Tuesday, December 11, 2012


I truly love Chanukah. It brings back so many childhood memories of times with my parents, grandmother, and siblings.
When we were little, my parents kept their top drawer full of loose change. My father used to dump all the change from his pockets into small shoe and jewelry box tops. Eventually it added up! We used to take the biggest box, full of stray pennies and dump the entire thing on the dining room table. As the candles were glowing on the windowsill, we would start to play dreidel.
The dreidel, or top, would spin round and round. I used to try to learn how to spin it upside down and was thrilled when I mastered that skill! We would play for hours.
We always had a family Chanukah party with gifts for everyone. I cannot even tell you how many pairs of gloves and pajamas I got through the years. In the later years, when my grandmother was older and could only shop locally, I got whatever fragrance or new item was available at the drug store across the street from her apartment building. Some gifts were truly silly, but I appreciated the effort nonetheless.
Chanukah in school meant donuts and latkes, special programs, trips and concerts. We used to visit nursing homes and sing Chanukah songs for the residents in front of the big electric menorah that sat beside the beautifully adorned Christmas tree. I was excited that Arielle went on a similar trip with her second grade class to visit the local nursing home and sing Chanukah tunes. The tradition continues.
Chanukah is a time to be with family, to sing and dance before the candles and celebrate the ancient victory of the Jews over the Greek army, led by King Antiochus. Antiochus banned all acts of Judaism and wanted to stop Jews from learning Torah and praying to G-d. Our response has been to bless G-d for bringing us to this moment, performing miracles then and now, and allowing us to light the menorah.
I am happy to continue the tradition and create great memories for my children. The kids get to stay up late to light the candles when Mommy and Daddy get home from work. Each has his/her own menorah. They love choosing the pattern for the colorful candles to display each night, something I distinctly remember doing as well. They get Chanukah gelt, or chocolate coins, to eat. After we light candles, we sing, dance, and go a little crazy. We have gifts, parties, and time with family. Latkes and donuts. The kids practice spinning the dreidel and we bring out the special dreidel salt shakers (thanks, Mom).
The girls wear their dreidel necklaces to school and I match them when I wear mine (again, thanks Mom).
We celebrate our Judaism. We celebrate our active involvement in our ancient tradition.
I truly love Chanukah. So many childhood memories and traditions are created every day.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Doctor's Office Toys; Mom of Sick Children

I honestly like the concept of separating the healthy children from those who are sick.
If I am coming for a well visit, I'd like my kid to stay well. But the bigger question to me is when a child is sick.
They've labeled the children in the waiting room.
What I find most disturbing is that they have only a small selection of toys for the kids who visit. And inevitably, they are on the "sick" side.
When my children are healthy, I send them right over to the other side to bring the toys over so they can play. The fish tank, which divides the two sides and can be seen on both is simply not entertaining enough.
When my children are sick, they play with the very same toys that other ill children are using. Presumably, they are sanitized each day before use. Nevertheless, the toys on the sick side inevitably spread germs.
I might be in the minority here, but I believe in letting kids be kids. I tell them to play with those toys and encourage the exploration despite the "sick" label. I have literally seen mothers tell their kids not to play with any toys or touch anything lest they collect germs. This morning I witnessed a mom punish her child by giving her a time-out in the waiting room because she touched one of the "sick" toys.
Relax. Please.
For the sake of all the sick children and for the sake of their parent's sanity.

What do you think? Would you let your healthy or sick children play with the toys?

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Latke L'Latke L'Hop in the Pan - Holiday Yum Chanukah Baked Latke Recipe!

I love Chanukah aka Hanukkah and I love all the (fattening) traditional foods. I also really enjoy hosting my Chanukah party. I have hosted for the past 3 years but gave up that privilege this year so my mother could host.
One issue that probably all hosts face is how to serve fresh and hot latkes without slaving over the frying pan during the party. After all, when I host, I want to mingle with the family and enjoy my time with the kids.
If I can be completely honest, I HATE FRYING just about anything. I prefer to prepare and just pop the dish in the oven. I do not like worrying about the oil content and swapping out old oil for a new, fresh batch. I despise standing over the hot stove while watching the food sizzle and brown.
My kids rarely get fried foods for this reason. PLUS, frying anything (schnitzel, latkes, french fries, etc.) is way too unhealthy to make a regular habit.
And this is why I LOVE my recipe for BAKED LATKES.

Baked latkes are healthier, easier, faster, and more enjoyable to make and serve at the party! I can pop them in the oven before the guests arrive and then spend my time with family and friends, knowing they will turn out delicious! They require so little effort - just a food processor, cookie sheet and a spatula! I let the oven do the dirty work. And I am out of the kitchen an hour before the party starts, so I can focus on what is really important.

Without further adieu, I now present my Holiday Yum (#holidayyum) recipe:

Oven-Baked Latkes
credit: adapted from Bon Appetit magazine

3 cups paper-thin onion slices
2 lb. Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and coarsely grated on large holes in food processor
2 tsp. salt, divided
4 T oil

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Toss potatoes with 1 t. salt and let sit for 5 minutes. Squeeze out excess liquid using hands (I have no patience so I just strain it and squeeze). Add onions, oil and remaining salt and mix well.
Divide into 8 mounds on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper and sprayed with Pam. You can divide into more mounds for smaller latkes if desired. Make sure to leave space between latkes.
Roast for 15 minutes, then flip latkes, pressing down to flatten them. They will be very soft at this point so work gently.
Reduce temperature to 350 degrees and bake until latkes are golden and crisp around the edges, about 45 minutes longer.
Serve with applesauce and sour cream.

