Sunday, February 28, 2010

No more nummies, Birthday Girls!

naomi's birthday cakenaomi's birthday 024

Here they are!  My birthday sister and my birthday daughter.  Amazing.  Naomi’s birthday is usually more in between Sara’s and Abigail’s, but this year, they’re only 2 days apart.  Next year, it will be more like a few weeks, because it’s a leap year on the Jewish calendar.

In this picture, Naomi is holding a much-coveted Barbie doll… now one of three (eek) in her brand-new collection.  She actually gasped and hugged the first one in amazement.  Numbers two and three, not so much.  Honestly, I think maybe she only needed one.  But now she owns three and a little closet to keep the clothes in.  Eek, and eek again.

So our nummies is officially Over.

No, not Abigail.  Ewww…

Naomi had her last nummies on Thursday night at bedtime.  Friday morning when she woke up was not a big deal, because she hadn’t had it in the mornings for a while.

Friday was a busy day and she didn’t need a nap.  Phew!  Friday night at bedtime was fine because it was late and she was exhausted.

Shabbos at night I was home alone with the two littles and managed to nummy Gavriel Zev while reading a book to distract Naomi Rivka.  It worked.  She slept fine.

Five is definitely Old Enough.  There are folks who would have said one is old enough.  With eyes rolling:  “how long are you planning to nurse her?”  Well, now they can move on to Gavriel Zev.  After all, he’s almost three and still having nummies:  scandalous!

Naomi’s only asked for it once since Thursday, and then kind of jokingly.  I think I’ll let her touch as much as she wants, but so far she hasn’t tried.  She used to do it sometimes in the morning when she woke up, knowing she couldn’t have any but wanting to be close anyway.

So here’s my old ticker:

But it’s not true anymore, so I’m setting up a new one.  I don’t know whether to keep the date – I have indeed been nursing continuously for 5 years and one week.  But Gavriel Zev’s nummies only started when he was born.  Hmm…

Okay.  Here’s the new one!

Lilypie Breastfeeding tickers

I don’t like how it starts at Naomi’s birth, but feel I deserve some credit for five years… FIVE years!!!  That sure isn’t nothing.

Another beautiful shot of the birthday princess in full regalia:

naomi's birthday 008

Six Word Saturday: 14 Adar, 5770 (Purim!)

    purim 021 new

Happy Purim!  Love, your mother (Earth).

(click the picture for an embarrassing close-up…)

Friday, February 26, 2010

Shabbos Food

Supper:  Out tonight at Mommy’s.  Bringing:

Lunch… I really must get going on this:

  • Challah
  • Broccoli Quiche
  • Ted’s Special Pareve Cholent (Ted made it last night)
  • Salsa-baked gefilte fish (Ted made it last night)
  • Blintzes (store-bought, but Ted fried them up last night)
  • Apple Compote
  • Roasted zucchini & red peppers
  • Pumpkin-Cranberry Streusel Spice Cake (spice cake from a mix)

Hamentastic Hamentashen – traditional and not-so-much

Traditional hamentashen (recipe here – yes, I did give this recipe only 3 stars for its extreme oiliness, but it turns out very sturdy hamentashen, which is my main criterion for packing..)

tashen 002

But, in this year’s big Purim reveal:  in a fit of inspiration, I decided the gingerbread hamentashen should be filled not with pumpkin, as I’d originally planned (I even had the tin of filling right here, waiting, but with CHOCOLATE.  I found this great filling recipe that is almost a brownie, but still gooey enough to have the proper “filling-like” consistency.

Elisheva, who does not like gingerbread very much (according to my review of the gingerbread recipe, last year she called it “medicine-y”), has officially proclaimed these delicious.  Chocolate and gingerbread… I didn’t think it could work, but my sister Sara suggested a few weeks ago that this was not such an unheard-of thing.  And then last night it came to me, and here they are.

So thank you, Sara.  They truly are delicious, and we will try to save you one!

Here are the circles, waiting to be pinched shut; looks like chocolate on chocolate, but they’re not…

 tashen 007

Okay, they still look like chocolate on chocolate after they’re baked.  I’ll have to include a note, I guess, warning people.  Just like Dr. Pepper when you’re expecting Coke, I’d imagine chomping on ginger when you’re expecting chocolate is just NOT a nice surprise.

 tashen 009

And here is the inside.  Very gooey in this picture because it was still warm, but I just had one now – scientifically testing them for deliciousness – and they are indeed still lovely.

 tashen 012

So, SO happy with this discovery!!!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Someone you know is being abused

I always thought teenagers were a joke; a cliché… I dunno.  Based on memories of my own teenagerhood, I figured they were more surly than little kids, more independent, less interested in their parents’ ideas.  “Whatever, mom.”  Right???

In this household, saying a teenager is sometimes surly is like saying alcoholics sometimes slur their words.  It is definitely true.  But it is also definitely the tip of the iceberg, because in addition to the almost cute slurring thing, alcoholics lose control to the extent that they damage property, abuse family members and often destroy any semblance of peace in their lives.

There are more similarities than differences here.

Surly, it seems, is a good day.  Like just a bit tipsy might be for an alcoholic.

A bad day is more like today.  YM  comes home late but docile, subdued from lack of eating (it’s Taanis Esther today, the fast before Purim), goes straight downstairs to lie down or fiddle with his Rubik’s Cube, or whatever.

Whereas the Other One did not.  Not docile; not subdued.  Angry because I couldn’t pick her up at school.  Angry because she was hungry; because I suggested she wait a bit before eating.  Because nobody in her class is fasting, apparently.

