Friday, October 31, 2008

Forgot to Add...

Compared to last September, food prices are up 12%. Between 2006 and 2007 they only went up 5%, so this year has been a hefty increase (as we're all aware!).

The Cost of Food

We have been on a mission to drastically reduce our food budget, and I must admit that it has been very difficult. I went to the USDA website today. They have a guide to what families should expect to spend on groceries here. A family of 6, with kids the same ages as ours, has budget ranges that look like this:

Thrifty plan: $704/month
Low-cost plan: $896/month
Moderate plan: $1,089/month
Liberal plan: $1,343/month

This assumes that all meals are prepared at home, not eaten out at restaurants (certainly true here, with only one kosher restaurant in town, and given the fact that we can't afford to eat out anyway!).

I have been trying to get our groceries down from $1,000/month to $800/month. Given the "kosher tax" on food (i.e. kosher meats and cheeses are more expensive; often we can't buy the cheaper brand because it has no hechscher, etc., etc.), I was pretty pleased to see that actually we're doing pretty well if we're spending $800-900. We could probably be in the thrifty plan range if we only ate chicken thighs on Friday nights, and eliminated our dairy consumption. I don't want to go that far. But I also see it as a want, not a need. A human being can do just fine (maybe better!) on beans and rice.

Reading the Little House on the Prairie series has been a wonderful exercise in gratitude. We are buried in wants. Needs are easy to get, and don't necessarily require heavy physical labor to acquire. No matter how tight our budgets are these days, it's nothing compared to being a pioneer on the frontier. Even in the worst of economic times here (at least in recent history!), we are much better off than most of the world. We don't truly know hardship in this country. Most of us, anyway.

We're almost finished with the 5th book of 9, and we're going strong. I'm so excited. I've realized I only ever read three of the books, so it's been great reading the others. And discovering that pretty much all but a handful of stories on the Little House tv show were made up in tv land, not from the books. It was a great show nonetheless.

Back to shabbat cooking.

And here's THE MENU:

buffalo brisket
baked squash
carrot kugel
steamed cracked wheat
zucchini latkes
sugar cookies (that the kids painted with egg paint yesterday!)
apple cake

Okay, back at it. This was a nice break, and no one melted down as I typed it!

Our Children's Heritage

Our children are...

Russian-Hungarian-Polish-German-Swedish-English-Irish-Scottish-Norwegian-Danish-Ethiopian Jews. How's that for an inheritance? :)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

I Hate This Election

For the first time in my life, I'm really hating this election. One candidate I absolutely can't vote for, and another that makes me queasy at the thought of voting for him. Vote for one just to vote against another? Ugh. Vote for one and hope for the best? Ugh. Pass on voting altogether? Double ugh.

Rod Dreher is abstaining this year. Here's an article he wrote on the subject.


Ugh again.


Monday, October 27, 2008

Tonight's Haul & a GOOD Movie

I made another little dent in all that freezer fruit. Tonight I canned 2 gallons of grape juice, 8 pints of pomegranate jelly, and 20+ pounds of tomatoes/onions/garlic/spices are cooking down in the slow cooker overnight. They'll get pureed and frozen sometime tomorrow. I got these for $0.50 per pound from our CSA farm. He just brought a bunch of extras with the last (sniff, sniff) delivery. A pretty good night. Just as most people are finishing putting up all their summer produce, this one is just kicking into high gear. Oh, well. :) I love the clicking sounds the jars make as the lids seal after their hot water bath. A clicking kitchen just sounds very happy. And hey, if something ever happens to the water supply, chas v'shalom, we can drink grape juice for days. And days. And days. And still have lots left over.

In between putting jars in hot water and taking jars out I also watched a movie that the rest of them were watching. This movie was in deep contrast to last week's movie! We love the Blue Planet series from Discovery Channel. It is beautifully narrated by David Attenborough, and is a far cry from the "whoah, cool awesome" narration we got on Aliens of the Deep last week. Tonight we watched the episode about coasts. I always learn many new things, and so does my husband PhD and all. :) Did you know that when a walrus is swimming in the ocean (where it spends most of its non-breeding life), it's skin turns all white? It keeps all the blood in the core of its body so it doesn't freeze. When they go up on land, the capillaries gradually open up and they turn to what I think of as their usual pinky-brown color. Isn't that interesting??

