Sunday, April 26, 2009

Garage Sale

Tomorrow (Sunday) we're having a garage sale, 1:00-4:00. Here's what we're getting rid of:

men's bike and bike trainer (turns your bike into a stationary exercise bike)
black 4-drawer file cabinet
oak entertainment center
baby gear - backpack, travel swing, high chair, cloth diapers (small &
camping chairs (almost new condition)
train table
electric fence & a pet/pest deterrent that squirts water (both new)
coffee maker (new)
bottle capper
turkey roaster (barely used)
waffle maker (cholov stam)
cat carrier
pond nets
classical music cds
framed art
camping chairs (barely used)
stamps and coins
upright piano w/fully adjustable bench

Also, our house is scheduled to go on the market on Monday, May 4. Price is
still TBA, but will be under $300K. 3 bed/2 bath. 1,677 square feet. New
kitchen, new carpets, new landscaping. 2 miles from Kesser. A much-loved and
well-cared for house!

Hope to see some of you there, and e-mail for directions if you need them. :)

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Menu

carrot potato soup
braised veal roast with gremolata
oven-fried eggplant
lemon garlic zucchini
roasted sweet potatoes
spinach salad
pear cake

and for lunch...

tacos with beans, I mean, Mexican cholent :)
lime cilantro coleslaw

Farewell, Dear Feline

Alex, 1990–2009

The little nefesh of Sir Laurence Alexander SSPP Mo Chia Pish Violino Bad Bunston of Tweed Otherwise Known As Alex has passed on. He turned 19 on March 15 and had just this year started to show his age and the effects of advanced kidney disease. He was a fine cat and feline companion since my first year out of college. He will be dearly missed.

We started talking to Amirah about Alex's situation a couple of weeks ago. She had plenty of time to process it and consider what was best for him. Last night, she, papa, and I sat in bed petting him and telling stories about him (which he couldn't hear, being stone deaf!), laughing and crying. The preparation for her was good, and she accepted his death with grace, tears, and fond memories. She had a special link with Alex. Her first word was "cat" (actually, it was "chia.") Alex was also on several occasions able to stop her infant fussing by crooning to her when our attempts had failed. She really loved him, and will miss his presence.

This afternoon, the kids went to play next door while we took Alex to the vet for his final moments. Amirah had the option of coming with us, but she decided to go next door and play. She got to have a last little visit with him before we left, and it was nice. The end for Alex was very quick. They gave him a sedative, which put him in a dreamy state, then while I was holding him the vet gave him an injection of barbitol and it was over in a few seconds.

Alex was a great cat. A solid all around cat's cat. We will all miss him very much!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

It's Official

Almost-3-year-old Raizel weighs one pound more than her almost-4-year-old brother. It's 34 v 33.

Why We Homeschool

I've been wanting to write about this, but Avivah just posted something on this very topic. It's unusual for a frum (orthodox) Jewish family to choose a learning-at-home lifestyle, and there aren't many of us who do it for ideological reasons. Here's a great quote from her:

Choosing to homeschool wasn’t coming from negative motivations, but rather from a strong philosophical belief that it was the best thing for my children, to educate each of them according to their individual needs and personalities (’chanoch l’naar al pi darko’). I didn’t and don’t believe that a one size fits all institution with hired workers can know and understand a child and their needs (crucial to effectively educating them) as well as a loving and motivated parent. I felt that building a strong family would happen most effectively when the family had ample time to spend together in a relaxed way, not pulled in lots of directions all day long, every day, with everyone coming together at the end when they were tired and uptight.

Here's a link to the rest of the post.

Many people assume we homeschool because we dislike the educational alternatives that are available to us here, and are surprised to learn that we anticipate homeschooling all the way through even if we live in a community with very strong Jewish day schools. It doesn't mean we intend to do ALL of the educating ourselves. At some point we will certainly need Hebrew, mishna, and talmud tutors. But overall, we are the ones guiding their development and fine-tuning their educational (and other!) needs.

I honestly believe it is an impossible task for students to receive an education that is truly alpidarko ("according to their way") in an institutional setting. I do believe that it is possible to get a good education in such a setting (I got a pretty good public education), but when I see how many fine adjustments I make to my approach with teaching Amirah, it pales in comparison to my former classroom teaching experiences. In a classroom, you can teach to the middle, offer an extra challenge to the better students, and simplify things a little for those that haven't quite caught on. To try to address the needs of more than three different levels is rarely possible. But in a class of 25 students, there are going to be 25 different levels. In each subject!

