Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Goodies of the day

 Freshly squeezed orange juice.
And crustless potato quiche, hot and savory straight out of the oven.

I think the secret of living a beautiful life at home with little ones is in enjoying the small pleasures of life, without waiting for the seemingly "greater" things to happen. :o)

Have a lovely day, everyone.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Product review: a skirt from Kosher Casual

I was recently contacted by Kosher Casual with the offer to do a product review for them, and happily agreed. A few days ago, this skirt arrived by mail, and after I spent an entire day wearing it, I can most definitely say I'm very pleased with it.
It's a full-length, flowing A-line black skirt. The fabric is light and pleasant to the touch, and wonderfully fitting for warm weather - which is great for Israel, because warm weather is mostly what we have here :o). I'm usually wary about ordering clothes online because it can be difficult to picture exactly how this or that item looks in reality, but this is a classic item that, I think, would look good on just about anyone. The waist is stretchable, which makes the skirt great for pregnancy and postpartum as well.

I know this is going to be something I wear often, and feel great while wearing it.

I'm lucky to be living in Israel, where modest clothing is popular and readily available in many chains. However, I know this isn't the case for some of my readers. If you live in a place where modest clothing is hard to find, and you don't sew, it might be worthwhile to check out Kosher Casual. The clothes and accessories they offer look great, and the prices are very reasonable.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Feminism Q&A

I received an email from a young lady who is studying in college; she asked me several questions about how I regard feminism, and I decided to post my reply here, since I thought it could be interesting to my readers.

“What, in your opinion, is feminism?”

Before I get to answer this rather complex question, you must keep in mind that I’m an Orthodox Jew, and therefore believe men and women are inherently different, and have different roles as outlined in the Bible. These roles are easy and natural for most men and women to assume, and indeed throughout history men have been doing most of the outside pursuits, leading their families and providing for their wives and children, while women were centered on their role as wives and mothers, took care of the practical and spiritual aspects of family and home and leaned on their husband as leader and provider.

Now, I know feminism is a vast movement and not all of it can be tarred with the same brush. Some feminists accept the fact that men and women have different inclinations and capabilities in various fields (though I must say most do not realize the extent of the difference), and claim their only goal is equal opportunities for people of equal capabilities, disregarding their gender. Some are egalitarians and deny that men and women have any inherent differences at all, and claim that the different inclinations we see in men and women are merely the product of social stereotypes (I do have to say I find it striking that some people actually think the dramatic differences in our biological structure bear no influence on our minds).

Some are radicals, such as a certain group of Israeli feminists who infiltrated the army and conducted biased research, on the base of which women were entered into combat units which were previously men-only. The fact that combat training did irreversible damage to the health and fertility of some of those young women, and that the presence of women acted towards the lowering of standards and the detriment of military performance, was apparently of no concern to them. They didn’t care that they are basically putting their own country at risk, as long as their ideals were promoted. Fortunately some sane people woke up and spoke against it.

For the sake of the discussion, I’ll say that feminism is any movement that detracts a woman from her natural role as a wife, mother, nurturer and guardian of the home. Even those movements that claim they only speak about the creation of “equal opportunities” practically continue the damage to the social structure which was caused by feminism. For example, once efforts are done to make entering the work force more feasible for mothers (such as, by lowering the cost of daycare), it becomes expected of women to take advantage of this marvelous “opportunity”.

“Where did you learn about feminism?”

You don’t have to take a special course in feminism to know about it. All you have to do is observe how things are done in all aspects of life today, compared with past generations. I’m 25 years old; for me, feminism was the norm – I grew right into it, thinking women should go into battle and sad and furious when I heard a woman gave up her career for the sake of her family, without even thinking it was feminism. For me, it was simply the right direction in which “women’s rights” were evolving. It was not until later that I realized just how different men and women are and how beautiful and harmonious is the plan of G-d, which includes men and women complementing each other in their different roles. So I suppose you could say I didn’t learn about feminism, but rather, I un-learned it (still in the process of it) later.

