Kelly’s Power Bars (aka Granola Bars)

In a food processor combine and mix:

0.5 cup sugar

1 cup brown sugar

0.75 cup butter or margarine


1 egg

0.25 cup milk

1 tsp vanilla extract

Blend well.

In a bowl mix:

pinch salt

3 cups oats

1 cup flour

1 tsp baking soda

Blend dry ingredients with the wet mix.  Add half a bag of chocolate chips. Stir together.

Spread into a 9×13″ oiled pan. Bake 20-25 minute at 350F.

Notes – I only use a total of 1 cup of sugar and whole wheat flour. I blend the wet ingredients in the food processor and add the dry ingredients directly into the food processor to mix together. I add nuts (pecans are really good) and seeds.

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Red Lentil Soup

How to make RLS:

red lentils

Dice a medium onion and saute (in a large pot) in vegetable oil.

Add 1-2 cups red lentils. (Wash the lentils several times in water before adding to the soup)

Add water and broth (I use home made vegetable broth, but any clear broth is good).  How much liquid?  enough to cover the lentil plus 1.5 cups.  (Add as much broth as you have and than add the water).

Add spices: Salt, Pepper, Cumin, Paprika (I use both sweet and hot), Turmeric (just a pinch).

Simmer on medium heat 30-40 minutes. Whisk for 30-60 second to mash the lentils.

While the soup is cooking – chop 1-2 carrots and 1-2 celery stalks in a food processor.  Be careful not to process the veggies too much – you want them smaller than peas but larger than corn meal.

When the soup is done (the lentils are are soft) – add the processed veggies and turn off the heat.

Serve the soup topped with toasted pumpkin seeds and squeezed fresh lime juice.


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How, and why, we make candles

One winter day, when S.K.Y (not her real initials) was in third grade she told me that “during science today the teacher read us a really really interesting story about a girl who made candles”. The science part of the story was how candles are made. “So did you make candles after reading the story?” I asked. No, they did not have enough time, or supplies. Challenge alert!  We had to try it at home!  S.K.Y repeated the story with as many details as she could remember and we re-created it in the kitchen. We started with melting candles and using the melted wax to make new candles. It was fun but did not make much sense.  It was time to experiment. We read about making candles. We tried different materials we had at home. , We went to the craft store to buy supplies.  It took some time but finally we perfected candle making in a home kitchen!

It’s been a few years now and every December we get out grandma’s old electric pan and the box of supplies and we make Hanukah candles. We got so good at it, we make enough to last us for the eight days of Hanukah (call it a miracle!), and we give some as gifts.

So here is how we make candles:

To keep the wax warm use an electric pan (we use grandma’s old one, as mentioned above) filled with water, kept at 200F. Inside the pan are containers with different color wax. The hot water keeps the wax melted. The best size containers for the wax are tomato paste cans (I made a lot of spaghetti sauce once I found those work best!).

The wax I use is from a big slab of white paraffin wax from the local craft store. The wax is cut to small pieces that fit inside the can. To add color to the wax we use crayons.  Every family with kids has a box of crayons in the house, right?  Finally there is something to do with all the small pieces and broken ones! We always keep a few basic color going – red, yellow, blue, green and white. If we have room and extra cans we use other colors and mix different colors together. Wicks are available at any craft store, but I like to use what I already have at home so I use thick cotton yarn (bought many years ago for a weaving project that never happened, but that’s a story for another time).  A piece of the yarn is dipped in the wax repeatedly until the candle is formed.  This is the tricky part – do it too fast and no wax sticks to the wick, too slow and the candle melts back into the can.  It is also important to give the wax time to harden. After a few dips, I hang the candle to rest and cool for a few minutes. For this reason I have a few candles going at the same time, when one is cooling I work on another.  You can use one piece of yarn for two candles, one on each end.  This makes it easier to hang them to cool.  To cool the candles I hang them on a drying rack made of a cardboard box and yarn (see pictures).

Kids usually have no patience to work slowly or wait, so for them we add another step – between dipping in the wax, I have them immerse the candle in ice water for a second or two, so they never have to wait, the candled dipping alternates between wax and ice water.

