Last Saturday, Jack had his Bar Mitzvah! This means that he’s an adult according to Jewish law. He’s old enough to count in a minion (prayer quorum) and read from the Torah. This is a pretty big deal in a Jewish boy’s life, and the custom is to have a large party to celebrate it. Specific customs regarding the party vary quite a bit from one place to another. I’ve been to Bar Mitzvah celebrations that were fancier than some weddings!
The party we had was modest by New York standards. We planned a Saturday afternoon service, rather than the traditional Saturday morning service, for a few reasons. Primarily, it’s because the Torah needs to be read on Shabbos, but Jewish law forbids us to do things like play music and take photographs during Shabbos. So we wanted the party Saturday night after dark, and having an afternoon Bar Mitzvah service means less time waiting around between the service and the party. The Torah is also read on Monday and Thursday mornings, but those days are inconvenient for family members we wanted to attend.
After Jack read from the Torah, we all shouted “Mazel Tov” and threw candy at him. We made sure to buy individually wrapped gummy candies- nothing too hard that might hurt! After the service, we had a small meal for the congregation. We had a variety of cold foods and salads, which included a few kinds of fish and egg salad. We also served challah bread. The party downstairs after Shabbos included both hot and cold foods and 3 kinds of meat- but there were still plenty of options for the vegetarian guests.
I’d had a long talk with the caterer about 2 months ago, talking about my dietary needs, and balancing that with having a nice spread that would please the most people. I told her to avoid gluten, corn, and potatoes in my food, but I didn’t worry about any other “avoids.” The chicken nuggets were made with regular wheat-based bread crumbs, but she used gluten-free crumbs in the meatballs and rice flour to thicken the gravy for the chicken Marsala. We had rice, but not pasta, as I’m too afraid of cross-contamination, and I knew I’d want to be able to eat the leftovers. Jack insisted on a minestrone soup with pasta, but we also had a split pea soup that I could eat.
Everything seemed perfect during the planning. I’d been unable to locate a specific product- Mary’s Gone Crackers “just the crumbs” so I ended up buying a box of the whole crackers, figuring she could crush them herself. But she managed to locate another brand of gluten-free crumbs that were 100% rice flour, so there was no need to crush the crackers. The crackers could be served at the cold meal instead.
When I arrived at shul on Saturday, half an hour before the service was scheduled to begin, I saw that she’d already started setting up the meal. Among other things, she’d put out two platters of challah- with the gluten-free crackers on the same dishes beside the sliced bread! With all the discussions of what I could and could not eat, somehow we’d never discussed bread crumbs on crackers being a problem? A single crumb could make me sick for weeks.
What I did was take a plate and carefully selected crackers from the edges of the platters, and put those crackers aside for myself. The plate was waiting for me after the service. When we brought the leftovers home, all those crackers were placed into a clean grocery bag. They’re still in that bag, now sitting on my kitchen table. My kids will finish them.
All in all the Bar Mitzvah was a huge success and we’re all very proud of Jack.
Yesterday, Hannah and I finally got some yard work done outside. She did a lot of weeding and bush trimming while I kept her company and helped with the bagging.
While we were out there, we realized that most of the mint growing in the front bed is already “past its prime.” Some of the plants in front were mostly dead sticks, with a few scraggly leaves left at the top. A few weeks ago, they were full of big, bright green leaves. Still, the plants in back looked very healthy, and there were still some leaves to be harvested from the scraggly stalks.
First she cut down the dying stalks and I salvaged what leaves I could from them. It was still enough to fill a 1 gallon food storage bag. If we’d done these weeks ago, I think we would have gotten 5 or 10 times as many leaves. After trimming away the ugly leaves in front, we realized it was probably wise to harvest the smaller plants in back too. They’re smaller, but shiny and green, and likely to die soon if it gets too cold at night. So we harvested all of those too, and got enough leaves to fill another bag.
I think that we would have gotten 1 or 2 bags of mint leaves in early November even if we had remembered to harvest the front plants in September. Most of the growth in the back plants happened after the front plants died off, providing more sunlight in the back. They might have grown even more than they did, had we cut the plants down a few weeks earlier than they thinned on their own.
All told, we've had a horribly stressful autumn and we still managed to get 2 gallons of fresh mint leaves. Last year we only harvested a few leaves, mostly for immediate use. I still have a windfall of fresh herbs I’m not quite sure what to do with.
I’d welcome any ideas anyone has for using these leaves up and for preserving them for later use.
Eggs are an inexpensive staple in my family’s diet. In a family of Os and Bs, we need lots of animal protein, and eggs tend to be less expensive than red meat, fish, or poultry. While I’m well aware of the nutritional and animal welfare concerns about eggs produced in factory farms, the “better eggs” are significantly more expensive. How can I pay $5 a dozen for eggs at the farmer’s market when I can get 3 dozen eggs at Costco for less money?
