Thursday, December 31, 2009

Freedom of speech and peace of mind

A couple of days ago, I received a very kind email from a long-time thoughtful reader, a wife and mother quite a few years older than myself. Since I believe her thoughts are of much importance, I asked for permission to share them here, and she gave me the gracious consent.

"I am enjoying the series of posts you are doing on the role of women at home and the rich value in their being there. I think this series is desperately needed in this world, particularly to encourage women at home who are struggling or those who are seeking for a way to return home.

Some of the comments, though, seem to detract from the wonderful points you are making.
As I read these comments, I find myself feeling a little defensive, second-guessing my choices. Coming to the blog is not as peaceful when these nay-sayers are "present", and it is a little stressful sorting through the comments that are there to prove you wrong or to express "the other side". I wonder if other women might also feel less strengthened than they might if these negative comments were not there, especially women who are younger than I am or having a harder time dealing with the realities of life at home and the social pressures to be in the workforce.

I know that moderating the comments can be time-consuming. And I can imagine that you have disallowed many more comments that are far worse!

There are many, many other places to read thoughts like these, but so few to read your point of view! And so few places to see the place of women at home elevated to the position it truly deserves.

I feel that, as a visitor to someone's blog, we should behave as we would when visiting a friend "in real life." If our real-life hostess brought up a deeply held conviction or point of view, we would assent to the aspects of it that we could, but beyond that we would keep our thoughts to ourselves. We would not tell her that "There are other points of view than yours"; or, "I'm glad I have made other choices than you have made"; or, "I have seen people who made those choices fail" or anything along those lines. We would not attempt to turn the discussion away from her purpose and direction into a forum for broadcasting our own viewpoints and lifestyles. To do this in real life would be very rude, and breach one of the most basic rules of etiquette:"Follow the lead of the hostess". It would invite a spirit of contention and strife into the gathering; could lead to hurt feelings and strained relationships; and shows a general lack of respect for the hostess and her generosity in allowing us into her home.

The only exception I can see to this is if the hostess specifically opened up the discussion by saying, "What do you think about this subject? Let's all share our points of view!"

I see this type of thing happen so often on blogs; but I would love to see "visitors" acting in a way that is respectful of the direction set by the blog owner ("hostess"). And that would mean, if I can't write in support of a particular point of view mentioned in a particular post, that I would remain silent instead, and jump in whenever there is a post that I can comment productively on, in keeping with the tone and direction set by the blog owner. Let's help restore civility to the internet!"

Here is my slightly abridged reply:

You are absolutely right in guessing that the negative comments you see are only the tip of the iceberg. I only allow a fraction of nay-saying, and only if it's polite enough and can contribute to the discussion in some way. I have rejected many comments that were rude, angry, too argumentative, personally insulting, not to the point, and/or comments with a dose of antisemitism, Israel-hating, or missionary messages. I have received messages such as "I hope your baby dies in your womb" (I was pregnant back then). Once, a lunatic even sent death threats, directed at me, not just to my blog but to the blogs of my friends.

I also have to deal with angry emails from people whose comments weren't published, who accuse me of "only wanting applause", "not being ready to hear a different opinion" and "preaching to the choir." I do understand the frustration of those who put the time and effort into writing a long, contemplative comment, only to have it deleted by me. I never lie and say it was just swallowed up by a blogger glitch (as sometimes it indeed happens). I state my reasons, but I must admit, it's exhausting.

You are right, there are so many places on the web to hear the PC points of view, but only one blog where I can express my opinions. At first, I felt I must answer every comment that argues against what I say, but I have long since given up on the idea of making everybody happy. I cannot answer every comment, and yes, I do press the "reject" button much more often than before. I am tempted to do it even more often, for the peace of mind of myself and even more, readers such as you, who only want support and encouragement and come across plenty of naysayers as it is.

But you do see some comments many of my readers feel we could do without. Sometimes, it's because I simply don't have the heart to reject a long, thoughtful and well-written comment, in particular when it's written by someone I already "know" and don't feel comfortable to just write off. Rejecting anonymous comments is much easier, because then I know that person probably doesn't stand behind what he or she said anyway. Sometimes the arguments are valid and I feel I must respond.