Candles can be made with one color, or layers of different colors.  It’s really cool to see the different color appear when the candles are burnt.

Please look at the photos, each one is worth a thousand words.  I hope you will try making candles, and if you do, please tell about it in a comment and post pictures of your creations.

Happy solstice and mid-winter light festivals to all.

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Should school start time be changed?

A few weeks ago I learned that around the country and here in East Brunswick parents are asking for a change in school start time.  The request is to delay start time for middle and high schools.
I started thinking about school start time when my kids were in elementary school. My thoughts were these – the younger kids wake up early, school starts late, at 9:10, so families with two working parents have to pay for both before and after school programs. Teenagers wake up later and they can stay home alone after parents leave for work and until the bus comes. Wouldn’t it make sense to switch school start time between the elementary and middle and high school? As my kids got older they stopped waking up early with no alarm clock, but now had to force themselves to get up on time for for an earlier start time. It may be that they are not ‘morning people’ just like me, and they just have to live with it.  Or do they?

When I heard that  a group of parents is looking at delaying start time for the high school It made sense to me, but I wanted to learn more before deciding if this is justified.

I listened to and spoke with other parents about this – I spoke with the parents who want to see a change and spoke with others who think changing school start time is not justified. I also looked up information based on facts – scientific and medical studies that I read before deciding that I agree that school start time should be changed.

Let me start with sharing with you what I learned is the problem – a recent National Sleep Foundation poll found that between 60 to 90% of middle and high school students are not getting the recommended number of hours of sleep on school nights. As a result, students are at risk. The risk include impairments in mood, attention, memory, behavior control, and academic performance. Chronic sleep deprivation also increases the risk of both cardiovascular disease and metabolic dysfunction, such as type 2 diabetes as well as obesity.

In the adolescent population sleep loss has increasingly become the norm. The reasons behind the current epidemic of insufficient sleep are complex and include social, environmental and biological factors. We all know what some of them are – use of electronic media, homework and after school activities. Something I didn’t know was the biological perspective: At about the time puberty starts, most adolescents begin to experience a sleep–wake “phase delay” manifested as a shift of up to 2 hours relative to sleep–wake cycles in middle childhood. Two principal biological changes in sleep regulation are thought to be responsible for this: One factor is delayed timing of nocturnal melatonin secretion, which results in difficulty falling asleep at an earlier bedtime. The second biological factor is an altered “sleep drive”, in which the pressure to fall asleep accumulates more slowly. In other words – getting more sleep is not as easy as simply going to bed earlier, as some people suggested.

In response to the epidemic of sleep deprivation the American Academy of Pediatrics published a few studies and reviews about the subject. On august 25 2014 a new policy statement was published by the American Academy of Pediatrics published.
It reads:
“The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends middle and high schools delay the start of class to 8:30 a.m. or later. Doing so will align school schedules to the biological sleep rhythms of adolescents, whose sleep-wake cycles begin to shift up to two hours later at the start of puberty.”
The new policy is based not only on the studies that describe the problem, but also on data collected after change has been implemented. Over the last 15 years a small but growing number of school districts have responded to the problem of insufficient sleep among middle and high school students with delaying school start times. This allows researchers to study what happens when school starts time changes. Published data show that delaying school start time does make a difference. Here are a few  examples:

First let’s look at the question: “Does delaying start time result in students getting more sleep, or do students just stay up later?” One study assessed more than 18 000 high school students in Minneapolis before and after the district’s school start time changed from 7:15 AM to 8:40 AM in 1997. Bedtimes after the change were similar to those of students in schools that did not change start times, and, as a result, students obtained nearly 1 additional hour of sleep on school nights. Other studies also show no delay in bedtime in response to delayed start times.
Moreover, additional studies have now clearly demonstrated that delaying school start times not only results in an increase in average sleep duration but also has a significant positive effect on a variety of outcomes; from decreased levels of self-reported sleepiness and fatigue to improvements in academic performance.

