Sunday, December 30, 2012

Oooh, Shiny! Or, A Farewell to Blogger

ShinyYes, I have a shiny new blog over on my new website. Blogger really jumped the shark for me the other day when I was trying to insert a screen shot of my Facebook page. It jumped all over the screen and the formatting was just horrible. I'm done.

So, this is the last blogpost I'll be writing on this site. I will set up some kind of redirect to send you to the right place in future, but please come over there and subscribe! All the old posts are there in case you want to find something.

In a way I'm quite sad to be leaving this familiar forum, but I'm also excited to be making my own new one (first need to learn quite a bit more about Wordpress!).

Wishing everyone a wonderful, healthy, successful and productive New Year! I love you all.

What I've Been Doing

Construction WorkSo, I asked everyone to like my FB page, and I had a wonderful response that warmed the cockles of my heart. Then I went quiet. So, what's going on?

There are several things on the go. First of all, my little tutoring/editing/web support business has been dormant for a while, and I need to revive it. I can't go into details but let's just say employment in my family, which was stable for nearly twenty years, has become precarious. It's a difficult time for us and I need to look into doing my share. It was one of the reasons I got the B.Ed., but that path has turned out, for a variety of reasons, not to be very fruitful so far.

In support of this endeavour, I'm starting a self-hosted website, and while I'm not ready to share it just yet (to be honest, the construction there is not unlike this picture at the moment), it is gobbling up lots of my time. This blog will also be moving to Wordpress at the same time - I had a traumatic experience with Blogger trying to use a screen shot of my FB page for the previous post, and it really accelerated my desire to get off this platform and onto one I can control better. Of course, to do that I have to learn how to control it. How wonderful that I just finished an HTML/CSS course!

There are also three kids off school who seem to think they have some claim to my time. Don't know where they got that idea, silly people.

So I just want to wish everyone a healthy, happy, productive 2013, and may we all get to pursue our heart's desire. Talk to you on the other side.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Like my Facebook Page?

facebook logoI've added another step on my journey to creating a web presence that will allow me to reach people and offer them my services. I've made a Facebook page for my blog. It used to be that FB would allow you to post blog posts directly to the page, but they've decided, in their infinite wisdom, to disable that feature. That's OK - I do see their point that they were getting too many automated feeds and not enough interactivity. I love talking with you guys, so it's all good.

I'm struggling with all kinds of silly issues - too many names, to begin with. This blog is called My Coat of Many Colours, because my life and my thoughts are so eclectic. My gmail address and Twitter handle involve the name Lionsima, which I've been using for many years and would be reluctant to give up. In the past, I've claimed Beenah Communications as a business name. Following the advice of Dean Dwyer and others, I've claimed as my domain name. Decisions, decisions.

Thank you for travelling this road with me. Any thoughts or suggestions you might have as I learn how to do all of this stuff would be very welcome.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

May I Help You?

Happy Happy Cookie
I wrote a huge long post about things that make me happy, and it made me realise that aside from the obvious such as hanging out with my family, there really are two main things that make me light up. So I deleted everything else and I'm just going to concentrate on those two.

One is learning new things. Some of the happiest times of my life have been when I was a student. Lord knows I'm not wishing to go back to college a la Avenue Q. I mostly enjoy being a grown-up and cooking is definitely one of the joys of my life. But researching, learning, acquiring new skills and using that big brain of mine, so woefully under-stimulated most days, really make me happy. So obviously I need to look for something that allows or even requires me to do that. I've been taking online Continuing Education courses in Technical Communication from my local college and they have made my life so much better. Learning new things was the one part of my life as a research scientist that I loved.

The other thing that makes me happy is helping people. Someone asks for a recipe and woosh, just like that, I can Google it for them. I can teach people to make sauerkraut. I can help them set up a website or Facebook page. I can edit their writing. I've supported a university professor in using Learn. I've tutored high school students. I volunteer for my kids' school and my synagogue as a coordinator, making sure volunteers are in the right place at the right time. I love doing all of that. It isn't even the thanks and kudos, although of course those are very pleasant. It's the act of ascertaining a need and fulfilling it. Helping people was the one part of my job as a high school teacher that I loved.

All of this makes me think that I need to look actively for people to help. I can research topics and write reports about them. I am learning new skills such as website design (in which I've recently finished a course), editing and proofreading (ditto). I should learn more about Excel and Wordpress and find people who need help with them. Because I can learn quickly and well, and many people have less time and inclination than I do for these things.

So, I'll be setting up a website for these things, and I hope you will consider coming to visit, and maybe sending your friends. I would love to help you if I can.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Top 5 reasons to love your SCOBY

Andrea's gift
Andrea's Gift
This post is something of an experiment. While SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) has become a bit of a dirty word in blogging recently, I believe there's nothing wrong with making cosmetic changes that increase the chance that people will find and read what you have to say.

One kind of post title that people appear to like promises a list of reasons for something. I've been meaning to write a post about the joys of the fermentation community for a while, and the original title of this post was "It takes a village to grow a SCOBY". But I'm going to use the list format, instead. Tell me whether you like it and I should do more of them, or you think it is just gimmicky.

Just to remind you, a SCOBY is a Symbiotic Colony Of Bacteria and Yeast. The acronym usually refers to the culture used in making kombucha, but milk kefir and water kefir grains are also SCOBYs. Yoghurt cultures are not.

5. While there isn't much scientific proof of the benefits of fermented drinks such as kombucha and kefir, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that people with gut issues who drink kombucha seem to feel better. That is certainly true in my case. There was a scare a few years ago in which the FDA linked deaths to kombucha, but there doesn't seem to have been any conclusive evidence there. I've never felt ill after drinking my home-brew. It's also a great source of B vitamins. Of course it is important to make sure everything is clean, etc. - well, duh. They haven't warned people off Pepsi yet, because, you know, it doesn't do anything bad to you.

4. Even if you, like me, can't drink cultured milk directly, you can still make wonderful dairy products with it. I made the most amazing cultured butter from local organic milk I had fermented with milk kefir grains. It tasted just as good as the store-bought butter brought in from Quebec, and was considerably cheaper, which you can't always say for home-made stuff. Just as an aside, if I were able to access raw milk in Manitoba it is entirely possible that I would be able to drink the milk kefir. Again, there hasn't been much scientific research but I've heard many anecdotal reports of people who were supposedly intolerant of dairy doing just fine with the unpasteurised version. Again, you need to make sure everything is clean and safe. Well, duh.

3.  There is something very magical about watching the slow transformation of sweet tea into something resembling cider. You plop your little alien-looking colony into the tea, cover the jar and put it in a warm place. After about a week you will have a new baby SCOBY to share with your friends, and a yummy drink to put into bottles for a second fermentation with fruit or herbs. I usually use blueberries, strawberries or ginger. It's incredibly delicious. Even if it didn't have a single health benefit, it just tastes so nice, especially first thing in the morning. Move over, grapefruit juice.

2. It does take patience, whether you are making kefir or kombucha. You can't hurry it up, although you can slow it down by keeping it in a temperature that is too low. I usually put my jar in the oven with just the light on (and a BIG sign on the door to prevent me from cooking my ferments!). Having to wait on nature is good for the soul in these frenzied times. It can be quite zen.

