Sunday, May 31, 2009

A Swinging Good Time

One of the delights of the summer is quiet Sundays spent with my family. While I do enjoy Sunday School, it is nice to have a little break over the summer...

It hasn't really warmed up much around here, but we ventured out in the sunshine to the park this weekend.

That last one is my favorite - go see others' Best Shots from the weekend. Happy June!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Summer? What Summer?

Robin has started a new weekly photo meme.

Ever one to join in, I've contemplated her meme for weeks.

But the summer hasn't quite cooperated. We had a few nice warm days maybe two weeks ago. It seemed real enough that we took out all the shorts and sandals.

Then it went away....and we haven't seen hide nor hair of summer, even spring, really, since....

Instead, I now spend each morning locked in a small battle with my children who are insistent upon shorts (or in Yael's case, a skort). The other morning, I just gave in, and offered leg-warmers to go with the shorts. They were so excited...

And this, folks, is summer in Chicago.
Shorts, leg warmers, and sandals.

Ya can't beat it.

Go visit Robin for some far better more pictures of summer fun.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Celebrating Shavuot (Re-post)

Tonight begins Shavuot, one of my favorite Jewish holidays! In its honor, I'm reposting this list from last year about Shavuot - and you can join me over on Twitter where today, all day, we're tweeting #Torah to the top...

While Shavuot is one of the most important Jewish holidays, it does tend to get overlooked.
So here are some things to help you learn more about this holiday!

1. Shavuot falls on the 6th day of Sivan. Its calendaring is directly related to Passover, as it is the end of the period of the counting of the Omer. (In English, it's usually called Pentecost, but the actual translation is "weeks" -- as in the weeks of the counting of the Omer.)

2. Shavuot is considered to be the anniversary of the acceptance of the Torah at Sinai. (That's why it follows Passover -- first we were freed, then we got the Torah.)

3. This is the day that began the season of bringing the first-fruits to the Temple. The first fruits were the first of each harvest to blossom, and were harvested and brought to the priests in a ceremony.

4. It is a tradition to read Akdamut, a liturgical poem, on Shavuot. This long poem is read at the morning service before the reading of Torah.

5. It is customary to eat dairy foods on Shavuot. I like the explanation that the Torah is like "honey and milk" on our tongues as it says in Song of Songs 4:11. Other people say that we did not eat meat before the giving of the Law at Sinai and thus we remember that. Either way, Shavuot is a vegetarian's paradise of a holiday!

6. We read from the Book of Ruth on Shavuot. It is about a woman who chooses to accept the Torah, just as we commemorate our people's acceptance of the Torah. Plus it talks about the harvest. And it's a good read.

7. Midrash teaches that Mt. Sinai burst into blossoms at the giving of the Torah. Perhaps this is why it is customary to decorate synagogues and homes with flowers and greenery for Shavuot.

8. Most people stay up all night on Erev Shavuot, in a practice known as Tikkun Leil Shavuot. The idea is to study Torah all night in preparation for receiving the Torah at Sinai.

9. The idea of staying up all night really took off when coffee became available in Europe.

10. Conservative and Reform congregations typically choose Shavuot to celebrate Confirmation, the high-school affirmation of Jewish identity.

11. There is a slightly obscure tradition of making and displaying papercut-art. (I definitely need to explore this one more. I think there's something fun in this for Shavuot for next year...)

12. You could honor Shavuot by baking a "Bible Cake". It's a cool scavenger hunt through the Bible that yields a cake! How cool is that.

13. And in keeping with the cake idea, Sephardic Jews have the custom to bake a seven-layer cake called Siete Cielos or Seven Heavens. This symbolizes the seven celestial spheres that God traveled to present the Torah to Moses. Seven graduated circular layers are decorated with a star of David, the staff of Moses, the Tablets of the Law, manna, Jacob's ladder and the Ark of the Covenant. Here are some more foodie customs for Shavuot.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Jewish Mommy Meme - Community ROCKS

It's so great to find other Jewish moms blogging out there. The Homeshuler has created her own Jewish Mommy Meme and tagged me! So here goes...

