Friday, July 31, 2009

Cranky Complaints-Lady and her Crazy Leeeaning Garden Hook!

Submitted at

friday 014This spring, I purchased a "Moroccan Double Hook" (Product #59-0386-4) from a Canadian Tire store.  It is complete garbage!  Under the weight of two average-sized plant pots (one on each hook), after a couple of days of rain, the flimsy metal tube bent 90 degrees and smashed the flower pots down to the ground, crushing a nearby vegetable bed.
I'd like a refund of the almost $25 I paid for this thing so I can buy a real shepherd's hook that will actually support the weight of two plants.  This hook looks good, but is made of flimsy metal that will not last an average season.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

So hungry

But made it through the day.
Supper, to break the fast:
Fettucine with butter & parmesan
Salmon pan-fried with butter & lemon
Ace bakery bread with butter (umm... a pattern emerges!)
Corn on the cob with butter & salt
Butter, butter, BUTTER!
Happy rest-of-summer, world!!!

Ottawa Summer 2009 Slideshow

Hospitality, Richard-style

Welcome to the Kosher Gourmet!!!  Ted’s brother really does know how to make us feel welcome… this time, following Ted’s sole complaint last summer, with an assortment of PAREVE delights (I guess we had a lot of meat last time).  Only to be told we couldn’t eat meat at all. 

We tried our best to show our full appreciation for this incredible bounty of delicious, kosher FOOD!

ottawa2009 003 ottawa2009 004 ottawa2009 005 ottawa2009 011 ottawa2009 012

Garden firsts and lasts!

These are the first nice carrots I have ever harvested from my own garden!

ottawa2009 002

And these are almost the last peas of the season.  I set aside one plant to be a “mother” to save seeds for next year’s peas (I marked it off with a clothespin so nobody would eat from it).  The other plants are still putting out a few pods here and there, but with the hot weather back this weekend, they’ll probably all die off soon…

 ottawa2009 072

Tisha b'Av FAQ

Fully up-to-date for 5775 / 2015!!!

NEW for 2015!  Download the entire reading of Megillas Eichah here.  (Email me if it doesn’t work; these Dropbox links expire from time to time, so it's nothing personal.)

To add to this FAQ, just leave a question in the comments section or email me at Tzivia "at" and I'll happily add it if it's at all relevant.

I started writing this FAQ years ago to explain Tisha b'Av to my husband's family, like about ten years ago.  And since everybody always asks the same questions, I thought I'd write them all down in one place.  I have been adding updates for the last 5 years or so.

0) Why are you fasting?

Actually, this is the UNSPOKEN first question. Hardly anybody asks this! Maybe people just assume that Jews are always fasting for something or other and it's better not to get us started. If you want a lucid explanation, try Judaism 101 here. If you want my explanation, read on!

Tisha b'Av is the saddest day on the Jewish calendar. We are fasting for the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, and yes, it was a long time ago. The idea as I understand it is that if we're on the right wavelength, it should still be relevant. Imagine the spiritual high of living so close to God - his (or her, because it's actually a feminine word) shechinah "dwelling in our midst." We still have the potential for closeness, but it's not so easy these days, and at this time of year, we're supposed to feel SOMETHING when we think of the rift caused by the loss of this spiritual Memphis.

What do I mean by Memphis? I've heard that, for efficiency, Fedex routes all packages through Memphis, so, too, at the time of the Bais HaMikdash (oops, Temple!), all of our prayers were efficiently routed through Jerusalem. Now, they're scattered, and it's harder to get a message through. We have to try harder to reach the same spiritual high. Also, Graceland is there. ;-)

1) How long is the fast?

25 hours; sunset Wednesday to sunset Thursday. It's actually a bit longer, because you have stop eating, brush teeth, etc a bit before the time to make sure you don't go over.

2) But you're allowed to have a snack?

No; no snacks. Um... if you were eating, you wouldn't be fasting.

3) But you're allowed to drink water? Juice?

Friday, July 24, 2009

These aren’t even good!!!

Untitled-1  So why did I just eat a bowl of them??!?  It wasn’t a huge bowl, and they’re not terrible, but a little weird, bulky and ultimately, unnecessary.

Chalk it up to Mysteries of the Universe.


I’m done!  It’s done!  I’m done!


Now to make Shabbos…

Shabbos?  What’s Shabbos?

And why do I have a hunch my oven’s acting flaky?  When I took out the banana cake, and raised the temperature from 350 to 375 for the challah, it read 400 for a minute.  I turned it off and hope, hope, HOPE that the flakiness was transient.  I just repaid our friend-neighbour Judy for the last oven repair.

I am an orphan with big manga eyes

Chas v’shalom!  But look at those big blue eyes.  I brushed his hair, for a change, which left him slightly sleepy and dazed.

bathfri 001

Wrestling with Naomi.  Two damp, ready-for-naptime kids!

 bathfri 003

Summertime Frap-u-chee-lo

bathfri 006Dunno why, but that’s what I’m calling this!

4 frozen coffee cubes, microwaved with

2 tsp condensed milk

until hot – stir ‘till well-blended.

Top up with

6 frozen coffee cubes and

enough milk to reach the top.

Looks like poetry, tastes like memories of my first grown-up iced coffee summers at the Roasterie in Calgary…

If only summer would arrive here, and stay long enough to ripen my tomatoes!

