Tuesday, September 27

Shana Tova

We are taking a break and will return after Yom Tov.  We leave you with this song to enjoy and reflect upon.

Monday, September 26

Menu Planning Monday - Rosh Hashana

This week's menu is crazy as we have 3 days of holiday in a row which means tons of festive meals. Therefore the beginning of the week is a plain as can be.   Luckily both Luncheon meals are out with friends and Shabbat Kiddush will be at shul.  That means I only need to prepare half the meals I might otherwise.

Last week's soup experiment was a complete failure.  The recipe was easy enough to make but we did not like it at all.

Sunday - pasta, homemade sauce, salad, garlic bread
Monday Vegan Shepards pie - (didn't have last week)
Tuesday - Pizza and salad - (make salad to take to Rosh Hashana Lunch, prep soup, make challah dough - set in fridge to rise)
Rosh Hashana Evening 1 apples and honey, High Holiday Challah, Butternut Bisque, Chicken with Cinnamon and Apples, sweet tzimmes, roasted asparagus, honey cake, brownie bites
Rosh Hashana Evening 2 - High Holiday Challah, , Pomegranat apple salad (new fruit), pot roast, noodle kugel, apple cake, chocolate pomegrante cupcakes.
Shabbat - High Holiday Challah, Sweet Salmon, rice keem, steamed broccoli, apple carmel cupcakes

Sunday, September 25

Maestro Classics

One of the things that has been missing terribly in our new life of homeschooling is Music.  Grooveshark has helped with that some.  And I hope that Maestro Classics will help even more. 

They created a really good series of educational book / CD resources to help kids discover the joy of music (not just classical, though it’s mostly classical).  Find out more about Maestro Classics here.   Or just stop by ThriftyNiftyMommy to read a review and enter the contest anytime before September 30th!

Fall Food

Two yummy fall recipes.    The first is  pumpkin chili is highly recommended from Magpie Ima whose recipes have yet to fail me.  I haven't made it yet but I needed to mark it here so it did not get lost in the holiday crunch.  It will be making its debut in our house prior to Yom Kippur.  The timing of her post is perfect since I was looking for new crockpot meals to enjoy. 

This easy Cranberry Chicken recipe came from a Girl Scout friend and is so easy and delicious.
1 box Uncle Ben's wild rice (check package - only some are parve)
14 oz can whole cranberry sauce
4(ish) uncooked (but thawed) chicken breasts
3 T. olive oil
2 T. soy sauce
1 T. lemon juice
1 c. water
Sliced almonds

Cut chicken into bite-sized pieces and put on bottom of casserole dish (no need to spray the dish) Open rice and pour rice AND seasoning pkt over chicken pieces

In a bowl, mix cranberry sauce, butter, soy sauce, and lemon juice together w/ spoon.
Pour that over the rice/seasoning.

Pour the water around the edges of everything (not ON the meal, just the

Bake uncovered at 325 for one hour

Sprinkle sliced almonds (optional) on top right after removing from oven.

Friday, September 23

Goodbye Bluebirds

In the spring and early summer, we visited the bluebird trail to check on their nesting boxes. Now again on the Vernal Equinox, we hiked the trail one more time showing the children the empty boxes and talking about where the birds we had seen all summer were now. 
We talked about migration, how the birds fly to warmer climates.  More importantly we explained that the babies are no longer babies.  They have all fledged and are flying on the own.  Mom and Dad bird do not need the nest anymore since they have no babies to care for.

As we hiked we looked at how the trail had changed over the seasons. 
We saw the most beautiful toadstool.
  We found a neat box turtle
The kids collected acorns and leaves and just generally enjoyed being out in nature.

