Sunday, November 20, 2011

sunday granola

Over the last two years -- since we were married and moved into our house -- Hali and I have both been taking steps to cultivate more of a homemade life, because it is less expensive, less consumerist, easier on the planet, healthier, more local, and so satisfying! I'm not sure where we started, but making our own ice cream was near the beginning, because someone I married eats a huge mug of ice cream every night, and wow, it gets pricey! No, we're not hand-cranking it; the fabulous little machine does the work. But it's far less expensive and doesn't include any carrageenan or other added un-delights. Over the last two years, we've added things one by one -- and I have to say, despite being troublesome in some ways, a silver lining of cancer has been more time at home -- making or buying, canning and freezing, whatever we can do: bread, yogurt, beans (from dry instead of cans), pasta sauce, jams, applesauce, pie apples, local delivery milk, a few hand-knits, a couple of toys sewn -- even making our own enchilada sauce! A bit more organic, a bit more local, closer to the source.

We would love to be growing more of our own produce, and to that end, we even had a maple tree taken out last summer, but apparently, we still don't get quite enough sunlight, alas. We did manage to grow some lovely golden potatoes, a fair amount of kale, and a few jars of raspberries that are going to become jam one day soon (they're in the freezer), but otherwise, this summer I became a big fan of a small farmer's market nearby. Now that it's November though, the local growing season has evolved into baking season, so I thought I'd share below the recipe for the healthy and fabulous granola I've been making!

I first found this recipe through the gorgeous blog Food in Jars which led to Local Kitchen and the recipe I played with a bit to fit my desires... (including the fact that we're completely nut-free until we get better allergy testing for the kidlet, who does seem to have a nut allergy)

it looks ooky, but it's just applesauce, peach butter, and maple syrup.

Sunday Granola (recipe can easily be halved)

Preheat oven to 325, and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

9 c rolled oats
1 c shredded coconut
1 c pepitas

1.5-2 c applesauce and/or peach butter
2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 c maple syrup

1-2 c finely chopped dried apricots (cranberries, cherries, raisins, whatever tickles your fancy)

Mix the first three ingredients together, and in a separate bowl, mix the second three together. Combine them (this will require two large bowls) and spread the mixture loosely on the baking sheets. You can separate more if you like it more crumbly, less if you like larger clumps. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow it to cool; the granola will become crisp at it cools. When cooled, stir in the dried fruit and pour it into jars.


Sunday, October 23, 2011

moving forward

last day of radiation!

the week before: bounce house with her first painted face, at Jo's school fair
a bit older, but I couldn't skip a few second birthday party pix. :)

Goodness, so much in one small space of time -- the weeklong sukkot, in which we ate in the sukkah but not as much as I had hoped. In theory we would eat all of our meals in the sukkah, but alas dark mornings, chilly temps, and a bit of rain made that less than ideal. It was our first year putting it up here, though, so that was an accomplishment, also coming as it does in such a busy time for us (how are two Jewish clergy-people supposed to find time to be Jewish?!), and also at the end of my radiation treatments. Busy, distracted, tired. Feeling good, just a bit overwhelmed.

We did manage to have a party, inviting all those friends who have been such a support to our family this past year, cooking and child-caring and calling and generally helping us get through -- chili and beer and guitars in the sukkah. Tiring, but nice.

a regular dinner in the sukkah (i.e. not a party, hence the empty chairs!)

And now, I have finished my main cancer treatment -- two surgeries, four months of chemotherapy, and six weeks of radiation. I will still take hormone therapy (i.e. pills) for five years and will likely have reconstruction surgery next summer, but for now, the most invasive part of my treatment is done. Oddly, it's a bit strange. I very much feel the urge to re-group, get a sense of where to go from here, how to grasp life a bit more consciously, more well-ordered, more richly -- and at the same time, I am completely exhausted from all the treatment. There was a part of me that was really hoping that as I walked out of radiation on that last day, there would be plane tickets to somewhere warm and beautiful, along with time to just take off from work to get things together here at home (preschool applications, finances, bulbs to plant, papers to file, exercise to do, meal plans to make, a year's worth of just squeaking my to catch up on a bit). Alas, there was not. No celebration, no break, just a bat mitzvah to officiate, bedtimes to navigate, the usual. Fortunately, I'd anticipated this a bit and taken myself out for sushi the day before after radiation -- I knew I needed some way to celebrate, even if in just a few delicious bites of raw fish and the zing of wasabi. (sweetly, Hali and our friends did get me my absolute favorite cake that we had last night -- with the words 'The Champ' written on it, as they sang the theme song from Chariots of Fire to me!)