Make sure to save this recipe because after you taste them, you will want to make them again next year for your annual Chanukah party!

More Holiday Yum
I have been sharing Holiday Yum recipes on twitter and hope you will consider checking out these other awesome posts that are coming:

November 17: Jenny Hansen's Gluten-Free Thanksgiving Meal
November 19: Kathy Owen’s Spiced Pecans
November 26: Ellen M. Gregg’s Chocolatiest Chocolate Cake Evah
November 28: Jenny Hansen's Almond Roca
December 2: THAT'S MY LATKES (see above)
Links to follow as the rest of the Holiday Yum unfolds:
December 5: Natalie Hartford’s French Lace Cookies
December 10: Kathy Owen’s Butter Spritz Cookies
December 14: Ellen M. Gregg’s Old-fashioned Buttermilk Sugar Cookies
December 17: Natalie Hartford’s back with a simple recipe for Cheesecake
December 19: Jenny Hansen's Holly Candy
December 23: Jess Witkins' appetizers
December 26: Kathy Owen's beef rib-eye roast with currant jelly brown gravy
December 28: Natalie Hartford shares New Year's Eve Mocktails
Stay tuned for link updates as posts go live and for more to be added to the schedule. Be sure to check out our host, Kathy Owen’s Holiday Yum page too for more deliciousness.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Hurricane Sandy

I would be remiss if I did not write about my experiences during the biggest Hurricane of my lifetime. I must begin with my thanks to G-d. I am grateful that I had no damage to my home. I am thankful that all my family and friends are safe.

In preparation for the storm, we made sure we had food (we always stock up big time anyway), flashlights, candles, crafts and projects for the kids, and enough apps to keep the kids busy. 

We spent 3 hours at the park on Sunday so the kids had a chance to be outside and to get all their energy out so they would not get stir-crazy.
Monday was spent indoors; we watched as the wind accelerated. We literally watched the last leaf on our tree sway back and forth until it could no longer bear the resistance, could no longer hold on. 

At lunch time we made homemade pizzas and enjoyed the family time. It is not every day that I get to spend a full day home with my kids. By 2 pm it was clear that it was not safe to be outdoors so we began the crafts. Jeremy is absolutely brilliant. He bought lanyard! This provided hours and hours of entertainment. Jeremy also remembers every last stitch. I only remembered box stitch and chinese staircase. He could add cobra, twisted cobra, barrel, and zipper to the mix. We kept busy that afternoon baking hot dog buns to go with our planned hot dog dinner because we forgot to buy them. When the oven beeped, it was already 5:45 pm and we quickly put the hot dogs in the oven.

At 6 pm as the hurricane made landfall, our power went out. The oven did not work anymore. We boiled the hot dogs instead, but the buns were so delicious that it almost didn't matter.

At 9 pm, thankfully after the children were asleep, we saw the sky light up like fireworks in red, blue and green while listening to radio reports tracking the storm. The damage was still not known.

Our cell phone service was terrible in the house so we could not really get in touch with others. I was able to get service on Tuesday outside in the car or down the block. I retrieved my emails, tweets, and messages. I called my parents, sister, in laws. None had power. My sister in law in Queens did!

We stayed home from work and school the following day and then on Wednesday I went to work. Only a segment of my town lost power; the "other side," which includes the school building, had never lost power. The girls were able to go back to school on Thursday.

My commute is terrible because of the damage. There are limited trains, and many tunnels were closed due to flooding. And then we had a gas shortage on top of it all! I waited over an hour just to get on a bus, which took another hour home in the Nor'easter Athena that followed Sandy. Since the gas shortage eased, I have been driving in to New York City.

We were very lucky - fortunate and grateful - that we had no damage or flooding. Living without power for a week is difficult with little children. Each evening, we lit our Shabbat candles to light up our home. We put votives in each bathroom to serve as night lights. Now I understand how light and candles bring peace into the home. It is stressful living in the dark!  The benefit of no power was that there were no distractions when it came to bedtime. The children somehow knew to behave and to go to bed. No sound or light could keep them awake.

Thursday night temperatures dropped to the 30s overnight. We spent the weekend at my sister in law in Queens who was hosting her in laws and grandmother (in law) who had damage to their Long Beach home. Everyone was stressed and exhausted but we had a nice time with the family.

We joined my parents at a family friend Saturday night who had a generator built into their renovated home and expected to stay through Monday. We put the kids to bed Sunday night. We were overjoyed when the calls and texts started streaming in that power at home was restored! We packed right up and went home at around 11:30 pm. Boy was it nice to walk into a warm house! With lights! And how nice to resume normal life and every day schedules!

Even with what we went through, I realize that we are the fortunate ones. Even our extended family and some of our friends who lost their basements to salt water are fortunate. The recovery and relief is just beginning. There are people who lost everything. Residents of Staten Island, the Seagate community of Brooklyn, Far Rockaway, Woodmere, Oceanside (Jeremy's Aunt and Uncle), Long Beach (my brother in law's parents, grandmother), Breezy Point, Moonachie and Little Falls NJ (5 minutes from my home) are displaced or homeless. They have to clean out the debris from their homes. They must throw out their memorabilia, photographs, and  books. They must clean up their lives. Synagogues, community centers and schools have lost Torah scrolls, books, furniture and the ability to function in their respective capacities. 

