Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Light up the Night

The Festival of Lights is finally here!
And I'm exhausted already...
Let's recap nights one and two.

Night #1

The boys were so excited to get Dilly Dots as their gift. 
"Yesss, Dilly Dots! We've been asking for these!"

Our Chanukah activity was Chanukah Bingo. 
You can find the free printable HERE.  
I couldn't find the actual printable itself, so I just printed the page off of Pinterest and laminated it myself. 
The gold coins (gelt) came in a super adorable container from Costco.

The boys were very excited about their money.  It actually took them some time to realize it was chocolate money.

Night #2

The boys received nerf guns as their gifts.
Now, I was always against any type of weapon, even if it was meant to be kid friendly. But to be honest, the boys have started playing games like hockey and shooting-but with household items like broom sticks, pots and pans, and empty wrapping paper rolls.  I realized  might as well give them the "real" thing so I can at least use my broom when I need it.  

Their activity tonight was supposed to be edible dreidles, but we had a synagogue Chanukah party, complete with laser tag and it was just too wonderful to leave.  

Maybe tomorrow night...

This morning Dovy had his Chanukah performance.  

Last night Dovy couldn't stop singing his performance songs, today-not a single peep passed his lips during the performance.  He didn't even get out of his chair-but he made sure to wear his crown all day and night!

I hope your dark nights are filled with plenty of light so far this Chanukah!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Homemade Chanukah

In lieu of Monday Munchies-we'll still be sticking to the homemade theme, but of the non-edible form!
I mentioned that there really isn't much selection, let alone variety of Chanukah decorations.  So I've taken to making my own.

I have very little space to decorate, so I decided that this year all I would add was a banner. 
I wanted the banner to relate to Chanukah, but a bit more meaningful.  
More of the reason for the season type of thing.

Chanukah is a story all about miracles. 
Oil that should have only lasted for one night, lasted for eight nights.  
In Hebrew, the saying is, and the letters on the dreidle are actually an acronym for this: a great miracle happened there (or here if saying it while in Israel). 

We've definitely had our share of miracles around here. 
One of them even took place on Chanukah.  
I found out our second transfer had been successful on Chanukah, four years ago now.  

Believe in miracles
That's the message behind Chanukah that I wanted to convey in my house.  
So I got right to it!

I found all the letters at Michaels. 
I will mention that a hand saw was requires since some of the letters were out of stock!
But, I made do.
And of course-every good project utilizes gold spray paint.

Just spray paint the letters, hot glue to some jupe, and voila!

I am loving this extra special touch for the Chanukah season-which begins tomorrow night!
Check back to see our nightly Chanukah round up!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Holiday Gifting Traditions

They say that there's something extra special about a homemade gift.  But to be honest, it makes me a little self-conscience. 
To send a little craft as a gift just seems a little cheap to me. 
I know, it's the thought that counts but it's hard to give handmade  gifts that are truly useful.  

When it comes to our family and very close friends, we like to send off a little Chanukah themed homemade craft.  It all started when I needed to get rid of some of Moshe's artwork-so I laminated each piece and mailed them out as place mats.
They were very well received, so I decided that our new family gift giving tradition would be to send a piece of themed artwork.  
You can see my first gift HERE
Last year the craft got a bit more involved, check it out HERE.

Here is what we created this year.  


I bought all materials from Michaels.  
And of course, I figured out a couple of ways to cut corners.  
I used blue paint that had glitter in it so I didn't have to later go back and add glitter.  
I also found glitter foam sheets that were self-adhering.
These cut down on tons of steps-as it is, the project was already on a 4 day timeline, imagine adding in wet glue and glitter?  

The boys were thrilled to be painting. 
Dovy wasn't nearly as interested as Moshe.  I think Dovy painted two craft sticks until he pooped out, and Moshe completed painting all the sticks.  

Hmm...notice anything funny about this?!?

  Looks like someone had some fun!

Once the sticks were dry, I was able to use a hot glue gun to make triangles-and then overlay them to create the star.


It was super annoying to cut out close to 50 flames, but the glitter foam paper gave such a pop!




Finally, I just used silver pipe cleaners-folded them in half and twisted the ends together.  I then hot glued the twisted ends to the back of the star so they can hang.

And they're off!


I hope these will be a big hit!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Buying the kids holiday gifts...

My children are growing up and are able to play more and more with toys.  They have interests and desires.  They have a knack for things and I love to see their excitement!
Dovy loves to juggle and loves music.
Moshe loves cars, building and puzzles.  
But figuring out gifts for them is always complicated for me.
For starters-all of my kids have their birthday within a month of each other-but in August and September.  Which means, the birthday excuse won't work for any summer items like roller blades, a swimming pool, or bicycles. 
Then, because all of their birthdays take place at the same time, I don't have that excuse to add in gifts throughout the year.  
Plus, my kids are spoiled by grandparents, so I feel like they are constantly on the receiving end of toys.  
Sometimes, we bite the bullet and give them gifts that are seasonally appropriate, or age appropriate without a specific reason.  
But, when it comes to actual gifting season, be it birthdays or holidays, I would much rather find meaningful gifts, than simply buy toys for the sake of buying toys.  
One of my pet peeves when it comes to gifts and toys is that it must have more than a single purpose.  
I like to think of activities they like, their interests, and I love to incorporate some educational gifts too. 