The other piece that I'd only anticipated in the tiniest way is the let-down of finishing treatment. I thought I'd miss going to Dana-Farber (sounds odd, but it's true -- it's a beautiful place, where I spend time dedicated to my health, where there are no bills to pay, no spills on the floor, no laundry or whining) -- but I did not expect the strong emotional reaction I've had. Tears, unexpected strange pains, anxieties, the works. I happened to go to a forum my oncologist has each year, where one of the social workers said that this time can actually be the hardest, having gotten up the energy and had the structure to make it through treatment, only to step out into an unknown afterwards. Totally. Time will help, but that vacation and time at home too wouldn't have hurt any. ;)

So, a few photos of life from the past few weeks -- I can't catch up, so I'm just marking it and moving forward -- with hope for a bit more sleep, more organization, and getting a good rhythm in place soon.
(goodness, I look forward to the day when I can have better photos on here!)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

sukkah project, part one.

so, we have a sukkah up! it still needs to be illuminated and decorated, but we are so delighted to have it up for the first time in our home and life together...
getting organized...
putting together the walls

securing the screen!
bringing slats for the roof -- to hold the schach

a worm's-eye view with mommie

it's almost like home :)

while it's true that the girl child did not put it together quite as much as it looks like, she really did do what you see! it took longer than I thought it would, owing to my not-realizing I was using a too-small screw-bit (and hence stripping a few screws and breaking the tip -- problems to solve next week...), but I loved doing it, love that we are deepening our family's life, and though I said, in one frustrated moment, that we could get the easy PVC-pipe kind next year, I think this is the sukkah for us. besides, we own it already! I'd rather spend little bits of money each year on gourds and improvements than a big chunk of money to start all over again. :)

we now have corn stalks and forsythia branches on the top; I will probably procure some more in the next day or two, but it's looking good. can't wait for our party on saturday night! stay tuned.

p.s. a million thanks to Hali for the pix -- I'm still working on tweaking my photo-taking method.

Friday, October 7, 2011

this moment

{this moment}

{this moment} - a Friday ritual inspored by soulemama: a single photo capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

listening to hallelu (aka psalm 150!), during the week between rosh hashanah and yom kippur...

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

simply ten, with thanks to soulemama

Amanda Soule has a beautiful practice of sharing ten good things, which -- as I travel through these ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur -- seems a very good idea indeed. My list, as they come to mind this sunny autumn day:

filling the book basket with beautiful picture books
stacks of jars, filled with autumn fruit
tea with honey
a big sister's joy putting her little sister to bed
sweaters and scarves
plans to build a sukkah in our home for the first time
being able to see the end of daily radiation!
apple crisp with a bit of cream
remembering an audiobook gift, perfect for my commute
food in the freezer, dinners for busy evenings

What about you?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

work-life balance indeed

I know this is an over-used term, but it is so true... I think what I'm suffering from at the moment is the juggle of preparing for the high holiday services (every week for four weeks!) and our Sukkot celebration at home, combined with going to radiation every day, combined with a couple of family projects we're working on (or not, as the case may be). Before she was born, we chose to have Nina in playcare only part of the week because well, it's what we can afford, and because it was important to us that she have plenty of time at home. I chose part-time work intentionally, and we juggle our work schedules to allow for this.

but man o man. I am exhausted! Radiation and toddler parenting leads to exhaustion -- and high holiday work does as well -- right now, I am at work less than usual because of those things, but it means so much less time to focus on the work that beneath it all, I need and want to do! I find that when I don't have as much daytime to work, I not only fall behind in my work, but I also have a hard time even keeping a grasp on the part of me that is more connected with that work in the first place.

I hope that things will settle down a bit soon, though then the challenge will be that I should also have been planning my year's teaching more than I have. This is why my congregation kept my contract as it has been, knowing that I would be tired in this year as well as last. Cancer hasn't been the hell that it could be, but it has certainly taken my energy, focus, and time.

In the year ahead, my main goal is simple, though not necessarily easy: to clear the clutter, both visual and internal, and to cultivate more rhythm in my days and my weeks.

How do others combine part-time work with full-time home?

Sunday, October 2, 2011


to canning, that is. I can't help myself -- I found apples for a fabulous price last week and bought 20 pounds. Today, I made 15 pints of apples for crisps or pies or cake this winter. I have a cake I love (Jewish apple cake, maybe Joan Nathan?) but have not made in a while, so perhaps it's just around the corner now.

And somehow, there I found myself with all those peels and cores and reading about apple peel jelly...and now I have 20 half-pints of beautiful pink jelly on my counter. I tasted it, and it's not like strawberry jam by any stretch, more like pink sweetness and something that would be good on a roast or something. Have you made apple jelly? Ideas for it?

Then there's the enchilada sauce. which I'd actually never even bought before, but a friend made the best quesadillas for us yesterday, and turns out the secret yum was taco sauce. So there I was, looking up recipes; I used the one for taco sauce in the Ball book, but this really tastes more like an enchilada sauce, so that's what I'm calling it. Plus, there are the 10 jars of tomato jam I have to re-can with some more sugar.

