Friday, April 29, 2011

The Menu

Ahhh... back to challah! :)

For dinner:

lemon chicken (like we had for pesach!)
steamed broccoli
Swedish potato kugel (for kids)
anchovy onion potato something-or-other (for the grownups)
roasted cabbage with matzo meal and garlic
apple crisp

And for lunch:

some of the above, plus
green salad
beef barley stew
hamburgers (to replace the turkey deli meat that I was SURE was in the fridge until a few minutes ago!)

Good shabbos, all!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

New Playground!

Today, Dean surprised us and only worked a half day! He got home at lunchtime, and afterward we worked (and sweated!) and hauled some more mulch back to the small side yard. There are a couple of 6-foot-tall (I keep whacking my head on them!) t-bars (to hold laundry lines). We put a log next to each bar and set it so it could roll slightly from side to side and serve as a balance board. Then we put the other three logs end-to-end to be a balance beam from one t-bar to the other. In a circle around the logs we put stumps of varying heights to hop around. This made multiple paths to take along the paths. There's a little bar swing they can grab from one of the logs and dangle from the t-bar, and the kids (a while ago) fashioned a rope swing that hangs between one t-bar and a tree branch. SO... they are thrilled about their new little (FREE!) playground. And as soon as we find the camera we'll take a picture!

We also started digging out a 6-foot swath along the front of the house (6 inches below sidewalk level). We'll fill that in with mulch (free from the chipped tree branches) and have a landing pad for our tilapia tanks when we get those in (next year?). Then we want to sledgehammer the old driveway cement and build our herb spiral and the beds on either side. Best exercise in the world! We talked about meaningful and meaningless exercise today, and it's so much nicer to have exercise that is a means to an end rather than for its own sake.

We also picked another 15+ pounds from the loquat tree. So far that's 40 pounds for us, 40 for the birds. The loquat jam I made for pesach is all gone, so time to make some more! It was so good on meat. Maybe I'll make some chutney with them. We have plums growing too, and we're hoping they're good for jam too. They should be ripe in 2-3 weeks. Our tiny urban homestead! :)

Good night, again!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Pesach Wrapup - The Real One!

Oh, my. Where to begin? The seders seem like aeons ago!

We had Doda S. here, and she brought not only herself but several haggadahs (we somehow managed to have misplaced quite a few!), seven pounds of my favorite cheddar cheese (Tillamook, yes!), little presents for the kids, and her wonderful company. It was really nice to have our first Portland visitor. We had just us the first night, than more company the second night. During the first seder, we were definitely all a bit wiped out, but the second seder was much more lively with puppets, jokes, and lots of good discussion. And we still finished up by 1:00 a.m.! Raizel was the last one standing on the first night, and Avi was the last one standing on the second one. :)

For shabbos and the last two days, we also had wonderful overnight guests that livened up our days and provided non-stop playtime. The kids were happy. Dean and I got to take a lovely, lovely long walk around the neighborhood and admiring other people's gardens. Saw jasmine climbing 80 feet up in an oak tree, a bunch of wild bees on the corner of a house (and the owner was grandma to 14 homeschooled grandkids!), and lots of inspiration. Lovely.

Cooking on the yamim tovim was a bit tricky. The oven that came with the house doesn't have a shabbos (yom tov!) mode. We haven't been able to replace it yet. So, I made do with the stove. The last two days I forgot to light two burners, so it was REALLY tricky, but we managed. Keeping things warm until serving time involved keeping things on top of boiling pots of water. It actually worked pretty well!

I don't really remember what we ate when, but some of the highlights were:

lemon chicken (just coated in matzo meal, pan fried, then baked with equal parts lemon juice, brown sugar, and water; WOW!)
orange chicken (same thing; just had to try it with orange; not quite as good)
butternut squash soup
matzo ball soup (I really only make it 2x/year since the grownups in the house are the only ones that like it!)
red snapper w/aioli sauce
vegetable soup (YUM!!! tomato base with some eggs stirred in and lots of great veggies)
meatballs with loquat jam (ridiculously good)
hamburgers on passover rolls (tasted like real hamburgers!)
latkes (with the hamburgers)
lots of fresh veggies from the farmers markets
strawberry and raspberry/strawberry sorbets
chocolate-covered strawberries
banana cake
lemon sponge cake w/pareve whipped cream and strawberries
lemon curd and homemade yogurt (note to self: a gallon was sufficient, but barely...)
chocolate mousse
walnut nougat (which we also enjoyed as a chocolate mousse topping)

Other things too. I did make a menu, but I'm not good at following those. I like inspiration!

