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Friday, August 30, 2013

Hebrew School Started :-) (with student aide tips and some Jewish 101)

Yayyyy! My teaching fix is gonna be bi-weekly this year. A few weeks ago, Sadie (my good friend and the Rabbi/Educator at my synagogue) asked if I could teach on Sundays and not just Tuesdays. I have the 7th grade class, many of which I had last year in my advanced Hebrew. GREAT kids!

The day started with my 35 minute commute (yes there's a synagogue a minute away from the house I grew up in, and yes we drove 35 minutes to this one, and still do. Charlie was able to FaceTime so I held my phone in my left hand and put both hands on the wheel. I had my headphones on so it was really more talking on the phone and not looking at the screen, but it was funny so I snapped a picture:
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I had prepared about a million mini challah doughs for an activity, with the help of a few student aides that are seniors in high school. I literally had a bruise on my hand from doing this on Sunday, DESPITE using a bread machine to do the final kneading of the dough. Have I posted that recipe? Stacy gave it to me a while ago and it's AMAZING. Best challah ever. I'll have to post that. Anyway, one of the activities I did with my students was teach them how to braid and shape challah into the round shape we use for Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year). Usually it's a long braid but we have a round one to remind us of the ongoing cycle of the year. Here are the students working the dough.

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In the last picture, you'll see two of my student aides (second to left and second to right). My third is my mom's best friend's son, but he was at a Jewish music thing over that weekend. I couldn't have asked for better "madrichim" (counselors or aides in Hebrew). It's usually a pretty big issue in religious schools because teachers don't really know how to handle or direct/instruct them, and they end up sitting in the classroom with nothing to do and wandering the halls/flirting with each other. Which is really the teachers fault, not theirs, (for the most part). If I was 16 and wasn't given instructions, I would go do that too! This is a really big pet peeve of mine from back when I was teaching in Raleigh, and then the pet peeve grew when I ran the synagogue's school in Summerlin.

So a few tips for teachers that need help managing their student aides and making the most of them:
 I am a stickler for making sure they are involved and know about the lesson in advance (yes this takes planning and you can't plan your lesson that day, lol). I am SO beyond blessed that the three I have are naturally ambitious and helpful, but you can make it work with anybody! I make sure to tell them each week that I trust their judgement in discipline and reinforcement, and I am constantly directing them throughout the lesson. I also am not scared to redirect them if I see them lose focus. I think a lot of teachers are scared to do this. It definitely takes a bit of planning ahead, which is sometimes a forgotten skill in Sunday schools, but it's so worth it! I email them the lesson in advance and take their opinions. It really makes an amazing team and I couldn't be more excited for this year with the ones I have!

Okay, back to the day now, off my pedestal. Just an issue I am passionate about.

Niah, one of my amazing Madrichim (okay I'm done I swear) leads a Shofar choir each year. Jewish lesson 101 for those interested: The shofar is the ram's horn we blow on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur (day of atonement). It symbolizes the ram that Abraham sacrificed instead of Isaac, and it's sound/calling reminds us to awaken our souls.

Anyway, it's the upper elementary and middle school students, and they do it in front of the congregation during the high holidays. It's a lot harder to make a sound than it looks, kind of like a trumpet (I've been told). Here is Niah leading their first rehearsal:
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That's Rabbi Akselrad to the left of her (the Rabbi that Bat Mitzvah'd me and married me and Charlie).

Here are the kiddos:
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Speaking of Rabbi A, I had a meeting with him to go over the confirmation curriculum (one of the classes I teach on Tuesdays), and look what I saw displayed in his office:
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He collects bobble heads so I had this made for him after our wedding as a gift to thank him! Hehehe.

Oh listen to how cute this is - during class, my students asked if they could make a hashtag! I about died from the cuteness. I was so excited that THEY were excited about something! So, we are now officially using the hashtag #jewsofseventhgrade and they've already posted pictures of them doing activities, and even a video of the boys braiding the challah! I very much encourage use of technology during class (during APPROPRIATE times) and am more than happy to let them take videos of them having fun learning and being Jewish. Call me crazy, but I think it can be a great learning tool.

Oh, we did the same thing on Tuesday for confirmation and the rest of the high school grades with the challah, but we had time to bake it for them. Since I made the dough on Friday and Saturday, the yeast had really activated by Tuesday, and when they ripped the bread open, it smelled like beer!! I explained to them that beer had yeast, and I was NOT trying to get them drunk. Ha!!!! Good to know. Luckily, it still tasted amazing, just had that initial smell. So don't let your yeast dough sit in the fridge for more than a day!!!! My bad.

