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Showing posts from April, 2012

Edwardian School Day in the Zion Schoolhouse

Yet another homeschool field trip, our last for a while, because I’m off to Baltimore next week.  This was FUN, despite several last-minute cancellations bringing our group size down to 13 kids (though this meant we could sneak along a friend’s kid for free!) and horrible weather so we couldn’t enjoy the usual outdoor recess with period games and toys.  Most of the kids didn’t know how to spell; with the unschooly bent of most homeschoolers here, the spelling bee the schoolteacher organized was a bit of a joke.  Even after practicing the “list words” for fifteen minutes (writing them, reading them, saying them aloud), most of the children were still guessing letters somewhat randomly, like a G in the word “rain.”  Naomi Rivka did fine; her word was “ring,” which she spelled on the first try.  Despite this, I respected the fact that the parents did not jump in at all to “rescue” their kids from potentially embarrassing situations.  Perhaps that’s part of the philosophy – if they feel

New Lapbook in Progress: צַדִּיק בֶּאֱמוּנָתוֹ יִחְיֶה / Tzaddikim Project

This is a biggie, a heavy-duty topic, too.  For a while now, I have been wanting to do a lapbook of tzaddikim (great Torah scholars), but there are a few reasons why I’ve been stuck.  First, it’s a HUGE subject – over 6000 years of history, you’re bound to accumulate more than a few righteous people.  Indeed, the number seems to be potentially infinite, once you start scratching the surface.  Second, humility.  That’s right – a characteristic I rarely demonstrate, but very much applicable here:  who am I to say this person is a tzaddik worth remembering and this person  isn’t??? Third, terminology.  I think of all these folks, the Rambam, Rashi, the Chofetz Chaim, as Gedolim, but there is a tendency to refer to modern Torah scholars as Gedolim.  The term Tzaddikim is often used only for Chassidic leaders, though to me, it means all major leaders, throughout history.  Complicating this fact is that folks in the frum world also tend to use the word “gedolim” to refer to just about ANY

Crocheted Kokeshi Baby Doll

Although there are tons of free dolly patterns out there, I actually bought this pattern on etsy – I like the shape of the body, and the idea of the removable outfit really appealed to me.  Mine turned out slightly more wonky – and very much less natural-looking due to the odd tints of yarn I had available. The pattern is modelled on a traditional Japanese wooden “Kokeshi” doll, which looks like the one shown on the right.   Though I have done it as minimalistically as possible, mine definitely lacks the “kawaii” factor – the utterly adorable cuteness associated with Japanese kitsch. Still, I’m pleased with the way she came out.  And i n fact, especially with her odd colouring, and due to her armlessness, she looks very much like a VeggieTales character – not entirely a bad thing.     Here she is, naked, but I think I will leave her outfit on most of the time, because it’s a bit tighter around the neck than I had anticipated. Any suggestions for a name to go along with her person

Kosher Cooking Carnival – the Eeyore (Iyyar) edition!

And yet again , I am privileged to host the delightfully monthly Kosher Cooking Carnival! When the month of Iyyar (אִייָר‎) rolls around, I have always secretly thought of Winnie the Pooh’s sidekick, Eeyore.  I have never mentioned this to anybody before, so I hope you appreciate this confidential divulgence. But really, there is no month that better captures the spirit of Eeyore, not even Cheshvan, which is called “mar” (bitter) Cheshvan, because it contains no holidays.  Just like Eeyore has his moments in the sun, Iyyar hosts its own joyous date on the 18th.  Only in true “Eeyore” spirit, in which he often feels slighted and taken-for-granted, almost nobody recognizes the 18th of Iyyar: instead, the holiday goes by its more common name – Lag BaOmer / ל״ג בעומר, the 33rd omer-counting day.  And finally, doesn’t Eeyore’s constant loving kvetching remind everybody of their favourite Jewish Bubby??? I'm telling you. People come and go in this forest, and they say. 'It'

