Saturday, January 31, 2009

Eulogy for my father

When I talked to my kids yesterday for inspiration, here's what Yerachmiel Meir had to say about my father:  "When he wanted something to get done, it got done."  For my kids, that meant even if it meant going out and braving the weather to (fill in the blank):  shovel snow, build a sukkah, paddle a canoe, or shlep to Six Flags Darien Lake.

I asked both kids what they'd say if they could be here.  Elisheva, newly immersed in Hebrew, says she'd describe him as "tov me'od."  She wasn't serious, maybe just trying to get out of offering a real comment, but I'll pretend she was for a second, because I don't think you'll find very many more people who better embody the spirit of "tov me'od" (very good).

It breaks my heart that they're not here today, because if there is anything my father worked hard to be – and there were many things, from a father to a brother to a mortgage guy to a husband to an all-around Good Time Charlie (a play on his never-used first name Charles) – it was a grandfather, a zeidy.

My kids have often groaned when my father wanted to do something with them.  Kids do that because they think everything's going to stay the same forever.  And they'd groan even more at my answer:  "he wants to do things with you because he never had grandparents." 

All four of my father's were lost in Europe, leaving him disconnected from previous generations in so many ways:  physically, spiritually, emotionally.  But just like it's said that a person gets two chances to have a parent-child relationship; first as a child and then as a parent to their own children, I'm sure my father believed you've got two chances to have a grandparent-grandchild relationship.  He lost his first chance, and he wasn't about to take his second lightly.

There's some grandparenting stuff that I'm definitely looking forward to:  giving candy with no consequences, passing the kids back to their parents at the end of the visit, those kinds of things.  That is not what my father was about.

My father taught them to ride bikes (I wonder how the younger kids will ever learn?).

My father taught them how to paint a picnic table.

My father taught them that for the best roller coasters, sometimes you have to be prepared to drive a little, like to Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio – or to Disney World.  This with a heart condition that didn't really let him go on any good rides:  he just wanted to see the kids go on; that was enough.

My father's was the first beard any of my children ever grabbed and the smile of approval they found again and again, not just on his lips but in his eyes, cheeks, forehead.

Both of those older grandchildren wanted to be here very much.  They can't because they're in Israel; they were at the Kosel, the western wall, today, just as we were, together, a few days ago.  Walking the streets of Yerushalayim (I hope by now they're in for Shabbos), inhaling the air and the ambience my father loved so much.

"I am at a loss to compare life here with any other place I know of," he wrote to me on his first visit, not all that long ago.  The picture on the postcard where he wrote that is, of course, the Kosel.

My father waited until he was in his 60s to find Israel, but I believe it was more than just another stop on the list of places and things to see and do.  Israel became a link, for my father, to a chain cut off by the loss of his grandparents and other relatives in Europe.

When he told me not much more than a month ago that he wanted the big kids to go to Israel, there was no question in his mind:  he wanted it, so it got done.  That's how all six of us suddenly found ourselves wandering Machanei Yehuda Market and Bnei Brak for the first time

It's said that Moshe Rabbeinu (Moses) begged God hundreds of times to let him just see Israel, just walk four paces within its borders.  He never got a chance, and we did.  My father made it happen for his grandchildren.

A few people have been asking why I even went last Sunday, knowing my father was so sick.  I guess, every kid figures her parents are immortal.  And now, sitting last night at home holding my father's postcard from the Kosel, and looking at pictures of my children in the same spot, I know now that he truly is.

We love you, Daddy.  You're the best daddy and zeidy any kid could have had.

Subway on the way home tonight...

So here we all are, eatin cheese (not me) and oranges and onion buns (not me).

Yay, us!

It was such a relief to be in out of the cold... brrr...


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WinterCity Spectacle Show, Pi-Leau by Close-Act

OK, well, this is a lousy video, but I'm so happy to have gotten out for a little while this motzaei Shabbos. It was SO cold, though! And then I had kind of misgivings about going to this type of entertainment while it's still shloshim for my father... but anyway. There it is. Good times had by all.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Day at Allan Gardens...

