Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Me, a la Magnadoodle

planters 042Elisheva sketched this while waiting to say Shema tonight.  Even on GZ’s tiny little magnadoodle screen, she’s clearly quite talented – right?

So why does GZ have a magnadoodle?

It turns out he loves to draw, but does NOT love making pictures.  Maybe he just enjoys the process?

He’s always said no to crayons, markers, etc (he will paint, but mostly just paints with his watery brush instead of using the colours).  But one day he got ahold of one of Naomi Rivka’s wipe-off writing notebooks and, flipping through it afterwards, I noticed he’d coloured in every single HAT in the entire (10- or 12-page book).  That’s  a lot of hats!

And my theory is that he was willing to colour because he knew it wasn’t permanent.  Which is why, on a hunch, I chose him a magnadoodle with his gift card from Aunt Sharon while we were in Ottawa last week… and darned if I wasn’t right.  He loves the little magnetic sketchpad and the simple “how-to-draw” pictures of Toy Story characters in the book that’s attached.

The other kids like the Magnadoodle, too.  It’s a simple thing, but we’ve never had one before.  I am searching for a full-sized one at Value Village, but so far, no luck.

Wow, wow, wow… and mazel tov!

The TWO FAMILIES who were waiting for babies in this post two days ago had their babies today.  Both boys, I think.  Both posted on facebook within 10 minutes of each other.

I do miss the old-fashioned thing of getting a phone call when someone has a baby.  These days, I guess that’s just for people who don’t have email, aren’t on facebook, etc.

I am so happy for these families, and for their lucky, lucky little boys (I think they are both boys) who are long-awaited and will be so unbelievably loved.

If either of you families is reading this, however, quit it!  Get back to bed, get back to your baby, sleep while the baby sleeps and remember not to neglect the bunny/big sister in the weeks and months to come or he/she will have Issues.  I know a good psychologist, though.

Shabbos Food

I want to be super-organized this Shabbos because I’m doing kiddie Shabbos Party again on Friday morning and also because we’re supposed to be hosting another family, though I haven’t heard back yet to finalize (so if you’re reading this and it’s you, please confirm!). Oh – also because stores are closed tomorrow. Happy Canada Day!!!

(in the lists below, crossed out means we have done it as of bedtime on Thursday – ie 1 am Friday morning)

Supper (w/R. family, maybe Sara?)

  • Challah
  • Soup
  • Cabbage Rolls
  • Apricot-sauce chicken only with marmalade because no apricot jam
  • Rice
  • Carrots (maybe tinned, Naomi's request)
  • Corn
  • Oven-baked egg rolls
  • Desserts

Lunch (w/R. family)

  • Challah
  • Teriyaki Salmon
  • Cholent
  • Slicey meats / bologna on rye/pumpernickel
  • Leaf salad
  • Ted’s nice potto salad
  • Desserts

Shalosh Seudos

  • Dunno yet! But if we’re hosting people for the entire Shabbos, I guess I’d better think of something instead of just throwing peanut butter at the kids and singing zemiros like I usually do.
  • Fake crab salad
  • Hardboiled eggs. I always wish we had some and this week, maybe we will we do!
  • Chips, cookies, pickles, whatever else we have lying around


  • Ginger cookies from PC mix
  • One more thing – s’mores bars?

Hey, wow. I made “chicken”!!!

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Yup, genuine, homemade (inexpensive) seitan fake-chicken for tomorrow night’s vegan stir-fry.  How did I do it???

Since the process was astonishingly bread-like, I decided to post it over here on my bread blog.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

I won!

image Over at!

I won $25 in hair accessories, or hair-covering accessories, just for adding two entries to the site’s hair-covering glossary.

Here were my winning suggestions:


A plastic insert used to add volume to the bangs or upper portion of one's hairstyle.  Very trendy in certain girls' schools; scorned in others.

Wig Fall

A partial wig used to add length or volume to the back or other area of one's hair.  Can be worn under a hat to give the illusion of natural hair.

I know… nothing earth-shattering here, but since I rarely win anything, this was kind of a fun return on a late-night email.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Waiting for a baby

Waiting, waiting.  There is nothing more happy or hopeful than waiting for a baby.

Two friends, or rather, one friend and one acquaintance, are due this week, so someone is bound to pop any second.

Not much to say, to do, to think, but I feel anxious, fidgety, twiddly of thumbs, waiting and waiting for these two new people.

One of them is a first baby, and I feel overwhelmingly sad, thinking of the week or so while we waited for YM (waiting for YM while he takes his own sweet time seems to be a pattern; at least, it was this evening when he went swimming with a kid from school instead of phoning and telling me he was going swimming).

Thinking, specifically, of one special dinner and a movie night we were planning, at Milk n’ Honey; I don’t remember what the movie was.  Life had been so crazy-hectic:  he was due the first day of Sukkos, and with finishing school and then the yamim tovim and everything, I hadn’t really had any “me” time.

So two days after Sukkos, that was the plan.  Quick post-term ultrasound to make sure he was okay (he was swimmy and busy and happy so I wasn’t worried) and then out for dinner, ice cream, movie, whatever I wanted.