My husband brings home the projector from work on the weekends, so we watch them on what is actually a window shade that makes a perfect movie screen. It's fun to see the movies so big, though I would never pay real money for the experience.

As soon as there is time, I also have to tell about the most wonderful chapter we read in Farmer Boy on shabbat. Great financial advice that applies really well today, and a wonderful example of really beautiful parenting. This is just a reminder to myself! :)

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Our New Games

A week or so ago we got a couple of new games to add to our collection. We have had a ton of fun with both of them. The first one is mancala, and papa taught Amirah how to strategize with this. Now she can legitimately beat me by planning out her moves. Eli likes to play too. He makes random moves that don't put many stones in his mancala pocket, but he sure enjoys playing!

Our other new game is Professor Noggin Life in the Ocean Card Game. The cards have questions on the back about the animal on the front. There's an easier set of questions and a harder set. You can roll a die to see which of the three questions (hard or easy) you're supposed to answer, or just shout out the number like we do. We play that if Amirah gets the answer right, she gets to keep the card. If she gets it wrong, I get to keep the card. On the easier questions, she gets most of the cards, but on the harder ones it's about 50/50. She is fact-crazy about animals of all kinds, so she loves to play this game.

And MY new toy is a steam juicer! We've borrowed one from a friend in the past, but this year with 130 (of 150) pounds of grapes still in the freezer and 10 pomegranates to juice (not to mention all the frozen summer fruit I haven't yet turned into jam, our freezers are currently way too full. So, in the interest of making room for next month's meat delivery, we got our own juicer. Tonight I did 7 quarts of grape juice and 7 pints of apricot jam (not in the juicer). It's a start!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Quote of the Week

Amirah (regarding a short mystery story we read): I think he is unhatching the mysteries and secrets of the building.

I like that idea - unhatching the mysteries. We'll work on that! :)

The Menu

miso soup
broiled hoisin chicken
buffalo gyoza (dumplings)
pickled carrot salad
sesame spinach
brown rice
broiled tofu
apple cake

Then and Now

Avi and Raizel's faces have changed so much since they came home, I just had to share (then I'll go cook!!). So many changes in 5-1/2 months!





More Artwork

We finished our spider webs today! The glue dried over the last few days, then we colored it all over with various colors of chalk. When we rubbed it all over with our fingers, the chalk on the glue rubbed off and the background colors blurred together. The spider web stood right out from the chalk. Pretty fun!

This is Amirah's web - lots of fun colors

This is Eli's web. He was very excited that he made all the glue lines by himself.

As we were working on our webs we were reminiscing about last fall when we had quite a spider drama playing daily outside our sliding glass door. Mrs. Spider had made her web right in the door where we could observe her incredibly closely if we stood on a chair. We saw her spin, wrap and eat bugs, and even do a mating dance with Mr. Spider who maintained a web at our other kitchen window. We got to know four of our spiders by name! Mrs. Spider was really big, and didn't disappear until mid-November. This year, we got to see her egg sac hatch and hundreds of spiderlings crawl along the deck railing. But none of them stayed. We felt a lot like Wilbur at the end of Charlotte's Web when all the spiderlings are ballooning away. The only difference was that none of ours stuck around. We were very sad not to see anyone setting up housekeeping this year.

When we finished our webs, Amirah and I did some drawing. We finished reading On the Banks of Plum Creek and By the Shores of Silver Lake last week. We are now reading Farmer Boy. At the end of Silver Lake, Laura glimpses her future husband, so I thought it would be a good time to go back and read the book about his childhood on a farm in New York. They are quite a bit better off than Laura's family - many successful crops and many herds of animals. Amirah decided to draw a picture of what she thought their house would look like. Here it is!

Since we spent today waiting... and waiting... and waiting for the roof workers to arrive (cleaning and minor repairing), we didn't get out like we hoped. But we did get some math, reading, writing, and art done. I got the Singapore Kindergarten math books, levels A & B. Level B was just the right place for Amirah, and Eli begged to have the other book. So away he's going into it. I don't know if we'll get to a point where it becomes too hard too quickly (he's 3-1/2, and the book is really for age 5), but he very enthusiastically did the first ten pages or so. He loved having math time just like Amirah. He's begging for reading lessons too, so we'll have to start that soon! He already does Hebrew with us (oral).

