Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Jewish Christmas

Happy holidays everyone! Of course, being Jews, Hanukkah has already come and gone for us...

Wolfie was a bit apprehensive about his first Hanukkah (you can probably tell by the way he is tentatively staring at the lights on the menorah). But then he got a squeaky dreidel rope toy and he was sold on the holiday!

Every year at Hanukkah I make traditional latkes (potato pancakes) for dinner at least one of the nights. Although homemade latkes are certainly the best, I wasn't in the mood to peel and shred potatoes, so I went the lazy route this year and made Trader Joe's baked latkes, along with some BBQ chicken drumsticks and roasted brussels sprouts.

I like my latkes with applesauce AND sour cream (I know, I live on the edge!) My husband is a latke purist and likes them plain. 

A week before Hanukkah was Thanksgiving, and hubs and I went back east to celebrate with family. My mom was so excited to buy Hanukkah presents for my niece and nephew, and they were definitely excited to open them!

So, Hanukkah has been over for a couple of weeks. Now everyone wants to know: What do you do on Christmas?

As a kid, my family would typically go to the movies and then out for Chinese food on Christmas Eve with other members of the tribe. On Christmas day, our Christmas-celebrating friends would have us over for Christmas lunch.

I've discovered that many of the fine people of Orange County are unfamiliar with the old "Jews and Chinese Food" tradition. Still, that won't hinder our plans for tomorrow-- there are several excellent Chinese restaurants that will be open! Hubby and I will be dining at Capital Dim Sum tomorrow evening, and Friday we will most likely hit up the movies to see The Big Short or Joy. 

Even though I don't celebrate Christmas, I still enjoy all of the spirit of the holiday season. I may even try to make these egg nog pancakes  on Friday morning to enjoy while watching one of the various Christmas movies on my DVR!

I hope everyone has a happy and safe holiday weekend, whether or not you are celebrating! And happy belated Hanukkah to all my peeps!!!!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Winter Break Bucket List

Ahh. Big sigh. It's almost time for winter break!

I had been feeling very stressed over the past few months. And not just with the move cross-country and figuring out how to raise and train a new puppy! When we first got out to California from Philly, I was very nervous that I wouldn't find a teaching job. I was offered a great part-time position in a project-based charter school, which I love and wish were full time!

To fill in the gaps on the days I didn't teach, I began working at a tutoring center. I had some doubts about what was expected of me as a tutor. After about a month at the tutoring center, I realized it wasn't the right fit for me. I decided that it was in my own best interest to resign. Soon after I resigned, I asked a few wonderful parents from the charter school if they wouldn't mind posting my services for independent tutoring on their various neighborhood list-serves, and within days I was booked with new tutoring gigs! I now have a much more manageable tutoring schedule and am having a blast working with my new students :)

 That immediately lifted a huge weight off of my shoulders. But the emotional stress I felt during that time at the tutoring center definitely did a number on me, so I am looking forward to spending the break vegging out and catching up on all of the fun things!

WINTER BREAK BUCKET LIST (In no particular order):

1. Watch Christmas movies (every year I stock my DVR with the classics-- Home Alone, Home Alone 2, Elf, Love Actually, The Holiday, Miracle on 34th Street...)
2. Bake something-- this looks appealing!
3. Go to IN-N-OUT Burger-- apparently I'm not a true Californian until I do

4. Write more blog posts (yeaaaa...sorry about the 2 month hiatus!)
5. Deep clean our apartment (new puppy, new stains!)
6.  Spend New Year's in Santa Barbara (we booked a very cute B&B that allows pups!), and get there by driving the PCH.

7. Buy patio furniture--our terrace is currently a dumping ground for all of the extra stuff we don't know where to put (a garage of sorts) but I actually want to enjoy it and know that I will if I put some effort into making it a special space! I love this look:

Love the colors!:
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That's just the short list. I'm sure there will be more I want to accomplish over the vacation, but right now I'm just too darn tired to remember! Like I said, I definitely need a vacation!

Saturday, October 17, 2015

4th Street Market

I've been having a ton of fun exploring my new surroundings in Orange County. After only living in big cities post-college, I was worried that there wouldn't be as much to do in a more suburban area, but I am glad I was wrong!

When I first moved out here, I knew that I had to find a way to meet some new friends, since my husband and I did not know a soul in California. I decided to join Meetup and joined a few groups that appealed to me. My favorites groups are transplants new to California (lots of fellow East Coasters!), a 20-30 something women's book club, and a young couples meet up. Through these groups I've actually developed some really wonderful new friendships and find myself busy most weekends with some fun activity with the girls!

