Monday, August 30, 2010

Skidaway Island State Park

We've had five days below 90 degrees in the last week! It makes quite a difference in how good it feels to be outside. Dean had to work today, and will probably have to work all the Sundays in August and September to get through a busy time at work, plus taking all the yamim tovim off.

I packed a little picnic and took the kids out to Skidaway Island State Park. It's such a lovely place, and not that far away. We ate lunch and played on the playground, then took a lovely walk along the trails there. We saw many beautiful birds, butterflies, dragonflies, a raccoon just a few feet away, and a skink.

We also spent about an hour in the nature center. They have a reptile room (where we watched a snake eat a mouse), a room full of fossils, artifacts, and the fossil skeleton of a 20-foot-tall giant sloth, and lots of displays about local flora and fauna. We had a great time. The highlight was the bird observation room. They had one-way glass and lots of feeders set up outside. There was a big shelf of binoculars and a spotting scope set up. There were hundreds of birds out there. Just delightful to sit back in the comfy chairs and watch all the activity.

After that, we went and got everyone new shoes since this morning they all decided to outgrow theirs. We went to Good Will first hoping for luck there, but none were to be found. I always have fantastic luck finding clothes for Amirah and not much luck finding clothes for the others. The one exception is boys' pants which we didn't need. So Amirah got a few new outfits for now and for the future (I'll buy things 1-2 sizes ahead of it's something that will be really nice for later). Then off to Payless where we always find shoes, although Eli has bought the same shoes three sizes in a row! There may not be a lot of variety in the shoes, but there's always something. :)

When we were all done we picked up Dean at work and then suddenly Sunday was over. And now technically it's Monday and the holidays are fast approaching, I have to do something about obtaining 200+ pounds of grapes and juicing them (how, though?? and what variety??), would really like a new sink in before Rosh Hashanah, and the cat-pee-filled floors replaced not much after that. The kitchen needs some electrical work as well. Then there's that learning time-housecleaning-cooking thing. Hmmmmm... somehow things get done and the chagim arrive. I just can't quite visualize it at this time.

So what did I do instead tonight? Got us a 4-night reservation for November on a cattle ranch in South Carolina. It will be our reward for getting through all of these tricky Sundays with DH at work. A lovely little respite for us after a very, very full eleven (by then) months.

Good night, all!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Preserved Lemons

I initially liked to make preserved lemons because I adore, adore, adore (understatement) Moroccan food. Chicken and olives with preserved lemons is a classic dish. Lately, I've been experimenting with other uses for it and here are two ideas I came up with.

1) Almost every shabbos I make a giant tray of roasted vegetables - whatever is in the fridge. A few weeks ago I started slicing up one half of a preserved lemon in addition to olive or canola oil, kosher salt, and garlic. WOW! It was so good. The real surprise? It was an unimaginably perfect companion to the roasted green peppers. I never would have guessed that.

2) I have a quick chicken dish I make somewhat often where I just take rice + the amount of water needed to cook the rice into a baking pan. I replace about 1/2 cup of the water with lemon juice. Then I set chicken legs and thighs on top, sprinkle with garlic salt and bake, sometimes in a slow oven, sometimes in a fast oven depending on how much time I have. It always comes out delicious, and it's also our traditional pre-fast meal (sans the garlic salt). This time when I made it, I used Basmati rice instead of brown rice and diced up half of a preserved lemon. WOW! The rice baked in the chicken juices with the preserved lemon was simply out of this world.

I can't wait to experiment some more. I just put up 20 more lemons (3 quarts, which will probably compress down to 2 quarts in a few days). I still have a few lemons left. For such a simple thing they pack a lot of flavor into a dish. I'm looking forward to experimenting with other pickled/preserved veggies, especially since I have nearly completely missed the whole summer fruit season. My canning jars are sitting sadly empty this year. I think I have a few good excuses, though! Just hoping I can manage to make grape juice in the next couple of weeks before we miss that season too.

Good shabbos, all!