Except instead the ultrasound person said my amniotic fluid was low and it was time to get the baby out.  So Jeremy went home to get the “baby bag” and I stayed in the hospital waiting to have my labour induced; waiting to have my membranes ruptured.

I sat there, looking at the amniotic-slash-crochet hook and watching Jeremy goof around with all the machinery – the ultrasound thingy, the heartrate thingy – no clue how very awful things were about to become.

Labour should have been a clue, I guess.  That was pretty awful, even with the epidural early on.

But instead of the happy “baal teshuva” life we felt we’d been promised – sheitels and tzitzis and gemaras and a baby:  perfect! – our lives began to spiral out of control:  an awful, hellish descent that, on days like today (almost 16 years later), I feel I’m still struggling to climb back up from.

On days like today, I wish I could take it back.  Not entirely:  I just wish I was still waiting, perched on that precipice, happily, hopefully, waiting for a baby.

(Kosher) Menu Plan Monday #20: 16 Tammuz, 5770

Why the weird dates? Click here to find out!

We are a Jewish family of 6 (2 parents, 4 kids) and all our meals are kosher.

Newcomers, you can read my MPM intro here which tells you all about who we are and what we eat, or just visit my super-duper-list-tastic itemization of Everything We Eat (as well as the rest of this blog, of course). 

I’ve skipped a week here because last Monday we were in Ottawa.  Had a pretty good week there, food-wise, but now it’s back to the old supper grindstone.

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Monday (today):  Homemade perogies (if I can find the pasta machine; if I can find a pareve dough recipe – apparently, traditional Polish pierogi are made with sour cream IN the dough!)

They turned out beautifully!  I have made perogies before, but these ones held together stupendously well compared to others.  I used chicken-broth flavoured instant mashed potatoes, with some cut-up cheddar along with garden chives and parsley.  I meant to sprinkle fresh parsley over the top, but forgot in the chaos of making stuffed pasta right before supper time.  Will I never learn???

Another perogie pic:

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…and here is Perogie:  The After picture!

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Tuesday (17 Tammuz fast day – ugh – plus Ted’s late day, so we’re ALL eating late):  Creamy broccoli soup, lasagna

planters 036Wednesday:  Something on the BBQ – will be less vague as the time approaches.  Maybe chicken skewers?  Maybe steak???

Chicken skewers it was!  (left, raw; below, plated with homegrown olive-oil-and-kale couscous)

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Thursday (Ted’s off day – Vegan Vursday):  Homemade Seitan stir-fry

Friday/Shabbos (maybe Sara?):  Dunno, as always.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

It’s SOOPER funfair day…! :-)))

bakesale 2007-01-01 125Thanks to a couple of dedicated mamas, our first (of many, I hope) neighbourhood funfair took place at a small local park very close to our house.

I ran a Kosher Bake Sale table, selling buns, muffins, brownies and Ted’s famous Triscuit mini-pizzas, and surpassed all of my wildest expectations, selling just about every baked thing I brought to the park. 

I was glad there was a kosher presence at the funfair – that’s why I volunteered to do it.  They were asking people to contribute 10% of their profits to cover the park permit and expenses, but I gave a little more than that, plus I paid Elisheva something for her tremendous and cheerful assistance all afternoon.  (you can see her behind our table in the photo above:  she’s the one in the white ballcap and long pink skirt)

My plant sale went a little less well, but I did sell a few potted daylilies and tomatoes.  Forgot to write the varieties on the pots and they got all mixed up – oops!

The mamas running the event were SO organized:  the table was all set up and waiting, with a tablecloth even, when we got there.  All I had to do was plunk our stuff down and start selling okay, we did end up bringing our own folding chairs from home).  They had a nice variety of booths, including henna, face painting, some lovely shirts and skirts, jewellery, comics, and (right next to us) hair accessories.

Face painting for the littles:

bakesale 2007-01-01 074  bakesale 2007-01-01 134

I’m SO happy Naomi’s gotten past her fear-of-face-painting stage.  Gavriel Zev seems to have never had one, though last summer we mostly settled for having his hand painted because I feared he’d be too squirmy to sit through a full face-paint session.

Of course, despite recent fearmongering, no neighbourhood event would be complete without a bouncy castle:

bakesale 2007-01-01 091bakesale 2007-01-01 087

Facepainting was free, but they had to get a $1 handstamp for the bouncy castle, games, etc.  Very worthwhile, I think.

Oh - there was also a terrific – if brief – concert by my sister Abigail and her friend Shira, as well as other music throughout the event.  They were supposed to have a more sophisticated grown-up concert at 8 this evening, but thunderstorms came up and rained them out.

Tug of war for all ages!  Big men vs little kids (a very close one; the kids are weak but HEAVY); teenagers vs… hmm… I don’t remember what this one was, but YM, now castless, enjoyed himself.

bakesale 2007-01-01 118 bakesale 2007-01-01 123 

bakesale 2007-01-01 128But mostly, what I did was stand around all afternoon selling bread.  My sister Sara has lately been selling her bakery’s artisan breads at a local farmers’ market, and says in some ways it’s her dream job:  sitting in the park, talking to strangers about bread.  She’s right (in small doses, I think). 