Kicking, screaming, breaking-up-naptime angry.  I sent her outside for ten minutes to settle her down – it’s five minutes if the kiddies are awake, 10 if they’re sleeping.  She was more or less settled until I realized she’d kicked and cracked my huge dough-making bucket which I need TODAY to make dough for shalach manos.

So I handed her a twenty and two bus tickets and sent her out to buy a new bucket.

I make it sound easy, because what it was was fifteen minutes of screaming and kicking and throwing stuff around.  And I push her sometimes, gently, never hit, but I flinch when I have to go near her when she’s in this kind of a mood.  I’m sure one of these days I’ll get hit – again.


If someone tells you constantly that you are worthless, that what you do doesn’t matter, that they hate you… and if they’re occasionally slamming things on you or kicking you or breaking your stuff… well, if it were anyone else, that would be called abuse.  Even if they justify it by saying you provoked their rage.  Even if they say sorry afterwards and tell you how much they love you and it will never happen again.  (Or is it especially if they do that?)

If it is your teenage daughter, well, it’s just horrifying.  And sad.  Really, really sad.  I am so sad because this feels like a broken relationship and it feels like I am getting beaten up, almost on a daily basis, and all I can do is hang in there and get through it the best I can.

… it’s now three hours later, and I’m much calmer.  But exhausted.  Up and down, up and down.  Sure do feel pretty beat up most days.  Meanwhile, we had a great supper together and Elisheva has volunteered to iron something I need for the shalach manos.  So life is good…right?

First hamentashen

Here are the first hamentashen of the year, going into the oven (yes, at 1 a.m.).

Dough – an incredibly sticky oily dough that is murder to work with until it gets a bit floured up.   Didn’t help that I forgot the sugar.  Doh!  Poured it on top of the finished dough and did my best to mix it in with the hand mixer; dough was flying everywhere.  The final result was a bit crunchy but hopefully the sugar was evenly distributed and it will all come out good in the baking.

doughytashen 008

Cookies – the classic prune lekvar filling from scratch with home-stewed prunes (ew!) and orange zest.

 doughytashen 009

It is truly magical how they turn from cut-out circles into triangles.  I have been doing it so long, I forget how wonderful it is… and then I see the kids watching me and I catch myself out of the corner of my eye, folding them up quick quick quick and remember.  Circle… triangle!  Circle… triangle!  Amazing.

Only one opening up a bit, as you can see here (2nd from the left on the bottom row of 4, starting to gape even before going into the oven). 

I think this is must be a good omen.  May all our hamentashen this year remain intact and tightly closed.

On a very apropos note, I taught Naomi how to make foolproof triangles:  anytime, anywhere.  She was getting frustrated because every time she tried, they’d turn into squares.  So I told her:  make three dots, anywhere; easy.  Now join the dots.  She has been making fancy triangles all day since I showed her!

I never thought about this before… just kind of take it for granted:   how to draw a triangle.  I guess everybody has to learn sometime.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Purim Cards… Part 1

Purim 2010 donation cardsBecause of the every-year craziness of Ted having to deliver 30-something shalach manos (mishloach manot) packages, plus the craziness of our list having expanded to almost fifty this year, I gave up.

My white flag of submission is this postcard, which I mailed this morning to twelve of our not-so-nearest-and-dearest, mostly rabbis and people with whom we don’t have close social connections. In conjunction with creating these postcards and printing them out on dollar-store glossy inkjet paper, I also made a decent-sized (for us) donation to Tomchei Shabbos, a food bank organization here which distributes boxes of kosher food (boxes we received more than once, long ago). That donation is on top of our regular matanos l’evyonim – of course. It is a mitzvah to give tzedakah on Purim, but this is way more than we would have given ordinarily.

The text reads:

It’s not that we don’t love to come straight to your door

It’s just that each year we have more friends and more

And so in your honour we’ve made a donation

So every family can share our celebration

Thanks to Tomchei Shabbos, every family has food

So they can join in with a Purim-time mood

A freilichn Purim from our clan straight to yours

…but we really will miss knocking on all those doors!

Okay, the rhymes are a little off. So sue me; they’re not bad. The usual excuses: it was late…and I was tired.

Tomchei Shabbos actually does sell their own Purim cards, but I didn’t get those for two reasons: 1) Kosher City was all sold out of them when I went on Sunday, and 2) they are not nearly as creative as my own! I actually paid more than what it would have cost for the same number of cards, and provided the paper myself…

Feeling pretty good about myself, as you can tell!

Now to make and assemble 30 baskets of baked Purim goodies… not that anything is baked yet. My mother’s been finished her hamentashen for probably two weeks now. Not me!

P.S. To read the continuation of this fascinating Purim saga, please click here.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Indoor Growing Report!

See?  I’ve been good!  I haven’t updated since last Tuesday, even though I have tons of progress to report.

So with no apologies, I offer this brief roundup of… how’s it growing???

First, the teeny baby coleus (Wizard Sunset), after almost two weeks above the soil, now look like this:

allentrip 014

Not much bigger.  But there are more of them.  Bottom heat would have helped immensely, as I now know from the Black Dragon coleus I sowed at the same time as the herb seeds, a week ago last Sunday, which have all popped their heads up nicely.  They’re the back four Jiffy pucks in this tray:

allentrip 012

After the coleus, the other four rows are (back to front) flat parsley (kind of rooting), curly parsley (starting to sprout), Red Rubin basil (growing nicely), and Genovese basil (growing prodigiously in the front row).

allentrip 013Finally, but not leastily, the annual flowers… the petunias and lobelia that were SO tiny when I posted just last Tuesday have filled in tremendously, as you can see.

For the petunia, there are a respectable 3-5 seedlings in each cell.  The lobelia are such tiny seeds that there are dozens and dozens in each cell, but they are easy to snip with a tiny pair of nail scissors.  I thin them out a few times until there are just a few in each cell, with plenty of space for everybody.

