Friday, October 30, 2009

I'm bouncing away...

... to prepare the Shabbat goodies! It's such a lovely rainy day (the first in this season) and I've been seriously hit by the baking bug. This is apple cake, with reduced sugar and oil and one egg less.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A touch of loveliness

A lap rug I'm making, crocheted from combination of wool and mohair. Or it might be a throw blanket eventually, depending on my yarn supply. :o) Won't it make a nice winter gift?

There are always so many venues for lovely handmade things to try, and so little time. Sewing and embroidery, felting and doll-making, making soap and candles... I'm sure our Shira will be interested in at least some of these when she's a little older, and it will be so much fun to try our hand at it together!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A little glass teapot

Isn't it adorable? I think it's beautiful in its simplicity.
I think there's just something so wonderfully old-fashioned and homey about a teapot bubbling on the stove, brewing herbs from our garden. In my eyes, it symbolizes slowing down to have some quiet time together, and what's more precious than that? Since it's made entirely of glass it's possible to see the whole process, which adds interest for the children (though it's definitely necessary to watch out for little hands reaching for the teapot).
Filled with fresh herb tea, it's just perfect.

Monday, October 26, 2009

I love those little visitors

He was climbing up and down our (now all dried up) grape vine in such a graceful way. Isn't he cute?

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Dating - a dangerous game

Click here to read another gem of an article about what happens when dating becomes a mere form of recreation, men and women are forced to sell themselves cheaply, and marriage turns into a rather dangerous gambling game.

In an age when relationships are cheapened, it becomes increasingly important to seek out, and be one of, those people who will look deep into your soul and cherish you for who you are. Who look for a spouse not as a source of convenience, efficient household keeping, or regular sex, but as a lifelong best friend and partner in all ways life may turn.

"There can be a kind of promiscuity without physical contact. It occurs wherever people "get to know" one another without coming to care for one another."

The increased availability of social contacts in the global village era, the easiness with which we now meet people, is contributing to increased pickiness.

In one of the latest Shabbat leaflets, I read the story of a woman in her late twenties, who was beautiful and successful and seeing man after man, unable to settle down. When the matchmaker asked her what, in her opinion, is wrong with the young man she had been lately introduced to, the young lady said, "he flaps his arms when talking!" Did he have good qualities, apart from the flapping arms? Oh yes, he was kind and responsible and caring, and she really loved his eyes... the matchmaker suggested she should just ignore his arms and focus on the rest, and within two weeks, they got engaged.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Very entertaining article about breastfeeding

Here is a link to the funniest breastfeeding article I have read in a long time. It talks about the experiences of a breastfeeding mother who had lived in Mongolia for a couple of years while she breastfed her son, and the different perceptions of breastfeeding in the Western culture vs. Mongolia.

Hat-tip to A Mother in Israel.

While I won't say I can relate to everything in this article - for example, I firmly maintain that when exposing a woman's breasts, other things should also be taken into account, apart from their functionality; and I have certainly never added my breastmilk to my morning coffee - I think this article will bring a smile upon a nursing mama's face. Personally, I giggled all the time while reading it.

Here are some funny quotes:

"If a woman's breasts are engorged and her baby is not at hand, she will simply go around and ask a family member, of any age or sex, if they'd like a drink. Often a woman will express a bowlful for her husband as a treat, or leave some in the fridge for anyone to help themselves."

"A western friend of mine who pumped breastmilk while at work and left the bottle in the company fridge one day found it half empty. She laughed. "Only in Mongolia would I suspect my colleagues of drinking my breastmilk!"

Warning: be careful if you choose to explore that blog further, contains some very anti-Jewish materials.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Is he a potential husband?

"A man has been pursuing me for the past few weeks but I am so uncertain about him. We have very similar values, particularly about keeping God at the center of everything in our lives (as such, I am firstly continuing to pray about this, but I know that God also desires that we seek to develop wisdom). He is wonderfully communicative about his feelings of respect and admiration toward me, his plans to be able to provide for a family within two or three years (we are in college, I am 21 and he is 26), and the mistakes he has made in his past - major financial mistakes, the "partying" scene, cigarette smoking addiction - that he left totally behind him several years ago when he reconnected strongly with his faith.