I have a great amount of respect for classroom teachers. I think it is one of the most difficult jobs there is. Of course, the rewards are enormous too when you see what you do as you help students along the path. Teaching my own children is an entirely different experience. My level of investment is much deeper (and I really loved my students in my former life!). My interest in their success and understanding is paramount. Nearly every waking moment is either educating my children, or thinking of educating them. Speaking of which... I'd better get back to it.


Tonight was my first major shopping trip since pesach. I did a quickie last week to get a few vegetables, but that's about it. I was headed to Winco were I usually do my main grocery shopping when I decided at the last minute to zoom past it and go to Fred Meyer instead. I wasn't sure why. Maybe I was too tired to think about packing all those groceries myself?? Well, I ended up doing my usual shopping, but nearly every single one of my usuals was on sale. REALLY on sale! Everything I bought was the same as or less than what I normally pay at Winco. I figure my total came to about 15% less than what I was expecting at Winco. Hooray! So, thanks, Hashem, for the hot tip. :)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Yom Hazikaron

Had the Holocaust not taken 6 million Jews, there would be 43 million Jews - not 13 million - on the planet today. Many more have been lost to assimilation. Today is Yom Hazikaron - Day of Remembrance. May we never forget!!!

Restaurant Supplies

A few weeks ago I got the inspiration to order a few kitchen items through a restaurant supply company. The Earlix house is where glass glasses come to die, so, thanks to a friend, I got the great idea to order lovely plastic soda glasses for everyday, and a new super-sturdy glass set for meat meals/shabbat. I got twelve 16-ounce glasses and twelve 8-ounce glasses, plus twelve 16-ounce glass glasses. Very happy with them. I also got indestructible, unstainable, no-iron-needed white napkins for less than $2 each. And a nice big frying pan to replace one that had really bit the dust. And a two-gallon stock pot to replace one that had accidentally gone from pareve to dairy (don't ask...). When I completed my order (on which you state whether you are a business or residence) a BIG warning sign came up saying that the items I purchased are designed to be utilitarian, not aesthetic. You had to click that you understood this. I clicked with glee, and have been cooking and drinking away in our highly utilitarian new items. And I'm THRILLED with them. Much better quality, for much less money, as long as you don't mind them not being cute. They're not ugly, just definitely not cute. I'm a happy cook. Now I just want those industrial-powered stove burners. Or at least more BTUs than I've got right now... And I'm not even thinking of the (not very old) oven that lay broken as I had 7 loaves of bread rising... Gotta call the oven man tomorrow. OY!

Yummy Moments

This evening, eldest daughter and I were sitting up facing each other on our sleigh bed and talking... about how (sadly) our 19-year-old cat is nearing the end of his life and may need some veterinary assistance with his end of life soon. About the fun we had had today in the lovely sunny weather and about the learning we would do tomorrow. About how it was fun to daydream about the different places we might move to and what our new house (and yard!) might be like. About how rascally Raizel can be, but also how cute and sweet and funny. About how I was too tired to do a readaloud book tonight, but that I would read to her tomorrow.

And then I told her that when she was a tiny baby lying in my arms I always dreamed about a time when I would get to talk to her and find out what she was thinking. And now that time was here! My eyes glistened and she snuggled up close and we had a little hugfest. She's a yummy young daughter... nearly halfway to her bat mitzvah. I look forward to the many conversations to come.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Egg and Potato Count

After all is said and done, we only went through 100 eggs and 8 pounds of potatoes. Practically unheard of.

The Menu

Ahhhhh... it's so nice to be back to normal time. Pesach was really nice, though. Lots of good food too. I'll post some of our favorites soon, b"n.

I thought about what delicious chametz treat could be made for shabbat dinner, and came up with.... hamburgers (!?!?!?!?!). So, that's what we're having!!!!! A little unorthodox (ha, ha) but it sounds just too good.

chicken soup (if I have time)
hamburgers with deluxe toppings and homemade buns
green salad
homemade french fries
sauteed bok choi with garlic and lemon zest
carrot raisin salad
charoset cake (leftover charoset from pesach; lots of cooked mashed dried fruits)
mango sorbet

miso soup with enoki and tofu


Yay, chametz. Yay, kitniyot. Yay, normal food!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Last of Pesach

It's erev yom tov. The last two days of pesach start tonight at sunset. The last two (and first two) days are holidays. It's been a very, very nice pesach. I feel like we've eaten some of the best pesach food ever, and I've spent much less than in past years. I'll post some of our favorites after pesach. We've had a few friends over (not as many as in years past), and J&RF had us over for a great meal on Sunday. It's always triple the adventure to visit friends with no children at home. :) And our four LOVE visiting them (very exciting with the chickens and all!), so they get very excited. And stay excited the whole time. It was great.

