Friday, May 20, 2011

Basically Done!



Table set. House vacuumed. Kitchen getting there. Glue gun STILL being held hostage, but this is probably for the best. We are almost there!

All I really need to get done is clear up the breakfast mess in the kitchen and mop. About 30 minutes worth of work, at most. All in all, I would say that my back-to-basics approach worked fairly well this week. Granted, I didn't keep my schedule AT ALL, but I feel a little bit more on top of things. Like I am getting my balance back. This experiment really does require planning. Without deliberate action every day toward the goal of having things done earlier, it won't happen. I have a lot more to say on this, but I have some time before I need to pick up DS from school. A little present to myself: rest a bit and then finish up!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

A Basic Accomplishment


I can't believe it! It is 11:10 and I am done cooking. My goal was to have all of my cooking finished by 10 pm. I was done at 10:25, but only bec-Aause I had to chuck my romaine (again) due to an infestation. Lucky for me, I had all of the makings for a chickpea salad waiting in the wings.

So what is left on my list for tomorrow?
  • Set the table
  • Kitchen Floor (it is NA-A-A-STY)
  • Vacuum
  • General tidying around the house
  • Find a way to ransom my glue gun (it is being held hostage)
That, my friends, is a very doable day. Chatzos, here we come!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Still Working on Getting Back to Basics—A Menu


I thought that I was being SO smart by giving myself a goal list earlier this week. Just to recap my expectations for myself (the red is what I actually got done):

SUNDAY: My list was short and I got it all done!

  • Decide on guest list: No one.
  • Inventory freezer for things that are already made: I have sweet potato mash, onion kugel, and chopped herring already made and in the freezer. I can pull at least one of those things out to make for Shabbos.
  • Put away last week's dishes.
MONDAY: I wrote the post on Monday—so you would think that I had made progress.

  • Inventory fridge and pantry for other "freezable" side items—and make at least one thing: Mango soup will be happening later tonight.
    • I did make mango soup… on Tuesday night. At about 11 pm. After I made bows. I think that I may have a bow problem. I can't stop playing with them. It is like bow crack or something. I need a bow intervention.
  • Laundry—or maybe not? We will see how the night goes on this one.
    • I thought about the laundry, but didn't actually do any of it.
  • Watch 6 episodes of Glee on Netflix. Check and double check! I did this one, no problem.
TUESDAY:
  • Leftover laundry. Or at least start the laundry. Yes. I did start the laundry. WOO HOO! That is a half check!
  • Clean the bathrooms—l'cvod Shabbos—I will do a quick once over on Friday morning, but I will get the dirty work done tomorrow. Of course I didn't get this done on Tuesday? Why? Yup. My bowdiction. I did the hallway bathroom this evening.
  • Mango soup got made!
WEDNESDAY:
  • Clean the floors--l'cvod Shabbos—will spot clean on Friday morning. Unless I do it after I post this, not going to happen.
  • Change Sheets-- l'cvod ShabbosI decided that it is nicer to have fresh sheets RIGHT before Shabbos, so I didn't get this done. What?!? Of course that is the reason it didn't get done!!
  • Menu—and I will incorporate things that I already have prepared in the freezer. I will try to double up anything that I make on Thursday to freeze.-- HAHAHAH! I GOT ONE!!
    Menu is below!
  • Most of the laundry is finally done.
THURSDAY:
  • Shop after school drop off—Probably not a problem.
  • Cook starting before school pick up.—Probably a problem. I need to pick the van up from the body shop (don't ask) in the morning, so I don't want to set my expectations of myself too high.
  • Finish cooking and have kitchen basically clean by 10 pm (this is a MAJOR stretch, by the way… 10 pm is my witching hour. It is the time I go from an efficient-let's-get-it-down-person to a stalling-let's-play-on-the-computer person… so we shall see).—As long as I hide my ribbon box, this shouldn't be a problem. Doing WAY easy this week.
FRIDAY:
  • Set the table.
  • Spot clean.
  • Relax, do my nails, make a bow, read Dr. Suess, or do some other random non-stressful activity (read: NAP!!)
I wouldn't say that this week was a total failure at getting back to basics. I did get my coupon list together for Wal Greens. I made it over to Target with the kiddos. I took my car in to the shop. I made some things for Shabbos BEFORE Thursday. Time to start looking for successes—and also time to start putting less on my plate.