My son has never been a big eater of eggs because he gets headaches if he eats too many. I can make him one or two eggs, as long as he also eats something else with the meal, such as toast. Even then he gets a slight headache, but I still do that once in a while because his diet is so limited. It’s always a struggle to get him to eat enough protein, fruits, and vegetables- he’d live on grains and dairy if I let him.
Recently, I was in a local supermarket and Eggland’s Best eggs were on sale for $2 an 18 pack. Since that’s about the price I pay at Costco for the “cheap eggs” I picked up 2 packages. Then I made an amazing discovery- Jack can eat these eggs without getting headaches! He’s had 3 scrambled eggs and nothing else with the meal and feels perfectly fine afterwards!
I also found that these eggs were more satisfying. If I eat them with my usual vegetables for breakfast, I find that I won’t need to eat fish or leftover meat at lunch. So, even though these eggs are normally more expensive, it won’t necessarily add to the overall food budget.
I’m still trying to find them as cheaply as possible. They retail for $5 a package, but I can sometimes find them on sale for $2. The first time I found that sale, I bought 2 packages. The next time, I bought 4. I hope they’ll last me until the next sale.
I’m still trying to find other eggs that work well for Jack, so I can alternate based on what’s on sale that week. I’m also not sure about how well Eggland keeps its chickens. I was able to find lots of nutritional information on their website, but nothing about animal welfare.
I just had some dental work done on Monday. The dentist assured me that, while I would be sore for a day or two from the procedure, I should be in less pain than I was before, since my tooth is now “fixed.”
I was still in pain Monday night, but not worried. I’m still sore from the procedure, plus it’s possible that some of the pain isn’t from the tooth he just worked on, but rather the wisdom tooth 2 teeth away. But suddenly on Tuesday night, I felt excruciating pain when I bit down on the left side! No question- this WAS from the tooth he just worked on!
But Wednesday night started Rosh Hashana, and I was busy all day Wednesday getting ready for the holiday. I really did NOT want to spend the day at the dentist, nor was I willing to do any driving on the holiday itself unless things were very serious. I did watch myself carefully for signs of infection- had my mouth gotten red or swollen, or had I spiked a fever, I would have gone to the Emergency Room.
My mouth only got worse as time went on. It hurts to chew on the left side at all. It hurts to chew on the right side “too much” and it even hurts to talk too much! I prepared the softest foods I could within the holiday and Shabbos restrictions, but the end result was rather imperfect eating.
I did make some soft green beans in the oven, and some spinach later on, but I couldn’t use electricity to make a green smoothie. The rice stuffing from the turkey was way softer than any of the greens I prepared, so I found myself eating more carbs and fewer veggies than normal. Fortunately, the turkey was soft enough for me to eat, so I managed to get plenty of protein. Plus I had stewed sweet potatoes, carrots, and squash that were all soft enough to eat easily.
I’m trying to do better today. I started the day with a green smoothie. That contained pasteurized liquid egg whites, spinach, a banana, and flax seeds. Lunch was a bowl of rice cereal and 3 scrambled eggs. I’ve managed to avoid talking or chewing too much today, so I’m not in as much pain. Now that the holidays are over, I should be able to nourish myself properly, even without being able to chew.
I called my dentist last night, after Shabbos was over, and left him a message. He’ll probably call back tomorrow. I hope I can get this fixed sooner rather than later!
It’s the start of another school year, and this year there are many changes for my family. Leah’s going off to Israel again next week, but that’s not new. Hannah’s going to community college, which means that I won’t have the car 2 or 3 days a week. And Jack will be homeschooled this year instead of attending the public middle school near our house.
I’ve homeschooled before, but this is my first year sharing a car with one of my children. I’m going to have to be much more organized about my errands- I can’t just run to the store if I realize I’ve forgotten something, not if I don’t have the car.
Right now, Hannah is at class and my Mom took Jack and Leah to the pool. I’m enjoying the quiet. I got some household chores done, but mostly I spent the day unwinding and enjoying the time alone. I’m not going to have a whole lot of that this year.
As I started making dinner, I realized I was low on mushrooms. I thought that maybe I’d run out to the store and buy some, when I remembered that I couldn’t. It’s very freeing- I don’t have to run around like a lunatic- I *have to* stay at home and pace myself. I’ll *have to* stay home and make do with what’s already in the house.
Later in the year when it’s cooler, I may walk or bike to the store or other errands. I don’t currently have a working bike, but Hannah’s bike only needs some routine maintenance and she won’t be using it when she has my car. For now, I’m enjoying the quiet and the “forced relaxation” this new routine is going to bring.