Monday, September 29, 2008

12:54 AM

This is what's in the freezer downstairs, mostly courtesy of Deb's visit with her daughter last week:

-six doughless potato knishes
-three carrot kugels
-four pans of stuffed cabbage
-two pans of meatloaf
-a lot of challah
-some chicken soup (not enough, but it'll have to do)

In the fridge:

-parve cream of asparagus soup
-the corn/black bean salad I always make

Cooling on the table:

-one large and three small onion kugels
-a big pan of peanut butter rice krispie treats (I don't like them, but certain husbands do)
-one big pan and two small pans of chocolate rice krispie treats (yum!)

To be made tomorrow:

-round raisin challah
-chicken schnitzel--I was going to do it tonight but the chicken isn't thawed yet
-gefilte fish (stick in oven and bake)
-a castle cake, if I have time, which I recognize I may not. I've got plenty of dessert (see above) but castle cakes are a big deal around here. I even bought some candy to decorate one with.

Paper goods, paper towels, grape juice and seltzer: check. Pomegratates, kiwis and mangos for new fruit: check. Elmo paper plates for the preschool set: check. Candy for shofar-blowing pekelach purposes: check. MHH is planning a supermarket run with Barak, via bus, tomorrow morning to pick up the necessary supply of Shabbos yogurts, without which no yom tov can be complete. He may also get a roast; I was going to buy one last week, cheaped out, and then regretted it; Rosh Hashana comes once a year and I can afford one roast a year. Vicky, B"H, is scheduled to come at 1 tomorrow, so my plan of attack is to finish cooking in the morning while Asnat is here, work in the afternoon while MHH is home, and, ideally, turn off my computer at 5 pm to a clean house full of yummy food.

Hey, a girl can dream, right?

Gmar chasima tova, everyone. Only good things.

Saturday, September 27, 2008


Does it ever happen to you that you remember something suddenly, some little thing you hadn't thought of in years?

My grandmother loves flowers. When she still had her house, she used to plant flowers all along the side of her house and on the other side of the little patch of grass between that and the fence. Usually she had impatiens, or the Hungarian equivalent. When I was in college, I discovered a greeting card that was essentially a two-page pop-up book of a flower arrangement. They had a few different designs, different flowers--violets, roses, whatever. For me at the time, they weren't so cheap, but I loved them so I bought them anyway. I sent one whenever I thought of it and the next time I visited found she'd kept them all; they were displayed in her china closet in the kitchen, next to the dusty origami birds I'd made in junior high. I haven't seen those cards in years. I wonder if anyone still makes them.

When I had just moved to England, in September of 1998, I saw bags of flower bulbs--daffodils and tulips--for sale in front of a store, ten bulbs for a pound (meaning, a pound in money). I thought that was pretty cheap and briefly considered planting some in front of my new home, then discarded the idea--I didn' t even have a spade, and clearly nothing had been planted there in years. Instead, I bought three bags of tulip bulbs and a bag of daffodil bulbs and brought them to my grandmother. I went that time by bus--yes, you can take the bus from Birmingham to Budapest, but I wouldn't say I'd recommend it. She was delighted, and got them in the ground before I left. The next time I visited, in December, she said I'd have to come back to see them. I said I didn't know when that would be, but when I got back to England I bought a disposable camera and mailed it to her so she could take pictures. I brought the camera back with me when I came, late that May, for a two-day trip I managed to attach to a job interview I had in Vienna. When I developed the film, it was 24 pictures, one after the other, of daffodils and tulips, from every angle.

I wish I'd kept some of them.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The deed is done

A very happy new spinner is driving away with my Lendrum right now, and there is a pile of $20 bills on my desk. I'm feeling slightly more traumatized than I thought I would--I was really okay with seeing the loom go but the wheel is a different thing. Oh well. I do have my Hall to console me, as well as an incredibly gorgeous ball of autumn-colored roving that just arrived yesterday from Grandma E...