Another study showed that 1-hour later shift in school start times was associated with an increase in reading and math test scores.

In another study there were significantly fewer students self-reporting symptoms of depressed mood as well as improved motivation after the start time delay

Crash test data for two neighboring cities in Virginia, VB (earlier start times by 75-80 minutes) and Chesapeake. Adolescent Crash Rates and School Start Times in Two Central Virginia Counties, 2009-2011: A Follow-up Study to a Southeastern Virginia Study, 2007-2008, JCSM

Outside school, the relationship between automobile crash records for students 17 to 18 years of age and high school start times was examined. Car crash rates for the county that delayed school start times decreased by 16.5% over the 2 years before and after the school start change, whereas those for the state as a whole increased across the same time period. Similar results were shown in at least one other study where in adjacent, demographically similar cities, there were significantly increased teen crash rates in the city with earlier high school start times. In another study comparing 4 schools, the high school with the latest start time had the largest decline in car crashes.

One last thing – Economists have suggested that delaying school start times would have a substantial benefit-to-cost ratio. This finding is based on a conservative estimate of both costs per student and the increase in projected future earnings per student in present value because of test score gains related to moving start times 1 hour later.

The policy statement concludes:
“The American Academy of Pediatrics recognizes insufficient sleep in adolescents as a public health issue, endorses the scientific rationale for later school start times, and acknowledges the potential benefits to students with regard to physical and mental health, safety, and academic achievement.
The American Academy of Pediatrics lends its strong support to school districts contemplating delaying school start times as a means of optimizing sleep and alertness in the learning environment and encourages all school administrators and other stakeholders in communities around the country to review the scientific evidence regarding school start times, to initiate discussions on this issue, and to systematically evaluate the community-wide impact of these changes”

Raising my children I always relied on advice and guidelines from our wonderful pediatrician, and on the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics. I am sure many of you did the same. I believe that the new policy will drive a change in school start time around the nation, and in the future a later start time will be the norm. I hope that East Brunswick will be a leader in this as it has been on other issues in the past.


POLICY STATEMENTAAP – School Start Times for Adolescents 

Research Report and Resource Guide, National Sleep Foundation – ADOLESCENT SLEEP NEEDS AND PATTERNS

Healthy School Start Time website

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An afternoon with a painting, an non-painter and Penn & Teller

We escaped. My buddy K.D. and I took a few hours off life on a Thursday afternoon and went to see ‘Tim’s Vermeer’. Our escape took us first to Montgomery Cinema, a small old fashioned movie theater in a strip-mall about 20 miles away from our town. The movie took us 350 years back in time and away to Texas, Holland and England. The movie, directed by Teller and featuring Penn Gillette, tells the story of “Tim Jenison, a Texas based inventor, attempts to solve one of the greatest mysteries in all art: How did 17th century Dutch Master Johannes Vermeer (“Girl with a Pearl Earring”) manage to paint so photo-realistically — 150 years before the invention of photography? The epic research project Jenison embarks on to test his theory is as extraordinary as what he discovers.

Spanning eight years, Jenison’s adventure takes him to Delft, Holland, where Vermeer painted his masterpieces, on a pilgrimage to the North coast of Yorkshire to meet artist David Hockney, and even to Buckingham Palace to see a Vermeer masterpiece in the collection of the Queen.”  (from the Tim’s Vermeer website)

The movie is fun to watch, interesting and has a few funny moments.   Dinner at Sahara after the movie made it an almost perfect escape.

PrintOne more thing – at the very beginning, when we first meet Tim Jenison the inventor, we see Mr. Jenison with some his inventions, among them an electric moth. Shown for just a few seconds it attracted my attention.  I am hoping to find more information about the invented moth.



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Holocaust Day Story

Holocaust Remembrance Day is not a day for telling jokes, but since in my family we all have a good  sense of humor, I think my relatives who were murdered by the Nazis would smile  too if they could hear this story.

