Sunday, February 28, 2010

Savannah Wildlife Refuge

We had a wonderful outing on Thursday to the Savannah Wildlife Refuge, which is about 30 minutes away just over the border in South Carolina. It was a bit chilly and terribly windy, but the refuge has a wonderful 4-mile auto tour with several places to stop and get out if you wish. It used to be a large area of rice paddies before it became a refuge. There are many long, narrow freshwater areas surrounded by dikes, and you can park and you can walk along the dikes for quite a ways.

Here are some pictures we took along the way...

Amirah snapped this from the car while we were sitting
and waiting for a train to pass.

This is the first dike we walked out on. Lots of wind!
There was water on either side.

We saw lots of different kinds of ducks.

And we saw our first wild alligator! Apparently,
it's less common to see them in the winter so we were lucky.

Walking back from the car we had a great view of the shipyards
along the Savannah River, just a few miles from downtown.

We all just ooed and ahed at how beautiful it was!

I think this must be some kind of cormorant,
but not the kind you see on the west coast!

We stopped at the restroom halfway through our drive
and Amirah came shreeking in glee shouting, "There's a gecko
on the soap! There's a gecko on the soap" Well, not a gecko exactly,
but it is one fine lizard. I e-mailed the Savannah River Ecology Laboratory
to see if they could help us identify it.

More ducks. Wood ducks are especially plentiful.

Scoters and, I think, egrets.

These last few pictures are just some of the scenery. This area is every bit as beautiful as Oregon, with just as many outdoor exploration opportunities. We are going to have so much fun returning to this wildlife refuge and discovering other new places!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Great Shiur on Purim

I spent part of the evening watching this wonderful shiur by Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller (a truly gifted lecturer and someone I could listen to ad infinitum). This website is a tremendous resource and I promote it whenever possible. Hope you enjoy!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Ups and Downs and Ups and Downs

What a week (and it's only Monday)!

I feel like I'm still getting my feet wet. Still figuring out where things are, where to shop, how things get done, how to organize our house, how to fit in all the learning time, how Dean's schedule fits in with it all, how to get the purim things done (and I won't mention the other p word!), and how to stay nice and healthy while fighting off viruses our bodies have probably never met before. So many things on my brain that when the title company that is working on behalf of the sale of our house called me to ask some questions, I had to ask her to repeat nearly every question twice before I understood what she was asking. Good grief. And we're talking simple questions, like "What's the name of the company that holds your mortgage?" Ultimately, the answer was, "I don't know." Ha. Since DH handles the day-to-day finances, and I hadn't had the name floated in front of my eyeballs in quite a long time. I'm sure she thought I was a bit goofy. Of course, at the same time, the granola was burning, Avi's diaper was falling off, Amirah whacked Raizel on the back, and Eli was terribly thirsty. Oh, well!

Saturday night we all started a new round of stomach viruses, B"H of the short-lived variety (again). I was first, then papa and Eli on Sunday night. Eli was up six times, poor guy. Now I have a sore throat. Gevalt. Just the price of moving to a new place. I'll probably really be missing that decade+ of teacher immunity (exponential immunity!) I had built up from northwest bugs. B"H these are little illnesses of short duration. Dean gets it the worst really because it always exacerbates his ability to vigilantly do all he can to guard against migraines. But everyone was back to normal-ish today, though Dean and Eli are still a bit wrung out.

The most distressing news was to discover that Dean's job does not actually offer sick leave. A university that does NOT OFFER SICK LEAVE??? In their benefits, they list vacation time and sick leave. They get twelve vacation days plus two floating holidays, their birthday, St. Patricks Day, and the usual holidays. So 16 days + the OHSU holidays. Just a couple of days less than OHSU gave per year. It turns out that the "sick leave benefit" is that, yes, you can take sick leave and it comes out of your vacation leave. What??!?!?!?!?! Yep. I still can't believe there is a university that essentially does NOT offer actual sick leave to their employees. OY. GEVALT. This is something we hadn't really thought to check the particulars on. But hold that thought...

Another difference is that at OHSU, when there was a Jewish holiday coming up, he could always work Sundays to make up the lost time so he rarely had to actually take vacation time for Jewish holidays, which was a LIFESAVER since there can be a dozen or more Jewish days of observance (more accurate than calling it a holiday - it's not just a party at the beach!) that fall on weekdays. So he still got his work done in 40 hours that week, just spread out a little differently. Plus his Sundays tended to be even more productive because there were no interruptions.

