We made a quick stop at Home Depot yesterday to pick up some lawn bags. Not familiar with the concept of lawn bags? Then you must not own your own home. Or perhaps you're one of those fancy-pants with a gardener. (I'm joking, of course. I would LOVE to be a fancy-pants with a gardener.)
Anyway, lawn bags are enormous brown bags (so big that my seven year old can still play hide & seek and hide inside a bag) which are meant to be filled with all the recycling (leaves, branches, and not much else really) from one's back (and front) yard.
In my neighborhood, you then lug these 50 lb bags to the curb and a garbage-type truck drives around on random days and picks them up - which means that the bags might be gone before I finish dropping the kids at school or they might be sitting at the curb a week later. Either way, once they're full, I no longer have to worry about them. They are someone else's problem, namely the leaf-guy.
The other day, it occurred to me that growing up, I had never seen one of these leaf bags, which led me to several conclusions, one of which is that I must have grown up in a very wealthy in a neighborhood where everyone had gardeners. Am I right? Daddy? Is that it?
Anyway, why I am sharing this? Only because we stopped at Home Depot and the little one fell in love with a little purple petunia plant. And because I'm a big spender (I grew up in a wealthy neighborhood, y'know), I shelled out the 88 cents for the plant. Mother of the Year award, here I come!
She carried that plant around the store and I was just so relieved when we made it to the car with the plant intact. Imagine having to pay for two of those!
She carried the plant into the house and then to the backyard where she gazed lovingly at it while I bagged the leaves.
Notice, if you will, the leaves on the right hand side of the picture. Now multiply that by a million and you'll get a clearer picture of how many leaves are currently in my backyard. I guess that's what happens when you don't clean them up in the fall. They stay there, waiting for you, all winter long.
The plant sat next to her while she dug in the yard, it swung on the swing with her and made a few trips down the slide on her lap.
And now it sits on the front steps and she sits next to it, asking it if it's okay, if it's having a nice day and if it's thirsty. (At least someone will remember to water it).
I even found her at the porch window this morning, looking at her plant. And then she started hollering out the window, not at the plant but at the leaf guy who had just pulled up with his truck, No! No! Not your leaf bags! Mommy's! Give those back!
So we had a talk about things that are garbage and things that we don't need anymore, and then I redirected her attention to her plant - ooh, maybe it's thirsty!
Had I known what a great activity one little plant could be for one little girl, I would have started one from seeds weeks ago.
It's been days since I reported how the Whole30 has been going, but I am happy to report that days 9 through 14 have been a success, full of spaghetti squash, steamed vegetables, salmon and egg whites omlettes. Not sure if any weight is falling off because one of the rules of the Whole30 is no weighing in, but we can hope, right? And we're all hoping, right?
I'm also happy to report that I have finished (and started) all my Chanukah shopping last night, in one three-hour marathon session online. Despite the fact that my neck is still killing me, I feel like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders. Maybe that'll help with the Whole30 losing weight thing. Oh, if only shopping caused weight loss, that would be so awesome. Kind of like if P90X worked just by looking at the dvd. Sigh.
This afternoon, Josh and I were discussing whether or not we should stage a secret santa (secret latke?) for the kids by tossing all their names into a hat and having each kid pick a name and give that sibling a gift. And just as we were debating the feasibility of taking each kid on a solo shopping trip so they can choose a secret gift, my oldest walked in and announced that he needed all the craft supplies in the house right away(!) so he can start making his Chanukah gifts.
This makes me happier than finding a forgotten peppermint patty in the back of the pantry. Oh wait, I'm doing the Whole30. Never mind. I meant to say, happier than finding a bag of raw cashews in my bag.
First of all, I love a crafty kid.
And second, I love a kid with initiative.
And third, I love a kid who thinks about making gifts for others.
I had been thinking about that last night, all about how I was going to teach the kids that it's more fun to give a gift than to get a gift. Don't laugh, it really is. The warm feeling that comes from being a good giver lasts way longer than it takes to open, play with and then ignore a toy someone gave you.
So maybe we'll do the secret latke game with the kids, or maybe they'll create gifts for each other. I feel like those that they make are something that their siblings will keep forever. I still have a card that my brother made for me almost twenty years ago. I love looking at his signature (he has been signing his name with his first and last names on cards since he learned to write) and seeing how it's not that different from his signature decades later.
