And Away We Go!

We will be going away for the next few days to stay with my sister and brother in law at their ski chalet. We will also be spending quality time with my nieces which is a rare treat. They are both grown women with their own homes.

We’ll play games, ski or snowboard. Learning to ski in my thirties I never really got the hang of it, even the bunny hill scares me, although I can proudly say that I have skied at Blackcombe. The one run took me 3 hours! Slowly, slowly, careful, careful ­čÖé I will go for gorgeous walks along snowy paths. We’ll watch movies, be silly and laugh. And we’ll eat and drink wine. Well, I won’t drink it, but I may sniff the cork a little so I can get tipsy. No joke.

The kids have been warned within an inch of their lives so with any luck there will be very little fighting. Hope springs eternal.

Funny enough, we have to travel south to get to their chalet. We can say we went south over the holidays!

I think that if I blog while we’re away everyone will tease me so this will probably be it until we return. Then I’ll be busy preparing for our annual New Year’s dinner with our best friends. We take turns making the dinner and sleeping over at one another’s homes. This way no one has to risk driving and everyone can stay up late and have fun together.

I will probably post before the New Year, but just in case I don’t get to I want to wish everyone a happy and a healthy New Year. Next year in Jerusalem ­čśë

Would You Meet the Breed Standard?

Today I read something that I didn’t know which is not surprising in and of itself but it got me thinking – also not surprising. I read that the Nazis decided to eradicate White German Shepherds as they were considered a flawed representative of the breed. Not so shocking really, considering their view on imperfect specimens. It’s hard to be too surprised by anything they did. The book also said that the American Kennel Club does not recognize the White German Shepherd (kind of disappointing A.K.C.). This is what got me thinking. Am I ever glad that there is no breed standard for people!

I have long realized that if I were a dog it is unlikely that I would make it in the show ring (even though my husband has lovingly told me that he considers me a trophy wife – I love that guy). How many of us would pass the actual breed standard? Doesn’t there exist an unofficial standard in our minds? As I watch my son go through high school it takes me back to those highly judgmental days. It was very clear back then whether you reached the standard or not, now it is less obvious. We all have an ideal of beauty and quality in our minds it’s how we allow this ideal to affect us that matters.

In university I took a class in Social Psychology, the one thing that stands out the most in my mind from that class was learning that when we date without realizing it we are attracted to people who are of a similar level of attractiveness. How interesting is that? It seems that we choose people who reach our breed standard. O.K., so this is one way we select our mates, does this also affect how we choose our friends? Our staff? I sure hope not. One would hope that we are not so shallow but could this be something completely unconscious? Tall men supposedly get more promotions (I cannot verify the veracity of this, it might just be another urban myth but it certainly seems possible) and according to Seinfeld (more scientific proof) beautiful people can get whatever they want. So what do we do with this perfection bias? When I turned 40 I finally gave myself the gift of self-acceptance. The freedom of no longer needing the approval of everyone. Take me as I am, or leave me it’s all fine. Not everyone needs to like me just as I don’t need to like everyone. I only hope that I am being fair and basing this like on important personality traits like kindness, empathy, generosity of spirit and sensitivity to name a few.

What is my point? I guess, we all have our breed standards, there may be no escaping it. The issue as always is, what are our standards based on and how does this affect our behaviour? Well, that’s how I see it. How do you see it?

Fresh Challah Not Frozen

As I have said in the past if I don’t make the challah we don’t eat it. So, in the spirit of giving I would like to share our family recipe with you. This was given to me by a friend and I adjusted it slightly. Our background is Polish so this is a SWEET challah. As a matter of fact, Destroy always asks me before he tastes any challah whether or not it has the secret ingredient in it. The secret ingredient is honey.

I throw all of the ingredients into my bread machine in the order in which they are given. I set it for dough only and then knead it and shape it. Most often I just make two loaves but there is enough dough for a nicely sized crown or even a six braided loaf. The baking instructions are for the loaves. If you should braid it, the bread will need to be tented or it will get too dark and of course it will need to bake longer. You will have to play it by ear.

Here goes, I hope you enjoy.

1/2 cup warm water

1/3 cup honey

2 tsp. sugar

1/4 cup vegetable oil

2 eggs + 1 yolk (I set aside the one egg white to make a wash for the top)

1 tsp. salt

3 1/2 cups flour

2 1/2 tsp. bread machine yeast

Knead. Let rise one hour in warm draft free kitchen. Brush with egg white which has been mixed with a few drops of water. Sprinkle with either poppy or sesame seeds.

My oven bakes it in 20 minutes at 325 degrees, the original recipe called for it to bake at 350 for 20 minutes, we do not like our challah overly browned. Did I need to tell you to preheat your oven?

If you try this, I hope it goes well for you. ┬áBread is so finicky I really don’t enjoy making it. I know that if the day is humid my dough will be much more difficult to work with. I just don’t know what to do about it, I’m assuming I should use less ┬áliquid I just don’t know how to adjust quantity to humidity. Enjoy.