Thankfully Moshe has low expectations, "just get me anything, I'll play with whatever you get me." 

Here are some of my gift ideas:

My dad warned me it would happen-boys throwing, running, and breaking things!  I was so anti-guns initially, however I figure nerf guns are better than running with the broom or a bat. 
We scored two of these as a Cyber Monday deal.   

We have a long hallway at the entry of our house, and the boys have taken up floor hockey.  When they played for the first time, Dovy thought it was the coolest thing ever.  
When I saw this bowling pin set at Land of Nod, I figured there is no better place to play than our hallway!

 Livingroom Lanes Bowling Set

We also bought some board games like Sorry and Trouble.  

My kids do a lot of projects at school, but they come home begging for more!  

These make for quick and easy crafts which is always good when mommy needs some quiet time. 

Moshe has become quite into puzzles also.  

I'm thinking Moshe is old enough to begin learning how to read the clock-again, that would be another mommy incentive: I'll teach him when he's allowed to leave his room in the morning!

I already own this Melissa and Doug calender, but this is another great option

Some other great ideas are early reader books, and Magna Tiles
These are perfect for a huge age range.  My boys love building rocket ships and Hannah is able to stack them too!

And of course, if space and or money was not an issue, these are some gifts I would splurge on.

What are some of your gifting traditions?

Monday, December 8, 2014

Monday Munchies

My boys have gotten to the age where they're rather bossy opinionated, and lunches and dinners have become a real struggle.  
Add in a picky toddler and we end up eating a lot of oatmeal, pizza, cereal and granola bars.
Go ahead, judge me...the struggle is real!!!

Being on this lifestyle journey of mine has made me much more aware of what I give my kids.
Now, of course I'm not perfect, and my kids are kids-but I'm trying to follow the basic nutrition rule: balanced meals by creating a combination of protein, fats and carbohydrates.  

It dawned on me that tuna noodle casserole is a perfect combo, albeit a bit carb heavy, however totally kid friendly.  
And oh so cheap!  
And it feeds plenty!

Tuna Noodle Casserole 
1 box of macaroni noodles 
2 cans of cream of mushroom soup
2 cans of tuna
Mozzarella cheese  

Boil macaroni noodles according to package directions.
Drain the water when cooking is complete.  
Pour the noodles back into the pot and combine with soup and tuna.
Pour into a 9x13 pan and top with enough mozzarella cheese so top is completely covered.
Bake at 350 until browned on top.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Getting Into the Holiday Spirit

Growing up, I was always one of a few Jewish children in my grade-if not my school!
While the classroom, school, neighborhood and surrounding community jumped into the holiday spirit, I felt excluded.  I felt like my holiday was forgotten.
All the decorations, the music, the food, and the spirit really made Chanukah seem inadequate.  I know it's one of the smaller scale holidays, but I always wondered why it never picked up force in the marketing world.  
Why can't there be more Chanukah decorations, more Chanukah music, more Chanukah spirit? 
As I look around and I see children dressed in matching Christmas pajamas, visiting Santa, Elf on a Shelf, advent calendars I just wonder-when was Chanukah benched?
Why can't my children have Judah the Maccabee pajamas?  Or go sit on his lap at the mall?   
Many people are of the opinion that we shouldn't turn Chanukah into the "Jewish Christmas."  
However, I'm of the opinion that one should do what they want to do in order to create a stronger spiritual connection.  

Seeing everyone decorate their homes for the holidays has me itching to create a Chanukah atmosphere too!  Being tight on space to decorate and to store makes it difficult, but I'm trying my best to come up with some ideas that will foster a festive environment.  
Although it would take a ton of convincing on my part to get the go-ahead for Chanukah lights; although I know people who do; I am trying my best to come up with decorations that are holiday themed, yet still appropriate with not losing the reason for the season if I may. 

Today, I bring you an array of Chanukah themed decorations.  

I've noticed a lot of people have put up Advent calendars-now, I'll be honest and tell you that I have no clue as to why!  But, I do know that there is plenty to learn about Chanukah-so maybe in the days leading up to Chanukah, each bag could teach a new fact or idea.

I don't have much space at all to decorate, and truthfully-the concept of switching out home decor really overwhelms me.  If I had a mantle, I would definitely decorate it, but since I don't, I'm essentially limited to just my dining room table.  Unfortunately, it usually ends up just collecting the day's clutter, so there's little hope in decorating it. But, if I would decorate my table...