Got the kitchen turned back over last night and this morning. LOVE having pesach cupboards 10 feet from the kitchen. It makes the whole process that much easier. We're leaving the covered counters for now (contact paper). It looks WAY better than the real counters. Kind of silly, but it really is so much better. I don't know if it will last very long! I keep fantasizing about clearing the whole thing out, installing restaurant counters/sinks (kasherable!), shelving, and freestanding cupboards. Not sure if it would look nice or crazy. :)

This year, the pesach prep went very well since I canceled learning time the week before pesach. I would love to do that every year, but this year since I hadn't planned to do that in advance we didn't get quite as much pesach learning done as I would have liked. Next year, we really need to start that the day after purim.

I think that pretty much covers it. We're looking forward to getting back to our regular schedule, until savta arrives on May 12, that is! We need to squeeze a lot of learning in during the 10 weekdays before then. Math (for Amirah) is the only subject we really need to push; the rest we're doing fine on.

Good night!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Pesach Wrapup Preview

The food was great.
The company, greater.
I'm going to bed.
I'll update later!


Monday, April 18, 2011

More Cooking

This morning was "tank up the kids" morning before doing a lot of cooking in the afternoon. We played games (just got Blokus, and Eli is loving that one!) and read a few books. Amirah had spent the night at a friend's house, so it was just three here in the morning. I made:

• charoses (we make a cooked one with apples, bananas, dates, and walnuts)
• the other symbolic foods for the seder plates
• turkey matzo ball soup
• mayonnaise
• vegetable dips (mayo/horseradish, pesto, and a creamy balsamic vinaigrette)
• prepared the meat and roasting potatoes for baking
• roasted beets and carrots
• lemon lime syrup for making sodas
• balsamic salad dressing
• kiwi strawberry sorbet

I think that's it! We're ready for the seders, more or less. I'll be making chocolate covered strawberries at the last minute so they stay nice, plus several fresh salads and roasted veggies on Tuesday for second seder, but that will be easy. Just us and Doda Shoshana for first night, then a dozen of us for second night. And Doda S. is bringing 6 haggadahs (we CANNOT find some of ours... we searched high and low... can't imagine where they went!!!?!?!!?!), and 14 blocks of Tillamook cheddar cheese at 50% off (HOORAY!!!!!!!!! MY HERO! To be enjoyed after pesach...), and various other little goodies, I'm sure.

Tomorrow we're picking up Doda S. at the airport first thing in the morning (IY"H). If she's not too tired from flying all night, we'd like to toodle around downtown for a little bit then stop at the fish store to pick up some fish for 1st and 2nd day lunches.

I've made an embarrassing number of trips to the store this week, when I thought the Wednesday trip to Kroger was really IT. Oh, well. And now I'm wishing I'd bought a couple of bunches of cilantro... Hmmm... Mid-week! No more for now!!

We had the sewer pipe replaced, the driveway re-cemented, and one tree taken down and two stumps ground. We have piles of broken driveway cement, tree branch wood chips, stump wood chips x2, compost (free from the recycling center!!), and a pile of dirt we moved out of the front planting area that had been covering up the gigantic stump. As soon as we can get in a full day of shoveling we could take care of a lot of that! We're wanting to put in a six-foot-wide wood chip path along the front of the house which IY"H will be where tilapia tanks could go in next year. Then we want to put in the herb spiral (4 feet round, 4 feet high) in the middle of the area, with two garden beds coming out from there, kind of in the shape of a bowtie. We'll sledgehammer the cement to turn it into urbanite to construct the herb spiral. We have our work cut out for us!

It's such a shame D. doesn't have more vacation time. He's trying to do extra now too to make up the time he'll miss during pesach (4 days). Today I talked with him halfway through and said I just COULD NOT get everything done for pesach without him. B"H, he came right home (after dumping a load of compost in the front yard), and it was so much better with him helping with laundry and the kids. My stress level went way down, B"H, and I finished everything that was needed. The house doesn't look perfect, but Doda S. is a forgiving guest. Her room should be nice and cozy (the girls have moved out of it for the duration). Amirah is happily on a cot in the learning room (soaking up loads of uninterrupted quiet time since I said the room could be all hers from after dinner until breakfast, and Raizel is sleeping in the boys' room.

Wishing everyone a chag kasher v'sameach!

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Day

So much today! We did some things around the house before heading out to Ottawa Farms to pick strawberries. It's quick picking because the strawberries are huge, and neatly lying in little raised beds. We brought lunch and strawberry-washing supplies so had a nice little picnic there. Southern Swiss Dairy also has milk and cream for sale there, so we picked up all of their cream (no, not just for us... we delivered a few around town!) and a couple of gallons of their delicious milk. One gallon is already turning into yogurt.