“Do you think a young girl could benefit from some aspects of feminism these days?”

I think the key here is to look at what feminism has actually done. Has it promoted the overall happiness of women, stabilized the social structure of families, created a healthier (both physically and mentally) generation of children, contributed to economy, reduced the levels of stress and anxiety for both men and women? No, no and again, no. Feminism robbed countless women of the fulfillment they could easily and naturally have had as wives and mothers, leading them to the false belief they must do something “greater” to be happy, and causing the average “modern” human being to believe that the existence of a woman as “just” a wife and mother is illegitimate. This is now ingrained very deeply in us. Even many of the women who do stay behind to guard the hearth and home, often fret about proving they are “doing enough” at home in order to justify their presence as homemakers.

Of course, I realize that feminism as a social movement did not spring out of nowhere. There was a deep grain of social injustice and therefore dissatisfaction, but was it because there were flaws in G-d’s design for men and women? No, but rather, it was because faulty human beings failed to keep up with what was so beautifully outlined for them. I firmly believe that, had all husbands treated their wives in the fair and kind way they were supposed to, the utter concept of feminism would seem laughable. And I must say that at least in the Jewish tradition, men were never permitted to abuse their wives and were required to treat their wives with respect and affection, and provide for their wife to the best extent of their abilities.

I often hear, “but there were always some who did not feel inclined to marry, and they found themselves in a terrible situation because there were no other options for them. Isn’t it so much better now, when a woman can do meaningful things such as work or study, and support herself in the absence of a husband?” and to this, I’ll say that humans are complex and lives are complex, and I cannot attempt to cover any and every scenario here – but overall, I’m speaking of social trends. Staying single was not a trend, it was more of an oddity. With the onset of feminism, what happened was not that going into the man’s world of academic competition and work was secured as a valid option for the few women who didn’t marry. Rather, it was turned into the expected path for the many, many, many more who wanted to, and did marry and have children, and were then expected to juggle it all so as to “enjoy the best of both worlds” (side note: without truly being able to fully dedicate themselves to either path, as human resources are limited after all).

So, when a young girl today enters university or starts a promising career, it may be said that she is “taking advantage” of the opportunities feminism provided for her, but we mustn’t forget that she is also doing what is now expected of her – again, thanks to feminism. Academics and career are not a “treat”, they are now an obligation, and the reason why this is not fair to women is easy to see when you observe women juggling career with marriage, motherhood and homemaking.

It goes without saying that not all women have “careers”, just as most men do not have careers, but simply jobs aimed at putting bread on the table (and many feminists who hold themselves aloof don’t realize just how snobby and elitist it is to talk about “self-fulfillment” and “self-realization” and “empowerment”. Only a select few can afford that!). Many just work because it is now the expected norm for a woman to be doing “at least something” outside the home, and also because the flooding of the market with female labor force caused a sharp drop in salaries, so that living on one income immediately became much less comfortable than before (though certainly still feasible). Husbands began to feel that it is their right to expect the wife to generate an additional income, forgetting that it is their obligation to provide (again, in the Jewish tradition).
All of this created a vicious cycle, the breaking of which requires conscious decision and quite a leap of faith.

All of this is just the tip of the iceberg and in no way a full account of why I see feminism as nothing short of a tremendous social disaster and the cause of terrible tragedies in countless families and society as a whole. Truly, I could continue talking on and on about rampant divorce, promiscuity, abortions, the downfall of the father’s authority, and general confusion and misery that sadly, now plague the women of my generation. But perhaps I’ll leave that for another day.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


 Chocolate cake balls made from leftover marble cake that had dried up a bit. If you've never heard of cake balls, here's the general idea.
Oatmeal peanut butter cookies, with chocolate chips replaced this time by a healthier variation of raisins and dried cranberries. Shira helped crack the eggs and stir in the cranberries and raisins. :o)

We had a delightful time.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Potty training

Remember I told we've embarked on the adventurous journey of potty training? Well, here's a little update on that. To give some perspective to my newer readers, our older daughter Shira is now 22 months old.