The Menu

Well, instead of lots of unpacking and organizing, this week it's definitely been a week lost (in a good way!) to learning and preparation. On top of that, instead of doing some cooking last night I cuddled with Amirah and Raizel and fell asleep in Amirah's bed - for THREE HOURS! Oops. So... I planned another of those quick-in-the-kitchen menus. Here 'tis:

spring rolls (rice paper) with inari (fake crab) and raw vegetables
chicken teriyaki
Basmati rice with preserved lemons
cucumber salad
green salad with ginger vinaigrette
chocolate cake

and for lunch...

most of the above
and turkey deli sandwiches

Amirah's Kodesh Studies

Here is what we are doing for Amirah's kodesh studies right now:

We are using The Linear Chumash which has 2-3 Hebrew words per line, with the English translation directly opposite it. I wish the type were a little larger, but otherwise it works fine. She is reading from her chumash, and I am reading the same text from Rashi. Amirah reads it in Hebrew and English line by line. After reading it alternating English and Hebrew, then I have her read it once through all in Hebrew. I usually add in a Rashi comment if there is something that she would find interesting. Then we go through the verse and identify the shoreshim (word roots), prefixes, suffixes, etc. We have also started a book of shoreshim to add to as we go. For my own reference, I am using the excellent, excellent pdf of Bereishis from It highlights all the vocabulary and grammar for me making it very easy to coach Amirah through it (and to make sure I'm not making any oopses!). This is a *huge* time saver for me. Chumash is definitely my and Amirah's favorite kodesh time.

This is an excellent series for grammar. We worked through Book A last year, started Book B during the summer, then we lost the book :( and haven't yet gone back to it. I was hoping it would turn up during the move, but it hasn't. So, I really need to order Book B and the rest of the series.

After davening, I always read the parsha plus some illustrative stories from KinderTorah. KinderTorah has some of the better "real life" illustrations of parsha principles that I've seen so it's a pleasure to read. While I read stories, they are welcome to draw or play quietly.

This book gives us lots of Hebrew grammar and writing practice. We generally do two pages per day. About half of it we do orally (if the exercise works orally) and the other half is written. We are more than halfway through the first book, and we're hoping to finish this one and book B this year.

Of course, the most important part is our daily davening! We're just doing our same routine, but will be adding new tefillos in the next couple of weeks. We're also going through each tefillah much like we go through the chumash so that we know the meaning of every word. Rav Schwab's book On Prayer provides continuing wonderful insights into the meaning of various tefillos.

In addition to that, several nights per week we do a 5-minute lesson from the Chofetz Chaim Family Lesson a Day on the laws of lashon hara. (Lashon hara = bad speech, i.e. gossiping, slandering, etc.) We are also continuing to use Berel Wein's Jewish history book to study what was happening to the Jews at the same time as what we are reading about in Story of the World. We're also about to start a unit on the laws of food berachos, which we'll mostly study at the dinner table. As soon as we've learned one law, we'll learn about the next one. After the holidays we'll study the 39 melachos, and before the holidays we'll study... THE HOLIDAYS!

So, in a nutshell that is a summary of our kodesh studies. Generally, Amirah and all the others have about 45 minutes of kodesh time together, then Amirah has 60-75 minutes by herself. While our schedule looks a bit thick, it actually consists of short, dense lessons. And since our time is dedicated precisely to her needs, it does not need to be all that long.

B"H we're off to a good start, other than still not remembering how I ever made dinner and cleaned house too! Our chumash studies are really a thrill. How fun to get to do that with my own child. Very exciting!

Soon, bli neder, I will also write about what we do for our secular studies.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Quotes of the Week


Eli: Tooting is my defense mechanism. It means I am yucky and don't taste very good.

(I'll leave it to your imagination what "tooting" is...)


Eli: Why are there more non-Jews than Jews?

Amirah: Because the meat is cheaper.