But right now, the kids are all sitting around the house, secretly making whatever it is they are making. There is a two year old, gleefully squeezing a glue bottle in the dining room. She's good with the glue, nothing else needed to make her happy. And there is a four year old next to her, trying to explain to her little sister how to use the glue, saying "Just use a drop, not a glop!" I can only assume that her teacher uses that little poem.
There is a six year old gluing every foamie letter he can find to some colored paper, and there is a seven year old, holed up in his room with one of every art item in the house.
And even though there is no peace on earth right now, there is peace in my house. And for that I am thankful.
Anyway, glue comes off of carpet, right?
Josh works in a school with a pretty large support staff and every year
he likes to give them some sort of holiday gift and food gifts seem to go over
very well, year after year. The first couple of years he worked here, I bought
tons of Hershey Kisses and wrapped groups of them in individual cellophane bags,
each with a big bow. And then Josh had to go and find each member of the
maintenance staff, whether or or not they ever set foot in his office or even on
his floor. This took him a day and a half and this didn't make him happy.
Last year I decided I was going to make a huge plate of fudge and Josh
could then leave it in the support staff room for everyone to share. The
fudge was a huge hit - and a huge pain to make. And with all the winter holidays
converging on one week this year, I don't really have time to make a ton of
fudge. So this year, we went with m&m cookies.
I found these mini holiday boxes covered in candy canes and gingerbread men
on clearance, perfectly sized for my cookies. And why were holidays items
already on clearance? They aren't. I bought these last January and packed them
away for this year in my Chanukah decorations bin. I had totally forgotten about
them and then when I opened the bin the other day, they made me so happy.
So here goes with the m&m cookies. Buy a big bag of red and green
m&m's*. Mix a batch or two of your favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe and
add m&ms instead of chocolate chips. And yeah, then you're done. How easy is
I tripled a batch of my chocolate chip cookies, baking with my five year
old this past Sunday. He mixed, he ate some m&ms, he threw some into an
almost empty seltzer bottle to see if they would melt (they did) and we bonded.
Not so easy to see, but here we have the m&m's in the middle of melting. Lovely.
And when I pack the cookies into their pretty little boxes, I'll show you.
*I went looking for red and green m&m's the last time I was in
Shoprite and I couldn't find them anywhere, which I thought was weird because
everything else in the store was red and green. But okay, I knew Target would
have them, so I wasn't worried. At the checkout line, I asked the cashier if the
store had any red and green m&m's, hoping to save myself a trip to Target.
She said that it was the weirdest thing, but those m&m's didn't come in to
the store yet and I wasn't the only one asking for them. And then, as she is
scanning the many bags of Chanukah gelt (chocolate coins) that I had in my cart,
she asked me why I needed the m&m's if I was also buying gelt, but before I
could answer, she asked what she really wanted to know which was what's
the story with all the chocolate coins. It seems that her son came home from
public school the other day with a bag of Chanukah gelt, singing a song about a
sivivon (dreidel in Hebrew) all in Hebrew. He had no idea what it meant, she had
no idea what it meant, but all her kid knew was that he really liked these
chocolate coins and he wanted more, and oh, his music teacher in school is
Jewish. Such a funny world. And it's times like these that I am always reminded
that I really am an ambassador for Jews everywhere. Treating someone kindly,
with a smile, saying thank you, all tiny little things that one can add to their
day and yet all are major kiddush Hashems right there.
Don't be shy! If you like what you've read, leave a comment!
Wow, it's been almost two weeks since I've blogged. Woops. I didn't think
it had been that long. The past few weeks have been nutty with the kids home
from camp, trying to entertain them everyday and running around looking for
school supplies. Specifically Ticonderoga pencils. Why, oh why (oh why?) do they
need specific pencils? And so many boxes of tissues? And so many many folders?
Three kids, twelve folders. I don't get it. Actually, not true, I did get it. I got
it all. I just checking everything off all three school supply lists (go me!).
Everything has been labeled with a black Sharpie and packed into their
backpacks. And it only took as long as watching two epidsodes of Seinfelds to get
it all together.
And guess what else I got together? I got the Back-to-School-Fairy stuff
together. Back-to-School-Fairy? Yeah, so since we kind of missed out on the Tooth Fairy
when we lost our first tooth a few weeks ago, my
kids have been talking about it ever since. And then I came across the idea
of the Back-to-School-Fairy, a lovely idea floating around the web, where a
small back-to-school present is delivered to each kid's backpack, along
with their school supplies.