From refusing entirely to go in the potty, Shira moved to consenting to pee in the potty, when offered at the right moment. She does not ask for potty and does not seem to mind a wet or dirty diaper. So, I expect the road will be long yet (although you never know), and from parents who went through the potty training saga not long ago, I've heard the most important thing is not to lose heart and remember that all children will, at some point, be potty trained.

It does not help, however, (and here you'll have to excuse me for a little rant) to get remarks from certain family members (in particular from the older generation), about how I should have started a long time ago, how they potty trained their children much earlier, and how "disgusting" it is to see a 2-year-old still in diapers.

I can't deny that about a generation ago (when I was a baby, for example) potty training took place much earlier, closer to the age of 1 than 2 (or even 3). It's a fact that I was potty trained at around 1 year old, with little accidents. I think it's great if someone succeeded to potty train their children early. Some, I know, are even doing Elimination Communication with their babies starting soon after birth (though I'd love to know how they are doing it if their babies, like mine, "go potty" not soon after, but during nursing - as a general pattern).

I do believe that potty training is a vastly different experience at an earlier age, and my guess is that it is based rather more on conditioning than on cognitive learning. I'm not saying that's a bad thing. I think early potty training is great, as long as baby and parents are happy! But when you already have a 2-year-old who is not potty trained yet, you can sit her on the potty but you can't make her go if she doesn't want to, same as you can sit her in her high chair but you can't make her eat, same as you can put her to bed but you can't force her to sleep. I believe you can practice certain things which can be helpful, but eventually, she has autonomy over her body, little as she is.

Perhaps I could have started earlier, and windows of opportunity were missed (for example during the time I was pregnant and did not feel the sufficient energy to squat by a potty many times a day). Perhaps it is a shame. I'm not sure. Either way, I doubt that it will make much difference in the long run.

What I wish I could do is eliminate the competition element for parents about such basic milestones which will be reached anyway. All children will be potty trained eventually, and those who potty train later for various reasons are not bad parents and should not be made to feel like they are.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

What does it take to be a "good" wife?

It is always very difficult for me to write about marriage, because it seems that I can never stop talking, and once I do, it seems almost as though I didn't really say anything. However, today I would like to share some of what I wrote in reply to a dear lady who told me of her disappointments in marriage, in particular having to work outside the home rather than being a traditional wife like she would have wanted.

I entered marriage with a certain image of an "ideal wife" in my head, which was of course a mistake, because I didn't really know my husband and therefore could only have a very vague idea about what kind of wife he would need. A couple of years later, I'm only still learning about that. I'm making many mistakes as I go along the way, but I have realized that the important thing is to never stop trying.

What I did learn was that, of course, there are the traditional, God-ordained, "templates" of being a husband/father/leader/provider, and a wife/mother/nurturer/nester, which are embedded in us. But the variety is wide. And far more than being a traditional wife, or whatever ideal we might have nurtured in our hearts (for, perhaps, it has always looked so pretty to us in books, or in observing other couples), it is important to be a wife to your husband. 

It is not easy. It involves knowing your husband more intimately than you have ever known anyone, knowing his strengths and abilities, his weaknesses and his needs, and how to enhance them. The last thing I want is for you to think I'm giving out pearls of wisdom from some sort of high pedestal of an ideal marriage. In many ways, I'm only fumbling in the dark, and perhaps will never quite succeed in becoming the wife I wish I could be to my husband. 

There are direct commandments given by the Almighty, which are of course not to be violated (certainly, there is a substantial difference in those between Jews and non-Jews). If the husband tries to exercise his leadership of the household in ways which confront with G-d's ways (for example, in a Jewish home, trying to persuade the wife to stop keeping the laws of Shabbat or purity in marriage), the wife mustn't obey. But in grey areas, and there are many of them (living a traditional vs. modern lifestyle, homeschooling, etc), the husband's leadership is more important than our ideals, or anybody else's. There was also a time when I had to work outside the home, though thankfully I was soon able to return to being a full-time wife and mother. I believe the best, natural and right place for a woman is within the domestic environment, but since working outside the home is not, as and of itself, wrong, I tried to do my best to be a cheerful help mate under less than ideal circumstances (though again, I must admit, with many failings along the way). 

