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Goodbye Pesach 2015, but thinking about next year…

pesach closetPesach may be over, but there is always a lot to do to put it all away and go back to our usual routines. My husband and I spent most of the morning finishing the dishes, bringing our Pesach stuff downstairs, packing the leftover food away, and taking off all the odds and ends from Pesach (the signs, counter coverings, etc.). We still haven’t repacked the bins and put them away, but at least we are farther than most years! I will have to be sure to check my list to make sure we haven’t forgotten anything! See my post, “Putting away Pesach” on doing this.

But the most important part of ending Pesach is thinking about next year! I always like to think about a few things before wrapping up the current year:

1) Any things I want to change or do differently next year (see below for details).

2) Wish list for next year

– For us it was things that had broken (like our cutting mats) or more plastic containers, which always seem to disappear.

– We also plan to remember to buy more margarine. We got only one pack and it was not enough! We had to borrow from friends!

3) Inventory of what food we have leftover and plan to save for next year.

This list is very important so you don’t overbuy the next year. We have so many boxes of cake meal and matza meal left, that we won’t need it for several years! I also take the time to adjust my shopping list based on what we used. For example, we used 8-9 dozen eggs this year. That was a bit more than past years.

I will share with you the lessons I learned from this year.

∞ Changing your cleaning order is okay! I ended up cleaning in a backward order this year. When the week of Pesach came, I had only cleaned the two kids’ bedrooms. We normally would not turn over the kitchen until all the rooms were done (except maybe the living room and dining room). However, I knew with my husband’s and my work schedule, we had to take advantage of that Sunday to turn over the kitchen no matter what.

So I just ended up cleaning our bedroom and the basement (which were only an hour and a half or so total) and then the living-dining room last. It is funny how no matter how long you have been keeping Pesach, each year is so different. You might think that things will get easier as your children get older, or you are not working, or… But what I found in talking with my coworkers, every year brings something new. One friend had lost her father and was helping her mother move, another had a few-month-old baby, and another had a sick mother she was caring for. We never know what life will throw us. I think being organized, but willing to be flexible to get it all done, really helps!

∞ This year I also had to really resist the urge to spring clean to get it all done. With working three jobs and taking care of my family, I did not get as much cleaning done the month before as I had hoped. So with encouragement from friends that “dust is not chometz,” I forged on and lightened my standards, My house did get clean, but we do have some things to continue cleaning (and that is okay!), i.e. dusting, mopping a few areas of the house, and decluttering!

∞ Order paper goods early. In years past, I have compared prices on paper goods from websites and placed a large order with friends. However, I just never got around to it this year. I just couldn’t bare to buy from anywhere else (like a brick and mortar store) because you pay so much more! Thankfully, I was able to get within $.02 an item for most of the paper goods I needed from Amazon Prime. I ordered on Tuesday and my stuff was here Thursday, just in time for Pesach. Next year, I plan to remember that even if I don’t have the time to do the research and do a big order, Amazon has great prices and I should just order right after Purim so I will have some for that week before Pesach!

∞ Planning the week before Pesach is just as important as the cleaning and menu planning for Pesach. This year, I used some tips from a friend of mine, and planned some easy, but not necessarily chometz-free meals the week before (shul dinner, pizza bagels, soup and salad, salmon hash, hamburgers and chips). What helped make it a success was that we:

  • ate outside every night
  • only let the kids eat chometz outside
  • had kitnios snacks and cereal that week
  • used appliances outside the kitchen for meals (like we moved the toaster into the dining room for one night’s meal, grilled for another and heated a frozen soup in the crockpot for one)

∞ Don’t wait to do your Passover shopping! We kept waiting until closer to Pesach to get our groceries, but by the time we did our shopping, some popular items were already gone (like margarine, salad dressing, and pickles). So I will remember to at least get those few things early, even if I am not ready or do not have the money to do my full shopping trip yet.

Do you have any tips you learned this Pesach to share with the rest of us? Please share in the Comments!

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Inspiration for Purim costumes and shaloch manos

This year I am not feeling nearly as crazed as usual, but it certainly helps that my boys chose easy costumes. I normally make their costumes and I take pride that they still wear most of their past costumes to play dress up. However, this year with working two jobs and being sick most of last week, I was feeling so behind. I am finally caught up, except for this – blogging! The following are costume and shaloch manos ideas from last year.

Costumes:

Here is what my boys dressed up as last year – a rocker, Bat Dog, Robin and Batman.

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One of my sons chose to be a rocker. All that required was a borrowed wig (thanks Michelle!), favorite pants with hole in the knee, and a favorite jammy shirt. The easiest of the bunch!

