Monday, December 31

Menu Planning Monday

The Domino Potatoes were a total lose.  They looked interesting but were not crispy enough and lacked flavor and not worth the work at all.   

The Salmon tartlets were wonderful.  They turn the fish course into something we will eat not just right then but as leftovers as well.  The beet salad was interesting but needs some tweaking. This is the first recipe I have ever had that actually used the beet greens.  They had a neat flavor and I like that I use all the parts. The ratio of apple to other ingredients was too high.  It needs more oranges.  I will use clementines in the future as the navel orange segments were too unwieldy to eat.
The Cupcakes were a mixed bag.  I liked the cake part but noone else seemed to.  It was very rich moist chocolate, perfect in my opinion.  The frosting was a pain in the tush.  It did not work as written and I had to keep adding extra powdered sugar to get anything that was even functional.  But finally it held together and I got to use my new decorator tool.  It was tons of fun and the cupcakes looked much better than I have ever made before. 

Sunday - Salad, Pasta, homemade sauce, garlic bread
Monday - Dinner out with friends
Tuesday - Fish ala Jenn,Rice and Broccoli
Wednesday - Lasagna (experiment) and Salad
Thursday - Pulled Chicken, Peas and potatoes
Shabbat - Challah, butternut squash soup,gefilte fish, Pulkogi, rice, keem, bok choy, chocolate chip cookies, chocolate mousse cups

Friday, December 28

Shabbos Food

I did not plan a menu for this week as I have been all by myself.  The family came back on yesterday so we are all here and ready for a joyous Shabbat filled complete with what I hope will be lots of good food.  There are lots of experiments this week including my first ever attempt at Cholent. 

I am trying to follow a new guide for Shabbos food of having the following for Dinner Challah, 2 dips, 1 fish, 1 soup, 1 meat, 1 starch, 1 salad / vegetable side, 1dessert  For lunch it's challah, same 2 dips, cholent, 1 salad (can be the same as dinner unless there are guests) and 1 dessert.

Challah - I have discovered that if I make the dough ahead of time and braid it without letting it rise, that I can freeze it after braiding and have it rise/thaw on Friday and get a consistent great texture and make Shabbat prep even easier.
 Dips - Homemade hummus (old favorite) and a warm herb cheese dip (made with dip mix and parve cream cheese)
Fish- Salmon Tartlets (parve using Earth Balance and Tofutti)
Soup -  Chicken Noodle Soup
Salad - Beet Apple and Orange Salad
Meat - Roast Chicken with Honey Orange Glaze
Starch - Domino Potatoes
Desserts  - Double Chocolate Cupcakes with Peppermint Frosting
 and Cinnamon Rolls

Thursday, December 27

Making Friends through Books

Froggy's best friends come from books.  She talks about the characters in her favorite books as though they are real and her dearest friends.  Her dolls change names as her favorites shift. This deep bond is part of why she likes series so much.

Some of her newest friends are Tova, Pippi and Greg

One of her Hanukkah gifts was the first two books of the Tova Bloom series.  Tova and her five sisters live in Philadelphia during the American Revolution.  What makes Tova special to Froggy is that Tova is Jewish.  The book does not focus on Tova's Judaism but it is sprinkled with Yiddish phrases and off-hand references. Tova is a middle child who for the most part is a regular girl.  It is bittersweet watching Froggy's dolls become Tova's sisters and see the love they share with one another and the antics they engage in.  Tova calls her father Tati, which is what Ms. G calls her father too. That clinched it for the book and made Tova "real".

Froggy also received the first three books in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series.  Greg is in middle school and his problems/antics are not really part of Froggy's world yet.  I would not have thought this series appropriate for her yet but a classmate of hers was reading it and her father gave a high seal of approval.  What makes this series special and attractive to Froggy is that it is written like a graphic novel or comic strip.  As you can see, the pages / layout of the story is very different than the average book.  One of the skills an emerging reader needs to develop is being able to pull information from various styles of texts.  This book is a fun way to work on that skill.

