Monday, March 29, 2010


Tomorrow night at this time, we should be close to completing our first seder in Savannah. Savta will be here with us too! I wanted to share the charoset recipe I use every year. If there are leftovers, I make it into charoset muffins after pesach. YUM.

2 apples
15 dates
2 bananas
1 c. dried apricots
1/4 cup water or grape juice or sweet wine
1/2 cup walnuts

Cook everything but the nuts for 15 minutes. Mash, then add the chopped walnuts.

Wishing you all a chag kasher v'sameach!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Quote of the Week

Eli: Shabbos goes by so fast here!

(It's either the latitude, or...)

(I think it's the or.)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


So. Tired.

Everyone here has the sniffles (but they're only sniffles!). Eli had a high fever last night, but B"H it went back down by the morning. Cleaning for pesach is going a little more slowly than hoped. I was wanting to have the kitchen ready by Wednesday, but it looks like I'll turn it over Saturday night/Sunday. Should be good enough. I can get the last of the shopping done this week, I hope. Not too much to get really. We keep it pretty simple and pretty much stay within our normal food budget. We do eat a little more meat than we normally would. After pesach last year, I bought a few things at 80% off (but not as much as usual since I hoped we'd be moving!). Tucked those away into the pesach boxes, and it's nice to pull it out for this year.

Dean's job has been very, very stressful with very long hours, and he was just told his workload will increase by 50% one month from now (!?!?!?!?!). We certainly find ourselves missing the OHSU days when he got off at 4:00, could bus home, and was able to work Sundays in lieu of Jewish holidays. It's turning into a six-days-per-week job, and you get no "credit" for the extra hours. Anyway... we're not sure how this will resolve. We're facing a very stressful job in a very wonderful community and location. On the other hand, no imminent layoffs! Lots of tradeoffs I guess, especially these days. For now we'll just buckle down and do what we can.

There are a few other things I miss about Portland (in addition to people!) - grocery shopping, Bob's Red Mill, our wonderful library and children's librarian, Multnomah Arts Center and Southwest Community Center... But in time we'll find our niche here too. At least we love living here in general, our learning is going GREAT, Amirah has made several nice new friends, and life here is relatively inexpensive.

Our other adventures today - trip #2 to try to register our car. Turns out the bill of sale is in Dean's name only, so we need his driver's license, etc. Oh. Back again tomorrow with that (#3), then to another office to pay the sales tax (#4), then back to office #1 (#5). Wowie. 5 trips to get a license plate. Wow. Then, the car alarm (which we didn't even know existed) started randomly going off as we were driving. Fun. It does shut off after 20 beeps or so. We had all the kids crying every time it went off (very LOUD!). We think we figured out the chain of events that causes it to happen, and we might have even figured out a way to turn it off (just open the driver's side door with a key). Crazy. Need to get a little electrical work done on that car. Our sliding doors stopped working, as did the switch that opens the rear windows. Maybe it's all connected?

Random things. Tired mama. But looking forward to my Ima's visit, to the seders, to having Dean around (even if it means the dam will be full to bursting when he goes back to work, if not worse!). Really looking forward to chol hamoed adventures with ima!!

Monday, March 22, 2010

A Poem

by Eli

Big and rusty,
Truck is all dusty.
Tires are big.
Truck one, truck two.
Fast as a race car.
Big black stripes.
Night Monster Star.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Frugal Gefilte Fish

Making your own gefilte fish can be the most economical if you get a good price for fish. If that's not possible, it's pretty easy to double the volume of frozen gefilte fish. First, defrost one loaf of gefilte fish. Then finely mince two carrots, two stalks of celery, and an onion and saute it all in oil. Let cool, then mix in 2 eggs and enough matzo meal to bind it together. Combine it all with the loaf of defrosted gefilte fish. Grease a couple of loaf pans and pour the batter in. Bake at 350 for about an hour. Great way to stretch something that usually costs about $12/lb. Stretching it like this should make it cost more like $7/lb, and even less if you can get the gefilte fish at a lower cost or make your own.

