Monday, December 29, 2014

Dear Zahara: 18 Months

Dear Zahara,

Happy 18 month birthday! This was a month filled with family and friends as we celebrated the holidays. First, we had a wonderful visit with G-mom and Pop Pop. You spent most of the visit curled up next to them reading your favorite books.

We celebrated chanukah this month. You are officially in love with the holiday. Though you love the presents, it is the menorah that you can't get enough of. Chanukah ended last week, but every day you still point to our menorahs that we keep on display and ask to light candles. We now light a scented candle every night so you can watch the match light up in flames and catch the wick. Daddy is hoping this doesn't make you into a pyromaniac :)

You are talking up a storm now! You repeat everything we say, which can be both hilarious and dangerous. Sadly for  me, you now say your "f"s correctly. You used to make a fantastic whistling sound when you said any word starting with f--the best being fig and fish. We took this video of you earlier this month. Good thing we caught it on camera before the sound disappeared!

You are in such an adorable phase where you really want to help. You love cooking and cleaning. We sometimes put you to work, but the quality just isn't there.

Though this month was mostly fantastic, we did hit a few speed bumps. You were sick again. That makes three times in the past month. The doctor says it is totally normal for a baby your age to get sick, but it still makes mummy and daddy so sad for you.

Thankfully, you bounce back pretty quickly. Your energy, enthusiasm and absolute charm never cease to amaze us. We love you very much and wish you a very happy year and a half-birthday!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

We Went to 2010

In 2010 Dan had an opportunity to go to Australia for work. When he told me about it, my first response was, "not without me!" His ticket was free, and we managed to cobble together 100,000 airline miles (!) for my ticket. We only had 10 days to see as much of Australia as we could, and I think we did a pretty good job. Going back for a more leisurely trip is definitely on my to-do list.

I kept a travel journal during our trip, but I didn't start this blog until the next year when we moved to England. I just came across my old journal the other day and decided to upload my posts on here for posterity. You can check out all of my posts on Australia through the Travel Archives page at the top of my site; through the archives on the right side of the page; or by clicking the links below, I hope you enjoy!

Read more about our trip to Australia:
Off and Running
Blue Mountains and Wildlife
We Are Now a Hostel-Free Family
A Night on the Reef
Day Two on the Reef
Travel Day
Great Ocean Road!
To Kangaroo Island
Eating Our Way Through Kangaroo Island
Flinders Chase, Vivonne Bay and Little Sahara
Last Day in Australia
Longest Day Ever

Monday, December 22, 2014


A while back, Dan and I were at the kosher store and spotted a product called "Facon." It is dry-cured kosher beef that supposedly looks, cooks and tastes like the real thing. We brought it home and were actually impressed with how it tasted in our BLT sandwich.

While preparing for our visit with my folks, we were back at the kosher store and planned on picking up a pack of Facon for them to try. We spotted several more varieties of fake bacon, and knew that we had to try them all. We picked up a pack of turkey bacon, lamb bacon and one more variety of beef bacon for good measure. We are all big foodies and love any activity involved with eating or cooking. We are also big nerds. I knew they would love a bacon-off as much as I would.

Early one morning Dan cooked up the four varieties of bacon and labeled them so we wouldn't know which was which. We tasted each one and gave our verdicts.

Turkey Bacon

Beef Bacon

Can you tell which is which?

We started with A. Mom and I both really liked it. Dan and Dad said it was good, but they weren't in love. I could eat a few slices of that every morning and be very satisfied. Fat, but satisfied.

B was interesting. I've never had ham before, but that's what this supposedly tasted like. It was good, but I wouldn't describe it as bacon. It was more like a sweet deli meat. I think it would be really tasty in a sandwich. Mom didn't love it and Dan thought it was just ok.

C was delicious. Super crunchy, good smoky flavor. Loved it. Mom liked it, but not as much as A.