I think the sources of my uncertainty are partly due to his reservedness and seriousness in social groups, unproven financial capabilities, and worries about potential consequences of his past. I am, by nature and personality, slow to develop strong feelings about any man. However, I wonder that because I desire marriage and motherhood, I might accept a proposal and make a poor match. Adding to that is the problem that men with such values are terribly scarce where I live. While I'm not strongly attracted to him, I am certainly not repulsed either. I may be letting feelings of being "entitled" to a "perfect" man with a "perfect" past prevent me from taking him or a future suitor seriously. Of course, genuine love grows beyond whatever initial "good chemistry" a couple has, but I wonder how I can be wise about whether I am laying a good foundation for that long-term marital love."

First, very few people have a perfect past these days. Many of us (including myself) made mistakes in our youth, and while I understand some things might sound like a strong put-off (such as a history of addiction, gambling, disastrous relationships), it's entirely possible to make a fresh start, provided that the past was really left behind. Second, even if you meet someone with an unblemished history, it does not make any guarantees for the future. Each man should be viewed as an individual, and each situation should be addressed separately.

You wrote, "the sources of my uncertainty are partly due to his reservedness and seriousness in social groups"; however, keep in mind that most of your life together with your future husband will be not in a social group, but in your family circle. Your one-on-one interaction is far more important than how he behaves when there's company around. Perhaps he is reserved and shy when there are people around, but are the two of you able to have open communication? I think that is the key question here.

As to financial capabilities, I think a man in his twenties simply might not have had time to make his way financially just yet. He might not have much to offer right now in terms of a steady income and possibility to provide for a family, yet it doesn't mean he won't be a good provider in the future. If you haven't already, I suggest you read an old post of mine titled Marriage and Money, where I addressed the issue of being courted by someone who doesn't have a lot of money:

Instead of asking yourself, "how much does this man earn and will it be enough for both of us and the children too?", ask the following questions: is he hardworking and reliable? Is he steady, trustworthy, responsible, and careful in his financial decisions? Does he tend to spend a lot of money on nothings? And most importantly, does he see himself as the provider for his future wife and children, or does he expect his wife to pull an equal share of the financial burden, if not more?

You said you are slow to develop strong feelings, and I think this actually gives you an advantage, because it means you are not driven by the "chemistry", which can be misleading and plays a big part in the ridiculously high divorce rates today. I think it's normal not have a very high level of physical attraction towards a man who has been courting you for only a few weeks (as you describe). If, as you say, he is not repulsive to you, the level of attraction might grow as the courtship develops.

When I went on a first date with my husband, I did not feel terribly attracted to him, though I definitely thought he was good-looking. In fact I felt pretty neutral about him for our first few dates, and I knew it's normal, because we refrained from any physical contact (which plays a big part in starting or stopping the so-called "chemistry"). I didn't really fall in love with him until after we were married, and when it happened, it was based on things like mutual commitment, support, trust and respect.

Of course, I would never presume to tell you whether you should or should not marry this man - you obviously need to pray about it, and perhaps seek advice from more experienced people who know you (and ideally, him) better. But in my opinion, the potential is there, and the courtship can be given a chance.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Improved etrog jam

Remember I told you about my unsuccessful attempt at making etrog jam, which ended with candied fruit? Well, my husband and I refused to give up, and decided to give it another try.

We took our candied etrog, and boiled it again with some more water, a little bit of honey, cinnamon and grated orange peels. I'm not certain about the quantities as we didn't exactly take measurements, but we made sure the water covered the fruit this time. It smells and tastes heavenly!

In Jewish tradition, eating etrog jam or tasting and smelling of etrog is supposed to help women have an easy delivery. Last Sukkot, when I was pregnant with Shira, we kept our etrog for that purpose and intended to take it to hospital with us, but eventually forgot it at home. My sister-in-law also got me some etrog jam from Rebbetzin Kanievsky, but unfortunately, it was lost before I could ever taste it.

I ended up having a very smooth delivery even without an etrog, though *smile*. For now we'll just enjoy the jam. I'm not pregnant right now, and even if this blessed event happens soon, I doubt the jam will keep for many months!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Good food and simple living

I wonder, do you read Small Town Living? If you don't, I definitely recommend it. It's a neat bi-monthly online magazine, downloadable for free, with lots of great articles, tips and tutorials - pretty much everything about simple living, gardening and crafts. Some things that are published there are obviously less relevant to those of us who don't live in the United States, but I still glean a lot from it.