Watch; they’ll all turn red the minute I step on the plane to Calgary.

YES, I’m working, I’m writing.  Gaack.  This is so horrible, it’s not funny.

Naomi, reading a book to Gavriel Zev

"A ... is for apple; B... is for tomato."
Me:  "What?" (poke head in from kitchen) "Hmm... I think that's a BALL."
"Mommy!  We're pretending it's a tomato, okay?"

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Brown baby

Naomi Rivka:  "I call this my brown baby."
Me:  "Which one is it?"
"This one."  Holds up doll.
"Oh, because it has brown hair?"
"And brown eyes."
"Like us:  brown hair and brown eyes.  Like you, and like me."
"Like me.  Your hair is mostly white."
"What?  Where?"  (whip off tichel; good thing we weren't at the mall!)
"Where's white hair?"
(she pokes at my head, pulls one strand away from the others)
"Your hair is so thin, most of it looks like it has no colour."
(look in mirror:  brown, brown, brown... not a single grey hair here, I swear!!)


Shh… genius at work.  Okay, just me and my muzzy-from-baby brain.


But still:  a deadline is a deadline!

(post-it freely plagiarized from this blog)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


Just came across this while thinking about hats for YM for his new yeshiva...


I never got a picture of my father's Uncle Yossel who we visited in Israel.  He looks just like my zeidy, but older, paler and kind of smooshed.  Shorter, fatter.  I remember my zeidy as very tall, though he was probably just normal adult size, and very strong, which he definitely was.  With tzitzis on the outside, which my grandfather, his brother, wouldn't have been caught dead wearing at all
We visited on the Wednesday we were there, but my (father's) Auntie Chana had yahrzeit that day and was in a hurry to get to the cemetery (I was amazed that her parents were buried in eretz Yisrael; most of her generation from Europe don't have graves to visit).
I put off taking a picture and finally, as we were getting up to go, I said, "can I just take a picture?"  And she said "on Monday."  We were going to go back on Monday with Ted and the littles, and so we'd take the picture then.
By Monday, we were sitting shiva in Canada (Auntie and I now have yahrzeit the same day).  So no picture.
Why am I thinking of this now?
Because YM's rosh yeshiva, deeply interested in the roots of the apparent out-of-the-blue no-yichus iluy that is my son (ha!  if he only knew!), asked for Uncle's phone number to call him and see if he could dig up anything about the family.
For which I'm grateful.  Between my no-Yiddish and barely-any-Hebrew, our conversation while we were there was kindergarten-level stuff:  the weather, days of the week, basics of who is in my family (I thoroughly confused them a few times with that!). 
I did casually mention that Ted converted a few days ago... drat.  Shanim, must remember, years is shanim.  Not yamim.
So we didn't get to chat and I would love to know anything about that side of the family, while he's still around, while someone's willing to ask.
But what really stirred me today, what made me smile, is that the rosh yeshiva called with a preliminary update (he's wonderful, he really is; I wish I wasn't always rushing to cook supper or take care of kids when he called.  I wish he had email, but then, he'd never use email.)
The preliminary update:  he couldn't talk to Uncle, who was resting, but Auntie was pleased to hear that YM is going to a good yeshiva next year.  BUT... (big smile)... why wasn't he learning by Ger or another chassidishe yeshiva?
Big smile.
Why am I smiling?
Why do I care so much about these obscure relatives I've only met once?
First, because they were very important to my father.  My grandfather completely severed that spiritual connection to our family's past.  I think even my not-always-religious father suspected that was not the right way to pass things on to the next generation.
Second, because nobody in my family, NOBODY, through all these years... nobody ever openly cared about my spirituality at all, one way or another.
Nobody said anything, for better or worse, about what all this baalas teshuva stuff was about, spiritually.
And I was so scared that when I met uncle and auntie, that they wouldn't really care either.  I have met a lot, a lot of religious people here who take spirituality for granted.  Who don't really mention God, or who mention him in passing, like "baruch Hashem."
These folks in Israel, this couple in their 80s, I'm telling you, they are the real thing.  They live lives of poverty in a teeny tiny apartment across from the Ponovezh yeshiva in Bnei Brak and they care deeply, deeply about what God thinks.  They have a deep, meaningful connection to him and feel his presence in every aspect of their lives.
And they care so deeply that out of the spiritual train wreck that was my grandfather's cocky overconfidence that the ultimate redemption would come through communism (sheesh, it sounds so naive now) and secular humanism (and, I suppose, out of the physical catastrophe that destroyed much of the family in the shoah), some family is emerging, slowly, tenuously (I sure feel tenuous most of the time) and slowly, we're coming back.
Auntie told me (I think!) that I can rely on Hashem, that I can trust him, talk to him, daven; he's in charge of the whole world.  No relative has ever told me stuff like that.
When I was growing up, those weren't things Jews said.
I think I was worried that the whole Israel thing was one of my father's deathbed crazy ideas and it wouldn't be meaningful.
Sara, who is sometimes wise, called me on it before I went, because of hauling the kids into a war zone.  Fair enough.
And I think I had a damn good answer for her, and at least she stopped calling me on it and hugged me goodbye when we left (I think).
But I was worried that she was right; it was crazy, it was me following my father's crazy orders, that it wouldn't be meaningful.
That one more aging, ailing relative can't turn my life around.
And perhaps it hasn't turned my life around completely, meeting them.
But knowing I come from somewhere... that someone cares... that we're connected...that my spiritual life and those of my children matter in a way that is so far beyond just us...