What they're up to these days

A long-overdue roundup:

1. Avtalyon is almost eight months old. He's been seriously crawling for the last couple of weeks, up on all fours with his tummy off the ground and moving at a pretty impressive speed. He's also started pulling up to stand (last week sometime) and now when I come get him in his crib he's usually standing up, which adds a certain pitifulness to the wails. This ability also brings us into the land of Baby Menace. Ooh, the plastic bag in the garbage can looks tasty! Hey, I bet I can pull myself up on that rocker footstool! Think I can haul this 50-lb Gemara off the shelf?

He loves loves loves the baby swings at the park. Barak hated them, Iyyar thought they were okay, but Avtalyon adores them; he'll dangle there happily, enjoying the view, or, if you swing him and stand in front of him pretending he's about to knock you over, screech with laughter. It's awesome. There's nothing better than a baby in a swing laughing with his whole body.

He's babbling, but mostly only when annoyed. He's eating bananas, rice cereal (which he LIKES--huwhat?), oatmeal, and of course Cheerios. Standard routine in the morning is plunking him in his booster with a few handfuls while I get the older kids breakfast; I'm sure some of them must get into his mouth but I find the rest in all kinds of places. So far as sleep, it's B"H been better the last couple of nights; he screamed a lot last week but since then has been going to sleep reasonably nicely at around 7, waking up twice, and waking up for the day in the vicinity of 6:15. I'll take it.

2. Iyyar is talking more and more. It's hilarious to listen to. You can sort of have conversations with him now, and sometimes they even make sense. My favorites happen after we drop Barak off with carpool at 8:10 and are on our way to his playgroup, which starts at 9; the intervening 50 minutes are my time for some exercise, errand-running, and quality time with Iyyar.

This morning we saw a garbage truck. "Hey, Iyyar, is that a garbage truck?"

Inquisitively: "Jarba?"

"Yeah, it's a garbage truck! Look, it's a blue one."

"Jarba! Put in!"

Or last week, when we passed a van with a somewhat smashed-in side (still driveable, apparently, because we see it daily in different parking spots):

In a bereft tone: "Truck! Broken!"

"Yeah, the truck's broken."

Inquisitively: "Break it?"

"I guess someone did break it, yeah."

With relish: "Rip it!"


Since Jenny let him "drive" her car (read "climb around front seat while Jenny holds keys firmly in her hand and watches to be sure they don't put the car in neutral) his ambitions have been growing. He now points out vehicles he'd like to try out. Like, you know, pieces of heavy earthmoving equipment. "Backhoe! Drive it!" Then, "Jenjy?"

3. Barak LOVES school. He leaps out of bed in the morning and gets himself dressed with lightning speed; if he's not moving fast enough, a mere "Barak, do you want to go to school?" suffices to get him going. I don't hear much about what goes on there, other than the occasional "It was Fraidy's birthday" to explain the pekele, or, "We had an aleph-bais party" when he comes home with an aleph crown and unmistakable signs of lollipop consumption. They don't start doing the parsha until after yom tov, but someone is coming in to blow shofar for them every morning and he was definitely into that. He gets a newsletter home every week, so I know what they're learning, and occasionally I surprise him by singing the songs I know he's learning in school. He clearly wonders how I know them, since I'm not anywhere to be seen in his class.

Dovie, fortunately, is not in his class this year; a few other boys from last year are, though, which is nice. Barak's been playing more with Iyyar, and even with Avtalyon sometimes; he likes to hold Avtalyon but needs supervision. His favorite thing lately has been building houses with the cushions of our blue couch (this is why $65 yard-sale couches are the bomb--who cares if they get messed up?) The other day in a flash of inspiration I brought out a blue sheet. "Here, put this on the roof," I told him. "It's tar paper." Barak's eyes simultaneously lit up and got that serious worker-man look. I grabbed two corners, he grabbed the other two, and I lifted it up and over the couch construction site. Last I looked in there, he'd actually furnished his house: there are books, some things made out of Clicks, and several beanie babies in residence. They look comfy, too.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Wanna buy a wheel?

