Sunday, January 31, 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.

So now I’m done.  I have to go back and have a peaceful family supper with them all after a fairly frustrating cooped-up day indoors.

Waah.  I wish wish WISH for another computer, or at the very least, another ROOM where a person could go and work privately without five people screaming over her shoulder.

Six Word Saturday: 16 Shevat, 5760

Sad, sick, or just… really LAZY???

Friday, January 29, 2010

Bringin’ Home the Bakin’ (for Shabbos)

DSC06238Trying 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


  • 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 else.

So it was Something Else.  It was a WiFi connection.  She finished her dvar Torah on her iPod Touch and she needed to walk around the neighbourhood until she found an open WiFi connection so she could email it to herself, then come home and print it.

Her iPod is a hand-me-down from boy-boy; it used to be broken, like for 6 months, but now it suddenly works again.

Anyway, it worked and she stomped back inside 5 minutes later complaining about winter in Canada, and how it was too cold to do any tidying outside.  Sheesh.  The tidying outside has become a priority because our neighbours (yes, these neighbours) have moved out and are hoping to fix up and sell their house. 

I know I wouldn’t want to buy a house next to all our driveway junk, so in a fit of  niceness in which she gave us two room fans, I promised to tidy the outside, which I’d had in mind anyway after hearing a neighbourhood rumour that they were selling.

But apparently, today is too cold to tidy.

Oy – I almost forgot:  yesterday!

I have three precious green Muskoka chairs (in the US they’re called Adirondack chairs) that I have found at various curbs around the neighbourhood, and two are by the side of the house in  a nice comfy sitting arrangement.  I had some plants there over the summer as well.

Anyway, in yesterday’s huge winds, one of my precious chairs blew down to the curb… I noticed it when we got home, but was too busy climbing tables in my suddenly-nice neighbour’s garage fetching room fans to move it. 

Until… serving milk to the littles for their lunch, I happened to glance outside and noticed the garbage truck at our curb, and the worker TOSSING THE MUSKOKA CHAIR INTO THE TRUCK!!!

I yelled:  “Aaaaaaagh!”

I dropped the milk (literally, it turned out when I came back inside).

I ran in socks out to the curb and shouted “STOP!!!”

And rescued my chair, which is now back in the driveway where it belongs, sensibly weighted down by a heavy plant pot (which will probably crack over the winter because it was left outside, but that is another story for another day).

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 seemingly “heretical” explanations of the wonders of this week’s parsha) can actually illuminate and strengthen one’s faith.

Did I just use the word “illuminate” twice in this post?  Well, sue me.  It’s 2 a.m., my hands are STILL freezing, and I am STILL on my way to do laundry before bed.


Daily “Classroom” Weather Bulletin Board

weekdays 002Still 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 until I hung it up how weirdly disproportionate the words “ha-avir ha-yom” are at the top, compared with “mah mezeg”… what is with that?)

Anyway.  Overall I think it looks nice, if a little homemade.  It is homemade; I will not be ashamed of that!

The thermometer is not not finished yet in this picture, in case you’re wondering.  I printed paper-doll figures that I hope to have Naomi dress and colour in seasonally appropriate garb, and then I will glue them on, the “summer” one higher and the “winter” one lower on the thermometer I drew on.  I will also add the words “kar bachutz” (cold) and “cham bachutz” (hot) to label the appropriate paper doll.

Here are the other weather inserts we put together (I printed them, Ted stuck them on… with the help of Naomi’s unreliable translations):

weekdays 001 

They do sell Hebrew days-of-the-week posters.  They also sell Hebrew weather posters.  But I wanted one that did it all – or almost all… and now this one does!

Meanwhile:  kar po.  Heat’s off for the night, it is crazy cold outside, and right here in the living room, the temperature is down to 16 and my fingers are going stiff.  Off to fold laundry and watch ER in the warmth of my bedroom (we have space heaters in our room and Elisheva’s, the two coldest because they’re at the back of the house.  Before anybody says anything, I have checked:  the littles’ room stays warm and cozy year ‘round).    (oh, and YM does not need heat, apparently; he sleeps with his window open almost year ‘round)

So g’nite!

Oh.  Speaking of weather… tom0rrow’s expected HIGH:  minus 10 degrees.  Yes, high.  Yes, ten.  Okay, that’s Celsius.  It’s still bloody cold.

UPDATE:  Ta-da!  The finished poster!


p.s.  The paper doll cutouts, clothes, etc are free printables at!!!  Terrific site! 

The Hebrew words are downloaded from

1) Small weather words from “Calendar chart / flashcards” here

2) Days of the week from “Classroom Calendar” here

3) Bit weather words and title from “Today’s Weather Bulletin Board” here

A bit of work to put together, but I am very satisfied…

Thursday, January 28, 2010

A wow risotto supper – under pressure!

puppet 003Why 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.

puppet 004This 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 it starts to whistle and the little safety mechanism pops up, and you can turn the burner down a bit (not too much, however, as then you lose pressure and have to turn it up again).

From the point when the pot reaches pressure, it takes 7 minutes to cook the arborio rice.  However, it’s not exactly a miracle since it maybe took 10 minutes to get to that point.

In any event, I don’t know if it’s the pressure cooking or what, but I wouldn’t do a single thing differently.  Wow.  Amazing.  And super-easy… no side dishes (or homemade bread) required!