Hooray for green things!!!

Amazing leaf: Allen Gardens

allentrip 006This is a small section of a HUGE leaf.  You can see the tip of my thumb holding it down so I could take the picture.  I just find it so astonishing that not only is it elaborately quilted, it has a perfect “rolled” hem around its outside edge.

Nice time had by almost all at Allen Gardens today.  Naomi got “stung” petting a cactus that looked like it had smallish fuzzy white spots on its pads.  In reality, each patch of “fuzz” was about a million tiny needles.  Who knew??? 

So she wailed the rest of the time there and part of the way home,with Gavriel Zev feeding her pretzels because her hands didn’t work.  Sara saw spines still in Naomi’s skin even after rinsing a couple of times from a water bottle, but we soaked and washed them well once we got home and I didn’t see anything.  They were still painful, apparently, but she managed to fall asleep in record time. 

Gavriel Zev is still – almost an hour and a half later – lying in bed singing and cooing to his friends.  If he doesn’t fall asleep with nummies, it takes him forever to get there. 

And meanwhile, I’m just sitting here.  Exhausted.

Signs of spring… sigh…

allentrip 003

Kosher Menu Plan Monday (kinda): 8 Adar, 5770

Better late than never, right?

Monday (Ted’s late day):  Superstore chicken, farfel, corn, chicken soup…

Tuesday:  Cheesy pasta bake of some kind, if we have cheese; otherwise a less-cheesy pasta thing.  Pasta was supposed to be Wednesday, to give me time to buy ricotta and cheese, but Ted wanted to switch so we didn’t have two meat nights in a row.

Wednesday:  Chili (meat) with Cornbread on top (Ted’s special request)

Thursday (Vegan Vursday!):    Hearty Vegetarian Stew with bread

Shabbos:  At Mommy’s house… again!  My cousin’s in from out of town, so my mother’s making supper for everybody.

So there you have it… a spectacular week’s worth of food!!!

Monday, February 22, 2010

It is weather outside today

weather 003Yesterday was spring; today, deep, deep winter.  My ASL class is cancelled.  Blah.

Strangers are just friends you haven’t met yet (or not)

I have a line I use on my children when they’re complaining that the house is too noisy to do their homework, work on a dvar Torah, sit and read… or whatever.  It is a terrible line.  It’s the kind of line you should really only say once and then never, ever again.

I tell them, “if they could ___ (whatever it is they’re complaining about) during the Shoah, then certainly you should be able to in our living room… even a noisy living room.”

See?  Isn’t it terrible?  I really don’t use it all that often, I promise.

Still, I wanted to use it today to say “take that, silly paintbrush-shaking man, coming out to tell me that my screaming baby – a boy, by the way, not a girl as you assume from his long, glamourous blonde tresses – is disturbing your art class.”

I stick by what I told him:  clearly he has never been or had a child, because children make noise and there’s sometimes nothing you can do. 

And I wanted to say, so THERE.  Because of the Shoah.  Isn’t that awful?  But I bet there were people on their way to the gas chamber who made better paintings than that man in the cushiony heated comfort of a studio in a recreation centre, who can’t concentrate because a BABY is making noise.

So go shake your silly little paintbrush somewhere else.

Sometimes obnoxious strangers do come bearing wisdom.  Like the time Gavriel Zev was a teeny baby and I took him to WalMart.  He was in his car seat, in the Snap n’ Go (which was not the brand, but it was the same kind of carseat carrier). 

I loved the carseat carrier, by the way:  it was my single-favourite baby purchase for Naomi Rivka, and even more than all the nice baby carriers (gasp!), made my life easier and happier every single day.  We were in cars a lot when Naomi was a new baby.

But this time, Gavriel Zev was in it, and I was in WalMart with Elisheva, and he was screaming, and my only thought was – “let’s just get through this.”  Let’s get in and out and home and just live with the screaming in the meantime.  If you live with Gavriel Zev, you learn to live with screaming pretty fast.

So there we were – maybe we were even shopping for Purim; I remember having that kind of obsessive focus, being in the craft section, needing a specific thing.  And he was screaming.

And a shop lady came, in her dowdy blue WalMart apron and said, “lady, khhhhug your baby.”  Hug him.  She showed me with a gesture, picking up an imaginary baby, before she walked off.

BOY was I mad!  Fuming, smoke pouring out ears, everything.  Who was she to tell me how to take care of my screamy baby???  I was ready to report her, have her fired, whatever it took to wipe her off the face of the earth.

But then I stopped.  Picked him up, held him.  Khhhhugged him.  Put the things that had been in my hands in the baby carrier, had Elisheva push the baby carrier, and I held the baby.

And he did stop crying, a little.  Not much.  Still whimpering occasionally, but quieter.  Still unhappy, but at least I didn’t have to wonder if holding him would have made things better.  And it definitely made me feel better, besides looking far more virtuous, and less negligent.

The woman in the apron was right.  But the man with the paintbrush, today, was wrong.

I guess what that means is you have to listen to strangers and sometimes you learn something.  And sometimes you don’t.  Sometimes strangers are messengers of truth.  But maybe sometimes they’re just dumb.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Seedy Sunday – the haul!

The first few shots are from the seed swap area alone… amazing!  What an incredible selection… and all free!  I was volunteering in the swap room for 2 hours, so I feel like I did my time and got amply paid.

All the swap seed together:

seedy 001 

Tomatoes only:

seedy 004

Other vegetable seed:

 seedy 003

No pictures of the packets of pea and bean seed, but there were quite a few.

