Friday, February 25, 2011

Israel at the Rodeo?!?!?

Unless you are a recent transplant to Houston (as in, maybe you got here yesterday), you know that the Rodeo (with a capital R, because there really is only one) is the biggest event of the year.  It's not really just an event - it's an entire parallel universe.

So, given that, OF COURSE Israel has something to do with the Rodeo this year.  Don't believe me?  Check this out:

HKA Kosher Survey

Did you know that Houston is home to its very own kosher supervising agency?  The Houston Kashruth Association is a neat organization that supervises local bakeries and eateries as well as factories that produce a lot of what we see on the grocery store shelves. 

With the recent explosion (hey, when 2 kosher restaurants open in the same month, that's an explosion) of kosher eateries, "going kosher" has gotten more attention.

With that in mind, HKA has launched a survey to assess the kosher needs in town.  If you haven't taken the survey yet, please do so here.  Hey - you may even win a prize!!

(I would be remiss if I didn't mention the OTHER local kosher supervising agency organized by Chabad - the Mehadrin Kashrus of Texas - with its nifty logo!  We are so lucky to have two!!)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

What are you grateful for this week?

Anyone who joins us at our Shabbat table is expected to answer that question, weekly.

Such a simple question: What are you grateful for this week?

But it makes you stop.  And think.  And through the process of articulating that for which you are grateful, it makes that gratitude real and more alive than just thinking about it and letting it just happen.

It all started like this:  When I lived in St. Louis, I was virtually adopted by the most amazing community I had experienced, and there was a particular family who often hosted me for Shabbat lunch and dinner.  Shabbat dinner at their house was a huge affair, typically with over 20 people.  And in between the soup and main courses, we would go around the table and state what we are grateful for each week.  And after each person spoke, we'd make a l'chaim.

With so many people around the table, this could take up to 30 minutes, if not more.

But no one was rushed, no one minced words, and occasionally there were tears (of gratitude) and laughter.  Now granted, not everyone was grateful for something as profound as world peace or things like that...usually people were grateful for their jobs, a roof over their head, money to pay the bills that week, a medical procedure that went well, a test in school that was aced, a successful work project, or just hitting all green lights on the way to work that day.

That was the whole beauty of it - there are so many things to be grateful for each day - do we take the time to think about all of those little bits that add up to a pretty good day?

Many people save their declarations of gratitude for Thanksgiving.  But I was so moved by this family custom that I adopted it as my own*, and now this is just what we do.  Shabbat is the perfect time to stop - think - and say thanks.

For all of the little miracles, and big ones, and everything in between.

*This family is very aware that we have adopted their custom and we always give them credit at our table.  And in a weird twist of fate, their son lived in Houston for a year for his residency so we got to see the father again.  Small world...

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Parsha Parenting - Ki Tisa - calling all women!

How did I miss this?

Even though this Parsha Parenting post is for last week's parsha, Ki Tisa, it's still timeless and a lesson worthy to remember.

Women and mothers - a toast to all of you and here's to continuing to bring the light to the world and our homes and our children throughout the ages...

Didn't attend the concert...

I am so embarrased about this, especially since I wrote about it here, but I didn't make it to the Maccabeats concert on Sunday.

I'm sorry.

I had planned on it 100%.  But then the kids and I and my mom went to Galveston Sunday morning and had such a wonderful time that we came home only 45 minutes before the group was slated to perform, and there was just no way I could make it in time.

The kids really did have an awesome time at the beach.

Now I'm paying the price (hello sunburn in February!) but I am sure that it was a terrific concert and if you attended and would like to share your thoughts about it, please do so that I can live vicariously through you...

Week ending 2/26: meal plan

Dude, it's late and I'm tired, but here's what I thought of for a meal plan this week:
Tonight - Broccoli cheese crustless quiche - had some fresh broccoli in the fridge (sale last week!) so whipped that up with some mozzarella and feta cheese - yum!
Sometime this week - I want to make homemade black bean burgers (and maybe I'll try homemade buns??), and I also have homemade pizza dough in the freezer that is always begging to be made into pizza (and I have caramelized onions in the fridge ready to go, so why not?), plus we have some frozen tuna I think we'll be ok this week.

