Thursday, May 31, 2012

The simple part of simple living, and it really is simple!

What started this latest bout of DIY activity was a trip to a local health food store.   I wanted to see if they had some castile soap that I thought I've seen there before and I needed some for a concoction I wanted to try out.  As it happens, they didn't have any, which was just as well because the reason I've passed on the said soap in the past was the price tag, which was significant.  Soon after, I was reading up on soap making (something I also wanted to try out for a while) in a book I've recently acquired called Making It -- Radical Home Ec for the Post Consumer World, a compendium of sorts of all kinds of interesting DIY projects for the house for people like me:)  So, there I was, reading about a simple soap making recipe that only involved 3 ingredients and a blender (so far so good, at this stage in my life I only have time for quick and simple anyway) and it mentioned that this recipe is what is known as castile soap- the most basic, gentlest of soaps.  I read that again. You mean, that's it?  And sure enough.  That was it -- water, lye + olive oil = castile soap, only a whole lot less expensive and incidentally as far as soap making is concerned the lower grade oil is preferable, who would have thought! I am really looking forward to trying this out, I just need to find a blender that comes with a glass pitcher because the chemical reaction just might melt down my plastic one, but I digress. I have had many occasions in recent weeks to reexperience this "you mean this is all there is to it?" reaction.  Now, dozens of yogurt batches, sourdough breads, salve, jam, kombucha and citrus cleaner experiments later, I could safely say -- it really is very simple.  Very simple as far as just a few basic ingredients and even simpler as far as the actual process.  The hardest part about some of these is the waiting time and for some it's pretty much instant gratification.  I will revisit each one of these in separate posts with the notes on the particulars.  But frankly I was shocked at how easy it was to make these things and how much of a price, both figuratively and literally we pay as a society for not doing these things ourselves. This has been a very rewarding series of experiments, but I also see it as a sort of a spiritual martial arts program to detox oneself from all kinds of unwholesome notions that modern living has hoisted upon mankind.  It takes discipline, but it really is simple and even when practiced minimally  enriches one's life with goodness and a whole lot of delight.  So these days, when inspiration strikes, I first look up if I could make it myself and it's amazing how many things could be made at home, often easily, more healthfully and at a considerable discount.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A little inside view into Israel

So much of what is written today about Israel is negative, false, worrisome, distorted or worse.  So this video made me very happy and I always find Shlomo Katz's music very inspirational.  So here is something really, really beautiful from the recent Yom Yerushalaim (Jerusalem reunification day).  The song is Od Yishama (see words and translation at this link), that is sung at every Jewish wedding and speaks of the fulfillment of the prophesy of the return of the Jewish people to their homeland and particularly to Jerusalem.

Friday, May 25, 2012

These days

There is so much to write and so little time to write it in, so I decided to do this post a la Soulemama style.

These days I am :
- bouncing two fat mostly smiley babies
- chasing an almost two year old who thinks there is nothing, and I mean NOTHING he cannot do
-enjoying the sight of happy children with wind blown hair on their bicycles, scooters and other riding implements or swinging or sitting on a fence
-appreciating having a husband who comes along for the ride in all our educational adventures, even though it's hard for him and he has many other things he would rather be doing, but does it anyway because he believes it's important
-contemplating the law of conservation of messes in our home, where the mess is neither created or destroyed but only changes in form despite my best efforts
-observing interesting and beautiful birds, plants and flowers all around me and realizing how even the most common of them is incredibly beautiful
-making yogurt, sourdough bread and kombucha, still being amazed at how simple they are to make and how miraculous these processes are ( I have to write a separate post or posts on the subject)and being inspired to do more of these DIY projects
-rethinking various food preparations and how to streamline them, also revisiting some topics I was interested in years ago like once a month cooking and dusting off some old books and to help with the above
-dreaming of growing something in our real life garden but also of some ideal future gardens, edible forests, etc.  Spending many happy hours browsing through gardening books, making lists and learning about different plants.
-looking forward to a lighter, less regimented learning schedule
-thinking of yom tov cooking and creative challah baking, decorated for shavuos
-hoping and praying for better days in the Land of Israel that I love. Days with no Arab violence against the Jews.  Days of building instead of destruction.  Days without lies and misinformation.  The end of injustices towards the Jewish people and politically motivated decision making. For our leaders to have the wisdom and courage to do the right thing  and for the actualization of living our life as a nation in our land as G-d has intended when He gave us the Torah
-wishing you all a happy and meaningful Shavuos