We're looking forward to a couple of days with papa at home. The weather is supposed to be really nice too so we should be able to get the gaggle down to the park. Lots of yummy food to be had. Lots of good reading material. And on Thursday we can pack up all the pesach stuff, uncover the counters, and bring back our regular pots, pans, and dishes. And bake challah!!! And hamburger buns! And cake! And cookies! And bread! Yum.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

A Few More Hours

So many things...

Nissan, the current month on the Jewish calendar, is an important month. On the first of Nissan many years ago I became a Jew. On the 19th of Nissan, we met Avi and Raizel for the first time. And it's the month of pesach.

I'm exhausted. I didn't get nearly as much cooking done today as I hoped, but the gravlax is curing, an apple cake got baked, eggs got hard-boiled, and the charoset is all mashed up (a combination of apricots, apples, dates, and bananas, cooked and mashed). Amirah is in charge of the seder plates and will prepare the symbolic foods tomorrow. Really I just need to boil gefilte fish (easy), make matzo ball soup (stock done; just need balls!), cut up some veggies and use some for dipping and some for roasting, cook up a few lamb chops, make homemade french fries for dipping, and if I'm lucky make banana cake and strawberry sorbet for dessert (or we'll just have chocolates!). I found $2 pesach candy at Walmart of all places a couple of days ago (they had the microwave I wanted). Crazy. I got some of the most beautiful salmon I have ever seen from AL. I'm very excited about that! I took the kids out for pizza today at the community center where we also picked up our fish. Then we headed out to the park for an hour. It was a good day, even if not quite as productive in the kitchen as I had hoped.

Better try and get to sleep. Hoping tomorrow isn't too crazy so I can take a pre-seder break. We'll see!!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


I was astonished tonight to find that my "big" pesach shopping trip amounted to only $146! By the time pesach is over (4/16) I'll have spent only about 50% of my monthly food budget. I'm very happy about this!!

Of course, pesach isn't over yet so I am counting my chickens a little early, but I overstocked on eggs and dairy so that ought to count for part of the second half of the month. Anyway... we have some great menus planned. Now if I could just figure out a way to prepare for pesach without being exhausted. That, I'm afraid, is impossible.

I did get another chunk of work done in the kitchen, but still haven't quite finished. I just need to kasher the sink, cover the stove and counters, and kasher the silverware. And cook, cook, cook! I've found some fun new-to-me recipes, I'm armed with 144 eggs (no, not a typo... one pesach cake takes 8-12 eggs...) and a sack of potatoes. And looking forward to lots of naps. I just hope I can stay awake until the first seder is over!

The work on the garden is going really well too. B"H, we've had great workers, both on the house and on the garden. They've already put 48 person-hours into it. Probably another 48 to go, including staining the decks. Given that Sunday is Dean's only real work-on-the-house day it would have taken him 12 weeks to do what they're doing... and probably even longer since we're not all equipped for it. And I'm no help beyond taking care of the littles. :) It feels great to see it finally turning into a nice front and back yard.

Better get some sleep...

Monday, April 6, 2009

Late, Late, Late

It's a late night, but progress is good. Kitchen is ready for oodles of hot boiling water. Shopping list is ready for tomorrow night. Not sure what we'll eat tomorrow, though! :) Had a great picnic dinner tonight, and looking forward to more tomorrow.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

School Canceled

School is officially canceled this week. Monday it's supposed to be 74 and sunny. Tuesday it's supposed to be 68 and sunny. Wednesday we'll be cooking. Thursday and Friday we'll be pesach-ing. So it's official. NO SCHOOL!

I think tomorrow we'll just pack up a picnic and head out for the whole day. The weather is going to be just too, too nice and it's been a long stretch of grey drizzlies.

We're having a picnic tonight too. Taking our very chametzdik lasagna and garlic bread to the park for a picnic. Found a couple of surprises in the garage freezer. Yum.

We have some terrific workers doing both yards right now. They'll be here for three days, and after one day it already looks so much better. Dean and I worked on the garage all afternoon (and Dean worked on it all day!). He's taking yet another big haul to Good Will right now. Our yard workers will do a dump run for us too. Garage is much better too. Sure feels great.

And tonight, really, I'll get back to pesach cleaning in full force. But I think the ultimate final kashering of things will happen Monday night, not tonight. I'm in good company though. Right, ML, ER, and LS? Some people (the good ones) have the kitchen ready as much as a week in advance, and then there are us procrastinators who think we're really ahead of the game if we're ready a day early. :)

Kitchen Almost Changed Over!

