Monthly Archives: November 2008

My daughter is home, empowered and tired

It’s funny how the first question everyone asks regarding homeschooling is, “What about socialization?”  The obvious assumption behind that is that homeschoolers are kept isolated from the rest of humanity, sitting around their dining room table for hours each day, while they pine for the healthy and robust social interactions that other children have. 

This question has alternately amused and annoyed me, mostly amused me, because it’s so far off the mark.   Most homeschoolers interact with a much wider variety of people of ages and backgrounds than those in school do, in socially healthy situations (ie, not a peer dominated pecking order).  Anyway, I’m not going to write a thesis on this topic even though it’s a big topic that deserves a big answer, but I was inwardly smiling this last week at example in our family of how socially backwards homeschoolers aren’t.

Within an hour of hearing that her grandparents would be travelling to NY and were willing to take her (with less than five days to make arrangements), my almost 14 year old daughter got onto the computer and started researching buses and routes, to figure out how to see as many friends as possible in the three days she would be there.  Once she figured out some general possibilities, she spent hours last week on the phone, making arrangements to visit various friends in different neighborhoods and cities. 

After all of her calls – and it took hours of back and forth conversations between a number of people for her to put her trip itinerary together (anyone who tried to call me last week knows that the line was always busy!) – she had an intricate plan put together.  She left here on Thursday morning, and spent the night with an aunt.  The next morning, she met a counselor from camp and spent a while with her;  then she travelled alone to another city an hour and a half away to spend Shabbos (Sabbath) with another camp friend.  We live in an area where public transportation isn’t a common option, so she’s never done anything like this before, let alone by herself.  And fortunately I was taking a nap when the friend who was supposed to pick her up from the bus called to say they couldn’t find her, and what bus stop was she supposed to be at again??  There were 26 in that city and we didn’t know the specifics, and my dd didn’t have a cell phone.  I found out about it when my 2.5 year old told me when I woke up that “T.’s friend found her”, so I didn’t have to worry for even a minute. :) )

Then she spent Saturday night with another friend from camp in that same city, and traveled the next morning by bus to Brooklyn.  There she spent the day with a friend, and a couple of hours later they went to a mini camp reunion of her bunkmates (though they didn’t call it a bunk reunion – they called it, “Come see T.”)  All of her immediate bunk mates came, which was impressive especially considering the short notice involved for everyone (the idea and organizing for the get together was undertaken by her).  I think they later went bowling and to pizza.  Then she spent the night with another friend, and the next morning left right after breakfast to come back home.  

Giving a child room to have new experiences, to trust them to stretch themselves and handle themselves without us being right there to take care of everything, can be a scary thing for parents.  But it is so important for our children’s emotional growth – it builds confidence and self esteem to successfully navigate new situations.  It is empowering for a child to see new strengths and abilities in themselves, and to actualize a vision that they’ve created.  (I wrote an article for Home Education Magazine in November 2002 on this topic, when my kids were much younger – this is a principle has always been one that I’ve felt strongly about – here’s the link if you’re interested: http://www.homeedmag.com/HEM/196/ndtrust.html.)

I’m so glad she went, I’m glad she had a great time, and I’m really glad she’s back home!

Avivah

Foods to stock up on in November

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know that a key to keeping my food budget low is stocking my pantry when prices are low.  That way, I have a wide variety of ingredients that I bought cheaply to use for your menu planning. 

November is always the month to stock up on ingredients for baking -flour, sugars, canned milk, etc.  Turkeys are often also cheap, though if you  keep kosher, you probably won’t find any super buys this month – if you do, please share them with me!  I don’t use most of the typical baking ingredients, since we don’t use white flour or white sugar, but what I will be buying this month is canned goods.

Canned goods are not traditionally cheap during this time of year, but due to a variety of factors involving the US and Chinese economies, they will be cheaper than usual for a short period of time – I don’t think it’s probable that it will last for more than a few more weeks. 

I look through the flyers of all the local supermarkets each week, and for the last few months have been appalled at the absolute lack of anything that I would call a bargain.  I used to stock up on loss leaders, but I haven’t found even the loss leaders worth buying.  But this week, I’ve seen canned goods on sale in every local major supermarket, and every one of the sales is worth going into the store for. 