It’s amazing:  baked goods are PROPS.  I know all these people from the neighbourhood, but I’m so socially awkward that I can’t usually manage a normal conversation, just stand around and stare and not know what to talk about. 

Why didn’t I realize this before?   If you have a table full of delicious muffins (“only 50 cents each,” or, as I joked but everybody took me seriously, “special; 2 for $1”!), you’re automatically POPULAR!  People come up to you and strike up conversation… sometimes, they even feel they must buy something because they know you a little bit.  They talk to you about bread, the weather, the funfair.  (more about my bread here!)

I think I’m going to walk around all the time with a tray of muffins; get one of those wearable trays that fit around my neck like old movie-theatre or baseball-game snack-sellers.  “Yup – fresh today!”  “Nope – no dairy!”  “Sure, they’re zero calories!” (nudge nudge)

Either that, or I’ll go to bed tonight dreaming of our next neighbourhood funfair.  Kudos to Ellie and Catherine, the mamas who arranged it.  If you live anywhere near here (the newly named Arlington Village), get yourself to the next two on July 25 and August 29!  Oh, or check out updates at their new blog here.

Look what I came home to!!!

backday 001Oh, I am in LOVE.  The garden was at its absolute BEST of the year when we pulled up at home yesterday.  A little sun, a little rain… PERFECT!

In this photo:  shasta daisies, bee balm almost ready to flower, five “The President” clematis blooms (near the top left of the archway), daylilies in the foreground and too many other wonderful things to possibly name.  There are even a couple of fuchsias visible in the basket hanging off the garage.  Really, the shasta daisies steal the show.  It rained all Shabbos, so they kind of drooped, but I hope with sunny weather tomorrow, they will still perk up.

Yarrow with bolted bok choy flowers (okay, not every flower is a wonderful thing, but these are still kind of pretty together!):

backday 004

Stunning bee-balm and daylily together in the front bed:

backday 013backday 014

Raspberries bursting wherever we looked!

 backday 002   

Even a few tomatoes, coming along slowly…

backday 019

Milkweeds, doing their job of attracting butterflies and other pollinators – plus, smelling fantastic (like my toes?).

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And a nice subtle Shabbos bouquet to top things off…

 backday 021 

This is not nearly all, but I won’t bore you with the whole slideshow.  Trust me, it’s amazing!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Six-Word Saturday: 16 Tammuz, 5770

Why the weird dates? Click here to find out!

Teds ottawa 260Join the parade:  highway of heroes

Driving home yesterday afternoon, every single bridge between CFB Trenton and Toronto was lined with firefighters, paramedics, veterans and civilians, waving Canadian flags or “Support our troops” banners, all waiting for the procession accompanying the body of Sergeant James Macneil, 28, who died on Monday in Afghanistan.  According to the news, he just got engaged on Sunday.  This was his fourth tour of duty in Afghanistan.  More details here.

I had heard of people lining the bridges for the processions, but didn’t quite realize the magnitude of the phenomenon.  It really did feel like we were participating in the world’s longest parade; quite festive, in a weird way.  Many of the firefighters were standing on top of their trucks.  Lots of other people were just pulled over by the roadside, including people in military gear, I guess so they could salute him as he went past.

It was hard to explain to the kids what Canadian soldiers are doing in Afghanistan in the first place.  I kind of said that just like soldiers protect people here, sometimes when there is something very bad going on, they have to go to other countries to protect those people as well. I believe it’s true; I hope it made some kind of sense to the kids. 

To them, though, it really was just a parade – just another sight along the way to help pass the time.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Dispatch from the road

Teds ottawa 154 Well, not really, because if you’re reading this, I’ve found a WiFi connection, which probably means we’re home.

I was hoping Ted’s brother Richard would have WiFi at home, where we’re staying, given that they have the best of everything out here. But they don’t really have the BEST of everything… just a comfy middle-class sort of everything.

Their ranch-style single-level home on a huge property is very, very comfortable (I’d imagine) for two, and not too difficult to imagine being quite comfy for even all six of us, were we to have to live here full-time. But we won’t, because the only catch with this house and huge property is that it’s about 45 minutes east of Ottawa – well, that and the mosquitos.

To my kids, this must feel like unbearable wealth, but to me, it just feels middle-class, the type of thing I grew up taking for granted that my children do not: matching towels, clean dishes, everything sorted and in its place.

Oh, and a LOT of fire extinguishers, CO2 detectors and whatnot. My brother-in-law is extremely safety-conscious and keeps buying these types of things for us as well.

So let’s see… what have we done with our week here?

Teds ottawa 061Sunday: Arrive at Ted’s parents’ house, after an easy 5-hour drive. Almost too easy. It felt like we were pretty much still in a suburb of Toronto. Father’s Day Dinner at Ted’s parents’ house. They got a TON of kosher food, for everybody, ordered from the south Loblaws that carries all the kosher stuff. It was amazing, delicious, plus a kosher cake from Rideau Bakery. Followed by a drive out to Ted’s brother’s house… long, but nice arriving in the country and flopping into bed. After watching some mindless TV (they have satellite TV, hundreds of channels, and a PVR, perhaps to make up for being out in the middle of nowhere).