And, by the way, a perfect meal for a chilly, lazy, winter evening…

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Chamisha Asar (“Tu”) b’Shvat plans

treestick 001For 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.

imageWe 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 evening last week, I sat with Elisheva peering over my shoulder and we worked out a singable translation which I’m quite proud of.  Cindy Paley has one that is simpler, but I think ours preserves the meaning and the rhyme scheme of the original… so there.

Naomi loves when I sing Hebrew songs in English, and I think I’m getting better at creating meaningful translations.  Though sometimes, it gets a little silly.  I am not really an “O” type of person in real life.  O really, I’m not!

Kach Holchim Hashotlim

Here they come, o planters here!
Song in heart and spade in hand
From the towns across the land
From the valley, from the stand
On Tu Bishvat, on Tu Bishvat.

What brings you, o planters, here?
Dig the soil and harvest found
Dig the marshes all around
From the mountains to the ground
On Tu Bishvat, on Tu Bishvat.

What comes here, o planters, near?
Set a seedling in each space
Let it spread its shady face
And our sorrows all erase
On Tu Bishvat, on Tu Bishvat.

What inspired this is that my sister just called and asked what we’re doing for tu b’shvat, which is on Shabbos.  Not much, not much at all.  The kids gathered a stick from Cedarvale, I stuck it in a blob of air-hardening clay, and we are sporadically gluing green tissue-paper  leaves to it when the inclination strikes. 

Hopefully, we’ll have added a few more, plus some pink “almond blossoms” so it looks less mangy (see top of post) in time for Shabbos.  I don’t mean to put this activity down, by the way… it’s super-easy, with fairly rewarding results, if only because of the size of the branch.  Cheap and easy, using natural materials:  my favourite criteria for a craft!

Hey!  I just started wondering if it might be possible to force a willow or forsythia in time for tu b’shvat?  No reason why not, as far as I can tell.  It is too late for this year, but that might make a great “science” project next year, to demonstrate that the trees are not really dead, just sleeping ‘till winter’s over.

Anyway, I was thinking of doing some more tu b’shvat stuff for our Shabbos Circle Party this week… but it’s also Shabbos Shira, and if we have our act together, I also wanted to decorate tambourines…

Let’s just see how much energy I have to put this all together.  Maybe a song and a tree is enough for this year.

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 smalltalk, but it’s tough when I am the person everybody else can apparently see through to the way-more-interesting-person on the other side of the room.

I am the person who, if somebody is waving at me across a table, I look around behind me first to make sure there isn’t somebody better they’re trying to reach. 

Last night, somebody I wasn’t sure I had ever met before did that.  She wouldn’t stop waving.  So I looked behind me:  nobody.  Pointed at myself, quizzically.  She nodded.  Okay!  Flash the BFS, smile, wave back, relieved and baffled, all at once.  Yay, she wanted ME!  Um, who is she?

I sometimes try hard not to think it’s a money thing.

But the people with money always seem to be absolutely adorable?  And adored by everybody there is to adore them.  They have the right clothes, just grab them and go.  The right hat or sheitel or whatever, and you can bet it’s all set and they look terrific.

But I know it’s not just money, because I have known people of meager circumstances who look simply fabulous.  Who you might guess they didn’t have a million bucks, but they have a personality that shines and a million true friends nevertheless.

We are the people who, when the rabbi circulates, he says, “hi, guys!” enthusiastically, and moves on fast before he has to come up with specifics.

I felt like a ghost for the better part of the evening.

This is something my mother does really well, by the way.  Social stuff.  She can work a room, or she can just sit one-on-one and really listen to somebody.  People LOVE her.  I know because the first time I appeared in shul with her, somebody who’d never given me a second glance swooped over and shouted, “I love your mother!”

I’m usually too scared to connect with somebody more than once, for fear that I have the wrong person.  If they’re wearing a different hat or a different outfit, well, let’s just say there are about three hundred really SIMILAR-looking people in our shul.

Somebody walked up to me in the hall last night.  A person who, like me, was obviously Not Circulating.  A person I have seen at least hundreds of times in shul.  Everybody was doing a double-take when they saw her, so I guess she was more dressed up than usual.  I actually recognized her, but didn’t know her name. 

Luckily, she introduced herself, by name (oh, what a difference!), and said, “I’m the one who sent that email.”  She did, a couple of weeks ago, sent an email to a bunch of people to remind me of something important that we’d all apparently been careless about remembering.

But here is where I did something brave.  Instead of just shrugging or smiling, instead of changing the subject, I took a HUGE leap.  Huge for me.  Probably a baby step for most people.  I said, “I was really glad you sent it.”

Because I was so scared as I said it.  What if it was a different email?  What if she’d emailed about some stupid board meeting or a kids’ program or something completely else?  Still, I figured “glad” was tame enough, just in case I was wrong:  who wouldn’t be glad to be reminded about a board meeting?

And she took a breath and explained why she’d sent the email – like I said, it was something important that we both apparently care greatly about.  And we had a fairly nice (for me) little conversation before her husband came along to rescue her from the layered-cotton-shirt drabling in the hallway (that would be me).

Yes, that was a leap, and I took a few more.  One person told me his last name and I mentioned that I’d taught his mother at the Betel Centre.  It could have been someone else, but I was right, it was the right person and that is how you make conversation.

What would happen if I was wrong?  What if I jumped in and actually made a mistake?

The world would end, that’s all.  I would shrivel up and die of embarrassment, like salt on a slug.

Once, when I was maybe six or seven, I was alone in the park across from our house, and I saw my zeidy at the other end of the park.  I ran over, shouting, “zeidy!  zeidy!”