1. Best of all, you get to interact with an amazing community of fellow enthusiasts. You can't buy a SCOBY in the supermarket. There are websites out there which will sell one to you, but it is much more fun to get one from a local person. I was fortunate to be put in touch with a lovely lady named Andrea, who gave me my first kombucha SCOBY. I am so grateful to her, and to Sarah who gave me milk kefir grains. I was fortunate to be able to pass on some of my baby SCOBYs to others interested in travelling a similar route. You can't buy that kind of experience, either.

So, those are my top reasons for loving my SCOBYs. I'm sure I could come up with more, but I don't want the blog post to be too long. What do you think?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Is the Negative Voice the Evil Inclination?

negative III was listening to one of my favourite podcasts today - Jonathan Roche's No Excuses Weight Loss on Blog Talk Radio. It isn't really about weight loss, although that may well be a welcome side effect of listening to Jonathan in the long term. It's really about the Lizard Brain, the Imposter Police, or what Jonathan calls the Negative Voice. Jonathan encourages listeners to exercise, eat well, but most importantly, to learn to silence that voice that tells them that they aren't worthy of all those loving efforts.

So why am I blogging about this now? I've been listening to Jonathan for years. I enjoy his direct approach, his gentle humour, and his uncanny ability to put his finger on the real issues his callers are struggling with. But today he spoke with a long-time listener from Israel, a guy named Steve. That was interesting enough in itself as the overwhelming majority of Jonathan's callers are female, although Jonathan handles male callers with the same ease and aplomb, with no hint of awkwardness. Steve has been dealing with some major health issues, but he's been doing well recently - swimming, walking and becoming more fit. That's all good, but then Steve said something I found quite fascinating. Jonathan commented on his positive attitude in the face of his health challenges, and Steve said that the Negative Voice was "what we call in Hebrew the yetzer ha'ra  - the Evil Inclination."

According to Jewish tradition, children are born with the Evil Inclination, but start to develop the Good Inclination (the yetzer hatov) after they become Bar or Bat Mitzvah (13 or 12 years of age for boys and girls, respectively). The Good Inclination's job is to control the Evil Inclination, to make a child who is only interested in pleasure into a responsible adult who is an asset to the community. It is a long struggle.

But the rabbis did not see the Evil Inclination as a demon to be exorcised - it is considered the source of many good things in life. If the Evil Inclination were banished, there would be no marriage or procreation, no one would bother to work or invent anything, ambition would be gone. The Evil Inclination drives people to desire.

How can this powerful force for creation be the Negative Voice or the Lizard Brain? The Evil Inclination is not fearful. It doesn't call us names - on the contrary, it flatters us into action we may regret. Maybe it convinces us to eat cake we don't need, but I imagine that the desire to increase health and energy comes from the same source. The Good Inclination doesn't lead to the kind of fierce joy we get from being strong. If anything, it is more likely to put us in our place - maybe the Negative Voice is more related to the Good Inclination? How confusing.

It seems that the traditional Jewish concepts of Evil and Good Inclinations don't map easily onto the idea of a Negative Voice or Lizard Brain or Resistance that is trying to keep everything status quo, keep your head down and don't rock the boat. If anything, that much-lauded Good Inclination would play the bad guy role, as it takes the Evil Inclination's wild energy and bops it on the head and pushes it into socially acceptable directions. Yet, anyone who does not learn how to function in society, at least minimally, is going to be seriously distracted from their creativity and art by the difficulties of everyday life. Wheels within wheels and layers within layers!
This has turned out to be a somewhat abstruse blog post, but I really love combining different parts of my life in this way. I hope you like thinking about these things, too.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Enjoying Manitoba's Bounty - but no Raw Milk

Sometimes there are perks to being a food blogger, even though I don't have a large audience (yet?). I received a personal invitation to the Manitoba Food Producers' Association's Christmas reception. The MFPA represents many of Manitoba's local food producers, and as an avowed locavore and champion of local groceries, of course I was pleased to attend.

Aside from the delicious, locally-made food I was bound to find there (and which did not disappoint), I was particularly interested in speaking with a few people. I was glad to find the Buy Manitoba representatives at their station: Megan and Gemma are lovely ladies who were happy to explain things to me. There have been some rumblings among the Manitoba Food Bloggers and others about the generous definition of local that Buy Manitoba uses - apparently it extends to soft drinks bottled in the province by multinational companies, and to Safeway eggs which might come from any of four provinces in a given carton. I am hopeful that somebody from Buy Manitoba will respond and tell us how Coke is a local producer.

I have to say, though, that pretty much everything I saw at the Caboto Centre that night was definitely locally made. Cakes from Gunn's and Jeanne's, delightful northern pike cooked on the spot, Bothwell cheeses, locally made samosas and sausages. I even found Manitoba birch syrup, which I can't wait to get and try.

I somehow missed Constance Popp's chocolates, which makes me very sad. All I can think of is that she must have got there after I left, which was pretty early as I had to go see my sons sing and dance (ah, the things we do for love. They were wonderful, though).

I had some very interesting conversations with the representatives of Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Intiatives - in particular, their Food Safety people. I asked them what they thought about the illegality of raw milk in this province, and I got a remarkable range of responses (all off the record, I should add). One person told me she was completely against legalising raw milk, and that in her opinion people shouldn't be able to buy raw meat, either. Another representative referred me to the movie "Forks Over Knives", which espouses a vegan diet. A third was more supportive of the availability of raw milk to adults, but was understandably concerned about the dangers of trying to introduce it into a mass market. We agreed that maybe farm gates sales would be safest, as well as some serious labelling and education. Both of the latter two mentioned (and promptly emailed to me the next day as promised) some reports that have recently surfaced in Indiana - a FAQ sheet from Purdue University, and a report prepared by the Indiana Board of Animal Health for Indiana legislators. While both of them express trepidation about possible health issues, it is clear that the debate is far from over.

What do you think, should Coke that is bottled in this province be considered locally made? And should we be able to buy raw milk at the farm gate, if it is accompanied by a fact sheet on how to use it safely? Or should we ban raw meat, too?

Let me know what you think!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Happiness is a Warm Goat Cheese

Hadass and LouiseMaking chevre
 The lovely Louise May (she of chicken-at-city-hall fame) taught a cheese-making class at The Food Studio last night, and I was privileged to attend.

Louise has a herd of goats on her farm that she milks herself, and she demonstrated making cheese from commercially available (i.e., pasteurised) local goat's milk, licensed under the Manitoba Dairy Act, as well as raw milk from her farm, which is not.

The Manitoba Dairy Act prohibits the sale of raw dairy in Manitoba, which is very unfortunate for those of us who would prefer it. A farmer may use it for herself or her dependants, but she can't legally even give it away to anyone else, let alone make a living from it. There are many reasons to consider raw milk far superior to pasteurised milk, which is severely denatured. While I understand the public health concerns, it seems to me that a good inspection policy should be able to shut down any farm that operated in unsanitary conditions. It is quite insane that fast food is legal in Manitoba but raw milk is not. Definitely a campaign to consider once Louise is done with the urban chickens!

In any case, we learned how to make chevre, ricotta and feta, all of which turn out nicely with commercial milk, and mozzarella, which in general does not. We were able to compare the milk-curdling capabilities of apple cider vinegar and lemon juice (the apple cider won in terms of flavour). We learned about mesophilic starter culture and vegetable rennet (not made from baby calf stomach lining, yay).

