Friday, October 29, 2010

The Menu

Shabbos is coming, and so is...

red pepper spread
sautéed bok choi
orange ginger carrot purée
baked potato with tofu sour cream
stewed okra and tomatoes
coconut custard

And for lunch...

We're OUT! :)

It was a fun shabbos prep time. I got a rather large amount of red peppers from a grocery store that has a discount produce rack. I wanted to duplicate my favorite red pepper spread from Trader Joe's (sniff, sniff), and I DID! It tastes exactly the same and I'm very happy. I just roasted eight large red peppers with oil and salt (at 400 for an hour), then puréed them with a small amount of white wine vinegar (2 T?), two cloves of garlic, and a couple of teaspoons of sugar. YUM.

Then the brisket... It was marked down to $3.50 per pound at the store (nearing its expiration date). I had them open it up at the cash register to make sure it smelled good. It was perfect. :) I did my usual sliced onion on the bottom, 1/2 cup of water, put the brisket in and covered it with garlic salt. Baked it at 250 for 4 hours, then sliced it and baked it for another hour. Best brisket I've had in a long time! Best part - the whole brisket (2.5 lbs) only came to $8.75. It would have been more expensive to have chicken. :) The other best part - I split it with a friend (it was originally a 9+-pound brisket, so we'll both be enjoying some really good, really cheap brisket.

The tofu sour cream is another imitation recipe, and tastes just like the Better Than Sour Cream that's available at the grocery store. Much cheaper to make it than to buy it. I have the recipe posted here.

Okra was from the bargain rack too, but looked very, very fresh. Turned out pretty good! I love that bargain rack. I really should go get a bunch more things from there... but maybe not until AFTER I make peach jam from my 30 lbs of peaches, and AFTER I finally make strawberry jam!

Kroger's got Pomwonderful pomegranates in last week, so I bought three when I was there this week. Really hoping they survive transport to GA as well as they survive transport to OR. We love, love, love pomegranates, and it's the first kind of tree we want to plant here - just as soon as we get those stubborn bushes out!

And the real highlight of it all - two dear people successfully got through major surgery at the same hour on the same day this week. B"H! I'm very grateful that they both did so well.

Good shabbos, all!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Farewell, Zebra

Our cichlid tank has been the source of much amusement and drama in this house. They're fascinating fish to watch, very busy and full of personality. A couple of months ago the Chief Fish, Crunchy, got sick and nearly died. While he was out of commission and in solitary confinement Vice Chief Fish, Zebra, became quite the brutal dictator. All the fish in the tank spent the whole day trying to hide from him. Kind of sad to see a big tank with nobody swimming in it! We re-introduced Crunchy, but he wasn't up to being Chief Fish any more so we put up a barrier and left Zebra in jail, which absolutely infuriated him. Fluffy, #3 fish, was glued to Crunchy's side nursing him and protecting him. Very funny to watch. Then the #4 fish, Zippy, somehow got through the barrier and Zebra killed him! Yikes! We said farewell to Zippy (Eli's fish).

Yesterday, Zebra somehow jumped or scooted through or around the barrier and was beating up on Crunchy and Fluffy when Amirah woke up. She scooped him up and put him back in jail. So, tonight, off to the fish store went Zebra to go live with much bigger fish (and hopefully get a taste of his own medicine!). We traded him in for two little tiny three-inch cichlids (well, actually traded him in for 70% of one cichlid and we paid for the rest!). They are now swimming around the tank (a little) and hiding under the rocks (a lot). There were beautiful yellow and dark blue cichlids, but both Amirah and Eli wanted plain white ones, so that's what we got! No names yet. It's nice to have the jail barrier out of there and fish swimming around the whole tank again. And we all hope Zebra is enjoying his new home, and Crunchy and Fluffy are enjoying a less stressful environment. Great classroom pets!

Oh, and we almost came home with a hissing cockroach (after Amirah begged and begged), but papa decided she could clean out her old goldfish bowl and catch her very own cockroach for free instead of paying $1.50. Granted, the $1.50 ones were much larger and made a great hissing noise but, well, I think fish make good pets. Today we also got to see one of the hermit crabs out of his shell, maybe getting ready to molt (?). He's buried in the sand. We think the other one is buried somewhere too. The cage has a few mites, so we're going to have to clean it all out sometime soon here.

One is constantly reminded of how perfect Hashem's creations are and how absolutely wonderful and intricate. How could one doubt that Hashem is everywhere?

