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Showing posts from January, 2012

Towel, Head

Damp-haired, wiggly-front-tooth little girl on the verge of 7, I love you.

Note to Self about Cheese

Dear Self, Thank you for your recent interest in Cheesemaking . I appreciate the time you have taken to order supplies, read blogs and online recipes.  However, if you read a little further, you’ll probably discover that a special-purpose annatto-based “cheese colouring” is readily available from the same shop where you bought the aforementioned supplies.  It is called cheese colouring for a reason:  it takes CHEESE and adds COLOUR.  Perhaps they would not have to sell cheese colouring to smart home-based cheesemakers if food colouring were just as good.  Yes, self, even if it LOOKS just as good in the initial stages of cheesemaking when you add a few drops of red and a drop or two of yellow until you get a nice creamy orange shade, it may not do the trick.  No, let me be blunt:  it WILL NOT do the trick.  Unless, by “trick,” you mean, “turn perfectly nice cheese curds a perfectly rancid-looking purple hue.” Enjoy your poutine, self!  Oh, wait!  What’s that you’re making me eat???

Lapbooking Story of the World (for free)

Wow!  If you are using Story of the World Volume 1 for Ancient History, or are planning to use it at any point in the future, head on over here and download the FREE lapbook this mama put together over the year that she and her kids studied Volume 1.  It’s on her blog, but in my experience, you shouldn’t wait until you’re ready to use it, because resources come and go in the blog world.  This one is worth the not-much space it will take up on your hard drive. As this is an all-year project, we use the lapbook intermittently.  There is one small, very easy mini-book for each chapter.  They are very professional and fun pieces that the children can put together at least partly on their own.  I do a lot of the cutting and pasting, though, leaving the creative stuff for Naomi, and some backup cutting and pasting by Gavriel Zev.  By “intermittently,” I mean “every once in a while, when we remember.”  So it could be a month, or 6 weeks, or whatever.  When the mood strikes me, I print out

Cute little sailor

Ooops… gotta watch how you use the free papers as dropsheets for art projects.  I do tear out the “pornographic ads” section at the very back (yes, yes, I know most proper parents would be careful not to let this shmutz into the house at all, but my garden must have mulch…), but just as we were just finishing up an art project about Monet with Meet the Masters, when Naomi Rivka discovered this super-cute sailor boy in an ad on her little patch of newspaper and decided to paint the sailor with the Q-tips we’d been using for the art project.  He is adorable, isn’t he?  Glancing at the ad, I realized this was NOTHING I wanted her to read, even a little bit, ever if I could help it. So I quickly agreed that it was a great idea for a project and announced, “Here!  I’ll cut him out for you so you can paint him better!” And I did.     Phew!  What a cutie!  Hope he gets those symptoms looked at, though…

Second-“guest”ing myself…

Which is more nebbach …?*  * (definition and more fun words over here on Chaviva’s Kvetching Editor blog!) When I was a single mom with 2 little kids and everybody used to invite us for Shabbos meals?  I got so sick of being nomadic, shlepping from place to place, bringing gifts, dressing nicely, meeting strangers, kids on their best behaviour, pretending to like the food… well, it all just felt terrible at the time.  Very nebbach, like everybody was feeling sorry for us.  Like I was some kind of – gasp – charity case. OR Now that I am married with 4 kids and nobody, it seems, wants to have us for a Shabbos meal.  We don’t live in a HUGE community, but several families quite nearby have kosher kitchens and (seemingly) guests all the time: families, singles, couples… but never us.  I have no idea why!  We are always on our own, and I’m so sick of sitting in one place, everybody dressed all shlumpy around the table, never meeting anybody new, kids arguing, and all of us so stuck

Learning the Alef-Bais… all over again!

