lavendersparkle: Jewish rat (Rat)
I'm thinking of spending three weeks this summer studying at yeshiva, probably either the Conservative Yeshiva or Pardes Yeshiva.

Any views or advice?

Any tips for finding accommodation in Jerusalem for a month this summer?
lavendersparkle: Jewish rat (Default)
I'd like to improve my ability to pick up on other people's feelings and respond to them. I've heard of the book Working with Emotional Intelligence but some of the reviews say that it's lots of anecdotes about how important emotional intelligence is with very little on how you can improve your own emotional intelligence.

Any recommendations for books/websites/other on this?
lavendersparkle: (Good little housewife)
This month I discovered The Minimalist Mom Blog (I think there might have been a link to one of her posts from Unclutterer) and have been enjoying reading through her archive.

For a while I have been thinking about my wardrobe and her posts about her clothing have been resonating. On the one hand, I don't buy clothes that often and I don't spend much when I do buy things. I try to buy clothes second hand. Ebay and Oxfam are my tailors of choice. On the other hand, I'm not very good at admitting that an item of clothing has become too tatty to wear and get rid of it. I think part of the problem is that by the time something gets to the point that I won't wear it anymore, certainly no-one else will. I've also spent most of my adult life in situations where wearing scruffy almost rags are acceptable, whereas now I have a grown up job and would like to look nice. I'd also like to use my wardrobe space to store clothes I wear, rather than as a retirement sanctuary for clothes whose only possible next incarnation could be high quality paper.

Anyway, this has led to me trying to work out what clothes I actually need, so that I can make sure I have those clothes and question whether I want to continue storing clothes that don't fit into this scheme. This list is per 'season', so 2-3 work skirts translates into 4-6 work skirts: 2-3 for winter and 2-3 for summer.

Work clothes
2-3 skirts
5 shirts
2-3 jackets or cardigans
1 suit
1 pair of black shoes
1 pair of brown shoes

Shabbat
Two outfits to wear on Shabbat

Leisure
2 skirts
2 t shirts
1-2 cardigans
1 pair of comfy boots

Workout clothes
1 pair of yoga pants
1 skirt to wear over the yoga pants
2 t shirts
1 zip up hoddie

Other
One outfit to wear to a wedding
One outfit to wear to a formal dinner
One outfit to wear to a funeral
My outdoor walking gear
Headscarves to match all of these outfits

The next job is to work out how the clothes I own fit into these categories. Then I can work out what extra items I need and what items might struggle to justify their wardrobe space.
lavendersparkle: Jewish rat (Rat)
As I said, [personal profile] kerrypolka and I have been learning Talmud together. I thought this section was screaming out of a Venn Diagram and was surprised I couldn't find one when I Goggled, so I made it myself.

The Dangers of Entering a Ruin )
lavendersparkle: Jewish rat (Rat)
My, it has been a long time since I have updated. I'm still reading my reading page every day or so, but life has been just the right combination of busy, happy and uneventful to keep me from writing posts with any regularity.

I thought I'd give you an update on my spiritual PDE efforts.

I have now read my way through the whole Tanach in translation. I think it has given me an appreciation of how the bits that pop up as haftarahs fit in with the whole. I commented to a friend that it was a bit like actually sitting down to watch the box set of a show you've previously just caught the odd repeat of when flicking through TV channels. I've found the reading on my commute method every week quite useful, so I've bought The Observant Life on Kindle and have just started reading that. In terms of Talmud, I'm continuing going to Talmud study at my rabbi's house about once a fortnight and I've also started doing chavrutah with [personal profile] kerrypolka on the alternative weeks. We're doing about one daf (page) a go in English, which means that it will take over a 100 years for us to get through the Babylonian Talmud at this rate. I don't think we're going to make it.