Rosetta Stone has been great. It includes a reading unit in the lessons which is really perfect for us right now. She's also becoming more confident in initiating Hebrew orally (rather than just being receptive). Amirah and I happily did 30 minutes in it last night and tonight. I'll just follow her lead on this.

Our roof is clean and fixed. Tomorrow the exterminator comes to look at our terrible mouse problem. Next week, one of the trees in front will be removed, and a dead branch that has been hanging from one of the gigantic fir trees in front will come down too. The tree being removed has gotten way too big for its space and prior to us moving in, it had not been pruned correctly so it is growing at all kinds of strange angles. If we can get the stump out of there we're hoping to plant a nice lilac there instead. It will make our neighbors very happy, since the messy, messy tree extends across more than half her front yard!

And this shabbat we read the very beginning of the torah! It really feels to me like THIS is the beginning of the school year and from now on I might even run our year like that—go on vacation at Rosh Hashanah, and stay on vacation through all the holidays. Then it's pretty clear sailing until pesach (passover), when we'll likely take two weeks vacation. The next holiday is Channukah, which is sweet and easy. Stories, candles, fried food, dancing. Very fun holiday, and very low-key.

Better get back to the kitchen... shabbat cooking calls... so does jam and juice. We finally broke down and bought our own juicer. We have so many grapes to juice and we'll use it for years to come. Great for making jellies too. Makes a nice clear juice.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Curriculum, curriculum, curriculum

After our art adventures and eating adventure and watching-a-really-bad-movie adventure, Amirah and I spent 15 minutes on part of the first lesson on Rosetta Stone's Hebrew program. I anticipate making only very minimal use of the computer in the early years of our educational adventures, but she and I will be doing this together and discussing the lesson as we go. We had a pretty good time! I think we'll make this our habit after the little and the middles go to bed to read with papa at 9:00. Amirah and I can take 15 minutes for a Hebrew lesson and 30–45 minutes for reading (yes, she's a night-owl like her mama... love it that we can accommodate everyone's natural schedules!). I also just purchased the Migdalor program for Hebrew from Shy Publications. It includes Hebrew phonics books, magnetic letters, storybooks, and recordings of the stories on cd. AND it looks like it's based on the research done by Yehuda Perach that I cited on an earlier blog. So, Hebrew is pretty well-covered now. 20-30 minutes of conversational Hebrew in the morning, 15 minutes of Hebrew reading later in the day, plus 15 minutes of Rosetta Stone.

On another front, I've been researching and researching math curricula to see what would suit Amirah best since we finished Saxon Kindergarten. What I didn't like about Saxon: I don't need to pay a lot of money ($72) for a scripted text. The teaching manual was hundreds of pages. All I really needed was a glance at the objectives and I could do fine. It also is spiral-based, and I was pretty sure I wanted to switch to a curriculum that was mastery-based. Saxon and Singapore Math were the ones that consistently get really enthusiastic reviews. Singapore is mastery-based, the teacher notes are a couple lines at the bottom of each page of the workbook, and—the big bonus—it's only $16 for the year! Another interesting thing—the kindergarten Singapore Math books are a good deal more advanced than the Saxon math books. So we'll be doing kindergarten math—again! We kind of breezed through Saxon and skipped a lot of the repetitive stuff. Singapore looks great, with lots of interesting real-life math problems and fun ways of looking at things. I'm eagerly anticipating it.

The rest of our curricula is status quo. We'll finish up the fall holidays this week. Probably take Thursday to go do something fun like OMSI (hopefully using our expired IMAX theater tickets since the theater was closed for several weeks just before they expired), take Friday for another art project and shabbat prep, then begin learning again in earnest on Sunday.

On another note, here is the sukkah we've been "dwelling" in all week. It's been a bit nippy these last couple of days, though, so I've been a bit of a whimp.

