I used to be scared of empty shelves. Got a shelf, fill it up. If I don't
fill it up, it means I don't have. So for years, I have filled my shelves (and I
have many of them) with clothes, pictures, my kids' toys, books - even some
duplicates because Josh and I each had one when we got married. Clutter was my
friend, it meant that we were okay, we had enough. Perhaps this is because I am
a grandchild of Holocaust survivors, wonderful and inspiring people who
literally had nothing but the clothes on their backs (and a large contraband
violin which did not make it through Ellis Island because there was no where to
hide it), which brings us full circle to the whole clothes on their backs thing.
I'm not trying to sound flippant, I just am not sure where this obsession
came from but it's been bothering me and I have been exploring many different angles.
Right about now you might be thinking, hey, I come here for art projects
and cookies, not philosophy, but bear with me. This just might be your new project.
Don't worry, we'll still make cookies.
I have been reading a book called The Happiness Project
. I haven't finished
it yet, but I already feel like this is the book that I have been waiting for.
Like me, Gretchen Rubin, the author, is a mom in her thirties with (thank G-d) a
wonderful life of a husband, kids, home ownership and creativity. But something
was missing for Gretchen and she couldn't put her finger on it. I've been having
the same issues lately. I cannot, for the life of me, begin to tell you what the
problem is, but something, something is missing, something is off. And I wish I
knew what it was. It's not about anyone else in my life, just me.
From the first page of the book, I have felt like Gretchen is talking to
me. I keep nodding my head and saying, "oh my gosh, me too". And then I look
around and see that I am alone in the room and I am talking to myself. Gretchen
is happy with her life, but she wants to be happier, hence the name of her
And I think I might need a Happiness Project too. As I mentioned before, I
have not finished the book yet, but I hope to over the weekend, at which time
the plan is to give a lot of thought as to how I can implement my own happiness
project, which I will be so happy (see I'm happier already) to share with you.
So what does this have to do with empty shelves? One part of The Happiness
Project talks about creating more energy for yourself by knocking off the tasks
on your never-ending to-do list (you know you have one), specifically the tasks
that are draining your mental energy because they keep knocking around in your
head all day. A huge one for me is the toy situation in my living room. Because
I don't have a playroom (yet - basement, you're next!) my living room is the
catchall for all the toys in the house and I have been finding lately (and
especially since the kids' Chanukah presents have been thrown into the mix) that
I am being boxed out of my own living room. There is literally no where to sit.
Today was the day. We're having company this weekend, I haven't cooked or
cleaned anything yet, but today was the day. Baby and I spent the better part of
the morning purging, sorting and making piles. Now that she is napping, I am
trying to finish this off so I can look around my living room and smile.
Here are some before pictures of unsorted toys crammed into drawers and
boxes, plus some that my mom will be horrified to see, such as behind the
couches. But I am here to bare all and share all, in the hopes that I will
inspire some other mom to take control of her home and maybe even her life.
I do have to say, if nothing else, I have recovered the majority of the Clics
we have been missing. Do you have Clics? It's an awesome toy, the kids played with
them everyday until we just couldn't find most of them. Welcome back Clics.
A few of the unsorted mess of drawers.
The overflowing toy box.
The stuff that "fell" behind one of the couches.
The surprise I found under the other couch.
There will be some after pictures coming soon.
Happy Eighth Night of Chanukah!
Tonight marks the last night of Chanukah. All eight candles burning on the
menorah is truly a sight to see. I had wanted to take a picture of all of our
menorahs lit up from outside the front of the house, but sadly it was
pouring this evening. Oh well.
Tonight, and tomorrow, the last day of Chanukah are known as "zot
chanukah" because of the passuk or verse that is read from the
Torah on the last morning of Chanukah, "zot chanukat hamizbayach".
There is a kabbalistic thought which teaches that the last day of Chanukah has a
certain power or koach to it and it is an auspicious time for prayer for what
one may need, especially for women who are trying to have children, for anyone
seeking a spouse, for a full and speedy recovery for those who are sick and for
those who are in need of a (increased) parnassah or livlihood.
You heard it here. Now think of those friends and family and loved ones that
might need an extra prayer and hop to it. And may all our prayers be answered
for the good.
