Friday, March 30, 2012

A flower by a country road

"I sometimes wish I could be anything or anyone but myself; a bird in the sky, an animal of the field, a flower blossoming by an overgrown country road..."

"You cannot take on someone else's burden, child, even if it seems easier than the one given to you to carry. You can, however, make your own burden lighter. I will teach you how."

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


Fanny could read, work, or write, but she had been taught nothing more; and as her cousins found her ignorant of many things with which they had been long familiar, they thought her prodigiously stupid...

'Dear Mamma, only think, my cousin cannot put the map of Europe together - or my cousin cannot tell the principal rivers in Russia... I am sure I should have been ashamed of myself, if I had not known better long before I was so old as she is. How long ago it is, aunt, since we used to repeat the chronological order of the kings of England, with the dates of their accession, and most of the principal events of their reigns!"

"Yes," added the other, "and of the Roman emperors as low as Severus; besides a great deal of the heathen mythology, and all the metals, semi-metals, plantes, and distinguished philosophers."

Quote from Jane Austen, Mansfield Park. At the time, Fanny is 10, Julia is 12, and Maria 13. An inspiring piece, don't you think? Especially considering the level of ignorance prevalent today even among those who are supposed to be educated.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Island of peace

I long for an enchanted island,
An island of peace.
A place without cares and sorrows,
A place to hear birds chirping in the morning.

I long to be a tranquil island,
An island of peace.
My smile a refuge, my arms a haven
For all my loved ones.

Will I ever be such a treasure island,
An island of peace?
Devoid of anger, of hurt and sorrow,
A sweet spirit?

I  battle for this dreamaway island,
An island of peace,
And the harder I battle, the farther it seems,
Yet there is no choice
But to travel on
Down the road of peace.

The beautiful picture above is Island of Peace, by Leonid Afremov. I was unsurprised to find out the author is Jewish and had lived in Israel for many years.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Just some thoughts on being a Jew in Israel

We live in a country that is always on the brink of war. This is not something I usually touch on this blog; I try to stay focused on homemaking, family life, and motherhood, and see no contradiction here. I feel it is especially important to try and create a secure, comfortable environment for those who need it the most, in a country which doesn't and cannot offer real stability.

Some days, we forget. Some days, reality hits me full in the face and I feel like I can brave anything. Some days, I feel like taking off and going to spend the rest of my life in Lapland. But I know that wherever we go, we will carry our destiny with us, and there wasn't, isn't and never will be a place in the world where Jews would be immune to persecution.

Sometimes I feel like a coward. I can understand those who have made different choices, who chose to stop being what they are rather than suffer the risk of death. But there was also divine promise given that some of us will always keep. What else is left to us? We have shouted ourselves hoarse talking of our innocence, trying to make the world love us, but it won't do. 

I know that our place is here, in these ancient hills that have been the home of my people so long ago. Here, even the simplest, most ordinary acts are filled with meaning. Our whole life, our very being is a statement. Here, every tree and every boulder is our friend. If we run we are lost, so we must stand firm, vouchsafing our right to live in the country of our fathers.

Who must we defend ourselves against? The whole world and some, it seems, enemies within and without. So sometimes I might sink into dreams of a different, easier life, a different destiny, that would allow me to be free and safe and pursue whatever makes me easiest and most comfortable. But like all my people, I was created for a different calling.

Nevertheless, my life is essentially the same as the life of anyone, anywhere; my days start in the morning, end at night, and contain work, leisure, meals, laughter, tears, diaper changing, working in the garden, joy and sorrow, love and anger. And I hope that someone, somewhere, somehow through reading this blog, has gotten a better glimpse of what it's like to be us. Politics set aside, we all want essentially the same thing - to live quietly, to keep our children safe, and to be able to guess with a fair dose of certainty what next day will bring. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Product review: contacted me with an offer to do a product review for them, and sent me this lovely pendant. What can I say? I have always had a weakness for pearls, and their products are beautiful. Not that I would buy jewelry for myself, but if I was looking for a special gift for a special someone, it might have been one of my possible choices.

The website catalogue is designed in a very convenient, user-friendly way. Shipping is free to the US and several other places, and the company takes full-refund returns up to 90 days.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

For stay-at-home mothers

Here is a comment I received recently:

"I don't find changing diapers and washing my countertops meaningful, no matter how much I meditate and wish I did. 

There are other aspects of life young women can enjoy, other than child rearing. They can read books, they can discuss politics, they can travel, tney can learn, they can use their artistic talents, or medicinal talents. 

Some people are happy staying home and never seeing the world outside their four walls. Others need more space. This blog does not allow for that space and assumes everyone should be the same."

Here is my reply, with some additions:

I could never assume everyone should be the same, because I believe everyone was created unique, with his/her own gifts and possibilities.

