Monday, September 21, 2015

Monday Munchies

Today I'm going to share with you my newest's an obsession that almost wasn't!
Let me explain...on Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, we dip apples in honey for a sweet new year.  Last year I made a caramel fondue for apples and toppings.  This year, there were two problems: the first was that most ready-made candies for the caramel, which is the staple ingredient in semi-homemade caramel, are dairy.  This fondue was going to be used after a meat meal-which meant I could no longer rely on the Kraft individually wrapped caramels.  Problem number two was that most likely, any pre-made non-dairy caramel would contain traces of nuts.  I had already made plenty of my ingredients from scratch due to my father being gluten free and Hannah's allergies.  
I went on the hunt for a good recipe, but it didn't work out as planned; and I almost threw it all away.
Thankfully for me, and for you, I didn't.
I'm not sure if this recipe didn't go according to the original recipe because I used margarine as a non-dairy substitute to the butter, as well as non-dairy whipping cream, or if I accidentally put in too much margarine and there was too much liquid to completely be incorporated into the melted sugar mixture.  
Either way, all I had to do to reach the ultimate gooey deliciousness was drain off the excess liquid a few times once it had sat and separated.  

1 cup sugar
6 tablespoons salted butter, cut up into 6 pieces
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon salt 

1. Heat sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly.  Sugar will get clumpy and eventually melt into a brown, thick, liquid.  Continue constantly stirring to prevent burning.

2.  Add the butter immediately once the sugar is completely melted.  The sugar should bubble rapidly when the butter is added. Stir for 2-3 minutes until the butter is completely melted.

3. Slowly add the whipping cream. Again, the mixture should boil.

4.  Let the mixture boil for 1 minute.

5.  Remove the caramel from the heat, add in the salt, and let it cool before using.

6. Drain the potential excess liquid.  

I have been enjoying this, a little too much, with my freshly picked honey crisp apples. I love adding sprinkles and shredded coconut to my dipped apples.  

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Getting into a Routine...

It's no secret that night time has been the most challenging aspect of parenting for me.  Most parents enjoy quiet, productive evenings to themselves...not us!  
Since Dovy reached toddlerhood we've struggled nightly on getting a routine in place.  Dovy is a night owl, he could stay up until midnight if we let him.  Of course mornings are terrible for him-which makes for a huge problem since he's in school now and expected to arise at a certain time.  During the summer he would easily sleep until 10.  
Moshe has always put himself to sleep at a reasonable hour.  And if it was a forced bed time, he went in willingly and did not take long to fall asleep.
However, with a sibling still awake, you tend to stay awake.  There have been many jumping parties, cuddling parties, tent buildings, second dinners, third desserts-you get the idea.  
My anxiety was sky high every night when the babysitter brought them home.  I knew my nights were a lost cause and with a list a mile long-that just won't do. 
The problem was I just wasn't equipped to deal with the situation.  
I didn't know what the routine should be, how to implement it, what to say to convince the kids to buy in, and how to deal with the tantrums surrounding night time.  

I mentioned, probably two years ago that I had purchased a parenting course called Chanoch L'naar.  I'm happy to report that almost three years later, I have finally committed to completing the year long course with a partner. Partners always make things better.  We have successfully met every week we've both been in town.  We will complete class 9 tomorrow night.  

School started a week ago, and I know it was no coincidence that last week's lesson was all about the night time routine.  

Before I lay out our bedtime routine, I want to note that none of these are my ideas-this class was created by Dina Friedman.  Her belief is that by creating a solid bedtime routine, we are teaching our children about healthy separation.

The steps to the bedtime routine are outlined as follows, I will give more specific detail later.

Step 1: Bedtime should be a process, not a sudden change of tasks.  
All of the nightly tasks, such as eating dinner, taking a bath, brushing your teeth-are all part of the routine of going to sleep.  We don't just pick our kids up and put them in bed.  The speech therapist in me wants to add in that it's always helpful and beneficial to explain what the schedule is-don't just have the schedule in your mind, repeat it to your children over and over. At every step, remind them what comes next, what the final goal is, and ask them what comes next, ask them what their favorite part of the routine is and why.  I see my kids for such a limited amount of time during the day I want every second to count.  Why not make as much time educational, interactive and intentional as possible?  

