Thursday, March 31, 2011

The goings on

Spring is in the air and I am slowly becoming unfrazzled enough to realize that we should be thinking about Pesach, less than three weeks away.  So we started looking at the children's Hagaddah with the little ones, with the four year old leading the charge, she is still on the roll from all the megillah excitement of Purim.  We are getting back on track with the usual english reading, copywork and math lessons.  I bought a Charlotte Mason handwring program here and so far so good but the kids are not so used to writing on a slant so it will take some practice.  But I like the general look of the writing in this program and the directions.  Plus, the Charlotte Mason copywork concept is something I really wanted to implement in our studies.  I am really trying to get across the idea of striving for excellent work to the kids. I believe that it's important for children's self esteem to value the work that they produce and that a job well done should be a reward in of itself rather than some external inducement.  I was happy to discover that both the 8.5 year old and the 7 year old made progress in their english reading fluency.  History and geography and current events discussions continue to work themselves into our lives regularly under my husband's able tutelage during suppers and breakfasts and other opportune moments.  We are continuing with our reading aloud of various books of interest to each child.  There was plenty of outdoor play.  This time of the year, the sheep flocks come out to pasture, egrets and sea gulls and ravens are in attendance, there are stork sightings and all the local construction and lanscaping activities never fail to enthrall their appreciative audience across the board. Everyone is very into admiring the baby and all his clever and endearing accomplishments and I just have to make sure they don't go overboard or fight too much over him.  B"H to a large extent we managed to reinstate some normalcy this week despite some family stuff going on and a big siyum we had to attend.  I am finally beginning to get to some things that have been accumulating since before I had my youngest 10 months ago.  Which reminded me of the idea that Pesach cleaning is as much about getting rid of thing internally as it is about the actual physical chometz.  So it looks like we are moving in a right direction, thank G-d, if ever so slowly.  Some days are very tough and physically and emotionally exhausting but just today as I was looking around for some additional quotations for copywork, I came across one that said that it doesn't matter how slowly one is proceeding as long as one doesn't stop moving in the right direction.  Small steps, incremental changes, minor victories, big transformations.  So thank G-d for another busy, busy week.  Next week, I'd like to proceed with more of the same but try to fit in some gardening and some art projects, it's been a while.

Tips for good blog writing

To write a really good blog entry is an art.  So here are some timely tips from Brianna Davis on the art of good writing for today's authors.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Child-friendly gardens and other fantastic backyard ideas

I've been so busy with my baby lately that there has been little time for almost anything else including gardening activities.  Ironically,  the whole pregnancy with this particular little one, I couldn't get beautiful gardens out of my mind. I'd go to sleep dreaming of how to make our wild backyard more beautiful, read endless gardening books and articles. This year however, I just didn't get to do much in the yard at all.  But I'd really like to do some gardening stuff with the kids soon, before it  gets too hot and it would be really wonderful to get it into better shape so the kids could do more out there.
So here is a great article from on how to make your garden more child friendly with lots of fantastic ideas and links.
I was also quite taken with the idea of making a giant backyard game board as part of one's yard's landscape. So here is a link for a backyard scrabble board and another one here.  It doesn't have to be scrabble only though, here is an example of backyard chess. Definitely a lot of scope for imagination and gardening inspiration here.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

An ode to ebooks

Living in Israel, I don't always have an easy or fast access to educational materials in english. So ebooks come in very handy as a quick way to gain access to the information that could be useful in our educational endeavors.  Also, if one does one's research, one can find good quality materials which are created by parents or teachers who have hands-on experience, love the subject matter and put it all together in a tidy and often inexpensive package for one's learning pleasure.  A lot of these have printable worksheets and such, which can be useful for multiple children. I've been looking through some things on and I must say that there seem to be lots of rather promising possibilities from copywork aids, writing programs, science unit studies, geography and living math among others.  There is even a preview option so one can take a look at what's inside.  So here is another advantage of living in the age of technological innovation. 