New Yorkers and New Jersians (okay, Connecticuters too) proved once again how resilient we are. People took in their neighbors, friends, or even strangers to provide warmth, food, and support! I know people who were hosting 40 people each night for dinner and providing warm beds to several families. Buses full of crews are going daily to clean up the affected areas and homes. People have started fundraising campaigns utilizing their online influence to collect funds for the homeless and those in need. Children have donated their old toys to other kids who lost basements-full of their favorite things.

The relief effort is just beginning but we have already proven how strong we are. We have already come together with kindness and compassion.

I hope Hurricane Sandy's lesson remains with us even after normal is restored.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Breastfeeding vs. Weaning

My baby is 8 1/2 months and I made the decision to stop nursing. This is the longest I have breastfed with any of my children. I also balance work so I have to pump as well.
Here is a brief history:
Child #1: 7 months with supplementing
Child #2: 4 months
Child #3: 6 months exclusive!
Child #4: 8 months mostly exclusive, slight supplementing in last 2 months.
I enjoy the cuddling and special down time with my baby.
I appreciate that no one else can provide nourishment for the human being I have brought to life.
I love sitting down to have the life sucked out of me and just dozing off during a feed.
I am proud that I am able to arm my newborn with antibodies and vitamins to start her off on the right foot.
I will miss it.
But I am simultaneously celebrating the freedom that comes with weaning.
Hold your bottle while I feed the other children their dinner.
Go to bed on your own with a full stomach.
Grab this in the middle of the night when I don't want to be awake.
Go where I want when I want.
Let someone else help.
Work a full day without worrying about making time to pump.

I am moving on. We have closed a chapter in this book. I will remember it fondly.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Parsnip Purée (With Carrots)

I have only tasted parsnip purée once before and I was surprised to find that it paired extremely well with my chicken and meat entrées and I actually enjoyed it. I didn't think I would choose to eat it alone and I CERTAINLY never imagined I'd whip some up in my own kitchen.
But alas, my holiday preparations have found me searching for new and simple side dishes that make a big bang. If all the professional chefs pair their dishes with parsnip purée, why then, so can I!
And so began my google search for a recipe. To my dismay, many call for heavy cream which I do not use because of its fat content as well as the fact that it is dairy (which does not mesh with meat meals for a kosher eater).
Many recipes included carrots, which I decided would be a good addition for someone who is not sure she will like plain parsnip.
The recipe I finally settled on was a Martha Stewart special, but I adapted it enough that I post it here as my own.
*In case you have never tried parsnip purée, it is not intended to be sweet. It is a more tame flavor that is sort of earthy and natural, a taste that may need to be developed. However, it is really delicious when eaten with classic cuts of meat or chicken, fish, and even sausage. It can truly enhance and decorate a plate. When I first tried it, it was presented under my entrée, and was swirled around the fish to add color, texture, and of course, taste.

Parsnip Carrot Purée
4 medium parsnips cut in 1/2 inch discs
5 small carrots cut in 1/4 inch discs (to ensure even cooking, cut carrots smaller than parsnip)
1 small onion
1-2 cloves minced garlic or 1 1/2 tsp minced jarred garlic
1 T. olive oil
1/2 cup chicken stock or low sodium broth
1/2 cup water
Salt and white pepper to taste
Heat olive oil in medium saucepan and sauté onion and garlic until soft and beginning to brown. Add parsnip and carrots and sauté 5 more minutes. Add stock and water to the pot and allow to simmer until vegetables are tender, or about 25 minutes. Purée (with a nifty hand blender) and add salt and pepper to taste.

Please share any and all parsnip experiences in the comments or via Twitter and/or Facebook. I'm curious to hear what you think, especially if you try it!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Back to School Photos! Via Instagram's Instaframes

I finally had a chance to make a great photo collage to commemorate my kids' start of school this year.
I also got an amazing app to allow me to do just that seamlessly, and in minutes.
I used Instaframes, Instagram's framing and collage app. It allows you to use various backgrounds, colors, styles, and photo placement. I was able to add unlimited text boxes in many font styles and colors. I was not limited to "small," "medium," or "large" font, but could click and drag to resize any fonts.
I could use frames and boxes but I could edit the details those as well! Photos could be cropped to fit the boxes easily. And effects could be added to individual photos even if there were multiple pictures in the collage.
Here is my picture! I just might (GASP) print it out and frame them in my living room.

*This review is unsolicited. I seriously enjoyed using it and was happy with my result!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Bandaid Boo Boo

Right before putting Kayla (5yo) to bed, I noticed she had a bandaid on her pinky. I asked her what happened, figuring it was her slight obsession with bandaids that made her cover a small cut on her cuticle. Her response however was slightly alarming. "Sarah slammed the door on it. On purpose."
I immediately told her to take the bandaid off because I wanted to see the bruise.
It was swollen, black and blue, with a large segment of skin ripped up and a substantial cut.
"Who gave you the bandaid?"
"My teacher."
"Did you go to the school nurse?"
"Did your teacher give you ice?"
"What about cream?"
I am really not an alarmist but my child needed ice as well as neosporin for this cut. She already had dirt under the skin. I really don't want this to get infected. Our friend and EMT advised us to go to the doctor if possible to cut off the extra skin so as to avoid infection.
I should have received a phone call about this!!!
The teacher will be hearing from me in the morning.
What do you think?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Diet Coke Party!

