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Showing posts from January, 2010

A room of one’s own

One of the tragedies of living in a small house in January is the desperate, DESPERATE, D*E*S*P*E*R*A*T*E craving for privacy. And what has happened a couple of times this week is this head-t0-head between me and Elisheva… whoever is most unpleasant “wins” and gets to stay home all by herself. Sometimes she wins.  Sometimes I win.  Usually she wins; she can be far more unpleasant sometimes. Ted never wins, for what it’s worth. Anyway, in desperation because I have a ton of stuff I am supposed to be finishing up writing, some seeds I want to plant that I am not allowing myself to plant until I’m finished working , and a request from my mother to “bring dessert” just when the chocolate chips decided to mysteriously go missing… I have just yelled at every single member of my immediate and extended family and sent them all on to my mother’s house for supper so I can finish baking the brownies (found the chips, yay!) (under the sink; don’t ask) and get some !$%#^! writing done.

Six Word Saturday: 16 Shevat, 5760

Sad, sick, or just… really LAZY???

Bringin’ Home the Bakin’ (for Shabbos)

Trying out a new challah recipe, and also baking up another “new pareve banana cake,” along with a chocolate-mousse pie (with toasted pecans hidden inside).  I hope to also get an apple kugel made at some point in the next – gasp! – hour.   Super-Easy Shabbos Food: Challah ( Maggie Glezer’s Sourdough ) Soup w/ kneidlach Israeli couscous w/mango (tree fruit, for tu b’shvat!) Apple kugel (tree fruit) Teriyaki sesame Sweet Potatoes (not a tree fruit, or a fruit, at all, really, but sweet!) Corn (not fruit, but mandatory) Chicken a la Shiny Shake n’ Bake Desserts: Banana cake (not a tree fruit!) Chocolate mousse pie – with pecans (a tree “fruit”!) Sign of the times: Elisheva came out to announce that she’d finished her dvar Torah and wanted to go for a walk.  A walk.  On a day that is –10 degrees outside at BEST .  I was instantly suspicious.  A voluntary walk in this weather always means somebody is up to no good:  smoking… or something el

I love this dvar Torah – parshas Beshalach

Came across this dvar Torah by Chief Rabbi of England Lord Jonathan Sacks (text and audio available at that link) while looking for my regular parsha audio show with Rabbi Phil Chernofsky at ( here are many, MANY back “issues” of Phil Chernofsky’s Torah Tidbits Audio shows, in case you’re interested… he’s always lively and easy to follow, and sometimes fascinating) Anyway, I particularly enjoyed what Rabbi Sacks had to say because it ties together a few thoughts that I was having following this reading (also by Rabbi Sacks) that we had to do for a learning group that got together last motzaei Shabbos.  The one we had to read was over twelve pages long, and that’s with very tight margins (but very illuminating and erudite, I promise!)… while this dvar Torah, on the other hand, is an easy eight minute listen / read. And I love it because  he points out that Torah and science aren’t here to contradict one another… and that sometimes believe in science (even

Daily “Classroom” Weather Bulletin Board

Still a work in progress (UPDATE:  see below for finished picture), but I wanted to start introducing weather and days of the week in Hebrew.  We’ve been doing them in English since September, and I figure the Hebrew isn’t harder; just different . So I have taken down our trusty Dollarama “weather poster” (as seen in previous posts here and here ) and adapted it to its new bilingual life. In addition to wanting Hebrew weather, I have been increasingly disturbed by the fact that this weather chart doesn’t give any indication of how bitterly COLD the weather is outside.  Elisheva refused to change it to “Sunny” the other day because she said it didn’t count if it was cold out. So I have cobbled an entire (smallish) bulletin board display together, introducing a thermometer, a swivelling “pointer” for hot and cold weather, Hebrew “captions” on each of the weather signs (except “Partly Cloudy,” “Foggy” and “Night”), and Hebrew days of the week at the bottom.  (I didn’t notice un

A wow risotto supper – under pressure!

