family fun · gardening · Jewy goodness · Kids · parenting · The COVID files

Day 23: Planting seeds

IMG_3053I got fed up with my kids pretty early on today. It started out well, with two of them helping me to plant some seeds for an indoor start, but they wandered away, bored, after 10 minutes. I was able to lure E back and she helped me tidy up. N was not interested. And R…

R said “no” to every request I made for her to help. Clean out the car? Nope. Put away the seed starter? Nope. Tidy up last night’s blanket fort mess? Nope. Do some laundry? Get the crumbs out from under the stove? Re-shelve the board games? Nope, nope, and nope.

So I had a serious cuddle and talk with her (and invited N and E to join as well):

“You know the story of the old man who was planting an apple seed, and someone asked him why he’s bothering since he will never eat the apples himself? And he answers that even if he never eats the fruit, his children and grandchildren will?

“Well, everything you have and enjoy is here because someone did work that didn’t necessarily benefit them directly. The entire world works on that basis. People make countries and laws and roads and all kinds of things for future generations.

“You’re old enough now to start planting some seeds of your own. You need to start doing things that help other people, and not just yourself. Understand?”

They nodded solemnly. Only time will tell if they’ve internalized any of that, but I’ve said my piece.




I went out and finished cleaning the car, which at this point meant emptying the basket we had used for last year’s road trip in place of the console (am I the only one who thinks those consoles waste a ton of space?) I won’t go into too much detail; suffice it to say that I found a few things that could be science projects or even the start of penicillin. In the end it was all removed, including the basket, and I cleaned up the console and put it back. And do you know what I found inside?

My old iPhone. The one with music on it that isn’t available on my new iPhone, even though I bought said music from the iTunes store with the same Apple ID. The kids plugged it into the charger and triumphantly told me that it was still working. They’re upstairs right now, happy as the proverbial clams, listening to Ragtime (the musical.) Amazing how much joy they’re getting out of an iPhone 4 with a smashed screen.



Passover begins in 48 hours and aside from buying three cases of matzo and a can of matzo ball mix, I’ve done nothing to prepare. It was my favourite holiday for a long time, but right now it feels like too much work. I asked Mr. December whether, in lieu of reading the maggid section of the haggadah, we could just watch Prince of Egypt with the kids. The point is to tell the story, right?



The evening was going well and I didn’t want to screw that up. Mr. December had an evening meeting for work, so he sequestered himself in his home office. I decided to do the only thing that guarantees the children’s participation and satisfaction. Yes, it was time for a Snacktivity™! We spent the last hour before bedtime making chocolate chip cookies and then eating them (and licking the bowl and spatula, of course.)

K quietly pulled me aside during her siblings’ bedtime routine and asked if we could play a game together. I think she’s regretting it now — I kicked her butt at Azul. Twice. At least she enjoyed her tea and the extra cookies I let her have.

It was a good day. Sunshine, productive work, some musical favourites, cookies, and a game. Maybe that needs to be my daily plan from now on.


crafty · DIY · gardening · Montessori · weight loss · Work-in-progress Wednesday

Work-in-Progress Wednesday: “crying baby at midnight” edition

We were all tucked into bed, R sleeping happily. Then she woke up and swiped at my back. Ouch. I think I need to cut her nails.

So it’s past midnight, which makes it Thursday, but I haven’t slept yet so I’ll pretend it’s still Wednesday.

The insanely warm weather this week has drawn me outside to do much-needed things like cleaning the interior of the car and tidying and scrubbing the front porch. It’s amazing how a shift in weather shifts my priority list of tasks. It feels a bit absurd, but here’s the rundown of my last known task list:

Still in progress: Weight Watchin’

Despite a lack of effort on my part, today I weighed in at 16 pounds less than my starting weight. Some of that is what Mr. December calls “noise”: at least a pound can be attributed to the lightweight summer clothes I wore today. Still, 15 pounds feels kind of significant. Hopefully I’ll be able to put some concerted effort into it this week.

No progress: Photo Books

Really, why would I spend more time indoors on my computer when there’s outdoor work to be done? At this rate I need to schedule some time to put the thing together. Maybe next week when it’s cooler outside…

No progress: Library doors

See “Photo Books”

Still in progress: Kids’ table

We’ve used our kids’ table for a while now (in its unfinished glory) and I’ve identified a design flaw, so I have to figure out a different way to attach the legs. On the upside, I purchased a wood rasp (or as my friend Bill over at Lowes called it, “a cheese grater on steroids”) and was finally able to file down the plugs so that they’re even with the rest of the table apron. I’ve also begun filling the gaps and holes with wood putty, and sanding the whole thing in preparation for staining and painting. This is my go-to project right now, since I can do it outside in the sunshine. I’ll have more progress to report next week, for sure.

In progress: spring planting

Mr. December is quick to caution me that we may still have a freeze, but I’m not buying it. That’s why starting tomorrow I’ll be cleaning up the garden beds in the front and planting seeds. This year we’ll keep our vegetable planting small and manageable and devote the large front bed to flowers. I’ve also picked up some low-growing perennials to fill out our rock garden. By next week I want to have all the beds and containers prepared and sown with the appropriate seeds.