SCAD, however, will not permit him to work out an alternate schedule on those weeks. SCAD will also not permit him to take unpaid leave if it causes him to fall behind on his workload. Thus, he will have to work Sundays to make up the time missed for Jewish days of observance anyway; he just won't be paid for it. Grrrrrrr...

So, the essential question we discussed with each other tonight was, "Would we have moved here anyway knowing all of this that we know now (and more besides)?" The answer is definitely yes. Dean really has a knack for this work, and his skills are going to get more and more developed on this job. He has excellent job security, as they keep losing instructional designers, largely due to overworking their employees. So he's just going to have to work like mad, do his best work, and network with other training and instructional design professionals in Savannah so that as other opportunities come available (possibly even at SCAD after a year in this position) he'll be in a good place to nab the next position, BE"H.

And the other reason we're so glad to be here is that we just plain old like it here. We like our house. We like our Jewish community. We like our shul. We are getting to know new friends, and there are so many lovely families. And it's beautiful. Lots of great outings, and so much to explore. It's a good place for us to be. The kinks at SCAD will work themselves out. We'll get more and more familiar with being here. Everything will sink in. Things feel a bit topsy-turvy, but I suppose that's appropriate for the month of Adar! And I look forward to seeing what Hashem has in mind for us with some of these things that are challenging us right now.

So, tricky things yes, but nothing insurmountable, and nothing that takes away from the overall feeling that we are all so happy to be in SAVANNAH! Good night!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Menu

Now we're cooking! :)

For dinner:

chicken w/bbq sauce
baked potatoes w/tofu sour cream and green onions
caesar salad with croutons
sweet and sour coleslaw
cucumber salad
marinated mushrooms
coconut pineapple ice "cream"

and for lunch:

salads from above
roasted red pepper salad
cucumber salad
lamb stew (almost a cholent, but not...)
butternut squash kugel
dobostorte (if I have time; coconut pineapple stuff if I don't!)


Now it's making me hungry.

We sure are in the Adar spirit around here! Things are good, there's a carnival on Sunday with food and games, and the weather is turning NICE.

Good shabbos to all!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Quote of the Week

Raizel: I can't explain my words because I only have one mouth.


I'm not sure if I mentioned the yogurt curse or not, but a few months ago, after making yogurt every week for years, my yogurt just started failing. I checked all the variables - temperature, cleanliness, freshness of culture, etc. and found nothing to explain it. After failing multiple times I took a yogurt break. Last week, I braved the yogurt frontier again. This time I decided to try something new. I usually rest the milk and culture on the fruit drier overnight. This time I filled up the dairy crock pot, turned it on low, set a cake rack on top with the pot of heated and cooled-to-warm milk/culture combination. I used the same culture we've had for quite a while (especially after taking a long break!). In the morning - yogurt! Delicious, creamy, smooth, not-too-mild, not-too-tart yogurt. We were so excited! Especially since a quart of homemade yogurt only costs $0.61 (okay, maybe $0.63 when you add a spoonful of homemade jam!). Much better than $3-4, even if it is $0.06 more per quart than it was in Portland. :) And it's time to make another batch. HOORAY!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Settling In

Bit by bit we are really settling in. We finally managed to locate a car - a 2001 Honday Odyssey. It got checked out by our mechanic today and B"H passed with flying colors. There are a couple of minor things that could be fixed, but nothing urgent. I like it better than our old Odyssey. It seats seven instead of six, and there is WAY more room in the rear for groceries. Came with a nice cargo net too.

We had another lovely shabbos with a meal here and a meal out at the neighbor's house two doors down. We all made it down to shul in the morning. I also found out they have childcare for the younger kids, so I might actually go and daven next week. Wow! On Sunday night, the kollel had a nice rosh chodesh dinner and we all went to that. Amirah had a friend spend the night afterwards and they spent much of Monday playing. Together, we made purim masks and had a lot of fun. Then we had the rest of the family (minus two absentees) over for dinner. Our first guests! And a really lovely family with four kids of similar ages.

We've been steadily getting back into our learning time. It was a little slow getting going with the viruses we had, plus just the time it takes to adjust to a new home and the myriad of errands that goes with that. I'd say we're back up to 80% now. A little behind where I had hoped to be at this point in the year, but beyond first grade in everything so nothing really to worry about.

