Thursday, December 29, 2011

Passing Hammacher Schlemmer Thought


Drooling over this Hammacher Schlemmer catalogue (which turns out to be an old one from last fall), I noticed ON THE VERY SAME PAGE ads for a “Portable Handheld Scanner” and a “Phototherapy Hairbrush.”

Now, you can’t see it clearly, but the scanner costs $99.95 compared to the hairbrush’s $199.95.  And for all the proven scientific effectiveness of the phototherapy hairbrush – which, by the way, uses the same laser technology found in scanners – well, I hope you can see where I’m going with this!

That’s right:  buy the scanner, use it on your hair!!!

You’re very welcome.  Reading this blog just saved you $100 on this must-buy gift item; consider making a donation – we can split the difference!

Peek inside the Book of Centuries… with FREE printable clip art!

I hope the world appreciates my sharing this fun resource out of the depths of the bleary delirious fevery sickness my children seem to have shared wtih me… since it’s too early to go to bed and I have to seem reasonably upright so my family doesn’t fall into chaos, I figure I’ll blog instead of collapsing.

DSC02036DSC02041Periodically, as we study composers or painters or history, we take a few minutes to add new clip art and dates to our Book of Centuries (I’m using this basic Jewish Student’s Book of the Centuries, which I created and sell right here on my site!).  I am always grateful that I had it printed on slightly heavier-than-usual paper stock (I also had it done at Kinko’s so I could be sure it would come out perfect).

By the way, though many people advise AGAINST using a Book of Centuries for younger students, because it’s not as visual as a timeline.  But we really don’t have room on our walls for a timeline, and the BOC seems to be doing extremely well. 

I keep it in a special shiny binder and I’ve make an effort to keep it special, separate from our regular schoolwork and kept extra-clean in good condition.  And it seems to be working, and reinforcing Naomi Rivka’s understanding of the history we are learning.  Now, one thing I’m not sure of is how we do this with more than one child:  when it’s time to do history with Gavriel Zev, will I print him his OWN Book of Centuries, or just add on to the one Naomi and I have created?  I will be interested in hearing what other families have done.

For now, we both really enjoy seeing who lived close together or farther apart – did you know that Pablo Picasso was born a year after Helen Keller???  We didn’t, even though we’d studied both, until we went to put in the sticker for Picasso and discovered this neat fact.

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I did buy this pre-made Timeline Sticker Pack to save work as we move through our history reading, so you’ll notice that there are significant individuals, like Hatshepsut, missing from my own clip art set, but only one page of the stickers in the pack is for Ancients, so I have had to create a lot myself anyway – including Jewish timeline stickers.  By “stickers,” I mean printable pages that we can cut out and attach with a glue stick, though if you had sticker paper, you could make them into stickers if you wanted to.

Because different families may want to customize these sheets or add on to the ones I’ve created (though I hope to update this file from time to time as well!), I’m making this available as either an easy printable PDF or an editable Word 2007 document.  If it doesn’t work with your version of Word, I’m sorry, but I can’t do anything about it. 

There are 4 pages so far that comprise an eclectic mix of ancients, moderns, authors, composers, artists, and Magic Tree House books that we ourselves have read, studied or enjoyed:


  • To download this and dozens (hundreds?) of other General Studies printables – including science, art and music resources in Hebrew and English, Ambleside, composer and artist resources, click here.
  • For Limudei Kodesh (Jewish Studies) activities including weekly parsha copywork and holiday resources, click here.

Birthday wishy, wishy… (ruby slippers and MORE)


Elisheva pointed me to these TOMS shoes today, as a potential replacement for my VERY worn around-the-house SuperShoes, which she refers to as my “holocaust shoes.”  Not just because they’re kind of checkered, which is reminiscent of a grey striped uniform, but because when I take them off, they sort of keep the shape of my feet in a haunting way.  I agree that they are full of holes, and various rubber bits are peeling off.  Indeed, the labels I inserted into them back in January have long since peeled away and the shoes have gotten even more bedraggled since then.