Step 2: Go through the routine
Different ages have different expectations.  Hannah is still too young to grasp the concept of following a routine. She can follow simple tasks, but she can't grasp routines.  Moshe and Dovy are old enough to discuss the routine, remember the routine, and follow a picture schedule.  
Once again, the Speech Therapist in me when right to creating a picture exchange communication system (PECS).  It provides the routine in sequential order, shows each step in a picture because my boys can't read yet, and allows them to actually "complete" the task on the chart by matching the pictures attached with velcro to the printed picture.  

Step 3 & 4: Stagger bedtime & private time 
I had never thought of this idea before.  I just assumed my boys were of similar enough ages that they could go through the same routine together.  Hindsight is 20/20 and even on the first day of attempting the routine I can tell you that so much of the problem are the problematic interactions the boys have.  The fighting, the teasing, the silliness-if they were separated, each child would have a much smoother transition.  Also, by staggering, each child can have their one-on-one time with the parent that is putting them to sleep.  I spoke with my friend for almost an hour on how she executes her bed time routine, got ideas and figured out how to apply these ideas into my own life.  I knew that allowing Moshe to stay up later would strike a cord with Dovy who would immediately claim how unfair life is.  Truth is, we've been struggling a lot in the unfairness department.  Dovy is always proclaiming his woes, but Moshe is always being told he's older so he has more responsibilities.  And my friend pointed out to me-along with being more responsible comes privileges.  We always tell Moshe what he has to do simply because, "you're older," "you're the big brother," but we don't extend privileges along with those responsibilities. A staggered bedtime is a privilege.  He won't know the difference between 10 minutes or 30 minutes. He just knows while Dovy goes upstairs to sleep, he can continue partaking in an activity of his choice.  He'll feel good about himself and maybe next time he's told he has to walk, simply because he's the oldest, maybe he won't react as negatively.  

Every child is different.  Moshe is much more independent than Dovy and I know he would be perfectly fine without private time, but I think this is crucial for Dovy, and Moshe greatly benefits from it as well.  Because the boys share a room, and Dovy will be in his bed when Moshe is to receive his private time, all private times will take place in my room.  This works because they love to cuddle in my bed, so that in and of itself is a huge treat to them!  This private time is also supposed to be bonding time-at this point it isn't quite time to tell them to close their eyes and begin counting sheep.  Play a game, read a book, or talk about the day. It's all about bonding.  

From this parenting class I've learned that my go-to disciple method is an if/then statement.  Essentially lay out the consequences.  It almost always works.  So in this case, I gravitate towards telling them that if they come out, they'll lose their special time tomorrow night.  

Tonight was my first night attempting the routine.  It didn't work out exactly as I had it planned but I learned how to tackle tomorrow.  
I ran through the routine with the boys and had them practice moving their pictures into the correct area.  They were super thrilled about pretending to complete the items and I'm sure tomorrow they'll be eager to move the pictures themselves. 

I created their chart on Word by inserting clip art as well as drawing text boxes.  I laminated the sheet and attached velcro in the necessary places.  I apologize for the poor quality pictures! 

And here is an example of the chart in action!


If you have any questions about creating a night time routine, I'd love to help!

Monday, September 7, 2015

Monday Munchies...

Today's recipe is an oldie but a goodie.  It's a twist on the classic green bean, and it's one of my favorites. Unfortunately there are no picture because it's taken out of the cookbook Kosher By Design by Susie Fishbein.  The salad is so fresh, has a major kick of garlic, but combined with the sweetness of the mango, it's #winning at it's finest.  Crispy, garlic, sweet-all in one! 