I'm trying to narrow down the list of top family recipes so that I have a set list to choose from - but there are so many!  This is such a hard project, I can't even get started!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Supermom's super-chic and super-cheap bedroom decor

A friend of mine recently added some decor to her bedroom and today we are featuring her guest post.

Thanks to this post over at Rose Knows Coupons, my bedroom recently received a makeover.  It only took a quick trip to Michael's to pick out 9 scrapbook frames measuring 12x12, 9 pieces of scrapbook paper in coordinating colors, and a very patient husband who spent part of Sunday afternoon carefully measuring and re-measuring to hang the frames exactly in order.  It also helped that the frames were only $3.74 each as they were marked down, and I had a coupon from the Sunday insert.  We have had an empty wall for 5 years now, so this was a very exciting project!  The scrapbook paper can be replaced when we no longer want a green, brown, and blue color scheme.

Check it out:

Friday, February 18, 2011

Today is Purim Katan!

T-minus one month until Purim!!

We get to have Purim Katan this year because it's a leap year, so the "real" Purim will be on March 20th this year.  But Purim Katan is special too!  Check these out to read more about it:

Make it a joyous day, ya'll !!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Best Places in Houston: Kosher Pizza Places

Well of course they are two of Houston's Best's just that no one else knows that...

Check out the Best Places in Houston blog and today there is a post about Saba's and Aroma Pizza Cafe.  I actually love both pizzas and all the other food and I wish both of them hatzlacha (good fortune) in their endeavors.  I love having options when it comes to dairy meals.

So - check out the website and post a comment in support of these two restaurants!!  Thanks to Best Places in Houston for recognizing these two!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Maccabeats in Houston this Sunday Feb. 20th

Moms - you may want to come out on Sunday to the Maccabeats concert and tell your daughters, "Yes, I'll be happy if you come home with a guy like that."

If you are still singing the "Candlelight" song (like me) - even when the real song comes on the radio! - then you do NOT want to miss out on the Maccabeats in concert, LIVE at Houston's Yom Limmud.

Oh yeah, you can also attend Yom Limmud and learn a thing or two.

Yom Limmud is Houston's all-day Jewish learning extravaganza with top-notch speakers and 2 concerts this year.  This year it'll be at Emanu El and you can also order a lunch there and I think there will be childcare.  Check out the flyer for the event here.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Menu plan week ending 2/19

Another Monday, another menu plan.  Or not much of one.  I still can't do it, folks.  Tips???

Here's what I had planned:
Last night - homemade pizza (planned and done - it was tasty!)
Tonight - I planned on making chicken stir fry with leftover Shabbat chicken, so I went ahead and made brown rice this evening.  However, my husband came home late tonight and my kids finished up the chicken soup, so chicken is shredded and brown rice is made for another night, I guess.
Tomorrow night - I was thinking of making this crock-pot "Mexican Lasagna" (dairy) from Family Circle magazine, so maybe I'll make that.  But I have all this leftover chicken to use up...

Beyond that?  I don't know.  It'll have to depend on how tomorrow night goes!

Please share any tips you have to plan menus in advance!!

Follow up to my 12:25 am Thursday night post

As you may recall, I posted at 12:25 am on Thursday night while I waited for a kugel to finish baking, on my mission to get as much done as possible before Friday, inspired by this blog here.  I went to bed sometime around 1 am, not a late hour for me (sadly enough).

What did I have left to do on Friday?  I planned on baking dessert, making a veggie (something with green beans), and I think that was it.  Shabbat lunch was basically leftovers (+ a fresh chicken dish) so that made it easy.

Friday afternoon I found my green bean recipe - super easy (and amazing - I've never seen green beans consumed that fast).

For dessert I planned on chocolate walnut torte, but since my guests included a tree-nut allergy, that became a chocolate torte.  When I came home, I discovered that I ran out of eggs and flour, so there went the torte.  I spent about 10 minutes wondering what to make for dessert.  Finally - thank you, Susie! - I pulled out my Short on Time cookbook (um, because I was) and found the baby apple tart recipe.  Perfect!  I had everything I need.  And then - I decided to change the recipe half-way through the process (recipe to follow).

Anyway - long story short - I had EVERYTHING ready for Shabbat EARLY, and since the children were playing nicely by themselves, I did the unthinkable:  I pulled out a book and actually read about the parsha for about 7 minutes.

Wow, can you imagine?

