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.)

o my goodness.

wow. I can barely say that I have a blog if my last post was in February! since then, I have:

1. completed chemo: I did fine through the first four rounds, working for two days, taking two days off, and then doing fine for the between-treatments week. Then I was allergic to the second set of chemos, so I got a bit delayed but eventually through that as well (June 1st was my last one!), thanks to the many many meals provided by friends. Seriously, there was one dish that we got a few times and loved -- MMT's lasagna, and when Jo suggested that we ask her for the recipe, I could not fathom why we would not just want MMT to keep making it for us. Since then, I am glad to report that I've gotten my cooking groove back..

2. but lost a breast: mastectomy on July 5th (our second anniversary; sort of a reverse-present, I suppose) I front-loaded my anxiety for this, as I had for the chemo, and I'm doing great. Got my prosthesis a few weeks ago, and I really don't think about it all that often. 

3. started radiation today: It's particularly odd to go back to the same clinic every day (yesterday was a dress rehearsal, and today was rad #1, and I have to remember to go again tomorrow...) -- usually after a doctor's appointment, it feels like something to check off, but this has a certain Groundhog Day (the movie) quality to it. Fortunately, the techs and nurses and my radiation oncologist are great, and if you have to have cancer, it's a good place to be.

4. the hair: yes, I lost it. Shaved it a few days after that last post, wore the hat&wig for month or so, then couldn't be bothered and wore just a scarf, rather pirate-style, for a while, and finally went bald everywhere but work.

As I'd hoped, I think the new hair did indeed reach sassy-length for our vacation last week! If it didn't, don't tell me. ;)

5. been storing food: I've also managed to make use of the canner I bought last summer, and just pulled out 11 jars of tomato jam that are for party favor gifts, for Nina's second birthday party this Sunday. Other food-storing for winter: jars of pickles, salsa, corn, roasted tomato sauce, tomato jam, broccoli, green beans, lots by comparison to the past, which only ever included pesto*, and yet still so much room for progress. I'm currently addicted to buying the gorgeous bargain bags of 'seconds' tomatoes at the farm just a couple miles from us, so I'm likely going to make more roasted tomato sauce, salsa, and jam in the next week or so!

6. been knitting: Nina has two new cardigans (one still requiring the buttons); I have (almost) two beautiful scarves, and need to complete a gorgeous-but-might-be too-small cardigan for myself; and N has already grown through a pair of pants she wore for Thanksgiving last year and a dress she wore to a family bar mitzvah in March.  

I do have joint pain -- a delayed response from the chemo -- and I'm tired and can't hold thoughts together so well, but overall, I am doing well. Jo just started middle school yesterday; the girls are so sweet with each other; and Hali and I are cooking up another project, which will remain quiet for a while longer -- especially as we don't know if/how it will turn out.

I feel blessed that our family made it through the bulk of this cancer treatment so well, and that frankly, I've had so much time with my toddler this year. The year between 1 and 2 has always been one of my favorites -- watching language and personality emerge like blossoms -- and though I was afraid I'd miss so much with the cancer, my friend Judy was right: we've really had more time together this year than I would have had otherwise. She will be two a week from today, and I am looking forward to sharing this milestone with a few friends and family. 

I know this post is word-heavy and photo-lacking, but I had to get back on the horse!

Monday, February 21, 2011

chemo two (or, I didn't faint)

as in, I almost did (it was on Monday). the nurse couldn't get the IV in my hand-vein, but it took about 8 pushes to determine that, so I was a bit woozy. a bit of a recline and a half-sandwich later, I was ready to roll, and it was easy peasy. since she had to go up to my inner elbow (or whatever that's called), I couldn't really knit, so I watched a movie on the iPad that Hali's colleagues bought for me!!!

the chemo and the day itself are really no big whoop -- they place the IV, draw blood to make sure my white blood cells and I don't know what else are doing ok, then the mix up my brew of chemicals in the basement (ok, pharmacy), and in they go. proceeded by a potent combination of godblessthem anti-nausea meds. I feel fine that day and the next, and then I slide slowly downhill for a couple of days. achey today, but headed to work like yesterday.

