Friday, July 31, 2009

Readaloud: The Capture

Just as we were checking our pile of books out from the library a few days ago, Amirah plopped this book down on our pile at the last minute. The next day I read a chapter out loud, and must admit at first I was a bit sceptical. It was starting to sound like they were going to make a point of scientific information in a fictional story, and the mix just wasn't quite doing it for me.

A barn owl owlet is kidnapped by evil great horned owls and taken to an "orphanage" where the owlets are (sometimes unsuccessfully...) brainwashed. For what purpose, we have yet to discover. Re-telling the legends of their ancestors is what helps them keep their heads straight. The story is definitely dark, but Amirah relishes stories like this, and by the second chapter I was utterly hooked. The biological information about owls is included more skillfully in the middle of the book, but from other reviews it sounds like some of the information is a bit non-scientific. I've been emphasizing that this is a fictional story about owls and that the information in there is exclusively to serve the story. I think perhaps we might do a little study unit on owls while we read the book to help separate fact from fiction.

There are twelve books in the series, all about 200+ pages long, so we have our work cut out for us if the series maintains its hold on us! We are all looking forward to reading more tonight and during shabbat. We've had to make it an evening-only book because Dean doesn't want to miss a chapter either. :) Fun reading!

The Menu, addendum

I think I lost either some groceries or my mind somewhere along the way... I thought I had both basil and artichokes, but neither is in the fridge. Maybe I changed my mind because they're a bit labor intensive to de-bug in a kosher way... Oh, well!

So, nix the artichokes. And I forgot to put in the Yorkshire pudding. Not that anyone else out there cares what I forget or change or add, but now to make shabbat menus I can just go to my own blog, do a search on "menu" and have lots of tried-and-true ideas at my fingertips! :)

Shabbat shalom!

The Menu

Here 'tis:

challah
artichokes
steamed corn
slow-roasted rib steaks
roasted cauliflower
green, green, green salad (lots of different greens!)
pear crisp

YUM!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Recipe: TVP Bean Burgers

We've been using our new beef- and chicken-flavored TVP products lately. I'm definitely agreeing with what I've read over and over - that TVP is no great shakes all by itself, but when used to complement either real meat or another strongly-flavored protein source (like beans) it tastes pretty good. I always make giant batches of re-not-fried beans and freeze them, so this recipe is easy to throw together. Everyone (gasp!) thought it was delicious. Here's the recipe:

1 cup textured vegetable protein (I used the beef flavor)
3/4 cup boiling water
2 T. catsup
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 T. soy sauce
1/4 cup flour
1/2 t. oregano
15 ounces refried beans
4 ounces cheese, diced

Combine the TVP, boiling water, and catsup. Let it sit for 5 minutes. Combine all the other ingredients. Drop by patty-sized spoonfuls into a hot pan. Cook until crispy brown.

I served it with steamed corn on the cob and a salad that had spinach, arugula, radicchio, and cherry tomatoes with a dressing of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, and kosher salt (I think this kind of salt is the best for salads). The whole meal was really perfect. We've been upping our quantities of greens lately (thanks to that terrific salad book!) and I've enjoyed it so much.

I've decided to post my favorite recipes here periodically, partly just for my own record-keeping! And hoping that someone else will get to discover a new recipe too. :) Now, if I am good, I will go to bed right now.
A friend asked me what tefillos I'm doing with Amirah now and what my plans are for first grade, so I thought I'd just post it!

Here's what we are currently doing:

Modeh ani
Torah tzivah
Netilat yadayim
Asher yatzar
Birchot hatorah
Mah tovu
Adon Olam
Birchot hashachar
Kriat shema (shema/veahavta)
Eyn kelokeynu

And here's what I'm hoping to add between now and pesach:

Ahavah rabbah (through B’racha ohev amo yisrael)
Kriat shema (the rest of it)
Amidah (1st three paragraphs)
Aleinu
Oseh shalom
Yigdal

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Learning Update

Just an update and where we are with our learning and what we've been up to! We've done very well weaving in the learning among our other activities, and our time has been so pleasant and no feeling of pressure. I'm really enjoying just learning year-round. Here's the latest:

DAVENING (prayer):
We haven't really added any new tefillahs yet, and probably won't until late August. We've been mostly focused on the birchas hashachar (morning blessings), learning the translation and meaning of each one. We've been using Rav Schwab's book on tefillah to add depth to our understanding of the purpose of each blessing. It's been very interesting! Artscroll's chinuch siddur has been really nice for davening. The tefillahs are laid out very clearly with line numbers so students can find their place quickly. The print is a nice size and very legible. We've been very happy with it. So happy that I've ordered a few more! :)

TORAH STORIES
We've just been continuing to read stories about each parsha (torah portion of the week). Pretty soon we're going to start a very slow meandering through the first two perukim (chapters) of Bereishis (Genesis) in preparation for beginning to actually read from the torah in January-ish, BE"H.

