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Showing posts from November, 2009

And now… the tomato seeds!

Here are the cherry tomato seeds I collected two weeks ago (yesterday), ready at last.  These are the variety I call Early Tiny Cherry.  They have no name because I received them in a packet from that was only labelled “Cherry Tomato Trio.” My method of saving tomato seeds is outlined below, in case you’d like to try it out at home.  It is a very cool thing that is extremely easy to do on your own or with kids.  I have absolutely no green thumb or special talent, so you have my promise that saving tomato seeds will make you feel like a total Earth Mama (or Papa, or the earthy equivalent in whatever gender you happen to find yourself…)! Just don’t try saving seeds from supermarket tomatoes, even if you love them.  Chances are, they were grown in a greenhouse, or South America, or somewhere else that features conditions you absolutely will not be able to reproduce in your backyard to make those particular tomatoes happy.  The beauty of saving seeds from tomato

Outdoor Time

One of the foundations of a Charlotte Mason-style homeschool education - which is a curriculum that seems to jive with a lot of what I love about learning at home in the first place - is that children, especially very young children (under 6) should spend a LOT, if not most, of their time outdoors.  By a LOT, Charlotte Mason and those who follow her philosophies mean up to SIX hours a day.   That is very hard for me.  Even an hour is very hard for me.   Until we moved to this house and I started gardening , I couldn't stand being outside for extended periods of time at all.  Given a choice between a building with sealed windows and climate control and the great outdoors with all its variables... well, indoors would win out every single time.  Memories of shovelling snow, raking leaves, mowing lawns and other mucky type activities as a child were just too horrific, and I figured I was sparing my children this grief by living in an apartment.  The older kids had prob

Naomi's magical memory

Recited while snuggling at bedtime tonight: "I woke up one morning and one hand was wet and one hand was dry. I said to myself, 'that's weird.' It was really... magical!"

Saying Kiddush? In Hebrew? With kids?

I’m supposed to be shutting down the computer, but I wanted to say something here about kiddush, because a lot of people are stumbling upon a previous post about pronunciation in Hebrew (modern vs traditional, Yiddish/Ashkenaz vs Sefard, etc). That post is interesting, and philosophical, but not very helpful, especially for someone who’s interested in starting to say kiddush, whether by themselves, with their family, with their kids, whatever. I don’t usually do “Judaism basics” on this blog because it is covered so well elsewhere (like at Tracey Rich’s wonderful Judaism 101 site ).  But I do remember being a beginner, long, long ago, and being impatient and eager to find information wherever I could.  First of all, this is what your kiddush doesn’t have to be: In Hebrew. Read perfectly.  (okay, Ted would be upset if he read this, because I do get picky about his… so call me a hypocrite) Sung out loud. Said over wine. Said over terrible,

How autistic are you?

And how autistic am I?  I sometimes think a little.  I am more comfortable using the term autistic now that it has opened up to everybody and his brother thanks to the mild-autism-slash-asperger’s end of the spectrum… I think it pretty much encompasses everybody who is slightly awkward socially, which is certainly me. But please accept my apology if I’ve offended anybody who is genuinely autistic, or caring for a loved one who is.  I don’t think I’m genuinely, fully, 100% autistic.  But certainly a little…. off.  And getting more so, in a kind of calcification process, as I get older.   I can fell it setting in, the nimble structures of my mind fusing into greater and greater rigidity. What I am very autistic about is television.  It has to be the SAME, over and over.  Ted can barely stand watching television with me, because it absolutely has to be exactly the same every time. Here is what I watched on our television before we cancelled our cable: ~ Judge Judy ~ occasional

Wild Things (spoilers, but not a review)

Elisheva and I have a running joke that every single children’s book ends with the kid (or kids) falling asleep… at least, the good ones all do. So why is that? Kids certainly don’t fantasize about falling asleep, so whose fantasy is it?  Well, the parents’, obviously. So there is a moment, and if you haven’t seen the movie Where the Wild Things Are, you might not want to read on because it might spoil it for you, but maybe not, because we all know he comes back in the end.  But anyway, read on at your own risk. There is a moment at the end of the movie where Max comes home and his supper is, of course, still hot… just like in the book.  But in the movie, his mother waited up for him, she meets him at the door and doesn’t say much, which is just right.  And they sit at the kitchen table and she is watching her son eat and she falls asleep. That’s the ending of the movie.  Sorry if I blew it for you – it’s been out for two months or whatever already, so if you haven’t seen

New (Pocket) Diapers!