It happened on a warm spring morning in the early seventies.   My parents, my brother and I left for work and school. Andy, like every day in the last week or so, was still sleeping on the living room couch in our tiny apartment in central Tel Aviv.  Andy was a young American visiting Israel for the first time.  I don’t know how he ended up sleeping on our couch, but it was typical for my parents to invite someone they never met before to stay with us just because he did not know anyone in town.

Andy was woken up by a loud sound of a siren.  His first thought was: I am in Israel, I hear a siren – war!. We lived on the ground floor and it rook Andy just seconds to run out to the street, wearing nothing but his underwear. During the short time it took him to run from bed to the street he thought – I don’t know what to do, I don’t know what to do, I don’t know what to do, I should look and see which direction people are running and follow them.  But there was no one to follow. Everyone was standing still, looking down at a spot on the ground between their big toes.   Cars were stopped, doors open, drivers and passengers standing on the road looking down.  Andy was running along the street looking for someone to follow.  But everyone was standing, staring down. After what seemed like forever to Andy, the siren stopped.  People started walking. Drivers got back into their cars, closed the doors and drove away.  The sound of rush hour in the city replaced the siren.  People looked at Andy standing there wearing nothing on but his underwear. The best thing to do was to go back into the apartment.

Only hours later, when my mother returned home from work Andy got an explanation:  It was Holocaust Day. In Israel, twice a year, on Holocaust Day and on Memorial Day, a siren sounds everywhere in the country for two minutes. Everyone stop what they are doing and stand still in remembrance of those who are not with us anymore.   I don’t know how long Andy stayed in Israel after he left Tel Aviv, and if he stayed long enough to experience this again.  But I’m sure that, just like me, every year on Holocaust Day he remembers that time when he stayed with strangers in Tel Aviv.

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סרטים ישראלים לצפייה בבית

Image is an initiative of the Israel Film Center at The JCC in Manhattan, a leading resource for Israeli film, expanding Israel’s emerging film industry and promoting Israeli culture in America.
The center serves as an exhibitor, promoter, educator, funder, distributor, producer, network organizer, advisor, and festival producer, as well as includes a viewing library and on-line database of Israeli cinema (



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Bon Voyage! Traveling to the middle of the ocean.

This summer I will away on a 5 week oceanographic research cruise in the North Atlantic, between the Azores to Iceland.  We will study an ecologically important microscopic marine plant, or phytoplankton, Emiliania huxleyi. This species forms large blooms in the world oceans and we are studying what happens at the bloom demise, specifically when Emiliania cells are infected by a virus. No need to worry, this virus only infects this specific phytoplankton, and is harmless to other creatures …  We made a connection between cultures in the lab and natural populations a few years ago when I spent a few weeks in a marine lab in Bergen, Norway, studying growth and death of Emiliania in large bags located in the fjord, but this time we are going to where things really happen – the open ocean!

The Knorr, a 300 feet research vessel, will be my home for over a month this summer. The Knorr is owned by the U.S. Navy and operated by WHOI for the ocean research community. It is best known as the ship that supported a team of WHOI and French researchers in 1985 as they discovered the wreck of the RMS Titanic. There will be about 30 scientists on the ship, from different labs around the US and Israel, and about 20 crew members. Many of the scientists are good friends that I worked with before, some I only know through email, and some I don’t yet know.  So I am looking forward to seeing old friends and meeting new ones.  We will be working in shifts, sampling twice a day at 6am and 6pm and running lab experiments in between. The ship has several well equipped labs, but no swimming pool, gym, casino, game room or bar…  The rooms have no windows. Every two room share a bathroom. So not exactly what you think when you hear the word ‘cruise’L. But I hear the food is pretty good, and I will have three meals a day without having to wash dishes…  There will also be a fancy espresso machine on board, and my Israeli friends assured me that they are bringing lots of fresh good Turkish coffee.  So I should be OK!