Spent a chunk of time there today with ALL the kids and Sara.

Quel surprise... good times had by all!!!
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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Fw: New Rice Beverage packaging - thanks!

Just got a reply to my Yu rice milk email.  I love quick customer service.  Wish they'd send a coupon, though!  J
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Tuesday, January 27, 2009 3:05 PM
Subject: RE: New Rice Beverage packaging - thanks!

Hello Jennifer,


Thank you for contacting Soyaworld with your comments.


It's very important to hear from our consumers and we appreciate your feedback.


Yes; that's correct the DE or Dairy designation has been removed from our packaging as our plants are completely dairy free kosher.


Please do not hesitate to contact us with any further questions or concerns!


Kindest Regards,

But forget all this mushy stuff... I'm sure you are all wondering...


Yes, tonight is officially my First Night Cooking Supper in a Very Long Time.

We are having chili.
With cornbread. Dunno whether I'm going to bake it on top since Naomi also wants baked potatoes.

So there it is: chili, cornbread, baked potatoes.

Nothing could be simpler.
Yes, this is a stupid photo of Gavriel Zev; that's why it didn't make it into the baby album. But it's a great shot of my dad, and the blue kind of coordinates. Plus, he looks totally fat in this picture compared to how gaunt he became in the last few months.
OK, they both look kind of fat in this picture.

And the second picture is just nice because it's a moment, captured, kind of sneakily looking over his shoulder, and Naomi taking everything for granted and playing in the background.

<3 J
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A happy memory...

From an email to the big kids' grandpa in Calgary...

"Thinking about a ton of stuff the last couple of weeks, but one memory that stood out was of when you were here (it must have been the summer of 2005) and we went to the symphony concert at Harbourfront. While we were waiting for it to begin - Naomi was grouchy and very demanding of my attention - the big kids went walking looking at boats. And I had a moment of anxiety wondering if they were too close to the water or whatever, and then thinking how very safe they were, there with their two grandpas, and how nothing bad could possibly happen to them with you both there watching them. What a rare and wonderful moment that was, though I know it must have been a bittersweet year for you."

(2005 was the year my ex-husband, the big kids' father, died in a drowning accident in Calgary)

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Sprouting Again... Growing Again...

OK, just about every winter, I have discovered, I have this deep-down need to see something green., and start experimenting once again with SPROUTING. This year, the need coincided with our return from Israel, the end of shiva, and my intense need to rejoin the world through retail channels - particularly the soothing wholistic smell of organic and natural-food stores.

(not to be confused with the pills-n-protein smell of the many so-called "natural" "food" stores, mostly mall-based, that sell mainly man-made soy and herb supplements in the form of pills and powders)

Anyway. I needed The Smell and I needed To Sprout, so I hopped on down to The Big Carrot, one of my favourites, on Friday. I've been going there since I was knee-high to a grasshopper, thanks to Emily, a high school (and now Facebook) friend.

It turned out they only had one left of the sprouter that I wanted, but one was all I needed. I tried sprouting in baskets last year, with mostly success, however, the baskets - like everything else in this house - tended to go mouldy, so this time around I wanted something that could drain super-well and allow for fantastic air circulation.

This sprouter, the Easy Sprout, is made of Space-Age washable plastic, seemed to fit the bill better than a basket, though I love the idea of basket sprouting (basically, the sprouts grow roots through the basket, which anchors the plants so they can't move around and grow stronger, more upright, and healthier).

I tried it first with a bunch of mixed salad greens (the seed was from last year, but it seems okay still), but then this website basically says you shouldn't do it with greens... Oy. Anyway, they've got roots down now and some are starting to grow shoots. It's basically a jar sprouter, but with better air circulation at the bottom so sprouts are never sitting in their own runoff. Yuck.

In the Green Living Things vein this week, I have also resolved to winter-sow a bunch of Columbine (Aquilegia) seeds I have lying around. They need to stratify (ie sit in the cold and damp) for a while, so this seems like the ideal season for it). But last year's winter sowing was totally undermined because of all the too-shallow containers I used. So I must find a nice, deep container and stick to planting one species in each container.

