Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Funny Matzah Factory Tour Video

Great for sharing with kids – big or little – before or during Pesach!!!

Everything’s goin’ my way…


Alright!  It’s like an early afikomen present!

Do it to Julia

Just realized that every plant in the house is going to need a heck of a good watering before Yom Tov… or they will die, or at least, seriously wilt. 

Seedlings don’t have a lot of wiggle room in terms of how much drying-out they can take.  When your roots and stem are no thicker than a hair, once that hair’s-width pipeline dries out, that’s it.  And yes, a lot of it is “self-watering” but that, as I’ve pointed out before, is a serious misnomer. 

If you don’t put water IN in the first place, the plants – far from self-watering, which would involve running to the tap with a little cup or watering can – can actually droop and die almost as fast as plants that are in regular pots and peat pucks.  There is a little more wiggle; the mats under my “self-watering” (aka sub-irrigated) seedlings do hold a bit of water, even when they feel almost dry, and the roots can get that water out, with a bit of a struggle.

But why make them work?  Why not just water them before Yom Tov starts?

Well, maybe because we opened up the big box of fleishik stuff only to discover… a wooden spoon must have been put away damp last year, becuase it was covered in greenish-blue fuzz, and everything around it – aka every pot, pan and utensil in that HUGE fleishik box – was coated, if not as deeply as the spoon (which you’ll be relieved – especially if you’re eating here this week – to know that I threw away), with a delicate frosting of mould.

That wasn’t the only box that had mould in it, but that was definitely the biggest one.  Others have a sprinkling here and there; you can smell it the second you open the box.  Oh, and funniest of all (ha ha ha), my fleishik trivet, which is a cute rubbery Rubbermaid one, was nibbled.  Chewed around the edges.  There were no mouse droppings in the box, which was a relief, but something definitely got at it.  So, again, another good scrubbing.  (no, I’m not throwing away a perfectly good trivet!)

So, anyway.  Instead of just TAKING everything from the boxes and PUTTING it in the cupboards… I am having to wash every single item as it comes out of the boxes.  And all the cutlery.  Sigh.  This must be the year of gam zu l’tovah.  The year of a thousand kapparos, little anxieties in this life to clear up little heavenly (dare I say?) karmic debts.

Between that and the cooking, which is nowhere near done yet, the plants are the last thing on my mind.

This is what I think of as the “do it to Julia” stage of Yom Tov preparation:  I’m willing to kill the very things I love the most… just to get it all done.

And hey, now it’s two three hours later


Yom Tov just went out.

Never mind… all is good with the world.  A gutn Moid, world!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Pesach Lapbook in Progress: Hands-on!

pantry 029Further to my post last week about our first lapbook, here it is, with Naomi steadily working away.

It has been a fun project with lots of fascinating bits and pieces and I think she’s very impressed with the results.

pantry 028The piece she’s working on here is a “can we eat it on Pesach?” lift-the-flaps “game” that actually was not included in my original plan. But I thought it would be terribly remiss to leave out the whole stuff-we-eat-and-don’t-eat item from the folder, so even though it’s a bit crowded – slash – cluttered in the folder right now, I’m satisfied with everything that I’ve included.

You can see it a little closer here: I folded the page and created the flaps. She chose four YES and four NO foods from a whole sheet of food clip art (she used the rest for her other projects), glued them on the tops of the flaps, and then pasted YES and NO cut-outs underneath.


I have to say: the Dollarama glue sticks are a bit stinky. It’s a fruity smell, but not in a good way. In a bathroom kind of way. Ugh. But they’re 4 for $1 – so they’d better not be terribly toxic. And they are WAY better than any other kind of glue for a project like this because they dry almost instantly. Wish they’d had glue sticks when I was a kid!

Pesach Desserts

So my Pesach meal plans often refer to “desserts”.  Here are a few that have become staples over the years.  If I get un-lazy or un-busy in the next few days, maybe I’ll even post links… most are easily found online!

  • Banana chocolate-chip cake
  • Cheesecake
  • Lemon freezer mousse
  • Chocolate mousse freezer cake
  • Olive oil mousse
  • Homemade brownies
  • Homemade hand-dipped macaroons
  • Sponge cakeslice mostly use it to make french toast for chol  hamoed

I should point out:  I’m very proud of the fact that even with no matzah meal (ie no gebruckts or gebrochts or whatever you want to call it) I almost NEVER resort to store-bought desserts anymore. 

Frankly, there are a few reasons:  they aren’t all that wonderful, one year they turned moldy, they are usually stale, they cost up to $10 for a single brownie.

But most importantly, home-baked just taste better.  My desserts are fresher (except for Hermes, the store ones are baked weeks in advance and shipped from Montreal, New York or Israel), preservative and (mostly) yucky-stuff free (I do occasionally use cottonseed margarine – gasp!), and cost pennies, or, okay, dollars.  As compared to dollars and DOLLARS.

The only thing I miss is ribbon cake, and really, I don’t like the taste so much as the intriguing colours (artificial!) and the moist jamminess between the layers.

Pesach Food 2010

imageThis is me.  All calm & organized in my gleaming Pesach kitchen.

Bwa ha ha ha ha.

But I do have some sense of what we’re serving, mostly because it is an exact cut-n-paste copy from last year’s meal plan.  A couple of things are changed around a bit, partly because Shabbos doesn’t immediately follow the second day.

So here’s what we’re eating!  (Wondering what I mean by desserts?  Check them out here!)