In the last issue, there was an article that struck a chord with me. It was a story written by a woman named Deborah Garner, who told about her journey from living mainly on junk food to a healthy vegan diet. Even if, like me, you have never been prone to overeating and have always been naturally lean, you will find her story deeply moving.

I believe that good, healthy, wholesome food, eaten in the right proportions and enjoyed around the family table, is one of the greatest pleasures in life. Do you remember that scene in Narnia, when the witch gives Edmund Turkish Delight, which makes him unable to enjoy good simple food? I often feel as though most modern food, preservative-laden, processed and packaged, has just the same function. It lacks warmth and personality, but when you get used to it it's difficult to go back to home-cooked meals.

Fortunately for me, I grew up in a family that put a great emphasis on home cooking and healthy eating, and even on fun extras such as baking and jam-making. Remember our etrog from a few posts ago? This year, I decided not to let it shrivel up. I collected the etrogim left over after Sukkot, and attempted to make jam out of them. Unfortunately I was not very successful at making jam, because it appears I should have added more liquid, but I did end up with some candied fruit my husband liked.

I could talk on and on about simple living and the part home-cooked food plays in it, but right now it's time to log off so I hope to continue another day. I wish you a most wonderful weekend.

Your friend,

Mrs. T

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Our little crawler

Not long ago, after weeks of trial and error, Shira finally mastered the art of crawling; within a few short days, she made the transition to increased mobility and is now literally all over the place. Now we have to be extra careful and keep an eye on our love bug at all times, because despite having many lovely toys, for some reason she is more attracted to things like electric cables and house plants.

I love watching her grow. I know that no matter what happens, I will never regret the time spent at home with her, watching all those adorable firsts and rejoicing with every one. What can be more important in setting a foundation for future life and its relationship than those first few months and years of a child's life?

Not long ago, someone we know died, leaving a widow with two small children and another one on the way. He was young and healthy, and it was a sudden, unexpected tragedy. While I think he provided well enough for the family (cannot be sure, because I was not very close to them), his wife has quite a prestigious job of her own, but although you could look at it and think, "at least she has something to fall back on, it will be easy for her to support her children", it's also possible to look at it in another way: she could have spent more time with her family before, and now it will be harder for her to do, financially - even though this is a time when her children will need her the most. But of course nothing is impossible for God, and lives can be turned in a most unexpected way.

The time with our families is so precious. Lives are turbulent and unpredictable, circumstances change, we lose loved ones long before we think it's time to make amends and say goodbye. Therefore, every day is a gift, to be lived and enjoyed to the fullest.

At home, I have sweet little cheeks to kiss, and songs to sing, baths to give and discoveries to make with my most darling little one. Each day, I am blessed.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Modesty: a woman's crown

I don't spend much time reading blogs these days, but not long ago, I came across a great post by Bethany at The Apple Cider Mill. As always, Bethany writes from a thoroughly Christian perspective, and as I often do, even though I'm as Jewish as can be, I find myself nodding in agreement when reading her blog.

I'm a big proponent of modesty; as a matter of fact, realising the necessity of adopting modest dress and chaste behavior has served me as a jumping board into observing the laws of Orthodox Judaism, which completely changed my life - and I will be eternally grateful for that. I wear long skirts and cover my hair, I wouldn't show anything above my elbow or below my collarbone and I do so happily, but sometimes I feel we are too defined by our outward appearances.

Last Shabbat, I came across a leaflet that technically talked about the importance of what I already practice - full hair covering, particularly with head scarves, and modest dress in general. Supposedly I was meant to feel good about myself after reading it, but in fact I felt like wanting to dissociate myself as much as possible from the group of women who wrote that leaflet. Perhaps it was because they resorted to bashing women who cover their hair with wigs rather than head scarves or hats. Perhaps it was the implication that a woman's righteousness is gained by modesty alone, while omitting the merits of reaching out to others and sincere prayer. Perhaps it was their self-righteous tone in general. But in any case, I put away the leaflet shaking my head and thinking, "no - I am not one of them!"