I'd been thinking about the whole back-to-school gift idea for a few weeks
and had meant to pick something up this week but ironically enough, the kids
were always with me because there. was. no. school
. I was kind up sad
that I didn't have anything for them, but I looked through my gift closet and
pulled out these very cute, very on sale, magnifying glasses I had bought in the
beginning of the summer and then promptly forgot about.
Using the same trusty Sharpie I had just used to label everything*
for school, I wrote each kid's name on their magnifying glasses (not 'cause
they're for school, more just to avoid fights) and dropped them into their
All I have to do is line up their backpacks by the front door so they can
check them out in the morning and be happy.
36 hours till school starts. Let the games begin.
*Almost everything. I don't label their underwear that goes into their extra-set-of-clothes-shoeboxes. I mean, really, if you lose your undies in school, do you really want someone to find them and know they're yours? Exactly.
No no no, I didn't have a baby, bite your tongue, my hands are quite full,
But this past week, one of my besties, Debbie, had a baby boy after two
girls. We were all very excited - especially because this means another excuse
to bake and eat random cookies and cakes in the name of taste-testing - which brings me to these: Chocolate Dipped Rice Krispie Treats on a Wednesday.
I had this post ready to go for Cookie Tuesday and then I just totally forgot to post it. So here it is, a little late.
In the Jewish tradition, the first thing one might think of when faced with the birth of a new baby boy is the brit milah, the circumcision on the 8th day of life. However, before that event takes place, there is a custom to have a shalom zachar on the Friday night preceding the brit milah.
So what in the world is a shalom zachor and why does it involve taste-testing cookies?
The word shalom means peace or welcome and the word zachar literally means boy - so the name of the party in honor of the newborn can be defined as a Welcome Boy party. However, there is also another meaning to the word zachar. Zachar can also mean to remember. And what are we remembering exactly? So it's like this - it is believed that
when a baby is in his mother's womb, he learns the entire Torah by heart and when he is born, he forgets it. And so this shalom zachar is meant to be a comfort to this new baby boy who has forgotten all of the Torah and all of it's sweetness. The friends and family that gather together for this party are there to not only welcome the new baby but to remember with him the memory of all that he knew, and look to the future of all that he will learn.
In practical terms, the shalom zachar is a kind of like a drop-in party, where family, friends, neighbors, and anyone who hears about it and wants a dessert, comes to the family's house to wish a mazal tov or congratulations, have a l'chaim, which loosely translated means to drink some liquor, and to have some dessert.
Which brings me to the cookies. I made these last week, as the shalom zachar was this past Friday night. Do rice krispie treats qualify as cookies? I think if it were the winter, I would say no. But seeing how hot it is out and seeing how not turning on the oven is still priority number one, I'm going to go with a big fat yes.
Pretty much everyone knows how to make rice krispie treats, but these are a
little different. These were cut into squares and dunked in melted chocolate
ganache, with the ganache allowed to harden over night. And they were yummy, if
I may say so myself.
Here's what I did.
First things first, lay a piece of parchment paper inside the pan you plan
on using to make your rice krispie treats. I used a disposable 9x13 pan.
Next, take one container of marshmallow fluff and a half a stick of margarine and melt them together in the microwave - I just add the margarine to the open container of fluff and microwave it in 15 second intervals. After about 30 seconds, the fluff is usually warm enough to easily pour into a larger microwave-safe bowl. Keep in mind that before heating the fluff even for this short amount of time, it would have been almost impossible to spoon it out of the container, hence the reason for the two steps.
Take the new larger bowl, cover it with a paper towel (you'll thank me later when the fluff doesn't explode all over your microwave) and microwave it for about 60 seconds, stopping every ten seconds to stir it.
Once the fluff and margarine are melted together, add the rice krispies. I
used a 14 ounce box. Mix the ingredients together.
Pour the mixture into the pan, spreading it evenly to all the edges and then
using the back of a large spoon to really pack those rice krispies in there. The
better you pack it in, the easier the rice krispie treats will slice later on.
Cover the pan with foil and refrigerate for an hour. Alternatively, if it's
not hot like an oven in your kitchen and you are not in a rush, you can just
leave the pan on the counter and come back the next day. Since I met neither of
those requirements, I put the pan in the fridge.