I have, like many dedicated spinners, more than one wheel. I have a Lendrum double-treadle castle-style wheel, which I bought about a year after I learned to spin on an Ashford Traditional; and I have, um, a Norm Hall, which is the only inanimate object I can honestly say I love.

I bought both wheels in 1997. Once I bought the Hall, I didn't have much incentive to use the Lendrum. Add to this that the Lendrum was rather beautifully painted with lovely little flowers by a person I now try hard not to think about, and you have a situation where the Hall sees a lot of use, while the Lendrum has been hanging out in a closet in its custom bag for most of the last decade.

For a long time I thought I would never sell it, because it's much more portable than the Hall, and for sentimental reasons. But I don't have a guild anymore, and the sentiments attached to the wheel, these days, are more of a reason to sell it than to keep it.

So... wanna buy a wheel? It's got the regular and jumbo flyers, ten standard and two jumbo bobbins, the quill head, two fast flyers (why, I don't know), the lazy kate (with no sticks--I used skewers), a custom Fox Fibre bag by the Bag Lady, a hand-turned maple threading hook or two, and, oh yes, half a can of 3-in-1 oil.

I just put it together to make sure it all worked and it spins beautifully. So much so that now I'm thinking I don't really want to sell it. But I do (she tells herself bracingly)--I do. I've even posted it on ravelry.

And here it is:

Friday, September 12, 2008

So there.

Ten pounds of flour worth--ten loaves and 12 rolls.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Challah catastrophes

You'll notice that that's in the plural.

1. I add all the liquid ingredients for my challah (7 eggs, plus honey, sugar, oil etc.), all the dry ingredients less the flour, a little bit of flour, and start the mixer mixing. Only it doesn't mix--the mixer blade on my Bosch pops up. I turn off mixer, reach in to set the blade in correctly, and instead of setting it correctly I suddenly realize that the entire contents of the bowl are rapidly draining out the 1.5-inch-diameter hole at the bottom of the bowl, because the bolt that holds the blade assembly together was not in and fell out. So I now have all the liquid and whatever of the solid ingredients have dissolved, all over my floor.

2. After cleaning this up (which took a LONG time), I go to open bag of flour #2--only to see the inside of the bag festooned with webs. Because it's infested with bugs. Heavily, heavily infested. I waste some time sifting, then realize that this is never going to work because it's organic whole wheat and I'm sifting out half the flour and probably none of the insects. I toss entire $6.19 bag of flour into trash, and open bag of flour #3, which looks OK.

3. I hazard guesses at how much of which ingredients are missing from the challah, add them, and start the dough mixing again in my smaller Bosch bowl. Then I realize that the counter I have just scrubbed (salmonella, y'know) is again covered with raw eggs, because the wet ingredients are not being incorporated into the now hard and solid lump of dough that was left when I lost the liquid the first time.

4. I will not be defeated! I unplug mixer, squish ingredients together by hand, add more water and oil and another couple of eggs, and turn the mixer back on. The dough looks lovely.

5. And then I notice that the top of the mixer, the plastic splash ring, is not sitting right. That's because the solid lump of dough that was revolving around the bowl pushed up against it hard enough to snap all three latch points, irretrievably destroying splash ring on my I-don't-want-to-remember-how-much-it-cost Bosch bowl. I toss splash ring into garbage.

6. I briefly consider fishing through the dough for the broken pieces of plastic, then laugh bitterly at the idea, because these pieces of plastic are, well, deadly, and it's not even a tiny little bit worth it. I toss entire batch of challah into garbage.