The last friendship was exciting but short lived since her story was a one shot.  We spent about two weeks listening to Pippi Longstockings.  Pippi is a very very unusual girl.  her adventures and choices sparked tons of conversation for us.  "Why did Pippi do...?" or "What would you do if I. [did whatever Pippi had just done]?" were frequent questions from Froggy during this time period.  Pippi is somewhat magical in stregnth and agility but most of what makes Pippi so unusual is that she grows up without any adult guidance and thus has created her own version of 'appropriate' which is very peculiar.

Monday, December 24

An Enchanted Garden

Our Inaugural visit to the National Botanic Garden was a resounding success.  The parking situation  has made me leery of venturing there. Yet everyone who had been spoke so highly of it I wanted to make an attempt.  I was told there is a special holiday train exhibit every year as well as lights and music two evenings a week. So we decided to brave it.
It was glorious.  The theme for this year was "The Enchanted Garden."  The blurb put out by the museum gives no indication of the scope of the exhibit.  The designer Paul Busse of Applied Imagination in Alexandria, Kentucky built an entire enchanted village all out of living materials.  The detail in each house was amazing.


This shows how the houses were built out of natural materials.
There was also a minature display of the DC monuments.
Who can recognize these two?

Sunday, December 23

Recipe Redux - MInnestrone Soup

One of Abba's favorite soups is Minnestrone Soup.  I have been playing with the recipe for awhile now trying to find that happy mix that fits everyone.  To me Minnestrone Soup is an Italian recipe and the flavoring should reflect that.  To me, it should have both beans and pasta.  So I scoped out lots of recipes and finally came up with the following.  Zucchini can easily be substituted for the green beans and I frequently do that in the summer when it is easily available.  Bear in mind, other than when baking I do not actually measure ingredients.  I tend to eyeball and estimate and do what looks good.

The spices make a big difference.  If you do not have quality dried spices, then use fresh herbs.

1 medium onion diced finely
2 large carrots sliced
3 ribs celery (including tops) sliced
1 28oz can diced tomatoes (do not drain)
6cups chicken broth
dried basil
dried oregano
fresh ground pepper
2 cups white beans (I used canned this time but preferred to use dried)
1 pkg frozen spinach
8oz fresh green beans cut into 2 in pieces
1 cup small pasta

Cook onion, carrot, and celery in soup pot over medium high heat until onions turn golden. Add tomatoes, broth and spices. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Simmer as long or as short as you like.  Add green beans and spinach 30 -60 minutes before serving.  Add pasta no more than 30minutes before serving.

Wednesday, December 19

Just Dance

Many people have asked me why I send Froggy to Religious School even though I teach all the subjects here at home.  She is far ahead in the book learning compared with her classmates yet I won't ever take her out.  Why?  Because I can't give her this. 

I can't give her the community and the music and the fun and the friends here alone at home.

Tuesday, December 18

Anonymous Giving

Tzedekah is a recurring theme at our house be it through Girl Scouts, Parsha topics or friends in need.  It came up this week during story time.

We are reading Understood Betsy. In our chapter this week, Betsy and her friends make a set of new clothes for poor little 'Lias who lives only with his mean drunken stepfather.  As the clothes near completion, the girls discuss the best way to present 'Lias with his new bounty so that he could be properly grateful.  Cousin Ann asks a couple of gentle yet pointed questions which help the girls remember why they are really making the clothes.  As a result, they decide to leave the clothes at his door anonymously. 

Froggy and I talked about the differences between their initial plan and what they ended up doing.  This led into a discussion of Maimonide's eight levels in giving tzedekah.  Froggy wanted to know what made one level better which led us into a discussion of Shame and Pride.  It was a very interesting discussion for me to have with a little girl who seems to only understand empathy about half the time.

Monday, December 17

Menu Planning Monday 4 Tevet 5773

Review - the doughnuts were a disaster. I loved making them and they were great fresh from the fryer but by the time Shabbos morning came they were yucky.

Sunday- Pizza and Salad
Monday- Pulled Chicken, tator tots and peas
Tuesday - Fish ala Jenn, rice broccoli
Wednesday - Froggy's performance - Dinner out
Thursday - Kasha Varnishka and Salad
Shabbat - Challah, Minnestrone Soup, Gefilte Fish,Roast Chicken, Butternut Squash, Green beans, a mixture of cookies from my holiday baking bonanza (pictures and recipes coming),
Shabbos Morning - Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

Friday, December 14


Today is Rosh Chodesh Tevet. To me the Rosh Chodesh during Hanukkah is extra festive.  Last night even more so.