Here's a quick version of what we're doing this week in kodesh:

• daily davening and parsha/torah stories
• adding many new verbs to our biblical Hebrew vocabulary
• reviewing a lengthy of list of nouns and prefixes
• stuyding about purim and learning/revisiting some purim songs
• planning our purim costumes and mishloach manos baskets!
• copying out the morning berachos from the siddur (one per day) and learning what each word means

And in chol:

• reviewing months, seasons, days, dates, abbreviations and initials
• narrating back chapters of books we are reading aloud
• copywork from various books
• weekly spelling list
• fine-tuning our handwriting to make it very neat and completely legible
• should be up to lesson 150 of 231 in our phonics book this week
• learning to add and subtract one-digit from two-digit numbers
• the rise of Rome (and how that affected the Jewish world)
• bird migration and nesting habits
• reading The Hobbit for our readaloud book this week (really nice to get back to readalouds!)

So all is good. Savannah just really feels like home. We continue to be so glad that we moved here. Eli says spontaneous little tefillos to hashem in the middle of lunch, thanking hashem for bringing us to Savannah. And WE keep saying thank you for getting an offer on the house so quickly. We're doing the repairs the inspection turned up. There's a pretty good list for our A+ wonderful contractor to tend to. BE"H all will be finished next week and we can sign the final papers. WOW.

Signing off...

Saturday, February 6, 2010

House In Closing. Check.

An unbelievable thing happened yesterday morning. I got a call from our realtor's office saying they were likely getting an offer for our house. That offer indeed came in a little later. Full-price offer, and we don't even pay closing costs. We accepted the offer (of course!) and the house is expected to close in mid-March. The most unbelievable part - the house hadn't even gone on the market yet! We hadn't cleaned it. We still have to get an electrician in to solve a circuitry problem. But another realtor's client begged to be allowed to have an early viewing, so they went ahead and let them in just as the contractor's truck was pulling out of our driveway. Apparently, it was exactly the house they wanted. So the total time it took to sell the house? Negative two days. WEIRD! This can only be explained by Hashem's intervention. And lots of davening. So, there you have it. I'm still in shock. I scooted out an hour before shabbos and faxed the acceptance paperwork back. Then stopped and got a bottle of champagne on the way home. Got inside one minute before candlelighting.

And as for dinner last night? I think Hashem must have prepared that too, because as of 1:30 I hadn't done anything! I had made challah the night before, and breakfast muffins. Somehow we ended up with a nice meal of challah, bbq sauce crockpot chicken, roasted black sesame cabbage, mixed green salad, carrot ginger puree, baked potatoes, and chocolate cake. We were going to have lunch out today, but that family got sick and just as well since we're still winding down our own bugs, so I gathered up some cold cuts (cheaper than in Portland!) when I picked up the champagne and we had delicious sandwiches and salad for lunch. We were going to have tuna, so at least this was a step up. Lunch was really delicious.

Dean is the only one who has made it to shul so far. Last shabbos he was sick in bed, and the rest of us were a little ragged (from time zone changes, not quite sick yet) so none of us got to shul. He's been to daily morning minyan and loves it there. This morning (his first shabbos morning there) he came home from shul beaming. He feels so at home here. It's just a really good match for us. The rabbi's entire drash was focused on ehrlichkeit (the laws that govern the interactions between men, as opposed to frumkeit, the laws the govern man's relationship to G-d). The entire congregation exuded ehrlichkeit. Dean has felt it everywhere. Yes, frumkeit is just as important, but it often seems that in the pursuit of frumkeit, ehrlichkeit often drops by the wayside. Not here.

The kids and I are still battling our colds/coughs, so we stayed home all day, but I'm looking forward to going sometime soon (and seeing the 25-foot-tall aron kodesh!) and meeting more people. It's very easy to do here and we are all so very happy to be here. I'm looking forward to being healthy again soon (please, hashem!) and getting out and meeting more people. B"H I'm not too bad today, so hopefully by Monday we'll all be back in business.

Other exciting news - one of the people who had advertised a van on craigslist finally got back to us (a relative's death had called them out of town). They have all the records for the van. It's a 1995 GMC conversion van, but only has 65K miles on it! Two owners, and both only used it for vacations. They're going to bring it over sometime tomorrow so we can take a peek at it, and if it looks good, we'll take it to a mechanic on Monday, and if that looks good, maybe we'll buy a van. If not, we'll give up on buying from an individual and hit up the used car lots. There are a few Honda/Toyota minivans available so we'll just downsize our fantasies and do that. :)

Other random things... the sounds here are very interesting. First, the deafening rain. Then there's the excitement when the military helicopters fly overhead (we're pretty close to a base here). We're also just a couple of blocks (barely) from a hospital so we here several sirens every day, but they're not terribly loud. Then, most nights, from 10:45 to 11:00 I hear someone playing bugle calls and it usually concludes with "Taps." Can't figure that one out! There must be a story somewhere...