Dumb.  Of course, it wasn’t him.  Nobody heard me or saw me, that I know of.  The person who might have been my zeidy was too far away to notice the manic skinny flailing green child rushing at him with such enthusiasm. 

Did I mention that I was a skinny, flailing, gawky green person for the first twelve years of my life?

Dumb.  I kicked myself, metaphorically, for hours.  Of course:  it wasn’t the day or time that we usually saw my grandparents, and why would he be walking towards our house from a street at the other end of the park that he never goes to?

I still do not call out people’s names in public unless I get an absolutely clear ID, not just on the face, but everything.  Faces change from day to day along with hair and clothing.  What if I remember a woman because of her facial hair and she goes and has it removed? 

(like what actually happened a few months ago when I didn’t recognize a fairly close family member who I didn’t recognize because he was wearing gloves so I couldn’t see his… ahem.  Distinctiveness.)

At what point can I just declare myself autistic and demand that everybody around me wear name badges until I’ve seen them naked at least a few times?  At that point, I figure we’ve bonded and I’m not likely to mix them up with someone else.

Definitely, at shul, nametags for everybody, even regulars, would make my life much simpler.

What was helpful at this thing last night, apart from hiding in the corner where nobody could see me and smiling continuously but meaninglessly, was that at the end of the evening, they called up some of the major donors by name.  By name! 

They said the name of each could, and then two people would stand up and walk to the front and everybody claps for them.  Okay, I hate that, deep down, I don’t really see why some lovely sleek couple gets clapped because they gave money and we will NEVER have people clap for us because we don’t have enough money to share in multiples of $18,000… but anyway.

The autistic person in me was cheering because these are names that I hear all the time, and faces that I see all the time, and all of a sudden, for a brief instant, they came together.  Of course I know who so-and-so is!  He’s the guy who always nods to me as I’m arriving late for kiddush and he’s heading home.  Of course that is so-and-so!  And isn’t her sheitel gorgeous?

But I have to say, it was a comfort to find a few people, maybe two or three faces, among the rabble at the dessert reception downstairs, who know me, really know me.  Who are reasonably familiar – despite my not having seen them naked ever – and with whom I can bring out the regular smile, ask about stuff in their lives and not feel scared out of my wits that I was mistaking them for somebody else. 

Coincidentally, they were also, by and large, the people who actually took the sweet stuff for dessert… didn’t just pass it over for fruit and coffee.

I may not have come away feeling popular, loveable or rich, but there’s nothing like chatting over chocolate to help me feel better about my abysmally poor social skills.

Monday, January 25, 2010

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:

allen gardens 018

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 toss the bread in the oven to bake and the stew on the burner to come to a boil.

Wednesday:  Pressure cooker sausage risotto

Thursday:  Vegan Vursday!  Beanie burgers

Here goes…

Sunday, January 24, 2010

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 into pitifully small fragments, I feel like a broken record -- if only my kids knew what a record was. Then, it all goes out the window. I wish I could say something useful, but for all I've read and all the classes I've taken, I know if I open my mouth, something terrible might come out, making matters worse. My son will slink off with his "badness," my daughter will curl up with it in bed. Like an ingrown toenail, their negative behavior will become ever more central to a child's identity. "I'm a bad kid," they'll think. "Maybe I'll do something rotten." Aaargh!

A few weeks ago, I realized my pressure-cooker usually blows right before Shabbat when I get overwhelmed by the thousand details that seemingly will never fall into place.

I sympathize when batters slide into home plate -- that's me at candle lighting. And in the middle of it all, my kids would come bounding in, needing snacks, baths, outfits, waving tests, Parsha pages, banana-smelling lunch bags and doodles they'd made on Tuesday but saved just…because. Sometimes, I'd snap. Big problem. Shabbat is supposed to be a joy; something we look forward to, not dread, and I worried that my anxiety would rub off. Then, I looked in the mirror… and found a solution.

This particular Friday, I just finished cleaning the mirrors and was putting away laundry when I spotted window markers we'd bought at Chanukah time. Markers… mirrors… suddenly, they seemed made for each other.

Inside the heart, I wrote the words I feared I might not be able to say later: "100% Adorable."

I started with the full-length hallway mirror. I drew a big heart, at kid-height. I was kicking myself for wasting precious Friday minutes, but something told me this was the most important thing I'd accomplish that day. In a different colour, I wrote "Love Mirror" under the heart. Inside the heart, I wrote the words I feared I might not be able to say later: "100% Adorable." To cover all bases, I added, "…99% of the time." On a roll, I drew a heart on their (clean!) bathroom mirror, right where their faces would be. The message: "Absolutely Perfect."

When the kids arrived, I was extra calm, letting them know I'd love to hear their stories and pictures -- later, on Shabbat. After my son's bath, I spotted him wandering, tzitzit hanging out one way, shirt flying the other, one sock on, trouser legs dragging. Chasing him usually pushes me to my limit. That day, I herded him gently, saying, "Look in the mirror before you come out; be sure you're tucked in and ready."

Eventually, his door creaked open, and I heard footsteps down the hallway. Then, a coo of delight. No sound, and then he was in the kitchen, arms around me. "You're 100% adorable," he laughed, and went off, dressed and ready, to explore the new stash of books we just got from the library.

Since they were babies, it's been my pleasure and honour each Shabbat to "bentsch" [bless] my kids, hand on head, offering traditional blessings. I always ask, "What are you going to be when you grow up?"

The answer is always the same: "a tzaddik" (righteous man) or "a tzadekes" (righteous woman).

