Thursday, December 31, 2009

Mental Cartwheels

Well, yes, my brain is in overdrive, working on things like...

Is it cheaper to send stuff by moving truck, USPS, or airplane?
Checking maximum-size bag on airplane is nearly the same as the moving truck; second bag costs MUCH more; so we'll take six checked large bags, which is probably all we can handle along with four car seats anyway! USPS is much more expensive, even to send books at media rate. This involved dizzying calculations of cubic inches, cubic feet, linear feet, pounds and other measurements. Gevalt! I think I'll stick with recipe calculations after this.

How will we get from the airport to our new home?
One adult + 2 kids can drive a tiny car at the airport which we'll use to get to the grocery store until we find a van, hopefully all in that first week! One adult + 2 kids can take a taxi. That should work, especially since we have one much-beloved GPS and one of us would definitely get lost without it! (Only when we are together do we have a good sense of direction!) So no renting two tin cans and returning one to the airport the next day.

How will we do our laundry that last week after our stuff leaves?
Send the washer away (very attached to my oh-so-gentle front loader since I'm an oh-not-so-careful laundress... honestly inherited, I might add), have the landlady haul the other washer away, use the landlady's drier in Savannah, sell the one we have here, but use it until just before we leave so I can do laundry in the bathtub, and still be able to dry clothes! We have a frugal amount of clothing, so our clothes really only last a week, and every day that goes by is another load of laundry. I think exponents figure in here somehow.

How can there possibly be another load to go to Good Will?
I thought we'd decluttered three times already! At least! That load of paper recycling has been rather formidable too, and the recyclers never made it up that hill during the freak snowstorm, so who knows when they'll be back.

How can we pick a send-our-truck off date and get the highest odds of having our truck deliver our stuff the day after we get there?
Easy answer - pay an extra $1,000 for a guaranteed delivery date. Nah. We'll just stare at each other and twiddle our thumbs until our stuff arrives. And keep doing laundry in the bathtub. I did manage to work it out pretty closely. Leaves here on a Monday, has a good chance of showing up in Savannah the next Monday, but it might be Thursday. On the other hand, if we sent it off any earlier it would be ME packing the truck since Dean's last day isn't until Thursday at noon. So truck-packing will happen Friday day, Saturday night, all day Sunday, and Monday morning if needed. In fact, I think the kids and I may just clear out of here and leave DH to the friendly craigslist packers. Sorry, honey. :)

What on earth do you pack for meals to keep six people happy for 12+ hours of travel time?
The good news - food doesn't count towards your carry-on luggage. Bring on the protein bars. The kids will think it's a special occasion, and Eli will actually eat it. Still, it really irks me that the only kosher stuff you can really get on the road is drinks and chips. Even if kosher airplane food was really bad, at least I didn't have to pack it into a small space for six people. Without ice. I think peanut butter is okay now, though. Or not? I think we'll do turkey sandwiches - nice long-lasting protein.

Plane tickets? Easy!

House rental? Unbelievably easy, k'h, thanks to the incredible ML and to hashem, who definitely had a hand in that.

And, hashem, I really hope that that lovely blue ceramic bowl with all the lacy cutouts along the rim, that lovely, fragile, thin bowl, I really hope it survives the move. You can take any other bowl, just not that one.

And in the midst of all of this, I do feel calm (usually, dear husband!). Yes, there are flutterings, things to ponder and figure out, but all so terribly minor, and all to a good end. Yes, the next couple of months will be tricky and no doubt stressful at times. Yes, we will be saying farewell to many dear friends, and a house we have brought all of our children home to, and a Jewish community that has come such a long way in yiddishkeit over the last three years. We are grateful to hashem for a job that will be really good for DH, for affordable housing, for all that we already have, and for the new friends and community to come.

I feel like tomorrow I really should take the kids to the science museum or something. They've been so great despite my great distraction. We've been doing half-days of learning for now, mostly concentrating on reading and writing in Hebrew and English, plus math. Fortunately, for most things we're running about a month ahead of schedule anyway so no harm in putting it off for a bit, but I do want to keep up with the basics, and reading every day is really essential.

Time for bed! So I can do my children the favor of getting enough sleep!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Quote of the Week

Amirah and I were working on her biblical Hebrew this morning. The littles were being a bit rambunctious, so we wished them well and went upstairs to my bedroom. Of course they followed us a few minutes later...

After working on various permutations of phrases involving the word "dor" meaning "generation" (in a generation, with the generations, and a generation, etc.), got up to close the door and announced, "This generation ("dor") is now CLOSED!"

Friday, December 25, 2009

The Menu

Ah, shabbos...

A simpler menu than I had planned since I'm a bit, er, distracted!

braised lamb
cucumber salad
carrot raisin salad
roasted lemon garlic potatoes
roasted carrots and zucchini
green salad
cranberry ice "cream"

And for lunch...
eggplant parmesan (well, actually, eggplant mozzarella - no parmesan!)
pasta with spinach walnut sauce
a very dairy Bavarian apple torte

The cranberry ice "cream" turned out delicious. I *love* anything flavored with cranberries. I posted a dairy version here. For the pareve (non-dairy) version I substituted one cake of tofu for the cream cheese. Wowie. Thanks to the richness of the coconut milk it tastes like it's dairy. Of course it won't taste nearly as dairy as that decadent Bavarian torte. Yum.

Moving Along!

I think the little handful of people who read this blog already know this, but I'll share it here nonetheless! B"H Dean has accepted a job at the Savannah College of Art and Design. We are very excited and will likely be moving out of Portland in late January. More details later, as shabbat is approaching and I have to tear my brain from other things and focus on cooking!

Quote of the Week

Eli: Mama, will you cover me up with lots of layers of blankets so I can be like a fossil?

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Quote of the Week

Eli: When I was three and you gave me a treat I would cry, "More, more, more, more!" Now I am four and I just say, "Thank you."

-Happy Mama

Monday, December 21, 2009

Quote of the Week

From a holiday party coordinator person at DH's place of employment: "Is it okay if we cover up the Star of David with a balloon? OHSU considers that a religious symbol. The menorah is okay, though."

This was very, very funny, since, really, the menorah is the more religious symbol, especially in regard to Channukah!!!! Oy. Gevalt.

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Menu

Ahhhhhh, shabbat............

salmon gefilte fish with dill sauce
butternut squash soup
potato latkes
caesar salad
carrot sweet potato puree
roasted zucchini, mushrooms, and onions
pear crisp

and for lunch...

cabbage rolls

And Savta is here for a few days! The party's in her room every night. :) And the last night of channukah is tomorrow night. Such a sweet, simple-to-celebrate holiday. It's been very nice.

Other than that, we're anxiously awaiting some possible job news - a job we like in a location we really like! We're supposed to hear by the end of the week, so hopefully that means tomorrow. He did get told unofficially that they wanted to hire him; we're just hoping it will become official very, very soon or we'll positively explode. It's only been two days, so I shouldn't be complaining! :) I'll share all the details after it's official. So, please, daven that this should be the right job for us!!!

I've been not so good about writing about our learning time. I've been a bit distracted this last week or two! It's going well (of course, I always feel that way!). I sat down to check our progress, and for most things we're around 60% of the way through what I wish to achieve this year. We're nearly 50% of the way through our school year, so it will work out really well to take a month-long break to (please, please, please, Hashem!) move and get settled. If this job works out, we'd like to move before the end of January. We are so very ready to get settled somewhere.

Channukah sameach!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Painting Barns

We had so much fun painting these barns a couple of weeks ago. First we drew them in pencil, then went over the lines in oil pastels. We filled in the color with watercolors. I love the colors Amirah chose for her picture; lots of nice contrasts. Eli says the red spot in the middle of the front of his barn is a tomato. He spent a lot of time adding in all the details. Raizel drew all of the lines herself. She's really good at very small, controlled movements. She covered it all in purple paint, then blotted it with a purple towel (her idea!). What fun!

Amirah's & Eli's & Raizel's Barns

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Menu

honey mustard chicken
latkes with applesauce and tofu sour cream
Moroccan fried eggplant salad
Moroccan carrot salad
sweet and sour coleslaw
apple pie

and for lunch...

apricot lamb tagine and brown rice

Good shabbos and channukah sameach!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Weekday Menus

turkey egg drop soup
cabbage tofu egg rolls
Chinese plum sauce

lentil cheese casserole

slow-baked chicken with barbecue sauce
cabbage salad

pancakes and eggs

spanakopita and green salad

Not the most frugal week this week, but we sure enjoyed that mid-week chicken! I've gone cold turkey on buying any snack foods (granola bars, bagels, crackers, etc.) and it's been very easy to keep up with our snack needs by making all of our own. So... instead we'll have meat one weeknight per week. Probably alternating three pounds of chicken one week with a pound of ground beef the next in meatloaf or cabbage rolls or meat sauce. Some recipe that stretches the meat out so that one pound feeds all of us.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Interesting Trivia

The first five planets in the solar system have had Hebrew names for over 2,000 years. The remaining planets have names that are just the English names, transliterated into Hebrew. Israel's Academy of the Hebrew Language (which governs modern standards for grammar, transliteration, etc.) has narrowed the proposed names down to just two per planet, and now Israeli citizens can vote on what those names should be.

The proposed choices for Uranus are "oron" (oh-RONE) or "shachak" (sha-CHOK). "Oron" sounds similar to "Uranus" and means "small light." "Shachak" means "sky" and reflects the meaning of "Uranus" which is "god of the sky."

The proposed choices for Neptune are "rachav" (rah-CHAV) or "tarshish" (tar-SHEESH). "Rachav" refers to the power of the sea and "Neptune" is the god of the sea. "Tarshish" is a stone that is the color of the ocean that was on the kohen's breastplate.

I personally like "oron" and "rachav" but I'm not an Israeli citizen, so I can't vote! :) I'll be interested to see which names win!