Anyway, I'm just giving you a glimpse of how time-consuming and difficult a matter such as comment moderation can be. I have sometimes considered cancelling comments altogether, but I do love the supportive network of the friends who visit and comment.

I will continue striving to find the balance, and hope that you have the patience to continue to bear with me!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The woes of a biscuit maker

Last night, I tried making biscuits using a hand-press biscuit maker such as this one. It was, shall we say, less than a smashing success. I had aimed at shaped biscuits, but the dough wouldn't stick to the cookie sheet and the structure didn't seem right either. As it was my first attempt at using the biscuit-maker, I have no idea what went wrong. I used a recipe based on a recipe found on the web, which was supposed to work for a biscuit maker:

about 3\4 cup of sugar
2 eggs
1 pinch salt
500g flour (plain)
1 cup of oil
3 tsp. of cocoa powder
1 tbsp. of orange zest

I also added just a tiny bit of water, because the dough kept falling apart. In the end, nothing helped, and I gave up and shaped my cookies by hand.
This is what I got. I dusted them with mixture of powdered almond and peanut before baking for approx. 15 minutes on low, until they were slightly browned.

They are actually quite good, but I would appreciate the advice of those who are experienced in the usage of a biscuit maker, and I'd be happy to get a good, tried-and-true recipe. Thank you ladies!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Cake in the toaster?!

It sounds weird, but a minute or so in the toaster is great for cakes that are slightly under-baked. We have apple cake that I made a few days ago, and it came out a tiny bit under-baked. My husband put a slice in the toaster. Sure, it was slightly squished, but it also came out wonderfully crisp, warm and slightly browned after a very short time. Delicious. I got excited about the idea and had a slice myself. I suggest you give it a try next time you come across a slice of cake that could do with additional crispness.

When I say toaster, of course I don't mean a pop-up toaster, but a pressure toaster such as this one.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Shall we make a revolution?

I'm not a superwoman. Perhaps there are women out there who work full-time outside the home, and whose homes are still clean and immaculate and who put three good homemade meals on the table every day. I know in many cases it's a fa├žade of having it all, which is hiding severe burn-out and incapability to spend time with family. Perhaps for some it does work and it's all peachy. I know I could never do that, and there's no shame in it.

A more realistic picture, in my opinion, would be that of a woman who works because she has to, doesn't like it much, but does the best she can with what she has. If it's you, my heart goes out to you. It's beyond difficult, and there is always a price. What annoys me is the insistence that no, there is no price and women can juggle it all with no adverse effects to their peace of mind, their home life, or their family.

In the land of idealistic egalitarianism, both spouses work the same number of hours and spend the same amount of time on childcare and household chores. But in real life, it rarely works. Feminists can shout themselves hoarse about how unfair it is that their ideals don't work because men aren't prepared to pull their share of "the second shift", but personally, what interests me more is the situation in real life, and in real life, egalitarian job division doesn't work. Does tradition play a part in it? For sure, but it's not all.

Men and women are simply wired differently. The Almighty made us differently. Women are more inclined to take care of the home, a perfectly healthy and natural instinct of a nesting mother. Even if the number of good homemakers has dramatically declined, it doesn't mean women now feel comfortable in neglected surroundings.

If my husband has to stay alone with Shira for a few hours, he won't be inclined to multitask around the house and do whatever needs to be done. He is willing to help out if it is needed, but the home is mainly my territory and will remain so even if I busy myself elsewhere. Women nest, men usually don't. Women, generally, have more patience with the countless mundane details of family life. We can tear our hair out because of it and say it's a despicable notion that must be eradicated at all costs. Or we can adapt ourselves to reality.

Yes, we can learn to live with how the Almighty made us, and have a beautiful life once we have achieved a sense of peace about the fact that men are men, women are women, and we are differently suited for different tasks, and there's nothing wrong with delegating what must be done to the one who will do it better.

