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Showing posts from October, 2009

Six Word Saturday: October 31, 2009

  Happy Hallowe’en, little damp lawn bear.    

Did I mention my cousin?

She was murdered. Too late; there was a rift in the family, and we never knew her. (see my cousin-deprived post from last week) Never knew a thing about her until the funeral. We went, of course. We went to the shiva. It was seven years ago this week ( National Post obit here ). That turned out to be an opening, of sorts. Not a good thing, of course, but a new start. We now see her mother sometimes, an aunt I met only once, briefly, within my memory. She's technically an ex-aunt, because she divorced my uncle, but my mother has always insisted you remain related no matter how legal the split. Nobody listened to her, so t hat was the start of the rift, and we never saw the aunt again and her daughters, my uncle's daughters, couldn't spend time with our mutual grandparents. Crazy things happen with divorces: I tried to make sure that didn't happen to my family. I told my mother-in-law I wasn't divorcing her, and I still haven't. Ted's mother is Ted&

Sing it: "Do they know it's Shabbos, after all...?"

Ted had to work until 4:30 today.  Shabbos is at 5:54. That's less than an hour and a half.   Non-Jews are so respectful!  Every non-Jewish employer I've had has said, "oh, you have to leave, you have to go home to get ready... I totally understand; you go right ahead."  If they see that you respect Shabbos, chances are, they will, too.   (of course, I'd arrange to make up time missed by coming in early or putting in an extra half hour here or there; it's not like I'm getting away with something...!)   The downside of working for Jews, apparently, is that they know when Shabbos starts and pretty much couldn't care less:  "What do you mean, you need to leave early?  Shabbos isn't until almost 6:00!"   What do they think, it just happens , by itself?  No cooking, no cleaning, no preparation?  Oh, and have they ever heard of Mincha, which, by definition, takes place before Shabbos...???   If only he was working for goy

P.S. Cookie redemption!

Further to the Ugly Cookie Episode :  these are not  the most amazing-looking cookies, but at least they have a crumbly bit. However, Elisheva was ecstatic when she saw the see-through cookies!  In her words:  “Yum!  these are exactly like toffee!”  Sure they are, but that’s not exactly what I’m looking for when I bake cookies .

Ted’s really astonishingly big carrot

Didn’t you think from the title that this post was going to be just a little rude…???

Yerachmiel Meir’s Mound of Sweet Potatoes

A full (short) sentence!

Me:  "Do you want butter on your bread?" Gavriel Zev:  "Budder right here?"   Everything he says has a question mark on the end. Still - a real sentence!   It's the first I've heard with more than 2 words, even though a linguist would probably argue that he hears "right here" together so often it's functioning as a single word in this context.   I guess that's why I don't hang out with a lot of linguists.

HEAD TO HEAD: Battle Margarine – Fleischmann’s vs Earth Balance

(Postscript:  Read on, and then see this post from later in the day , to discover the stunning conclusion to this shocking cookie episode!) Blah.  Ugly cookies! I wrote here last week about my margarine revulsion , which makes life particularly difficult because of the demands of kosher-pareve baking.  Sometimes I do just say to heck with it and save a recipe for when we’re having a dairy meal.  Some things simply cannot be substituted. However, chocolate-chip cookies are not one of them.  They usually work well and end up quite tasty using non-dairy oils.  I used Crisco butter-flavoured shortening until a few years ago, when they reformulated it using the U.S. recipe – which contains dairy.  As I mentioned in a note to the manufacturer, if I want to bake with dairy, I’ll stick with pure butter, thanks. Since that change, I have been using Fleischmann’s “blue” – their unsalted pareve tub margarine (the red one shown here is salted).  I have never had a problem using tu

Naomi, in the middle of baking...

...when she sneezed.   Me, from the other room:  "what did you sneeze on?" Naomi Rivka:  "I didn't sneeze on anything, I just sneezed on my hand!"   Yes, I sent her to wash her hands.

