Tuesday, January 31, 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???  Oh, no, no, no, for the love of all that is good – NOT PINK CHEESE!!!!


Oh, wait.  It’s kind of yummy after all!  But do me a favour; order the colouring next time…

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 all the pieces we need to catch up, some on cardstock, some on coloured paper (though we’re all out of coloured paper now), some on plain paper, as is appropriate for each mini-book.

And then we just sit down and go through them!  I let Naomi choose which ones she feels like doing first.  Tonight, I also did one with Gavriel Zev.  Sometimes, I’ll put the envelopes/pockets together and have Naomi cut out the bits that go inside.  Sometimes, I split the cutting with her 50/50, because she’s easily overwhelmed.

DSC02296I told her we should talk about Phoenician traders before she filled this wheel in for Chapter 15, The Phoenicians, because there are eight spaces to write in and it’s been a few weeks since we covered this material.  So of course she raced ahead and did it herself while I wasn’t looking!  She did great, though a couple are more made-up than anything we read in the book.  Her eight were:  bowl, cup, “itself” – she filled in the area with purple to represent the purple dye the Phoenicians made and traded, wood, gold and silver, books (she made this up, I think!), and glass Jug (shown here, but I made her write “glass” on top of the word jug, because none of hers reflected the amazing Phoenician glassware tradition we learned about).

DSC02295Meanwhile, here’s Gavriel Zev cutting and folding the pocket for Chapter 4, the Old Kingdom of Egypt.  I skipped the ones with pockets at first, but now I figure, why not go ahead and assemble the pockets…?  So we did!  Here are the “artifacts” to go inside that pocket:


Gavriel Zev also cut out the “story” to go inside an accordion book I cut out and folded for Chapter 16, The Return of Assyria:


Sometimes I forget how much I love lapbooking!  Which is why this is great to keep coming back to.  Now we’re pretty much caught up, though we still haven’t done Chapter 14, The Israelites Leave Egypt.  I figured they were “plagued out” after the parshiyos of the last two weeks, so I assembled the mini-book and we’ll fill it in later on.

Here are a few of the bits and pieces in here.

  DSC02300  DSC02302 DSC02303  DSC02305 DSC02306

When we’re finished for the evening, we go through each of the books, in numerical order, fitting in a lightning-quick fast-forward of the chapters so far before the kids have a chance to realize they’re STILL learning!


In between fits of creativity, everything stows away inside a nice, strong, medium ziploc baggie.  Of course, if anything happens to the baggie before we have a chance to put together the lapbook… well, that would be a Very Bad Thing.

Seriously, download this lapbook now even if you’re using another program for ancients.  It’s great!  The author started working on a similar lapbook for Story of the World, Volume 2, The Middle Ages, but it’s incomplete, and she hasn’t updated her blog since October.

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.

DSC02248 DSC02249 DSC02273

Phew!  What a cutie!  Hope he gets those symptoms looked at, though…

Monday, January 30, 2012

Second-“guest”ing myself…

image 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.


  • 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 within our heads that I’m almost scared to invite guests… well, it just feels terrible now.  Very nebbach, like nobody wants anything to do with us.

Funny, right?

I am thinking about all this because we were actually invited out last Shabbos!  It was nice, yet weirdly familiar because we’ve done it so very often.  Only all of a sudden, instead of being a pain, it was EASY; it was fun to be a guest for a change.  What a great example of the extent to which we take our tzuris for granted, even take for granted that it is tzuris to begin with.  Is it really???

Perhaps the best example of this is how terrible, terrible it feels to take care of a newborn baby… shrieking, irrational, demanding; you’re sleep-deprived, you’re physically beaten-up and exhausted in every physical and emotional way.  Yet you could never in the world call that “tzuris” without remembering that for so many couples, it would be a bracha to be able to have a baby, period.

This is why we leave things in Hashem’s hands.  This is why we wish each other a good AND sweet year at Rosh Hashanah time.  If it’s in Hashem’s hands, it will be for the good… but we also express the desire that we FEEL the good in every moment.

So the answer to the question I came here to ask is obvious – neither is nebbach at all.  The first isn’t nebbach at all, it’s beautiful.  Mi k’amcha Yisrael? (who is like Your nation, Israel?), enveloping a young single woman and her two little kids and give them families when there is nobody around for them.  But it’s also a bracha that now, most people leave us alone (though I still have no idea why!); this not nebbach, this is a bracha, because at core, I’m a grouchy, anti-social person who prefers to be in private spaces.