Feminists can boast that women now comprise half of the work force, but men are still in the overwhelming majority of top-rank jobs. That's because even though families have fallen in the trap of the second income, as a rule, wives choose positions that are more about communication, not competition. Around here at least, it's common for women to be teachers, nurses and secretaries. Women choose jobs that are less competitive, that might allow them to work part time, that are close to home. No wonder so many of them earn so little compared to their husbands. The wage gap is not a patriarchal creation. It's a result of the natural inclinations of men and women.

You can give a woman scholarships and tell her how talented she is and how she should advance herself for her own benefit and for the good of the community. You can't stop her doing whatever she can to make her home life at least bearable, which for many means taking a job that will be more family friendly. I know so many, who have acquired lofty degrees, and a couple of years later, have re-trained as teachers to get more flexibility and more time off.

"It's a good job for a mother", I have heard people say in disdain in such cases. What they truly mean to say is "We understand it's a dead-end job that she's taking to have more time for her family. Her career has ended. What a pity." But truthfully, I doubt there is a job that is "good for a mother", unless we're talking of the primary mission of wifehood, motherhood and homemaking.

I'm convinced: some rational thinking, a re-forming of priorities, a doable effort – and many women can come home. The homecoming revolution might start with those who earn significantly less than their husbands and who don't find particular interest in their jobs. If they will return home, it will create a vibrant community of homemakers which will make it easier and more acceptable for other women to come home as well. Just think how wonderful it can be for all women who have a heart for home.

Friday, December 25, 2009

It's not all about women in the work force

A couple of days ago, I received a comment telling me I cannot blame all the wrongs on the world on women working outside the home. I wanted to say that I fully agree. Women leaving their homes is just one symptom of a multitude of problems our society is afflicted with.

Our life, from being one organic unit where home, work and school were all one place, has become compartmentalized. People used to cook all their food from scratch, sew their own clothes and educate their own children, and living expenses were far cheaper than today. Now we are convinced it pays off to be shut away someplace to work, and give away our hard-earned money for things we might do without, and hand our children over to someone else to educate. We are much better organized now, we are recorded, written down, enrolled in all the right institutions. We are becoming less and less self-sufficient, and believe less and less in our own competence at basic life skills, and thus it's far easier for the government to control us.

The epitome of cruelty was the kibbutz experiment, which was a notion of radical Marxists. They wanted to eradicate the family unit altogether, and decided that children should be raised and educated in "a children's house", under the care of someone else than their parents. Luckily this warped idea was soon abandoned, but not before mutilating the souls of the children involved.

The family is irreplaceable, but the authority of parents is questioned by compulsory enrolment in an institutionalized educational system for children of younger and younger age. In Israel, children start school at the age of six. There is nothing children learn at elementary school that they can't learn at home with a moderately educated parent. Anyone can teach his or her children how to read, write, do basic math, and cover some geography and history. Anyone can provide access to good books. But now we, the parents, aren't even considered competent enough to provide what a one-year-old needs, right here at home.

Children are eager to learn, yet I have met four- and five-graders who were already lazy and dumbed down, through no fault of their own. When a child of ten thinks reading a story is only worthwhile if it will be included in the upcoming exam, I believe something is deeply wrong.

Some argue that in elementary school, children learn to be disciplined, sit quietly, and acquire social skills. I have seen differently. I have seen otherwise nice, good-natured children gang around a leader (usually a bully), while others were pushed to the margin and suffered. I often hear that children are cruel and that's it. I disagree. Bullying and aggressive behavior are lessened when children reach a certain age, not thanks to being at school, but simply because it's a different stage. Overall, I believe that the younger the children are, the more negative effects come from them being locked away in large groups.

Not all women who are officially "in the workforce" are in the same bucket. Our communities used to be much more integral. Neighbors were friends, and you knew personally the lady from the post office or the grocery store. There were many ties interlinking the people of one community. Now, people who live in cities are typically shut away in cubicles all day long. They don't know their neighbors, and do their shopping in large centers with dozens of check-outs and an unfamiliar face behind each one. We have become detached.