"What did you do this week to help you get there?"

The answers are usually small -- "I listened to my teacher" -- but I'm told the greatest journeys begin with the smallest steps.

Not long ago, we read about Joseph and Potiphar's wife. When she tries to seduce him, he flees, and is thrown in jail. Though running away is exactly what we'd expect from Joseph, the Talmud (Sotah 36b) suggests that Joseph was actually about to succumb when he suddenly saw an image of Jacob, his father, in a window.

A window can become like a mirror that reflects what's inside. Some believe that's exactly what Joseph saw -- himself. His own likeness to Jacob pushed him back on the path once and for all.

I have updated our mirror messages a couple of times since that first week. The full-length hallway mirror asks, "You look nice… are you? (I hope so!)" Their bathroom mirror now says, "I'm so proud of my tzaddik / tzadekes in training!"

I want them to keep looking for that person inside, even when I'm not there or not able to say so. Every mirror, it seems, has become a window into my children's eyes.

They are little acorns now, but their ancestors were great oaks; if the winds are right and the soil is rich, they may yet live up to that heritage, no matter how grumpy I get. And instead of a condemning, "How could you?" our Love Mirror reminds them of who they can become, gently challenging: "How could you not?"

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Six Word Saturday: 9 Shevat, 5760

Late night coffee, Torah chat…Bzzzzzzzzz!

FARMVILLE Commercial!! (Ad Parody)

YM passed this along to me. It is SO true... but I can't stop playing! Why???
Fun games? No thanks... I'll be playing FARMVILLE!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Shabbos Food

Shabbos Food
Challah (new recipe)
Chicken Soup w/Kneidlach
Shnitzel thighs
Green beans
Cold chicken
Sprouts salad
Corn salad
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 of a single colour.  Nothing flashy, nothing distracting.  I am really coming to hate flashy educational materials:  worksheets, readers, etc.  The less on the page, the better, as far as I’m concerned.

So, of course, due to the “seconds” thing – the cheapo lifestyle backfires sometimes – we had to skip Book 1, Mat, and started with Book 2, “Sam.”  Naomi was immediately suspicious.  “It’s not a real book – it’s stapled!”  Because I have printed things for her in the past and called them books when, I guess in  her mind, they were not truly books. 

Anyway, I had to haul in a bunch of Robert Munsch and other books off the shelf to demonstrate that inexpensive paperbacks often have staple bindings.  I don’t think I used the word “inexpensive”… I probably just said “real.”

I realized I immediately had to make strict rule for these books because they are SO simple and therefore easy to memorize:  nobody is allowed to read them EXCEPT Naomi.  If you read it to her once, or even if she overheard somebody reading it, she could probably tell the entire plot from memory, cued by fairly explicit pictures.  (not explicit pictures as in… adult pictures; explicit as in the picture has Dot wearing a hat and it says “Dot has a hat.”)

So.  NOBODY reads the books; they are only for her.  I think she likes this rule.  I had to grab one away from YM as he picked it up to read out loud last week.  He is fascinated by Other People’s Stuff.  Come to think of it, everybody here is fascinated by Other People’s Stuff.  Argh.  Don’t ask how I knew he was going to declaim it at the top of his lungs.  He’s my kid, I know him well, and that’s what he would have done, given the chance.

Anyway, once we were past her objection to the books’ format, Naomi read her way pretty handily through Book 2 and also Book 3, “Dot.”

The books are pleasant enough, though the plots are a bit sluggish in the first books.  I think she suspects they will get more lively as her abilities pick up, or perhaps I have said this to her, explicitly or implicitly.  Anyway, I think she is very happy and satisfied so far.

Last weekend, in Chapters, I noticed they had a small selection of these on the shelf, so I took the leap of faith that we will get through the remaining 9 books in Set 1 and picked up Bob Books Set 2-Advancing Beginners.

Now all I have to do is make room in our breakneck homeschool schedule for… SCHOOL.  On Wednesday, I actually took along an alef-bais worksheet to the drop-in gym so she could do it for 5 minutes before being allowed to run around and play.  Which actually worked VERY well, since she was highly motivated to complete the page.  Perhaps it didn’t motivate her to do the best job,  however.

Oh, yeah.  I also just discovered today that Thingamababy, one of my favourite parenting blogs, reviewed the Bob Books almost 2 years ago.  I wonder why I never noticed it until now…?  So you can check out what he has to say – about Bob Books and a world of other baby-related and kid-related gadgets and gear, from videos to toys to nose suckers.

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.

sprouts 002Here 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.

newsprouts 002

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.

sprouts 004Here’s my sprouting rig, btw.  Just checked and I bought it just about this time last year!  I remember wandering around The Big Carrot, probably searching for my just-dead father, but the sprouter (EasySprout) actually was kind of a consolation.

I tried sprouting in different things for a while… I was especially drawn to the concept of basket sprouting.  Basically, you take an unfinished cheap woven basket (unshellacked bamboo) and you spread the seeds in there and rinse it every 12 hours or so after the initial soak.

However, the baskets invariably got moldy; no amount of rinsing could prevent the edges from turning fuzzy, and that was not a happy thing to have in my nice fresh healthy salad.

I have also sprouted with great success in plain cotton bags, by the way.  They’re great for mung and wheat.  I’ve done a lot of wheat for bread baking – most people don’t realize that whole-grain wheat kernels (wheat berries) in health-food stores are still alive and just waiting to sprout, given the right conditions.  Once sprouted, you can use them in breads, ground or whole or partially ground depending on the texture you want.