During the dark of winter, the dark of moon may seem even darker, but last night the sky was lit up with meteors.  We are not night owls but still took the time to go out and watch for a bit.  It was a beautiful.  Hopefully tonight will be even better.

Wednesday, December 12


We are finishing up Anastasia: The Last Grand Duchess on audiobook.  Froggy is fascinated by her life and the changes in the world that occurred during it. 

We started out discussing World War 1 and spent hours poring over various map including this one which shows the progress of the war.  We talked about alliances and how they contributed to the war getting so big. It surprised me how interested Froggy is in the progress of the war and the who "was friends with whom"

Later as the book progressed, we got into a discussion of the Russian revolution.  And I realized how little I knew.  I answered Froggy's questions to the best of my ability but that was not enough.  So we checked out The Russian Revolution by Adrian Gilbert from the library. 

It was the perfect extension evenif it was not a living book.  Froggy wanted to see the other side of the revolution.  The next step may be a book about Lenin and/or Communism.  We will see if Froggy's interest is sustained. 

Sunday, December 9

Menu Planning Monday- Hanukkah Week

Sunday - Leftover beef barley soup and challah
Monday -Cranberry Chicken, rice and broccoli
Tuesday  - Salad, Pasta, homemade sauce, and garlic bread
Wednesday - Fish ala Jenn and Rice
Thursday -  Pulled Chicken, Latkes and peas
Fried Friday - Dinner at Shul - I am going to make either these or these for Shabbos morning

Wednesday, December 5


Hanukkah starts very very soon - Motzi Shabbos.  That means I need to have all my preparations ready before Shabbat. 

We are having some friends over for Havdalah and Hanukkah.  We will have latkes and sufganyot to celebrate the holiday.  To balance out all the oily foods, we will have veggies with hummus and beef barley soup.  I am also making cut out cookies.  I will have some decorated nicely for the guests to eat and some undecorated for the kidlets to decorate.

Abba made a really cool hanukkiah that will sit outside and truly publicize the miracle.  All the others will be on our card table next to the door and in front of the window thus satisfying everybody's traditions. 

We will be using this sufganyot recipe for the party. It is tried and true.  It is easy to make in advance and let rise for ages in the fridge and then just fry up after Havdalah. 

  • 1 pkg yeast
  • 1/2 c warm water with 1 TBS sugar added
  • 1/2 c milk
  • 1/4 c sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • 3 1/2 c flour
  • 1/4 c oil
Dissolve yeast in warm water.  Scald the milk, then add shortening, sugar, and salt.  Add milk mixture to yeast mixture.  Stir well then add egg.  Gradually beat in flour.  Knead for several minutes.  Refigerate until ready to use. When ready, roll flat and cut into balls then fry until golden.  Fill with jelly and roll in powdered sugar.

Tuesday, December 4

Being a Sister to Every Girl Scout.

This past week our Daisies earned their violet petal - A sister to every girl scout - while the brownies finished up their Girl Scout Ways Try It. 

The main thing we did was decorate our Tzedekah box.  We had precut bodies, dresses, and backgrounds. Each girl got a body, background and dress, either blue for the Daisies or brown for the Brownies to glue together and decorate.  Once the slips were decorated they exchanged them with a sister scout who wrote something nice about the first scout under her paper one.  When the strips were glued onto the box the dolls end up holding hands.   It turned out super cute if I do say so myself.
We also played a game where they had to try to do jumping jacks in exact matching time with the leader.  Each girl got a chance to be the leader.  Here is one example where they actually were able to match.

Sunday, December 2

Menu Planning Monday - 19 Kislev

Oh Gosh I am feeling overwhelmed again.  I hate fast food but I also hate not eating as a family.  So we are struggling to find hot meals that can be waiting for us when we arrive home or travel with us.