Here’s the BACKUP pair of supershoes – and that’s how they looked TWO years ago.

I once applied for a “shoe makeover” TV show, which I thought would be cool, because I am SO not a shoes-acquiring kind of person.  I have literally two pairs of running shoes, one pair of boots, and two pairs of supershoes for around the house.  Oh, and for summer, Birki sandals, but I don’t know if I will ever wear them again, because they never fit comfortably after the accident this past summer, and also my crocs for running out into the garden.  Not enough support in those to wear with an iffy ankle, I suspect.

So anyway – my birthday’s coming up, the time of year when dreams really DO come true.  Well, not from my mother, who bought us a freezer back before Rosh Hashanah as my birthday present.  But maybe somebody feels like blowing $70 (probably $90, all-told, here in Canada) on some nice shoes for me that look like Keds, but they’re made of WOOL so they will be toasty and nice to hole up in all winter long in my 17-degree hidey hole.

Click the wishes tag below to see some other, mostly out-of-date, wish list items!

p.s. A few more for the idea mill:

  • My blender jar broke during the year (a friend’s child pushed it and it smashed on the stone kitchen floor – hurrah) and I miss it so much.  I love my blender, and it’s useless without a jar!!!  (hmm… maybe better to go with the stainless model this time!)
  • As always, anything with UglyDolls on it!
  • Candy thermometer – dull, but true.  Must clip on.  Must have EXCELLENT reviews.
  • Also somewhat pedestrian – more loaf pans, 9x5 nice plain ones; maybe a few more other metal pans.  Nothing non-stick.  Nothing with those exaggerated rounded corners; square so it looks like REAL bread!  These ones look hardcore enough.  :-)

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Nothing Finer

Lying in bed cuddling with GZ, thinking ahead to his fifth birthday, still more than half a year away.  A Big Kid jokes from the other room, coming at me from however-many years into the future, “come on Gavriel Zev, you’re getting married – time for your wedding nummies!” 

There will be no wedding nummies; five years old is the End of the Line.

But wow.  What other opportunity is there to take a busy-busy, active 4-year-old and stop him cold in his tracks to snuggle up, skin-on-skin, with his mommy, for 15 minutes at the end of a frantic day?  What better way is there to cuddle a kid who’s not feeling well, who  needs to hang on, to be a baby, just for a little while?  There is no better way, and this is as it should be: when it’s time, it’s time.  I read about 8-year-olds nursing and I shudder; everybody has a line, I think, beyond which it’s TIME.  Mine is five. 

(I’m sure many shudder when they think about 4, or 3; I think most mamas still prefer their child to wean before he’s old enough to talk about it… let alone READ about it.)

At his age, YM – the oldest – was so big, so mature; him and me, a couple, taking care of baby EC (there are 3 months in the fall when their ages are two years apart opening the vast chasm between 2 and 4).  Camping on his own with my parents, away in daycare all day; I feel like we barely knew each other.

That fifth birthday is arbitrary, but so is any age, and if we make it that far, five is when it will be.  There’s a limit to this closeness and a time when he will be ready to unlatch and jump, two feet forward, into big-kidness.

But I’m telling you – there is nothing finer than this.

FREE Printable Apologia Zoology 1 (Flying Creatures) Blank Narration Page

As I’ve mentioned, we’re enjoying Apologia Science, but I find that the Notebooking Journal doesn’t give us enough space for everything we’ve learned in a single reading, and I don’t love the way the information kind of splashes around on the page.  I had created Blank Narration Pages for our Story of the World history reading, so I just took a few minutes to modify that page slightly so we could use it for science.

I think this page gives just about enough room to narrate the length of section we’re reading at one sitting.  And it lets you create continuity by saving the page and using it for more than one lesson.  You could always begin the next lesson by reading the previous narration, as well (I keep meaning to do this and now I can!).  For history, at least, Naomi loves the small size of the illustration window; I think she feels more creative in this teeny-weeny space.