We continue to love our house. We feel like it's our 1950s vacation cottage. It feels so homey. Yesterday, I dragged the second refrigerator into the kitchen. It had been sitting on the back porch, but we figured the cost of keeping it cool out there in the summer might be a bit high. The fridge that came with the house is on the smaller side, so it's really nice to have the other one. The double refrigerator look isn't going to win any awards, but it's eminently practical, as is the industrial shelving and I am one happy cook. I love being able to (AH! There's "Taps," right on schedule!) swoosh everyone out of the kitchen and close the doors.

Earlier I mentioned these odd brick planters that serve as space dividers between the entryway and living room and the living room and dining room. After we own this house (please hashem) we want to install shelving on top of both of them. I think it will look kind of neat. We want to put bookshelves between the living room and dining room (facing the living room), with one open shelf in the middle. On the open shelf we want to put in a handwashing station (for the ritual handwashing before bread) - a basin, pitcher, washing cup, and towel. Probably a mosaic too! :) It was kind of bummer at lunch to leave our very peaceful dining room, and wash over a giant mess of dishes from the night before. (More giant than usual since there's not much counter space!) On the other planter we'd love to install cupboards to store office and learning supplies since that's where the computer is, and it's not far from the learning table. Anyway... that's just some fantasy about the future... Oh, and we HAVE to yank out all these rugs so we can have the lovely wood floors beneath (at least, what's showing now is lovely!).

As far as NEEDS go on what needs to be done with the house if we are the owners, there are really just two things - replace the front and back doors and remove an oil tank. The doors both have keyed dead bolts, which aren't good in case of fire. I can't leave the key in them or little Avi hands will whisk them away. Plus the doors would be pretty easy to kick down. I'm sure I could do it with a few good kicks. So that, and a peephole would be nice. The oil tank buried in the back yard may also have to be yanked out. We'll have to look into that. So... we'll see! Fun things, and nothing major that's obvious. We love the modest size and the good bones this house has. It's really perfect for us. And we all love the HUGE yard!!!!!

Savannah gets twelve thumbs up from the Earlix Family. It has truly exceeded our hopes so far. B"H!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Great Outing!

We had a great time at the wildlife center. Absolutely beautiful, with boardwalks through natural areas and lots of interesting, mostly native, animals to observe. We had such a good time, except that I fell with Avi in my arms and my shoulders and side got pretty bruised. Ow. I was too busy admiring everything around me and got all tangled up in a branch on the ground. Ow. Oy. Ow. We got a membership there, and I'm sure we'll be back many, many times. Voice is quite hoarse, and I'm looking forward to a little extra rest over shabbos. And the menu? Good question. I know we're having chicken. And the challah's made. And the bbq sauce for the chicken. Mashed potatoes for Amirah. Probably otherwise just a salad and a slew of roasted and/or steamed veggies. I think lunch will just be tuna and salads, but we'll jazz it up. Slowly ramping up the kitchen, and next week maybe shabbos won't take me by surprise. I also got several dozen okara (soy bean pulp) muffins done. And somehow we went through four loaves of bread this week??!? We usually eat 1–2 loaves, so I'm not sure what happened there! :) Gotta make more bread already. Anyway..... off to sleep and rest that shoulder. A hot shower will feel nice. Love to all.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Quick Update

A bit tired, here. They all came down with stomach bugs (the messy variety) this week. I've been spared, but a couple of us (like me) also have colds. We're a bit ragged around the edges. We're also having some difficulty locating a plain old, ordinary old, van. I knew there weren't that many here, but there really are NONE, despite all the ones I see driving through the streets. Erg. Hopefully something will be worked out soon.

Despite that, we managed two good days of learning so far this week, got our library cards, unpacked all of the boxes (still a little organizing to do, but it's going pretty well, B"H), got our kitchen up and running (yay, bread; yay, soy milk; yay, beans; yay, home-roasted coffee beans), checked out three vans (all busts) and started to get the lay of the land. We really like it here.

We had many, many wonderful dinner deliveries which eased the transition to a new place and now here we are! I'm feeling slightly bewildered (where are we?!?), quite happy, a bit hoarse/grouchy/unrefined, a bit anxious (gotta sell that Portland house and find a reasonably priced van!), and eagerly looking forward to shabbos when I hope DH and I can just manage a revolving door of naps.

Tomorrow after an early lunch I think I'll take the kids to Oatland Island Wildlife Center for a day of biology and nature study. :) I think we need to have a little outing this week, and we shouldn't be contagious any more.

More to come, but for now GOOD NIGHT!