Gorgeous chevreCurdling milk The Queen of Cheese Making (and source of all the recipes we learned) is Ricki Carroll, founder of the New England Cheesemaking Supply Company. She was mentioned in Barbara Kingsolver's wonderful book (and the beginning of my journey into making stuff rather than buying it): Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life (affiliate link).

Ricki's recipes are available online, but also neatly compiled into a book, Home Cheese Making: Recipes for 75 Homemade Cheeses (also an affiliate link). 

Because nothing is ever perfect, I did have one complaint - I would have liked Louise to have given us a handout. With so many different kinds of cheese on the go, it became quite confusing to keep track of what goes into what. While I intend to acquire the book (or download my favourite recipes if I am feeling cheap), it would have been easier to make notes on a handout while they were fresh in my mind.

In conclusion, a lovely time was had by all, there was much laughter and discussion as well as some serious learning. If you are interested in artisanal cheese, Louise's classes are a great way to get into it.

Addendum: Louise's recipes can be found at

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Core of the Matter

Mars Core Structure.Today I had an FMS test. That stands for Functional Movement Screen, based on the Functional Movement System. It's a method for gauging a person's movements, to see if any of them need correcting. The trainer had me do all kinds of motions while he took measurements and wrote down a score on a form.

Well, it was kind of sobering. My score was 9 out of 21, not exactly wonderful. In fact, any person with a score below 15 is apparently prone to injury. I have to say that aside from a chronic frozen shoulder/rotator cuff issue (which was the main reason I wanted the FMS as physiotherapy has done nothing for it) I have not, actually, had any injuries in two years of running and kettlebell training. I suspect that is because I know when to back off.

Anyway, the good news is that I don't have any asymmetries, and I had no zeros, which I suspect means an inability to do the motion at all. I have very little shoulder mobility and favour the sore one, which makes sense, but the main thing is that my core is weak. My lousy balance probably follows from that - in fact, everything probably follows from that. It's not surprising that after three C-sections, two of them vertical, there wouldn't be much muscle tone in that area. But now that ten years have passed since my final surgery, I'm hoping the exercises I will be doing will help restore some strength, even though it is probably a mass of scar tissue inside ... sigh.

Stay tuned as Hadass transforms from wimp to Wonder Woman!!

P.S. The spam comments got a little ridiculous, so I have enabled moderation on all comments (but no CAPTCHAs!). Please be patient ...

Thursday, November 22, 2012

SCD and Paleo and FODMAPs, oh my!

Brussels SproutsA little knowledge is a dangerous thing ... and sometimes more knowledge is not better! I am now getting quite confused. It seems that everything is bad for me, and some of the recommendations are contradictory. What's a girl to do?

I've been doing the Specific Carbohydrate Diet for a few years now, and I have done very well on it, removing grains, sugar and liquid milk from my diet. It has helped me keep my Inflammatory Bowel Disease under control with no medication, presumably by reducing the inflammation in my gut.

Then I discovered paleo. To be honest, the paleo/primal principles have had more effect on my exercise (walking and lifting heavy rather than chronic cardio and machines) than on my nutrition, as I was already eating free-run eggs (and pastured when available) and organic dairy (made into SCD yoghurt which is fermented for 24 hours to remove all the lactose) in my lacto-ovo vegetarian diet. Removing legumes (aside from occasional lentils) seems to have been beneficial. Moreover, I added fish to my diet back in March, ending 18 years of vegetarianism. Bringing mammals and birds into my kosher dairy kitchen would be a whole other tale, worthy of another blog post. Hasn't happened yet.

I've also, as my faithful readers know, become enamoured of lacto-fermentation, fermenting kale, cabbage (with juniper berries, yum), pearl onions and carrots. Everything I read told me that these would be good for healing my leaky gut. Just as an update, I no longer use mason jars to ferment, but bail-top jars similar to these (affiliate link).While not totally anaerobic according to some people, I am not yet convinced of the necessity for airlocks, especially as Sandor Katz, the guru of fermentation, agrees with me.

So, along comes the whole FODMAPs thing and completely destroys everything I've been doing. This awkward acronym stands for Fermentable, Oligo-, Di-, Mono-saccharides and Polyols. I'm not going to go into all the details of these (visit the Wikipedia links provided if you really want to know), but in short, all my favourite fermentable foods should be off-limits to people with leaky guts. This despite the lovely lacto-bacilli they harbour which are supposed to be beneficial to the same people. I have no problem with avoiding lactose, grains and pulses, but to cut out all the stone fruits, cruciferous vegetables, onions, nightshades and fungi leaves me with pretty much nothing to eat in the plant department.

Oh, and then JJ Virgin comes along and tells me that eggs are inflammatory, too.

Please, shoot me now.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Book review: HOT MAMALAH by Lisa Alcalay Klug

Hot Mamalah by Lisa Alkalay Klug
So here it is: the long-awaited review of Lisa Alcalay Klug's latest book, Hot Mamalah: The Ultimate Guide for Every Woman of the Tribe (affiliate link).

 Lisa's publisher very kindly sent me a copy of the book to review, so that's my disclosure.

When I first started reading this book, I felt completely overwhelmed. It really reminded me of some Jewish women that I know, and am somewhat afraid of - you know, those loud, bossy, neurotic types. It looked like this book was a handbook for becoming one of those, and I didn't really want any part of it. I argued with the book, with its lovely line drawings and wild typography, its luscious recipes and brazen declaration of female fabulosity.

But then, it started to grow on me. It made me laugh. It reminded me not to take it, and myself, so seriously. It reminded me that every one of those intimidating hot mamalahs in the gym was a daughter of G-d, a human with strengths, weaknesses and her own lovability. It reminded me that having fun is an important part of the human experience, that laughing and crying and being sexy and fabulous and funny and enjoying every delicious morsel you put in your mouth is our birthright as women, whether Jewish or not.

I've been blogging recently about akrasia, about the lizard brain and our tendency to self-sabotage. So many women have trouble with the Imposter Police, the feeling that you are not your true self in your professional persona, that you will be unmasked as a fraud any minute and taken away for impersonating someone you are not. So depressing.

Hot Mamalah is an antidote to this self-doubt. Deliberately working on an image of yourself as fabulous, strong and mistress of your own destiny, whether you follow the cocktail recipes in the book or not, has got to boost your self-esteem in all areas of life. At the very least, you can't brood while giggling your head off at some really preposterous statement. You don't really want to be someone whose "neuroses have neuroses", but you know somebody just like that. At the very least, be grateful you aren't her. How about "You know you are a Hot Mamalah because your hobbies include baking, knitting, eating and impassioned debate." Or "You know you are a Hot Mamalah because sultry, raucous, and nubile describes you ... and your appetizers."

The book is structured in the form of a meal (of course!). Starting with Aperitifs, continuing with Hors d'Oeuvres, through Le Plat Principal to Dessert. Each section contains lists, jokes, recipes and even some thoughtful advice about life, as well as the best kind of handbags to buy.

This is probably a good place to mention the fabulous giveaway at Modern Tribe. Lots of chances to win seriously cool merchandise! But don't delay, the winner will be announced on December 3rd. Also, do not forget Lisa's previous book, Cool Jew: The Ultimate Guide for Every Member of the Tribe (also an affiliate link).

In summary, this is a book that will make you love it despite yourself, just like the Hot Mamalah herself. Nu, go ahead and buy it, it couldn't hurt.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

About the Imposter Police

ImposterIt's a funny thing - whenever I mention the Imposter Police, women immediately know what I am talking about, and men look at me as if I have two heads.