1. Challah – home baked or bought?
I love to bake challah and I have some great recipes, but usually we eat the one that comes home from school with my preschoolers. It's a school fundraiser (I think) and it's easy. Easy is good right now. I do love a good home-baked challah...

2. Favorite shabbat meal:
My favorite meal is whatever I can prepare in advance for my family to eat while I'm getting ready or already at services. We have 6:30pm services each week and my kids are too young to make it. So I usually prepare dinner in advance and get it all ready to go, with directions for the completion of the preparation! One of our recent favorite meals are these Quorn cutlets....they are very yummy. (We are vegetarian in our house, so no chicken....)

3. Any creative shabbat rituals?
We have a tie-dyed challah cover....the kids wear their kippot and sing the brachot, usually with the Abba...when my oldest was really young, we decided that the only day for TV watching was Shabbat. While this may seem like a backwards plan for some of my more frum readers, it made sense to me. The idea of Shabbat is to set it apart and make it special. This was the point of the TV gig. (Side note, whenever he went to my parents, they'd let him watch TV all the time, coining the phrase "it's always Shabbat at Bubbie and Zeyde's.") This was a big problem when we visted my frum relatives and had to explain that on Shabbat they DON'T watch TV. But I think that's another post. Anyway, eventually he figured out that the TV works on other days and the whole Shabbat/TV thing ended. I have a lot of visions for great Shabbat ideas but in general I just find myself saying things like "dessert? sure, it's Shabbat..." and that seems to work.

4. Shul? With or without the kids? (yes, I know some of you are rabbis)
Usually for Tot Shabbat, which is just their speed. Plus they're at the synagogue all the time. I'm trying to get my oldest to services on a more regular basis - now that he can read English and Hebrew, I think it's important. For myself, obviously, I'm there a lot. A LOT.

5. Traditionally shomer shabbat? If not, what’s your definition/style?
Not "traditionally" but happily observant of Shabbat. At the moment my biggest Shabbat observance is no Facebook, no Twitter, and no blogging...but I do use the phone/drive/etc. I've always said that the idea of shomer, meaning "guard" is about making sure we're aware that it's Shabbat and making it special. See answers to the above question.

6. Favorite shabbat story/book
How Yussel Caught the Gefilte Fish.

Love it.

I probably have 20 other favorites. But this is the top of the list! (With my oldest, we read Shai's Shabbat Walk every week. But we've progressed...)

7. no seventh question – time to rest.
If you're a Jewish mommy and you read this blog, I tag you!
(See how neatly I did that? I always leave someone out... :-) )

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Why Spin Instructors are Like Rabbis (Re-Post)

This is a repost from September of 2008. I've been doing a lot of spinning lately, and this week I thought of this post again, so I thought I'd pop it up here again.

I think I've discovered why I like going to Spinning classes.

It's just like being at services, except I'm not in charge:

It lasts about an hour, just like services.
I can get into a rhythm, just like in a good prayer experience.
There's a rubric to follow. Sprints, climbs, flat roads....Sh'ma u'virchote-ha, Amidah, Torah service...
There's music, sometimes to sing along with....
There's a sense of shared purpose. We're all in this together.
There's a lot of stand-up, sit-down.*
The instructor uses her hands to indicate "stand up" and "sit down"... just like I do.*
She offers encouragement, similar to the way that a rabbi might offer explanations of the prayers.
She sometimes throws out questions for the group to answer, just as I might when leading services or giving a sermon.
People are often reticent to answer. Just like at services.

I can lose myself in the experience, and feel uplifted at the end.

Do I think that Spinning or exercise can replace a religious experience?

But they do strike me as quite similar....