KESIVAH (Hebrew writing)
Amirah is very enthusiastically scooting along with this. The free workbook we got from chinuch.org has been really good.

L'SHON HATORAH (biblical Hebrew)
This book was also a great find. It slowly builds up a student's knowledge of prepositions and vocabulary, beginning with the most common words found in the torah. We've learned the prefixes for/to, the, in, and, from, and with. We are putting those together with nouns like family, man, land, name, house, father, son, earth, mother, woman, daughter, house, tent, and year. In Hebrew the preposition (or multiple prepositions) gets added on to the beginning of the word and is generally just one letter. So Amirah is noticing now that to say "with the daughter" in Hebrew takes only four letters. It's an incredibly compact language. I think its structure makes Hebrew especially interesting. After going through these books (there are 4 workbooks), we should have a great foundation for reading Bereishis (Genesis).

SPELLING
The Modern Curriculum Press workbook A has been pretty easy so far, but I'm sure it will get harder as we go. She's breezed through the first month or so, mostly just filling in missing letters on three-letter words. We did a lot of oral spelling last year, so now we're just adding the writing to it. It only takes us about 5 minutes to finish a page.

GRAMMAR
First Language Lessons has been wonderful. Amirah loves the poetry memorization so much, that every time a new poem is introduced I pull a second one from another source to memorize. Raizel memorizes them very easily too, and Eli will occasionally surprise all of us by blurting out an entire poem in the middle of eating an apple (or something). He's sly. Amirah has a thorough understanding of common and proper nouns, including the proper and common names of our relatives and where we live. This book suits us very, very well.

HANDWRITING
This is coming along just fine. We're keeping on task, and complaints about writing have definitely diminished so I think it's becoming more comfortable for her. One surprise - Raizel was writing LOTS of little, tiny letters today and was holding the pencil in a perfect position. Her fine motor skills are highly developed already. I think she would actually love to be doing more pre-writing activities (or writing activities!). She loves tracing her own name.

WRITING
I like the Writing With Ease book too. It mostly consists of a reading selection, comprehension questions, narration, and sentence writing. The workbook itself isn't really necessary; you could do the same thing based on books you're already reading. But it has saved me some time putting this together. And if we really like a reading selection, we can go ahead and order the whole book from the library! After a year of doing this, I may switch over to using torah selections as the reading excerpts. We'll see...

READING
The Ordinary Parents Guide has been working really well for us. I'm so glad we've settled into using this. I don't know why it wasn't a good match when we first started reading lessons. I'm going to use it with Eli and Raizel when the time comes. We're a little more than one third of the way through the book, which puts us at about a second grade reading level (for what it's worth; not really useful information when you're not really in a "grade"!). Amirah picked up part of a series she's been reading with papa (the Eragon series) and was excited to find out she could actually read a little bit of Brisingr (the third book). She's been doing a lot more spontaneous free reading time this month.

MATH
I continue to LOVE Singapore Math. We're mostly working on adding 10 to smaller numbers, speeding up our ability to come up with math facts (i.e. how many ways can we make 7? Then list them as quickly as possible; or just coming up with quick answers to math problems using digits under 10). I've been doing a lot of reading on the wonderfully useful Well-Trained Mind board, and decided to order the Home Instructor Guides which I thought we wouldn't need. Apparently, there are many good suggestions for using manipulatives (which aren't explicitly inlcuded in the workbook) and for mental math exercises. Also, since we're ahead of schedule for math I went ahead and ordered the Intensive Practice workbooks which were also recommended. I'll report back about them soon, BE"H!

HISTORY
I love our history studies in Story of the World. We're currently wandering through ancient India, learning about how rivers were used for commerce, and exploring the many reasons cities were built next to rivers. We read about the mysterious city of Mohenjo Daro, built around 2600 BCE and abandoned around 1900 BCE. In the interest of time, we're not doing a lot of creative projects around our history studies - mostly just reading, narration, mapwork, and historical fiction/non-fiction readaloud books - but for the grammar stage (grades 1-4) that should be good enough. I like how we've gotten to know three different civilizations built along rivers - the Nile, the Tigris/Euphrates, and now the Indus. It's made for some very interesting comparisons!