I first encountered this concept when I was a student in the Physics Department at the University of Amsterdam. I helped organise a symposium about women in science, and we called it "Stepdaughters of Pythagoras and Archimedes", talking about how many women feel uncomfortable in the sciences, as if they don't belong there. One successful woman scientist mentioned the Imposter Police, the ones who were going to come and take us all away for impersonating scientists. We all knew exactly what she meant. Despite our demonstrated competence, we are sure that we couldn't possibly be as good as those confident guys (who are probably just as lost sometimes, but would rather die than admit it). It's a problem, and while it is probably not entirely unique to women, it does seem to be more prevalent in that population.

I know scientists, mostly male, who fit perfectly in their professional skin. They work extremely hard and sometimes get frustrated, but they do not doubt their basic calling. In particular, one scientist told me that he studied physics because he loved it and found it intriguing and worthwhile as a career, and that he did not once pause to consider anyone else's opinion of his choice.

For the rest of us, struggling with the Lizard Brain, that fear of being found unworthy by whomever judges these things can be incredibly paralyzing. Of course, one could ask who gave those supposed judges authority over us in the first place. I think this connects with the akrasia post from earlier this week - quite aside from physical cravings that could be connected to food addictions such as wheat or sugar, or micronutrient deficiencies such as minerals or salt.

I would love to delve into the way women sabotage themselves, put themselves down and deliberately destroy their health. I know that men do all these things, too (heck, the Greek philosophers who coined the term were almost all men), but I imagine that the forces behind the behaviour are different - I could be wrong.

Who is with me on this journey? I would love to hear your thoughts and insights. Especially if you disagree with me!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Greeks called it ἀκρασία

Day 12: ἀκρασίαI first ran into the term akrasia, acting against one's own self-interest, in a post by Mark Sisson. I've had blogging about akrasia on my to-do list for a while, and tonight I finally sat down to do it. Grabbed a chocolate chip cookie before I started writing. Sigh. Paleo, huh.

I have to admit that I found Mark's first article on the subject kind of abstruse and difficult to follow, even though I minored in philosophy way back in the last century.  He talks about free will, the weakness of the flesh, and the interesting concept that we only have so much decision-making strength in a day, that having to make trivial decisions all day long leaves us without the ability to make important ones by evening. A second article by Mark explores the physiological roots of cravings - lack of sleep, lack of certain nutrients, fear of social exclusion. All of these can lead us to toss aside our carefully reasoned choices and decisions and just go with something we know will make us miserable in the long run. I like these ideas,but I think the real answer may lie deeper in our psyche. Not that I claim to have that answer, mind you.

My real catalyst for writing about akrasia, aside from my own regrettable weakness for gluten- and sugar-filled treats that will make me pay dearly at 3 a.m., was a lovely comment that was left yesterday on this blog, on a post I wrote over a year ago - one of my first posts, in fact. It was about fighting the lizard brain, Seth Godin's term for the resistance. the part of our brain that shuts us down and fills us with fear. I think there is a relationship between akrasia and the lizard brain, although I'm not sure exactly how it works. It's something to think about - expect more posts about this in coming weeks.

What do you think, do you sense a connection between self-sabotage and the fear of success? What kind of words do you think we could build to flesh out that connection? Talk to me!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Home-made Cultured Butter!

I am so excited, I can hardly contain myself. OK, I'm a nerd, I admit it. Shoot me.

I made cultured butter that is every bit as good as the organic stuff from Quebec which I purchase at my specialty grocery for $6 a cup or so. I don't normally eat bread, but I had to toast a tiny mini-bagel just to try out this butter. It was scrumptious.

So, what's special about this butter and what makes it cultured? Surely anybody can beat up on some poor defenceless cream. To quote the inimitable Dorothy Parker, you can lead a horticulture but you can't make her think.
Ahem. I think I'm still a little giddy.

OK, so the cultured part comes from the lovely milk kefir grains I was enthusing about the other day. I put them in a jar with some local organic heavy cream and let them work their magic overnight. In the morning I found the most amazingly thick kefir you can imagine. I had to dig the grains out with a spoon, but they seem to have survived the experience.

I put this extra-thick kefir in a bowl, started up my trusty hand-mixer (for lack of a true churn ... maybe someday) and watched more magic unfold. It took a long time, and I had to stop to let the mixer motor cool down once or twice. But in the end, my cultured cream mysteriously separated itself into globs of beautiful yellow butter floating in buttermilk. I squished them together with my hands and put the whole thing in a bowl of ice water (brrr). Rinsing and massaging my butter into a malleable form, it took shape before my eyes. Such a beautiful thing.

Now looking for a good use for my cultured buttermilk ... I will probably make quark or some variant of creme fraiche. Other suggestions are welcome!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The First Snow of the Year - Reprise

Last year I wrote an ecstatic post that included a video from Canadian musician Hawksley Workman. Alas, music companies being what they are, YouTube tells me now that this video is not available in my country. So sad.

This weekend was not exactly the first snow of the year, we did have a few dustings that melted almost as soon as they landed. But this is the real thing - the city got socked with about 30 cm of the thick, heavy white stuff, and it is here to stay until the spring.

It's not fun to drive in or shovel, but it is very, very beautiful to look at. Everything is so quiet, too, with the muffling snow. I walked to shul this morning and the snow came over the tops of my boots! My daughter has been out in the yard a good part of the morning, building things and knocking them down. So much fun.

This is the snow for building - it's actually not very cold, just about -4C on my deck. When the real cold hits, the snow will be too dry. So this is the time for making snow people! I'm sure we will later.

One more thing. With the Internet being what it is, I did find a video that features Hawksley Workman's song. Take that, music company!!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

A Quick Announcement (and language warning)

I dont like CaptchaOK, I don't usually swear on this blog but right now I have to. This picture totally covers how I feel about Captchas. I can never read them and they make me totally crazy.

I've only just discovered I had one on this blog, and I'm really, really sorry. No wonder so few of you commented - how annoying and inconsiderate I must have seemed. Anyway, it is now gone and you can comment to your heart's content. For good measure, I've enabled anonymous commenting in the hope that I don't have too many haters ... or if I do, it'll be the kind I can take as a badge of honour!

Anyway, please comment ... it's lonely talking to myself!

Tell the Truth, All the Time, with Compassion

David Wood
I'm not sure I'm allowed to use this picture of David Wood, but I'm going to do it anyway, and I suspect David will not sue me for it. He's not that kind of guy.

I discovered David Wood via Dean Dwyer, who interviewed him about his remarkable life - growing up in England, leaving school at 15, working as a window washer, then travelling the world for over 10 years before settling in Canada and becoming a multi-millionaire.

David is a "trainer's trainer" - he discovered that his passion lay in helping people lead the lives they want, and that is a quest I am quite serious about these days (heck, I'm fifty years old and STILL not sure what I want to be when I grow up, although I'm getting a better idea thanks to people like Dean and David). I've been listening to his podcast The Kickass Life for a few months now, and enjoying it very much. So why am I blogging about it now?