Another wanted to be Bat Dog, which I had never heard of. We looked up ideas on Pinterest and found what he looks like. We used:

  • brown sweatshirt and sweatpants
  • a homemade collar made of felt and velcro (sewed on) and decorated with permanent marker
  • homemade ears made of felt and a headband
  • a black mask (found at Michaels)

The last triplet wanted to be Robin. His costume was made from:

  • red short-sleeved shirt (Michaels or Walmart)
  • green long-sleeved polo shirt
  • red pajama pants
  • felt accents for the shirt and belt, glued with felt glue, velcro sewed on to secure belt, and decorated with permanent marker
  • another black mask (from Michaels)

My oldest wanted to be Batman. His costume was made from:

  • grey sweatpants and sweatshirt
  • a black cape I made from black fabric, an elastic black ribbon for the neck and fabric glue, and decorated with permanent marker
  • felt accents for the shirt and belt, glued with felt glue
  • another black mask (from Michaels)

Shaloch manos:

Our own shaloch manos last year were made to be inexpensive, with a bit of creativity. With job struggles for us both, we needed to keep our costs down. So we went with an apple theme – red gift bag (from Party City), green leaves made from scrapbooking paper, labels printed on the computer, green ribbon, apples, apple laffy taffy and apple cereal bars (from Aldi). Simple, but cute.

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Here are more ideas from shaloch manos we received last year that were creative, yummy and/or useful!

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Pirate treasure theme – cardboard treasure box, goodies inside, scroll with poem on top

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Italian delicacy theme – Pellegrino drink, dakkah spread, olive oil, and Italian bread. Such a special yummy treat and a beautiful, elegant presentation! (Great idea Tammy & Mark!)

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Beach theme – pail and shovel, cute poem with food to match (Great idea Amy and Joshua!)

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Shoe theme – The sisterhood of one of the local shuls always does beautiful, elaborate shaloch manos as a fundraiser. They come up with wonderful themes each year. Last year’s was shoes. The container was a shoebox of course, and inside were a shoe cookie cutter, a shoe-shaped cake knife, shoe luggage tag, a shoe notepad, shoestring potatoes, fruit by the foot, a shoe-shaped cookie, and more. They even put it all in a canvas bag from Famous Footwear!

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Superhero theme – family initial superhero logo, blue paper bag, poem with foods to match – Powerade, Go Bars, celery, Popchips and Gushers. (Great idea Jessi and Arik!)

FAVORITE CONTAINERS:

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Spring themed box – loved this one and it can be used for anything! I love reusable containers!

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Mexican fiesta theme – this family always chooses a theme with matching container and costumes. They include a photo of the family dressed in costume on their container. They are amazing! The food matches, too! (Thanks Bella and Yosef!)

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Posted by on March 2, 2015 in Family ideas, Holidays

 

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St. Louis Jewish Orthodox Community – Purim Megillah Readings 2014

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It is time for my annual post sharing the Orthodox Megillah readings here in St. Louis. (I apologize to my non-St. Louis readers that this post will not apply to you. However, you may skip down to the bottom for other Purim-related posts.) This is particularly helpful for moms with young children who are not old enough to stay up (or be quiet) during Megillah readings. It is also helpful for those having to work around their “work” schedules.

Here is my current list as of 3:30 p.m. on Friday, March 7. If you see any errors or have any additions, let me know and I will update the post.

Saturday, March 15:

8:00 p.m.        Beit Shira, at The Cedars, 13190 S. Outer 40, Town and Country, MO 63017

8:15 p.m.        Tpheris Israel Chevra Kadisha
xx                  Agudas Israel
xx                  U City Shul (formerly Beth Hamedrosh Hagadol Sha’arei Chesed)
xx                  Bais Abraham
xx                  Young Israel
xx                  Congregation Bais Menachem

8:30 p.m.        Nusach Hari B’nai Zion

9:45 p.m.        Torah Prep Boys School, reading for women

10:00 p.m.      Young Israel, Beit Medrash

Sunday, March 16:

6:30 a.m.        Young Israel Shacharis in Beit Medrash, followed by Megillah, 7:10 a.m.

7:45 a.m.        Agudas Israel Shacharis followed by Megillah

8:00 a.m.        U City Shul Shacharis followed by Megillah
xx                  Bais Abraham Shacharis followed by Megillah, 8:30 a.m.
xx                  Young Israel, followed by Megillah, 8:35 a.m.
xx                  Nusach Hari B’nai Zion, followed by Megillah, 8:30 a.m.