7. And start a new one. Stay tuned. I'm going to take out the garbage.


The first day of school was last week. Barak is going to the nursery school attached to the local bais yaakov, so is enjoying what will probably be his last year of coeducational schooling until college at least; Iyyar started a playgroup run by a friend of mine. Barak is, I think, mostly excited by the fact that he now goes to school via carpool, meaning that he gets to drive in a car every single day. This, for my car-deprived son, is a Very Big Deal. He is, fortunately, not in the same class as the infamous Dovie, although they do see each other occasionally. I asked Barak if Dovie was his friend and was told, "He's not very nice to me." But he hasn't brought it up and didn't seem bothered, so I left it alone. Barak does have some other friends from his last year's playgroup, two of whom I know to be really nice boys, so that's all good.

And Iyyar is having a blast. One of the things I didn't post much about but that has been a big part of the last couple of weeks is that a friend of mine (who I think I'm going to call Yehudis, now that the blog is open again) has been in the hospital, twice, with her baby, who had Kawasaki disease. (White, female baby. Go figure.) Yehudis does Iyyar's playgroup, but since she'd just gotten back from the hospital with a still-sick baby, had her mother helping her. The playgroup is in the basement, and the baby was upstairs with her Bubbe. Not surprisingly, the baby spent some part of the morning crying. This distressed Iyyar, apparently; when he got home, he spent a treat deal of time informing me, urgently: "Baby crying. Want. Imma." And, "Baby tired. Nap. Baby needa nap." Then a few minutes would go by, and he'd tell me again. "Baby. Want. Imma!" I told him I knew, but the baby was fine. He didn't believe me, and looked at me like I was being... well, negligent.

The next morning I told Yehudis this. She was not surprised. In fact, Iyyar had taken the baby's welfare upon himself as a personal responsibility, and had spent much of the morning tailing Yehudis, trying to make her realize that HER BABY WAS CRYING AND WASN'T THERE SOMETHING SHE SHOULD BE DOING ABOUT THAT?! Yehudis kept reassuring Iyyar that the baby was with her Bubbe, and she was fine, but Iyyar was unconvinced. "Baby CRYING." Don't you hear her?! What are you, heartless? You've got a crying baby up there, lady!

I found it kind of sweet. :)

Iyyar, as you may have noticed, is now talking a lot more. If I give him something he doesn't want to eat, he hands it back with a disdainful "No gink gyou." He tells me about his day--about the baby crying, and also about playing with trucks. ("Go school! Trucks! Fun!") and remembers, mournfully, his cousins and friends from the summer. ("Want Yanky. Want Yaakov Naya. Play. Fun...") Abba is very much the Preferred Parent these days--sometimes I go into Iyyar's room when he wakes up at night and get, "No want Imma. Want Abba!" Okay then. Iyyar is also now enjoying Abba's fabulous bedtime stories. "Dory off from? Dory off from?" Meaning, are you going to start the story from where you left it off last night?

Avtalyon, the only one in the house who doesn't have to get out the door in the morning (well, except that of course he does, because I take him with me) is now crawling like a maniac. He has totally skipped that stage of sitting up, playing with toys, but not being mobile; he can get himself nicely into a sitting position, although he does still wobble a little. He's eating rice cereal, oatmeal, mashed bananas, applesauce and mashed peas; last night he slept from 7 pm till 7 am only waking up at 11 and 5. I think. At least, those were the only times I woke up...

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

By the numbers

When I was growing up, I was always a little bit heavy. Not enormously, but enough to feel self-conscious, and certainly enough to get teased.

When I went off to college, and suddenly found my diet in my own control, I dropped a lot of weight--more than I should have initially, but then it stabilized pretty soon and I stayed within 5 lb of the same weight for about ten years.

Then came the tail end of my grad school career, and all the stresses that came with it, and I gained about 15 lb. I moved to New York, joined a gym, did Weight Watchers, and lost it all by my wedding; then, um, I was married, and gained it all back.

By the time I got pregnant with Barak, about five months after I got married, I was at a weight that horrified me at the time but at the moment would look pretty great. Let's call that weight X. X, for the record, is the maximum "healthy weight" for someone of my height, according to the charts.

By the end of my fourth month, I was at X + 13.

When Barak was born, I was at X + (gulp) 41.