If you ask any of my friends, I win every contest, raffle, auction or prize out there. It's true. I have a pretty good track record. I see it as G-d's way of helping us our financially without giving me a direct raise or cash advance. I wasn't surprised when I entered and won a 30 second birthday party from Diet Coke as part of their brand promotion.
All I did was tweet a haiku to @dietcokeUS! Click here to read my haiku tweet! I got a message shortly thereafter to contact them with my email address. After working out many technicalities including okaying the party with my boss, Diet Coke came to the Chai Lifeline headquarters in New York City to celebrate.
Of course my husband Jeremy and my mother in law who both work nearby came and my coworkers joined in the party.
We did the dancing silly string thing and then I got an awesome Diet Coke t-shirt and a free 1 year supply of the brown liquid. That's right, I have coupons for a year's supply of Diet Coke. I know you are jealous!
Click here to see the awesome pictures of the party on my Facebook page.
I am now very loyal to the brand that gave me free drinks for a year!

Now here is the downer:
The party was back in August and I waited patiently to post this because I was expecting to have a personal video of the party posted on YouTube. After I waited more than a month even though they told me it would be up in a week, Diet Coke compiled ONE video of ALL the parties... and I have a very, very short cameo. The original videos were each 1-2 minutes with the full back story and the 30 second party. You can Google "diet coke birthday" to see some of the main video results. I am very disappointed that they did not hold to their side of the deal here.
But, without further adieu, here is my feature film! Find me at :45 and 1:18.
I really had a blast and I hope you enjoyed this post almost as much as I enjoyed the party. Feel free to come by for a tweet-up and a round of Diet Cokes on the house!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

My First Giveaway! Easy Breezy Brisket: A Simple, 5 Minute Recipe for Rosh Hashanah

Welcome to the first ever Jewish Holiday Blog Party, hosted by Jessie of Taste and Miriam of Overtime Cook, and sponsored by Kitchen Aid! As you may know, Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year is coming up, and Jewish bloggers from all over the world are celebrating with all kinds of twists on traditional Rosh Hashanah foods.

To kick off the celebration, Levana Kirschenbaum is giving away a copy of her fabulous new book, The Whole Foods Kosher Kitchen, to three lucky winners. I am happy to present this opportunity to win while also sharing one of my all-time favorite recipes. Giveaway entry details below.

Before I post this recipe, you need a little personal background:
I love meat. I am that girl. Give me steak/brisket/roast beef or give me death. Okay, not quite that intense, but you get the point! I am always looking for flavorful recipes for my meats. Often, I just rub olive oil, salt and pepper on them and broil or grill. For Shabbos, holidays and special occasions, I like to add a little more flavor without adding prep time.

I got this amazing brisket recipe from one of my oldest and dearest friends, Ilana. I have no idea where she got it but I make it all the time. The meat comes out amazing: succulent, tender, soft, and flavorful. It takes under five minutes to prepare the brisket, which is great for busy, working moms like me who need to serve a large crowd. Even my kids like it!

Easy Breezy Brisket:

1 top of the rib or 2nd cut brisket (1st cut brisket is too chewy)
1/3 cup chili sauce
1/3 cup onion soup mix
Black pepper
1/3 cup water

Instructions: Position beef in a pan with a snug fit; beef may be folded under itself. The tighter the better. Coat each side of the beef with chili sauce and sprinkle with onion soup mix.
Sprinkle top with pepper and paprika.
Add water to the bottom of the pan. Bake at 325° tightly covered for two hours. Flip after one hour.

If you ask your grandmother, because all grandmothers know much more about meat cuts and carving techniques, this brisket is best cut cold (though I violate this rule all the time) and of course, always cut against the grain. I like to serve the gravy with rice or potato kugel.

I do hope you try this recipe this Rosh Hashanah. And may you have a happy, healthy, and sweet new year!

Giveaway entry details:Now that you have one entree determined, leave a comment on this post with the name of your favorite Rosh Hashanah entree or dish. Limit one entry per reader per blog so click over to the other participating blogs below for your chance at additional entries! I know that I will be checking out each of the recipes from participating bloggers!

Giveaway ends 5 am eastern time on September 11, 2012.

Prize is sponsored by Levana and available to readers from all blogs participating in the Rosh Hashanah Blog Party. Prize can only be shipped within the US. 

Stop by and check out some of these amazing Rosh Hashanah themed recipes on the following blogs: 

Challah and Bread:
Marlene of The Jewish Hostess made Apple Challah
Amanda of The Challah Blog made Pomegranate Challah
Shelly of The Kosher Home made Apple, Honey and Pomegranate Challah!