Sunday, March 27, 2011

A few useful links for parents

Here is the first post from my backlog of links to be posted- some useful stuff for parents. - all kinds of nifty ideas for parents from parents, some real ingenuity and creativity there - some advice for common parenting situations and questions

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The goings on

There has been a lot of informal learning in the past couple of weeks, lots of great discussions, reading, listening to music, singing, playing, etc. but we really need to get back to the formal part as well, if only to get the kids back into a routine.  In general, it feels like everyone has been completely discombobulated by not having had a regular schedule (we try to keep to a flexible routine so everyone has some idea of what to expect on any given day) for any serious length of time between Purim activities and family visiting from the States and maybe just picking up the vibes due to tension from the renewed wave of terror, it seems like the parents are completely worn out and all the kids acting out together or separately a whole lot lately.  I have so many links that I need to post and so many projects to do with the kids and so much other stuff that needs to be done and soon.  So for the upcoming week I think that we really need to work on just trying to have sense of normalcy, if we could still remember how and gently pick up all the pieces and try to ease everyone, especially those having a hard time with transitions, into a better and more productive mood. G-d willing tomorrow is another day.  Wishing you all a good and uplifting week!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

A Bar Mitzva to remember

Today was a difficult and painful day for Israel, as rockets were flying in the south and a bomb went off in the center of Jerusalem.  Again, there are deaths, injuries, property damage and trauma.  Again, the ugly and despicable acts of terror cast their grotesque shadow over our beautiful country.  How long will our tears continue to flow?  How much longer will this dreadful galus last? When, oh when, will Hashem send us the geula that we so desperately need?  Enough false promises of futile peace with the enemy whose aim is our destruction, regardless of where we live, south, north, center, settlements, whatever. The Jewish response is to continue to live, to build, to unite together and eradicate this evil by bringing more holiness and light into this world that is so very dark right now.  I hope that our government will act decisively and not stop half way in doing what they have to do to stop this outrage.  But I digress.  Here is something that I meant to post yesterday but didn't get to, but it illustrates the point I am trying to make very well.  I went to a Bar Mitzva of my good friend's son, a couple of days ago.  It was a very simple affair but one that was beautiful and moving and touched me in a very profound way.   If anyone deserves some nachas from their kids, surely my friend and her husband are prime candidates.  They are a kind of people who always seem to have a smile on their face no matter how many curve balls life throws their way and their life has certainly been far from easy on many different fronts.  And especially this particular Bar Mitzva boy who had to struggle so hard and so long but is now, B"H, on his way to growing up into a kind of a man who will be a credit to his family and his people.  There were all kinds of people at this Bar Mitzva, from all walks of life,  old neighbours, family and friends that came together to celebrate this milestone.  There was great food, beautiful speeches and spirited dancing and the Bar Mitzva boy's sister put together a lovely slide show of her brother's pictures from babyhood until today.  It was a very memorable event.  But more than anything I think it's a good metaphor as well.  Sometimes life can be very hard and there are many unknowns, there are choices that have to be made and sometimes lots of bumps and bruises and tears along the way, false starts,  challenges that almost break one but with G-d's help and love of family and support of friends and community, dedicated educators, a miracle takes place and a beautiful child grows into a special young man and is given a chance to develop himself into a person he was meant to be.  And the family experiences healing and joy and strength where before there was despair and fear and endless pain.  I think it's true for us as a nation as well.  We will not break, we will continue to live and grow and blossom despite the setbacks and false starts and many mistakes along the way and G-d will make more miracles for us and give us strength to carry on, together with our family and friends and teachers and communities and give us a true and enduring peace which only comes from being true to who we are and doing what G-d wants of us .  Hashem oz L'amo yiten,  Hashem yivorech et amo Bashalom- G-d gives strength to His people, G-d will bless His nation with peace.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Light and joy!

Bowls, colorful dots and electric tape - our mishloach manos packages

It was a very beautiful and joyous Purim here.  It was complete with costumes, a mountain of mishloach manos, oversugared bouncing off the walls kids, reconnecting with family and friends, with walls literally vibrating with music and dancing at some point.  It was as exhilarating as it was exhausting but also spiritual and wonderous and special in a way I don't remember experiencing our other Purims in the recent past.  While racing around trying to fullfill all the day's mitzvos, I think the Purim spirit of love and joy and sharing and optimism really took hold this year.  Thank G-d! And now that Purim is behind us and Pesach is not yet upon us, it's time to try to get back into some semblance of a routine and try to get the many things on the "to do after Purim" mental list while taking the Purim light and joy with us into the mundane.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

A very happy Purim to all!!!