Teds ottawa 063Monday: Calypso! The Ottawa area’s new waterpark, which is, I might add, INCREDIBLE. Gavriel Zev cannot stand water that splashes, and there were a few spots that had him terrified, but mostly a very happy day for everybody. Much recommended is the Jungle Run, a “ride” that is almost impossible to describe because you ARE the ride. They basically provide a kind-of circular river, about chest or shoulder height, with a forceful current, and hand you a foam “raft.” You cling to your raft and, along with hundreds of other people at any given time, float around the river, under bridges with water splashing down onto you, spraying you, rushing you along until you get back to the beginning. Hard to describe, but trust me, it’s WAY better than a ride. Super-relaxing! I did it three times: once with the big kids, once with Naomi Rivka, and once wearing two life jackets instead of the raft so I could float along effortlessly. Bumped my head on the wall, almost lost my tichel, but it was amazing. Ted also went around once with Naomi Rivka. Did I say tichel? Yes, tichel; I was totally tznius the whole time, I promise. I fixed my bathing suit before we left Toronto so that instead of the nasty velcro closure it came with between the legs, it now has a single snap closure, so it was very comfortable, without the awful ripping feeling of velcro grabbing everywhere I walked. The bathing suit is a 2-piece: underneath is a bodysuit that covers everything from below the knee to below the elbow to my neck and in between. Over top is a matching (floral) tank-style dress in swimsuit fabric that also reaches below the knees and snaps between my legs so it doesn’t float up. Fun! I hadn’t realized (dumb, naive) that “water park” meant “vast public nudity park,” but that just shows how long I’ve been removed from contemporary culture. Where everybody seems to have a tattoo. Icky. Yet I couldn’t help thinking I was the one who stood out, in a long dress, long sleeves, and head covering.

Teds ottawa 068 Teds ottawa 079

Sliding ‘till your hands and feet go pruney!

Teds ottawa 120Tuesday: Quiet day, which got on everybody’s nerves, including mine. Took YM to the bus station to send him off to Toronto, then we were going on a picnic. Last year, we ended up at a not-so-nice picnic spot, so I chose somewhere special this time; the island in the middle of the river between Ottawa and Gatineau (maybe the Ottawa river?). But when we got there with the car (you need a car for everything here!), the picnic spot I chose was overrun with a) weird insects, b) groundhogs, and c) geese. Awful! Elisheva got out to chase a groundhog and got a picture. But we couldn’t stay there; there were hundreds of geese, including lots of “teenagers”, and they all can get pretty vicious. Not to mention not being able to breathe without inhaling a dozen bugs. So we ended up back at our not-so-nice picnic spot, only there was a kind-of-nice sandy beach nearby and it was okay. I grumped fo r awhile, which rubbed off on Elisheva, but then we all got into nice moods. Afterwards, we went downtown to the Rideau Bakery, then the Byward Market to buy some raspberries, sugar peas and baby carrots for supper. Oh – I ended up buying a pair of sandals (at last!), plus a couple of coleus, making it one of our more expensive stops. Then hung out at Ted’s parents, made an easy salmon supper, and swung out of town, stopping only at Chapters to spend the gift cards his aunt had given us on Sunday.

Teds ottawa 097

Groundhog day… all over again.