I lack the time and eloquence to dive into the discussion of whether the industrial revolution was, on the whole, for the good of our society. I'm far from being against progress. But I feel that in some places, we have gone too far. We have lost the connection to our communities, our homes, ourselves. And time has proven there is no replacement for that.

Preserving and nurturing the culture of home and family life is one of the only windows of sanity in this crazy world of ours. I know that some realities are hard to overcome and not everyone can pack and move to a small rural community. But we can all act for renewing the value of family and home.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Our little explorer

Everything fascinates her, and she will explore any thing within reach of her little hands.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The price is too high

Women who work outside the home often do so because they feel trapped. By financial circumstances, which dictate real (and sometimes imaginary) necessity. By social pressures, which claim that a woman who is "just" a wife and mother isn't doing something worthwhile with her life. By fears of being stuck with no job in the future when it is really needed (because of illness, divorce, death, husband's unemployment and so many other curves life can throw at us.)

I know more than enough women who are wonderful wives, mothers and homemakers, who love their homes and families and do all they can at home, juggling it with their work schedules until they drop off their feet. Who earn only a fraction of what their husbands make, and who waste most of their salary on daycare and/or gas – and will continue leaving most of their wage with their daycare provider while they still have babies at home, a period that may well stretch over decades. Who are not crazy about their jobs or feel any particular calling towards what they do. Who would do so wonderfully, in short, just being at home, but cannot take the leap and just do it.

Imagine that a woman earns a degree and gets a job, working all the way through her early years of marriage, her children's infancy and their younger years, thinking that she might wish to continue in the same field when her children are grown. The stress that will be placed on her home, her children, her family and herself is often enormous, even if she only works a part-time job. All around me, women are dropping off their feet in exhaustion, because their God-given instinct as wives and mothers is suffering from a terrible clash with the feminism-drilled preposition that a woman is worthless if she doesn't earn a paycheck, however miserly it might be.

And the "security" she gains at her job is so fickle. Many people are fired and have to change their professional direction anyway. I'm not saying an older woman is supposed to take a job outside the home – there is almost always more than enough to do, and an older woman deserves a quiet haven at home instead of having to compete with younger employees. But I have known women who have returned to their old fields, or took professional courses after their children were grown, and fitted work into their lives on a basis that was appropriate for them, and not very demanding. One was a nutritionist who studied with me. Some became doulas, lactation consultants, seamstresses and even graphic designers. It might be worthwhile to acquire skills that will be useful later in life. But nothing, and I mean nothing, will compensate for the lost years with your babies.

Daycare for very young babies, starting from a couple of months old, is something that wasn't common when my husband and I were growing up. At his time, it was common for a child to be at home until they were at least well past infancy. Now a woman is getting raised eyebrows if her child is three months old (that's the length of maternity leave in Israel) and she's still not back at work. It is made to look like the norm now, but it is not. The younger a child is, the less fitting it is for him to spend much of his time under the care of strangers. The stretching of school hours for young children is unhealthy, in my opinion, and the trend of young babies dropped off in daycare is nothing short of monstrous.

I don't think any generation had as large a share of behavioral problems, concentration disorders, improper nutrition and general neglect as the recent one. Why doesn't anybody stop to question the proportion of school children who are on Ritalin? I'm not saying it all has to do only with mothers working long hours outside the home. But there is no denying the fact that the quality of home life had gone dramatically down ever since women were brainwashed into leaving their homes. And when no food is made at home, the family must resolve to eating junk. I spent four years learning about diets and calorie restriction, only to reach the simple conclusion that we need family meals, not low-fat snacks.

I knew a woman who insisted she must work, because otherwise they won't be able to send their two-year-old to preschool. Just leaving him at home didn't even occur to her. I'm already being told that my one-year-old daughter would do better in a daycare institution, because then "she will learn to hit back from an early age when other children pick on her." Really? Why would I want my baby, who doesn't even walk yet, to "hit back"? Throwing a bunch of infants together does not help them to develop social skills. It only fosters bad habits.