  • To download this and dozens (hundreds?) of other General Studies printables – including science, art and music resources in Hebrew and English, Ambleside, composer and artist resources, click here.
  • For Limudei Kodesh (Jewish Studies) activities including weekly parsha copywork and holiday resources, click here.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Don’t Forget (Chanukah Freebies!)

DSC02000GZ was in the mood for schoolie while Naomi was working today, and I was racking my brain when I remembered this “Berenstain Bears” Menorah/Dreidel cutting and pasting activity I did with them last year.  It’s been so long that neither of them actually remembered doing it at ALL.

You can find this and a few more Chanukah activities at this page.

I don’t remember why I made this Berenstain Bears when I don’t like them or the books at ALL.  I think I just wanted a family where they would instantly recognize the characters and their relative sizes/ages.  There are a few ways you can use this sheet.  For older kids, you can just do it with drawing lines from each family member to his/her respective menorah and dreidel.

Anyway, I folded a piece of construction paper into fourths to give one distinct area for each family member, and then let GZ have a blast (really, truly, he was humming and happy and asked to do it AGAIN when he was finished).  (I said no; maybe I’ll print him another one tomorrow if we have time.)  This was nice for everybody because it kept him entirely busy with minimal intervention from me, which meant I could give most of my attention to Naomi’s work.

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Gavriel Zev reading… a LOT

image Today, he was a little sicky… which didn’t stop him from curling up with one of our family favourite read-alouds, The Tub People, by Pam Conrad.

image This is his Thing now.  He’ll sit down with a REALLY long story and attempt to tackle the whole thing, all the way through.  Most of the time he makes it, but if I see he’s exhausted and struggling, I swoop in to salvage his self-esteem with one of these cool free bookmarks we printed and glue-sticked (glue-stuck?) onto these cheap, simple “stars” name plates to make super-snazzy, colourful bookmarks. 

imageWe often spend a minute or so reading the bookmark, which is WAY better than the twenty minutes it might take him to finish the book.  In the case of The Tub People, he did actually make it all the way through.  I just didn’t record it all.  :-)

Oooh – I just discovered this free Tub People colouring page – definitely going to print this and save it for when he’s feeling better.  Enjoy!

What are some read-aloud favourites YOUR kids don’t want to quit in the middle???

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Drat! Ow! #$!^^@%@*@!!!!

DSC01970Don't you hate it when a really traumatic, life-changing, howling on the sidewalk in front of the house type injury turns out to look like a great big NOTHING when you try to take a picture of it???

Perhaps this is Hashem’s way of punishing me for going out with my mother last night to see the lights… including this incredible display where they are collecting money for Sick Kids hospital (yes, we gave, and by we, I mean, we put in some of my mother’s money, because I left my wallet at home).


Because then we got home, got out of the car, I let Naomi out, grabbed her carseat and slammed the door… on my fingertip.  Which was just about the most intensely painful thing I can remember, including breaking my ankle.

I ran up the driveway and wept, just howled, until I was too cold and had to move inside, where I ran it under cold water, howling and crying and snotting everywhere.

It still hurts – a lot.  Trust me when I say no photo can do it justice.   It looks like I purpled my finger with marker.  Drat!

Sympathy accepted here.

Growing peevish…

I’ve already mentioned this peeve:  sites that make you create a high-security password to access such highly confidential information as PACKAGE TRACKING.  Today’s medium-security site is Starbucks, where I went to register the nice gift card my sister Abigail thoughtfully picked out for me.  (she knows how much I love green)

Anyway, an attempt to use my usual password formula* produced this error message.  Sheesh.