Sides, Salads and Starters:
Sarah of Food, Words, Photos made Tzimmes (Rosh Hashanah Carrots)
Tali of More Quiche, Please made Roasted Beets and Butternut Squash
Roberta and Lois of Kosher Eye made Simanim Salad
Chanie of Busy In Brooklyn made Pomegranate Coleslaw
Rivki of Life in the Married Lane made Super Salad
Hannah of Cooking Manager made Beets Marinated with Ginger and Garlic
Sina of The Kosher Spoon made Pomegranate, Almond and Raisin Couscous
Shulie of Food Wanderings made Rosh Hashanah Salad
Hindy of Confident Cook-Hesitant Baker made Warm Roasted Beets with Farro
Sarah of Kosher Street made Sweet Potato Apple Tzimmes

Main Dishes:
Jessie of Taste made Smoked Salmon
Samantha of The Little Ferraro Kitchen made Chicken with Dates
Michele of Kosher Treif Cooking made Coconut Chicken Strips with two dipping sauces
Melinda of Kitchen Tested made Key Lime Glazed Duck
Stephanie and Jessica of The Kosher Foodies made Chicken Braised in Pomegranate
Liz of The Lemon Bowl made Beef Brisket

Desserts and Drinks:
Miriam of Overtime Cook made Mini Apples and Honey Tarts
Laura of Pragmatic Attic made Fresh Ginger Honey Cake
Susan of The Girl in the Little Red Kitchen made Honey Caramel Apple Galette
Danielle of Hugs and Cookies xoxo made The World's Best Rugelach
Amy of What Jew Wanna Eat made an Apple and Honey Cocktail
Nick of The Baking Process made Apple and Date Honey Squares
Lisa of The Monday Morning Cooking Club made Honey Chiffon Cake and Traditional Honey Cake
Leah of Cook Kosher made Pomegranate Ice Cream
Nossi of The Kosher Gastronome made Non-dairy Key Lime Cheesecake Bar with Key Lime Caramel

This is the first of hopefully many exciting Holiday Blog Parties, so if you would like to join in the fun, please email holidayblogparties@gmail.com.


Monday, August 20, 2012

Bath-time Discipline

Over the years, I've been working on disciplining my 4 children effectively. This is a major challenge for any parent and it is a work in progress. New situations arise and new challenges must be met. I certainly find it difficult to be clear, calm and reasonable when disciplining.
Today my 7 year old Arielle was taking a bath. She loves to use my bathtub because its width allows her to practice swimming, dunk her head and play. I have convinced/enticed Arielle to take a bath in my bathroom by reminding her of these benefits when one of her siblings wants to use the children's bathtub. I am more than happy to share with my kids and I do not make my bedroom exclusive. At the same time, I expect them to maintain the dignity of our home and leave the room as I left it (even if it's not the neatest room in the house).
Tonight Arielle was playing in the tub while I was putting Tzvi (3yo) to bed. When I came out, my bathroom was practically flooded, the floor and bathmat soaked, and Arielle was splashing the mirrors.
I have learned (mostly from my very-smart-first-grade-teacher sister-in-law, Michelle) that punishments and consequences need to be tied to the action. So, I told Arielle she had to come out of the bath immediately. No soap, no shampoo or conditioner. She lost her bath completely. I explained that I don't share my bathroom with kids who are not responsible enough to use it properly. She knew that what she was doing was wrong. At first she was extremely upset but then she realized she had no recourse as this was not what was expected of her.
I am proud to say that the consequence was clear. I carried through and I think I got the message across.
What would you do? Comments and advice welcome!

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Kids in HD 2

Here is one of my absolute favorite pictures of my kids. Yes, I got them all looking at my fabulous new camera and the shot is sweet and unique.
Who needs professional photo shoots? I'll frame this one!
What do you think?

Thursday, August 9, 2012

"Voicing" My Opinion

This past weekend, I lost my voice. I arrived home from work Wednesday evening with fully functional vocal chords.
Within 10 minutes, my voice was scratchy and barely audible. I knew I was coming down with a cold and it was affecting my throat.
What I didn't know was that I would only be able to whisper for 2 1/2 days and that I would learn several important life lessons from this experience.
LESSON 1: It feels terrible to be part of a conversation or in an environment where you cannot just respond and be heard. Talking in a whisper limits participation in active conversation. When my brain wanted to respond, I was unable to be included. I was able to comprehend a fraction of what it would feel like to be mute (or an Avox for Hunger Games fans). It's torture!
LESSON 2: Without language and tone, we are unable to express ourselves properly. My voice lost its tone completely so it was impossible to express my emotions - I could be sad, angry, annoyed, happy, pleased, etc. but no one could tell. Luckily, I had body language to compensate. This was hard for my kids to read and appreciate such that my son had a total meltdown when I whispered to him that I was late and couldn't help him get dressed in the morning.
That leads me right into LESSON 3: Moms without authoritative voices = unnerved children. Somehow my being sick and unable to help, explain, guide and support really affected their behavior.
LESSON 4: I finally understand toddlers who lack language skills but feel the need to express themselves. I constantly tell my kids there is no reason to hurt and that they should use their words when upset or frustrated. Without my voice, there were times when I was so frustrated that I felt the need to use my hands to express myself. I had to refrain from responding that way, which took a lot of self-control that a young child obviously does not have.
LESSON 5: When I whispered, people around me responded in kind. My children kept a low volume as did coworkers! I kept repeating myself to friends and family: "YOU don't have to whisper, I have to!" This refrain made me realize that using my "indoor" voice would produce a more calm environment in my home. I see the opposite effect in my office all the time. When one person is loud or giddy it spreads throughout the workplace.
LESSON 6: Treasure what you have, even the small things! You don't value your voice until it's missing. Thank G-d every day that our bodies work and that we are able to express ourselves. I am able to show my kids how much I love them with my songs, stories, instructions, and everyday informal lessons. I can share my experiences with others in a fun, humorous way, or describe what I saw on my way to work. I can speak on the phone with my husband, mother, friend, or even my boss. I can show loving-kindness and support with a few words.
LESSON 7: I can use my virtual voice to share these important insights with you.
As always, thank you for listening!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Kids in HD