(I don’t think they’ve guessed that…but maybe that’s why we don’t get more invitations… no – joking! – I promise, I’m utterly sweet & charming when I have to be!)

imageI know this sounds terribly mushy.  But the fact that it’s in Hashem’s hands, not mine, means we get (hopefully) just the right amount of same-old, same-old routine and just the right amount of shake-it-up pseudorandomness.  And boy, am I grateful that I’m not the one who has to decide all that!  Like the bumper sticker says:  “Let go and let God…” (gotta respect any spiritual sentiment that’s available in 5-packs!)

Except the Jewish version, following on the heels of Hashem’s “lech lecha” (“go for yourself”) command to Avraham, would probably read, “Let’s go and let God…” At least, I’m determined that that will be my attitude if and when we are invited out again.  “Let’s go…!”  Though I still have no idea why the invitation comes so rarely… nebbach.

Are you a guest?  A host?  Bit of both???  Which do you love more?  Which one is pure tzuris?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Learning the Alef-Bais… all over again!

DSC02259Gavriel 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:

  1. From Israel:  letter-by-letter vocabulary sheets (click the letter you want and a .doc file will download)
  2. 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 sheets; one for the tracing pages) (hint: I use a free utility called PDFill for all my PDF magic) (and by the way, I don’t get a kickback for telling you about these programs!). 

Note: It took me a while to comb through the various doc and pdf files, and although these are not MY files, I still have them on my hard drive.  If you’re interested in a copy of either of the two PDFs I created (vocabulary and letter-tracing), which I am technically probably not authorized to distribute, drop me an email (remove the X’s if you REALLY want to reach me!) and I’ll accidentally send it along.

Once I had two PDF files with exactly what I wanted, I printed them in two different ways:

  1. I printed the tracing pages in 2-up, double-sided booklet form to create a cute write-in booklet (ignore my woeful handwriting on the cover – but don’tcha love the pinking shears?!?).  It turned out a little small… we shall see if it’s too small for GZ to write in or if he will enjoy the challenge.  (If it’s too small, I’ll reprint it in full-page size.)  I discovered Adobe Reader has a clever option when you go to print to change the side of the binding, so I chose “right” to make the book open the Hebrew way.
  2. I printed the vocabulary pages 4-up on blue cardstock (to differentiate them from the Latin vocabulary that I’ve printed the same way).  Adobe Reader also has a feature to print 2-up REVERSED, so you’ll notice the order of the letters is in Hebrew “reading order” – left to right and top to bottom.  Hopefully, this will painlessly give both kids practice in reading the letters the Hebrew way, as will the fact that the Wiggle Worm itself goes from right to left!  (by the way, printing 4-up like this has given us the most perfect Latin flashcards from these colouring pages!)

 DSC02255  DSC02260


I also created a YouTube playlist of helpful alef-bais-related songs and things.  They’re cute!


Our letter-song for this week (Week 4, Dalet) is “David, Melech Yisrael.”  We have two tunes for this song…

First, the classic, “chai, chai, pizza pie” version… the kids like this one best:

And the one I prefer, the folky Carlebach version (no video, sorry):

I think my children hate this last one… but tough luck!

What are you loving, learning, and SINGING with your kids this week???

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

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

imageimageWe 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 a notch (I think) to create this very cool page that has just enough room for a SHORT narration for each section.  I’m working on getting the narrations shorter and more concise.  There’s also a bigger picture-drawing section than the history and science narration  pages.  The earth is big, right?

The version shown here features a postage-stamp sized book cover “logo” for A Child’s Geography, but I went ahead and created a blank one (it just has a US postage stamp) for those who are using a different geography program.


  • 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.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

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)

 DSC02217 DSC02218

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 buy something.  I just have to mention it to my mother and she opens her stash to me.  I never even knew she crocheted; I just knew she had a bunch of hooks, but apparently, she has crocheted.

Growing up, I always thought of crochet itself as somewhat godawful, like the scratchy round cushions in my Bubby’s “den” (that’s what people of her generation called the TV room – they all had dens, like they were foxes instead of just regular Jews).  Where knitting is upperclass - elegant, refined - crochet is lower-class, the thing people do when they can’t afford a second needle.