A friend told me she doesn’t use many canned goods, and couldn’t see the point in getting any.  I don’t use many canned foods either.  But they can be stored long term (so it doesn’t matter if you don’t use them quickly), are great to have in a pinch, and anything I use a little of is worth getting a lot more of if I can get it cheaply and find space for it (like when I got canned pumpkin in the 29 oz cans for 15 cents each a few weeks after Thanksgiving – at that amazing price, can you see why I got enough to last over a year, even after making pumpkin loaves and muffins for breakfast on a weekly basis?! :)).  Canned veggies substitute well for fresh when you’re out of them, they don’t need refrigeration or freezer space, and canned fish is a cheap source of protein.  Personally, I don’t eat canned corn or peas, because sugar is added, but I would use it for a stew or casserole ingredient for my family after rinsing it.  Green beans are fine.  And canned tomatoes in all forms (whole, diced, pureed, sauce, crushed) come in very handy – I usually buy at least twenty large (28 oz, I think) cans at a time and that holds me over from one shopping trip to the next.  I can my own beans because it’s more economical, but buying canned beans is still a cheap source of protein.  Canned fruit is a nice addition to salads; I use mostly pineapple in its own juice and some mandarin orange segments, and occasionally get cranberry sauce as a side dish for Shabbos when I can buy it cheaply enough. 

Canned goods will be getting more expensive in December on the wholesale level because of Chinese steel costs going up (in case you don’t understand the relevance, a large percentage of US canned foods are packaged in China), and I wouldn’t expect it to take much longer to trickle down to the retail market.  Scrap metal was a hot item all summer – a number of times people knocked at our back door to ask if they could take something metal they saw in our yard, something that had never happened before, and suddenly there was a sudden drop a month or so ago – these little things that happen in our backyards are reflective of much larger economic forces at work, and this all will be affecting the prices of our food supply soon. 

And look at it like this – if you buy canned goods at a 25% discount and in two months they are even the same price as they are usually right now, you’ve still made at least a  25% profit, right?  So it’s a good way to invest your food budget dollars to buy ahead and lock in your investment! :)

 I was out today getting the canned goods I wanted, and though I usually try not to look in other people’s carts (though everyone who passes me seems to look at mine, and then take a second look as they’re passing, lol!), today I was curious if in light of the economic challenges so many are facing, if it would be reflected to any degree in how people were food shopping.  Particularly, I was interested if anyone but me was buying more than a couple of cans of veggies (name brands all at 50% off or more), or anything suitable for long term storage.  Nope, not at all – not in one of the three supermarkets I went to.   Lots of ice cream, sodas, single yogurts, though.  Sigh. And so many people say that food is so expensive and they can’t afford to buy more than enough for three days at a time…..

Also, as of December 15, 2009, I was told by the owner of a salvage store that I go to, olive oil will be going up 15%.  So if olive oil is something you use, buy some extra now.  (I use very little regular vegetable oil because it’s horrible health-wise, and extra virgin olive oil is one of the alternatives I use, so I bought several large bottles last month.)

Shop smart, shop cheap, and shop ahead – you’ll always come out ahead!

Avivah

Camping lantern, flashlight, and radio

A couple of months ago I realized that I didn’t have a reliable, non-battery powered source of light or news, in case of emergency.  Because we go camping every year, I knew that whatever we got would be useful for then, so I set out to research different products that could be hand cranked for power.  I’ve bought a number of flashlights and batteries over the years – and if I can find one when I want it, the batteries are usually not working anymore! 

I finally made my order, only to be told that it would be several weeks before the lantern I wanted was in.  I waited for three weeks and finally decided to cancel my order and get something else (a good thing, since last week I got another email telling me it would be another couple of months until it was restocked).  What I ended up ordering was the set sold by C Crane Co. (ccrane.com) – it included a lantern, flashlight, and radio, because it was recommended by someone whose opinion I value regarding emergency supplies.  All are good quality and reasonably priced, particularly when purchased as a set (there was a discount for that), and have LED lighting as well as hand crank capacity.