And then these are my “paid” purchases:  a couple of garlics, some zucchini seed… plus some neat knit-and-leather gardening gloves in return for a donation to the Perth-Dupont Community Garden.  That’s where the broken garlics (Music) below came from.  The whole garlic is from Cubits Organics.

seedy 006

… and here’s Naomi Rivka, helping me plant it all!  Well, (l-r) Clematis virginiana, white boneset, nodding wild onion, blue false indigo and bluestem goldenrod.  All native species, though I’m not sure I will actually end up planting them all out.  The boneset does not look lovely, I must say.

 seedy 008

The blue false indigo, actually, didn’t get planted, because the seeds need scarifying.  Lacking sandpaper or any kind of file to rough them up with, I followed the package directions and am currently soaking them in hot water overnight (while letting the hot water cool off).  I will hopefully plant them in the morning.

Oh – I bought some of Gayla Trail’s clever little garden buttons, too… but I’m too tired to take a picture of them now, and one of them (I {heart} dirt) is already missing.  Waah!  :-(((

All in all, a most tiring but successful day!

51st (Perennial) Kosher Cooking Carnival!

All things food and Jewish… and just in time for Purim!

Since this issue’s theme is “venahafoch hu” (“and it was overturned”, ie Haman’s evil decree), let’s stop before we start to look back at PAST Kosher Cooking Carnivals (Editions 1 through 50):

Here's a list: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, KCC Meta Carnival, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50… and I’m number 51!

Click here before March 16 to send in a post for the next issue, to be hosted by Ima on (and off) the Bima.

And now, let’s begin!

To start us off all topsy-turvy, Phyllis Somer (Ima on (& off) the Bima) has been blogging her non-traditional experiments in hamentashen.  Gingerbread?  I say GO FOR IT!

Speaking of gingerbread, if you crave the taste but don’t want it in hamentash form, Chana Rubin (Healthy Kosher Eating with Chana) would like to suggest Gingerbread Cupcakes… and a delightful pareve garbanzo-bean (chickpea) stew to go along with it.

Still not sure what to pack in your mishloach manot baskets? 

For me, venahafoch hu is reminiscent of GARDEN SEASON:  the time we “overturn” the soil.  Here in Canada, we are undauntedly gearing up despite still-freezing temperatures. 

Last year, I actually sent out “garden” themed mishloach manot packages, thirty of them, each with a teeny baby petunia plant tucked inside.  The packages had a “summer” theme, with a flower, ice cream scoop and lemonade mix powder.  Rachel Swirsky (Moving on Up), a former fellow Torontonian (and perhaps future fellow olah??) offers a sweeter take on on the same “growing” theme – one that probably won’t break the bank.

This year, our theme will probably be BREAD - my current obsession.  I wanted to do mini-baguettes, but now I’m thinking breadsticks.  Stay tuned (at my other blog, Adventures in BreadLand) and I’ll let you know how they turn out.  A small bunch of breadsticks nicely tied together, two types of dip, a couple of hamentashen.  Perfect!

Dip?  Dip?  Better haul out my trusty Cuisinart, while Hannah Katsman (Cooking Manager) reminisces about learning from her mother that a food processor or two (or three!) is a worthwhile investment at this time of year.

My choice of healthy dips also relates to Batya’s (me-ander) lesson from this time last year about “diet advice” from the story of Purim

This year, she warns us to read the fine print!  Like the situation for the Jews of Purim, food labels can change at any time; we shouldn’t rely on packaged foods to just keep on being the “same-old” favourites we know so well.  Here in chutz la’aretz, that applies doubly to hasgachot (kosher supervision).  Just because a product was kosher when you bought it last week doesn’t mean you don’t have to look carefully for (and at) the hechsher this week.

And then there are hamentashen.  Oznei Haman:  Haman’s ears.  Or Haman’s pockets… or, well, whatever you want to call them.

There are a ton of hamentash recipes out there; if you don’t already have a favourite, Ilana-Davita’s Traditional Hamentashen are as basic as any I’ve seen, with just a bit of almond extract. 

Purim, or any holiday season, can be a miserable time if you’re sticking to a gluten-free diet.  Happily, there’s Liz Steinberg’s (Cafe Liz) recipe for gluten-free rice Purim Special Mochi Hamentashen, with several creative fillings in a Japanese mode.  These hamentashen rely on the “gluey” nature of the rice-flour mochi to hold the triangle shape together.  Simply microwave and form – no baking or steaming involved.

If you can tolerate gluten, but are tired of the usual holiday cookies, Liz will also show you how to use fine noodle-like frozen “kadaif” pastry to make Pistachio Birds’ Nest Baklava… Hamentashen like you’ve never seen before.

Bored with hamentashen?  Send Folares!  To find out more about these intriguing caged-Haman egg creations, visit Linda Sendowski (The Boreka Diaries) for her take on a Sephardi Purim tradition.

Another food gift that will raise eyebrows – in a good way – and bump up the sophistication  rom “cookies on a plate” to “distinctly grown-up goodies” are Miriam Kresh’s (Israeli Kitchen) preserves and liqueurs.  Her Apple-Walnut Chutney and Summer-in-a-Bottle Mellow Limoncello are welcome alternatives to the kiddie treats.

Of course, mishloach manot are just the beginning when it comes to Purim food:  there’s also a mitzvah to eat a seudah, a special festive meal. 

If you manage to prepare and shop ahead of time (and you have someone to prep your veggies who won’t be occupied packing and delivering mishloach manot), perhaps you’ll feel inspired by Gloria Kobrin’s Buffet Purim Seudah

Or, if you love meat wrapped around meat and don’t have the energy for a Turducken, Pesky Settler (Yesha Settler) offers Chicken-Wrapped Kebabs… if you can find a package of prepared kebabs.  Another “only in Israel” treat, I guess.