The cichlids got sick. Today our learning time was a bit, er, unconventional. It consisted of lessons in pH, substrate, salts, antibiotics, acquiring a sample of monitor skin from the aquarium store (to put under the microscope), petting a gigantic tortoise as it took its exercise in same store, hoping that Crunchy recovers from his infection, wondering what his infected area would look like under a microscope, observing major changes in the social order and behavior of the fish, catching a suckerfish that leapt straight out of the water while we were trying to transfer him back to the tank, and then deciding that, by the time this was all taken care of, we might as well just clean house instead of pull out any of our learning materials.

The house isn't exactly ahead in the clean department, but at least it's not too far behind, and the learning room got spruced up a little more. That and finishing our Zoology 2 book and reading a couple of chapters of a Nancy Drew mystery pretty much summed up our day before dinner. Learning comes from lots of different places. We take things as they come to us!

Pillow Mail

Amirah's favorite subject is definitely not writing. I suspect it's something to do with the physical act of writing. Narrations she'll do ad infinitum and not skip a beat. If a task involves writing, however, she'll try to do as little as she can get away with. Her pencil grip is correct so there's no interference there. Her writing does look nice. It may just be something that will take a little more time to become more effortless.

So... I had been brainstorming over different ways to incorporate writing activities that would be as inviting as possible. Hence, the invention of Pillow Mail. Amirah and I picked out a cute little notebook. I wrote her a short letter, then put the book under her pillow. She found it, and a little while later there was a letter to me under my pillow. When I have a chance I'll write back to her and back and forth it will go. She really likes the idea and is enthusiastically writing away. I hope to come up with a few more activities like this that will hook her into the act of writing and give her some pleasure. And who wouldn't love finding secret messages from their dear daughter under their pillow?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Our New Schedule

At last, we've cranked up to full-steam ahead. Except the part about having dinner ready. I haven't figured out how to do that again. Or how to have the house cleaned (kind of, sort of) long before 11:00 pm. (10:00 would be good!)

So, for now, this is a day in the life of the Alpidarko Family. :)

8:45, davening
9:30, breakfast
10:00, parsha stories, studying chagim (holidays), Hebrew songs
10:45, Amirah's kodesh studies (mostly chumash and Hebrew)
11:45, Eli's studies, part A (math, writing)
12:15, Raizel's studies (math, writing, Hebrew)
12:45, lunch
1:30, story time (science alternating with history + our current readaloud)
2:15, history or science activity w/all (if needed)
2:30, Amirah's chol studies (language arts and math)
3:45, Eli's studies, part B (Hebrew, reading)

This is all pretty approximate. I don't stick to the clock to the minute at all. Sometimes I'll skip Raizel's time if we're a little behind. Or if we're running well ahead of schedule I'll skip a subject here and there. (Being ahead is good; we can bank it for sick time later!)

I'll elaborate more on Amirah's studies in another post. We've been having a good time so far, and I'm really happy with the materials we're using. We're still waiting for a supplementary box of books of logic puzzles, one-minute mysteries, etc. to spice up our day a little.

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Menu

Here 'tis:

tilapia fish cakes
roasted eggplant, peppers, and onion with preserved lemons
mashed sweet potatoes
baked potatoes with tofu sour cream
chicken with barbecue sauce
chocolate cake

(Still in minimalist mode!)

And for lunch...

Eating out!

Down For a Few Days!

After Amirah's fever and recovery she seemed to get worse again. In fact, this morning all of her symptoms mirrored exactly the list of symptoms for meningitis! B"H it's just strep, and as an afterthought I had Eli tested while we were at the doctor's. Both of them were positive. So, now all the kids are on antibiotics - a prophylactic for Raizel and Avi. Very glad it was just strep.

Needless to say, with all of that we just did a small amount of learning time this week. But what we did learn about was very interesting!

•The final fall of the Roman Empire, the conquering Barbarians, and the fearsome Celts.

•Jellyfish - not as simple as they appear, especially with their incredible system of rapid-firing nematocysts. WOW!

•Readalouds: Two Nancy Drew mysteries plus the Chofetz Chaim/Family Lesson a Day on the laws of speech

•Math - Amirah started Level 2 in Singapore Math. It's mostly just review, so I was able to pass her the book to go work on at her desk. Eli is gleefully tearing through Level 1, and Raizel is doing the same with her kindergarten book. They all really like math, especially Eli.

