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Showing posts from September, 2009

Drat! What a GOOD idea: free Jewish kids' books!

If you are a Jewish family in one of many, MANY places around the US and Canada (including Quebec, Alberta and Manitoba, but NOT Ontario), you can receive free Jewish books and CDs, one a month, for the first year.  After that, there's a requested donation to continue receiving materials.   The service is called PJ Library , and if you live in one of the nice Jewish communities that sponsor memberships, you can sign up here .  Otherwise, sorry!  Like me, you're outta luck.  :-(   I really REALLY thought long hard about asking my mother-in-law in Calgary to sign up for Naomi Rivka and Gavriel Zev.  But decided that would be unethical, considering you are supposed to fill out the form indicating the community in which the child lives (not the adult requesting the books).  Drat!  If only they had not been so specific... or I so ethically gullible, since I'm sure many people are ripping them off.  (for free Jewish kids' books, presumably to help their kid

They came!

He loves the puppets!!!  

Cooking, cooking, cooking... shepherd's pie down

I feel like I'm building an arsenal. You know, like a pile of munitions I will keep in my sandbagged foxhole. And when the enemy converges - pam! I will lob a shepherd's pie at them! What a happy thought...! Anyway, I love my veggie friends muchly and will do my best, but there really is NOTHING like Sukkos shepherd's pie! Jennifer's Amazing Sukkos Shepherd's Pie Not really a recipe as such, but here is the secret: FRUIT. A whole buncha fruit! And squash! Sweet plus meat = yum! Also, you have to start from scratch! If you have no time, then skip this. Ted stayed home from work sick today (he really is sick and cough-y; it wasn't a ploy), but ended up hanging out with the kids at Mrs. ViKi. I don't feel guilty because it's easy to entertain them there. And I had lots of time here to make Shepherd's Pie. I don't know when I would have done it, otherwise. First, bake the squash: cut it in half & seed, place in a big-enough pan, spray

Sukkos (First Days) Meal Plan

Naomi Rivka is just about out of her mind with rapture, having had a hint of what she can expect over Yom Tov.  Suffice to say that she is seeing some of her favourite people in the entire world. Here’s the menu so far.  Plenty of food to go around, but keepin’ it simple, silly:  that’s the plan. Meal Friday/Shabbos Shabbos Sunday Day   4x guests +2 babies(veg w/fish, no p’apple/strawb/kiwi) Round Challah Dairy cholent Salmon puff pastry Potto Leek Soop Real Blintzes fr/Scratch Dairy dessert-? Out AND Sukkah Hop??? Night 6x guests (no citru

Crazy Neighbour Lady!

At last, I caught her in all her mad glory while I was out taking pictures of the sukkah. This rant was started by the fact that - on this exceptionally windy day - a branch blew onto her lawn. So, naturally, the branch appearing on her lawn was our fault. (no, it is NOT the same kind of branch as the tree growing on our front lawn). Specifically, it was Elisheva's fault. I know, kids today are ALWAYS leaving branches around on neighbours' lawns.

The Sukkah, 5760/2009 edition!

Drat, didn’t get a picture of the door. Ted has outdone himself and created two fabulous innovations for 5760:  a door in front (maybe a back door next year?) and a special method of laying in the crossbeams so that they are NOT nailed down and therefore they are kosher to be used as schach. He has wedged the crossbeams in extremely tightly between “bumps” that he has nailed down onto other beams.  Well, it’s tough to describe but here it is – lovely, as always! Call it my uber-kitschy upbringing, call me a Lubavitcher at heart, but for whatever reason, I love the look of an unadorned sukkah.  

Gavriel Zev's birthday supper...

He couldn't choose his supper last year. This year, when I asked him what he wanted for supper, he said "boop." Soup it is!   ~ Cream of Broccoli soup ~ La-z-Mommy Fish sticks ~ French Fries (because he really does love them) ~ Veg on the side!   I won't even be here... signing class again!  Can't believe it's Tuesday already; where is this week going!