By the time Barak was 1, I was back down to X + 5. That was pretty good, but a few months later, before I got pregnant with Iyyar, I was back up to X + 10.

Then I was pregnant with Iyyar, and got up to X + 46.

I never lost all of it--the lowest I got to after Iyyar was X + 15.

Then I got pregnant with Avtalyon, and managed not to gain quite as much weight--probably because I was carrying so much extra to begin with. Final weight with Avtalyon was also X + 46.

By the end of my maternity leave, I was at X + 25. When we left for Israel, I think I was at X + 22.

When we got back, I was at X + 14. As of last week, I'm at X + 11.

Let's be clear--X + 11 is not a great, healthy weight for me. But it's the thinnest I've been since before Iyyar was born. I'm fitting into clothes--I'm wearing a skirt now, in fact--that I haven't worn since before Iyyar was born. I categorically do not look pregnant. My face isn't as round. It feels pretty good.

I'm really, really hoping I can keep it up all the way back down to X. I have no aspirations right now to get down past that, and in fact gave away my whole size 6 wardrobe last year. But I'll admit it. I've got my eye on those 8s.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Not that you needed me to tell you this

But holy cow, the price of food. Food and household items both, but mostly food.

I just got back from a trip to Target and the supermarket. I spent $292. I did not buy any meat or cheese or ANY prepared foods. No ice cream, either--no treats at all, actually. At Target I stocked up on diapers and tissues and bought paper goods for yom tov; I got milk, juice, batteries, garbage bags, rice cereal and oatmeal, soap, and so on. I did buy a new tabletop ironing board ($9.99) and two boxes of actual Pampers, at $20 each--I usually put generic diapers on Iyyar and Avtalyon but they just don't do it for overnight. At the supermarket I bought a lot of flour (for yom tov baking--25 lb of King Arthur) and five boxes of Cheeries (5/$10). Grape juice for kiddush, bread, sandwich bags, lots of yogurt, gefilte fish and fish sticks (okay, that probably counts as a prepared food item), granola, and a new parve knife ($5.49) to replace the one the tenants whatevered. Whole-wheat pretzels for lunches. I did not buy organic anything, except for rice cereal, yogurt and milk. I've given up on the organic whole wheat flour--at $9.99/5 lb, it's over my organic price threshold.

There were other things, but all along the same lines. Nothing fancy. Mostly generics. Our kids aren't even eating that much yet. No meat or cheese or produce--just my periodic trip to replenish supplies of the things that I can't buy, or that are very expensive, on our local shopping street. And it won't even last me the month.

It's not that we don't have money to buy food. B"H we absolutely do. It's just the sticker shock, and thinking about how much food and gas are eating into the budgets of people who don't have the wiggle room that, B"H, we currently have. I can't help feeling guilty walking out of the supermarket having dropped a couple hundred dollars, but it's not as though I did anything wrong buying Cheerios and milk. Cheerios on sale, even.

Dinner tonight: scallion-heavy salmon patties, which I made with canned salmon from Trader Joe's; brown rice with peanut butter and umeboshi vinegar, one of MHH's favorite concoctions; a caramelized onion on the side.

What did you have?

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Things that still surprise me

1. Identifying myself to my friends' children as Mrs. Uberimma.

2. Saying, "I need to be home by quarter to eight, my husband has night seder."

3. Paying for my milk and vegetables in school money.

4. Being recognized on the street, and greeted, by four-year-olds.

5. Having other people's kids hanging out at my house.

6. Packing lunches for my kids, every night.

7. Writing mitzva notes.

8. Sending Barak over to the men's side to find Abba.

9. Picking my kid up at nursery school, with all the other mothers.

10. Lighting five candles.

When we were waiting at the emergency room on Thursday, me and Iyyar and Ada, I saw Iyyar climb up on something perilous to check out the fish in the fish tank. He was two steps away, so I jumped up and had my hands out before he fell. I heard someone say, "Wow, she's fast." And Ada said, "She has three boys."

And that surprised me, too. It surprises me still.