The Menu

Here 'tis:

mushroom paté (mushrooms, onion, thyme, brown sugar, balsamic vinegar)
roasted red pepper salad (red peppers, olive oil, lemon juice, whole garlic, anchovies, sea salt)
"cream" of asparagus soup
braised cabbage
roasted carrots
quartered roasted potatoes
apricot chicken
coconut cranberry sorbet

And for lunch...

We're OUT! :)

Shabbat shalom!

(I just realized that nearly all of this could be on our pesach menu. I was thinking of making my own coconut milk for pesach. It's pretty easy, and there's a lot you can do with it!)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

What a great few days! Highlights include...

•an afternoon at Forsyth Park with bikes in tow (while I was wishing for four pairs of eyeballs!)

•having DH home (St. Patrick's Day is an official SCAD holiday)

•getting our Georgia driver licenses

•going to Skidaway Island to visit the aquarium and walk the nature trail (WOWIE!!!)

•getting the last of our pesach supplies (except produce!) - barbecue, and vinyl tablecloths for lining kitchen, KLP cottage cheese and yogurt to use as starter (YES!!!)

•a little more planning then cleaning, but still a good bit of cleaning...

•discovering Bobo Seafood Market - line out the door, hole-in-the-wall on a not-fancy side of town, hard to park, clean and fresh-smelling, fantastic whole fish; we bought snapper (frozen until shabbos) and flounder (ate it tonight - YUM!)

•the purchase of a pesach barbecue (just a $25 portable propane-powered one); we'll keep using it beyond pesach

•DH working with rabbi, SCAD board of directors, and HR to get his "reasonable accommodation" of working on Sundays in lieu of Jewish holidays approved (please, Hashem!)

•meeting and chatting with the author of this book; he is on sabbatical and at SCAD for two terms and specializes in psychology and creativity

Tomorrow, back to our learning time after a vacation day today.

Happy Thursday!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


Amirah woke up this morning and said that she had a dream about how to fix her bike. She had mentioned to me yesterday that something wasn't quite working right, but I hadn't had a chance to take a look at it. In her dream, she figured out how to fix it, and after breakfast, she went out and fixed it!!! She was quite tickled about it.

Free Seeds

I just found out about an organization called The Dinner Garden that is distributing seeds for free to anyone who wants to start a vegetable garden. I put in our request! We're still scrambling for time a little bit, but hoping that Dean's schedule will ease up a little next week, and hopefully we can get at least one or two beds together for the spring (after pesach, that is!). We'd also love to get that compost pile started. Here's hoping! It would be great to get a few things started.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Lovely Shabbos

No matter how irksome and stressful Dean's work might be, shabbos always comes to remind us why we're here, and why he's doing that job. Thank you, DH, for all that you are doing that brought us here! We love Savannah and are so very happy to be a part of this community. Amirah just hopped around all over the place yesterday - shul, our house (where we had very fun guests), two doors down, two blocks away to two different houses, walked her mommy and siblings home, then off to shul with papa, then a round of visiting with our second-closest neighbors. That girl is grinning ear to ear, as are they all.

The other excitement was an Ebay delivery today of four of The Happy Hollisters books, published in the 1950s. Our composition book had excerpts from the first book, and Amirah really loved the excerpts. The library did not carry them, and I was able to get four of the books from Ebay for only $9.50 (hardback!). We're halfway through the first book, and Eli and Amirah are both really enjoying it too. Maybe Avi is too, since that's the book he brought me for his good-night book! Every chapter is a cliffhanger, and it is hard to put it down! So that will be our without-papa book, and The Hobbit will continue to be our with-papa book.

I've also purchased nearly all of our learning books for next year, mostly from Ebay and the Well-Trained Mind forum. I've been able to get everything we need at 30–50% off, so I'm very happy about that!!! I need a few more books for kodesh, but I'll probably wait until summer to order those.

Finally, take a look at what's coming up at the 2nd Annual Torah Home Education Conference in Baltimore. Amirah and I would love to find a way to attend, so we're hoping to make that possible. It partly depends on funds, and partly on if we can find someone to watch the other three kids all day the Friday before. Then Amirah and I could spend shabbos and the conference day there in Baltimore. They'll have activities for the kids to do, so I know Amirah would have a great time. Purely business, of course (ha ha ha, I would LOVE to have a mini-escape with oldest daughter!!!!!). So, we'll see.