Teds ottawa 182  Wednesday: Montreal day! Feeling smug that we hadn’t planned on going tomorrow, which is Quebec’s Fete Nationale (aka St Jean Baptiste Day, a name I find offensive because Quebec is part of my nation and not a separate nation, at least not yet – that I’ve noticed), we decided to go to the Biodome, which is a great animal-themed place to hang out, where they highlight four different ecosystems and the animals who live there. We hadn’t been there in a few years, and actually had Ted’s brother’s GPS, so after a quick bagel stop, I punched in the address and away we went. Got stuck in traffic, and everybody was grouchy after almost 2 hours in the car (maybe more), but I was happy with my tech toy until the GPS steered us faithfully to the parking lot for the Biodome, where a sign awaited us: “Biodome closed today.” Quoi??? Persisting, I had Ted drive all the way around the olympic park area to the other entrance, hoping the sign at the east entrance was a typo. Somehow. But at the other gate, the parking lot attendant dashed our hopes: “they’re on strike.” The whole Biodome. Drat, drat, drat. Kids antsy, me let down by tech toy not reporting the strike, Ted grumpy from so much driving, we decided to head for the most boring part of town: the Vieux-Port. Yes, it means Old Port. And yes, it is very likely the place where at least a few of my ancestors first set foot on this continent. But what is there to see? A little more, it turned out, than the last time we were there. We parked the car – off the beaten path, I’m afraid, later necessitating a too-long walk back – then set out. There are a few piers, and one has a nice new playground and some kind of Cirque de Soleil tent; not the main one. The next pier has the main Cirque tent, and BOY did I want to go see the show. Only $50-something each for the cheap seats, and that would have included Naomi Rivka, bringing the show to over $250, probably. So we walked away. I started getting grouchy again and everybody agreed we should hire a caleche. After Ted had repeatedly reassured me he had money, it turned out what he meant by money was $40, which does NOT buy a caleche ride; the standard, City-mandated rate is $48. Still, we found a driver who was willing to compromise, and had a 30-minute tour anyway. The extra $8 would probably have included having him point out famous landmarks; as it was, he just chatted with a friend up front, while we sat and stared at who knows what. We walked up one of the pedestrian streets afterwards; pretty dull. Hung about in front of Notre-Dame Basilica for a minute, me wishing we could go in and everybody else maybe wishing they were back at the car. It really is stunning inside; if it was still free, I might have gone in, despite Elisheva`s cries of, “ìt’s a church!” They actually have a “sound and light” show there every evening that looked like it would be pretty cool, but again, she would have felt compromised, religiously. And frankly, any Catholics in the crowd might do well to feel compromised too: I’d be embarrassed if one of the most significant shuls in the Western Hemisphere decided to set off fireworks every night to make a bit of extra money off the tourists. But someone has decided it’s in good taste, and as I said, it was not expensive and looked kind of fun. But we decided not to go and went back to the car instead, via some tacky shops that have taken the place of the dingy flea market that used to be where the Science Centre now stands. Like I said, the area has experienced some renewal since I was there last; I just hope the renewal isn’t quite done yet, because it feels like a pale version of Toronto’s harbourfront. Fair enough; five years ago, it felt like a pale version of Toronto’s harbourfront twenty years ago… which means maybe they’re catching up. Both places, by the way, feel like pale versions of San Francisco’s amazing waterfront, but everybody knows that (I hope). Back at the car, we set off for Ernie and Ellie’s for supper, but Ted decided to go up the mountain, so I stuck that info in the GPS and we headed there, but both littles were sleeping and the thought of a shlep up and around the mountain – our neighbours recommended Beaver Lake, which looks charming, instead of our usual touristy lookout – just seemed too daunting. Plus, it was already six o’clock (1800h, as they say in the belle province). So we went and grabbed our all-y0u-can-eat asian-inspired cuisine and were mostly not disappointed, though I was angered at the end by the mandatory 15% tip, which was levied with absolutely no notice. I was planning on tipping much less because a) there was a light flickering over our table that was making me crazy so they tried to adjust it but couldn’t so I had to request another table and they made us move our own dishes and cutlery and stuff, which is tacky, b) the chicken corn soup was gluey, lukewarm and flavourless (Ted’s egg drop soup was lovely; warm and flavourful, but my sampling of their Hot & Sour soup was just uninspired, with a mysterious slice of pastrami floating in it for good measure), and finally, c) the service was slow-to-nonexistent, with our water pitcher running out halfway through the meal (hello? family of five here!). The all-you-can-eat is not a buffet: they give you a menu, but you can only order 3 dishes at a time, so if you can’t FIND your #%! waiter, you are saving them a ton of money. In general, though, it’s a good idea and I approve. Give Jews a buffet and they will heap their plates, even throwing dessert right on top in case they run out of the good stuff later, and end up only eating maybe half or two-thirds of it. This way, you kind of have to pace yourself. The plates with the individual dishes are quite small; Ted ordered won tons and got maybe three tiny ones. But they will (if you can find them) cheerfully bring you many, many more. My favourite dish was the peanut-butter dumplings. They’re sort of a har gow wrapper; rice based and steamed to an appropriately slippery / slimy texture, then slathered in a sweet peanut sauce. I don’t even know if there was anything inside the wrapper (maybe chicken), but the combination of flavour and texture made the whole awful kosher-dining experience worth it. Naomi Rivka: “This is a fancy restaurant, right?” Me, eyeing the awful decor, surly wait staff and subpar soups: “Yes, that’s right.” I grew up eating in fancy restaurants, thanks to wealthy grandparents. This is NOT one, but it’s the closest Missy Chooch is probably going to get for a while. After arguing with the guy about the tip – the menu bore a warning that parties of 12 or more would have a mandatory 15% gratuity added, meaning perhaps that parties of zero or more would as well, and then he told me he’d checked with their lawyers so it was okay, because only in a Jew place would they argue instead of maybe thinking, “let’s not rip off this nice lady who only eats here every two years but will tell all her Toronto friends and maybe even blog about her fine-dining experience here at Ernie and Ellie” (which actually has no apostrophe or possessive; it’s just the two names). But no, he did argue, and I relented and paid because a nice lady had let me in line even though she had a small simple bill and was paying cash because Gavriel Zev does NOT like eating in restaurants and was about to start screaming again. And we hopped in the car and despite knowing the way home, fired up the GPS and headed back and this is where I am right now; in Richard’s clean, cozy dining room with no WiFi access, typing up this blog entry, playing Spider Solitaire (painfully slowly) and sometime soon, dragging my weary bones off to bed. Tomorrow is another day.

Teds ottawa 137

J’aime bien les calèches a Vieux-Montréal!  (ville de ma naissance!)