Since this is something that’s been niggling around in my brain for awhile, waiting to be taken care of, I’m glad to have it done.  I also bought a couple of 12 oz Halloween candles for 50 cents each, to eventually use to make fire starters, but that’s a project that’s not at the top of my list by any means! :)

Avivah

Repurposing a dress

Today my daughter was wearing the dress that I remade for her a couple of days ago, and it looked so nice on her that I thought I should share what I did with you. 

So many times clothing have a little something wrong with them, but it seems to be a big enough thing to get rid of it.  Sometimes it just takes a little bit of thinking and creativity to change it into something appealing and wearable.  This particular dress was given to us – it was a high quality jumper for dressy wear, with a filmy solid colored layer entirely covering the jumper.  You could see the jumper pattern through the filmy layer, but it was the filminess that seemed to give it an elegant look.

But I really didn’t like the filmy layer, no matter how elegant it was supposed to make the jumper look – it didn’t seem like a practical addition to the dress of a young girl.  Because it was such thin material, it easily ripped and the seams kept separating – when I resewed them, they just separated again after wearing it once or twice.  The second time or third my daughter brought it to me to fix, I told her that I had something different in mind for it.  I put it aside until a couple of days ago, and here’s what I did.

I totally removed the filmy layer – I was anticipating this would be a time intensive job; since all of the layers were sewn together, I thought it would mean unstitching and restitching all of the seams of the dress.  Before I did that, I tried to rip the layer cleanly along the edge, to see how it looked.  Amazingly, it looked fine, after I removed all loose threads along the seams, so I kept on going until I had ripped it all off.  That took just a few minutes.  After that, I was left with a plain black and white jumper – well made, but not dressy. 

But when I ripped off the filmy layer, I noticed that there were some embroidered shapes along the bottom side of the dress, which because they were almost folded in half didn’t draw any attention to them.  I removed those, and found that they were beautiful black and white embroidered butterflies.  I attached one in the middle of each jumper strap at an angle, so that each tilted towards the other.  Then I took the remaining four and sewed them across the upper middle half of the jumper, evenly spaced.   Because I sewed them so that all four sides of the butterfly were held back against the fabric, they added a really nice look to the jumper (whereas before they were almost messy, since they were attached in the middle and folded into itself), so it’s again a dress appropriate for Shabbos (Sabbath).

When my 8 year old dd wore this today, my normally observant son and husband both thought it was a new dress.  I told them I remade it from a dress she recently wore, but even with hints, neither of them could figure it out.  It looks totally different, and looks a lot nicer now than it did when it was new!  The repairs probably took a total of twenty minutes, and it was something I was able to do while supervising the kids with their chores and academic work in the morning, so it didn’t take me away from what I would have usually been doing.

Avivah

Made mozzarella today!

This morning my 13 year old daughter made cheese for science.  :))  Gotta love the fun and flexibility of homeschooling!

She actually tried to make it yesterday afternoon, but I didn’t yet  have citric acid, and I told her to use lemon juice instead.  Generally the principle I follow is to make something the first time the way the recipe is written and only adapt after that.  I should have stuck to that yesterday, because the cheese never curdled.  LOL – it was a good way to learn that there’s a reason for each ingredient in cheese making.

But no harm done, because she used the same milk this morning for another try at mozzarella, and this time was immediately successful!  All of the other kids were crowding around to watch her (it’s good the baby and toddler were napping or she’d never have been able to move), and I told the other kids that anyone else who wants to make cheese can have their own turn to make a batch, too.  She even braided it – it looked really nice.  We had fresh cheese for lunch immediately when she finished – there was no way kids were going to wait after watching and salivating over it.  :) 

Then she used the whey to make mysost, a Scandinavian whey cheese.  This turned out well in all regards but one – it was much too salty.  That was because she had added extra salt to the whey when she was dipping the mozzarella cheese in it, because she wanted it to have it be more flavorful than it was initially.  And when the salted whey was boiled down to make the mysost, the saltiness became too intense. 