Without further ado, a BASIC menu (and yes, I know I need to post the recipes. I hope to be back to normal with that… um… next month?):
  • Challah—Done and frozen
  • Chopped Herring—Done and frozen
  • Hummus
    -----
  • Meatballs—Quick & Kosher—Why? Just because I am really craving some!-- making triple batch—two for Shabbos and one to freeze.
    • Anyone have a good idea re: how to heat these on Shabbos day?*
      • Queen Lieberfolk suggested pulling them from their sauce and putting them on the plata dry. The sauce can sit next to the plata. Will the sauce get warm enough? Will the meatballs dry out?
      • DH thought the crockpot may work. In my experience, ground beef in the crockpot over Shabbos is no bueno.
  • Brown Rice
  • Onion Kugel—Prepped and frozen.
  • Caesar Salad—Quick & Kosher
  • Cucumber salad
  • -----
  • Mango soup over soy ice cream
I want to get back on track this week! Who wants to take away my hot glue gun?


* The laws of heating food on Shabbos are pretty complex. Long story short, one cannot cook on Shabbos. This means that heating up food in a way that may lead to cooking (or look like cooking) is a no-no. Typically, people use a warming tray (called a plata) or a blech, a piece of metal that sits over the burners on the stove, to warm food. There is an issue with putting liquid on either of these warming devices, so my question is about the meatball sauce.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Back to Basics


Last week, I said that I felt like my brain was a hard drive had been gunked up with peanut butter. For whatever reason, I just can't get into any sort of groove since we have been back. I won't bore you with all of my theories about why I can't seem to get my act together. Whatever the root cause of the peanut butter brain disorder, I have decided to take drastic action to get myself back on track: I am going to pare my "to do" list down to only the barest of essentials. If I can handle the minimum things (um… like cooking dinner for my family and making sure everyone has clean underwear), then I will add in "extra" things that I like to do (like working on the new site and my little bow making obsession). Of course, it goes without saying that having Shabbos ready early (and trying my darndest to blog about it in the process) is a minimum thing.

So that I REALLY go "back to basics", I am giving myself a goal toward Shabbos every day this week. I will NOT be cooking all day on Friday again. I will NOT be setting the table after I have lit candles. I WILL be enjoying my little people and playing sidewalk chalk or something equally fun on Friday afternoon. Here is how I am going to get there:

Back to Basics: Daily Goals Towards Shabbos

SUNDAY: I am happy to report that I did all of these things.
  • Decide on guest list: No one. Hubby has five nights of twelve hour ER shifts this week. I have a feeling he will be sleeping before the fish.
  • Inventory freezer for things that are already made: I have sweet potato mash, onion kugel, and chopped herring already made and in the freezer. I can pull at least one of those things out to make for Shabbos.
  • Put away last week's dishes: I know this sounds basic, but last week, I was doing this on Thursday.
MONDAY:
  • Inventory fridge and pantry for other "freezable" side items—and make at least one thing: Mango soup will be happening later tonight.
  • Laundry—or maybe not? We will see how the night goes on this one.
TUESDAY:
  • Leftover laundry
  • Clean the bathrooms—l'cvod Shabbos—I will do a quick once over on Friday morning, but I will get the dirty work done tomorrow.
WEDNESDAY:
  • Clean the floors--l'cvod Shabbos—will spot clean on Friday morning.
  • Change Sheets-- l'cvod Shabbos
  • Menu—and I will incorporate things that I already have prepared in the freezer. I will try to double up anything that I make on Thursday to freeze.
THURSDAY:
  • Shop after school drop off
  • Cook starting before school pick up.
  • Finish cooking and have kitchen basically clean by 10 pm (this is a MAJOR stretch, by the way… 10 pm is my witching hour. It is the time I go from an efficient-let's-get-it-down-person to a stalling-let's-play-on-the-computer person… so we shall see).
FRIDAY:
  • Set the table.
  • Spot clean.
  • Relax, do my nails, make a bow, read Dr. Suess, or do some other random non-stressful activity (read: NAP!!)
Everyone needs to hold me to these daily goals. I don't think I can make it through another Friday like last week. No. I am not going to write about it. It was that bad.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The “I need a reboot” Menu


