Wednesday, February 29, 2012

FREE Printable שירון פורים/Purim Fairy Song Book!

imageI wanted and wanted and wanted a Purim Shiron / songbook last year, like the one for Chanukah, and then – in the crazy-mad rush before Purim – didn’t get a chance to put one together.

Natcherally, the day AFTER Purim, I had plenty of time, so I whipped this together super-fast, and quite a few people have downloaded it already (perhaps for late Purim parties last year?).

Anyway, it was a simple matter tonight to haul it out and tweak it somewhat.  All the Hebrew now has vowels, which is mostly a matter of searching song databases and the online Tanach (here’s my favourite menukad / vowelled Tanach – perfect for copy/paste!).

There are translations for every song, but they are not necessarily singable translations.  And I haven’t checked every transliteration 100%. Still – as usual, I hope this little bookie will help somebody, and if it does, please feel free to say hi.  It’s been lonely out here in cyberspace lately.


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

Oh!  I’m also building a playlist on YouTube of songs and other Purim-related video stuff to share with the kids.  Feel free to stop by!

Purim Sameach… though it still seems miles away!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Work ethic vs Career ethic?

image Quick question, because it’s late and I have to get up for work in the morning.  Which is exactly what I was thinking about this evening:  where do our patterns come from, in terms of how we balance our work lives and what priority a career takes in our lives?

My sister was recently accepted to a government program that gives you some living assistance while you work to start up your business.  In return for this, there’s a “classroom” component, with homework and everything.  So on the one hand, the hard work she’s doing is the kind that most of us have come to hate after a few years out of school earning a steady paycheque, doing productive stuff… not just paperwork; that’s particularly a thing, I think, because she’s such a hands-on person.  (As a sitting-in-front-of-the-computer, writerly person, I think I wouldn’t mind it as much). 

Yet on the other hand, because her “homework” is ultimately her business, or at least the paper version of her business (a bakery – yay!!), in the form of a marketable business PLAN, it is potentially a rewarding “job” anyway.  Nevertheless, it is certainly true that she works HARD these days.

Meanwhile, my other sister – the musician sister, not the baker – is working for herself, more or less, doing part-time jobs like childcare and freelance copy-editing to support herself in between shows.  She is busy busy BUSY.  She works hard.

Meanwhile, my mother is talking about her mortgage business, which is much smaller than it once was, but is still not down to zero, and which probably involves a couple hours’ work each day.  Plus, she volunteers, plus, plus, plus, all sorts of things.  At an age when most people are winding down a little bit, she just isn’t.  Even with no husband and her children gone, the house is immaculate.  She works hard.

Meanwhile, I’m sitting at the table with my four kids, doing MY personal full-time mommying-and-homeschooling job, helping Naomi and Gavriel Zev explain some of what they’re learning, trying to stay on top of their wildness – or not.  In between this job, I also write freelance – not enough, but there it is – copy-edit, even tutor when anyone will have me.  I am definitely in the middle of a slump right now, but basically, I think I work hard.

This is not a new thought, but I realized once again that, of the five adults at the table, Ted was the only one who holds down an actual job.  Who gets up in the morning and goes through the 8:30-4:30 kind of grind.  Boy, does he work hard.

But… here’s the question:  does he work harder than the rest of us?  I don’t think so.

I think this scenario is very different from most families.  This is what we saw in my family, growing up.  My father may have had 9-5 jobs when I was young, but by the time there were four of us, he had one foot in real estate, one foot in mortgages, and a couple of feet in teaching one or the other at various local community colleges.  Sometimes, he’d be teaching afternoons; sometimes, evenings.  His schedule always varied depending on where we were in the semester and which schools he was teaching at that time around.

image Meanwhile, my mother went through various jobs as well as staying home with kids basically full-time.  Later, she also went back to school, not only for mortgage brokering, but for her certificate in museum studies. (specializing in historic homes, aka urban history, so she could became a pioneer lady, of which I was very proud!)

Compare this with Ted’s family:  his father worked at Canada Banknote, the money-printing people, basically his whole career.  His mother worked as a nurse, basically her whole career.  They came and went, doing basically the same things, on the same schedule, every single day.