Car rental AARGH!

Trying to arrange a car for our trip to Calgary in 2 weeks... you'd think a "Canadian owned and operated company" would quote its prices in CANADIAN dollars, right???
But no.
And the guy was so dumb about it when I finally caught on.  (they were too good to be true!)
I was, like, "is that in Canadian dollars?"
"No, that is in dollars."
"Well, we call our currency dollars, so you can't just say 'dollars' if I tell you I'm in Canada, travelling to Canada, renting a car from a Canadian company.  Because to Canadians, 'dollars' means Canadian dollars.  So the total you just gave me - after I said that I live in Canada, and use Canadian dollars - is that rate in Canadian dollars?"
"No, that price is in dollars."
Australians, too, I bet.

YM's distance ed registration for September

Well, this was the easy part! 
Slowly, slowly... three courses last year was SO hard:  I cannot imagine how we will cope with SEVEN.
Plus full-time yeshiva, plus night seder, plus 3 other kids???  :-o
He wants to graduate properly, not get some rinky-dinky GED like the other kids... and I do agree that his yeshiva does not emphasize English subject enough to get him into university.
But, sheesh.  Just sheesh.  I'm tired just thinking about it.  Seven courses, times 20 modules each... equals 140 modules.  Divided by maybe 35 weeks in the school year = 4 modules per week.  Hmm.  That sounds doable, on paper.  With Yamim Tovim, there are probably more like 30 weeks,  however.  Which is FIVE modules per week.  One per day, Sunday through Thursday, rain or shine.
Maybe we can do it, after all... but I already know that some of these modules are going to be huge.

---------- Forwarded message ----------

My son, {yup, ds1!}, was a student the 2008/2009 school year.
I would like to register him in the following courses for the coming 2009/2010 school year:
I wasn't certain whether the civics course (CHV2O) is a half- or full-credit course.  If it's a full credit, we may end up not keeping the Science course, as that is probably too ambitious for one year.
Please confirm that you've received this and let me know what else is necessary in order to register.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Hmm… trial menu for Ottawa trip next week

One of the reasons I married Ted:  his list-making abilities!

Went to start a food plan for our trip and, of course, he’s already got one going…







At Home

Cereal and
cottage cheese

Cereal and
cottage cheese

Cereal and
cottage cheese


Sandwiches in car

Fresh Bagels

Viva Pizza ???

Bagels in car


Bakey tato bar

Salmon @ ‘rents

Pasta? Instant something?

Home - seudah

We’re not sure if Viva’s Pizza still exists, however, because there’s now a fleishik restaurant listed instead at the JCC in the Shamash kosher restaurant database.

Which, if you don’t know about it, you should, because it’s a great, comprehensive listing of kosher restaurants just about everywhere!!!

Have I mentioned I hate hate hate sandwiches of almost all kinds?!?

Cranky Complaints-Lady Plans a Trip!

To: Ottawa JCC, Cc: Israeli Embassy in Ottawa
Sent: Tuesday, July 21, 2009 10:39 PM
Subject: Upcoming Events

Dear [her name]:

While planning a visit to Ottawa, I noticed two upcoming musical events listed on your website (  the Ottawa Chamber Music Festival and "Soaring Beyond Expectation - Women in Composition"
These events are being held next Tuesday and Wednesday, during the nine days leading up to Tisha b'Av, which is next Thursday.  These nine days are widely recognized throughout the Jewish community, as a time of mourning for the original loss of our spiritual and physical homeland (losses not yet entirely regained through the "reishit tzmichat ge'ulateinu," the modern-day State of Israel).
I'm surprised that the Israeli embassy, regardless of religious affiliation or lack thereof, would sponsor such an event at this time (would they do it on Yom Hashoah or Yom Hazikaron, also national periods of mourning for the entire Jewish people?). 
In future, sensitivity to Jewish issues such as these might be appropriate from what is essentially the sole voice of the Jewish community in our national Capital Region.
Thanks for listening!

What a difference a reservoir makes!

And now, we move on to the sub-irrigated section of the garden, which is veritably THRIVING!

Sub-Irrigated Planter #1:  Children’s Garden Roma tomato, plus store-brought broccoli seedling.

sub-i planter SIP #1 sub-i planter SIP #1 

Both doing great, though the tomato has no fruit forming yet.  But…I just noticed today that the broccoli has a flower!!!

broccoli starting to flower

Sub-Irrigated Planter #2:  “Early Tiny” cherry tomato, plus Sweet Chocolate Sweet Pepper.

 sub-i planter SIP #2 sub-i planter SIP #2 

I love this tomato!  These are the seeds from an unknown cherry-tomato variety I saved from last year (got the seeds from  I guess “Early Tiny” isn’t really a good name, because this thing grows into a $#!%^ TREE, taller than me so far.  Like they say, the size of the fruit has no bearing on the ultimate size of the plant. 

It is incredibly prolific, too, perhaps rivalling the Sweet 100 I bought, which has the huge drawback of being a hybrid, meaning I can’t save its seeds.  This is one I will for sure be saving for next year. 

I also gave away a ton of seedlings this spring (2009)… I really hope there are many other gardeners around the GTA enjoying watching these yummy tomatoes ripen (or maybe even better gardeners than myself actually eating some by now!).