After Ottawa Farms we went to the Bluffton Farmers Market. If it weren't 40 minutes away, I'd be going there every Thursday! Such a lovely setting, and so many wonderful vegetables. We packed our bags with all kinds of vegetable treats for pesach then headed home. They slept all the way back.

Tonight, more preparing for pesach, but we're in good shape. We picked the loquats on our tree and ended up with a bowl of the ripest ones for shabbos eating, and the rest turned into a quart and a half of jam. They're high in pectin, so it was perfect for pesach since they jell themselves without pectin. While I was at it I made 3-1/2 quarts of lemon curd for the yogurt. YUM. I'm hoping to get a batch of tomato sauce and a big batch of applesauce done by Sunday. I want to jam some of the strawberries too. Dean axed apart a half of a lamb that's been in the freezer since August. We ate the first half in the fall. Now we'll start in on the second half during pesach! :)

Tomorrow, a bunch of regular cleaning (for schmutz, not chametz!), picking up a couple more items, and looking forward to having a few overnight guests this shabbos! Really looking forward to pesach, and have so much enjoyed the preparations this year (??!!!?!?!). I've never really heard myself say that before!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Wage Gap, HA!

I was just saying this very thing to DH yesterday. I've always thought that those who claim that women do not have equitable wages were deleting a very important part of the equation from their BRAINS. Here's the article.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Borrowing Money

Yesterday, I took the kids to the toy store so they could spend their pocket money on a new something for pesach. (We give each kid $1-2 per week.) Amirah has been happily spending her money on beads and making necklaces and bracelets and giving them to friends and family. She does a beautiful job too! She was a bit put out to find out she only had $1.25 left, while the others had $15 or more (but I set a limit at $15 for the pesach toy). First, she offered Raizel four jellybeans if she would loan her some money. Her backup plan was to pay Eli $0.25 to borrow $6.00. We explained that a Jew cannot charge another Jew interest, so that was not something she could do. Then we had a talk about what it meant to borrow money, and why people borrow money. We explained that buying a toy "on credit" was not a good habit to get into. It may seem harmless now, but when you're a grownup it can be disastrous. Not wanting to plant the "easy credit" seed we didn't allow her to borrow money for a toy. We explained that borrowing money is best left for buying a house or if you have a true emergency like, G-d forbid, a medical situation. She then had the (heartily approved of) idea of going to Good Will to see if there was something there. Unfortunately, toys were in short supply and nothing much was there. We ended up at the toy store, and she did find a windup toy that she liked for $1 and it all worked out AND she was HAPPY WITH WHAT SHE HAD. What better lesson to teach? Yes, I would have loved to have handed her $5 and tell her not to worry about it, but this lesson was far more valuable than $5.

On another note, one reason I really like the McGuffey readers are the morality stories. My most recent favorite was as follows. A rich boy and a poor boy were both the top students in their school. Sometimes the rich boy would be at the top, sometimes the poor boy. At the end of the year, the poor boy was at the top. When classes resumed the poor boy was no longer in attendance. Did the rich boy celebrate that at last he could be at the top? NO. He went to the poor boy's house to find out what happened. It turned out that his widowed mother could no longer afford tuition and books. The rich boy paid for the tuition and books out of his own pocket, enabling the poor boy to return to school (and to his top place), not concerned at all that he would not be the top student. Amirah was reading this story to me, and I actually felt tears welling up!

And another note... pesach cleaning has enabled a lot of lost objects to return to their rightful places/owners. We were very glad to find our Chofetz Chaim family lesson book on lashon hara. We resumed where we left off, and while we did find things to do instead in the meantime it felt really good to be back to this one.

And pesach is coming! Today was an excellent cleaning day. We got quite a lot done, and tomorrow is all clear to finish the non-kitchen stuff. The kids have been happily and cheerfully helping, as we improvise songs about how happy we are that we are free to clean for pesach and to serve Hashem and not some human master. We had such a good time today! The kids thought it was hilarious. I think they are also appreciating the break from our routine, and are very much looking forward to the arrival of Doda S. (as are we).

This is probably the most relaxed and happy I've ever felt going into pesach. I know a large part is that the kids are SO much more helpful now. Since purim, I also have been doing a lot of little things every day (really 10-20 minutes tops per day for the first couple of weeks). I'm actually looking forward to pesach food, which I usually don't so much. Getting lots of really good veggies IY"H should really help. I'm going to get a lot of eggs, but am really going to try not to cook with quite as many as our usual number. Lots and lots of salads and some fresh fish. It will be good.