The Menu

Here 'tis:

roast whole chicken
apple quince walnut conserve
baked acorn squash
mom's stuffing
mushroom gravy
baked potatoes w/tofu sour cream and green onions
green salad
apple pie (thanks, DH!)

and for lunch...

turkey breast (on or off sandwiches)

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Kosher Meat

A friend of mine asked a couple of days ago why we avoided meat so much, when chicken can actually be purchased very cheaply, often more cheaply than vegetables. I told her about the price of kosher meat, and then she understood! On average, it costs about 250% more than non-kosher meat. To buy chicken leg quarters for our family costs a good $10 + $1–2 for the sides. By having $3-and-under pareve (non-meat/non-dairy) dinners instead, we save over $150 per month, which for our budget is quite significant. Just in case some of you out there were wondering why we eat so many beans!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


In an article about Amish families moving to Maine, there was a quote from a sign on one of the houses:

“To be content with little is hard, to be content with much is impossible.’’

So true, so true. Be grateful and content with all that you have.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Weekday Menus

tofu/cabbage/bean sprout stirfry
eggplant roasted in teriyaki sauce
brown rice

red lentil soup
sourdough flat bread
[total for above meal: $0.32 per adult]

butternut squash kugel
baked zucchini/carrots/onion/tomato
brown rice with lentils
[total for above meal: $0.60 per adult]

brown rice
carrot sticks
[total for above meal: $0.85 per adult]

[note: the salmon was only $1.48/lb, but it tasted like it too; last month's $1.78/lb salmon was much better!]

homemade bagels with cream cheese
pan-fried potatoes
[total for above meal: $0.60 per adult ($0.40 w/o the cream cheese!)


Red Lentil Soup
2 c. red lentils
8 c. water
1 medium onion, chopped
2 tsp paprika
2 medium potatoes
salt to taste

Combine ingredients. Bring to a boil. Simmer for 40 minutes. Serves 8.
I made a double recipe and have three more dinners in the freezer.

Friday, November 27, 2009

And One More Thing...

Amirah is reading Frog and Toad to me now. She also finished the last twenty pages of her writing book today (she's really come around to enjoying writing in general). And Eli finished his preschool reading/writing book and is starting his first grade book. And he's just about finished his Kindergarten A math book. It was quite a productive, enthusiastic day today! We sang lots of mazal tovs. I love seeing how excited they get about these things, and how things that were once more difficult for Amirah have become a pleasure. Todah, hashem! What a blessing to be on this learning journey with all of them.

The Menu

Here 'tis...

teriyaki chicken
cabbage salad with roasted almonds
roasted portabello mushrooms
brown rice
Japanese eggplant
pea shoot salad
steamed baby bok choy

for breakfast...

dulce de leche cinnamon rolls
(made my usual cinnamon roll recipe, boiled a can of sweetened, condensed milk for 3 hours, then used that for the frosting)

and for lunch...

sushi and cranberry coconut frozen dessert
(dairy every once in a while!)

And the only reason I'm posting this at two in the morning instead of going to bed is so I can write down how I made the cranberry dessert! I love cranberries, and had had a bag sitting in the fridge for about 10 days, so was overdue to use them up. So here's what I did...

In the food processor I put:

16 ounces cream cheese
1 can of coconut milk (none of that reduced fat stuff!)
a small bag of fresh cranberries
sugar - maybe 2 cups?
1/4 cup(ish) lemon juice

I whizzed it all together, tasted it, tasted it again, tasted it to make sure it really was okay, one more time for luck, then quickly stashed it all in the freezer before it needed to be tasted again to find out if it had degraded with the passing of time. This was so good, and I can't wait to try it in its frozen state. Of course, I'm going to have to have a big boxing session for the cinnamon rolls and a vigorous walk for the cranberry coconut dessert after lunch. OY! Good shabbos!

Meat Servings

I found this on the extension service website, and it's a great guide! Different cuts of meat have different yields of servings after you take out all the bone and fat. Here's a quick guide:

Ground meat and stew meat = 4 servings per pound
Boneless steaks, roasts, and chops = 3 servings per pound
Cuts with some bone and trimmable fat = 2 servings per pound
Cuts with considerable bone and trimmable fat = 1 serving per pound

Calculating meat costs by cost per serving is a more accurate measure of the actual cost of the meat than cost per pound.

What about chicken? A whole chicken is about 1/3 waste (bones and trimmed fat; we're not counting the soup for now!). Multiply the cost per pound by 1.5. Then you can figure out which is the better deal - the boneless meat or the whole chicken. If a chicken costs $1 per pound (in our kosher dreams!), then you are actually paying $1.50/pound for the edible meat.

And that's all the math I'm going to do this evening... back to those shabbos preparations!

Giving Thanks

As Jews, we are thankful every single day, and today was no different. But today I gave extra thought to how extremely grateful I am to be living in the United States. There are very, very few countries in this world where I would be able to (and allowed to!) live my life fully as a frum Jew.

The United States is a "medina shel chesed," a place of kindness, a kind host to its Jewish population (how does one translate "medinah"?). This country was founded by all kinds of people, including many Jews. We are all free to pursue our own version of "happiness." We are free to assume the practice of our religion and that is something that is officially protected. We are free to educate our children as we see fit. I am enormously grateful to this good country. May the United States continue to be a medinah shel chesed!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Perfect. Day.

Today was just one of those days when everything went just right. We've met most of our learning goals for the month, so we were able to finish everything up before lunch. Today we did tefillah, torah stories, our Bereishis book (copying words from the torah), kesivah (finishing our review book, then on to our 2nd grade book!), vocabulary learning and review for biblical Hebrew, a page of spelling, a reading lesson, three pages of math, a science experiment on high and low air pressure, and two pages of English printing. And yes, our day was leisurely and didn't start until 10:00. We finished all that at 12:00 (and took a 15-minute snack break), then I worked with Eli until 12:30. After lunch, we spent two hours at the park riding our bikes, and then Amirah had a playdate. Then instead of beans, we had hamburgers. Yum. (And it's all MH's fault for making me drool about hamburgers last night...) And Dean went and got a new bed for Raizel. Hooray! Big twin bed! And Avi met his new-to-him toddler bed with a decided lack of enthusiasm. Two chapters of Guardians of Ga'Hoole, and everyone was out. Except me. Heh, heh.

A friend of a friend asked a friend, "But do they have fun?" after seeing what we did for our learning time. The short answer: YES, YES, YES! Lots. The learning itself is very enjoyable. Our pace is relaxed. The kids generally show enthusiasm for what we are doing and I don't push them to do too much at all. Our lessons just don't take very long. Truly 15 minutes per subject, maybe sometimes 20-25 for reading and math. And when learning is done, we're very good at doing lots and lots of playing. :)

The fun learning news is our new science curriculum. I had downloaded pages from Apologia's Zoology curriculum and it looked really good so I went ahead and ordered Book 1 (of 3). This one focuses on ornithology in the first several months. I liked our other curriculum (R.E.A.L. Science for Kids - Life Science) well enough, but Amirah has a knack for science and while the activities were enjoyable we weren't really learning very much that was new information for her. I'm very pleased with our first week or so with the new book. The pacing is good, the vocabulary is much more in-depth than the other book, and the concepts are a little more challenging (meaning I'm learning a lot too!). And Amirah loves learning about birds, and it ties in neatly with our Ga'Hoole series we've been reading (it's about a Jew-ish owl kingdom). This week we've been learning about how birds fly - the faster air on top of their wings creates an area of low pressure, and the air under the wings is normal pressure, so they get lift! Then we did an experiment with a straw in a full glass of water. With another straw, we blew across the hole of the straw in the water, creating an area of lower pressure above the straw. Sure enough, the water crept up the straw and lightly squirted Amirah in the face! Then we went on to learn about aerodynamics and drag. I'm very happy with this book, and looking forward to learning more.

The series includes Zoology 1/2/3, Astronomy, and Botany. Each one is a year-long course, so it could be good through 5th grade. The normal "classical" order would be biology, astronomy/geology, chemistry, and physics (for grades 1, 2, 3, and 4). If this continues to work this well, maybe we'll stick with this curriculum instead. We'll see! The series is geared to be good for up to 6th grade (the books contain extra challenges for older students).

Wishing everyone a happy Wednesday.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Weekday Menus

sweet potato soup
whole wheat oatmeal bread w/jam or cheese
popcorn for dessert

spinach lasagna

biscuit pizza casserole
(chopped veggies, onion, garlic, two eggs, cottage cheese, layer of mozzarella, layer of pizza sauce (tomato paste, oregano, water, garlic, salt), biscuit dough on top)

veggie sausage patties

black bean soup w/cheese, green onions, tofu sour cream, salsa
homemade tortilla chips


Last night, as I was winding up my nightly "retreat" the wind was really picking up and lots of branches and other things were falling on the roof. At one point, I walked into the living room, half expecting the skylight to be cracked! Fortunately, no such thing. But after I went to sleep we were awakened by a large BOOM. I looked out the window by my bed. Without glasses, I could only see flashing, sparkly lights and then for several long seconds a big orange glow. By the time I got my glasses on the sparkly lights had gone away. Turns out two power lines went down and arced. They had our street shut down a half-block away for most of the day. Glad they got it fixed! Don't know what happened this time, but the lines frequently go down, and usually it's a squirrel getting fried. We all finally got back to sleep, and morning came rather quickly.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Homemade Dishwasher Detergent

This reportedly costs 50-75% less than buying dishwasher detergent. I haven't made the calculations myself, but I did try it out and it worked at least as good as purchased detergent. Once I figure out how much I used to pay for detergent I'll try and do the calculations, b'n!

Here's the recipe:

1/2 cup borax
1/2 cup washing soda (Arm & Hammer makes it)
1/4 cup citric acid (aka sour salt)
1/4 cup kosher salt

Combine everything and use as you would your normal detergent. In the rinse aid compartment, you can add white vinegar (about 1 tablespoon). Everything came out sparkling clean! Borax and washing soda are available in the laundry section at Winco, and probably most grocery stores. Sour salt and kosher salt are, well, with the salts! :)

I'm hoping to calculate the costs soon. I don't know how much cheaper it is, but I do know it's cheaper, and it only takes a couple of minutes to combine the ingredients. I made a double batch this time, but next time I'll probably mix up a gallon or so.