It bears gorgeous, uniformly-sized cherry fruits that ripen on their spurs (8-10 per spur, and I’m using the word spur which I just made up because I don’t know the real word!) one after another in the most beautiful rainbow spectrum.  Last year, they were my most reliable tomatoes, week after week!

Here are this year’s so far:

early tiny cherry in sub-i SIP #2

Argh!  I cannot find last year’s… so I shall have to download it from Facebook, where it was my profile picture at the time!

temp_last year tomatoes

Anyway, I suspect this thing would grow fine in a pot of sand.  In a sub-i planter, it is growing into a monster and I am hoping for tons of yummy fruit!

Sub-Irrigated Planter #3:  Ildi tomato, plus Sugar Baby watermelon

sub-i planter SIP #3

Tomato doing great!  Flowers, no fruit forming yet.  However, the watermelon isn’t doing much of anything.  Perhaps because I felt sorry for a “spare” Ildi tomato seedling and stuck it in the corner of the pot, where it’s probably depriving those poor watermelons of every hope of sustenance.  I really must get that seedling out of there before it takes over the pot!!!

SFG update – good, bad, ugly

Alright.  A quick update in case anyone cares.  Bad, bad, bad.

They are light-deprived, nutrient-deprived and everything is doomed.

But I love them anyway!

Square Foot Garden Bed #1:

sfg bed #1 diag

Corn, beans and assorted melons are slowly, slowly starting to crowd out the first generation.  However, I cut back the leaf-minered chard to see if it would grow nice, unminered new leaves and sure enough, it’s actually looking quite edible, there in the back row. 

The peas were starting to die back, and I was getting ready to pull them out, except the ones I’m saving for seed, but now, because the weather is cool, some are starting to bear again.  Aargh!

Square Foot Garden Bed #2:

  sfg bed #2 diag

All that lettuce!  And now that it’s been hot and some bolted, I’m scared to eat it!  I bought some clearance cabbage and brussels sprouts seedlings at Fortino’s Garden Centre closing (2/25 cents), so I will try to pull out all the lettuce and start over with those cool-weather crops.  We shall see!

Carrots are coming along decently; better than mine ever have, anyway.  In the back row where you can’t see them, four tomato plants are actually starting to bulk up.  But no sign of flowers or fruit on those ones, yet.  My container tomatoes always do WAY better, probably because of my impromptu homemade soil mixes…and because they’re situated in sunnier areas of the garden.  :-(

Square Foot Garden Bed #3:

 sfg bed #3

The back row tomatoes are finally growing!  As my mother pointed out, “too late for them now anyway.”  So we’re not going to bother putting up the trellis for them.  If they happen to grow tall enough to get floppy, I can always sneak onto the neighbour’s property and tie them (with something soft like used nylons) to the chain-link fence.

The peppers in the front row are doing okay.  Just okay.  Grr.

And the carrots are runty and bitter.   I pulled one and it was forked.  But Naomi loves them and nibbles them right out of the ground (I rub the dirt off first).  I love the fuzzy foliage, but am just about ready to declare myself an utter failure in the farmer business.


The highlight of the whole SFG thing right now is my long-suffering overwintered pepper plant, which is finally enjoying a bit of the warm weather she cherishes.   Love that orange tint – so tempting to pick it, but I think I’ll try to let it go all the way red.

There are four peppers ripening; one orange, one yellow, and two green so far.  This seems to be about as bit as they get.  I just hope it doesn’t taste awful or disappoint us in some other way, as so much garden produce has so far this year…

Blah.  What a downer!  But don’t worry; my next post will be about the sub-i planters, which are doing great!!!

The long and winding

new hose reel winderOkay, dumb.  I pulled this hose reel out of the trash a while ago and it’s been sitting at the side of our house because it didn’t come with the 2-foot length that you use to attach it to the faucet.  So I had a mental note in the back of my head to pick up a short hose whenever I had a chance, maybe in the trash or something.

Me and my mental notes.

So of course, time passes and the hose reel becomes a permanent, useless fixture at the side of the house.

Well, not entirely useless.  We wound the hose onto it last fall, which was nifty but entirely non-functional.  But at least it meant we could shovel the driveway without running into loops of hose.

Yes, last fall.  Because I just figured out - you know where I picked it up from the curb, meaning to do something with it, and never getting around to it…?

It was on my way to my friend Charlene’s baby shower.

For her twins who are now two years old.  While I was pregnant with my baby who is himself turning two in a couple of months.

So when my mother asked if I wanted any hoses, I naturally said NO!  My father’s hoses are mostly known for the charm of their ultra-frugal homemade patches.  I pictured mismatched hose lengths tied together with dental floss.

But I did mention that I was looking for a 2-foot length WITH both ends attached.  She didn’t think she had one, but then the first object she grabbed and pulled out as she rummaged in the garage was… a 2-foot length of garden hose, not brand-new, but perfectly mended, just waiting to be used.

Thanks, Daddy.

Naturally, it works perfectly.  Not a drip or untoward spritz from the thing.

I cannot tell you how wonderful it is to be able to wind up the hose and have it sitting there neatly, all ready for action.

Okay, at the moment, since I watered out back, it is sitting lazily all over the driveway.  But I’m going to go out there and wind it up, I promise!  How could I not, now that it’s so easy?!