Why is this pressure cooker feeling giddy??? Doesn’t it look like one of those Disney animated teapots with the “tongue” hanging out and the cartoonish “nose” right  in the centre? It’s probably just tipsy from all the delicious wine, and chicken soup, and other amazing ingredients that were featured in last night’s super-simple sausage risotto. This is basically an onion, fried with some cut-up basil & oregano chicken sausages, fried with some cut-up mango (gotta have fruit with meat meat!), fried with some tinned mushrooms, with two cups of arborio rice tossed in.  Any other vegetables you see in the photo were strained out of last Friday night’s chicken soup.  Mmm… I added the soup, mushroom liquid, wine and water – four cups worth – after everything had a bit of a fry together, and then you just pressure-cook the life out of it.  I don’t know if it’s just my pressure cooker or the usual thing, but it does seem to take FOREVER to reach pressure – the point where

Chamisha Asar (“Tu”) b’Shvat plans

For some reason, Israelis are more likely to call this Tu b’Shvat… the yeshiva world seems to prefer the name “chamisha asar b’Shvat.”  No clue why. It wasn’t what I was looking for, but I just stumbled across this terrific “Seven Species” video excerpt , which shows kids interacting with the shivas haminim, the seven special species that grow in eretz Yisrael.  The accompanying song is sweet – and a little chassidish – without being utterly cloying. We have been singing the “Shkeydiya Porachat” song for years (anything on an Uncle Moishy album, I can sing, too!), but this year is FINALLY the one I  got my act together to learn the words to the classic Israeli Tu b’Shvat song “Kach Holchim Hashotlim.”  Yup, all three verses.  Don’t know if I’ll have it memorized, but I don’t trip over it as much. (you can hear Cindy Paley sing it on this album , or find several classic folk versions – if classic Israeli folk is your thing – at this site , which requires membership) Anyway, one

Poor social skills

So this thing at shul last night kind of brought out all my insecurities… big time. On the one hand, I was there as a professional, a writer, so that is a great disguise to bring anywhere.  Whip out the clipboard, whip out a pen – SuperWriterWoman, at your service! But on the other hand, there I was, trapped in the Mother of all Kiddushes, everybody dressed up super- duper nice.  Like, I mean, if I thought everybody normally looks way nicer than me on Shabbos, well… let’s just say a couple of layered cotton shirts was NOT the look everybody else chose to have on.  I don’t think there was a female person in the room without spangles.  Had this been the 80s, shoulder pads would have been de rigeur.  That kind of event. And there I was, trying very hard not to have flour smears all over – tough in a dark skirt!  Trying hard to flash the BFS (“big fake smile,” as I whisper to Elisheva over and over at a typical kiddush… she’s worse at this stuff than I am).  Trying hard to make small

Meal Plan Monday: 10 Shevat 5760

Last week was INCREDIBLE!  I felt so free every day not having to think about the dreaded question:  “what’s for supper?” So let’s give it another go this week, shall we?  As before, I will provide a skeleton meal plan for the week now, and flesh it out as I come up with the details: Monday:  Beef Stew with home-baked Ciabatta Had to switch around the days because it turned out I was out last night at our shul’s gala dinner (whoopeee) and I didn’t want to miss BEEF STEW NIGHT.  I didn’t have the fish fillets I’d planned for Tuesday night, but I did have some puff pastry squares that we hadn’t used for Shabbos desserts… so: Monday:  Creamy corn & potto soup, creamy salmon puff pastries, home-baked Ciabatta  (mmm…) Tuesday (Ted’s late day):  Creamy corn & potato soup, pan-fried fish, plain rice and…? Tuesday (Ted’s late day):  Beef Stew with home-baked Rosemary Focaccia.  Oy, was it nice having the beef stew AND the bread pre-made.  All I had to do was t