But as I always tell my kids, making mistakes is part of learning, so now we’ve learned not to add more salt to the whey if we want to use it for something else afterwards.  Even if we hadn’t wanted to make whey cheese, we would have kept it to use as an acidic medium for soaking oats (to break down the phytic acid), so I still wouldn’t want it to be salty.

By the way, the recipes we’re using are from a book called Home Cheese Making, by Ricki Carroll – there are 75 recipes of all sorts and we’re planning to just follow the recipes.  We were able to borrow it from the library, so I suggest you check there before rushing to buy any books if you’re interested in learning about cheese making. 

Avivah

Watching the rennet disappear!

Here’s the amazing story of how my fifteen available bottles of rennet are getting quickly snapped up since just yesterday. 

So you already know that I bought that big bottle of rennet, and my hope was to recoup my costs by selling small bottles to fifteen other families.  When I initially placed my rennet order, I was really hoping that I wouldn’t be forced to take a big loss on it.  Yes, I wanted to make cheese, but if I end up in a year having to throw away 15/16s of a container because I couldn’t use it (the rennet is perishable), then that’s not only wasteful, but very expensive cheese!

Anyway, I posted on a parenting list I’m on about it, and three people said they were interested, which was a good start, since that was four or five bottles between them all.  But it still left eleven bottles.  Today I called a couple of women locally who I thought would be interested (we’ve discussed raw milk and gardening in the past), and they both wanted a bottle.  Not only that – here’s the amazing thing: one of the women is hosting a cheese making workshop in her home this Sunday, and has spent the last few weeks researching all of the things I told you about in my last post.  She’s not giving the class, but is the one organizing it all, and is the one responsible to get hold of kosher cheese making supplies for this workshop.  She has literally been one step behind me all this time (she called the OU less than three hours after I called, and the rabbi asked her, “Didn’t I just speak to you about a little while ago?”  LOL – I’m not surprised he thought it was me again, since it sounded like he had never been asked about the products I was asking him about).

 So she’s buying some for herself, and told me that probably the other 4 or 5 women who keep kosher who are attending might be interested in getting some, too, and offered to make them available at her workshop and collect money.  I’m so amazed by how G-d makes everything happening  – the timing is so incredible!   Right now I have 8 or 9 bottles spoken for, and am hopeful that Sunday the rest of the bottles will be sold.  When that happens, all of my costs will be recouped (it’s not a moneymaking venture – I’m selling them at what it cost me), all within a few days of first making the rennet available!  Isn’t G-d’s timing amazing?

Avivah

Kosher cheesemaking supplies

I’ve spent quite a bit of time researching what is needed for cheesemaking, as well as where to buy the supplies for kosher cheesemaking, which is a lot more involved.  So I thought I’d share it with you since if any of you are interested, it will save you hours of research.  :)

Firstly, you need rennet.  Most rennet are made from animal sources, but there are vegetarian sources of rennet.  However, almost none of these are kosher.  I finally found one source of certified kosher liquid rennet, Chr. Hansen in WI, but they sell only to large companies.  The company I found that sells this particular rennet, Chymax Extra, was Kelley Supply.  However, Kelley Supply only sells in industrial sizes, and though I found a company that buys large containers of this rennet from Kelley and repackages it for their customers, there’s no kosher supervision on the small containers that they send out.  I called that company (New England Cheesemaking Supply) to speak to them in detail about their repackaging process, hoping that there would be some way we could use the repackaged smaller container of rennet.  No luck – rennet has the status in kosher laws of not being nullified to the sixtieth (botel b’shishim), and because they also repackage animal rennets there, there’s no way to know that you’re getting something untainted.  The only remaining solution that I could see was to order the smallest industrial container size available (enough for over 1000 gallons of milk), and hope that I could afterwards find others to buy some of the rennet from me.

The next thing is bacterial starters, mesophilic and thermophilic.  I was really hoping this wouldn’t need kosher certification because I was already tired of the researching process, but no luck – it definitely does.  After calling the OU to speak to them, I was given the source of the only OU certified starter products in the US – DSM Food Specialties.  I wasn’t having fun trying to get hold of them – they are an extremely huge company, and as I called back for the I don’t know how many-eth time trying to get someone to speak to, I said to my kids, “This is why no one makes kosher cheese on their own; it’s just too hard to get the kashrus information and supplies.”  BUT -I did more research, and found a source of OU certified bacterial starters, and the owner, Cathy Potter, with whom I spoke, was an absolute pleasure to deal with.  http://www.dairyconnection.com/cultures.htm  Not all of their starters are kosher, just those in the MM and MA line, marked EZAL – these come in packages each marked with OU certification.