July Garden Highs and Lows

fallen garden fairyLow, low, low would be the accidental tree-branch falling on one of the hanging side-door Ikea planters, breaking the hanger it was hanging from, toppling the whole thing upside-down, and de-spiking one of my ooltra-tacké Garden Fairies.  (it’s the Rake Fairy)

The good news is that these were my “indestructible”, “bullet-proof” planters made up of the only plants I could find (creeping Jenny and ribbon grass) that could withstand conditions in these terribly small, impractical pots. 

fallen garden potsThere they are on the bench right now, and you can see that while one looks a little flattened, the other two have taken their licking and kept right on ticking, not much the worse for wear.

And the HIGH more than makes up for it:  my seemingly ever-bearing raspberries!  And I do mean ever!

I thought, based on the last two years, that they’d produce a single crop in early summer and another in fall, but it turns out my old wise friend Emily (and I mean old in the sense of she’s been in my life forever, and wise in the sense that she’s always known way more than me) (and she’s an English teacher who would undoubtedly want a comma in this sentence somewhere, so here it is).  Was right.

raspberries - bearing and bearing!Mine, like hers, seem ready – now that they’ve reached maturity – to bear continuously on old vines from July until fall.  The new vines are just hanging around not really making fruit yet.  Now I don’t know whether they will produce any this year or wait ‘till spring.

Every day, we get about a handful of raspberries, which I share with the kids, so it’s not a ton, and Gavriel Zev always screams when we’re finished and tries to pick the unripe ones.raspberries - bearing and bearing!

But it’s really, really nice having a reason to go back there every single day, despite the aphids and the sad, sad state of my sun-deprived, nutrient-deprived SFG beds.

But that’s a downer for another post!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Beautiful Day in the (Farmville) Neighbourhood?

fvlogoNo value judgements for what follows, please!  We’re all friends here, right?!?

I have become slightly addicted to the World’s Stupidest Game on facebook.

The “game” is that basically you run a small farm by planting crops, collecting eggs from animals, etc.  Fun, wow!  Wheeeee!  Eggs!

But if you get really good at the game (I’m at Level 11), you can expand your farm to be able to plant even more pictures of crops and collect even more imaginary eggs from your cartoon animals.

The catch – if it’s not enough of a catch that you’re wasting moments out of every precious day playing this moronic thing – is that you can only expand your farm by adding eight neighbours.

I currently have only three neighbours (of whom I only know two in real life).

That’s because the game is deathly dull… and I am such a snob, I only associate with smart people.   And all the people I know are too smart to play it.

BUT here’s how you can help if you’re reading this!  You don’t have to play the game, I promise, just sign up here and add me as a “neighbour”.  Pleeeeze???

Oh, I may occasionally send you something exciting like a grapefruit tree or a cow, but I promise, you really never, ever have to play.

I wouldn’t wish this thing on an enemy, let alone a loyal (facebook) friend like you!

So is there a hierarchy?

frig 2009-07-20 002

In this wacky world of stay-home moms, is there a hierarchy? 

There certainly is a spectrum.  Many mamas mean different things when they say they’re home with their kid(s).

For me, it means we are home.  If Ted is out, I am in.  When I was still teaching, I arranged most of my classes for days and times that Ted could stay in.  I still do for my own dentist appointments, etc.

There have been a few times my mother or Sara had to babysit, but we’ve never had to hire a non-family babysitter to make money.  Thankfully, because it probably would have cost us more than we were earning.  But also because it’s family… there is almost always a family member with the kids.

Of course, there were a few times before Pesach – and at other times - when our friend-neighbour Judy would come take out one or both of the little kids.  I guess she’s not family, but maybe if you stretch the definition a little… she’s known them since birth and is certainly around enough to almost count.

Anyway, I figure these minor handings-over of the kids aren’t enough to nullify my stay-home committment (ha!  weasel word!).

But what about a paid babysitter, a few hours a week?

What about a preschool, a couple days a week?

What about a full-time or part-time nanny who’s there just in case you need to go out shopping or whatever?

There’s a stay-home mama with two kids (not especially burdensome ones, that I’ve seen) who used to bring her nanny to shul with her.  Every time a kid got a little uncomfortable or whiny, during shul or the kiddush, the parents would just hand it over and carry on.  That’s got to be somewhere on the spectrum.

So I’m wondering if there’s a hierarchy.

At what point are you no longer a stay-home mama?  Is it just the second you accept a job outside of the home during your child(ren)’s waking hours?  What about charity work?  What about “ladies who lunch?”

What percentage of the time do you have to remain tethered to your kids before you lose your “stay-home mom” status –slash– badge of honour?

What percentage before the other stay-home moms begin to sneer that you’re not really staying home the way they are?

I’ll admit:  when we used to go to our attachment parenting playgroup, I’d get shocked when the babies started approaching that 1-year deadline when all the mamas around here go back to work (in the U.S., I guess it’s probably earlier), and they’d start looking for either a nanny or a daycare who would continue “parenting” their kid(s) with the attachment principles they’d applied so diligently in those first twelve months.

And I’d be like:  good luck!  They may be cloth-diaper-friendly, and they may hug the kids and play warm music and offer vegan, emission-free stuffed animals, but they will never, NEVER be that kid’s mama or dad or even a grandparent or loving-yet-ever-cool aunt.