Free Early Years Math Resources!

We have done the Family Math program (sponsored by an oil company I won't mention here - but it's in the link below!) through Ontario Early Years Centres at our local library a couple of times, and I would definitely do it again. If you don't have this program available locally, or want to try a few easy, informal math activities on your own with very young children, there are a lot of very good resources to download, free, at the Family Math site: The Early Years Homebook is a great starting point, but it's meant as a complement to the classes. If you haven't done the classes, maybe take an evening to read through the Early Years Resource Book to get some ideas for beginning math with young kids. The first time we did the program, it was presented the way it's meant to be done, as a series of six weekly sessions. The second time, in August, the six sessions were condensed into fiv

Lights, camera… greenhouse!

In addition to repotting the aloe that was suffering away from the windowsill light, I moved some of the tender plants that I brought inside a few weeks ago which were having a decidedly hard time of it in weak window-filtered sunlight.  They are now happily (I hope) ensconced on the top tier of my three-tier indoor greenhouse / grow-op. I will have to shift them around a lot as the coleus get ready for potting on.  There may not be room for all of them.  Of course, I never did set up the third (bottom) tier of lights last year… maybe with that, plus the downstairs kitchen counter light, there will actually be enough room to get through Indoor Growing Season 2009/2010.

Goodbye summer… aloe, fall!

Another post I took pictures for but time got away from me this week and I didn’t post it:" Repotting the aloe to bring it inside.  It loved being outside for the summer!  Actually, though, it’s been inside for a few weeks , but this pot was too big to keep on a windowsill, so I had to break it up. Did you know that baby aloes are called “pups”? It’s true.  I think some other plants have pups also… maybe cacti? Last winter, this was not much bigger than the small one on the right, and now the main plant is the big thing in the green pot.  There’s a fourth piece in a ceramic pot that isn’t visible in this picture.  It’s a lot of aloe, that’s for sure… I did break off a bit last year as my belly slash was healing.  It really did help with the itching.  We should definitely start actually using it for its healing properties.  Unfortunately, the main walking wounded in this household far prefer decorative band-aids to a dab of aloe vera juice!

Dessert… that lasts six MONTHS??!?

(I took these photos earlier this week meaning to blog them, but the week kind of got away from me…) Ted’s sister brought us this package of “Sinbad”-brand Baklava when she was here on Shabbos.  It’s probably from Costco… that’s where his family tends to pick up huge quantities of random things just because they’re kosher. Which I love , by the way.  I have a happy feeling in my heart whenever I picture them looking around, spotting the hechsher, tossing it in the cart. So despite neither of us ever having expressed any love or even passing interest in baklava, here we were with this jumbo pack of it. And I happened to be looking it over when I noticed the expiry date on the bottom side.  Not even an expiry date, really; it just says “Best Before.”  And that date?  April 6, 2010.  Even if they were brand-new, fresh-baked the day she bought them, that still means they last, with all their fresh honey and butter goodness, for almost SIX MONTHS. I mean, I have heard that honey

At last, a non-bread supper!

I got inspired in the Asian-foods section of Fortino’s today.  The truth is, I was going to make Poori or Naan to go with this meal, because we love LOVE Indian flatbreads , but… I got lazy – slash – time got away from me.  Long story short:  it didn’t happen. Instead, we had basmati rice with Aloo Mattar – potato/pea curry with (gasp) a jar of store-bought curry sauce, along with totally homemade Paneer Darbari – curried “cheese” in tomato sauce, with chunks of firm tofu fried-‘till-brown filling in for the cheese. Didn’t feel like making paneer again , nor did I have the million litres of milk that would have been necessary to make a sizeable chunk of it.  The piece in the picture at that post is about the size of my hand and took almost two whole litres of milk to make. Anyway, in my humble opinion, the tofu did just fine as a stand-in.  The sauce was puréed (lightly, just buzzed really) tinned tomatoes with various seasonings added (salt, pepper, curry powder, chili po