Having said this, most of us will marry and have children, those children will need to be cared for, and I do believe it is best for the vast majority of children to be cared for by their mothers. And this, of course, in most cases entails establishing an orderly routine and a peaceful home, with a mother in it. 

As a Jew, I learn that everything we do matters, and that thought and intention can make the greatest difference in the simplest acts. Taking care of one's home can and should be meaningful, not because we're such fans of cleaning per se, but because we are making a daily effort to make our homes pleasant, combatting filth, dust, crumbs and spills. 

Having said this, washing countertops is in no way in the same league as changing diapers. Changing diapers is part of caring for living, thinking, unique human beings. Countertops don't care if they are spotless clean, but children do care if their diapers are changed with a smile, a song, and a kiss on the tummy. 

Being stay-at-home mom does not mean never setting foot outside the house. I think the average office worker is cooped up far more than a stay-at-home mom who gets to hang her laundry in the warm sun, gather eggs from her own chickens, and take her children for long walks every day. Also, certainly, women can and should explore their talents - which in many cases can actually be more easily done by stay-at-home wives and mothers. 

I realize that the ideal is not always possible; however, I do believe it is ideal for young children to have a mother at home. Some have to work to survive. Most working women have jobs, not careers aimed at helping them to develop their talents and blossom as persons. 

Monday, March 19, 2012

Storage solutions

This is an open bookcase our neighbour, who is a hobbyist carpenter, built. He lately built a new one for himself, and kindly offered us to have this one. We were of course happy to oblige; I love everything homemade (as you must know if you have been reading this blog for any length of time), and I think its natural honey-brown wood color is just lovely. We will use it to store odds and ends, right next to our pantry shelves.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Winter projects

A triangular shawl inspired by Autumn, with a matching cap. The shawl is lovely, soft and warm, and fits in a very comfy way around the shoulders once clasped. The cap was claimed by Shira.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Need, want, must, should

First off, an unrelated comment: thank you for all the warm wedding anniversary wishes. You ladies are awesome.


Mrs. P is writing a wonderful series of posts about the real vs. imaginary costs of child-raising. Read the first part here, and the second part, which is about housing, here.

I have written numerous posts on this subject as well, and I'll say this: living simply is not so much about skimping in whatever way you can (though that, too, can be a necessity if you're working towards getting out of debt or for other reasons), but more about re-evaluating your whole mode of thinking, what you really want, and what really is important to you.

Not long ago, I heard a heated radio discussion about how overpriced chocolate bars and breakfast cereals are in Israel. Militant moms urged a customers' boycott until prices are lowered. I laughed and observed to my husband that yes, we should definitely boycott such products - and not go back to buying them even if prices would plummet. Often, what is simpler and cheaper is also healthier and better for us overall.

Consider, for instance, how much some spend on vacations. After a weekend of visiting family in the city, I more than understand why people dream of a nature getaway, and are willing to pay an arm and a leg for overpriced cabins.

We, on the other hand, enjoy the quiet solitude of our home so much that we feel no need to go elsewhere to be well-rested. I estimate we pay as much per month as people pay per night in "nature retreats". An added bonus of living in the middle of nowhere is that you have no shops with window displays to make you restless and discontent with what you have. I'm not saying everyone can or should live the same way - you can make the choice to live simple anywhere, at any stage of life - but it's an example.

As for children, when they are young a large chunk of their "cost" is essentially daycare - paying someone else to shepherd your children. If you do it yourself, you save this cost and reap other, far more lasting benefits. The possibility of having a yard for safe outdoor play is better than the most expensive toys. Children are entertained and educated alike by sun, wind, grass, earth, insects, birds, clouds... they run about, play, climb and explore. They say a thousand entertaining things a minute, and you marvel at how sharp they are (3-year-olds do have fascinating logic. :-))

All in all, it seems to me that those who speak of the "impossible costs" of children come from a point of view of not wanting to have children in the first place, and are mostly making excuses. For when there's a will, there's sure to be a way to think outside the box of stuffy, overpriced daycare and the mad rush someone decided we are all supposed to be engaged in.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Four years ago, today...

... I walked towards the chuppah to the sounds of this:

Although it seems like yesterday, it's hard to believe I've already been married four years.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Chickens and eggs

 In the picture above, there's one unseemly corner of our yard, by a dog house which currently stands unused. I've been telling my husband we should get rid of this board and those rusty barrows, but quite unexpectedly, our chickens began to favor this spot above all others. Here they rest in the shade and take dust baths, which is great fun to watch. 

If you look carefully, you can see our black rooster. We now have two roosters, one older and more sedate, and another who only recently started crowing. There's quite a lot of rivalry between the males, so we are thinking of giving one away. Initially, when we only just started out with our chicken adventure we only wanted to keep females, but it turns out roosters fight away stray cats the way hens don't do.