I wanted to order both thermophilic and mesophilic starters, since different recipes call for different ingredients.  I wouldn’t have known that there are two different thermophilic starters, from the TA and LH series, or what the purpose of them was.  Fortunately Cathy isn’t a sales representative impatiently waiting for you to quickly tell them your order so they can get off the phone, and when she asked what kind of cheeses I wanted to make, she pointed me in the right direction and gave me helpful information.  I ordered one of each – when making Italian cheeses, you use a mixture of both, in a ratio of 2 parts TA: 1 part LH.  I was also told that The New England Cheesemaking Company sells these with kosher certification, but after my first conversation with them several months ago and a very unhelpful representative, I didn’t feel like calling back to go through more questions about the starters.

Citric acid – I was able to buy this in the regular supermarket, also labeled as sour salt.  I happened to get mine by Liebers, but probably most spice companies carry this.

Calcium chloride – I was so happy to find something on the list that didn’t need kosher certification, and that was this.  I’ll pick this up tomorrow at a small pharmacy near the post office.

Lipase powder – of course I didn’t realize that I needed this until after I did all of my other research.  :)  This also needs kosher certification, and I believe that The Dairy Connection sells this also; I’m going to call first thing in the morning and check this.  If they have it, I’ll ask them to tack it onto my order (I ordered the starters this afternoon and she told me would go out tomorrow so hopefully that will work).   ***Update – I called them about this, and the certification on the lipase is a Tablet K, which we don’t use.  I’m going to skip buying this – it doesn’t affect the consistency of the cheese, just the flavor.

Avivah

Saving money with clothes storage

Okay, I said I’d tell you how using clothing storage strategies effectively means saving a lot of money.  First of all, if you have more than one child, it’s a big savings to be able to pass along all the items in good condition to the next child.  (I only save clothes that are in nice shape, and I also try to buy good quality clothing that looks good after repeated washings.  The low quality clothes aren’t worth buying, new or used, in my opinion; they look terrible after just a few washings.)  If you didn’t have a system to pack them away, even if you kept them, you’d end up shopping for new stuff when you needed it, because you wouldn’t be able to find what you needed when you needed it!  Believe it or not, plenty of people give away clothes that are in good condition and then buy new clothes for the next child, rather than have to find a way to store the clothes.   

In case you’re wondering, my children do each get new (to them!) clothing, in addition to whatever is passed from one to another.  But they don’t mind hand me downs; in fact, they enjoy knowing they’re wearing something that an older brother or sister wore when they were their age.  They care more about looking nice than if the item comes to them with the tags on it or not. 

I do the vast majority of my clothes shopping at thrift stores.  However, I try not to shop only when I need something.   You might recognize this principle from my description of food shopping – I buy when the price is right and stock up then, not when I decide I must have something right then.  This is where I think the big savings in clothing shopping is; buying when prices are low and then putting them away for when you need them. 

When I’m shopping, I keep an eye out for any clothes that fit my criteria – well made, tasteful, and classic.  I generally buy fairly classic styles; I don’t care for super trendy clothes that look dated six months after they are purchased.  Classic styles look great even five or ten years later.  If I see something that I like, I buy it, even if I don’t have someone that it fits right now, especially if it’s half price that week.:) 

 Last week I popped into a thrift store where I donate our clothes; I don’t usually shop there.  Since I had to take the clothes in, I did a quick browse through the store – that took about five minutes.  I saw a new pair of Bass leather loafers ($8 after a 20% coupon I had in my purse), but in a size 7.5 and my son is right now only a 6.  And also a pair of sneakers the size of my ds15, who I just bought new shoes for last week.  So what?  The nature of thrift store shopping is that you can’t assume something you want will be there when you want it.  If it’s good stuff, I don’t pass it up.  Ds9 will have good shoes in a year or so (assuming they fit him – my kids all have standard sized feet, which makes this easier, but if it doesn’t fit, no harm done – it goes back into the box to wait for someone else), and I have a backup pair of sneakers for the inevitable time when my ds15 suddenly tells me his current ones are ruined. (I’ve learned from experience that with my boys, I don’t get warning that their shoes are on the brink of destruction – it happens fast!).  I save lots of time by buying what I like when I find it, and then pack it into the appropriate boxes in the attic. 

