Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Busy Day

I just finished planning our frugal pesach dishes. Now I just have to organize when we're eating what and make out my final shopping lists. I'm really excited about trying tilapia ceviche! :) We'll eat a little more meat and fish than usual, have a couple more treats than we would otherwise, and consume way more eggs, matzo meal, and potatoes than we normally do. But overall it looks like we can pull off a great week of meals without spending more than our usual.

Tomorrow Amirah and I are going to the wedding of someone I've known since 1999. Dean is going to stay home with the other three. Amirah and I should really enjoy the evening, eating and dancing and seeing friends. I'm looking forward to our date.

The decluttering continues! Dean did a bit more tonight after I took the kids to swimming lessons. The only two places to check downstairs for "clutter" are the art/educational supplies closet (which has already been decluttered twice... the third one will be the brutal one!), and the kitchen food cupboards (which are about to be re-organized for pesach anyway). After that the entire downstairs will be completely free of ANY extraneous items. It's an amazing feeling. Upstairs has some cupboards to go through, but it shouldn't take long. Yay.

No, we're not decluttering for the sake of pesach, though some people go really nuts with the cleaning. It's just happening to coincide with putting the house on the market soon (we hope).

Better get some of that elusive sleep.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Interesting Fact

With our income (which is pretty much the US median), 88% of the people in the world earn less than we do.

Funny Library Notice

I hadn't thought of getting Richard Scarry books in Chinese, but why not???


The following new titles matching your preferred searches are now available.

Scarry, Richard.
880-01 Gu lu gu lu zhuan / Lichade Sikairui ; [Qi Yangping yi].

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Frugal Pesach

I was (slightly) astonished that when I put "frugal pesach" into google, I only came up with 9 links. "Frugal passover" only got two links. Hmmmmm...

Well, this family is going to have one. Most grocery items that are prepared especially for pesach are ridiculously, outrageously expensive. I bought one catsup, one mayonnaise, two small bottles of oil for baking (for cooking I can use regular olive oil), and a few candy treats. And that's it. We'll eat fish, eggs, nuts, meat, and chicken for proteins. And lots of veggies and salads. And I'm trying to figure out a kosher l'pesach way to make our own cottage cheese.

In the early 15th century, it was determined that many items (like beans) could be ground into flour and baked like chametz (flour/water), so someone might see someone eating it and think it was okay to eat chametz, since that's what it looks like. So that also nixes lots of good stuff like rice, corns, beans, and peas, that aren't chametz.

So I don't mind giving up chametz for eight days (bread, cake, cookies, etc.), but two things are really, really difficult: no beans (and no peanut butter!), and no cheese (outrageously expensive). Our family relies on beans and cheese quite a lot. Oh, well!!!

I am determined to make our normal grocery bill no larger than our regular grocery bill. We'll see! There are 5 festive dinners (2 nights of seders, 1 night of shabbat, and 2 nights at the end of pesach). The seder dinners don't start until around 10:30 because you go through most of the seder story first, so we tend to eat on the lighter side. Usually soup, fish, meat, and salad. (Yes, this is a "light" festive meal! :)). Shabbat will be slightly more elaborate (it's the most important holiday). By the last two days of pesach we're not feeling very interested in food. :)

So... I hope to report on the results of our frugal pesach. I have other cyber-friends doing the same, so we'll egg eachother on.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Kitchen Pictures

Here are a couple of pictures of the new kitchen! All cleaned up for shabbat, so I quickly took out the camera. I can't take credit for any of it. The contractor picked out everything - the cabinets, the floor, the counters, and the paint color. He has a lot of experience fixing up houses to go on the market, so we figured he would know what was most appealing to the general public. I especially like the countertops. I don't know if I would have picked out that color myself, but it hides every little spill and I LOVE the color. Also, the counter in the foreground doesn't come out as far as it did before (I think it's a good 10-12 inches shorter), but it is a few inches wider. We also have somewhat less cupboard space, but we also got rid of a lot of extraneous things and it came out even. I don't know what we'd do if we hadn't installed the entire opposite wall with cabinets when we moved in! Fortunately those could stay.

Overall we're very happy with it, and we really enjoyed working with our contractor. A couple of oopses happened and he just said, "No problem; we'll take care of it right away." And they did! Very easy to work with, and they very much wanted to ensure that you were pleased working with them.