Next experiment: homemade laundry detergent!

Weekday Menus

Sunday - leftovers soup (pureed chick peas /tomatoes/onions/garlic, broth, rice noodles, ground beef, chicken), biscuits, baked pears (Amirah has turned into a real soup aficionado - she had three medium-sized bowls!)

Monday - bean tacos (taco shells, beans, salsa, guacamole, cheese, onions, tofu sour cream, lime cilantro coleslaw)

Tuesday - enchilada lasagna (layers of enchilada sauce, tortillas, mashed pinto beans, sautéed onions/garlic/cabbage/zucchini, and cheddar/mozzarella cheeses) and homemade tortilla chips

Wednesday - swiss chard strata (eggs, milk, cubed bread, cheddar cheese, mozzarella cheese, sauteed onions/garlic/swiss chard)

Thursday - pancakes and eggs

The beans I used Monday and Tuesday are so easy to make. Before I go to bed, I fill the crock pot about 1/3 full of pinto beans, then cover to 2/3 full with water. I chop up an onion and three cloves of garlic, throw it all in, stir it, then set it on low overnight. In the morning (or when I get to it) I add salt and cumin to taste then puree it all in the food processor. Yum. I told DH I actually enjoy eating these beans as much as I enjoy a good chicken dinner. He looked at me like I was nuts. :)

i Really Oughtta Measure

On Friday I did another non-measured experiment - breakfast cupcakes for shabbos! They turned out really delicious, and now I wish I knew the recipe... They had whole wheat flour, flax meal, sugar (just enough to sweeten them up a little), cocoa, oat bran, okara (mashed-up soybean pulp, leftover from making soy milk) cocoa, white chocolate chips, water, baking powder. No idea on the measurements, but WOW I sure wish I did know! It's a keeper, and I'm hoping I can re-create it. If I do, I'll post it, b'n.

Avi Giggles

Avi made a perfect b'rachah after washing hands for bread this afternoon... for tzitzis! Then he went ahead and did the b'rachah for washing (good boy!). Eli and Avi were both full of giggles over that one.

He also thought it was very funny when RB took a picture of him at a party tonight on her cell phone, and thought it even funnier when she took a picture of mommy too. And boy, did he dance! He was full of little belly laughs tonight. He's a great little guy. :)

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Menu

Here 'tis...

salmon gefilte fish
roasted lamb (for the bigs)
roasted chicken (for the littles who don't know the difference! :) )
mashed potatoes
roasted sesame cabbage
baked carrots
roasted balsamic zucchini/red pepper/onion/garlic/mushrooms
chocolate cake w/chocolate tofu frosting

And for lunch...

stuffed cabbage rolls

It's been a nice, full week - several playdates, a lovely rosh chodesh tiyul to our favorite wildlife refuge, a conclusion reached by DH and myself about the philosophy/purpose of an allowance (I love having someone with whom to discuss all the pedagogical ramifications... it's a very interesting debate! I'll blog, bli neder, about what we concluded as soon as I have free moment!), followup H1N1 vaccines for everyone + a 2nd flu shot for Avi (and he didn't even cry!), teaching my one family of students and really enjoying what fine young men they are becoming (oldest twins entering high school next year!), Amirah's art class (we normally don't sign up for things that we can do easily at home, but we hadn't signed up for a class this fall and not much is available mid-term; it's a nice change of pace and it's 90 minutes so time to really DO something), meeting a new friend via craigslist (Hi, S!) who just got her referral for a baby girl in Ethiopia (how well I remember that excruciating post-referral wait!), another friend leaving from Israel next month (please, Hashem) to get her two new daughters, some inspiring stories one year after the horrible murder of the rabbi and his wife in Mumbai (one Hindu doctor who was very close to them and learning about Judaism subsequently made aliyah with his wife and children to Israel, pursued an orthodox conversion, and exactly one year after the murder, he and his wife stood under the chuppah and had their Jewish wedding; AND the orphaned child of the rabbi and his wife turned 3, had his upshirin (first haircut), and put on his tzitzis and kippah, with the Indian nanny that saved his life beaming the whole time... all things I wanted to say more about, but the time has gone. In part because I received about 10 new books from Torah Umesorah for Amirah's kodesh studies, and I've been poring through them so I'm ready to teach from them next month. How's that for a couple of run-on sentences? It's been a run-on week!

Hope everyone who reads this is doing well, and I wish you all a good shabbos!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Quote of the Week

Papa (thinking mama is still in the house, not in the car retrieving something): Sweetheart, are you done with your dinner?

Raizel: Sweetheart is in the car.


The Menu

Okay, don't laugh...

challah (so far, so good)
salmon gefilte fish w/dill sauce (mm hm)
hamburgers (what?!?!)
french fries (for shabbos?!?!)
carrot cranberry salad
pear gingerbread

and for lunch...

chicken with chimichurri sauce

(and chimichurri is THE best reason for taking the trouble to check parsley, flat-leaf anyway!)

Yep, hamburgers for shabbos. But these really aren't just any hamburgers. Deluxe fixings, homemade buns, and dh's special touch. These are so good we just had to save them for shabbos because they just don't seem like a weekday menu. And when you have hamburgers, you just *have* to have french fries, or so the kids tell me. :) At least for our lunch guests, we'll be more "normal."

The salmon gefilte fish turned out great. Whole salmon has been so cheap here - $1.78 per pound. For every pound of fish, I added about a cup each of celery, onion, and carrot, 1/2 cup of flour, a bit of salt, and an egg. I had four pounds of fish (originally two 3-pound fish) which made five 18-ounce loaves. I spent maybe about $13.50, making it around $2.70. Sure beats the $8 or whatever it usually is!

Also, with groceries I've decided this month to not buy a single pre-made snacky thing. I often buy granola bars, peanut butter cracker packs ($0.15/each!), and mini-bagels (which are really just mini-breads with a hole in the middle, not papa's bagels!). Other things too, I'm sure. I did buy pasta, but that's really cheap. I'm just making a point of making a really good snack bar kind of thing a couple of times per week.

So earlier this week I threw together oatmeal, egg, a few butterscotch chips, flax meal, sugar, and a little bit of okara (the soy bean pulp leftover after making soy milk) and, um, probably something else too, then spread it thin to make something like granola bars. It was pretty good, but I should have let them dry out longer.

Tonight I had a larger amount of okara (2-1/2 cups?), so in went some eggs, flax meal, flour, oatmeal, oat bran, butterscotch chips, baking powder, sugar, milk, and, um, no doubt something else too. I baked it into a cake-like thing in a 9x12 pan. It came out REALLY good, much better than the granola bars. Just very slightly sweet, great texture. I guess I've made enough cakes in my lifetime now that I don't need to use a recipe, but DARN I wish I had this one! :) Hope I can recreate it. Oh, dear.

Good shabbos!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

This and That

First, I have to say that I have been officially inaugurated into the joys of Value Village. I had no idea. And I really don't know how I have lived in Portland for 12 years without ever having been to Value Village. It's like Good Will, only better. More expensive than the Good Will outlets which sell everything for $1.50 per pound (or less, depending on how many pounds you buy!), but much cheaper than Ebay, and *much* cheaper than going to a children's used clothing store. It's also very clean and very well-organized. I got Eli a couple of really good pants for $3/each, myself a couple of good shabbos tops for $6-7, a few long-sleeved turtlenecks for all the kids for $2-3 each, but nothing for DH. He's a hard-to-find size, so the selection was *very* slim (yes, double entendre!) for him. Oh, well. At any rate, it's great for us, and only 10 minutes from home. Thank you, BAF, for inaugurating me. :)

Dean keeps cranking out those job applications every Sunday morning and, baruch hashem, the job vacancies keep showing up. We're really hoping to end up in a place with a temperate climate (not too sunny, please) with a longer growing season, a nice Jewish community, and inexpensive housing. Low taxes would be nice too. He's had a couple of calls this week, so we will just wait and see!

Otherwise, an ordinary week. Tomorrow we're going to try and finish up our learning before lunch so we can take the afternoon to do something different. If we have a rain break we can go outside, and if not maybe we'll do an art project or something. Happy Thursday!

Cheap Oatmeal

For all you locals, Winco has 25-pound sacks of quick oats for only $10. They've been there in the corner for a while, but I just now finally ran out of my last 25-pound sack from Bob's Red Mill and took a peak at them tonight. Couldn't believe the price. Bob's is $16 for the same size!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Weekday Menus

Sunday - chick pea soup (celery, onions, carrots, stock, salt, macaroni noodles, chick peas), popovers (two of the kids asked for THIRDS on the soup?!?!?)

Monday - noodles and cabbage with peanut sauce, miso soup

Tuesday - crustless zucchini quiche, whole wheat garlic bread, carrot sticks

Wednesday - tomato soup, pizza bread

Thursday - pancakes and eggs

The Cost of Bread

A friend recently asked me if I had calculated the cost of my basic bread recipe (we trade recipe calculations - weird hobby!). I hadn't done it in a year, and I think when I did do it it was an estimate not a down-to-the-penny analysis. :) So I went at it tonight to see what it was.

Here's my recipe (I posted it last year, but just for convenience's sake...):

4 cups whole wheat flour
4 cups white flour
2 cups oatmeal
1 cup bulgur or other grain cereal (optional)
4 cups water
6 T. oil
1/4 cup sugar
1 T. salt
1 T. yeast

I combine all of that, let it rise until doubled, shape it in loaf pans (4 loaves, 1.5 pounds each), let it rise for an hour or so then bake it at 350 for about 40 minutes (until slightly before the hollow thumping sound; freezes a bit better).

I buy all of my ingredients in bulk, mostly from Bobs Red Mill.

Here are how the costs break out:

oatmeal: $0.26
sugar: $0.12
flour: $1.52
salt: $0.03
yeast: $0.08
oil: $0.26
Bobs Red Mill 7-grain cereal: $0.32 (optional)

So, for four loaves it costs $2.27–2.59 (depending on whether you add the extra cup of grain or not).