Gavriel Zev is greatly enjoying our weekly alef-bais “studies.”  I wasn’t originally planning a handwriting component, but his handwriting in English is coming along by leaps and bounds, so I have decided to bring in Hebrew handwriting as well. I was about to create something myself, but then I found two sites with helpful alef-bais printables: From Israel:  letter-by-letter vocabulary sheets (click the letter you want and a .doc file will download) Christian Hebrew alphabet tracing pages (individual PDFs with a cute picture and tracing outlines for each letter) Now, when I say “helpful,” both sites offer separate files for each letter and the tracing pages include script and Rashi fonts, which we don’t need at all.  So after I downloaded all of these (hint: if you’re using Firefox, consider a tool called “ DownThemAll! ” that grabs every link on a page super-quickly for you!) I removed the pages I didn’t want and consolidated each set into a single PDF file (one for the vocab sh

A Child’s Geography Book 1 FREE printable “postcard” narration page

We are just moving into this geography book, A Child’s Geography Book 1: Explore His Earth , by Ann Voscamp (not to be confused with the much older V.M. Hillyer book of the same title) which looks fantastic and fun except for the typical homeschool-curriculum abundance of exclamation points, and perhaps, as with our science curriculum , the occasional Jesus reference.  (though I think that’s more of an issue in Book 2: Explore the Holy Land ) Anyway, we’ve been working on building the papier-mache globe project that wraps up the first lesson.  Then, we’ll hopefully ramp up to a regular program of reading and narrating, just as we’re doing in science and history.  (though at this rate, by the time it actually FEELS “regular,” it’ll be Pesach and time to interrupt everything again! :-o) To make our geography work look substantially different from what we’re using for history and science narrations , I played around with the antique-postcard format suggested by the author, taking it up

Grammar geeks, titter with me...

Copy-editing an article about wedding programs that includes the line: " Attractively designed in the colours of the wedding, we were immediately able to follow the order of events and identify the participants as the wedding processional began." Spot the booboo to win a free - um - PDF of the full article, not written by me, when the paper comes out!!!


My hobby-o-the-moment… (as of, um, midnight last night)   I come from a long line of talented crafty-knitty people… but I’ve always known I’m not one of them. Technically, I have knitted before.  Once, as a kid, I was in a yarn shop with my mother (yarn shops are one of her favourite places in the world to hang out), and the ball of ice cream perched in my cone (pralines and cream?) fell off and plopped itself in a bin of what must have been discount yarn.  Thus, I ended up with my own godawful orangey acrylic yarn.  At some point, one of us decided it would be good if I did something useful with it, like knit a scarf.  My “scarf” grew to about an inch before I gave up. So it is with a bit of trepidation that I embark, maybe 30 years later, on a NEW scarf… still in acrylic, because it’s all my mother would part with.  But at least it feels nice, and she gave me a hook to go along with it.  I love the fact that most people, if they want to try a new hobby, would have to go out and

Hey, Rob Ford! Cut THIS!

Toronto’s newish Toon Town Mayor , Rob Ford, weighed in last week at 330 lbs and vowed, in a pun on his many campaign promises, to “cut the waist,” initiating a campaign and special website (paid for out of his own pocket; the city isn’t paying a dime, apparently) so you can follow his progress as he weighs in every Monday.  As of today, he’s down 10 lbs… water weight, I say. But as he challenged Torontonians to join him in losing their “waist,” he mentioned “hitting the gym,” which is a fascinating irony given that not everybody in this city has the money to join a gym in the first place, even in a season in which outdoor exercise is an iffy proposition.  But wait, you say!  What about the Welcome Policy, which ensures that citizens at every income level will have access to healthy and enriching programs for themselves and their children? Ha ha ha.  You see, I signed up for my regular Tuesday-morning aerobics class, the one I’ve been taking since, oh, 2008 or so.  Now, since the

Chapter Books Reading…

So I slipped it into this post a couple of weeks ago but nobody set off fireworks, so here it is again: We finished The Long Winter !!!  It was a very, very, VERY hard book to get through.  The rollicking image of winter fun and snowball fighting on the cover is a LIE, I tell you.  They’re just plain lying if they tell you this book will be any fun at all.  It’s a town of barely 100 people slowly, slowly, painfully starving to death over a vicious prairie winter that lasts from, I believe, early October until May.  In fact, if you’re fascinated by such things, there’s actually an adult nonfiction book, The Long Hard Winter of 1880-81: What was it Really Like? , that sounds like it will happily fill you in on all the gruesome details. The Laura Ingalls Wilder book itself is aimed at kids, so everything comes out fine in the end – nobody starves, and the family eats the very last of the grain basically the minute the five-months-overdue train pulls into the station.  Which is quit