In other news, we took a tour of Bob's Red Mill today and had a lot of fun seeing their big grain-grinding machines, the giant tricycles the employees use to wheel things around (the mill is 325,000 square feet!), and the jumbo sized sacks of ground grains (1,500 lbs!). And Bob himself is a truly inspiring individual. I got to take a picture with him and the kids. He's like a movie star to me. In fact, Bob's Red Mill is probably one of the Top 10 Things I'll miss about Portland (assuming we do move!).

Time to finish cleaning house. I'm excited to be having guests at dinner and lunch this shabbat. Really looking forward to good conversation and all those yummy salads!

Shabbat shalom!

Ahhhhh... Normal!

I'm savoring a whole week of nice, normal routine. It's been really great. We all seem so glad to be home that we haven't even really gone anywhere except a few errands and my couple of hours of piano lessons. Raizel's 3-year-old self (to be, in 2 months) really shined through today. No temper tantrums, and she was so sweet with her big sister when Amirah hurt her toe. She went upstairs to get her Pup, her favorite stuffed animal. She and Eli played really nice together while I was learning with Amirah. And Avi was in a really good mood too!! He's had a few teeth coming in, so he's been pretty cranky. He had a nice long nap and was pretty chipper the rest of the afternoon (not usually the case recently!). So today was just particularly nice. Eli finished it off with a good old temper tantrum, though. :) Oh, well. Looking for Goldbug in his car book made him forget that he was supposed to be having a temper tantrum.

We had a lot of fun during Eli's alphabet lesson... we were learning the letter "H" and we came up with the idea of thinking of "H" words and asking Avi to say them. They all thought it was hilarious. And it was!! Avi thought so too, and he really laughed trying to say "helicopter."

Another discovery I made... you can go to Google Books and download lots of (mostly expired-copyright) books. You can also get previews of nearly any book, it seems. It has many things that Project Gutenberg does not have. I just downloaded some reading books from the 1930s. The flavor of the books is very much the flavor of our family's life. Amirah is just adoring Dick and Jane and thinks the stories are very funny and cute. She's asking to do some reading multiple times a day. And fortunately, the library has a large supply of those books, so we don't even need to download any!

Better get to bed sort of on time. More to follow, including kitchen photos!

The Menu

Here 'tis:

roast chicken
carrot salad w/lemon zest and green onions
asparagus egg salad
roasted potatoes (Amirah's request)
lime coleslaw
spinach salad
mango kiwi salad
apricot cake

And for lunch...

deli roll
all those salads
chocolate pecan pie


Lots of guests too, so that should be nice after being out of town for two shabbats, then having a shabbat among towers of boxes.

Quote of the Week

Amirah, after listening to mama explain about the korbanot, the animal sacrifices that were brought before Hashem: "Mmmmmmm... hamburger!"

Yep, that's our farm girl.

And, by the way, the korbanot were usually eaten by the one offering the animal and/or by the kohanim.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

We're Baaaack

We spent 11 days at the beach near Tillamook while the kitchen was being gutted and the house was being repainted. We came back to a really nice looking house (well, underneath the towers of boxes). Dean was out there for the first half. He tried unsuccessfully to telecommute but it didn't work so well, so we brought him home on Sunday. So it was just me and the kids from Sunday evening to Friday afternoon. PHEW! I returned with a renewed appreciation for all that my dear husband does. We had some fun outings - Oceanbay Spit (the kids' favorite!), Starbucks (yes, the 4 kids and I actually sat and sipped "special drinks" for 30 minutes... twice! and very novel since we don't usually buy that sort of thing), the Air Museum, the Fred Meyer with childcare (loved that!), Cape Meares (where we stayed; my new favorite area), Whalen Island (miles of mudflats), the lighthouse, the other nearby capes... It was fun. Here are some pictures...

Our cute little house

We filled up two trailer dumps with stuff from the remodeling and stuff we got rid of. Many vanloads have gone to Good Will. I have a friend who sells things on Craigslist for people and we've kept her very busy (but Craigslist is kind of slow). There's still decluttering to do. I'd say we've gotten rid of about 80% of the extraneous "stuff." It feels really good. We'd love our stuff to fit easily into the equivalent of a 2-bedroom apartment. Less to move!