Anyway, so, sprouting.  That’s what I’m up to.

And while I was taking the picture of the sprouter to brag and blog about my healthy lifestyle, I realized there was a tremendous little irony happening in the background…  

sprouts 003

Yes, alongside the EasySprout, these are indeed the fixings for a Coke float.  I made one out of my ice cream at Elisheva’s birthday a few weeks ago and now I keep dreaming of them.

So sue me.  I never claimed to be some kind of health expert.  I do try to eat healthy stuff sometimes, if only to balance out all the rest.

Alfalfa and Cola.  Mmm, mmm, mmm.

Let’s just call those two items this week’s Garden High and Low, shall we?

After a fight…

newsprouts 001Well, 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 works.

But I do love her at moments like the above-left piece of paper.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

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]?”


“It’s a samech, actually; two samechs, in ‘soos’ and ‘soosa’.”


Dodged a bullet!  And furthermore, proved the wisdom of waiting for children to collect their thoughts BEFORE answering their “deep” questions…

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

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…


“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.

Though I guess reading blog stats at midnight trumps that creepiness. Bed; now.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

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 frum.  Meaning the father wore a kippah srugah, the kids went to public high schools.  The mother didn’t cover her hair except with a flimsy hat, and then, only in shul, not on the bus to work.  The family davened at a “modern” Orthodox shul near us – the one we wouldn’t have gone into if it was the last shul in town.

So now I sometimes look at people who are more velvet-kippah than us, more black-hat, more turban-and-shtreimel than us, more big-house-at-Bath/Lawrence than us…or whatever it might be… and, well, I wonder if they’re looking at us, talking about us, wondering how they could possibly be mekarev us, bring us closer to the light of a Torah way of life. 

Convince me to wear knee highs, tights or (gasp!) pantihose.  Convince Ted to go learn more often (okay, that would be nice!).  Convince me that my spare time would be better spent in shiurim than sign language.  Convince us that our children should have exclusively Jewish friends. 

Convince us to build safe, insular Jewish lives to protect what frumkeit we have struggled to attain.  I have to admit, the appeal of it is clear.  However, I also have to admit that I’m breathing easier this year at Elisheva’s school, where I can turn up in a ballcap or a tichel or whatever and not be the only mama not wearing a sheitel.  In fact, it’s a pretty sure bet that some mamas won’t have their heads covered at all, something I haven’t seen for a few years.

And I like it.  But is that because I truly believe that there is a spectrum of yiddishkeit and each of us must work out our own place… that whether or how I cover my hair, and live my Jewish life, is essentially a private matter between me and Hashem.

Or is it just the old arrogance, resurfacing?  Is it because I get to feel super-frum compared to the mamas who don’t cover their hair at all, the ones I see around the community in pants?

I like to think I’ve matured since those deep-dark crazy-BT days when you couldn’t be truly “frum” unless you were “MY kind of frum.”  But I don’t truly know. 

The shul, by the way… the one my first husband and I wouldn’t have gone into if it was the last shul in town?  Well, we ended up living quite close, and I had young kids, and we were on our own, and, well, after a while it became our Synagogue of First Recourse.  I never did love it – too geriatric for my taste – but the rabbi and rebbetzin were very kind to us and the kids’ program wasn’t terrible. 

Bobov, it wasn’t… but it turned out neither was I.

Monday, January 18, 2010

All the Suppers… so far

kosher foodMy LIST of all the suppers!



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!


  1. 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.
  2. We're not vegetarian, but we don't eat meat often during the week
  3. We also eat fish, and luckily everybody enjoys it, most of the time.
  4. None of us has any significant allergies, so we eat dairy, wheat, etc., all that good old-fashioned stuff.
  5. I try to push our dietary envelope slightly beyond the ordinary.
  6. I’m currently trying to include one vegan meal a week ("Vegan Vursdays"). Sometimes, my family rebels and plops grated cheese or sour cream on top of a vegan meal – I don’t stop them.  I’m doing it because I want to minimize our impact and dependence on animal products, and increase awareness… plus, I love a cooking challenge!

(our Thursdays are usually meatless anyway, for kind of the same reason that Catholics don’t have it on Fridays… going without for a day heightens one’s enthusiasm for the “special” meat meal on Shabbos…a little.)

(**for my own recordkeeping, I have now included all suppers from now going back to the beginning of February 19, 2009)


  • Roasted-roma-tomato bisque
  • Pumpkin-carrot / ginger lightly curried soup (no dairy or coconut milk, just puréed for thickness)
  • Black bean & roasted red pepper
  • Mushroom barley soup
  • Carrot-ginger (pareve w/coconut milk or dairy w/evapo)
  • Chicken and roasted squash (can add a bit of cider)
  • Steak soup with tons of veggies
  • spicy corn chowder
  • Potato-Leek Soup
  • Leftover Shabbos chicken soup
  • creamy sweet potato soup
  • chicken/corn soup
  • creamy corn soup ( Imagine) from a package (Ted thought we should try it).
  • tinned Campbell's veggie soup
  • "French" onion soup
  • Mushroom soup from tins
  • Mushroom soup from scratch (harder, but tasty!)
  • Hot and Sour soup
  • Pea soup
  • "Fake" potato-corn soup with potato flakes, creamed corn, chicken soup powder, evaporated milk
  • Cream of broccoli soup (homemade)
  • Multi-veggie fleishik soup
  • Zucchini/veg puree soup
  • Carrot-zucchini soup (with a bit of potato), based loosely on this one but that actually looks a bit lame
  • Zesty potato corn chowder
  • Super-easy potato flakes and creamed-corn "fake soup."
  • easy broccoli soup (instant soup w/cooked broccoli; puree, add evapo milk 'till yummy)
  • Emergency miso soup (instructions here)