Today we went to the park at Mayer Lake. Amirah thought the signs that said: "Warning, alligators in lake." was very funny. Lots of great birds too - herons, terns, gulls, geese, ducks, and... roosters! A little playground, and a windy walk along the lake. Then a couple of errands, a bunch of cleaning, cleaning, and cleaning (so far, so good!), and then friends came over after dinner. We projected a video of their son's bar mitzvah in Israel onto the screen. It was lovely, lovely and they really enjoyed seeing it bigger than life size. It felt like we really were right there too.

Back to the trenches for the papa, and back to learning for us. Here's to a good week!

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Menu

Here 'tis:

red lentil and collard green soup
carrot raisin salad
fried green tomatoes
sauteed green beans in tomato sauce
roasted zucchini/tomatoes/mushrooms/onions/garlic
angel food cake w/cranberry tofu ice cream

for lunch:

shepherd's pie
butternut squash kugel
chickpeas with spinach
lamb cholent
(plus things left from dinner)

Good shabbos!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

So Much Better!

On Sunday night I *finally* was able to sleep. I slept 13 hours in a row, and within 24 hours I was more or less back to normal. It feels good to sleep, and it will be quite a while before I take it for granted. Despite the vicissitudes, we've managed to pretty much keep our learning on schedule and that makes me really happy. Amirah finished her 1st grade spelling book this week. We're taking a week-long break from spelling, and then I'm trying to decide whether to go right on to her 2nd grade spelling book (the series we are using is quite functional, but not particularly inspiring), or to use a wonderful speller I found on Google books called Wheeler's Elementary Speller, by William Henry Wheeler, and published in 1901. The book has utterly charming poetry in it, and lots of work on precise pronunciation. Many people have recommended it to me. It will require preparation of worksheets in advance by me, probably about thirty minutes per week. I'm trying to decide if that's a good way to spend a portion of my prep time or not. We'll see!

She also started the third (and last) book in the Migdalor series, and we also started a new book from the same publisher called Yesodot Halashon (focus on Hebrew grammar). It dovetails nicely with the Migdalor book. This book also has many levels - eight, I think - so we can keep using it for a good long while. I've been steadily increasing the amount of time we spend on reading since I want to be sure her Hebrew reading skills are quite fluid by the end of the year. Her script is looking very nice, but we'll keep working on that too. We have a spelling book too, but I think we need to pull spelling lessons from our current lessons in our other two Hebrew books. Anyway... I love working on this with her, and I love working to improve my own skills at the same time.

In science we finished our unit on birds and have now started a unit on bats. Science/biology is definitely her favorite subject. A couple of days ago I got her a sketch notebook to use for a nature journal, and she is happily sketching away nature scenes both from her imagination and from the back yard. We'll take it further afield too. Speaking of science, we had a lovely outing to the local aquarium. It has about 12-15 tanks with local sealife on display, a wonderful touch tank with horseshoe crabs, hermit crabs, some kind of larger crab, conches, and mussels (HUGE hit!), some interesting information about the marine sanctuaries 20-30 miles off the coast, nature trails, boardwalks into the marshes, and picnic tables. We had a great little outing there. Afterwards we went to the nearest state park (Skidaway Island) and played at the playground there. They have terrific (HUGE) camping sites there, and only 20 minutes from home! Papa will likely get zero vacation time in the foreseeable future (long story), but he might be able to camp-commute from Skidaway Island! :)

We've also been busy preparing for pesach... The kids are making their own haggadahs, and we're doing a lot of singing. And lots of cleaning. So far, so good. I have my (simple) menus done. We keep our pesach budget within our normal food budget. We do have a little more meat that week, but I don't buy any prepared foods at all, except one small bottle of ketchup. And matzo, of course. With so many yom tov meals, we keep the food relatively simple. Seder night is pretty light too. By 10:30 pm, who feels like eating a large meal??? We usually just have soup, fish, salads, meat, and dessert, in relatively small portions.