I still think that, when I see nannies trudging around with little ones in Baby Bjorns.  Would I even want my child having that level of face-to-face, almost skin-to-skin bonding with the hired help?

Just a few thoughts with question marks at the end during a much-needed break.  Naomi crashed on the way home from our morning circle time and we had to walk her bike home together.  Quick nummies and they were both out like lights, just after noon.

I’m hoping to hang some laundry and then take off before they wake up – hee hee hee.

Oh, and I don’t lose my cred because Ted’s here.  He’s a stay-home dad… for today!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Feeling the pinch: it's all about the ratings!

Well, apparently my second-most popular post at the moment is the one about pinching tomatoes!
(the most popular is my Windows Live vs Picasa review post, which I have updated a few times in response to comments)
Expect to see many tomato-pinching-related posts in future!
I LOVE pinching tomatoes!
I even do it when I'm at other people's houses, just walk right up and shave their tomatoes' armpits, too.
It's kind of like coleus... once you know that they're not supposed to flower, that you are supposed to pinch them down to keep them bushy, you can't walk through somebody's garden and just smile and nod at the blue spikes of coleus flowers.  It's a compulsion:  you must DO something about it.  Or at least, I must.
My secret pleasure about pinching tomatoes:  I usually manage to get the suckers when they're tiny, but every once in a while, with twelve tomato plants or more on the go, I miss one and the sucker manages to attain a decent size (like in the original tomato-pinching post).  And I love it!  It is at once a thrill and a horror to heartlessly snap off a living section of this coddled tomato plant that I have painstakingly raised from seed.  It feels so brutal; I tell the plant it's for its own good...

Potato Disappointment, Year 3

floppy side door potatoesSo a few weeks ago, one of the hanging grocery potato bags flowered, and then the vines got very long and drooped.

So I waited, and the vines got droopier, and finally, on Friday, I thought, “there must be some potatoes there by now.”

Well, there were.  Some.  Maybe six?

Not counting a few little pebble-sized spuds, here’s what I got from the entire bag.  Nice foliage… almost zilch underground.  :-o

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The cucumber (in the right-hand picture) was disappointing also.  I was lazy and didn’t check which type it was (marketmore or Straight 8) but it was unpleasantly bitter.  I was surprised, because the cucumbers we’ve had from the garden in past were always way sweeter than supermarket ones.

farmday 030 Two explanations I thought of:  despite the fact that the cuke was growing in a self-watering hanging planter, I was perhaps a bit inconsistent about water.  AND I guess I didn’t really wait for the cuke to ripen fully.

BUT I don’t think those could be the main reason.  Because I have watered inconsistently before and still gotten cukes.  When there’s too little water, they just fall off, they don’t ripen nicely and look as cute as this one does!  And even when I harvest them underripe, they usually taste okay.  I mean, what are pickles, if not underripe cucumbers?  (hmm… or are they dwarf cucumbers?)

I am consoling myself by thinking that cucumbers are (I think!) native to the middle east and would probably grow happily in a self-watering planter, even on a balcony, in Israel.

DSC04276To top off all this disappointment, here’s the yuck part about growing potatoes.  You’d think the original “seed” potato would somehow manage to tastefully disintegrate into the soil:  ashes to ashes, etc. 

Maybe sometimes it does, but mine usually just hang about turning to MUSH.  They wrinkle, they shrivel, but inside, they remain, essentially, liquified potato.

How do I know?

Because each year, I manage to plunge at least one finger straight into the heart of one in my desperate attempts to find nice, fresh, yummy new potatoes.

Somehow, I will put all this disappointment behind me.

I still have quite a few more cucumbers coming, plus one hanging grocery bag and two buckets full of potatoes, which are maybe doing something a little more than this grocery bag did.  Hey, maybe I’ll complain to the President’s Choice people!

Oh – the big plus of the hanging-bag planter is that it WAS indeed easy to empty (just dump it out somewhere you want a bunch of compost!).  And then it was super-easy to sift through the compost for new potatoes.  Maybe it would have been easier if there were more than SIX potatoes in the entire thing. 

Drat.  Perhaps I am doomed to never harvest a satisfying quantity of delicious homegrown potatoes.

Beach Outing

In an attempt to build family togetherness, my desire to spend a day at the waterplay area of the zoo thwarted by rather cool, dank weather, I took all the kiddies to the beach!

We have kind of a system:  I put one big kid in charge of drinks, snacks, etc., while the other is more or less responsible for getting the little ones out of the house and into the car.   Each big kid is responsible for their own sun hat… ha.  That one is like pulling teeth.

It was almost pointless to put sunscreen on everybody, because the day was so dismal, but it actually worked out well because Naomi Rivka whined so much that the big kids couldn’t take any more and just put theirs on cheerfully.

So here we are on the beach:

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After a while of bird-watching, stone-sorting, stone-flinging, inukshuk-building and more thrilling waterside fun, we took off for the amazing, fenced-in playground at Kew Beach.

I don’t usually say much about playgrounds, for the same reason that spit has no taste:  we spend so much time in them, I barely notice them.  But I love discovering new, exciting playgrounds, like the one at High Park, or this one. 

Apparently, we went here twice last summer, but I guess, with a 6-month-old baby, it was all a bit of a blur.  Also, there is a large wading-pool area where we spent most of our time the first time we went last year… and that, because of the strike, is not an option at the moment.