SCIENCE
R.E.A.L. Science Odyssey has been pretty good. Here and there we've had a few experiments that didn't work out, and Dean pointed out some faulty assumptions, but overall it's been pretty good. We have one more activity about fingerprints, then we'll leave the human body and start studying animals. The other half of Amirah's science notebook has pictures and information we put together for any animal she becomes interested in. A couple of weeks ago we learned lots of things about horseshoe crabs, printed off some anatomy drawings, read about it, and did a narration of the most interesting thing she learned (in this case, it was that the horseshoe crab's blood turns blue when it hits oxygen). It's definitely her favorite subject.

FINE ARTS
We haven't done much art and music this month because of Jewish camp and pony camp. Hopefully we'll do a little more of that soon!

I think that's the gist of what we're up to right now. I can't say enough how much I enjoy this lifestyle and the time we get to spend together. I keep wondering if this will ever just feel routine to me, or if the joy of learning and discovering together will just continue right through high school. It is an absolute delight to me, and I look forward to each day.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Pony Camp

Last week was quite lovely. Amirah had, needless to say, a wonderful time at Pony Camp. Here she is with her favorite pony, Buttons. The instructors at Silver Buckle Rodeo are really wonderful and we all very much enjoy the lovely atmosphere there.



While Amirah was in camp, Eli, Raizel, Avi, and I had morning adventures at Kiwanis Camp in Battle Ground (nice water feature), at Leverich Park in Vancouver...


At Lewisville Regional Park outside Battle Ground...


and at Fred Meyer and Starbucks.

On Monday we went to the lovely wading area at Lewisville Regional Park and played in the water. At the zoo I always find myself doing the "1-2-3-4" count fairly often. At the creek, the chant never stops! It was fun despite having to keep a close eye on them all. Wednesday we went to the F family's house, and visited with Mr. and Mrs. F :) and 3/4 of their wonderful children. The two youngest came home from Ethiopia half a year ago. Fun to see them both looking so much bigger! We also picked lots of delicious raspberries. Tuesday and Thursday were more mundane adventures - doctor and coming home to clean our neglected house. Friday we watched Amirah share all the new skills she learned in camp then we came home to get ready for shabbat. And shabbat, of course, was lovely.

Today I told Amirah that I really thought she should take a trip to the art museum with papa, and you would have thought I had told her she was going to Disneyland with all the jumping up and down. I'm going to print off a dozen or so pictures of paintings currently at the museum and have her go on a treasure hunt. They were hoping to go tomorrow while Grandpa D is visiting, but it's closed on Mondays. :( Hopefully this coming Sunday might work out.

I also told all the kids that I ordered ALL of them their own siddurim (prayer books). Initially I had just purchased them for Amirah and myself, but then I figured I might as well get one for each. Raizel and Eli were both so excited they too ended up jumping up and down Disneyland-style! I love seeing this enthusiasm and utter delight. It's why I homeschool. This is the feeling I want them to have for the rest of their lives - that learning is not done to show mom and dad or your teacher that you are good or even great, but that you are learning because learning causes the thrill of discovery and understanding to run through your veins. It is utterly for its own sake. All four children have that joy, and it is my job to do all I can to preserve that. That joy is what enables them to tackle difficult things with gusto. They are not afraid of messing up or not doing it perfectly. Wrestling with knowledge and asking questions IS what it is all about.

Friday, July 24, 2009

The Menu

We're Thai this shabbat!

challah
peanut coconut chicken
eggplant basil stirfry
beef and cabbage salad
pad thai
cucumber shallot relish
rice
raspberry tofu "ice cream"

and for tomorrow... ditto.

and several hours later... very, very dairy raspberry mousse.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Kippah-Wearers Banned from Public School Teaching

No. I'm not just making a dramatic title. It's true.

Oregon's "Workplace Religious Freedom Act" was signed 4 days ago (Senate Bill 486) as an update to and clarification of ORS 342. It is horribly mis-named.

Here's an excerpt:

SECTION 4. ORS 342.650 is amended to read:

No teacher in any public school shall wear any religious dress while engaged in the performance of duties as a teacher. A school district, education service district or public charter school does not commit an unlawful employment practice under ORS chapter 659A by reason of prohibiting a teacher from wearing religious dress while engaged in the performance of duties as a teacher.

ORS342.650 has been on the books since 1965. (That's the first sentence above; the rest is the new wording. Charming.)


And what happens if a teacher violates this law?