The more I think about the current arrangements families usually make, the more I want to say what a big, huge fluke it all is. Our entire life has become so institutionalized. Our food is grown and made by strangers. Other strangers raise our children. And all these things are done remarkably less well than when people kept their homes and gardens, cooked most of their food from scratch, and kept their children close until they were truly ready to enter the adult world. These tasks, which have been given the status of "menial", "boring" and "not worthwhile" have shaped the human race and produced many generations of healthy, emotionally stable, socially mature adults. They are impossible to replace on a satisfactory level.

If you are a wife and mother, you are needed. Your hands, your heart, your eyes and ears and skills, your creativity and passion are needed in your home.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

She's so cute when she sleeps

Every night, I tuck her in. And every night, when I come to check on her a couple of hours later, I find her squeezed into a corner with her little bottom in the air.

Isn't she cute?

Friday, December 18, 2009

Vegetable latkes

I made this recipe for Hanukkah, though it's great as a side dish on any day. It takes a bit of work, but it's really delicious. We normally don't eat much fried foods, but I thought we can indulge once in a while.

For approximately 4 servings, you'll need:

1 onion, chopped

1 carrot

2 potatoes

1\2 sweet potato or 1\2 cup pumpkin, or a bit of both if you like

Grate your veggies. I like mine roughly grated.

5 cloves of garlic, or more or less to taste, squashed.

4 eggs

1\2 cup flour

1\2 cup matzo flour or bread crumbs

Salt, pepper, spices to taste. I added some red hot pepper, turmeric and cumin. Mix it all together. Look at the mixture – it should be sticky enough so that your latkes won't fall apart. You might have to add a bit more flour if it's needed.

Fry on both sides until it gets nice golden-brown, and enjoy.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

A visitor on the vine

There are some grapes from last summer which we didn't have a chance to take down. They dried on the vine and turned into raisins.
I expect this little guest was attracted by them, because I noticed him pecking here and there last morning. Isn't he pretty?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Just a quick update

Hello again, dear friends. I have missed blogging, reading your comments and visiting your lovely blogs, not to mention emailing some of you. Apart from being pressed for time, as it always happens around here, my internet connection continues to be lousier than ever. It's possible to obtain a better connection, but in the present circumstances, I'm afraid it would be an unaffordable extravagance.

We had guests a couple of days ago. I did not have much time to prepare – we were away for Shabbat, and returned home late on Saturday night. I had Sunday and Monday to unpack, clean, take care of the laundry, make some basic meals for us, and prepare everything for the guests.

I planned to do much more than what I eventually managed to accomplish, but I was forced to go humble and simple. A full-blown dinner was obviously out of the question, so we served mostly finger foods and a few salads, and fabulous potato and tuna pasties by a recipe of my husband's (which I hope to share one of these days). I swallowed my pride and served store-bought rolls instead of the cake I planned to bake. Perhaps someone expected something different, but in the end it didn't matter too much. Everyone seemed to have a good time.

Today, we had our electricity cut off from early morning until afternoon. We had a sandstorm so no sun was to be seen and it was a bit gloomy, but I lit candles to create a warm, lovely atmosphere. It was very peaceful without distractions in form of the computer or even radio. In fact, by the end I almost wished the electricity wouldn't come back (or I would wish, if I weren't afraid the food in my refrigerator and freezer would spoil).

I'm already thinking ahead to our little Shira's first birthday. Can you believe there's less than a month to go? To be sure, we won't do anything extravagant, but it's quite a milestone. When I look at her, I marvel at the fact that less than a year ago, I returned from the hospital with a tiny precious bundle, and now I have a happy, curious, exploring, energetic little girl who is literally all over the place.

I must go. So much to do, so little time. There's so much I would like to share, recipes and crafts and news, but it will have to wait until next time I log on.

Your friend,

Mrs. T

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Wobbly internet connection

In the past days, our internet connection has been very unstable. Unstable as, it holds (on days it holds) about for enough time for me to check my emails and pop up a pre-written post on my blog. So, I have even less time online now than I had before, and I have despaired of replying to my emails within a reasonable range of time.

On the other hand, it's amazing how much time is freed up when you simply don't have the possibility to go online - even though I've always claimed I use the internet sparingly, I've had a lot of time freed up for other pursuits. I'm more efficient and not so easily distracted. So in a way, it has been a huge blessing.

