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Carmelized Chocolate Matzoh

Cooking with Kids: Fun cooking project/teacher gift!
Want to do a fun project with your kids and make inexpensive and yummy treats for teachers and/or neighbors? Try this caramelized chocolate matzo! We went to a thrift store and found these cute dishes (50 cents each!) to hold this holiday treat. All told, these 4 containers cost about $5 each and took about 20 minutes to make!
p.s. i love baking with my children but do not enjoy the icky feeling of having eaten too much sugar.  My policy? Bake and Give… Bake and Give (but I do recommend having a few SMALL bites to enjoy before you giving it all away!)
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Chocolate-Caramelized  Matzoh



Makes approximately 30 pieces of candy

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4 to 6 sheets unsalted matzohs
1 cup unsalted butter1 cup firmly-packed light brown sugar
big pinch of sea salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup toasted sliced almonds (optional)
  1. Line a rimmed baking sheet (approximately 11 x 17) completely with foil, making sure the foil goes up and over the edges.
    Preheat the oven to 375F .
  2. Line the bottom of the sheet with matzoh, breaking extra pieces as necessary to fill in any spaces.
  3. In a 4 quart heavy duty saucepan, melt the butter and brown sugar together, and cook over medium heat, stirring, until the butter is melted and the mixture is beginning to boil. Boil for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, add vanilla, and pour over matzoh, spreading with a heatproof spatula.
  4. Put the pan in the oven and reduce the heat to 350 degrees. Bake for 15 minutes. As it bakes, it will bubble up but make sure it’s not burning every once in a while. If it is in spots, remove from oven and reduce the heat to 325, then replace the pan.
  5. Remove from oven and immediately cover with chocolate chips. Let stand 5 minutes, then spread with an offset spatula.
  6. If you wish, sprinkle with toasted almonds (or another favorite nut, toasted and coarsely-chopped), a sprinkle of flaky sea salt, or roasted cocoa nibs.
Let cool completely, then break into pieces and store in an airtight container until ready to serve. It should keep well for about one week. Or wrap up in pretty thrift store dishes with ribbon and make your teachers and neighbors HAPPY!
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All About the Full/Harvest/Blue Moon August, 2012

(For best results, please give this post 11 minutes of your time: nine minutes for watching videos and two minutes for reading)

I like astrology not for the exact predictions it makes, but because it helps me keep track of where we are physically in the universe. Knowing where the moon is and where we are in relation to it comforts me. The new moon reminds me to make a wish, the full moon reminds me that the cat will be up all night cattin’ around and the phases of the moon help me keep track of time passing – visibly. Tomorrow’s moon will be full of magic and wonder! It will be fullest on Friday, August 31, 2012 at 9:58 am EST.  People on the west coast cities of the USA can enjoy it 6:53 a.m. Watch for it tonight, rising in the east.

Harvest moon – according to Gahl Sasson, one of my favorite Kabalah astrologers:

“On August 31st, as the Moon in Pisces opposes the Sun in Virgo, we celebrate the famed “Harvest Full Moon.” It is the day when we harvest what we have sown in the last six months. In the old days, and still in some farming communities in the Northern Hemisphere, people come together to help each other reap the rewards of their labor. Men, women and children gather in the fields to collect and harvest – the fruit of their work. Even if you do not have a farm, a garden, or even a balcony, you still can surf the swell of this benevolent energy. Look at the projects, relationships, actions you have planted in the early spring (March), now, six months later, you can see them come to completion or at least move to the next stage.”

Wow – 1939! Wasn’t that cool. 1939 is the year my dad was born. Things sure have changed in the entertainment industry. Call me old fashioned, but I LOVE a good song and dance movie. Back to the moon…

Tonight’s moon is also a “blue moon”. That means that tonight’s moon is the 2nd full moon of the month and it happens every 2.7 years.

“Once in a blue moon” according to Wikipedia:

“Modern interpretation of the term relates to absurdities and impossibilities; the phrase “once in a blue moon” refers to an event that will take place only at incredibly rare occasions.”

Of all the “Blue Moon” recordings on YouTube, this one takes the cake. It’s a magical 2:55. Harpo Marx really was incredible and the scene is special too. I love the little girl.