Thursday, September 22

What We Are Reading

Our new curriculum for the school year focuses on learning through Living Books and therefore has quite a bit of reading intrinsic to it.  Our current reads for "school" are the Blue Fairy Book, Aesop's Fables, Fifty Famous Stories, Paddle to The Sea and The Burgess Bird Book
 Froggy is in love with the Bird Book and has actually asked for it over other books.  Still those are "school" and everyone needs fun reading.  It would not be September with reading Rosh Hashana books.  In addition to last year's favorite The World's Birthday,  we added a new fun one, Talia and the Rude Vegetables. The story revolves around Talia's misunderstand of her grandmother's request and ends with a yummy Rosh Hashana meal.  Froggy has read it several times, laughing at Talia's confusion.  I like that it talks about traditions and shares a recipe at the end so we can bring the story more to life. 
The unexpected library find of the week is The Seventh Day.  It is a lovely book about creation.  It does not lay it out day by day but takes a more lyrical artistic approach culminating in a beautiful welcome of Shabbat.
And finally Froggy's pick for the week is You Wouldn't Want to Be a Slave in Ancient Greece . She has glued herself to it reading it over and over again.  She wants to tell me all about it constantly.  We have acted out the story.  We have talked about where it is accurate and where it is fictional.  I am not sure what makes the book so appealing to her.  It is the kind of book that drives me crazy with cluttered pages full of distractions.  It does call to her joy of historical fiction which makes learning with her so much fun.

Wednesday, September 21

Apple Picking

One of our favorite Autumn traditions is apple picking.  We try to go before Rosh Hashana and use the apples we pick to dip in honey as we greet the New Year.  Often we have other homeschool families join us.  This year, we had to reschedule at the last minute to avoid some nasty weather and ended up going alone. We also tried a new orchard, Hartland Orchard.

The new orchard had lots of variety but the fruit was not as good although the trees seemed well cared for. With lots of variety also comes lots trees. The orchard was huge. 
Froggy showed how much she has grown this year by carrying her own bag and picking her own fruit. She did not pick many apples (there were not many she could reach on her own.) But she was very focused on the task.  She had tons of fun reading the marks on the trees and looking for whichever variety we wanted at the moment.
When we finished, she was proud of her haul and did not want it mixed in with the apples Mom and Dad had picked for weighing. 
We met this sweet beauty as we were wandering around.
After we finished picking, we continued to enjoy the orchard as we ate our lunch.  Froggy brought out her friend who had waited patiently in the car during picking and fed him an apple.

Tuesday, September 20

Art Learning Club

We had our very first learning club this week.  Unlike ever other co-op we have been involved with, I think this one will last and be productive.  It was extremely well organized.  The most wonderful thing about it the gestalt nature of it.  We are using Story of the World as the backbone for the co-op.  With the structure, we are doing history, science and art.  But the best part is that Froggy is getting some honest to goodness art theory in the process. There is a textbook but I don't teach this part so I don't know all about it.  (I teach the science and some history)

The lesson this week was on observing.  They started with me holding a tray of items and were told "Look Carefully and remember all you can."  Then I and the tray left.  And the kids started listing items.  And the facilitator threw them a curve asking about me and what they remembered. It was a neat trick. 
They also looked at a picture and tried to observe and remember it.  The picture (an ancient cave painting) offered lots more room for interpretation.  Froggy apparently saw a monkey which no one else saw (not even I when the facilitator showed it to me later)
To complete the session, the children created their own cave paintings.  Froggy stayed working at hers long after all the other children had left.  There is a family in her painting, a mom, dad, brother and sister.  For an only child, a child who claims to only want sisters, it is interesting that all the families she draws have the same composition. 

Monday, September 19

Menu Planning Monday - 20 Elul 5771

With all of our extracurriculars, dinner has become quite a challenge.  With Rosh Hashana fast approaching, I have little extra time. So I am working on KISS (Keep It Simple Sweetie)

But the most important part of KISS is not reinventing the wheel.  To that end I want to record some success from last week.  We found the perfect Apple Cake for Yom Tov.  It is parve. The recipe follows this week's menu.  We also tried a new peach crumble recipe which was ok but not worth repeating. We tested drove a new Chicken and Apple recipe which with a few modifications, we will be using for Yom Tov. 

Monday - Soup (either this one or this one - again more testing for YomTov) and Sandwiches
Tuesday- Tacos rice and beans
Wednesday - Pulled Chicken, green beans and frozen corn

Thursday - Vegan Shepherds Pie (ready in the Freezer) and a green salad
Shabbat - Challah, Sweet Salmon, rice, Keem, broccoli and

Emily's Apple Cake 

Cream 2C sugar, 2 eggs, 1C oil, & 1T vanilla.
Sift 3C flour, 1t soda, 1t salt, & 1t cinnamon together; add to creamed mixture.
Stir in 3C peeled, chopped apples.
Batter will be very thick, almost a dough.
Grease & flour 1 tube or 2 loaf pans.
Pour in batter and bake 1 hr. at 350 degrees. Perfect every time!