I felt awesome.  I really did.  And when everyone came over and so generously offered to help, I sincerely meant it when I said, "Thanks - but I'm good, everything is done."

Here's my super-easy last-minute dessert:

Almost-Strudel (hey - I just made that up!)

* 1 puff pastry, thawed and at room temperature
* 1 apple, diced (I sliced it and I know that dicing it will be easier)
* 1 jar of jam, like cranberry or apricot or something that complements apples (I used our homemade apple cranberry jam)
* a bit of margarine + a bit of brown sugar + cinnamon - all melted together in a pan

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
1.  Unwrap the puff pastry so it's a square.
2.  Slather your jam on top of the dough.  Use as much as you like!  (I used almost 8 ounces)
3.  Evenly distribute the apple pieces all over the jam.
4.  Add the brown sugar mixture on top of the apples.  The mixture won't cover all of the apples - that's ok.
5.  Fold one third over the middle section, and fold the other third over the middle section, and transfer to a baking pan (I lined mine with aluminum foil), seam side down.
6.  Bake for about 30 minutes, until brown and golden.  Some of the filling may leak out.
7.  Before you serve, warm it up a bit.  Slice and graciously accept compliments.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Supermom came to my house yesterday

I wasn't planning on it, but Supermom came to my house yesterday.

Turns out we're very good friends and while I always suspected that's she's a Supermom, it wasn't confirmed until yesterday.

Yesterday we were in the middle of enjoying a very nice seudat shlisheet (Sabbath third meal) at our house, with good table conversation flowing punctuated by reminders to the kids to be careful.  My Supermom friend fished out a pickle (gherkin-size) from the glass pickle jar, in the process stabbing it with the (not sharp) knife.  A couple of minutes afterwards, we all simultaneously noticed that the pickle jar was leaking water onto the table.  Not a common occurrence at the table, there was a brief moment of interest followed by mayhem, trying to figure out how to stem the water leakage and also figure out HOW it was leaking if the jar was sitting on the table, seemingly whole-looking.  Needless to say, my husband and I basically did nothing (for some reason, I threw a tortilla under it thinking the tortilla would absorb the water - not a good idea) while my friend's husband (thank goodness he's an engineer) smartly grabbed a kitchen towel and cleaned up the whole mess.  We threw away the pickle jar and all the pickles.  For the next 15 minutes, we marveled at my friend's Supermom ability to break the glass jar with a butter knife without actually breaking the jar, and it continues to be a mystery.

It was funny.  So - be careful when fishing items out of glass jars...

Friday, February 11, 2011

Check out the Blog Hop!

If you're looking for some fresh new blogs to peruse this weekend, check out the all-new Blog Hop page.  New links are added as soon as new blogs link to it, so check back often to see if a new blog pops up.  A variety of topics is represented so hopefully you'll find something that piques your fancy!

Happy reading!

It's 12:25 am and I can't remember the last time I felt this productive

Chatzos Challenge - BRING IT!

(this post is for you)

A friend of mine recently started a blog detailing her adventures in making Shabbat early enough to meet the chatzos (mid-day Friday) deadline - a concept I've never heard of until she brought it up.  Sure - it's always wonderful to prepare Shabbat early enough so that you're not racing around counting down the seconds until the 18 minute window before candlelighting is up (I may speak from experience) - but I did not know that such a custom exists.

It's as though the Torah is teaching us organizational skills...

Anyway, you can read more about the concept on her blog.  For me, getting anything done before Friday afternoon is icing on the cake because I work out of the house full-time, and I don't cook in advance and stock up my freezer (although I may do that in the future).  So tonight - I don't know what got ahold of me.  Here is a run-down of what I've done so far:
* Floormated (thanks Hoover!) the living room floor
* baked challah
* made Shabbat lunch chicken
* made 2 different kugels (one noodle, one veg)
* prepped and marinated Friday night chicken (hubby will cook in the morning)
* polished candlesticks and kiddush cup
* laid tablecloth on table (the kids like to help me set the table for Shabbat and I love doing it with them, so that's our activity for tomorrow afternoon)
* cleaned the kitchen
* 1 load of laundry, start to finish

So - why am I still awake?  Because my throat is dry and I wanted some warm apple cider before I go to bed.  Also, kugel #2 is still in the oven so I am waiting for that.