Atonement for Gardening Sins

Even as the garden falls slowly into autumn disrepair (and my neighbour’s with the great garden does not, a reminder that disrepair is not inevitable), there is almost always one thing going right – decay. I do realize that things will pretty inevitably decay in a garden with or without my help… however, I did help the contents of the full right-hand compost bin along in two ways.  One, I grew a cover crop on it for a few weeks… which may or may not have done any good, but it felt good to do it.  Plus, I have lots of extra seed, so hopefully can cover-crop the SFG beds if I have time before frost.  (what with Sukkos coming, maybe not!) And two, earlier in the summer (July?), I introduced some “spare” red wigglers from the worm bin .  Just a few, mind you.  And then, the other day when I turned over the almost-finished compost, I found a bazillion of them!  YouTube video here – not for the squeamish. To be entirely fair and honest, I ALSO found lots of red wigglers in the

Happy Birthday…!

To the most beautiful, glamourous 2-year-old on the planet!  Check out the gorgeous blonde hair; the lovely pink bib.  Sheesh… gotta do something this year to bolster his MALE gender identity!

Erev Yom Kippur

The limes are for tomorrow night’s Lahm Pah (aka lime pie , but you have to say it with a southern accent!). We’re supposed to be eating at my mother’s after the fast, and I know for a fact that she invited at least one of my sisters, but when I spoke to her today, she sounded a little mystified that we might want food.  And not just a little food; I figure we’ll probably want a lot of food! She said she had a couple of packages of blintzes and some bread in the freezer.  I suggested gently that we might need a bit more.  So I bought Dempster’s bread and some extra blintzes.  She’s providing tomato soup. As for tonight – we’re eating alone, as usual: Challah Shabbos Soup w/peas Chicken w/marmalade Sesame Green Beans from Shabbos Corn from Shabbos (or fresh) Potato/Broc Kugel


On the subject of needing a second income. I have been a working parent long enough to realize that the "second income" is often largely fictitious.    Between sick days and making arrangements for scheduled school "outages" like summer vacation, winter breaks, etc., you are either taking tons of time off work or scrambling to foist your kids off on sombody, dozens if not hundreds of days a year (between all 4 kids).   If you're lucky, you have people to call on that you don't have to pay... but even then, I think you're losing something perhaps more important than money when you tell your feverish child you can't stay with her but luckily there is (fill in the blanks) who IS available to stick around.   Isn't she lucky?  Aren't you lucky?   I'd rather not rely on that kind of luck.

Tribe Finding: Where are all the Jewish Homeschoolers?

I never expected Jewish homeschooling to be so lonely. Unrealistic? Well, I knew there weren’t a million parents doing it… but NONE? Not a single other Jewish child over the age of three who is home full-time with a parent? Forget homeschooling, where are the KIDS, period?  Do no Jewish schools offer half-day kindergarten?  For this year, at least, Naomi Rivka could find plenty of non-Jewish friends to play with in the afternoons, because they’re all in kindergarten in the morning! Lots of babies.  Especially if I don’t mind playdates with nannies (sigh; I do). Lots of 2- and even some 3- year olds. Not a single 4-year-old.  Nobody in a GRADE, for heaven’s sake. Meanwhile, I am going to try to cultivate other homeschool friends, so she can see that she’s not a freak just because she isn’t in school full day.  Why the heck do we push our kids like that? Just like the “sigh of relief” parents are supposed to feel after labour day when we can get rid of our

Go figger

What do you do about a girl who insists on sweeping the driveway wearing rollerblades... then comes in and screams "Don't laugh at me!  Everybody always laughs at me!!!"   No, the rollerblades didn't really help her do the most thorough job on the driveway.