Sunday, September 18

Homeschool Meme

I haven't done one of these in ages but Adventures in Mamaland tagged me so I figured what the hay give it a go.

1. One homeschooling book you have enjoyed - The Well Trained Mind - I know several others already mentioned this book but it is the first and still most important I ever read.  I read it while still pregnant with Froggy.

2. One resource you wouldn't be without - Our ParkDay friends.  Without them I would be a nervous wreck and totally unable to get my extrovert needs met.

3. One resource you wish you had never bought - Wow there are too many to even count.  Since I have trouble finding Jewish curriculum locally or even finding good recommendations, I end up buying a bunch of it with only guesses. We have three different first year Hebrew curriculum that we are not using.

4. One resource you enjoyed last year - Singapore Math - It is the one resource that we have used over and over again and that really works for us.

5. One resource you will be using next year - Hmm this is a tough one.  We are still so early in the year with our new resources.  It is unclear at this point which will survive the test of time.  I hope to continue with Ambleside.

6. One resource you would like to buy - Meet The Masters - I think this would be tons of fun to do but I am still afraid of the cost.

7. One resource you wish existed - I am going to second Adventures in Mamaland's answer.  I wish we had better Jewish resources.  We are still struggling with Chumash because the resources are so limited especially for us.  They either too simplistic never progressing or start to advanced making big assumptions of knowledge that I cannot follow let alone teach.

8. One homeschool catalogue you enjoy reading - None - I am not a big catalog reader.  I read blogs and do searches and check out recommendations.

9. One homeschooling website you use regularly - Ambleside Online . It sucks vast amount of my time.

10. Tag six other homeschoolers
  1. Mommzy at A Jewish Homeschool Blog (Oh but wait Jenn already tagged her) 
  2. Sonia at Entirely Sonia
  3. Farrah at I Capture The Rowhouse
  4. Amy at Homeshuling
  5. Almost Unschoolers
  6. Little Wonder Days

Friday, September 16

Rosh Hashana approaches

We are in the throes of preparation for the High Holidays.  I just finished Froggy's new Yom Tov dress.  Here she is modeling it

I have been baking and testing lots of new recipes. The family loves that.  The house smells like cinnamon and apples.  I finally finalized the menu for the three consecutive days of YomTov.  We having guests for the all three days so I want the meals to be extra special with a minimum of effort at the moment. 

We have been reading a few Rosh Hashana stories and even found a really cute video from a neat group, Ein Prat Fountainhead. We like the video so much we had to share it with you. 

Thursday, September 15

Dandy the Waxwing

As part of our nature study, we are reading the Burgess Bird Book for ChildrenI purchased this book long ago but only started it with Froggy recently.  The language can be somewhat overwhelming if you try to read it as a novel.  That is because while the book is fiction, the descriptions are designed to show the animals as they actually exist in nature so that from reading the book you will recognize the animal when you see it. We are using this website to go along with the book.

We read the section then color a page, listen to the bird call and try to find some in our neighborhood.  Froggy needed some help with narration for this long reading so I added bits to point out the important facts I want her to remember about waxwings. 

Dandy the WaxWing and his Friends and Family by Dragonfly and Eema

Dandy the waxwing loves cherries.  So do his friends and family.   They also love cederberries.  Do you know why they are called cherry birds sometimes?  No.  Because they love cherries.  They are called wax wings because of the red dots on their wings that look kind of like sealing wax.  That is why they are called wax wings. They are like the most perfect love birds in the Old Orchard.  And also the most gentle.  They make their nests much much later than everyone else in the orchard not until summer is almost over.

The End

Monday, September 12

Menu Planning Monday - 13 Elul 5771

With all the planning for Yom Tov, I have no creativity left for this week.  I want to focus on the holidays and learning our new routines.  Having an easy plan will help me do that. 