Matchy, matchy… FREE Printable “Ten Plagues” / מַכּוֹת memory card game

If we used Memory games more often, and they are certainly available for ALL subjects, I suspect that this would be less effective.  Since we really don’t, I hope this will be a quick, enjoyable way to practice the Hebrew names of all the Makkos (plagues). This is just your basic Memory game, with Hebrew names printed on half the cards and beautiful pictures (taken from this Makkos Matching Game resource at, which you might want to check out also) on the other half of the cards.  There’s also a simple graphical back to print on each page which will make them feel more like “real” cards. Warning!  There is NO English on the cards… however, the names of the plagues are fairly simple, and I will translate and transliterate them here for parents who are still working on their Hebrew: (and by the way, I had this entire post typed and was about to post it when the computer crashed – so here I am typing these all over again…!!!) (but just to be on the safe side, I just clicke

Mommy (me!) is (am? do? be?) Reading

The nice thing about being laid up seems to be getting some reading done… The Virgin Cure , by Ami McKay – I was nervous about this because it’s a second novel, a follow-up to the wonderful The Birth House .  There was no need to fear – it’s a rollicking, grimly fascinating exploration of the seamy underbelly of late 18-th century New York City… from a writer in Nova Scotia. (the “cure” refers to the mistaken, foolish and often-desperate belief, held by all strata of society, that relations with an unspoiled young woman would cure syphilis) The Dirty Life , by Kristin Kimball – yet another read in the garden-memoir genre that brought you Amy Stewart’s From the Ground Up , Novella Carpenter’s Farm City , Keith Stuart’s It’s a Long Road to a Tomato and who could forget Josh Kilmer-Purcell’s The Bucolic Plague . (admission:  I loved the book but can never remember the title, and every time I think of it, I have to Google “gay men farming,” which I am ashamed to admit does the trick


My cheesemaking kit arrived! (caveat for the kosher consumer – not everything from this site has a hechsher; please email them if you’re not sure and although I bought a kit, I actually had to order “doubles” of some of the items just to make sure everything was under hashgacha) My first concern was our milk… the Jewy Mehadrin 1% milk we usually buy says right on it “kashered at 212 degrees,” which I’ve never understood (kashered?  is it a pot? an oven?  was it trayfe to begin with?).  According to most experts, whatever it might mean, that kind of temperature makes the milk completely inappropriate for any kind of cheesemaking.  Both because the high temperature ruins the proteins in the milk and because it’s low-fat, therefore, mostly water.  And yet… Here’s my first experiment with a quick (30-minute) mozzarella. Heat the milk with citric acid; add rennet.  Let it sit for a while, then slice.  I was so impressed that this sliced up beautifully – just like in all the how-to’s I’v

Our Amazing No-Show Friday!

I don’t think I have ever been grateful to no-show guests…! We’ve been doing a casual, every-other-Friday get-together with three other Jewish homeschool families (which is just about all of us here!).   Not really structured enough to be called a co-op, but a bit more substantial than a playdate. Anyway, this week was my turn, so – being the way I am, which is not organized , as such, but not wanting to be run out of activities with other people’s kids sitting staring at me - I worked out a whole routine:  davening, parsha / parsha craft, baking with kids, Shabbos party with songs and challah.  The baking was a challenge because one of the mamas is gluten-free at the moment, but I found an interesting rice kugel recipe I wanted to try.  I also had Ted buy a Lenchner frozen challah, which everybody loves for Shabbos party. And yes, I stayed up late last night designing a fun parsha craft…this awesome little froggy!  With real jumpy legs and a mini-songbook in his mouth of our “Ten