And also, be sure to have just one last jelly donut tomorrow. You know you want it.
This little gem of a project came home from school with my five year old. I
was so impressed with the forethought of the teacher. She had the kids create
Happy Chanukah cards for their parents. Each child wrote a message that they
composed themselves on the inside of the card, which is always precious,
especially when the writer is a new writer and still learning to print and spell
and writes his words out phonetically. I just love that.
But what I really loved about this card was how the kids painted the
menorah. They didn't use paintbrushes, they used their fingertips and some
watercolor paint. Each candle on the menorah and really the entire menorah itself
is made up of his fingerprints, one little finger after the next. Brilliant,
really. I was so touched that each parent got a card that was not only
personally made by their child, but also literally contained a personal touch, a
fingerprint of that child. Call me crazy, but the card made me slightly weepy.
And then the other side of me sees the pure fun in such a project too. I will
definitely be adding this to my list of fun things to do with the little one who
does not yet attend school.
On an unrelated note, I would just like to take a second to share what my dining
room looks like.
I realize that there is still one more night of Chanukah to go so there's more boxes
and paper and hard to cut through little plastic thingies that holds toys to
their packaging like superglue coming, but I would just like to say that this
seems slightly excessive and out of hand. Between the grandparents, aunts,
uncles and cousins, my kids are drowning in new stuff. I was even able to pack
away a few toys and stick them in my secret closet in the attic without anyone
noticing. I feel like next year I will put some more effort into showing the
kids that perhaps the most important part of Chanukah - or any of the holidays -
is not the gifts they receive, but what they give.
Don't be shy! If you like what you've just read, leave a comment please!
The first night of Chanukah in our house.
This post originally appeared on metroimma a few weeks back when I had the fun opportunity to guest blog on a topic close to my heart. Thanks metroimma!
I love reading other mommy blogs, specifically the ones where the mom
homeschools her brood of (six? seven? ten?) kids. I don't for a second want to
homeschool my kids, but I’m always so happy for this blogging mom that has found
her groove and is able to handle all the demands placed on her at once. If I
homeschooled my kids, the only thing we'd really work on would be learning to
tell time so we'd know when The Good Wife was on. That, and on learning to use a
measuring cup so we can measure out the water and oil needed to make a Dunkin
Hines Brownie. Although, in truth, I really hate measuring oil for a recipe; the
measuring cup is always so hard to clean afterwards. I usually just eyeball the
oil and hope for the best. So yeah, we'd be able to tell time and measure a
quarter cup of water. And really, what else is there?
When I read a homeschooling blog, I am always amazed at the spontaneous
learning that goes on in these homes. Like when the kids are all happily
coloring together and then all of sudden and without prompting, they start
sorting the crayons into piles by color. Then they count all the crayons in each
pile and add together the number of crayons in each pile to get a total crayon
And then they graph it.
And yet today, to my sheer delight (tempered by a small amount of horror,
although I am sure my husband, Josh-The-Math-Guy, would only see delight here)
my oldest child spontaneously burst into - what? Education? Learning? It wasn't
homeschooling because I had nothing to do with it. It was more like
We were working on a Chanukah project, making super simple place cards for
our family Chanukah party. He was the only kid home, he had me all to himself,
which in and of itself was a minor Chanukah miracle, and we were working
together to trace and cut out small dreidels to glue onto index cards that we
had folded in half to make standing place cards. So yeah, where was I? Right,
the self-schooling thing. Every once in a while, in the middle of cutting out
his dreidels, he would stop to figure out how many he had left to cut. He
wouldn't just count up the ones that were not yet cut out. He would actually say
aloud the total number he had traced, count the number of dreidels in his
already cut pile and then subtract(!) in his head. Wait, it gets better. Then
he'd pick up Josh's graphing calculator* from the dining room table and check
My first thought was, wow, he's checking his work. My entire school career
would have turned out so much differently if I had just listened to my father
and checked my work. Such a work ethic, this child of mine. But now that I’m
looking back on this afternoon, my new question is, how in the world does my
6 year old know how to use a graphing calculator? Because I’ll tell you, if
my husband's students are any indication, most tenth graders don't know
how to use one.