Calgon Take Me Awaay

Winter break has begun. I love all vacation time. I love the lack of routine, sleeping in, staying up, renting movies, A Christmas Carol with Alistar Sims (‘I know nothing but now I know that I know nothing’ – I love that line) but most of all I love not making school lunches.

Cookies will be baked and delivered to neighbors. Family and friends will be visited. There will be much laughing, game playing, cheese nibbling and even a little tippling of girlie drinks. I hope there will be beautiful long snowy walks. Kids will be skiing, snowbarding and sledding. Hot chocolate will be consumed daily.

The counters have been cleared and organized, the mudroom is next. I already feel a sense of accomplishment.

The house will be full of kids, lots and lots of kids. There have already been two sleepovers and there will be more. Did I mention lots and lots of kids? Bubble baths will be necessary. You know I mean for me, right, not for the kids? What about girlie drinks in the bubble baths! Do real people do that? Real people who aren’t named Lola?

Either way, I love the holidays and I hope that every one enjoys his/her holiday as much as I enjoy mine.


I am not very good at holding my liquor. More than a thimbleful and I get flushed and start to feel sick. To me, alcohol is just not worth it. If I’m going to pick my poison it will be chocolate. My son came home from high school a couple of weeks ago quite freaked out about a very graphic film shown at an assembly hosted by M.A.D.D. (mothers against drunk driving). Now, I think this is a good thing to show to kids who are either learning to drive or have just begun to drive, but I am not going to put a M.A.D.D. ribbon on my car antenna. Does that mean that I am M.I.F.D.D., a mother in favour of drunk driving?

I also like pink and greatly support finding a cure for breast cancer but I do not own a pink blender, mixer, salad tongs, bracelet, pendant, t-shirt or gym bag. I do own a pink bra but, ironically none of the proceeds from the sale of it went to help find a cure for breast cancer. In fact, I would like to see cures discovered for all forms of cancer, I just don’t want to have to wear bracelets to prove it. I want to live strong without yellow rubber on my wrist.

I believe in the right to be yourself, I just don’t want to wear a
rainbow to prove it. I will take part in walkathons to help find cures for diabetes and for AIDS I just do not want to wear any ribbons on my sleeves. I would love to see Mashiach now but without a bumper sticker. I am proud of my kids’ grades and will be proud when they attend universities, but again without the bumper stickers.

I feel as though we have become a tell all society. Keep your plaques, ribbons, bracelets, bumper stickers and pink everything and just let me give in anonymity.

Friday Fiction?

I have been wanting to start a new weekly feature called Friday Fiction in which I would review a book a week and open the comments to literature discussions. However, this has not happened. It has not happened for a very good reason. Writing a book review is much harder than I realized. I had decided that my first review would be of my favourite Jane Austen novel, Persuasion. After all, who doesn’t love Jane Austen? So I wrote my review and I was really disappointed with it. How do you reveal the perfect amount of a book? Too much of the book and no one will want to read it, too little of the book and you can’t convey why it is so great. I just couldn’t translate my love of this novel into a succinct review. I’m not sure if I need to keep working at it or if I should try a different novel.

I think instead, what I would like to do is to address a genre of novel – the successful classic novel take off, or rip off as it might me called. Now, I speak only for myself, but what I would like to say is, just stop it. Please. Whether you have a classic heroine fighting zombies, finding a soul mate in Florida, becoming a long distance runner (come on!) or you are telling the story from the perspective of a different character, just don’t. The classic authors did it best, that is why they are classics. If Jane Austen had wanted the novel to be written from Darcy’s point of view SHE would have done that. How about you razzle dazzle us with a completely new story that has nothing to do with someone else’s brilliant writing. It is unlikely that your book will hold up to a classic and if you’re going to riff on a classic novel you better be prepared for the comparisons and the scrutiny.

Now, there are some people who love this kind of thing. There must be, or authors would not continue to write these spin offs but, I am not one of them and this is my blog. If you love these spin off novels I would love to hear why. If you agree with me I’d love to hear that too. I love hearing that I am sooo right but I’m also willing to try a novel if you can convince me that it really is worth the read.

In the mean time I have to decide what I want to do about the reviews. If I commit to them, that makes this blog a little more work and a little less fun, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Then there’s also the thought that there are already many, many reviews of books out there. I do love books, and I love discussing them which means that there will need to be comments. Are we up for that? When I say we, I mean you lurkers out there that my stats tell my exist. Have you got something to say for yourselves about books? To my regular commenters out there (all 5 of you) I’m counting on you. Are you up to the commitment?

I think I’ll work on a couple of reviews and see if I can crank out something that pleases me enough to post and we’ll go from there. I think I’ve just been talking out loud to myself in blog form.

Who Says?

My sister reported to me today that she just heard that the best thing that a person can do for herself to look good is to get a good night’s sleep. Aw come on!
Who says?
By what authority?
Can we negotiate here? I’ll trade you one good sleep for eight glasses of water and regular exercise. Please. I’ll even throw in some make up.
What about bran?
Omega fats?
Blueberries, pommegranites and acai berries?
I’ll even consider giving up caffeine (gulp).
Come on, work with me here. Anything but sleep.