*This was the part that got me thinking during Spin class. Like any good blogger, I actually considered getting off my bike and jotting down some notes. It seemed like a reasonable excuse to take a break...but I didn't. I remembered anyway! See, working out is good for you.

(When I checked out this old post I also realized that at some point I stopped doing the five places I've been this week thing on Sundays. Why did I stop doing that? I'm not sure...should I start again?)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Hulling Strawberries - WFMW

There is a lot of controversy about strawberries in kosher circles. Here in the Ima-house (I take this funny turn-of-phrase from my kindred spirit over at the FrummieHouse...), we don't keep a formal style of Kashrut. It's perhaps a longer post, but in a nutshell, I have a little bit of trouble with the whole hechsher concept - how can I "accept" the hechsher of an organization that wouldn't recognize my own religious observance? So basically, we keep a vegetarian household - as organic and natural as we can get - using few prepared foods that would require a hechsher anyway.

All that said....I also am not as meticulous as kosher cooks are about things like strawberries. In fact, when I decided to write this post, I realized that this style of hulling strawberries will in fact render the strawberries un-kosher because they shouldn't have a hole in them. Oh well....

I can't remember where I learned this strawberry-hulling trick, but here it is. I was told once that the center part of a strawberry is bitter and should be cut out before consuming. This trick accomplishes that with very little waste to the strawberry. It also removes the greenery, which is for some reason offensive to my children.

You need: strawberries and a drinking straw

Stick the straw into the strawberry from the bottom end, up through the middle. Look what happens:
And voila, a neatly hulled strawberry. Wash and it's ready to eat!

It's best to avoid doing this until just before eating, if you can, since unwashed and uncut strawberries will last longer in your refrigerator.

That's what works for me!
See what works for other people over here....

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Twitter #Torah

I've been on Twitter for a while now (since February of 2008, to be exact...way before Oprah) and I really like it. I know that the rest of the world was slow to pick up on it, but it has been a lot of fun for me for a while now. I've tweeted off and on...sometimes I go for a while without tweeting, but usually I have something to say.

And even though I'm not one of the JTA's most influential Jewish Twitterers, I still have been enjoying tweeting Torah for a while. Here is today's set of #Torah tweets, about this week's parasha. (while it doesn't matter much, you should read from the bottom up - that's the order in which I posted them.)

My other favorite #hashtag (that's how you sort tweets) is #whatrabbisdo - other rabbi friends are having fun posting what they do too!

Why do I like Twitter? It started out as a little bit of a private space for me, where no one really knew who I was. But that all changed when the whole world came on Twitter (and it's not like I was ever secretive about it) and now it seems to be the thing that the teenagers make fun of and the older folks are trying out. Now I like it because it seems to be the best way to keep up with whatever is going on in the world...faster than any other website to get me to all the news! Interestingly, however, most of the news lately has been about Twitter itself! Which seems silly and counterproductive. And today there was a whole piece on CNN about how maybe, just maybe, Twitter is "so 5 minutes ago." I guess we'll just have to wait and see!

Do you Twitter? Why?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Lag B'Omer S'mores....

In honor of Lag B'Omer, we had S'mores for dessert...

(Except....shhh....we didn't really light a fire. I made them in the microwave.)

See more Wordless Wednesday here....

Monday, May 11, 2009

Being Eco-Unfriendly - a Rebellion!

7 year old, practically spitting: Mom, I am so mad at you!
(glances around...) I'm so mad at you that I'm going to waste water!

He turns on the bathroom faucet and just lets the water run for a few moments.

Then he shuts it off and walks away.

What does it say when your kid rebels by being eco-unfriendly!?

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Win a Washer/Dryer!?

Remember how I said that I was a teensy bit jealous about the washer/dryer test drive thing?

Well....they're giving 'em away... "a NEW Frigidaire Affinity washer, offering WashSense™ technology to ensure clothes get clean with care AND the NEW Frigidaire Affinity Fits-More™ Dryer, the largest capacity dryer in a standard size so you can dry more at once."