There's no way I'm expecting such activity on a routine basis.  Certainly I don't want my Thursday nights to be all about the kitchen.  But it definitely is nice to know that certain things are already done.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

An egg co-op in Houston?

Why yes - of course!  Um - what is an egg co-op?

(it's ok, I've never heard of one either)

My understanding is that an egg co-op is similar to participating in a co-op for fruits and veggies.  The benefit is that you know where your eggs come from, and you know about the chickens who worked so hard to lay those eggs for you.  You get to support a local farm and also improve the health and well-being of your egg-eating family. 

The way it works is that you buy a "share" for the specified length of the program.  Your share will be a certain number of eggs each week delivered straight from this farm.  You can also buy half-shares.  The co-op needs a minimum number of shares in order to commence, so time is of the essence.

Here at our local Jewish Community Center, a program is underway to begin an egg co-op to purchase farm fresh eggs.  Now, everyone touts farm fresh eggs, but really, these are straight from the farm.  As in, this farm.  Right outside of town.  Not hundreds of miles away.  I believe this is a fairly innovative program along with the CSA (community supported agriculture) fruit/veggie program our JCC operates.  Not too many JCCs have such programs, so we are very lucky.

Judaism, of course, supports and advocates for humane and ethical treatment of animals.  After all, how can we nourish ourselves if we don't take care of the beings who nourish us?

If you would like more information about this program, contact the egg co-op administrator at the JCC at jhandy [AT] jcchouston [DOT] org.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Meal planning check-in: Week ending 2/12

Well, here we go again.  What shall I make for dinner this week?
I finished the chicken soup from shabbat, and I feel like there is so much leftover food in the fridge from this weekend that needs to be creatively re-invented, so I feel like it's only right to use up that food before making fresh food...
I also want to make the pasta-tofu dish that was suggested in the comments here.  I think homemade pizza is in the plans for this week.  Maybe something with fish wraps?  We used to eat a lot of those when we were in grad school...

Maybe what I need to do is to make a list of my family's favorite recipes, and work from there?  Then I don't have to start from scratch every single week?

What are your family's favorite weeknight recipes?  Share in the comments box!

*HOT!* Free Matisyahu song download

If you're a fan of Matisyahu, you can download the song "Darkness into Light" for FREE for a limited time from the Amazon MP3 store.  Check it out here!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Calling all Supermoms - time to take a break

Tonight I met up with a dear friend of mine (more on that in another post) and we chatted about our relatively new roles as moms.  After discussing a few situations - that now seem so ordinary because we don't stop and think, we just do - she said to me, "Wow, so you really are Supermom."

(truly - I'm not - I have Shabbat dinner chicken in the oven right now and I still have to report to work tomorrow, as an example)

Which got me thinking about all of the things moms do just because, and all of the things that happen behind the scenes ("the laundry doesn't fold itself" is a common refrain in my household)...and then this post caught my eye.  There are so many things that demand our attention RIGHTNOW...but just as important is that we don't lose ourselves in this whole mothering role and that we pay attention to our own needs.

So how timely to find a post that speaks to easy ways to pamper ourselves!!  I'm happy to try any of these starting tomorrow!

How do you like to pamper yourself on the cheap?  Leave a note in the comments box!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

For the kosher Starbucks addicts out there

While we're on the topic of staying warm, my thoughts always turn to a warm cup of something yummy, like out of Starbucks (or your favorite local coffee shop).  Given the recent changes to some of their products, it's a bit of a challenge to know exactly what is kosher and what should be avoided, but fortunately we have technology on our side!!

Have you heard of  I just recently found out about it and I want to share it with you!

It's a terrific site that goes item by item, giving you exact details of what's permissible and what is not.  You can even subscribe to it so that you are alerted instantly when there are updates! 

Anyway, I think it's a handy site and I hope you find it handy as well.

What's your favorite Starbucks drink?  I love lattes.  Leave a note in the comments box with what you love to order from there!

Get ready for wintry weather!

If you haven't been outside recently - watch out!  It is COLD!!!

Please be careful and be strategic re: food and gas.  You don't want to be stuck in the cold pumping gas, and you also don't want to be one egg short of a challah recipe when making challah this week.  Take the time today to plan out your recipes for the rest of the week and grocery shop asap.

A good excuse to plan for Shabbat early!