I love this huge, all-ages climbing “castle” right in the middle!  Reasonably accessible, it has various ways of getting up that are a challenge for a wide range of abilities!  Gavriel Zev even eventually found his way to the top.

Plus, there are the same amazing tunnels underneath the structure that we enjoyed at the play castle in High Park.  What would ordinarily be waste space or big, boring gaps, are these amazing, secretive hidey-holes and dead ends that (I believe) let kids use the space in really imaginative ways.

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Plus, we found this amazing, entire-family seesaw!!!  Instead of just one seat, there’s a bench on each side that can hold two or three people, plus a big square platform in the middle, in case you have more than six in your family!

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Everything about this playground is built with a huge number of kids in mind.  Instead of just a single little playhouse a kid can climb into, there are a few in a row:  maybe three or four?  There are also three little “canoe” boats, a few swings, and two more-conventional all-metal climbing structures structures in addition to the main wooden “castle”.

Maybe we’d get sick of it if we lived next door, but we definitely all left wanting to check it out again soon. 

Oh, except YM, who wandered off while we were still on the beach.  We looked everywhere for him before leaving.  I figured he knew where the car was, knew where the playground was and, if all else failed, could find his own way home.  But we really DID look around for him, despite Elisheva’s insisting that I was abandoning him.

Anyway, he finally did catch up to us, out of breath, as we were leaving the playground (see?  he knew where the playground was!). 

After having been back to the car twice to look for us (see?  he knew where the car was!). 

Angry, too:  “Where did you go?!  I was right there!”  He insisted he was “right on the bench, where I said I’d be.”  But I purposely checked that bench before we left; I walked past it.  He wasn’t there.  And even if he was (which he wasn’t!), wouldn’t he have noticed four of us walking past him? 

beech 035Me, two running-around girls, a running-around shrieking baby, a heavy thumping stroller on the boardwalk; we’re not exactly subtle when we leave or arrive somewhere.

So anyway.  All’s well that ends well, and here’s everybody, utterly content after their early afternoon of adventure, back at the car at the end of the outing!

What is STUFF? Why is it so cheap? (or not)

Here's a cute-but-serious video that explains what are, I guess, the basics, in a way that is both entertaining and riveting... and why we should care!
So much STUFF in all our lives!  I really need to watch this thing again.

STUFF from Ikea

So that last post (The Story of Stuff) was actually apropos of this article, which my mother cut out and brought over for me. (I guess she's taken over the article-clipping role from my father... but I kind of miss his homemade lamination)

The article points out how un-green Ikea is, despite the veneer of eco-consciousness (a veneer like most of their "wood" furniture is made of).

And I'm thinking, "who doesn't know this?"
Who doesn't know that Ikea makes stuff cheap at everybody else's expense? That they cut corners - heck, these are the people that pioneered making us grateful about building our own furniture! You come away grateful that they even give you an allan key to put the things together with. ("lucky thing I didn't have to rummage through the toolbox... and hey, I might have had to supply my own rivets! Thanks, Ikea!")

And who that has ever owned Ikea furniture doesn't know that it's NOT made for extended use or passing on to the next generation... it's for "display purposes only," as the fake TVs in their store say. The minute it gets dirty or the veneer chips, or the screw-in legs begin to wobble, of course you're going to turn around and buy a new one.

My "cheaper-than-Ikea" suggestions? Buy a used bookshelf at Value Village or a garage sale; greener still, pick one up at the curb!

Ugh. I hate the word GREEN.
Even before it became completely watered-down, I hated the word GREEN.

That and the letter "E". Have you noticed everything has a letter "e" in front of it now? "We have a great new computer thingy that does something like this thingy in real life - what should we call it?" "I know, I know! How 'bout e-Thingy?"

Oh, and then there's "committment". I hate the word "committment" because it's the ultimate weasel word: you can have a committment to a value, and still not live up to that value. Like a company can say they're "committed to quality", and then happen to turn out a product that's junk. "Whoops! Jeez, sorry about that! I guess we'll have to work harder towards our committment!" Ikea may have a committment to the environment. What that means, in terms of dollars invested... well. Hmm.

(That's also why it's ultimately meaningless to have a "committed relationship." You commit, you try, you fail - oops. But that's a whole 'nother blog post, isn't it?)

So here's my green e-committment for the evening: quit blogging and Facebook Farming and get to bed at a reasonable hour. Will I make it? Dunno. But if I fail, well... oops!

This little monster…

 beech 016

Judy likes Toto

"Judy likes Toto." (sideways glance at me; a dare, to contradict her, to tell her "Judy" is only Judy Garland, the real actress who played Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz.)

"Judy likes Toto," another sneaky look my way.

Me: "I hear you saying Judy likes Toto."

"Not our Judy." (a friend and neighbour down the street)

"Some people are named Judy."

"I don't think Dorothy likes her name... so... she calls herself Dorothy. She tells everybody her not-real name."

"Why does Dorothy have a tornado?"

Off to read and re-read one of my favourite kids' books, , by one of my favourite authors, Lauren Child. Oops...let's try pasting that link again and see if it works, shall we?

Here's another one of her books that we've loved: a classic, irreverent & funny retelling of Princess and the Pea, The (oops)!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Shabbos foods and potty mouth!