Sanctions against teacher violating ORS 342.650
Any teacher violating the provisions of ORS 342.650 (Wearing of religious dress prohibited) shall be suspended or dismissed from employment by the district school board. The suspension or dismissal is not subject to ORS 342.805 (Short title) to 342.937 (Reimbursement for teacher dismissal costs). The board shall report its action to the Teacher Standards and Practices Commission which may suspend or revoke the teacher’s teaching license. [Amended by 1965 c.100 §388; 1987 c.503 §3]


One more reason to get out of Oregon. I find this law reprehensible. And guess what? Pennsylvania has the same law. Hello, Pittsburgh (maybe). OY GEVALT!!!!! I have a lot more I could say, but I won't. I'll have my own private tirade for now. And then go to sleep.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Fun With Salads

In a quest to up our intake of leafy greens, I'm hoping to make a nice leafy something or other every night plus one other veggie, with enough left for lunch the next day too. I made two pretty nice salads for shabbat. One had pea shoots with thinly julienned daikon radish, carrots, and cucumbers, and I made a simple lemon juice and kosher salt dressing. I thought it was pretty good, and definitely a change of pace!

Salad #2 had strawberries, toasted almonds, gi choy (like bok choy, but with smooth, easily de-bugged leaves), and a dressing that was vinegar, olive oil, salt, and apricot jam.

Salad #3 (tonight) was really good too: pea shoots (I love those!), edamame (boiled soy beans), daikon radish, and gi choy. The dressing had orange juice, olive oil, kosher salt, shallots, and white wine vinegar. Quite delicious. I'm looking forward to more new salads. It's nice to try out some new recipes. It has inspired the rest of my cooking!

Tomorrow - off to pony camp and adventures in SW Washington visiting parks, meeting up with friends there, swimming/wading in water, picking fruit, and enjoying a week of just play. And hopefully by the end of the week we'll find out if we need to start packing up boxes!!!

Readaloud: The Golden Bull

As we have been studying the Sumerians and the Assyrians, I found this book to read about two children who leave their drought-stricken farm and their parents to go to Ur to find work. Historical fiction for this time period is a bit, er, sparse!

The brother, Jomar, goes to Ur to apprentice with a goldsmith, and he brings his sister along with him in hopes that she too will find something to do in the city. It's not a finely crafted story, and it's a bit spare in the details but it does give the flavor of ancient life in a walled city. Religious life in particular is very hazy. Ur was the birthplace of Abraham and it would have caused some interesting discussions to see in greater detail what the setting was when Abraham, and thereafter ethical monotheism, came on the scene. I think it's hard to grasp how very radical this idea was. We have enjoyed the story well enough, and have only about five or six short chapters to go.

Readaloud: Gilgamesh

Yesterday we finished reading the story of Gilgamesh, one of the oldest written stories ever discovered. It's a beautifully written adaptation that covers many of his adventures, including befriending Enkidu, the wild man, slaying the Bull of Heaven, meeting the now-immortal man who survived the great flood, and finding (and losing) a special plant that makes men young again.

The story of the flood bears a startling resemblance to the story of the flood in the torah - details included the ark being built and covered in pitch, bringing the animals aboard to save a pair of each species, releasing a bird that came back because it did not find land, releasing another bird that did not come back because it did find dry land, and a rainbow appearing as a sign from their gods. The parallels were quite startling, and the timeline easily jives with torah.

In the end—after all of his adventures that were spurred on by the loss of his dear friend Enkidu, seeking happiness in the far-flung corners of the earth, and not finding it—he returns home. He is transformed and realizes that everything he has sought was right there all along. And he learns that for humans, immortality is granted to us through our deeds on earth, and through our children.

Friday, July 17, 2009

The Menu

Here 'tis:

challah
brisket (low-mileage, grass-fed!)
french fries (per Amirah's request)
pea shoot salad with julienned cucumber, daikon, and carrot
strawberry gi choy salad with toasted almonds and lemon apricot dressing
roasted zucchini
roasted cabbage
blueberry cobbler (B"H!)

and for lunch...

miso soup
sushi
salads

YUM!

I LOVE Frugal Coffee

My 14-ounce cup of frugal home-roasted organic coffee costs $0.35! Plus 5 minutes of my time for roasting and french pressing. I'm looking forward to many more frugal experiments. I hope they all taste this good.

New Gadget

I forgot to add that on my Uwajimaya shopping trip one of the things on my list was to check out some Japanese mandolines. My salad book said in an Asian store they only cost about $15. So I made a beeline for the wonderful kitchen appliance section (where I could have spent hours browsing). I found only one mandoline and it was $40, not $15, so I didn't throw it in the cart. BUT then I saw a julienne peeler for only $6! I'd never seen one before, and I thought it was a great idea for my salads. So I plunked it into the cart and I can't wait to try it out.

