Wednesday, September 22, 2010


After most of my grocery shopping expeditions (which are usually 9:30-11:00 p.m.), Eli wakes up, jumps out of bed and helps me unload the car. (I'm hoping that before that he's been getting some sleep!) This happened while savta was here for sukkos, and this is what he said as he put away potatoes, cereal, and applesauce: "I love to help you mommy. I love you SO much and I love savta SO much too! I'm happy, happy, happy!"

This has been Eli for several months now. He has left the 4-year-old tantrums completely behind and is really humming along, B"H. His tantrums had started to fade in the winter, then last spring he had a month where he had a burst of two or three per week, then that was it! Very minor ones (like 60-second fits!), but that's all, B"H!

I'm really cherishing the easy, snuggly time we're having with him. Trying to record all the moments in my mind so I can still remember it when I'm 120, be"h. So far, life seems to be going by in real time. I really don't think "WOW! Amirah is 7 already!" I really still feel like I've plodded through all seven of those years. I'm sure when I'm 60 it will feel differently, but for right now I like it that life isn't flying by me too fast.

Chag Sukkot Sameach!

No time, no time, no time. Sukkot always seems to come in with a giant rush, and here we are.

The food for Wednesday night/Thursday/Friday:

roast lamb
roast veggies w/preserved lemon
Greek lemon garlic potatoes
oatmeal/peanut butter/chocolate bars
Moroccan spiced croaker
turkey roll
Basmati rice with preserved lemon
Moroccan eggplant/tomato stuff (technical term)
apple cheesecake
harira w/lamb

For shabbos........

a bunch of veggies
some kind of meat
rice or potatoes
some kind of dessert

and for shabbos lunch........

and some other stuff

Cooking less than I did for Rosh Hashanah. Guests twice, eating out once. Should be lovely!!

Chag sukkot sameach to all!

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Menu

Well, not THE menu, but the pre-yom kippur menu. This year shabbos and yom kippur coincide, so no shabbos cooking for us this week. But we will eat a festive meal right before yom kippur starts, and here 'tis:

baked chicken
basmati rice and preserved lemons
steamed veggie (carrots??)
apple strudel

Then 25 hours of not eating or drinking. I really do love yom kippur. To me, the air crackles and hashem's presence is very close. The liturgy is the most beautiful and moving of the whole year. It's a very special time for the Jewish people.

A chatima tova and a tzom kal to all who are fasting!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Morning Learning/Afternoon Outing

This morning we got up and jumped through our learning time lickety split (mostly just the things that *had* to get finished up before our sukkos vacation begins). Then we packed up a little lunch and had a picnic at Skidaway Island State Park. Before going to the picnic area we cruised through the campground thinking we would look to see which campsites were the good ones. Turns out the most of them are very nice and very spacious. We're going to see if we can go camping for a few days after the yamim tovim are over. We get a few nights free with our state park pass, and Dean could camp-commute. There would be plenty of things to do there during the day if he took the car. So, we'll see!

Skidaway is one of my favorite places, and being only five miles from our house that's very nice indeed! Here are some pics from our visit there...

We had lots of fun at the playground!

After that we headed to the nearby aquarium, one of our other favorite places. Pictures are uploading excruciatingly slowly, so I'll post more another time. It was just really nice to get out for the afternoon. I started thinking maybe on Wednesdays we'll make a habit of finishing up by lunchtime, then going on an outing.

The rest of the week is rolling towards us. Tomorrow morning we get a new sink (yay!). Then Yom Kippur is Friday/Saturday, then Savta comes on Sunday, and we get ready for the lovely sukkos holiday. No learning time that week! Then in October, time returns to normal. Looking forward to the coming days.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Great Deals!

I've found a few good deals recently... Got a great pair of shoes at Marshall's for $5.00. Very comfortable, and I know it's a very durable brand too. And Good Will (which I'm finding I love even more than Value Village even though the selection is much smaller) had some great stuff this week! First, I got a really nice shabbos skirt for $3.49 that goes down to my ankles. Hard for this 5' 11" lady to find ankle-length anything! :) Then, much to my dismay, I found a beautiful shabbos robe for $5.00. It looked like my size, but I figured even if it wasn't I had to buy it anyway and give it to someone. It turned out to have been tailor-made for me. These robes usually cost $125-180, so this was a real coup. We also always cruise the books there to see if there's anything to add to our library. Sure enough, some good children's literature from pre-1950, some easy reading books for Eli, a coloring book of antique cars for Eli, and a Fannie Farmer cookbook for me.