Sunday - Pasta, marinara sauce, salad and garlic bread
Monday - Grilled marinated chicken, parsnip chips, green beans
Tuesday - fish ala Jenn rice keem and broccoli
Wednesday - Leftover buffet
Thursday -Spinach dal, samosa and naan
Shabbat - marinated chicken with pineapple salsa, rice, green veggie, peach crumble

Sunday, September 11

First Day of School


Today is our first day of school.  Last night after Havdalah, Froggy wrote her letter to the Backpack Fairy.   
We tucked it in her backpack, hung the pack on her door along with her first day of school outfit which she picked out all by herself. 
Then we tucked her into bed and tried to get her to go to sleep.  She was so excited she bounced for ages.

The backpack fairy did not get much sleep either and was lame on the job leaving the letter behind unopened and leaving the new supplies and presents on the sofa rather than getting them into the pack to welcome the new student who woke with eagerness far far too early.  It is a wonderful thing that little people have such vivid imaginations and are so forgiving because she just accepted all our excuses without letting it spoil her morning one bit.  The letter the backpack fairy left in return helped some I think.

Since she was up so early she got to go through her backpack at home and color at the table before school.
See her sporting her new "mommy made" kippah.  See mama kvelling. 
Once we got to school she ran eagerly into her room.  I even had to call her back so I could get my goodbye and picture.  I love that she is so excited about school and learning.
  She brought the letter from the backpack for "Show and Tell" even though I warned her that first grade may not have "show and tell".

Narration and History

We are reading Fifty Famous Stories as part of our Ambleside history.  Froggy loves the stories as stories.  However I feel that it is only because we are also doing Story of the World and a Book of Centuries that she realizes the stories are history. 

I am not sure what has caused the change but Froggy is now eager to do her narrations for these stories.  I think a significant part of it is that I am now transcribing them.  Here is her version of Diogenes

Diogenes has some very queer ways.    He loved the sunlight.  He said that no man could have more than he needed.  So instead of sleeping in a house he slept in a barrel or a tub that he rolled around from place to place.  He was like the wisest man in the kingdom other than the king.  Alexander the Great ruled the kingdom at that point.  Yes he did.  He honestly did.  Alexander the Great would like to be Diogenes. He honestly would. 

Saturday, September 10

What We Are Reading

We have found and are enjoying some great books beyond those we are reading as part of "school".  I am not sure Froggy could tell a single book that is "school".  As far as she is concerned any time someone is reading to her it is fun and a reward.

The surprise win of the week is Sparrow Girl.   It is a surprise because Froggy was reluctant and kept relegating this one to the back burner.  It is also a surprise win given how sad and depressing most of the story is.   Dead birds falling from the sky is not at all what I expected when I requested this book from the library.  I chose it because we are reading about Bully Sparrow in The Burgess Bird Book for Children.   Both Froggy and I were surprised by the author's note at the end to discover that the events in the book really did take place.  At first Froggy thought it had happened in Ancient Times.  When I explained to her that she actually knew people who were alive when it happened, it gave her a sense of perspective.  We also added the date to our Book of Centuries further clarifying the time line.  Froggy has been carrying the book around and reading it everyday since its inaugural episode.

In second place is  Throw Your Tooth On The Roof.  Apparently a custom in many countries in all four corners of the world is to throw your tooth on the roof.  In some places they throw upper teeth to the roof while burying lower teeth.  We both had lots of fun learning about the different customs of different countries.  I have yet to actually sit down and read this book.  Froggy has not let go of it long enough for me to have a true go at it.  She prefers to read and quiz me about different countries customs while we drive. Froggy has not lost any baby teeth yet but the dentist says one is the tiniest bit loose so we know it is coming soon.

We are also still very much enjoying our adventures with the Penderwick sisters.  We are currently reading the second book, in which the widower father begins dating. It has led to some interesting discussions.  Luckily Batty (the youngest Penderwick) is only 4 so the language and explanations have to include her and therefore Froggy.

Friday, September 9

Piano - A New Beginning

Because piano is so new to us, I wanted Froggy to start it before all her other activities.  Her first lesson went reasonably well.  Her teacher chose My First Piano Adventure as her initial textbook.  It comes with a CD with songs guiding the student.  Froggy loves the songs. 