I read somewhere that Purim is an especially good time to pray for things, because just like we give charity to anyone that asks on Purim, Hashem answers all prayers on Purim and doesn't turn anyone away either. May we all have a particularly joyous and holy Purim and be inspired to even greater degree of unity and may all our prayers be answered l'tova and merit us the Geula Shleima B'Karov B'rachamim!!!  Happy Purim!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Itamar, settling the Land and other Israel reflections

Shlomo HaMelech (King Solomon) wrote that it is better to go to the house of mourning than to a house of feasting.  I think, because it's more conducive to serious contemplation about what life is all about.  I've been wanting to sit down and write something for a number of days now but I just couldn't get the emotional energy to break out of the terrible saddness I and many Jews around the world are feeling today after the horrendous murder in Itamar this past Friday night.  Adar feels decidedly unAdarlike this year.  I just couldn't bring myself to write about regular things like books and crafts. While life certainly has to go on, we have to learn from everything that happens to us.  So in this post I'd like to share some things that I've been mulling over lately and some  inspiring thoughts that I've read by others in the aftermath of the tragic deaths of Udi and Ruti Fogel and three of their beautiful children HY"D.  Here is a link to an article about how we have to learn from the righteous people who died and by extension to continue in their path.  From what I've read and listened to, the Fogels examplified what the ideal Jewish life should be with their purity, modesty, dedication to Torah and good deeds, their idealism and love of the Land of Israel, their simplicity and few material wants and dedication of their whole being to the ideals they lived for.  It is trully something to learn from and aspire to.  But I've been thinking recently about what gives the Jewish people, especially those living in Yehuda and Shomron (Judea and Samaria)and formerly in Gaza, the strength to carry on and surmount almost any obstacle in their quest to settle the Land and face the numerous and formidable challenges on regular basis.  Then in a disengagement diary called Alei Katif by Yitzchak Amati,  I read an amazing Or HaChaim that gives a very interesting answer.  He writes that when a person is going to perform a particular mitzva than the souls of those Jews that have already departed this world and who in their lifetime wanted to perform this same mitzva but didn't get to, these souls then accompany this person in his performance of the mitzva.  So the author writes, that when today the Jewish people go and settle the Land of Israel, like Hashem has intended, they are accompanied in their efforts by all the Jews who lived and pined and yearned and prayed to live and settle the holy land of Israel before them but couldn't.  I would like to say perhaps this might explain the wind under the wings that many people feel once they decide to make aliyah as well, a feeling that nothing can stand in their way. has a great peptalk for moms on how to be happy this Purim, even  with all the tragedies going on in the world right now.  May Hashem turn our sadness to joy and our tears to laughter and may we all live in all of our Holy and beautiful land in holiness and true peace and tranquility!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Craft: A very cute paper doll fashion idea

My kids, both boys and girls, always enjoyed pretty much any paper doll related activity.  So here is a very creative idea for changing paper doll fashions.  I think that any patterned paper can be used in addition or instead of magazine cutouts. Definitely should be added to our  projects to do list.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Craft:A Cardboard box playscape and photo prop

Here is a link for a fantastic playscape and photo prop project.  I really love this idea-simple and brilliant.  I think we better keep our eyes open for a big cardboard box.  There are lots more great art projects on the same website.  So I think  once the Purim rush is over, we can get started with some of those:)

Crafts: Embroidery Portraits

Here is a link for a relatively simple but striking craft project- embroidered portraits.  More of the pinbroidery theme, I guess.  This would make a nice gift too.

A few educational materials resources

Here are links for two resources where one could get some inexpensive educational materials and spend way too much money if not careful:) -all kinds of interesting and nifty and unusual things for science, etc - lots of crafting supplies and other interesting educational stuff like inflatable hearts and felt skeleton boards and counting and pattern tiles, 3-D geometric solids, etc. Probably not top quality but cheap and might do the job anyway.

On the homefront

I finally got my wish this year and made costumes at home for the boys. They wanted to be pirates, so I whipped up some pirate outfits, made tunics and sashes and bandanas from various exciting things in my crafting stash and with their father's shirts and socks with masking tape stripes, they made quite good looking pirates, even if I must say so myself.  The girls have their princess dresses (their choice), even though the three year old  keeps insisting that it's her ballerina costume.  We still have so small accents to take care of for maximum effect but the costumes are happily taken care of for this year:)  We took pictures in costumes and played dress up too. We tried out a new Hamentashen recipe, which was pronounced a success and then speedily declared to be a Rosh Hodesh treat, so it looks like the junior bakers will have to produce a second batch for mishloach manos.  They decided this is their baking week anyhow, so I don't think anyone will object.  Regular lessons were put aside for a few days.  Turns out we'll be having quite a few visitors from overseas soon.  We have a few social engagements to look forward to.  I read some inspiring Purim thoughts in Rabbi Yisroel Miller's A Gift for Yom Tov. And so we welcomed Adar II.  May it be a trully joyous and miraculous one like in the days of yore!!!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Craft: Quilled Design on a plate