tomorrow, I'll likely stay home, as the achey feeling is now getting compounded by a less-desired cancer present; it seems that my hair is falling out. a few yesterday at a time, a few more at a time (downstairs too!), and I think today might have been my last hairwashing, as I think tomorrow I will feel flu-ish and not take a shower, and then if it seems like it's coming out faster by tomorrow, we'll do the big baldy shave tomorrow night. it's a hard step, not helped by the fact that my scalp is likely so white it's grey...

and then I will look like a major religious gal, with my old hair back on and a hat all the time. we are planning to have dinner with friends tonight, so I asked Hali to bring a camera to document this point in the process -- I have really really like the lighter, somewhat sassy feeling of having the ubershort hair. (it's not a great pic, so imagine that in better lighting and with a better outfit, it's fabulous.) I think that by the time we go on vacation (where nobody will see me! why would I care? I guess for the milestone, something to look forward to), I might look sassy again.

meanwhile, we are doing great -- the meals that friends have made for us are beautiful and delicious and have included an occasional bottle of wine, hearty soups and gorgeous salads and all manner of other grateful.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

chemo one

one month later, and I did get the emma watson haircut -- ok, only from the front (my hair stylist needed all the length from the back, so it's a definite buzz back there), and ok, in just plain brown, and ok, I'm neither 20 nor a stunning actress, nor 115 pounds. but really, I basically look like her, don't you think? ;)

otherwise, I had my first chemo yesterday, and mostly it took a while from the waiting, not the chemo itself. that was one 15-minute push of adriamycin and an hour of cytoxan, which meant one hour of knitting and reading a magazine all by myself during normal waking hours!

they also gave me a variety of anti-nausea stuff (yea!) and I'm taking supplements to help with health-maintenance issues, so maybe the biggest cause of my headache and exhaustion is Nina's early mornings... so we'll see if I continue to feel ok, and meanwhile:

* Nina loves playing with water in the sink -- she will drag whichever chair or stool is closest and process to spill, pour, splash for a LOOONG time.

* I have finally truly entered knitting a tunic for her to wear to a cousin's bar mitzvah in March (better get cracking), after a few mis-starts.

* we have been so blessed by the beautiful meals friends have brought to us, nourishing and delicious and interesting!

and now, I must nap.

Saturday, January 8, 2011


who am I kidding? of course this blog will be full of cancer details. so, I am thinking about hair -- i.e. what to do without it. while I was thinking of just going bold and bald, I think it would be great to have some hair options, and currently I'm thinking I will do this my-own-hair thing with a company that makes a hairpiece of your own hair that you can wear under any hat (and have your own hair peeking out at the bottom). I went from no vanity to total vanity in about one day. the thing that is good is that (if my insurance has it) insurance covers wigs for cancer! I was at a knitting store today, and though I've avoided hats like the plague for fear that they'll make my hair flat and/or fuzzy (Jewish hair), apparently I look good in hats -- who knew? anyway, I am going to knit a couple for the winter, and we'll see about the summer. but clearly there will be a time when I have just very very short hair from cutting it off (and I have shoulder-length curly hair) to send to the hathair-makers, but my hair wig won't have come in. hmm.

Friday, January 7, 2011

sharp turn

Alas, it seems that random musings on life with a toddler are going to take an unexpected turn for me: in November, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. and while I don't intend to make this a blog of cancer details, clearly that is going to fill a lot of my life this year. this diagnosis comes on top of my stepdaughter's recent major orthopedic surgery -- which though a lot of work now, should result in better walking for her in a few months, and Nina's just-diagnosed nut allergy...

As for me, I am overwhelmed but ok with appointments, a bit of surgery (more to come), trying to learn more about this cancer and how to deal with it (hair, nutrition, complementary care, how to ask for help, what to expect), and wanting to get our homelife in more order. A friend said that that part was like organizing your photos before you go on a trip or wanting to clean every micron of your house before Passover (i.e. "it's in your head, not to worry") -- but really, for me, I know this is a part of my entering and moving through this cancer with greater calm and beauty at home. I've been neglecting this blog, and not writing so much even when I wasn't neglecting it, but one thing I want to do this year is to reflect outwardly a bit more, have more conversation with folks in blogworld, and enrich my life in many ways.