I have a lot to say and to share with you, and I love catching up with you, but if you see it doesn't happen as regularly as before, that's the faulty internet connection.

In the meantime we are having a fun time celebrating Hanukkah. We are supposed to have guests tomorrow, for a nice and simple gathering, and I'm looking forward to telling you about it as time allows.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Good simple soup

In winter, few things are as comforting as a bowl of hot soup. Rich, savory soup such as what you see before you, with some bread to go along with it, can make for a nice, simple, satisfying, healthful and frugal meal, with little enough effort on your part.

Red kidney beans, barley and potato soup

1 cup of red kidney beans, soaked overnight

2 onions

1 carrot

2 large potatoes

1\2 cup of pearl barley

1 sweet bell pepper

6 cloves of garlic

1 tbsp. of tomato paste

1 tsp. salt

1,5 liters of boiling water

Chop the veggies as you like. I like my onions chopped finely and my potatoes diced, but some may like chunkier potatoes and onions sliced to rings.

A bit of hot pepper (I used fresh; I have grown to really like using fresh hot pepper, finely chopped, though of course you might use the dry and powdered version. Whenever I use fresh hot pepper, I make sure to thoroughly wash my hands with soap afterwards – otherwise my hands sting and burn later)

Spices to taste. I used a dash of red paprika, cumin and turmeric.

The great thing about soups is that some or all ingredients, more often than not, can be easily varied, doubled, halved, replaced, and even omitted. Some of the best soups I ever made were simply whatever veggies were left over in the refrigerator, chopped and tossed into boiling water, spiced and simmered.

You must make sure that the vegetables that take longer time to cook (such as carrots) are added earlier than others (such as tomatoes).

Take a large pot and sautee the onions with a bit of oil for a couple of minutes, then add the boiling water and the beans. Let cook for approx. 10 minutes. Add carrot, potatoes and pearl barley. Wait another 5 minutes and add sweet pepper, then garlic, fresh hot pepper if you use it, and tomato paste. Add salt and spices to taste and let the soup simmer until the beans are soft (they typically take longer than everything else).

If the soup is ready but the beans are not soft enough for your liking, next time you can let them cook a longer time before adding anything else.

PS: I probably won't be able to squeeze in an update before Hanukkah, so a happy Hanukkah to all my Jewish readers

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

"If you really loved me..."

Read this great article.

“It’s so frustrating. Every morning when I come down to read the paper, it’s a mess. The sections are all jumbled together and there’s often a wet spot where my husband has spilled some milk and cheerios. If he loved me, he’d be more considerate, right?”

In the flow of mundane life, it's sometimes so easy to blow little things out of proportions and let them ruin our relationships. I really can't help but wonder how many marriages were ruined because of a genuine problem (such as cheating, abuse or drug addiction), and how many because of needless drama.

"We actually end up damaging our marriages if we treat everything with dire and ultimate importance."

I agree.

Monday, December 7, 2009

You asked, I answer

Dear friends, thank you for commenting on yesterday post. I will get to answering some of the questions you asked, though I apologize in advance if some of my answers are not as detailed as I would like.

"How do you feel about devout Christians adopting some of the practices of the Jewish faith?"

To sum it up, from sources I've read it seems it doesn't really matter whether Christians follow some Jewish customs or not, though basically non-Jews are only supposed to adhere to the seven laws of Noah. To me personally, it doesn't matter whether Christians follow a little, a lot or almost all Jewish customs, provided that they don't claim it makes them Jewish. An exception to this would be a non-Jew fully incorporating all the laws of the Jewish Shabbat, which is something that isn't allowed. I have never heard of this to happen, however, as the laws of Shabbat are complex enough as it is and many of them don't make sense to non-Jews.

"How many languages do you speak ?"