I don’t mean to say that one of these ways is better or worse.  Goodness knows, Ted’s parents worked hard.  And mine?  The first time I heard the words “work ethic” I knew that was my parents, my father especially.  My father may have had an irregular schedule, but never, God forbid, in the “between jobs” kind of way where we’d see him hanging about watching TV while the sun shone.  If his schedule was irregular, it was because he was piecing together two half-jobs, or, more probably, two “3/4 jobs.”  As for my mother, she managed to define “at home mom” in a super-clean, ultra-tidy way that I still cower from.

(we still occasionally marvel if we’ve left a pot or pan at my mother’s house overnight, that it comes back not only clean but GLEAMING – stripped of the icky build-up and shmutz and crud from the bottom, top, and anywhere it might have accumulated over the years)

But it’s the patterns that fascinate me… that and, while we definitely work hard, the fact that none of my siblings feels at all compelled to define ourselves within the boundaries of a career.  Instead, I think, we are free to define ourselves in this more complex way. 

imageIf you stop to ask us what we do, our answers may be a bit longer and more winding than yours, but rest assured – we are hard at work.  A bit of this, a bit of that.  We are currently doing this or exploring that, but please – ask again in a few months, because you may get a totally different answer. 

And perhaps we are never much stressed, being “between jobs,” because there are precious few moments of peace and quiet in our busy working lives to remind us that we are still, essentially, unemployed.

So here’s the question (hope you’re still reading!)… are you work-oriented, or career-oriented?  Did this come from your parents, or are you following a different pattern?  I’m honestly fascinated – I’d love to know!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

It's Heart Month: 3 days left to save lives!

Dear Friends & Family:

imageHi, everybody!
Sorry I can’t stop by in person... you're a bit out of my area.  :-)

imageWe’re out walking up and down on our street on this beautiful afternoon to raise money for Heart & Stroke.  This cause is important to me (I won't say it's close to my heart, because that would be tacky!).  I hope you'll join me by donating online.
Growing up, I watched as every single one of my grandparents' lives were shortened by heart disease and strokes, and my father had a defibrillator that saved his life on more than one occasion.  Heart disease and stroke kill 1 in 3 Canadians and are the #1 killer of women.
Please click this link to be redirected to my main page at the Heart & Stroke website:
Thus ends my personal appeal.  Official information follows.  :-)))

Heart disease and stroke is the #1 killer of women - taking more women's lives than all forms of cancer combined. But no one is immune. These diseases affect us all: male or female, young or old.
February is Heart Month, and I am asking for your support so that, together, we can stop heart disease and stroke from taking 1 in 3 Canadians before their time.
By sponsoring me online, you can help the Heart and Stroke Foundation continue to fund critical, life-giving research so we can change these statistics. With your help, we can make death wait.
Just click on the link at the bottom of this email to access my secure Personal Donation Page.
Thank you for your support!
Follow This Link to visit my personal web page and help me in my efforts to support Heart and Stroke Foundation.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Short Parsha Riddles: תְּרוּמָה / Terumah

שְׁמוֹת / Shemos / Exodus 25:1-27:19

Click for printable PDF version.  And don’t forget to read last year’s poem!


This is a new project – feedback is most welcome!  (except for one of my children whose only feedback was “these are not as good as the parsha poems”)

Copywork and parsha activities – something for every week of the year! 

image [1]

When you listen and serve Him, we stand face to face,
Gleaming and shining our light through the place;
But when it’s against Hashem’s will that you fight,
Our faces turn outward, turn stormy as night.  Who are we???


Three kinds of metals they brought in this parsha,
The men and the women, from Felix to Marsha;
They gave shiny gold, and their silver brought nearer,
And each lady also gave her __________ mirror!


Branches have I, but don’t grow from the ground,
I’m not in the fields, for in “kodesh” I’m found;
I bear flowers, it’s true, but I yield no bouquet,
I’m the __________ and the kohen lights me every day!

[4] – BONUS!

All those acacia, or sheeteem-trees needed,
Yet trees only grow up from seeds that are seeded;
For aron and shulchan, mizbeyach and planks,
It was to old __________ the Jews gave their thanks!