D was horrendous. We couldn't even eat it. It was so obviously lamb from the first smell. I really love lamb, but this was incredibly gamy. The flavor was so unpleasant that we actually threw it out. I've had lamb bacon in the past and really enjoyed it, but this particular variety was terrible.

So, at the end of the test, the clear-cut winner was beef bacon, as both A and C were beef! Now, I haven't had actual bacon in at least twenty years (!), so I can't claim that this is a dead-ringer for the real thing. What I can say is that it is pretty darn good. Especially wrapped around a cocktail weiner and sprinkled with brown sugar. (Do yourself a favor and make these.)

Ready to go in the oven

What about you? Have you had any fake bacons that you love, or will only the real thing do? I also really like MorningStar's veggie bacon, but, let's be honest. That isn't even in the same category as a meat bacon.

List of bacons:
A: Aaron's Beef Fry
B: Hod Lavan Turkey Bacon
C: Jack's Gourmet Facon
D: Shalom Kosher Lamb Bacon

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Guest Post: Festive Cookie Exchange

One of the best parts about moving back home is getting to see all of my old friends. I've known Erin for nearly a decade now, and she is one of the sweetest people you'll ever meet. Read about her fun holiday party tradition.

One of the many reasons why I am so glad that Calli is back in Maryland is because we can continue a holiday tradition started six years ago. The "annual" (ok there may have been a couple missed years here and there) Festive Cookie Exchange is a great excuse to bake, mingle with friends and eat cookies!

Each guest is asked to bake 2-3 dozen of their favorite holiday treats. At the party everyone fills out a little card detailing the type of cookie, the baker's name and other dietary specifics (does the cookie contain nuts? Is it gluten free?).

Now that she is back, Calli jumped right into the festive fun with a cute new dress and tasty pumpkin oatmeal chocolate balls. Yum!

There were lots of great cookies this year! Including delicious gluten free options. Why describe the cookies when you can see them (warning: don't view on an empty stomach)...

Even my dog Ziggy got in on the holiday fun! One generous baker made peanut butter/pumpkin dog cookies. Ziggy entertained the party guests by dancing for his treats.

One of the reasons why I asked guests to bring so many cookies was in order to both enjoy them at the party and take plenty home to enjoy throughout the holiday season! Each guest got a to-go box to fill with their favorite treats.

Thanks for reading about this year's Festive Cookie Exchange!

And, thank you, Erin for hosting such a fun party! Now, please excuse me while I dig in to my leftover cookies.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Happy Chanukah!

Tonight marks the first night of Chanukah, a Jewish holiday celebrating the Maccabean defeat over the Greek-Syrians in the second century BCE. Though it isn't a very important holiday, religiously speaking, it is a lot of fun. We celebrate by eating fried foods like potato pancakes and jelly donuts; playing dreidel; lighting the chanukiah (menorah); and exchanging presents. What's not to love?

We began our Chanukah preparations last month when Dan's sister Amy was in town. We went to a make-your-own-pottery place where Zahara painted her first masterpiece. Last time we visited one of these places was almost exactly a year ago in Harrogate. What a difference a year makes!

Zahara, 2013

This time, Zahara was in charge and she loved it. We painted a plate and really let her go to town. It was very messy, but so sweet. I loved watching her concentrate and place the brush just-so. She took several breaks to run around the store making friends with a table of little boys.

The plate actually turned out quite well and will be a wonderful keepsake for years to come. Or, maybe we'll just use it to serve the latkes.

Read about previous Chanukahs:
2013 in Barcelona, Spain
2012, and 2011 in Harrogate, England

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Frozen Yogurt Bites

Zahara is a great eater, and has been from day one. I absolutely do not have to worry about her getting enough fruit--can one overdose on bananas?--and she does pretty well with veggies too. Since we stopped nursing this month though, I really want to make sure she gets enough calcium and vitamin D. She drinks whole milk at daycare, but doesn't seem to love it at home.

Of course milk isn't the only way to get these nutrients. These frozen yogurt bites could not be easier to make and so far she seems to enjoy them.