Every time I do one of these calculations it's very inspiring to know that instead of $4 for mediocre bread, it's only $0.55 for really good bread. No temptation to buy the "easier" $4 bread! Same goes for my beans-roasted-this-morning 35-cent cup of coffee. None of these things really take that much of my time. Bread takes about 30 minutes of active time from mixing the dough to freezing the loaves. Roasting the coffee beans, grinding the coffee, and putting the coffee in the French Press takes one minute of my (active) time. The $.60/gallon soy milk is a little more labor-intensive, mostly because the soy bean mashing part of the soy milk machine (aka soy cow) takes a bit of scrubbing to clean. But that's still only maybe 10-15 minutes of work for 1.25 gallons of soy milk. The labor requirements are far outweighed by the benefits. Fun stuff, for those of us with weird hobbies, anyway. :)

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Great Snack

One of our favorite snacks is roasted chick peas. They're really delicious, and a perfect balance of carbohydrate and protein. Just take a bunch of cooked chick peas, sprinkle them with just a touch of oil (not olive, but canola is good; olive burns at high temperatures) and salt. We roast them at 400 degrees for about an hour, turning them and moving them around every 10 minutes or so. They come out really crispy. Don't put them in a covered jar or they will become less crispy. Just leave them out. They don't last long, at least around here! A whole tray is gone in two days. YUM.

Friday, November 6, 2009


Three more hours until shabbos. The cooking is DONE (except for popping the chicken in to bake) and we'll go soon to pick up DH at work, then to drop off shabbos dinner for a friend trying very hard :( to recover from surgery. Then home to clean up a little and run everyone through the shower. Lovely company tonight for dinner that we haven't seen in a while, and it should be a nice day tomorrow, be'h. The spinach pastries turned into a filo dough pie, and the eggplant "meat"balls turned into eggplant turnovers. :) Added some olives, sundried tomato chummus, and some applesauce to put on the persimmon cake. Ready to feast! Our own weekly Thanksgiving.

I do like it best when shabbos starts around 6:00, but at least today, our first really early shabbos, I'm nearly ready except for a little straightening up. I may even get in my exercise walk beforehand, which would be good since I missed a day earlier this week.

Looking forward to snuggling into bed after dinner with a good book, and enjoying a restful, relaxing day tomorrow. What loveliness. Good shabbos!

The Menu

Mostly done!

gefilte fish loaf
yellow pepper/sun-dried tomato spread
sweet potato kugel
spinach tarts
roasted zucchini
baked potatoes
eggplant pastries
chicken marinated in vinaigrette dressing
persimmon cake with homemade applesauce

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Math, Water, Bikes, and Teeth

After saying in a recent post that I was mostly just doing informal math with Eli and that we might start more formal math later, well we've done a 180 on that! He picked up a Singapore Math (Kindergarten A) that I had purchased for Amirah but that we ended up not needing to use. He asked if he could have it. I told him it was fine. Well, in the last 10 days or so he's done about 120 of the 150 pages! He'll just sit down with me and whiz through 10-15 pages and be as happy as can be. Fortunately, we have the next book too! So I guess now I'm doing formal math with Eli. He's also nearly done with his alef bet book. There's a good beginning reader on that I'll be using next. I used it with Amirah too and it worked really well. He's almost done with the books that precede Explode the Code, and I happen to have the next two books already. They didn't work for Amirah at all (too writing intensive), but I think they'll be perfect for Eli. So, Mr. E. (aka MysterE) is zooming along, and he's very, very happy doing it. I also just got Handwriting Without Tears for Raizel and Eli. Raizel seems very ready to start writing (and has constantly been begging for some kind of workbook). Seems funny to start the writing before the reading, but that's what she's been asking for over and over again, so... we'll try it! Al pi darko, indeed. (Al pi darko = according to his, i.e. the child's, way.) Amirah has some new chumash materials coming from Torah Umesorah as we continue to work on our biblical Hebrew in anticipation, be"h, of her being able to read parshas bereishis (first section of Genesis) by pesach.

In other news, we have no hot water. No pilot light. No gas coming out. The line must be clogged or something. Hopefully we can get someone out here tomorrow. At least we can heat water on the stove. Still, I will very much miss my nice hot shower tonight, and be thankful that we have such things normally!!

The kids also went biking again today, this time at the school playground by our house. Lots of kids there, lots of fun. Avi couldn't take his eyes off the basketball players. He thought they were magnificent! Amirah hardly got off her bike. She really needs a bigger one, and Eli is probably big enough to take over hers. I don't think he'll yet mind that it's blue with purple flowers and a pretty basket. His helmet is yellow with bright pink tropical flowers, and he thinks that's just normal, so I think we can get away with it for a little longer. :)

And last of all, Amirah has her first loose tooth. A coming rite of passage. When I taught school, I always loved that transition all of the kids go through in first grade, from early childhood into youth. And the next transformation around nine was also very fun to watch. I've definitely always had a very soft spot for first and second graders, and now I have one of my own! What a pleasure.

And finally, Happy 3rd Birthday to our nephew/cousin, Mr. C! Farewell, toddlerhood!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Weekday Menus

Here's what we had during the week last week:

Sunday: roasted vegetable quesadillas, guacamole, leftover lime cilantro coleslaw, chips
Monday: sundried tomato chummus, rice crackers, butternut sweet potato soup w/buttermilk, toast
Tuesday: Chinese orange chicken, brown rice
Wednesday: blintzes with cottage cheese/tofu filling
Thursday: pancakes and eggs


A new month is suddenly here, and now that we spent October catching up on our learning after the round of flu viruses we are really on top of things. Amirah finished her learning in a record two hours for twelve subjects, and Eli did his usual 35 minutes or so. Efficient! I did ease up on a couple of subjects, figuring it didn't really matter at all if we finished them in December or January; we'll still get to our "end goals" by June. It's actually kind of funny to think in those terms, because it really feels more like a continuous path. Wherever we are, we just keep going! There is satisfaction in completing a book or a level, but those all come at asynchronous times. Even the grade levels are funny - 5th grade in that subject, 1st in that, 3rd in that, 4th in another. Amirah is where she is, and there's no need to push her somewhere else. It's really very relaxing knowing that we're headed on our path of learning in her own time. On the other hand, keeping annual and quarterly goals in mind does help me see if we need to "catch up" a little or if we can take a week off to do other projects. I really do like those days when we can finish it all up in the morning, have an after-lunch outing, then home to make dinner. It's a nice rhythm.

Since we did finish before lunch today, we headed out to the library and to the park next door. Amirah had been practicing gliding on her two-wheeler on the back deck and this week managed a couple of rounds of pedaling, so we took all the bikes with us. There's a great path that goes around the whole park with gentle upward and downward slopes. Amirah pedaled away as soon as we got there and no one was happier than she. Eli and Raizel trailed along at a zippy speed behind her on their trikes and they all had a great time. They alternated biking with swings and slides (except Amirah who never left the bike!). It's so nice to have a good stretch of sunny weather, and I want to be sure to take advantage of it. We all had such a great time I think we'll go back tomorrow!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Gahoole and the Golden Calf

Just a quick post to mention that Book #12 in the Guardians of Ga'hoole story has been very interesting and well-told! The story closely parallels the story of the golden calf in the torah, and in fact the book is entitled The Golden Tree. Even Amirah has noticed all the parallels. It has doubled the pleasure in reading the book. The whole series has felt Jewish (and indeed the author is Jewish), even though there is nothing overtly Jewish in the book. What a great read. We're about to finish this one, then three more are left. After that, we'll be on to other literary adventures! Shabbat shalom to all.

The Menu

Here 'tis:

challah (with 100% WHEAT flour)
mashed potatoes and gravy
oven-fried chicken (with MATZO)
Caesar salad (with CROUTONS)
roasted beet salad
roasted carrots/onions/yams/mushrooms/zucchini
chocolate cake with tofu chocolate frosting (with 100% WHEAT flour)

Shabbat shalom!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Weekday Menus

Sunday - red lentil soup and salad
Monday - rice noodle spinach cheese lasagna (worked great!)
Tuesday - felafel tacos with lime cilantro coleslaw
Wednesday - Amish oatmeal and poached eggs
Thursday - black bean tostadas with lime cilantro coleslaw (good thing we love the stuff!)

And this shabbat is the Great Gluten Blowout before DH goes in to get his blood tested on Monday. The test can be done without going back onto gluten, but you usually get better results if you have gluten in your system. So watch out, gluten, here we come! Challah, chocolate cake, his favorite veggie strip/avocado/lettuce/tomato sandwiches, and dulce de leche cinnamon rolls. Might as well go out with a bang. After that, probably back to gluten-free living, which actually isn't that big a deal. We don't eat tons of gluteny stuff as it is, and most of the things we do have can easily use a tapioca flour/rice flour combination replacement. The only sad part is not having real, live bread, especially challah. Small sacrifice, though!

And guess what you do if you can't have challah on shabbos? After your meal is over, you have an extra glass of grape juice/wine, say a l'chaim, and drink it down. That's enough to make the shabbos meal considered "festive." (And, of course, you don't wash for bread or anything...) Doesn't work for pesach, though. For pesach, we'll be making a considerable investment in gluten-free oat matzo. Wahoo. Maybe it tastes better. :)

Monday, October 26, 2009

Baby Einstein Refunds

Just passing this information along. Baby Einstein claimed that these dvds helped increase the intellect of children under two, but that claim has been disproven. Parents who bought it believing that it was educational can get a refund on the product if purchased in the last five years. The American Academy of Pediatrics has long recommended that children under two not watch television.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

A Very Nice Shabbos

This shabbos was just especially, especially, especially nice. Shabbos food always has a special ta'am, a special taste, but this shabbos the food just seemed especially yummy, especially the brisket. I cooked it in a slower oven for longer this time (2-1/4-pound briset, 275-degree oven, 3-1/2 hours), and maybe that was it. Whatever did it, it was just really delicious. A very quiet day today. Lots of reading, and a nice walk. A nap on the couch. Very leisurely.

