Review with Unexpected Deer

deer in Highland Park backyard
Friday afternoon right before candlelighting and who comes to visit but three deer? One quickly hopped the fence when he saw us, but the one in the front had a staring contest with my husband and then with me. The deer finally jumped over the fence to depart when I danced back and forth with my camera. My husband said it looked the deer might pounce on us.

Elsewhere in the Blogosphere

I am pleased to announce that I will be part of a tour of Sydney Taylor Book Awards. See the schedule:


Ann Redisch Stampler, author of The Wooden Sword
Sydney Taylor Honor Award winner in the Older Readers Category
At Shelf-Employed

Carol Liddiment, illustrator of The Wooden Sword
Sydney Taylor Honor Award winner in the Older Readers Category
At Ann Koffsky’s Blog

Doreen Rappaport, author of Beyond Courage: The Untold Story of Jewish Resistance During the Holocaust
Sydney Taylor Honor Award in the Teen Readers Category
At Bildungsroman


Linda Glaser, author of Hannah’s Way
Sydney Taylor Book Award winner in the Younger Readers Category
At This Messy Life

Adam Gustavson, illustrator of Hannah’s Way
Sydney Taylor Book Award winner in the Younger Readers Category
At Here in HP

Louise Borden, author of His Name was Raoul Wallenberg
Sydney Taylor Book Award winner in the Older Readers Category
At Randomly Reading

Deborah Heiligman, author of Intentions
Sydney Taylor Book Award winner in the Teen Readers Category
At The Fourth Musketeer


Sheri Sinykin, author of Zayde Comes to Live
Sydney Taylor Honor Award in the Younger Readers Category
At Read, Write, Repeat

Kristina Swarner, illustrator of Zayde Comes to Live
Sydney Taylor Honor Award in the Younger Readers Category
At Writing & Illustrating


Linda Leopold Strauss, author of The Elijah Door
Sydney Taylor Honor Award in the Younger Readers Category
At Pen and Prose

Alexi Natchev, illustrator of The Elijah Door
Sydney Taylor Honor Award in the Younger Readers Category
At Madelyn Rosenberg’s Virtual Living Room


Blog Tour Wrap-Up at The Whole Megillah

About the Tour: The Sydney Taylor Book Award will be celebrating and showcasing its 2013 gold and silver medalists and a few selected Notables with a Blog Tour, February 11-15, 2013! Interviews with winning authors and illustrators will appear on a wide variety of Jewish and kidlit blogs. For those of you who have not yet experienced a Blog Tour, it’s basically a virtual book tour. Instead of going to a library or bookstore to see an author or illustrator speak, you go to a website on or after the advertised date to read an author’s or illustrator’s interview.

One Drawing Per Week

Crayon drawing inspired by the exercise A Child Could Do This
Crayon drawing inspired by the exercise A Child Could Do This

Book Review: One Drawing a Day

I took a wonderful book out of the library called One Drawing a Day. The book, written by artist Veronica Lawlor with the help of other artists, has over 42 drawing exercises, some color, some not, some outside, some for at home. I soon discovered that there was no way I was going to keep up with a drawing every day, so I am trying to content myself with one drawing per week, as the title of my post suggests.

There is an accompanying blog to go with the book, also called One Drawing a Day. However, it seems to be examples of drawings as opposed to more exercises, so if you want the exercises, get the book. I may just need to purchase the book, because there is only so many times I can take it out of the library.

The exercise on the top was done with children’s crayons. It is called a Child Could Do This – you are actually supposed to ask a child for suggestions. I just sorted out some of my daughter’s crayons and used those. Scribble and make shapes a kid would make was part of the suggestion.

Below is a sketch of a family member on the computer:
man at computer
You are supposed to concentrate on the person you are observing and not spend all your time staring at your paper. I did the sketch with a drawing marker.

This was the very first exercise in the book, observing objects in one’s home:
dreidel bookcase flower
The flower was actually a design on our sofa cover. What objects do you see?