8:30 a.m.        Congregation Bais Menachem Shacharis, followed by Megillah, 9:00 a.m.
xx                  Beit Shira with the Block Yeshiva boys, at The Cedars, 13190 S. Outer 40, Town and Country

8:40 a.m.        Tpheris Israel Chevra Kadisha

9:30 a.m.       Women’s Megillah Reading, home of the Goldmeiers, 219 Topton Way, Clayton

10:15 a.m.     Agudas Israel, reading for women
xx                 Aish HaTorah, Purim celebration including an “original” megillah reading
xx                    brunch afterwards (cost $8 adult, $5 child (ages 5 – 11), free pony rides for kids 11:30 – 12:30

11:00 a.m.      Young Israel, by Levy Zimand for his bar mitzvah

11:30 a.m.      Epstein Hebrew Academy

5:00 p.m.       Congregation Bais Menachem

Related fliers:

Agudas Israel: Agudah.Purim.Schedule.2014

Bais Abraham: Bais Abe Purim flyer 2014

* For more information on any of the shuls, please contact them individually. Here is a link to all of the congregations here in St. Louis.

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Posted by on March 7, 2014 in Family ideas, Holidays

 

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Post-Christmas shopping success!

I love after-holiday sales, even for holidays I don’t celebrate. I have gotten good at finding great deals after Valentine’s Day, Easter, Halloween, Christmas, etc.! The key is to not think about whether you celebrate that holiday or not, but to think about things that might be on sale that you could use. There are many seasonal products that anyone can use regardless of religious or holiday observances. For example, read here to find out what you can get at Easter time: Shop those Easter sales today!

Here is my wrap-up from the post-Christmas sales I hit yesterday.

My regular post-holiday trips are to Target, Michaels, CVS and Walgreens. I also look for any deals at Aldi and Schnucks on any seasonal food items, but those are normally my husband’s errands. This year the Michaels’ holiday items were already on sale when I was there Christmas Eve. I like to look for holiday craft kits that I can hang onto for the following year for my students. Here is what I got this year:

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At Michaels I found:

  • foam stickers of several types
  • an ornament craft kit for the kids’ photos (I used a wreath one this year and the kids loved it.)
  • some foam gingerbread men
  • some pencil-top holiday erasers I will give with my holiday gifts to my students next year.

Walgreens did not have anything I needed this year, but in the past I have gotten holiday cards, decorated holiday cups for my students, chocolate, stickers, and a cake decorating kit. See my post from last year: After-Christmas sales are great for everyone!

This year, CVS also did not have anything I wanted, although I could have gotten some chocolate, but passed this time! We did, however, find something my son had been wanting on his holiday wish list. He even had some holiday money to spend. He got a radio-controlled car for $6.50 (half off $12.99). They had lots of them and we even went back today to get one for the gift drawer!

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We were tremendously successful at Target. I guess I can add it to my list of Why I love Target! I found items not only in the Christmas section, but in the Home section and household aisles. Food items were 30% off and Home items were 50% off. Here is what we found:

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The food section is always full of holiday deals: (they were only 30% off now, but still a great deal)

  • holiday flavors of m&m’s (peppermint white chocolate and mint dark chocolate, two of my favorites),
  • icing (Who cares if my Shabbos dessert has peppermint icing or tree sprinkles?)
  • mint chocolate chip cookie mix
  • seasonal soft cookies (For $1.74 this makes a nice little treat for my boys.)
  • small packaged seasonal cookies (A treat is a treat no matter what shape; we can eat reindeer, too.)

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We found the following in the Home section and Stocking Stuffer aisle:

  • a Deluxe Board Game set (regularly $20, got for $10; includes 7 games)
  • a surround-sound speaker (regularly $10, got for $5; great for our iPods)
  • two bath puffs (We always need to replace these and these may hold up a bit better than the dollar store ones. For items you should get at the dollar store, see my post Are “dollar stores” really a good deal?)

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As for holiday items you might think are only for Christmas, I found:

  • an outdoor extension cord (We needed one for lawn care and Sukkos.)
  • mini lights (great for the Sukkah)
  • a winter scene craft kit (Last year I found a Superhero scene craft kit during their summer sales and my boys loved it. It made for a great family activity one night.)

This is also the time to look for light and plug timers and any type of extension cords for around the house (good for a variety of purposes). They were all 50% off!

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They also had tons of these seasonally-labeled storage bins, expecting that people will need them to store their holiday decorations and supplies. We use them for kids’ clothing and other supplies in our basement. At $6, this normally $7.99 tub was a great deal. I did not get the green and red ones, though!

I was very pleased with all my purchases and may go back next week to see if any other items are marked down even further!