Medieval Geography

We're still in the 800s in history, but I just purchased what I hope will prove to be a very fun geography and history book — The Travels of Benjamin of Tudela.

Binyamin left northeast Spain in the late 1100s and traveled through Spain, Europe, and the Arabian peninsula. In his book, he describes the local customs of Jews and non-Jews in the cities he visits. He also did a census of Jewish populations in the areas he visited. It is considered a highly accurate account of daily life at the time, and he accomplished all of this while the Crusaders were committing horrible atrocities against the Jewish people. When we start it, it will be great fun to get a blank medieval map of the area and trace his travels. I'll patiently wait another 365 years, though. That should come sometime in January, so plenty of time to prepare! :)

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Menu

Ah, shabbos...

Ah, family...

Ah, hashem...

Ah, life...

Feeling very, very grateful right now. Very grateful. Hashem has given us so many blessings.

And the menu:

roasted carrots
roasted potatoes
giant green salad with lots and lots of veggies
peach cranberry crumble (thank you, Amirah!)

Just felt like simple again...

And for lunch...

We're OUT!

Good shabbos, all!


Amirah has finished all 231 lessons in the Ordinary Parents' Guide to Teaching Reading (her phonics book). We started at around lesson 20 in May, 2009. So after 18 months WE ARE DONE! It ends at about a 4th-grade reading level, so now we'll be picking up with the McGuffey readers from 1835. We'll start with book 2 (3rd grade-ish) to work on fluency and diction/elocution. I'm looking forward to diving into that next week. In the meantime, she's really taken off in her independent reading. She's been doing quite a bit of independent reading, and she's also been copying interesting facts out of various science books and putting them in her science notebook and adding illustrations. What fun to launch a new reader into the world. Now Eli is hot on her heels. He's devouring OPGTR enthusiastically and is excited to be reading. What a pleasure to be their companion on the journey.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


I love these cats! We did them several weeks ago, but better late than never.


(No, it's not upside-down. That's how she drew it!)

Bedraggled Cat

I love, love, love Bedraggled Cat.

The Beach!

We had a really lovely little outing to the beach yesterday evening. The weather was perfect - 75 degrees. The water felt nice too - also about 75. Warm enough! The breeze was gentle, and at the end several dolphins came out and swam back and forth in front of us. What a lovely evening. Here are some pictures!

We're hoping to get out one more time during the week after D gets off work before the time changes. I'm not crazy enough to take all four kids to the beach by myself. I feel like four eyeballs is barely enough to keep an eye on all of them!

Look Who Turned 3 Last Week!




We love this little guy! No more babies. Yay. Boo. Yay. Boo. Ad infinitum.

Olives and Other Culinary Adventures

The olives have been moving along. I soaked them in water for about ten days, changing the water daily. Then on Sunday I drained them and made a salt brine, with a 1:3 ratio of salt to water. By then, most of the bitterness had leached out. I'll keep brining them until I think they taste good (2-6 weeks), then mix them up in different "flavors." I'd love to make one with chopped garlic and preserved lemons. We'll see!

And now for the kefir, long-neglected in the back of the fridge. I'm sure I haven't looked at it in 8 weeks or so. It's been sitting in a quart of milk all that time. I pulled it out dreading what would happen when I took the lid off. Much to my surprise, it was fine! Smelled like kefir. I declined to drink any, however. I did get it going again in a fresh quart of milk. Time to get that and the yogurt going full-swing with cold and flu season coming! We're out of culture, so time to re-order that too.

And coffee! Our old green bean supplier seems to have gone out of business. Our 20 pounds of green beans lasted us about a year or so. We're nearly out, so ordered six different one-pound samples from a supplier in Florida. We ordered all coffee from all over the place - Ethiopia, Zambia, Mexico, a house blend, a couple of others. It will be fun to try some new coffees and find a new favorite! The prices were great too - $3.95 to $4.25 per pound. Shipping from Florida was $9 for the 6 pounds. It should be better shipping costs when we order a larger amount. Anyway... we love our frugal coffee!

Tonight I found peaches and plums for $0.99/lb. Bought 20 lbs of peaches and 6 of plums, and hoping to jam it all this week. We've been out of jam for too long. Have to finally get those spring strawberries jammed too.

Fun stuff... Very satisfying. :)

Poetry Memorization

Memorizing poems is one of my favorite things to do with the kids, even though one of my greatest weaknesses is the ability to memorize things. Even for music recitals, I was always the last to memorize my piece. I even remember one piano teacher calling my piece in at the last minute. We couldn't perform unless the piece was memorized, and I squeaked by at the last minute. We just pick a poem until it's memorized, then pick another. Sometimes I pick one; sometimes Amirah does. Here's Amirah doing our most recent poem, "The Eagle" by Alfred Lord Tennyson.