I've also missed friends and family more than usual this last week or so. It takes a long time to build new friendships. Twelve years in Portland, and I had many much-beloved friends. I have a good start here, but sometimes I wish I could wrap myself up in a pile of old friends. I've been thinking of seders past too, and wishing that some of those old seder friends could be at our table this year. Ahhhhh... the nice part is that there are so many, many kind people here that really went out of their way to make us feel welcome when we arrived (some of whom have already moved away, and some of whom are pondering moving away this year!), and while I still feel "new" (and still have an embarrassingly terrible time matching names and faces and occasional trouble sorting out who I have and haven't met before, leading to a bit of social fumbling!!!) I feel very settled and happy. (How's that for a run-on sentence?)

So... on with the week, and on with the sleep. The plumber team arrives tomorrow to replace our pipe! Should be a one-day job, then we'll get the culprit tree and in-the-way-of-the-garden stump removed/grinded before they re-lay the driveway concrete later in the week. In time for pesach, IY"H!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Sewer Pipes

I will love having a new sewer pipe. Really. Here is my top-10 list of side benefits to replacing the whole pipe between the house and the street...

1) Free entertainment for the kids. Should be good for at least 3 days.

2) DH gets to gain new skills. You never know when laying concrete might come in handy again.

3) Cutting down 250 feet of pine trees ought to provide plenty of mulch for the paths between the garden beds. Too bad our garden doesn't take up a whole acre.

4) Without said pine trees, we can now have a kosher sukkah in the front of the house.

5) We were scratching our heads trying to figure out how to easily transport urbanite (crushed up concrete) from the recyclers to our house. Problem solved! We'll have our very own supply right here, and save the $150 cost of having it trucked away. Now we can make 25 herb spirals in the front yard. Or maybe 20 and use the other 5 for the backyard fruit and veggie beds.

6) And that stump right in the middle of front door garden? As long as we're cutting down three other trees and grinding the stumps, we might as well grind this one too, leaving our bed a bit flatter.

7) We won't have to replace the sewer pipe again until I am 142 years old.

8) Interest rates are near-zero, so why just let cash sit there when it can accomplish something?

9) The dirt will smell a lot better now.

10) Our front yard will have a little more light for growing lots of yummy things.

There! Gam zu l'tovah! :)

The Menu


sushi - from our guests!
Asian wonton salad
portabello mushroom tart
roasted eggplant dip
chicken w/barbecue sauce
roasted lemon garlic potatoes
roasted zucchini, carrots, and sweet potatoes with chimichurri sauce
roasted corn
oatmeal chocolate chip bar cookies

Kind of an American-Japanese-Argentinian-Greek-Turkish sort of meal... I'm sure it will go together fine (?).

And for tomorrow... we're OUT! And rounding up chametz to bring to their house. :)

That is all. Good shabbos.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Pesach, Pesach, Pesach

I am so far having a pretty good pesach-preparation time. The cleaning is marching steadily along, bit by bit. I've decided to declare next week a vacation week for learning, other than davening and kodesh studies (learning about pesach, parsha, etc.). More and more, the kids have been helpful around the house. I occasionally feel like my arms are growing extensions and my reach is just a bit farther. The kids are actually excited about helping to clean. So I'm feeling pretty relaxed about it... for now, anyway!

Food menus I figured out a while ago. I'm planning a trip to the great farmers market in Bluffton right before pesach. The vegetables from the market last MUCH longer than those from the local stores. I'm hoping to swing by the strawberry farm too to get delicious berries for pesach, including enough to make a batch of jam. Shopping I've tried to simplify as much as possible. I'm buying very few especially-for-pesach items - a bottle of ketchup (for our first-seder french fries) and two cans of tuna, and maybe some crackers. The rest are just the regular things I buy that are in and of themselves kosher l'pesach. Lots of fish, fresh fruit and veggies. I did it last year, and our costs were only slightly more than a normal week.

B"N, I am going to make two appliance purchases this year: a small crockpot and a Ninja blender (comes with several bowls). The crockpot should be handy. We don't have an oven that can go into shabbos (actually yom tov!) mode, so it automatically turns off after 12 hours. That will make it useful for the first night of each double-day yom tov, but not for the next dinner, lunch, and dinner. I'll get creative with the stovetop and crockpot. It should be fine. Hopefully I'll get a couple of other things baked before and after each set of yamim tovim.

And in other news - Doda S. is coming!!!! We're very excited to get to see her for a few days. The first Portland friend we've seen since we left, other than our former next-door neighbors who visited last summer. Savta will be visiting in May too, so we're looking forward to our visitors!

