To sit a little

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Image: the ever-hospitable Rivendell

I wanted to share this little poem, which I wrote a few years back, and which I still like to re-read sometimes, as a reminder to self that it’s alright to just slow down when I feel the need, close my eyes, and cast all my cares upon G-d. I always come away refreshed after such a silent spell, and ready to go on with whatever is challenging me at the time.

It is fine to sit a little,
Not for long, just for a bit.
Close your eyes and think a little,
When confusion overwhelms.
It’s alright to rest a little,
To refresh the soul with prayer –
Pray with words or tears or both,
Just as you are able.
It’s alright – slow down a little,
Not too long, just for a moment.
It’s alright to cry a little,
Rushing to the perfect safety
Of a child that’s near its mother.
You can lie down for a moment,
Close your eyes and think of kindness,
Think of tenderness and friendship
And of love that lasts forever.
Then get up and walk a little,
Look at beauty, think of gladness,
Smile and know that when you need it,
You can always have a refuge.

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Stockpiling with little space

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Following a post on stockpiling, one reader commented that she would like to stockpile but doesn’t have the space. Many people, including us, have a problem with storage space. My kitchen is just a small area where we managed to squeeze a refrigerator, a countertop gas stove and a toaster oven. I barely have room for the bare essentials in my kitchen, let alone keeping a stockpile. I don’t have a pantry either.

Read here about creative solutions for stockpile storage. Personally, we keep our stockpile in a cabinet in the guest bedroom. An unorthodox solution, but it will have to do until we have a nice big kitchen with lots of cabinets.

Our stockpile was not created deliberately, it just grew; most often, my husband would see something on sale, and buy several items instead of just one for immediate use. There’s often something at a good price that can be stored for a long time – canned vegetables, pasta, rice, non-perishables such as shampoo and toilet paper. I must admit that back then, I felt a little pang in my heart whenever I saw the grocery bill, thinking to myself that here are things we could do without, taking up storage space. Time proved that I was wrong.

I was always of the philosophy that buying something you didn’t plan to buy was still spending money, even if the price is very good. It is indeed a fine line between stockpiling wisely and becoming a pack rat. Unhealthy foods, snacks loaded with salt and sugar, are never a good deal even if they happen to be very cheap. And luxury items won’t help you stretch your budget, no matter how you look at it.

Yes, it’s true that we bought more than we needed at the moment, but back then, we could spare the extra cash. I was very glad we did when time came to cutting back costs as much as we could (even though we always did our best to live frugally).

All over the world, people are struggling with the results of a major recession. People who didn’t imagine it would ever come to that, now have to think twice before buying food. I know it’s unpleasant to think about such possibilities, but it may happen. Being well stocked up on the essentials makes the tough times pass more easily.

Gnocchi with butter, garlic and sage

Gnocchi used to be one of those things I’d never think to make from scratch – because I guessed the process involves some complex, extremely delicate kitchen magic. But then the prices of store-bought gnocchi rose and we stopped buying them. Then, one day, I was reading The Shoemaker’s Wife, and got the most irresistible craving when I came across the description of making gnocchi with butter, garlic and sage. It all sounded so easy – mashed potatoes, flour, an egg, roll out the dough, cook the dumplings. What could possibly go wrong? Dinnertime was about to roll soon, and I just figured out I’d quickly make a batch of gnocchi and surprise my husband.

Well, let me just tell you dinner was very late that night, and I ended up having to scoop up bits of dough with a spoon and dump them into boiling water (which made me understand, for the first time, the origin of the word ‘dumpling’). My husband tactfully said it was delicious as he consumed his plate of amorphous blobs, but I was pretty sure gnocchi was not supposed to assume the consistency of playdough on a hot day.

What could I do but harass Italian friends for their family recipes, scour the web, and keep trying? I came across this tutorial yesterday and gave it another go, and made some definite progress – though I didn’t attain the elegant shapes of the tutorial, at least I was able to roll out the dough and cut it with a pastry knife. I made two changes from the tutorial: used a potato masher, rather than a potato ricer (I’ve never even heard of such a contraption before), and popped the little bits of dough into the freezer on a large tray before cooking them, to better retain the shape. I ended up keeping one batch in the freezer for a quick dinner next week.

The dressing I like to make for gnocchi is simple and delicious: melt equal parts of butter and olive oil in a skillet, add 3-4 mashed garlic cloves, a pinch of salt, and a handful of sage leaves. I am blessed with an abundance of fresh sage from the garden, but you can use dry sage leaves, or omit it altogether if you are not a fan.

More on growing herbs

I love growing herbs – they are so easy to grow and hardy, and have so many uses and health benefits. Check out my latest Mother Earth News post about growing, harvesting, and using basil:

“Basil is very easy to grow from seed. You can sow the seeds either directly in the soil or in a large pot – placed out of doors or even near a sunny window. In either case, make sure not to buy them too deep. Basil likes warmth and partial sunshine – mine thrives in a spot where it gets sunshine in the morning and shade in the afternoon. Full sun is unnecessary and may even be excessive in hot, dry climates.”

 

A trip to the beach

DSC_0718An errand run to a town about an hour away ended with a spontaneous trip to the beach, our first in this season. It was the hour before sunset – my favorite time of the day, when the light is so lovely and the colors mellow.