On another note, I thought it would be a fun project for Amirah to grow various varieties of sprouts for our salads. You can sprout just about anything. I have a couple of books waiting for us at the library, so hopefully next week we can start a little indoor sprout garden. It's 1:30, and I still have no idea what all I'm cooking for shabbos, so I'd better get kicking. I have a vague notion of brisket, homemade french fries (Amirah's request), and all those yummy veggies I got at Uwajimaya. And sushi for lunch. We'll see what it ends up as!

As I was typing this I suddenly remembered that the blueberry cobbler was still in the oven, the timer had gone off, I had turned off the timer, and I had NOT taken the cobbler out! I raced over, and even though I'm sure it was in there for an extra 30 minutes (!) it was only a nice light brown color. I guess Hashem watches over blueberry cobblers too...

Fun Groceries

Every time I go to Uwajimaya (the local Asian grocery store) I always wonder why I don't do all of my produce shopping there. They have great prices, and the produce looks like it's still living. I found lots of the special greens I was hoping for that are used in the salad book I recommended in the previous post. Among my usual veggies, I also got daikon radish, bean sprouts, chinese eggplant, gi choy (a little thicker than bok choy), radicchio, red basil, shallots, and snow pea tips. The real surprise was the snow pea tips. I'd never noticed those before! I can't wait to make that salad. They look delicious. A pretty good-sized bag was only $0.80. I also got a GREAT deal on tofu. They sold bulk boxes - twelve 12-ounce cakes for $8.28 ($0.69/box). It also is the kind that doesn't need refrigeration. I got a box of firm and a box of soft. And if we move, we can take it with us! I like to use it for the tofu sour cream, tofu frosting, and stir fries. Yum.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Great Salad Ideas

I got this salad book, Raising the Salad Bar, from the library, upon the recommendation of a friend. The salad ideas in here are TERRIFIC, and it includes quite a few bean salads too. I'm really going to enjoy trying out a bunch of new ingredient combinations. Now that's really my last post for the night. Really. Good night!

Cutting My Own Hair

I cut my own hair tonight! It was very, very easy, even for someone like me who has no talent in this area. I used the directions here and they worked perfectly. Amirah and Raizel thought it was hilarious to see half of my hair in the bathroom sink. And the part that made me laugh — despite having several gray hairs on the sides of my head, not a single gray hair was in the sink! Weird. :) I'm so excited that I can do my own annual haircut from now on!

Recent Pictures of the Kids

Here are some recent pictures of the kids – Raizel at the duck pond in Beaverton, Eli covered in mud (his favorite state), Amirah on her birthday outing at Oaks Park, and Avi at the duck pond. We sure like our outings!




Coffee

The coffee we've been roasting and grinding has been S-U-P-E-R-B. The roaster is really cute, and not really that loud. Here's a little video. It looks like popcorn:

video

Letting the roaster warm up for 2 minutes, then roasting them for 8 minutes gives a nice, dark roast. The resulting coffee is smooth, smooth, smooth. One batch is enough for about 14 cups of coffee. Definitely the best coffee I have ever had. And it's fun to watch those little coffee beans jumping around.

Here is a before and after picture:


















This is definitely the best frugal experiment to date!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

A Sweet Shabbat

We had such a very nice shabbat, just the five of us. The only sad moment came when I was making kiddush on Friday night and I looked down at Amirah and her eyes were pink and full of tears. "I miss papa," she said. All through the kiddush she was quite teary-eyed. The whole rest of the time she was just fine. I had to suppress a smile; her tears were so completely sweet and her love for her papa so evident.

I got in 3–4 hours of reading today. The kids played games with each other (Funny Bunny, Carcassonne, Pictureka) and Amirah discovered the joys of Othello (the game, that is!). I even took a 90-minute nap on the couch while Avi was napping. I was downstairs in case any of them needed me. Towards the end of the nap, I heard Amirah walk up to me and say, "Mama? Oh, come on Eli and Raizel, she's still resting. We'll go play a little longer." How could I not get up after that and read all kinds of stories? We read torah stories, began to read the story of Gilgamesh (our next subject in history), read more Car Science (I still think that book is fascinating), a book on garden pests and diseases that Amirah had brought home from the library, and read a few chapters in The Golden Bull (the story of two children in the ancient city of Ur). They played outside together, and rode their bikes in the garage. It was truly lovely. They were all being very sweet and putting their best foot forward. We had almost no squabbles. I think Hashem is being very kind to me with DH away for a few days. It's all been very easy, B"H.

Tomorrow we'll have a learning day. Monday and Tuesday too, though Tuesday afternoon has doctor appointments for the kids. Wednesday we're doing a day trip with MB and family to mountains or beach or fruit picking or river or ? Thursday is another learning day and I teach. It should be a nice week and good to have everyone together after last week's separate activities.