Sobering thoughts:  While for us foodies Purim may be all about the eatin’, for many – including, scarily enough, our teenagers – it may be more about the drinkin’.  Hadassah Sabo Milner (In the Pink) muses about teens and Purim drinking.  As a parent of teens, I find it worthwhile reading also for the many insightful comments.

Getting back to venahafoch hu, how topsy-turvy is it that we’re sending gifts of food, not to food banks, but to friends, most of whom probably have all the food they need?  Curiouser still if you consider that the clock is ticking:  your friends now have exactly four weeks to rid themselves of your gifts before Pesach.  Thanks a lot, friends!

Luckily, Amy Meltzer (homeshuling) has a few delicious chametz-ridding ideas up her sleeve to use up the accumulation of flour, oats and more that you may have stocked up on to create all those delicious Purim goodies.

Finally, if debates over which holiday is best get as heated in your household as they do in ours, Revenge of the Hamentashen, from the blogs, pits the pointy triangular cookies against their arch-nemesis, the latke.  Spoiler alert:  hamentashen beat latkes easily, in not one but EIGHT different ways.  But I’ll let you read those for yourself.

Whether you’re overturning the soil, overturning Haman’s evil decree or just overturning your tired body to get another few minutes’ sleep once Purim is over, hopefully this roundup has inspired you to get going (or is that growing?)… to get packing, sending, reading, stomping, booing, baking, noshing, dressing up, and sharing this delightful festival with everybody in your life.

Happy Purim!

!חג פורים שמח …Chag Purim Sameach!

Six Word Saturday: 7 Adar, 5770

temp_precious Great movie; do I believe it…?

Friday, February 19, 2010

Shabbos cook, shabbos bake, have a little Shabbos cake!

challahs 002Once again, Ted’s totally wrangled Shabbos this week, leaving me with mostly the baked goods.

Here’s his food list (* next to Ted-made items):

~ Challah (me; new recipe, and don’t they look AMAZING this week???)

~ * Chicken soup (with kneidlach by ECH)

~ * Ted’s magic chipotle chicken

~ Green beans (guess I should figure out how I’m going to do them – maybe miso again)

~ Corn (always!)

~ Israeli toasted couscous; plain with onion

~ Chocolate-chip cookies

~ Banana cake by YM (yes, I know they both have chocolate chips… )

~ * Apple Compote

And then we’re out for lunch.  An old, old friend (more about her here) who lives about 45 minutes’ walk from here called last night and asked if we’d come for lunch… how could I say no?

All in all, so far a calm Friday afternoon!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Fw: Recent Developments at Dufferin Grove Park

Letter to:  Toronto ombudsperson; cc to Councillors Mihevc and Giambrone (isn't he in France right now???)
Read more background info here.
Dear Ms Crean:
It's come to my attention that one of our family's most beloved Toronto spaces, Dufferin Grove Park, is in danger of losing its autonomy, placing its lively and creative relationship with surrounding communities in jeopardy.
Dufferin Grove Park could perhaps be seen as almost a model of what an urban park ought to be:  in an ideal central location serving many regions of the city, it seeks to involve a highly participatory community while fostering great working relationships with local artistic production companies, organic food vendors.  This park pulls off so many diverse endeavours it sometimes boggles the mind.  As anyone who's been there can attest, visiting Dufferin Grove Park is a totally different experience every single time.
Yet while this park could serve as a role model, it is a model which I also believe could never be successfully applied in many areas around the GTA:  in a more suburban region, for example, or one with less desirable transit routes, an entirely different model should apply.
It is my fear that in standardizing parks within Toronto, the city will - let's face it; clumsily - remove key individuals who have helped to foster these essential community relationships and place leadership of the park in the hands of those who live elsewhere and do not understand fully its particular assets.
I truly believe we ought to strive to become the "City within a Park," as the Parks, Forestry and Recreation slogan claims.  And if that is the case, I believe the parks' needs - each park's unique and special requirements - must always come first.
Thanks for listening,
p.s.  I have cc'd Joe Mihevc, our own hard-working city councillor, in the hopes that he will get involved to whatever extent he can in helping keep this park - an amazing free resource quite essential to many of his constituents - as free and amazing as possible.

Wet and… NOT dead!

fuchsia 001 I bought this fuchsia at the Toronto Plant Society sale last year.  It’s a miniature, Encliandra Fuchsia… its name will come back to me or you can search past posts for fuchsia if you’re crazy about them, too.  (last year was my Summer of Fuchsia Madness, but I still love them quite a bit!)

(okay, I searched myself; it’s called encliandra “Lottie Hobby”)

Anyway, they have an expression in emergency medicine, or at least, on the show ER, on which my sum total of ER knowledge is based (okay, also a bit on Grey’s Anatomy and House; these are the only 3 shows I watch these days)… the expression is:  “you’re not dead until you’re WARM and dead.” 

Because apparently people are often brought in frozen and soggy and the first priority is warming them to normal body temperature, at which point often miracles happen and presumed corpses sit up and start speaking.

Or whatever.

Part of why I fell in love with fuchsias, besides the fact that they all (single, double, upright, multicolour, whatever) manage to look so endearingly ridiculous is that they are perennials, but so many gardeners here just threw them away.  I resolved not to throw it

Anyway, mea culpa, despite my love, I neglected this fuchsia a great deal through last fall and the first part of this winter until I moved the coleus down to the greenhouse, by which point it was a collection of brittle, crispy leaves and sticks that used to be a fuchsia.  It flowered rather frantically in November, perhaps to get my attention, and then settled in to die from inconsistent watering.