This weekend, some meetup friends and I went to 4th Street Market in downtown Santa Ana for brunch. Santa Ana is an area of OC that I haven't been to yet, so I was really excited to check it out. Downtown is great! It has the feel of a city, with lots of people walking around, cafes, and food carts on the street. The 4th Street Market is located in a warehouse that has been converted into an awesome foodie haven!

My friend and I decided to hit up Portola Coffee Lab first for some caffeine. We then split up and ordered our brunches. I opted for the pulled pork egg sandwich from Stockyard Sandwich Co. 

We sat outside on the patio so we could listen to the live music. There are also ping-pong tables out there! 

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I couldn't leave without tasting something sweet. There were a couple of great options, but I was especially torn between an ice cream sammy from Chunk-N-Chip or a s'more from Torch S'more Co. Ultimately I went with a s'more with a homemade espresso marshmallow, chocolate graham crackers and melty dark chocolate. It was ah-maze. I can't wait to come back and get the chai marshmallow s'more.

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4th Street Market is a place I will no doubt be visiting again. I want to try everything! If you are in the OC area, it is somewhere I would highly recommend!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Pumpkins, Pumpkins Everywhere...

We wrapped up our gardening project this week. I am really enjoying having these project blocks to focus entirely on one theme or topic!

Fall is definitely on people's mind-- simply look at the amount of pumpkin-laced items at Trader Joe's! My first Autumn in California has been strange, and it still feels like summer to me, but I decided to embrace the fact that it is actually October and end our month long project with some pumpkin fun!
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We did some brainstorming of adjectives to describe pumpkins, along with some things we already know about pumpkins.

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 After that, we watched a video about the life cycle of a pumpkin:

 Since we were now experts on the life cycle of a pumpkin, we then practiced sequencing the events and making Pumpkin Life Cycle Mini Books!

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Then came the fun part! Actually dissecting and examining our pumpkin!

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We talked about some of the parts of the pumpkin we saw and identified their "scientific" names. Then, the kids filled out diagrams of the inside of a pumpkin.

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 Unfortunately, I forgot to get a photo-- but we ended up toasting the seeds from the pumpkin for a special end of the day snack! We did one batch with salt and one without. The kids (and I) definitely preferred the salted seeds! Yummy! 

Friday, September 25, 2015

California Teachin'

As the kids were coming in on the first day, they worked on this "get to know you" bingo game :)

 I can't believe that this past week began my 5th year of teaching! Obviously, I was very worried about moving to California because I was afraid I wouldn't find a new teaching job. Fortunately, I was able to secure a head teaching position at a new project based charter school. It is definitely going to be a change from the schools I have worked in the past (it is a part-time schedule, so I am also tutoring on my days off), but I am excited for the challenge! I was very drawn to the school's philosophy, where experiential, real-world learning is valued. The calendar year is broken up into 8-9 project themes. Language arts, math, science and social studies are integrated throughout each approximately eight week project session.

The first project theme we are working on in my group (which is a mixed age class of 7/8 year olds) is planting a garden. I introduced the project by reading aloud The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle. We then recorded everything we know about seeds through the essential question What is a Seed?

After recording some initial thoughts on seeds, we dissected lima beans. I soaked the beans overnight so they were easy to peel and split apart. The kids used magnifying glasses to get "up close and personal" with the bean and see what parts of the seed they could identify based on the key words we previewed together (seed coat, root, leaves, food). After they observed the lima beans for a bit, the kids completed a diagram of a lima bean and labeled the picture with the key words.

We continued our seed investigation by "planting" kidney beans in small jars (we used damp paper towels). The kids made predictions in their seed journals about what they think will happen to their beans over the next few days:

 Over the next couple of days, students will watch their beans and record their observations of any sprouting or roots! It should be very exciting!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Welcome Wolfgang!

It's been a while since my last post, but that is because we have been extremely busy adjusting to life in California! A part of that adjustment just happens to be the cutest, sweetest, snuggliest little terrier-mix puppy. Meet Wolfgang--aka Wolfie:

If you recall, I grew up with a beautiful mutt named Angie who recently passed away at the age of 15. Ever since then, I have been in doggie-withdrawal. My husband agreed that since we had to move all the way across the county for his job, I could get a little pup to help me feel better about the move :)

I have a friend who is very involved in animal rescue. A few weeks ago while at the Outer Banks on our annual family vacation, she sent me the link for Wolfie's adoption application through 4Life Animal Rescue, a local animal rescue here in Orange County. One look at his adorable little face, I couldn't say no. I completed the application, and the next day his foster family emailed saying they would like to do a meet-and-greet with Wolfie! The day after we got back from North Carolina, we drove out to meet Wolfie at his foster home and completely fell in love. A week later, after they had done a home check, he was ours!