The whole reason we were at Good Will at all is because we had to go to the Humane Society. And the reason we had to go to the Humane Society was to drop off a very sweet, very pretty, very well-behaved little grey cat that had decided to adopt us. Unfortunately, we weren't interested in adopting her right now and we hope someone else will soon. She was around for three weeks, though, and Amirah handled taking the dear kitty to the Humane Society very well. The check-in clerk did her best to persuade us to keep her and I did my best to make sure Amirah didn't hear all the reasons we should take her! A required "donation" a short goodbye to Florence and we were on our way.

So, that was yesterday's excitement. Lunch break is almost over and we'll be reading about Family Ursidae (bears), reading the latest Boxcar Children mystery, working on our Hebrew (yesterday/today/tomorrow and dates), digging holes in the back yard, cleaning off the sukkah pad (including pouring boiling water on the weeds in the cracks), doing three pages of math (adding 3-digit numbers to 2-digit numbers), phonics lessons for three of the kids, adding to Amirah's ocean mural in her bedroom, doing some English cursive practice, taking a quick spelling test to see how much we can skip in our spelling book, doing writing and math with the two middles, and maybe dragging out a bunch of paints at the end of it all.

Already done is mapping the Byzantine Empire and discussing the just (to the Christians) and unjust (to the Jews) laws that Emperor Justinian enacted (and how it wasn't nearly as bad for the Jews as the Roman Empire!), a grammar lesson on linking verbs, chumash study, yom kippur study (including discussion of what a chesbon hanefesh is - a personal accounting of what we have done right or wrong in the last hours or days or months or year!), a few pages in a science book that has logic exercises (very interesting!), our daily davening, writing a two-sentence dictation exercise and LUNCH.

Seems like a lot, but most of our lessons are short and sweet (15 minutes), longer for Hebrew, reading, and math. It's a nice variety and the kids are happy with most everything. We're still fine-tuning our schedule and our materials a bit, but that should all settle down soon.

Wishing everyone a good day/week/month/year!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Quote of the Week

Raizel: "Mama, can you read me Fun With Chicken Jane?"

Ready or not... it comes! Rosh Hashanah arrives in 19 hours, and with it the year 5771. Needless to say, a lot of cooking has been happening around here. I don't feel entirely on top of it, but here's what we'll be eating...

Wednesday, dinner:
simanim (pomegranate, dates, apples/honey, roasted fish head, roasted carrots/beets)
raisin & apple challah
harira (Moroccan tomato/chick pea soup)
lamb ribs (DH just wrestled with an entire half-lamb and this is what we're trying first)
roasted potatoes
roasted carrots and beets
sweet potato apple puree
honey cake

Thursday, lunch:
raisin & apple challah
roasted red peppers
Moroccan fish (snapper w/ sweet peppers, served cold)
apricot chicken tagine
cous cous with veggies
Moroccan carrot salad
Moroccan eggplant tomato salad
honey cake

Thursday, dinner:
simanim, plus starfruit for shehecheyanu
raisin & apple challah
tilapia cakes w/special sauce
matzo ball soup
chicken tagine with preserved lemons and olives
cous cous and salads from lunch
apple cake

Friday, lunch:
raisin & apple challah
green salad
eggplant parmesan
apple cheesecake

Friday, dinner:
raisin & apple challah
tilapia cakes w/special sauce
matzo ball soup
beef piroshki
mashed potatoes
roasted veggies
apple cake

Saturday, lunch:
raisin & apple challah
pastrami sandwiches
ad lib salads
whatever desserts are hanging around

And then I'll keel over and not get up until Monday! :)

Shanah tovah to you all! May you be inscribed in the Book of Life and may you have a year filled with torah, health, and good parnassah.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Weekday Menus


bagels and eggs

We had four other kids spending the night, so I thought part of our fun would include rolling out bagels. So, we did. And bagels and eggs it was.

Cost? About $0.45 per person! So, 10 people ate for about $4.50. (Cream cheese doubled the cost of the meal!)


potatoes with cholent

The cholent was free (May leftovers from shul!), and the potatoes were cheap. Another almost free dinner.

Cost? I would guess about $0.50 per adult serving. The whole family ate for about $2.25.


pinto bean veggie burgers (2 cups pre-soaked/frozen/defrosted pinto beans, 3 cloves garlic, 1/4 c. flour, 1 T. cumin, 1/2 onion... I think!)
spinach salad (spinach, lemon juice, oil, salt)

Every time I make veggie burgers I say I have to do it more often. Sometimes I add oatmeal. I most often use pintos, black beans, or chick peas. I grind all the ingredients together in the food processor, then pan-fry the patties. It takes *very* little time to make and it's nice to have a bean dish that doesn't have to sit on the stove forever.