Hence my new expression:  “it’s not dead until it’s WET and dead.”  And since I cut back a lot of truly dead stuff and started watering this plant regularly, a couple of weeks ago, it has indeed begun bouncing back.  It is not sitting up and speaking yet, but as you can see in this picture, it is valiantly producing a few new leaf buds on the central stems.

Very brave, and I promise to reward its faith in me with better care in the future.

The Nanny, one year later

shevacamp 023 My mother wanted to do something for Nanny’s yahrzeit, which was last week.  So she decided to host a coffee hour in the church Nanny loved so much.

Well, it turns out – doh! – this is not really a thing Christians do, observe –slash- celebrate the anniversary of a death.

Apparently, the church actually did something, unprompted, on her birthday, back in November.  That, I guess, is the day they choose to observe, perhaps because it’s more upbeat than a death-anniversary.  I believe the minister, ever tactful, mentioned that they don’t do death-anniversaries “as well as you [Jews] do.”

Anyway, they were a little bit mystified, but went along with the plan and even apparently sang “This Little Light of Mine” in her honour.  And my set up and served hosted coffee time, which I guess is the Presbyterian equivalent of making kiddush.

I know this second-hand because I wasn’t there.  Just like I wasn’t there while she was alive.  And don’t I feel like a big fat hypocrite because the one time I was there was for her funeral, when I dragged my entire Jewish family in and even got YM to stand up on the bimah (or whatever they call it) to sing Mizmor L’David, the 23rd Psalm (The Lord is my Shepherd).

I was not good enough to her while she was alive.  I was too busy, too shlepped-around from one grandparent to another.  Perhaps because she was not technically a relative, or perhaps because she’d never have wanted to be a chore, Nanny was not on the every-Sunday visiting list.  And because she was younger than my other grandparents, it never felt as urgent that we visit her:  all the others, I figured, could die any minute. 

Ironically, I think I still thought this in the back of my mind, even when she was in her 90s… “yup, still not as old as all the other (dead) grandparents.”

Plus, I was busy.  Working, raising kids, staying home with kids, running around.  There were always more important things to do.

So I was a lousy granddaughter, but I can still remember her and share the remembrances – such as they are, because my sisters’ recollections are far more vivid than mine – with my own children.  I wish they’d had a Nanny, too, but of course, they did… just not for long enough.

Here’s her obituary.  My mother wrote this, but I helped, a bit.

Nanny’s mother’s prayer, a memento handwritten by her mother which Nanny kept in a little frame to share with anyone who passed through her life.  I don’t know who ended up getting the original in her mother’s writing.

My own writing about growing up with Nanny.

Lousy as I was, I still miss her.

When Christians celebrate “Biblical Feasts”: My Jewish Perspective

Other posts you may or may not want to read:

festivals2 When Christians celebrate “Biblical Feasts” – ie, appropriate Jewish holidays and give them all kinds of marvellous messianic meanings. Ugh.

As a homeschooler, it was inevitable that I’d come across homeschool materials offering information about “Biblical feasts” – which is what Christians call our holidays. (despite the fact that at least one – Chanukah – isn’t mentioned in the Bible) (okay, except the Catholic Bible, which did canonize the book of Maccabees)


There are also all kinds of homeschool materials purporting to teach Hebrew and other information about Shabbat and holidays, always with the helpful Christian perspective.

I read a post recently on a homeschool list mentioning a book which would be useful for sharing these “Biblical feasts” with Christian homeschooled kids. Even though I mostly lurk, I felt I had to jump in:

Many Jews don't appreciate the way Jewish holidays have been
appropriated by Christians, with Christian meanings superimposed on them.
Most Christian websites and books promote an inauthentic (ie non-Jewish)
perspective on these holidays - akin to finding Jesus in Divali, Eid, or any
other non-Christian festival.
It is true that Jesus was Jewish and did observe many of these holidays.
However, he did not follow them with any "Christian" intent, for obvious
reasons. Additionally, Jewish holiday celebrations have changed a great deal in the
last 2000 years.
Jesus himself, if he were here today, might not recognize the modern form of
many Jewish observances, all of which were instituted by rabbis who did not
accept Jesus as a Jewish messiah.
If the Biblical holidays lend depth to your study of the Jewish Bible, that's
wonderful, but it is important to maintain a perspective on just how authentic
they are (or are not).

Though I still find this kind of study (especially with kids) really distasteful – particularly in the many “Christ in the Passover” observances that have sprung up in even the most well-meaning Christian churches, I have begun to differentiate slightly between the active-proselytization brand of Hebrew Christianity and the sincere-Christian-seeking-knowledge type.

In one case, they’re sharks… and I completely believe they will not stop until they have absorbed every single Jewish soul. On the other hand, maybe just innocent dupes, or miseducated -slash- bigoted clergy…? I don’t know. I really don’t know enough.

Either way, these are not really friends I am comfortable snuggling up in bed with, so to speak. Speaking of which: almost 12:30! Gack! I have done my part to destroy years of interfaith relations, at least enough for one day… on this cheery note, goodnight!

I welcome your comments and questions.  Moderation is on to block spam, but I will post all legitimate comments, even if I do not agree with your views.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Oh, gosh…

Copy of writing 001 A new low.  I originally opened up this window just to post that it’s 9:30 and I still have to put these kiddies to bed.

And then, suddenly, it was 9:33 and Ted was unexpectedly home (he was planning to go straight to grocery shopping from his pottery class) amid the chaos and, well, it sure didn’t reflect well on me, the alleged grown-up in charge.

But there you have it.  Does this make me negligent?  My kids sleep late in the morning, have a late-afternoon nap and stay up late?  Are we any lazier than people who wake up early, have an early nap and get to bed early? 

Many homeschoolers would say that this is the schedule that works for us… so why does it feel so WRONG to be putting a 2-year-old to bed at 10 p.m.???