Short Parsha Riddles: Shemini / שְּׁמִינִי

וַיִּקְרָא / Vayikra / Leviticus 9:1-11:47 Click for printable PDF version . And don’t forget to read last year’s poem and parsha overview .  Plus… copywork and parsha activities – something for every week of the year! [1] Kohanim are special, from Aharon descended, Though the Mishkan is gone, their line hasn’t ended. In this week’s parsha, he raised his hands fast, To say __________ __________, our bracha, at last. [2a] A guy named Nad and his brother Hoo, They did not know just what to do; Sizzled some cinnamon in a pan, And disobeyed Hashem’s great plan.  Who are they? [2b] Though brothers now are dead and gone, Our family’s legacy must live on; So we two stepped up, snipped our hair, Just say the word, and we’ll be there.  Who are we? [3] Rashi admitted they’re kosher indeed, Though he’d never eat any, even in need, But some Jews can nibble them, far to the east, So maybe someday you’ll find __________ at your feast! [4] – BONUS! Just four little letters, and two

Final Pesach Guests (warning – gross stuff)

Most people, when they’re getting excited about Pesach, probably don’t think about all the beautiful COMPOST it creates.  And they certainly don’t think about all the WORMS they’re feeding over the Yom Tov. But think about it – you’re eating basically vegetables, for eight days, along with thousands and thousands (well, maybe it just seemed like it) of eggshells.  Peel, peel, peel… crack, crack, crack – and every peel and every shell is making my garden happier and healthier than it would be otherwise. I got so mad two years ago when I saw somebody tossing Pesach eggshells into the city compost bin.  My standard line is, “we already pay taxes; do we have to give them our compost , too???!?”  The (somewhat rabidly-made) point being, it’s perfectly good stuff.  And the worms (a few pictured at right) are the very best kind of Pesach guests – the ones that stay on afterwards and help you with your gardening all year round. In other, less delightful, more rot-full gardening news, at som

Rock the (Comments) Vote!

Google made some changes this week which have made comment moderation even more of a pain.  Previously, I just had to click a link in my email and it would automatically either publish or reject the comment. Now, I have to go through a whole rigmarole, which – practically speaking – is going to be very annoying to follow through on every single day. So I’m asking you to vote… would you prefer to: A) leave a comment the current way; it will not appear immediately and Jennifer has a hassle to approve whatever I have to say, OR B) leave a comment immediately (instant gratification!) but have to pass through one of those annoying CAPTCHA word-scrambles (which seem to get harder with every passing week) to verify that you are a human being and not a spammer. It’s your call – moderation or captcha??? (if nobody leaves a comment, that means you folks probably don’t care enough and I’ll just do whatever the heck I want and nobody will notice!)

Fun day at Humber – Trip #12 of 15 :-o

Looking at my spreadsheet, it’s hard to believe that I have organized FIFTEEN homeschool field trips this year – that’s more than 1 a month.  Indeed, there are two this month – one this week and another next week.  Here’s a complete list, while I’m feeling braggy:       Humber Arboretum - Fall Animal Tracks nature program NFB – Claymation animation program FREE Four Seasons Centre Concert November 1st:  Reeds & Keys (we didn’t even end up going to this one!) Royal Winter Fair (this was really just a group ticket order; we didn’t go together) FREE Four Seasons Centre Concert January 12th:  Peggy Baker Dance Company FREE Roy Thomson Hall Bach Children’s Chorus NFB – Pixilation animation program Toronto Symphony Orchestra Junior Concert FREE Roy Thomson Hall Orpheus Choir NFB – Pixilation animation program (we didn’t go… because once was enough) Bruce’s Mill Maple Syrup Trip Humber Arboretum – The Huron People spring nature program (this was today’s trip!) Zion School

An Outsider’s Glimpse of Our Family’s Madness

One of my western Canadian cousins stopped by for lunch at my mother’s house on the last day of Pesach.  This is the son of my father’s brother, who died last year .  I don’t know this branch of the family well – although they started out quite close to us in Scarborough, they gradually moved farther away:  out to Whitby, Waterloo, and eventually, British Columbia.  My parents visited a few times, and both of my sisters have spent time in BC, so that leaves me being the only one who’s had nearly zero contact since they left Ontario. Even when they lived here, they were always much closer with the other side of the family, which is Finnish and culturally very different from my own.  Visiting their family often felt like venturing into a foreign country, even though it was only 15 minutes away – their home was full of exotic touches:  a spider monkey, a microwave, wall-sized panoramic wallpaper, take-out submarine sandwiches.  I never felt like we were estranged, exactly… but we didn’t

Back to alef-bais school!

