggy and I to have the same thing at breakfast. So that really limits the options. I would be happy if I could find 7 things that worked and just rotate through them. So far I only have 3 - eggs, baked oatmeal, yogurt,

Sunday – Chili and cornbread
Monday – Meeting – Tofu StirFry with Thai peanut sauce
Tuesday - Soup and Salad and Biscuits
Wednesday – Family Swim – Dinner out
Thursday - Head out of town for a long long weekend.

Saturday, January 10


One of the most enjoyable things for me to do on a cold gray winter afternoon is to curl up in front of a roaring fire with my seed/garden catalogs. Here are some notes from today's venture

We are going to leave the bean pole lady where she is and try her there again. Hopefully with us being home this summer and better able to tend her she will do better even though her spot is not ideal. We are also going to try a Top Hat Blueberry bush is a pot on the deck. I am still debating a raised bed of strawberries on the driveway. We will also be trying potatoes again, this time using official seed eye potatoes. The main vegetable garden will be moved to the side of the house where it is much sunnier. I am seriously considering investing in a cold frame to help us get a good start early in the season and to help keep the puppy out.

To Order/Purchase:
Top Hat Blueberry bush
Seed potatoes -
Grape tomatoes
bean seeds ("straight n Narrow")
strawberries - only if we decide we can do the raised bed on the driveway.
dwarf citrus tree

Friday, January 9


One of my goals for in our mid-year course correction was to establish some routine, not a schedule mind you but a routine, a predictable rhythm. I wanted one for each day and one for the week. At this point I have a daily routine that seems to be working reasonable well. Here is what it looks like.

I get up usually around 6am. This is my time for a cup of coffee and whatever I need to do. I do my class work, my computer work and whatever else I need. By 7am I start breakfast and getting ready for the day.I try to be dressed and have everything ready for the day including lunches packed before Froggy gets up.

Froggy wakes up. We do Modeh Ani then get cleaned up and dressed. We do our own abbreviated form of Shacarit. Each month I will add more prayers to it as we learn them. After Shacarit is breakfast and school. Neither Froggy nor I are big fans of breakfast so it is the school stuff that makes being at the table worthwhile for her and breakfast happens to get eaten while we are there.

Right now with her so little, school is very simple yet I can see this routine carrying us through for many years. School right now consist of reading our weekly Parsha (Bible Portion), practicing writing our letter for the day, and counting on our hundreds chart. Breakfast and school together take anywhere from 15minutes to 30 minutes depending on how slow we are eating and what else we do.

So then we are ready for the rest of our day, on good days we have moved onto our plan by1oam at the latest. If we are not out of the house by 10 it is hard to ever get out. But I am still working on a rhythm for the week so we have stumbled some here. That is my next task. I will post more as it comes together.

But the day goes on, we come home prepare dinner. Have dinner with Daddy play with him a bit then get ready for bed following the well established bedtime routine and it is sleep time.

Now having gotten our rhythm all established, we are set to take a big trip this coming week. We will see how that works.

Friday Finds - Board Books

Even babies need books. I like to start reading to little ones as soon as they are big enough that I can hold them and still hold a book. As soon as they are capable of holding the book themselves, I believe they need to be given books to hold. Board books are perfect for this. So what board books I hear you ask.

The best books for babies are ones with captivating pictures. Since we are talking here about older infants who can sit up on their own, these babies are beyond the black/white/red stage. They like color and fun pictures just like we do. The other key thing in a board book is readability. I pity the poor mom who is asked to read most board books because the text is too stupid to be tolerated. That is absolutely unnecessary.

So here are some great board books that both child and adult can love. All three recommendations are examples from what I consider a series even though the stories are independent. The series has the same author, illustration style, and language pattern. If one series is not to your liking, try another. If you love one of the books, get the rest in that series.

Bunbun - Written and Illustrated by Sharon McCullough. Bunbun is the middle child and goes on lots of adventures. The large, simple images are in bright friendly shades of green, purple, and orange.In this first installment, brief text is a gentle reminder that it is okay to be average, or 'the middle one.' Bunbun also goes to the fair.

Sandra Boynton - My personal favorite is Your Personal Penguin. All her board books use the same illustration style and lyrical language. Her language is so lyrical that it has even been put to music. Belly Button Book and But Not The Hippopotamus star her beloved recurring hippo. The board books are individual stories. These stories/songs can be found collected into works such as Dog Train or Philadelphia Chicken

Stella Blackstone and Debbie Harter team up to bring a lovely series about Bear. He goes to work. He wanders around town, in the sun, at home and on a bike. He even has a family. The illustrations are what may initially attract a young child to this book. The illustrations have bright colors and imaginative drawings. Children will be captivated with the bear on the cover and will notice little details of what he carries in his arms. The text is simple and predictive, and yet interesting enough that a parent can read it over and over.

So these are some of my favorite board books. What about you? Share some of your favorite books for children of any age.

Wednesday, January 7

WFMW - Sewing Machine

What works for me this week is my sewing machine. I am in love with my sewing machine. I have missed it. I have been so busy with my classwork that I have not pulled it out since I finished Froggy's Halloween costume.

This week has been a return to normalacy and for me normalcy means sewing. I finished finding my craft room on Monday. So yesterday I sewed. I made a skirt for me testing out a new pattern. The pattern is basic and easy with very little fitting. It is not the most flattering of patterns but it supposed to be a plain backdrop for embellishments. I may add a bit of shaping so it is not so full through the hips when I make it again with the embellishments.