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Woman without social skills seeks Shabbos guests

Last Shabbos, walking home from with a couple of women from the neighbourhood… “we really don’t have much of anything, the house is kind of a mess, the kids are sick and I’m exhausted… hey, do you want to come for lunch???  We’d really love to have you!”

Somehow, I have become the queen of the backhanded invitation.  If you can get past the reluctance to invite, and the awful way the invitation is usually worded, what I think people usually end up with is a really nice meal, with plenty of food and happy times all around the table.

And the truth is, I love having guests.  That’s why I try to make Ted do all the inviting.  I don’t know how he does it:  probably just walks up to the person and says, “hey, do you want to come over for lunch?”

Because it always works out; I just shouldn’t think through all the negatives out loud in front of the prospective guest.  I should think to MYSELF the parts about not enough food (because there is always enough) or the one dish that didn’t get refrigerated / put on the blech (because who cares what they’re NOT going to be eating?) or the toys all over the floor (because there are always toys everywhere) or the cranky teenagers (because they are actually occasionally charming when we have guests) or up-all-night babies (because that’s what babies do, and they are ALWAYS charming when guests are around).

A couple of weeks ago, I was sitting talking to my kids for half an hour before I realized there was a woman sitting nearby with  her children who I could theoretically say hello to or at least smile at.  So I did say hi, apologized, and introduced myself as “completely lacking in social skills.”  I found it astonishingly liberating, and have since used the line a couple of times in other potentially awkward situations.

I mean, some people have disabilities which are more obvious:  they only have one arm, or maybe they are wearing thick glasses or a hearing aid or… I don’t know, a hairpiece.  But I have now had exactly forty years to acquire decent social skills – the ability to make friends or at least acquaintances and carry on normal conversations – and if it hasn’t happened by now, maybe it isn’t going to happen anytime soon.

I’m not making excuses.  I am trying hard.  But sometimes I think a name tag would be very helpful.  “HELLO MY NAME IS something you will have to ask because it would never occur to me to introduce myself and I will promptly forget your name if you tell me who you are and you show up next time in a different hat.”

See?  That’s what I mean.  The hat thing really throws me off.

Okay, it seems like I just ranted about this two weeks ago… so I’ll stop so I can go say goodnight to the kiddies now.  Bye!!!  I must be improving!  I remembered to say goodbye!

Bear with me, please!

It is just SO exciting when things begin to grow.  I get over it in a month or two, and by the time the world outside is fully green, I  have settled back down to kind-of-normal.

newseeds 009In the meantime… I am thrilled to report that thanks to bottom heat, the basil I just planted on SUNDAY (yup, that’s two days ago) is getting ready to sprout.

Stuff like basil and parsley are okay to start early; they won’t suffer or get too leggy growing indoors.  Tomatoes really must wait ‘till Aprilish.  Yup.  They must.  (let’s see how well I can do at holding out).

Meanwhile, more exciting news from the petunia / lobelia patch!  These teeny tiny seeds have come through and, while not as prodigious as my two-day basil, are poking up their heads at a completely respectable 9 days.  (I just had YM google germination times last night and both can sprout at anywhere between 10-20 days, so NINE is just fine by me!).

(I have provided a 2x magnified view of each of the sprouts in question, but they’re still quite tiny… clicking the picture may give you a better look if you’re interested)

newseeds 005a newseeds 006 

newseeds 007Finally, a coleus update.  From their microscopic start last Thursday, five days later I now have more coleus and bigger coleus. 

There are still many cells that don’t have plants yet, but  more are popping up every day.  Must be the cold… the drawback of the Lee Valley styrofoam seed starters is that you cannot use them in combination with bottom heat.  The styrofoam insultes, so you lose most of the heat, though I suppose the ambient warm air might still be helpful.

Family home – must run and look like I’ve been productive!!!

Tired-Word Tuesday: ARTISAN

In the grocery store today, I found a package of “artisan lettuce.”  Apparently, this is a real thing.

Only certain things can be made by artisans… others, well, they just grow that way.  I’m sorry, but ARTISAN and PREMIUM are not the same word, last I checked.

Plus, what does this mean for the word ARTIST?  Must everybody artistic now be an artisan?  I don’t know if Ted wants to switch to producing artisanal paintings or pottery.

What word is driving you crazy today???

Monday, February 15, 2010

Parsha for Toddlers!

imageI hope I didn’t post about this before… but I’m getting old, so bear with me if I have already.

I’ve been searching for a long time for GOOD English-language parsha resources for young children, partly for my own kids and partly for this weekly Shabbos party I’ve been trying unsuccessfully to get off the ground for a few weeks (how do you say “discouraged” in Hebrew?).

Finally, a couple of weeks ago, discovered a site called Torat Imecha (which used to be the name of a ladies’ parsha sheet) that offers a series of little 8-page “books” on each parsha.

The booklets are perfectly geared to the 2-5 year-old crowd, with colour photos (there’s also a black and white version) and text that puts everyday family situations any kid can relate to into the context of the actions and intentions of Hashem and B’nei Yisrael in the Torah.  

For example, in Parshas Pinchas, a girl doesn’t want to go to preschool and leave her dolls behind; just as Moshe didn’t want to leave Bnei Yisrael behind without a leader.   (the girl chooses her brother Noam; Moshe chose Yehoshua, and the rest is history)

Other than certain Sefardi terms (“Beit Hamikdash”), I have not found anything in these booklets that I could not read to my kids verbatim.   The illustrations are cute and the text is straightforward and easy to read; the English is clear and avoids unbearable cutesiness and frumminess (“listen, kinderlach…”).