Taking parenting tips from… me

Apparently, I used to be a good parent.  Way back, about seven years ago… I used to be somebody wise and patient and insightful.  Here’s something I wrote back then.  You can also read it at . Maybe I’ll get there again when I find some normalcy in this exhausted, frantic split-between-toddlers-and-teenagers lifestyle of ours… The Love Mirror What do your kids see when they look in your eyes? If they're more than a day old, chances are it's not always dewy pangs of love. Sometimes, after a long day of hidden homework, soggy snow pants or missing money, the message my eyes send is one of anger or disappointment: "How could you?" I've read enough to understand how to channel bad behavior which is sometimes not deliberately bad, just mistaken or careless. And I work hard reinforcing the consequences of wrong choices and our responsibility to fix mistakes. At least, on my good days. On those other days when my attention is shattered int

Six Word Saturday: 9 Shevat, 5760

Late night coffee, Torah chat…Bzzzzzzzzz!

Shabbos Food

Shabbos Food   Dinner   Challah  (new recipe) Chicken Soup w/Kneidlach Brisket Shnitzel thighs Corn Green beans   Lunch   Cold chicken Sprouts salad Broccoli Corn salad Cholent   Desserts   Blubbery Pastries Choco Chip Banna Cake  (new recipe)

Oh, yeah…

So I totally neglected to mention that Naomi is reading . I didn’t want to push her, but I thought with a little encouragement, she could be doing a bit more, so I jumped in and bought the first series of Bob Books Beginning Readers . I had never heard of these before, but they were very well-described at the Rainbow Resource homeschool supplies site, and there are lots of sample pages viewable at Amazon and elsewhere.  I ordered it from Rainbow Resource because they had a few cheap “seconds” copies available for $8-something. (plus shipping, so whatever) It turns out the books were “seconds” because the set is missing the first book – Book 1 of 12, “Mat.”  Despite a strict “caveat emptor” policy on seconds, I was extremely happy that Rainbow apologized right away and credited my PayPal for the full value of the books. The set consists of a little cardboard box twelve little books, eight pages long, I think, with very simple line illustrations that each have just a dash

Sproutin’ time is here again…

Yup, that time of year when I’m desperate for any growing things.  For the taste of something tiny and fresh. Here are the seeds yesterday morning; slightly sprouted!  You can just see the tails beginning to form. This is my own custom-blended mix of alfalfa, broccoli, radish and mustard.  The seeds were bought off the rack at Lowe’s, just because I was SO happy to see seeds there in January.  Crazy early, but there is something lovely about browsing the “growing things” aisle. So here are the same seeds this morning. Nice growth activity on the tails, and the husks of the seeds are starting to come off.  Tomorrow, I plan to give them their final rinse and then run them through my new, never-used “baby” centrifuge to see if I can get more of the husks off than usual. With rice-wine vinegar, craisins and some other things, these make a fantastic homegrown Shabbos salad. Here’s my sprouting rig, btw.  Just checked and I bought it just about this time last year !

After a fight…

Well, not even a fight really,  just me YELLING at the kids, which I cannot believe I have been doing lately.  I just feel stretched so thin. So Naomi cried a bit and then picked herself up and went and sat at the table with the watercolours and a marker and wrote “heart-imma-exclamation-mark.” So I wrote “heart-Naomi-Rivka-heart.” And we loved each other for the rest of the day. Post-script:  YET AGAIN, she has woken up soaking, under soaking sheets, on top of soaking sheets, with stuffed animals wet in the bargain… I found her soaked underpants and asked her and this time she came up with the ridiculous lie:  “they were on under my diaper.” Well, NO.  That is not true.  What happened is she got up after bedtime and TOOK OFF THE DIAPER again.  And then had an accident again.  I feel like I am trying everything, stickers for dry nights, gentle encouragement that she’ll be ready whenever she’s ready, angry admonition that I am SICK of washing sheets.  Oy, am I. Nothing wor

Pretty Dull Reading…

Want to know what the halacha says about full-b0dy scanners in airports?  Not much, apparently.  Nevertheless, several rabbis were happy to weigh in. Read my CJN article here .

Toddler theology takes on… Sin!