Also... a few days ago we got an order of grass-fed beef – rib steaks, ground beef, and brisket. It is absolutely fantastic, with a very different flavor. I don't even know how to describe it. It's definitely not bland. In some ways it's kind of like the grape juice we make - it dances on your tongue. The flavor is much more complex and alive. Just delicious. I'm so excited, and so sad that we'll most likely leave behind access to meat like this when we move. Oh, well!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Overheard Comment

I just heard a couple of mothers chatting at baseball, and one of them said to her son, "Go have fun!" She turned to the other mother and said, "That's the whole point of life, isn't it?" The whole point? Seems like a rather awful existence, actually. What meaning is there in "fun"? Other than itself? I'm not saying we shouldn't have fun, but I definitely don't think it's the POINT of life. I think that's a very self-centered viewpoint. Bli neder, I'll blog more about what I believe the point IS, but a traditional Jew would definitely not say it's to have fun. Neither would any traditionally religious person, I expect. Shabbat shalom - AGAIN!

Random Thought

I've just been musing on and off today whether we could stock our pantry and refrigerator with almost no pre-packaged items. Some things, like flour, we buy in such large bags I don't think it's practical to purchase them un-bagged. And shortening and oil would be tricky I think, unless there is a bulk oil dispenser somewhere (?). So many things we could just make ourselves, or do without. Of course, then there's dairy products. And soy sauce. And rice vinegar. Though other vinegars we could make ourselves without much trouble, especially apple cider vinegar... But we could nix ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, salsas (which we already do ourselves), many other things, I'm sure... I'll have to go through the pantry. I'd love to buy everything possible in bulk or just make it ourselves as needed. I'll be giving this some more thought. But it may get put on hold if we move to Pittsburgh NEXT MONTH!

Lovely Shabbat

I thought today would be a little hectic getting ready for shabbat without dear husband here to help, but it was surprisingly tranquil. We're all set. The meal seemed to just appear somehow, the house is nice and clean. All that's left is washing up and setting the table. After a week of Jewish camp for the girls and baseball for an hour a day for Eli, I'm really looking forward to just gathering in all my chickies, snuggling into bed after dinner, and reading stories. And a sweet day tomorrow with just us.

Dean's interview in Pittsburgh went very well, B"H, and he is really enjoying the community's hospitality. He could definitely see us living there. And if he can, I can. We'll see what hashem has in mind for us. We should hear back in another week or two, hopefully sooner rather than later. The wait is hard!

So, we will be missing him, but I think shabbat will prove to be a lovely time for this family, as usual, even sans papa. We sure do look forward to his homecoming on Monday night, though!

Shabbat shalom to everyone!

The Menu

DH is in Pittsburgh for an interview (and IY"H I should be hearing from him any second), so I'm making a simpler-than-usual dinner. Here 'tis:

challah
chicken noodle soup
hummus
roasted lemon carrots and zucchini
garlic lemon baby bok choi
cabbage salad
baked chicken
chocolate cake

And deli sandwiches and salads for lunch.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

TVP - Kosher!

The TVP at USA Emergency Supply is certified kosher by O-U! Yay. Going to order some right now...

Another Great Frugal Experiment

A few nights ago I was remarking to DH that I was losing a desire to have my morning coffee. I don't drink coffee for the caffeine, since I have zero response to caffeine. I do drink it for the taste - I love coffee. For the last six months or so I had been buying the really cheap stuff in the big cans since it's about 40% cheaper than the "good stuff." But I just didn't enjoy it at all anymore.

Well, one thing led to another, and in a few minutes we were online ordering a home coffee bean roaster! DH figured that in 6 months it will have paid for itself, because green coffee beans cost about, well, 60% less than their roasted counterparts. So, not only would our coffee be BETTER than the best store coffee, but it would also be CHEAPER than the worst store coffee.

We ordered from a store in Eugene, OR that sells green beans and this lovely little machine that you see on the left. It roasts enough at once to make 14–16 cups of coffee.

The $97 price tag included 1 pound each of 5 different kinds of coffee beans. We made our first batch tonight, and decided to err on the side of light roasting so we could slowly approach just the right roast. Well, it was a bit light tonight, but the taste was smooooooooth. I was so happy. None of those harsher overtones at all. It was so velvetly delicious. We did a 6-minute roast, and next time will try a 7- or 8-minute roast. You can go up to 9 minutes, I think.