How about some general home decor

And then of course you have your outdoor decorations

What are some of your favorite ways to decorate for the holidays? 

You can read about our past Chanukah HERE and HERE

Monday, December 1, 2014

Monday Munchies: Squash Soup

With the days getting chillier, a hot pot of soup is on frequent dinner rotation.  
Besides, what could be easier than throwing a couple ingredients in a pot, boiling, and then blending?!?

Fresh, homemade soups are awesome, but this recipe is even awesomer (I know that's not a word) because the prep is minimal. 

This recipe was passed along to me by a friend upon my request.  So all thanks goes to her!

Butternut Squash Soup
2 pre-packaged and cut butternut squash
2 onions
2 shallots 

Saute onions and shallots until they become translucent.  Once the edges begin browning, turn off the heat.

Combine shallots, onions, squash, and cinnamon into a large soup pot.  Fill with water until the squash is covered.
For awhile.  
Realistically, until the squash is soft, but I turned my flame off when I noticed water had evaporated.  
Blend with a hand blender. 

If the texture is too thick, just add some water.  

This is a real crowd pleaser and the hint of cinnamon adds the perfect amount of sweet. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Monday Munchies: IIFYM

My style of dieting lifestyle is prone to a lot of name calling and bashing-simply because it doesn't fit a mold.  
It's not clean eating.
It's not paleo.
It's not gluten free, or dairy free, or low car, or low fat.  
It's whatever you make it to be-which is what is awesome about it.
However, in order to successfully hit your daily macro count, you are almost forced to eat more clean than not.  
Hitting the required protein is the hardest part, and the fats and carbs go quickly-so unless you're saving up for something special-most people don't have a choice but to limit their fats and carbs.  

I'm a creature of habit, and I'm a-ok with my breakfast and lunch being the same thing day in and day out. In fact, I would prefer for that to be the story for my dinner as well, but with a family I need to attempt a dinner menu.  Unfortunately, that doesn't stop my kids from asking for pizza every.single.night

So, what are my staple munchies while following IIFYM?

For a long time, I had a protein drink for breakfast

I recently bought this protein drink at Costco.  While it has more bank for your buck so to speak (less carbs, way more protein) it consumes a lot of my protein so I found that I wasn't able to eat as much.  My nightly snack used to consist of yogurt, or eggs to meet my daily protein intake.  I've resorted to keeping this as an option to use when I need it.  

Now, I've resorted to eating one of these individual servings of low fat cottage cheese for breakfast.  


Additionally, I use 1/3 of a cup of whole milk in my morning coffee at work.  I can't believe I was on the fat free train for so long! Whole milk makes such a difference and eliminates the need for any flavored creamer. 

I will try to make sure I've had plenty of water after my coffee-about 24 oz.  That helps keep me hydrated which ultimately helps keep my day on track since I'm less hungry.  

My lunch usually consists of a couple of the same items, and I will vary a couple depending on what I plan for dinner.  Typically, lunch is an ezekiel cinnamon rainson muffin with butter spray, a string cheese-which I happily string, some sort of greek yogurt (fat percentage also varies based on daily food planning), and a square of 86% Ghirardelli chocolate.  If I need to reserve more carbs for later in the day I'll eat a can of tuna as my main lunch component.  I need to get better at squeezing in some vegetables.  

My afternoon snack recently has been one serving of plain almonds and a small banana.  I try to eat that on my way home so I'm ready to hit the gym.  

My dinner really has no rhyme or reason-when it's just the kids and me I have the freedom to make them something quick like pasta, or oatmeal, or cereal, and make myself whatever it is that will complete my macros for the day.  If I do cook a "real" dinner, I will just make it work.  I've become a fan of the Imagine soups, specifically the butternut squash, but it's about twice the carbs as the other vegetable version, I've found it worthwhile to switch.  Their creamy broccoli is my new fave.


I used to enjoy making my own huge pot of soup for the week-but the large pot made it difficult to heat up and a lot of times it would go to waste.  Although these soups are on the expensive side, the convenience is worth it.  

I eat a lot of eggs, specifically egg whites.  I will sometimes eat 5-6 egg whites at time.
I also eat chicken, salmon, or turkey deli for dinner a couple nights a week. 
I like the Fage 0% greek yogurt.  It's super thick and is great with some mix-ins like fat free jello pudding mix (left as a powder) or PB2


I have seen this at most grocery stores-get your hands on it.  I was skeptical at first, but for realzzzz-when mixed with water it's like natural peanut butter.  

I used to be a big fan of protein bars, but they're pretty costly and I have found that I would rather eat real food when possible.  But, I keep a stash on hand for when I know I won't be home for a meal, or in an emergency when I might  get hungry.  I bought a combo box of the Zone Peanut Butter and Fudge Graham and Costco, but there are several options out there.  One new option I've come across are these NuGO bars.

There is a huge variety and which one I choose depends on my macro need. 

And of course, I will always make room for a donut...


Happy counting!
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