Monday, January 31, 2011

Meal planning check in: week ending 2/5

This week is a bit tough because right now my kids + husband are sick, so I need to think of sick-friendly foods.  Obviously, chicken soup is at the top of the list.  I'm planning on making butternut squash soup tonight because I picked up a butternut squash at the market, and I also need to get some tofu and maybe try the noodles + tofu with peanut sauce left in the comments from the earlier meal planning post.  In general, I want to take inventory of my pantry/freezer and try to use up what we have.

Easier said than done?  I hope not.

Please drop me a note in the comment box with your favorite food to eat while you're sick.  Help me feed my family!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Welcome Jewish Herald-Voice readers!

Welcome to all readers who come here via the Jewish Herald-Voice!!  I am honored to be one of the featured bloggers on the paper's website so I hope you enjoy what you read here.

I have to admit - I look forward to reading the paper each week.  It's my Friday night post-clean up, post-kids are in bed activity.  I've read this paper since I was a kid growing up here...when I travel I pick up the local Jewish paper and while they are good, I have yet to see one that is as comprehensive as the JH-V is (outside of New York).

So, please add your comments to any of my posts and you can always drop me a line at HoustonIma AT rocketmail DOT com.  You can also follow me on Twitter via the button on the left.

Shabbat shalom!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

We will never forget

Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day, held on the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp, January 27, 1945.

We will never forget.

72 members of my mother's family were killed in the Holocaust.

I'll never forget.

My mom used to walk to school on roads made with Jewish tombstones.

We'll never forget.

My grandmother and my aunt, as an infant, fled their town in a train when the Nazis advanced to where they lived, a bomb dropped on the train, and my grandmother and aunt escaped and managed to survive in the forest.  By themselves, because my grandfather was in the front as a combat medic.

My children will never forget.

My father and family evacuated from Moscow during the war.

We will never forget.

We will never forget, but we will move on and we will be stronger.  Check out photos here and click here for more information about today.

Today's theme song - The Partisan Song (in Yiddish w/ English translation):
Zog nit keyn mol az du geyst dem letsten veg,
Khotsh himlen blayene farsthtelen bloye teg.
[Never say you are walking your final road,
Though leaden skies conceal the days of blue.]
Kumen vet nokh undzer oysgebenkte sha'ah,
S'vet a poyk ton undzer trot mir zaynen do!
[The hour that we have longed for will appear,
Our steps will beat out like drums: We are here!]
Fun grinem palmenland biz vaysen land fun shney,
Mir kumen on mit undzer payn, mit undzer vey.
[From the green lands of palm trees to lands white with snow,
We are coming with our all pain and all our woe.]
Un vu gefalen s'iz a shpritz fun undzer blut,
Shprotzen vet dort undzer gevurah, undzer mut.
[Wherever a spurt of our blood has fallen to the ground,
There our might and our courage will sprout again.]
S'vet di morgenzum bagilden undz dem haynt,
Un der nekhten vet farshvinden miten faynd.
[The morning sun will shine on us one day,
Our enemy will vanish and fade away.]
Nor oyb farzamen vet di zun in dem kayor,
Vi a parol zol geyn dos lid fun dor tsu dor.
[But if the sun and dawn come too late for us,
From generation to generation let them be singing this song.]
Dos lid geshriben iz mit blut un nit mit blay,
S'iz nit keyn lidel fun a foygel oyf der fray,
[This song is written in blood not in pencil-lead.
It is not sung by the free-flying birds overhead,]
Dos hot a folk tsvishen falendike vent,
Dos lid gezungen mit naganes in di hent!
[But a people stood among collapsing walls,
And sang this song with pistols in their hands!]

List of Stupid Money Spent

Check out this list from a fellow Houston blogger; it's a rather unique list.

I cannot compile such a list for myself, mostly because it will be painful and traumatic and much longer.

Food waste should definitely be included in this list.  There are so many times I buy food with plans of using ingredients in a specific recipe, only to not make said recipe, and then the food is wasted, and so goes my money.  Shabbat leftovers are a big part of that - making so much food and then wasting it if it doesn't reheat well, or loses its luster after Shabbat.  I am definitely trying to do better in the food waste area, so hopefully this food waste proportion will go down over time...

Clothing is also an issue for me.  I intensely dislike trying on clothes in a store, so I tend to make my purchase with the plan of returning the item if it doesn't work out.  Get this - apparently some stores DO have a return policy where they only accept returns within a specific time period!  Or, even better: Loehmann's near my house closed, so now for sure I will never be able to return a skirt I purchased there (um, I have a brand new knee-length black skirt, if anyone's interested...)

