Friday, July 10, 2020

St. Michaels, Maryland

Lately, we've been trying to explore some of the towns around us. We've been living in the area since 2004 (with a brief stint in England, of course), but we've rarely ventured outside Washington, DC, Baltimore, or Annapolis. There are tons of hidden gems within an hour's drive. So now we're making up for lost time!

A couple of weekends ago we went to an adorable little town called St. Michaels. It's on the Eastern Shore in Maryland on the Chesapeake Bay. It's been voted the best small town in Maryland and it's easy to see why. This town that's been around since the 1600s is chock-full of charm. Every house and street and alcove is full of history.

The Episcopal church that still stands in the town center was founded in 1677. Walking through the cemetery you can find tombstones dating back to at least the 1800s. 

We grabbed some food to go and ate our lunch at the waterfront. The walk to the water displayed some of the best examples of colonial houses. This bed and breakfast, the Tarr House, was built in 1667!

The town was full of gorgeous old homes and beautiful views of the water.

Of course we grabbed some ice cream from a local store, JoJo's Cupcakes and Cream. Dan's butter pecan was a big hit, but my black cherry was pretty great too.

Though the world is completely upside-down right now, sometimes its nice to carve out a little sense of normalcy with the family. I find ice cream usually does the trick.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Thailand Week!

I'm a little behind on my country recaps, but here was a fun week spent in Thailand. Every country has had amazing food, but Dan really outdid himself on this week's menu. Every meal was more delicious than the next.

We found these adorable little paper dolls that the kids could color and play with. The writing on the doll says Sawadee Kha and Sawadee Khrap, which is how you say hello in Thai. Dan helped them put it together and made this GIF to show you how they work.

Dan also made lotus flowers with the kids. Lotus flowers have religious and cultural significance in Thailand, as they represent growth and and purity. I found this description beautiful:
In Buddhist and Thai tradition, the lotus flower is seen as a symbol of purity, faithfulness and spiritual awakening. The flower itself emerges from the mud, constantly growing upwards towards the light and warmth, representative of the act of spiritual growth and reaching enlightenment.

I studied abroad in Malaysia during graduate school, and at the end of my semester there Dan came and met me for five weeks of backpacking. We traveled through Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam. In fact, it was on the second-to-last day of this trip that we got engaged in Vietnam's Ha Long Bay! We showed the kids some of our adventures in Thailand, including one of our more memorable rides in a tuk-tuk (a rickshaw), and one of our favorite spots--James Bond Island (Khao Phing Kan).

We also watched a few NatGeo kids videos that toured the country. Each one is only around 5 minutes, so they're a perfect little peak into a country (here, here, and here). We also learned about Thailand's geography through this catchy song

As I mentioned though, the food was the real hero here. I happen to love Thai food, so this week was already going to be a winner. When Dan and I were in Thailand, we took a cooking class in Chiang Mai. It was so fun to tour the market with our guide, hand-pick fresh ingredients, and then turn those ingredients into a three-course meal. We do a fair amount of Thai cooking at home, but usually just the standards. And, lately, we are more likely to order in from one of the amazing Thai restaurants near us. We decided to use this opportunity to both order and cook something new. Here was our menu: pad thai (of course),  pineapple fried rice, mango sticky rice, and pad kaprow gai (spicy thai basil chicken--new to us). We ordered these from Thai Taste by Kob (highly recommend!): crispy veggie spring rolls, fried fish cakes, and panang curry (my favorite!). 

Next up, France week! Ooh la la!

See our other country week adventures here.

Monday, June 29, 2020

Dear Zahara: 7 Years

Happy 7th birthday, Zahara! What a year it's been.

This year we've seen so many changes in you. You're maturing and growing before our eyes. The biggest change is that you're now a fluent reader. It's so exciting to see your love for reading blossom. Now that your're reading chapter books (a fairly recent development), we will often see you curled up with a book on the arm chair in the living room or Adirondack chair out back. You even started a book club with our neighbors.

At school this year you also continued your Hebrew lessons. We were so proud of you when we heard the teacher say that you were one of the top students in the class, and that often you seemed even more comfortable in Hebrew than in English! Your ear for accents is incredible. It's hilarious and infuriating when you correct my very American pronunciation. 

Speaking of school, this year was a crazy one. Covid-19 interrupted life pretty dramatically this year. We started digital learning in mid-March and never returned back to campus. Thankfully, you are incredibly adaptable and didn't bat an eye at this drastic change. You handled your Zoom classes and online homework so well. We did our best to keep you on a schedule and to your credit, you did it all with (mostly) a positive attitude.