But I’ve heard it’s easy.  If the Great Unwashed can do it, why then, oh why, can’t I?

image So here I am, and today, thanks to this site and this video channel, I learned how to do a basic stitch.  I also have a bunch of books coming from the library, but who wants to wait for books in this day and age???  The most important thing I have learned is that if you want to be a Cool Crocheter, as opposed to one of those lowest-of-the-low ones, you have GOT to get yourself a fancy hook. Mine’s in the picture above.  It’s metal, with a flat bit in the centre.  It’s not fancy, not at all.  Oh, you can DIY, but the cool crafters Will Know.

In case you’re wondering how practical learning to crochet is in this day and age, you’ll never wonder again, because you can use it (along with a humble onion bag) to create this awesome Reusable Mesh Produce bag!


Now, I don’t want you to think I’m dissing this project, because it’s indeed very cool, but you are basically starting with a produce bag (albeit not a very reusable one) and ending with a produce bag (that can be reused until the handles fall off).  To me, it looks a lot like the British “string vest” style undershirt:


So I’m thinking that you could probably just cut the bottom open if you wanted yet another use for crochet… (love the gumby hat!!!)

Ah, but I joke.  It’s fun, fun, fun indeed to have a new hobby, albeit a weird one that I’m not very good at! 

What’s keeping you (borderline) sane this winter?

Hey, Rob Ford! Cut THIS!

image imageToronto’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 class is held in a rather “ghetto” neighbourhood (the city calls it a “priority” neighbourhood), the class was FREE last year and the year before and every year before that.  Not only free, but they offered free childcare, which I actually used for a while until Naomi Rivka got too old.  Then, along came Rob Ford, with his plan to “cut the waist,” I mean, “waste.” 

At first, they said there would be a small “user fee” for the course.  Fine; I can handle a user fee.  When I asked three weeks before registration last year what the fee would be, nobody could tell me.  Then, registration opened up and I found out: no user fee, but a $70 course fee.  The aerobics class had gone from $0 to $70 overnight.  For me, this was no problem, because we are pre-approved for Welcome Policy funding, and I signed up anyway, hoping a few other people would as well.

As it turned out, I didn’t get to a lot of classes last fall.  The ones I did go to were sparsely-attended: maybe 5 people, instead of last year’s 30.  And now, for this session, they called tonight to let me know they didn’t get enough people to go ahead with the class.  Well, duh!  There are a lot of numbers between $0 and $70… did they think about trying one of THOSE???

But that’s not the funny ironic part when I hear Mr. “Swanky Etobicoke Mansion” Ford saying we should all hit the gym – or whatever.  Here’s that bit: although we are preapproved for Welcome Policy funding, now that they’ve informed me that my (funded) class is cancelled, I still can’t switch to another class… because the funding has already RUN OUT for this session.  So I’m stuck – no class.  (y’all knew already I had no class, right?)

Funding always seems to run out very quickly, like within the first couple of days of registration – in fact, I’ve been warned before to call in right away when registration opens so we don’t miss it.  Now, these are not people lying and cheating to use up the funding… these are folks who are preapproved annually based on need, who are still being told that they can’t take classes, join gym programs, and so on.

Apparently, me, my family, and our economic ilk are a big part of the “waist” Mr. Ford is trying to cut. 

Still, I wish him luck in his own personal weight-loss regimen if only for the humour value.  In one of the funniest things I’ve seen in a long time, he’s asked Torontonians to make a pledge to charity, any charity, for each pound shed (and by the way, somebody might want to tell him that Canada switched to metric back in the ‘70s).  There’s a list on his special site of the charities who will benefit from his loss which contains many smirk-worthy entries. 

A few I spotted: the “Cacti Association Of Canada,” the “Endin Diabeetus Fund,” “Small Wooden Shoe” (oh – this is a legitimate theatre company!) and “Matt Foley Motivational Speaking” (apparently named for a fictitious character of the late Chris Farley, though I didn’t know this).  Several gay and gay-positive causes show up on the list:  the 519 Community Centre, Pride Toronto, Casey House, various AIDS beneficiaries.  There’s also a pledge to “The Animal Farm,” which is probably a semi-literate reference to the animals of Riverdale Farm, one of the city’s resources that Mr. Ford would dearly love to shut down. 