Jeremy and I are proud to announce we have a new hi-tech digital camera. Our regular mini point and shoot was just not cutting it. The pictures were low quality and features were limited. We don't yet know how to maximize the new one but we are slowly learning. Jeremy works in the photography industry and has many professionals who offer tips and advice. We look forward to many more hi quality pictures. I can't wait to share them with you. In the meantime, here are the latest pictures of our 4 children taken while playing around with the new camera:
Arielle - 6 1/2
Kayla - 5
Tzvi - 3
Siri - 6 months
As you can see, day 1 of the camera was busy, but clearly experimental. I look forward to improving and sharing our pictures with you.
Thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

That's Fishy

Okay. This blog post is totally an excuse to talk about food  (again) and my awesome husband (again).
Jeremy and I have very similar taste. We both like classic yet modern decor. We both drink diet soda and love meat.  Neither of us drink coffee (although he's switching to the dark side) or eat FISH.
Well, we don't eat fishy fish. We both like canned tuna and gefilte fish. We can handle fish sticks if we must. After all, they are fried!
But we have never gone further than those fishes.
With the 9 days approaching (a time when we Jews mourn the loss of our Temple and therefore refrain from several pleasures including wine and meat), we are at a loss for healthy meal options.
We might have to rethink our position on fishy fish.
I've been told that salmon teriyaki is delicious, sushi is a delicacy (we eat veggie sushi), and tuna steaks are delectable.
I'm quite doubtful and I find it difficult to believe!
We both love experimenting with new recipes and ingredients. Should we try fish? Is fish an acquired taste? Where do we begin?

Monday, July 16, 2012

Vacation Vacation

I just returned from a week's vacation. I scheduled a weekend away followed by a two night, three day camping trip with the family. We arrived home on Wednesday and spent the next two days preparing to host the family for Shabbat.
All in all the week was a huge success. Spending time with family - who live both near and far-  is really a pastime to treasure. My kids and their cousins got to play for hours, with almost no bedtime! They really got to know one another well while the adults caught up on life. We talked and talked... then ate and ate. It was all good fun!
Monday through Wednesday we camped out. Literally. We rented a campsite and brought a trailer and tents. The days were filled with campsite preparations, barbeques, swimming, relaxing, hiking, a visit to the local zoo, campfires, and fun.
I have to include that my days were also occupied by my efforts to toilet train my 3 year old son. That was more work than setting up our tent!
When I got home, I spent Thursday and Friday resting and preparing for the family weekend. (The kids were off to camp.) Thankfully that was smooth and the weekend went off without a hitch (trailer pun intended).
Sunday followed with a "BR" from breakfast and the "UNCH" from lunch (as named by the 6 year old) with more relatives.
Driving back home, I had 4 sleeping children in my minivan. I wonder why they were so tired?!?
Miles to go before we sleep. No rest for the weary. We welcomed Grams and Pops for a post-camp-visiting-day drop-in and barbeque. How nice to see them too!
With the busy busy week behind us all, I think we all need a vacation from vacation.
Don't we always?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


I had a real blast at the Nefesh B'Nefesh Tweetup this past Monday night. This was one of the first formal tweetups arranged in the US for the "Jew Crew." Its program was centered on Israel and the diaspora as related to social media and global connectivity.
Each presentation covered a different aspect of the Israel connection and I won't cover the details here in my blog. I will however highlight a few key points that I got out of both the presentations and the informal discussions that took place at the Tweetup.
1. Good PR move, Nefesh B'Nefesh! NBN found a way to target US/diaspora Jews without encouraging Aliyah or moving to Israel directly.
2. Twitter is about people. Jeff Pulver went around the room hugging every man in the room just to prove that the connections we have made online are real relationships that transcend the Internet and our geographical locations. Meeting Laura Ben-David for the first time at this event after tweeting with her for the past few months was as natural as visiting an old friend from high school. I know many others felt the same about meeting their "tweeps." I had this experience with many people that evening; I did not have to introduce myself to new or old friends because we were simply "getting together" after our last chat. There were no awkward silences or conversations about the weather.
3. Twitter is like a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup. Everyone uses twitter differently and there is no "wrong" way. (Promote you blog, business, self, friend, post daily musings and Torah thoughts, meet friends, talk tech, fashion, parenting or Israel... As long as you don't spam me!)
4. I had a nice ladies night out and met new twitter friends, broadening my feed and expanding my network.
Thank you to all the organizers, speakers and participants.
You made this happen. I hope we can do it again soon.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Sweaty Engagement

Tonight I came home from work as usual and planned a low fat dinner for my diet. I purposely chose something quick and easy so we could eat right away and Jeremy could get to evening prayers and I'd go running with a friend when he got back.

We had egg omelets with stir fried veggies. Nice balanced meal, which will leave us both starving in the morning.

But I digress...

When Jeremy got home, I was all ready to go. I met him outside and went for my run. My friend Rebecca and I went for a short run which was about 25 minutes.