"Teaching Jewish Values" Lesson Plans & Website

Just browsing this site, BabagaNewz (ew, who comes up with these names???).  Haven't found anything I would actually use, but there are lots of ideas for (mostly values-based) lesson plans that could easily be adapted for Jewish homeschoolers: (there's a "Teacher's Resources" section down the right-hand side)   There are also quite a few craft ideas here: Most of these are nothing new... you probably made some yourself if you went to Hebrew school (or day school).  But they're kind of dressed up on a slick website and could help jog your memory if you're looking for a Jewish-themed craft project.   Lots more to see at this site, but I suspect most isn't all that deep and is aimed mostly at kids from non-religious backgrounds (which, in frum circles, is sometimes euphemistically referred to as "mixed backgrounds").    

Living Like Kings

Supper!  Hot, fresh, delicious homemade pletzl , plated alongside oven-roasted ratatouille (a fancy way of saying veggies tossed up in a roasting pan), with broccoli soup on the side. Living like kings!  It’s easy when you start with amazing fresh bread… And now, exhausted from all that eatin’, I’m bundling up some Royal Winter Fair tickets… and then falling into bed. Okay, maybe there will be an episode of House (or two) in front of me as I fall into bed.  Maybe some Ben & Jerry’s.  A girl’s gotta relax at the end of a long day.

Naomi in another room

Me to Naomi:  "Let me know if you need a little bit of help!" GZ:  "What?  What?  What?" Me:  "Naomi's getting dressed.  Sometimes she can do it by herself, sometimes she needs a little help." GZ:  "When?  When?  When?"  (He's been asking "what?" for a while; his new question is "when?"!) Me:  "When she's getting dressed." GZ:  "Okay!  Room?  Room?  Room?"   (runs off to watch her get dressed)  

A Million Years Ago in Moment Magazine...

Every month, Moment poses a thought-provoking spiritual question.  And I just realized (I was searching for a past article at a site I had written for equally long ago) that they actually printed my response.  The question: Is Wanting to Share a Jewish Partner's Religious Commitment a Sufficient Basis for Conversion? What Do YOU Think? (I wonder why it came out so darn big?) The question continues, but in a smaller font: "In a move toward traditionalism, the Reform movement's Central Conference of American Rabbis recently announced that a Beit Din (a tribunal of rabbis) can ask a convert whether the conversion is because of spiritual as opposed to romantic reasons. Moment Magazine then asked readers what they thought of this new policy." So this was my answer: If conversion is "romantic," you're doing it wrong. It's got to be spiritual, it has to be life-changing. Traditional rabbis already know what my boyfriend

Six Word Saturday

No, it's not Saturday today .  I’ll try that next week. But a worthwhile project nevertheless (click the link for more info) since my blog is rarely the soul of brevity.   An easy one, to start:   Life; six words?  Need thousands more!

In the land of idiots...

...that is me trying to learn a new language... Nothing makes me feel like an idiot like learning NUMBERS. Numbers are HARD! In any language. In ASL they are hard and weird and why the heck does 25 have absolutely no relationship to any other numbers between one and thirty? You just kind of wiggle your middle finger lasciviously. Ew... it really does look rude!

Shuls for people of color?

Came across this website yesterday, which lists shuls (of all denominations) that are known to be friendly to people of colour. (they only include U.S. synagogues at the moment) Shouldn't we just list the ones that aren't friendly?!? I mean, they are all supposed to be welcoming, in theory, right? Now, a website for shuls and businesses that were nasty to Jews of different racial backgrounds would be very cool. Like the black woman I saw working in a local shop. She was wrapping up some stuff and told the customer, a lady visiting from New York, that she had redone a twist tie so it could be opened on Shabbos. The woman commented to another customer, "isn't that incredible, she knows all about Shabbos!" To which the employee said, "Of course; I was raised in a frum home." Yes!!! Or like when we were first becoming frum and we'd go to restaurants all the time with a friend, who happened to be Korean. He could not get up and walk anywhere - bat

Yes!!! Selling my DVDs!   After months and months of posting this on Craigslist, somebody has made an offer on all the ER DVDs I have sitting around... 2 more episodes to watch and hopefully she'll give me $75 on Tuesday for the whole stack of 'em.  That will help clear out the bedside table and let me afford (partly) Seasons 10-15.   Yay!

