Wednesday, August 10, 2011

check out my new blog!

I've decided to archive my Shabbat (and Yom Tov) menus via blog. Here's a link to the new blog:

KosherAcademic's 52 weeks of Shabbat menus

Come and check it out!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Friday Update, Parshat Behar

Thank G-d it’s Friday! It’s been a very, very busy week for us here. HaSafran had a very large and complicated report due today at work, so he’s been working hard on it all week. I managed to finish half of my comprehensive journal on Wednesday. I did this in about 4 weeks time total, which is just unheard of AFAIK. In addition, on Monday I went to a conference, and on Tuesday evening HaSafran and I got to go out to dinner—the organizers of the conference (colleagues/professors from another university here in town) invited myself and Hasafran to join them and the other conference participants for dinner at one of newest kosher restaurants in town. We had a lovely time; the food was good, the ambiance was great, and the conversation was fabulous. We sat at a table with 8 other academics. In the meantime, I’ve been continuing to work hard on the journal, although I will have to switch gears soon as I begin teaching my summer class in a little over 3 weeks.

Claire’s grade started the 6th grade standardized testing this week. She’s been relatively nonchalant about it—but I think it is because it’s all been English language thus far. JR and Zoe have been well, with nothing out of the ordinary to report.

On Tuesday I took Claire and JR to the Israel Day rally. I don’t like going to anything where there’s a big crowd, and this wasn’t different. However, seeing all the Israeli flags waving, and being among the 12,000 people who turned out for the rally was pretty powerful. (Although I did get a sunburn. Ugh.) Best of all, it’s been gorgeous all week—beautiful blue skies, light breezes. Just stunning. I’m trying to soak in the rest of it now, because it’s supposed to be rainy on and off for the next TWO weeks. Ew.

That’s about all there is to report on this end. I’ve got chocolate chip cookies in the oven, so I’m going to have to run in a minute anyway.

And for those of you wondering how Mother’s Day went, it was exactly what I asked for! HaSafran kept the kids busy so I could work, he ordered pizza and poutine for lunch, and he grilled for dinner. He also bought me a French press, the same one I had over Pesach that I enjoyed so much. The Z-girl made me a jewelry box, and JR made me a beautiful card. (Apparently the 6th graders were too busy preparing for the provincial exams to make things for their moms. C’est la vie.)

Friday, May 6, 2011

Friday Update, Parshat Emor

For some time now I've been sending out Friday family updates to our friends and family. In only recently occurred to me that this might be a good thing to add to the blog. So here's the first from this week, and we'll see how it goes from there.

Happy Friday! It is *finally* sunny here, after almost a full week of lousy, rainy weather. I don’t know if it is going to last, but I’m definitely planning on kicking the kids outside to play while the weather permits.

It has been, for all intents and purposes, a fairly uneventful, standard week for all of us. So there isn’t much to report. I am continuing to plan my trip to Europe—just this week I purchased my last plane ticket, this one from Milan to London. Now its time to work out all the various details—the latest being where I am going to be for Shabbat while in the UK. I was going to stay in London, but I just received an invitation from a friend to spend the weekend in Cambridge, so I will more than likely do that once I work out the details.

For my first Shabbat, I will be in Vencie with a good friend who will also be there (for a different conference). The kids are very excited about this, especially since Zoë recently received Olivia Goes to Venice from her Bubbe and Zayde Rabba. In recognition of that, Zoë has informed me that I should get a picture with Olivia if I see her there. (The conversation was a little strange in the beginning, when she asked me “are there pigs in Venice?” out of the blue. It took a few more questions to determine she was talking about Olivia and not questioning the animal make-up of the city, lol.) Also, since Olivia and her family eat lots of gelato in the book, I was informed that for dessert this week I was going to make gelato. (Zoë and JR both requested I bring some back from Venice, but after nixing that, this was their next best solution.)

On Sunday HaSafran took the Z girl and visited the local farmers market for the first time this season. While there wasn’t a lot of produce yet, they had a lovely time, and HaSafran found where he could get jicama when it is in season, something he hasn’t been able to find since we moved here.

Otherwise, it’s been a very mellow, and, well, typical week for us. Here's wishing everyone a beautiful weekend full of sunshine!