Sitting in the car, we ended up talking about kosher… whether certain foods are or are not kosher, what animals are kosher - “are pigs kosher?  are cows kosher?  are horses kosher?” There was a minute and then Naomi, from the backseat:  “Is it a sin…?” Ugh.  I shuddered, as I waited for her to finish her thought, steeling myself for the Whole Big Theological Can o’ Worms.  Because that is NOT the way we teach mitzvos.  Hashem gives us mitzvos out of love; we do them because it helps make us better people,  brings us closer to Hashem, etc.  I wondered where she’d even HEARD the word “sin” – in 15 years of Jewish parenting, I don’t remember ever using that word. She continued.  “Is it a sin… or a sav , in the word ‘soosa’ [female horse]?” Oh. “It’s a samech , actually; two samechs, in ‘soos’ and ‘soosa’.” “Okay.” Dodged a bullet!  And furthermore, proved the wisdom of waiting for children to collect their thoughts BEFORE answering their “deep” questions…

Inquiring souls want to know!

I’m getting a lot of visits directed from the blog “”. I’m totally curious and would love an invitation, as blogger is telling me right now that it’s blocked and I need an invitation from the blog author. Or maybe I just hate feeling like there’s a party online that I’m being left out from. Somebody, please, invite me! :-))) (some of us might be fascinated to know that 2.5% of all visitors arriving from a search engine have apparently searched for “hebrew word for transporter pronunciation”… well, I’m sorry to say, you won’t find it here!) (or “vileda bee mop instructions,” another 2.5%) I am proud to report that the TOP search is now NOT “windows live photo gallery vs picasa,” as it was previously, but… drumroll… “adventures in mama land” Yes, that’s right. I may not have any actual fame and fortune, but at a respectable 7.5% of all search-engine-directed visits, this means people are actually out there LOOKING FOR MY BLOG. Creepy. Th

Assumptions of Frumkeit

Way in the deep-dark pompous past, my first husband and I knew a young girl (16 or 17?) who we wanted to be makarev (reach out to, spiritually).  I didn’t know much about her except she went to a public school; she wore pants.  (gasp) So we invited her and she came over for Shabbos lunch, carrying a cake she’d baked at home (gasp! on two counts, as there wasn’t a widely-accepted eiruv here at the time).  I just set the cake aside politely; with that iffy eiruv, there was no way any Jew could derive benefit from it on Shabbos, even if it did happen to be kosher. During lunch, conversation turned to Jewish stuff, and at one point, when we were talking (pompously hinting?) about our own journey to frumkeit, I remember she said, “I don’t know… I guess I’ve always been frum.” And we were like – WHAT?  Glanced at each other:  startled, knowing glances that said… Crazy!  If that’s frum, well, I’ll eat my sheitel. Because her family wasn’t at all what we would  have considered fr

All the Suppers… so far

My LIST of all the suppers! Updates: NEW LOGO January 26, 2011 – added for inclusion in the Menu Plan Monday linkup.  See it here , and click HERE to see my most recent Menu Plan Monday entry ! List text last updated NOVEMBER 21, 2010!!! ----- So. I started this food list in January 2010, after almost two years had passed since I last posted a summary of WHAT WE EAT around here. I have cut and pasted and skimmed through several years of suppers to cull a list of dishes organized by category. I've left out desserts, drinks and Shabbos food… it’s just too much work. There are some breads listed here, but for more on bread, see my Bread Blog ! Notes: All of our family food is kosher. If I mention something like cheese on top of chili or spaghetti, assume those dishes contain no meat. We're not vegetarian, but we don't eat meat often during the week We also eat fish, and luckily everybody enjoys it, most of the time. None of us has any s