It Was A Fine Assembly

Today I attended my daughter’s primary school Winter Festival Assembly. How’s that for political correctness? I have to say that I loved every second of it. I don’t know what has happened to me but these frivolous rites of passage always bring a tear or two to my eye. There is something so sweet and innocent about these assemblies that you cannot help but feel hopeful for the world if only for a few minutes.

Our community is very homogenous. Someone once said to me. “Oh, no we have a lot of variety here. ┬áThere are people with roots from England, Ireland, Scotland and France.” Yeah it’s a veritable U.N. So, imagine my surprise when one class (thankfully, it was one song per class, only) performed a Chanukah song complete with a hora, another sang a Kwanza song (the two black kids in the school were not in that class) and another class sang a Mexican Christmas song (not Feliz Navidad!) and yet another class sang a song in Dutch.

My all time favourite was the class that was so off key even I could tell. I say this because I am notoriously tone deaf. ┬áMany a laugh was had by my family over the years as they goaded me into singing Mares Eat Oats and Does Eat Oats. I no longer sing out loud. Once I made the mistake of singing in front of my husband, he laughed, looked at me and said, “Come on, let me hear you sing for real.” Thank you, very much. Anyway, I digress. What I want to say is that the off key class thrilled me. That even more than the international songs demonstrated to me how far our educational system has come since I was kid. Picture a little curly haired girl in grade one, excited to be in the choir, preparing for the big Christmas concert. Now picture that same girl as the choir teacher says to her, “I want you to just move your lips to the words, but don’t make any sound. That’s called mouthing the words, can you do that?”

I want to thank my parents. My very Jewish parents who came to every Christmas concert, sat there and watched me move my lips to the songs. It meant a lot to me then, it means even more to me now.

A Hebrew Teacher Like No Other

Even though we live far from a sizable Jewish community we always knew that one way or another we would make sure that our children received some form of a Jewish education. To say that this has not been easy is a huge understatement. There was a time that we feared that we would never find a decent teacher. I even flew to Montreal to take a course so that I could teach the children.

This story is about what has to be our worst experience as far as teachers are concerned. It was many years ago and although some of the details have become hazy I swear to you I have not made any of it up. I could not make this up.

The two families who were serching for a teacher decided that we needed some help in finding one, so I contacted Jewish Congress. After a while they informed me that they found someone who was in Australia at the moment but was planning on coming to Canada. We were very happy as it was extremely difficult to find someone willing to come up north. At some point, a little late in the game we contacted our cousin, a law professor in Australia, and asked her to see if she could check into this man for us. A while later we received an email back from our cousin saying that she would contact us again very soon as we were heading into Rosh Hashana but that she had discovered some information and we should hang tight for now. Chag Sameach.. We were forced to wait. So we continued with the plan to bring him out and to continue checking him out. Somehow I was elected the person to drive to Toronto, pick him up and bring him back here. I picked him up, no problem. ┬áHe was nice enough. There had been a delay as to when he was ready to come up. In the car, on the long ride home, he told me that he had had some trouble at the airport with some religious texts that he was bringing in and that was what caused the delay. He chalked it up to antisemitism. I was both shocked and upset, that just shouldn’t happen here in this day and age. I suggested filing a formal complaint but he just wanted to let it go. At some point during the drive I got that uncomfortable feeling as I thought about driving alone in a car with an absolute stranger. As the drive progressed he became more and more excited with the landscape and soon began talking about settling in our city. Once home I told my husband how this struck me as strange. How do you come to a new country, not know anybody and not know anything about where you’re going and suddenly decide that this is where you want to live. He had a fiancee and said that he planned on bringing her out, I think he said that she was in Mexico. We got him to our home and had the families involved over to meet him. ┬áHe played his guitar, sang with the kids and in general was very charming. Everybody liked him.

Within a couple of days we received an email from our cousin in Australia. From what she could discover it seems that he was wanted in Australia for trying to embezzle widows there out of money. We then received a phone call from the bank to confirm that my husband cosigned on a loan for the teacher. We put an immediate stop to that. Then the police phoned us. Another family had called them as he tried to involve them in some banking and they wanted him checked out. ┬áThe police checked him out and then wanted to speak to us as it turned out that he was wanted by Interpol. Interpol! I thought they just existed in spy movies. The police wanted this guy and they needed us to not blow it for them. ┬áI guess they were successful as we soon after got a call from the jailhouse to ask if we would be a character witness. ┬áNow, I definitely witnessed a real character but I don’t think that this was what he had in mind. ┬áI actually delivered his guitar to the jail and that was pretty much the last we heard of him. He left the city and I think was set loose in Canada. I’m not really sure. I tried calling Congress to give them a heads up so that if he tried to work his way into another community they would be forewarned. ┬áSurprisingly enough Congress was not appreciative and refused to speak to me.

We would continue our hunt for a teacher on our own, we certainly couldn’t do any worse. We may have done more weird but we certainly didn’t do more criminal. I guess that’s something.