Friday, May 18, 2012

Visions of summer

We have gotten back on track academically since Pesach.  More or less anyway.  We finished the fractions unit from Math Mammoth and are now doing some geometry with the big boys for a change of pace.  It's much easier conceptually I think so we go a whole lot faster.  I got them some fancy notebooks to write down their copywork assignments( Beautiful Italics for Children) into and that usually gets them more motivated.  We started doing the world map memorization program from here that uses various mnemonic sentences to to step by step draw and label the world map from memory.  We really like it and dh often fleshes things out for the kids by telling them interesting facts and  bits of history associated with different places.  Prince and Pauper was a great success as a read aloud.  We are continuing more or less with hebrew writing, grammar and such a few times a week.  I have worked oral narration into our studies once in a while.  I have been doing more projects like cooking, baking and easy crafts with the younger set and some more formal stuff but a lot more sporadically with my six year old.  It's certainly summer here already weather wise and the kids are spending a lot of time outside.  Ds10 usually does a lot of independent reading, mostly adventures and suspense.  We are trying to encourage him towards classics but we'll see.  Both of them need to work on their english reading, but most days we get to it on a very minimal level at best.  I don't have a problem with that as long as we continue to read to them on regular basis which some time is hard to do.  With the little ones I usually read to them quite a lot every day but the stuff that is interesting to them. There is plenty of informal learning of course, discussions, doing things together in a regular course of life, but some things we just chronically don't get to.  And besides, often it takes a tremendous amount of effort  to get them to settle down,  even more so to keep things positive and to keep the momentum going.  I feel we could all use a break and a change.  So.... I've been thinking of going on a summer schedule for the next few months.  Reserve one day for formal school work just to keep in practice for math and  geography, may be.  But otherwise just read lots of books together, finally do some of the projects I wanted to do with them,  pick a few things that we never get to and do them,  spend some time in the garden together, etc.  Come to think of it, a very Charlotte Mason type summer.   I am hoping it will help us recharge and  hopefully help us restart in the fall in more positive frame of mind.  So in the next few weeks, I hope to make some plans, draw up some book lists and project ideas, gather the supplies we need for various projects so we could proceed and make some of these summer visions into a reality.   I am really looking forward to this.  I hope it works out and we'll just play it by ear and see what develops.

Thursday, May 10, 2012


I got an unexpected break today when dh took the crew out for a Lag B'Omer outing to see some family. He took everyone except the Mommy and the babies, who are still not big on outings.  I had some doubts myself but it ended up being a delightful day for my fluffy roly poly companions and I.  I really enjoyed these two and their company. They were full of gorgeous smiles, we ate and played and cuddled.  They are up to new tricks of trying to roll or grabbing their toes or each other's hands. So many possibilities.  Such wonderful, simple pleasures. And while they napped, I got to listen to music, think, dream, read and even write, finally.  The weather was cooler today, even though we are now on the upward summer temperature swing. So we enjoyd the breeze and he clear skies, surrounded by greenery, pomegranate blossoms, white and red hibiscus flowers and such.  The chinaberry blossoms are gone but the tree is still a beauty even without them. I didn't cook but had some homemade yogurt and sourdough bread - my latest culinary adventures.  I really neeed this quiet time to regroup mentally. I don't get this kind of mini-vacations often but perhaps I need to make time for them in my life, because this was surprisingly refreshing and helped me get past some of that burnt out exhaustion I've been feeling lately.  Thanks G-d, for such lovely days.

On his tenth birthday!