Sunday-Daddy prep - Salmon croquettes and peas
Monday - tacos rice and beans
Tuesday - Beef Barley Soup and fresh baked bread. 
Wednesday -leftover buffet
Thursday - Fish ala Jenn, peas, rice and keem
Erev Shabbat - Challah, TriColor Gefilte Fish Loaf, Minnestrone Soup, Roast Chicken, Mashed Sweet potatoes, Green Beans, Mint Chocolate Cookies
Shabbat Morning - Apple Breakfast Bread

Thursday, November 29

Bye Bye Bright Beginnings

For over a year and half, we have been slowly working our way through the Bright Beginnings Chumash Workbook and Parsha Lech Lecha.  My only serious complaint about the book is that it only covers the first three aliyot and there is no follow up workbook.

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, we finally finished the workbook completing with competence and fluency the last passuk.

This week, we continued working our turtle pace through Lech Lecha with a new technique.  With this new method, we are working more on comprehension of the sentences and less on grammar since Froggy has a pretty good handle on the basics.
I copied the next passuk from this website (chosen specifically because I can cut and paste an individual passuk in a readable, editable fashion) to make her a special worksheet.  Froggy reads through it once in Hebrew without commentary or stopping.  Then we go back and work through it word by word.  All the words Froggy can easily identify/translate are colored purple.  Any names that we find are colored orange.  Next Froggy reads through it again trying to figure out 1 or 2 words she can, either from context or by identifying the shoresh.  These words are added to her personal dictionary and colored purple.  Eventually the entire passuk is colored and Froggy understands exactly what it says.

Then it is time for the next passuk. 

Wednesday, November 28

Opening Doors

The door closed with a resounding slam on Sunday.  What was supposed to be a glorious joyous step forward in my observance level, was instead a concrete harsh slam of the door in my life.  The living waters that surrounded me felt like they were choking me instead of embracing me.  This was just the last and clearest piece of sealing the old life behind me.  I look in the mirror and don't even look like the old me anymore, why should I feel the same on the inside.

I came home expecting to renew my relationship both symbolically and physically.  That did not happen, nominally due to uncooperative little people.  I suspect that it is at least as much due to people doubting my capacity.  I feel as though I am not trusted anymore because of the terrible terrible things that caused all this horror and broke reality.

Supposedly when HaShem closes a door, he opens a new one somewhere, in some fashion.  I am looking for that new door to open,.  I need it to be a door that shows the new me how to live.

Tuesday, November 27

Blowing Art

In an attempt to bring more art to our lives, I set out an Art Opportunity. It was just some watered down paints, a straw and a nice thick sheet of paper.
Froggy had an absolute blast blowing the paint around the page. 
It was really neat to see how the colors moved and blended when they touched each other.  

Monday, November 26

Menu Planning Monday - 12 Kislev

We have tons and tons of leftover turkey.  So it is the major influence on our menu this week.  What do you do with your leftover turkey?

Sunday - Turkey Noodle Soup
Monday - Pizza and Salad
Tuesday  Wushu Turkey Tacos, rice and beans
Wednesday - Fish ala Jenn, rice and peas
Thursday- Turkey Pot Pie - I make individual ones with a double crust and lots of veggies. I will make as many as we have meat for and freeze any extra
Shabbat - Challah,  Mandu, miso soup, Maple Glazed Salmon, Green beans, rice, and Swiss Cake roll

Sunday, November 25

Great Falls in the Fall

After being cooped up for so long we are getting outdoors as much as possible before the snow hits.
Over the summer we went with some friends to the Virginia side of the falls.  Now we got to view the falls from the Maryland side

 .  I like this view better because I think it gives a richer perspective with the addition of the locks
 The first stop on the hike was the aqueduct at the top of the falls.   My only complaint was there was no sign explaining its creation.  It was a nice contrast between the flat water and the raging river below.
We got to see one of the riverboats that travel the locks currently in drydock. One of the mom's on the hike said that they actually got to ride in it.  When the weather turns nice, I will investigate if it is still running.
 The high point of the hike.  The Falls themselves!  We actually got to cross out onto an island in the river which gives a great view.
 Here there were some good signs which show the development of the Falls.
Behind the sign in the above picture was this rock.  The hole is from a vortex at the base of the Falls. 
And this moment is one of the things I like most about this group.  The kids chose to sketch on their own. Froggy was really mad at me because I forgot her sketchpad. .  
This was our last stop of the day.
They have add a small museum in the old tavern

Monday, November 19

Menu Planning Monday - Thanksgiving Week

I have posted our Thanksgiving Menu separately. I still need this menu for the rest of the week to keep me sane.  Shabbat is a light but elegant menu to balance the heaviness of Thanksgiving.