And the name of the really bad movie we watched tonight? Aliens of the Deep directed by James Cameron. It got really great reviews on RottenTomatoes. This alleged documentary was science-lite (understatement) and a bit imprecise on the scientific facts, according to DH who is Mr. PhD Fish Man. If you want to see a movie that spends most of the 47 minutes saying the deep ocean is "like, totally fantastic and awesome," spends a lot of time saying that deep space exploration is similar to outer space exploration in the future. The ending is the capper, but I wouldn't want to spoil it for you. Well, yes, since it's an awful movie I'll spoil it for you. It ends with an imaginary voyage to Europa, one of the moons of Jupiter, in a deep-sea submersible. In Europa's ocean (under miles of ice), the humans touch hands with an alien life-form as the camera steps back to reveal an entire alien kingdom. Yep. That was it. It was so bad we were laughing hysterically. Even the deep-sea footage itself was only half as good or as interesting as other deep-sea movies, like the Blue Planet series. Oh, well! :)

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Ahhhhhhhh... Sunday.....

What a nice day it has been. Dean caught up on some errands. It's the first Sunday in a while that he hasn't had to work to make up for all the time he has to take off for the Jewish holidays. Yay. We just stayed comfy-cozy at home. The bigs :) went out to run errands with papa and I puttered around the house with the littles. Everyone was back at lunchtime and we spent part of the afternoon doing art projects. We haven't done as many art projects as we like to do, so we did 1-1/2 this afternoon, and hope to do 1-1/2 tomorrow morning. In addition to the wonderful Kindergarten art books from the Singapore Math website, I found this really great website that has beautiful ideas for art projects. Today, both projects we did came from there.

First, we drew spider webs in pencil on black paper, then traced the web with glue. That will dry until tomorrow, the we'll do some finishing touches. Raizel even did one! I'll post pictures when it's done (bli neder!).

The other project we did today was to take watercolor paper and paint it with broad strokes of sunset-colored watercolors. While that was drying, we cut buildings out of black construction paper and windows out of yellow construction paper, then glued them to the sunset paper. Here are the results!

Eli really liked making lots of crazy windows!

Amirah said the buildings on the left are actually houses on stilts.
They are connected to each other so you can go from one to the other without going outside.

Lots of fun. I'm really hoping to make sure we do at least one art project per week (in addition to the free drawing we do just about every day). To do the 1-1/2 art projects we did to day really only took about an hour start to finish, including clean-up. It always feels like it's going to take longer than that.

I'm really looking forward to the conclusion of the fall holiday season so we are all back on a normal daily schedule again. I like the regularity of those days. But the holidays have been pretty nice!! We've kept them very simple this year. I've cooked fancier than everyday food, but not so much that I'm exhausted. It's been actually sort of a sweet, reflective time.

He's Steppin' Out!

Avi took his first few little steps today! He really wanted to go to his biggest sister. :) The whoops from Amirah and Raizel were nearly deafening. They were so excited! Avi looked pretty pleased with himself too.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Busy Day!

End of a long day... we had a great time taking Amirah and Eli and Amirah's friend NE to the ballet today. Papa went too. The tickets were only $2! We saw excerpts from Swan Lake, met a lady who had danced the lead role in San Francisco in 1940, had a 10-year-old girl demonstrate some of the basic ballet steps, and heard the whole story of Swan Lake. It was a really nice sampler. Perfect for the kids. Amirah and Eli have heard the storybook we have of Swan Lake a number of times, and have watched the dvd of Swan Lake three times. It's fun to see them enjoy a different performance medium. We also went to a fun birthday party at one of those inflatable jumping places. All four kids bounced all over the place with 25 other children and had a really good time.

I also had some "interesting" e-mail exchanges with the math teacher at our co-op and I'm realizing that this co-op might not be a good match for us after all. I'll be talking further with the co-op founder and the teacher, but I'm pretty sure it won't work out there for us. I think in general, the classes for which they have hired a teacher are going in the "school at home" direction instead of the homeschooling/cooperative learning/private tutoring direction. The other students in Amirah's class are 7/8/9 years old and I think the class is more directed to them. There's more than that, but those are the crucial issues. That, and can we get our money back. :)

If we cancel co-op altogether, that leaves Mondays and Wednesdays completely flexible, and Tuesdays and Thursdays affected only by my teaching schedule. That feels better to me. We'll see...