Naomi especially likes the fact that the girl is named Temima; she has a friend with that name and it’s not a very common one here.   And the hashkafa (religious outlook) is very much in line with our own, though since this is geared towards toddlers and preschoolers, that’s probably not a big issue.

I’ve only seen a few so far, but I was so exhilerated by the two samples at the author’s site that I decided to splurge and spend $5 (US, via PayPal) for a weekly email subscription that covers the entire book of Shemos (Shemot).  No idea what we’ll do after that, but in the meantime, our second one just arrived via email and it’s great.

For now, the search is over…

More planties! First herbs in…

newseeds 002First herbs, plus more coleus.  I sorted out my extensive seed collection in anticipation of next week’s Seedy Sunday, and discovered a few Black Dragon coleus seed from last April.  I still cannot believe how many coleus I’ve lost this winter, though with the heating pad now running downstairs to start these herb seeds, I ought to be able to keep things going from this point.

So you can kind of make out the masking-tape row labels in this flat, but I’ll tell you anyway (The coleus row is one short because that’s all the Jiffy pucks I had left over!  Must buy more tonight!)…

From left (1 column of each):  Black Dragon Coleus (4 pucks); flat parsley (for bugs to eat), curly parsley (for us to eat), Red Rubin Basil, Genovese basil.

Like I said, these are sitting in their own light on the heating pad on the downstairs-kitchen counter, so they should do just fine.  I realize herb seeds probably don’t need bottom heat, but with the temperatures still very cool down there, it can’t hurt.

Mental illness is like a miscarriage

Everybody has one…  and nobody talks about it until you’ve had one yourself.

Okay, with mental illness, it’s not always themselves who have had it, but everybody I talk to these days has someone in their family who has dealt with it (or is still).  And nobody mentions it until I do.  Why?

The stories are all so similar to Eli’s… bright young people, by and large, in their early- to mid-twenties.  Usually post-university, but not always.  They usually survive, but not always.  Mental illness is more deadly than most people think.

I don’t know if any of this makes me feel better.  Is it okay that I find him just plain annoying most of the time??  Does that make me a worse person?  I am almost always kind… yet also almost always impatient as anything.

Today is a sleepy day.  I am simply not going to think about it anymore.

Menu Plan Monday: 1 Adar, 5770

I created a pretty comprehensive master list of everything we eat and then I handed it to Elisheva, and told her to pick anything.

Pretty predictable:  she chose an all-out  steak supper, pea soup, herb bread, oven-roasted potatoes; the works. 

So now I have to figure out when to fit that in; tough in a money-tight week, but we’ll find a way.  Probably Wednesday, which works well because it’s also her early day home from school.

newseeds 001Monday:  Buttery/beery onion soup with breadsticks, scalloped potatoes w/fake crab & mushroom soup. 

SOUP DISASTER!  Something (the strong-flavoured beer?) made the soup really bitter and after over an hour of preparing it, I had to throw the whole thing away and prepare… 

Emergency miso soup:  four cups of water with chicken soup mix, boiled, turn off heat, toss in four cut-up green onions, 4 tbsp dark red miso (whisking the miso into half a cup of plain water first so it doesn’t clump).  Whisk, serve with a dot of toasted-sesame oil… delicious!  (everybody had seconds)

Tuesday:  Indian curry meal – two kinds of curried things, rice and/or poori/naan

Wednesday:  Elisheva’s steak supper – steak, potato/bread, pea soup

Thursday:  Zucchini/veg purée soup, oven-fried rice w/veg mixed in

Shabbos:  ha ha ha ha… too far off to even speculate.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Synagogue’s new name pays tribute to Aish rabbi

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Six Word Saturday: 30 Shevat, 5770


Rosh Chodesh:  Be happy, it’s Adar!!!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Shabbos food by Ted!

Yes, a husband who makes Shabbos… amazing!  All I had to make was dessert and some kind of rice salad (frantically googling as I write this to find one!).

shabbos list

We’re at my mother’s for Shabbos dinner this week, and here’s what Ted has in store for lunch.

  • ~ Cholent
  • ~ Chicken Balls
  • Broccoli Salad
  • Green Salad (lettuce)
  • Turkey pastries (by ECH)
  • Challah (by me!)
  • Sliced meats
  • Rice dish salad (by me, when I find one)
  • Cherry / blueberry tarts
  • Chocolate mousse dessert.

Good Shabbos, everybody!!!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Fed the worms… happy worms…

Hum along to that Beatles song; how does it go?  “I fed the worms today; oh, boy…”

So!  With much apprehension (quite warranted, given that I have not even looked at the worms in the worm bin downstairs since maybe November), I armed myself today to face the worm bin.

Worm Feeding Supplies:  orange peel, cut-up pear, gloves, shredded newspaper.

worms 003

As with most things, the reality was not as scary as I had feared.  Yes, the box is full of material that is mostly  broken down and requires sorting.  But it can probably wait ‘till spring.

worms 005The box is definitely not running optimally anymore, but then, these conditions have been far from optimal.  There are not as many worms as there should be, and the range of sizes is not as great as it should be (in a happy worm bin, you should see worms of all different sizes, ie ages).

But there are still worms.  Hundreds and hundreds of them, I’m sure.  All you need is a few to ramp  back up to full operation in a relatively short period of time.

So basically, what I did is shove all the material to one side, dump the fruits on the now-cleared left side, and covered it all up with the shredded newspaper.  I should have moistened the newspaper, and I may go back down and do it at some point later on today. worms 004 






At least it LOOKS nice and neat (though it takes up half the bathroom floor downstairs, and should have a pan underneath to catch drips) (it has never dripped, that I know of, since I got it almost a year ago).

worms 008

I cannot tell you what a relief it is to get this dreaded task over with.  And it really was NO BIG DEAL.

Goodbye from all my happy worms!