The First Days







Dairy –Rivka & kids & friend

Soup – squash


Crunchy cheese


Tomato/cuke salad


Dairy – just us

Soup – squash


Hash browns


Tomato/cuke salad



Seder 1 – Family

3-colour fish

Chicken Soup

Lokshin fr/Mommy

Pickled Brisket

Veggie latkes



Seder 2- Silvia

3-colour fish

Chicken Soup

Lokshin fr/Mommy

Po-chip chicken

Harvard Beets



I won’t even bother posting a “still to make” list.  Oh, okay…

Still to make:  everything.

Days to make it in:  1 and a bit.

Just so you can see how very organized I really am, here are meal plans for next Shabbos AND the last days!

Shabbos Chol HaMoed






Dairy - Karen

Jar g fish

Pareve cholent

Blintz loaf?

Mush crepes – by Elisheva


Dorothy, Mommy

Chicken Soup

Lokshin fr/Mommy

S/s mballs

Apple kugel

Leftover seder food




The Last Days








Dairy –Just us

Soup – squash

Mush blintzes

Slicey Potto Waits



Tomato/cuke salad


Mommy for

Bubbeleh w/syrup bc it’s a TRADITION!

Let’s all grind up the oatmeal now and mix it with an eggy mush it around and toss on the ground and then you’ve got a bubeleh



Night 1 – Michael & Marilyn & Mommy

3-colour fish

Chicken Soup


Po-chip chikn

Sweepo puffs




Night 2 – Just Us

3-colour fish

Chicken Soup


Ap Turkey Thighs

Veggie Latkes


Because it tastes bad pour on the see-rup, cover it in sticky,

Taste it a bit and smoosh in your mouth and be thankful Pesach is Oh-ver!


See my next post for a summary of what “desserts” really means!

Gloom and Doom: I am going to KILL somebody

pantry 034

Yeah, yeah, yeah.  Gam zu l’tovah and all that.

But.  BUT.

Big grocery shop last Sunday.  Much, much grocery bought.  Like $500 worth.  Yay, me!

Some meat.  Mostly shelf stuff.  Some dairy.

All in bags, in my mother’s car.  When we pulled up, Ted ran out to help unload.  Elisheva ran out to help unload.  Wonderful family!  Yay, helpers!

We all, together, jointly, carried bags to the appropriate destination:  fridge for fridge stuff, freezer for freezer stuff, big square (clean) playpen downstairs for shelf stuff.  Done, fast, yay!

So today, loading up the pantry cupboard, I went to grab everything from the playpen.

And there, at the bottom of the playpen… CHEESE.  Let’s see:  cheese stack, $16; cream cheese, $5; two rounds of triangle gruyere, $16.   Grr.

But you know what?  I brushed it off.  I said gam zu l’tovah, dammit.  I sang it.  If a problem can be solved with $50 worth of cheese – not a problem.

Until Ted went looking for the margarine… and found it ALSO at the bottom of the playpen.  Along with about 20 little individual serving yogurt cups.  All delicious.  All meticulously hand-selected, all greater than 4% milk fat because all the Pesach ones seem to be the terrible fat free ones that are slightly gritty and highly virtuous.

AAAAAGH!  Not so much the money.  Again, 2 margarines, maybe $6.  Maybe not twenty – says Ted, but about fifteen yogurts, maybe $1.50 each.  But they were hand-selected.  I chose them, chose the flavours.  Do you have any idea how hard that is for me?  Standing in the store fridge section deciding who’s going to eat what yogurt on what day?

Anyway.  I believe it was not me.  Ted believes it was not him.  The two bags in question were clearly among the first ones dumped in the playpen… and Elisheva ran out first to help carry stuff.  But then, my mother was also making trips up and down the stairs.

For which I am, truthfully, very grateful.  That I have a daughter who helps.  That I have a mother who helps.

Gam zu l’tovah, right?

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Six-Word Saturday: 13 Nisan, 5770

pantry 037 Pesach pantry stocked:  gluten-free heaven!

pantry 036

Friday, March 26, 2010

Shabbos HaGadol La-Z Shabbis Fude (aka Food)

Mostly store-bought.  Ha ha ha ha!  Made a run up to Sobey’s and bought almost everything.  Yay for one-stop shopping! 

Checked out the Family Resource Centre in the Promenade while we were up there.  They have a Friday-morning Shabbat Party that I have been wanting to try.  Mostly babies, and way too short:  15 minutes, start to finish.  The good news is that that leaves about 20 minutes afterwards to play before the centre closes.  The kids had a great time. 

The play stuff is the basics:  train table, crafts, etc.  They do have a very cool magnet centre.  I promised the kids that sometime after Pesach, we will drive Ted to work, go shopping, and then drop in on the play centre again.

So here’s our mostly but not quite kosher-for-Pesach Shabbos food!

Shabbos Dinner:

  • Store-bought challah
  • Homemade soup (Ted made it Wednesday night; we’ll cut up veg today)
  • Kreplach from the freezer by Mommy
  • Chicken in teriyaki sauce (store-bought sauce)
  • Matzah farfel aka Pesach Stuffing Mix (comes in a box)
  • Potato kugel (store-bought, kosher l’Pesach)
  • Corn (kosher l’Pesach for Sephardim, but not for me… waah!)
  • Store-bought fudge bar cake

Shabbos Lunch:

  • Store-bought challah
  • Homemade cholent w/extra kreplach by Mommy
  • Store-bought latkes
  • Slicey meats
  • Store-bought moroccan carrot salad
  • Store-bought potato salad
  • Fudge bar cake (from last night)

Animal, vegetable, hmm?

Gavriel Zev was enjoying his noisy little farmyard toy after supper last night.  It’s one of those things where you push the button and the door pops up and it makes an awful electronic baaing noise.  (We usually keep it in the car, but the big kids cleaned the car and brought it inside without realizing.)