I'm hoping to do the actual kashering of the kitchen tomorrow night. I'll run errands with the kids part of tomorrow while Dean works with three others to hopefully make both yards ready for the "For Sale" sign. We'll get the car cleaned and hopefully replace the microwave that has a big crack. Good timing... now we can use it for pesach! Monday is supposed to be in the 70s (!) so I definitely want to get the kids outside most of the day and make it a vacation day. We've been so busy with house and pesach and learning time that we haven't really gone out to just play.

I'm finding myself really looking forward to pesach. We weren't here last year (thanks, EE!), so it's doubly nice to pull out my passover dishes, pots, and pans. Old friends that I haven't seen in a couple of years. And I forgot that I bought a blender last time. Exciting. Watch out, smoothies, here we come! I have so many yummy recipes that I've put together and so far I'm doing it AND staying within our regular grocery budget. Yay.

Many year-round kitchen things can be kashered and used for pesach, but I've managed to get just the right number and kinds of things that the only thing I'll have to kasher is our silverware, which will be pretty easy (boil in a big pot of water). During the year we also keep separate meat, dairy, and pareve dishes/pots/pans. Handy so the pareve (non-meat/non-dairy) stuff can be served at either kind of meal. But it simplifies things in terms of quantity (and space!) to just have the meat stuff and the dairy stuff.

So, kashering on Sunday night, shopping on Monday night, cooking on Tuesday night. Here we go!!!!!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Farewell to Chametz

Here's the menu for our (nearly) last meals of chametz. We'll be finishing up a few more things on Sunday, but I'm hoping to have the kitchen completely turned over for pesach on Sunday night. It's about one third done. Next third Saturday night, and the last third Sunday night. I think I'll just put our microwave out on the back deck to heat up those last couple of chametzdik meals. :)

The menu:

roasted red pepper spread
prune chicken
mashed potatoes
roasted cabbage
roasted carrots
arugula salad
pineapple upsidedown cake

And for lunch:

deli roll
egg salad
guacamole and chips

Goodbye, chametz. Hello, carbohydrates and cholesterol.

Thursday, April 2, 2009


The Sepotedia
By Amirah

The sepotedia is a large worm that can grow up to 24 inches. It lives in shallow seabeds and makes its nest in abandoned shells. It feeds on plankton and microscopic organisms that live in the sand. They gather in groups and are completely nocturnal. They are a rare species and hard to find.

(Thank you, Richard Attenborough, for providing the knowledge that feeds a fertile imagination!)

Adventures in Pectin

I purchased three pounds of pectin online. Bulk pectin usually ends up costing about $1.00 per batch of jam. Much better than the $2.50 it costs in the store! I eagerly opened my new bag of pectin so I could get rid of the last bags of summer fruit in the freezer. I put the juice I had already extracted into the pot, and added the pectin. BOOM. Instant block of pectin plaster. WOW! What was this stuff?? Well, after a lot of thinking and a little experimenting I figured out that it was commercial pectin. Hmmmmm.... In the end I figured out that it only took 1 tablespoon of this pectin (instead of 1/3 cup) and that the pectin needed to be mixed in with the sugar and added after the juice was boiling. This isn't the usual method at all. The great news is, now that I only need one tablespoon per batch instead of 1/3 cup, that plummets the cost from $1.00 per batch to $0.20 per batch! The other great news - I contacted the seller after my initial disaster. The standard recipe was posted with the pectin and obviously didn't work. He refunded all of my money, which basically has covered the 6 cups of juice I lost (which I actually may be able to fix still) and my time to figure out the correct recipe. In return, he gets the correct recipe and can advertise it as an incredible savings over regular pectin. So now, instead of $0.20 per batch, it will cost me nothing. Now, if only it were kosher for pesach!


When Jews gather at the Passover Seder — the most widely observed Jewish holiday — they recount the exodus from Egypt, an event that occurred 3,200 years ago. We Americans have difficulty keeping alive the memory of events that happened 231 years ago! How have the Jews managed to accomplish this? Through the ritual of the Passover Seder. Jews spend the evening recounting the Exodus from Egypt as if it happened to them. In the words of the Passover Haggadah ‘every person is obligated to regard himself as if he himself left Egypt.’ The story is retold in detail, and it is told as if it happened to those present at the Seder, not only to those who lived it 3,200 years ago.
—Dennis Prager

This is so true. Jews are an anomaly. Given the ups and downs of civilizations, we should no longer exist (G-d forbid). But they do. As I've been studying ancient history with Amirah—the beginnings of civilization in Mesopotamia and the earliest history of ancient Egypt—I can't help but feel that not much time has passed between then and now. This history is *my* history, as a people, and even as an individual as we recount the story of OUR exodus from Egypt. I am so excited to re-study history with my children, to see how very relevant these histories are to who we are now.