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!

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