Oh, and someone named Sam X has pledged to support “The Idea Fund Of Sam Xu.”  Let me know where to send my cheque!

(Apparently, I’m not the only one to have noticed this phenomenon… but it seems someone on Mr. Ford’s team has as well, because most of the funnier “charities” have been edited off the list… click the picture to see a bigger version.  I wish I’d thought of “save the libarys”!)


We Torontonians may no longer be able to afford to stay fit and healthy, but we are rich in chuckles, and out of the depths of winter’s despair, Rob Ford has come through for us as a beacon of guiding light once again.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Chapter Books Reading…

image image So I slipped it into this post a couple of weeks ago but nobody set off fireworks, so here it is again:

image 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 quite a relief after about thirty chapters with titles like, “No food still,” “More cold” and “Another blizzard.”  (I just made these up but they are representative of the actual titles, I promise.)

We only had three chapters to go, chapters we were all probably dreading, and then, mysteriously, we lost the book (which happens a lot around here).  So the week I lost my voice, I cheated and found an unabridged audiobook version and let the reader finish it for us.  Yay!

image As we always do, we’re currently taking a break before diving into the next book, Little Town on the Prairie, to enjoy another Roald Dahl classic, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  When we’re done, I’ll pick one of the film versions for us to watch together, too.

image We’ve also put our Magic Tree House books on hold, right between Day of the Dragon King and Viking Ships at Sunrise.  Instead, we’re reading the first book in a much more serious series from the same author, Mary Pope Osborne, called Tales from the Odyssey – we’re currently on Book #1, The One-Eyed Giant

There are 6 books altogether, which offer an excellent retelling of the Odyssey stories except for the fact that there are no images except a map of the Mediterranean inside the front cover and pictures of the major gods inside the back cover.  (I told GZ he has to imagine what the pictures would look like inside his brain.) The series is also available as a two-book set (Book 1 and Book 2 sold separately) instead of six different books.

imageWe are also – intermittently – diving into mythology with a smaller Greek Myths book (I gave up on D’Aulaire for the time being, though it’s a beautiful book, because the stories are long and don’t have definite starting and stopping points).

Finally, still slogging away through two more:  Fifty Famous Stories Retold – we have already gone through the entire book, but the kids don’t realize it because it took so long; and Child’s History of the World, in which we just passed the Year 0, so we have now entered CE dates (which the book calls AD, but I change them as I read).  We have been reading the first since last winter and the second since this past summer.  I figure we’ll read Fifty Famous Stories one more time all the way through and move on to another Ambleside selection; as for the history book, I’m hoping it will take us about two years to finish, making it my most ambitious read-aloud project yet.

So there we are – our current read-alouds!  (And please, PLEASE forgive the links if you find them annoying.  As you know, I get most of my books free from the public library, but the linkies in posts like these go straight to Amazon, help you know exactly what I’m talking about, and actually earn me tiny bits of real-world money towards consumables and the rare must-have books I can’t get at the library.  So if you’re interested, DO click the links!)

Now ask me if it gets any easier to keep on slogging away at these; no, actually, better you shouldn’t ask.  There are few things I dread more than reading chapter books aloud.  I’m okay with short picture books, but with chapter books, there’s the stress of “where’s the book?  wasn’t it in my bedroom?” and so on, on top of keeping the thread of the plot active in my mind and theirs.  I know, these sound like little and dumb things to complain about. 

But, no, it doesn’t seem to be getting any easier… reading aloud is SLOW and inefficient (I’d rather be REALLY reading, quietly, to myself!) and chances are, I’ve already read whatever it is anyway.  I haven’t come to love it, as snuggle-up time, like some parents do.  But at least I get to brag about it on here and hope that you-all will understand that I am doing my very best with this to overcome my own lazy nature.

Click here for more about our chapter books, past, present and future.

Now that I’ve had my turn, anyone else have any chapter-book accomplishments they’d like to crow about???