Then there are various late fees, penalties to pay (hello Massachusetts - why do I need to pay a penalty on tax I didn't know I owe until April 15?), and so on.

But like I said, it's painful to think about.  All those donations - I call them donations to make myself feel better - when I really couldn't afford them, but I had 100% control over preventing them.

What would be included on your list of stupid money spent, and what are you going to do differently this year?  Add your comment in the comment box.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Meal planning check-in: week ending 1/29

I suppose since I started the conversation about meal planning, I should update you on my progress.

Remember, this was my first week, so be forgiving.

This week I planned on making:
super salmon veggie patties (really, they ARE super)
shepherd's pie with leftover Shabbat chicken (frugal, right??)

I think that's as far as I got.

So far I made:
hamburgers (husband had a craving)
chili (made by husband with leftover hamburgers while I was Zumba-ing)
mushroom barley soup (made with leftover cooked barley from Shabbat)

So....can't say that I stuck to the meal plan...but I can say that all of the meals were possible because we had the ingredients on hand...

Now on Twitter!

Houston Ima is now on Twitter and is open to followers!  Catch up with all of Houston Ima's latest news and views at @HoustonIma2.  (Yes, apparently @HoustonIma was already was ImaHouston...sad, I know...)  You can also catch Houston Ima on Twitter via the widget on the left-hand side of this page - click on the Twitter link to take you directly to my profile.

Looking forward to interacting with you in 140 characters or less!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

My secret confession

Ok it's time to come clean.  I've been Zumba-ing on the sly here.  Let me tell you, it's like a whole other person is out there doing this Zumba thing.  You wouldn't recognize me (and this time around, I'm not wearing hot pink pants).

You probably wouldn't recognize me as I helplessly flail my arms around, trying to follow the instructor.  You probably won't recognize me as I try to keep the rhythm with my feet, discovering that it's so easy to trip over my own foot, and look at that, apparently my left leg refuses to lift as frequently as the instructor's leg lifts.  Thank goodness no one recognizes me in the class, actually.

I am a professional working mom by day, Zumba impersonator by night (on Tuesdays and Thursdays).

The really neat thing about Zumba is that you can make it as challenging as you want it to be.  You can move fast or slow, and actually all of the movements are fairly optional, leaving you to work out at a comfortable pace, or you can challenge yourself with increased difficulty.  It's an egalitarian workout that doesn't punish you at the end, but makes you smile as you realize that everyone is having fun and no one cares how anyone else looks.

No doubt, the next time I attend a wedding, there will be some Zumba moves to be had...

(just kidding)

Get ready to laugh

I just stumbled onto this site and I can tell that I'm going to spend more time on it soon than I really should.  It's hilarious, people (and there's a shout out to Emery/Weiner in this post).  Even though it's geared for the younger crowd (am I really that old?), it's still quite funny.

Listen, if we can't laugh at ourselves, then what can we laugh at?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

In search of: tofu recipes!

I've recently begun to cook tofu (I know, where have I been all this time...), which is funny because I never particularly cared for it except in miso soup (which I absolutely love) but otherwise, it never had any appeal to me.  Recently I've re-energized my cooking with more healthy fare (not that we were unhealthy before, but there's always room for improvement) and tofu definitely fits the bill.  We usually eat more dairy/parve foods during the week, and tofu seemed like the "new frontier" for me.

Which leads me to my request:  can you please share with me your favorite tofu recipe in the comments box?  I need some inspiration!!

To help us get into the mood, Nasoya tofu has a promotional campaign going on where if you sign up with this promotion, they'll send you a coupon a week for tofu products.  Great, right?  Click here to sign up for this promotion.

Thanks all!  I look forward to getting some yummy recipes!!

Another "get out of the kitchen and do a mitzvah" opportunity

Saba's is at it again - today (January 23) only - mention Torah Day School when you make your order and Saba's will donate 15% to the school.  Treat yourself to yummy dairy food at Saba's and do a mitzvah effortlessly!


Thursday, January 20, 2011

Happy Tu B'Shevat everyone!

Happy birthday to the trees!

Houston is fortunately a rather green city and most trees retain most of their green color through the Houston winter.  Take some time today and thank your local tree for:
  • providing a home for birds and small animals
  • providing shade when you feel the heat
  • providing us with beauty to look at
  • shielding us from extreme weather
  • improving our air quality
  • giving us something to talk about with our kids outside
  • providing us with oxygen - VERY important :-)
  • and more you can read about here and here 
Tu B'Shevat is also a wonderful opportunity to think of the Land of Israel and the ecology we find there.  The famous "seven species" that are directly associated with Israel are remembered today and featured in lots of yummy recipes.  Re-ignite your environmentalism and think about you can do to leave the Earth in a better position.  Go outside with the kids and talk about the textures you see and feel, the sounds you hear, the animals and bugs you see.  Read Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree and think about what we can learn from trees, the silent givers.