 STUMPED?? Here are some answers: 
[ 1 ] The Kruvim (Cherubs).  The Talmud (Bava Basra 99a) offers these changing positions as an explanation of conflicting sources of which way they faced.
[ 2 ] Copper.
[ 3 ] Menorah.
[4 ] Yaakov. Rashi (25:5) offers a midrash that explains that Yaakov foresaw that we’d need lots of wood – so he brought seeds and planted trees when he arrived in Mitzrayim (Egypt), instructing the Jews to bring the wood when they left.


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Meeting the Master: Winslow Homer

DSC02531We’re kind of getting into a comfortable rhythm with our Meet the Masters art program.  We do things usually in two stages: 

First, we watch the slideshow while I read the script.  This is a great, thorough introduction to the artist along with some simple notes on style or technique. 

I also reserve library books, but with our current artist, Winslow Homer, that proved somewhat difficult.  We usually read the Mike Venezia “Getting to Know” artist biographies, and he does have one for Winslow Homer, but that happens to be THE one the Toronto Public Library doesn’t have in its collection.  I feel almost embarrassed for Winslow Homer; he gets almost nothing compared to the bounty of Picasso books for kids.

image The third thing we do in the first “stage” (usually the same day as we watch the slideshow) is copy one of the paintings from Start Exploring Masterpieces and use watercolours to fill it in.  There are no rules, but usually we try to stick to the original colours.  Sadly, there’s no Winslow Homer in there, however, Dover’s Art Masterpieces to Color does have one, so I used that instead. 

I invited Ted to join us, and our paintings fell into the usual pattern:  Naomi Rivka colours her painting sweetly and neatly, filling the entire page as literally as she can; I use big blobs of paint and kind of try to get the “gist” of the original without having to waste a lot of time on the details… and Ted goes back and forth staring at the original until he can recreate it amazingly well, considering he’s working from a palette-in-a-tin that has fairies on the outside.  Not exactly artist-quality.

Oh – and Gavriel Zev lets his paintbrushes have an amazing adventure, soaking them in the water and then dancing them around on the page until it usually get a hole in the middle and possibly a tear as well.  His painting is in the picture at the top of this post!

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NOTE:  These are COLOURING PAGES.  I did not draw this painting myself; I only coloured it in with watercolours.  I say this because a friend recently insisted I really could draw because I have all these great paintings up on my blog.  I assured her that I truly can draw only barely at the stick-figure level!

In the second stage, which we haven’t gotten to yet for this artist, we spend about 2 weeks to a month reading whatever library books I’ve managed to round up (which won’t happen with Homer, sadly).  At some point, usually in an evening, I pull the (simple) materials together and we sit down to complete the final project.  This part is detailed and scripted step-by-step in the Meet the Masters program and the directions are usually very clear (though I didn’t like our last project, for Monet, at all).

Then, I hang everything up on the wall and we get to enjoy our own art masterpieces for a few weeks,  until it’s time to move on to the next artist!

The Weather Around Here

How do I get time to post in the middle of the day?  Send the kids outside to run around in the 7° sunshine!

If I believed in karma, or mirthful weather gods, I might fear that we have a cruel and stormy summer ahead, because this winter, and here I really should use quotation marks to make it “winter,” has been unlike any I can remember.  Looking back at February, I can see only TWO days where the high was below zero.  Usually, I suspect, it’s almost ALL the days.  January was a bit colder, but still – highs above zero on 21 of 31 days.

DSC02540On Monday, just Naomi and I went down to the lakeshore to the National Ballet for an open class in honour of Family Day.  After the class, which was led by a real – and very pregnant – ballerina soloist from the National Ballet company, it was simply too beautiful down there to come home.  So we hung out along the boardwalk, checking out the hundreds of probably-shvitzing ice skaters at Harbourfront.  It felt like everybody in the city was there… and no wonder.  Look at that water; look at that sky!

 DSC02548 DSC02549 DSC02556 DSC02557

(I realize she looks very bundled-up in these photos… I assure you, there was no need for such wrapping, and my own coat was flapping open.  The sunglasses, however, were very necessary; it was so bright that I couldn’t actually see these pictures in the LCD screen when I took them with the sun behind me.)