I got a little behind with the podcasts, what with the holidays and all, and was listening to Podcast number 053,  released on October 30th, while doing my Shabbat cooking yesterday. I was stunned to hear him read out and praise a review that I'd left on iTunes a little while back. It's about 4 minutes in. In particular, I'd forgotten that I'd mentioned one line of his, which had caught Dean Dwyer's attention and also mine. Here it is:
Tell the truth, all the time, with compassion.
 Now, I don't think of  myself as a liar, but you know those casual little white lies we all indulge in - saying we were caught in traffic when we really left the house too late, for example. It really is a trivial thing, but I think it shows a deeper mindfulness to find a way to apologise for being late without lying or being hurtful.

It's also a matter of courage, of taking responsibility for your decisions. If I decide to keep one of my kids home from school because I think they need the day off, I don't say they are sick. I don't hide receipts from my husband and I don't sneak things into my kids' food.

Sometimes life is harder when you decide to tell the truth all the time, but so far I haven't regretted it. My late grandmother was the kind to rub your face in her version of the truth whether you wanted it or not, and that's not what I'm doing. I might choose not to volunteer information if I can't think of a compassionate way of sharing it. But I think it is a great maxim to live by.

What do you think?

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

On Mothering a Teenaged Driver

Car crashLast week a 17-year-old Winnipeg girl died. She was riding in an SUV with her friends at 1 o'clock on a weekday afternoon, when the vehicle hit a tree. She was ejected from the car and was killed. Her friends were all hurt, and charges have been laid against the 17-year-old driver.

This story would have made me cry anyway - I have become much more susceptible to any sad tale involving children since becoming a mother. But it really hit me in the gut, because my 16-year-old is learning to drive.

He's a good driver, although not yet ready to take his road test. His reflexes and mechanical control of the vehicle are excellent - years of playing video games are apparently good for something. The mistakes he makes are a direct result of inexperience, and he is a quick learner. More importantly, he loves to drive and asks to do it as frequently as he can, accumulating as much experience as possible. These are all good things.

Nevertheless, I am putting my child in charge of a lethal weapon. Right now I sit next to him and remind him to slow down if a light up ahead is about to change, call out warnings if he is drifting in his lane and tell him what to do about obnoxious guys in macho trucks who are trying to get him to move faster than is wise or legal.

But some day soon, he will be out there by himself. I tell myself that he is a good and cautious driver with a healthy respect for the powerful machine under his hands and for the speed limit and seat belt laws. I teach him everything I can so he and everyone around him will be safe. I have to let him go out and learn to be an adult.

But last week, a 17-year-old girl died, and a 17-year-old boy was left with a burden of guilt he can never, ever lose, regardless of what his friend's mother says and how genuine her forgiveness is.

We all cry.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Book Preview - HOT MAMALAH by Lisa Alcalay Klug

Announcing - the lovely Lisa Alcalay Klug's hilarious new book, Hot Mamalah: The Ultimate Guide for Every Woman of the Tribe (affiliate link).

Another new experience for me - participating in a blog book tour! My friend Lisa has included me in an impressive 80-blog tour to promote her new book.

Lisa is the award-winning author of the well-known book Cool Jew: The Ultimate Guide for Every Member of the Tribe (affiliate link).

I will be telling you more about her and her books when my blog date comes up (November 20th), but in the meantime I want to mention two other important dates: Buy the Book Day on Amazon (November 15th) and a fabulous giveaway at Modern Tribe, from now until November 28th. Lots of chances to win!

I hope you will check out my maiden affiliate links (no idea if they work - do let me know!).

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Milk kefir bliss!

Strawberry-infused kefir I know that a lot of people claim that dairy is too Neolithic to have any place in a paleo-style diet - in fact, I have seen claims that anything you can't pull off a bush or kill with a sharp stick does not belong in our diet. Hmm, a little extreme much? While 10,000 years are a mere blink of an eye in evolutionary terms, the fact remains that many people, especially of dairy-herding heritage, are able to digest dairy products into adulthood with no apparent ill effects. Especially fermented products such as cheese, yoghurt and the subject of today's blog post - kefir.

We are blessed here in Canada with a government that does not permit the use of rBGH (or any other hormones, to my knowledge) in the dairy herd, so that is not an issue. While I would love to buy raw milk, unfortunately that is not legally available in Manitoba (time for a campaign, maybe??). I have to make do with pasteurised milk, but at least it is not ultra-pasteurised (another USAmerican food industry innovation we are blessedly spared), and I can get local whole organic milk at my local health food store. It costs an arm and a leg, of course, but it is worth it to me not to have my boys chugging down antibiotics they don't need.

I myself cannot tolerate plain milk, but I do very well with yoghurt that has been fermented for 24 hours, according to the rules of the Specific Carbohydrate Diet. I therefore decided to experiment with milk kefir, which also ferments for 24 hours.

Milk kefir grains
The main difference between them is the starter - you can make yoghurt from a previous batch of yoghurt (although commercial yoghurt really only has a couple of strains of lactobacilli in it - it would be nice to be able to find more!), but for traditional kefir, you need kefir grains. Those aren't really grains - in fact, they are a SCOBY - a Symbiotic Colony Of Bacteria and Yeast. If the word seems familiar, I have rhapsodised here before about my kombucha SCOBY. The kefir SCOBY looks much friendlier than the kombucha one, as you can see in this picture. They really do look like grains.

You can make kefir using a starter from the health food store, but those aren't grains - it's a powder that contains dried bacteria and yeast in a specific combination. It makes decent kefir, but it is self-limiting - it won't grow grains, and after a few iterations you will have to put in more starter. It's from the same company that makes the dried yoghurt starter, and the results are similar - decent, but not comparable to using real, live food.

I was fortunate enough to be given some grains by a lovely lady I met in the Traditional Foods Manitoba Facebook group - and if you are interested in traditional foods and live in Manitoba, I strongly recommend joining that group. Such kind, helpful, welcoming people - friendly Manitobans all. I love it. I met her on a Friday morning, and by Friday noon my grains were luxuriating in a jar of whole milk on my counter. I checked them again after Shabbat went out, so about 30 hours later.

I should warn you that the grains are living things - don't expect them to do their best work as soon as you plop them down in a jar of milk. Mine had been sleeping in a refrigerator for a few months, and it took a couple of rounds before they woke up and really did their job. In fact, the first milk bath I gave them smelled downright awful, and I sent it down the sink. But the grains looked a little plumper and healthier than they had when I first got them, so I was hopeful. The same was true of the second bath, but the third one was just divine, especially once I flavoured it with strawberries.

The way I did that is called a second ferment - I strained the grains out of the thickened kefir (you can tell it is ready when it pulls away from the sides of the jar) and put them safely away in the fridge to nap in a small jar of milk. Then I put the kefir back on the counter, with a few sliced fresh strawberries in it, and left it there for 12 hours.

I cannot begin to tell you how awesome my strawberry-infused kefir tasted, especially after it had been chilled in the fridge. I also got all the goodness of a fermented food, with no ill effects - and trust me, I know about dairy-related ill effects.

How about you, have you tried making something new and exciting recently?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

A big step!

one step onto the horizon.I did it! I applied for the Amazon Associates program. If they accept me, I will be able to post links for you, my faithful readers, to buy stuff from them, and I will get a small commission each time you do.

I've hesitated about this for a long time. I've not enabled AdSense or any other kind of advertising on my blog, because I myself don't like blogs that are covered in ads, and I didn't want mine to be like that.

I've been listening to the podcasts of a guy called David Wood. He's an Englishman who grew up in poverty, left school at 15 and spent 10.5 years of his life backpacking through the world. He then became involved in multi-level marketing and other such businesses and became wealthy, but he also discovered that his passion lay in helping people achieve a better life. He became a trainer who goes around the world speaking to people and enthusing them to have what he calls "a kickass life".