I hate it when my computer gets the hiccups.  It never fails that I will be in the middle of doing something REALLY important (like watching Top Chef on iTunes) when everything starts to run like there is peanut butter in the hard drive.  Drives me batty.  My cure for the computer hiccups is invariably to hold down the power button until the whole thing turns off and then turn it back on.  I know that rebooting with a hard shutdown isn’t the best way to deal with the problem, but it always seems to do the job!  Well, this week, I need a hard shutdown followed by a reboot.
I am probably trying to put too much on my plate again and I am probably still recovering from a month away, but, those excuses aside, I seem to have a case of the life hiccups.  My internal hard drive is running like there is peanut butter stuck inside.  I can’t seem to get my act together to get my coupon deals arranged (I even went to the grocery store WITHOUT my coupon book and WITHOUT looking at ads earlier this week).  I keep intending to work on my new site, but get sidetracked on a million other things.  I start to reply to one of the 500 emails I got while I was gone and I get um… delayed (read: stuck on Facebook).  Don’t even ask if I have done anything towards Shabbos yet.  I need someone to come and press my power switch until I shut off and then reboot me.  
So, in honor of my inability to get my act together and start cooking earlier AND because it is officially summer in Houston, I give you the “I need a reboot” menu—mostly salads, easy, and refreshing.   I am actually making two meals this week (two DIFFERENT meals, that is) because I am craving this dinner and it doesn’t work well at lunch (chicken dries out).  I will be repurposing many of the components to make up for the extra work of a double menu.

** Recipe links are not posted yet.  Why?  MY BRAIN IS A PEANUT BUTTER FILLED HARD DRIVE.**
Dinner
·         Challah—Done
·         Hot & Sour Soup—Kosher by Design Short on Time
-----
·         Indonesian Chicken
·         Ginger Quinoa
·         Cucumber and cilantro salad
·         Corn Salad—Quick & Kosher
-----
·         Berries
Lunch
In honor of Yom Haatzmaut, this is a seriously Israeli menu.
·         Challah
·         Hummus
·         Egg Salad
·         Chopped Herring (yuuuuummmmmmmmmmmmm)
·         Guacamole
-----
·         Spring Marinated Chicken—Kosher by Design Entertains
·         Onion Kugel
·         Israeli Salad
·         Corn Salad—Quick & Kosher
·         Red Cabbage Salad—Quick & Kosher
-----
·         Lieber-strawberry-shortcake-triffle (doesn’t have the same ring as Lieberkugel, but same idea… Queen Lieberfolk is going to bring dessert).
Tomorrow is shopping day!  Have I made my list?  Um.  No. 

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Chatzos Challenge, Back from the Holy Land: May Their Memory Be for a Blessing


Reflections, observations, and general musings from our family’s month in Israel.