That’s it for now. Nothing major, just chugging along.

Oh, and for those interested in posts about teaching kids Jewish values, check out this post over at my Montessori blog. I wasn’t quite sure where to post it and Montessori won out, but I think a lot of this blog’s readers would enjoy it as well.

What did you do this week? And for those in Toronto, what is the sunshine-induced-insanity making you do?

DIY · family fun · gardening · Holidays Jewish and holidays not. · Jewy goodness · Kids · what's cookin'

“Mummy, where do latkes come from?”

Well, when a potato and an onion that we harvest from the garden love each other very much…

They want to be as close together as possible. So they jump through the food processor and into the bowl, where we mix them up up until they can’t be separated:

Then they usually like to take a bath together in some hot olive oil…

And then they’re together for always.

Now let’s eat!

Happy Chanuka from all of us at Sweet & Crunchy with a Jewy Centre!

DIY · gardening · Jewy goodness · Kids

On weeds and wildflowers

I love having cut flowers in the house. I know quite a few people who don’t, but I do. Especially for shabbat and holidays.

When we lived downtown I used to walk to the flower markets every Friday. It was like a dream come true – four (sometimes five) flower markets with dozens of varieties just hanging out in buckets, waiting to be chosen. I went home with something different every time.

Over time I’ve come to prefer wildflowers to the cultivated ones, though. The shift might have started when a friend blogged about the cultivated flower industry and how far those flowers have to be transported. I’m not sure. I do remember clearly that I started to really appreciate wildflowers the summer that our municipal workers went on strike. You see, they didn’t cut the grass in the parks for at least six weeks (was it longer?), and so all the “weeds” started to grow and flower. From dandelions (which are quite beautiful if you put aside your prejudices) to beautiful blue chicory, K and I picked them all and took them home to put in vases.

Thus began my tradition of picking our shabbat flowers with the kids instead of buying them. Sometimes we pick flowers growing out of the cracks in a nearby alleyway, sometimes they’re from our garden, but they’re almost never the cultivated varieties that I used to buy. Some of them, like the wild mustard, are commonly considered weeds even though they look beautiful in a vase paired with my shasta daisies.

There is something satisfying about picking our own flowers from what God has allowed to flourish without conscious watering or cultivation. It seems to suit the spirit of shabbat – what we have is beautiful, and on shabbat we can appreciate the world as God made it rather than as people use their power to change it. I just love it. And I love coming to the table and seeing something like this:












First Fruit

Look what we picked off our very own peach tree today!

It tasted even better than it looked. I may have used the words “gastronomic orgasm” to describe the experience.

This was one of only two peaches we allowed to grow this year (we picked off most of the budding fruit so that the tree would spend its energy developing a healthy root system). I can’t wait for future harvests!

crafty · gardening · goodbye clutter! · Work-in-progress Wednesday

Work-in-Progress Wednesday – June 8 edition

This week Wednesday is coming a little late. We celebrated Shavuot from Tuesday evening until about half an hour ago, so I wasn’t able to post on Wednesday. All the pics and status updates were current as of Tuesday, though, so I met my deadlines.

By the way, I know people are out there, quietly doing their thing… how about bragging about it on your blog or in my comments section? I want more WIP Wednesday participants so that I have more blogs to visit. Pleeease?

And now, the reveal:

Completed: Rock garden stage 1

The entire rock garden, as I envision it, will take us a long time to create. But stage one is done, thanks to Mr. December’s tireless work carting rocks around and digging up the sod. Please excuse the two plastic bags in the background – they’re killing the grass for the next stage of digging.

Here it is…

Not quite completed: Lunchtime placemats

It took me forever to finish the fringes on one placemat because the fabric just doesn’t fray that easily. Lesson learned – from now on, only woven cottons are to be used for placemats. Either that, or I’ll have to abandon my trademark fringe. The other problem also seems related to the fabric I used; the heat-activated adhesive doesn’t seem to stick very well, meaning that the ribbon stripes are starting to come off. They’re sewn into the seams at each end, but I think I’ll have to take a couple of minutes to actually sew the ribbons to the placemat.

I tried to carve out some time to finish these before Shavuot began, but I wasn’t able to.

Here’s a pic of them anyway:


In progress: calendar corner

The tiny corner of my kitchen where the calendar lives is a mess. This week I’m going to organize it so that it becomes almost mess-proof. Here’s the “before”:

In progress: personal info binders

Some people are file folder people while others like binders. I’m definitely a binder girl. My big project this week is to create a binder for each person in our family that can hold school info, medical info, copies of health cards, that kind of thing. It’s not a huge project, but definitely one that needs to get done.

That’s it for me. What are you working on this week?

DIY · gardening · Work-in-progress Wednesday

Work in Progress Wednesday – June 1 edition

It’s still Wednesday for another two hours, right?