Review -  The chicken and dumplings was a lose.  It was similar to Matza Ball Soup but the dumplings were gross. But the pumpkin cake was absolutely delicious. The monkey bread is good but the recipe needs some tweaking.  I would love to make a half batch.  The apples are definitely a plus.

Monday - Salad, Pasta, Marinara Sauce, Garlic Bread
Tuesday - Dinner out in transit.
Wednesday - Fish ala Jenn, peas, and rice.
Thursday - Thanksgiving
Shabbat - Challah (from Freezer), Mandu, Miso Soup, Salmon, Spinach Salad, rice, keem and chocolate peppermint brownies.

A SInging Froggy

Froggy had her first concert with Kol NoVA yesterday.  It was actually two concerts.  The first just the kids and the second a couple of hours later in conjunction with the grown ups. Froggy had a great time.  She did OK in the first concert and tons better in the second one. 
They even got a chance to dance their way in for the second concert. 
 I look forward to so many more perfomances and watching her grow as an artist.

Sunday, November 18

Thanksgiving Menu

For the first time in a super long time, I will be hosting Thanksgiving.  We will have 10 people total. I am putting together a bunch of fun activities for the kids to keep them engaged all day starting with breakfast.  Froggy is working on memorizing a poem to recite. We are doing either this or this as place cards for the guests.  We will have songs and craft options like this and this and this and this (prepped in advance to be managable)

Herb Roasted Turkey - brined two days in advance.  I will use non-dairy yogurt in place of the Greek Yogurt
homemade cranberry sauce
Mashed potatoes
Stuffing (two batches, one made in the bird and one vegan)
Roasted Brussel Sprouts
green bean casserole (parve) - From Auntie Fawn
Roasted Cauliflower and Delicata Squash with Spinach
Pumpkin pie - From Auntie Fawn
Apple Pie

Thursday, November 15

Zoo with Abba

For our fieldtrip this week, we took advantage of the gorgeous weather and a day off for Abba to take a family trip to the zoo.  The new American Trail opened Labor Day and I have been waiting impatiently to go ever since.
  For our family, any trip to the zoo starts with a visit to the big cats.  The tiger was much more active than usual This was good since the lions did nothing but sleep.  Still how often do you get to see a whole family of lionesses

As we watched them sleep, this little guy came to visit.  I have no idea what he is other than an insect but he was fun to watch.
Froggy unexpectedly got to pet a donkey who was out for his morning stroll. 
And on to the new trail.  It took some winding past abandoned habitats to find the proper section (we took a wrong turn) but finally we made it.  And we were well rewarded.  The seals were our first stop and pretty lame.  The sea lions came next and more than made up for it. 
Since the early days of our relationship, sea lions have been special to Abba and I so it was a double bonus.  We spent a huge block of time watching this guy and his buddy put on a show of their own design.  When we finally were willing to move on we discovered there were two more viewing spots where you can watch them from an underwater vantage.
We also got to see another of our Burgess friends, Paddy the Beaver.  Froggy is having a blast meeting the friends as she is reading about them. 
The otter exhibit is one of Abba's favorites.  Froggy was much more interested in their names than watching the one lone awake guy intent on breakfast.

Froggy climbed on practically every statue we passed during the day.  This path does not have nearly as many as our traditional route.  The sign in the background warns visitors that the statue is hot.  Not on a day that reaches a high of 65F.   
Our final stop was the cheetah cubs.  We saw them when they first came on exhibit at about 2months of age  and they looked like this.  We were surprised at how fast they have grown. They still act like kids but look like full grown adults now.  They stalked the children who came past the exhibit clearly hunting in their way.