image image

* password formula:  Instead of using the same password for every single site (very unwise), you can use the same BASE password for many sites, combined with a numeric code that varies with the name of the site.  Base password can include two words, like beetle and fish, with a punctuation mark (maybe #) in between.  Then, if the code number for the S in Starbucks is “27” then your password could be something like “beetle#fish27”.  If you want to make sure it passes the HIGH STANDARDS of websites like Starbucks and Canada Post, however, you’ll have to use a capital letter:  “Beetle#fish27.”  For other sites,  you change the number – for instance, if the code number for the E in Ebay is 02, then your password there would be:  “Beetle#fish02.”  How is this easier than a million random passwords???  The core password becomes very easy to type after doing it a million times.  And you can use a chart for the numbers, which you keep posted by the computer, so all you have to look up when you get to a site for which you don’t remember your password, is type your standard one and look up the number.  If you are a techno-geek, you can use ASCII codes, which you either store in your head or look up online when you forget them.  The only problem is some websites that think they are SO special and require you to choose a super-short password.  In that case, I truncate the “words” portion of the password, because these sites usually demand numbers and punctuation.

Speaking of errors… I was all excited because with this card, Starbucks gives you "free drinks on your birthday."  But it turns out you have to register ahead and then they mail you a postcard, which generally arrives "about 3-7 days before your birthday."  It is only 2 days before my birthday now (December 26, my English birthday).  So I don’t know if they will even bother sending me a card.  Yet another reason to sulk on my birthday…! 

I did Contact Them to let them know of this problem, and ask whether there’s some type of workaround.  I’ll probably hear back from them around the middle of next week, when it’s too late anyway.  First world problems, indeed…

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Parsha Poetry, Year 2: Chanukah / Hanukkah /

As a special Chanukah gift to you – and here, I’m using the term “gift” rather loosely – I decided to just go ahead and draw the artwork myself!  Well, okay, also because nobody in my family would help me.

Click for printable PDF version.

Copywork, yom tov, and parsha activities – updated weekly!

image Little Yossi looked up at his Abba and sighed,
“I love my menorah – it fills me with pride;
But tell me, dear Abba, I know that you’ll know,
Where did we learn how to light it just so?”

“Why, what do you mean?” asked his father, so near,
“Tell me what’s troubling you, Yossi, my dear.”
And he filled up the holders with water and oil,
Making sure none spilled onto the tinfoil.

“I read,” said Yossi, “on Shavuos we stood,
By the face of the mountain and saw it was good;
On Sukkos, we camped out in fragile huts,
And on Purim we sing – there’s no ands, ifs or buts.

“But I never did see, in the Torah I’ve read,
Just where “we must light a menorah” is said;
Which parsha tells us, and where is it found?
Please, Abba, tell me – oh, please do expound!”

“Oh, my Yossi,” said Abba, “I think that I know
Just what you’re asking that’s troubling you so;
To explain, you must know just where and when,
The Torah was written, with quills, not a pen.

Though it seems like history was all long ago,
Some parts are older and some not quite so;
To understand which came first and which last,
It helps to peek into it, look at our past.

The parshas each week are our oldest story,
Telling of Yaakov, his sons, and their glory;
The Torah’s the oldest, the oldest of all,
And then came nevi’im who heard Hashem’s call.

Then came kesuvim, the last written pieces,
Passed on from uncles to nephews and nieces;
Sharing their wisdom and writing down truths,
For a new generation of children and youths.

From then until now, nothing’s been added,
No happiness happied, no sadnesses sadded;
The Tanach, we call it, a closed holy book,
But open to all who want a good look.

The story we read when it’s Chanukah time,
Though rarely conveyed in such catchy rhyme,
Happened long after the holy books ended,
To people from whom we all have descended.

The story’s important, as so many are,
And we gather each year, from near and from far,
To hear all the stories and learn the great deeds,
Of Hashem, who met all the Maccabees’ needs.

But just like our own lives, it’s not in the Torah,
The story we know when we see a menorah.
And in this way, I think, Hashem means to tell,
That not just in ancient times miracles dwell.

The Tanach and Torah are done and composed,
But great things will come that are still undisclosed.
That’s a big word that means He hasn’t said yet,
 image Exactly how much of His kindness we’ll get.”