When a new season comes, I don’t start off by taking my kids to the store.  We shop in the attic!  They go up and pull out the boxes in the appropriate sizes.  Remember, I’ve been stocking throughout the year, so it’s not like it’s a bunch of hand me downs waiting that no one wants to see; they actually look forward to it.  My shoe selection for the boys is pretty good (that includes sneakers, dress shoes, boots, some sandals and slippers); for the girls it’s weaker because of the frequent style changes, so I don’t buy as far ahead for their shoes.  If there’s still anything they need after they’ve gone through the boxes, then I’ll shop with their specific needs in mind.  It isn’t usually something very urgent, because generally there’s enough of everything for them to get by pretty comfortably.  This year, though, my almost 14 year old has told me she really needs a black shirt to go with a couple of dressy outfits.  She and the 12 year old share some clothes, but the 12 year old likes to wear her black shirt most of the same days her older sister would want it!   Next week, there will be a clearance sale at a local fashion shop, and I’ll stop in there.  Someone told me in the past that their clearance prices are great, if you can find something you like in your size.  If I don’t see something there, I’ll move on to the thrift store.   What is the thrift store doesn’t have something?  Well, I’ve never reached the point that I couldn’t find something (except shoes) and then I had to buy brand new, so I don’t know what the next step would be. 

By the way, girls are more challenging than boys, since the styles change more quickly (as I said with the shoes), and they all have different ideas of what they like.  For the older ages, I don’t store many clothes for the long term except for pajamas, bathing suits, robes, thermals, very basic skirts, turtlenecks.  The fashions change too fast and in the four years between my 12 and 8 year olds, many of the things that look great now will look dated then.  But those same items can be easily stored from my dd14 to my dd12, because the fashion shift won’t be dramatic or pronounced enough to matter, generally speaking.  So for the girls, I’m not usually shopping more than two years ahead.  And the truth is, because we have five boys, I’m not usually shopping more than a couple of years ahead for them either, because there’s always someone growing into or out of a size!

In addition to clothes I buy, I also am able to benefit from clothes that are periodically passed on to me by others (mostly one good friend), though I’ve gotten items free from CL for my little kids a couple of times.  It honestly does take effort to go through what comes and organize it all, and there are times I’d really rather not have to deal with it, but the payoff is that I have to spend very little to dress my entire family.  When holidays come, I don’t have the sudden pressure of having to buy new clothes for everyone in addition to all of the other holiday expenses.

Effectively being able to organize the clothes you buy at a discount or get for free, and have them ready when you need them makes a huge difference to how much you’ll need to spend to keep your children appropriately dressed.

Avivah

Organizing clothes for storage

Whenever the seasons change, it’s a big organizational procedure around here.  Putting away all the clothes that aren’t going to be used any more this season, getting out the clothes everyone needs for (in this case) the winter, for ten people is a big job.  I try to do as little shopping for brand new items as I possibly have to, and I’m usually successful, to the point that needing to purchase something new is unusual.  But that requires a lot of organization to make it work.

Several weeks ago, I spent hours sorting through clothes, and reorganizing all the toddler and infant boy clothes.  Since our  youngest two are 17 months apart, they are almost overlapping on sizes, but not quite.  My past sizing labels weren’t accurate enough to make pulling out a box as simple as is usually is, so I decided to do a major rehaul and box the clothes into more specifically labeled boxes.  So I did, but when I finished, I had seven piles of newly reorganized clothes and no boxes to put them in!  Yes, it hasn’t been neat looking up there since then.  :)

A couple of days ago, my husband was able to bring home a bunch of good size boxes (it took a long time because the store I used to get them from started crushing them instead of putting them where customers could take them, so I had to find a new source of boxes the size I like), and I spent the first 3.5 hours of today repacking and relabelling everything.  This isn’t a job I especially enjoy, but fortunately, it doesn’t have to be done more than a couple of times a year in a major way.  The pleasure is in having it done and knowing that everyone has their clothing needs met, their closets and dressers are filled with things that fit and that they can use (versus things that are too small, too thick, too out of fashion….)

