Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Perfect onion quiche

I have tried making onion quiche several times, and every time, the results just weren't enough to justify the effort. Either the onions were not sufficiently done, or the whole thing would fall apart, or the taste was simply off. Finally, not long ago I finally stumbled upon the perfect way to make simple, crustless onion quiche.

The problem is that this isn't really a recipe. Around here, quiches, like soups, are a take-what-you've-got-and-throw-it-together kind of dish.

Here's the secret: if you don't wish to cook the onions before baking (and I don't, because it's a hassle), they need to be very finely chopped. I now use my nifty little hand-chopper: I peel the onions and cut them into quarters, throw them in, and keep turning the handle until I got my desired tiny pieces of onion.

So, you'll need:

3 middle-to-large onions or 2 very large ones;
3-4 eggs;
a little butter - about 25 gr or a bit more (an ounce);
1\4 cup of cooking oil;
1\2 cup or more of shredded cheese;
about 1 1\2 cups flour + a pinch of baking powder/soda
salt and pepper to taste

* You can omit the oil entirely and add more butter. I just never have enough butter on hand, so I had to be stingy.

Take a large bowl and tip the chopped onions into it; add the eggs, oil and cheese; finely slice the butter and add it as well. Lastly, add the salt and season to taste.

Transfer mixture into baking pan and bake at medium heat until the top is a nice golden-brown color. Take out of the oven, let it cool a little and enjoy. You can serve it hot, at room temperature or even eat it straight out of the fridge (if you have leftovers the next day, which you probably won't).

quiches lorraines - stock photo
Unfortunately, I have no picture on hand, so I'm using this image from Shutterstock.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

More thoughts about learning

I got some pretty insightful responses to my previous post on homeschooling, and I do have to say I'm learning so much along the way and truly enjoying reading everyone's different perspective.

An experienced homeschooling mother writes:

"I would never allow my 6 year old to drive a car, never allow him to choose an adult book to read, never allow him to see inappropriate movies. These are things which require not only restriction when they are young but teaching them discernment as they grow into adulthood. At the same time I will happily direct my child in how to drive a car when he attains the proper age and skills. After years of properly directing and shepherding his character, he may chose to read more adult books and watch more adult movies."

Betty Tracy writes:

"God commands children to obey their parents. Period. Not "obey when they are right or when you feel like it" but just "Obey."

Alycia writes:

"I can also tell you that my need to prove that homeschooling is "working" is waning with each child. I think mothers who have several children with many different personalities, gifts, and temperaments probably lose this need fairly quickly. While society might point to one child as being strange in some way (shy, slow to read, etc.), there will almost always be others in the same family who are exactly the opposite!"

Reading all your personal experiences made me come to the following conclusions:

- Human beings, children included, are flexible and can thrive with different learning approaches.
- I don't need to fear that I'm being inflexible or damage my children's creative spirit when I set a simple task (be it reading, math or whatever). They still have plenty of room for initiative. 
- I don't need to feel guilty every time I set a task a child might not be exactly thrilled about; after all, we do have so much time for free play - most of the day, truly - that my children are a lot better off in this respect than most children. 
- I don't need to re-invent the wheel; there's nothing wrong with using workbooks. 
- Actually, I don't need to fret or feel guilty at all, because as long as we're doing our best and trying out one thing or another, most likely we won't make any irreversible mistakes - if something isn't working, we'll just try something different. 

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Nothing Special

I was always one of the top students in my class; I grew up hearing how talented I am, how I’m capable of doing anything I put my mind to. While I was studying for my degree, it was the same – I kept hearing how intelligent I am and how much is expected of me. Yet even then, I already felt the pull of my heart to be a wife and mother, and shortly after getting out of university I was blessed to meet a man who appreciated a wife who works in her home and cares for the children.

The few years that followed were some of the most intense of my life. I’ve had two children spaced close together, and many months were a blur of sleep-deprivation and constantly changing diapers. I’ve mostly gotten into stride now, so much that the addition of a third baby to our family went relatively smoothly, and I’m able to enjoy my life with my children, however…

… I had to step down and confess that I’m nothing special after all.

It was a humbling realization.

Am I doing important work? Yes. I’m raising my children and providing a safe haven for my family. Am I spending my days in a worthwhile, productive way? Yes (well, at least I try). Am I irreplaceable for my children? Yes. Flawed and imperfect as I am, I am the only mother they have. Would I trade what I do for anything else? No.