Meanwhile, it's time to make the ganache. Heat a defrosted 8 ounce
container of Rich's Whip in the microwave until it is just just simmering. Pour
the simmering liquid over a pot containing 9 ounces of finely chopped chocolate
- it can be semi-sweet, dark, milk, whatever you prefer. As long as it is finely
Cover the pot with a towel and let the mixture sit for five minutes. When
the time is up, uncover and mix with a spoon. The chocolate should be almost all
melted. Keep mixing until the chocolate is all incorporated. Allow the chocolate
mixture to cool and thicken on the counter. Don't do what I did the first time I
made this and stick the pot in the fridge to help things along. It won't help,
you will just wind up with a grainy chocolate syrup. Be patient and it will all
Anyway, come back an hour later, remove the foil from the rice krispie
treat pan and placing a cutting board over the top of the pan, flip the entire
pan and cutting board over so that the cutting board is on the bottom and the
rice krispie treats are on top, upside down. Lay the whole thing on the counter
and remove the pan from the treats and peel off the parchment paper.
Carefully, and using a very sharp knife, cut the rice krispie treats into
Line the treats up on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Mix the
ganache, which by now had cooled and thickened on your countertop, with a spoon
until it comes to a dippable consistency. One at a time, dip the treats halfway
into the ganache, allowing the excess to drip off. Place them on the cookie
sheet and allow the chocolate to harden all the way, an hour or two. At this
point, you can also put the cookie sheet in the fridge to help things along.
Because the ganache had already cooled, it won't become grainy when placed in
Once they're all dry, eat. Or package them up and send them over to a new
baby boy's house, knowing that his mommy is a huge fan of rice krispie treats
and chocolate. Perfect.
We usually go all out for our teachers at the end of the year. I feel it's
very important to not only show gratitude to our kids' teachers for everything
they have done, but also to show the kids that we are thankful for the wonderful
teachers in their lives.
This year, however, the whole class got together and collected money to buy
gift cards for the teachers. And so instead of doing what we would normally do, Josh and I decided to do something small for the teachers. We have also always felt that whatever we give the teachers should also include something from the kids. So this year we decided to buy plants for the teachers. And it only three (wait, four!) trips to Home Depot to buy these plants.
The first time I went, I took the girls fifteen minutes before I had to get
the boys from school. I figured it wouldn't take that long. Get the plants, get
the flower pots and get out. But I was wrong. Apparently we came at the worst
possible time - all the sprinklers were on so we couldn't even get close to
plants. And then my fifteen minutes were up and we had to go.
Our second trip to Home Depot occurred while I was obviously delusional
because at some point while I was waiting in the carpool pick-up lane I decided
that it would be a good idea to take all four kids to Home Depot - (right now!) -
and get the plants.
But I was wrong. It was a bad idea, and an hour and a whole box of
Entenmann's Little Bites and a four pack of my emergency juice boxes that I keep
in the trunk later, we were back in the car with flower pots and flowers - not
plants. I really wanted plants, they last longer, but the boys fell in love with these flowers (I'm guessing here, but they look like daisies) and there was nothing I could say to convince them otherwise. We were also all wet because - you got it - the sprinklers were still on.
The flowers the boys picked were lovely - and, as we learned when we got
home and dragged the plants, the pots and the kids into the porch - bug
So back out to the front steps went the plants and the pots. The kids? They
got lucky - I let them stay inside.
Later that night Josh went to return the flowers but he was running
somewhere and didn't have time to get new ones. So the next day I went back to
Home Depot, alone, where I was greeted like a long lost friend by the woman
manning the cash register in the plant section.
I explained what I was looking for and she kindly directed me towards
plants that would not only survive if any of our teachers forget to water them
but that would survive being transplanted into flower pots by four year old
hands. And I was grateful.
When I got home, the kids and I replanted them in nicer flower pots. The
kids make little signs for each teacher that we glued to Popsicle sticks that we
then stuck into the soil. Tied a little bow around the Popsicle and, for the
most part, hand delivered them to the teachers' houses.
And the fun part? You're thinking the fun part is that I made a new friend
at Home Depot. That was fun, and might potentially come in handy one day, but not what I was going for here. No, I was thinking that because the teachers were not home when we delivered the flowers - they were all at a teacher meeting in school so we left the plants on their front steps - we got to have the fun of leaving them a surprise for when they got home.
