some recent book treasures

May 9, 2013 by

some recent book treasures

My mom recently surprised Fisher with There Was A Coyote Who Swallowed A Flea and he can’t put it down. He reads it over and over and giggles the whole time. It is written in the same style as There Was An Old Woman Who Swallowed A Fly, but it is much more hilarious. Fisher’s favorite parts are when the coyote swallows the cactus…sideways…and when he swallows the moon. Every single time he gets to those pages he curls up in a ball and shakes uncontrollably in fits of laughter.

I taught a class this semester on Jewish Festivals and loved sharing my passion for all things Jewish-y. I checked out gobs of books from the library and found a few gems. Jewish Fairy Tale Feasts: A Literary Cookbook is SO fun. Not only are the stories charming, the illustrations are delightful and the recipes look delicious.

The book is constructed to share a folk tale type of story and then teach how to make one of the traditional festival foods, like challah, hamantaschen, latkes, or noodle kugel. I think any family interested in different cultures would swoon over this book. I can’t wait to buy it for myself!

We had a road trip last week and listened to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz with Anne Hathaway reading. Oh my. What a delight. Her voices for each character were phenomenal and we loved it so much we listened to it two times all the way through! I guess my little ones are ready for a journey into Oz. The last time I visited was when Blythe was about six and we read all the Oz books over the course of a year. Here is a really fun YouTube video of Anne discussing this performance…so fun to see her reading the story!

I am currently reading Frankenstein for my colloquia group. My dear friend, Kate, recommended it to me several years ago and I am finally taking her up on the suggestion and having my whole discussion group read it. I thought I knew the story, but I totally didn’t. It is SO much more thought provoking than I ever imagined. I cannot stop thinking about creation and my responsibilities as a creator, treating people as children of God vs. treating them as irritants or even worse as monsters, the power of the atonement to make things right, judging a person by their outward appearance, and good vs. evil.

What are you reading right now?

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passover 2013

Mar 26, 2013 by

Monday night we joined with millions of other people of the House of Israel and celebrated Passover. We spent all day Monday (and much of last week) getting ready and now that we have had our Seder two times in the past few weeks, I think we are getting to be quite the professionals. It was MUCH faster this time than it was last time. Keziah, Blythe, and I make a good team getting all those goblets, salt dishes, ceremonial plates, silverware, and candles out. I was even able to squeeze a bath in before our guests arrived!

This year we had the Brownings, the Thomases, and a brand new family in our area, the Hansons, join us for our Seder. We didn’t have all our guests finalized until about 36 hours prior to the event, but it all worked out beautifully and we were thrilled to pieces to be able to share our favorite Holiday/Holy Day with these families.

Annesley found the Afikomen for the first time and has been carrying around her prize all week long. It is a small plaque that says:

The redeemed of the Lord shall return and everlasting joy and holiness shall be upon their heads.

I love that message! Passover is all about redemption. Redemption from our sin, pain, bondage, sorrow, mortal defects, hard hearts, and anguished souls. Passover teaches us that Christ is the only answer for these circumstances and that through Him we can be healed and filled with joy, complete and everlasting joy.

This year, many of my Sheva & Shalom students and past Passover guests are holding their own Seders with their families. It makes me so, so happy that others are enjoying it and making it their own special tradition as well. I have been fielding phone calls and emails all week long helping people figure out Passover. A few people have suggested I write a how-to-guide. I don’t think that will be happening anytime soon (or ever!), but it is kind of fun to think about.

At the end of the night Annette and her girls stayed and washed dishes and helped us get the whole kitchen back in order. What a treat! It usually takes us hours and hours (days and days?) to recover from Passover, so it was really wonderful to have it all taken care of so quickly with the six of us working together.

Now we just need to put the last few dishes on their shelf in the storage room, put all the linens away, and move the furniture back into the family room and we will be back to normal!