But still, I do just what women all over the world do. I take care of my children and the house, I clean, I cook, I do the laundry… I’m doing the same work countless generations of women always did. I can no longer pride myself on some very expertly written paper that got top grades, or on a lecture I gave in front of a professional, interested audience. There's no applause, no impressed audience, and no financial benefits. Today’s achievements consist of cleaning the stove, mopping the floor and reading a chapter of Pippi Longstocking to my children.

This led me to re-evaluating my worth, based not on what I managed to do (which someone somewhere can do better, no matter how hard I try), but on my being what I am… a wife and a mother. Like any woman, in the sense of what I do, but uniquely important from the perspective of my family and precious as a child of G-d.

Mostly this has been a process of shedding layers of pride. This is no longer about my talents, my expectations, my ambitions, my capabilities… it is about taking care of others, humility, and lots and lots of prayer. This may sound like sacrifice, but it isn’t really, because my journey is shaping me into a different person, one I like a lot better, and also one who is a lot happier and has a much truer sense of self-worth and dignity. 

Thursday, July 30, 2015

A visit to the apiary

About two weeks ago, a friend suggested that the children and I join them on a bus tour to an apiary located about two hours from here. I voiced some concern about the possibility of the children being stung, but she assured me the trip would be quite safe, and so on the appointed day we were on our way.

This is how the day went:

9:00-11:00 - rode the bus north. Some beautiful views. Made one stop along the way for a bathroom break.
11:00-12:00 - arrived at the apiary. Sat in the shade at the picnic tables and ate the lunch we brought with us. There were some pens with goats and chickens nearby, which we looked at and petted.
12:00-12:30 - were given a short explanatory lecture by our tour guide, and shown a 10-minute-long clip about the apiary.
12:30 - 13:30 - the children did some bee-related art work in the Visitors' Center, which included coloring the black-and-white picture of a bee and rolling a wax sheet around a wick to make a candle. We also tasted some local honey.
13:30-14:30 - were led by our guide back to the picnic tables. The children were given some poisonous-looking blue ice lollies they ate while waiting for the bus (everyone's tongues were blue). Looked at the animals some more. Washed hands and went to the bathroom.
14:30-16:30 - rode the bus home and ate the last of our snacks along the way.

As we headed back, I was astounded by the fact that through all our tour, we didn't see a single live bee. There was absolutely nothing about the whole experience that couldn't have been done right here at home. In my personal opinion we would have been much better served if the bus had just stopped somewhere along the way so we could picnic among the gorgeous views we glimpsed as we drove by.

So why bother to write about this? It's just that I believe this tour represents very well the modern educational experience as it is delivered to the children - safe, sterile, and thoroughly watered down.

In our old neighborhood we had a friend who kept bees. We learned much more about bees by actually visiting her hives, seeing her wearing the beekeeper's suit, and listening to her talk about her day-to-day work. We learned how to be careful around bees and how to harvest honey. We learned that bees must be provided with a source of water in the summer, and that there are some predators out there after bees and honey. And we learned which plants are attractive to the bees (pretty much the whole hive hummed around our rosemary bushes when they flowered).

It's so easy to learn... pretty much all you have to do is live life without artificial barriers between you and your experiences.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

A long-term vision for home

I have just found this gem of an article, which was a great comfort and inspiration for me. I hope it will do the same for you.

It's true that most of us didn't leave anything as prestigious as a career with the NASA to become a stay-at-home wife, but I'm sure everyone has had those mornings when even being someone's secretary sounds pretty tempting, because you get to wear a suit, sit in a chair for most of the day, and get a few hours off wiping noses and bottoms. 

In the neighborhood we currently live in, there is a fair number of young mothers with babies who are staying home.  With their babies - that's the key phrase here, because as soon as those babies grow a little older, or at most hit their toddler years, they are put in daycare (even if their mothers don't work). The stay-at-home period is seen as temporary, and you often hear expressions such as "I just couldn't stand being home anymore" and "it was so oppressive, I had to go out to work and do something".

Another prevalent feature of the local stay-at-home Moms is that it's always just one child who is home with their mother (unless it's twins). That is, if there's a baby and a toddler, and the mother stays home with the baby, the toddler is always in daycare - even though daycare costs money, and Mom is home anyway, and even if the family isn't very well off financially. Mothers would still rather pay for daycare than stay home with two children, which is seen as impossibly burdensome (or so I was told when I had two under two at home). I really don't see it that way. Babies, especially past a certain stage, appreciate the company of their siblings, and I personally find it's easier to entertain several children than just one.