Modesty does not need to be associated with martyrdom or being shut away from society. I've read books which actually claim that the righteous woman should leave the four walls of her home as little as possible, not even to participate in public prayer, and point to virtuous women who only left their house once in two weeks. Publishing and promoting such writings seems sinister and unhealthy to me. Shutting women out of society and spiritual life is not "modest", it's plain sick.

Modesty is not meant to be excessively restrictive, as to interfere with the normal course of life; modesty is not meant to make women feel ugly or dirty or sinful. Modesty is a woman's crown, and I believe the Almighty rejoices every time a woman chooses to cover her hair, but who are we to look at anyone disdainfully for not complying with certain standards?

When I'm in a group of other religious women, I often feel that my skirt, sleeves and hair covering are being mentally measured and evaluated the second I enter the room, and the next second I'm categorized and classified. I can't stand that. I think that if we believe in a certain type of modest dress, the best way to promote it is simply to wear it in a dignified and graceful way. A quiet, gentle, modest spirit can reach out so much further than a holier-than-thou attitude.

Modesty is closely interrelated with humility. I think that was what bothered me most about that leaflet I mentioned earlier. It implied that women who dress modestly should "teach" those who don't. While my skirts and sleeves might be longer than of many women I know, I don't feel this automatically makes me qualified to be their spiritual guide or mentor. The better path, I think, would be to just live a gentle, faith-centered life, without dwelling on what others are doing. I am endlessly far from perfect, after all. I am just learning along the way.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

In our garden

I've always loved chameleons; shame this particular one would not turn so that we could get a better angle.
A nest in the brambles. I haven't seen the bird who had built it, but it sure looks snug!

... The Autumn holidays are over, and it's time to roll up the sleeves and get some good hard post-holiday work done. There's cleaning, and plenty of washing and mending, and using up or storing away all those leftovers that can be later stretched into a few good meals or lots of snacks.

There are winter clothes to sort and air out, and a sukkah to fold and store away until next year. There's clutter to get rid of, and baking to be done, and I mean to try and get to my crochet hook again after a long break, to finish an almost-completed project.

To put it simply, there's a lot to be busy with here at home, and that's just how I love it. Working with my hands and resting in spirit, knowing I am just where I'm meant to be.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

We've had a great time

We had about twenty people around here yesterday, which, as you understand, is quite a lot for us when it's usually just the three of us here. I was a bit apprehensive at first about how so many people would fit into a little place like ours, but that's the good thing about Sukkot - when people come, they sit outside in the sukkah and you don't have to worry about your living room being not tidy or not roomy enough.

I spent most of the two days before cleaning and cooking. At the end of yesterday, I was tired but happy as everyone told me what a great time they had before leaving. You really don't need to do anything too fancy - good simple food and generous hospitality go a lot way.

Chocolate coconut cake batter, ready to be poured into the baking pan and popped into the oven.

Sukkot is nearly over, and it was a great holiday. Looking forward to Hanukkah!

Monday, October 5, 2009

A perfect etrog

The bigger etrog is from this year. The smaller is from last year. It was kept outside the refrigerator, yet to my amazement, it was perfectly preserved. It only dried up. I cannot think of any other fruit which could be kept without refrigeration without becoming moldy. It also smells wonderfully.

I hope all you Jews out there are having a very happy Sukkot. We are preparing to host quite a lot of people here in a couple of days, so I'd better get busy!

Moadim l'Simcha!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Amazing potatoes

Another amazing recipe from here (link in Hebrew). Photo credit to the original site - I took a picture too but I'm too tired to upload it right now.

Take 5-7 potatoes and slice them. You don't have to peel them. I like them with the peel.

Drizzle salt, pepper, spices, 3 tablespoons of chili sauce and 4 tablespoons of olive oil over the potatoes. Mix well.

In the original recipe it says to also mix the potatoes with 3 tablespoons of honey but I chose to omit that and it was really good.

Bake until soft. Enjoy.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Happy Sukkot

This weekend and next week we will be celebrating Sukkot. After two days of hard work, our sukkah is already set up in the yard and waiting, the only thing that is left is to decorate it. I love seeing all the sukkot springing up around the neighbourhood; it's so lovely to see families gathered in there, a little crowded but happy, eating festive meals and simply being together.

I hope all my Jewish readers and friends have a wonderful holiday.