In WIP Wednesday news, Bookishima had a bit of a setback with her bilingual garden markers, and she tried to call it a fail, but we know better. Right? Sometimes you have to re-tool a project numerous times until it really works. Take my bed, for example. We’ve known for a couple of years that the slat supports were failing, and we tried to fix them – twice. You know how that ended (I told you last week… our bed broke). But last week I committed to really, truly fixing it.

Mr. December and I examined all the options. We took a look at all the directions in which the supports had to withstand force. We debated construction techniques. And then I went down to my workshop and had some fun. It’s my pleasure to present to you…

Completed: Our no-longer-broken bed!

Using lumber that the lovely guys at Lowe’s cut to my specs, I built three rectangular boxes, open on one side. It was another grand opportunity to use my countersink bits, and I enjoyed every moment of it. For those of you who need me to draw you a picture:

Yes, it’s really just a box, reinforced on the ends with a bit of thin plywood so that the legs can’t splay or twist no matter how much force is exerted. As I said, I built three of these. Then we placed them underneath the slats that support the mattress, like so:

See them there? We screwed one or two slats into each box so the boxes wouldn’t slide around. We replaced the mattress. And then K, who was begging us the entire time to let her help, asked if she could jump on the bed. I figured that if IKEA tests their work like this (okay, with machines that don’t pee their pants, but still…) then we could too. Here’s a shot of our Quality Assurance team putting the mattress through its paces:

The bed didn’t creak, groan, moan, or crack. Not once (and that’s a good thing for mommies and daddies who “love each other very much”, if you know what I mean). The mattress no longer dips when we climb into bed at night.  And I no longer fall asleep wondering if this will be the night that I heave myself onto my other side and end up breaking the bed.

Not completed: basement workshop organization

Sorry, everybody. It’s been too beautiful outside, and I’ve been too tired, to spend much time in the basement sorting ten different kinds of drill bits and the like. I’m going to put this project off indefinitely not because I really want to, but because there are a couple of more urgent projects demanding my time…

In Progress: lunchtime placemats

Remember the placemat I made for K’s classmate’s birthday gift? Well, I need to do it again. Three times. K was invited to these birthday parties and then ended up being way too sick to go, which meant that I excused myself from having to pull an all-nighter to make sure that the gifts were ready. But I still want her to give them, and as school ends in a few weeks it really has to be done now. I don’t plan to use up any really nice outdoor time, but the next super-hot day this week will be spent in my nice, cool (messy) workshop finishing up.

In Progress: rock garden plantings

We still have a number of small plants that need to go into the ground, and our rock garden needs lots of work. My clear goal for the week is to get all of the plants into their final homes. Beyond that, I’ll update you on our progress.


Well, that’s it! Don’t forget that you can always join me for a WIP Wednesday. All you need is to leave a comment (or write a blog post) stating what goal you’re going to accomplish by next Wednesday, and link your blog post back to this one so that your readers can get inspired by other WIPers.

Now go forth and get cracking!

gardening · Just the two of us · Kids

Not tonight, dear. I have a headache.

Poor Mr. December. Every night he asks me to garden with him, just for a little bit. And every night I’m too tired, or my head hurts, or I’m having crazy round ligament pain. And so the plants that I bought a while back become more and more root-bound, and my longed-for rock garden (to replace the lawn which we hate caring for) is still a dream. Oh, and I still have a headache.

In other news, N has dropped drastically on the growth curve (he used to be on the 25th percentile, now he’s below the 5th) and this is the second month that the doctor has “given” him to fatten up before she starts some other investigations or referrals or diagnostic stuff or whatever it is doctors do when they decide your baby is too small. For the record, he’s developmentally on track, babbling and cruising, eating, laughing… you get the idea. He’s a healthy, active boy. Nevertheless, the words “failure to thrive” got thrown around a bit and then dismissed… temporarily.

We’re doing all the things parents do to fatten their kid up. We feed him full-fat yogurt and avocados, I make his oatmeal and mashed potatoes with heavy cream, and we’ve even taken to adding an extra scoop of formula when we mix up a bottle for him (my hatred of formula is a topic for another day, but if I haven’t mentioned it yet my milk supply disappeared early on in my pregnancy.) Still, he’ll eat what he wants and not a drop more. What’s a mom to do?

Folks, it’s too hot to blog, so I’ll end here. WIP Wednesday is tomorrow – are you ready to join me?

el cheapo · gardening

Plant swap, anyone?

I need a plant swap.

I’m feeling too cheap to go and buy a whole bunch of groundcovers and tiny alpine plants, but I need some for the rock garden we want to put in. Yes, a rock garden. We’re just not lawn people, our neighbours are, and I think it would just be simpler if they had something pretty to look at instead of our poorly-tended lawn. Besides, I generally view lawns as a massive waste of resources. Put in some native plants, people!

Back to the plant swap…

I’m looking for some ferns, periwinkle, irish or scotch moss, alyssum, and anything else you think would look good among rocks and gravel. So… if any Toronto-area readers have these things and want to get rid of them, maybe in exchange for some roses or hydrangeas, let me know. I really need a plant fix.