Monthly Archives: October 2008

Cooking plantains

My mom brought over three plantains a few days ago – you know, those fruits that look like green bananas?  We’ve never had them before (which is why she brought them – I asked her to bring us a new fruit for Rosh Hashana, and she was hoping this would serve my purpose). The kids peeled one to taste it, and right away made faces – it’s not meant to be eaten raw and it’s not very tasty like that.  My husband has some coworkers from Central America, and he said they eat them like potatoes, cooked into stews.

Tonight my ds15 was hungry and I told him to look in the fridge for something, and he pulled them out.  I suggested he slice them up and fry them.  He used coconut oil, but then I mentioned butter, so he prepared some with each.  They were so yummy!  It took about one minute for them to get finished once he passed the slices out to everyone, but we all really enjoyed them.  They’re kind of starchy, but the cooking breaks the starch down and brings out the sweetness.

It’s nice to be familiar with yet another food, and if I ever see them on sale, I’ll know what to do with them! 


Frontier House – dvd review

We finally finished watching Frontier House, a PBS six hour presentation that we got at the library.  It was about three modern day families (2001) who ‘went back in time’ to 1883, to live in a way that would have been authentic for that time period.  They had a two week period of training to learn how to take care of animals, use period appropriate tools, etc, and then as closely as possible, they duplicated the homesteading experience of that time. 

Our family enjoyed this so much!  It was definitely entertaining, but was also very thought provoking, and has already led to a number of family discussions.  (Warning – there are about ten minutes in the first session that discuss menstruation and birth control at the time – I keep the remote in my hand constantly whenever I watch anything with my kids, just in case, and this was something I fast forwarded. There are a couple of other references to intimacy later on, but after the first thing came up, I previewed everything else before watching it with my kids to se where the issues would be.  Very easy to preempt everything by doing this.)  Seeing how difficult life was at that time makes you think how you would have fared, if you could make it.  And it makes me think about all the things we’ve gotten used to having, that we consider necessitites, that are really luxuries.

When I got rid of my window air conditioning units, most people were appalled that I could give that up.  Around here, a/c is considered an absolute necessity.  But surprise! – it really wasn’t a big deal.  Yes, sometimes we were hot, but our bodies adapted, and we were able to be comfortable at temperatures that others would consider way too hot. 

So we got to talking about how many things there are like this in our daily lives – washing machines, mixers, electric lights, grain grinders, even running water – believe me, I’m glad to live at a time when we have all of these modern conveniences that make our lives so much easier.  But I don’t want to become so dependent on them that I can’t imagine living otherwise, or would feel totally incapacitated by their loss.  So we’ve started brainstorming how a family could manage without these things.

It’s been an interesting mental exercise, and I’m interested in exploring more of those options some to see if any of our ideas can be integrated smoothly into our life.  When I started talking to my kids about it and discussing some of the ideas (and there are SO many!), they were really excited about it.  I had hardly mentioned at dinner that thinking about our energy usage is an important first step, before one child had turned off all the lights and lit tea lights to eat dinner by.  :)  Right now I’m looking at a wringer washing machine; I have to do some more research and talk to dh about it.  He doesn’t get too excited about all my ideas, though he’s a good sport about going along with them.  :)


Staying open to the unexpected

I hope everyone who was celebrating Rosh Hashana had a wonderful holiday!  We certainly did.

Leading into the holiday things were very, very hectic, due to a number of factors that were all outside of my control and planning – it was actually remarkable to have so many things all fall through in such a short time when I had planned everything so thoroughly in advance (I won’t detail what those things were – but when I told my good friend yesterday about them, she got tense just listening to them).  So much so, that it was clear to me that it was a Heaven sent test, giving me the opportunity to respond with calm and positivity to all the pressures, even under the circumstance of having only 6 hours to complete all of my holiday preparations for two days (we do all the cooking in advance).  I kept reminding myself to keep the most important thing in front of me, and the most important thing is to have an atmosphere of joy, not tension or frustration, no matter how much did or didn’t get done.  When I say I kept reminding myself, I really mean I kept reminding myself.  I was having ongoing conversations in my head with myself, saying, “Just keep your mouth shut and smile”, “don’t make her feel bad for not having done what she said”, on and on and on, and I wasn’t sure I was going to make it until the holiday began and I knew I had successfully kept a good attitude.

But the reality of having so little time was that some things that I wanted to have done weren’t done at all, or weren’t done in the way I generally try to do them – like, my house was mostly in order but not sparkling at all.  The floors were swept, but not mopped, etc.  And I thought to myself on Monday night how glad I was we weren’t having guests or I would have felt pretty embarrassed.   

Well, I really, really believe that G-d is the One who orchestrates everything (and I kept telling myself that on Monday afternoon when one thing after another kept happening), and that thought immediately came to mind today when we were asked at the last minute to host a young couple with two toddlers for lunch.  It seems they were visiting from another city and didn’t have an invitation for this meals, so when my daughter gave me the message from my husband, asking if we could have them, I sent her back to tell him it would be fine. 

As I was walking home from synagogue a few minutes later with our guests, I was thinking of the condition of my house and wondering what I would pull together for the meal.  Then I remembered that I ran out of napkins the night before, and asked my husband to go a couple of houses back to borrow some from a friend of mine, and then he could catch up with us.  We got home and my husband still hadn’t caught up with us.  As I was busily getting the table set and the food warming up, I reminded myself that more important than if every corner was clean was the atmosphere.  And then I started wondering where my husband could be.  After 15, then 20 minutes, I started to worry what could be taking him so long.  Finally he walked in and announced, “We have another guest!”

You might be wondering how he found another guest in the short walk home – I certainly was!  It seems someone had been driving down the main street where he was walking, and stopped at the side of the road to ask him where there was a synagogue he could go to and give a donation today.  My husband got into a conversation with him, told him today wouldn’t be a good day for synagogues to accept donations, but since he was in the neighborhood, why not come to our house for a holiday lunch?  The young man was embarrassed to accept, but my dh spent 20 minutes convincing him that we would love to have him, so he finally agreed, and they walked in together. 

So clearly I was meant to have holiday guests, despite me thinking my house wasn’t clean enough – and it was all orchestrated from Above.  :)  Our meal was really lovely, and I had plenty of food.  The guests all enjoyed the food and the company, and we enjoyed having all of them.  My younger kids loved playing with their toddlers and taking care of them (their mother didn’t mind it, either :)), and our older kids were very interested in our adult conversation.

It turns out that our guest who my dh convinced to leave his car and come to us is here on business from Israel, and is the son of the owner of one of the largest export companies in that country.  It’s good I didn’t know that before he came, or I would have felt like our home was inadequate, too small or too simple, or something, especially with things being the way they were – but he loved being here and we really enjoyed having him.  I had to leave before my guests left because I had a prior commitment, but my dh and kids said he was choked up when he left.  The couple with the toddlers was also lovely – hopefully we’ll have the opportunity to have all of them again in the future!

So my lesson for myself in all of this is was, to stay open to the messages that come my way, and not get caught up in thinking that I know what’s best and how things have to be.  And to realize that clearly are the way they’re supposed to be according to Someone Else’s plan, and instead of getting frustrated or resentful at what seem to be roadblocks, I can skip that and go right to the acceptance and even joy of what is.