Kosher caterer article

Kosher caterers.  Oy, do I not love writing articles about kosher caterers. First of all, they NEVER offer to feed you!  How am I supposed to write an article about how fantastic someone's food is if they're not even offering you some to taste? But the biggest issue with caterers is that my editor seemingly chooses the businesses to feature at random.  They never match!  Like, one will be "Raffi's World Cuisine", a huge, world-class concern that lets you to host events for tens of thousands of people in the Air Canada Centre... and the other is "Mira's Kugel Shop" down on the corner.  It's not just apples and oranges; it's more like apples and eggs. How am I supposed to write that up in an article???  "If you're making a HUGE simcha, maybe you should go with Raffi.  If you're cheap like me, however, just stop by Mira's and give them kugel on Chinet."  (or you could always go with Triscuits !) Finally, peo

Holy Cow…

I want…. JERKY! Kosher Beef Jerky!!!  :-o You used to be able to buy biltong, a south african jerky, at Hartman's up north.  But I haven't seen it in years... And Perl's used to make a meaty stick-thing that kind of sort of almost filled the Slim Jim niche in my tummy. But, again, no more Perl's. No, what I need is real, authentic, kosher beef jerky. Any chance of seeing this stuff in Canada anytime soon???

Hebrew books we’re enjoying…

I have trouble enjoying most Israeli kids’ books because either the language is too hard or the illustrations are – let’s be honest – kind of weird. This series suffers a little from the “weirdness.”  I’m not sure what it is… the pictures can be realistic enough, but sometimes, it’s partly that they are too realistic.  Too many details around the fingers and chin makes illustrations kind of creepy, somehow.  Or else the illustrations are meant to be simplistic and cartoony but just end up somehow off, at least   to my snobby North American eyes.  There are so many talented Jewish artists… Israel must be crawling with them.  Why do they choose people to illustrate kids’ books who don’t even seem to have the basics down? Anyway,  I have tried to find ones I like before, but never really succeeded, which is why I often end up with English books in translation (like Dr. Seuss and the “Dubi-Dov” books, which are lovely translations of Elsa Holmlund Minarik’s Little Bear stories), and il


I have mentioned how much I hate using the phone, right? And how much I hate interviews?   The worst is scheduling interviews.  Making the call, explaining why I'm calling.  Sometimes you'd think I'm trying to pull their teeth when all I want is 20 minutes over the phone so I can write up a nice thing about their business.   It's basically an advertorial, free.  Who wouldn't want a free, high-quality article about their business?  But no.  First, they have to rake me over the coals.   Suspicious.  "What's this going to cost me?" Leery.  "What are you going to ask me about?" Paranoid.  "Will we be the only business mentioned in the article?"  (actually, it's a good question, because the answer is usually no, and they'll be disappointed if they only find out when it's published) Dumb.  "What should I talk about?" (Are you interested in promoting your business , or not???  If so, talk it u


I have a friend in Israel who emails pictures of her children.  That's not the peeve.  The peeve is that the pictures are always HUGE.  Her emails take a million years to download.  And when they get here, the pictures are usually sideways or whatever.   I love getting her pictures, but usually can't be bothered looking at them because it's impossible to scroll through and look at them casually.  They must be shrunk down; they must be rotated.  And she sends a bunch at a time.   Here's a snapshot of one as it appears in my email window.   It's not like she's not technically proficient... she's a programmer!  She works in web design! Bah.   I guess that's why they call it a peeve.  Just annoying enough to annoy; not enough to actually end the friendship over.