Right when I got home -- and I mean right -- I got an email from another friend asking if I was coming to a coworker's engagement party.
OOPS. I had honestly forgotten because I never got a formal invite with location and time. I just knew it was Tuesday night.

Luckily for me, it was local so I told my friend I'd be right over-- after my shower!

20 minutes later I was dressed and on my way.

But boy was I still sweaty! I tried to use some bronzer to reduce the redness but it was impossible.

Thankfully I don't generally care what other people think of me and I went to the party with confidence. My friends who were there knew why I was so red (including the bride) and who cares about everyone else?

For all they know, I spent a week in Florida sans sunscreen.

When I got home I was still overheated and red-faced and I'm still trying to cool down from my run outside and my run to party.

It was such a funny night with random excitement, it just HAD to go on the blog.

Thanks for listening!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Art: Results

Arielle is very artistic. She has always had very advanced fine motor skills.
This year, we decided to sign Arielle up for art lessons. The class consisted of 10 sessions with about 10 girls, ages  6&7. It focused specifically on the foundations of art. They began with charcoal and ended with acrylic paints. At the end of all the sessions, she came home with a "masterpiece."
I told Arielle that we would frame her final product and hang it up in the living room or somewhere prominent in our house. I was secretly nervous that it would not be something special to display.
But I can tell you, after several weeks of work on her acrylic masterpiece, it really turned out amazing! I am really shocked that my six-year-old can produce a work of art like this.
I think she is truly talented. I'm not just saying that because I am her mother. What do you think?

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Girls' room!

Today we moved the baby into her crib. In order to accommodate the move, we switched rooms.
The girls kept complaining that their room was "boyish" with sports wallpaper as an accent (previous occupants had twin boys in that room). The girls were also begging us to let them sleep with their new baby sister. While I was quite unsure about this, I knew that my three year old son was not ready for a roommate.
So today we swapped rooms. Jeremy moved all the furniture-beds, dressers, night stands-and set up the new rooms.
The girls were very excited and adjusted fairly well. Tzvi took his nap nicely in his new room. Bedtime went smoothly too. When it came to the girls' bedtime, however, Kayla had a difficult time adjusting to the new room. Arielle was thrilled when I brought Siri in and set her in the crib. She blew hugs and kisses (yes, my kids blow hugs too by making squeezing sounds), and then stayed quiet until they both fell asleep.
Tonight is the real test. Will Siri's cries wake them up?
When I was little my sisters and I shared one bedroom and my brother always had his own room. I don't remember sharing for long because my sister moved downstairs when she was in high school, and the next one moved down when the first got married. I remember how great it was to get my own room after sharing for so long.
I never thought I would put 3 girls in one room. But this solution seems best until they are older.
The room is no longer "Arielle and Kayla's room." Now it is the GIRLS' ROOM!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Too Excited to Sleep

Sometimes I'm too excited to sleep. There's so much on my mind that I cannot possibly get it to rest. This happens when I have a lot to do or if work is on my mind. I continue thinking and thinking. I presume this happens to you too.
My friend Ayala and I used to joke about not being able to sleep the night before a big trip. Before we departed Israel (when we were in seminary), we packed through the night. When it was finally time to go to sleep, neither of us could fall asleep. I turned to her in the dark quiet room and said, "Stop thinking." She asked me, "How did you know?"
I think it's completely normal to need time to wind down before falling asleep. Our minds are racing and I'm sure there's some kind of psychological term for this. I, of course, do not know what that term is. But I know that this is normal.
Still I was surprised when my 6 1/2-year-old daughter said to me tonight, "Mommy, I'm too excited to sleep." I asked her "Why?" Her answer was, "My new shoes came and I'm very excited."
I thought that was just the most adorable thing in the world. She was anxious because tomorrow she would be able to wear new shoes! Firstly it's so innocent and simple. Secondly, I think it is a mature response-she knows her mind is racing despite the fact that she should be sleeping.
*Now, if only the cause of my inability to sleep was new shoes! Boy, wouldn't that make me happy?*

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


I am now using Instagram for my photos. I think it is kind of fun to add different looks and techniques to the photos. However, I'm not sure how this method preserves the actual picture.
I also see so many different pictures with complex techniques but I'm not sure how people apply them. Do they overlap photos? Do they use more than one? Do they Photoshop pictures separately and then upload to Instagram? I'm still sorting it out for myself.
I'm having fun with it anyway-both on my Droid and my iPad.
I don't quite understand why it is so popular. I guess it's also an easy way to share your photos with one click of a button to all sorts of different social media outlets. That is certainly marketable.
Do you instagram? What do you think?