In a few short weeks my oldest will turn ten, G-d willing.   Yes, ten years have flown by and there are many, many things I still have to figure out about this mothering business.  But I remember that wonderful spring day very well, when this long awaited beautiful boy was born.  Ah, the hazel, sometimes almost amber eyes, the curly hair (his nemesis since he was about five), the suntanned face, the impish grin, the keen intelligence, the quick wit and  at times too quick tongue.  He wanted to be in control of everything since the moment he came into the world.  The son who is so like me on the outside and on many days such a mystery to me on the inside.  He with whom my mothering journey has started.  He is full of surprises, this spirited child.  So often he is a ball of contradictions. In many ways, he is a typical oldest child- responsible and mature and in many ways he really struggles to harmonize the many disparate parts of him.   Despite his considerable talents, he finds (and makes) so many things challenging.  He is so aware of everything and everyone around him.  He finds transitions difficult.  He is growing up in so many ways.  Just today, for the umpteenth time he points out how he is almost as tall as I am.  He amazes me with his insights and out of the left field remarks.  He's got his way with words.  He loves to read.  He has his dreams.  He has a million plans.  He is dipping his toes into the world of adulthood.  I remember myself at this age.  It was definitely a transition year.  Once he wanted to be a teacher.  Once he dabbled in doing business.  Today, it's the military that beckons to him.  I was at first surprised ( he who was once so uncoordinated, he who likes his creature comforts) but the more I think about it, the more I see how it could really suit his personality.  Only time will tell.  Yes, ten years old.  In ten more, G-d willing, he'll be a grown man, a husband, a father perhaps !  I have a hard time sometimes conveying adequately to him just how fantastic I think he is, that my love for him has just grown since the time he was an intense and sweet little bundle.   So many times these days I keep thinking how I don't want the love and sweetness and closeness to be lost in the sea of growing pains and struggles.  I need to remember to convey the approval that he so much seeks.   This wonderful (if sometimes difficult) boy is turning into a man faster than I could have imagined.  Some days, the frustrations are many for both of us, at the end of the day, I feel drained and exhausted as I cross another finish line in another day of demanding parenting.  But then, as I give him his goodnight kiss and we chat a bit as I sit by his bedside, he says " You know, I love YOU mommy. It's the work I don't like".  And I know that with all the creative endeavors that are waiting for me out there, nothing will ever equal in creativity or importance to this gargantuan task of helping a child to traverse this terrain of childhood, in uncovering and developing the person he or she was meant to become.  Happy birthday, dear boy, may Hashem bless you and guide you in all your ways, today and always.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

The lists that make a life

I am a woman of many lists.  I regularly make "to do" lists.  I have a list of projects I'd like to get to,  lists of things to do with the kids, lists of blog post ideas, lists of books to explore.   I used to have a list of books I read and liked.  I have a list of plants I'd love to have in my future dream garden, lists of plants I think should be able to grow in this climate.  There is also a list of topics to research and lately, when I am able to find a pen, I keep a list of my Google searches so I can retrace my steps on any given topic of interest.  For years,  I've kept various journals on and off. When I started this blog it largely took over as my regular journal.  So when I was recently reading about commonplace books, a type of journal, that was popular once upon a time, an intellectual record of sorts, where a person would write down bits of wisdom from other people that he or she would find of interest or significance, I was thinking that as much as I would like to do something like that, after all it's certainly interesting to be able to trace one's intellectual evolution, at this point in my life,  it would be too time consuming and labor intensive.  And then I came across this idea, where the woman had a notebook, beautifully decorated, where she kept a list of things to do, projects she was working on, gardening tasks.  It sounded much like my motley collection of lists, currently jotted down on various scraps of paper, always in jeopardy of disappearing or being misplaced just as I was looking for that important something.  It's always exciting to find an old list and try and remember what it was I've been doing or thinking on any given day.  Now, here is an idea I could see myself using and incidentally, it's another great way to recycle those old magazines,  old children's books that are missing too many pages, old gardening books or cookbooks, old calendars, etc.  Yes, a book of lists sounds doable.  I think, I'll add this to my list:)