I do smaller updates throughout the year when I get around to it; there’s always someone growing in or out of something, so it never happens that someone’s clothing situation stays static for long.  In those cases, I tell the kids, after me going through the clothes and removing those I don’t want to pass along to another child, to take their clothes that no longer fit to the attic and put them in a bag, and I put them in the appropriate boxes once I get enough to make it worth my time.

Basically, my system is very simple – I think systems have to be simple, or they don’t work for long.  Boys and girls clothes are boxed separately, each labeled with the size.  Determining the size to label the box is usually what I find hardest.  Do I label it ‘size 4′, even though my child wore it at age 2?  Or do I label it according to the age the child wore it, in which case the sibling coming after them may have a different growth cycle and the labelling won’t be accurate for them?  My decision after trying it both ways, is to label according to the size marked on the clothing, which is constant.  Then I look for the size I need based on child’s build; for example, my 9.5 year old son is growing out of the size 12s and into the size 14s.   

Each box looks like this: GIRLS – sz. 4; MENS – small; INFANT – 12 mo.  I mark it with a heavy black marker so that it stands out when looking at it quickly.  I stack all the boys’ clothes boxes along one wall in the attic, in size order.  There is a knee wall there, which means it is a low wall because of the slant of the roof, so it only fits 2 boxes high.  Along the other end of the same wall, I have all of the girls’ clothes boxed, also in size order.  We go up to the attic twice a year officially when we turn everyone’s closets over, but whenever an individual child needs something, I just send them up and tell them what box to look in.  Having them clearly labelled and lined up makes it really easy for any of us to find what we need. 

 These boxes include all of their basic clothing, but not shoes or outerwear.  Outerwear is kept in the basement closet- that includes ten raincoats, ten light jackets, ten winter jackets, a bunch of pairs of snowpants, snowsuits for infants and toddlers, and dress coats for a number of us.  Yes, it’s a lot of stuff.  :)  Shoes are boxed separately, though also in the attic; the boots go with the shoes.  One day I’ll try to post my handy system for keeping track of what shoes I have in the house without having to dig through a box of thirty pairs to see if there’s anything in the size I need. 

Now that I gave you a basic idea of how I organize the clothes, I’ll share how this works to save lots of money.

Avivah

Blintz loaf

Someone asked me on Sukkos about if we eat entirely meal meals for the holiday, and if not, what we have.  Meat meals do get very expensive, and they get tiresome, too.  I like to serve at least one fish meal out of four meals, and for the second days of Sukkos, I made one dairy meal out of four.  Some of my kids vociferously let me ahead of time know they thought it was a terrible idea and would be very unfestive, but I went ahead anyway, and they all ended up agreeing what a nice meal it was! 

This information is a little late to be of practical use for the holidays, but I thought you’d enjoy a couple of the recipes.  We served a thick vegetable soup, blintz loaf, and double crust bean pie, and though it was a simple meal, it was really nice.  Each of those things make a nice dinner for a regular week night, too.

Below is the recipe for the blintz loaf – I’ve made other blintz loaf recipes, but my family prefers this one. Most blintz loaf recipes tend to be more batter, with a thin layer of cheese in the middle.  This is mostly cheese.

Blintz loaf recipe:

  • 1 lb. small curd cottage cheese (I used ricotta)
  • 3 T. sour cream (I left it out)
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • 1/4 t. baking powder
  • 2 oz. melted butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 c. flour
  • 3 T. sucanat or honey

Mix all the ingredients, beating until smooth.  Beat until smooth.  Pour into greased pan, filling to top.  Bake at 350 degrees for 35 – 40 minutes until brown.

Avivah