One of the characteristics of a kickass life is the ability to look at oneself and the world with clarity and love, and to try new things as fearlessly as you can manage. Not to mention laughing a lot, which is something I try to do anyway, but now I have the endorsement of a major figure!

So one of the things I want to do is to take baby steps towards supporting myself and my family with the writing I do online. Affiliate links are a particularly painless way of doing that, both for myself and for you - they will be clearly labeled, they will only be for things I really recommend, and they won't clutter up the blog with noisy garbage neither of us wants to see.

In my fearful imagining, you are immediately repulsed by the entire idea, nobody ever comes to read this blog again, and my life loses all meaning.

In reality, I'm hoping you are mildly curious and not disapproving. Let me know if you feel strongly otherwise. It won't happen for a while, as I now wait with trepidation for Amazon's judgement - and yours.

Book Review - The Impact Equation by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith

René Magritte Disclaimer: I have been a fan of these two guys for quite a few years now, and I loved their first book. So it may not come as a huge surprise that I am enjoying this one, too, which they were kind enough to send me as an advance copy free of charge.

Let's start with the first page. You know, the frontispiece, the one after the dedications and the table of contents. It says:

Ceci n'est pas un social networking book.

So what does this tell us? First of all, that these guys know their Belgian surrealists - that's a twist on a very famous painting, The Treachery of Images, by René Magritte. They are signalling to us that they are smart, funny and cultured. If we are in on that secret, that means we are smart, funny and cultured, too! A good start. The statement is accurate, too - it's not a book about social networking, although obviously said networks are an important tool in their arsenal.

I was more amused than illuminated by their attempt to quantify the social impact of a business, person or brand using an actual equation, where the variables make a cute mnemonic, no less:

    C x (R + E + A + T + E)

C = Contrast
R = Reach
E = Exposure
A = Articulation
T = Trust
E = Echo

These are all interesting and useful concepts, and they are nicely broken up into sections: Ideas (which includes Contrast and Articulation), Platforms (which includes Reach and Exposure) and Network (Trust and Echo).

It all makes consummate sense - you need to start with a good idea (with high contrast and well articulated, so people will get excited about it), but you need a platform to share it with the world (reach a lot of people and get them exposed to the ideas), and most importantly, you need a network of people who care and will share it with their friends, because you have built trust and you echo, or resonate, with their lives and concerns.

They talk about matters as abstruse as bravery in life and as concrete as mind-mapping, whether in the form of those oval thingies with tails or whole storyboards. The book is chock-full of fascinating stories, from the Dollar Shave Club to Instagram, and analyses all of these businesses to see how they measure up in terms of the Impact Equation.

One could argue that anybody who has been around on the Net long enough (and has read Seth Godin, Clay Shirky, Chris Garrett, et al.) could have come up with these criteria for success, but Chris and Julien sat down and clarified them for us, and for this we should all be profoundly grateful. That they also peppered their book with examples and good advice as to what has worked well for them makes it even better and more useful - but I really think their main contribution has been to put into words what so many have been struggling to articulate.

Oh, and their book is just snicker-out-loud funny sometimes. "Welcome to the new tools, same as the old. Only better, because you actually know what to do with them. It's almost like puberty all over again." OK, I'm juvenile. Shoot me.

In conclusion, I enjoyed The Impact Equation, and I would recommend it to anyone who is looking to make a mark out there in The World.

P.S. It's my 100th blog post! Yikes. How did that sneak up on me? Paaarty!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Just Eat Real Food

This is a picture of my JERF shirt. I've worn it a few times, but I'm still too vain to post pictures of myself in a tank top. One of these days, maybe.

One of my favourite podcasters these days is Sean Croxton at Underground Wellness. He makes YouTube videos, has a podcast and a blog and a book and everything people need to have nowadays to make an impact. He's a reformed personal trainer who has gone from the "Eat Less, Move More" mantra of the low-fat paradigm to a holistic, paleo-type version of reality. He has hosted the Paleo Summit and the Real Food Summit, and the latter has become his latest passion. Since that is a passion I share, I'd love to talk about it some more.

When I was growing up in Israel, there were fast food restaurants, and I believe we may have patronised them from time to time. There were definitely real and good restaurants, and I have fond memories of going there, especially a Yemenite restaurant in Tel Aviv called Zion, which absolutely had the best hummus I have ever eaten anywhere, any time.

But most of the time, we ate at home. We shopped at the local grocery store and there was a "yarkan", a greengrocer, who came by once or twice a week to sell fresh produce from the surrounding farms. Later, when I was older, we went to the supermarket in the nearby town. Now the little local grocery store in the village is closed up and I don't know what happened to the "yarkan", but my family members who live in Israel still mostly buy and prepare real food. I should add that these are people who work full-time, so they are just as pressed for time as anybody else. They just care about what they put in their mouths. I remember my mother being creative with leftovers - Friday night's chicken usually ended up in chicken fried rice by Wednesday or so.

The same was true when I was a student in Amsterdam in the eighties. We ate out, but it was real food cooked in a restaurant kitchen. We mostly cooked at home and invited each other over for dinner. Real food was our life. If we had no money, we bought cheap food, but it was still food. Cooking for your friends was the ultimate expression of love for them.

I'm not sure when and how those concepts got lost in North America. Somehow it seems to be elitist to be interested in the provenance of your food, and you are expected to pay extra for the privilege of eating food that isn't drenched in Roundup. How did this happen, and why?

I know the story of the munitions factories that needed to be converted into fertiliser producers after the war, and of women who were sold the myth that they were much too busy to cook for their families. I remember TV dinners - we lived in the US for a few years in the sixties and seventies, and I think my mother bought a few out of curiosity. They certainly weren't a staple - ugh! I remember making my mother buy horrible cotton-like bread because I wanted the Bicentennial stickers (anybody remember those?). And yet that food was probably more nutritious than what we are feeding our children today - and there were no giant sodas.

I have busy children who sometimes have activities that keep them away from home at dinnertime. I hate those weeks - the dinner table is such an important place to reconnect at the end of the day. My wallet, their nutrition and our relationship all suffer when they are away from our dinner table too many nights a week. We are all sugar addicts but we are working diligently on taking better care of ourselves, and that means real food as much as possible. Fruit, nuts and cheese will make you feel so much better than granola bars or cookies.

Real food not only nourishes our bodies, it connects our souls and helps us feel rooted to our families and our land. What are you doing to feed yourself and those you love real food?

Friday, October 19, 2012

Fermentation Fun with Friends

A Portrait of the Author as a Lacto-Fermentation Instructor
On Thursday, October 18th, I had the privilege of teaching a lovely group of people about lacto-fermentation. The space we used was The Red River General Store at 5700 Henderson Highway - for my friends in the local Jewish community, that's the old Stern store. I was stunned to discover how many people were sentimentally attached to that place!

First of all, many thanks to my friend Rosalie, who brought her iPad and took pictures for me. Here is a picture of me behind the counter, posing with a jar of lacto-fermented pearl onions I brought along to demonstrate the kind of things we can make.

Gorgeous winter cabbage
This is one of the gorgeous winter cabbages our gracious hostess Monique provided for us to use. They were so beautiful, some people were munching on them as they went along.