  • Potato buns
  • Semolina Bread
  • Homemade pletzl
  • Sweet cinnamon-swirl oat bread
  • Oat bread
  • Maple-oat bread
  • Beer bread
  • Injera
  • home-baked Rosemary Focaccia
  • Indian flatbreads: poori or naan
  • Tortillas – love the flatbreads!  
  • Joy-of-cooking sourdough cornbread (on top of chili)
  • Homemade herb bread
  • Garlic bread – not really a kind of bread, just regular bread toasted with garlic and butter on it!
  • Scallion pancakes
  • I'm thinking of taking out this section. For more on breads, visit my bread blog!


  • Pasta Variations:
    • Tortellini casserole with spinach/cottage cheese and tomato sauce
    • Penne casserole with cottage cheese & spinach (same as above)
    • Lasagna
    • Fettucine alfredo with fake-crab in the sauce (This is an exotic French ingredient! You pronounce it “faké crâb”
    • homemade spaghetti w/sundried tomato sauce
    • TED-MADE PASTA w/tomato sauce
    • impromptu "casserole" - ww bowties with creamy sauce made of the rest of the cottage cheese (not much), cream cheese (not much), spicy braided mozzarella (yum!), evaporated milk (lots), garlic (lots), salt and pepper
    • Macaroni,
    • Pasta with roasted-tomato sauce
    • Store-bought tortellini tossed with homegrown chard and garlic pan-fried in butter
    • Any pasta with easy homegrown-tomato rosé sauce (in season)
    • Homemade ravioli (never again, at least 'till kids are older) (oops, I did it again!)
    • Spaghetti with Yves Ground “Meat”
  • Meat Variations:
    • Beef stew made with AB’s beefy broth (make broth the night ahead)
    • Melissa D'Arabian's North African Meatballs
    • Sloppy joes (YM's birthday supper)
    • Indian spinach / lamb stew (tomatoey, serve over rice & w/indian flatbreads)
    • Beef ribs, crock pot overnight (link here)
    • Chili with cornbread (OR beer bread!) on top (family favourite!)
    • Meat stew
    • Pan hamburgers with mushroom sauce
    • Shepherd's pie
    • Ted fried Lazer Yitzchok sausages (amazing!)
    • Steak on the barbecue
    • Pressure cooker sausage risotto
    • Spaghetti with meatballs (could be chicken/turkey, too)
    • Hot dogs on the barbecue - boil them first for optimum fatness
    • Hamburgers on the barbecue
    • Hamburgers baked inside buns (looks bloody, tastes amazing!)
    • Skewered chicken on the BBQ - coconut-milk marinade
    • Steak. We all love steak!!
    • Meatloaf
    • Turkey sliders from Kosher by Design
    • Rice-a-Roni with ground beef (I think we didn’t like this much?)
  • Chicken variations:
    • Paul Newman Sesame-Ginger marinated boneless thighs on BBQ
    • Crock-pot sticky chicken or chicken wings
    • Buffalo chicken wings
    • Oven Sticky chicken wings (homemade teriyaki sauce - yum!)
    • Chicken & roasted steak-cut potatoes
    • Chicken puff pastries (w/leftover BBQ chicken)
    • Frozen chicken nuggets
    • Superstore chicken
    • sweet/sour chicken meatballs
    • stirfried chicken
    • Chicken and rice baked together in one pan (a family favourite!)
    • Pad Thai with rice stick noodles and peanut-buttery homemade thai sauce
    • stir-fry of garden peas, onions, red pepper and chicken in a peanut-butter sauce (kind of the same as above)
    • Chicken with coconut breading
  • Vegan main dishes:
    • Pareve polenta w/wine & mushroom sauce?  Roasted veg?
    • Homemade spinach pasta tossed in tinned diced tomatoes (pic here)
    • Falafel Veggie Burgers from Kosher by Design
    • Chili with cornbread (OR beer bread!) on top (family favourite!)
    • Ethiopian stews
    • Pareve (vegetarian, thick and hearty) stew
    • Perogies
    • Beanie burgers
    • Indian curry meal: potato/pea curry & tofu "paneer" darbari
    • Peanut-butter sauce tofu stir-fry on rice stick noodles
    • Oven-fried rice, with chinese veg and tofu to make it a main course
    • Fettucine with Vegan Alfredo sauce
  • Fish
    • Fish and chips – halibut deep-fried in beer batter – yum!
    • Frozen fish sticks
    • Teriyaki salmon
    • Tuna Noodle Casserole (from Kosher by Design Teens & 20s)
    • Cheapo frozen salmon.
    • Corny Salmon cakes
    • steamed turbot
    • Creamy salmon puff pastries (salmon salad, prepared pastry squares – easy!)
    • Take the fish, fry it in a pan; easy!
    • Salmon quesadillas
    • Salmon patties with lemon thyme and chives
    • Nice salmon fillets or steaks (steaks not so good for littles, though)
    • salmon baked with a pineapple-salsa covering
    • Salmon croquettes with lots of veggies mixed in and CREAM CHEESE mixed in - mmm...
    • Ted-made Lemon salmon
    • Dr. Praeger (the healthy kind) fish sticks
  • Vegetarian main dishes
    • Takeout pizza
    • Homemade pizza
    • Roasted Wheat and Celery au Gratin (old Recipes for a Small Planet recipe)
    • Quiche – various (red pepper, garden chard)
    • Takeout falafel
    • Matzah Brei, the supper of last recourse
    • Fresh corn on the cob - in season, maybe with soup, a meal in itself!
    • Baked Potato Bar - assorted toppings (can include chili for a more robust meal)
    • Leftover from Shabbos Pumpkin-Barley Risotto
    • Polenta! It is amazing! The best food!
    • Oven-baked mushroom crepes
    • Homemade perogies (dough recipe link here)
    • Scalloped potatoes w/ fake crab & mushroom soup