How they grow

I am well aware that my youngest, my Z girl, will be 5 in a few short weeks. That's right, my baby will be 5, will be starting kindergarten in the fall. However, last night I was almost in tears over this very fact, and it was brought on by something totally silly. Zoe woke up crying, as she does periodically, as she has night terrors (which thankfully have lessened as she's gotten older). Most of the time when this happens, we go in to her, but if you know anything about night terrors, you know there isn't much you can do. Still, as a parent, I can't just ignore it, so we go in to see if there IS anything we can do. So last night she woke up, crying, but before I had the chance to go to her, she stopped. It was quiet for a minute or two, then I heard her walking around. She came to the top of the stairs and called to me, "Maman, will you please come lay down with me for a few minutes?"

I realize this in and of itself is not a big deal, but really, my baby is old enough to request my presence in the middle of the night. She's grown enough to ask nicely, to not just cry until she gets her way. Again, I know this is not such a big deal, but the situation really drove home the fact that she is growing up rather quickly.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


Wow, it has been a while since I've posted. I will try and do so more regularly. In the meantime, I took it on to declutter my closet. Here are the before and after photos:

Closet before Decultter:
Closet AFTER Declutter:
I suppose it doesn't look like THAT big of a difference, but I cleared out over a foot of clothes! There's a handful (perhaps 5 items) that I'm keeping in storage, and if I don't take them out in the next 6 months I'm going to part with them, but I'm not quite ready to give them up yet. However, the rest got donated, so I am FREE from them.

I didn't photograph it, but I also did the same for my shoes, my hats, and ALL of my drawers. It was hard, but I felt SO good the next day!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Happy 13th anniversary

Just wanted to wish a happy anniversary to HaSafran. Our 13th anniversary was actually yesterday, March 22. We enjoyed a fabulous steak dinner and drinks to go with it, a real treat. We also did a little addition, and came up with the following:
  • 19 jobs
  • 10 college/university affiliations
  • 7 apartments
  • 7 automobiles
  • 4+ degrees
  • 3 kids
  • 3 cities
  • 2 countries
  • 2 states
  • 1 province
  • 13+ years and counting!

Minimalist Living

I love the idea of cutting back, cutting down, getting rid of all the "extras". That being said, I think that there is a balance to it--I have no intention of cutting down my belongings to 100 or less items, the way many of the extreme minimalists live. But I think our society encourages consumerism and having 'stuff' and, when it comes down to it, this is not a good way to live--just trying to get the next thing, the better thing, getting more (or better?) stuff. It just isn't the way I'd like to live my life.

What got me thinking about this was a recent article in from the Minimalist Mom, who has her own blog here. It is inspiriting to begin cutting things down, cutting things out.

Then again, Pesach is coming very soon, so that will take priority, of course!

G-d willing I will post Purim pictures soon. HaSafran and I both dressed up for the first time in our marriage.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Happy 9th Birthday, JR

9 years ago today my precocious son was born at 2:01am. Read his birth story here. Also 9 years ago, as I lay in bed recovering from the l&d, my new son sleeping near-by, HaSafran calls me (I had sent him home for some sleep and a shower). The conversation:

HS: You have mail. From Brandeis.
Me: So?
HS: I'm opening it. Dear KA, We are pleased to inform you of our acceptance into our Masters program...etc.
Me: What?
HS: Brandeis accepted you to their grad program, honey.
Me: Oh. I can't deal with this today. Can't you tell me tomorrow?

Brandeis was the first of 4 fabulous offers to Masters programs, and some truly difficult decisions--not only about whether we would move away from Chicago, or which school I would go to, but also whether or not this was the life we wanted to pursue for our family. We knew that if we made that decision that we were trading the steady 2-person income, the mortage and 2-car family for a harder (especially financially) academic lifestyle. (I wonder if I should stop speaking in the pluarl now, although I do think HaSafran would agree with me.) While it hasn't been an easy road, I feel truly blessed to have made the decisions we made, to be where I am (and where we are) today. We have B"H a wonderful family, and both HaSafran and I are doing something we love. The kids seem to be thriving (although Claire still does hate French; I'm not sure if that will ever go away). Thank G-d, we are a content family.

Ultimately, my kids' birthdays are days, for me, not only of celebration, but also reflection on the decisions we have made, on the people and family we have become, and on how we are raising our children. JR is a lovely and precocious young man, smart, exhausting, silly, and all things wonderful.

Happy birthday!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Double Chocolate-Orange Torte

Anyone following me on twitter may have seen the picture of the quite yummy-looking chocolate orange cake I made last week for Shabbat. As promised, I'm posting the recipe here.