Short Story Review: The Oxford Book of Hebrew Short Stories

When I originally conceived of the idea for this post, my intention was to write about the short story Cold Spring by Aaron Appelfeld. In fact, I took out The Oxford Book of Hebrew Short Stories (edited by Glenda Abramson) from the library because the book contained a story I had read in high school (mind you, this was in the 1970’s) called “Cold Spring.” We had read it in the original Hebrew, and at the time the style of writing must have made at least a bit of an impression on me. “Cold Spring” takes place directly after World War II has ended. In Appelfeld’s typical style, the story does not talk directly about the Holocaust. It merely alludes to the tragedy the characters have left behind. Appelfeld paints a picture for the reader, but like a realist who only accentuates certain details, we must guess what the full story might be.

However, as I read through the other short stories, I decided I couldn’t write a post without mentioning some of those that had an effect on me. Several authors were women that I had never heard of. I noted that the book is called Hebrew Short Stories as opposed to Israeli Short Stories – some were written well before the founding of the modern State of Israel.

One of the stories that made me change my mind and write about more than one short story was “Sunbeams” by Dvora Baron. I told the synopsis of the story to my daughter and her friend: a young orphan in an Eastern European village is handed from household to household, grows up this way and learns not to depend for affection on any one human, is finally happy when working in a bakery, gets married (not so happy a marriage), her husband dies, she goes back to her shed and bakery. Then she dies. My daughter and her friend declare: that is *SO* depressing, how could you like such a story. I really enjoyed this well-told story. There’s a cow that’s a central player (I think the main character’s affection goes to this cow). The main character learned to be content, even if her life was difficult.

Want to know what *I* thought was depressing? “Cut Off” by Yitzhak Dov Berkowitz is a tale of an elderly woman who travels to New York to be with her only living son – her other children died in childhood and her husband more recently. She discovers her son has changed his name from Rabinowitz to Robbins, and all he seems to care about is showing her how much money he has made and how American her family is. She hands her grandsons prayer books she brought with her from Europe. They clearly have no idea what to do with them. The older one puts his back, while the younger son at least wraps his in yellow paper to protect it. At least he wants to show his grandmother some appreciation.

The last two stories in the book, “Morning in the Park with Nannies” by Savyon Liebrecht and “Dora’s Secret” by Ruth Almog both have Holocaust themes. Both stories have unique methods of using post-Holocaust, modern life settings (a park with nannies and a home in St. Cloud, France) to relay Holocaust tragedies. I own a copy of Savyon Liebrecht’s book It’s All Greek to Me in Hebrew that I bought in 1991. Maybe I should try reading it again.

The book has a wonderful introduction to the history of modern Hebrew literature. All of the modern Hebrew authors I know are included in the volume with the exception of the masterful S.Y. Agnon (the noble prize winner in literature), as they could not get permission to print the short story of his they wanted. If you do read any of the stories in this collection, I would be curious to hear which made an impact on you.

Review: The River Midnight

In Lillian Nattel’s novel, The River Midnight, four Vilda Hayas (wild beasts) I mean four teenage girls grow up into women, each leading different kinds of lives, all revolving around the little fictional shtetl of Blaszka in Poland. Hannah-Leah gets married but cannot have children, Faygela gets married and has more children than she can handle, Zisa-Sara dies young and tragically after marrying, having two children and moving to New York, and Misha marries only briefly. Parts of the story’s plot are told over and over again from varying points of view – one must get used to this while reading the novel. At first one thinks, didn’t I read that already? But then something new is learned in the next telling.

Is the story realistic? I don’t know, I didn’t live in 19th century Poland, and neither did Lillian Nattel. But I like her characters, and I enjoyed learning more about each one. We never really get to know Zisa-Sara, but we learn more about her family through her revolution-seeking daughter Emma, her aunt Alta-Fruma and her Torah learning son Izzie. Pogroms, Shabbos food, Yom Kippur prayers, a woman who must give up her dream of higher education when her father dies, fertility and infertility, a pig owned by a Jew and an herb healer who gets pregnant out of wedlock are all part of the tale.

I found one of the questions in the reading group guide at the end of the book a bit strange: “What do the people of Blaszka get out of following their strict religion with its rules, songs, dances at prayers?” I say strange because their version of Judaism did not seem particular strict to me. It seemed like a woman-centered society – the rabbis don’t really seem to be dictatorial leaders, even if they are the knowledgeable ones. Without the women, everything would fall apart.