So he was pushing the buttons and enjoying the noises, and turned to ask me how many animals there are.  I said four:  dog, cow, sheep, duck.

He looked at the thing, took a minute to compose perhaps the most complex sentence I have ever heard him attempt, and said:  “dog is LIKE an animal, but it isn’t.”  Definitely the sort of thing he hears me say all the time.

I said, as tactful as I could, “actually… dog really IS an animal.”

“No!”  Laughing out loud.  “Dog isn’t an animal!”  Hilarious.  I’m telling you; I should do stand-up. 

“Hmm… then what is it?”

“Dog isn’t an animal… it’s a PUPPY!”

Oh, okay.  Gotta work on that taxonomy, though he is sort of right.

(p.s.  Why we have the obnoxious toy in the first place:  sometimes, when I’m in Value Village, I’ll let the kids hold a toy and if it is a particularly cute or functional toy, and if they behave nicely in the store, I will occasionally pay $0.99 to $1.99 and buy the thing on the way out.  So that’s why.  So there.)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Pesach Thoughts

Call it Child-Induced ADD:  I rarely listen to an online shiur or Torah audio clip longer than about 15 minutes these days. 

(The exception being Rabbi Phil Chernofsky of OU Israel Centre.  I try to listen to his half-hour-long Torah Tidbits Audio every single week on IsraelNationalRadio.  He tends to wax somewhat rhapsodic about the Jewish calendar, but then, so do I; maybe that’s one reason I like it so much.)

With Pesach coming and everything, of course I am cleaning (ha ha ha; actually, Ted does all the Pesach work around here; I just keep us afloat in terms of dishes and laundry).  But it’s not enough to just scrub your house.  That’s just Spring Cleaning; everybody does that.  What Jews do at this time of year must be cleaning for a REASON or else it’s just oppression.

I’ve seen two terms for the types of oppressive work the Jews performed:  עבודה קשה (“avodah kashah”, literally hard work) – and עבודה בפרך (“avodah b’farech”), which is variously translated as backbreaking work, cruel work or… my favourite, pointless work.

A midrash says that b’nei Yisrael were actually set to build buildings and storehouses on top of quicksand, so that as fast as they could build, their work would literally sink, disappear out of sight.


When we’re cleaning for Pesach, it’s easy to SINK.  To lose sight of what we’re working towards.  For me, that’s where online shiurim come in.  (Who has time to get out to a shiur?)

There’s one shiur in particular, by Rabbi Manis Friedman, that I come back to year after year.  It is long, but well worth listening to, through and through.  And luckily, my memory is so bad that each year, it’s kind of fresh and new.

Here are two links:

  1. All in one streaming audio track
  2. Two double “sided” RealAudio tracks

Last year, I was so moved by three sections that I set about transcribing them.  Typical:  I only managed to transcribe two, but in case you’re interested in reading – I really recommend listening to it in his own voice, but the recording is old and not of a wonderful quality, here are links to the two sections I typed up myself:

  1. Part 1:  Faith in God or Faith in Nature? (I think I like this because it’s about planting and growing!)
  2. Part 3:  Divine Providence

So I thought I would post all of this here in the hopes that our efforts this week and into next not be b’farech; that we see meaning in all of it, the proverbial elephant in the heart of the (l’havdil) dungheap, the wonderful feast of redemption that really is the light in our collective tunnel.

There will be a few posts between now and then, I’m sure (when do I ever shut up completely??), but I do want to wish a kosher freilichn Pesach to anyone who’s made it this far, both in this particular post, and along this strange and wonderful blogging journey with me and my family.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Well, well, well

Stand up from an hour and a half of sitting & writing (Really!  I really was writing!  No farmville whatsoever!), go downstairs, and POW!  A world of pain!

I seem to have {whatevered} my {whatever}.  I’m not quite sure where the pain is… it seems to be everywhere.  Back?  Maybe tailbone?  Where I sit?  Maybe I sprained it?

So now I am bent over as I hobble about preparing supper, a sprained, pathetic martyr to Pesach, to sleeplessness, to stress, to my family.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Menu Plan Monday: 7 Nissan, 5770

Gack!  Pesach is coming, the kitchen is in turmoil… and everybody has to eat.

This is officially the Whiniest Week of the Year, the week all four children wander around in despair, plaintively moaning:  “what can I eat???”

It must also be the most expensive week of the year, as we inevitably turn to take-out and other conveniences.  Baruch Hashem that we have them… but still.  Costly.

Here’s what will pass for a menu, for the time being:

Sunday (yesterday):  Easy deli-on-rye sandwiches at Mommy’s house w/Sara

Monday:  Pasta, no-knead bread if I make it RIGHT NOW instead of typing this!!!

Tuesday (Ted’s late day):  Salmon burgers, mashpo, yum

Wednesday:  Chicken baked on top of rice (easy, easy, easy).  At night, cook for Shabbos.

Thursday (last day of chometz):  Maybe, maybe, maybe… takeout?  Sure, a hundred thousand other families are going to have the same idea.  Better phone it in early.  At night, cook for Shabbos.

Friday (Ted’s off day):  KITCHEN TURMOIL TIMES A BAZILLION as we turn everything over:  remove all the regular dishes, bring up the Pesach dishes… gaah.

Shabbos:  Easy, easy, easy.  Some type of moist-cooked chicken in tinfoil that can go in the fridge.  Some type of kugel that can be baked and stored.  Corn.  Store-bought (eek!) challahs & desserts.  Sara coming.

Shabbos lunch:  Again, easy.  Will update later.

Remember:  you can always visit THIS comprehensive list of all the suppers so far to see what kinds of yummos we have had in the past.