Swiss Steak
Mashpo (organic po's w/skins)
Veg -?
Teriyaki Salmonoodles
Hmm - veg?
Too tired.  Cannot think.
New twist on that "baby waking up in the middle of the night" crisis:  apparently, if I change him, he goes right back to sleep.  At least he has twice.
I think it's tied in with his potty hang-ups and fears at the moment.
I'm using his anatomical soft doll a lot these days to try to get him past it.  Any yogurt or sour cream tub can become a potty, and GZ loves the game of letting the baby "go make."
(of course, he may never eat yogurt or sour cream as an adult!!!)
We clap for the baby, take off his diaper, etc., to get Gavriel Zev used to the idea that potties and diapers are a little bit interchangeable, but that we really, ultimately, prefer the potty.  Oy... who knows?  Just thankful - slash - hopeful that this is the last kid I have to go through this stuff with...
Speaking of potties:  the potty cracked!  Drat!  Almost fourteen years of kicking it around and NOW where am I going to get a new one???  I have no idea where it came from in the first place.  It's a one-piece along the lines of the small Baby Bjorn potty seat but at a tiny fraction of the price.  Maybe Craigslist.  Maybe Freecycle!  Because I sure don't want to buy a whole new potty for baby #4 who will only use it for a while... drat!

Yay, I'm a winner!

Seeds of an idea

Naomi, in the car today:  "What would happen if you took seeds from a pepper...?  If you took seeds from a pepper that you grew in the backyard, and you took out the seeds, and you saved them until next year and then you planted them, could you grow the same peppers in the backyard?"
(Me:  "They would grow, for sure.  Actually, that's how I grew lots of our tomatoes this year, by saving the seeds from last year.  Let's try it!")

Balabusta at large: Easy No-Touch, No-Mess Challah Rise

I know some people love making challah because it’s  hands-on.  I love it because I’m a bread snob and cannot stand anything but the freshest possible bread, period.

I also know that if you make bread by hand the right way, you won’t get much stuck to your fingers because the dough will be perfect and almost self-cleaning in its magical stick-togetheriness.

But I use a food processor:  I love it.  Sue me.  It’s a 14-cup Cuisinart, and my only sadness about it is that it cannot make a huge enough batch of bread to make a bracha; I have been making two batches and combining them, but was recently told I probably need to make three to make a bracha.  (If you don’t know what the heck a bracha is, skip the preceding.)

Anyway, so I am a hands-off challah baker, most of the time.  I love forming the loaves, but don’t really care about getting down and dirty for the first bits.  So I mix it in the food processor, and then transfer it to a large, no-zip freezer bag, using this miraculous “no-touch” method:

1)  Add about 1/4 cup of flour, more or less, to the empty bag.

challahbag 2009-07-17 0012) Cinch the neck of the bag, trapping air inside, so it looks a bit like a balloon (don’t blow in, because that will add moisture and also because even you probably don’t want to eat challah that marinated in your own “breath moisture”)

3) Now shake, shake, shake.  The flour will magically redistribute itself to pretty evenly coat the inside of the bag.  You’ll still have a clump of flour in the corner of the bag; that’s okay.  It comes in handy when you remove the dough later and need extra flour to help coat your work surface.

challahbag 2009-07-17 0024) Fit the bag tightly over the mouth of the food processor and tip the whole thing upside-down.  Dough should come out slowly but in one piece, knife and all.  Remove the knife (food processor blade).  :-)

5) Gently knot the bag and either rise at room temperature or in the fridge (overnight, then leave at room temperature for 2-6 hours or so until you’re ready to shape the challah).

challahbag 2009-07-17 0066) When dough is finished its first rise, tip it out of the bag onto your work surface (ie table or counter).  It should come out cleanly because of the even thin coating of flour.  Spread the “spare” flour to coat the work surface and/or your hands to prevent the dough from sticking.

7) Don’t knead!  It’s a myth that dough needs a second kneading.  You really don’t want to lose all those fabulous bubbles that you’ve just created (according to my kitchen guru and uber-balabusta Alton Brown, at least).  Just press the dough down a couple of times and it’s ready to start shaping.

8) Shape the dough into whatever you want – braids, crown, a loaf pan, whatever.  Oh, but first, separate an “olive-sized” piece as challah, but without a bracha, unless you’ve made a very large batch.  Place on parchment paper on a baking pan.

9) Here’s the cool part where you get to be ecological and reuse that plastic!  Carefully slice open two sides of the freezer bag.  Spray the finished challah(s) with cooking spray and then lay the now-flat piece of plastic (formerly a freezer bag), flour-side-down on top of the finished loaves.  Leave it somewhere to rise for a while but not too long.  If you leave it too long, it gets all ugly and droopy like a cane toad.  Bad.

10)  Bake for half an hour at 350 degrees.  Or whatever your recipe calls for.  Remove the plastic bag first… and unless you can think of another use for it, throw it away.  But reuse your parchment paper!  I use mine quite a few times, if I can, but throw it away if it’s too eggy or burnty-looking, because then it might transfer a spoiled taste to your food.  And I have never figured out if it can go in the city compost… which is somewhat moot right now because of the strike.


Point of trivia:  I have read that you’re not supposed to deal with challah or bread-making of any kind the day before you go to the mikveh.  Too great a chance that it will get stuck under your fingernails, etc.  If you have no idea what a mikveh is, forget I said anything!