I am always so tickled when I discover a new way of doing something that not only tastes or works so much better, but is also so much less expensive! My next frugal food experiment is to order a sampler packet of variously flavored textured vegetable protein from here. That is, as soon as I can determine what agency has certified the products as kosher... Haven't heard back from an e-mail. The cost would only be $0.45/pound - cheaper than the beans I buy! It can be used to stretch meat or replace it. Fun stuff...

Yay

AW did it again in her blog here. Parents today definitely underestimate their importance in their children's lives, and overestimate the importance of their "wants." I saw it so clearly when I was a classroom teacher, and I see it so clearly now that I am home with my own children.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Donated Miles, Anyone?

A friend and her husband are FINALLY bringing their children home from Ethiopia, and are very excited. It was a long wait for them. Because they live in Israel, but are American citizens, they need to bring the children from Ethiopia to the US for immigration purposes, then fly them from the US to Israel. It is unimaginably expensive to do all of this with two adults and two school-aged children. If anyone has excess Delta airline miles to donate, I would love to hook you up with this family to make the burden of the very expensive plane tickets a little easier. Thank you!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

We Love This Book!

We have so much enjoyed reading this book. I had no idea I would ever say that about car books, which Eli loves, of course. I read them because he loves them, but not because I'm really wanting to learn more about cars. But this book is different! It explains with perfect clarity how a car actually works. Even I understood it! :) The science is solid and is not dumbed down for its audience. I'm really looking forward to reading and discussing more.

Friday, July 3, 2009

The Menu

It's a real (untraditional, as usual) shabbos feast!

challah
Caribbean butternut vichyssoise (I made that name up, could you tell?)
jerk chicken
jerk salmon
jerk zucchini
Caribbean cabbage salad
refried beans
coconut rice
chips, guacamole, and our new pareve sour cream
apple rhubarb crisp

For lunch, more of the same...

I'm getting hungry...

Loss

A wonderful local dancer has tragically passed away at the age of 54. The story is here. I taught his daughter, Anahelena, music in preschool and kindergarten. Keith was a vibrant, strong, enthusiastic person who knew people from all stratas of Portland society and beyond. This is a huge loss to the Portland arts community, and for those he leaves behind.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Tostadas!

Tonight's dinner was so incredibly delicious - and cheap - that I just had to blog it. :)

Here's what we put on our tostadas:

•The pinto beans that I cooked overnight in the crockpot a couple of weeks ago. Just a bunch of pre-soaked beans, an onion, and some garlic. Then I pureed it with cumin when it was done.

•Grated cheese

•Salsa, from this delicious recipe: 2 cups diced tomatoes, 1/2 cup diced onion, 1/2 cup diced green pepper, 1/2 cup diced red pepper, 1 chopped jalapeno, 3 cloves of garlic, 1/2 tsp cumin, 1/2 tsp pepper, 2 tsp salt, 1 tbsp sugar, 1 tbsp vinegar, small can of tomato sauce mixed with an equal amount of water.

•Pareve (non-dairy) sour cream, from this delicious recipe: 1 package firm tofu, 1 tbsp rice vinegar, 1 tbsp lemon juice, 1 tsp apple cider vinegar, 1/2 tsp salt, 1 tsp sugar, 1/4 cup oil. Puree everything! Incredibly good, and much cheaper than the sour cream substitutes at the grocery store and no weird ingredients.

•Cabbage salad, a perennial favorite. Sliced cabbage, cilantro, lime juice, salt, oil.

•Guacamole, just mashed up the avocados, added some of the salsa, and a pinch of salt.

This was so incredibly delicious. And all but one of us ate it enthusiastically. And that one had already basically eaten beforehand.

We think that half of the family should be on dairy-free or dairy-reduced diets, so we're eliminating a lot of the dairy we eat (and we love dairy!!). Thanks to our "soy cow" (our soy milk machine) we can do a lot of substitutions very cheaply and easily.

And beans are very kind to the budget. Last night it was homemade felafel and the semi-annual walla walla onion ring fry. :) It was so good. I usually make a yogurt sauce (yogurt, garlic, lemon juice, tahini, salt, cumin), but we're not doing much yogurt and I didn't have tahini. So I made a sauce with soy milk sludge (the bottom of the jar usually gets a little thick), peanut butter, garlic, lemon juice, salt, and cumin. That was pretty good too! We're going to try having a non-dairy bean dish for two dinners every week.

And other exciting news... through our kollel (like a post-graduate school for rabbis, and they provide community education) we now have access to local (low-mileage), grass-fed beef! We're so excited. The prices are almost normal, instead of kosher exorbitant. I generally stick to local, in-season produce, but our meat was coming from the other side of the planet. Having this new alternative is terrific. We're ordering brisket, rib steaks, and ground beef. That'll balance out the beans budget!