Meal Plan Mondays: 3 Shevat, 5760

This is just a rough outline.  I plan to go back and fill in details as I decide, day by day.  Meanwhile, here goes… great leap off the cliff called Getting it Together.   For the week of 3 Shevat/January 18: Monday:  Chicken & roasted steak-cut potatoes; squash and chicken soup (mmm!) Tuesday:   Carrot/ginger soup, fresh “ciabatta” bread, tortellini casserole with spinach/cottage cheese and tomato sauce (mmm!  but took WAY long to cook; we didn’t eat ‘till 7:00ish :-o) Wednesday:  Chili w/Cornbread (meat)… except I decided to be lazy and do the cornbread from a mix (PC Organic Corn MUFFIN mix; yeah, I guess I didn’t read that closely enough) and the mix was super-sweet and it tasted like Chili with Cake.  Not a bad combo! Thursday:  Homemade Pizza Shabbos!  TBD You’ll notice I’m keeping it simple.  Nothing fancy for now.  And to make choosing food easier, I hope to go back, look through every Suppers post, and list all the supper dishes in a single post .  I hav


(stand back… I feel an attack of intolerance coming on!) If I was a bigger troublemaker, which I am not, when I met somebody with young children who was working outside the home, here’s what I’d say: “You must do something terribly important for it to take you away from your kids so much of the time!!!” Because 9 times out of 10, they are something that is, okay, maybe kind of interesting, but not really life-or-death, like, say, an editor . I don’t buy the whole second-income thing, as I’ve said before.   Skip the bit that follows in parentheses… it is way too intolerant, even for me. (Even if you are making more than the nanny by a whole lot of money, how much would it be worth to have those extra hours a day with your child?  There is no such thing as “quality time”:  it’s a myth.  You can’t schedule your kids’ cuteness:  their first learning-to-walk; their first underpants; their first cutting-with-scissors (on that brand-new turtleneck!).  Is your husband earning NOT

My Education in Art

I know I already raved the other day about this terrific kids’ art book (one of a series!) that I picked up a week ago for 99 cents at Value Village. HOWEVER. I have to say… I have been reading two pages to the kids at a time, and this is a BRILLIANT book.  Reading this is an education for ME along with the kids. Why? Because I am SO dumb about art, it turns out, that I don’t know where to look.  The author tells you where to look, or at least, what is worth looking at in the painting.  Like, “in the doorway of the church, there is a priest” or “the poet’s thoughts, like flowers, are scattered across the page.”   “The smiling artist means he is happy in  his village.”  (I’m paraphrasing; the author does a much better job than I ever could) I know this is pretty basic stuff, but, well, nobody ever told me where or how to look at the art before.  I just kind of “skim” it, like “that’s nice,” or “I like the colours.”  The colours are important, nice is important, but it’s

Two Tidying/Organizing Memes…

OrgJunkie’s 28-day organizing challenge for February 2010. I’m scared.  But this place needs it.  I’ll be honest:  I have not been in the bathroom downstairs in weeks… because the way is totally blocked with bags and heaps of “send it to Value Village” stuff.  The playroom is practically inaccessible.  The stairs and slide, which would be very useful at this time of year, are similarly coated in junque. So anyway, I don’t want to think about it now, but I definitely want to think about it.  So… February.  That is when I will think about it.  And the basement is where I will do it.  Definitely.  February. The other meme is an ongoing project from the same site:  Yup, between now and tomorrow, I will put together a MENU PLAN of suppers for the entire coming week (leaving out Shabbos).  She says it’s okay to change things around, but I really like the idea of starting the week with a plan.  So now that I’m getting a sense of which are our “easy” days and “hard” days (ie Mond

Gaaaaah! I can’t! Cannot do it anymore!