Enjoy the day!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Meal planning

As part of trying to eat healthier and stay within our budget, I'm thinking about doing more meal-planning, meaning, that I'll be thoughtful of our family meals each week by planning them out ahead of time and shopping accordingly.

Benefits:  Having a stocked pantry/fridge/freezer ahead of time with all of the ingredients that I need, avoiding the 4 pm thought of "What are we going to eat for dinner tonight?" followed by a mad dash to the grocery store on the way home, healthy meals all planned out.

Cons:  There aren't any cons really, other than taking up some time to actually do the meal planning.

I have friends who do this religiously.  I like being organized, so doesn't this make sense?

I've tried to do something like this in the past, and actually I tried to have regular theme nights so that I can focus my meal planning on a specific theme rather than come up with a menu from the giant universe of food.  In fact, using theme nights is an idea shared by The Food Nanny.  And guess what?  The Food Nanny has free templates to use for food planning!  I can use those!

I think the key here is discipline.  I already do have a well-stocked pantry, so I know I have the basics.  All I need is the discipline to actually sit down and think about what my family should eat this week.  Suggested theme nights are Asian/Indian, Mexican/Latin, slow-cooker, fish, pasta/Italian, grill night, soup/sandwich night, dairy night (think quiches and frittatas), and more.

So many bloggers are documenting their real-live menus, so there is a lot of material out there for inspiration, like here and here and here.  Will you join me as I try to menu-plan?

Do you plan out your menus?  Do you have suggested dinner ideas?  Leave a comment with your suggestions!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Grab some pizza and do a mitzvah!!

Get out of the kitchen and let Saba's Pizza make your dinner tonight - AND help Robert M. Beren Academy's 8th grade class raise money for their trip to DC!

Saba's Pizza will donate 15% of your purchase towards the goal when you mention BEREN - so everyone's a winner!

What an excellent deal and an easy way to give some tzedakah!!  Enjoy!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Go shopping this Sunday!

Calling all ladies -

When you're not busy taking the kids to the Tu B'Shvat events I mention in my previous post, why don't you treat yourself to something new at the Women's Boutique to be held at the Young Israel synagogue (7823 Ludington Drive) in the Fondren Southwest area from 10 am - 4 pmSaba's Pizza and My Pita will be there selling food, and there will be almost a dozen and a half (!) vendors offering excellent children's toys, modest clothing, beauty services, and art.  Here's the info below (click on the image for a larger view):

And - there are coupons!  Check them out here:
If you go, drop me a note in the comments and share what deals you picked up!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Two free Tu B'Shevat events in Houston on Sunday

In the spirit of community news, there will be two neat events taking place this Sunday in honor of the upcoming Tu B'Shevat holiday.

The first one will take place at Meyerland Minyan, a pretty fun little synagogue in a strip mall, of all places on Sunday at 11:30 am (I know the image below is a bit fuzzy).
If you'd like to attend, please RSVP to jkik AT meyerlandminyan DOT org.

The second event will be held at the Jewish Community Center and led by a puppeteer who performed at a birthday party I recently attended and my daughter and I really enjoyed her.

Enjoy!  If you go to either of these events, I'd love to hear your comments!

The 10th of Shevat - Remembering the Rebbe

Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the leader of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, assumed leadership a year on this date after his father-in-law, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneerson, the previous leader of the movement, passed away on this date.

I just received an email about this occasion, which Chabadniks celebrate worldwide, and I want to share its message with you.

All Jews in our generation, and in recent memory, have been affected by the Rebbe, even if you don't realize it.  The entire concept of Jewish outreach was developed by this individual.  Think about it:  you could go on quietly living your life, going to synagogue, doing your rituals, keeping kosher, doing everything routinely - OR - you can do something to INCREASE the growth of Judaism.

Think about it:  Judaism is an incredibly rich culture and heritage that, even if you just skim the surface, has something for everyone.  The simple beauty of the Rebbe did was to find that spark within each person and connect it to Judaism.  Interested in healthy living?  Judaism has something to say about that.  Interested in moral justice?  Judaism has something to say about that.  Interested in growing your business?  Judaism has something to say about that.

The Rebbe realized that Judaism will not grow if people keep Judaism to themselves, living their quiet lives.  Judaism will ONLY grow if we DIRECTLY engage with it, debate and discuss it, and ultimately, learn from it and apply it to our lives.