When I asked, he said Abba showed him how to use it. And when I asked him
further, he said he really liked math and playing around with the calculator and
that in school, he really likes the math part of class. And that a lot of kids
in his first grade class don't like math but he doesn't care.
Same thing on the playground. He doesn't care that most of the other boys
won't play with the girls. He plays with one specific girl because he's going to
I really admire this kid. I don't get a lot of one on one time with each of
my kids, but every time I do, I learn something new. Today I realized that my
oldest child has it in him to stand up for what he believes, for what he wants.
He – and by extension the rest of the family - has been having some issues with
another boy in his class not being so nice, almost bordering on bullying and we
have been trying to give my son the tools he needs to stand up for himself. It's
been very slow going, but we work on it every day and little by little I see it
I think that's a big lesson of Chanukah - having the self-confidence to stand
up for yourself, for your family, for your religion, for your ideals. Chanukah
is about knowing that even when someone else - in this case, the Greeks - wants
you to be something else, be someone that you are not, you need to say, “you
know what, I’m good with myself, I don't care what you say”. I'm going to like
math and I'm going to play with my friend even if she's a girl and I’m even
going to ignore the kid that’s bothering me and just walk away. That’s a lot for
any kid; most adults have trouble doing that.
The menorah can teach us the same lesson. As opposed to Shabbat candles,
which are very internal, very personal, the lights of Chanukah candles are very
public. With a season dominated by red and green, these candles sit on
windowsills in homes everywhere and declare to the world that we are still here
and that we’re pretty proud of it too.
The world can bully us, the world can make us feel bad and feel that perhaps
we should change our ways. But like the Maccabees, my first grader is teaching
me that it’s okay to be a little different, to like what you like and to do what
you do, and to stand up for yourself and your beliefs, even if the world (or a
classmate) is doing something different. Maybe we can all take a lesson from a
little first grader and learn to let our inner Maccabee shine through, right
alongside those Chanukah candles on the windowsill.
*What? Doesn’t everyone keep a graphing calculator on their dining room
Wishing you a wonderful Shabbos Chanukah!
Josh and the kids love potato latkes and I hate making them. Not a good
combination. So we compromise. I make them once a year, they're happy and I
grumble the entire time.
I feel like I have been extra busy lately and just extra tired. The thought
of peeling all those potatoes and then hauling out the food processor was
completely overwhelming. I sat and sat (my favorite thing to do besides lying
down) and thought about ways to get out of doing all that work. And then I
thought, "hmm, instant mashed potato flakes. You don't have to peel those. I
wonder what would happen..."
And this is what happened*.
I made 8 servings of instant mashed potatoes in a pretty big bowl and set the
bowl aside to cool off. I used rice milk instead of real milk to keep things
pareve here. Then I added 3 eggs and 3/4 cup flour to the bowl and mixed until
it was combined. It still looked like mashed potatoes but now it had raw eggs so
I had to remember not to lick the spoon. Although now that I think about it, I
always lick the leftover brownie batter from the bowl without thinking twice and
that has eggs in it. Yum. I wish I was making brownies instead. But I digress.
By the way, at some point you should add some salt to the mixture. I forgot
to and while these latkes tastes pretty good, they can definitely use some salt.
Heat up some oil in the frying pan. Drop the potato mixture into the pan. I
want to tell you what size spoon to use, but I don't know what size to call this
spoon. It's the big one that you might mix things with that came with your
silverware set. Let the latkes brown on the bottom; they take a while. Flip them
over and brown the other side. These little guys are crunchy on the outside and
soft, kind of like mashed potatoes (duh!) on the inside.
Serve warm with applesauce or (and I stress the "or" part here) ketchup.
You can do sour cream if you like, but just the thought of that makes me feel
like I need to leave the room.
I will stress that these latkes do not tastes like your grandmother's hand
grated latkes. But they are definitely good enough to pass off as
This recipe made about 35 latkes. Plenty.