I have done less well with the Hebrew. I've only attempted any translation about three times in the last more than three months. I just can't seem to bring myself to get into the habit of studying it regularly. Grammar exercises are boring but translation at my current standard is a massive slog, looking up the majority of the vocabulary and trying to remind myself of the verb and noun forms. I think another obstacle is that I need a grammar book and a big dictionary to have a hope at translating anything, which means that Hebrew practice can't be done on my commute, which is a shame because I find that the easiest time to slot in learning (the Tanach was read almost exclusively on the Northern Line). I'd welcome suggestions for ways to brush up my Biblical Hebrew other than just sucking it up and getting on with doing it on a regular basis.

I'm starting to think more about children. Don't jump the gun with the 'mazel tov's, but as a happily married non-childfree woman in her thirtieth year, they're beginning to become less of a far off hypothetical. I've been thinking about the kind of Jewish upbringing and eduction I'd like to provide for my children. Now, I hate the 'Judaism as a giant intergenerational ponzi scheme' but I think that, just as 'what would you do if you had a million pounds?' can be a useful thought experiment, 'what kind of religious example do you want to give to your children?' can be a useful thought experiment to work out what you'd like your religious life to be. This has motivated me more to improve my Hebrew. It's also made me want to explore prayer. Aside from shul, I almost never engage in set prayer. I think when (G@d willing) I have children, I'd like to encourage them to start and end the day with prayer. Many times in the past I've had a go at praying regularly, but I've never kept it up. This time I'm having a go at starting small. Really small. I'm trying to get into the habit of saying Modah Ani when I wake up in the morning. I'll see how I go at that.
lavendersparkle: (Ood)
A slightly worrying admission is that I've managed to get most of the way through my 20s without knowing what standing orders are.

Are they the same as when you set up an automatic regular monthly payment from your account or are they something more complicated than that?
lavendersparkle: (Good little housewife)
I rarely wear make up and haven't worn any for probably over a year. I'm going to a dinner this weekend so I cracked open my box of well past expiry date make up and started playing. I realised that I've forgotten most of what little knowledge of make up I ever had.

Can anyone recommend links to tutorials they would recommend for applying eyeshadow in a way which does not make me look like a drag queen?
lavendersparkle: Jewish rat (Rat)
In my previous post about the idea of a spiritual PDE, I wrote about the Jewish learning I was planning to undertake in the coming months. However, learning isn't the only mitzvah, so I want to think of areas to improve and targets to set for myself for other mitzvot.

I thought I good place to start would be would be the Lubervitcher Rebbe's 10 point mitzvah campaign, not because I think he is the magical invisible Messiah, but because he and the organisation he led were pretty good at getting Jews to be a bit more observant, so the 10 mitzvot he highlighted are probably good ones for a jumping off point to more observance.

The first in his list is:

1. Light Shabbat candles
I already light Shabbat candles. I think I would like to work more of my Shabbat observance. As I see it there are two problems with my Shabbat observance. The first is that I haven't sorted myself stuff to do during Shabbat. It wasn't so bad earlier in the year, I'd go to shul, come home, have lunch, have a schluff and Shabbat was out. Now Shabbat doesn't go out until 9:30 and I find myself looking at the clock after lunch and thinking it's an awfully long time until I can can get on with things. I don't want Shabbat to become like Sunday afternoons when I was a child and nothing was open and nothing was on TV apart from sport and I'd be bored out of my mind. I want Shabbat to be a delight. I love the Shabbats when there happen to be enough shul activities that I potter from house to house eating, praying and schmoozing. I think I'd like to improve this by planning activities before Shabbat. I think I'll try to make it the norm that Alec and I play games or go for walks during Shabbat. I also want to invite people over for Shabbat lunch.

Another area I want to work on is to following Shabbat prohibitions. I'm relatively shomer Shabbat, but there are areas where my observance could be improved, in particular using electricity and using Alec and a Shabbos goy. Thinking about it, I think a big problem is that I don't really know or understand exactly what the laws are. I doubt I'll ever observe Shabbat the way some people do, but I want that to be more of a conscious decision based on an understanding of the halachic reasoning and where I think I should be, rather than the current situation, where I do some things but not others because that's just where I've got to and I break some prohibitions which rabbis to the left of Masorti Judaism would say were binding but end up doing other things which only some Charedim do because I heard about it somewhere and didn't know any better.