If you're interested in winter-sowing, the best website is here:
Her name is Trudi, she's fantastic, and she'll even send you free seeds. They have put a bit of a quiz on the site so the seeds offer can't be abused by "freebie" sites, however. Be prepared to learn and get tested if you want the free stuff now! (I got some last year, and am hoping to get tomatoes from her this year if I get my act together... YES, apparently you can winter-sow tomatoes! :-o)
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Fw: New Rice Beverage packaging - thanks!

Sent: Tuesday, January 27, 2009 2:26

Subject: New Rice Beverage packaging -

After several months of difficulty finding Yu rice beverage on
our store shelves, we were thrilled to find it back in stock with brand-new
packaging last week. (we mainly shop at Fortino's and Superstore here in

As kosher consumers, I must say we are particularly
pleased with the removal of the "dairy" designation from the packaging, assuming
(if it's not an error - please correct me if it is!) that this means it is
truly a pareve product now. In a kosher kitchen, that means it can be used
to cook for and serve with all types of meals - products with a "dairy" or
"dairy equipment" kosher designation (usually due to being produced on the same
lines as items made with milk) cannot be used with meat even if they are
completely vegan.

I also want to mention how great this beverage
has been with our last two babies. While I am exclusively breastfeeding
& realize that a soy or rice beverage should never take the place of
formula, I have found it a mild, slightly sweet substitute which comes in
handy (in small quantities) for mixing baby cereals or as a drink with

Thank you once again!

Yours truly,
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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Fw: Shiva's over, family's home, etc

That's all for now, actually.  We're here, the kids got back okay, etc.
Ted has uploaded a bunch of his Israel pics to Facebook, which I can't stand, but anyway:
The three times I have cried since last Wednesday:
~ When the baby wouldn't stop crying on the airplane and I had to keep switching seats because everybody hated me and my screaming baby...
~ When we were at the graveside and I saw the grass under the snow and I have been waiting so long, dying, to see grass or anything alive under all the snow and somehow seeing that they could just shovel off the snow and dig through the turf like that...
~ This morning when shiva ended and the rabbi said now we had to go out of the house and escort his soul, in some way, seeing it off on its journey.  We walked him up to the subway station cuz all the best places to haunt are downtown...  :-)))
We left the rabbi in the house and walked around the block on our own.  When we came back to the street, the rabbi was standing outside waiting, and Abigail joked that if the rabbi came out and saw his shadow, that meant four more weeks of shiva.
We were weeping with laughter by the time we got back to the house.  What a weird family.
<3 J

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

We are in the Holy Land

I could insert cheesy clip art here, but at 5 shekels every however-long, I will not.  Off to see Uncle today in Bnei Brak, limited internet access.. .more when we're back!

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Last night's supper!

Sausage risotto with two kinds of sausage, but it was precooked and I was a bit disappointed... PLUS, the pressure cooker wasn't sealed properly for some reason and would not come up to pressure. Anyway, the risotto burnt on the bottom but was otherwise delicious. I used half arborio, which then ran out, so I used half sushi rice, which added a perfect sweetness.

Oh, and split pea soup from a mix. Shown here with a leftover Shabbos kneidl. I used the leftover Shabbos chicken soup in the risotto, along with a cup or so of leftover sweet sparkling white wine. It was a sweet taste, but not disturbingly so.

We vaccinated the baby yesterday for the first time.
I went in with the following list of "demands", gleaned from Dr Sears:

~ Only 2 vaccines at a time
~ Only 1 with aluminum at a time
~ Only 1 live vaccine at a time
I don't remember what else.

Anyway, it turned out that there were only "combo" vaccines available - grrr. So he got the standard DPTP and MMR (live). We did take Hib out of the DPTP, as it's a powder that she usually just mixes in. So only seven vaccines, instead of eight.

Now I feel a bit more comfortable about travelling with him, though I realize they don't begin acting immediately. Thinking about the plane makes me nervous anyway... basically a flying soup can full of germs.

