Sunny days

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It hardly seems fair that the weather should be so enticing when all we seem to do lately is dig into kitchen drawers, refrigerators and closet shelves, and clean, clean, clean.

My husband suggested that we all take a break and make a little day trip to the Kinneret. We now live relatively close to this largest lake of Israel.

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With the latest rains, the Kinneret has reached far beyond its usual borders, almost covering these reeds that grew along what used to be the bank.

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Though the water was too chilly to our liking to dip in, Israel enjoyed a refreshing splash. I think he looks a little like Tarzan in this photo!

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Hadassah, in the meantime, was occupied by some interesting-looking pebbles.

It was such a lovely afternoon that I wish I could have taken about a thousand more pictures to preserve its beauty, but I know it would still not have been enough.

In the meantime, we’re working extra hard in preparation for the Pesach holiday, which takes place next week, and also, in between, trying to subdue the enormous jungle of weeds that sprang up in our garden.

This is the first crop of my husband’s container potatoes – digging for them was a real treasure hunt for the kids:

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Perfect quick playdough

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I will readily admit that, though slime seems to be all the rage now, I find plain old playdough much more appealing. Its texture is more gratifying, in my opinion, and you can do much more with it than just stretch and squish.

This playdough recipe popped up on my Pinterest feed and I knew I just had to try it as it was so simple and quick.

I was not disappointed – the playdough came out delightfully squishy, soft and pliable. Even the older kids (and their mom!) had a blast rolling, shaping and punching it.

The recipe is really the simplest you’ll ever find:

1 part hair conditioner (you had better use the cheapest kind)

2 parts corn or potato starch

Optional: a few drops of food coloring.

In a bowl, mix the starch and hair conditioner until you get a nice soft lump of playdough. Israel loved the squishing and mixing with his hands.

Add a little more cornstarch or conditioner as needed. Knead in the food coloring. That’s it! 

There’s always a mess factor when doing a playdough activity, but in this case it’s really minor. Any stray bits of playdough will dry out and can be easily swept or vacuumed. It doesn’t stick and it smells great!

I hope you enjoy this simple and creative activity with the children in your life.

Basic Lip Balm: two ingredient recipe

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I ran out of lip balm a few cold and windy days ago, and rather than venturing out in this weather, I thought I’d try making my own.

Most lip balm recipes call for beeswax, which I thought I didn’t have on hand, but then I discovered some fragments of a broken beeswax sheet while I was clearing out a drawer (Pesach, here we come! ). Perfect!

Other than the beeswax, the only ingredient you will need is oil – I used olive, but coconut, jojoba or another nourishing oil would work just as well.

The proportions are approximately 1 part beeswax to 6 parts oil. You can decrease the amount of beeswax a little if you live in a cold climate and would like your lip balm to be softer.

Mix the oil and beeswax in a small pot over a very low flame, or better yet, place your small pot into a larger pot filled with boiling water and stir. The beeswax will melt very quickly.

Optional: at this point you can add some essential oils. I added a drop of mint and rosemary for a refreshing herbal scent.

Pour the mixture into containers and allow to set. That’s it! A few minutes of work, and you have a healthy, natural balm that’s great for your lips and other extra dry areas such as elbows and heels. It can even be used as a diaper cream.

PS: in case you are wondering about the hole in the middle of the lip balm jar, I suspect it had set this way because I popped it into the refrigerator to speed up the process.

Along with homemade soap, a cute little jar of this lip balm would make a fantastic gift for whomever you might want to pamper.

Cheering up with chickens

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Wherever we are, it seems like it’s only a matter of time until we find some chickens. It turns out we have a neighbor who has a whole yard full of poultry (we found him through the crowing of his roosters), including all my favorite chicken breeds such as Silkies, Brahmas, Polish, Wyandotte, Sussex… And it turns out we have some poultry aficionados as common acquaintance. So now hopefully, once I am able to nudge my husband (*smile*) in the direction of building a coop and giving the incubator a test run, we can get fresh eggs for hatching. Really, in moving here, there is nothing I miss like my chickens. For the time being, we go to visit and feed our neighbor’s birds whenever we can.

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Speaking of going somewhere… There hasn’t been much of that lately because the rains have been SO intense for the season. We even missed our regular afternoon in the library today! I’m surprised at the strength of my craving for sunshine, warmth and all that comes with it – hammocks, picnics, wading pools, bare feet, and working in the garden.

In the meantime, we have been trying to make the best of these days of being cooped up inside (as you can judge by Shira’s modeling clay art), drawing, reading, and taking out all our favorite board games. We have actually finished the fifth Harry Potter book, which has been our ongoing read for months.

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I have also been putting the closets in order and discovered another stash of yarn scraps that will be just perfect for a doll-making project. Once, of course, I put Pesach (and all the cleaning it entails) behind me.

I hope spring is on its way to all my friends in the northern hemisphere!

When winter refuses to give up

Last night, we were awake multiple times due to one of the most epic thunderstorms I have witnessed this year. In the morning, we got up to a quiet, moisture-filled world, with water dropping down from the tree branches and puddles everywhere.

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There’s even a little stream of sorts that flows after heavy rains, and guess who loves to put on his rubber boots and wade through it?

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The spring flowers, however, won’t take no for an answer. They know it’s their time to bloom.

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I, too, am gearing up for warm weather projects and making a little dress for Hadassah. I hope to finish it soon and post the tutorial as well.

Have a wonderful early spring, everyone!

Spring flowers

Have I mentioned that I’m not a winter person? I’m sure I have, a time or twenty. Yeah, yeah, I know what you’re all thinking – that we have no real winter here. However, short days, lack of sunshine, and rain make me want to crawl under a blanket and sleep until it’s spring again.

So you can imagine how happy I am when it’s sunny and warm and all my favorite flowers are out.

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Beautiful white cyclamens – we need to decide where to plant them so that they can bloom again next year.

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More cyclamens, of a smaller, wild variety. They smell delightful.

Forget-me-nots.

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Pink geranium, growing by the day and quite happy in its new home.

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Look at that big stalk growing out of our aloe plant. You can also see a tomato bush or two in the background. And yes, the weeds are winning the race against us, because they, unlike us, didn’t mind being out in the rain these past few days!

I’m wishing happy spring to you all. My mind already transports me to the season beyond Pesach cleaning, to the joys of long afternoons, iced lemonade, hammocks and crickets.

Crochet Tutorial: The Puff Stitch

Like its name implies, the puff stitch is puffy and can add tons of texture to any crochet project. I personally love it, but it’s a bit tricky to master and goes a little beyond basic crochet skills. It works best with yarn that is relatively thick and fluffy (not thin cotton/bamboo) and doesn’t have a tendency to separate into strands.

The basic principle of the puff stitch is casting on a loop of yarn as you would for a double stitch, but rather than binding it off at the top, you cast another stitch, and then another, as shown in the diagram here:

Step 1:

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Step 2:

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You can see a video of me crocheting the puff stitch here:

I’m working with lovely natural merino wool such as this one. It has a delightful texture and is a joy to work with.

A pattern sample incorporating the puff stitch:

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Note: the puff stitch, like other textured crochet stitches, does take up substantially more yarn, so if you aren’t sure how much you need for a project, it’s better to stash up!

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