*This is what happened first though. That whole story up there sounds so
nice and normal. Think of recipe in head and watch it work. Yeah, so that's not
how it really works. What happened first was that I attempted to fry the mashed
potato mixture without adding any eggs or flour. Nothing good happened. In fact,
bad things happened. Specifically, this:
The latkes (and I use that term loosely) did not brown, stay together or
firm up at all. They burned and crashed. But you know what, nu nu. Live and
Learn. And then add some flour to bind everything together.
Don't be shy! If you like what you've read, leave a comment please!
Here's a look back at what we did last year. Enjoy!
Make pretend latkes
. No grating, no frying and fat free.
A fun and fast sponge painted tablecloth for your menorah table
crafts from cardstock and paper. All you need are scissors and glue.
Foamie dreidel cut outs
hanging from the dining room chandelier. Fancy :).
. Fun for everyone.
Big mama Chanukah Latke
. Delish. Use this recipe to make regular sized latkes too!
Chocolate Chanukah Lollies
And of course, Chanukah isn't Chanukah anymore without the Maccabeats. Love them.
Here's their new song.
And last year's classic.
Happy Happy Happy Chanukah!
Last year for Shabbos Chanukah
, I made challah shaped like a dreidel and a
menorah. The kids were so excited with it, I did it again this year, and this
time I took step by step pictures so you can see how simple it is to put
together. No really, don't look at me like that. It really is
Here are this year's done challahs, perhaps a little overdone but ready to go anyway.
And this is how we do it.
Make a batch of your favorite challah dough
Allow the dough to rise according to you recipe's instructions, making sure the dough
rises in a warm place. My house is freezing, especially the kitchen so I did
something you should never ever do. If I had lawyers who'd tell me what I can
and can't say, they'd say not to say this. And if you do, you didn't hear it from me.
But here goes, I turned the oven onto 170 degrees and left the door open.
I let the dough rise on the oven door for an hour and then shut the oven but
let the dough rise some more on the warm door. Please make sure to keep all little hands out of the kitchen while this is going on.
Braid a long and thin challah for the horizontal center of the menorah.
Braid a smaller and somewhat thinner challah for the vertical center of the
Braid an even smaller but thicker challah for the horizontal menorah stand.
Using a small amount of dough, shape 8 pieces into candles and one more piece
into a longer center candle to act as the shamash.
Carefully move all the pieces onto a foil lined and cooking spray coated
cookie sheet and assemble the menorah. No need to press the dough pieces
together, they will all bake together in the oven. For example, I just slid the
very bottoms of the candles under the menorah's center braid, I didn't press the
Brush with an egg wash and bake at until golden brown, following the
recipe's directions . Keep in mind that some parts of the challah (like the
candles) are smaller and so they will bake faster than other parts. Only you
know your oven so you may need to rotate the pan every once in a while or even
tent some foil over any parts that are getting too brown too quickly.
And now for the Dreidel Challah:
Start with the same amount of dough that you'd use for a medium sized
challah. Shape the dough into a rectangle, with the shorter sides on the top and
Carefully shape the lower half of the longer sides of dough into a V shape
so that the rectangle now resembles a strawberry.
Move to a foil lined and cooking spray coated cookie sheet.
Use a small piece of dough and shape a handle for the dreidel.
Slip the dreidel handle underneath the top of the dreidel. No need to press
them together, they will bake together.
Using some more dough, shape the letter of your choice (nun, gimel,
hey or shin) and set it atop the dreidel. Again, no need to press
the dough together, it will all bake together in the oven.
Paint an egg wash onto the dough and following your recipe's directions,
bake until golden brown.
Don't be shy! if you like what you've read, leave a comment please!
So remember how yesterday I showed you the super delicious and easy to roll out
sugar cookies? So today comes the decorating part.
I first used this icing when I made football cookies
while back. It's pretty easy to make but I found it somewhat difficult to work
with but as we never throw out a dessert in our house (see the football post above), I
plowed through and finished the cookies. This time, however, was different. A
few months ago my mom bought me the best gift - these little squeeze bottles from Pampered Chef
that are made for decorating cookies. So this time I made the
icing, tinted it with food gel colors and filled the little squeezy bottles. And
then I let the kids decorate all the dreidel cookies. I even gave them sprinkles
and non-pareils 'cause that's the kind of mom I try to be.