Lipa, Lipa, Lipa: the exodus from dull haggadahs


This guy is absolutely brilliant!temp_LipasHaggadah2

With hardcover binding, traditional Hebrew text (no English, but a bissl Yiddish, including the full feer kashes), sturdy, laminated pages, and funny, FUNNY illustrations of this campy singer and family hamming it up around the seder table with his family, this is one of the greatest big-kid haggadahs I have ever seen.

Needless to say, I bought it instantly.  Okay, I didn’t buy it, as such.  My mother, who was beside me, conducted the actual physical transaction.  Yay, mommy!

I love how it’s a regular haggadah title, with the word “Lipa’s” scrawled on it like some kind of super-neat graffiti.  It’s on every page – him holding the ridiculous banner “Lipa’s Haggadah.” 

temp_LipasHaggadah3And I do totally swoon just at the idea of Lipa:  an at-times controversial chassid who is nevertheless the real deal, singing and shticking l’shem shomayim. 

Now this is a role model for today’s frum youth.  Okay, maybe not the hat… but maybe yes the hat.  I also love the fact that he looks about eighteen, but is apparently (from the ages of his children, at least) quite a bit older.

Apparently, he threw the whole project together over a few busy days in January.  Yes, January… two months ago.  And here it is, on bookstore shelves around the world.  Amazing.

Here’s a link to a few more pictures and some background information… 

Sunday, March 21, 2010

On the bookshelf…

You can tell I’m procrastinating, right?  There’s a load of dishes to be washed, a house to be cleaned, and here I sit, contentedly blogging.

From the Shabbos bookshelf (still enjoying):

First, Jodi Picoult’s newest:  House Rules: A Novel, by Jodi Picoult

And, in the non-fiction garden-related department, this (actually fascinating) book about bananas:  Banana: The Fate of the Fruit That Changed the World, by Dan Koeppel.  Amazing.  Scary.  Bananas.  Did you know they may be extinct soon?  Better hope not, because something like 1/3 of the world depends on them for nutrition every single day.  Better hope I made that statistic up!

Okay, there really IS work to be done… off to choose something to listen to and then get it DONE!

Six Word Saturday: 6 Nisan, 5770

Quick, blow $500; Pesach essentials only!!!

Friday, March 19, 2010

How the other half lives

bunz 002I’ve been loving my private one-on-one time with this big boy all week during the mornings, when Naomi Rivka was at her gymnastics camp.  I can see how one would get hooked on sending a child her age somewhere, anywhere, every single morning.  And afternoon.  And before-and-after school care.

One child is SOoooo much easier than two.  Not half as easy.  About a tenth.

Today’s Smoothie… and Shabbos food

Straight Coffee Smoothie:

  • 1 cup fresh hot French-press Second Cup Royal Blend coffee (what a snob!)
  • 1/2 cup evaporated milk (no-name… see; I’m not a snob)
  • 3 tsp sugar
  • 6 ice cubes
  • fabbo blender (two years old this last January and STILL going strong!)

Serve over ice if you want it cold, otherwise, as-is.  No chocolate; this is a rare thing for me.

Shabbos - Dinner:

  • Challah
  • Chicken Soup
  • Potato kugel
  • Meatloaf w/mushroom gravy
  • Something with sweepoes?
  • Blueberry buns
  • S’mores Cookie Bars (based on Shoshana’s recipe here)

Shabbos – Lunch (dairy):

  • Challah
  • Salmon pastries – Elisheva’s request but I have looked everywhere and it doesn’t look like Ted bought the actual PUFF PASTRY for these… usually we thaw it in the fridge the night before
  • Cholent
  • Blintzes
  • Assorted cheeses
  • Broccoli salad
  • Lettuce salad
  • Desserts

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Another first: buy Ontario, save the world… maybe!

produce 012

First local peppers – red, orange, yellow.  First local cucumber.  I felt happy seeing them at the grocery store.

But I know there’s a downside to local… as Ted pointed out a while ago, being able to produce these things locally (in March!) does NOT mean we are self-sufficient. 

What it means is that we are still utterly dependent on gas and electricity.  Only instead of using them to ship the produce from Mexico, we’re using them to heat greenhouses through most of the winter.  (and light, through shorter winter days?)

Ted has also pointed out – thanks, Ted! – from his reading that there may be greater efficiencies in distribution when buying produce from far away that may make up some of the resource cost of the actual shipping. 

Still.  There are still some pluses, even without going into the impossible math of which uses LESS gas, fewer resources, etc. 

Growing locally, in theory, means that you can get higher-quality produce, produce which is raised for its flavour and freshness rather than for its “keeping power” in the back of a refrigerated truck.

And potentially, there’s less “wiggle room” in the organic certification, if you choose organic, local supervision agencies being theoretically more reputable and accountable than those beyond arms’ length in China or whatnot.  Not that I necessarily buy organic.  For whatever reason, local is more important to me than organic, in most cases (not potatoes).

And plus… and plus.  The more demand there is for Ontario produce, the less Ontario farmland will be converted to townhouses, condos, subdivisions and those great big huge plazas (the ones with the Michael’s store, the mega Winners, jumbo-sized LCBO, extra-large Shoe Company et al) that make me feel like I’m living in some kind of city of giants… with that mega parking lot to match, stretching out for acres in front of the shops.

So I demand it.

I don’t necessarily feel the same way about buying Canadian, by the way.  The Okanagan valley is farther than many places in the U.S.; just because an apple is from Canada doesn’t mean it’s in any way “local.”  Shipping across this country is a hard, gruelling thing for much of the year that may cost nearly as much as shipping across an ocean, or from South America.

But then, that’s that impossible math again, and I’m just not going to go there.