I was born in the USSR and Russian is my mother tongue. I mostly read, write and think in Russian and I think it will always be the language in which I feel most comfortable to express myself. I can't bring myself to say that Hebrew is a second language, though, so I refer to it as a second mother tongue. Most of what I ever learned was in Hebrew, including all my school years, university, and all religious texts I ever read. Obviously, there's also English, which I started learning when I was little, both in and outside school, and which, I think, has improved a lot since I started writing this blog. I think most of my English comes from reading books. I also speak, read and write a little Spanish and I receive weekly lessons via my email. I used to be more diligent in my studies of Spanish but now there's just so little time. I have also tried to learn Finnish for years, but I only know the very basic words as it proved so difficult. As you must have gathered, languages are one of my great loves.

"How old were you when became a vegetarian and was it an ethical or health reason that changed your mind?"

I was 10 years old, and this abrupt and radical change in my diet was prompted by me seeing a fish skeleton on my plate. Morals aside, I was plain and simple disgusted by it. Later, I also learned about how cruelly animals are treated in the modern industry, and how they are pumped full of potentially harmful hormones. I have incorporated some fish into my diet while I was pregnant, but no meat. We were given permission to slaughter and eat animals, yes, but not to subject them to the sort of evil treatment they receive today. Theoretically I suppose I could eat free-range meat, but it's expensive and hard to obtain and I really don't feel I'm missing out on something.

"Does your husband read your blog?"

Yes. My husband reads my blog and I often ask him for advice on which topic I should cover or how I should word a certain phrase.

"What is/are your favorite flower/s?"

Miniature roses, which is lucky, because I have a bush of them growing right under my window.

"Do Jewish brides (orthodox or otherwise) carry a bouquet to their wedding? Or is that a Western/Christian 'thing'?"

I had a bouquet for the pre-wedding photo shoots, but not during the wedding itself. I have never seen any bouquet-throwing in Jewish weddings so I surmise it's not a Jewish custom, although truth be told, I haven't been to that many weddings.

"What are you reading right now?"

Just some silly book, to tell you the truth. I spend so much time writing these days, that when I finally have a minute to read all I want is to unwind.

There were also some questions which I couldn't possibly answer as just part of a post, they ought to be referred to in a post of their own. I do hope I will have time for them soon.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Words of kindness

Caroline from She Walks in the Woods gave me a blog award. Caroline's kind words were, Anna's blog Domestic Felicity is a great read and is as thought provoking as picking up a very well written magazine. It is sure to get you thinking about your faith and what it means to be a woman of God.

Thank you so much, Caroline!

As a rule, I don't participate in blog awards, carnivals, tags and memes, simply because it's so difficult to find the time, and also because I can never choose between all the great blogs I know when it comes to passing the awards along.

Part of the award rules in this case was telling your readers 7 new things about you, and I was tempted to do that just for fun. But when I thought about it, I couldn't remember what I already told and what I didn't. Before you blame me for bad memory, remember that I'm well into my third year of blogging and wrote over 700 posts already.

So, I decided to leave it up to you, ladies. If there is something you feel curious about after reading my blog, or there is simply something you've always wanted to know about me and I never got 'round to mentioning it, you can ask, and I will try my best to answer your questions at my discretion.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Shabbat preparations

I always like to do as much of my Shabbat preparations as possible beforehand, on Thursday and even Wednesday, but no matter what, my Fridays are always packed. There are things that are better made fresh, like bread and salads, there's always some cleaning and there's also the matter of getting all three of us bathed before Shabbat, which means around 4 this time of year.

Someone asked me to write about my Shabbat to-do list sometime. Cooking is the main part of what I do on Thursday and early Friday. I make chicken and sometimes fish, side dishes, soup, a variety of salads and finally, bread (which is something my husband likes to do, so I usually leave it to him). I also usually bake a cake, preferably on Wednesday when I still have enough time.

I sweep and wash the floors, change the sheets and the towels, and do general tidying up. My husband does what is needed to keep electricity working without us actually turning on any appliances during Shabbat, such as turning on the hot plate and programming the living room lights to go on and off at desired times.

We clear up the areas we're going to use during Shabbat from things that are not to be touched or used, such as small electric appliances, pencils, and such like.