Off to Mrs ViKi for the first time in probably a month!!!

<3 J
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New Beverage Rave

Yes, it's pareve!
Blue Diamond Almond Breeze - okay, we call it almond milk.

And, because the cranky complaints-lady has been rearing her head a bit much lately, a happy, if somewhat coupon-seeking letter to the manufacturer:

"Thanks to promotional pricing (3 for $5), we have recently discovered Almond
Breeze in our local Loblaws-chain stores here in Toronto.

I just wanted to let you know both how delighted I am with the quality and taste of the product as well as with your committment to producing a product which is not
only kosher but pareve (non-dairy).

At a time when many non-dairy beverages are finding it easier to display a "dairy" kosher symbol (if their products share a production line with other, dairy-based products, for example), it is great to find one which is truly pareve (non-dairy), as this means it can be used with all foods, including meat, in our kosher home.

We're looking forward to trying all the available flavours!"
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More re TheSource 351607 Back order

I'm not proud of this one, but their reply annoyed me to no end, for some reason, so I morphed in mighty morphin' super-B for a moment, then hit Send before I could stop myself.
----- Original Message -----
From: <> 
Sent: Tuesday, January 06, 2009 9:32 AM
Subject: Re: 351607 Back order

I wish to receive the camera. 
If I didn't, I wouldn't have ordered it.  And paid for it immediately.
I wish my daughter could receive her birthday present on time.
Receiving a picture of a camera is a lousy gift.
I wish your website hadn't said it was in stock when it clearly wasn't.
I wish your customer service person hadn't said it would be in by "this Friday at the latest" when it clearly won't.
Oh, and "thank you" doesn't need a hyphen, but a comma would have been nice between "order" and "please."
Nothing anyone there can do about any of my wish list items, but maybe you can fix your grammar.
Jennifer M. MacLeod
----- Original Message -----
To: <> 
Sent: Tuesday, January 06, 2009 8:46 AM
Subject: RE: 351607 Back order

We do apologize for this backorder. If you wish to cancel the order please advise.






The information contained in this message may be privileged, confidential and protected from disclosure. This message is intended only for the designated recipient(s) [again, oops]. It is subject to access, review and disclosure by the sender's Email System Administrator. If you have received this message in error, please advise by return e-mail so that our address records can be corrected and please delete immediately without reading, copying or forwarding to others. Any unauthorized review, use, disclosure or distribution is prohibited.
Copyright © 2008 InterTAN Canada Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, January 05, 2009

The Cranky Complaints-Lady Responds to InterTan (Radio Shack aka The Source)

This makes me very angry, as the item in question was a
birthday gift for someone who is going out of the country soon.

I should also add that having purchased in-store-pickup items without trouble from Best Buy and other online retailers, your store is the only one where I have experienced these delays.

Most retailers who claim a product is available and in stock actually mean it: you simply oversold this popular item and is clearly now rushing to fill those orders, at the expense of unsuspecting customers.

This was my first experience shopping online at The Source. I have been so disappointed that I am not likely to come back (to the website or the stores, which are messy, noisy and whose sales staff don't speak English well) anytime soon.

[OK, it sounds racist, but when I called around looking to see if any of the stores had the camera in-stock today, I could barely figure out what they were saying when they picked up. And I don't think it's truly racist if I don't identify or hold any particular grudge about their colour or country of origin. I just like to speak English and have it spoken to me in stores.]

(for what it's worth, I actually phoned yesterday and was told the item ordered was shipping today and would be available in store any day this week... and "definitely no later than Friday")

that last bit was not in my email!
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Fwd: 351607 Back order

How many BS words can you find in the following email, informing me that Elisheva's birthday camera isn't available even though they said two weeks ago that it was...
I'll help out by highlighting!

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: <>
Date: 2009/1/5
Subject: 351607 Back order
To: "" <>


Dear Valued [I suspect I'm neither to them!] Online Customer

You recently placed order ### with for product 2516949. We [it's a computer] regret [can you hear it in their voices?] to inform you that this product is on back order. The expected [they really have no clue] shipping date is January 30, 2009. This is an estimated [see?] date only; it is possible that we will receive stock at our warehouse earlier than this date. We [who's writing this letter, again?] apologize [I don't see an apology here] for any inconvenience. [or the poignancy of my daughter not being able to have a bloody camera for her bloody trip to Isrrael...]