Yom Hazikaron, Israel’s day of remembrance for fallen soldiers and victims of terror, is ending tonight.  Tomorrow is Yom Haatzmaut, Israeli Independence Day.  The days are juxtaposed so that we should not forget the young men and women that selflessly gave everything they had so that the state could exist. 
In Chashmonaim, we met a little boy that was named after one of these young men.  One of our hosts’ grandsons came to visit the second week of our trip.  The youngest boy, about 18 months, is as sweet as can be.  Our hostess told me the story of his name:
Our hosts’ daughter was married the summer of 2006, right after the second Lebanon War.  Their new son-in-law had a best friend—a guy that was supposed to be a witness at their wedding.  The friend was also engaged.  It was a great summer to be married.  Of course, all of these guys were still serving in the reserves.  They were called up and they went to Lebanon.  The best friend served in a tank division.  He never came home. 
The sweet little boy shares his name with a hero that sacrificed everything just as his life was about to start.  The best friend would never experience the joy of fatherhood, but some part of him lives on in the little boy.
She told me that story and, of course, I got choked up.  It reminded me of a similar story of a life that ended too soon:
My husband and I were also married in the summer of 2006—the week that the war started, in fact.  We spend a good amount of time on our honeymoon checking the news and keeping tabs on the war.  We share a strong affinity for the land and were heartbroken to see the rockets falling throughout the country.  For my husband, there was an added reason to watch.  He had spent time with cousins when he was in yeshiva the year before.  Those cousins had a son that was a little younger than us that would be fighting in the war.  His cousin was also engaged and about to start a family.  Of course, watching the news can’t save a boy and we found out that his cousin was killed in his tank when we returned from our trip. 
The two stories were too similar.  The young men seemed too much alike.  They even had the same name.  In another instance of “small world, big family”, it turns out that the sweet little boy that was named after his father’s best friend was also named after my husband’s cousin. 
As we move from Yom Hazikaron to Yom Haatzmaut we remember the heroes, like Noam Mayerson, his memory should be for a blessing, that gave everything that they could give for the sake of the Jewish people.  We also remember the loved ones that are left behind—the parents, fianc├ęs, best friends, siblings that are left with nothing, but memories far too early.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Whew! I almost have my groove back!

I am thrilled to say that I made it this week!  I know.  I can't believe it either.  Maybe next week, I will even be able to blog while I am getting things done...

Good Shabbos, everyone!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

It is late on Thursday night

On a normal week (read: a week when everyone is on schedule and things are running smoothly), I would be posting all sorts of adventures in getting my cooking done at this point.  Needless to say, we are all still a bit off.  No one is sleeping well.  No one is eating well.  And the little Houston "friends"-- and if you don't know the "friends" I am talking about, you have never lived in Houston (maybe one day I will write about the "friends" because they always seem to visit when I am cooking on Thursday night)-- have taken over my house. 

Despite the total exhaustion and invasion of creepy crawlers, I have managed to get some of my Shabbos preparation done.  Most important, a menu:

Challah-- made on Tuesday
Gefilte Fish-- done
Hummus-- done
Israeli salad
-----
Onion Chicken-- Quick & Kosher-- in the oven
Challah Kugel-- Spice & Spirit-- made on Tuesday and frozen.  This is a first in my house.  I had a lot of challah leftover from last week.  I hope it is good!
Broccoli Salad
Quinoa Salad
Green beans
-----
Pistachio Chocolate Chip Cake

This menu is a lot of comfort food.  Maybe the comfort will be a fun nights sleep for the first time since we have been back.

The Chatzos Challenge, Back from the Holy Land: Even our Cousins Know About Chatzos


Reflections, observations, and general musings from our family's month in Israel.



 I could write at least six posts about cousins. The topic seemed to come up again and again during our trip (for example, I met cousins that I didn't even know I had!). On our very first erev Shabbos in Israel, we had a reminder that there are other sorts of cousins around.

During the first half of our trip, we stayed with an amazing family in Hashmonaim, a small community about 5 minutes outside of Modi'in. How we met our very special hosts and all of the wonderful things that we learned from them will have to be the topic of another post. Suffice to say, they are models of how to do chesed. Our hosts' selfless drive to give is not what is important to this post, though. What is important is that you understand that Hashmonaim teeters the line (ie pre-1967 v. post 1967 land). After the start of the second intifada, Israel constructed a security barrier as a deterrent to would be terrorists. Hashmonaim sits right on the Israel side of the security barrier.