And according to NASA:

Here’s info from Nasa about this blue moon. Does the moon really turn BLUE? It can, if there is volcanic ash in the air (think Krakatoa) or fires near by (the Spanish might see a blue moon tomorrow – too many fires there). Maybe the moon will turn red? It’s possible too!

Have a lovely Harvest/Blue Moon everyone!

 

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ChristmasTime is better than Christmas Day (Don’t end up in the ER!)

Our plan is to make Christmas more about the season than about the day. Hopefully it will keep our kids and our family centered and keep us safe too!

When I was a little girl, I would get so excited about Christmas that I would get sick. I’d work myself up into such an anxious state, my stomach would hurt and I’d almost lose my breath. My mom later told me she could not tell me Christmas was coming until 3 or 4 days before the actual day.

It is a crazy-huge concept for kids to digest isn’t it? Be good and if you are,  a magical man will fly with reindeer to the roof of your house, slide in through your fireplace, munch on your cookies and leave you your hearts’ desire, wrapped up in shiny paper and ribbons! And meanwhile, here honey, let’s make some fudge and eat some chocolate and cookie batter and stay up late and go on vacation and play play play. Talk about stimulation.

Delilah’s last two Christmases were scarred by over excitement. Two years ago she slammed her jaw into a cement wall (playing on Christmas afternoon) and last year she had a 103 temperature on Christmas day, ALL day. I just read that Christmas (especially the day after Christmas) finds many people in the Emergency Room. It’s just THAT exciting!

“How about the busiest day for emergency room care?  Any ideas?  It’s the day after Christmas.  After all the stress of trying to get thru the holidays – a lot of people end up in the hospital.”

So the way I having fun with it AND trying to keep the my girls a bit contained this year, is by talking about ChristmasTIME. Hannah (4) and Delilah (7) have 3 weeks off. That’s a lot of time! And in this “TIME” we will do all the fun and usual Christmas and Hanukkah stuff: bake, eat, sleep, wrap, deliver cookies to neighbors, sing, maybe go to some museums and take a trip to Big Sur. I talk about how lucky we are to be together and enjoy all of this time. It’s a lot of gratitude talk, and I think it’s calming for them and settling me down too!

Yes, they still ask me how many days til Christmas and Hanukkah (we celebrate everything around here), but I temper it with what is going on in the moment. Hopefully it will help them stay relaxed, get sleep at night and keep them healthy too.

p.s. Here is a fun thing to do at ChrsitmasTIME that you can do whenever the kids need a good holiday run-around. Hide N Seek in a xmas tree forest!

 

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Story Behind DidiPop’s new Holiday Video – Old content new again!

This video was so fun to make. I love making animated pieces for families and putting them up on youtube, but making my own takes forever! And hiring someone else to draw and animate is EXPENSIVE. ($1500 per minute!). So I went to fiverr.com , which is a really fun and innovative site. It’s a bunch of people who are willing to do, create and make just about anything for $5.

I found a person who had created this hand-drawn “inkman” and he said he would replace his logo

and add mine for $5. As I previewed it, it flashed on me that I had a song, “Charlie’s Revenge” that might work well with this video. (I named the tune with love, for one of my heroes Vince Girauldi who wrote and played all the Charlie Brown Christmas music. The title refers to the side story in Peanuts where Lucy is always snapping the football away from Charlie. In this piece, I like to imagine that he kicks the ball far and a way, finally!)

Anyway, Charlie’s Revenge was part of a group of instrumental pieces I had written for the

Weather Channel years ago. They used to play during the exciting radar portion of the broadcast (on the eights!). I dug out the piece and realized I didn’t have the original session file (I recorded it in Cubase back in 1997), so I brought the mp3 in to my protools programs, added percussion, brightened it up with a new snare and added some vocal “bah bahs” and a few words at the end. I edited it together in Adobe Premier and uploaded it to create a very cute, artsy, fun holiday greeting for DidiPop likers around the world.

The lesson? Technology has come so far, there are people out there creating good work. Go out and look for some and see if you can make your art better, promote your brand for less and have fun doing it. Oh yeah, and check out http://www.fiverr.com

 

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Coffee Cycles, Java Jive and Guarding my Romance with the Bean

I love coffee
And sometimes I hate it 
Sometimes it scares me
And sometimes I crave it


It’s a complicated relationship and in the end, my love for those little organic brown beans, home-ground in my grinder, poured into my french press to steep for 4 minutes, then mixed with agave and soy milk, wins. The love you take, is equal to the coffee you make.