Look how pretty though:
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Ah! I am on such a high from teaching again. Best "job" for me, ever. I hope to do it for the rest of my life :-)

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Israeli style cheesecake

I love cheesecake. It's one of my go to desserts. It actually was one of my go to desserts before I really became a baker (which believe it or not, I didn't use to be!). I always have loved cooking, but wasn't really into baking because I didn't have the patience for following instructions. Lauren (my mommy) says I just don't follow directions. Pshhhh.

Anyway, Israeli cheesecake is much lighter and tarter than what we consider cheesecake. It also uses tea biscuits instead of graham crackers as a base (and a topping). You can use nilla wafers if you can't find tea biscuits. The recipe I used called for heavy whipping cream (unwrapped) and I would omit it next time. I think it made it thicker and the whole point of this cheesecake is to be super light and airy.

Here's the trick. Israeli cream cheese isn't what we consider cream cheese. The consistency is more like that of yogurt - maybe a mix of yogurt and greek yogurt in terms of thickness. If you have a kosher section in your supermarket, you can find it. I used the 5% kind (yes, 5% fat, as opposed to the normal 3% fat, don't judge).
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Right, so I realize most of you don't read Hebrew. So, if you don't feel like braving this and buying this type of cream cheese, I would recommend buying a combination of plain yogurt, greek yogurt, and sour cream. Yes, sour cream. You could probably use all sour cream if you wanted!

Okay ingredients list:

Crust
Half a sleeve of tea biscuits, crushed up (or vanilla wafers)
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) of butter
2 tbs brown sugar

Filling
2.5 cups of "Israeli cream cheese", or if you can't find it, full fat plain greek yogurt or sour cream
1 cup of full fat sour cream
1.25 cups of sugar
2 eggs plus 1 egg white
juice of one lemon
vanilla (I don't measure, so as much as you want - 1 tsp to 1 tbs I guess?)
2 tbs flour
*note - the recipe I used called for 1/2 cup of whipping cream. I would omit this if you want the light fluffy texture*

Topping
1 cup of sour cream
Vanilla (ugh measuring again - maybe a teaspoon?)
1 tbs sugar
1/2 sleeve crushed tea biscuits or vanilla wafers

Instructions:
(preheat oven to 350 before beginning)
1. Crush up your tea biscuits or nilla wafers in a zip lock bag. This is the brand I use:
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And I crush them like so:
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Yes, I use my fist.

But I can also use a big serving spoon or ladle:
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Wrap a spring form pan with tinfoil to avoid leaks, and spray with non stick spray.
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I like to pour my biscuits right into the pan, and then pour the sugar and batter on top and mold it with my finger tips or a fork. Like so:
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(note, they aren't crushed perfectly or uniformly - nobody can tell!)

Note in the next picture that the brown sugar has been dumped in:
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Okay, on to step 2.

2. In a big bowl of a stand mixer (or any big bowl if you're using a hand mixer), pour in your "cream cheese" or yogurt or sour cream, and add the sugar. Mix until combined. Add the eggs one at a time while mixing. Add the vanilla and lemon juice. Add the flour. Did I forget anything? I don't think so. If I did, add that too.

3. Pour the filling mixture over the tea biscuits:
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4. Bake for 55-60 minutes. While it's baking, prepare your topping. This is what my dog decided to do while this was baking:
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(yes, he's on the other side of the pool. Ugh).

5. Prep your topping. Combine the sour cream, vanilla, and sugar, and crush up your next round of biscuits. don't combine!

6. After 55 minutes, check the cheesecake. It should be slightly loose in the middle, but set around the sides. This is what mine looked like:
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Add the sour cream topping and carefully spread all the way around, and then spread the biscuit topping on top of that.
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Use your finger tips to spread the biscuit crumbs over the sour cream topping - be careful! You can press them in a little, but you don't want them to "mix in".
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7. Bake the cake for another 10 minutes. Let it cool completely before refrigerating overnight.

Here is the end result:
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Enjoy!


Friday, August 16, 2013

Bubbas update in pictures

Look at my babiesssss!
How precious is this picture of Maya sleeping?
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And Odgie (who needs a hair fix) being all snuggly?
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But best of all take a look:

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Oh that's not just Maya. Lee was being so lazy he wouldn't move when I made the bed.

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Yup, that's him to the left of Maya!

Eventually he realized he should get out and I quickly got it on video.

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Here's Maya studying her Tanakh:
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And spooning her rat toy:
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And Aubrey spooning her Lee (I guess she mistook him for a stuffed animal):
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And a very ragamuffin looking Odgey hiding under the dresser:
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Okay not a doggy but definitely my favorite "bubba":
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We got to FaceTime the other night and he had a pretty bad connection so it looked like he had a black eye. Thought it was funny, and now I love this pic just cuz I miss him so much.