Anyway, yesterday was cold and rainy/sleety/slushy … and now it’s back up to 7ish and sunny.  To my future self, the summertime me who will surely be dealt a freak snowstorm or ice shower, I apologize.  This amazing weather feels like buying on credit; I don’t believe in karma, but in the back of my mind, I believe someday we’ll be paying for all this beauty.

How’s the weather by you?  Are you stuck somewhere having our miserable winter for us?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Torah Home Ed Conference -- the schedule!

I'm super-excited to be able to share this sneak peek at what's happening this coming May.  MegaBus has not released tickets for beyond May 1st yet, so I'm sitting here on pins and needles waiting to buy a ticket and register... :-)))
----- Original Message -----
The 4th Annual Torah Home Education Conference will be held in the
Baltimore area on Sunday, May 6 and the schedule is packed with great
speakers and topics that are sure to give every current or
prospective homeschooler something to take home and actualize!

This is the only conference geared to Orthodox homeschoolers in the
entire world – yes, literally! Every year, people have traveled from
all over the US and even Canada to participate and the consensus was that it was worth 
every penny and hour away from home. Don't think that you're a four hour drive away and 
it's not worth your time. You just won't have anywhere else to access this wide of a 
group of Torah home educators any other day in the year, anywhere.
Here is the (tentative) schedule for the conference:

8:15 – 9 am Registration

9 – 9:10 – Opening remarks

9:15 – 10 am – V'shinantem L'vanecha – Defining Torah Home Education
Mrs. Susan Lapin

10:05 – 10:50 – Parallel workshops:

a) Practical Preschool and Early Education Years – Mrs. Jennifer MacLeod

b) Reaching Bar/bas mitzva – Homeschooling Older Children – Mrs. Shoshana Zohari
10:55 – 11:40 – Parallel Workshops:
a) How to Homeschool, Do Housework, and Prepare for the Chagim with a Smile – Mrs. Jennifer Green

b) Gishmei Brocha – Involving Your Family In Money Management – Rabbi Shmuel Simenowitz
11:45 – 12:30 - Parallel Workshops:

a) Integrating Kodesh and Chol, Two Sides of the Same Coin – Mrs. Deborah Beck

b) Focusing in an Age of Digital Distractions – Mrs. Robin Alberg
12:30 – 2:30 – Lunch, Educational Material for viewing/for sale, "A Day in the Life of a Homeschooling Family" Poster Presentations, and a Facilitated Discussion with Mr. Max Masinter

2:30 – 3:15- Raising Independent Learners – Mrs. Evelyn Krieger

3:20 – 4:05- Veterans Panel with Mrs. Amanda Keefe, Chana Cox, Susan Lapin,
and Rebecca Masinter

4:10 – 4:55 – Advancing the Relationship between Homeschoolers and the Community – Rabbi Cary Friedman

5 – 5:15 – Closing remarks

Mrs. Gila Haor, a special educator, will be available for consultation throughout the day of the conference. If you're interested in reserving a slot, be in touch with her at

The conference planners are doing everything they can to welcome participants to the Baltimore area and make your stay comfortable. If you wish to spend Shabbos in Baltimore or Silver Spring prior to the conference, hospitality is being arranged – Mrs.Tova Brody is taking care of this, and she can be reached at 410-504-7798 or

Child care will be available for your young children during the conference, as well as activities for your older children – we need to know how many children to prepare for, so please register and tell us your child care needs as soon as possible. Mrs. Alisa Mandel is once again taking care of this, and you can contact her at 410-963-2977. 

Homeschooling teenagers are welcome to attend the conference for no charge, although registration is required and donations are appreciated. 

For registration and current information for the Torah Home Education Conference, click here!


Well, not quite.  I could have made the pasta from scratch, for instance, but I didn’t.  I could have grown the spinach and tomatoes from  scratch, or at least, made my own sauce, but I didn’t.  Maybe this summer – it sounds like a great challenge.

As it was, this was just plain BEAUTIFUL lasagna.  With homemade mozzarella – tasty, though not mind-blowing.  It grated pretty nicely, though it was softer and stickier than regular block mozzarella.  I froze it for a bit and it grated slightly better, though still on the mushy side.  One pound of cheese was the batch I made on Sunday, and another pound was fresh today.  I think we used about 1/4 of the new pound, leaving 3/4 of a pound still in the fridge.  Yummy!  And it’s getting easier and easier to get the cheese just right… patience seems to be the key.  Here’s a tutorial that is VERY explicit, step-by-step, and helpful with the handholding I need as a beginner!