Aside from academics, you still have a lot of the same hobbies as you've always had--namely arts and crafts. You're still happiest when coloring, painting, or gluing. You've also picked up a new hobby of taking pictures. You're actually pretty good. You'll ask for my phone or daddy's phone and go on adventures narrating your way through fields and taking still shots of whatever catches you're eye. You got a guitar for Chanukah this year from Babushka and Dedushka, and for your birthday we're getting you guitar lessons! We can't wait to see your first concert.

You're also enjoying the fact that Asher is playing more creatively now. One silver lining of this pandemic is that the two of you are playing really well together. Not always, but definitely for longer periods of time. You guys make up funny games and adventures to go on together. 

We're really hoping the pool opens this year, but we don't know yet. You learned to swim last summer in Florida and honed your skills recently when we were in Texas. You're a little fish who can happily spend all day at the pool. You're getting much stronger and your form is getting better.

One funny thing is that you love animals and fancy yourself a little animal trainer. This is most evident with our neighbor's new puppy Mamba. You met her when she was an 8-week-old Italian Mastiff a month ago, when she weighed only 16 pounds. She's on her way to growing into her full 125-pound form, but for the meantime, you're convinced you're her trainer. And you know what? You're not half bad. I can't wait to see you two play together as she grows.

Zahara, you are the most clever girl. You are never one to back away from an argument, and often you'll win. You've mastered the use of logic--quite frustratingly so! You have such a big heart and huge emotions. Your desire to help others is admirable, and something we hope continues into your future. We are so proud of the girl you've become and can't wait to watch you grow. We love you oodles of noodles. Happy birthday!!

See Zahara's other birthday wishes here.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Thoughts by Asher: June 2020

There aren't too many silver linings to this global pandemic, but one upside is that I get to spend more time hearing the amazing thoughts in my little guy's head. Enjoy some of my favorites this month.

Thought 1:
Asher: Mommy, I want to marry you!
Mommy: Well, I'm already married to daddy.
Asher: Can you un-marry daddy and marry me when I'm grown up and have a mustache?

Thought 2:
Asher, doing arts and crafts
Asher: Mommy, I'm going to make an "A." Don't freak out.

Thought 3:
Asher: G-mom, can I come in and get my clothes?
G-Mom: What?
Asher: What, you don't know what clothes are??

Bonus Thought from Zahara:
Zahara: I've been wondering this for a while. Where do you put your phone when you die?

Click here to see some of Asher's previous thoughts.
And to see his equally insightful and hilarious sister, click here.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Ethiopia Week

This week, Ethiopia week, was our first time in Africa!

To be honest, this was a bit of a light week, content wise as I was pretty stretched at work. Nevertheless, we had fun learning about a new culture and country.

We intended to make paper necklaces using this tutorial, and to make Ethiopian flags out of fabric and other materials. We didn't get to those crafts. Instead, Asher and I did a fun weaving activity out of construction paper. This was really simple, and it actually lasted longer than I thought it would (of course I forgot to take pictures). Weaving has been a way of life in Ethiopia for centuries, so this was a nice tribute to that tradition.

Coffee is another mainstay in Ethiopia. Today, more than 3% of the world's coffee is grown there [source]. To honor that  significant contribution, we made "art" with coffee beans. I drew a picture of an Ethiopian girl and had Asher decorate her with coffee beans that he glued on. I would say this was mildly successful. He had fun for a few minutes, though the results are...abstract.

We learned about the geography of Ethiopia through this video. We also got to watch a day in the life of Keneni, a 5th grader in Ethiopia. And, we learned about the Ethiopian Jews--such a fascinating group of people with a cool history. It was neat to see people who live such different lives than us, but still have something important in common with us.

We kind of phoned it in for this week, but I regret nothing. Where we live is a hotspot of Ethiopian culture and cuisine. There are a lot of great Ethiopian restaurants near us, and after scouring online recipes for inspiration, we decided to order-in. I mean, look at this!

This vegetarian platter has a lot of our favorites, including injira (the bread) and various wots (the stews). The wots include lentils, collard greens, chick peas, cabbage, and lots of great spices. Most of the wots aren't spicy, but the red misir wot (red lentils) is. The kids loved the injira and the yellow dishes--those were the least spicy. 

It was a fun week in Ethiopia--next week we head to Thailand!

See our other country weeks here.

Saturday, June 6, 2020

Italy Week!