Here's the recipe straight from Toba Garrett, cake decorating master:
3 and 3/4 cups powdered sugar
7 tablespoons whole milk (or water or whatever)
6 tablespoons corn syrup
gel food colors
Pour the sugar into a big bowl and add the milk. Mix well. It will seem
like there is no way that such a small amount of liquid will be able to mix with
all that sugar, but keep going, it will work. Then add the corn syrup and mix
well. The icing consistency should be like this, pretty thick and flowing off
the spoon slowly. If it's too thin, add more sugar. This can't really be messed
up because you can keep changing the consistency by adding more corn syrup, milk
or more powdered sugar.
Then tint your frosting.
Here's what happened next.
And here's what we have now. Pretty good, no?
Don't be shy! if you like what you've read, leave a comment please!
I know I've said this before, but these are really the new go-to sugar
cookies in our house. I have recently started reading a blog called Our
, which I have to say is very aptly named because everything
that I have made from their site and bitten into has been the best. These sugar cookies
definitely fit the mold.
I am not a sugar cookie lover but Josh is and he approved of these. So
that's a check in the pro column right there. Other checks in the pro column:
1. I used margarine instead of butter to keep the cookies pareve*, and they
came out delicious.
2. I did not let the margarine come to room temperature because that would
have required advance planning and we're more of the fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants-bakers
3. The dough rolled out so nicely, straight onto my countertop covered in a
small amount of flour and it did not stick. This is magic cookie dough.
4. The cookies baked for a full 12 minutes in my
somewhat-correct-temperature-challenged-oven and they came out soft and chewy
and not at all browned on the bottom.
Here is the recipe, with many happy holiday vibes being sent to the
wonderful people at Our Best Bites. 2 sticks of margarine
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
3 cups flour
1 and 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
In the bowl of a large standing mixer, cream the margarine and sugar for a
full two minutes until creamy. I needed to mix mine for a good five minutes but
that could be because my margarine was cold, straight from the fridge. Add the
egg and vanilla and mix again. Add the dry ingredients, mixing and scraping down
the bowl as needed. I scraped a lot. And this made me nervous because all I saw
ahead of me was an afternoon filled with sticky cookie dough clinging to the counter as
I tried to roll it out. And yet that is not what happened. I wrapped the cookie
dough in plastic wrap and let it sit in the fridge for an hour. Rolled it out,
cut out the cookies and shockingly enough, every single cookie came off the
counter easily. I didn't even need a spatula. Just my hands.
This recipe made 45(!) 3.5" dreidel cookies, so unless you have an extremely
large family, this should be enough to get you through a good 'ole family
Chanukah party. *Ironically enough, the icing I made wound up being dairy so I could
have used butter in the cookies after all.
Don't be shy! If you like what you've read, leave a comment, please!
This project was so fast and so cute that so far, I have not been able to
get a decent picture because there are always little people crowding around in
front of it, trying to get a look at the pictures.
It had been raining in the morning, not good weather to go walking. My 22
-month-old and I were sitting on the floor in the living room and she was
stabbing a paper with some markers, what she calls coloring. I was sitting next
to her looking through our Chanukah bin of stuff, all the projects and menorahs
and placemats that my kids have made over the years. And on the bottom of the
bin was the bag of paper dreidels we had cut out years ago and hang around
the house each Chanukah.
I hung a few around the dining room, but the baby got ahold of the rest of
them and very much wanted to hang them "self". So I did the Scotch tape part and
she told me where to hang them - on the wall near the stairs, very low down and
close to the floor - at her eye level. My inner control freak was screaming no,
but she was so happy so we went with it. I hung them exactly where she told me, at
the exact angles that she handed them to me. The end result was adorable, like a
crazy-baby-dreidel-collage. But the dreidels looked a little naked.
We headed over to the shelf with the picture albums and chose pictures to
cut out and glue onto the dreidels. We didn't use the good pictures, just random
everyday shots that made sure to include all the grandchildren. I cut the
pictures so they'd fit onto the dreidels and the baby, wielding a glue
stick surprisingly well for a 22-month-old, glued the pictures onto the
dreidels. And she has been standing there ever since, hence the blurry and
Don't be shy! if you like what you've read, leave a comment!