The wicks were all lit and the tiny flames glowed,
And there by their light, Yossi’s little face glowed.
“And so,” Abba told him, “the story’s not through,
“For the last chapter’s waiting… to be written by YOU.”image

My Stereo Sinai Chanukah Gift!

DSC01948I guess the word “Gift” should be in quotation marks… since I bought it for myself. 

A few weeks ago, I pre-ordered Biblegum Pop, one of Stereo Sinai’s first two albums (Biblegum Pop was released simultaneously with another album, The Revelation Will Not Be Televised), and it arrived in the mail today – just in time to help me get some cleaning done around the house.  Which is no small task; to get the job done, it apparently takes a unique combination of smart lyrics from the Tanach, catchy electronic tunes… oh, and a couple of friends coming over for Shabbos Party tomorrow.

The CD came with a personalized, signed letter from the band and this weird, lapbook-style nifty fold-up envelope that I will probably never figure out how to refold ever again.  Oh, and a bookmark that announces, “we steal lyrics FROM GOD.”


Time to crack it open…


The case will never be the same again.  Perhaps I’ll have one of the children try to refold it.

I’d heard many of the tunes before:  Mi Yimalel, in particular, is one I’m just about sick of after two weeks of the kids’ nonstop requests for it.  I also already have #3, Gideon’s Song, #5, Lech Lecha, and #12, David and Goliath.  So out of 12 songs, that’s four I already owned for free… not a bad ratio, in fact.  The new tunes are wonderful; melodic and beat-driven, and range from the traditional Yiddish Tum Balalaike to the catchy all-Hebrew David and Goliath (“Im telchi imi, v’shalachti…”).  Oh, and the Aramaic Beautiful City (taken from Yah Ribon, a Shabbos zemer). 

Musically, the songs range from – well, Tum Balalaika again! – to Blues of Glory, which I’d describe as “blues-ish,” featuring lyrics “stolen” from Anim Zemiros, a song often sung at the end of Mussaf on Shabbos.  Throughout the CD , there’s also a generous helping of the likeable, danceable electronic sound Stereo Sinai is known for.

Weirdly, though Hashem’s name is sung as “Hashem” on several songs (Radiant Faces, Lech Lecha), a couple use what sounds like “amonai,” or “abonai” (like on Good to Me) a form I’ve never heard before (though I have heard Leonard Nimoy pronouncing it “adomai” on the Birthday of the World Yom Kippur CD).  In one case, I believe I heard one of God’s names sung outright, but I don’t remember on which song, and it certainly didn’t bother me.

I was a little sur”prised” that one of the songs is a reprise ( haven’t counted it in the “12 songs” mentioned above – there are actually 13 tracks).  On an album this short, in the age of shuffle play, it may be slightly pretentious to imagine that people miss your song so much after 20 minutes that they need to hear bits of it all over again.  Maybe.

Still – the album works, and I’m relieved.  I’ve been following Stereo Sinai for 2 years, since I first heard their song on the G-dcast Lech Lecha parsha video and was hooked.  I’d liked all the individual songs so far, but wasn’t sure how they’d all fit together, or whether the effect would be either watered-down or overwhelming.  Biblegum Pop manages to strike a nice balance between several different styles, coming together to paint a compelling picture of contemporary Jewish music.

Which is great news, because look at all this laundry…!


With tunes like this, housework is a breeze!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Plan for Friday

DSC01908For a VERY small homeschool Chanukah party… (if you’re coming, don’t read this and you’ll think everything is just spontaneously wonderful!)


  • Some Chanukah songs.  I’m going to cheat and use songs off a song sheet the kids brought home from their shul party on Sunday…
  • Some Shabbos songs… possibly; I’ll see how we’re doing for time and decide  how much of the Shabbos routine to do.


  • The Invisible Book, because it’s cute and Jewish and my kids like it
  • Harvest of Light, because it’s got trees and Israel and great text and photos; how awesome is that?