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

imageimageIf 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 chinuch.org, 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 clicked the Save button, which is what I should have done last time)

The Ten Plagues / Makkos, Transliterated and Translated:

  • דָּם = dam = blood
  • צְפַרְדֵּעַ = tsfar-day-a = frog (yup, singular!)
  • כִּנִּים = kee-neem = lice
  • עָרוֹב = a-rov = mingled, usually translated as wild animals
  • דֶּבֶר = de-vayr = cattle disease
  • שְׁחִין = shCHEEN = boils
  • בָּרָד = ba-rad = hail
  • אַרְבֶּה = ar-bay = locusts
  • חֹשֶׁךְ = cho-shech = darkness
  • מכת בְּכוֹרוֹת = makkas b’choros = striking / plague of the firstborn (the word “death” doesn’t appear in the name of the plague)

By the way, if you’re not afraid of a few Hebrew words here and there, feel free to use these helpful narrative (story-style) parsha overviews, which I created last year for this week’s parsha (and last week’s!).


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

Saturday, January 21, 2012

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

image 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)
  • image 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 nicely every time) 

(from the title, Ted was certain this book would be more exciting than it was, even though the cover PICTURE depicts a smiling woman holding a chicken… so I don’t know exactly WHAT he expected.)

  • image Me, Myself and Bob by Phil Vischer – one of my new Kobo books, and I thought it would be just the story of the author’s faith and maybe a little backstory about his kids’ shows (VeggieTales), but there’s actually a lot of the techy-geekery in here that I love… he’s talking about using SoftImage on an Alias workstation, and I know exactly what all those things are and more.  Also, as part of the backstory, his mother told him he couldn’t make Jesus a vegetable… which ruled out doing any version of the Gospels.  That explains why they’ve come out with so many lovely, high-quality stories from the Tanach (Jewish Bible) instead!  (the book also explains why veggies, but I won’t spoil it for you…)

We’ll see if I keep at it now that I’m feeling a bit stronger, physically, and able to run around a little bit more, or (as the case may be) sit at the computer for longer stretches without screaming out in agony due to a rampant UTI.  Antibiotics good… big black-and-yellow stripey ones… mmm… antibiotics!  (to my credit, or whatever, I held out for 5 days before realizing I probably wasn’t going to cure it on my own with a regimen of more sensible bedtimes…)

Friday, January 20, 2012


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’ve been reading all week in anticipation!


Sure looks like a lot, doesn’t it?  Apparently, it was all on the top.  After a bit more heating and stirring, I shlurped out the cheese… not very much indeed, considering I started with 2 litres of milk!

DSC02163 DSC02164

I knew this would happen, because I’ve made paneer before, but I was expecting a bit better yield with the professional additives…

Heat it in the microwave to the proper temperature and then, well – kneading!  I love kneading!!!  At first, it was grainy (like small-curd cottage cheese or ricotta) and I was feeling discouraged, but then, once it hit the right temperature – it STRETCHED!!  (according to this website – which isn’t kosher, by the way - it should be “almost too hot to touch,” which is a wildly varying thing depending on how much you handle hot things, and I, like most of the how-to writers, found I had to wear gloves)

 DSC02168 DSC02169

With a few more trips to the microwave, it actually started forming those little strings you see in mozzarella.  Eventually, it seemed as close as I was going to get to the beautiful glossy ball in the pictures, so I had Ted mix up a quickie marinade with olive oil, salt and a few herbs in a baggie, and I tossed the new mozzarella in.


I had a ton of whey left over, and most of the suggestions (add it to soups, stews, breads) for what to do with it are not all that helpful in a kosher home.   Most people suggest you make ricotta (which is, after all, the Italian word for “re-cooked” whey), but when I tried, I only got about two tablespoons worth of milk solids left in the cheesecloth, and it wasn’t that flavourful.  So I’ll try something different next time.  (They do suggest bathing in it for glowingly beautiful skin… would that make my bathtub dairy??  Could we still use it during Pesach?)

Anyway, I took a tiny taste, and my reaction wasn’t “extraordinary,” but it was pretty good.  I’m saving the rest for Shabbos, and I’ll report back then!

Postscript:  Hmm… a bit bland (needs salt?) and a bit too hard.  From the braided mozzarellas we’ve been able to buy here, I was expecting something a little softer.  Anyway, I’ll try a different recipe next time and keep on reporting back until I’ve got it perfect.  I don’t love cheese, but I do love knowing where food comes from and how it’s made.  I don’t think this will become an avocation (or another blog) the way bread has, but I do find the chemistry behind it fascinating…

Our Amazing No-Show Friday!

DSC02194I 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 Plagues” song and “The Frog Song.”