After shabbos was over (just before 7 pm), we had an experiment - homemade mozzarella! Two gallons of milk ($4 total) made 1-3/4 pounds of cheese. The other ingredients couldn't have cost more than $0.15. That brings the cost of the cheese to $2.37/pound, or about half the price of regular mozzarella. And this cheese was delicious! It only took 90 minutes start to finish, so at 8:30, we were eating our own cheese. It might not be such a frugal option, since we'll probably eat twice as much cheese now! Maybe we can stretch it out to last a week (ha ha). It was very fun to make - coagulating the milk, letting it ripen, cutting the curds, heating the curds, stretching the cheese, kneading the cheese like bread, and actually slicing it. Oh, yum. We really need a cow. Or at least a goat. Non-homogenized milk makes better cheese.

I'd love to make cream cheese too. I've made ricotta cheese before, which you make from leftover whey. You only get about 3/4 cup of cheese from a gallon of whey, so I'm saving all the whey in the fridge to be used at the end of the week. After a few more cheese experiments, it would be really fun to try cheddar cheese (need a cheese press) and some of the moldy cheeses. And parmesan cheese. Fun stuff. I told DH tonight that when we retire he should write his cartoon and we'll make cheese (DH's microbiology degree would be very handy here...). Sounds good to me.

Shavua tov!

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Menu

brisket (our favorite!!)
roasted potatoes (A's favorite)
spinach/carrot/mushroom kugel
Caesar salad (everyone's favorite)
broccoli cranberry walnut salad
baked cabbage with barbecue sauce
gluten-free raspberry cake

And for lunch... chicken salad.

Had a nice day today too. Gave all the kids a Brain Break and we spent the morning at OMSI. Had a great time, then home for lunch. Really looking forward to a nice, sleepy shabbat. Ahhhhh... I think every Friday night I get a good 9-10 hours of sleep, and sometimes a nap too. Fuels me up for the coming week. In more ways than one. And this week the parsha is Noach! All the way from the flood to the tower of Bavel to Avram's birth. It's fun to tie the geography of the parsha into all of the ancient history we've been studying lately. A lot sure has happened on a small number of acres over the millennia!

Shabbat shalom to all.

Our Weeks of Learning

I haven't really done a post focused on just our learning for quite some time. The last real update was probably in July! In July and August, we had a several good weeks of learning, then a couple of weeks off for vacation time with grandma and grandpa here, and for camping in central Oregon. Then we only had a couple more weeks before the Big Flu hit the whole family. And now, once again, we have a good solid two weeks under our belts. :) Schedules continually evolve and adapt, but this is pretty much what we've settled into for now...

8:00-8:30, SNUGGLES
8:30-10:00, breakfast and free play
10:00-11:00, davening, Hebrew songs, and torah stories
11:00-11:15, snack
11:15-12:30, the rest of Amirah's kodesh studies
(chumash/torah, kriyah/reading, kesivah/writing, biblical Hebrew)
12:30-1:00, Eli does alef bet, writing, and reading
1:00-1:45, lunch
1:45-2:30, play outside
2:30-4:30, Amirah's chol (secular) studies
4:30-5:00, dinner prep
5:00-6:00, mama/papa exercise hour!
6:30, dinner

And the rest of the evening just sort of slips away... We try to be all bed-ready by 8:45 so there's plenty of time for readaloud books. Lights out at 9:30, but they can read in their beds until 10:00. Start all over again at 8:00 the next day!

DAVENING (prayer):
This has been going great. We get at least a couple of tefillos each day where everyone is singing full throttle (in a good way! no shout-singing here, thank you very much!). Amirah and Raizel know all the tefillos we're doing really well. Avi chimes in whenever he can, and Eli chimes in whenever prompted, and sometimes on his own initiative! :) Avi also likes to make sure that he is on the right page in his siddur. Amirah can follow along in her siddur most of the time. Eli and Raizel can identify the starting points of many of the tefillos, and they all know how to find Hashem's name.

So this is what we're doing now: modeh ani, reishis chochmah, torah tziva lanu moshe, mah tovu, adon olam, al netilas yadayim, asher yatzar, torah berachos, birchos hashachar, and shema (w/veahavta). This coming month I'll be introducing the other paragraphs of the shema and the first three berachos of the amidah. Moving right along!

We always read the parsha stories from My First Parsha Reader and The Little Midrash Says. Then we read from one of the many Artscroll story collections. We usually read 2–4 of those each day, about chagim, gedolim, etc.

We’re learning an average of two new songs per week, and we frequently review ones we’ve already learned. We learn a wide variety – torah songs, train songs, movement songs, holiday songs, etc. It increases our general vocabulary and we all enjoy this part a lot. Sometimes I even hear Avi singing the songs!

I started a new project with Amirah last week. We are reading the first parsha of Bereishis/Genesis pasuk-by-pasuk (sentence-by-sentence). She picks out whatever word she wants from the pasuk and copies it from the chumash onto a sheet. Then she draws a miniature picture that illustrates that word (about 3” x 3” or so). This helps us learn some of the key vocabulary in the parsha, gives us extra writing practice, and really works towards comprehending the content. It’s been a fun project, and is a precursor to what I hope will be her ability to read the whole parsha in Hebrew at the end of first grade.

KESIVAH (Hebrew writing)
We only have four pages left in the Migdalor kesivah workbook. Amirah has been an ethusiastic kesivah student. She would rather do ten pages of Hebrew writing than one page of English writing (or so she told me this morning!). Her face was covered in equal amounts of pleasure and mournfulness when she realized she would finish the book next week. Even the tricky letters haven’t given her any trouble. After that, there’s a (free!) kesivah review book on that we’ll use to go through all the letters one more time, then after that I think we’ll primarily be doing copywork from the chumash.

L'SHON HATORAH (biblical Hebrew)
We’re about 75% done with Book A. We learned many of the prefixes (prepositional phrases) that attach to the nouns in Hebrew, then we worked on plural forms of nouns, then combined those with prefixes. Now we’re learning that sometimes “ha”/”the” is hidden in another prefix instead of being its own prefix and we’re sharpening our eyes and ears to detect those hidden “thes.” The rest of the book is essentially just review. I think I’ll stretch out our review a little longer than the book does, depending on how quickly she can translate things, and we can also work to memorize more of the nouns that are just glossed over in these most recent exercises (as in, the point is to find the hidden “the,” not necessarily to know what the whole phrase means). This book has been challenging, probably the most challenging of all of our kodesh studies, but Amirah has been knitting her brow together very well and putting her best efforts into it. Finishing this book will really mean something!

We’re a little more than halfway through Spelling Workout's Workbook A. It’s been pretty straightforward. We’re working on things like unscrambling words, defining words, finding rhymes, putting words in alphabetical order, and reviewing spelling/phonics rules.

We’re about halfway through the first year of our grammar book, and lately we've been working hard on defining and identifying nouns, pronouns and verbs. We only have to complete 48 more 15-minute lessons between now and June, so I’m going to throw in some additional poetry memorization work.

We’re also a little more than halfway done with the printing book. We only do one page per day since we do plenty of other writing in other activities. This gives us a chance to exclusively focus on beautiful letter formation, and to observe the exact way to write a particular letter. She definitely does her nicest printing when we’re working in this book.

Amirah LOVES her writing/composition book. It mostly consists of hearing a selection from a piece of literature, answering comprehension questions on the passage, copying sentences from the passage, narrating her favorite part of the passage to me, and copying her own narrations. This helps to fill her head and ears with good writing, and lets her practice writing good sentences from models. By doing this, good grammar and writing style just seeps into the student’s mind. We started this later in the learning year and are about one third of the way through it now. Just did a reading selection from The Trumpet of the Swan, which we read about two years ago.

We’re meandering through the Ordinary Parents Guide and are about halfway through (the end of the book is fourth-grade reading level). She loves going to the library and community center for Read to the Dogs. Her reading is becoming more fluent, and her day is including more time spent on independent reading. She can comprehend stories with highly intricate plots, and I know she’d just rather not hang out in those 1st/2nd grade reading levels because of this. I have a feeling that in a year or so she’ll suddenly explode with reading and really take off. With us for parents, she’s bound to be a bookworm. :)

We whizzed through Singapore Math’s 1A book, and are now doing 2–3 pages per day from the 1A Intensive Review book. I’m really glad we’re doing this. She could definitely have just moved on to level 1B, but I think having this review period is really good. She can work on speeding up her recall of math facts, and just generally become more fluent, and increasing the flexibility of her mathematical thinking. Intensive Review also includes sections that are harder than the main 1A book, so she gets review plus a little extra. By January we’ll go on to the 1B book, I think. I think math is especially important to get a very firm foundation in before piling on the next concepts.

I wish we could spend more time on history, but we have so much on our plate! As it is, this is what we generally do: 1) read the chapter for the week on Monday, 2) re-read the chapter and ask comprehension questions on Wednesday, and 3) do the map activities associated with the chapter in our history workbook on Friday. We also frequently read a book of historical fiction that ties into what we’re reading, or browse non-fiction books from the library. Every once in a while we’ll do one of the suggested creative activities. This week we built a volcano out of plaster-of-paris and a soda can, then we painted it. We just studied the Minoans who lived on the island of Crete in ancient times. They were likely chased off their island by a volcanic explosion on Thera, a neighboring island/volcano. Also, the Guardians of Ga’hoole series has some volcanoes as an important part of the plot, so the activity neatly related to two different subjects. We’ll set off the volcano on Sunday or Monday. Oh, boy! Topics we have covered recently: Egypt, Egypt, and more Egypt, the Exodus from Egypt, the Phoenicians, Assyria’s destructive rise to power (again), the Babylonians and Nebuchadnezzar rising above Assyria after Ashurbanipal died, and the Minoans (and the legend of the minotaur). Coming soon: the Greeks! We’re also doing supplemental reading and map-work on contemporaneous Jewish history so we know how the Jews fit in to each part of this. Fascinating!!