Total cost? $0.25 per burger (including condiments and a homemade bun) and $0.20 per adult serving of spinach salad. Adults had 2 burgers (they're small) plus salad for a cost of $0.70 per adult! The whole family ate for $2.75. (The kids mostly had no condiments, except ketchup.)


All of these frugal meals will help to make up for what is coming... three days of yamim tovim! I've already baked a lot for the meals to come, and we're hosting every day except the first night. Hopefully, I'll get our food list up before yom tov starts tomorrow night!

Monday, September 6, 2010

And no...

...I didn't just spend all night typing up those posts. These were written over the course of several days. What did I do tonight?

Tucked 8 kids into bed (4 borrowed, 4 natives). That took 90 minutes.

Cleaned up with my new enormous dust pan. WOW.

Finished up (and start!) my holiday menus and shopping list.

Tallied up our learning to date to see what we have to finish in our "month." (I'm counting August/September as one month because of all the holidays and our mid-August start plus a visit from savta - YAY!)

Started the dishwasher. Again.

Realized that we'll never make it through three days of shabbos/yom tov meals with our current quota of tablecloths. Then I remembered plastic covers. :)

Realized that I'd better figure out how to turn on the sabbath mode on our oven so that our oven doesn't turn off during those three days rendering us unable to bake.

And now, finally, bleary-eyed, I will go to sleep. Even though I really ought to run another load of laundry.

But through it all, an overwhelming sense of gratitude to Hashem. For all these messes, for my husband's long hours, for our friends and family, for having parents that figured out what a family should be so we didn't have to, and for all the many, many, otherwise improbable things that brought us to this moment. BARUCH HASHEM!

Pizza Crust Recipe

Here's the recipe for the pizza crust!

5-1/2 cups flour

2 cups water
1-3/4 cups oil
1 heaping tablespoon yeast (or 2 packets)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt

Sometimes I add crushed garlic and herbs (oregano, basil, thyme). Sometimes I do it plain. Combine all ingredients and allow to rise for 15 minutes, or an hour, or punch down after an hour and let rise another hour. When I let it rise for only 15 minutes, it came out crispier. The risen dough makes a crust that is a bit fluffier.

I usually divide the dough in half and spread each half out in a jelly roll pan (18 x 13). You could also make individual round pizzas, but it's more space efficient to do a rectangular sheet. :)

I bake at 425 for about 15 minutes, then add on the toppings and bake until the cheese is melted.


Weeday Menus

It's been a long time (6+ months?) since I wrote up our weekday menus. I do it really for my own records (to find dinner ideas!), but also in the hopes that others can discover some new frugal menu items. It's also very interesting to become aware of what a homemade meal actually costs.

So, here's what we ate last week:

roasted tofu and veggies with cous cous

This was really good! I was in the mood for a whole bunch of vegetables, so this fit the bill. I roasted eggplant, zucchini, onions, garlic, and red and green peppers. I also diced up a cake of firm tofu, and of course one half of a preserved lemon, then tossed it all with a little oil, salt, and various herbs (thyme, oregano, basil). I also did a half-sheet of diced potatoes. I roasted it all at 450 for about 45-60 minutes. Served it on top of cous cous and YUM. It really was good. Lots of veggies left over which we'll recycle for tomorrow's dinner. I like roasting vegetables. It's a lot easier to eat all the vegetables you ought to in a day, since they shrink quite a bit!

COST: $5.50

pizza with leftover roasted vegetables for topping

This was just amazing. I don't know what made the crust so perfect but it was. I always use the Frugal Gourmet's focaccia recipe. This time I only had about 15-20 minutes to let it rise (I usually give it an hour). Then I had it mixing in the KitchenAid when I got distracted by something or other. Came back to the kitchen while it was still mixing away and the motor was getting rather hot. I'm sure it had been mixing for a good 15 minutes. The dough did have a lovely texture, though! The tofu and preserved lemon in the veggies was great on the pizza. Some goat cheese would have been a perfect addition, but we lacked any such cheese.

COST: $6.25
(plus another $6.25 for the second pizza that we ate for lunch the next day)

hamburgers and french fries

Homemade burgers on homemade buns with all the fixings? $0.95/each! ($0.79 for the burger, $0.06 for the bun, $0.10 for the condiments.) I do make small buns (2 ounces) and small patties (2-2/3 ounces AKA 1/6th of a pound). French fries (potatoes, oil, salt, matzo meal) cost about $1.90 for 6 people, so $0.35 per person. We grownups had two burgers each, so the total cost per adult was $2.25. Kid servings = $1.30 each.