First BBQ of the year!

produce 005 Hot dogs.  Boiled first, of course.  I’ve become SO picky about this step, but really, everything you can do to make a sad skinny chicken dog look and taste juicier is a step in the right direction.

It was a bit chilly by the time supper ended, as the sun was going down, but what an amazing thing.

We really have made it through another winter.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Yer daily dose of crazy!

Sara must have been somewhere that Eli couldn’t reach her, because he just called here… and YM wasn’t here to take the call, so I got to listen in on the whirring crazed cogs of his mind…

“Did you know that I'm ... umm... a world expert on books about highly individualistic


What's the author of the books, the one with the ... he had a *sinister* name - um, it's a

name, oh.

The question of new criticism
What was that american writer - I'm familiar with the foremost Polish writer on semiotics

but I've forgotten the name of the foremost american writer on semiotics

- Umberto eco?

No, what he wanted was to write a self-contained version  of the celestine prophecy
ppl who took their cameras to the bacchanalia and then went home again

Whether nick cave was impossible founder of a cult and he said that it was all informal so

he wasn't
I'm talking from within the plot of a book that daddy and I shared
so it's a different case from the reality you share with your partner
so maybe you'll excuse my partner for being a terrible person since she's also got um like

basically interesting thing that she keeps from me
She's a funny bird

- I don't know her that well

she's like that girl from the chrysalids who shut herslf off from the world and when I say

that I'm another one one of the ones... she says I'm not.

I think that Sara's gone for some short-term happiness recently, so... she's a great gal

she's got funny notions
you can't tell somebody what a complex is
I've got a complex about macaroni because they're tubes
they shouldn't be tubes because the stuff in them is funny

- what are you doing for the rest of the evening?  Are you getting ready to sleep? 

do you remember the song sing a song of sixpence... what's the next line

- four and twenty blackbirds?  Baked in a pie?

[sings the next couple of lines]

Those songs were sonnets - you know what a hint towards writing good prose might be
Try for an exercise composing a couple of sonnets they're a form that's very easy to


so maybe you cd get together w/Elisheva and have her write a couple of sonnets
they're very abstract
but they're accessible as far as the process of getting them
it's fun

but also you get a notion that you've got an improved writing style
the big quesiton of modern existentialism is whether form is a crutch or not
I'll tell you right now that it isn't
the reason you have a religion is bc it isn't a crutch to get to sthing that vague -

form is to be observed to get a skill level
so it's not for... when you ask whether a form is related to a standard
the answer is it's easier to reach the standard if you observe the form
it's a worthwhile easiness
so I mean

doing things just for the sake of them is like a luxury that I just got overcome by
but I don't care
it's strange that I can have falsities in me that are just things you can live with
they're very bad but actually when I think that my father wasn't as much into blessing world as the other coreligionaries, I think that you may be kind of overdoing that factoid a little bit

it's an interesting bug that lives under your toenail

- not literally?

well, almost.
they're fun people, but I like cheetahs
chester cheetah is a funny cat

Anyway, I'm going to go...

have a good evening, did you eat any hot dogs?

- no

Neither did I, I'm a vegetarian.  Good night!”

Sign Class Peeve

The person – one person, sitting across from me. 

Who is a nice person, a very nice person.  A smiling, friendly person, more so than me.  I think she wants to learn ASL so she can go teach deaf people in underprivileged places and not at all for blurry unfocused reasons like me.  AND she is so driven to learn, she repeats every sign she sees, over and over, entirely seriously, and looks so sad when she forgets one.

Just so you know.  She’s nice, and she’s good at signing, and she’s going to take whatever she learns and do good in the world. 

Just to establish her character... and mine in contrast, because SHE is the person I most want to strangle in all the world when I am sitting across from her most Monday evenings.


Because as the teacher signs to the class, this lovely fellow student TALKS right along.

Like I said, she’s good.  So the teacher will sign something like - “My car is grey and has four wheels and I love to drive it very fast.”

And this woman, out of all the people in the class sitting silently, will SAY out LOUD:  “CAR… GREY… FOUR… WHEELS… I LOVE… DRIVE… FAST!”  Not quietly, like some people:  right out loud.  And then be all happy that she figured the whole thing out – and clueless that nobody else is speaking. 

That we are not allowed to speak. 

That she has just defeated the entire purpose of taking a class in the first place:  to WATCH and learn from an actual instructor actually signing and expecting us to actually respond to her actual signs.

Strangle.  Strangle. 

I mean, who needs an interpreter for an ASL class???

Very frustrating.  I keep meaning to speak to her during the break, and then break time comes and mysteriously, I forget.  Her extreme do-gooding holiness must be keeping her safe from my petty wrath; that’s all I can figure. 

I sure hope she doesn’t sign up for the next level in the spring session.  Perhaps she’ll find another calling and decide to go walk earthquake dogs instead.

Days like today

weather 002In years like this year, on days like today, I walk around awed (odd?) by the synchronicity:  such an early spring – and look how “early” Pesach is coming around!  And I marvel at the eternal wonder and wisdom of the Jewish calendar, compiled thousands of years ago, yet perpetually relevant, perpetually accurate…

Well, I can go on and on until I am brought back to earth with a catastrophic THUD, with the memory of Pesach seders celebrated in the middle of blizzards; the seder where the retelling of the plagues is accompanied by actual hailstones, falling, outside the house.

I’m also brought back to reality by the thought of other places:  places where the land has already reached searingly high temperatures and others, like my mother-in-law’s garden in Calgary, where spring is probably still two months away.

imageWe were reading a Hebrew book about seasons and in the midst of unfamiliar-looking flowers and greenery, I spotted a familiar face:  the נרקיס (nar-KEECE), an ordinary daffodil.  Out of season:  it was listed as a winter flower.  (there’s also, apparently, an Israeli singer named Lior Narkis; does he not realize how Euro-pop trashy that open shirt button is?)