(I’m tagging this post “crafts”, because why CAN’T cheesemaking be a craft???)

The ricotta is also homemade.  I used the rest of the “Nozzarella” from Sunday, a failed mozzarella which over the last 2 days had hardened into a rich, creamy, delicious cheese somewhere halfway between mozzarella and mascarpone.  I almost couldn’t stop eating it to toss it in the blender with some steamed spinach… but eventually, I did and the result, combined with a bit of salt plus the whey ricotta from Sunday and today (I was patient with boiling and cooling the whey and got a TON of ricotta today!), was utterly heavenly.

The third picture shows them all going together in the pan:

DSC02511 DSC02512  DSC02516

Oh, did I mention fresh all-sourdough rye bread courtesy of Breadtopia???


Mmm… what a feast to get us through a chilly(ish) winter evening!  The motivation for this was that I promised to bring lasagna to a friend who had a baby last week… I love bringing lasagna because I always do two, it takes almost zero extra effort, and we get to EAT lasagna, which is really my favourite part.

Perhaps this will lift me out of the supper-making doldrums I’ve been in lately…?

Monday, February 13, 2012

Continents and Oceans Song for Aunt Sara

Here are the kids entertaining the Birthday Aunt with the Continents & Oceans Song from Kathy Troxel’s Geography Songs CD, which we have been enjoying for probably a year now.  Naomi is tossing around our homemade papier mache globe.

Cheese Battles: Keeping Score

Here’s the score so far, cheese-wise:

  • 1 mediocre "quick" mozzarella (too tough, not salty enough) – one point for the cheese
  • 1 surreal batch of pink cheese curds – another point for the cheese
  • 1 decent-tasting fresh cheddar wrapped in parchment paper, aging in the “potato room” downstairs – results of this match remain to be determined on sampling in 3 months’ time.
  • 1 batch of “nozzarella”… overheated, turned into ricotta – score one more for the cheese.
  • 1 nice, tasty fresh mozzarella waiting in the fridge! – yay, one point for me… at last!

Highlights of the skirmish so far:


Impromptu cheese press for the homemade cheddar (no colouring this time, and I made it out of 2L of special organic milk).  Two 2-lb weights, plus a 2-lb can of tomato sauce… probably not enough, but it seems to have done the trick.

DSC02389 DSC02393 


Wrapping the cheddar and storing in highly sophisticated moisture-controlled basement “cheese cave.” I am supposed to flip it over every day for 3 months, wiping off mold as necessary.  Eek.

DSC02396 DSC02397 DSC02399 

(the paper towel in the cottage cheese tub is releasing a bit of moisture, hopefully just enough, into the air around the cheese)

NOZZARELLA:  The Mozza that Wouldn’t

And now, today’s adventures:  an awful lot of milk… a promising beginning…

DSC02443 DSC02447  DSC02454 

And then – at the microwave stage – total and utter failure to stretch into anything more sophisticated than plain old ricotta:

DSC02455 DSC02456 

Drat!  It’s because the thermometer in the cheesemaking kit (just a reminder that not everything in the kit is kosher – you must order kosher cultures and additives) shows temps only in increments of 4°F… and doesn’t react quickly enough to let me know the temperature is going too high.

MOZZARELLA TAKE 2 (3):  The Mozza that DID!

Hopping back on that horse later in the day with a new (digital) thermometer… starting over:


Eek!  Time for Sara’s birthday party!  I left the cheese draining for about 4 hours.  Which, it turns out, was a VERY GOOD thing.

Here’s the cheese, drained, when I got home at 10 pm.  I love seeing the fabric marks of the cheesecloth on the cheese.


Microwaved a couple of times for 20-30 seconds each until it was “almost too hot to touch” (you can see I need to wear gloves at this temperature, even though I don’t think I have particularly sensitive hands).

Salt it a bit, test it each time to see if it’s ready to stretch… and YES!  It stretched!

 DSC02497 DSC02499 DSC02501 

That nice, glossy roundish ball at the end is exactly what it’s supposed to look like!