COST: $9.70. 25% of the cost of eating out (not even an option here!), and twice as expensive as serving homemade veggie burgers.

omelet w/odds and ends of cheese and vegetables from the fridge
broccoli with Hollandaise sauce (leftover sauce from last week)
oatmeal bread, toasted

COST: $9.80

It's not really very intuitive that a hamburger and french fry dinner should cost less than an omelet dinner. Surprised me! Of course, the cheese I bought was twice as expensive as the meat!


COST: $6.00

Newest Favorite Food

I had these ages and ages ago and liked them then, and finally figured out how to get the ingredients and make them myself.

rice paper
thinly sliced veggies (cucumber, red pepper, carrot, green onion, lettuce, bean sprouts, cabbage, cilantro)
thinly sliced tofu (or you could probably use chicken or beef)

You just soak the rice paper in a bit of water for less than a minute. It will become completely limp. You place your veggies and tofu in the middle, then roll it like a blintz. Or you can roll it more like a bouquet of flowers. Dip it in sauce and... YUM! I crave this for lunch. I never get tired of it.

You can use all kinds of sauces: sweet chili sauce, soy/ginger/garlic/rice vinegar/corn starch sauce, Thai peanut sauce... It's good with everything. Definitely one of my favorite foods these days. That and preserved lemons. Can't get enough of those either.

Culinary delights on the mind with all the holidays coming... Tomorrow and Tuesday are going to be two VERY busy cooking days since I just got started today.

Friday, September 3, 2010

The Menu

AT LAST! My cooking fire got re-lit! Stove's fine, just my inspiration in the kitchen was lacking... :)

Here 'tis:

minute steaks (thanks to Kroger's 35% off deals!)
mashed potatoes
mashed sweet potatoes (the regular potatoes were supposed to be roasted but oldest DD really wanted mashed, so we're having double-mashed)
arugula and black cherry tomato salad (thanks to the *wonderful* Bluffton farmers market)
roasted tomatoes with fresh basil and garlic (ditto!)
roasted okra
roasted red pepper salad with preserved lemons and capers
white cake with lemon curd and macerated cherries

And for tomorrow...

lots of the above, plus...
beef cholent
plate of fresh heirloom tomatoes with basil (yay, Bluffton!)
marinated mushrooms
cucumber salad
and dessert from our wonderful lunch guests

The Bluffton farmers market was a wonderful trip yesterday. A culinary inspiration! So glad to have real vegetables. The prices were mostly the same as Kroger, but eggplants and heirloom tomatoes were less than half the cost. I wish it were closer - it's about a 40-minute drive. It might be worth doing 2x/month, though. Got so many yummy things: three kinds of tomatoes, okra, eggplant, peaches, muscadines, arugula (my favorite!!!!!!), basil (that you could smell half a block away!), dainty very white sweet potatoes... I'm sure I'm forgetting something.

Good shabbos, all!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Amirah's Secular Studies

Having already gone through what we're doing for kodesh (religious) studies this year, now I'll outline some of our plans for 2nd grade secular studies.

First Language Lessons - 2nd grade
LOVE this series. Very simple and very thorough and it takes only a few minutes per week. We skip all the dictation and writing exercises since it duplicates things we do in our Writing With Ease book.

Writing With Ease, Level 2
Level 2 takes a great leap forward, rather suddenly it seems to me. In the reading comprehension/narration sections the student is asked to answer many more "why" and "how" kinds of questions instead of "who" and "what." They are also asked in a semi-directed way to pull out the essential elements of a story by boiling down the main plot to 1 or 2 sentences. The copywork is also longer, but Amirah is really good at noticing fine details. Copywork has been very effective. The author's premise is that students should always have correctly-written models in front of them. Any mistakes are immediately corrected so they don't get "practiced." No inventive spelling here. I never saw the value in it when I was teaching in a school setting either.

Ordinary Parents' Guide to Teaching Reading
A couple more weeks of this and we should be DONE! It's been a long journey through this book and we're looking forward to wrapping it up. Right now we're working on three-syllable words that aren't compound words (i.e. contractor, episode, etc.). In the beginning we tried so many different reading books, and finally this is the one that truly won out. Eli is progressing through it now too, but more about Eli later! After we finish this, we'll be doing readaloud practice from the old-fashioned McGuffey Readers. These books include lessons in elocution and diction too! We'll start with Book 2 which is 3rd/4th grade reading material.