Asleep, 2:30 a.m.

"Waah!" Gavriel Zev, of course.  At this hour, who else?  What else? "What do you need?" "Itchy!"  His leg is itchy, or at least, he wants attention.  I bring some cream, shmear it on, kiss him goodnight and walk out. "Waah!"  Cries for a few seconds and then, miraculously, he's out.   "Waah!"  4:30 now. "It's still sleep time.  What do you need?" "No, no, no.  Waah!" "I am sleeping in my bed.  Abba is sleeping.  Naomi Rivka is sleeping.  It's time to sleep.  Good night, Gavriel Zev.  I love you, I'll see you in the morning." Walk out, fall into bed. "Waah!"  Cries for 2 minutes, I go to him, but don't go in .    This is the new thing:  I remember doing it with the older kids.  You go to the door, make sure they're okay, tell them you love them, but that it's still sleep time ... and you don't go in. Gavriel Zev hates it. I go back after 5

Because I am a Girl….darnit!

Yard Roundup/Cleanup Fall 2009

The Bulbs Bulbs in – some 200-something of them, by my estimation.  That includes teeny-tiny bulbs like squill and muscari, though, some of which I just dumped into holes, set upright, and covered over again. Frugal gardener tip:  in late spring, buy pots of wilted daffodils, crocuses, hyacinths, whatever (just not paperwhites or tulips).  Home Despot usually has a cart of them for $1 or something.  Choose the pots that have the most flowers sticking up.  Don’t worry what the flowers look like… they will look horrible ; that’s why they’re $1.  (but do choose colours you can live with!) Now just leave the plants to die.  Not total neglect:  I kind of set them out in the backyard so they can get some rain and sun, but eventually, the foliage dies back and dries out and then the bulbs are ready to pull up. Yank them out of the dirt – toss the dirt part on the composter.  Gather all the bulbs.  If you’re lucky, the pots have tags showing you what kind of bulbs are in each pot. 

Getting Animated

Free Animation Workshop at the NFB this afternoon for ages 6-13.  So what if Elisheva is practically 14.  So what if Naomi is only 4.  Both had a reasonably good time.  Yay!

Aaaaaagh!!! A baalas teshuvah’s lament

Bah.  Once again, I’m spending Sunday evening searching for an alef-bais song of the week.  This week, you’d think it would be wide open:  the letter is ches , so anything to do with challahs, chassanim, chessed or chayim. I’m sure I will turn something up; that’s not my frustration. What frustrates me is that on sites like (which is an absolutely fantastic site for Jewish educators, don’t get me wrong!), catchy nursery, kindergarten and elementary songs for a variety of curriculum topics are often collected into absolutely wonderful, endearing little song books. Great, right? But no. Because just try to figure out the tune; just try.  Either at the bottom or top of every single song is a message like the one shown here:  “(Tune:  ‘tziva yeshuos yaakov’).” “Ohhhh,” an FFB parent is expected to say.  “Oh, you sing it just like ‘ Tziva yeshuos yaakov !’  Now I get it!”  And then she can sing it along with her little one. If you have never heard of the original

Hanging No More

  Here are what’s left of my six hanging side-door “bulletproof” planters, planted in June with Creeping Jenny and Phalaris Ribbon Grass. As I suspected back then, the plants in these six (only 3 seen here) Ikea hanging planters admirably survived the extremes of drought and drowning that I could have predicted based on the planters’ small size and poor drainage. In my opinion, they looked pretty good, including serving nicely as living sukkah decorations . So my two choices, now that the end of the season has arrived, were a) leave them to die, or b) get them in the ground and see if they can survive the winter.  I was actually leaning towards letting it all die, and the Creeping Jenny was already looking kind of brown and dried out But – perhaps spurred by a week of almost-100% lung function! - I had a surprise burst of gardening energy and figured I’d try to save what I could.  Here are three of them, stuck at the edge of the back bed.  If they do root (it’s supposed to