P.S. follow me there: esteelavitt

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Cape Cod

I took this photo on the coast of Cape Cod. Enjoyed a great vacation with the family :)

Monday, April 2, 2012

Keyboard Fun

I got a new keyboard for my new iPad. This is really a lot of fun to use and makes the iPad a lot more practical in terms of computing power.
I am still getting used to having a touch screen to go along with my keyboard. That will come with time. Each device I own (iPhone, android, iPad, desktop PC) comes with its own set of rules. I find that I sometimes confuse these "rules" (i.e. by trying to use Swype on the iPad).
I am certainly not a techie, but I find that each device has its pros and cons. One of my favorite iPad apps gives me the capability to log in to my desktop remotely. I can work from home without booting up my laptop. I find that the new iPad is also very fast and efficient. Now that I have the keyboard, I can do so much more in terms of working from home.
I still enjoy the android phone I have and wish there was T9/Swype on the iPad. It is certainly one of the fastest methods of typing. Both devices have great voice recognition but I find that I communicate better when I type rather than speak. I guess I have more time to think things through when typing.
I am not posting this to make anyone jealous, but if I've piqued your interest in any of these items, it's probably because you are jealous!
Can't wait to enjoy my vacation with my new toy. Hoping I can get my work done quickly so that I can play.
Tata for now from the iPad :)

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Back to Work Thurdsay

Today, Wednesday, is my last day of maternity leave.
I chose to go back to work on a Thursday. If you ask WHY, you are one of many to wonder why I would choose to go back at the end of the week rather than wait until the following Monday.You might also be curious why I would go back to work so soon (6 weeks!).
My job gives me only 6 weeks of paid disability/maternity leave, however in NY state, disability pay is 1/3 of your salary, but it caps out at $170 maximum (before taxes?). As such, over the past 6 weeks, I "came home" with a whopping $800, which must cover our regular expenses plus the new addition. And believe me, SHE is precious and costly!
In addition, being home means spending a lot more money because I am able to accomplish more than I usually can. Cooking, cleaning, organizing, and shopping are all expensive habits. I have bought food, clothes, supplies, gifts, kitchen gadgets, games, and more! Thank G-d for credit cards!
Do you still want to know why I must get back to work so soon?!?
The real reason is that our big fund raising dinner is June 5, and I am behind in getting started. The design work is in progress but there is a ton of work needed to complete before we can begin the campaign. I usually begin Feb 1, and I am starting March 1 instead. My 6 weeks of recovery, vacationing, shopping, nursing, relaxing, reading, cooking, baking, and pampering is O.V.E.R.
And so, I return to work on March 1. Does it matter that it is a Thursday?
I am thrilled to have the weekend right away so that I can adjust to the intense schedule and brain power required to do my job well. I will also have a slight break when Purim comes around the following Thursday.
p.s.- Today is Feb 29! My blog is now complete.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

What's in a Name: Naming After Grandma

I mentioned in the previous post that I would eventually post my feelings about naming my own daughter after my beloved grandmother, Hilda. Grandma's Hebrew name was Chaya Sarah, so my daughter now bears her name. I hope that she will be as amazing as her namesake. Click here to see what my grandmother was all about. Though Grandma lived a difficult life- losing her father at a young age, loving a husband who was sent to fight in World War II, fertility struggles, losing her brother and then most of her friends at an older age- she was the strongest woman I know. She was smart, funny, caring, very honest, kept her sense of self-worth and style, and made sure to always keep a happy face on even when things were not going her way. She always knew when to give advice, and when it was best to withhold it.
I wish that my daughter, Chaya Sarah, will have all these amazing character traits as well.
Being a mom is hard work. Instilling good perspective, optimism, and positive self esteem is even harder.  If I can teach my daughter even a quarter of what her great-grandmother lived each day, I will have succeeded.  As I write this, I am reminded of the great loss we all felt when Grandma passed away. I wish she got to know Chaya Sarah, and wish I did not have to name my baby after her at all.  I know Grandma would be proud of Siri and that she would bring her so much joy, just as the other 3 kids did.  I kiss my little girl and pray that she carry on Grandma's legacy.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Birth: The Not So Gory Story

I have been asked to post details of the birth of my daughter Chaya Sarah, aka Siri. Labor stories are usually full of details that are a bit too gory for my liking. So here you get the abridged version without any gross details.
I first went into labor on Sunday afternoon, January 15th around 3 PM. I was waiting for this for a long time-- I was five days late. Previously I had always delivered exactly on time so you can imagine that the five days felt like forever.
I slept through the night hoping that when I woke up, it would be time to go to the hospital. My doctor had already scheduled an induction for me, but I really do not want to be induced. Instead I insisted that I was really in labor and I would go straight to the hospital. When I called the office, they told me that I should just come in and see the doctor. For some reason, they were totally backed up and it took three hours to finish my appointment. When they finally finished, they told me to go straight to the hospital because I would need a "sniff of pitocin" to encourage this baby to come out!
To make a long story short, I finally got my Pitocin at around 3:30 PM, but it seems there was a drip in the tubing. The nurse kept changing my gown rather than checking why it was getting wet. Needless to say, the Pitocin was not really helping. It was probably because I was not getting the correct amount (or any at all!). When 7:30 rolled around and the nurses finally changed shifts, the new nurse was willing to look at the tubing and she determined that it was in fact dripping.
The doctor was wondering why my labor was not progressing. Now we had the answer!
My sister had predicted that I would go into labor on Monday, and that the delivery would be in the middle of the night- early Tuesday morning.
I felt like she gave us a curse! We went into labor and delivery at two o'clock!
In the end, with a little bit of coaxing and pushing, our baby girl was born on Monday night, January 16th, Martin Luther King Day at 11:29 PM.
For the first few days of her life we called her Martina Luthera, in honor of the great MLK. Then, on Thursday, we named her Chaya Sarah, aka Siri, after my beloved grandmother Hilda (I am hoping to post soon about my feelings of naming my daughter after my grandmother).
Thank you to everyone for all the good wishes. We are super happy to have Siri in our lives!

Come again!