Well, it’s been a LONG time since I bought new diapers, but with two kids and not so many diapers, they do wear out.  I must say,  however, it is a LOT less exciting buying new diapers for a 2-year-old and 4-year-old when I keep thinking they OUGHT to be trained by now.  Okay, maybe not the 2-year-old, but 4?!?  And alright, it’s only for nights… but still.  Four.  A lot less cute picturing her wearing the new diapers than when she was a tiny chubby bundle. Anyway – that’s all I’m saying about that.  This time around, I am replacing some of our worn-out Kushies Ultra (they are falling apart to the point that some of them emerge from the dryer literally inside-out, with the PUL layer gaping and the “hidden” layers flopping around outside) with a very small collection of pocket diapers:  two AMP Duo (size Large) and three Sweet Pea One-Size .  Don’t they look cute, lying there, all pristine?  I have bought so few brand-new diapers in our 5 years of buying cloth!  Most of the

Teaching Hebrew to Kids… for the Hebrew-Impaired

So here is one of my little tricks for being a moron in Hebrew and still reading Hebrew books to my kids with reasonable competence and comprehension! Yes, thanks to the “Pina Ivrit” (Hebrew Corner) of our local public library, there are a few, not many, books which are available in both Hebrew and English. These Dubi Dov / Little Bear books are great, by the way!  They are actually a recommended part of several sites’ Charlotte Mason homeschooling early reading recommendations. They are wholesome, classic books, which each include four simple stories that are easy enough to read.  I have found three so far that are available in Hebrew and English:  Little Bear (Dubi Dov), Little Bear’s Visit (Dubi Dov Etzel Saba v’Savta) and A Kiss for Little Bear (Neshika l’Duvi Dov).  Cute! Naomi Rivka’s favourite so far is “Birthday Soup” (Marak shel Yom Huledet) from the first book, Little Bear (Dubi Dov). For continuity purposes, I use the same names whether I’m reading in English or

Thinking, thinking, thinking... Charlotte Mason curriculum

I have heard the name bandied about but never really known what was involved, until a bit more reading tonight. There is something about this curriculum that deeply appeals to the British in me...   The frustrating part is that there is very little one can do at the JK level.  Read good books, but not too many:  little kids need to get outdoors, they need to play, they need to acquire the basic skills for learning and life.  Isn't it SO tempting to want to cram your child's entire education in when you're just starting out?   To me, the beauty of this curriculum is that it says (to me, at least), "pace yourself... they have decades of learning ahead."   It also says "don't blow the bank!"  This site and several others offer very good - if bare-bones - resources that can definitely help any parents teach any children.  Some of the bits are weird; classical stuff like art, music and nature "appre

November 28, 2009: Six Word Saturday

Undaunted, cosmos bloom… while I wilt.

Shabbos Menu

Yes, we're still up... Ted's peeling cholent vegetables as I sit here.   Dinner   Challah Chicken Soup w/Kneidlach Pickled Brisket Miso Roasted? Green beans Corn Pareve desserts: Blueberry "Sour Creme" Coffee Cake (still need to buy tofutti sour supreme) Chocolate-chip cookies   Lunch Gefilte fish Lettuce salad Sushi rice salad Teriyaki green beans Cholent   Dairy dessert: Chocolate Malted Pie