The information contained in this message may be privileged, confidential and protected from disclosure. [oops!  well, pretend you haven't read this] This message is intended only for the designated recipient(s).  It is subject to access, review and disclosure by the sender's Email System Administrator. If you have received this message in error, please advise by return e-mail so that our address records can be corrected and please delete immediately without reading, copying or forwarding to others.  Any unauthorized review, use, disclosure or distribution is prohibited.

Copyright © 2008 InterTAN Canada Ltd.  All Rights Reserved.


L'information contenue dans ce message pourrait être de nature privilégiée, confidentielle et protégée contre toute divulgation.  Ce message est destiné à l'usage exclusif du(des) destinataire(s) visé(s).  Le gestionnaire de système du courrier électronique de l'expéditeur pourrait avoir accès à ce message, l'examiner et le divulguer.  Si ce message vous est transmis par erreur, veuillez nous en aviser par courrier électronique à notre adresse, afin que l'on puisse corriger nos registres, puis veuillez le supprimer immédiatement, sans le lire, le copier ou le transmettre à des tiers.  Tout examen, toute utilisation, divulgation ou distribution non autorisé de cette information est interdit.

Droit d'auteur © 2008 InterTAN Canada Ltée.  Tous droits réservés.





Thursday, January 01, 2009

Lame Video Card

Let's see if this thing works... I'd say probably NOT. J

brrr... wintertime frappuccipo & other kitchen how-to's (and not-to's)