We finished that one last week. This week we're memorizing "The Wind" by Robert Louis Stevenson. It just so happens that my all-time favorite children's cd is Ted Jacobs' A Child's Garden of Songs "The Wind" is one of the pieces on the cd, so this time we're going to memorize it as a poem and as a song. RLS's poems are so well-crafted, and the music here is very tastefully done (unplugged!).

Looking forward to continued memorizations, and making my own dendrites make more connections!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Homeschool Joke

So true! (Did I post this before?? Maybe...) Really, what it means is that in homeschooling we have the freedom to chase down all kinds of rabbit holes and discover all kinds of things. What a pleasure.

Q: How does a homeschooler change a light bulb?

A: First, mom checks out three books on electricity out of the library, then
the kids make models of light bulbs, read a biography of Thomas Edison and
do a skit based on his life.

Next, everyone studies the history of lighting methods, wrapping up with
dipping their own candles.

Next, everyone takes a trip to the store where they compare types of bulbs
as well as prices and figure out how much change they'll get if they buy two
bulbs for $1.99 and pay with a five dollar bill.

On the way home, a discussion develops over the history of money and also
Abraham Lincoln, as his picture is on the five dollar bill.

Finally, after building a homemade ladder out of branches dragged from the
woods, the light bulb is installed.

And there is light.

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Menu

Another shabbos! Hooray!

And for dinner we're eating...

Chicken noodle soup
Spinach salad w/yummy yellow cherry tomatoes
Tzimmes with dried cherries
Chicken w/bbq sauce
Mashed potatoes
Roasted veggies w/preserved lemon
Swedish apple pie

And for lunch...

Some of the above, plus
Turkey deli wraps
Surimi salad
Rice salad
Green salad

Better get to finishing all that!

Good shabbos to all!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Quotes of the Day


Amirah (while looking around for a little present for Avi's birthday):

All of these things are so... modern! Modern is boring. Does Savannah have an old-fashioned toy store? It's easier for Eli. He's more of a modern boy. He likes trains.

[Mama agrees, except I'm not sure that trains are "modern." I just wanted a simple medium-sized, all-metal, no-batteries, Tonka truck, but alas, such a thing was not to be found... EVERY SINGLE TOY HAD BATTERIES! BLEAH!]


Eli: I'm not an ordinary boy. I like to stay up late and get up late.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

This and That

Happy Cheshvan! This is a very relaxing month on the Jewish calendar - the only one without any holidays! Hoping to get a lot of learning done, to build up one little garden plot, and start one of the many art projects I'd like to do around the house. And get this music class going for Amirah and friends! Everyone's looking forward to it. We just have to nail down a day and order materials.

My twenty pounds of California manzanilla green olives are curing in the pantry. I wasn't sure what container I would use, then I realized I could just move the popcorn I overbought a year ago into plastic bags and store it elsewhere. That provided me a really nice food storage container, one of several that I got at our much-beloved (and much-missed) Bob's Red Mill. One of my pareve dinner-sized glass plates is perfect for holding the olives below the water. I heave the large container to the edge of the sink every evening, drain the water, then place it in the shower to let it fill up again. After 4 days the olives are already very much less bitter. I wasn't expecting it to taste much different yet. I'll soak them in just water for ten days, then switch to a salt water brine for five days or until they're ready. Before soaking, I cracked them all so the bitter chemicals could leach out. I always thought you needed to use lye for olives, but it's not so. Can't wait to try them out! Last shabbos I served some olives marinated in olive oil, chopped garlic, and chopped preserved lemon. Wow! A repeat venture for sure.

Outside, with the encouragement of Mr. Barnett, our 94-year-old neighbor and master gardener, I viciously pruned the non-productive :( wild plum, the pyrocanthus (ouch!), eliminated a yucca, and knocked over a four-foot-tall rotten trunk with one finger (much to my surprise!). It really opened up the sunlight there, for what Mr. Barnett is certain will be the optimal location for a 50-square-foot winter garden. I'm taking him up on the idea! He wants to help Dean get our compost heap going too. A lot to clear out, especially now that I've piled huge branches on top of it all. Once it's cleared, we'd love to go to the recycling center to get some broken up recycled concrete to use for the border (FREE!). For filling the bed, I found a great idea. I'll just fill it (8 inches or so) with compostable materials like what I would be throwing into our compost pile anyway — leaves, grass, vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, shredded newspaper — then top it off with (for now, purchased) compost (4 inches or so), then plant some winter things in it. This makes it MUCH less expensive than carting in purchased compost. If we really go crazy, we'd love to do the same thing with more beds in front and just grow a cover crop (like vetch) on it over the winter. Okay, getting into the dream-o-sphere now. Better stick to the hope of getting one tiny section cleared and planted. We'll see... The kids are all for it! Eli was really a big help clearing some of the lower growing things with his pruning shears.