Seeing Israeli daffodils made me happy, but also made me think about how closely I associate this weather, this flower, with Pesach.  How I take it for granted and, when the weather is like this, assume it is all a message straight to me from Hashem.  Booming voice:  “SUNSHINE… DAFFODILS… MATZAH.”

Walking outside today, Naomi actually exclaimed:  “Mommy, come outside!  It smells like sweet potatoes!”  When she said “it smells” I was expecting a cliché, but of course, when someone is new, they don’t know the clichés yet, so you get something absolutely fresh and new – and TRUE.  I did smell… and it did.  Spring smelled like sweet potatoes today.

Seasons.  And Torah.  And stuff.

Of course, the Torah is perpetually relevant, the ancient Jewish calendar is a wise and wonderful token of our partnership with Hashem in planning the seasons of our celebration. 

And Pesach always does manage to come in the spring… but it’s sometimes and in some places a cooler spring, or warmer (or searingly hot), and I guess it has little to do with Pesach itself or the calendar.

But it sure is nice right now.  I guess that’s all I’m saying.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Ask me

Ask me where YM is.  No, really, ask me.

He’s out bike riding with a friend from school.

After five years of having ZERO significant friendships with friends from school.  He has a couple of friends at shul, but kids from school, coming over?  Unheard-of.  Not since grade five or six, anyway.

So naturally, I’m suspicious.  What does he want with my own sensitive Rubik’s-cube prodigy slash someday-engineering-genius slash Talmudic iluy of a son???

A good last name certainly doesn’t mean he’s a nice boy.

A clean, pressed suit jacket doesn’t mean at all that he’s a nice boy.

Wearing a helmet when he comes to pick up my nice boy doesn’t mean he’s a nice boy… well, it could mean he’s a bit on the law-abiding side.

Coming from the 80s, my first thought when I wonder what kids are up to is “drugs,” but in this scenario, it’s probably more like Rubik’s cube hijinks or – possibly – illicit iPod Touch antics.

Or maybe, just maybe, they really are just out bike riding.  Which would be nice.  Which would mean he’s found a friend.

Very nice.

Menu Plan Monday: 29 Adar, 5760 (kosher, yummo, and super-easy)

Our coming week of suppers! 

Posting it before I get to bed because I don’t know if I’ll have a chance tomorrow.  This is a busy, busy week because I signed Naomi Rivka up for gymnastics camp every day (it’s March break for public schools so there are camps running everywhere, mostly “camps” – in quotes – where people can park their kids while they continue working).

So here’s what we’re eating:

Monday:  Rye bread from last week’s dough; pressure-Cooker Sausage Risotto

produce 003Tuesday:   Homemade pita from last week’s dough & oven-baked falafel balls (is that even possible?)

Wednesday (Ted’s late day):  Hot dogs in buns w/sweepo oven fries – UPDATE!  No sweepo fries, but we had these on the BBQ!  First BBQ of the year, amazing.

Thursday (Vegan Vursday!):  Fettuce noodles w… what???  This is a toughie.  I don’t like fake meat in pasta sauces… I wonder if there’s some way to do it Asian-style, with tofu.  If I do it too much, though, I risk alienating my family, who enjoy just yer basic ordinary NOODLE noodles.  Sigh…

Shabbos:  TBD

So there you have it… nice and easy!

Remember:  you can always visit THIS comprehensive list of all the suppers so far to see what kinds of yummos we have had in the past. 

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Our first lapbook… in progress

lapbook 001P.S. Update here - pics of lapbook in Progress: great success!

Naomi doesn’t know it yet (she’s sleeping), but beyond our Mah Nishtana book (which has now been downloaded, by my estimate, by over 200 people) here are the bones of what we’re doing as our super-jumbo extra-wonderful project to work towards Pesach: a lapbook. Or lapfolder. Or whatever… call it what you like.

I got sucked in by all the excitement of other parents who have used lapbooks. I don’t know? Is it just kitschy? Is it a gimmick, or do kids really learn more when they’re colouring and cutting and assembling? Naomi doesn’t have a great deal of patience for that kind of thing, but the stuff I’ve brought together here is pretty varied, so I hope it will work well for her age, patience, level of knowledge, etc.

The ingredients:

  • Large seder plate images – to colour and stick in a circle
  • Small cute round haggadah (courtesy of
  • Baby Moshe (cute activity borrowed from church website)
  • Story of Moshe (small homemade “book” in 4 panels)
  • “Pyramids” counting book (6 pages; triangle shape)
  • Ten makkos/plagues wheel (courtesy of
  • Paper doll girls to colour / dress and stick in somehow
  • Misc clip art – Armenian seder plate (like ours!); haggadah image

… and all wedged into a leftover-from-the-big-kids pocket folder I had lying around the basement.

This should take us a while to complete. I’m hoping to get it all done by the end of next week, but don’t quote me on that. Anytime before Pesach is good, really!

Frankly, the way I feel about yamim tovim is that kids younger than six don’t really need to formally learn anything about them anyway. I mean, they are learning by LIVING them, and that is the best way. The sights, sounds, smells, and feelings of Pesach are more important than the dry and technical details.

Those are impressions that MUST be gathered now, and you really don’t want to distract kids by making it too dull and intellectual. Just yet – or ever?

So why am I doing a lapbook at all…? Especially because, with a 5-year-old, it’s bound to be pretty labour-intensive on my part (okay, it already HAS been!). First, because it’s cute and fun and will allow us to spend quality time together, reading and talking and cutting and gluing…which can’t be a bad thing.