My cleaning plan doesn't look too bad. I do want to do a little more decluttering and putting away a few more things so it looks nicer, but that's not part of cleaning out chametz. With only two months worth of chametz around, there really isn't much to do. Bathrooms and bedrooms are all inspected and cleaned. I did find a stray mostly-eaten banana under Raizel's bed today (!). I'll detail the living room towards the end of next week, and get the car cleaned. I'd like to switch the kitchen over the Wednesday before pesach so I can do a little cooking before shabbos comes. Pesach cleaning really has me loving the size of our house. Housecleaning takes quite a bit less time. Even just eliminating the stairs has been a good thing. I like being able to fold our lives into a very modest-sized house. It really feels good to me.

OH! At the end of last week we decided to go letterboxing (see for information). I love letterboxing because it takes you to places you would never otherwise discover. We ended up in this little tiny park about five miles from here. It has a dock out on the tidal river there. In warm weather, people there said it was great for seeing dolphins. We saw the long-tailed grackles, pelicans, herons, egrets, terns, gulls, and even a kingfisher that landed on the pier and laughed at me quite loudly. Miri saw a marsh rabbit. We found really stinky mushrooms. They're orange, and I think they have the word "stink" in their name, but I can't quite remember. The letterbox was easy to find (under the bathroom building at the back), and it had a hand-carved dolphin stamp. Sadly, I hadn't been able to locate our letterboxing record book before we left, or an ink pad, so we just signed our names (our letterboxing name is The Ninth Earl, as in Earl IX, ha ha), and decided we'd have to come again to stamp our book with the dolphin stamp. I also bought a knife and an eraser block so we can carve our own stamp and plant our own letterbox somewhere. Not sure where yet, but the area near the aquarium might be good, or the state park.

So... lots of good adventures, lots of good learning, lots of good cooking. Dean's work has been very stressful, and the schedule rather horrendous. HR has refused to allow him to work Sundays in lieu of Jewish holidays, but we'll pursue further conversations and insist on "reasonable accommodation" which this would be. They told Dean he could take the day as a vacation day or a day without pay, but that he still had to meet his deadlines. Therefore, he would have to work Sundays anyway AND take a vacation day. Very frustrating. He has come home each evening pretty worn out after 10- to 12-hour days, but we are grateful to be away from the constant threat of layoffs, and grateful to be here in Savannah of all places. We sure do miss the Portland Metro buses!!!! The schedules here are pretty, well, nonexistent. In the mornings, the wait is only up to 10-15 minutes longer than in the written schedule, but coming home it's 30-40 minutes off! And there's no predictability. So he's been taking the car into work a couple of days per week. We can plan our outings around that pretty easily, so it's not that big a deal, but it was awfully nice when it was an easy bus ride to and from work.

Enough procrastination. Time to be up and about getting ready for shabbos...

A Literary Moment

Red crayon stowaway.
Hot wash, efficient drier.
White shabbos clothes.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Quote of the Week

While we were discussing the seder plate during learning time this morning...

Raizel: Why do we have to put gross-it on our sandwiches??

(She actually meant "charoset.")

Friday, March 5, 2010

The Menu

Ah, shabbos. B"H! I'm pretty sure Hashem did the cooking today too. Either that, or I was sleepwalking. Actually, I was probably sleepwalking, since I can't seem to fall asleep until 4:00 from all the coughing I keep doing!! Hoping that day #12 of this cough means it's almost over... I've had a bug for 28 of the 41 days we've been here. I rarely get sick!

For tonight:

teriyaki crockpot chicken
cabbage salad
stir-fried eggplant
brown rice
miso soup
apricot cake

For lunch:


- surimi/avocado/cucumber
- omelet/sweet potato
- cucumber
- cucumber/cream cheese
- avocado/cream cheese/green onion

plus miso soup and salads

plus a nap, or two or three...

Good shabbos!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Tybee Island

Today we had a lovely afternoon outing to Tybee Island to play on the beach. A dead battery only delayed us for about forty-five minutes. We got there around 4:00, walked out on the long pier, then played in the sand for a little while before going to pick up papa. The beach is wide and long, and not many people there today in the middle of the week in late winter. We saw many wonderful sea birds, talked to several very nice people along the way, peeked in the windows of the marine science center right after it had closed for the day, and went on our way.

Here is a path up and over to the beach, or you can walk
through the pavilion out onto the long pier.
(I could almost imagine I was on the MB pier where I grew up!)

