A Real Momma’s Egg Strata (a recipe… sort of)

Here’s how an Egg Strata recipe looks in my house.

1) Search the internet for an egg strata recipe. Print it. You will not be following it, but read it over quickly to make sure you have all the *truly* necessary ingredients (like, in this case, eggs…. the rest is negotiable).

2) Substitute egg strata vegetables for what you actually have.  Don’t worry about proportions, you don’t have the proper size pan anyway, so it’ll be a wash.  Chop vegetables, trying to interest your toddler without getting her so excited that she loses a finger.

3) Realize that this is one of the only times this year you’ll actually use your julienne slicer.  Run to find it (in one of the cabinets you swear you’ll be decluttering soon) and bring it back before your absence causes a tantrum.  Narrating everything I’m doing like it’s really exciting seems to be my MO “I’m getting the JULIENNE SLICER from the DINING ROOM!” I think it just weirds Adina out enough to keep her quiet.

4) Actually try using the julienne slicer. Vow for the 4th time to donate it to Goodwill.

5) Read the first few instructions.  Realize you were supposed to leave this overnight in the fridge.  Check the time–husband will be home in an hour.  Send up a quick prayer of thanks that 3 years of your poor cooking skills have lowered his expectations significantly.

6) Grab whatever resembles bread from the fridge.  Check for mold.  To be extra careful, give it a sniff.  Show your toddler how you can tear it and throw it in (yay, a great job for a toddler!) and then watch her shove her pieces in her mouth.

9) Then watch her spit them out on the ground and walk away.

10) Season the vegetables with 3 frozen Dorot garlic cubes.  Watch in confusion as your toddler tries to gnaw the last one in the package through the packet, but try not to look judgmental because then you’ll be feeling guilty all night that you’ve added to the amount of therapy she’ll obviously be needing.

11) Another great toddler activity! Pull out 6 eggs and let her count 1-2-3 and crack the egg on 3!  Yay! So exciting!  Mix the eggs, letting her “help,” then add the first cup of milk.

12) Restrain yourself from a string of obscenities when she grabs the bowl of eggs and milk and pours it out on the counter, herself, and the floor.  Extra fun step for kosher cooks: it seeps into the MEAT side of the sink.

13) Clean it up, trying not to sigh too loudly because people who feel guilty need therapy and you don’t want her to need therapy.

14) Take advantage of her sudden interest in a new toy to re-do the egg step yourself (another “thank you Gd!” for your bizarre whim to buy 3 dozen eggs last time you were at the grocery store).

15) Realize that you’ve only used half the bread and you don’t know why.  You were supposed to layer the veggies, cheese, and bread.  Reexamine your good fortune at finding a husband with such low expectations.  (Oh, by the way, “cheese” was also an open-to-interpretation ingredient.  Our huge bag of shredded mozzarella from Costco had gone bad, so instead of the fancy egg strata cheeses we have slices of meunster and cream cheese chunks.)

16) Throw the rest of the bread on top and cover with the egg/milk mixture.  You don’t have nutmeg–it was on your last grocery list but you threw out the list after the trip even though you didn’t actually find everything on it.  Remind yourself to write it on your next list (you won’t).

17) Find that it now takes twice as long to bake (maybe because I have a convection oven? Or the wrong pan? Or he wrong ingredients?). Just keep sticking it back in the oven.

18) And, at long last, enjoy.

Never a dull moment.

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And Then There Were Two!

We have had quite the busy holiday season over here at mishpachat Levin!

First… we went from one to two!

Zoey joined us on September 22nd (two weeks after her due date!) and the girls are enjoying each other already!  As long as big sister keeps it gentle… which can be a challenge.  She was born Shabbos morning between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, and then we went into Sukkot!

On top of the huge slew of Jewish holidays that we just went through, there has been lots of family in town. Here’s the mini-glimpse I got of my mom (she has better pictures I’ll share later) on our first big outing to (where else?) Target!  Both girls fell fast asleep on the way there.

And, to be sure to affirm my absolute lack of sanity, I switched both girls over to cloth diapers.  Here’s Adina’s “Super Toddler” portrait… cloth diapers, chunky thighs and a kale smoothie.

Finally, we have somewhat continued our home-Montessori-ing.  Here’s Adina learning how to cut bananas with a (kiddie) knife.

Still working on which utensils we use for eating…

It’s been an insanely busy few months, and we are looking forward to seeing what life is like with Noach back to work, family all back home, and Adina back in daycare.  We’ll keep you posted!

A modest beginning

With some inspiration from Pinterest and a few other sources, I decided to try to Montessori-ze our home a little. I love the ideas of organized independent activities and learning through practical daily tasks. But I tend to do a lot of thinking (and Pinning) with little action to back it up.

So instead of waiting until I had perfect ideas and materials, I just decided to do something. It also helps to be on a nesting high…

The toy closet is now much more organized for her, mainly with puzzles and coloring activities which are her favorites.  I think Goodwill is about to get a lot of new toys… I have a tendency to take anything that is being given away, but the closet was so packed Adina couldn’t actually see what there was to do  there.

I also added a small dust pan and rag to her kitchen and put some snacks under her “sink” that she can take out on her own if she wants them.  She was so excited about the dustpan at Target (from their little dollar store section in front) that she kept asking me to “opennid” the whole trip.  I think the next project is to make her a little apron.  Because that would be adorable.

I also created a little do-it-yourself snack space for her, with applesauce, crackers, and plastic spoons.  This way if she’s hungry she has a bit more control over her environment and can do it all herself.