Double Chocolate-Orange Torte

3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1.5 tsp baking powder
.5 tsp baking soda
.5 tsp salt
.5 cup butter or margarine
1 cup sugar
4 eggs
2 Tbs. orange liqueur (like cointreau; you can probably substitute OJ)
1/2 cup water
1 Tbs finely shredded orange peel
1 Tbs orange liqueur
1 Tbs orange juice
1/2 cup orange marmalade

Chocolate Icing & Chocolate Curls

1/3 cup whipping cream (like Rich's Whip)
1 Tbs light-colored corn syrup
6 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped OR 1 cup semisweet chocolate pieces (ie chocolate chips)
Bar of Semisweet Chocolate for chocolate curls
  1. Grease and flour an 8x8x2 inch baking pan (square or round, your choice); set aside. In a heavy saucepan place chopped unsweetened chocolate over low heat, stirring constantly, until chocolate just starts to melt. Remove from heat. Stir until smooth; cool. Stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl beat the butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add sugar; beat until well combined. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each. Beat in chocolate and the 2 Tbs liqueur. Add flour mixture and water alternately to egg mixture, beating on low speed after each addition just until combined. Stir in orange peel. Pour batter into the prepared pan.
  3. Bake at 350 about 35 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool cake on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Loosen edges of cake with a spatula. Invert onto wire rack. Remove the pan. Cool cake thoroughly on wire rack.
  4. Combine the 1 Tbs liqueur and orange juice. Split cake in half horizontally (if you don't know how to do this, you can google for instructions/video). Sprinkle each cut side with half of the liqueur mixture. Place bottom half of cake, cut side up, on a platter; spread the marmalade evenly on top. Top with remaining cake layer, cut side down.
  5. Prepare Chocolate icing: In a heavy small saucepan combine whipping cream and corn syrup. Bring just to boiling, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Stir in 6 oz (or 1 cup) semisweet chocolate, stirring until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth. Cool to room temperature. Stir before using.
  6. Frost the cake with icing. Decorate sides OR top with chocolate curls pressed gently into icing.

To make chocolate curls: take the bar of chocolate and your vegetable peeler, and peel chocolate curls off of it. If they are too fragile to pick up, you can refrigerate them until they are firmer before pressing gently into frosting.

Note: You could also easily substitute the orange flavor with another flavor such as raspberry; just replace the liqueur with raspberry liqueur and use seedless raspberry preserves.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Claire's bat mitzvah speech

As you know from a previous post, Claire has to give a 2 minute speech at her grade 6 class bat mitzvah. It ends up she turned in the topic before discussing it with me, so I didn't have much opportunity to decide about any agenda I wanted to get across.

Still, she decided on the topic of Miriam and shirat hayam (Exodus 15:20-21).

I don't recall writing before about the homework situation that we parents have to deal with, but I can touch upon it briefly here (and hope to write more about it in the future). Basically, many parents, at least at the school my kids are at, seem to think they can do their kids' homework, especially the projects. HaSafran and I feel very differently than this--what's the point of them getting the homework to learn, if we do it for them? That doesn't mean we don't help them--we do, but we limit it to helping them rather than doing it for them.

All that being said, things like this, like asking an 11-or-12 year old to write a 2 minute speech that is cohesive and interesting, without any guidance, is just ridiculousness. It happens I can manage, and hopefully I have begun to teach her about how to research for and write a speech. But what about all those other parents who aren't well-versed in these things? Shouldn't it be that if the teachers at this age are going to give an assignment like this, that they teach the kids how to do it? Or at least offer some guidance? (In all fairness, I'm not sure what the teacher told them, Claire just came home and said she had to write a 2 minute speech and this was her topic.)

Anyhoo, Claire's speech was 1 of 2 out of the 19 in the class that doesn't need to be worked on further. And the teacher asked her to ask me if I would help edit the other girls' speeches. I am flattered...but I don't think I have the time to teach them all how to do this!

After the bat mitzvah I will ask Claire if we can post the speech to the blog. While I did heavily edit it for her, against my general better judgment, the majority of the work is hers--I assisted her with the research, made her write up rough drafts, which I edited, then had her write more, and then edited those, and then she read it out loud and I timed it, and together we edited it more so it would be about the right length. (It is still a little long, about 3 minutes, but we're getting there!)