I was asked to bring a side dish of vegetables to a Shabbos meal this week, and when I really didn't know what vegetable to offer, I was assigned green beans.  My usual green bean dish is olive oil, salt, maybe lemon juice or soy sauce.  But I've grown tired of it, and quite frankly it's not really up to par with how I want to present myself to friends and family.  The problem is, I struggle with finding time to search through the pile of cookbooks I have, or search the internet and just peruse...
But then I remembered this awesome recipe I made for the first time 8 years ago, and I haven't forgotten it since!  I don't make it often, mainly because olive oil in my food processor makes for a challenge cleaning, but I had a craving for these.  The funny thing was, I couldn't find the recipe!  I was searching through all the indexes, under all the different categories it could possibly be under-I even had to recall which cookbooks I had at the time I first made this so I could weed out the possibilities. Finally, cookbook #4, came to the rescue.  

Without further ado...

Roasted Garlic String Beans with Mango
2 lbs. green beans, trimmed
5-6 scallions, halved and ends trimmed
7-8 cloves of garlic
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons water
1/2 cup olive oil
1 (.92 oz) packet roasted garlic dry salad dressing mix
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard  
3 tablespoons honey
1-2 fresh mango peeled and diced, or dried mango soaked in warm water for 5 minutes then cut into small pieces
2 handfuls sunflower seeds
2 handfuls chopped walnuts

Did I warn you, or did I warn you-about the garlic?  

For starters, I did not put in scallions, sunflower seeds or walnuts. 
I reduced the amount of garlic cloves to 5.
I used the mustard and dry salad dressing mix I had on hand, deli style mustard and Greek salad dressing mix. 
I used frozen chopped mango since there wasn't any canned.
I didn't measure the ingredients.
I didn't cook my green beans.
And guess what? This was a huge hit.
This one is definitely on the upcoming holiday menu!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Hi-Ho, Hi-Ho, It's off to school we go...

Moshe and Dovy had their first day of Pre-K and 1st Grade today.

Moshe wouldn't reveal too much, but not to worry, I already e-mailed the teacher my questions.  It was just a few, I promise.
Dovy was so excited that he ran to California in gym class (remember those maps painted onto the blacktop?) and he was a 5-star listener.  

People often ask me how I do what I do.   If you really want to know how I accomplish so much-I don't sleep!  I stay up late, and I wake up early, and I started drinking a lot more than my usual one cup of coffee a day.  But, I will share with you my tips and my mantras.

1.  My biggest tip, is to plan.  Everything ultimately comes down to planning.  Everything.  Plan in advance for the knowns and the unknowns. Plan your day, plan specific parts of your day, plan your phone calls and when, plan the nitty gritties not only what you'll make for dinner but when you'll prep the food and warm it up.  Schedule routines: laundry routine, a cleaning routine, a morning routine, a nighttime routine, an exercise routine. You know what they say, "fail to plan, plan to fail" and that couldn't be more true!
2.  Make a list-on paper, in your phone, on post-its, on all three of those options, several times over even...things get hairy, we're often times over scheduled so a little mishap can throw everyone off.  
3.  Take time for yourself.  Find a way to do things you enjoy.  To have the quiet time you need to focus on tasks, or just re-energizing for what's ahead.  It's so important to remember that if you are not happy, no matter what you do, your children and your home will not be happy.  
4.  Take deep breaths.  It will all be ok.  Tonight I had grand plans: the kids would be in bed by 8, and I would have a solid few hours to myself to get things done around the house.  It was all going according to schedule, but then at 7:53, Hannah threw up on Dovy and all of the boys' room.  For a moment, I almost lost it. But then I remembered that if I just kept going, it would get done sooner than if I sat around and moped or cried about it.  Moms are allowed to cry, ok?  Oh, and just in case you were wondering, in my mind, I throw tantrums too!!! By 8:18, the mess was cleaned up and my kids were headed back into their room and for the most part bed time was a success.  I'm working on getting better at accepting my surroundings and my daily situation.  My house won't be as clean as I'd like, my to-do list won't be wiped empty by the end of every night. But none of that is important.  Truthfully, what I wish I could do, is have a family bed and go to sleep with my kids every night.  These cuddles, they won't last forever. 
5.  Find something in your day you can look forward to. It doesn't have to be anything major.  For me, I look forward to my nightly hacked smore (more on that later) and drinking a diet beverage.  When it's quiet and I have uninterrupted me time.  For others it could be that early morning run.  Or your commute where you get to listen to the radio and drink your coffee.  This is a hectic season in our lives, but you know what they say:

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