That's why the Chabad style of outreach has been so successful:  they follow the mantra I learned in my MBA program - what's in it for me?  Once this question is answered, walls are broken down.

This was a huge upheaval 60 years ago, when the Rebbe assumed leadership.

So, now fast-forward 60 years - we have young adult programs, eco-Judaism programs, Tot Shabbat programs, Jewish cooking and crafting programs, business ethics learning, medical ethics learning, daily learning, weekly learning, on-the-phone learning, webcasts, podcasts, and on and on and on, and not just coming from the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, but many many outreach organizations, Federations, and community-based organizations throughout the world breathing new life into Judaism, making the ancient relevent again.

And all thanks to a simple idea driven by one man, who never tired of the challenge.

Click here to watch a most inspirational video about the Rebbe's drive.

"...[w]e must never be satisfied with what [w]e achieved yesterday..." - Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Farewell, dear Debbie Friedman

Sad news to share tonight.  Debbie Friedman, Jewish singer-composer extraordinaire, passed away today in Orange County.

May God comfort you among the other mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.
Ha-Makom y'nachem et'chem b'toch sha'ar aveilei Tzion v'Yerushalayim.

Anyone who ever attended JCC summer camp or any Reform/Conservative service for anything will have come across a Debbie Friedman composition.  She had a wonderful way of writing music to Jewish writings that really elevated the spirituality of the prayer, with a definite hook that made the song catchy.  (Now cue the "Hamotzi" blessing we all used to say at lunchtime at camp.)  (As an example, check out the Latke Song video here.)

No, her target audience wasn't the Orthodox stream - but that's ok.  She made Jewish prayer and spirituality accesible to all and reminded us what a little bit of creativity can do to jazz things up a bit.

You can read more about Debbie Friedman and her passing here.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

A coupon for...gefilte fish?

Truly, I wouldn't have believed this if I didn't see it with my own eyes.

A&B Famous Gefilte Fish has a $1 off coupon that you can request through their site.  You can also request a free brochure with recipes.


Get it while it'

Thanks Kosher on a Budget!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Awesome first new blog find of 2011!! Introducing...

KosherEye !!!

Holy cannoli - what a terrific site!!  My husband stumbled upon this site this evening and guess what - it has coupons for some kosher food products!!  Yes, such a thing exists!!

There are recipes, guest chefs, kitchen tips and hints, updates on kosher-related news, meal planning help - everything!

Anyway - this site is a treasure trove of all things kosher, and it's updated regularly, so I suggest you subscribe to it to be most informed.  I can already tell that I am going to be perusing this site regularly...

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Another year, another new start

Hello January 2011!

Many observant Jews don't really "celebrate" the coming of the new calendar year, because hey, we've got 4 of our own.  (4 you say?  Really?  Yes, really.  Read more about that here.)  For me, the new calendar year always brings with it a freshness, a feeling of renewal, similar to one I feel the morning after Rosh Hashana (and after Yom Kippur, and the day after my birthday...), so I actually welcome the new year and always do something to mark the occasion.

While it's true that we should live each day like it's our last, and to take advantage of the new opportunities that each day brings us, it's really hard to make that practical.  Because each day, when it's Monday June 17th or Thursday April 4th or Tuesday January 23rd, I've got bills to pay, lunches to pack, laundry to do, a car to get inspected, a project deadline looming, and a present I need to buy for someone who just had a baby/birthday/wedding, oh, and we just ran out of milk/bread/eggs/cereal all at the same time (magically, this happens more often than it should in my house).  You know, there's stuff to do, I'm busy, and I don't really have time to reflect on living fully each day.  But new years come around, and that's my landmark to wake up, look around, and re-assess my life.  So I take advantage of the new calendar year, excited that I have NO IDEA what lies ahead of me in the coming year (a new baby?  a new car?  a trip to Israel?  a new job opportunity?  a new laundry hamper for the bedroom?) but confident that, regardless, I have the resources and the support to face my challenges (although a new laundry hamper would be a welcome addition and not a challenge.  Just to be clear).

It's an exciting time and it's so full of possibilities!  Grab every opportunity you can to be grateful for what you have, set new goals for yourself, commit to learning something new, try harder, eat more fruits and veggies, and while this list sounds like another one of those "pie-in-the-sky" resolution lists that everyone makes this time of year, make it REAL.  Set concrete goals, like try one new soup recipe.  Try one new class.  Read more Jewish articles online.  Do one more thing on your path towards greater observance/learning.  Do something crazy like crocheting or cooking or gardening.  Make your challenges fun.

And to that - l'chaim and wishing all you only the very best in 2011!!