Second (and here I get to turn all shy), if it turns out okay, then maybe in time for next year, I can make it available; bundle everything together as a PDF and sell it for some smallish amount of money to cover the amount of trouble I’ve gone through assembling it for my own ungrateful children. So there! I’m not a total altruistic tzadekes, after all.

Not that my family ever thought I was!

We have ($24/lb) matzah – and עברית!


Maybe two months ago, I swiped this Hebrew keyboard layout from the Internet and pasted it into a word document. 

When I had to reinstall Windows to get the computer working (after it suddenly died, very nearly killing me as well), I took a minute to add Hebrew language capabilities PROPERLY; I guess I’d never done it right before.

Now we can switch from English to Hebrew typing with the click of a button – and often, the computer does it for us, triggered by some random keystroke into converting all our text.  Fun!

So I’ve used this Word document to type practice typing search strings and to refer to the keyboard layout when I get stuck looking for a particular letter.

But it seems that I am getting stuck less and less these days.  With a few exceptions, I am now reasonably confident about the locations of the major letters.  Some are easy – reish in the R spot; mem sofit looks like an O and the pay is in the P spot.  Others are totally counter-intuitive; mem is in the N place and for nun goes where B should be.

Slowly, slowly, it is coming.  This is a life skill, right?  In a world where 70% of olim arrive in Israel with no jobs (and often with lousy Hebrew), being able to touch-type and sing HaShafan HaKatan has got to mean something.

Okay, you caught me.  I hate HaShafan HaKatan, along with many other so-called children’s songs.  “La-la-la-hapchi” to you, too.  Rodents with potentially transmissible-to-human viruses simply do not amuse in the age of swine and bird flu – or monkey pox.

Also that Leytzan Katan Nechmad song.  Shudders my North American sensibilities to the bone, for some reason.

So we have matzah!  Shmurah matzah.  Seven pounds:  five white, two whole wheat for Ted.  When I am on top of things – which I was so NOT last year – I get it at the BAYT.  It’s baked in New York, with the baking personally supervised by Rabbi Taub. 

This year, they’re having two Sundays only when they’re selling it, at 9:00 a.m.  Luckily I checked during the week and found out.  There was a line-up when I got there at 8:55, but they had already started serving and the line went quickly enough.  And now it’s sitting out there in the car until I find a clean enough spot to put it inside the house.

I didn’t buy it last year, and I am happy that I did it again this year, even for $2-4 a pound more than regular hand shmurah ($20ish for regular; ours was $24 x 7 lbs - eek) (but it is exceptionally thin, crispy and delicious, if such a thing is possible).  I got a couple of pounds free the year I worked at the BAYT; that’s when I first got hooked.

I have tremendous respect for Rabbi Taub, going back not only to when I worked there but also to sitting in front of him on the Bais Din for Ted’s conversion (though it was actually around the same time; a couple of times during that year, I’d go out on lunch to meet Ted at bais din, only to bump into Rabbi Taub, who I’d just left behind at the office).

Toronto has a rotating bais din for conversions, with 3 members meeting candidates at any given time.  They all seem psychic, or at least very VERY insightful… but Rabbi Taub more so than some.  I missed having his matzah at our seder last year and for several reasons I felt it was important to reaffirm that (small, one-way) connection again this year.

I do realize that all hand shmurah matzah is supervised; I guess I like knowing a bit more about the character of the person who’s doing the supervising.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Six Word Saturday: 28 Adar, 5760

imageFirst aliyah meeting:  really?  Israel??  US?!?!?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Much too late for seeds, I know, I know

…But I’m a sucker, and I saw a mixed-seed packet at Plant World this morning and decided, why the heck not?  With bottom heat, I hope these will sprout quickly and grow fast.  I can always hope, right?

I also bought a cell-pack (79 cents) because, snapped in half, it fits in the square Jiffy 5 x 5 greenhouses I have been using.  I have decided to avoid peat pucks because they are SO hard to keep watered, and I’ve also installed self-watering mats under the plants I do have in pucks.

So half of the cell pack in a square greenhouse tray holds 24 plants.   I decided to use 12 for the new coleus seeds and half to transplant the “Black Dragon” coleus seedlings, which are getting too crowded in their peat pucks (and are too valuable to thin by snipping). 

Just noticed, by the way, looking back, I sowed these Black Dragon seeds just a bit less than a month ago, on February 14th.  So this is what they look like at ALMOST one month.  Not bad…

xplants 001 xplants 002

To replant these, I tore off the wrapping and split each puck, then untangled the individual roots, if necessary – so tiny!  Then I stuck them individually in cells (in some cases, I put two or three small ones in a single cell).  Here’s my favourite plant so far! 

 xplants 004

The colour got washed out in this shot, but it is nice and dark and the first true leaves already have a bit of their distinctive crinkled edge.

The soil I stuck the seedlings into is regular WalMart generic potting soil, but I did sprinkle a couple of teaspoons of name-brand cactus mix on top of each cell in an effort to keep the top of the soil dry and prevent fungus around the tiny stems.

In the remaining twelve cells, I seeded the coleus mix (“T&M Prize Strain Improved Mixed”).  There are still quite a few left over in the packet, but I didn’t want to have too many plants.  With a seed mix, though, you want the freedom to cull the ones that don’t look all that terrific, so I did seed generously. 