No job news yet. Right now we're discussing what to do with the house. We're leaning towards putting it on the market next month. If it sells we can move to a rental. And if Dean gets a job, we're GONE! Even if he never (ch"v) gets a job, we can't continue living this far from shul (and community). So regardless, we need to move.

Other than that, we've very happily returned to a normal learning schedule. Amirah has absolutely fallen in love with Dick and Jane. She drags the book everywhere and reads it to the bunny we are bunnysitting. There are many great 19th-century/early-20th-century reading books, many downloadable for free. I'm exploring them now, and researching and finalizing the next steps of our learning journey. Amirah and I have started ancient history. It's been fascinating. I'm looking forward to having a better relationship to history than I did in my past! So far we've studied ancient Mesopotamia and pre-pharoah (and pre-Avraham) Egypt. We'll soak in that a bit longer before moving on. Our other studies are going very well too, but that has been the recent highlight. We are absolutely loving this lifestyle. And it's definitely a lifestyle! It creeps into the corners of every aspect of our life. Truly lovely.

We're also getting ready for pesach, which involves a top-to-bottom cleaning of the house (well, a cleaning on steroids, that is; "cleaning" just doesn't do it justice!). Since we had to pack up everything a few weeks ago, we're well ahead of the game. I'm just putting together pesach menus, and getting my annual list out of what needs to be done in the kitchen. We also have to get rid of all the chametz (pasta, breads, cakes, etc.) so I'm planning to use those all up.

Better go figure out what we're eating for shabbat so I can start cooking tomorrow. Life is really good. Dean said it was kind of like a rollercoaster, but I countered that on a rollercoaster you always know where you'll end up. I think we're on a spaceship, and who knows where the next port will be? :)

Friday, March 6, 2009

Mess Coming

We're about to enter the messiest part of the remodeling, so I probably won't be posting much in the next couple of weeks. We're planning on lots of fun field trips! Visit the science museums (here and in Salem, maybe the carousel too!), maybe go see the waterfalls in the gorge when the weather is nice (which it won't be next week!), go to the zoo, maybe even go out to the beach. We'll do just a tiny bit of formal learning time, enough to keep up our reading, math, and Hebrew skills. It'll sort of be like a mini-vacation. I kind of wish the timing was a little later in the month because we've been on such a good roll with the learning time and REALLY getting into history... But here it is, and we'll have a good time with lots of adventures.

We've been dumping/decluttering/recycling/selling like mad. Everything stored under the house got infested with happy little mouse families, so it pretty much all had to be thrown out. When we move we want to take only the things we really love and nothing else. We've made a pretty good dent, with more to come. I love decluttering. I love stripping down to the basics. I've been thinking about our next house too and thinking that the living space we have now is such a nice size (1677 square feet). When the kids are older and doing more of the chores we'll easily be able to keep it clean without help, even with a busy homeschooling schedule. I want to do that. More space is more cleaning. The only thing I do wish we had is a room where we could start projects and leave them out for several days. Otherwise, our house is perfect. And will be even "more" perfect after it's all fixed up!

I like keeping our life simple. Our schedule is simple. Our commitments are simple. Our learning is just right. We have nice friends and good food. The one area I want to improve on is an even more frugal grocery budget. I have a friend who feeds her family of 10 (soon to be 11) on $600 per month (yes, they keep kosher). My hero!! I'm working on it...

Better go make that salad dressing...

The Menu

Here 'tis:

This is all because of a stop we made at the bank yesterday which is right next to a (treif) Mexican restaurant. The smells emanating from this restaurant were so good I started really craving Mexican food. So...

Lime Chili Chicken
Refried Beans
Mexican Rice
Sweet Corn Cake
Roasted Asparagus
Caesar Salad
Guacamole and Chips

And for lunch...

Cheese Enchiladas (what I was really craving...)

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


For reading today we used Explode the Code, Level 2. Last time Amirah was very nonplussed by this book, so I thought maybe it just wasn't a good match. She complained when I brought it out again today, but when we actually sat down with it she ended up loving it and everything went really well. She asked to do more and more pages. I think it's at a good level for her, partially review with just a slight challenge. I like the book too, so I'm hoping this really will work out. Everything else is going great.