Teds ottawa 185 Thursday: So the thing is, Ted’s brother is gay and so is his boyfriend, and that’s where we’re staying, and so I wonder – what kind of message is this, for us, for the kids, that we stay here with them when we come to Ottawa? Mostly, it’s the message, “we can’t afford a hotel,” but still. If I believe SOME, this type of interaction will normalize homosexuality for them and make them more likely to be gay when they grow up. Or something. I don’t buy it. And then, there`s this: I have said already that my kids can’t sleep over at my sister’s because her non-Jewish boyfriend lives there. Is this hypocritical? Is gay okay but not shacking up? (and if so, why is gay shacking up – even the 25-year-relationship kind – okay?) Is gay okay but not a goy? Or is none of this side a problem because they’re not Jewish and therefore not subject to the same moral standards we are? Whereas my sister, of course, is.

I’ll be honest. I duck the issue a bit because they’re not Jewish. And because this is Ted’s family, not mine. I am much more vocal with my own family. I would never let my own family shower Naomi Rivka with the Tinkerbell accessories she loves so much, or DVDs or whatever. Then again, my family knows to ask. Ted’s family just buys and BUYS, which is a beautiful gesture (please – I don’t want to sound ungrateful here!) except much of what they buy is (shh, I’ll spell it) J-U-N-K.

I like Ted’s siblings very much, by the way. They are for the most part (one exception) very considerate, especially if you measure according to how much JUNK they buy us. They go out of their way to accomodate us in every way I could imagine – tonight, they’re having a big family BBQ at his sister’s house and his brother has ordered everything kosher so we can participate. His sister remembers people she met once at our wedding and asks about them and listens so well and thoughtfully. When my mother came to town earlier this year, his sister picked her up at the hotel and brought her to Ted’s parents’ house for a visit (this is a THING I think my mother regrets about not having the traditional Jewish family – the traditional convivial interrelationship among machetanim, the in-laws).

They are just NICE people.

If my kid was gay, I would hope to love him to bits anyway. Or her. And, frankly, I would hope they were not so gay that they couldn’t be convinced into a nice hetero marriage-with-kids.

I definitely don’t believe that 1-in-10 statistic, and I hope it’s not HATEFUL or PHOBIC to say I suspect many young people who believe they’re gay are perhaps more flexible than anything else (since I also believe sexuality is a spectrum).

Honestly, I knew people in their teens and twenties who would have sworn they were gay who turned out, well, NOT to be. I see them on facebook with their husbands or wives and kids and it doesn’t look like they are suppressing any essential gayness to live those lives. They are not miserable.

Given support, maturity, and yes, positive pressure to marry a person of the opposite gender and procreate – to create the bayis ne’eman b’Yisrael that I believe is the sacramental building block of the Jewish religion – I do still believe that many kids who think they’re gay could end up happily straight.

And if they do not, well, I like to believe I’d keep on loving them to bits.

A friend of mine, a while ago, was asking on a message board what people would do if their kids turned out to be gay, or transsexual, or otherwise not fitting the mold.

I believe the people who genuinely fit those descriptions – reasonably sane, grounded, non-attention-seeking people – are rare. Fewer than one in ten, though I won’t hazard a guess at the actual number.

And if there happens to be one in your family, well, like I keep saying, love them to bits and maybe even stay at their less-than-faaaaabulous but definitely comfy house when you come to town.

Whoo-hoo! Found a WiFi connecion at the Museum of Civilization – posting NOW! Hope everybody in TO is having an earthquake-free day today.

Postscript:  here’s how it all wrapped up…

teds ottawa 192 Thursday:  Ted’s brother took Ted and the kids strawberry-picking (photo above) while Elisheva and I had a leisurely breakfast and shower.  Then we all left for the Museum of Civilization (with its fabulous Children’s Museum – a day trip in itself!).  I was blown away by the “Canada” exhibit.  Canadian history is only deathly dull in print and in two dimensions.  The museum does a great job of bringing it all to life.  Later, we had a big family supper for Ted’s nephew Cameron’s 12th birthday.  His brother and sister bought EVERYTHING except the salmon we brought for our main course.  Everything was kosher except the stuff on his sister’s BBQ (they planned it that way).  Obsessively label-checking, I discovered two fleishik trays – all the others were sealed with a “pareve” hechsher sticker.  So his meticulous brother obsessed and apologized and I thought he might actually kill himself over the fact that he ordered all pareve platters.  Teds ottawa 203I managed to divert him at last by calling attention to the lovely walnut and apple salad tray and all the amazing dressings:  a different gourmet dressing for every single tray, plus these mushroom pastries with a pareve aioli-type dip that everybody loved.  Ice cream cake afterwards, plus Ted’s brother offered us platters upon platters of kosher pastries, plus fruit.  It was really overkill.  I felt guilty bringing our four stupid little pieces of salmon.  Naomi was initially disappointed that she wouldn’t be seeing her good doggie-friend Moochie, but made friends instead with Ted’s sister’s elderly poodle Darby.  Same breed, just about 14 years’ age difference.

2010-06-26 Teds ottawa

Trying, and failing, to take a decent family photo.

And that was that.  On Friday, after a typical late start and a quick visit with Ted’s parents, we drove home along the Highway of Heroes, and arrived to a gorgeous garden.