Two papers from my father

Two things you should know about my father: 1)  He reused paper – a LOT.  Over and over and over.   You’ll notice that this paper, which is pretty typical of his business records, has printing at both ends of the page.  Other pages in the same binder feature a collection of classic Yiddish and old-timey songs on the reverse.  My mother must have brought a booklet of lyrics home from something at work and my father whomped the staples out and appropriated the booklet as “good-one-side” printer paper.  Hey, if you get bored reading boring mortgage details and bank statements, you can flip them over and sing “To life!  L’chaim!” or “June is Bustin’ Out All Over.” 2)  But this is the actual flipside of the page shown above.  More good-one-side paper:  this time, an old business letter that he no longer needed (my father used dot-matrix printers long after everybody else’s were in landfill).  The important bit here is not frugality.  This is a formal letter asking for a series of


Will somebody pleeeeeeease invent track lighting, because with the shortage of overhead lighting I feel like I am just losing my sight every day at this time... I look up from the bright-white computer screen and just simply cannot see.  Yes, there are lamps here and there, but it is dark and it is gloomy here.  Sheesh.   Lucky thing we're having cauliflower soup for supper... at least the cauliflower is easy to spot in the murky semi-darkness of our dank old house.

Random Plot / Thought

I was thinking about blogs the other day for a couple of reasons.  (partly because of this annoying Nishma article knocking the whole idea of blogs as Not a Jewish Concept, because it lacks tzniut) And I thought about people who turn their blogs into books… and how their books have a plot, which means they’ve sculpted the anecdotes of their lives to resemble a plot, because most of us don’t really have much of an interesting plot in real life. I was thinking about whether my blog has a plot… certainly, my life does not. And I decided it might be interesting to round up some of the more, shall we say, profluent (ie less navel-gazing) posts from the last year and sculpt it, creating a record of two things:  the year leading up to my 40th birthday, whenever that happens to come out, and the year of mourning for my father. Of course, both of these ideas have certainly been done to death already.  But it might be interesting as an end-of-year project to round things up and stuff t


My mother is not big on photographs... any time I've ever tried to give her a framed picture of her grandchildren, she says, "I have nowhere to hang this." (eventually, I stopped) But she does have several small, inexpensive albums that she keeps on the TV stand next to the DVD player in the living room, in case anybody who comes over feels they are in the midst of a family without a history. The albums encapsulate three of our family's more recent simchas: my sister Sara's bat mitzvah (she's 31 now), my sister Abigail's bat mitzvah (three years later than Sara's), and my first wedding (a couple of years later). There is a fourth, I think, that contains baby and camping pictures of Yerachmiel Meir (13-14 years ago). Nothing since then. These little, cheap albums are actually the tip of the iceberg, photo-wise, as we discovered during the shiva. There are hundreds and hundreds of photographs in the house... some older, some newer, mostly hidden away

Earth Balance Margarine Cookies… Take 2, a little more successful

A couple of weeks ago, we made  chocolate-chip cookies using Earth Balance, a “healthy” new margarine alternative.  They turned out really, really badly .  Monumentally badly; we pretty much had to throw them away and start over with Fleischmann’s. So I wrote to the manufacturer, who wrote back that for some reason unbeknownst to their top scientists, their product works exactly the same as regular margarine in any recipe except in chocolate-chip cookies (shouldn’t it say so on the package?)… in which case, they suggest using “1/3 more Earth Balance than called for in the recipe, baking the cookies at a slightly lower temperature for a slightly longer period of time.” Well, okay.  My first thought was, “What kind of sucker am I?”  “Hmm… this product doesn’t work, so let’s use 1/3 MORE of it next time!!!” But in the interest of fairness, and also because I desperately needed chocolate-chip cookies last night when we were all out of Fleischmann’s, I decided to try again.  We had

Manipulate Me!