As a mom who is health conscious about her own health and the health of her family, I am always questioning, redefining and rediscovering new ideas about whether things are good for us. And things change. Soy, dairy, butter, wine. My Chinese acupuncturist just told me that butter can help lower your cholesterol? Theories on health and food seem to change everyday so sometimes you’ve got to trust your instincts and come up with unique and individualized methods for living your life.


Coffee Memories


1. Surprising my dad when I was 5 or 6 by making him Folgers Instant coffee in a cup. It seemed like magical astronaut food, the way it sparkled then dissolved,  and when I tasted it, I thought it was totally disgusting. He drank it black, and like, 10 cups a day. Pisces.


2. Coffee hard candy –  when I was a kid, there were a few random instances where I ate wrapped candies that were filed with a chocolaty inside – a kind of fudgy center that I thought was DIVINE. That was my first magical experience with the flavor of coffee, and perhaps caffeine, though I didn’t know about the effects of caffeine back then.


3. Cutting class in high school (Pali High) and hanging out at Mort’s with my girl friends, getting refills and adding non-fat milk and sweet ‘n low, which sounds absolutely dreadful to me now. Independence.


4. Cafe Roma. It was THE place to have coffee when I was going to U.C. Berkeley. It was near the music department (Morrison) and I would go to Roma, order a cappuccino while classical music played and I read Machiavelli and Virginia Wolfe. Oh how cosmopolitan I felt, so smart, so free and cultured. And here, for the first time, the coffee was GOOD.


5. Europe – The Cafe Culture Continues. To sit on a Greek island, drinking a frappe, having a handsome Greek man whip it up for me. To sketch in my book and sip an espresso in Central Italy, having an attractive Italian lawyer approach and offer me a cigarette. To devour the Prado in Madrid and then to fervently discuss Picasso’s work over a Café con leche. Coffee is art, romance, intellectualism language, travel, the world.


6. Waiting tables. Ugh – delivering coffee is the cardio of any breakfast joint restaurant waitperson. So many re-fills. When I was waiting tables at First National in the Palisades, oh how the customers kept me on my toes with their never-ending demands for refills. I even wrote a song about it… one of my earliest which I will have to record sometime soon. From “Waitress”:


I don’t want to me your waitress
You may think that I am rather bold
Don’t you know I couldn’t really careless
If your cups of coffee’s gettin’ cold*
  
7. And then there is that kind of horrid coffee you get at the auto body shop, the kind that’s been sitting in a put 1/4 full for 7 hours. People come in and add some powdered white mixture and a few sugar packets. This is almost a non-coffee coffee. It’s like some kind of anti-matter that keeps people in motion with none of the ceremony and glamour of the cafe culture.


And here I am about to turn 48 and evaluating my life and my health on a daily basis. So many conflicting reports. Coffee (and caffeine) does it cause cancer? Save you from cancer? It’s dehydrating AND has anti-oxidants. It’s good for the brain, yet can wire you too. According to Slate:

Caffeine at doses of 65 mg or more can help relieve headaches, but habitual caffeine use can spur chronic headaches, too. Coffee makes you more alert, but it can also provoke insomnia, anxiety, and even tremors at high doses. Regular drinkers seem to have a decreased risk of developing diabetes, but for anyone who already has the disease, a hefty cup of coffee can make things worse. Up to three cups of coffee per day may slightly lower the risk of heart attack, but drinking a large dose might also trigger a heart attack if you’re already at risk.”




 My 3 Part Coffee System

I have come up with a system that keeps the allure and romance in my coffee. I notice that I have three kinds of coffee in my life. “Recreational Coffee” is the coffee I have on a rainy sunday morning with the New York Times Crossword. It’s the coffee I drink while taking a break from ice skating in San Fransisco’s Union Square or the coffee my friend Tom and I drink at Maxwell’s in Venice when we are catching up and enjoying some intense coffee talk.

Then there is “Working Coffee”. That the coffee I press when I am setting out to pay bills, animate a video or mix a song. It’s a thinking helper, a friend while I am working and a tool to keep me focused and alert.