There'll always be times when I have to make a trade off between Shabbat and something else. I'm going to want to go to weddings on Saturdays and sometimes that will involve breaking Shabbat prohibitions, but I want to be making those trade-offs from a position of knowledge and know how to minimise the infringements.

So my two goals for Shabbat observance are:

1. Organise to do fun things on Shabbat afternoon, rather than getting bored and counting the minutes until it goes out; and

2. Learn more about Shabbat observance, particularly Shabbat prohibitions, so that I can make an informed decision about what I want to change in my current practice.

That's where you guys can help. I've read the Shabbat section of Klein and I've ordered How to Run a Traditional Jewish Household to read about the issues in there. Can you suggest any other resources to get a better idea of Shabbat observance, preferably from a Conservative/Masorti perspective?
lavendersparkle: (Ood)
My following of [personal profile] liv's challenge, inspired by [personal profile] siderea's post about building community to post 10 linky posts, 3 diary posts and 1 long thoughtful posts by 15th May has resulted in precisely 0 comments. Maybe it's because the links I've been posting have been to websites rather than specific articles, or maybe it's because no one is reading this blog any more (cue violin music).

Today I move into dangerous territory by posting links to articles united by the theme of trans issues, which is particularly a bit of a mine field for unintentional FAIL. Hopefully I've avoided this by two of the articles being by trans women and the other one avoiding some of the most common sources of FAIL (correct pronouns, no pictures of the women pre-transition, no mention of their previous first names). Feel free to tell me about how wrong they are in the comments.*

First, 19 Terribly Interesting Tips On Raising A Trans Kid (From A Trans Kid) Does what it says on the tin. Offbeat Mama

Secondly, a piece on two new memoirs by transsexual Jews in Tablet Magazine** I love the way it explores the use of Jewish and other ideas and mythologies to explore ideas of gender and identity. I think something that a lot of people don't realise about religion is the richness of the metaphors and frameworks it gives you to play with in making sense of life. As so often with these things, don't read the comments.

Finally, Political Conference Background Checks – Putting Our Case to the Lib Dem Federal Conference Committee explaining some of the problems background checks can cause for trans people. I think one of key things that is involved in combating "isms" is raising awareness of the experience of minority groups and how things which seem to be relatively innocuous to members of majority/privileged groups can be a massive problem for other groups. Lots of men don't get how women experience street harrassment, lots of non-Jews don't realise how prevalent antisemitic violence is, lots of cis people aren't aware of the problems background checks can cause trans people.

*Now I have an evil urge to post incredibly offensive articles in the hope of getting comments.

**Not to be mistaken with The Tablet.
lavendersparkle: Jewish rat (Rat)
I am knackered. I'm probably going to heat myself up some dinner, light candles, eat dinner and flop into bed.

Before then I thought I'd post some pre-Shabbat links to websites I like for Jewish stuff.

Most people have heard of Chabad but the bit of their site I use the most is their candle lighting times. You can also use their site to find all halachic times for places all over the world, which means that if you have want to know when sunrise is going to be on a particular date in a particular place you can find it here, regardless of your interest in Judaism.

A very useful website to talk about some aspects of Judaism that don't get such a public airing is Nishmat. 'Women's Health and Halacha' is a euphemism for Jewish law to do with vaginas. It's a very useful resource to learn about this sort of stuff and a cool example of Orthodox feminism as it's part of a project to train women to be halachic advisers on certain topics.

My Jewish Learning is a good go to website if you want a short accessible website about pretty much anything to do with Judaism. They also have blogs and a website on Jewish parenting called Kveller.