Amirah is a true biologist, and comes by it honestly. She could study it all day. Our science curriculum has been pretty good. We had a little trouble locating mature earthworms at earthworm time (young earthworms have parts that are harder to distinguish), and I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen a snail in our yard, just slugs. But neither was around at snail time. So goes it. Worksheets stood in for the real thing. We’ve studied Cnidaria (jelly fish, coral, anemones), worms, and mollusks (last week). Echinoderms and arthropods are coming up! We do lots of supplemental reading about any creature we study. One odd thing – there are basically no books about snails. A few board books/early readers with very basic information, a few aquarium care books about snails, and a few nature guides that mention them, but that’s pretty much it. I did find one adult book devoted to snails on Amazon, but the library doesn’t have it. I found this so odd. Such an ubiquitous creature should have volumes written about him! Alas. The Handbook of Nature Study always comes through, though, and provides some nice supplemental reading material about each creature that we study.

Lots of fun projects each week. The biggest hits have been posted in previous entries. We do drawing every day, and art materials are always available to them. We do a major project once or twice a week.

This post is very Amirah-centric since she’s doing the most. For dear Eli, suffice it to say that he’s very busy writing as many words as he can. Amirah helps him spell them, or he can sound out three-letter words on his own. Loves to draw trucks (we’re making a collection and cutting out all the trucks he draws, then we’re going to make a freeway and glue them all to it!). He loves to read alef bet which he pretty much knows backwards and forwards now. He’s beginning to do reading lessons in English, and will start reading lessons for Hebrew very soon. We’re doing math informally, but he’s absorbed quite a lot.

Now, time for bed! Good night dear friends and family!

Weekday Menus

Chickpea flour dumplings in yogurt chickpea flour soup (really!)
Raw carrots and zucchini dipped in homemade ranch dressing

poached salmon (leftovers from shabbat)
sautéed zucchini
baked lentils and rice

1) surimi (fake crab) and cucumber
2) cucumber
3) omelet with egg, sesame oil, soy sauce, and a dash of sugar
miso soup

vegetable quesadillas

gluten-free cottage cheese buttermilk pancakes with blueberry sauce
overeasy eggs
(the buttermilk really helped leaven the batter!)

AND... everyone but Eli ate EVERYTHING I cooked this week! That's just Eli, though... :)

Monday, October 19, 2009

Funny Story!

I had to share a funny story that another homeschooling mama shared with me. Her husband has to attend two or three hoity-toity Washington DC business networking/political functions each year. She used to loathe these until she started playing a game. She gets dressed to the nines, finds the person in the room who most likes to hear himself talk, and corners him for an hour while expressing deep enthusiasm for his work and accomplishments. Finally, the talker gets around to asking her what her line of work is, thinking he's making a hot business connection. "I'm a housewife and homeschooling mama," is her enthusiastic reply. Polite excuses and mumbling as the person realizes that they've just wasted an hour networking with a HOUSEWIFE. :)

I got a big kick out of this. She is proud and confident that the work she does as a mother (and teacher of her children) MATTERS. It matters a lot. The entire world depends on it, actually, IMHO. I find it shocking how utterly devalued this line of work, this absolutely sacred duty, has become and how parents are deemed less and less necessary. (And if I have to start paying for other people's mandatory full-day kindergarten and preschool because other parents prefer to work and demand state-funded daycare, you'll really hear me start to grumble.) People are actually *embarrassed* to say they are "just" at home with their children. What greater duty can there be? And how did we get all topsy-turvy mixed up about this???

Yes, I was an honors student. Yes, I could have done anything with my life that I desired. Yes, I'm glad I studied music. Yes, I'm glad that I had those years of teaching. But any of my accomplishments utterly pale compared to raising my four children. I have no greater value then I do as a wife and mother, though all of my hundreds of former music students were definitely a nice placeholder until I had children of my own. I adored teaching. But so did I adore serving pastries at the pâtisserie I worked in during high school and college. And so did I love the eight years I worked in resource development at a science museum. It was all good. But being a mama is mind-blowingly fantastic.

And for those who think being at home with your children is a waste of a good brain, I can only quote RP - "You're lazy!" (Thanks, RP!) An intellectual life can be found wherever you are, especially if you are living a traditional frum Jewish lifestyle. There is absolutely no end to intellectual opportunities. And if you're a homeschooling mama in addition, all of those intellectual opportunities just about dodecatuple!

At the pediatrician's office last week the nurse commented on how well-behaved the children were and asked if I was a stay-at-home mom. I said that I was and she said, "You're so lucky." I replied that it was not luck. She looked surprised. It's not luck, I repeated. It's deciding what is most important and making all of your life decisions to that end. Yes, we eat a lot of beans. No we can't eat out or buy plane tickets. Our vacations are in a tent (which we love!). Our house is medium-sized, and our next one might be smaller. Maybe we'll retire to a one-bedroom apartment. But does any of that really matter? Nope. Not compared to the shining eyes of my children, every one of them tanked up on love, hugs, attention, a big love for Hashem, and a life full of gratitude for all that we have.

Most of all, I am grateful for having found DH. Without him, none of this would be here. I often shudder to think what life without him would have been like, and I'm grateful EVERY MINUTE OF THE DAY that Hashem brought us together.

With that, good night!

Nice Sale at Lands End!

I just bought this cute dress for Amirah for $8 and some badly-needed white tights for $5 each. This is cheaper than the used clothing store! I got free shipping too. E-mail me if you want the codes. Very happy about this one.

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Menu

We've had a lot of catch-up to do this week between making up some missed learning time and catching up on the housework. Guess which is more fun? :) Nonetheless, we're back to having a real shabbos menu instead of a that-will-do menu.

poached salmon with aioli
Caesar salad with homemade croutons
chicken in homemade barbecue sauce
mashed potatoes
carrot ginger purée
marinated zucchini salad
pear cake

Ditto for lunch.

Wishing everyone a lovely shabbos!

Weekday Menus

cream of carrot tarragon soup
baked potatoes with tofu sour cream
green salad

gluten-free pizza

black bean tostadas with guacamole, tofu sour cream, salsa, and cabbage w/lime juice and cilantro

gluten-free pancakes with blueberry sauce

Definitely the best meal was the tostadas. The beans with the lime cilantro cabbage is one of my all-time favorite combinations.

We're nearly positive that DH has celiac disease, meaning he likely can't tolerate gluten of any kind. We'll find out for certain in the next week. New culinary adventures ahead! The only real roadblock seems to be that gluten-free challah is an oxymoron. (And so is bread of any kind, for that matter!) We're not sure what to do about bread for shabbos, though. Gluten-free matzo is more than $20 per pound (!).

Friday, October 9, 2009


61 quarts of grape juice, and the last batch will come out of their canning bath at the exact moment shabbat begins! Last year we didn't get them all done in the first 48 hours and had to freeze a bunch. The flavor wasn't quite the same. But this year we pulled it off, with the steam juicer and canner running non-stop from 4:00 to 12:00 last night and 10:00-5:15 today. It was a little tricky cooking in between all the giant boiling pots, but that too got done. Now for a whirlwind cleanup of the house, a nice shower, and we're all set for shabbos and simchas torah, the last of the fall holidays. And hopefully on Monday we will all be back to normal time, with good learning in the mornings, and some outdoor time in the afternoons. We've been cooped up for way too long! Shabbat shalom, all!

The Menu

Hooray! There actually is a menu today. Of course it's all slice and bake, nothing too complicated. Here 'tis:

chicken with rice and mushrooms
green salad
roasted tomatoes (fresh from the farm yesterday)
roasted zucchini and red peppers
roasted sweet potatoes
steamed corn


Freshly made grape juice! Hooray! We're about two-thirds done, I think. Should have about 70 quarts by the end of the day. The homemade stuff is costing us $1.63 per quart. Such a deal. And the taste doesn't even compare to commercial grape juice. Ahhhhhhh....


Nobel Peace Prize? But he hasn't DONE anything!!!! And I'm actually pretty nervous to see what he actually DOES. Oy, gevalt. It isn't quite up to par with Yasser Arafat getting the prize, though. Goofy times. Worse than goofy, actually...


The doctor's pretty sure we all are recovering from swine flu. In Oregon (or maybe it's just planet OHSU?) they only test you if you require hospitalization, but not if you're recovering. Not sure why exactly. Where do those statistics come from anyway??? I'm the only one who still has symptoms other than fatigue. Wheezy chest that won't quit, and we can't find a vaporizer ANYWHERE! Seriously? Every drug store only sells humidifiers. I've been daydreaming for days now about the cooling mists of our lovely (now broken) vaporizer. I got an albuterol inhaler, but the dosage they gave me doesn't seem to do much for me. That's always the case with me. I always seem to need 50-100% above a normal dose to affect me at all. Oh, well. I don't really want to tank up on albuterol. I really just want my vaporizer!!!! I tried using Amirah's nebulizer, but it's such a small amount of vapor that comes out, and it's terribly noisy. Sigh.

Despite it all, we've been doing about half of our learning time, keeping up with the core classes and skipping things like history, science, and art. So, all is still going well. I just can't wait to be fully back to normal. The doctor said that could take up to SIX WEEKS. Gevalt.

We've had some entertainment along the way... Saw a couple of really good movies - Gentlemen's Agreement and The Visitor. The first movie was made in 1947 and is about a man who pretends to be Jewish for several weeks so he can write a magazine article on antisemitism. We both thought it was incredibly well-done, except for the ending where he definitely got back together with the wrong girl. Oh, well. The second one was utterly charming and a little teary. Highly recommend it.

And for more entertainment... I've been working on the taxes (we always file those extensions...). We never got tax id #s or social security cards for R&A (oops.... kept avoiding taking four young children to the long line at the social security office). Sent DH over today to file. Figured we would file our taxes without the kids now, then in two weeks re-file the proper forms with their new social security numbers. No problem for Raizel's, but it turns out that Avi has three different birth dates listed - October 10, October 11, and October 15, depending on which piece of paper you look at. So we have to go to the immigration office downtown to straighten it out first. I wonder if we get to pick it, or what?? I think 10/10 sounds nice, and that's what we've been planning on. But his actual birth certificate says 10/15. Of course, it's all just one big guess anyway since we don't know his actual birth date. Maybe we should just go for it and celebrate all three! We need to process their re-adoption/citizenship paperwork too to finalize everything, but since we keep thinking we're moving any month now, we don't want to start the process in one state then not be able to complete it. Oh, well.