Dean and I spent quite a while tonight discussing a lot about what our educational objectives are for our children, why we are homeschooling, and how this all fits into our Jewish identity as well. Dean has a really good theory of pedagogy background, and we both have (very different!) teaching backgrounds so we play off of each other very well. I came home tonight after the birthday party, and it just felt so good to walk in the door and greet that person who is my absolute rock. This home is so well-anchored that whatever goes on out there, coming home is a place to find peace, acceptance, and respite. Baruch hashem, we have that. It is a nes gadol (big miracle) that we found each other here in Portland. When I was in Israel, a very wise lady was absolutely convinced that when I returned I would find my beshert (intended one). One month later I (re)found Dean (he'd been an acquaintance for YEARS). Baruch hashem!!!!!!!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Lovely Sukkot Shiur

While I was folding laundry today, I looked at one of my favorite, favorite websites,, which has all kinds of video shiurim (classes) with some of the best teachers of our day. I wanted to find something for sukkot, and I had the incredible pleasure of watching this class called "Sukkot: Achieving Joy". It just made me really happy about the coming of sukkot. This whole holiday season I have been overwhelmed by a deep sense of gratitude. It was just a perfect shiur to listen to right now.

Dear husband and the children are right now putting up the sukkah. The sides are up, the poles are resting on the top, and the lights are being strung. (I got demoted from light-stringing last year after I kept hanging them so their end was NOT where the plug was!!) The poles we use are the same poles that held our chuppah (wedding canopy) up at our wedding. Those three walls will contain a week of festive meals, learning, playing, and reading in the sukkah as we move all of our regular activities outside. What a glorious holiday!

Quote of the Week

Eli: Mama, do you know what I am praying for?
Mama: No, Eli, what are you praying for?
Eli: Lots of construction sites!
Mama: I'm sure the construction workers are praying for lots of construction sites too.


Hebrew: Print or Script?

Amirah is very secure with the alef bet now. The next frontiers looming are reading and writing. The Hebrew print letter and script letters are really different from each other. Print is only used in, er, print :) and people only write in script. In many schools, the children learn a sort of block print in K/1/2 that is quickly dropped when they learn script. There is no practical reason to learn block print except for to reinforce the shape of the letters that one is learning to read. So, since A seems to have a thorough handle on what she is reading and I don't think would benefit from the kinisthetic reinforcement of learning block print, I'm thinking we'll skip it altogether. Some of the research I've read says that teaching two forms of writing can be confusing. It's not at all like going from manuscript to cursive in English. Here's what I'm talking about:

The letters on the top (reading right to left) are in script; the letters on the bottom are print. Less than half the script letters look anything like their print counterparts.

I read an abstract of a thesis by Yehuda Perach (who is also interestingly a member of the Israeli Knesset) that explored this issue. You can download a brief in the upper right corner. He concluded that using print for reading and only script for writing was the most effective method.

I haven't decided yet. We are at the point where we could do print, but instead I think I'll forge ahead into the world of reading first. Of course first we have to get through this grand slam of holidays! :)

Most of the schooling we've been doing has revolved around the Jewish holidays. We've also kept up our daily reading lessons. We finished On the Banks of Plum Creek and today we will begin By the Shores of Silver Lake. Our enthusiasm for the books has not waned one bit. Even papa is caught up in all the excitement and can't wait to hear the next installment. We also got the first season of the television series and Amirah has been having great fun remarking which stories are happening out of order and which stories were made up by tv people and not by Laura Ingalls Wilder. :) Interestingly enough, it seems to be the episodes that smack of "social commentary" much more overtly than anything in the books. In a good way, of course, but not true to the original.

The holidays will end October 22 and I expect that on October 26 we'll move back into our more regular schedule (whatever that is). That will give us a good solid 8 weeks of learning time before Channukah, which by the way in the great scheme of Jewish holidays is relatively minor. Only its proximity to Christmas has made it so popular. It won't really alter our learning time like the fall holidays, but we'll probably take a little more time to do lots of fun outings. Gifts aren't traditionally part of the holiday, except for chocolate money. We usually give our own children chocolates and a book. Pretty simple. Light a few candles, fry a few foods in oil, sing, dance, and that's about it. But more about that later.... that's a ways off! It's really just this round of fall holidays + passover that are a great big to-do.

Back to sukkot preparations. More about sukkot tonight, I hope, since it begins Monday night!