You can see that the yield was excellent, too:  478g is just over a pound, almost 17 ounces, from 4L (just over 1 gallon) of milk.  And the second batch of milk was, weirdly, on sale; I think it was only about $2-3 at Superstore, but I could be wrong.  And here’s the thing:  properly salted, it tasted really, really nice.

So even at the full price of around $5ish for 4L of milk, if it yields over a pound of cheese, that’s half the price of the lousy cheese on the kosher shelves in the supermarket (227g / 8oz for $5.50).  I have definitely wasted a LOT of milk in the process of figuring this thing out – 8L today alone – I can think of it as collateral damage or the price of a home education in cheese. 

The biggest thing I’m learning: you can’t rush cheese.  Also, temperature is very, VERY important: it requires more sticklish precision than breadmaking – taking a mixture from 86° to 108° gradually over a period of 15-20 minutes can be annoying, and there are apparently few shortcuts.

But it’s wonderful to know that at least it is, theoretically, possible to make delightful kosher cheese for not much money!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

A Child’s Geography: Papier Mâché Globe Project

imageThis is a project inspired, though not mandated by, our new geography book, A Child’s Geography: Explore His Earth, which we’re all greatly enjoying so far.  For Chapter 1, I believe, where it introduces Earth as our home, the book invites kids (with their parents) to make their own Earth, partly to see how amazing it is that Hashem can make the earth in only 7 days (and even quicker, if He’d wanted), while all we can come up with in 7 days is a crummy imitation.

Well, I wouldn’t call ours crummy, but it certainly drove home the idea that there are a lot of steps that go into making the entire earth…

We started this around the middle of January, but I hadn’t posted pics because I was planning to give it to my sister as a birthday present (makes sense – she loves the world!).  However, she did get a sneak peek at the project at a couple of stages along the way.  Nevertheless, I hope these photos will help her appreciate the hard work and many steps that went into creating the Earth, both our version and the original.

Step 1:  Coat balloon with newspaper strips, coated in boiled flour/water paste (with a touch of salt to help keep off mold, maybe, based on negative past papier mache experiences!).  This took a few days, because we used two main coats of newspaper, followed by a single layer of paper towel for a nice, white finish.

DSC02153 DSC02154  DSC02157 DSC02209 DSC02211

2.  When the final paper-towel layer was dry, coat the globe in gesso and allow to dry.


3.  First in pencil, then with a permanent black marker, Naomi Rivka traced the continents by hand, using a globe and a couple of atlases for reference.  We started by drawing the equator.  I think she did a great job with that, considering she did it freehand.

 DSC02264 DSC02265

4.  Now, it was time to paint the continents!  Carefully around the edges, then more broadly in the middle.

 DSC02268 DSC02271 DSC02272

5.  At this point, we were busy for MANY days and the globe just sat there, half-finished.  But we finally did get around to adding the oceans!  Elisheva suggested a lighter colour around the edges of the continents, then a darker blue in the middle.  Ted suggested adding some green to the blue, which I tried, but it doesn’t exactly show.  Annoyingly, the poster paint we used developed minute cracks as it dried – what a lousy product!  I would use acrylics if I was doing this again.

 DSC02333 DSC02334   DSC02337

6. Finally, last night – three weeks after we started, we retraced the continents to fix the edges, and Naomi also wrote in the names of the continents, vehemently refusing assistance even as she wrote “Noth america.”  I snuck in the “r” afterwards.  I used a line of masking tape to define the equator and let her trace it all the way around.


7.  Then, layers and layers of smelly podge (gloss)!

 DSC02438 DSC02439

8.  Oh, yeah… maybe we should include some way to hang the thing up, considering Sara has ZERO free table or display space in her tiny apartment.  Turns out every plan for creating a hanging globe incorporates a hook or wire early in the papier mache stages, NOT right at the end.  I knew that, from my papier mache days.  Doh!  Poke a needle and thread in and tie it up for an impromptu hanging loop!  (as long as nobody tries swinging it around too much or using it as a piñata)

 DSC02440 DSC02441

9.  And – yes! – a birthday hit!!!  Or at least, one that cannot be readily exchanged for cash like the Magic Bullet blender!


Wait!  What’s the cool hat she’s wearing, you ask???  Glad you asked!!!