And finally there’s “Rocket Fuel” coffee. That’s the extra cup I really don’t need, the one that wires, that propels me too far, the one that dries me out and the one I drink instead of eating some string cheese and an apple when I need some energy.

The trick is to learn just how far I want to propell myself and to identify which kind of coffee I am having. Labeling things and being present with what I am ingesting, feeling and/or doing is the key for me to stay healthy and grounded.

Like other things in life  (for me… chocolate and ice cream) coffee is great and yummy when I start, and the trick is knowing when to stop. There’s the rub. For me, drinking too much coffee strips away the magic qualities of coffee and then it’s a downhill crash.

So here’s my plan. I take breaks from coffee! I use it in cycles, monitor it, appreciate it and acknowledge when the “Recreational Coffee” has become “Working Coffee” and when the “Working Coffee” has turned into “Rocket Fuel”.

And perhaps coffee is different for women than for men. Women roll in cycles, cycles of the moon, hormonal cycles. Maybe that’s the best way for us to use and enjoy coffee in a lovely and healthy way. As a mom, I can over-extend like crazy and coffee can seem to me like a bad drug, pushing me beyond my limits. So, herb tea, green tea, hot apple cider, hot water with lemon and honey, coconut water, WATER…I drink them all and by drinking them all, I save a special place in my heart and protect my very romantic and magical relationship with COFFEE.


“In order to grow old, you have to experience everything, but in moderation.”
Cuban Musician –  Compay Segundo (lived to 97 years old)

*Poppinksongs ©1986

 

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Birthday Party Activity for a 7 Year Old: Fun and Educational Treasure Hunt

My favorite and most memorable birthday party when I was a kid was the one where my Dad created a treasure hunt for us. I was turning 9 and it really made an impression on me. He made rhyming clues, one leading to another, and all us kids had to figure them out and sleuth around to discover which one led where. I have no recollection of the prize, I just remember how fun it was for us to figure out and decipher the hidden messages.

So I created one for my daughter’s 7 year old party last night. There were 9 kids at the party and I think if you have a fairly small group, this hunt is a lot of fun. (I also believe parties should always be as small as possible. I’ll get into that in a another post). The clues were invented quickly and easily while I was in line at the post office, notating them on my iphone.

The clues, written in simple language (kids are just learning to read at this age) on little pieces of yellow construction paper, rolled into scrolls and then taped on to hiding places, led to a treasure map. The map I drew with a regular pen on white office paper. I drew a rough layout of the house and then used a darker marker to make dots leading outside to the back yard. I shredded the sides by ripping a little here and there and then tied it with a ribbon, The treasure was a pretty box I borrowed from my mom, filled with golden chocolate coins (gelt), mint chocolates and sugar-free bubble gum that I found at Smart ‘N Final (a kind of super-store… Costco restaurant supply type place in California). I hid the pretty treasure box under a plastic pin outside, stuck a big X on it and the hunt was ready!

Before we began, I laid down the rules:
1. No running
2. When they find a new clue, they are to put there heads together, talk about where it might be and walk to the place they thought they might find it. (problem solving)
3. They are to take turns reading the clues. (literacy)
4. When they find the treasure, they are to slowly come to the living room, dump it out (birthday girl gets to carry it), look at it, then slowly divvy it up. Now kids these days are trained to go nuts and hoard and grab candy (think piñata frenzy). And with our party it took about 7 reminders that there was no need to hog and fret about the goods. The key to this is buy a lot of treasure. I bought 160 coins (come in bulk for $10) and about 100 chocolate mints and one 12 piece pack of gum. The more there is, the more they relax about trying to get some.

Then I hand out empty goodie bags, so when they find the booty, they can divide up the spoils evenly. (counting…sorting).

This hunt was the highlight of the party and I thought I would teach you how to do it for your 7 and up year old. This is the kind of thing you could do every year, making the clues more and more difficult to solve.

Here’s what you will need.

6 or more clues (write your own or use mine)
6 pieces colored construction paper
tape
paper for map
ribbon for map
pretty box for treasure
something to hide treasure under (blanket, box… or you could even bury it…but i believe simple is best for mom)
LOTS of treasure
empty bags (zip-lock or what-ever you like)

I started by sitting all the kids down, going over the rules and then giving the first clue to Delilah.