And not MY bubbas, but definitely the sweetest, happiest picture I've ever found on Pinterest.
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Try not to smile - I dare you!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Philly and Boston

The week before Charlie left I had a trip planned to visit Essy in Philly and then a trip to Boston with my mom for my great uncle's 90th birthday. My 91 (and a half!) year old grandma flew in from Israel for it. I considered not going for half a second because of the short notice deployment, but realized that Charlie would be working ridiculous hours in preparation for it, and there was no way I would miss my best friend, my grandma, and so much of my family.

I left on Tuesday during the day to see Eden and had a layover, so I didn't get in until passed midnight. "Ma" came and picked me up at the airport, best ma ever! I got to wake Eden up at midnight and snuggle like old times, like we hadn't been apart. Best friends are amazing things. Unfortunately, Eden had to work the next day, so I spent some time sleeping in, hanging out with Davida, I mean Ma, and then meeting up with my friend Megan for lunch and a pedicure. Somehow I got no pictures at all from any of this. When I stopped regularly blogging I started lacking with the pictures. Need to change that.

Loved spending time with the Shermans on Wednesdy and Thursday, and then Friday morning we went to pick up my mom at the airport. The ONLY picture I have of me and Eden is at Reading Terminal and my mom took it. Embarrassing, seriously.
























Yes, she chose her shirt to match mine.

No, we don't care. We are awesome.

I love you Essy!!!!!

We did some typical philly touristy stuff including the Jewish Museum which me and my mom loved. That evening we were meeting my very pregnant cousin, Bridget and her husband at Penn (where they are residents) and driving up to Boston with them. Lauren and I had fun walking around some more, and I may or may not have taken a brief nap in the car in order to survive the late night driving I would be doing....

Bridget looked great and it was so nice to see Nick again. It was only the second time I met him, and the first time we didn't really get to talk much, but we had a great time hanging out in the car. My dad is very anti road trip, so it was kind of a big deal that I drove the whole way! Go me.

The next day we went to an Armenian restaurant for my great Uncle's 90th. The food was delicious and my aunt Jackie planned an awesome program. Here she is dancing with her dad:
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We got to see my grandma and my cousin from Israel, but I don't have all of the pictures Jackie took, just these three:
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Love that pic of me and mom!

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From left to right: Aunt Jackie, my great Uncle Schari (that turned 90), my other great Uncle Dolfi who also flew in from Israel, my cousin Anat, my 91.5 year old grandma, my great aunt Marietta, mommy, and me.

And then a really uncoordinated picture of a lot of the family that makes me laugh because I don't know who some of the people are (I think they are friends or something?) and really, nobody is looking except for 5-6 of us.
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I don't even know who is looking at what there, but it's the picture Jackie sent me. Toward the right you can see a very pregnant Bridget! EEEEEEEH so exciting!

The next day we want to Jackie's house for Bridget's baby shower, which was sooooo nice. One of her best friends and college roommates actually lives in Vegas and we've met a few times, so it was so nice to see her in the context of being Bridget's friend. All her friends were awesome, really felt like extended family. She is having a baby boy and there was a cute onesie decorating station, as well as a crossword puzzle about Bridget and Nick as babies (which I won!).

My great aunt Marietta was leaving from the shower to go back to Rockville (where she and her husband live) and I got some sweet pictures of her and my grandma saying good bye. So so sweet:
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Romanians kiss on the mouth - it always made me uncomfortable as a kid (and still does) but what can I say? That's their way!
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These two women are firecrackers. Seriously, it's incredible to see their energy.

And here is Marietta telling Schari he better wear the chef's hat she got him. I love how she is lecturing him!! Look how she is pointing at him, I love it.
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And here he is with hand up - "I surrender". So funny!
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The next day I NEEDED to get my Legal Seafoods fix in, so my poor cousin Jeffrey had to come with me once again. It did not disappoint. Here are my and Jeffrey at lunch:
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After lunch we walked around Coolidge Corner (were we were staying, my favorite place in Brookline) and out of nowhere it started to come down with like, torrential rain. I think? Not something I'm used to being from Vegas, since honestly, I'm usually inside during the rare flash floods we get, and then they go away. Well, luckily, we happened to be right outside of JP Licks ice cream shop....so we had to take refuge from the rain. I had a sweet cream scoop in a white chocolate coated waffle cone. Honestly, I kind of like Cold Stone's sweet cream better.... I guess I'm loyal to what I like. My mom had a cappuccino flavor.
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That night we wanted to take grandma out for dinner with Schari and a few others, so Schari's favorite restaurant.....is Texas Roadhouse. So funny! A 90 year old Romanian loves those steak n ribs! It was a bit loud in there to really talk to my grandma, but the ribs were yummy and I'm glad we got to take him to his favorite.
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The next morning we were leaving but took my grandma and cousin out to breakfast to see them one last time. My mom snapped a picture on her phone but I don't have it yet. It was so good to see my grandma, and I can't believe she made the trip at her age. I always love going to Boston to see my fam, and can't wait for the next time!