And the really not-fun news - the pipe between the house and the street has gone kaplooey. We knew we had a blockage in there somewhere, and had hoped to dig around the pipe, pull out that section, and replace it ourselves, but NO, it didn't quite go that way. D. dug down yesterday, found the pipe, and yuck, it was leaking sewage (very slowly, B"H). Oy. So, the bids start tomorrow. It may also include a gigantic trunk removal (which, while we never would have paid for it otherwise, could be great news for the garden!), and driveway cement removal (which could be a permanent sort of removal; more great news for the garden). And the other good news - we shouldn't have to replace the pipe again until I'm 142! :) And maybe they'll be able to shoot a new pipe through underground without any removal of large objects. They were able to do this at our old house, anyway. We'll see! (But I'm kind of hoping we say bye-bye to the trunk!)

In more fun news, we got the new 4' x 12' bed mostly planted this evening - tomatoes (3 kinds), eggplant, peppers, cabbage, cucumbers, basil. There's some more room for putting in seeds - carrots, lettuce, arugula, beets... Hopefully we'll add another 4' x 12' bed in May! That plus the giant area by the front door for greens, peas, and beans. How lovely to finally have kids old enough to help. Other than puttering, it's our first real vegetable garden since before kids. Hooray! Definitely one of our favorite daydreaming subjects. That and tilapia and chickens. :) And now, for some sleep!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Honest Tired


Started last night, when a police chase ended in a flipped-over car. It all came to a crashing stop a couple of doors down from our house. The adrenalin rush had me up until 4:00 a.m.! B"H the two people in the car did not hurt anyone else or any property (except the crosswalk sign), and they also walked away unharmed.

After breakfast, Amirah and I went to the day school's garage sale today, and picked up a few things - some used books that had been on my/our reading list, a couple of fun toys, some swim goggles, and a few items of clothing. That was fun.

Then we got busy in the garden. A friend gave us a bunch of her starts - cucumber, tomato, eggplant, peas, beans, plus a few other things. The other bed is on hiatus until we dig up the pipe to unclog the one that runs from the toilet. Plus, it's lighter on the sunlight so we will be using that bed for greens, peas, and other things that can do fine with less light. So, we got busy digging a 4' x 12' bed. We dug down a foot, chopped out plenty of pine tree roots, lay down a piece of the old carpet from the house, and topped it off with a layer of wire mesh to keep it safe from the gophers. Tossed in the dirt mixed with manure and lime, then built it up another foot after placing a frame around it. Hoping to plant it tomorrow!

We also got some pesach preparations done - cleared out the kitchen pantry and moved a lot of things to the walk-in pantry. Should be enough space for food, pots, and pans, so B"H that part won't be too crazy. Tomorrow it's fridge #2 and the chest freezer. Menu planning done too. Sure would love to be ready-ish by a week from Wednesday!

Wishing everyone a good week.

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Menu

Here 'tis;

re(not)fried beans
Mexican rice
spicy garlic lime chicken (and plain)
steamed broccoli
cabbage kumquat coleslaw w/a honey, sesame oil, orange juice, rice vinegar dressing (YUM!)
roasted zucchini
chocolate oatmeal bar cookies

and for lunch...

all of the above
minus the chicken
plus some turkey deli meat
and potato salad

And another week is ending! DH was sick with a stomach bug most of the week, and now Amirah has it as of today. It will be more of a hunkering-down kind of shabbos. Really hoping no one else gets it. Pesach is coming... there's a lot to do! In less than two weeks I want the kitchen turned over... Hmmmmm... We'll see! It will be a first for me to actually have it changed over by the shabbos before pesach. Sure would be nice. Good shabbos, all! And keep my dad in mind as he flies back and forth to Mexico in a tiny little plane to do some volunteer work there.

April Fool

Courtesy of my dear husband, a little black humor (and not all that far off from things that have been happening there):

Itamar Police Raid Follows
Arab Attack on Setters

Judean Samaria, ISRAEL

As reported yesterday, an Arab gang attacked a group Itamar elementary school children, who fought off their attackers using school notebooks and pencils. The Arabs later accused the children of charging out of their classroom and attacking them, brandishing sharpened writing implements, with no provocation whatsoever. This morning, Israeli police conducted a daring 4:30 A.M. raid in Itamar, capturing all pencils in Itamar as well as arresting the children, their teachers, parents, and a classroom pet mouse.

Stunned residents of Itamar told reporters they thought, at first, the police were invading terrorists themselves. "One day," an Itamar resident predicted, "terrorists will dress up as police and nobody will know they were terrorists!" A pair of policemen, overhearing the remark, laughed uproariously at the comment, then continued their conversation in Arabic.