Clue #1:

You’ll find the map where it gets hot
between the toaster and the pot

(all kids figure out kitchen…walk there, find toaster and on a pot near the toaster there is the second yellow clue.)

Clue #2:
Now go into Delilah’s room
and look up high beside the moon
(all kids go to Delilah’s room and look up to a moon that was already stuck up there, and see a yellow scroll taped to the ceiling. I jump up and get it and we read the next clue)

Clue #3:
Go out the front door and by the dome
look to find a little phone

(we walk outside where by our play structure dome, I had taped a clue onto a little plastic toy phone that the girls had and stuck it under the dome. You can easily find things you have to use to make rhymes!)

Clue #4:
You are smart but there is more
taped onto the bathroom door

(they all walk to bathroom, go inside and up taped on the back of the door, they find it!)

Clue #5:
Close your eyes and make a wish
Now go and feed our little fish
(they walk to the aquarium, and taped on the fish food container, the last clue)

Clue #6:
One last clue will take you there
On the red couch there is a bear

(I found a teddy bear in their animal basket and had hidden the map behind the bear)

The kids were out of their minds with excitement, anticipation and cleverness at this point.

Delilah opened the map and looked at it. I had the layout of the house sketched roughly, and she needed to figure how to go out the kitchen door to the backyard and turn left. She got out the kitchen door and turned right, so I gently redirected, as all the kids walked down the driveway looking for the X. And then one girls said “The X!”. Delilah got to lift the pink plastic bin and find hidden below, the magical box.

We brought it inside and sat in a circle, dumped it out (this is where daddy and I spoke in pirate voices and complained that our treasure had been found and stolen).

The kids divvied up the goods squarely and put their shares in their bags. They were allowed 3 pieces (it was before dinner, and again I am a big believer in not saying…”just one”.. that creates deprivation and then bingeing…more on that coming in a new post!). So 3 it was and the kids were thrilled.

And that was that. A good time is guaranteed with this treasure hunt and kids learn so much. Most of all it’s empowering, thoughtful and super fun.

AAAAAARRRRRRRR!

 

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Yellow Car – FUN driving game with counting and wishes!

 Did you see that Yellow Beetle Bug?

I wrote a song when Delilah was 2 and it was all because as we drove across town in my blue minivan, she kept whispering “yellow car” (tho it sounded more like “yeyo cah yeyo cah”). I would think, “oh that’s cute, she likes saying that” but then in about 30 seconds, a yellow car would approach, or I’d see one parked way down the road. She was seeing them before I was! And I had no idea that there were SO many yellow cars on the road.

Not only did we continue to search for the yellow cars on the way to baby group or the beach, but we started pretending that you get a wish when you see one. Pretty soon, the song was written on the road and when it came to recording the CD of course we had to put it on “Everyday Adventures”.
And it’s so funny when ever kids come over, like when Eric Herman’s girls came over to do some recording…they knocked on the door and asked “Do you have a yellow car?”. And the answer is “no”. I have a blue minivan, great for spotting yellow cars.
Here is a little excerpt from Sharla’s kidfun blog.
Beep Beep!

3 Nov  by Sharla http://kidfunandmore.com/?p=349

I’ve been meeting so many interesting people throughout the country who are sharing their ideas with us. How about the Yellow Car Counting Game? It’s a simple little driving game (perfect for KIDFUN). It came from Deborah Poppink, a Los Angeles-based mom, creative parenting advocate, and musician who records and performs as DidiPop.

Here’s how to play … every time you see a yellow car, you get a wish. She said, “I never realized how many yellow cars are on the road!” They started playing when her daughter Delilah was two years old and she began saying the word “yellow” and recognizing the color. She would whisper “yellow car”. I remember when Ryan started saying yellow – it sounded more like “lellow”. I loved it!

So the rules their family created were: Call it out every time you see a yellow car. You get one wish when you see a regular yellow car, two wishes for yellow Beetle Bugs and motorcycles and 1/2 wish for taxi cabs. What a good way to introduce fractions! And, you know, it’s fun to talk about wishes. Be clear they aren’t promises just lovely thoughts to dream about.

Learn more about Deborah by visiting www.didipop.com and www.YouTube.com/didipopmusic.

She has a new recording called DidiPop Goes to Hawaii, being released in December.

 

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