Here is Gavriel Zev with one of his inner circle, “Miss,” which is what he calls this blonde sleeveless Groovy Girl, singing an Alef Bais song.  This is not the one we sing together when we learn a new letter, but it’s currently the kids’ favourite, having been featured in Naomi’s Alef-Bais Siyum Video a couple of years ago.   Our new letter today was actually TWO letters – mem and nun, because we sorta-kinda did mem the week before Pesach, which fit perfectly with Mah Nishtana, but I was too busy to really sit down and do any actual schoolwork with either of them.  So we caught up with two this week.  Gavriel Zev is a kid who HATES colouring, so to colour one letter each week is sheer drudgery, even though I have suggested many ways to liven them up.  Naomi was infinitely more creative when she was colouring hers, drawing little pictures or patterns, using watercolours, dot-dot markers, whatever she wanted to make each one colourful and varied.  Each week, GZ makes excuses about

Pink Penguin… and a Scrap-topus

Elisheva loves penguins (so do I, I admit), and I have been wanting to use my newly-wicked crochet skills with this free penguin pattern . Here’s the original (named Howie the Holiday Penguin, because he comes with a festive December-ish cap you can crochet for him)… NOTE:  I DID NOT MAKE THIS ONE!!! (click the picture to get to the free pattern) NOTE:  I DID NOT MAKE THIS ONE!!! (click the picture to get to the free pattern) This is the one I made!         Somewhat pointy-headed and lopsided, with a VERY bulbous beak/nose… but still, I think, rather cute.  I propped him in the corner of the sofa, took his picture, then called Elisheva in to warn her “not to sit on the sofa.”  She asked why a few times, then peeked and pretty much screamed in adoration.  She appropriated him immediately and he’s been in her room with her other penguins ever since.  I warned her not to let anyone know of her weakness for penguins or people will buy her nothing but – as happened to my sister with

Seed Starting

Tomatoes!  Planted yesterday – very, very, VERY late in the season, especially considering how warm it was in February and March.  I didn’t bother firing up the whole seed-starting rig, which is under a ton of clutter at the moment anyway.  This is the countertop grow-op, just a bulb at the right height over the downstairs kitchen counter, which happens to be clean and clear because of all of Ted’s Pesach organization down there. I had altogether too many varieties of tomato seed waiting to start, and I only wanted to do one tray (36 plants, under ideal conditions)… so I forced myself to start 4 each of 9 varieties.  I let YM pick a couple of his favourites (based on the names only), and chose a few of my favourites as well (based on either past experience or Googling to see how well-behaved each variety is, in terms of fruit size, plant growth habit, days to maturity and flavour).  All these seeds were free, either saved myself or gleaned from various seed swap tables I’ve volunte

Miscellaneous Memories of Pesach

Just a few things I was too busy to blog! First – are stickers getting STICKIER?  I had to take a bunch of things to the mikveh, and spent literally half an hour scraping labels off two pots.  What do people do if they’re NOT toivelling their new things?  I assume they just wait and the sticker comes apart in the course of time after a few good washings? The one here wasn’t QUITE so murderously hard… but just about.  The nice thing is that the mikveh now seems to stock “GooGone” fairly regularly.  The bad news is that I was using it with bare hands and it left the pots I was toivelling all greasy and stinky.  Of course, we wash everything when it gets home from the mikveh anyway…   Heart-shaped matzah – thought this was kind of cute – in a dumb way.  It would be better if the matzah had the face of Elvis or Mother Teresa in the burnt markings.  We ordered EXACTLY the right amount of matzah: 7 pounds.  I thought we used it all up but we had a couple of pieces left over because I had