Baby Bday Gifts sneak peek

Ordered these online.  Hope they arrive on time!!!  

new life

Why is the prospect of a BRAND NEW PERSON so darn exciting?  Especially a FIRST baby.   Standing at the door today, I watched the neighbours across the street leave to have their first baby. At least, I think that's what they were doing.  There was a supportive woman-type person there (midwife?), who gave the wife a hug (touchy-feely holistic-type health person, former masseuse turned birth partner?) before taking off in her own car.  The husband was carrying a huge purple exercise ball (ho ho!) and speaking a little louder than usual (nervous?).  Clues!   I don't even like these people.  In fact, I mildly hate them for no reason other than a) they're rich (okay, maybe not rich , because they're on this street, but there's only two of them in a great big honking ostentatious house which sticks out like a literal throbbing thumb, and b) they almost (okay, indirectly) killed a guy last year in the building of said ostentatious thumb-house.    So wh

Boosta Award o’ th’ Day

Yes, the Baalaboosta of the Day award goes, hands-down, to MEEEEEeee! For making my own farfel, from scratch, because Ted’s been unable to find it in the store. Okay, it doesn’t look like farfel because I don’t have a proper grater.  So I just sliced it into noodles with the linguini-slicing attachment, then cut up the noodles until they were not ridiculously big, then toasted them a bit in the oven. Then, later, I will fry up an onion and pretend they are real farfel; I may crumble them a bit more first.  Let’s just see how it all turns out!  

Is this enough for cholent???

(see the two potatoes in front of her on the table?)

A small strange first

A first:  three of my kids, whether breastfeeding or bottlefeeding, had the very common trait of nursing until they fall asleep and then releasing the nipple so I could gently pull away (I don't remember if you have to pull a bottle away gently, but you sure do want to with a nipple, just in case).   Gavriel Zev was born without this trait.  He could never nurse until he fell asleep and then let go; he would hold on for the rest of his life if he could.   But just now at naptime, he fell asleep and let go.  He didn't seem more tired than usual, but it is the first time I can remember that I didn't have to wedge him off (gently!) with a crowbar.    Once he let go, he did that sleeping with his mouth slightly open thing that most babies do.  I've never seen him do that before.   He must be way tired, because he doesn't usually fall asleep with nummies anymore at all.  Usually, he's too busy running around the bed grabbing the clock, grabbing t


Me at naptime:  "Goodnight." Naomi Rivka:  "Where is your bubby?" "She died." "What did she used to make?" "What?" "What did she used to make?  Neapolitan cake?" "Yup; what good memories we have of her.  Good night!"   Is this something to be proud of?  After 15 years, I am finally immune to the charms of a contemplative and not-a-bit-tired little person!   They can be so manipulative!   Like the time I was putting YM (not even two) to bed and he said, desperate for a reprieve, "but...I want to talk!" Me:  "Talk about what?" "I want to talk..." (trying to figure out something that I'd fall for, that would make me stay a bit longer) "I want to talk about... loving!" Me:  "Loving?" "Want to talk about... loving Mommy!"   Ha ha.  The one topic he figured I couldn't say no to. (but I did)   Even now, at almost-14 and 15, the

Homeschool Must-Have: Days of the Week

Here’s what we’ve ended up with for tracking days of the week. Each of the three big pieces came with four slots to insert the days, but it was a real pain trying to get the corners into the slots, so after only two days, I gave up and added Velcro dots to make the whole arrangement super-easy to change. And, of course, to Naomi’s great glee, it came with “Saturday” instead of “Shabbos.”  I just flipped the thing around and stuck the Velcro right over Saturday.  Sorry!  I know my homemade one isn’t as good, but I figure it has more character than the other days. Now that we’ve had almost a month to establish a “school” schedule, next week the whole thing gets flipped on its head as the kids start their Parks & Rec classes:  dance and swimming for each of them, plus my Tuesday-morning aerobics.  They don’t participate in the aerobics, but it includes free childcare, so they’re stuck in the nursery room at the recreation centre for an hour while I exert myself slightly (it’s

Few and far between Daddy memory

When was it?  Last summer?  Last spring?   Money was tight, very tight, and I was finally sitting down with  him, the long-procrastinated conversation where I was telling him things were tight, Ted's job sucked, I wasn't working because I was too busy working to take care of his grandchildren.  That conversation.   We were on my porch just sitting, quietly, on folding chairs.  And it went totally differently from the way I expected.   No condemnation. He told me about a time when things were very tough for my parents, when most of their money was gone, when he had to work super-hard, when it looked like they weren't going to make it.   I told him Ted was working too hard to take on a conversation about money, let alone another job.  His terrible low-paying job is worse than most in that it doesn't allow him to take on a second job; because the days vary from week to week, because of the occasional evenings required, and because he's on every other weekend,