The stray cats are another bit of trouble. In our old home, we had a harmless kitty in the yard who kept the other cats away and never touched a chick. Here we have savage-looking huge cats who come at night to prowl around the chicken coop. They set our dog to barking, of course, but once they figured out he's on a leash and can't harm them, they just ignore him and remain in the yard until I get out and shoo them away.  
Here's one of the first eggs we got from our hens. I couldn't tell you the breeds we have, they are cross-bred most likely, but each hen lays eggs of a slightly different shape, color and shell texture. Some are pointy and glossy, other more rounded and velvety to the touch. Either way, all are a delight to collect, all have bright yellow yolks (we have plenty of free range space) and all taste way, way better than store-bought eggs, not to mention they are infinitely superior in terms of nutrition. 

Once the nights get warmer, we plan to let our chickens brood and grow chicks, which of course means we will need to find a better solution to the cat problem (a small chick is so much easier to snatch than an adult chicken). Another thing that puzzles me is this: my husband built several "nests" for the chickens to lay eggs in, all nice and snug and covered in straw, but for some reason they all prefer to lay in one nest. Yesterday I found two eggs from different chickens right next to each other. I wonder if a chicken will go broody over another's eggs, and whether they can "co-operate" while hatching and raising their brood. I've heard this happens with other social birds, but I suppose I will need to research this further. 

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Where is G-d?

Last night, I was telling Shira the story of Exodus, which we are learning by-the-by now as Pesach is approaching.

"And then," I said, "G-d told Moses to step up and tell Pharaoh to let the people of Israel go."

My 3-year-old's eyes opened big and wide and she looked around and awe and whispered a question, "where is G-d?"

"G-d is everywhere," I said, "He is with us in this room, too, even though we cannot see Him. He knows all you do, He made you, and He loves you."

"He doesn't," said my little girl uncertainly.

"Yes, he does," I insisted, "He knows you better than anyone else ever will, He knows what a good sweet girl you are, and He loves you."

Soon after, she was asleep, and I was left marveling at how much our children's thoughts and sentiments reflect our own. For adults seek G-d as earnestly as children, and are sometimes as uncertain of His love. And like children, we are reassured to know that He is everywhere, in all we see, hear, say or do.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Plannin' for cleanin'

When Pesach rolled around last time, we were living in a house with two bedrooms and one bathroom. Now we live in a house with three bedrooms, two bathrooms and an office, which obviously means I have more to clean.

Now, I will be honest with you. Pesach preparations have always been a daunting task for me. No matter how well I prepare and how hard I try to work beforehand, the last days before the holiday are always a mad race against the clock. Not in the least, of course, because chametz (leavened bread) is eaten until the very last, and crumbs have a tendency of spreading. Close to the end I begin wistfully thinking how nice it would be if we were all gluten-intolerant, and would never eat wheat.

So, I might have said this before, but... when doing a lot of cleaning, it's easy to get carried away and say it's "necessary" to do this, and that, and that. But this year, in order to survive, I really feel I must separate cleaning and getting rid of chametz. The two don't always overlap.

So, which spring-cleaning tasks have nothing to do with chametz?

Bathrooms - bathrooms should be clean and bathroom cabinets orderly, but it doesn't mean this must be necessarily accomplished before Pesach to a degree of perfection. My family never eats in the bathroom, so even if it gets messy, it's free of chametz.

Closets - if I have no time to re-organize the closets before Pesach this year, I will not feel guilty about it. So long as I only let clean clothes in and check the pockets, I should be fine.

Windows and shutters - while on the inside, there's still the remote possibility that some little sticky finers got some chametz between the window and its frame, on the outside this most certainly didn't happen. I won't lose sleep over dusty windows.

Bookshelves - I'm not going to flip through every book in the house. None of us eats and reads at the same time.

Sprucing up the garden - yes, there's a lot of junk to throw away, and I should dig up some more gravel to make a neater path, but it doesn't have to be done before Pesach.

Does it mean none of these things will get done? Not at all; I have this list saved here, and will return to it when the holiday is over and the pressure recedes.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Colors in the sky

 It has been raining all week, and when the rain ceased for a little while and we had a glimmer of sun, we witnessed this magnificent rainbow. I have never seen one of this size.
Also, the rains were so abundant that in the past days, we found ourselves living by a stream - a muddy, murky brown, but still a stream. It only runs in very rainy years.

I hope to pop in with an update before Thursday, but still, will take this opportunity to wish everyone a happy Purim!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

More random kitchen tips

Muffins - if muffins are stuck in the tin, place tin on a folded damp and wet kitchen towel. After a couple of minutes, the muffins will slide out easier.

Eggs - to separate white from yolks easily, break egg into funnel, and let the white slide down. The yolk will remain inside.

Opening a jar with a stubborn lid - to prevent your hand from slipping, wear a latex glove.

Ants - if you want to keep ants out of your sugar container, place some cloves inside. Ants don't like cloves.

Too much salt - if you added too much salt to a pot of soup, put in a halved potato and let cook a bit more, and it will absorb the excess salt.