You just have to go and answer this questionaire at
(Aren't they pretty?)

And in all fairness, I'm hoping to win one too. It would look so nice in my basement and oh yeah, help with the laundry too. Those cute little kids of mine certainly generate a lot of dirty clothes!

Five Things I'd Do With An Extra Hour...
1. Finish a quilting project.
2. Bake cookies.
3. Sort the toys that have spilled out of their organized state and into chaos.
4. Read through all the books in the house with my kids.
5. Write a blog post, of course!

What would you do with an extra hour???

Posts Ruminating in My Head

I have all these wonderful posts brewing in my brain.

About books I've read lately. I had this weird confluence of three books in a row about slavery/civil war/the South...and have you noticed how many new books in the Jewish world are about the Holocaust? Interesting.

About the appearance of spring/summer and how glad I am that it's here.

About the new Star Trek movie, my history with and love for Star Trek, and all the great Jewish lessons that the series has taught!

About Mother's Day and Father's Day and the ridiculousness of these so-called "holidays" that really should be observed all the time. And did you hear that NPR piece on the flower industry in Columbia?

About my obsession with interest in Twitter and how I'm trying not to feel put-out that I wasn't in the JTA list of influential Twitterers but people who have been on Twitter for, like, 10 minutes were. That sounds more petulant than I want it to. But it's my blog. (I'm not at all put-out that while I applied for the Frigidaire stuff just like Steph and Mir did, I wasn't worthy didn't qualify...just a teensy bit jealous because I really want a fancy-dancy washing machine. But I'll go try to win one anyway.)

But the posts just can't seem to get out. I'll keep working on it.

Happy Birthday, Jack! He's hosting Haveil Havalim so go and wish him a happy birthday...

Friday, May 8, 2009

A Shabbat Mitzvah

What a wonderful Shabbat mitzvah...

Leave your grocery bag filled with food for your mail carrier tomorrow. I know that local food pantries are terribly in need this year. A simple and wonderful way to make a difference.

Shabbat Shalom!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Creating Jewish Identity

I am going to ask our Confirmation students if any of them will give me permission to publish their speeches. Tonight we rehearsed with them for their Confirmation service, which is this Friday night.

These students are in 10th grade. As I'm in my 6th year at the synagogue, I've known these kids for some time now. I was at each of their Bar or Bat Mitzvah services. They are so amazingly grown up.

I haven't heard all the speeches. But the ones that I did hear brought tears to my eyes. It's one thing to have the kids show up each week. Their attendance, in 10th grade, is amazing to me. But to hear their words, words that they composed at home and will read in public, with all their family listening, in front of their

As a parent, I have a long way to go until my children are confirmed. I look at these wonderful young people and hope that I can raise my own children up in the way I want them to go. Each and every day, I hope and pray that they love Jewish life, that they find home and comfort in the community of Israel.

I wonder what their Confirmation speeches will sound like...

Sunday, May 3, 2009

April Showers Bring.... #fixed

...umbrellas! and rain boots!

ACK! where did the pictures go??? apologies to those who read me in your reader and all that and thanks to Robin for pointing out the error! (This is what happens when you're in a hurry, I guess, to celebrate the once-a-year-joke!)


See more Best Shots here....
This week's Haveil Havalim is up over here.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Need a Mother's Day Gift?

Tulips and brunch are tried and true… but this Mother’s Day, surprise mom with a gesture that shows you care about all women:

Every spring Jewish Women International's Mother’s Day Flower Project sends beautiful bouquets of flowers to 150 battered women’s shelters across the U.S. in time for Mother’s Day, while it raises funds for programs that help victims of domestic violence throughout the year.

What a fabulous way to honor your mom or any other woman in your life. I know that my mom appreciates it, and I think yours will to.

Click here to make your gift!
Do it before Monday for Mother's Day delivery of your card.