My cell phone will not work while in the middle of the ocean. A satellite phone will be available for $10/minute, so don’t expect phone calls. There is internet connection, but it is slow and limited. So don’t expect long emails, photos or Facebook updates… but if you are interested in how life is on the ship, what and how are we doing, here is how you can follow the cruise – Rose Eveleth , a free-lance journalist and videographer will join us and will document our activities.  She will be posting a daily blog through the Scientific American website with pictures and text detailing our research, progress, happenings, etc.  Also on the blog is a link to ask questions. So if you have any questions about the cruise, write to Rose.  Click here to link to the blog.

This is the swimming pool.

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For the birds

When the little green table was placed near the big living room window, kindergartener Sky and her younger brother Happy (not their real names) were able to look outside and watch the birds while eating breakfast. The two kids ate their cream-of-wheat, the big birds (among them blue jays, sparrows, nuthatches and cardinals) enjoyed sunflower and other seeds on the big feeder, and  the finches dined on the smaller nyjer seeds from our smaller homemade feeder.

However, you don’t need kids or commercially bought bird feeders to enjoy your own breakfast with the birds.  Our finch feeders are made of used plastic bottles they are easy to make and work well in attracting all kinds of birds; not just finches.  If you want to make one, or two, or more – here is how.

To make a bird feeder functional you need to think of a few things – the holes have to be the right size for the birds to be able to feed but not too big so the seeds don’t just fall out.  You have to provide a place for the birds to perch while they eat, and it has to be easy to add more seeds to the feeder.

Start with a small plastic bottle.  I find that ‘Vitamin Water’ bottles work well – they are thicker than water bottles and have a wide opening that makes it easy to refill.  You can drill holes or you can use a hot metal skewer to melt holes in the plastic.  If you chose to melt the plastic, make sure you work in a well ventilated area or if you use the stove to heat the skewer, turn on the range hood.  Make two sets of holes, small holes for the seeds and two sets of two bigger holes, opposite each other – to place long sticks that the birds can perch on while eating.  Make two holes in the lid and twist a large paper clip through them to create a loop [see picture]. Your bird feeder is almost ready.  Now you have to find two sticks to place through the large holes, fill your feeder with nyjer seeds (available at any pet store or department store that sells bird seeds).  Hang you feeder and wait for the birds to find it.  To refill with seeds, all you need to do is to twist the bottle to release the cap, add seeds and twist back on.  Please look at the pictures that show all the steps – a picture is worth a thousand words!

It’s not going to be long until the finches, and other small birds discover the new food source and come visit your feeder.  Have fun, and remember,  it is all “For the Birds”!

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Joseph’s Dreamcoat, an end of the year tradition

Posted on December 27, 2011 at 9:25 pm

It’s the day after Christmas: New toys to play with, leftover Chinese food, the beginning of a weeklong vacation for the kids, and a week off work for some lucky adults. This is also the week that Middlesex County’s Plays in the Park (PIP) are moving indoors to the State Theatre in New Brunswick for what is now a holiday tradition – a production of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” .  “Joseph”, a colorful and fun show, is not only a tradition for the PIP but also for us.  J.O.Y (not his real initials) and I meet with the family of his best friend since pre-school for an evening of musical fun.  We get tickets together for the grownups and younger kids and two tickets in another part of the theatre for the almost teen-agers J.O.Y and E.T.L.  The boys love it – they get to sit together, apart from the parents. They sing along with the actors, they know what to expect, and laugh at the jokes, some that change from year to year.  They text us as soon as the lights come on for intermission “meet you at the lobby” as if there could be another meeting place.

The story of Joseph, Jacob’s beloved son, based on the biblical story, is told in singing, with different modern day additions (I don’t recall a flight to Egypt in the original Genesis version), jokes and great dancing. The musical, written by the team on Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, was first performed in the US in 1970. PIP at the state theatre has done it now for 17 years! You can tell that the actors/dancers/singers on stage are enjoying themselves as much as the audience. Reading “who’s who in the cast” proves that they like what they are doing, many return to be part of “Joseph”, some are in the show for the twelfth time! So if you are looking for something fun to do with the family, and stay close to home – go see “Joseph”. Tickets are only $7 each. We will be back to see Joseph in his technicolor coat, his brothers, Pharaoh and the others in December 2012.

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