So despite my misgivings, I bought the frogs ! And today, our first real, purchased Math Manipulative came in the mail:  a set of 108 fancy, shmancy Funtastic Frogs , from Rainbow Resource in the U.S.  I tried to find a Canadian source, but the manufacturer wasn’t all that helpful… so they came with a small customs charge that required me to dig out the emergency credit card.  Ugh. I was leery of ordering these because, okay, they’re plastic frogs in a bucket.  Three sizes, six colours, 108 altogether… how special could they be?  Plus, we already have lots of colourful things the kids could use for sorting, counting, patterns, etc.  It’s just more STUFF, and what I don’t want is STUFF.  Well.  Indeed, they are stuff.  But cool, cute, stuff, as it turns out.  I love them!  And I think both kids will love playing them, too.  Who doesn’t love clacky happy mathy frogs? You get three sizes, four of each colour in the medium and large sizes, and ten of each colour in the small size. 

Sometimes, not very often,

...I check on what kinds of web searches land people at my blog.  (really!  not very often!)   And sometimes, I want to reach out to people after the fact, get in touch with them through their search... like the person who asked Google " really necessary to brush hair before mikva. "  For some reason, that didn't land them on the page about mikveh shampoo .  Which probably still wouldn't tell them that yes, it is really necessary... and sometimes, really, really difficult.   Another person searched for "inexpensive tichel," but unfortunately, it was last week, before my post about why you should buy a Buff for $20, or even a clone buff for under $10!  Much less expensive than some of what's out there... and more practical, in some cases.   One mystifying search was looking for "Jewish shepherd pie."   I don't know if they're looking for the pie of Jewish shepherds, perhaps Biblical ones like King David, or kosher she

Cranky Complaints-Lady Rocks the Government!

Have you written to YOUR MPP yet?  It may be too late to stop them, but let's all be cranky, just for crankiness' sake!   ----- Original Message ----- To: Sent: Wednesday, November 25, 2009 12:14 PM Subject: Harmonized Sales Tax and All-Day Kindergarten Dear Dr. Hoskins:   I am a voting resident of your St. Paul's riding, and I'd like to express my strong opposition to two issues currently receiving Liberal party support in the legislature:  all-day kindergarten and the Harmonized Sales Tax.   It is absolutely horrific that the government plans to throw billions into increasing its kindergarten program while continuing to deny my children their right to funding for basic education in Math, English, or Geography, simply because they attend Jewish schools.  I'd like to point out that these subjects are the same regardless of the school's religious affiliation, and, indeed, the schools are fully accredited by

Supper and not much else

Tired tired tired.  So here’s our supper, a lazy supper which is mostly made out of Things I Discovered in the Freezer. ~ Of Tov frozen chicken nuggets… wow; it’s been a long time since we had anything like this.  Like years.  Maybe forever.  They aren’t bad, though thoroughly reconstituted-looking and chewy-tasting.  The big kids liked them, as a fish-sticks kind of thing.  The little kids didn’t seem to recognize them as chicken; they love chicken and did not love the nuggets very much, I think. ~ Frozen peas; reheated in a pot. ~ Soup made of an onion, fried, frozen veggies added and boiled with a tin of diced tomatoes which I puréed.  Oh, and I threw in a pack of chicken necks to add flavour, but they didn’t give it enough, so I still had to use chicken soup powder also. ~ Beer bread !  Slightly unsuccesful but still kind of nice.  YM made the bread, so it still counts as lazy supper.  He said, “it looks nice in the soup, take a picture of the bread in the soup.”  S

Latkes and Hamentashen and other FREE Online Jewish Music

Currently listening to this album on TWO online Jewish music archives, which I am quickly coming to appreciate for the vast amount of archived Jewish music they both offer – absolutely free. Here are the two sites: Judaica Sound Archives (a service of Florida Atlantic University) Dartmouth Jewish Sound Archive (from Dartmouth College in New Hampshire) Both archive music which is then searchable by album or performer, or you can browse through song lists.  The search features of both are similarly fickle:  plus, there’s the difficulty of not knowing how Hebrew spellings are transcribed. When Naomi wanted to find a song we heard yesterday – Al Sfat HaNachal – I searched everywhere for it and couldn’t find it.  Turns out I wasn’t looking under “Al S’fat Hannachal”… I later found it on the Dartmouth site today (by total coincidence; I was looking for “L'shana haba” and it was on the same album) and played it to her very extensive happiness. Both sites are als

Diet Candy!