One more on deafness

Sweet story:   When Naomi Rivka was a baby, maybe a year and a bit, and I was first signing with her, YM (then 10ish) was taking the deaf bus.  Not a euphemism:  he was going to school every day on one of those little school buses that "special" kids take because his school was close to the Toronto School for the Deaf (fingerspell it!  "TSD") and so he was learning a bit of sign as well as passing some pretty rude notes plus gestures to the kid he sat next to.   Anyway, he was happy when he found out she was learning sign, and I came into the room once to find him talking to her.  He'd use a sign he knew, and then, when came to a concept that was longer or more complicated than he could communicate, carefully fingerspell the missing word.   In his world, I'm sure it made perfect sense.

Deafness and ASL: Rethinking Disability

I was worried about signing up for an ASL course because I thought it was really weird taking a casual approach to what most of society perceives as someone else's disability (deafness).  Like taking a course in using a wheelchair, or ... well, actually, every example I can think of kind of has some kind of merit, at least in terms of building tolerance or understanding.   I think I've said here before that, before taking the course, whenever I read about people who said they were glad to be deaf, I just thought that was strange, too.  Accepting, maybe.  But who could be happy, beyond in a resigned, Pollyannish kind of way?   But when my teacher said it, a light came on.  It's like being Jewish! So many people probably would never wish to be Jewish, to have to keep Shabbos, eat kosher, live this life that certainly looks (and, okay, often feels ) restrictive in the extreme. Does that mean I'm not glad I was born with it? Of course I am.   Not just glad, glad,


They're late.  TWO kids are late coming home, I have my class, Ted's working late, the oven is broken, I have to change and pee and leave the house and they're LATE!

When the going gets tough…

(supper-making time and the oven is locked !) …the tough head downstairs, haul the million-year-old, million-pound “Enterprise” away from the wall, swivel the gas connection to the ON position, push the million-pound “Enterprise” back in to the wall, use the floppy broken BBQ lighter to locate and ignite the pilot and… hopefully… with the help of an oven thermometer… get GOING… back in the business of cooking chicken once again! Vegans would say it serves me right. Yes, I did also call the repair company.   Just in case  the oven never opens up again, or (even if it does) because I can’t take the chance that this will become a regular thing.  This time, I know it will be an expensive fix.  It’s got to be something fancy and digital and it will require a new motherboard or solenoid or some other part that an oven wouldn’t even have had thirty years ago. Almost exactly a year to the day that it broke last time (September 24th), but it was a completely unrelated thing.  Apparen

Oh, great

The oven now locks when it is heated.  Oy, gevalt. It did this once a few weeks ago; I unscrewed the fuse and it reset itself nicely, so I thought nothing more of it.   Looks like it's more of an ongoing issue .  Just in time for supper!  (chicken and rice, waiting on the counter in the hope that my oven opens someday soon)

Food learnin’

A bit late now, but I thought I’d mention two exciting new techniques I learned  from the blog, where I found a nice Cabbage Roll recipe . Now, I don’t know if I’d recreate the cabbage rolls exactly in future.  As a recipe, I’d give this maybe a three and a half out of five.  I found them a bit dry, and call me Jewish, but I like a bit of sweet along with the tomato.  Okay, I give up and will admit here in public:  my “secret sauce” for cabbage rolls is the same as my pickled brisket “secret sauce”:  equal parts ketchup and ginger ale.  GASP!  No, seriously, it tastes yummy!  For pickled brisket, add raisins so my mother can joke that it looks like the (GASP!) ham she used to make for really special occasions.  For meatballs, add Asian-sliced multicoloured bell peppers.  For cabbage rolls, add tinned diced tomato and leftover bits of cabbage.   Yum!  And easy! So anyway, this guy, Chef John, has a recipe that is, needless to say, more elaborate than my usual