Added bonus, another thing I love on the Chabad website is the Itche Kadoozy show. It is by far the best low budget, fundementalist religious childrens shows I have ever seen.
Visit Jewish.TV for more Jewish videos.
lavendersparkle: (Tofu)
I might not be doing this quite right as I'm making these links a bit more like a blog roll than the sort of 'I saw this interesting/appalling post' type links. Oh well, this evening I will tell you again about a website I've linked to a lot on my blog before, but it deserves linking to again as it is awesome.

http://www.theppk.com/recipes/ is the best place on the internet I know of to find great vegan recipes. It's where I send people whenever I receive a plea for help finding an animal product free recipe. My particular favourites include Wheat gluten sausages, which I'm making tonight for dinner, and Dilly stew with rosemary dumplings which tastes as good as it looks.

Another site I like for recipes is http://justbento.com/ This week my packed lunches have included: tofu dumplings, dry curry, onion and pepper confit, stir fried cabbage with cranberries and scrambled tofu.
lavendersparkle: (Tofu)
I've decided to take up [personal profile] liv's challenge to write 10 linky posts, three diary/asking questions type posts and one op ed type post between now and 15th May.

I could try to cheat and count that as a linky post on it's own but I won't and will instead include some other links, in this case to web comics I like, because that's the first thing that came into my head.

First off, I'm sure if you're reading this you'll be familiar with http://xkcd.com/ I love it and I love the way that the comics came be used to easily illustrate lots of common mistakes in statistics (an important issue for an economist).

Second, Dykes to Watch Out For. It's not being updated any more as Alison Bechdel[1] has moved on to being a top literary and academic type, but a lot of the past comics are archived on her website. You can also buy books of her past comics (or you could buy them for me, just sayin') and her two graphic memoirs. I've only read the first but it was awesome and so beautifully constructed so that she takes you through a meandering view of her life and literature until suddenly you turn a corner and realise that it was all carefully put together so that it all fits together. You should probably read it rather than reading my poor attempt to describe it.

Thirdly, have you ever been reading The Jewel in the Crown and thought 'I like this multi-perspective narrative structure but I'd prefer it if the plot was a bit more like a queer British Dawson's Creek, and with pictures'? Who hasn't? Well http://www.khaoskomix.com/ may be for you. I feel slightly embarrassed by this recommendation because my enjoyment of it is on the level of 'oh oh oh, will they kiss, does he love her, will they, won't they' and the gender and sexuality of the characters doesn't elevate that to something higher than it is. At least the characters in this actually have sex like normal teenagers who have found someone they're terribly fond of, rather than avoiding sex through bizarre plot devices and angst, like the characters in Dawson's Creek.

Added bonus extra: http://theoatmeal.com/ particularly the Bobcats

1 Of Bechdel test fame.
lavendersparkle: Jewish rat (Rat)
At work we have just been through the PDE process. I have to confess that I'm not quite sure what PDE in this case stands for (and Wikipedia in this case wasn't much help). Basically at the start of the year we sit down with our line manager and set some goals for the year. These are divided between work type goals (I will deliver this set of National Statistics on time) and development type goals (I will improve my skills in verbal presentations). The form and how we fill it in are a bit clunky but we're supposed to narrow them down into SMART goals. Over the course of the year you review your goals every so often and they can be adjusted in response to changes in your role and circumstance. Then at the end of the year review how well you did at them and come up with a new PDE for the next year inspired by your review of the previous year.

I reflected last Yom Kippur, that Yom Kippur is rather like this process. You use Elul and the Days of Awe to review the year just gone and try to improve in the next year. It struck me that it might be useful to go through a similar process of setting myself some SMART goals for my Jewish life and even making a record of them to review every so often.

At Yom Kippur I just didn't really have the head space to do this. Settling into a new home, new job, new shul; my head was spinning too much to set myself those kinds of goals and try to achieve them. Now I'm finding that over the last few months my minds been thinking about Jewish observance in a bit more of a serious development way, so maybe it's time to have a go and setting some SMART religious goals in a mid-year PDE to be reviewed in Elul and Yom Kippur.