The end. Teds ottawa 253

p.s.  I found out afterwards that on Thursday’s strawberry-picking outing with Ted’s brother, he insisted on vacuuming our travel-cluttered car before he would go anywhere in it.  I thought it looked amazingly neat, but just thought now that the kids are getting older, they don’t make as much of a mess!


Saying goodbye to Moochie!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Six-Word Saturday: 8 Tammuz, 5770

Why the weird dates? Click here to find out!


What to call Ottawa folks: suggestions?

Seriously… I still haven’t found a satisfying answer. Ottawanians? Ottaweenies? Ottagonians? (no, silly; that’s what you call people from Halifax!) This is an ongoing quest… ideas are welcome!

p.s. We are away in Ottawa ‘till Friday, in case you hadn’t guessed.

Friday, June 18, 2010

The lemons are exquisite!

newchallahs 2010-06-18 019Last year (Spring 2009), I vowed to stop fighting two garden menaces that I simply could NOT get rid of:  tenacious grapevines growing in the backyard, and a prickle-weed in the front foundation bed.

I had learned a bit more about growing stuff and plant life cycles, and realized that everything flowers.  I hadn’t seen the prickle-weed’s flowers because I kept cutting it back so viciously, but had begun to suspect it might be a rose if only I would let it grow.

newchallahs 2010-06-18 021So, I figured, “if life gives you lemons, I will make lemonade.”  I should leave these two obnoxious plants alone for a season or two and see what they could do for me (read about it here – scroll down).

Well, this week, the “prickle-weed” has finally bloomed.  They are lightly scented, semi-double miniature roses in what I think is a rather-beguiling shade of red.  If anybody happens upon this post and wants to tell me what they’re called, I’d be grateful.

Now, this is not at ALL a plant I would choose for myself.  It is pure serendipity, which is probably why I love it so much. 

I didn’t choose it; it chose me.  I hope it’ll keep me.

First raspberries!

newchallahs 2010-06-18 002I don’t remember them being so HUGE before.  Most are not ripe yet, and whatever we don’t pick on Sunday will probably be overripe when we return from Ottawa next Friday.  :-o

No bugs, by the way… and they were DELICIOUS!

Shabbos Food

Going to Ottawa on Sunday, so we’re keeping it low-key… but delicious!  My mother made the brisket because she felt like brisket.  I love when that happens!



I dunno, I dunno.  My ongoing challah ennui has extended itself and today I am full of Shabbos ennui.  Not for Shabbos itself!  Just the food.  Just the getting up out of this chair with the heat and the tired and MAKING the Shabbos food.  Guess there’s not much to make so I should just get up n’ do it.

The SBNR Epidemic

Gaaaack!  I didn’t know this thing had gotten SOoooo way out of hand until I read this post from Minnesota Mameleh, and googled the phrase “Spiritual but not religious” (try it!).

Frankly, I was convinced the first time I saw a Reform rabbi write on a whiteboard:


and then, tidily, circle the middle of it, like this:

imagethat you can’t have one without the other.

But then, I’m a sucker for “cute” proofs.

And you know what they say…or maybe you don’t.  I’m not giving sources here, but Google the phrase to find the original sources of each of these memorable quotes.

  • Being "spiritual" but not "religious" is like being literate, but you haven't yet chosen a language.
  • Saying “I’m Spiritual-but-not-religious” is like saying “I'm a duck but I don't go near the water.”
  • Saying "I'm spiritual but not religious" is like saying "I'm in love, but with nobody."
  • Saying you're "spiritual but not religious" is like puting a wing on your Kia. You only fool yourself, everyone else thinks you're an idiot. (hey!  I drive a Kia!!!)
  • Being “spiritual, but not religious” is like being “Smart, but not intelligent”
  • Saying a person is spiritual but not religious is like me saying I'm gay but I don't (okay, never mind this one)
  • Being spiritual but not religious is like eating nothing but cake and ice cream.
  • Saying that you are spiritual but not religious is like saying that you are healthy but have no concern about diet and exercise.
  • (and along the same lines) Saying you are "spiritual but not religious" is like saying "I'm athletic but I don't exercise", or "I'm scientific but I don't do math."
  • Hearing people say they are spiritual but not religious is like hearing people say I like dating but am not getting married.
  • Being "spiritual but not religious" is like being a person who knows the price of everything but the value of nothing. (huh?)
  • Saying that one is spiritual but not religious is like saying that you smoked marijuana but you didn't inhale.
  • Saying one is 'spiritual but not religious' is like saying the seeker wants the benefits but not the work to get them.
  • Saying “I'm spiritual, but not religious” is like saying, “I'm a citizen, but I refuse to pay taxes.”

Yes, I am proud of the fact that this is the World’s Largest Collection of “spiritual but not religious” quotes.  Feel free to google the quote to find the original attribution and use it in your own context.  I take credit for none of these!  (if one is yours, let me know and I’ll give you full credit)

I like seeing different people’s take on punctuating their sentences.  I have corrected the worst couple, however, because I figured my readers wouldn’t like it so much.

What’s left to say?  To me, “spiritual but not religious” doesn’t exist.  You can do some New-Agey stuff and make something up about your neshama or tikkun olam – slap a Hebrew word on it and see if it becomes holy. 