•Language - We're memorizing a new poem (anyone remember The Goops??!!)

•Chumash - We're reading through the first parsha of the torah now. What a pleasure! We started a shoresh list too (shoresh is a word root, upon which many related words are based).

•Tefillah - We're mostly focusing on fluent translation of all our daily berachos.

•Hebrew - We're just reviewing male/female verb and adjective forms and working quickly through the second half of Yesodos Halashon, Book A.

So... a nice half-week, more or less. Since we didn't do any learning today I was able to tackle those last few boxes. I think I only have 2 or 3 boxes left now. Mostly a bunch of learning/office supplies and a box of games that just need to go into the games closet. I also had a chance to give the floors a good mop. They felt great! For about 15 minutes! :) My next project is to organize our learning supplies in a useful way and make good use of my mama-only storage cabinet! Hoping to tackle that Saturday night.

Off to bed now, and hoping that Amirah has a much more restful night than last night!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Our Latest Projects

What a few weeks it's been! B"H Amirah's fever was fast and furious and by Saturday afternoon she was completely fine. DH and Eli are still coughing the nights away, however, poor guys. :(

Slowly but surely, a few more boxes are getting emptied. For some reason, that last 10% of unpacking always takes forever! Several little boxes full of little pieces of this and that. Not the most exciting part of unpacking, and I've been dragging my heels.

There are a couple of things we need to do with the house... add a fence for the side yard, replace the kitchen sink, and the learning room and music room (not the playroom any more!) really need a new floor. I read a bunch about installing a tile floor, and it's really not hard so I may tackle that. I've done lots of mosaics, and this is just as simple so I think we could handle it. Assuming the subfloor is in good shape, of course! The worn-out carpet in both rooms is really full of cat urine smells. BLEAH.

Other things we're doing... I set up our worm composting bin and now we're waiting for the arrival of our worms. All of our kitchen scraps will get fed to the worms, and the castings will make really great compost!

I also just re-ordered kefir grains. I did that for a year or so in Portland, and it's delicious. Ran into the opportunity to order some more for just a few dollars, so I did that. It's a delicious drink and I'm looking forward to restarting it. The grains grow, so if anyone in Savannah wants to try it I can share in a few months!

I just finished up the last of our orders for learning materials for the coming year. Got some art supplies... the usual suspects: black construction paper, metallic markers, oil pastels, black sharpies, large set of colored pencils... A lot of other supplies we still have left from last year like watercolor paper, crayons, craft materials, etc. I also got a few things to spice up our learning time like One-Minute Mysteries (you get the clues and have to solve the mystery). I also got some tangram, geoboard, and pattern block challenge puzzle books, some new (to us) Draw Write Now books, a few books on the middle ages, and a kit to build a medieval castle. I may have a couple more things to order for kodesh studies then that should do it.

We did a little learning today, mostly history and math. We're also excitedly tearing through several Nancy Drew mysteries. Mysteries are definitely Amirah and Eli's favorite genre. Non-fiction science is high up there too.

So that's some of the latest around here. We'll be doing learning in the mornings only this week, and hopefully unpacking the last of the boxes and playing with friends in the afternoons. I got the pantry cleared out of boxes today. All that's left in that room is to remove 50-60 (!) cans of paint to an outside storage area. Then we can put all of our games and cleaning supplies there right below the PESACH CUPBOARDS! I can't believe we have pesach cupboards, but then I really can't believe we have this house at all...

So there you have it! Life goes on and Hashem is good!

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Menu

Virus City around here. Amirah has a really high fever now that came on suddenly in the late afternoon. Eli isn't feeling well either, but not as bad as Amirah. DH has a mild version, thanks to Chinese herbs (Yin Chiao), and B"H mine is almost gone so I can take care of everyone else! I think tomorrow we'll be lying around reading lots of goods and missing the friends we were going to spend shabbos afternoon with. :(

And the menu again is an abbreviated version of the usual...