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Mar 5, 2013 by


Last week was Purim, which is a Jewish Festival celebrating the story of Esther. Ever since we first read All-Of-A-Kind Family about ten years ago we have wanted to celebrate Purim. But, we have never done it. I have never felt like we had anyone else to do it with, which, now that we have done it, I realize is not important, but it sure seemed important at the time. It seemed like we needed others to know what we are doing and it to be a community event just like it is in All-Of-A-Kind Family.

But it doesn’t need to be. We brought Purim gifts to four neighbor families and only one of them had any idea what we were doing. They all loved it and it was a wonderful opportunity for us to explain our love for Jewish stuff.

We made Hamantaschen cookies. I handed Keziah the recipe during afternoon project time and she made the dough all by herself. I have no idea if she did it right or not, but one of our recipients loved them enough to ask for the recipe so they must have turned out somewhat okay. Unfortunately I didn’t even get to try one! After the dough had chilled for several hours we started rolling it out and cutting out the circles. Annes and Fisher were pretty much experts at this task. Then fruit preserves into the center, fold up the circles into triangles, transfer cookies to a greased cookie sheet and bake.

If you are wondering if I felt like death warmed over, yes, I was in a lot of pain that day…and it shows in this pic.


The cookies I folded up ended up looking a bit lot homeless, but Blythe’s were beautiful. I don’t know how that girl does it, but she creates beauty wherever she goes. Look at mine.


Look at hers. Pretty amazing, eh? She is such an artist.


Part of Purim is dressing up and Annesley was all over that idea. How do you like her outfit?


There are four mitzvahs to observing Purim. This year we did all four (except the first one – we only listened to the entire Book of Esther once) and are super proud of ourselves.

1. Hear the Megillah! Listen or read the entire Book of Esther two times, once at night and once in the day. You must hear or read every single word and make noise whenever Haman’s name is said.

2. Give Gifts of Food! Purim is a day we show extra special friendship to our friends. Send your friends gifts of food that include at least two different types of food ready-to-eat foods. For example: fruits and candies; cookies and a bottle of juice; etc. We gave Hamantashen and Sparkling Cider.


3. Give Tzedakah (Charity)! Give some money to two poor people (or more), or put at least two coins in your favorite charity box. We rolled up dollar bills and took them to two different families. I don’t think our Tzedakah did much for their bottom lines, but it was fun to surprise them with a little gift.

4. Eat and Rejoice! Participate in a festive meal on Purim afternoon. Sit together with your family and friends, sing Jewish songs, tell the story of Purim, and be merry! Our meal wasn’t as merry as it could have been and we didn’t invite friends over, but we still had a good time making noise makers, listening to the ten chapters of the Book of Esther, and drinking our Sparkling Cider.

Even though I was hurting a lot that night, I am so glad we celebrated our first Purim. We were also Purimed (surely that must be a word?) by one of my Sheva & Shalom students. Thanks Sheri! It was super fun!


  • 2 sticks butter
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup orange or pineapple juice
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 TB. oil
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 5 1/2 C. flour
  • Fruit preserves. You can also use Nutella.

Mix butter and sugar. Cream well. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Divide the dough into three sections and chill several hours or overnight. Roll out to 1/8 inch thick and cut with a 3-inch round cookie cutter or drinking glass. Place a teaspoon of filling each circle and fold over the edges to create a triangle shape. Place on a greased cookie sheet and bake for about 15 minutes (until golden) at 350 degrees. You can brush the cookies with egg before baking, if desired. They will come out browner if you do.

What did I learn from Purim?

  • Festivals, special days, or celebrations of any kind are so fun for my little children and I need remember that it is worth the work it takes to create this magic in their lives.
  • Esther walked forward with faith without knowing the end result. She had no promise of safety or success in her endeavor. So it is often with us and especially with me and my hip…remember Esther!
  • Inviting friends into our traditions is met with gratitude.
  • Esther learned the culture of the kingdom and used those customs to find favor with the King. She did not force her ways onto the palace.
  • Esther fasted and invited others to join her. I need to remember the power of fasting to strengthen my spirit and my reliance on my Savior.

Happy Purim!

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