  • Lettuce Salad w/Mango-Poppy Dressing
  • Latke-mix latkes
  • Spinach rice pilaf (with frozen Bodek spinach – easy!)
  • Couscous; with raisins for North-African meatballs meal!
  • Corn fritters - made with beer, mmm...
  • Sobey's takeout Shanghai noodles
  • Madhur Jaffrey basmati rice
  • storebought Superstore samosas
  • mashed potatoes,
  • stir-fried multicolour peppers
  • crusty baguette bread
  • vermicelli rice - nowhere to be found anymore :-(((
  • tinned peas
  • Basmati rice
  • Beans
  • Corn
  • French fries
  • Stir-fried multi-coloured fresh local seasonal peppers
  • Ditto only not fresh local… Peppers from Afar, with a bit of balsamic
  • Roasted local red and golden beets (yay, farmers' market!)
  • Fresh garden-grown peas
  • YM-made roasty potatoes
  • Instant mashed potatoes
  • Package of tabouli
  • Super-sticky Sweepoes (peel, cut, roast in oven, douse in homemade teriyaki sauce)
  • Roasted beets
  • The default: frozen vegetables

Enjoy!!!  I hope this list inspires somebody… it has certainly helped my own family pick and choose meals from time to time.

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 have done this before, but it was a Loooooong time ago.

In case you’re curious, and missed it twice in the previous paragraph, here is a link to All the Suppers so far – last updated, as of almost exactly TWO years ago. 

Suppers have become a lackluster affair here, and I hope to get back some of the fun of cooking by organizing our meals a bit.  Let’s just see how THAT works…

Sunday, January 17, 2010


(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 NOTHING, that you absolutely must have two after-taxes, after-nanny/daycare, take-home paycheques?)

Okay, you can keep reading now.

I have one friend who’s an oncologist.  I won’t use the line on her.  Not that I would use it on anybody, because in person I am kind of mild-mannered (understatement!!!).  Unopinionated to the point of wallpaper paste.

Anyway, oncology is terribly important.  I’d feel dumb asking.  “What are you doing there everyday, away from your kids?  Curing cancer?… Oh, yeah.  Right.”

(though I did read last week that they are going crazy treating pre-breast cancer and that most of those “pre-cancerous” things they’re hauling out of women would never have become tumours or anything life-threatening at all)

Do I believe someone like an oncologist should throw her entire career out of whack and get mommy-tracked so that she never recovers, professionally, even after her kids graduate from high school, because she’s so many years behind that she retires way behind her male and childless colleagues? 

Tough question.

Maybe, if the mommy did have a really important job, I’d hope for an abba who was willing to step in and be home with them as long as possible.

And what if they were both rescuing endangered turtles, curing cancer, launching space shuttles, or whatever?

A young, hip bubby; maybe.  Maybe they could call me to rescue their children.

Ha ha ha ha ha.  Maniacal cackle.  Did I mention I hate other people’s kids…???

Did I mention I don’t have any answers?  Just some big, big questions, like everybody else.

My Education in Art

artbook 001

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.


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.


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 also important to know that the poet’s head is on upside-down for a reason.

Naomi Rivka is not QUITE as fascinated as I am, though she will talk about the paintings a bit, but the text is engaging, and brief, enough, that she listens nicely, understands, and is not overwhelmed.

Also, the pages are organized so everything you need to know about a painting is organized on the facing page, so you are always looking at the art while you talk about it.  That makes a big difference.

I have great hope that the other books in this series, which I ordered online, will be equally wonderful.  What a find!

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 Mondays, when I have my signing class, plus Ted’s late day, plus Thursdays because of my aerobics class, plus any day when I’m out with the kids every single minute)… I can theoretically plan around them to have the easy suppers on the hard days and vice-versa.


Let’s see how it goes!!!

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:


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 believe water freezes at zero like we do)


So anyway… if you zoom in a bit on the details, you’ll notice that ‘round about mid-January, we enter three weeks of minus-three’s in a row.   That’s where we are right now.

Then, on precisely February 9th, things start to turn around.  On February 8, the average high is –3.  On February 9th?  Minus-two.  After a week more of that, the temps go up by an average of ONE DEGREE every single week.

Stuff like this, it keeps me going. 

In honour of another tease of an above-zero day, I got the kids out to Laughlin and Cedarvale for a lovely two-hour walk.  Combination of playground fun and nature fun:  my favourite.  We admired seeds of all kinds, found sticks, poked puddles, with only one catastrophic slip-and-fall and head-bang on a particularly icy patch. 

Luckily, there was a big-boy friend GZ was trying to impress, so he didn’t cry too much.

I know today was a tease.  I know next week is supposed to be colder.  I know we have to get through all those minus-threes and even (horrors!) minus-tens before we make it to the thaw.  And I also know – as someone so kindly pointed out last year – that with rising temps, precipitation goes up. 