Looking at this picture, I realized I forgot to add cactus mix to the “seed-only” cells.  They are in a high-quality seed-starting mix, though, so I’m hopeful that will work well enough.

xplants 003 
To take care of watering, the entire cell pack tray is “sub-irrigated” with a section of Lee Valley Root Barrier Watering Mat, cut to fit the bottom of the 5 x 5 Jiffy Greenhouse, with a “tail” sticking into a nearby dish of water.  I hope it works!

xplants 005

The water shown here is actually chamomile tea, which I use for all seedlings since reading a rumour that chamomile fights fungus.  I don’t want to say anything just yet, but I didn’t have a single seedling damp-off last year when I first started using it (2009).  I add four tea bags (no-name chamomile tea – about $2 for a box) to a big plastic pitcher of boiling water.

  xplants 006

Finally, I taped a cover over the whole thing and transported it gently downstairs to the kitchen counter where it will sit on the heat mat, under lights, until the coleus sprout.  The packet says 10-20 days, but the last time I had germination in under a week with bottom heat.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Homeschool Matzah Bakery

A mama, 270g of flour,  about 100g of water, and two matzah-baking kids!  Oh, and it was all made possible by two fun pieces of technology:  my food processor and pasta roller.

Here we go… flour and water, weighed and ready!

matzah 002

Add flour and start food processor (and the timer; I set it for 18  minutes, just like in a real matzah bakery).  Drizzle in the water.  I used the 90g I’d weighed out, then added a bit more until it just barely started to come away from the sides of the bowl.  The mixture was still very crumbly looking, but when squeezed, it made and held a ball shape.  Perfect!matzah 011

Wedge the ball shape through the “1” position on the pasta maker to get a flat sheet.matzah 004

Cut the flat sheet into two pieces and continue rolling it thinner and thinner on the pasta maker.  Cut the sheets as necessary to keep them a workable, bakeable size.

matzah 003matzah 001   

When the pasta maker got down to the “6” position, I declared the matzah FLAT and handed it over for fork-poking.

matzah 006 matzah 008 

Once two pieces are ready, toss them side-by-side onto a parchment-papered pan and into a 500 degree oven to bake for 5 minutes.

Lather, rinse, repeat …!

While the matzahs are baking, roll and poke (we say “poink”) the next sections of dough until it’s all rolled and poinked.  We had two baking sheets going at a time, so I’d pull off the pieces after they were done and toss in the next two sheets.

Here’s what we had before the 18 minutes elapsed.  These would have been kosher for Pesach had everything in our kitchen been kosher for Pesach.  Which it wasn’t, but I still wanted to see what we could do in that time.

 matzah 012

Here’s the whole batch, including one that got rolled a little thick and burnt a bit on top.

 matzah 017

Now, just munch and enjoy, littering the sofa with chometz crumbs while watching this entertaining 7-minute matzah-making documentary (with puppets!).  Mmm, crispy!

 matzah 019

There!  This has easily been the most entertaining 2 cups of flour we will use all year!  And because of the 18-minute thing, it’s a super-fast activity as well.  Perfect for little kids’ attention spans.

Cranky Complaints-Lady (doesn’t) visit the BJCC (anymore)!

Just noticed this letter to the editor of the Canadian Jewish News was published a few weeks ago.  They wouldn’t accept it in my own name, so I added a clever pseudonym I made up all by myself (scroll down here to see it).  They’ve edited my letter slightly, I assume to remove my endearingly snarky tone.

BJCC closure

The article about the closure of the Bathurst Jewish Community Centre reveals only the tip of the iceberg. Despite the brand new daycare, our children’s needs have been overlooked, and the new building is both difficult to access physically and lacking affordable family programs (“With BJCC closed, members have new fitness routines,” health supplement, Feb. 4). Without the large, sunny lobby, children’s museum, art gallery, cafeteria and drop-in Shabbat and holiday programs  – including the free programs held every year on Dec. 25 – there is little to attract families with young kids.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

The $5 In(Sink)erator / Garbage Disposal

 proxr 001 

This summer’s experiment in compost promises to be a thrilling one:  GRINDING the compost up before dumping it out back!

I did try this once last summer in the big food processor, with some success (but a bit of a mess as well).  I found this mini unit at Value Village on Sunday (ominously marked “as is”) for $4.99, and decided that once again I’d give it a whirl… GET IT???  Whirl?  Like the spinning scary sharp steel blade of a food processor?


So I just tried it now with a small sample load – a couple of onion peels and kiwi / veg scraps, and it did a decent job.  Not fully puréed, more like really teeny chunks but then, the stuff wasn’t cooked at all and I wasn’t expecting much anyway. 

When I added a bit of water, it made quite a respectable slurry, which I then went outside and poured directly on the compost pile.

Benefits of “pre-digesting” compost include:

  1. Faster time to break down in the pile
  2. Takes up less space in the kitchen
  3. Takes up less space in the pile
  4. Less attraction to mammalian and other large-scale vermin because it decomposes so fast
  5. Hmm… there must be at least one more!

Theoretically, and this, I suppose, would be for people far more crunchy than myself, we could have been fine-grinding our kitchen compost all winter and freezing the resultant sludge in the basement deep-freezer, with the expectation of thawing & transferring it to the backyard composters come spring.  Yup; people do that… but I guess not me.

I guess it’s pretty far gone just to be talking about grinding up my garbage.  But I figure if people can grind their waste in their kitchen sink and then send it into the sewage-treatment system, I can go one better and try grinding up ours for our own backyard “compost-treatment system.”

A Small Pesach Mah Nishtana / Four Questions Book for Kids

Here’s what I’ve been working on today for my kids! (Okay, I’m procrastinating because I have a “real” writing deadline tomorrow!)

If you’re interested in receiving a PDF copy of this instead of these low-quality watermarked JPG images (far better, especially for the last page with the words), please contact me and I’ll send it!


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