Sadly “No-Ice-Cream-Today” Note

Seen today in the window of the former Ben & Jerry’s location on Queen Street West:   Here’s a close-up, modified a bit so you can read the plaintive scrawl that’s been added to the note: (“But you didn’t open last year”) This is the same store that was the scene of our Ben & Jerry’s Earth Day Free Cone Debacle in April of 2008.  It has been closed since then, a year and a half.  I’m surprised nothing else has moved in in its place yet, but there are a lot of closed and empty shops along that stretch of Queen, just west of university.  What with lululemon and other trendoid shops moving in, the small retailers that made the neighbourhood interesting can’t afford the rent.  What a terrible cliché, but how true.


When I was first pregnant with GZ, I sort of kind of avoided being around my sister because she mentioned at one point that she had her period.  She'd been over at our house a bit more than usual because I think she wasn't working at the time, and at one point, maybe totally coincidentally, we both had it on the same day.  So I thought, totally irrationally, maybe our cycles had aligned and then... well... maybe here I was pregnant but the invisible "pull" of her period might cause me to lose the baby.   There, I said it. Completely unscientific.   I mean, I had absolutely no evidence that our cycles had synchronized, let alone that she could possibly exert an invisible "pull" so powerful that it could cause a miscarriage without any physical contact.  There is no such thing.  I know that.  Please do not call the folks in the white coats on me.   Nevertheless, knowing all that, knowing that a baby that is going to miscarry is going to mis

Shabbos Bookshelf

This week on the Shabbos bookshelf!   Pigtails 'n Breadfruit: Rituals of Slave Food, a Barbadian Memoir by Austin Clarke Clarke writes in a lively, affectionate and lyrically distinct voice about growing up with the "slave-food" and "hot-cuisine" of his upbringing in Barbados.   and then there's Margaret Atwood's The Year of the Flood: A Novel ... every new book of hers reads more and more like teeny-bopper sci-fi.  I love it!   

Angel hair

It’s not just pasta anymore…  

Oh, NO...

Naomi Rivka:  "Shabbos party is my favourite circle time." Me:  "Which Shabbos party?" Naomi Rivka:  "Friday mornings at our house."   Oy, so sad... I really MUST do something for her here, soon...

Teaching Shabbos

A friend was telling me about one they've been going to a Shabbat program each week.  I won't say anything about it other than that she admitted that the "Shabbat component" has been somewhat disappointing.   How sad. And yet, that's been my experience with several of them, too. Great facility, good program, nice teachers.  And the Shabbat/Shabbos part is just plain bad... or weird.   I have mentioned before my strange and perhaps irrational conviction that Circle Time is not just Circle Time.  Each Circle Time must have a function, serve a purpose, be something a bit MORE than just sitting around singing.    We spend so much of our time alone here just sitting around here singing.  We don't need to go out to have an excuse to sing (maybe some families do?).  We don't need to be sitting in a circle or even wearing our clothes.  Anytime is singing time around here.  So if we are going to the trouble of putting on clothes and going out

So we went

So we went, we got rained on, Naomi kvetched the whole way (it was rather far, with no way for her to sit or stand on any part of the carriage), and then we got to Mrs. ViKi for lunch rather late... like at 1:30.  She was out of the room, and I waited and waited for her to come back to get snack ready and do circle time.  Finally, around 2 (when she usually closes up), the other parent and three nannies started putting on their kids' coats.  Apparently, she'd gone to a meeting leaving instructions for the last person to lock up.   (I hadn't asked where ViKi was sooner because the only other parent who was there was actually one of those parents whose child, I mostly feel, actually would be better off away from her.  Not abusive, by any means; she just seems to have ZERO connection with her child.  I have been watching them for a couple of years now and their interactions seem mostly to consist of the mother barking the child's name from the sofa when t