Ugh... made myself a frapuccipo (decided that it cheapens the thing to spell it "cheapo"; why should starbucks have all the fun with its fake-Italian terminology???).
They are nice & refreshing in the summer, but in January (Jan 1st!) when the temperature indoors is 17, what I do NOT need is a frozen icy beverage.  My hands can barely type this messge...
I made it because I drove Ted to work today because the TTC is on Sunday service, but all the Starbucks locations on the way back down (3 in all!) were still closed up tight, so I felt I deserved a smoothie.  Ugh.  I mean Gaah.  But it IS delicious, if a little ridiculous to be sitting here shivering, all bundled up, slurping down ice crystals...!
(if they find my body cold at the keyboard later on today, now you know why - please alert the authorities)
(CHAS V'SHALOM!  Of course!)
1-2 tbsp instant coffee (depends how strong you like it)
2 tbsp hot chocolate mix
1-2 tbsp sweetened condensed milk (depends how sweet you like it)
8 ice cubes
3/4 cup milk
Toss all ingredients into fabulous Osterizer blender.  Whir, whir, whir until the ice is almost but not quite GONE!!!
Can't believe I've had this beautiful blender for almost a year now... which means it's almost time for another birthday - and more presents!
The order of the coffee, hot choco mix and sweet condensed milk is deliberate, btw.  It lets you use the same tablespoon for all 3 and then to mix and taste the smoothie afterwards.  The coffee is dry and pareve.  The hot choco is dry but milchiks.  The sweet condensed milk is wet and dairy, but it doesn't mind getting a few grains of hot choco and coffee powder in the tin.  And at the end of it all, you have a yummy coffee-choco-milky spoon you can lick if you like.
While I'm on the subject of non-supper foods, I should mention PANCAKES!
My approach to pancakes has become a whole lot less formal lately.  (pause to check on non-sleeping Naomi) (yup, she's not sleeping... that's what I get for having a mellow morning at home and then a way-early nap - 1:30 after a few days of 3:30 naps...)
I have discovered that almost anything grain-based can be PANCAKES.  Especially leftover hot cereals, like the Bob's Red Mill creamy rice cereal that I use for the baby (way healthier than baby cereal, yet rice-based and totally digestible, I have used this almost from the moment he started solid food, as I did with Naomi Rivka).  But also leftover regular oatmeal, like the amazing apple-juice-cinnamon oatmeal I made on Monday morning that for some reason everybody hated.  (I used half-and-half apple juice, plus a whole cinnamon stick, and it smelled divine...).
Today, I took the leftover oatmeal, which I knew the baby still wouldn't touch, mixed it with a cup of Bisquik and two eggs and grated an apple into it for the most amazing, subtle-sweet pancakes - mmmmm....
If you don't have Bisquik, just use flour plus a bit of baking powder, maybe a tablespoon?  Oh, and add something oily like melted butter or oil.  I have discovered that as long as the consistency is about right in the mixing bowl, the pancakes generally turn out entirely palatable. 
Another nice subtly-sweet combination that tastes mild enough for anyone is leftover-rice-cereal pancakes with frozen blueberries tossed in.  Who doesn't have a thing of frozen blueberries sitting around?  Adds vitamin C and maybe antioxidants, or whatever else they say is in blueberries these days.
While I'm on the subject of kitchen tips, here's one I picked up from my lazy children!
This isn't for everybody; if you're an obsessive cleaner-upper, it'll drive you crazy.  BUT... as our home-composting activities grind down to just about zero, I have found a pretty decent way to capture valuable eggshells that would otherwise be lost to the compost heap, as well as some extra carbon. 
Instead of tossing each eggshell in the city compost bin, as we did last winter (I mourned the loss of each one to my compost pile, believe me), we're saving the shells, putting them back in the carton.  When the carton is used up, it sits in the fridge full of empty eggshells until a day that is nice enough to get out back and toss it into the compost bin, or until I can impose on a child to trudge their way through the snow to dump it in. 
The point is, I don't have to haul them to the backyard one at a time, or even have an active "garden-compost" bin in the kitchen all winter long.  Just hanging onto the eggshells may seem like a small thing, but it's helping me feel in touch with my garden even at the worst times of year.
However, the empty/full carton part may just drive us crazy before spring.  When you open the fridge door, you can't see at a glance whether it's a "real" full carton of eggs or an empty carton, full of eggshells.  I may put a labelling system in place, or just be extremely vigilant about getting the cartons out to the backyard quicker so they don't sit around.  I think the empty cartons bug Ted a bit.  He's more compulsive about neatness and to him this just seems like an extension of the kids' laziness.
The absolute worst last winter was Pesach.  I know, it's technically in the spring, but we didn't have a good system in place for kitchen composting for the season yet, and then got too busy with Pesach to worry about the garden.  We must have gone through literally a dozen dozen eggs - at least! - every single shell of which ended up in the bloody city compost, when they could have been an amazing gift to my garden, and specifically, to my tomatoes, which then suffered from the most stupendous calcium deficiencies the entire season (though, to be fair, blossom-end-rot can also be the fault of too much rain, which we definitely had this year).
Speaking of Pesach... because I knew it was going to get busy in the spring, I asked Ted if he could build my new tomato square-foot garden bed over the winter.  It'll be about 2 feet by 7 feet, and sit where the tomato planters were this season, with a trellis similar to the full-size sfg beds.  But now we're going away, and when we come back... well, we'll see what happens.   I just don't want it to be rushed before Pesach like last year, but I suppose it will be.
Speaking of going away.  Three grandmothers have weighed in now on the subject of taking their grandbabies to a war zone next week.  I believe they've all used the phrase "war zone."
We have reassured them all that we won't go if we think it's too dangerous, but now I'm saddened by having responded a bit glibly to Mary (the big kids' grandmother). 
She has so many eggs in those precious, fragile baskets now that her son is gone (my ex-husband died when Naomi Rivka was a small baby).  I was dumb; I forgot that for a moment when I was emailing her. 
I guess that is true all the time, but definitely more so at this moment.  I don't know how to make it up to her, but maybe I don't have to, as I always do treat her trust in me to raise her grandchildren as a sacred responsibility.  Or I try to, though when I'm hollering at them to go to bed, maybe it doesn't seem so sacred at every single second....
No idea!!!
Uh-oh... better go figure it out!
<3 J