Noticed this message on the side of a pack of Whoppers last night.  Well, I thought it was hilarious and ate the whole thing… because it’s diet, right? Today was officially “Taking Care of Business Day”. Massively didn’t want to go to aerobics class, especially on the subway, but it turned out the subway actually got me there early.  And then got me both up to the health-card office and down to the drivers’-license office similarly super-fast.  So much for putting down the TTC; it was lovely… relaxing, too.  I brought a book along and just read like crazy.  I should really drive less often.  I love riding subways and buses SOoo much.  I forget between times, but that is how I spent a good huge chunk of my life, and I do miss it.  The quiet, the weird kind of solitude when you’re surrounded by people who don’t care about you at all. With kids, well, it is much less relaxing.  And there are so many variables that I don’t like to navigate with kids:  weather, delays, unexpec

Delirshis Stewy Supper!

So, dummy me, I was WAY ahead of the game last week by making the cholent on Thursday afternoon.  What a concept!  While the kids napped on Thursday, I made my new “magic” caramel onions , added in the rest of the ingredients for a pareve cholent, cooked it up with barley,  and stuck it in the fridge until Friday.  Smug little me. So, of course, on Friday it was totally forgotten in the pre-Shabbos chaos. So in the fridge it remained over Shabbos… and sat there all weekend because I glumly decided I would reincarnate it as “stew” and trick my family into eating it by serving it with good bread. The bread, I decided, would be bagels.  Why not?  Bagels and stew; isn’t that what they ate in the old country?  Homemade bagels… from a new recipe, which I started last night.  Big-production yummy bagels , because the stew itself was essentially finished. Indeed.  The stew was so NOT cholent; it’s almost impossible to believe how good it was. I was not looking forward to th

The Bell (Jar) Curve: Let me out of this pregnancy!

(No, no, no!  Once again, I am NOT pregnant!  Happy happy not to be.  Just surrounded by people who are… and, for once, not minding a bit!) Reproductive technology:  besides helping us get pregnant, and knowing when we have succeeded, sometimes down to the millisecond, it has also made us the most impatient generation of pregnant ladies… well, ever. I have a friend on Facebook who’s expecting a baby.  She’s 39 weeks and sick of being pregnant, as I discover every day when I log on.  And then there’s Amy, whose blog I read sometimes ( Assertagirl ), who, when she hit 40 weeks, blogged that her baby was “officially on borrowed time.” I don’t blame them… I got to 42 weeks with one kid, 39 with two, and those are tedious places to be, believe me (Elisheva had the good sense to be born at 34 weeks!).  Everything’s done that’s going to be done, and there’s only so much nesting you can do when you are so big you could rent out ad space on your sides. Used to be, in the dark old da

The downside of blogging...

... is not strangers finding out your personal stuff, but FAMILY.   My mother knows I have a blog, but thankfully, she probably assumes it is something tedious and navelgazing (of course, you and I know better, right?) and has never pressed for further details.   But the downside is when certain people in my family who DO read this don't know not to mention certain things in front of my mother. Oh-kay.  Yes, I'm almost forty, and yes, I have mommy issues.  I've said that before.   So let's say it in code so she won't understand:  "Ix-nay on the Ivers-License-Dray !!!" (oops - my mother is actually the one who taught me pig latin in the first place...)   Anyway, I will definitely take care of it on Tuesday when Ted's off work... never fear!