DSC02178 DSC02179

And then, this morning, with me running around on 4 hours’ sleep… everybody cancelled. 

To be fair, one mama was away in Israel, so I knew she wasn’t coming.  One called beforehand to let me know that her Shabbos tasks had gotten away from her and she had to stay home.  At 8 months pregnant, fair enough!  The other called to say she had a migraine.  Interestingly, the mama who was in Israel also called: she had to come home early because her daughter has pneumonia and their insurance is pay-up-front (plus, nobody in Israel has central heating, which apparently is hell with pneumonia… ironically, she came back to Canada for the warmth).  (omg, brr)

So there was nothing for it but to do our program anyway!  Here they are with the froggy craft…

 DSC02188 DSC02189 DSC02192 DSC02193 

While we waited for the froggies’ body paint to dry… kugel time! I doubled the recipe because I figured each family could take a “real”-sized kugel home.  I don’t like it when kids come home with a muffin-sized whatever-it-is that they’ve been making.  So now I had a whole pot o’ rice… so we made the whole thing anyway.


Naomi got carried away sprinkling the cinnamon.  I said to sprinkle “gently,” which in my mind means “not very much.”  In her mind it means, “keep sprinkling, spreading the magic like pixie dust throughout kugel-land, until mommy screams to stop.”  Eek.  But I think I saved it just in time.  This was very quick & easy to throw together, and into the oven it went.

And here are the froggies – dry and cute together with their little tongue/songbooks.


These were actually a bit more work than I had anticipated.  They would have been do-able, but chaotic, with other kids around.  As it was, we just went through them step by step.  But the kids actually managed to do most of the work themselves!

(Here are the steps, if you’re curious:  fold plate and use X-acto knife to cut a small slit in the centre of the fold; open plate up again and paint top of plate black, leave to dry; paint white circles on the eyes with white-out and leave to dry; cut out songbook, glue together; glue songbook to tongue; paint songbook covers red and leave to dry; paint bottom of plate green (top will still be damp; that’s okay), leave to dry; quarter-fold green construction paper and staple shut, trace kids’ “W” fingers and cut out (it’s 1/4-folded, so you get 4 hands in one step!); accordion-fold the long “bouncy” rear legs and glue to feet; glue short “plain” front legs to feet; use heavy black marker to outline white eye circles and add pupils; use Aleen’s Tacky or Quick-Grab glue to attach eyes and legs to back of plate (might still be a bit damp; that’s okay).  When everything is completely dry, fold plate shut again and insert songbook “tongue.”  Phew!!!)

By the way, this DOES meet my main criterion for a likeable kids’ craft: you can toss it right in the composter when you’re done.  Okay, all that white-out and paint and glue might not be the BEST thing for the earth… but at least there’s none of that heinous craft foam.  Or craft foam STICKERS.  They’re so cute, and I have probably bought them before, and the kids love using them, but… craft foam stickers are evil.

For our parsha reading, I found and blew up these little “plague” images and put them on popsicle sticks… I was planning to have the kids scramble around and find them during the parsha reading.  Gavriel Zev loves anything with numbers on it, and he happily spent some time after we read the parsha just arranging these on his own.


(Here’s the image I used, but it’s kind of small, so grainy when I blew them up… I also like this one, though you’d want to crop the rings off) (oh – also the one I used didn’t have a picture for darkness, so I just pasted a pair of eyes onto a black rectangle!  I may not be able to draw to save my life, but I’m Wonder Woman with cut and paste!)

We finished up a great morning with the G-dcast parsha video and, by request, the Makkos / Ten Plagues animation Naomi & I made last year (she was hoping to show this to her friends).  Then, a narration / illustration!

frogs 001

(The illustrations were all heavily influenced by her current private-reading chapter book:  Roald Dahl’s The Witches… that’s why they have extra-large nostrils and bald heads.  And by the way, YES, this is something new: she is reading a chapter book BY HERSELF.  I go in after naptime / quiet reading time and she gives me these little plot summaries.  Awesome!  I seriously never thought we’d make it to this point.)

There are so few Fridays where I am awake, showered, dressed by a reasonable hour with an actual plan of what to accomplish with the kids.  So yes, we’re all disappointed; it would have been fun to have company.  But it was STILL fun, and I’m surprisingly grateful to have had this opportunity to feel a bit “together” with my kids on a busy winter Friday!