We are different from most people in this sense. In the seven years of my marriage, I have stayed home almost consistently (sometimes working from home, sometimes working on a flexible schedule outside), even when we didn't have babies (Tehilla was 4 when Israel was born). We are home educators. Furthermore, I don't feel at all oppressed or depressed for staying home. I feel happy. Of course, seeing everybody around me working so diligently towards certain goals, I sometimes get these nagging moments of worry/panic: couldn't I do something more, too? Am I pulling my weight? Am I doing enough to contribute to our financial stability? I used to be top of my class, I have a hard-earned degree from a prestigious university. So many expectations used to be pinned on me. Am I a disappointment?

Naturally, I then look at my baby and realize that there's no chance I'd let someone else to take care of him instead of doing so myself. I feel thoroughly privileged to be able to say he has hardly been out of my sight since he was born.

Does it matter who changes the baby's diapers, who teaches the toddler to drink from a cup? I believe it does. I believe memories cannot be artificially created in little slots of time crammed here and there in an overflowing busy life. I do believe that what I am doing makes a difference - slowly, imperceptibly - in the life of our family and in those whose lives are touched by our presence. 

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Unschooling and social pressure

I've read several books by John Holt and was truly inspired by his ideas. You know what it's like, when you read or hear something and it sounds great not in the way of being a completely new idea, but rather, in the way of being familiar - as in, you've vaguely thought about it yourself some time, but didn't quite know how to word it:

"... the human animal is a learning animal; we like to learn; we are good at it; we don't need to be shown how or made to do it. What kills the processes are the people interfering with it or trying to regulate it or control it."

Deep down, what I'd really like to do is step back and take my hands completely off my children's learning process. However, I will confess I'm a little afraid to do that, and there's also the matter of social pressure. When your educational choices are unusual, you may feel under a lot of pressure to provide results that are as good as - no, better than - everyone else's. "Yes, I home educate my children and this is why my 4-year-old is reading fluently and recites poetry in three languages". You need to prove that you are doing alright, that you aren't headed for disaster with your weird ways. 

If you've got a late reader, or a child with special needs, or a child whose social skills need polishing - in short, if you are facing any problem at all with your child's education and training, there will be people who chalk it all up to your educational choices, especially if such choices are considered radical in your community. 

I know someone, now an adult, who had been homeschooled. He is by all standards a successful person, the father of four children, runs his own business, etc. However, his personality isn't exactly outgoing. So, whenever his name comes up in conversation in connection to homeschooling, people go, "Aha! Of course K. is so anti-social - he was homeschooled!" - everyone is just ready to pounce on his example as proof that homeschoolers produce kids with no social skills. 

Naturally, the world is full of grumpy people who went to school, and of friendly, sunshiny people who had been homeschooled. But apparently, the easiest thing is to take any quirk, challenge or weakness and blame it on what's unusual, "abnormal" with this person's lifestyle choices. 

One of my daughters, in particular, serves as the perfect illustration to John Holt's unschooling philosophy. She loves learning but hates being taught. She'll do wonderful, creative things, she'll ask hundreds of questions and walk inspecting her surroundings through a magnifying glass by the hour, but she'll instantly rebel as soon as I initiate something because I think it's "educational". 

So what is the answer? I have none. Just some thoughts along the way. 

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Just to say, Thank You

I had my birthday yesterday. In the Jewish tradition, one spends time on their birthday in introspection and prayer, and so did I. I wished to find eloquent words to express what I feel, but eventually I just closed my eyes and lifted up a prayer of thanks to G-d for all the abundant blessings He had showered me with. My family. My children. The privilege of living in Israel. The privilege of staying home with my children. The magical event, this year, of giving birth to my long-awaited son. Life is just so beautiful. So, so beautiful. Not in a perfect way, but in-the-midst-of-the-grit beautiful. If there is one thing I aspire to do differently is to be more relaxed and enjoy our days together, especially while our children are little, as these days are so fleeting and precious.

We also, of course, had fun this week as a family. My husband had some days off work and, as the area we live in is full of beautiful places, we made some lovely day trips. On one of them we stopped at a lovely restaurant which was basically a beautiful wooden cabin on the side of a mountain. It overlooked hundreds of rows of grape vines and a valley deep below, and the mountain breeze was so refreshing. The perfect place to stop in the middle of the road on a golden summer afternoon.

 Some pretty hair.
 Some nice, fresh, healthy eggs of different shapes and sizes.
 One magnificent sunset.
 Midday view from our living room window.
Part of the same landscape, in winter... it's hard to believe it snowed here only a few short months ago.