My husband has a nickname for the folks that live on the other side of the security barrier—los primos. Technically speaking, they are cousins. Very moody, dysfunctional, sometimes violent cousins. And because cousins are still family, they can't be all bad, right?

On our very first Friday afternoon is a good example. Our hostess in Hashmonaim is a chatzos-y type, too. She does all of her Shabbos prep on Thursday—and then relaxes on Friday. My type of lady (in more ways than this!). She did not need any help on Friday (being that she was already done!) so DS and I headed outdoors to enjoy the view of the hills, the weather, the smell of Shabbos cooking in other homes, and the slide in our hosts' backyard. From the backyard, you can see the neighboring town on the other side of the security barrier.

DS and I were having such a grand old time playing farmers that we must of lost track of time. I still had quite a bit to do before Shabbos—our things were a mess from our trip and I wanted to make sure that I got everyone showered early in the day (before the jet lag really hit them). My little chatzos experiment has become so ingrained in my head that I wanted to make sure to get as much as possible down before chatzos. But the weather! And the flowers! And the air! There is really nothing like playing outside in Israel—you can almost smell the kedusha. We must have lost track of time.

B"H, los primos kept me on track for chatzos on my first Shabbos in Israel! A short time after their noon call to prayer, they headed outside to make their presence known to the surrounding communities. POP POP POP! After I coxed my very indignant son back inside, I asked if I should be concerned.

"NO!" my host told me, "This is just their friendly reminder that Shabbat is coming! They are nice enough to remind us it is midday—only half a day until Shabbat—every week!"

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

And we’re back…

Or maybe I should have titled this one, "101 ways that things can go wrong on a Friday."

But before I get there—we are back! Everyone in our house misses Israel dearly (and we are all still trying to get over our jet-lag), but we have made it back to Texas. I can't wait to post updates to my series on Chatzos in the Holy land. G-d (and jet lag) willing, I will try to post about all of the fun chatzos-y things that I experienced.

In the meantime, we got home last Thursday evening—a mere 20 hours before Shabbos. I didn't think that the timing was going to be much of an issue. I had the whole 20 hours planned out to get us to Shabbos smoothly and effortlessly. I even envisioned a way that I would have all of the really-really Shabbos things (like food, table, ect) done before chatzos, while leaving the things that could wait (unpacking, laundry, ect) for the afternoon. It was really a genius plan. Of course, what happens when man plans??

In my brilliant plan for the day, my kids were going to sleep in. We woke up to leave Jerusalem at 3 am and no one really slept well on the plane. By the time we were back in Houston, it was over 24 hours from when they had awoken. I was going to use their sleep deficit in my favor—while they were trying to catch up on their zzz, I would start the laundry and pull our Shabbos food from the freezer (with the exception of salads and challah—which DH was nice enough to offer to pick up for me). I made sure to get to sleep as early as possible—10 ish-- so that I could really take advantage of the time that the kids were sleeping. When DS woke up at 11:45 (pm… that is right… a mere hour and 45 minutes AFTER I went to sleep), I figured he would go back to sleep. I gave up on that notion at about 3:30 am when DD also woke up.

Okay. Fine. No sleep. I have done a lot more on no sleep. As long as DH was able to get the things I needed from the store, we could still do this. No problem. That is about when we discovered his car battery was dead. DD decided that was also a good time to start vomiting. A lot. Like, Dr. Dad kept mentioning a trip to the ER.

And there we were. Three o'clock on a Friday afternoon. Four suitcases had exploded over the floor in the living room. Food was slowly defrosting (but still no challah). Whole family walking around like zombies. One car not starting. And an infant that was unable to hold down liquids.

Needless to say, we barely made it to Shabbos—let alone making it to chatzos. I should have known better about making a plan. There should always be some wiggle room in your plan—you never know you will need it.