I will leave you with a taste of the writing style, a paragraph and a line from the prologue:

Time is a trickster in Poland. In Warsaw they have electric lights. On the farms, peasants make their own candles. And in Blaszka? There, time juggles fire, throwing off sparks that reach far into the past and spin toward the future.

But shh, we can’t talk now. The story is about to start.

Review with Raritan Ave Detail

detail from Raritan Avenue watercolor
Detail from watercolor of Raritan Avenue

Elsewhere in the Blogosphere

  • Margo Young has a blog about her book, A Voyage Through Time. She left Germany in 1938.
  • In memory of Hannah Katsman’s father, here is a post she wrote in 2008 about her father: Holocaust Remembrance Day: One Family’s Story.
  • Rayna Eliana is often reviewing books that I would like to read, and here is one: Review – The Island Within (three generations of a Jewish family as their lives lead them from Vilna, Lithuania to America).
  • Ilana-Davita reviews The Pity of It All (informative account of German Jewish history from the arrival of Moses Mendelssohn in Berlin to Hitler’s being appointed chancellor).
  • I bet my husband would love this Lemon Pie. Oh, my daughter might enjoy it, too. By the way, I’m hosting the next Kosher Cooking Carnival (submit your posts here).

Homemade Sauerkraut

Basic sauerkraut isn’t that hard. You just need sea salt, cabbage and some good glass or ceramic containers. And the patience to wait about two weeks.

coleslaw sauerkraut
This was my first kraut, which had chopped garlic and carrots in addition to the cabbage. Note the large cabbage leaf on top.

Ingredients and Supplies

  • Cabbage – any kind will do
  • Sea salt – a few sprinkles for every time you chop up some cabbage
  • 1 large glass jar
  • 1 small glass jar that will fit inside the large jar – I used a baby food jar.
  • Knife, cutting board, large bowl

How to Prepare the Sauerkraut

Put aside one or two large, outer leaves from the cabbage for later. Chop the cabbage. When the cutting board is full of cabbage, put it in the large bowl and sprinkle on some sea salt. Each time you fill the cutting board with cabbage, sprinkle on some sea salt. If you prefer amounts, in his book Wild Fermentation, Sandor Katz suggests 3 tablespoons per 5 pounds of cabbage.

According to Sandor Katz, you can’t use table salt, as it may not work in the fermentation process. More about sea salt vs. table salt on this article. You can buy sea salt in Highland Park at Anna’s Health Food Center for about $3.

Once the chopped cabbage is in the bowl, you press it with your hands until the water from the cabbage starts to leak out. In one video I watched, the sauerkraut preparer used a potato masher to hasten the process. In another, the person wore plastic gloves while pressing the cabbage. Next, press the cabbage into the large glass jar. Take the outer leave(s) and press them on top of your chopped cabbage. If the brine doesn’t cover the chopped cabbage, add a little water + salt to the top so it does cover. Press your small baby food jar bottle on top of the cabbage. If you can’t cover your large jar with the cap (and you probably won’t be able to until the cabbage has settled more or has been eaten a bit), cover it with a cloth and a rubber band.

Place your jar on a high shelf in your kitchen or in your basement or some other cool, dry place. Do not refrigerate yet – that will stop the fermentation process. Feel free to try the mixture every few days. We ate some after one week, and then we ate the rest after two weeks. If you have the patience to wait a month, maybe it will be even better then!

Benefits of Fermentation

Sandor Katz writes: “Fermentation not only preserves nutrients, it breaks them down into more easily digestible forms.” Some of you may have heard of priobiotics and its many benefits — think of fermentation as creating your own probiotics. A Finnish study found fermented cabbage could be even healthier than raw or cooked cabbage for fighting cancer.

For more information:

Review with Fermented Cabbage

fermented cabbage
Here’s how my fermented cabbage, carrots, garlic and onion looked yesterday. You can learn more about fermenting in this post.