Otherwise, we're humming along. Amirah is getting a bit tired of three-digit subtraction, so we're moving sideways to speed up our 1-20 addition/subtraction math facts with one-minute tests. She likes that! I need to throw in a little more work with manipulatives and math games to spice it up a little. She loves multiplication, so we skipped ahead in the book to do the earliest sections on that. Refreshing. She's almost done with her giant phonics book. Eleven pages to go! She's really taken off on reading in general, and is so happy to see that now she can pick up nearly any book in the house and just read it for pleasure. Her printing has gotten very neat, and at first she was enthusiastic about cursive, but now much less so. We'll just do a little at a time. Maybe I should get her a fancy pen for practicing her cursive. :) Her kodesh is going pretty well, but just like in English reading a year ago, she's hit a bit of a wall in her Hebrew reading. She gets overwhelmed by a page full of long words (i.e. tefillah reading practice). I need to simplify it quite a bit and do just a few words in larger type. She's fine doing chumash that way and has pretty happily worked her way through the pesukim we've done to date. My project for the weekend is to come up with some ideas for that.

Eli is devouring his first grade math and printing books. He loves math, thinks in math, and wants to do math all the time. Reading and writing come much more naturally to him at this age then they did for Amirah, which actually surprises me. I would have guessed her to be stronger in that area than he. So interesting to see the differences! We're working on reading mostly consonant-vowel-consonant words, but he's suddenly looking around and picking out six-letter words with no problem. He also takes in quite a bit of the science that we study and can report back quite a bit of details of things he's learned in the past. Hebrew is going fine too, just reading simple words and sentences. We'll probably start the Migdalor series in the next month or two.

Raizel is also a math fiend. She's using Singapore's Kindergarten math book (which I don't like as much as their elementary series, but it will do). I don't think a math book is necessary for kindergarten at all, but she's just doing all she can to do the same things her bigger brother and sister do. It makes her very happy to pull out her math book and do learning time with mama too. Her alef bet book makes her supremely happy too. She loves to draw too.

Avi is almost three! His Hebrew birthday is on Monday be"h, English one on Friday. Kippah and tzitzit, here we come! Everyone is excited about his birthday. He gets to pick the menu for both birthdays, so it will be interesting to see what he picks. :) Avi is our baal tefillah. Really. He knows all the words! And bentches too! He takes it all very seriously. He also loves to dress up for shabbos, insists on a (heretofore nonexistent) tie (hey - THAT'S what we'll get him for his birthday!!!!), and refuses to go to the toy room at shul. He'd rather be IN shul getting down to business.

Last night we had friends over for hamburgers, and after dinner it turned into an impromptu poetry recitation night. We had a blast!!!!! Taking turns reciting poems we've memorized over the last couple of years, our friends pitching in, trying to remember how our newest poem, The Eagle (by Alfred Lord Tennyson) went, hearing Eli's hilarious improvised poems (great meter and rhyme schemes!!!!), hearing Avi make up a few of his own, and enjoying Raizel's recitations accompanied by dramatic and effective hand gestures. What laughter is in this house. A lovely soirée. The first of many, I hope.

Wishing everyone a good shabbos and a good month!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Table Making

I've had this great interest in making our own dining room table for quite a while now. We'd like something that seats 10-12 people. I recently stumbled on this, and now I'm REALLY wanting to make my own table! Hoping to get a few house things done, wind up DH's six-day work weeks (only two more to go!), and then really start in on a project here and there. Like what? On the wish list - build a solar oven, make that table, cure 20 pounds of olives (in process!), make jam from all those summer strawberries, get at least one small 48-square-foot garden started, get the compost heap started (kitchen worms are doing great, by the way!), stencil a woodcut-like maze on the panels on either side of the learning room doors (they're begging for an art project!), make a 10-foot woodcarved beam to go above the learning room doors, etc., etc., etc. Whimsical things that I'm hoping we have time for this fall. Fun to have ideas, and even more fun if we actually accomplish a few of them!