I have to say it!  I can’t stop myself!  Last year, I made it ‘till February 4th , but a series of warm days this week have totally messed up my seasonal “navigation system,” and I have to HAVE TO shout it from the rooftops: WINTER IS ALMOST OVER. Okay, not technically true.  But as my sister Sara often says (yes, my sisters can be as tedious as me sometimes), there’s more summer in September than there is in June.  Yet we think of June as a summer month, and September as fall.  Ditto with winter.  We think of March as a spring month, but it really is mostly winter, more so than December. What have I just proven?  I think I’ve just gone the other way and proven we have way more winter left to go.  But it’s not true.  Look, I’ll prove it to you!  Look at this chart, courtesy of  See that dip at the very beginning?  Minus THREE.  That’s the average high for a typical January day around here.   ( says that means 27 degrees, for those of you who don’t belie

Boy, erev Shabbos

Two swollen cans of stir-fry vegetables.  Which you’ll be happy to know I refused to use for the massive oven-fried rice dish I put together for the neighbourhood Carlbach Shabbos potluck.  So YM asked if he could take them outside and “explode” them.  (I mentioned to him that a previous can had kind of whooshed when I opened it a couple of weeks ago.  Threw that one away, too, in case you’re curious.) I said he could when he was finished all his erev Shabbos task list.  So here he is,  hard at work! Finally, at the last minute, he leapt up, did some stuff, ran down and had a shower, then came up in his towel and undershirt to write his dvar Torah.   The cans were a disappointment.  Apparently, they didn’t explode, just kind of “whooshed.”  Which is what I expected, but I know boy-boy was hoping for more. We had a nice Shabbos.  Sometimes, I really love this boy.  I love him in these pictures; relaxed and mellow… an iPod Touch will do that to you, I guess. Today (toni

Summer 2010 Coleus: potted and ready to go!

Well…here are the first 12, potted up and ready to shift to the greenhouse downstairs. There are probably at least 12 more in glasses still on the windowsill.  Hopefully, I’ll get to them tomorrow. The potting soil I brought inside in my fit of thaw-day optimism two days ago still has a huge frozen chunk inside.  Unbelievable!g

Six Word Saturday: 2 Shevat, 5760

  Naomi, age 4, at bedtime tonight (tears in her voice), “I do not want to change… I want to grow up and eat lollipops.” I know it’s more than six words… but don’t we all ?

How do you say irony in Yiddish?

I hate calling things ironic , just like I hate calling something a dilemma .  Both words are way overused.  People say “dilemma” for just about any type of problem, and as I will tediously point out (and sometimes neglecting straightforward halachos of honouring parents, in certain people’s case) it’s not technically a di lemma unless it has two horns, or lemmas , each of which is an equally-weighted option, and the person is uncertain which lemma is the appropriate choice.  I realize this is an utterly sophomoric thing for me to point out, in the literal (“having some knowledge but not much”) sense – I don’t know enough about rhetoric to take the discussion much beyond this first-year-philosophy level.  But still.  Once you know something, you notice it.  Same with irony.  And I don’t know if this is ironic, but I  do know the topic of this post will be anticlimactic if you’ve read this far. Yiddish. I love Yiddish, love the look of it (All those yud’s!  The kometz-alef!  G

Shaggy Mop-Haired Boy…

And no, it’s not the one you’d expect!  Though there is unruly blond unmanageable hair, this is actually a photo of Big Boy-boy, about twelve years ago, showing off his magnificent bigness by climbing somewhere he wasn’t supposed to.  And bad, inconsistent mama I am/was, did I stop him?  No, of course… I just took a picture! Sigh.  I remember having a bathtub that actually didn’t look like it had been specially imported from a warzone.

Thaw day

OMG, what an incredible relief it is to see THIS on the thermometer outside: It just makes you feel ALIVE, that’s what. So here’s what else is brewing around the house at the moment…   Wooden front door open for the first time in weeks. Storm window open a crack to let in the nice (if cold ) fresh air. The air outside SMELLS… good.  Smells like spring.  What a tease a day like this can be.   Bag of potting soil, frozen, hauled in from outside, so I can dump it into this…   …stack of square pots that I actually left in a not-too-bad place outside for just such an occasion… so that I can give a home to these…   … windowsill coleus, which are definitely outgrowing their drinking-glass homes! It’s 3:30 p.m. and I am betting the soil is still frozen solid-as-a-rock.  Maybe later?  Those coleus really need – to use a bureaucratic euphemism – to be re-homed. What a joy, what great hope, a warm day in midwinter really can be.