On My Blog

Jazz dancers begin their moves Why can't we always be on Vacation? ballet dancer with duck on head
cardinal in burning bush raspberry smoothie getting ready to dance tap on stage

Elsewhere on the Web

  • Rayna Elianna reviews The Same Sea, by Amos Oz.
  • Ilana-Davita writes: “I would love to know what Jewish thinkers and writers inspire you the most.”
  • Dr. Muli Peleg: Peaceful resolution requires compassion
  • Did you know that Rav Kook admired Rembrandt?
  • I wrote about slideshows on my tech biz blog . I included a Jewish woodworker, a dance studio that presented a New Jersey version of Beauty and the Beast, and some NASA space photos. My favorite is the graduate slideshow that I put together, in honor of a new graduate level program for Rutgers Jewish Studies.
  • Books I’ve Read, Books I’m Reading

    Gertruda’s Oath, Ram Oren
    Wild Fermentation, Sandor Katz
    Fear No Evil, Natan Sharansky

    I highly recommend all three of these books. What are you reading?

    Creative Dramatics

    mask in New York City for Phantom Never Dies
    mask on Broadway in New York City for Phantom Never Dies

    Two weeks ago I started a little dramatics group for my daughter and her friends. Some background on this theater group: my daughter had been asking me about drama classes. All the drama classes in our area are a distance away, and I knew that even if I could get her there, we would have problems with Saturday performances. Since I had taught drama way back when (in the early 1980’s!) and had taken one class in creative dramatics in college, I thought: I can do this! My daughter asked all her friends, most were interested, but only a few could actually come.

    We are working on scenes from Ramona and Beezus by Beverly Clearly. If you have read any of the Ramona books, feel free to share your favorite chapters or scenes in the comments.

    Here are a few drama exercises:

    • Stop! Game – two players create a scene without talking. After three minutes, third player yells freeze! Both players freeze. Third player taps on the shoulder of one of the two, and that one must leave the scene. The third player then creates a new scene with the other player.
    • Common Difficulty Activity – without speaking, act out a common, frustrating activity, such as putting on boots that are too tight, pulling up a stuck zipper, or combing knotty hair.
    • Gibberish – sell something to the audience using gibberish (nonsense talk).
    • Pleasant mother routine – ask the kids, how can you tell if your mother is in a good mood? One player is the mother in a good mood, and the other is a child asking permission to go outside and play.
    • Worried parent – how does a parent look worried? Act this out.

    I hope these posts about drama (I set up a whole new category called drama on this blog) and theater exercises can be helpful to parents or teachers who want to try some acting with their kids. These exercises can be excellent therapy for kids; what a release to be able to talk about (or act out) feelings and relationships after a whole day of book learning.

    When I was in college, we used Viola Spolin’s book Improvisation for the Theater. My old copy is still guiding me as I set up this class for my daughter and friends.

    Review with Carrot Watercolor

    carrot watercolor
    Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, is in less than one month. So I started looking at past posts I wrote about the holiday. I have an idea for a new way to present the simanim (symbols) – I plan to post it next week.

    On My Blog

    mugs at Lazy Bean Cafe Pure Turkish Emery three men outside Friede Woolens
    doorway to a building in Batsto Village dinner at Longstreet Farm: ham, bread, asparagus, blue china butterfly
    Agnon, Joyce, Woolf and Kafka
    What Happens When You Raise Taxes

    Elsewhere in the Blogosphere

    I read Nomad by Ayaan Hirsi Ali – she has led a difficult life, and what she has to say is not easy to hear, but she is a good writer and her story is gripping. I read the book in only two days. I can’t say I agree with her conclusions, but her story of growing up in Somalia, Kenya and Saudi Arabia, then running away to Holland because she doesn’t want to marry the man her father has chosen for her is quite a tale. I amazed that she has made it as far as she has in life (at one point, she was a member of Dutch Parliament; now she is a fellow at American Enterprise Institute).

    Nasturtium and Oh If I had Time

    If I had time, I would write these posts:

    • Review of The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit, by Lucette Lagnado, a fine, moving, fascinating book
    • Review of Isaac’s Torah, by Angel Wagenstein
    • Millet Pilaf recipe or my nickname for it, millaf
    • About braces? And kids?

    I have had time to putter in the garden, and so our family has enjoyed salad with nasturtium and nasturtium flowers.

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