Interloper among the coleus…

Peekaboo! Saving tomato seeds?  This late in the season??? I was sad because I hadn’t saved any more of the “early tiny” cherry tomatoes that I love so much.  They are incredibly reliable performers, though also very suckery and branchy tomatoes.  Anyway, another of their virtues, apparently, is the ability to stay reasonably fresh-looking long past when other tomato plants have shrivelled:   The tomatoes don’t taste particularly wonderful – apparently, they don’t get sweeter with frost, like some fruits do, but they have continued to ripen and not shrivel like most other tomatoes out in the yard.  Wow!  So not only are these cherries just about the earliest to ripen, they are the last to fade… that’s got to be worth something in the genetic world.  So I grabbed a few, popped their seed-stuff into a baby-food jar, added some water, and now I’m leaving it on the windowsill for a week or so to get a little scummy… Floating in this broth, they remind me of so

Weird Craigslist Blip

I have noticed this for a while now:  why is in GERMAN?  Have we been taken over and I just didn't know because I don't read newspapers???   It searches properly and everything... and it's only German on the front page.  Still; weird.  Crazy.

Google N for Nachas!

YM told me one day this spring that he’d seen the “Google Car” coming through the neighbourhood… taking pictures for Google Street View , which now seems to be available throughout North America. And sure enough… they saw him, too! Here he is… walking down the street towards the camera… A teensy bit closer… And now, because he’s been well-brought-up, he’s giving a GREAT BIG dorky Google-eyed wave to the array of cameras mounted on top of the car!!!  There he is!  That’s my boy !      There’s only just this one shot of him.  If you scroll around to look at other views of the same street corner, he mysteriously vanishes. And okay, I know you don’t actually Google a letter , like N.  It’s not a dictionary.  I really know that.  I will give full credit (if not an actual, tangible prize) to the first reader who cares enough to suggest a better title for this post.  So there!

Why wear a tichel when you can...

... buy a BUFF? Yes, this is a frank attempt to convert all Jewish women who cover their hair to the world of BUFF performance headwear .  I discovered this thing in the quest for a tichel I could wear for Aikido class .  (Before I found out we were expecting Naomi Rivka and I didn't feel real comfy getting punched in the stomach.  Go figure.) The class involved a lot of rolls and controlled falls, and a regular tichel just wasn’t cutting it.  Frankly, with my frizzy mess of hair, a regular tichel wasn’t cutting it in regular life either.  (why am I thinking so much about hair these days?  maybe because my mother “kindly” pointed out that my hairline is receding – but that’s an issue for another post) What I used to wear, most of the time, was a snood (like this one, at right).  The way my hair works (and many other women’s, if my observations are correct), when a snood starts to slip down in back, pulling it back up doesn’t work.  Pulling it back up only pulls out the

Beware of boys bearing Tiramisu

Or adopt them… depending on your feelings about tiramisu , of course!  We personally love it, so we’ll be keeping him.  For the time being.

Six Word Saturday: November 21, 2009

  Now these are chocolate chip cookies!

Drivers wanted? None here!

Gack. Once again, only one of my parents' children has a driver's license.  Only now, it's Abigail, not me.  :-o Mine was expiring anyway next month, but apparently the government couldn't wait 'till then for me to pay the fines... and suspended it instead.  MUST take care of this immediately !!!   (like first thing after aerobics class on Tuesday, when Ted is off work and I'm also renewing my health card and the littles'...)   p.s.  Eli used to have a driver's license, but apparently relinquished it voluntarily.  A Very Good Thing, if you ask me.

Mikveh Sham(poo)

One of the few things I dislike about going to the mikveh - because really, what is there to hate about a place where they basically order you to take a half-hour soak in a warm tub, and don't make you clean up afterwards??? - is the shampoo.   I love not using shampoo.  I'm a total convert from shampoo.  I have a special no'poo method instead using baking soda and apple-cider vinegar (it's here if you're interested, though these days I sometimes just dump baking soda on my head because it's quicker).    Call me a total wacko, but I have come to believe that shampoo is a scam.  Hear me out!  First, it strips your hair of its natural oils, then, so it won't feel dry, coats it with conditioner instead (this is either one or two different products and different steps in your daily routine).  And then, you wash it again the next day because it's lank and unpleasant.  I believe that if you leave hair for a couple of weeks, it will regain som