Of course things become more complicated if the conflict in question is something you have actually discussed before marriage, and now have reached a point when you don't know how to proceed and each one of you thinks differently. It happens in the normal course of life, and can be difficult. That's when you must sometimes humble yourself, and trust me, I know it isn't easy. So often, I have been guilty of the sin of pride. Yes, I do very often find myself thinking of the way things are "supposed" to be, but in reality, being a good, loving wife is more important than being creative, clever, traditional, skillful, or any other way I would like to describe myself. 

In the beginning of my marriage, I was always frustrated about my cakes coming out slightly burnt at the bottom. To me, this was a failure because I like cakes to come out nice and soft. But my husband, it turns out, relishes that slightly burnt taste. So now, those slightly burnt cakes are a success to me. 

Here's a post I wrote a couple of years back, as a young bride. It was titled "Becoming One". I have re-read it a couple of times since it was written, and each time I told myself, my, I wish I had been better at taking my own advice sometimes! :o)

A blog I find very encouraging, in case you aren't familiar with it, is Eyes of Wonder. I drew inspiration from it as an unmarried young woman, and continue to draw inspiration from it as a wife and mother. It is no longer updated regularly but this makes no difference - I go back and read the archives, and each time it is like meeting an old friend, or reading the kind of letters you could get from your mother (if you are very fortunate to have such a wise and kind mother). There are parts I copied, printed out and glued into a notebook which I sometimes read for encouragement. 

I think nothing is more important in marriage than to love and give unconditionally. I don't mean the Hollywood-type "in love" feeling, but the steady love than holds out even in the midst of hardships and throughout them. Love, even when things seem hopeless, for of course they aren't hopeless - not really. Nurturing this kind of love makes me feel so blessed. 

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Kosher Casual's Modernly Modest contest

Just a quick note before the weekend: I wanted to give all you ladies a heads-up about a contest that's taking place at Kosher Casual. They are running a raffle for a $100 gift certificate - I have just entered myself. Kosher Casual offer a selection of modest skirts, tops and accessories. I know many of you don't live in an area where modest clothes shops are available, and I'd love the lucky winner to be one of you.

The raffle ends on November 30-th.

Cooking away

A batch of stuffed peppers. I make these very simply, and it's difficult to provide a recipe, as so much is done by intuition. Here's what I do, approximately.

Take a large pot and 6-7 large or 9-10 smallish bell peppers of any color.

Saute 1 finely chopped onion and 1 grated carrot. Add 1 cup of rice and about 1\ 4 cup water, salt, and spices. Cook for a few minutes until water is absorbed. Let mixture cool down a bit and stir in 1 beaten egg. The egg will make your mixture more sticky. This is a tip I learned from my mother.

Carefully remove tops of peppers and empty them. Fill with rice approximately to 3\4 of their height.

After I have done this, I make a very simple and rather runny sauce for the peppers to cook in, from concentrated tomato juice with some lemon juice, a dash of paprika, thyme and oregano, all this mixed with boiling water. I make enough to cover the peppers almost completely. Then I let it all simmer for approximately 2 hours, on low.

If this inspires you to make stuffed peppers, I'd love to hear how it worked out for you!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

On a cold evening

This has been, so far, a very warm autumn. Hardly any rain and we actually still walk barefoot on some days. The evenings, however, are cool up here, and call for something hearty and warming, like a bowl of rich soup.  It's a very simple meal, which usually involves simply throwing together whatever veggies need using up, and some lentils. Very satisfying, too.

Hope you're enjoying cool autumn evenings too, wherever you are (well, except Australia perhaps :o))

Sunday, November 7, 2010

It's a busy Sunday

Sundays in Israel are like Mondays in most of the world. The weekend is over, and the house is being tidied, floors swept and washed, and everything gathered in order to begin the week in a productive and pleasant way.