So, Avi, Happy Birthday, Happy Birthday, and Happy Birthday! Almost!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down

With all this lack of energy, I've had lots of time for reading, so here's the latest...

Mimmy and Sophie: All Around the Town - THUMBS DOWN

With a Jewish author and stories set during the Depression in Brooklyn, I thought this book stood a pretty good chance. Instead, it was full of conversations were children spoke very unkindly to each other most of the time. Not pleasant reading, and we didn't get very far into the book.

Predictably Irrational, by Dan Ariely - THUMBS UP!!

I think behavioral economics is a fascinating subject, diving into what makes people assign value to things and then to spend their money in ways that don't seem rational. Frugal mamas (and papas) are good at avoiding a lot of these traps, but it's interesting to read about so many traps that people can fall into even if they are savvy about personal finance, frugality, and not keeping up with the neighbors. I think there are many sections in this book that are hugely relevant to the Jewish community (and the author is, in fact, an Israeli professor of behavioral economics). I'm only a couple of chapters into this book but am enjoying it immensely.

Disgrace, by Jacobs Coetzee - THUMBS DOWN DOWN DOWN

I found all of the characters in this book to be utterly dead, utterly unlikable, and could not begin to fathom their motives. The writing was excellent, but the story so bleak and the characters so dismal I just couldn't get into it at all. I forged ahead thinking at some point the protagonist might actually go through some personal transformations after his own misdeeds and additional tragic experiences, but the heights of his "redemption" were found in helping to kindly euthanize the dogs that were overrunning the countryside as a volunteer with a struggling veterinary clinic/shelter out in the South African countryside. The story added nothing uplifting or noble to the human experience. So not my cup of tea. Just the thing to make a new movie out of...

That's all for now!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Under Quarantine

Well, not really but we ought to be! We have been so sick!!! It sounds like a tuberculosis ward around here at night, G-d forbid. DH is out buying two new vaporizers right now. So interesting, I know. But such is the extent of our (very) little daily lives right now. We were really feeling thankful yesterday that it's not 100 years ago and we're not farmers. Can you imagine having to go out and take care of business anyway or risk losing your entire year's income?? (Well, maybe not this time of year, but there sure still are many obligations in an agrarian existence...) We have the luxury of DH calling in sick and all of us just hunkering down to recover. So, while the yom tov food was either non-existent or consisting of scrambled eggs, we still felt the clouds of Hashem protecting us. And we looked longingly into our sukkah which generally was either too cold or wet for a bunch of sick people. We managed one meal in there on Friday night, hopefully more to come. OY. I couldn't even look at or smell food until Sunday. I think it will likely be the end of the week before we're all back in our groove.

To pass the time, we've been doing as many readalouds as we can, given our wheezy voices. The Guardians of Ga'Hoole series has really held up. We're just about to start Book 8 of 12, and the action and character development has not waned for a moment yet. Great series. And last week, Eli suddenly developed a huge interest in longer chapter books and has roamed far outside his usual truck books. He's really enjoying a reading of Ralph S. Mouse by Beverly Cleary with papa, and with mama we started The House at Pooh Corner after having finished Winnie-the-Pooh last week. His new interest all started when a friend of ours passed on a book to us called A Mouse Called Wolf and I brought it home and showed him the new book I had brought home for him. He immediately took it and spent the hour before dinner thoroughly poring over the pictures. We read the whole book that night and he just couldn't get enough after that.

Eli has also been having a great time with the Explode the Code series. It's a combination reading/writing primer that didn't work at all for Amirah, but for Eli it's been a perfect fit. He'll sit down and do 20 pages in a row with very little help from me and he loves it. I'm so glad all those workbooks didn't go to waste after not working for Amirah! He's also doing well in the Ordinary Parents Guide to Teaching Reading. We're doing math more informally, but he sure seems to have his math facts for 1-5 down pretty well (as in adding together quickly any numbers that are 5 and under). Our alef bet book is going well too and he's basically expanding his vocabulary, learning 5-7 new Hebrew words for every letter of the alef bet. He should finish his current book by December, then on to Hebrew reading (kriyah). Anyway... that's a little about what Eli is learning right now. He learns so differently from Amirah in that he takes a giant leap then putts along, then another giant leap, whereas Amirah does a steady climb. He's also ready much earlier than Amirah was for lots of small-motor movement, which makes learning writing SO much easier. And Raizel seems even more ready than Eli! Crazy girl! Has held her pencil PERFECTLY since the first time she picked one up. It's very funny. You can just see the lightning crackle in that girl's brain.

Well, that was a nice distraction from my wheezy life, but back to the couch for a while now!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Blue with the Flu

Well, it's been quite a few days. All of us got hit by the flu, to varying degrees. The kids pulled through it in record time, but this mama really got bamboozled. Stayed in bed for 43 hours straight (thank you, dear husband). A little better today, though. At least I can keep my eyeballs open and my body doesn't feel like it was run over by a truck. Sweat, chills, 103.5 fever last night... UGH! I seem to be coming out of it today, though. I'm just so relieved that DH could stay home yesterday and today. The best thing yesterday was to discover that lying down unable to read, talk radio took the edge off and kept me distracted enough that I could lie there much, much more comfortably (thank you, Dr. Laura and Dave Ramsey!). So we got the sukkah up, and while it's not yet beautiful at least it's UP.

And for dinner??? Ummm...

Soda water?


Well, actually we had a big family outing to Trader Joe's, so...

baked chicken
mashed potatoes
mixed baked vegetables

and for lunch...

I'm throwing some canned tomatoes, ground turkey, beans into the crock pot and hoping for the best...

And for yom tov on Sunday? Ask me on Monday what we had. :) I figure there's always tuna. OY. Wish I had more in my freezer stock, but I've been minimizing building up my freezer supply since we're hoping to move soon, soon, soon (please, Hashem!).

Anyway... better put together that dinner which I probably won't eat. Happy Sukkot to everyone!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Search Function

Any fellow bloggers out there know how on earth you make your search function USEFUL? When I do a search for something I know is there, it finds nothing. Took forever to find the oatmeal bread recipe after losing the paper I had on the refrigerator. JY - I searched yours for Wordless postings and found LOTS. :) My privacy settings are set so that the blog can not be indexed by search engines. Does that make a difference? One search widget I tried adding said I should make it public (yeah, right) for better results. Just hoping someone out there can help me! :)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Yom Kippur

Just wanted to wish everyone tzom kal - an easy fast. I was doing some Yom Kippur reading yesterday and today and I really found myself longing to be in shul this year. I know I am serving Hashem at the highest level by taking care of my children, but next year I really hope we are in a different house mere blocks away from a shul. The YK service is the spiritual high point of the year, and indeed is the holiest day of the year, with the most beautiful and moving davening of any of the chagim. It has been five years since I have been in shul on that day, and it is the only one of the chagim that I truly yearn to be there davening. So, please Hashem, may DH find a new job soon, may we move to a house in a much better location (with an eruv even!) and may we all go to shul for YK!


For any fellow Spanish-ophiles who might be out there... I just learned that the verb "morir" is used when someone dies unexpectedly, and the verb "morirse" is used when someone's death is expected. Thirty years of being a Spanish-ophile and I just now learned this. Love it! :)

What a Week!

Between going back onto our learning schedule, all the holidays, and starting to teach my one family of piano students it's been quite busy! Blogging has been on the back burner, I'm afraid.

Rosh Hashanah was pretty nice. Lots of yummy food on Friday and Saturday. Sunday morning we all walked to shul together (2.2. miles). Avi in the backpack, and the rest on foot. They did great! Not a moment of complaint, and we made one brief stop to use a restroom. We made it in a record one hour and five minutes, mostly because we didn't have to go the long way around, which is more stroller-friendly. Had a nice time at shul hearing the shofar and visiting with friends, some of whom I hadn't seen in quite a while! Afterward, we had a lovely lunch at the home of some friends and stayed until the end of yom tov. The kids all had a great time playing, and it was a lovely day. Dean walked home in the afternoon and came to retrieve us in the evening. Very nice.

Amirah had such a great day at shul, that she went to evening minyan with papa during the week, and then walked to shul again this morning. Too tired to walk back though, so she went home with friends who live much closer (thanks, BAF! Again!). We also got to go swimming again during the week, thanks to Doda Shin. :) I started teaching my one family of piano students - 3 brothers, lovely kids. It was nice to see them again. Their mom was Amirah's first pediatrician (but sadly, because of insurance changes, not her current one!).

We've had a couple of weeks of our great gluten-free experiment, and we think (unfortunately, or fortunately!) that it may become a success, but it's still a little too early to tell. I've got to get off to Bob's Red Mill and get a larger stash of gluten-free flours. And I've really got to find a gluten-free challah recipe that's not AWFUL. Poor DH. One of the culinary highlights of his whole week is his weekly challah. :(

I know there was a lot more happening this week, but those are the things that come to mind. Tzom kal to all who begin fasting tomorrow night! DH will be sleeping down the hill, obviating the need for a long morning walk. Not a good way to start YK day!

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Menu

challah (plain and raisin)
roast chicken
baked potatoes with tofu sour cream, and all the other fixings
carrot soufflé
sweet and sour coleslaw
spinach salad
green beans in garlic sauce
cauliflower fritters
honey cake
roasted pears

and for lunch....

shabbos-worthy hamburgers... really!

Good shabbos and g'mar chasima tova! And an easy and meaningful fast for all those fasting on Yom Kippur this Monday.