For dinner:

roasted vegetables with preserved lemons
garlic lemon chicken
garlic lemon potatoes
green salad
roasted eggplant
peach cake

And for lunch:

anything that's leftover

with other options being...

steak and bok choi salad
other salad combinations that fall out of the fridge

lots of veggie ingredients to mix and match however we want!

Good shabbos, all!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Flat Stanley

We are participating in a Flat Stanley project with homeschooling families around the country. Amirah dictated a letter about her life here that will go with the picture of herself to the participating families. Here's the letter!



My name is Amirah Binyaminah Earlix. I am seven years old. I have two brothers and one sister. My brother, Eli, is five years old. My little sister, Raizel, is four. My littlest brother, Avi, is two. My parents’ names are Kerith and Dean Earlix. We adopted Avi and Raizel from Ethiopia two years ago. I wish we could go back and adopt three more sisters and a brother.

We live in Savannah, Georgia. We moved here from Portland, Oregon in January. We really enjoy Savannah. We get a very tiny bit of snow every few years. The summers are humid and very hot. The best seasons here are fall, spring, and winter. We are twenty-five minutes away from the ocean. Downtown has horses and buggies and cobblestone streets. Downtown is very, very old. There are lots of alligators, jellyfish, and dolphins in the waters around here.

We have a 35-gallon fish tank with four cichlids and a suckerfish. We also have two hermit crabs. We used to have a cat, but he died at 19. We also used to have two guppies. They died not too long ago. We’re hoping to get chickens and ducks soon, and also some worms to make compost.

My favorite subject is science, especially zoology. My least favorite subject is writing. I like to do art projects, especially painting with messy paints. I also like to go camping.

Our family is Jewish. My favorite day of the week is called shabbos. It starts on Friday night. We spend all day Friday cooking and cleaning. We make a special bread called challah to eat with every meal. It tastes delicious. Before dinner, I go to the synagogue with my father. I like the synagogue because there are a lot of friends there to play with. Afterwards, we come home and sing and eat a special meal. The next day, I go back to the synagogue with my father for the whole morning. Most times, my mother comes to the synagogue with my brothers and sister after the 3-hour service is over. We talk and visit then go home or to a friend’s house for lunch. The rest of the day is for resting, playing, and listening to torah stories. At the end of the day we go back to synagogue, then after that a new week begins!


Amirah Earlix


Now we just have to get our first package ready to send off. A fun project! We'll be keeping track of where the other Flat Stanley letters come from, and where ours go to, and learn a little US geography along the way.

Friday, August 6, 2010

The Menu

This is my "I'm too tired" menu! :)

minute steaks (small package for a treat)
roast chicken
roasted sweet potato
baked potatoes
green salad
marinated vegetable salad
lemon pie (which I just burned, er, overbrowned!)

and for lunch...


Good shabbos, all!

Long Time, No Blog!

We've been a bit busy! Camp for the three bigs, moving down the street, unpacking, and fighting various viruses (thanks to camp, no doubt!).

Top headlines:

The kids have had a GREAT time at camp.

I had a great time packing and unpacking with most of the kids at camp.

We acquired a 35-gallon aquarium with 4 cichlids and 1 suckerfish for peanuts (the fish are 5-7 inches long!). Perfect for the marine biology class we're in the midst of! Hermit crabs fit in with that unit too (although ours are land crabs). We like our "classroom pets."

The house is lovely, lovely. I'm so glad we moved here and can't wait to get some fencing up to enlarge the area of the backyard. Looking forward to putting together new bookshelves and beds when we get an opportunity, hopefully on Sunday.

The hermit crabs have been playing musical shells. Kind of fun to wake up and see who is where!

I'm fighting a bad cold and dreadfully tired, but looking forward to shabbos and lots of sleep. Hoping to be back to full steam on Sunday to get closer to being done with the unpacking. We're really down to books and a few miscellaneous boxes. I also need to do some organizing in our learning room so that's all ready. We'll probably take the coming week off, more or less. Maybe just some reading and science. Get the last of the stuff put away. Then the following week we'll be back at it! The holidays are really early this year, so I want to get an early start.

So... next, the menu!