It was only a matter of time before we made our way to Italy. It's one of our favorite countries to visit in real life, and of course the food is incredible. We could have spent all summer in Italy, but I'm afraid I would gain 20 pounds or more!

Dan made these adorable Venetian masks with the kids using supplies we had around the house. We just cut paper plates in half and made eye holes. The kids painted the plates while Dan made little feathers out of construction paper. Once dried, add a craft stick and you're ready for the masquerade party.

A couple of other crafts this week involved making food. I love these hands-on activities. Asher in particular really enjoys cooking, so it's fun to get him involved. This week we made our own pasta, pizza, and ricotta cheese!

We got a pasta maker attachment for our KitchenAid mixer as a wedding present nearly twelve years ago, and though we rarely use it, when we do, it is so fun! You can make pasta by hand, but rolling and cutting would be really challenging. For this week, we cut our pasta into spaghetti and linguine shapes. Of course we had to make our favorite sauce of all time--Scarpetta's tomato sauce

For the ricotta, Dan used this recipe and then made a really delicious poached pear dessert. I didn't think I was a fan of ricotta desserts (like cannoli), but this changed my mind!

Dan and I have been to Italy a few times, both together and separately. Zahara went when she was a baby, too! The kids got to re-live a couple of our trips with a slideshow of our top memories. I'll never forget our trip as a family of three to Cinque Terre and Tuscany. And of course our honeymoon is unforgettable.

The kids also watched a couple of NatGeo videos. One on gondalas, and one on the leaning tower of Pisa.

We've already talked about some of the food we ate this week. Pasta, ricotta, pizza. We had a few different options for the pizzas. Dan experimented with an anchovy and cultured olive pizza (verdict: too salty). We also went for black olive (the kids' favorite), and a white pizza with ricotta, buffalo mozzarella, thyme, and ricotta. I liked the white pizza a lot.

Dan and the kids made focaccia too, using our sourdough starter. We had that as a snack throughout the week. We also had a caprese salad, osso bucco (veal shank) with risotto, chicken marsala, and a charcuterie board. Gotta say, the charcuterie board was kind of hard to do kosher. We had some deli meat, olives, artichoke hearts, and anchovies, but we were really missing the variety of meats.


Italy, you were wonderful as always. We'll miss you, but I'm sure we'll be back again soon. Next stop is our first in Africa: Ethiopia!

See our other country weeks here.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

South Korea Week!

While I love all the countries we have been exploring, I have to admit, South Korea was a particularly fun week. We didn't get done as much as we planned, but we had a great time.

We had grand plans to do several crafts, but ran out of steam. We did manage to make little paper dolls that turned out so cute. Did I take a picture of the final products? Nope. But here's Asher making his.

Our neighbors are South Korean and were happy to share their knowledge and experiences with us. Their story is actually really interesting. The daughter is the same age as Zahara and they've become fast friends. Her grandparents lived in Argentina for 30 years before moving to the States. They speak only Korean and Spanish. Her dad owns a food market and has been self-quarantining in a rented apartment away from the family since March. What an incredible sacrifice.

These neighbors helped us learn how to write our names in Korean, and also taught us an interesting fact. In Korean, there is no "z" sound. It's the same sound as a "j." That's why Zahara's name is written with a J in English.

They also lent us some of their traditional clothes that they wear to celebrate the lunar new year. The kids loved touching all the rich fabrics and seeing the beautiful embroidery.

We watched this catchy video to learn about South Korea, and now the song is stuck in my head.

Zahara has been taking karate for 1.5 years now. Every class they count to ten or twenty in Korean. It's so adorable hearing all the kids shouting hana, dool, set... Even Asher has picked up on the numbers. We used that knowledge to teach my parents how to count in Korean (or at least tried to).

Of course, no South Korea week is complete without a K-Pop dance party! K-Pop, or Korean pop is a huge phenomenon that has crossed over into the American market--most famously with Psy's 2012 hit Gangnam Style. Crazy fact--that song has been viewed more than 3.6 billion times on YouTube! We had a blast dancing around in our living room after dinner one night.

I know I say this every week, but I really loved the food this week! We had a few favorites and a few new-to-us dishes. I loved them all. The one that surprised me the most was the lotus root dish. I ate these like candy. We made japche noodles (sweet potato noodles); Korean beef bowls (with the yum-yum sauce); sweet and salty lotus roots; gama jorim (potato side dish); steamed red bean buns, and a yummy Korean candy.

Another stamp in our passports. Next week is Italy week!

See our other country weeks here.