As soon as the weather dries out, I can go outside and spread out and sandwich together the baby quilts I need to finish up for the new arrivals that are almost here.

Come see what works for others at Rocks In My Dryer

Monday, January 5

MPM - A New Start

This is the first week of our new grocery budget. I am trying to be more fiscally responsible. I planned this week's menu using leftovers and items we already had as much as possible. We are trying to eat out of our freezer and pantry where possible this month. Both the salmon and chicken are already in the freezer uncooked from previous meal purchases. Even the zucchini bread is already in the freezer.

Sun – Beef and Barley Soup (made with leftover pot roast) / Salad / Biscuits
Mon – Family Swim Night – Dinner out
Tues – Frittata and Salad - never got to last week
Wed – Marmalade Curried Chicken - I like this one because it uses marmalade rather than chutney which almost always has mango in it.
Thursday – Leftovers
Friday – Brown Sugar Salmon / Rice / Sugar Snap Peas

Breakfasts will be
Baked Oatmeal - This turned out so well. It is going to be a regular on our family menu
Yogurt and Fruit
Zucchini Bread
Scrambled Eggs
Carrot Pancakes

Lunches are still an issue. It is hard for me to come up with creative food I am willing to eat that do not need to be heated.

Soup and sandwich
Salmon Salad
Blackbean pinwheels

Sunday, January 4

Beef Barley Soup

I have mentioned before my love of How To Cook Without A Book. Here is another example of why.

At the end of each section/technique is a short bullet summary which is really all you need. From the supper soup, "Know the formula- 1 onion, 1 pound of vegetables, 1 pound of meat, 1 quart of stock, 1 cup of tomatoes, plus starch and seasonings"

For this soup, my veggies will be carrots because that is what I have on hand. The meat will be leftover pot roast. The starch will be barley - The key with the starch is that it should be either quick cooking or already cooked seperately. For spices I will use a pinch of thyme to echo the flavors of the pot roast.

Saute the onion and carrots a bit. Add everything else and simmer for about 20 minutes or until the starch is tender. It is that easy and

Friday, January 2

Friday's Finds - Strange Relations

After several failed attempts to find a cozy fun read for bedtime for me, I finally succeeded. I found Strange Relations by Sonia Levitin. This book will be part of the 999 Reading Challenge in two different categories, Young Adult and Jewish Authors.

Strange Relations is an engaging story about Marne, a fifteen year old girl, who goes to spend the summer with her Aunt Carole in Hawaii. Only Aunt Carole isn't even Aunt Carole anymore—she's Aunt Chaya, married to a Chasidic rabbi and deeply rooted in her religious community. Nothing could be more foreign to Marne, and fitting into this new culture—and house full of kids—is a challenge. But as she settles into her newfound family's daily routine, she begins to think about spirituality, identity, and finding a place in the world in a way she never has before.

In addition to the main story of Marne's adjustment to life in Hassidic community is an understory of pain and grief. Marne's younger sister was kidnapped many years ago but her parents haven't recovered and all of them are closed in with their own grief.

Sonia Levitin won a Sydney Award for this novel. There are very few novels for young adults which contain religious Jewish characters. Most of the Jewish characters in young adult novels are highly assimilated.

What are you reading in 2009?

Thursday, January 1

Themes and plans for January

  • snow hopefully - some time to see, taste, touch and explore each flake
  • ice - terrible, treacherous and yet beautiful
  • the seed catalogs arrive; time to plan the gardens by the fireside
  • try to find or make tracks in the snow
  • A winter woods hike
  • birds at the feeders in droves
  • the Full Wolf Moon (10)


  • Clementines
  • Lots of beans
  • soups and stew
  • pot roast
  • oatmeal


  • Parsha (My First Parsha and Torah Tots) - now each morning with Breakfast
  • Begin learning V'ay hafta
  • Introduce Shacarit - very abbreviated (after washing up but before breakfast)
  • Rosh Codesh Sh' vat (25)
  • Prepare for Tu B'Shvat


  • pack away Hanukkah decorations
  • begin a Hanukkah '09 folder
  • finish baby quilts for the new arrivals due this month
  • send thank you notes
  • update address book
  • Put up new calendars
    • enter all important dates
  • purchase greetings cards for birthdays this year
    • tuck in file folders
  • purchase seed starting supplies
  • stock car with winter emergency supplies
  • organize snow day play equipment
  • buy valentine making supplies before month's end


  • National Hot Tea Month
  • National Soup Month
  • National Oatmeal Month
  • New Year's Day (1)
  • Family birthdays:
    • Grandma (3)
  • Benjamin Franklin's birthday (17)
  • A.A. Milne's birthday (18)
  • National Popcorn Day (19)
  • Martin Luther King Day (19)


Field Trips:

  • sledding
  • the nursery (to buy seeds)
  • snow tubing/skiing


  • choose a classic to read aloud on long winter nights
  • plan out the new year's garden
  • make window stars
  • string popcorn and cranberries for the birds
  • catch snowflakes
  • make a snowman!
  • family swim nights
  • by month's end start felt heart sachets

Well, that's a lot of ideas for just one month! I can only hope to do some of them, but I'm glad to have the list to look back on again next year. Thank you Dawn for the inspiration to become organized like this. So, what makes January special for you? What things are on your "to do-to learn-to enjoy" list this month?

The days are short
The sun a spark
Hung thin between
the dark and dark

Fat snowy footsteps
Track the floor
And parkas pile up
Near the door

Excerpt from "January" by John Updike