The first night was rough. He cried all night in his crate and it took literally all of my will-power not to get him out and snuggle him :(  Needless to say, he was a tired little guy the next day.

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Since that first night, he has adjusted to sleeping in his crate and doesn't whine at all. He likes listening to NPR to lull him to bed. He is going to be such a well-informed dog! He is also doing pretty well with his house training. He has only had 2 oops in the house since we got him a week and a half ago! Go Wolfie!

Wolfie is quite the Californian. He loves the beach! 

 I am so happy that we found such a sweetie-pie. He is definitely going to make our life out here even better. Even my husband (who never had a dog growing up) has grown to love our little man:

If any of you readers out there have any puppy training tips, let me know. I'd love to hear from you! 

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The Life of a Nomad: Seattle

Phew! I am finally at the end of documenting my trip (that sadly was now over a month ago...sorry!)

I have always wanted to visit Seattle. I was so happy we got to end our wonderful vacation there. We definitely did all of the touristy things!

Our first stop: The Public Market and the Original Starbucks

No trip to Seattle is complete without visiting the Public Market! Conveniently, the flagship Starbucks is right across the street. Of course, the line was ridiculous, so we opted against waiting. It was cool to just walk by and check it out! 

Next stop: The Chihuly Gardens

I have seen many Dale Chihuly pieces in a bunch of places. Most recently before my trip to Seattle, I saw one of his pieces, titled The Flame of Liberty, when I took my class on a field trip to the National Liberty Museum in Philly. Before that, I had seen one of his works at The Victoria and Albert Museum in London. However, the Chihuly Gardens totally blew both of these past experiences out of the water! It was amazing to walk from room to room and see so much beauty from the talents of one person! I loved walking around the gardens outside and seeing the glasswork mixed in with nature. I almost couldn't tell the difference, like with this "tree"!

Third Stop: The Space Needle

Another experience which one cannot skip if spending time in Seattle! It was incredible going up and getting a 360 view of the city!

Final Stop: EMP Music Museum

Obviously, Seattle is known for being the pioneer of the grunge/punk-rock movement. I really enjoyed going through the Nirvana exhibit, and was pleasantly surprised by the exhibit on animator Chuck Jones, who is famous for bringing Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and the like to life. Coincidentally, Chuck Jones was born in Spokane but spent the end of his life in Corona del Mar, which is just a couple of towns over from my new home-base! There is even a really cool gallery/studio space in Costa Mesa in his honor.

Well, there you have it! My Pacific-Northwest adventure! And since I am now officially a West-Coaster, I can't wait to share more about my move to California :)

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Life of a Nomad: The Methow Valley and Leavenworth

We ended our trip in the Northwest with a wedding in the Methow Valley in central Washington and a few days in Seattle. I had no clue what to expect from the little towns in the Valley, and despite the 100+ degree heat, I was pleasantly surprised! The small little towns like Winthrop and Twisp had some really cool coffee shops, art galleries, restaurants and clothing stores. I loved walking around Winthrop. I felt like I was transported back into an Old West town!
Main Street in Winthrop

One of my favorite spots was The Rocking Horse Bakery, which is a super cute coffee shop. I had some delicious homemade granola with almond milk for breakfast, along with a much-needed iced coffee (it was already in the 90's by 10 a.m-ugh).  They also had amazing looking cinnamon buns, which I now totally regret not ordering. I think I was in a heat coma....

Rocking Horse Bakery - Winthrop, WA, United States. Look at these beautiful morsels.
Since it was soooo hot in the Valley, we decided to check out the local lakes to cool off. I'm definitely more of a beach person, but a dip in the lake was totally what I needed! 

On our drive back towards Seattle after the wedding, we stopped in Leavenworth, Washington. If you have not heard of this place, it is essentially a Bavarian village in the middle of Washington State.