Eli's mouth was agape because he was looking at what's in the next picture...

Just beautiful!

Avi enjoyed it too.

Playing in the sand was fun too.

Then off to pick up my hard-working DH. The building in the
center is the mid-19th-century building where his office is.

And this is the square where the Bigs play if we get to
papa's work a few minutes early. Notice the cobblestones!

Most of the time I just look around and can't believe we're actually living here. I thought Portland was a beautiful place and that we'd never find a place to live with a Jewish community that was as beautiful. I was dead wrong, and Savannah pretty much comes in ahead of Portland in that regard.

Our Restaurant-Style Kitchen

I just wanted to share some pictures of our not-award-winning kitchen design which I L-O-V-E for it's practicality in preparing food for six people, most of whom eat at home all day. These industrial-strength shelves used to be in our garage (when we had a garage!). Our new kitchen is about the same size as our old kitchen, but missing the wall of cabinets we put in when we moved in. Adding these shelves made it nearly equivalent to our old kitchen storage space. All the tall things go on top (it's nice to be tall!!), home-canned goods on one shelf (but I do want to switch those to one of the darker shelves; they last better if not exposed to much light), two shelves for meat dishes, two shelves for pareve dishes, and two shelves for dairy dishes. My baking stuff is in a kitchen cabinet near the stove, as are all the pareve and dairy plates, silverware, and glasses. All the meat plates and serving dishes are in the china cabinet in the dining room.

Underneath the shelving are the barrels that hold our bulk grains, beans, and flours. I love having them handy right in the kitchen. I don't need to keep extra containers of the bulk stuff now; I can just take it directly from the barrel.

I also really love our ancient brown floor. No dirt shows on it at all. Nothing marks it up. Which is saying a lot with twelve feet constantly trampling across it (unless mama's cooking!!).

One other thing I would really like to add is a rim of metal shelving all around the kitchen about a foot below the ceiling to hold all of my waiting-to-be filled canning jars. I'd also like to figure out a way to make a pull out table from the shelving so I could have extra counter space when needed. The counter space I do have is pretty small, especially since it's shared with the mixer, blender, coffee bean roaster, and food processor. What I do really like about it is that I am forced to clean up right away every time I do anything, and it only takes about three minutes!

Next to the shelving I squeezed in both of our refrigerators. I had the extra one out on the back porch, but started thinking that it would probably get pretty expensive to keep it running over the late spring/summer/early fall. So in it came! I still need to assign parts of the refrigerator to different food items so we're not looking all through both refrigerators for a particular item, but I should get to that soon. On top I store fruits. In the bottom of our little pantry closet (about the size of a door, and about 14 inches deep), I was able to put in the remaining vegetable racks to hold potatoes, onions, etc., our recycling bin, and our quarts of grape juice.

So, I'm really enjoying our restaurant-style kitchen! And I drool every time I drive by the restaurant-supply shop on the way to pick up Dean at work. We'll have to check it out some time.

Lizard Answer!

Here's the answer we got from the lizard lab:

The lizard you found is the brown color phase of the green anole. This is a very common lizard in the southeast that is often called a "chameleon" because it can change color from brown to green depending on temperature and activity level. They are generally brown when cool or inactive, so it is not surprising that the one you saw was brown at this time of year. You can learn more about this species at:

So now we know!

Freiliche Purim!

Our first Savannah purim was lovely! Eli and Amirah went to shul with papa for the early megillah reading, and I went to a house around the corner for the late reading for those of us with young children.

This morning we finished filling our shalach manos bags with oranges, bagels, and peach hamantaschen. Then we made our deliveries hither, thither, and yon. Then to a carnival with lots of inflatable jumping things and later a community seudah at the shul. The kids all had such a great time! This is the first purim in a while where I feel like the arrival of purim didn't completely take me by surprise.

Amirah and Raizel were princesses (just like in real life). Eli was the Haberdasher of Habersham (Habersham is a street near us). Purim night he was all dressed up in a suit and vest and looked quite dashing. And Avi mostly refused costumes, but we did get fish hat on him just long enough to take a picture. Hope everyone had a freiliche purim!