Weekday Menus

Only had three dinners at home this week! So short (and CHEAP) list of menus.

pureed mixed beans/lentils/peas
(4 cups of beans + tomatoes, onions, garlic, and basil + water to cover; let it simmer on low for 9 hours)
blini (buckwheat pancakes) - these were a HUGE hit with the kids; I think Eli ate 8 of them!

baked tofu strips (I thought they were very so-so, but everyone else actually ate them up)
(made a cornstarch/soy sauce/balsamic vinegar sauce to dip them in then coated them in 1/2 panko crumbs and 1/2 matzo meal; others (the gluten-free ones) had a peanut butter coconut sauce on them)
brown rice
peanut sauce

oatmeal and English muffins

Friday, September 18, 2009

Great Science DVD

We all highly recommend Insectia, narrated by George Brossard. He's the French version of David Attenborough. Or maybe David Attenborough is the British version of George Brossard. Either way, their accents are equally yummy, the science is equally good, and the filming is equally phenomenal. We just watched an episode about termites - WOW!

Shana tova! 5770 is less than 4 hours away, and I'm actually very nearly done cooking, the house is very nearly clean, and the kids are very near to getting baths and shampoos. Sunday we'll all trek into shul to hear the shofar. (But I'm afraid I won't get to steam-cleaning the rugs and curtains, RH - that was amazing!) :)

The Great Gluten-Free Experiment

We've been experimenting with a gluten-free diet to see if there's a possibility that DH has a wheat allergy. It's been a pretty good week for cooking! I've been using 50% tapioca flour and 50% rice flour to replace regular flour. If I'm making a batch of biscuits or bread, I add one teaspoon xantham gum to give it more elasticity. So far, our experiments have been really delicious, including some gluten-free crepes tonight. The texture was definitely different, but I enjoyed the taste just as much as our regular ones. If we had to be on a gluten-free diet permanently, it really wouldn't be a big deal at all. I could still make the kids their bread, bagels, and pasta for lunches and snacks. I really think it wouldn't be that big a deal.

Otherwise, not much happening right now. I took the girls to get haircuts this afternoon so they look all fixed up for yom tov. Everyone got new shoes too; the boys each got two pairs. I got all six pairs for $65! Love Payless Shoesource... Did a couple of other errands with everyone then went to pick up papa at work. Came home for the evening, and after dinner we read a few chapters of book 6 in the Legends of Ga'Hoole series (which we are still absolutely devouring... love it!). Now I've stayed up way too late cooking, but I got most of the big stuff done. Tomorrow is challahs and cooking the meats. Should be fine. We're planning on going to shul on Sunday for shofar blowing, then to a friend's for lunch (hi, friend!). Should be nice. Shanah tovah!

The Menus

Shana tovah! Wishing you all a sweet new year...

Here's what's cooking:

apples and honey (of course!)
challah w/raisins
gluten-free challah without raisins
gefilte fish
sweet potato Italian plum tsimmes
sauteed cabbage
green salad
brisket (dinner)
meatballs and brown rice (lunch)
chicken tagine and brown rice (dinner #2)
roasted beets
Italian plum tart
honey cake

That should do!

Thursday, September 17, 2009


When Raizel turns 6, she's going to get married and have 10 kids. Boys and girls. She and her husband will sit in their barn and play with toys all day. And Amirah is writing a book about a cat and a fish. The cat invited the fish to dinner and the fish thought that that was, er, not a good idea. The plot continues... She would like to sell the book for $5. And Avi is not going to get married, not going to have a house, not going to have children and not going to work. Can you tell his favorite word is a loud, authoritative "NO!"? Eli had nothing to say on any of these matters. He uses his words sparingly, and will probably outlive everyone, because when we are born Hashem grants us a certain number of words and when we've used them all up, it's time to go. I think he's gearing up for 120. :)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Beautiful Snoods and Scarves!

I just ordered three pre-tied scarves from The Millinery Shop and they arrived today (in record time!). The scarves are absolutely beautiful, have a very comfortable elastic band so it's not too tight on my XL head. I think they would work just as well with smaller heads. :) The fabrics are gorgeous, and great for the chagim. The prices were very reasonable - the pre-tieds cost $12–14 each. And the customer service was absolutely top notch. I just ordered them on Friday, so they came very quickly. I didn't think I'd have them for Rosh Hashanah, but I do! Anyway, for any of you others looking for this kind of thing, I can't recommend them highly enough. :)

Weekday Menus

Sunday: crepes, eggs
Monday: curried lentils/millet/brown rice with salad
Tuesday: pasta (regular for us and rice noodles for papa) with tvp marinara sauce and sauteed spinach

We're going gluten-free for a couple of weeks to see if that helps one or more members of the family...

Tired, Tired

I've had a hard time keeping my eyeballs open these past couple of nights. It's off to bed with me very soon.

It's been a pretty busy week. DH was in Ashland for Grandpa Neil's funeral. All is well as one could hope, so that is good. Monday morning we got a lovely visit from Doda S, and even though it had been a while since we'd seen her it felt like it was just a day. We got some learning done before her visit, and some after lunch. This afternoon we picked plums with the H family. Very fun! Tomorrow, we're all going swimming at a friend's pool and Amirah has Read to the Dogs in the evening, and Thursday and Friday is the rush to prepare for Rosh Hashanah. Can you say nap? :)

Today we got into our regular schedule and all our learning went really well... Learning words like officer, face, people, city, heart. This kind of memorization comes really naturally to Amirah so she finds this very easy. We've added many more prefixes too, so she's starting to really get some good phrases down (i.e. like the sun, when the officer, in the city, and that the heart, etc.). Hebrew reading/phonics is moving along too. Not too much longer and we'll have finished the book that we're using and be going on to the next one. She's learning more letters in script - dalet and pei/fei today. She would gladly do script all day long if we could! We've also been talking a lot about Rosh Hashanah, making our own machzorim (holiday prayer books), singing holiday songs, davening, conducting our shofar orchestra, learning the laws of the holiday.

In chol we did our spelling (her list is: six, box, top, book, mix, and pop). We did little crossword puzzles, rhyming games, etc. In grammar we're learning the names of all the months and how many days they have (using the Mother Goose rhyme to help us!). We should be memorizing our Hebrew months too, and good timing with a new year beginning (even if the new year technically begins with the 7th month...). In composition we've been reading excerpts from various stories and answering comprehension questions about them, then copying a sentence or two from the excerpt. Part of getting the mechanics and sounds of good writing into her bones so she really just knows what good writing should sound like. She also has to do all of her answers in complete sentences. This took some nudging at first, but now it's a habit. After the two-week break we took, her printing looked slightly more askew. It was interesting to note the difference. I'm sure after a couple more days it will be back up to usual! :) For reading, we just finished reviewing the silent "e" at the ends of words that causes the vowels before it to be long. She's got that down pretty well.

Math has been really interesting. We've been doing addition and subtraction with numbers up to 20. Singapore Math really gives the students the tools to be able to perform mental math quickly and accurately. For example... for a problem like 18 - 7 = __, you first "make" the number 18 with tens and ones (we've been using teddy bear counters), so a group of 10 and a group of 8. You subtract the 7 from the group of 10, leaving 3. You add that to the other 1s that are still remaining to get an answer of 11. You'd think it would be more logical to subtract the ones from each other (i.e. 8 - 7), but then you realize that doesn't work with problems like 12 - 7. She is getting the calculations done pretty fast in her head and her math facts are pretty well memorized between 1 and 10 (i.e. 2 + 8 = 10, etc., etc.). I really love Singapore Math. I think it really lays an excellent foundation for being very flexible and adept with calculations. It's a very satisfying approach.

In history we just read about Thutmose I (who conquered land from Nubia (Ethiopia) all the way up to Canaan and over to the Babylonian border), his daughter the female pharaoh Hatshepsut, Amenhotep (who abolished polytheism and sought to establish monotheism in Egypt!) and King Tutankhamen (who subsequently abolished monotheism). It was all very interesting. I had no idea that there was a pharaoh who shut down all the temples and declared monotheism the law of the land. And this not long before the Jews arrive in Egypt. So interesting!!

Time to nod off. Past time, actually. I've got to get this go to bed thing down a little better. :)

Monday, September 14, 2009

Quote of the Week (again)

Amirah: Can we go outside and draw on the deck?
Mama: Sure! (thinking it's nice to be outside and drawing)

30 minutes later, the deck is covered in lots of lovely pen drawings. Oops. Semantic misunderstanding.

Quote of the Week

Raizel (after watching New in Town): My favorite part was when the little lady went outside and said, "Oooooooo it's cold" and he went back inside for warm.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Quote of the Week

Raizel: Mama, are they going to bury Grandpa Neil at the playground?

This Last Week

It's been quite a week. I can only give the Reader's Digest version, or I'll be here typing all night. So here it is in backwards chronological order.

First, baruch dayan ha'emet. The end of shabbat brought the news that my husband's stepfather passed away this afternoon, at the age of 81, peacefully of a heart attack in the arms of his wife, surrounded by his beloved dogs. The funeral will be on Monday morning, and Dean will be going down tomorrow afternoon. May his mother be comforted among all the mourners of Tzion.

Second, baruch hashem no one was hurt, but the canvas rooftop carrier we use on the car either broke or became loose and flew off while we were on the freeway. B"H it flew off towards the center divider and didn't fly over it, and B"H it didn't fly off the other direction. Within an hour we had ODOT going out to search for the carrier for us, but to no avail. We went to the State Police office and they had not retrieved it either. So, back we went to the freeway to see for ourselves. It was gone. But several of the contents were strewn along the opposite side of the freeway. First my two pillows, then papa's, then Amirah's beloved pink-striped pillow (which brought many tears). A little later, Dean's sleeping bag (took them a while to reject that one!). They must have kept the rest of the STOLEN property. A long delay that led to us not getting home until 6:00 (and shabbat started at 7:15!!). But the important thing - no one was hurt. It will cost $400 to replace all that we lost, but that's small potatoes. I am curious to check out Craigslist in Springfield, and I think I'll go ahead and file a stolen property report. Can't hurt... But probably won't help either. OY!

And last, the camping trip itself was lovely. The tent was very spacious for us and our things. The weather was beautiful. Amirah tried fishing (no fish). We visited the little lake at our campground every afternoon and went out on various adventures each morning. It was really a lovely little week there.

Lots to do now, but that's our quick update. Wishing ima much love and comfort. Good night!