Spelling Workout B
For a while I was using an old-fashioned speller book, but the prep time was more than I wanted to spend on spelling. This book is just fine. The first word lists are very easy, so I'm giving her a spelling test, working on the 1 or 2 words she misses, having her do the proofreading and sentence-writing practice then moving on to the next unit. Right now we're doing 2-3 units per week. I'm guessing this will take half the year, then we'll move on.

Zaner-Bloser Handwriting
We're beginning cursive now. Fun words like wee, wit, it, and we. :) Miri really likes the flowing letters and how it feels to write them. Much more than she likes printing, it seems. The first half of the book is printing, the second half is cursive. Her printing was pretty good, but it's getting a little sloppier now so we may go back and do some more focused practice.

We recently read through four Nancy Drew books (HUGE hit!), and we are now reading Brighty of the Grand Canyon by Marguerite Henry. Excellent writing, as usual, and much to everyone's delight this one starts out with a mystery too.

Singapore Math 2A (Workbook & Intensive Practice)
I can't say enough how very much I love these books. The method is rock-solid and encourages very flexible mathematical thinking. Right now we're working on place value for 100s, 10s and 1s and learning how to make and say all those 3-digit numbers. Many things we do "off the books" with manipulatives. Mostly I just improvise this. There is a "Home Instructor's Guide" which is reportedly useful, but I'm still going off the cuff. I hope to carve out some time to actually READ the guide, but for now we're doing fine without it. The guide really requires some set aside sit-down time and scrutiny! In October, we'll start doing the companion Intensive Practice book too. (And intensive it is! Harder than the regular workbook.)

History: Story of the World (Middle Ages) &
Echoes of Glory: The Story of the Jews in the Classical Era

Well, the Roman Empire has fallen and most of the Jews have returned to Babylonia. We've navigated the splitting off of the Christian Church and the ties to Judaism being formally cut, and the absolute desolation of the Jewish people after the destruction of the Temple. Story of the World includes very, very little Jewish history during this very rich period, so we will be much more heavily supplementing than we did last year. I think some chapters we'll just be skimming (maybe one readthrough and that's it). The main reason I buy the student workbook is for the maps, but I'm also discovering that the coloring pages are a really nice way for the littles to share in our history activities, so together we're making up a book of our history studies. I really consider history optional at this age, so beyond reading the chapters, asking comprehension questions, and doing mapwork we don't do too much else for now.

Exploring Creation with Zoology 3 (Land Animals)
So far so good. This book definitely (so far) includes a lot more specifically Christian theology than the previous books, so we tend to skip whole sections (as in 1/2 to 1 page). This week we are learning about Family Canidae (coyotes, dogs, foxes, jackals, and wolves). One of Miri's favorite subjects! I would like to get a big wall poster up so the kids can add pictures they make of all the different animals we study in Zoology 3. So... hopefully this week!

Every Monday, I'll be posing a mystery from One-Minute Mysteries and by Friday we try to solve it. This week is our first one!

I also got a Dover book of tangram puzzles and a box of challenge cards for pattern blocks (K-2). Just to add a little more spice!

Art projects: informal drawing every day; formal drawing 1x/week. Lots of oil pastels, chalk, watercolors, acrylics, charcoal, pens... I wish we had more art time!

Music: I'll be starting a weekly class for Amirah and 4-5 of her friends after the chagim. We'll do about 1/2 recorder and 1/2 drums, xylophones, movement, etc. (plus everything all together too!). I also want to introduce 1-3 new folk songs each week.

Nature study: I'll be giving them each a small drawing book that we take with us on our outings (after cooler weather comes!). We'll draw whatever we see around us. Lots of interesting nature here!

P.E.: This one has me slightly stumped. I do NOT want to do the dinnertime sports thing 3x/week. I cherish our nightly, unhurried dinners together and think they're very important. We really need to get my punching bag rehung and re-institute Family Exercise Night. That was really the best. We do get out for bike rides (when cooler!), and I'm bidding on some rollerblades for Amirah on ebay. Folk dancing is good too. Our nature walks are usually a good 3 miles so that adds up too. We'll figure it out.

Field trips: We have several memberships at places around town for a nice variety of indoor and outdoor activities, and there are several places around town we have yet to explore. We've done some letterboxing around here and I'd like to do more, and I also want to try geocaching which we haven't done yet. We'll also be doing monthly 2-hour homeschool classes at Ogeechee Canal. Great walking place!

That's the gist of it! Keeps us plenty busy, but everyone is happy and humming along.