Meanwhile, thank goodness the girls have more than one parent, so they could have a delicious pepper-cheese omelet while I was busy with steaming pots and hot glass.

Meanwhile, I have 12 more sessions of radiation, and then other than the five years of hormones, I am on a break from cancer treatment until the summer! (more surgery) Although I'll still be in radiation during Sukkot, we decided to have a thank-you party for our friends who've taken such good care of our family this year, and because it is good motivation to get that Sukkah built and decorated with the pomegranate lights!

Monday, September 26, 2011

snapshot day, home version

what a microcosm day this was: radiation, a trip to the farm down the street, potato harvest, applesauce-making, and the ongoing conversation with Hali about the life we are making -- today's topic: putting up our sukkah.

there's not a lot to say about radiation, but the rest, yes. In a bit of time between doctor's appointments today, Nina and I went to the farm-store, which is a wonderful nursery-food market-farm that is perfect destination for a parent with a toddler on a weekday morning, with the place basically to ourselves: time to watch the garlic man trim and sort the garlic into boxes; to watch the gourd woman take each one out of the huge tub of water and scrub off the soil; to walk over to the chicken coop and make friends with the black bantam chicken with whom Nina wanted to become fast friends.

brief conversation we had while walking away from the chicken coop:

Nina: they eat dinner?
me: yep, they eat dinner.
Nina: chicken?
me: the chickens? yes, they eat dinner.
Nina: chicken?
me, realizing what she was really asking: um, no, they don't eat chicken...

It was just a sweet day, with our teensy potato crop (maybe 8 pounds? note to improve yield next year), and 6 pints of applesauce made, to go with yesterday's 6 pints of peach butter. We're not exactly urban homesteaders yet, but the jars lined up on the shelf do make my heart sing.

...and the last bit: that if we want to put up our sukkah in this not-so-new-anymore house, we need to schedule it, and it would be both helpful and soulful to ask our backyard neighbors to do it with us. They're not Jewish, but I'm sure they'd be game for it, they're great neighbors -- and they are one slice of our tribe as we make our way on the path step by step.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


ok, so it's slow progress. my first post-chemo ponytail. or sprout, I guess. (and today, I'm 1/3 through radiation -- so far, the calendula cream and emu oil seem to be keeping the radiation burns at bay; I'm hoping that continues!)

Otherwise, we had such a sweet time celebrating the birthdays in our house (everyone but mine is in september) -- from the combo of parents and greandparents: movie tix and baseball shirt for the pre-teen; balance bike, rain boots, and hippie clothes for the toddler; a zoom lens, Haitian tree of life, and beautiful quilted-silk jacket for the wife who's been on cancer-support duty for a year... and on the non-material side, homemade cake with cream cheese frosting, friends and family, bowling, low-key and nice.

I'm in the countdown to the high holidays, and as a rabbi, I should be further along than I am on the sermon front. I was in a completely terrible mood yesterday when I went to meet with my teacher MF -- but within 40 minutes, she said that what I'd written was 3/4 of the way to being a sermon, and she suggested we meet by phone in three days, with my having sent ahead to her what I'd written. An extra session with her, when that was exactly what I needed. a teaching-pushing-inspiring companion in this work. I'm a procrastinator by nature, combined with utterly exhausted from daily radiation treatments -- and while I've been thinking I could-would surely get a great sermon out of this cancer thing, I'm really just trying to get through each day. It's a strange thing, this cancer.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

between the tides

(just realized I wrote this one in early July !) We were in VT for the wedding of friends (30 and 53!) for the weekend, which was the perfect distraction and soul-filling as well. Hali and I did a trail ride Saturday afternoon, which was great for her because she'd never been on a horse, but it made me cry it was so dull. Mostly walking down the road to the lake, with cars passing, and only on a trail for 10 minutes, all walking. So Hali later secretly arranged for me to have a private trail ride (the other was a group of 5) the next morning, before the wedding. The woman who took me, Christa, has lupus herself and her mom has something (apparently Hali had done the my wife has cancer and this would really mean a lot to her thing), so she was totally sympathetic, and we had a great ride -- cantering through beautiful forest and ferns, stopping for a great view of the water, just good. And I got off the horse sweaty and in jeans 5 minutes before the wedding was supposed to begin. Fortunately, the ketubah-signing had gotten delayed due to the rain, and I am a fast shower-dresser...

Nina did great all weekend, was very popular and picked a few people to adore herself, and it was so nice to be away as a family. (Jo is on vacation with her other mom.) Plus, she had the cutest dress for the wedding, which I bought on eBay for a song.

(not sure when I wrote this, but my surgery was the day after the wedding, so hmm.)