It makes my heart especially glad to see a clothesline full of little ones' things. It's lovely to see them all nice and clean, blowing in the warm breeze.

Many things are pulling my attention; the kitchen and garden, and various projects. I guess I ought to get up from the computer now I've said a quick hello, and start somewhere - while the little ones are taking a nap. The day is so lovely I'm not even tempted to take a nap alongside them, which is rather unusual. :o)

Wishing you a great week!

Your friend,

Mrs. T

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Pollyanna and girls' education

Recently, I have had the pleasure of reading Pollyanna, a gift from a dear friend (thank you, Judith!). My English-speaking readers are, of course, familiar with the book, but for me, it's new. Right in the beginning, one scene captured my attention - the one where Aunt Polly is talking about Pollyanna's education.

'... At nine o'clock every morning you will read aloud one half-hour to me. Wednesday and Saturday forenoons, after half-past nine, you will spend with Nancy in the kitchen, learning to cook. Other mornings you will sew with me. That will leave the afternoons for your music.'

At that time, Pollyanna is eleven years old, which makes me think what a long way we have gone regarding girls' education - and not in the right direction. Many teenagers today hardly read at all, and as for domestic skills - oh, how I wish I had learned the basics of cooking and sewing (not to mention cleaning) at an earlier age. It would have saved so much trouble afterwards.

Of course I'm happy about what I have learned so far, and it's never too late to learn more, but it sure goes more slowly when you are already married and have children. Basic life skills are so vital to children - of both genders, but especially to girls, who are future wives and mothers. Basic healthful meals and knowing, at least, how to mend a loose button or a split seam are important in every household.

Some home economics is still taught in kindergartens and schools, though it went out of fashion - but even if there were a lot of home economics classes, the best place to learn things like that would still be at home, where cooking, sweeping the floors, sewing, mending, knitting and working in the garden occur as part of our day-to-day lives. A little child learns a lot simply by observing an apron-clad mother, and later by participating in simple tasks.

Shira goes into the kitchen every day, picks up the broom and begins sweeping the floor, in imitation of what is done by adults. Of course, for now her sweeping has limited productivity, but with some encouragement and persistence, this will change in a couple of years. It's the process that counts, and her being able and encouraged to work with real tools.

After the aforementioned speech from Aunt Polly, Pollyanna exclaims, 'Oh, but Aunt Polly, Aunt Polly, you haven't left me any time at all just to - to live... I mean living - doing the things you want to do: playing outdoors, reading (to myself, of course), climbing hills... and finding out all about the houses and the people and everything everywhere...'

I heartily agree, perhaps because I'm such a dreamer and always loved unstructured time as a child, myself. It was not laziness and not boredom - it was necessary, for me, to encourage creativity. The most unusual projects sprang up from that "doing nothing" time. If time allowed, I could tell a lot about it. However I must just say I think children's time is occupied these days in too structured a way, and not necessarily with all the right things. Children have long hours at school and plenty of extracurricular activities, but not much time to live and learn about life. Keeping children occupied like this is perhaps convenient, but I do really and truly think it comes with a heavy price.

When it comes to educating children, I'm only at the beginning of the way, being the mother of an almost two-year-old and a newborn. Our day-to-day journey of living and learning at home is most interesting, and I expect it to get only and ever more exciting as time goes by.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A row of jars

Remember these?

Our locally harvested olives are now all fitted into jars (we use old recycled glass jars that have been properly sterilized) to be preserved according to a traditional family recipe. It required no special equipment and my husband actually did it all by himself.

They are stored at room temperature and will be ready for consumption in several months. In the meantime, they provide an original piece of decoration, don't you think?

Monday, November 1, 2010

What have I been up to?

Just some simple things, you know.
Not perfect yet, but it's a start.
Some potatoes have sprouted in the refrigerator, and I planted them mainly for the educational value, to let Shira water them every day.

We're having fun. :-)