I have a few Montessori-at-home books reserved at the library, so I’ll find out soon if I’m going in the right direction or way off track… but at least its something!  I’ll keep you posted 🙂

In the meantime, Adina will be working on her serve…

Frozen Veggies Go Gourmet

Wise Bread recently posted 20 ideas for using frozen mixed veggies. My poor family usually gets frozen vegetables on the “you’re-lucky-not-to-be-eating-cereal-so-don’t-you-dare-ask-about-a-salad” nights. Also known at Chez Levin as Tuesday.

Courtesy of sxc.hu/aidswarrio

What’s so fabulous about Wise Bread’s post? How about pot pie? Samosas? Vegetable kurma? I’m a fan.

Who would have thought you could break out of a dinner rut with this cheap freezer staple?

Two more reasons to love frozen mixed veggies: 1) They are sold (cheap) at Costco. 2) Frozen vegetables (especially flash frozen vegetables) actually tend to maintain more of their nutritional good-ness that what you might find fresh in the produce aisle. Check out this excerpt from eatingwell.com:

“While the first step of freezing vegetables—blanching them in hot water or steam to kill bacteria and arrest the action of food-degrading enzymes—causes some water-soluble nutrients like vitamin C and the B vitamins to break down or leach out, the subsequent flash-freeze locks the vegetables in a relatively nutrient-rich state.

On the other hand, fruits and vegetables destined to be shipped to the fresh-produce aisles around the country typically are picked before they are ripe, which gives them less time to develop a full spectrum of vitamins and minerals. Outward signs of ripening may still occur, but these vegetables will never have the same nutritive value as if they had been allowed to fully ripen on the vine. In addition, during the long haul from farm to fork, fresh fruits and vegetables are exposed to lots of heat and light, which degrade some nutrients, especially delicate vitamins like C and the B vitamin thiamin.”

Best Apps for Mom

I really admire women who seem to manage mothering like a real CEO – organized, efficient, SCHEDULED! I don’t mean super-mom, I just mean being more intentional with mothering. For instance, I’ve realized that sometimes I actually do need to turn down a playdate (I love playdates) because I know my weekly schedule and I know what needs to get done each day–and some days, playdates are just not an option. Am I reporting to work? No (although I do work), but it doesn’t mean I can throw my priorities out the window. As completely un-spontaneous and un-fun as this may sound, it’s made my life a lot less stressful. Dishes and laundry don’t pile up, I know what I’m serving for dinner, and the time that’s left over is GUILT-FREE playtime. And that’s the best.

AR Texting

If the phone tells her its bedtime, will she listen?

I’ve had two absolute lifelines in my attempt to be CEO Mom. One (who deserves a much more detailed post) is the FlyLady. Her positivity and common sense ideas have transformed our home.

And my favorite tool for implementing many of her tips is my smartphone. I’m always on the lookout for the best new apps for moms to make life run more smoothly. This post will continue to be updated as I find new ones, but please let me know about your beloved apps, too, so we can share!

1) Google Calendar. I used to have a Blackberry and I loved it.  In fact, I haven’t gotten rid of it.  I came across it yesterday in a drawer, looking for a Windows CD, held it longingly, sighed, and put it away.  The keyboard was so perfect, the size was fabulous, and did I ever feel important with that phone in my hand.  My favorite part was the notification system.  Somehow, my Android has just never quite lived up to my Blackberry in email and event notifications.  I’ve tried out Cozi and a few other Android calendars, but at the end of the day Google Calendar is my favorite.  My husband and I share our calendars with each other, but I don’t see his on my phone (do I really need to know when your next meeting is?).  However, I can invite him to any events I want to be sure he knows about or needs to attend.  The notification system is simple and straightforward.  The only really annoying part is that it’s not so easy to dismiss or snooze one event once you have a few that have popped up.  Eventually, I resorted to ONLY using this for business and unusual family events (attending an evening class, my husband having off from work, birthdays)–not weekly or daily routines.  But I love my routines, and I wanted my phone to help remind me and guide me through them!  Enter…

My phone, the Samsung Epic

2) Astrid, the best to-do list app on the market. Oh, Astrid.  We’ve come a long way.  From the early days when I spent hours setting up every single thing I ever wanted done, with notifications coming by the hour, and then we broke up for a little while, and then–months later–my husband brought you back into our home.  And we’ve found our stride, you and me.  I only use Astrid now for routines and immediate to-dos, so I get a notification for my morning, afternoon, and evening routines and also my weekly task (for instance, on Mondays I do a quick house clean and pay bills, Tuesdays something else, etc.).

Basically, I’ve found that with smartphones, what you put in is what you get.  Like any relationship, if you haven’t spent some quality one-on-one time with each other, you can’t expect things to just coast.  What’s new?  (Probably about 3,000 apps.)  What’s grown tired between us?  (At least a few that are taking up precious memory.)  What can I do for YOU?  (Change the background. Frequently.)

Here we go!

Hello out there! My name is Kayla and I’m a wife and mom and many-job-balancer.

Since we were married almost three years ago, my husband and I have needed to live on a budget. Unfortunately, we didn’t always do such a great job. In the last three years I’ve learned some great tips about parenting, homemaking, and shalom bayis (marital harmony, or “peace in the home”) and have been incredibly inspired by the other moms in my community, a lot of whom are also trying to stretch their dollars (honestly, who isn’t these days?).

I wanted to find a way to start to gather and organize all those great ideas, especially the ones that I love but won’t be using until my kids are older. At the same time, a few choice family members were nudging me to formalize some of the crazy, silly antics my 1 1/2 year old daughter gets into, and I thought the two ideas went together well.

So here I am. A young (in my mind, anyway!), married, Jewish momma excited about new ideas and tricks for fun, frugal Jewish parenting and hoping to share and learn from you as well!

Hope to see you here again soon!

Kayla