My kids are sleeping and Loretta, our elderly Italian neighbour, is outside on the street shrieking at her granddaughter.  As she always does.  She watches the kid all day, every day.  And shrieks at her pretty much all day, every day.  I just wish she’d quit during my kids’ naptime. Naomi asked today why she yells so much.  I said I think it’s because she has trouble hearing.  It could also just be the language barrier, the way American tourists shout everywhere they go to make themselves better understood.  I heard her speaking in Italian this morning and she was definitely much quieter. “Mia, Mia, Mia!!!”  Her granddaughter’s name is Mia.

The note

There is a feeling, at 2 a.m. on a darkened airplane with a screaming baby, when you are moving from seat to seat because nobody wants you sitting nearby, and you want to tell them the baby is a good baby; he's only crying because you got him out of bed, you are only flying because your father is dead in Toronto.  And you don’t know enough Hebrew to scream it out - would you anyway, even if you did? - so you just grit your teeth and move to a new seat and think quietly to yourself, "Abba sheli haya meit b'Toronto." It is the same feeling of being kicked out of shul.  The same, "we don't want you here, don't care what your story is, just go somewhere else." The Kicker-Outer came by while we were at Mrs. ViKi's today.  She left a note asking forgiveness since she'd obviously upset me.  Not really admitting anything, but sorry she’d hurt me. Gosh, this is hard!  But yes, I forgave her completely the second I read her note. I wonder if Ha

On a totally nother note

Have you ever noticed that there is NO smell as haunting, as pervasive, as difficult-to-track as an off lemon???   It starts small, an alcohol fruity tang in the air... and grows till the smell is EVERYwhere and you cannot find it, even, apparently, when you're sitting right on top of them.   When I came home from Calgary last month, I kept saying something smelled off .  I'm usually very good at tracking smells.  That and my unusually good spelling (not savant-level, but pretty good!) are what I consider my main "gifts," trivial though they may be.  (the spelling thing led to a pretty good start to a writing career, so don't knock it)   Spelling and smelling.   Anyway, after what seemed like weeks but was probably just days of being bothered by the rancid lemoniness, I finally found the source:  a plastic produce bag had fallen off the ledge onto the sofa, then slipped, unnoticed, under the cushions.  Surprisingly, only one lemon in the bag was moldy, bu


Now I'm calm… in fact, I'm wondering if I'm too calm to talk about how upset I was yesterday. WE GOT KICKED OUT OF SHUL! Believe me, I was shaking when it happened; I couldn't see, I couldn't speak. I was nice and gentle to the baby, at least. I kept thinking, "She had NO IDEA!" Over and over and over. No idea what it took for me to be in shul with the baby… how hard it had been to find clean clothes in the chaos, get out the door despite my lethargy, apathy, neverending fatigue, whatever you want to call it. Ordinary struggles. Finding an outfit for the baby – feeling happy and proud that he HAD a brand-new outfit, courtesy of our neighbour-friend Judy. Finding socks, shoes for him. In our crazy upside-down house, yes, these are challenges. I chose to come after Kiddush, timed our arrival carefully so I'd arrive late, hear the sermon, hear the shofar and get in a good chunk of Mussaf. And it worked well the first day! The baby behaved super-


Going to beddy-bye.   Ouch and ouch and ouch.  Too many ouches to count.   And in the morning, I'm driving Ted to work and - because our ship will have come in by then - hey, Scotiabank says it's already here!!! - stopping at SuperStore to buy a ton of groceries before coming home for Circle Time.   Abigail, if you're still up and reading this (why?), don't even think about cancelling...I will definitely need backup!!! :-)))

P.S. It is very hard to work

And stay up late and feel appreciated to the near constant drumbeat of Elisheva's "So what?  If you're tired, go to bed!  Nobody usually eats much dessert on Shabbos, anyway!"   She thinks she has one of my buttons, and can push it over and over and over.   But I look at her and the things she says are just so silly and nonsensical I want to cry and hug her and pray together that this puberty thing passes quickly.   I want my Elisheva back.