We started with a brief overview of lactic acid fermentation (in which cells convert glucose into lactic acid and energy - it's the same process that happens in your muscles when you run fast, causing "the burn" - although if you are a scientist you may prefer to call it anaerobic glycolysis). It's a traditional method of food preservation all around the world, because the increased acidity of the food causes molds, botulism, etc. to be inhibited, making it very safe. The Lactobacillus bacteria responsible for this miracle are present everywhere, in the air, on the vegetables, on our hands, and most importantly, in our gut. Eating lacto-fermented food, whether vegetables or dairy, is a great way to heal our antibiotic-ravaged digestive systems.
We washed our hands and cut up that lovely cabbage. We added some good, real salt that had not had all its minerals stripped away, and also some caraway seeds and/or juniper berries for flavour. Then we squished that cabbage within an inch of its life - a source of great enjoyment for everyone, I think. Who says only kids can have fun squishing their food?

The salt drew liquid out of the cabbage incredibly quickly, and we soon found ourselves with liberal quantities of brine in our bowls. We then filled little mason jars (yes, I know, they don't seal as well as one would like, but they are great for beginners). We were careful to cover the cabbage with a nice big leaf to keep it submerged in the brine, and weighted it down with little plastic bags filled with excess brine (again, yes, I know, plastic in our food is B.A.D. But I hope everyone found a better, more suitable weight when they got home).
Chopped cabbage
We finished the evening with a quick, funny video about fermentation and some great discussion. Monique spoiled us with yummy snacks, coffee and amazing herbal tea.

I had an absolute blast and it looked like most people were having a good time. I'm hoping we can do this again - maybe we'll do a kombucha/water kefir/milk kefir session? I do need somebody to provide me with water kefir grains before I can do that ...

Finished productThanks again to Monique, Rosalie and everyone who came out on a rainy, yucky October night to celebrate lacto-fermentation with me!

Friday, October 12, 2012

In Praise of Failure

failureWhat a bizarre title. Why on earth would anyone praise failure? This light bulb looks spectacular, but it sure as heck is not functional as a light bulb anymore.

We are taught to fear failure. In school, failing is a source of shame - we are supposed to get it right the first time.  If you are the coach of a professional team, failure is guaranteed to earn you a one-way ticket out of your job. Other careers may be a little more forgiving, but in general, if you fail on a regular basis, you are regarded with contempt and pity. There is clearly something wrong with a broken light bulb, no matter how brightly it flares.

When I posted on Facebook the other day that I was planning to blog about failure, one person queried me about it and suggested writing about challenge instead. It's hard to accept that failure can be a good thing.

Another friend pointed me to this video of  J.K. Rowling speaking on the benefits of failure:

The most striking words she says here, in my opinion, are that failure at the conventional life that her parents envisioned for her allowed her to concentrate on what she really wanted to do, namely her writing. If, she says, she had been successful at the other things she tried to do, she probably would never have had the discipline and the concentration to write, and the world would never have been enriched by Harry Potter.

I myself, in my life, have been very successful at things that turned out not to matter very much, and which ended up being mere stepping stones to an unexpected outcome of greater value. Many people would consider the acquisition of a Ph.D. in physics to be a very successful achievement - and yet it turns out I did not want to be a research physicist, and that attempting to fit myself into that mould led me into depression and bad choices. Ultimately, though, that Ph.D. program gave me the husband and family I have today.

A B.Ed. eventually followed, but I found that I was a very square peg in the round hole of high school teaching. While I loved working with the kids, the things that I had hated about high school thirty-five years ago were still there, unfortunately. However, those two years of my life that I sank into the B.Ed. program allowed me to advocate far more effectively for my children than I would ever have been able to without it. It also cemented the teaching skills I have always had intuitively, even if I never get a "real job" as a teacher.

Where am I going with this? I was always the kid with so much potential. I am sure I have been a disappointment to my parents and teachers who thought I would build a career in science or education or maybe something else.

I'm still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up, how I can make an impact. Maybe I never will, but I hope and believe there is a contribution I can make to the redemption of the world. I just have to figure out what it is, given that every ostensible failure has led to an unexpected success in a different realm, and that I am not yet done with this journey. I am hopeful that my writing and teaching will help someone, somewhere, someday. That light bulb has failed in its ostensible purpose, but oh, what a gorgeous picture!

How about you, how have your failures given you unexpected gifts and strengths?

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Review - Your Teen for parents Magazine

One of the perks of being a blogger, even as small a fish as I am, is that sometimes people will send you things to review. I was fortunate that the lovely and accomplished Susan Rubin Borison, publisher and editor-in-chief of Your Teen for parents magazine, sent me a copy of their fall issue. I read it with great interest. I should have blogged about this earlier, but yeah, I got distracted by Elul and all the stuff that followed it. Sorry, Susan, here is your review!

First let me start by saying that the magazine is very attractive and well-made, visually. It is well-written, and the mix of articles is good and interesting - some health, some parenting, some bullying and peer pressure, a book review, a celebrity interview. I would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a parenting magazine that goes beyond the tween years - most of them seem to cap at 12 to 15 years of age, when the fun is only just beginning! You can read it online or subscribe to the print edition.

This particular issue features articles about the incredible pressure many older teenagers put on themselves in high school, because they want to get into a highly selective university. The words "especially in affluent communities" appear a couple of times in this issue, and I'm sure that is no coincidence. These kids take on enormous course loads, drive themselves nuts with too many extracurricular activities, and are at a high risk of burning out. The articles advise, very sensibly, that parents take steps to broaden the college list, cut back on the activities and APs, and generally work to support their kids in stepping back from this debilitating perfectionism.

I have a few friends whose children are on this track, although I'm very grateful my own kids are not. I don't entirely understand the rationale behind this kind of pressure, although I do get that the kids mostly put it on themselves (why?). Yes, it may be harder out there than it was when we were kids (or is it? Maybe our kids are just more coddled and fragile?). I would love to see some statistics that show that people who go to expensive, selective universities for undergrad really do better in the long run than people who go to so-called second tier schools, or even (gasp!) state schools. The only thing I can think of that these universities really do better for undergrad is let you hobnob with the children of the rich and influential. That can certainly be of assistance in a career, but I don't see it as being anywhere near essential. Good work habits and a healthy dose of interest in what you are learning will take you far. The other important thing to remember is that your choice of undergrad major will not necessarily define your life forever - people can and do make mistakes, and it is OK to change course in midstream. Of course that is much harder to do when so much has been invested in getting into that dream university, that dream program. What if it was all for nothing? So crushing.

One could shrug the whole thing off as an extreme case of first world problems, were it not for the miasma of anxiety that emanates from this publication. So many things to worry about, so many ways kids' lives could go terribly wrong if their parents screw up. The responsibility and anxiety weighing down the parents are just unbearable, it seems. Did our parents worry like this about us?

Maybe this is a reflection of the general anxiety and fear that seem to pervade North America nowadays. Climate change, financial insecurity (I'm sure many people are far more concerned with keeping their house than getting their kids into Harvard), the dreadful polarisation of Western society, all combine to make us very fearful and insecure, and no wonder we are projecting this onto our kids. I can't help comparing this time to the interbellum, with its rise of so many fascist movements, leading eventually to the Second World War and the Holocaust. I hope we have wiser leaders than that generation did.

To summarise, this is a good magazine about parenting teens, and it clearly reflects the zeitgeist very well. I am looking forward to reading future editions, and I hope you will, too.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Do You Want to Learn to Ferment?