Back on the Wagon

I just finished planning all our dinners for the month of March. I'm pretty good at winging it if the pantry is well-stocked, but it is nice not to have to THINK about what's for dinner. If there are savings to be had on certain items at the store I can always alter the plan. Tomorrow I'm hoping to plan out all the shabbat meals, plus purim!

We also did a Fling Boogie tonight. For those of you familiar with Flylady (online cleaning whiz), instead of the usual 27-Item Fling Boogie, we did a 27-Bag Fling Boogie. I always feel great after one of those. We're having a bunch of work done on the house, and they left their trailer here for us to dump things in. And we sure did! And a bunch more will go to Good Will this week too. Feels good to lighten the load.

We had a fun morning doing reading, math, and science, and a fun afternoon doing art (purim costumes!) and music. Tomorrow Amirah has a fossils class at OMSI and she is REALLY excited!

Other than that we're just trying to get rid of the sniffles. Love these minor nose colds though. Piece of cake. I am sad, though, that my former-teacher immunities seem to be wearing off. New bugs I suppose. Oh, well...

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Delicious Dinner

We just had an incredibly delicious dinner! Everyone ate it with gusto, and it only took a few minutes to prepare (plus 30 minutes to bake). You'll have to visit Avivah's blog to find out what it was, and visit the rest of her blog while you're at it. :)

Our MONTH of Learning

I've been too distracted lately to really sum up what we've been learning. Part of it is the looming (we hope) move and all of its stresses (and excitements!), and part of it is that I've been eagerly researching and mulling over Amirah's 6-year-old year (or first grade, or whatever you want to call it!).

Here are the resources I have acquired already, or I'm planning to acquire soon:

Tefillah - Amirah will be getting her very own siddur (prayer book) on her 6th birthday (3 more months). Either the Shilo siddur or the Artscroll chinuch siddur. Tefillah has been going *great*. Raizel knows most of the words now. I'm going to add a couple of new tefillos soon. We've added a little biur tefillah - about 5-10 minutes talking about the meaning of one of the prayers, both linguistically and spiritually. I've enjoyed that a lot.

Hebrew/kriyah - For kriyah, we'll continue with Migdalor and supplement with Shaah shel menuchah (Eli will start with the first book soon). For oral Hebrew, we'll continue with Rosetta Stone, and Shalom Ivrit.

Torah study - just a continued exploration of the weekly parsha, and an in-depth study of the first few parshas of bereishit

Mitzvah/melacha/middah of the week - This has also been great. When we finish going through the 39 melachos, we'll just continue spiralling through them at greater depths.

Reading - This is the only subject for which I don't have a really good match for Amirah. We've taken a break from formal instruction since last month. She has been reading books to me every day and when I am spending 1-on-1 time with Eli, one of her jobs is to read one book to Raizel. We've also been doing Read to the Dogs. It's been really nice to just have some time to soak in what she has learned so far. I think in another month or so we'll try using The Ordinary Parents Guide to Teaching Reading (which I already have).

Writing/Grammar - We're going to be using First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind.

Math - We are so very happy with Singapore Math. We'll just continue working with that.

Science - We also are very happy using R.E.A.L. Science for Kids, Life (biology) Level 1. All the kids can hang out and do the science experiments together, and the activities are really fun. The supply list is pretty basic, and it makes it very easy to be organized. When we finish that (6-10 months from now) I'm looking forward to using the Space Science series.

History - We started studying ancient history a couple of weeks ago using Story of the World (Ancient Times). We're supplementing with books from the library and various books of Jewish history that we'll read in chronological sync with the Story of the World. So far we've studied nomadic life and the beginning of living in villages, the fertile crescent, and the city of Jericho (the second oldest walled city we know of!).

Outside of our home learning time, we're continuing our swimming lessons 2x/week, and our Monday art/music class. Those are the only committed times we have. Plus my teaching time. We can add in OMSI classes and Tryon Creek nature classes as we choose. Storytime at the library. Or not. I like the week remaining flexible and low-stress; makes it much easier with 4 in tow. We have a nice amount of learning time, plenty of time for play/free-choice, and plenty of time with friends. It's been a nice balance.

I won't go into all the other details of what we've covered this past month, but that's a little taste of what we've done and a little taste of what's to come. I really love this life.