One thing I have been thinking more seriously about is Jewish Learning. Living in North London gives me a lot more opportunities than I'd have in most other places I might live in the next few decades. At first I started by just going to a lot of classes at my shul. Now I've started to think a bit more about what's manageable and what learning would be the most useful to me, not just what happens to be available and convenient.

Last year I decided to try to read the whole Tanach in a year. Well, I say the whole Tanach, I decided to make it easier on myself by calling the Torah done as I'd heard it all in shul. I stuck to just the Neviim and Ketuvim. I sat down, counted how many chapters there were in total and worked out how many I'd need to read a week on average to get through the whole thing in a year. I then set myself a schedule, dividing longer books into multiple weeks and grouping together shorter books into the weeks. It actually only boils down to an hour or so's reading a week, which I can do on my Monday commute. I've managed to keep to that schedule and I'll finish the Neviim in a couple of weeks.

I've started doing Talmud study. Studying Talmud is something I've always wanted to do and I've always seen as serious learning for serious Jews. Not just hearing the story of Honi the circle maker every Tu B'Shevat, but actually sitting down with a page of Talmud, with all the blocks of Mishnah, Gemara and commentaries on it, and going through it making sense of the argument. Luckily my shul has started a fortnightly evening class which does just this which I've started going to.

The Talmud class has made me realise a big area of need for Jewish development: Hebrew. I've learnt Biblical Hebrew at various places at various times but it's never been that amazing and it's certainly gotten rusty since the days a couple of years ago when I knew my pual from my piel. I can see that this is a barrier to Jewish learning and participation because I can't study texts in Hebrew and I feel a bit embarrassed about it. Answer: I'm spending half an hour to an hour a weekend working through The First Hebrew Primer which I already had on my bookshelf from a previous set of Hebrew classes. Once I get to the end of it I'll see where my Hebrew is and reevaluate where to go next. I might move onto another textbook or I might just sit with my BDB and some verb tables and try to translate a bit of Bible each week.

I think three ongoing Jewish learning projects at a time is probably just about right to keep things going and not get overwhelmed. If I have time I might post about ideas for goals in other areas of Jewish life.
lavendersparkle: (Good little housewife)
I am quite curvy*. This leads a problem with finding shirts for work. I generally have a choice between shirts which are only a little bit too big at the waist but gape at the buttons over the chest and shirts which are roughly the size of a tent (and still somehow manage to gape at the chest).

I have found the solution: poppers! The problem I have is that there is enough fabric in the shirt to fit around my chest, but the contours make the fabric pull at the buttons, leading to gaping. To solve the problem I sew a popper half way between the buttons where it gapes the most. Not only does it stop the shirt gaping between those two buttons, but by changing the tension on the fabric, one popper will often cure all of the gaping problems. It's rather magic and if you're neat enough to sew through just the inner layer of the double fabric around the buttons, the popper is invisible when the shirt is being worn.

*In a E cup size rather than a euphemism for fat way.
lavendersparkle: (Ood)
I haven't updated in over three months. There are quite a few reasons why.

Firstly, my job (which I'm loving so much) means that I can't make public political comments. This is also a reason for less commenting on other people's posts. The problem is that I sort of view everything as political. I realise that my mind is quite holistic and bounces between religion, politics, philosophy, love, sex, art and finding connections between them all. Hence the posts which I have made in the last six months have tended to play it safe with sticking to cooking (although even then isn't my veganism edging close towards politics). Perhaps my readers who are similarly constrained can give me an idea of possible post topics other than the contents of my lunchbox.

Another aspect of it is that I've been busier. I still reasonably keep up with reading my friends page on LJ and DW but I'm not sure if I have time to post between work and activities at my shul (which I also love).

On top of that I'm not as deprived of human contact as I was a year ago. I now have colleagues and friends who live walking distance from my flat, so I feel less of a need to chatter on the internet, even when my husband is in another country.

Then there's the feeling that after so long without posts with much/any personal content I feel like I should bear my soul with detailed descriptions of my internal emotional life, but actually I don't really feel like doing that on the internet any more. I'm not entirely sure why.