The new improved Downsview Park snow dump is still empty and it’s already late January.

I know all that.  I know warm weather isn’t always better weather.  And I know that months can come in like lambs and go out like lions, or whatever they do.  It is always darkest before the dawn, right?

I don’t know what I’d do if I lived in Nunavut; I mean, I guess at some point, the weather must still turn around and start getting warmer, but “warmer” is all relative.  What I live for is the above-zero days in February and March, though even those are a tease for real spring.

Hey, maybe I’ll go order some petunias!  Here’s what I’ve chosen for this year:  Laura Bush Petunias.  No, they’re not “bush petunias.” For whatever reason, they are named after the former president’s wife.

The main reason I’ve picked them is that they are “old-fashioned” petunias, meaning THEY HAVE A SMELL.  I’m out of seed for the petunias I’ve grown the last couple of years, and besides, I would prefer a solid colour.  But my main criterion, and you’d know this if you’ve read any of my past petunias rhapsodies, was that they must SMELL NICE.  (here’s another past petunias rhapsody)

Petunias have been overbred commercially to get all kinds of desirable characteristics.  They must be bushy (not as in President Bushy), they must fill in gaps, they must be small, or big, or double or whatever… but very few people are breeding SMELLY petunias, which is exactly what I want.

Hence, the appeal of Laura Bush.  Pretty cheap and easily available; better order soon so they’re ready to start later on next month!!!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Boy, erev Shabbos

breads 015

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!

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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.

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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 (tonight, 2 Shevat) is our anniversary:  six years today!  Yay!  The longest, most exhausting years of my life, but as Garrison Keillor might say, we are still married.

Summer 2010 Coleus: potted and ready to go!

breads 019Well…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?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

How do you say irony in Yiddish?

ymwithbananaI 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 dilemma 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.


I love Yiddish, love the look of it (All those yud’s!  The kometz-alef!  Guaranteed to drive a pure Hebrew speaker crazy!), love the sound of it.

I have tried at various times in my life to learn it, speak it, read it, etc.  To my Auntie Sally, it’s unfathomable that I don’t just innately understand Yiddish.  I’m sure lots of people have a relative like this.  You assure them you don’t speak Yiddish, so they shift for a few words into English, a few words into Yinglish, and the rest of the lightning-speed conversation is pure, not-understood, Yiddish. 

“Ich redst nisht Yiddish” is the phrase they teach you to tell people you don’t understand, but since many Yiddish-speakers are from the Old Country, they take your fluent grasp of this one phrase to mean that you DO speak Yiddish.

I was so excited to become frum because there are two groups of people who speak Yiddish – one very old and old-world, and one very young and frum, namely the Pre-1A class at Yesodei HaTorah.

But YM didn’t go into Pre-1A at Yesodei HaTorah.  Instead, after his very frum, very Yiddish, very wonderful kindergarten year at “Yesoidei” he went back to SK at the BJCC, and on to Grade 1 in our friendly not-so-local dati-tzioni day school.

That was for many reasons.  He wasn’t ready for a full-day, at-a-desk learning experience (is he yet, at 15?).  I didn’t love what I’d heard about the Pre-1A rebbe (though he was the same one we’d gone to during YM’s upsherin).  I couldn’t afford it, and couldn’t handle the shlep to daycare in the middle of my work day.

One of the things I deeply regretted was that he would never speak Yiddish.

But at the time I was also happy that he was getting a greater share of Zionism than he’d received in the previous school.  Yom HaAtzmaut was a nonentity, and many of the Hebrew songs (and concepts) I’d grown up with were gone from the curriculum there.

So I was moderately pleased and figured maybe the better Hebrew made up for the non-existent Yiddish.  Since I had to choose and everything.  And the Hebrew felt like a better fit for our family.  Why?  Are we not as Ashkenazi as the others?  What is so innately wonderful about Hebrew that we need to drop the thousand-year-old language my grandparents were born with?

(I know of only one school in town that tries to give time to both languages, and what it accomplishes linguistically does not make up for the lack of religious education)  (okay, maybe two schools TRY, but don’t get very far)

(and okay, I know what is wonderful about Hebrew, and no, Yiddish is not Lashon HaKodesh or anything, but for a largely Ashkenazi school to largely disregard Yiddish culture is, I feel, somewhat negligent)

Enough parentheses.  My time with you is drawing short because Gavriel Zev will wake up soon so I will zip ahead to the punchline.

YM’s rosh yeshiva addresses the kids almost ex clusively in Yiddish.  Apparently, he’s going to be YM’s rebbe next year.  He admits he only picks up about 75%, but that’s up from 50% at the beginning of the year.

Now, granted, it’s not the Yiddish of my grandparents.  What they spoke is what I think of as Polish everyday Yiddish.  What he’s learning is “yeshivish,” which contains so many Hebrew and Aramaic words, essentially mispronounced, that my grandparents and their generation would probably never have understood it.

But I do hope he’ll pick up enough to get by in a conversation, if he has to.  I honestly believe he will soak it up through his pores if he’s in a sink-or-swim setting.  I mean, it is his heritage, right?  On the other hand, there’s my Auntie Sally’s misplaced optimism in my own comprehension.  Now there’s a dilemma!

So I do think it’s ironic, (but to get back to where I started, feel free to suggest that it is not, in fact, irony), that after having spent so many years bemoaning the loss of Yiddish in my family, it may not actually be entirely lost.  25% lost, maybe, but that’s not bad… especially after so many years away.

Shaggy Mop-Haired Boy…

ymvbigAnd 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.