Gaaah... still UP!!! :-o

Spent most of my "productive" time this afternoon up to my neck in Neapolitan cakes... leaving this evening to single-handedly create:   ~ Pumpkin cheesecake ~ Cinnamon rolls, and a...   ~ HUGE ginormous mega-lasagna   The lasagna doesn't sound like much, but involved a bazillion steps:  cook & drain pasta, cook & drain spinach, boil down garden tomatoes & basil into a sauce & blend with tinned tomatoes and paste, blend spinach, ricotta and egg, and then layer the whole mess together.  It's currently taking up a full shelf in the downstairs fridge   Luckily, Ted was here to make his trademark famous Netivot Cookbook Salmon!   Right now, I'm shvitzing as the oven self-cleans.  Three challahs to roll out and I'm done for the night!  (morning?) (they'll rise in the fridge)   Still to cook tomorrow (Friday): Dairy soup (leek/tatoe) Pareve cholent Roast beets Chocolate olive oil dessert Finish squash soup Make &

Yom Tov baking

I am hemorrhaging butter.  We cannot buy it fast enough to keep it in stock in the freezer.   This is the way life should be.

How to get CRANKY: Shop with your kids - at Superstore!

Sent today to the good folks at StuporStore.  Where I hate to shop if I have children along!!!  Grrr...   ----- Original Message ----- " I was in the Dufferin/Steeles Superstore location in Toronto today with my two young children, and wanted to let you know about the astonishingly poor customer service we received.   Our bill came to nearly $300 for what I'd consider a fairly large quantity of groceries.  I deliberately avoided the self-checkout lanes, wanting the service and efficiency of a cashier and needing to keep my hands free to deal with my children.   However, store policy has apparently changed, and customers are now entirely responsible for bagging their own items.  There is no help available from store staff.  After I paid for the groceries, I had to stand at the end of the checkout line for nearly ten minutes, arranging the items in two bins and three or four large grocery bags.   At one point, I ha

You know you're a parent when...

Rushing to get out the door to class, round up supplies, duck into bathroom. Wash hands and inadvertently flick necessary-for-class pen (hard-to-find pen because kids take everything ) across room into flushing toilet. There are NO other pens.   Without a second thought, duck down, grab the pen from flushing toilet. Wash pen. Wash hands again.   Duck out and out the door.   I'm off!    

Which is why

I'm sad that it comes down to a dishwasher.  Something as small as using a dishwasher for both milk and meat can mean I don't get to eat in somebody's home.    A dishwasher, and not the quality of their soul.   A dishwasher, and not the seriousness of their intentions.   This is the exact sort of thing that people accuse Orthodox Jews of.  Of caring more about the dishwasher than the conviviality, the breaking of bread, the sharing of life and experiences and, dammit, spirituality, that arises in an atmosphere of friendly openness.   I once read a line - when a woman, hurt, found out someone wouldn't eat by her because she didn't cover her hair - "I wonder, does she mix her cakes with her sheitel???"   (I may be misquoting, but cannot remember which book, so you'll have to trust me that I'm close to the mark, at least)   My liberal past rears up and smacks me on the head. These are people I know and like and want to spend time with.


At Mrs. ViKi's today, a mother I should know better than to be irritated by somehow got launched on a rant about "fundamentalist" Jews. She is Jewish herself, and openly, proudly non-practicing. She sprinkles her speech liberally with Jewish words but conveys absolutely nothing of it, that I can tell, to her children. She was talking about the difficulty of renting space in her home to fundamentalist Christians, who apparently "don't want to talk to her" when they find out that she is not only Jewish, but not practicing. Frankly, if I was a proselytizing Christian, that would be the person I'd salivate over: I suspect Jews who don't care are prime targets for the type of lovey-huggy welcoming spirituality that missionaries pretend to offer. But anyway. She then said that fundamentalist Jews are even worse than the Christian kind. She apparently had a woman come, a "born-again" Jew, who refused to live there unless she made the ent