Share your holiday finds in the Comments section. This will help other people think of great ideas for what to do with holiday items!

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Making the most of the whole bird

Thanks for your patience with my lack of posts for the last few months. With being back to full-time teaching, I don’t seem to have time to blog much. But, I am not complaining with the economy the way it is and with teaching jobs so hard to get!

Recently my husband has found a new way to save us more money and time. He has been using our freezer to make our cooking very efficient and allow us to have meals we couldn’t afford otherwise (like boneless breast recipes).

Let’s start with chicken.

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When we get chicken for Shabbos, we do not always eat the whole thing and some parts get wasted (or eaten as a not-so-healthy snack for my husband). So instead, my husband has been using all the parts of the chicken very creatively. From two chickens, he puts aside:

  • one chicken breast for a meal later,
  • the wings for a meal later,
  • the necks, back of the breast, and wing tips are saved for making soup stock and then used for soup meat,
  • and one thigh for a meal later.
  • If we are having a roasted chicken, he saves the carcass for making soups, too.

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After several weeks or months, he has enough of each part to make:

  • a boneless chicken dish (from the breasts),
  • teriyaki or barbecue chicken wings (from the wings) – pictured above,
  • chicken soup stock and chicken soup (from the necks, backs, and wing tips),
  • and smoked chicken for seasoning or chicken pieces for a stir fry (from the thighs).

Cheese:

We buy large packs of shredded cheese from Costco. The pack contains more cheese than a single meal uses. So he packages the cheese into smaller servings as soon as we get home. These get frozen in freezer bags to use later as needed. For more ways to cut down on meal costs read Stretching your dinner dime… dollar.”

Refried beans:

My husband has created the best refried beans recipe. He makes a huge batch in our largest soup pot and packages it up in large Gladware containers. (We used to be able to use the soup and salad size, but our family eats more now!) One container or two small ones makes for a great meal of burritos. They are also good to pull out when we cook for a friend with a new baby or for another occasion.

Milk:

Sometimes we stock up on milk if it is a particularly good deal or we have been given milk that is close to expiring. If we freeze it and then thaw it later, we can get a few more days out of it than if we had used it right away. For more tips on how long various foods will last, check out my post “Shelf life of your food.”

Bread:

We recently found an Entenmann’s outlet that sells Arnold and Thomas bread products as well as Entenmann’s baked goods. They have store coupon as well as a punch card. We can spend $10 and leave with 5-7 items! We keep a few out and save the rest for later. Between this and our bread maker, we our saving a ton of money on bread. This has been a big help with all four of our boys in elementary school this year!

Challah:

We always make several challahs at once. What we don’t need for that Shabbos gets frozen for later Shabbosim. To see why making your own challah is worth it moneywise, read “Making your own challah.” We have also tried canning. Read more at First canning experiment: apple butter.”

Kugels and desserts:

This is not always possible, but we try to double kugel and dessert recipes when preparing for Shabbos so we have one to freeze for later. This depends on what ingredients we have available.

How do you use your freezer to its potential? Share your tips below!

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Kids’ Mitzvah Checklist for Passover

nissan_simaneihaseder_magidI am taking a break from my regular Passover (Pesach) preparations to think of my kids. One of my favorite new traditions is involving the kids by helping them get excited about doing the mitzvos for that holiday. I already had a reader/friend ask where my next holiday checklist for the kids was! So here is this holiday’s mitzvah checklist for your children.

Kids’ Mitzvah Checklist for Passover

I like to print these out in color for my kids and post them on the door of their room. They love adding stickers for each mitzvah they complete and then we go for a family reward after the holiday. Thanks again to Chinuch.org for the great clip art!

If you are still in the middle of your holiday preparations and need some tips, here are my past related posts on Passover (Pesach):

For other related posts, check out:

Have a wonderful and meaningful Passover!

 
 

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Kids’ Mitzvah Checklist for Purim

little_kingPurim is not a holiday that really needs help being fun, but I wanted to make a Mitzvah Checklist for the holiday anyway. My kids really enjoyed the ones I made for Rosh Hashanah and Sukkos. They loved getting to put stickers on their charts when they completed a mitzvah. We had a fun outing after we completed one of the charts and the boys earned a prize after the other.

The charts helped my kids get excited about each mitzvah that’s part of the holiday and it helped them learn all the ways they could help and participate.

Here is one for this holiday. You can print one out for each of your kids. Kids’ Mitzvah Checklist for Purim

Religious school and day school teachers may even want to send it home with their students as a family activity. Again, thank you to Chinuch.org for the great clipart.

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Posted by on February 21, 2013 in Family ideas, Holidays

 

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