Frozen Yogurt Bites
  • One container of Greek yogurt with fruit (I used Chobani)
  • Scoop whole container of yogurt into a ziplock bag. Fold the zipper over the bag first so that the yogurt doesn't get on your hands.
  • Use a pair of scissors to snip a small corner of the bag. The bigger the whole, the bigger your bites will be. 
  • Place a Silpat or piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet. Gently squeeze the bag to form small rows of dots.
  • Put the baking sheet in the freezer until yogurt is set (a few hours should do it).
These bites are best right out of the freezer. They melt quickly, so serve only a few at a time as a finger food or with a spoon.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Thankful for Thanksgiving

It's no secret that I absolutely love Thanksgiving. It is a fantastic holiday where friends and family gather together to express their gratitude for all life has to offer. This year has been one of enormous transition, and it hasn't all been easy for me. Nevertheless, I am enormously blessed to have such wonderful people in my life; to have a loving, supportive husband; and to watch my precocious, hilarious, energetic toddler storm through each day.

But, enough sappiness...let's talk turkey! We spent this Thanksgiving with our good friends Katie and Andy and my sister-in-law Amy. Amy, who is a senior in college, lives in the dorms and needed a place to stay when they closed for the Thanksgiving break. We were thrilled to host her!

Originally we were going to have Thanksgiving at Katie and Andy's, but since Katie was 37 weeks pregnant, we thought maybe it would be easier to host at our house.

The menu rarely changes from year to year because I can't bear to be without my favorites--which are all of them! This year Katie added some fun new traditions to the mix, like the (kosher) pigs-in-a-blanket appetizer and chocolate brownie cake that come standard in her family. Yes, please!

Everything turned out so well and it was easily one of the most relaxed Thanksgivings we've had. Zahara got right into the spirit by eating a big meal, then taking her pants off to watch the Cowboys play. Ha!

As a side-note, can you believe what a difference a year makes?!

Thanksgiving 2013

Want more Thanksgiving posts?
Thanksgiving 2013
Thanksgiving 2012
Thanksgiving 2011: part 1, part 2

Monday, December 1, 2014

Family Vacation

In a win-win scenario for me, my in-laws recently retired from Boston and moved to sunny Florida. Now when we go to visit them, not only do I get a mini-break while the grandparents watch my daughter, but I get to have that mini-break on a white sandy beach. Life is good.

Zahara loves everything about the beach--chasing the seagulls; playing with/eating the sand; feeling the waves crash over her.  

Dan's wonderful aunt and uncle live only a few minutes away from my in-laws. It is so nice spending time with family.

We could not have asked for better weather. It was really tough to leave this and return to near-freezing temps back home. I'm already dreaming of our next trip out there!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Dear Zahara: 17 Months

Dear Zahara,

You are so full of personality and sass it makes my heart swell with pride. You have definite opinions on everything--what book to read, what to eat for dinner, when to take a bath. In fact, you went on a bit of a strike this month arching your back and climbing up me like a spider monkey every night at bath time. We gave up baths for a couple of days and, thankfully, you suddenly decided baths are fine again. Though frustrating at times, it is really amazing to see you assert yourself with a simple "yup" or "nope" depending on your mood.

We had a lot of adventures this month from our visit to Indiana to see my college roommates and their kids, to our time in Florida with babushka and dedushka. You did great, even though you suffered through your first ear infection. We caught it pretty early and we were able to get you on meds while in Indiana, but you caught another one a few weeks later. It was terrible. You had to sleep in your car seat because you couldn't lay down without being in pain. Daddy and I were so sad for you.

With Aunt Katie and Austin

Happily, even when you're sick, you are so full of life. You've gotten really in to painting and coloring this month. You were only so-so on it when we tried to paint the Halloween pumpkin, but you got really in to painting in Florida when you "painted" mummy and daddy with sunscreen before going to the beach. We color every day now, and we even went to a paint-your-own-pottery place with Aunt Amy.

Happy 17 months, Zoey. We love you!