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We happened to have just the two little ones with us, which also made this Hadassah’s first time at the beach (many more are to follow, I hope!). Of course, she spent most of the time napping in the baby carrier, but she seemed to be enjoying herself all the same.

Israel, on the other hand, had a blast… Here is one (of many) photos of him splashing about, or just sitting and letting the waves wash over him. I had to make a conscious effort to stop taking pictures and just enjoy the moment… A moment that can never be perfectly captured, and is meant to be savored in the here and now.

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Some interesting sea life clinging to an old board.

The magical hour ended with the sun sinking into the sea, something I will never tire of watching. It was beautiful, and then the day was truly over and it was time to go home. I hope we can do this again soon.

Expecting Expenses

There is a whole industry built around anxious new parents (and grandparents!) of baby “must-haves”, the sole purpose of which is to make people shell out money. We’ve been lucky enough, so far, to spend remarkably little in our babies’ first year, compared to what is considered average. Here is how we did it.

I would strongly encourage you, before you buy anything new, to look at baby stuff people are willing to pass on, or sell after a brief use at the fraction of  its cost. Most baby things only get a very short and gentle use anyway, if we’re talking about a small family. We got a lot of things from family, friends, and off online swap lists/second hand shops.

If you know people are planning to give you gifts for the birth of your baby, make a list of what you need and pass it around, or simply tell them what you need – otherwise you might be stuck, for example, with a myriad of toys your baby won’t look at for another year or so, but without things you’d find truly helpful to have right now.

I stay at home and breastfeed, which automatically eliminates the costs of daycare and formula. We don’t use bottles or pacifiers, and I comfortably do without all the nursing-related accessories such as specially designed nursing clothes, nursing covers, nursing pads, etc. I do love my nursing pillow, which I got from my sister-in-law, but I wouldn’t buy one otherwise.

Some more specifics:

Car seat – if you have a car, of course. That’s something I wouldn’t get used, because of safety reasons, unless you’re absolutely sure it wasn’t involved in anything that could cause it damage. We chose something very simple, straightforward, and inexpensive. It does its job just fine.

Someplace for the baby to sleep – we got a used baby bed (if you do that, make sure it’s safe – no nails sticking out or something like that). It came with a mattress in very good condition, with a washable cover. We paid a fraction of what we would pay if we bought it new. But with our two youngest, so far, we have co-slept most of the time.

Baby bath tub – I know some parents wash their babies in the sink and/or shower with their babies, but I personally have found the bath tub to be tremendously helpful. However, when I’m at my Mom’s, I bathe my babies in a large old pail that I place on the bathroom counter. Mom bathed me in it when I was a baby, so that pail has served as a bathtub for 5 babies now!

Entertainment – Very small babies don’t really need much in the way of entertainment. Mobiles, in my opinions, are hugely overrated – my babies always preferred to be placed wherever they can observe real people doing real stuff. Even later on, you won’t need that many toys. Better keep a few and rotate them. A large number of toys is an insane waste of storage space, since little ones get bored with them so quickly.

Prams/strollers – Not strictly necessary but I’ve found it to be very helpful. We never bought a new one. Sign up to giveaway boards and look for people looking to pass theirs on, or spread word to friends and family. For older babies, it’s even easier. Some months ago, we actually found a perfectly good lightweight folding stroller someone had just thrown out for some reason.

Slings/carriers – Some people say they can’t do without their slings or baby carriers, some say it’s a waste of money and space. It’s very difficult to know in advance what will work for you, so it would be ideal if you could borrow a sling/carrier you consider purchasing, and try it to see if you like it. Again, this can be bought used, and you could make your own baby wrap from simply a very long, wide and stretchy piece of fabric (you don’t need to sew for it, just hem). I love my carrier and take it whenever we travel, but the downside is the summer heat – it can get uncomfortable with a little one pressed so close for a long time.

Oh, and of course, everything is passed on from child to child around here! We didn’t have to get a single new item for Hadassah, because we have so much stuff left over from her three older siblings. She doesn’t seem to mind. :o)

The photo above is of Shira as a baby. It’s hard to believe she is 9 years old now!

Preparing for changes

I’ve started packing in earnest, and filled three big boxes before I called it a day. There’s something both desperate and addictive about packing; when I begin, it seems at first it will never end, but at the same time it’s hard to stop filling up those boxes. An early start, careful packing, and careful labeling are all necessary for effective, pain-free transition from house to house.

Either way, it’s not a project that can be completed in a day, and in the weeks that are left to us here, we will enjoy our remaining time in this place that has been home so long.

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My basil plants are really beginning to look up. I’m practically salivating just looking at them, thinking of all the delicious fresh pesto I’m hopefully going to make.

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The kittens have found a place to relax on this old chair in the yard I’ve been planning to throw away. I find it hilarious how the little black female is making herself comfortable at the expense of her brother.

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It was an unseasonably cool, windy day here, and when I took Hadassah out for an airing, I put on her this little sweater I made when I was expecting Shira to be born. This brings back such memories… me, on long evenings in our first little home, anticipating the birth of our first child, and diligently working on this little outfit for her. The red buttons came from my mom’s button box. I’ve gotten into the habit of saving buttons too, and now have a button box on my own.

With the next babies, I didn’t have that much time anymore, and had to settle for quicker and less elaborate projects, such as hats and blankets. I haven’t had time to crochet much lately, and miss it. I hope to find a simple and satisfying project to pick up soon, so I can work on it in odd spare moments that crop up throughout the day.