Another lady asked me whether I might sometime include a photo of our Shabbat table. I'm sorry but right now I don't see how to do it, as I can't use a camera on Shabbat and I'm usually not organized enough to have my table set and waiting in advance. I can tell you, however, that we usually start with bread and salads, which I display in little serving plates on the table, and then proceed to the main course. During the week, our meals are casual and usually include just one dish and "something on the side" (soup and bread, pizza, pasta...). We eat vegetarian during the week. On Shabbat our meals are fancier, served more prettily, and include a bit of meat and/or fish.

I like to make quantities of food that would be plenty for the three Shabbat meals. However, sometimes it's difficult to strike a balance. For example, I still have beetroot salad from the previous Shabbat. And we only just finished eating the rice-and-lentils I made a week ago. I suppose this requires some re-evaluation.

Well, and now I truly need to get busy.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

When the house is a mess

I've read this story in a magazine in Hebrew we receive monthly, and thought you ladies might find interest in it just as I did. I will translate some select parts for you. It's told by a housewife who decides to go out and do some volunteer work, and ends up volunteering to help another wife and mother take control over her household.

"I had some basic information about the family. They were new immigrants with six children, and the mother had no idea about home management. How hard could it be? I arrived at their house on the next day.

I knocked on the door, and as soon as it was open, I wanted to just turn around and run away. A hot cloud of stink issued out of the apartment. I walked in, hardly breathing. God have mercy. I have never seen such a house, not even dreamed such a thing could exist: dishes were piled on the floor, and each carried the remnants of what had been food a month previously. Thousands of ants were swarming around them. The floor and the area around the kitchen sink were piled with books, and plastic dishes on top of them. Clothes were heaped on the stove, the refrigerator was not connected to electricity; it was full of scraps of food. A horror. Another refrigerator was working, but its door was open. There were mattresses on the floor, with dishes and more dishes on top of them, and cups and forks. And garbage bags, part of which fell to the floor and mingled with - you guessed it - the plates.

I understood the plates business right away. In that house, they don't wash the dishes. They just put them aside after eating. They don't do the laundry and don't empty the trash can.

The woman apologized for the mess, and said it's because she's busy taking care of the baby. The baby was a creature crawling between the mattresses, the garbage and the plates. At the moment I first looked at her, she was eating sand. Perhaps because that was the tastiest thing she knew. I asked the mother what she normally cooks, and it turned out she doesn't cook anything but eggs. I thought she was kidding, but she was not. This woman would feed her children snacks, and once a week they would get meat from a volunteering organization. It was pure neglect.

But when the children arrived, I saw there are good sides to her too. She hugged and kissed all her children and told them to go get something to eat. I saw her children are happy, even though they were a little thin and very dirty. I saw how things run in their home. The children go through the cupboards and both refrigerators, the one that works and the one that doesn't, eat and throw the plates upon the floor, and it comes as naturally to them as breathing.

I went down to the grocery store and bought giant garbage bags. Three of them were full after three minutes. After an hour we had twenty-five bags full of garbage, and believe it or not, that was not even the half of it.

When we met next time, I consulted her on how we should wash the dishes. She suggested we should pile them in the bath tub and wash them all at once - and that's what we did. We filled the tub with hot water and lots of soap, and threw all the dishes inside. The woman washed the dishes and I wiped them dry. In the meantime we talked about life, about our husbands and children. It turned out she is not stupid at all. Actually, she was very intelligent, a university graduate, and she was a kind, warm person.

When the children arrived, they saw a table piled with tens, perhaps hundreds of clean dishes. It might sound unreal, but these people would buy dishes instead of washing them."

That isn't a very pretty picture, is it? I wonder if this story is actually true; I don't want to believe that such neglect can actually exist in a house with able-bodied adults. I can understand, however, that it might be easy to just let things go if there is no routine and no order.

When things are neglected at home, nothing can go right. It's a cause of discomfort because it's difficult to relax in a messy home, and a waste of time and money because food isn't prepared wisely and people buy things they already have.

And now excuse me, I'm off to wash some dishes.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

A pretty little serving dish

I got this pretty little serving dish in a local thrift store. I love the flowery pattern. I can't wait to use it; it will look so nice on our Shabbat table.