Well, folks, if you find yourself in the Winnipeg area in the evening of October 18th, you have an opportunity to put your hands into some cabbage. I am going to be teaching an intro-to-fermentation class at The Red River General Store, 5700 Henderson Highway (about 12 km north of the Perimeter).

We will be cutting up cabbage and pounding it within an inch of its life, salting and spicing and pressing down into jars (much smaller than pictured here), so that the lovely lactic acid bacteria on the vegetables can do their magic and turn them into the kind of delicious sauerkraut people used to make 100 years ago - and you get to take one of those jars home with you to continue its journey, first on your counter and then in your fridge.

I will explain why this is safe (a darned sight safer than buying beef nowadays, that's for sure!), the lovely Monique will provide the space and refreshments, and a good time will be had by all, I hope.

$20 gets you all the materials, the instruction and an informative handout. Come on up and get fermenting! Space is limited. Click here to register.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

In Praise of Coconut Oil

It's a funny thing about coconut oil. Back in the eighties, when I subscribed to the fatfree mailing list (it was a great source of recipes, many of which I still use, with the fat added back in), tropical oils were viewed with particular horror. In fact, one person admitted to recoiling from buying soap because it contained fat. She did make fun of herself for that, thankfully.

In the meantime, we've learned a few things about saturated fats in general, and coconut oil in particular. We've learned that the hypothesis that saturated fats lead to cardiovascular disease is just that, a hypothesis, and it does not seem to be supported by research. It is true that man-made trans fats, artificially hydrogenated to be more saturated than they were originally, do cause all kinds of diseases. But natural saturated fats, such as the ones that appear in meat, fish, dairy, avocados, palm nuts and coconuts, actually do a lot of good for our health. In particular, they contain a healthier ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 oils, thereby helping to decrease inflammation in the body.

Coconut oil, especially, is an excellent source of medium-chain triglycerides, which are prescribed as medicine for people with digestive disorders. I've been cooking almost exclusively with coconut oil for the past few months, and I've noted great improvement in my own symptoms. That is probably also due to a few other changes I've implemented, such as cutting severely back on grain products and avoiding nightshades (waaah - my tomatoes are so beautiful this year!).

I have found, though, that I prefer regular (organic) coconut oil to the extra virgin type. The latter just tastes too much like, well, coconut. The more-processed oil is much more neutral in taste, and does not impart a coconut flavour to whatever is cooked in it.

Finally, last night I took the plunge and tried it on my face before going to bed. As mentioned, the non-virgin oil has no smell to speak of, but my skin was so smooth and soft this morning, I couldn't believe it.

Good-bye to all that fancy stuff, coconut oil for me!!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

On Guilt

GuiltSo this is one theme Rabbi Sommer didn't put in her list, but it has been on my mind lately.

Last night I had the strangest dream. I dreamed I was visiting one of my March96 friends, except that rather than being on the East Coast where she really lives, it was in California. The details are vague, but what I remember most clearly is that we had agreed to do some things together, and for various reasons I decided to do something else. I think my family was there, but the decision was mine. Of course my friend had made arrangements and even paid money for some of the things we were going to do, and she was very sad and upset that I had just let it go like that and abandoned her and her family.

I woke up because of the feeling of crushing guilt that was smothering me in my dream. Of course this is the time of year that we are particularly sensitive to guilt - we are supposed to make amends for any pain we may have caused anyone in the past year.

I've been trying to understand this dream and what the real guilt is that I'm dealing with (I've done many things, but not this particular one!). Fifty years on this earth give plenty of opportunity to hurt and abandon people, so I guess I get to choose which one was really behind this dream.

As we move into the Ten Days of Atonement, how have you been handling your guilt? Have you found ways to atone that satisfy both you and the person you have hurt? These are hard questions we prefer to run away from, but when we do that, they intrude on our dreams.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Justice - #BlogElul 29

This is it - the last #BlogElul post of this season. It is now officially Erev Rosh HaShanah, or New Year's Eve. No champagne going on here, just lots of cooking and cleaning and preparing.

I find it fascinating that Rabbi Sommer chose Justice as the final theme, rather than Mercy or Compassion (in fact, neither of those appears here at all). While we envision G-d as a stern Judge and Ruler, we also entreat Her to sit on the Throne of Compassion as we stand in judgment.

In general, G-d admonishes us to pursue justice (Deuteronomy 16):
יט  לֹא-תַטֶּה מִשְׁפָּט, לֹא תַכִּיר פָּנִים; וְלֹא-תִקַּח שֹׁחַד--כִּי הַשֹּׁחַד יְעַוֵּר עֵינֵי חֲכָמִים, וִיסַלֵּף דִּבְרֵי צַדִּיקִם. 19 Thou shalt not wrest judgment; thou shalt not respect persons; neither shalt thou take a gift; for a gift doth blind the eyes of the wise, and pervert the words of the righteous.
כ  צֶדֶק צֶדֶק, תִּרְדֹּף--לְמַעַן תִּחְיֶה וְיָרַשְׁתָּ אֶת-הָאָרֶץ, אֲשֶׁר-יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ נֹתֵן לָךְ.  {ס} 20 Justice, justice shalt thou follow, that thou mayest live, and inherit the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.

But on the Day of Judgment, we implore G-d for mercy and compassion instead.

To quote King David, who understood about justice and mercy (Psalm 130):
א  שִׁיר הַמַּעֲלוֹת:
מִמַּעֲמַקִּים קְרָאתִיךָ    יְהוָה.
1 A Song of Ascents. {N}
Out of the depths have I called Thee, O LORD.
ב  אֲדֹנָי,    שִׁמְעָה בְקוֹלִי:
תִּהְיֶינָה אָזְנֶיךָ, קַשֻּׁבוֹת--    לְקוֹל, תַּחֲנוּנָי.
2 Lord, hearken unto my voice; {N}
let Thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications.
ג  אִם-עֲו‍ֹנוֹת תִּשְׁמָר-יָהּ--    אֲדֹנָי, מִי יַעֲמֹד. 3 If Thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?
ד  כִּי-עִמְּךָ הַסְּלִיחָה--    לְמַעַן, תִּוָּרֵא. 4 For with Thee there is forgiveness, that Thou mayest be feared.
ה  קִוִּיתִי יְהוָה, קִוְּתָה נַפְשִׁי;    וְלִדְבָרוֹ הוֹחָלְתִּי. 5 I wait for the LORD, my soul doth wait, and in His word do I hope.
ו  נַפְשִׁי לַאדֹנָי--    מִשֹּׁמְרִים לַבֹּקֶר, שֹׁמְרִים לַבֹּקֶר. 6 My soul waiteth for the Lord, more than watchmen for the morning; yea, more than watchmen for the morning.
ז  יַחֵל יִשְׂרָאֵל, אֶל-יְהוָה:    כִּי-עִם-יְהוָה הַחֶסֶד; וְהַרְבֵּה עִמּוֹ פְדוּת. 7 O Israel, hope in the LORD; for with the LORD there is mercy, and with Him is plenteous redemption.
ח  וְהוּא, יִפְדֶּה אֶת-יִשְׂרָאֵל--    מִכֹּל, עֲו‍ֹנֹתָיו. 8 And He will redeem Israel from all his iniquities. {P}

May everyone be inscribed in the Book of Life for a sweet and good year. I'll see you again on the other side.