And from the phone calls we've gotten, I'm pretty sure they were a hit.
Oh, and because I always need a catchy little phrase, no matter how corny,
we wrote "Thanks for helping us grow this year." Get it? Grow? Like a flower.
Yeah, I know, I know, but just getting the plants took so long. I ran out of time to think about the rest.
I'm pretty sure I have mentioned here before that I have the honor of being a class mother for my five year old's class this school year. And while I was initially kind of excited about the whole idea - my mom had always been a class mother - I've come to realize that it involves many many phone calls, mostly to people who don't really want to hear from me because when I call on official class mother business, I am generally asking for money. But I call anyway. And I ask anyway. And I hope that people remember to send in checks with their kids.
But sometimes being the class mommy has perks. Like when I get to take out all my art supplies and make fun things for the teachers. For example, my son's class is having a play this week and it was decided that the end of the year teacher gifts would be presented at the end of the play. The other class mommy and I collected all the money and the other class mommy graciously offered to go pick up the gift cards for the teachers. I offered to get the thank you cards and something to wrap the gift cards in because handing over a gift card in an envelope is, dare I say, tacky.
Except here's where my problem started. It's been so darn hot lately that I have no interest in packing up the girls and the diaper bag and the snack bag and the potty and dragging it all to the car and driving to wherever it is that one would get packaging for a gift card. I would much rather stay in my air conditioned porch and made gift card holders while the girls played and tried to help. And so that's what we did.
I was a little nervous because I couldn't imagine what I was going to fashion a gift card holder out of. And I also knew that we were out of staples* and since I had no intention of going anywhere, I had to make something that did not need to be stapled together.
So this is what I did:
I had these very narrow, medium sized paper bags with handles that I had gotten ages ago at Michael's, a 12 pack for $1. I wasn't sure what I would do with them at that point but pretty much anything that is 12 for $1 is going into my shopping cart. The bags themselves were too large to hold a gift card. So I cut the top half off, including the handle part - and the girls have been walking (crawling) around with the tops of the bags as mini pocketbooks ever since. So much fun.
Now I was left with the bottoms of four paper bags. I cut squares of scrapbook paper that matched both bag colors (pink and purple) and glued a piece of scrapbook paper on the front of each bag. I made sure not to center the paper on the bag because I still needed room towards the top of the bags to punch holes for the ribbon.
Which is what I did next. I punched two holes at the almost top of the bags. Then I put a half of a piece of tissue paper (brown, it tied the whole thing together as there was also brown in the scrapbook paper) into each bag and threaded raffia ribbon through the holes of the bag. I tied one of the bags and then realized that I didn't have the gift cards yet so I left the other three open.
Then I typed out a simple message of super-thanks to the fantastic teachers, printed it, cut each message out and glued it on top of the scrapbook paper, so that there appears to be a border of scrapbook paper around each message.
Then I lined them up on a really high shelf so no one can touch them until it's time to leave for the play. You can't be too careful with sticky fingers everywhere. And that was it. It didn't take too long, they're pretty cute if I may say so myself, and I spent the afternoon in my cool porch instead of a hot parking lot fighting with the double stroller that doesn't seem to want to open properly anymore.
*Why did I know we were out of staples? Do I staple often? Do I feel lost without my stapler? All good questions. And I'll tell you, I rarely staple anything except that the other morning my five year old had a book report due.
The teachers had sent out the book report instructions way in advance and I tacked the whole thing up on the bulletin board and then totally forgot about it, until the morning it was due. And so in the mad rush to do the book report and find some way to keep all the pages together, I started looking for the stapler.
And I found it, which was huge. And I stapled. And nothing came out. I opened the stapler up and there was one lone sad little staple in there. I pushed him forward to the edge of the stapler, closed it up and stapled. And out he came, all nicely folded, but not folded through the book report pages. So sad. And it was already 8:10am, we were late and I couldn't even find a paper clip.
Lucky for me though, the book report was kind of cute - the pages were shaped like a sandwich, so two pages were bread slices, one was a tomato, one lettuce and I forget the others. So I put the whole thing into a big Ziploc bag and wrote sandwich bag on it. I was cracking up. No one else was. Everyone else wanted to know why I was taking so long with the book report. Sheesh. Some people have no sense of humor in the morning.