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Showing posts from March, 2010

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?

Pesach Lapbook in Progress: Hands-on!

Further 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. The 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.

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 Mon

Pesach Food 2010

This 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   Sunday Monday Tuesday Lunch   Dairy –Rivka & kids & friend Soup – squash Broccoquiche Crunchy cheese MBS’s Tomato/cuke salad Cheesecake Dairy – just us Soup – squash Broccoquiche Hash browns MBS’s Tomato/cuke

Gloom and Doom: I am going to KILL somebody

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 f

Six-Word Saturday: 13 Nisan, 5770

Pesach pantry stocked:  gluten-free heaven!

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 Pe

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

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 backbreakin

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.

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

Lipa, Lipa, Lipa: the exodus from dull haggadahs

This guy is absolutely brilliant! 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.”  And 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

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!!!

How the other half lives

I’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

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

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 flavo

First BBQ of the year!

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.

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 characters. 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 s

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. Why? 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 a

Days like today

In 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. We 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 daffod

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 woul

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 Tuesday:   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

Our first lapbook… in progress

P.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 chu

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

Six Word Saturday: 28 Adar, 5760

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

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…   To replant these, I tore off the wrap

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! 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! Wedge the ball shape through the “1” position on the pasta maker to get a flat sheet. 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.     When the pasta maker got down to the “6” position, I declared the matzah FLAT and handed it over for fork-poking.     Once two pieces

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.

The $5 In(Sink)erator / Garbage Disposal

    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? Okay! 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: Faster time to break down in the pile Takes up less space in the kitchen Takes up less spa

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!