  • Elmo’s World – Chanukah episode… blurry, low-resolution video, but highly entertaining.  When I watch videos like this, I get happy at first, and then sad.  Happy because it’s so well-done, and Jewishly authentic and everything… and sad because, well, why Chanukah?  Why not Rosh Hashanah???  Because of Xmas, of course.  I didn’t even expose my older kids to most of what’s out there for Chanukah.  They loved the holiday anyway, and knew everything there was to know about it, but I didn’t feel a need to fill their lives with the excellent books and resources available for this yom tov because it’s so out of proportion.


  • Make latkes, from a mix!  One of the other mamas told me I “have to” do it from scratch.  But no… that’s what I’m doing for my family party tomorrow.  So for the kids, it’s mix latkes – fast, fun, easy.  They can mix it up themselves, and hopefully someone bigger will do the frying!
  • Challah, probably a frozen lenchner, like I used to do for weekly Shabbos parties when we were having them here.


  • EASY:  This torn-paper mosaic menorah craft – easy, especially if you skip the fancy “tracing the lines” option and just have the kids “build” their menorah right on the PDF printout they supply.
  • MEDIUM:  Hot-wax crayon “stained-glass” painting – like these ones we did last year, but I have a new hot tray (thanks to Value Village) that makes doing these super-easy and even a little bit safe.
  • DSC01900MEDIUM:  Roll-your-own shamash!  About six months ago, maybe more, I found a stack of those flat beeswax make-your-own candle sheets at Value Village; it was 99 cents for a 2-sheet package, so I bought all the packages they had.  Naomi and I made a bunch today.  They’re a bit chunky to fit in most menorahs, but they look nice and there’s lots of extra wax strips to decorate the finished candles with.


Holding it up to the light so you can see the glow – kind of.


Here’s what they look like after “washing” with black poster paint.  I think they look nice enough either way.


So great – we’re ready!  Bring it on!  Oh, yeah… first, latkes and sufganiyot for the family party at my mother’s tomorrow, then tidy the house, THEN bring it on…

The Annual Packages Have Left the Building

Our annual Xmas packages… same as last year, only for the bread, I just baked an “ordinary” challah, which the big kids thought was kind of mundane, but frankly, I think it’s Good Bread – so there.

Cutting out the first gingerbread cookies of the season… both kids had a great time stamping 5 hearts into this flower pattern, which turned out to be more efficient, dough-wise, than any other configuration I have ever come up with.  The recipe isn’t fancy, but it tastes nice and the molasses does a cool foaming thing on the stove that is really fun if you’re mixing it up with children.  It rolls out beautifully immediately but also refrigerates beautifully.  What more could a girl ask???


Oh, and the cookies are extra-yummy alongside the first shortbread of the season!


Naomi Rivka and Gavriel Zev decorated the cards (Sara helped)…

Here are Naomi’s – no idea what that head-thing is on the person in the “Uncle Bobby” card:

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And here are Gavriel Zev’s – he’s going through an “astonishingly big head on a vanishingly tiny body” phase:

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The big kids helped embellish the basic design of their grandparents’ cards with artwork of their own:

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imageThe text on the middle card reads, “oy vey my Bubby is a sandwich.”  It’s a reference to the Yiddish magnetic poetry set  I bought their (non-Jewish, but a big fan!) grandmother a few years ago.  She apparently laid out the words on the fridge to read, “oy vey my Bubby is a shiksa.”  The kids were so offended they made her take the word down.  One of them switched the word so it read “sandwich” instead.

NOTE:  While I don’t consider the word “goy” to be offensive, because it means nation, and the Jewish people are described as one time and again in the Torah, the word “shiksa” and its male form, “shaygets” come from the Hebrew word “sheketz” (שֶׁקֶץ) – an abomination – and are to to be avoided at all times when referring to human beings of ANY religion.  I’m so happy I’ve raised my kids to know this as well…

Where were we?  Oh, yes!  Finally, wrap the parcels all up in the least goyish-looking (goyish meaning “of the nations” :-)) Dollarama boxes I could find (Ted’s here helping with the packing tape extravaganza)…

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…and out the door they go for another year!