In a Jewish context, it’s little more than a modern veneer for tired old “cultural” Judaism; you know, eating bagels and lox on Chanukah (or Pesach, or Yom Kippur).

But what do I know?  I’m intelligent, but not smart… and it’s true:  I’ve never inhaled.

Naptime = Nopetime

Just about the hardest thing today was keeping Gavriel Zev awake as we tootled around town running various errands.

With Baby #1, it seems (from watching other families, because I have no memory of this period in my life), everything revolves around naptime. 

We’ve had guests miss Shabbos meals because their precious infant was sleeping; everyone tiptoes around, it’s a sacred moment:  naptime.  If workers are using jackhammers on the street, you feel like running out there and screaming at them:  “don’t you know it’s naptime???”

Babies #2 and onward have it the other way around. 

From birth, they have to accommodate the rest of the world’s schedule, so it’s the baby we scream at (or, if not scream, coax, wheedle, and urge) to stay awake just a bit longer.  “It’s not sleep time yet; aren’t you hungry?  We’ll have pizza!  Don’t you want to wait ‘till we get home so we can have nummies?  I’m turning off the music because it’s making you too sleepy.  Stay awake – hey, look, jackhammers!”

I have actually pared down our schedule radically so that we are pretty much accommodating GZ, our still-napping 2-year-old, most days.  We don’t do afternoon dance classes anymore because he was melting down every single week.  And he’s meeting me halfway by staying alert longer into the afternoon; I’m sure at some point much too soon, his nap will vanish entirely.

Today, the first stretch of our errands was okay, but ‘round about 2 o’clock, as we were crossing town to come home from a particularly annoying mission at the North York Central Library, things started going downhill fast.  The littles hadn’t had lunch yet – 2 p.m.!!!  But they’d had an assortment of sustaining snacks, and GZ was getting VERY sleepy.

His head was tilting.  His eyes were closing.  The pizza shop (Pizza Café, formerly King Kosher, formerly King David’s Wilson location) was seconds away, but his eyes were shutting; shut… and then we made it!  Sort of.  He opened his eyes, but refused to get out of the car to go inside; “I’m too sleepy!”  (duh)

But I persisted; I engaged him in a chat about what pizza kind he wanted, and eventually he went from no pizza to a predictable veggie slice.  Our girls like it plain; the boys like veggie.  And then I caved and bought them a single chocolate milk to share (2 straws, so it’s perfectly hygienic!) for a temporary hit of energy which would hopefully get us the rest of the way home.

(plus we stopped in Starbucks for a temporary hit of energy to get me through the afternoon!)

And he made it.  By the time they got back in the car after exploring Starbucks and running over the sidewalk gratings beside the restaurant, GZ was fully alert again. 

Now, my fear changed from “can I keep him awake?” to “will he ever sleep again?”  When Naomi was that age, once her eyes shut, it was like tripping a switch.  That was it!  Even if she only slept for 30 seconds, she would NOT fall asleep again that afternoon, like until bedtime that night.

Luckily, GZ is not like that.  We got home soon after and finished our pizza on the lawn before going inside for “N plus N” (= “nummies and a  nap”).  A few minutes into our nice, soft nummy cuddle, he was out cold. 

Like always, I picked him up and tossed him over my shoulder.  “That’s it; good boy… Mommy is helping chicken pie.  Here’s Mommy.  He’s a good boy.  He’s the best boy.  He’s the best chicken pie.  Mommy is helping carry Gavriel Zev into his nice, soft beddy.”  I murmur the same things to him, just about every day (except the one time I accidentally smashed his limp head into the doorframe and had to soothe him back to sleep!).

GZ slept for two hours.  Nice.  Naomi did not sleep, but read princess books quietly in my bed the entire time until Ted came home.  Double nice.  I got supper made, got my own stuff done (laundry; fun).  Dayeinu.  That’s about as nice as it gets, with more than one baby.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Cute Snakey Parsha Craft for Chukas / Chukat

snakes 001Whatever you call it, there’s lots of snakey stuff happening in this week’s parsha. 

Here’s a fun way to help kids remember, courtesy of Emily Shapiro Katz of ParshaProjects and Challah Crumbs.  It’s basically a cut-out spiral in a paper plate, and snakes 004I happened to have some lovely, snakily festive paper plates left over from my mother’s birthday supper on Sunday.

Both kids were fascinated that it still lies flat, like a plate, then “jumps up” like a real snake.  They’re a bit into snakes already because we’ve been reading Kipling’s Rikki-Tikki-Tavi (25 cent library clearance) and they also saw the movie last week.

The snake above is Naomi Rivka’s.  I drew the spiral, she cut it out.  I drew the head outline; she filled it in and cut that out, too.  I did the hole-punching, attached the ribbons, and hung them from the ceiling where they can slowly spin in the breeze from the front door (mine has ripped a couple of times already!).

Our G-dcast video this week is also snake-themed.  Not necessarily for kids, though; their open-mouthed fiery snakes might be a bit scary (my kids watched it; nothing scares them!).  The dvar Torah itself is interesting, though; well worth watching for the slightly more mature crowd.

Easy, rewarding craft – and somewhat biodegradable, too!