I had some concerns about the lesson and Froggy's level of attention but nothing major.  My real concerns were how on earth I was going to squeeze in 20-30 minutes of meaningful practice with her everyday. 

All day today I was dreading the thought of dragging Froggy back to "student" mode in order to get in our first practice session.  I should not have worried.  I let her know I was ready and she came bounding over with eager anticipation.   We only used the piano for about a quarter of the practice time, using just the table to get hand position and rhythm first.  She focused during the practice and showed visible improvement.  I can see why the daily practice is important.

I am still concerned because it is one more thing that can possibly create a battle but at least for now she is eager and willing to work at something that is not coming easily.  This alone makes it a big win. 

Thursday, September 8


We officially start school next week.  I have been busy finalizing our schedule for the week and filling all our activity slots.  And at last it is doneThere is something different/special almost every day.  Wednesdays are the worst.  We are going to do lots of picnic in the car these days.

Sunday - Hebrew School with Daises immediately following (at least I hope so- no word yet back from the troop)
Monday- Swimming
Tuesday - Ballet
Wednesday - Piano, Learning Club (History/Science/Art) , Drama
Thursday - Free day - Yippeee!!!  I specifically left this day free so that I can clean and prepare and go to Park Day with a clean conscious ready for Shabbat.
Friday - Park Day

Monday, September 5

Menu Planning Monday - 6 Elul 5771

Sunday - dinner out after Faire
Monday -tacos, rice and beans and salad.
Tuesday -Pulled chicken, buns, corn on the cob, green beans
Wednesday -  spinach and bacon frittata (because I have leftover turkey bacon from last week's experiment)
Thursday - stir fry, rice and keem
Shabbat Dinner- Challah, spinach and strawberry salad,pot roast, sweet potato and pear tzimmes, steamed broccoli, apple cake and lemon bars
Shabbat Luncheon - lentil salad, vegan cholent (recipe from Veganomicon). broccoli slaw, brownies (brought by guests) and lemon bars

Sunday, September 4

Pulled BBQ Chicken

This is a fantastic recipe given to me by a friend.  It makes tons so I recommend cutting it in half unless you want leftovers or are feeding an army. 

4 pounds of chicken
1 cup of onions- chopped
2 cloves of garlic- minced or 1/2 teaspoon dry powder (not garlic salt)
1 1/2 cups of ketchup
1/2 cup of water
1/4 cup of worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup of white vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons of chili powder
2 teaspoons of brown sugar
1 tablespoon of yellow mustard

Mix all ingredients in a crock pot.  Add pork or chicken stir in so
meat is coated.  Cook 8-12 hours on low.  Shred the meat and serve on

Apple Chicken and Couscous

This one was the win of the week and will be making an appearance for Shabbat dinners in the future.  It is simple but requires too much immediate prep for anything other than the first meal of a Yom Tov.  It is pretty and nice but not what I want for this special company and Yom Tov.

1 c couscous
1 c baby spinach chopped
1 c frozen apple juice concentrate thawed
2 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs
salt and pepper
1 tbs honey
3 tbs Dijon Mustard

  • Place couscous and spinach in serving dish..  Heat 1/3 c of concentrate and 2/3 c water to boiling.  Pour of couscous.  Stir. Cover and set aside.
  • Season chicken.  Cook over medium-high heat until done. Fluff couscous then place chicken on top.
  • Whisk together remaining concentrate, honey and mustard. Cook in skillet over high heat for 3 minutes.  Be Careful not to overcook and carmelize. Drizzle over chicken and couscous.

Thursday, September 1

George Washington

Don't judge a book by its cover.  That is our motto around here.  Froggy will reject lots of books she later ends up enjoying because of the cover.  Well I almost rejected this book not just because of the cover but the language and style as well.  It is part of the Ambleside Year 1curriculm so I figured I would give it a try even though it seemed lacking.

We were not scheduled to read it yet but Froggy brought it to me and requested it.  We read it slowly as suggested, talking about the various events and places in the book taking about a week to go through it as recommended.  Froggy was surprisingly enthralled.  She has been carrying the book around with her since rereading it.  She talks about George Washington and his adventures frequently. 

I had my doubts about Ambleside history but for American History at least it is working.