Back to the Thursday night shampoo routine, making everyone sparkly and ready for shabbos tomorrow. And our friend JF is joining us for dinner, which always gets everyone jumping up and down from excitement.

Oh, and, pssst, DH has a job interview in Pittsburgh next Friday. A little tefillah, a little prayer, here and there never hurt! :) Great job, and there's a LOT to like about Pittsburgh...

A Life for a Life

A great story...

Yoni, an Israeli Defense Force soldier stationed in Heb ron , was shot by an Arab terrorist. It happened very early in the morning, and no one else was awake to hear it. Yoni passed out and was bleeding steadily, his life heading toward a silent end.

But another soldier stationed nearby heard the shot and went to investigate. He found a fellow Israeli soldier bleeding to death. He tried the best he could to stop the bleeding and called for help. Waiting for help to arrive, he kept applying pressure to the wound--literally holding Yoni ' s life in his hands.

Yoni was taken to a hospital in Be’er Sheva where he underwent surgery. Yoni ' s parents were notified and they rushed to the hospital. Imagine the fear of the parents who were only told "your son has been injured and is in the hospital." When they arrived the doctor told them that Yoni was shot but will be alright. However, had it not been for the immediate actions of the other soldier, their son Yoni would have bled to death.

It was a miracle that the other soldier heard what no one else heard, and managed to locate Yoni as quickly as he did. The parents wanted to thank that soldier, but he had just left the hospital after hearing that the soldier he helped would survive.

While recuperating at home, Yoni and his parents called the army to find out the name of the other soldier so they could thank him personally. Unfortunately, that soldier ' s name was not recorded and although they tried to ask around they simply couldn’t track down who that other soldier was.

Yoni ' s mother knew that the important thing of course is that Yoni is well, yet she could not help feeling that as long as she couldn’t meet and thank the solider who bravely saved her son’s life--the entire frightening episode would not be fully over. Not being able to thank the soldier continued to give her an empty feeling…but then she had an idea.

The couple owned a grocery store in Kiryat Malachi (a town near Ashdod ), so they decided to put up a sign in the store, describing what happened, figuring that Israel is a small country and eventually they might found out who the mystery soldier was.

Months passed with no response. Finally, one morning about a year later, a woman customer noticed the sign hanging by the door of the store. She recalled how happy her son Yair was when he came home one Friday night and told them how he heard a shot and was able to save another soldier’s life in Heb ron . She went back and told the owner of the store. The story matched. The two women now decided to try to reach their sons on cell phones and see if they could meet at the store. Fortunately it turned out that both the young men and even the fathers were able to all meet that afternoon at the store.

The families soon gathered for an emotional "rendezvous". The soldiers recounted army experiences and finally after all this time Yoni’s mother could stand up and thank Yair for saving her son’s life or as she put it, “You saved my world”. She looked forward to feeling “completion” after all this time by thanking the soldier, but little did she know that the story was hardly complete.

After the tearful thank you, Yair’s mother quietly pulled her aside and asked to speak with her outside. The two women went out alone. And she asked Yoni’s mother: “Look at me-- don’t you remember me?”

“No, I’m sorry did we meet before?”

"Yes,” Yair’s mother replied. “You see there is a particular reason I came into your store today. I used to live here, and this time although I was just passing by, I wanted to give you my business, even though I was only buying a few things.”

“What are you talking about?” Yoni’s mother asked.

The other woman answered, “Twenty years ago I used to live around here and came all the time to buy milk and bread. One day you noticed that I looked really down and you were very nice and asked me why I seemed so down and I confided in you. I told you that I was going through a very difficult time and on top of that I was pregnant and planning on having an abortion. As soon as I said “abortion” you called your husband over and the two of you seemed to forget about your own store and business, and just sat down and patiently listened to me. I still remember clearly what you said.

“You told me that it is true that I was going through a hard time but sometimes the good things in life come through difficulty, and the best things come through the biggest difficulties. You spoke of the joy of being a mother and that the most beautiful word to hear in the Hebrew language is “Ima” (mother) when spoken by one’s child. You both spoke and spoke until I was convinced that I actually should have this baby--so you see G-d paid you back!”

”What do you mean? asked Yoni’s mother”. The answer astounded and thrilled her.

“I had a boy twenty years ago that you saved by telling me to think twice before doing the abortion.” With happy tears she declared, "My beloved Yair wouldn’t have been alive if not for you. He was the one you were looking for. He was the one who grew up to save your son Yoni’s life!"

Note: This incredible story is true. The actual names are on file.