Here is another creative idea from Suzy's Sitcom, quilled design on a china plate.  For little crafters, paper plates can be substituted.  Interesting.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Mishloach Manos Revisited or More Purim Links and Ideas

We got started with our Purim preparations here last week and the kids are all excited to do some baking this coming week.  I am not entirely decided on the theme, but an extra batch of hamentashen or other baked goods can't hurt either way. Tonight,when the electricity conked out for a little while and I was looking up at all those brilliant stars in the black sky, I got some more ideas.  How about a midnight snack theme or perhaps old-fashioned  foods (sitting in the candlelight is responsible for this one) or maybe something that has to do with light(l'yehudin haisa ora), so one can do light foods or... The truth be told where I live, it's very common to send just the two required foods, people are certainly very creative if they want to be but in a simple not out to impress anyone kind of way.  So I'll have to settle on something soon and meanwhile we shall bake, it's one of everyone's favorite activities anyhow.  There are also the costumes we have to attend to.  But just for inspiration, here are a few mishloach manos links..
Frugal and Creative Mishloach Manos ideas from Kosher on  a Budget
Mishloach manos themes and ideas from
Lots of really original ideas from Chouhound
More eco-friendly and economical options
Some general mishloach manos tips from Rivka Slatkin of

Friday, March 4, 2011

A little Shabbos Cheer

I've been feeling a little down with some of the local and global goings on.  But Shabbos is coming and Purim is coming, so here are some good songs to chase the blues away.  G-d willing, it will all work out, it always does:) Shabbat Shalom from Israel!!!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Craft: Stitching on Paper

Here are a few links for more stitching on paper inspiration.  My kids really enjoyed the pinbroidery project we did and these take  this craft even further by teaching other embroidery stitches.  Sounds like a promising new craft direction.  Enjoy!
A beautiful embroidered flower card craft
Stitching on Vintage Book Pages

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The goings on

A Jerusalem View
More from the same Jerusalem trip
The three year old was banging on the piano with great glee ," I am playing the Turkish March", she informed me.    It's been this kind of a week, some of the time we are banging and thinking it's the Turkish March and some of the time we think we are just banging on the keys but in reality something quite special is taking place.  Over all we are getting back on track with many things.  The house has been put back together to some extent, for now and I've implemented some of my newest organizational ideas to make things less cluttered.  So far so good.  I made the Tuscan sourdough bread from The Classic Cuisine of the Italian Jews, it was a success and was approved even by the picky eaters, thank G-d. I'll play around with the recipe more next time, now that I know what to expect. The baked fries with tomatoes from the same book turned out very well also.   Some of the book finds from last week's book sale were great like the above cookbook and some I already threw out in disgust.    I hate profanity, even if the author has something useful and informative to say, it gets completely ruined by foul language.  Oh well.  Kids have been busy with lots of imaginary games, dress up, etc. but they are also trying to learn to jump rope, play ping pong and I am endlessly reminding someone that there is no ball playing in the house:)  We read a lot of stories.  I got some supplies so we could get started with our Purim preparations.  The kids are all enjoying Gadi Pollaks Purimshpiel Megilla.  So we talked about various Purim related topics.  The four year old was comparing the illustrations in different Megillas, she is quite an expert.  We enjoyed looking at family pictures.  We went on a trip to Yerushalayim (Jerusalem).  It was wonderful and exciting and tiring.  Going and being there is always such a joy! We took  a lot of pictures.  I am really trigger happy when it comes to phtographing beautiful landscapes here.  Israel is gorgeous in all seasons.  We watched the birds and  spotted a flock of sheep in the hills.   I got some really sweet little books for baby, Tiny Treasury, 15 small first word books with really lovely illustrations in a beautiful box, again enjoyed by everyone in the family.  I read up on lots of interesting things like making farmer cheese and kefir and variations thereof, frugal tips, lots of crafts and activities and aliyah experiences. A lot of musing and dreaming and thinking going on.  It's been a busy week this far.  As always, parents have to have their own educational adventures so that kids can have their's.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Craft: Lovely Fabric Flowers

Here is a link to a tutorial for making lovely fabric flowers.  Just right for those beginner sewers and plenty of creative possibilities of where to attach them to after they are done- headbands, present toppers, clothing embelishments? Hmm! Purim costumes or mishloach manos baskets?