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Menu

Here 'tis:

Broiled chicken w/pomegranate molasses (like last week, only this time I just have breasts)
Roasted cabbage, mushrooms, and onions
Roasted carrots and potatoes
Brown rice
Caesar salad
Apple crisp

For lunch:

Black Bean Chili

Shabbat shalom!!

Happy Birthday, Avi!!!

Today, Avi is 1 year old. No more real babies around here. :( :) :( :)

We'll probably celebrate with cake on Sunday since we're busy getting ready for shabbat. The kids like to get cakes with "fancy frosting" so we usually get a (gasp) store-bought cake for that. The only problem is, the only kosher bakery has recently started making all the cakes dairy so we can't eat them after a meat meal. You can special-order a non-dairy cake, but of course I didn't think that far in advance! It's pretty ridiculous, since most Jewish festive meals include meat so a dairy bakery almost becomes pointless. Of course, for his birthday we can just have dairy and have a dairy cake. But most people have desserts on shabbat. And what do we eat on shabbat? MEAT! So it's just very weird to have a dairy bakery. Oh, well. At least their breads are still pareve!! I don't buy much bread there, but I do get their 99-cent day-old hamburger and hot dog buns. And an occasional loaf of French bread since I haven't seemed to have French bread come out tasting like a real baguette.

Anyway.... I was here to talk about Avi's birthday and instead I end up talking about food. :)

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, AVI! The camera is not working right now, so I'll have to put up a birthday photo later. Hopefully on Sunday.

The last of the Jewish fall holidays begins on Monday night. The festival of Sukkot, our family's favorite holiday. I'll post more about that later. Yom Kippur was good. Long. Good. Mostly long. :)

Funny Dreams

I've had this series of dreams about 2-4x per month for the last 8 years or so. They're not really remarkable in any way. There's a (fictional???!!!) place that I keep going back to. I wish I could draw a map (oh, I wish I could draw at all!!!!). This place starts at the coast, probably somewhere near the Oregon-California border. There is a long narrow river with steep canyon walls that goes out to the ocean. There are houseboats anchored along the shores and other houses on stilts at the base of the cliffs. It is a tourist destination, with groups of people going down the river on large boats. Further upriver there is a salt-water park with slides, swimming areas, spray features, and diving boards. (Don't ask me how the salt-water got there.) Just outside the swimming area there is a pod of orcas that performs acrobatics.

South of this area and inland there is a maze of small rivers that are perfect for innertubing and rafting. The area is surrounded by soft grass and there are many natural slides made out of broad flat sloping rocks in the middle of the river.

If you go out to the ocean from here there a number of peaceful beach communities, with lots of grassland. The area near the ocean is pretty flat. No cliffs or anything. There are several nice, cozy hotels to stay in, all kind of old-fashioned. The towns are pleasantly busy but not packed. The pace is very, very relaxed.

In the opposite direction there is high desert. Lots of trees, and it's possible to see many interesting wild animals.

In all of my many visits to this place, I would say that I've spent that most time in the river areas.

Isn't this weird????????? I went there again last night. The whole family was with me. We checked into a hotel that we had only eaten at the last time (so all the restaurants must be kosher too! YAY!!!!). We thought the English owner was so nice that this time we decided to actually stay there. The hotel was maybe 12 blocks from the ocean. It had a lovely wide porch where meals were served, and the whole hotel was painted a pale buttermilk color. The weather was nice and balmy. We had a great time.

It's just so odd to have these dreams. No deep symbolism. No psychological or spiritual revelations. Just a nice little outing. And I keep going back!!!! Maybe I'll try to sketch out a map. It's just so strange. I'm sure I've forgotten some of it since I don't write them all down. Odd. :)

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Yom Kippur

Minutes until Yom Kippur begins. May those who are fasting for the holiday have an easy and meaningful fast. For 25 hours we won't be eating or drinking (or wearing leather shoes, showering, or doing anything not done on shabbat...). Kids (under bar/bat mitzvah) don't fast, though older ones (not mine) might skip breakfast. Dean and Amirah are staying with friends very close to shul and the rest of us are hunkering down at home. Yom Kippur is the only day that is more holy than shabbat, so it is the holiest day of the year.