One of my favorite things about this little village was that even the American chains had a Bavarian architectural style:

No, we did not eat lunch at the Bavarian McDonald's! We actually ate at Leavenworth Sausage Garten for traditional bratwurst. If anyone knows me well, I hate hot dogs. These brats were tasty! I loaded mine up with sauerkraut and tried a few varieties of mustard on the side:

This place also has killer soft pretzels. Having recently moved from Philly, I can attest that these pretzels were just as good as any Philly pretzel! And, these pretzels came with this ridiculous garlic-cheese dipping sauce. Oh man! 

It was a riot being in this little village. I felt like I was in EPCOT at Disney! After we ate lunch, we walked around the town for a bit and then hit the road for our last leg: SEATTLE, BABY!  

Thursday, July 16, 2015

The Life of a Nomad: Victoria Island

After a few days in Vancouver, my parents and I took the ferry over to Victoria Island, where we meet up with our family friends from back home.

Victoria Island is beautiful! It definitely has a European, London-y feeling about it. I loved walking around and seeing all of the Victorian homes!

We were told that a "must do" in Victoria was high tea at The Empress Hotel . It was delicious! I loved all the tiny finger sandwiches (curried chicken salad was amazing!) and pastries (mmmm...scones!)

Here is my brother-from-another-mother, Ned, enjoying his tea. Don't forget, PINKIES UP!

We took a tour of Parliament, which is beautiful and is all lit up at night. Unfortunately, the shot I have of Parliament at night came out all fuzzy, but here is a picture of Ned and me in front the building (which is still gorgeous in daylight!)

One of the highlights of the trip to Victoria Island was visiting the Butchart Gardens. The gardens are about 40 minutes outside of the city. There are buses that run directly from the center of the city to the gardens, so getting there is pretty easy! 

Of course I loved walking through each garden and enjoying the scenery, but one of the best surprises was the gelato stand next to the Italian gardens! I ordered the lavender-honey gelato, and it did not disappoint!  And I have a sneaking suspicion that the lavender might have come from the lavender in some of the gardens....

After a lovely couple of days in Victoria, we boarded the ferry back to the mainland--to Washington state! Check back in soon to hear all about that leg of the trip! 

Monday, July 13, 2015

The Life of a Nomad: Vancouver

I am beginning to feel slightly less nomadic as the days go on. Our move to California was definitely a bit unexpected and quick. I had already planned a trip with my parents for the last two weeks of June to Vancouver, Victoria Island, and Seattle/Central Washington. I made an executive decision to go forward with the trip, even though I knew we were expected to be in California the second week of July for my husband's job. I was definitely a bit stressed during the trip, coordinating with B over the phone about flights, rental cars, moving companies, and corporate apartments! Still, I am so glad I went on the trip, because it was to a part of the country where I hadn't been before and I wanted one "big" trip with my parents before I moved across the country!

I actually flew from California to Seattle (hubs and I had been there already doing some apartment hunting) and met my parents at the airport in Seattle. We then drove from Seattle to Vancouver. It was really cool crossing the border into our "neighbor to the north".

Vancouver is an incredibly beautiful city. My parents and I actually stayed on Granville Island, which is a sort-of artist's colony across the water from downtown Vancouver. My family and I loved popping in to the many galleries on the island, but our favorite thing was the Public Market, which we walked to in the morning for breakfast.  We got coffee and pastries at Blue Parrot, and then set out with rental bikes on the Aquabus (which is the cutest, tiniest water taxi) to Stanley Park.

Biking around Stanley Park was gorgeous. It was nice stopping along the way to snap photos and enjoy the scenery!

Vancouver is certainly a city with cool neighborhoods and vibrant restaurants! We ate at some fantastic places, including Kirin for authentic Chinese food and Vij's for honestly the best Indian food I have ever had! One of the best things we did in Vancouver was a lunchtime food truck tour. Oh man! So many amazing options! My favorites were Eat Chicken Wraps and Tacofino, but we also hit up Mom's Grilled Cheese and Japadog. By the end of the day, we were stuffed!

Left: Peking-style chicken wrapped in a scallion pancake from Eat Chicken Wraps. Right: Fish taco from Tacofino

My mom and I spent a day walking around the city on Father's Day while my dad watched the U.S. Open. We visited Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, which was so tranquil and beautiful.

We did an awesome free walking tour of the city on our last day, where we got to see the Olympic torch, podium, and some of the medals!

 Vancouver was my first exposure to Canadian life, and it was awesome! I couldn't wait to check out more of this part of the country! Stay tuned for part two of my nomadic adventures-- Victoria Island! 

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