Anyhow, perhaps it is enough to say that I am happy. I think I am the most contented I have been in years. I love my job. I love where I live. I love my religious community. I look forward to the return of my husband. I feel like my life is on track and whilst I'm sure there will be something unforeseen around the corner to knock me onto a different course, I feel reassured that I will be able to take it in my stride.
lavendersparkle: (Good little housewife)
I've succumbed to Pioneer Woman. Well not really.

This Friday we had an old school friend of mine and her husband over for dinner and I decided to make what Alec and I have come to refer to as luxury pie. This requires puff pastry and like all normal human beings we bought the ready rolled frozen stuff from the supermarket. (Another great thing about living in a Jewish area: Tescos sells kosher puff pastry.) This left the dilemma of what to do with the rest of it which would have to be defrosted to get enough for the pie top. We figured maybe we could make some kind of apple tarts or something with it (my words were "think vol-au-vents but with apples in them") and to check that this wasn't a terrible idea I googled "puff pastry apple tarts", which took me here. We didn't quite follow the recipe in that we had a lot of puff pastry to use up so we just cut out a bit as big as our entire baking tray and layered the apples on top. But it was tasty and super quick and easy. Anyway, here is slightly out of focus, not that food pornie photo of the one I made this afternoon to use up the last of the puff pastry.

Blurry apple tart

My journal has become a little quiet and dull recently. I moved to a new town and started a new job, which means I am busier and my job places limits on what I can say in public forums. I'm still getting a feel for where the line is and in the mean time mainly sticking with posts about food.
lavendersparkle: (Tofu)

This isn't a particularly impressive bento, but it was yummy. I made stir fry for dinner and after dinner, wanting to go to bed rather than overthink the bento, I realised that I could just eat the remaining noodles and put the veggie and tofu part of the stir-fry in my bento box along with a pre-frozen portion of rice.

Stir-fry is one of my favourite quick yummy dinners. Grab random veggies from the fridge, soya sauce, onions, maybe miso and 30 minutes later there's yummy healthy food. In this case I particularly wanted to cook this because the steamed tofu dumplings only use less than half of a pack of tofu so when I make them I have to make something else with tofu in within the next few days. I'm trying to plan ahead to ensure that I use up ingredients and minimise waste.
lavendersparkle: (Tofu)

This was my lunch on Monday. Short grain brown rice which I cook in big batches and freeze in 1 cup portions to defrost in the microwave to put in my bento in the morning. The tofu dumplings are one of my favourite bento items and so yummy it's hard to not eat them all when I make them. The recipe is from Just Bento and I make them with wanton skins which I buy frozen from Yarden, which is why I think mine have a bit more skin to filling than Maki's. The carrot kinpira is also from Just Bento but I think I left out the chilli and soya sauce when I made this batch to just have the carrot and sesame goodness.

The box is a Bento Colors box and you can just see the head of a of the duck Animal sauce bottle poking out from under the rice.
lavendersparkle: (Tofu)
I decided to post about the bentos I make for work. Maybe it will provide inspiration to others.

This is pretty much a replication of the Vegan dry curry bento on Just Bento.

I made the dry curry with chickpeas rather than tempeh because I had a tin of chickpeas whereas tempeh is a slightly more exotic ingredient which requires a trip to Muswell Hill. As Maki says, the dry curry freezes really well. I made a batch weeks ago, bunged it in the freezer in some tuperware and just pulled it out to spread on top of rice in my bento box. I didn't need to defrost it when I packed it in my box. I've also taken to cooking big batches of short grain rice and freezing it in one cup portions, then I just defrost it in the morning in the microwave as I make breakfast.

If you're interested, the box is a 800ml Lock & Lock box which comes with the dividers. Annoyingly the dividers don't reach up to the lid so there is a little bit of movement between the sections as I carry my lunch to work, but not as much as you'd expect. Future posts may contain pcitures of my cute bento accessories.