Not much time to post now, but suffice it to say that we had a TERRIFIC first day at our learning co-op. Amirah really liked it, and the entire house was full of kids from babies to teenagers - and they were all so polite and kind!! It was really great to see. I'm so, so, so, so glad we're doing all of this. :)

Quote of the Week

Eli: What's that?
Papa: Tofu.
Eli: Tofu vavohu!!!!!

(In the first chapter of Bereishit/Genesis the phrase "tovu vavohu" means "astonishingly empty.")

Friday, October 3, 2008

Quick Update

Besides menus... we had a lovely Rosh Hashanah, and Eli made the 2.5 mile hilly walk (more down than up) to shul and never said boo about being too tired! It was great. We made it to our previous shul location in just over an hour (when Amirah was 3 it took 1-1/2 hours!). We were at shul in 1 hour and 20 minutes, just minutes before they blew the shofar which is what we were striving for. The childcare people did not show up for some reason, so parents had to fend for themselves. I pretty much spent zero time davening, but it was nice nonetheless. Had a lovely lunch and hung out at the E house until yom tov was over. Amirah's best friend so they were both very excited to have the afternoon together. Savta (grandma) was with us for the whole holiday too and it was really nice to have her here. I'm sure she and Amirah squeezed a month's worth of snuggles into a few short days. She loved having three days of slumber parties with her. And all the others loved seeing their savta too, of course.

Yom tov ended Wednesday night, so Thursday morning we took savta to the bus station, then went for a really nice walk at Tryon Creek, only to discover that as part of the annual set of art installations they do in the woods, the first one was a giant leaf man (kind of pagany/idoly/creepy). Scared the pants off of Eli and he spent our whole walk with his eyes covered. I'm really disappointed. This is our favorite place to go for a walk and we average 1-2 walks per week there in all seasons. The exhibit just opened so they won't change again until next fall. I'll let the park know. Maybe there's a way to move the exhibit to another location... I hope!! It's right at the beginning where all the paved paths branch off, so there's no path you can take where you can miss it.

So, I thought leisurely walk in the woods, leisurely lunch, then I would attack the entire downstairs and make it sparkly clean. But... I forgot we had plans to pick 150 pounds of grapes until Dean called me in the afternoon to see what time I was coming to pick him up. OY! So, scramble to get everyone ready, scramble off to get Dean, scramble to bank for cash, scramble to vineyard. We picked for 2 hours which really felt like 30 minutes it went so fast. It was really fun, despite the occasional downpour. Got our 150 pounds on the button! Then... so the grapes wouldn't succumb to fruit flies and/or mildew I had to wash, stem, and either juice or freeze all 150 pounds. Imagine our 3' x 6' dining room table 10 inches deep in grapes. That's how much there was. OY. Fortunately my friend BF stopped by and helped for over an hour. As it was, I was up until 4:00 (!). It would have been 5:00 if she hadn't stopped by! I made 9 quarts of juice and froze the rest of the grapes. We should get about 50-60 quarts total. Enough for a whole year of Friday nights, possibly enough for a few Saturday afternoons, plus a little extra left for pesach. We'll see.

The taste of the grape juice just doesn't even compare to bottled, hence the heroic effort. This grape juice dances on your tongue with dozens of different flavors. It's amazing. The thing is, I was already exhausted from all the shlepping and celebrating. Now I'm REALLY exhausted and looking forward to a 12-hour nap tonight. Dear friend RF is joining us for all of shabbat. I'm glad it's company who's not really company so if my face falls into the soup it won't really matter. :)

Well, not such a short update. I guess I just am really enjoying sitting down. No time for rest! That mess in the kitchen? It's still there!!!

The Menu

Well, there's a lot more than the menu going on around here, but at least I'll get this up!

Broiled chicken with pomegranate molasses
Cabbage apple salad
Brown rice
Green salad
Roasted carrots
Mushroom couscous
Sweet potatoes
Pear cake
Tofu pumpkin pudding

(The pudding came out GREAT. We're having a gluten-free friend over for shabbat so I tried this on a whim... I just whizzed together a small can of pumpkin, a cake of tofu, sugar to taste, about 1/4 cup lemon juice, cinnamon, and allspice. Took 5 minutes, then I put it in the fridge. YUM! This might be a regular visitor this fall.)

Buffalo brisket with bbq sauce